Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Tuesday, September 12

Intact, Mycenaean-Era Tomb Discovered in Greece

ORCHOMENOS, GREECE—A 3,350-year-old tomb of has been uncovered in southern Greece, according to an Associated Press report. The intact tomb is said to have belonged to a single nobleman who was between the ages of 40 and 50 at the time of death. The 452-square-foot tomb also contained pottery, bronze horse bits, jewelry, bow fittings, and arrowheads. To read about another recent discovery in Greece, go to “A Surprise City in Thessaly.”

Viking Sword Found on Mountain in Norway

OPPLAND, NORWAY—Fox News reports that a well-preserved Viking sword made of high-quality iron was discovered by reindeer hunters at an elevation of 5,381 feet on a mountain in southern Norway. Archaeologist Lars Pilø of Oppland County Council said the cold, dry conditions on the mountain helped to preserve the sword, which had been resting among small loose stones with its blade sticking out. During the winters, the sword would have been covered with snow and ice. The archaeologists and hunters returned to the site with a metal detector, but did not find any additional artifacts. They think the weapon may have been lost some 1,100 years ago by a Viking crossing the rough terrain during a blizzard. For more, go to “Hoards of the Vikings.”

Ankle Bone Analysis Suggests Early Primate Could Jump

DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA—According to a report in The International Business Times, researchers led by Doug Boyer of Duke University have analyzed a 52-million-year-old ankle bone belonging to Donrussellia provincialis, one of the earliest-known primates. Boyer and his colleagues scanned the ankle bone, which was found in southeastern France, and compared it to ankle bones of other animals using computer algorithms. They found that the quarter-inch-long fossil was similar to those of tree shrews and other non-primate species, which suggests that the small creature could leap between tree branches and stick the landing with its grasping hands and feet. It had been suggested that the earliest primates were slow and deliberate animals who creeped along twigs and branches, but leaping may have helped Donrussellia provincialis avoid predatorsTo read about a famous fossil hoax, go to “Piltdown’s Lone Forger.”

Roman-Era Baby Bottle Unearthed in Turkey

ÇANAKKALE, TURKEY—The Daily Sabah reports that excavators working in the ancient port city of Parion discovered a small, 2,000-year-old pot thought to have been used to feed babies milk with its pacifier-like spout. Hasan Kasaoğlu of Atatürk University said such pots had a single handle and usually held between two to four ounces of liquid. “The products were made so that a baby could drink any liquid or baby food from it,” Kasaoğlu explained. “They are all made from baked clay. The clay is molded by pressing, then fired and ready for use.” To read about another recent discovery in Turkey, go to “Figure of Distinction.”

Monday, September 11

Medieval Village Discovered in Denmark

AARHUS, DENMARK—Traces of a small, agricultural village dating to the medieval period have been unearthed in central Jutland, according to a report in The Copenhagen Post. Records of Hovedstrup date back to 1300, but the village is thought to have been founded even earlier. Moesgaard Museum archaeologists have uncovered a road paved with stones and three homes marked by their post holes. Hovedstrup was abandoned in the late 1600s, during a time when many landlords rearranged their holdings to create new farms or hunting grounds. To read about another discovery in Denmark, go to “Bronze Age Bride.”

Fire Management May Date Back 40,000 Years

LUNGTALANANA ISLAND, TASMANIA—According to a report in Australia's ABC News, information obtained from a sediment core taken from a lake on a remote island off the coast of Tasmania suggests that Aboriginal people were managing the land with fire at least 41,000 years ago. Researchers Simon Haberle of Australian National University, and fire ecologist David Bowman, in cooperation with the Tasmanian Aboriginal Center, dated charcoal and pollen in the core sample, and determined that the pattern of how often the island’s vegetation caught fire over thousands of years changed over time. “What we see is that over most of the period of the record, frequent and low-intensity fires occurred on the island,” Haberle said. He thinks Aboriginal people regularly burned the landscape in order to prevent catastrophic fires in the dry, flammable environment. “When Europeans arrive there is a change in the fire regime and there are many very strong fires and in many cases catastrophic fires have occurred in the recent past,” he explained. For more, go to “Letter From California: The Ancient Ecology of Fire.”

Roman Swords Recovered at Vindolanda

HEXHAM, ENGLAND—BBC News reports that two metal swords and two wooden toy swords were unearthed at Vindolanda, a Roman fort on Hadrian's Wall in northern England. The artifacts are thought to date to around A.D. 120, when about 1,000 people lived at the site. One of the swords, found in a corner of a living room in a cavalry barrack, had a bent tip. It had probably been discarded. A second sword, with its blade and tang intact, was found in a neighboring room. Archaeologists speculate its owner may have left the fort in a hurry without it. Also recovered were two small wooden toy swords, bath clogs, leather shoes, knives, brooches, arrowheads, and ballista bolts. To read in-depth about Hadrian's Wall, go to “The Wall at the End of the Empire.”

18th-Dynasty Tomb Excavated in Egypt

LUXOR, EGYPT—According to a report in Ahram Online, Egyptian archaeologists led by Mostafa Waziri, head of the Luxor Department in Egypt’s Antiquities Ministry, have discovered a 3,500-year-old tomb in the Draa Abul Naga necropolis on Luxor’s west bank. The entrance to the New Kingdom tomb was found in the courtyard of a Middle Kingdom tomb. It led to a square chamber where the team found a niche containing a statue of seated Amenemhat, goldsmith for the god Amun, and his wife, Amenhotep, who wears a long dress and a wig. One of their sons is also shown, standing between their legs. The remains of three people were found in a shaft off the tomb’s main chamber, which also contained wooden sarcophagi and funerary masks, and 150 ushabti figurines made of faience, wood, pottery, and limestone. Osteologist Sherine Ahmed Shawqi examined the remains. She said that one female mummy showed signs of jaw abscesses and bone infection likely caused by dental cavities. The names of other officials were found on artifacts in the tomb and suggest that their graves may also be located in shafts off the courtyard. For more, go to “A Pharaoh’s Last Fleet.”

Friday, September 08

Iron Age Coins Unearthed in England

LINCOLN, ENGLAND—According to a report in The Grantham Journal, two men using metal detectors discovered a hoard of more than 280 gold and silver coins dating to the late Iron Age, and the period of the Roman Conquest, which occurred in A.D. 43. Adam Daubney, finds liaison officer for Lincolnshire County Council, said the coins are stamped with names like Dumnocoveros, Tigirseno, and Volisios, among the earliest personal names recorded in the area. They are believed to have been the names of local rulers. Fragments of a pot were found with the coins. University of Lincoln archaeologists surveyed the site and will continue their investigation into why the coins might have been buried. To read about the disassembly of an enormous Celtic coin hoard, go to “Ka-Ching!

Remains from Viking Warrior’s Grave Identified as Female

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN—DNA testing has revealed that a warrior’s grave discovered in the Viking-era town of Birka in the late nineteenth century contained the remains of a woman. Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson of Uppsala University told The Local that the woman stood about five feet, seven inches tall, and was over the age of 30 at the time of her death. She was buried with weapons, including a sword, an ax, a spear, armor-piercing arrows, a battle knife, shields, and two horses. She also had a board game, thought to have been used to try out battle tactics and strategies, in her lap. “She’s most likely planned, led, and taken part in battles,” Hedenstierna-Jonson said. The DNA testing of the bones was done after osteologist Anna Kjellström of Stockholm University noticed that the skull’s cheekbones were finer and thinner than usually found on a man’s skull, and that the hip bones were also feminine. “It was probably quite unusual [for a woman to be a military leader], but in this case, it probably had more to do with her role in society and the family she was from, and that carrying more importance than her gender,” speculated Hedenstierna-Johnson. For more, go to “Hoards of the Vikings.”

Recording Alberta’s Endangered Heritage Sites

  ALBERTA, CANADA—Peter Dawson of the University of Calgary has employed 3-D digital imaging to record heritage sites in Alberta, such as rock art on the Okotoks Erratic, a late-nineteenth-century Chinese laundry, and the early twentieth-century plant at the Bitumount oil sands, which is dangerous and difficult to access, according to a report in The Calgary Sun. Dawson notes that the project can record information on heritage sites recently threatened by flood, wildfires, and development. And, the digital record, updated over time, could inform the work conducted by conservationists with Alberta Culture and Tourism, and could be used to construct virtual sites for tourists to visit. “It will allow you to be teleported to any site, as if you're at the building and you can tour the inside and the outside,” Dawson explained. To read about a discovery at a buffalo jump in Alberta, go to “A Removable Feast.”