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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Wednesday, September 20

Iron Age Cremation Burials Uncovered in Germany

FRÖNDENBERG, GERMANY—According to a statement released by the Westphalia-Lippe Regional Association (LWL), graves containing cremated remains and ceramics were uncovered in northwestern Germany during an archaeological investigation conducted ahead of a clay mining operation. Most of the graves, which are estimated to be 2,000 years old, have been damaged by plowing, but larger pieces of pottery from several of the burials were preserved. One oval-shaped pit contained burned bone, a decorated spindle whorl, loom weights, and large pieces of ceramics decorated with finger impressions. “We know of such ceramics, for example, from well-dated settlements in Lower Hesse from the third to second centuries B.C.,” said LWL archaeologist Manuel Zeiler. Another pit contained a flint point from Neolithic Bell Beaker culture, meaning it was already 2,000 years old when the cemetery was in use. It is not clear if the point was placed in the pit on purpose or if it fell in when the pit was dug or filled. Charcoal, burned debris, and bits of pottery were also recovered from several smaller pits. To read about a 9,000-year-old grave of a woman buried with hundreds of ritual objects, go to "The Shaman's Secrets."

Two Roman Swords Unearthed in England

GLOUCESTERSHIRE, ENGLAND—According to a statement released by the Cotswold District Council, two Roman cavalry swords, fittings, fragments of their wooden scabbards, and pieces of a copper alloy bowl were discovered during a metal detectorist rally in southwestern England. Simon James of Leicester University said that the swords, known as spatha, were in use from the mid-second century into the third century A.D. The length of the swords suggests that they were used on horseback. The site where the weapons were discovered will be investigated by archaeologists, who hope to learn more about why the swords were buried. The artifacts are currently housed at the Corinium Museum, and will be X-rayed and analyzed. To read about a bronze sword recently unearthed in Germany, go to "A Sword for the Ages."

Tuesday, September 19

Bronze Sculpture Repatriated to Vietnam

HÀ NỘI, VIETNAM—Vietnam News reports that a seventh-century A.D. bronze statue was handed over to Ambassador Nguyễn Hoàng Long in a ceremony in London. The sculpture, recovered after a long investigation conducted by U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and London’s Metropolitan Police, was looted from central Vietnam’s Mỹ Son Sanctuary in 2008. The well-preserved statue weighs more than 500 pounds and stands some six feet tall. It may represent Durga, a Hindu goddess associated with protection, strength, motherhood, and destruction, or a queen or royal consort, based upon the depictions of clothing and jewelry. For more on the archaeology of Vietnam, go to "Around the World: Vietnam."

Second Roman “Refrigerator” Discovered in Bulgaria

SVISHTOV, BULGARIA—According to a Miami Herald report, a second “refrigerator” has been found next to a series of lead water pipes in northern Bulgaria at the Roman military camp of Novae by a research team led by Piotr Dyczek of the University of Warsaw. The camp was constructed along the lower Danube River in the first century A.D. and was occupied into the middle of the fifth century. The storage unit, made with ceramic plates, has not yet been dated. Wine drinking vessels, bowls, and animal bones were found inside it. Traces of a wooden barracks, a well, and a furnace dated to the fourth century have also been uncovered at the site. To read about another refrigerator previously found at the site, go to "Around the World: Bulgaria."

5th-Century A.D. Children’s Cemetery Found in Anatolia

KONYA, TURKEY—Hurriyet Daily News reports that the graves of more than 40 children have been found in a fifth-century A.D. cemetery at the site of the ancient city of Savatra, which is located in central Anatolia. The cemetery was uncovered near the foundation of a church structure with mosaic floors. “We encountered two different burial typologies in terms of east-west orientation, consisting of chamber tombs and tile graves,” said Ilker Işik of Selçuk University. “We identified a children’s cemetery, primarily consisting of non-adult individuals, ranging from fetuses to approximately 13–14 years of age,” he explained. Some of the graves contained the remains of multiple people, he added. Coins, rings, and earrings were also found in the burials. Işik and his colleagues will continue to explore the area. To read about excavations of a Roman amphitheater in western Anatolia's ancient city of Pergamon, go to "Saving Seats."

Monday, September 18

Update on the Search for Victims of the Tulsa Race Massacre

TULSA, OKLAHOMA—According to an Associated Press report, the remains of one person were recently exhumed as part of the continuing investigation at Tulsa’s Oaklawn Cemetery, where researchers are looking for the remains of victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. Estimates suggest 75 to 300 Black people were killed in the Greenwood section of Tulsa by a white mob, which also looted and burned the business district known as Black Wall Street. “We’re trying to find people who were murdered and buried in a cemetery … without the intent of being found,” commented Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum. Researchers have concentrated their efforts in an area identified with ground-penetrating radar that appeared to have grave markers made from bricks and flower pots. Oklahoma state archaeologist Kary Stackelbeck said that the newly uncovered remains came from a grave containing a simple wooden casket as described in newspaper articles, death certificates, and funeral home records at the time of the massacre. A second burial will also be exhumed this week, Stackelbeck said. Earlier work at the cemetery located 66 sets of remains, 22 of which are undergoing forensic evaluation in an attempt to identify them. Genetic profiles have been obtained from six of these individuals to date, and connected to potential relatives in North Carolina, Georgia, Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Alabama. To read more about the Tulsa Race Massacre, go to "A Sight Which Can Never Be Forgotten: The Tulsa Race Riot."

U.S. Repatriates Seized Artifacts to Costa Rica

ORLANDO, FLORIDA—NBC6 Miami reports that several pre-Columbian artifacts seized at an airport in Orlando in 2017 were repatriated to Costa Rica in a ceremony this week with Ludmila Ugalde, Consul General of Costa Rica. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers spotted the artifacts while scanning passenger luggage. “We started opening all the bags and in one of the shoes that the traveler had, we found the artifacts,” said CBP Agriculture Specialist Jose Carlos Esteves. “It was actually concealed inside the shoes.” The ceramic objects, dated to the tenth and fifth centuries B.C., will be housed in the Costa Rica National Museum. For more on Costa Rican archaeology, go to "Off the Grid: Diquis Delta, Costa Rica."

Two Gold Torcs Uncovered in Spain

ASTURIAS, SPAIN—CNN reports that a gold torc estimated to be 2,500 years old was discovered in northwestern Spain by a worker for a local water company. He alerted archaeologist Pablo Arias of the University of Cantabria, who investigated the site with researchers from the Asturias Archaeological Museum. They eventually found a second torc that had been broken into several pieces. Abraded areas on the artifacts suggest that they had come in contact with skin and clothing. “We know that they were used,” Arias explained. “Not everyone could afford one of these necklaces,” he added. To read about a silver diadem found in the burial of a Bronze Age woman in southeast Spain, go to "Crowning Glory."

New Thoughts on Turtle Remains in an Iron Age Burial in Poland

WARSAW, POLAND—According to a statement released by De Gruyter, a new study of an Iron Age child’s burial discovered in 2010 in northern Poland’s Czarnówko site suggests that the turtle remains occasionally found in ancient graves in the region are the result of post-burial disturbances, and not a funeral tradition of the Wielbark culture. It had been previously thought that the remains of a European pond turtle (Emys orbicularis), found in the grave near the child’s skull, may have been placed there deliberately as part of the burial, or may have shifted there when the grave was disturbed by looters in antiquity. Although archaeological evidence suggests that turtles were sometimes kept as pets by the people of the Wielbark culture, there is no evidence that they were eaten or used in burial practices, said Kalina Skóra of the Polish Academy of Sciences. It is possible, she noted, that this turtle had fallen or crawled into the looters’ trench and was then unable to escape the burial. “It is hardly a coincidental association that in all archaeologically recorded cases, the turtle remains were found in graves opened some time after burial, that is with traces of post-funeral interference,” Skóra concluded. Read the original scholarly article about this research in Praehistorische Zeitschrift. To read about genetic analysis of individuals buried 5,000 years ago in a mass grave in Poland, go to "We Are Family."