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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Tuesday, November 26

Early Viking-Era Brooch Uncovered in Estonia

VARJA, ESTONIA—Estonian Public Broadcasting reports that a box-shaped brooch dated to the late eighth or ninth century A.D. was recovered in northeastern Estonia, near a Viking-era trade route and possible farmstead site. Archaeologist Mauri Kiudsoo of Tallinn University said the well-preserved brooch was cast in bronze in a single piece and was probably fastened with a steel pin, which has been lost. He thinks the brooch may have belonged to a woman who had been born on the island of Gotland, where hundreds of such ornaments have been found. To read Viking boat burials found on an Estonian island, go to "The First Vikings."

Lion Cub Mummies Found in Egypt

SAQQARA, EGYPT—Live Science reports that two mummified lions have been discovered among about 100 statues of cats and other figures, some 20 cat mummies, and a scarab measuring more than one foot in diameter in a 2,600-year-old tomb in the Saqqara necropolis. Mostafa Waziri of the Supreme Council of Antiquities said the lion mummies are the first of their kind to be found in Egypt, and, because they measure only about three feet long, the animals may not have been fully grown at the time of death. The mummies of three other large cats found near the lions have not yet been identified, but may represent leopards, cheetahs, or other big cat species. The decorated statues were made of stone, wood, and bronze, and some were inlaid with gold. A small ebony statue of Neith, goddess of the city of Sais, the capital of Egypt during the 26th dynasty, helped the researchers date the tomb and its contents, Waziri explained. For more on animal mummies, go to "Messengers to the Gods."

Iron Age Tombs Discovered in Oman

MUSCAT, OMAN—The Times of Oman reports that a burial site consisting of 45 tombs has been found near an Iron Age settlement on eastern Oman's Al Saleel Mountain by a team of researchers from Oman’s Ministry of Heritage and Culture and the University of Heidelberg. The researchers stated that the stone tombs were built in varying lengths according to the status of the occupant some 3,000 years ago. Residents of the settlement are thought to have worked at a copper mine located less than one-half mile away. The mine is thought to have served as an important copper source into the early Islamic era. To read about bronze weapons discovered in an Iron Age building in Oman, go to "Fit for a War God."

Monday, November 25

19th-Century German-Made Harmonica Recovered in Wisconsin

FORT MCCOY, WISCONSIN—Researchers from the Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division Natural Resources Branch found four pieces of a harmonica among some 2,000 artifacts dating from the late nineteenth through the mid-twentieth centuries at a site near the Fort McCoy army base in western Wisconsin, according to the Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office. The site is thought to have been used as a garbage dump by several landowners who lived in the area. The harmonica’s exterior plates are labeled “The Friedr Hotz” and “Made in Germany.” The Friedrich Hotz Company, which began manufacturing harmonicas in Knittlingen, Germany, in 1828, was eventually purchased by Matthias Hohner, who introduced harmonicas to the United States in 1862. A pair of harmonica reed fragments were also recovered. For more on the archaeology of garbage, go to "Where There's Smoke...

Possible 1,300-Year-Old Chess Piece from Jordan Identified

VICTORIA, CANADA—John Peter Oleson of the University of Victoria suggests that a 1,300-year-old piece of carved sandstone recovered at Humayma, an early Islamic trade outpost in southern Jordan, may be a chess piece, Science News reports. Oleson said the palm-sized piece of rock has horn-like projections resembling a rook, or castle. Historical accounts of the game indicate it originated in India at least 1,400 years ago. The game may have been carried westward along trade routes, Oleson explained. “Chess became very popular in the early Islamic world,” he added. To read about twelfth-century chess pieces unearthed in England, go to "Artifact."

Friday, November 22

Grave Exhumed in Pursuit of 16th-Century French Philosopher

BORDEAUX, FRANCE—Human remains have been discovered in the basement of a Christian convent in southwestern France that now houses the Aquitaine Museum, according to an AFP-JIJI report. The remains are thought to belong to the sixteenth-century statesman and philosopher Michel de Montaigne, who died in 1592 at the age of 59. His body was moved several times after his death, leading to confusion over his final resting place. Museum director Laurent Vedrine said the basement tomb contained a wooden coffin bearing the word “Montaigne.” Bordeaux city archaeologist Helene Reveillas added that researchers then used a camera to look inside a lead coffin within the wooden one, and spotted a femur, a pelvic bone, and a skull. Scientists will now analyze the bones to determine the person’s sex and age at death, and look for traces of kidney stones, which Montaigne is known to have had. To read about the grave of a seventeenth-century French aristocratic woman discovered, go to "For the Love of a Noblewoman."

8,000-Year-Old Monument Uncovered in Turkey

CANAKKALE, TURKEY—The Anadolu Agency reports that a monument thought to be 8,000 years old has been discovered in northwestern Turkey’s Ugurlu-Zeytinlik mound by a team of researchers led by Burcin Erdogu of Trakya University. The T-shaped monument resembles standing stones at the 10,000-year-old site of Göbekli Tepe, which is located in southeastern Turkey, Erdogu said. He explained that the structure at Ugurlu-Zeytinlik looks like an obelisk made up of two pieces of stone—a four-sided tapering base topped with a pyramidion. The structure is supported by 23-foot-long walls, he added. Erdogu thinks people may have gathered at such monumental structures for activities and rituals. “This structure is an important discovery both for the Aegean islands and western Anatolia,” Erdogu concluded. To read about ritual activity at Göbekli Tepe, go to "Skull Cult at Göbekli Tepe," one of ARCHAEOLOGY's Top 10 Discoveries of 2017.

Lion Figurine Fragment Found in Siberia's Denisova Cave

NOVOSIBIRSK, RUSSIA—The Siberian Times reports that a fragment of a cave lion figurine estimated to be 45,000 years old was unearthed in Siberia’s Denisova Cave by researchers led by Mikhail Shunkov of the Novosibirsk Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography. Carved from wooly mammoth ivory, the fragment, which measures about 1.6 inches long and less than one-half inch tall, depicts the animal’s shoulders, belly, and hip. The hip is extended as if the lion is in motion. The figurine was decorated with notches and painted with red ochre. Shunkov and his team suggest the ivory for the statuette came from the northern foothills of the Altai Mountains, some 60 miles away. It is not clear at this time if the object was carved by Denisovans or by modern humans. To read about evidence for interbreeding between Denisovans and Neanderthals, go to "Hominin Hybrid," one of ARCHAEOLOGY's Top 10 Discoveries of 2018.