Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Thursday, September 14

Bones’ Cut Marks Hint at Funeral Rites in Neolithic Ireland

COUNTY SLIGO, IRELAND—The Leitrim Observer reports that evidence for the dismemberment of the dead has been found on bones unearthed at the 5,300-year-old passage tomb complex at Carrowkeel by an international team of scientists led by Thomas Kador of University College London. “We found indications of cut marks caused by stone tools at the site of tendon and ligament attachments around the major joints, such as the shoulder, elbow, hip, and ankle,” said Jonny Geber of the University of Otago in New Zealand. The bones were unearthed at the Neolithic site in 1911, presumed lost, and then rediscovered recently in boxes at the University of Cambridge. For more, go to “Bronze Age Ireland’s Taste in Gold.”

New Dates Push Back Use of Zero

OXFORD, ENGLAND—The Guardian reports that new radiocarbon dates have been obtained for the Bakhshali manuscript, which was written in an ancient form of Sanskrit on 70 pieces of birch bark, by members of the Heritage Science team at the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries. The text, discovered in 1881 in a village located in what is now Pakistan, is thought to have been a training manual complete with practice arithmetic problems for merchants trading on the Silk Road, and is known for its use of a dot to represent the concept of zero. The new dates indicate the oldest pieces of the Bakhshali manuscript date to the third or fourth century A.D., or about 500 years earlier than had been previously thought, based upon the style of writing and the content. The new dates make the Bakhshali manuscript the oldest-known record of the use of the zero symbol. For more on ancient writing, go to “London’s Earliest Writing.”

Hurricane Irma Uncovered Dugout Canoe

TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA—Hurricane Irma revealed a dugout canoe that had been resting on the bottom of the Indian River, according to a report by Orlando News 6. Concerned citizen Randy Shots spotted the canoe among the storm debris and alerted officials at Florida’s Bureau of Archaeological Research, who will conserve the vessel. The cypress canoe weighs between 600 and 700 pounds. For more, go to “Florida History Springs Forth.”

Wednesday, September 13

Fighter Plane Test Model Found in Lake Ontario

TORONTO, CANADA—The Province reports that an Avro Arrow test model has been found at the bottom of Lake Ontario by a recovery group. As many as nine of the free-flight, one-eighth scale model planes are thought to rest in the lake. Now covered in zebra mussels, the plane was reportedly part of a secret program to develop a supersonic combat jet, which was abandoned by the Canadian government in 1959. The actual planes in the classified program are said to have been destroyed. Once the model has been brought to the surface, it will be stabilized and displayed at either the Canada Aviation Space Museum in Ottawa or the National Air Force Museum in Trenton. The recovery group will continue to search for the other test models. To read in-depth about underwater discoveries in the Great Lakes, go to “Shipwreck Alley.”

Sacred Structures May Have Been Linked to Seismic Activity

PLYMOUTH, ENGLAND—Iain Stewart of the University of Plymouth suggests that ancient temples and other important structures in the Aegean region may have been built above fault lines in order to create a connection to the underworld, according to a report in The International Business Times. Mycenae, Ephesus, Cnidus, and Hierapolis were all built on fault lines, Stewart explained. And the temple of Apollo at Delphi, known for its oracle, was constructed over a spot thought to be the center of the world. Earthquakes produced the temple’s sacred spring, and intoxicating gases emanated from the fault line. The temple complex was rebuilt in the same location after it was destroyed by an earthquake in 373 B.C. To read more about archaeology in Greece, go to “Regime Change in Athens.”

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.”