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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Tuesday, October 8

World War II Rubble Examined in Northwest England

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND—BBC News reports that archaeology student Emma Marsh of Durham University is examining the rubble of Liverpool buildings destroyed during seven days of Nazi bombing raids in May 1941, and identifying where it came from with historical records and the help of an online community. Much of the brick, stone, and tile rubble was removed from the port city and deposited for defensive use on nearby Crosby Beach, where it remains today. “Trying to find records of what was placed on the beach is very difficult—you’ve got to think of the scale of the destruction,” Marsh said. “I don’t think there was time to note where every little piece was going.” More than 4,000 people were killed or injured during the so-called Blitz, and more than 70,000 became homeless. Businesses, hospitals, and factories were also destroyed by the bombing. “If I come across something I will put it on Twitter and within minutes people who are experts and people who have lived in Liverpool all their life… they know these buildings, they know the style of architecture and they can be really helpful,” Marsh explained. To read about how archaeologists are recovering evidence from one of the most brutal battles of World War II, go to "Place of the Loyal Samurai."

Greek Pottery Used to Track Ancient Migration

ATHENS, GREECE—According to a Science in Poland report, archaeologist Bartłomiej Lis of the British School at Athens was able to track the movement of potters away from the island of Aegina some 3,200 years ago by analyzing pottery uncovered on the island and the areas surrounding the Gulf of Euboea. Lis said that potters working on the island of Aegina characteristically built the walls of their vessels without using a potter’s wheel, and marked their pots with an identifying sign, perhaps because they shared kilns. He also analyzed the chemical composition of the clay used to make the pottery through a technique known as petrography, which allowed him to determine where they clay had originated. Lis suggests that potters left Aegina in two stages over several decades, since pottery typical of that made on Aegina has been found in many places along the Gulf of Euboea, made from local materials. The potters may have left home for political and economic reasons, he explained. “Many of the previously flourishing settlements were deserted, and people apparently moved to safer areas,” Lis said. “In fact, the only trace of these movements are vessels made by potters who were part of these migrations.” To read about the only known female master potter in the ancient Greek world, go to "Breaking the Mold."

Well-Preserved Dog Remains Unearthed in Peru

CASMA, PERU—According to an Andina report, the intact 1,000-year-old skeletal remains of a dog were discovered inside the main building at Sechin, a 4,000-year-old site in northern coastal Peru’s Casma Valley. Sechín Archaeological Project Director Mónica Suárez said that in addition to the animal’s bones, some of its yellow-brown fur and paw pads were preserved. Sechín, known for its megalithic architecture and bas relief sculptures depicting human sacrifices, is thought to have served as the capital city of the Sechín culture. Suárez explained that the dog belongs to a later occupation of the site by the Casma culture around A.D. 1000. Further analysis of the remains could reveal the dog’s breed and age at death, she added. To read about genetic studies to determine whether indigenous canine DNA persists in modern-day dogs, go to "The American Canine Family Tree."

Minoan-Era Structures Uncovered in Crete

SISSI, CRETE—An international team of archaeologists under the direction of Jan Driessen of the Belgian School at Athens, in collaboration with Greece’s Lasithi Antiquities Ephorate, has conducted excavations at a Minoan-era settlement in eastern Crete. This season, the team members uncovered a monumental building destroyed by fire around 2500 B.C. What was left of this structure was incorporated in about 1700 B.C. into a complex of monumental buildings, arranged around a central court measuring more than 100 feet long. The complex featured decorated plaster flooring and a terracotta drain. A box-shaped grave containing a woman’s intact skeleton dating to the post-Minoan era was uncovered near this building site. She had been buried with a copper mirror with an ivory handle, copper dress pins, and a necklace made up of 15 olive-shaped gold beads and smaller gold beads. The researchers said such graves are usually discovered at the Minoan sites of Archanes and Knossos, near Crete’s north-central coast, and the site of Chania further to the west. To read about a burial discovered at the site of Pylos that incorporated both Minoan and Mycenaean cultural artifacts, go to "World of the Griffin Warrior." 

Monday, October 7

Infrared Imaging Reveals Hidden Words on Ancient Scroll

NAPLES, ITALY—According to a Science Magazine report, short-wave infrared hyperspectral imaging has allowed a team of researchers led by classicist Graziano Ranocchia of the National Research Council in Rome to decipher text written on the reverse side of a charred papyrus scroll that had been unrolled and glued down on paperboard sometime after it was recovered in the eighteenth century from the ruins of Herculaneum. Like Pompeii, Herculaneum was covered in ash during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79. The scroll contains a work about Greece's great thinkers known as the History of the Academy, which was copied on the papyrus several decades before the eruption of the volcano by the philosopher Philodemus or one of his scribes. Ranocchia said that in all, the team members were able to add 150 words to the 8,000 known words of Philodemus’ manuscript, and to correct translations of some words that had been misread. The technique could help researchers take a fresh look at the nearly 2,000 papyri recovered from Herculaneum. To read about methods for deciphering text within unrolled papyri, go to "The Charred Scrolls of Herculaneum."

Traces of Large Eighth-Century Structure Found in Japan

NARA PREFECTURE, JAPAN—The Mainichi reports that a team of researchers from the Archaeological Institute of Kashihara have uncovered what may have been a noble’s large home on the island of Honshu about one mile away from Fujiwarakyo, the capital of Japan between A.D. 694 and 710. The structure measured about 44 feet long and 18 feet wide, and was equipped with a gate, fence, and an outbuilding. This is the first large building from the Fujiwarakyo era to be found away from the center of the ancient capital. Hitoshi Hayashibe of the National Museum of Japanese History thinks that the luxurious home suggests the nobility of Fujiwarakyo were not required to live near the imperial palace, as was required by Empress Genmei, who completed the move of the imperial capital from Fujiwarakyo to Heijokyo in A.D. 710. Tsuyoshi Ozawa of Mie University, however, thinks the gate at the site indicates the structure was used as a government office. For more on Japanese archaeology, go to "Samurai Nest Egg." 

Evidence of Fish Farming Found at Neolithic Site in China

JENA, GERMANY—An international team of researchers led by Mark Hudson of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History suggests that fish may have been raised for food in China as early as 6200 B.C. The scientists analyzed and compared carp teeth unearthed at Jiahu, a Neolithic site in central China, with remains of fish unearthed at other archaeological sites, and fish raised in modern fish farms in Japan. In earlier periods at Jiahu, when fish were caught in the wild during the spawning season, the catch consisted of adult fish, the researchers explained, but beginning around 6200 B.C., both mature and immature fish were processed at the site. Hudson and his colleagues think the early farmers began to keep some of the wild-caught carp alive in confined spaces, such as rice paddy fields, where they continued to spawn. When the water was drained, both the mature and immature fish were harvested. The high proportion of bones at Jiahu from a type of carp found less commonly in the wild is also evidence for the practice of aquaculture, the researchers added, indicating that the fish farmers kept their preferred variety. To read about large-scale construction at a Neolithic city in the Yangtze Delta, go to "Early Signs of Empire."

Friday, October 4

Fifteenth-Century Ornament Returned to Old Cairo Mosque

CAIRO, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that a copper ornament stolen from the fifteenth-century Al-Kady Abdel-Baset mosque in 2014 has been recovered and returned to the mosque’s main door. Police tracked the artifact through the use of surveillance camera footage, according to Gamal Mustafa, head of the Islamic, Coptic and Jewish Antiquities Department of Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities. Objects taken from other mosques in Cairo were also found in the suspect’s possession. To read about Heliopolis, once the most sacred site on the Nile, go to "Egypt's Eternal City."

New Survey Will Identify Nabataean Sites in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA—An international team of more than 60 researchers led by archaeologist Rebecca Foote has begun a two-year project to survey some 11,500 Nabataean sites in an area covering more than 1,000 square miles in northwestern Saudi Arabia, according to a BBC News report. Nabataean culture is usually associated with the capital city of Petra in Jordan, but the site of the ancient Nabataean city of Hegra, which was founded in the first century A.D., is located in this region of Saudi Arabia. “Exactly how our findings will impact on understanding of ancient history, we don’t yet know,” Foote said. “But it is likely to reshape the world view of earlier periods.” Jamie Quartermaine of Oxford Archaeology said that the thousands of high-resolution photographs taken during aerial surveys of the region and assembled with specialty software will allow the team members to map funerary architecture, standing stones, and rock art sites. The team members will also examine how the Nabataeans managed water and agriculture. In the project’s final stage, researchers will venture into the field on foot. For more on the Nabataeans, go to "Mystery Buildings at Petra."

Sri Lanka’s Sophisticated Stone Tools Dated to 48,000 Years Ago

JENA, GERMANY—According to a Cosmos Magazine report, new radiocarbon dates obtained by Oshan Wedage of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and his colleagues indicate that the thousands of small quartz tools recovered from Sri Lanka’s Fa-Hien Lena Cave are about 50,000 years old. Rain forest environments pose special challenges to survival, including disease, dangerous animals, and limited food sources, and so it had been previously thought that migrating humans avoided such difficult settings. The microliths, which measure about an inch and a half long, are thought to have been used as projectiles by Sri Lanka’s first inhabitants to hunt tree-dwelling creatures and small mammals. Similar sophisticated tools continued to be used by local rain forest cultures as recently as 4,000 years ago. To read about early human exploitation of rain forest resources for food, go to "World Roundup: Sri Lanka."

Fifth-Century Coin Cache Discovered in Bulgaria

VARNA, BULGARIA—The Sofia Globe reports that a well-preserved cache of 16 gold coins and more than 20 bronze coins was uncovered over a two-day period in the town of Devnya, which is located about 15 miles away from Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast. Hristo Kuzov of Varna’s Regional History Museum said the coins may have been hidden during an attack on the ancient city of Marcianopolis in the fifth century A.D. Some of the coins bear images of Emperor Theodosius II or his cousin Valentinian III. To read about another notable coin discovery, go to "Ka-Ching!"