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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Monday, September 13

Bronze Age Log Coffin Discovered in England

LINCOLNSHIRE, ENGLAND—A 4,000-year-old log coffin containing the remains of a man and an ax were found in a golf course pond in England’s East Midlands, according to a report in The Guardian. Analysis of the ten-foot-long coffin indicates it had been carved from an oak tree and lined with plants. The ax, complete with a stone head and a wooden haft, may have served as a symbol of the man’s authority rather than as a tool. After a year in cold storage, conservation of the coffin will continue at York Archaeological Trust for eventual display at the Collection Museum in Lincoln. To read about another recent discovery from England, go to "Leisure Seekers."

Ancient Shipwreck Discovered Off Croatia's Coast

ILOVIK, CROATIA—According to a Total Croatia News report, a shipwreck dated to the second century B.C. has been discovered in shallow waters of the Adriatic Sea near the island of Ilovik. The wooden merchant ship measured about 70 feet long and was held together with wooden wedges. Archaeologist Milan Eric and colleagues from the Lošinj Museum said that the wreck rested on loose sand, requiring the construction of a dam around the site to prevent it from being continually backfilled during the investigation. Although some artifacts were brought to the surface for desalination and conservation, the remains of the Ilovik ship were then recovered with sand, geotextiles, more sand, and iron nets connected to concrete blocks. To read about a Greek merchant ship that sank in the Black Sea some 2,400 years ago, go to "Ancient Shipwreck," one of ARCHAEOLOGY's Top 10 Discoveries of 2018.

Roman Soldiers’ Artifacts Unearthed in the Netherlands

UTRECHT, THE NETHERLANDS—Dutch News reports that a complete Roman bolt head missile, two sets of horse bridles and bits, a wicker fish trap, and pieces of amphora that held garum, or fish sauce, were discovered in the central Netherlands, in an area along a marching route on the frontier of the Roman Empire. The 20-inch-long pointed bolt head would have been discharged from a launching platform and would have been powerful enough to pierce iron shields. City archaeologist Erik Graafstal said the well-preserved artifacts were recovered from a layer of oxygen-free wet clay. The bridles and bits, in addition to rings, coins, two pierced jars, and several pins, are thought to have been placed in the earth by soldiers as ritual offerings. For more on Roman projectile weapons, go to "Weapons of the Ancient World: Siege Weapons."

Friday, September 10

Human Remains Found in Foundation of Silla Dynasty Palace

GYEONGJU, SOUTH KOREA—Korea JoongAng Daily reports that a young woman’s remains have been unearthed at the site of Wolseong, a Silla Dynasty (57 B.C.–A.D. 935) palace complex in eastern South Korea. The remains of a man and a woman in their 50s were discovered less than two feet away from her grave in 2017. All three sets of remains, which show no signs of injury, had been placed in the bottom layer of the west wall of the fortress, according to Choi Byung-heon of Soongsil University. This suggests that the individuals may have been sacrificed during the construction of the building, explained Jang Ki-myeong of Gyeongju National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage. Animal bones and other objects thought to have been used in rituals were also uncovered at the site. An intact pot was found near the young woman’s head. “When we did an X-ray of the pottery, we found a smaller bowl inside the jar. It looks like the larger pottery carried alcohol or some kind of liquid,” Jang said. Pottery was been found at the feet of the older couple, he added. The research also shows that construction of the palace complex began in the fourth century A.D. and took about 50 years to complete. To read about gold earrings unearthed in a Silla tomb in Gyeongju, go to "Mysterious Golden Sacrifice."  

Thursday, September 9

Study Estimates Life Expectancy in Bronze Age Turkey

ESKIŞEHIR, TURKEY—Analysis of the remains of more than 40 people suggests that 35 to 40 years of age was the average life span in central Anatolia some 5,000 years ago, according to a Hurriyet Daily News report. The cemetery where the remains were unearthed is located at the Küllüoba Mound, which is known for its Early Bronze Age urban settlement. Most of the remains in the study belonged to women and children. “Infant and child mortality is very high,” said Yilmaz Selim Erdal of Hacettepe University. “The limited food sources and the infectious diseases were imported factors,” he added. Seals, hair ornaments, and jewelry were also recovered from the burials, which varied in style, suggesting that different cultures or ethnic groups shared the settlement. DNA analysis could reveal kinship relationships between the dead, Erdal explained. To read about the destruction of the Bronze Age settlement of Zincirli in southeastern Turkey, go to "The Wrath of the Hittites."

Walls of Possible Anglo-Saxon Church Unearthed in England

STOKE MANDEVILLE, ENGLAND—Buckinghamshire Live reports that archaeologists working ahead of a road construction project in southeastern England uncovered traces of an Anglo-Saxon–era church underneath the remains of St. Mary’s Old Church, a structure built on a compacted foundation shortly after the Norman invasion. Team leader Rachel Wood said the building found under the compacted foundation had flint walls forming a square. “To have so much of it remaining, including the walls and even some flooring, will provide a great deal of information about the site prior to the construction of the Norman church in 1080,” she said. For more on the Norman invasion, go to "Norman Conquest Coin Hoard," one of ARCHAEOLOGY's Top 10 Discoveries of 2019. 

Catacombs at Delft’s Nieuwe Kerk Excavated

DELFT, THE NETHERLANDS—According to a Dutch News report, archaeologists have found the remains of some 200 people during work on the extension of the royal burial chamber at Nieuwe Kerk, a fourteenth-century church located opposite Delft’s City Hall. More than 40 members of the Dutch royal family have been buried in the chamber, including William of Orange in the sixteenth century. Archaeologist Michael Bot explained that about 150 of the newly unearthed remains had been buried in graves, while the bones of others had been placed in charnel repositories. “We are discovering big differences between the medieval bones we found earlier on the Markt (the square on which the church stands) and the people we’re finding in the church,” added city archaeologist Steven Jongma. The condition of the skeletons found in inexpensive coffins in the square indicate that the city’s poor were not as healthy and died at younger ages than the wealthy burghers who were buried in the church. DNA samples and archival research could identify those who had been buried in the church and their professions, Jongma added. To read how researchers have virtually unfolded uopened mail from The Hague that was sent more than 300 years ago, go to "Return to Sender."