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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Wednesday, October 03

Possible Roman Soldiers’ Burials Unearthed in Bulgaria

WARSAW, POLAND—A team led by Agnieszka Tomas of the Institute of Archaeology at the University of Warsaw excavated two graves found near Novae, a Roman legion camp in northern Bulgaria, according to a report in Science in Poland. “The people buried in the graves we discovered were probably associated with the Roman legion—perhaps even soldiers,” she said, based upon the metal parts of military belt buckles and shoe rivets found in the burials. The metal artifacts show signs of having been burned, probably during a cremation ceremony at another location. The bones were then placed in wooden boxes fastened with iron nails for burial. The archaeologists also found pottery jugs containing residue of wine, lamps, and coins bearing images of Roman emperors. “A coin was given for the way to the afterlife, because it was believed that the deceased would have to cross a river and the ferryman would expect payment,” Tomas said. The human remains and the grave offerings were finally covered with large ceramic plates that formed a gabled-roof structure. To read about another recent discovery in Bulgaria dating to the Roman period, go to “Mirror, Mirror.”

New Technique Detects Opiate Residue in Bronze Age Jug

YORK, ENGLAND—BBC News reports that a team of researchers led by Rachel Smith of the University of York developed a technique to detect traces of an opium alkaloid in a 3,500-year-old base-ring jug held in the collections of the British Museum. Such jugs are shaped like the seed head of the opium poppy, and were widely used in the eastern Mediterranean between 1650 and 1350 B.C. This particular jug had remained sealed, preserving a residue of plant oil. Smith explained that the opiate alkaloids found in the vessel are known to have psychological effects on humans, and are resistant to decay. Other opiates, such as morphine, are less likely to survive over the millennia, she said. Smith and her colleagues do not know whether the opiate was one ingredient in a mixture, or whether the plant oil was stored in the jug after opium had been removed from it. To read about analysis of residue found on ceramic beakers at the Native American site of Cahokia, go to “Artifact.”

Tuesday, October 02

Roman-Era Grave Found During Road Work in Cumbria

CUMBRIA, ENGLAND—Roadwork in northwest England has revealed a Roman-era grave, according to a BBC News report. Archaeologist John-James Atkinson said the burial may have been placed along the Roman road, but the excavation team has not found its exact route yet. “The A66 has been a road for at least 2,000 years,” he explained. The grave was carefully investigated, recorded, and preserved in situ. To read about a curious set of burials in England dating to the Roman period, go to “Off with Their Heads.”

Thousands of Petroglyphs Uncovered in Western India

MAHARASHTRA, INDIA—BBC News reports that thousands of petroglyphs carved into rocky, flat hilltops have been discovered in western India by a group of explorers who wanted to investigate a few known images revered by local people. Most of the newly found carvings, which depict animals, birds, human figures, and geometric designs, had been hidden under layers of soil. The images are similar to artworks found in other areas of the world, and are estimated to be about 12,000 years old, based upon their designs. “We have not found any pictures of farming activities,” said Tejas Garge, director of the Maharashtra state archaeology department. “But the images depict hunted animals and there’s detailing of animal forms.” Some of the pictures show animals such as hippos and rhinoceroses, which do not live in western India, raising questions requiring further study, Garge added. To read about the discovery of chariots dating back 4,000 years, go to “Indian Warrior Class.”

Iron Age Chariot Unearthed in Northern England

POCKLINGTON, ENGLAND—The Yorkshire Post reports that an Iron Age chariot and human and equine skeletal remains were unearthed at a construction site in the north of England. The site also includes more than 100 burials from the Arras Culture, including one of a warrior who was buried along with his sword and with four spears placed in his spine, and one in his groin, possibly an attempt to liberate his spirit. The new chariot discovery comes a year after another Iron Age chariot was found buried with two horses at another building site in Pocklington. To read about an unusual depiction of a horse in southern England, go to “White Horse of the Sun.”

Archaeologists Examine Graffiti at Aizanoi’s Temple of Zeus

KÜTAHYA, TURKEY—The Daily Sabah reports that some 400 drawings were recorded at the Temple of Zeus in the ancient city of Aizanoi, which is located in western Anatolia, by a team of researchers led by Elif Özer of Pamukkale University. The drawings have been attributed to five or six groups of people, ranging from those who lived in the city during the Byzantine era and used the temple as a Christian church, to the Çavdar Turks who lived in the city in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. “For instance, there were warriors and their leaders,” Özer said of the images. “These figures were drawn in larger size with larger horses. There are figures that were made smaller and probably depicted the enemy. There are figures of cavalry and hunters. Inside the temple, there are usually figures about revelry. Here we see komuz players and minstrels.” She also pointed out that the Byzantine-era Christians inscribed hundreds of crosses on the walls of the temple, and converted an altar to Zeus near the temple’s eastern entrance into an oven, where the researchers found a bread seal inscribed with a cross. “This shows that the seals with the sign of the cross were printed on the dough and given to the people of that period,” she said. To read about a recent discovery in Turkey dating to the Roman period, go to “Seals of Approval.”

Monday, October 01

Archaeologists Return to Greek Island of Samothrace

ATHENS, GREECE—Tornos News reports that a team of researchers led by Bonna Wescoat of Emory University conducted excavations in the western section of the Sanctuary of Great Gods on the Greek island of Samothrace, which is located in the northern Aegean Sea. The area under investigation included a theater, a 340-foot-long roofed colonnade or stoa, and the perivolos, or court surrounded by a low wall, where the statue known as the Nike of Samothrace once stood. The excavation uncovered some architectural features of the theater first revealed during excavations in 1923, pieces of statue bases made of red rhyolite and white limestone, and fragments of a ceramic pipe that ran under the theater. The researchers also noted that the stoa had been built of limestone from the quarry of Akrotiri. For more on archaeology in Greece, go to “A Surprise City in Thessaly.”

Engraved Sandstone Discovered in Aswan

CAIRO, EGYPT—Egypt Today reports that work to reduce the level of groundwater at the Kom Ombo Temple in Aswan revealed two inscribed pieces of sandstone. Mostafa Waziri, head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said the first piece of sandstone dates to the 19th Dynasty (1295-1186 B.C.), and depicts King Seti I standing in front of the god Horus and the goddess Sobek. The images are topped with a winged sun, which is a symbol of protection. There are 26 lines of hieroglyphic text below the images. The stone has been broken in two, but its inscriptions are in good condition, Waziri added. The second stone shows King Ptolemy IV, who ruled from 222 to 205 B.C., standing with his wife, Arsinoe III, the god Horus, a winged sun, and 28 lines of text. Waziri said this stone was found broken into several pieces. The discovery of a sandstone sphinx sculpture at the site was announced earlier this month. To read in-depth about the Hyksos, who immigrated to Egypt and ruled it for a century, go to “The Rulers of Foreign Lands.”

Arctic Ice Hampered Recent HMS Erebus Expedition

OTTAWA, CANADA—HMS Erebus and its sister ship, HMS Terror, were abandoned in 1848 in the Canadian Arctic during Sir John Franklin’s ill-fated search for the Northwest Passage. Live Science reports that recent investigation of the wreckage of HMS Erebus by Parks Canada archaeologists yielded nine artifacts, including metal parts of rigging instruments, a piece of tarred felt, a ceramic pitcher, and an artificial horizon—a tool used in navigation with a sextant to determine latitude when the horizon is obscured. The pitcher and artificial horizon were found in an officer’s cabin on the lower deck of Erebus. Bad weather prevented divers from entering Sir John Franklin’s cabin, however, where they hoped to discover the ship’s logs and other documents that could provide information about what happened to the ship. “This proved to be the worst ice conditions we’ve ever seen,” said underwater archaeologist Ryan Harris. “We were only able to cover a day and a half of scientific diving on the site.” To read in-depth about the discovery of Erebus, go to “Franklin’s Last Voyage.”

Ancient Cemetery and Neolithic Village Found in Albania

KORCA, ALBANIA—The Associated Press reports that an ancient cemetery containing layers of about 1,000 burials dating back to the Iron Age has been found in southeastern Albania, on top of a postholes marking the site of a Neolithic settlement. Archaeologist Iris Pojani of Tirana University said the cemetery was discovered during the construction of a gas pipeline through a region that has long been a prosperous agricultural area. Objects recovered from the different layers of the cemetery included medieval wooden caskets and clothes made with silver thread; jewelry such as rings, bracelets, earrings, and amber and glass beads; gold coins; and weapons such as spears, daggers, knives, and swords. The researchers have not yet located the various settlements associated with the burials. To read in-depth about discoveries made during construction of this gas pipeline, go to “Letter from Albania: A Road Trip Through Time.”

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