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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Monday, January 3

U.S. Repatriates Looted Artifacts to Italy

MILAN, ITALY—According to an Associated Press report, U.S. officials handed over 200 looted antiquities recovered from American museums and galleries to Dario Franceschini, Italy’s culture minister. Forty of the objects will be on display in New York at the Italian Consulate General for several months. Franceschini explained that the artifacts will be returned to the areas from which they were plundered and placed in local museums. “This too is a great homecoming operation that will add value to our extraordinary country as a vast museum,” he said. “They are artworks of absolute importance that will attract people to those places and territories.” To read about a chariot unearthed in a villa just north of Pompeii, go to "A Ride Through the Countryside."

400-Year-Old Winery Site Investigated in China

HENGSHUI CITY, CHINA—Xinhua reports that a large-scale winery first used in the late Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) and into the 1950s has been uncovered in northern China by a team of researchers led by Hu Qiang of the Hebei Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology. The winery site is comprised of tanks, pits, drying fields, and underground distillation stoves. Objects made of ceramic, metal, glass, and shell were also recovered. For more on wine and spirits throughout history, go to "Alcohol Through the Ages."

1,600-Year-Old Tombs Uncovered in Northern Turkey

ORDU, TURKEY—The Anadolu Agency reports that eight tombs dated to the fourth century A.D. were discovered during road construction along northern Turkey’s Black Sea coast. Emergency excavations conducted by researchers from the Ordu Museum Directorate recovered human and animal remains, and jewelry made of gold, silver, bronze, glass, and carnelian. Pieces of a glass bottle were also found in one of the tombs. For more on the archaeology of Turkey, go to "Last Stand of the Hunter-Gatherers?"

Unfinished Sculpture Discovered at Agios Patapios

VERIA, GREECE—According to a statement released by Greece's Ministry of Culture and Sports, an unfinished statue of a young man was discovered near the site of Agios Patapios, the ancient capital of Macedonia. The piece of marble, thought to have been carved during the Roman period, stands about three feet tall, but the figure is missing its head. A robe drapes around the man's left shoulder, in a form resembling sculptures of the ancient Greek deities Apollo and Hermes. Researchers from the Ephorate of Antiquities of Imathia said the unfinished work will allow them to study local production techniques. To read about recent research on the Nike statue from the Sanctuary of the Great Gods on Samothrace, go to "Winged Victory's Vantage."

Thursday, December 30

Possible Bronze Age Tsunami Victim Found in Turkey

ISTANBUL, TURKEY— reports that a young man whose remains have been unearthed at the Late Bronze Age site of Çeşme-Bağlararasi, which is located on the shore of Çeşme Bay in western Turkey, may have been killed by a tsunami generated by the eruption of the Thera volcano on the Greek island of Santorini some 3,600 years ago. The remains of people killed by such giant waves are usually pulled back into the sea and never recovered. The young man’s remains, however, were found pushed up against a retaining wall, along with the remains of a dog and layers of ash and debris from several tsunamis related to the eruption. Radiocarbon dating indicates the material around the remains is not older than 1612 B.C. Pits in the rubble may have been dug by survivors looking for victims. To read about wall paintings on Thera, go to "A Barrel of Bronze Age Monkeys."

Study Shows Head Lice Helped Preserve Ancient Human DNA

READING, ENGLAND—According to a statement released by the University of Reading, an international team of scientists recovered bits of the glue-like substance produced by head lice from ancient mummified remains in Argentina, human hair in a textile from Chile, and a shrunken head of the ancient Jivaroan people of Amazonian Ecuador. The researchers were then able to extract human DNA from scalp cells trapped in the substance, which is generated by female lice to attach their eggs, known as nits, to human hair. Mikkel Winther Pedersen of the University of Copenhagen explained that the “nit cement” held as much DNA as a human tooth, and twice as much as is usually recovered from human bones. The DNA extracted from the nit cement, he added, revealed the sex of the human hosts; a migration some 2,000 years ago from the North Amazonian plains toward central-west Argentina; and traces of a virus discovered in 2008. The Merkel cell Polymavirus is usually shed by healthy human skin, but when it gets into the body, it can cause skin cancer. Its presence on one of the mummies suggests that head lice may spread the virus, Pedersen explained. Read the original scholarly article about this research in Molecular Biology and Evolution. To read more about mummified remains in South America, go to "World Roundup: Argentina."

Roman-Period Statue Unearthed in Southern Greece

ATHENS, GREECE—According to a statement released by the Greece's Ministry of Culture and Sports, when heavy rains revealed a glimpse of a statue in the market area at the site of Epidaurus, researchers led by civil engineer Ev. Kazolia, archaeologist V. Lambrinoudaki, and Alkisti Papadimitriou of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Argolida unearthed the life-sized carving, which depicts a woman wearing a tunic and a robe. Fastened at the left shoulder, the robe hung over the woman’s left arm. The pattern of the folds on the back of the statue indicate that the robe was lifted with her right hand outward and upward, in a gesture often associated with women and the daughter of Asclepius, the god of medicine. The statue will be cleaned and restored. To read more about recent research at Epidaurus, go to "To Reach the Gods."

Wednesday, December 29

Possible World War II Wreckage Uncovered in Sicily

WASHINGTON, D.C.—An excavation at a crash site in southeastern Sicily conducted by a team of researchers led by Clive Vella of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency has uncovered fragments of an American B-25 Mitchell heavy bomber and possible human remains, according to an Associated Press report. Much of the plane’s metal is thought to have been scavenged after World War II, Vella said. What was left of the aircraft was discovered in 2017 with the use of metal detectors at a site identified through the investigation of German historical records. The researchers suspect the plane’s crew had been targeting a German airstrip when it was shot down on July 10, 1943, with six airmen on board. Five of them remain missing, Vella explained. “We owe (their) families accurate answers,” he said. The evidence has been transported to the U.S. for further investigation. To read about other efforts to recover the remains of those lost during World War II, go to "Letter from Normandy: The Legacy of the Longest Day."

18th Dynasty Egyptian Mummy Undergoes CT Scan

CAIRO, EGYPT—According to a BBC News report, the intact mummy of Amenhotep I, who ruled from 1525 to 1504 B.C., has been examined through the use of computed tomography scans. “We got to see the face of the king that has been wrapped for more than 3,000 years,” said Sahar Saleem of Cairo University. Saleem said the study suggests Amenhotep I stood about five feet, six inches tall, and had a narrow chin, small, narrow nose, curly hair, and mildly protruding upper teeth, and thus resembled his father, Ahmose I. The study also suggests Amenhotep I died at about 35 years of age, perhaps from an illness, since no wounds or disfigurements from lingering disease were detected on the body. Unusually, she added, the pharaoh’s brain was not removed during the mummification process. Postmortem injuries to the mummy that may have been inflicted by grave robbers were repaired by priests some 400 years later with resin-treated linen, she explained. The priests left 30 amulets and a gold girdle in place when they reburied the pharaoh near Luxor, at Deir el-Bahari. To read about a recently excavated Egyptian city dating to the reign of Amenhotep III, go to "Golden City," one of ARCHAEOLOGY's Top 10 Discoveries of 2021.