Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Wednesday, September 06

Female Migration Pattern Detected in Bronze Age Society

MUNICH, GERMANY—The International Business Times reports that an analysis of the remains of 84 people who had been buried in southern Germany and western Austria between 2500 and 1650 B.C. suggests that most of the women had been born somewhere else. Alissa Mittnik of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History said the team of scientists examined DNA samples taken from the bones, which revealed “a great diversity of different female lineages.” The researchers also conducted an isotope analysis of the teeth, which indicated the women did not grow up in the Lech Valley, although they had been buried according to local customs. Overall, the study suggests the men lived and died in the Lech Valley, while the women had moved there from central Germany or Bohemia. Mittnikk also notes that the immigrant women could have contributed to the increase in cultural exchange seen during the Bronze Age. For more on archaeology in Germany, go to “Last Stand of the Blue Brigade.”

17th-Century Shipwreck Unearthed in Stockholm

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN—The Local reports that a shipwreck discovered in Stockholm could be the Scepter, a flagship built in 1615 for Sweden’s King Gustav II Adolf. “It was really well preserved,” said Jim Hansson of the Stockholm Maritime Museum. “It is only to the first deck level, but you can still see the cut marks from the axes on the timber.” Wood from the wreckage has been dated to the winter of 1612 and 1613. Four big warships were built at the time, including the Scepter, which carried 36 guns. Historic records also indicate the Scepter was scuttled in 1639 for the construction of a new shipyard at the islet in central Stockholm. To read about another famous Swedish shipwreck, go to “History's Greatest Wrecks: Mary Rose and Vasa.”

Inland Early Occupation Site Found in Brazil

PARIS, FRANCE—Denis Vialou of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris and his colleagues believe they have found 23,000-year-old artifacts in the Santa Elina rock-shelter in eastern Brazil, according to a report in Science News. The artifacts, found in three sediment layers, include stone objects and bony plates taken from the skin of giant sloths that had been modified with notches and holes. Hearths were also found in the sediment layers. Early human occupation sites in South America are usually found along the coast. For more, go to “Off the Grid: Rio de Janeiro.”

Unusual, 7,200-Year-Old Vessel Uncovered in Israel

HAIFA, ISRAEL—According to a report in The Times of Israel, a small-scale silo has been unearthed at Tel Tsaf, in Israel’s Jordan Valley, by an international team of archaeologists led by Danny Rosenberg of the University of Haifa. “It’s really uncommon and doesn’t look like any vessel we have,” Rosenberg explained. The 7,200-year-old vessel was found in a room that is thought to have been connected to a burial complex, where the large bases of wheat and barley storage silos were found, along with thousands of seeds. The small vessel may have been a model for the construction of full-sized silos, and may have also been used in rituals connected to the successful storage and preservation of grain, to burial, and to regeneration of life. Pieces of ritual figurines, copper items, a shell imported from Egypt, and imported obsidian artifacts were also recovered. For more on archaeology in the area, go to “Egypt’s Final Redoubt in Canaan.”

Tuesday, September 05

New Dates Obtained for Vindija Neanderthals

OXFORD, ENGLAND—Archaeologists Thibaut Devièse and Thomas Higham of the University of Oxford obtained new radiocarbon dates for Neanderthal bone fragments unearthed in Croatia’s Vindija Cave, according to a report in Science Magazine, by isolating and testing the amino acid hydroxyproline. Previous carbon dating of the Neanderthal remains in the late 1990s relied upon bone collagen, a gelatinous substance which can be contaminated by sediments. These earlier tests indicated the bones were between 29,000 and 34,000 years old, and suggest late-surviving Neanderthals shared the site with modern humans, whose remains and tools are also found in the cave. But the new dates indicate that Neanderthals used the cave some 40,000 years ago, or 8,000 years before modern humans lived in the region. “With this dating work, we are continuing our work to understand where and for how long the two species coexisted,” Devièse said. For more, go to “A Traditional Neanderthal Home.”

Cache of Silver Coins Unearthed at Castle in Poland

WARSAW, POLAND—Eighteen silver coins dating to the seventeenth century were discovered in a defensive tower at Czluchów Castle in northwestern Poland, according to a report in Science & Scholarship in Poland. Michal Starski of the University of Warsaw said the valuable coins, which had been minted for foreign trade, may have been hidden during a period of war known as the Deluge, between 1655 and 1657, when the castle was captured by Swedish forces. “The Czluchów fortress resisted the Swedes for a long time,” Starski said. “The siege lasted for several months—ultimately, in the winter of 1655-56, when the surrounding lake fortress froze, the invaders captured it.” A similar cache of coins was found at a nearby cemetery in the beginning of the twentieth century. Starski thinks the coins may have come from the same collection. For more, go to “Off the Grid: Krakow.”

Obsidian Artifacts Unearthed at Maya Site of Ceibal

CEIBAL, GUATEMALA—The International Business Times reports that 42 pieces of obsidian, or volcanic glass, were discovered in ritual contexts at the Maya site of Ceibal, which is located in the Maya lowlands. The artifacts date to the Preclassic period, between 700 and 350 B.C. In one grave, a long obsidian blade and an unshaped piece of obsidian rested with the remains of two sacrificed children, who had been buried facing each other. Another burial contained the remains of five children, all of whom were less than one year old. Four of the children’s bodies had been placed at the points of the compass, with a piece of obsidian buried at the center. The fifth child had been placed at the southwest corner. Caches of obsidian artifacts were also found in cross-shaped holes along the east-west axis of Ceibal’s public plaza. Kazuo Aoyama of Ibaraki University in Japan thinks the obsidian was transported from the highlands along early trade routes to Ceibal. Burying such rare, valuable tools would have been a significant sacrifice, according to Aoyama. For more, go to “Letter From Guatemala: Maya Metropolis.”

Friday, September 01

Roman Mosaic Floor Unearthed in Southeast England

WEST BERKSHIRE, ENGLAND—The International Business Times reports that archaeologists from Cotswold Archaeology, assisted by volunteers, have uncovered the first half of a 1,600-year-old mosaic floor in a modest villa dating to the late fourth century A.D. So far, images in the large mosaic, which measures nearly 20 feet long, include a depiction of the the Greek hero Bellerophon attacking the Chimaera as he rides the winged horse Pegasus. Other scenes show King Iobates offering his daughter Philonoe to Bellerophon as a reward for killing the beast, which breathed fire and had a lion head affixed to the torso of a goat and the rear of a dragon, and a man wearing a lion skin, perhaps Hercules, fighting a centaur with a club. “The range of imagery is beyond anything seen in this country previously,” said archaeologist Duncan Coe. He notes, however, that the images lack the fine details of those executed by first-rate craftsmen. For more on Roman England, go to “London’s Earliest Writing.”

Ancient Sunken City Found Off the Coast of Tunisia

NABEUL, TUNISIA—Ruins of the ancient Roman city of Neapolis have been discovered off the northeast coast of Tunisia, according to an AFP report. Underwater archaeologists from the Tunisian National Heritage Institute and Italy’s University of Sassari have found streets, monuments, and some 100 tanks that were used to produce garum, a popular fermented fish sauce. “This discovery has allowed us to establish with certainty that Neapolis was a major center for the manufacture of garum and salt fish, probably the largest center in the Roman world,” said team leader Mounir Fantar. The city is thought to have been submerged during a tsunami in A.D. 365. For more, go to “Romans on the Bay of Naples.”