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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Tuesday, September 15

Diving Team Discovers Dutch Trade Ship in Baltic Sea

HELSINKI, FINLAND—The Badewanne Diving Team has announced the discovery of a seventeenth-century Dutch shipwreck resting upright in the dark, cold waters of the Baltic Sea. The group of volunteer divers had been planning to document shipwrecks dated to the First and Second World Wars at the mouth of the Gulf of Finland when they spotted the wreckage of the Dutch three-masted ship. The shape of its hull and its lack of guns indicate the vessel was a fluyt, designed by the Dutch to carry twice the cargo of other ships. When combined with a pulley and tackle system for the rigging, the fluyt could be managed by a smaller crew in order to increase the trader’s profits. The diving team reports that although the holds of the ship are intact, a trawl appears to have caused some damage. Maritime archaeologist Niklas Eriksson of the University of Stockholm added that the shape of the ship’s stern is unique, which may indicate that it was an early version of the fluyt. Eriksson will continue to investigate the wreckage with the Badewanne Diving Team and the Finnish Heritage Agency of Antiquities. To read about another Dutch shipwreck discovered in the southeastern part of the North Sea, go to "Global Cargo."

Earthquake Evidence Uncovered at Israel's Tel Kabri

WASHINGTON, D.C.—According to a statement released by George Washington University, recent excavations at the site of a Canaanite palace in northwestern Israel suggest the structure was destroyed by an earthquake some 3,700 years ago. Eric Cline of George Washington University and Assaf Yasur-Landau of the University of Haifa found that an entire section of wall and flooring had fallen into a trench that cuts through part of the palace. Both the stone foundations and the mudbrick sections of wall were recovered from the trench, which measures at least 100 feet long and may have opened up during the seismic event. The researchers also found warped plaster floors, tilted and displaced walls, mud bricks from collapsed walls and ceilings, and buried wine jars. Cline explained that the destruction at the palace is unlikely to have been caused by violence because there were no signs of fire, and no weapons or human remains that would be expected to have been left in the wake of combat. Read the original scholarly article about this research in PLOS ONE. To read about Canaanite rule in second-millennium B.C. Egypt, go to "The Rulers of Foreign Lands."

1,200-Year-Old Sculpture Unearthed in Southern India

TAMIL NADU, INDIA—The Hindu reports that an eighth-century A.D. sculpture of Lord Vishnu, one of the principal Hindu deities, was unearthed along the banks of the Gundaru River in southern India by a team of researchers from Madurai Kamaraj University. M. Maruthu Pandiyan of the Madurai Government Museum said the style of the sculpture corresponds to the Pandya dynasty, a Tamil-speaking group that ruled in south India and Sri Lanka as early as the fourth century B.C. In the sculpture, Lord Vishnu is depicted with four arms. Two of them are held vertically, while the other two hold a broken disc-like weapon called a chakra and a conch shell. “The chakra and the conch are the main features of the Pandya period,” Pandiyan said. Lord Vishnu is also shown wearing a necklace of large gemstones, he added. To read about a Hindu temple complex destroyed by Ulugh Khan in the fourteenth century, go to "India's Temple Island."

Fingerprints Studied at Rock Art Site in Spain

GRANADA, SPAIN—Analysis of two fingerprints found among rock art at Spain’s Los Machos rock shelter suggests that they were left by a man who was at least 36 years old and a girl between the ages of ten and 16, according to a report in The Art Newspaper. Men’s fingerprint ridges tend to be broader than women’s, and the distance between the ridges grows from childhood to adulthood, the researchers explained. The hand-painted strokes, circles, geometric motifs, and human figures in the cave are estimated to have been created between 4500 and 2000 B.C. Knowledge of who painted the images could help researchers understand their significance, explained Leonardo García Sanjuán of the University of Seville. But Margarita Diaz-Andreu of the University of Barcelona added that fingerprints may have been left by people who accompanied the artists. To read about Cherokee imagery found deep in caves in the American South, go to "Artists of the Dark Zone."

Monday, September 14

Indigenous Bahamian Bone Dated

GALVESTON, TEXAS—According to a statement released by Texas A&M University at Galveston, a human bone belonging to a member of the indigenous Lucayan people, the first group Christopher Columbus encountered in the Americas, has been discovered in a sediment core taken from Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas. Environmental scientist Pete van Hengstum, maritime archaeologist Richard Sullivan, and their colleagues radiocarbon dated the tibia fragment—only the second example of Lucayan remains found on the island—and associated organic material from the core, determining that the individual lived on the island between A.D. 1290 and 1295. This precise dating provides direct evidence that the Lucayans had migrated to the island by the thirteenth century. Sullivan said that stable isotope analysis of the bone indicated that the individual's diet included fish, berries, fruits, and roots. By the mid-1520s, the Europeans had wiped out the Lucayan population in the Bahamas through disease and enslavement. To read about the discovery of the remains of a slave ship in the Abaco Islands, go to "World Roundup: Bahamas."

Early 20th-Century Trolley Tracks Found in Washington State

WALLA WALLA, WASHINGTON—The Union-Bulletin reports that trolley tracks installed in 1906 were unearthed during an infrastructure repair project in Walla Walla. The 450 feet of track were once part of a system that connected the center of the city to outlying areas. Each trolley car, equipped with an onboard electric motor connected to overhead wires with metal rods, held 28 to 72 passengers. A previous archaeological investigation of the city’s trolley system studied a different section of rails, which was marked with the name of the manufacturer and date of construction. A piece of these rails was preserved at the Fort Walla Walla Museum. The trolley line closed in 1926 as the automobile became popular. “I don’t know what the financial investment was back then but it had to have been substantial,” said city engineer Mike Laughery. “I don’t know if they just didn’t foresee the development of the automobile or how that played out.” To read about preserved petroglyphs made by the ancestors of Washington tribes, go to "Off the Grid: Columbia Hills Historical State Park."

Friday, September 11

Paleolithic Dogs Found in Caves in Southern Italy

SIENA, ITALY—The Jacksonville Free Press reports that dog remains found in two caves in Apulia have been dated to between 20,000 and 14,000 years ago. The dogs are thought to have inhabited the caves with humans, pushing back dog domestication in the region by about 4,000 years. Remains of wolves, which were bigger than the dogs and had distinct molars for tearing meat apart, were also found in the caves. “The remains found at Apulia represent to date the oldest specimens discovered in the Mediterranean area and could also represent the until-now missing evidence of the evolutionary process that led to the dog, the very first domesticated animal,” said Francesco Boschin of the University of Siena. Genetic analysis of the remains indicates that one of these dogs was related to a dog who lived about 14,000 years ago whose remains were unearthed in Germany. The animals may represent a cultural link between the two groups of people, Boschin added. He suggests that people and dogs migrated to southern Europe in search of warmer temperatures during the Last Glacial Maximum. To read about wolf and dog bones uncovered at a Bronze Age site on the Russian steppes, go to "Wolf Rites of Winter."

Massive Lion Sculpture Uncovered in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA—According to a report in The Phnom Penh Post, two pieces of a six-foot-tall statue of a lion were unearthed by mine-clearing experts preparing the site of a new groundwater reservoir along the Tonle Sap River. Hab Touch of Cambodia’s Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts said the large size of the statue suggests it may have been part of a bridge. Further study of the sculpture at the National Museum could offer clues to when it was carved. “We cannot make assumptions of the lion that we found during mine clearance for the reservoir plan because we don’t have any connections regarding the statue,” explained museum director Chhay Visoth. “Normally, we can know the date of an artifact by identifying other things around it.” To read about a bodhisattva statue discovered in Angkor, go to "Around the World: Cambodia."

Roman-Era Roundhouse Unearthed in Northern England

NORTHUMBERLAND, ENGLAND—BBC News reports that a roundhouse measuring some 40 feet in diameter has been unearthed at Bamburgh Castle on the coast of northeast England. Project director Graeme Young said the roundhouse could be more than 2,000 years old. The presence of the roundhouse at the site could help researchers understand the transition from the Roman period to occupation by the Anglo-Saxons, who built a stronghold overlooking the North Sea in the sixth century. “This discovery has the potential to give us fascinating evidence and flesh on the very bare skeleton about the continual occupation of Bamburgh,” Young said. To read about the Anglo-Saxon fortress beneath Bamburgh Castle, go to "Letter from England: Stronghold of the Kings in the North."

Floodwaters Threaten Sudan’s Ancient Pyramids

KHARTOUM, SUDAN—Agence France-Presse reports that Al-Bajrawiya, Sudan’s 2,000-year-old capital of the Meroitic Empire, is threatened by record flooding of the Blue Nile. Marc Maillot of the French Archaeological Unit in the Sudan Antiquities Service said that the site is usually more than 1,500 feet away from the river, but teams of workers are now setting up sandbag walls and pumping out water in an attempt to protect the ruins, which include the Meroe pyramids. “The situation is currently under control, but if the level of the Nile continues to rise, the measures taken may not be sufficient,” Maillot said. To read about a necropolis with small pyramids that was unearthed on the banks of the Nile, go to "Miniature Pyramids of Sudan."

Monumental Pool Complex Discovered Near Rome

ROME, ITALY—Wanted in Rome reports that a monumental stone basin dated to the fourth century B.C. has been found in an area slated for development between Rome and Ostia Antica, Rome’s ancient port city at the mouth of the Tiber River. The pool measures nearly 160 feet long and 40 feet wide. Archaeologist Barbara Rossi said that researchers do not yet know what purpose the complex served during the eight centuries it was in use. For more on Ostia, go to "Rome's Imperial Port."