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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Monday, September 18

Update on the Search for Victims of the Tulsa Race Massacre

TULSA, OKLAHOMA—According to an Associated Press report, the remains of one person were recently exhumed as part of the continuing investigation at Tulsa’s Oaklawn Cemetery, where researchers are looking for the remains of victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. Estimates suggest 75 to 300 Black people were killed in the Greenwood section of Tulsa by a white mob, which also looted and burned the business district known as Black Wall Street. “We’re trying to find people who were murdered and buried in a cemetery … without the intent of being found,” commented Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum. Researchers have concentrated their efforts in an area identified with ground-penetrating radar that appeared to have grave markers made from bricks and flower pots. Oklahoma state archaeologist Kary Stackelbeck said that the newly uncovered remains came from a grave containing a simple wooden casket as described in newspaper articles, death certificates, and funeral home records at the time of the massacre. A second burial will also be exhumed this week, Stackelbeck said. Earlier work at the cemetery located 66 sets of remains, 22 of which are undergoing forensic evaluation in an attempt to identify them. Genetic profiles have been obtained from six of these individuals to date, and connected to potential relatives in North Carolina, Georgia, Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Alabama. To read more about the Tulsa Race Massacre, go to "A Sight Which Can Never Be Forgotten: The Tulsa Race Riot."

U.S. Repatriates Seized Artifacts to Costa Rica

ORLANDO, FLORIDA—NBC6 Miami reports that several pre-Columbian artifacts seized at an airport in Orlando in 2017 were repatriated to Costa Rica in a ceremony this week with Ludmila Ugalde, Consul General of Costa Rica. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers spotted the artifacts while scanning passenger luggage. “We started opening all the bags and in one of the shoes that the traveler had, we found the artifacts,” said CBP Agriculture Specialist Jose Carlos Esteves. “It was actually concealed inside the shoes.” The ceramic objects, dated to the tenth and fifth centuries B.C., will be housed in the Costa Rica National Museum. For more on Costa Rican archaeology, go to "Off the Grid: Diquis Delta, Costa Rica."

Two Gold Torcs Uncovered in Spain

ASTURIAS, SPAIN—CNN reports that a gold torc estimated to be 2,500 years old was discovered in northwestern Spain by a worker for a local water company. He alerted archaeologist Pablo Arias of the University of Cantabria, who investigated the site with researchers from the Asturias Archaeological Museum. They eventually found a second torc that had been broken into several pieces. Abraded areas on the artifacts suggest that they had come in contact with skin and clothing. “We know that they were used,” Arias explained. “Not everyone could afford one of these necklaces,” he added. To read about a silver diadem found in the burial of a Bronze Age woman in southeast Spain, go to "Crowning Glory."

New Thoughts on Turtle Remains in an Iron Age Burial in Poland

WARSAW, POLAND—According to a statement released by De Gruyter, a new study of an Iron Age child’s burial discovered in 2010 in northern Poland’s Czarnówko site suggests that the turtle remains occasionally found in ancient graves in the region are the result of post-burial disturbances, and not a funeral tradition of the Wielbark culture. It had been previously thought that the remains of a European pond turtle (Emys orbicularis), found in the grave near the child’s skull, may have been placed there deliberately as part of the burial, or may have shifted there when the grave was disturbed by looters in antiquity. Although archaeological evidence suggests that turtles were sometimes kept as pets by the people of the Wielbark culture, there is no evidence that they were eaten or used in burial practices, said Kalina Skóra of the Polish Academy of Sciences. It is possible, she noted, that this turtle had fallen or crawled into the looters’ trench and was then unable to escape the burial. “It is hardly a coincidental association that in all archaeologically recorded cases, the turtle remains were found in graves opened some time after burial, that is with traces of post-funeral interference,” Skóra concluded. Read the original scholarly article about this research in Praehistorische Zeitschrift. To read about genetic analysis of individuals buried 5,000 years ago in a mass grave in Poland, go to "We Are Family."

Friday, September 15

Namibia’s Animal Footprint Rock Art Examined

ERLANGEN, GERMANY—According to a statement released by the Public Library of Science, Andreas Pastoors of the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg and his colleagues consulted current-day trackers from the Nyae Nyae Conservancy while examining rock art in central Western Namibia. The Paleolithic engravings depict human and animal footprints. The Kalahari Desert trackers were able to identify the species, sex, age group, and leg of the animal footprint images in more than 90 percent of the 513 engravings. The data suggests that the hunter-gatherer engravers were more likely to depict the footprints of adult animals and men’s footprints. The study also found that more diversity among the animals was represented in the footprint images than has been found in ancient engravings of the animals themselves. Continuing consultation with trackers from the Nyae Nyae Conservancy could shed light on these poorly understood patterns, the researchers concluded. Read the original scholarly article about this research in PLOS ONE. To read about a cave in the Kalahari Desert that may be the oldest home inhabited by human ancestors, go to "Around the World: South Africa."

Thursday, September 14

Early Artillery Piece Recovered Near Sweden

GOTHENBURG, SWEDEN—According to a statement released by the University of Gothenburg, maritime archaeologist Staffan von Arbin of the University of Gothenburg and a team of international researchers examined a cannon recovered by a diver off the coast of Sweden near the port of Marstrand and determined that it may date to the fourteenth century. It had been previously thought that this type of cannon was developed between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Made of cast copper alloy, the muzzle-loading cannon is thought to have been used onboard a ship because it still contained parts of a charge in its powder chamber, making it ready for combat. The remains of the charge also allowed the researchers to radiocarbon date the artifact, von Arbin explained. Analysis of the alloy revealed that it was made up of about 14 percent lead and very little tin, meaning that it would have been likely to crack if it had been used for long periods. “This shows that the noble art of cannon casting had not yet been fully mastered at that time, and that production was largely based on trial and error,” he said. Von Arbin and his colleagues plan to look for the wreckage of the ship that carried the weapon. Read the original scholarly article about this research in The Mariner's Mirror. To read about the wreck of a fifteenth-century ship discovered near the town of Ronneby, go to "Around the World: Sweden."

Painted Maya Vault Stone Uncovered at Ek’ Balam

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO—According to a statement released by Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History, a block of painted stone has been found in the Yucatán in the east elevated plaza at the acropolis at Ek’ Balam. The stone had been used as a vault cover. Traces of black paint has been found on similar stones recovered at the site, revealing the names of some of the rulers of the Maya kingdom of Ek’ Balam, and construction dates for rooms of the royal palace and the acropolis. This stone, however, bears an image of a U-shaped symbol painted in red. Researchers Leticia Vargas de la Peña and Victor Castillo Borges suggest that the image may refer to the underworld, and represent a snake entering a cave with underground water. Stucco reliefs depicting captors and captives have also been recently uncovered in this part of the acropolis, the researchers concluded. To read about a carved stone marker unearthed in the Yucatán that may commemorate a particular Maya ball game, go to "A Game to Remember."

Bones Recovered From Mustatil in Saudi Arabia

LYON, FRANCE—Live Science reports that the remains of at least nine people and thousands of animal bone fragments and horns have been found within a 7,000-year-old stone monument in Saudi Arabia by a team of researchers led by Wael Abu-Azizeh of Lumière University Lyon 2. Many of the animal bones were the heads of cattle and goats, some of which had been burned. More than 1,000 such rectangular monuments, known as mustatils, have been found in Saudi Arabia. This one measures about 131 feet long and 39 feet wide. The surviving walls are more than six feet thick, but it is unclear how tall they might once have been. A possible shrine with two hearths were placed at the center of a courtyard within the mustatil. Researchers think ceremonies involving deposits of animal bones and horns may have occurred in this inner structure. The remains of the people, including two infants, a child, an adolescent, and five adults, were buried several hundred years after the animal bones had been placed in the mustatil. It is unclear at this time if those interred in the monument were related to the people who had built it. For more on mustatils, go to "Around the World: Saudi Arabia."