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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Friday, November 18

Pyramid and Hundreds of New Kingdom Coffins Found in Egypt

CAIRO, EGYPT—Live Science reports that exploration near an Old Kingdom pyramid dedicated to Teti, who ruled in the Sixth Dynasty from about 2323 to 2150 B.C., has uncovered a series of shafts containing New Kingdom (1550–1070 B.C.) burials. “Teti was worshipped as a god in the New Kingdom period, and so people wanted to be buried near him,” said Egyptologist Zahi Hawass. The burials include a limestone sarcophagus, some 300 coffins marked with the names of the deceased, and well-preserved mummies. “The coffins have individual faces, each one unique, distinguishing between men and women, and are decorated with scenes from the Book of the Dead,” Hawass explained. One coffin has a mask made of gold, he added. Pieces to the game Senet, small figurines, statues of the god Ptah-Sokar, and a metal ax were also recovered. In addition to the burials, Hawass and his team unearthed traces of a pyramid belonging to a queen named Neith. “It is amazing to literally rewrite what we know of history, adding a new queen to our records,” Hawass concluded. To read about monuments built during the New Kingdom reign of Tutankhamun's grandfather, go to "Rediscovering Egypt's Golden Dynasty."

Thursday, November 17

Stolen Artifacts Returned to Pakistan

NEW YORK, NEW YORK—The United States repatriated 192 antiquities to Pakistan in a ceremony held at the Pakistan Consulate in New York, according to a CNN report. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Jr. said that most of the artifacts were linked to a single dealer who has been accused of trafficking Asian antiquities from his Manhattan gallery. The district attorney’s Antiquities Trafficking Unit has seized more than 2,500 artifacts as part of this investigation. The recently returned objects include several so-called Mehrgarh dolls, which date to the Neolithic period and are some of the oldest known figurines in the world. To read about one of the oldest known Buddhist temples that was recently uncovered in the Swat Valley, go to "Around the World: Pakistan."

Iron Age Artifact May Shed Light on Origins of Basque Language

BARCELONA, SPAIN—The Guardian reports that engravings on the so-called Hand of Irulegi, a flat, 2,000-year-old hand-shaped bronze artifact unearthed last year in northern Spain, may be an example of the written language of the Vascones, which is thought to be an ancestor of modern-day Basque. The artifact was found in an abandoned mudbrick dwelling thought to have been burned down in the first century B.C. during the Sertorian War, fought by two Roman factions on the Iberian Peninsula. Only a few words written on Vascone coins had previously been known to scholars, and so it was thought that the Vascones began writing only after the Romans came to the region and introduced the Latin alphabet. Javier Velaza of the University of Barcelona said that the 40 characters on the Hand of Irulegi could represent five words. One of them has been identified as sorioneku, an ancestor of the modern Basque word zorioneko, for good luck, or good omen. “We were almost convinced that the ancient Vascones were illiterate and didn’t use writing except when it came to minting coins,” commented team member Joaquín Gorrochategui of the University of the Basque County. To read about a Visigothic city built in Spain following the Roman Empire's final collapse, go to "The Visigoths' Imperial Ambitions."

Wednesday, November 16

U.S. Repatriates Looted Artifacts to Turkey

ANTALYA, TURKEY—Hurriyet Daily News reports that artifacts recovered from two auction houses in the United States have been returned to Turkey as a result of cooperation between Turkey’s Culture and Tourism Ministry, the Antalya and Burdur Museum Directorates, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, and the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The objects include a rare, life-sized bronze statue of the Roman emperor Lucius Verus, fragments of a sarcophagus from the city of Perge, a third-century B.C. marble figurine thought to have come from western Anatolia, a silver figurine of Apollo from northern Turkey, a seated statuette of the god Attis, and a terracotta plate from the southern region of Pisidia. The artifacts are currently housed in the Antalya Museum. To read about excavations of a Roman amphitheater at the ancient city of Pergamon in western Turkey, go to "Saving Seats."

Roman-Era Necropolis Discovered in Southern Spain

ANTEQUERA, SPAIN—A Roman necropolis dated to the first and second centuries A.D. has been found at a construction site in southern Spain, according to a report in The Olive Press. Traces of 24 cremations and 30 burials have been unearthed to date. One of the graves held a lead sarcophagus containing two teenagers and a baby who died at about three months of age, and a second burial of an adolescent girl and a four-month-old infant. Glass jars of ointments, game tokens, a coin minted in the second century A.D., and some glass beads were also found in the first section of the double burial. Tokens for the same game, glass beads, glass marbles, and a second century A.D. oil lamp were recovered from the second. To read about the discovery of a Roman arch in southern Spain, go to "Making an Entrance."

New Thoughts on Egypt’s Ancient Branding Irons

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS—According to a Live Science report, Ella Karev of the University of Chicago suggests that 10 branding irons now held in the collections of the British Museum and the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology may have been used to mark the skin of humans some 3,000 years ago. It had been previously thought that the ancient Egyptians typically marked people with tattoos, as interpreted in a carving of prisoners of war found in southern Egypt at the site of Medinet Habu, Karev said. The branding of cattle with square or rectangular brands is frequently depicted in ancient Egyptian paintings, she added, and these brands were likely to have been at least four inches long because a scar left by a smaller brand could have become illegible as the young animals grew. The ancient Egyptian brands held in the museums, however, are very similar in size and shape to those used by Europeans during the transatlantic slave trade, Karev explained. She thinks the carving at Medinet Habu may show small brands being heated in a brazier for the purpose of marking a large number of people quickly. To read about ceramic figurines and vessels depicting tattooed Egyptian women, go to "Ancient Tattoos: Faience Figurine and Bowl."