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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Wednesday, August 01

19th-Century Buildings Excavated in Ontario

ANCASTER, ONTARIO—In an excavation carried out in advance of construction of a new arts center in Ancaster, archaeologists have uncovered a range of artifacts dating to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, according to a CBC report. The site once hosted the Bloody Assize of 1814, a series of trials in which 19 men were charged with high treason for aiding the enemy during the War of 1812 and 15 were sentenced to death. The excavation has uncovered a tin shop and an apothecary that dates to 1857, including glass from medicine jars and pieces of tobacco pipes. Based on the discovery of a drain system that was connected to the tin shop and the apothecary, archaeologists Stephen Brown believes that both buildings may have been built by the same person. A bottle of ginger beer dating to 1912 that was brewed by Pilgrim & Co. in nearby Hamilton was also unearthed. To read in-depth about the discovery of a legendary nineteenth-century shipwreck in Canada, go to “Franklin’s Last Voyage.”

New Discoveries on a Dutch Shipwreck

KENT, ENGLAND—According to a BBC report, Historic England scholars continue to make discoveries related to the wreck of the Dutch ship Rooswijk, which foundered on a sandbank off the coast of Kent in 1740. Recent analysis of coins recovered from the site show they bear holes in them that suggest crewmen sewed them into clothing in order to smuggle them to the Dutch East Indies. Historians have also managed to discover the names of 19 of the 237 crewmen who went down with Rooswijk. Among them was a Norwegian sailor named Pieter Calmer who had already survived one shipwreck at the Cape of Good Hope. "It's extraordinary that after more than 270 years we now know the names of some of the people who may have lost their lives with the Rooswijk," says Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England. "Seafaring was a dangerous way of life and this really brings it home." To read in-depth about a 17th-century Dutch shipwreck and its shipment of luxury goods, go to “Global Cargo.” 

Potters’ Break Room Found in Central Israel

GEDERA, ISRAEL—A large spa and a game room have been uncovered in central Israel along with evidence of a pottery workshop that churned out wares for 600 years, according to a report in The Times of Israel. Game boards, including some for playing mancala, were etched into large stone benches at the site, which dates to the 3rd century A.D., during the Roman period. “We discovered a game room that was perhaps used for breaks from the potters’ intensive work,” said excavation codirector Ella Nagorsky, of the Israel Antiquities Authority. The complex was discovered ahead of construction of a new neighborhood. The game room included a cabinet that held glass cups and bowls, while the spa complex featured baths with hot and cold water. There is no historical record of the pottery workshop, which appears to have produced the same type of ceramics—“Gaza” wine jars—for 600 years. The archaeologists believe it may have been a family workshop that was passed down from generation to generation. They estimate that the site holds parts of more than 100,000 pots, some of which boast fingerprints left behind by ancient potters. To read more about artifacts dating to the Roman era uncovered in Israel, go to “Sun and Moon.”

Burial Mound Unearthed in Kazakhstan

ASTANA, KAZAKHSTAN—The Astana Times reports that Kazakh archaeologists have excavated a thirteen-foot-tall burial mound that once held the remains of a prominent member of one of the Saka tribes. These nomadic Iranian people were related to the Scythians and dominated the steppes in present-day Kazakhstan and southern Siberia during the first millennium B.C. Nearby, the team also discovered seven more recent Islamic graves that date to the 15th and 16th centuries A.D. The graves were oriented towards Mecca, and some of them contained jewlery, including a copper ring, a bronze earring, and a silver buckle. To read in-depth about a lavish Scythian burial mound, go to "Rites of the Scythians."

Tuesday, July 31

Three Hundred Years of History Uncovered in Quebec

L’ANCIENNE-LORETTE, QUEBEC—More than 50,000 artifacts dating back over more than three centuries have been uncovered on the grounds of a Catholic church just west of Quebec City, according to a CBC report. Members of the Huron-Wendat First Nation lived in the area along with Jesuit priests for several decades in the late seventeenth century, said lead archaeologist Stéphane Noël. Later, in the winter of 1759, the French were forced to leave the site to make room for the British army. Among the finds is a large collection of stone pipes, which show that the Huron-Wendat continued to carve their own even though they had access to European goods. Archaeologists have also unearthed evidence that the Huron-Wendat were using European gunflints as scrapers and drills, and that the First Nation peoples were connected to an extensive trade network. Among the remains of the 300 years of French occupation of the area is a nearly intact icehouse that would have been packed with snow to keep food from spoiling. A cannonball associated with the British army’s brief occupation of the area was found as well. For more on archaeology in Quebec, go to “Off the Grid: Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal.”

Early Agriculture in the Jordan Valley

TEL TSAF, ISRAEL—According to a report in The Times of Israel, a team led by University of Haifa archaeologist Danny Rosenberg has unearthed new evidence for the transition to agriculture at the village site of Tel Tsaf in the Jordan Valley around 7,500 years ago. Excavations at levels dating to this period have yielded evidence of agriculture in the form of the remains of olives, grains, and beans, but almost no evidence for hunting. “A thousand years earlier, the flesh of hunted animals is still a major component of our ancestors’ diet,” says Rosenberg. “A few hundred years later, we already find evidence that hunting is becoming more marginal.” This summer, Rosenberg’s team also uncover a roasting pit containing a nearly complete skeleton of a pig, possible evidence of a community-wide festival. To read about an unusual artifact excavated at Tel Tsaf, go to "World Roundup: Israel." 

18th-Century Water Pipes Discovered in Edinburgh

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND—A network of wooden water pipes has been found beneath Edinburgh’s city center, according to a report in the Edinburgh Evening News. Fifteen pieces of the elm piping were found at George Square as part of construction work on a new underground heating system at the University of Edinburgh. The pipes were part of an underground network built in 1756 to supply the city with clean drinking water from surrounding rural areas. “To uncover these water pipes preserved in situ beneath the cobbles was just incredible,” said Lindsay Dunbar of AOC Archaeology Group. “Whilst the use of such wooden pipes is well-documented and preserved examples exist within museums and collections, to find the pipes in situ is much rarer.” The pipes were extremely well preserved, allowing archaeologists to note details regarding their construction and joining techniques. The wood pipes, which were prone to rotting, were eventually replaced with cast iron ones. For more on the archaeology of water systems, go to “Rome’s Oldest Aqueduct,” which was one of ARCHAEOLOGY’s Top 10 Discoveries of 2017.

Possible Roman Library Unearthed

COLOGNE, GERMANY—The Guardian reports that German archaeologists excavating in downtown Cologne have unearthed the foundations of a Roman building that may have been a library. Dating to the middle of the second century A.D., the remains were found near what was once the forum of the ancient Roman city of Colonia. Niches in the building’s walls were likely intended to house up to 20,000 scrolls, and archaeologists believe an alcove adjacent to the possible library may have been dedicated to the goddess Minerva. To read about the only known Roman library of manuscripts to have survived antiquity, go to “The Charred Scrolls of Herculaneum.”   

Monday, July 30

Roman Villa in Lod Yields Another Ancient Mosaic

TEL AVIV, ISRAEL—According to a report in The Jerusalem Post, a 1,700-year-old mosaic depicting birds, fish, and complex geometric designs has been found in a Roman villa in the ancient city of Lod, which is located in central Israel. The mosaic was discovered by Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologists during the construction of a visitors’ center at the site, which will exhibit the many mosaics uncovered in the ancient city since 1996. The villa where this mosaic was found featured a mosaic-paved reception room, or triclinium, an internal columned courtyard that had also been decorated with mosaics, frescoes, and a water system. To read about mosaic inscriptions dating to the Byzantine period that were recently discovered in Israel, go to “Gods of the Galilee.”

Wildfire Revealed Hundreds of Sites in Canada

ALBERTA, CANADA—CBC News reports that a wildfire that burned about 50 percent of the ground cover in Waterton Lakes National Park last year has revealed more than 250 Blackfoot camps and foot trails dating back some 7,000 years. “We’re finding so much that we’re starting to rewrite what we thought we knew about Waterton history and indigenous camp history,” said archaeologist Bill Perry of Parks Canada. Flakes from the production of stone tools, arrowheads, projectile points, and bison remains have been found, in addition to artifacts dating to the time of European contact, such as glass trading beads. A Depression-era work camp has also come to light in the park. Rock foundations, cans for tobacco and evaporated and condensed milk, a metal sewing needle case, a Boy Scout pin, and a cold cream jar are among the artifacts recovered at the site. For more on forest fires, go to “Letter From California: The Ancient Ecology of Fire.”

Eighteenth-Century Rockets Unearthed in India

SHIMOGA, INDIA—According to an AFP report, a stockpile of more than 1,000 corroded eighteenth-century rockets has been found in an abandoned well in southern India. State assistant director of archaeology R. Shejeshwara Nayaka said the weapons, known as Mysorean rockets, were cylindrical iron tubes that contained propellant and black powder, and were developed by Tipu Sultan, ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore. This cache of weapons is thought to have belonged to Tipu Sultan himself, who was killed in 1799 during the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War while fighting against the British East India Company. “Digging of the dry well where its mud was smelling like gunpowder led to the discovery of the rockets and shells in a pile,” Nayaka said. Tipu Sultan’s rockets are said to have been the first weapon of their kind, and to have influenced the development of the Congreve rocket, which was employed by the British during the Napoleonic Wars. For more, go to “Letter from India: Living Heritage at Risk.”

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