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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Monday, June 7

Beeswax Discovered in 400-Year-Old Wooden Box in Norway

OSLO, NORWAY—Gizmodo reports that researchers from the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo identified the remnants of beeswax candles inside a well-preserved wooden box that was discovered in 2019 in melting glacial ice along the Lendbreen mountain pass in Norway’s Breheimen National Park. The lid of the box was held shut with leather straps. The pine used to make the box has been radiocarbon dated to between A.D. 1475 and 1635. Farmers used such boxes to transport candles, which were expensive, from their main farms to their summer mountain pastures, the researchers explained. In the spartan summer quarters, candles would have been the sole source of light at night. Other items recovered from the melting ice of the Lendbreen pass include Viking spears, a wool tunic, horse snowshoes, mittens, shoes, walking sticks, knives, dog leashes, and the remains of a dog. For more on the initial discovery of the box, go to "Melting Season."

Friday, June 4

Additional Burials Found at Mass Grave Site in Tulsa

TULSA, OKLAHOMA—State Archaeologist Kary Stackelbeck announced that three additional burials were found at the site of a mass grave at Oklahoma’s Oaklawn Cemetery, according to a KJRH News report. The mass grave is thought to hold the remains of victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, according to old funeral home records. An estimated 300 people were killed and 800 wounded on May 31 and June 1 when a white mob attacked businesses, homes, and churches in the area of Tulsa’s prosperous Black Wall Street. DNA testing of the remains will be conducted, Stackelbeck added. For more, go to "The Tulsa Race Riot."

Rattling Noise Made by Prehistoric Ornaments Investigated

HELSINKI, FINLAND—According to a statement released by the University of Helsinki, auditory archaeologist Riitta Rainio and artist Juha Valkeapää danced for six consecutive hours while wearing elk tooth ornaments sewn in rows on an apron, and then examined the microscopic wear marks left behind on the teeth as they clattered against each other. The researchers then compared these wear marks to elk teeth recovered from four graves at Yuzhniy Oleniy Ostrov, a Late Mesolithic cemetery in northwestern Russia. More than half of the 177 burials at Yuzhniy Oleniy Ostrov contained elk tooth ornaments. Some of the burials contained more than 300 teeth. The study suggests that the distinctive marks on the prehistoric teeth were made over years or even decades of dancing. Rainio says the rattlers offer a clue to the soundscape experienced by Mesolithic hunter-gatherers. To read more about Mesolithic Russia, go to "World Roundup: Russia."

Thursday, June 3

Medieval Church Excavated in Sudan's Northern State

WARSAW, POLAND—Science in Poland reports that researchers led by Artur Obłuski of the University of Warsaw have found the remains of a large medieval church in the center of Old Dongola, Northern State, Sudan. Dongola was the capital of Makura, one of the Christian Nubian kingdoms, Obłuski explained. He suggests the building could have served as the seat of the archbishop of Dongola, who governed the Nubian churches along a 620-mile stretch of the Nile River. The team members have uncovered the church’s apse, an adjacent wall, and the dome of a large tomb. The apse, Obłuski added, is the largest yet found in Nubia, and it was decorated with plaster and paintings of monumental figures. Much of its walls remain buried. It had been previously thought that the city’s medieval cathedral was situated outside the city walls, but this structure resembles the cathedral unearthed in the center of Faras, the medieval capital of the Nubian kingdom of Nobadia. “There may be more paintings and inscriptions under our feet, just like in Faras,” Obłuski said. To read about a fourth-century A.D. Christian basilica unearthed in northern Ethiopia, go to "Early Adopters."

Roman Basilica Complex Unearthed in Israel

ASHKELON, ISRAEL—According to a statement released by the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, researchers led by Rachel Bar-Natan, Saar Ganor, and Fredrico Kobrin of the Israel Antiquities Authority have uncovered a Roman basilica complex in the ancient city of Ashkelon, which is located along southern Israel’s Mediterranean coastline. Ashkelon residents during the Roman period would have met for social and legal matters, transacted business, and attended performances and religious ceremonies at the basilica complex. The building, which had a roof and walls made of marble imported from Turkey, featured a central hall and two side halls. The central hall was surrounded with rows of marble columns and capitals standing approximately 43 feet tall. The capitals were adorned with plant motifs and eagles, the symbol of the Roman Empire, the researchers explained. The basilica was destroyed by an earthquake in A.D. 363 and abandoned. To read about a robust dye industry on the Mediterranean coast, go to "Letter from Israel: The Price of Purple."

Message Recovered From 20th-Century Beer Bottle in Detroit

DETROIT, MICHIGAN—The Drive reports that two men working on the renovation of Michigan Central Station, a passenger rail depot that opened in 1913 and closed in 1988, discovered a beer bottle wedged upside down behind a piece of crown molding. Much of the bottle’s label survived, and a rolled-up piece of paper had been placed inside it. The men turned the artifact over to their project superintendent, who passed it on to archivists at the Ford Motor Company, which has purchased the building and is renovating it. The archivists carefully removed the paper from the bottle under the right temperature and humidity conditions. The message in the bottle reads, “Dan Hogan & Geo Smith stuck this ceiling of Chicago, July 1913.” Ford’s Heritage and Brand Manager Ted Ryan suggests the men may have been from Chicago, since Michigan Central Station is located in Detroit. The workers at the site have also recovered a brass button, additional bottles, and a plate. To read about the history of beer, wine, and spirits, go to "Alcohol Through the Ages."