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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Monday, October 4

Reserved Seating Identified in Pergamon’s Amphitheater

IZMIR, TURKEY—The Anadolu Agency reports that researchers from the German Archaeological Institute and Berlin Technical University found names engraved on seats in five areas of the 1,800-year-old amphitheater in western Turkey’s ancient city of Pergamon. As many as 50,000 people at a time may have been able to watch the gladiator battles, animal fights, executions, and re-enactments of naval battles known to have taken place in the amphitheater’s large arena. “They wanted to build a replica of the Colosseum here, which was frequented by all segments of society,” explained Felix Pirson of the German Archaeological Institute. “But people from the upper class or important families had private seats in special sections with their names engraved on them.” Some of the names, although Latin, were written in Greek letters, he added. “We believe that some people from Italy had a special place in the Pergamon amphitheater.” Such a large entertainment center is thought to have given Pergamon an edge over Ephesus and Smyrna, two other ancient cities in the region, Pirson said. To read about the discovery of a Roman amphitheater at the ancient city of Mastaura in western Turkey, go to "In the Anatolian Arena."

Metropolitan Museum Will Repatriate Sculpture to Nepal

NEW YORK, NEW YORK—The New York Times reports that the Metropolitan Museum of Art announced that it will return a tenth-century sculpture to Nepal. The 13-inch sculpture, which depicts the Hindu deity Lord Shiva on Mount Kailash in the Himalayas, is now thought to have been looted from a temple in the Kathmandu Valley about 50 years ago, based upon gaps in its provenance. A collector donated the sculpture to the museum in 1995. “We have so many objects like the Shiva statue on our list,” said Roshan Mishra of the Taragaon Museum and the Nepal Heritage Recovery Campaign. “One by one, they will end up returning.” To read about excavations of an early Buddhist shrine in Nepal, go to "Buddhism, in the Beginning," one of ARCHAEOLOGY's Top 10 Discoveries of 2014.

Roman Temple Discovered in Ancient City of Tyre

WARSAW, POLAND—Art News reports that an international team of archaeologists has discovered a Roman temple in the acropolis at the ancient Phoenician city of Tyre, a 5,000-year-old site located on an island in the Mediterranean Sea just off the coast of Lebanon. María Eugenia Aubet of Pompeu Fabra University of Barcelona, Ali Badawi of the General Directorate of Antiquities of Lebanon, and Francisco J. Núñez of the University of Warsaw and their colleagues found that the rectangular-shaped temple was first constructed in the early Roman period, between about 31 B.C. and A.D. 193, and underwent a major remodel in the late Roman period, between about A.D. 284 and 476. They have not yet identified the deity that was worshipped in the temple, but “its location on a podium in the most elevated area of the ancient island highlights this building’s particular status,” Núñez explained. The investigation also revealed that the structure was made of sandstone blocks and stood on a platform made of limestone and sandstone. Two 26-foot columns of Egyptian pink granite flanked a vestibule on one side of the temple. Steps to the entryway were decorated with engraved geometric motifs, Núñez added, and there may have been a subterranean chamber near the entrance. The structure was replaced during the Byzantine period by a basilica, which was destroyed by a tsunami in the sixth century A.D. To read about hundreds of Phoenician figurines found underwater off the coast of northern Israel, go to "Offerings at Sea."

Artifacts Found at Site of Known 19th-Century Māori Settlement

MARLBOROUGH, NEW ZEALAND—Sewer line construction along the shore of the northeastern tip of New Zealand’s South Island uncovered a Māori stone adze fragment and a fireplace, according to a Stuff report. Archaeologist Kirsty Sykes said the adze, or toki, was deposited at the site in the late nineteenth century, but the tool could be older. The fireplace was lined with the shells of local cockle, pipi, and mussels, she added. Te Ātiawa o te Waka a Māui relocated to the area at Waikawa Bay after their principal settlement was purchased by the British governor in 1849. “The site is within the rohe [tribal area] of Te Ātiawa o te Waka a Māui, and the Māori associations of the features and materials encountered this far provides a tangible link with the tupuna [ancestors] who lived in this area,” Sykes explained. To read about mid-nineteenth European and Asian settlers on New Zealand, go to "Kiwi Colonists."

Friday, October 1

Remains on Indonesian Island Push Back Human Occupation

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA—Gizmodo reports that a fragment of a human jawbone dated to between 16,000 and 25,000 years ago has been discovered on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, pushing back the occupation of the island by modern humans by thousands of years. “This particular individual most likely descended from a population of modern humans that arrived in Sulawesi by watercraft tens of thousands of years ago,” said Adam Brumm of Griffith University. The bone was recovered from a layer in southwestern Sulawesi’s Leang Bulu Bettue that was dated through isotope analysis of stalagmites, radiocarbon dating of shells, laser ablation dating of a pig tooth, and optical dating of feldspar. Brumm said that the person was an adult who had “really bad teeth.” The international team of researchers will continue to look for additional remains. To read about cave art on Sulawesi that has been dated to at least 44,000 years ago, go to "Shock of the Old."

1,000-Year-Old Silver Coins Unearthed in United Arab Emirates

SHARJAH, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES—According to a report in The National, a cache of 1,000-year-old silver coins has been discovered in central Sharjah by a team of researchers led by Sabah Aboud Jasim of the Sharjah Archaeology Authority. Jasim said the Islamic coins had been placed in an Abbasid-style pot dated to the ninth or tenth century A.D., and show that the Abbasid dynasty had a presence in the region, which was an important trade center. The coins were minted in Morocco, Persia, Al-Rai, the Khorasan region, Armenia, and Transoxiana, and bear iconography of five Muslim caliphs, he added. To read about tenth-century Islamic gold coins unearthed in Jerusalem, go to "Money Talks."

Byzantine Warrior Received Sophisticated Medical Care

NEW YORK, NEW YORK—Live Science reports that Anagnostis Agelarakis of Adelphi University re-examined a 650-year-old skull recovered in 1991 from Polystylon Fort, which is located in Western Thrace, and found that the man had received sophisticated medical care for a badly broken jaw about ten years before his death. Agelarakis spotted a line of dental calculus in the jaw that formed around a thin wire holding the broken bone together as it healed. The lack of discoloration indicates the wire was not made of a silver alloy or copper or bronze wires. “It must have been some kind of gold thread, a gold wire or something like that, as is recommended in the Hippocratic corpus that was compiled in the fifth century B.C.,” Agelarakis said. “In one of the dentitions,” he added, “I saw that the tooth was filed a little bit so that the knot that was tied in the wire would not scratch the cheek.” Agelarakis thinks such careful medical treatment indicates the man could have been a military leader who was decapitated by the Ottomans when they captured the fort in the fourteenth century. The head was found in the pre-existing grave of a young child at the fort’s cemetery. A piece of ceramic recovered at the burial site may have been used to dig the hole and bury the head surreptitiously, Agelarakis surmised. The rest of the man’s remains have not been found. To read about another discovery from Thrace, go to "Thracian Treasure Chest."

Thursday, September 30

Roman-Era Venus Statuette Unearthed in England

GLOUCESTER, ENGLAND—BBC News reports that an excavation ahead of a construction project in the center of southwestern England’s city of Gloucester has uncovered an 1,800-year-old figurine thought to depict Venus, the Roman goddess of love. The clay figurine is about 6.7 inches long. “We know pieces like these were made in central France and the Rhineland/Mosel region of Germany during the first and second centuries,” said city archaeologist Andrew Armstrong. “It seems certain the figurine is from this period and is a representation of Venus. She would most likely have stood in someone’s home shrine for the goddess,” he explained. Stone foundations of Roman buildings outside the ancient city walls were also uncovered. To read about a terracotta figurine of Venus unearthed at the Roman city of Vienna in southeastern France, go to "A Day by the Rhone."

Early Bronze Age Geoglyph Discovered in Southern Siberia

KHONDERGEY, SIBERIA—The Siberian Times reports that half of a geoglyph thought to depict a bull has been uncovered in southern Siberia. The image, created with stones set in the earth, shows the bull’s hind legs and tail. The front of the bull was damaged by road construction in the 1940s. The artwork is thought to be part of a 4,000-year-old Bronze Age burial. “The bull motif is very typical for the central Asia cultures of the Early Bronze Era,” explained Marina Kilunovskaya of the Tuva Archaeological Expedition. “We do see bulls as petroglyphs around Tuva and the neighboring territories—but coming across the animal geoglyph is a unique discovery for the whole region of Central Asia,” she said. To read about a more than 2,000-year-old feline geoglyph identified in southern Peru, go to "Cat's Eye View."

Neanderthals May Have Visited Cave Room Found in Gibraltar

MADRID, SPAIN—The Guardian reports that researchers led by Clive Finlayson of the Gibraltar National Museum have discovered a new chamber in Vanguard Cave, which is part of Gorham’s Cave complex on the Rock of Gibraltar. Finlayson explained that the chamber, which is now about 65 feet above sea level, was sealed off by an earthquake some 40,000 years ago. In the chamber, the researchers recovered a large dog whelk shell that may have been carried into the cave by a human. In other areas of the cave, he and his colleagues have found evidence of Neanderthal occupation, including hearths, stone tools, and the butchered bones of red deer, ibex, seals, and dolphins. The team will continue to investigate the site and look for Neanderthal remains. For more on Gorham's Cave, go to "Symbolic Neanderthals."

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