Archaeology Magazine

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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Tuesday, July 03

Mongolia’s Earliest Evidence of Equine Dentistry

JENA, GERMANY—Live Science reports that researchers led by William Taylor of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History examined the remains of 85 horses buried between 1200 and 700 B.C. in Mongolia by the nomadic Deer Stone–Khirigsuur culture and found evidence of early equine dental care. In the skull of one of the horses, dated to 1150 B.C., a tooth sticking out at an odd angle bears a cut mark that suggests someone may have used a stone to form it into a shape that would be more comfortable for the horse. The researchers also discovered that after 750 B.C., when the herders of the Deer Stone–Khirigsuur culture began using metal bits in horses’ mouths instead of ones made of wood, rope, or leather, some horses required additional dental care, to remove remove a functionless premolar known as a wolf tooth, which can interfere with wearing a metal bit. “It’s really shocking and cool that [wolf-tooth removal] directly accompanied the introduction of metal bits,” Taylor said. For more, go to “Mongol Fashion Statement.”

Bronze Coins Recovered in 2,300-Year-Old Tomb

ROME, ITALY—A cache of coins dating to the third century B.C. has been found at the Poggetto Mengarelli necropolis at the Vulci archaeological site, located near the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea, according to a report in ANSA. The 15 large bronze coins bear images of the god Janus Bifrons on one side and the prow of a boat on the other, representing the passage to the underworld from the world of the living. They are thought to have been stored in a leather bag, and then placed in the burial along with ceramics and an iron tool called a strigil that was used to clean the body. A coin similar to those in the bag was placed near a bronze clasp on the left shoulder of a man who was buried in the tomb. An iron object that may have been a spear was found near his head. The second person buried in the tomb had been cremated, and the remains wrapped in a shroud that had probably been closed with the bronze clasp found nearby. A small circular pyx, or chalice, with a lead cover was discovered in the tomb’s vestibule. To read about the recent discovery of a jar full of bronze coins in Japan, go to “Samurai Nest Egg.”

2,000-Year-Old Sealed Sarcophagus Found in Egypt

SIDI GABER, EGYPT—According to a Yahoo! News UK report, a black sarcophagus dating to the Ptolemaic period and a head carved from alabaster have been unearthed in Alexandria. The sarcophagus, found 16 feet underground, was revealed during a construction project and is still sealed. “Experts have not yet determined to whom the tomb belongs,” said Mostafa Waziri of the Supreme Council of Antiquities. To read about another recent discovery in Egypt, go to “Honoring Osiris.”

Monday, July 02

Osiris Statuette Found in Egypt

CAIRO, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that a statuette was discovered on the eastern side of the King Djoser Step Pyramid in Saqqara during restoration work. Sabri Farag, head of the site, said the artifact was in a small hole between the pyramid’s huge blocks. “The statue was probably concealed in this area by a priest of Saqqara in antiquity,” Farag explained. The figurine depicts Osiris, the god of resurrection and eternity, wearing a double crown and holding a feather and a scepter. It will be cleaned and restored. To read about another recent discovery in Egypt relating to Osiris, go to “Honoring Osiris.”

Tomb Complex Discovered in China’s Henan Province

SANMENXIA CITY, CHINA— reports that 21 tombs and six pits containing the remains of animals were discovered near central China’s Shangshihe village during a construction project. The tombs are thought to contain the remains of nobles who lived during the Spring and Autumn Period, from 770 to 476 B.C. The skeletons of 28 horses buried lying on their sides, along with several dogs, were found in the six rectangular pits. Close to 500 artifacts made of copper, pottery, and jade were also recovered. To read about another recent discovery in China, go to “Early Signs of Empire.”

Complete Jars Recovered From Cliffside Cave in Israel

SAFED, ISRAEL—According to a Haaretz report, two intact amphoras estimated to be more than 2,000 years old have been recovered from a tiny cliffside cave in northern Israel. Speleologist Yinon Shivtiel of Safed Academic College was surveying caves in the Galilee that may have been used by Jewish rebels hiding from Roman soldiers during the Great Jewish Revolt between A.D. 66 and 70 when he saw the jars. Based on the jars' shape, however, Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologists believe they date to an earlier period. Other storage jars, a bowl, two juglets, and broken pieces of pottery were also found. “Considering that cooking and serving vessels were found, it would appear that those who brought them planned to live there for a while,” said archaeologist Danny Syon. But the small cave, located 100 feet up a sheer cliff above the ground, would have been hard to access. Shivtiel speculates that whoever went to the effort to use the cave must have been hiding food there while living somewhere else. “We have no theory on their identity at this point,” Shivtiel said. To read about another recent discovery in Israel, go to “Conspicuous Consumption.”

Friday, June 29

Intact Skull Recovered at Pompeii

NAPLES, ITALY—The New York Times reports that archaeologists have recovered the intact skull and upper body bones of the man whose lower skeleton was found protruding from a large rock door jamb at Pompeii last month. It had been assumed that the rock sitting on his upper body had crushed him to death during the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in A.D. 79. Further excavation has revealed that his lower body had been merely separated from his upper body, which was found about three feet directly below the rest of his remains. This may have happened sometime between 1748 and 1815, when early archaeologists digging tunnels at the site could have caused a collapse in the ash. “Our new hypothesis is that he died from asphyxiation from the pyroclastic flow,” said Massimo Osanna, director of Pompeii Archaeological Park. The walls of the nearby building may have collapsed on the body during the eruption or sometime later. The excavation has also uncovered a small sack containing an iron key, about 20 silver coins, and two bronze coins. For more on recent discoveries at the site, go to “Pompeii Revisited.”

5,000-Year-Old Tomb Excavated in Turkey

IZMIR, TURKEY—Live Science reports that Brenna Hassett of the Natural History Museum in London, and Haluk Sağlamtimur of Ege University, have excavated a 5,000-year-old burial at the site of Başur Höyük. The burial consists of a tomb containing the remains of two 12-year-old children, an adult whose remains may have come from an earlier burial, and the remains of eight people ranging in age from 11 to 20, whose bodies had been positioned outside the tomb. In an Antiquity article, Hassett and Sağlamtimur suggest these eight people may have been sacrificed, based upon evidence of trauma on two of the skeletons, possibly as “retainers” who would accompany and serve others in the afterlife. The others may have also received wounds that did not leave marks on their bones. “As a grim example, stab wounds are normally aimed at the soft parts of the body, which do not preserve,” Hassett said. The children in the tomb were also accompanied by hundreds of bronze spearheads, while the possible retainers left outside the tomb were buried with textiles, beads, and ceramics. Hassett added that the children within the tomb may have also been sacrificed, but, “[u]nfortunately, preservation wasn’t great inside the chamber,” making it difficult to determine how they died. For more on archaeology in Turkey, go to “Skull Cult at Göbekli Tepe,” which was one of ARCHAEOLOGY's Top 10 Discoveries of 2017.

Ancient Gold Artifacts Recovered in Ireland

COUNTY DONEGAL, IRELAND—According to a BBC News report, a farmer in the northern reaches of Ireland turned up four gold artifacts resembling bracelets while digging a drain in a field. After an initial examination, Maeve Sikora, keeper of Irish Antiquities at the National Museum of Ireland, thinks they may date to the Bronze Age or earlier. Farmer Norman Witherow said he and his crew found the objects under a stone and about two feet of earth. “I couldn’t figure out what they were,” he said, “they were covered in clay and we had no idea if they were gold or even copper.” He handed the artifacts over to Donegal County Museum, where officials contacted Sikora, who will transport the artifacts to Dublin for further study. For more, go to “Bronze Age Ireland’s Taste in Gold.”