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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Wednesday, September 7

Possible “Vampire” Burial Uncovered in Poland

BYDGOSZCZ, POLAND—According to an Ars Technica report, a woman whose remains were uncovered in a seventeenth-century cemetery in northern Poland may have been considered a vampire. Dariusz Poliński of Nicholas Copernicus University said that the woman, who had very noticeable protruding front teeth, is thought to have been wealthy because of traces of a silk cap found on her head. A sickle blade found across the skeleton’s neck may have been intended to decapitate the corpse if it tried to “rise” as a vampire, he explained. A padlock had also been placed on the left big toe. “This symbolizes the closing of a state and the impossibility of returning,” Poliński added. He thinks the woman’s appearance may have prompted superstitious locals to take these precautions. To read about other so-called "vampire" burials in Bulgaria, go to "Vampire-Proofing Your Village."

Pottery Yields Molecular Traces of Neolithic Meals

BRISTOL, ENGLAND—According to a statement released by the University of Bristol, Simon Hammann, Luce Cramp, and their colleagues analyzed residues collected from pots recovered from crannog sites in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. The study suggests that early Neolithic cooks used cereals, dairy products, and meat as ingredients as early as 4000 B.C., when grain was brought to Britain by migrant farmers from continental Europe. The study also showed that the biomarkers for grains can be preserved for thousands of years longer than previously thought possible if kept in waterlogged conditions. Biomolecular traces of cereals were detected in about one third of the pots in the study, Hammann and Cramp explained. The analysis also indicates that wheat, which is not usually found among charred plant remains at archaeological sites in the region, was boiled in the pots. Smaller pots were used to cook cereals in milk, perhaps to form a gruel, while larger pots were used to cook meat-based stews. Many of the pots were intact and decorated, and may have served a ceremonial purpose. Read the original scholarly article about this research in Nature Communications. For more on Scotland's crannogs, go to "Worlds Apart."

Search Begins for Signs of Laundresses at Old Fort Meade

RAPID CITY, SOUTH DAKOTA— reports that archaeologists are excavating an area at Old Fort Meade known as “Soap Suds Row,” where hired laundresses cleaned soldiers’ uniforms. The fort was occupied from 1878 to 1944. “Of course, you can imagine a cavalry post and the type of laundry that they were generating,” said team member Linea Sundstrom. Her research indicates that the laundresses lived in a row of 13 houses situated along Bear Butte Creek. Many of the well-paid women were married to enlisted men. Sundstrom thinks the laundresses at Fort Meade might have continued to work after the U.S. Army banned women from accompanying troops as laundresses. “They kept it [the laundry facility] longer than most western military posts,” she said. “The debate on why they did away with it was because some felt it gave women too much economic power.” Sundstrom hopes the excavation will yield information on how long women continued to work at the fort. To read about excavations at a Union Army camp in Kentucky, go to "A Path to Freedom."

Tuesday, September 6

Paleolithic Artifacts Discovered in a Cave in Slovakia

KRAKÓW, POLAND—Science in Poland reports that weapons, bone needles, a fragment of a stone lamp, and hundreds of animal bones have been uncovered in the remains of a large fire in Hučivá Cave, which is located in Slovakia’s Belianske Tatras, by a team of Polish and Slovak researchers. Paweł Valde-Nowak of Jagiellonian University said the artifacts were left behind by Magdalenian people who were hunting ibex, a creature that no longer lives in the region. The researchers will continue to look for evidence of prehistoric peoples on the Polish side of the Tatra Mountains. Read the original scholarly article about this research in Antiquity. To read about a Magdalenian wind instrument fashioned from a snail shell, go to "Artifact."

1930s Medicine Bottle Found in Poland’s Gwda River

PIŁA, POLAND—The First News reports that an intact medicine bottle from the 1930s has been recovered from the Gwda River in western Poland by Jarosłav Rola of the Stanisław Staszic Regional Museum and his colleagues. The bottle contained an herbal remedy for treating stomach or heart ailments, he explained. The ongoing survey of the river also yielded a fragment of a pot dated to the twelfth or thirteenth century, a 2,000-year-old drinking mug, and a piece of a seventeenth-century bridge. The artifact will be held at the museum, Rola concluded. To read about seventeenth-century artifacts recovered from the Vistual River, go to "World Roundup: Poland."

11th-Century Settlement Uncovered in Zanzibar’s Stone Town

ZANZIBAR, TANZANIA—The National reports that traces of an eleventh-century settlement have been found in the courtyard of the Old Fort at Stone Town, which was thought to have been first established as a hub for Indian Ocean trade networks on the East African coast by Portuguese explorers and the Sultanate of Oman. The homes, cooking pits, and pottery were left behind by local Swahili people, who transitioned to the construction of stone buildings in the fourteenth century. “We can now say that the town was built centuries before the Omanis arrived,” said Tim Power of UAE University. Recent excavations have also uncovered a wall of a Portuguese church that had been demolished and integrated into the fort, and a carved stone block from a mosque that once stood on the site. To read about medieval trading centers along the East African coast, go to "Stone Towns of the Swahili Coast."

Friday, September 2

Possible Priest’s Grave Discovered at Pacopampa

CAJAMARCA, PERU—Reuters reports that a 3,000-year-old tomb has been found in northern Peru’s Pacopampa archaeological site by archaeologist Yuji Seki. Pacopampa consists of a large ceremonial center constructed of cut and polished stone, and is known for the tomb of the so-called Lady of Pacopampa, who is thought to have been buried around 700 B.C., before the construction of the temple at the site. The newly discovered burial contains the remains of a man, musical instruments, and shells of large sea snails that lived in waters off the coast of Ecuador. “They were brought from a faraway place,” Seki said. “It could mean this person had a quite important religious power back then.” To read about a 3,000-year-old burial mound in northern Peru, go to "Letter from Peru: Connecting Two Realms."

Carvings Discovered at Ireland's Grange Stone Circle

LIMERICK, IRELAND—Irish Central reports that new photographs of a stone at the north entrance passage to Grange Stone Circle, which consists of 113 stones set in a wide earthen bank, have revealed previously unseen carvings of concentric circles and arcs. Grange Stone Circle is located in western Ireland, near horseshoe-shaped Lough Gur, prehistoric crannogs, and ring forts. “The carvings are quite like those at passage tombs in the North and East of the country, such as Knowth and Newgrange, but there is only a single carved stone of this kind in Munster or Connaught,” commented Elizabeth Shee Twohig, who is now retired from University College, Cork. She thinks the stone may have been carved around 3000 B.C., when the banked enclosure at Grange Stone Circle was built, and later incorporated into the stone circle. To read about the people buried in the 5,500-year-old tomb of Newgrange, go to "Around the World: Ireland."