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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Wednesday, October 14

Traces of Historic Fort Found in the Netherlands

LEIDEN, THE NETHERLANDS—NL Times reports that traces of a Spanish fort built in the sixteenth century during the Eighty Years’ War have been uncovered in Leiden. Archaeologist Ivar Schute and his colleagues uncovered pieces of pewter eating utensils, drinking cups, pottery, fishing implements, a bead, and portions of the fort’s moat at the site. Known as “De Lammenschans,” the fort is central to a local legend surrounding Dutch hutspot, a recipe made of mashed potatoes, carrots, and onions. When the Spanish abandoned the fort at the end of the Siege of Leiden, they were said to have left the cooked dish behind, where it was found by a Dutch orphan who carried it to the city walls and shared it with beggars and pirates who fought the Spanish, and contributed their white bread and herring to the victory meal. The city continues to celebrate its liberation with the hutspot, herring, and bread every October. “De Lammenschans is found,” said Deputy for Culture and Heritage Willy de Zoete of the Province of Zuid-Holland. “Just in the month that we celebrate that ‘Leiden is no longer in trouble,’ our archaeologists find the remains of what sometimes seemed like a legend.” To read about a sixteenth-century Dutch shipwreck discovered during a modern shipping accident, go to "Spring Boards."

Sarcophagus of 26th-Dynasty Priest Found in Upper Egypt

MINYA, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that a sarcophagus dated to the 26th Dynasty (688–525 B.C.) and a collection of ushabti statuettes were found in a 16-foot-deep shaft at the archaeological site of Al-Ghoreifa, which is located in Upper Egypt. Mostafa Waziri of the Supreme Council of Antiquities said the sarcophagus belonged to Djehuty Imhotep, a high priest of the god Djehuty who also held the position of supervisor of the thrones. Many communal tombs belonging to priests of the god Djehuty and other government officials have been found in the area, he added. Djehuty Imhotep was the son of Hersa Iset, whose sarcophagus was found there in 2018. The sarcophagus contained amulets and scarab figurines. Some of the amulets are heart-shaped, while others are shaped as the head of the goddess Hathor, and the four sons of the god Horus, Waziri explained. Another burial shaft, with a large chamber featuring three niches covered with stones, was also found. To read about a recently discovered painting of a leopard that adorned a sarcophagus lid 2,100 years ago, go to "Guardian Feline."

Thuringian Kingdom Cemetery Investigated in Germany

HALLE, GERMANY—Live Science reports that researchers are investigating the site of central Germany’s Brücken-Hackpfüffel cemetery, which is associated with the early medieval manor home of a wealthy aristocrat. Discovered during excavations in summer 2020, the cemetery was in use between A.D. 470 and 540, during the short-lived period of the Thuringian Kingdom. Among the 80 burials in the cemetery, the researchers have recovered imported glass bowls; gold jewelry including brooches, hairpins, and necklaces; and weapons such as swords, lances, spears, and shields. The wealthiest of the graves are thought to belong to those who lived in the manor, said archaeologist Arnold Muhl of the Halle State Museum of Prehistory. The researchers also discovered a pit holding the bones of four cattle, five horses, two dogs, and bronze fragments that may be the remains of a cauldron. The contents of the pit were removed from the site in a block for future study, Muhl explained. The positions of some of the graves suggests they were placed to avoid disturbing this pit, which may have been part of a burial mound holding the remains of an important person, he added. Chemical analysis of the bones that could reveal the birthplace of the cemetery occupants is also planned. To read about German archaeologists' discovery of the grave of a wealthy Roman woman who was buried with her jewelry and makeup kit, go to "Beauty Endures."

Leather Balls Found in Ancient Graves in Northwest China

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND—According to a statement released by the University of Zurich, three leather balls recovered from graves in the Yanghai ancient cemetery in northwestern China have been analyzed by an international team of researchers. Two of the balls were found in the graves of horsemen. A composite bow was also found in one of these graves. Patrick Wertmann of the University of Zurich said that the balls, which measure between about three and three and one-half inches in diameter, have been dated to between 3,200 and 2,900 years old, and are therefore about 500 years older than the previously oldest-known balls in Eurasia. Curved sticks have also been unearthed at Yanghai, but they are not as old as the leather balls, he added. The presence of the balls in the graves suggests that ball games may have been part of military training, Wertmann explained. To read about the remains of small donkeys unearthed in a Tang noblewoman's tomb, go to "Prized Polo...Donkeys?"

Tuesday, October 13

Scotland’s 17th-Century Sand-Covered Settlement Explored

INVERNESS, SCOTLAND—According to a report in The Scotsman, Gerry Bigelow of Bates College and his colleagues have found evidence that someone returned to live in the Shetland island settlement of Broo after it was buried under more than six feet of sand in the late seventeenth century. The settlement is located more than a mile inland from the coast. Climate change during the Little Ice Age, a period of cooler temperatures between 1645 and 1715, may have contributed to the accumulation of sand. Scientists have also suggested that the people who lived on the island wiped out its natural protective dune system through oat farming, or that it might have been destroyed by burrowing rabbits. Bigelow and his team found that someone constructed a staircase over mounds of sand in order to create an entrance into a submerged outbuilding. “You would have to climb out of your house onto the landscape that keeps rising,” Bigelow said. “They did not abandon the house until the sand reached the eaves of the roof.” To read about a period of cooling during the Little Ice Age that may have been an effect of European colonization of the Americas, go to "Colonial Cooling."

Ice Age Footprints Found in New Mexico

ALAMOGORDO, NEW MEXICO—KRQE reports that a trackway left behind by a small adult and a toddler-aged child more than 10,000 years ago has been found at White Sands National Park, which is located in New Mexico’s northern Chihuahuan Desert. The footprints continue for almost a mile along what was the shore of ancient Lake Otero. Sometimes the child walked on its own, and sometimes it was carried by the adult, whose footprints changed in depth and shape as he or she shifted the child from one hip to the other as they traveled. Prints of mammoth, giant ground sloth, dire wolf, and American lions have also been found in the park. To read about the preserved footprints of a family in northern Italy some 14,000 years ago, go to "Upper Paleolithic Cave Life."

Friday, October 9

Study Evaluates Body Shape of Neanderthal Children

BURGOS, SPAIN—Paleobiologist Daniel García-Martínez of Spain’s National Research Center on Human Evolution and his colleagues suggest that Neanderthal babies were born with inward-curving spines and short, barrel-shaped chests to accommodate their large lungs, according to a Science News report. These characteristics had previously only been noted in Neanderthal adults. To see if Neanderthal children shared the same stocky build or developed it as they grew, the researchers digitally reconstructed the rib cages of four Neanderthal children ranging in age from a couple of weeks to 2.5 years old. Their partial skeletons were found in France, Syria, and Russia, and dated to between 40,000 and 70,000 years ago. “The stocky body shape of Neanderthals not only passed from parents to children, but also probably passed from ancestral species to their Neanderthal descendants,” García-Martínez concluded. This stocky build may have been inherited from Homo erectus, he added. Modern humans may have therefore evolved their longer legs, flatter rib cages, and other identifying features after the split from Neanderthals, by about 300,000 years ago. Read the original scholarly article about this research in Science Advances. To read about new analysis of a Neanderthal child's tooth, go to "World Roundup: Iran."

Roman Woman’s Trendy Earring Unearthed in Bulgaria

DEBELT, BULGARIA—Archaeology in Bulgaria reports that an intact gold earring has been discovered in what was a room of the public bath at Deultum, a Roman colony founded in the first century A.D. by veterans of Augustus’ Eighth Legion near Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast. The artifact matches earrings shown in the second-century A.D. mummy portraits of several elite Roman women, according to archaeologist Krasimira Kostova of the Debelt Archaeological Preserve. The public bath house where the earring was recovered was destroyed by a major earthquake in A.D. 357, trapping the lost ornament in the rubble. “This jewel is extremely sophisticated,” Kostova said, explaining it suggests that the women of Deultum followed Rome’s fashion trends. To read about a Roman soldier's military diploma that was found at the site, go to "World Roundup: Bulgaria."

Possible Vitrified Brain Tissue Reexamined

NAPLES, ITALY—Gizmodo reports that forensic anthropologist Pierpaolo Petrone of the University of Naples Federico II and his colleagues have conducted a new study of the possible vitrified brain tissue discovered in the remains of a man found buried in volcanic ash on a wooden bed in Herculaneum, a city destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79. The researchers used a scanning electron microscope and an image processing tool used to examine neural networks to analyze the ancient glasslike substance. The researchers claim they were able to identify traces of the man’s central nervous system, including brain cells, axons, myelin, and cellular microtubules. The structures, they add, are well preserved and still highly organized. Petrone and his team also analyzed genes and proteins from the substance and suggest that they also corroborate the identification of the substance as vitrified brain tissue. Critics of the study said that further investigation and more information is needed. Read the originaly scholarly article about this research in PLOS ONE. To read about investigations into the cause of death of the eruption's Herculaneum victims, go to "World Roundup: Italy."

1,200-Year-Old Old Norse Temple Found in Norway

BERGEN, NORWAY—Live Science reports that the postholes of a 1,200-year-old Old Norse temple have been uncovered on the west coast of Norway by a team of researchers led by archaeologist Søren Diinhoff of the University Museum of Bergen. The Norse used such distinctive wooden temples, known as god houses, for sacrifices to the Old Norse gods at the midsummer and midwinter solstices. The structure is thought to have been used by a group of wealthy families who had contact with the Roman Empire and Germanic tribes in northern Europe. This temple measured about 45 feet long, 26 feet wide, and stood about 40 feet tall. Later god houses also had a high tower set above a pitch roof, resembling Christian basilicas built in Europe. “It would have been very impressive,” Diinhoff said. Cooking pits for preparing feasts, animal bones, and a large white stone that may have been used during fertility rituals have also been found at the site. Many god houses were destroyed in the eleventh century, when Norway’s kings established Christianity in the country. To read about a recently deciphered runestone inscription tied to Ragnarok, the apocalyptic battle of the Norse gods against their enemies, go to "The Emperor of Stones."