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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Tuesday, December 29

Bailey Hill Castle Investigated in Wales

FLINTSHIRE, WALES—BBC News reports that a masonry wall, arrowheads and pottery dated to the twelfth or thirteenth centuries, and seven human burials were discovered at the site of a castle in northeast Wales during restoration work. “Up until we uncovered that masonry construction, the generally perceived idea of what the castle would have looked like is that it would have been constructed from timber, in a classic motte and bailey style,” said archaeologist Ian Grant of the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust. The presence of masonry walls, Grant explains, suggests that the castle was longer lived and more important to local strategy than previously thought. “It starts to tell you a lot more on the money that’s been invested by the crown or the Welsh princes, whoever is holding it at the time,” he said. Burnt floors at the site could be evidence of a battle or siege, he added. To read about a thirteenth-century catapult stone found at a castle in southeast Wales, go to "Weapons of the Ancient World: Siege Weapons."

Snack Bar Uncovered in Italy’s Ancient City of Pompeii

NAPLES, ITALY—According to a CBS News report, archaeologists have finished excavating a snack bar, or thermopolium, from the ash in the Regio V section of northeastern Pompeii. About 80 such shops are thought to have dotted the ancient city when it was destroyed by the explosion of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79. Frescoes in this shop include depictions of a Nereid riding a seahorse, gladiators in combat, ducks, and a rooster. An image of a dog on a leash may refer to the owner’s guard dog, as a complete dog skeleton was found in the doorway. Archaeologist Valeria Amoretti said that fragments of bone found in pots in the shop’s counter indicate that pork, fish, snails, and beef were on the day’s menu. Nine amphoras; a patera, or bronze drinking bowl; and two flasks were also found in the shop, while a fountain and a water tower were uncovered in the small square located in front of it. Human remains recovered at the site suggest a man in his 50s was in bed at the time of the eruption. For more, go to "Digging Deeper into Pompeii's Past."

Monday, December 28

DNA Study Tracks Caribbean Migrations

GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA—According to a statement released by the Florida Museum of Natural History, researchers led by David Reich of Harvard Medical School and William Keegan of the Florida Museum of Natural History traced two waves of migration in the Caribbean through the analysis of the genomes of people who lived in the Caribbean and Venezuela between 400 and 3,100 years ago. Reich said that the first wave included individuals who were more closely related to groups living in Central and South America than in North America. They arrived in Cuba some 6,000 years ago. Then between 2,500 and 3,000 years ago, farmers and potters related to Arawak speakers from northeastern South America landed in Puerto Rico and eventually moved to other islands to the west. The two groups rarely mixed, and very few modern individuals are descended from the first-wave migrants, Reich explained. The results of the study therefore indicate that changes observed in Caribbean pottery styles over time were not due to the arrival of new populations. The scientists also developed a technique to estimate population size that reduced the estimated number of people living in the Caribbean at the time of European contact from a million or more to just tens of thousands. For more on the peopling of the Caribbean, go to "Around the World: Caribbean."

Roman Mosaic Uncovered in Lebanon

BEIRUT, LEBANON—Arab News reports that a six-foot section of Roman mosaic dated to between 60 B.C. and A.D. 300 was uncovered in the city of Baalbek, which is located in eastern Lebanon, during work to install sewage pipes. Archaeologist Jaafar Fadlallah said the mosaic was part of a huge hall within a Roman palace. “Roman Baalbek was inhabited by many emperors, and it is rich with the distinctive architecture that surrounded the ancient temples,” he explained. “The extent of the ancient city is not known yet. No one knows where the graveyards of that era are located.” The mosaic was left in place and covered with sand and a special covering to protect it. To read about a 1,000-ton megalith quarried for Baalbek's Temple of Jupiter, go to "History's Largest Megalith."

Traces of Possible Neolithic Tsunami Found in Israel

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA—Some 10,000 years ago, a tsunami is thought to have struck the archaeological site of Tel Dor, which was located about a mile inland from Israel’s northern Mediterranean coast, according to a Gizmodo report. Members of an international research team found a layer of sand and shells in sediment cores taken from the site and dated them using optically stimulated luminescence technology to determine when the quartz in the layer of sediment had last been exposed to light. They estimate the wave was more than 50 feet tall and reached more than two miles inland, but it is not clear if the wave stretched to Syria and Lebanon to the north or as far as the Gaza Strip to the south. “Societies were transitioning from over a million and a half years of being foragers and hunters in the Middle East,” said archaeologist Thomas Levy of the University of California, San Diego. “They were experimenting with this village-based sedentary lifestyle.” The wave would have washed away their fertile soils and salted the fields, he explained, resulting in the development of new settlements farther inland by those who survived. To read about the remains of a possible paleo-tsunami victim, go to "World Roundup: Papua New Guinea."

Genetic Analysis Investigates Peopling of the Western Pacific

LEIPZIG, GERMANY—According to a statement released by the Max Planck Society, researchers led by Irina Pugach of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology analyzed DNA obtained from two 2,200-year-old skeletons unearthed from the Ritidian Beach Cave site in northern Guam. The study suggests that these inhabitants of the Marianas, who lived about 1,400 years after people first arrived in Guam, were related to people from the Philippines, and early Lapita peoples living on the islands of Vanuatu and Tonga. Pugach explained that the Marianas and the islands of Polynesia may have been colonized by the same population originating from an island in Southeast Asia. Read the original scholarly article about this research in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. To read more about migration from the Pacific, go to "The Second Americans?"

Wednesday, December 23

Researchers Reconstruct Face of Peru’s “Lady of El Paraiso”

LIMA, PERU—The Latin American Herald Tribune reports that artist Teo Ugarte and archaeologist Dayanna Carbonel have reconstructed the face of the so-called “Lady of El Paraiso,” whose 3,700-year-old tomb was discovered in 2016 near the main temple at the site of El Paraiso on the coast of central Peru. Carbonel explained that the woman may have been connected to the rites carried out in the temple. Examination of the Lady’s bones revealed an injury on one of her forearms associated with weaving. Analysis of her teeth indicates that she ate a diet composed of seafood, yucca, maize, and beans. The clay and plaster bust reflects her long face, prominent nose and cheekbones, small eyes, and narrow mouth. “The intention was not to exaggerate the features because we wanted to achieve the best likeness,” Carbonel said. “There is a certain margin of error because we will never know with exactitude the thickness of the lips, the length of the nose, or the shape of the ears, but we have come close.” The bust is currently on display at the Andres Del Castillo Mineral Museum in Lima. To read more about spiritual practices on Peru's central coast, go to “Idol of the Painted Temple.”

66 Roman Army Campsites Identified in Spain

EXETER, ENGLAND—According to a statement released by the University of Exeter, more than 60 Roman Army camps have been identified on the Iberian Peninsula, where Roman soldiers battled local peoples in the first century B.C. while seeking to expand their empire and procure natural resources such as tin and gold. Researchers based in Spain and the United Kingdom spotted the sites through the use of airborne laser scanning, aerial photography, and satellite images. Further investigation on the ground revealed traces of the camps’ ditches and earth and stone ramparts. The positions of some of the camps in the foothills of Spain’s Cantabrian Mountains suggest that the Romans used ridges to help conceal their positions. Some of the camps are thought to have been used to support travel to more remote locations and to provide long-term housing of troops. Important Roman towns often grew up near such campsites. Other sites may only have been used by Roman soldiers for a few nights at most. For more on Rome's exploitation of natural resources from the Iberian Peninsula, go to “Spain’s Silver Boom.”

Could Early Hominins Hibernate?

MADRID, SPAIN—According to a report in The Guardian, an international team of researchers suggests that Neanderthals and other early hominins may have had the ability to hibernate. Juan-Luis Arsuaga of Complutense University of Madrid and Antonis Bartsiokas of Democritus University of Thrace say that lesions on 400,000-year-old Neanderthal fossils recovered from Atapuerca’s Sima de los Huesos cave resemble those seen on the remains of hibernating mammals. Such lesions are caused by disruptions in bone development brought on by limited food and reduced metabolic states. The remains of a hibernating cave bear have also been recovered from Sima de los Huesos, the researchers explained. Mammals would not have been able to survive on the limited food supply available during the harsh winters in northern Spain at the time. By contrast, modern Inuit and Sami people are able to make it through the winter by consuming fatty fish and reindeer. But critics point out that there may be other explanations for the bone lesions, and that large-bodied mammals—including bears—cannot lower their core temperatures far enough to reach a state of actual technical hibernation. Instead, they enter a state of torpor, which is marked by less deep sleep. In such a state, big-brained hominins like Neanderthals would have continued to require a great deal of energy to survive. For more on the study of early hominin remains found at Sima de los Huesos, go to “Our Tangled Ancestry.”