Special Introductory Offer!
Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Tuesday, December 31

1,600-Year-Old Bone Pendants Discovered in Turkey

ÇANAKKALE, TURKEY—Two pendants carved from bone some 1,600 years ago have been unearthed in western Turkey at the site of a bone workshop near the agora in the ancient city of Assos, according to a Hürriyet Daily News report. Nurettin Arslan of Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University said one of the pendants is human in shape, while the other resembles an animal. “These must be part of jewelries which people used as necklaces in the ancient period,” Arslan explained. To read about a second-century A.D. mosaic uncovered in a public latrine on Turkey's south coast, go to "Funny Business."

Fragments of Ancient Egyptian Book Found

LEUVEN, BELGIUM—According to a New York Times report, a team of researchers led by Harco Willems of the University of Leuven examined high-resolution images of 4,000-year-old wood fragments recovered from a burial shaft in the necropolis at Deir el-Bersha, and detected texts from the ancient guide to the underworld known as the Book of Two Ways. This copy of the Book of Two Ways was etched into the cedar coffin of a woman named Ankh, who may have been related to a provincial official, and is thought to date to the Middle Kingdom reign of Mentuhotep II (ca. 2051–2030 B.C.), making it about 40 years older than other known copies. Such an illustrated guidebook, Willems explained, would have offered directions and spells necessary to navigate challenges met in the underworld, whether a soul chose to travel by land or by water, in order to reach the realm of Osiris, the god of death, and become linked for eternity to the creator, Ra. To read about excavations of a type of Egyptian cargo ship that was documented by the ancient Greek historian Herodotus, go to "As Told By Herodotus."

Possible Japanese Author of Ancient Chinese Epitaph Identified

BEIJING, CHINA—According to a report in The Asahi Shimbun, a Chinese epitaph at China’s Shenzhen Wangye Museum may have been written by Kibi no Makibi, a powerful Japanese scholar and official, while he was a student in China in the early eighth century A.D. The script, a eulogy for a Tang Dynasty bureaucrat named Li Xun, consists of more than 300 Chinese characters. “It is possible that Li took care of Makibi when he studied at Koro-ji,” said Haruyuki Toni of the Takeda Science Foundation. “When he received the news of Li’s death, Makibi may have picked up a pen and written the epitaph.” Makibi returned to Japan several months after Li’s death, but he eventually became a member of the Japanese envoy to Tang China. “The epitaph is an invaluable historical source for thinking about this history of Japan-China relations,” added Yasunori Kegasawa of Meiji University. To read about a pair of Xiongnu burials recently found in Mongolia, go to "Tomb of the Silver Dragons," one of ARCHAEOLOGY's Top 10 Discoveries of 2019.

Gold Coins Dated to Islamic Era Unearthed in Israel

YAVNE, ISRAEL—The Times of Israel reports that seven gold coins dated to the Early Islamic period were discovered in a small, broken jug near the entrance to a kiln in central Israel. A large number of kilns have been uncovered in the area, suggesting it served as an industrial site where storage jars, cooking pots, and bowls were produced. Liat Nadav-Ziv of the Israel Antiquities Authority and her colleagues think the coins, which have been dated to the seventh through ninth centuries A.D., may have been a potter’s personal savings. To read about the recent discovery of the ancient city of En Esur in northern Israel, go to "City Limits."

Monday, December 30

Roman and Anglo-Saxon Graves Uncovered in England

COVENTRY, ENGLAND—BBC News reports that artifacts and graves dating to the Roman and Anglo-Saxon periods were unearthed ahead of a construction project in England’s West Midlands. In the cremation burial of a young Roman girl, a team of archaeologists led by Nigel Page of Warwickshire County Council found four brooches placed in a small pile covered with a polished mirror. A ring bearing an image of a cicada, an insect associated with immortality, and a hair pin had also been placed in the jewelry pile. A vessel crafted in what is now northern France or Belgium was recovered from one of a dozen Anglo-Saxon graves at the site. A shield, fragments of a knife blade in a leather sheath, and a crushed hanging bowl made of copper alloy were also uncovered from an Anglo-Saxon grave thought to hold the remains of a high-ranking officer. “The settlement at Baginton continued to flourish after the Romans left in the early fifth century,” Page explained. To read about Roman and Anglo-Saxon remains discovered during the A14 highway project in Cambridgeshire, go to "Letter from England: Building a Road Through History."

Symptoms of Heart Disease Detected in Inuit Mummies

CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS—According to a Discover Magazine report, symptoms of atherosclerosis, or hardening and narrowing of the arteries, have been detected in the mummified remains of four Inuit adults who lived in Greenland some 500 years ago. It has been previously suggested that a diet rich in marine foods and omega-3 fatty acids, such as that eaten by preindustrial-era Inuit peoples, would offer protection from arterial calcifications. Scientists led by Samuel Wann, a physician in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, used computerized tomography to examine the bodies of the two men, who are thought to have been between 18 and 22 and 25 and 30 at the time of death, and two women, who died sometime between the ages of 16 and 18 and 25 and 30. The individuals’ entire circulatory systems were not preserved, however, so the researchers were not able to determine the full extent of the damage to their arteries. The scientists also noted that heavy exposure to smoke from indoor fires may have outweighed the heart-health benefits of an active lifestyle and fatty-fish-based diet. To read about Inuit storytelling aids, go to "Mapping the Past: Wooden Inuit Maps."

Possible Carving of Demeter Unearthed in Turkey

KARABÜK PROVINCE, TURKEY—Hurriyet Daily News reports that a slab of limestone thought to have been engraved some 1,800 years ago has been unearthed at the site of Hadrianopolis in northern Turkey. Ersin Çelikbaş of Karabük University said the woman shown in the carving is wearing a traditional dress, a snake-shaped belt, and is holding ears of wheat. She may depict Demeter, the Greek goddess of harvest and agriculture, he explained. The inscription on the slab reads, “Herakleides, son of Glaukos, presented this.” The excavation of the ancient city has also uncovered two public baths, two churches, defensive structures, a theater, and villas. The churches feature mosaic floors with images of a bull, a lion, two peacocks, horses, elephants, griffins, and deer. To read about the destruction of a Bronze Age settlement in southeastern Turkey, go to "The Wrath of the Hittites."

Friday, December 27

Palace Discovered at Ancient Maya City of Kuluba

KULUBA, MEXICO—The Guardian reports that a team of archaeologists from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History have unearthed the remains of a six-room palace at the site of Kuluba in northeast Yucatan. The structure stretches some 180 feet long and stands up to 20 feet high. According to archaeologist Alfredo Barrera Rubio, one of the project's leaders, the building is part of a larger complex that includes an altar and residential rooms, and appears to have been in use from A.D. 600 to 1050. “We know very little about the architectural characteristics of this region," said Rubio. "So one of our main objectives, as well as the protection and restoration of cultural heritage, is the study of the architecture of Kuluba.” To read more about ancient Maya centers, go to "The City at the Beginning of the World."

Medieval Britons Used Birch Bark Tar

BRISTOL, ENGLAND—New research announced by the University of Bristol has shown that Anglo-Saxons used birch bark tar, a technology previously believed to be limited to prehistoric populations. The sticky, water-resistant adhesive was used beginning in the Paleolithic period throughout Europe as a sealant and for its medical properties, but it was generally thought that birch bark tar was replaced by pine tar by the Roman period. Now a team of archaeologists has identified a lump of birch bark tar in an Anglo-Saxon child's grave dating to A.D. 440–530, and birch bark tar coating the inside of a ceramic jar from a cemetery dating to perhaps a hundred years later. The researchers suspect that in both cases the tar was being used as a medicine. To read in depth about the early Anglo-Saxon period in Britain, go to "The Kings of Kent."

Evidence of Lightning Strike Found in Stone Circle in Scotland

ST. ANDREWS, SCOTLAND—BBC News reports that a magnetic anomaly indicative of a large lightning strike, or many small ones on the same spot, was discovered in the center of a 4,000-year-old stone circle on the Isle of Lewis during a geophysical survey conducted by the members of the Calanais Virtual Reconstruction Project. Only one stone remains standing at Airigh na Beinne Bige, which is a satellite stone circle of the island’s main stone circle at Calanais. Richard Bates of the University of St. Andrews said the presence of the stone circle at the site of a massive lighting strike is unlikely to be coincidental. The lightning may have struck a tree or rock no longer present at the site, or the monument itself may have attracted lightning, he explained. The team members also created a 3-D virtual model of the satellite stone circle known as Na Dromannan. None of this circle’s stones remain standing, and some of them are covered with peat. The model will allow the researchers to investigate the circle’s possible astronomical alignments. To read about gatherings of people from across Britain for celebratory feasts at English henges, go to "Neolithic Henge Feasts," one of ARCHAEOLOGY's Top 10 Discoveries of 2019.