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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Tuesday, May 9

Subsurface Imaging Reveals Australia’s Ancient Landscape

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA—According to a statement released by Flinders University, a new survey of the Red Lily Lagoon area in Northern Australia’s West Arnhem Land with electric resistivity tomography (ERT) has revealed that some 8,000 years ago, the ocean’s coastline stretched across what is now an inland region. The area is known for Madjedbebe, a 60,000-year-old archaeological site, and its distinctive ancient rock art. Environmental changes at the lagoon are reflected in this rock art, with the appearance of images of freshwater species of fish, birds, and crocodiles in areas that had once been near the ocean and mangrove swamps, explained team member Jarrad Knowlessar. Such environmental changes are also reflected in the types of stone artifacts that were made, and the sorts of foods that were eaten, he added. The new environmental model produced by the survey will also help researchers to identify areas where additional archaeological sites could be found. Read the original scholarly article about this research in PLOS ONE. To read more about how Aboriginal artists depicted climate change in the rock art of West Arnhem Land, go to "Letter from Australia: Where the World Was Born."

7,000-Year-Old Tomb Excavated in Oman

AL WUSTA, OMAN—Live Science reports that the remains of dozens of people have been found in a unique tomb in central Oman by a team of researchers led by Alžběta Danielisová of the Czech Republic’s Institute of Archaeology in Prague. Constructed with walls and a roof made of rows of thin stone slabs called ashlars, the tomb had been covered with a mound of earth. Inside, it was divided into two circular burial chambers that had been further separated into individual compartments. The dead are thought to have decomposed elsewhere, because bones inside these burial chambers were placed in clusters, while the skulls were found near the outside wall, and the long bones had been arranged so that they pointed toward the center of the chamber. The remains are thought to have been deposited in the tomb over a period of several hundred years, beginning about 7,000 years ago. A smaller, similar tomb was found nearby. Analysis of the bones could reveal what the deceased ate and where they were born. Further research in the area could also determine where these people lived. To read about bronze weapons unearthed at a site in northeastern Oman, go to "Fit for a War God."

Traces of a Neolithic Road Discovered in the Adriatic Sea

ZADAR, CROATIA—Total Croatia News reports that traces of a 7,000-year-old road have been found at Soline, a Neolithic site submerged in the Adriatic Sea near Croatia’s coastline, by a team of researchers led by Mate Parica of the University of Zadar and his colleagues. The road, which was made of stacked stone slabs, connected the prehistoric settlement to the island of Korčula. Flint blades, stone axes, and fragments of millstones were also uncovered. For more on Neolithic finds in Croatia, go to "When Things Got Cheesy."

Monday, May 8

Ancient Settlement Explored in Western Anatolia

MUĞLA, TURKEY—Hurriyet Daily News reports that excavations in western Anatolia at the 4,500-year-old site of Mobolla have uncovered a city gate, walls, and rock-cut tombs. “The settlement is on the hill, and it was built for protection purposes,” explained Adnan Diler of Muğla Sitki Koçman University. “There are tombs outside this settlement and there are civil structures, castle houses, dwellings, cisterns and sanctuaries inside the settlement,” he added. Traces of habitation dating to the Byzantine and Ottoman periods have also been uncovered. To read about carved burial chambers at the Blaundos necropolis in western Anatolia, go to "Canyon of the Ancestors."

U.S. Repatriates Looted Artifacts to Yemen

NEW YORK, NEW YORK—According to a statement released by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, three artifacts recovered from a private collector were repatriated to Yemen during a recent ceremony attended by Mohammed Al-Hadhrami, the Yemeni ambassador to the United States, and Assistant Special Agent in Charge, James Deboer, of U.S. Homeland Security Investigations. The objects include an alabaster ram with an inscribed base from the Hayd bin Aqeel necropolis that has been dated to the fifth century B.C.; an alabaster figure of a female deity dated to the second century B.C.; and an inscribed silver vessel from Shabwa dated to the second or third centuries A.D. These antiquities were among 89 objects looted from 10 different countries that were seized during a recent investigation. Because of continuing conditions of war in Yemen, the artifacts will be temporarily held at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. To read about three carved ram's heads found along the Avenue of the Sphinxes, go to "Around the World: Egypt."

New Thoughts on the Populating of Europe

TOULOUSE, FRANCE—Live Science reports that archaeologist Ludovic Slimak of the University of Toulouse and his colleagues suggest that three waves of modern humans migrated from the Levant into Europe between 54,000 and 42,000 years ago. It had been previously thought that modern humans first entered Europe 42,000 years ago, based upon the analysis of teeth unearthed in Italy and Bulgaria. These people are considered to be the ancestors of Europe’s hunter-gatherer Aurignacian culture. But another recent study has dated a modern human tooth and small flint tools recovered at the site of Grotte Mandrin in southern France to 54,000 years ago, pushing the arrival of modern humans in Europe back some 10,000 years. Slimak compared these tools discovered in Europe with tools of similar age unearthed in the Levant, and found them to be similar. “I buil[t] a bridge between Europe and the East Mediterranean populations during the early migrations of sapiens in the continent,” he explained. He also compared 45,000-year-old artifacts long thought to have been made by Europe’s Neanderthals with Early Upper Paleolithic artifacts from the Levant. He concluded that these objects could also have been crafted by modern humans who migrated into Europe from the Levant. “We have here, and for the first time, a serious candidate for a non-Neanderthalian origin of these industries,” Slimak claimed. Read the original scholarly article about this research in PLOS ONE. For more, go to "Turning Back the Human Clock."

Friday, May 5

Ancient Buddha Statue Discovered in Egypt

CAIRO, EGYPT—According to a Live Science report, a 1,900-year-old statue has been unearthed at Berenike, an ancient port city located in Egypt near the Red Sea. The statue depicts Siddhartha Gautama, who lived some 2,550 years ago in South Asia, and eventually became known as the Buddha, or “Enlightened One.” Steven Sidebotham of the University of Delaware said that the statue is about 28 inches tall, and shows the Buddha standing and holding parts of his robes in his left hand, while a halo behind him radiates sunlight. A separate Sanskrit inscription thought to date to the third century A.D. was also found at the site. The Buddha statue may have been made locally by South Asians living in Berenike, Sidebotham added, and could indicate that a South Asian merchant community lived in the area. To read about an animal necropolis uncovered at Berenike, go to "Around the World: Egypt."

Ancient Microbes Recovered From Dental Calculus

CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS—Science Magazine reports that a team of researchers including Christina Warinner of Harvard University has used samples of dental calculus from the remains of 46 people who lived between 30,000 and 150 years ago to reconstruct the genomes of extinct and previously unknown oral bacteria. They even inserted some of the ancient genes into modern bacteria, in an experiment suggesting that ancient bacteria may have produced molecules for cellular signaling, just as modern bacteria do. “We haven’t brought [the microbes] back to life, but identified key genes for making chemical compounds we’re interested in,” Warinner said. For example, chlorobium, a bacterium not found in living humans, exists in anaerobic conditions with little light. It may have entered an ancient person’s mouth by drinking cave water, or it may have been part of some people’s ancient oral microbiome, Warinner explained. Other enzymes produced by the bacteria could have played a role in immune responses and helped ancient people to digest nutrients in their food, she concluded. Read the original scholarly article about this research in Science. For more on ancient microbial DNA in dental calculus, go to "Worlds Within Us."

Submerged Yellow Fever Hospital Found Off Key West Coast

KEY WEST, FLORIDA—Gray News reports that the remains of a nineteenth-century quarantine hospital and cemetery have been found at a now submerged site in Dry Tortugas National Park. Between 1890 and 1900, the hospital treated yellow fever patients from nearby Fort Jefferson, a brick structure completed in 1826. Researchers from the National Park Service explained that quarantining dozens of patients at the hospital likely saved hundreds of lives. Most of those buried in the cemetery were members of the military, but the headstones of several civilians, including a laborer named John Greer who died in 1861, were also found. “Although much of the history of Fort Jefferson focuses on the fortification itself and some of its infamous prisoners, we are actively working to tell the stories of the enslaved people, women, children, and civilian laborers,” said project director Josh Marano. To read about a shipwreck off the coast of Key Largo, go to "World Roundup: Florida."