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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Friday, April 26

Wari Beer Production Analyzed

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS—According to a Popular Science report, the production of chicha, a light, sour beer-like beverage usually made from corn, helped to spread the influence of the Wari Empire throughout what is now Peru between A.D. 450 and 1000. Archaeologist Ryan Williams of the Field Museum and his colleagues analyzed the chemical makeup of clay vessels found at a brewery in Cerro Baul, a town at the empire’s southern edge, and found they had been crafted from local materials with Wari iconography. Analysis of chicha residues on the pottery revealed the batch had been brewed from pepper berries, which can grow during drought. Remains of pepper berries were also recovered from the brewery site. Chicha remains drinkable for only about one week, requiring it to be made locally, and because breweries are a common feature at Wari sites, Williams suggests beer brewing and drinking may have been a local activity that brought the Wari people together. “Even in environmentally bad times, [Wari] could continue to kind of maintain this interaction with their population through this production of beer,” Williams said. For more, go to “A Wari Matriarchy?

2,000-Year-Old Metal Workshop Uncovered in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN—Gulf News reports that a metal workshop dating to the second century B.C. was discovered in Pakistan by archaeologists led by Gul Rahim of the University of Peshawar. Furnaces, grinding stones, crucibles, molds, trowels, knives, and drills were uncovered at the site, which was dated based on the presence of coins made during the Indo-Greek period. Rahim said arrows, bows, daggers, and swords were likely produced in the workshop. “As compared to Buddhist sites that were built using brick masonry, this site was made from clay so it was difficult to preserve it,” explained archaeological surveyor Mohammad Naeem. For more, go to “Burials and Reburials in Ancient Pakistan.”

Thursday, April 25

Neanderthal Hearths in Spain Analyzed

TENERIFE, SPAIN—Cosmos reports that Lucia Leierer of the University of La Laguna and her colleagues analyzed 11 hearths at El Salt, a Middle Paleolithic site located on Spain’s southeastern coast, and concluded that the Neanderthals who camped there were probably infrequent visitors. The researchers found that the hearths did not appear to have been raked out regularly, as they would have been if they had been used frequently, and they lacked burned refuse, food residues, and bone, which are usually recovered from heavily used hearths. In fact, the analysis suggests plant life was able to grow in the burned areas and herbivores were able to graze there between fires. And charred pine cones, which do not grow locally, indicate the Neanderthals may have brought their own fuel with them when they visited. For more on Neanderthals in Spain, go to “Neanderthal Medicine Chest.”

Artifacts Push Back Possible Settlement of Amazonia

UNIVERSITY PARK, PENNSYLVANIA—Science News reports that evidence of human occupation of southwestern Amazonia some 10,600 years ago, or several thousand years earlier than previously thought, has been unearthed in Bolivia. Archaeologist José Capriles of Penn State University and his colleagues found burned bits of wood and clay, and the 6,250-year-old remains of hunter-gatherers buried in trash heaps made up of snail shells, fish and small animal bones, and other organic remains, at sites thought to have been regularly occupied for several months at a time. The calcium carbonate in the shells fossilized the human bones, which would have otherwise decomposed in the acidic soil, Capriles explained. He thinks the burials may have marked the claim of a group of hunter-gatherers to seasonal wetlands as the climate became drier between 8,000 and 5,500 years ago. He also noted that the people who lived in these camps may have planted sweet potatoes, cassava, peanuts, and chili peppers as they depleted local resources. To read in-depth about the archaeology of the Amazon, go to “Letter from Peru: Connecting Two Realms.”

Bronze Age Architecture Unearthed on Greek Isles

ATHENS, GREECE—A number of stairways, drainage systems, and multi-level buildings have been unearthed at a Bronze Age settlement discovered on the Greek islands of Keros and Dhaskalio, according to The National Herald. The two islands were connected in antiquity. The recent excavations also revealed that some of the buildings on Dhaskalio were monumental in size, and were built with marble imported from Naxos. For more about recent discoveries on Keros, go to “A Bronze Age Landmark.”

Excavation Uncovers Base of Cambodia’s Ak Yum Temple

ANGKOR, CAMBODIA—Low water levels in West Baray Lake allowed archaeologists from Cambodia’s Department of Conservation of Monuments to uncover sections of the foundation of the eighth-century Ak Yum temple, according to a report from Khmer Times. The temple was partially submerged when the lake was constructed in the eleventh century. “The result will greatly contribute toward determining the exact location as well as the depth of the foundation of the Ak Yum temple,” said Long Kosal of the Apsara Authority. The excavations also uncovered several large stones thought to have been used to keep water out of the northern end of the temple. “The working team is currently digging deeper to get to the base of the temple but work could be disrupted if there is rain which increases the water level,” said Chea Socheat, director of the Ak Yum temple research project. For more on archaeology in Cambodia, go to “Angkor Urban Sprawl.”

Wednesday, April 24

Guatemala’s Magnetized Sculptures Studied

CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS—Science News reports that geoscientist Roger Fu of Harvard University and his colleagues analyzed the magnetized areas of 11 of Guatemala’s 2,000-year-old potbelly sculptures. Some of the massive sculptures, which are generally round in shape and depict people holding extremely large stomachs with their arms and legs, are thought to have been carved from boulders magnetized by lightning strikes. Fu’s team suggests the ancient carvers looked for areas of the iron-rich basalt boulders that repelled magnetized minerals that they held in their hands, and then carved the figures’ foreheads, cheeks, and navels within those magnetic fields. Art historian Julia Guernsey of the University of Texas at Austin suggests that the sculptures may have been intended to represent dead ancestors, and their capacity to repel magnetized objects may have been interpreted as indicating an ancestor’s presence and authority. For more, go to “Letter from Guatemala: Maya Metropolis.”

Section of Pictish Fort Uncovered in Scotland

MORAY, SCOTLAND—According to a report in The Scotsman, a section of eighth-century defensive wall has been uncovered in northern Scotland, on the coast of a peninsula that projects into the Moray Firth, by a team of researchers led by Gordon Noble of the University of Aberdeen. Preserved pieces of timber lacing were found in the ten-foot-long section of Pictish rampart. “It really reinforces the huge investment in resources that was undertaken to construct the fort at Burghead,” Noble said. “The timber lacing is one of the best preserved in Europe.” Beam slots in the wall supported the fort’s wooden structure, he added. The abundance of charcoal at the site indicates the fort was destroyed by fire. A Pictish longhouse, coins, and pottery have also been uncovered. Coastal erosion now threatens the site. To read in-depth about archaeology in northern Scotland, go to “Neolithic Europe's Remote Heart.”

Researchers Analyze Wound in Ancient Greek Skeleton

GARDEN CITY, NEW YORK—A team of researchers at Adelphi University, led by anthropologist Anagnostis Agelarakis, examined the skeletal remains of a well-muscled man recovered from the Greek island of Thasos and attempted to determine how he died some 2,000 years ago, according to a Live Science report. Agelarakis found a nearly perfectly round hole, positioned at a 90-degree angle, in a fragment of the man’s sternum. He thought the fatal wound might have been made with a styrax, or seven-sided thrusting spear. Members of the Adelphi University art department, with the assistance of Agelarakis’ wife, anthropologist and scientific illustrator Argiro Agelarakis, created several replica weapons to attempt to recreate the hole. They soon realized that a thrown spear would not have produced a hole in a surface at a 90-degree angle, and determined the man was probably immobilized and stabbed with extreme force. Dental analysis suggests the man’s diet changed for the worse shortly before he died, Agelarakis added. The team members suggest the man may have spent time as a prisoner before being executed. For more on archaeology in Greece, go to “Epic Find.”