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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Wednesday, November 9

Tunnel Discovered at Egypt’s Ancient City of Taposiris Magna

CAIRO, EGYPT—A six-foot-tall tunnel stretching for more than 4,000 feet has been discovered underneath a temple in the ancient city of Taposiris Magna, which is located on Egypt’s Mediterranean coastline, according to a Live Science report. The temple was dedicated to the ancient Egyptian god Osiris and his wife, the goddess Isis. Kathleen Martínez of the University of San Domingo explained that the tunnel, dated to the Ptolemaic period (304–30 B.C.), carried water to the people of the city. “[It] is an exact replica of Eupalinos Tunnel in Greece, which is considered as one of the most important engineering achievements of antiquity,” she explained. Within the tunnel, Martínez and her colleagues recovered two alabaster sculptures of heads, coins, and fragments of statues of Egyptian deities. To read about mummies unearthed in rock-cut tombs at Taposiris Magna, go to "Around the World: Egypt."

New Thoughts on Some Southwest Parrot Remains

AUSTIN, TEXAS—According to a statement released by the University of Texas at Austin, some of the parrots kept by people living in the American Southwest as early as the seventh or eighth century A.D. may have been captured locally, rather than imported from Mexico. Researcher John Moretti said that he found a single anklebone from a thick-billed parrot in a collection of mostly deer and rabbit bones unearthed in New Mexico in the 1950s. Thick-billed parrots once lived in Arizona and New Mexico, where they nested in tree hollows and ate pine cones. But, due to habitat loss and hunting, the birds’ habitat is now limited to northern Mexico, Moretti explained. His review of archaeological data from Arizona and New Mexico revealed 10 sites containing thick-billed parrot remains and traces of buildings made of pine timber. A building in one of these settlements would have required an estimated 50,000 pine trees to build, he said. People may have captured the thick-billed parrots as they gathered timber, Moretti surmised. “When we deal with natural history, we can constrain ourselves by relying on the present too much,” he concluded. To read about scarlet macaws imported from Mesoamerica to New Mexico as early as A.D. 900, go to "Early Parrots in the Southwest."

Trove of Ancient Bronzes Unearthed in Italy

ROME, ITALY—According to a report in The Guardian, 24 bronze statues dated to the first and second centuries B.C. have been discovered in a network of 2,300-year-old Etruscan baths among the hot springs of Tuscany’s San Casciano dei Bagni by a team of researchers led by archaeologist Jacopo Tabolli of the University for Foreigners of Siena. The sculptures include an adolescent male, or ephebe, lying next to Hygeia, the goddess of health, who wears a snake wrapped around her arm; a statue of Apollo; and statues of matrons, children, and Roman emperors. Thousands of coins, fountains, altars, votive offerings, and inscriptions written in Etruscan and Latin have also been found. Visitors to the baths may have thrown the coins into the waters for good luck, Tabolli explained. The baths were in use into the fifth century A.D., when the statues were left in the water and the pools were sealed with stone pillars. “It is the greatest store of statues from ancient Italy and is the only one whose context we can wholly reconstruct,” he concluded. To read about Roman-era bronze figurines recovered from the ancient Mediterranean harbor of Caesarea, go to "Sun and Moon."

Tuesday, November 8

Roman Observation Tower Discovered in Morocco

RABAT, MOROCCO—Science in Poland reports that a Roman military observation tower has been discovered in Volubilis, a site in northern Morocco first occupied some 5,000 years ago, by a team of researchers led by Aomar Akerraz of Morocco’s National Institute of Archaeology and Cultural Heritage (INSAP) and Radosław Karasiewicz-Szczypiorski of the University of Warsaw. The tower, first spotted in satellite images, would have been located on the outskirts of the Roman Empire, explained archaeologist Maciej Czapski of the University of Warsaw. Similar towers have been uncovered in Scotland, Germany, and Romania, he added. The remnants of the tower include foundations and sections of wall standing about 31 inches tall, traces of an internal staircase, cobblestones on one side of the building, and poorly preserved tile fragments. The outer wall has not survived. “We found fragments of javelins, nails from sandals of Roman legionnaires, fragments of ornaments typical for Roman military belts,” Czapski said. The artifacts are thought to date to the end of the second century A.D., and the reign of Antoninus Pius. The research team members plan to look for additional towers in the area in an effort to understand how the Romans interacted with the local population and controlled the flow of goods along the border. To read about excavations of a medieval city in southern Morocco, go to "Letter from Morocco: Splendor at the Edge of the Sahara."

Monday, November 7

Scientists Investigate Fibers in 6,000-Year-Old Finnish Burial

HELSINKI, FINLAND—According to a statement released by the University of Helsinki, excavations of a Mesolithic burial at the site of Majoonsuo in eastern Finland yielded rare preserved examples of plant fibers and animal hair. Archaeologists identified the teeth of a child who died between the ages of three and 10, as well as quartz arrowheads that have enabled them to date the burial to some 6,000 years ago. Soil from the grave also contained a falcon's feather and the down of waterfowl, which the researchers think came from a piece of clothing, such as a parka, or a bed on which the deceased child was laid. In addition to the feathers, the team found canine hairs at the bottom of the burial. It's unclear whether they came from a dog or a wolf, said University of Helsinki archaeologist Kristiina Mannermaa, though dogs have been found in contemporary burials in Europe. The fur might have adorned footwear made of wolf or dog skin. Fragments of bast fiber, which come from nettles or willows, were likely part of a fishing net, a cord used to attach pieces of clothing, or a bundle of strings. Read the original scholarly article about this research in PLOS ONE. To read about a 4,400-year-old carved wooden snake figurine recovered from a wetland in southwest Finland, go to "Snake Guide."