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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Thursday, November 15

Ice Age Art Revealed in France

TUBINGEN, GERMANY—Live Science reports that Ice Age artwork has been found in eastern France’s Grottes d’Agneux under graffiti dating from the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries. Harald Floss of the University of Tubingen and his colleagues used scanning technology to look for ancient drawings under the later names, dates, and pictures, and then processed the data with special software in order to reveal the images of deer and horses. Radiocarbon dating of samples of the art and charcoal in the cave indicates the paintings are 12,000 years old. Floss said the paintings are the first Paleolithic art to have been found in the region. For more on cave art in France, go to “New Dates for the Oldest Cave Paintings.”

New Thoughts on Neanderthal Head Injuries

TÜBINGEN, GERMANY—According to a Science News report, researchers led by paleoanthropologist Katerina Harvati of the University of Tubingen analyzed information collected from more than 100 Neanderthal skulls and 90 Upper Paleolithic modern human skulls and found that the two species suffered head injuries at about the same rate. It had been previously suggested that Neanderthals were more prone to head injuries when compared to modern humans, based upon what was assumed to be a lifestyle filled with combat, hunting with hand-held weapons, and cave bear attacks. The investigation, which accounted for sex, age at death, geography, and state of preservation of the bones, does suggest, however, that males were more frequently injured then females in both species. And while the levels of head trauma for the two groups were similar overall, Neanderthals may have experienced more head injuries earlier in life than modern humans did, and they may have died more often from those wounds. For more, go to “Decoding Neanderthal Genetics.”

500-Year-Old Tombs Discovered in Bolivia

LA PAZ, BOLIVIA—Reuters reports that human remains and artifacts estimated to be 500 years old have been found in Bolivia, in an underground burial chamber accessed through a nine-foot-deep chimney measuring just 27.5 inches in diameter. Several of the tombs were found to have been ransacked. The site, discovered by miners, is thought to have belonged to the Pacajes people of the Aymara kingdom, who were conquered by the Incas in the mid-fifteenth century. “There are objects that are clearly attributed to the Inca culture, and others that are not Inca, but rather Aymara,” said archaeologist Wanderson Esquerdo. For more on archaeology in the region, go to “Letter from Peru: Connecting Two Realms.”

Pregnant Woman’s Remains Unearthed in Egypt

ASWAN, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that the remains of a pregnant woman who died at about 25 years of age some 3,700 years ago have been found in Upper Egypt. Mostafa Waziri, general secretary of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, said the grave was located in a cemetery used by nomads from Nubia, which is located to the south of Egypt. The mother and child may have died during childbirth, since the baby’s skeleton was found in a “head down” position in the woman’s pelvic area. Her pelvis was misaligned, Waziri explained, perhaps from a poorly healed fracture, which may have led to problems during labor. Waziri added that the woman’s body was wrapped in a leather shroud and placed in a contracted position in the grave with a well-worn pottery jar and a polished red bowl with a black interior, made in the Nubian style. Unfinished ostrich eggshell beads were also found. To read about another recent discovery in Egypt, go to “Let Them Eat Soup.”

Wednesday, November 14

Etchings Found in Roman-Era Cistern in Israel

BE’ER SHEVA, ISRAEL—Drawings thought to have been etched some 2,000 years ago have been discovered on the wall of a cistern in southern Israel’s Negev Desert, according to a Live Science report. Uncovered during construction work, the cistern was dated based on the style of the reservoir and the plastering of its stairs. A Roman settlement was also found nearby. Davida Eisenberg-Degen of the Israel Antiquities Authority said the faint drawings include images of a sailor, several animal-like figures, and 13 ships that are very detailed and realistically proportioned. To read about mosaics recently discovered in Israel, go to “Gods of the Galilee.”

Traces of 16th-Century Battle Found in New Mexico

BERNALILLO, NEW MEXICO—KRQE News reports that evidence of a 500-year-old battle in northern New Mexico between Native Americans and troops possibly led by Spanish explorer Francisco Vazquez de Coronado has been unearthed. It had been previously thought the explorer and his company had just passed through the region. “The large numbers of Spanish leveled artifacts such as the musket balls and the chain metal, along with Native American weapons such as war balls, axes, [and] sling stones, represent a battle,” explained Matthew Barbour, New Mexico Historic Sites regional manager. “They tell a story of military force [used] to subdue this village.” For more, go to “Conquistador Contagion.”

Tuesday, November 13

Miniature Terracotta Army Discovered in China

ZIBO, CHINA—Live Science reports that a miniature terracotta army, complete with hundreds of statues of cavalry, chariots, infantry, watchtowers, and musicians, has been discovered in a pit in northeastern China. Researchers from the Cultural Relics Agency of Linzi District of Zibo City and the Shandong Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology estimate the army was placed in the pit some 2,100 years ago, or about 100 years after a life-sized terracotta army was buried near the tomb of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China. This army, whose soldiers stand between nine and 12 inches tall, is thought to have been created for Liu Hong, son of Han Dynasty Emperor Wu, who reigned from 141 to 87 B.C. The presence of the pit and its army, arranged in a formation usually reserved for the burials of monarchs or high-ranking officials, suggests there should be a royal burial mound nearby, but the archaeologists think it may have been destroyed decades ago during railway construction. For more on archaeology in China, go to “Early Signs of Empire.”

Possible Piece of Antikythera Mechanism Identified

ANTIKYTHERA, GREECE—Haaretz reports that a bronze object that may be an additional piece of the Antikythera Mechanism or a similar device was recovered from the site of a shipwreck in the Aegean Sea last year. The Anitkythera Mechanism, discovered by sponge divers in 1901, is a 2,200-year-old complicated system of cogwheels thought to have been used to calculate the movements of the sun, moon, and planets, and predict eclipses and equinoxes. An X-ray of the newly recovered bronze disc, which measures about three inches in diameter, has four metal arms, and holes for pins, shows that it bears an image of a bull. Scholars think the disc may have been a gear in the device that predicted the location of the zodiac constellation of Taurus. For more on the Antikythera shipwreck, go to “Bronze Beauty.”

Update from Greece’s Ancient City of Tenea

ATHENS, GREECE—According to an Associated Press report, Greece’s Ministry of Culture announced the excavation of residential areas at a site identified as the ancient city of Tenea in southern Greece. Ancient texts say Tenea was founded by Trojan War captives after the sack Troy. Archaeologist Elena Korka and her team have uncovered walls, door openings, floors, and pottery dating from the fourth century B.C. through the late Roman period at the site. Cemeteries have also been found nearby, with burials containing coins, de corated vases, and gold, copper, and bone jewelry. This year, the team also found nine burials. For more on archaeology in Greece, go to “A Monumental Find.”