Archaeology Magazine

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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Monday, October 22

Bronze Age Dagger Discovered in Slovakia

HRIŇOVÁ, SLOVAKIA—A local man discovered a dagger on the banks of a mountain stream in central Slovakia, according to a report in The Slovak Spectator. Ján Beljak of the Archaeological Institute of the Slovak Academy of Sciences said the artifact, estimated to be between 3,200 and 3,600 years old, is the only Bronze Age item ever found in the region. “We are assuming that in the future we will also discover a Bronze Age settlement in the same vicinity,” he said. To read about discoveries made during construction of a sewage system in Slovakia, go to “World Roundup.”

Amulet Shaped Like Thor’s Hammer Uncovered in Iceland

BERGSSTAÐIR, ICELAND—Guide to Iceland Now reports that a sandstone amulet shaped like Thor’s hammer was unearthed at a 900-year-old farmstead in southern Iceland. Archaeologist Ragnheiður Gylfadóttir of Iceland’s Institute of Archaeology said the artifact may have been worn around the neck as a pendant. The site also contained rocks that may have been the foundation of a longhouse, burned bones, ash piles, a fragment of a soapstone pot, and a whetstone of a type that was usually kept on a belt for sharpening needles and other tools. Since soapstone does not occur naturally on the island, the pot is thought to have been imported, perhaps from Norway, where soapstone is abundant. Evidence of ironworking has also been found in the area. For more on archaeology in Iceland, go to “The Blackener’s Cave.”

New Thoughts on Date of Santorini Eruption

SANTORINI, GREECE—According to The Greek Reporter, radiocarbon dates have been obtained for a piece of olive wood recently recovered from an archaeological site at the top of a hill on the Greek island of Thirasia by a team of researchers from the University of Arizona. The piece of wood was found in the stratigraphic layer just below the one containing the ash left by the volcanic eruption that separated Thirasia from the larger island of Thera and destroyed the Minoan settlement at the site of Akrotiri. The new dates suggest the disaster occurred in the early sixteenth century B.C., or a few decades later than had been previously thought. To read in-depth about the Minoans, go to “The Minoans of Crete.”

1,000-Year-Old Tomb Found in Northern China

JINZHONG, CHINA—Xinhua reports that a tomb thought to date to the Great Jin Dynasty (A.D. 1115–1234) was discovered in northern China’s Shanxi Province during a road construction project. The octagonal tomb measures about 12 feet tall and contains an archway painted red. It has a floor made with black bricks, and its walls are outlined in black and decorated with poems and murals, including images of flower stands and red vases. “A total of four poems were inscribed on the surrounding walls with regular script to depict the scenery in late spring,” said Zhao Hui of the Shanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology. Two skeletons were also found in the tomb. Zhao said the tomb’s decorations might reflect the traditional tomb style of the period, or may have been based upon the owners’ personal preferences. To read about murals in another Chinese tomb, go to “Tomb Couture.”

Friday, October 19

Scientists Analyze Roman “Red Dust”

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND—According to a Cosmos report, a team of scientists led by Effie Photos-Jones of the University of Glasgow subjected samples of mineral powder made up mostly of iron oxide to X-ray diffraction, geochemical analysis, dynamic light scattering, DNA sequencing, and antimicrobial tests to better understand why it was used in antiquity as a pigment and a cosmetic, as well as in ship maintenance, agriculture, and medicine. Texts dating back to the third century B.C. have noted that the substance, known as miltos, was mined from specific areas on the Greek islands of Kea and Lemnos, and at Cappadocia in Turkey. Photos-Jones and her colleagues found that modern samples from the different mines each contained a specific mix of chemicals and microorganisms that made them suitable for different uses. For example, some of the samples from Kea had high levels of lead that would have been effective at preventing the growth of slime and other organisms on boat hulls. Red dust from other mines could have made effective fertilizers, and may have been used to treat tree diseases. To read about the use of scientific techniques to investigate pigments used by Egyptians, go to “Hidden Blues.”

Thursday, October 18

DNA Study Suggests Dogs Migrated With Early Farmers

RENNES, FRANCE—BBC News reports that a genetic study of dog remains recovered across Europe and Asia indicates that dogs traveled with early farmers from the Middle East some 9,000 years ago. “Our study shows that dogs and humans have an intertwined story—dogs followed humans during this migration across Europe,” said Morgane Ollivier of the University of Rennes. The dogs are thought to have helped their human companions with the herding of sheep, goats, and pigs during the trip, and then mixed with European dogs upon their arrival. To read about new research on the origin of dogs in the Americas, go to “The American Canine Family Tree.”

Climate Fluctuations May Have Damaged Angkor’s Water System

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA—According to a Science News report, computer simulations suggest that heavy monsoon rains following decades of drought triggered failures in the extensive water system at Cambodia’s medieval city of Angkor Wat. Geoscientist Dan Penny of the University of Sydney said that during periods of intense rainfall, some of the earthen channels carrying water eroded and widened, which, combined with accumulations of sediment in other areas of the network, eventually led to uneven flow throughout the system. It had been previously thought that the city's abandonment in the fifteenth century was the result of a war with a neighboring kingdom and, possibly, the rise of Buddhism over Hinduism, but Penny and his colleagues think climate-induced infrastructure collapse could be to blame for the city’s demise. For more, go to “Angkor Urban Sprawl.”