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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Friday, October 2

Hundreds of Rock Art Images Documented in Australia

QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA—Cosmos Magazine reports that 572 Maliwawa Figures have been documented for the first time at 87 different rock art sites in northern Australia’s Arnhem Land. Paul Taçon of Griffith University said the red figures, drawn between 6,000 and 9,400 years ago, depict humans and animals living in relationship and engaging in different activities. Some of the figures stand more than 20 inches tall, while some of the human figures are shown wearing headdresses. The animal figures include three bilbies, which are not thought to have lived in the region, and a dugong, a marine animal, which suggests the artist had visited the coast, added Sally May of Griffith University. To read about 12,000-year-old rock art depicting anthropomorphic figures, go to "Around the World: Australia."

Luxury Glassware Recovered from the Black Sea

BOURGAS, BULGARIA—The Sofia Globe reports that dozens of pieces of luxurious glass vessels have been recovered from the Black Sea near Cape Chiroza. Most of the items are thought to be wine glasses made in Italy in the seventeenth century. Archaeologists from the Bourgas Ethnographic Museum think the glass may have been on board a ship that struck a reef and sank in the area, although the wreckage has not been found. The researchers will continue to search for the ship and its cargo. To read about a 2,400-year-old shipwreck found in the Black Sea, go to "Ancient Shipwreck," one of ARCHAEOLOGY's Top 10 Discoveries of 2018.

First Nation Dogs in Western Canada Enjoyed Fishy Diet

BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA—According to a statement released by the University of Victoria, a team of researchers including members of the Tseshaht First Nation analyzed the bones of domestic dogs spanning a 3,000-year period that were recovered from an ancient Tseshaht settlement located on one of the Broken Group Islands. Dylan Hillis of the University of Victoria and his colleagues found that marine fish, including anchovy, herring, and salmon, made up about half of the diet of the ancient Tseshaht dogs. Hillis explained that the dogs would not have been able to catch the fast-swimming fish on their own. Most of them were small, white dogs, which are known as woolly dogs because they provided the Tseshaht and other First Nations with thick hair for making high-status textiles, although larger “village dogs” also lived in the settlement. Woolly dogs became less popular when sheep’s wool and imported textiles became available, added Tseshaht project director Denis St. Claire. Read the original scholarly article about this research in Scientific Reports. To read about the migration of Navajo and Apache ancestors from the Canadian Subarctic to the American Southwest, go to "Walking Into New Worlds."

Possible Fighter Plane Part Recovered in Florida

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, FLORIDA—The St. Augustine Record reports that parts of what may be a twentieth-century plane washed up on northern Florida’s Atlantic coast after storms last week. Chuck Meide of the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum said the metal structure could be from a Grumman F4F Wildcat, a fighter plane used by the U.S. Navy during World War II. Meide and his colleagues have permission from the Navy to store the part in water so that the metal, which has been damaged by salt water, doesn’t deteriorate from exposure to the air, and create a 3-D model of it. “We essentially try to learn everything we can about it and possibly tie it to historical records,” Meide said. To read about the impact of the D-Day Allied invasion on the French landscape, go to "Letter from Normandy: The Legacy of the Longest Day."

Signs of Facial Disfigurement Found on Medieval Skull

LONDON, ENGLAND—CNN reports that researchers led by Garrard Cole of University College London have found evidence of facial disfigurement described in historic records on the remains of an Anglo-Saxon girl unearthed in southern England in the 1960s. The remains of the girl, who is estimated to have been between 15 and 18 years old at the time of death, were not found in a cemetery, which suggests she may have been buried as an outcast. Her injuries include a cut across her mouth that would have removed her lips, a deep cut through her nose, and a cut across her forehead that suggests she may have been scalped. The bone shows no signs of healing, so the girl may have died shortly after she was wounded. According to Anglo-Saxon law codes, such punishments were given to women for the crime of adultery and to slaves caught stealing. To read about a study of the possible remains of Anglo-Saxon princess Saint Eanswythe, go to "ID'ing England's First Nun."

Thursday, October 1

19th-Century Elevator Revealed in Old Florida Hotel

ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA—The Tampa Bay Times reports that renovation of St. Petersburg’s historic Detroit Hotel buidling has revealed a forgotten staircase and fireplace, a wooden telephone switchboard with room numbers written by hand, and an elevator estimated to be about 115 years old. The elevator and its electric motor are intact, although the cables were severed sometime in the past. According to local historian Joey Vars and Nevin Sitler of the St. Petersburg Museum of History, the 40-room hotel was built in 1888 by Russian Peter Demens and John C. Williams, the founders of the city of St. Petersburg, who also built a train station across the street. While the city was named for Demens’ homeland, the hotel was named for Williams.’ As the railroad brought rapid growth to the city, the hotel was expanded. Architectural historian Lee Gray of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte suggests that the elevator was added to the structure around 1897 or 1898. “Even in the 1890s, a lot of towns still didn’t have electricity,” he said. Electricity reached St. Petersburg in 1897. To read about recent archaeological research in Florida, go to "Around the World: Florida."   

Scythian Grave Unearthed in Southern Siberia

KHAKASSIA, RUSSIA—Live Science reports that researchers from Siberia’s Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography discovered the 2,500-year-old remains of a man, a woman, a newborn infant, and an older woman in a grave that also held full-sized bronze daggers, knives, axes, mirrors, and a miniature comb made of animal horn. These nomadic Scythian warriors, who may have been killed by an illness, belonged to the Tagar culture, whose members are known to have buried their dead with miniatures of everyday objects. The man and woman were placed in the grave on their backs next to large ceramic vessels. Two bronze daggers and two axes were also set by the man, while one bronze dagger, one ax, and a hatchet or long-handled ax were placed by the woman’s remains. Oleg Andreevich Mitko of Novosibirsk State University said that Tagarian women were usually buried with long-range weapons such as arrowheads. The older woman, estimated to be about 60 years old at the time of death, was placed on her side with her knees bent at the feet of the other two adults. A small ceramic vessel and a comb with broken teeth was placed next to her. DNA analysis may reveal if the grave’s occupants were related to each other. To read about recently unearthed burials of female Scythian warriors, go to "Arms and the Women."

Study Pinpoints Date of Volcanic Eruption in Maya World

OXFORD, ENGLAND—According to a Gizmodo report, an international team of scientists including Victoria Smith of the University of Oxford and Dario Pedrazzi of Geosciences Barcelona–CSIC has pinpointed the date of the Tierra Blanca Joven volcanic eruption in El Salvador to A.D. 431, through the analysis of volcanic shards recovered from ice cores in Greenland, the levels of sulphur recorded in ice cores from Antarctica, and radiocarbon dating of a charred tree recovered from a layer of volcanic ash. The researchers also mapped ash deposits and bits of volcanic debris over an area of 77,220 square miles in order to create a simulation of the eruption. The model indicates that the volcano’s plume reached 28 miles high, covered much of Central America in ash, and spread ash all the way to Greenland. Smith, Pedrazzi, and their colleagues suggest that researchers look for the impact of the eruption on world events circa A.D. 431. They noted that the archaeological record of Maya ceramic production within 50 miles of the Ilopango caldera paused about 1,500 years ago, and resumed after a period of about 100 to 150 years. To read about how the Maya conceived of their place in the cosmos, go to "The Maya Sense of Time."

Wednesday, September 30

Viking-Era Child’s Remains Discovered in Dublin

DUBLIN, IRELAND—RTÉ reports that the remains of a child and an iron buckle or fastener were uncovered in Dubh Linn, a dark tidal pool where the River Poddle enters the River Liffey at the site of Dublin Castle, by a team of researchers led by Alan Hayden of University College Dublin. The skeleton is thought to belong to a 10- to 12-year-old who died in the early Viking period. The body may have been wrapped in a shroud and thrown into the river, Hayden said, since there was no evidence to suggest the body had been buried. Further study of the bones could reveal the child’s sex, ethnic origin, and pinpoint time of death, he added. For more on the early Viking period in Dublin, go to "The Vikings in Ireland."

New Dates for Modern Human Arrival in Westernmost Europe

LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY—According to a Cosmos Magazine report, an international team of researchers working in the Lapa do Picareiro, a cave near central Portugal’s Atlantic coastline, has uncovered thousands of butchered animal bones and tools made by modern humans between 41,000 and 38,000 years ago, pushing back the arrival of modern humans in westernmost Europe by some 5,000 years. Previous research has suggested that Neanderthals inhabited the same region between 45,000 and 42,000 years ago. “Neanderthal populations were probably not very dense and therefore unable to prevent moderns from invading their territory,” said Jonathan Haws of the University of Louisville. “It also raises the possibility that the two groups were contemporary and interacted with one another, ultimately leading to the assimilation of the Neanderthals.” It is still not known if modern humans traveled across Europe on inland rivers, or if they followed the coastline, Haws explained. To read about the domestic spaces of some of Europe's earliest modent humans, go to "Letter from France: Structural Integrity."