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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Tuesday, September 29

Neolithic Settlement Discovered Near Turkey’s Black Sea Coast

KASTAMONU, TURKEY—Hurriyet Daily News reports that a team of researchers led by Nurperi Ayengin of Düzce University are excavating a pre-pottery Neolithic settlement at Kahin Tepe, which is located on northern Turkey’s Black Sea coast. “We think that this is a sacred area where people came at certain times of the year to hunt, share their knowledge, worship, and make statues of animals,” Ayengin said. Many of the objects found at the site, which has been dated to between 9,000 and 14,000 years old, are similar to those found at the Neolithic site of Göbekli Tepe, which is located in southeastern Anatolia. For more on religious activity at that site, go to "Skull Cult at Göbekli Tepe," one of ARCHAEOLOGY's Top 10 Discoveries of 2017.

Ancient Cistern Fully Excavated in Croatia

LUMBARDA, CROATIA—Croatia Week reports that an ancient cistern measuring about 30 feet wide by 55 feet long and surviving to a depth of about 12 feet has been fully excavated on the southern Croatian island of Korčula. “That’s a huge amount of water,” said archaeologist Hrvoje Potrebica. In 1877, Božo Kršinić discovered the Lumbarda Psephisma, an inscription describing the founding of a Greek settlement on the island some 2,200 years ago, in the cistern, which also dates to about the beginning of the third century B.C. Conservator Krešimir Bosnić said the cistern is coated with high-quality plaster that had been expertly applied. Potrebica added that the research team created a highly detailed 3-D scan of the structure to help them monitor its condition. To read about early evidence of cheese making that was identified on pottery from Croatia's Dalmatian coast, go to "When Things Got Cheesy."

Scientists Search for the Neanderthal Y Chromosome

LEIPZIG, GERMANY—According to a Science Magazine report, Martin Petr and Janet Kelso of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and their colleagues analyzed the Y chromosomes of three Neanderthal men who lived between 38,000 and 53,000 years ago, and whose remains were recovered in Belgium, Spain, and Russia, and the Y chromosomes of two male Denisovans who lived in Siberia between 46,000 and 130,000 years ago. The researchers determined that the genetic material on the Neanderthal Y more closely resembles a modern human Y chromosome than that of their close Denisovan cousins. Computational models based upon this information indicate the modern human Y chromosome spread rapidly from father to son through the small Neanderthal populations in Europe and Asia between 100,000 and 370,000 years ago. However, the researchers note, this Y chromosome came from a modern human population that migrated out of Africa and then went extinct. Kelso explained that the modern human Y chromosome may have offered Neanderthals a genetic advantage, especially after modern human mitochondrial DNA, which is passed from mother to child, entered Neanderthal populations some 220,000 years ago. The team members will now try to obtain samples of older Neanderthal Y chromosomes to see if they more closely resemble Denisovan DNA. To read more about Neanderthal DNA sequencing, go to "Neanderthal Epigenome."

Iron Age Sacrifice Site Found in Slovakia

BREZINA, SLOVAKIA—The Slovak Spectator reports that excavation near Trenčín Castle in eastern Slovakia revealed a moat that had been cut through a Celtic site dated to the Iron Age. Archaeologist Juraj Malec said 2,200-year-old ceramics, small bones, and pieces of glass and metal ingots were recovered. Two of the items were the heads of small figurines. “As it is a sacrificial place, all objects went through some kind of heat,” Malec said. Bodies were also likely burned at the site, added Tomás Michalík of Trenčín Museum. Researchers will continue to investigate the area surrounding the castle. To read about a cache of high-status artifacts uncovered outside Bratislava, go to "World Roundup: Slovakia."

Monday, September 28

Engraved Mammoth Tusk from Siberia Studied

KHAKASSIA, RUSSIA—Sci News reports that Yury Esin of the Khakassian Research Institute for Language, Literature and History and his colleagues have conducted a new study of an engraved mammoth tusk recovered in western Siberia’s Tom River in 1988. The tusk, which measures nearly 28 inches long and is thought to have come from a male mammoth between 35 and 40 years of age, has been radiocarbon dated to 13,000 years ago. Esin said the lines engraved on the tusk are thin and shallow, making them difficult to decipher. “They are on the surface of a round, long, curved and heavy object which does not allow all the imagery to be seen and recognized without rotating the tusk,” Esin said. After making a 2-D model of the tusk, the researchers were able to make out images of two pairs of two-humped camels. Each camel is shown with only two legs and patches of thick fur. Single dots on two of the figures are thought to represent eyes. Esin said the researchers also spotted two legs among the lines that may be part of an anthropomorphic figure. “The comparative analysis of the stylistic features of the camel figures shows that they correspond to the age of the tusk itself, making them, at present, the oldest camel images in Asia,” he added. To read about evidence for mammoth hunting around 45,000 years ago, go to "World Roundup: Russia."

Parthian-Era Burial Unearthed in Western Iran

TEHRAN, IRAN—According to a Tehran Times report, a skeleton thought to date to the Parthian era (247 B.C. to A.D. 224) has been unearthed at a construction site in western Iran. Archaeologist Shokouh Khosravi of the Research Institute of Cultural Heritage and Tourism said a spearhead was found beneath the skeleton’s ribs. “In the Parthian burial tradition, [giant] jars usually played the role of coffins, and in the discovered tomb, according to the Parthian culture, the body was placed inside two earthen jars,” he explained. The person is thought to have died of the injury. To read about other recent archaeological discoveries in Iran, go to "Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow."

Evidence of Neolithic Rituals Found in Spain

SEVILLE, SPAIN—According to an announcement released by the University of Seville, two human skulls and the remains of a young goat were discovered in southern Spain’s Cueva de la Dehesilla. The bones have been dated to between 4800 and 4000 B.C. A wall at the cave site separated the man and woman’s skulls and the goat from a stone altar, a stela, a hearth, ceramic vessels, stone objects, and charred plant remains. The female skull shows a depression in its frontal bone and cuts likely produced by the process of decapitation. Researcher Daniel García Rivero said treatment of the skulls, and the goat, are different from other sites from the period found on the Iberian Peninsula, and offer new clues to Neolithic funerary rites. To read about evidence from El Mirador Cave of Neolithic humans' unusual diet, go to "World Roundup: Spain."

Friday, September 25

Possible War of 1812 Cemetery Found in Vermont

BURLINGTON, VERMONT—Vermont Public Radio reports that the possible remains of soldiers who died during the War of 1812 were found buried in rows at a construction site in northwestern Vermont. John Crock of the University of Vermont said that a hospital barracks and a large army base that housed as many as 4,000 soldiers had been located in the area, and there was likely to have been a cemetery connected to the military hospital even though there are no official records of one. Soldiers died of pneumonia, influenza, and typhus, in addition to battle wounds, he added. Many of the wooden coffins found in the cemetery had been built to size, he said, and some of the graves had already been exhumed, perhaps by University of Vermont medical students looking for anatomical specimens in the 1820s and 1830s. Crock and his team plan to analyze the soldiers’ bone chemistry to try and determine where they grew up and how old they were at the time of death. To read about the wrecks of two merchant ships that were used for military purposes during the War of 1812, go to "Mussel Mass in Lake Ontario."

Explorer's Food Cache Discovered in Antarctica

SYOWA STATION, ANTARCTICA—The Asahi Shimbun reports that Japanese researchers have found fragments of a cardboard box and a cache of emergency food dated to 1965 about five miles from Japan’s Syowa Station in Antarctica. The ration included a can of Coca-Cola, chewing gum, and a can of stewed beef and vegetables. Susumu Kokubun, a member of the 1965 expedition of the Maritime Self-Defense Force, said his team leader, Masayoshi Murayama, traveled to the area near Mukai Rocks, where the food was found, in January 1966 in a helicopter that had been loaded on their icebreaker, The Fuji. “He may have left the food on that occasion,” Kokubun said. An official from the Coca-Cola Company in Japan said this particular Coca-Cola can design was the first one introduced to Japan, and was available for only one or two years. It is labeled in katakana and had to be opened with a can opener. The best-selling chewing gum, first released in 1960, was developed for explorers to Antarctica by the Lotte Company in a “Cool Mint” flavor fortified with vitamins and minerals. Its packaging featured a penguin design. “I feel a special connection with the discovery because I was born in 1965,” said current expedition member Noriaki Obara, who discovered the emergency rations. To read about a 106-year-old fruitcake that was found in a hut at Antarctica's Cape Adare, go to "Super Fruitcake," one of ARCHAEOLOGY's Top 10 Discoveries of 2017.

Italy Hands Over Stolen Ancient Artifact to Turkey

ISTANBUL, TURKEY—The Anadolu Agency reports that Italy has returned an 1,800-year-old Lydian atonement inscription to Turkey. The artifact was seized in 1997 by Italian anti-smuggling officials who raided an antiquities dealership. Officials from Turkey’s Culture and Tourism Ministry have identified the inscription as part of the Apollon Aksyros Temple in western Turkey’s ancient city of Saitta. The inscription will be displayed in the Anatolian Civilizations Museum. To read about a bowl used for protective magic that was found at Sardis, once the capital of the Lydian Empire, go to "Artifact."

Dog Remains Found in Mesolithic Burial in Sweden

KARLSKRONA, SWEDEN—According to an Associated Press report, an 8,400-year-old burial containing the well-preserved remains of a dog and a person were uncovered at the site of a Mesolithic settlement in southern Sweden. The site was preserved in sand and mud laid down by rising seas, explained Carl Persson of the Blekinge Museum. Further study of the bones is planned, he added. The site is being excavated ahead of a construction project. To read about a sacrifice of eight dogs and a headless woman that occurred more than 2,000 years ago, go to "Denmark's Bog Dogs."