Archaeology Magazine

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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Wednesday, September 20

15th-Century Epitaph Tablet Returned to South Korea

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA—The widow of a Japanese collector has returned a rare Joseon-era epitaph tablet, or myoji, to South Korea, according to a report in the Korea JoongAng Daily. “This myoji will act as a crucial material for studies on the history of ceramics,” said Lee Su-kyung of the National Museum of Korea. The blue-gray tablet, made of buncheong celadon, stands 11 inches tall, and is inscribed on all four sides with the biographical information of a scholar named Yi Seon-je, who lived from A.D. 1390 to 1453. It would have been placed in his grave, as was customary during the Joseon Dynasty. To read about another recent discovery in South Korea, go to “Doll Story.”

Temple of Artemis Found on Greek Isle of Euboea

  AMARYNTHOS, GREECE—Swissinfo reports that a team of Swiss researchers led by Karl Reber of the University of Lausanne has discovered the lost temple of Artemis at the foot of the Paleoekklisies hill, on the Greek island of Euboea. The site, identified with artifacts inscribed with the name “Arthemidos,” is located about six miles from the place where the temple was previously thought to have stood. Archaeologist Denis Knöpfler of the University of Neuchâtel found a key clue to the temple’s location in a nearby Byzantine church that had pieces of the temple’s Doric columns and blocks in its façade. So far, the foundations of the building’s portico and inner courtyard have been uncovered. The temple was the end point of an annual procession from the city of Eretrea and home to a festival in honor of the goddess of hunting. To read about another recent discovery in Greece, go to “A Surprise City in Thessaly.”

Possible Viking Boat Burial Uncovered in Norway

TRONDHEIM, NORWAY—According to a report in Live Science, a possible boat burial dating to between the seventh and tenth centuries A.D. has been discovered in a market square in Trondheim. The burial, which may have at one time been covered with a mound, was damaged by later construction. Ian Reed of the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage said nails and lumps of rust are all that remain of what could have been a flat-bottomed, wooden boat built to travel the shallow waters of the Nidelven River. Two long bones were found in the boat, but they were not well preserved. DNA tests may be able to determine whether the bones came from a human. A piece of bronze, part of a spoon, and the remains of a key that would have opened a chest were also found in the grave. For more, go to “Hoards of the Vikings.”

Tuesday, September 19

Cold-Resistant Yeast Discovered in South American Pottery

TEMUCO, CHILE—According to a report from NBC News, traces of yeast have been detected on 1,000-year-old pottery discovered near the Chile-Argentina border. The yeast, called Saccharomyces eubayanus, is thought to have been an ancestor of the yeast currently used to brew lager. Researchers have been looking for the origin of this unusual fungus, which thrives in cold temperatures and has been found growing wild in Patagonia and Tibet. Saccharomyces eubayanus has not been found growing wild in Europe, however. “Our findings confirm the historical presence of the yeast in this region and now we have confirmation of its use,” explained archaeologist Alberto Perez of Universidad Catolica de Temuco in Chile. Scholars now want to know whether Saccharomyces eubayanus traveled from South America to Bavaria, where lager was first brewed in the 1400s. To watch a short film on the work, click here.

Porpoise Bones Unearthed at Medieval Monks’ Retreat

GUERNSEY, CHANNEL ISLANDS—The remains of a porpoise have been unearthed at the site of a medieval religious retreat on the island of Chapelle Dom Hue, according to a report in The Guardian. Archaeologists expected the carefully dug grave to contain human bones, and were surprised to find a porpoise skull and other body parts. “If they had eaten it or killed it for the blubber, why take the trouble to bury it?” asked States of Guernsey archaeologist Philip de Jersey. He suggests that the body could have been salted and kept in the hole as a way to preserve it. The bones will be studied by a marine scientist. To read about a massive Celtic coin hoard discovered on the Channel Islands, go to “Ka-Ching!

Excavators Return to the Minoan Palace of Zominthos

PSILORITIS, CRETE—Recent excavations at the Minoan palace of Zominthos uncovered two entrances, an internal stairway, and a second-century A.D. Roman coin, according to The Greek Reporter. The first entrance, on the northeast corner of the palace, led to a sanctuary with an altar and featured an anteroom with two desks. The second entrance, on the southeastern corner, is said to be in poor condition. It had been modified by the Mycenaeans and the Romans, and was damaged by looters in the 1960s. An internal stairway and the remains of ten-foot-tall walls indicate that the building was multistoried. The upper floors were supported by central pillars. The excavation also revealed floors made of glittering limestone and pebbles. Traces of frescoed mortar has also been found on the walls. In another area of the palace, above a metallurgical workshop, a claw-shaped pendulum and a vase decorated with the image of a pig were uncovered. Next door, the excavators found a small bronze scarab that had been made locally, and sea shells. For more, go to “The Minoans of Crete.”

World War I–Era German Submarine Found

WEST FLANDERS, BELGIUM—BBC News reports that the wreckage of a World War I–era submarine has been found in the North Sea. The type UB-II vessel, thought to have been snagged in a cable and sunk by a mine, is expected to hold the remains of 23 people—a crew of 22 and one commander—according to West Flanders Governor Carl Decaluwé. The upper part of the submarine was damaged, but its hatches are still shut, and the conning tower is said to be intact. Periscopes and torpedo tubes have also been spotted on the sea floor. To read in-depth about the archaeology of a legendery World War I battlefield, go to “Letter From Turkey: Anzac's Next Chapter.”

Monday, September 18

World War II Dog Tags Unearthed in England

NORFOLK, ENGLAND—BBC News reports that dog tags, a piece of window from a B-17 Flying Fortress, and the grate from a wood-burning stove were uncovered at a former Royal Air Force base in Norfolk. Members of the United States’ 100th Bomb Group were stationed at the site during the Second World War. The excavation was conducted by the University of East Anglia, with assistance from the American Veterans Archaeology Recovery Program, the 100th Bomber Memorial Group, and the Waveney Valley Archaeology Group. The archaeologists hope to reunite the tags with their owners or their descendants. For more, go to “Archaeology of World War II.”

Graves of Yuan Dynasty Chieftains Found

GUIZHOU PROVINCE, CHINA—Xinhua reports that five tombs belonging to tribal leaders have been unearthed in southwest China. Three of the tombs date to between 1271 and 1368 A.D. and belonged to the Yang family, who were appointed as Tusi chieftains by the imperial government to rule over the city of Bozhou for 721 years. The last Yang family chieftain died during a rebellion in 1601. Officials from the Guizhou Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology say the discovery will help scholars understand the Tusi chieftain system and culture. To read about another recent discovery in China, go to “The Buddha of the Lake.”

Sugar Molecule May Help Identify Human Ancestors

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA—According to a report in The San Diego Tribune, scientists led by Anne K. Bergfeld and Ajit Varki of the University of California, San Diego, have identified a molecule made by many animals, and all apes, but not modern humans. It could help distinguish between fossils of hominins related to modern humans, and those of species that belong to side branches of the human family tree. The loss of the substance, called Neu5Gc, may have even created a fertility barrier between the ancestors of modern humans and other hominins. The scientists first tested a 50,000-year-old cave bear fossil, and found an unusual form of chondroitin sulfate, a surviving remnant of Neu5Gc, and then a four-million-year-old bovine fossil, which also contained the molecule. Since human ancestors are thought to have lost the ability to make Neu5Gc between two and three million years ago, it appears that the technique could help researchers more accurately identify the period of when the loss occurred. Varki and his colleagues are now refining the testing process so that a smaller amount of fossil would have to be destroyed in the analysis. When that work has been completed, hominin fossils may be considered for testing. For more, go to “Proteins Solve a Hominin Puzzle.”