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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Thursday, February 23

Prehistoric Monument Builders’ Homes Found in France

CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND—According to a statement released by the University of Cambridge, a Neolithic site in west-central France is thought to be the home of some of the first people to construct megalithic barrows and dolmens in Europe. Vincent Ard of the French National Center for Scientific Research and his colleagues determined that the Le Peu enclosure, which was discovered during an aerial survey in 2011, consisted of several timber buildings clustered on the top of a small hill surrounded by a palisade. Two monumental structures guarded the entrance to the palisade. Soil testing of the area showed that the settlement was also bordered by a protective marsh. The hilltop buildings have been dated to the fifth millennium B.C., making them the oldest wooden structures in the region and contemporary with the five long mounds at the nearby Tusson megalithic cemetery. This cemetery would have been visible from the Le Peu enclosure, Ard explained. The buildings at Le Peu appear to have burned down in 4400 B.C., he concluded. Read the original scholarly article about this research in Antiquity. To read more about Neolithic sites in France, go to "Megalithic Mystery." 

Swiss Museum Returns Sacred Objects to Canada's First Nations

MONTREAL, CANADA—The Canadian Press reports that the Geneva Museum of Ethnography has repatriated two sacred objects to the Haudenosaunee Confederation, which includes the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Tuscarora, and Seneca peoples. The medicine mask and turtle rattle had been held in Switzerland for nearly 200 years. The mask was spotted in the museum’s collection by Tuscarora Brennan Ferguson, a member of the Haudenosaunee external relations committee, which then wrote to the museum and requested its return. “We expressed our wishes, and they worked with us completely,” Ferguson commented. To read more about repatriation of sacred objects, go to "Redeeming Archaeology."

Wednesday, February 22

Ancient Antler Found in Vietnam May Be Early Musical Instrument

LONG AN, VIETNAM—According to an IFL Science report, a 2,000-year-old antler found in southern Vietnam near the Mekong River may have been part of a musical instrument. Fredeliza Campos of Australian National University and her colleagues, including researchers from Long An Museum, examined more than 600 bone artifacts recovered from the region once inhabited by Vietnam’s pre-Óc Eo culture. This antler, they noticed, has a hole at one end that may have held a tuning peg, and a notched bridge that may have supported a string or strings. “This stringed instrument, or chordophone, is one of the earliest examples of this type of instrument in Southeast Asia,” Campos said. “It fills the gap between the region’s earliest known musical instruments—lithophones or stone percussion plates—and more modern instruments,” she explained. The 14-inch-long antler is thought to have come from a Sambar deer or an Indian hog deer, which are both native to Southeast Asia, Campos concluded. To read more about archaeological research into prehistoric musical instruments, go to "Artifact: Camelid Wind Instruments." 

Collection of Crown Jewelry Repatriated to Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA—According to a BBC News report, 77 looted pieces of jewelry have been returned to Cambodia by the family of a deceased antiquities dealer from London. Cambodia’s culture minister Phoeurng Sackona said that the collection includes crowns, necklaces, bracelets, belts, earrings, and amulets dated to the Angkorian period, from the ninth to the fourteenth centuries A.D. One of the crowns may date to the seventh century. Archaeologist Sonetra Seng has been studying Angkorian jewelry through carvings at Angkor Wat, a temple complex first constructed by the Khmer Empire in the twelfth century. She recognized some of the repatriated pieces. “The jewelry proves what was on the carvings and what was rumored is really true,” she said. “Cambodia was really, really rich in the past.” The repatriated jewelry will go on display in Phnom Penh as researchers work to determine where each piece had been unearthed. To read more about this period in Cambodia's history, go to "Storied Landscape."

Live Civil War Shell Discovered at Pennsylvania Battlefield

GETTYSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA—Live Science reports that archaeologist Steven Brann and his colleagues employed metal detectors to check a hill at Gettysburg National Military Park known as Little Round Top before beginning rehabilitation work to protect the battlefield landscape and add new signage for visitors. They subsequently discovered a live artillery shell under about two feet of earth. The shell, which would have been fired from a rifled cannon, measured about seven inches long and weighed about ten pounds, Brann said. It is not yet clear if it had been fired by Union or Confederate troops. Thousands of soldiers died over a period of 90 minutes on July 2, 1863, the second day of the three-day Battle of Gettysburg, as Union forces struggled to retain control of Little Round Top. Confederate General Longstreet eventually decided to go around the hill rather than take it. The shell was safely removed from the battlefield and detonated by members of the Army’s 55th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company. To read more about archaeological discoveries related to the American Civil War, go to "A Path to Freedom."

Lost World War II–Era Submarine Identified

TOKYO, JAPAN—The Maritime Executive reports that a wrecked submarine off the coast of Hokkaido, Japan, has been identified as the USS Albacore by the Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) with the assistance of Tamaki Ura of the University of Tokyo. Japanese war records show that an American submarine hit a naval mine near the coast of the island of Hokkaido on November 7, 1944. Ura and his colleagues found the site and were able to examine key structural elements in the murky underwater conditions with a remotely operated vehicle. Those elements include modifications made to the Albacore at Pearl Harbor, such as the addition of a radar dish and mast, a row of vent holes, and the lack of steel plates along the upper edge of the fairwater, or tower-like structure on the topside of the submarine. The wreck is protected by the NHHC as a war grave. To read in-depth about similar research done at Pearl Harbor, go to "December 7, 1941."

Tuesday, February 21

Researchers Work to Identify Revolutionary War Casualties

CAMDEN, SOUTH CAROLINA— reports that researchers have been working to identify the remains of 14 Revolutionary War soldiers killed during the Battle of Camden in 1780. The remains were recovered from seven locations on the battlefield. Twelve of the men have been identified as Continental soldiers from Maryland and Delaware; one is thought to be a Loyalist from North Carolina; and one served with the British 71st Regiment of Foot, Fraser’s Highlanders. “We know the ages of all the soldiers,” added Doug Bostick of the South Carolina Battleground Preservation Trust. “Two of the soldiers are between 14 and 16 years old,” he said. Artifacts buried with these two individuals suggest they came from Maryland. The Loyalist from North Carolina may have had Native American ancestry, based upon the shape of his incisors, Bostick continued, while the identity of the British soldier has been narrowed down to three possibilities. DNA studies comparing samples from the soldiers with samples from living people who think they might be related to them could help the find names for the soldiers, Bostick concluded. Plans are being made for the reburial of the remains. To read about more sites from the period, go to "Exploring the Great Warpath."

Sumerian Palace Discovered in Iraq

TELLO, IRAQ—According to a statement released by the British Museum, a 4,500-year-old palace has been discovered in Girsu, a Sumerian city in southern Iraq that was discovered about 140 years ago. Researchers were aware of the existence of the mudbrick palace from inscriptions unearthed at other locations in the city. The excavation team, which is made up of British and Iraqi archaeologists, also recovered more than 200 cuneiform tablets of administrative records at the site. To read more about the site, go to "Girsu's Enigmatic Construction."