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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Wednesday, August 25

Remnant of Edinburgh’s Historic Tram Network Uncovered

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND—The Scotsman reports that work to extend a tram line in Edinburgh has uncovered original brickwork and a pulley wheel. Edinburgh’s pulley wheel tram system, dated to about 1899, ran on cables powered by stationary steam engines and replaced horse-drawn trams. This cable-winding mechanism was found near the so-called “Pilrig muddle,” where passengers transferred from Edinburgh’s trams to Leith’s separate transportation system, which was electrified in 1901. Edinburgh’s tram system was electrified in 1922, after Leith became part of Edinburgh. City archaeologist John Lawson said that archaeologists will try to remove the obsolete pulley wheel for safekeeping. For more on archaeology in Scotland, go to "Letter from Scotland: Land of the Picts."

Hundreds of Bronze Age Artifacts Found in France

TOULOUSE, FRANCE—According to a report in The Connexion, pottery vessels filled with bronze objects have been discovered at a fortified settlement site in central France that has been dated to 800 B.C. Pierre-Yves Milcent of the University of Toulouse said that two of the vessels held bracelets, anklets, and pendants worn by women or children, while a third contained tools and weapons. Chariot decorations, riding equipment, and wheel parts were recovered from yet another vessel. Each one was topped with bronze axes. “They could be offerings as found in Greece at that time, deposited during the foundation or abandonment of the settlement, to help ensure divine protection,” Milcent explained. To read about ritual activity from the Neolithic period through the Bronze Age at a megalithic site in central France, go to "Megalithic Mystery."

Clovis Camp Site Discovered in Michigan

ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN—According to a statement released by the University of Michigan, a Clovis camp site has been discovered on farmland in southwest Michigan. It had been previously thought that the presence of glaciers in the region some 13,000 years ago made it uninhabitable beyond an occasional hunting trip in the ice-front environment. Independent researcher Thomas Talbot explored the farmer’s fields each spring after they had been plowed for more than ten years, and recovered nine pieces of Clovis points over that time. He contacted archaeologists Henry Wright and Brandon Nash of the University of Michigan, who investigated the area where Talbot found the points. Digging down some five feet, Nash and his colleagues uncovered two artifacts in an undisturbed layer below the plow zone. In all, the team has recovered more than 20 Clovis tools and hundreds of pieces of stone debris left behind by tool production. Nash thinks the camp may have been used for a short period by a small group of people who split from their main group for a season. Residue analysis could reveal what animals they hunted and what plants they processed, he added. To read about pre-Clovis peoples in the Americas, go to "America, in the Beginning."

Tuesday, August 24

Spinning Tools Recovered from 2,000-Year-Old Grave in Poland

SARBIA, POLAND—According to a Science in Poland report, archaeologists have found two burials in a barrow in northeastern Poland. Andrzej Michałowski of Adam Mickiewicz University said the graves are thought to be about 2,000 years old and to belong to the Wielbark culture. “The body of the deceased was already in a wooden boat, which she used to take to cross to the other bank of the river… It seemed as if she was napping after work, dressed in her best robes,” Michałowski said. Beads of glass, amber, and bone were found on her chest, and an S-shaped clasp was found at her neck, he added. A box at her feet contained hair pins and weaving tools, including the remains of two distaffs and a set of weights, or spindle whorls, used to keep the threads from sliding as they spun. He thinks the burned remains of a younger woman, who was buried with whorls, a small distaff, and a small S-shaped clasp, may have belonged to the spinner’s apprentice. To read about clay pig figurines found at a Bronze Age hillfort in Maszkowice, Poland, go to "Piggy Playthings." 

Franklin Expedition Member Identified Through DNA Analysis

ONTARIO, CANADA—CBC News Canada reports that the remains of Warrant Officer John Gregory have been identified through DNA comparison with living descendants of the crew of the Franklin Expedition. British polar explorer John Franklin, his crew of 128, and the ships HMS Erebus and HMS Terror were all lost while searching the Canadian Arctic for the Northwest Passage in the 1840s. Archaeologist Douglas Stenton of the University of Waterloo and his colleagues analyzed DNA obtained from samples of Gregory’s remains, which were discovered on King William Island in 2013, and linked it to one of 16 DNA samples from descendants of the members of the Franklin Expedition. This sample came from Gregory’s great-great-great-grandson. “We think it’s important to learn as much as we possibly can about these men and identifying them is fundamental to that,” Stenton explained. For more on the discovery of HMS Erebus, go to "Franklin's Last Voyage."

Monday, August 23

18th-Century Plague Cemetery Discovered in Northern Poland

MIKOŁAJKI, POLAND—According to a report in The First News, a roadside cemetery holding the remains of 100 people in 60 graves was discovered in northern Poland during an investigation ahead of construction work. The cemetery holds the remains of victims of the Great Northern War plague, which raged in northern Poland and central eastern Europe from 1700 to 1721. Archaeologist Agnieszka Jaremek said the cemetery was used when church cemeteries ran out of space. “Many graves conceal whole families—both adults and children,” she said. The cemetery was used into the nineteenth century, she added. The investigation also uncovered evidence of a Neolithic settlement, including pottery and a blue glass bead, that was situated on a lake. To read about Jewish burials that were recently uncovered in the Polish town of Leżajsk, go to "Honoring the Dead."

Health Goddess Statue Unearthed in Turkey

KÜTAHYA, TURKEY—Hurriyet Daily News reports that a life-sized statue has been unearthed in western Turkey at the site of the ancient city of Aizanoi. “We unearthed a statue of Hygieia, known as the goddess of health and cleanliness, the daughter of Asclepius, the god of health in Greek and Roman mythology,” said archaeologist Gökhan Coşkun of Dumlupinar University. The statue, which is missing its head, was recovered from a columned gallery on the south wing of the agora, and may be related to a local, Roman-era health cult, he explained. To read about accommodations for mobility-impaired visitors at the sanctuary of Asclepius at Epidaurus and other Greek healing sanctuaries, go to "To Reach the Gods."