Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Monday, September 17

Possible Birthplace of Henry VII Found in Wales

PEMBROKE, WALES—According to a report in The Guardian, archaeologists digging test trenches on the grounds of Pembroke Castle have uncovered stone structures that could be the remains of a mansion where Henry VII was born in 1457. Other finds indicate the building had a slate roof adorned with green-glazed ridge tiles, and a spiral staircase. It had been thought the king was born in castle’s thirteenth-century tower, but this building’s outline was spotted in the parched grass of the castle grounds from the air. “We know [from documentary evidence] that he was born in the castle, which was at that time owned by his uncle, Jasper Tudor,” said archaeologist James Meek. “It’s more likely that he was born in a modern residence, for the time, than in a guard tower on the walls.” A newly discovered cesspit could also offer information about royal medieval life. Henry VII ascended to the throne of England after he defeated Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, ending the Wars of the Roses. To read about the discovery of the burial place of Richard III, go to “Richard III’s Last Act.”

Sphinx Sculpture Uncovered in Egypt

ASWAN, EGYPT—BBC News reports that a sandstone sphinx measuring about 15 inches tall was discovered during work to reduce groundwater levels at the pharaonic temple of Kom Ombo, which was constructed by Ptolemy VI in honor of the twin gods Sobek and Haroeris. According to Egypt's antiquities ministry, the statue was found in the same area of the temple where two sandstone reliefs of King Ptolemy V were previously unearthed. The sphinx is thought to date to the Ptolemaic era, between 305 and 30 B.C. For more on the Ptolemaic era in Egypt, go to “In the Time of the Rosetta Stone.”

Ancient Gold and Pearls Discovered on Danish Island

HJARNØ, DENMARK—The Copenhagen Post reports that a metal detectorist discovered a collection of gold and pearl artifacts dated to about A.D. 500 on a small island off the east coast of Jutland. According to Mads Ravn of the Vejle Museum, local people probably obtained the gold from the Romans and then made it into jewelry and buried it, possibly as an offering to the gods. “They’ve probably been down there on a mission to plunder, so our little find is a reminder of a turbulent period in world history when gold spoke its own, very clear language,” he said. A volcanic eruption in El Salvador and the resulting ash cloud and climate change could have also prompted the burial of the treasure as an offering to the gods, Ravn added. For more on arcaheology in Denmark, go to “Bluetooth's Fortress.”

Friday, September 14

Dog Digs Up Bronze Age Artifacts in Czech Republic

RYCHNOV, CZECH REPUBLIC—Radio Prague reports that while being taken for a walk near the Orlické Mountains in northern Bohemia, a dog dug up a collection of 3,000-year-old bronze artifacts. The dog owner handed the 13 sickles, two spear points, three axes, and bracelets over to the local government. The objects were examined by a team of researchers including archaeologist Martina Beková of the Museum and Gallery of the Orlické Mountains, who said that the objects were in good condition, and may have been buried as an act of honor or sacrifice. The artifacts will stay in the Hradec Králové region, where they will be put on display. Archaeologists are continuing to investigate the area where the treasure was found. For more, go to “Off the Grid: Prague.”

Engravings on Maya Altar May Record Political Strategy

GUATEMALA CITY, GUATEMALA—The AFP reports that engravings on a 1,500-year-old altar discovered in a temple at the site of La Corona in northern Guatemala names a previously unknown king of the city, and sheds light on the political maneuverings undertaken by the kings of the Kaanul dynasty, or Serpent Kingdom, whose capital was the city of Dzibanche. Marcello A. Canuto of Tulane University and Tomas Barrientos of the University of the Valley of Guatemala said the images on the one-ton limestone altar depict the seated ruler of La Corona, King Chak Took Ich’aak, and two of the city’s patron gods emerging from his double-headed serpent effigy. Dates with this image correspond to May 12, 544. King Chak Took Ich’aak is known to have ruled the nearby city of El Peru-Waka about 20 years later. “Having information about what happened next, how they were plotting a political strategy here, teaches us a lot about politics in those times and the fight for territory,” Barrientos said. The researchers suggest the rulers of the Serpent Kingdom built alliances with smaller cities surrounding their rivals at Tikal, eventually defeating them in A.D. 562, and reigning over the Maya lowlands for about 200 years. To read in-depth about archaeological investigation of a Maya settlement in Guatemala, go to “The City at the Beginning of the World.”

Medieval Copper Coins Unearthed in Northern India

NEW DELHI, INDIA—The Times of India reports that more than 250 copper coins dating to the sixteenth century A.D. were discovered near the entrance to the Khirki Mosque during conservation work undertaken by the Archaeological Survey of India. The oldest coins were minted during the reign of Sher Shah Suri, who is also known as Sher Khan, between 1540 and 1545. The mosque, constructed in the fourteenth century in northern India, is thought to be one of seven built by Khan-i-Jahan Junan Shah, who converted from Hinduism to Islam. The building is known for its blend of Islamic and traditional Hindu architectural styles. To read about another recent discovery in Uttar Pradesh, go to “Indian Warrior Class.”

Thursday, September 13

Gladiator Relief Discovered in Bulgaria

VELIKO TARNOVO, BULGARIA—Archaeology in Bulgaria reports that a stone relief thought to date to the Severan Dynasty (A.D. 193-235) has been found in the ancient Roman city of Nicopolis ad Istrum, which is located in northern Bulgaria, by a team of archaeologists led by Ivan Tsarov of the Veliko Tarnovo Regional Museum of History. The rare image, discovered under the pavement in the southwestern corner of the city’s forum, depicts a type of gladiator known as a secutor, wearing a helmet and a shield and armed with a short sword, facing another type of gladiator called a retiarius, wearing an arm and a shoulder guard and carrying a trident, a dagger, and a net. Tsarov and his colleagues think the carved stone may have been part of a frieze that decorated a table where olive oil and grains were weighed, or part of a sacrificial altar associated with rituals performed before gladiatorial battles. The find is said to confirm three inscriptions mentioning gladiator fights that have been found in the city, even though an amphitheater has not been located. Tsarov thinks the battles may have been held in a wooden structure outside the city. To read about research on an area outside an amphitheater in present-day Austria where gladiatorial contests took place, go to “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”

Viking City Excavated in Denmark

RIBE, DENMARK—Science Nordic reports that archaeologists from Aarhus University and the Museum of Southwest Jutland excavated and undertook 3-D laser surveys of the remains of the Viking seafaring and trading city of Ribe. The oldest layers of the settlement are well preserved, and are expected to help researchers understand how the city and its trade networks developed, beginning in the early eighth century A.D. By the ninth century A.D., raw materials were carried by ship to the city, where ironsmiths, amber workers, leather workers, comb makers, and jewelers practiced their crafts. The recovered artifacts include beads, amulets, coins, combs, dog excrement, gnawed bones, and a piece of a lyre, which still had its tuning pegs. For more on archaeology of the Vikings in Denmark, go to “Bluetooth's Fortress.”

Humans May Have Arrived on Madagascar 10,000 Years Ago

LONDON, ENGLAND—BBC News reports that the butchered bones of giant-sized elephant birds have been unearthed in Madagascar. Elephant birds are estimated to have stood about ten feet tall and weighed at least 1,000 pounds. The cut marks on the fossils suggest the birds had been butchered and eaten by humans some 10,000 years ago. James Hansford of the Zoological Society of London said the evidence pushes back the arrival of humans on the island by about 6,000 years, since it had been previously thought that humans first arrived on the island of Madagascar between 2,500 and 4,000 years ago. Elephant birds, which died out about 1,000 years ago, may have coexisted with humans for more than 9,000 years, but scientists do not yet know who the people who first arrived on Madagascar were or from where they originated. To read about earlier attempts to determine where Madagascar's settlers came from, go to “World Roundup.”