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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Friday, August 20

1,500-Year-Old Industrial Agriculture Site Unearthed in Israel

TEL AVIV, ISRAEL—I24News reports that a large Byzantine-era winepress paved with a mosaic and traces of a large building were uncovered in Ramat Ha-Sharon, which is located in Israel’s central coastal area, by researchers from the Israel Antiquities Authority. “Inside the buildings and installations, we found many fragments of storage jars and cooking pots that were evidently used by laborers working in the fields here,” said excavation director Yoav Arbel. Stone mortars and millstones for grinding wheat, barley, and herbs were also recovered, in addition to a rare gold coin minted in A.D. 638 or 639 by Emperor Heraclius. One side of the coin depicts the emperor with his two sons, while the other shows Christian imagery. To read about the rise and fall of Gaza wine production in the Negev Highlands, go to "Alcohol Through the Ages: Desert Wine."

Anglo-Saxon Monastery Uncovered in England

BERKSHIRE, ENGLAND—According to a statement released by the University of Reading, traces of timber buildings, food remains, pottery, and a bronze bracelet and dress pin have been found on the grounds of a church in southeastern England. The site is thought to represent one of a network of medieval monasteries situated along the River Thames. Historic sources indicate that Queen Cynethryth, widow of King Offa of Mercia, served as a royal abbess of this monastery, which was strategically located in the village of Cookham, on the contested boundary between the kingdoms of Mercia and Wessex. Queen Cynethryth is thought to have been buried at the site sometime after A.D. 798. To read how Offa, Cynethryth, and other Anglo-Saxon royals used taxation to cement their power, go to "Ancient Tax Time: The Kings' Dues."

Fireproof Roof Tiles Found at Colonial Williamsburg's Magazine

WILLIAMSBURG, VIRGINIA—According to a report in The Virginia Gazette, archaeologist Jack Gary and his colleagues have uncovered several clay roof tiles at the site of the Powder Magazine at Colonial Williamsburg, the partially reconstructed former capital of Virginia. It had been previously thought that the octagonal building, which was originally constructed under the direction of Governor Alexander Spotswood in 1715 to hold gunpowder and arms, had been roofed with flammable wooden shingles. After the Revolutionary War, the building was used as a stable, and later as a church, before it was restored in 1930 as part of the living history museum. “They didn’t have the same amount of evidence that we now have,” Gary said. New information obtained through the excavation will help researchers to reinterpret what the structure looked like and how it was used over time. To read about the Native Rappahannock peoples whom colonists encountered in seventeenth-century Virginia, go to "Return to the River."

Thursday, August 19

Remains of Massacred World War II Prisoners Found in Poland

CHOJNICE, POLAND—According to a Science Magazine report, archaeologist Dawid Kobiałka of the Polish Academy of Sciences and his colleagues discovered the remains of hundreds of people who were killed by the Nazis at the end of World War II in a region of northern Poland known locally as “Death Valley.” The researchers began their study by interviewing witnesses and examining historical records, including aerial photographs taken by the Allies at the end of the war. Then, the scientists conducted lidar scans from the air and ground-penetrating radar surveys of the area. Once they had pinpointed sites that might contain burial pits, the researchers used metal detectors and discovered hundreds of bullet shells of a type commonly used by the Gestapo and German police units; buttons; cuff links; a wristwatch; and a wedding ring among one ton of burned human bone in the topsoil. The dead are thought to have been some 500 prisoners killed by the Nazis in January 1945, as the Soviet Army approached. The Nazis reportedly stacked the bodies and burned them over a period of three days. Analysis of charcoal and partially burned wood suggests the pyres were fueled with imported pine. “We knew the victims were buried somewhere, but until our research no one knew where,” Kobiałka said. Read the original scholarly article about this research in Antiquity. To read about the discovery of the remains of seven nuns who were murdered by Soviet soliders near the end of World War II, go to "Around the World: Poland."

Wednesday, August 18

Relief Depicting Greek and Persian Wars Unearthed in Turkey

BALIKESIR, TURKEY—The Anadolu Agency reports that a relief dated to the fifth century B.C. has been discovered in northwestern Turkey at the ancient city of Daskyleion by archaeologists led by Kaan İren of Muğla Sıtkı Koçman University. The relief depicts Greek soldiers under the hooves of Persian warhorses. “We think these reliefs were probably made for propaganda purposes during the wars,” İren said. The excavation team has also uncovered a stone and mudbrick wall dated to the eighth century B.C. at the site. This section of wall, thought to have been built by the Phrygians, measures about 13 feet tall, 130 feet long, and 16 feet wide. İren thinks the wall once stood more than 20 feet tall. To read about another recent discovery from Daskyleion, go to "Who Is That Masked God?"

Well-Preserved Human Remains Discovered in Pompeii Tomb

POMPEII, ITALY—Live Science reports that well-preserved human remains have been recovered from an alcove with an arched ceiling within a masonry tomb at the Porta Sarno necropolis, which is located outside the walls of Pompeii. The skeleton was partially mummified and retains close-cropped hair and an ear. Two funerary urns were also found. Traces of paint suggest the tomb had been decorated with images of green plants on a blue background. An inscription at the site revealed that the tomb belonged to Marcus Venerius Secundio, who served at the temple of Venus as a slave before he became a priest of the imperial cult of Augustus and eventually died in his 60s. The inscription also said that Secundio conducted rituals in Latin and Greek. Gabriel Zuchtriegel, director of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, said this is the first direct evidence that Greek performances were held in the cosmopolitan city. Llorenç Alapont of the University of Valencia added that it is not clear if the mummification was intentional. During the Roman period, most Pompeiians were cremated, he explained. To read about the remains of two men killed by Vesuvius' eruption that were recently unearthed at a villa near Pompeii, go to "More Vesuvius Victims."