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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Friday, February 10

Bronze Age Burial Found in Romania

DRĂGUŞENI, ROMANIA—Romania Insider reports that a 3,000-year-old skeleton has been found in eastern Romania in what was once a burial mound attributed to the Yamnaya culture. Adela Kovacs of the Botoşani County Museum said that she and her colleagues from the Archaeological Institute of Iaşi, the Silesian University in Opava, and the Silesian Museum in the Czech Republic have been investigating the area and the two large tumuli at the site, which had been damaged by farming. Traces of red ocher have been found on the skeleton’s head and legs. It is thought to be related to a ritual related to rebirth, blood, and the afterlife, Kovacs explained. “The body’s position is curled,” she added. “Initially, it was placed on its back, with the knees brought to the chest, suggesting a fetal position. This baby position [also] represents the return to earth through a future birth.” Further study of the bones will attempt to determine the age, sex, and diet of the deceased. To read about farming communities in the Danube Gorges region in present-day Romania and Serbia, go to "Europe's First Farmers."

Medieval Remains Identified in England

SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND—According to a statement released by the University of Sheffield, researchers led by osteoarchaeologist Lauren McIntyre have identified the remains of a woman held in the collections at the University of Sheffield as Lady Isabel German, who is known to have been an anchoress, or a woman who chose to live a life of prayer in seclusion. Documents show that Lady German lived in a single room at All Saints Church in Fishergate, York, in the fifteenth century. The bones, unearthed in 2007, were found in a tightly crouched position within the apse of the All Saints Church foundations. Radiocarbon dating of the remains and analysis of the chemical makeup of the bones also support the identification. McIntyre said the woman suffered from septic arthritis and advanced venereal syphilis. “The new study allows us to explore the possibilities that Lady German chose to devote herself to a life of solitude as a way to remain autonomous and in control of her own destiny,” she commented. “This chosen lifestyle would also have made her a highly significant figure within the local community, and she would have been viewed almost like a living prophet,” McIntyre concluded. To read about the probable remains of an Anglo-Saxon princess who helped found the first English nunnery, go to "ID'ing England's First Nun."

Thursday, February 9

Face of Nabataean Woman Reconstructed

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES—CNN reports that the face of a Nabataean woman who lived some 2,000 years ago has been reconstructed from bone fragments recovered from a tomb at the site of the ancient trade center of Hegra, which is located in northwestern Saudi Arabia. Inscriptions on the tomb identified its occupant as a woman named Hinat, according to archaeologist Laila Nehme. Information gleaned from the bones, combined with anthropological data, were employed to produce the sculpture with a 3-D printer. The sculpture of Hinat is currently on display at the Hegra Welcome Center. For more on the Nabataeans, go to "Letter from Jordan: Beyond Petra."

Unique Golden Glass Image Unearthed in Rome

ROME, ITALY—ANSA.it reports that an ancient image of Roma, the personification of the city of Rome as a woman wearing a helmet and carrying a spear, was found on a rare piece of golden glass during work on a subway line. “From an initial study, it looks like the artifact is from the start of the fourth century,” said archaeologist Simona Morretta. The piece was originally at the bottom of a cup, she explained, and was the sort of object given as a gift. The cup may have broken, but the image was saved and perhaps exhibited on furniture or hung on a wall, she added. The artifact will be showcased in the Porta Metronia station museum. To read about the Arch of Constantine, one of the monuments along ancient Rome's Triumphal Way that also included the Temple of Venus and Roma, go to "A Monumental Imperial Biography."

Wednesday, February 8

Southeast Asia Study Tracks Prehistoric Genomes and Geography

SINGAPORE—According to a statement released by Nanyang Technological University, a new study of paleogeography and population genetics suggests that rapid sea level rise drove prehistoric migration in Southeast Asia. Kim Hie Lim and Li Tanghua of Nanyang Technological University and their colleagues compiled paleogeographic maps of the prehistoric landmass known as Sundaland from 26,000 years ago to the present. They also sequenced the genomes of people from 59 ethnic groups living in the region over the past 50,000 years. The study found that during periods of rapid sea level rise, the populations of Sundaland were separated into smaller groups as the large landmass flooded and split into smaller areas, including what are now the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, Borneo, and Java. The warmer temperatures, however, also supported population growth, and population density increased. Eventual overpopulation then drove migration northward, towards mainland Southeast Asia and South Asia, where populations were once again able to mix. The scientists plan to extend their research to migration in other parts of Southeast Asia and from North Asia to the Americas. Read the original scholarly article about this research in Communications Biology. To read about the possible migration of modern humans from Southeast Asia to Australia, go to "World Roundup: Indonesia."

13,900-Year-Old Bone Projectile Point From Washington Identified

COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS—According to a statement released by Texas A&M University, a bone projectile point has been identified in a mastodon rib dated to 13,900 years ago by Michael Waters of Texas A&M University and his colleagues. The mastodon rib was unearthed at the Manis Mastodon Site on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula in the 1970s. Waters and his team members isolated all of the bone fragments, examined them with computed tomography scans and 3-D software, and printed them out at six times scale. “Then we fit the pieces back together to show what the specimen looked like before it entered and splintered in the rib,” Waters said. When the hunter threw a spear equipped with the bone point, which had been made from the leg bone of another mastodon, it lodged in the rib and failed to reach the animal’s lung. “This shows that the First Americans made and used bone weapons and likely other types of bone tools,” Waters concluded. Read the original scholarly article about this research in Science Advances. For more, go to "America, in the Beginning: Manis Mastodon Kill Site."

Roman Mithraeum Discovered in Southern Spain

CABRA, SPAIN—ArtNews reports that a sanctuary dedicated to the god Mithras has been uncovered at the Villa del Mitra in southern Spain's Roman city of Licabrum by researchers from the University of Málaga, the Carlos III University of Madrid, and the University of Córdoba. The villa, which has been dated to the first century A.D., was discovered in the 1970s and named for a second-century A.D. sculpture of Mithras sacrificing a bull discovered there about 20 years earlier. The villa featured a courtyard with a pond, rooms with mosaic floors, and a subfloor heating system. The Mithraeum was constructed at the villa in the second century A.D. and remodeled at the end of the third century. Several steps descend from its narrow entrance to a rectangular room measuring about 24 long by eight feet wide. Two stone benches flank the walls. Members of the cult would have sat on the benches during feasts and rituals. Fragments of pig, bird, and rabbit bones have been found on the floor. To read about a Mithraeum excavated at the Roman site of Mariana, go to "World Roundup: Corsica."

Neanderthals Enjoyed Seaside Crab Roasts in Portugal

TARRAGONA, SPAIN—According to a statement released by Frontiers, evidence that Neanderthals cooked and ate brown crabs some 90,000 years ago has been uncovered in Portugal’s Gruta de Figueira Brava by a team of researchers led by Mariana Nabais of the Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution (IPHES-CERCA). No signs of consumption of the crabs by rodents or birds were found, and about eight percent of the shells have burn marks, Nabais explained. Neanderthals are thought to have caught the crabs in low-tide pools on the nearby rocky coastline, and then carried them back to the cave, where they roasted them on coals. The remains of other shellfish were unearthed in the cave, Nabais added, but most of the debris came from brown crabs measuring about six inches across. A crab of this size would have yielded about seven ounces of meat, she concluded. Read the original scholarly article about this research in Frontiers in Environmental Archaeology. To read about recent DNA sequencing of the first known family of Neanderthals, go to "Around the World: Russia."

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