Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Friday, September 15

Long-Term Site Excavated on Dalmatian Island

ZADAR, CROATIA—An ancient building with a hypocaust, or central heating system, has been found underneath a site dating to late antiquity and a medieval necropolis in Croatia’s Nature Park Telašćica, which is located on the Dalmatian island of Dugi otok. Total Croatia News reports the building was heated with hot air circulated through clay pipes under the floor and through the walls. Archaeologists from the University of Zadar also uncovered pottery, metal tools, and glass objects during the excavation. To read about another discovery in Croatia, go to “Neanderthal Necklace.”

Cave Paintings Identified in Spain

CANTABRIA, SPAIN—The International Business Times reports that four new sets of cave paintings in northern Spain have been identified with 3-D laser scanning and photometric techniques by a team led by Roberto Ontañón of the Museum of Prehistory of Cantabria. The sites had been identified by speleologists, but the images were degraded and difficult to see with the naked eye. “These technologies allow you to detect colors beyond the range of the visible spectrum (infrared to ultraviolet) and, in this way, ‘reveal’ paintings that at first sight are imperceptible or difficult to distinguish,” Ontañón explained. He estimates the paintings are between 20,000 and 30,000 years old. For more on cave paintings, go to “The First Artists.”

Painted Jade Mask Discovered in Classic-Era Maya Tomb

ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI—According to a report in Newsweek, a burial chamber at the Maya site of Waka’, which is located in northern Guatemala’s Laguna del Tigre National Park, has yielded a 700-year-old jade mask. The mask helped the researchers from the U.S.-Guatemalan El Perú-Waka’ Archaeological Project to identify the tomb’s occupant as a member of the royal Wak dynasty. It had been painted red with cinnabar, along with the ruler’s remains, and was found under the ruler’s head. The mask depicts the ruler with the same forehead hair decoration worn by the Maya maize god. Ceramic vessels, spondylus shells, jade ornaments, and a crocodile-shaped pendant carved from shell were also recovered from the tomb. David Freidel of Washington University in St. Louis explained that the Maya of the Classic period revered their rulers as divine, so the king’s tomb turned the royal palace acropolis into holy ground. For more, go to “Letter From Guatemala: Maya Metropolis.”

Thursday, September 14

Bones’ Cut Marks Hint at Funeral Rites in Neolithic Ireland

COUNTY SLIGO, IRELAND—The Leitrim Observer reports that evidence for the dismemberment of the dead has been found on bones unearthed at the 5,300-year-old passage tomb complex at Carrowkeel by an international team of scientists led by Thomas Kador of University College London. “We found indications of cut marks caused by stone tools at the site of tendon and ligament attachments around the major joints, such as the shoulder, elbow, hip, and ankle,” said Jonny Geber of the University of Otago in New Zealand. The bones were unearthed at the Neolithic site in 1911, presumed lost, and then rediscovered recently in boxes at the University of Cambridge. For more, go to “Bronze Age Ireland’s Taste in Gold.”

New Dates Push Back Use of Zero

OXFORD, ENGLAND—The Guardian reports that new radiocarbon dates have been obtained for the Bakhshali manuscript, which was written in an ancient form of Sanskrit on 70 pieces of birch bark, by members of the Heritage Science team at the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries. The text, discovered in 1881 in a village located in what is now Pakistan, is thought to have been a training manual complete with practice arithmetic problems for merchants trading on the Silk Road, and is known for its use of a dot to represent the concept of zero. The new dates indicate the oldest pieces of the Bakhshali manuscript date to the third or fourth century A.D., or about 500 years earlier than had been previously thought, based upon the style of writing and the content. The new dates make the Bakhshali manuscript the oldest-known record of the use of the zero symbol. For more on ancient writing, go to “London’s Earliest Writing.”

Hurricane Irma Uncovered Dugout Canoe

TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA—Hurricane Irma revealed a dugout canoe that had been resting on the bottom of the Indian River, according to a report by Orlando News 6. Concerned citizen Randy Shots spotted the canoe among the storm debris and alerted officials at Florida’s Bureau of Archaeological Research, who will conserve the vessel. The cypress canoe weighs between 600 and 700 pounds. For more, go to “Florida History Springs Forth.”

Wednesday, September 13

Fighter Plane Test Model Found in Lake Ontario

TORONTO, CANADA—The Province reports that an Avro Arrow test model has been found at the bottom of Lake Ontario by a recovery group. As many as nine of the free-flight, one-eighth scale model planes are thought to rest in the lake. Now covered in zebra mussels, the plane was reportedly part of a secret program to develop a supersonic combat jet, which was abandoned by the Canadian government in 1959. The actual planes in the classified program are said to have been destroyed. Once the model has been brought to the surface, it will be stabilized and displayed at either the Canada Aviation Space Museum in Ottawa or the National Air Force Museum in Trenton. The recovery group will continue to search for the other test models. To read in-depth about underwater discoveries in the Great Lakes, go to “Shipwreck Alley.”

Sacred Structures May Have Been Linked to Seismic Activity

PLYMOUTH, ENGLAND—Iain Stewart of the University of Plymouth suggests that ancient temples and other important structures in the Aegean region may have been built above fault lines in order to create a connection to the underworld, according to a report in The International Business Times. Mycenae, Ephesus, Cnidus, and Hierapolis were all built on fault lines, Stewart explained. And the temple of Apollo at Delphi, known for its oracle, was constructed over a spot thought to be the center of the world. Earthquakes produced the temple’s sacred spring, and intoxicating gases emanated from the fault line. The temple complex was rebuilt in the same location after it was destroyed by an earthquake in 373 B.C. To read more about archaeology in Greece, go to “Regime Change in Athens.”