A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

Special Introductory Offer!
Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Friday, October 10

Medieval “Vampire” Burial Unearthed in Bulgaria

SOFIA, BULGARIA—A thirteenth-century skeleton with a piece of an iron rod used for plowing driven through its chest has been unearthed at the Thracian site of Perperikon in southern Bulgaria. The left leg below the knee had been removed and placed beside the man’s skeleton. “We have no doubts that once again we’re seeing an anti-vampire ritual being carried out. Often they were applied to people who had died in unusual circumstances—such as suicide,” archaeologist Nikolai Ovcharov told The Telegraph. The metal was intended to keep the corpse from rising from the dead and disturbing the living, Ovcharov explained. “The ploughshare weighs almost two pounds and is dug into the body into a broken shoulder bone. You can clearly see how the collarbone has literally popped out.” To read about similar finds, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "Vampire-Proofing Your Village."

Greece’s Antikythera Shipwreck Yields Luxury Artifacts

WOODS HOLE, MASSACHUSETTS—An international team of archaeologists and divers has learned that much of the Antikythera shipwreck and its cargo survive in the deep waters off the Greek island of Antikythera. They created a high-resolution, 3-D map of the site, and retrieved an intact jug, ship components, part of an ornate bed, and a very heavy bronze spear from a life-sized statue, perhaps of the goddess Athena. “The evidence shows us this is the largest ancient shipwreck ever discovered. It’s the Titanic of the ancient world,” Brendan Foley of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution told Science Daily. The luxury cargo, dating to 70 to 60 B.C., was probably traveling from the coast of Asia Minor west to Rome when the ship was lost. Sponge divers discovered the wreck in 1900, including bronze and marble statues, jewelry, furniture, glassware, and the device that came to be known as the Antikythera Mechanism. “We have a lot of work to do at this site to uncover its secrets,” said Theotokis Theodoulou of the Hellenic Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities. To read about more amazing shipwrecks, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "History's 10 Greatest Shipwrecks."

Study Confirms Remains as Philip II of Macedon

THESSALONIKI, GREECE—An anthropological team investigating cremated remains found in a royal tomb in Vergina, Greece, has claimed that the remains belong to King Philip II, father of Alexander the Great, and an unknown woman warrior. Theodore Antikas, head of the Art-Anthropological research team of the Vergina excavation, suggests that she may have been the daughter of Scythian King Ateas. The tomb was one of three excavated from the same mound in the late 1970s by Greek archaeologist Manolis Andronikos. This tomb, known as Tomb II, had been intact, and it contained silver and bronze vessels, gold wreaths, weapons, armor, and two gold larnakes, or caskets. Antikas told Discovery News that the identification of the middle-aged, male skeleton was based upon marks on the bones. “The individual suffered from frontal and maxillary sinusitis that might have been caused by an old facial trauma,” he said. Philip II was blinded when his right eye was hit with an arrow during the siege of Methone in 354 B.C. “He had signs of chronic pathology on the visceral surface of several low thoracic ribs, indicating pleuritis,” Antikas added of the warrior’s skeleton, which also showed signs of frequent horseback riding. Traces of an object made of royal purple, huntite, textile, beeswax, and clay had been placed on top of the bones in the gold larnax. A pelvis bone fragment from the other casket indicates that the remains belonged to a woman who died between the ages of 30 and 34. She had suffered a fracture in her left leg that had shortened it. “This leads to the conclusion that the pair of mismatched greaves—the left is shorter—the Scythian gorytus, or bow case, and weaponry found in the antechamber belonged to her,” Antikas explained. To read about the search for Alexander's tomb, see "In Search of History's Greatest Rulers."

Thursday, October 09

New Dates for the End of the Greek Bronze Age

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND—Archaeologists from the University of Birmingham selected 60 samples of animal bones, plant remains, and building timbers from the site of Assiros in northern Greece that were radiocarbon dated and correlated at the University of Oxford and the Akademie der Wissenschaften in Heidelberg. “Until very recently the chronology of the later part of the Greek Bronze Age was entirely based upon historical dates derived from Egypt and the Near East with the aid of exported or imported objects such as Minoan or Mycenaean pottery or Egyptian scarabs,” Ken Wardle of the University of Birmingham told Phys.org. The new radiocarbon dates, however, suggest that the Greek Bronze Age ended 70 to 100 years earlier than had been previously thought. “This is a fundamental reassessment and it is important not just for Greece but in the wider Mediterranean context. It affects the ways in which we understand the relationships between different areas, including the hotly debated dates of developments in Israel and Spain,” he added. For more on the end of this era, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "Drought May Have Doomed Bronze Age Civilizations."

Search for School’s Victims Moves from Florida to Pennsylvania

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA—The search for the remains of boys who died at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Florida, has moved to Old Cathedral Cemetery in West Philadelphia. In 1925, Thomas Curry, aged either 15 or 17, was reportedly found dead from a crushed skull on a railroad bridge after he ran away from the notorious school. He may have been hit by a train. A casket was shipped from Florida to Philadelphia for a funeral and burial in his great-grandparents’ graves. Forensic anthropologist Erin Kimmerle of the University of South Florida has found 55 graves in the woods at the school and is working to identify the remains through DNA analysis. She and her assistant went to Pennsylvania to look for Curry. They unearthed the casket, which had thumbscrews that resembled those from the Florida graves. When they opened it however, they found only wood—no evidence that it had ever contained a body. “It is sad and disappointing. Rather to be able to shed light, it just raises so many more questions,” she told The Philadelphia Enquirer

Giant, Stepped Reservoir Found in Northwestern India

AHMEDABAD, INDIA—A 5,000-year-old stepwell has been discovered in Dholavira, one of the largest known cities of the Indus Valley civilization. Scientists from the Archaeological Survey of India and IIT-Gandhinagar say that the well is almost three times bigger than the Great Bath at Mohenjo Daro. They will use 3-D laser scanners, remote-sensing technology, and ground-penetrating radar to analyze Dholavira’s ancient water system. “Various surveys have indicated other reservoirs and stepwells may be buried in Dholavira. We also suspect a huge lake and an ancient shoreline are buried in the archaeological site,” V.N. Prabhakar of IIT Gandhinagar told The Times of India. To see images of similar, though later sites, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "The Islamic Stepwells of Gujarat, India."

Indonesia’s Cave Art Is at Least 40,000 Years Old

QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA—Twelve stencils of human hands and two images of large animals that were discovered in a limestone cave on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi in the 1950s have been subjected to uranium-thorium dating. The tests revealed that one of the stencils is at least 40,000 years old, and an image of a babirusa, drawn with what look like brush strokes, is at least 35,400 years old. These dates make the Indonesian art at least as old, if not older, than similar Ice Age art found in European caves. “It allows us to move away from the view that Europe was special. There was some idea that early Europeans were more aware of themselves and their surroundings. Now we can say that’s not true,” archaeologist Maxime Aubert of Griffith University told Nature News. Artistic ability may have arisen independently, or modern humans may have already had the capacity to create when they migrated out of Africa. Alistair Pike of the University of Southampton, who identified what is considered to be the oldest cave art in Europe, recommends searching for evidence of art in India and Southeast Asia, along the southern migration route. To watch a video about prehistoric rock art in Australia, watch ARCHAEOLOGY's "Aboriginal Rock Art."

Wednesday, October 08

Inca Ceremonial Site Uncovered in Central Peru

LIMA, PERU—Peru’s Ministry of Culture announced that human remains have been unearthed in Hatun Xauxa, an Inca administrative and ceremonial center in the central Andean region of Junin. The burial site may be an offering related to the founding of the city. Walls bearing traces of red paint and dating to the first period of the city’s construction were also unearthed at the northern end of the ushnu, or sacred throne where liquids were poured out in offerings by the Incas. “These findings allow us to gauge the religious importance and the complex nature of activities in the ushnu of Hatun Xauxa, reflected also in the constant change in its architecture,” the ministry told The Global Post. Archaeologists will compare the well of offerings and burials at Hatun Xauxa with similar findings at the Huanuco Pampa site, an admistrative center related to the Qhapaq Ñan Inca road system. To read about an Incan ceremonial site in Ecuador, see ARCHAEOLOGY'S "The Water Temple of Inca-Caranqui." 

Wooden-Handled Flint Knife Found in Denmark

RØDBY, DENMARK—A 3,000-year-old flint knife complete with its wooden handle has been uncovered in southern Zealand. “A dagger of this type has never before been found in Denmark,” Anders Rosendahl of the Lolland-Falster Museum told The Copenhagen Post. The knife dates to the Bronze Age, but when the supply of metal could not keep up with demand, artisans crafted tools from old materials with new designs. Similar knives have been found in Germany. Further study of the rare knife could link the two regions. To read about a recently unearthed Bronze Age ceremonial site, see "4,000-Year-Old Ritual Site Discovered in Poland."  

Goddess’s Head Discovered at Arbeia Roman Fort

SOUTH SHIELDS, ENGLAND—The head of a small statue of the goddess Brigantia was uncovered by a WallQuest volunteer digging at Arbeia Roman fort, situated at the eastern end of Hadrian’s Wall. This area had been home to the Brigantes before the arrival of the Romans. “The Roman army was anxious to placate the goddess of what may have been seen as an inhospitable and hostile region, and these finds suggest that there may have been a shrine to Brigantia—the northern goddess—somewhere close to the present excavation site,” WallQuest project manager Nick Hodgson told Chronicle Live. The head was discovered in an aqueduct channel that was filled in when the fort was enlarged circa A.D. 208. “It looks as if the shrine got in the way of the extension to the fort and had to be demolished, and the statue was broken up then,” he added. To read about the complicated culture that grew up around Hadrian's Wall, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "Artifact: Romano-British Brooch."  

Bronze Age Palace & Royal Burial Unearthed in Spain

BARCELONA, SPAIN—Science Daily reports that an audience hall has been found in the Bronze Age palace at La Almoloya, located in southeastern Spain. Archaeologists Vicente Lull, Cristina Huete, Rafael Micó, and Roberto Risch of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona suggest that the hall is the oldest-known building constructed specifically for political use in continental Europe. It features a ceremonial fireplace and a podium, and benches lining its walls would have seated 64 people. Other buildings at the site are well-constructed with eight to twelve rooms in each residence. Some of the stucco-covered walls were decorated with geometric and naturalistic motifs in what has been dubbed the Argaric style. A tomb discovered near the political hall contained the remains of a man and a woman, whose skull was encircled with a silver diadem. She had also been buried with four ear dilators, two of silver and two of gold. Rings, earrings, and bracelets made of silver were among the grave goods. Other items include a bronze dagger held together with silver nails, and a small ceramic cup decorated with silver rims.  To read about Bronze Age shipwrecks, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "Cape Gelidonya and Uluburun."