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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Monday, September 21

First Nations Crafted Stone Tools From Glacial Deposits

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA—It had been thought that First Nations peoples living on British Columbia’s Galiano Island between 600 and 1,500 years ago traveled to find volcanic rock for tool making, but a new study by archaeologist Colin Grier of Washington State University suggests that the volcanic rock, which kept a better edge than other stones, may have been deposited on the island by a moving glacier some 12,000 years ago. Grier and his team collected tool-making debris from the site at Dionisio Point and stones from the island’s beach. The chemical fingerprint of the stones matched that of volcanic rock from Mount Garibaldi on the British Columbia mainland, more than 60 miles away. “You could go down to the local corner hardware store rather than having to pick up and pack the canoe up and head off to the Super WalMart on the mainland,” Grier quipped to Global News, Canada. Other studies have shown, however, that the First Nations people of Dionisio Point did travel from these winter villages to summer salmon fishing sites. For more on the archaeology of the region, go to "The Edible Seascape."  

Civil War Cannon Recovered from the CSS Georgia

SAVANNAH, GEORGIA—Marine archaeologists have recovered a second 9,000-pound Dahlgren rifled cannon from the site of the CSS Georgia, an ironclad warship scuttled in the Savannah River in 1864. The cannon had been missed by several high-tech multibeam sonar surveys of the dregs of the river and was an unexpected find. The surveys did reveal the presence of shells for a Dahlgren cannon however, and according to Jim Jobling of Texas A&M University, there was a discrepancy between two manifests from the CSS Georgia. The original listed two Dahlgren cannons, but no Dahlgren cannons were listed on a later manifest, dated October 1864. “I’m very, very pleased,” he said in a press release. The team has also brought leather shoes, wrenches, ceramic bottles, and an anvil to the surface. To read more about maritime archaeology, go to "History's 10 Greatest Wrecks." 

Platform in Eastern Turkey May Have Supported First Throne

ROME, ITALY—Marcella Frangipane of La Sapienza University told Discovery News that she has found the remains of a 5,000-year-old throne room at the site of Aslantepe, located in eastern Turkey. The room is in a monumental structure, opens onto a courtyard, and has an adobe platform reached by three steps. Burned wooden fragments were found on the platform. “The burned wooden fragments are likely the remains of a chair or throne,” she said. She thinks the chief or king used the throne room to meet with the public, gathered in the large courtyard. The people may have approached the ‘king’ and stood on two small, low platforms unearthed in front of the possible location of the throne. “This reception courtyard and building were not a temple complex, they rather appear as the heart of the palace. We do not have religious rites here, but a ceremony showing the power of the ‘king’ and the state,” Frangipane said. The throne room is the first evidence of the change in power from the religious authorities to a state governing system, she added. To read more, go to "In Search of History's Greatest Rulers."

2,400-Year-Old Tomb Discovered in Pompeii

NAPLES, ITALY—An intact tomb dating to the fourth century B.C. has been discovered in Pompeii by French archaeologists from the Jean Bèrard Center. The tomb was constructed by the Samnites, who lived in south-central Italy and fought against the Romans. “It is an exceptional find for Pompeii because it throws light on the pre-Roman city about which we know so very little,” archaeological superintendent of Pompeii Massimo Osanna told The Local, Italy. An adult woman had been buried in the tomb with amphoras that originated in other regions of Italy. The contents of the jars will be analyzed, but are thought to contain cosmetics, wine, and food. The research team will look for additional tombs in the area, which was heavily shelled during World War II. “It’s a miracle that this has survived,” Osanna said. To read more about Pompeii, go to "Saving the Villa of the Mysteries."

Friday, September 18

Human Populations Adapted to Different Diets

BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA—An international team of scientists has identified a set of genetic mutations involved in fat metabolism in nearly 100 percent of the Inuit, whose traditional diet is high in marine animal fat. The mutations are thought to be at least 20,000 years old, and may have helped people adapt to high-meat, high-fat diets. “We think it is a quite old selection that may have helped humans adapt to the environment during the last Ice Age, but the selection is far stronger in the Inuit than anywhere else. It’s fascinating that Greenlanders have a unique genetic makeup that lets them better use their traditional food sources,” Matteo Fumagalli of University College London said in a press release from the University of California, Berkeley. Only two percent of Europeans and 15 percent of Han Chinese carry these mutations. For more about the archaeology of the High Arctic, go to "Cultural Revival."

More on Maryland’s 18th-Century Ship

VIENNA, MARYLAND—Julie Schablitsky, chief archaeologist for the Maryland State Highway Administration, notes that the late eighteenth-century merchant ship raised from the Nanticoke River last month may have been built by enslaved workers or indentured servants. “The workmanship isn’t that of professional builders,” she told The Dorchester Banner. “At least three curious or strange carvings have been found. We don’t know what they mean. Usually when you see carvings on a ship, they were put there during the construction process, usually Roman numbers, but these were different. There are two geometric patterns (carvings) that no one in our team of underwater archaeologists and maritime historians had ever seen before,” she said. The small ship may have been used to move tobacco, farm goods, or even livestock from larger ships to plantations and merchants. For more on nautical archaeology, go to "History's 10 Greatest Wrecks." 

Graves of Napoleonic Troops Uncovered in Germany

FRANKFURT, GERMANY—The Guardian reports that a construction project in Frankfurt has found the remains of 200 French soldiers thought to have died in 1813 after returning from Russia with Napoléon Bonaparte’s Grande Armée. The men may have been killed in battle or may have died in a typhus epidemic. According to Andrea Hampel, director of heritage and historic monuments in Frankfurt, their bodies had been placed in coffins and buried hastily without funeral articles. As many as 15,000 people are thought to have died in battles in the Frankfurt area in October 1813. To read about archaeology at the Waterloo battlefield, go to "A Soldier's Story."

Aboriginal Stories Transmit Knowledge of Australia’s Landscape

SIPPY DOWNS, AUSTRALIA—Geographer Patrick Nunn of the University of the Sunshine Coast and linguist Nick Reid of the University of New England studied Aboriginal stories from 21 different places around the coastline of Australia. The stories described a time when sea levels were significantly lower than they are today, some 7,000 years ago. “These stories talk about a time when the sea started to come in and cover the land, and the changes this brought about to the way people lived—the changes in landscape, the ecosystem, and the disruption this caused to their society,” Nunn said in a press release. “It is important to note that it’s not just one story that describes this process. There are many stories, all consistent in their narrative, across 21 diverse sites around Australia’s coastline.” Nunn thinks that the information survived for so long because it was vital. “I believe these stories endured that long partly due to the harshness of Australia’s natural environment, which meant that each generation had to pass on knowledge to the next in a systematic way to ensure its survival,” he concluded. For more, go to "The Rock Art of Malarrak."

Thursday, September 17

Fourth-Century Burials Found in the Polish Jura

KOSTKOWICE, POLAND—Science & Scholarship in Poland reports that fragments from at least six skeletons dating to the fourth century A.D. have been found in Hanged Man Cave in the Kraków-Częstochowa Upland of south-central Poland, also known as the Polish Jura. Pottery, pendants made of silver, gold, and amber, Roman coins, clasps, and silver and amber beads resembling artifacts from the northern coast of the Black Sea were also found in the cave. Three crematory burials from the same time period were found near the cave. These remains and artifacts, including a bronze clasp, metal belt, bronze comb, and pottery, had been placed directly in shallow holes in the ground. The researchers, led by Marcin Rudnicki of Institute of Archaeology at the University of Warsaw, speculate that the differences in the burials may reflect the social positions of the deceased. “It is quite a surprising discovery because ties between the Germanic population in the late fourth century to the areas west of the Upper Vistula River have not been considered until now. The nature of these contacts remains a mystery,” added Aleksander Bursche, coordinator of the project for Poland’s National Center for Science. To read more, go to "Pagan Warrior's Tomb Unearthed in Poland."

Intact Pacopampa Tomb Discovered in Northern Peru

LIMA, PERU—An intact tomb containing the remains of two high priests has been discovered in the Cajamarca region of Peru by a team of Peruvian and Japanese researchers led by archaeologist Yuji Seki. Daniel Morales, co-director of the project, said that the 2,700-year-old tomb of the Pacopampa culture is being called the Tomb of the Serpent-Jaguar Priests because of a ceramic vessel in the shape of a serpent with a jaguar’s head that was found near one of the bodies. The other individual had been buried with a necklace of 13 oval-shaped gold beads engraved with figure eights. The tomb sits near a large square surrounded by stone walls accessed with two staircases. “Finding these remains in the same place where rituals and feasts were held, we assume they could have been priests in charge of ceremonies during this culture’s peak, between 800 and 500 B.C.,” Morales explained to The Latin American Herald Tribune. To read more, go to "The Water Temple of Inca-Caranqui."

Roman Village Unearthed in Germany

  FRANKFURT, GERMANY—A team from Goethe University is excavating a village built on the foundations of a Roman fort near Gernsheim in the Hessian Ried. The cohort of soldiers dismantled the fort, filled in its defensive ditches, and left the site around A.D. 120, when they were transferred from the Rhine to the frontier. “A temporary downturn probably resulted when the troops left—this is something we know from sites which have been studied more thoroughly,” team leader Thomas Maurer said in a press release. The researchers uncovered the foundation of a stone building, fire pits, two wells, and cellars. “We’ve also found real treasures such as rare garment clasps, several pearls, parts of a board game (dice, playing pieces) and a hairpin made from bone and crowned with a female bust,” said Maurer. The town’s residents were probably mostly of Gallic-Germanic origins, but some Roman citizens from other parts of the empire may have lived there as well, since pieces of traditional dress, and coins that were not in circulation in Germania Superior, have been found. One of the coins came from Bithynia, located in northwestern Anatolia, and may have been a souvenir. To read about the rise of Roman power, go to "Rome's Imperial Port."