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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Monday, October 06

Neolithic Settlement Discovered in Southwest England

READING, ENGLAND—A team assisted by volunteers has uncovered Neolithic pottery and evidence of a settlement in the Isles of Scilly, off the southwestern tip of the Cornish peninsula. “We found about 30 post holes which might have been successive structures. There weren’t any coherent buildings, however, like neat rectangles, which is always a bit annoying, but is the way it is,” Duncan Garrow of the University of Reading told The Cornishman. The team also found flint, a pit that contained thick layers of charcoal with rock crystals, and a pierced pebble necklace or amulet. Nearby test pits yielded a Neolithic mace head with a hole in its middle made of Cornish greenstone. “This process would have taken hours of work, as at the time people did not have metal tools and would have had to grind out the hole using a wooden bow drill and abrasive sand from the beach,” Garrow said. To read more of ARCHAEOLOGY's coverage of Neolithic England, see "The Henge Builders."  

Early Image of Jesus Unearthed in Spain

LINARES, SPAIN—A green glass paten dated to the fourth century has been discovered at the site of a religious building in southern Spain. Etchings on the paten, a plate used during Christian religious services to hold consecrated bread, depict three beardless men identified as Jesus and the apostles Paul and Peter. Coins and pottery helped the Forum MMX team date the paten. “We know it dates back to the fourth century, in part because popes in the following centuries ordered all patens to be made out of silver,” Marcelo Castro, head of the team, told The Local. “We were wary about presenting the paten as a fourth century piece in case it clashed with previous studies into the chronology of Christianity in Spain,” he added. To read about the controversy surrounding an alleged early depiction of the Crucifixion unearthed in Spain, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "The Veleia Affair."  

Oregon’s Paisley Caves Added to National Register

PORTLAND, OREGON—Paisley Five Mile Point Caves, a network of caves that may be the oldest site of human habitation in what is now the United States, has been added to National Register of Historic Places by the National Park Service. Reuters reports that Dennis Jenkins of the University of Oregon and his team dated more than 200 samples of preserved human feces from the cave system and found that they had been deposited some 14,300 years ago. “As we have used increasingly sophisticated scientific techniques in recent years, our understanding of the cultural and megafaunal remains at the site has grown dramatically. Analyses by our research team provides significant new information regarding the timing and spread of the first settlers in the Americas,” Jenkins announced at the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.  To read more about Paisley Caves and other important early American sites, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "America, in the Beginning"  and "Pre-Clovis Breathrough."  

Shipwreck Near Haiti Is Not Likely to be the Santa María

CAP-HAITIEN, HAITI—According to a report from the Associated Press, experts from UNESCO are expected to announce that a shipwreck off the northern coast of Haiti is not the lost flagship of Christopher Columbus, the Santa María, as had been claimed earlier this year by an American explorer. Columbus abandoned his flagship and some two dozen crew members Christmas Day, 1492, after the vessel struck a reef. The men built a fort, named “Navidad,” but they had disappeared and the fort had been burned to the ground when Columbus returned to the site a year later. The Santa María would have had parts made from iron and wood, not copper, as was found at the shipwreck site. “We are still awaiting the final report, but so far what we have seen … tends to lead us to think it is a later ship,” said Haiti’s Culture Minister Monique Rocourt. The wreckage may date to the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries. To read more about maritime discoveries, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "History's 10 Greatest Wrecks."  

Friday, October 03

Men’s Roles in Scandinavian History Examined

OSLO, NORWAY—Lisbeth Skogstrand of the University of Oslo has surveyed the artifacts found in 805 men’s graves in Norway and Denmark dating from the Early Nordic Bronze Age to the late Roman period. She found that in the Early Bronze Age, grooming articles such as razors, tweezers, and possible implements for manicures were highly valued. “We have found traces of beard hair and possibly eyebrows on the razors, so they probably removed hair from various parts of the body,” she told Science Nordic. Weapons such as spears, shields, and other iron weapons were considered important enough to bury with dead in the early Roman period, until A.D. 200  At this time, perhaps men were required to protect their belongings from rival communities. After A.D. 200, men’s grave goods resemble those of women—tools and decorative items representing other roles in society. “There were more ways of being a man than we thought,” she quipped. To read about artifacts being discovered in Norway's retreating glaciers, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "The Big Melt."  

Shipwreck May Be Part of Kublai Khan’s Invading Fleet

MATSUURA, JAPAN—Pieces of a ship thought to date from the Mongol attempt to invade Japan 700 years ago have been discovered off the coast of Takashima Island. Divers investigated the wreckage, detected with shipboard sonar, and found port and starboard structures near the bow of the ship. Ballast stones may cover the ship’s keel. “We hope it is a Mongol invasion ship. We plan to clarify details like its structure, size, and origin by excavating further. It’s well preserved, so we expect it to carry a significant load of cargo like porcelains and weapons,” archaeologist Yoshifumi Ikeda of the University of the Ryukyus told The Asahi Shimbun. To read about previous excavations at the site, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "Relics of the Kamikaze."  

Maryland’s Historians Search for Camp Parole

ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND—Local historians from the Annapolis History Consortium think that  thousands of Union soldiers may have been housed at a site in Maryland’s Crystal Spring Farm and Forest. The soldiers had agreed to live in the camp as noncombatants until they could be exchanged for Confederate soldiers captured by the Union. Soldiers’ diaries, letters, and drawings; land records; and claims made by property owners whose land was damaged by the Army all point to Crystal Spring as the site of one of the three camps in the area. The land, however, is slated for development. “People have been looking for this camp for years,” historian Jane McWilliams told The Baltimore Sun. The developers will be required to check for potential historical resources on the property. “It wouldn’t stop the development, but there might have to be some changes,” said Sally Nash, the acting planning director for Annapolis. To read about a Confederate POW camp, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "Life on the Inside."  

Marble Door Fragments Unearthed in Amphipolis

AMPHIPOLIS, GREECE—Greece’s Culture Ministry has announced that fragments of a marble door have been unearthed in the second chamber of the tomb at the Kasta Hill site. The door had a row of dots down the center that resembled nail heads, a style common to Macedonian tomb doors. “Based on our findings, we are absolutely sure about our dating to the last quarter of the fourth century B.C.,” excavation director Katerina Peristeri said in a government press release reported by Discovery News. The door had been crafted in two sections from marble brought to the site from the island of Thasso. The door was also hinged on its left side, so it was probably functional. It may have collapsed in an earthquake that struck Amphipolis in the sixth century A.D., or during bombing in 1913. To read about the search for Alexander the Great's tomb, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "In Search of History's Greatest Rulers."  

Thursday, October 02

Engineers Investigate Rock Fall at Parthenon

ATHENS, GREECE—Part of the flat-topped rock that supports the 2,500-year-old Parthenon is crumbling, according to engineers from the Central Archaeological Council who examined the Acropolis after the fall of a boulder of “considerable size” last January. According to Phys.org, the team found “instability over a wide area,” probably caused by rainwater drainage from the old Acropolis museum. The southern slope of the hill that supports the Parthenon will have to be reinforced. To read about how ancient Greeks viewed their own past, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "Monuments and Memory."  

Moa Hunter Site Damaged in New Zealand

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND—The New Zealand Herald reports that a 600-year-old moa-hunter occupation site was disturbed in 2011 during work to clear and rebuild an earthquake-damaged home. “The site has played a crucial role in developing ideas about the origins of Maori culture and the relationship between moa hunters and classical Maori,” Heritage New Zealand summarized for Christchurch District Court. The two companies involved in the work had not submitted their plans to Heritage New Zealand, which is in charge of monitoring construction and minimizing damage to the historical record. “Although it is not possible to determine the exact extent of damage caused by the excavations for the foundations of a new dwelling, it is clear from the test trenches that the excavations for the gravel and concrete pad have cut through the in situ layer, disturbing at least one feature in the process,” the report concluded. 

Franklin Shipwreck Identified as HMS Erebus

OTTAWA, CANADA—The shipwreck discovered last month in the Arctic has been identified by Parks Canada underwater archaeologists as HMS Erebus, one of the ships in Sir John Franklin’s doomed 1845 expedition to find the Northwest Passage from the Atlantic Ocean to Asia. Franklin commanded the enterprise from the Erebus, but it is not known if he was buried at sea before the ship was abandoned in 1847. “Without a doubt it is the most extraordinary shipwreck I’ve ever had the privilege of diving on,” lead archaeologist Ryan Harris told CBC News. He and his diving partner did not enter the ship, but they could see below decks through exposed beams and old skylights. A total of seven dives have been conducted to date. To read about the discovery of HMS Investigator, the doomed vessel dispatched to search for HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, see ARCHAEOLOGY's feature "Saga of the Northwest Passage."  

Twin Basketmaker Villages Discovered in Arizona

PETRIFIED NATIONAL FOREST PARK, ARIZONA—Two villages estimated to be 1,300 years old have been discovered in the high desert of northern Arizona. The sites, recently acquired by Petrified Forest National Park, feature walls and floors lined with slabs of sandstone. “Last year we found a large habitation site, and this summer we found a match, less than a mile away, a site that has dozens and dozens of different features. We have now two large groups of pit house structures, both of them with probably more than 50 structures associated with them,” park archaeologist William Reitze told Western Digs. He and his team also recovered ceramics and stone points from the late Basketmaker period, when the residents of the village were transitioning from nomadic foraging to a more sedentary society based upon agriculture. “These sites are often in large sand dunes, but there is no rock there. So any kind of slab at all that you find out there was brought in by people,” Reitze explained. To read more about the prehistory of the Southwest, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "Who Were the Anasazi?"