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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Wednesday, June 25

Egyptologist Locates King Cambyses’s “Missing” Army

LEIDEN, NETHERLANDS—Egyptologist Olaf Kaper of Leiden University has deciphered the full list of the titles of Pharaoh Petubastis III carved on ancient temple blocks at Amheida in Egypt’s Dachla Oasis. He realized that they held the answer to the mysterious disappearance of King Cambyses and 50,000 Persian troops in the Egyptian desert ca. 534 B.C.—the Greek historian Herodotus suggested that the army had been swallowed by a sand storm. “Since the nineteenth century, people have been looking for this army: amateurs, but also professional archaeologists. Some expect to find somewhere under the ground an entire army, fully equipped,” he told Science Daily. Kaper thinks that the Persian army was defeated by the Egyptian rebel leader Petubastis III at the Dachla Oasis, and that the Persian King Darius I covered up the defeat when he ended the Egyptian revolt two years later. “The temple blocks indicate that this must have been a stronghold at the start of the Persian period. Once we combined this with the limited information we had about Petubastis III, the excavation site and the story of Herodotus, we were able to reconstruct what happened.” 

Chariots Discovered in Early Bronze Age Burial

  BASEL, SWITZERLAND—Zurab Makharadze, head of the Center of Archaeology at the Georgian National Museum in Tbilisi, announced the discovery of a timber burial chamber containing two four-wheeled, oxen-pulled chariots at the International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East at the University of Basel. The burial, which contained the remains of seven individuals, was found in a kurgan in the south Caucasus. “One of them was a chief and others should be the members of his family, sacrificed slaves or servants,” Makharadze told Live Science. Ornamented clay and wooden vessels, flint and obsidian arrowheads, leather and textiles, a wooden armchair, carnelian and amber beads, and 23 gold items were also recovered from the 4,000-year-old burial. “The purpose of the wooden armchair was the indication to power, and it was put in the kurgan as a symbol of power,” Makharadze explained.  

Well-Preserved Quipus Found in Inca Warehouses

LIMA, PERU—Twenty-five well-preserved quipus, made of multiple knotted wool and cotton strings of different colors, were discovered at the archaeological complex of Incahuasi in Peru’s Lunahuana Valley. Quipus, which are thought to have been used for record keeping, are usually found in a funerary context, but this collection was unearthed in warehouses, or kallancas. This is “what makes us believe they were used for administrative purposes,” archaeologist Alejandro Chu, who is in charge of the site, told Peru This Week.

Spain Returns Seized Artifacts to Colombia

MADRID, SPAIN—Reuters reports that Spain has returned 691 artifacts to Colombia, including 3,000-year-old ceramics, busts, sculptures, and jewelry, which were seized in 2003 in a drug-trafficking, money-laundering case. The items had been held at Madrid’s Museum of America until Colombia petitioned Spain’s High Court for their repatriation. “In addition to economic value, the pieces’ greatest value comes from their roots, which is an expression of history itself, of culture and of every nation’s soul,” Police General Director Ignacio Cosido said at a ceremony at the museum, where the artifacts were handed over to Colombian officials. The remaining three hundred seized artifacts will remain at the museum while Spanish officials determine where they belong.  

Tuesday, June 24

Poverty Point Added to UNESCO World Heritage List

PIONEER, LOUISIANA—The monumental earthworks at Poverty Point are one of seven sites from around the world that have been added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites, according to a report from Reuters. The 3,400-year-old Poverty Point complex was a major political, trade, and ceremonial center built by hunter gatherers. It consists of six mounds and six C-shaped ridges surrounding a central plaza. One of the mounds is about 2,000 years older than the others. “The impressive site survives as a testament to Native American culture and heritage,” the U.S. State Department responded to the announcement in a statement. 

Soil Stains May Be Traces of Hopewell Woodhenge

CHILLICOTHE, OHIO—National Park Service archaeologists excavating in an area known as the Great Circle at Hopewell Culture National Historical Park have found stains of darker soil that they think could be evidence of a woodhenge, or circular enclosure of wooden posts, built between 1,600 and 2,000 years ago. “I am very confident that those represent wooden posts,” team leader Bret Ruby told The Columbus Dispatch. The Great Circle measures 375 feet in diameter and was identified by magnetic testing several years ago. The excavation has also uncovered a six-inch-long stone tool that may have been used for cutting wood or digging.

Astronomical References Are Embedded in Prehistoric Landscapes

PORTSMOUTH, ENGLAND—Science Daily reports that England’s National Astronomy Meeting, which is being held this week, will highlight developments in archaeo-astronomy, which some researchers propose to rename “skyscape archaeology.” According to Fabio Silva of University College London, and co-editor of the new Journal for Skyscape Archaeology, “We have much to gain if the fields of astronomy and archaeology come together to a fuller and more balanced understanding of European megaliths and the societies that built them….To understand what alignments meant to prehistoric people and why they decided to incorporate them into their structures, we need to identify patters and interactions between structures, landscape and skyscape.” 

Montana Camper Spots Ancient Remains

WARM SPRINGS, MONTANA—A jawbone, ribs, and other bone fragments thought to be 2,000 years old were discovered by a camper on the side of a road near Warm Springs, Montana. The bones and part of a bow that had been covered by a pile of rocks and were eventually recovered by police. Once it was determined that the bones were not modern, they were handed over to Stan Wilmoth, state archaeologist with the Montana Historical Society. The authorities are examining the burial site to determine if the remains were found on state or federal land. If they were on state land, the bones will be handled by the Montana Burial Preservation Board. If the site was on federal land, the bones will go to the Deer Lodge National Forest’s archaeologist. “We’re just kind of in a holding pattern right now,” Wilmoth told The Montana Standard.

Monday, June 23

Roman-Era Theater Uncovered in Western Turkey

IZMIR, TURKEY—The demolition of 175 buildings in Izmir’s Kadifekale neighborhood has revealed the stage walls and entrance of a Roman-era amphitheater. The theater, which was studied in the early twentieth century by Austrian architects and archaeologists Otto Berg and Otto Walter, is thought to have accommodated 16,000 people. According to Hurriyet Daily News, the municipality of Izmir plans to restore the structure and use it for shows and concerts. 

Archaeologists Look for Plymouth’s Palisade

PLYMOUTH, MASSACHUSETTS—A team made up of archaeologists and volunteers is looking for traces of the seventeenth-century palisade built by the Pilgrims to protect Plymouth. This original settlement is thought to have sat atop a hill that became a cemetery by the end of the seventeenth century. Ground-penetrating radar has guided the team to an area without graves, where they have found foundations of nineteenth-century structures and artifacts. The researchers think that the nineteenth-century homes may have been built on top of early seventeenth-century homes. “If we could find the remains of the original settlement it would be a huge find…We’re digging here in part because we think we might be close to where one of these [palisade] walls came down from Burial Hill,” archaeologist David B. Landon of the University of Massachusetts Boston told The Boston Globe

18th-Century French Weapons Recovered in Alexandria’s Harbor

  ALEXANDRIA, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that a Russian team of researchers has recovered guns, pistols, and cannons from Le Patriot, a ship in Napoleon Bonaparte’s fleet in 1798, from wreckage on the northern side of Pharos Island in the city’s eastern harbor. Mohamed Mostafa, director of Egypt’s underwater archaeology department, said that the artifacts will be restored at the Grand Egyptian Museum.  

Excavations Begin at Strategic Biblical Town in Northern Israel

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL—The Jerusalem Post reports that archaeologists from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Azusa Pacific University in Los Angeles, and Cornell University are conducting the first excavations at Tell Avil al-Qamh, strategically located in northern Israel near the borders of Canaanite, Aramean and Phoenician lands and the road to Damascus. So far, Iron Age structures dating to the twelfth and eleventh centuries B.C. have been uncovered with the help of volunteers, including a feature that may have been a tower overlooking the Huleh Valley to the south. Among the recovered artifacts are a Phoenician ring flask, typically used for holding precious oils or drugs; and a small jug containing pieces of hacksilver, which may have been used as a means of exchange.