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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Friday, September 19

Scarab Links Egyptian Pharaoh to Copper Mine in Jordan

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA—Scholars from the University of San Diego discovered an Egyptian scarab bearing the name of the Egyptian pharaoh Sheshonq I on the surface of the ground at Khirbat Hamra Ifdan, an ancient copper factory in southern Jordan’s Faynan district. “Most of the time, they were amulets, sometimes jewelry, and periodically, they were inscribed for use as personal or administrative seals. We think this is the case with the Sheshonq I scarab we found,” Thomas E. Levy of the University of California, San Diego, told Live Science. The scarab may have been lost during the pharaoh’s legendary military campaign in the region 3,000 years ago, which is mentioned in inscriptions at the Karnak temple complex in Thebes. Sheshonq I may also be represented in the Hebrew Bible as the Egyptian king “Shishak.” Levy and his team had previously identified a disruption in copper production in the Faynan district with the excavation of rock layers in the area of an ancient copper slag mound at Khirbat en-Nahas that were dated with high-precision radiocarbon dates. “The scarab we found that bears Sheshonq I’s name is the first time we can definitively link the disruption to his forces,” Levy announced. To read about an important settlement in Israel that was occupied during the Bronze Age, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "Excavating Tel Kedesh."  

Remains of Enslaved African-Americans Found at Nashville Zoo

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE—An examination of nine sets of human remains removed from the grounds of the Nashville Zoo suggests that part of the property had once been a cemetery where enslaved African-Americans were buried. Shannon Hodge of Middle Tennessee State University found that all nine were under the age of 50 when they died. Six had arthritis of the knee and/or spine, indicating that they had carried heavy loads, and one young man had a damaged hip that may have been caused by the stress of heavy workloads at an early age. Archaeologist Larry McKee of TRC Companies Inc. found buttons, beads, and other artifacts dating between the 1820s and 1850s when he conducted the original excavation. “I’m thoroughly certain that what we’ve got now is part of the enslaved community using that as a burial ground,” he told The Tennessean. To read about escaped slaves in the Great Dismal Swamp, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "American Refugees."  

Roman-Period Village Excavated in Poland

KROSNO, POLAND—A village dating from the third to fourth centuries A.D. has been discovered in the Carpathian Mountains of southeastern Poland. At the site, archaeologists have uncovered a large kiln. “It stands on a small tip in the Wisloka Valley. Its location shows that the wind blowing from the river was used to maintain the temperature during the firing cycle. Such kilns are extremely rare in the Carpathians,” archaeologist Tomasz Leszczyński of the Subcarpathian Museum told Science & Scholarship in Poland. Fragments of large vessels that were used to store grain were also recovered. To read about people who lived in the Carpathians and Balkans during this period, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "Thracian Treasure Chest."  

Satellite Imagery Shows Damage to Syria’s World Heritage Sites

WASHINGTON, D.C.—An analysis of high-resolution satellite imagery by the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS) shows that five of Syria’s six World Heritage sites have been severely damaged since 2011, when the civil war began. “Only one of Syria’s six World Heritage sites—the Ancient City of Damascus—appears to remain undamaged,” Susan Wolfinbarger, director of the Geospatial Technologies and Human Rights Project at AAAS, told Science Daily. The buildings of Aleppo, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, has suffered extensive damage. The Ancient City of Bosra, the Ancient Site of Palmyra, the Ancient Villages of Northern Syria, and the castles Crac des Chevaliers and Qal’at Salah El-Din have all been damaged by mortar impacts and military activity. “There is hope, and it lies with our Syrian colleagues because they are the stewards and caretakers of these sites, and they see the value in preserving and protecting them for future generations,” said Corine Wegener, cultural heritage preservation officer for the Smithsonian Institution. “What they need from their international colleagues is some help to do that—training, materials, and other support in the international arena for the notion that it is possible to mitigate and prevent damage to cultural heritage, even in the midst of conflicts.” To read more about Syria's rich archaeological heritage, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "Temple of the Storm God."  

Thursday, September 18

Byzantine Monastery Unearthed in Israel

JERUSALEM—A walled compound dating to the Byzantine period has been discovered west of Jerusalem, in the neighborhood of Bet Shemesh. The compound, which has residential and large-scale industrial areas, may have been used as a monastery. “The finds indicate the local residents were engaged in wine and olive oil production for their livelihood,” excavation director Irene Zilberbod of the Israel Antiquities Authority told the Xinhua News Agency. Several colorful mosaics were found in the residential areas—one featured a cluster of grapes surrounded by flowers and set in a geometric frame. Two ovens were also uncovered. “The magnificent mosaic floors, windows, and roof tile artifacts, as well as the agricultural-industrial installations inside the dwelling compound, are all known to us from numerous other contemporary monasteries,” Zilberbod said. To read about a recent, similar discovery, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "Byzantine Mosaics Discovered in Israel."  

Bronze Age Fulacht Fiadh Excavated in County Sligo

COUNTY SLIGO, IRELAND—Part of a fulacht fiadh, or 4,000-year-old box-like structure, is being studied on Ireland’s Coney Island. Eamonn Kelly, director of Irish antiquities at the National Museum, thinks it may have been used for bathing or cooking during the Bronze Age, when the stone-lined pit would have been filled with water and heated with hot stones. “It tells us that people walked the beach here 3,000 or 4,000 years ago, searched for large stone slabs, and carefully built this structure. Many other archaeological sites probably await discovery on Coney,” Ciran Davis, an archaeology student who alerted researchers, told The Irish Times. Radiocarbon dating should offer the team more information. “It makes us wonder why they would have wanted to heat saltwater,” added Marion Dowd of the Institute of Technology Sligo. To read more about fulachtaí fia, read ARCHAEOLOGY's "Letter From Ireland: Mystery of the Fulacht Fiadh."   

Prehistoric Goldsmiths May Have Been Children

WILTSHIRE, ENGLAND—Researchers think children may have been responsible for embellishing the finely decorated weapons and jewelry discovered in the early nineteenth century at the Bush Barrow burial mound near Stonehenge, since sharp eyesight would have been required to cover a wooden dagger handle with 140,000 tiny gold pins. “Only children and teenagers, and those adults who had become myopic naturally or due to the nature of their work as children, would have been able to create and manufacture such tiny objects,” eye expert Ronald Rabbetts told The Guardian. The largest concentration of such decorated daggers has been found in northwestern France, where the children may have lived and worked. Rabbetts thinks that the gold workers would have eventually been disabled by their task. To read more about discoveries at Stonehenge, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "The Henge Builders."  

Genetic Study Reveals Third Group of European Ancestors

CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS—A new genetic study by researchers from Harvard Medical School and the University of Tübingen suggests that early farmers from the Near East and indigenous hunter-gatherers were joined by a group known as Ancient North Eurasians as the ancestors of modern Europeans. The team analyzed the DNA of more than 2,300 modern people from around the world, and the DNA of eight ancient hunter-gatherers and one early farmer whose remains were recovered in Sweden, Luxembourg, and Germany. Previously gathered genetic sequences of humans from the same time period, including Otzi the Iceman, were also used in the study. “There was a sharp genetic transition between the hunter-gatherers and the farmers, reflecting a major movement of new people into Europe from the Near East,” David Reich of Harvard Medical School told Science Daily. The DNA of the two known Ancient North Eurasians, whose remains were discovered in Siberia, wasn’t found in either the hunter-gatherers or the early farmers, but nearly all Europeans have ancestors from all three groups. “The Ancient North Eurasian ancestry is proportionally the smallest component everywhere in Europe, never more than 20 percent, but we find in in nearly every European group we’ve studied and also in populations from the Caucasus and Near East,” he explained. (The same Ancient North Eurasian group has been linked to the ancestry of Native Americans.) An even older lineage called the Basal Eurasians, the ancestors of the ancient Near Eastern farmers, was discovered as well. “This deep lineage of non-African ancestry branched off before all the other non-Africans branched off from one another. Before Australian Aborigines and New Guineans and South Indians and Native Americans and other indigenous hunter-gatherers split, they split from Basal Eurasians,” Reich said. To read more on genetic lineages of Europeans, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "Seeds of Europe's Family Tree."  

Wednesday, September 17

Shipwrecks Tell Story of California’s Past

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA—Members of a NOAA research team used remote-controlled cameras and sensing equipment to investigate the shipwrecks in the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary and the adjacent Golden Gate National Recreation Area. They were able to identify the SS Selja, which sank after a fatal collision in 1910. The resulting legal case was ultimately argued before the U.S. Supreme Court over a key aspect of maritime law, the “rule of the road.” The Gold-Rush era clipper ship Noonday was also found beneath mud and silt on the ocean floor. An early steam tugboat has yet to be identified. “These wrecks tell the powerful story of the people who helped build California and opened America to the Pacific for nearly two centuries. Finding the remains of these ships links the past to the present,” James Delgado, director of Maritime Heritage for the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, told Phys.org. To read more about Delgado's work, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "Letter From Bermuda: Secrets of a Civil War Shipwreck."  

Hairstyles from Akhenaten’s Ancient Egyptian City

CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND—Archaeologist Jolanda Bos of the Armana Project has analyzed a selection of 100 recently excavated skulls from the Armana cemetery. Twenty-eight of those skulls still had hair, including that of one woman who had “a very complex coiffure with approximately 70 extensions fastened in different layers and heights on the head,” Bos wrote in the Journal of Egyptian Archaeology. She thinks that the hair was probably styled after death, but such elaborate styles, held together with some kind of fat, were also likely a part of daily life. The skulls had hair ranging from very curly black to middle brown straight, which was often styled in rings or coils around the ears. Braided styles were simple, narrow, and made from three strands, and an orange-red color, possibly from henna, was found on one woman’s graying hair. “At present we are analyzing the hairs in order to find out whether or not some kind of coloring was used. On other sites dyed hair was found from ancient Egypt,” Bos told Live Science. To read about the search for Nefertiti's tomb at Amarna, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "In Search of History's Greatest Rulers."  

Richard III’s Injuries Suggest He’d Removed His Helmet

LEICESTER, ENGLAND—A new study published in The Lancet concludes that Richard III suffered 11 wounds—nine of them to the skull—at the time of his death at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. The team of forensic scientists from the University of Leicester used whole body CT scans and micro-CT imaging of injured bones to see which of the wounds might have been fatal, and to determine which weapons had caused the injuries. “Richard’s injuries represent a sustained attack or an attack by several assailants with weapons from the later medieval period. The wounds to the skull suggest that he was not wearing a helmet, and the absence of defensive wounds on his arms and hands indicate that he was otherwise still armored at the time of his death,” professor of materials engineering Sarah Hainsworth explained to Science Daily. Two of the blows to the head, one with a sword or staff weapon, and a second made with the tip of an edged weapon, were probably lethal. An injury to the pelvis may have been inflicted after death, according to archaeologist Jo Appleby, because the king would have been wearing protective armor if he’d still been alive. Guy Rutty of the East Midlands Pathology Unit adds that the “head injuries are consistent with some near-contemporary accounts of the battle, which suggest that Richard abandoned his horse after it became stuck in a mire and was killed while fighting his enemies.” To read more about the discovery of Richard III remains, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "The Rehabilitation of Richard III."  

Gas Chamber Found at Sobibór Death Camp

WARSAW, POLAND—Holocaust researchers from Israel’s Yad Vashem and Poland’s Majdanek State Museum announced that they have found the exact location of the building that housed the gas chambers at Sobibór, a Nazi death camp in occupied Poland that killed an estimated 250,000 Jewish people between April 1942 and October 1943. The Germans dismantled the camp during the war, after a prisoner revolt in which several German officers and guards were killed. There were very few survivors. “Any small piece of information we can add to our knowledge is a great thing,” Israeli archaeologist Yoram Haimi told The Associated Press. To read more about excavations at WWII-era internment camps, see "The Archaeology of Internment."