Archaeology Magazine

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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Monday, June 29

Researchers Return to Welsh Hillfort

CARDIFF, WALES— Archaeologists have begun excavating at Caerau Hillfort, a large Iron Age site just outside the Welsh capital. Last year, the team made a number of significant discoveries, including five Iron Age roundhouses and Neolithic flint weapons that date to about 3600 B.C., making the site significantly older than previously believed. "Last year some mind-blowing discoveries were made which pushed back the origins of Cardiff deep into time," project co-director Dave Wyatt told Culture24. "But we believe we're still just scratching the surface of this incredible site, so who knows what will be uncovered this year.” To read in-depth about another site that reveals thousands of years of British history, go to "Letter From England."

Arrowhead Found in Iron Age Warrior's Spine

KOITAS, KAZAKHSTAN—LiveScience reports that researchers studying the remains of a seventh-century B.C. nomad unearthed from a Scythian burial mound in central Kazkahstan have discovered an arrowhead embedded in the man's spine. The bronze point is a little over two inches long, but it appears the man did not die immediately after being wounded. "The found individual was extremely lucky to survive," said Queen's University Belfast bioarchaeologist Svetlana Svyatko. "It's hard to get a vertebral wound without damaging the main blood vessels, which would have resulted in an immediate death." The mound in which the remains were found had been plundered before the archaeologists excavated it, but at almost 75 feet in diameter, its impressive dimensions suggest the man belonged to Scythian nobility. To read about the ancestors of the Scythians, go to "Wolf Rites of Winter."

Prehistoric Village Rediscovered in Guam

AGANA, GUAM—A team led by University of Guam archaeologist Mike Carson has discovered a village founded before European contact near the island's Ritidian Point, reports Pacific Daily News. The settlement was made up of 15 limestone and coral homes, some of which still have stone patios attached to them. The team has found fishing hooks and other artifacts amid the ruins of the houses and is planning a limited excavation at the siteAccording to Carson, the village probably dates back to the 17th-century, and is mentioned in historical documents as a place where islanders rose up against Spanish rule around 1680. To read more about archaeology in the Pacific, go to "Letter From the Marshall Islands."

Friday, June 26

Vast Database of African Rock Art Goes Online

LONDON, ENGLAND—The British Museum and the Trust for African Rock Art are partnering to make some 25,000 images of rock art available to the public. The database will contain images of remote and difficult to access sites that are rarely visited and are subject to deterioration. "The Museum wants to make Africa’s rock art available to both scholars and the general public alike," Elizabeth Galvin, curator of the African Rock Art Image Project, told the Independent. "We hope to both protect and share this remarkable history for free with a global audience." The archive will include images from sites ranging from Libya to South Africa, and will include art dating from 10,000 B.C. to the early twentieth century. To read in-depth about archaeology in Africa, go to "The Nok of Nigeria."

WW I-Era Trenches Discovered in Australia

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA—World War I-era trenches have been unearthed outside of the Australian capital of Canberra. Dug in 1916 by officers hoping to simulate battlefield conditions in Europe, the trenches were recorded in military documents, but their exact location was unknown until Australian National University archaeologists used remote sensing to search for them. The team is now unearthing an elaborate system of trenches and tunnels that was used to train soldiers in new tactics before they were shipped to the front. "It's a sobering thought ... when people were here they were probably optimistic about the new trench designs and how they'd go in the field," archaeologist Tim Denham told ABC. "And of course now we know what a terrible time it was for all those who went and unfortunately a lot of people didn't come back." To read in-depth about WW I-era battlefield archaeology, go to "Anzac's Next Chapter."  

Medieval Friary Unearthed in England

NORWICH, ENGLAND—Archaeologists excavating ahead of a new development in Norwich are revealing the remains of a 13th-century Augustinian friary that was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1538. The wealth of artifacts and remains discovered at the site, known as Austin Priory, is expected to give researchers a new perspective on a period when several monastic orders established themselves in the city. “Before the friary, this was marshland. They didn’t have a lot of choice but to set up outside what was the Saxon town and were given the land by rich benefactors in return for praying for their souls," Ramboll Group archaeologist Andy Shelly told Eastern Daily Press. “They started off as a reaction to what was seen as the wealth of the church—living in poverty and chastity and taking the message to the people of Norwich, but they soon ended up becoming wealthy themselves.” In addition to oyster shells and animal bones, the archaeologists have discovered several burials that could give the team insight into diet and health of the monks living at the friary. To read about another recent discovery in Norwich, go to "Medieval Leather, Vellum, and Fur.

Marble Dolphin Sculpture Unearthed in Israel

KIBBUTZ MAGEN, ISRAEL—A marble statuette of a dolphin gripping a fish in its jaws has been unearthed in the northern Negev at the ruins of a late Byzantine and early Islamic site. The statue itself probably dates to the Roman era, but was re-used later as building material for a paved floor. Standing 16 inches high, it was originally part of a larger statue, perhaps one depicting a god. “It’s possible that the [full] statue was of the [Greek] goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite, who was born from sea foam,” Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist Rina Avner told the Times of Israel. There was a major shrine to the goddess in the nearby city of Ashekelon. Avner also speculates that the larger statue might have been of Poseidon, who was often depicted with dolphins. To read about the discovery of another sculpture dating to the same era, go to "Artifact: Roman Eagle Sculpture."

Thursday, June 25

Burned Bronze Age Settlement Excavated

PETERBOROUGH, ENGLAND—Archaeologists are returning to excavate at Must Farm, a 3,000-year-old Bronze Age site protected by a ring of wooden posts that was destroyed by fire. “We think those living in the settlement were forced to leave everything behind when it caught on fire,” Cambridgeshire County Council archaeologist Kasia Gdaniec told Culture24. Among the previous discoveries at the site were a charred pot filled with food and a partially charred spoon, as well as glass beads and nine log boats. “We anticipate that more of the timber structure, a range of organic remains and fishing equipment and the whole gamut of personal, work and settlement paraphernalia will be found," said Gdaniec. To read about another Bronze Age site, go to "Wolf Rites of Winter."

Ancient Greek Zombies Discovered

PASSO MARINARO, SICILY—Research conducted by archaeologist Carrie Sulosky Weaver of the University of Pittsburgh has shown that the zombie craze is not a new phenomenon, but one with evidence going back more than 2,000 years. According to a report on her work in LiveScience, Sulosky Weaver studied two burials from a necropolis in a Greek settlement on the island of Sicily that she considered “peculiar” because they hold what she believes to be the remains of “revenants,” a zombie-like figure. The ancient Greeks believed that certain dead bodies could reanimate, and that to keep them in their graves, they had to be ritually killed or trapped inside in some way, such as pinning the body down with amphora fragments or large stones, as was done at Passo Marinaro. To read more about another type of ancient undead, go to "Plague Vampire Exorcism."

Excavation of the Antikythera Shipwreck will Continue

WOOD'S HOLE, MASSACHUSSETS—Excavation of the Antikythera shipwreck will continue for another five years, reports LiveScience. First discovered by sponge divers off the coast of a small Greek island more than a century ago, the ship dates to the first century B.C. and is most famous for carrying the bronze Antikythera mechanism, the ancient world's most sophisticated astrological instrument. The project, a collaboration between the Greek government and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, has so far resulted in a 3-D map of the seafloor around the wreck as well as the discovery of a number of artifacts, including a lead anchor and an oversize bronze spear that may have belonged to a statue. The team also discovered the site actually consists of two separate remains separated by more than 300 feet, indicating the ship either broke in half when it sank or that two distinct shipwrecks rest on the seafloor. To read about a modern recreation of the astrological device discovered at the site, go to "Artifact: Antikythera Mechanism." 

Saxon Man's Face Reconstructed

DUNDEE, SCOTLAND—Forensic experts at the University of Dundee have reconstructed the face of a Saxon man whose skeleton was unearthed at a previously unknown church discovered on the grounds of Lincoln Castle, which was built by William the Conqueror. Radiocarbon dating of the remains showed the man died sometime between A.D. 1035 and 1070, or just before the Norman Conquest. His skeleton, which showed a range of significant degenerative bone diseases suggestive of a strenuous life, was one of eight discovered at the site, and was unusually well preserved. “His grave lay slightly under an important sarcophagus burial, which had resulted in excellent preservation of his skull [that made] it the best candidate among the skeletons for facial reconstruction,” said forensic artist Caroline Erolin in a University of Dundee press release. Osteological examination of the remains shows the man was between 36 and 45 years old when he died, and isotope analysis of his bones and teeth indicate that he was born and bred in eastern England. To read about the excavation of an early Anglo-Saxon site, go to "The Kings of Kent."