Archaeology Weekly Roundup! 3-8-13

It’s snowy again in Boston, but here’s some news from a lot of places less icy.

Recent archaeological discoveries on the Arabian Peninsula have uncovered evidence of a previously unknown culture based in the now arid areas in the middle of the desert. The artefacts unearthed are providing proof of a society that flourished thousands of years ago and could push back the domestication dates for horses by thousands of years.

A remarkable find from 2011 of a 33,000 year old dog from a cave in the Siberian Altai mountains showed evidence of dog domestication, the earliest ever found. Now DNA sequencing has proven the remains to be more closely linked to modern dogs than wolves, and one of the growing number of early dogs.

Over the past seven years, around 1,500 antiques—including coins, and pre-Islamic stone carvings—have been confiscated at Sana’a International Airport. Smugglers have been tucking these ancient artifacts inside clothing and hiding them in bags, hoping to sell them abroad, but now they’re being turned over to the National Museum. Continue reading

Archaeology Weekly Roundup! 3-1-13

A brief article on some really interesting uses of ‘cyber-archaeology’ at Petra, including terrestrial LiDAR and balloon photography.

More than 2,000 years ago, at a time when Egypt was ruled by a dynasty of kings of Greek descent, someone, perhaps a group of people, hid away some of the most valuable possessions they had — their shoes.

The Sustainable Preservation Initiative’s project at the Moche site San José de Moro in Peru hopes to be a model for others looking to create sustainable community development and heritage preservation. Continue reading

Archaeology Weekly Roundup! 2-22-13

news_bentpyramidFrom a distance, it looks as though an animal has burrowed around the 4,000-year-old Black Pyramid of Amenemhat III. But thieves dug these holes. And Egyptian archaeologist Monica Hanna calls that “a catastrophe.”

Chemi Shiff’s analysis of the significance of the Nabataean site of Avdat in Israel and how different approaches to the site over time have alienated local Bedouin groups.

The ruins of a Buddhist temple dating back 1,500 years ago have been discovered in China’s largest desert-the Taklimakan in Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. The temple features murals executed in a Greco-Buddhist art style, which was seldom seen after the 6th century. Continue reading

Archaeology Weekly Roundup! 2-15-13

The Israel Museum on Tuesday opened its most ambitious archaeological exhibition and the world’s first devoted to Herod, the lionized and demonized Rome-appointed king of Judea, who reigned from 37 to 4 B.C.E. and is among the most seminal and contentious figures in Jewish history. But the exhibition, has also brought its own bit of controversy.

According to reports coming out of Peru, archaeologists have unearthed a previously undiscovered, 5,000 year old temple at the famous El Paraiso pyramid site, located not far from Lima, the capital city.

Researchers have created software that can rebuild protolanguages - the ancient tongues from which our modern languages evolved. To test the system, the team took 637 languages currently spoken in Asia and the Pacific and recreated the early language from which they descended.
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Archaeology Weekly Roundup! 2-8-13

A skeleton found beneath a Leicester car park has been confirmed as that of English king Richard III. Experts from the University of Leicester said DNA from the bones matched that of descendants of the monarch’s family.

At least 35 small pyramids, along with graves, have been discovered clustered closely together at a site called Sedeinga in Sudan. Continue reading

Archaeology Weekly Roundup! 2-1-13

Six different Israeli ministries invested nearly $2 million to repair damage, much of it irreversible, after unknown vandals in October 2009 assaulted the site of Avdat, designated by UNESCO (United Nations Science and Culture Organization) as a world’s cultural heritage.

The preservationists of Timbuktu’s centuries-old artifacts have been holding their breath for weeks, waiting for the moment when the French military would seize back Mali’s ancient northern capital from the Islamic militants who have occupied it for 10 months. Now that that’s happened it still isn’t clear how many of the city’s historic manuscripts have survived, but most of them may be safely hidden away.

A recent study of pottery remains from Indus valley sites shows that the origins of curry are a lot older than most people think in this article about the development of curry. Continue reading

Archaeology Weekly Roundup! 1-25-13

New findings from the 2,600-year-old grave of a Celtic woman in Germany suggest the ancient Celts were much more sophisticated than previously thought. The entire tomb was removed from the ground for further excavation in a laboratory and is continuing to reveal new surprises.

A team of researchers led by the UAB has found the first ancient remains of a calcified ovarian teratoma, in the pelvis of the skeleton of a woman from the Roman era. The find confirms the presence in antiquity of this type of tumour - formed by the remains of tissues or organs, which are difficult to locate during the examination of ancient remains. Inside the small round mass, four teeth and a small piece of bone were found. Continue reading

Archaeology Weekly Roundup! 1-18-13

The archaeological archive of Israel, which is administered by the Israel Antiquities Authority and amasses data on all of the activity of the archaeological entities in the country, is being digitized and will go online in the coming days. This is being underwritten with joint funding provided by the Landmarks heritage program in the Prime Minister’s Office and the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The Tomb of the Shroud is a first-century C.E. tomb discovered in Akeldama, Jerusalem, Israel that had been illegally entered and looted. Now testing has been done: genetic analysis of the bioarchaeological remains from the tomb using mitochondrial DNA to examine familial relationships of the individuals within the tomb and molecular screening for the presence of disease. Continue reading

Archaeology Weekly Roundup! 1-11-13

Years of conflict have exacted a heavy toll on centuries of history in the Gaza Strip. While traces of its rich past remain, the race to preserve what is left beneath the surface of this battle-scarred land is fraught with problems.

A mysterious “snake goddess” painted on terracotta and discovered in Athens may actually be Demeter, the Greek goddess of the harvest, and come from a 7th century BCE shrine.

More on the ongoing destruction of Syria’s cultural heritage sites.

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Archaeology Weekly Roundup! 1-5-13

Archaeologists who have completed the excavation of a 900-seat arts center under one of Rome’s busiest roundabouts are calling it the most important Roman discovery in 80 years.

A temple and sacred vessels from Biblical times have been discovered at Tel Motza. The finds, dated to the early monarchic period and including pottery figurines of men and horses, provide rare testimony of a ritual cult in the Jerusalem region at the beginning of the period of the monarchy.

Some marine archaeologists think ancient artifacts resembling the Antikythera mechanism, an ancient bronze clockwork astronomical calculator, may rest amid the larger-than-expected Roman shipwreck that yielded the device in 1901. Continue reading

Archaeology Weekly Roundup! 12-21-12

Fragment of an Abbasid Quran, showing geometric ornamentation. Probably written in the ninth century. (Cambridge University Library)

The Cambridge Digital Library has just made available thousands of pages from fragile religious manuscripts for Internet users’ perusal, including a 2,000-year-old copy of the Ten Commandments, known as the “Nash Papyrus.”

New CT scans of Ramessess III show that his throat was slit, solving an ancient mystery. Additional test also indicate an unidentified mummy may be his disgraced son.

Thousands of fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls went online Tuesday with the launch of a new website by Google and the Israel Antiquities Authority, part of a move to make the famed manuscripts easily available to scholars and casual web surfers. Continue reading

Archaeology Weekly Roundup! 12-14-12

(AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

(AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

Johan Huibers has finished his 20-year quest to build a full-scale, functioning model of Noah’s Ark. Huibers, used books 6-9 of Genesis as his inspiration, following the instructions God gives Noah down to the last cubit.

British archaeologists Dr Nicholas Saunders of the University of Bristol and Prof Clive Ruggles of the University of Leicester combined the experience and knowledge gained by studying the Nasca lines into the most detailed study to date and uncovered a unique labyrinth in the Peruvian desert.

French archaeologists have some trouble reconstructing an ancient instrument, a carnyx to be exact-a long, trumpet-like instrument with an animal’s head at the top end, used by the Celts in the last three centuries BC. Continue reading

Archaeology Weekly Roundup! 12-7-12

Croesus brooch

The original, left, and the fake golden brooch in the shape of a winged seahorse

Since being illegally excavated in the 1960s, King Croesus’s golden brooch has been stolen, replaced by a fake, sold to pay off gambling debts and has allegedly brought down a curse on its plunderers.

As part of a repair job 3,300 years in the making, Harvard’s Semitic Museum is seeking to undo some of the destruction wrought when Assyrians smashed the ancient city of Nuzi in modern-day Iraq, looting the temple and destroying artifacts. They’re using 3-D modeling to restore a smashed lion statue. Continue reading

ASOR Campaign Announced

school fundraising ideas

The “Building a Foundation for ASOR Campaign” has been one of ASOR’s worst kept secrets over the past twelve months. This $1.3 million brief yet vital initiative need not be a “secret” any longer. We are pleased to report that ASOR has passed the halfway mark of our campaign goal, and this milestone was announced by ASOR President Tim Harrison at the Thursday night reception at the Oriental Institute during the 2012 ASOR Annual Meeting in Chicago.

The campaign was officially launched with a unanimous vote by the ASOR board at the 2011 Annual Meeting in San Francisco. The primary goals of the first phase of the campaign were to expand ASOR’s donor base, while concurrently seeking to reach the halfway mark of $650,000 in gifts and pledges by the 2012 Annual Meeting in Chicago. We are pleased therefore to be able to announce that the campaign has met and exceeded both of these goals! We set a new record last year with 282 different donor—equivalent to almost 1 in 5 ASOR members—who made a charitable contribution, and we have received $670,000 in gifts and pledges toward the campaign! Moreover, by the time the Annual Meeting had ended in Chicago, we were above $700,000. With the public announcement of the campaign, we have now set our sights on meeting the $1.3 million goal by June 30, 2014 (the end of Fiscal Year 2014). Any gifts made to ASOR for the annual fund, scholarships, or any other program or area, will count towards our campaign goal. The following is a summary of the case statement for the Foundational Campaign. Continue reading

Archaeology Weekly Roundup! 11-30-12

There are easier places to make wine than the spectacular, desolate landscapes of southeast Turkey, but DNA analysis suggests it is here that Stone Age farmers first domesticated the wine grape.

Harvard professor Jason Ur has launched a five-year archaeological project in Iraq—the first such Harvard-led endeavor in the war-torn nation since the early 1930s—to scour a 3,200-square-kilometer area around Irbil, the capital of the Kurdish region in northern Iraq, for signs of ancient cities and towns, canals, and roads. Continue reading

Archaeology Weekly Roundup 11-9-12

masada israelIsraeli paleographer Ada Yardeni has recently identified 50 Dead Sea scrolls found near Qumran in Israel as having been penned by the same scribe, a scribe who also penned scrolls that have been found at the Herodian mountain-top fortress of Masada, where Jewish rebel zealots made their last suicidal stand against the Romans in 73 A.D.

New techniques reveal that the settlement of Polynesia first occurred within a 16 year window nearly 3000 years ago. The research, published November 7 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by David Burley and colleagues from Simon Fraser University, Canada, dates coral tools and reveals that the first human settlers lived in a founder colony on the islands of Tonga between 2830 to 2846 years ago. Continue reading

Archaeology Weekly Roundup! 10-19-12

Assyriancourtesy-ezinemark.comArchaeologists working in northern Iraq have discovered a new Assyrian site in the vicinity of the historic Arbil city center, the head of the antiquities office in the Kurdish Province of Arbil, Haydar Hassan, was quoted as saying in an Iraqi newspaper.

The Egyptian city of Alexandria, home to one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, may have been built to align with the rising sun on the day of Alexander the Great’s birth, a new study finds. Continue reading

Archaeology Weekly Roundup!

Madain Saleh, Saudi Arabia (AFP/File, Hassan Ammar)

Dating back to the second century BC, the Nabataean archaeological site, also known as Madain Saleh, has long been hidden from foreign visitors in this ultra-conservative kingdom that rarely opens up to tourists. But now the largest and best preserved site of the Nabataean civilisation south of Petra in Jordan is the first Saudi archaeological site to be inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List and increasingly seeing tourists.

Around 2,100 years ago, at a time when Egypt was ruled by a dynasty of Greek kings, a young wealthy man from Thebes was nearing the end of his life. Rather than age, he  may have succumbed to a sinus infection caused by a mouthful of cavities and other tooth ailments. Continue reading

Archaeology Weekly Roundup

  Fire swept through the old central souk, or marketplace, of Aleppo, Syria, damaging a vast and well-preserved labyrinth of medieval storehouses, shops, schools and ornate courtyards as fierce clashes between security forces and insurgents vowing to carry out a “decisive battle” for the city continued.

An Austrian museum says skeletal remains found in an ancient, Bronze Age grave are that of a woman metal worker — the first indication that women did such work thousands of years ago.

The results of scientific tests using replicas of two ancient Egyptian artificial toes, including one that was found on the foot of a mummy, suggest that they’re likely to be the world’s first prosthetic body parts. Continue reading

Protecting Archaeological Sites in Conflict Zones: What Is to be Done in Syria?

By: Lawrence Rothfield

The recent upsurge in high profile news stories, in Time and other mass media outlets, about the looting of archaeological sites in Syria has been accompanied by the usual public handwringing by archaeologists and heritage protection organizations. The terrible impact on the world’s cultural patrimony is bewailed, and the heads of UNESCO, the World Monuments Fund, and so on call upon the international community to stop the destruction. What is most depressing, for those of us who study the history of cultural heritage protection in times of armed conflict, is how similar these public statements are to those made in the runup to and the wake of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Thousands of looting pits pockmarking Iraq bear witness to how ineffectual those earlier pronouncements were, and yet the archaeological and heritage community continues to issue them.

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