Archaeological News

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Cyperus rotundus, commonly known as purple nutsedge or nutgrass, is considered one of the world’s worst invasive weeds. But new research suggests that prehistoric humans in what is now central Sudan may have gotten an unusual benefit from it.

Stephen Buckley, an archaeological chemist from the University of York in England, analyzed dental calculus — a form of hardened plaque — in fossilized teeth from people who lived thousands of years ago, in the pre-Mesolithic, Neolithic, and Meroitic periods.

In a paper published in the journal PLOS One, Dr. Buckley and his colleagues report that the teeth had remarkably few cavities and high levels of the chemical compounds found in purple nutsedge, suggesting that the plant may have protected against tooth decay. Read more.

In an environment where others struggle to survive, Tibetans thrive in the thin air on the Tibetan Plateau, with an average elevation of 14,800 feet. A study led by University of Utah scientists is the first to find a genetic cause for the adaptation – a single DNA base pair change that dates back 8,000 years – and demonstrate how it contributes to the Tibetans’ ability to live in low oxygen conditions. The study appears online in the journal Nature Genetics on Aug. 17, 2014.

"These findings help us understand the unique aspects of Tibetan adaptation to high altitudes, and to better understand human evolution," said Josef Prchal, M.D., senior author and University of Utah professor of internal medicine. Read more.

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Zoroastrianism was the state religion of the ancient Persian Empire. Its founder, Zoroaster, or Zarathustra, is thought to have been born in what is now Northeast Iran or Southwest Afghanistan. A 2004 survey by the Zoroastrian Associations of North America put the estimated number of believers worldwide at between 124,000 and 190,000.

Now, archaeologists in Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region have discovered major Zoroastrian tombs, dated to over 2,500 years ago. This unravelling is leading to startling controversial speculation about the religion’s origin. Read more.

Researchers say an awl from the Middle Chalcolithic period (5200-4600 BCE) is the oldest metal object ever found in the Middle East.

The awl is made of copper and was found at excavations at Tel Tsaf in the Beit She’an Valley section of the Jordan Valley.

Chemical analysis dates the item back to the late sixth millennium or early fifth millennium B.C.E. Until now, researchers had believed that people in the area began to use metals only in the middle of the fifth century B.C.E.

“This moves back by several hundred years the date it was previously thought that the peoples of the region began to use metals,” said Dr. Danny Rosenberg of the University of Haifa. Read more.

While Turkish land is enriched by the historical sites of 206 ancient amphitheaters, most of which are left from Roman and Byzantine times, they are being mistreated by poor and haphazard restoration methods.

Turkey is fortunate to sit astride lands which were once part of the Roman and Byzantine empires. By virtue of this fact, the country has the world’s richest collection of ancient amphitheaters. According to some sources, there are 206 such ancient theaters in Turkey that are left from the Roman period. This figure is much greater than in any other country. However, the attention these precious monuments receive from the authorities is scant, while the recent restoration work carried out at these cultural sites shows obvious signs of the mistreatment to which they have been subject. Read more.

Archaeologists have discovered the remains of at least two bodies in a Bronze Age burial cist in a remote area of the west Highlands.

They were previously aware of one body in the ancient grave on the Ardnamurchan peninsula but they have now found more bones than could belong to another person.

A skull found during an earlier archaeological dig at Swordle in 2010 was dated as being from around 1700BC.

And the bones discovered during the Ardnamurchan Transition Project team’s visit to the area this summer have now been sent away for radiocarbon dating. Read more.

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Swedish archaeologists found a rare and valuable golden coin from ancient Rome on Monday. And they think it may explain a key part of the Sweden’s history.

Archaeologists found the coin on Monday at a site on the island of Öland that’s been compared to Italy’s Pompeii.

A small team of archaeologists at Kalmar County museum, in collobaration with Lund University, has been digging at the site for the past three years. The team is studying the Migration Period in Scandinavian history, from about 400 to 550 A.D., 400 years before the Viking Age. Read more.

A baby rattle has been found in the Kültepe Kaniş-Karum trade colony, where excavations have been continuing since 1948 in the central Anatolian province of Kayseri.

A team from Ankara University Archaeology Department, headed by Professor Fikri Kulakoğlu, has been working in the area and unearthed the rattle, which dates back to 4,000 B.C.

Kulakoğlu said works had been continuing there for 69 years. He said, “Archaeological excavations have been carried out in Kültepe since 1948. Here it is possible to find what we [commonly] find in houses today. Read more.