Archaeological News

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PHILADELPHIA, PA.- This fall, the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, in conjunction with Penn Arts and Sciences, launches the Center for the Analysis of Archaeological Materials (CAAM), housed in a newly renovated suite of conservation and teaching laboratories in the Museum’s West Wing.

The new Center will offer the facilities, materials, equipment, and expert personnel to teach and mentor undergraduate and graduate students in a range of scientific techniques crucial to archaeologists and other scholars as they seek to interpret the past. Study will be arranged around eight disciplines: ceramics, digital archaeology, archaeobotany, archaeozoology, human skeletal analysis, lithics, archaeometallurgy, and conservation. Read more.

The enemy of archeology everywhere is salt. It destroys buildings, disassembles art works, and can turn ancient pottery into piles of dust.

How salt lays waste to these artifacts is well known, but scientists in Switzerland have monitored the process in a laboratory. Their observations could help preserve the buildings, art, and treasured relics of humanity.

The salts in question are not just sodium chloride, the salt on your dining room table or in the sea, but substances such as fluorides, sulfates, and acetates — substances formed when acids and bases interact. It can affect sites in the desert or along the coast, or anywhere with high humidity, said Robert Flatt, professor of building materials at ETH Zurich, an engineering institute in Switzerland. Even the Sistine Chapel can be affected. Read more.

A RARE soldier’s helmet from the time of Julius Caesar has been bought by Canterbury Museums and Galleries and will shortly be on display at Canterbury Roman Museum

The helmet dates to the mid-1st century BC and is probably from Gaul (modern day France) It may have been made and used during Caesar’s Gallic Wars and the person who wore it was probably from Kent.

Only four other Iron Age helmets have ever been found in the UK. The helmet, along with a brooch, small spike and some cremated remains were discovered in September 2012 by a metal detectorist in a field near Bridge, just outside Canterbury. Read more.

A cross made of iron, coins, bronze bracelets – and a container dating from the 12th to 13th century on which is inscribed, “Lord, help Veronica”. All of these and more are among finds made by archaeologists during the summer 2014 dig at Bulgaria’s ancient sacred site of Perperikon.

Professor Nikolai Ovcharov, who has been overseeing archaeological work since 2000 at Perperikon – a site where human habitation dates back to about 5000 BCE, on a rocky hill 15km from the town of Kurdjali in southern Bulgaria – unveiled the finds at a news conference on September 28 2014.

He showed a coin from the reign of Tsar Ivan Alexander of 1343, which he said indicates that at the time there was a Bulgarian military campaign in the Eastern Rhodopes, aimed at taking back lost lands. Read more.

Sophisticated ocean going canoes and favorable winds may have helped early human settlers colonize New Zealand, a pair of new studies shows.

The remote archipelagos of East Polynesia were among the last habitable places on Earth that humans were able to colonize. In New Zealand, human history only began around 1200-1300, when intrepid voyagers arrived by boat through several journeys over some generations.

A piece of that early heritage was recently revealed on a beach in New Zealand, when a 600-year-old canoe with a turtle carved on its hull emerged from a sand dune after a harsh storm. The researchers who examined the shipwreck say the vessel is more impressive than any other canoe previously linked to this period in New Zealand. Read more.

The UK’s Northampton Museum could face new harsh sanctions for the sale of the ancient Egyptian Sekhemka statue. Sanctions include possible suspension of member status in the UK’s largest museum organisation, the British Museum Association.

The British Museum’s Association will hold a disciplinary hearing on Tuesday to decide on the possible actions against the Northampton Borough Council (NBC) which sold the statue on 10 July.

The 4,500-year-old, painted limestone statue was sold to a private buyer at Christie’s in London for £15.8m (about LE183.6 million). Read more.

What can DNA from the skeleton of a man who lived 2,330 years ago in the southernmost tip of Africa tell us about ourselves as humans? A great deal when his DNA profile is one of the ‘earliest diverged’ – oldest in genetic terms – found to-date in a region where modern humans are believed to have originated roughly 200,000 years ago.

The man’s maternal DNA, or ‘mitochondrial DNA’, was sequenced to provide clues to early modern human prehistory and evolution. Mitochondrial DNA provided the first evidence that we all come from Africa, and helps us map a figurative genetic tree, all branches deriving from a common ‘Mitochondrial Eve’.

When archaeologist Professor Andrew Smith from the University of Cape Town discovered the skeleton at St. Helena Bay in 2010, very close to the site where 117,000 year old human footprints had been found – dubbed “Eve’s footprints” – he contacted Professor Vanessa Hayes, a world-renowned expert in African genomes. Read more.

Archaeologists exploring the high desert of northern Arizona have found a pair of “matching” villages that date back some 1,300 years, revealing evidence of a crucial phase in Southwestern prehistory.

Researchers found the two large settlements — about a kilometer apart from each other — while surveying ranch land recently acquired by Petrified Forest National Park.

For the past two summers, park archaeologist William Reitze and his colleagues have been exploring the new lands to see what clues they hold about the distant past.

Last year, among some grass-covered sand dunes, they found traces of a large settlement, with 50 to 75 structures ranging in size from storage cists to pithouses. Read more.