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“Kamikaze” Typhoons Reflected in Japanese Lake Sediments

December 10, 2014

AMHERST, MASSACHUSETTS—Lakebed sediments from Japan’s Amakusa Island suggest that the sea rose over the beach and washed into the lake twice during the late 1200s, lending credibility to historical accounts that typhoons wiped out the invading fleets of the Mongol Empire in 1274 and again in 1281. According to legend, the typhoons were driven by divine Kamikaze winds sent to protect Japan from invasion. A study published in the journal Geology by a team from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and Worcester State University shows that the improbable storms occurred during a time of greater flood activity between 250 and 1600 A.D. To read an in-depth account of earlier underwater discoveries related to the Mongol invasions, see "Relics of the Kamikaze."

Categories: Blog

“Kamikaze” Typhoons Reflected in Japanese Lake Sediments

December 10, 2014

AMHERST, MASSACHUSETTS—Lakebed sediments from Japan’s Amakusa Island suggest that the sea rose over the beach and washed into the lake twice during the late 1200s, lending credibility to historical accounts that typhoons wiped out the invading fleets of the Mongol Empire in 1274 and again in 1281. According to legend, the typhoons were driven by divine Kamikaze winds sent to protect Japan from invasion. A study published in the journal Geology by a team from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and Worcester State University shows that the improbable storms occurred during a time of greater flood activity between 250 and 1600 A.D. To read an in-depth account of earlier underwater discoveries related to the Mongol invasions, see "Relics of the Kamikaze."

Categories: Blog

7,500-Year-Old Well Excavated at an Underwater Site

December 10, 2014

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA—A fresh-water well in the submerged Neolithic site of Kfar Samir in Israel is being investigated by a team including Ehud Galili of the Israel Antiquities Authority and the University of Haifa, and Jonathan Benjamin of Flinders University. “At the Kfar Samir site, the water well was probably abandoned when sea levels started to rise and the fresh water became salty so people threw food scraps and animal bones down the well instead,” Benjamin said. The team will examine soil samples for pollen and other clues to the people’s diet and possible trade relationships, and look for organic materials such as plant fibers, seeds, and olive pits. “As they were a pre-metal society we expect to find stone tools; perhaps weapons made of flint, and needles made of bone,” he added. Benjamin will also work with John McCarthy of Wessex Archaeology to develop a 3-D mosaic of the well using photogrammetry. “The technique is not new in theory, but only very recently has the technology caught up to allow us to use it underwater, which we have with exceptional results. This is a wonderful tool for underwater archaeological site recording,” he said. To read about a ritual Neolithic artifact from the Levant, see "Artifact: Bone Wand."

Categories: Blog

7,500-Year-Old Well Excavated at an Underwater Site

December 10, 2014

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA—A Neolithic, fresh-water well in the submerged Kfar Samir site is being investigated by a team including Ehud Galili of the Israel Antiquities Authority and the University of Haifa, and Jonathan Benjamin of Flinders University. “At the Kfar Samir site, the water well was probably abandoned when sea levels started to rise and the fresh water became salty so people threw food scraps and animal bones down the well instead,” Benjamin said. The team will examine soil samples for pollen and other clues to the people’s diet and possible trade relationships, and look for organic materials such as plant fibers, seeds, and olive pits. “As they were a pre-metal society we expect to find stone tools; perhaps weapons made of flint, and needles made of bone,” he added. Benjamin will also work with John McCarthy of Wessex Archaeology to develop a 3-D mosaic of the well using photogrammetry. “The technique is not new in theory, but only very recently has the technology caught up to allow us to use it underwater, which we have with exceptional results. This is a wonderful tool for underwater archaeological site recording,” he said. To read about a ritual Neolithic artifact from Syria, see "Artifact: Bone Wand."

Categories: Blog

Air Pollution Analyzed at India’s Taj Mahal

December 10, 2014

ATLANTA, GEORGIA—The discoloration of the Taj Mahal, a seventeenth-century mausoleum built by Shah Jahan for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, is caused by airborne carbon particles and dust, according to a study conducted by scientists from the Georgia Institute of Technology, the Indian Institute of Technology at Kanpur, the Archaeological Survey of India, and the University of Wisconsin. The scientists took air samples at the site, and placed pieces of marble near the main dome. After two months, the samples were collected and analyzed with an electron microscope. “Our team was able to show that the pollutants discoloring the Taj Mahal are particulate matter: carbon from burning biomass and refuse, fossil fuels, and dust—possibly from agriculture and road traffic. We have also been able to show how these particles could be responsible for the brownish discoloration observed,” said Michael Bergin of Georgia Tech. The monument is routinely cleaned with clay to maintain the brightness of the marble, but until now, there had not been a systematic study of the causes of the discoloration. “Some of these particles are really bad for human health, so cleaning up the Taj Mahal could have a huge health benefit for people in the entire region,” Bergin added. To see photographs of another iconic Indian site, see "The Islamic Stepwells of Gujarat."

Categories: Blog

Air Pollution Analyzed at India’s Taj Mahal

December 10, 2014

ATLANTA, GEORGIA—The discoloration of the Taj Mahal, a seventeenth-century mausoleum built by Shah Jahan for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, is caused by airborne carbon particles and dust, according to a study conducted by scientists from the Georgia Institute of Technology, the Indian Institute of Technology at Kanpur, the Archaeological Survey of India, and the University of Wisconsin. The scientists took air samples at the site, and placed pieces of marble near the main dome. After two months, the samples were collected and analyzed with an electron microscope. “Our team was able to show that the pollutants discoloring the Taj Mahal are particulate matter: carbon from burning biomass and refuse, fossil fuels, and dust—possibly from agriculture and road traffic. We have also been able to show how these particles could be responsible for the brownish discoloration observed,” said Michael Bergin of Georgia Tech. The monument is routinely cleaned with clay to maintain the brightness of the marble, but until now, there had not been a systematic study of the causes of the discoloration. “Some of these particles are really bad for human health, so cleaning up the Taj Mahal could have a huge health benefit for people in the entire region,” Bergin added. To see photographs of another iconic Indian site, see "The Islamic Stepwells of Gujarat."

Categories: Blog

Parchment Assists Study of British Agriculture

December 9, 2014

DUBLIN, IRELAND—Scientists from the University of York and Trinity College Dublin have examined DNA from two tiny samples of parchment dating from the late seventeenth century to the late eighteenth century. They were able to determine the species-type of animals from which the parchment was made, suggesting that libraries could be a resource for the study of livestock husbandry. “We believe the two specimens derive from an unimproved northern hill-sheep typical in Yorkshire in the seventeenth century, and from a sheep derived from the ‘improved’ flocks, such as those bred in the Midlands by Robert Bakewell, which were spreading through England in the eighteenth century,” said Matthew Collins of the University of York. To read about early Christian illuminated manuscripts, see "Artifact: The Faddan More Psalter."

Categories: Blog

Parchment Assists Study of British Agriculture

December 9, 2014

DUBLIN, IRELAND—Scientists from the University of York and Trinity College Dublin have examined DNA from two tiny samples of parchment dating from the late seventeenth century to the late eighteenth century. They were able to determine the species-type of animals from which the parchment was made, suggesting that libraries could be a resource for the study of livestock husbandry. “We believe the two specimens derive from an unimproved northern hill-sheep typical in Yorkshire in the seventeenth century, and from a sheep derived from the ‘improved’ flocks, such as those bred in the Midlands by Robert Bakewell, which were spreading through England in the eighteenth century,” said Matthew Collins of the University of York. To read about early Christian illuminated manuscripts, see "Artifact: The Faddan More Psalter."

Categories: Blog

Spotted Horses Are Marked by Human History

December 9, 2014

BERLIN, GERMANY—Analysis of DNA extracted from the bones and teeth of horses that lived between the late Pleistocene and the medieval period suggests that leopard coat patterns went in and out of fashion among breeders. Leopard coats were popular during the early Bronze Age, but by the end of the period the spots had almost disappeared. The patterned coats may have fallen out of favor because animals that inherit genes for the trait from both parents are night blind, which can make them timid and hard to handle. Yet some 1,000 to 1,500 years later, the coat color seems to have been reintroduced, perhaps through wild horses. “The behavior of breeders and their preferences changed at that time, as it does today,” Arne Ludwig of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research told Horse Talk. During the medieval period, spotted horses were depicted in art and literature, and favored by nobles who considered them symbols of chastity. To read more about how archaeologists are using horse genetics, see "Dappled Horse Paintings Decoded by DNA."

Categories: Blog

Spotted Horses Are Marked by Human History

December 9, 2014

BERLIN, GERMANY—Analysis of DNA extracted from the bones and teeth of horses that lived between the late Pleistocene and the medieval period suggests that leopard coat patterns went in and out of fashion among breeders. Leopard coats were popular during the early Bronze Age, but by the end of the period the spots had almost disappeared. The patterned coats may have fallen out of favor because animals that inherit genes for the trait from both parents are night blind, which can make them timid and hard to handle. Yet some 1,000 to 1,500 years later, the coat color seems to have been reintroduced, perhaps through wild horses. “The behavior of breeders and their preferences changed at that time, as it does today,” Arne Ludwig of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research told Horse Talk. During the medieval period, spotted horses were depicted in art and literature, and favored by nobles who considered them symbols of chastity. To read more about how archaeologists are using horse genetics, see "Dappled Horse Paintings Decoded by DNA."

Categories: Blog

Sarcophagus of a Singer of the God Amun Found in Luxor

December 9, 2014

LUXOR, EGYPT—A sarcophagus dating to the Third Intermediate Period (100-900 B.C.) has been discovered by a team of Spanish and Egyptian archaeologists working at the late-18th Dynasty tomb of Amenhotep Huy on Luxor’s west bank. This sarcophagus is at least 200 years younger than the original tomb. “It has a unique style that was common during the reign of the 21st dynasty,” Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty told Ahram Online. The wooden sarcophagus is covered with plaster and decorated with images of Toth, Anubis, Osiris, Isis, and the four sons of Horus. The female mummy is wrapped in linen and its face is covered with a mask. She is wearing a necklace and a wig decorated with a flower crown. Hieroglyphic texts on the sarcophagus could provide more information on the identity of the deceased. 

Categories: Blog

Sarcophagus of a Singer of the God Amun Found in Luxor

December 9, 2014

LUXOR, EGYPT—A sarcophagus dating to the Third Intermediate Period (100-900 B.C.) has been discovered by a team of Spanish and Egyptian archaeologists working at the late-18th Dynasty tomb of Amenhotep Huy on Luxor’s west bank. This sarcophagus is at least 200 years younger than the original tomb. “It has a unique style that was common during the reign of the 21st dynasty,” Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty told Ahram Online. The wooden sarcophagus is covered with plaster and decorated with images of Toth, Anubis, Osiris, Isis, and the four sons of Horus. The female mummy is wrapped in linen and its face is covered with a mask. She is wearing a necklace and a wig decorated with a flower crown. Hieroglyphic texts on the sarcophagus could provide more information on the identity of the deceased. 

Categories: Blog

Mitochondrial DNA Suggests Female Vikings Traveled, Too

December 8, 2014

OSLO, NORWAY—Analysis of mitochondrial DNA obtained from 80 Viking skeletons in Norway suggests that Norse women participated in the colonization of the Scottish mainland, Shetland, Orkney, and Iceland 1,000 years ago. Mitochondrial DNA is only inherited through the female line. “It seems to support the view that a significant number of women were involved in the settlement of the smaller isles, which overrules the idea that it just involved raping and pillaging by males going out on a rampage,” Erika Hagelberg of the University of Oslo told The Independent. Her team compared the ancient Viking DNA to samples of people living in Norway, Britain, Iceland, and other parts of Western Europe today. “This somewhat contradicts one of the views about Viking raids, namely that they were driven by a shortage of women at home,” she added. To read about a notorious massacre committed against Vikings in England, see "Vengance on the Vikings."

Categories: Blog

Mitochondrial DNA Suggests Female Vikings Traveled, Too

December 8, 2014

OSLO, NORWAY—Analysis of mitochondrial DNA obtained from 80 Viking skeletons in Norway suggests that Norse women participated in the colonization of the Scottish mainland, Shetland, Orkney, and Iceland 1,000 years ago. Mitochondrial DNA is only inherited through the female line. “It seems to support the view that a significant number of women were involved in the settlement of the smaller isles, which overrules the idea that it just involved raping and pillaging by males going out on a rampage,” Erika Hagelberg of the University of Oslo told The Independent. Her team compared the ancient Viking DNA to samples of people living in Norway, Britain, Iceland, and other parts of Western Europe today. “This somewhat contradicts one of the views about Viking raids, namely that they were driven by a shortage of women at home,” she added. To read about a notorious massacre committed against Vikings in England, see "Vengance on the Vikings."

Categories: Blog

Historic Communications Ship Discovered in the Pacific Ocean

December 8, 2014

MĀNOA, HAWAII—An intact ship has been discovered sitting upright under 2,000 feet of water off the coast of O’ahu by a team of scientists from the University of Hawaii, Hawai’i Undersea Research Laboratory, and NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. First launched in 1923 for the Commercial Pacific Cable Company, Dickenson repaired telecommunications equipment and carried supplies to remote stations at Midway and Fanning Island until 1941, when the ship was employed to evacuate Cable and Wireless Ltd. employees from Fanning Island and deliver them to Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7. Dickenson was eventually chartered by the U.S. Navy to service communications cables during World War II as the USS Kailua. It was eventually sunk as a target by submarine torpedo fire in 1946, but the ship’s exact location had not been recorded. “From her interisland service to her role in Pacific communications and then World War II, Dickenson today is like a museum exhibit resting in the darkness, reminding us of these specific elements of Pacific history,” said Hans Van Tilburg of the maritime heritage program in NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. To read more about nautical archaeology, see "History's 10 Greatest Shipwrecks."

Categories: Blog

Historic Communications Ship Discovered in the Pacific Ocean

December 8, 2014

MĀNOA, HAWAII—An intact ship has been discovered sitting upright under 2,000 feet of water off the coast of O’ahu by a team of scientists from the University of Hawaii, Hawai’i Undersea Research Laboratory, and NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. First launched in 1923 for the Commercial Pacific Cable Company, Dickenson repaired telecommunications equipment and carried supplies to remote stations at Midway and Fanning Island until 1941, when the ship was employed to evacuate Cable and Wireless Ltd. employees from Fanning Island and deliver them to Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7. Dickenson was eventually chartered by the U.S. Navy to service communications cables during World War II as the USS Kailua. It was eventually sunk as a target by submarine torpedo fire in 1946, but the ship’s exact location had not been recorded. “From her interisland service to her role in Pacific communications and then World War II, Dickenson today is like a museum exhibit resting in the darkness, reminding us of these specific elements of Pacific history,” said Hans Van Tilburg of the maritime heritage program in NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. To read more about nautical archaeology, see "History's 10 Greatest Shipwrecks."

Categories: Blog

Royal Viking Feasting Hall Found in Sweden

December 8, 2014

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN—Archaeologists wielding ground-penetrating radar have located the foundation of a Viking feasting hall in southern Sweden. The hall was discovered by a team made up of scientists from Stockholm University and Umeå University, in the Aska barrow, which had been thought to be a burial mound. The double-walled hall may have belonged to a royal family, since elite burials have been unearthed in the area. “Parallels are known from several of the era’s elite sites, such as Fornsigtuna near Stockholm and Lejre near Roskilde. The closest similarities are however seen in a recently excavated feasting hall at Old Uppsla near Stockholm. Such close correspondences suggest intensive communication between the two sites,” said Martin Rundkvist of Umeå University. To read about early evidence for Viking warfare, see "The First Vikings."

Categories: Blog

Royal Viking Feasting Hall Found in Sweden

December 8, 2014

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN—Archaeologists wielding ground-penetrating radar have located the foundation of a Viking feasting hall in southern Sweden. The hall was discovered by a team made up of scientists from Stockholm University and Umeå University, in the Aska barrow, which had been thought to be a burial mound. The double-walled hall may have belonged to a royal family, since elite burials have been unearthed in the area. “Parallels are known from several of the era’s elite sites, such as Fornsigtuna near Stockholm and Lejre near Roskilde. The closest similarities are however seen in a recently excavated feasting hall at Old Uppsla near Stockholm. Such close correspondences suggest intensive communication between the two sites,” said Martin Rundkvist of Umeå University. To read about early evidence for Viking warfare, see "The First Vikings."

Categories: Blog

Men Indicted in Israel on Looting Charge

December 8, 2014

ARAD, ISRAEL—Young men from the village of Seir have been indicted for plundering the Cave of the Skulls in the Judean Desert. The men were spotted on the side of the cliff where the cave is located by members of the Arad Rescue Unit, who were undergoing routine training. They contacted inspectors from Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery of the Israel Antiquities Authority, who placed the cave under surveillance. The suspects were observed using a metal detector and excavating equipment, which damaged archaeological evidence from the Copper Age and the Roman era. They were then taken into custody by Israel Antiquities Authority personnel after they left the cave and climbed to the top of the cliff. “For many years now gangs of antiquities robbers have been operating along the Judean Desert cliffs. The robbers attempt to locate and find Dead Sea scrolls, pieces of ancient texts, and unique artifacts that were left in the caves,” said Amir Ganor, director of the Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery in the Israel Antiquities Authority. To read about a recent dig in Israel, see "Excavating Tell Kedesh."

Categories: Blog

Men Indicted in Israel on Looting Charge

December 8, 2014

ARAD, ISRAEL—Young men from the village of Seir have been indicted for plundering the Cave of the Skulls in the Judean Desert. The men were spotted on the side of the cliff where the cave is located by members of the Arad Rescue Unit, who were undergoing routine training. They contacted inspectors from Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery of the Israel Antiquities Authority, who placed the cave under surveillance. The suspects were observed using a metal detector and excavating equipment, which damaged archaeological evidence from the Copper Age and the Roman era. They were then taken into custody by Israel Antiquities Authority personnel after they left the cave and climbed to the top of the cliff. “For many years now gangs of antiquities robbers have been operating along the Judean Desert cliffs. The robbers attempt to locate and find Dead Sea scrolls, pieces of ancient texts, and unique artifacts that were left in the caves,” said Amir Ganor, director of the Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery in the Israel Antiquities Authority. To read about a recent dig in Israel, see "Excavating Tell Kedesh."

Categories: Blog

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