CUMBRIA, ENGLAND—Volunteers have been spending their time sifting through the piles of dirt left behind by moles in the earthworks at the second-century Roman fort of Epiacum. Over the years, the moles have brought pottery, glass, and even intact artifacts to the surface. “I realize it sounds a bit ridiculous, but it’s actually quite serious. We look at all the finds and we work out what’s going on in different parts of the fort and different kinds of pottery tell us what dates different buildings are,” said archaeologist Paul Frodsham of the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. A recent survey by English Heritage has shown that there is a civilian settlement near the well-preserved fort.
SAN MARCOS, TEXAS—On the evening of May 2, 1863, Lieutenant General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson was hit with friendly fire from the 18th North Carolina regiment during the Civil War Battle of Chancellorsville. Jackson later died of complications from his wounds. How could his own troops have mistaken him for the enemy? Astronomer Don Olson of Texas State University and Laurie E. Jasinski of the Texas State Historical Association calculated the position of the moon and its phase that night, and then figured out where Jackson and the Confederate regiment were at the time of the shooting. “Once we calculated the compass direction of the moon and compared that to the detailed battle maps published by [military historian] Robert Krick, it quickly became obvious how Stonewall Jackson would have been seen as a dark silhouette,” Olson said.
ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA—The Australopithecus afarensis fossils known as “Lucy” have returned to Ethiopia after a five-year tour of the United States. “I am very aware that they sent security from Ethiopia, but that has been supported by local security from the United States, but also she was always surrounded by professionals. So I’m confident that she was secured both from the protection point of view and also the security point of view,” said scientist Zeresenay Alemseged, who traveled with Lucy. The fossils will return to the Ethiopian National Museum in time for the 50th anniversary of the African Union.
LONDON, ENGLAND—Six Egyptian artifacts, including a face carved from red granite and religious stele and statues, have been withdrawn from a sale at Christie’s auction house in London because the person who claimed ownership of the New Kingdom objects was unable to produce supporting documentation. “We asked for its return, since they are ancient Egyptian objects stolen from illegal excavations. Egypt owns objects similar to those on auction,” said Osama El-Nahas, Director General of the Repatriation of Antiquities Department. The artifacts will be handed over to British authorities.
CAIRO, EGYPT—Egyptologists Salima Ikram of the American University in Cairo and Andre Veldmeijer of the Netherlands Flemish Institute in Cairo tracked down a collection of 300 leather fragments in the store rooms of the Egyptian Museum. The extremely rare, embellished leather pieces represent all of the parts of an Old Kingdom royal chariot. “The fragments are in a much better shape than we originally anticipated, and we were able to achieve a sense of how the leather unfolds,” Ikram said. The team plans to build a reconstruction of an ancient chariot next year.
ALEXANDRIA, EGYPT—Cracks have developed in six structures in the Karmouz neighborhood of Alexandria. The damage is thought to have been caused by illegal digging beneath the entrance to an adjacent building. Police arrested a 29-year-old man who had several clay pots in his possession.
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO—Hundreds of small spheres have been spotted by the Tlaloc II-TC robot in the newly discovered chambers beneath the Temple of the Feathered Serpent at Teotihuacán. The spheres have a core made of clay and are covered with a material known as jarosite, which is formed by the oxidation of pyrite. “Pyrite was certainly used by the Teotihuacanos and other ancient Mesoamerican societies. Originally the spheres would have shown brilliantly. They are indeed unique, but I have no idea what they mean,” commented George Cowgill, professor emeritus at Arizona State University. Scholars think they may find the remains of the city’s rulers in these chambers.
STATESBORO, GEORGIA—Archaeologists from Georgia Southern University will be assisted by the staff of Gateway Animal Hospital in the conservation of metal artifacts recovered from Camp Lawton, a Confederate prisoner of war camp, where 10,000 Union soldiers were held during the Civil War. Archaeologists want to know if there is any solid metal remaining in the highly corroded artifacts, and veterinarian Gary Edwards will help with the x-rays. “The x-ray will enable us to clearly identify the shape of the artifact,” said graduate student Matt Newberry. Once the metal artifacts have been identified and conserved, they will become part of Camp Lawton’s History Center.
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Human bone fragments have been found among the butchered remains of dogs, cats, and horses at Jamestown. An examination of the bones suggests that during the winter of 1609, known as the “Starving Time,” colonists were forced to resort to eating the body of a 14-year-old girl. “The chops to the forehead are very tentative, very incomplete. Then, the body was turned over, and there were four strikes to the back of the head, one of which was the strongest and split the skull in half. A penetrating wound was then made to the left temple, probably by a single-sided knife, which was used to pry open the head and remove the brain,” said forensic anthropologist Douglas Owsley of the Smithsonian Institution. Written accounts hint at cannibalism at the oldest permanent English colony in the Americas. According to lead Jamestown archaeologist William Kelso, these bones are the first direct evidence that it occurred.
MIAMI, FLORIDA—A third circle made up of post holes cut into bedrock by the Tequesta has been uncovered near the mouth of the Miami River. The first Miami Circle, thought to be a 2,000-year-old religious site, has been listed as a National Historic Landmark. The second circle, called the Royal Palm Circle, may have been used as a dwelling. The third circle was found nearby, beneath fill brought in by Henry Flagler to develop the city’s downtown area in the early twentieth century. A well and foundations of the Royal Palm Hotel, built by Flagler in 1897, have also been uncovered.
WILKES CO., GEORGIA—Carr’s Fort has been discovered by a team of archaeologists after a month-long search of more than 2,700 wooded acres. “The search for Carr’s Fort was like looking for a needle in a haystack, only harder. We had no map and few descriptions of the fort, so its location was entirely unknown,” said Daniel Elliott of the LAMAR Institute. Captain Robert Carr of the Georgia Patriot militia and more than 100 soldiers were stationed at his frontier home when they were overtaken by Loyalist soldiers in 1779. Additional Patriot forces laid siege to the fort in an attempt to take it back, but they were forced to retreat. Carr was later killed by a raiding party of Loyalist Creek Indians. Archaeologists used metal detectors to find evidence of the battle, including musket balls, musket parts, and eighteenth-century iron and brass artifacts.
LEICESTER, ENGLAND—Archaeologists from the University of Leicester will return to the site of Grey Friars Church, where they unearthed the remains of Richard III, to exhume the grave of Sir William Moton, who died in 1362 and is thought to have been buried in a lead-lined stone sarcophagus. “This will be a great opportunity to confirm the plan of the east end of the Grey Friars Church to learn more about its dating and architecture, and will give us the chance to investigate other burials known to be inside the building,” said excavation director Richard Buckley.
DAHSHUR, EGYPT—Since January, the villagers of Manshiet Dahshur have expanded their cemetery to the point that it encroaches upon the pyramids of Dahshur: the smooth-sided Red Pyramid; the Bent Pyramid, which has warped walls; and the collapsed Black Pyramid, now located on the edge of the modern cemetery. “Some of them have a real need for the tombs for their families. But when you have 1,000 people, some of them will want to do illegal excavation,” said Mohamed Youssef, chief archaeologist at Dahshur. The police have not responded to requests to remove the illegal tombs.
PHOENIX, ARIZONA—A canal dug by the Hohokam people some 1,500 years ago has been unearthed at a construction site for a commuter train station at Sky Harbor airport. The Hohokam built canals to carry water from the Salt River to their irrigated field systems. “We’ve known the fields have been out there. This is the first time we’ve actually seen them,” said Laurene Montero, archaeologist for Phoenix.
THESSALONIKI, GREECE—The 2,300-year-old “Middle Road” unearthed during subway construction in the heart of modern Thessaloniki will be preserved in situ. The construction company had wanted to move the avenue and its buildings, but archaeologists collected more than 12,000 signatures and produced an alternate plan that will preserve up to 84 percent of the site in place. The marble street, which led to the harbor and featured a monumental Roman gate, was used for 700 years. “This was a central crossroads where the city’s central market and public buildings were located,” said Despoina Koutsoumba, head of the association of Greek archaeologists. More than 50,000 coins, and thousands of vessels, lamps, vials, and jewels have been uncovered.
LEWES, ENGLAND—More than 120 sets of human remains were found in a medieval cemetery at the site of the Hospital of St. Nicholas on England’s southern coast. Most of the skeletons show signs of leprosy and other diseases, but archaeologists suspect that one man was a soldier killed during the Battle of Lewes in 1264. He may have survived long enough to have been taken to the hospital. “The top of his skull has been sliced off with a sword. He also had terrible tooth decay and would have been in permanent pain. We’ll be looking for signs of slashes to the back of his legs because they were often hit with battleaxes while they were running away,” said Edwina Livesey of the Sussex Archaeological Society. Scientists from the University of York will carbon date the remains.
DOHA, QATAR—The Greek government has agreed to pull two statues, dating to the sixth and second centuries B.C., respectively, from its roughly 600-piece strong exhibit "Olympics - Past and Present," in response to Qatari officials' desire to cover up the midsections of the nude male forms. Representatives of the Persian Gulf state's culture ministry suggested that the unadorned statues would shock female visitors to the exhibit, so the figures were shipped back to Athens.
BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND—Preserved footprints of human ancestors can offer a wealth of information on everything from ancient climate to the evolution of the human gait. But, impressions dating back tens of thousands of years are not always fossilized in stone. In fact, footprints dating to 1.5 million years ago sit in sand at the northern Kenyan site of Ileret that is in danger of coastal erosion. Researchers at the Bournemouth University contrasted two methods of recording footprints: photographing the impressions from various angles to build up a complete picture, called digital photogrammetry, and optical laser scanning, which can build 3-D light maps of the footprints. Photogrammetry is quicker and less expensive, whereas laser scanning is more precise and more expensive. The research team suggests using both together to make up for each method's shortcomings.
EL CEIBAL, GUATEMALA—New radiocarbon dates from the ancient Maya city of Ceibal suggest the origins of Maya civilization were both older and more complicated than previously thought. In the past, archaeologists have theorized that the influence of the older Olmec civilization was the major factor in the rise of Maya city states, while others held that the Maya developed their civilization independently. Now a team led by the University of Arizona's Takeshi Inomata suggests the answer is somewhere in the middle. The archaeologists have discovered a ceremonial platform at Ceibal dating to around 1000 B.C., about two hundred years before the Olmec built similar structures at the city of La Venta. At the same time, the team says they have evidence that the rise of Maya civilization was part of a broad cultural shift throughout Mesoamerica, and not an independent phenomenon.
MUSCAT, OMAN—An international team of archaeologists have excavated a limestone burial chamber on Oman's Musandam Peninsula, an isolated region whose history is poorly understood. Holding the remains of almost two hundred people, the tomb dates to around 1300 B.C. and measures 45 feet long and eleven feet wide. The team also recovered artifacts such as swords and jewelry, but still know very little about the people who were buried here, though they probably had ties with the ancient civilizations across the Straits of Hormuz in what is today Iran. The team is now using ground penetrating radar to search for more burial chambers in the area.