MEXICO CITY, MEXICO—A three-year study of Teotihuacán’s Pyramid of the Sun led by Arturo Menchaca of the National Autonomous University of Mexico suggests that dry conditions on the south side of the structure could lead to its collapse. His team placed detectors under the center of the pyramid to track how muons, which originate in space, passed through the building. What they found is that the density of the earth in the pyramid is at least 20 percent lower on one side than on the other. “I can use slightly moist sand to make a sandcastle. If I leave it exposed to the sun and touch it when it is dry, then it crumbles,” Menchaca told New Scientist.
SUFFOLK, ENGLAND—Archaeologists have announced the discovery of a seventh-century royal village in Rendlesham, four miles northeast of the Anglo-Saxon burial site of Sutton Hoo. Fragments of jewelry and coins have been found at the village site, which covers more than 100 acres of farmland. The Saxon historian the Venerable Bede wrote of “the king’s country-seat of Rendlesham,” but its exact location was unknown until the landowner became concerned about treasure hunters on his property and called the archaeology until of the Suffolk county council. The scientists used aerial photography, soil analysis, ground-penetrating radar, and metal detectors to investigate the area. “It shows there were high-status people at the site and there was trading with places that were very far away. It is fascinating and very exciting,” Mike Argent, chairman of the Sutton Hoo Society, told EADT24.
DEVON, ENGLAND—Three years ago, archaeologists excavated a 4,000-year-old stone box from a mound of peat in order to protect it from erosion on the remote White Horse Hill on Dartmoor. Since then an international team of scientists has been working to conserve the contents of the box, which included cremated human remains, a tin bead and 34 tin studs, a belt made of nettles with a leather fringe, jewelry made of Baltic amber and shale from Whitby, wooden ear studs, and a woven bag. All of the items had been wrapped in a fur that may have come from a now-extinct bear, and placed in a basket. The tin items are the earliest evidence of metal-working in the southwest of England, and the ear studs are the earliest examples of wood turning every found in Britain. “The last Dartmoor burial with grave goods was back in the days of the Victorian gentleman antiquarians. This is the first scientifically excavated burial on the moor, and the most significant ever,” Jane Marchand, chief archaeologist at the Dartmoor National Park Authority, told The Guardian.
LIMA, PERU—The Andina News Agency reports that the 3,000-year-old remains of three adults, one child, and one adolescent from the Marcavalle culture were unearthed in Cusco at a center for juvenile rehabilitation. The individuals had been buried in two double graves and one single grave. Necklaces, tools made from obsidian and camelid bones, and fragments of ceramics were also found. Further excavations in the area are planned.
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL—In preparation for this year’s World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics, many construction projects are underway in Rio De Janeiro, and they are uncovering evidence of the city’s historic involvement in the Atlantic slave trade—more than 1.8 million enslaved Africans landed in Rio. The sites include Valongo wharf, where early nineteenth-century ships docked and unloaded their human cargo, the ruins of the slave market, and the Cemitério dos Pretos Novos, or the Cemetery of New Blacks, a mass grave for the thousands of people who did not survive. “We’re finding archaeological sites of global importance, and probably far more extensive than what’s been excavated so far, but instead of prioritizing these discoveries our leaders are proceeding with their grotesque remaking of Rio,” Sonia Rabello, a legal scholar and former city councilwoman, told The New York Times.
INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA—Archaeologist Thomas Garrison and professor of religion Lynn Swartz Dodd from the University of Southern California and their students exhumed the remains of the legendary racehorse Native Diver, who died in 1967 from colic at the age of eight. He was buried at the Hollywood Park racetrack and given a stone memorial. The track, however, has now closed and will be torn down. Richard Shapiro, grandson of Native Diver’s owners, wanted to move the horse’s remains. “He brought pictures and some of Native Diver’s prizes. He did a little presentation of the horse to the students. It really showed that we’re actually digging up the human past and things people have a connection with,” Garrison explained to The Daily Trojan. Native Diver’s remains will be stored at the Del Mar racetrack until a new burial site is found.
QUINCY, WASHINGTON—When the water level of the reservoir behind the Wanapum Dam on the Columbia River had been drawn down 26 feet earlier this week, human bones were exposed along the shoreline. Grant County Coroner Craig Morrison told The Spokesman Review that he thought the bones were “hundreds, if not thousands,” of years old because of the wear pattern on the teeth. The skeletal are being guarded at the site until someone from the Washington’s Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation can pick them up.
BRECON BEACONS, WALES—While walking in the Brecon Beacons, geologist Alan Bowring spotted prehistoric rock art on a 4-foot, 9-inch long stone lying on the ground. The stone, decorated with 12 cup marks joined by connecting lines, may have stood upright during the Bronze Age as a way marker for farming communities. “We might have been able to predict a discovery of this kind considering the large amount of prehistoric ritual sites in the Brecon Beacons but this is the first evidence of prehistoric rock art to be ever recorded [in the Beacons],” commented George Nash of Bristol University to BBC News.
PARIS, FRANCE—Zooarchaeologist Hervé Monchot of the Université-Paris Sorbonne identified 145 lizard bones, most likely from the spiny-tailed lizard Uromastyx aegyptia, in a bone dump at the mosque complex at al-Yamâma in the Saudi Arabian desert. This is the first archaeological evidence of this protein source in the Arabian diet, even though the consumption of lizards is mentioned in the hadiths of the Prophet Muhammad and in an eleventh-century travel log. “It is necessary to distinguish the Bedouin, who ate and [still] eat lizard when traveling in the desert because it is a source of easy-to-find protein, and urban populations who do not eat lizard,” Monchot told Live Science.
LUXOR, EGYPT—Reuters reports that an alabaster statue of Princess Iset has been unearthed in Luxor at the temple of her father, Amenhotep III, who ruled Egypt during the 18th Dynasty. Iset’s figure was found between the feet of her father’s colossal, seated statue, and although her name and royal title are inscribed near her feet, her face has eroded. A statue depicting Amenhotep with all of his children is on display at the Egyptian Museum.
COUNTY ANTRIM, IRELAND—Excavations at Carrickfergus Castle by a team from Queen’s University have revealed a Victorian-era tunnel into the Great Hall of the 800-year-old fortification. Environment Minister Mark H. Durkan has granted the team another month to investigate the areas that had been disturbed by the Victorian diggers, including what could be medieval walls. “From the Victorian works through to medieval pottery from Carrickfergus, Britain and even France, these finds will help bring this site to life,” he told The News Letter. The restoration and renovation work will open the castle’s dungeons and the ammunition room to visitors.
HOUSTON, TEXAS—Grant Adamson of Rice University has translated a papyrus discovered 100 years ago outside a temple in the Egyptian town of Tebtunis. Infrared images of the papyrus have made parts of the text, written mostly in Greek, more legible. It is a letter written 1,800 years ago by an Egyptian soldier named Aurelius Polion, who was serving in a Roman legion in Europe. He is desperate to hear from his family, and wants to make the long journey home to see his mother, sister, and brother. “I think that some aspects of military service belong to a common experience across ancient and modern civilizations—part of our human experience in general really. Things like worry and homesickness,” Adamson told Live Science.
DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND—A study of the isotope ratios in the skeletons of Lapita people who lived on Vanuatu’s Efate Island some 3,000 years ago suggests that they relied on reef fish, marine turtles, fruit bats, and “free-range pigs and chickens,” for their food rather than on cultivated crops. Rebecca Kinaston of the University of Otago told Z News that as they moved eastward across the Pacific, the Lapita foraged for wild food to supplement whatever horticultural food they produced.
CHAMPAIGN, ILLINOIS—Thomas Emerson, State archaeologist and director of the Illinois State Archaeological Survey at the University of Illinois, told the University of Illinois News Bureau that the population of 20,000 people living at Cahokia around A.D. 1100 probably included a number of immigrants. “Such early centers around the world grow by immigration, not by birthrate,” he explained. Items thought to have traveled to the urban center through trade may have been carried by new residents. And, an analysis of strontium isotope ratios in the teeth of people buried at Cahokia by bioarchaeologist Kristin Hedman and graduate student Philip Slater indicates that as many as one-third of the residents spent their childhoods somewhere else. “Cahokia, because it was multiethnic and perhaps even multilingual, must have been a virtual ‘melting pot’ that fostered new ways of living, new political and social patterns and perhaps even new religious beliefs,” Emerson added.
HARYANA, INDIA—Salvage excavations in the village of Bohar Majra in northern India have uncovered a rectangular structure identified as a mint dating to King Mihira Bhoja, who ruled between 836 and 885 A.D. According to B.R. Mani of the Archaeological Survey of India, the mint was in use until the eleventh century. “The site has yielded hundreds of terracotta coin molds and crucibles from the last phase of the site,” he told The Hindu.
LUXOR, EGYPT—The tomb of Maayi, a government official from Egypt’s 18th Dynasty, has been accidently discovered by a joint Spanish-Egyptian team digging on Luxor’s west bank. A hole in the wall of tomb number TT109 led them to Maayi’s tomb. “The tomb is very well decorated, which reflects the luxurious life of its owner,” Antiquities Minister Mohamed Ibrahim told Ahram Online. The excavation will continue once the debris blocking the entrance to the tomb is removed.
ROME, ITALY—At an emergency meeting yesterday, Italian officials agreed to release two million euros in funding from the European Union for maintenance at the World Heritage site of Pompeii, where heavy rainfall triggered the collapse of several ancient walls. Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini told BBC News that he was “unblocking many measures which will get the machine working.” Johannes Hahn, Regional Policy Commissioner for the EU, called every collapse “a huge defeat.”
CHILLICOTHE, OHIO—Anthropologists from the University of Sao Paulo and the University of Cambridge analyzed 112 human skulls from Borneo that were known to have been collected by headhunters and published their findings in the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology. They found that 60 percent of the skulls showed signs of violence. But some of the bones only showed signs of cut marks, which would have made it difficult to know if the cut marks had been made during an act of violence or as part of a mortuary custom such as dismemberment and cleaning of the bones. Bradley Lepper, curator of archaeology at the Ohio Historical Society, applied this information to skulls uncovered in Ohio in his column for The Columbus Dispatch. He thinks that the separate human skulls sometimes found in Hopewell mounds burials are the remains of honored ancestors.
CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND—Palaeoclimatologist Yama Dixit of the University of Cambridge and her team tested sediment samples taken from an ancient, closed-basin lake on the edge of the Indus Valley. The age of the layers was determined with radiocarbon dating of organic matter, while the preserved shells of lake snails provided information about oxygen isotopes and water levels. According to a report in Nature News, what they found indicates that the monsoon cycle stopped for some 200 years around 2000 B.C. This long-term drought may have contributed to the decline of the Indus Valley Civilization. “What drove this climate change 4,100 years ago? We don’t see major changes in the North Atlantic or in the solar activity at that time,” asked Anil Gupta, director of the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology in Dehradun, India.
MAINZ, GERMANY—Traces of a 1,200-year-old church have been discovered incorporated into the 1,000-year-old “Old Cathedral” in Mainz. The older walls, which date to the time of Charlemagne, stretch from the basement to the roof. “This is the only surviving Carolingian cathedral in Germany,” Rhineland-Palatinate state curator Joachim Glatz told The Local. Two burials dating to the time of the earlier church have also been found. The building was severely damaged during World War II.