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17th-Century Vaults Unearthed in 13th-Century Irish Church

October 24, 2014

CORK, IRELAND—Subsidence in the aisle at St. Mary’s Collegiate Church in Youghal, a prosperous medieval port town, has led to the discovery of three burial vaults dating to the seventeenth century. The church, which was built in 1250, is the oldest continuously used church in Ireland. “We have unearthed some pottery and coins from the seventeenth century and a fabulous underground central heating system which was modelled on the Roman aqua duct system. It dates to the eighteenth century and boiling water was poured in to provide the heating,” archaeologist Caroline Desmond told The Irish Examiner. Desmond and her team will stabilize the area where they have been working and continue the investigation next year because the church’s annals indicate that another five tombs remain to be found under the aisle. “We will undoubtedly find more archaeology there. The roof of the church is still the original and it was built by French carpenters. That also goes to show that Youghal was a very prosperous town at the time as the merchants were able to pay to bring in skilled labor from abroad,” she explained. 

Categories: Blog

17th-Century Vaults Unearthed in 13th-Century Irish Church

October 24, 2014

CORK, IRELAND—Subsidence in the aisle at St. Mary’s Collegiate Church in Youghal, a prosperous medieval port town, has led to the discovery of three burial vaults dating to the seventeenth century. The church, which was built in 1250, is the oldest continuously used church in Ireland. “We have unearthed some pottery and coins from the seventeenth century and a fabulous underground central heating system which was modelled on the Roman aqua duct system. It dates to the eighteenth century and boiling water was poured in to provide the heating,” archaeologist Caroline Desmond told The Irish Examiner. Desmond and her team will stabilize the area where they have been working and continue the investigation next year because the church’s annals indicate that another five tombs remain to be found under the aisle. “We will undoubtedly find more archaeology there. The roof of the church is still the original and it was built by French carpenters. That also goes to show that Youghal was a very prosperous town at the time as the merchants were able to pay to bring in skilled labor from abroad,” she explained. 

Categories: Blog

Dental Health in Roman Britain Studied

October 24, 2014

LONDON, ENGLAND—Only five percent of Roman Britons had severe gum disease, despite the prevalence of infections, abscesses, and tooth decay in their smiles, according to a study conducted by a team made of researchers from King’s College London and London’s Natural History Museum. They examined 303 skulls recovered from a cemetery in Dorset. Most of these people had died in their 40s sometime between 200 and 400 A.D. “The amount of severe gum disease around today is around one third of the population. But much to our surprise these people didn’t have a lot of gum disease, but they did have a lot of other dental problems,” Francis Hughes of the dental institute at King’s College London told BBC News. Wear and tear from abrasive grains and cereals in the pre-toothbrush age probably contributed to longstanding infections and chronic pain. “This study shows a major deterioration in oral health between Roman times and modern England. By underlining the probable role of smoking, especially in determining the susceptibility to progressive periodontitis in modern populations, there is a real sign that the disease can be avoided,” added Theya Molleson of the Natural History Museum.  For more on the study of dental health, see "The Virtues of Stone Age Dentistry." 

Categories: Blog

Dental Health in Roman Britain Studied

October 24, 2014

LONDON, ENGLAND—Only five percent of Roman Britons had severe gum disease, despite the prevalence of infections, abscesses, and tooth decay in their smiles, according to a study conducted by a team made of researchers from King’s College London and London’s Natural History Museum. They examined 303 skulls recovered from a cemetery in Dorset. Most of these people had died in their 40s sometime between 200 and 400 A.D. “The amount of severe gum disease around today is around one third of the population. But much to our surprise these people didn’t have a lot of gum disease, but they did have a lot of other dental problems,” Francis Hughes of the dental institute at King’s College London told BBC News. Wear and tear from abrasive grains and cereals in the pre-toothbrush age probably contributed to longstanding infections and chronic pain. “This study shows a major deterioration in oral health between Roman times and modern England. By underlining the probable role of smoking, especially in determining the susceptibility to progressive periodontitis in modern populations, there is a real sign that the disease can be avoided,” added Theya Molleson of the Natural History Museum.  For more on the study of dental health, see "The Virtues of Stone Age Dentistry." 

Categories: Blog

Ancient Burial Mounds Looted in Denmark

October 24, 2014

GRINDSTED, DENMARK—Police are investigating the destruction of four ancient burial sites in southeast Jutland, according to a report in The Copenhagen Post. The protected graves were estimated to be 4,000 years old. Similar burials have contained stone axes, jewelry, and pottery. This is the first time graves in Denmark have been plundered since the end of the 1890s. “The things we could have learned from the burial mounds have now been erased from history. We can no longer investigate how ancient life was in this area of Jutland,” said archaeologist Lars Bjarke Christensen of the country’s culture ministry. 

Categories: Blog

Ancient Burial Mounds Looted in Denmark

October 24, 2014

GRINDSTED, DENMARK—Police are investigating the destruction of four ancient burial sites in southeast Jutland, according to a report in The Copenhagen Post. The protected graves were estimated to be 4,000 years old. Similar burials have contained stone axes, jewelry, and pottery. This is the first time graves in Denmark have been plundered since the end of the 1890s. “The things we could have learned from the burial mounds have now been erased from history. We can no longer investigate how ancient life was in this area of Jutland,” said archaeologist Lars Bjarke Christensen of the country’s culture ministry. 

Categories: Blog

Golden Horde City Excavated in Russia

October 24, 2014

ISTANBUL, TURKEY—A thirteenth-century city founded by Batu Khan, a descendant of Genghis Khan, is being excavated in Russia. Located along the Volga River, this prosperous city, known as Ukek, was part of the Golden Horde kingdom, which controlled many of the Silk Road trade routes connecting China and Europe. Christianity, Islam, and Shamanism were all practiced in Ukek. Archaeologists from the Saratov Regional Museum of Local Lore are currently excavating two temples in the city’s Christian quarter. The earlier temple had a tile roof and was decorated inside and out with murals and stone carvings. “Some items belonging to the local elite were found in the Christian district. Among other things, there is a Chinese glass hair pin, with a head shaped as a split pomegranate, and a fragment of a bone plate with a carved dragon image,” archaeologist Dmitriy Kubankin told Live Science. Goods such as imported fine plates and bottles were found stored the temple’s basement. When that temple was destroyed, a second was built with stone walls and a tile roof. The city was eventually conquered by Tamerlane in 1395. Kubankin presented his team’s findings at the recent meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists. To read about the excavation of medieval fortifications in Siberia, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "Fortress of Solitude."

Categories: Blog

Golden Horde City Excavated in Russia

October 24, 2014

ISTANBUL, TURKEY—A thirteenth-century city founded by Batu Khan, a descendant of Genghis Khan, is being excavated in Russia. Located along the Volga River, this prosperous city, known as Ukek, was part of the Golden Horde kingdom, which controlled many of the Silk Road trade routes connecting China and Europe. Christianity, Islam, and Shamanism were all practiced in Ukek. Archaeologists from the Saratov Regional Museum of Local Lore are currently excavating two temples in the city’s Christian quarter. The earlier temple had a tile roof and was decorated inside and out with murals and stone carvings. “Some items belonging to the local elite were found in the Christian district. Among other things, there is a Chinese glass hair pin, with a head shaped as a split pomegranate, and a fragment of a bone plate with a carved dragon image,” archaeologist Dmitriy Kubankin told Live Science. Goods such as imported fine plates and bottles were found stored the temple’s basement. When that temple was destroyed, a second was built with stone walls and a tile roof. The city was eventually conquered by Tamerlane in 1395. Kubankin presented his team’s findings at the recent meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists. To read about the excavation of medieval fortifications in Siberia, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "Fortress of Solitude."

Categories: Blog

Rapa Nui Genes Suggest Pre-Columbian Voyage

October 23, 2014

OSLO, NORWAY—Evidence for contact between Polynesians from Easter Island and South Americans sometime before 1500 A.D. has been found in the genomes of 27 living Rapa Nui islanders, according to a report in Science. European and Native American DNA patterns were found in the modern Rapa Nui genomes. The Native American DNA patterns accounted for about eight percent of the Rapa Nui genomes, and they were broken up and scattered, suggesting that genetic recombination had been at work on the material for some time. The relatively intact sections of European genetic patterns were unevenly spread among the population. This suggests that European genes were introduced relatively recently, perhaps when explorers settled on the island in the nineteenth century. “Our studies strongly suggest that Native Americans most probably arrived [on Rapa Nui] shortly after the Polynesians,” said Erik Thorsby of the University of Oslo. But other scientists think that Pacific currents make it more likely that Polynesians sailed to South America, where they obtained sweet potatoes, chickens, and South American women before they returned home. For more on possible contacts between Polynesia and South America, see "Polynesian Chickens in Chile."

Categories: Blog

Rapa Nui Genes Suggest Pre-Columbian Voyage

October 23, 2014

OSLO, NORWAY—Evidence for contact between Polynesians from Easter Island and South Americans sometime before 1500 A.D. has been found in the genomes of 27 living Rapa Nui islanders, according to a report in Science. European and Native American DNA patterns were found in the modern Rapa Nui genomes. The Native American DNA patterns accounted for about eight percent of the Rapa Nui genomes, and they were broken up and scattered, suggesting that genetic recombination had been at work on the material for some time. The relatively intact sections of European genetic patterns were unevenly spread among the population. This suggests that European genes were introduced relatively recently, perhaps when explorers settled on the island in the nineteenth century. “Our studies strongly suggest that Native Americans most probably arrived [on Rapa Nui] shortly after the Polynesians,” said Erik Thorsby of the University of Oslo. But other scientists think that Pacific currents make it more likely that Polynesians sailed to South America, where they obtained sweet potatoes, chickens, and South American women before they returned home. For more on possible contacts between Polynesia and South America, see "Polynesian Chickens in Chile."

Categories: Blog

Massive 6,000-Year-Old Temple Unearthed in Ukraine

October 23, 2014

KIEV, UKRAINE—Tech Times reports that the remains of a two-story building surrounded by a galleried courtyard have been found in a prehistoric settlement of more than 1,200 buildings near Nebelivka. The 6,000-year-old building, whose upper floor had been divided into five rooms decorated with red paint, is thought to have been a temple of the Trypillian culture, and contained fragments of human figurines. Eight clay platforms that may have been used as altars were also discovered, including one on the upper floor that contained “numerous burnt bones of lamb, associated with sacrifice,” Nataliya Burdo and Mykhailo Videiko of the Institute of Archaeology, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, wrote in a paper that they presented at the European Association of Archaeologists’ annual meeting in Istanbul. Pottery fragments and animal bones were also found in the courtyard. Small ornaments of bone and gold may have been worn in the hair. To hear a prehistoric language that may have been spoken in Ukraine around this time, see "Telling Tales in Proto-Indo-European."

Categories: Blog

Massive 6,000-Year-Old Temple Unearthed in Ukraine

October 23, 2014

KIEV, UKRAINE—Tech Times reports that the remains of a two-story building surrounded by a galleried courtyard have been found in a prehistoric settlement of more than 1,200 buildings near Nebelivka. The 6,000-year-old building, whose upper floor had been divided into five rooms decorated with red paint, is thought to have been a temple of the Trypillian culture, and contained fragments of human figurines. Eight clay platforms that may have been used as altars were also discovered, including one on the upper floor that contained “numerous burnt bones of lamb, associated with sacrifice,” Nataliya Burdo and Mykhailo Videiko of the Institute of Archaeology, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, wrote in a paper that they presented at the European Association of Archaeologists’ annual meeting in Istanbul. Pottery fragments and animal bones were also found in the courtyard. Small ornaments of bone and gold may have been worn in the hair. To hear a prehistoric language that may have been spoken in Ukraine around this time, see "Telling Tales in Proto-Indo-European."

Categories: Blog

Archaeologists Survey Everglades Site

October 23, 2014

HOMESTEAD, FLORIDA—National Park Service archaeologists are looking for prehistoric artifacts in an area of Everglades National Park that is slated for restoration and a new boardwalk. When the Anhinga Slough was dredged in 1968 after a record drought, park rangers collected hundreds of artifacts, but the site was never excavated. “It’s unique in the sense that it’s a submerged site. We don’t have very many of those in Florida and in this area at all. That’s why it’s special,” Penny Del Bene, chief of cultural resources, told Phys.org. So far scientists have recovered burnt wood, bone fragments, and shells for study.

Categories: Blog

Archaeologists Survey Everglades Site

October 23, 2014

HOMESTEAD, FLORIDA—National Park Service archaeologists are looking for prehistoric artifacts in an area of Everglades National Park that is slated for restoration and a new boardwalk. When the Anhinga Slough was dredged in 1968 after a record drought, park rangers collected hundreds of artifacts, but the site was never excavated. “It’s unique in the sense that it’s a submerged site. We don’t have very many of those in Florida and in this area at all. That’s why it’s special,” Penny Del Bene, chief of cultural resources, told Phys.org. So far scientists have recovered burnt wood, bone fragments, and shells for study.

Categories: Blog

45,000-Year-Old Genome of Modern Human Sequenced

October 23, 2014

LEIPZIG, GERMANY—The complete genome of a very ancient modern human has been sequenced by Svante Pääbo and his team at the Max Plank Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. “It’s almost twice as old as the next oldest genome that has been sequenced,” Pääbo told NPR. The 45,000-year-old DNA was obtained from cells collected from the center of a femur discovered near the Irtysh River in western Siberia. The analysis shows that the man had long Neanderthal gene sequences, indicating that he’d had Neanderthal ancestors who lived between 50,000 and 60,000 years ago. “They actually mixed with each other and did have children,” Pääbo said. For more on Pääbo's work, see "Neanderthal Genome Decoded."

Categories: Blog

45,000-Year-Old Genome of Modern Human Sequenced

October 23, 2014

LEIPZIG, GERMANY—The complete genome of a very ancient modern human has been sequenced by Svante Pääbo and his team at the Max Plank Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. “It’s almost twice as old as the next oldest genome that has been sequenced,” Pääbo told NPR. The 45,000-year-old DNA was obtained from cells collected from the center of a femur discovered near the Irtysh River in western Siberia. The analysis shows that the man had long Neanderthal gene sequences, indicating that he’d had Neanderthal ancestors who lived between 50,000 and 60,000 years ago. “They actually mixed with each other and did have children,” Pääbo said. For more on Pääbo's work, see "Neanderthal Genome Decoded."

Categories: Blog

World War II Battlefield Found Off the Coast of North Carolina

October 22, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries have located the wreckage of the German U-boat 576 and the freighter Bluefields, which sank some 30 miles off the coast of North Carolina on July 15, 1942. All aboard Bluefields were rescued, but the crew of U-576 was lost, making the site a war grave. “We have discovered an important battle site that is part of the Battle of the Atlantic. These two ships rest only a few hundred yards apart and together help us interpret and share their forgotten stories,” announced Joe Hoyt, a NOAA sanctuary scientist. Bluefields was part of a group of 19 merchant ships that was traveling to Key West, Florida, when attacked by the U-576. U.S. Navy Kingfisher aircraft, which provided the convoy’s air cover, bombed the submarine while another merchant ship attacked it with its deck gun. “Most people associate the Battle of the Atlantic with the cold, icy waters of the North Atlantic. But few people realize how close the war actually came to America’s shores. As we learn more about the underwater battlefield, Bluefields and U-576 will provide additional insight into a relatively little-known chapter in American history,” said David Alberg, superintendent of NOAA’s Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. 

Categories: Blog

World War II Battlefield Found Off the Coast of North Carolina

October 22, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries have located the wreckage of the German U-boat 576 and the freighter Bluefields, which sank some 30 miles off the coast of North Carolina on July 15, 1942. All aboard Bluefields were rescued, but the crew of U-576 was lost, making the site a war grave. “We have discovered an important battle site that is part of the Battle of the Atlantic. These two ships rest only a few hundred yards apart and together help us interpret and share their forgotten stories,” announced Joe Hoyt, a NOAA sanctuary scientist. Bluefields was part of a group of 19 merchant ships that was traveling to Key West, Florida, when attacked by the U-576. U.S. Navy Kingfisher aircraft, which provided the convoy’s air cover, bombed the submarine while another merchant ship attacked it with its deck gun. “Most people associate the Battle of the Atlantic with the cold, icy waters of the North Atlantic. But few people realize how close the war actually came to America’s shores. As we learn more about the underwater battlefield, Bluefields and U-576 will provide additional insight into a relatively little-known chapter in American history,” said David Alberg, superintendent of NOAA’s Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. 

Categories: Blog

Bone Study Suggests Gladiators Drank Ash Tonic

October 21, 2014

VIENNA, AUSTRIA—Analysis of the bones of gladiators excavated from the ancient city of Ephesus show that these warriors, who lived in the second or third century B.C., ate a mostly vegetarian diet of beans and grains, as did many other people living in the city. The amount of strontium in the gladiators’ bones, however, suggests that they had access to minerals and calcium that the rest of the population did not. Contemporary reports refer to gladiators as “hordearii,” or “barley eaters,” and mention a tonic made of ashes that scholars now think probably did exist. “Plant ashes were evidently consumed to fortify the body after physical exertion and to promote better bone healing,” study leader Fabian Kanz of the Medical University of Vienna told Science Daily. “Things were similar then to what we do today—we take magnesium and calcium (in the form of effervescent tablets, for example) following physical exertion.”

Categories: Blog

Rock Art Panels May Be Linked to Hallucinogenic Plants

October 20, 2014

ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO—Archaeologist Lawrence Loendorf of Sacred Sites Research was documenting rock art sites in southern New Mexico when he realized that hallucinogenic plants were growing beneath panels painted with series of triangles in red, yellow, and black. One of the plants, known as coyote tobacco, contains up to three times the amount of nicotine as conventional tobacco. It can bring on a trance-like state if smoked continuously for six to eight hours. The other plant, datura, is a potentially deadly psychedelic drug. He’s also found 1,000-year-old pottery at the 24 sites. “Every one of the sites where we find the tobacco, we also find El Paso ceramics, or we find other kinds of pots…that date generally in that same range,” Loendorf told Western Digs. The painted triangle motifs are recognized as a symbol of water and water-carrying vessels, so Loendorf speculates that shamans may have brought the plants to the sites for use in ceremonies and ended up seeding the plants accidentally. “I think that probably the ultimate reason for going through this trance is to intervene with spirits to make it rain,” he explained. The rock art will be dated with plasma oxidation technology. For more on rock art in New Mexico, see "Searching for the Comanche Empire."

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