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Monday, June 25, 2012

Archaeology News: June 25, 2012

Archaeologist Filip Mihailov may have discovered the Necropolis of Philip of Macedonia during the excavation of Struma Motorway.

When the Taliban blew the face off a towering, 1,500-year-old rock carving of Buddha in northwest Pakistan almost five years ago, it fell to an intrepid Italian archaeologist to come to the rescue. Thanks to the efforts of Luca Olivieri and his partners, the 6-meter (nearly 20-foot) tall image near the town of Jahanabad is getting a facelift, and many other archaeological treasures in the scenic Swat Valley are being excavated and preserved.

Archaeologists have unearthed what appears to be the foundation of a massive, ancient structure, possibly a bridge leading to an artificial island, in what is now southeast Wales.The strange ruin is unlike anything found before in the UK and possibly all of Europe, said Steve Clarke, chairman of the Monmouth Archaeological Society, who discovered the structural remains recently in Monmouth, Wales -- a town known for its rich archaeological features.

In an announcement that comes just days after the summer solstice, British archaeologists have proposed a new theory about the fabled monument of Stonehenge. The researchers suggest that the rocky site may represent a monument to unity among the dwindling peoples of the ancient British west.

In Roman times, Palmyra was the most important point along the trade route linking the east and west, reaching a population of 100,000 inhabitants. But its history has always been shrouded in mystery: what was a city that size doing in the middle of the desert? How could so many people live in such an inhospitable place nearly 2,000 years ago?

A new study of lake sediment cores from Sanak Island in the western Gulf of Alaska suggests that deglaciation there from the last Ice Age took place as much as 1,500 to 2,000 years earlier than previously thought, opening the door for earlier coastal migration models for the Americas. Massive ice sheets would have prevented travel from Asia into North America and South America, but the earlier dates coincide with coastal migration models and the dates for early archaeological sites such as Monte Verde in Chile and Huaca Prieta in Peru. “Glaciers would have retreated sufficiently so as to not hinder the movement of humans along the southern edge of the Bering land bridge as early as almost 17,000 years ago,” said Nicole Misarti of the University of Alaska at Fairbanks.

Three glass beads discovered in a fifth-century tomb near Kyoto, Japan, are thought to have been made in Italy sometime between the first and fourth centuries. “They are one of the oldest multilayered glass products found in Japan, and very rare accessories that were believed to be made in the Roman Empire and sent to Japan,” said Tomomi Tamura of the Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties.

The Toledo Museum of Art will return a 2,500-year-old water jug, or kalpis, to Italy. The museum purchased the artifact in Switzerland in 1982. “The right thing to do is to return this object. We knew we’d likely lose this. We’ll miss it,” said museum director Brian Kennedy.

Scientists from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, England, say that people from either Egypt, Israel, or Syria mixed with people from Ethiopia some 3,000 years ago, based upon a genetic study of very diverse, modern Ethiopians. “By analyzing the genetics of Ethiopia and several other regions we can see that there was gene flow into Ethiopia, probably from the Levant, around 3,000 years ago, and this fits perfectly with the story of the Queen of Sheba,” said researcher Chris Tyler-Smith.

There are photographs of items from two treasure hoards recently unearthed in Israel at National Geographic Daily News. The first hoard was uncovered in the ruins of a home in Megiddo, concealed within a ceramic vessel some 3,000 years ago. “You can infer that, in this situation, they didn’t have enough time to bury it under the floor. …Then the house was put to the torch, and these people never came back,” said Israel Finkelstein of Tel Aviv University. The second treasure was hidden 2,000 years ago near the city of Qiryat Gat, during the Bar-Kokhba Revolt. The silver and gold coins, silver implements, and jewelry were found buried in a residential courtyard. “Bar-Kokhba was the most violent [Jewish] revolt against the Romans,” said Emil Aladjem of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Nine sets of human remains that were excavated from England’s Eynsham Abby in the late 1980s and early 1990s will be reburied tomorrow in a special ceremony. It is thought that the bones belonged to five medieval monks and a family of four who had continued to practice Roman Catholicism during the post-Reformation period. “When I found out these bodies were still in a storeroom I felt very strongly that they should be reverently buried,” said Father Martin Flatman of St Peter’s Church in Eynsham.


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