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Monday, November 12, 2012

Archaeology News: November 12, 2012

New archaeological work at three locations in southern Oregon — including the newly-found sites of “Camp Castaway” and the Battle of Hungry Hill — will be presented at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14, at the Coos Bay Public Library, 525 Anderson. Dr. Mark Tveskov and Chelsea Rose of the Southern Oregon University Laboratory of Anthropology will describe new evidence from 1852-1856 documenting interactions between new settlers, U.S. government troops and established tribal communities. The free event is jointly sponsored by the Coos County Historical Society and the Coquille Indian Tribe.

The skeletons of three centuries-old Alaska Natives discovered in McGrath last month likely lived and died before Caucasians ever made contact, archaeologists say. A worker clearing Native corporation land to make a gravel-storage site in the Interior Alaska town found a skull in early October. In the silty, sandy ground, an archaeologist and McGrath's local Alaska State Trooper carefully uncovered the bones of three males: an adult, a younger adult and a child.

At a site called Pinnacle Point near Mossel Bay on the south coast of South Africa, a team of scientists have uncovered evidence for an advanced stone age technology dated to 71,000 years ago. The technology, featuring small, sharp stone implements called microliths, allow projectiles used for hunting to be thrown at greater distances, enhancing killing power and providing for greater protection to the thrower from injury when encountering game. The technology is known to have emerged in other regions, including both Africa and Eurasia, about 20,000 years ago.

Decades of extreme weather crippled, and ultimately decimated, first the political culture and later the human population of the ancient Maya, according to a new study by an interdisciplinary team of researchers that includes two University of California, Davis, scientists.The collapse of the Maya is one of the world's most enduring mysteries. Now, for the first time, researchers have combined a precise climatic record of the Maya environment with a precise record of Maya political history to provide a better understanding of the role weather had in the civilization's downfall.

More than 8,000 years ago, a 19-year-old woman and a slightly older man fell — or were they pushed? — into a well. Archaeologists have now uncovered the remains, revealing a Stone Age mystery.
No one knows whether the couple fell into the well by accident or whether foul play was involved, but archaeologists say the choice of final resting place closed the water source for good.

A stalagmite in Belize’s Yok Balum Cave has yielded a 2,000-year-long record of rainfall patterns. Douglas Kennett of Penn State University and his colleagues compared the information they extracted from the stalagmite with historical records kept by the Classic Maya. They found that the Classic Maya civilization rose during a rainy period, and declined with a time of drought. “It looks like the Maya got lulled by a uniquely rainy period in the early Classic period into thinking that water would always be there,” he said. Severe drought pushed the remaining Maya from southern Belize between 1020 and 1100 A.D. Scientists are now investigating the possibility that this climate information could be applied to other parts of the Maya world.

The ancient city of Karkemish sits on the border between Syria and Turkey. Turkey has cleared many of the mines planted on its borders since the 1950s, including its portion of this archaeological zone. Archaeologists and their students have returned to Karkemish, but they stick to approved paths while excavating, and when the site opens to tourists in late 2014, they will also be required to stay on the safe and narrow. The strategic city may be best known as the place where British archaeologist C.L. Woolley and his assistant, T. E. Lawrence, worked in the early twentieth century. Lawrence eventually became known as the legendary “Lawrence of Arabia.”

BR Mani and KN Dikshit, both of the Archaeological Survey of India, claim that new dates from excavations in India and Pakistan suggest that Indian civilization began 2,000 years earlier than previously thought. “On the basis of radio-metric dates from Bhirrana (Haryana), the cultural remains of the pre-early Harappan horizon go back to 7380 to 6201 B.C.,” they announced at the International Conference on Harappan Archaeology.

The Lapita began traveling across the Pacific some 5,000 years ago. New dates obtained from their coral files excavated from the oldest-known settlement on the Tongan island of Tongatapu suggest that these first Polynesian settlers arrived there between 2,830 and 2,846 years ago. Such precise dates came from a new technique that measures levels of radioactive uranium. This new measurement technique could provide archaeologists with a more accurate way to trace Lapita migration routes. “We can look at this progression across the Pacific in ways we couldn’t before,” said David Burley of Simon Fraser University.


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