Asia & the Pacific
Construction workers building a private villa in China's Jiangsu province stumbled across the tomb of Mu Yang, a son of Mu Yin, the general who lived during the Ming Dynasty (A.D. 1368-1644). Archaeologists were delighted to finally locate the seventh Mu family tomb, but upon excavating it, they discovered that looters digging just a few months before had beaten them to the punch. The chamber was empty.
Climate records from coral in the central Pacific suggest that during the "Medieval Warm Period" (A.D. 900-1200) in the northern hemisphere, the south Pacific cooled off, while during the "Little Ice Age" (A.D. 1550-1900) the climate was warm and wet. These climatic shifts may have had dramatic effects on prehistoric migration and cultivation patterns throughout the region.
Central & South America
Another piece of the Precolumbian puzzle falls into place. Jade axes dating to 1,500 years ago found on the island of Antigua were traced to recently rediscovered jade deposits in Guatemala, nearly 2,000 miles away. Such long-distance trade routes suggest a network of complex, interconnected societies in Central America and the Caribbean.
Call it a case of buyer's remorse. When a rare 1,500-year-old Maya stone box was stolen from a cave near Cancuén, archaeologists worried it would never be seen again. But whoever purchased the artifact must have seen the local media coverage of the theft. About a month later, the box was anonymously returned to the ministry of culture.
At least one Roman legionnaire stationed at the remote outpost of Vindolanda in northern England had a sense of style. Archaeologists have found a surprisingly valuable silver brooch depicting Mars, god of war, and incised with the name Quintus Sollonius. It's thought the fashion-conscious soldier was part of a detachment of soldiers sent to help build Hadrian's Wall.
A 3,000-year-old skeleton of a woman has been discovered in the heart of the Roman Forum. Buried in style some 300 years before Rome was founded, she was wearing an amber necklace, gold pendant, and bronze jewelry. But archaeologists were most surprised at the bones themselves--burials from the period were usually cremations.
Shell necklaces are now vacation souvenirs, but humans have been wearing them for ages. In Israel and Algeria, far from the coast, archaeologists found snail shells with distinctive puncture holes. A new dating of the shells places them around 100,000 years old, pushing back the history of human adornment--and jewelry envy--about 25,000 years.
Researchers in Rhode Island have discovered the remains of four British ships sunk by their own crews during the American Revolution. According to historical sources, the British scuttled the ships in 1778 to act as a barrier to prevent the French from attacking Newport. Apparently it worked.
A French family claiming they patented the smiley-face symbol in 1971 is suing Wal-Mart for copyright infringement. Despite their claim, family member Franklin Loufrani conceded in a newspaper interview that, "a prehistoric man probably invented the smiley face in some cave." No word on whether Loufrani has trademarked that other hallmark of ancient cave art: The handprint.