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from the trenches
From the Trenches Volume 60 Number 3, May/June 2007

News and Notes from the World of Archaeology

World Roundup
[map]
Recent discoveries around the globe

A Moment in Time: 8th Century A.D.
(The Dark Ages? Hardly.)

ca. 700 The Wari Empire, which would last four times longer than the later Inca Empire, invades Peru's Cuzco Valley and begins wresting influence from its inhabitants, the Moche.

705 The Chinese Tang Dynasty resumes after giving way briefly to the Second Zhou Dynasty, which was ruled by Wu Zetian, China's only female emperor. The imperial capital at Chang'an (now Xi'an) is the world's largest city--home to a million people.

738 18 Rabbit, one of the great kings of the Classic Maya kingdom of Copán, is captured and decapitated by the ruler of Quiriguá, known as Fire-Burning Sky Lightning God. Inscriptions at Copán stop for 20 years and the name of 18 Rabbit is never carved again.

750 The Pueblo I period begins in the American Southwest. Pit-house-dwelling maize farmers begin to construct above-ground masonry structures and organize themselves into large communities.

762 The Abbassid caliphate moves the center of Islamic science, industry, and arts to its vibrant new capital city, Baghdad.

793 The Vikings make their first major raid on the monastery at Lindisfarne on Britain's northern coast.

Hype in the Holy Land
Jesus's Family Tomb ignites biblical archaeology's latest media frenzy.

Exhibitions
   Hall of Human Origins

Books
   Portrait of a Priestess

DVD
   "Engineering an Empire"

Destination
Ball State University archaeologist Ron Hicks shares his favorite undiscovered gem in Ireland.

Web Watch
Our favorite websites about the Giza Plateau:

  • www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/pyramid
    This user-friendly NOVA website documents Mark Lehner's excavation of the ancient settlement at Giza.
  • www.gizapyramids.org
    The Giza Archives Project on the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, website features vintage photographs of early work at the plateau.
  • www.guardians.net/hawass
    Zahi Hawass's website has a section devoted to Giza, and it's the source for robotic exploration of the Great Pyramid.
  • www.3ds.com
    Dassault Systemes showcases the newest theory about the Great Pyramid's construction on its website (requires the 3-D Life Player plug-in).

In the News

Archaeologists at Saqqara use clear plastic tape to hold delicate paint chips in place on one of two rare wooden coffins recently found near King Djoser's Step Pyramid, the oldest in Egypt. The 4,000-year-old coffins belong to a priest and his "girlfriend," according to hieroglyphic inscriptions in the tomb. The painted eyes on the side of the coffin allowed the dead to look out onto the world. —Samir S. Patel

[image] It's no secret that chimpanzees have a knack for using stones to crack nuts. Still, it came as a shock to Iowa State University anthropologist Jill Preutz when she recently observed chimpanzees in Senegal make and use wooden spears to hunt smaller primates. Despite the fact that adult male chimpanzees are usually the ones who hunt down prey, more adult females (like the one to the left) were seen using the spears, leading researchers to speculate that female humans may have played a significant role in the evolution of early technology. In nearby Ivory Coast, a team led by University of Calgary archaeologist Julio Mercader has shown that chimps have an archaeological record that stretches back at least 200 generations. Mercader discovered stone hammers at a "chimpanzee nut-cracking site" that dates to 4,300 years ago. The tools had wear patterns consistent with nut cracking and are similar to stones used by chimps today. The find sparked debate over whether the common ancestor of chimps and humans was already using tools. (For more on tech-savvy chimps, see "Cultured Cousins.") —Eric A. Powell

If you were a nomad in remote China 3,000 years ago and in need of emergency brain surgery, who better to call on than a stoned shaman-priest? In a cluster of more than 2,000 tombs in the northwestern province of Xinjiang, archaeologists found 13 skulls each bearing one or more holes. Healing around the edges and evidence of prior brain injury suggests that the holes were for medical purposes. The skulls were found not far from the mummified remains of the shaman-priests who would have done the surgery. This mummy, wearing a leather jacket, turquoise necklace, and copper and gold earrings, was buried with a big bag of surprisingly well-preserved marijuana for communing with the gods. We're not sure how much help the mystical pothead neurosurgeons were, but apparently some of their patients went back for more--one of the skulls had (gulp) seven holes in it. —Samir S. Patel
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© 2007 by the Archaeological Institute of America
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