MEXICO: At an isolated site in Sonora, archaeologists have found extensive evidence of North America's oldest culture, the Clovis. It is the first site of its kind excavated in the country, and has yielded 13,000-year-old stone artifacts and the bones of two juvenile gomphotheres, mastodons with distinctive lower tusks, that had probably been hunted or scavenged. (Illustration by Karen Carr)
UK: "Gloucester Goth," the 1,600-year-old remains interred in a substantial mausoleum have long puzzled archaeologists. The man was buried with silver buckles and an inlaid knife that indicate either exotic tastes or an origin in central or eastern Europe. Collagen and stable isotope analyses confirm that he was from somewhere east of Poland; researchers speculate he was a mercenary, perhaps hired as a bodyguard or to police river pirates. (Courtesy David Rice, Gloucester Museums)
GREECE: In the first year of a new project at the submerged site of Pavlopetri, archaeologists found that the Mycenaean town was actually first established around 5,000 years ago, some 1,200 years earlier than previously thought. They also identified 10,000 square feet of new buildings, including what might be an Early Bronze Age megaron, or great hall. The later Mycenaeans are well known for their palaces and citadels, but this site offers a perspective on provincial life and maritime trade.
(Courtesy Jon Henderson, University of Nottingham)
BOTSWANA: In a large, dry lake basin in the Kalahari, scientists have begun to study some of the most extensive evidence of Middle Stone Age life in the southern African interior. Among the discoveries are quantities of stone tools that will help show how humans coped with wet and dry periods around 150,000 years ago. Some of the hand axes are the size of dinner plates. The use--practical or symbolic--of these surprisingly large artifacts has yet to be determined. (Courtesy Sallie Burrough, University of Oxford)
ISRAEL: In what was once a shop in the Roman city of Hippos, excavators found a cache of three Aphrodite figurines--in her "Venus pudica" form, in which she covers her nether regions with her hand. The first- or second-century A.D. statuettes had apparently been hidden away. Also discovered were
the remains of an early Roman period basilica and small theater.
(Both Courtesy Arthur Segal and Michael Eisenberg, University of Haifa)
GEORGIA: Tiny pieces of flax, identified by microscope in clay samples from Dzudzuana Cave, are the oldest-known fibers used by humans. Some of the hundreds of fibers were spun, cut, or dyed. The flax, collected from wild plants around 34,000 years ago, could have been used to make thread to tie stone tools to handles, weave baskets, or sew colorful clothes. (Courtesy Eliso Kvavadze, National Museum of Georgia)
TURKEY: Small figurines of humans and animals such as cattle and sheep from the 9,000-year-old town of Çatalhöyük have long been thought to have religious significance. But because they are rarely found in niches or altars, some researchers now believe that they were more like toys or teaching aides, commonly carried and easily discarded.
(Courtesy Çatalhöyük Project)
CHINA: The ranks of the famed terracotta army of Xi'an are growing, but be wary of what you read about them. Over the summer, archaeologists began the first new excavation of soldiers in 20 years, in part because of advances that will help preserve some of their original colorful paint. Since the work began, several stories about the finds--from the purported discovery of hundreds of new soldiers to ones without beards--have made the rounds. But those are not true; it may be some time before the site's museum announces official results.
CHILE: Four female skulls found in a 500- to 1,000-year-old cemetery, perhaps used by the farming and llama-breeding Atacameno culture, appeared to have been partially dissolved. DNA has helped solve the mystery of what caused the damage. Researchers discovered that the women had leishmanasis, a parasitic disease that causes erosive sores. However, the parasite is not endemic to the area because of its dry climate and high altitude, suggesting the women had migrated there, perhaps from tropical lowlands 250 miles away. (PLoS One)
PERU: Analysis of pollen, floral remains, and sediments suggests the Nazca civilization may have committed ecocide. The study found that plant life in the desert they occupied changed over time, from huarango trees to maize to weeds. Among other things, the trees helped mitigate flood damage and replenish aquifers. But with them gone because of agriculture, the floods from an A.D. 500 El Nino event spelled doom for the society famous for its massive geoglyphs. (Photos: Olive Whaley, RBG Kew / David Beresford-Jones)