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Monday, September 24

Two genetic studies have shown that various groups of southern African bushmen fall into two distinct genetic clusters. Scientists examined variations at individual nucleotides, and determined that click-speaking populations in southern Africa are split into groups that were divided by the Kalahari some 30,000 years ago. In addition, click-speaking groups living in east Africa have a genetic link to southern African click-speakers. “Africa was very dry during the last glacial maximum, and this might have led to an extended period of smaller overall population sizes, more population subdivision and increased fragmentation,” explained Rasmus Nielsen of the University of California, Berkeley.

Documentary filmmaker Brent Huffman of Northwestern University hopes to save the 2,600-year-old Buddhist site of Mes Aynak in Afghanistan. Its temples, monasteries, and statues stood along the Silk Road, turning the city into a large center of religion and trade. Now, a copper mining project conducted by the Chinese government is set to destroy an archaeological site that survived the Taliban. Archaeologists had been given three years to excavate the site, which ends in December. “Afghans will see no benefit. They will suffer from irreversible environmental devastation and the permanent loss of invaluable cultural heritage,” writes Huffman.

A porch-like structure known as a mantapa has collapsed at the Hampi World Heritage Area, located within the ancient capital of the Vijayanagar Empire in southwestern India. Officials from the Archaeological Survey of India suspect that treasure hunters are to blame, as a result of the reduced number of patrols at the ancient site. The police are investigating the case.

Prehistoric artifacts between 10,000 and 5,000 years old have been uncovered at the site of Ein Zippori in northern Israel. The artifacts, including obsidian blades, flint tools, stone beads, pottery figurines, and basalt vessels, belong to the Wadi Rabah culture, which is known for its rectangular rooms made of stone foundations, mud-brick walls, and floors made of crushed chalk or small stones. “Pottery bearing features characteristic of the Wadi Rabah culture such as painted and incised decorations and red and black painted vessels were exposed,” added Ianir Milevski and Nimrod Getzov of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Human remains, including four skulls, turned up in the backyard of a family townhouse in Edinburgh, Scotland. Police suspect that the bones are more than 100 years old. “We don’t think it’s being treated as a criminal investigation but the police haven’t yet been able to say what happened. It’s quite unnerving because we can’t help thinking there’s always the chance there could be more down there,” said the new home owner.

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