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Thursday, November 1
by Jessica E. Saraceni
November 1, 2012

Superstorm Sandy  shut down Archaeology News for two days, and uprooted a tree in New Haven, Connecticut, that revealed a human skeleton. Authorities think the burial dates from the colonial era, when the site was used as a cemetery. The tree was planted in 1909 to commemorate the 100thanniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth.

In the 1950s, a skeleton with metal spikes  through its shoulders, heart, and ankles was found in central England, but a report on the discovery has just been made available. The burial dates to between 550 and 700 A.D. Such treatment of the dead was considered to be appropriate for individuals thought to be capable of returning to life and causing problems for the living. Scholars are no longer sure where this particular rare burial is located. “Throughout the Anglo-Saxon period the punishment of being buried in water-logged ground, face down, decapitated, staked or otherwise was reserved for thieves, murderers, or traitors or later for those deviants who did not conform to society’s rules: adulterers, disrupters of the peace, the unpious or oath breaker. Which of these the Southwell deviant was we will never know,” said archaeologist Matthew Beresford.

And in Kent, an Anglo-Saxon feasting hall  dating to the seventh to ninth centuries A.D. has been found. Archaeologists suspect an entire complex of buildings rests on the site, where they have already excavated an early Christian church and monastery. “This is one of the only areas where you have got the full transition from pagan to Christian,” said Gabor Thomas of Reading University.

The remains of a carrier pigeon  carrying a World War II coded message attached to its leg by means of a tell-tale red capsule were recovered from the chimney of a house in Surrey, England. General Bernard Montgomery had his headquarters at a nearby hotel. “It could have been a secret message for him,” said David Martin, who found the bird. British code breakers are working on the message.

A wave triggered by a massive landslide flooded Geneva, Switzerland, 1,500 years ago, according to a study of sediment deposits at the bottom of Lake Geneva. The city, which was a trade center at the time, would have been flooded.

Now 500 years old, Michelangelo’s frescoes in the Sistine Chapel  are threatened by its 20,000 visitors per day. The famous ceiling was cleaned and restored in the 1990s, but is showing signs of wear and tear again. “The anthropic pressure with dust, the humidity of bodies, carbon dioxide produced by perspiration can cause discomfort for the visitors and, in the long run, damage to the paintings,” said Antonio Paolucci of the Vatican Museums. A new, high-tech air-purifying system is in the works to protect the frescoes. It could be ready in a year.

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