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Tuesday, December 11

Sediment cores taken near the mouth of the Tiber River have revealed the location of Ostia’s harbor. Located to the northwest of the ancient port city, the harbor was as deep as a seaport in order to receive ships carrying wheat for Rome’s citizens. This oldest part of the city, where an imperial palace has also been found, dates to the fourth century B.C. Flooding of the Tiber during the imperial period silted up the harbor and closed the port. Archaeologists now want to know how ships carried goods to Rome for the 25 years between the closing of the port and Ostia and the construction of Portus, a new harbor to the south of the city.

Italian researchers say they have found evidence of habitation by both Neanderthals and modern humans in the caves of Roccia San Sebastiano, which overlook the Tyrrhenian Sea, near Naples. The earliest archaeological layers in the cave are 40,000 years old, and they yielded Neanderthal tools and a tooth lost by a Neanderthal child.

A carnyx, a long, slender trumpet-like instruments decorated with an animal’s head, was recently reassembled from fragments of iron and bronze objects that had been buried in a pit in Tintignac, France. “These items were deliberately damaged so that they could not be used again by mere mortals,” explained Christophe Maniquet of the National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research. An instrument maker was able to examine the result and fashion a new carnyx out of brass so that modern researchers could play and hear the instrument for the first time.

Forensic scientist Susan Hayes of the University of Wollongong has constructed a “facial approximation” for a 30-year-old female “Hobbit,”  based upon the 18,000-year-old remains that were recovered from Liang Bua Cave on the Indonesian island of Flores in 2003. “She’s taken me a bit longer than I’d anticipated, has caused more than a few headaches along the way, but I’m pleased with both the methodological development and the final results,” she said. The controversial fossils were named Homo floresiensis, followed by vigorous debates over whether or not the three-foot-tall adults signified a separate species of early humans. In 2007, Matthew Tocheri of the National Museum of Natural History found that Homo floresiensis wrist bones match those of non-human apes. And in 2009, Dean Falk of Florida State University wrote,” It’s not just that their brains are small; they’re differently shaped. It’s its own species.”

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