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Tuesday, December 18
by Jessica E. Saraceni
In 2009, a metal detector enthusiast discovered what came to be known as the Staffordshire Hoard, a collection of more than 3,000 gold and silver Anglo-Saxon objects dating to the seventh and eighth centuries. Last month, after the farmer-owned English field was plowed, archaeologists and metal detector enthusiasts returned to search for additional metalwork pieces. They recovered more than 90 of them, some of which fit with parts from the original hoard. The newly found artifacts include a possible helmet cheek piece, a cross-shaped mount, and an eagle-shaped mount. “We think these items were buried at a deeper level which is why we didn’t find them first time around,” said County Council archaeologist, Steve Dean.
While waiting for DNA test results on the remains of a skeleton that may or may not be Richard III, archaeologists have created a digital replica of the medieval inn where the king slept the night before he was killed in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. Architectural drawings of the famed Blue Boar Inn, which was demolished in 1836, were found in the archives of a local Leicester family. “When I was looking through this notebook, what was thrilling about it was that the drawings were so detailed. They showed how the building was put together—the timber framing, the joints, peg holes—all annotated with measurements in feet and inches,” said Richard Buckley of Leicester University.
Forensic analysis of the Egyptian mummy of Ramesses III by scientists from the Institute for Mummies and the Iceman suggests that he was murdered. CT scans revealed a deep cut in the pharaoh’s neck that had been covered for millennia with bandages. “People had examined his body before and had done radiographs but they didn’t notice any trauma. They did not have access to the CT scans that we do. We were very surprised by what we found. We cannot be sure that the cut killed him, but we think it did,” said paleopathologist Albert Zink. Ancient documents record that Ramesses III was killed by members of his harem as part of a palace coup involving his son, Prince Pentawere. Additional tests on an unusual, unidentified mummy from a royal tomb near the Valley of the Kings indicate that it could be the remains of the pharaoh’s convicted son.
Lorna Tilley and Marc Oxenham of Australian National University say that a 4,000-year-old skeleton uncovered in northern Vietnam shows that the prehistoric people of Man Bac cared for the sick and disabled among them. The person suffered from fused vertebrae and weak bones, and probably eventually became paralyzed from the waist down as the result of a congenital disease. This ancient skeleton is one of about 30 examples in the world of someone who received care from others in order to make survival possible. “The provision and receipt of health care may therefore reflect some of the most fundamental aspects of a culture,” they conclude.
Monday, December 17
by Jessica E. Saraceni
Skeletal remains clad in armor dating to the early sixth century A.D. have been uncovered from a layer of volcanic ash at Japan’s Kanai Higashiura ruins. The man probably died during the eruption of a nearby volcano. His armor had been fashioned from small overlapping metal plates, which were manufactured to the southeast. Such imported armor has been found in the tombs of high-ranking people, but this is the first time it has ever been found on its owner as it was worn.
A coded World War II message discovered earlier this year in England has been cracked. Researcher Gord Young of Ontario had a World War I code book that had been kept in his family. This was a key factor in solving the riddle, since war-time code books and computers in England had been destroyed. The message, which was found strapped to the skeletal remains of a carrier pigeon that had never reached its destination, had been sent by a paratrooper who had been dropped into occupied Normandy. He was killed a few weeks after sending the message.
A large altar dedicated to Poseidon, Greek god of the sea, has been unearthed in the Bulgarian Black Sea town of Sozopol. Pieces of marble at the site suggest that the altar was part of a temple that was destroyed after Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. The temple was soon replaced with a church dedicated to Nicholas, the Christian patron of fishermen and sailors.
More than 400 flints have been found at a national park in Yorkshire, England. They could mark the spot of a Mesolithic campsite. Some of the flint fragments are burnt, suggesting that there had been camp fires or hearths at the site 7,000 years ago. “Even busy base camps may have left little trace behind them. Structures such as shelters are likely to have been easily transportable and a few stake holes may be the only evidence for them,” said a spokesperson for the excavation project.