A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
Visit www.archaeology.org/news for the latest archaeological headlines!
Thursday, April 12
by Jessica E. Saraceni
Akrotiri, a Minoan Bronze Age town located on the Greek island of Santorini, reopened to tourists today. The archaeological site closed after a roof covering the excavation area collapsed in 2005, killing one man and injuring six others. Last year, 12 people were put on trial, including civil engineers, architects, and construction workers who were building the steel roof, for manslaughter through neglect, causing bodily harm, damaging a monument, and violating building regulations, which are all misdemeanors. Eight of them received short prison sentences. A new roof has been completed over the ancient town, which was destroyed in the seventeenth-century B.C. by a volcanic eruption.
Businessman Mario Resca was appointed Italy’s culture minister in 2008, and he would like to promote private investment in the country’s museums and galleries as a way to stimulate the economy and increase their operating budgets. He would like to position Italy as the world’s premiere culture destination for tourists.
PhD candidate Chantel Summerfield of Bristol University is recording arborglyphs—inscriptions left on trees—made by soldiers, and then tracking down what happened to those soldiers. She has also compared the arborglyphs left by men in training situations, and those in combat. “As the world wars are slipping away from living memory for most people, it strikes me as being more important than ever that these things are properly recorded for future generations,” she explained.
American Indians built a series of canals in southern Florida long before the arrival of Europeans in order to shorten their trade routes. Many of the canals were filled in during the early twentieth-century, but archaeologists have caught glimpses of a 4,150-foot-long canal connecting the Gulf of Mexico to Naples Bay during construction projects. They would like to excavate a section of it that located on property owned by the city of Naples. “We have big ideas, possibly opening an area where tourists can see the excavation and having a marked Naples Canal trail,” said archaeologist Bob Carr.
Wednesday, April 11
by Jessica E. Saraceni
Thousands of silver coins in a bronze bucket were found on the Baltic island of Gotland during a survey by Swedish archaeologists. The field where the cache was uncovered has produced several treasure finds in the past, which made it vulnerable to looters and prompted the investigation. The coins were probably minted in Germany during the Viking era, and may have been collected and placed in the bucket over time or all at once by a Viking merchant. “We’re certain there isn’t anything left there,” said Per Widerström of the Gotland Museum.
In Newtowne Neck, Maryland, a team of archaeologists is looking for a Roman Catholic chapel built in 1662 by Jesuit missionaries. They think the chapel stood in what is now a historic cemetery located about a half mile away from the current church, which dates to 1731. Excavation has shown that the cemetery contains more graves that the number of headstones would indicate. Broken glass, nails, and a possible post hole have also been found. The original chapel was closed in 1704 when Protestants regained power in England, and was torn down in 1719.
Farmers living in the Amazonian coastal savannas planted their crops in raised beds for hundreds of years before the arrival of Europeans. The farmers also constructed canals and ponds to manage the water supply. Such labor-intensive practices as these would prevent the loss of nutrients from the soil. A new study of soil cores, however, shows a dramatic increase in the amount of charcoal particles after 1492, indicating that uncontrolled fires were used to clear the land. Burning requires less labor, but it also makes the soil less productive. “In a time of climate change, we need an alternative way of managing these savannas that is fire-free, and this is a lesson we can learn from the past,” said archaeobotanist José Iriarte of the University of Exeter.
What had been thought to be an ancient standing stone in Wales has turned out to be the capstone to a rare Neolithic portal dolmen, or a 5,500-year-old ritual burial chamber. The capstone, which is covered with dozens of holes, was tilted on its side. Archaeologists had made note of the site in 1929 and 1972, but it had never been surveyed or excavated until recently. Fragments of decorated pottery and human bones have been recovered, along with two shale beads. Scientists are excited about the discovery, because bones and artifacts do not usually survive in the region’s acidic soil. “They will be able to extract a lot of information from the bones: where these people came from, where they lived, and whether they came from far,” commented Aron Mazel of Newcastle University.