Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

Special Introductory Offer!
World Roundup Volume 59 Number 3, May/June 2006

South America North America Middle East Europe Australia Asia


Archaeologists have completed excavation of an ancient bridge in the city of Xian dating to the Han Dynasty, between 206 B.C. and A.D. 220. The charred remains of 112 wooden piers suggest that the bridge, the largest ever found in Xian, was most likely destroyed in a fire.

Fragments of a late fourth-century A.D. funerary boat were found in a keyhole-shaped mound in a southern province of Japan's main island of Honshu. According to researchers, the wooden boat, decorated with a vermillion lacquer finish and inscribed with concentric circles, probably never got wet. It was likely used to transport the remains of someone of very high status from a mortuary to the tomb over dry land.


Recent research shows that for tens of thousands of years the inhabitants of Australia have been digging underground water reservoirs in order to live on one of the world's driest continents. Around 70 percent of Australia is covered with desert or semi-arid land, yet aborigines created wells, tunnel reservoirs, and even channeled and filtered their water to avoid contamination and evaporation in the harsh climate.


Excavations in a South London parking lot revealed brick, tile, and stone work from the chapel where Henry VIII wed two of his six wives, including Catherine of Aragon. Annulling that marriage widened the rift between the Catholic Church and Henry VIII. The Tudor chapel was part of the Palace of Placentia, which was destroyed around 1700.

Near & Middle East

A collection of birch-bark manuscripts have been radiocarbon dated to between the first and fifth centuries A.D., making them the oldest-known Buddhist texts. Dubbed the "Dead Sea Scrolls of Buddhism," they are written in a language derived from Sanskrit and recount the life and experiences of the Buddha. The manuscripts date to a period when Buddhism was still largely an oral tradition.

Ancient coppersmiths preferred oil heat over charcoal, according to Italian researchers who found an olive-oil press and olive-oil oven stains at Pyrgos Mavroraki, a 4,000-year-old copper-smelting site. Olive oil, typically associated with ancient foods and perfumes, is thought to be 16 times more efficient than charcoal for heating copper.

North America

Researchers at the Field Museum have discovered an unexpected case of Paleolithic problem dentistry. A new analysis of "Magdalenian Girl," a 15,000-year-old female skeleton found in France and housed at the Field since 1926, shows she suffered the earliest known case of impacted wisdom teeth. Magdalenian Girl's dental woes suggest that the dietary changes that led to smaller jaws prone to impaction may have occured before the introduction of agriculture.
(Courtesy Field Museum)

Archaeologists excavating a 50-foot-long mural in Mexico City say it represents a combination of Aztec and Spanish artistic traditions. Dating to 1530 and painted by Aztec students at a Franciscan monastery, the mural is dominated by a Christian cross floating above European-looking fishermen on a lake shore. The mural's most vivid elements are animals--both mythical and real--some painted in Aztec style.

New York
See "
Insider: Curious George and the Looted Idol."

Novia Scotia
See "Special Report: The Fantome Controversy."

North Carolina
A wreck believed to be Blackbeard's infamous flagship Queen Anne's Revenge will receive a protective coating of sand if an experimental procedure works as planned. Despite concerns it could cause additional damage, dredged sand was dropped in a circle around the wreck in hope that ocean currents would move the sand, burying the exposed wood hull and remaining artifacts.

South America

Ancient inhabitants of the Andes had more culinary options than previously thought. Botanical remains recovered from grinding stones at a 4,000-year-old house on the western Andean slopes include arrowroot, a tuber that can only grow in the rain forest. The ancient Peruvians must have traded with people living in the Amazon basin to supplement their diet. Evidence for corn processing at the same site pushed back the date for the earliest cultivation of maize in Peru by 1,000 years.

* For more news, see "From the Trenches."

© 2006 by the Archaeological Institute of America