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from the trenches
World Roundup Volume 60 Number 5, September/October 2007
by Samir S. Patel

Europe Asia and the Pacific Africa South America North America


As they race the construction of a dam that will inundate countless archaeological sites ("Damming Sudan," Nov/Dec 2006), researchers have found the pounding and grinding stones of an organized gold-processing center for the kingdom of Kush, which rose to power in the region between 2000 and 1500 B.C. The site, called Hosh el-Guruf, was more than 100 miles from the capital city, which hints at the kingdom's power and reach.
(AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

Asia & The Pacific

When you see 400-year-old Ming Dynasty porcelain on a fishing boat, something must be wrong. Police confiscated more than 100 pieces in the last few months. After a little "persuasion," the fishermen led authorities to a shipwreck archaeologists have dubbed South China Sea II. Coincidentally, the find came as state archaeologists had just begun salvage operations on South China Sea I, an even older Song Dynasty ship also laden with porcelain.

North Korea
According to a report on The Daily NK--a South Korea-based website dedicated to democracy--thieves raided the historical museum in Haeju, North Korea, making off with a golden Buddha statue and a variety of unspecified ancient Korean artifacts. A representative of the notoriously secretive government told ARCHAEOLOGY that the story was fabricated by South Korean and American intelligence agencies.

When Toba Volcano in Indonesia blew its top 74,000 years ago--the largest known volcanic eruption--it decimated human populations worldwide. In addition to affecting climate, it blanketed the Indian subcontinent in 4 to 6 inches of ash. But new finds in south India suggest that humans there endured. On both sides of the ash layer, archaeologists have found similar sets of stone tools, suggesting both that modern human foragers reached India by that time and that they took the eruption in stride.


Czech Republic
A new find shows that ancient Bohemians snacked on frog legs, a staple of modern continental cuisine. At a site dating from 3000 to 2800 B.C., researchers found nearly 900 common frog bone fragments. Most of them were from the meaty hind legs, and 10 percent were charred, indicating that they had been cooked. Dobrou chut'!
(Wikipedia Commons)
This Iron Age lion looks awfully familiar. The 1,100-year-old bronze brooch found at Uppakra, one of Scandinavia's most important Viking-era sites, bears more than a passing resemblance to a certain beloved corporate mascot. Animal heads, common motifs at the time, some-times depicted strange fantasy creatures.
(Bengt Almgren/Jerry Rosengren)

The world's oldest wooden anchor was found embedded in 5 feet of sediment at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea. Discovered near the modern coastal city of Urla, the 7th-century B.C. artifact consisted of a wooden post with a metal cap on one end. The port of Klazomenai, where it originated, likely sank because of a natural disaster in the 6th century B.C.

Near & Middle East

: In 332 B.C., Alexander the Great conquered the seemingly impenetrable Phoenician island fortress at Tyre by building a half-mile causeway--a stunning military and engineering accomplishment. But a new study posits that Alexander got assistance from a submerged sandbar, so he crossed water only a yard or two deep. The researchers theorize that the causeway altered coastal currents and helped permanently join Tyre with the mainland.

North America

When Inuit whalers legally hunted and killed a 49-foot bowhead whale this May, they were surprised to find the tip of an old bomb lance, an explosive spear, embedded in its shoulder blade. Historians at the New Bedford Whaling Museum determined it was fired into the whale around 1890, and notches carved into its shaft mean it was used by Inuit hunters.
(John C. "Craig" George)

Braving the frigid waters of a lake on an extinct volcano near Mexico City, archaeologists found wooden scepters shaped like lightning bolts. The curvy sticks were used 500 years ago to summon the Aztec rain god, Tlaloc. The team also discovered obsidian flakes and cactus spines that may have been used for ritual bloodletting and other ceremonies.

© 2007 by the Archaeological Institute of America