Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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[image] TENNESSEE: On the site of the University of Tennessee's new sorority village, archaeologists uncovered trenches and wheel ruts left by Confederate artillery in the Battle of Fort Sanders in November 1863--one of the Union's most lopsided victories. They also found the remains of fires the weary soldiers used to keep warm, and stoneware that confirms the soldiers were from South Carolina. The $45-million sorority paradise is expected to be completed in two years. (Courtesy Michael Angst, Archaeological Research Laboratory, University of Tennessee)

[image] MEXICO: A carving at the Zapotec site of Lambityeco shows that rulers of this pre-Hispanic culture might have carried human femurs as symbols of authority. Excavations of 1,500-year-old burials at nearby Mitla have confirmed it--one of the graves was reopened decades after burial so a thigh bone could be removed. The burial appears to be of a commoner, suggesting that femur-toting may not have been restricted to elites. (Courtesy Linda Nicholas (top), Courtesy Gary Feinman (bottom)

[image] SCOTLAND: His legs suggest he spent a lot of time on horseback. He lost teeth, either from a fall or a blow to the face, and took an arrow in the back. Oh, and he has a dent in his forehead, possibly from an ax. A new analysis of 600-year-old remains found in Stirling Castle shows that the young man who suffered these wounds--he may have been a knight--survived them all. A sword through the nose and jaw finally brought him down. (Courtesy Historic Scotland)

[image] IRELAND: Irish bogs have preserved everything from logs to swords to complete human bodies. Workers for a peat company recently found a 3,000-year-old wood barrel of butter, which had transformed over the years into adipocere, a wax that forms from animal fat. The butter might have been "bogged" for storage or to improve its taste--though no one is sampling this batch. (Courtesy the National Museum of Ireland)

[image] GERMANY: In a well at the site of the Roman town at Waldgirmes, archaeologists discovered a life-size, gilt-bronze horse head thought to have been part of a statue of Augustus. The presence of such a lavish monument in a remote town suggests the Romans had bigger plans for Germany than previously thought. (Courtesy German Archaeological Institute, Jürgen Bahlo (RGK/DAI)

[image] EGYPT: A scientist at New York's Metropolitan Museum, using a sophisticated analytical test called surface-enhanced resonance Raman scattering, found that Egyptian archers dyed their quivers 4,000 years ago. Organic colorants are notoriously difficult to detect on ancient objects, but this newly refined technique identified the earliest use of madder lake-- a red, plant-based dye--on the leather fragment. (Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)

[image] IRAQ: The story of the interaction between modern humans and Neanderthals has yet to be told in its entirety, but at least one encounter may have ended in violence. Researchers conducted experiments with stone points and animal carcasses to re-create the rib injury observed on a set of Neanderthal remains found in the 1950s at the site of Shanidar Cave. They determined the damage was consistent with that caused by a long-range projectile, perhaps one propelled by a spear-thrower, a technology humans had but Neanderthals probably did not. (flickr)

[image] VIETNAM: The recently excavated remains of a 25-year-old male who died 3,500 to 4,000 years ago show that he had Klippel-Feil Syndrome, a rare congenital fusion of the spine. The condition left him a paraplegic and possibly a quadriplegic--evident in his very thin limb bones. He would have been totally dependent on others, so study of his community might provide insights on the roots of group caregiving. (Courtesy Lorna Tilley, Australian National University)

[image] KOREA: Moats were useful for defense, but may also have been sources of bad smells, mosquitoes, and water-borne pathogens. Researchers studying mud from the moat around the Silla Dynasty (57 B.C.-A.D. 935) Wolseong Palace (in Gyeongju, the city where "Korea's Iron Man" was unearthed) found the barrel-shaped, feces-borne eggs of whipworm, an intestinal parasite. Though the moat was designed to move water away from the palace, it may have acted more like a backed-up toilet. (Courtesy Dong Hoon Shin, Seoul National University)

[image] TURKEY: Excavations revealed a cache of cuneiform tablets at Kunulua, now known as Tell Tayinat, capital of a neo-Hittite kingdom. In 738 B.C., Kunulua was sacked by the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III, who made it a provincial capital. Once translated, the tablets may illuminate a turbulent period in history and the religious aspects of Assyrian imperial aspirations. (Courtesy University of Toronto)