Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

Special Introductory Offer!

Europe Asia and the Pacific Africa South America North America

[image] CANADA: A winter storm in 1901 sank the steam-powered sternwheeler A.J. Goddard in the Yukon's frigid Lake Laberge, taking three lives with it. Discovered in 2008, it is the only known wreck of its type and is almost completely intact. The newly released first photographs of the Gold Rush–era wreck show the haste with which the ship was abandoned and how untouched it has been since: soles of shoes still lie on the deck, along with scattered dishes, bottles, and tools. (Courtesy Institute of Nautical Archaeology, Photo: Donnie Reid)

[image] HAWAII: Prior to the arrival of Europeans in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the islands supported hundreds of thousands of people with local crops. Populations crashed after contact, and knowledge of these farming systems was lost. An interdisciplinary team used GIS mapping and archaeological finds to identify thousands of acres where traditional dry-land farmers once cultivated crops such as sweet potatoes and sugar cane. Their distribution will help reveal the political economies of the archipelago's old kingdoms. (Courtesy P.V. Kirch, Photo: P.V. Kirch, University of California, Berkeley)

[image] MEXICO: Water pressure—necessary for fountains or toilets—was once thought to have arrived in the New World with the Spanish. New research at Palenque in Chiapas shows that the Maya had the know-how far earlier. They used a series of underground conduits to control water from springs, and one of these ran down a steep slope and narrowed at the end. If smoothly plastered, it could have shot a jet of water 20 feet into the air. With that kind of pressure, the site's palace may have had running water. (Courtesy Kirk D. French, Pennsylvania State University)

[image] ITALY: The ruins of Pompeii (now viewable and navigable on Google Street View, by the way) are home to around 50 raggedy stray dogs that live off the kindness of visitors. A new initiative has fitted the cani with collars and microchips, and named them—like Vettius, seen below—after ancient residents of the city. They will also be treated, sterilized, and brought to shelters. The hope is to find loving homes for them—so they stop peeing on the town's ancient walls. (Courtesy Soprintendenza Archeolgica di Pompei)

[image] EGYPT: Modern medicine has a lot to tell us about the health of ancient Egyptians. In one recent study, doctors reviewed CT scans of 22 mummies, up to 3,500 years old, to assess their heart health. Of 16 with identifiable hearts or arteries, 9 had atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. The findings could help doctors understand heart disease risk isolated from modern factors. A different study reviewed the research on 3,000 mummies and found that 18 percent suffered from painful dental problems, including gum disease, tooth decay, and abscesses. (Courtesy Gregory Thomas, University of California, Irvine, Photo: Michael Miyamoto, MD)

[image] ISRAEL:The first evidence of tidiness suggests that humans were behaving in a modern fashion far earlier than was once thought. At the site of Gesher Benot Ya'aqov, which is more than 700,000 years old, archaeologists have found evidence that these human ancestors divided their living spaces—an area for food preparation and eating was 25 feet away from where they made stone tools. It was previously believed that this kind of social organization had not developed until around 200,000 years ago. (Courtesy Gonen Sharon, Institute of Archaeology, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

[image] TURKEY: Experts are beginning to decipher Late Assyrian tablets from Ziyaret Tepe, a 9th- to 7th-century B.C. city on the Tigris River. Among the official records are the names of 144 women who probably worked for the city's palace. The women did not, however, have Assyrian names, suggesting they may have come from local indigenous populations or some distant conquered territory. Archaeologists at the site are working fast—it may be damaged when a nearby dam is completed in 2013. (Courtesy the Ziyaret Tepe Archaeological Excavations)

[image] CHINA: A study of the mitochondrial DNA from six Tibetan populations shows that most are descended from immigrants who came from the east 10,000 years ago. The scientists also found a previously unidentified lineage that may be a relic of the first migrants to the often inhospitable "Roof of the World," around 21,000 years ago. This confirms archaeological evidence of humans on the Tibetan Plateau in the Upper Paleolithic period, and suggests that they survived there for thousands of years—at least long enough to mix with the later settlers. (Wikimedia Commons)

[image] PERU: It's often said that stress will make your hair fall out, but if you keep your hair, it records how stressed-out you were. Scientists found high levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the hair of Peruvian mummies from as far back as 1,500 years ago, providing a window into the last year or two of their lives. Some had high stress levels at death, others not so much. The study also showed they had experienced multiple stressful episodes. (Courtesy Andrew Nelson, used with the permission of Centro Mallqui-Museo Leymebamba)

[image] ANTARCTICA: In stables next to a hut that was a base for Robert Falcon Scott's successful but ultimately doomed 1910–12 expedition to the South Pole, conservators have found two intact, rather stinky (rancid, with a smoky-fatty smell from the use of blubber as fuel), but otherwise beautifully preserved blocks of New Zealand butter. Scott's expedition reached the Pole, only to find that a Norwegian team had beaten them by five weeks. Scott and all his companions died on the way back. (Courtesy Lizzie Meek, Antarctic Heritage Trust)