Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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[image] GEORGIA: For six weeks in 1864, 10,000 Union prisoners of war called Camp Lawton home. Hastily abandoned as Sherman's army approached, the camp was lost to history until archaeologists rediscovered the site last year. Now they have unearthed some personal artifacts that are helping reconstruct life in the camp, including a ring with the insignia of the Union Army's 3rd Corps, a grocery token from a store in Michigan, and a suspender buckle from Massachusetts.
(Courtesy Amanda L. Morrow, Georgia Southern University)

[image] NEW JERSEY: Sometimes an artifact isn't a pot or a skull, but a woman singing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" to a child. Scientists recovered the unidentified voice from a tin phonograph record that would have been part of a 123-year-old talking doll. Because the record, made by Thomas Edison, was bent, it was optically scanned to make a digital model of the recorded surface. Edison's talking dolls, an early attempt to commercialize his phonograph, never found a market.
(Courtesy National Park Service)

[image] MEXICO: The Central American river turtle really gets around—but not without some help. A genetic study of the critically endangered reptile surprised biologists, who were expecting to find a different lineage in each river basin. Instead, they found that seemingly separate populations had been mixing. The best explanation is that people have been transporting and trading the turtles for ages—up to 3,000 years. Ancient remains and sculptures of the turtles have been found hundreds of miles outside their natural range.
(Courtesy National Park Service)

SCOTLAND: The repaving of a University of Edinburgh quad has revealed labware and chemical samples probably belonging to Joseph Black, the 18th-century chemist best known for discovering carbon dioxide. Among the test tubes and thermometers, as well as loose samples of mercury and arsenic, were ceramic jars and crucibles, some still holding chemical residues, likely made by famed potter (and Charles Darwin's grandfather) Josiah Wedgwood.

[image] ITALY: Farinelli was a famed 18th-century castrato, castrated at a young age to preserve his legendary voice (his voice spanned three octaves and he could hold a note for a full minute). According to anatomists who exhumed his bones, the procedure caused hyperostosis frontalis interna, or a thickening of the cranial vault, usually associated with postmenopausal women, that can cause behavioral and psychiatric problems. Historical accounts, however, indicate that Farinelli was lucid and sane—and singing—until his death at 78.
(©Agnew's, London, UK, The Bridgeman Art Library International)

[image] INDIA: The Mughal Empire, which reached its peak in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, left a remarkable architectural legacy, and was also known for its orderly, refined gardens. At Isa Khan's Tomb in Delhi, archaeologists have revealed the oldest known Mughal "sunken garden," or a garden planted below the level of walkways and the tomb building. It predates many more well-known examples and begins to show how Mughal gardens evolved over time.
(Courtesy Aga Khan Trust for Culture)

[image] LIBYA: An analysis of 2,000-year-old skulls from the Garamantian civilization of the central Sahara revealed holes that had begun to heal—indicative of trephination, a form of cranial surgery. The earliest evidence of this practice— from 13,000 years ago—also comes from the Sahara, but it is otherwise rare in North Africa outside Egypt. The surgically altered crania are the first evidence of Garamantian medical practices.
(International Journal of Osteoarchaeology)

[image] CAMEROON: An underground petroleum pipeline from Chad to the Atlantic port of Kribi is providing a massive window into 100,000 years of central African history. Nearly 500 archaeological sites have been uncovered along the 600-mile project, including the first substantial evidence of permanent settlement in the country's tropical forest (dating to 3,000 years ago). The discoveries have helped push the government to promise to strengthen its commitment to preserving cultural heritage.
(Courtesy Scott MacEachern, Bowdoin College)

[image] PERU: In the Titicaca basin in the first millennium B.C., there were two population centers, Taraco and Pukara. Come the first century A.D., there was only one. Taraco was burned to the ground and Pukara began to expand. Researchers theorize that a war between the two polities was critical in the development of Pukara as the region's first true state, with elites, urbanized settlements, a warrior class, and economic surpluses. It wouldn't last, though—Pukara itself collapsed around A.D. 400.
(Courtesy Charles Stanish, Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA)

[image] GREECE: Olympia, home to the famed Temple of Zeus and the original Olympic Games, is commonly thought to have been destroyed by an earthquake and covered by river floods. A new geoarchaeological study examined deep deposits of sand and other material over the ancient cult site—more, the researchers say, than could have been deposited by local rivers. The sediment also holds the remains of sea creatures, such as mollusks and foraminifera, meaning that repeated tsunamis may have been the culprit.
(Courtesy Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz)