A new Viking ship burial has been discovered in Norway. Using ground-penetrating radar, archaeologists recently found one of the world’s largest Viking ship graves, resting a mere 0.5 meters beneath a farmer’s field. That’s just 1.5 feet!
The digital visualization reveals a large, possibly well-preserved ship, 20 meters long. And it appears to be embedded in a complex of at least eight other burial mounds, and underneath that lay five longhouses. This is not just one find, but a treasure trove of finds.
But back to the ship. Only three well-preserved Viking ships have been found previously in Norway. And they were all excavated long ago, with the techniques available at the time. That makes this find precious: an intact, very large ship burial found at a time when we have techniques like ground-penetrating radar, soil geochemistry, and radiometric dating. As of right now, no excavations are planned. Archaeologists are concerned about what exposure to the air could do to the site.
This little limestone pipe recently had a big impact: traces of nicotine detected inside suggest North Americans were using tobacco products at least 3,500 years ago! The carved limestone pipe was found in the 1930s near the Flint River in Alabama, but had been in storage at the Alabama State Repository until a recent team of chemists and archaeologists, working with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, came looking for it as part of their work examining ancient Native American pipes with modern techniques. And boy did they hit the jackpot with this one.
Tobacco plants were first domesticated in South America, and their introduction to North American native communities was not believed to have happened until around 2,000 to 3,000 years ago. This new finding indicates that tobacco use was established much earlier than previously thought in the what is today the southeastern United States. And that’s pretty far inland, suggesting tobacco reached elsewhere on the continent even earlier.
Wine barrels, which were used as latrines in the late 1680s, have been discovered in central Copenhagen. Analyzing them can provide detailed insights into what Danes at the time were eating and drinking, as well as evidence about health problems they may have been experiencing.
Using a variety of modern techniques, archaeologists have identified a number of local foods including fish, meats, a number of grains, cherries, coriander, lettuce, mustard, and hazelnuts. Put together, the scientific evidence suggests that Danes were eating a varied and healthy diet of local products. And the owners of the latrines were likely wealthy, able to take advantage of of a global trading network, as evidenced by their cloves from India’s Moluccan islands, and figs, grapes, and bitter orange or lemon from the Mediterranean.
Unfortunately, their hygiene could have been better. The latrines contained evidence of whipworm, roundworm, and tapeworm, and specifically of varieties that are known to infect people. Either the owners did not wash their hands often enough, or they did not cook their food properly. The natural result was parasites.
An international team of archaeologists has excavated a tomb dating to the 100s CE in Jordan at the ancient site of Capitolias. The tomb has two rooms and a large basalt sarcophagus. It appears to have been robbed at some point before coming to the attention of archaeologists, unfortunately.
But the tomb is notable not for what they found inside it, but what they found on it: an amazing number and variety of murals. There is a large painting illustrating the construction of a rampart along with 60 inscriptions describing what the figures in the painting were doing. (Incidentally, this may be the earliest example of comics in Jordan.) The rest of the walls are decorated with more than 250 figures of humans, animals, and gods, in various mythological and everyday scenes.
Taken all together, the artwork is thought to describe the founding of the city. Capitolias began in the late 1st century CE by the Roman Empire.
Prehistoric humans used obsidian as cutting implements. Amazingly, we still haven’t come up with something that can beat obsidian – obsidian scalpels are many times sharper than surgical scalpels made of steel.
A limestone relief, bearing the cartouche of King Amenhotep I, had been offered for sale in a London auction house. But it has now been given by the UK to Egyptian authorities. What happened?
An archaeologist who spotted the relief in London realized it had been stolen from the Karnak Temple Complex in Luxor in 1988. The archaeologist alerted Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities, and the ministry’s Repatriation Department used legal and diplomatic channels to stop the sale in London. The limestone relief is back in Egypt, where it had rested for almost 3,500 years.
One of Arizona’s most famous landmarks is a pair of 900-year-old limestone cliff dwellings, whose sudden abandonment centuries ago has proven to be an enduring mystery. Incorrectly called “Montezuma’s Castle” and “Castle A,” they were abandoned about 600 years ago, after 300 years of occupation. It was long thought that the castles were burned as part of some sort of closing ritual, then voluntarily abandoned. Recent research disagrees. Instead, new analyses suggest the castles’ last days were violent ones.
The buildings were charred, and carbon dating of both the char and design analysis of pottery remains, reveal the buildings were occupied right up until they burned between the years 1375 and 1395. Perhaps more persuasively, the remains of four people had been excavated from Castle A in the 1930s. Previously, it was thought they had been dead and buried long before the buildings burned. But a closer examination of previous research done on those remains revealed that the dead had sustained trauma before their deaths, as evidenced by cut marks on their bones, burn marks, and fractures in three of the four skulls. And one of the skulls showed evidence of having been burned at the same time, or shortly after, it was violently attacked.
All in all, the new analyses suggest the castles were attacked and burned, and subsequently abandoned. This new viewpoint is corroborated by Native American oral histories of the site’s collapse, which were incorporated into the new research.