Best of 2017 Roundup

There’s been a lot in the news this year – not all of it great (mostly the gameshow antics coming out of the US) – but there have been some great discoveries this year that will reinforce your love of the world and all the history in it. One thing I noticed while going back over my posts from this year is that I apparently only started regular weekly roundups in July. The routine has turned out to be a good one, and there’s lots to look back on and enjoy again.

This “Best of” list has nothing to do with clicks, likes, celebrity, or star-power. Rather it’s a selection of the stories from this past year that I found particularly endearing. Enjoy!

THE CONSTRUCTIVE:

My ongoing love of very old votive objects – particularly Venus figurines – was well fed this year with this discovery from Turkey.

The seat of the ancient kingdom of Rheged has been identified in Scotland.

The ongoing construction of Metro Line C in Rome has yielded some fantastic finds, including the barracks of the Praetorian Guard.

New evidence suggests that Greek theatres had moveable sets.

Evidence that Phoenicians manufactured disposable figures of gods makes for an all new dimension to this commercial, seafaring people.

What is being called “Little Pompeii” has been discovered near Lyon in France.

The USS Indianapolis has been discovered in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of the Philippines.

Connections between the Viking and Arab worlds are becoming more clear following the identification of Arab text on Viking silk.

A possible inscription by the mysterious Sea Peoples is being translated from Luwian.

One of many stories of repatriation this year, marble from the Nemi ships is being returned to Italy.

Previously classified documents regarding President John F. Kennedy have been released and are being reviewed.

Better late than never, Ovid’s exile has been overturned.

Excavations have identified Caesar’s original landing site in Britain.

Archaeologists are releasing images of the items discovered in the Griffin Warrior tomb at Pylos.

And my person favourite of the year: wolves have been seen around Rome again for the first time in decades.

THE DESTRUCTIVE:

It seems like a long time ago, but ISIS/ISIL/Daesh destroyed much of the ancient site of Palmyra, including the famous Tetrapylon back in January.

Also from January is a rather appalling story of plans to build a freeway under Stonehenge. Paving paradise and putting up a parking lot seems positively ideal in comparison.

A live cannon ball discovered in Quebec City during routine construction dates back to the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in the 1700s.

THE WEIRD:

The history of citrus fruit is ever changing, most recently due to the work of archaeobotanist Dafna Langgut.

A watercolour painting of a bird has been discovered in Antarctica.

A triceratops was discovered during construction work in Denver, Colorado.

What appears to be a figure with a feathered headdress was unearthed in Siberia.

Possibly the oldest original manuscript of the 100 Days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade has been saved from auction after France declared it a national treasure.

The oldest known compound eye has been identified from a fossil more than 500 million years old.

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The Roundup #74

Temples, submarines, porpoises, oh my! An eclectic selection of archaeological news from this week. Enjoy!

From Archaeology.org:

The discovery of the oldest copper masks from the Andes ever unearthed challenges the understanding of the development of metallurgy in South America.

Archaeologists have returned to the Minoan palace at Zominthos and have already identified some new and interesting items.

It was one of the most destructive wars in human history, and the proof of which is in the ongoing discoveries of artefacts from World War II. This time, it’s part of a window and dog tags from Norfolk that were likely part of a B-17 American bomber squadron.

1,600 year old early Christian frescoes have been laser-cleaned at the catacombs in Domitilla, Rome.

The wreckage of a World War I submarine has been discovered in the North Sea off the coast of Belgium.

The Greek temple of Artemis at Euboea has been identified, approximately six miles from where it was originally thought to have been.

A myoji from the medieval period in Korea has been returned by the widow of a Japanese collector.

Work on the skeleton of a Neanderthal boy shows that the child’s skull was still growing at the time of his death, suggesting that development was more dynamic than originally thought. The Guardian reports on this as well here.

(Also) From the Guardian:

Archaeologists are enjoying scratching their heads over the recent discovery of a porpoise burial on one of the Channel Islands dating to the 14th century.

From the Toronto Star:

The City of Toronto is back to the drawing board, trying to determine the best course of action for preserving and displaying a drain from 1831 found while excavating near St. Lawrence Market.

The Roundup #69

New discoveries of old things are the theme running throughout this week’s roundup. By happy accident, because I didn’t post as usual on Saturday, I am now able to include the announcement that the USS Indianapolis has been discovered in the Pacific Ocean. Famous for delivering the atomic bombs that decimated Japan in 1945, it’s also famous for the extremely high loss of life suffered when she was torpedoed (316 of over 1,100 men survived). And I first learned about it from Quint’s drunken speech in the film Jaws.

So, apart from that roundabout way of learning history, here’s this week’s roundup. Enjoy!

From Archaeology.org:

A Roman villa has been discovered near Realmonte in Sicily and is currently being excavated.

Excavations of the wreck of the Mentor, Lord Elgin’s ship bound from Athens to England, are ongoing.

A Hellenistic temple has been discovered near Umm Qais in Jordan.

The remains of Yugeno-miya, what was supposed to be a new capital city in Japan, have been identified.

The discovery of ritual baths in Vilnius emphasize the cultural richness of the Great Synagogue of Vilna, built in the 17th century, burned by the Nazis, and razed by the Russians in the 20th century.

Parts of Greenwich Palace, where King Henry VII and his daughters Mary and Elizabeth were born, have been identified in London, England.

Along with a myriad of other papers, a small watercolour of a dead bird has been discovered at the site where the Scott Expedition met its end in 1912. If anyone needed a more appropriate example of pathetic fallacy, this is a pretty good one.

Also from Antarctica and the Scott Expedition, fruitcake! Apparently it’s edible. However, that assumes that one considers fruitcake to be edible at all.

An early Islamic house has been discovered in Jordan after a cache of tesserae were unearthed, suggesting the house was being renovated at the time of an earthquake in the 8th century CE.

From The Guardian:

Analyzing the silver content of Roman coins has allowed archaeologists and historians to more clearly understand the economic impact of the Hannibalic War in the 3rd century BCE. Archaeology.org reports on the same here.

The discovery of subglacial volcanos in Antarctica may mean that the site is the densest collection of volcanos on the planet.

From the CBC:

The diary of the wife of a Hudson’s Bay Company captain has been donated to the University of British Columbia. The firsthand account of a woman on a fur trading expedition is considered remarkable for its uniqueness.

From the New York Times:

An early daguerrotype of the 6th President of the United States, John Quincy Adams, taken in 1843 may be the oldest surviving original photograph of an American President.

The Roundup #65

It’s been a strange and unusual week for the archaeology news that I follow. Space archaeology, exhumations of modern artists, and a bit of stuff from the History Boys at the Daily Xtra. Enjoy!

From the Daily Xtra:

A feature piece on titillating narratives and the prevalence vs acceptance of lesbianism in the Roman Empire.

From ASOR Cultural Heritage Initiatives:

An update on the status of the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Leptis (or Lepcis) Magna, home of the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus (along with a few other people throughout the ages).

From the Royal Ontario Museum blog:

A bit of modern archaeology following a single-use water bottle across the world. Scary stuff!

From the CBC:

Salvador Dali’s body has been exhumed so as to test his DNA and compare it to that of Pilar Abel, who is claiming she is Dali’s daughter. As an extra bit of fun that the artist no-doubt would have enjoyed, it was discovered that his moustache is still in its iconic 10-past-10 position.

From Archaeology.org:

A 2,700 year old reservoir has been discovered in Israel, with human figures and other artistic representations carved into its walls.

The potential eruption of Ol Doinyo Lengai, a volcano in Tanzania, could damage or even entirely destroy a set of 19,000 year old human footprints. Rest assured, the more famous Laetoli footprints from 3.7 million years ago are some distance away.

An eighth or ninth century fishing weir has been identified in the Thames estuary, helping archaeologists map the shoreline and erosion over the last thousand or so years.

The arrival of early humans in Australia has been pushed back a further 10,000 years after excavations in Madjedbebe in Northern Territory yielded stone tools dated to 65,000 years before the present. Now that’s quite a walkabout.

Faint drawings, so far only visible in sunlight – even a camera hasn’t been able to capture them yet – have been identified in the Orkneys at the site of the Ring of Brogdar, a set of standing stones and a nearby settlement.

Archaeologists have begun a 4-D mapping project of the International Space Station, which has been continually occupied since 2000, to develop an understanding of astronaut (read: human) culture in space.

From the Smithsonian:

A World War II Enigma machine with three rotors (the ones with four are rarer and therefore even more valuable) was bought at a flea market in Romania and purchased for $114 USD recently sold for over $50,000 US at auction to an anonymous bidder.

The Roundup #61

As America marches slowly towards its demise, I would compare it to the evacuation at Dunkirk in 1940, but that would be rude. Although, one could say that neither group really knew what they were getting in to until they got there and realized that they’re fucked.

But the archaeological world continues to trudge along, hunting for grant funding, and work permits in countries where most people are worried about getting shot. So here’s this week’s roundup. Enjoy!

From Archaeology.org:

A toy discovered in 1890 is helping archaeologists understand how chariots were designed in the Roman world.

A cistern used as a food storage facility has been discovered during construction in London, England.

Evidence of long-distance trade has been identified from stone tools and flint unearthed during construction work in St. Andrews, Scotland.

The earliest evidence of silk production yet discovered has been identified in Henan province, China.

Delays in studying the site at Oahu where the Attack on Pearl Harbor occurred continue to generate questions about the events and the site itself.

From the Guardian:

Plans are in place to dig a traffic tunnel underneath Stonehenge, ostensibly to relieve traffic congestion around the site, while archaeologists and historians are decrying the vandalization of the remarkable site.

And a curator of the Folger Shakespeare Library has found definitive proof among research on the Elizabethan College of Heralds that Shakespeare the player is also Shakespeare from Stratford who tried to apply for a coat of arms through the College in the 16th century.

The Roundup #33

And here’s my roundup from the week of March 21st to 28th inclusive. I don’t know about you, but I’m certainly looking forward to being back up to date.

The highlight of this week was that Syrian forces retook Palmyra from Daesh which, I’m sure, has anxious archaeologists desperate to get out there and survey the damage.

From Archaeology.org:

A ‘house of the dead‘ – a building that collapsed and was made into a burial chamber – has been discovered in the United Arab Emirates.

This feature looks at the ongoing archaeological work at Kaminaljuyu, a massive metropolis in Guatemala.

Butchered brown bear bones – something that won’t ever make it into an alphabet book for kids – have proven that Ireland was inhabited 2500 years earlier than previously thought.

From the Smithsonian:

An absolutely fascinating museum project in Poland, where children from 6 to 14 curated the show, demonstrates the value of a fresh pair of eyes (among other things).

A tiny gold crucifix found in Denmark suggests that Christianity came to the Vikings earlier than previously thought.

In History Today:

A feature on the strange life of Pontius Pilate.

In LiveScience:

A stunning find – a lavish apartment in the villa complex at Tivoli – includes colourful mosaics and other decorations. This one I’m going to keep my eye on.

From the Guardian:

Two German warships have been discovered in Portsmouth Harbour, near where King Henry VIII’s ship Mary Rose was recently discovered. Makes you wonder what else is down there…

And from the University of Cincinnati:

Work is ongoing at the site of a recently discovered Bronze Age warrior’s tomb in southern Greece.

The Roundup #11

Another slightly late post, due entirely to the fact that there was art to consider, people to meet, and beer to be drunk on a Saturday night in Toronto.

It was sad to be greeted this morning with news of the death of Dr. Oliver Sacks. This preeminent neurologist and writer seems to have been unique among men in that he took great joy in his life, in all aspects of it. Such delight will be missed, no doubt.

News also of the ongoing humanitarian crisis as people migrating to Europe from Syria, the Middle East, and Africa reminds me of the human migrations of the last two thousand years, particularly the migration across what is now Switzerland that offered Caesar an unmissable opportunity for political advancement.

My personal favourite from this week’s news has to be this beautiful, enigmatic mask from Alaska, a face with both human and walrus attributes.

And now, for this week’s roundup:

In History Online:

Helen Roche offers an interesting theory about the origins of the animosity between Germany and Greece.

From Archaeology.org:

The use of Egyptian blue paint has been discovered on Roman-era funerary portraits. More on what is considered the world’s oldest artificial pigment here.

All the modern amenities: specific sleeping areas and a hearth space that may have been used to heat water have been discovered for the first time at a Neanderthal site in Spain.

Jeffrey Schwartz of the University of Pittsburgh is proposing that researchers develop a new morphology for classifying hominids.

A Polish Soviet World War II plane has been discovered in Bzura Lake following record heat and a lack of rainfall in the region. Attempts to identify the plane and its unfortunately pilot are ongoing.

More Linear B tablets from this remarkable find – a Mycenaean palace complex in Laconia.

And a mysterious collection of ice age lion and bear bones have been discovered in a cave in Russia.

From The Walrus:

Alexander Tesar takes us into the world of the Archaeological Services Inc based in Toronto and Burlington, Ontario.

From the office of the Mayor of Chicago:

Three Japanese sliding door panels have been rediscovered in a storage facility. Originally displayed during the 1893 World’s Fair, these panels will undergo conservation efforts while the local government determines their fate as part of Chicago’s rich heritage.

From Biblical Archaeology:

The House of Peter in Capernaum where Jesus lived during the early part of his ministrations may have been discovered under a Byzantine church.

And a feature on the great temple of Megiddo and urban culture in the Levant.