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ARCHAEOLOGY March/April 2020

ARCHAEOLOGY magazine offers readers incisive reporting, vivid storytelling, compelling photography – and the latest news from around the globe – all devoted to exploring the world’s ancient past. Whether reporting from a dive on an Arctic shipwreck, trekking through Afghanistan, or digging just beneath Beirut, ARCHAEOLOGY’s editors and writers bring readers the science, and the magic, of archaeological discovery.

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United States
Archaeological Institute of America
6 Issues

in this issue

2 min
the aia: a big tent

The Archaeological Institute of America’s annual meeting, which takes place the first weekend in January, offers an amazing smorgasbord for the archaeology lover. Every year, the meeting illustrates the AIA’s mission to excavate, educate, and advocate. Of the many papers that focused on aspects of excavation this past January, I single out here the panel on the shipwreck at Marzamemi off the southern coast of Sicily that you first had the opportunity to read about in “Shipping Stone” in the September/October 2018 issue of ARCHAEOLOGY. One of several ancient wrecks of ships with cargoes of monumental stone architectural elements that had been identified by the early 1960s, this vessel carried prefabricated pieces of carved marble church architecture dating to the early Byzantine era. In addition to providing a fascinating look…

12 min
in search of prehistoric potatoes

The Plains of San Agustin stretch some 50 miles across west-central New Mexico and are surrounded on three sides by mountain ranges. In the late summer monsoon season, vibrant wildflowers make the brownish-green scrubland pop with color. Archaeologist Lisbeth Louderback of the University of Utah and botanist Bruce Pavlik of the Natural History Museum of Utah head west on U.S. Route 60 from the small town of Magdalena, then turn into a picnic area on the side of the highway. “The Mirabilis is out, that’s good,” Pavlik says, scanning the vegetation and pointing to a short plant with purple flowers often found growing alongside or near potato plants. “Let’s see if we can find the potatoes.” Louderback and Pavlik are looking for a tiny species of potato called Solanum jamesii, or…

2 min
off the grid

Some 1,000 years ago, stonemasons cut into a basalt escarpment in a river valley outside the modern Balinese village of Tampaksiring. They carved out a nearly 100-foot-wide courtyard backed by a 40-foot-tall vertical wall. Into this wall they carved five shrines, called candis, each almost 30 feet tall and intended to resemble temple facades. Across the small river bisecting the valley, the masons carved another courtyard and four more, slightly smaller, candis. A tenth candi is set apart from the others. The two courtyards and the candis, as well as a number of small artificial caves that may once have been used as prayer or living spaces for monks, make up the site of Gunung Kawi. This is one of many temple complexes built on Java and Bali starting around…

1 min
protecting the young

The remains of infants buried wearing the craniums of older children as helmets have been excavated at the site of a ritual and funerary complex belonging to the pre-Columbian Guangala culture of coastal Ecuador. The burials are believed to date to around the first century B.C. According to University of North Carolina at Charlotte archaeologist Sara Juengst, natural disasters in the ancient Andean world often prompted dramatic reactions, including the sacrifice of children. In this case, the infants may have been sacrificed in an attempt to end environmental degradation and drought resulting from a possible volcanic event attested to by ash discovered at the site. However, archaeologists also found lesions on the infants’ skeletons, suggesting they were in chronic poor health. “They may have died of illness,” Juengst says, “but…

16 min
inside a medieval gaelic castle

FROM THE TWELFTH TO the seventeenth century, the MacDermots ruled the kingdom of Maigh Luirg in the Irish province of Connacht from a small island in Loch Cé (now Lough Key) known as the Rock. They were the right-hand men—and sometime rivals—of the O’Conors, the kings of Connacht, whose power center lay at the modern village of Tulsk, some 20 miles away. It was Diarmait, king of Maigh Luirg from 1124 until his death on the Rock in 1159, who gave the MacDermot clan its name. In the sixteenth century, the king Brian MacDermot commissioned the Annals of Loch Cé, which remain among the most important written records of medieval Irish history. They are the primary source for the history of the kingdom of Maigh Luirg (Anglicized as Moylurg), which occupied…

1 min
field of tombs

For thousands of years, in a field next to the site of the Palace of Nestor in Pylos in mainland Greece, tens of thousands of watermelon-sized stones protected two Bronze Age tombs dating to between 1600 and 1500 B.C., the very beginning of the Mycenaean era. After more than a year and a half of removing the stones—which were the remains of the tombs’ collapsed roofs—a team from the University of Cincinnati led by archaeologists Sharon Stocker and Jack Davis unearthed the two beehive-shaped, or tholos, tombs, which contained gold jewelry and multiple skeletons. A gold ring, which was found in the smaller of the two tombs, depicts a unique scene of bovines and barley. A gold pendant depicting the Egyptian goddess Hathor was found in the larger tomb. “Such…