ARCHAEOLOGY July/August 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.

United States
Archaeological Institute of America
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2 min
an unprecedented journey

As those of you who visit know, since the day we sent the May/June issue of ARCHAEOLOGY to the printer, our offices in New York have been temporarily closed due to the pandemic, and we have been working at home to create this current issue for you. In extraordinarily challenging times such as these, I am reminded that it is always people, their dedication, and their resilience that matter most. I would like to take this moment to recognize and introduce you to the people who craft ARCHAEOLOGY and to express my heartfelt gratitude for everything they do, and especially for what they have accomplished over the last few months. For me, this issue represents the best of who we are as editors and writers. With each issue, we strive…

2 min
archaeology in the age of pandemic

The coronavirus has challenged us all, but the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) is meeting those challenges with the help of committed professionals, dedicated staff, and inspired enthusiasts in creative ways. Advocacy for archaeology, cultural heritage, and the protection of sites is needed now more than ever. The AIA was founded in 1879 to help preserve sites in the southwestern United States that were being looted at an alarming rate. In 2020, the AIA’s advocacy for American archaeology continues with our recent support of increased funding for cultural resources and National Conservation Lands under the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). This funding aims to continue BLM’s collaboration with State Historic Preservation Offices in the western part of the country to inventory and monitor cultural resources within the more than 35 million…

3 min
from our readers

MEDIEVAL IRISH ENTERTAINERS I very much enjoyed “Inside a Medieval Gaelic Castle” (March/April 2020). However, the most amusing aspect of the article was not even mentioned. In the woodcut by John Derricke there are two gentlemen to the far right who appear to be airing their backsides to the assembled lords. I hope you will provide an explanation, and I’m betting it will be a doozy! Joe FeldmanCorrales, NM There was, in fact, a professional class of jesters in medieval Ireland called Braigetóir whose specialty was, indeed, farting for lords’ and ladies’ entertainment.—The Editors LIVING THE HIGH LIFE I enjoyed reading “Villages in the Sky” in your May/June 2020 issue. It did, however, arouse my curiosity. A map in the article shows four widely separate ranges in the western United States where high-elevation Shoshone villages…

11 min
digs & discoveries

THE EMPEROR OF STONES In the language of the Vikings, Old Norse, rök means “monolith,” and no other runestone stands out from its peers in more ways than Sweden’s Rök. The five-ton stone measures eight feet tall and its five sides are covered with the longest runic inscription in existence—some 760 runes divided into 28 lines. And, while the vast majority of runestones date to after the mid-tenth century A.D., the Rök was inscribed much earlier, around A.D. 800. “It’s the emperor of runestones,” says Henrik Williams, a runologist at Uppsala University. “Nothing can compare with it.” Although scholars are united in recognizing the Rök’s singularity, with regard to its meaning all they can agree on is that it was set up by a local chieftain named Varinn as a memorial to…

2 min
off the grid

When some of the first British farmers to live in the Lake District needed to gather at a central location, they may have chosen Castlerigg Stone Circle, a Neolithic monument built some 5,000 years ago. The circle measures almost 100 feet in diameter and consists of 38 stones varying in height from 3.5 to 7.5 feet. Later Bronze Age stone monuments often contain burials, but no human remains have been discovered at Castlerigg. Rather than serving as a memorial to the dead, the circle likely hosted a mix of community functions. “A helpful analogy is the medieval parish church, which was a religious center, but also often the site of social gathering and the marketplace,” says archaeologist Tom Clare, emeritus of Liverpool John Moores University. At the time Castlerigg was built,…

4 min
around the world

FLORIDA: The Calusa Indians, who ruled much of southern Florida in the pre-Columbian era, are known for their sophisticated engineering projects. These included artificial islands and canals at their capital of Mound Key. They also created large lagoons called watercourts out of shells and sediments. These enclosures, which date to the 14th century, acted as holding tanks, allowing the Calusa to trap and store large numbers of fish in the subtropical climate. MEXICO: An inscribed stone tablet unearthed by a cattle rancher in Lacanja Tzeltal, Chiapas, has led to the discovery of a long-lost Maya city that was founded around 750 B.C. The existence of an important regional capital called Sak Tz’i’ was known from previously discovered inscriptions, but its exact location had eluded archaeologists for decades. When researchers explored the…