ARCHAEOLOGY July - August 2015

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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6 Issues

in this issue

1 min.
rome’s earliest fort

Archaeologists working outside Trieste, Italy, have discovered what may be the oldest surviving Roman fortification system. An interdisciplinary study used ground-penetrating radar, lidar, and archaeological survey to reveal three Roman forts—one large central camp and two minor outposts—that are the only Roman camps ever identified on Italian soil. The largest of the three, San Rocco, was strategically located across 32 acres of land, with outer and inner networks of ramparts. Dating to the beginning of the second century B.C., the camp predates the previous earliest known examples of Roman encampments, in Iberia. The fort was likely built to support Rome’s conquest of the Istrian Peninsula in 178–177 B.C., and would have been an essential resource in helping Rome secure its unstable borders against the native Celtic population. “These forts are…

5 min.
dispatches from the aia

www.archaeological.org AIA Announces Winners of 2015 Cotsen Excavation Grants MICHAEL HARROWER, assistant professor in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, and Tristan Carter, associate professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, are the winners of the 2015 Cotsen Excavation Grants. Each will receive an award of $25,000 to support their excavations and research. Harrower was awarded the Cotsen Grant for mid-career project directors to support his ongoing work at the ancient Ethiopian town of Baita Semati. Discovered in 2009, Baita Semati, with its deep stratigraphy, monumental architecture, and impressive range of ceramic, metal, and glass artifacts, and plant and animal remains, is one of the more important archaeological sites recently discovered in Africa. T rough his research there, Harrower is attempting to unravel the complex political…

1 min.
cosmic rays and australopithecines

A new dating technique is making it easier for paleoanthropologists to study the human evolutionary record by making it possible to date a wider range of stones and sediments. A team of scientists, including Darryl Granger of Purdue University, has looked to aluminum-26 and beryllium-10, isotopes that are created when rocks are out in the open, exposed to cosmic rays. Once the rocks are buried, the isotopes no longer form, and then begin to decay at known rates. Ultrasensitive instruments that can measure the tiny amounts of these isotopes can tell scientists how long a rock has been underground. Granger used this technique on quartz crystals from South Africa’s Sterkfontein Cave that surrounded the skeletal remains of an early hominin dubbed “Little Foot,” formally known as Australopithecus prometheus. Granger dated…

14 min.
lost island of the maya

THE ROAD TO GUATEMALA’S Lake Atitlán climbs past cornfields and ramshackle villages before turning a corner and bringing the lake into full view. Lying in the bowl of a long-collapsed volcano, Lake Atitlán looks weightless and ethereal, as if somehow floating between the peaks and cliffs that surround it. To the ancient Maya who lived in this region, such mountain lakes carried intense ritual power. In Popol Vuh, an epic poem based on ancient legends passed down over centuries and relayed by Maya elders to sixteenth-century Spanish scribes, the world itself was born when the two creator gods, Tepeu and Q’uq’umatz, ordered the water that covers the earth to part. “May the empty space be filled! May this water withdraw and lift, and the land rise up and afirm itself,…

1 min.
wrecks of the pacific theater

If there’s a single ship that reflects the changing nature of warfare in the mid-twentieth century, it might be USS Independence. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, working with technology partners Boeing and CodaOctopus, recently discovered and surveyed its wreck in 2,600 feet of water near California’s Farallon Islands. Independence began life as a light cruiser in 1941, and was converted to a light aircraft carrier before it was officially launched the next year. The ship saw heavy action all over the Pacific throughout World War II. After that, it became part of Operation Crossroads, the secret atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll in 1946, as one of more than 90 ships that were a “target fleet” to assess the impact of the blasts. Two detonations later, Independence, damaged but…

1 min.
bison bone mystery

In southern Alberta, University of Lethbridge archaeologist Shawn Bubel and her team were excavating a bison kill site dating to 500 B.C. when they encountered something bizarre. Beneath the remains of at least 68 butchered bison, prehistoric hunters had pressed collections of bison bones deep into the earth. “I had my students dig below the bone bed, not expecting to find anything,” says Bubel. “Then we started to see bones shoved down into clay.” Eventually the team unearthed eight of these enigmatic bone structures, which dated to the same time as the bone bed above them. Bubel says that while prehistoric Native Americans were known to use upright bison bones as anvils or to tie down tepees, none of these bones bore the telltale marks of those activities. “It’s a…