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ARCHAEOLOGY

ARCHAEOLOGY March - April 2016

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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Country:
United States
Language:
English
Publisher:
Archaeological Institute of America
Frequency:
Bimonthly
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6 Issues

in this issue

2 min.
in evidence

A forbidding location on a Baltic island is the scene of an ancient massacre involving perhaps hundreds of victims. In “Öland, Sweden. Spring, A.D. 480” (page 26), contributing editor Andrew Curry investigates why members of the island’s oncethriving mercenary class abruptly turned on their neighbors, sparing no one Contributing editor Jason Urbanus, in “France’s Roman Heritage” (page 32), tells of recent excavations in Arles of an extraordinary first-century B.C. home appointed with frescoes on par with Rome’s finest examples. By studying the stunning remains of these paintings, archaeologists are learning much about the lifestyle that wealth and position could confer in the Roman colonies. The arresting sight of remote Dunluce Castle, situated atop 100-foot cliffs overlooking the North Atlantic, fires the imagination. In “The Lost Town of Dunluce” (page 44), journalist Erin…

2 min.
arizona’s vibrant culture

A recent trip to Arizona to lead a meeting of the AIA Governing Board gave me an opportunity to experience some of the archaeological riches of the Southwest. It provided telling reminders of how the peoples of the region adapted to the challenges of the arid environment they occupied. And, too, it was clear that cultural echoes from the past remain evident to this day. Ventana Cave is one of the most significant prehistoric sites in North America. Located on the side of a mountain in a remote part of the Tohono O’odham Reservation, it looks out over an immense saguaro cactus forest. Excavations by Emil Haury in the 1940s demonstrated that this huge rockshelter had been inhabited by hunter-gatherers since the beginning of the Holocene, 11,700 years ago. They successfully…

3 min.
letters

Another Job for the Alchemists Having been to Wittenberg and to the Museum for Prehistory in Halle numerous times, I read with great interest your article, “The Alchemist’s Tale” (January/February 2016). You have presented a convincing argument for the advance from alchemy to chemistry, somewhat paralleling the advance from astrology to astronomy. I would like to mention another valuable contribution of alchemy—the transformation of dirt to porcelain. After the alchemist Johann Friedrich Boettger was forced to flee the court of the Prussian king in Berlin because of his unsuccessful attempts to create gold, he was hired by Augustus the Strong, king of Poland and elector of Saxony, to produce a different kind of “gold”—the white porcelain of which the king was so very fond. Boettger founded the first porcelain manufactory in…

3 min.
legends of glastonbury abbey

Although today it stands in ruins, Glastonbury Abbey, in Somerset, England, is still a powerfully evocative place, shrouded in history, religion, and mythology. One story claims that Joseph of Arimathea, legendary keeper of the Holy Grail, founded the first Christian church in Britain at Glastonbury shortly after the death of Christ. Another holds that in 1191, monks from the abbey unearthed a hollowed-out log containing two bodies and an inscribed cross that read: “Here lies buried King Arthur and his wife Guinevere.” The traditions and myths surrounding Glastonbury Abbey are perhaps key among the reasons it developed into one of the most important—and wealthiest—monasteries in Europe. But skeptics have long decried these stories as inventions by medieval monks to fill the abbey’s coffers, especially after a massive fire destroyed the monastery…

2 min.
off the grid

As with many archaeological sites, the Côa Valley in northeastern Portugal came to the attention of authorities because of a dam. An energy company commissioned an archaeological survey prior to beginning construction, which led to the discovery of one of Europe’s largest open-air “museums” of Paleolithic rock art. “Petroglyphs can’t swim,” stated a campaign to protect the works. These efforts helped stop the building of the dam and ensured the survival of the Côa Valley’s heritage. UNESCO describes it as “an outstanding example of the sudden flowering of creative genius at the dawn of human cultural development.” The Côa Valley petroglyphs are comparable to the famous cave art found in other parts of Europe, says archaeologist João Zilhão of the University of Barcelona. The quantity of art in the valley…

1 min.
a circle of skulls

The Aztecs did creative things with severed heads. Archaeologists at Mexico City’s Aztec temple complex have found 35 human skulls mortared together with a mix of sand, limestone, and volcanic rock. Dating from about A.D. 1500, during a late Aztec building boom, the skulls were embedded in a circular inner wall on a ceremonial platform. Unusually, all the skulls were positioned facing the center of the platform, not toward the outside. The Aztecs were known to display heads—facing outward—on horizontal spits known as tzompantli to demonstrate the power of their state, whose capital, Tenochtitlán, lies under the streets of modern-day Mexico City. Almost all the skulls in the wall belonged to young men, suggesting they were captives from wars against neighboring states, says Raúl Barrera, lead archaeologist at the site.…