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ARCHAEOLOGY

ARCHAEOLOGY November - December 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.

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

in this issue

2 min.
the architecture of belief

Archaeology is in no way a static science. “Expanding the Story” (page 26), by Jerusalem-based journalist Sara Toth Stub covers new interpretations of the significance of an eighth-century a.d. desert castle called Khirbet al-Mafjar located just outside the ancient city of Jericho. The castle’s sumptuous stuccowork and incomparable mosaics led early twentieth-century researchers to conclude that it may have been the retreat of a self-indulgent ruler. Now, however, archaeologists have determined that Khirbet al-Mafjar was the palatial home and agricultural center of a ruling Umayyad family that used hospitality as both a tool of diplomacy and as a means to convert surrounding tribesmen to Islam. Halloween is one of our most celebrated and beloved holidays. But what are its origins? In “Samhain Revival” (page 34), writer Erin Mullally visits the Hill of…

2 min.
the past in the present

Human societies have developed through climatic cycles—some long, some short. The 100,000-year oscillations of the Pleistocene, for example, resulted in more than 20 ice ages, and there have been much shorter cycles of 1,500 years, of centuries, and even of decades. Sometimes climate shifts suddenly. A change in ocean circulation, for example, caused the 1,000-year cold snap called the Younger Dryas around 13,000 years ago, while the eruption of Mt. Tambora in Indonesia may have caused the “Year Without a Summer” in 1816. People have adapted to these climate changes in many cases, but they can also be highly disruptive to human activity. It is thought that sudden climate shifts impacted humans at a critical moment— when farming began in the Middle East about 13,000 years ago. I’ve excavated sites from…

2 min.
letters

Wartime Weaponry The gun shown on page 48 (“A Splendid Failure,” September/October 2016) is actually a model 1836 flintlock conversion pistol. This weapon was manufactured by Robert Johnson in Middletown, Connecticut, and was later modified, probably after the Mexican War, for percussion ignition. It is rare! Thanks for an interesting and well-written article about the ironclad. Carl Adamczyk Philadelphia, PA The Responsible Parties In reference to “A Splendid Failure,” I would like to make the following comment: The article states, “Moreover, it is a captured ‘enemy’ vessel, so the ship and its contents, including unexploded ordnance, belong to the U.S. Navy.” While it is true that the Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) now has custody of the wreck, it is not the de facto custodian of Confederate naval vessels and contents. The United…

3 min.
piltdown’s lone forger

You see before you, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the coldest of cases, an archaeological fraud perpetrated more than 100 years ago, concerning the evolution of humankind, the scientific process, and personal ambition. It centers on Piltdown Man, paleoanthropology’s greatest whodunit. In February 1912, amateur fossil collector Charles Dawson wrote to Arthur Smith Woodward, distinguished Keeper of Geology at the British Museum of Natural History (now just the Natural History Museum), to tell him of a new find, “a thick portion of a human(?) skull.” The previous decades had seen the identification of Homo erectus and Homo heidelbergensis, and scientists and antiquarians were on the hunt for more—specifically human ancestors with apelike features and bigger, humanlike brains. Two years of excavation at the site of Dawson’s find, Piltdown, Sussex, yielded…

2 min.
off the grid

The Gallo-Roman site at presentday Saint-Romain-en-Gal in Rhône, France, was discovered in 1967 when the construction of a high school revealed remains of Vienne, a city known in antiquity as Vienna. It was the capital of the Allobroges, a Gallic tribe, and became a Roman colony in 47b.c.under the rule of Julius Caesar. Ultimately, Vienna was one of the most important and prosperous towns in Roman Gaul due to its location on the Rhône River. Vienna occupied both sides of the river, with the residential and commercial district on the east, and the political and religious center on the west. The site was excavated annually between 1981 and 2012, when funding dried up. M’hammed Behel, director and conservator at the Gallo-Roman Museum there says it is one of the biggest…

1 min.
codex subtext

In the mid-1500s, a family of the Mixtec people in Oaxaca, Mexico, recorded their historic deeds in a book now known as the Selden Codex. But books were scarce at the time, so they took an old text, covered it with white gesso, and then painted their new narrative on top. Now researchers in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom have been able to use a technique called hyperspectral imaging to see parts of the older text without damaging the newer one. The images are not sharp enough to read or date the glyphs, but several identifiable figures have emerged, including a line of spear-carrying men possibly marching off to war.…