Archaeological Institute of America

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ARCHAEOLOGYARCHAEOLOGY

ARCHAEOLOGY March 2018

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

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hands to work

Fresco, Villa of PoppaeaAs a harbinger of spring, the magazine’s editors have prepared “The Archaeology of Gardens” (page 32). This special section surveys evidence of the many ways in which people throughout history have chosen to work the soil in their immediate environs. From small, ancient vineyards to medicinal plots, from gardens meant for botanical study to those for royal enjoyment—all add to the story of the long-standing human need to cultivate a relationship with nature.“Imaging the Past” (page 42), by contributing editor Andrew Curry, begins with the consideration of the earliest stone tools, created some 3.3 million years ago, and the theories about what kinds of creatures made them. Curry next examines the work of researchers using the latest brain scanning techniques on modern subjects to speculate on what…

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discovery at its own pace

Jodi Magness at HuqoqRecently, my hairdresser described the excitement of the six-year-old son of a friend who received a toy set of dinosaur bones embedded in dirt and equipped with small digging tools. This story encapsulates the universal attraction of archaeology: Everyone enjoys the thrill of discovery. The tangible bond with the past, created by recovering an artifact made centuries ago, is as close as we can come to time travel. Many people do not realize, though, that digging is a means to an end, rather than an end in itself. Excavation provides the raw data that archaeologists study to learn about the past.My own project at Huqoq in Israel’s Galilee illustrates this. Our excavations are bringing to light a fifth-century synagogue paved with mosaics depicting an extraordinary series of…

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from our readers

REINDEER VS. CARIBOUIn “Where the Ice Age Caribou Ranged” (January/February 2018), Jason Daley points out the fact that the species called reindeer in Europe are usually called caribou in North America. True, taxonomists now classify reindeer and caribou as a single species, but the morphological differences that originally led scientists to identify each as a distinct species are still evident and of note to modern indigenous peoples.Ron BoggsHelena, MTA SPECIAL SPECIESI was intrigued by reading about the dolphin skeleton found in a grave on the Channel Island of Chapelle Dom Hue (“World Roundup,” January/February 2018). There is a phenomenon known, somewhat unscientifically, as “friendly dolphins,” in which dolphins will seek out the companionship of humans, and in some cases even save human lives. This is well attested in historical stories…

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the mesopotamian merchant files

Assyrian cuneiform tablet from KaneshThe world’s earliest evidence for a robust long-distance trading network comes in the form of thousands of clay tablets excavated from the Bronze Age site of Kanesh, in central Turkey. From about 2000 to 1750 B.C., this bustling city played host to a number of foreign merchants from Ashur, an Assyrian city some 700 miles to the southeast in modern-day Iraq. At the end of the third millennium B.C., Ashur’s king lifted the government monopoly on trade, opening the way for private merchants to operate donkey caravans that took luxury fabrics and tin north into the Anatolian heartland, where they exchanged their wares for silver and gold bullion in at least 27 city-states. In private archives at Kanesh, these entrepreneurs stored clay tablets inscribed with their…

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off the grid

El Pilar, an ancient Maya city that straddles the border between modern-day Belize and Guatemala, boasts more than 25 plazas and numerous houses, temples, and grand monumental structures. Archaeologist Anabel Ford, who first recorded the site in 1983, works with local Maya people, in cooperation with both governments, to run El Pilar Archaeological Reserve for Maya Flora and Fauna. Much as it may have been some 2,300 years ago when first settled, the city remains nestled in the forest, one with the natural environment. This distinguishes El Pilar from other, perhaps better-known, Maya sites throughout Mexico and Central America, where trees are often removed and lawns manicured to accommodate tourists.El Pilar, a major urban center at its height between A.D. 500 and 1000, featured large forest gardens, relying on swidden,…

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he’s no stone face

Grave slab, North WalesA recently rediscovered fragment of an abbot’s grave slab from North Wales may offer an unusual glimpse of a medieval personality. University of Chester archaeologist Howard Williams analyzed the two-foot-long stone piece and found that it once lay atop the tomb of an abbot named Howel who led an important Welsh abbey around 1300. Williams notes that the slab depicts Howel in realistic fashion—rare for the period—and wearing a broad smile. “It’s eerie,” says Williams. “The vast majority of these medieval funerary monuments show somber-looking characters who are focused on prayer, not grinning as if for a graduation portrait.” Williams notes that Howel was abbot during the English conquest of Wales in 1283, which left his abbey severely damaged. Records suggest Howel was a power broker during…

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