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WINTER TERM : APRIL 2020
EUROPE – Doggerland - A region beneath the rough waters of the North Sea, known as Doggerland, holds archaeological clues to the past. Watch how researchers are using advances in mapping and leads from dredging sites to piece together the history of this vanished landscape.
CHINE – Dadiwan - Though chickens (Gallus gallus domesticus) are globally ubiquitous today, the timing, location, and manner of their domestication is contentious. Until recently, archaeologists placed the origin of the domestic chicken in northern China, perhaps as early as 8,000 years ago. Such evidence however complicates our understanding of how the chicken was domesticated because its wild progenitor – the red jungle fowl (Gallus gallus) – lives in tropical ecosystems and does not exist in northern China today or in the recent past. Increasingly, multiple lines of evidence suggest that many of the archaeological bird remains underlying this northern origins hypothesis have been misidentified. Here we analyze the mitochondrial DNA of some of the earliest purported chickens from the Dadiwan site in northern China and conclude that they are pheasants (Phasianus colchicus). Curiously, stable isotope values from the same birds reveal that their diet was heavy in agricultural products (namely millet), meaning that they lived adjacent to or among some of the earliest farming communities in East Asia. We suggest that the exploitation of these baited birds was an important adaptation for early farmers in China’s arid north, and that management practices like these likely played a role in the domestication of animals – including the chicken – in similar contexts throughout the region.
ROYAUME UNI – Dunkeld - A hilltop fort near Dunkeld was an important Pictish power centre, say archaeologists who excavated the site. Evidence of metal and textile production were revealed at King's Seat Hillfort, a legally protected site. Finds such as glass beads and pottery suggested the Picts who occupied the site in the 7th to 9th centuries had trade links with continental Europe. Other finds included pieces of Roman glass that were recycled and reused as gaming pieces. Archaeologists said the artefacts uncovered were in keeping with other high-status, royal sites of early historic Scotland, including the early Dalriadic capital of Dunadd in Argyll and the Pictish royal centre of Dundurn near St Fillan's by Loch Earn. David Strachan, director of PKHT, said: "We have uncovered lots of evidence of how people were living and working, and the remains of a building with a large hearth on the summit, with fragments of glass drinking vessels, gaming pieces, animal bone and horn. "They paint a vivid picture of high-status people gathering and feasting, decorated in the latest high-status jewellery and ornamentation." Cath MacIver, of AOC Archaeology, said crucibles, whetstones, stone and clay moulds found indicated that craft production took place at the hillfort. "What's particularly interesting is that evidence of this activity has been found in all of the trenches [excavated areas]," she said. "There must have been a lot of iron and other metal working going on here making the site an important centre for production - not just the home of a small group of people making items for their own use."
CAMBODGE – Tonle Snguot - A team from the Apsara National Authority (ANA) has discovered a gatekeeper statue’s foot fragment at the Tonle Snguot Temple, within a metre of the toe of a statue found in 2017. However, the art conservation and repair team announced the discovery on Monday after comparing the statue’s mould with the foot fragment to ascertain they were identical. “According to the verification results, the Apsara National Authority preservation and repair team confirmed that the foot fragment was part of the temple gatekeeper’s statue. “The foot fragment matched with that of the gatekeeper statue being repaired at the Angkor conservation site,” he said. Kosal said three years ago, the temple team found the statues of the gatekeeper, its torso, and fragments of a hand and the gatekeeper’s legs. They were taken to the Angkor conservation site.
USA – Castle Rock Pueblo - The Pueblo people created rock carvings in the Mesa Verde region of the Southwest United States about 800 years ago to mark the position of the sun on the longest and shortest days of the year, archaeologists now say. Panels of ancient rock art, called petroglyphs, on canyon walls in the region show complex interactions of sunlight and shadows.These interactions can be seen in the days around the winter and summer solstices, when the sun reaches its southernmost and northernmost points, respectively, and, to a lesser extent, around the equinoxes — the "equal nights"— in spring and fall, the researchers said. The carvings show scenes depicting the traditions of contemporary Hopi people — descendants of the ancestral Puebloans who lived in parts of the Southwest until the 13th century. The traditions describe important rituals at seasonal points in the yearly solar calendar tied to farming activities, such as planting and harvesting.Since 2011, Palonka has led researchers from his university in investigations of ancient sites around Castle Rock Pueblo that date from the early 13th century. At one of the sites studied so far, the petroglyphs are carved on a flat, south-racing rock wall that's shaded by an overhanging rock. They consist of three carved spirals and smaller elements, including rectangles, grooves and hollows. At the time of sunset on days near the midwinter solstice, which happens around Dec. 22 each year, patterns of sunlight and shadow can be seen to move through the spirals, grooves and other parts of the petroglyphs, Palonka said. The phenomenon is also visible around the spring and fall equinoxes, around March 20 and Sept. 22 each year, but it does not occur at other times of the year. Similar petroglyphs at another ancestral Puebloan site, at nearby Sand Canyon, are lit by sunlight only in the late mornings and early afternoons around the summer solstice, he said.Among other details, Palonka has learned that the spiral symbol, seen in many of the rock carvings related to the solstices and equinoxes, was often an emblem of the sun or sky — but not always. The symbol can also have other meanings — including water, physical migration or spiritual migration — such as moving between the physical world and a mythical or spiritual world, he said.
ITALIE – Pompéi - Les archéologues ont commencé à explorer les sous-sols du site vieux de plus de 2.000 ans. Et ils y ont fait de riches observations. Les recherches sont menées dans le cadre d'une nouvelle étude visant à en savoir plus sur le système de drainage caché sous Pompéi. Ce dernier se trouve au centre de la ville, au niveau du Forum civil et s'étend de la Via Marina jusqu'à proximité de la Villa impériale. Constitué de canaux et de tunnels souterrains, ce système permettait autrefois d'évacuer les eaux de pluie et de les diriger vers la mer. Jusqu'à récemment, l'analyse de ces structures s'était cependant révélée complexe et les spécialistes n'avaient encore jamais entrepris de les explorer, notamment en raison de leur difficulté d'accès. Depuis 2018, quelque 457 mètres de passages ont été visités à l'aide de spéléologues. Cette première phase qui s'est achevée début janvier, a permis d'en apprendre plus sur le système de drainage mais aussi d'évaluer son état et d'identifier les potentiels problèmes à résoudre pour l'aider à continuer de fonctionner. L'étude a également permis de préciser l'origine de la construction. D'après les chercheurs, les structures auraient connu trois phases de construction : une première durant l'époque hellénistique (entre les IIIe et IIe siècles avant notre ère), une deuxième durant la fin de la République romaine (vers le Ier siècle avant notre ère) et une troisième correspondant au début du Haut-Empire (entre la fin du Ier siècle avant notre ère et l'an 79). Selon Massimo Osanna, directeur général du parc archéologique, les structures observées témoignent "des excellentes compétences en ingénierie de l'époque". Mais l'étude est loin d'être achevée. Plus de 400 mètres de canaux et tunnels souterrains resteraient encore à visiter et les archéologues ont déjà prévu une seconde phase dont l'objectif sera de restaurer les structures.