|Anthropology Around The World|
Archaeology - Archaeology Magazine
1 - African Coins Could Rewrite Australia’s Past
2 - Dolphins Discover Historic Armament
3 - Cambodia Requests Return of Artifacts Acquired After 1970
4 - Sea Island Slave Cabin Moves to New Museum
5 - Historic Iron Forge Investigated
6 - Are Dogs and Humans Evolutionary Partners?
7 - Direct Evidence: Projectiles are at Least 90,000 Years Old
8 - New Zealand’s Earliest Inhabitants
9 - China’s First Farmers
INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA—In 1944, while stationed on Australia’s Wessel Islands, soldier Maurie Isenberg discovered five 1,000-year-old copper coins thought to have been minted in the former Kilwa sultanate, a trading port on an island off the coast of Tanzania. Isenberg marked the spot where he found the coins on a map, and in 1979, donated them to an Australian museum. Now Ian McIntosh of Indiana University wants to know how the coins got to the northern coast of Australia. The coins may have washed ashore from a shipwreck, or there may have been maritime trading routes linking east Africa, Arabia, India, and the Spice Islands to Australia long before Europeans made the trip. McIntosh plans to excavate Isenberg’s site this summer.
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA—Two bottle-nosed dolphins found a late nineteenth-century Howell torpedo in the waters off Coronado Island during training exercises with the U.S. Navy to find undersea objects. Navy specialists disregarded a positive response from the first dolphin because they had not placed any training devices, made to look like mines, in the area. When a second dolphin training in the same area alerted the crew a week later, it was asked to mark the spot of its discovery. Human divers found the Howell torpedo in two pieces and brought it to the surface for identification. “We’ve never found anything like this. Never,” said Mike Rothe, who heads the Navy’s marine mammal program. The Howell torpedo was the first that could follow a track without leaving a wake and then hit its target. Only 50 of them were made between 1870 and 1889—the only other known surviving example is on display at the Naval Undersea Museum in Keyport, Washington.
PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA—Cambodian officials have requested the return of Khmer objects acquired by American museums after 1970, when many artifacts were stolen during the chaos of civil war. As many as six 1,000-year-old Hindu statues from the temple of Prasat Chen are thought to be in the United States. Two of those statues, known as the Kneeling Attendants, were held at New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. They are due to be returned to Cambodia next month. “If other museums are confronted with the kind of evidence that the Met was provided, I believe the Met’s actions will serve as an appropriate example for them to follow,” said Stephen K. Urice of the University of Miami School of Law. Sotheby’s has possession of another statue, the mythic warrior known as Duryodhanna, which was withdrawn from auction in 2011 after a Cambodia objected to the sale.
EDISTO ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA—A slave cabin dating from the 1850s has been dismantled and transported to the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African-American History in Washington, D.C. The cabin is one of two to have survived at the Point of Pines Plantation in South Carolina, and was occupied, without electricity or heat, until the 1980s, when it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. “The sea island history is so rich and multigenerational. This history has been tucked away,” said Nancy Bercaw, curator of the new museum, which will open in 2015.
PIGEON FORGE, TENNESSEE—Iron Forge, the original iron forge in the city of Pigeon Forge, was built on the Little Pigeon River in 1817. A team of archaeologists spent a day investigating the site. “There’s iron ore all along the ridge up there by Middle Creek Road, and they would just bring that down here and put it in the forge,” said archaeologist and blacksmith Alan Longmire of the Tennessee Department of Transportation. The team identified the location of the forge’s furnace, water wheel, where water drained, and wooden artifacts, including the beam on which the water wheel turned. The information will be combined into a map of the site. Further excavation will require additional funding.
BEIJING, CHINA—Geneticist Guo-dong Wang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and his team analyzed the DNA of four gray wolves, three indigenous Chinese dogs, a German shepherd, a Belgian Malinois, and a Tibetan mastiff. Their results indicate that gray wolves split from Chinese dogs some 32,000 years ago. They then compared corresponding genes in dogs and humans, and found that domestic dogs and their human partners experienced similar changes in digestion, metabolism, and brain chemistry as they evolved together. “As domestication is often associated with large increases in population density and crowded living conditions, these ‘unfavorable’ environments might be the selective pressure that drove the rewiring of both species,” the team wrote.
QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA—Archaeologist Corey O’Driscoll has developed a method of determining if wounds on bones were made by spears thrown from a distance. Indirect evidence from examining stone point, suggests that humans living in Africa began hurling weapons as early as 500,000 years ago, but this evidence is often disputed. To solve this problem, O’Driscoll and a colleague knapped flint spear and arrow points modeled after Middle Stone Age technology from Africa. They then threw the replica spears and fired the replica arrows at lamb and cow carcasses, defleshed the bones, and compared the marks on the bones with a reference collection of butchered animal bones. O’Driscoll found that the butchering marks and the projectile impact marks have clear differences when viewed with a microscope, including traces of stone left in the projectile point wounds. He and Jessica Thompson of the University of Queensland then examined three animal bones from Pinnacle Point Cave in South Africa. Using the new diagnostic criteria, they identified projectile impact marks on all three bones, two of which are between 91,000 and 98,000 years old—the oldest direct evidence for the use of projectile weapons.
OTAGO, NEW ZEALAND—A new study of three groups of skeletons discovered in a cemetery at Wairau Bar suggests that the first group may have come from Polynesia to colonize New Zealand some 700 years ago. The ratio of isotopes in their bones are similar to those found in the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia. The later groups of individuals probably grew up while covering a large area of New Zealand. “This is consistent with other archaeological evidence that the first settlers in New Zealand were highly mobile. That members of Groups 2 and 3 were still buried back at Wairau suggests that this village may have fulfilled both a ceremonial and home base function,” said Hallie Buckley of the University of Otago. Traditionally, Maori are buried in their ancestral lands.
BEIJING, CHINA—An analysis of 5,000-year-old grinding stones suggests that agriculture may have begun in southern China before the arrival of domesticated rice. Huw Barton of the University of Leicester and Xiaoyan Yang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences found that the preserved starch granules represented freshwater chestnuts, lotus root, fern root, and palms. “The presence of at least two, possibly three species of starch producing palms, bananas, and various roots, raises the intriguing possibility that these plants may have been planted nearby the settlement,” said Barton. The presence of palm could explain the slow transition to rice as a staple food in the region.