Top 10 Discoveries of 2019
ARCHAEOLOGY magazine reveals the year’s most exciting finds

Japan’s Sacred Island
For centuries, rituals performed on an isolated island played a key role in the emergence of Japan

Temple of the White Thunderbird
Excavators in southern Iraq have uncovered the long-lost home of the powerful Sumerian warrior god

Friend? Roman? Countryman?
A rare Iron Age burial in southern England reflects the close connections between Britain and Gaul two millennia ago

Inca Power Politics

Ruins of a half-built Andean capital are evidence of how the Inca controlled their vast empire—until the Spanish arrived

Meier's research investigates human-animal relations across pivotal shifts in human history—from the decline of Neanderthals in Paleolithic France, to the beginning of animal domestication in Neolithic Israel, and to the rise and fall of urban centers across Bronze–Iron Age Greece. During these uneasy transitions, animals played diverse roles as active participants in daily life, symbols, and sources of calories and waste. She integrates zooarchaeological and contextual taphonomic methods to detect daily meals, past rites (i.e. feasting), and norms of refuse management. By examining this evidence through social zooarchaeology and ecological anthropology frameworks, she works to form more complete models of past ecologies during times of human stress across diverse environments.

GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA—Live Science reports that William Keegan of the Florida Museum of Natural History and Ann Ross of North Carolina State University analyzed the structure of 103 skulls unearthed in the Caribbean, Florida, and Panama, and concluded that the Carib people may have traveled to the Bahamas from South America as early as A.D. 800. When Christopher Columbus arrived in the Bahamas in 1492, he recorded conflicts between the indigenous Arawak and Caribs, whom he described as marauding cannibals. But researchers lacked evidence showing that the Caribs had actually migrated so far north, and therefore doubted the accuracy of the explorer’s account. The new test results and archaeological evidence suggest that Carib settlers from the Yucatán Peninsula reached the Caribbean around 5000 B.C., and they then traveled to Cuba and the northern Antilles, while Arawaks from Colombia and Venezuela arrived in Puerto Rico between 800 and 200 B.C. The study also indicates that Caribs from the northwest Amazon were the first to arrive in the Bahamas and the island of Hispaniola. Keegan said this migration pattern fits with the spread of a unique pottery type as well. He and Ross now think Columbus may have actually encountered the Caribs, but they said that there is still no real evidence that the Caribs practiced cannibalism. To read about the fifteenth-century Martellus map that Columbus is believed to have consulted before sailing to the Caribbean, go to "Reading the Invisible Ink."

JANUARY 25, 2020
Dr. Jacqueline Meier, professor of Anthropology at the University of North Florida
​Neanderthal Hunting Strategies in the Northeastern Mediterranean

GREECE: In 1802, the ship Mentor was sailing to England when it sank off the island of Kythira. Seventeen boxes of ancient treasures, including the famous Parthenon Marbles, went down to the seafloor. Most of the precious objects were quickly raised, but investigation of the wreck site has shown that many remained. Divers recently retrieved a gold ring, a pair of gold earrings, and three gaming pieces, as well as various other wood, ceramic, and bone artifacts. (photo: Greece's Ministry of Culture and Sports)


Peru’s Pachacamac Idol Analyzed

Friday, January 17, 2020

Until recently, archaeologists have supposed that the seas and oceans represented a barrier to human dispersal, and that islands were among the last places on earth to be colonized by people, only fairly recently, as part of the worldwide spread of modern humans.  But is that picture still correct?  Startling new data have come to light just in the last few years, in parts of the Mediterranean and islands in Southeast Asia, that have been claimed as evidence for a far longer antiquity for seafaring, reaching back hundreds of thousands, and perhaps as much as a million years.  Naturally, these claims have attracted widespread attention and much discussion—and not only among archaeologists. 

This lecture outlines what we know, with reasonable certainty, about patterns of global maritime dispersal in the past few tens of thousands of years, before turning to present the new evidence and its strengths and weaknesses.  In trying to understand it, we will need to consider information (amongst other things) from ethnographic analogy, experimental seafaring, and our current knowledge of the relative configurations of land and sea over the course of the Pleistocene era.  Some of the bold assertions made in the past few years require more supporting data before they can be accepted.  That cautious conclusion does not detract from the excitement and importance of this fast-moving field of research in archaeology.

New Thoughts on the Colonization of the Caribbean

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

FEBRUARY 15, 2020
Dr. John Cherry, professor at Brown University
​Taking to the Water: New Evidence and New Debates About the Earliest Seafaring in the World

PARIS, FRANCE—Live Science reports that researchers led by Marcela Sepúlveda of Sorbonne University examined the seven- and one-half-foot-tall wooden statue known as the Pachacamac idol, which was unearthed in 1938 within the Painted Temple at Pachacamac, an Inca sanctuary located near the coastline of central Peru. In 1533, Spanish conquistador Hernando Pizarro ordered that the revered idol at Pachacamac be destroyed, and so researchers did not know if the statue unearthed within the temple was the sacred object or another artifact. Sepúlveda and her colleagues radiocarbon dated the statue to sometime between A.D. 760 and 876, which suggests that it was made by the Wari people and that the oracle site was important hundreds of years before the rise of the Inca Empire. Analysis of the statue's surface with X-ray fluorescence spectrometry revealed traces of color, Sepúlveda added. Its teeth were once painted white, and parts of its headdress were decorated with yellow pigment. Cinnabar, a red pigment that is found in the Andes Mountains some 250 miles away, was also detected. The red color may have been a symbol of economic might and political power, Sepúlveda explained. For more on recent finds in Peru, go to "Peruvian Mass Sacrifice," one of ARCHAEOLOGY's Top 10 Discoveries of 2019.  
​(photo: (Sepúlveda et al. 2020, PLOS ONE))​

MARCH 21, 2020
Lisa Duffy, Doctoral Candidate at the University of Florida, will present the results of her fascinating research into pottery residues.

APRIL 18, 2020   
Dr. Sarah Clayton, University of Wisconsin—Madison, will present a lecture titled “The End of Teotihuacan: Perspectives on Collapse and Regeneration from Beyond the Ancient Metropolis.”

MAY 16, 2020     
Dr. James P. Delgado, Senior Vice President of SEARCH, INC, will present a lecture about the recent recovery of the Clotilda, the last ship to bring slaves into the United States. its location has long been the subject of great interest to archaeologists.

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CAMBODIA: Workers searching through a pile of debris for fallen roof stones from the Ta Nei Temple in Angkor unexpectedly unearthed the head of an ancient bodhisattva statue. The sculpture, which is around 2 feet tall and dates to the late 12th or early 13th century, has a small Buddha figure carved into the hair above its forehead. In Mahayana Buddhism, a bodhisattva is someone who is on the path of enlightenment to attain Buddhahood.



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Our FREE LECTURES are held on a Saturday at 12:00 pm in building 51 (Social Sciences) on the University of North Florida campus in Jacksonville.

ENGLAND: Parts of a Shakespeare-era theater were unearthed under London’s Whitechapel neighborhood. The Boar’s Head Playhouse is known from historical documents, but its ruins were brought to light for the first time during a recent construction project. Originally an inn, the Boar’s Head was converted to a theater in 1598. However, records show that open-air performances were held on the property as early as 1557, when a play titled A Sack Full of News was banned due to its lewdness.

After a brief stint in the late 1970s in the Dept. of Ancient History and Classical Archaeology at the University of Sheffield, John Cherry was appointed to a University Lectureship in Aegean Prehistory in the Faculty of Classics at the University of Cambridge (1980 - 1993), and as a Fellow and Tutor at Fitzwilliam College, where he directed studies in Classics and in Archaeology & Anthropology. In 1993 he moved to the University of Michigan as Professor of Classical Archaeology and Greek, serving there for 11 years as Director of the Interdepartmental Program in Classical Art and Archaeology, and as a Curator in the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology. He was appointed at Brown in 2006 as Joukowsky Family Professor of Archaeology and Professor of Classics. His archaeological fieldwork over four decades has included projects in Great Britain, the United States, Greece, Italy, Armenia, and (currently) Monserrat in the Caribbean.

Our early human ancestors used diverse strategies to meet the changing subsistence demands of a wide array of environments. Until recently, the general research consensus supported a hypothesis that prior to the Upper Paleolithic period, Neanderthals and other archaic Homo species hunted a narrow range of animals and exploited mainly large herd animals across the Mediterranean region. This presentation will reveal new data about hunting practices from some of the earliest Paleolithic archaeological sites in France to reconsider the notion that Neanderthals exclusively hunted big game. Together, the recent findings of this zooarchaeological research yield new insights into early human and Neanderthal life-ways.

BOULDER, COLORADO—According to a report in The Guardian, a new study of shell tools recovered in 1949 from a coastal cave in central Italy suggests that some of them were made from shells retrieved directly from the seabed, and not collected on the shore. Animal teeth found alongside the tools were dated to between 90,000 and 100,000 years ago, when Neanderthals are thought to have been the only hominins living in Western Europe. The tools, which are thought to have been used as scrapers, were made from the shell of a clam known as Callista chione, which lives in coastal waters at least three feet deep. Paola Villa of the University of Colorado Boulder said microscopic evaluation revealed that almost a quarter of the shell tools did not show signs of the wear and tear usually seen on shells collected on the seashore after being tossed in the waves. Rather, these shells were smooth, as if they had been harvested while still holding a live clam. It is not clear if the clams were eaten, however. Villa and her colleagues also found lumps of volcanic rock in the collection that may have been collected from the beach. Such pieces of pumice are known to have been used by early modern humans to polish pieces of bone. For more on hominin tools, go to "Neanderthal Tool Time."

Neanderthal Shell Tools Studied

Thursday, January 16, 2020