March 21, 2020
University of Florida Ph. D. Candidate, Lisa Duffy 
​Using Residue Analysis to Explore Ancient Maya Recipes and Food-Processing Technologies

EASTER ISLAND, CHILE—According to a statement released by the University of Oregon, a team of researchers led by archaeologist Robert J. DiNapoli has demonstrated that the people of Easter Island, also known as Rapa Nui, continued to construct monumental stone statues well after 1600, a date around which some scholars believe society on the island suffered a collapse. The team investigated the construction sequence of the statues, also known as moai, by studying radiocarbon dates taken at 11 sites. They found that the islanders began to build moai soon after they settled Rapa Nui in the thirteenth century and continued to construct them at least 150 years after the supposed collapse around 1600. Accounts left by Dutch explorers who reached the island in 1722 suggest the islanders were still using the moai for rituals. Later Spanish voyagers, who landed on the island in 1770, also reported the moai were still in use, though by 1774 the British explorer James Cook found that Rapa Nui was in a state of crisis and that many moai had been overturned. "The way we interpret our results and this sequence of historical accounts is that the notion of a pre-European collapse of monument construction is no longer supported," DiNapoli said. To read in depth about Polynesian prehistory, go to “Letter From Hawaii: Inside Kauai’s Past." (photo by: Robert J. DiNapoli)

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


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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Inside a Medieval Gaelic Castle
A tiny Irish island holds the secrets of an unknown royal way of life

Remembering the Shark Hunters
Unique burials show how ancient Peruvians celebrated dangerous deep-sea expeditions

Lord of the Oasis
In Egypt’s Western Desert, worship of the mysterious god Seth thrived long after it waned elsewhere

The Founder's Tomb
Frescoes discovered in a Jordanian village narrate the early days of a once-cosmopolitan city on the eastern edge of the Roman Empire

Atomic Age Ghost Fleet
The submerged remains of two massive bomb tests in the Pacific illustrate the potential horrors of nuclear war

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.

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.

Researchers Will Search for Spanish Treasure Ship
Tuesday, February 11, 2020



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Questioning the Easter Island Collapse

Monday, February 10, 2020

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO—The Guardian reports that researchers from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History and Spain’s National Museum of Underwater Archaeology will renew their search for Nuestra Señora del Juncal, a Spanish galleon that was carrying more than 100 tons of New World gold, silver, jewels, cacao, dyes, and animal hides when it sank off the coast of Mexico in a storm in October 1631. The Juncal’s commander had died before it set sail, and the ship began taking on water before the storm hit. The crew threw cannon and other heavy objects overboard, but the ship was lost. Only 39 of the 300 on board survived. “Because the cargo was so valuable—it was carrying lots of ingots—the authorities had a detailed inventory,” explained Iván Negueruela of Spain’s National Museum of Underwater Archaeology. “The survivors were also questioned in-depth and their statements help us to reconstruct what happened with quite a high degree of accuracy, so we have a fairly good idea of where the ship sank.” Negueruela also said the shipwreck could offer new information on how galleons were constructed in the first half of the seventeenth century, and will serve as a training ground for the next generation of underwater archaeologists. To read about the discovery of notable shipwrecks, go to "History's 10 Greatest Wrecks..."

CHINA: Around 200 new terracotta warriors have joined the ranks of the 2,000 that had been previously excavated. The life-size sculptures were unearthed during the latest round of excavations at the 3rd-century B.C. tomb of Qin Shihuangdi in Xi’an. The recently uncovered figures represent two different types of soldiers, those who held long poles as weapons and those who carried bows. It is estimated that around 8,000 clay warriors were buried around the mausoleum to protect China’s first emperor in the afterlife.

PERU: The number of known Nazca Lines continues to grow, thanks, in part, to artificial intelligence (AI). The mysterious, massive geoglyphs, representing humans, animals, and geometric shapes, were created in the Nazca Desert around 2,000 years ago. Recently, 142 new figures were detected with high-resolution 3-D imaging. AI software was also fed satellite imagery and data to test whether it could locate any more unknown images. The software was able to identify at least one previously unknown figure—a human-like form. (photo by Yamagata University)

1,200-Year-Old Glass Gaming Piece Discovered in England

Friday, February 7, 2020

The food and drink of ancient societies is of great interest to scientists and the public alike. Food represents sustenance and also symbols. What we eat and drink is embedded in our cultural attitudes, but is also affected by the availability of resources. In areas like the ancient Maya world, it has been difficult to trace the material remains of many foods because they do not preserve well and, in this area of high biodiversity, are difficult to identify. 

My colleagues and I at the University of Florida are investigating the foods and beverages consumed by the ancient Maya, by analyzing organic chemical residues and starch grains in pottery vessels and on stone grinding tools. Our techniques are interdisciplinary and include artifact analysis, liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry, and starch grain analysis by microscopy.

I will explain how these analyses can help identify a broader range of food items and particularly, reveal ancient Maya “recipes.” My approach explores “recipes” rather than single ingredients to provide insights into ingredient choice and methods of combining, processing, and serving foods and drinks, using different tools and vessels. This approach enables us to learn about the individual who prepared the food/drink.

This study is focused on periods of cultural transition at several pre-contact Maya sites in Belize and Guatemala to better understand the relationship between people and food during times of social and environmental change. Differences in Maya recipes through time, across space, and among community members are revealing intriguing information about the relationships among people, their foods, and their environmental and social circumstances. 

DURHAM, ENGLAND—The Guardian reports that a small piece of worked glass dated to the eighth or ninth century A.D. has been discovered on the island of Lindisfarne, the home of an early monastery and site of the first major Viking raid on Britain in A.D. 793. The pebble-sized object of swirled blue and white glass, topped with five white glass droplets, is thought to be a gaming piece from the Viking board game hnefatafl, or “king’s table.” The artifact was found as part of an ongoing excavation led by DigVentures and Durham University. The dig's lead archaeologist, David Petts of Durham University, thinks the piece might have been dropped by a Norse raider, or may have belonged to a wealthy local person who may have been influenced by Norse customs even before the attack. “The sheer quality of this piece suggests this isn’t any old gaming set,” Petts said. “Someone on the island is living an elite lifestyle.” To read about a female Viking warrior buried with whalebone game pieces, go to "Viking Warrioress."
(photo credit: DigVentures and Durham University)

MEXICO: Huge pits dug in Tultepec, north of Mexico City, are providing greater understanding of the techniques humans used to hunt woolly mammoths 15,000 years ago. The two pits, each around 80 feet in diameter and 6 feet deep, contained 824 mammoth bones from 14 different animals. Researchers believe the pits were dug to trap confused mammoths, who were driven into them by hunters wielding torches and branches. The incapacitated beasts could then be more easily killed and butchered. (photo by Edith Camancho/INAH)