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July/August 2009 www.archaeology.

org A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America May/June 2012

Donner Party: The Native American Perspective
Dogtooth Handbag, German
Ax Hoard, First Zodiac,
Greengrocer Curse Tablet
Bronze Age
Social Network
Ancient Mexican
Board Games
The New Frontier
of Underwater
24 Excavating Tel Kedesh
More than a decade after they began
working at an enormous mound in
Israels Upper Galilee region, two
archaeologists reflect on their work
30 Ancient Germanys
Metal Traders
A post-Cold War construction boom
is exposing evidence of a powerful
Bronze Age culture
34 Archaeology of Titanic
One hundred years after it sank, the
wreck of Titanic has finally become
what it was always meant to be: an
archaeological site
42 Rethinking the
Tundering Hordes
How pastoralist nomads carried
civilization across Central Asia more
than 4,000 years ago
48 Games Ancient
People Played
An intriguing discovery in a
Mexican swamp provides evidence
of the earliest form of amusement
in the Americas
42 Archaeologists are searching
Central Asias vast landscape
for evidence of ancient nomadic
trade networks.
Cover: A map of the bow of Titanic made
using multi-beam and side-scan sonar
4 Editors Letter
6 From the President
More from this Issue To read our
previous coverage on Titanic, go to
Interactive Digs Read about the latest
discoveries at the Minoan site of Zominthos in
central Crete; at Johnsons Island, a Civil War
site in Ohio; and at El Carrizal; in Veracruz.
Archaeological News from around
the worldupdated by 1 p.m. ET every
weekday. And sign up for our e-Update so you
dont miss a thing.
Stay in Touch Visit Facebook to like
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8 Letters
The number of deaths on the Trail of Tears, why
700-year-old artifacts persist on New Mexicos surface,
and how tall is the Lion Man?
9 From the Trenches
The Resurrection Ossuary and the risks of interpretation,
the worlds oldest handbag, CT scans uncover artifacts
within artifacts, the disease that killed two ancient
Albanians, and did drought doom Angkor Wat?
22 World Roundup
Excavating a Mormon tabernacle, cursing the
local greengrocer, the worlds earliest popcorn,
and did Bantu-speaking farmers reshape central
Africas landscape?
53 Letter from California
A new look at the notorious Donner Party
68 Artifact
A Roman gurine is the rst depiction in bronze of an
African child charioteer ever found
on the web

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A Lifes Work
hat sometimes gets overlooked in our coverage of archaeology is the nature of
the connection that archaeologists can have to their areas of study, especially as
that relationship evolves over the years they devote to particular sites.
In Archaeology of Titanic (page 34), underwater archaeologist James P. Delgado,
who rst dived the wreck and subsequently wrote about it for us more than a dozen
years ago, speaks of revisiting the ship as part of a new expedition in 2010, and details
the considerable changes, since then, in underwater archaeology. He also shares his
view that Titanic, at last, can become an archaeological site in the truest sense.
In Excavating Tel Kedesh (page 24), archaeologists Andrea Berlin and Sharon
Herbert recount their more than 10 years of work at a tell in the
rural interior of Israels Upper Galilee region. This site, which
lies along the Israeli-Lebanese border, yielded a richer story
than they ever could have imagined.
Julie M. Schablitsky, in Letter from California: A New
Look at the Donner Party (page 53), reveals the ways in
which archaeology is allowing a clearer interpretation of
the situation that these doomed migrants faced. She also
reects on the ways in which it brought her own practice of
archaeology into sharper focus.
Also in this issue you will nd the latest analysis of Central
Asias more than 4,000-year-old nomadic culture. Rethinking
The Thundering Hordes (page 42), by contributing editor
Andrew Lawler, challenges the long-held view that the peoples who
lived in the areas covered by modern countries including Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and
Kazakhstan were destroyers of civilization. Rather, they may have helped to advance it.
Contributing editor Andrew Curry, in Ancient Germanys Metal Traders (page 30),
writes of an astonishing nd made during the course of building a highway on-ramp
in Dermsdorf, Germany: a jar lled with 100 bronze ax heads. This hoard, and the
remains of Bronze Age structures, settlements, and burial sites discovered in the area,
add up to signicant evidence of a culture that maintained trade networks with places
as far-ung as Denmark, Poland, and Scotland some 3,000 years ago.
Of course, even millennia ago, people knew that all work and no play was no way to live.
In Games Ancient People Played (page 48), Barbara Voorhies examines the discovery
of circular patterns of holes in a clay oor in Mexico, and how archaeology may have
determined that they are some of the earliest evidence of game-playing in the Americas.
And dont miss From the Trenches, World Roundup, and Artifact, where youll
nd our very own blend of everything that archaeological discovery has to oer.
ARCHAEOLOGY May/June 2012 4
Editor in Chief
Claudia Valentino
Executive Editor Deputy Editor
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Senior Editors
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Editorial Assistant Intern
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Contributing Editors
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David Freidel, Tom Gidwitz, Andrew Lawler
Stephen H. Lekson, Jerald T. Milanich,
Jennifer Pinkowski, Heather Pringle,
Angela M. H. Schuster, Neil Asher Silberman
Athens: Yannis N. Stavrakakis
Bangkok: Karen Coates
Islamabad: Massoud Ansari
Israel: Mati Milstein
Naples: Marco Merola
Paris: Bernadette Arnaud
Rome: Roberto Bartoloni,
Giovanni Lattanzi
Washington, D.C.: Sandra Scham
Peter Herdrich
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Director of Circulation and Fulllment
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everal bills currently making their way through
Congress are causing considerable concern in the
archaeological and broader scientific community. The
Federal Research Public Access Act of 2012 was introduced in
both houses of Congress on February 9 of this year.
The legislation would require that publishers of academic
and scholarly journals provide the government with final peer-
reviewed and edited manuscripts, and, six months after their
publication, those manuscripts would be made available to the
public, on the Internet, for no charge. The House bill states,
The Federal Government funds basic and applied research with
the expectation that new ideas and discoveries that result from the research, if shared and
effectively disseminated, will advance science and improve the lives and welfare of people
of the United States and around the world.
We at the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA), along with our colleagues at the
American Anthropological Association and other learned societies, have taken a stand
against open access. Here at the AIA, we particularly object to having such a scheme
imposed on us from the outside when, in fact, during the AIAs more than 130-year
history, we have energetically supported the broad dissemination of knowledge, and do so
through our extensive program of events and lectures for the general public and through our
publications. Our mission statement explicitly says, Believing that greater understanding
of the past enhances our shared sense of humanity and enriches our existence, the AIA
seeks to educate people of all ages about the significance of archaeological discovery. We
have long practiced open access.
While it may be true that the government finances research, it does not fund the
arduous peer-review process that lies at the heart of journal and scholarly publication, nor
the considerable effort beyond that step that goes into preparing articles for publication.
Those efforts are not without cost. When an archaeologist publishes his or her work,
the final product has typically been significantly improved by the contributions of other
professionals such as peer reviewers, editors, copywriters, photo editors, and designers.
This is the context in which the work should appear. (Almost all scholarly books and many
articles lead off with a lengthy list that acknowledges these individuals.)
We fear that this legislation would prove damaging to the traditional venues in which
scientific information is presented by offering, for no cost, something that has considerable
costs associated with producing it. It would undermine, and ultimately dismantle, by
offering for no charge, what subscribers actually support financiallya rigorous publication
process that does serve the public, because it results in superior work.
ARCHAEOLOGY May/June 2012 6
Elizabeth Bartman
President, Archaeological Institute of America
Institute of America
Located at Boston University
Elizabeth Bartman
First Vice President
Andrew Moore
Vice President for Outreach and Education
Pamela Russell
Vice President for Professional Responsibilities
Laetitia LaFollette
Vice President for Publications
John Younger
Vice President for Societies
Thomas Morton
Brian J. Heidtke
Chief Executive Officer
Peter Herdrich
Chief Operating Officer
Kevin Quinlan
Susan Alcock
Michael Ambler
Carla Antonaccio
Cathleen Asch
Barbara Barletta
David Boochever
Julie Herzig Desnick
Michael Galaty
Greg Goggin
Ronald Greenberg
Michael Hoff
Jeffrey Lamia
Lynne Lancaster
Deborah Lehr
Robert Littman
Elizabeth Macaulay-Lewis
Heather McKillop
Shilpi Mehta
Naomi Norman, ex officio
Maria Papaioannou
Eleanor Powers
Paul Rissman
Glenn Schwartz
David Seigle
Chen Shen
Charles Steinmetz
Douglas Tilden
Claudia Valentino, ex officio
Shelley Wachsmann
Ashley White
John J. Yarmick
Past President
C. Brian Rose
Trustees Emeriti
Norma Kershaw
Charles S. LaFollette
Legal Counsel
Mitchell Eitel, Esq.
Sullivan & Cromwell, LLP
Archaeological Institute of America
656 Beacon Street Boston, MA 02215-2006
Open Access
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ARCHAEOLOGY May/June 2012 8
Why Are Coronados Artifacts
Still on the Surface?
I dont understand the logic in Coro-
nados Deadly Siege (March/April 2012).
The pueblo is buried such that archaeolo-
gists cant dig to its foundations or even to
the top of the ruined structures, yet the
artifacts are at ground level? Logically,
shouldnt those artifacts be at the same
level as the pueblo foundations?
Flo Samuels
Hayward, CA
Archaeologist Matt Schmader
The buried wall outlines were detected by
instruments at a depth of 18 inches, but are
even shallower (and sometimes even visible at
the surface). The average depth of the sixteenth-
century metal is two to four inches. It is common
to find artifacts even thousands of years old
lying on the surface in New Mexico. Essentially,
Piedras Marcadas is at a zero point where there
is little deposition or erosion, but more like a bal-
ance between the two. Thats why 500,000
pieces of pottery dating 400 to 700 years ago
are right there, lying on the surface.
Full Scope of the Trail of Tears
The Trail of Tears involved not only the
Cherokee, but over 40 other groups
and tribes. Your story (Return to the
Trail of Tears, March/April 2012) con-
tains several historical inaccuracies. For
example, the Cherokee moved themselves
in 13 separate contingents. Further, while
many of the Cherokee were interned at
the beginning of Removal, they were on
their own on the trail. Troops did not
accompany the Indians, prodding them
on their way. Also, the figure of 4,000
deaths is considered by most scholars to
be on the high side.
James W. Parins
University of Arkansas at Little Rock
Little Rock, AR
ARCHAEOLOGY welcomes mail from
readers. Please address your comments
to ARCHAEOLOGY, 36-36 33rd Street,
Long Island City, NY 11106, fax 718-472-
3051, or e-mail letters@arch a
The editors reserve the right to edit
submitted material. Vol ume precludes
our acknowledging individual letters.
Author Marion Blackburn responds:
For this feature we focused tightly on the
events associated with Fort Armistead,
which is believed to be one of the best-
preserved forts within the former Cherokee
Nation associated with Removal. Its story
is indeed part of a much larger event. When
describing deaths along the Trail of Tears,
the number cited most often is 4,000,
though there are estimates as high as
6,000. The deaths before, during, and after
the forced emigration, as well as the deaths
of children and the elderly, loss of fertility
and miscarriages, combined with the ongo-
ing increased mortality, would support the
4,000 number.
Lion Man Lament
I am dismayed at the stubborn insis-
tence that the intended sex of this
magnificent ivory carving (New Life
for the Lion Man, March/April 2012)
is indeterminate. It is clear that there
is a pubic triangle between the legs of
this image, a familiar feminine symbol
found in many painted caves. For all
known primary hunting cultures living
in and dependent upon the world of
nature, the pubic triangle is a powerful
symbol of that unseen energy which
gives birth to and nurtures all forms, and
so is, properly and universally, depicted
as female. The lion would not become
symbolic of masculine royal authority
for another 30,000 years.
T.D. Austin
Palm Springs, CA
Maybe I missed something, but it does
not appear that anywhere in your article
do you give the size of the statue/figure.
Frank Simon
Greenacres, FL
Executive Editor Jarrett A. Lobell
The Lion Man, as currently composed, is
roughly a foot tall, though archaeologists
expect it to gain an inch or two when the
fragments of the neck are added to the figure.
As for the figurines gender, thats been hotly
debated for many years. The new pieces,
however, could eventually put that argu-
ment to rest.
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Make Room for the Memories.
cholars often arrive at dif-
ferent interpretations of
the same evidence. But few
archaeological artifacts in recent
memory have produced interpre-
tations as radically divergent as
those advanced in connection with
two first-century A.D. ossuaries
(boxes containing skeletal remains)
in Jerusalem. Their discovery was
announced in February, and when
filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici
and James Tabor, professor of
religious studies at the University
of North Carolina at Charlotte,
released their book The Jesus Dis-
covery that same day, it ignited
a heated debate in the fields of
archaeology, theology, linguistics,
and biblical scholarship.
The ossuaries are unremarkable.
More than 2,000 of similar date
and appearance have been found in
Israel. Although the tomb in which
they and five others were found
was originally explored in 1981, it
was not until Jacobovici and Tabor
returned in 2010 that the ossuar-
ies could be photographed on all
sides inside the tomb.
In 1981, Orthodox religious
leaders had chased away archae-
ologists trying to excavate the
tomb, saying that they were dis-
turbing the dead. Jacobovici and
Tabor negotiated with the leaders
and the owners of the apartment
that sits on top of the tomb, and received permission to
bore a hole through the tombs roof and excavate it with
a robotic arm that held a camera. Jacobovici and Tabor had
chosen the tomb because of its proximity to what Jacobovici
had identified four years earlier as The Jesus Family Tomb
200 feet away (Hype in the Holy Land, May/June 2007).
He and Tabor wanted to know if
there was a relationship between
the two tombs that would lend
credence to their theory that
this section of Jerusalem, known
as Talpiyot, contains a cemetery
filled with the burials of Jesus, his
family, and his followers.
When Jacobovici, Tabor, and
project archaeologist Rami Arav
of the University of Nebraska at
Omaha looked closely at one of
the ossuaries, they immediately
interpreted the image on it as a
fish spitting out a manrepre-
sented by a stick figureand
therefore concluded that it was
a depiction of the story of Jonah
and the whale. On a second
ossuary in the tomb, they read a
dual-language Greek and Hebrew
inscription in several ways, includ-
ing O Divine Jehovah, raise up,
raise up. Taking the image on
one ossuary and the inscription
on the other, they developed an
interpretation of what the collec-
tion of ossuaries represents.
According to Jacobovici and
Tabor, the Jonah ossuary bears
the earliest Christian symbols
ever discovered, the first Chris-
tian symbol found in Jerusalem,
and the earliest representation
in Jewish art of a Biblical tale.
Furthermore, they believe that
the other ossuarys inscription is
the earliest record of a teaching or saying of Jesusperhaps
recorded by someone who heard him say it.
Immediately following the annoucement, scholars began
presenting different interpretations, as well as harsh criti-
cism of Jacobovici and Tabors claims. The critics pointed
out possible errors in the transcription and its translation.
Te Perils of Interpretation 9
A camera on a robotic arm took this picture of
an inscribed image on one of two ossuaries.
Interpretation of the image has sparked controversy
in the scholarly community.

ARCHAEOLOGY May/June 2012 10
In the winter of 18971898, word
spread like wildfire that gold had
been discovered along the
Klondike River in Canadas Yukon
Territory. Men and women from all
over the world converged on the
area, and two small settlements,
Skagway and Dyea (both in
Alaska), became competing
boomtowns, each claiming it had
the easier path to the gold fields.
The route of choice for many
stampeders was the 33-mile-
long Chilkoot Trail that began at
Dyea and bypassedso its
boosters claimedthe crime of
Skagway and the gridlock of its
White Pass Trail. Some 25,000 to
30,000 people passed through
Dyea and traveled the Chilkoot,
portions of which were so narrow
that sleds and pack animals were
almost useless. The worst part of
the trail was known as the
Golden Stairs1,500 steep
steps carved out of ice and snow
(right). The trail became littered
with goods, the bones of pack
animals, and other detritus.
Though today Skagway is a historic
town of about 800, Dyea is a ghost
town. Karl Gurcke, historian and
archaeologist of the Klondike Gold
Rush National Historical Park, and
his colleague Theresa Thibault say
that Dyea is a major archaeological
resource and the Chilkoot Trail
constitutes one
of the worlds
The site
occupied by
Tlingit natives,
Dyea was home
to approximately
5,000 to 8,000
people at its
peak. The historic
townsite is just over a mile and a half
long and a little less than a half-mile
wide, and boasted a post ofce, a
hospital, a school, a church, 49 hotels,
47 restaurants, 39 saloons, and four
cemeteries. Today one can see ruins
and artifacts all over the site and
up and down the trail, including the
remains of buildings, aerial tramway
towers, telephone lines, wharf
pilings, and boilers that powered
tramways (left). Archaeologists
from the National Park Service and
Parks Canada have spent 30 years
documenting features and artifacts.
The trail now attracts thousands
each year to experience the scenery
and history. Some items have been
taken over the years, but much
remains and can be seen right on
the surface in Dyea and along the
trail. Care must be taken when
viewing the fragile artifacts.
While youre there
Whereas Dyea is a ghost town,
Skagway is very much alive. Its
historic downtown has a visitor
center for the Klondike Gold Rush
National Historical Park, where
one can arrange tours
of Dyea by foot,
bicycle, or horse,
or backcountry
excursions along the
Chilkoot Trail. The
downtown area has
many restaurants,
hotels, and museums,
including the Skagway
Museum in City Hall,
with many gold rush
artifacts on display.
The White Pass
and Yukon Route Railroad offers
beautiful sightseeing trips as well,
following the path that many hopeful
prospectors once toiled along
though you can do it in total comfort.
They also questioned the similarity of
what Jacobovici and Tabor had identi-
fied as a fish to both depictions, and
actual remains, of a funerary marker
called a nephesh. Others referred to the
images strong resemblance to etched
glass amphorae and ointment jars, both
of which were commonly buried with
the dead. A harsher reaction came from
those who condemned not only Jaco-
bovici and Tabors interpretations, but
also their motives. Chief among them
was Eric Meyers, professor of religion at
Duke University, who decried Jacobovici
and Tabors interpretation as much
ado about nothing and a sensationalist
presentation of data that are familiar to
anyone with knowledge of first-century
Jerusalem. Meyers went on to say, We
may regard this book as yet another in
a long list of presentations that misuse
not only the Bible, but also archaeol-
ogy. Interpretation in archaeology
is about finding meaning in the past.
And especially when archaeology and
the worlds of religion and the Bible
intersect, one thing is certainthe
meanings scholars find in the artifacts
will rarely, if ever, be the same.
t it i j t e ile d h lf
and Yukon Rou
The inscription on one of the ossuaries
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ARCHAEOLOGY May/June 2012 12

sing a technique for analyzing
friction in industrial equipment,
a group of French and Turkish
scientists have unraveled the process
that was used approximately 10,000
years ago to make a highly polished
obsidian bracelet. The team examined a
bracelet fragment from Akl Hyk in
Turkey at dierent levels of magnica-
tion and saw evidence of three stages
of productionpecking, grinding, and
polishing. Striations on the bracelet
indicate that a mechanical device may
have been used to achieve its regularized
shape and glossy nish. It is the earliest
evidence of such a sophisticated stone-
working technique.
Te Neolithic Grind
fter three years of cleaning and
reassembling ceramic drinking
vessels from a 2,000-year-old
Illyrian-Hellenistic sanctuary deep in
a Croatian cave, archaeologist Stao
Forenbaher turned his attention to
the 30 ivory fragments he also found
there. When I started putting the
fragments together, he says, I soon
realized that I was looking at signs of
the zodiac. Forenba-
her consulted with
experts in ancient
Greek astrology, who
were stunned. When
arranged in a circle, the
ivory fragments com-
pose what may be the
worlds oldest astrologers
board. Although some of
the inscribed signs (high-
lighted at right) are too
fragmentary to name, the
Cancer, Pisces, and Gemini segments
(top to bottom) are clearly identiable.
The tiles would have originally been
xed to a at surface. The fragments
were found with the drinking vessels in
front of a large stalagmite, which was
clearly a focus of worship. It is impos-
sible to tell if the board was an oering
itself, or if it had been used there to
provide horoscopes to visitors.
Nothing New
Under the Sun
Dogtooth Is the
New Black
erman researchers have uncov-
ered what may be the remains
of the worlds oldest handbag,
according to Sachsen-Anhalt State
Archaeology and Preservation O ce
archaeologist Susanne Friederich.
Though the bag itself, probably made
of leather or linen, rotted away long ago,
the form of the bags outer apmade
of more than 100 dog teeth, all sharp
canineswas preserved. The remains
were discovered in a surface coal mine
not far from Leipzig, next to the body
of a woman buried at the end of the
Stone Age, between 4,200 and 4,500
years ago. Dog teeth are often found
in graves from the period, usually as
necklaces or hair ornaments. But every
woman would argue that a handbag
should count as jewelry too, says Fried-
erich. Further analysis may reveal more
about the dozens of dogs whose teeth
decorated the bag.
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ARCHAEOLOGY May/June 2012 14
-rays and computed tomography (CT ) scans of
artifacts and mummies have been conducted
for years now, but the unusual insights from
these techniques keep coming.
Seeing Inside
cientists have re-created an ancient royal garden
on a hilltop between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, at
a site known as Ramat Rahel. Using archaeologi-
cal evidence and intact pollen grains discovered in the
plaster lining of the 2,500-year-old gardens sophisticat-
ed irrigation system, researchers from Tel Aviv Universi-
ty reconstituted both the gardens layout and its unique
collection of both local and imported vegetation, includ-
ing willow, poplar, birch, myrtle, water lilies, grape vines,
gs, olives, Lebanese cedars, Persian walnutsand cit-
ron, which rst appeared in the Middle East at this site.
The whole garden is an enigmano one really knows
who built it, project leader Yuval Gadot says. He adds
that this Iron Age palace, which perhaps represented
the Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian imperial presence
in Jerusalem, is the only such structure uncovered in Ju-
dea, and that, so far, the Ramat Rahel site is the only
garden to have been excavated in the Levant.
Israels Garden Spot
Curators from Amsterdams Rijkmuseum transported their
twelfth-century South Indian sculpture of Shiva (above) to
the most powerful X-ray tunnel at the Rotterdam customs
authority. They found, as they had suspected, that it was
cast in solid bronze.
CT imaging was used to
look inside a mummified
ibis (above) from ancient
Egypt (300 B.C.A.D. 30),
and showed that the bird
had been packed with
food, such as snails, for
the afterlife.
German and Italian scientists used
CT technology, with 3-D software, to
study heads that were mummified in
the nineteenth century for use as
anatomical specimens (right). This
image reveals remains of brain
tissue and a braided cord that had
been inserted to deposit toxic
preservatives inside the skull.
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he skeletal remains of two
adolescent males found at
Butrint, a Roman colony in
Albania, indicate that both suered
from fatal cases of brucellosis. The
chronic respiratory disease, which is
typically contracted from contami-
nated meat or dairy products, today
aects roughly 500,000 people per
year worldwide.
Initially researchers be-
lieved that the teens died
of tuberculosis (TB). Pea-
sized holes found on
their 800-year-old spi-
nal columns are indica-
tive of an infection
secondary to the re-
spiratory illness and
seemed to conrm
that view. However,
DNA samples held
no genetic markers
of TB. Brucellosis can
cause similar bone
degradation, and a
search for genes asso-
ciated with brucellosis
came up positive.
If you look at the World Health
Organization data, Albania has one of
the higher brucellosis rates in the world
today, says David Foran, a forensic
scientist at Michigan State. Its there
now and it was obviously there many
hundreds of years agoand most likely
throughout the centuries.
Persistence of
of tub
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ARCHAEOLOGY May/June 2012 18
he famed Confederate subma-
rine H.L. Hunley, the rst sub-
marine ever to sink an enemy
ship, has nally been unveiled in its
entirety. Discovered in 1995 and raised
in 2000, the 40-foot-long wreck had
been supported by a steel framework
while archaeologists and conservators
studied and stabilized it. The sub was
nally rotated so the structure was no
longer needed to support it. This is the
rst time it has been seen by anyone,
complete and unobstructed, since it
mysteriously went down with its eight-
man crew in 1864, just minutes after
sinking the USS Housatonic in Charles-
ton Bay. The next step is a special bath
that will remove the salts and concre-
tions that still cover the vessel.
Hunley Revealed
Neanderthals in Color
n 1981, when Wil Roebroeks of
Leiden University was beginning
his archaeological career, he ran
across some red stains in the grayish
sediments on the oodplain of the Maas
River where his team was excavating.
The site, called Maastricht-Belvdre,
in The Netherlands, was occupied by
Neanderthals at least 200,000
years ago. Roebroeks
collected and stored
samples of the red
stains, and 30 years
later he received funding
to analyze them. It became
apparent that he and his team
had discovered the earliest evi-
dence of hominins using the mineral
iron oxide, also known as ocher. Until
now, the use of ocheras a red pigment
in rock paintings, an ingredient in glue,
and for tanning hides, among other
thingswas thought to be a hallmark
of modern human behavior. While
the manner in which the mineral was
used at Maastricht-Belvdre is some-
thing of a mystery, the nd has had an
impact on the question of whether
ocher use represents modern
behavior. This whole debate
is now to some degree a
non-debate, Roebroeks says,
because Neanderthals were
already doing this 200,000
years ago.
his team
rliest evi-
g the mineral
thing of a m
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ngkor Wat, the seat of the
powerful Khmer Empire from
the ninth to fteenth centu-
ries, is famous for its haunting ruins
situated in Cambodias dense jungle.
The enigmatic nature of the empires
collapse has inspired researchers to dig
deep into Angkors remains for new
insights. In its heyday, Angkor relied
on an intricate engineered system of
canals, moats, embankments, and res-
ervoirs. The largest reservoir, the West
Baray (below, at left), has recently pro-
vided a clearer understanding of the de-
cline of the city. According to a study
in Proceedings of the National Academy
of Sciences, a sediment core taken from
the West Baray reveals evidence of an
extended drought in the fourteenth
and fteenth centuries.
We see that water levels from the
Baray dropped. We also see sediments in
the region being more weathered dur-
ing Angkorian times due to people us-
ing the land for intensive agriculture,
says Mary-Beth Day of Cambridge Uni-
versity, lead author of the study.
It is believed that Angkor, already
suering from deforestation and con-
ict with other kingdoms, overtaxed its
hydraulic system, which increased the
eects of the drought and precipitated
the citys decline. The study concludes
that the Khmer water management
system is an example of a sophisticated
technology that failed in the face of ex-
treme environmental conditions.
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ARCHAEOLOGY May/June 2012 20

rchaeologists have uncovered a Viking cem-
etery dating to the turn of the eleventh century
A.D. near the central Polish town of Bodzia. The
graveyard holds close to 50 peoplewarriors and their
familiesand consists of neatly arranged plots enclosed
by wooden fences, each containing up to three burials in
wooden caskets with iron xtures.
Men were buried with weap-
ons, including Viking langsax
(single-edged swords). Wom-
ens graves contained jewelry
made from glass, gold foil,
precious stones, and silver.
Other nds included silver
kaptogora (amulet containers,
left), glass ornaments, coins
from throughout Western Europe, and the remains of silk
from the Far East.
We suppose the individuals buried in Bodzia belonged
to a small but high-status community, says project leader
Andrzej Buko, director of the Polish Academy of Sciences
Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology. In addition, he
says, Many of them probably came from abroad.
Evidence suggests the warriors emigrated from a near-
by state in what is now Ukraine, though Buko concludes
from the quality of the weaponry and other characteristics
of the burials that the deceased had been absorbed into
the elite of the early Piast Dynasty. The Piasts ruled in
Poland from the ninth to the fourteenth centuries.
The nds support chronicles by Gallus Anonymous, Po-
lands rst historian, who described a military stronghold near
Bodzia with elite foreign warriorsperhaps these Vikings.
talian archaeologists working at the sanctuary of Tas-
Silg on Malta have discovered an agate fragment with
a Middle Babylonian cuneiform inscription dating to
the thirteenth or fourteenth century B.C. Found more than
1,500 miles from Mesopotamia, where cu-
neiform was used, it is the westernmost
example of the script ever found.
The fragment, which was
originally part of a crescent-
shaped votive object mount-
ed on a pole or hung on a rope,
mentions the religious center of
Nippur, the moon god Sin, and
the names of at least ve people. Ac-
cording to project director Alberto Ca-
zzella, its di cult to know how and when
the artifact arrived in Malta. He believes it
was probably plundered during a war, taken to Greece, and
then perhaps traded between the Mycenaean Greeks and the
Cypriot world, which at the time included Malta.
An Elite Viking
Written on Agate
he transition from hunting and gathering in the Pa-
leolithic period to sedentary agricultural lifestyles
in the Neolithic may have been a long process,
according to a research team working at Kharaneh IV, a
20,000-year-old site in Jordan. There, archaeologists un-
covered the remains of two huts and plant and animal re-
mains that show the site was occupied continually across a
thousand-year time spanbut only for several months at a
time. The landscape
is arid today, but back
then it was grassland
that provided stable
food sources, includ-
ing herds of gazelle,
wild cereal grains and
other plants, and small
stands of trees that
provided more food
and hut-building materials. The study builds on evidence from
other sites in Jordan and Israel. We can actually say now, with
evidence, that there was a widespread pattern of people stay-
ing put in larger groups, and starting to build the environment
around them, says Lisa Maher of the University of California,
Berkeley, one of the lead archaeologists on the project.
Huts for Hunters
f th h t W t E
1,500 miles from
neiform was u
example o
ed on
Nippur, t
the names o
cording to pro
zzella, its dicu
the artifact arrive
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ARCHAEOLOGY May/June 2012 22
PERU: At two mounds dating to
between 4,000 and 6,500 years ago,
archaeologists have determined how ancient
Peruvians liked their cornpopped and ground into
flour. Among the finds were starch grains, husks,
kernels, stalks, tassels, and cobs of species that leant
themselves to either popping or grinding. Before this
find, little if anything was
known about how
corn was used in
these early years of
its cultivation.
About 3,000 years ago, much of central
Africa changed from rain forest to
savanna, and its long been thought that
natural climate change was the cause.
Marine sediment cores from the mouth of
the Congo River suggest, however, that
forest clearance, intensive land use, and
increased soil erosion occurred at the
same timeimplicating Bantu-speaking
farmers, who began to spread across the
region at this time. Their forest clearing
for agriculture and iron smelting might
have contributed to the widespread shift
in central Africas environment.
MEXICO: Today we expect
labels on containers to
tell us what is inside.
Perhaps the ancient Maya
did as well. In a two-inch-
tall, 1,300-year-old flask
decorated with glyphs
reading the home of his/
her/its tobacco, chemical
analysis identified residue
from the breakdown of
nicotine. It is the first
physical evidence of Maya
tobacco, and the second
known example of Maya
after a cacao vessel that
underwent the same
PERU: At tw
between 4,000 a
archaeologists have dete
find, li
2010 blaze that
gutted the Provo
Tabernacle, a
meeting place
for members
of the Mormon
Church, created
an opportunity
to excavate the remains of the
citys first such building. The
old meetinghouse, which was
torn down on the site in 1919,
would have been the center of
religious and cultural life for the
pioneers who founded the city.
Finds include parts of the stone
foundation and stone frames that
held stained glass above the door.
SCOTLAND: A project led by the
Royal Commission on the Ancient
and Historical Monuments of
Scotland asked residents of the
Outer Hebrides to report previously
unidentified archaeological remains
resulting in the possible discoveries
of a medieval village, a complex of
fish traps, and Neolithic pottery.
An aerial survey team currently is
following up on the reports, relying
on the low winter sun to highlight
remote archaeological features.
TURKEY: Getting a
bad piece of fruit is
frustratingits not like
you can return itbut few
would hire a magician to
curse the man who sold
it to you. In a well in the ancient
city of Antioch was a lead tablet
inscribed with a curse directed
at a greengrocer named Babylas,
according to the first published
translation. The curse, which may
actually have been authored by a
business rival almost 2,000 years
ago, insults his mothers polluted
womb and calls for the gods to
drown and chill his soul.
By Samir S. Patel
A mysterious two-inch-
long tool had scientists
baffled. The 3,300-year-
old gouge, made of a
rare form of jade called
jadeite, was found on
Emirau Island. Its jadeite
is different from any
geologists had ever seen, with the
closest match being from distant
Mexico. A possible solution came
from an unpublished manuscript
by a German scientist who found
some strange rocks on the Irian
Jaya mainland (the Indonesian half
of New Guinea) 100 years ago.
Analysis is ongoing, but the finds
appear to be a close match.
AUSTRALIA: Marine archaeologists have
discovered the wreck of Royal Charlotte, a convict
and troop ship that wrecked on a reef in 1825. The
75 soldiers aboard, along with officers and family,
built up and huddled on a sandy cay for six weeks
while waiting for rescue. Researchers expect the
teak timbers, anchor, cannon, and other goods
found will help them better understand trade
between New South Wales, where the ship had
departed, and India, where it was headed before
returning to England.
EGYPT: At the necropolis
of Qubbet el-Hawa in
Aswan, archaeologists
have uncovered hundreds
of mummies and a tomb
dating to the 12th Dynasty,
around 1830 B.C. Many of the
mummies and coffins come
from later reoccupations of
the older tomb, including
this delicately featured
and wonderfully preserved
wooden sarcophagus,
thought to contain someone
of high rank from the 18th
Dynasty (ca. 15501292 B.C.).
RUSSIA: A genetic study of the native
people of the Altai region of Siberiawhere
Kazakhstan, China, and Mongolia meet
shows an affinity between the people of the
region and Native
Americans, who
crossed from Asia
to North America
via land bridge as
early as 16,000
years ago. Study
of Y chromosomes suggest that Altaians and
Native Americans share a common ancestor
from not long before that time.
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ARCHAEOLOGY May/June 2012 24
An aerial view shows the immense administrative building constructed around 500 B.C. and used until
the 2nd century A.D. as it appeared after more than 10 years of excavation. Early 2nd-century red-
slipped dishes, part of a set found in the buildings courtyard, were imported from coastal Syria. 25
In 1997, archaeologists Sharon Herbert and Andrea
Berlin began an excavation project at Tel Kedesh, an
enormous mound located in the rural interior of Israels
Upper Galilee region. More than a decade later, they
have completed the rst phase of their work and reect
on how the site brought them a story far dierent from
the one they had gone looking for.
ORTHERN ISRAEL, a region with multiple
border zones, has seen its share of modern
conict. But a picture of what life was like
on this border in antiquity, especially dur-
ing the period from Alexander the Great
through the revolt against Rome (ca.
330 B.C.A.D. 70), also years of political and religious unrest,
remained undrawn. In the mid-1990s, as we were each nish-
ing long-term projects in Israel, we realized that Tel Kedesh
was the perfect place to investigate this question. Ancient
sources repeatedly describe it as a border sitebetween
Canaanites and Israelites in biblical times and between Phoe-
nicians and Jews in the classical period. Today it lies along the
Israeli-Lebanese border, a location that saw several dramatic
battles during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
Tel Kedesh is enormousmore than half a mile north to
south. It is a double mound, with an upper tell occupied since
the Early Bronze Age (31502300 B.C.) and a plateau-like
lower tell likely constructed in the Middle
Bronze Age (23001550 B.C.). Since our
research interests focused on a relatively
short period in the sites long history, we
hoped to devise a strategy that would
allow us to reach those levels rapidly.
In 1997, we began by surveying the
entirety of the lower tell along two
broad north-south and east-west tran-
sects. Next we excavated two small
test trenches to discover the
by Andrea Berlin and Sharon Herbert
Tel Kedesh
south. It is a double mound, with
the Early Bronze Age (3150 (( 2
lower tell likely
Bronze Age (
research inte
short perio
hoped to d
allow us t
In 1997,
entirety o
broad nort
sects. N
The story of a site and a project
ARCHAEOLOGY May/June 2012 26
room next to the northwestern corner had a plastered oor,
several wine jars from the Greek island of Rhodes, and 14 huge
jars, almost ve feet tall each, leaning against the walls. With
permission from the Israel Antiquities Authority, we took
the broken bottoms of two jars back to the United States for
residue analysis and discovered phytolithsmineral secretions
left by plants after they decayof Triticum aestivum (bread
wheat). It was clear that this building had been a storeroom
for wine and grainlots of grain. Each jar held almost 25 gal-
lons, which, once ground into our, would produce about 150
loaves of bread.
Additional surprises came to light around the corner where
we found more than 40amphoriskoi (small, two-handled asks)
and about 1,500 tiny stamped clay lumps, or bullae. The bullae
carry images including those of Greek deities, Seleucid kings,
and animals and symbols. They have string holes through the
sides and the neat linear impressions of papyrus on the back,
both indications that they originally sealed rolled-up papyrus
documents. The quantity of bullae in the room indicated that
it once housed a sizeable archive. While none of the docu-
ments survive, the bullae themselves provide clues about
who sent the texts and who o cially approved them.
rchaeologists joke that the most
important discoveries occur on the
last days of an excavation season, and
thats exactly what happened: We found
the bullae with less than a week to
go in 1999. There was no
time to clean them all or n-
ish excavating the room in
which theyd been found, so
these were the top priori-
sites uppermost geological prole, as well as the depth and
preservation of Hellenistic remains. The nature of what we
foundwhich we expected to be largely soil or a random array
of rockswould help determine which type of remote sensing
technique would be most eective.
To our surprise, less than three feet below the surface, we
found ourselves in a room with more than 20 intact vessels
and household objects scattered on the oor. The pots dated
to the second century B.C., the heart of the Hellenistic period.
There must have been a particular reason why so many com-
plete items had been abandoned, but based on the evidence
available at the time, the remains in the room could not be
related to a specic historical event.
The test trenches also revealed intact limestone walls of
exactly the type that would show up best in a magnetometric
survey, which we carried out on the lower tell in February
1998. The resulting map showed something wholly unex-
pectedan approximately 20,000-square-foot outline at
the tells southeastern corner, just to the east of the room
wed uncovered the year before. A single structure of
this size ought to be palatial or administrative, but no
ancient historical source mentions Kedesh as a place
of such importance.
N 1999, KNOWING THAT we needed
to explore that huge outline and
determine if it were one building
or groups of smaller structures, we
began our rst full excavation
season. Digging in the opposing
southeastern and northwestern
corners revealed that it was
one enormous complex. The
documents. The quantity of bullae
it once housed a sizeable archive.
ments survive, the bullae them
who sent the texts and who
important di
last days of a
thats exactly w
the bullae w
er, just to the east of the room
fore. A single structure of
l or administrative, but no
ntions Kedesh as a place
T we needed
line and
es, we
A magnetometric map (below)
completed in 1998 showed the
buildings outline and helped determine
where to dig the following year. A
panoramic view of the tell in 2010
(right) shows the completely excavated
complex. Artifacts including juglets
and loom weights (bottom) were found
on the floor of one of the main rooms
during the excavations first season. 27
abandoned remains found throughout the building are a result
of that battle.
HE SECOND INTIFADA, a period of intensied Palestin-
ian-Israeli violence that began in September 2000 and
ended in 2005, derailed excavation plans for 2001. In
fact, we were unable to return to the site for ve years. Begin-
ning again in 2006, we had four productive excavation seasons
that produced many incredible nds and advanced our under-
standing of the building. In 1999 and 2000, we had found
broken column shafts from an earlier structure incorporated
into the walls of the Hellenistic building. Further excavation
almost 10 years later in the structures eastern half uncov-
ered two long foundations with circles lightly incised on
the stones. These were, in eect,setting marks for
placing the columns, allowing us to reconstruct a
colonnaded entry court that belonged to that ear-
lier building phase. Associated pottery and small
nds date to the Achaemenid Persian period (ca.
540332 B.C.). Thus we renamed the structure
the Persian-Hellenistic Administrative Building
and dated its initial construction to 500 B.C., when
the Persian king Cyrus permitted exiled
Judeans in Babylon to return to Jerusa-
lem, as told in Ezra 1.
Several special nds reect the
character of the culture that inhabited
the region at the time. These include
a beautifully carved green jasper scarab
with a helmeted oriental head (right); two
small conical glass stamp seals, both likely worn
ties when we returned the next summer. By the end of the
season, the total number of excavated bullae was more than
2,000. We christened this the Hellenistic Administrative
Building, on the basis of the granary and the archive, both
administrative features.
HE HUNDREDS OF useful objects that were left behind
in the building, including more than 20 Rhodian wine
jars, continued to conrm our rst impression, from
1997, that it had been abandoned very quickly. The wine
vessels have handles stamped with the names of o cials,
each of whose tenures can be dated with great
accuracy. The latest jars date to 144 or 143 B.C.
According to 1 Maccabees 11:6373, at that time
there was a battle in the valley below the Kedesh
plateau between the Hasmonean leader Jonathan
(the Hasmoneans were a family of high priests and
kings who ruled the Jewish state of Judea between
167 and 37 B.C.) and the Seleucid king Demetrius.
Jonathans forces pursued the Seleucids to Kedesh,
killed many, and camped there for several days before
leaving for Jerusalem. It appears that the hastily
ered tw

the re
a beau
Artifacts of Administration
MONG THE MORE THAN 2,000 bullae found in the
archive room at Tel Kedesh, there were many identi-
able imprinted seals, both o cial and personal. These
include seals belonging to kings Antiochus III (324261 B.C.)
and Antiochus IV (ca. 215164 B.C.), who ruled a vast empire
founded by Seleucus I, one of Alexander the Greats gener-
als, that stretched from Anatolia (modern Turkey) to central
Asia. Seals of the city council of Tyre, a Phoenician city on
the southwestern coast of modern Lebanon, as well as several
seals belonging to both male and female private citizens and
possibly the Phoenician governor of the region, were among
the nds. A seal belonging to the city of Kedesh itself, with an
image of a cluster of grapes and a shaft of wheat and the citys
Greek name, Kudissos, was excavated as well.
Student Scott Thompson (left) excavates in a storeroom
containing huge grain jars. In the adjacent room, dozens of
small two-handled flasks (above) and about 1,500 stamped clay
lumps, or bullae (below), used to seal documents, were found.
archive complex. South of the courtyard are
utility and cooking areas. Several rooms here
contain plastered bins of various shapes and
sizes, perhaps for collecting and measuring
agricultural products. East and north of the
courtyard, three rooms form an impressive
reception and dining area. Two of these have
monochromatic mosaic oors, the earliest
rmly dated mosaic oors yet found in Israel.
The oor of the third and largest room was
removed in antiquity, but we think it, too,
was probably mosaic. The rooms walls have carefully molded
and brightly colored painted plaster. We also found sets of
red- and black-slipped dishes that petrographic and chemical
analyses indicate were imports from the area around Antioch,
the Seleucid capital far to the north.
When taken all together, the archive where the bullae were
found, the granary, and the collection bins all suggest the pres-
ence of imperial o cials with administrative responsibilities,
such as tax collecting. Taxation was an ever-present fact of
life under the Hellenistic monarchies, but its rare to nd
the actual location where the o cials worked and collection
occurred. The buildings tra c patterns, which we have been
able to reconstruct, show limited access between working areas
and the reception rooms. In the former we found mostly plain
pottery for cooking, food preparation, and storage, while in
the latter we uncovered beautiful dishes and decorated lamps
to adorn dining tables. Visiting o cials may have carried docu-
ments to Kedesh and then enjoyed a ne meal before going
on their way.
FTER SIX YEARS OF excavation, we thought we knew
the site completely, and yet, the last day of our last eld
season still had one incredible surprise in store. While
we were preparing for aerial photography, a student spotted a
large, perfectly round disk in some soil that had accumulated
on the eastern wall of the granary. Although the disk was cov-
ered in dirt, a bright glint along one of its edges caught his eye.
Upon picking up the artifact,
he knew immediately from
its heft that he was hold-
ing a solid gold coin. When
he brought the coin to our
attention, we were able to
identify it as a mnaieion (a
one-mina coin, equivalent
to 100 silver drachmas, or a
mina of silver) of the Egyp-
tian ruler Ptolemy V, struck
in the year 191190 B.C. at
the imperial mint of Kition
on Cyprus. The mnaieion
is the largest gold coin ever
found in Israel and only the
second example of this issue
found anywhere.
as amulets, each with a version of the Master of Animals motif
long popular in the Near East; and, nally, a clay bulla that had
been stamped by a seal whose Neo-Babylonian style and design
appear on many seals in a late fth-century B.C. commercial
archive discovered in the Mesopotamian city of Nippur in
1893. Our current hypothesis is that the Persian-period build-
ing belonged to well-connected o cials from Tyre and that it
functioned as both an agricultural depot and an impressive
marker of territory. The discovery of a substantial Phoenician
foothold in inland Upper Galilee provides a rare opportunity
to consider native life under imperial Persian rule. It also has
implications for understanding the biblical authors of this era,
especially the work of the Chronicler, a writer who lived in the
fth century B.C. In his retelling of the history of the Jewish
people, the Chronicler also frequently reframed relationships,
especially those between the kings of Judah and the kings of
Phoenicia, always to the advantage of Judah. He may have
been trying to imagine away the presence of this enormous,
Phoenician-administered building deep within territory that
earlier biblical texts identify as Israelite.
HE PERSIAN-HELLENISTIC Administrative Building
seems to have been briey abandoned in the late
fourth century B.C., when Alexander the Great began
his march down the Phoenician coast. But after a short period
of time, perhaps no more than 10 or 15 years, it was reoccu-
pied by o cials of the newly empowered empire of Ptolemaic
Egypt. From this point on,
from approximately 300
B.C. until the battle between
Jonathan and Demetrius in
144 or 143 B.C., the building
was continuously occupied
and often remodeled to suit
its various inhabitants. By
the end of our 2010 sea-
son, about 75 percent of
these Hellenistic levels had
been excavated and we were
able to identify what went
on in the buildings various
sectors. A large open-air
courtyard dominates the
western half. To the north
and west lie the granary and
A blue glass stamp seal, left to right: seen from the side; the stamp itself; the
stamps impression in plasticine; an artists rendering of the stamps image.
By the end of 2010, the team was able to identify the activities that
took place in each of the buildings sectors. 29
simply too large in value.
It might have belonged
to a high-ranking Ptol-
emaic official, who
would have traveled to
Kedesh to meet with one
of his Seleucid counterparts
and brought the coin as a
diplomatic gift. The ndspot
within a wall of the granary sug-
gests that it had been stolen and
hidden, likely by somebody who
worked in this part of the complex.
Kedesh to investigate life on
the border more than 2,000
years ago. No ancient author recorded
an o cial presence here and it occupied
an area and a time outside the pages of
history. Tel Kedesh, until 1997, remained
unexcavated and the surrounding region
largely unexplored. Our curiosity about
this border area led to the discovery of a
building of enormous size and complex-
ity, and its expensive decoration and the
variety and quantity of artifacts uncovered have revealed a
dominating administrative presence in the Kedesh valley
and the Upper Galilee lasting nearly 350 years. Now that
the excavation phase of the project is at an end and we
work through the thousands of objects we discovered, we
are asking questions that only archaeological evidence can
answer: How did provincial elites and the workers who
catered to them live? What was the relationship between
this o cial collection complex and nearby settlements? Did
status items and the cosmopolitan culture they represent
trickle out, or did local o cials live in a kind of elite bubble,
with their own supplies of specialty goods? And perhaps
most interesting, how do the social, economic, and cultural
conditions reected in the architecture and artifacts relate
to periods of political calm and turmoil? As we turn from the
excitement of excavation to the necessity of nal report writ-
ing, we must now shift our focus from looking for artifacts
to looking for answers.
Andrea Berlin is a professor of archaeology at Boston University;
at the time of the Tel Kedesh field seasons she was at the University
of Minnesota. Sharon Herbert is a professor of archaeology at the
University of Michigan.
This room (left, top) contained large bins
for collecting and measuring agricultural
products. An official reception space (left,
below), featured walls covered in painted
plaster (inset). A gold coin (left, bottom)
was found near the wall of one of the grain
storage rooms.
The appearance of this coin at Kedesh is a reection of the
periods power politics. By the time of its issue, the Seleucid
kings controlled this portion of the southern Levant, hav-
ing won it after a series of wars against the Ptolemies, the
Macedonian kings of Egypt who ruled from 305 to 30 B.C.
Nonetheless, for approximately the rst 20 years of their rule,
the Seleucids maintained the region as a Ptolemaic monetary
zone, probably as a kind of diplomatic courtesy. Their actions
may also have been intended to maintain market condence,
communicating that despite the change in ruling regimes,
the older currency would still be honored. The gold mnaieion
was certainly not a coin used as regular currencyit was
of his
and br
within a w
gests that it
hidden, likely
worked in this
N THE MORNING OF May 11, 2011, Mario
Kssner looked on as a bulldozer shaved a
layer of soil a few inches deep from a road-
side eld near the eastern German village
of Dermsdorf. Kssner, a sta archaeologist
for the state of Thuringia, was brought in
before the scheduled construction of a highway on-ramp would
begin. He knew that his team of archaeologists was working atop
a medieval site, but the bulldozer uncovered something even
more surprisinga handful of dull green ax heads lying in the
soil. For the rest of that day, the bulldozer was banished as the
archaeologists meticulously dug the site by hand. Their careful
work revealed a clay jar standing a foot-and-a-half tall packed
with 100 bronze ax heads dating to the Bronze Agemore
than 3,000 years ago. The ax heads would have represented a
tremendous amount of wealth at a time when bronze was in high
ARCHAEOLOGY May/June 2012 30
A postCold War construction
boom is exposing evidence of a
powerful Bronze Age culture
by Andrew Curry
demand for weapons and tools. What they were doing buried
outside of Dermsdorf became the question.
We had had signs of a settlement from the Middle Ages,
but we had no clue there were Bronze Age nds, says Kssner.
Before uncovering the ax heads, the only things the team had
turned up were post moldsdark stains in the soil that show
where wooden posts had once been planted as a frame for a
house. With the discovery of the axes, Kssner and his team
began taking a harder look at the surrounding area. Soon they
found more post molds, dozens of them, enough to trace where
the walls of a structure 35 feet wide and nearly 150 feet long
had been. Based on the width of the walls and the spacing of
the posts, Kssner estimates that the roofs peak would have
been nearly 30 feet above the ground. Inside the walls, a double
row of posts ran the length of the building, creating a central
chamber. Altogether, the structure covered 5,000 square feet,
Metal Traders
Weapon hoards dating to
around 3,000 years ago, such as
these bronze ax heads uncovered
by a bulldozer near the German town of
Dermsdorf, have been discovered throughout
Central Europe. The hoards indicate that the
metal trade was a major source of wealth and
power in the area during the Bronze Age. 31
making it the biggest Bronze Age structure discovered north
of the Alps. The ax heads were buried at the southern end of
the house, where the front door might once have been.
The Dermsdorf house is similar to another building that was
discovered about 60 miles away in 1996 by Saxon Archaeo-
logical Heritage O ce researcher Harald Steuble. That site, in
Zwenkau, near Leipzig, contained the remains of more than 40
houses between 60 and 90 feet longand one massive building
rivaling the Dermsdorf house in length, if not width. Steuble
says the appearance of a second structure of that size shows that
huge houses of this sort may have been an important feature
in Bronze Age villages across the region. Theyre very rare.
Surely they were functionally dierent from the other, smaller
structures, but its hard to know exactly how, Steuble says.
As the summer wore on, the team found evidence that the
Dermsdorf house was the center of a settlement that stretched
for miles. A few hundred yards away was a cemetery with doz-
ens of burials. At least two other Bronze Age villages were also
found within a mile of Dermsdorf as part of the rescue exca-
vations for the highway construction. The villages and burial
sites all date to within a century of each other and are part of
what has proven to be a densely settled Bronze Age landscape.
Y THE LATTER HALF of the twentieth century, histori-
cal circumstances had brought research on Germanys
prehistory to a halt. In the 1930s, some impressive nds
at sites dating to the Bronze Age and earlier became part of
the Nazi propaganda narrative. The Nazis claimed that the
archaeological sites were proof of a prehistoric German nation
stretching across most of Europe. The Nazis tried to prove all
culture was from Germany, which was a joke, Kssner says.
Researchers of the time went so far as to measure the skel-
ARCHAEOLOGY May/June 2012 32
heads pointed south, Kssner says. That way theyre look-
ing toward the rising sun. ntice-style ceramic vessels with
concave sides were also found at the site.
The ntice culture was rst identied at a site near Prague
in the 1870s. Since then, ntice artifacts have turned up
at sites in the Czech Republic, Germany, and Poland. The
ntice people were adept metal workers, producing distinc-
tive styles of ax heads, daggers, and a type of spearhead called
a halberd, which could be used for both stabbing and slashing.
The ntice people controlled the area around the only known
source of tin on the continent. Tin is an important ingredient
in manufacturing bronze, which put the ntice people in a
good position to control a large part of the European metal
trade. ntice dominates the routes from north to south,
says Harald Meller, head of the State Museum of Prehistory
in the nearby town of Halle. In the Bronze Age, you needed
copper and tin, the same way you need lithium for the battery
of your iPhone.
Grave goods recovered from ntice sites show the extent
of their trade networks. Amber, nely worked int knives, and
reindeer antler connect archaeological sites in the region to
Denmark, northern Poland, and Sweden. Metal axes similar
to those found in what is now Hungary and Romania are also
found in ntice graves. Broad-bladed bronze axes, shaped in
a style best known from Scotland and Ireland, have also turned
up. All of the trade moving through their territory made the
ntice people wealthy, especially their rulers.
WO MILES FROM the Dermsdorf house and cemetery is
a saddle-shaped burial mound rst excavated in 1877.
Named for the nearby town of Leubingen, the 30-foot-
tall mound, perched on a windy hill, was the nal resting place
of a wealthy chieftain. Tree ring analysis puts the date of the
burial at 1942 B.C.
The chieftain was one of the Bronze Age super-rich. A trove
of gold artifacts and bronze axes and swords surrounded his
body. One of the gold arm rings found in the grave weighed
etons found in Bronze Age graves to show that the people had
been Nordic, in an eort to prove an ancestral link to modern
Germans. Nazi propaganda claimed European culture origi-
nated in Germany, then spread south, Kssner says. German
archaeology is for meindigenous, blood-bound Germanic and
Indo-Germanic prehistory, wrote Hans Reinerth, the Reich
Deputy of German Prehistory. Our spadework has the pre-
eminent goalof illuminating our hitherto neglected indigenous
prehistory, he continued. After the war, German archaeologists
stayed away from studying sites in their own nation in order to
avoid being associated with the Nazis and their dubious science.
They ruined it for another 50 years, Kssner adds.
After the Berlin Wall was torn down in 1989, infrastructure
investment poured into the former East Germany. Since then,
construction of new highways, train tracks, gas pipelines, and
power lines has been preceded by archaeological surveys and
digs intended to recover parts of the past before construction
erases them forever. The study of the German Bronze Age has
boomed once again, thanks in part to rescue excavations like
the one at Dermsdorf.
Carbon dating, ceramics analysis, and burial practices
suggest that the Dermsdorf sites belonged to the ntice
culture, which dated from 2300 to about 1600 B.C. As soon
as the Dermsdorf graves were opened Kssner could see the
people had been buried in the ntice style. Theyre buried
in a fetal position, always lying on their right sides with their
One of the wealthiest netice culture graves was a 30
foot-tall burial mound excavated in 1877 near Leubingen,
Germany, which held the remains of a chieftain.
This collection of bronze artifacts found in Germany in 1904
includes neck rings and weapons that are typical of the
netice culture. 33
mendous amount of metal, especially in an
age when just one bronze tool was a rarity.
Bronze was still new and very valuable in
these societies, says Steuble.
Kssner believes that the hoard was left
where it was on purpose, not hidden for
safekeeping and then forgotten. The pot
was buried where the lack of post molds
suggests an opening in the houses wall or a
doorway. The vessels central location means
everyone who went through the door had to
pass over it. The hatchets might have been
buried ceremonially or perhaps covered up
and then revealed on ceremonial occasions.
Meller thinks they might have been a sacri-
ce. Some archaeologists speculate that the
abundance and uniformity of the hundreds
of early Bronze Age hoards spread through-
out central Europeall axes in some places,
all daggers in otherspoint to deliberate
ritual. Tilmann Vachta, an expert in Bronze
Age hoards at the German Archaeological
Institute, says, If you placed a dot for each
hoard on the map of this region, it would be
black with them. Meller observes, Theyre
not building temples, theyre not building
holy places. Instead theyre sacricing mas-
sive amounts of metal to the gods.
Burying the axes in such a heavily traf-
cked area probably held some signicance
for the people of Dermsdorf. Everyone
would have known the bronze was there,
Kssner says. The question is: why was it
left? Because the pot was buried essentially
under the houses front doorstep, Kssner
argues that the house may have been some
sort of ritual center for the surrounding
settlements. The number of axes may have
held some kind of meaning, he says, but so
far it is unclear what that meaning might
have been.
Kssner hopes to continue working
at Dermsdorf. He wants to scan the soil
around Dermsdorf to nd the outlines of
the settlement and, based on those results,
perhaps dig some test trenches. A fragment
of antler found at the Dermsdorf house is
being carbon-dated to establish the build-
ings age as closely as possible. For now,
there are no further excavations planned
though new results could change that, Kssner says. In the
meantime, construction work continues. One way or another,
the house will soon disappear beneath asphalt, and cars may
be driving over the site by the summer of 2013.
Andrew Curry is a contributing editor at Archaeology.
more than a pound. The Leubingen chief-
tain and the people who built the Derms-
dorf house all lived within a few generations
of each other. Kssner says the men and
women buried in the Dermsdorf cemetery
could have been the grandparents or parents
of the people who erected the Leubingen
burial mound.
There are only a handful of similar grave
mounds in the area, suggesting that the
ntice culture had a denite hierarchy.
We know it was a stratied society, Kss-
ner says. People with political or religious
power had a better life. In contrast to the
occupant of the burial mound, the people
buried at the Dermsdorf cemetery had
much simpler graves than the chieftains.
They were buried with some ceramic
pots, shell beads, maybe some small bronze
piecesa pin, a ring, Kssner says. But
nothing like the immense riches we found
in the house or in the grave mound.
N A BRIGHTLY LIT LAB on the rst oor
of the Thuringian State Preservation
O ce in Weimar, Kssner arranges
drawer after drawer of the ax heads from
Dermsdorf on a table. Before removing
the axes from the clay pot, authorities had
the pot scanned at a lab in Berlin using
computed tomography. The scan produced
a three-dimensional image of the contents
exact placement inside the vessel.
On a nearby screen, Kssner calls up an
image of the scan (below). Outlined in green
and black are the 100 bronze ax heads, neat-
ly arranged with smaller pieces toward the bottom and larger
ones on top. The ax headsmost palm-sized and designed to
t through a hole drilled in a piece of wood or antlerwere
the all-purpose weapons and tools of the day. You could fell
a tree with one of these, and just as easily crack a skull, he
says, hefting one. Each weighs about half a pound. It is a tre-
Under Bronze
Age Heavens
Bronze Age artifact
might have been made by
the grandchildren of the people
who built the Dermsdorf house.
Barely a foot across, the Nebra
sky disc was discovered in 2000.
The ve-pound disc bears images
of the sun, moon, and 32 stars, all
embossed in gold leaf. A cluster of
seven starsrepresenting the Ple-
iades constellation, which appears
in the sky in the Northern Hemi-
sphere around the autumnal
equinox and signals the arrival
of harvest seasonis the oldest
astronomical representation ever
The disc, which is displayed in
a dedicated hall in Halles State
Museum of Prehistory, was uncov-
ered by treasure hunters near the
eastern German town of Nebra
and put up for sale on the black
market. To get it back, Swiss
police set up an elaborate sting
operation together with local
archaeologist Harald Meller. Its
the rst realistic depiction of the
heavens ever, Meller says, and
such a thing isnt seen again till
the days of Kepler and Galileo.
The Nebra
Sky Disc
ocean, centuries pass
with little occurring
in the way of incident.
But on April 15, 1912,
deep in the Atlantic,
375 miles southeast of Halifax, Nova
Scotia, that changed. A massive steel
structure, after falling for more than
two miles, hit the silt and drove into
thick clay beneath. Silt bloomed as
the sound of the impact reverberated
in the darkness. Other pieces of the
worlds largest passenger steamship fol-
lowed like a heavy rain. The bow came
in fast, nose rst, plowing a deep fur-
row into the clay. Over the next several
hours, fragments of the hull, dishes,
machinery, and linoleum tilesand the
remains of peoplesettled across miles
of seabed. What had once been a oat-
ing city was fragmented and scattered
two and a half miles down. More than
1,500 people lost their lives.
Slowly but inexorably, the processes
of the deep sea went to work. Marine
organisms and acidic clay consumed
wood and other organic material, includ-
ing human remains. Bacteria colonized
and began to eat away at the steel, leav-
ing behind tendrils and puddles of red,
orange, and yellow byproducts. The
ships crisp angles blurred and the proud
name on the bow, Titanic, dissolved. Silt
slowly accumulated on intact paneling,
doors still on their hinges, and a metal
bed frame with a nightgown draped over
it. In 1912, Thomas Hardy imagined,
in a poem lamenting Titanic, Over the
mirrors meant/To glass the opulent/The
sea-worm crawlsgrotesque, slimed,
dumb, indierent. Intact compart-
ments and cabins that had once been
lled with air, light, and passengers
were full of water pressurized to 6,000
pounds per square inch and seem-
ingly alien life. Over decades, the wreck
became a haven for deep-sea creatures
such as ghost crabs, crinoids, and
wormsa series of reefs in what had
once been a deep-sea desert.
Seventy-three years after the sinking,
in the early morning of September 1,
1985, Argo, an unmanned deep-sea vehi-
cle, disturbed the darkness for the rst
time. Argo, carrying video cameras and
sonar, was towed at the end of miles of
coaxial cable by the Woods Hole Ocean-
ographic Institution (WHOI) ship
Knorr. Argo sent back to the ship grainy,
real-time images from the deepthe
rst the world had seen of Titanic since
It has been 100 years since it sank, and 27
years since it was rediscovered. Now the wreck
of Titanic has nally become what it was
always meant to be: an archaeological site.
by James P. Delgado
of Titanic
Inside a laboratory
of the oceanographic
vessel Jean Charcot,
an array of screens
display sonar images
of the wreck of
Titanic, part of the
effort to create the
first comprehensive
map of the site.
ARCHAEOLOGY May/June 2012 36
leagues whether proper archaeology could
be done underwater, Bass said that archaeol-
ogy was archaeology, regardless of where it
was performed. Since then, thousands of
underwater archaeological sites, from ship-
wrecks to prehistoric sites to submerged
cities, have been located, documented, and
excavated. And advanced diving, especially
mixed-gas technology, has allowed divers
to go deeper and stay longer, without the
muddling eects of pressurized air on the
brain. However, deep sites still lay beyond
the reach of divers.
Ironically, the rst steps in expanding
underwater archaeology to the depths
were propelled by the Titanic disaster
itself, as the rst sonar systems were
developed and tested after the sinking to
locate and avoid icebergs. This technology improved through
the two world wars and into the Cold War, moving into deeper
waters, until its most dramatic discovery to dateTitanic. But
even in 1985, the idea that Titanic could be explored, photo-
graphed, and mapped like an archaeological site seemed like
the stu of science ction.
The introduction of the global positioning system (GPS)
was the next big step, providing a platform on which to inte-
grate sonar data with increasingly sophisticated maps and
satellite imagery. Better robotic systems also evolved, as well
as manned submersibles that could travel even deeper than
Titanic. But the submersibles are hardly the same as diving
on a site. They are built on Cold War technology, with tiny
crew compartments surrounded by life support, thrusters,
batteries, lights, cameras, and sonar systems. Lying face down,
neck craned upward in the cold, dark capsules, scientists peer
through small portholes and rely on deployed instruments and
mechanical arms to interact with the environment outside.
My rst submersible dive was in 2000, in a Russian Mir-
class sub, to assess the wreck and cultural tourism at the
Titanic site. I was struck by both the extreme conditions and
the incredible skill that these unsung pilots need to safely
launch, dive, navigate, and ascend. As submersible pilot Paul-
Henry Nargeloet of the salvage and exhibition company RMS
Titanic Inc. noted, those missions to Titanic were merely
glimpses through a keyhole. I spent my submersible dive
with my forehead pressed for hours against the cold steel of
a Mir hull to stare through four-inch-thick PlexiglasI know
exactly what he means. Each of those dives added incremen-
tally to our knowledge of Titanic, but the ability to do a basic
detailed survey, map with accuracy, and measurelet alone
impose the archaeological discipline of a grid and units, as
one would on a divable underwater siteremained elusive.
white photographs depicted it depart-
ing the Irish coast in 1912. Humans rst visited the wreck
the following year in the research submersible Alvin, peering
out of small portholes. In 1987, another submersible, Nautile,
glided over the site, and with a robotic arm carefully picked
up the rst of 1,800 artifacts it would recover from the mud
during that expedition.
Since then, a new era has dawned in our quest to study the
past that lies at the bottom of the ocean. In 2010 two highly
sophisticated robotic vehicles systematically crisscrossed the
seabed on their own, with high-resolution sonar and camera
systems, creating the rst comprehensive map of the Titanic
site. Another robot, at the end of a ber-optic cable, sent to
the surface live, full-color, 3-D images, allowing scientists to
virtually walk the decks of the ship. This latest research eort,
of which I was a part, represents a paradigm shift in underwa-
ter archaeology. For the rst time, Titanic can be treated and
explored like any other underwater siteeven extreme depth
is no longer an obstacle to archaeology. Thanks to rapid tech-
nological advances and interdisciplinary work, archaeologists
have a whole new perspective on sites such as Titanic, and new
questions to ask, questions we never could have dreamed of
when underwater archaeology began just 50 years ago.
ROUND THE TIME THAT deep-sea technology was rst
developing, so was underwater archaeology. Its spe-
cic techniques and methods began to emerge in the
late 1950s, through pioneers such as Jacques Yves Cousteau,
Frederic Dumas, Peter Throckmorton, Honor Frost, and
George Bass. Their work culminated in Bass rst complete
underwater excavation of a shipwrecka Bronze Age vessel
at Cape Gelidonya, Turkeyin 1960. When asked by col-
Titanic departs Southampton, England, on
April 10, 1912, five days before the ship struck
an iceberg and sank in the North Atlantic.
be d
locate and avoid iceb
the two world wars an
white photographs depicted it depart-
an ic 37
squared o in the pages of USA Today: Salvaging Artifacts Is
an Insult to the Dead versus Salvaging Artifacts Brings the
Legend to Life. Public opinion remains divided. While news-
paper columnists, cartoonists, and archaeologists decried the
practice, countless people have lined up to visit RMS Titanic
Inc.s touring artifact exhibitions.
The furor over the recovery of artifacts from Titanic is
understandable. The greater concerns for archaeology, how-
ever, are how and why the artifacts were removed, and what
would become of them. Were they being appropriately con-
served, cataloged, and researched? Would they ultimately go
under the hammer at auction, artifact by artifact? The legal
history of Titanic and RMS Titanic Inc. is long and complex.
The U.S. District Court in Norfolk, Virginia, which for two
decades has overseen the salvage companys activities under
admiralty law, decided a number of these questions. Rulings by
the court have limited recovery to artifacts scattered outside
the intact bow and stern sections. At one stage, RMS Titanic
Inc. sued the Departments of State and Commerce unsuc-
cessfully to stop publication of the International Agreement
on Titanic guidelines. Most recently the court awarded RMS
Titanic Inc. title to the 5,000 artifacts, with the stipulation
that the company follow international standards for conserva-
tion, treatment, and display of the collection. Furthermore, any
sale of the artifacts would be subject to review by the court,
and allowed only if the collection stays together and is main-
tained for public display and study. (As ARCHAEOLOGY went
to press, the results of a sealed-bid auction were scheduled to
be announced on April 11, 2012, days before the 100th anni-
versary of the sinking.)
Amid the years of legal battles and publicity, in 1997 I
participated in an independent review of the work that had
been done on the Titanic site for the International Congress
of Maritime Museums. The review was prompted by concerns
of the international museum and archaeological communities
over the impending display of recovered Titanic artifacts at
the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England. Larry
Murphy of the National Park Service, Roger Knight of the
National Maritime Museum, and I were surprised to learn that
though RMS Titanic Inc.s artifact recoveries had been selec-
tivefor iconic, intact, and, at times, random artifactsthey
had been conducted with great skill. The recoveries had been
documented by video, and additional data existed, we were
told, to create a map of where the artifacts had come from.
RMS Titanic Inc. had also conducted studies in 1996 of
the wreck and its environment, such as a sonar survey through
the mud to assess now-buried damage to the hull that may be
from the iceberg impact, and an ongoing assessment of the
biological corrosion by microbiologist Roy Cullimore and his
colleagues to determine how long Titanic would remain intact.
Ballard and NOAA also jointly examined the site and the
remains of the bow and stern, and lm director James Cameron
explored the interior, revealing much about the ship and what
happened inside it the evening that it sank.
Much data had been gathered since Titanics rediscovery,
but the scope of the entire site remained largely unknownwe
After my 2000 visit to Titanic, I wrote in ARCHAEOLOGY
We see scoop marks that show where selected pieces have
been plucked from clusters of artifactsno grids, no scientic
samplingsimply for their display or monetary value. What is
happening here, two-and-one-half miles down and out of sight of
much of the world, is not archaeology. . . . In short, other than the
well-known intact bow section and the stern and the sub pilots
recollections, no detailed road map, let alone a highly detailed
archaeological site plan, exists.
Photos of Titanic had been taken and artifacts collected, but
none of these activities reected the process by which we apply
scientic methods to the study of the past. To actually study
the wreck, and the lives of the people on the ship, we would
need a detailed site map that we could visit again and again,
with ever-more sophisticated questions. Could such a map be
created not only for the largest featuresthe bow and stern
sectionsbut also for artifacts ranging from boilers and hull
sections, down to a teacup, bottle, or button? Could we catalog
the sites smallest constituents in a nondestructive way? Could
we discern the site formation processdetermine exactly how
the pieces of the ship and its contents came to their resting
places? And did the salvage of artifacts from the site compro-
mise its archaeological integrity and render archaeological
technique and method moot? The 2010 Titanic expedition,
led by David Gallo of WHOI, set out to answer these ques-
tions and establish that archaeological science beyond mere
observation could be conducted at crushing depths.
OLLOWING THE DISCOVERY OF the wreck in 1985,
there were opposing views on what should be done
with it. In the United States, Congress passed the RMS
Titanic Memorial Act at the urging of oceanographer Robert
Ballard, who led the expedition that discovered the wreck.
It recommended that the site be left untouched as a memo-
rial. But because Titanic rests in international waters, it was
under no nations jurisdictionunder admiralty law, Titanic
was open to anyone with the right equipment and technical
expertise to reach it. The act also gave the National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), working with the
Department of State, the task of negotiating an international
agreement on Titanic and developing guidelines for appropriate
activities on the site, a process that took a decade and a half.
As this discussion was taking place, beginning in 1987, a
private American company formed by investors and known
as Titanic Ventures Limited Partnership (now Premier Exhi-
bitions, with the Titanic artifacts handled by subsidiary RMS
Titanic Inc.), began diving to the wreck with codiscoverers
IFREMER, Frances deep-sea agency, to recover artifacts and
photograph the ship. Working from submersibles, over seven
expeditions between 1987 and 2004, RMS Titanic Inc. ulti-
mately raised some 5,000 artifacts, with the aim of displaying
them for prot. Their activities were controversial. In 1987,
the London Daily Express called the recovery dives Vandalism
for Prot. A 1988 editorial in Discover magazine was titled,
We All Loot in a Yellow Submarine. Guest columnists
ARCHAEOLOGY May/June 2012 38
were deployed on another mission, classied at the time: the
successful location of the wreckage of Air France ight 447
in the South Atlantic.)
The other robot was an ROV, Remora, a refrigerator-sized
frame covered with crush-proof foam, cables, thrusters, deep-
sea lights, and high-denition cameras from WHOIs Advanced
Imaging and Visualization Laboratory (AIVL). Rated to dive to
20,000 feet, Remora, operated by Tim Weller and Bradley Gil-
lis of Phoenix International, was tethered to the ship by more
than 12,400 feet of ber-optic cable and driven by joystick.
Two levels above the main deck of Jean Charcot, in a darkened
compartment of the ships laboratory, the AIVL team conducted
systematic sonar and digital imaging of the bow, stern, and other
major sections of Titanic. Wearing bulky black plastic glasses,
we watched large screens and saw Titanic, brightly lit and in
3-D, and relayed directions to the ROVs pilotstop, a little
to port, turn 10 degreesfor hours. I was struck by how much
more insightdigitally documented in high denition, with
remarkable precision and claritywe were gaining compared
with being down there in a manned submersible. The lights,
literally and guratively, were on for the rst time. Previously, the
results of work on the wreck had to be carefully pieced together,
at times by hand, to provide glimpses of certain artifacts and
features. Now, the entire wreck site became accessible, down to
a teacup or wine bottle or crabs crawling along the hull.
Our data acquisition complete, the processing of this
information is ongoing. AIVLs William Lange (a member of
the original Titanic discovery team) and his visualization team,
including 3-D specialist Evan Kovacs, are merging all this opti-
cal and sonar data together into a detailed, comprehensive
baseline map of the wreck, built on a GIS database developed
by the National Park Services David Conlin, co-principal
archaeologist on the expedition (with me). Science begins
with measurement. Understanding the relationships between
features and objects on the seaoor is key to deciphering how
the site was created on April 15, 1912.
With the new site map, we are able to virtually y in on
the wreck, dropping into the water anywhere in a roughly
three-by-ve-mile area that encompasses the full extent of
the wreck, and get a view of anything, from the large intact
portions of the ship down to the most current-scattered
pieces of coal, dishes, and deck tiles. Digitally, we can move
in closer to any portion of Titanicnow sectioned into grid
units like a proper archaeological siteincluding a small area
that holds the greatest concentration of features. There, close
to the intact but mangled stern, is a collection of pieces of
hull, machinery, superstructure, and other artifacts known for
decades as the debris eld. We have now started referring to
it as the artifact eldmore than 60 major features and tens
of thousands of artifacts in a non-random patternwhere we
are both plotting relationships between objects and studying
the features on a pair of shoes.
We have begun the task of identifying features, artifacts,
and their contexts, especially with the help of Titanic expert
Bill Sauder. I have known of Sauders scholarship for years,
so I was not surprised by the depth of his knowledge. But
had no detailed knowledge of the whole, and didnt even know
how large it was. The keyhole views of the wreck had not
described or dened the scattered eld of artifacts, for exam-
ple. Understanding Titanic from these eorts was like driving
through a city at night, in a rainstorm, peering through a por-
tion of the windshield, and trying to piece together in your
minds eye what the headlights revealed around each corner.
But by 2010, with the latest technology and the right team, a
comprehensive, nely detailed site map was nally in reach. A
decade after my rst visit to Titanic in 2000, I returned with
the best-equipped and most experienced group of scientists
and technicians ever assembled for such a project.
The result was a multiagency expedition, including
WHOI, the Waitt Institute, Phoenix International, NOAA,
and the National Park Service, that would develop a detailed
archaeological site plan and report. The new eort also
includes a Titanic Advisory Council to review proposals to
work on the site in accordance with UNESCO and U.S. his-
toric preservation law and practice. Other recommendations
include a voluntary exclusion zone around the wreck site
where ships would not discharge waste of any sort (modern
garbage is indeed present on the site) and designated areas
where submersibles visiting the wreck would enter and exit
the archaeological area. This last point is important25 years
of dives have littered the wreck site with the dive weights
each sub drops to ascend to the surface.
RMS Titanic Inc. paid for the expedition, which included
many staunch critics (some directly involved in the litigation)
of the prior handling of the Titanic wreckmyself among
them. Such a collaboration was simply unimaginable to many
people right up until the missions launch in the research ship
Jean Charcot from St. Johns, Newfoundland, in August 2010.
ATHER THAN PEERING at Titanic as if through a rain-
splattered windshield at night, we now have an elevated
view of the city, with the clarity and detail of a slow,
low-altitude ight at noon. This is possible because of the lat-
est robotic technology, deployed in the 2010 expeditiontwo
autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) and a remotely oper-
ated vehicle (ROV). The AUV team, including Mike Dessner
and Andy Sherrell of the Waitt Institute, and Greg Packard,
Mike Purcell, and Jim Partan of WHOI, operated and main-
tained the AUVs. At 12.5 feet long and 28 inches in diameter,
they look like fat, yellow torpedoes. Weighing one ton and
costing nearly three million dollars each, they can dive to
almost 20,000 feet and run for up to 22 hours autonomously
at depth, following preprogrammed courses at speeds of up
to ve knots. They carry a variety of instruments, including
high-resolution multi-beam proling sonar; dual-frequency
side-scan sonar; sub-bottom proling sonar; an automatic digi-
tal camera with strobe; conductivity, depth, and temperature
sensors; and collision avoidance software. One of the scientists
on the expedition joked that if you are not there to pick the
AUVs up when they surface, they have the ability to call your
cellphone to ask for a ride. Once retrieved, they provide tera-
bytes of data from the ocean oor. (After our expedition, they 39
boilers. We can delineate where heavier objects landed and blew
away silt, and at the bow we can see how the hull dug in, exed,
and sprang back, leaving a knife-sharp edge in the mud even
a century later. We have also plotted pairs of shoes, laced and
tied, next to disturbed mudplaces where victims came to rest.
Some of the site formation processes were known or sur-
mised before. As early as 1986, Lange, with Ballard and Al
Uchupi of WHOI, worked with images from Argo to begin to
map around Titanics stern and hypothesize about patterns of
the fallen artifacts. Others, including a 2005 television docu-
mentary crew working with experts, developed new theories
on how Titanic came apart. And Camerons expeditions sent
small robots deep into the bow that yielded detailed informa-
tion on the sinking and the exceptional levels of preservation
inside the wreck. A variety of further expeditions, including
two by NOAA in 20032004, had surveyed, generated partial
photomosaics, and continued to assess the bacteriological
consumption of Titanics steel.
The 2010 expedition brought these eorts together with
a new base of solid data, a grid, assigned units, and feature
numbers, providing a new perspective on how Titanic went
from ship to shipwreck, and how it continues to change over
I was amazed all the same when he meticulously explained
how a battered feature on the seabed was one of the revolv-
ing doors from Titanics rst-class smoking room, and as he
identied the half-intact oval domed skylight from one of
the ships two grand staircases.
Returning virtually to the wreck again and again like this is
critical to any scientic approach. Rather than seeing Titanic
through a keyhole, we can interrogate the entire thing and
ask fresh questions of it.
The archaeological methods now being applied to Titanic
have given us clear insights into the site formation process,
specically how Titanic broke apart and fell, and how the bow
plowed into the mud at an angle. We can see how the stern sank,
along with broken sections of the hull, including a cluster of
A portion of the first-ever comprehensive map of the Titanic
wreck site (above), created with automated underwater
vehicles (left), shows the ships mangled stern and the
artifact field, including portions of the hull, boilers, and
machinery. This sonar map was only the first step toward a
finely detailed archaeological site map.
inside. Camerons explorations of
the bow interior revealed cabins
complete with furniture, cupboards stacked
with dishes, painted wooden paneling, and
hanging light xtures. Cargo and luggage,
including the packed bags of passengers, remain
in the hold, and the mailroom, visible through a
hole that opened in the hull when it exed and
broke on impact with the seabed, has stacks of
mailbags. We believe that, while badly mangled,
the stern also retains intact cabins. Titanic was
a oating microcosm of society, a city short-
lived and dramatically terminated that carried
both the rich traveling for pleasure and immi-
grants seeking new lives in the United States or
Canada. Each cabin, trunk, suitcase, valise, grip,
and mailbag is itself both archive and memorial.
RMS Titanic Inc. recovered a few scattered
bags from the ship, and the clothing, correspon-
dence, and personal eects inside them demon-
strated exceptional levels of preservation. These
bags speak evocatively about the people who
packed them, many of whom are known only
as initials and a last name on a manifest. By the
time this story hits newsstands and mailboxes,
the bags, the rest of RMS Titanic Inc.s collec-
tion, and the companys documentation on the
site will have, pending court approval, a new
steward. Hopefully further study of this collec-
tion will continue to tell the story of what we
now know to be one of the great human migra-
tions, the nineteenth- and twentieth-century
maritime trail from Europe to America.
It is clear that Titanic, though well-studied, has so much
more to teach us. We have yet to conduct detailed oceano-
graphic studies to assess the wrecks eects on the surrounding
deep-sea environment, and what currents, oxygen levels, tem-
perature, and marine organisms are precisely doing to Titanic.
Those processes are as important to the future of Titanic as is
our dedication to preserving and learning from the site. Titanic
still awaits a solid, comprehensive research and management
plan, as well as what I see as the most appropriate home for its
salvaged artifacts, a public Titanic museum. There are no plans
for such an initiative at the moment, but those artifacts are
as close as we will ever get to the people who were caught up
in that nights events a century ago. Ultimately, archaeologys
role in Titanics story will be to move beyond April 15, 1912,
and deeper into the society that produced Titanic, populated
its cabins, and looked to the ship as a voyage to the future.
Answers will be elusive, but were now better equipped than
ever before to ask those questions.
James P. Delgado is the Director of Maritime Heritage for the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations Office of
National Marine Sanctuaries.
time. The new map revealed to us that the scattered features
and artifacts do not represent everything that once lay inside
or on the ship. Rather than streaming like comet tails from
the bow and stern as the ship sank, most contents of the arti-
fact eld come from the full disintegration of a section of the
shipsome 70 feet of Titanics 882-foot length that branched
up and out between two of the deck funnels. Broken pieces
of the hull from that section were accompanied by two of the
reciprocating engine cylinders, the ve boilers from the num-
ber one boiler room, 51 tons of coal (of 1,000 or more tons on
board), and four tons of coke. This segment also included the
contents of the Verandah Caf, the Palm Court, the aft end
of the First Class Lounge, and a group of rst-, second-, and
third-class cabins, as well as the galleys and pantries, sculleries,
wine room, barber shop, smoking room, hospital, cold storage
rooms, silverware locker, and bakers shop. Among these items
on the seaoor are also pieces swept from the deck, such as the
funnels, the davits used to launch lifeboats, and the remains of
the bridge. There is a lot of material down there and reected
on the site map, but it represents just a tiny fraction of the
presumed millions of artifacts. The artifacts salvaged between
1987 and 2004 do not represent even 1 percent of that total.
A suitcase from one of Titanics passengers (top), portholes from near the stern
of Titanic (above), and the ships iconic bow (opposite). Images like these are
being integrated into the comprehensive map.
ARCHAEOLOGY May/June 2012 40 41
uninhabited. Fly at 30,000 feet over the
southern part of the former Soviet Union
Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstanand
there are long moments when no town or
road or eld is visible from your window.
The landscape of stark desert, trackless steppe, and rugged
mountains seems to swallow up anything human. It is little
surprise, then, that this region remains largely terra incognita
to most archaeologists.
Wandering bands and tribes roamed this immense area
for 5,000 years, herding goat, sheep, cattle, and horses across
immense steppes, through narrow valleys, and over high
snowy passes. They left occasional tombs that survived the
ages, and on rare occasions settled down and built towns or
even cities. But for the most part, these peoples left behind
few physical traces of their origins, beliefs, or ways of life.
How herding nomads created the network
that carried civilization across Central Asia
more than 4,000 years ago
by Andrew Lawler
What we know of these nomadic pastoralists comes mainly
from their periodic forays into India, the Middle East, and
China, where they often wreaked havoc and earned a fear-
some reputation as enemies of urban life.
As early as the fth century B.C., the Greek historian
Herodotus warned of a barbaric and warlike pastoralist people
called the Scythians who lived north of the Caucuses and drank
human blood from skulls. The hardy Xiongnu from the Sibe-
rian steppes raided Chinese towns in the second century B.C.,
prompting construction of the Great Wall. And troops from
Mongolia led by Genghis Khans grandson Hulagu Khan laid
waste to the rich metropolis of Baghdad in A.D. 1258, ending
one of Islams most glorious periods.
In the past century, scholars have continued where the
ancient writers left o, criticizing these people as destructive,
dismissing them as marginal, or, at best, casting them as a
harsh tonic for restoring vigor to decaying and soft agricul-
tural societies from ancient Mesopotamia to Imperial Rome
to Han China. Nomadic people are generally the invincible
opponents of civilization, wrote sociologist Jerome Dowd
in 1907. A half-century later, British archaeologist Mortimer
Wheeler blamed the aggressive, chariot-driving Aryans who
swept in from the steppes for the demise of the peaceful
Indus River civilization after 1800 B.C., though later archae-
ologists dismissed that claim.
But Michael Frachetti, a young archaeologist at Washington
University in St. Louis, takes the radical view that Central
Asians were early midwives in the birth of civilization rather
than a destructive force bent on its extirpation. Frachetti
argues that ancient pastoralists living in the third millennium
B.C., at the time of the rst great cities of Mesopotamia, Egypt,
and the Indus, created a network stretching across thousands
of miles that passed along goods, technologies, and ideas cen-
tral to urban life. He believes they helped create civilization
Archaeologists are
uncovering Bronze Age
settlements where modern
Uzbek and Tajik pastoralists
today drive their flocks
through the same landscape
as their ancient forebears.
rather than hindering it. This isnt the pastoralism of Genghis
Khan and his thundering hordes, says Frachetti, who is dig-
ging in both Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. These people arent
living on the fringe of society, he says, adding, They actually
are dictating the regions politics and the economy.
Most archaeological work in Central Asia during the past
century has focused on the open and rolling plains that stretch
from the Black Sea to Manchuria. These steppes only came
to life after 2000 B.C., when horse domestication and riding
suddenly turned a forbidding landscape for pedestrians into a
natural highway of grass. Drawing on linguistic research, tex-
tual evidence, and remains from steppe tombs, archaeologists
and historians have long argued that these peoples migrated en
masse from west to east, taking with them fast horses, chariots,
metal weapons, and a pantheon of sky gods.
By contrast, the areas to the south of the steppesa con-
fused welter of mountain chains and harsh desertshave long
ARCHAEOLOGY May/June 2012 44
Covering nearly 500 square miles,
this region lies between the Tian
Shan and Altai mountain ranges, and
boasts sharp peaks topping 12,000
feet, as well as harsh desert. At a site
near a village called Begash, on a at
terrace enclosed by steep canyon
walls alongside a small stream, the
team uncovered the foundations of
simple stone structures along with
an array of potsherds and bronze
and stone artifacts in stone-lined
oval and rectangular tombs. The
earliest layers at Begash date to at
least as early as 2500 B.C., based
on alpha magnetic spectrometry
dating of organic remains, says
Frachetti. One woman was laid
to rest with a bell-shaped hooked
bronze earring around 1700 B.C.,
according to electron spin reso-
nance dating. Similar earrings are
only found several centuries later
some 600 miles to the north on
the Siberian steppes, hinting at
styles that moved north over time.
More surprisingly, the excava-
tors found wheat, which was rst
domesticated in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East, and
broomcorn millet that was rst widely grown in northern
China. The grains were used ritually in a burial, and radio-
carbon dating of the remains dates them to about 2200
B.C., making them the oldest known domesticated grains
in Central Asia. The people of Begash may not have grown
either grainthere are no grinding stones, the telltale sign of
grain preparationbut instead received it via trade networks
stretching from the Near East to China.
Dorian Fuller, a leading expert in ancient grains based
at University College London, calls the nds important
and well dated. He adds that Chinese crops such as millet
began to appear in southwest Asia around 1900 B.C., a few
centuries after they reached Begash, which could mean the
passage through the mountain regions was a means of gradual
transmission from east to west. Frachetti speculates that the
grains may have been acquired from other tribes and used
for ritual purposes, and then perhaps were passed on in turn
to other pastoral peoples.
What makes the Begash discoveries so important is that
previously this region was assumed to have been a land of
scattered foragers until steppe peoples trickled down into
the areas valleys and mountain ranges after 2000 B.C. But
it is becoming evident that the people of Begash were not
simple foragers, but sophisticated pastoralists who tended
their ocks, much as people in the area still do today. They
built small encampments, favored sheep and goat over cattle,
and ate few wild animals. The inhabitants did not begin to
been dismissed as backwaters of history. In the past, these
southern mountains and deserts were considered too remote,
rugged, and inhospitable to have played a role in early migra-
tions or the emergence of urban life. The Karakum Desert,
where it might rain once in a decade, covers nearly two-thirds
of todays Turkmenistan, while the perpetually snow-covered
Tian Shan Mountains of western China and eastern Kyrgyzstan
soar 24,000 feet into the thin air. It is there that Frachetti and
a new generation of archaeologists from the United States and
Central Asian nations are discovering evidence of a network
of pastoralists who thrived centuries before hooves resounded
on the steppes to the north. These forgotten peoples may have
carried such markers of civilization as ceramics and grains
across thousands of miles, two millennia before the Silk Road
linked the Roman Empire with Han China. Frachetti argues
that the new data emerging from the region force archaeolo-
gists to rethink their ideas about trade across Eurasia during
the Bronze Age, when the rst civilizations were taking form
to the east, south, and west.
RACHETTI,WHO HAS STUDIED modern-day pastoralists
in such unforgiving landscapes as the Sahara and Scandi-
navia, was drawn to the southern region of Central Asia
for its environmental diversity of desert, grassland, and alpine
meadows. Instead of a wasteland, he saw an ideal landscape for
enterprising herders who wanted to pasture their animals in all
seasons. Together with his Kazakh colleagues, Frachetti began
digging a decade ago in the Dzhungar Mountains of Kazakhstan.
Ancient pastoralists built this dwelling at Begash in Kazakhstan in around 2500 B.C.
In a nearby grave, archaeologists found these tiny grains of millet and wheat, the oldest
domesticated grains yet found in Central Asia. 45
EEKING MORE EVIDENCE, Frachetti and his colleagues
in recent years turned to an area 400 miles southwest
of Begash in todays Uzbekistan. Frachetti and Farhad
Maksudov of the Uzbek Archaeology Institute chose a region
north of Samarkand, the ancient Silk Road city, because of its
proximity to another, even more ancient, town called Sarazm
(Sogdian for where the land begins). Founded in the fourth
millennium B.C., Sarazmjust over the modern border in
Tajikistanourished for a thousand years and is the oldest
large-scale settlement in Central Asia, what scholars call a
proto-urban center. It also marks, at least prior to the nds
at Begash, the northeastern frontier of the Fertile Crescents
reach. Sarazm, discovered accidentally by a villager in 1976 and
excavated in the 1980s by Soviet archaeologists, was once a pros-
perous center of trade for goods such as turquoise, agate, wool,
and leather. It was connected through trade networks to the
ourishing civilizations of Mesopotamia, Iran, and the Indus,
as well as with traders as far north as Siberia and as far east as
Afghanistans Hindu Kush Mountains. As with cities from the
Mediterranean Sea to the Indus River, Sarazms economy was
based on wheat, barley, sheep, and goats. The people produced
ne pottery and had a taste for luxury items imported from afar.
use horses until well into the second millennium B.C., and
the varieties of sheep and goat found here today appear to be
related to the varieties rst domesticated thousands of years
before in western Iran, near ancient Mesopotamia. This indi-
cates that Begash was at the crossroads of extremely wide
networks among Eurasian communities by the third millen-
nium B.C., asserts Frachetti. That doesnt mean that traders
traversed thousands of miles in this early period. Instead,
the archaeologist envisions pastoralists taking their ocks
to higher pastures in the summer, where they encountered
neighbors from other valleys doing the same. Thus, ideas
and technologies might have passed gradually through the
mountain corridors of southern Central Asia. This corridor,
Frachetti believes, may have been a key conduit for Bronze
Age developments farther into East Asia and Mongolia. Fra-
chettis team is now busy analyzing both human and animal
bone and tooth samples in order to garner isotopic, DNA,
and health data. This sort of digging requires stamina and
patience, as well as a sense of adventure. Its a lot of work
for a few artifacts in places that are hard to nd, says David
Anthony, an archaeologist at Hartwick College and a long-
time critic of Frachettis theory. He acknowledges, however,
the importance of the discovery. Begash is one candle shin-
ing in this vast dark region, he says. Anything dating to
2000 B.C. or earlier is incredibly important. However, he
adds that there is still not enough evidence that the people
of Begash were anything other than an anomaly.
Archaeologist Michael Frachetti is focusing his research on the
role of Bronze Age nomadic pastoralists in spreading civilization
across Central Asia and into China on several sites, including
Begash in Uzbekistan and sites near Sarazm in Kazakhstan.
ARCHAEOLOGY May/June 2012 46
Frachetti and Maksudovs
goal was to understand how
pastoralists may have interact-
ed with their neighbors, with
Sarazm, and with more distant
places during the third and
second millennia B.C. One of
the questions they asked was
whether the areas ancient pas-
toralists indeed guided their
herds as high up as alpine
meadows, as Frachetti specu-
lated. If so, then they might
easily encounter pastoralists from other valleys who had made
the same trip. Such seasonal meetings might have forged
networks that explain the diusion of goods and technologies
without the need for mass migration. No evidence of such
interaction, however, had been found. But in June of 2011,
surveying a pasture more than 6,000 feet above sea level,
in an area of 3.5 acres, Frachetti and Maksudov uncovered
evidence of at least fteen ancient dwellings on a mound, as
well as more than 1,000 pieces of ceramic. Though some are
from medieval times, others appear to be from the Bronze
Age. The team hopes to begin excavating the site this sum-
mer to gather more data.
Based on ethnographic research, knowledge of the local
geography, and a measure of intuition, Frachetti and Maksudov
also sought out likely Bronze Age settlement spots in the steep
valleys below the alpine meadows. At one site dubbed the
eagles nest after the resident bird of preys massive home,
they found pottery and charcoal amid the remains of a small
settlement. Preliminary radiocarbon dates place the site at
roughly 2000 B.C., in the middle of the Bronze Age, and long
before steppe pastoralists from the north might have migrated
here. Other sites, including one in a protected ravine, yielded
medieval Islamic pottery, Iron Age potsherds, and what appear
to be remains of Bronze Age pots, which are still under analy-
sis. Even if the settlement only dates to 1200 B.C., it will add
3,000 years to the pastoral record of Uzbekistan, Frachetti
says. Though not permanent, these sites appear to have been
repeatedly used for millennia, and they appear to be scattered
over vast areas. If you consider there are thousands of valleys
in this region, and if there were ve to 15 villages per valley,
then you have an incredible force for civiliza-
tion, Frachetti says.
The combined nds in Uzbekistan and at
Begash suggest to Frachetti that the people
living in Central Asia around 2000 B.C. were
part of the rapidly urbanizing world, when
the great cities of Egypt, Mesopotamia, and
the Indus were at their rst peak, and just as
Chinese urbanization was beginning. Though
these pastoralists may never have traveled
more than a few dozen miles from plain to
valley to alpine meadow, Frachetti maintains
they had access to the wider world. And, by
Working in the Uzbek hills north of
Samarkand, Farhad Maksudov (left) and
Frachetti (right) examine a trench for organic
material that will help them date the sparse
remains left by ancient pastoralists.
These hilly mountainsides in
northern Uzbekistan offered
plentiful protected grazing
land for the flocks of Bronze
Age pastoralists in winter. In
summer, they would take their
sheep and goats to the cooler
pastures at higher altitudes.
get things from southwest Asia through those mountain passes
is not convincing, says Victor Mair of the University of Penn-
sylvania. He sees the debate as an old one, pitting those who
view the dominance of Mesopotamia and Iran to the south
against those who are focused on the steppe societies to the
west and north. Anthony suggests that in the end, researchers
may well discover that both sides are right, and that Central
Asian pastoralists had links with both western steppe peoples
as well as the civilizations to the south. But the key role that
Central Asian pastoralists played in the emergence of civiliza-
tion across the vast continent may no longer be at issue.
For the moment, all agree that more eldwork in places
long ignored is necessary. For example, one of Frachettis
students is now digging in the Altai, far to the north of
Begash, to explore possible southern connections through
the mountain corridor. Researchers also hope that genetic
and isotopic analysis of both human and animal bones may
help resolve the controversy. Analyses of modern sheep in
the area point to an Iranian origin, strengthening Frachettis
argument that Begash and other Central Asian sites were
connected with peoples to the south and west.
Whatever the outcome, the image of the nomad as solely
a bloodthirsty marauder may nally be laid to rest. Whether
through small networks, mass migrations, or some combina-
tion, pastoralists in fact served as the connective tissue as
civilization expanded across the Asian continent, funneling
goods, ideas, and innovative technologies. Frachetti is eager
to add to slowly mounting data that are certain to revamp our
ideas about their role. Were going to nd many Begashes,
he predicts. We dont have to worrythey are out there.
Andrew Lawler is a contributing editor at Archaeology.
passing along important innovations such as grains and other
goods, they had a hand in connecting far-ung civilizations.
This movement from south to north took place centuries
before the horse-riding pastoralists moved across the Eurasian
steppes from west to east.
Some archaeologists champion that view as groundbreaking
research while others dismiss it as unconvincing theorizing.
Frachettis ideas will upset a few apple carts, but so be it, says
Dan Rogers, a Smithsonian Institution anthropologist who
works in Mongolia. Philip Kohl, an archaeologist at Wellesley
College who has dug extensively in Central Asia, nds Frach-
ettis methods valuable and his thesis intriguing. He too prefers
the concept of chains of networks to mass migrations. There
just isnt evidence for waves of warriors running from one end
of the steppes to another, Kohl says. But he is taking a wait-
and-see approach until Frachetti can provide more data. I
wouldnt call it a robust body of evidence, he adds.
According to David Anthony, the dominant view is still that
pastoralists went from west to east, rather than north through
the southern Central Asian terrain. He believes that it is not
surprising that the Uzbek sites appear to have had contact with
Iran to the south, given their proximity to Sarazm. However,
hes skeptical that inuence extended much beyond Begash,
or that it was strong. The idea that pastoralists from Iran
brought domesticated animals and plants as far as Begash is
interesting, says Anthony, but with just one site it is di cult
to interpret. He also questions the idea that millet might have
come from as far away as China, and suggests instead it might
have reached Europe via the steppes then circled back north.
Other scholars remain adamantly opposed to Frachettis
concept of pastoralist networks as a means of transmission of
ideas, technology, and raw materials. The idea that you could 47
Frachetti and Maksudov plan to continue
their search for evidence of Bronze Age
pastoralists in the mountains of Uzbekistan
and beyond.
Professor Emerita Barbara Voorhies of the University of California,
Santa Barbara, has spent much of her career investigating Mesoamericas
Archaic period, the time when people were on the verge of practicing
agriculture and settling in permanent villages. Over a span of nearly 35
years, she has excavated on several occasions at the 5,000-year-old site
of Tlacuachero in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas.
HE SITE OF TLACUACHERO in southern Mexico is an
island in a mangrove swamp made up almost entirely
of clamshells. Material recovered from the site shows
that it was a place where people harvested shellsh and sh
between 5,050 and 4,230 years agolong before the great
civilizations of Mesoamerica would build their city-states.
Over the years, the island grew as clams were harvested from
the swamp and the shells were discarded there. While the shell
ARCHAEOLOGY May/June 2012 48
mound was accumulating, the early people at Tlacuachero
built several superimposed clay oors at the island center to
create smooth surfaces that were easier to walk and work on.
Nothing resembling the remains of houses has been found at
the site, which probably indicates that the place was used only
for processing the food that people gathered from the swamp.
Excavations begun in 1973 revealed holes where sturdy
wooden posts had been driven into the oors. The pattern of
the postholes marks places where racks for drying sh may
Games Ancient
People Played
An intriguing discovery in a Mexican swamp provides evidence of the
earliest form of amusement in the Americas
Oval arrangements of small holes (above) found at the site
of Tlacuachero (right), may have been used to play an early
type of board game. Clay disks, with markings on one side
(inset), might have been thrown like dice but date to hundreds
of years later than the game boards.
by Barbara Voorhies
ARCHAEOLOGY May/June 2012 50
vised arrangements of small stones. In places where stones
were not easily available, people made their game boards by
digging small holes. The Hualapai people of Arizona used a
type of game board closely resembling the oval features at
In the Hualapai board game, an example of a race game,
the board is a circle of stones roughly four feet in diameter
with a gap in it where the players could sit. In place of dice,
the Hualapai used short pieces of wood that are at on one
side and rounded on the other. The players would throw three
of these sticks onto a large striking stone in the center of
the circle and move their counters according to the number
of sticks that landed with the at side facing up. The winner
was the rst player to move his or her counter to a large stone
at the far side of the board.
Arizona is a long way from Tlacuachero. But people
throughout Mesoamerica had similar gaming traditions. Game
boards as old as 1,200 years have been found etched in stone
and scratched in stucco at ancient cities from Teotihuacn near
modern-day Mexico City to Copn in northern Honduras.
Some modern-day Maya still play a war dice game called
Bul to celebrate the beginning of the planting season. The
have stood. Also on the oors were groups of tiny holes in oval
patterns. These oval features are clustered only in one area of
the oors, but why they were made has been a mystery ever
since the rst one was found. Features like these are often
interpreted by archaeologists as being either purely utilitarian
or purely ritualistic, which leaves out a whole range of human
activities that has nothing to do with religion or making a liv-
ing. But an answer to the question of what the oval features
were used for may have been provided by an unlikely sourcea
book titled Games of the North American Indians, published in
1907, by Stewart Culin. Were the oval features used to play a
game? Historical, ethnographic, and archaeological evidence
supports this idea.
Culins book pulled together ethnographic accounts show-
ing that board games were played by societies across the area
that is now Canada, the United States, and Mexico. Nearly
all of the board games Culin compiled were variations on one
of two themes: wars and races. In war games, the object is to
capture your opponents pieces, as in checkers. In race games,
the winner is the rst player to move his or her pieces to a
goalCandyland and Snakes and Ladders are modern versions
of race games. The boards themselves were usually impro-
This 16th-century image shows Aztecs playing a game called patolli, next to Macuilxochitl, the god of games, whom gamblers
prayed to for luck. His name translates as Five Flower, shown here by the flower he holds and five circles.
a person who had what we
would consider a gambling
addiction, but instead, he
attributes the persons prob-
lem to his having been born
on an inauspicious day:
He wagered everything
which was in his home.
He used up everything
in patolli and tlachtli [a
type of ballgame]. The friars
disapproved of the gambling and that the gamblers
often invoked Macuilxochitl, the god of games, for luck.
Macuilxochitl also appears in documents from neighboring
societies, such as the Eastern Nahuas and Mixtecs, indicat-
ing that this gaming culture was widespread.
If the oval features at Tlacuachero are indeed game boards,
they are the earliest evidence of people playing games in Meso-
america. Parts of more than 10 of these ovals have been found
at the site. One of the most telling details is that as the clay
oors were repaired and remade, so were the oval features. For
the sherfolk of Tlacuachero, game playing had apparently
become one of the necessities of life.
Barbara Voorhies is a professor emerita of the University of
game board is a line of 20 maize kernels.
A player or team of players starts at each
end. Each team gets ve game pieces,
usually small twigs, leaf stems, or blades of
grass. For dice, they hollow out one side
of a at maize kernel and blacken it with
charcoal. They throw four of these ker-
nels, count the number that land with the
black side facing up, and move their pieces
accordingly. The object of the game is to
land your piece in the same space as your
opponents, thereby capturing it. Next you
have to move the captured piece back to
your end of the board and avoid having it
recaptured on the way.
Historical accounts written by Span-
ish friars in the sixteenth century provide
another line of evidence about the oval
features at Tlacuachero. Friar Diego
Durn described a game that was played
in Tenochtitln, the ancient Aztec capital.
The players used split reeds for dice, and a
game board pecked into a buildings oor:
Small cavities were carved out of a
stucco oor in the manner of a lottery
board. Facing each other, one (player) took
ten pebbles, and the other (also took) ten.
The rst placed his pebbles on his side, and
the other on his. Then they cast split reeds
on the ground. These jumped, and those
that fell with the hollow side facing upward
indicated that a man could move his pebbles
that many squares.
Other historical accounts written by
Spanish friars describe Aztec versions of
bowling, checkers, and a second dice game
called patolli. In place of dice, players used
large patol beans that were marked on one
side with a white dot or small hole. Four or
ve of these beans were used for each throw,
and their conguration determined the score
of the throw. The players used pebbles as
counters and moved them around a board that
consisted of two long rows of squares in the form of an X
painted on a woven mat.
According to the friars accounts, Aztec games were often
played on feast days, when people from dierent territories
came together, allowing players to gamble for exotic goods.
In this way, playing games may have served an economic
purpose as a means of distributing wealth. According to the
Spanish accounts, there was often heavy betting by both
players and onlookers. The betting gave rise to a group of
itinerant professional gamblers, but the games also came
with serious costs for some. Consequences for not being
able to pay gambling debts were often dire and could include
death by hanging. Friar Bernardino Sahagn wrote about 51
Archaeological evidence of
game playing is widespread in
Mesoamerica. A game board
carved into a stone (above)
was found at Piedras Negras in
Guatemala. This statue of the
Aztec god Macuilxochitl
(left) dates to the 15th
or 16th century.
a p

disapproved of the gamblin
f i k d M il hi l h
r or
es as
h f f X
was f
or 16
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r a
n late October 1846, an early
snowstorm stranded 22 men,
women, and children in Alder
Creek meadow in Californias Sierra
Nevada. The squall came on so fierce-
ly and suddenly that the pioneers had
just enough time to erect sleeping
tents and a small structure of pine
trees covered with branches, quilts,
and the rubber coats off their backs.
Living conditions were crowded, and
their wool and flannel clothes were
useless against leaks and the damp
ground. As time passed, seasoned
wood became so hard to find that
the stranded pioneers, known as the
Donner Party, were often without fire
for days. Huddled under makeshift
shelters, the migrants ate charred
bone and boiled hides until they
turned to more desperate measures
to survive. Today the people of the
Donner Party are remembered for
cannibalizing their dead in a last-ditch
effort to survive.
Almost 10 years ago, I arrived at
Alder Creek meadow, a few miles out-
side of Truckee, California, with my
excavation codirector Kelly Dixon, of
the University of Montana, and
a team of colleagues to search
for archaeological evidence of
that miserable winter. The
story of the Donner Party is a
familiar tale, well known from
the accounts of survivors and
rescuers. But, as in many cases,
archaeology provided a differ-
ent perspective and forced us to
reevaluate what we thought
we knew about this dark chap-
ter in Western history.
The Donner Party was a wagon
train of about 80 pioneers who set
out for California from Springfield,
Missouri, in 1846. Hoping to make
the Sacramento Valley by autumn,
they fell behind schedule after tak-
ing an untried shortcut through the
Great Salt Lake Desert. When an
October snowstorm hit, the party was
just 100 miles from their destination.
Most of the migrants sought
shelter in cabins near Truckee
Lake (now Donner Lake),
while the families of brothers
George and Jacob Donner,
their teamsters, and trail
widow Doris Wolfinger made
A New Look at the Donner Party
The Native American perspective on a notorious chapter in American
history is being revealed by the excavation and study of a pioneer campsite
by Julie M. Schablitsky
In Alder Creek meadow
(top), archaeologists
excavated many bones,
such as this horse bone with
chop marks (left), that
attest to the desperation of
the hungry pioneers.
just 100 m
ARCHAEOLOGY May/June 2012 54
ter in the otherwise heroic tale of pio-
neers who settled the American West.
I pictured hundreds of wagons, packed
full of provisions, with calico-clad
children bouncing along the Oregon
Trail to a better life. Not unexpectedly,
Van Pelt saw the story of the Don-
nersand all westward expansion, for
that matteras a self-serving expedi-
tion for land and wealth. To him, their
troubles were symptomatic of greed
rather than bad luck.
Van Pelt urged me to seek out the
wel mel ti, or the tribe now known as
the northern Washoe, to ask what
their oral history says of the Donners.
They were there, and probably saw
them, he said. Van Pelt also warned
me against the negative energy that
lingers in such places of suffering. He
removed from his neck an elaborately
carved shell pendant given to him by
a Florida shaman. On it, two animal
spirits, called splya (coyote in the
Sahaptin language), danced, actively
creating order from chaos. It would
protect me through the turmoil of
the Alder Creek dig, Van Pelt said.
onths before arriving in
California, I studied maps,
historical narratives, and
the notes from earlier archaeological
investigations. Hardesty had found
the eastern edge of the site, but not its
western extent, so we planned to move
from the known to the unknown. The
first shovelfuls of dry soil were sterile,
but inches below, we began to find
glass shards, once part of beverage and
sauce bottles, mixed with fragments of
decorated and blue shell-edge teaware.
We also discovered a particularly rivet-
ing artifacta small piece of writing
slate, possibly used by the Donner chil-
1980s and early 1990s. Using metal
detectors, he found a mid-nineteenth-
century site there, but was cautious
about declaring it the Donner camp
in the absence of human bones or any
remains of a campfire. Building off
his work, my research focused on the
layout of the camp, close study of the
pioneers fragmented belongings, and
identifying evidence of cannibalism.
One can imagine the morbid appeal
of discovering human bones with
butchery marks among other, more
genteel artifacts such as floral deco-
rated teacups, but I felt uncomfort-
able and even guilty about consider-
ing the grim possibilities.
Part of this anxiety comes from
being a Generation X archaeolo-
gist trained in the age of NAGPRA
(Native American Graves Protection
and Repatriation Act), a federal law
that protects Native American graves.
Both the government and my men-
tors taught me to avoid burial sites.
Though I understood the legal and
logistical reasons for this, only when
I began to work as a professional
archaeologist did I appreciate the
Native American perspective. My
work with Pacific Northwest tribes
taught me a respect for their culture
that changed my approach to human
remains, regardless of ancestry. So
before digging at Alder Creek, I
turned to the person who taught me
the most about Native American cul-
ture, Jeff Van Pelt, a member of the
Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla
Indian Reservation in Oregon.
Van Pelt knows the story of the
Donners, but he held a different view-
point than I did. From my European-
American perspective, the Donners
were an unfortunate, hard-luck chap-
the decision to winter at Alder Creek.
By the time the pioneers were
found in late February 1847, half the
members of the Donner Party had
died. Both survivor and rescue party
accounts note human bodies disar-
ticulated and butchered. Survivor Jean
Baptiste Trudeau, George Donners
hired hand, admitted to eating the
remains of his employers four-year-old
nephew. Even before the last survivor
made it out of the mountains, the Cali-
fornia Star newspaper wrote, A woman
sat by the body of her husband, who
had just died, eating out his tongue;
the heart she had already taken out,
broiled, and eat [sic]! But as with
many tales of the Wild West, there are
deeper and more complex truths to
be found in the four months the Don-
ners spent trapped. Our archaeological
investigations revealed the nuances
of daily life, the partys mounting des-
peration, and, surprisingly, that these
unfortunate migrants were not alone
in the mountains.
he approximate location of
the Donner Party encamp-
ment at Alder Creek has been
known since the late nineteenth cen-
tury, but the precise camp spot had
never been pinpointed. Don Hard-
esty, an archaeologist and professor
emeritus at the University of Nevada,
Reno, searched for the site in the
George Donner Jr.
(far left), son of Jacob
Donner, survived the
winter of 184647, when
he was just 10 years old.
The Donners might have
fared better had they
accepted the help of the
Washoe tribe, pictured
here in 1866.
the decision to winter at Alder Creek
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In addition to delicate ceramics
seemingly out of place in the wilder-
ness, but right in line with a Donner
campsitethe assemblage included
wagon hardware, even horseshoe nails
and oxen shoes, clear evidence that
the animals that pulled the pioneers
into the meadow never left it. At last,
we had found our long-term pioneer
campsite, but we were still looking for
evidence of starvation and despera-
tion. So we turned to the most abun-
dant artifact on the site, bone.
The dig crew picked out thousands
of tiny, calcined (burned) bone frag-
ments from the site. Whenever we
found a big bonea piece at least
the size of a thumbnailI handed it
over to our faunal analyst, Guy Tasa of
the Washington State Department of
Archaeology and Historic Preserva-
tion. I waited for each of his verdicts
as he turned the bones around in his
hand a few times, but all he ever said
was, Medium to large mammal. This
frustratingly broad category includes
everything from goats to buffalo, but
in this region and context more likely
represents cow, horse, deer, elk, bear
and human. We know from survi-
vor accounts that the Alder Creek
pioneers consumed the animals they
brought with them, including cattle,
horses, and perhaps even their faith-
ful dog, Uno. When the last of the
meat was gone, they turned to boiling
animal hides and charring bone so
they could eat the pieces by crunch-
ing them between their teeth.
Back at the laboratory, with his
collection of comparative bone sam-
dren or adults in camp to make notes,
figure math problems, practice letters,
or just doodle. This nineteenth-century
notepad may have helped the children
pass the time, and perhaps even made
their situation feel a little more normal.
Deeper in the soil, just below these
more recently discarded objects, we
found Native American stone tools
large basalt flakes and bifaces that
reminded us who was there first.
The soil that held pioneer-era arti-
facts contained occasional pockets of
ash and charcoal that gave me hope
that an elusive Donner hearth might
be near. As our team pushed south
through the site, the soil became
more ashy, and larger pebbles and
pieces of lead shot appeared. My
trowel followed the edge of a dark
charcoal stain with a thin layer of
ash: the hearth. Shannon Novak of
Syracuse University, one of the teams
bioarchaeologists, knelt beside me
with a whisk broom, further delineat-
ing the feature. She exposed bone
fragments that appeared larger than
any we had seen before, and some
exhibited cut, saw, and chop marks.
As my trowel continued to scrape
the edge of the charcoal, I discov-
ered a large ceramic plate sherd, face
down. Everyone gathered around as
I picked up the fragment from the
exact place it was broken by one of
the Donners. A hooray rang out as
I turned the artifact over to reveal a
scalloped edge rimmed with a vibrant
cobalt-blue glaze. The hearth feature,
approximately two by two-and-a-
half feet, anchored our collection of
artifacts that fanned out to the east.
ARCHAEOLOGY May/June 2012 56
(continued on page 62)
The archaeological team, co-led by the author (right), located the hearth the
Donners had used that notorious winter.

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magazine presents the magnicent
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t 59
Photo Credits
COVERAP Photo/RMS Titanic Inc.; 1Courtesy
Michael Frachetti; 2Courtesy Stao Forenbaher ,
Courtesy Tel Aviv University, Courtesy Friends of the
Hunley; 4 Courtesy Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities
Authority; 9Courtesy Associated Producers, Ltd.;
10Courtesy Associated Producers, Ltd., Wikimedia
Commons; Candy Waugaman Collection Klondike
Gold Rush National Historical Park Library SS-126-
8831; 12Courtesy Stao Forenbaher, Peter Endig/
DPA/Landov, Courtesy Obsidian Use Project; 14
Courtesy Tel Aviv University, Courtesy Rijksmuseum,
Courtesy Andrew Wade and the Peabody Museum
of Natural History, Yale University,Division of
Anthropology, ANT.006924.004., Courtesy Stephanie
Panzer,Trauma Center Murnau; 16G.L. Kohuth,
Michigan State University; 18Courtesy Friends of
the Hunley, Courtesy Wil Roebroeks; 19Wikimedia
Commons (2); 20Courtesy Institute of Archaeology
and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences (2),
Courtesy Alberto Cazzella, Courtesy EFAP Archive;
22(clockwise from top left):Courtesy Richard Talbot,
Office of Public Archaeology, Brigham Young University;
Courtesy Outer Hebrides Coastal Community Marine
Archaeology Pilot Project,J. Benjamin, WA Coastal &
Marine; Wikimedia Commons;Courtesy Alexander
Hollmann, University of Washington;Courtesy Tom
Dillehay, Vanderbilt University;Courtesy Jennifer
Loughmiller-Newman, University at AlbanySUNY;
23(clockwise from top left):Courtesy Alejandro
Jimnez Serrano, University of Jan; Wikimedia
Commons;Courtesy Glenn Summerhayes, University
of Otago, Photo: Les ONeill;Courtesy Kieran Hosty,
Australian National Maritime Museum, Photo:
Xanthe Rivett; 24-25Courtesy Pascal Partouche,
Skyview Photography, Ltd., Courtesy Zeev Radovan;
26Courtesy Lew Somers, GeoScan, Courtesy
Pascal Partouche, Skyview Photography, Ltd.,
Courtesy Sylvia Horowitz; 27Courtesy Andrea
Berlin, Courtesy Sharon Herbert, Courtesy Baruch
Bandl, Israel Antiquities Authority, Bullae Courtesy
Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities Authority; 28Glass
stamp seal Courtesy Baruch Bandl, Israel Antiquities
Authority, Plan Courtesy Lindy Lindorfer, Andrea
Berlin, Sharon Herbert; 29Courtesy Sharon
Herbert, Courtesy Susan Webb, Courtesy Sharon
Herbert, Courtesy Donald Ariel, Israel Antiquities
Authority; 30-31Courtesy Thuringian State Office
for Heritage Management and Archaeology (2);
32Courtesy State Office for Heritage Management
and Archaeology Saxony-Anhalt, photographer Juraj
Liptk (2); 33Nebra sky disk Courtesy State Office
for Heritage Management and Archaeology Saxony-
Anhalt, photographer Juraj Liptk, Axes Courtesy
Thuringian State Office for Heritage Management
and Archaeology; 34-35Courtesy Waitt Institute/
Robert Sitrick; 36AP Photo; 39AP Photo/
RMS Titanic Inc.; Courtesy Waitt Institute/Robert
Sitrick; 40Courtesy Institute for Exploration/Center
for Ocean Exploration at the University of Rhode
Island/NOAA Office of Exploration and Research
(2); 41Courtesy NOAA and the Russian Academy
of Sciences; 42-43Courtesy Michael Frachetti;
44Courtesy Michael Frachetti (2); 46Courtesy
Michael Frachetti, Courtesy Mahan Kalpa Khalsa;
47Courtesy Michael Frachetti; 48-49Courtesy of
Barbara Voorhies (3); 50Scala / Art Resource, NY;
51Justin Kerr, Image copyright The Metropolitan
Museum of Art. Image source: Art Resource, NY; 53
Courtesy Julie Schablitsky, University of Oregon (2);
54Courtesy Julie Schablitsky, University of Oregon,
Legends of America Photo Prints; 56Courtesy Julie
Schablitsky, University of Oregon (2); 62Courtesy
Julie Schablitsky, University of Oregon; 68Courtesy
MNHA Luxembourg/T. Lucas
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ARCHAEOLOGY May/June 2012 62
ther contact. These stories, and
the archaeological evidence that
appears to support them, certain-
ly complicated my interpretation
of the Donner Party event. The
migrants at Alder Creek were
not surviving in the mountains
alonethe northern Washoe were
there, and they had tried to help.
Historical archaeologists combine
anthropology, history, and science to
reconcile the human experience with
archives, oral history, and physical evi-
dence. More often than not, there are
contradictions in these data, reminding
us that we can never truly know the
past. But when the pieces fit together,
we are provided with possible sce-
narios of what may have taken place
hundreds of years ago. In this case, the
absence of cannibalized bone forced
us to give up trying to answer who
was butchered and how it was done.
Instead, we had to find answers to
questions about life in camp from the
crumbs of domestic debris and animal
bone. Our intense desire for informa-
tion drove us to seek out cutting-edge
technology and reach out to a group
of people who I thought played only
a peripheral role in this pioneer trag-
edy. When I considered the subtle
archaeological findings within their
proper cultural landscape, an unex-
pected narrative was born. This new
perspective is one that I believe gives
us a better understanding of what the
Donners experienced and whom they
met in the mountains during that
notorious winter.
Julie M. Schablitsky is a senior research
archaeologist at the University of Oregon,
chief archaeologist at the Maryland
State Highway Administration, and an
editor and contributing author of An
Archaeology of Desperation: Exploring
the Donner Partys Alder Creek Camp
(University of Oklahoma Press, 2011).
snow, or their aim was off,
how could they have
ended up eating
these animals?
fter the dig I
returned home
to Oregon, but
there was one thing left
to do. We still needed to
check in with the wel mel ti,
the northern Washoe, to learn if
their ancestors passed down stories
about the Donner Party. The wel mel
ti are thought to have lived in that
region for centuries, and Alder Creek
was just miles from one of their vil-
lages. Although they usually wintered
in lower elevations, living off food
stores gathered throughout the year,
it would not have been unusual for a
wel mel ti to strap on a pair of round
snowshoes, or shumlli, and go ice
fishing or hunting on higher ground.
We asked ethnographer Penny Rucks,
who has more than twenty years of
experience with the local tribes, to
ask the wel mel ti if the pioneer trag-
edy had survived in their tribal nar-
rative. Rucks reached out to Jo Ann
Nevers and Lana Hicks, who agreed
to share the wel mel ti story, with the
understanding that they did so to
honor their ancestors.
Until now the Native American
perspective has been left out of the
telling of the Donner tragedy, not
because the wel mel ti did not remem-
ber the pioneers, but because they
were never asked, or perhaps were
not ready to share. Their oral tradi-
tion recalls the starving strangers who
camped in an area that was unsuitable
for that time of year. Taking pity on
the pioneers, the northern Washoe
attempted to feed them, leaving rab-
bit meat and wild potatoes near the
camps. Another account states that
they tried to bring the Donner Party a
deer carcass, but were shot at as they
approached. Later, some wel mel ti
observed the migrants eating human
remains. Fearing for their lives, the
areas native inhabitants continued to
watch the strangers but avoided fur-
ples at hand, Tasa listed the cuisine on
the Donner Party desperation menu:
small rodent, rabbit-sized animal,
canine, cow, and deer. But no human.
Only a very small percentage of the
bone could be visually identified.
Out of 16,204 bone fragments (5.03
pounds), over 13,000 pieces remained
unidentified. Because I knew the
faunal analysis would be a challenge,
I sacrificed a few bone fragments to
a DNA laboratory in California, but
the results were inconclusive. The
bone had been cooked and boiled
before it spent over 150 years in acid-
ic soil, degrading the DNA beyond
detection even by twenty-first-
century forensic technology. Tasa had
another idea. Gwen Robbins Schug,
an anthropologist at Appalachian
State University, can identify animal
species by observing bone struc-
ture. It is not a common method for
archaeologists, but was worth a try.
Using an optical microscope to
observe osteons, or the fundamental
structural units of bone, Schug found
85 bone fragments that belonged to
cow, deer, horse, and dog. But again,
there were no human bones. This, of
course, does not mean that the Don-
ners did not practice cannibalism.
Our excavations might have missed
the human remains, or if the Donners
ate only organs and flesh, leaving the
bone unprocessed and unburned, the
skeletons may have decomposed in
the acidic soil. A third possibility is
that the human bone simply remains
undetected in our collection. Although
the absence of identifiable human
bone was an interesting problem, I
was much more intrigued by what we
did find: None of the survivor accounts
from Alder Creek mention success-
fully hunting and killing rabbit or deer.
We also found lead shot and sprue
from lead casting, suggesting the pio-
neers had attempted to make ammuni-
tion for their guns. Perhaps one of the
Donner Party members or rescuers
had been successful at hunting wild
game. But if the Donners found them-
selves too weak to hunt in the deep
(continued from page 56) A fragment of a writing slate may
have been used by the children
and adults of the Donner Party
for lessons, notes, and speaks,
perhaps, to their desire to
maintain a sense of normalcy.
as off,
ed to
el mel ti,
oe, to learn if
ed down stories
arty The wel mel
A frag
f o r S e n i o r s i n 2 0 1 2
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Archaeological Institute of America
best practices

Online resources

Photos of 4 AIA Site Preservation Grant Funded Sites: Assos, Turkey: AIA/Assos Project; Kissonerga, Cyprus: AIA; Easter Island,
Chile: Charles Steinmetz; Umm el Jimal, Jordan: AIA/Open Hand Studios and Umm el Jimal Project;

Donate at
Te AIA Preservation Program safeguards the worlds archaeological heritage
for future generations through direct preservation, raising awarness of threats
to sites, education, outreadch, and by facilitating the spread of best practices.
Te AIA currently supports projects on fve continents. Your generous donation
will help preserve more archaeological sites in need.
he eruption of the
Soufrire Hills Volcano on
Montserrat covered the south-
ern two-thirds of the Caribbean
island under pyroclastic ow and
volcanic ash. Te eruption destroyed
Montserrats capital, Plymouth, and
a signicant portion of the islands
prehistoric and historic settlements.
Te islands populace was forced to
relocate to the northern part of the
island and a new capital was estab-
lished in the town of Little Bay.
Subsequent to the tragic destruc-
tion of most of the islands historical
sites, the Montserrat National Trust
(MNT) initiated a program to pre-
serve and study the William Carr
Estate, one of the earliest and few
remaining European settlements
on Montserrat. Despite the histori-
cal importance of the site, the Carr
Estatelocated in the center of Little
Bayis under constant threat from
encroaching development and Mont-
serrat is in danger of losing an impor-
tant part of its early history.
Te Carr Estate may have been
established as early as 1639. Tere are
a few early documentary mentions
of the site, and its location is noted
on a map of the settlement dating
to 1675. Apart from this, not much
was known about the plantation. Te
Carr Estate is currently being studied
by Jessica Striebel MacLean of Bos-
ton University. MacLean, director of
the Carr Plantation Archaeology and
Heritage Project, is working in con-
junction with the MNT to excavate,
interpret, and preserve the site.
Excavations at the Carr Estate
have uncovered artifacts connected
to the daily life of eighteenth-century
Montserratian planters and exposed
a previously unknown nineteenth- to
early-twentieth century component of
the site. Te continuous occupation
of the plantation provides research-
ers with the unique opportunity to
understand the nature of European
occupation of Montserrat from initial
settlement to the present.
In 2012, the AIA awarded a Site
Preservation Grant to the Carr Plan-
tation Archaeology and Heritage
Project. Te grant will be used to
protect the site from urban develop-
ment and increase local community
involvement in its protection and
preservation. MacLean will create an
archaeology-focused program at local
secondary schools in which students
will be trained in basic archaeological
eld and lab techniques, install inter-
pretive signage around the site, devel-
op a guided walking tour of the site
to be used in conjunction with the
interpretive signs, and erect protective
fencing with gate access around the
perimeter of the site.
Site Preservation Grant awarded to Carr Plantation
Archaeology Project on Montserrat







here are currently 108 AIA Local Societies actively involved in
promoting archaeological learning and raising awareness of archaeo-
logical issues in their local areas. Joining an AIA Local Society is a
great opportunity to get involved with archaeology enthusiasts in your
community.Societies provide people with chances to connect with both
professional archaeologists and fellow community members who simply
enjoy learning about the discipline.
Societies orga-
nize and host events
throughout the
year. An important
component of soci-
ety programming
is the AIA Lecture
Program. Each
year, the AIA sends
archaeologists to our
Societies to share
their latest research
and discoveries.
Societies supplement these lectures with their own events, such as dinners
with archaeologists, study groups, eld trips, and more.
Te AIA provides funding to Societies that organize archaeological out-
reach programs for their communities through the Society Outreach Grant
program. Recent Society Outreach Grant awardees have given presentations
at local schools, worked with museums to provide outreach components to
archaeologically themed traveling exhibits, organized archaeology fairs, and
even re-created a Roman spectacle!
Most Societies participate in National Archaeology Day celebrations
because it is a great opportunity for them to promote their programs and
activities on a national level.
Join a Local Society today and get involved! Visit
membership/join. Cannot nd an AIA Society near you? Contact for more information on how you can start one.
Te work supported by the AIA
at the Carr Estate combines preser-
vation eorts with public outreach
designed to raise local awareness of
the site. Tis holistic approach to site
preservation exemplies the AIA Site
Preservation Programs approach to
tackling the issue of protecting and
preserving our invaluable archaeologi-
cal resources and reiterates the idea
that long-term preservation is pos-
sible only when local communities
are committed to protecting sites. To
learn more about the AIA Site Pres-
ervation Program and to read about
the other projects we support, please
National Archaeology
Day, October 20, 2012
he Archaeological Institute
of America (AIA) is pleased to
announce that National Archae-
ology Day will be held on October
20, 2012. National Archaeology
Day is a celebration of archaeology
and an opportunity for the AIA and
other like-minded organizations
and individuals to raise awareness
of the discipline across the United
States, Canada, and abroad. In 2011,
National Archaeology Day was o -
cially recognized by Congress and
more than 14,000 people participated
in over 100 events held throughout
the month of October. To follow this
years program and to nd out about
events in your area, visit In
addition to events that you can attend,
the AIA will organize a series of online
opportunities that will allow you to
participate in the event from the com-
fort of your home. Last years virtual
participation opportunities included a
global scavenger hunt and the coopera-
tive creation of a Google Earth layer
showing popular archaeological sites
across the United States and Canada.
An important part of last years
successful celebration of National
Archaeology Day was the cooperation
we received from other organizations
committed to archaeology. Tese
organizations hosted events and pub-
licized National Archaeology Day to
their membership. We are currently
seeking organizations that are will-
ing to host events and/or promote
National Archaeology Day 2012 to
their membership. For information
on how your group can become a
Collaborating Organization and for
sponsorship details, please visit
OCTOBE R 2 0 , 2 0 1 2
Archaeological Institute of America
www. nati onal archaeol ogyday. org
AIA Societies promote local community involvement
Travel & Learn with the AIA
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Italy France Spain Georgia Armenia Scotland
Ireland Guatemala Mexico & more
Fascinating Itineraries Expert Lecturers
call: 800-748-6262 web site: email:

68 ARCHAEOLOGY May/June 2012
hariot racing was ancient Romes favorite pastime. It attracted millions of
spectators to stadiums across the empire, inspired erce fan loyalty,
and provided its stars a chance to earn spectacular sumsa successful
charioteers single-day winnings could equal a teachers annual salary. It is
perhaps surprising, then, to learn from epigraphic evidence that most charioteers were
slaves who began racing as children, and many were foreigners, who came to the sport
to earn fame and fortune. But until the discovery of this
gurine, according to archaeologists Sinclair Bell
and Franziska Dvener, no representation of an
African child charioteer had ever been found. Bronze
gurines of Roman charioteers are rarethere
are fewer than tenparticularly in comparison
to those depicting other entertainers, including
gladiators and actors. Bell and Dvener are certain that
this statuette represents a charioteer on the basis of his
distinctive costumehis upper abdomen and
chest are corseted by three wide leather belts
called fasciae, part of a charioteers basic
uniform, worn to protect the chest. That
the gurine represents a child is clear from
his enlarged head, large eyes, eshy cheeks, and
youthful expression. The curly hair, at nose,
thick lips, and bulging eyes are features typical
of Roman depictions of Africans. The archaeologists
are, however, less certain of the statuettes function.
It was found near what may have been a sanctuary
to mother goddesses, but it is impossible to say
whether it was a votive oering or a toy.
Statuette of an auriga
2nd century A.D.
2005, Altrier,
1.8 inches high
Muse national
dhistoire et dart
very of this
rtain that
basis of his
1.8 inches h
Muse natio
dhistoire et
Peru (17 days)
Discover the intriguing empires of the Inca,
Lambayeque, Mochica, and Chim peoples
with Prof. Gregory Zaro, U. of Maine.
Touring includes visits to Limas museums,
the Moche tombs of Sipn, Trujillo, Tcume,
Chan Chan, the largest adobe city in the
world, as well as Cuzco and the sacred
Urubamba Valley. Tour highlights
include Cerro Sechn, renowned for
its unique stone carvings, the early
temple-fortress of Chankillo and amazing
Caral, the oldest city in the Americas,
plus two days at Machu Picchu.
Journey back in time with us. Weve been taking curious travelers on fascinating historical study tours for the
past 36 years. Each tour is led by a noted scholar whose knowledge and enthusiasm brings history to life and adds
a memorable perspective to your journey. Every one of our 37 tours features superb itineraries, unsurpassed service and
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Never far from the sea, Prof Robert Stieglitz,
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with an optional 5-day Jordan
Discover Israels layers of ancient
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archaeological tours
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Southern Spain (15 days)
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Spain evokes lovely white towns and the
scent of oranges, but it is also a treasury
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Ronald Messier, Middle Tennessee State
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into Andalucia, we explore historical
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throughout the world.
And there. And there. And there. The truth is, with over 370 destinations throughout
the world, chances are good that no matter where youre headed, we can take you.
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