July/August 2009 www.archaeology.

org A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America July/August 2011
The Computer Chip
as Dig Site
Convict-Era Australia
Back to Bamiyan, Geocaching,
Super Sonic Temple Complex
Urban Archaeology:
Reports from Beirut,
Assisi, and Pittsburgh
West Africa’s Ancient Nok Culture
Glimpse Into a
ARCHAEOLOGY • July/August 2011
24 Rebuilding Beirut
As the modern city rises, evidence
of its complex history and changing
fortunes is being uncovered
30 Digging Into
Technology’s Past
“Digital archaeologists” excavate
the microprocessor that ushered in
the home computing revolution
34 Te Nok of Nigeria
Unlocking the secrets of West
Africa’s earliest known civilization
39 Assisi’s Roman Villa
A surprise discovery under a
medieval Italian town square
44 Australia’s
Shackled Pioneers
A fresh look at the convict era—
when tens of thousands of exiled
criminals helped lay the foundation
of a modern nation
39 Under the medieval town hall
in Assisi, Italy, archaeologists
have uncovered the remains
of an impressive ancient
Roman villa.
Cover: A woman welcomes the
deceased to the next world in
this fresco from an extremely
well-preserved Song Dynasty tomb.
Photo: Zhao Peng/Xinhua/Landov
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■ More from this Issue See a rogues’
gallery of Australian convicts and the excavation
of the MOS Technology 6502, the microchip that
enabled home computing.
■ Interactive Digs Read about the latest discoveries
at the Minoan site of Zominthos in central Crete.
on the web www.archaeology.org
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miss a thing.
6 Editor’s Letter
8 From the President
10 Letters
World War II’s lesser-known internment camps,
the shipwrecks of the Adriatic, and more
11 From the Trenches
The destroyed Buddhas of Bamiyan, an ancient
Peruvian temple’s acoustics, a forgotten town of
the Atacama, and a preserved Song Dynasty tomb
20 Reviews
Recasting the Rapanui of Easter Island
and animals’ role in shaping humanity
22 World Roundup
Captain Morgan’s cannons, Manhattan’s farmland
past, a 2,500-year-old preserved brain, medieval
wartime medicine, Rio’s slave-trading port,
and more
53 Letter from Pittsburgh
Nineteenth-century daily life finds a new home
in the twenty-first century
68 Artifact
An early Irish Christian text survives
more than a thousand years in an Irish bog
ARCHAEOLOGY • July/August 2011 6
Cityscapes and Dig Sites
hen I studied archaeology as an undergraduate, one of the things that
impressed me was the underlying methodology that supports archaeological
discovery and analysis. Before anyone digs a site, a grid has to be carefully
established using surveying instruments. The find spot for each artifact can then be pin-
pointed, in three dimensions, as the dig proceeds. I automatically associated this meticu-
lous protocol with the open-air sites that one finds in the more remote areas of the world.
But how does archaeology proceed in a dynamic area such as a modern city? In this issue,
we have reports from three places—Beirut, Assisi, and Pittsburgh—where the environ-
ment in which archaeological discovery is being carried out is constantly changing.
Contributing editor Andrew Lawler traveled to Lebanon this spring to bring us
“Rebuilding Beirut” (page 24). The urbane and iconic city, with neighborhoods razed
during civil strife in the 1990s, is indeed rebuilding, and archaeologists and developers
are teaming up so that evidence of its
millennia-long history can be pre-
served as construction proceeds.
In “Letter From Pittsburgh” (page
53), freelance journalist Margaret
Shakespeare showcases an urban
archaeology success story. In the 1990s,
during a building boom in the former
steel town, construction workers at
one site stopped work and immedi-
ately called archaeologists when they
uncovered 10 wells. As a result of this
discovery and many others, vast troves
of artifacts have been retrieved, telling
much about the day-in, day-out lives of
the city’s nineteenth-century residents.
And, beneath a bustling medieval town square in Italy, older sections of a city slum-
bered until they were discovered by accident. Such is the case with “Assisi’s Roman Villa”
(page 39) by freelance writer Marco Merola. He surveys the finds in a stunning photo
essay featuring some of the finest frescoes of the ancient Roman period.
The archaeological record of a city can tell us much about its current-day identity, and
the same holds true for nations. Deputy editor Samir S. Patel journeyed to Australia to
cover the work of historical archaeologists in Sydney (yet another urban archaeology
site), Perth, and Tasmania. In “Australia’s Shackled Pioneers” (page 44), we get a compre-
hensive view of the true nature of incarceration in Australia—and how, without these
exiled eighteenth- and nineteenth-century criminals, the nation as we know it might
never have come into being.
There’s much more in the issue, including Roger Atwood’s report from Nigeria on
one of ancient West Africa’s most sophisticated civilizations. And senior editor Nikhil
Swaminathan reveals how a computer chip became an archaeological site.
Editor in Chief
Claudia Valentino
Executive Editor Deputy Editor
Jarrett A. Lobell Samir S. Patel
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Zach Zorich
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David Freidel, Tom Gidwitz,
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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Construction equipment shares the skyline with the
Mohammad al-Amin Mosque in downtown Beirut.
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his past March saw two events, one sad, the other celebratory, that marked the
end of an era that had begun in 2003 with the war in Iraq and the subsequent
looting of the National Museum in Baghdad. I am saddened to write of the death
of Donny George, at the age of 60, on March 11. George was director of research for
Iraq’s State Board of Antiquities and Heritage at the time of the invasion. In the chaos
of war he tried valiantly to protect the priceless holdings of the museum from looters.
Despite his efforts, thousands of archaeological objects, made by the extraordinary
ancient cultures that had occupied Iraq over countless millennia, disappeared. The story,
however, didn’t end there. And this is what we must celebrate. Ultimately, nearly half of
the looted treasures were returned.
In the war’s aftermath George oversaw a
rebuilding of the museum, launched a con-
servation program, and improved security
for Iraq’s many archaeological sites. George
left Iraq in 2006 and made a new life with
his family in the U.S. It is thanks to his
vision and energy that archaeology has a
future in Iraq.
We must also celebrate a significant
friendship in George’s life, as we remember
him. In the week before his death, George
was able to be present for the military
retirement of the U.S. soldier who part-
nered with him in the recovery of Baghdad’s looted museum objects, Colonel Matthew
Bogdanos. A highly decorated Marine, Bogdanos served multiple tours of duty in Iraq
and Afghanistan. In addition to helping George secure thousands of museum artifacts
after the war, he also headed the U.S. investigation into the looting. As with George, this
work was but one aspect of a career rich in its contributions to cultural preservation. His
2005 book, Tieves of Baghdad, makes a persuasive case for the link between traffi cking
in antiquities and terrorist financing and thus has implications that transcend Iraq.
In one sense, the death of George and retirement of Bogdanos close an historical
episode that transformed the terms of debate about looting and cultural heritage. When
Egypt descended into civil war this past January, the AIA and countless cultural heri-
tage groups around the world immediately expressed public concern for the country’s
archaeological patrimony, condemned the looting, and advocated both for protections in
Egypt and for scrutiny of imports of potentially looted material into other countries.
War and civil unrest will long be with us, but the lessons of Iraq will reduce the loss
of cultural patrimony. Two brave and principled men, Donny George and Matthew
Bogdanos, have permanently altered our response to archaeology under military threat.
All persons who care about the survival of cultural heritage owe a profound debt to this
pair—in George’s poignant characterization, two “brothers of different mothers.”
ARCHAEOLOGY • July/August 2011 8
Elizabeth Bartman
President, Archaeological Institute of America
Institute of America
Located at Boston University
Elizabeth Bartman
First Vice President
Andrew Moore
Vice President for Education and Outreach
Mat Saunders
Vice President for Professional Responsibilities
Sebastian Heath
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
Laura Childs
Lawrence Coben
Julie Herzig Desnick
Mitchell Eitel
Harrison Ford
Greg Goggin
John Hale
Sebastian Heath
Lillian Joyce
Jeffrey Lamia
Lynne Lancaster
Robert Littman
Elizabeth Macaulay-Lewis
Peter Magee
Shilpi Mehta
Naomi Norman, ex officio
Eleanor Powers
Paul Rissman
Ann Santen
William Saturno
Glenn Schwartz
Chen Shen
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
General Counsel
Mitchell Eitel, Esq,
Sullivan & Cromwell, LLP
Archaeological Institute of America
656 Beacon Street • Boston, MA 02215-2006
A Lasting Legacy
Donny George (left) and Matthew Bogdanos
The trustees, gala committee, and staff of the Archaeological Institute of America extend our deepest
appreciation to the following sponsors for their support of our 2011 gala, which honored George F.
Bass with the Bandelier Award for Service to Archaeology, and celebrated the sights, sounds, and flavors
of Ireland. Special thanks to our friends at Culture Ireland and Tourism Ireland for their generous
assistance. To plan your visit to Ireland, please visit www.discoverireland.com. To learn about an
exciting yearlong celebration of Irish arts and culture in America, of which AIA is a part, please visit
ARCHAEOLOGY • July/August 2011 10
Here we publish several of the many
letters we received in response to
the World War II section in our
last issue. Personal and evocative
accounts continue to supply an ever-
broadening understanding of that last
great conflict.
Your magazine brings back fond
memories of my first and, sadly, only
“dig” at Tel Ashdod in Israel in 1963.
In your last issue, I was especially
taken with “World War II: Battles,
Tactics, Home Front” (May/June).
You mentioned it briefly, and I would
like to emphasize that the excavation
of the “killing fields” of the war, espe-
cially ones containing the remains
of Jews in Eastern Europe, has been
taboo for many years, but this may
be changing. As a child of survivors
and as a rabbi, I see no reason not to
dig respectfully into these graves—to
find out not only how the victims
lived and died, but who they actually
were! I lost my two sisters and 25
family members at a killing field near
the Polish border in Kovel, Ukraine.
While we have a communal tomb-
stone, it would be nice to have some
proof that they were actually buried
there. Such excavations have been
done in Bosnia and Kosovo. I can’t
see any reason why we can’t do it in
the Ukraine.
Jack Nusan Porter
Newtonville, MA
I read with interest the article about
the internment camps where Japa-
nese and Japanese-American citizens
were held during WWII. Much less-
er known is that Germans and Ital-
ians also were rounded up and sent
to spend the war in camps, shortly
after the Japanese removal. In some
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 eology.org.
The editors reserve the right to edit
submitted material. Vol ume precludes
our acknowledging individual letters.
cases, waiters were arrested between
taking a diner’s order and serving
it—replaced with another waiter so
smoothly that diners didn’t notice. I
know this because my grandfather
was a German immigrant, journalist,
and actor living on the West Coast.
Without warning, the FBI knocked
on his door and arrested him. Tey
searched the house and confiscated
cameras, radios, and theater-prop
weaponry. Grandpa never spoke of
his time in North Dakota behind a
fence. As a child, I found his journal
and showed it to my father. “We don’t
talk about that,” he said. It is a part of
the hidden history of our nation.
Debbie Butler
Vashon, WA
Your article on physical remains from
WWII reminded me of a large hill of
vehicles and other items across the
Mackenzie River from Norman Wells,
Northern Territory, Canada. During
the war, the Canol Road was built to
ensure access to oil in case the coast
was invaded. At war’s end, most of the
equipment was put into a really big
pile and covered with dirt, rather than
being shipped elsewhere. As far as I
know, it has not been excavated. You
can still walk the rugged Canol Trail
from Norman Wells to the Yukon.
Susan Weikel Morrison
Fresno, CA
More from WWII
Fascinating read on how the Alba-
nian coast is giving up its secrets,
from WWII fighters to Roman trade
vessels (“Te Adriatic’s Uncharted
Past,” March/April). Lakes, rivers,
and oceans are museums waiting
for archaeologists. I am amazed that
deep in the waters of Lake Tahoe,
near my hometown, they have found
WWII planes that had been training
over the lake. Tey also find tons of
gambling chips—at one time casinos
discarded them there when they were
no longer valid.
Paul Dale Roberts
Elk Grove, CA
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www.archaeology.org 11
hen Chinese
pilgrim Hsuan
Tsang arrived
in Bamiyan in a.d. 632
he was awed by the sight
of two massive statues of
Buddha, rising 125 and 180
feet above the rugged valley
floor. The statues, situated
in niches carved out of the
soft sandstone mountain
face, were brightly painted
and decorated with gold
and jewels. They would
have been dazzling in the
intense sunlight of central
Afghanistan. Hsuan Tsang
was no less impressed by the
10 monasteries clustered in
the surrounding caves and
at the feet of the statues,
housing more than a
thousand Buddhist monks.
Te monasteries
eventually fell into ruin, a century or two after the
arrival of Islam in the eighth century a.d. A series of
conquerors—from the feared Mahmoud of Ghazni who
forged a vast empire in the area in the eleventh century to
Genghis Khan whose armies rampaged through Central
Asia—wreaked havoc on the remaining buildings and
population. For another thousand years, Muslims,
offended by the images of Buddha, defaced the statues
and the cave paintings that dot the honeycombed interior
of the cliff face. Weather ate away at the statues’ surfaces.
Despite the abuse, in addition to normal wear and tear,
the Buddhas of Bamiyan still dominated the valley.
Ten, on March 2, 2001, the Taliban began to fire
artillery at the statues. “Te artillery probably did little
damage,” says Brendan Cassar, chief of cultural heritage
at UNESCO’s Kabul offi ce, of the first Taliban attempts.
Only by detonating explosives placed up and down the
statues did they succeed in dislodging the Buddhas from
their niches. By the end of that month, the 1,500-year-
old statues were no more.
Back to Bamiyan, Ten Years Later
In the intervening years since these events,
archaeologists and art historians have turned their
efforts to studying the rubble left behind for new
insights into how and when the statues were created.
According to the Technical University of Munich’s Erwin
Emmerling, who led a team that examined the rubble,
the explosions expelled wooden pegs and timbers that
provide important—and previously unknown—clues to
the construction techniques used to create the Buddhas.
Emmerling discovered that the pegs and timbers were
secured to the hewn rock with ropes to hold in place
the layers of smooth clay resembling porcelain that
once covered the statues’ outer stone surface. Ten by
sculpting the clay, the artists created the lifelike folds in
the Buddhas’ robes. Further analysis showed that the clay
contained a mix of straw, animal hair, and quartz, which
also served to stabilize and protect the structures, and
was likely one of the keys to their longevity.
Te team also discovered that the Buddhas had been,
as Hsuan Tsang reported, brightly painted. Tey found
Before the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas by the Taliban in March 2001, the larger of
the two statues once stood in the now-empty niche carved into the sandstone cliff face.

ARCHAEOLOGY • July/August 2011 12
several layers of paint on the rubble
fragments, a sign that the statues
were repainted more than once
as they faded. Te original colors
ranged from dark blues to daring
pinks, reds, whites, and oranges, says
Most significantly, mass
spectrometer tests on organic parts
of the clay mix provide the first
scientific dating of the statues; until
now that dating was based solely on
the style of the robes. To the team’s
surprise, the smaller Buddha appears
to date from between a.d. 544 and
595, and the larger one between
a.d. 591 and 644. Previously, most
scholars familiar with Bamiyan had
suggested a date from one to two
centuries earlier. Te new dating
means that Hsuan Tsang saw the
statues when they were relatively
new. Even more importantly, it
demonstrates that Buddhism was
still thriving even as Islam began
to spread into the region. Tis fits
with recent scholarship that suggests
that Afghanistan adopted Islam
slowly, and that the new religion
was part of a diverse and vibrant
mix of Buddhism, Hinduism, and
even Christianity until
about a.d. 1000. On
the 10th anniversary of
the demolition of the
Buddhas this past March,
a team of UNESCO
representatives gathered
in Paris to commemorate
the event and take stock
of the site. Various plans
to rebuild the Buddhas
have been rejected as too
costly and diffi cult, says
Cassar, who took part in
the meeting. Although he
doesn’t rule out supporting
the reconstruction of
the Buddhas someday in
the future, he adds that
the focus today is on
completing the work—$5
million worth in the past
seven years—of plugging
dangerous cracks in the
unstable niches, removing
unexploded mines and
bombs near the statues’
bases, and conserving what
they can from the rubble left behind.
Emmerling warns that the
remaining rubble will soon degrade,
since it is made of soft sandstone
and now lacks its protective clay
covering. Injecting an organic silicon
compound into each piece of rubble
might slow or halt that decay, but
this process would require either
building a small but expensive
factory in Bamiyan or moving the
rock to Germany for treatment, a
daunting prospect involving the
organization and transport of
hundreds of massive boulders. In
the meantime, the team is working
on a 3-D model of the cliff face that
shows where each piece of rubble
came from in the original statues.
UNESCO representatives and
Afghan offi cials are also creating
a site museum, due to open this
summer. Cassar says it will be
modest in scope but will explain
both the creation and destruction
of the statues. Its opening will mark
a new beginning of sorts for the
battered but unbowed Buddhas of
Bamiyan. —Andrew Lawler
The folds of the Buddhas’ robes were made by
attaching clay to the stone statues using ropes
and wooden pegs, and then sculpting it. This
photograph of the larger statue was taken in 1997.
Archaeologists are now sorting through masses of rubble, searching for evidence of
how and when the Buddhas were created. They are also working on strategies for
conserving and preserving the remaining statue fragments.
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ARCHAEOLOGY • July/August 2011 14
he ruins of the Chavín de
Huántar temple complex in
the northern Andes were
once the spiritual center of a culture
whose influence was felt throughout
the coastal valleys of most of
modern-day Peru. Te 125-acre site
was occupied from about 1500 to
400 b.c., during which time it
extended its power and influence by
spreading its religion. Te priests of
Chavín became a cultural elite,
perhaps the first upper class in the
Peruvian Andes.
Te feats of architecture at
Chavín include massive, multistory
stone buildings adorned with
ceramics and carvings of bone, shell,
and stone, flanked by plazas 200
feet on a side. But deep inside and
below the structures is something
even more intriguing: a labyrinth
of stone-lined corridors, shafts,
galleries, and drains that have
survived more or less intact and
undisturbed. Te maze of tunnels
and small rectangular alcoves, some
of which are more than 40 feet
below the surface, are capable of
disorienting people through tricks
of sound. A team of archaeologists,
anthropologists, and acoustics
experts from Stanford’s Center
for Computer Research in Music
and Acoustics (CCRMA) is trying
to find out if these tunnels were
deliberately designed to produce
these effects.
chieving an altered state of
mind is a part of many reli-
gious ceremonies around the
world, and that may have been what
the priests of Chavín were trying to
create for participants in their rituals.
Even before they descended into the
tunnels, Chavín’s visitors and resi-
dents would have been surrounded
by evidence of spiritual power and
mind-altering rituals. Its buildings’
facades were decorated with carvings
of human and semi-human heads.
Some wore grimaces or had mucus
trails coming from their noses, both
effects of having psychotropic snuff
blown up the nostrils through a tube.
Other carved heads have snakes in
place of hair, while other images have
the features of large cats or birds of
prey, important animals in shamanis-
tic rituals.
One carving found in a small
circular plaza, most likely reserved
for the elite and special ceremonies,
shows a person holding a San Pedro
cactus, a source of the hallucinogenic
drug mescaline. Elaborately carved
bone tubes, spatulas, and miniature
mortars and pestles, possibly used
to prepare and ingest psychotropic
drugs, have also been found at the
site. However, some of the strangest
parts of these ancient rituals may
have been the sounds that the
participants heard.
havín’s sound effects were
first noted in the 1970s by
Peruvian archaeologist Luis
Lumbreras, who proposed that the
network of tunnels beneath the city
Listening to the Gods of Ancient Peru
A research team from Stanford University measures the acoustic properties
of shell trumpets and the tunnels beneath the site of Chavín de Huántar using
special microphones. The research is providing new insights into ancient rituals.
www.archaeology.org 15
was essentially a series of resonance
rooms connected by corridors that
acted as sound transmission tubes.
When one visits Chavín today,
certain noises seem amplified yet
diffi cult to pinpoint. “Any kind of
sound made down there—humming,
talking, or even just footsteps—
creates profound resonances,” says
Miriam Kolar, a doctoral student
with the CCRMA, who is studying
the site’s acoustics.
While archaeologists cannot
definitively say that Chavín’s tunnels
were deliberately constructed to
create particular acoustic effects, they
do have evidence that sounds were
being produced down there. In 2001,
20 decorated marine-shell trumpets
called pututus were found in one of
Chavín’s galleries. “Tese were very
important instruments,” says John
Rick, the Stanford anthropologist
who has led the excavations since
1995. Tey were made from a
tropical species of conch that had
to have been brought from at least
The tunnels beneath Chavín de Huántar
may have been designed to enhance the
sound of voices or musical instruments
such as this flute.
Snakes emerging
from the nostrils
of this figure
may represent
mucus running
out of the nose
of someone
who has inhaled
a psychedelic
500 miles away. Each
10-inch shell had a
mouthpiece cut
into one end and
an unexplained
notch cut in
the outer lip.
Some were
so polished
by use that
the thick pink
shells were
worn through in
places, suggesting
decades or even
centuries of handling.
Significantly for the researchers, they
are still playable.
In order to understand the effect
these shell trumpets may have had
on people listening to them, the
CCRMA team decided to analyze
the acoustic properties of both
the shells and the labyrinth. In the
case of the shells, the researchers
recorded the sound of each
trumpet under carefully controlled
conditions, using 10 microphones,
including one inside the player’s
mouth. With signal-processing
software they captured each shell’s
acoustic signature in digital form.
Te researchers noted that the
instruments have a rich overtone
structure, giving them a full sound
like bells or human voices. Tey
can produce noises ranging from a
wind whisper to an animal roar, and,
in the hands of an expert, they can
sound louder than a chainsaw from
three feet away.
Te next step was to take acoustic
measurements of Chavín’s tunnels.
Te work focused on three galleries,
each made up of long corridors with
numerous right-angle turns and
side alcoves. Tere were hundreds
of yards of gallery spaces in all, each
generally between three and six feet
wide and five to 10 feet high. Test
signals played on an iPod sounded
through monitors set five feet high,
roughly Chavín-era head height, and
dozens of receivers throughout each
ad a
gallery recorded the results.
Te researchers found that echoes
in the galleries built extremely
rapidly and from many directions
simultaneously, making them
diffuse and hard to locate. Tones in
the same frequency range as both
human voices and the shell trumpets
produced consistent resonances in
the alcoves, giving them an unusually
rich sound, like singing in a tiled
Archaeologists have traditionally
been slow to accept evidence that
ancient people manipulated their
environments to create sound effects.
“Acoustics is a gray area for skeptics,”
Rick says. “I’ve been a skeptic all my
life. You can’t just wave your hand
and say, ‘I hear something strange.’”
But the sound-making artifacts
and, possibly, the architectural
features found at Chavín make it
“extraordinarily likely,” according
to Rick, that some sort of sound
manipulation was going on,
especially when combined with the
signs of ceremonial practices.
hile measuring the site’s
acoustics is a start, inter-
preting the results brings
up many more questions. Were these
properties deliberate or a fluke of
construction? Did they exist when
the site was occupied, or did they
change over time? Moving a wall, or
using wood beams to hold up a sag-

ARCHAEOLOGY • July/August 2011 16
ging ceiling, can have a drastic effect
on certain frequencies. Even if a site
does have unusual acoustics, were
they put to use, and if so, how? Te
most important and most diffi cult
question to answer is whether the
sound properties had any cultural
What we can know for certain is
that sound has power, and not just in
a concert hall. A 2008 UCLA study
found that listening to a resonant
frequency of 110 hertz, in the range
of a shell trumpet or a low male voice,
temporarily shifted volunteers’ brain
activity from the logic processing
left side to the emotional right side.
Chavín’s religious leaders could have
used unearthly noises, along with
psychoactive drugs, strange lights,
and images, to convince others they
held the power of gods, or could
become gods themselves. To take
it a step further, rituals of sensory
overload and coercion may have
helped consolidate the priests’
power as a newly minted elite.
olar will present results
from her ongoing
work later this year,
but she says that patterns are
definitely emerging in terms of
how people perceive sound in
Chavín’s underground galleries.
Some architectural features
seem to filter noises in certain
ways, and the team is close to
being able to map the way that
design and construction favors
certain frequencies.
Teir ultimate goal is to
create an acoustic model
of the space, which would
make it possible to digitally
reconstruct the effect of any
sound at any location, heard
from any other. Tat way
anyone anywhere could “hear”
and experiment with Chavín’s
acoustics, and they would be
preserved forever.
Physical conservation is
a priority for archaeologists,
since many of the galleries
have bulging, waterlogged walls. Rick
says they hope to put the original
three-mile drainage system back into
service starting this summer. In the
meantime, they’re trying to figure out
whether the galleries were modified
over time to enhance or preserve their
acoustics, which could offer clues to
whether the effects were intentional
or not.
Kolar says she sometimes brings
friends down into the galleries just
to experience the sound of the conch
trumpets for themselves. “It’s always
amazing what effects you get, and
how that surprises people,” she says.
Some people report feeling ill at ease,
even nauseated, as the low-frequency
tones vibrate through their bodies
in the dimness. Kolar has felt this
herself, but also has felt “very relaxed,
very mellowed out” after hours of
hearing the trumpets playing. “You
definitely feel like you’re in a different
world.” —Julian Smith
Recording shell trumpets being played in
Chavín’s tunnels will allow the researchers to
make an accurate acoustic model of the site.
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www.archaeology.org 17
tone tools found at three
sites in California’s Channel
Islands show that a group
of people adapted to coastal living
had moved into North America by
about 12,200 years ago. Archaeolo-
gists previously thought that the
continent was inhabited only by
the big-game-hunting Clovis cul-
ture at that time.
A team of archaeologists led by
Jon Erlandson of the University
of Oregon and Torben Rick of the
Smithsonian Institution uncov-
ered stemmed as well as crescent-
shaped projectile points that are
similar to tools found throughout
the Great Basin (an area that cov-
ers parts of Oregon, Nevada, Utah,
and California). In both places they
were used to hunt birds and aquatic
life as well as some medium- and
small-sized game.
Erlandson believes the discovery
shows that the settlement of the
Americas was more complicated
than the old view that big-game
hunters came through an inland
ice-free corridor and then spread
gradually to the sea. “It suggests that
people may have migrated down the
coast, and taken left turns inland
up the major river valleys,” he says.
“It would have been a relatively easy
transition from the coast to the inte-
rior lakes.” —Zach Zorich
The Atacama Desert of northern
Chile is mostly known as one of
the driest places on the planet
and for being home to several
major astronomical observatories.
It was also home to the Atacama
people, who established an
advanced pre-Columbian society
in the parched region. Intrepid
desert adventurers can learn more
about how they did it from the
largely unknown site of Topain,
according to archaeologist Diego
Salazar of the University of Chile.
The town was settled between A.D.
1000 and 1200 and inhabited until
the Inca conquest in the sixteenth
century. Though it was ignored for
decades, archaeological excavations
are now showing how special the
site is, Salazar says.
The site Topain contains the
remains of more than 100 habitation
structures that seem to have included
underground storage and burials. But
what’s truly fascinating about the
site is how its residents managed
their scarce water supplies through
complex agro-hydraulic systems.
These systems of stone canals,
dams, aqueducts, and rumimoqos
(holding ponds), which are
impeccably preserved, carried water
from sources several miles away
and were necessary for the highly
complex society and agriculture.
Another site nearby, Paniri, is
thought to have the same kind of
agro-hydraulic system—possibly
even larger—though it has not yet
been studied. Salazar says this
work will start soon in collaboration
with the local Aquina people, who
consider the sites sacred.
While you’re in the region
More Atacama remains can be seen at
the popular sites of Tulor and Lasana,
among others. A variety of desert
excursions can also be arranged from
the towns of Calama or San Pedro
de Atacama, which also hosts the
R.P. Gustavo Le Paige Archaeological
Museum, home to 380,000 pre-
Columbian artifacts. Regional
attractions include desert valleys,
hot springs, geysers, flamingos—and
stargazing. It’s a landscape unlike any
other on Earth. Just be sure to bring
plenty of water on any expedition.
Early Americans Went Coastal

ARCHAEOLOGY •July/August 2011 18
eemingly every day, spectacu-
lar finds are made by archae-
ologists working across
China. One of the most astonishing
discoveries of the year is a well-pre-
served tomb uncovered in the city
of Dengfeng in central China’s
Henan Province. Every inch of the
tomb, which dates to the Song
Dynasty (960–1279), is covered in
brightly colored frescoes that depict
the daily life of the tomb’s occupant.
(Neither the identity nor sex of the
tomb’s owner or owners has been
reported, although the elaborate
decoration suggests that he or she
was well-off and of high status.)
Te frescoes were clearly executed
by an artist with extensive experi-
ence decorating the hexagonal-
shaped tombs of the period.
Te tomb’s pictorial program,
which includes scenes of serving
women (top), a husband and wife
seated at a table being served a
meal (left, far left panel), and a
woman ushering the deceased’s soul
into the netherworld (left, center
panel), is typical of Song Dynasty
tombs, says Roberta Bickford of
Brown University. Every detail
of each person’s clothing and
hairstyle is carefully depicted to
communicate their status, and the
utensils and pottery replicate what
would have been in common use
at the time. According to Nancy
Berliner, Curator of Chinese Art
at the Peabody Essex Museum,
the imitated architectural details,
especially the dougong bracketing,
are faithful to the period. Dougong,
the structural element of inter-
locking wooden brackets (left,
embellishment seen above the
panels with the figures) is one of the
most typical elements of traditional
Chinese architecture, she says.
After centuries of violent
conflict and division in China, the
Song Dynasty rulers unified most
of the country. Tis ushered in
a period of peace and prosperity
that scholars consider one of the
most culturally sophisticated in
Chinese history.
—Jarrett A. Lobell
Song Dynasty Tomb Discovered
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ARCHAEOLOGY • July/August 2011 20
hen the famous British
explorer Captain James
Cook arrived on Easter
Island in 1774, he described a group
of malnourished natives eking out
their existence on a barren Pacific
island in the shadows of enormous
volcanic-rock statues. The solemn
faces of the moai that dotted the
landscape seemed to be the work of
a large, highly organized society that
had suddenly fallen apart. Archaeolo-
gists Terry Hunt of the University
of Hawaii and Carl Lipo of Califor-
nia State University, Long Beach,
offer a different perspective in their
book The Statues That Walked (Free
Press, $26.00). They cast the people
of Easter Island, the Rapanui, as
clever engineers and environmental
stewards whose population never
exceeded a few thousand.
Much of the debate over what
caused the collapse of Rapanui
society has turned on the amount
of labor and resources devoted to
constructing and transporting the
moai—some weigh as much as 14
tons. Previous researchers believed
that this engineering feat would
have required large amounts of palm
timber. In his book Collapse, Jared
Diamond stated that the Rapanui
cut down the island’s palm forests
to construct the colossal statues.
Tis environmental devastation
was believed to be the cause of a
civil war around 1680 that led to
starvation, and, finally, cannibalism.
Alternatively, Hunt and Lipo cite
evidence that the statues were
engineered so they could be tilted
and twisted “refrigerator style” and
could be moved 600 feet a day by just
16 men with ropes. Tey also believe
that hardship on Easter Island was
caused by epidemics of disease
transmitted by the first encounter
with European sailors in 1722.
Te authors present a believable
case to counter what has become
the accepted narrative about Easter
Island. Now and again, they step
away from the research to take
long looks at the island’s forlorn
beauty, allowing the reader to stand
beside them. Te book is engaging
even as it rescues Rapanui culture
from being reduced to a cautionary
environmental tale.
—Daniel Grushkin
Rescuing the Rapanui
How Animals
Shaped Humanity
ow did we become human?
Some anthropologists say
it’s our bipedal stance, oth-
ers our linguistic gifts. Some cite tool
use, and still others our big brains.
Pat Shipman, a biological anthropol-
ogist at Penn State University, argues
instead that our unique history is a
reflection of our connections to other
animal species. In her book The
Animal Connection (W.W. Norton,
$26.95) Shipman builds an interest-
ing but somewhat shaky case that our
relationships with animals—eating
them, working with them, and caring
for them—motivated the evolution-
Moai facing inland
at Ahu Tongariki,
Easter Island
www.archaeology.org 21
ary and cultural shifts that made
humans what we are today.
By eating the flesh of animals, an
unusual strategy for a primate, our
ancestors were able to evolve massive,
energy-hungry brains. Hunting big
game encouraged our predecessors to
disperse across the globe in search of
prey, and honed cognitive skills such
as memory and attention. “Our ances-
tors came under selective pressure to
pay more attention to other animals
and gather more information about
them,” Shipman writes. Te first tool-
making was also part of the animal
connection. Early tools were primarily
used to butcher and process meat, she
points out. Next, language enabled
us to share information about animal
habits. Early art—a proxy for lin-
guistic and symbolic capabilities—is
almost entirely devoted to depictions
of creatures, further evidence of ani-
mals’ significance in the human mind.
Te Animal Connection is an
absorbing read. Shipman is a good
storyteller, capturing how relation-
ships between humans and animals
can transform both species—even
in the simple act of teaching a dog
to sit. “In that glorious instant when
a human and an animal converse
respectfully … something magical
happens,” she writes. Shipman pro-
With Dr. Angus Stewart
September 3 - 18, 2011
A Journey through
Scotland and England
With Dr. James Bruhn
September 17 - 29, 2011
Copán to Chichicastenango
With Professor Matthew Looper
November 1 - 13, 2011
With Professor Bob Brier
November 5 - 19, 2011
With Professor Sara Dickey
January 1 - 18, 2012
January 9 - 23, 2012
With Dr. Damian Evans
January 5 - 21, 2012
With Professor Bob Brier
January 21 - February 4, 2012
…and much more!
Belize • Jordan • Cyprus & Malta
Iran • China • Ethiopia • Silk Road
Sicily • Costa Rica • Scotland • Bolivia
JOURney into the heart of History
As guests at Ephesus, Hattusa, Troy
With Professor Garrett Fagan
September 10 - 24, 2011
With Lauren L. Bonilla
September 14 - 29, 2011
With Dr. Khristaan Villela
November 5 - 12, 2011
JOURney into the heart of History
1-800-552-4575 • www.farhorizons.com
Since 1983, Far Horizons has been
designing unique itineraries led
by renowned scholars for small
groups of sophisticated travelers
who desire a deeper knowledge
of both past and living cultures.
vides thorough, readable accounts of
current archaeological scholarship
on animals and early human tool
use, language, and art, and debates
about domestication, with interesting
digressions such as recent findings
that dogs may have first been tamed
more than 32,000 years ago. By the
end of the book, however, her pro-
vocative thesis is not argued clearly
enough to be satisfying. Ultimately,
her account of who we are and how
we got this way still feels specula-
tive, a compelling idea in need of
convincing proof.
—Kat McGowan
ARCHAEOLOGY • July/August 2011 22
ARIZONA: Geocaching is a hobby in
which hikers leave small items or
bundles in out-of-the-way places
and then challenge others to find
them using only GPS coordinates. A
geocacher in Prescott National
Forest found a much older cache, a
thin-walled pot used by the Yavapai
between 600 and 100 years ago.
Knowing the importance of archaeo-
logical context, he did what came
naturally—he marked the location
with his GPS and notified authorities
of the rare, fragile find.
NEW YORK: Despite its modern lack
of either greenery or open space,
downtown Manhattan was, as
recently as the 19th century, part
farmland. Construction workers
stumbled across a site from that
time—a wall and well that were once
part of the farm of Stephanus van
Cortlandt, the city’s first native-born
mayor, and his descendants. Among
other artifacts, archaeologists found
a pipestem, pottery and stoneware,
and a yellow ceramic bird’s head, all
likely from the
18th century.
PANAMA: From a reef at the mouth
of the Chagres River, underwater
archaeologists have raised what they
believe are cannons from the fleet of
privateer and rum pitchman Captain
Henry Morgan. Morgan’s ship,
Satisfaction, ran aground in 1671 on
the way to raid Panama City in
response to a Spanish attack on
Jamaica. The cannons are the first
known artifacts of his Panamanian
AFRICA: Last year
witnessed the
announcement of a
new member
of the human family,
Australopithecus sediba, who
lived in South Africa nearly two mil-
lion years ago. Paleoanthropologists
have now found two more A. sediba
individuals—an adult and infant—
who fell in a cave “death trap.”
Combined with the older female
and youth found previously, scien-
tists are now able to study the
development of these early homi-
nins, who show a combination of
primitive and modern skeletal traits,
from cradle to grave.
BRAZIL: Digs being conducted on
Rio de Janeiro’s waterfront in
advance of the 2016 Olympics have
revealed the remains of Valongo
Wharf, where as many as a
million African slaves were
unloaded and traded in the
early 19th century. Once considered
a shameful blot on the city’s history,
the site will now be preserved. It has
produced artifacts of both Rio’s rul-
ing classes and slaves, including
cowrie shells and amulets represen-
tative of African spiritual practices.
WALES: In The Lord of the Rings,
flaming hilltop beacons are used to
communicate between distant king-
doms. But they might not just be
fantasy. Iron Age hillforts could have
had a similar purpose 2,500 years
ago. To test it, a heritage group
organized the “Hillfort Glow
Experiment,” getting 350 volunteers
to communicate between 10 hillforts
with flares and flashlights (no Middle
Earth pyres, though—it is fragile
habitat). In some cases, the glow
connected hills 25 miles apart.
ly from the
h century.
AFRICA: Last ye
witnessed the
announcement of
new member
By Samir S. Patel
dating from between
A.D. 500 and 700 from Campochiaro,
are providing a glimpse of medieval
wartime medicine. Two of them,
Lombard or Avar soldiers who
resisted a Byzantine invasion, appear
to have been successfully treated for
serious head wounds. The third had
a nonfatal but unhealed cranial
wound, as well as leprosy—
suggesting sick and healthy Avar
men alike were called on for
defense. Researchers hope to extract
DNA from the pathogen for
comparison with modern forms.
ENGLAND: The man was hanged and
decapitated between 673 and 482
B.C. All his soft tissues then decom-
posed except—seemingly in defiance
of biology and chemistry—his brain.
A new analysis of the 2008 find sug-
gests that rapid burial, cool and wet
soil, isolation from oxygen, and sep-
aration from the body (and its gut
bacteria) helped with preservation.
But there’s something more at
work—the unique chemistry of the
brain’s lipids and proteins recom-
bined to form a stronger, more sta-
ble material. Scientists
are still trying to
sort out what
INDIA: The constantly evolving map
of early human migration has
another new path. Seventy
Acheulean hand axes, early stone
tools thought to have been made by
Homo erectus, and hundreds of
other tools found in southern India
have been dated—using both
paleomagnetic and
cosmogenic nuclide
burial dating—to
between 1 and 1.5
million years ago,
suggesting that early
human species left
Africa and the Near
East more than
500,000 years
earlier than
previously thought.
SYRIA: At Tell Kuran there is a
6,000-year-old layer of bones from
100 Persian gazelles. The mound is
near a “desert kite,” or a stone trap
used to drive wild animals together
for hunting. Researchers have con-
cluded the gazelles were killed en
masse, perhaps an early example of
overkill hunting, which wiped out
herds, disrupted migration, and led
to their local extinction. People at
the time relied on livestock for food,
so the gazelle slaughter might have
had a ritual basis.
ble material. Scie
are still tryin
sort out w
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his city is one of those that must live and
relive, come what may,” wrote the nineteenth-
century French geographer Élisée Reclus.
“Te conquerors pass on and the city is reborn
behind them.” Phoenician port, Roman beachhead, Byzan-
tine lawgiver, Ottoman backwater, and Paris of the Middle
East, Beirut has been an urban chameleon. In the past
century alone, it morphed from the center of Arab culture,
intrigue, and nightlife into a symbol of sectarian strife as a
15-year civil war laid waste to its boulevards and buildings.
“Beirut is a phenomenon, beguiling perhaps, but quite, quite
impossible,” concludes British writer Jan Morris.
Even as Beirut reinvents itself yet again—this time as a
skyscraper-studded center of finance—a new generation of
young Lebanese archaeologists is fighting to reclaim the city’s
complicated past before it is gone for good. In the rush to
build during the past decade, Roman ruins were bulldozed,
columns were crushed into cement, and piles of ancient
debris were relegated to the city dump. Now a small army of
some 50 excavators and hundreds of workers are attempting
to stay one step ahead of the luxury condos and offi ce tow-
ers that threaten to wipe away what’s left of Beirut’s ancient
remains. No longer dependent on the foreign experts who
once dominated Lebanese archaeology, this group is forging
agreements with developers to conduct extensive rescue
excavations. “Tere has been a void, but now we are taking
responsibility for our own heritage,” says Assaad Seif, the
acting chief of Lebanon’s state department of archaeology.
ARCHAEOLOGY • July/August 2011 24
As the modern city rises,
archaeologists uncover evidence
of its complex history and
changing fortunes
by Andrew Lawler
hat we know of Beirut’s ancient history is
more a series of snapshots than a continuous
record. Sixty thousand years ago, early humans
made stone tools on the tongue of land that extends out
from the Lebanon Mountains and forms the city’s modern
boundaries. Archaeologists have uncovered a small Neolithic
village dating to 4000 b.c. near today’s airport. As civilization
emerged in the third millennium b.c., the first major cities
along the Mediterranean coast took root nearby. Byblos,
now a half-hour drive up the coast, flourished, while Tyre
and Sidon grew to the south. Tese important ports became
centers for the seafaring Phoenicians, a trading people who
www.archaeology.org 25
spread across the region between the sixteenth and fourth
centuries b.c.
But Beirut seems to have been a rather unimportant
town in that period. A modest Phoenician seawall dates to
700 b.c., and invading Persians wrecked and then rebuilt
the town on a grid plan in the fourth century b.c. A small
cluster of 16 houses from that era was recently uncovered
when the nineteenth-century marketplace was demolished
and rebuilt. Even the fifth-century b.c. Greek traveler and
historian Herodotus overlooked Beirut, despite mention-
ing other cities, including Tyre and Sidon, in the area. Two
centuries later, these were important prizes for Alexander the
Across Beirut, archaeologists are uncovering centuries
of evidence clarifying the city’s long and complicated
history. In the Riad el Solh area downtown, the remains
of a massive 1st-century Å Roman wall that may once
have been more than 20 feet wide are visible.
ARCHAEOLOGY • July/August 2011 26
from the Judean cities to the south, according to Josephus. Te
historian adds that Jewish rebels were burned, forced to fight,
or thrown to wild animals in the amphitheater following their
uprising, which led to Jerusalem’s destruction in a.d. 70.
With prosperity, the arts and intellectual life flourished.
By the third century a.d., Beirut was “the center for the teach-
ing of Roman law,” according to Gregory Taumaturgus, a
Christian writer of the time. Rome and the Byzantine capital
of Constantinople (modern Istanbul) also had law schools,
but contemporary texts show that Beirut quickly became the
place to go in the East to study law. Within a century, the
chronicler Libanius praised the city as “mother of the laws.”
Unlike the famous ancient library of Alexandria in Egypt,
which was mostly destroyed during the bitter fights between
pagans and Christians, Beirut’s law school survived and
prospered, despite the church’s suspicion of non-biblical
learning. As the Roman Empire collapsed in the West, the
Byzantine Empire emerged as its heir in the East during the
fifth century a.d. Beirut, strategically located between Con-
Great, whereas the chronicles of the general’s campaigns in
the region in 332 b.c. do not even mention Beirut.
It was the expansion of the Roman Empire in the first cen-
tury b.c. that finally gave Beirut a chance to outshine its more
famous rivals. Te city lacked a good harbor, but it did have a
bay that could shelter a large number of ships. In 31 b.c., the
Roman general Marc Antony’s fleet lay at anchor here, and
his ally and lover, the Egyptian queen Cleopatra, had coins
stamped in her likeness at a Beirut mint as well. But that
same year Octavian—soon to be the emperor Augustus—
defeated both at the Battle of Actium in Greece. Te emperor
then chose Beirut as a beachhead for Roman domination of
the East. Unlike the larger and more established cities of Tyre
or Sidon, Beirut proved friendly to the outsiders. Te tough
tribes living in the Lebanon Mountains had long plagued the
city, and Beirut’s inhabitants welcomed two Roman legions
as protection. Augustus also settled Roman veterans here,
and turned Beirut into a colonia, or tax-free zone.
With the cooperation of the Judean king Herod Agrippa I,
the emperor built forums, temples, a hippodrome, colonnades,
roads, and aqueducts in what had once been a modest town.
Te first-century a.d. Jewish historian Josephus says Herod
had a magnificent amphitheater built where 1,400 gladia-
tors were pitted against one another in a single day. His son,
Herod Agrippa II, continued that patronage, inciting jealousy
In the Saifi area east of Martyr’s Square, archaeologist
Fadi Beayno watches as the first two layers of soil are
removed from a future construction site. All around the city,
archaeologists and developers are starting to cooperate to
record the city’s past while building for the future.
he many layers of Beirut’s occupation and
destruction make the city a rich and complex archae-
ological site, but in the rush to rebuild after the war,
archaeology was usually the loser. Tat started to change in
2005, when a new group of archaeologists led by Seif began
to agitate for change. Tey called for enforcement of exist-
ing laws protecting ancient sites, tracked new construction
projects, and negotiated agreements in which developers are
obliged to pay for excavations, with the understanding that
the scholars will have time limits to complete their work.
Such contracts are common in many Western countries, but
had not been widely practiced in Lebanon.
Te scale of research now under way is unprecedented.
One site being excavated by Fadi Beayno covers three acres
in the heart of the old city. Here, in February 2011, work
began on the development called “Te District,” touted on
its website as “a city within a city,” which will contain a total
of two dozen buildings, including condos, penthouses, and
retail areas. Te site is located inside the Hellenistic and
Roman city, but outside the smaller medieval town. As of
now, only the construction materials from later Ottoman
dwellings have been recovered. Any smaller remains, such as
those from Neolithic times, are likely to go unnoticed.
Like other Lebanese excavators, Beayno was trained at a
local university, but he has also worked with foreign teams,
most of whom left by the late 1990s when the initial phase of
reconstruction of the downtown area was completed. “From
1998 until 2005, there was a gap, there was no work,” he
recalls. Today, he and his colleagues are slowly assembling a
mass of new data. “We are finally starting to understand the
stantinople and Alexandria, was the focal point of imperial
rule. Te lawyers of Beirut proved well-equipped to interpret
imperial decrees and set codes of justice for the Byzantines.
When the emperor Justinian called for reform of the legal
codes, he turned to Beirut’s scholars to oversee the revision.
Te new code’s publication in a.d. 533 marked the heyday
of Beirut’s intellectual influence. But on a July day in a.d. 551,
an earthquake registering an estimated 7.6 on the Richter
scale rocked the city, killing tens of thousands of people and
toppling most of its monuments and buildings. Te law
school moved to hated rival Sidon. In the following centuries,
Arab armies, Crusader knights, and Mamluk rulers captured
Beirut in succession. Te Ottomans absorbed the town into
their empire in the eighteenth century. By then, Beirut was
the same sort of sleepy port town it had been before 31
b.c. Ottoman authorities later built the region’s quarantine
facility there, requiring all ships in the area to halt in port to
contain the spread of disease. Te city eventually attracted
Western missionaries and commercial interests, putting it on
a course for a renewed era of prosperity. Universities sprang
up, a publishing industry grew, and an improved port and
new road to Damascus gave Beirut the opportunity for a
new start—until it was again destroyed, this time by civil
war that lasted from 1975 to 1990.
Anthropologist Freddie El Richani cleans a storage jar dating to
the 2nd century Å found in the Saifi area (below). Downtown,
excavations are uncovering not only the city’s ancient Roman
history (top right), but also evidence for earlier periods,
especially in the area of the city wall (bottom right).
ARCHAEOLOGY • July/August 2011 28
already been excavating there for a year, and have only anoth-
er eight months before construction begins in earnest.
Work at the 1.5-acre site, where they have cleared a
15-foot-deep rectangular hole, has already yielded the
remains of a massive Roman wall dating to the first centuries
a.d. Beirut was long thought not to have been fortified dur-
ing the days when Rome’s army enforced peace throughout
the region. If this wall is identified as a fortification wall, it
would be a great surprise. It is also possible that the wall was
part of a monumental building. A small statue of Isocrates, a
fourth-century b.c. Greek rhetorician much admired by later
Roman lawgivers, was found nearby. “Tat’s not a figure you
would typically have in your family house,” says Seif, dur-
ing a visit to the site. “So there may be—and I’m cautious
here—some connection with the law school.” Pinpointing
the location of the law school, the most famous of ancient
Beirut’s institutions, is one of the greatest quests among the
city’s archaeologists. Several sites have been suggested, based
on evidence from texts and archaeological work, but nothing
decisive has been uncovered.
n the eastern side of downtown, Hadi Choueri,
the 31-year-old director of one of Beirut’s most
important excavations, is wrapping up work on a
smaller site. After 15 months, the team has found a limestone
Hellenistic wall from approximately the second century b.c.
and a sandstone Roman wall from a few centuries later, each
about nine feet wide and running parallel to each other. Tey
phases of occupation in Beirut,” Beayno
adds. Dating buildings in Beirut can
be extremely challenging. As a result of
the city’s continuous occupation, stones
from older buildings were frequently
mined in later ages. Ottoman structures
may include Hellenistic, Roman, and
Byzantine elements. “In the later Otto-
man period, you could get a permit to
recoup stones,” says Seif. “It was very
well organized by professionals.” Tis
makes it diffi cult for archaeologists to
piece together the city’s appearance in any
one period. However, tracing the expan-
sion and contraction of the city is now
conceivable. Landscape studies reveal
a constantly shifting scene of urban, suburban, and rural
environments. Tere are also surprising constants. “Many of
the roads didn’t change for 2,000 years,” he says. Streets laid
down in the Hellenistic period (fourth to first century b.c.)
were still being used in the nineteenth century, and there is
evidence that Roman engineers leveled hills and filled gullies
in order to flatten the terrain to make building easier and
regularize the street plan.
A few blocks west of “Te District,” on the edge of the
ancient city, Beayno’s wife, Christine, leads a team working
on the site of what will be another luxury complex. Tey have
In the Jemmayzé area east of downtown
Beirut, archaeologists have uncovered a
large caldarium, the room of an ancient
Roman bathing complex where the hot
plunge was located. Water was heated by
circulating hot air under the floor around
small columns like those seen at right.
Archaeologists are working to uncover earlier occupation
layers that may lie underneath the tepidarium, or warm room,
of the ancient Roman bath complex.
www.archaeology.org 29
ment has so far not been willing to pay for the time and effort
needed to do so. “I know that this is one of our most diffi cult
challenges,” says Seif. While some archaeologists are apply-
ing their fieldwork to advanced degrees, many are contract
workers living from one job to the next, with no benefits
and little time for, or experience with, the consuming job
of publishing results. In the meantime, Beirut continues to
boom, each new building potentially a lost opportunity to dig
into the city’s complex past. Most of the ruins will ultimately
be destroyed to make way for parking garages mandated
by law for the basements of the mammoth new buildings.
But the results obtained by the archaeologists promise to
transform both our understanding of the city and the way
archaeology will be done in Lebanon in the future. “Much of
the city’s history is being discovered today. And contractors
are changing their habits, and are willing to work with us,”
says Choueri. He and others say this is a welcome change.
Beirut’s archaeologists are always mindful of the demands
of a city undergoing tremendous changes. As Fadi Beayno
says, “In urban archaeology, you need to know when to use a
brush and when to use a backhoe.” And in a city that thrives
on reinvention, archaeologists have to keep one step ahead
of the next Beirut. ■
Andrew Lawler is a contributing editor to Archaeology.
were likely city walls, providing excavators with a way to
sample life both inside and outside the city’s boundaries. For
example, a line of small single-room structures along a lane
inside the Hellenistic wall could be remains of a shopping
district from the early centuries b.c. Just outside the walls,
anthropologist Freddie El Richani puzzles over an amphora
that someone filled to the brim with small shells and carefully
sealed underneath a floor some two millennia ago. Te vessel
may, he says, have been an offering of some sort. Nearby is
another intriguing find: the grave of a young child with its
skeleton intact, save for the lower leg bones. Analysis of these
and other bones found in graves scattered around the site
may reveal much about Beirut’s early inhabitants, including
the foods they ate and the diseases they suffered from.
Perhaps the most dramatic discovery here is of a collapsed
stable dating to the Byzantine period. El Richani identified
the remains of four donkeys against a wall, on top of each
other, facing the same direction. All had died suddenly. A
short distance away, the excavators found the skeletons of
another three donkeys piled alongside a camel against a low
wall. On top of one of the camel’s bones was a coin made in
Constantinople dating to a.d. 508. While not definitive evi-
dence of the a.d. 551 earthquake, this new material may give
archaeologists a chance to understand the calamity, which
has only been known through textual sources.
Te enormous amount of data being generated by the
many excavations—six major ones were under way this past
spring in the center of Beirut alone—is of great concern to
Seif. Te field archaeologists working for developers are paid
to dig and record, but not to publish. Te Lebanese govern-
Archaeologist Roula Reaidé cleans a Roman amphora in
preparation for sampling and analyzing the carbonized
material still inside.
The skeletons of several donkeys and a camel uncovered
east of Martyr’s Square may be evidence of a massive
earthquake in Å 551.
n August , a group of eight design engineers left their jobs at the
semiconductor company Motorola to create a low-cost computer micro-
processor with a competing company, MOS Technology. Within a year, the
team built a tiny wafer of silicon and metal smaller than the size of a person’s
pinky fingernail called the MOS 6502. Te new central processing unit
(CPU), which is essentially the brain of a computer, would revolutionize
its industry by enabling computers to come into the home. Te 6502 was
inexpensive and easy to program—two features that ultimately helped it
sell tens of millions of units.
Tose units (or minor variations of it) eventually found their way into several
classic computers, many of which were the first to appear in homes in both the U.S.
and the U.K. in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Tey could be found in Apple Is and
IIs, Commodore PETs and 64s, BBC Micros, Atari 2600s, and Nintendo Entertain-
ment Systems. Te chip’s influence also enabled the mobile computing of today—the
British company ARM makes microprocessors inspired by the simple elegance of the
6502 for devices such as the iPhone, Blackberry, and Android smartphones.
Back in 1974, the original schematic for the 6502 was sketched out by hand on a
drafting board. (In contrast, today’s design methodology has hundreds of engineers
working on hundreds of computers creating archived digital files of their work when
collaborating on today’s microprocessors.) Te creator of the 6502’s schematic doesn’t
know where that document is today, and very little information on how the chip was
created survives. Further, in the more than 35 years since its design, the understand-
ing of how this remarkable chip performed its functions was lost.
“Te 6502 is the last of that generation where processor manufacturing was a
work of art,” says Barry Silverman, a Toronto-based software consultant and part of
a three-person team that reverse-engineered the 6502 to determine how it worked
and to preserve it for posterity. “In artifact terms, you might have a lot of examples
of a particular piece of pottery, but the way it was created is gone. Even though it
hasn’t been that long, it’s quite rare to find someone who remembers exactly what
they did more than 30 years ago.”
Te team behind the conservation of the 6502 was Silverman, his brother Brian,
who is president of a Montreal company that designs digital education experiences
for children, and Greg James, a graphics software engineer based in San Francisco. To
accomplish its task, the trio treated the chip almost as if it were a dig site. Tey “exca-
vated” the 4-by-3.5-millimeter chip, took high-resolution photographs of its layers,
and mapped its circuitry. Teir historical preservation work culminated in a website
called Visual 6502 (www.visual6502.org), which hosts a simple simulation of the chip
at work, allowing visitors to understand how electrical signals flow through the chip
to accomplish the mathematical computations that drive a computer’s function.
ARCHAEOLOGY • July/August 2011 30
“Digital archaeologists” excavate the microprocessor
that ushered in the home computing revolution
by Nikhil Swaminathan
www.archaeology.org 31
Te members of the Visual 6502 team refer to themselves as “digital archaeologists,” a term that Chris-
topher Witmore, an archaeologist at Texas Tech University agrees is accurate. “Even to say ‘excavation’ is
quite appropriate here because you have to dig down through the components, you have unpack it and
take it apart,” he explains. “So much of it is lost, meaning it’s wide open for archaeologists to engage.”
ill Mensch refers to himself as a “tall, thin man,” a term that among the computer engi-
neering set refers to a person who understands how a microprocessor works from the silicon
level to the system level. Mensch was one of the primary designers of the 6502 and was part of
the cadre of former Motorola employees who defected to the Pennsylvania-based MOS Technology
in late summer 1974, led by Chuck Peddle, whose idea for a low-cost CPU was rejected by Motorola
top brass. In particular, Mensch was responsible for the design of the chip’s circuitry.
Te CPU is essentially a maze of circuits mounted on a silicon wafer. Dotting the circuits are
transistors, junctions of wires that act as switches, which can open or close off a particular pathway.
Te microprocessor reads an input from the particular program (anything from an operating system
to a game), performs transactions as required, and then writes its output to the computer’s memory.
Essentially, it’s the master of ceremonies, deciding what to focus on, making sure each step is followed,
and presenting various results—sending them to memory, a monitor, or a printer.
Mensch drew the entire layout of the chip on a single sheet of paper that he says was likely about
3.5-by-4-feet in size. Designers at companies such as Xerox created sprawling schematics of up to hun-
This detailed line
drawing of the MOS
Technology 6502
microprocessor is a
physical description
of all the connections
between the various
circuits on the chip.
ARCHAEOLOGY • July/August 2011 32
David X. Cohen has said that his fondness for the
chip came from programming video games on his
Apple II Plus in high school.
According to Mensch, through the mid-1980s,
beginning computer engineers learned the craft of
microprocessor design by studying the 6502. Today,
while chip designers may appreciate the simplicity
of the 6502, they design only discrete parts of the
CPUs. Te era of the tall, thin man is over, says
n , while browsing a retro computer
parts website, Greg James saw two 6502s on
sale for $10 each. He bought them both. He’d
recently cleaned out his garage and stumbled upon
an Atari 2600 and an Apple II, two machines that
had “played a big part in my childhood.” He credits
the former with teaching him that computers were fun and
the latter with introducing him to programming. When he
realized that both ran on essentially the same chip—the
Atari contains an MOS Technology 6507, a 6502 in differ-
ent plastic packaging—he started to research the micropro-
cessor, eventually tracking down an incomplete schematic
that he thought he could improve on to determine how the
chip worked.
To analyze and then preserve the 6502, James treated it
like the site of an excavation. First, he needed to expose the
actual chip by removing its packaging of essentially “billiard-
ball plastic.” He eroded the casing by squirting it with very
hot, concentrated sulfuric acid. After cleaning the chip with
an ultrasonic cleaner—much like what’s used for dentures
or contact lenses—he could see its top layer.
Te 6502 has three basic layers. Te bottom layer is a
wafer of silicon known as the “substrate.” Above it is a thin
layer of polysilicon wires that form transistors and build
circuits around the chip. Te top layer is thick metal wiring
primarily for supplying power. Its bulky structures obscure
the polysilicon’s complex maze of wiring. Wires in a single
layer can’t cross over one another, so connections can be made
between layers to clear the cobweb of polysilicon and pack
circuits closer together.
After photographing the chip’s topmost layer, James
removed the metal using phosphoric acid mixed with acetic
acid and nitric acid heated to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Once
the metal was gone, he took another photograph. “Tat was
the money photograph,” says James of the moment when,
in a real-world excavation, archaeologists can observe a
landscape of artifacts, like canals or foundations of homes.
James went one step further, removing the polysilicon layer
with hydrofluoric acid, so that he could capture an image of
the bare substrate.
Once he had all three photographs, he enlarged them to
thousands of times their actual size and aligned them, creat-
ing images of a complicated network akin to a dense map of
roadways. He then traced them, creating a complex network
of lines like the maps drawn by Google or Mapquest. Te
dreds of pages with different sections of a chip on each. His
method, he says, guaranteed that the logic flow (specifically,
how steps of process control and arithmetic are performed
by the chip and then passed along) matched with the wiring
of different transistors and circuits on the microprocessor. It’s
a “what you see is what you get” approach that means, despite
the original diagram being lost, the excavation of the chip by
the Visual 6502 team would be able to clearly demonstrate
how it functioned. “If anybody really studies Visual 6502 in
detail,” Mensch explains, “what they’ll find is that everything
was strategically located at its best position on the chip.”
When it debuted at the Western Electronic Show and
Convention at San Francisco’s St. Francis Hotel, MOS Tech-
nology’s 6502 was four times faster and two to four times
smaller than competing chips offered by Motorola and Intel.
It was also roughly a tenth of the cost, being sold for $25 a
piece out of “a big old Mason jar.”
Soon, the 6502 would become ubiquitous. Apple Com-
puter cofounder Stephen Wozniak was among those who
picked up a couple of chips. “I would credit Apple and
Wozniak for popularizing the 6502,” says Mensch, adding
that personal computing took off thanks to the Apple II’s
expansion slots that allowed consumers to add memory or
install an extra floppy disk drive. Tough Apple was among
the first to incorporate the 6502, it wasn’t the best-selling
brand to use the chip. In the mid-1980s, casual computer
consumers favored the Commodore family of home com-
puters, which also ran on a version of the 6502. But the
Nintendo Entertainment System outsold every other device
that the 6502 appeared in, combined, moving close to 62
million units.
Te 6502’s profile extended to pop culture, where it
apparently powered two well-known fictional robots:
the Terminator and Bender from the animated series
Futurama. In the 1984 film Te Terminator, scenes shown
from the perspective of the title character, played by Arnold
Schwarzenegger, include 6502 programming code on the left
side of the screen. In a 1999 episode of Futurama, it’s revealed
that Bender’s brain is powered by a 6502. Executive producer
A 1974 photo of the MOS Technology 6502 design team with a design
schematic. Bill Mensch is standing second from the left.
www.archaeology.org 33
may have been overwhelmed by what he
saw in 2015, but had his son from the future
been suddenly transported back to 1985,
he would have been just as befuddled when
placed in front of a Commodore.
“Te only thing that comes close to rep-
licating the rate of growth in the electronics
and computing fields is bacteria,” says Dag
Splicer, a senior curator at the Computer History Museum
in Mountain View, California. Indeed, since the release of
the 6502, which contained 3,500 transistors, the sophis-
tication of microprocessors has advanced by many orders
of magnitude. In 1965, Gordon Moore, the
cofounder of Intel, predicted that the number of
transistors that chip designers could stuff onto
a “single silicon chip” would double every year at
least until 1975. His prediction was accurate far
beyond that point. Intel’s current top-of-the-line
desktop computer microprocessor, the Intel Core
i7, has more than 700 million transistors—right
in the neighborhood of what Moore’s Law would
predict. “Modern chips have something like 10
layers of metal all stacked up on each other,”
James says, allowing for more transistors and
more computing power.
As these advances keep coming, the
devices of the present quickly become relics
of the past. “Digital media will not survive
by accident,” explains Witmore. “If you leave a 3.5-
inch floppy disk in a tomb next to a rolled-up papyrus, you
can unroll that papyrus and engage with it in a way that you
can’t with a floppy, which requires you to bring other materi-
als to bear,” like a particular computer or knowledge of a chip
capable of reading the data on the disk.
While there is no formal protocol for preserving
our digital technologies, the Visual
6502 team is expanding its work to
other chips, such as the Motorola 6800,
which the 6502 undercut with its lower
price point. James has also excavated
and photographed the other two chips
in his Atari 2600—one drove the
graphics display and the other handled
joystick inputs. One of the team’s future
projects is to preserve an entire Commodore
64 system, which means not only excavating its chips, but
also characterizing its motherboard, the circuit board that
connects the CPU with the chips that control sound, inputs/
outputs, and control the disk drives.
“People take for granted that our digital artifacts
are going to be preserved,” says Visual 6502’s Barry
Silverman. “To preserve an exact copy is not that
easy. It’s got to be an active process.” ■
Nikhil Swaminathan is a senior editor
at Archaeology.
vitual map includes the precise position and shape of each
component in each layer of the chip, clearly identifying com-
ponents like metal wires, transistors, and vias (holes in layers
that allow wires to pass through and connect two levels).
James sent these full circuit extraction drawings to Barry
and Brian Silverman. Te brothers translated James’ circuit
model into an inventory of the 6502’s
components and connectivity (spelling out
which component is connected to which
other ones). Tis detailed list, called a
“netlist,” is essentially the 6502.
Te Silvermans then created a simple
web-based simulation in which the virtual
chip is turned on and allowed to run. A sig-
nal sent to a single input of the virtual chip
causes certain transistors to flip on and off,
which is shown in the simulation by chang-
ing the transistor’s color. Tese switches
trigger other transistors to flip, causing a cas-
cade as information steps through the chip.
Eventually, the switches settle and the signal
dies out. Ten a new signal starts and runs a
different course. How each cascade proceeds
demonstrates how different parts of the chip are connected
and the state the chip is left in after a cascade, each of which
demonstrates how a different computation is done.
One Bay Area 6502 fan who saw the simulation obtained
the netlist from the Visual 6502 team and fed the descrip-
tion into a “chameleon chip” called a field programmable
gate array that consists of many transistors that can
be programmed to connect in different ways. By
lending the chameleon the characteristics of a
6502, he was able to hook it up to an old Atari
2600 and run games. “Tat means that we
don’t need actual 6502 chips to drive old
hardware or to study how old hardware
works,” explains James. “We’re not crippled
by the fact that the original 6502 is no longer
being made.”
he pace at which the computer industry moves
causes new technology to become obsolete within
a matter of years. Te more than 35 years since the
release of the 6502 has seen a complete shift
in the way people interact with technology.
“Arguably every new technology transforms
our rapport with our world,” says Witmore,
the Texas Tech archaeologist. “Tey’re really
prosthetics of humanity.” Tink about a
movie like Back to the Future. Marty McFly
The 6502 (and its slight variants) were used
in systems such as (from top to bottom)
the Commodore 64, Apple II, Nintendo
Entertainment System, and the Atari 2600
gaming console.
n 1943, British archaeologist Bernard Fagg received a
visitor in the central Nigerian town of Jos, where he
had spent the previous few years gathering and clas-
sifying ancient artifacts found on a rugged plateau.
Te visitor carried a terracotta head that, he said, had
been perched atop a scarecrow in a nearby yam field. Fagg
was intrigued. Te piece resembled a terracotta monkey head
he had seen a few years earlier, and neither piece matched the
artifacts of any known ancient African civilization.
Fagg, a man of boundless curiosity and energy, traveled
across central Nigeria looking for similar artifacts. As he
recounted later, Fagg discovered local people had been
finding terracottas in odd places for years—buried under
a hockey field, perched on a rocky hilltop, protruding from
piles of gravel released by power-hoses in tin mining. He set
up shop in a whitewashed cottage that still stands outside
the village of Nok and soon gathered nearly 200 terracottas
through purchase, persuasion, and his own excavations. Soil
analysis from the spots where the artifacts were found dated
them to around 500 b.c. Tis seemed impossible since the
type of complex societies that would have produced such
works were not supposed to have existed in West Africa that
early. But when Fagg subjected plant matter found embedded
in the terracotta to the then-new technique of radiocarbon
dating, the dates ranged from 440 b.c. to a.d. 200. He later
dated the scarecrow head—now called the Jemaa Head after
the village where it was found—
to about 500 b.c. using a pro-
cess called thermoluminescence
which gauges the time since
baked clay was fired. Trough a
combination of luck, legwork, and new dating techniques,
Fagg and his collaborators had apparently discovered a hith-
erto unknown civilization, which he named Nok.
One excavation site, near the village of Taruga, revealed
something else Fagg had not expected: iron furnaces. He
found 13 such furnaces, and terracotta figurines were in such
close association—inside the furnaces and around them—
that he postulated the terracottas were objects of worship to
aid blacksmithing and smelting. Carbon dating of charcoal
inside the furnaces revealed dates as far back as 280 b.c., giv-
ing Nok the earliest dates for iron smelting in sub-Saharan
Africa up to that time. Te high number of smelters and
quantity of terracottas suggested he had found evidence of
a dense, settled population.
Tus, in short order, Fagg had discovered some of the key
markers of an advanced civilization: refined art and orga-
nized worship, metal smelting, and suffi cient population to
support these activities. But he knew such a society did not
appear in isolation. Fagg, now back at Oxford University in
England, wrote that Nok culture had almost certainly begun
earlier and survived longer than he had evidence for at the
time. “It was the product of a mature tradition,” he wrote,
“with the probability of a long antecedent history, of which
as yet, no trace has been found.”
ARCHAEOLOGY • July/August 2011 34
Unlocking the secrets of West
Africa’s earliest known civilization
by Roger Atwood
www.archaeology.org 35
fter  years of doing little archaeological explo-
ration in the area, scholars are now returning to
the scrubby, hilly lands where Fagg worked and are
finding that, indeed, the Nok thrived for longer than he had
realized. Tey may have been the first complex civilization in
West Africa, existing from at least 900 b.c. to about a.d. 200.
Teir terracottas are now some of the most iconic ancient
objects from Africa. And they may be the first society in
Africa south of the Sahara to smelt iron, although at least
half a dozen competitors for that title have surfaced since
Fagg first excavated a Nok furnace.
Nigeria has a reputation for chaos, corruption, and expensive
visas that has kept archaeologists away and drastically slowed
the pace of research. In 1959, anthropologist George Murdock
quipped that for every ton of earth moved by archaeologists on
the Nile, a teaspoon is moved on the Niger. Scholarship has
also been hampered by an almost 40-year campaign of looting
at Nok sites fed by the growing appetite for African antiquities
among collectors in the United States and Europe.
“No one continued with the work of Bernard Fagg. Instead
of scientific exploration, the Nok became a victim of illegal
digging and international art dealers,” says Peter Breunig,
of the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt,
Germany. Looting tapered off after about 2005 because of
tighter export restrictions and a glut of fakes that frightened
off collectors. Now, interest in Iron Age societies in Africa
is surging as archaeologists contemplate a wide-open field
that could hold essential insights into how technologies—
especially iron—spread across continents.
Breunig and his colleague Nicole Rupp are leading a
team of German and Nigerian researchers, students, and
even former looters excavating sites over some 150 square
miles in central Nigeria, about two hours’ drive north of the
capital, Abuja. Teir study area is but a microcosm of the
Nok world, which covered more than 30,000 square miles,
an area the size of Portugal.
A terracotta head created by the Nok culture, one of ancient
West Africa’s most advanced civilizations, emerges at a dig
site near Janjala, Nigeria.
ARCHAEOLOGY • July/August 2011 36
necks and waists. Another figure, which
has a skull for a head and wears an amulet
around his neck, is shaking two instru-
ments resembling maracas. Tere is also a
figure of a man with a wispy moustache,
mouth open, as if in speech or song, and
one of a man playing a drum resting
between his legs, possibly the earliest
depiction of musical performance in
sub-Saharan Africa. At one site, Bre-
unig and Rupp found 1,700 pieces of
terracotta in barely 450 square yards,
indicating a large population.
Despite the thematic variety, Nok
terracotta has some characteristics that
persist over hundreds of square miles
and centuries of production. Figures
almost always show large-headed people
with almond-shaped eyes and parted lips. Tey
often have grand headdresses or hairdos, which
may indicate high status. A common pose, and
one much imitated by forgers, shows a man sitting
with his arms resting on his knees, gazing outward.
Microscopic inspection of the clay used in the terracotta
shows it to be remarkably uniform over the whole Nok area,
suggesting that the clay came from a single, yet-undiscovered
source. It could, says Breunig, support the idea of a unified
Nok state or central authority of some kind.“Te homogene-
ity of the clay used for terracotta might indicate centralized
n a black granite mountain
towering over the savannah,
Rupp and her team are digging
neat trenches at the summit. Within
minutes, they start to find pottery sherds,
grinding stones, and fragments of red ter-
racotta sculpture of the type first found by
Fagg. Within an hour, the excavators have
filled three big Ziploc bags with artifacts.
Among them is a terracotta arm broken off
of a larger statue. Its coarse, grainy surface
and realistic modeling immediately identify
it as distinctively Nok. In his classic survey
of African art, Frank Willet wrote that the
Nok created Africa’s earliest sculptural tradition
outside of Egypt. Like their contemporaries, the
soldier-builders of Xian, China, the Nok mastered the
almost limitless sculptural possibilities of terracotta. With it
they created figures depicting illness, warfare, love, and music.
For example, Rupp and Breunig’s team has found a sculpture
of a man and woman kneeling in front of each other, their
arms wrapped around each other in a loving embrace, and
also several bare-buttocked prisoners with ropes around their
For more than 2,000 years since the start of the Nok
period, Nigerians have been building stone house bases
like this one (above). The Nok were expert terracotta
craftsman and their human figurines are one of the
most distinctive artifacts they left behind (right).
necks a
has a s
with almond
often have gr
may indicate
one much imit
with his arms re

t the
ries, the
mastered the
rt of the Nok
house bases
one of the
nd (right).
www.archaeology.org 37
Carbon dating on charcoal that Breunig gathered from
a Nok iron smelter at a site called Intini yielded a date of
between 519 and 410 b.c., suggesting that iron technology
was established earlier than previous scholars, including Fagg,
had realized. Tese may not be the oldest smelters in sub-
Saharan Africa, however. French archaeologists have located
evidence of iron-smelting in the Termit Hills of Niger from
as early as 1400 b.c., but critics point out that the wood
used for dating could have been centuries old, a problem
that dogs carbon dating, especially in very arid places such
as Niger, where the wood desiccates and lasts longer. Bre-
unig acknowledges that the problem could distort dates for
the Intini furnace as well. But he has an important piece of
evidence—Nok pottery, found inside the furnace alongside
the charcoal, suggesting that they were placed there around
the same time.
production. But other interpretations, including the
concentration of skilled specialists, are no less prob-
able at the moment,” says Breunig. “I think there was
a set of respected, central rules that were enforced either
through authorities, or through common beliefs, or both.”
Rupp agrees. “When you look at a piece like this,” she
says, referring to the just-discovered arm, “you can see that
the Nok were experts at making terracotta. Tere was a
specialized, creative class.” Tere may have been a kind of
terracotta “guild,” which, if true, would suggest the Nok had
well-developed class hierarchy, she adds.
reunig and Rupp have found about 20 iron imple-
ments, including fearsome spear points, bracelets, and
small knives, most of which are fairly crude-looking.
How and when Africans developed iron is important
because metallurgy is considered a crucial marker in the
shift to complex societies. Manufacturing metal means bet-
ter tools for farming, hunting, and preparing food, as well as
better weapons for waging war and gaining resources. Yet
whether metal-working creates the conditions for civiliza-
tion to flourish or vice versa remains an open question for
www.archaeology.org 37
At Nok sites, metal tools made
around 500 ı have been found
alongside stone tools, attesting to the
manufacture of iron while stone was
still being used.
The triangular eyes and parted lips
of this Nok terracotta figurine are
characteristic of an artistic style
that endured for millennia even
after the Nok culture disappeared.
This one may represent a deity, an
ancestor, or be a portrait.
C b d i h l h B i h d f
including the
no less prob-
think there was
were enforced either
on beliefs, or both.”
piece like this,” she
rm, “you can see that
ARCHAEOLOGY • July/August 2011
iron-working technology autonomously, possibly starting
with the Nok. Iron technology, and whether it was imported
from across the Sahara or developed in West Africa, is cur-
rently a red-hot topic in the scholarly community. Skeptics
of autonomous development are accused of denigrating the
achievements of African technology, whereas believers are
accused of lacking hard evidence. “It has become a political
debate,” says Breunig. He will not commit to one side of
the argument over the other before he excavates more Nok
smelters, which he plans to do with a French archaeometal-
lurgist next year.
One skeptic is Rüdiger Krause, a European Iron Age
expert at Goethe University. “When people see that some-
body else has better technology, it moves very fast. And iron
knives are much better than stone. You can sharpen them,”
he says. “Mobility was very high in the ancient world. From
the north coast of Africa to Nigeria is not a great distance
for the movement of a new technology.”
ittle is understood about how Nok society
ended. Sometime after a.d. 200, the once-thriving
Nok population declined, as attested to by a sharp
drop in the volume of pottery and terracotta in soil layers
corresponding to those years. Overexploitation of natural
resources and a heavy reliance on charcoal may have played
a role, says Breunig.
Even more puzzling is Nok’s legacy to later cultures. Art
historians have long seen Nok as an isolated phenomenon,
a splendid relic cut off from the sequence of African art
over the next two millennia. Later civilizations in southern
Nigeria had advanced metalworking skills and a tradition of
naturalistic portraiture, and art historians are looking more
closely at what they might owe to Nok. Te most celebrated
of these later cultures was Ife (pronounced EE-feh), whose
people in southwestern Nigeria turned bronze into stunning
portrait heads around a.d. 1300.
“We would need more research to establish a stylistic
continuum between Nok and Ife,” says Musa Hambolu,
research director at Nigeria’s National Commission for
Museums and Monuments in Abuja. “To do this would
require more detailed study of Nok sculptures because,
for now, the evidence is very fragmentary.”
Bernard Fagg wrestled with this question—where
did Nok culture come from, and where did it go?
He wrote about the “striking similarities of style and
subject matter” between Nok and Ife but acknowl-
edged there was no proof the people of Ife had ever
seen Nok terracottas. Now Breunig is trying to solve
that riddle. “In the space of 1,000 years, West Africa
moved from sedentary farming complexes like Nok
to great empires, [such as Ife and Benin],” he says.
“No society is completely isolated in time. Tat’s a
story we’re starting to tell.” ■
Roger Atwood is a contributing editor to
Archaeology. He currently lives in London.
As a result of his research, Breunig has been able to
isolate a moment in time when iron and stone implements
coexisted. Excavators regularly find iron tools only a short
distance from Nok stone axes, suggesting they were used in
the same communities, maybe even the same households.
“When iron first develops, it might be too rare or too costly
to be wasted on axes or other things that you can make with
stone,” he says. “Our hypothesis is that iron tools replaced
stone tools only after the technology was developed enough
to deliver suffi cient quantities of iron. Te Nok is an almost
perfect culture on which to test this assumption.”
Breunig’s evidence has also reinforced a view held by
most archaeologists that ancient West Africans moved from
stone tools directly to iron, without an intervening copper
age. Tat’s a leap that few other parts of the world appear
to have made. With the exception of a site in Mauritania
known as Grotte aux Chauves-souris, where, starting in
1968, French archaeologists found copper tools and furnaces
dating from 800 to 200 b.c., and another in Niger called
Cuivre II, excavated by French archaeologists in the 1980s
and dating from slightly earlier, researchers have yet to find
evidence of copper smelting before iron smelting anywhere
in West Africa. Its transition from Stone Age to Iron Age
has puzzled researchers since Western European and North
African cultures moved into iron after first smelting copper
for a millennium or so (while others, such as those in Peru,
made copper for centuries without ever developing iron). “In
the sense of a progression of technological periods, with few
exceptions, there was not a Copper Age between the Stone
and Iron ages in West Africa,” says Tom Fenn, an expert on
African metallurgy at the University of Arizona.
Iron technology was probably brought across the Sahara
by travelers from North Africa, says Rod McIntosh, an
African specialist at Yale University. But archaeologists are
looking at the possibility that West Africans developed
Archaeologist Peter Breunig visits the family of a team member near
the excavation site.
www.archaeology.org 39
Martini, and Pietro Lorenzetti. (After five years and mil-
lions of dollars, the frescoes were restored to as close to their
original condition as possible.) But just half a mile from the
Basilica, untouched by the earthquake, lay other beautiful
frescoes that once covered the walls of a first-century a.d.
Roman villa.
Four years after the earthquake, authorities began to sta-
bilize and modernize some of Assisi’s oldest structures. Tey
decided that one of these buildings, the seventeenth-century
n September , , a strong earth-
quake shook the central Italian town
of Assisi, birthplace of St. Francis. Te
quake damaged dozens of medieval
buildings and shattered into tens of
thousands of pieces the frescoes that
covered the walls and ceiling of the Basilica of St. Francis.
Tese include thirteenth-century frescoes by the greatest
early Renaissance masters—Giotto, Cimabue, Simone
Assisi’s Roman Villa
A surprise discovery under a medieval Italian town square
by Marco Merola
Found among the well-
preserved remains of a
Roman villa inhabited
until the 1st century Å
was a cubiculum, or
bedroom, decorated with
frescoes and an intricate
geometric mosaic.
ARCHAEOLOGY • July/August 2011 40
The Romans often used architectural
motifs, images of mythical animals such
as griffins, and human faces in their fresco
painting, as seen in the house’s triclinium,
or dining room (above). The first room
of the house to be identified was the
peristyle (right), a colonnaded space that
usually had a garden at the center.
(a colonnaded space with a central garden) of a very large
house. “We had not ever expected a discovery of this kind,”
says Manca. “We were astounded.”
For the next two years, Manca continued digging, even-
tually uncovering the entire peristyle, a space of almost
300 square feet originally surrounded by brick and stucco
columns. In 2002 the team uncovered another large space,
perhaps an oecus (a type of large hallway), which had been
hastily filled up with earth and abandoned in antiquity.
Manca believes that a flood caused by the rupture of the
Palazzo Giampè, which houses the town’s court, would get
an elevator. Tis required engineers to dig deep down to
the building’s foundations. But work stopped almost imme-
diately. Only 20 inches below the entrance, builders had
begun to find pieces of stucco of a kind that is often found
decorating ancient Roman column capitals. “Right away we
had to start a real excavation,” says Maria Laura Manca of
the Archaeological Superintendent’s offi ce in Umbria, who
supervised the dig. Soon the archaeologists had uncovered
three 14- to 15-foot-tall columns that formed the peristyle
house’s two cisterns necessitated the space’s being sealed off
between the first centuries b.c. and a.d.
Finally, in 2003, archaeologists discovered a third room.
Little by little, as they removed the earth filling the space,
they began to uncover a large white frescoed wall, on which
was painted a tripod and an architectural element with a grif-
fin perched on top. Soon Manca began to understand that
the peristyle, oecus, and this room, probably the triclinium
or dining room, belonged to an impressive house. “Tese
images were of such quality and so elegant, that I immedi-
ately thought that the master who painted them must have
come from Rome,” says Manca.
Te excavations came to a stop a few months later when
both time and money ran out. Tey would not start again
until 2006, when Manca decided to expand the project and
explore not only the area under the Palazzo Giampè, but
also under the adjacent building, which held the offi ces of the
committee for the Calendimaggio, a popular town festival cel-
ebrating Holy Week. Soon Manca’s decision paid off. Right
under the offi ces of the Calendimaggio the team discovered
(Below) The colorfully decorated walls
of the triclinium, or dining room, were
covered with vibrant frescoes mimicking
large panels of polychrome marble.
(Above) A fresco that runs around the wainscot
of the cubiculum, or bedroom, shows two well-
dressed women (far left, far right) watching a
scene of an upper-class woman attended by her
maid. A shirtless young man runs toward the
seated woman holding a lamp.
Radu Zaharia, a mosaic conservator from
Romania, works to fill in the missing
plaster that holds together the tesserae,
or marble tiles, of the mosaic on the
cubiculum’s floor (top left). The house’s
frescoes, including the bird from the
cubiculum (left), are very well executed,
leading archaeologists to suggest that
the artist who painted them may have
come from Rome. Roman houses usually
contained shrines called lararia honoring
ancestors who protected both the house
and the family. The terracotta lararium
(above) was found just outside the
doorway of the cubiculum.
all have splendid pavements, but their walls only stand 20
to 25 inches high. Tis is an historic discovery,” she adds. In
addition, although archaeologists knew that Assisi had been
a thriving Roman commercial town called Asisium since the
third century b.c., very little has been found to tell the story
of the city’s ancient past.
Having finally completed the excavation of the villa this
year, Manca hopes to change this. Two thousand years ago,
north of Assisi’s medieval center, there was an area probably
filled with public and religious buildings, of which only the
a large room that had almost certainly been a cubiculum, or
bedroom, whose floor was covered with an impressive black
and white geometric mosaic and whose walls were covered
with finely painted, vibrant frescoes of a type almost never
seen outside of Pompeii.
“We had quite a lot to study,” says Manca. “Tis house
is exceptional because both the walls and floors are so well
preserved. Tere is nothing like this north of Rome. Te
House of the Surgeon in Rimini, the House of the Gardens
in Brescia, and the House of the Stone Carpets in Ravenna
ARCHAEOLOGY • July/August 2011
www.archaeology.org 43
remains of the Temple of Minerva are visible. To the south,
there was a residential quarter where some of Asisium’s rich-
est families lived. “We are going to concentrate our efforts in
the future there,” says Manca. But she also hopes to return to
the excavation of the house someday. “It would be wonderful
to uncover all the rooms that once faced the peristyle,” she
says, “and to reconnect all the parts of the house that lie under
the town. Tis is the most important archaeological evidence
of the ancient city we have ever found.” ■
Marco Merola is a freelance journalist working in Rome.
The house’s owner, who, according to archaeologists, may
be depicted in this fresco from the cubiculum, would likely
have been a wealthy merchant. Roman Asisium (modern
Assisi), was a thriving commercial town and home to many
prosperous families.
ARCHAEOLOGY • July/August 2011 44
A fresh look at the convict era—
when tens of thousands of
exiled criminals helped lay the
foundation of a modern nation
by Samir S. Patel
he posh new youth hostel in Te
Rocks, Sydney’s oldest neighborhood, is
built on stilts. Below and around this back-
packers’ haven is a tableau of everyday life
from modern Australia’s first years, when
it was a penal colony and the most remote
branch of the British Empire. Te foundations and other
artifacts here were revealed during extensive archaeological
digs in 1994 that uncovered almost two full blocks between
Cumberland and Gloucester streets. Wayne Johnson, an
archaeologist with the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority,
beams with pride about the hostel, which was designed to
preserve in situ the remains of 48 houses and shops occupied
by convicts and ex-convicts. Te hostel even collects an extra
dollar on each night’s stay for maintenance and preservation.
Similar public preservation of archaeological remains can be
seen at the Museum of Sydney (site of the First Government
House), the Sydney Conservatorium of Music (the ornate
early stables), and Hyde Park Barracks (once a major convict
depot, now a museum). Te city really seems to embrace its
Australia’s Shackled
www.archaeology.org 45
criminal heritage, though in some parts of the country, the
convict “stain” is still a sore point.
Between 1788 and 1868, 170,000 men and women were
brought halfway around the world, from crowded, draco-
nian Georgian prisons to an uncooperative, alien wilderness
more than 30 times the size of Britain. Te Crown wasn’t
merely trying to get rid of these people—well, maybe some
of them—it was also trying to start a self-suffi cient colony
15,000 miles from home.
For both visitors and many Australians, it’s easy to get
lost in barbarous fantasies about the period. Every stone
building with small windows looks like a gaol. One imagines
the lash and shackles and solitary confinement. Another
scenario casts the convicts as political prisoners who remade
themselves as frontiersmen and pioneers. Neither imagined
past—degrading or dignified—is wrong exactly, but the
truth of the era is more complex and therefore widely misun-
derstood. Convict Australia was an interconnected network
of penal “systems” that varied by location, by serving governor
of each sub-colony, and with evolving British philosophies
In Sydney’s oldest neighborhood, The Rocks,
archaeological remains from the convict era—when
Australia was a British penal colony—have been
preserved in situ beneath a modern hostel.
of punishment and reform. It ranged from the working-class
alleys of Te Rocks to the madness-inducing solitary cells
of Sarah Island to the almost idyllic life of the road gangs of
the Swan Valley.
Tere are, of course, many documents from the period, but
there are almost no histories by the convicts themselves that
document their diets or indulgences or underground econo-
mies. Historical archaeology on both coasts and offshore
islands, especially in the states of New South Wales (of which
Sydney is the capital), Tasmania, and Western Australia, is
filling in those gaps, revealing the range of convict experience
and documenting their substantial contribution to the survival
and prosperity of the hardscrabble colonies that eventually
became a modern nation. Te convicts were, according to
University of Manchester historical archaeologist Eleanor
Conlin Casella, “the backbone of the colonial population.”
Te Rocks was the first place convicts settled when they
arrived in 1788. By the 1810s, stone and timber houses had
taken the place of wattle-and-daub huts, and by 1822 more
than 1,200 people—almost all cons or ex-cons—called
Te Rocks home. Te excavations revealed, among many
other things, buildings owned by one George Cribb, an
entrepreneurial scoundrel who, although a convict himself,
established a number of businesses, including a butcher shop
and a hotel. Cribb’s success, told through the illegal liquor
still, broken Chinese porcelain, and still-sharp filet knife
found in his well, is just one of many tales of convict life that
have emerged from digs around the country over the last few
decades. Tese stories are helping make sense of a complex
legacy, a source of both pride and shame.
ransportation,” as the British euphemisti-
cally referred to the practice of exiling criminals to
Australia, began as the empire was reeling from the
loss of its American colonies. Fearing the rise of a criminal
“class” and struggling with an overflowing penal system,
the Crown found in transportation a hasty solution that
would also cut off French colonial designs in the southern
hemisphere. Much to the bewilderment of the native Eora
people, the First Fleet of 11 ships arrived in January 1788,
carrying 1,487 people, including offi cials, crew, soldiers, and
778 male and female convicts, most of them petty thieves.
Te fledgling colony at Sydney Cove struggled for years near
starvation until good farmland was finally found. Transpor-
tation continued in various forms for 80 years, peaking in the
early 1830s, when many found themselves in the rigid prison
system of Tasmania. Te last convicts arrived in Western
Australia—a free colony that requested convicts to use as
labor—in 1868.
In the decades after transportation, many former con-
victs and their descendants tried to hide their heritage.
ARCHAEOLOGY • July/August 2011 46
ew South Wales, on the south-
eastern coast of Australia, was the
continent’s first European colony
and a convict society for its first 50 years.
“Always was, always will be a criminal state,”
says Gojak. “New South Wales convicts
were much more integrated into the fabric of
society than in any other colony.” Te early
convicts, in particular, had many freedoms,
as long as they showed up for work each day.
Te Rocks, with the densest concentration
of historical archaeology in the country—
home to more than 30 digs—illustrates the
entrepreneurial side of convict life in which
former criminals, free of the social stric-
tures of Britain, built their own homes and
surrounded themselves with the trappings
of civilized society. Rather than the jail or
chain gang, the household was the convicts’
fundamental social unit during the early
years of the colony.
Te Foreshore Authority maintains a
warehouse in the neighborhood packed to
the rafters with archaeological material—
including three-quarters of a million arti-
facts from the Cumberland/Gloucester
streets site alone—that is helping explain
how convict and emancipated convict house-
holds were structured. While the culture
there often seems to resemble working-class
British society, it differs in interesting ways.
Te material remains from the Cumber-
land/Gloucester streets site suggest a culture
of aspiration, opportunity—and fine china.
“Fortunes were made among these convicts,”
says Johnson. “Tey’re surrounding them-
selves with material goods.” Tere is a large
quantity of expensive Chinese porcelain
tableware, and the people of the neighbor-
hood ate well—lamb, oysters, fish, chicken,
and bottled preserves from Britain (and,
notably, no kangaroo). It is a culture of fine
clothes and coarse accents, a snapshot of the
development of a middle class. “It’s not like
there’s one pretty plate, there are thousands,”
says Grace Karskens, a historian at the Uni-
versity of New South Wales who consulted
on the excavation. Tey even possessed col-
lectible goods, such as the Roman coin and
Egyptian figurine found at another site in
Te Rocks. Tat’s not to say that all convicts
found success—many others died poor and
alone, or were sent off to Norfolk Island or
Tasmania for secondary punishment.
For all the modern tastes, however,
Cribb’s buildings show that he was operat-
Several Australian archaeologists spoke
of the shock and indignation their grand-
mothers expressed when they were simply
asked whether there were convicts in the
family. For years, the impulse was to wipe
out physical traces of the convict stain. As a
result, according to Martin Gibbs, director
of the Australian archaeology program at
the University of Sydney, “Tey were still
quite gleefully destroying convict sites into
the 1980s and beyond.”
But some survived. Historical archaeolo-
gy emerged in response to calls for preserva-
tion of Australia’s modern history and pro-
vided a way to understand early Australia’s
social dynamics, class identity, and resource
distribution—by reexamining its founding
narrative and myths. During the 1970s,
heritage legislation created opportunities
for study and reflection. “Tis provided a
much greater ability to consider the con-
vict past as part of national heritage,” says
Denis Gojak, a heritage specialist with New
South Wales Roads and Traffi c Authority.
Since then, there have been scores of digs
on sites related to the convict period, but
an ongoing challenge for the field is defin-
ing precisely what constitutes a convict site
or artifact. Convicts were often so fully
integrated into society that their material
culture can be indistinguishable from that
of free settlers or emancipated convicts.
Outside of large penal institutions such as
Port Arthur and Fremantle Prison, chains,
shackles, and other obvious signs of convict
presence are vanishingly rare. “Definitely a
question the field must come to terms with,”
says Casella, “is when does a ‘convict’ cease
being a convict and just become an early
Australian settler?”
Some of the larger, more obviously penal
sites, including Port Arthur and Fremantle
Prison, were recently accepted for UNES-
CO World Heritage status. Tese institu-
tional structures were more often places of
processing or secondary punishment, and
not representative of the convict experience.
Te material culture of convictism extends
far beyond these buildings, encompassing
everything from major public works built
by convicts to camps they stayed in between
jobs to neighborhoods they established.
Ongoing archaeology in New South Wales,
Tasmania, and Western Australia illus-
trates the complex, distributed nature of
the convict world.
Michael Harrington, Thomas
Darragh, and Robert Cranston
were Irish rebels imprisoned in
Western Australia at the end of
the convict era. They were among
six who made a daring, successful
escape aboard an American
whaler in 1876.
agricultural savior, many sites have been excavated, including
convict huts. “What Parramatta really tells us about is the
lives of emancipated convicts and how they changed their
lives,” says Mary Casey of the archaeological firm Casey &
Lowe. In fact, New South Wales begins to resemble less an
institutional landscape than a more traditional agricultural
outpost, integral to the colony’s survival and eventual suc-
cess. One of the huts even belonged to a convict named
Samuel Larkin, an ancestor of former Australian prime
minister Kevin Rudd.
he next phase of transportation marked a bit
of a correction, away from freedom and back toward
punishment. From 1819 to 1821, British commis-
sioner J.T. Bigge conducted an inquiry to assess the Sydney
colony. “He was asked to find if it could be made a place of ter-
ror,” says Karskens. He reported with some dismay the relative
freedom under progressive governor Lachlan Macquarie and
described Te Rocks as a place of “debauchery and villainy.”
Bigge’s report and a change in penal philosophy led to a more
punitive, institutional approach in Australia. Te freedom and
abandon of Te Rocks gave way to Hyde Park Barracks, road
gangs, and more distant penal stations, including the growth
and consolidation of a new penal colony in Van Diemen’s
Land. Known today as Tasmania, it is the large island that
hangs like a droplet of paint off the continent’s southeastern
ing a slaughteryard in the middle of the neighborhood—
archaeologists found his filet knife and loads of waste from
butchery, tanning, and the manufacture of bone buttons and
glue. Te sounds and smells would have been onerous.
According to Karskens, it’s an odd juxtaposition of a mod-
ern commercial economy and a primitive, preindustrial social
organization, where work and home were one and the same.
And while they ate off fine china, there was very little glass
found at the site, suggesting they might have drunk from com-
munal, passed glasses—a decidedly less refined practice.
By the halfway point of his 14-year sentence, Cribb had
built a small business empire, including a pub, butcher shop,
farm, and row of four tenements. “He’s constantly on the
make,” says Johnson. He probably also dabbled in a prohib-
ited vice, alcohol, attested to by the small still found in his
well. Te houses and yards of Te Rocks were more than
signs of some form of social progress, they were also a place
to subvert the colony’s offi cial economy.
Elsewhere in New South Wales, archaeological sites
point to the distributed nature of convict remains, the
integration of convicts into society, and the system’s early
focus on colonization, occupation, and agriculture, rather
than punishment. Karsken’s work on the Old Great North
Road, a massive early convict project, shows that commu-
nal work was the dominant pattern of life. In the modern
township of Parramatta, the colony’s second settlement and
More than 750,000 artifacts from the excavation
at the Cumberland/Gloucester streets site in
Sydney are stored in a warehouse in The Rocks
(below). The site, including the well of convict
entrepreneur George Cribb (right), was preserved
in place. A mesh re-creation of the original facade
of the tenement neighborhood is visible at back.
ARCHAEOLOGY • July/August 2011 48
at and analyzed the artifact collections from
several Tasmanian sites. After 1840, initial arriv-
als, known as the “Crime Class,” were morally
graded and assigned to better or worse prison
conditions. If they showed enough progress,
they joined the “Hiring Class” and were sent to
one of 85 convict stations to work for the colony
or free settlers. Dutiful workers could then be
granted a form of probation, while recidivists
received some of the harshest punishment the
colony could dish out—solitary confinement or
work in coal mines.
Excavations at the main convict station at
Port Arthur—often considered something of
an industrial gulag—investigated a variety of
structures, including the prisoner barracks,
commandant’s house, and the bakehouse of a
nearby “boy’s prison.” Digging at the penitentiary
there has revealed a network of pipes that show
how seriously administrators took the matter of
hygiene among prisoners. And a metal workshop
nearby shows evidence that the convicts were
doing after-hours work, perhaps for trade with
guards. Preservation efforts have made Port
Arthur the first site in emerging convict-related
tourism. “Almost instantly the site went from
convict settlement to convict tourism destina-
tion,” says Jody Steele of the Port Arthur His-
toric Site Management Authority.
Archaeology in Van Diemen’s Land has also
focused on the so-called Female Factories, where
women convicts were employed in sewing and textile
production. Tese sites, including the Cascades and
Ross factories, are the world’s first examples of penal
institutions run exclusively for women, a generation before
they appeared anywhere else. Among the 75,000 people
transported to Van Diemen’s Land, approximately
12,000 were women, “one of the largest involun-
tary migrations of women and children during
the modern era,” says Casella.
Casella’s detailed analysis of the artifact
collection from the Ross Female Factory,
excavated in the mid-1990s, shows a side
of life for these women that is not reflected
in any history. “Subversive inmate relations
actually structure everyday life in these institutions,”
she says. Like the convicts with relative freedom in New
South Wales, the women of Van Diemen’s Land engaged in
a black market that gave them access to prohibited indul-
gences, such as alcohol and tobacco. Non-uniform buttons
coast, 700 miles from Sydney. Between 1803
and 1853, 75,000 men and women were
sent there, a place most known for flog-
gings, madness, and death. “Tat horror has
dominated the idea of the convict period in
the popular mind,” says Karskens.
Te prison colony of Van Diemen’s Land, a genera-
tion after the First Fleet, was much more rigid, though
the archaeology there is showing the interesting ways that
convicts continued to subvert the rules. Te men and
women brought there—including almost all transported
convicts from 1840 to 1853—were expected to progress
through a series of correctional stages. “It was explicitly
intended to regularize the experience of convict trans-
portation,” says Manchester’s Casella, who has excavated
a b
in a
Archaeology has helped reveal underground
economies among convicts and guards. These
buttons, from the Ross Female Factory in Tasmania,
may have been used as currency in illicit trade. de
Two of the most dreaded sites of the convict era
were Port Arthur (left) and Sarah Island (below) in
Tasmania, which were operated as industrial gulags
for mining, timber, and ship-building. Today, both
are part of the convict-related tourism industry.
perhaps the most imposing edifice of the convict era. And
they built it to last—Fremantle was an active prison (mostly
for Aborigines after the convict era) until 1991. Now a muse-
um, it has been home to dozens of excavations, including a
recent one of a convict-built cellar for the superintendent.
Te prison wards are being renovated, with each wing being
preserved to a different era of the prison’s history. And each
cell is like an excavation in itself. In one case, a collapsed
ceiling revealed 150 years of human occupation—an inch of
dandruff, torn-up letters, and the 1913 rules and regulations
book. “It’s quite a dark place, when you think about it,” says
Luke Donegan, interpretation manager of the museum, with
little trace of irony. “I tend to focus on the heritage aspects.”
Most convicts spent only the briefest time in Fremantle
Prison. With good behavior—sometimes within just days—
the men were given a ticket-of-leave, a kind of parole that sent
them off to a depot where they would be put to work on roads
or could hire themselves out. Winter has been excavating the
convict depot in the agricultural suburb of York. “Tere’s been
virtually no research into it in Western Australia,” he says.
“Before we can ask the really interesting questions, we have
to get the basic information sketched out.”
Winter and a few students and volunteers dig in a small
area behind the superintendent’s convict-built house—itself
an artifact, a mishmash of architectural styles that reflects
the mobility of convicts at the time. Tey’re going through
the camp’s toilet, demolished in the 1890s. Life out there
found at the site may have been a kind of prison currency
(as were sexual favors). Surprisingly, the greatest concentra-
tion of illicit material, including alcohol bottles and tobacco
pipes, was found in the solitary cells, suggesting that the most
incorrigible inmates were among the leaders of this under-
ground economy. “Female convicts sentenced to periods of
‘separate treatment’ enthusiastically maintained their access
to diverting luxuries,” Casella writes. Te part of the prison
intended to be most punitive and harsh was apparently a hub
of barter and smuggling.
Casella and Steele have most recently excavated solitary
cells on Sarah Island—a prison among prisons, perhaps the
worst hellhole in a system that had many. Analysis has barely
begun, but they’ve already documented the later conversion
of a solitary cell into a fireplace and bricks covered in convict
graffi ti. Tere, convicts were exploited in a massive industrial
complex for timber and ship-building. Tey provided the
labor, perhaps the only common theme between the despair of
Sarah Island and the last phase of convict transportation, the
more liberal and labor-focused system of Western Australia.
nlike the colonies in both New South Wales
and Van Diemen’s Land, the first white settlement
in Western Australia, the Swan River Colony, was
started by free settlers in 1829 (eventually growing into the
modern city of Perth). But like the other two, the colony
stagnated—just 5,000 settlers hung onto the remote west-
ern edge of the continent, seemingly as far from
the more established colony of New South Wales
(across 2,000 miles of desert) as it was from Brit-
ain. Among the many things it lacked were strong
backs and skilled hands, and currency to grease
the wheels of its economy. “Te colony was tiny,
isolated, struggling, and going nowhere fast,” says
Sean Winter, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of
Western Australia who is studying convict depots.
In the late 1840s, landowners forced the colony to
ask Britain for convicts—young, skilled men con-
victed of petty crimes. Tey asked for the best of
the convicts, but changing attitudes toward police,
prisons, and reform were bringing about the end of
the transportation system, and Britain wanted to rid
itself of the worst. Between 1850 and 1868, 10,000
men, eventually including hardened criminals,
were brought over. Western Australia was the final
evolution of this great British experiment in penal
philosophy. Any punishment or rehabilitation that
resulted was accidental. Tey were there to build.
Te first convicts, arriving in June 1850 aboard
the Scindian, were set to work right away building
bridges and their own lodging—Fremantle Prison,
Fremantle Prison in Western Australia was built
by convicts in the 1850s and was continuously in
use until 1991. Its cell blocks are being restored to
represent various periods in the prison’s history.
might have been not entirely unpleasant compared with
the pain and deprivation of Van Diemen’s Land, especially
when it was run by renowned prison reformer Sir Edmund
Du Cane. “We’ve found no evidence even of restraints here,”
says Winter. “Nothing to indicate any form of punishment
or violence.”
In the privy, Winter has found a wide selection of tobacco
pipes from Glasgow and London, suggesting that the convict
period brought in outside goods, which had been severely
lacking in the colony. Te finds from York also show that
these ticket-of-leave men had access to alcohol and patent
medicines. “Te convicts were operating as part of a wider
commercial sphere,” says Winter. “Tey clearly had enough
money to buy these things.” Te artifacts mark the beginning
of a real economy for the colony, and each convict also came
with money—182 pounds per convict from the Crown.
Tough there’s some disagreement on this point, many think
the colony would simply have collapsed had the convicts not
come. In fact, the colony entered an economic decline after
the end of transportation.
Evidence of convict work is still present in the Swan
Valley, breadbasket to Perth as Parramatta was to Sydney.
Te river made a proper farm-to-market economy diffi cult,
so the first major convict projects were bridges and roads
that provided farmers access to mills, and then bridges to
open up the market town at Guildford. Te original foot-
ings of one of the bridges, at Upper Swan, are still visible,
says Shane Burke, an archaeologist at the University of
Notre Dame in Fremantle. Burke grew up in the area and is
descended from both the Spice family, among the first free
settlers, and the third convict to step off the Scindian, one
William Branson.
Te traditional view among the free settlers and their
descendants has been that the convicts didn’t actually do
much. “Tis is patently rubbish,” says Winter. Reports from
1870 state that 17 major bridges were built by convicts
between 1860 and 1870, along with an estimated 1,100 miles
of roads. Also, the convict depots they built were reused for
decades as much-needed administrative spaces, including
courthouses and schools, and convict labor established the
primary industries of the area, mining and hardwood timber.
But evidence of the system hid itself over time, as reformed
convicts and their descendants turned away from the past.
Te convict history is more recent in Western Australia, but
it’s also been so deeply buried as to be completely unknown
by Perth’s booming cosmopolitan population. However,
according to the University of Sydney’s Gibbs, “Tere can
be no doubt that by 1869 the convicts had transformed the
landscape of Western Australia.”
hough there is a long, global history of exiling
“undesirables” to far-flung locales, Australia is unique.
Nowhere else was a remote prison outpost intended
to be self-sustaining. Nowhere else was convictism so inti-
mately tied with the colonial project. And nowhere else is con-
victism so central to a nation’s founding narrative. “Tis was a
huge, amazing social experiment,” says Grace Karskens.
Historical archaeology is in a position to help restore
convictism to its central place in Australian history. However,
integrating the archaeology of the convict systems around
the country to provide a coherent, comprehensive picture is
diffi cult. Tere are too few experts and too many sites, and
most digs are conducted before development, so findings
sometimes aren’t widely published, distributed, or analyzed.
“It just doesn’t get the attention it should,” says Gibbs.
“People don’t quite know how to put it in context.”
According to a number of writers, for the last century,
more or less, Australia has been concerned with finding a
national identity. Te convict period and the indignities
visited upon Aborigines are uncomfortable realities upon
which the nation is built. Studying the undoc-
umented material culture of the period offers a
process by which to understand the historical
forces, such as the changing penal philosophy,
and the lives of the people, convict and free,
white and black, who shaped it.
From the outlaw pride of New South Wales
to the macabre fascination with Tasmania
to the lingering denial in Western Australia,
convicts are being adopted as part of Austra-
lian identity after a period of willful amnesia.
According to Casella, every convict-built
structure, every convict artifact, every prison
that eventually housed Aborigines, is the
physical embodiment of what it means to be
Australian. Te convict past, she writes, “has
evolved from cringing embarrassment to a
powerful source of postcolonial pride.” ■
Samir S. Patel is deputy editor
of Archaeology.
ARCHAEOLOGY • July/August 2011
Sean Winter (seated, right) from the University of Western Australia,
supervises the excavation of the convict depot at York in Western
Australia. Convicts resided at such depots while they waited for work from
the colony or local landowners. Their labor was the primary purpose they
were brought to the region.
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he wide-angle view from
Mount Washington, most
prominent among the
neighborhood hills of Pittsburgh,
reveals a lot of details about this
city and its proud past and bright
future. So does the close-up view
from PNC Park, if you overlook the
recent fortunes of its primary tenant,
the Pirates, a perennial cellar-dweller
of Major League Baseball’s National
League. I watch Pirates right fielder
Matt Diaz lean back in the batter’s
box, smartly smack a single, and
scurry to first base. “I took dirt from
that side of the infield—hauled it
in big buckets on my shoulders,”
recalls Curtis Biondich, a lifelong
Pittsburgher who has accompanied
me to the game. “Te outfield grass
was already in,” he continues, “and
they were nearly ready to open.”
When construction on PNC
Park began in the late 1990s, local
archaeological firm Christine Davis
Consultants, of which Biondich is
the principal investigator, conducted
an investigation of the site. Much of
what Biondich, Davis herself, and
their team found, working as quickly
as they could over seven deep-winter
weeks, now sits on permanent exhib-
it at PNC Park. Significant artifacts
relating primarily to nineteenth-cen-
tury city life and events on the banks
of the Allegheny River tell long-for-
gotten stories and confirm local lore.
Te infield dirt that Biondich dug
up sat atop 15 layers of earth—the
earliest being remnants from pre-
historic wetlands. “Te water table
is much higher here now, so we can-
not excavate a lot of stuff,” explains
Davis. What they could get to,
however, combined with more recent
excavations at two other nearby
sites, injects long-buried information
into Pittsburgh’s historical narrative.
Exhibiting the objects in a baseball
stadium is nontraditional, for sure,
but preservationists, planners, and
developers agree with Davis’ belief
that “showing history in a different
way helps while we are changing our
environment today.”

n 1907 Pittsburgh became the
eighth largest city in the U.S.
when it absorbed Allegheny
City, now known as the “North
Side” neighborhood. Seventy-five
years prior to the merger, in 1832,
floodwaters reached the second floor
The Steel City Recycles Its Past
Artifacts of nineteenth-century daily life find new homes
in the twenty-first century
by Margaret Shakespeare
www.archaeology.org 53
ARCHAEOLOGY • July/August 2011 54
ings, which date to 1815, hang in
the PNC Park exhibit alongside
the kitchenware and tableware the
couple once used.
ittsburgh had long forgot-
ten or ignored much of the
evidence of its own quotid-
ian history and day-to-day middle
class domesticity, literally burying
and paving it over. Te rapid growth
of iron and steel manufacturing
and dozens of attendant industries
and businesses made it, by the late
1800s, the center of the industrial
world. Pittsburgh became what
English writer Anthony Trollope
described as “without exception...
the blackest place I ever saw.” Rail-
road tracks lined every waterfront.
People were sent in the other direc-
tion, scampering up the city’s hills to
make their homes, neighborhood by
isolated neighborhood. “River’s edge
was the most palpable dump site for
a lot of the city’s history,” says Rob
Stephany, executive director of the
Urban Redevelopment Authority of
Pittsburgh, which has a mission to
undo the present-day and persistent
undervaluation of riverfronts and to
reconnect the city’s neighborhoods
with its famous three rivers. (Te
Allegheny and Monongahela rivers
combine in downtown Pittsburgh to
form the Ohio.) At the confluence
of the waterways, even footprints
of early forts built in the 1750s,
before the American Revolution—
Fort Duquesne, which was later
destroyed and replaced by nearby
Fort Pitt—were hidden for many
decades, overwhelmed by a vast
army of factories and trains, belching
and blasting fire and smoke non-
stop. “Hell with the lid taken off,” as
James Parton famously called it in an
1868 issue of Te Atlantic Monthly,
an image that stuck and historically
overshadowed nearly all else.
Davis did her first urban excava-
tion in 1982 at PPG Place, a com-
plex of six reflective-glass-facade
buildings topped with spires, adja-
cent to Market Square just east of
the Robinsons owned pieces of
Chinese Canton porcelain that also
fit the motif.
“Finding the preserved back-
yard of a famous individual may be
unprecedented in Pittsburgh archae-
ology,” Davis remarks. After her
excavations, she tracked down Lela
Burgwin, the widow of one of Rob-
inson’s descendants. “I did all this
digging and learned so much about
Robinson and his wife, Mary Parker
Robinson,” Davis recalls. “And from
under her bed, Lela pulled out their
portraits.” Copies of those paint-
of the finest house on the highest
point on the Allegheny River. Te
home was owned by General Wil-
liam J. Robinson, Allegheny City’s
first mayor. Outbuildings collapsed,
dumping household goods into what
was then the backyard of his estate
(now just inside PNC Park’s left-
field entrance). More than 160 years
later, Davis and Biondich would
find many of Robinson’s possessions
under an oak door with iron and
leather hinges buried whole below
15 feet of earth. Te door was about
five feet tall, two and a half feet wide,
and an inch thick. It was painted
blue and might have been a kitchen
door. “We had to slowly excavate
that door—there were other arti-
facts around it,” Biondich says, add-
ing that, because it had not been
exposed to air for so long, they had
to conserve it immediately. Until he
could fashion a makeshift tank from
plywood to immerse it in a polyeth-
ylene glycol solution, Biondich kept
the door damp by spraying it with a
mixture of water and alcohol, and he
checked it every few days for mold.
General Robinson left his mark
on Pittsburgh by naming the so-
called “Mexican War Streets,” which
are now part of a historic district
within the North Side. Streets in
the area bear the names of the war’s
generals, such as future U.S. Presi-
dent Zachary Taylor and soon-to-be
Confederate General Stonewall
Jackson, and of its battles, such as
Monterey and Palo Alto. Beneath
the door, Davis’ team found plenty
of evidence that Robinson had actu-
ally cultivated his fascination with
Mexican and Spanish culture over a
lifetime. “We found a Staffordshire
plate, part of a set of 21, that told
the whole story of Don Quixote,
copied from paintings,” she says.
Other pieces in the collection of
blue-on-white English porcelain also
depicted Spanish-themed scenes,
such as a landscape of Andalusia in
southern Spain. “I’d never found an
entire collection in blue—or all in
any one color,” she says, adding that
Yeager’s, Pittsburgh’s first department
store, sold hand-painted Kestner porcelain
dolls from Germany, among other children’s
toys, to the city’s emerging middle class.
Copyright © 2010 by first STREET for Boomers and Beyond, Inc.
All rights reserved.



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15-minute meeting that Davis had
scheduled with PNC CEO and
Chairman James Rohr. But the
show-and-tell session stretched on
for more than an hour. “When I lit
up the lithophanes [thin, translucent
porcelain panes that appear three-
dimensional when backlit, which
had been window decorations in
Knox Botanical and Seed Store], he
was sure this was history that should
be shared.” Fairmont Pittsburgh
General Manager Len Czarnecki
decided to dedicate each of the
hotel’s 10 guest room floors to one
of the 10 wells. All the suites have
artifacts on display and are named
for the nineteenth-century busi-
nesses to which they belonged.
Taken together, the content of
the wells tells the stories of the daily
commerce of a rising middle class
that wanted to possess and consume
fine things. But there is also strong
evidence of varying aesthetic prefer-
ences. Take the instance of an Irish
boarding house, located on the same
block as a German boarding house.
Finds associated with the German
lodgers included ceramics, pipes, and
other household artifacts manufac-
tured in Germany, whereas the well
near the Irish inn contained mostly
American-made items. “Germans
tended to bring stuff with them,”
Davis concludes. “And the Irish tend-
ed to buy stuff in America.”
Industrialization penetrated every
street corner in the city, every house-
hold. After the Civil War, as shop
buildings made way for progress,
General Robinson from Allegheny
City bought the German boarding
house and tore it down in order to
build offi ces for his Ohio and Pitts-
burgh Railroad.
ith business booming
and population swelling
toward the end of the
1800s, Pittsburgh had a housing
crisis. “People would live anywhere,”
says Davis, as we stop in to see a
small exhibit at the Carnegie Science
five feet around—a big dangerous
hole in the backyard—so they would
commonly fill it in with discards.”
Discards that more than a hundred
years later tell the story of a lost era
of the city.
onstruction crews in the very
earliest stages of building
Tree PNC Plaza eventu-
ally came upon ten wells and Davis’
crew got the call to investigate. What
she found were over 26,000 artifacts
dating to between 1840 and 1876.
Tese relics combine to create a
picture of a downtown Pittsburgh
much different from what exists now
at the corner of Fifth Avenue and
Market Street. Fancy tortoiseshell
combs, ladies’ shoes, hand-painted
porcelain Kestner dolls (imported
from Germany for local children),
and caches of whiskey and wine
bottles remain at the site of Yeager’s,
Pittsburgh’s first department store.
In another well, china with exotic
scenes and American Fancy dishes
with bright naturalist designs tell the
story of Ferdinand Stark’s German
boarding house, which lodged young
immigrant engineers, a coppersmith,
and a printer.
Much of the long-buried nine-
teenth-century domestic goods now
reside in the Fairmont Pittsburgh,
an art-meets-industry–styled hotel
on the corner of Fifth and Market.
Te decision to incorporate them
into the building came out of a
where the two forts once sat. She
figured she would turn up evidence
of the contributions of hardworking
innovative industrialists such as Car-
negie, Frick, Westinghouse, or Mel-
lon, who made some of the world’s
greatest fortunes in Pittsburgh.
(Teir largesse still benefits the
city and the world through librar-
ies, art museums, parks, schools,
endowments, and more.) Recov-
ered artifacts, she thought, might
also illustrate the great influx of
immigrants from Germany, Ireland,
Italy, Poland, and elsewhere, mostly
unskilled non-English speakers, who
crowded in by the thousands to do
the filthy, demanding physical labor
and formed a large lower middle
class. Teir legacy lives on in place
names (Polish Hill), in foods (piero-
gis, fish suppers on Fridays, Primanti
sandwiches), and especially in the
way that families here stay close and
often reside in the same neighbor-
hoods for generations.
Te PPG dig, however, offered
numerous surprises. Davis discov-
ered evidence that as the expanding
population fled a dirty, crowded
downtown, they left behind the
trappings of middle-class families.
Davis came upon these artifacts—
“tons of yellow ceramics, for
example”—in deep wells. “Some of
these wells, which would have been
for household water or privies, were
40 feet below our street surface,” she
explains. “A well could be three to (continued on page 60)
These lithophanes, which once decorated the windows of Knox Botanical and Seed
Store, are now on permanent display in the lobby of the Fairmont Pittsburgh.

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www.archaeology.org 59
Photo Credits
COVER—Zhao Peng/Xinhua/Landov;
2—Marco Merola; 4—Shah Marai/AFP/Getty
Images, Photo: Brett Eloff, Courtesy Lee Berger,
University of the Witwatersrand, Rivi/Wikipedia
Commons; 6—Andrew Lawler; 11— Shah
Marai/AFP/Getty Images; 12—© Zaheerudin/
Webistan/Corbis, Warren P. Strobel/MCTA via
Getty Images; 14—Courtesy Jose Luis Cruzado
Coronel (2); 15—Courtesy Jose Luis Cruzado
Coronel, Courtesy John Rick; 16—Courtesy Jose
Luis Cruzado Coronel; 17—Courtesy University
of Oregon, Courtesy Pastor Fabrega, Project
Topain (CSIC); 18—Zhao Peng/Xinhua/
Landov (3); 20—Rivi/Wikipedia Commons;
22—Arizona; Courtesy The Daily Courier,
Prescott, AZ, New York: Courtesy Alyssa
Loorya, Chrysalis Archaeology;Wales: Courtesy
Cheshire West and Chester; Panama: Photo:
Donnie Reid, Courtesy Fritz Hanselmann,
Texas State University; Brazil: Courtesy Tania
Andrade Lima, Museu Nacional/UFRJ; South
Africa: Photo: Brett Eloff, Courtesy Lee Berger,
University of the Witwatersrand; 23— England:
Courtesy York Archaeological Trust, Italy:
Courtesy Mauro Rubini, Foggia University;
India: Courtesy Shanti Pappu, Sharma Centre
for Heritage Education, Syria: Lorraine Paulhus/
Flickr; 24-25—Courtesy Directorate General
of Antiquities, Ministry of Culture, Lebanon;
26—Andrew Lawler; 27—Andrew Lawler;
Courtesy Directorate General of Antiquities
Ministry of Culture, Lebanon (2); 28—Courtesy
Directorate General of Antiquities Ministry of
Culture, Lebanon (2); 29—Courtesy Directorate
General of Antiquities Ministry of Culture,
Lebanon (2); 30—Dirk Oppelt; 31—Courtesy
Greg James, Visual 6502; 32—EE Times
1975; 33—Bill Bertram, Rama & Musée Bolo,
Evan-Amos, SanderK; 34-35—Courtesy Peter
Breunig; 36—Courtesy Roger Atwood, Courtesy
Barbara Voss; 37—Courtesy Barbara Voss;
38—Courtesy Roger Atwood; 39—Courtesy
Soprintendenza Archeologica dell’Umbria;
40— Marco Merola (3); 41—Marco Merola;
Courtesy Soprintendenza Archeologica
dell’Umbria; 42—Marco Merola (2); Courtesy
Soprintendenza Archeologica dell’Umbria;
43—Marco Merola; 44-45—Samir S. Patel;
46—Wikimedia Commons (3); 47—Samir
S. Patel (2); 48—Courtesy Jody Steele, Port
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Photo: Simon de Salis, Courtesy Jody Steele, Port
Arthur Historic Site Management Authority;
Courtesy Eleanor Conlin Casella University of
Manchester; 49—Samir S. Patel (2); 50—Samir
S. Patel; 53—Courtesy Christine Davis
Consultants; 54—Courtesy Fairmont Pittsburgh;
56—Courtesy Christine Davis Consultants;
60—Courtesy Curtis Biondich; Courtesy
Christine Davis Consultants; 68—Courtesy
National Museum of Ireland
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about the profession of one of the
row house dwellers. Her team found
several needles as well as dozens of
miniature German-made porcelain
doll arms, legs, and heads that would
have been sewn to a fabric torso. “I
wondered if this wasn’t a doll-mak-
er’s shop,” she explains. “Te woman
was a widow, and this would have
been one of the few ways she could
have made money.”
opular among the local lore
of the Steel City is the legend
of Pittsburgh’s fourth, under-
ground river. I even hear about the
supposed lost waterway from a bus
driver who turns into an impromptu
tour guide as he drives his route
to Homestead, a historic steel mill
site that today is the museum and
headquarters of Rivers of Steel, a
National Heritage area. Turns out
the river is not simply apocryphal.
Te Pennsylvania Canal, completed
in 1832, greatly eased transport
between the western and eastern
sides of the state until it was aban-
doned and filled in when railroads
superseded it.
Davis was on the lookout for the
canal during the initial survey of
the PNC Park site. She searched
find at this particular site, however,
was toys. “Evidence of children is
very diffi cult to find in an archaeo-
logical context,” Davis says. After all,
they don’t really own things such as
pots or jewelry. Here, though, is a
collection that’s remarkable both for
its unprecedented size and for what
it tells us about the finances of the
children’s parents. “Tiny German-
made bubble pipes, a miniature por-
celain tea set for a dollhouse, a child’s
plate with a raised alphabet rim to
teach reading, a small mug with a
fairytale scene,” Davis says, catalog-
ing the finds. “You wouldn’t have
bought these things if you were liv-
ing paycheck to paycheck.” In addi-
tion to the toys, the archaeologists
found severely worn scrub brushes,
toothbrushes, children’s lice combs,
and many, many medicine bottles. In
the very crucible of this filthiest of
cities, parents had an obvious con-
cern with hygiene and spared little
expense to make sure their children
were clean and healthy.
Other items recovered from the
town houses speak to their residents
being decidedly middle class. “We
have a kerosene table lamp—an
expensive piece—and decorative
ceramics with no wear,
indicating they just sat
in a cupboard,” says
Davis. “For instance,
a Brown Betty tea
pot is what a lady
would have held
up to show off
her contrasting
white hands.”
Wear pat-
terns on
these pieces
tell Davis that
these houses, unlike
those thrown up quickly near
mills for low-rung workers, had
one particular all-important
middle-class status symbol: a
parlor. From the evidence she
assembled, Davis was even
able to make an educated guess
Center. She points out a copy of a
postcard with a picture of the North
Side neighborhood. In it, Monu-
ment Hill rises behind behemoth
smoke-belching factories with a
tattered navy of small rivercraft—
makeshift houseboats—tied up all
along the Allegheny. “Tere was a
preconceived notion that houses in
the midst of all this, especially next
to a tar factory, would have been a
slum,” she says.
Twenty-first-century progress—
construction of Allegheny Station
for the North Shore Connector (an
extension of the light rail system
by the Port Authority of Allegheny
County) set to open in 2012—led
Davis’ team to investigate the site.
And, once again, the archaeologists
uncovered an informative trove
of upper-middle-class lifestyle
possessions from the wells, privies,
and large backyards (containing
both gardens and buried cache
boxes) of five row houses that stood
until 1932.
From nearly 18,000 artifacts,
more than 45,000 ethnobotanical
specimens (seeds, nuts, and other
plant remains), and deep dives into
city directories and census records,
Davis was able to identify
350 individuals who lived
in these houses over a
65-year period. Te great
ARCHAEOLOGY • July/August 2011 60
(continued from page 56)
Archaeologists found much evidence of
middle-class life, such as these kerosene
lamps, along with porcelain tableware
and a dollhouse tea set.
Yaeger’s also sold
Pittsburgh’s ladies
ornate, tortoiseshell
combs (above), as well as
shoes and wine.
ceramics with n
indicating th
in a cupb
Davis. “
a Brow
pot is
these hou
those thrown up qui
mills for low-rung w
one particular all-im
middle-class status
parlor. From the ev
assembled, Davis w
able to make an educ
city directories and census records,
Davis was able to identify
350 individuals who lived
in these houses over a
65-year period. Te great
Yaeger’s also sold
Pittsburgh’s ladies
ornate, tortoiseshell
combs (above), as well as
shoes and wine.
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archival maps and combined her
findings with “hugely expensive”
camera work from another
consultant to pinpoint four
underwater locks—used to raise
and lower shipping vessels as
they travel over a waterway with
different levels. “At the PNC Park
ceremonial groundbreaking the first
shovel came right down on Canal
Lock No. 1,” she recalls. “Tat was
like finding the Holy Grail,” says
August Carlino, president and
CEO of Rivers of Steel. Davis had
proved the legend of Pittsburgh’s
fourth river to be true, but the
various technological surveys
showed the canal wasn’t worth
exploring. “All the lock doors had
been removed, and the canal had
been used as a sewer, so what was
left was not anything that we could
excavate,” Davis explains. Alas,
all the canal remnants themselves
had to be filled in with concrete
and reburied.
Tat April night at the ballgame,
I think about that lock being
directly under home plate, each
of the six times a Milwaukee
Brewer scores. Te present-day
Pirates may be hapless, but their
history—including the team’s
participation in the first modern
World Series in 1903, which was
played at Exposition Stadium a
mere few hundred yards away—is
extraordinary. Beyond the field
lies a city—once decidedly part
of the Rust Belt—now dotted
with green-certified buildings.
“Topography saved us,” says Rob
Stephany. “Tose hills that kept
neighborhoods separated also kept
them intact.” He adds that the city
has always had a diverse economy
and that is borne out by the
archaeological record. “Pittsburgh,”
he adds, “has a great history.” And as
the city moves on, it won’t lose the
connection to its rich past. ■
Margaret Shakespeare is a writer
who lives in New York City and on
the North Fork of Long Island.
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n April , , more than
300 friends and supporters of
the AIA gathered at Capitale
in New York City for the
Institute’s Spring Gala to honor
archaeologist George Bass and to cel-
ebrate the archaeological heritage of
Bass received the Bandelier Award
for Public Service to Archaeology
for his role in founding the field of
underwater archaeology, and for the
tremendous contributions he has
made to the discipline through his
research, publications, lectures, and
media appearances. In addition to this
outstanding legacy, Bass has ensured
the future of underwater archaeology
by establishing the Institute of Nauti-
cal Archaeology at Texas A&M Uni-
versity and in Bodrum, Turkey.
Te Gala was cosponsored by
Culture Ireland and Tourism Ireland,
and the event’s decorative theme
and distinctive menu featured the
country’s rich archaeological heritage
and traditions. Irish Cultural Ambas-
sador and renowned actor Gabriel
Byrne, who began his career as an
archaeologist, served as the Master
of Ceremonies for the evening. A
highlight of Byrne’s presentation was
his rendition of what is thought to be
the first poem ever written in Ireland,
the “Song of Amergin,” which dates
from the tenth century a.d. Byrne’s
moving reading of the poem, first
in Gaelic, and then in English, was
followed by an address from Patrick
Wallace, archaeologist and director
of the National Museum of Ireland.
Wallace’s presentation highlighted
many of Ireland’s great archaeological
treasures and emphasized the incred-
ible preservation of these materials.
EXCAVATE, EDUCATE, ADVOCATE www.archaeological.org
AIA Gala Celebrates Underwater Archaeology and Irish Culture
Te program was capped off by a
wonderful meal featuring traditional
Irish ingredients prepared by world-
renowned chef and native Dubliner,
Cathal Armstrong.
Underlying the celebratory spirit
of the evening was the important
goal of raising the funds that allow
the AIA to advance its mission and
to continue its various programs and
initiatives. Te Gala is the Institute’s
largest fundraising event. Gross pro-
ceeds from this year’s event totaled
nearly $435,000. Tis total included
money raised specifically for the Site
Preservation Program and to provide
preservation funds directly to threat-
ened archaeological sites in Ireland.
Te success of the event was due in
large part to the efforts of the Gala’s
co-chairs, Elizabeth Macaulay-Lewis
and Julie Herzig Desnick. Te gather-
ing included honored guests such as
the Consuls General of Ireland, Peru,
and Turkey; the former U.S. Ambas-
sador to Ireland, Jean Kennedy
Smith; Joe Byrne of Tourism Ireland;
and Eugene Downes of Culture Ire-
Te 2011 Gala also saw the return
of the AIA to Capitale, the venue of
the Institute’s first gala in 2009. It
was, by all accounts, a wonderful and
truly enjoyable evening.
This year’s gala was hosted at Capitale
(left), a majestic space designed by Stanford
White. Renowned actor Gabriel Byrne (above)
served as Master of Ceremonies. Cocktails
and hor d’oeuvres (below) were followed by a
sumptuous Irish banquet.







he archaeological research
being conducted in the Yucatán
Peninsula has contributed
greatly to our knowledge of the
Maya groups that lived in the region.
But the area is also becoming
increasingly important to our
understanding of early human
occupation in the Americas.
Hoyo Negro, a site featured in the
May/June 2011 issue of Archaeol-
ogy, and believed to be the final rest-
ing place of some of the oldest human
remains discovered in the Americas,
was recently awarded an AIA Site
Preservation Grant. Te award will
be used to protect the site through
the construction of a secured entrance
gate, fencing, and signage, and will
improve access for researchers by
building a new road, stairway, and
dive platform. Tese protective mea-
AIA and Google Unveil Google Earth Map
of Irish Sites at the Gala

he AIA unveiled its new Archaeological Heritage Map of Ireland
on Google Earth. Te map, created by the AIA in collaboration with
Google Earth, highlights over 100 Irish heritage sites and is supple-
mented with a short movie that allows the viewer to “fly over” 22 of the
sites. Te map and the movie can be viewed at the AIA website (www.
archaeological.org). A special thanks must go to our partners at Google
Earth for making this possible!
National Archaeology
Day Announced
n October , the AIA will
organize and host National Archae-
ology Day—a celebration of archae-
ology, including the thrill of discovery
and the wonders of the past. On that
day (and throughout the month), the
AIA and our 108 local societies will
present archaeological programs for
people of all ages and interests. For
those who cannot personally attend
one of our programs, we are organiz-
ing virtual participation opportunities
as well. Tese events will help raise
public awareness of our global archae-
ological heritage, and will serve to
remind us all of the fragility of these
irreplaceable resources.
AIA Awards Grant to Protect Earliest Human Remains in the Americas
sures will pave the way for the first-
ever comprehensive and coordinated
study of a submerged Pleistocene
archaeological deposit (dating from
between 2.5 million and 12,000 years
ago) on the Yucatán Peninsula.
Divers explore the vast underwater caverns at Hoyo Negro.

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¡n-Depth Land Tours


68 ARCHAEOLOGY • July/August 2011
he faddan more psalter offers a tantalizing glimpse of the
extraordinary efforts that early Christians in Ireland invested in illustrating
their religious manuscripts. Tis manuscript was most likely handcrafted in
a monastery where Irish monks and missionaries combined copies of
Biblical text with both traditional and nontraditional iconography.
In very poor condition when first discovered in an Irish bog (bogs were often used
to hide valuables during Viking raids), the tanned leather volume was immediately
taken away and stored at 39 degrees Fahrenheit for preservation. Te condition of the
manuscript’s pages, which are made of vellum (cured calfskin),
varies from full legibility to complete loss.
According to Eamonn Kelly,
director of antiquities at the National Museum of
Ireland, the fact that there’s any vellum that survived is unprecedented,
given the wet conditions of the bog and Ireland.
Conservators from the museum and Trinity College Dublin carried out various drying techniques,
degradation analysis, and high-definition filming to reveal elements of the book’s design. Tese include the
remains of an illuminated page with elaborate, decorative text and illustrations. Te page shown here,
written in Latin, features a style of lettering that suggests it dates back to the eighth century, an estimate
confirmed by radiocarbon dating.
Traces of gold have been found on the outside cover of the Faddan More Psalter, and papyrus was used
in fashioning the inside of the cover. Tese two materials were also commonly used in Coptic (Egyptian
Christian) Church texts. Kelly notes this similarity doesn’t necessarily link the Irish and Egyptian churches.
manuscript’s pages, which are made of vellum (cured calfskin),
varies from full legibility to complete loss.
According to Eamonn Kelly,
director of antiquities at the National Museum
Ireland, the fact that there’s any vellum that survived is unprecedented
i h di i f h b d I l d
Early Christian
illustrated manuscript
a.d. 700–800
Tanned leather
and vellum
July 2006, bog in
County Tipperary,
Folio size
of approximately
12 x 10 inches
National Museum
of Ireland, Dublin
Ancient Treasures of Sudan (15 days)
Join Dr. Robert Bianchi, Egyptologist, as
we explore the Nubian royal city of Meroe,
abounding in pyramids more plentiful than
those in Egypt, the storied sites at Kerma and
the Kushite holy mountain at Gebel Barkal.
Touring also includes the sites of Sesibi,
Soleb, and Tombos, erected during the time
of Egypt's Akhenaten and Tutankhamun and
the Khartoum National Museum.
Archaeological Tours
led by noted scholars
Invites You to Journey Back in Time
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2011-12 tours: Guatemala • Sri Lanka • Thailand & Singapore • South India • Burma In-Depth • North India...and more
The Northern Maya
Kingdoms (16 days)
Discover Mexico’s
Yucatán and
Chiapas states
with Prof.
Boston U., beginning
in colonial Mérida,
Chichén Itzá, Uxmal
and several smaller
Maya sites to see
some of the finest
architecture and
sculpture of the
classic Maya world.
Tour highlights
include two days
in the highlands
around San Cristóbal
de las Casas,
rival to Tikal, Comalcalco and Toniná,
plus the renowned cities of Palenque,
Yaxchilán and Bonampak.
Israel (17 days)
Discover Israel’s layers of ancient history
with archaeologist Dr. Mattanyah Zohar.
Highlights include six days in Jerusalem,
Masada, Qumran, Herodion, Jericho, Bet
She’an, Solomonic Hazor and Megiddo,
the great Roman/Crusader port at Caesarea
and a reception at the W.F. Albright
Institute of Archaeological Research.
Southern India (24 days)
Join Prof. Daniel White, U. of North
Carolina, as we visit the Ellora and Ajanta
cave temples, the famous shore temples
at Mamallapuram, the temples and palaces
of Trichy and Madurai, the Jain pilgrimage
center at Sravanabelagola and travel along
the backwaters of Kerala to Cochin. A
tour highlight will be the extraordinary
Vijayanagara ruins at Hampi.
Return to Egypt:
Two Exciting Fall Itineraries
Splendors of Ancient Egypt (15 days)
Explore Sakkara, the Giza Plateau and the
Egyptian Museum with Prof. Lanny Bell,
Brown U. We will spend five days in Luxor
exploring its temples and Tombs. After visiting
Dendera and Abydos, a five-day Oberoi Nile
cruise and Abu Simbel complete the tour.
Oases of Egypt’s Western Desert (18 days)
Join Egyptologist, Dr. Robert Bianchi
exploring the fabled Temple of the Oracle
in Siwa; Kharga and Dakhla’s temples and
painted tombs; and the wonderful temple
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highlights include the Bahariya’s Golden
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temples and tombs in Luxor.
archaeological tours
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