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Montana: Buffalo Hunters on the High Plains

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

Dawn of the
Atomic Age
Artists of
Ruling an


Stone Age
Indian Oceans
Oldest Shipwreck

Mummy Heart Disease,
Danish Murder Bog,
A Nice Chianti,
Colosseum Condos

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24 Dawn of a Tousand Suns
As the beginning of the Atomic Age
fades into history, archaeologists
work to document a time of uncertainty and experimentation

32 Te Power of Images
A view of ancient Mesoamerican life
through artists eyes

38 Te Neolithic Toolkit
How experimental archaeology is
showing that Europes first farmers
were also its first carpenters

42 Seafaring in Ancient
Sri Lanka

The untold story of long-distance

trade in the Indian Ocean more than
2,000 years ago

48 Te Ongoing Tale
of Sutton Hoo

A region long known as a burial

place for Anglo-Saxon kings is
now yielding a new look at the
world they lived in

53 A stone cairn built by prehistoric

buffalo hunters overlooks Montanas
Two Medicine River valley. The Rocky
Mountains are visible in the distance.

Cover: A detail of a fresco depicting a

warrior from the Battle Mural at the site
of Cacaxtla in Tlaxcala, Mexico

Unearthing Arabia: The Archaeological Adventures of Wendell Phillips is organized by the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery with generous support from the Leon Levy Foundation.

Photo courtesy of the American Foundation for the Study of Man

now on view

uneArthinG ArAbiA

the Archaeological Adventures of Wendell Phillips

through June 7, 2015






Editors Letter
From the President
How the worlds oldest pants were made, imagining a
Bronze Age dental hygienist, and did the power of
speech shape our skulls?

From the Trenches

Mummy cardiology, Iron Age bog massacre, IDing Urs
mystery man, the drawbacks of Paleolithic testosterone,
and unearthing medieval condos in the Colosseum


World Roundup
Earthworks of the Amazon, a water bottles 200-year-


old secret, excavating a Phoenician shipwreck, and

Australias Lovers Walk revealed


Letter from Montana

Vast expanses of grassland near the Rocky Mountains
bear evidence of an extraordinary ancient buffalo
hunting culture

68 Artifact
Paintings on a potsherd show that ancient Egyptian art
students were highly skilledand liked a good joke

on the web

More from the Issue For video of archaeologists Archaeological News Each day, we bring
replicating Neolithic tools and carpentry skills, go to

Interactive Digs Read about the latest discoveries

at the Minoan site of Zominthos in central Crete;
Johnsons Island, a Civil War site in Ohio; and Achill Island
in Ireland.

you headlines from around the world. And sign up

for our e-Update so you dont miss a thing.

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Ancient States

Editor in Chief

Claudia Valentino
Executive Editor

Deputy Editor

Jarrett A. Lobell

Samir S. Patel

Online Editor

Senior Editor

Eric A. Powell

Daniel Weiss

Editorial Assistant

Malin Grunberg Banyasz

Creative Director

Richard Bleiweiss

rchaeologist Colleen Beck was born during the Cold War, just a month after the
Nevada Test Site saw its frst nuclear blast in 1951. Today, she is working there to
document that defning era in Americanand worldhistory. Dawn of a Thousand Suns (page 24), by deputy editor Samir S. Patel, with additional reporting by Barry
Yeoman, surveys how artifacts from that period, along with the landscape itself, can tell us
much about the hopes and fears that drove the U.S. nuclear testing program.
Political gamesmanship isnt just a modern invention.
Contributing editor Roger Atwood brings us The Power
of Images (page 32), an examination of the spectacular
a.d. 600 murals from present-day Cacaxtla, some 60 miles
southeast of Mexico City. Impressively colored and detailed,
one mural, standing at least six feet high and some 60 feet
wide, was conceived with the aim of being more than an
expression of aesthetics. Although this area was apparently
never very prosperous or powerful, artists played out its identity on a complex regional stage that included the powerful
Maya, and the sites murals may well have been intended to
carry a message.
Just four miles northeast of the famed Anglo-Saxon royal
burial site of Sutton Hoo, in the village of Rendlesham, archaeologists are unearthing
evidence of a sixth-century royal estate, trading post, market, and general assembly center
for the region. These discoveries are revealing new forms of statecraft in an unexpected
location. The Ongoing Tale of Sutton Hoo (page 48), by archaeologist Jason Urbanus,
tells a story of royal life and governance in early medieval England.
Letter from Montana: The Bufalo Chasers (page 56), ofers a look at another longhidden expression of societal organization, one going back 1,000 years. Undulating prairie
at the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, adjacent to Two Medicine River, still bears subtle
but detectable signs that large groups of men, women, and children directed hundreds of
bufalo along drive lines to their deaths. Online editor Eric A. Powell met with archaeologist Maria Nieves Zedeo in western Montana to review evidence of the ancient hunting
technology called the bufalo jump.
For those of you who love reading about the high seas, there is Seafaring in Ancient
Sri Lanka (page 42) by contributing editor Andrew Lawler. And dont miss contributing
editor Andrew Currys The Neolithic Toolkit (page 38). Sometimes the best way to fgure
something out, even for archaeologists, is to try it yourself!

Contributing Editors

Roger Atwood, Paul Bahn, Bob Brier,

Andrew Curry, Blake Edgar, Brian Fagan,
David Freidel, Tom Gidwitz, Andrew Lawler,
Stephen H. Lekson, Jerald T. Milanich,
Jennifer Pinkowski, Heather Pringle,
Angela M. H. Schuster, Neil Asher Silberman,
Julian Smith, Nikhil Swaminathan, Zach Zorich

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

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ARCHAEOLOGY November/December 2014


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Institute of America
Located at Boston University

Archaeology in Times
of Confict


Andrew Moore

rchaeological sites are irreplaceable witnesses of past human activity. They can
tell us much about how our forebears lived and, thus, about ourselves. Yet all too
often they are harmed, even destroyed, in times of conflict. In wartime they may
suffer damage or obliteration simply by being in the midst of fighting. In civil conflicts,
when law and order can no longer be maintained, sites may be looted for artifacts to sell
or themselves become the subject of intercommunal strife as one side seeks to destroy
the heritage of the other.
World War II caused massive destruction of historic
buildings and ancient sites across the world. In our
own time the devastation continues. The war that
accompanied the demise of Yugoslavia saw intentional
destruction of religious monuments and other heritage
sites in Bosnia, Croatia, and elsewhere. The continuing
war in Afghanistan has been accompanied by looting and
deliberate demolition of ancient sites and monuments,
Bamiyan, Afghanistan
notably the statues of Buddha at Bamiyan in 2001.
In Cambodia, beginning in 1970, during its nearly three-decades-long civil war, there was
extensive destruction of temples and ancient sites. Large numbers of statues and other
artifacts, among them ones from Angkor Wat, were looted, smuggled out of the country,
and sold through the international market in stolen antiquities. Recently, several of the more
notable of these objects that surfaced in the United States have been repatriated to Cambodia.
In the last decade, some of the most heartbreaking destruction has occurred across the
Middle East. This region historically had suffered less damage to its sites and monuments
than some other parts of the world. The outbreak of war in Iraq in 2003, however, was
followed by the looting of the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad and of regional
museums. Then came systematic ransacking of ancient sites across the country for objects
to sell. In the last three years, the conflict in Syria has been accompanied by large-scale
damage to ancient buildings and sites: the Great Mosque and the covered market, or
souk, in Aleppo; medieval castles that have once again become strategic strongholds for
combatants; the Hellenistic cities of Apamea and Palmyra; and many archaeological sites
in the Syrian countryside. This past summer the spotlight turned once again on Iraq as
insurgent forces there targeted religious sites for demolition.
The Archaeological Institute of America continues to speak out against this devastation
of the worlds cultural heritage. Archaeological sites and ancient monuments everywhere
testify to past human achievement. Their continued existence, and the knowledge we gain
from them, remind us that the past belongs to us all. This understanding strengthens our
shared humanityand therein lies our hope for a better future.

First Vice President

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Andrew Moore
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ARCHAEOLOGY November/December 2014

From Jesus to Constantine:

A History of Early Christianity









Taught by Professor Bart D. Ehrman



What Is the Real Story behind

Christianitys Formative Years?
Explore the surprising development of early Christianity as it
transformed from the religion of Jesus to a religion about Jesus. From
Jesus to Constantine: A History of Early Christianity shows you
how the form of Christianity we know today emerged only after
many years of transition and conflict. In 24 engaging lectures that will
increase your understanding of Christianity, you discover how a single
group from among many lost Christianities won the struggle for
dominance, established its beliefs as central to the faith, rewrote the
history of Christianitys internal conflicts, and produced a canon of
sacred textsthe New Testamentto support its own views.
Best-selling author and award-winning professor Bart D. Ehrman
of the Department of Religious Studies at The University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill offers you a scholars perspective on the origins
of what he calls the most important institution in Western civilization.

Ofer expires 12/15/14



The Birth of Christianity

The Religious World of Early Christianity
The Historical Jesus
Oral and Written Traditions about Jesus
The Apostle Paul
The Beginning of Jewish-Christian Relations
The Anti-Jewish Use of the Old Testament
The Rise of Christian Anti-Judaism
The Early Christian Mission
The Christianization of the Roman Empire
The Early Persecutions of the State
The Causes of Christian Persecution
Christian Reactions to Persecution
The Early Christian Apologists
The Diversity of Early Christian Communities
Christianities of the Second Century
The Role of Pseudepigrapha
The Victory of the Proto-Orthodox
The New Testament Canon
The Development of Church Ofces
The Rise of Christian Liturgy
The Beginnings of Normative Theology
The Doctrine of the Trinity
Christianity and the Conquest of Empire

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Arbelas Inhabitants
We received several letters questioning
the use of Palestinian to describe one of
the ethnicities present in ancient Arbela
(Erbil Revealed, September/October
2014). The term, when used in the context of ancient history, applies to a people
mentioned as early as the twelfth century
B.C. in Egyptian chronicles. In the eighth
century B.C., the Assyrians called the
region between the Jordan River and the
Mediterranean Sea Palashtu or Pillistu.
Other versions of this designation include
Palaistin, found in Herodotus in the fth
century B.C., and the land of the Philistines
mentioned in the Hebrew Bible. The people
in Arbela identied in the article as Palestinians, therefore, were likely part of this
ancient ethnic group.
A Material Question
The article about the oldest pair of trousers, found in China (Worlds Oldest
Pants, September/October 2014), was
interesting, but I missed one thing
what is the material? And was
the design printed, embroidered, or woven in?
Maria Kain
Ulman, MO

The editors respond: The

pants are made of woven wool
fabric and decorative braids
were sewn on to cover the seams.

Going Back to School

I am a longtime subscriber and I always
read your magazine cover to cover. Philip
Panaritis piece about bringing archaeology to public school students in New York
(Letter from the Bronx, September/
October 2104) has inspired me to write
to you for the rst time. As an educator, I
am very moved by this creative initiative,
which brings important information to
young people and sparks such spontaneous, intelligent, respectful interest in the
past. Bravo!
John C. McLucas
Towson, MD

Trip to the Dentist

Imagine my surprise when I turned to
page 19 of the September/October 2014
issue (The Case of the Missing Incisors) and saw what my dental hygienist
sees every six months. Although my
genetic heritage is northern European, I
share the same rare type of hypodontia
with Dr. Lieverses Bronze Age Siberian. Had her patient had access to
dental facilities, he too would probably
hear each new dentist or technician
exclaim upon rst looking into his
mouth, Whered they go? Happily, my
impacted third molars gradually closed
the gap as they grew toward the center.

ARCHAEOLOGY welcomes mail from

readers. Please address your comments
to ARCHAEOLOGY, 36-36 33rd Street,
Long Island City, NY 11106, fax 718-4723051, or e-mail
The editors reserve the right to edit
submitted material. Volume precludes
our acknowledging individual letters.

ARCHAEOLOGY (ISSN 0003-8113) is published bimonthly for $23.95 by the

Archaeological Institute of America, 36-36 33rd Street, Long Island City, NY 11106.
Periodicals postage paid at Long Island City, NY, and additional mailing oces.
POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Archaeology, P.O. 433091, Palm Coast,
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Subscriptions should be addressed to Archaeology, Subscription Services,
P.O. 433091, Palm Coast, FL 32164, toll-free (877) ARKY-SUB (275-9782), $23.95 per volume. Single numbers, $4.99. Foreign

Also happily, I have had no issues with

projectile headaches.
Helen Mack
Crozet, VA

Who Were the First Americans?

When I was a student of archaeology in
the mid-1970s I used to wonder if my
professors knew any actual humans. It
made no sense to believe that people
followed each other single le across the
Beringia land bridge and never intentionally or unintentionally found another way
to the Americas. Arent we supposed to
keep an open mind and look at all the
data, even if it doesnt support our original hypothesis? Finally, some fresh air!
(America, in the Beginning, September/
October 2014)
Julie Martin
Arvada, CO

The Power of Speech

Your Face: Punching Bag or Spandrel?
(September/October 2014) was a great
article and it is good that you publish what
some would say is an outlandish theory,
but it does make me think that the present-day shape and structure of the face
and head evolved for speechthe ability
to communicate and be understood. The
jaw, teeth, tongue, and sinus cavities all
play critical parts in speaking, and the
shapes of the skull and ears seem to be
adapted to hear human speech as well.
Frank Kalinski
Livonia, MI

In America, in the Beginning (September/October 2014), we misidentied a stone tool from the Monte Verde
site as a point. It is, in fact, a graver.

and Canadian subscriptions, $38.95; includes all government taxes (130277692RT). Canadian Publication Agreement #1373161. Allow six weeks for processing
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36-36 33rd Street, Long Island City, NY 11106, (718) 472-3050, advertising@ We are not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts and photographs. For subscription problems please call (877) 275-9782; AIA members with
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rights reserved. Printed in USA. Te views and opinions expressed do not necessarily
reect the policy of the AIA or A.
2014 Te Archaeological Institute of America
ARCHAEOLOGY November/December 2014


Heart Attack of the Mummies

tzi the Iceman hardly seems the type to have been

prone to heart disease. He died violently around
3300 B.C., aged approximately 40 or 50, and
his mummied body was found high in the Italian Alps in 1991. He led a vigorous life, ate a
balanced diet, and had no access to tobacco.
But when researchers put his remains in a CT
scanner, they found calcium deposits in a number of his arteries, indicating the beginnings
of atherosclerosis, which commonly leads to
heart disease. By the time tzi was 80, he
would have had a very good chance of having
a heart attack or a stroke, says Gregory
Thomas, a cardiologist at Long
Beach Memorial Medical Center
in California.
Recently, a multidisciplinary
team of researchers, co-led by
Thomas, examined CT scans
of mummies from all over the
worldfrom ancient Egyptians
to pre-Columbian Peruvians to
nineteenth-century Aleutian
Islandersand found widespread
incidence of calcied arteries.
They published their results in
a series of papers in the journal
Global Heart. One study, comparing
scans of 76 ancient Egyptian mummies and 178 present-day Egyptians,
found similar rates and severity of
calcication after adjusting for age.
These results are forcing experts to
reconsider the long-held assumption that atherosclerosis is caused
The 1st-century A.D. mummy of
Demetrios, now at the Brooklyn
Museum, was excavated from the
Roman cemetery in Hawara, Egypt,
in 1911. CT scans revealed that he,
like a surprising number of other
mummies from around the world,
had signs of atherosclerosis.

by uniquely modern habits: lack of physical activity, an

unhealthy diet, and smoking. We dont know as much about
the risk factors for atherosclerosis as we used to think
we did, says Randall Thompson, a cardiologist
at Saint Lukes Mid America Heart Institute in
Kansas City, who worked on several of the studies. There may be other risk factors that have a
bigger role than we appreciate.
tzi was saddled with a number of genetic
factors that predisposed him to heart disease.
According to a recent analysis of his genome,
two anomalies in chromosomal region
9p21 nearly doubled his risk for
coronary heart disease. We didnt
expect that these genetic modications would already have been
present more than 5,000 years
ago, says Albert Zink, head of the
Institute for Mummies and the
Iceman in Italy, adding that further
studies will investigate whether
mummies from other cultures had
similar predispositions.
In addition to genetic factors,
the researchers are now considering aspects of premodern living
that might have contributed to
the ndings. For example, Aleutian
Islanders, hunter-gatherers who
consumed a heart-healthy marinebased diet rich in omega-3 fatty
acids, lived in subterranean homes
lled with smoke from indoor res.
Three of ve mummies scanned had
atherosclerosis, and one woman who
died around age 50 had coronary
artery calcication as severe as that
seen in coronary bypass patients,
says Thompson. Chronic exposure
to cooking-re smoke may have been
a factor.
Chronic infection and infammation, which were far more common


before modern antibiotics and standards of hygiene, probably played a
role as well. Infammation is known
to contribute to plaque buildup in
arteries, says Thomas, and people
with chronic inflammatory conditzi the Iceman undergoing sampling
for genetic testing

Some archaeological sites are so unusual that they still present mysteries decades after they were found.
Take the Diquis Delta in southeastern Costa Rica, where there
are hundreds of almost perfectly
spherical stone balls dating to more
than 1,000 years ago. Ranging in
size from just a few inches to more
than six feet in diameterand up to
16 tonsLas Bolas, as the locals
affectionately call them, were first
discovered during the agricultural

boom of the 1930s. The United Fruit

Company cleared the jungle for banana plantations using bulldozers,
which damaged and moved many
of the ancient spheres. Of 300
found so far, just a dozen remain
in their original context. Many of
the rest decorate public buildings
and plazas. Doris Stone, daughter
of a United Fruit Company executive, published the first scientific
study of the balls in 1943. Decades
later, archaeologists know that the


tions such as lupus commonly develop

atherosclerosis early in life. Because
infection was a leading killer of humans
until very recently, people with strong
immune systemsand therefore a
strong infammatory responselikely
had a better chance at survival. But that same robust
response, as it continues
into adulthood, can contribute to clogged arteries.
The finding of atherosclerosis in mummies
from such a wide range of
cultures and time periods
makes it clear that the disease is not just a modern
plague, but a hallmark of
humanity. No matter how

monolithic sculptures were made

by human hands, but are still working to determine their significance
to the ancient people of Costa
Rica. Archaeologist Francisco Corrales of the National Museum of
Costa Rica says that the site known
as Finca 6 contains the only known
surviving group of spheres in their
original alignment.
The site
In and around Finca 6 there are nearly
30 spheres, of which seven remain
in their original context, with fve
oriented in roughly east-west lines.
The spheres could have been used
to record celestial phenomena, such
as the rise of the sun at certain times
of year. Corrales says there are other
theories, including that the alignments
are related to constellations and, in
turn, myths and legends. [No theory]
has been proven so far, he says. They
were probably made by the Chiriqui
culture (a.d. 8001500), the last of
three major pre-Columbian cultures
in Costa Rica, during a period when
villages began to form, with cobblestone house foundations, pavements,
walls, and mounds. Two of these
mounds are adjacent to the clearing
with the sphere alignments at Finca
6. A new museum at the site includes
a panorama of the occupations of the
region, with an emphasis on stone
sphere sites.

in Princess
AhmoseMeryetAmon, a
17th Dynasty
from Egypt

much exercise we do, what food we

eat, whether we take our medications,
says Thomas, we are still at risk for
Daniel Weiss

While youre there

Finca 6, a fve-hour drive from the capital of San Jos, is near Batambal, another visitor-friendly stone-sphere site,
this one with a view all the way to the
ocean. The area has other attractions,

such as Cao Island (for snorkeling

and scuba diving), Corcovado National
Park, and Ballena National Marine Park,
where it is possible to see humpback
whales during the summer.
Malin GrunberG banyasz

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Ice Age Lion Made Whole Again

ne of the most famous works of Ice Age art has been

given a new face. A lion sculpted from mammoth
ivory about 40,000 years ago was found in the
1930s in Vogelherd Cave, one of the four caves in Germanys
Swabian Jura Mountains that has produced evidence of the
worlds earliest art and music. The lion has long been thought
to be a relief, unique in Paleolithic art, says archaeologist
Nick Conard of the University of Tbingen. For the last

decade, Conard has been reexamining both the cave and

spoil heaps left by earlier archaeological eforts. Among that
material, his team found a carved lions face they soon realized
was the missing half of the famous gurines head. Its now
clear that the lion was not a relief but rather, like the caves
other Ice Age gurines (New Life for the Lion Man, March/
April 2012), a fully three-dimensional work.
JarreTT a. loBell

Fate of the Vanquished

ew analysis of human bones unearthed in a Danish

bog shows that they belonged to Iron Age warriors
whose army was routed in a major battle 2,000
years ago, during an era when the growth of the Roman
Empire was putting pressure on Germanic tribes in the area.
A team led by Aarhus University archaeologist Mads Khler
Holst found that all the remains date to a single event and,

further, that the bones bear traces of cutting and

scraping that suggest they were desecrated before
being ritually deposited in the bog by the winning
side. Among the gruesome nds is a wooden stick
with four male pelvic bones threaded onto it.
Holst notes that while archaeologists have
found large caches of defeated warriors weapons
in bogs before, this is the rst time human remains
have been discovered in this context. Roman
writers such as Tacitus wrote about the
ritual practices of
Germanic people in
relation to war, says
Holst. But this is
the rst discovery of actual
traces of them. The remains
also suggest that large-scale
internal warfare was roiling
Germanic societies in the
early rst century a.D.
eric a. PoWell
ARCHAEOLOGY November/December 2014

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he excavation of an ancient well in Cetamura del Chianti,

Italy, has yielded a veritable treasure trove of information about the sites Etruscan, Roman, and medieval
inhabitants. Over the last four years, archaeologists led by Florida
State Universitys Nancy de Grummond have retrieved thousands
of artifacts spanning 15 centuriesgenerally well preserved by
the watery settingfrom the
105-foot-deep well. Many
of the objects, including hundreds of
votive cups, animal
bones, and coins,
were intentionally thrown into
the well as part
of sacred and ritual activity. Among
the numerous metal
objects recovered are
at least 14 bronze Etruscan and Roman water vessels, some nely decorated
with mythological creatures. The
waterlogged environment also preserved
bucket decoration
wood and even grape seeds. Researchers are
hoping to analyze the seeds DNA to further understand the composition of ancient wine, and to match the seeds with modern grape
varieties. Says de Grummond, This rich assemblage of materials in
bronze, silver, lead, and iron, along with the abundant ceramics and
remarkable evidence of organic remains, creates an unparalleled
opportunity for the study of culture, religion, and daily life in Chianti and the surrounding region.
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ARCHAEOLOGY November/December 2014


Storeroom Surprise
Museum received a box containing a skeleton from
the Ur excavations. Over the decades, however, all
documentation relating to the container was lost,
and the remains lay anonymously in museum storage for 85 years.
As part of the digitizing project, researchers
were led to Woolleys notebooks, which they used
to connect their unidentied skeleton with a grave
excavated by Woolley in 1930. It was an easy match,
as the archaeologist had lifted the bones and the
surrounding deposit as a whole, and then coated
them in wax. According to Penn curator Janet
Monge, the remains belonged to a muscular male
in his 50s who stood about ve feet nine inches
Workers encasing burials

s they digitized old records over

the last two years, researchers at
the University of Pennsylvania
Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology unexpectedly solved one of the
museums great mysteriesthe origin of
a 6,500-year-old skeleton lying in one of
their storerooms.
Between 1922 and 1934, Sir Leonard
Woolley excavated the Sumerian site of
Ur in southern Iraq, including dozens
of burials. Much of the material uncovered was divided between the Penn
Museum and the British Museum,
and some time around 1930, the Penn

Burials being rem

from the cemeter
y at Ur

in plaster for transport

tall. He had been buried with his

legs extended, his arms lying at
his sides, and his hands resting on
his abdomen. Woolley recorded
that the man was found in one of
the earliest levels of Ur, in a layer
of silt deposited by a great food,
leading some of the researchers
to nickname the remains Noah.
A complete skeleton more than
six millennia old is extremely rare,
and the museum is hoping that new
technologies will provide valuable
information about a little-known
culture, as well as indications of the
mans diet, ancestral origins, and
cause of death.
Jason UrBanUs

ARCHAEOLOGY November/December 2014


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and Hominins

round 80,000 to 30,000

years ago, what we now recognize as modern human cul-

ture was taking shape. Homo sapiens was

migrating out of Africa, creating symbolic artwork, and inventing new stone
toolschanges that are often attributed
to the evolution of large brains. But what
if loads of brain matter alone werent
enough to give rise to human culture?
A new study by a research team that
includes Robert Cieri, a doctoral student

at the University of Utah, makes such

an argument. Their work shows that,
over time, humans evolved to produce
less testosterone, which made them less
prone to aggression and more socially
tolerantall of which set the stage for
cultural advances. Its important to realize that much of our success in the last
200,000 years really has to do with our
social skills, says Cieri.
In addition to making people aggressive, testosterone afects the way human
skulls grow, and this factor was key in
the research. High testosterone levels
are associated with thicker brow ridges
and other facial traits. Cieris group
compared measurements from the skulls
of ancient humansdating to as early
as 200,000 years agowith those of
modern Homo sapiens. They found that
nearly all the skulls belonging to people
who lived more than 80,000 years ago
show evidence of testosterone levels that

were far higher than any modern-day

humans. These high hormone levels
may have made social cooperation and
community-building more difcult. By
contrast, the more recent skulls have
traits that indicate lower testosterone
levels, which may have allowed ancient
humans to live together in larger groups
and interact peacefully with outsiders,
thus facilitating cultural exchange and
advancing technological innovation. In a
world that was becoming more crowded,
those who had the traits that permitted
them to adapt would be more successful,
and therefore would pass the traits for
lower testosterone and increased social
cooperation on to their ofspring. You
could see it as people becoming adapted
to a new ecology, Cieri says.
Zach Zorich

ARCHAEOLOGY November/December 2014

North Dakotas

n oil boom in North Dakota has

pushed production to more than
a million barrels per day, brought
a food of workers to the stateand put
some residents nerves on edge. At the
same time, it has produced plenty of
new work for archaeologists as surveys
are triggered to ensure that no important cultural features are damaged by
A survey is only formally required
when the federal government helps fund
the project or owns at least part of the
development site or its mineral rights,
and in certain cases under state law.
Sometimes, though, developers commission surveys on their own to demonstrate goodwill and protect themselves
in case of future disputes.
The acreage covered by these surveys more than doubled between 2008
and 2013. As a result, archaeologists
have unearthed everything from abandoned farmsteads to colonial cemeteries,
Native American stone circles, and tools
made from Knife River fint, which was
harvested from a quarry in the state at
least as early as 10,000 years ago and was
traded from coast to coast.
One of North Dakotas rst natural
resources wasnt oil, says Aaron Barth,
an archaeologist conducting surveys in
the state for KLJ Engineering. It was
actually Knife River fint. Stone tools,
scrapers, you name it, anything to cut

with was made from it.

As inquiries from land speculators
have become more insistent, some residents have taken their hostility out on
archaeologists. In many cases, though,
their irascibility gives way to curiosity
when archaeologists explain the purpose of their surveys.
Over half the time when someone

comes out initially angry, and we say

that were archaeologists there to make
sure unique cultural resources are protected, says archaeologist Jessica Bush,
cultural resource work group manager
with KLJ Engineering, their mood
completely changes. Theyll say, I know
this great stone circle.
Daniel Weiss

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he Flavian amphitheater,
better known as the Colosseum, was one of the Roman
Empires architectural wonders, and
perhaps its most infamous address.
Home to gladiatorial ghts, wild animal hunts, and even the occasional
naval battle, the edice hosted Romes
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capacity of up to 50,000 spectators,

the arena had many as 80 arched
entrances to facilitate the trafc of
its large crowds. However, a recent
three-week excavation conducted by
Roma Tre University and the American University of Rome beneath those
entryways has revealed new evidence
about the time, between the ninth and
fourteenth centuries, when the Colosseum was home to more ordinary
Roman citizens. After the collapse of
the Roman Empire, local friars who
controlled the property rented out
the space and transformed the Colosseum into a makeshift condominium
complex. Stables, workshops, and
private residences lined the communal
courtyard, creating a kind of medieval bazaar where bloody contests
once took place. Archaeologists have
uncovered terracotta sewage pipes,
cookware, and a carved ivory monkey
gurine, likely used as a gaming piece.
The Colosseum functioned in this
capacity until 1349, when an earthquake struck Rome and rendered the
building architecturally unsound.
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ARCHAEOLOGY November/December 2014

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MEXICO: The Clovis

people, among the
rst to spread across
North America, are
known to have hunted and dined on the
continents erstwhile
mammoth population. Recent nds
at the site of El Fin
del Mundo in Sonora
have added the gomphothere, an elephant
relative with four
tusks, to their menu.
Alongside bones from
two gomphotheres,
archaeologists found
distinctive Clovis
points and other tools.
Almost 14,000 years
old, it is one of the
oldest and southernmost Clovis sites.

VIRGINIA: A depiction of a
trowelthe hand tool with a
small, pointed blade beloved
of archaeologistswas found
on a ceramic sherd excavated
near Montpelier, the mansion home of James Madison,
the fourth president. It was a
meta-moment for archaeologists, but had a reasonable
explanation: It came from a
Masonic seal on a jug or bowl.
Masons and bricklayers are
perhaps the only professions
more associated with trowels
than archaeologists.

BOLIVIA: The Amazon rain forest once

seemed like a pristine, untouched ecosystem, but hundreds of geometric
earthworks discovered beneath the
trees over decades suggest that humans
had altered the landscape long before
the arrival of Europeans. It has been
proposed that these Amazonian people
cleared much of the rain forest in the
past, but a new study of lake sediments
suggests that the climate was drier in
some parts of Amazonia more than
2,000 years ago, and that some earthworks were built in open savannah that
was later consumed by rain forest.


POLAND: On a shipwreck in the Gulf

of Gdansk in the Baltic Sea, underwater archaeologists found a 200-yearold stoneware bottlestill sealed and
labeled with the sign for Selters, the
source of highly sought-after mineral
water (hence the generic term seltzer water) in Germany. Upon testing
it was found that the liquid inside
contains 14 percent alcoholthough
the water that was used to thin it
matches the chemical makeup of the
famed Selters water of the 19th century.

SUDAN: An archaeological project

focused on the city of Dangeil, dating
to the Kingdom of Kush, from the 3rd
century B.C. to the 4th century A.D., has
revealed the results of the excavation
of a cemetery. So far, 52 tombs have
been excavated with a great variety of
grave goods, including large beer jars,
a unique set of seven attached bowls,
a silver signet ring, and a faience box
crafted with udjat eyes, an Egyptian
symbol of power and protection. Egyptian, Greco-Roman, and African cultures
all inuenced
Kushite society in the

ISRAEL: A copper alloy awl found at the Middle

Chalcolithic site of Tel Tsaf in the Jordan Valley is
the oldest known metal object in the Middle East. It
dates to between 5100 and 4600 B.C., perhaps a millennium before native copper metallurgy emerged
in the region. The composition of the tool suggests
that it was imported from the north, which may
have been the source for metallurgical technology
that would later emerge. It was found in the most elaborate burial of the period in the
region, suggesting it was a particularly rare and coveted item.

ARCHAEOLOGY November/December 2014

By Samir S. Patel
MALTA: About a mile off Gozo
Island, in 400 feet of water,
researchers have found and
examined what might be the
oldest shipwreck in the central
Mediterraneana 50-foot-long
trading vessel packed with 50
diverse amphoras and
20 grinding
stones. The
cargo dates
to around 700
B.C., when
traded across
the Mediterranean, and Malta
represented an
important stop on
long sea voyages.

mummy discovered last
year in a 17th-century royal
tomb from the Joseon
period belonged to a
man who likely spent much of his life with mysterious pains in his torso. Modern medical imaging techniquesfollowed by an autopsyhave
shown that he suffered from a congenital hernia, a
birth defect that left a hole in his diaphragm that
allowed the organs from his abdomen, including
part of his liver and stomach, to push up into his
chest, putting pressure on his heart and lungs.

A detailed
study of
196 stone
that the
chiefdom that arose in the
archipelago around 800
years ago was the center of a
trade network that spanned
Oceania. Two-thirds of the
tools analyzed came from
rock sources on other island
groups, including Samoa, Fiji,
and the Society Islands, some
1,500 miles away. Between
A.D. 1300 and 1500, cultures
around the Pacic began to
build monumental structures
and see an increase in chiey
power. The Tongan trade network might explain how such
traditions moved across such
vast distances.

AUSTRALIA: In Darwin, the largest city in the Northern Territory, workers digging for a new fence found the remains of
a stone staircase, originally dating to the late 19th century
(with a second phase in the mid-20th century), that led
down from the center of town to the citys port area. The
path was known variously as Lovers Walk, Lime Kiln Walk,
and Chinese Walk. Victorian remains are rare in the city,
which has been leveled by three cyclones and extensive
bombing during World War II.

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As the beginning of the

Atomic Age fades into history,
archaeologists work to document
a time of uncertainty and


by S S. P
additional reporting by B Y

HE TIME: 1955. The place: a dry lakebed in

southern Nevada called Frenchman Flat. An
explosion equivalent to 22,000 tons of TNT
creates a roiling mass of superheated, lowdensity gas. This reball rises and collides
with the surrounding air, creating turbulent
vortices that suck smoke and debris up from the ground into
a column. The stem rises into cooler, thinner air, where the
ascent slows, debris disperses, and moisture condenses to form
a cap. Over days and even months, nuclear fallout spreads
and drifts to Earth.
Between 1951 and 1962, well after the detonations at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 14 mushroom clouds rose above this corner of the Nevada desert. They were part of a long, complex,
and varied program of nuclear testing, and each had a broad
audience. One part was global, as the Cold War superpowers,
the United States and the Soviet Union, squared o; the other
was sitting on benches on an overlook seven miles away. A
stream of political and military VIPs sat there, squinting at
blasts and being bueted by powerful shockwaves. Today, 11
rows of the benches sit under the desert sun, with nails jutting
from their warped, desiccated planks. I like these benches,
says Colleen Beck, an archaeologist with the Desert Research
Institute (DRI), part of the Nevada System of Higher Education. While hardly anyone comes here now, you can really
imagine people sitting on them, watching a test.
Frenchman Flat is one of 14 historic districts at what was

Wearing protective goggles, observers from Canada and

Britain watch MET (Operation Teapot), a 22-kiloton nuclear
detonation above Frenchman Flat at the Nevada Test Site, on
April 15, 1955 (right). Benches used to watch such explosions
still stand several miles from the detonation site (above).

ARCHAEOLOGY November/December 2014



once called the Nevada Test Site (now the Nevada National
Security Site), 1,360 square miles of dust, scrub, and mesa
managed by the U.S. Department of Energy. This battleeld
that never saw a battle was a main source of the heat of the
Cold War. All told, more than 1,000 nuclear weapons were
detonated at the Test Siteaboveground and in tunnelsover
more than 40 years. Material from these experiments is scattered across the landscape. Each squat building, twisted hunk
of metal, and heavily gated tunnel entrance reects the need
both to understand a new, utterly alien powerand to project
a mastery of that power to the rest of the world. Beck and her
colleagues at the DRI, under contract with the Department of
Energy, have spent two decades cataloguing and studying these
diverse remainsthe rusted wreckage of towers that held
bombs, seemingly mundane research support areas, instruments from specic experiments, mock suburban homes. The
Test Site oers a complex archaeology of science and war, of
geopolitics and popular culture.


he original mandate of Colleen Beck and the archaeologists at the Desert Research Institute (DRI) was to
examine the early material culture of the slice of desert that
became the Las Vegas Bombing and Gunnery Range and later
the Nevada Test Site. It can be hard to imagine anyone actually living there, Beck says, in part because of lingering radioactivity and ongoing nuclear waste research, but evidence is
all around. The variety of stone points found on-site shows
occupation that goes back through the Paleoindian period
to some 11,000 years ago. At a site called Midway Valley, DRI
researchers found a quarry for chalcedony and obsidian that
was used for thousands of years. And in Fortymile Canyon
there are petroglyphs that some interpret as evidence of
vision quests.
There are also later habitation sites for Native Americans,
as well as for the prospectors, miners, and ranchers who
arrived in the mid-nineteenth century. Often clustered around
springs, such sites include seasonal camps, rock shelters,
cabins, horse corrals, and water troughs, as well as mining
equipment and the writers cabin of B.M. Bower, who wrote
dozens of novels set in the American West.

N AUGUST 1945, the United States dropped nuclear devices

over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, hastening the Japanese surrender that ended World War II. The blasts, very small by
the standard of what would come, killed more than 100,000,
injured and sickened countless more, and left two cities in ruin.
Two months later, President Harry Truman told Congress that

Timeline of
Nuclear Tests

Aerial view, Frenchman Flat

the atomic bomb signaled a new era in the history of civilization. He went on: Atomic force in ignorant or evil hands could
inict untold disaster upon the nation and the world. Society
cannot hope even to protect itselfmuch less to realize the
benets of the discoveryunless prompt action is taken to
guard against the hazards of misuse.
Congress reacted in 1946 by creating the Atomic Energy
Commission (AEC) to oversee nuclear development. Responding to the threat of a Soviet nuclear program, the AEC authorized nuclear weapons tests in the South Pacic, and then later
decided the Nevada desert would be less vulnerable to attack.
In December 1950, the commission recommended establishing a permanent proving ground on a piece of the old Las Vegas
Bombing and Gunnery Range. Truman concurred, and the rst
atmospheric detonation at the Nevada Test Site, a one-kiloton
bomb dropped on Frenchman Flat, took place a month later.
The U.S. nuclear testing program continued for 41 years and
included 928 nuclear tests (with 1,021 total detonations). Most

JULY 1945


JULY 1946



Trinity, rst
nuclear weapon
test, near
New Mexico

Little Boy
and Fat Man
dropped on
Hiroshima and
Nagasaki, Japan

Able, rst
nuclear test
(U.S.), Bikini Atoll,
Marshall Islands

Atomic Energy
Act creates
the U.S.
Atomic Energy

First Lightning,
rst Soviet atmospheric nuclear
test, Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan

ARCHAEOLOGY November/December 2014

The material remains at the Test Site represent just how

little was known about the power and impact of nuclear
weapons technologyeven after it had been rushed into use
in Japan. Subsequently, tests would be conducted to assess the
eects of bombs, simulate nuclear warfare, better understand
the eects of radiation, and, of course, build bigger and better bombs. Additional research eorts examined the storage
of nuclear waste and the application of nuclear technology
to missiles, space travel, and large-scale engineering projects,
such as canals. On Frenchman Flat, many of the atmospheric
tests were focused on survivability, specically how dierent
structures and materials respond to nuclear blasts. There are,
for example, the remains of glass houses, a motel (to test
structural partitions and masonry), a small house cheekily
named Joes Bar, and dozens of other structures.

a month after the Test Site opened 63

years ago. She conducted eldwork in Peru and the
American West before moving to Las Vegas in 1989.
She joined the DRI the next year. When I began, we were
really only looking at prehistoric archaeology and at miningand ranching-related facilities, she says. Underground testing
was still taking place when she started her work there, and part
of her job was to identify Native American artifacts in areas
scheduled for detonations. But one of the biggest thrills,
she recalls, was to go into Frenchman Flat and look at the
atmospheric-testing grounds. Within a year, it had become
apparent to me that the remains at the site were signicant
historically but were being totally ignored.
The Department of Energy agreed. In 1991, Beck worked
with an architect to document her rst
Fizeau (Operation Plu
mbbob), 1957
twentieth-century structures, and shes
been doing Cold War archaeology ever
since. Year after year, archaeologists from
the DRI have walked transects across
the vast landscape, documented historical
remains, and conducted targeted surveys
of buildings and structuresalmost 2,000
sites so far, representing less than 5 percent
of the Test Site. Documenting it all, Beck
says, would take lifetimes. Youd think that
after more than 20 years we would have seen
it all, but thats far from the truth, she says.
We still nd thingsits really amazing.
At Frenchman Flat, Beck leads a visiting
reporter through some of the remains, which
are concentrated in about 4.5 square miles of
dusty terrain. There, nuclear weapons were
dropped by bombers, carried aloft by balloons,

were underground, but 100 tests were

atmospheric, or out in the open. Today,
as the Nevada National Security Site, it
is still used for radioactive waste storage, rst-responder training, subcritical nuclear tests, and other projects.
The nuclear explosions at the
Nevada Test Site were largely clustered in four areas: Yucca Flat, Pahute
and Rainier Mesas, and Frenchman
Flat, which stands out for its concentration of aboveground remains.
As time passes, memories are fading
about what nuclear weapons can do,
says Beck. But when you go out
there on Frenchman Flat, you can
really see how powerful a nuclear
detonation can be.




MARCH 1954

Able, rst nuclear

test at Frenchman
Flat, Nevada Test

Hurricane, rst
British nuclear
test, Montebello
Islands, Western

Ivy Mike, rst fusion

hydrogen) weapon
test (U.S.), Enewetak
Atoll, Marshall Islands

RDS-6, rst
Soviet fusion test,

Castle Bravo, rst

deliverable fusion
weapon test
(U.S.), Bikini Atoll,
Marshall Islands



Train trestle

Aluminum cylinder (for pig experiment)

perched on towers, and red from a cannon.

Each nuclear detonation was part of a test
series or operation, often consisting of dozens of shots, or explosions. Countless experiments and measurements were conducted and


recorded, sometimes across multiple shots or operations.

For example, for one shot called Priscilla, a 37-kiloton
weapon was detonated from a balloon 690 feet o the ground
on June 24, 1954, as part of Operation Plumbbob. A structure
that looks suspiciously like a bank vault remains on Frenchman Flat from that test. Look how thick those walls were,
Beck says, approaching the twisted steel rodsonce encased
in concreteradiating from its sides. The interior of the vault,
however, survived intact. Everyone jokes that they were trying
to make sure the money would be safe after a nuclear blast,
Beck says. In fact, according to a 1957 government document,
the vault was donated by the Mosler Safe Company out of the
concern on the part of banks and insurance companies over
protection of records and valuables.
Surrounding the vault in every direction are other battered
and rusting ruins. A twisted train trestle sits atop two concrete
blockswhats left of a railway bridge that endured two explosions. An airplane hangar has collapsed beyond recognition. An
underground parking garage, included in tests to see how such
buildings would perform as bomb shelters, is mostly intact.
There is also a group of domed shelters made from concrete
and rebar. Some are blown apart, others are not. They were
trying to see whether a dome shape would have a better survival rate than, say, a rectangular building Beck says.
Another feature on Frenchman Flat is an aluminum cylinder
with two square holes cut into its side, lying horizontally and
held upright by three steel plates. In Priscilla and other tests,
pigs were used as human proxies. During the years of atmospheric testing, 1,200 pigs lived on the site in pens nicknamed
the Pork Sheraton. Prior to detonations, some were placed
in containers such as this and outtted in a variety of fabrics
to test how materials held up under intense heat.
But pigs werent the only ones exposed to radiation. During the 1950s, 60,000 troops passed through
the Test Site. Wearing helmets, gas masks,
Priscilla (Operation
and ordinary fatigues, many crouched in
Plumbbob), 1957
trenches during the blasts, and later advanced
closersimulating ground warfare in an allout nuclear conagration. Another shot in
Operation Plumbbob, Smoky, a 44-kiloton
device detonated on a tower on Yucca Flat,
on the other side of the Test Site, on August
31, 1957, involved 3,000 U.S. servicemen on
the ground.
After testing was conducted, many such
atmospheric detonation sites were cleaned
up, but Smoky was not. This is the best
(continued on page 31)






RDS-37, rst
Soviet deliverable
fusion test,

Rainier, rst
nuclear test (U.S.),
Nevada Test Site

Grapple X, rst
British fusion test,
Christmas Island,
Southern Indian

Gerboise Bleue,
rst French
nuclear test,
Reganne Oasis,

Tsar Bomba, most

powerful nuclear
explosion ever (U.S.S.R.),
Novaya Zemlya Island,
Arctic Ocean

ARCHAEOLOGY November/December 2014

The Test Sites most famous crater, Sedan,
1,280 feet wide and 320 feet deep, was formed
in 1962 by a 104-kiloton explosion in Operation Storax. Unlike Bilby, this detonation was
not meant to stay underground; it was specically designed to create a massive crater. It was
the largest explosion in what is known as the
Plowshare Program (30 nuclear tests across 11
operations), which examined the potential for
using nuclear devices in excavation (for canals,
harbors, railroad cuts, and other engineering
projects), chemical manufacture, prospecting,
and the extraction of natural gas from geological formations. Sedan was intended to demonstrate the feasibility of using nuclear bombs to
excavate a new Panama Canal. However, public
concern about the use of nuclear devices for
such projects, along with other factors, led to
Plowshares quiet end in the mid-1970s.
Deep underground tests, even those that
didnt leave craters like Bilby, left other features
Tunnel portal, Rainier Mesa

Sedan Crater, Yucca Flat

he vast majority of nuclear tests at the Nevada Test Site

never formed mushroom clouds. They were conducted
underground828 tests over 35 yearsand these too left material for archaeologist Colleen Beck and her team at the Desert
Research Institute (DRI) to study. Yucca Flat, where the largest number of nuclear detonations at the Test Site took place,
is pockmarked with craters. Underground nuclear explosions
vaporize surrounding rock and create a cavity that may then
collapse, leaving a feature such as Bilby Crater. Eighty feet
deep and a third of a mile across, the crater was created by a
1963 explosion in Operation Niblick. Most of the underground
tests were related specically to weapons development and the
impact of nuclear explosions on military hardware.

for the DRI to document. Some underground test sites have

tunnel complexes through which weapons and instruments were
moved into place. The DRI has examined some of these tunnel
complexes in the Rainier Mesa area, where tunnels had been
bored horizontally into the rock. Access to the miles of tunnels,
some of which were used for multiple tests, is prohibited, but
outside there are portal areas, vent holes, muck piles, and rail
lines, all of which yield their own historical information. We
knew nothing about how a tunnel test worked, and most people
still dont, says Beck. From evidence collected outside the
tunnels, DRI researchers have already discovered much about
how the tunnel networks were excavated and how they grew
increasingly complex over time.




JUNE 1967


Cuban Missile

Limited Test Ban

Treaty entered
into force

596, rst Chinese

nuclear test, Lop
Nur, Xinjiang

Test No. 6, rst

Chinese fusion
test, Lop Nur,

Canopus, rst
French fusion test,
Fangataufa Atoll,
French Polynesia



Mock home destroyed by Annie (Operation Upshot-Knothole), 1953

n March 17, 1953, CBS

residents didnt fare so well.
News anchor Walter
Dummies lay dead and dying
Cronkite reported live from
in basements, living rooms,
News Nob, a knoll 10 miles
kitchens, bedrooms, a newsfrom Yucca Flat in the Nevada
paper reported. A mannequin
Test Site. He and dozens more
totwas blown out of bed and
were broadcasting and reportshowered with needle-sharp
ing on Annie, a 16-kiloton shot
glass fragments.
in Operation Upshot-Knothole.
In the two standing houses
The Annie test included strucof Survival Town, which Coltures familiar to any American:
leen Beck and her team at the
50 cars and two two-story
Desert Research Institute have
suburban homes, complete
examined and documented,
Mannequin in mock home, Apple-2
except for utilities and intethe mannequins and most of
(Operation Teapot), 1955
rior nishes, and lled with
the furniture are gone. A table
furniture, household itemsand fully-dressed mannequins. In a
and some shelving provide a hint of what these houses once
famous series of images published widely following the test, the
looked likeand why they fascinated the public so. The manhouse closest to the blast, 3,500 feet away, was destroyed. The
nequins, it is rumored, were displayed at Nevada J.C. Penney
other, at 7,500 feet, was damaged but survived.
stores. Theres a J.C. Penney pageit must be from this test
This mock neighborhood was called Doom Town, and there
that shows manStanding mock home, Yucca Flat
are no surviving remains from it today. Portions of a second mock
nequins before and
town, called Survival Town, which was subjected to the Apple-2
after, Beck says.
test from Operation Teapot in May 1955, still stand in the middle
You have this
of an empty expanse of Yucca Flat. There are three bungalows
before picture of
and a pair of two-story houses. They are all that remain of Surthe dressed manvival Town, which, when it was built, was equipped with utilities,
nequin, and afterindustrial buildings, a radio station, and a propane tank farm. Cars
wards sometimes
and re engines were once parked on the streets. The houses
an arms gone, or
were furnished, their pantries stocked, and they were popuwhatever. But the
lated by 70 clothed mannequins. Following the explosion, the
J.C. Penney clothes
town lost power but not gas or telephone service. Its imaginary
survive ne.


MARCH 1970

MAY 1974




Nuclear NonProliferation
Treaty entered
into force

Smiling Buddha,
rst Indian nuclear
test, Pokhran,

Vela Incident,
suspected Israeli
South African test,
Indian Ocean

Divider, last U.S.

nuclear test,
Nevada Test Site

Treaty agreed
upon, still not in

ARCHAEOLOGY November/December 2014

(continued from page 28)


he nuclear-testing-related historical remains of the Nevada

Test Site dont end at the sites borders. Beginning in the
1970s, a coalition of protesters established a permanent outpost on 600 acres of adjacent federal land. People who lived
east of the Test Site (downwinders), peace activists, devout
Christians, and Western Shoshone Indians (who claim the land
under an 1863 treaty) made up a signicant portion of the
protest community. In the 1980s, it became ofcially known as
Peace Camp. It had no water and only Joshua trees for shade,
yet it drew together members of 200 different organizations.
One event there hosted 8,000 people.
Colleen Beck of the Desert Research Institute (DRI) noticed
the still-active protesters during her early years at the Test Site.
I have to admit there was a lot of curiosity about what these
people do over there in the camp, she says. She didnt act on
that curiosity until she saw a backhoe digging on Peace Camp
land. I began phoning and found out that they were looking at turning the area into a gravel pit. I realized there was
a good chance it was going to be destroyed, and with it, a
signicant part of the Test Sites history. Beck secured a grant
to document Peace Camp in 2002. While some protesters were
suspicious of the
Geoglyph, Peace Camp
early DRI efforts
there, the Western Shoshone
were supportive.
Beck and her
colleagues have
many features
associated with
the protest community, such as
paths, campsites, sweat lodges, hearths, and stone cairns used
as trail markers. Residents had covered a highway underpass
in grafti, and used stones to create geoglyphs, or large
designs expressing political and spiritual beliefs. One depicts an
eight-petaled ower with white rocks forming a triangle in the
center. Down a trail from there, some rocks spell out TTW, a
reference to Terry Tempest Williams, a downwinder from Utah
who chronicled her familys cancer history. The side of a hillock
sports an enormous peace sign. With Becks documentation,
the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which owns the site, and
the Nevada State Historic Preservation Ofce have determined
that Peace Camp is eligible for listing on the National Register
of Historic Places.

intact atmospheric nuclear test site, Beck says. It makes it

extremely special. She and her team, wearing protective suits,
recently conducted an archaeological assessment there. Primary among the remains are twisted fragments and stanchions
from the 700-foot tower that held the Smoky device. Evidence
of experiments remains, too: A few hundred scattered lead
bricks had shielded some kind of instrumentation, and there
Tower stanchions, Yucca Flat

are French- and German-designed personnel bunkers that were

being tested. There is also a hill next to ground zero that is
called the Coke Hill but is covered in charcoal, and another
smaller hill behind it. As with a number of the structures the
DRI has documented, no one knew what the hills were used
for until engineering drawings nally turned upthey were
earthen berms used to protect instrumentation. Despite
extensive written documentation, there is much that is still
unknown about some sites. We believe in most cases the data
exists somewhere, Beck says.
More than anything, Beck and the DRI are adding a tangible component to this vast written record, much of which is
classied. Their work provides another means of understanding a time dened by fear and uncertainty, but also optimism.
Its not, Beck says, that these materials are going to be lost,
as the site is still heavily protected and most of the remains
are durable. It is rather that they need to be found, and then
inventoried, so that there is an index of knowledge as memories of the age of atomic experimentation fade.
Of more than 300 million U.S. residents, some 80 million
were born after the 1992 testing moratorium. And less than a
third of the population is old enough to remember the mushroom clouds of atmospheric tests that rose over the Nevada
desert. Im not sure how any people, even my kids, can grasp
what it was really like, Beck says, thinking back to the time
when nuclear anxiety permeated daily life. She sees her work
as preserving at least a glimpse of that era.
Samir S. Patel is deputy editor at Archaeology.
Barry Yeoman is a freelance writer based in North Carolina.

MAY 1998

MAY 1998


MAY 2009


Shakti, series of
Indian nuclear
tests, Pokhran,

and Chagai-II,
series of Pakistani
nuclear tests,
Chagai, Balochistan

North Korean
nuclear test

North Korean
nuclear test

North Korean
nuclear test, the
last to date


A view of ancient Mesoamerican life through artists eyes
by Roger Atwood

ARCHAEOLOGY November/December 2014

paintings were a common feature across the ancient world, decorating

Egyptian tombs, Pompeian houses, Byzantine
churches, Cambodian temples, and Maya palaces. Some of the most stunning examples of this
art form are the vividly painted murals created by
the Maya and their contemporaries in the frst millennium a.d.
For the ancient Mesoamericans, murals were more narrative than decorative. Large-scale paintings at sites such as
Bonampak in the Mexican state of Chiapas and Calakmul in
Campeche depict mythological scenes, heroic battles, and life
in opulent royal courts, and can ofer insights into how the
inhabitants of ancient Mesoamerica lived and worshipped.
Despite the number of well-preserved examples, however,
little is known about how these paintings were actually made.
It has long been recognized that Mesoamerican murals were
rightly colored wall

A scene of spectacularly attired warriors

and gory fighting is depicted in the
a.d. 600 Battle Mural in the palace at
Cacaxtla in the Mexican state of Tlaxcala.

the work of more than one artist, but questions about them
have persisted, including how many artists worked on a particular painting, how the project was coordinated, how long the
work would have taken, and whether artists traveled from site
to site or were trained locally. A lesser knownbut nonetheless
dazzlinggroup of ancient Mesoamerican murals may provide
scholars with some of the most convincing evidence yet for
how these artworks were created.

cacaxtla in the state of Tlaxcala, about

60 miles southeast of Mexico City, was frst discovered
by ditchdiggers in 1975. For the past decade, Claudia
Brittenham of the University of Chicago has been studying
the sites murals. The name Cacaxtla means backpack in
Nahuatl, and an image of a backpack laden with luxury goods
in one of the murals suggests the name may have persisted
he site of


In a fresco from Cacaxtla, a frog with jaguarlike spots (top) creeps up a riverbank, and
in another location in the palace, corn stalks
sprout human heads (below).

since antiquity. But scholars can only say for certain that it has
been in use since Spanish colonial times.
Cacaxtla was the seat of a small state wedged between the
Valley of Mexico and the Gulf Coast, nestled in the shadow of
three volcanoes. The fact that few elite burials or high-quality
ceramics have been found either there or in a much earlier
pyramid complex about a mile west called Xochitcatl suggests that the area was never very prosperous. Yet sometime
between a.d. 600 and 900, the inhabitants of Cacaxtla created
a large palace and completely covered its walls with frescoes
depicting animals, deities, and royal court scenes. Perhaps the
most impressive among them portrays a battle between a local
army and forces that, judging from their war regalia, appear
to be from several diferent states. That mural stretches more
than 60 feet across a courtyard wall and is nearly six feet high.
Brittenhams focus has been to try to understand how and why
a tiny, peripheral state in the Puebla Valley created ambitious
wall paintings on par with any found at the great Maya sites
in southern Mexico and Guatemala.

One of the ways Cacaxtla would have been able to execute

these taxing and labor-intensive projects, Brittenham thinks,
would have been to employ teams to work on the murals at
roughly the same time. In the case of the Battle Mural, she
believes there were at least six and as many as 13 painters working
simultaneously. By contrast, the spectacular murals at Bonampak,
often called the fnest such works yet discovered in the Americas,
were probably painted by two or three artists, according to Mesoamerican art historian Mary Miller of Yale University. Brittenham
has documented subtle but consistent variations in the depiction
of noses, clothing, and other features that, she says, point to collaborative work in the mural. For example, one painter makes
fat, pufy feet with only one toe visible, and another twists the
feet so you can see every toe, she says.
These artists workshops likely had a director of sorts who
was responsible for overseeing the entire project, including
assigning workspaces. Some artists regularly get the murals
most prominent locations, the best real estate, Brittenham
says. The works required painstaking preparation even before

A man in an eagle costume, his skin covered

in black paint, with
talons for feet, stands
atop a feathered serpent, a hybrid
animal typical
in ancient
Mesoamerican art.


the painting started. You had to have a large production team

just mixing the colors, explains Miller, a process that could
take up to a year of soaking and mixing the vegetables and
minerals from which the pigments were extracted. There were
also scafolds to reach upper levels, she adds.
It was a complex, collaborative process.
The question of who these painters
actually were remains, and Brittenham thinks the murals may ofer
answers to that as well. Cacaxtla lies
hundreds of miles away from the
large Maya centers in modern-day
Guatemala and southern Mexico,
and the people who lived there
were culturally distinct from the
Maya. Nonetheless, says Brittenham, The themes and the
fgures in these murals in Cacaxtla
would have been recognizable to
anyone in ancient Mesoamerica.
Painted during a period that coincides with the height of the Maya
civilization, many of the murals
show Maya themes and infuences, whereas others draw on
styles from other parts of central
Mexico. Some murals show no
foreign infuences at all, suggesting they were the product of local
artistic traditions. For example,
a shapely couple gazing at each
other from opposite columns,
both wearing jaguar-pelt skirts
and blue wings on their arms,
looks utterly unlike Maya art
from the same period, according to Brittenham. Even while
absorbing infuences from faraway
states, Cacaxtla must have had its
own, independent artistic traditions and expertise. The people
who painted these murals had a
sophisticated knowledge of Maya
art and religion. They were clearly
in contact with the Maya world,
and yet they were creating a frmly
local product, she asserts.

A figure (right) wearing a jaguarskin skirt and a white over-skirt,

with blue wings emerging from
his arms, resembles nothing
else in ancient Mesoamerican
painting. Another fresco (far
right) depicts an almost toothless old merchant.

lthough located in a building inhabited by Cacaxtlas elite, the Battle Mural must have played an important role in civic and religious life as well, and did not
just function as a backdrop, says Brittenham. When
crowds of Cacaxtlas residents were gathered in
the courtyard in front of the mural, they
would have blended in with the scene,
almost as if they were part of it, she
explains. They may even have been
part of a reenactment of the action
depictedthough not necessarily
with actual bloodshed.
Brittenham believes the Maya
infuences visible in the murals ofer
evidence that cultural exchangeand
not just trade in valuable goods such
as chocolate or shellswas more
fuid in ancient Mesoamerica than
once believed. No longer do scholars
accept that this was a collection of
insular states that had little or no
cultural contact with one another,
as they once believed. Rather, its
looking more and more connected,
says Brittenham. Despite Cacaxtlas
small size, it was at the crossroads
of this world. Its earliest murals
were painted soon after the fall of
nearby Teotihuacn. This large and
culturally infuential city about 100
miles from Cacaxtla was violently
sacked and burned around a.d.
550 either by invaders or during
a civil uprising. Cacaxtlas golden
age of mural painting thus came
at a time of upheaval and shifting
alliances among its neighbors. With
its impressive public art, the city
may have been asserting its independence and identity at a time of
war, mass migration, and turmoil.
Although Cacaxtla never became
especially powerful, its inhabitants
showed, through their art, that it
was, says Brittenham, an ambitious state with a great wealth of
imagination claiming to be more
cosmopolitan than we have any
evidence that it was. n

Roger Atwood is a contributing editor at Archaeology. Read more

about Brittenhams work in the
recently published The Murals of
Cacaxtla: The Power of Painting in
Ancient Central Mexico.
ARCHAEOLOGY November/December 2014


ARCHAEOLOGY November/December 2014

The Neolithic
How experimental archaeology is showing that Europes
frst farmers were also its frst carpenters
by Andrew Curry

ot too long ago,

archaeologist Rengert Elburg found

something that convinced him
that Stone Age sophistication is not a contradiction
in terms. It was a wood-lined
well, discovered during construction work in
Altscherbitz, near the eastern German city of
Leipzig. Buried more than 20 feet underground,
preserved for millennia by cold, wet, oxygenfree
conditions, the timber box at the bottom of the
well was 7,000 years oldthe worlds oldest
known intact wooden architecture.
Elburgs team at the Saxony State Archaeological
Ofce removed the ancient well in a single 70-ton
block, and brought it back to their lab in Dresden
for careful excavation, documentation, and preservation. There, they recovered 151 timbers from the
well, which, during the Neolithic period, was part of
a large settlement that included nearly 100 timber
longhouses. Even after so many millennia, the wells
extraordinary state of preservation began to give
the researchers clues to the tools and techniques
the ancient woodworkers used. They learned, for
example, that to reinforce the bottom of the well,
prehistoric carpenters had fashioned boards and
beams from old-growth oaks three feet thick, then
ft them together using tusked mortise-and-tenon
joints, a technique not seen again until the Roman
Empire, fve millennia later.
When Elburg examined the wood, he could
see not only tree rings but also tool marks. But
with nothing to compare these ancient tool
marks to, this evidence was hard to understand.
Thus, he and a motley collection of archaeologists, amateur woodworkers, historical reenactors, and fintknapping hobbyists have been gathering each spring since 2011 for a most unusual
workshop. Held in a forest just outside the town
of Ergersheim in the southern German region
of Franconia, its experimental archaeology with
a serious purpose.

On the frst full day of the 2014 workshop, a

late-March Saturday, the woods are the dull brown
of dead leaves, with a few tiny white fowers emerging to greet the unseasonably warm sun. Its easy
to spot the workshop participantstheyre all
wearing red T-shirts emblazoned with an adzewielding beaver. Elburgs brought along a Stone
Age woodworking toolkit fashioned by freelance
archaeo-technician Wulf Hein, who uses the replica
tools he makes to create copies of ancient artifacts.
After less than an hour of hacking away at a sturdy,
decades-old oak donated by the local authorities,
a glancing blow has shattered the sharp end of a
basalt wedge, rendering it unusable. Red T-shirts
cluster around Elburg as he declares the wedgea
5.5-pound triangle of stone with a hole in the broad
end, attached to a slender wood handleunsalvageable. Its one of only a handful they have along.
Thats really a shame, the archaeologist says with
a grimace. That one was really nicely carved. Too
bad. Time for another broad wedge, I guess.
Soon, the rhythmic pounding of stone against
oak picks up again. The workshops goal is to

A 7,000-year-old wood-lined well discovered in

eastern Germany (left) was removed from the
site in a single, enormous block and transported
to a lab in Dresden for study. Its remarkable construction inspired a group of experimental archaeologists to fashion their own tools (above)
in order to re-create how it was originally built.

tools enabled these frst farmers to clear the

woods and build the frst permanent houses in
Central Europe, he says.
Around the time farming started in Germany and Denmark, pollen records show there
was a dramatic shift in the European landscape. Tree cover declined, and pollen from
grasses and shrubs increased. Archaeologists
trying to explain this assumed that shifting
climate had reduced the forest cover, making it
possible for Neolithic farms to fourish. Given
the primitive tools available in the Stone Age,
their reasoning went, it was unrealistic to think
people could have made much of a dent in the
primeval forests.
A pollen expert at the Geological Survey of
Experimental archaeology workshop participant Markus Loges uses a copy
Denmark named Johannes Iversen, however,
of a Neolithic stone wedge to chop down an oak that will be used to build a
had his doubts. In 1952, using actual Stone Age
facsimile of the well.
fint tools taken from a local museum, he and
reconstruct a few layers of the ancient well from scratch, begina few colleagues conducted an experiment in a patch of Danning with chopping down an oak and ending with fnishing the
ish forest. Photos from the time show them in shirtsleeves,
joints. Comparing ancient evidence with the byproducts of
smoking pipes as they swung stone axes. Their frst attempts
the participants tree clearing and woodworking, such as the
to fell trees were a self-described fasco, according to their
chips that litter the ground after a few hours of chopping and
journals. In the course of a few minutes all four of the axes
chiseling, will help refne what researchers know about Stone
we had brought with us were useless, the researchers wrote.
Age carpentry. Every once in a while, the noise stops to allow
Iversen and his colleagues then rethought how the stones
a researcher with a portable 3-D scanner, which looks a bit like
might have ft in their wood handles, and refned their cutting
a hand mixer with no beaters, to take progress-report scans
techniques. With the help of some local foresters, over the
of the gouges in the trunks. Its the frst time were using the
course of a summer, Iversen and a few other middle-aged Dan3-D scanner in the feld, Elburg says. We can take the records
ish academics managed to clear-cut 2.5 acres of forest using
of tool marks from here and compare them to what we have
nothing but stone tools. Based on this experiment, their calcufrom the well at Altscherbitz.
lations suggested that it would have taken a single Stone Age
farmer only 36 daysor even lessto clear an equivalent area,
XPerIMents sUCh as the Ergersheim workshop have a
which would have made open-feld agriculture and managed
long history. Over the years, such research, combined
forestry a realistic possibility for Neolithic European farmers.
with ethnographic studies of people still using stone
The experiment marked the beginning of a signifcant shift
tools in the modern era, have helped shape how archaeoloin the way archaeologists thought about early Europeans and
gists understand the cultures that used them in the past. This
their tools. The old view was that Neolithic people were more
type of research has been especially illuminating for the
or less ape-men, Elburg says. It was a very slow process, but
European Neolithic.
eventually people became aware that the Stone Age was not
The Neolithic period, also known as the Late Stone Age,
primitive, and that Stone Age tools were not crude blunt-force
began 10,000 years ago in what is today Turkey.
instruments, but sophisticated in their own way.
It was a time of technological and social change,
marking a momentous shift from a mobile,
rChaeologIst Petra Schweizer-Strobel of the Unihunter-gatherer lifestyle to settled farming
versity of Tbingen arrives at Ergersheim armed with
communities. In Europe, this era began
ziplock bags and a permanent marker. As workshop
about 7,500 years ago, right around the
participants chop at tree trunks with stone wedges, she kneels
time the Altscherbitz well was dug. Bringnearby and gathers the wood chips, carefully labeling the bags.
ing the Neolithic culture to Europe, Elburg
Im noting what tools are being used, what type of wood,
explains, was possible in large part because
and whos doing the work, she explains. A woman will make
of advanced technology. Ground-stone
smaller chips than a man, for example.
Schweizer-Strobel has spent years examining wood, recovered at the bottom of Lake Constance, from the remains of
The mortise-and-tenon joinery used to connect
a Neolithic settlement called Hornstaad-Hoernle, which was
the wells boards and beams was a technology
located on the Rhine River at the northern foot of the Alps
once deemed too sophisticated for Neolithic
people to have possessed.
some 6,000 years ago. Hornstaad-Hoernle is one of more than

ARCHAEOLOGY November/December 2014

1,000 known pile-dwelling settlements, which were built on

prehistoric lakeshores using timber pilings to lift houses above
the water. Thanks to oxygenfree conditions at the bottom of
some lakes, the pilings and wood debris that dropped into the
water from the settlements provide well-preserved evidence
of prehistoric woodworking. I have an unbelievable quantity
of chips and waste, says Schweizer-Strobel. Take them out of
the water and you can see every tool mark. If the ax was starting to get chipped or dull, you can see even that in the wood.
Comparing the fresh chips from Ergersheim to the
6,000-year-old wood waste recovered at Hornstaad-Hoernle
will help her understand the evidence shes seeing at the piledwelling settlementswho was working where, what kind of
work was done in the middle of the settlement, and what kind
of work was done of-site. Shes also gained a new appreciation
for the tools themselves. Before, people thought youd never
be able to work with these stone axes. It turns out you can, and
pretty well, Schweizer-Strobel says. Id never have thought
they were so durable and efective.

To prove it, Probst gets cow bones from rare-breed cattle

that spend the year outdoors, and resemble the types of animals ancient woodworkers would have encountered. Probst
explains that the bones are harder and more durable than those
from factory-farmed animals. She then cures, splits, and sharpens them into chisels, which she brings with her to Ergersheim
to try out. When they get dull, she rubs the chisels on a bit of
sandstone to bring back a sharp edge. Back in the lab, Probst
will examine the tools to see what ancient craftsmen were
likely using to build wells, longhouses, and other structures.

s the day wears on,

a pattern of labor begins to

emerge. In one area, a trio of toppled trees is being split
using wooden wedges and mallets. Nearby, long sections of timber are stripped of bark and fashioned into beams
and boards. The fnal stop is a cluster of craftsmen wielding
wooden mallets and sharpened bone chisels to make the joints.
Overseeing the last station is Anja Probst, a graduate student at
the University of Freiburg who specializes in prehistoric bone
tools. It turns out that Stone Age is something of a misnomer.
It might be more accurate to call the millennia before the
development of metallurgy the Bone Age, says Probst. Bone
and antler were actually the most common tools in the Stone
Age. Youre already hunting or eating meat, so there are always
bones around. Stone was more difcult to get, and had to be
transported over many miles. Close examination of preserved
wood from the Altscherbitz well and other prehistoric fnds
from the area show that chisels were used to make holes and
Archaeologist Rengert Elburg examines a board and beama
replica of the wells framethat has been created using only
Neolithic-style tools and technology.

In addition to stone wedges and axes, the archaeologists

also made cattle-bone chisels in order to learn how Neolithic
carpenters were able to do finer finish work.

grooves even in hardwood such as oak, and could create perfect

square holes in the boards. This sort of fne fnishing work needed a lighter touch than the heavy basalt adzes and wedges could
provide, and chisels could only be made out of bone and antler.

We look at the wear with a stereomicroscope, an electron

microscope, and a white-light interferometer, she says. Its a
3-D surface, and we measure every wear pattern we can see.
By evening, a frame of wood is taking shape. It will be
transported back to Dresden and studied in-depth, but for
now Elburg kneels next to the familiar form, comparing the
work in progress to a schematic taken from the scans of the
Altscherbitz well and nodding in satisfaction. You have to
handle things. By using stone tools ourselves, we can see what
works and what doesnt work, he says. Because from your
writing desk you cant say anything. n
Andrew Curry is a contributing editor at Archaeology.
For video of the 2014 Ergersheim workshop, go to

in Ancient
Sri Lanka
The untold story of long-distance trade in the
Indian Ocean more than 2,000 years ago

by A L

Deep beneath
the sea off the
southern coast
of Sri Lanka,
a diver examines a pottery
vessel from the
oldest known
shipwreck in the
Indian Ocean.

ne briGht deceMber morning in 2003, fshermen B.G. Preminda

and R.P. Sunil were diving for conchs and lobsters in about 100 feet
of water some two miles of the southern coast of the island nation
of Sri Lanka, near the small port town of Godavaya. Instead of
shellfsh, however, they spotted the rim of a giant ceramic jar poking out of the sandy seabed. They headed for the surface and noted
the location on their GPS device. A week later, the divers returned for another look
and this time discovered a small, bench-shaped stone carved with the image of a fsh.

Preminda and Sunil, who have been diving together since

they were boys, decided to tell German archaeologist Oliver
Kessler about the fnd. Kessler was excavating Godavayas
ancient Buddhist monastery on a high promontory overlooking the Indian Ocean, and he paid them a small sum to bring
up the stone, asking them not to disturb anything else on the
bottom. Soon after, the artifact was consigned to a storage
facility. The German team was busy with their dig, and Sri
Lankan maritime archaeologists had their hands full excavating
a shipwreck in the harbor of the nearby city of Galle.
The two fshermen, however, kept an eye on the site. Fortunately, the devastating 2004 tsunami left it undisturbed.
Finally, in 2008, the work in Galle complete, Sri Lankan
researchers briefy examined the Godavaya wreck with Preminda and Sunils help. They brought up pottery that appeared
to be several thousand years old, suggesting that the ship might
be far older than any previously found Indian Ocean wreck.
Seeking international collaboration for such an ancient,

the pottery that had been brought up, they confrmed that the
shipwreck the fshermen had stumbled on was indeed the oldest yet discovered in the Indian Ocean. According to Osmund
Bopearachchi, a Sri Lankanborn French historian who has
helped organize the excavations, the fnd is revolutionizing
our understanding of ancient maritime trade in South Asia.

The ancient shrine in the small port of Godavaya (above)

overlooks the site of the shipwreck and is still a sacred spot
for local Buddhists. B.G. Preminda (above, right), one of the
two fishermen who first discovered the wreck and who is now
a part of the excavation team, suits up for his dive.

of gemsby the Chinese, Sri Lanka coalesced into a kingdom

in the sixth century b.c. Sri Lanka itself means resplendent
island in Sanskrit. Archaeologists have found cinnamon in
distant Egyptian tombs and in Phoenician fasks that may have
had its origin on the islands lush plantations.
In the third century b.c., the islanders embraced Buddhism
when the new faith arrived from India, but they resisted
repeated attempts by Indian rulers to dominate their rich tropical land. Documents from both Rome and China record that
Sri Lankan kings sent ambassadors to these faraway courts in
the frst century b.c. This era marked the beginning of vibrant
and widespread Indian Ocean trade that reached a peak in
medieval times when African, Arabian, Indian, Indonesian, and
Chinese sailors used the seasonal monsoon winds to transform
this sea into a corridor for spices, cotton, rice, gold, precious
stones, and slaves. These were the seas sailed by the mythical
Sinbad. Unlike the northern land route across Central Asia,
neither Chinese emperors nor brigands could ever shut this

fragile, and potentially important site, the Sri Lankans turned

to Deborah Carlson, president of the Institute of Nautical
Archaeology (INA) at Texas A&M University, an organization
with long experience excavating ancient Mediterranean ships.
Carlson has a strong interest in exploring sunken vessels in
the vast Indian Ocean since, in classical times, it linked the
Mediterranean with China. Unlike the overland Silk Road that
crossed the steppes and deserts far to the north, this maritime
highway has until now been largely invisible in the archaeological record and is glimpsed only rarely in historical documents.
When the team radiocarbon dated bits of wood to between
the second century b.c. and frst century a.d., and analyzed

Godavaya wreck lies on Sri Lankas curving

southern shore. Ancient voyagers typically avoided the
treacherous shallow waters separating Sri Lanka from
India to the north, so coast-hugging ships moving between the
eastern and western halves of the Indian Ocean sailed past this
strategic spot. The teardrop-shaped island has long been the
pivot between these halves, and its names in multiple languages
throughout history hint at its prominent role in ancient trade
networks. Our word serendipity comes from the Arabic word
for the island, Serendib. Called Lanka-dipa by Indians, Taprobane by Greeks, Ceylon by Europeans, and Pa-Outchowisle

ARCHAEOLOGY November/December 2014

watery highway down, and only with the arrival of Europeans

to the island and neighboring coasts in the sixteenth century
did it fade in importance. Despite this rich history, little is
known about the dawn of Indian Ocean trade.
Godavayas small harbor is located at the mouth of the
Walawe River, one of Sri Lankas few navigable waterways. Traders brought raw materials and manufactured goods from the
large settlements upriver to the harbor for transport across the
Indian Ocean beginning at least 2,000 years ago, says Senarath
Dissanayake, Sri Lankas director general of archaeology. Hints
of this, confrming Godavayas status as a signifcant port, were
revealed when the German team that began work at the Gota
Pabbata Rajamaha Vihara monastery in Godavaya two decades
ago found the frst clear proof of the ports international role.
A second-century a.d. rock inscription carved in the ancient
script of Brahmi, which was used in India beginning in about
the ffth century b.c., states that the ports custom duties collected in the name of the king were donated to the monastery

Much like later Christian medieval monasteries in Europe,

these Buddhist complexes were important economic centers
in the early centuries a.d. Buddhism looked favorably upon
trade activities, says Bopearachchi. Thousands of Roman and
Indian coins have surfaced among several monastic sites, villages,
and rice paddies along the Walawe. The earliest donors and
important patrons of Buddhist establishments of South Asia,
he adds, were caravan merchants and wealthy seafaring traders. An ancient scroll from Afghanistan says that the Buddha
himself was a merchant who sailed the ocean in a previous life.
Archaeological teams working deeper in the interior in the
past decade have found that the island may also have been
an industrial powerhouse. Greek and Roman texts mention
iron and steel exports from the Indian subcontinent, and
Indias iron production industry began as early as 1500 b.c.
At least some of that metal, however, may have originated
in Sri Lanka, and then been sent to India for wider distribution. Hundreds of massive slag heaps left over from iron and

Underwater archaeologists (above) examine a mass of fused

material, mostly the remains of iron bars that once made up
the bulk of the Godavaya ships ancient cargo. By removing
ceramic vessels for further study (above, right), the team was
able to confirm that the ship dated to sometime between the
second and first centuries b.c.

steel production facilities dating as far back as the last few

centuries b.c. dot the islands highlands. One heap alone
extends more than 150 feet in length and is 12 feet high, and
is evidence that thousands of tons of iron were produced at
the site between 400 and 200 b.c.

for its upkeep. Along with several ancient statues of Buddha, the
excavators found the remains of a customs ofce. In this room
they discovered clay seals carved with a lion that had been used
to stamp merchandise to certify that merchants had paid their
import duties to the government. The German team also found
Roman coins from the early centuries a.d., further attesting to
foreign trade. On the beach below, the excavators unearthed
stone pillars, some more than 10 feet long, that were once part
of a pier or landing jetty. Nearby they identifed the ancient
stone quarry that likely was the source of the jetty material. A
triangular stone anchor was also found just ofshore.

isolated reef, the Godavaya wrecks lies

scattered over an area roughly half the size of a football
feld. Most of the hull likely disintegrated long ago, but at
the center of the site is a massive, 60-foot-long jumble of fused
material surrounded by a scatter of broken pots, glass, and stone
artifacts. The mass is made up mostly of minerals, a sample of
which was taken back to Texas A&M for analysis. Test results
confrmed the presence of iron and copper, suggesting that the
mass is partially composed of the remnants of iron that rusted
away, leaving behind minerals that preserve the outline of what
clearly was the principal cargo. They look like ingots or bars
of stacked iron, says Laura White, the divemaster for the

ituated on an


2014 season cosponsored by Dissanayakes department

and INA. The mass also includes bits of wood and
other objects that were carbon dated to about
the second century b.c., matching the dating
of the ships pottery. Given the size of its
cargo, the ship may have exceeded 75 feet
in lengtha respectable size for medieval
trading ships in the region. Almost nothing is known about shipbuilding in this
early period, however, so archaeologists
are eager to learn as much as they can
about the ships design.
No one knows whether the ship was
leaving Godavaya or sailing toward it when it sank in an area
known today for its treacherous currents and sudden storms,
though there is some suggestion that it slipped beneath the
waves while moving east, away from the port. Nonetheless,
the wrecks cargo provides compelling evidence that hefty
amounts of metals were mined, smelted, and fashioned into
bars in the highlands, shipped down the Walawe, and carefully stacked by stevedores in the hold of the seagoing ship
for its journey to a distant port. The vessel carried more than
locally produced goods, however. Several glass ingots brought
up by the divers suggest that some of the cargo may have
originated in India.
Indian artisans excelled at producing large quantities of
raw glass in the last centuries b.c. They poured the hot liquid
glass into ceramic bowls, and, once the glass cooled, the bowls
were removed like the rind of an orange. The glass ingots could
then be stacked in a ships hold and transported abroad, where
local artisans could melt them down in order to make beads
and bangles still popular across South Asia. Beads made with
Indian glass in the medieval period have been traced as far
afeld as Japan and Europe.
Thanks to new techniques, scientists can now use nondestructive methods to analyze the chemical composition of glass
in order to pinpoint where it was manufactured, since diferent

One of the unusual objects found

on the wreck was a large metal
ring that may have been part of the
ships rigging hardware.

regions and eras used diferent materials and methods. Two

dark-green ingots frst recovered
from the Godavaya wreck in 2008
were manufactured in South India, according
to preliminary analysis done by British and
French researchers. Many scholars have long maintained
that the rise of the Roman Empire in the frst century a.d.
and its appetite for exotic goods from the East ignited the
trading network that fourished for a millennium and a half.
But the presence of both domestic and foreign goods on a
single ship suggests that a complex trading system was in place
even before Roman, Greek, and Egyptian merchants began to
frequent the coasts of the subcontinent.

he diG houSe that is home to a dozen Sri Lankan,

Turkish, and American archaeologists is just down a
sandy lane from the Godavaya monastery, which today
is a popular local shrine overlooking beached fshing boats,
and which provided a lifesaving refuge for villagers, including
Preminda and Sunil, during the deadly 2004 tsunami. Today, the
excavation team has gathered to work outside in the tropical
air. On the porch, White adds a mix of sea- and freshwater to a
tub containing a foot-long spearpoint recovered the day before.
This is the frst time that weve discovered a bronze spearpoint
of this size in Sri Lanka, says Dissanayake. Though the artifact
has yet to be analyzed, one scholar believes it resembles certain
Chinese points from the same era. Pirates have long plagued
these waters, and crew members or mercenaries may have
traveled with arms to protect their valuable cargo. Pikes like
this were common in ships into the nineteenth century, notes
Orkan Kyaasolu, the teams feld director.
At the outdoor courtyard table used for both
dining and recording data, archaeology director
Staci Willis puzzles over a thick round metal ring
with a large fange that makes it look like a giants
engagement ring. It might be a part of the ships
riggingan exciting discovery given how little is
known of ancient shipbuilding techniques in the
region. It doesnt have any antecedent in rigging
that we know of, and it could be a deck ftting,
says White, although we have no evidence for
metal deck fttings in antiquity. Its also possible
that it could be the handle for a heavy shield.
While work cleaning and analyzing the fnds

A huge bronze spear point (far left) suggests

that the ships crew were armed with pikes to
protect the valuable cargo from pirates. Team
member Staci Willis (left) examines a stone cylinder that may have been used to grind grain.

ARCHAEOLOGY November/December 2014

Team leader Osmund Bopearachchi (above, left) examines one of the wrecks several bench-shaped stones that, in antiquity,
were produced for both grain preparation and ritual use. A colorful rented fishing vessel called The Sea Horse (above, right)
serves as the dive teams home base while they explore the wreck site.

from the wreck site continues, a dozen divers are also engaged
in mapping the main artifact scatter to the east of the large
mineral mass before bringing up more portable objects.
When the weather is fair as it is today, their work begins at
sunrise on the modern concrete dock of a new international
container port under construction a couple of miles east of
Godavaya. The artifcial harbor, dug by a Chinese company,
aims to take advantage of the location along what is still one
of the worlds busiest sea lanes. The team loads equipment
and then boards a rented fshing vessel called The Sea Horse,
colorfully painted and with a distinct list, for the short ride
past massive barges and cargo ships to the wreck site ofshore
marked only with a buoy.
One at a time, four divers descend a makeshift iron ladder
fashioned by a local welder and enter the water. When diving
at such depths, divers are permitted only two 30-minute dives
per day. Archaeologists plan out their specifc tasks in detail the
night before. Each diver is responsible for a grid square marked
with string where they use their hands to fan away sediment
to expose artifacts rather than using brushes or trowels that
might damage objects. At this depth, White says, you are in
an altered state. Every 30 feet you go below the surface is like
drinking a martini.
When Sri Lankan archaeologist Palitha Weerasinghe
returns to the surface, he is holding a foot-long cylindrical
stone. The object, smooth and shiny in the hot sun, may have
been used to grind grain on the surface of one of the benchshaped stones. It may also have served a ritual purpose as a
temple ofering, or could have been both a utilitarian and
sacred object. Although the stone is undecorated, one of the
two bench-shaped stones they have previously excavated
includes the footprint of the bull Nandi. The footprint can

symbolize the Hindu gods Shiva or Vishnu, though these signs

can also appear in Buddhist contexts in this period. At least
four more stone benches remain on the bottom, waiting to be
brought to the surface.
Later that morning, Sri Lankan diver Sanath Karunarathne
brings up a small round piece of dark-blue glass with a hole in
the middle. It is another singular discovery. The object may
have been a loom weightor it might even have been the
ships oculus, as vessels in this region often have eyes painted or
attached to their bows. These isolated fnds raise more questions than answers, says Willis. Whether those questions can
be answered is unclear. The 2014 season was cut short because
of bad weather and bureaucratic snags, and raising the fragile
remains of the iron cargo poses huge technical challenges.
Meanwhile, some Sri Lankan government ofcials have been
publicly critical of an efort involving so many foreigners, while
Carlson frets about future funding.
Nonetheless, just knowing what questions to ask is signifcant for archaeologists who, until recently, had little
physical evidence of Sri Lankasand indeed the entire Indian
Oceansancient seafaring and mercantile past. Now, thanks
to the chain of discoveries in the central highlands, at settlements along the river, at the port and monastery, and, perhaps
most importantly, at the wreck site just ofshore, scholars are
beginning to create a picture of an economic boom that ultimately rippled across the ocean all the way to Rome in one
direction and China in the other. Led by Buddhist merchants,
miners, and monks, this network eventually became one of the
worlds most important webs of commerce before evidence of
it was swallowed by time. n
Andrew Lawler is a contributing editor at Archaeology.

The Ongoing Tale

Among the extraordinary artifacts found in
the Sutton Hoo burials is an Anglo-Saxon
iron helmet with tinned
bronze and gilt decoration dating to the early
seventh century A.D.

of Sutton Hoo
A region long known as a burial place for Anglo-Saxon kings
is now yielding a new look at the world they lived in
by J U

ENGLISH VILLAGE of Rendlesham,

Suolk, sits just four miles upriver to the
northeast of the famed Anglo-Saxon royal
burial site of Sutton Hoo. Portions of the
modern village and its elds had long attracted
the notice of archaeologists, and had been
investigated during the nineteenth century, in the 1940s, and as
recently as 1982. Evidence, from these studies, though relatively
scant, established that it had been an Anglo-Saxon settlement,
but not necessarily with a royal connection. Then, in
2008, a Rendlesham landowner notied authorities
that nighthawksmetal detectorists who raid
archaeological sites in darkness, searching out illicit
treasurehad been scouring his elds.

and seventh centuries, bring to mind romantic images of warriors such as Beowulf, recent archaeological eldwork is providing scholars with a new and fuller view of Anglo-Saxon life.

UTTON HOO IS LOCATED in eastern England in an area

known as East Anglia. The name derives from the people
known as the Angles, a Germanic tribe that began
invading and settling in Britain around the fth century. The
East Angles were among the largest and most powerful of the
Anglo-Saxon tribes, ruling from centers located along the

Excavations are now uncovering evidence for the settlement of Rendlesham only a few miles away from Sutton Hoo.
Rendlesham flourished during the Anglo-Saxon period as
both an administrative and economic center where luxury
goods, including gold jewelry, were likely produced and sold.

The renewed attention brought by the looters enabled the

Suolk County Council Archaeological Service, working with
the landowner and volunteer metal detectorists, to conduct a
survey, led by archaeologist Jude Plouviez, to evaluate damage
and reassess the sites archaeological potential. Now, some
six years later, the investigation is ongoing, and the elds of
Rendlesham are helping to ll in our knowledge of the kingdom that the Anglo-Saxon royals of Sutton Hoo once presided
over. While the magnicent burials, which date from the sixth

The most impressive of the Sutton Hoo burials contained

a 90-foot-long wooden ship filled with weapons, armor,
jewelry, and musical instruments. Although the wood did not
survive, a perfect impression of the vessel was left in the soil
by the rotted timbers even some 1,300 years after the burial.

and the question of where the Sutton Hoo kings, their families, and their supporters lived has long puzzled archaeologists. Over the past three-quarters of a century, it has
been assumed that the royals buried in Sutton Hoo
must have resided nearby, but exploratory eldwork
revealed almost no evidence of any signicant settlement. One clue, which researchers had previously
followed, is found in the writings of an eighth-century English monk known as the Venerable Bede.
Bede, who wrote an early history of the English
people, mentions a place called Rendlesham as one
of the seats of early English kings: Swithhelm, the
son of Seaxbald, was successor to Sigebehrt. He was
baptised by Cedd in East Anglia, in the royal village
called Rendlesham, that is the residence of Rendil.
The Sutton Hoo ship burial contained some of the finest
examples of Anglo-Saxon metalworking ever unearthed, including (above) a gold, enamel, and glass purse and (below)
an intricately decorated gold and niello belt buckle.

coast and river valleys in present-day East Anglia. It was there,

on a small rise above the River Deben, at Sutton Hoo, that the
rulers and royal families of the East Angles were laid to rest.
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the rst excavations
of Sutton Hoo, one of the most extraordinary archaeological
discoveries ever made in England. In 1939, wealthy widowed
landowner Edith Pretty sponsored the archaeological excavation
of a series of mysterious earthen mounds on her property near
Woodbridge, Suolk. The barrows turned out to be a collection
of remarkable tombs, equipped with stunning artifacts,
which remain among the most important examples
of Anglo-Saxon craftsmanship ever excavated.
The graves of Sutton Hoo held impressive
trappings of wealth. Ornate jewelry, nely
crafted arms and armor, gaming pieces, musical instruments, and even an assortment of
animals were entombed with the dead. But one
mound in particular stood outits occupant had
been laid to rest within a nearly 90-foot-long
ship lled with a multitude of objects.
Although almost nothing remained of its
original wooden framework, over the course
of 1,300 years, the ships rotting timbers left a
perfect impression in the soil, allowing archaeologists to determine its exact design and size.
The burial chamber was furnished with gold
and garnet jewelry, silver bowls, coins, drinking
horns, iron swords and spears, and a stunning
warrior helmet and facemask, which, with its
tinned bronze and gilt decoration, has become the
iconic symbol of Anglo-Saxon archaeology. Many
experts have concluded, based on the richness of
the grave goods and the size of the ship, that the
tomb is that of Rdwald, the most powerful king
of East Anglia, who died around A.D. 625.
Sutton Hoo exists almost entirely as a cemetery,

OR THE LAST SIX YEARS, teams of archaeologists and

volunteers have surveyed a research area encompassing
more than 400 acres, using a variety of methods, mainly
systematic metal detection and magnetometry. More than
3,500 nds have been recorded, dating from the prehistoric
period through the modern age. However, an overwhelming
concentration of Anglo-Saxon material indicates the existence of a major settlement in Rendlesham, and, for the rst
time, conclusive evidence of the sites long association with
the kings of Sutton Hoo.
The 125-acre settlement site is signicantly larger than
any other known contemporary rural Anglo-Saxon site in
England. Although evidence shows that it was occupied from
approximately 100 B.C. until today, Rendlesham ourished from the sixth to eighth centuries, a period
that coincides with the Sutton Hoo burials.
While some objects found in Rendlesham,
such as jewelry, gold buckles, and brooches,
attest to the wealth and elite status of some
of its residents, the diversity of artifacts indicates that royalty were not its only inhabitants.
Rendlesham, archaeologists believe, was much
more than a royal village for East Anglian
kings, and functioned as trading post, market,
and general assembly center for the region
at large. The king was also likely to have
had estates in the area other than the one at
Rendlesham and would have circulated among
them to make contact with the local populations. The discoveries at Rendlesham are of
international signicance and, like all new
information, are forcing us to reconsider what
we think we know. Such a rich, extensive and
long-lived central place is something entirely
new in the archaeology of the Anglo-Saxon
kingdoms, says Christopher Scull of Cardi
University and University College London, one
of the projects archaeological advisors.
The current project has also unearthed a broad
range of artifacts representing dierent stages of the

ARCHAEOLOGY November/December 2014

The Suffolk County Council

Archaeological Service conducted a large-scale survey
of the fields at Rendlesham
with the help of volunteer
metal detectorists in order
to identify the extent of the

metal-manufacturing process, including scrap metal, casting molds, and

slag, indicating that Rendlesham had
a thriving production industry. Weights
used to calculate commercial transactions, as well as a number of coins, of both
Anglo-Saxon and continental currency,
support the idea that Rendlesham was
also an important economic center.
It is signicant, say the archaeologists, that many coins were found not
in hoards or caches but, rather, on the
ground. They believe that the coins were
droppedperhaps at fairs held in the villageas trade
was conducted. The quality of the goods discovered at
Rendlesham, both domestic and imported, suggests that
high-end traders came there to exchange luxury goods
not only from Britain and continental Europe, but also
from as far away as the eastern Mediterranean.
The rediscovery of Rendlesham has above all provided
new insight into Sutton Hoo society. We have
perhaps underestimated
the economic and
of the society
that created
the burials at
Sutton Hoo, says
Scull. But now we are seeing
at Rendlesham how a kingdom could ourish

Archaeologists have uncovered numerous gold and silver coins

and bronze weights (above) at Rendlesham, as well as locally
made pieces of bronze such as this buckle (left), evidence of the
settlements thriving trade and manufacturing economy.

and be ruled without the urban infrastructurethe towns

that are the hallmark of government and commerce in the classical, medieval, and modern worlds. The site challenges a lot of
our current thinking about society and economy in the sixth
and seventh centuries. What we know about the kings of Sutton Hoo has so far been learned by examining their graves and
funerary practices. Now, we are learning about their lives.
Jason Urbanus has a Ph.D. in archaeology from Brown University.

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The Blackfeet tribal buffalo herd grazes near
Montanas Two Medicine River. On the opposite bank
is the Kutoyis buffalo jump site, where prehistoric
hunters would drive their prey over low cliffs.

The Buffalo Chasers

Vast expanses of grassland near the Rocky Mountains bear evidence of an
extraordinary ancient buffalo hunting culture

by Eric A. Powell

wo Medicine River in western

Montana fows from a glacial
lake high in the Rocky Mountains to cut through some 90 miles of
rolling prairie on the Blackfeet Indian
Reservation. Its banks form gentle
slopes in some sections, and steep, low
clifs in others. From a promontory
known as the Magee site that overlooks
a sudden, vertiginous drop into the
river valley, both types of riverbank are
visible. Archaeologists now know that

sometime around a.d. 1500, the ancestors of the Blackfoot, a culture known
to archaeologists as the Old Womens
Phase (after a Blackfoot mythological
fgure) arranged thousands of stones
on the approaches to this high bit of
prairie to enable large groups of men,
women, and children to drive dozens
or even hundreds of bufalo across the
landscape to this spot. The bufalo
driven to the edge of the promontory
would fall to their deaths, making it

possible for a tribe to feed themselves

through another season and creating a
surplus of meat that would have been a
valuable trading commodity. University
of Arizona archaeologist Maria Nieves
Zedeo and her team spent weeks
here searching through short fescue
grass and blue grama looking for subtle
signs of rock rings, cairns, and other
stone alignments that are clues to one
of the most efective hunting strategies ever devised.

The bufalo jump, as it is termed,

is surprisingly sophisticated. Romantic nineteenth-century paintings
depict Native American men urging improbably vast bufalo herds
of gigantic clifs. In reality, bufalo
jumps are often modest blufs. They
sit at the end of complex sequences
of natural and constructed landmarks, called drive-line systems, that
can stretch for many miles, linking bufalo watering holes to other
points on the prairie with the inten-

tion of drawing the bufalo ever closer to the clif itself. Archaeologists
have long recognized that nomadic
prehistoric Native Americans such
as the ancestral Blackfoot (Blackfeet refers specifcally to tribal
members now living in Montana)
constructed cairns whose function
was to funnel bufalo herds toward
clifs. But Zedeo believes that here
in the northwestern plains, where
the prairie and the Rocky Mountains
meet, the elaborate and dense stone

A rock cairn, part of a drive-line system at the Magee site that funneled buffalo
toward a predetermined point, overlooks the Two Medicine River valley. The
Stranglewolf jump site is visible in the distance on the opposite bank.

architecture constructed by the

people of the Old Womens Phase
requires that our vision of them as
simple bands of opportunistic buffalo hunters needs to change. What
happened here is an anomaly, says
Zedeo as she looks across the valley
toward another jump site, known as
Stranglewolf. We have 11 separate,
elaborate drive-line systems in just
a 20-mile stretch of Two Medicine
River. That took coordination and a
level of planning for the future that
havent normally been associated
with nomadic people in this part of
the world.
Previously, many scholars thought
that with the coming of horses, guns,
and long-distance trade in the eighteenth century, the Blackfoot were
able to accumulate wealth and constitute themselves into well-organized
tribes with full-time chiefs who were
supported by secret societies whose
rituals assured success in the hunt.
But Zedeo and her colleagues argue
that these social changes came as
early as a.d. 900, when a dramatic
increase in precipitation converted
the northern plains into lush grasslands, leading to a surge in the bufalo
population in this part of Montana.
She explains, We think this climatic
bonanza attracted hunters to colonize
these areas, and that what you see
with the jumps that begin to be built
around this time is really landscape
engineering that would have required
a complex system of leadership.
The Old Womens Phase people
did not leave behind elaborate burials or evidence of long-term storage
facilities, signs that archaeologists
have typically used to measure the
social complexity of prehistoric societies. Scholars therefore believed that
these bufalo-hunting people were
essentially simple foragers, without
any of the complex political arrangements that organized farmers to the
east or the fshing cultures of the
Northwest Coast had. Bison hunters have been dismissed as being not
as sophisticated as other cultures,
says Royal Alberta Museum archaeARCHAEOLOGY November/December 2014

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ologist Jack Brink, who excavated at

Canadas Heads-Smashed-In, a noted
bufalo jump. There was this idea
that they were opportunistic hunters
skulking across the northern plains.
But what were fnding is that their
way of life was complex and thought
out in ways that refected powerful
social controls.
Zedeo says that the very landscape these people left behind shows
they were not simple bands of hunters, but members of a culture who
could organize themselves periodically in large groups to accomplish
a higher goal. She says that previous
generations of scholars have focused
on bufalo jump sites in isolation,
without putting them in the larger
context of the stone monuments that
surround them. As a consequence,
they havent appreciated the scale at
which these prehistoric people engineered their landscape and have thus
underestimated just how complex
their society was.
What Maria has found at Two
Medicine River is unparalleled to my
knowledge, says Brink. Its great
evidence for complexity that doesnt
exist elsewhere. But then again, no
one has looked in one area with the
same intensity as Maria. Its as if shes
looking through a small window and
has found this massive kill zone, but
there could be others on this scale
elsewhere in the northern Great
Plains. We just dont know.
When I frst saw the place, there were at
the foot of the clifs tons and tons of bufalo
horn tips, the most time-resisting of any
portion of a bufalos anatomy.
James Willard Schultz, 1916

hanks to historical accounts

like that of explorer and
author James Willard Schultz
and Native American oral tradition,
we have a vivid picture of how bufalo
jumps were conducted and the rituals
that were performed to ensure their
success. In Blackfoot culture, inniskim, or marine fossils, were thought
to be important in luring bufalo, and


The slope below the precipice at the Schultz site on the Blackfeet Indian
Reservation still bears the remains of countless buffalo.

they played a large role in rites held

before the hunt commenced. Archaeologists still fnd inniskim around buffalo jumps today, a hint of how hunting and ritual were intertwined.
Though each jump was diferent,
broadly speaking, they all involved
a series of drive lines, consisting of
cairns that held wooden scarecrows
or large collections of brush, and
marked a path from a place where
bufalo might congregate, across
the undulating prairie, to the jump
itself. Once an unsuspecting herd was
selected, one hunter would don the
skin of an infant bufalo, and imitating its distress call, attempt to lure a
herd into the drive-line system. Other
hunters, perhaps wearing wolf pelts,
would urge the herd on from the rear.
As the bufalo neared the clif, other
members of the tribe would stand
near the cairns and, waving skins,
attempt to panic the herd until its
growing speed made turning back
from the drop impossible. The hunter
wearing the infant bufalo skin would
jump out of the path of the onrushing
bufalo at the last possible moment
but there are many accounts of these
hunters falling to their deaths.
Eight miles downriver of the
Magee site, at the Schultz site (named

after the explorer, who was adopted

by the Blackfeet tribe and is buried
nearby), the extent of the enterprise
is visible today. There are no horns
protruding from the ground as they
did in Schultzs time, but as Zedeo
picks her way up the steep slope, it
becomes apparent that it is impossible to make a step here without walking on bone fragments, the residue of
hundreds of separate hunts. The team
has excavated greasing and roasting
pits here as well, which the ancestral
Blackfoot would have used to process
the meat into pemmican, a dried
meat mixed with grease and berries
that, along with bufalo hides, would
have been an important trade good.
At the top of the clif, the scattered stone remains of drive lines are
visible, with some stretching into
the middle distance, where a herd
of horses is grazing. Curious about
Zedeo, 10 horses split away from the
others and gallop toward the archaeologist. Their swift charge illustrates a
key feature of bufalo jumps: As they
near Zedeo, the horses dip in and
out of sight. Bufalo jumps are often
sited near especially uneven landscapes, which would have hidden the
(continued on page 64)
ARCHAEOLOGY November/December 2014


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Photo Credits
COVERDe Agostini Picture Library / G.
Dagli Orti / Bridgeman Images; 1Eric A. Powell; 3Courtesy Penn Museum, Archival Photo
#191487, Courtesy Archives of Cetamura del
Chianti, Courtesy Peter Jensen, Aarhus University; 4Image from Te Murals of Cacaxtla: Te
Powers of Painting in Ancient Central Mexicoby
Claudia Brittenham (Copyright 2015bythe
University of Texas Press) used by permission
of the University ofTexas Press; 6Wikimedia
Commons; 8Courtesy German Archaeological
Institute, M. Wagner, Courtesy Canadian Light
Source, University of Saskatchewan; 9Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund,
11.600; 10 Samadelli Marco/EURAC,
Courtesy M. Linda Sutherland MD, Photo:
Catiuska Prez Vacalla (2); 12Courtesy Hilde
Jensen, Universitt Tbingen, Courtesy Peter
Jensen, Aarhus University (2); 14Courtesy
Archives of Cetamura del Chianti (3); 16Penn
Museum Archival Photo #191487, Penn Museum Archival Photo #191488, Courtesy Penn
Museum, Kyle Cassidy, 2014; 18Courtesy
Robert Cieri, University of Utah; 19Courtesy
William Caraher; 20Wikimedia Commons,
Marten253; Courtesy Happisburgh Project;
22Courtesy Vance Holliday, University of Arizona; Photo: Joaquin Arroyo-Cabrales; Courtesy
James Madisons Montpelier; Courtesy National
Maritime Museum, Gdask; Berber-Abidiya


Archaeological Project; Courtesy University of

Haifa; Photo: Heiko Prmers; 23University
of Malta/CNRS/COMEX; Yi-Suk Kim et al.,
PLOS ONE; Courtesy Geofrey Clark, Australian
National University; Northern Territory Library;
24-25Courtesy Colleen Beck, Desert Research
Institute, and National Nuclear Security Administration/Nevada Site Ofce, U.S. Department
of Energy Wikimedia Commons, U.S. National
Archives; 26-27Wikimedia Commons, Photo:
Doc Searls Wikimedia Commons, National
Nuclear Security Administration/Nevada Site
Ofce, U.S. Department of Energy; 28Courtesy Colleen Beck, Desert Research Institute,
and National Nuclear Security Administration/
Nevada Site Ofce, U.S. Department of Energy
(3), National Nuclear Security Administration/
Nevada Site Ofce, U.S. Department of Energy;
29Science Source/Getty Images, Courtesy
Colleen Beck, Desert Research Institute, and
National Nuclear Security Administration/
Nevada Site Ofce, U.S. Department of Energy
(3); 30National Nuclear Security Administration/Nevada Site Ofce, U.S. Department of
Energy (8), Te LIFE Picture Collection/Getty
Images, Courtesy Colleen Beck, Desert Research
Institute, and National Nuclear Security Administration/Nevada Site Ofce, U.S. Department of Energy; 31Courtesy Colleen Beck,
Desert Research Institute, and National Nuclear
Security Administration/Nevada Site Ofce,
U.S. Department of Energy (2); 32-37All


images from Te Murals of Cacaxtla: Te Powers

of Painting in Ancient Central Mexicoby Claudia
Brittenham (Copyright 2015bythe University of Texas Press) used by permission of the
University ofTexas Press, For more information
visit; 38Courtesy Rengert
Elburg, Landesamt fr Archologie Sachsen; 39
Andrew Curry; 40Andrew Curry, Courtesy
Landesamt fr Archologie Sachsen; 41Andrew
Curry (2); 42-43 Susannah Snowden/www. for INA; 44 Susannah
Snowden/ for INA,
Andrew Lawler; 45Courtesy Department of
Archaeology of Sri Lanka and the Institute of
Nautical Archaeology, Susannah Snowden/ for INA; 46Andrew
Lawler, Susannah Snowden/www.omniaphoto.
com for INA, Andrew Lawler; 47 Susannah
Snowden/ for INA, Andrew Lawler; 48 The Trustees of the British
Museum/ Art Resource, NY; 49Courtesy Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service (artifacts), The Trustees of the British Museum/
Art Resource, NY; 50 The Trustees of
the British Museum/ Art Resource, NY (2);
51Damian Grady/ NMR27585_052fight
2936/ English Heritage, Courtesy Sufolk County
Council Archaeological Service (artifacts); 53
Courtesy Maria Nieves Zedeo; 54Eric A.
Powell; 56Eric A. Powell; 64Courtesy Maria
Nieves Zedeo; 68Petrie Museum of Egyptian
Archaeology, UCL, UC15946

ARCHAEOLOGY November/December 2014

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ARCHAEOLOGY November/December 2014


A History of Life in 100 Fossils showcases 100 key
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(continued from page 56)

clif edge from the view of the bufalo
until it was too late to turn aside.
The heads of the curious horses
pop up about 20 feet from Zedeo.
After slowing to appraise her for a
moment, their curiosity is satisfed,
and they head back to the main herd,
galloping over 500-year-old stone
alignments now concealed by grass.

n historic times among the Blackfoot, three powerful societies

managed the huntthe Bufalo
Women society, the Beaver Bundle
society, and the Bufalo Chaser society. These groups, which included
men and women from diferent
bands, controlled the ritual knowl-

a.d. 900

that led to a surge in the

bufalo population.
A practitioner of Blackfoot rites
himself, Murray lives in a part of the
river valley known as Motaatusi,
or Place Where the Bundle Owners Live. He has kept several sacred
bundles before giving them away to
other Blackfeet tribal members, and
this summer he received the Thunder
Pipe Medicine Bundle, which traditionally is opened once a year, after
the frst thunder in the spring. Its
been more than a hundred years since
the last bufalo jump, but medicine
bundles still circulate on the reservation, and the ceremonies and rites
that accompany them help traditional
Blackfoot culture thrive.
A day after holding a sweat lodge

Excavations by a team led by University of Arizona archaeologist Maria Nieves

Zedeo at the Kutoyis jump site have revealed butchered buffalo bones that point
to meat processing on an industrial scale.

edge and rules of the bufalo hunt and

distributed sacred medicine bundles
that were accompanied by certain
rites that enshrined these rules.
Zedeo and her colleague John Murray, the Blackfeet tribal historic preservation ofcer, think these societies
developed out of an ancient, highly
ritualized, bufalo-based political system that evolved when the ancestral
Blackfoot began practicing communal
hunting after the climate shift around

ceremony marking his acceptance of

the Thunder Pipe, Murray accompanies Zedeo to a bufalo jump complex
about 10 miles downstream of the
Schulz site, named for Kutoyis, the
Blackfoot creator hero. The drive lines
here are among the most elaborate
ever recorded on the High Plains.
Zedeo and Murray ride in a pickup
truck across the vast site, which links
watering holes along Big Badger
Creek, a tributary of Two Medicine

River, to a series of low clifs. Unlike

at other sites, where picking out the
subtle arrangement of rocks can sometimes be difcult, the cairns at Kutoyis
are almost immediately in evidence.
While looking at the sinuous lines of
stones snaking across gentle swales,
Murray points out that they are suggestive of the movement of a wolf
hunting its prey. Wolves work together to surround their prey, he says. We
have a tradition that it was the wolf
that taught men to hunt bufalo.
A map of Kutoyis, created after
many months of surveying, shows a
dense network of drive lines, many of
which seem to have been repaired and
used multiple times. Zedeo and her
team have recorded 2,581 cairns here,
making it by far the most elaborate of
the drive lines they have studied. The
frst time ancestral Blackfoot used the
site seems to have been around a.d.
1210, and there are records suggesting
a hunt was held here in 1886, probably
one of the last bufalo jumps to have
been run. By that point, the bufalo
were on the edge of extinction. Today,
the Blackfeet tribe maintains a small
herd of bufalo, which winters at the
Kutoyis site and grazes among the
remains of the drive lines.
Three years ago in an experiment,
Zedeo and her team modeled the
impact of a bufalo herd being driven
of the clif by rolling dozens of tires
down a clif near Kutoyis. We were
able to predict where the tires would
hit quite successfully, she says. But
it wasnt anything close to what it
meant to see a herd of bufalo running at 30 to 40 miles per hour and
then falling at once. Its beyond an
average persons imagination.
Bufalo jumps were surely not as
dramatic as those in romantic paintings, and the subtle lines of rocks
that mark the landscape along the
Two Medicine River valley are hardly
impressive when viewed individually.
But once understood, the scale of what
happened here is unmistakable. n
Eric A. Powell is online editor at
ARCHAEOLOGY November/December 2014


AIA-SCS Joint Annual Meeting in

New Orleans, January 8 11, 2015

he 116th Joint Annual Meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America and the Society
for Classical Studies will be held in
the famous French Quarter of New
Orleans from January 8 to 11, 2015.
Te Sheraton New Orleans is the
ofcial hotel for the Annual Meeting
and will host the majority of academic
sessions and committee and interestgroup meetings, as well as the exhibit
hall, meeting registration, and several
special events. A few sessions, meetings,
and events, including Building a Strong
Future for Archaeological Outreach
and EducationA Working Conference for Educators, will be held at the
New Orleans Marriott.
Te AIA-SCS Joint Annual Meeting is the largest and oldest established

ofers an exciting look

at how archaeologists
are using 3-D imaging to strengthen the
interactions between
scholarly research,
heritage and preservation, and community
involvement. Several
Bronze Age sessions
explore major palaces
and towns including
Knossos, Mochlos,
Gournia, and Pylos.
Te topics discussed
in these sessions
include the significant role of feasting
and central courts at
places such as Knossos and Gournia, and
the importance of the
meeting of archaeologists and classi- dead, burials, and funerals at sites such
cal scholars in North America. Te as the Palace of Nestor, where people
2015 academic program will feature invested in tombs and burials to bolster
sessions exploring the artifacts, art, and negotiate their positions in society.
Additional events include a public
social systems, fashion, cooking vessels,
trade networks, shipwrecks, architec- lecture and opening night reception,
ture, inscriptions, and archaeological committee and interest-group meetresearch methods of the classical era ings, and an awards ceremony. A
and diferent regions of the world. large exhibit hall will feature leading
Highlights include a presidential vendors of archaeological publications
plenary titled Great Discoveries in and supplies, and representatives from
Archaeology: New Insights on Human related academic and professional orgaEvolution from Dmanisi, Georgia. nizations. Te meeting also provides
Te Lower Paleolithic site of Dmanisi both formal and informal networking
in the Republic of Georgia has sig- opportunities, receptions, and even a
nifcantly altered our understanding of beginning career professionals cocktail
how early humans migrated out of the networking hour. To learn more about
African continent. Medieval Ceram- the 2015 meeting in New Orleans,
ics and 3-D Models: A Case Study please visit www.aia.archaeological
from the Nemea Stadium, Greece .org/annualmeeting.

The Deserted Village at Slievemore, Achill Island

Dispatches from the AIA

Excavate, Educate, Advocate

Following Field Projects through Interactive Digs

he AChill ARChaeoloGiCal
Field School (AAFS) is located
in the village of Dooagh on Achill
Islandthe largest of the islands
of the Irish coast. AAFS staf and
students are working on developing a
detailed understanding of the archaeology and history of Achill Island. In
the summer of 2014, the feldwork at
Achill was featured as an Interactive
Dig on the AIA website.
Interactive Digs are web-based connections to active archaeological projects that allow people to participate
virtually in the archaeological process.
Tey invite people to follow archaeologists online as they progress through
a feld season. Interactive Digs bring
the archaeological process to anyone
with access to the Internet and provide
people with the opportunity to see
for themselves how the archaeological process works, how archaeologists
conduct their research, how inferences
are drawn from the uncovered clues,
and how the data is used to interpret

Cromlech Tumulus, the focus of the

2014 AAFS field season

Excavation at Cromlech Tumulus

the past. People who follow a Dig are

able to interact with the archaeologists
through the website, comment on and
discuss various aspects of the project,
peruse images and video clips of ongoing excavations, and interpret data as
artifacts are uncovered.
Te frst Interactive Digs appeared
on the ARChaeoloGY magazine website in 2000 as Virtual Digs. Since

then, 17 projects from around the

world have been featured. Te Digs
continue to be one of the more popular online features, with more than
300,000 visitors each year. Currently,
three DigsAchill, Zominthos, and
Johnsons Islandare active on the website and we will continue to add more.
To participate in Interactive Digs, please

A Working Conference for Archaeology

Educators at the Annual Meeting

t the 2015 Annual Meeting in New Orleans, the AIA will host Building a Strong Future for Archaeological Outreach and EducationA
Working Conference for Educators. Te two-day event, held on January
9 and 10, will bring together heritage educators from around the country to
discuss and plan for the future of heritage education. Te workshop builds on
the results of several recent initiatives including an AIA Education Summit
held at Boston University in 2013, a session on heritage education at the 2014
Society for American Archaeology annual meeting in Austin, and extensive
online conversations. By organizing the program, the AIA hopes to encourage
the development of a network of educators committed to moving archaeological education forward in a collaborative and cooperative manner.
While the program is based on a foundation built by dedicated educators
over the last three decades, it will focus on the future. Te program will include
keynote addresses, panel discussions, workshops, and Q&A sessions. Participants will be able use this opportunity to share, learn, and plan. Some of the
topics being considered for the program include providing ethical guidelines
for archaeological outreach and education, state and regional approaches to
outreach and archaeology, high school archaeology courses and feld schools,
teaching with archaeology, metrics, and promoting archaeological outreach.
In advance of the conference the AIA solicited one-page descriptions of
existing archaeological outreach and education programs. Tis useful resource
is available on the AIA website. To learn more about the conference and how
you can participate, please visit

Archaeological Tours
led by noted scholars

Invites You to Journey Back in Time

Temples and Treasures of Japan

Khmer Kingdoms (23 days)

Myanmar, Thailand, Laos & Cambodia

Travel with Prof. Robert Thorp, Washington

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Study the history and beauty of these

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(15 days)

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Journey to the palaces and fortresses
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Discover Koreas 5,000 years of
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of British Columbia. We begin in
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Malta, Sardinia & Corsica (16 days)

Explore these three gorgeous islands with
Prof. Robert R. Stieglitz, Rutgers U. Each is
unique in its ancient monuments and
physical beauty. Tour highlights include
the immense megalithic temples on Malta,
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mysterious cult sites and enigmatic menhirs
set amidst Corsicas spectacular mountain
scenery. Along the way we will visit
ancient Phoenician ports and cities built by
Romans, Greeks and Crusader knights as
well as fine museums and historic villages.

2015 tours: Central Asia Nepal Sicily & the Islands Israel Turkey Tunisia Ancient Rome Classical Greece
Brittany & the Salisbury Plains Scotland Etruscan Italy Indonesia Ghana, Togo & Benin Great Museums: Paris ...and more

Journey back in time with us. Weve been taking curious travelers on fascinating historical study tours for the
past 40 years. Each tour is led by a noted scholar whose knowledge and enthusiasm brings history to life and adds
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For more information, please visit, e-mail, call 212-986-3054,
toll-free 866-740-5130. Or write to Archaeological Tours, 271 Madison Avenue, Suite 904, New York, NY 10016.
And see history our way.