Stories tagged archaeology

Scientists in Italy have uncovered a pair of 5,000-year-old skeletons, a young man and woman locked in an embrace. This is the oldest example known of a couple buried together. Ironically, it was discovered near the city of Mantua, which many centuries later would play a key role in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.


The green dot indicates the location of Hamuokar: Map by
The green dot indicates the location of Hamuokar: Map by

Hamoukar in northeast Syria is one of the oldest cities in the world. Recent excavations have shed light on how it began… and how it ended.

Archaeologists have discovered a large field of obsidian near the city. Obsidian was used for making stone tools – in fact, researchers found evidence of tool manufacture right there on the site. Hamoukar was probably settled to take advantage of this natural resource. This goes against previous theories, which held that all early cities were founded on agriculture, and that Hamoukar was settled by farmers from the south.

Scientists also found evidence of the city’s demise. A fierce battle in 3500 BC leveled the city. Warriors at that time used clay stones in slings, and researchers uncovered evidence that the people of Hamoukar abandoned their usual jobs to make as much ammunition as possible. But it was to no avail: the city fell, and the southern city of Babylon became the region’s greatest power – forever changing the course of history.

To learn more about the Hamoukar excavations, go here,

To learn more about the battle that ended Hamoukar, go here.

Two brothers in Sweden discovered a stash of silver coins while doing some yard work. The coins, dating back some 1,100 years, were found on Gotland Island, formerly a major trading center for the Vikings.


Have you had your wisdom teeth pulled? I have. And they were impacted. Not on my list of all time favorite memories — in fact, having teeth pulled is one of my least favorite things to do.

Wisdom teeth: Earliest known impacted wisdom tooth. Digital radiograph (X-ray) of the mandible of Magdalenian Girl showing impaction of the right lower third molar (wisdom tooth). New high-quality radiographic imaging of the entire Magdalenian Girl skeleton, which is

Apparently, it was also not a favorite thing to do for the "Magdalenian Girl" (also known as the Cap Blanc skeleton), a nearly complete 13,000- to 15,000-year-old skeleton excavated in France in 1911and acquired by The Field Museum in 1926. To be fair, the pulling of wisdom teeth may not have been possible for her, but it turns out that her wisdom teeth are proving very valuable.

It had been previously believed that the Magdalenian Girl was under the age of 18 at the time of her death because her wisdom teeth had not grown in, which usually happens between the ages of 18 and 22 (I was 20). But after a new analysis of the skull, scientists now believe the Magdalenian Girl was actually between the ages of 25 and 35 when she died. This new theory has come about after looking at new digital X-rays (such as the one pictured) which show that the Magdalenian Girl's wisdom teeth were impacted.

So, why is that a big deal? Impacted wisdom teeth are thought to be the result of dietary changes that occurred in past human cultures. It is believed that impacted wisdom teeth were not common during the stone ages because the food that people ate at that time required them to chew more and chew more vigorously. This more intense chewing would have resulted in increased jawbone growth, which in turn creates more room for the wisdom teeth to grow in. When the diet changed to foods that required less forceful chewing the jawbone was not stimulated to grow as much, making less room for wisdom teeth when the time came for them to grow in. So, the fact that Magdalenian Girl has impacted wisdom teeth tells scientists that the diet of her time period would have already changed.

The skeleton of the Magdalenian Girl, the most complete Upper Paleolithic skeleton available for study in North America, is a part of the new permanent exhibition at the Field Museum called Evolving Planet. If you happen to see the exhibition, make sure you also check out the Kristi Curry Rogers' Rapetosaurus krausei also on display in the exhibition. Kristi is the Science Museum of Minnesota's Curator of Paleontology.


Scientists in England have figured out a way to read ancient Greek and Roman scrolls that had previously been illegible. These scrolls were found about 100 years ago in a garbage dump. Most of the hundreds of scrolls were dirty, moldy stained or burnt, and couldn't be read.

Dead Sea Scroll FragmentPreviously invisible lettering of the Dead Sea Scrolls
Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech

In the early '90s, scientists working on the Dead Sea scrolls teamed up with NASA and developed a way to photograph the ancient paper using invisible wavelengths of light. (Light comes in a wide variety of wavelengths. Our eyes only respond to some of them. But scientists can build cameras that respond to wavelengths too long or too short for our eyes to see.)

Already, scientists have discovered lost works by Sophocles, Euripides, and other famous writers of the ancient world. Some feel these discoveries could completely rewrite our understanding of ancient Greece and Rome — and the beginnings of Western civilization.


In the field of paleoanthropology, or the scientific study of extinct members of human ancestry, scientists are often asked to stake their reputations on a single claim or hypothesis. The interesting thing about the claims that scholars attempt to make is that they are often based on the very small number of specimens that are available for research. This atmosphere often creates an intense series of lively debates between scholars over the interpretation of their sometimes limited data.


"The Indian Ocean tsunami that hit southern Asia on December 26 has uncovered a series of temples in southern India.

"Archaeologists have begun underwater excavations of what is believed to be an ancient city and parts of a temple uncovered by the tsunami off the coast of a centuries-old pilgrimage town.

"Three rocky structures with elaborate carvings of animals have emerged near the coastal town of Mahabalipuram, which was battered by the Dec. 26 tsunami.

"Mahabalipuram is already well known for its ancient, intricately carved shore temples that have been declared a World Heritage site and are visited each year by thousands of Hindu pilgrims and tourists. According to descriptions by early British travel writers, the area was also home to seven pagodas, six of which were submerged by the sea."