ArtiFacts: Recent News in the Field of Archaeology

Current News in the World of Archaeology

Nautical Archaeology: Egyptology
A Roman city is found submerged off of Egypt in the Mediterranean Sea.
Bronze vases, pottery, and buildings that include a Roman castle were found that date back to the Roman period of Egypt.

ABC News

Archaeoastronomy
An observatory in the Peruvian Andes is, perhaps, the oldest in the Americas. Built at the top of a 33-foot pyramid, the 4,200 year old observatory marked the summer and winter solstices. Its age rivals some of the megaliths of Stonehenge and the culture that created it is a complete mystery since it predates writing by 2,000 years. From the article, “[s]ome archaeologists call them followers of the Kotosh religious tradition. Others call them late pre-ceramic cultures of the central coast. For brevity, most simply call them Andeans.”

Columbus Dispatch
SFGate
Story with photo at Agutie.com
LATimes.com (photo 1; photo 2)

Rescue Archaeology
Bakun period burials are found in the Bolaghi Valley of Iran as Iranian archaeologists work with Italian and German colleagues to gather as much data as possible before the Sivand Dam is completed and the valley inundated to the point that the sites would be inaccessible or even destroyed, since the resulting siltification will completely cover the sites being excavated now. The dam is meant to provide irrigation and water control for agricultural purposes and the completion has been set back several times because of archaeological efforts under way, but is currently scheduled to inundate the valley in late spring 2006.

One of the more recent finds in the region include a Bakun period burial of a mother clutching a child, dating to the 4th or 5th millennium BCE. From the Mehr News article #2, “[t]he existence of three skulls and scattered bones shows that we have discovered a mass burial. The shards found in the grave show that the skeletons date back to the Bakun period.” Also found in the valley were Bakun pot sherds that still had very clear designs and pottery kilns that will be excavated and removed before the reservoir floods.

Mehr News 1
Mehr News 2
Mehr News 3
Payvand.com

Looters and Amateurs
Self-described “amateur” archeologists loot sites and destroy any context or provenience on a regular basis. The Washington Post ran an article that described the lootin’ antics of civil war buffs and their metal detectors during a relic hunt called Diggin’ in Virginia. Meanwhile, the Austin American Statesman ran an article along the same grain that noted the exploitation of the low lake levels by looters in Texas, particularly at Lake Travis.

Organizations like Diggin’ in Virginia and the Texas Amateur Archaeological Association are nothing more than looters that lease private property and charge people to come in and dig. Moreover, these organizations are clearing houses of information on where and how to illicitly loot public lands. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why TAAA’s website requires “membership” before getting access to their forum and chat areas. Sites that are ravaged by the shovels and picks of the indiscriminate looters of these digs resemble the surface of the Moon or and artillery target area with the craters and holes left behind, particularly when they are looting public properties like the Lake Travis area. The Statesman article even describes the discovery of a looter site where a tent was abandoned over a looter trench. Trees are dug up, and topsoil removed, creating conditions that cause massive erosion and destroying the local environment and ecosystem.

Moreover, the looters are after the goods they can sell and easily remove: small lithics like points and scapers; plates and belt buckles; bullets and pistols. They could care less about documenting the locations of these finds or the features that they obliterate in the process like hearths or foundations.

Washington Post
Austin-American Statesman
Showing off the loot 1
Showing off the loot 2