Category Archives: U.S.A

Stone Points Found in Idaho Dated to 15,700 Years Ago

Stone Points Found in Idaho Dated to 15,700 Years Ago

Stone Points Found in Idaho Dated to 15,700 Years Ago
Stone projectile points discovered buried inside and outside of pit features at the Cooper’s Ferry site, Area B. Credit: Loren Davis

Oregon State University archaeologists have uncovered projectile points in Idaho that are thousands of years older than any previously found in the Americas, helping to fill in the history of how early humans crafted and used stone weapons.

The 13 full and fragmentary projectile points, razor sharp and ranging from about half an inch to 2 inches long, are from roughly 15,700 years ago, according to carbon-14 dating. That’s about 3,000 years older than the Clovis fluted points found throughout North America, and 2,300 years older than the points previously found at the same Cooper’s Ferry site along the Salmon River in present-day Idaho.

The findings were published today in the journal Science Advances.

“From a scientific point of view, these discoveries add very important details about what the archaeological record of the earliest peoples of the Americas looks like,” said Loren Davis, an anthropology professor at OSU and head of the group that found the points. “It’s one thing to say, ‘We think that people were here in the Americas 16,000 years ago’; it’s another thing to measure it by finding well-made artifacts they left behind.”

Previously, Davis and other researchers working the Cooper’s Ferry site had found simple flakes and pieces of bone that indicated human presence about 16,000 years ago. But the discovery of projectile points reveals new insights into the way the first Americans expressed complex thoughts through technology at that time, Davis said.

The Salmon River site where the points were found is on traditional Nez Perce land, known to the tribe as the ancient village of Nipéhe. The land is currently held in public ownership by the federal Bureau of Land Management.

The points are revelatory not just in their age, but in their similarity to projectile points found in Hokkaido, Japan, dating to 16,000–20,000 years ago, Davis said.

Their presence in Idaho adds more detail to the hypothesis that there are early genetic and cultural connections between the ice age peoples of Northeast Asia and North America.

“The earliest peoples of North America possessed cultural knowledge that they used to survive and thrive over time. Some of this knowledge can be seen in the way people made stone tools, such as the projectile points found at the Cooper’s Ferry site,” Davis said. “By comparing these points with other sites of the same age and older, we can infer the spatial extents of social networks where this technological knowledge was shared between peoples.”

Overview of the Area B excavations at the Cooper’s Ferry site in 2017. Credit: Loren Davis
Excavator at work recording artifacts excavated from a pit feature at the Cooper’s Ferry site. Credit: Loren Davis

These slender projectile points are characterized by two distinct ends, one sharpened and one stemmed, as well as a symmetrical beveled shape if looked at head-on. They were likely attached to darts, rather than arrows or spears, and despite the small size, they were deadly weapons, Davis said.

“There’s an assumption that early projectile points had to be big to kill large game; however, smaller projectile points mounted on darts will penetrate deeply and cause tremendous internal damage,” he said. “You can hunt any animal we know about with weapons like these.”

These discoveries add to the emerging picture of early human life in the Pacific Northwest, Davis said. “Finding a site where people made pits and stored complete and broken projectile points nearly 16,000 years ago gives us valuable details about the lives of our region’s earliest inhabitants.”

Overview of the Cooper’s Ferry site in the lower Salmon River canyon of western Idaho, USA.
Overview of pit feature 78 during the process of excavation.
(A) map showing the location of the Cooper’s Ferry site in the context of Pacific Northwest environments at 16,000 years ago; (B) aerial image (from Google Earth) showing the Cooper’s Ferry excavations; (C) site map showing the locations of excavation Area A and Area B.

The newly discovered pits are part of the larger Cooper’s Ferry record, where Davis and colleagues have previously reported a 14,200-year-old fire pit and a food-processing area containing the remains of an extinct horse. All told, they found and mapped more than 65,000 items, recording their locations to the millimeter for precise documentation.

The projectile points were uncovered over multiple summers between 2012 and 2017, with work supported by a partnership held between OSU and the BLM. All excavation work has been completed and the site is now covered. The BLM installed interpretive panels and a kiosk at the site to describe the work.

Stratigraphic model of the Cooper’s Ferry site, showing the distribution of cultural features (e.g., fire hearths, pits), radiocarbon and optically stimulated luminescence ages, sediment layers and buried soils as exposed by excavations in Area A and Area B.

Davis has been studying the Cooper’s Ferry site since the 1990s when he was an archaeologist with the BLM. Now, he partners with the BLM to bring undergraduate and graduate students from OSU to work the site in the summer.

The team also works closely with the Nez Perce tribe to provide field opportunities for tribal youth and to communicate all findings.

Archaeologists uncover oldest known projectile points in the Americas

Archaeologists uncover oldest known projectile points in the Americas

Archaeologists uncover oldest known projectile points in the Americas
Stone projectile points discovered buried inside and outside of pit features at the Cooper’s Ferry site, Area B.

Oregon State University archaeologists have uncovered projectile points in Idaho that are thousands of years older than any previously found in the Americas, helping to fill in the history of how early humans crafted and used stone weapons.

The 13 full and fragmentary projectile points, razor sharp and ranging from about half an inch to 2 inches long, are from roughly 15,700 years ago, according to carbon-14 dating. That’s about 3,000 years older than the Clovis fluted points found throughout North America, and 2,300 years older than the points previously found at the same Cooper’s Ferry site along the Salmon River in present-day Idaho.

The findings were published today in the journal Science Advances.

“From a scientific point of view, these discoveries add very important details about what the archaeological record of the earliest peoples of the Americas looks like,” said Loren Davis, an anthropology professor at OSU and head of the group that found the points. “It’s one thing to say, ‘We think that people were here in the Americas 16,000 years ago’; it’s another thing to measure it by finding well-made artifacts they left behind.”

Previously, Davis and other researchers working the Cooper’s Ferry site had found simple flakes and pieces of bone that indicated human presence about 16,000 years ago. But the discovery of projectile points reveals new insights into the way the first Americans expressed complex thoughts through technology at that time, Davis said.

The Salmon River site where the points were found is on traditional Nez Perce land, known to the tribe as the ancient village of Nipéhe. The land is currently held in public ownership by the federal Bureau of Land Management.

The points are revelatory not just in their age, but in their similarity to projectile points found in Hokkaido, Japan, dating to 16,000–20,000 years ago, Davis said. Their presence in Idaho adds more detail to the hypothesis that there are early genetic and cultural connections between the ice age peoples of Northeast Asia and North America.

“The earliest peoples of North America possessed cultural knowledge that they used to survive and thrive over time. Some of this knowledge can be seen in the way people made stone tools, such as the projectile points found at the Cooper’s Ferry site,” Davis said. “By comparing these points with other sites of the same age and older, we can infer the spatial extents of social networks where this technological knowledge was shared between peoples.”

Overview of the Area B excavations at the Cooper’s Ferry site in 2017.
Excavator at work recording artifacts excavated from a pit feature at the Cooper’s Ferry site.

These slender projectile points are characterized by two distinct ends, one sharpened and one stemmed, as well as a symmetrical beveled shape if looked at head-on. They were likely attached to darts, rather than arrows or spears, and despite the small size, they were deadly weapons, Davis said.

“There’s an assumption that early projectile points had to be big to kill large game; however, smaller projectile points mounted on darts will penetrate deeply and cause tremendous internal damage,” he said. “You can hunt any animal we know about with weapons like these.”

These discoveries add to the emerging picture of early human life in the Pacific Northwest, Davis said. “Finding a site where people made pits and stored complete and broken projectile points nearly 16,000 years ago gives us valuable details about the lives of our region’s earliest inhabitants.”

Overview of the Cooper’s Ferry site in the lower Salmon River canyon of western Idaho, USA.
Overview of pit feature 78 during the process of excavation.
(A) map showing the location of the Cooper’s Ferry site in the context of Pacific Northwest environments at 16,000 years ago; (B) aerial image (from Google Earth) showing the Cooper’s Ferry excavations; (C) site map showing the locations of excavation Area A and Area B.

The newly discovered pits are part of the larger Cooper’s Ferry record, where Davis and colleagues have previously reported a 14,200-year-old fire pit and a food-processing area containing the remains of an extinct horse. All told, they found and mapped more than 65,000 items, recording their locations to the millimeter for precise documentation.

The projectile points were uncovered over multiple summers between 2012 and 2017, with work supported by a partnership held between OSU and the BLM. All excavation work has been completed and the site is now covered. The BLM installed interpretive panels and a kiosk at the site to describe the work.

Stratigraphic model of the Cooper’s Ferry site, showing the distribution of cultural features (e.g., fire hearths, pits), radiocarbon and optically stimulated luminescence ages, sediment layers and buried soils as exposed by excavations in Area A and Area B.

Davis has been studying the Cooper’s Ferry site since the 1990s when he was an archaeologist with the BLM. Now, he partners with the BLM to bring undergraduate and graduate students from OSU to work the site in the summer.

The team also works closely with the Nez Perce tribe to provide field opportunities for tribal youth and to communicate all findings.

Discovered the Oldest Forest in the World, dating back 386 million years

Discovered the Oldest Forest in the World, dating back 386 million years

Ruins of an ancient forest have been identified at a quarry near Cairo, New York, USA. The fossils have been dated to 386 million years old, making them the oldest known fossils.

According to scientists, the new site not only tells us more about how Earth’s climate has changed over time, but also evidence that forests evolved 2 to 3 million years earlier than previously thought. before. The findings were published recently in the journal Current Biology and New Scientist.

“Charles was just walking across the floor of the quarry and he noticed these large root structures are very special,” said Christopher Berry at Cardiff University in the UK – the find involved Charles Ver Straeten at the New State Museum York, who discovered the first fossils in 2008.

The researchers found three types of trees at the site – evidence that the ancient forests consisted of several different species of trees. One of them, belonging to the genus Archeopteris, has roots reaching up to 11 meters long. This species is similar to modern conifers and was the first known to have evolved flattened green leaves.

At an abandoned quarry near the town of Cairo, New York, scientists suddenly discovered the remains of the oldest forest that has ever existed in Earth’s history.

This discovery is considered a turning point in the history of the formation of life on the planet. When old trees develop clusters of roots like these, they consume them to remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and lock it in.

Previously, the oldest Archaeopteris fossils found were dated to no more than 365 million years old, Berry said. Exactly when this plant evolved into a modern tree is still unclear.

But now, the discovery in Cairo suggests that Archaeopteris began its transition about 20 million years ago, said Patricia Gensel, a paleontologist at the University of North Carolina.

“The size of those root systems has really changed the way we look,” she said. By 20 years ago, researchers thought that trees with such large and complex root systems did not develop so early in geological history.

Archaeopteris not only incubates and nurtures the life, the creatures around him, but also helps promote the process of life evolving and covering all over the Earth.

“Archaeopteris seems to reveal the beginnings of the future of what forests will eventually become,” said William Stein, a biologist at Binghamton University in New York and lead author of the new study.

Based on what we know from earlier fossil body fossil evidence of Archaeopteris, and now from the root evidence that we’ve added, these plants have evolved very rapidly relative to plants. Although still significantly different from modern tree species, Archaeopteris seems to indicate the future evolutionary path of forests at that time.”

Stein and his team also discovered evidence of “scaly plants” of the class Lycopsida – trees that are only thought to have existed in the Carboniferous period millions of years later, at the end of the Devonian period. The new findings therefore provide evidence that forests evolved much earlier than previously known.

Christopher Berry, a paleontologist at Cardiff University, UK, said the quarry floor the team found was about half the size of a rugby field. It was a layer cut across just below the surface of the ancient forest.

In fact, when looking at the age of the forest, we can know that at the time when it was most powerful, on Earth there were no birds, terrestrial vertebrates and even animals. dinosaur. These species only appeared and developed 150 million years after this forest appeared.

However, this forest is not a place where no animals live. Instead, it is likely inhabited by millipedes and other insects. “It’s funny to think about a forest without big animals,” Chris Berry, a paleontologist at Cardiff University and a co-author of the new study, told The Guardian.

Forests and their evolution have played a central role in shaping our planet’s climate and ecosystems. By capturing carbon dioxide, forests have reduced levels of greenhouse gases to modern-day levels, significantly cooling the planet.

According to Sandy Hetherington at the University of Oxford, fossil research can help provide clues about the relationship between deforestation and modern climate change.

“Understanding how this has happened in the past is important for predicting what will happen in the future due to climate change and deforestation,” she said.

Tlingit Objects Repatriated to Alaska Village

Tlingit Objects Repatriated to Alaska Village

A black tote holding Alaska Native artifacts sits on the ground of the Juneau International Airport on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022. It was flown from Seattle after being filled with 25 Alaska Native artifacts held at George Fox University in Oregon.

Nearing the end of his flight from Seattle to Juneau, Frank Hughes looked out his plane window to the ground below where the outline of the Organized Village of Kake slowly appeared beneath him.

An excitement built in him, one that he said made him feel like his heart had just skipped a beat. Though Hughes has lived in the small Southeast Alaska Native village for years and has come and gone from it too many times to count, this time was different — because he wasn’t alone in coming home.

In the belly of the plane sat a sturdy black bin locked by zip ties and scattered with fragile stickers holding 25 Alaska Native artifacts ranging from spruceroot-woven baskets to ceremonial paddles to headdresses that were taken from the village in the early 1900s.

Many of the pieces are estimated to be more than 200 years old.

“We’re going home,” Hughes said. “These artifacts are coming home.”

Since 2018, Hughes has worked to bring the collections of artifacts that were found at George Fox University in Oregon back to Kake after discovering their existence while doing research for the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act for which he served as coordinator. Hughes said during his work for NAGPRA he had done many Indigenous artifact repatriations across the country, but said he couldn’t believe it when he came across the artifacts from Kake.

Now, after nearly five years of waiting, Hughes, along with Lincoln Bean, vice chairman for the Organized Village of Kake, flew to the university this month to retrieve the artifacts and bring them home. The pair and the bin of artifacts made stops in Seattle and Juneau before heading to Kake on Nov. 18.

“When I looked at them, it was like looking at my past and my elders,” Bean said. “It’s some of the most beautiful art of weaving, headdresses I’ve never seen before. The apron for dancing, with some of the most intricate, beautiful beadwork you’ve ever seen in your life.”

How the collection of this small Southeast Alaska village’s cultural artifacts ended up nearly 1,000 miles away, stored off-display at what bills itself as the No. 1 Christian college in Oregon, is up for debate, Hughes and Bean explained.

The pair said they believe that some of the artifacts may have been given as a gift to visitors of the village. They said it is more likely, however, that most were taken by the Religious Society of Friends in Alaska — also known as Quakers — who built a mission in the village in late 1891, then left after the building was handed over to the Kake Memorial Presbyterian church in 1912.

“They cut it out and took it,” Hughes said about a wooden mask that was part of the collection of artifacts repatriated. The piece was likely the oldest of the collection and served as a marker on a tree identifying the territory. He said the mask would have to have been cut out of the body of the tree to be removed.

Quakers were missionaries in Alaska who during the 1800s and 1900s ran about 30 boarding schools for Indigenous children in the U.S. and its territories, including the Douglas Island Friends Mission School on Douglas Island.

Quakers were part of the historical movement in which many Alaska Native children were sent away from their families, communities and culture to boarding schools in the state — or across the country — and were forced to divorce themselves of their Indigenous identity in exchange for U.S. values and culture.

Though many of the boarding schools were closed by the late 1900s, the legacy of trauma and abuse from these schools still remains for many Alaska Native families and communities.

Hughes said though the pain still permeates from the past, repatriation serves as a way to bring healing to both the people living in Kake today and the spirits that live within the artifacts.

“We’re just trying to bring them home where they came from,” Bean said.

Hughes said when he first saw the artifacts in Oregon, he knew immediately that the spirits of his Tlingit ancestors were there with him.

“When we opened it up, the excitement and the spirits were alive, it’s like walking in an air-conditioned room — the spirits came alive,” Hughes said. “It’s good to see you, we’re happy to see you.”

Bean agreed and said the Tlingit culture is a gift from God and bringing home these items gives him a glimpse of his culture he didn’t know was missing.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Bean said. “It’s powerful looking back on people we know that were here before us — as a family, as a tribe — and it’s tangible, we can touch it.

Tlingit Objects Repatriated to Alaska Village
A black tote holding Alaska Native artifacts sits on the ground of the Juneau International Airport on Thursday afternoon, Nov. 17, 2022. It was flown from Seattle after being filled with 25 Alaska Native artifacts held at George Fox University in Oregon.

Hughes said he and Bean would present the artifacts, still unopened, to the village. Plans to open the box and welcome the artifacts home were on track to commence but likely wouldn’t happen until after Thanksgiving. Bean and Hughes said that the repatriation serves as a step toward healing and rebuilding the parts of their culture that were taken.

“We know who we are, we know where we come from, we know where we’re going,” Bean said.

See the face of an 18th century ‘vampire’ buried in Connecticut

See the face of an 18th century ‘vampire’ buried in Connecticut

See the face of an 18th century 'vampire' buried in Connecticut
Using DNA extracted from a skull, a forensic artist created a facial reconstruction of a man believed to be a vampire from the 18th century.

In the late 18th century, a man was buried in Griswold, Connecticut, with his femur bones arranged in a criss-cross manner — a placement indicating that locals thought he was a vampire. However, little else was known about him.

More than 200 years later, DNA evidence is revealing what he may have looked like. (And yes, he was genetically human.)

After performing DNA analyses, forensic scientists from a Virginia-based DNA technology company named Parabon NanoLabs, and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL), a branch of the U.S. Armed Forces Medical Examiner System based in Delaware, concluded that at the time of death, the deceased male (known as JB55) was about 55 years old and suffered from tuberculosis.

Using 3D facial reconstruction software, a forensic artist determined that JB55 likely had fair skin, brown or hazel eyes, brown or black hair and some freckles, according to a statement. 

Based on the positioning of the legs and skull in the grave, researchers suspect that at some point the body was disinterred and reburied, a practice often associated with the belief that someone was a vampire. Historically, some people once thought that those who died of tuberculosis were actually vampires, according to the statement. 

“The remains were found with the femur bones removed and crossed over the chest,” Ellen Greytak, director of bioinformatics at Parabon NanoLabs and the technical lead for the organization’s Snapshot Advanced DNA Analysis division, told Live Science. “This way they wouldn’t be able to walk around and attack the living.”

To perform the analyses, forensic scientists began by extracting DNA from the man’s skeletal remains. However, working with bones that were more than two centuries old proved challenging.

“The technology doesn’t work well with bones, especially if those bones are historical,” Greytak said. “When bones become old, they break down and fragment over time. Also, when remains have been sitting in the environment for hundreds of years, the DNA from the environment from things like bacteria and fungi also end up in the sample. We wanted to show that we could still extract DNA from difficult historical samples.”

A common practice was to bury suspected vampires with their legs crossed so that way they couldn’t rise from the dead.

In traditional genome sequencing, researchers strive to sequence each piece of the human genome 30 times, which is known as “30X coverage.” In the case of the decomposed remains of JB55, the sequencing only yielded about 2.5X coverage.

To supplement this, researchers extracted DNA from an individual buried nearby who was believed to be a relative of JB55. Those samples yielded even poorer coverage: approximately 0.68X.

“We did determine that they were third-degree relatives or first cousins,” Greytak said.

Archaeologists originally unearthed the supposed vampire’s remains in 1990.

In 2019, forensic scientists extracted his DNA and ran it through an online genealogical database, determining that JB55 was actually a man named John Barber, a poor farmer who likely died of tuberculosis.

The nickname JB55 was based on the epitaph spelled out on his coffin in brass tacks, denoting his initials and age at death. 

This week, researchers will unveil their new findings, including facial reconstruction, at the International Symposium on Human Identification (ISHI) conference, held from Oct. 31 to Nov. 3 in Washington, D.C.

Revolutionary War–Era Graves Unearthed in South Carolina

Revolutionary War–Era Graves Unearthed in South Carolina

Revolutionary War–Era Graves Unearthed in South Carolina
Bill Stevens (from left), Rachel Baker and Madeline Atwell, all forensic anthropologists with the Richland County Coroner’s Office, carefully remove skeletal remains on Nov. 4, 2022, from a gravesite located where the Battle of Camden was fought between American Patriots and the British. Gavin McIntyre/Staff

The bones came out, one by one, lifted from the earth by experienced hands, wrapped in foil and labelled, until the entire skeleton was liberated from this shallow gravesite. The coroners laid each package in a box. Someone unfurled a Maryland flag. Doug Bostick, executive director of the South Carolina Battleground Preservation Trust, offered words of thanks to the team.

“It’s so surreal,” he said of the find, “and real.”

Then his colleague David Reuwer voiced a loud cheer.

“Hip-hip …” he called.

“Hoozah!” came the collective response.

“Hip-hip …”

“Hoozah!”

“And for them, hip-hip …”

“HOOZAH!”

The box containing the remains of this Continental Army fighter from Maryland was carried slowly, in procession, to a nearby car as everyone gathered on this old battlefield stood respectfully, hand upon their chest.

Sara Rogers, with the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology, holds a box with the remains of a Revolutionary War soldier found at the site of the Battle of Camden. A Maryland state flag is draped over the box in honor of the fighter’s origins. Gavin McIntyre/Staff

The soldier, one of 14 discovered here in recent months, surely died a miserable death. His bones, and the skeletal remains of four others hastily buried next to him, were reminders of war’s terrible violence and time’s indifference.

These young men had been lost to the sandy soil, their determination in the face of an overpowering enemy largely forgotten. The battle is known, but not the individual fighters — men of the 1st and 2nd Maryland Brigades, the Delaware Continental Army, Armand’s Legion, and Virginia and North Carolina militias. This archaeological and forensic work changes that. The human remains, tattered though they are, will go to the lab of University of South Carolina anthropology professor Carlina Maria de la Cova for extensive analysis that surely will reveal new information about the Battle of Camden, a disaster for Continental Army Maj. Gen. Horatio Gates and the men under his command on that hot summer day of Aug. 16, 1780.

CAMDEN BATTLEFIELD: The Battle of Camden, fought on a hot summer day in 1780, was a major defeat for the Continental Army. An archaeological project has turned up artifacts and human remains. (SOURCE: ESRI)

A project that began as an effort to remove artefacts and prepare a historic battlefield for public access became something else when the bones were discovered. Thirteen of the dead appear to have been artlessly buried before the wild hogs could get to them. The corpse of a British fighter was set deeper in the soil and formally laid out, perhaps by friends who took extra care. One of the 14 dead found here appears to have been a Native American who possibly was part of the North Carolina Royal Volunteers, a Loyalist militia unit.

Embedded in the broken bones were musket balls. In one set of remains found across Flat Rock Road, the lead ball lodged in the spine of a teenager, perhaps 14 or 15 years old. Archaeologists know this because of the growth plates visible at the ends of long bones. The boy with the shattered spine was one of at least two teenagers found during this dig. It’s highly unusual to exhume human remains from a historic battlefield, and even more unusual to find this many in one place, Bostick said. Generally, if bones are encountered, an effort is made to minimize activities that disturb them.

But this time, thanks to the expertise of forensic anthropologists from the Richland County Coroner’s Office and support from the Department of Natural Resources, the team determined to scrutinize their find in order to glean new information about the Camden killing field in which 3,700 Patriots and 2,230 British fighters and American Loyalists faced off. Plans already are afoot for a grand reinterment ceremony April 20-23. The bones will be returned to their original resting places, enclosed by pine caskets made in an 18th-century style and protected by vaulted graves.

The battle

By the time the dust cleared, some 1,900 men — more than half of the American forces — were dead or wounded. Perhaps 290 injured Patriots were taken, prisoner. Many of the rest, the inexperienced militiamen, had abandoned the battlefield so quickly, just a few suffered injuries. On the British side, about 70 men perished and 245 were wounded, representing about 15 per cent of Gen. Charles Cornwallis’ total forces.

The British had the advantage from the beginning. In May, they had finally captured Charleston, and to support the occupation of the city, Cornwallis established satellite garrisons, staging grounds and supply depots in the South Carolina backcountry, including a significant installation in Camden. Many of his fighters, therefore, were local, rested and ready for action.

Gates, determined to push the British out, marched his troops from Greensboro, N.C., starting that July. When Cornwallis heard about the approach of the Continental Army, he hastened from Charleston to Camden and organized his men.

The face-off was a mismatch, with experienced British regulars confronting a motley assortment of novice militiamen on one side of the battlefield. Gates’ men were hungry and tired; some were sick with dysentery. In the absence of proper rations and rum, they had been fed green peaches and molasses. When the militiamen threw down their arms, turned and fled, the Patriot side collapsed, though the Maryland and Delaware divisions attempted to hold their ground against the dominant British side.

Buttons dating to the late 1700s, embossed with “USA,” were among artifacts found by archaeologists at the Revolutionary War battlefield near Camden on Friday Nov. 4, 2022. Gavin McIntyre/Staff

Steven Smith, research professor at the University of South Carolina’s Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology, said he and colleague James Legg first started exploring the Camden battlefield with metal detectors in 1998. Over the years, they have found and plotted around 4,000 artefacts. During the COVID pandemic, they opted to spend much of the time in the open air with their equipment; it was an easy way to stay safe from the virus.

The site, several miles north of the city, was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1961 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966. The S.C. Battleground Preservation Trust secured nearly 300 acres and transferred ownership of the property to the Katawba Valley Land Trust in 2019. In September, the archaeologists started excavating for human remains. Collectors had told them about eight known burials. Legg found three sites; Smith found one. Then they encountered another, and another, until they had identified one double grave, one triple grave, one quintuple grave and four graves that each contained the bones of a single person.

“It was a disposal process,” Legg said. “The Continentals fought like Vikings in this battle, but they were overrun.”

It’s said that every battlefield is a burial ground. And there is little time for reverence.

The excavation

Bill Stevens, Richland County deputy coroner and a forensic anthropologist, is kneeling in the shallow gravesite with his two colleagues, Madeline Atwell and Rachel Baker. Loblolly pines tower overhead, but their spacing allows plenty of sunlight to reach the ground. A few flying bugs run accidentally into human obstacles.

The trio have exposed a cluster of five skeletons, digging delicately through the compact sand several inches beyond the bones that now are elevated atop earthen pedestals. Some of the appendages are intertwined and it’s difficult to determine which arm bone belongs to which individual. The dig looks like a miniature Bryce Canyon, except it wasn’t erosion that caused these formations, but an odd combination of human conflict and a researcher’s tiny spade.

Madeline Atwell, a forensic anthropologist with the Richland County Coroner’s Office, carves out a bone from the remains of a Revolutionary War soldier found at the site of the Battle of Camden on Friday Nov. 4, 2022. Gavin McIntyre/Staff

The coroners already have removed nine sets of remains; this is the last gravesite to receive their meticulous attention. Gently, they insert the small blade between the sand pedestal and the skeleton, dislodging enough material to free the bone. These shallow burial sites have been disturbed over the decades by wild creatures, loggers, wagons, road workers and farmers. It’s remarkable that the skeletal remains are intact.

Inside this grave, archaeologists find more than bones. A beautifully made arrowhead, thousands of years old, is lodged in the sand. Several musket balls, the cause of injury and death, are clearly visible. Pewter buttons embossed with “USA” lay among the other objects.

The number of interested spectators is growing. Charles Baxley, chairman of S.C. American Revolution 250th commission has arrived, along with Bonnie Moffat, state regent of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Baxter is overseeing an ambitious project to educate residents and visitors about the war and the founding of the nation. The work here will become an important part of the commission’s narrative, he said.

“These are America’s first veterans, and these veterans were unceremoniously dumped into a hole,” he said.

A Native American arrowhead was among the artifacts found during an archaeological dig at the site of the Battle of Camden on Friday Nov. 4, 2022. The arrowhead likely is thousands of years old. Gavin McIntyre/Staff

Moffat said her organization is arranging to install perhaps 10 historic markers at battlefields across the state in conjunction with the 250th-anniversary celebration. Each marker costs about $4,800, she said. One is planned for Camden.

The S.C. Battleground Preservation Trust has been busy in recent years securing several properties and arranging for public access. It has been partnering with the nonprofit American Battlefield Trust, based in Washington, D.C., to develop the Liberty Trail, a network of Revolutionary War sites in South Carolina. A website, https://www.battlefields.org/learn/maps/liberty-trail, features details about the various historic confrontations and provides maps for those interested in visiting these sites. Now the trust is raising money, as much as $250,000, to help pay for the Camden project and reinterment events, Bostick said.

The reinterment

Battlefield archaeology is a relatively new field of study, Legg said. The first big project took place in 1984-85 at the site of Gen. George Armstrong Custer’s last stand at the Battle of Little Bighorn in Montana. A grass fire ignited by a tossed cigarette had exposed artifacts and inspired scholars to investigate the area, Legg said. They found a lot: spent cartridges, fired bullets, personal items and human remains.

In 1988, Legg and Smith performed excavation work at a Civil War battle site on Folly Island where they discovered, and removed, 19 sets of human remains, including what was left of the Black soldiers of the 55th Massachusetts Regiment who died there. This was one of the first formally organized Black units to fight on behalf of the United States. Legg and Smith arranged for a reburial at the Beaufort National Cemetery. The Camden battlefield now is well-marked with stakes indicating the top of the head and the bottom of the feet of each skeleton exhumed so archaeologists know precisely where the custom pine caskets sealed with hand-wrought nails are to lay, Smith said.

This will be no ordinary reinterment.

Robert Gibbes, with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, marks containers for soil samples during the removal of human remains from a gravesite on the Camden battlefield on Friday Nov. 4, 2022. Gavin McIntyre/Staff

After about five months of study in the lab, the skeletal remains unearthed at the old battlefield will lie in state at the Kershaw-Cornwallis House from April 20 until the morning of April 22, Bostick said. On April 21, reenactors will set up an encampment by the house. An outdoor concert is planned for that evening.

The next morning, participants will process a mile north to Bethesda Presbyterian Church for a joint Anglican-Presbyterian religious service honouring the fallen soldiers. That afternoon, people will gather at the battlefield for a secular ceremony and reburial. Organizers have informed Gov. Henry McMaster of the events, and they have reached out to the state’s congressional delegation and to British officials. Horse-drawn caissons already are reserved.

Bostick said he expects some or all of the events to be live-streamed.

The X-rays and strontium isotope analysis likely will shed light on exactly how these men died, their age at the time of death, and the precise circumstances of their death. The DNA analysis will take a bit longer to complete, perhaps returning results during the summer.

Linsay Mitchell, an intern with the Richland County Coroner’s Office, helps Stacey Ferguson, of the Historic Camden Foundation, on Nov. 4, 2022, sift through dirt from a gravesite where five soldiers killed in the 1780 Battle of Camden were buried. Gavin McIntyre/Staff

The Battle of Camden “is the outstanding symbol of a series of disastrous setbacks suffered by the American side in the South during The War for Independence,” the National Park Service noted on its National Registry of Historic Places nomination form. “These losses, the surrender of Charleston, the wipe-out at Waxhaws, and then Camden, represent the lowest point to which American fortunes sank in that struggle.”

It was a rout that prompted Gates, the commanding officer, to flee along with many of his men, abandoning the now outnumbered Continental regulars to their fate. Their commander, Maj. Gen. Johann de Kalb, was mortally wounded. Congress wanted an inquiry into Gates’ actions, but it never came to pass. Gates was reassigned and Gen. Nathanael Greene assumed command of the Southern forces. It was a consequential change of leadership, a turning point in the war. Over the next two years, Greene and the fighters he commanded succeeded in driving the enemy from the Carolinas and Georgia. On Dec. 14, 1782, the British completed their evacuation of Charleston, boarding ships at Gadsden’s Wharf and sailing off. The war was coming to an end.

Revolutionary War Prison Camp Found in Pennsylvania

Revolutionary War Prison Camp Found in Pennsylvania

Revolutionary War Prison Camp Found in Pennsylvania
In this photo provided by John Crawmer, Jane C. Skinner and Samantha Muscella excavate post holes at the bottom of a stockade trench, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022, in York, Pa. Researchers say they have solved a decades-old riddle by finding remnants of the stockade and therefore the site of a prison camp in York, that housed British soldiers for nearly two years during the American Revolutionary War.

Researchers say they solved a decades-old riddle this week by finding remnants of the stockade and therefore the site of a prison camp in York, Pennsylvania, that housed British soldiers for nearly two years during the American Revolutionary War.

The location of Camp Security was thought to have been on land acquired by the local government nearly a decade ago. On Monday, an archaeological team working there located what they believe to be the prison camp’s exterior security fence.

The camp housed more than 1,000 English, Scottish and Canadian privates and noncommissioned officers for 22 months during the war, starting with a group of prisoners who arrived in 1781, four years after their surrender at Saratoga, New York. By the next year, there were some 1,200 men at the camp, along with hundreds of women and children.

In this photo provided by John Crawmer, Jane C. Skinner excavates post holes at the bottom of a stockade trench, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022, in York, Pa. Researchers say they have solved a decades-old riddle by finding remnants of the stockade and therefore the site of a prison camp in York, that housed British soldiers for nearly two years during the American Revolutionary War.

Fieldwork at the site, which also includes the lower-security Camp Indulgence, has gone on for decades, but the exact spot of Camp Security — where prisoners from the 1781 Battle of Yorktown, Virginia, were kept — had been unknown until a telltale pattern of post holes in a foot-deep trench was uncovered.

“This has been a long project, and to finally see it come to fruition, or at least know you’re not nuts, that’s wonderful,” said Carol Tanzola, who as president of Friends of Camp Security led fundraising for the project.

Lead archaeologist John Crawmer said the location site had been narrowed down after about 28 acres (11 hectares) were ploughed for metal detection and surface collection of artefacts in 2020. That further reduced the search area to about 8 acres (3 hectares), where long exploratory trenches were dug last year.

Those trenches helped the team identify post holes that in turn led to the pattern of holes and a stockade trench that matched stockades at other 18th-century military sites, Crawmer said.

Next spring, Crawmer and other researchers hope to determine the full size of the stockade and perform a focused search for artefacts within and around it.

“Was it circular or square, what’s inside, what’s outside?” Crawmer said. “As we do that, we’re going to start finding those 18th-century artefacts, the trash pits. We’ll be able to start answering questions about where people were sleeping, where they were living, where they were throwing things away, where the privies are.”

Crawmer said there is evidence the vertical posts that formed the security stockade were not in the ground for very long and that they may have been dug up and reused after the camp was closed in 1783.

A contemporaneous account of camp life by a British surgeon’s mate said there was a “camp fever” that might have killed some of the prisoners, and a list of Camp Security inmates was located in the British National Archives. No human remains have been found at the site.

Historians confirmed local lore about the general location of Camp Security and Camp Indulgence after a 1979 archaeological study of a small portion of the property produced buckles, buttons and other items associated with British soldiers of the period. That survey also found 20 coins and 605 straight pins that may have been used by prisoners to make lace.

Maya Stela Discovered at Uxmal

Maya Stela Discovered at Uxmal

Maya Stela Discovered at Uxmal
The stela was found in Uxmal, a Maya city founded around A.D. 700.

In the archaeological site of Uxmal in the Yucatán peninsula, a Maya stela depicting a god and a goddess has been discovered by a technical team headed by the archaeologist José Huchim Herrera. The monument could represent the duality between life and death.

The director of the National Institute of Anthropology and History INAH, Diego Prieto, announced during AMLO’s Thursday press conference the finding of the Maya stela, which he said “is a commemorative dual stela because it is carved on both sides.”

The north-facing side of the monument features the figure of a goddess with big eyes, a bare chest, and barbels at the corner of the mouth, Prieto said.

The imagery likely represents death, as such depictions were common in the Puuc and Chenes cultural regions in the southern Yucatán peninsula.

The woman depicted is also holding a quetzal bird in her left hand and wears a pectoral decoration with three rows of pearls, bracelets with pearl details and a long skirt.

An INAH graphic highlighting features found on the north-facing side of the stela.

On the south-facing side, Prieto continued, the stela shows the image of a god with a wide-brimmed headdress adorned with feathers and an owl’s head, as well as bracelets, loincloth, and leg bandages.

The man wears a cape and holds a cane in his left hand and a bundle of some kind in his right hand.

The stela was discovered as part of the Program for the Improvement of Archeological Sites (Promeza), which undertakes archaeological projects along the route of the Maya Train.

The director of INAH said that “the importance of the discovery lies in the fact that it was found ‘in situ,’” meaning in the same place the Maya left it: the sunken patio of the ancient city of Uxmal.

Located 62 kilometers south of Mérida, the city of Uxmal is part of the Puuc Route (a collection of five ancient Maya sites in Yucatán) and was founded in A.D. 700.

Uxmal was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.