Researchers at Penn State reported a few months ago that they have isolated a 1000-year-old plant virus - a chrysovirus - from corncobs recovered from the Antelope House Ruin in Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona. This chrysovirus is not just the first chrysovirus found in corn, but it is the oldest plant virus scientists have found to date. [Antelope House image via americansouthwest.net; virus image via alchetron.com]
This article is a couple years old now, but its ideas remain fresh. [Image via Westerndigs.org]
A recent archaeological excavation in Tempe, Arizona, uncovered a 13th-Century Hohokam settlement at the headgates of one of the Hohokam's main irrigation canals - one of their extensive network of canals that ran throughout what is now the Phoenix metropolitan area and sustained an estimated population of 80,000.
We all have that certain someone on our holiday gift list. They're the kind of person who spends a fair amount of time outdoors, exploring untold numbers of historic and ancient sites in remote locations...volunteering as a site steward to protect such sites from vandalism and looting...and spending their indoor time reading and learning even more about the places they like the best.
If you're stumped by what to give to your favorite archaeo-nerd this holiday season, you may find the following suggestions helpful:
Archaeogenetecists have been hard at work collecting and analyzing the DNA of the remains of several dozen turkeys recovered from archaeological sites throughout Mexico and the US Southwest. The remains have been dated within ranges from 300 BCE to 1500 CE and they showed that several distinct species were raised in different regions of the Americas. These birds included the South Mexican wild turkey, the Rio Grande wild turkey (left photo), Gould's wild turkey (center), and the Yucatan's ocellated turkey (right).
The University of Arizona Press has published an enticing new volume of the latest in Mimbres area archaeology. Avocational archaeologists as well as professionals will recognize some or all of the 30 contributing authors whose experience in the Mimbres region reflects many decades of dedicated field work and research. Edited by Drs. Barbara Roth, Patricia Gilman, and Roger Anyon, this 288-page book is available in both hard-copy and electronic editions.
List price is $65 but scroll down in the flyer below to find a sweet 30% discount coupon for hip people like you who are In The Know:
This final post in our DNA trilogy concerns how the genetic analysis of non-human remains enhances the archaeologist's understanding of the past human culture they are investigating. And sometimes opens more and unexpected avenues of research to pursue.
Archaeologists have studied the remains of 14 scarlet macaws recently unearthed from five different New Mexico sites including Chaco Canyon and the Mimbres region. Macaws' feathers were highly valued not just by the macaws themselves, but by Ancestral Puebloans and other cultures throughout the US Southwest.
The burials were found in Room 33, aka the Gambler's House, of Pubelo Bonito in Chaco Canyon. [Figure on right via Stephen Plog and Carrie Heitman, Hierarchy and Social Inequality in the American Southwest, A.D. 800-1200.]
From the Western Digs article: "They were interred in what’s been described as “the richest burial known in the Southwest” — 14 men and women buried over the course of 330 years in the same crypt, some accompanied by pieces of pottery and pendants, others lavished with thousands of turquoise and shell beads....And new analysis of DNA from the 14 sets of remains shows that these elites weren’t merely members of the same influential class — indeed, they were all members of the same extended family, a “dynasty” that traced its ancestry to a single woman...."
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Many avocational archaeologists are familiar with the evidence that indicates that people in the Southwest began cultivating and eating a variety of corn during the Archaic Period in about 2100 BCE. In contrast, archaeological excavations in Utah have revealed that people had been harvesting, cooking, and eating wild potatoes as early as 8000-9000 BCE.
If you have ever traveled along Interstate 10 in Arizona between Willcox and Benson, you may have spotted a small roadside sign in the Dragoon Mountains [photo on left via Creative Commons] directing you to the Amerind Museum off of Exit 318. The idea of a museum located in such a beautiful natural setting may have piqued your interest, but at 75 mph you were already past the exit to give much thought to a detour.
How about taking a detour there now?
Petroglyphs are open to interpretation - wide open - because the artists who pecked them into the rock left no written explanation of the images and little to no oral history to guide the present-day viewer. Therefore, all interpretations can be considered. Total eclipse or coronal mass ejection? Could be either. Could be both.
In 1992, the image on the right there [via The Journal] was discovered on a rock panel by participants of a field school/archaeological excavation in Chaco Canyon. (Such a find is reason enough to volunteer for a field school.) It looks like an image of the sun to most people. The rock panel on which it was pecked is now named Piedra del Sol (Rock of the Sun) in its honor. However, it might depict more than just an artistic sun design.