World News: Italy, Norway, New Mexico

Victims of Vesuvius

Excavations at a large villa in Civita Guiliana, 700m north-west of Pompeii’s city walls, have uncovered two more victims of the eruption of Vesuvius that destroyed many settlements in this region of Italy in AD 79.

Photo: Luigi Spina, @luigispina.photographer

The two bodies were found entombed in a 2m-thick layer of ash in a side-room, just off a covered passageway called a cryptoporticus. Both of the victims appear to have been male. One was aged between 18 and 25, and appears to have suffered from multiple compression fractures to his spine during life. These are unusual injuries for someone so young and could indicate that his life was one of hard manual labour. The other man was older, aged between 30 and 40. Based on the elaborate fabric imprints found underneath his neck and close to his sternum, he was possibly wearing a woollen mantle and tunic at the time of his death, suggesting that he may have been of higher social-status than his companion.

Icy archaeology

A large assemblage of archaeological finds – radiocarbon dated to between c.4100 BC and AD 1300 – have been revealed by melting ice in the Jotunheimen mountains in Norway. Among the recovered artefacts were almost 300 animal remains and 68 arrows, confirming that this has been a popular area for hunting reindeer for millennia.

The discovery forms part of a project that is assessing the stratigraphic reliability of archaeological finds recovered from frozen features. The results, which were recently published in The Holocene, indicate that artefacts which have been frozen in ice do tend to move position as the ice melts and refreezes over the course of centuries, indicating that stratigraphy may be an unreliable tool for assessing such finds.

Making tracks

Human footprints created more than 10,000 years ago have been found at the White Sands National Park in New Mexico. The tracks cover more than 1.5km and show both the person’s outbound and return journeys, making this the longest double human trackway yet discovered from the Late Pleistocene.

Analysis of the discovery – which was recently published in Quaternary Science Reviews – suggests that, based on the size of the prints, the person who made them was most likely an adolescent or small woman. The person also appears to have been carrying a young child on at least one leg of the journey, as they were set down on three separate occasions, leaving their own marks. It also appears that in the middle of the trip a giant ground sloth and Columbian mammoth crossed the human tracks, with no evidence that any of them were aware of the presence of the others.