World news in brief: Ancient octopus lures and Egyptian cheese

A round up of some of the latest archaeological news across the globe, including the discovery of 2,600-year-old remains of cheese at Saqqara, the oldest known octopus lures, and the launch of Montenegro's first maritime archaeology research unit.

Montenegro launches Maritime Archaeology unit

Montenegro is one of several countries bordering the Adriatic Sea, which is home to many shipwrecks and underwater heritage sites. But unlike its neighbours, Montenegro has never had a dedicated underwater archaeology institution – until now. The country’s first maritime archaeology research unit, the Laboratory of Maritime Archaeology, has been established at the University of Montenegro, within the Centre for Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship of the Faculty of Maritime Studies in Kotor. The Laboratory’s mission is to foster research in maritime archaeology and support the protection of Montenegro’s underwater cultural heritage, as well as making it more accessible to the public through the use of innovative research methods and state-of-the-art technology. The Laboratory was formed as a result of the Wrecks4All project, which aims to promote tourism based on the underwater cultural heritage of the eastern Adriatic region.

Image: Laboratory of Maritime Archaeology

Egyptian cheese

Excavations at the ancient Egyptian necropolis of Saqqara have uncovered the remains of 2,600-year-old cheese. The blocks of white cheese were discovered in several pottery vessels inscribed with Demotic script, dating to the 26th or 27th Dynasty (668-525 BC). According to Dr Mostafa Waziri, the secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities of Egypt, this type of cheese was called ‘haram’ by the ancient Egyptians and became known as ‘halloum’ in the Coptic period (4th-7th centuries AD). Today, we know this squeaky cheese, made from a mixture of goat’s and sheep’s milk, as halloumi. Archaeologists also uncovered several more containers in the same area, which have yet to be opened. This find comes after the discovery of what may be the world’s oldest solid cheese, dating to over 3,200 years ago, in another tomb at Saqqara in 2018.

Ancient octopus lures

Analysis of artefacts found in the Mariana Islands, in western Micronesia, has identified them as the oldest known octopus lures in the world. The objects are made of cowrie shells – a type of sea snail favoured by octopuses – and are believed to have been attached to a stone sinker and hook by a fibre cord and used to attract and capture octopuses. Examples of these lures found at seven sites on the islands of Tinian and Saipan have now been radiocarbon dated to between 1,500 BC and 500 BC. No older examples have currently been found anywhere else, and their presence in the Mariana Islands at this early date offers an important source of information about the development of fishing practices and ancient diets in the Pacific. The study has been published in World Archaeology (