World News: Luxor, Napoleon, and Neanderthals

A round-up of some of the latest stories in Archaeology around the world, including a previously unknown city uncovered in Luxor, a tree from the Battle of Waterloo, and research into how Neanderthals spoke and heard.

Lost city found in Luxor

A team of archaeologists led by Dr Zahi Hawass has recently uncovered a previously unknown city, located between the temples of Ramesses III and Amenhotep III in Luxor, Egypt.

The large, well-preserved city was found near palaces of Amenhotep III (r. 1391-1353 BC), and archaeologists believe that it was probably founded by the 18th Dynasty pharaoh in order to provide food and other items to his royal residence. Excavations revealed the city to be well-organised, with an apparent administrative district – as evidenced by a series of large mud-brick structures surrounded by an unusual zigzag wall with only one entrance – as well as areas that seem to have been used for food preparation and craft-making.

Fallen witness to Waterloo

A chestnut tree – one of the last arboreal witnesses to the Battle of Waterloo – was felled by a storm this past March. It is believed to have been planted between 1675 and 1775, and was situated near to where much of the fighting occurred back in 1815. Recently, members of the charity Waterloo Uncovered carried out a metal-detector scan of the tree and found possible evidence for embedded musket balls.

Photo: Mike Greenwood, Waterloo Uncovered

Commenting on the loss, Professor Tony Pollard, from the Centre for Battlefield Archaeology at the University of Glasgow, said: ‘I’m sad to see the loss of this tree, one of only three left from a forest standing at the time of the battle. But it’s also an opportunity for archaeologists. We can now carry out further investigations to extract these artefacts, and a dendrochronological examination can confirm the tree’s age.’

Quote the Neanderthal

A study by an international team of researchers – the results of which were recently published in Nature Ecology and Evolution – has attempted to recreate the probable vocal and hearing ranges of Neanderthals.

The team used computerised tomography (CT) scans of the inner ear of Neanderthals, as well as auditory models, to test the range of sounds that these hominins may have been able to hear and produce. They found that they may have been particularly adept at hearing consonants, so it could be that their speech used more of these sounds. It also appears that Neanderthals could hear a wider range of frequencies than some earlier hominins and that they may have had a similar hearing and speech capability to that of modern humans.