World News: Mexico, Australia, Ethiopia

On the Maya road

The first LiDAR study of the longest road in the Maya area has shed new light on settlement in Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula. The 100km- long Sacbe 1 was built in the 7th century AD and connected the city of Cobá, which controlled the eastern peninsula, and the smaller and older city of Yaxuná in the middle of the peninsula. When the road was first mapped in the 1930s it was believed to run in a straight line from Cobá to Chichén Itzá (c.2.5km north of Yaxuná), however the LiDAR survey has revealed that it actually veered on its course to Yaxuná, connecting many pre-existing sites along the way. This indicates that the regional population living in smaller settlements between the two large sites was of importance to the road’s builders. Excavations of some of the structures identified during the survey revealed that they range from simple households to large plaza groups with monumental architecture. These discoveries highlight the importance of this landscape, which had previously been overlooked as a motivation for the construction of the road.

Photo: Proyecto Sacbe Yaxuna-Coba / Cultural Heritage Engineering Initiative and PSYC.
Photo: Proyecto Sacbe Yaxuna-Coba / Cultural Heritage Engineering Initiative and PSYC.

Australia’s first clachan found

A geophysical survey in rural Southern Australia has discovered the first clachan settlement to be identified in the country, revealing an untold story about the region in the colonial period. Clachans were small settlements in Scotland and Ireland made up of clusters of houses and outbuildings, where residents often adopted communal farming practices. The Australian site, at Baker’s Flat, was first occupied in the mid-19th century by more than 500 Irish immigrants who worked nearby at Kapunda’s copper mine, and people remained there until at least the 1920s. Little remains of the settlement above ground, but the survey revealed traces of buildings beneath the surface and established the layout of the site. Excavations in parts of the site also uncovered fragments of spongeware ceramics, cobbled paths, and walls created by digging into the bedrock.

Uncovering Yeha’s sanctuaries

A monumental building has been discovered during excavations at the ancient city of Yeha, in the Tigray highlands of Ethiopia. Yeha was the political and religious centre of one of Africa’s earliest complex societies in the first half of the 1st millennium BC. The newly discovered structure was found within Yeha’s modern church compound, where other Ethio-Sabean buildings such as the Great Temple have also been located, and it is believed that it is likely to be a temple dating to the 7th century BC. The building was partially dismantled in the Aksumite period, but it is hoped that future excavations may reveal a better-preserved part of the building.