World News

Palaeolithic portable art

Image: Denis Gliksman, Inrap

Several small limestone slabs, found at an open-air site at Bellegarde in south-eastern France in 2015 by Inrap archaeologists, have recently been identified as containing rare carvings made during the Upper Palaeolithic. Portable art from this period in southern France is rare and almost completely unknown from open-air sites, with most examples having previously been discovered in caves.

Excavations at the site revealed that it was almost continuously occupied during the Magdalenian period, between 20,000 and 14,000 BC, and two of the carved artefacts found date to the beginning of this period. One had an engraving of a single horse, while the other had three juxtaposed horse profiles. Another example, dating to the Middle Magdalenian, is thought to depict the upper legs and groin area of a human woman.

The colonial Caribbean diet

Analysis of 16th-century pottery sherds found on Isla de Mona, part of the Puerto Rican archipelago, has helped illuminate the diet of early European colonisers.

Using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry, a UK-based team discovered wine residue on the insides of several jars, whose style suggest that they date to between 1490 and 1520. Found near a cave where archaeologists had previous recovered a church bell from the period, the wine may have been consumed as part of Christian practices brought to the Americas by the settlers. The analysis was also unable to identify any meat or fish being cooked in these vessels, which is unexpected given the traditional Spanish diet at this time. This could indicate, then, that the colonists may have quickly adapted to indigenous cooking practices, such as spit-roasting, pit-roasting, or using a barbacoa (a Taino – the indigenous people from this region – word meaning smoking meat on a raised wooden grate over a fire). The full results were recently published in Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences:

Spectacularly preserved sword found in Bavaria

An almost pristine bronze sword has been discovered in the Donau-Ries area of Bavaria in Germany. It was found in a burial containing the remains of a man, a woman, and a child, and dates to the Middle Bronze Age, around the end of the 14th century BC.

Ornately decorated with an octagonal hilt, the sword does not show any signs of having been used, although the weight of it suggests that it would have been an effective weapon. It may be, though, that this sword was intended for ceremonial use or as a status symbol. More analysis will hopefully be able to reveal further details.