Cool Archaeological Stories!

I stumbled across a couple of cool archaeological stories today.

The first concerns a 4,150 foot canoe canal (40 foot wide at the top and 12 feet wide at the bottom and was some 15-20 feet deep) built sometime between 1200-1400 in Naples, Florida. It has been known about for quite some time (earlier in the 20th century it was thought to have been built by pirates) but never excavated. The canal was filled sometime in the 1920’s and has never been excavated. From the story:

Now, archaeologists want to excavate part of the canal, which has been filled in since the 1920s, on property owned by the city of Naples, Bob Carr, executive director of the Archaeological & Historical Conservancy in Davie, said Wednesday.

“We hope to look carefully at the canal,” Carr said. “We have big ideas, possibly opening an area where tourists can see the excavation and having a marked Naples Canal trail. This would be good for tourism and science.”

This next story is even cooler. A grad student in archaeology – also a Ph.D. candidate – named Chantel Summerfield studied the inscriptions soldiers carved in trees in Salisbury Plain. The inscriptions were from soldiers during World Wars I and II. From the story:

“I’ve followed many of the First World War soldiers’ carvings from trees that once stood a few miles behind the front line on the Western Front, through to finding their graves in Commonwealth War Graves cemeteries,” Chantel says.

“But with the Second World War carvings – most of which were done by American GIs as they made their way through Normandy – I’ve sometimes been able to trace the soldiers’ surviving relatives. There was one, for example, that I found on Salisbury Plain that had been inscribed by an American GI as he waited for the D-Day invasion – it simply said: ‘Frank Fearing – Hudson, Massachusetts, 1945’ followed by a love heart and the name Helen.

She tracked down Frank’s daughter and through the daughter Frank’s wife (Frank had passed away by that point). She was also able to study inscriptions in France and compare them to the inscriptions in England:

“The inscriptions become much more personal in France, where they were facing the very real prospect of being killed at any moment. Out there it’s not just a matter of carving your initials and putting the date beneath them – the French carvings are all about saying they were there; saying this is my name, I existed; I was alive here at this moment.

“Many of them are expressions of love for their wife or girlfriend back home. They’re personal sentiments very often. But none are negative about the situation they find themselves in – amazingly none are critical of the army they’re fighting with or the army they’re fighting against. In fact, of the 2,000 arborglyphs I’ve studied, only three contained swear words.”

Interesting stuff!

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