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Apply Now to Join an Archaeological Dig at Colorado's Magic Mountain

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If you've ever dreamed of digging for artifacts but don't have an archaeology degree, you're in luck—but you'll have to act fast. The Denver Museum of Nature & Science is accepting applications for volunteers interested in joining a community dig this summer at one of Colorado's most important archaeological sites. Applications close May 3, according to Patch.

Located west of Denver, in Golden, the site is called Magic Mountain, named after a failed amusement park that was briefly located there in 1959–1960—more than a decade before the far more famous Magic Mountain opened in Los Angeles. Now owned by the city of Golden, the site was first excavated in the 1950s after a nearby dig revealed that the Fountain Rock Formation, of which Golden is a part, "was a key 'borderland' between the people of the high plains and Great Basin regions," The Denver Post reports.

The oldest artifacts found at the site date back some 7000 years, when the site was used as a camping grounds for hunter-gatherer groups passing through the region during the Archaic and Woodland periods. According to the museum, other artifacts found at the site, including ceramics and stone structures, suggest that a more permanent residence was established there at least 1000 years ago.

"Although Magic Mountain has been previously explored by archaeologists, this project revives the excavation through a community-based effort that will likely lead to new science and discoveries," the project's founders said in a statement, as reported by Patch. "You can be a part of uncovering and sharing human-environmental history over the last 7000 years, if not more!"

Volunteers will be given shovels, trowels, and other tools, and more experienced excavators will be on hand to demonstrate how they're used. No experience is necessary, but volunteers must be at least 18 years old and be able to complete three shifts during one of the two sessions, held June 18–27 and July 5–15. Space is limited for the program, and chosen applicants will be notified by May 7.

Ready to get your hands dirty? You can fill out an online application here.

[h/t Patch]

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Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma
Utility Workers May Have Found One of Rome’s First Churches
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

The remains of what may have been one of Rome’s earliest Christian churches were accidentally discovered along the Tiber River during construction, The Local reports. The four-room structure, which could have been built as early as the 1st century CE, was unearthed by electrical technicians who were laying cables along the Ponte Milvio.

The newly discovered structure next to the river
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

No one is sure what to make of this “archaeological enigma shrouded in mystery,” in the words of Rome’s Archaeological Superintendency. Although there’s no definitive theory as of yet, experts have a few ideas.

The use of colorful African marble for the floors and walls has led archaeologists to believe that the building probably served a prestigious—or perhaps holy—function as the villa of a noble family or as a Christian place of worship. Its proximity to an early cemetery spawned the latter theory, since it's common for churches to have mausoleums attached to them. Several tombs were found in that cemetery, including one containing the intact skeleton of a Roman man.

Marble flooring
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

A tomb
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma1

The walls are made of brick, and the red, green, and beige marble had been imported from Sparta (Greece), Egypt, and present-day Tunisia, The Telegraph reports.

As The Local points out, it’s not all that unusual in Rome for archaeological discoveries to be made by unsuspecting people going about their day. Rome’s oldest aqueduct was found by Metro workers, and an ancient bath house and tombs were found during construction on a new church.

[h/t The Local]

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Alexis Pantos, University of Copenhagen
Scientists Just Found the Oldest Known Piece of Bread
Alexis Pantos, University of Copenhagen
Alexis Pantos, University of Copenhagen

An old, charred piece of long-forgotten flatbread has captured the interest of archaeologists, anthropologists, and historians around the world. Found in a stone fireplace in Jordan’s Black Desert, this proto-pita dates back 14,400 years, making it the oldest known example of bread, Reuters reports.

To put the significance of this discovery in context: the flatbread predates the advent of agriculture by 4000 years, leading researchers to theorize that the laborious process of making the bread from wild cereals may have inspired early hunter-gatherers to cultivate grain and save themselves a whole lot of trouble.

“We now have to assess whether there was a relationship between bread production and the origins of agriculture,” Amaia Arranz-Otaegui, a researcher with the University of Copenhagen, told Reuters. “It is possible that bread may have provided an incentive for people to take up plant cultivation and farming, if it became a desirable or much-sought-after food.”

A report on these findings—written by researchers from the University of Copenhagen, University College London, and University of Cambridge—was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

It was once thought that bread was an invention of early farming civilizations. A 9100-year-old piece of bread from Turkey was previously regarded as the oldest of its kind. However, the Jordanian flatbread was made by a group of hunter-gatherers called the Natufians, who lived during a transitional period from nomadic to sedentary ways of life, at which time diets also started to change.

Similar to a pita, this unleavened bread was made from wild cereals akin to barley, einkorn, and oats. These were “ground, sieved, and kneaded prior to cooking,” according to a statement from the University of Copenhagen. The ancient recipe also called for tubers from an aquatic plant, which Arranz-Otaegui described as tasting “gritty and salty."

[h/t Reuters]

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