Study solves mystery of coal origins on Blackbeard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge
A study by the University of Kentucky has solved the origins of the coal found on Blackbeard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge.
Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard, was an English pirate who operated around the West Indies and the eastern coast of Britain’s North American colonies.
Blackbeard earned his nickname due to his thick black beard and intimidating presence. He was known to tie lit fuses (slow matches) under his hat which instilled fear in his opponents.
Around 300 years ago, Blackbeard seized a French slave ship named La Concorde and renamed her as Queen Anne’s Revenge, arming her with 40 guns and manning her with a crew of around 400 men.
In 1717, the ship hit a sandbar near Beaufort, North Carolina, in the present-day Carteret County. The ship was rediscovered in 1996 by Intersal Inc in 8.5 m of water, about one 1.6 km offshore of Fort Macon State Park, Atlantic Beach, North Carolina.
Currently, over 300,000 artefacts have been retrieved from the wreckage and around 30 cannons. The cannons originate from various places, such as Sweden and England, and come in different sizes, which is typical for a pirate crew during colonial times.
The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology recently published the findings of researchers who aimed to determine the source of the coal found on the historic shipwreck.
James Hower from the UK Centre for Applied Energy Research (CAER) and Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences, said: “We wanted to figure out where this coal on the shipwreck might have come from in that particular era before there was any real coal mining of any sort in this country.”
Archaeologists previously discovered that coal was distributed evenly throughout the excavation site, leading them to find samples present in corroded iron and other parts of the wreckage.
Four samples of the coal were sent for further analysis at CAER’s Applied Petrology Laboratory to determine the coal rank. Coal is classified into four main ranks, or types, which depend on the amount of carbon the coal contains and the amount of heat energy it can produce.
The coal samples displayed a wide range of quality, with some being low volatile bituminous coal (87-90% carbon) and others being anthracites (above 90% carbon).
“Low volatile bituminous coal is generally found in Virginia. It’s good for cooking and was also used on steamships because that type of coal doesn’t give off smoke when it burns,” explained Hower. “Anthracite is not the most common coal rank found anywhere, much less in the U.S. All the anthracites here come from Pennsylvania.”
Another key to solving this mystery is knowing what time those sources of coal were active.
“Simply, the coal samples post-date the Queen Anne’s Revenge grounding. In a 19th- or 20th-century setting, the easiest explanation for the source of both types of coal could have been in the Appalachians, but the mining there didn’t exist in the period we’re looking at. Plus, European settlers did not discover Pennsylvania anthracite until maybe the later part of the 1760s and real, legitimate mining didn’t happen until the 1800s,” said Hower.
According to the researcher, the post-date coal samples were likely dumped from U.S. Navy ships in the Civil War after Union troops captured nearby Fort Macon on April 26, 1862.
There was a heavy influx of ship traffic at that time, especially during the Union’s blockade of Wilmington, North Carolina — a major port for the Confederacy and the last one to fall in February of 1865.
Natural forces, such as waves, tidal currents, tropical storms, and hurricanes, also played a role in how the coal ended up settling in and around the Queen Anne’s Revenge. This is due to the frequent shifting of inlets and sand shoals along the Outer Banks over time.
Archaeologists from the University of Kentucky explained that the same movement is responsible for intrusive items finding their way onto the shipwreck, like 19th-century glass and ceramic artefacts, as well as 20th-century coins, soda bottles and even golf balls.
Header Image Credit : Shutterstock
Nazca geoglyphs discovered used AI deep learning
Archaeologists from the Yamagata University have used AI deep learning to discover new geoglyphs in the northern part of the Nazca Pampa in the arid Peruvian coastal plain.
Geoglyphs in the Nazca Pampa were first identified during the 1920’s, with ongoing studies since the 1940’s revealing various figurative geoglyphs of zoomorphic designs, geometric shapes, and linear lines.
Geoglyphs can be categorised into three main types: figurative, geometric, and lineal. Archaeologists suggest that the lineal geoglyphs were created by the Nazca, a culture that developed during the Early Intermediate Period and is generally divided into the Proto Nazca (phase 1, 100 BC to AD 1), the Early Nazca (phases 2–4, AD 1 to 450), Middle Nazca (phase 5, AD 450 to 550) and the Late Nazca (phases 6–7, AD 550 to 750).
The relief type dates from the Late Formative period (400 to 200 BC), as the iconography of the geoglyphs are similar to that of Formative petroglyphs found on outcrops of rock. During this period, the region was inhabited by the Paracas Culture, an Andean people that emerged around 800 BC until 100 BC.
Since 2004, Yamagata University has been conducting geoglyph distribution surveys using satellite imagery, aerial photography, airborne scanning LiDAR, and drone photography to investigate the vast area of the Nazca Pampa covering more than 390 km2.
In 2016, the researchers used aerial photography with a ground resolution of 0.1 m per pixel to create a detailed survey of the region. Overtime, the team have identified various geoglyphs, however, the process is very time consuming, so they have adopted AI deep learning to analyse the photographs at a much faster rate.
The results of a study, published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, has revealed the discovery of four new Nazca geoglyphs using this new method by creating an approach to labelling training data that identifies a similar partial pattern between the known and new geoglyphs.
The four new geoglyphs depict a humanoid figure, a pair-of-legs, a fish, and a bird. The humanoid geoglyph is shown holding a club in his/her right hand and measures 5 metres in length. The fish geoglyph, shown with a wide-open mouth measures 19 metres, while the bird geoglyph measures 17 metres and the pair-of-legs 78 metres.
According to the study authors: “We have developed a DL pipeline that addresses the challenges that commonly arise in the task of archaeological image object detection. Our approach allows DL to learn representations of images with better generalisation and performance, enabling the discovery of targets that have been difficult to find in the past. Moreover, by accelerating the research process, our method contributes to archaeology by establishing a new paradigm that combines field surveys and AI, leading to more efficient and effective investigations.”
Header Image Credit : Yamagata University
Archaeologists study fortress in southern Georgia to understand community resilience
A team of archaeologists led by Cranfield University is conducting a detailed study of the fortress of Dmanisis Gora in the Kvemo Kartli region of Georgia.
The study is part of a project to understand why communities in the region were more resilient than other parts of the world during the transition from the Bronze to the Iron Age around 1200 BC.
Dmanisis Gora is located at the north-eastern edge of the highland zone between two such gorges. The site consists of a compact defensive core that has two defensive walls with an enclosed area of 3.7 acres.
On the plateau behind the citadel area, a third wall, extending about 1000 m from edge to edge on the plateau, encloses a much larger area of about 138.3 acres that contains numerous circular and linear stone features.
During the so-called ‘12th Century BC crisis’ and its aftermath, the majority of Middle Eastern regions underwent a period of significant turmoil characterised by the disintegration of empires, famine, crop failures, armed conflicts, and mass migration.
In contrast, the Caucasus region (consisting of present-day Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan) appears to have been shielded from this tumultuous period, exhibiting only gradual transformations in material culture and patterns of settlement.
Either the region managed to entirely avoid the widespread disruption, or it did not experience the same cultural, economic, and political repercussions as other areas. This suggests that the communities in the region might have been more resilient, enabling them to withstand and adapt to the challenges in a comparatively effective manner.
Dr Erb-Satullo, from Cranfield University, said: “The key to understanding why the Bronze Age-Iron Age transition is different in the Caucasus is to study the fortress communities that dot the landscape during this period. We’re looking for clues about life in the Late Bronze Age through examining areas such as ceramics, burial rituals, farming practices, tools and social structures.”
“Given the upheaval at that time in other nearby regions, we are intrigued to find out more about one of these sites and determine what underlies their apparent resilience,” added Dr Erb-Satullo.
The project expands upon earlier pilot excavations carried out at the site prior to the pandemic, along with a thorough survey conducted in Autumn 2022 using drone-based photogrammetry. This is done by using the latest forensic technologies including isotopic analysis of animal remains, metallurgy, magnetometry and deploying drones to scan the area.
“What’s really exciting about this site is its size, preservation, and the fact that it has layers dating precisely to the years around the 12th Century BC crisis,” continued Dr Erb-Satullo. “Many fortresses are on hills which are prone to erosion. But this one has relatively flat topography, so the sediment will have built up in layers over time, helping to preserve artefacts and archaeological clues from the Late Bronze age.”
Header Image Credit : BING Maps
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