Audio News for October 15th to October 21st, 2006.
Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I'm Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news for October 8th to October 14th, 2006.
New Viking ship burial found
Our first story is from Norway, where archaeologists have found the remains of a ship from the Viking Age in a burial mound on a farm outside the coastal city of Larvik. The discovery came during examinations of the Nordheim Farm a few hours south of Oslo, where there are plans to expand the cemetery around a local church. Norwegian Broadcasting reported that archaeologists found not just the Viking Age burial ship, but indications of a second ship the same area. Archaeologist Knut Paasche, who has been examining the area around the farm, said the discovery is important and interesting, but added that it is too early to say whether the ship could be excavated intact. With so many traces of the vessel found, though, it should at least be possible to describe exactly how the ship looked. This Viking ship will not be the equal of the famous Oseberg or Gokstad discoveries in its state of preservation, however. The Oseberg ship, which has long been on display in Oslo, had been buried in a valley and covered with clay, which helped keep it so well preserved.
Cyprus yields mass of ancient anchors
Our next story is from Cyprus, where some 120 ancient stone anchors have been found off the coast near a temple dedicated to Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. The Sanctuary of Aphrodite, nine miles east of Paphos, was for centuries renowned as the centre of the cult surrounding the goddess. The underwater accumulation of anchors is likely to be the result of them snapping free from ships sheltering here during storms. Archaeologists are particularly excited that the find includes anchors from the late Bronze Age, 1650 to 1100 BC. These will cast new light on ancient trading patterns and settlements. According to Herodotus, the ancient historian, every woman had to give herself once to the service of Aphrodite and wait in her sanctuary until a stranger came to make love to her. The practice was regarded as serious religious duty, not indulgence. But sailors had another reason to pay their respects to Aphrodite and bring offerings: she was the protector of seafarers for whom Cyprus was a trading centre linking east and west. According to Dr Sophocles Hadjisavvas, managing director of the Thetis foundation, this discovery will add to our understanding of sea-borne trade between Cyprus and the countries of the Middle East. The finds should also deepen knowledge of trade on the island itself, since the virtual absence of roads meant goods were transported by ships along the coast, not overland. Because the anchors have yet to be raised, archaeologists are reluctant to give their precise location. The port is likely to have declined as a trading hub as it silted up. Writers in the Roman period speak of pilgrims arriving at the sanctuary in a procession by land from Paphos, by then the site of a large man-made harbor. The construction of proper harbors began only in the fourth century BC, during the Hellenistic Period.
Ancient Greek text on the Furies is published at last
Recently in Greece, scholars turned out in force for the launch of the first full official edition of the Derveni Papyrus at the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki. The oldest book in Europe, the Derveni Papyrus is a text that discusses the fate of the soul and the role of the Furies, the three terrible winged goddesses with serpentine hair, Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone, who pursue and punish doers of unavenged crimes. The Derveni Papyrus is a mystic, often figurative text that was written in the last quarter of the fourth century BC. Academics who have studied it describe it as the most significant new evidence about ancient Greek philosophy and religion. The book was originally found in 1962 in a grave at Derveni, in Thessaloniki and there has been a battle between scholars over the access to the book. According to researchers at Thessaloniki University, the reason there was no scholarly Greek publication of the text for 26 years was the difficulty of interpreting all the legible surviving text on 26 scrolls. Beyond that, the religious and philosophical interpretation was not easy. Gaps in the text made it difficult to understand what the Derveni author meant to be allegorical and what was intended to be literal. Although unauthorized and partial publications have been made over the past two decades, this is the first full edition approved by the Central Archaeological Council. This edition utilizes recent electronic research that helped to further decipher the text. More than 200 charred chunks of papyrus went under the microscope again for this newest decipherment, this time with the use of micro-phase photography.
Downtown Phoenix excavation concludes
Our final story is from Phoenix, Arizona, in the United States, where archaeologist Mark Hackbarth and his crew have had 30 days to excavate the remains of a major prehistoric Hohokam village. The village had been protected under the old Phoenix Civic Plaza and includes three of the earliest known pithouses in the Phoenix metropolitan area, dating back 3,000 years, with additional materials all around them. Today, thousands of artifacts from the dig rest in a Tempe laboratory as Hackbarth analyzes one of the Valley's greatest archaeological finds. When the Phoenix Civic Plaza was originally built in the early 1970s, it was placed on a cement slab, which left the ruins covered until this summer. By the time Hackbarth and his crew were finished in early September, they had discovered nearly 40 Hohokam pithouses. They had also filled 3,500 sacks with artifacts and dirt to be studied for more clues about the people who first found a way to live in the desert. The word Hohokam comes from a local Indian tribe’s phrase describing "those who have gone." These people, long gone by the time the Spaniards arrived, developed irrigation techniques and canal systems that enabled them to farm, build a series of towns and cities, and thrive from around the first century AD until they vanished around 1450. After all analyses are completed, the archaeologists will have an idea of how long people stayed at this location, how many lived here and what kind of crops they grew and traded. It will probably take three to five years to complete all the work.
That wraps up the news for this week!
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I'm Laura Kelley and I'll see you next week!