Audio News for March 4th to March 10th, 2007.
Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I'm Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news for March 4th to March 10th, 2007.
Mound from centuries of house remains is first “tell” found in Germany
Our first story is from Germany, where a 7,000-year-old dwelling mound has been found. This is the first find of its kind in Western Europe. This type of mound is most commonly found in the Middle East where, they can reach a height of 120 feet. They are also known in the Balkans and South America, but have never been found in Germany, until now. Thus, the discovery of a dwelling mound less than five feet high but hundreds of feet across, near Oberröblingen in Saxony-Anhalt, is causing excitement in the archaeological community. Thought to be 7,000 years old, the oval-shaped mound is roughly 300 feet long, 180 feet wide and five and half high. It consists of the clay remains of centuries of previous structures. According to Robert Ganslmeier of the State Museum of Prehistory in Halle, this is a unique find in Germany. The archaeologists believe that various rituals took place on the mound, including sacrifices. They have found two beheaded young people and next to them, the fragmented skeleton of a horse, minus the skull and hind legs. Dog skulls and the remains of a calf also were found. One of the young people was wearing a bone bracelet, and ceramic vessels surrounded the animal skeletons. For unknown reasons, the mound was abandoned about 5,500 years ago, but 3,000 years ago, people of the late Bronze Age came and occupied it for another 300 years. It's pure coincidence that the mound has been so well preserved. The recent diversion of a nearby river spared it from erosion. Ganslmeier believes there could well be more dwelling mounds in Germany, but they'll be hard to find.
Sunken ship may belong to famous pirate Blackbeard
In the United States, a shipwreck off the North Carolina coast believed to be that of notorious pirate Blackbeard could be fully excavated in three years. The ship ran aground in 1718 and some researchers believe it was a French slave ship that Blackbeard captured in 1717 and renamed Queen Anne's Revenge. Researchers believe that historical data and coral-covered artifacts recovered from the site remove any doubt that the wreckage belonged to Blackbeard. The artifacts include 25 cannons, which professionals say is an uncommonly large number to find on a ship in this region in the early 18th century. Three university professors, including two from East Carolina University, have challenged the findings. But officials working on the excavation said that the more they find, the stronger their case becomes. According to Mark Wilde-Ramsing, director of the Queen Anne's Revenge Project, historians have looked at it thoroughly. Their consensus is that there's little possibility anything else is in there that does not support the Queen Anne’s Revenge hypothesis. A coin weight recovered that bears a likeness of Britain's Queen Anne, and a King George cup, both dated to before the shipwreck, are further evidence to bolster their position. So far, approximately 15 percent of the shipwreck contents have been recovered, including jewelry, dishes and thousands of other artifacts. Researchers said studying the artifacts would provide insight into the era's naval technology, slave trade and pirate life. Blackbeard, whose real name is widely believed to be Edward Teach or Edward Thatch, settled in Bath and received a governor's pardon. Some experts believe he grew bored with the landlubber’s life and returned to piracy. Volunteers from the Royal Navy killed him in November 1718 — five months after the sinking of the ship thought to be Queen Anne's Revenge.
Napoleonic shipwreck could solve puzzle of Eastern campaigns
In our next story, a strategically sunken ship might have blocked Napoleon from entering a Near Eastern port on his quest to conquer the British Empire in Egypt and India. A new study of the ship's excavated cargo will help marine archaeologists analyze the role of the sunken ship and reconstruct the 61-day battle between the British and French armies at the entry to the Israeli city of Acre (Ah’-ker). Over the past 40 years, marine archaeologists have examined the wreck, yet no one has come to any agreement as to why the 90-foot-long ship entered the shallow waters of the harbor. According to Debbie Cvikel from the Leon Recanati Institute for Maritime Studies and the Department Of Maritime Civilizations at the University of Haifa, the origin of the wreck and its place in the maritime history of Acre remain a mystery. One possible answer is that the Royal Navy scuttled her deliberately in 1799, in order to block the harbor against Napoleon Bonaparte. A map drawn by a British soldier in 1799 depicts the British navy in combat with Napoleon's ships. In the illustration, a symbol of a sunken ship marks the exact location of the wreck. Cvikel and colleagues have found the wreck well preserved, including lead shots and cannon balls. The angle and precise spot of one cannon ball lodged into the bottom of the hull appears to have been purposeful. Further research on this shipwreck could also shed light on a so-far unstudied chapter in the maritime history of the city of Acre at the end of the 18th century.
English hill reveals ruins of Roman community
Our final story is from Britain, where the Romans built a substantial village at the foot of Silbury Hill in Wiltshire that has only just now been discovered. Although archaeologists have been exploring the hill for centuries, the revelation of this settlement, which results from a geophysical survey by English Heritage scientists, was completely unexpected. The English Heritage archaeologists believe the data show a Roman community at Silbury Hill about 2,000 years ago. The survey results suggest that the little Roman town had regularly laid out streets and housed a village the size of 24 football fields. Bob Bewley, regional director of English Heritage, speculated that Silbury may have been an overnight stop on the way to the sacred springs and bathing pools at Bath, but may also have been a Roman pilgrimage site in its own right. Scientists using caesium magnetometers made the find. This technology picks up disturbances in the earth's magnetic field, tracing the lines of walls, wooden posts and streets invisible beneath the soil. Silbury Hill, built almost 5,000 years ago, is contemporary with Stonehenge and nearby Avebury, and part of the Stonehenge World Heritage Site. The famous site was already almost 3,000 years old when the Romans built their village. Tunnels and pits from 19th and early 20th century diggers did serious damage to Silbury's structure. Torrential rain in recent winters, trickling down inside the hill, has threatened total collapse, and permanent stabilization work is planned for this summer.
That wraps up the news for this week!
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I'm Laura Kelley and I'll see you next week!