Audio News for April 8th to April 14th, 2007.
Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I'm Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news for April 8th to April 14th, 2007.
Scottish archaeologists search for the home of a mysterious historical figure
Our first story is from Scotland, where archaeologists are excavating the site of a house that may have belonged to Scottish folk hero Rob Roy MacGregor. The site, on the banks of Loch Lomond, contains the outline of a building but no ruins. A team of archaeologists from the National Trust for Scotland and volunteers hope to uncover evidence proving that the site belonged to Rob Roy. According to archaeologist Derek Alexander, historical documents tell us that Rob Roy MacGregor bought land from the Duke of Montrose about 1710 or 1711 in the area. While facing bankruptcy, he secretly signed the property over to his nephew James Graham of Glengyle and John Hamilton of Bardowie in order to protect it from the claims of his creditors. The team is hoping to shed light on Rob Roy’s life by finding artifacts at the site that date to the period in question. Thus far, archaeologists have uncovered large boulders forming the foundations of a possible turf-built longhouse. Alexander believes that the large boulder wall suggests that the building is earlier than the 19th century, and the team is hopeful that artifacts such as pottery, glass, and tobacco pipes will date the site back into the early 18th century, when Rob Roy would have been there. Rob Roy McGregor became renowned as an outlaw who clashed with the Duke of Monmouthshire after defaulting on a loan. As a result, his wife and family were evicted from their house, which was subsequently burned down.
Villager uncovers marvelous Ahom Kingdom artifacts in India
In India, a villager’s find of 800-year-old Ahom artifacts is triggering archaeological interest in the Nazira region. The area was the capital of the Ahom kingdom in 1253. While digging a pond, the villager found two wooden dragons and two carved wooden planks. He took his discovery to Prabin Konwar, a well-known researcher in Ahom history. The artifacts soon found space in the Tai museum and the find has generated a renewed interest in Nazira town, located in Charaideo subdivision. Although the entire district is scattered with monuments from the Ahom era, this is the first time that objects of archaeological interest have been found near Nazira. Charaideo was the first capital of the Ahom kingdom established by the first King, Swargadeo Chaolung Sukapha, in 1253. Though the capital of the Ahoms moved several times, Charaideo remained the symbolic center. The location was also home to the sacred burial grounds of Ahom kings and queens. Konwar believes that scientific analysis of the artifacts and further excavation at the site could reveal unknown facts about the 598-year reign of the Ahoms.
Early prehistoric bodies found in SE Mexico
In Mexico, archaeologists have found the prehistoric remains of two women and a man that can be traced back more than 10,000 years. According to Carmen Rojas, an archaeologist with Mexico's National Anthropology and History Institute, the remains belonged to people from between 10,000 and 14,500 years ago. The dates were confirmed by laboratories in Britain, the United States and Mexico, making southeastern Mexico one of the few areas in the Americas with skeletal remains of such extreme age. The skeletons were found in the Las Palmas, El Templo and Naharon caves, an area previously thought to be occupied only in later times. Although found in the Maya area of Tulum, Rojas believes they are not Maya because of their age and the fact that the skulls do not exhibit the common Maya practice of skull deformation. The woman was found in deep in Naharon cave, 23 yards underground. She was just over 4 feet tall, weighed around 115 pounds and was likely between 20 and 30 years old when she died. The woman found in Las Palmas cave was between 44 and 50 when she died. The body found in El Templo cave was a man aged between 25 and 30. His body was the least well preserved because it had been eroded and most of its organic material was gone. In the past, the region was dry, but the caves were flooded during the last thaw of the Pleistocene ice age. Other finds confirm that the region was probably used as a refuge and a graveyard.
CT scan promises to reveal much about two skulls from ancient Ur
Our final story is about a pair of 4,600-year-old skulls that will be given a CT scan. This work promises to reveal the faces of two of the dozens of sacrificial victims found around 80 years ago in the remains of an ancient Sumerian city. The procedure will be done at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania on the skulls of a young woman adorned with gold ornaments and a man wearing a copper helmet. Both were found in the southern Iraq city of Ur in the 1920s and 1930s when archaeologists from the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology were excavating the Royal Tombs of Ur. They found a "Great Death Pit" with the bodies of 74 sacrificial victims. Smaller tombs at the site contained other bodies, believed to be those of royal retainers. The woman's skull was found in the large pit while the man's was from a smaller pit attached to a royal grave. Researchers believe he is one of six soldiers who stood at the entrance of the pit. According to anthropology graduate student Aubrey Baadsgaard, who is doing her dissertation on Sumerian dress and adornment, the scans will allow a three-dimensional image to show what the people looked like and evaluate how well the remains will stand up to scientific tests. Janet Monge, acting curator in charge of the museum's physical anthropology collections, believes the scan of the woman's skull should give an idea of how the elaborate headdresses found with the bodies were worn. Baadsgaard hopes to recover DNA from the skulls. She also wants to draw enamel from the teeth to compare it with remains found in the Indus Valley civilization in India, a trading partner of the Sumerians, to see if the sacrificial victims came from that area. She also wants to see whether the remains may have been heated before burial, an early form of mummification done elsewhere in Mesopotamia to keep bodies preserved for funeral processions. If so, according to Baadsgaard, the victims were likely killed before being taken to the burial site, casting doubt on the theory of the excavating archaeologists that they were given poison to drink in the tomb.
That wraps up the news for this week!
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I'm Laura Kelley and I'll see you next week!