Audio News for June 10th to June 16th, 2007.
Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I'm Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news for June 10th to June 16th, 2007.
Police lead rescue of pre-Roman temple from building crew
Our first story is from Italy, where police have rescued an ancient Greek temple in the southern region of the country. The temple was uncovered by a construction crew who, not to be deterred from their project, dumped or looted the temple columns and artifacts and had begun to pour concrete over the foundations that remained. After receiving information about the discovery, police used helicopters to locate the site, which is in Calabria, near the town of Crotone. More than 50 artifacts, including columns and mosaics, had been excavated and removed from the site. Some had been used to decorate a hotel complex nearby, while other pieces were placed in a dump to be reused as construction material. According to General Giovanni Nistri, the head of the police art squad, the construction workers were on the point of pouring a new foundation over the old one, to build a resort hotel. The discovery of the Greek-era temple is of some significance. It may be part of a larger ancient settlement and, according to archaeological superintendent Giovanni Guzzo, it is the first sign of any important public buildings in the area for this period. Guzzo said the rescued temple is a mixture of two styles of Greek architecture, the ascetic Doric and the more graceful Ionic order. It was probably built between the fourth and third centuries BC by the Bruzii, an Italic population that lived under Hellenistic influence, which at the time extended across southern Italy. Italy requires developers to report all finds. Countless public and private works have been cancelled or delayed over the years as state archaeologists descended on building sites. As a result, it is not uncommon for developers to delay reporting or not report discoveries at all. At the site near Crotone, police have identified two suspects who may be prosecuted for failure to alert authorities about the find, damage to the site, and illegal possession of artifacts. Over the next months, archaeologists will enlarge the 165-by-65-foot excavation to learn more, while also trying to piece together the temple’s original appearance from the scattered and damaged remains.
African tribe’s lifeway threatened by foreign hunters and their own government
In Tanzania, one of the earth’s last remaining tribes of hunter-gatherers is on the brink of vanishing – not through death, but by being forced from their traditional land and way of life. Members of the Hadzabe tribe, who are now fewer than 1,500, say this unwelcome modernization is being hastened by the plans of a royal family from the United Arab Emirates, who have made a deal with the Tanzanian government to take over the tribe’s hunting land for their personal safari playground. The lease will include nearly 2,500 square miles of this valley near the storied Serengeti Plain. A Tanzanian official said that a nearby hunting area the family shared with relatives had become too crowded, so a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family requested his own personal parcel. A Tanzanian government official, Philip Marmo, called the Hadzabe backward and said they would benefit from the school, roads, and other projects the UAE company has offered as compensation. Dozens of Hadzabe interviewed said that while they are ready to modernize, slowly, they were not consulted on the deal, which is a direct threat to their way of life because it involves hunting. While they have survived the coming of agriculture, metal, guns, diseases, missionaries, poachers, anthropologists, students, journalists, and corrugated steel houses, the resilient Hadzabe, who still make fire with sticks, fear that the safari deal will be their undoing. A similar agreement the government struck years ago with a company resulted in dozens of Hadzabe men being arrested for hunting on tribal land. Three of them died in prison, cut off from their daily hunting and wild food diet. Three others died soon after their release. A recent meeting in the Yaeda Valley on the issue ended with several Hadzabe men shouting at Tanzanian government officials for ignoring them. One of the men was later charged with disruptive behavior and jailed for several days. Two others who have spoken against the deal said they have been threatened with arrest. A few groups that advocate on behalf of indigenous peoples are working with the Hadzabe to promote a dialogue with the government and the company. That task poses its own challenges. The Hadzabe are highly decentralized, living in remote, mobile settlements of two or three families scattered throughout the valley. Since they believe in equality of all people, they have no real hierarchy or leadership, and tend to reach decisions by consensus. But even if the tribe comes up with a solution, it remains unclear whether the Tanzanian government or the UAE company would be willing to compromise. The government official, Marmo, who called the Hadzabe the country’s most backward group, is Tanzania's minister for good governance and represents the valley in parliament. The Hadzabe do not use money, follow standard time, or have organized religion. Marmo said they should be forced to go to school, wear clothes, and subscribe to being what he calls “decent.” The Hadzabe are believed to be one of the longest continuous cultures on the planet and they still hunt and gather as a way of life. All live in the Yaeda Valley, where the once abundant elephants, zebras, antelopes, and other animals who migrated through it to the Serengeti Plain have dwindled sharply. Heavy poaching is one reason, along with encroachment by farming and cattle-herding tribes on water and grazing land. Although the Hadzabe have managed to survive for millennia, the UAE deal is particularly worrisome because on top of the other pressures they are facing, the tribe now must deal with newcomers supported by a government that apparently ignores their complaints.
Florida drought reveals surprising number of new sites
In the United States, a drought has uncovered what some are calling the most significant archaeological find in Florida’s recent history. Since March, state and local archaeologists have been racing against looters and the weather to collect and preserve artifacts exposed by the receding waters of drought-ravaged Lake Okeechobee. Thousands of acres of newly exposed mud have revealed human bone fragments, tools, pottery fragments and pieces of ceremonial jewelry thought to have belonged to natives who lived near the lake long before the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century. Some of the artifacts appear to be up to 2,000 years old. According to Palm Beach County Archaeologist Chris Davenport, these new discoveries could provide a better understanding of the complex communities and cultures that once thrived in the area and across South Florida. Officials are trying to learn as much as they can and recover as many artifacts as possible before rain refills the lake and washes away what is left. But meanwhile, looters have struck some areas, leaving behind deep holes in the muck where there might have been historic and valuable objects. Some of the sites were uncovered in 2001, the last time South Florida was in the throes of a drought as severe as this one. Before March, however, only three submerged historic sites were known. Now, Davenport’s department has identified more than 20 sites already. The people that left the sites did not have writings or temples or large structures, but this doesn't mean they weren't sophisticated cultures. Last week, Davenport’s crews showed some of what has been recovered over the past three months: jewelry called gorgets carved from conch shells and typically worn around the neck, knees or elbows in ceremonial dress; fist-sized net weights made from limestone; and fractured bits of pottery that offer the most important insights. One such type of pottery looks like a piece of waffle cone. The find is significant, because this variety was first discovered in native communities in northern states, suggesting that the local communities might have had more complex trading routes than previously thought. The lake water not only protected these sites from thieves and development for hundreds of years, but it also kept relics intact and in good condition.
Roman tablet lists punishments for gladiators: flogging, and more flogging
In our final story, researchers in Germany have deciphered an ancient training manual for Roman athletes. Carved in marble almost 2000 years ago, it stipulates punishments far worse than being fired or a week's docked pay if they performed badly in the arena. Floggings are prescribed for lackluster performance, drinking too much mead, or squandering time with local women instead of training. The tablet was found in 2003 in the town of Alexandria Troas in Turkey, and was only recently translated by researchers at the University of Muenster in Germany. The tablet measures five and a half feet high and three feet wide and bears the name of the Emperor Hadrian, famous for building the military wall across northern England. According to the research team’s leader, Professor Elmar Schwertheim, the tablet also listed entry fees to games such as discus and javelin throwing and sanctions for any cities that embezzled prize money. The archaeologists will head back to the site this year to search for more artifacts.
That wraps up the news for this week!
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I'm Laura Kelley and I'll see you next week!