Audio News for November 4th to November 10th, 2007
Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I'm Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news for November 4th to November 10th, 2007.
Search Underway for Tomb of Last Pre-Hispanic Aztec Emperor
Our first story is from Mexico, where a team of archaeologists has begun exploring a site that might lead to the discovery of the tomb of the last Aztec emperor before the Spanish conquest.
According to Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History, a twelve-ton monolith dedicated to Tlaltecuhtli (tlal te KOOT lee), the Aztec earth goddess, was removed from the heart of Mexico City in hopes of uncovering the tomb of King Ahuizotl (a WE szolt l), who reigned from 1486-1502.
The monolith and the possible tomb were found a year ago in the area known as Las Ajaraca where the new official residence of the mayor of Mexico City is being built. National Institute researchers, in collaboration with a team from the University of Ferrara, Italy, and Japanese scientists from Nagoya University, performed a three-dimensional underground probe of the site using a scanner.
With these studies, scientists expect to confirm the exact location of the tomb of Ahuizotl. Archaeologist have located an entrance to the two-square-meter tomb about 15 feet underground.
Ahuizotl, who died in a flood, carried out military campaigns to extend the power reach of Tenochtitlan (ten och teet LAWN), the Aztec capital, to Guatemala. He is known for his massive sacrifice of between 20,000 and 80,000 captives.
The first contact the Aztecs had with the Europeans came in 1519, when Hernan Cortes and his group of conquistadors advanced on the Mexico Valley and took Ahuizotl's successor, his nephew Moctezuma, hostage.
World’s Oldest Inscription Discovered in Iran
Our next story is from Iran where archaeologists have discovered the world's most ancient inscription in the city of Jiroft (Jee ROFT), near the Halil Roud (Ha LEEL Roo ahd) historical site.
According to Professor Youssef Madjidzadeh, (YOU sef MAHD jeed-ZA day), head of the Jiroft excavation team, the inscription, which was discovered in a palace, was carved on a baked mud-brick.
Archaeologists working in Jiroft believe the discovered inscription is the most ancient written script found so far, dating to the third millennium B.C. They believe that the Elamite written language originated in Jiroft, where the writing system developed first and was then spread across the country. Elamite was an official language of the Persian Empire from the sixth to fourth centuries BC. The last written records in Elamite appear about the time of the conquest of the Persian Empire by Alexander the Great.
Madjidzadeh said the only comparably ancient inscriptions known to Middle Eastern researchers before the Jiroft discovery were cuneiform from Mesopotamia and hieroglyphs from Egypt. Geometric shapes form the newfound inscription, which was found on the lower left corner of a broken brick. No linguist has been able to decipher it yet.
During their previous five seasons, archaeologists have found many artifacts confirming the existence of a rich civilization dating back at least to the third millennium BC.
The sixth season of excavations will focus on the temple and the sites where the tablets were found.
Bulgarian State Seals Uncovered
Our next story comes from Bulgaria, where archaeologists have found state seals dating back to the first Bulgarian Empire which existed from AD 681 to 1018. The seals were found in the base of a wooden fortified wall during excavations for building construction. Bone and metal jewelry, pots and the archbishop and ruler's insignia were also discovered.
According to archaeologist Pavel Georgiev, the most significant finds are the two lead seals of the two Bulgarian rulers Simeon and Petar. One seal, which was identified with Tzar Simeon at the time when he was not officially a tzar, has no inscription. The other seal belonged to his son Petar the First and his wife Maria-Irina.
Simeon the Great ruled over Bulgaria from 893 to 927. His successful campaigns against the Byzantines, Magyars and Serbs made Bulgaria the most powerful state in contemporary Eastern Europe.
During his rule, Bulgaria covered the territory between the Aegean, the Adriatic and the Black Sea. His capital was said to rival Constantinople. The newly independent Bulgarian Orthodox Church became the first new patriarchate outside the Classical world, and Bulgarian translations of Christian texts spread all over the Slavic region. Halfway through his reign, Simeon assumed the title of Emperor or Tzar, having previously been a Prince.
His reign, which was a period of unmatched cultural prosperity and enlightenment for Bulgaria, is called the Golden Age of Bulgarian culture.
At the same site, archaeologists also unearthed a trench behind the fortified walls, showing that Bulgarian military strategists employed the fort-building techniques used by the emperors of the Roman Empire.
Largest Neolithic Settlement in Northern Europe Uncovered
Our final story is from England, where archaeologists working near Stonehenge have uncovered what they believe is the largest Neolithic settlement ever discovered in Northern Europe. It dates from around the time of the construction of Stonehenge, about 2600 to 2500 BC.
Remains of an estimated three hundred houses apparently used by the builders of Stonehenge are believed to be underground at Durrington about two miles from the famous stone rings. Ten have already been excavated.
According to Professor Mike Parker Pearson of Sheffield University, the most exciting part of the discovery is realizing just how big the village is. Allowing four people per house, Pearson estimates there could have been room for more than 2,000 people. Analysis of the houses has also showed that some were higher in status than others, providing the first evidence for social differences and hierarchy at the time of Stonehenge.
The settlement is buried beneath the bank of Durrington Walls, a great circular ditched enclosure. Geophysical survey and excavation work have revealed that separate work gangs constructed the ditch and bank, probably in large sections. A find of dozens of antler picks in one section of ditch gives some idea of the size of these work parties.
The number of antler picks left in the bottom of one section suggests a minimum team size of 200. If all twenty-two sections of the ditch were dug at the same time, thousands could have been working.
This evidence sheds new light on how Neolithic people organized themselves to build mega-structures. Pearson believes that groups of about two hundred to four hundred people worked under a clan head. In this interpretation, each group was responsible for completing individual sections of the overall monument.
Cow and pig bones found on the site suggest that people were coming into the area on a seasonal basis. They apparently were not doing basic daily chores such as grinding grain or raising animals, since no piglets or calves were found. Evidence indicates that livestock was brought in.
The team has also found a piece of chalk with cut marks that Pearson believes were made by a copper axe. Copper-working in neighboring parts of mainland Europe dates back to 3000 BC, but this would be the first evidence from Britain before 2400 BC. This hypothesis also is supported by the almost total absence of stone or flint axes in the village.
The current excavations near Stonehenge began four years ago and are part of a ten year project.
That wraps up the news for this week!
For more stories and daily news updates, visit Archaeologica on the World Wide Web at www.archaeologica.org , where all the news is history!
I'm Laura Kelley and I'll see you next week!