Audio News for August 17th to August 23rd, 2008
Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I'm Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news August 17th to August 23rd, 2008.
Well-preserved Anasazi house recovered in Utah
Our first story is from the United States, where surveyors clearing the way for a highway project in southern Utah came across an unexpected find: an ancient home site nearly 1,200 years old. Pit houses aren't rare in Utah, but archaeologists took note of this one because it was so well preserved. Archaeologist Pam Higgins called it pristine. The semi-subterranean house foundation was found in red sandy soil in 2006. Complete excavation finished last week. The house, measuring about 13 feet across, included a hearth, storage containers and several broken pots in what appeared to be a covered communal area. The single-family home most likely belonged to members of the Virgin Anasazi, a prehistoric culture that once lived along the Virgin River, according to Kevin Kitchen, Utah Department of Transportation spokesman. The culture predates other American Indian tribes who inhabited the area at the time of Euro-american contact. The site sat undisturbed just below the ground surface for centuries, extending several feet down. Archaeologists also found rabbit and deer bones at the site, and stone drill bits that were probably used for making jewelry. Some unusual finds were shells and what appears to be turquoise. These items could provide clues about trading patterns among ancient people that once roamed the region. Archaeologists took about a month to inventory the site and reburied it last week. A full report will take about two years. Often referred to as the Anasazi, the Ancestral Pueblo peoples were centered on the present-day Four Corners area of the Southwest United States, and are noted for their distinctive pottery and dwelling construction styles.
Ancient Dacian city may be Roman-era capital
In Romania, archaeologists digging near the town of Cioroiu Nou (chee-OAR-you NEW) have come across a Roman fort that might have been the capital of the province of Dacia Malvensis (DAY-shee-a mal-VEN-sis). According to Mihai Fifor (MEE-high FEE-for), Director of the Oltenia (ohl-TEN-ee-ah) Museum, the discoveries make researchers almost certain that they’ve unearthed the Dacian capital, something archaeologists have been searching for hundreds of years. The find is in Dolj (DOHL-zha) county, in southern Romania, which was part of the Roman province of Dacia Malvensis almost two thousand years ago. Until now, it was believed that the province name came from its capital, Malva, but there was no archaeological evidence of this city’s location, until possibly now. Now the archaeologists are waiting for a confirmation that it really is Malva. Scientists from the University of Craiova (kra-YO-va) are analyzing an inscription from the site that is the first ever found bearing the name of the Roman city. After the outbreak of the Marcomannic Wars, when German tribes threatened the border of the Roman Empire, approximately AD 167, Emperor Marcus Aurelius split the Dacian province into three administrative districts, Dacia Porolissensis (POH-ro-li-SEN-sis), Dacia Malvensis and Dacia Apulensis (AH-poo-LEN-sis) and added another legion to the one already stationed there. Dacia was a large region in southeastern Europe that corresponds to modern Romania and Moldova, as well as parts of Hungary, Bulgaria and Ukraine. The inhabitants of this district are generally considered as belonging to the Thracian nations. Also discovered near the site is a temple, a necropolis, and administrative and military buildings, all suggesting the presence of a Roman fort. Statues, coins, weapons and ceramics also were recovered. The site may become one of the most important in Romania. According to Fifor, if it really is Malva, they will turn the site into an archaeological park similar to that from Carnuntum in Austria.
Huge ancient monastery emerges from village in India
In India, a 30-foot-high mound in a Bengal village may yield one of the biggest archaeological finds in the country. The remains of a huge and exquisite monastery are emerging from the earth of a village in West Midnapore. Archaeologists believe it is one of the missing monasteries mentioned in Hiuen (you-en) Tsang's memoirs. The monastery reportedly dates back to the seventh century, when Tsang, a Chinese Buddhist monk, made a famous 17-year walk across India. Hiuen Tsang visited Bengal during the reign of King Sasanka (sa-SANK-a) and recorded details about a place called Tamralipta (tam-ra-LIP-ta) and a monastery he saw there. But later reports do not mention the existence of monasteries in this region. It has remained a matter of great interest and debate among archaeologists. However, archaeologists feel that this village excavation will finally set the record straight. A couple of years ago, a team from the archaeology department of Calcutta University spent months in the area tracking an ancient navigation route passing through Dantan as part of a project backed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. They found something much bigger. According to Asok (AH-shuk) Datta, a faculty member who led the team, the mound was brought to their attention by the local people, who showed the researchers hundreds of artifacts and statuettes of stone, stucco and terracotta that they had collected for generations. The artifacts adorn homes, libraries, schools and other buildings in the village. Based on the team’s report, the Archaeological Survey of India granted immediate permission for the excavation. Seals, terracotta remains, bricks, and pottery filled the soil. Researchers say it is turning out to be one of the largest monasteries in eastern India and certainly one of a kind in the country, with its use of stucco for ornamentation on walls and domes. Datta noted that in other monasteries, stucco designs are only in limited interior locations. But here, the entire monastery has stucco decorations covering its exterior. The team has determined that the eastern flank of the monastery measures over 180 feet long, among the largest known. Cells for the monks lined the sides of the building around a central courtyard. Most exciting is the discovery of a rare Buddha stone sculpture from stratified context, representing the Buddha in the well-known position with the right hand reaching down toward the ground, palm down. Two stone heads, presumably of the Buddha, also have been found, and many terracotta seals that date to the Seventh Century. Some of the seal inscriptions have been deciphered, and turn out to be Buddhist instruction. One piece of advice on dharma, the duty of practice, applies equally to the work of the archaeologists who discovered it: (quote) dharma does not happen without a lot of self sacrifice.(unquote)
Origins of ancient Berlin are finally found
Finally, we go to Germany, where archaeologists in Berlin have uncovered evidence that the German capital is older than previously thought. Since March, archaeologists have been at work at Petriplatz (PEH-tra-plotz), Peter's Square, which served in the Middle Ages as the central square of Cölln (kuln), Berlin's now vanished sister city. The site is one of the city's oldest graveyards, containing 2,300 skeletons, but was badly damaged during the Second World War and razed out of existence by East German city planners. In one corner, octagonal stone steps are the only reminder of where St Peter's Church once stood. Destroyed and rebuilt five times over a 700 year period, it stood as the heart of the settlement until vanishing again in 1964. It was in the ruins of the church that archaeologists found the first mention of Cölln and Berlin in a church document from 1237. However, archaeologists have excavated a wooden beam from a cellar and used tree-ring dating to place its cutting in 1192. This makes Berlin at least 45 years older than previously thought. The team has turned up the foundations of a former school, fountains, and a wooden plank dated 1212 as well as combs, pots, tools, coins and bottles. The most impressive find is the more than 2,300 skeletons, including a large number of children, from the Petri (PEH-tree) church graveyard. They are being documented by age, sex and probable cause of death before being respectfully reburied nearby. According to excavation director Claudia Melisch, researchers had hoped to give Berliners back a bit of their history, and have now found its ancient cradle, with not only its houses, but its residents, too. Plans are in the works to build a museum on the redeveloped site to reintroduce Berliners to their city's origin.
That wraps up the news for this week!
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I'm Laura Kelley and I'll see you next week!