Audio News for November 30th to December 6th, 2008
Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I'm Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news November 30th to December 6th, 2008.
Paleolithic art uncovered in Russia
Our first story is from Russia, where late Stone Age figurines and carvings on mammoth tusks have been found at a site about 90 miles south-east of Moscow. The find also included a cone-shaped object whose purpose remains a mystery. The new artifacts, discovered by Hizri Amirkhanov and Sergey Lev of the Russian Academy of Sciences, include a mammoth rib adorned with what appear to be three mammoths, a small bone engraved with a cross-hatch pattern, and two human figurines thought to be female.
The two figurines were found carefully buried in storage pits. A round deposit of fine sand toward the south and a deposit of red ochre toward the north were found under each figurine. Each of the them had been covered with the shoulder blade of a mammoth. One is presumed to be finished and measures 6.7 inches tall. The other is clearly unfinished and about half the size.
Humans made the shift from practical tool-making to art and adornment during the Upper Paleolithic, the latter part of the Old Stone Age. According to Dr. Lev, the finds enhance the inventory of Upper Paleolithic art and broaden the known distribution of specific types of art objects in the East European Old Stone Age.
The figurines are a type of "Venus" statuette, samples of which have been found in locations from the mountains of Spain to as far east as Siberia. However, their cultural significance remains a point of debate among scientists.
Olive trees confuse date of Thera volcano
Now we shift to Greece, where an olive branch buried by an eruption of the volcano on the island of Thera has been dated to 1613 BC, with an error margin of plus or minus 10 years. Two trees were found standing when unearthed, and apparently had been covered by the pumice immediately after the volcano's eruption. According to researches, the data left by a branch of an olive tree with 72 annular growth rings was used for dating with the radiocarbon method. A second olive branch has not yet been analyzed.
The researchers commented that both olive tree branches were found near a man-made Bronze Age wall, leading them to believe they were part of an olive grove located near a settlement close to the edge of the Caldera on Santorini Island. According to scientists, radiocarbon testing from other archaeological locations on Santorini and the surrounding islands, as well as at Tel el-Dab'a in the Nile delta in Egypt, support the 1613 date.
However, archaeological evidence linked with the Historical Dating of Ancient Egypt argues that the Thera eruption must have occurred after the start of the New Kingdom in Egypt in 1530 BC. The olive tree date represents a serious contradiction between the results of the scientific method of radiocarbon dating and scholarly work in historical archaeology, with both sides holding strong arguments to support their conclusions.
The radiocarbon dating places the cataclysmic eruption, blamed for heralding the end to the Minoan civilization, a century earlier than previous scientific finds.
Lost city rediscovered in Peruvian Andes
Peruvian archaeologists have discovered a lost city carved into the Andes Mountains by the mysterious Chachapoya tribe. The settlement covers some 12 acres and is located on a mountainside in the remote area of the northern jungles of the Amazon. The ruins were originally discovered by local people hacking through the jungle who were drawn to the place by the sound of a waterfall.
The buildings found on the Pachallama peak are in surprisingly good condition and estimated to be over 1,000 years old. They comprise the traditional round stone houses built by the Chachapoya, known as the 'Cloud Forest People'.
The area is completely overgrown with the rain forest covering much of the settlement. However, researchers found the walls of the buildings and rock paintings on a cliff face. The remote nature of the site appears to have protected the site from looters as investigators found ceramics and undisturbed burial sites. According to archaeologists, the citadel perches on the edge of an abyss which could have been used as a lookout point.
Initial studies have found similarities between this new discovery and the Cloud Peoples' fortress of Kulep, which is older and more extensive that the Inca Citadel of Machu Picchu, but has not been fully explored or restored.
Little is known about the Chachapoya, except that they were forced into submission by the Incas in 1475. In 1535, when the Spanish Conquistadores arrived in Peru, they found willing allies in the Cloud People for their fight against the Incas. Historic Spanish texts describe the Cloud People as fierce fighters who mummified their dead. They were eventually wiped out by smallpox and other diseases brought by the Europeans. The women of the Chachapoya were highly regarded by the Incas, as they were said to be tall and fair skinned.
Roman lamp factory located
Our final story is from Italy, where researchers have discovered the pottery center where the oil lamps that lighted the ancient Roman Empire were made. Factory lamps, as they are called, were one of the first mass-produced goods in Roman times and they carried brand names clearly stamped on their clay bottoms.
Evidence of the pottery workshops was unearthed in Modena, in central-northern Italy, during construction of a residential complex near the ancient walls of the city. The kilns were located outside the city walls to prevent fires from breaking out in the city.
According to Donato Labate, the archaeologist in charge of the dig, vases, bottles, bricks, and hundreds of oil lamps, each bearing their maker's name, were discovered. The ancient dump site contained lamps by the most famous brands of the time: Strobili, Communis, Phoetaspi, Eucarpi, and Fortis.
Fortis was the most fashionable of all pottery brands and its products were used up to the end of the second century AD. Fortis gained such a name for its lamps that its stamp was copied and reproduced throughout the empire, becoming one of the earliest examples of pirated brands. The find confirms that Fortis originated from Modena, then called Mutina, as scholars have long suspected.
The ancient dumping ground contained other significant objects, such as a small terracotta statute of Hercules as he captures the Erymanthian Boar and 14 lead pellets which were probably used in the Battle of Mutina in 43 BC. During that battle, Decimus Brutus, one of Julius Caesar's assassins, defeated Mark Anthony with the help of Octavian, the future Roman Emperor Augustus. The oil lamps and the other newly discovered objects will be displayed in a permanent show at the Archaeological and Ethnological Museum in Modena at the end of the month.
That wraps up the news for this week!
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I'm Laura Kelley and I'll see you next week!