Audio News for December 11th to December 17th, 2011.
Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I'm Laura Pettigrew and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from December 11th to the 17th, 2011.
Hoard of silver reveals previously unknown Viking king
Our first story is from England, where a metal detector enthusiast has found evidence of a previously unknown Viking king in a hoard of silver stashed in a lead box in a field. Found on the outskirts of a village near the coast in north Lancashire, the 201 pieces of silver included stunning arm rings, worn by Viking warriors. It adds up to more than one kilogram of silver, probably stashed for safekeeping around AD 900 at a time of wars and power struggles among the Vikings of northern England, and never recovered.
Investigators have deciphered the name Airdeconut (Air de k’newt), thought to be the Anglo Saxon coin maker's attempt with the Viking name Harthacnut (Harta k’newt) on one of the coins in the hoard. The Airdeconut (Air de k’newt) coin also reveals that within a generation of the Vikings starting to colonize permanent settlements in Britain in the 870s, their kings had allied themselves to the Christian god. The reverse of the coin has the words DNS – for Dominus – Rex, arranged as a cross.
The fact that the owner never recovered the cache suggests he came to an untimely end. The hoard also contained coins minted for Alwaldus (Alvhaldas), who defected to the Vikings in Northumbria after an unsuccessful attempt to claim the English crown from his better-known uncle, Alfred the Great. The Vikings allowed him to call himself a king, but he only survived a few years before dying in battle.
Frankish and Islamic coins also are included in the hoard, but one of the more intriguing would have been worthless to the original owner. Gareth Williams, a coins expert at the British Museum where the collection is under study, explained that silver coins often found in Viking hoards were often fake, made of copper with the thinnest film of silver almost worn away.
One of the arm rings is particularly unusual, combining Irish, Anglo Saxon and Carolingian ornament style. The find will go through an inquest next week to determine its value, the award split between the arm ring discoverer and landowner. The Museum of Lancaster hopes to raise funds to buy the hoard.
Original ceremonial offering exposed at core of Mexico’s tallest pyramid
From Mexico, archaeologists announced that they had dug to the very core of Mexico's tallest pyramid and found what may be the original ceremonial offering placed on the site of the Pyramid of the Sun before construction began.
The offerings found at the base of the pyramid in the ancient city of Teotihuacan (Tay-o ti wa-cahn) just north of Mexico City include a green serpentine stone mask, precisely engraved and detailed, that archaeologists believe it may have been a portrait. According to a statement by the National Institute of Anthropology and History, the find also includes 11 ceremonial clay pots dedicated to a rain god similar to Tlaloc (tlah'-lohk), whom followers in the area still worshipped 1,500 years later.
The offerings, part of a consecration ritual for the construction of the Pyramid of the Sun, include bones of an eagle that had eaten rabbits as well as the bones of feline and canine animals not yet identified. Excavators followed an old tunnel dug through the pyramid by researchers in the 1930s that narrowly missed the center, and then dug small extensions and exploratory shafts off it. What they found points to the earliest days of the still largely mysterious Teotihuacan culture. They also found the remains of three structures that predate the pyramid buried at the base.
Archaeologists have known that the ceremonial significance of the site, perhaps as a link to the underworld, predates the pyramids. They also found seven burials, some of them infant remains. Some of the same themes found in the offering repeat in ancient murals painted on the city's walls centuries later. Mesoamericans founded the city nearly 2,500 years ago. It came to have a dominant influence in architecture, trade, and culture in large swaths of ancient Mexico. However, the identity of its rulers remains a mystery. The Aztecs arrived in the area in the 1300s, found it abandoned and gave it the name Teotihuacan, which means "the place where men become gods."
Well-preserved Roman forum offers insight to Albanian history
After six gravesites, 133 coins and over 10,000 fragments of animal bone were unearthed in Albania, an excavation team led by Assistant Professor of Classics David Hernandez hit pay dirt in the form of an ancient Roman forum. This past summer, Hernandez and a team of University of Notre Dame undergraduates embarked on a six-week excavation trip to Butrint where they made the discovery.
Butrint, ancient Buthrotum (Bout ro toum), was a port from Hellenistic to Ottoman times. Recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1992, it is located on the Straits of Corfu in an area where ancient maritime trade was prominent. Since the 1920s, archaeologists have probed the site, producing evidence of a Greek sanctuary of Asclepius, a medieval house, a Venetian castle and now, a Roman forum. In ancient Rome, a forum was a rectangular plaza surrounded by government buildings. The discovery of such a structure in Albania generates key insight into the urban history of the area.
Before the most recent excavation began, researchers had discovered a small corner of the forum. The current goal was to find just how far it expanded eastward. The discovery of the intact pavement slabs was a critical moment. The team found the entire pavement, evidence of one of the best-preserved Roman forums in the Empire’s provinces.
On the last day of the excavation, the team made a rare find: the head of a goddess figurine, which was a votive offering dating to the Fourth Century BC. The region's well-preserved layers of archaeological artifacts dating back to the Seventh Century BC were slowly unearthed during the excavation.
Urban dig in Iowa produces both 19th Century and prehistoric artifacts
Our final story is from the United States, where a dig in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is spanning thousands of years, revealing times both historic and prehistoric. Archaeologist David Benn and his team have found a trove of more-than-a-century-old bottles, trinkets, pieces of china, coins, nails, animal bones and more, much from backyard privies and outdoor dump sites used for household kitchen waste. However, they also found a portion of a single prehistoric spear point. The Hardaway spear point, named for a discovery site in North Carolina, is significant and a rare event in Iowa and the Midwest.
Benn and his Bear Creek team are working under contract with the Army Corps of Engineers to survey, dig, test, then recover and preserve artifacts from an area that the Corps will disturb as it builds a new system of levees and floodwalls to protect the city. The rare find of the Hardaway spear point came from undisturbed soil about eight feet below a city parking lot. The estimated age of the point, about 9,500 years, comes from its similarity to spear points dated from more extensively studied sites.
The dig also turned up prehistoric pieces of pottery from the Late Woodland Period of 1,000 to 1,500 years ago and the Middle Woodland period of about 2,000 years ago. Much of the team’s work focused on the historic, not prehistoric, period in the hunt for artifacts of the earliest Euro-American settlers of Cedar Rapids in the 1840s and of the first established residents in the city’s early working-class neighborhoods of the 1870s to the 1890s. The archaeological digs focus on backyard privies and “middens,” or outdoor dumps for household kitchen waste, because both were deposition sites for much of what a household discarded.
The middens yielded bones from an assortment of fish and animals, including cows, pigs, sheep, chickens and turkey, as well as raccoons and probably squirrels and rabbits.
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 Pettigrew and I'll see you next week!