Audio News for August 26th to September 1st, 2002.
Audio News for August 26th to September 1st Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I'm Laura Pettigrew and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from August 26th through September 1st, 2002.
Egyptian city may hold treasured ancient libraries
In our first story, archaeologists hope to soon start excavating in a suburban area of Cairo for the remains of a 7,000-year-old city where the ancient Egyptians believed life began. A red granite obelisk towering above homes is the last visible remnant of the ancient city of On, which the Greeks called Heliopolis. The area, once prison farmland, is believed to be the site of temples for the city, which was known for its sun-cult. Archaeologists hope the 2.44 million square foot plot will possess extensive remains of temples and libraries of philosophy, astronomy and mathematics that are said to have been frequented by Aristotle, Plato and Pythagoras.
According to the oldest ancient Egyptian religious beliefs, the Cairo suburb stands on the site where life itself started. "The temples would tell us the role of Heliopolis, the city of the sun, as the Greeks named it, its position during the different dynasties and the kings who left their marks there," said an assistant lecturer of archaeology at Cairo University.
Roman excavation reveals startling details of everyday life
In Scotland, a study of Roman latrines is showing soldiers went to war on egg and pizza, and visited the restrooms in pairs. Further analysis of the 2,000-year old remains of the legionnaires' meals may produce more clues to the diet and eating habits of the troops led by Gnaeus Agricola. They forced their way to the north of Scotland with a victory over Caledonian tribesmen in 84 AD. Archaeologists are still puzzled over why the 15 latrines, unearthed in a dig 15 miles from the battle site, were dug in pairs. Theories vary from a Roman liking for military symmetry to the idea that they simply enjoyed a good conversation. The dig has also revealed 120 individual bread ovens. The keyhole-shaped ovens, lined with stone at one end, are early versions of a pizza oven. Stone-lined pits were heated up, the ash raked out and a raw dough, probably mixed with any available vegetable, was baked inside.
Albanian excavation discloses Roman statue
From Albania, archaeologists excavating at the ancient town of Butrinti found a 2,000-year-old statue that may be of the Roman goddess Minerva. The statue is the first major find since the site was opened to researchers nearly 75 years ago. One expert believes the statue is Minerva because of a Latin inscription on a marble slab found near the statue 10 years ago. Others are skeptical that the statue depicts Minerva, the Roman goddess of war and wisdom. The group is awaiting official confirmation from an archaeologist of the statue's identity. The manager of Butrinti National Park called the discovery a combination of painstaking research and pure luck. Measuring 7 feet tall and more than 2 feet wide, the weighty marble statue is believed to date to the time of first Roman emperor, Augustus. Butrinti has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Located on a small peninsula between the Strait of Corfu and Lake Butrinti, it was the site of a Greek colony as well as a Roman city. Excavations at the site began in 1928. Virgil, the Roman poet, claimed that the Trojans settled Butrinti, but no evidence of this has yet been found.
Early Buddhist temple bells are 2400 years old
In Cambodia, two metal objects buried near a former Khmer Rouge turned out to be reminders of the ancient past. Two bronze Buddhist bells, believed to date back as early as 300 BC, were unearthed during a search for unexploded landmines. The bells measure two feet tall and are in remarkably good condition for their age. Metal detectors discovered the bells lying about 3 feet below the ground surface. They are thought to have been used in Buddhist cremation ceremonies. It is the second major archaeological find in Cambodia this month. In the central region, 27 gold Buddhas were found beneath the ruins of a temple.
Rainforest soil is researchers' mother lode
In the Amazon Rainforest, researchers have found a rich soil that shouldn't be there. Known as terra preta do Indio or Indian dark earth, this type of soil has been worked by farmers for years with minimal fertilization. A Brazilian-American archaeological team believes the soil is the product of intense habitation by Amerindian populations that flourished in the area for 2,000 years. Now that dating may be revised back to 11,000 years. Experts have excavated four sites and explored more than thirty sites in the soil deposit area. What is remarkable about these sites in the fragile rainforest ecosystem is that instead of destroying the soil, the ancient inhabitants improved it, something that ecologists can't do today. The research project is in its infancy, but investigators hope to learn the principles behind the fruitful terra preta and, they hope, the ability to reproduce the fertile soil. The impact of such research on modern agriculture in tropical regions could be extraordinary.
Templars' church is London's oldest
Our final story is from London where the remnants of the city's first Temple Church have recently been uncovered near its prominent successor. Part of the distinctive circular nave which marked churches built by the Knights Templar in the Middle Ages was identified at the edge of the medieval city of London. The present Temple Church was built from 1160 onwards. In 1185, Patriarch Heraclius of Jerusalem consecrated its circular nave, reflecting the plan of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, as the central church of the Templar Order in England. The earlier church and the "Old Temple," the initial headquarters of the Order, recently underwent restoration. At the base of the excavation they found Roman deposits, cut into what experts describe as "a substantial medieval chalk foundation, consistent with the location and design of the circular 'Old Temple' of the Knights Templar, dating to the 12th century." Reconstruction of the plan from the foundations suggests that the circular nave had an internal diameter of about 55 feet, slightly smaller than the present Temple Church. A central colonnade of six columns would have supported the roof. The square chancel of the Temple Church was added between AD 1220 and 1240.
That wraps up the news for this week!
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