Audio News for December 22nd to December 28th
Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I’m Laura Pettigrew and these
are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from December 22nd
to December 28th.
UNESCO Calls for Help in Saving Ancient Iranian Citadel
Our first story is from Iran, where a devastating earthquake severely
damaged a two millenia old fortress in the ancient city of Bam. While
international teams battle to the aid of victims and survivors, top
officials at the United Nations cultural agency, Unesco, have been
formulating plans to save the imposing citadel. The site has been under
consideration for the agency’s list of protected World Heritage Sites. It
is feared the remaining parts of the mud-brick building could collapse after
being weakened by the quake unless action is taken quickly. Parts of the
Old City, once an important stop on the Silk Road through Asia, date back to
the time of Jesus, although most of the city’s structures were built in the
15th to 18th centuries. In architectural and archaeological terms, the
ancient Middle Eastern palace city was of major international importance.
Surrounded by a magnificent 16th-century wall, the city was entered through
At the heart of the medieval city, inner ramparts enclosed the
spectacular palace citadel. The castle, which was inhabited throughout
most of its existence, dates mostly from the Safavid (SAF-e-vid) period
between the years 1502-1722 AD, when it was home to between 9,000 and
13,000 people. Built of mud bricks, clay, straw and the trunks of palm
trees, it is said to have been the largest structure of its kind in the
world. Until this disaster, the crenellated clay walls, dotted with nearly
30 small towers, were still intact.
Monticello Building Techniques Researched in Recent Excavation
In the United States, a dig at Monticello is providing insight into how
Thomas Jefferson built his home. An effort to strengthen a 200-year-old
wall along the north terrace of the mansion is yielding thousands of newly
discovered artifacts. Work on the wall started when it began to bow from
soil pressure and poor drainage. Although the archaeological dig was
spurred by necessity rather than research it may help in learning the
extent of Thomas Jefferson's activities in leveling the mountaintop to
build his mansion on level ground. Experts are hoping to draw conclusions
about the original shape of the mountaintop and study the artifacts to get
good information about the ceramics and different periods of construction.
Among the artifacts discovered are building materials such as bricks,
mortar, nails and window glass. Items that will help archaeologists
determine how the wall was originally constructed. Archaeologists also
have discovered dishes, drinking glasses and animal
bones during the course of the dig. Servants would often sweep trash out
the door or throw it out the nearest window. The excavation also will
provide researchers with information about whether trees, shrubs or flowers
were planted along the wall as once planned by Jefferson. An 1825
watercolor painting of Monticello shows trees lining the West Lawn side of
the north outbuildings.
Underwater Archaeology Brings New Information About Ancient City of
From Egypt, the European Institute for Underwater Antiquities has retrieved
several artifacts from the Mediterranean at the site of the Heracles temple
in Abou Kir (A-boo KIR) Bay. The items were found in a sacred channel of
the Nile that linked the East and West sides of the temple. The Institute
has reported finding fragments of jewelry and bronze utensils. A stele of
pure gold was also found, measuring 6 x 8 inches with a royal letter of
five lines written in ancient Greek which was engraved by hammering in the
form of dots. A geophysical survey of the area determined the structure
of the city of Heracleum (HURA-cu-LEE-um) and has uncovered remains of
limestone buildings, large earthenware pots and a collection of bronze
coins dating to the Ptolemaic age. The excavation team also found a
diorite bust of a Greek philosopher who lived in the 5th century BC. Among
other important discoveries were the foundations of 16 jetties for vessels
dating from the 6th and 2nd centuries BC, indicating a
flourishing trade with the outside world. The salvaged items are
undergoing chemical treatment to remove salts before being put on display.
The new finds confirm the continuation of life in the city up to the
Byzantine age. The name of the city is attributed to the main temple
established for Hercules. Heracleum (HURA-cu-LEE-um) contained the harbor
controlling the entrance of the western branch of the Nile. The city was
established on the remains of an older city. The first attempts at
underwater archaeology were in 1859 when a French engineer called Larousse
discovered remains of a large structure. In 1933, archaeologists noticed
the existence of a number of buildings in the shape of a horseshoe at Abou
Kir (A-boo KIR) Bay and also the foundations of a destroyed building with
43 huge columns. It was not until 1998 when the European Institute in
cooperation with the Supreme Council of Antiquities started regular
excavations, which have led to the discovery of many significant
pieces, the most important of which date to the Ptolemaic period.
Excavations of the great old city lying under water are ongoing.
World's Oldest Wine Discovered in Former Soviet Nation of Georgia
In our final story, experts from the University of Pennsylvania Museum have
discovered the world's oldest wine; a vintage produced by Stone Age people
8,000 years ago. New discoveries show how Neolithic man was bottling and
deliberately ageing red wine in Georgia, the former Soviet republic.
Although no liquid wine from the period has survived, scientists have now
found and tested wine residues discovered on the inner surfaces of
8,000-year-old ceramic storage jars. Biochemical tests on the ancient
pottery wine jars are showing that at this early period humans were
deliberately adding anti-bacterial preservatives to grape juice so that the
wine could be kept for longer periods after fermentation. The preservative
used was tree resin, which contains several bactericidal compounds. The
wine may have tasted something like retsina, the resin-preserved wine still
popular in Greece. The development of pottery in the Middle East and the
Caucasus regions also seems to have played a key role in the production of the first wines, especially vintage ones.
Ceramic containers were able to preserve wines far better than the plaster
or leather containers that had previously been used. Plaster was porous and
reactive, while sealed animal skin or leather bags could not be used to
store wine for adequately long periods. Examination of the pottery shards
has also revealed the large carrying capacity of these early wine jars ΓÇô
just over a gallon. The study has also yielded evidence of the cultural
and possibly religious importance of early vintage wine. While examining
Neolithic Georgian pottery jars used to store and age wine, researchers
discovered a series of tiny, highly stylized relief images of Stone Age
people celebrating the vine. The ancient world had a long tradition
deifying the source of wine, and experts say they have stumbled upon the
prehistoric origins of what much later evolved into wine cults such as
those of the Greek god Dionysus and Rome’s Bacchus. Eight thousand years
ago, the archaeological site where the oldest wine jar shards were found
was a small, densely populated hill-top town. Archaeological investigations
have revealed several houses containing wine jars.
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!