Audio News for October 4th to October 10th
Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I’m Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from October 4th to October 10th.
On the Hunt for the Burial Place of Genghis Khan
Our first story is from eastern Mongolia where a Japanese/Mongolian team has unearthed the ruins of Genghis Khan's palace. It is believed the conqueror's grave is near the site. The joint research team has unearthed some 700,000-square yards of the remains of the palace complex located 420 miles southeast of the capital of Ulan Bator (OO-lan BAH-tor). Cornerstones and holes for pillars were found in what is thought to be a mausoleum near the center of the ruins built in the 13th century. Genghis Khan built the palace in the simple shape of a square tent attached to wooden columns on the site in around 1200. The researchers also found porcelain buried among the ruins dated to the warrior's era, helping identify the grounds. In addition, a description of the scenery around the palace by a messenger from China's Southern Tang Dynasty in 1232 matched the area. Genghis Khan's tomb is believed to be nearby because ancient texts say court officials commuted from the mausoleum later built on the grounds to the burial site daily to conduct rituals for the dead. The gravesite is one of archaeology's lasting mysteries. According to legend, to keep the location secret, his huge burial party killed anyone who saw them en route to it; then servants and soldiers who attended the funeral were annihilated. Archaeologists in the past have been forced to abandon their searches for Khan's grave due to protests excavation would disturb the site. According to Mongolian tradition, violating ancestral tombs destroys the soul that serves as protector. Should researchers find the tomb, they may likely discover the graves of Kublai Khan; Genghis' grandson who grew the Mongol empire to Southeast Asia and became the first emperor of China's Yuan Dynasty. According to ancient texts, 13 or 14 Khan warriors, including Genghis and Kublai, are buried in the same place. Genghis Khan (c. 1162-1227) united warring tribes to become leader of the Mongols in 1206. After his death, his descendants expanded his empire until it stretched from China to Hungary.
Blackbeard’s flagship in need of a life preserver
In the United States, for the first time in four years, North Carolina state underwater archaeologists plan to dig on the site believed to be the wreckage of the Pirate Blackbeard's flagship. The Queen Anne's Revenge Project has scheduled an exploratory dive they hope will uncover buried artifacts from the northwest side of the shipwreck. The main purpose of the dive is to assess and document any damage to the site caused by recent hurricanes. While underwater, archaeologists want to find out what set off their metal detectors when they conducted magnetometer surveys in 1999 and 2001. If they come across some fragile pieces in the process, they will bring them up. The magnetometer may have been picking up part of the ship's rigging or possibly another cannon, stated Chris Southerly, QAR Archaeologist. Divers expect to remove about a foot-deep layer of sand in a 20-square-foot area before getting to another level of sand where the artifacts rest. The QAR Project last excavated in 2000 following the hurricanes of 1999. At that time, pieces of the hull were recovered and other artifacts that had been uncovered and scattered by the storms. Afterward, the project concentrated on conservation of those objects, working under a $350,000 Save America's Treasures grant from the National Park Service. That money runs out at the end of the year. And while there are two permanent, full-time employees paid by the state, the project has not yet secured a funding source to retain four temporary full-time employs next year. There was no appropriation in this year's state budget. They will rely on their own equipment and in-kind contributions from other state agencies and the local business community. "We haven't really been able to do much in the field in the past couple of years other than just observations of what's going on," Southerly said. What's going on, he said, is a lot of scouring. "We have gotten unreplenished sand loss," Southerly said. That causes concern not only that the state may be losing lighter-weight artifacts to the ocean currents, but also that currents may be moving the artifacts around.
Ancient Greek sarcophagi reveal possible ancient technology
In Greece, the discovery of two large limestone coffins from 3,000 years ago could prove that the ancient Greeks may have been more technologically advanced than previously thought. Each of the coffins was found in Ancient Corinth and dates to 900 to 875 BC; a period known as the early Geometric period. The name derives from the art of the period, mostly found on pots, with its linear designs and dots and lines forming zigzags and angles. Guy Sanders, team leader of the digs carried out by the American School of Classical Studies, said the enormous weight of each coffin, 3 tons and 1.6 tons, suggests the ancient Corinthians must have used a mechanical system to lower the sarcophagi into graves instead of pure muscle power. To lower the sarcophagus into place in a controlled motion requires some kind of temporary structure over the grounds so they can control the vertical movement of the stone. "Either they had 40 or 50 people at the end of a rope or they had some kind of mechanical fashion of lowering it in a gradual control drop. For that you need some kind of primitive or basic gearing system," Sanders said. The ancient Greek word sarcophagus, which remains in use, means flesh eating. The limestone used to make an ancient Greek sarcophagus caused the rapid disintegration of its contents, giving the coffin its distinct name. The American School has been conducting digs in Greece since 1896. Ancient Corinth is located about 60 miles west of Athens.
Unprecedented Iron Age village discovered in Scotland
Our final story is from Scotland where archeologists discovered an entire Iron Age village on the west bank of Loch Lomond. A spokesman for the West of Scotland Archaeology Service stated, "The investigations have revealed an unprecedented concentration of previously unknown archaeological sites. Among their finds is a pre-Christian Iron Age glass bead. The bead has "a beautiful swirled design" of which only one other example exists in Scotland. The spokesman also stated that the site gives us a fantastic opportunity to increase, and in some cases alter, our understanding of the past. The glass bead find is a significant one and will be regarded as a national treasure." The Iron Age village dates from around 100 BC, while other digs on the site have revealed three small Bronze Age urn cemeteries dating from around 1800 BC, and an early Christian burial site. Taken in total, the discoveries prove that the 300-acre site has been inhabited for three millennia. The investigations were launched as part of a planning and development agreement that was reached between the developer and the National Park Authority. No
evidence of any Iron Age village, Christian burial site or urn cemetery had previously been recorded. While some of the finds can be explained, the archaeologists are expecting years of work ahead analyzing and interpreting what they have discovered.
That wraps up the news for this week!
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I’m Laura Kelley and I’ll see you next week!