Audio News for April 4th to April 10th
Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I’m Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from April 4th to April 10th, 2005.
Original Headline: The search begins for legendary castle
New Headline: Medieval castle with a modern twist
Our first story is from England, where archaeologists are searching for King Alfred's legendary castle, believed hidden underneath a former nightclub in Chippenham. The site is rumored to harbor secrets of a mythical medieval castle that existed more than 1,000 years ago. Excavators moved in and stripped away layers of soil searching for early signs of the castle remains. The early stages of the dig have unearthed an 18th century wall, medieval pottery and bones. Project leaders fear excavation will be hampered by soil damage from the original construction of the former nightclub and cinema built in the 1930s. Teams of archaeologists will continue for two weeks to solve the mystery of the castle remains, which has baffled investigators for hundreds of years. Mike Stone, curator at Chippenham Museum and Heritage Centre, doesn’t hold out hope for a castle because of the ground damage. However, since the area is a royal medieval site, he is hopeful of finding a palace, a church, chapel, and buildings somewhere in Chippenham. More than 30 pillars were ripped from the ground during demolition, meaning much of the soil underneath has been disturbed. Researchers believe the greatest chance of finding evidence of medieval buildings now lies underneath the former dance floor. The myth of the castle first appeared in Asser's Life of King Alfred, dating to AD 877 and resurfaced in numerous maps, thus sparking archaeological digs. The story, written by a priest, documents King Alfred being driven out of his Chippenham palace by the Vikings.
Original Headline: Tiberias dig unearths very rare marble floor
New Headline: Excavations at Tiberias reveal Biblical era marble floor
In Israel, a marble floor dating from the first century AD was unearthed during this season's excavations at ancient Tiberias. According to archaeologist Professor Yizhar Hirschfeld, director of the dig, the floor is apparently a remnant of a pavement in the palace of Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great, who ruled Galilee from 4 BC to AD 38. Hirschfeld related that marble from the first century was very rare in this area and is found only in royal palaces. The dig was cosponsored by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Israel Antiquities Authority, and was funded by the Tiberias municipality and Brown University, Rhode Island. It revealed that in the fourth century a basilica was constructed on top of the palace. The excavation also uncovered a street from the Roman-Byzantine period, mosaics, and coins bearing the image of Jesus.
Original Headline: High-tech hide and seek
New Headline: GPR seeks to reveal Ho-Chunk nation past
In the United States, Ho-Chunk Nation archaeologists in the state of Wisconsin are scanning areas of the Beloit College campus, looking for burial or effigy mounds that may no longer be visible. Using Ground Penetrating Radar, or “GPR,” operators Bill Kingswan and William Quackenbush from the Ho-Chunk Heritage Preservation Cultural Resources roved over the ground, transmitting radio waves into the earth. Reflected radio waves would indicate irregularities in the soil, recording them into a computer system in a nearby van. The Ho-Chunk has been working with Beloit College's Logan Museum of Anthropology on the Beloit Archaeological Survey to profile ground surfaces on the campus. The purpose of the study is to redefine previous;y recorded burial sites and determine if there are potential areas of archaeology remaining in the city of Beloit. The GPR study is the conclusion of the yearlong survey, which began with fieldwork last June. Sara Pfannkuche, supervisor of the Beloit Archaeological Survey, said she has found evidence of nearly 200 sites throughout the city. Kira Kaufmann, a researcher from the University of Wisconsin, explained that mounds could have been plowed under or flattened over the years, but the radar can detect such remains. Kingswan said the sites might be burial mounds or effigy mounds. Effigy mounds may contain human remains, but typically have shapes that just reflect representations of animals. According to Quackenbush, the Ho-Chunk Nation, formerly the Winnebago tribe, lived in the area and had several settlements within close proximity. Ho-Chunk archaeologist Jay Toth said it is his duty as a member of the Ho-Chunk tribe to seek the ancient burial sites of his people. The Ho-Chunk do not believe in disturbing aboriginal burial mounds by digging. The only way to locate such ancient remains is by using the radar, according to Toth. With enough processing of the data, even human bones can be detected.
Original Headline: Revealed: The softer, caring side of the marauding Viking
New Headline: Genetic evidence lends credence to the existence of Viking homemakers
Our final story is from Oxford University, where research is revealing that Viking warriors in norther Scotland were homemakers who couldn’t wait to ship their wives over to settle the lands they had conquered. Scientists studying Scots of Viking ancestry in Shetland and Orkney have discovered that there must have been far more Viking women in the Dark Ages settlements than originally thought. Conversely, it appears that Viking wives refused to go deeper into Scotland. In fact, there is little evidence they made it as far inland as the Western Isles. Researchers from the University took DNA samples from 500 residents of Shetland. The scientists were able to identify genetic traits in the people there, which they share with modern day Scandinavian populations. By examining two elements of DNA, one that is passed from father to son and one passed down the female lineages, they could work out the sex ratio of the original Viking populations. They could also compare it to results of other studies conducted in the Western Isles. Dr. Sara Goodacre, who conducted the research with colleagues from Oxford University, stated that the genetic balance becomes much more male-orientated the further away from Scandinavia you move to such places as the Western Isles. Some experts say this could explain why the Norse language did not spread farther west during the Viking occupation, but archaeologists have disputed the evidence. For example, Dr. Mary MacLeod, an archaeologist who specializes on the Western Isles, reports there was evidence from burial sites in that area of female Viking settlers. Investigation of the Viking heritage of these islands has found a burial ground of people from Oslo fjords, which included women as well as men. Following the research conducted on the Viking legacy in Shetland and such places, she argues that more studies are required in the Western Isles. On the other side of the question, Alex Woolf, a lecturer at the University of St. Andrews, points to the fact that the Norse language did not spread south of Mull and Ardnamurchan as evidence for the new DNA theory of Viking migration. In northern Scotland, he argues, Norse took hold, suggesting that male Vikings moved over with their families.
That wraps up the news for this week!
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I’m Laura Kelley and I’ll see you next week!