Audio News for June 18th to June 24th, 2006

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica!  I'm Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news for June 18th to June 24th, 2006.

Looting pit in Peru exposes ancient temple remnants


Our first story is from Peru, where Japanese researchers said they believe they have discovered the ruins of a temple at least 4,800 years old.  The temple was built around 2600 BC when Peru's oldest known city, Caral, was created.  It could be one of the oldest in the Americas.  The discovery was made in the Chancay Valley about 60 miles north of Lima.  Team member Tetsuya Inamura, professor of cultural anthropology at Aichi Prefectural University, described the two pyramid-like structures, each 30 feet high.  They are made of stone and are about 150 feet north-south, and 90 feet long east to west.  Experts are hopeful that the discovery will shed more light on the origins of ancient civilizations of Latin America.  The ruins were found in August of last year by Hiroshi Sakane, chief curator of the Lima-based Museo Amano, and Masami Fujisawa, professor of seismic engineering at the Tsukuba University of Technology.  The temple ruins were exposed by a 12 foot-wide, 24 foot-deep pit apparently made by looters.  The ruins are thought to be part of a religious facility, possibly a temple, because of the complicated construction method used and the traces of fire used in rituals.  Radiocarbon dating on reinforcing materials and scrapings of charcoal and fibers yielded dates of up to 4,800 years.  There are also indications that the structure underwent reconstruction work seven or eight times.  The past 10 years have yielded some remarkable findings 100 miles north as well, at the archeological site in Caral.  Discoveries at that ancient city include a temple at least 30 meters tall, built from gigantic stones, as well as a group of at least 30 large buildings.

Shipwrecks of the Caribbean could be treasure chest of information


From the Caribbean, two well-preserved 18th Century shipwrecks, found by a team of Bristol archaeologists, could shed new light on life in the 1700s.  The wrecks were discovered in 2005 while the team was trying to locate HMS Nymph, a warship which sank in the British Virgin Islands in 1783.  Marine archaeologists are set to investigate the two sites and try once again to locate the Nymph. They will use a robot to collect video data, which will then be catalogued.  Initial investigations indicate that the first ship site is probably a vessel of 80-100 tons, built for trade, and originating in Bermuda or the Caribbean region.  The other ship appears to be a 250-ton vessel, also built for trade, and constructed along the eastern North American seaboard.   MS Nymph was originally discovered in 1969, but its location has since been lost.  The team of underwater archaeologists will survey the sites with divers and remote sensing technology.   Wrecks like this are often intriguing time capsules, providing a unique window into the past.   Unlike land-based archaeological sites, the nature of harbor environments has allowed for impressive organic preservation, enabling an expansion of existing knowledge about colonialism, warfare and 18th Century society.

Rare Anglo-Saxon sword barely avoids accidental reburial


In England, a unique Anglo-Saxon sword has been discovered in an old suitcase in the attic of the archeologist who unearthed it nearly 50 years ago.  The seventh century Bamburgh Sword, which was forged for a king, narrowly avoided being dumped by workers who were clearing the house of the archaeologist and broadcaster Brian Hope-Taylor after his death.  It was rescued by some former students, who had gone to the house after hearing that his books were being sold off.  The sword was found in the first excavation ever carried out at Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland, in 1960.  According to Paul Gething, from the Bamburgh Research Project, they had no idea it would be such an exceptional sword and the only one of its kind ever found.  What makes it unique is that the blade is made up of six strands of carbonized iron, which have been micro-welded to bond them together.  There have been swords found before which have been made of up to four strands, but none have ever been found with six.   Bamburgh was the capital of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria, which extended from the English Midlands to Strathclyde.

Korean harbor work brings up 12th century cargo of pottery


Our final story is from South Korea, where a massive collection of 12th-century pottery has been excavated from the sea floor. The archaeologists from National Maritime Museum said they have found 780 blue green bowls and plates from the Koryo Kingdom, AD 916 to 1392, near the maritime town of Kunsan.  The discovery was made on the inland side of an embankment recently built to hold back the sea water as part of an ongoing reclamation project.  The ancient celadon pieces were found at a depth of 21 feet and are assumed to be part of the remains of a shipwreck.  There were also piles of as many as 40 bowls stacked together.  The bluish green earthenware, called Koryo Chongja in Korean, seemed to be produced for local authorities and middle-class households, rather than aristocrats.  They were made from lower-grade clays and the product of a rougher firing process.  Some were inlaid with lotus flower patterns.  Archaeologists are concerned that the reclamation area around Kunsan may be a vast reserve of ancient relics, as celadon pieces from the 11th to 13th century have been uncovered there in the past few years.  Many kiln sites were established in coastal areas on the Korean Peninsula in the Koryo era because the nearby sea provided easier transportation of the delicate, yet heavy, finished wares.

That wraps up the news for this week!
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I'm Laura Kelley and I'll see you next week!