Audio News for July 16th to July 22nd, 2006
Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I'm Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news for July 16th to July 22nd, 2006.
Huge Bronze Age temple in Bulgaria shows links to Troy and Crete
Our first story is from Bulgaria, where archaeologists have continued making amazing finds at the ancient hilltop sanctuary of Perperikon. This time they unearthed a temple five times larger than Athens' Acropolis. The temple dates to the Bronze Age and is the largest in the Balkans. The whole complex is spread over 3 square miles and covers the entire top of Mount Perperikon. Researchers believe ancient worshippers came to the site for over 2,000 years. The Perperikon complex has metallurgy workshops scattered across it as well, and the team discovered numerous awls and axe molds. The discovery represents a huge advance for archaeological knowledge of the early Balkans, as it is the first complex of its kind ever found on the Balkan Peninsula. But the significance of the find extends to the entire Bronze Age world. The only known site resembling the Perperikon sanctuary complex is on the Island of Crete, many hundreds of miles to the south. Another long-distance connection is the ceramics found near a tower at the sanctuary, which are similar to the pottery from ancient Troy. This evidence brings new support for an old and intriguing hypothesis that the Troy described by Homer had been founded by the Thracians, the ancient peoples of the mountainous Balkans.
Tunnels under modern Rome may have found birthplace of Augustus
In Italy, archaeologists announced they have uncovered part of what they believe is the birthplace of Rome's first emperor, Augustus. According to Clementina Panella, a leading archaeologist, the team had dug up part of a hallway and other fragments under Rome's Palatine Hill, which she described as "a very ancient aristocratic house". Ms. Panella stated she could not be certain yet that the house was where Augustus was born in 63 BC, but historical cross-checks and other findings nearby have shown that the emperor was particularly fond of the area. In recent decades, excavations at the site have turned up wonders such as house of Augustus, which has two rooms painted with frescoes of masked figures and pine branches. Augustus is known to have lived in at least two different houses on the Palatine. Much of the detail of the newest house find is yet to be uncovered, as it can only be reached through underground passageways beneath the modern buildings of Rome.
Pottery in Thailand confirms early contact with traders from India
In Thailand, a unique Tamil-Brahmi Inscription on pottery of the second century AD has been found. The discovery was made by a joint Thai-French team of archaeologists, led by Dr. Bérénice Bellina of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and Praon Silpanth of the Silpakorn University. The exciting find is a shard of inscribed pottery turned up during their current excavations. Experts confirm that the pottery inscription is in the Tamil language, written in Tamil-Brahmi characters of about the second century AD. The occurrence of the characteristic letter Ra, in the inscription, confirms that the language is Tamil and the script is Tamil-Brahmi. Only three letters survive on the fragment, and may be part of the Tamil word meaning monk. It is possible that the engraving recorded the name of a Buddhist monk who traveled to Thailand from Tamil Nadu. This is the earliest Tamil inscription found so far in southeast Asia and confirms the maritime relationships of the Tamils with the Far East. Prof. Richard Salomon of the University of Washington, described the inscription as an important find, now that it is confirmed as Tamil-Brahmi, which he had suspected. The importance, is for several reasons, but mainly because it presents a parallel with Indian inscriptions already found in Egypt and the Red Sea area. In those places, both Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions and standard-Brahmi inscriptions have been found. Now, the same is being seen in Vietnam and southeast Asia. This indicates that overseas trade between India both to the West and the East involved people from the Tamil region. Another expert on the subject, Iravatham Mahadevan, added that one other inscription in Tamil-Brahmi is known already from Thailand, a touchstone engraved in Tamil in the Tamil-Brahmi script of about the third or fourth century AD, presently in a museum in the ancient port city of Khuan Luk Pat in Southern Thailand. The researchers hope the ongoing excavations of the Thai-French team will bring up more evidence of ancient contacts between India and Thailand.
Prehistoric climate change once kept Sahara grassy
Our final story is from the Sahara desert, where, according to a recently published study, a 3,200-year interlude of tropical rains once supported a lush savanna in the eastern region of the desert. Semi nomadic people thrived in this place along with elephants, cattle and more than 30 species of fish. University of Cologne researchers collected more than 500 radiocarbon dates at 150 sites in an area larger than Western Europe, and found that the abrupt climate change 10,500 years ago enticed thousands of people to move into the area. The researchers based their dates on bone, charcoal and human artifacts found in the area. According to geo-archeologist Stefan Kroepelin, one of the study’s authors, the prehistoric settlements show evidence of the first attempts in Africa at raising cattle and fashioning ceramic pottery. The ancient people of the Sahara also left artwork behind, including a portrayal of swimmers on a cave wall in Gilf Kebir, an area that is only sand today. The greening of the eastern Sahara was part of an expansive climatic change that occurred in part from the planet Earth drawing slightly closer to the sun. At around 8500 BC, wild grains grew where sand dunes now stand, and the area resembled the present-day Serengeti National Park in Kenya. At the same time, areas around the Nile River that had been settled by humans became uninhabitable marshland. The researchers believe that the eastern Sahara, which includes parts of Egypt, Sudan, Libya and Chad, began to dry out around 5300 BC, and that most of the tribes had retreated eastward to the Nile or southward to northern Sudan by 3500 BC. Kroepelin said current global warming could one day make the Sahara habitable again.
That wraps up the news for this week!
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I'm Laura Kelley and I'll see you next week!