Audio News for November 12th to November 18th, 2006

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I'm Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news for November 12th to November 18th, 2006.

Roman shipwreck discovered off Spanish coast


Our first story is from Spain, where the shipwreck of a first-century vessel carrying delicacies to the Roman Empire is proving to be an amazing find.  Sailors accidentally discovered the ancient shipwreck in 2000 when their anchor snagged one of the sunken jars.  After years of arranging financing and assembling crews, exploration of the site off Alicante in southeast Spain began in July.  According to Carles de Juan, a director of the project, the ship is estimated to have been 100 feet long with capacity for around 400 tons of cargo, twice the size of most other Roman shipwrecks found in the Mediterranean.  The freight likely comprised 1,500 well-preserved 3-foot tall clay amphorae used to hold fish sauce for wealthy Romans.  Besides the size of the ship and its good preservation, the site is also important because it is so easily accessible.  The wreckage lies in just 80 feet of water about one mile from the coast.   The last time a ship of this size and quality emerged was in 1985 off Corsica.  This ship probably sank in a storm while sailing back to Rome from Cadiz in the south of what is now Spain.  When word of the find first spread in 2000, pirate scuba divers raided the site and stole some of the amphorae.  This forced the Valencia government to build a thick metal grating to cover the remains and protect the jars.   About 60% of the wooden structure remains and is buried under mud in the seabed.   The fish sauce is no longer in the amphorae because the seals were not hermetic and could not withstand 20 centuries under water.  Nevertheless, traces of fish bone remain inside and these will help researchers determine how the sauces were made.

Despite modern development, the Yemassee Indians are resurfacing


In the United States, developers are helping scientists rediscover a lost tribe of Yemassee Indians.  The Colonial town of Altamaha in South Carolina was once home to about 1,500 Yemassee Indians who were eventually driven out by war.  Today the site is crowded by a development of million-dollar homes and the Yemassee artifacts are being excavated and preserved.  The location of the town has been known for years and part of it is on the National Register of Historic Places.  State archaeologists could afford only minimal work at the site, but state law requires developers to pay for comprehensive archaeological work before they build.   According to Alex Sweeney, the project manager for Brockington and Associates, this is the first real glimpse of a Yemassee town.  They were here for a very short time, yet they impacted Colonial history significantly.  The Yemassee were chased by other tribes near the beginning of the 18th century and arrived on the coast about the time the English were getting into the area.  They traded with the settlers until the 1715 Yemassee War and the survivors were run off.  At 100 acres, the site along the Okatie River was the largest Yemassee town and was likely the largest community of coastal American Indians.  The excavations so far have found evidence of three houses, which are the first Yemassee dwellings to be discovered.  Some human remains were found and reburied in place, according to the protocols established by the Catawba Indian tribe.  Other artifacts include coin-like pieces made of clay and stone, several mostly intact pieces of kaolin jugs, and fragments of European pottery.  Brockington staffers and other researchers will spend years studying the finds and trying to come up with a picture of daily Yemassee life.  Most of the artifacts, which technically belong to the developer, will be turned over to county or state museums.

Unique human and dog jar internment found in Gohar Tepe, Iran


In Iran, archaeologists are puzzled by discovery of a jar containing the skeleton of a dog in a human grave at Gohar Tepe.  Both skeletons date to the 1st millennium BC.  Human burials in jars have been seen in different sites of Iran, including Gohar Tepe.  This is the first time, however, that the skeleton of a dog was found in a jar.  The historic site of Gohar Tepe is located in the eastern parts of Mazandaran province between the cities of Neka and Behshahr in northern Iran.  According to Ali Mahforouzi, head of archeology team in Gohar Tepe, the discovery of the skeleton of a man alongside some pieces of jewelry, including a ring and golden and bronze bracelets, indicated that this was a unique burial.  The skeleton was found next to a big jar.  After the jar was opened, the researchers uncovered the skeleton of a dog, most likely owned by the wealthy man.  Three daggers and eight arrowheads laid out in an orderly fashion beside the skeleton hint at the man's high social rank.  The discovery of numerous architectural structures with a large number of graves with different burial practices shows that the region was continuously occupied for more than 7000 years.

New interpretations for the recently unearthed Aztec headstone


Our final story is an update from Mexico where archeologists say a giant, ornate carving of an Aztec god recently unearthed could be a massive headstone honoring of one of the civilization's last rulers.   Scientists say that the highly detailed 12.4 ton stone cutting, covered with full-body engraving of earth god Tlaltecuhtli, is one of the most important Aztec finds ever.   The 11-foot long monolith was first made public in October.   Though broken into several pieces, it is otherwise in excellent condition.  After weeks of cleaning off dirt and debris, specialists believe that it may be the headstone of Ahuizotl, the eighth Aztec ruler, whose successor, Moctezuma II, governed at the start of the Spanish conquest of Mexico.  The headstone is decorated with the carved image of a deity with a giant male head ringed by masses of curly hair and a sharp extended tongue representing a stream of blood.   Skulls and crossed bones surround the body, as well as a rabbit and several dots thought to be a time stamp dating the sculpture to 1502.   The Aztecs, a warlike and deeply religious people who built numerous monumental works including towering pyramids, ruled an empire encompassing much of modern-day central Mexico until the Spanish overthrew them in 1521.   The piece was found in the ruins of Mexico City's Templo Mayor, an Aztec temple in the heart of the city.   Spanish conquerors built a new city from the rubble of Tenochtitlan, the sprawling Aztec capital they found built on largely man-made islands amid a lake in the Valley of Mexico.

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