Audio News for April 1st to April 7th, 2007

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica!  I'm Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news for April 1st to April 7th, 2007.


Rich Roman tomb is found on Greek island


Our first story is from Greece, where archaeologists have discovered a large tomb from the Roman era containing offerings of gold jewelry, pottery and bronze.  The building is near the village of Fiscardo on the island of Kefalonia.  Five burials were found in a complex measuring 26 by 20 feet.  It includes a large vaulted grave and a stone coffin.  According to an announcement from the Greek Culture Ministry, the complex had not been touched by grave robbers.   The excavation team found gold earrings and rings, gold leaves that may have been attached to ceremonial clothing, glass vessels and clay pots, bronze artifacts decorated with masks, a bronze lock, and copper coins.  The vaulted grave, a house-shaped structure, had a small stone door that still works perfectly, turning on stone pivots.  On a nearby plot, investigators also located traces of what may have been a small theater with four rows of stone seats.  Previous excavations nearby have uncovered remains of houses, a bath complex and a cemetery, all dating to Roman times, between 146 BC and AD 330.

Nineteenth century trench in Texas may date to Alamo campaign


In the United States, historians say Mexican soldiers might have used an old trench discovered in San Antonio, Texas, as a fortification against Texan rebels during a siege that preceded the Battle of the Alamo.  Workers found the trench in the city’s historic city center, as they were digging for a storm-water sewer installation.  Archaeologists believe the trench was built by Mexican forces under the command of General Martin Perfecto de Cos.   From October to December 1835, the city was under siege by Texas rebels in an early campaign of the Texas Revolution.  According to Mark Denton, an archaeologist with the Texas Historical Commission, a 6-foot wide section of the trench is intact.  The Mexican soldiers appear to have dug into bedrock, created embankments with dirt and refuse, and lined the inside of the trench with caliche.  Pieces of pottery, gunflints and a metal sword point have been unearthed. Cos lost San Antonio on December 9, 1835, to an army of 300 Texas volunteers led by Ben Milam.  The Texans released Cos and his men on the condition that they never return.  But Cos returned with General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna on February 23, 1836.  The Mexican army began a 13-day siege that ended with the defeat of the Texan rebels encamped behind the Alamo’s walls.  Denton and city officials said the trench will not be preserved because its scientific value has been largely recovered now and it has low value as an exhibit.  That decision allows the drainage project to go forward.

Egyptian dig unearths debris from Santorini volcano


In the Sinai, Egyptian archaeologists have unearthed traces of volcanic debris on the coast that date to around 1500 BC.  This is good support for ancient accounts indicating that Egyptian settlements were buried by a massive volcanic eruption in the Mediterranean.  A team of excavators led by Mohamed Abdel Maqsoud, of Egypt's Supreme Council for Antiquities, found houses, military structures and tombs encased in ash, along with fragments of pumice, near the ancient fortress of Tharo.  Tharo is located where the Nile Delta meets the Sinai Peninsula.  According to Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the antiquities council, the pumice and ash came from the eastern Mediterranean volcano Santorini.  The find confirms accounts from ancient artwork and documents that describe the destruction of coastal cities in Egypt and Palestine during the 15th dynasty, when the Hyksos ruled Egypt.  The scientists suggest that trade winds may have carried a blizzard of ash to Egypt from Santorini, about 700 miles from Tharo.  Researchers also theorize that the volcano created a giant tsunami that swept the pumice all the way to Egypt.   Other experts doubt that deposits from the volcano could have reached Sinai that way and suggest regular ocean currents carried the debris in some time later.  The archaeological mission also found a fort with four mud-brick towers dating to Egypt's 18th dynasty, around 1550 to 1307 BC.   According to Hawass, the fort is compatible to reliefs found in the ancient temple of Karnak in Luxor. The sculptures describe Egypt's strategy to defend its eastern borders against future invasions by the Hyksos, who are thought to have been Semitic nomads from Syria and Palestine.  Salima Ikram, a professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo, called the find very significant, as there are only a very few sites linked to the Hyksos.  Ikram credited holistic archaeology for the team’s success.   Holistic archaeology refers to a methodology that incorporates geology and climatology in addition to archaeology, linguistics, and art history to provide more substantive knowledge of the past.

Irish cemetery may be from pre-Christian era


Our final story is from Ireland, where six skeletons that possibly date back to pre-Christian times have been discovered by archaeologists in County Clare.  The 2,000-year-old remains were found during construction near Newmarket-on-Fergus.  According to archaeologist Eoghan Kieran, a brief assessment of the area has been undertaken by osteologist Camilla Lofqvist to determine the nature and extent of the discoveries.  Results of this osteoarchaeological analysis concluded that the remains appeared to be at least six articulated skeletons with another four possible burials.  Animal bone was also detected, but no datable finds were recovered.  Kieran explained that some of the burials were oriented East-West, which may indicate Christian burial.  However, burials in all directions were found on the site, which possibly indicates a pre-Christian date.  The discovery will be used to provide evidence of the working life, living conditions, diet, traumas, and diseases of past generations.

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