Audio News for April 29th to May 5th, 2007

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica!  I'm Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news for April 29th to May 5th, 2007.



Elaborate burial found in Bolivian pyramid


Our first story is from Bolivia, where archaeologists have uncovered the 1,300-year-old skeleton of a ruler or priest of the ancient Tiwanaku civilization.  The remains were found inside the often-looted Akapana pyramid.  According to Bolivian archeologist Roger Angel Cossio, who made the discovery, the bones are in very good condition.  The body is complete and next to it are jewels, offerings and a llama.  The tomb, which contained a headdress and a substantial carved pendant of solid gold, has survived centuries of looting by Spanish invaders and raiders.  The corpse was found in a niche carved inside the 15-yard-high Akapana pyramid, which is one of the biggest pre-Columbian constructions in South America.  At its peak, the city of Tiwanaku stretched over 1,480 acres and had a population of over 100,000.  The Tiwanaku civilization spread throughout southwestern Bolivia and parts of neighboring Peru, Argentina and Chile from around 1500 BC to AD 1200.  Although researchers still have to do carbon dating to determine the age of the remains, archaeologists estimate they were buried some 1,300 years ago, during the decline of the Tiwanaku Empire.

Roman town found in Bulgaria


In Bulgaria, archaeologists have unearthed the remains of an early Roman town near a village 30 kilometers south of Russe.  Preliminary finds include a bronze duck figurine of a previously unfamiliar design, along with a silver fibula, or garment-fastening pin, which is only the fifth documented fibula of this kind found in Bulgaria.  The stone foundations of the houses have been preserved well despite vigorous agricultural activity.  According to Sergei Torbatov, archaeologist with the Bulgarian national archaeology institute, the town was founded no later than the 2nd century AD, and suffered damage in the same century.  Badly burnt coins dating to the reign of emperor Marcus Aurelius were found at the site.  Evidence supports the theory that the unfortified town was inhabited predominately by wealthy people and Roman army veterans, a claim supported by the large number of silver and bronze coins found, most dating to the Severan imperial dynasty in the 3rd century AD.  The most intriguing find is the bronze duck, which was used as an outdoor decoration.   Such figurines have never been found in Bulgaria.  The town apparently sprawled across 50 hectares and will take years to study.

 Buddhist cave paintings found in Nepal


In Nepal, a series of caves decorated with ancient Buddhist paintings has been found, in sheer cliffs in the remote Himalayan north. Archaeologists are excited and puzzled.  An international team of scholars, archaeologists, climbers, and explorers examined at least 12 cave complexes at 14,000 feet near Lo Manthang, a medieval walled city in Nepal's Mustang district, about 80 miles northwest of Kathmandu.  They contain paintings that could date back as far as the 13th century, as well as Tibetan scripts executed in ink, silver and gold and pre-Christian era pottery shards.  According to Broughton Coburn, an expert in Himalayan conservation and development, the caves pose a marvelous mystery of who lived in those caves, when were they there, and how their users accessed them, perched as they are on vertical cliffs.  Researchers used ice axes and ropes to climb to the caves; cutting steps in the cliff face as they went.  In Coburn’s view, these findings underscore the richness of the area’s Tibetan Buddhist religious tradition as well as the artistic beauty and wide geographical reach of Newari artists.  Newaris are ethnic Nepalis known for their talent in wall paintings and other forms of mostly Buddhist art.  The cave complexes are several hours walking distance apart.  Some chambers are believed to have been used for burials, and archaeologists hope that mounds in the vicinity may hide further artifacts.  About 20 openings are found in each complex.  They contained stupas, decorative art and paintings depicting various forms of the Buddha, often with disciples, supplicants and attendants.  The artifacts remained unpillaged partly because the area has, until recently, been inaccessible.

Early shopping district found in Iran


Our final story is from Iran, where excavations at a pre-Bronze Age mound have led to the discovery of what may be the oldest commercial district in the Middle East.  Archaeologists digging at the 7,000 year-old site of Pardis Mound south of Tehran have unearthed dozens of brick kilns, pottery wheels and hand-made spindles.  Ceramic jars and necklaces were also among the ancient artifacts discovered.  Pardis Mound is located in the city of Varamin and is one of the most archaeologically productive sites in Iran.  Hassan Fazeli Nashli, the head of Iran's Archaeology Research Center, has called on officials to protect the site as a museum park preserving a history of paramount importance for archaeologists.

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