Audio News for May 6th to May 12th, 2007  

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I'm Rick Pettigrew filling in for Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news for May 6th to May 12th, 2007.


Tomb of Herod the Great discovered


Our first story is from Israel, where archaeologists from Hebrew University believe they have found the tomb of Herod the Great, the Roman client-king of Judea.  Ehud Netzer found the tomb at Herodium, a colossal cone-shaped mound in the Judean desert about eight miles south of Jerusalem.  After 35 years of searching the desert site where his palace once stood, Netzer has little doubt that the find is Herod's tomb.  Herod built a palace there and it has long been believed that he prepared his own burial site on the cone-shaped mound.  Last month the archaeologists found pieces of what they believe was the sarcophagus, which originally was about 7-1/2 feet long and decorated with a pattern of rosettes and distinctive lines.  Researchers found other pieces they believe made up the base of the monument that housed the tomb.  According to researchers, the monument probably measured about 30 feet by 30 feet and was decorated with stone urns.  Historical accounts by 1st century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus indicate that Herod was buried at Herodium.  The man-made cone, constructed to commemorate Herod's victory over the Parthians and Hasmoneans about 40 BC, had a combination palace and fortress at the top and another palace and administrative center at the base.  In addition, Herodium rises nearly 800 yards above the desert floor. A circular fortress at the top enclosed a palace splendidly adorned with colorful tile floors, mosaics, and wall paintings.  At the base of the cone were several royal buildings and gardens surrounding a large swimming pool that also served as the main reservoir.  Herod was a ruthless and cruel ruler, but he was also an able administrator who built up the economic base of Judea, founding cities and developing agricultural projects.  His greatest achievement was the expansion of the second Jewish temple in Jerusalem, which subsequently became known as Herod's Temple.  Roman forces destroyed Herodium in AD 71, a year after destroying the second temple.

Northernmost portion of Great Wall discovered


In China, archaeologists have discovered a section of the Great Wall on the Mongolian border.  This is the northernmost piece of the landmark yet to be found.  The remnants of the wall, found in the Bayannur district of China's Inner Mongolia region, measure 7 feet wide and approximately 4 feet high.  Built 2,100 years ago during the Han dynasty, the section is likely to be one of the oldest portions of the wall.   Construction began during the reign of the emperor Qin Shi Huang in 221 BC.   The wall, erected from stone, was found by a joint team headed by the People's University's School of History.   Built and rebuilt over the centuries, the Great Wall was intended as defense against northern barbarians.  Less than 1,500 miles remain of the original 3,800-mile structure.

 Rare 2,700-year-old Greek weaving discovered


In Greece, researchers have discovered a rare fragment of 2,700-year old fabric from a burial imitating a hero's funeral as described by the ancient poet Homer.  The yellowed, brittle material was found in a copper urn during a rescue excavation in the southern town of Argos.  According to head archaeologist Alkistis Papadimitriou, because fabric is an organic material that decomposes easily, this is an extremely rare find. Only a handful of such artifacts have been found in Greece. The tube-like urn also contained dried pomegranates, offerings to the ancient gods of the underworld, along with ashes and charred human remains from an early 7th century BC cremation.  As copper oxides kill the microbes that normally destroy fabrics, Papadimitriou believes the corroding copper urn preserved the material for nearly 3,000 years.  The burial was the only cremation from a half dozen closely grouped graves found on the plot scheduled for development.  Furthermore, cremation was very unusual in Argos.  Papadimitriou believes that a wealthy citizen may have wanted to imitate a funerary custom described by Homer to stand out among his buried peers.  Homer's Iliad describes slain heroes being cremated in elaborate funerals, a practice that fell out of fashion in later times.  Modern Argos is 87 miles south of Athens.  The ancient city also named Argos was mentioned by Homer as the seat of a Mycenaean hero-king who fought with the Greek army in Troy.

Jamestown still revealing clues of its past


Our final story is from the United States, where behind the scenes of its 400th anniversary celebrations, Jamestown is still providing clues to the past.  Archaeologists excavating a trash pit inside the remains of James Fort have discovered a cache of armor from the early 17th-century.  According to William Kelso, director of archaeology for APVA Preservation Virginia, this may be just the beginning as they hope to uncover more of it in the very near future.  The armor was partially revealed at a depth that would have been about 3 feet below ground level in the early 1600s.  Because the stratigraphic layers slope towards the center, archaeologists believe it might have been an inoperable well that was then used for trash.  The pit itself measures 19 square feet.  Glass trade beads, chess pieces, iron objects, pottery shards, and animal remains have also been found in the pit.  Indian artifacts found there include a grinding stone, a bone needle and shell beads.  Kelso speculated that this could be the first well dug by colonist John Smith in 1608 to 1609.  Archaeologists are dating it by the artifacts found which include a coin from 1613 unearthed near the upper layers, and by the fact that the pit is under the foundation of a building constructed in 1617.  Furthermore, historical accounts mention that military equipment was buried in the fort in June 1610, when the colonists decided to abandon Jamestown after a severe winter known as the Starving Time.  The day after they left, the survivors were stopped by the timely arrival of Lord De la Warr with supplies.  Archaeologists also plan to work on a site during the summer in hopes of uncovering remnants of the first church built for the colony.  Jamestown was village in southeast Virginia and the first permanent English settlement in America.  It was founded in May 1607 and named for the reigning monarch, James I.  Jamestown became the capital of Virginia after 1619 but was almost entirely destroyed during Bacon's Rebellion in 1676.

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