Audio News for July 15th to July 21st, 2007

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica!  I'm Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news for July 15th to July 21st, 2007.


Outhouses in California reveal 19th century artifacts and crime scene


Our first story is from the United States, at a site where a pair of outhouses that once stood 130 years ago is proving to have a wealth of 19th century artifacts and is even revealing a crime scene.  Located in Ventura, California, the one-time site of privies for men and women has been built upon repeatedly.  However, before more construction was to take place, archaeologists were called in.  They began digging in late May in a discovery process that could last several more weeks.  So far they have uncovered a pistol, a buoy knife, whisky flasks, a set of false teeth, two dog skulls, and a blade from a set of sheep shears.  According to project archaeologist John Foster, it might be an early crime scene; it appears the two dogs were decapitated.  Whoever committed the act dumped the skulls and the blade, thinking the dogs would not be discovered in the bottom of the latrine.  The work has its downside, however.  Archaeologist Marisa Solorzano maintained, the further you go down, the more intense the odor.  Nevertheless, privies are considered archaeological gold mines.  The site is known to have been used by American Indians, Spanish missionaries, Mexican soldiers, and American settlers.  At one time, even brothels were nearby.  The area, the size of two football fields, housed Ventura's first courthouse, jail, and hospital during the late 1800s.  Artifacts found at the site along with photographs and other documentation eventually will go to the Museum of Ventura County.

Ancient mariners in the Mediterranean up to 14,000 years ago


Our next story is from Cyprus, where archaeologists have discovered what could be the oldest evidence that organized groups of ancient mariners were sailing the eastern Mediterranean as far back as 14,000 years ago.  The find could also suggest the island of Cyprus may have been gradually populated about that time, up to 2,000 years earlier than previously thought.  Cyprus is located in the northeastern corner of the Mediterranean and about 30 miles away from the closest land mass.  According to Pavlos Flourentzos, director of Cyprus's Department of Antiquities, this is a major breakthrough for the study of early Cyprus archaeology and the origins of seafaring in the Mediterranean.  The discovery at a coastal site on the island's northwest side has revealed submerged chipped tools made with local stone, which could be the earliest trace of human activity in Cyprus.  It has been known since 2004 that Cyprus was used early on by small groups of voyagers on hunting expeditions for pygmy elephants.  However, the newly discovered expanse of the site, which reaches into the sea, suggests the area held larger numbers of people, possibly for months.  Tom Davis, director of the Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute (CAARI) in Nicosia, commented that the site shows that activity there was much more organized than just an isolated visit.  According to Flourentzos and Davis, the new find reveals that nomads knew the island well enough to find tool material, suggesting they were repeat visitors.  The first human settlements in Cyprus date from 10,000 BC and are located inland.  Logically, the coastal settlements should be older, and the Aspros site where a good deal of it is now in the sea, may be up to 2,000 years older.  Very little is known about Mediterranean mariners of the era.  A widely held belief is they never ventured into open seas because of limited navigational abilities.  These new discoveries show repeated visits and activity by people from the mainland, possibly revealing an established sea voyaging practice.

Remote sensing detects coronation abbey in Scotland


In Scotland, archaeologists have unearthed the site where Robert the Bruce was crowned king.  The location of the abbey at Moot Hill, forgotten centuries ago, was the original home of the Stone of Destiny, or Scottish Coronation Stone, upon which all Scottish kings were crowned.  But it has now been identified by researchers from Glasgow University who have been surveying the grounds of Scone [skoon] Palace for the first time.  The coronation of Pictish and Scottish kings took place at Moot Hill for hundreds of years, and a royal abbey was built there by AD 1120.  Using a sophisticated technique based on geophysical remote sensing, they were able to detect buried structures and found part of the abbey church and a bell tower.  According to Project leader Oliver O'Grady, the survey results have been of high quality, revealing a very clear outline of the great western end of the abbey church, complete with at least one bell tower.  The great importance of Scone, where kings were made and where Parliaments met, is only matched by how little we know about the reality of the place.  Now, technology is locating the essential outline of the church and hints of where the cloister and other buildings stood, and all without putting a spade in the ground.  The survey has also uncovered evidence of a massive ditch around Moot Hill as well as information about its construction.  According to Suzanne Urquhart from Mansfield Estates, which runs Scone Palace, it is very exciting to see the plan of what was a beautiful Gothic church emerge from the ground after an absence of 400 years.

Excavations uncover lavish Roman bath complex


Our final story is from Italy, where archaeologists have partially excavated a 2nd-century bath complex believed to be part of the vast, luxurious residence of a wealthy Roman.  The two-story complex, covering 5 acres, includes remarkably well-preserved decorated hot rooms, vaults, changing rooms, marble latrines, and an underground room where slaves maintained the fire to warm the baths.  According to archaeologist Darius A. Arya, the head of the excavation, statues and water cascades once adorned the interiors. Also revealed were ancient marbles, mosaic floors, and a heating system made of pipes that channeled hot air throughout the complex.  The complex is thought to be part of a multiple-story villa that belonged to the Roman equivalent of a billionaire, a man called Quintus Servilius Pudens who was friends with Emperor Hadrian.  It is not clear if the baths were open to the public or reserved to illustrious guests of the owner.  Excavations at the Villa delle Vignacce lasted 10 weeks and are planned to continue again in the future.  Ancient Romans put a great deal of emphasis on bathing, turning it into a ritual.  Meeting at communal bathhouses, visitors would go through a series of rooms of alternating temperatures at a leisurely pace, dipping themselves in hot and cold baths.  Bathing was a social event, but also a form of relaxation and a way to purify their bodies of toxins.

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