Audio News for August 12th to August 18th, 2007

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica!  I'm Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news for August 12th to August 18th, 2007.

Revised Headline: Vast Angkor Wat settlement uncovered


Our first story is from Cambodia, where a newly created map is revealing a huge area of urban sprawl that once surrounded the illustrious Angkor Wat temple.  The new map supplements the current information from fieldwork and aerial photographs with new data from high-resolution, ground-sensing radar.  By detecting differences in the flora and ground moisture of an area caused by underlying ruins, this radar is revealing unprecedented detail about the location of temples and structures.  This includes 94 newly identified temple sites as well as another 74 ready for assessment on the ground.  Researchers in the Greater Angkor Project at the University of Sydney in Australia, together with colleagues in Australia, Cambodia and France, have used this technique to survey the entire watershed of the Angkor region, nearly 3000 square kilometers.  The researchers found that at one time the population occupied two thirds of this area in suburbs that seem to spread far beyond the northwestern and southeastern borders of the study site. Angkor is now by far the biggest pre-industrial settlement yet documented.  A settlement of this size adds credibility to one theory that Angkor’s inhabitants brought on their own society's demise through environmental deterioration.  According to Damian Evans of the University of Sydney, the settlement has no obvious.  The population probably reached around half a million although earlier estimates of a million inhabitants could still be correct and may help explain why Angkor, which thrived between the 9th and 16th centuries, finally succumbed to dense vegetation by the time European explorers arrived in the 1860s.  The main hypothesis for the site’s abandonment focuses on their extensive water management system, which could have caused an ecological imbalance, ultimately leading to the failure of the whole system and damaging food shortages.  The new map definitively draws out what the system would have looked like and shows that it was capable of significantly affecting the surrounding environment.  Angkor’s inhabitants created this complex system of canals to move water from nearby high ground to storage reservoirs in the urban center.  The map also reveals the apparent failures of this arrangement. Multiple dykes were constructed at certain points, creating redundancy in the canal network that researchers believe are signs of broad system problems.  However, these structures have not yet been dated to confirm any relationship with Angkor’s collapse.

Revised Headline: Two-millennia old Etruscan tomb unearthed intact


This week in Italy, archaeologists unearthed a perfectly preserved Etruscan tomb more than 2,000-years-old.  Found in the hills near the Tuscan town of Civitella Paganico (Chee-vee-tell-ah Pah-gan-ee-coh), the tomb contained a large number of artifacts.  Andrea Marcocci, an archaeology student at the time, identified the tomb about a decade ago, but was not very worried that anyone else would stumble upon it.  Earlier this year, however, woodsmen began to clear brush in the area, and Marcocci, who believed the forest had been the tomb’s best protection, realized he needed to act.  Armed with a permit from archeological authorities, he gathered a handful of volunteers to begin excavating the site.  According to Marcocci, the tomb probably dates from between the 1st and 3rd centuries BC, at a time when Etruscan power was in decline.  Finding a tomb this untouched is rare, so when the team found fragments outside the opening, they initially believed the site might have been violated.  The main burial room, however, was fully intact.  Inside, a narrow corridor led to a small burial chamber, about 6 feet long and 5 ½ feet wide.  The relatively compact structure housed an exceptional number of objects: around 80 pieces largely comprising bronze and ceramic vases and mirrors.  The excavators also found urns holding the remains of about 30 people.  One of Italy's most mystifying cultures, the Etruscans lived north of Rome in present day regions of Tuscany and Umbria.  Their civilization lasted for about 1,000 years, reaching its peak around the 7th to the 6th century BC, after which its cities were systematically replaced by Roman settlements.  Much of our knowledge about the Etruscans comes from other lavish burial sites, which tended to be decorated with paintings and furnished with vases and other valuable objects.  

Revised Headline:  Hunting for Florida’s lost settlement


In the United States, a six-member team of marine archaeologists, divers and volunteers spent 12 days searching the Manatee River in Florida for evidence of Angola, a lost community of former African slaves and Seminole American Indians.  Recently, underwater sonar devices revealed an indistinct but massive object lying at the murky bottom of the river.  The team had high hopes that they had discovered physical evidence of the site, but what the divers identified on the riverbed was only the remains of a railroad trestle built 105 years ago.  Further images produced by the underwater survey require additional study, though, and the community known as Angola may still be nearby.  Locating Angola has been project director Vicki Oldham’s quest since the early 1990s, when she was working on a documentary about Blacks in Sarasota.  She has assembled five researchers from four universities with expertise in history, archaeology, underwater archaeology, and anthropology to work on the project titled “Looking for Angola.”.  Dr. Canter Brown, Jr., a historian at Fort Valley State University and the lead historian for the project, calls Angola one of the most significant historical sites in Florida, if not the United States.  Oldham, meanwhile, is determined to locate physical proof that Angola is more than just a mere fable.  Diaries, military, historic records, and newspaper evidence exists, but no actual physical evidence has ever come to light.  While the Manatee River survey did not yield the results they were looking for, the researchers resumed their search on land late last month.  Popular history maintains that escaped slaves generally fled north to the Free States or Canada.  Some of them, however, headed south instead, down the long Florida peninsula, creating a little-known southern spur of the Underground Railroad.  According to Oldham, Angola was probably not just one site, but a series of communities in this region, stretching from Tampa Bay to Sarasota.  A settlement of about 750 people would have flourished there from 1812 until 1821, when a Lower Creek Indian war party, possibly at the request of General Andrew Jackson, looted and burned the site.  The survivors scattered across the Florida peninsula.  Angola’s destruction and the exodus of its residents occurred in the same year that Black Seminoles arrived in the islands of the Bahamas that may have come from the ruined settlement.  Dr. Rosalyn Howard, a cultural anthropologist at the University of Central Florida, possesses documents listing the names of some of the inhabitants.  A letter, dated 1828, lists the names of some inhabitants of the Red Bays settlement believed to be Black Seminoles and claims that the people had resided there for seven years, raising crops on their own.

Revised Headline: Modern replica completes epic Viking journey


Our final story is from Ireland, where a team of archaeologists and historians have undertaken an amazing voyage to begin to solve some of the greatest mysteries of the Viking shipbuilding and navigation.  Earlier this week, an exact replica of a giant Viking warship built nearly 1,000 years ago completed a 1,200-mile trip from Scandinavia to Ireland.  During the six-and-a-half-week voyage, researchers from Denmark's Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde conducted experiments into 11th-century life at sea and tested sailing technology.  The experimenters have concluded that the famed longships were actually more complex in design than earlier believed.  The vessel chosen to be replicated was discovered by Danish archaeologists 50 years ago.  According to research, the ship had been built in Dublin in 1042, but scuttled in Denmark 30 years later.  On its recent voyage, the ship’s replica sailed from Denmark to southern Norway, then across the North Sea.  Poor winds in the North Sea, however, forced it to accept a tow from its escort vessel to Orkney, where the journey to Ireland continued via the Western Isles and the Isle of Man, arriving in Dublin on Tuesday.  In the initial sea trials, the researchers discovered that the hull bent back and forth from port to starboard by as much as almost 3 feet.  The ship became so flexible that the Viking-style wooden nails holding the vessel together began to work loose and the entire structure was in danger of falling apart.  After closer examination of the remains of the original vessel, though, the 21st-century would-be Vikings realized that their 11th-century forerunner had included substantial strengthening timbers for greater stability.  To solve the problem, additional large timbers were then set along the major axis of the replica ship, while deck planks were fastened to the crossbeams.  Archaeologists behind the project also said the experimental voyage had revealed that the larger warships were almost 20 per cent slower at top speed than scholars had previously thought – a revelation that will almost certainly impact theories of Viking expansion in the North Atlantic.

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