Audio News for February 3rd to February 9th, 2008

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I'm Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news for February 3rd to February 9th, 2008.


Scottish team seeks castle of first king


Our first story is from Scotland, where archaeologists believe they are getting closer to discovering the location of the palace of Kenneth MacAlpine, the King who united the country. Researchers at Glasgow University have been studying documents and previous archaeological finds to narrow down the location in Perthshire. This summer they will return to Forteviot [For-TEVet] looking for evidence of Kenneth MacAlpine's wooden castle. In AD 839, the Vikings wiped out the Pictish royal family, causing a competition for the succession. After a long civil war, Kenneth MacAlpine, King of the Gaels of Dál Riata, also became undisputed King of the Picts in AD 849, thereby uniting Scotland. MacAlpine died at the Palace of Forteviot in 858. According to Dr. Kenneth Brophy of the University of Glasgow, the palace is mentioned in many medieval and later texts as being a stone building, but as an early medieval building it would have been made of wood. Various attempts have been made to find it archaeologically before, but have not been successful. Excavations in surrounding areas have revealed the entrance of an enclosure believed to have been used for ceremonial purposes, which would have been larger than Stonehenge. The researchers also have worked on a graveyard, suspected to be the largest medieval cemetery in Scotland. About 40 archaeologists and 10 local assistants will work in the area for three weeks in the hope of finding the royal palace. Dr. Brophy noted it would be the first archaeological proof that there was a royal center at Forteviot, lending a greater understanding of the early Scottish nation. He and his colleagues are excited about the possibility of actually pinning down this almost legendary building. What is now a very small village may have been one of the major centers of royal power in Scotland.

Lost Nazi U-boats are found in Black Sea


In our next story, the final resting place of three German U-boats, nicknamed "Hitler's lost fleet," has been found at the bottom of the Black Sea off the coast of Turkey. The submarines were hauled 2,000 miles overland from Germany during the Second World War, with the plan that they would attack Russian shipping, but they were scuttled as the war neared its end. The vessels formed part of the 30th Flotilla of six submarines at Constanta, the Romanian port on the Black Sea. In two years, the fleet sank dozens of ships while losing three of their number to combat. However, in August 1944, Romania switched sides and declared war on Germany, leaving the three remaining vessels stranded. Unable to sail, their captains were ordered to scuttle the boats before rowing ashore and trying to make their way back to Germany. However, all three crews were captured and jailed by the Turks. Selçuk Kolay, a Turkish marine engineer, established the boats' location through research in German archives, interviews with surviving sailors and by sonar studies of the seabed. Successful dives already have been made to the wreckage of one vessel, U-20, which lies two miles offshore in about 80 feet of water. Kolay believes he has discovered another, U-23, at twice that depth, three miles from the town of Agva, but bad weather suspended diving until the spring. He also believes he is close to the third boat, U-19. That location is thought to be more than 1,000 ft down. According to Kolay, this is one of the least well known stories of the war, but one of the most interesting. All three U-boats had been operating against British shipping in the North Sea. In 1941, Germany invaded Russia and decided it needed a presence in the Black Sea to disrupt Soviet shipping. Unable to use the Bosporus, the only shipping route into the Black Sea, the boats were dismantled at Kiel and taken by canal to the River Elbe, and upstream to Dresden. Here, they were partly dismantled and taken by truck to Ingolstadt, on the Danube, and then ferried downstream to the Black Sea and Constanta, where they were re-assembled. When Romania switched sides, the crews were ordered to scuttle them out of sight of the Turks so the submarines' locations would remain a mystery. Mike Williams, secretary of the Nautical Archaeology Society in the UK, hopes that because these U-boats were all scuttled, they will be intact, like a sealed tube.

Protection of Canadian northwest coast sites urged


In British Columbia, Canada, archaeologist George MacDonald is urging the federal government to protect the unique history of the Tsimshian (TSIM-shee-an) people before the expansion of any future port facilities. MacDonald is one of several researchers who attended a recent three-day seminar in Prince Rupert to discuss the future of archaeological research on the North Coast. He wants federal authorities to include Prince Rupert harbor on the World Heritage list in order to protect 10,000 years of history located in at least 200 sites, including villages and campsites, in the harbor and Venn Pass area. Evidence there suggests that the Tsimshian people have lived in the harbor for at least the past 5,000 years. If proven, this would be the longest continuous occupation by a particular first nation that has been documented anywhere in North America. According to the archaeological researchers who attended the seminar, the shell middens ringing Prince Rupert Harbor are one vast cemetery that includes the burial remains of the Tsimshian people. In a recent report done for the Coast Tsimshian, MacDonald notes that although many sites were disturbed during the construction of the city, port and railway in the early 1900s, portions of these sites still exist beneath the newer construction. Earlier sites in the area have been dated to 10,000 years, with an expectation of 14,000 years once sites higher on Kaien Island have been tested. From spring until fall, the groups traveled to temporary camps spread over a large territory to obtain seasonally abundant resources. They then returned to winter in their coastal villages around Prince Rupert harbor. Construction of the container port expansion is proposed to begin in 2009.

Greek remains on Kuwaiti island are legacy of Alexander


Our final story is from Kuwait, where archaeological excavations on Failaka Island by a team of Greek archaeologists have unearthed significant Hellenistic period remains. Located 12 miles off the coast in the Persian Gulf, the island has produced remnants of a fort, temple, and shrine, as well as ancient Greek inscriptions. In the 4th century BC, during Alexander the Great's advance through the region on his way to India, the ancient Greeks colonized the island, which they named Icaria after the Greek island in the Aegean Sea and the mythical hero Icarus.  According to Angeliki Kottaridis, leader of the mission, the Greek colonists’ presence on the island is evident for at least two centuries. Alexander the Great’s Seleucid successors continued to consider the island a strategic asset due to its position at the mouth of today's Shatt al-Arab, formed by the confluence of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers in southern Mesopotamia. The island was later named Failaka after the fort built on the island, the name possibly being derived from the Greek word for outpost. The temple and the entire eastern section of the fort were discovered following earlier excavations by Danish, American and French archaeologists. The Greek team’s goal was the systematic excavation of the western section of the complex, where they discovered a part of the western wall, a workshop for making stone offerings, and a chamber that was part of a Hellenistic era building. Greek archaeologists also assisted in preservation work done on a stela of Icarus, bearing a large Greek inscription, displayed at the Museum of Kuwait.

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