Audio News for July 20th to July 26th, 2008

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica!  I'm Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news July 20th to July 26th, 2008.


Canadian colonial site may mark battle in English takeover


Our first story is from the province of New Brunswick, Canada, where an archaeologist thinks he might have found the Acadian village of La Petite-Rochelle.  Quebec archaeologist Jean-Yves Pental has been following an 18th century English map and the journals of British Commodore John Byron, the man who led the English conquest of the Acadians, in order to locate the village, which was the final settlement Byron burned to the ground.  Acadia, comprising what is now Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, is the location of the first permanent French settlement in North America, founded in 1604.  Byron’s conquest of Acadia came at a time of serious hostility between the French and English, and this episode, called the Great Upheaval, eventually resulted in the forced expulsion of Acadians from Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island between 1755 and 1763 as the English took over the region in a campaign that today would be called “ethnic cleansing.”  The village of la Petite-Rochelle was the last outpost where French-speaking Acadian settlers forcibly held out against the 1755 expulsion.  Located just across the river from Campbellton, la Petite-Rochelle was a community of about 200 houses, founded after the Great Upheaval.  To locate the area, the archaeological team surveyed three areas before identifying the likely location near Battery Point, where a French outpost armed with cannons defended the narrow arm of the Baie des Chaleurs that separates Quebec and New Brunswick.  Michel Goudreau, vice-president of Quebec’s Société Historique Machault described several ways that the map and Byron's journal confirmed a battle there, and the map seems to show la Petite-Rochelle located a little east of the point.  In his journal, the English commander, Byron, noted that after his troops destroyed the battery, they burned 100 to 200 houses, forcing the Acadians to flee without taking any furniture or belongings with them – bad news for them, good news for archaeologists.  To date the searchers have located the French battery and found some French nails and flint near the areas that look burned.  Pintal commented that it doesn't look like an officer or soldier camp, because the nails look more domestic.  The next step is to excavate the site to make sure it's really a house, and test the surrounding area where they think most of the other houses will be.  In the end, over 10,000 Acadians were deported from the Maritimes, most of them moving to Louisiana.  Those who escaped deportation fled into Quebec and New Brunswick.  According to Goudreau, the researchers are fairly confident they’ve located the village that the Acadians fled to.  Since these are the people who did get away, their survival is the reason there is still an Acadian population in northern New Brunswick.

 Italian tomb documents far-flung trade in the pre-Roman era


In Italy, the tomb of a woman who died 2,600 years ago is aiding archaeologists in piecing together the vast trade network that linked this area with the Middle East, North Africa and Greece.  Researchers working at the tomb near the port of Ancona on the eastern coast say the site contains over 650 artifacts from the 7th century BC, including numerous items made in other parts of the pre-Classical world.  According to Giuliano de Marinis, Archaeology Superintendent for the Marche region, one important aspect of the find is that it contains the only known funerary artifacts in the area that date from this era.  The tomb contains artifacts from as far away as Egypt, Rhodes, mainland Greece, the Palestinian territories, and Anatolia.  The pieces are evidence that an extensive network of contact and trade once linked this section of the Adriatic coast not only to Sicily, southern and central Italy, but also more distant parts of the ancient Mediterranean world.  De Marinis noted that this discovery fills in a big gap in our knowledge and helps define the role of this area in the centuries before the rise of classical Greece and Rome.  It appears that items from Greece and the eastern Mediterranean passed through here en route to other parts of the Italian peninsula.  Of particular note are five glazed pottery pendants made in Egypt.  Measuring two and a half inches in length and shaped like seashells, they were probably used as amulets.  Also found were a bowl and lid, intricately decorated with horses, and a cowry shell disc from the Indian Ocean, which was considered a fertility symbol and reproduced in Ancient Egyptian tombs.  Other items in the tomb included pendants of ivory, glass paste and amber; scarabs; and belts with bone buckles.  According to the director of the archaeological dig, Maurizio Landolfi, these items may have been transported to the Marche along with shipments of amber, which was in great demand for decorating jewelry and homes.  Over the last two years, over 200 tombs have been uncovered in the area, particularly around the towns of Sirolo and Numana.

Sacred boat from Great Pyramid will be excavated and restored


In Egypt, archaeologists will excavate hundreds of pieces of an ancient wooden boat and try to reassemble the craft to its former glory.  Entombed in an underground chamber next to Giza's Great Pyramid, the 4,500-year-old vessel is the sister ship of a similar boat removed in pieces from another pit in 1954 and reconstructed.  Researchers believe the boats, known as solar boats, were meant to ferry the pharaoh who built the Great Pyramid in the afterlife.  According to Professor Sakuji Yoshimura of Japan's Waseda University, who is helping lead the restoration effort, scientists will begin removing around 600 pieces of timber in November.  Considered one of the most significant finds on the Giza Plateau, the boat pits were discovered more than 50 years ago by workmen clearing a large mound of wind-blown debris from the south side of the Great Pyramid.  They are the oldest vessels to have survived from antiquity.  The ship reconstructed in 1954 is on display in a museum built above the pit where it was discovered.  It is a narrow vessel measuring 142 feet long, with a rectangular deckhouse and long, interlocking oars that ascend overhead.  The curved hull is constructed from cedar timbers lashed together with hemp rope in a technique used until recent times by traditional shipbuilders along the Red Sea, Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean. The as yet unexcavated companion boat, made from Lebanese cedar and Egyptian acacia trees, is believed to be of comparable design, although smaller and less well preserved.  According to John Darnell, an Egyptologist at Yale University, this new research into the second boat could fill in some blanks about the significance of the vessels and help determine whether they ever actually sailed the Nile River waterways or were of purely spiritual importance.  Darnell noted that in Egypt, almost everything real had its counterpart meaning or significance in the spiritual world; however, there is much debate as to whether these vessels ever were used.  Those who argue the vessels may have touched water point to rope marks on the wood that could have been caused by the rope becoming wet and then shrinking as it dried.  However, Zahi Hawass, director of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, believes these were symbolic vessels, not funerary boats used to bring the pharaoh Khufu's embalmed remains up the Nile from the ancient capital of Memphis for burial in the Great Pyramid.  Solar symbols found inside the second pit offer more evidence that those who disassembled and buried the boats believed Khufu's soul would travel from his tomb in the pyramid through a connecting air shaft to the boat chambers and that he would use the boats to circle the heavens, like the sun god, taking one boat by day and the other by night.

English workers find message in a bottle beneath church floor


Our final story is from England, where a Victorian message in a bottle was uncovered at St Helen’s Church, in County Durham.   Workers restoring the floor of St. Helen Auckland were surprised when they discovered the 142-year old bottle, with a piece of paper still inside.  The message, which states it was written in 1866, when the medieval church was restored, gives details of the restoration and the people who carried it out and did the work.  It also asks the finder to return it to the church’s foundations.  The bottle had been sealed with a cork that had partly disintegrated and crumbled when it was removed.  The message was in an envelope that fell apart when it was handled, but the note inside remained intact.  Found in the foundations of the church’s southeast chapel, the bottle, which is made of clear glass and may have held ginger beer, is marked with the words “Auckland” and “JW Townend.”  Along with the message in a bottle, the remains of a medieval wall painting were found.   The base of the support pillars where the find was made are brick, meaning they probably date from around the time of the restoration.  According to archaeologist Peter Ryder, a supervisor at the site, he has seen other messages from the past left in different ways, but the discovery of a message in a bottle was unusual.  As requested on the paper, details of the latest restoration were added to it and it was resealed in the bottle and placed back into the church foundations.

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