Audio News for January 4th, 2009 to January 10th, 2009

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica!  I'm Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news January 4th, 2009 to January 10th, 2009.


Excavations for Istanbul railroad find 6,000-year old settlement


Our first story is from Turkey, where archaeologists in Istanbul have discovered a grave that shows the city is 6,000 years older than they previously thought.  It holds the remains of two adults and two children, curled up together, perhaps to save space.  Alongside them are pots placed in the grave for their use in the afterlife.  This ancient family was unearthed at the site of an ancient swamp of black clay, now the route for a rail project.  According to Ismail Karamut, head of the Istanbul Archaeology Museum and leader of the dig, researchers also found more pots and other artifacts.  There were signs of houses made of branches, and next to the settlement in the swamp excavators found small tools, wooden pieces and bones.  The evidence clearly shows a Neolithic settlement here in the historic peninsula of Istanbul, contradicting the previous belief that Istanbul was not settled until around 700 BC.  The Neolithic era, when humans slowly changed from a hunting lifestyle to a more settled life farming the land and raising cattle, began east of Turkey, and gradually moved west into Europe.  The new find in Istanbul helps map that transition.  According to Professor Mehmet Ozdogan of Istanbul University, not all of the Neolithic culture was transferred to the west, and this site documents that.  Domesticated animals and some of the cereal crops came, but mud brick houses became wooden architecture, in settlements that were organized differently.  The transformation is important to understand the Neolithic culture in Europe.  Professor Ozdogan believes this settlement, in the district of Yenikapi, dates from between 6400 BC and 5800 BC, long before the Bosporus Strait had formed, when the Sea of Marmara was a small, inland lake.  Istanbul's first inhabitants appear to have lived on both sides of a river that flowed through the district.  The early settlement was found during construction of the state-of-the-art train station on the multi-million dollar Marmaray rail project, which has been held up repeatedly by history.   Scheduled to last six months, archaeological investigations are still going strong four years later.  The team's first major discovery at the site was a section of the first city walls, believed to date back to Constantine the First.  As anticipated, they also uncovered a 4th Century port, once the busiest in the Eastern Roman Empire, and the amazingly well-preserved remains of more than 30 wooden ships, many wrecked in storms in the 10th and 11th centuries.   Unearthing the Neolithic settlement was an unexpected archaeological delight.

Ancient Greek home business included brothels and bars


A new study is showing that ancient Greek homes may have doubled as pubs and brothels. The findings, from new analyses of archaeological remains, could explain why previous searches for evidence of ancient Greek taverns have been unsuccessful.  Classical Greek plays have many descriptions of lively drinking dens, but no remains have ever been discovered.   Clare Kelly Blazeby from the University of Leeds believed that archaeologists were missing something, so she took a new look at artifacts from several houses dotted around ancient Greece, dating from 475 to 323 BC.  The houses all yielded the remains of numerous drinking cups, and so had been assumed to be wealthy residences.  Kelly Blazeby’s analysis suggests that many of the houses had hundreds of cups, far too many for a building used only as a residence.  She now believes a more likely explanation is that the residents regularly sold wine.  Other artifacts also suggest the houses were used for other functions.  Kelly Blazeby, who presented her findings at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America, is not alone in her belief.  Allison Glazebrook of Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, will tell the same conference that some of the houses doubled as brothels.  Revealing signs that Glazebrook found include erotic graffiti and objects, and clusters of clay drinking cups.  According to Kelly Blazeby, this has a real impact on how we view the economy in classical Greece.  A significant portion of trade and industry appears to have been based within the ancient home.

Las Vegas spring site yields evidence of early pit house


In the United States, remote sensing technology is providing new evidence of ancient humans at the Springs Preserve in Nevada, within the city of Las Vegas.  In addition to traditional archaeological excavation of a prehistoric pit house presently underway at the Springs Preserve, remote sensing technologies have revealed the possible existence of two additional pit houses close by.  This new find suggests the presence of a Puebloan human settlement.  According to Springs Preserve Archaeologist Dr. Patti Wright, researchers believe they have found a small intact community almost near the center of Las Vegas; the area that has been virtually undisturbed by urban growth.  Now partially excavated, the pit house includes charcoal remnants found in a hearth that have been carbon dated to AD 700.  The excavation has also revealed flaked and ground stone tools, ceramics, and a shell bead from the California coast, confirming that these ancient people engaged in trade.  The remote sensing effort is being directed by Dr. Michael Rogers of Ithaca College’s physics department.  The technology allows acquisition of information in days, compared to what might take years using traditional testing.  Remote sensing has rarely been used in Nevada, but this collaborative effort between geophysicists and archaeologists appears to have led to the discovery of an extremely significant find which highlights the transition from nomadic to semi-sedentary settlement.  The Springs Preserve is a 180-acre national historic site, known as the birthplace of Las Vegas.  It was once home to bubbling springs that were a source of water for Native Americans living here for thousands of years, and later sustained Euro-American travelers and early settlers in the West.

New Egyptian mummy may be mother of Old Kingdom Pharaoh


In our final story, Egypt's chief archaeologist Zahi Hawass, the forthcoming Keynote Speaker for The Archaeology Channel International Film and Video Festival, announced late in 2008 that a tomb had been discovered in Egypt which was probably that of Queen Seshestet, the mother of Pharaoh Teti who ruled Egypt in the Old Kingdom period around the twenty-fourth century BC.  This week, Hawass announced that a sarcophagus had been found, including a mummy, which is likely to be that of Sesheshet.   After five hours carefully lifting the heavy lid of a sarcophagus in the pyramid discovered south of Cairo, researchers found a skull, legs, pelvis, and other body parts wrapped in linen, along with ancient pottery.  Also found were gold wrappings that would have been put on the fingers of the mummified person.  Grave robbers ransacked the burial chamber in ancient times and stole other objects.  According to Hawass, although they did not find the name of the queen buried in the pyramid, all the signs indicate that she is Seshestet, the mother of King Teti.   Seshestet is known mainly for a reference in ancient texts where she asks for a recipe to cure baldness.  She may have been instrumental in her son's rise to power, according to some sources, but information about her remains sketchy.   Teti, the first king of the Sixth Dynasty of ancient Egypt, ruled for about 20 years around 2300 BC before he was apparently murdered by his successor, Userkare.  While archaeologists have found many royal mummies from ancient Egypt, most of them are from the New Kingdom, which began 500 years after Teti's time.  

That wraps up the news for this week!
For more stories and daily news updates, visit Archaeologica on the World Wide Web at , where all the news is history!
I'm Laura Kelley and I'll see you next week!