Audio News for January 18th, 2009 to January 24th, 2009

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I'm Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news January 18th, 2009 to January 24th, 2009.


Croatian seaport harbors wealth of late Roman mosaics

Original Headline:  Archaeologists discover 5th century mosaics in Croatian town


Our first story is from Croatia, where archaeologists have discovered a series of ancient mosaics in the Adriatic town of Rijeka (ree-YEH-ka). As reported in the Novi List newspaper the basilica floors are thought to date as far back as the fifth century, and could reveal more information about the town's diverse colonial history.  Originally founded by the Celts, Rijeka has been rebuilt and conquered several times in the last 2,000 years. In the time of Augustus, the Romans rebuilt the city, with full citizen rights, on the right bank of a small river that flows to the Adriatic Sea.  From the 5th century onwards, the town was ruled successively by the Ostrogoths, the Byzantines, the Lombards, the Franks, and eventually, the Croatians.  According to archaeologist Josip Visnijic (YOH-sip VIZ-nee-yich), the mosaics include motifs of crosses, diamonds and other geometric forms.  Many of the artifacts discovered by the team at the entrance to the basilica were richly decorated.  Located in Kotar County, the town of Rijeka has a natural harbor that has made it the principal seaport of Croatia throughout history.

Prehistoric American village straddled the border, then as now

Original Headline:  Prehistoric village is found near San Pedro


In the United States, the construction of the fence along the U.S.-Mexico border has led to the find of a prehistoric community east of the San Pedro River in southern Arizona.  According to archaeologist Maren Hopkins, the project director, evidence found at the Upper San Pedro Village indicates that it was a crossroads settlement, or a type of gateway community.  Hopkins describes the site as typical of an area that is on the periphery of a number other areas that are better understood.  The newly found village, however, is peripheral to the Tucson Basin as well as to surrounding areas.  So the people there were a mix, demographically and culturally.  The village is believed to have existed from around AD 700 to 1200, based on ceramics analysis.  Some features of the village appear to be Hohokam characteristics, but as yet, it’s uncertain exactly who lived there.  Researchers unearthed 23 pit houses, 14 possible pit houses, 97 thermal pits, a number of storage pits, five dog burials and 69 human burials.  There was one unique artifact found at the site that Hopkins had not seen before.  She described it as being like a stone jaw bone.  The tool is stone, with a serrated edge.  Hopkins believes it was used for scraping animal hides.  Several of this kind of tool were found at the site, which also yielded more deer bone than is usual for the area and for sites of this age.  The site was found while Northland Research Inc., Hopkins’ employer, was doing archaeological work under contract to the U.S. Corps of Army Engineers and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  The work will help the agencies comply with federal archaeological laws.  Previously, in October 2007, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff had pushed ahead with the fence, winning federal court approval that waived environmental restrictions.  As well, Hopkins explained at a recent meeting of the Tubac archaeology society, the work is complicated by the many government and private agencies involved along with private landowners.  Those involved in the areas around the new site include ranchers on both the U.S. and Mexican sides, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and the Arizona National Guard, just to name a few.  One restriction posed by the U.S. government was that the archaeologists could only dig 5 feet down, the depth of the fence’s footings.  Below that depth lies much more archaeological material, in Hopkins’s estimation.  On the horizontal dimension, the archaeologists can dig an area up to 60 feet wide.  That figure relates to a 60-foot-wide easement along the border, that was established a hundred years ago by President Theodore Roosevelt.  Running the length of the U.S.-Mexico border from California to Texas, what is also called the “Roosevelt Reservation” was already thought of back then as a useful tool in the pursuit of homeland security.  The archaeological site found along the border route has been reburied now, and topped with the fence.

Very early city in Pakistan may predate Mohenjodaro

Original Headline:  Site older than Mohenjodaro found in Pak 


Our next story is from Pakistan, where a new archaeological site dating back about 5,500 years is believed to be older than Mohenjodaro.  Mohenjodaro was one of the largest city-settlements of the Indus Valley Civilization of south Asia, situated in what is now the province of Sindh, in Pakistan.  Built around 2600 BC, the ancient city was one of the earliest urban settlements in the world, existing at the same time as the civilizations of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Crete.  It was abandoned around 1900 BC.  Now an even older site has been found in the same region, in the Sukkur district.  Unnamed as yet, it has yielded many artifacts so far to the team of 22 archaeologists working there, including semi-precious and precious stones, and utensils made of clay, copper and other metals.  According to Ghulam Mustafa Shar, the director of the project, researchers are confident at present that the site is older than Mohenjodaro.   The city has been identified as originating in the Kot Diji era, a forerunner of the Indus Civilization.  The remains of a workshop turning out quantities of well-made tin-glazed pottery were found at the site, and intriguingly, this mirrors factories in Italy that date to 9,000 years.  A painting also been found at the site suggests a date from that era, and the discovery of more items could confirm the site as 9,000 years old.  The Indus Valley Civilization was an ancient civilization that flourished in the Indus River basin, primarily centered in India and today's Pakistan.

Cataclysmic climate change to blame for decline of earliest Peruvian culture

Original Headline:  Scientists: Earthquakes, El Ninos fatal to earliest civilization in Americas


In our last story, a series of earthquakes and floods, which buried fertile farmlands under sand, was the most likely cause of the disappearance of the oldest civilization established nearly six millennia ago in the coastal Supe Valley (SOU-pay Valley) of current day Peru.  This is the conclusion of a group of U.S. and Peruvian anthropologists, geologists and archaeologists reporting the results of a study to be published next week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  The first settlements in the valley, which lies about 125 miles north of present-day Lima, date back as far as 5,800 years.  The inhabitants of the area at that time prospered in the arid plain next to fertile estuaries and bays.  The people thrived on a mixed economy of fishing, raising vegetables in gardens and cultivating cotton and food crops, according to Peruvian archaeologist Ruth Shady, the report's co-author. Shady is the director of the Caral-Supe project, and currently has seven sites in the region under excavation.  The Supe built large impressive temples, mostly pyramids, of stone, developing the form several thousand years before the Maya used it in Central America.   The largest Supe pyramid is the Pirámide Mayor (peer-AH-mee-day my-OR) of Caral (cah-RAHL).   It measured more than 550 feet long, nearly 500 feet wide and rose in a series of steps nearly 100 feet high.  The civilization flourished for about 2,000 years.  However, according to University of Florida anthropologist Mike Moseley, one of the study's five authors, it declined sharply after about 3,600 years ago, when an earthquake of magnitude 8 or greater struck Caral and another nearby coastal settlement, Aspero.  The region, where two significant tectonic plates collide, today continues to be one of the world's most seismically active areas.  The devastating quake caused part of the Great Pyramid to collapse and inflicted heavy damage on other smaller pyramids in Aspero, along with the floods that were detected by the scientists in the fine layers of silt they have excavated.  But that was only the beginning of a series of catastrophes, Moseley notes.  The tremor and aftershocks destabilized the mountain chain surrounding the valley and caused massive landslides of rocks and earth that were swept down to the nearby sea by the heavy rains unleashed by the El Niño weather phenomenon.  In the ocean, a powerful current running along the coast accumulated the sand and silt and formed a ridge now known as the Medio Mundo which isolated the fertile bays and ultimately filled them with sand.  What had for centuries been a productive region became all but uninhabitable in the span of just a handful of generations, the researchers said in a statement.  The Supe civilization withered and finally disappeared to be gradually replaced by societies that lived from pottery-making and weaving.  The other authors of the paper are David Keefer, a geologist and geoarchaeologist with the University of Maine's Climate Change Institute, and Charles Ortloff, a consulting engineer who has spent the past three decades working in the Andes.

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