Audio News for February 21st to February 28th, 2009

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica!  I'm Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news for February 21st to February 28th, 2009.

Camel and horse protein residue found on Clovis-age tools


Our first story is from Colorado, where a cache of more than 80 stone implements was discovered within Boulder city limits by landscapers.  Analysis of what are believed to be rare Clovis-era stone tools indicates some of the implements were used to butcher ice-age camels and horses that roamed North America until their extinction about 13,000 years ago.  According to University of Colorado Anthropology Professor Douglas Bamforth, the study is the first to identify protein residue from extinct camels on North American stone tools and only the second to identify horse protein residue on a Clovis-age tool.   The collection is one of only a handful of Clovis-age artifact caches that have been unearthed in North America.  The Clovis culture is believed by many archaeologists to correspond with the time the first Americans arrived on the continent from Asia by way of the Bering Land Bridge about 13,000 to 13,500 years ago, although the current consensus is that the first Americans came before Clovis.

Named the Mahaffy Cache after landowner Patrick Mahaffy, the collection is one of only two Clovis caches that have been analyzed for protein residue from ice-age mammals.  In addition to the camel and horse residue on the artifacts, a third item from the Mahaffy Cache is the first Clovis tool ever to test positive for sheep, and a fourth tested positive for bear.  The Mahaffy Cache consists of 83 stone implements ranging from salad plate-sized, sophisticatedly crafted bifacial knives and a unique tool resembling a double-bitted axe, to small blades and flint scraps. The cache was unearthed with a shovel under about 18 inches of soil and was packed tightly into a hole. It appeared to have been untouched for thousands of years.  The artifacts were buried in a rough, sandy sediment overlain by dark, clay-like soil and appear to have been cached on the edge of an ancient stream.  Bamforth believes the type of people who buried the tools lived in small groups and forged relationships over large areas.  A single individual could have easily carried all of the Mahaffy Cache tools a significant distance.  The artifacts will be sent to a museum except for a few of the smaller pieces, which will be reburied at the site. 

Pieces of Ancient Egyptian Papyrus Reunited


Shifting to Italy, some newly recovered papyrus fragments may finally help solve an ancient puzzle and shed new light on Egyptian antiquity.  Found stored between two sheets of glass in the basement of the Museo Egizio, or Egyptian Museum, in Turin, the fragments belong to a 3,000-year-old exceptional document, known as the Turin King List.  

The Turin King List was written on the stem of a papyrus plant, like many ancient Egyptian documents.  Believed to date from the reign of Ramesses II, the papyrus contains an ancient list of Egyptian kings.  Scholars from the British Museum gleaned a hint of the existence of the additional fragments after reviewing a 1959 analysis of the papyrus by a British archaeologist.  In his work, the archaeologist, Alan Gardiner, mentions fragments that were not included in the final reconstruction on display at the museum.  After an extensive search, museum researchers found the pieces.  

The finding could help accurately piece together a key item for understanding ancient Egyptian history.  According to Federico Bottigliengo, Egyptologist at the Turin museum, this is one of the most important documents in reconstructing the chronology of Egypt between the 1st and 17th Dynasty.  Unlike other lists of kings, it lists all rulers, including the minor ones and those considered usurpers.  In addition, it records the length of reign in years, and in some cases even in months and days. Written in an ancient Egyptian writing system called hieratic, the papyrus was found by the Italian diplomat and explorer Bernardino Drovetti at Luxor.  

Placed in a box along with other papyri, the parchment disintegrated into small fragments by the time it arrived in Italy.  The Egyptian Museum in Turin acquired it in 1824.  French Egyptologist Jean-Francois Champollion (1790-1832) first assembled some 48 pieces of the puzzle.  Later, German and American archaeologist Gustavus Seyffarth (1796-1885) pieced another hundred fragments together.  Giulio Farina, the museum’s director, made one of the most important restorations in 1938.  However, in 1959, Gardiner, the British Egyptologist, proposed another placement of the fragments, including the newly recovered pieces.  Now made of 160 fragments, the Turin King List lacks two important parts: the introduction of the list and the ending.  The enumeration of the kings does not continue after the 17th Dynasty.  Researchers are confident that the recovered fragments will help reconstruct some of the missing parts as well as add new knowledge to history and chronology.  Bottigliengo notes it is possible that some dates will have to be changed and names of pharaohs will have to be added.  

Researchers from the British Museum, following a collaboration initiated by the Museo Egizio in Turin, have examined the newly recovered fragments.  According to Richard Parkinson, curator in the Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan at the British Museum, they are confident that a new examination using modern scientific techniques will enable a much-improved reconstruction of the list.

Pieces of Ancient Temple to Apollo Found in Ancient Shipwreck


In Turkey, a multiyear underwater excavation is providing a unique snapshot of ancient building practices.  At an isolated cape called Kizilburun, archaeologist Deborah Carlson has been leading an underwater excavation of a 2,000-year-old shipwreck.  The shipwrecks' main cargo was 50 tons of marble, elements of a huge column sent on an ill-fated journey to a temple.  However, Carlson didn't know which temple, so in July of 2007 she used all her days off to driving the area looking at possibilities.  

They were numerous.  Western Turkey, once part of ancient Greece and later in the Roman Empire, is home to sites like Ephesus and Troy.  Nevertheless, Carlson had narrowed down her choices to a list of nearby temples that were in use in the first century BC, the likely date of the shipwrecks' column.  The Temple of Apollo at Claros, about 40 miles from Kizilburun, was at the top of her list.  She knew she was on to something when she looked at the fallen marble columns scattered on the marshy land.  The columns were Doric, the same as the marble on the ship, and looked like the same size.  

A year-and-a-half later, using a variety of techniques, she has linked the column in the Kizilburun shipwreck to its likely intended destination, the Claros temple; as well as to its origin, a marble quarry 200 miles away on an island in Turkey's Sea of Marmara.  There is plenty of ancient marble amongst the shipwrecks at the bottom of the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas.  This is the first time archaeologists have pinpointed both where the marble came from and where it was going; helping them learn new things about how ancient architects built their temples.  The ship carrying the column sank in 150 feet of water.  Excavating underwater is no small task. Archaeologists must avoid the bends, or decompression sickness, and work very quickly.  Each dive requires a 15- to 20-minute decompression stop on the way back to the surface. Carlson's team has just 20 minutes of actual work time on each dive and they can only dive twice a day.  

The column being studied doesn't look like a column.  It is in the form of eight giant drums of marble, each measuring five feet across.  The simple, square-topped crown of the top piece shows that it was a Doric column and the rest of the drums are plain.  Carlson believes this marble came from Proconnesus, a site on modern-day Marmara Island.  The first clue that the shipwrecks' marble came from there was its distinctive color: white with fine blue veins.  Carlson also used stable isotope analysis to link marble to quarry.  The grains match with Proconnesus marble when examined under a microscope.  

To figure out where the marble might have been going, Carlson ruled out homes and other small buildings.  If the drums were stacked, the column would have been massive, more than 30 feet tall.  She narrowed down the list of temples near the shipwreck to those of the right architectural style that were standing or being constructed in the first century BC.  That's how she ended up at Claros.  Construction on the temple probably started in the third century BC and continued for five centuries.  The column in the shipwreck, Carlson says, could have been a donation from a satisfied pilgrim.

The temple was never finished, though not for lack of that column.  It's possible the builders ran out of money.  Ultimately, an earthquake may have destroyed it or invaders might have dismantled it.  The fact that these column pieces were cut to the right size for the Temple of Apollo at Claros suggests that the ancient Marmara quarry was filling custom orders; something archaeologists hadn't previously had evidence of in ancient temples.  The shipwreck was one of five found in Kizilburun in 1993 on a survey of Turkey's Aegean coast by the Institute of Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M University, where Carlson works.  Carlson excavated this "column wreck" from 2005 to 2008 and work will continue this summer.

Palace of Robert the Bruce Found in Scotland


Our final story is from Scotland where historians and archaeologists claim to have found the remains of the palace of King Robert the Bruce, lost for more than 700 years.Robert the Bruce is widely considered one of Scotland’s greatest kings and warriors.   The remains of his palace could be among the artifacts and material dug up recently at a building site in Scotland.   Declared as one of the most important discoveries in decades, it pinpoints the location of a monument many believe is as important to Scotland's history as Edinburgh (Ed-in-burah) Castle. At that location, historians claim to have found a number of artifacts and foundations matching descriptions in ancient documents about the location of the king's home.  

The foundation and various artifacts, found in an area to the west of Glasgow called the Pillanflatt, which means "pavilion of the great hero," match descriptions in ancient documents about the location of the king's home, according to historians.  According to historian Stuart Smith, who has studied the Bruce family for 35 years, the 1362 charter states that Robert the Bruce resided between Kings Park of Cardross and the lands of Pillanflatt, bounding the lands of Dalquhurn.   Sections of masonry, plasterwork and mortar were sent to the Scottish Lime Centre, where tests confirmed that the stone dates from the 14th century and is of a type used in the construction of a cathedral or chapel.  The area of the palace is believed to include the king's manor house, which had a 100-foot grand hall, a queen's quarter and a chapel.  

Robert the Bruce is known to have lived in Renton from 1326 until he died in 1329.  Born to Scottish nobles in 1274, Robert the Bruce reigned as King of the Scots from 1306 until his death. He led Scotland in the Wars of Scottish Independence against England, which resulted in Scotland retaining its sovereignty and in which the Scottish hero William Wallace fought.   Bruce's descendants founded the Stewart dynasty including all later Scottish monarchs.  The group behind the discovery is now awaiting the result of tests to determine exact dates and details, so that they can petition Historic Scotland to designate the area as a site of special historic interest.  

That wraps up the news for this week!

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I'm Laura Kelley and I'll see you next week!