Audio News for May 31st to June 6th, 2009

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica!  I'm Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news for May 31st to June 6th, 2009.


Civil War cannons recovered from river


Our first story is from the United States, where archaeologists in South Carolina have located the site of a former Confederate naval yard as well as two cannons used in the Civil War.   
Archaeologists Christopher Amer and Dr. Jon Leader from the University of South Carolina and East Carolina University began work April 30.  The project called for locating and, eventually, raising three cannons--each weighing about five tons--from the C.S.S. Pee Dee, a 150-foot Macon class gunboat, as well as determining the location of the Mars Bluff Naval Yard where the gunboat had been built.   

The C.S.S.  Pee Dee was outfitted with two Brooke rifled cannons and a Union Dahlgren cannon.  It launched in January 1865 but its career was short-lived.  Fearing that the gunboat might fall into enemy hands as General William T. Sherman’s Union troops moved to advance on North Carolina, commanders ordered the cannons thrown overboard into the Pee Dee River and on March 15 the ship was scuttled, set ablaze and blown up.   

According to Amer, the underwater research has not been easy.  In spite of high, near-flood-level water in the river, they have located two of the three cannons and have raised two 7-inch Brooke artillery shells and four 6.4-inch Brooke shells.  Underwater operations also have located pilings from the dock where vessels were outfitted as well as evidence of post-war logging operations.  
To create a 3-D map for excavations, Leader and eight university students used ground-penetrating radar and remote-sensing technologies to identify where the buildings of the naval yard once stood.  An array of artifacts, including ceramics, glass and nails, provides clues to the location of specific buildings and goings-on at the naval yard, which operated as a Confederate States of America stronghold from 1862 to1865.   

Among the resources Amer has used is a letterbook of Confederate Lt. Edward Means dated from Aug. 3, 1864, to March 15, 1865, which provides valuable information about operations at the Naval Yard.   Amer notes the university’s research findings and the artifacts recovered will help tell the story of the people who worked at the Mars Bluff Naval Yard and how they constructed the Confederate warships.  The teams are digging pits, measuring 20 inches wide down to the Pleistocene layer, so artifacts can be dated in the soil layers where they lay before they are excavated.


Non-royal residential area found in ancient Persian capital


Now we shift to Iran, where a joint Iranian-Italian archaeological mission has found the first traces of the urban settlement in Persepolis (Per SEP o lis) one of the five capitals of the Achaemenid (Ah KEY men ed) Empire of ancient Persia.  Persepolis is located 40 miles northeast of the modern city of Shiraz (shi-RAWZ) in the Fars Province of modern Iran.
Construction began at Persepolis in 520 BC under Emperor Darius the Great and lasted almost seventy years.   According to the Italian director of the mission, Pierfrancesco Callieri, professor of Archaeology and Iranian Art History at the University of Bologna (bowl-OWN-ya), the new findings at the Persepolis site have furnished preliminary information on the city and on the neighborhoods where the common people lived.    
During the excavations at the base of the Achaemenid Terrace, the team discovered the first traces of a residential area which may be the city of Mattezish, mentioned in the Elamite tablets in Persepolis.   During the Achaemenid Dynasty, which lasted from the sixth to the fourth centuries BC, all the people working for the Imperial Court lived here.  
In one of the two excavation sites, researchers found a significant structure, probably the walls of one of the building complexes of the city.  In the other site, the archaeologists found an artisan area with an oven and various waste pits, evidenced by various ceramic pieces and fragments of animal bones.   

The Achaemenid Empire was founded by Cyrus the Great and spanned three continents, including areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan, Central Asia, Asia Minor, Thrace, much of the Black Sea coastal regions, and Egypt.  Aramaic was the empire's official language.


Ancient Taoist symbol found in Korea


Traveling eastward, we go to South Korea, where a 1,400-year-old artifact with the Taegeuk (Tay Gay-ook) pattern has been found.  The Taegeuk is the circular symbol with the top portion of the circle representing heaven and the lower portion earth.   

This week the Naju National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage revealed 31 wooden tablets and a pair of woodcarvings with the Taegeuk pattern.   It is the oldest of its kind in Korean history.  

Excavated from tombs at Naju, South Jeolla (Cholla) Province last year, this new discovery predates previous artifacts that held the Taegeuk pattern, by 682 years.   The first piece, which is almost completely intact, measures 7 ½ inches long and 3 inches wide, and is shaped like a knife.  The other is only 4 inches long and 2 inches wide, and has lost its original form.  On the first piece, the Taegeuk pattern is visible along with another pattern in the shape of a web.  The patterns were drawn with a brush using Chinese ink.  According to Kim Sung-beom (bee-awm), the head of the institute, the Taegeuk pattern represents the theories of yin and yang and the five elements of the earth, all part of Taoist (Daw-oh-ist) ideology.


Nearly three dozen human sacrifices found in Peru


Our final story is from Peru, where researchers at have discovered the bodies of nearly three dozen people who had been sacrificed some 600 years ago.  Archaeologists frequently find evidence of human sacrifice from Incan and pre-Incan cultures, but it’s rare to find the remains of 33 people in one place.  According to team leader Carlos Webster, some of the bodies showed signs of cutting along their necks and collarbones.

The sacrifices were carried out by the Incas decades before Spanish explorers arrived.  Webster noted that most of the remains belong to young women, around 15 years of age.  The majority of the bodies, which were found in a dry area more than 7 feet underground, are in good condition, with skin tissues and hair preserved.

The Inca civilization began in the Cuzco area around AD 1200.  The Incan state grew to absorb other Andean communities.  In 1442, the Incas began a far-reaching expansion under the command of King Patchacuti, in what is now parts of Peru, Chile and Ecuador.   In 1533, Spanish Conquistadores led by Francisco Pizarro conquered much of the existing Inca territory.   Incan civilization is perhaps best known for its royal residence, Machu Picchu, considered one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.

The 235-acre archaeological site where the bodies were discovered is located 12 miles outside the city of Chiclayo, near the ancient tomb of Sipan, one of the great finds of the last century.  Sipan is a Moche archaeological site in northern Peru that is considered to be one of the most important archaeological discoveries in the last thirty years, because the main tomb was found intact and undisturbed by thieves.  

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!