Audio News for June 28th to July 4th, 2009

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica!  I'm Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news for June 28th to July 4th, 2009.


Mississippian market center found in Missouri


Archaeologists digging at a site in Missouri believe they have located a major market center for the Mississippians, whose culture thrived from AD 1050 to 1400, before mysteriously disappearing.  
Last year, while removing soil to build a retention reservoir, city workers in Chesterfield, Missouri, just west of St. Louis, uncovered thousands of artifacts, including ornamental pottery, ear spools, arrowheads, tool fragments, and beads used to make necklaces.  Not long after the artifacts were exposed, a local was walking through the area with a friend looking for arrowheads.  Instead, they found pottery shards that looked unique.
They contacted Joe Harl, vice president of the Archaeological Center of St. Louis, who identified what he believes are the remains of a house, even though it was just a black patch of earth. The Mississippians built their homes with logs, vines, prairie grass and mud.  The decaying remains left a dark square in the dirt, too well defined to be a natural phenomenon.  Excavation exposed one more sign that a large community inhabited the site, the remnants of a stockade wall.  In addition, Harl uncovered the remnants of homes, cooking and storage pits, even leftover deer bones as well as signs of ceremonial feasting.
The team also found copper ear spools that probably came from the Great Lakes region.  Among the Mississippians, wearing copper was a display of wealth.  Altogether, Harl and his team discovered roughly 5,000 artifacts just in their initial search, although some were just tiny shards
Archaeologists are particularly interested in this site because it isn't far from the Cahokia Mounds in Collinsville, Illinois.  Cahokia was a pre-Columbian political and religious capital and the largest Native American city north of Mexico.  

Portrait image of St. Paul uncovered with lasers


Now we jump over to Rome, where Vatican archaeologists removing layers of clay and limestone with laser technology have discovered an image of St. Paul which may be the oldest known representation of the Apostle.

According to Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano, the late Fourth Century icon, located n the Catacomb of Santa Tecla, shows the classic image of St. Paul---the thin face of a bearded man with large eyes, sunken nose and face on a red background surrounded with a yellow circle.  
St. Paul was a Roman Jew, born in Tarsus in modern-day Turkey.  He started out persecuting Christians but later became one of the greatest influences in the Church.  He did not know Jesus in life but converted after seeing a shining light on the road to Damascus.  Paul took the Gospel to multitheistic Greeks and Romans.  He was executed for his beliefs around AD 65 and believed to have been beheaded, rather than crucified, because he was a Roman citizen.  According to Christian tradition, a Roman woman buried his body in a vineyard and a shrine grew up there before Emperor Constantine consecrated what is now known as the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls in AD 324.
Early Christians in Rome buried their dead in catacombs dug into the soft rock under the city and decorated the underground walls with devotional images, often in the Pompeian style.  More than 40 Catacombs or underground Christian burial places are known to exist across Rome.  Because of their religious significance, the Vatican's Pontifical Commission of Sacred Archaeology has jurisdiction over them.  

Fortress town revealed in Egyptian delta


Across the Mediterranean Sea in Egypt, an Egyptian archaeological mission has revealed the remains of a military town at the site of Tell Dafna, which is located between El-Manzala Lake and the Suez Canal.

The archaeological mission also discovered a large mud brick temple, made up of three halls and a small mud brick palace at the northeast side of the temple, which comprises eight rooms.  In addition, the team discovered drainage networks for rainwater inside the ancient structures.  A large number of ceramic vessels, as well as local and imported ceramic lids, were found which gives evidence for large-scale trading activity between Egypt and the near East and Greece at the time.  Numerous bronze arrowheads revealed the military nature of the site.
Tell Dafna is the setting of an ancient military and trade route known as the Ways of Horus. According to Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, King Ramesses II of the 19th Dynasty, from 1279 to 1212 BC, first chose the site to erect a fortress at Egypt’s eastern border to ward off Egypt’s enemies.

The newly discovered fortress—which dates to the 26th Dynasty, from 664 to 625 BC--covers an area of about 380,000 meters, while the enclosure wall is about 13 meters thick.  Many consider it the largest fortress discovered in the eastern Delta.  

Roman mosaic reemerges near Tel Aviv


Our final story is from Israel, where archaeologists unveiled one of the largest and most well preserved mosaics ever found in the country for only the second time since its discovery.
An archaeological dig in 1996 revealed the 1,700-year-old Roman floor mosaic in the town of Lod near Tel Aviv.  According to the Israeli Antiquities Authority, the government agency responsible for its restoration, it drew 10,000 visitors during the one weekend it was on display.  Miriam Avisar, the archaeologist who first unearthed the mosaic, stated that at the time the agency lacked funding to protect it appropriately, so authorities reburied it.  That changed with a $2.5-million joint gift from the Leon Levy Foundation and antiquities collector Shelby White to fund construction of a new center to house the mosaic.

Authority workers slowly rolled a thick covering off the massive mosaic and began painstaking cleaning using water and soft sponges.  After the archaeologist finish cleaning it, they will transport the entire mosaic to Jerusalem for a lengthy preservation process.  It will return to Lod for the center opening in 2012.

The mosaic comprises more than two million small stones and is covered with detailed pictures and geometric shapes.  The decorative elements include hunting scenes, lions and giraffes from Africa, and scenes of the sea with ships and fish.  The mosaic is similar to others found in Tunisia and elsewhere in North Africa, suggesting that the owner or artist may not have been from Israel.  

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