Audio news for November 1st to November 7th, 2009.

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I'm Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news for November 1st to November 7th, 2009.

Beads may document de Soto’s exploration of Southeast


Our first story is from the United States, where an archaeologist in southern Georgia has turned up beads, metal tools and other artifacts that may pinpoint part of the elusive trail of the 16th-Century Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto. Dennis Blanton of the Fernbank Museum of Natural History in Atlanta presented the new findings to the Southeastern Archaeological Conference in Mobile, Alabama. Starting in 2006, his excavations in rural Telfair County uncovered remains of an Indian settlement along with nine pea-sized glass beads and six metal objects, including three iron tools and a silver pendant. According to Blanton, the artifacts are consistent with items Spanish explorers traded with Indians. The site could thus record not just the route of Hernando de Soto's initial passage through Georgia in the spring of 1540, but his direct contact with American Indians. Blanton, who revealed his initial findings in 2007, said he knows linking the site to de Soto is controversial. The artifacts were found 90 miles southeast of where many experts believe de Soto crossed the Ocmulgee River near Macon. Researchers have worked for years to identify and mark the path of De Soto's explorations in the southeastern U.S. from May 1539 until 1543, which included the first European sighting of the Mississippi River. De Soto, who along with half of his 600 men died on the four-year quest for gold and riches, is credited as the first European to explore present-day Georgia and a large part of the southeastern U.S. De Soto’s party arrived almost two centuries before the English founded the last of the original 13 colonies here in 1733. The few known written accounts by de Soto's companions are short on landmarks other than rivers and long-gone Indian villages.

Crusader builder supply was stockpile of recycled marble


In Israel, an excavation about 100 meters north of the old city wall of Acre [AWK-ra] revealed a unique Crusader period find, a hoard of 350 marble pieces. According to Dr. Edna Stern, excavation director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, a find like this has never before been discovered from the Kingdom of Jerusalem, the Thirteenth Century Crusader realm whose capital was Acre. During the excavations, researchers happened on a cellar sealed by a collapse of building stones and charred beams. Beneath the cellar floor they discovered some 350 marble items and colored stones, including two broken marble tombstones with Latin inscriptions, one belonging to a person named Maratinus. Also found were flat marble slabs and marble tiles of various sizes and colors. Stern listed the many items that were found, among them a large stone cross and a large fragment of porphyry, a rare precious purple stone, which was the color of royalty in Roman times. Crusader-era Acre was an important center for international trade and the marble hoard reflects the magnificent buildings that were erected here but have not survived, as well as the commerce and the wealth of its residents. Just as architectural trends today incorporate wooden doors from India or roof tiles from old Italian buildings into modern villas, at that time people in Acre integrated ancient architectural items from the Roman and Byzantine periods into their constructions. One reason was that, like today, people at that time also yearned for the classic and the exotic. Written sources also show that such stones had practical as well as aesthetic value. Earlier materials were regularly bought and sold for reuse in buildings. Stern assumes that the owner of the hoard, whether as a merchant or collecting the stones for his own building, was concerned about some impending risk of war and therefore buried the valuable stones until such time as the tension abated. However, the cache of stones in the end was not sold. The building was destroyed in 1291 when Crusader Acre was conquered by the Mameluks and was almost completely leveled. The marble hoard has been transferred to the Israel Antiquities Authority for further study.

Medieval ship remains found in German lake


Now we shift to Germany, where archaeologists have finished recovering a 600-year-old ship from Lake Constance discovered near a medieval Benedictine abbey. An ice skater reported the shallow wreck off the lake’s Reichenau Island in the winter of 2006, and subsequent dives and carbon testing by archaeologists revealed it was from the 14th Century. According to Dr. Peter Zaar, spokesperson for the Stuttgart regional commission, researchers believe it could be the oldest shipwreck ever found in the lake. One other boat is also known from the 14th Century, but more testing is required to confirm the date of the new find. After the first dive in early 2006, it was clear that there was limited time to document and save the boat from environmental dangers. Archaeologists were also concerned that decreasing winter water levels, boat traffic and ice movement on Lake Constance could destroy the nine-meter long wooden boat. This week marked the end of a four-day diving operation to recover the exposed parts of the boat, which will now be taken to a laboratory for further examination. Afterwards the ship will be returned to a deeper resting place at the lake floor near Reichenau Island where it will be best preserved. Ample archaeological evidence shows that Lake Constance has been used for trade and transport since the Stone Age. Monks at the Reichenau Abbey on the island are known to have used the lake both for fishing and for trade. The recovery project is part of an EU sponsored “Interegg IV” program to preserve historic elements from erosion at Lake Constance and Lake Zurich.

Young man is newest Moche noble burial


Our final story is from Peru, where a newly found burial at the Sipán (see-PAHN) site is the youngest Moche noble ever found there. Two thousand years ago, the young man was buried in the royal mausoleum next to a huge and brightly decorated Moche pyramid called Huaca Rajada (WAH-ca ra-HAH-da), at the site of Sipán. Research on this recent discovery have determined his age at time of death to be just 21, making him the youngest Moche noble yet found. Anthropologist Luis Millones (mee-YO-ness) has studied the tomb of the mysterious youngster, determining his youth and nobility. The finding is surprising, given that the other burials at the site usually show ages in the 40s. Millones and team had known about the tomb at the Sipán site since 2005. Budget restrictions, however, prevented them from completing the excavation before now. In June of this year, they were able to resume work and were quickly surprised by what they found. Millones took bone samples from the skeleton’s right foot and sent them to a lab in the US where they will undergo DNA analysis and Carbon 14 dating to determine both the exact age and the degree to which the young Moche was related to those in other tombs at the famous site. For now, the remains of the young noble have been removed from the tomb to determine whether the bones show signs of violence, or any other kind of evidence to explain the cause of death. According to the director at the Sipán site, Luis Chero Zurita, the team has carried out enough studies to be ready to announce who they think the young nobleman was. Based on objects found in the tomb, two ceramic containers, two another owl-shaped ceramic items and a gold owl mask, the team concluded that he held a religious position. According to Zurita, similar objects featuring owls were also found in Tomb 14 of the warrior-priest. The age of the noble found is not the only aspect of the burial that makes this find important. The new tomb, known as Tomb 15, reveals details about the Early Moche period and how the Huaca Rajada pyramid was used during this time. Pottery found in the depths of the tomb shows that it is a foundational tomb, from the beginnings of the Moche dynasty.

That wraps up the news for this week!

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