Audio news from April 18th to April 24th, 2010

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I'm Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from April 18th to April 24th, 2010.


2000 year old home discovered in Alaska


Our first story is from Alaska, where a team of archaeologists has found a 2,000-year-old home on the banks of the Kuskokwim River. According to anthropology professor Joshua Reuther, the site, known traditionally as Annjurak, is located between two other culturally important sites. Locals knew about the site, but did not know that it was once a settlement.

Reuther noted they do not know what the house looked like yet. The only things left are a fire pit, bones, and some broken tools. However, the researchers have been able to deduce some of the activities within the home, which included making tools.

The ancient people fashioned stone tools with antler flakers. The obsidian in some of the tools originated 300 miles to the north of the Annjurak site. Either the Annjurak people traveled to the distant site or they traded with others who lived there.

Reuther commented that while the team is all archaeologists, they come from different sub-disciplines. For environmental context, the researchers studied the local ecosystem and its fauna, as well as the topography of the area. Knowing the environmental setting is an important aid in interpreting the data. The environment around the site has not changed much in the last 2,000 years. Spring and fall brought seasonal harvests in the uplands, while wetlands provided resources throughout the year. The field team found relatively few bones describing the wildlife of the area, although they found evidence of larger mammals, such as caribou, bear, and moose. All the animals bones they recovered had been cooked or burned.

Justin Hays, the team’s ecologist, noted with interest that they did not see many fish remains in the riverine habitat. They also found a mature tooth from a dog-like animal. The tooth is too small to be from a wolf. Hays believes either the people had domesticated dogs, or coyotes also lived in the area a couple of thousand years ago.

Jason Rogers mapped the site, creating detailed topographic maps that were accurate to a couple of centimeters. On a larger scale, according to Rogers, what the archaeologist wanted was to understand the topography and landscape around the site. The team works for Northern Land Use Research, a company studying the historic importance of sites proposed for development.

Altar to Jupiter located at cricket ground


Moving around the world to Scotland, archaeologists have discovered Roman altar stones dating back almost 2000 years at a cricket pavilion in Musselburgh, East Lothian. At least one of the altar stones, which is dedicated to the Roman God Jupiter, dates from the Second Century. Archaeologists uncovered the stones during survey work done in preparation for renovation of the pavilion. The revelation of the stones and other artifacts postponed the planned developments.

According to George Findlater, senior inspector of ancient monuments at Historic Scotland, the stones have carvings and quite possibly inscriptions that can add a great deal of data about the people and their religion at that time. The find provides an emerging picture of life in and around the Roman fort at Inveresk during the Second Century.

Inveresk, formerly a village and now forming the southern part of Musselburgh, is situated on slightly elevated ground. Romans used this ridge of ground, 20 to 25 meters above sea level, as the location for a Flavian fort in the First Century AD, and later rebuilt it during Antonine occupation in the Second Century AD.

Do-It-Yourself Greek temple found in Italy


Archaeologists in Italy have found the ruins of a 6th Century BC Greek temple-like structure that came with such detailed assembly instructions that it is now nicknamed an “ancient IKEA building.”

According to Massimo Osanna, head of archaeology at Basilica University, the team unearthed a sloping roof with red and black decorations, including detailed directions on how the components fit together. Professor Osanna suggested that a fashion for all things Greek led an enterprising builder to produce affordable do-it-yourself structures representative of classical Greek buildings. Professor Christopher Smith, director of the British School at Rome, commented that the discovery was the clearest example yet found of mason’s marks of the time. Smith notes it looks as if someone was instructing others how to mass-produce components and put them together in this way.

The terracotta roof filtered rainwater down the decorative panels, known as cymatia, with projections to protect the wall below. All the cymatia and several sections of frieze also have inscriptions relating to the roof assembly system, noted Professor Osanna. He added that, so far, archaeologists have recovered around a hundred inscribed fragments with numbers on the cymatia and friezes, which create a kind of instruction booklet. He also stated the decorative features were extraordinarily similar to those on another structure unearthed at Braida di Vaglio nearby and the similarity in the use of these decorations indicates the same origin, possibly involving use of the same mold.

Magna Graecia, Latin for Greater Greece, is the area where researchers found the building. This part of Italy was a coastal area colonized by Greek settlers who left imprints of their Hellenic inheritance, including architecture and culture and even language.


Eggshell necklace and bronze coins uncovered at Egyptian oasis


Our final story is from Egypt, where archaeologists have uncovered bronze coins bearing the image of ancient Egyptian ruler King Ptolemy III as well as necklaces made of ostrich eggshell. Found near Lake Qarun in the Fayum oasis, about 75 miles from Cairo, the 383 items date back more than 2,250 years. Researchers note it was the first time Egyptian archaeologists had found necklaces made from ostrich eggshell at Fayum.

The coins weighed a little more than ounce each with one face depicting the god Amun and the other the words "king" and "Ptolemy III" in Greek along with his image. The excavation found other objects from different periods, including parts of a 42 million year old whale.

Ptolemy III was responsible for the first known example of a series of decrees published as bilingual inscriptions on massive stone blocks in three writing systems. Ptolemy III's stone stela is the Canopus Stone of 238 BC. Other well-known examples are the Memphis Stela, bearing the Decree of Memphis, around 218 BC, passed by his son, Ptolemy IV, and the famous Rosetta Stone erected by Ptolemy V, his grandson, in 196 BC.

Of Greek origin, the Ptolemaic dynasty ruled from around 330 BC to 30 BC and was Egypt's last before the country fell under Roman rule. Ptolemy III was the third ruler of the dynasty. Queen Cleopatra was the dynasty's final sovereign.

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