Audio News for November 21st to November 27th, 2010.  

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica!  I'm Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from November 21st to November 27th, 2010.


Chinese cellar stored gourmet fruit for aristocrats 3,000 years ago

Original Headline:  Archeologists find 3,000-year-old fruit cellar


In China, archaeologists have found an ancient fruit cellar with well-preserved apricot and melon seeds from more than 3,000 years ago.  The cellar, found in Shaanxi Province, is a rectangular pit measuring about 3 feet, or 1 meter, on each side and 6 feet, or 2 meters, in depth.  Dr. Sun Zhouyong, a researcher with the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archeology, found the pit in 2002 below the Zhouyuan site, which holds remains from the Western Zhou dynasty from nearly 3000 years ago.  Sun and his colleagues conducted site analysis on the cellar over the course of eight years and concluded it was used to preserve fruits for aristocrats.  

In each corner of the pit was a small round hole.  They believe the cellar had something similar to a shade cover fixed on poles anchored in the four holes, which decayed over the years.  Within the cellar were large piles of nuts and seeds.  Scientists sorted them out and found about 500 apricot pits, some of which still had carbonized pulp. Also present were at least 150 melon seeds and 10 plum pits.  

Sun and his colleagues sent three apricot nuts to Beta Analytic in Florida last year for a Carbon-14 determination of their age.  The results indicated they were about 3,000 years old, dating back to a period between 1380 BC and 1120 BC.  The fruits had been stored in an acidic and dry environment, so dehydration was extremely slow and the pits were not carbonized, even after so many centuries.  

Zhouyuan site, where the cellar was unearthed, is believed to be a dwelling place for an early leader of the Zhou clan known as Duke Danfu, whose city is known as the cradle of the Western Zhou Dynasty, one of the earliest periods of China's written history.  The Book of Rites, a Chinese history book compiled in the Western Han Dynasty, includes melons, apricots, plums and peaches in a list of the 31 categories of food favored by the aristocracy of the time.  This later book also reports that people in the Zhou Dynasty had learned to grow fruit trees in orchards.  

With roughly 1.7 cubic meters, or more than 60 cubic feet, of storage, the cellar could hold up to 100 kilograms or 220 pounds of fresh, gourmet fruit.  Previously, archeologists in Shaanxi Province had found a primitive cold storage cache, or icebox, that dated back at least 2,000 years ago in the ruins of a temporary imperial residence of the Qin Dynasty.  The icebox, a shaft about 3 feet across and 5 feet deep, was found about 10 feet below the main floor of the residence.

Bath-house marks where Rome’s Tenth Legion lived as occupiers in Jerusalem


Now we go to Israel, where archaeologists have discovered an ancient Roman bathhouse probably used by the soldiers who destroyed the Second Temple in Jerusalem.  The surprising discovery bore the mark of Rome's Tenth Legion in its clay tiles, as well as the paw print of a dog.  According to excavation director Ofer Sion, the animal probably belonged to one of the soldiers and the print could have happened accidentally or been added as a joke.  

This unexpected surprise stems in part from the find of this very Roman structure in the old city’s Jewish Quarter.  The mark of the soldiers of the Tenth Legion occurs as stamped impressions on the roof tiles and in the mud bricks made on the site where they were used.  Both bear witness to the fact that the builders and users of the structure were soldiers of the famous Tenth Legion, known as Fretensis (fre-TEN-sis) after the sea straits, or fretum (FRAY-tum) where this legion won a notable victory for Octavian during the civil wars that established the Roman empire.  The bathhouse tiles are stamped with the symbols of the Tenth Legion Fretensis, the letters LEG-X-FR.  

The Tenth Fretensis continued to police the provinces, and had been the leading legion in Judea since the destruction of Jerusalem under Emperor Vespasian and his son Titus in AD 70.  The Tenth were again garrisoned in Jerusalem after suppression of the Bar Kokhba uprising in AD 135, when the Roman city Aelia Capitolina (AYE-lee-ah ca-pi-to-LEEN-ah) was established.  Excavation of the legion’s bath-house revealed a number of plastered bathtubs built into the side of a pool, piping used to fill the works with water, and a mosaic floor pavement of ordinary white tiles.  Hundreds of terra cotta roof tiles, found on the floor of the pool where they fell, show that the baths were a covered structure.  

The discovery shows that the Roman encampment established to help keep Israel under Roman domination was larger than previously thought.  According to Jerusalem district archaeologist Yuval Baruch, despite the very extensive archaeological excavations carried out in the Jewish Quarter, so far not even one building had been discovered that belonged to the Roman legion.  The absence of such a find led to the conclusion that Aelia Capitolina, the Roman city established after the destruction of Jerusalem, was small and limited in area.  However, the discovery of the 1,800-year-old bathhouse, in combination with other recent discoveries, shows that the city was considerably larger than what we previously estimated and likely determined the shape of Jerusalem's historic walls and the location of the gates to this very day.


Stockholm workers find shipwreck of unusual medieval type


In Sweden, the remains of a ship dating to the 1600s has been discovered outside the Grand Hotel in central Stockholm.  The vessel was built with an almost completely unknown technology, with the planks of the ship sewn together with rope instead of being nailed onto the structural framing.  Workmen renovating a wharf near the royal palace and in front of Stockholm's Grand Hotel made the discovery.  

According to Maritime Museum director Hans-Lennarth Ohlsson, the discovery of the wreck is also interesting because of the location.  There was a naval shipyard here until the start of the 17th century.  The first sign of the ship came several weeks ago, when a machine operator found something unusual in his bucket.  Marine archaeologist Jim Hansson, from the Maritime Museum, came to the site where he quickly realized the value of the sensational find.  

With the exception of another ship found in 1896, all other shipwrecks uncovered in and around the Stockholm harbor have featured planks nailed together.  Nothing is really known about this technique other than that it was used in the east, Hansson said, and this suggests the ship may be from east of the Baltics, possibly from Russia.  

The ship's position, well into the quay, reveals that it is from the 1600s or earlier.  The wreck is not necessarily linked to the historic shipyard, however, and archaeologists have been unable to say how far it might predate the 1700 date of the former shipyard.  The marine archaeologists studying the wreck will send samples to Denmark's Copenhagen National Museum for chronological analysis, with results expected by January 2011.  In the meantime, they will supervise the rest of the excavation.


Newest Egyptian burials reveal lives, and ailments, of ordinary people


In our final story, archaeologists announced at a conference in Atlanta that the burials of 400 people, dating between 2,700 and 2,000 years ago, have been excavated on the Giza plateau in Egypt.  Researchers with Ancient Egypt Research Associates, a team led by Mark Lehner conducted the work.  The pyramids at Giza were built about 4,500 years ago, but these people were buried some 2,000 years after its construction alongside a 200-meter long wall known as the Wall of the Crow.  That wall, which also dates from the time of the pyramids, is located just south of the Sphinx.  

According to archaeologist Jessica Kaiser, speaking about the burials at the conference, examination indicates these 400 individuals were of low socioeconomic status. The graves are generally empty of grave goods.  In addition, the bones show a high incidence of hematological, or blood, disorders, suggesting a sub-standard diet for this population.  The men appear to be in worse shape than the women, with far more traumatic injuries such as fractures and dislocations.  This suggests that the men and women of the time carried out explicitly different tasks and activities.  

Egypt during their lifetime was a very different place than the one that flourished during the time of the pyramids.  By the time that these poor people lived, 2,700 to 2,000 years ago, Egypt had fallen under the influence of a large number of foreign rulers.  Nubian kings from the south, in modern-day Sudan, ruled from starting in the 8th century BC.  Then in 671 BC, the Assyrians, took control of the country, through a series of native-born rulers they allowed to reign.  In 525 BC, Egypt was subjugated again, this time by the Persians.  Then In 332 BC, Alexander the Great came into Egypt, inaugurating the line of Greek rulers that ended with the suicide of Cleopatra in 30 BC.  

Work by Lehner’s team suggests the area beside the Wall of Crows was used as a burial ground for millennia, indicating the structure had religious importance.  Giza is not the only Egyptian pyramid complex used as a burial ground long after it was constructed.  Archaeological work at Seila, a pyramid slightly older than Giza, has revealed nearly one million mummies buried in its vicinity.

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