Audio news from December 26th, 2010 to January 1st, 2011

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica!  I'm Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from December 26th, 2010 to January 1st, 2011.

Tel Aviv fortress linked to Assyrian Empire


Our first story is from Tel Qudadi, an ancient fortress in the heart of Tel Aviv, Israel. Archaeologists excavated this site more than 70 years ago, but
results were never published.  Now, the secrets of this ancient fortress are beginning to reopen.  

Archaeologists previously believed that settlers built the fortress during the 10th century BC at the command of King Solomon, to protect an advance from the sea and prevent hostile raids on inland settlements located along the Yarkon River.  Some researchers believed this establishment was evidence of a developed maritime policy in the days of the United Monarchy in ancient Israel.  Other scientists suggested builders erected the fortress sometime in the 9th century BC, making it part of the Kingdom of Israel.  

Current re-examination of the data indicates that the fortress dates only to the late 8th to early 7th centuries BC, much later than previously suggested.  This means that the fortress was a vital part of a network of fortresses and trading posts along the coast that served the interests of the Assyrian empire in the region.  The Assyrians, rulers of a powerful empire centered in Mesopotamia, ruled Israel in the late 8th and most of the 7th centuries BC.  

One of the key finds is an amphora from the Greek island of Lesbos.  Remarkably, it is one of the earliest examples of this type of amphorae discovered in the Mediterranean. While a single find cannot prove the existence of trade between ancient Israel and Lesbos, the finding says much about the beginnings of the island's amphora production and implications for understanding trade routes between different parts of the Mediterranean.  What remains a mystery is how the amphora arrived at Tel Qudadi.  It is probable that a Phoenician ship brought it as part of an occasional trade route around the Mediterranean.  

Now that researchers can accurately date the site, they consider the fortress an important midway post on the maritime route between Egypt and Phoenicia, serving the Assyrian interests in the Levantine coast instead of a part of the Israelite Kingdom.  The Assyrian interest in the coastal area came from their desire to be involved in the international trade between Phoenicia, Philistia and Egypt.  

Celtic tomb moved intact


Now we travel to Germany, where archaeologists have successfully moved an entire 2,600-year-old Celtic tomb containing ornate jewelry of gold, amber and bronze intact to a research center.  Excavators uncovered the subterranean chamber, measuring four by five meters, near the prehistoric Heuneburg hill fort by the town of Herbertingen in southwestern region of the country.  Two cranes lifted the complete room, which weighs 80 tons, onto a flatbed truck and moved it to a facility in Ludwigsburg.

The contents, including the oak floor of the room, are extraordinarily well preserved.  
According to archaeologist Dirk Krausse, the director of the dig, the find is a milestone for the reconstruction of the social history of the Celts.  The intact oak should allow archaeologists to determine the precise age of the tomb through tree-ring dating.  This feat is rarely possible with Celtic finds because the Celts left behind no writings and their buildings, usually made from wood and clay, have long since disintegrated.  

Krausse notes the artifacts suggest that it was the tomb of a woman from the Heuneburg nobility, but added that scientists will need to conduct laboratory tests to be certain.  So far, his team has examined only a small part of the chamber.  Heuneburg, one of the most important Celtic settlements, was a vital trading center during the period between 620 and 480 BC. 

BLM signs agreement to protect Shoshone site


Our third story takes us to a Shoshone site in Nevada, where prehistoric quarry pits, battered ledges of exposed opalite, hundreds of lithic reduction scatters, and fields of biface reduction debris litter the Tosawihi landscape for several thousand acres.  

Recently, the Bureau of Land Management signed a settlement agreement, potentially the largest settlement of its type in the country, with Rodeo Creek Gold, Inc. addressing damage to archaeological resources from exploratory drilling operations, located within the Tosawihi Quarry Archaeological District in Nevada..  The company agreed to assist the Bureau in the protection and study of archaeological resources by contributing a total of $1.5 million over the next 10 years.  The two entities stated that they share a commitment to protect and preserve historic properties and cultural resources, and to work together in better protection and preservation of the Tosawihi Quarry Archaeological District, including the requirement that all drilling sites and access routes in the district be approved by a Bureau archaeologist in the field.  

As part of the Agreement, the Bureau will establish and administer an account designed exclusively to benefit the Tosawihi Quarry Archaeological District.  This account will restore damaged areas, complete a cultural inventory within the district, develop an archaeological management plan, and provide for Native American consultation and input in the development of the plan.  

According to Bill Fawcett, Bureau archaeologist, there was damage to the archaeological district, but the immediate and total cause of all damage in unclear.  As this area is sacred to the Shoshone, Fawcett noted there are a number of ways in which to use the fund, including working with the Western Shoshone to set up a historic preservation office and training Shoshone people to become site stewards.

There is abundant evidence of tool processing activities, special task areas, food processing, and domestic groupings suggested by milling equipment, ceramics, and hearths at the site.  One of the numerous questions researchers are asking relates to the domestic sites and their relation to the use of local quarries.


Roman era ostraca reveal Egyptian priest list

Original Headline:  Ancient priests list revealed


Our final story is from Egypt, where researchers discovered a collection of 150 Roman Ostraca at Soknopaiou Nesos (sok no PAY e oh NES os) Temple in Fayoum (FI ooum).  Ostraca are clay fragments engraved with ancient Egyptian demotic text.  The name of a different priest who served in the Temple is inscribed on each ostracum.

According to Zahi Hawass, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, the ostraca present not only the names of priests who served in the temple during the Roman era but insight into religious practices and the context of Greco-Roman Egypt as well.  

Mario Capasso, director of the Italian mission from Università del Salento, suggests that Egyptians originally kept the newly discovered ostraca in a storeroom situated in a courtyard in front of the temple. Capasso believes that 19th century excavations threw them out during a surreptitious excavation.  Further studies on the newly discovered ostraca will reveal more of the site’s history and religious characteristics

Soknopaiou Nesos is a very important site in the understanding of Greco-Roman society in Egypt due to its excellent state of preservation and the amount of papyri and other inscribed material found at the site.  Population and use of the site reached its peak during the first and second century AD as it sat along a major trade route.  In addition to the Ptolemaic temple of Soknopaios, the site contains a collection of sphinxes, as well as Roman and demotic papyri.

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