Audio News for January 16th to January 22nd, 2011.  

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica!  I'm Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from January 16th to January 22nd, 2011.


Hadrian’s Wall settlement shows life near a Roman fort


First we go to England, where archaeologists have unearthed further evidence of a Roman shantytown in Teesdale.  In a major dig two years ago, researchers found significant remains of a large unplanned settlement, called a vicus (VEE-cus), on the outskirts of a Roman fort.  A vicus was a civilian settlement that sprang up close by an official Roman site.  The inhabitants likely provided trade goods and services to the Roman soldiers.  

Usually a vicus is informally constructed to be little more than a short-lived shanty town, but this one is significant since it was occupied longer than similar sites in the north, and even longer than many of the official housestead settelements along Hadrian’s Wall.  The new dig raises questions about the end of the Roman era, and reveals a glimpse of civilian life around the fort.  

According to University of Durham’s Archaeological Services, who carried out the investigation, the location of the vicus at the east end of the Stainmore Pass made it a good spot for east-west trade and communication among the indigenous population who had come under Roman control.  In two trenches that the Durham team dug in the garden of Bowes Manor, near the Roman fort, they discovered features, deposits and evidence dating from Roman to post-medieval times.  

Evidence for the civilian vicus stretched from the 1st to 4th century.  Amongst the materials were a well-laid cobbled surface, which is thought to be part of a Roman road into the fort, along with 150 pieces of Roman pottery and 18 fragments of Roman tile.  Remains of oil and wine carriers, pottery, coins and cooking pots were unearthed.  Also found were layers of burnt material and charcoal, a significant number of iron objects also thought to be from the Roman town, and grains of barley, corn, wheat and hazelnut shell fragments, human waste, and animal bones.  These features and deposits from the civilian vicus suggest it had a number of phases over the period of occupation.  Unlike the Roman fort nearby, the vicus would have continued to exist long after the Romans left the area.

Peruvian tomb adds to knowledge of Sican culture


In Peru, archeologists have discovered the tomb of an ancient ruler of the pre-Incan Sican (SEE-can) culture buried with gold and silver ornaments in the Lambayaque (LAHM-bye-AYE-kay) region.  

According to Carlos Elera, the director of the Las Ventanas archaeological dig, the tomb contained an individual seated on a litter, a funerary bundle, a crown, a mask and a series of objects that accompany him to the next world.  A bottle and the accompanying funerary bundle, both found facing the southwest corner of the temple, represent a symbolic connection with the dead person’s future in the next life.  Also found was a gilded copper crown showing images of jaguars, typical pendants worn by the elite in that region, a mask with winged eyes, spear points, and arrowheads.  

The funerary bundles and many other objects are still being excavated by archaeologists, a task that will take them three more weeks.  This is the first tomb found in the Las Ventanas pyramid area and the second time that the find of a funerary bundle in the form of a person on a litter has been made since 1992, when a similar bundle was found at the Oro tomb, which is also from the Sican culture.  

The litter, in ancient Peruvian cultures and up to the 16th century, was a symbol of status for nobles who were carried on them to show their power.  So important were the litters that when Spanish colonial rulers set out to destroy the prevailing power structure in the region, they prohibited them.  The Sican culture flourished between AD 750 and 1375, and reached the peak of its power between 900 and 1,100.  Around 1375 the Sican people were conquered by the Chimu  (chee-MOO) kingdom, which in turn was conquered by the Incas.  

In his capacity as director of the Sican Museum and head of the archaeological project, Elera asked local authorities to erect a stone wall 2.5 kilometers long around the tomb to prevent the La Leche River, which flows just 70 meters from the site, from flooding the dig zone and damaging this important find.

Iranian site reveals Neolithic ceramics kiln


Iranian archeologists have found the remains of an ancient kiln that dates back 4,700 years.  According to Mousa Zare, the head of the team of archaeologists, the third phase of archeological excavations at Mianroud Mound in the country’s southern Fars Province yielded part of the firebox or lower part of the circular kiln.  The kiln measures 6 feet, or one and one-third meters, tall, and is 3 feet or 90 centimeters thick.  Its upper section, where the clay pots were placed for firing, has been destroyed.  

Decorative materials, including turquoise and seashells, were also found at the site, as well as bone and stone tools, clay figurines and Neolithic patterned earthenware.  Zare reported that three cultural and residential eras have been identified at Mianroud Mound, providing a unique cultural sequence that suggests more than 1,000 years of human settlement in the region.  The oldest human settlement dating at the site is 6,000 BC, with later dates of 5,400 and 5,700 BC.  

The architectural structures found at the site include a number of rooms, irregular in shape.  Stoneware from 5,400 years ago was found in the rooms along with animal bones and layers of ash.  Mianroud Mound was first excavated in 2005, and this is the third phase of archeological excavations, which began in December 2010 and will continue until early February 2011.  The site is located in the city of Marvdasht, 45 kilometers north of the provincial capital of Shiraz.

Northern Mexico produces evidence of Clovis people hunting gomphotheres


In our final story from Mexico, archaeologists discovered three Clovis projectile heads connected to the remains of ancient animals called gomphotheres (GOM-fo-thears).  Gomphotheres are long-extinct animals similar to mammoths, but smaller, which thrived in the western parts of North America until the late Pleistocene.  The new find is from the state of Sonora, and dates back at least 12,000 years.  The evidence suggests that humans may have coexisted with gomphotheres during the Clovis period, in contrast to theories that gomphotheres had disappeared over 30,000 years ago, before human entry.  

The discovery came in early January at a site called Fin del Mundo, where researchers from the National Institute of Anthropology and History are in their third field season.  The find, which suggests that Clovis groups might have hunted this elephant ancestor, is an unprecedented finding in Mexico, as it is the first time that projectile heads were found in proximity to a bone bed of this kind.  According to archaeologist Guadalupe Sanchez, director of the Fin del Mundo Research Project, there is no other Clovis archaeological site where gomphotheres are found, not even in the United States, where most important Clovis Culture findings have been recorded.  

Clovis culture at Fin del Mundo has been dated to between 10,600 and 11,600 years ago.  The new discovery took place in the same archaeological layer where, in 2008, gomphothere bones and different lithic tools were found on the surface, with a quartz crystal Clovis head among them.  Clovis people are known as hunters of mammoths, one of 3 proboscid species that lived in America, the other two being the mastodon and the gomphothere.  The gomphothere was the smallest, as well as the earliest to appear in the Americas.  Gomphotheres have been found associated with humans in South America only, and Central and North American Clovis material was associated with mastodons and mammoths only.  According to Natalia Martinez, head of the field research, the Clovis projectile points were discovered in an area that was once a swamp, which holds deposits from both the Pleistocene and Holocene eras.  The Clovis materials were located a few centimeters under a bed of gomphothere bones that had been discovered in previous field seasons.  The INAH, the University of Arizona and the National Geographic Society are jointly carrying out the research project.

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