Audio news from July 17th to July 23rd, 2011.

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I'm Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from July 17th to July 23rd, 2011.


Zahi Hawass fired, but returns temporarily


Last Sunday, in Egypt, a very hot news story was the dismissal or resignation of Minister of Antiquities, Zahi Hawass. Reports stated that he had been fired after months of criticism, but others claimed that Dr. Hawass had stepped down voluntarily. His ties with former president Mubarak and his wife, his role in sending artifacts abroad, his connection to National Geographic, and his failure to react vigorously to last January’s looting at the Egyptian Museum have drawn criticism and protests.

The story has developed this week, with sources confirming that he has been fired; however, he currently is fulfilling the duties of minister while the government is searching for a replacement. The Prime Minister, Essam Sharaf, has apparently downgraded the antiquities department to a cabinet-affiliated office, leaving the Antiquities Minister position empty. The government may move the position to a place within the Ministry of Culture as it did before being elevated to a ministry by the former president. At the request of Sharaf, Hawass has returned to work until the transition takes place.

Hawass states that he looks forward to (quote) “living quietly as a private person, away from politics” (unquote). His stay at the office should only last a few days to permit the structural downgrade from ministry to cabinet run smoothly.

Bavarian cave produces Stone Age rock carvings


Our second story is from Germany, where researchers have discovered Stone Age cave art that includes cave wall carvings depicting women’s nude bodies. Archaeologists at work for the Bavarian State Office for Historical Preservation, have been searching for cave art for decades, discovered the primitive carvings on a cave wall near the southern city of Bamberg. According to Beate Zarges, a spokesperson for the authority, the engravings are about 12,000 years old, making them the only Stone Age artwork ever to be found in Germany.

It appears that the ancient artists took their inspiration for the erotic images from rock formations in the caves resembling women’s breasts and men’s genitals, and then carved the images into the walls of the cave, Zarges notes. Unidentifiable symbols are also present. The newspaper Die Zeit quoted geologist and archaeologist Bernhard Haeck, a member of the discovery team, who states that the 5 meter long chamber may have been used for fertility rituals. The examination of the site is still ongoing and the cave is currently closed to the public.

The oldest cave wall art in the world is the Chauvet Cave murals in southern France, which are more than 30,000 years old.

Golden bell may have come from early Jewish high priest’s coat


In Israel, archaeologists have discovered a rare gold bell that may once have decorated the robes of a high priest. The find was made during excavations in the City of David National Park, near the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem.

According to archaeologists Eli Shukron and Ronny Reich of Haifa University, who are leading the project for the national Antiquities Authority, the bell was exposed in the city’s main drainage channel, between the layers of soil that had accumulated on the floor of the channel at the end of the Second Temple period of 516 BC and AD 70. This drainage channel was built west of the Western Wall of the Temple Mount and drained the rainfall into different parts of the city.

The excavation area, above the drain, is located in the main street of Jerusalem that rose from the Shiloah Pool in the City of David. In this street, an archway was built through which people entered the Temple Mount. The remains of this entrance are known today as Robinson’s Arch. The bell has a small loop at its end which appears to have been sewn on a garment worn by a man of high authority in Jerusalem. Archaeologists believe that the possible high priest walked the streets of Jerusalem in the area of Robinson’s Arch and lost the golden bell that fell off his robes into the drain beneath the street.

Jewish sources describe that high priests who served in the Holy Temple used to hang golden bells on the edges of their coats. The book of Exodus, for example, contains a description of the coat of Aaron the high priest in which it said that the coat was decorated with bells of gold. While it is not certain if the bell belonged to a high priest, archaeologists have not ruled out the possibility.

Canadian site extends understanding of earliest occupation in northeast


Our final story is from Canada, where archaeologists have found evidence that proves First Nations people were in New Brunswick more than 10,000 years ago. For years the antiquity of the area has been suspected due to small, individual finds. However, Hurricane Earl helped reveal even more. For the first time, a large campsite has been uncovered that proves people moved through the area when ice still covered parts of the province, giving archaeologists the proof they have been searching for.

According to Brent Suttie, lead archaeologist at the newly discovered site, researchers had individual spear points they knew were that old but they never had the sites to provide contextual information. Suttie noted they have found some material in the campsite that came from central Maine, showing some connections between the two regions as early as between 10,000 and 11,000 years ago.

The new site was found in what were to be the eastbound lanes of a four-lane highway. Those plans changed when the artifacts were accidently found in 2009. Two years later, the site is being excavated, and two others have been found. The road will be re-routed to bypass two of the three sites, but the first lies in the way of construction plans. Several dozen archaeologists, including both graduate students and First Nations people, are hurrying to complete work in time for the highway to be built in September.

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