Audio news from January 1st to January 7th, 2012.

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica!  I'm Laura Pettigrew and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from January 1st to January 7th, 2012.


More evidence of Ice Age hunting site at bottom of Lake Huron


Our first story is from Lake Huron, on the border of Canada and the United States, where a 10,000-year-old wooden pole from the bottom of the lake provides new evidence of a lost world of North American caribou hunters, now far beneath the waters of the great lake.  Researchers are piecing together a picture of these prehistoric people, some of the earliest inhabitants of the continent, who built a kill site along a ridge on the present-day international border that was eventually submerged when the glaciers melted at the end of the last Ice Age.  Now under 35 meters of water in Lake Huron, or nearly 100 feet, the Alpena-Amberley Ridge is named for the Michigan and Ontario towns that mark its western and eastern ends, respectively.  The underwater ridge is more than 100 miles long and about 10 miles wide.  

The proposition that the underwater ridge was an ancient hunting ground was first announced in 2009, after the discovery of lake-bottom rock features that appear to have been arranged by human hands as a way to herd migrating caribou into narrow corridors for spear hunting.  Such drive lanes are still used by some Inuit hunters in northern Canada to funnel caribou into a narrower area for easier hunting.  Another  equally ancient technique used by the Lake Huron hunters is marked by individual piles of boulders, thought to have been blinds, where hunters would hide before springing out to attack the passing caribou.  

Now, a piece of wood measuring six feet long, which was found in the midst of such a rock assemblage during a summer search of Lake Huron's floor for traces of human activity, has been dated to 8,900 years ago.  According to University of Michigan anthropologist John O'Shea, the pole appears to have been modified to have a rounded base and a pointed tip, with a bevel on one side so that it might have served as a tent pole or a pole to hang meat.  O'Shea's research partner, University of Michigan marine engineer Guy Meadows, noted last March that the Lake Huron rock formations constituted promising, but not definitive, evidence of an ancient human presence, and that the team was eager to gather convincing proof.  The large, wooden pole found last summer is still undergoing tests to determine precisely how prehistoric hunters might have modified it.  Meanwhile, other material gathered from the bottom of the lake is being analyzed by specialists like Canadian researcher Lisa Sonnenburg, a McMaster University paleoecologist who specializes in studying microdebitage, the tiny stone flakes left from ancient toolmaking.

Meadows and O'Shea have teamed with Wayne State University computer scientist Robert Reynolds to create a three-dimensional model of the ridge, including animated caribou moving along the corridor, to help identify as many high-probability targets as possible for the lake-bottom searches for artifacts.  Based on geological data that give a general picture of the topography along the ridge about 10,000 years ago, the simulation is meant to allow the researchers to visualize the paths caribou would likely have taken during their seasonal mass migrations.  The simulation is designed to help plot the places where ancient hunters would have established staging grounds and positioned themselves around kill sites to maximize their harvesting chances.  During this past summer's fieldwork, deposits of pine pollen and charcoal were identified and sampled at the site where the pole was discovered.


Bust of Hellenistic king is found in ancient Turkish town


In Turkey, a 2,000-year-old relief of a king came to light during excavations in ancient Stratonikeia (strat-oh-nee-KAY-ah) in the Yatagan (yata-ghan) district, near the Aegean Sea on Turkey’s southwestern coast.  According to Dr. Bilal Sögüt (se-gue), a professor of archaeology at Pamukkale (pa-mu-kaleh) University and head of the excavations, the relief carving of the king comes from a street of the ancient city, which they recently have begun to uncover.  The street begins at a gate and was lined with columns.  Within that excavation area, they also recovered the bust of a king from the Hellenistic period, which is over three feet tall and nearly as wide.  The large stone carving also shows the figure of a goddess and several depictions of bull heads, which represented wealth and power.  Previous finds in this region include a racing chariot, and the discovery of 1,500-year-old mosaics.  

According to Sögüt, the city walls are a central focus of the excavations at ancient Stratonikeia.  According to ancient accounts of the famous King Mausolus (mo-so-lus), ruler of the region from 377–353 BC, Mausolus restored the walls of Stratonikeia, which was an important city in his kingdom of Caria.  The newly discovered relief bust in Stratonikeia’s city street shows the long flowing hair typical of a king during the period of Mausolus.  Despite the regional style of the hair, and the carving in general, Stratonikeia, like much of the rest of the western Anatolia kingdoms, embraced Hellenic culture during the time of Mausolus, and Stratonikeia went on to be a wealthy and well-known city under the successors of Alexander and throughout the Roman Empire, with an acropolis, a large theater, and a large temple to the god Serapis among the buildings that are still preserved, or have been excavated.  

The city’s walls, however, along with the residential and commercial districts that were near them, have remained very poorly known.  According to professor Sogut, the early city walls are thought to have stretched for over two miles around the metropolis.  Excavators have already discovered one 1300-foot section that is still well preserved, and following restoration and stabilization work the wall will be opened to tourists.  In seven months of excavations last year, a team of over 100 university researchers, field workers and students discovered 460 artifacts from the Roman and Byzantine periods, which were taken to the province’s main museum, in Mugla (moo-la), for analysis.  


Roman token tells a tale of London brothel business


Moving on to England, a Roman coin washed up on the banks of the Thames was probably used by a lustful legionary.  The bronze coin measuring approximately a half-inch across depicts a man and a woman engaged in an intimate act.  Historians believe it is the first example of a Roman brothel token found in the country.  It lay hidden in mud for almost 2,000 years until a metal detector enthusiast unearthed it.  On the token’s reverse is the Roman numeral fourteen, which researchers say could indicate the holder handed over 14 small Roman coins called asses (AHH-ses) to buy it.  This would have been the equivalent of seven loaves of bread, or one day’s pay for a laborer at that time.  The holder would then have taken the token to one of the many brothels in Londinium, Roman London, and handed it to a sex slave in exchange for the act depicted on the coin.  

The token, dating to around the first century AD, was protected from corrosion by the mud.  Conservationists have spent weeks cleaning and conserving it since it was found in September.  Similar tokens have been found elsewhere in the Roman Empire, but this is the first one discovered in England.  Analysts say there is a possibility it could also be a gaming token, although it would be the only one in Britain displaying such an explicit illustration.  Historians believe that the specific image was used because many of the brothel slaves would not have been fluent in Latin, so needed a picture to know what service their client required.  It is also thought that tokens were used as a way of ensuring none of the customers’ money went directly to the prostitutes.  Additionally, it was illegal to take Roman coins into a brothel during the reign of the First Century emperor Tiberius, as they carried his image.

Little is known about brothels in Roman Britain, but current thinking is that the prostitutes were both male and female.  Archaeologists have found it hard to pinpoint brothel buildings, as they have no distinctive features, although it's believed they were located near Roman baths.  The tiny bronze token is now at the Museum of London, where it will be on display for the next three months.


India digs will document famous temple to three faiths


Our final story is from India, where the temple village of Itkhori (it-koree), in the Chatra district will be excavated for the first time by a team from the Archaeological Survey of India, the ASI.  The temple is known as Ma Bhadrakali (bahd-ra-kahli), dates to the 7th Century AD, and is a unique confluence of three religions -- Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism (JANE-ism).  The Hindu influence is seen in the goddess Bhadrakali, a form of Kali seen as more benevolent and auspicious, as well as carvings of Shiva and Hanuman.  Next to these is a stupa holding 1,008 figurines of Buddha and the slippers of Sheetalnath (sheet-al-noth), the tenth Jain Tirthankar (TEER-tonk-ar), or enlightened soul and leader.  All of the statues are made of black stone and carved in a similar artistic style, suggesting a close religious co-existence during the Seventh Century.  Archaeological work will extend and add detail to this picture of religious confluence, which has long been suspected by historians as well as asserted in local oral tradition.  

A team led by ASI archaeologist N. G. Nikoshey has already identified two excavation sites, and  several leading priests in the region have endorsed the goal of learning more about the temple and the surrounding area.  According to Tulsi Giri (TULL-see GEAR-ee), a Hindu priest who looks after the Buddhist stupa, he is happy to see ASI start its excavations at this very important site for national heritage as well as worship of three religions.  The temple sees around 2,000 visitors a day, mostly Hindu pilgrims.  Tulsi Giri hopes the excavations make it better known as a destination for Buddhists and Jains as well.  For many years, villagers found ancient structures or idols in the area, for which local administrators had no options but to house in a room in front of the temple, which is locally known as the museum.  In 2007, the ASI banned further local exploration or excavation work until they could carry out professional research on the area and its antiquities, which now is under way.

That wraps up the news for this week!

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I'm Laura Pettigrew and I'll see you next week!

I'm Laura Pettigrew and I'll see you next week!