Audio News for February 17th to February 23rd, 2013.  

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica!  I'm Laura Pettigrew and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from February 17th to February 23rd, 2013.


Very ancient temple discovered near Lima, Peru
Original Headline:  Peru archaeologists find ancient temple in El Paraiso

Our first story is from Peru, where archaeologists say they have discovered a temple at the ancient site of El Paraiso, near the capital, Lima.

With its 10 ruins, El Paraiso is one of the biggest archaeological sites in central Peru.  The Paraiso settlement once supported a farming and fishing community numbering hundreds of people. The archaeologists found the structure in the right wing of the main pyramid, accessed through a narrow passageway.  They estimate the entry to the rectangular structure to be up to 5,000 years old.

At its center, the archaeologists from Peru's Ministry of Culture found a hearth that they believe community members used to burn ceremonial offerings.  Archaeologist Marco Guillen, who led the team that made the discovery, said the hearth gave insight into the civilization that used the site.  A chief characteristic of their religion was the use of fire.  The smoke allowed the priests to connect with their gods.

The team had been carrying out conservation work on the site on behalf of the Ministry of Culture when they came across the remains, obscured by sand and rocks.  According to the team, the builders constructed the temple walls of stone and covered them in fine yellow clay, which also contained some traces of red paint.

Peru's Deputy Minister for Culture noted that the temple was the first structure of its kind found on Peru's central coast.  The find suggests that the communities in the Late Pre-ceramic Age, 3500 to 1800 BC, connected with each other more closely than previously thought.  The discovery corroborates that the region around Lima was a focus for the civilizations of the Andean territory.  Archaeologists think thousands of ruins remain undiscovered at El Paraiso.


Gold and weapons accompanied Russian warrior after death

Original Headline: Treasure-Filled Warrior's Grave Found in Russia


In Russia, in a necropolis high in the mountains of the Caucasus, researchers have discovered the grave of a male warrior laid to rest with gold jewelry, iron chain mail and numerous weapons, including an iron sword set between his legs.  This is just one remarkable find among a wealth of ancient materials dating back more than 2,000 years that investigators have uncovered there.  Among their finds are two bronze helmets, which they discovered on the surface of the necropolis.  One helmet, which they found in fragments and restored, has relief carvings of curled sheep horns while the other has ridges and zigzags.  Grave robbers discovered the site in 2004 and rescue excavations began in 2005. 

Although looters had been through the necropolis before, the warrior's grave appears to have been untouched.  The tip of the sword points toward his pelvis, and researchers found a round gold plaque with a polychrome inlay near the tip.

The team also found the remains of three horses, a cow, and the skull of a wild boar near the warrior.  These animals were particularly valuable to people in this part of the ancient world.  It was a sign of the great status of the buried person.  The animal bones and pottery remains suggest that mourners held a funeral feast in his honor.  Without written records, the excavators can’t specify the identity of the warrior, but instead of simply ruling a city or town, he was more important, maybe even a chief of his people.

Based on the artifacts, researchers believe the warrior's burial dates back around 2,200 years, to a time when Greek culture was popular in west Asia, while the necropolis itself appears to have been in use between the third century BC and the beginning of the second century AD.  Researchers were careful to note that they cannot link the artifacts to a specific archaeological culture.  The region is large, and not sufficiently explored, particularly in the area where the necropolis is located.

While Greek culture influenced the people who used the necropolis, they maintained their own way of life.  This way of life included a keenness for gold working.  The warrior's burial included more than a dozen artifacts made of the material.  Perhaps the most spectacular find was a gold fibula-brooch with a rock crystal at its center.  Although the brooch was 5.8 by 4.8 centimeters in size, it had several layers of intricately carved decorations leading toward the mount.

The team was surprised to find that two of the warrior's swords had gold decorations.  In one case, a 48.5-centimeter long iron sword had a gold plate, with inlayed agate, meant to adorn its sheath.  Until now, scholars had never seen this type of golden sword decorations in this part of the ancient world.


Mudbrick pyramid of King Ramses’ vizier found at Luxor

Original Headline: Pyramid belonging to pharaoh's vizier found

Moving on to Egypt, excavations in Luxor—ancient Thebes--have revealed a pyramid belonging to an advisor to King Ramses the Second that dates back more than 3,000 years.  A Belgian research team unearthed the remains of the large mudbrick pyramid, whose original height was 15 meters, during excavations on the hill of Sheikh Abdel Qurna.

According to Egypt's state minister for antiquities Mohammed Ibrahim, stamp impressions on the bricks indicate that the pyramid belongs to a vizier of Upper and Lower Egypt named Khay, who held this position for 15 years during the 19 Dynasty reign of pharaoh Ramses the Second, which lasted from 1279 to 1213 BC.

Coptic hermits largely dismantled the monument in the 7th and 8th centuries AD, when they transformed the tomb into a hermitage.

The discovery is of major importance since Egyptologists knew about the vizier Khay from a large number of documents, but they did not know the location of his tomb.  A family stela from Abydos mentions that Khay was the son of Hai and Nub-em-niut.  The Lord of the Two Lands, as Egypt’s Pharaoh was called, greatly favored Khay's father, who held the title of “Troop Commander of the Goodly God.”  His mother, Nub-em-niut, bore the titles of “Chantress of Amun” and “Lady of the House.”


Indian village boasts huge Indus Civilization site

Original Headline: Little-Known Archaeological Site Could Answer Questions About The Enigmatic Indus Valley Civilization


Our final story is from India, near the small village of Rakhigarhi in the northwest, where just below the surface lies an extensive network of ruins and artifacts.  It may be the site of an ancient city that could rival, and possibly exceed, the enormity of the Indus Valley civilization's best-known archaeological site, Mohenjo-Daro.  

At 224 hectares, Rakhigarhi can boast perhaps the largest known Harrapan or Indus Civilization site in India.  Since 1997, the Archaeological Survey of India has undertaken a detailed investigation of the site.  This research has revealed numerous artifacts, including paved roads, a drainage system, a large rainwater collection and storage system, evidence of skilled metalworking, jewellery, conch shells, gold, semi-precious stones, stamp seals, altars, and at least one burial site.  Some of the artifacts and features are over 5,000 years old.  The remains are dotted among five mounds.  Excavators are able to investigate three of them, but the remaining two lie under populated areas and agricultural plots.  

The Harappan Culture, of which Rakhigarhi was a part, was one of the most advanced early civilizations and was an important trade partner with ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.  Nonetheless, researchers know relatively little about it, making Rakhigarhi a key site for ongoing and future research and conservation.

However, most of the available area remains unexcavated and its archaeological integrity faces a number of serious threats, including urban encroachment, farming, and erosion.  To address these threats and protect and preserve the site for further investigation, teams of researchers, along with participants from the local community, will be implementing a number of preservation steps to ensure its sustainability.

For example, the Global Heritage Fund, a U.S. non-profit organization, hopes to institute an all-encompassing approach to protecting and developing the site by integrating planning, conservation, community development, and strategic partnerships.  It will do this in partnership with ongoing excavation efforts from archaeologists of India's Deccan College and professionals and officials from other institutions, including the Archaeological Survey of India.  

According the Global Heritage Fund, once the parties involved develop a management plan and start excavation, Deccan College will begin site conservation and evaluate options for protective shelters and other intervention strategies to stabilize the exposed archaeology.  Because the ancient people built their structures with mud brick, erosion can occur quickly following exposure, so it is imperative to begin conservation right away.  Thus far, the Fund and its partners have already completed ground-penetrating radar and electrical resistance surveys of the site and conducted surface sampling surveys to identify activity areas and guide excavation.  

The Fund and the Government of India hope that new economic benefits will accrue to the local communities that hold a stake in the development of the site as a cultural heritage center and tourist attraction.  However, for the scientific community, a trove of new evidence and data awaits that may shed valuable light on understanding a major early civilization.

In size, dimension, strategic location, and unique significance of the settlement, Rakhigarhi matches the major Harappan cities of Dholavira, Harappa, and Mohenjo-Daro.  In addition, levels at Rakhigarhi represent Early, Mature, and Late phases of Harappan Culture and provide an excellent and rare location in which to study the development and decline of this enigmatic ancient civilization.

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