Audio News for February 24 to March 2, 2013

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica!  I'm Laura Pettigrew and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from February 24th to March 2nd, 2013.

Ancient Roman temple of Jupiter found

Original Headline: Temple of 'Jupiter the Stayer' found


Our first story is from Italy, where the temple built by Romulus to celebrate Jupiter making Roman troops unstoppable reportedly has emerged from the base of the Palatine Hill.  The ruins of the shrine to Jupiter Stator (STAY-tor) or Jupiter the Stayer date to about 750 BC, and were found by a Rome University team led by Andrea Carandini.   According to Carandini in an article published in the Italian magazine Archeologia [ar-kay -oh-loh-GEE-ah] Viva, researchers believe this is the temple Romulus erected to the king of the gods after the Romans held their ground against the furious Sabines fighting to get their women back after the infamous abduction.  

According to folklore, Romulus founded Rome in 753 BC and the wifeless first generation of Roman men raided nearby Sabine tribes for their womenfolk, an act illustrated in art down the centuries.  As the legend goes, Romulus completed his city and named it Roma after himself.  Then he divided his fighting men into regiments of 3000 infantry and 300 cavalry, which he called "legions."  From the rest of the populace he selected 100 of the most noble and wealthy fathers to serve as his council, calling them Patricians, the fathers of Rome, not only because they cared for their own sons but because they had a fatherly care for Rome and all its people.  They were also its elders, known as Senators.  Romulus thereby inaugurated a system of government and social hierarchy based on the patron-client relationship.

The story holds also that Rome at its founding drew in exiles, refugees, the dispossessed, criminals.and runaway slaves.  The city expanded its boundaries to accommodate them, settling five of the seven hills of Rome, the Capitoline (CAP-i-toh-leen) Hill, the Aventine (AV-en-teen), the Caelian (SEE-lee-an), the Quirinal (kwur-EYE-nal), and the Palatine (PAL-ah-teen).  As most of these immigrants were men, Rome found itself with a shortage of marriageable women.  At the suggestion of his grandfather Numitor, Romulus held a festival to which he invited the neighboring Sabines and Latins, including their daughters.  The Sabine and Latin women, 683 virgins according to legend, were kidnapped and brought back to Rome where they were forced to marry Roman men.

According to Carandini, evidence shows that the temple appears to be shoring up the Palatine, as if in defense.  Rome's greatest families lived on the Palatine, overlooking the Forum.  Long after its legendary institution by Romulus, the cult of Jupiter the Stayer fueled Roman troops in battle, forging the irresistible military might that conquered much of the ancient known world.

Carandini’s article in Archeologia Viva also relates that the team might also have discovered the ruins of the last Palatine house of Julius Caesar; the one he left on the Ides of March, 44 BC, on his way to death in the Senate.

Analysis of dust reveals remains of Richard’s lionheart

Original Headline: Richard the Lionheart 'had mummified heart'


In France, forensic scientists announced they had delved into the embalmed heart of Richard the Lionheart, finding chemical evidence that the remains of England's Crusader king were handled with holy reverence.  

The heart was reduced to dust by eight centuries of time, but modern lab technology could still perform analyses that indicate the organ was treated with the adoration reserved for a Christian relic.  According to Philippe Charlier of the Raymond Poincare University Hospital in Garches, leading a team of top historical pathologists, they found things that they didn't expect.  Medieval embalmers used mercury and tar-like creosote to preserve the heart, then applied frankincense, myrtle, daisy and mint to it so that it would smell sweet, his team found.  Then, the organ was wrapped in linen and sealed for eternity inside a lead box.

According to Charlier, the frankincense was something never seen in a historical burial.  It is a substance whose purpose was believed to come directly from the divine.  One of the three gifts brought by the Wise Men at Jesus's birth, it was used by Joseph of Arimathea to help preserve Jesus's body at his death.  Using frankincense to embalm King Richard’s heart was thus a direct reference to Christ.

The analysis, published in the journal Scientific Reports, sheds light on the contemporary status of a king who became the symbol of gallantry across Western Europe.  Considered in the light of today, though, many historians say the Lionheart was a neglectful king and war mongerer who slaughtered thousands of hostages in his battle to wrest Jerusalem from Saladin [sahl-ah-DEEN].  King Richard the First died in AD 1199 at the age of 41 while fighting the French in Chalus, shot in the left shoulder by a crossbow arrow.  He died 12 days later, presumably from septicemia or gangrene.

In line with tradition, his body was partitioned.  Historical documents say most of his body was buried at Fontevraud Abbey in the western Loire Valley, close to the remains of his mother and father.  His entrails were buried in Chalus, in what historians say may have been an intended insult to the French.  However, the heart, an organ then believed to be the site of the soul, was buried in the cathedral at Rouen in Normandy, then an English possession.

On July 31, 1838, Rouen historian Achille Deville made an astonishing discovery.  During an excavation at the cathedral, a lead box about the size of a large book tumbled into the crypt.
The box was engraved with a funerary inscription—"HIC IACET COR RICARDI REGIS ANGLORUM" (HEEC YAH-sit CORE ri-CAR-dee RE-jis an-GLOR-um) or Here lies the heart of Richard, king of the English.  Inside lay a brownish-white dust.

Charlier's team was permitted to take two grams from the 80 grams inside.  They analyzed the precious sample visually, using an electron microscope, before scanning it for chemical compounds with gas chromatography.  No clearly identifiable tissue remained, but they found an antibody reaction to myoglobin, a tell-tale protein found in human muscle, which implies the heart.  Several bacteria and fungi species appeared in the analysis, but none confirming how Richard died.

The scrutiny revealed a tiny scrap of linen and ancient pollen from poplar, oak and pine that probably came from airborne contamination before the box was sealed.  According to Charlier, Twelfth Century embalmers were usually cooks and butchers, who were used to cutting meat and removing offal and had access to herbs, spices and other aromatic substances.

However, contrary to a popular image of the Middle Ages as being barbarous, the individual or individuals who worked on Richard's heart were extremely skilled, combining complex metals, including liquid mercury, with vegetal residues.

If the heart was reduced to dust, this probably was because water crept into the box over time.
The study, which drew on expertise from historians, speculated that the heart may have been carefully preserved for reasons of dogma.  According to calculations by a 13th century English bishop, Richard the Lionheart spent 33 years in Purgatory as expiation for his sins, and ascended to Heaven only in March 1232.

Prehistoric pipe residues show tobacco’s early use in Pacific Northwest

Original Headline:  Researchers uncover earliest tobacco use in the Pacific Northwest


Moving over to the United States, analysis of ancient pipes shows tobacco use by native American hunter-gatherers living more than a thousand years ago in northwest California, in the ancestral homeland of the Tolowa [TOLL-oh-wa] people.  According to the newly published study in the Journal of Archaeological Science, this is the earliest known usage in the Pacific Northwest.

The study demonstrates that tobacco smoking was part of the northwestern California culture very early, dating back to a time well before European contact when people on the Pacific Northwest Coast lived in plank house villages.

Testing organic residues extracted from pipes, researchers from the UC Davis Department of Anthropology and the Fiehn Metabolomics Laboratory of the UC Davis Genome Center confirmed that tobacco was smoked, and probably was grown in the region, by at least AD 860.

Perhaps more importantly, the researchers say additional studies may help them better understand the origins of nicotine addiction and how past peoples grew tobacco across an ever larger geographic range.  As part of a second study, the authors have recently detected nicotine in ancient pipes from an 800-year-old site in the modern city of Pleasanton, Calif.

Despite the economic importance of tobacco today, little is known about its antiquity, according to Shannon Tushingham, a UC Davis archaeology research associate and lead author of the study.  Researchers believe Native American use of tobacco and other psychoactive plants is quite ancient.  The methods developed in this study provide an important breakthrough that can be applied on even older pipes throughout the ancient Americas.

Prior to this recent testing, which used sensitive gas chromatography and mass spectrometry, researchers were unsure of the historical use of tobacco on the Pacific Northwest Coast.  It was unclear, for example, whether European traders first introduced tobacco to the area much later and thus some other plant had been smoked in the pipes.

Historic native peoples smoked a wide variety of plants, including tobacco, and the pipes that researchers found at sites indicate smoking was an important part of ritual activities in the past.  However, archaeologists previously found it difficult to detect what plants were smoked in the pipes because of their age and deterioration.  Early tobacco also had less nicotine content and is more difficult to detect than tobacco grown today.

After two years of experimentation, the researchers developed a chemical process by which residue is extracted directly from the stone or clay matrix of the pipes, leaving the pipes intact.  By applying the process to one complete pipe and various fragments found at village sites in Tolowa ancestral territory, in the Smith River basin and vicinity of northwestern California, researchers found the biomarker nicotine, indicating that tobacco had been smoked.

Egyptian shoes tell stories of advanced construction, sore feet, and a limp

Original Headline: Lost and Found: Ancient Shoes Turn Up in Egypt Temple


In our final story, more than 2,000 years ago, at a time when Egypt was ruled by a dynasty of kings of Greek descent, a group of people hid away some of the most valuable possessions they had -- their shoes.

A jar in an Egyptian temple in Luxor turned out to hold seven shoes: three pairs and a single.  Two pairs were originally worn by children and measured about 18 cm, or 7 inches, long.  Another pair of shoes, over 24 cm or nearly 10 inches long, had wear patterns that showed the adult who wore them had a limp.  The shoe jar, along with two other jars, had been deliberately placed in a small space between two mud brick walls, according to archaeologist Angelo Sesana, writing in the journal Memnonia.

In 2004, an Italian archaeological expedition team, led by Sesana, rediscovered the shoes.  The archaeologists shared photos and documentation with André Veldmeijer, an expert in ancient Egyptian footwear.  According to Veldmeijer, the find is extraordinary as the shoes were in pristine condition and still supple upon discovery.  Unfortunately, after being unearthed, the shoes became brittle and fragile.

Veldmeijer's analysis suggests the shoes may have been foreign-made and relatively costly for the time.  Sandals were the more common footwear in Egypt, but the style and quality of these seven shoes would have been noticed by all, giving status to the wearers of these expensive pairs of shoes.

The date of the shoes is based on the jar in which they were found and the other two jars, as well as the stratigraphy, or layering of sediments, of the area.  At some future time, carbon dating the shoes may confirm their age.

Why they were left in the temple and not retrieved is a mystery.  Some kind of unrest might have forced the owners of the shoes to flee hastily.  The temple itself predates the shoes by more than 1,000 years: it originally was built for Pharaoh Amenhotep the Second, who ruled from 1424 to 1398 BC.

According to Veldmeijer, a number of new details of shoe design have resulted from the shoe jar find.  The people who wore the seven shoes would have tied them using what researchers call tailed toggles.  Leather strips at the top of the shoes would form knots passed through openings to close the shoes.  After they were closed, a long strip of leather would have hung down, decoratively, at either side.

Most surprising was that the isolated shoe had what shoemakers call a rand, a device that until now was believed to have been first used in medieval Europe.  A rand is a folded leather strip that would go between the sole of the shoe and the upper part, reinforcing the stitching as the upper is very prone to tear apart at the stitch holes.   The device would have been especially valuable in muddy weather or a wet environment because it made the seam more resistant to water.  According to Veldmeijer, this is a surprising find for the dry climate of ancient Egypt, and may indicate the seven shoes were constructed somewhere abroad.

The shoes also provided insight into the health of the people wearing them.  In the case of the one unmatched shoe, Veldmeijer found a semi-circular protruding area that could be a sign of a condition called Hallux valgus, more popularly known as a bunion.

The left shoe of the adult pair had more patches and evidence of wear than the shoe on the right.  The shoe was exposed to unequal pressure, indicating the person who wore it walked with a limp.

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