Audio News for March 31st to April 6th, 2013.  

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica!  I'm Laura Pettigrew and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from March 31st to April 6th, 2013.


Jewish life in middle Ages revealed in Cologne excavation

Original Headline: Cologne revives Jewish heritage piece by piece

Our first story is from Germany, where an archaeological dig has unearthed numerous traces of daily life in one of Europe's oldest and biggest Jewish communities.

From ceramic dishes and tools to toys, animal bones and jewelry, some 250,000 artifacts recovered by this project have shed light on various periods in 2,000 years of the city of Cologne's history.  Of special interest for this story, they include many that reveal Cologne's little-known but rich Jewish history.

According to the city of Cologne’s head archaeologist Sven Schuette, for a very long time, archaeologists quite simply ignored the Jewish past of Cologne.  They didn't excavate anything that wasn’t of Roman origin, since the Middle Ages were of little matter and Jews weren't supposed to have played any role.

However, from the 10th to 12th centuries, Cologne, today Germany's fourth-largest city, was one of Europe's biggest cities.  Its prosperous Jewish community numbered nearly 1,000 at its height. On Hebrew-inscribed fragments of slate, aspects of daily life from the Middle Ages have come to light via school children's lessons, rules and regulations, a bawdy knight's tale, and even a bakery's customer list.

The history of the city's Jewish quarter spans 1,000 years, from Late Antiquity to the Middle Ages.  Far from being closed-off, the district was open and adjoined the Roman governor's imposing palace and later the city hall.  Excavations show that the Jews in Cologne were on good terms with the Christians for a very long time and that their cohabitation saw long phases of peace and harmony.  Schuette pointed to the synagogue's gothic-style and richly decorated altar constructed by artisans, possibly French, who had been working on the nearby cathedral building site.

However, two events finally sounded the death knell for the Jewish quarter: first, a crusader massacre in 1096,  and second, its eventual annihilation in 1349 when the Christians made the Jews the scapegoat for a black plague epidemic.


2000-year-old battering ram undergoes new analysis

Original Headline: Bronze warship ram reveals secrets


Moving on to the Mediterranean coast of Libya, analysis of a bronze battering ram from a 2,000-year-old warship, published in the International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, is shedding light on the construction of such an item in ancient times.

Three British service sports divers found the Belgammel Ram off the coast of Libya at the mouth of a valley called Waddi Belgammel, near Tobruk, in 1964.  Using a rubber dinghy and rope, they dragged it 25 meters to the surface and brought it home to the UK as a souvenir.  When the divers discovered that it was a rare antiquity, they loaned it to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.  Ken Oliver is the only surviving member of that group of three and the effective owner.  He decided in 2007 that is should be given to the National Museum in Tripoli.

The ram is from a “tesseraria,” a small Greek or Roman warship.  Sailors used one kind of massive bronze rams on the bow at the waterline to penetrate the side timbers of enemy ships.  At 65 cm long, the Belgammel Ram is one of a smaller variety.  Builders would have situated it on a ship’s upper level on the bow.  This second ram, known as a “proembolion,” strengthened the bow and served to break the oars of an enemy ship.

According to marine archaeologist Dr. Nic Flemming, casting a large alloy object weighing more than 20 kilograms is not easy.  To find out how metalworkers performed the feat, researchers needed specialists who could analyze the mix of metals in the alloys.  Some of the specialists would study the internal crystalline structure and the distribution of gas bubbles and other scholars would examine the classical literature and other known examples of bronze castings.

Dr. Chris Hunt and Annita Antoniadou of Queen’s University Belfast used radiocarbon dating of burnt wood from inside the ram to date it to between 100 BC and AD 100.  This date is consistent with the style of the tridents and bird motif on the top of the ram.  Laser-scanned images revealed the details.  The researchers could not rule out the possibility that someone remelted the bronze and mixed it with other bronze on one or more occasions, such as when troops repaired a warship or maybe captured one.

The X-ray team produced a 3-D image of the ram’s internal structure.  By rotating the ram on a turntable and making 360 images, they created a complete 3-D replica.  

Geochemists carried out further analysis through micro-drilled samples.  The analysis shows that the composition of the bronze was 87 percent copper, 6 percent tin and 7 percent lead.  These results point to the likelihood that metalworkers cast the Belgammel Ram in one piece and cooled it as a single object.

Scientists can use the isotope profile of the lead component in the bronze as a fingerprint to reveal the origin of the lead ore that metalworkers used in making the metal alloy.  Recent advances in the analysis technique mean that scientists can identify the location with fairly high accuracy.  The result shows that the lead component of the metal could have come from Lavrion, located in Attica, the historical region in Greece that includes Athens.  One outcome of this improved technique is that the method now can identify other ancient metal artifacts that come from this source.


17th Dynasty royal cemetery found in Luxor

Original Headline: Djehuty Project discovers significant evidence of the 17th Dynasty of Ancient Egypt


Now we travel eastward to the hill of Dra Abu el-Naga in Luxor, Egypt.  Here, the Djehuty Project, led by the Spanish National Research Council and its archaeologist, José Manuel Galán, has discovered the burials of four people of the elite class from the17th Dynasty.

These findings shed light on a little-known historical period in which Luxor, then known as Thebes, became the capital of the kingdom and the empire's foundations became established with the dominance of Egypt over Palestine and Syria to the north, and over Nubia to the south.

The 17th Dynasty is part of the time called Second Intermediate Period of Egypt, dating between 1800 and 1550 BC.  During this time, rulers of Syrian-Palestinian origin settled in the eastern Delta.  This is an era of political complexity when the monarchy did not control the territory and the real power was in the hands of local rulers.

The owner of one of the tombs was Intefmose.  Three inscriptions, one of them accompanied by a portrait in relief, call him son of the king.  Researchers believe that Intefmose could be the son of Sobekemsaf, one of the first kings of the 17th Dynasty, about whom we have little historical information.

The tomb of Intefmose contains a small adobe brick chapel. Workers erected the chapel in front of a shaft-grave about seven meters deep that leads to a burial chamber.  Access to the burial chamber of a second tomb is located through a hole in the back of this room.

The second tomb belonged to the high-level official Ahhotep, also called spokesperson of Nekhen, a city better known as Hierakonpolis [HEER-a-KON0-pol-is].  In the burial chamber, archaeologists found three painted clay funerary figurines with the deceased's name written on the front.

Excavators found two of the figurines inside small clay sarcophagi.  Artisans had decorated the sarcophagi with inscriptions on the sides and on the top.  Nine linen fabrics wrapped the third figure, as if it was a real mummy, and each of the fabrics had traces of writing in black ink.  
In addition, the excavation team unearthed the intact coffin of a boy who lived about 3,550 years ago, as well as funerary objects of another child, prince Ahmose-Sapair, who lived during the transition from the 17th to the 18th Dynasty.

This series of findings confirm that the Dra Abu el-Naga hill, on the northern edge of the necropolis of ancient Thebes, was the cemetery of the Royal Family of the 17th and early 18th Dynasties, as well as of their main courtiers.


Revolutionary War POW camp reveals little-known aspect of American history

Original Headline:  Pennsylvania field holds secrets of 1780s British POW camp


Our final story is from the United States, where the mud of a south-central Pennsylvania field may soon produce answers about the fate of British prisoners of war, and the newly independent Americans who guarded them, during the fading years of the American Revolution.

A few miles east of York, the city that briefly served as the nation's capital after the Continental Congress fled Philadelphia, Americans imprisoned more than a thousand English, Scottish and Canadian soldiers at Camp Security.

According to Steve Warfel, a retired curator of archaeology at the Pennsylvania State Museum who is involved in the project, this is an extraordinarily important site, because so few of these sites survived.  It's important  for our understanding of imprisonment during the revolutionary period.

Nothing about the property today suggests it once swarmed with prisoners.  The first group arrived in 1781, four years after their 1777 surrender at Saratoga, N.Y.  More arrived the next year after the battle in Yorktown, Va.  By April 1782, 1,265 men resided at the camp, along with 182 women and 189 children, who were family members and others accompanying the prisoners.

Nearby farmers could hire the first group, which the Americans kept under less strict conditions. These prisoners chopped firewood and hunted wolves, among other things.  Americans kept the Yorktown veterans much more strictly confined.  They confined these prisoneers inside a 15-foot-high circular wooden stockade.

A 1979 dig, focused on a small area, produced metal items such as buckles and buttons associated with British soldiers of the period, suggesting that the area could have been either the Camp Security stockade or the adjacent Camp Indulgence village where low-risk prisoners stayed.

That survey also turned up 20 coins and 605 straight pins that the prisoners used to make lace.
Researchers recently found lists of Camp Security prisoners in the British National Archives.  In addition, an 18th Century account of camp life by a British surgeon's mate described a camp fever that may have killed some of the prisoners.  If the camp had a cemetery where the captors buried dead prisoners, researchers have not found it.  Some investigators believe graves may be under what today is one of the neighborhoods that encircle the property.

In December, a powerful magnetometer scanned the property, giving researchers an idea of where to start looking, but for a 162-acre site, excavation is an ambitious undertaking.  The township plans to allow such research and convert the properties to some sort of parkland similar to Gettysburg.

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