Audio News for March 18th to March 24th, 2002.

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I'm Claire Britton-Warren and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from March 18th through March 24th.



Original Headline: Discovery shows how Mayans studied and used solar cycles



From Honduras, researchers have confirmed the Maya were indeed great astronomers through the discovery of architectural alignments and observation points in the main plaza of the Mayan ruins at Copan. Confirmed by using measurements from the ancient civilization's calendar and among all centers of Mayan culture, such solar alignments between stelae, altars and structures during equinox's, solstices and zeniths have only been found at Copan. The solar cycles appear to be related to the 16 Mayan governors, since some alignments occur between stelae for successive governors. During solar cycles, "the sun rises from the governors' heads and sets on them," stated Maria Pineda of the Central American Astronomic Observatory, explaining that sunrises and sunsets symbolize life and death for the Maya. With the first stage of work completed, scientists will focus on the relationship between Copan and the Moon and planets.



Original Headline: Excavations in Eastern Europe reveal ancient human lifestyles



At a recent conference of the Society for American Archaeology, researcher John Hoffecker presented evidence from excavations in Russia that indicate anatomically modern humans were developing new technologies for survival in the cold some 30,000 to 40,000 years ago. 250 miles south of Moscow discoveries of bone and ivory needles with eyelets hint that ancient residents had developed trapping techniques to obtain furs that would help keep them warmer in the winters. The Kostenki sites, dating beyond 40,000 years ago, may have hosted Neanderthals as well as modern humans, Hoffecker stated. "It looks like there were two separate industries at work here. One culture was advanced in terms of bone and ivory tool-making and decorative figurine art, while the other produced little more than crude stone tools." Although modern human remains have been found associated with the advanced culture, no human skeletal materials have been found with the cruder tools, and their makers are unknown. The evidence for modern humans at Kostenki is buried under 9 to 15 feet of silt. Dating the early human sites beyond 40,000 years is difficult because of the limitations of radiocarbon dating. The researchers turned to luminescence dating, in order to determine accurate dates for the specific sites.



Original Headline: Search for a king's grave



In Scotland, a 600-year-old mystery could be solved this summer. In Stirling County, archaeologists will be working on a site looking for remains of a 13th century church of the Dominican Black Friars which was demolished in the late 16th century. Reports says that Richard II of England, or an imposter, was buried at the church. In 1994, Local amateur archaeologist Dr Ron Page was granted permission to dig in a derelict garden and 11 weeks later established the outlines of the church and unearthed more than 200 bones. Dr Page has suggested using DNA tests to find out if they belong to Richard II. "I wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury," he said, "asking if the body of Richard's father, the Black Prince, could be exhumed for analysis but I was told that it was a matter for the Home Secretary. One way or another, I'm confident that the new excavations will find the body at the altar." His cousin Henry IV deposed Richard in 1399. He allegedly died of starvation in 1400. Rumors began to circulate that Richard had escaped to Scotland, and it was claimed that he stayed with Albany until his death in 1419, when he was buried on the north side of the high altar of the church of the Black Friars.



Original Headline: Bronze Age Venice discovered in Italy



In Italy, near the ruins of Pompeii, archeologists have found a far-older abandoned settlement, unearthing the remains of buildings, canals and ornate tools from more than 3,500 years ago. Like ancient Pompeii this town was also abandoned due to natural disaster: a flood in the 6th century BC. The 17-acre settlement was founded in about 1500 B.C. on the River Sarno, and up to 1,000 people lived there. Archeologists described it as a "Bronze Age Venice." The canal-based lagoon city was constructed on marshy islands, perhaps to prevent invaders from storming their city. "In that period, all the important ports sprang up along rivers a little distance from the sea, to avoid pirate attacks," said historian Prof. Renato Peroni at the announcement. Excavations have yielded traces of horseshoe-shaped stone and wood foundations, part of a canoe carved from a tree trunk, and ornate amber brooches and bronze and iron tools. Work on the site involves dozens of experts - including archaeologists and geologists, as well as laborers - and is expected to last another year.



Original Headline: Taxila 600 years older than earlier believed



In Taxila, Pakistan, new excavations have aged the history of the ancient settlement by another six centuries to the Neolithic age. Earlier digs in 1913 and 1914 yielded artifacts dated to 518 BC. The new finds indicates the existence of cities in the valley between 1200 BC and 1100 BC. Potsherds and other terracotta, found at the lowest occupational level, 15 feet in depth, is the main evidence of the latest discovery, which establishes that Taxila and the Indus Valley Civilization settlements of Moenjodaro and Harappa existed almost simultaneously. Also unearthed was a hall and adjacent chambers which archaeologists understand were part of a palace of the then ruler, King Ambhi, who received Alexander the Great at this palace in 326 BC. The excavations of the early 1900's had found four occupational levels. The latest study has unearthed six occupational levels that have been listed as pre-Achaemenian, Achaemenian, Macedonian, Mauriyan, Bactarian Greek and Scythian.



Original Headline: Bronze babes found in French waters



Off the coast of France, two Roman bronze statues have been discovered by a recreational scuba diver. Thought to have been made in Southern Italy, one is a child standing about 80 centimeters high in the manner of a Roman horseman. The other statue, a representation of Eros, is approximately 65 centimeters high. Both have been dated to the first century BC and believed to have been part of the same cargo. Divers from the Ministry of Culture found no shipwreck, but did discover several fragments of pottery. The area is believed to have been a Roman mooring ground. Archaeologists speculate that a ship may have run aground and unloaded its cargo to free itself from the sand, or that a ship may have been wrecked and its remains subsequently destroyed.




Original Headline: Rescue mission to save Mawson's huts



In our final story, an Australian team will travel to Antarctica next summer on a mission to rescue an historic site from collapse. 90 years of being buried in snow and ice, coupled with severe climate changes are affecting the site of Mawson's huts, built by explorer Sir Douglas Mawson and his 1912 Antarctic expedition team. These conditions are proving to be potentially ruinous for the artifacts of the expedition, which include not only the huts but also books, newspapers and clothing. Ian Godfrey, Conservator with the Western Australian Museum, was alarmed with what had been found: "A freakishly hot summer, melting layers of snow that had previously covered artifacts thrown out of the door or left around outside the huts by the explorers almost 100 years ago." Depending on weather conditions the first state of the rescue mission may take six to ten weeks.



That wraps up the news for this week!
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I'm Claire Britton-Warren and I'll see you next week!