Audio News for April 15th to April 21st, 2002.

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I'm Claire Britton-Warren/Rick Pettigrew and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from April 15th through April 21st.



Radar to locate buried Mayan structures

Original Headline:  Radar may reveal Mayan rituals


From Mexico, a Swiss archaeologist is hoping to use ground-penetrating radar to create a three-dimensional model of the subsurface at Chichen Itza in Yucatan. The investigation is taking place near a pyramid where experts believe a cave used by the Maya for ritual purposes is located. In the central part of the complex, the Maya created a large open plaza for ritual purposes and processions. They topped the area with twelve feet of fill, which they paved with a kind of plaster concrete. In the fill, archaeologists have already detected what appears to be the foundations of buildings, as well as an unexplained trench, about ten to 45 feet from the west side of the pyramid. The trench is at least 300 feet long and fifteen feet wide, and, in places, goes into the bedrock. It was dug after the plaza was completed and then refilled. One theory is that it might have been used as an access to a chamber underneath the pyramid or used on a one-time basis when they buried a later king of Chichen Itza. Non-intrusive methods are particularly important at identify specific locations to focus excavations with minimal damage, if any, to surrounding ruins.



An earlier origin for Egyptian writing?

Original Headline:  Carving of a King Could Rewrite History


In Egypt, a 5,250-year-old pictorial representation discovered seven years ago may prove to be the world's earliest historical document. Measuring 18 by 20 inches, the inscribed scenes and symbols bear a strong resemblance to later hieroglyphs. Discovered about 25 miles northwest of Luxor, the piece was probably engraved by flint tools, containing figures and symbols that appear to be the procession of a ruler returning to the city of Abydos after defeating the rival leader of Naqada. The discovery may push back the beginning of recorded Egyptian history 100 to 150 years, to about 3250 B.C., into the period before the land's unification under the pharaohs. The debate for an earlier origin of writing in Egypt has been gaining supporters since German archaeologists opened a royal tomb at Abydos in the 1990's and found ivory tags inscribed with symbols that appeared to be related to hieroglyphs. The symbols are similar in style to some of those in the tableau or slightly more advanced, experts say, suggesting that the two finds are contemporary examples of a emerging script.



Thousands of Incan mummies tell tales



Near Lima, Peru, thousands of ancient Inca mummies, some bundled together in small groups with their possessions, have been discovered. And beneath that dig, the archaeologists found 20 skeletal remains from two previous civilizations as old as 2,500 years. The mummy burials are thought to have occurred between 1480 and 1535, with the site serving as a central cemetery for the Inca, who ruled a powerful South American empire before being conquered by the Spanish. One of the bundles included some 300 pounds of raw cotton, the body of an Inca noble and a baby, as well as 70 other items, including food, pottery, animal skins and corn. "Mummy bundles are like time capsules from the Inca," said Johan Reinhard, explorer-in-residence at the National Geographic Society. The mummies represent a wide societal view of Inca life, from infants to the elderly and from the very poor to the very rich. The additional digging beneath the cemetery excavations revealed ancient enclosures in which were the "very fragile" skeletal remains from the pre-Incan Lima culture, as well as those from the distant Chavin culture dating 2,500 years.



Excavators find rare Anglo-Saxon glass bowl

Original Headline:  New Forest cemetery yields glass find


In England, excavators at a New Forest Anglo-Saxon burial ground have stumbled on a rare glass bowl that remained intact for more than 1,400 years. Experts say the relic is in good condition because it has been hidden inside one of six wooden buckets found with skeletons and other artifacts in the one the graves. The bowl, measuring 5in across and 1.5in high, is pale green, and dates from the late fifth or early sixth century. Archaeologists believe the bowl was imported from the Rhineland and its inclusion in the burial site indicates the people there were of great importance in society. David Miles, chief archaeologist at English Heritage, said the buckets as well as the glass bowl would have been placed in the graves with food and drink to enable those who had died to eat in the afterlife. Mr Miles said the high number of skeletons; weapons and foreign imports found in the graves could indicate a complex society having more contact with Europe and the Mediterranean than had been previously thought.



Human footprints in Ice-Age Tibet

Original Headline: Man set foot in Ice-Age Tibet


From China, fossilized hand and footprints have revealed that mankind lived 16,000 years early than thought on the Tibetan plateau. The fossilized signs of life, from the height of the Ice Age, have also thrown question on the idea that the plateau was fully covered by a glacier one kilometer thick at that time. At the dry and cold site, 4,200 meters above sea level, researchers found the marks of at least six individuals and a well structured stove. The 20,000 year-old prints, 53 miles from Lhasa, predates any archaeological data on the plateau and suggests that man may have journeyed to the region extremely early on. The findings are also contrary to the ice-covered plateau hypothesis. The theory indicates that the 4,000-meter high Tibetan plateau was covered in ice, thicker than the present Greenland ice sheet, even during the last Ice Age. Yet the findings indicate that the plateau was partly ice-free, and that man was able to survive there, albeit around hot springs where the climate was more equitable. Until this discovery, the oldest known settlements were from the Late Neolithic Age, around 4,000 years ago, which led scientists to believe that Tibetans migrated onto the high-plateau around this time.



Salamis site may be Mycenaean capital

Original Headline: Dig unearths Mycenaean 'Homeric capital'


In Greece, an archaeologist believes he may have found the ancient Mycenaean capital of Salamis. The finds could indicate the island had a thriving culture dating back to the 13th century BC, coinciding with Homeric accounts of the area. The island was the site of a famous Greek naval victory over a larger Persian fleet in 480BC. To date two buildings and several hamlets scattered around the ancient acropolis have been uncovered. It is thought they may be part of a larger complex and one of the buildings may have had an industrial use. A large copper plank that originated from Cyprus was also found, which indicates the two islands had contact during the period. "This is one of the most important finds from our excavation at this site because it gives a good connection with Cyprus," stated archaeologist Yannos Lolos. "This town may have had substantial involvement in the international maritime trade."



Tanzanian dig brings East Africa into Classical world

Original Headline: Tanzanian dig unearths ancient secret


Our final story is from Tanzania, were local archaeologist Dr. Felix Chami (Cami) found an Iron Age site he believes will change East African history with evidence that the region was a bigger part of the Indian Ocean community. Dr Chami has long believed the coastal communities may have been trading animal goods, such as ivory as well as iron. Dr. Chami utilized the writings of Greek geographer Ptolemy who described settlements in East Africa as "metropolis". Ptolemy even specified the locations. Before Dr Chami's other discoveries on the Tanzanian coast, scholars had never considered East Africa as part of the ancient world. Dr Chami's excavations uncovered cultural artifacts that have been carbon dated to 600 BC. They included Greco-Roman pottery, Syrian glass vessels, Sassanian pottery from Persia and glass beads. Excavations on the site will start after the end of the rainy season.


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