Audio News for May 27th to June 2nd, 2002.

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I'm Claire Britton-Warren and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from May 27th through June 2nd.



Birthing seat found in Egyptian site



From the Abydos region of Egypt, archaeologists have found a 4,000 year old child birthing seat. The brick seat with a hole in the center was built for the wife of the governor dating to the 12th dynasty of 1,991-1,790 BC. Found recently in the remains of the ancient governor's home, the seat is engraved with hieroglyphic inscriptions showing the name of its owner, Arnessent, who was the wife of the governor of the Abydos area. The seat is decorated with colored designs representing a woman carrying her newborn and the Goddess Hathor, who according to the Pharaohs, watched over women giving birth. "The ancient Egyptians suffered from a high mortality rate at birth and they resorted to various methods, including this seat designed for deliveries," Egyptian Culture Minister Faruq Hosni said in a statement distributed by the Supreme Council of Antiquities.



England finds prehistory at the bottom of the sea


In the United Kingdom, an effort is underway to protect a unique archeology site that has been preserved by sea and peat moss for 6,000 years. In the area of the Solent (SOE-lent) straits between the Hampshire coast and the Isle of Wight (white) fishing, commercial and recreational boating as well as ever changing sea levels are threatening artifacts up to 30,000 years old. The seabed, which was dry land until 6,000 BC, has given up prehistoric stone tools that still lie where they were made or dropped. The first finds, including flint arrows and knives, recently brought up by archaeological divers, are so perfectly preserved they look like modern replicas. Tree roots and branches have come up with the marks of stone tools. Archaeologists had believed all traces of human occupancy had been swept away in the flood, which created the Isle of Wight (white). Recent discoveries prove that the land flooded more gradually, but fast enough to force the rapid abandonment of home sites and flint working sites. The dates of the artifacts range from stone hand axes 30,000 years old, to the flint tools made by the last inhabitants to other more modern objects, such as a 17th century medical syringe.



Iran’s Modern Smog Eats Away at Ancient Past



In Iran, urban sprawl and pollution are destroying the 2,500-year-old ruins of Persepolis at an accelerated rate. Dense smog from the city of Shiraz is eroding the friezes and monuments at a rate that could cause their disappearance within decades. One bas-relief frieze at the site shows emissaries from far away regions bearing gifts, including Africans leading a giraffe, Armenians with wine flasks and Central Asians presenting textiles. The offerings, experts believe, were for the spring equinox. At the base of rugged mountains 440 miles south of modern Tehran, Persepolis was a breathtaking center for ceremonies and worship during the Achaemenid dynasty, the first significant kingdom of ancient Persia. Some experts believe construction started on Persepolis in 518 BC. The city was conquered by Alexander the Great in about 330 BC. It is now a U.N.-designated World Heritage Site, and will benefit from recent allocations of funds. But money can't stop the encroachment of modern civilization.



Thousand-Year-Old Towns Lie Under Lake



From the Zhejiang province of China, two ancient towns, both more than 1,800 years old, have been discovered under the Qiandao Lake. Experts believe they might be the biggest ancient buildings ever found in perfect condition in China. Located near the Xin'an River the towns started as counties in the time of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 BC-AD 220). Historical records show that the towns, known as the “town of the lion” during their heyday, had architecture of bricks, wood, stones and tiles. At the lake, a dozen trial dives led to the discovery of the ancient complex. An underwater camera has recorded the whole process.

According to the tape, the nine-foot-high ancient town wall is 90 feet under water. Nails and rings to knock on the gate for entrance through the wall are visible. Although algae has covered the wallsand wooden window frames, a house is still standing perfectly. Inside, the wooden staircase and furniture remain where they were, and the fine wood engraving indicates the former prosperity of the town.



Cradle of Civilization Has Grown a Little Bigger



In Syria, archaeologists believe they have expanded the boundaries of early civilization. At a site called Tell Hamoukar on the edge of the Tigris and Euphrates Valleys, people in the early fourth millennium BC were undergoing changes in the way they lived, worked and organized themselves politically. Although this development seems to have occurred at the same time as the development of southern Mesopotamian culture, it appears to have been independent.  Mesopotamia, modern day Iraq, is thought to be the birthplace of civilization. Many experts are agreeing that the evidence offered supports the theory that complex societies developed in the north before they received influence from the south. New excavations at Tell Hamoukar have turned up remains of a immense city wall and a solidly constructed building. Both are considered strong evidence of centralized government sometime before 3500 B.C.  In the ruins, the archaeologists found a mix of stamp seals, from small ones with simple geometric patterns to more decorative ones. The largest of the seals show images of animals. The team said the differences between the seals, which were presumably used in commercial and political transactions, indicates a bureaucracy with low-level functionaries, higher-ups and, perhaps a king at the top.



Archaeologists in India Explore an Ancient Buddhist Temple



Our last story is from India, where archaeologists have discovered the remains of an ancient Buddhist temple. The discovery of the 2,000-year-old shrine at Shravasti (sh-RAVA-sti), what is now the Uttar Pradesh(YOO-tar Pra-DESH) state, was reported by a team from the state Archaeological Survey of India, the ASI. The find is important for understanding life at the time of the Buddha two millennia ago. It is thought Buddha stayed for four months at Shravasti (sh-RAVA-sti) and delivered most of his sermons there. A large number of terracotta pottery, figurines, beads, seals, copper and silver coins and objects of bone and ivory were discovered. The excavations also unearthed a large number of polished pottery and wares dating back to the sixth century BC. The temple hints at the existence of a well-planned town with good drainage and brick-layered wells. The Buddha, an Indian prince, is believed to have lived from about 563 BC to 483 BC.



That wraps up the news for this week! For more stories and daily news updates, visit Archaeologica on the World Wide Web at , where all the news is history! I'm Claire Britton-Warren and I'll see you next week!