Audio News for June 10th to June 16th, 2002.

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I'm Claire Britton-Warren and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from June 10th through June 16th.



Old Texas fort bigger than expected



Our first story is from the United States where a test dig in Texas has unearthed the bases of brick walls that formed the foundation of Fort Anahuac. Built by Mexico in 1830, the site is considered, by some historians, as the site where the first shots of the Texas Revolution were fired. Last year highly sensitive equipment was used to partially reveal the layout of the garrison. Although not all of the fort could be mapped then, the survey found that it was twice as large as previously thought. Only a small remnant of the foundation was still visible before it was covered with dirt to protect it when the area was converted to a county park in 1947. Now the test dig has verified the existence of the brick foundation. The diamond-shaped fort had two bastions, one facing the river and the other facing the land, each holding a cannon. The foundation is made of orange bricks with a shiny salt glaze, which were made in a kiln at the fort. Investigators were surprised to find that the interior foundation walls also were 4 to 4 1/2 feet thick and equally surprised to uncover an aqueduct that brought water into the fort. The dig's main purpose was to determine the outline of the fort, but a full excavation could lead to many more discoveries. The fortress, named after an ancient capital of the Aztecs, was used by Mexico to collect customs from cargo ships in the Galveston Bay area and enforce a new law limiting further Anglo-American settlement in the area.



Archaeologists reveal Rome-India trade route



In the Middle East, exotic cargo excavated from an ancient port on Egypt's Red Sea is providing evidence that sea trade 2,000 years ago between the Roman Empire and India was more widespread than previously thought and rivaled the legendary Silk Road. Experts have spent the last nine years excavating the town of Berenike recovering artifacts that are the best physical evidence yet of the extent of sea trade between the Roman Empire and India. Evidence indicates that the trade route stretched from Venice to Japan. One of the finds at the site near Egypt's border with Sudan was more than 16 pounds of black peppercorns, the largest stash of the prized Indian spice ever recovered from a Roman archaeological site. Berenike lies at what was the southeastern extreme of the Roman Empire and probably functioned as a transfer port for goods shipped through the Red Sea. Trade activity at the port peaked twice, in the first century and again around AD 500, before it ceased altogether.



Ancient reed vessel sails the Mediterranean



In Cyprus, a German biology teacher is sailing a recreation of a pre-Pharaonic reed boat, designed and built to study prehistoric navigation. The Abora II  weighs in at six metric tons and is 35 feet long, 10 feet wide and 5 feet deep. It sailed from Alexandria to Lebanon in 21 days, covering a distance of 460 nautical miles. The boat was built in Bolivia and shipped over to Europe where it was rebuilt for the launch in Alexandria. With a crew of nine, including nationals from Germany, Egypt, Norway, and Bolivia, the team's aim is to prove that people from Asia Minor, before the age of Phoenicians, managed to conquer the seas and that these people reached Atlantic territories around 3000BC. The name 'Abora' denotes the power of goodness, and is depicted by a sign that can be found on step pyramids all over the Mediterranean. Following in the footsteps of Norwegian scientist Thor Heyerdahl, the group hopes to prove the links between prehistoric communities in Asia Minor and the Americas. Heyerdahl used models of Pharaonic boats to build two papyrus crafts, the Ra II and the Tigris, which succeeded in crossing the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean respectively. His expeditions called into question the notion that Columbus was the first transatlantic navigator and demonstrated how the ancient Sumerians could have traveled widely.



Archaeologists oppose long-term loans of Greek antiquities



In Greece, a piece of legislation for the protection of antiquities that provides for loans and exchanges of monuments belonging to the State is meeting with strong opposition from The Association of Greek Archaeologists. Archaeologists are rejecting the idea of long-term loans of ancient artifacts for exhibitions or educational or research purposes. They say that this is not a temporary export of objects, since the article refers to a series of conditions for temporary exhibits, but it allows the culture minister to trade antiquities with museums, mainly abroad, or to loan artifacts for unlimited periods, with only the opinion of Central Archaeological Council. They say the bill makes no mention of mutual exchanges, nor does it determine who is to evaluate these parameters. They add that any teaching or research establishment abroad would be able to "order" antiquities from state museums, virtually allowing foreign archaeological schools to send findings from their excavations to their universities and keep them for as long as they like.



Archaeologists find oldest intact Egyptian sarcophagus



In Egypt, archaeologists have unearthed what may be the oldest intact sarcophagus ever discovered. Constructed of limestone, the lid was still glued in place, proving that no one has opened it in 4,600 years and the body of its owner still inside. Belonging to an overseer of workers, the tomb where the sarcophagus was found is located about 2 miles from the Sphinx and the Giza plateau. Dating to the to the 4th Dynasty (2613 to 2494 BC) the tomb yielded pieces of pottery and hieroglyphics revealing the name and title of the owner. Over 120 workers' tombs have been discovered around the three Giza pyramids, but none with an unbroken and sealed sarcophagus. “If the mummy is still inside, it will be the first time archaeologists have found the embalmed body of a pharaonic worker in this area,” stated Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities. The sarcophagus will be opened sometime in September.



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