Audio News for July 22nd to July 28th, 2002.

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I'm ______________ and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from July 22nd to July 28th.



Ominous finds in early English site



Our first story is from England, where a puzzling settlement was unearthed inside a prehistoric fort by the Humber estuary. Oddly clean, the row of buildings has produced very little in the way of artifacts, remains or even litter, with one exception: fragments of crushed human skulls scattered on the path leading up to the fort's gate. Guarded by stone and wood defenses, the buildings were built about 600-400 BC by farming tribes. The site is the size of two football fields and is thought to have been an infrequently used ceremonial area. Also present is an unusual wood lined well. Normally such a well would have been a standard dumping spot for
refuse, but experts are calling it "clinically clean." Whether the buildings were used for quiet religious practices or for some other purpose is not yet known. Additional excavations, scheduled for next year, might provide the answers.



Egyptian birthing brick is found


In Egypt, archaeologists have discovered a 3700-year-old birthing brick inside the stately residence of a Middle Kingdom mayor's house just outside Abydos. Measuring 14 by 7 inches, the colorfully decorated mud birthing brick is the first ever found. Experts have long known, from ancient texts, that in the standard position for childbirth in ancient Egypt, the woman squatted, supported over two mud bricks. The brick that was found still displays colorful scenes and figures. Clearly visible is a mother holding her newborn baby, as well as images of gods whose role was to protect and aid the mother and baby at the time of birth. The birth brick was found in an area of the house clearly identified as a female section of the house. Numerous inscribed clay seals found in this area have the name of the "noblewoman and king's daughter Renseneb."  Also discovered with the birth brick were fragments of wands. These wands were usually decorated with scenes of god and demons and used in a ritual that called to the gods to protect the newborn baby at the time of birth, and to the sun god to protect him while he was young and vulnerable.



Savannah River trading post excavated



From the United States, the remains of the 18th century Savannah River trading post have been unearthed. The cellar of the 1730s trading post was found on one of the last undeveloped tracts of riverfront in the area. Archaeologists have found a rich collection of coins, buttons, bottles and animal bones that date the site to the early to mid-1700s. Nearby, they found a pit filled with the bones of butchered deer and other animals, indicative of the trading post's role as a center for the Indian-English deer-hide trade. The trading post belonged to Mary Musgrove, an icon of Georgia history who was known as the "queen of the Creeks." Musgrove was born in 1700 in the Creek town of Coweta to an Indian princess and an English trader, and was fluent in English and in Creek Muskogean. The riverfront region where the excavations took place is considered one of the richest and most varied historical sites found in Georgia. Artifacts in the site range from prehistoric stone tools to the remains of slave quarters which, according to the 1840 census, housed more than 70 African-Americans.



Hunt is on for more Dead Sea scrolls 



In the Qumran region of the Judean Desert, archeologists have started searching for caves that may contain additional Dead Sea Scrolls, using sophisticated hi-tech equipment that explores under the surface of the earth. The team will be using ground-penetrating radar at the northwestern end of the Dead Sea to locate any undiscovered caves, which might hold more scrolls. Researchers have already surveyed and mapped the ancient Qumran cemetery, which holds some 1,200 graves and the oldest zinc coffin known. They also found the skeletons of two Jewish women, dating to about 2,000 years ago. The remains were at the edge of the cemetery, and experts believe the Bedouin moved the bones to this location from the graves, in order to bury their own dead. As for the known scrolls, all have been published, and will take years to be studied and compared by various scholars. There are 700 to 800 scientific articles published yearly about the scrolls in English, German, French, and Italian.



Albanian chess piece is Europe’s oldest



Our final story is from Albania, where an ivory chess piece, excavated at a Byzantine palace, is more than 500 years older than any other previously discovered. The palace that yielded the chess piece dates to the fifth or sixth century. Until now historians believed the game of chess did not become popular in Europe until the 12th Century, 700 years after it was invented, possibly in India. The chess piece, which is only slightly damaged, was unearthed in the ancient city of Burint (BOOR-int) on the Adriatic Sea. Historians believed chess became popular in the early 12th Century, because of walrus ivory chessmen found in Scotland's Outer Hebrides. The British Archaeology team is now trying to establish exactly which piece it has found.



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 _________________ and I'll see you next week!