Audio News for August 12th to August 18th, 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.



Deer stones may solve mystery of Mongol herdsmen 


In our first story, western archaeologists are joining with their Asian counterparts in an attempt to pinpoint when Mongolia's herdsmen became history's legendary horsemen. Experts hope the "deer stones" of northern Mongolia and southern Siberia will provide a clue to the beginnings of the Mongolian nomadic life style. Several of these monoliths are spread throughout the steppe; some are more than 15 feet tall. They depict a Bronze Age warrior whose body is intersected with drawings of ornately horned deer with duckbill faces. Dating of the stones is estimated at 1000 BC and 700 BC based on the weapons and tools carried by the warrior. Researchers believe that the nomadic lifeway began evolving around 1000 BC, when the climate turned colder and herding was no longer viable. The stones were part of the foundation of this process, serving as memorials. Last month a cast of one of the deer stones was exhibited for the first time in the United States. Originating in southern Siberia, it is the only stone with a full face.



Roman villas yield huge mosaic


In Britain, experts have started excavating the remains of two Roman villas found a mere foot beneath a football field in Wiltshire.  Excavations are revealing adjoining houses of 40 rooms each built for nobles in about 350 AD, and a large mosaic in superb condition. The mosaic has been called the most important find in the area since the 1960?s. The walls of the original building and roof tiles collapsed on top of it, preserving it for more than 1,500 years. Measuring 16 by 30 feet, the mosaic lies on the floor of a large hall that linked the two houses. Its tiny tiles formed an interlocking design of a vase flanked by dolphins. The villas are thought to have been part of an estate that stretched across about three miles and included a family cemetery. The body of a young man dating to the Roman era was also found at the site.



Crimean tomb looting becomes epidemic


The Crimean peninsula forms a historic crossroads between the Mediterranean world and the Eurasian steppes. It has been home to numerous civilizations. Amongst the earliest of the region's known occupants are the Scythians, who were followed from about the seventh century BC onward by the Greeks, to be succeeded by legionnaires of Rome and the emperors of Byzantium. Today, systematic illegal raids are being conducted for their antiquities. Marauders roam the region looking for possible sites and preparing for the spadework in the spring. They move in groups of three or four, communicating by cell phone and leaving men strategically posted to stand watch in case the police should show. Local police agencies state that unfortunately, Ukrainian law is not strict enough to stamp out the trade in antiquities. The burial sites, scattered over what is now wild and broken terrain, mostly date back to the period between the second century BC and the fourth century AD. Older Greek and Roman tombs are exceedingly rare. Most of the tombs belonged to ordinary people. The objects buried with them usually have no commercial value but are extremely valuable historically.



Eastern Anasazi sites may be linked 


From New Mexico, in the United States, archaeologists have excavated and catalogued a seasonal rock dwelling they say may have been used 1,500 years ago by an ancient Indian family. Their focus is on a little-known area occupied by eastern Anasazi, believed to be ancestors of several present-day New Mexico tribes. A nearby site excavated this summer is about 200 feet higher, and may be 200 years older. Last summer, experts said that if carbon-dating showed the sites studied in 2001 and 2002 were used concurrently, that could indicate the two sites had been used by the same family, migrating from site to site as seasons changed. This summer's site is believed to have been used during the fall periods, for hunting and nut gathering. And it is believed to have been used far more frequently than the other site. But the fact that it also seems to be 200 or more years earlier, from A.D. 500-700, may preclude the same family using it. Further carbon dating will help determine the site’s precise age. 



Investigation of African fortresses begins


Our final story this week in from, Africa, where a team from the University of Calgary is a team is on its way to excavate the "strongholds" of Cameroon. Located in the Mandara Mountains of northern Cameroon, the strongholds range in size from small stand-alone structures, to complex, castle-sized fortresses with platforms, terraces and covered passageways. The curving walls on some of the larger strongholds are over eighteen feet high and strong enough to serve as defensive barricades, although their exact function is still unknown. Although they are likely over 300 years old, the strongholds have never before been investigated. These stone-built strongholds are a key to Cameroonian identity. Cameroon is located in west Africa between Nigeria and Chad. It is slightly larger in area than California and has a population of nearly 16 million people. In 1823, British explorer Major Dixon Denham encountered a group of chiefs on horseback from the area of the strongholds who were paying tribute to a local sultan. He described the chiefs as wearing animal skins, bone jewelry. Those chiefs may have been the descendants of the people who built the strongholds. 



That wraps up the news for this week!
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