Audio News for October 7th to October 13th, 2002

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I'm Claire Britton-Warren
and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from
October 7th to October 13th.

Bad Roman cheese makes good medical history


In our first story, researchers are saying that a tiny piece of cheese,
carbonized in the eruption that killed the citizens of Pompeii
(pom-PAY), is surrendering secrets about how ancient Romans ate, lived
and died. Using an electron microscope, experts have been able to
pinpoint goats' milk cheese as a prime source of brucellosis
(BREW-ce-LOW-sis), a devastating joint disease that ravaged the ancient
world. The cheese was an important and continuous source of possible infectious disease in the Roman world, including brucellosis
(BREW-ce-LOW-sis). The eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD left the area
preserved under ash and mud, including human remains that are in such a
remarkable state of preservation, they allow medical archaeologists to
identify diseases afflicting the first-century Romans. According to
research, the bones of nearly one in five inhabitants display lesions
that indicate the disease of the joints caused by infection with the
Brucella (brew-CELL-uh) bacterium. Brucella (brew-CELL-uh) is primarily
found in animals like sheep or goats, and can be passed to humans via
milk or milk products. The reason so may Romans may have suffered from
this disease may be explained by a tiny, dehydrated and carbonized piece
of cheese, measuring 5 centimeters in diameter, unearthed in Herculaneum
(HER-cue-LANE-ee-um), where it was buried during the A.D. 79 eruption.
An examination of the internal structure of the cheese identified two
distinct types of bacterial colonies. Although the carbonization of the
cheese makes it impossible to conclusively identify the bacterium as
Brucella (brew-CELL-uh), the study reveals that a quantity of bacteria
in food could, as is now the case, be the reason for human demise in an
ancient time. Medical archaeology has yielded up other secrets of
ailments afflicting everyday Romans two millennia ago. Human remains
from the Herculaneum (HER-cue-LANE-ee-um) disaster have previously
confirmed that many Romans suffered from head lice, lung ailments due to
air pollution, and bone disorders linked to slave labor, as well as
numerous diseases and nutritional deficits.

New understanding of ancient terracotta warriors


In China, Professor Hongming, director of the National Ancient Ceramics
Committee, believes he has successfully unlocked the secret of firing
Qin (CHIN) terracotta warriors and horses. Although the ruins of a kiln
used to create the statues have yet to be found, academics believed that
the terracotta figures were fired in a kiln shaped as an upright pit.
Hongming, a ceramics expert, has suggested that a different method was
used for firing the life-sized terracotta warriors and horses. After
examining fragments of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) artifacts,
the professor noticed that although the figures are typically quite
hard, they may well have been successfully fired using a temporary kiln
technique, not a kiln stove as previously thought. The process he
theorizes involved many steps. First was the creation of a complete mold
of a pottery figurine. After it had dried in the shade, the potters
would have piled up tinder, made from sawdust and cob, both to surround
the mud figurine from head to toe and to fill its interior. Grass would
then have been used to create an outer jacket, which provided the fuel
for firing the figurine. Mud applied to the outside of the grass jacket would create a temporary shell to stop the thick clay figurine from
cracking as the temperature quickly rose. Once the temperature had
climbed to its maximum heat, the mud surface of the kiln shell would
crack due to dryness. Air would enter the figurine, increasing the
temperature and thus the glazing rate. Once enough air had entered the
temporary kiln shell and the wood had been sufficiently burnt, the mud
would crack away, leaving the completely formed terracotta warrior and

After decades, Machu Picchu yields new burial site


In Peru, archeologists have discovered the first full Inca burial site
at Machu Picchu since the citadel was discovered 90 years ago. Nothing
like this -- a burial site and all that goes with it -- has been found
since the 1911 rediscovery of the Inca citadel. The find is significant
because of its funeral objects, such as a stone pan and clay pot, as
well as bronze pins, a mirror and clasps accompanying the remains of a
person's bones. Other excavations in recent years at the site, perched
atop a mountain at an altitude of 8,200 feet, had yielded some bone
fragments but no Inca graves. Studies will confirm the sex and determine
the age of the person who was buried, but the objects found in the
burial, such as the cooking vessels, suggest it was that of a young
woman. Machu Picchu was built more than 500 years ago, and is Peru's top
tourist attraction today. At the time of its discovery, 172 tombs with
human remains were found, but in the years since few bones have been
found. The new burial site was discovered a week ago in a sector of
Machu Picchu that was used by the Incas as a viewing place.
Archeologists have been excavating there for several months, and found
the grave nearly 3 feet below the surface.

Sign of early London found


From Britain, archaeologists excavating an ancient site in London have
unearthed the oldest known plaque inscribed with the city's Roman name.
Not only is it hugely important in English history, it is visually
impeccable. "The words are just as clear as people would have seen them
2,000 years ago," a Museum of London expert said. The plaque of Italian
marble was found in the Southwark (SOUTH-wark) area of London, where
three Roman roads joined. It carries a dedication to the Roman emperors
and the god Mars from London-based merchant Tiberinius (ti-bur-IN-ee-us)
Celerianus (se-LER-ee-ANN-us ). It refers to "Londiniensium" (lon-DIN-ee-IN-cee-um) which is thought to be either be a variant of the
more usual "Londinium" (lon-DIN-ee-um) or, more likely, a reference to
Tiberinius (ti-bur-IN-ee-us) as being "of the people of Londinium
(lon-DIN-ee-um). The plaque was found in a pit near the remains of two
large Roman brick buildings, which are as yet of unknown function, and
probably dates from between AD 50 and 150. It would have been situated
in a prominent place, either on a building or in a shrine. Similar
inscribed plaques have been found in Roman trading cities in Gaul, now
modern France. Tiberinius (ti-bur-IN-ee-us) the merchant was probably
from northern Gaul, judging by his name. Despite much anecdotal evidence
of the importance of London as a trading center, little actual physical
evidence such as the plaque had previously been discovered.

Gold from tomb illuminates the Balkan past


Our final story is from Macedonia, where a huge recent discovery sheds
new light on the famous Trebenista (Tre-be-NIH-sta) necropolis near the
city of Ohrid (OH-rid). During extensive archaeological and restoration
work on the historic Samoil (sa-moo-IL) Fortress in Ohrid (OH-rid), a
number of graves and tombs were discovered beside its North Wall. The
exiting recent find is a tomb that dates to the 5th century B.C., making
it the oldest burial within the area. Among the contents were a gold
postmortem mask and a gold glove with a gold ring, all discovered last
week. The mask is likely to be from the same artisans as the Trebenista
(Tre-be-NIH-sta) masks found 100 and 70 years ago, two of which are in
Yugoslavia's Belgrade Museum, and two others in Sofia (SAHF-ya),
Bulgaria. The new tomb has around 70 other funeral items made of many
materials: pottery, amber, glass, iron, bronze, silver and gold.
Currently, the golden mask and glove are being tested through chemical
analysis of the charcoal and earth adhering to some parts of their
surfaces. The chronological span of tombs in the necropolis is from 500
B.C. to 500 A.D. Most graves belong to the earlier Macedonian-Hellenic
period, and are rich in artifacts such as ornamental pottery dishes, and
iron, bronze, silver and gold objects and tools, which are
characteristic of Macedonia's early cultures.

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!