Audio News for October 21st to October 27th, 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 21 to October 27.

Name of Jesus found on early burial casket


Our first story is from the Sorbonne (sore-BAHN) Institute in France,
where researchers are examining what could be the earliest
archaeological evidence of the existence of the Biblical Jesus. The
evidence is a limestone container for bones of the deceased, known as an
ossuary (OSS-yoo-AIR-ee), which is engraved in Aramaic with the words
"James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus." There is no organic material
in the empty box, so radiocarbon dating is impossible. But based on analysis of the style of the script and the position of certain words,
Andre Lemaire (luh-MAIR) of the Sorbonne believes the inscription is
from around AD 63. The James ossuary (OSS-yoo-AIR-ee) is being hailed as
an important find in the history of New Testament archaeology. Jews
practiced ossuary burial only between 20 BC and AD 70, Lemaire says.
Though the names in the inscription are common ones, he estimates that
only 20 Jameses in Jerusalem during that time would have had a father
named Joseph and a brother named Jesus. Moreover, there is only one
other example of a brother being named along with the father on an
ossuary (OSS-yoo-AIR-ee). Lemaire concludes, therefore, that the Jesus
mentioned on the box must have been unusually important or famous.
However, the ossuary's (OSS-yoo-AIR-eez) history is murky, raising
doubts among other researchers. The anonymous owner says he bought it
from an antiquities dealer in Jerusalem, who claimed it was unearthed by
looters south of the Mount of Olives. Lemaire's tentative date of AD 63
comes from the writings of a first century historian called Josephus. He
states that James, "the brother of Jesus", was stoned to death in AD 62.
At the time, Jewish burial rites involved placing the body in a sealed
rock tomb for a year, then collecting the bones and placing them in an
ossuary (OSS-yoo-AIR-ee) box. It is unclear whether that practice was
continued by early Christians, say religious scholars.

Peace accord written in stone 2,400 years ago


In Greece, at a recent conference on Iron Age Macedonia, experts
presented new finds from Thessaloniki (THESS-ah-loh-NEE-kee) and Pella
(PELL-a) that document the resolution of wars, and the life of the
warriors that fought them. At Thessaloniki (THESS-ah-loh-NEE-kee) a
marble stele (STEAL-uh) was found with a chiseled inscription of a
reconciliation oath between two warring camps 2,400 years ago. The
agreement was witnessed and guaranteed by Perdikas III (PER-di-kas) of
Macedonia, the elder brother of Philip II, who ruled from 365 to 359 BC.
The 150-line text includes five resolutions, including the terms of the
reconciliation, and the oath the citizens of the area had to make at the
city's three most important temples. Meanwhile, excavations at Pella
(PELL-a) are revealing more about the high standard of living, social
prestige, heroism, and the leading role of military officers in the
ancient Macedonian aristocracy, which is apparent from the lavish tombs
of dozens of warriors from 575-450 BC. The three-year excavation of the
western graveyard in the ancient settlement has brought to light 331
graves. Those with the most lavish funeral gifts, a total of 177, date
from the second quarter of the sixth century to the first quarter of the
fifth century BC. Of these graves, 77 belong to men (44 percent), with
62 of them containing weapons; 84 belonged to women (47 percent), while
there are doubts about the remaining 15 (9 percent).

Major city of ancient Middle Eastern empire discovered


From Turkey, archaeologists have discovered a western capital of the
ancient world's mysterious Median (MEAD-ee-un) Empire, a vast Middle
Eastern imperial state. The Empire of the Medes (MEADS) flourished in
the first half of the 6th century BC, between the fall of the Assyrians
and the rise of Persia. Their newly discovered city covers more than a
square mile, and served as the empire's main western administrative
center. Its location reveals the scale of the political struggles
between the ancient peoples of the Mediterranean and the Middle East.
The Medes' (MEADS) westward ambitions led directly to the invasion of
Greece in the early 5th century BC by their imperial heirs, the
Persians. Archaeologists found that the Medes built their western
capital on conquered land near the border of their empire. The
metropolis had a huge citadel on a 5000-foot high mountain, with four
miles of massive stone walls and hundreds of defensive towers. Seven
monumental gateways and hundreds of buildings, including an imperial
palace, have been found. The research team used remote sensing and
geophysical survey techniques to map the metropolis to an accuracy of 3
inches, without having to dig one hole.


Celtic cannibals?


In England, evidence for cannibalism and witchcraft recently was found
during excavation work at Eton College. Five human leg bones, displaying
signs of possible cannibalistic activity, were unearthed at the site.
The discovery may add to the growing body of evidence that the early
Celts practiced cannibalism. The bones, dating from 2000-1000 BC, are
similar to bones from approximately the same period that were discovered
last year at South Gloucestershire. A microscopic analysis has shown
clear traces of cut marks, suggesting that the bones had been
deliberately defleshed and damaged before being deposited. The leg bones
were described as having "smashed ends" and "signs of gnawing."
Cannibalism generally is associated with religious activity. The remains
were found with evidence supporting the theory that rituals took place.
The site consists of three islands flanked on the east by the River
Thames and on the west by a small brook. During the Bronze and Iron
ages, a number of bridges were constructed from the islands across the
Thames. The bridges were not just structural; they also had a ritual
element, and appeared to be used as platforms for offerings. Evidence for this includes upright wooden stakes with pots at the bases, found
near the bridges, as well as animal skulls placed in a sandbank in the
middle of a channel. Another burial, isolated in its location, suggests
that the final early resident of the Eton site may have been an
Anglo-Saxon 6th-7th century witch. Wise women or witches kept separate
from the community, even in their burials. Alternatively, this or some
of the others may be foundation burials, which symbolically linked a new
settlement with the past.

Drought may have led to ancient migration in Chile


Our final story is from northern Chile, where research on climate and
new archaeological discoveries have added new information on the
migrations of the earliest Americans. The information sheds light on a
period from about 9,500 years ago to 4,500 years ago, when humans
disappeared from the region. Today, northern Chile's high plains are
part of the Atacama (AH-ta-KAHM-a) Desert, a hostile, arid wilderness of
brown dirt hills, dwindling salt lakes and jagged rock. Last week in the
journal Science, archaeologists reported on the discovery of 39
lakeshore campsites in the Atacama (AH-ta-KAHM-a) dating from about
13,000 years ago to 9,000 years ago. The arrival time of humans in the
Western Hemisphere has been a matter of debate between archaeologists
who support the traditional view that the famous 13,000-year-old site in
Clovis, N.M., representing the first in-migration from Asia, and those
who have found evidence of earlier human habitation. By testing sites at
different elevations, the team was able to document the movement of
people in and out of the region. Higher elevations were used in the warm
season, lower elevations in the colder season, and the highest sites
were abandoned when drought came. During the best times around 11,000
years ago, shorelines were more than 200 feet above today's salt lakes.
Points and tools of obsidian and local stone were combined with a
variety of animal bones. Once the lakeside sites were abandoned,
however, they were never reoccupied, for there is no evidence of
ceramics or tools from a later time.

That wraps up the news for this week!
For more stories and daily news updates, visit Archaeologica on the
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I'm Claire Britton-Warren and I'll see you next week!