Audio News for May 5th to May 11th, 2003

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I'm Laura Pettigrewand these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from May 5th to May 11th.

Village of Pocahantas found


In our first story from the United States, archaeologists have identified the location of a 17th-century American Indian settlement on Virginia's York River that may have been the principal residence of the Algonquian (al-GON-kee-an) chief Powhatan (pow-HAT-an), father of Pocahontas. The village of Werowocomoco (weir-o-WO-co-mo-co) was home to the Algonquian (al-GON-kee-an) chief from 1607 to 1609. Preliminary investigations of the site have recovered Native American and European artifacts in quantities that indicate a substantial settlement of the early colonial period. These archaeological deposits, combined with contemporary descriptions of Werowocomoco (weir-o-WO-co-mo-co) by several of the Jamestown colonists, have led the archaeologists to believe that this site was the central village of the Powhatan chiefdom. Experts stated, "Early colonial documentary sources, including John Smith's 1612 map of Virginia, have long offered key indications of where this important settlement might have been located." The village was described as a place of power, and according to the colonial records, Werowocomoco (weir-o-WO-co-mo-co) meant the ‘king's house’, in one translation of the village's name. The American Indian descendants of the site's original residents have been invited to join in the effort to understand the site and its significance. This summer, additional archaeological research will be conducted at the site. The goals of this fieldwork are to determine the extent to which the site remains intact, and to develop a detailed chronology for the village. Powhatan (pow-HAT-an), father of Pocahontas, presided over the chiefdom of the same name that encompassed coastal Virginia from the James River to the Potomac River during the early 1600s. The Powhatan chiefdom represented one of the most complex political entities in eastern North America during this period.

Irish middle ages explored at O'Neill castle ruins


In Ireland, the remnants of a medieval castle believed to be one of the first built in Ulster have been excavated in County Tyrone. The ruins are thought to date back to the early 14th Century and to have been built by Irish chieftain Domnall (DOM-nall) O'Neill. The site lies on a former military base and due to its decades of high security status, the site was inaccessible for study. Recently archaeologists were allowed to examine the site and recovered some 4,000 artifacts dating from the late medieval to post-medieval periods, before it was buried under tons of concrete in preparation for development. The discovery of the ancient remains came during excavations for the erection of a communications tower. During the work, contractors uncovered a two-meter stretch of ancient wall. Given the level of historical interest in the site, the Northern Ireland Archaeological Consultancy was brought in to examine the area that was to be affected by the building work. The medieval features included a defensive wall, which, though damaged, bore "significant resemblance" to some ancillary defenses shown on a well-known map dating back to 1602. Historians have long pinpointed the region as the location of the O'Neill stronghold, dating back to the 10th century, but contemporary references to the castle are few. At least two castles are thought to have been built by the O'Neills before the Flight of the Earls in 1607, when Hugh O'Neill left Ireland for exile in Italy after being stripped of his kingship by the English crown. While the sealing of the site will preserve the remains, it prevents further exploration. But with the closure of the site a potential archaeological treasure remains unexplored for the future.

New Mexico gallery returns rare artifact to Peru


From New Mexico, in the U.S., an art gallery has turned over to authorities a rare 16th century Peruvian altarpiece that had been listed as stolen from a remote village church. The large altarpiece, 10 feet by 10 feet and weighing 800 pounds, was stolen after its removal during repair work in January 2002. The Challapampa (CHY-a-POM-pa) altarpiece, depicting a pair of winged saints with cherubs overhead, is said to have been carved by the 16th century South American artists Bernardo Bitti and Pedro de Vargas, and is described as "irreplaceable." Through a lawyer, the gallery issued a statement saying it had checked to see if the piece had been stolen, and "no evidence of a report of theft was discovered in any well-recognized source." Details of how the piece was recovered could not be revealed because the case is part of a federal grand jury investigation in New York. The artifact was turned over to agents of the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Archeologists hope for a hit at Bulgarian Halka Bunar site

In Bulgaria, excavations are to resume this summer 60 miles south of capital Sofia (SAW-fee-ya) on a site more than 2000 years old that has already proved richly rewarding. The explorations at Halka Bunar (HALL-ka BOO-nar), which archaeologists from the New Bulgarian University have carried out for some years, are currently focused on a Thracian (THRAY-shen) settlement discovered in 1999 during archaeological inspection of a known site. A trench dug by grave robbers, and more than 600 holes punched by treasure-hunters, revealed rich Thracian (THRAY-shen) remains. The area is in the center of what was once the Odrysian (oh-DREE-sian) state - the kingdom of one of the biggest Thracian tribes, dating back to the Classical and Hellenistic Ages. It boasts a striking concentration of rich burials, inscriptions in Greek language and coin treasures. The Thracian (THRAY-shen) tribes, ruled by a rich powerful warrior aristocracy, inhabited an area extending over most of modern Bulgaria, northern Greece and the European part of Turkey. One of the artifacts was especially valuable for its confirmation of this history -- a fragment of a gray-colored vessel with a graffito in ancient Greek that appears to be part of a Thracian royal name.

Arizona drought returns ancient Indian ruins to view


Our final story is from central Arizona in the United States, where droughts have lowered the lake levels to the point that ruins of the Salado (sa-LA-do) people have reappeared to varying degrees, allowing archaeologists to view them and learn. The Salado (sa-LA-do) Indians disappeared centuries ago, but the remnants of their civilization linger in central canyons. However, most of the time, only the fish in Roosevelt Lake can see these treasures, since the area was flooded in 1903 to create a 29-mile-long reservoir held back by the Roosevelt Dam. The low water levels have revealed villages and pots, trumpets and jewelry. Shelters big enough for 300 commoners and platform houses built for the elite are still there as well. Clues to the disappearance of the Salado (sa-LA-do) people, who lived in the Tonto Basin between A.D. 1100 and A.D. 1450, are what archaeologists most want to find when the lake levels drop. Warfare is a common theory for the Salado's (sa-LA-do's) disappearance. Climate change, disease and starvation are also suspected factors. The Salado (sa-LA-do) culture, which followed the Hohokam (ho-ho-kam), brought about major social and political changes in Hohokam (ho-ho-kam) history. The Salado (sa-LA-do) buried their dead below ground instead of cremating them. They built stone houses, whereas the Hohokam (ho-ho-kam) before them dug homes into the ground and then made domes above out of sticks and mud. They had major trading routes throughout the West and into Mexico and had well-developed canal systems that supported intensive farming. Experts would love to know what other secrets the unearthed ruins would reveal. An archaeologist with the U.S. Forest Service explained that the topography of the basin is a system of step terraces. "There are sites on all those different terraces, and they're all of varying heights; the lake could go down 5 feet and expose some sites, and then at the end of the summer hundreds more might be seen." Eight U.S. Forest Service archaeologists organize small search teams when the lake falls below 15 percent of its capacity, and sometimes they visit the lake on their own.

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 Laura Pettigrew and I'll see you next week!