Audio News for July 28th to August 3rd, 2003

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I'm Laura Pettigrew and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from July 28th to August 3rd.

Pit house found near Las Vegas

Our first story is from the Nevada desert in the United States, where archaeologists excavating the floor of an ancient pit house have recovered evidence that people lived along the wash 1,400 years ago. The find is considered significant proof that occupation of the area was more than transitory. A laboratory will test the ashy soil from the house to learn whether microscopic pollen from corn plants is present. If so, it would indicate that early inhabitants of this arid region were farming for at least some of their food. The pit house measures 13 feet in diameter, had an earthen floor, and was once covered with a dome-shaped, thatched roof built with branches of mesquite trees that grew along the wash. It is the first excavation of three pit houses found in the area. The data do not yet indicate whether the people living in the pit house were Anasazi (A-na-SAH-zee), Southern Paiutes (pi-OOTS) or Yumans (YOO-mens) from the Lower Colorado River. The site is along a wash that drains to what is now Lake Mead on the Colorado River. Bureau of Reclamation archaeologist Laurie Perry said they were probably attracted to this natural travel corridor with its water source and mesquite trees. Radiocarbon dating put the charcoal at the site between A.D. 400 and A.D. 650. The excavation has turned up pottery shards and chert (churt) flakes from fashioning tools or points, plus evidence of a support post. Archaeologists also found the site of a hearth. Once the study is complete, the site will be marked and backfilled.

Early temple to Zeus found at Mount Olympus

In Greece, experts have discovered what they believe is a sanctuary to Zeus Hypsistos (hip-SIS-tos), the chief ancient Greek god near the city of Dion (DEE-ohn). The find is significant because it offers a sense of how Zeus was represented during an important period of transition in ancient worship. Experts believe the Hypsistos (hip-SIS-tos) - or "supreme" - Zeus emerged as a more dominant figure during a time period when Greeks moved away from the many gods and cults that included dozens of variations of Zeus. The sanctuary was discovered by chance during river widening work, which has flooded the site twice in the past few years. As the river drained, the walls of the sanctuary appeared on the western bank, opposite a sanctuary of Isis. The sanctuary excavation has so far revealed14 columns depicting eagles, one of the symbols of the chief deity of ancient Greece, as well as a marble statue. The statue may represent Zeus Hypsistos (hip-SIS-tos), but its head has been broken off and was not found. The statue’s style places it at about 2,400 years ago. There is a chance the head will be found in the mud that filled the temple and is still not completely excavated.

Well-known tomb yields surprise evidence of Kushites in Egypt

Over a century ago in Egypt, the tomb of the 17th-dynasty governor Sobeknakht (SO-beck-nokt) was discovered at El Kab. Though its whereabouts were published, it was subsequently ignored. Until recently, it sat undisturbed on the cliffs of the Nile south of Luxor. grime and soot obscuring many of its internal inscriptions. In response to concerns over the poor condition, a number of British and Egyptian conservators began work at the tomb. In the process of cleaning the walls between the tomb's interior and exterior chambers, they stumbled upon an inscription believed to be the first evidence of a massive attack from the south by the Kingdom of Kush and its allies from Punt during the 17th dynasty (1575-1525 BC ). The newly discovered inscription is a text painted in 22 horizontal hieroglyphic lines that report on the attack and the successful defense under Governor Sobeknakht's (SO-beck-nokt’s) leadership. Initially it was assumed that the inscription was a religious text because it was near the burial shaft where the spirit of the dead rose to begin its spiritual life. However, after the inscription was cleaned, it was clear that it was not a routine funerary text but a biographical text chronicling events from the life of the tomb's owner, Sobeknakht (SO-beck-nokt). The text recounts his role in the crisis, from first his command to defend against the Nubians to his successful counter-attack, which destroyed an enemy force through the aid of the vulture-goddess Nekhbet (neck-BET). The Supreme Council of Antiquities in Egypt is now organizing large-scale investigations at the El Kab site.

London excavators find Roman cosmetics

In the United Kingdom, a small box unearthed at a Roman site in central London has been opened to reveal a pot of 2,000-year-old cream. It still bears the finger marks of the person who last used it, nearly two millennia. The substance, which will be analyzed, appears to be face cream or even face paint. Museum conservator Liz Barham, who opened the fist-sized cylindrical tin box Monday, in front of the world's media, described the smell from the half-full container as "sulphurous" and "cheesy." The box was found on the edge of a large temple site located where two major roads entered Roman London. The site is the one that last year revealed a stone tablet with the earliest known inscription bearing the Roman name of London. The area dates from 50 AD and held two small temples, a guest house for travelers, pedestals for statues and a stone pillar. Apart from the tin box and the London inscription, the site has also revealed pieces of statues, leather shoes and a wooden writing tablet, among many other artifacts. It will disappear under concrete this summer when construction of a shopping and housing complex starts.

Iraqis saved ancient books from wartime fire in Basra

Our final story is from southern Iraq, where it has been learned that a 50-year-old librarian, with the help of friends, saved almost 70 percent of the National Library in Basra. Before the war, Alia Muhammad Baker, the chief librarian for 14 years, requested permission from Basra's governor to move the books to safety, but he refused without explanation. Ms. Baker was not easily discouraged. Although the library did not allow lending, she often slipped books into the hands of readers and sent them home. As forces stormed Basra in early April, she spirited many volumes out of the city's Central Library, over a seven-foot wall, to the back room of a restaurant and then later into trucks to carry them to her home. Even friends and library employees have been enlisted as caretakers for troves of the books. Nine days later the library was burned. Ms. Baker noted that the Mongol invasion was the last time anyone burned a library in Iraq. According to legend, in the 13th century the Mongol leader Hulagu (hoo-LOG-oo) burned the Baghdad library but first threw the books into the Tigris, which turned the river blue from ink. The rescued Basra library books are in English and Arabic, as well as a Spanish-language Koran. There are manuscripts of Arabic scholarship hundreds of years old, on topics like grammar and the art of telling time. There is a biography of the Prophet Muhammad from about 1300. All told the rescued books number about 30,000.
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!