Audio News for August 25th to August 31st

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I'm Laura Pettigrew and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from August 25th to August 31st.

Egyptian quarry yields hard data on stone-working


Our first story is from Egypt, where, in the region of the Aswan Dam, a major quarry is getting another look after years of neglect. Egyptian archaeologists have recently begun research on the quarry that once yielded the black granite for the sarcophagi, statues and mammoth obelisks. Once debris was cleared, the archaeologists found pits in the shapes of the dug up obelisks and materials for removing and finishing the stone. They also uncovered remains of the harbor where barges picked up the stones for passage down the Nile. Dr. Zahi (za-HE) Hawass (HA-wass), director of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, reported that the discoveries were expected to provide new insights into the technology behind the monuments of the pharaohs. The site can provide information about how the huge obelisks were cut and moved, and graffiti on some stones will reveal data about life of the people working at the quarry. Scholars are currently studying an inscription from the 25th year of the reign of Tuthmosis III in the 18th dynasty, more than 3,400 years ago. It apparently concerns the pharaoh's order of two obelisks for the temple at Karnak. Inscriptions record the dates of work on an order and the lengths of quarried stones. The remains of seven obelisks, each 60 feet long, remain on the quarry floor. Nearby were thousands of balls of dolerite, a stone harder than granite. It is theorized that the dolerite, imported from Nubia, was used to pound slabs free from the bedrock and put some finishing touches on the work.

Lost gold of Asia returns to light


In Afghanistan, a renowned 2,000-year-old Bactrian gold hoard is safe after lying hidden in a bank vault for the past 14 years. The priceless collection was safely stored in a presidential palace vault throughout the civil war and Taliban regime. The collection was originally unearthed in northern Afghanistan in 1978 during work on an ancient burial just prior to the Soviet invasion. The tombs near Sheberghan (sheh-ber-GAHN) held around 20,000 objects, including coins and jewelry. Present-day northern Afghanistan was formerly the kingdom of Bactria, which had been conquered by Alexander the Great in 327 BC. Alexander's Greco-Bactrian successors then ruled the area for around 200 years. Much of Afghanistan's rich cultural heritage was destroyed or looted during the 1992-96 civil war and under the Taliban, who notoriously destroyed the ancient Buddha statues in central Afghanistan's Bamiyan (BAHM-i-yahn) valley. Experts say that this collection, after Egypt, is probably one of the most important groupings of antiquities.

Walls of Jamestown’s fort are found

In the United States, archaeologists searching for the footprint of historic James Fort have found the final pieces of the puzzle hidden beneath the 10-foot-high walls of a Civil War earthwork. The discovery comes nearly seven years after the first convincing evidence of the site was uncovered in 1996. It represents the first time that researchers have been able to map the exact location, shape and size of the 1607 fort, the first lasting English settlement in North America. Not long after it was discovered in 1996, experts began using measurements recorded by colonist William Strachey as the guide for a relentless series of test excavations. Digging this summer unearthed evidence of the fort's western wall and north corner, which allowed researchers to define the fort's shape for the first time. The evidence indicates the fort enclosed 1.1 acres. The project’s next goal is to analyze the interior to learn more about the architecture, and to come up with a town plan. Archaeologists already have found the remains of what appear to be barracks. It is also believed that there is a church and storeroom near the center, as well as other public buildings and wells. Jamestown began as a business venture when three ships carrying 100 men and four boys landed on a small island on the James River in 1607. Experts say it now appears that less of the historic settlement may have been lost to river erosion than originally estimated in 1996.

In chilly Britain, Romans pulled their socks up

Our final story is from south London, where archaeologists excavating a Roman site unearthed a Roman fashion faux pas, a bronze foot from a statue that appears to be wearing a sock. The Romans, who occupied much of Britain for several centuries, have traditionally been seen as tough and hardy settlers who wore open toed sandals even in the coldest winter weather. The recent find could turn that idea on its head. The foot is wearing a Mediterranean-type sandal, but the garment with it appears to have been a woolen stocking. This could put a possible dent in the Roman reputation for toughness. Researchers are citing the cold as the reason. The writings of Tacitus, the ancient historian, note that the weather in Britain was dreadful. Archaeologists said the foot might be from a statue of the god Mars who was worshiped in northern France and Britain. Inscriptions of the god's name have been found in other parts of the site. The other possibility is that it is from a figure of a Roman emperor. They did not say when the artifact was discovered.

That wraps up the news for this week!
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I'm Laura Pettigrew and I'll see you next week!