Audio News for September 8th to September 14th

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I'm Laura Pettigrew and
these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from
September 8th to September 14th.

Cambodian work finds more old temples

Our first story is from Cambodia, where experts have uncovered seven
ancient temples 10 miles north of the famous complex of Angkor Wat
(ANG-kor VAT). The most recently discovered is a late ninth to early
tenth century Brahman temple that is unrecorded in any known documents,
officials said. The temple site is about 450 square feet, and the
structures reaches 45 feet high. The other six temples, which were found
in late August and early September, were built around the same time and
measure about 650 square feet each. Most of the recently mapped temples
have suffered extensive damage to about 5% of their structures. Part is
deterioration from natural processes, but much of the damage is from
looters, who have ransacked most of the marketable artifacts from the sites.

Ancient Israel aqueduct date confirmed

In Jerusalem, radiometric dating of the Siloam (si-LO-em) Tunnel shows
that it was constructed about 700 B.C., and therefore can be attributed
to the Judean King Hezekiah (HEZ-e-KI-a). This is the first time that a
structure mentioned in the Bible has been radiometrically dated. Dating
Biblical structures is extremely difficult because of poor preservation,
the scarcity of associated materials for dating, and restricted access
into well-identified worship sites. The belief that King Hezekiah
(HEZ-e-KI-a) constructed the 1,749-foot-long Siloam (si-LO-em) Tunnel
was based upon Biblical text, and a100-word inscription from the same
era that describes the construction. The new findings refute a recent
claim that proposed a much later date for the tunnel. The Siloam Tunnel
was a complicated piece of engineering. It was initiated by King
Hezekiah (HEZ-e-KI-a), who the Bible says brought water into the city of
Jerusalem, preserving the townspeople during a siege by the Assyrians in
701 B.C.E. The tunnel is about 2 feet wide and between 4 and 16 feet
tall. It moves up and down and drops as much as 98 feet below the city.
The marks of the iron chisels used to cut it through formations of soft
limestone are still readily visible. It was constructed without using
intermediate shafts, an engineering innovation for its day. The Siloam
(si-LO-em) Tunnel is one of the oldest structures in use up to the
present day. The radiometric dating used to confirm its date is based on
the principle that radioactive elements decay at fixed rates. This makes
them like physical clocks, allowing researchers to estimate the age of
the material being examined. In this research, two separate radioactive
element sets provided the measurements. Carbon-14 dating was used on
organic material mixed in with the plaster of the Siloam Tunnel, and
uranium-thorium dating was applied to stalactites, which had grown in
the tunnel since the time of its construction.

Norwegian boat may be early Viking vessel

In Norway, a dugout canoe that may date from Viking times has been found
in the southern region, giving clues to the lives of people on a small
lake perhaps 1,000 years ago. The pine vessel was raised from the lake
after reports from the family of two elderly men, who had spotted the
boat in the 1930s when they swam in the lake as children. Regional
archaeologists believe it dates from Viking times or perhaps from the
early Middle Ages, with a likely age of 800-1,200 years. The remains are
about 11 feet, 6 inches long, suggesting the boat was originally about
4-5 meters long or big enough for several people. Ancient dugouts have
sometimes been found in other Nordic countries, including some dating
back to the Bronze Age about 3,000 years ago. A splinter was been taken for carbon dating tests, the results of which are not yet complete. One
expert noted that since much archaeology in the Nordic region looks at
burial mounds, which reveal the lives of the elite, the special thing
about this boat is that it was probably used by ordinary people, perhaps
for fishing.

Supermarket mollusks reveal Roman secret

In our final story, an amateur chemist in Britain has illuminated the
details of how ancient Roman imperial purple was made. Ancient
Mediterranean peoples, including the Romans, dyed the robes of
high-ranking people this deep purple-red. The color signified imperial
power. The sails on Cleopatra s ship were also dyed this color. The dye
was made from Murex mollusks, a form of shellfish or cockles, still sold
at local markets. The exact recipe for the dye, however, had been kept a
craft secret in ancient Egypt and Rome, and there are very few
references to its details in the historical literature. Modern chemistry
can make every shade of every color, but a retired British engineer,
John Edmonds, pursued his interest in how the ancients made dyes from
natural materials. With the help of researchers in Reading, England, and
in Israel, he has been able to establish the vital role played by a
bacterium in chemically reducing the ancient pigments so that they will
dissolve in a dye solution. For his experiments, Mr. Edmonds used a jar
of common cockles from his local supermarket. The cockles harbor a
bacterium thought to be crucial in reducing the dye. Wood ash was added
to the vat to ensure the mixture did not turn acidic. The mixture was
then kept at 50 Celsius for about 10 days. Wool dipped in the pigment
turned green at first but, eventually, in contact with light, it turned
purple. Rediscovering the old dying method might have important
implications for present-day practice. Currently, tons of chemicals are
needed to reduce the dye for denim blue jeans, and this results in large
quantities of sulfur waste. University of Reading scientists are
studying how the bacterium reduces indigo in order to develop a clean
biotechnology that can replace the chemical process for indigo reduction
in the future.

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 Laura Pettigrew and I'll see you next week!