Audio News for September 29th to October 5th

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I'm Laura Pettigrew and
these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from
September 29th to October 5th.

Roman souvenir marks tour of wall


Our first story is from northern England, where archaeologists have
hailed the discovery of a 2,000-year-old Roman bowl, unique for its
design and Latin inscriptions. The bronze vessel dates from AD 2 and
names four forts along Hadrian's Wall, the 70-mile barrier near the
England-Scotland border that was built by the emperor Hadrian in the
same century. It is only the third known bowl to carry names of forts on
Hadrian s Wall. The decoration is the most striking part of the find,
and fuses two cultures, Celtic and Roman. The bowl, which has its base
and handle missing, is the size of a small saucepan and has Celtic
motifs inlaid with colored enamel, which include turquoise, blue, red
and yellow. But the engraved inscription, which runs around the pan in an unbroken sequence of Latin letters just below the rim, is what has
archaeologists so excited. The bowl confirms the ancient names of four
forts in sequence from the western end of the wall and suggests, for the
first time, what might be the correct ancient name of Drumburgh
(DRUM-berg) fort. The inscription is also unique as it names an
individual, Aelius Draco (EE-e-lus DRA-ko). Researchers believe Aelius
Draco (EE-e-lus DRA-ko) was perhaps a veteran of a garrison of Hadrian's
Wall, who at the time of retirement had this bowl made to recall his
time in the army.

New pottery analysis gets dates from food residues


Scientist at the University of Bristol have developed the first direct
method for dating pottery by examining animal fats preserved inside the
ceramic walls. Archaeologists have long dated sites by the visual
comparison of pottery types. The new analytical technique will allow
archaeologists to more accurately determine the age of pottery and,
thus, the age of related artifacts and sites. Pottery is essential for
classifying archaeological sites. Organic materials like wood and bone
can easily be dated with radiocarbon techniques, but aren't always
available or reliable. Ceramics, however, have a long and stable
lifespan. But until now, there has been no direct method for chemically
dating pottery. The new technique builds on recent work on the types and
uses of the contents adhering inside the vessels. Previous researchers
have analyzed residues found on the surfaces of pots, but these residues
have been in direct contact with the soil and are likely to be
contaminated. Reviewing earlier research on ancient dairy practices,
scientist realized that lipids, or animal fats, are preserved in large
enough quantities to be dated with radiocarbon methods. The prominence
of animal fats at these sites is consistent with their wide range of
potential uses in antiquity - as lubricants, waterproofing agents,
ointments, perfumes, varnishes, etc. The researchers analyzed 15 pieces
of pottery, mostly cooking jars and bowls, ranging in age from 4,000
B.C. to the 15th Century A.D. They assigned a date using the new method
and then compared their findings to the historical date verified
previously by involvement with organic artifacts. In all cases, their
results were in agreement with the sample history. The next step is to
use the technique to study mummies. The Victorians exported a lot of
Egyptian mummies, and they often applied modern treatments to preserve
them. The researchers hope to distinguish between a modern treatment and
the original embalming agent.

Early submarine excavators hope for final clues


In the United States, experts are ready to dig into the last unexplored
area of the H.L. Hunley. They hope to learn more about the Confederate submarine's construction and the 136 years it spent buried under the
sea, and why the submarine suffered the damage it has. The final
excavations will be in the submarine's two ballast tanks, the two
chambers at either end of the submarine that were filled with water to
make the craft submerge. The tanks are still packed with sediment and
are the only untouched area of the sub. Insight into the sub's
construction and the pumping mechanisms are hoped for, along with some
clues about the two largest holes in the sub's hull. Two of three holes
in the submarine are on the ballast tanks. To date, there has been
uncertainty about what made those holes and when. Was it two or three
years after the Hunley sank, or 20 or 30 years? The largest hole is on
the starboard stern, a gash about 2 feet long and a foot high.
Scientists excavated that opening in early 2001 but cannot use it to
reach the rest of the tank. Scientists hope the stratigraphy of the
sediment will tell them more about how the submarine was breached and
filled with mud. The excavation of the ballast tanks will be tight.
Compared with them, the 42-inch-wide crew compartment seems spacious.
Bulkheads separate the two tanks from the crew compartment; researchers
suspect there could be more within the tanks. Scientists aren't sure how
long it will take to excavate both tanks because of the cramped work
space and the fact that, once again, they are not exactly sure what they
will find once they get in there.

Early English chalk man may be new kid on the block

In our final story, the origins of England's tallest chalk hill figure,
the Long Man of Wilmington, may turn out to be a relatively recent
addition to the landscape. Carved into a steep slope in Sussex, the
imposing figure has been claimed as an Anglo Saxon warrior, a Roman
folly, or an Iron Age fertility symbol. But tests this summer have
produced compelling evidence that it dates from the mid-16th century.
The findings have surprised the experts, and will cast doubt on the age
of other purportedly prehistoric carvings. Standing 226 feet tall, the
Long Man of Wilmington is one of the largest carved figures in the
world. It dominates the hillside at the village of Wilmington, holding a
stave in each hand. Although the earliest known record of the figure
comes from 1710, many scholars have argued that it already existed when
the Romans invaded Britain. Conclusions come from an analysis of chalk
fragments washed down the slope over the past few thousand years. The
analysis revealed little activity on the hillside during the Iron Age,
Roman occupation or medieval times. But about 500 years ago there was a
sudden change when a layer of chalk rubble swept down the slope. This
suggests the chalk debris may have come from the freshly cut Long Man.

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!