Audio News for October 6th to October 12th

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I'm Laura Pettigrew and
these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from
October 6th to October 12th.

Ancient Albanian synagogue identified

Our first story is from Albania, where the remains of a synagogue dating
from the 5th or 6th century have been uncovered in the coastal city of
Saranda (sa-RAN-da), opposite the Greek island of Corfu. The ancient
synagogue was discovered among the remains of initial excavations
conducted some 20 years ago, when Albania was under Communist rule. The
Archaeology Institute of the Albanian Academy of Sciences invited the
Hebrew University Institute of Archaeology to participate in a joint
excavation and study project at the site. Scientists report significant
finds that include two mosaic pavements representing religious symbols.
One features at its center a seven-branched candelabrum flanked by a
citron and a ram's horn, which are associated with the Jewish holidays. Another mosaic, in the center section, or basilica (ba-SILL-i-ca), of
the structure, includes a variety of animals, trees, and other Biblical
symbols, and the front of a structure that resembles a temple -- perhaps
a Torah shrine. The Hebrew University researchers said they hope to
continue excavations and research in other parts of the structure, which
are still covered by buildings and streets.

Prehistoric footpaths in Costa Rica link an ancient world

In Costa Rica, new findings indicate that small footpaths from 1,500
years ago were forerunners to wide, deep and ritualistic roadways 500
years later that led to and from cemeteries and villages. During the
past two years, a team of students, NASA archaeologists and remote
sensing specialists has been mapping the small footpaths, many of which
are only visible through satellite sensing. The team noticed portions of
some footpaths to cemeteries were worn up to 3 meters deep by people who
had walked them over the centuries. Travelers on the path would not see
the cemetery until they actually entered it. It is suspected this hidden
approach developed into a religious rule, as the proper way to enter and
exit a cemetery. The team also found a spur off the main path that went
straight up a hillside. Instead of taking the path of least resistance
and walking around the hill, they plodded over the top of the hill,
creating a straight, deeply worn path opening right into the cemetery
entrance. Experts believe this straight-line style to enter and exit
cemeteries and villages became widespread over the centuries, when more
complex societies took it to a higher level by constructing long, sunken
roadways entering and exiting villages and cemeteries. A primary roadway
from one site runs straight for many kilometers, was excavated and found
to be 30 meters to 40 meters wide and 3 meters to 4 meters deep as it
entered the chiefdom center, home of the elite village rulers. It
appears that the proper path ritual was to reach the cemetery using
precisely the same path used by their ancestors. Equipped with
instruments that can "see" in the light spectrum invisible to humans,
images of the tiny footpaths were made by a NASA aircraft and a
commercial satellite. The infrared cameras picked up a unique
"signature" that caused the paths to show up as thin red lines in the
images. The process of entering and leaving cemeteries was part of a
belief system that included ceremonial feasting, tomb construction and
the breaking of special pottery, grinding stones and other ritual
activities at the cemeteries. Ancient pottery sherds collected in late
July indicated ceremonial funerals and elaborate feasting after burial.
The feasting included cooking, eating, drinking, sleeping and the
smashing of elaborate pots and stones on graves and may have been done
by very different groups. The process of entering and leaving cemeteries
was part of a belief system that included many ritual activities at the
cemeteries. Sharing the cemeteries appears to be one element of a network of social, economic and religious contact between isolated
villages that was much more complex than previously thought.

Bronze Age tombs in Italy shed new light on ancient society

In northern Italy, archaeologists could soon unveil the social structure
of a mysterious Bronze Age civilization. The study centers on a large
necropolis discovered near Modena (mo-DAY-na). Dating between 1500 and
1200 BC, it consisted of more than 2,000 tombs belonging to the people
of the "terramare" (TER-ah-MAR-ay). The terramare culture is known for
building its villages on wooden piles, for developing new techniques of
bronze workings, and for unique cremation rites. No cemetery of this
size and age has been found south of the River Po (poe). So far 400
cremation tombs have been found. They contain cinerary (SIN-er-air-ee)
vases, often decorated with geometric patterns. Scattered in the Po
(poe) valley, the terramare (TER-ah-MAR-ay) mounds have just recently
been thoroughly studied to reveal the site's well-organized
civilization. Although it was first identified at the end of the 19th
century, the necropolis has not been fully investigated until now. It
was laid out in different sections containing between 10 to 80 tombs,
probably organized following family ties. The tombs did not contain
weapons but only bronze items such as brooches and pendants, thought to
be associated with women. The weapons were found gathered in another
area of the cemetery. They had been burned and broken, probably in a
funerary ritual. Despite the poor preservation of the cremated bones, an
anthropological study has begun which could reveal not only the sex and
age of the buried people and possibly their diet. This cemetery is
significant because women s tombs will help us understand how the
society was structured. If experts can show that the cemetery includes
both rich and poor women s tombs, this could provide evidence for a
multifaceted, layered society.

Hurricane makes mess of Jamestown Island data

Our final story is from the United States, where Hurricane Isabel caused
about $11 million in damage to Jamestown settlement artifacts. Parts of
the collection, estimated to contain nearly 900,000 items of
archaeological artifacts, photographs, papers and other items, are
expected to need three years of restoration work. Karen Rehm, chief
historian for Colonial National Historical Park, said the collection's
caretakers relied on their experiences during previous hurricanes to
secure the basement storage room housing the items. Despite their
efforts, five feet of water flowed into the basement collections area
from the adjacent salt marsh. Historians and archaeologists say the park
could have done more to prepare and protect the artifacts, which date to
the early 1600s. But Rehm said the collection is so immense it could not have been moved to a safer location before the storm. It became clear
Isabel would strike the area with force only a few days before it made
landfall. Most of the collection had already been transported to a
17,000-square-foot warehouse at Fort Lee near Petersburg in preparation
for its new $4.2 million storage facility, which is above the flood
plain. Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in the U.S., is
considered the birthplace of the nation's democracy and representative
government. In 2007, it will celebrate its 400th anniversary.

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!