Audio News for December 8th to December 14th

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I am Laura Pettigrew and
these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from
December 1st to December 7th.

Ancient chariot found in Northern England


Our first story is from England, where workers constructing a highway
in the North have unearthed a rare and significant Iron Age burial
chamber. Not only does the chamber contain a two-wheeled chariot, but
its owner, as well. After 2,500 years, the chariot’s wheels have
remained intact, complete with their iron tires. Inside are the
remains of a man in his 30s, believed to be a tribal chief. Oxford
Archaeology, an archaeological firm responsible for investigating the
find, says it was the first chariot burial to be found so far inland.
The burial is similar to more contemporary French burials, which
indicates that there was some form of contact and exchange between
continental Europe and Britain during the middle Iron Age. Little isknows about this period of time. Archaeologists are now excavating the
chariot’s wheels, which are in good condition. The wooden axle has
completely decayed, but its position has been identified due to a
long, narrow stain in the soil. Inside the chariot, the man lies on
his back, and his legs are flexed. Bronze and iron objects, some of
which are probably horse harnesses, surround the chieftain.

New dating techniques utilized in Arizona site


In the United States, a University of Arizona researcher has been able
to date an ancient community by analyzing pieces of charcoal found
there. The work of David Street shows that Hohokam (ho-HO-kam) people
lived in the area 125 years after the culture was known to occupy
three other dated sites in the Tucson area. The site, known as the
University Indian Ruin, was able to be dated because a large fire or
ceremonial burning of the homes of the dead helped to lead to the
dating. Charcoal preserves much better than unburned wood. The Hohokam
(ho-ho-KAM) were a prehistoric Native American people who developed a
civilization in present-day Arizona. They lived in villlages in the
Tuscon area from about AD 300 to 1500. Research shows that the pine
trees used to construct buildings by the Hohokam (ho-ho-KAM) were
hauled from either the Saint Catalina or Rincon mountains from
1371-1375. This site may have been occupied into the 15th century or
later. The lateness of these dates intrigues researches. Little is
known about the two centuries preceding the Spanish conquest, thus
pegging dates between the 1300s and 1400s will reveal more about their
civilization. Tuscon-basin tree rings are difficult to date. Unlike
coniferous trees found at higher elevations, desert hardwoods often
grow what appears to be multiple rings in a single year, or will not
grow any rings at all. Using charcoal to date the site represents a
breakthrough in desert archaeology.

Megaliths in Averbury not missing, just buried


In Britain, an arc of buried megaliths that once formed part of the
great stone circle at Avebury in Wiltshire has been discovered. A map
of Avebury created by William Stukely in the 1720s show that many of
the stones in the southeast and northeast quadrants of the circle were
missing. A survey of these areas by the National Trust has revealed
that at least 15 of the megaliths lie buried in the circle itself. The
stones clearly appear on computer images. The National Trust has been
able to identify their sizes, the direction which they are laying and
where they fit in the circle. They are now considering using a
ground-probing radar to create three-dimensional images of the buriedstones and raise them as computer images. The stones were erected over
4,500 years ago, and the world of archaeology suspected that most of
these stones had been demolished or lost. It is thought possible that
the stones have laid in their present positions since the 13th and
14th centuries, when they were pushed over and buried by the local
population who viewed the circle as a pagan symbol and a threat to the
established church. In the 1930s, Alexander Keiller excavated and
re-erected many of the stones which stand in the western half of the
circle. However, the outbreak of the Second World War brought an end
to his project.

Contention over tourist tower in ancient city of Myanmar


In Myanmar (mi-AN-mar), also known as Burma, military rulers have
begun to build a nearly 200-foot-tall viewing tower in the midst of
the ancient temple city of Bagan (ba-GAN). Bagan is also one of
Asia’s greatest archaeological sites. The 1,000 year old temple
complex is as important as Cambodia’s Angkor temples. An unmatched
landscape of thousands of Buddhist temples and monuments spread among
rice paddies over an area nearly twice the size of Manhattan. There
are giant, circular pagodas with soaring domes, small temples with
corncob-shaped spires, and exquisitely terraced pyramids. More than
4,000 pagodas and 3,000 other religious structures made of brick and
stone were built in Bagan, which was Myanmar’s capital during a 243
year period from the 11th to 13th centuries. Today, 2,237 ruins and
temples remain and many are still used by worshippers. Defying
international outcry, the military junta claims the 16-story tower
will give tourists a bird’s-eye view of Bagan. Also, visitors will
be barred from climbing over the ancient pagodas which are damaged by
thousands of invading feet each day. The Director General of the
Myanmar Department of Archaeology says the tower, which will be in the
southeastern corner of Bagan, is far from the historical heart of the
city. However, tour guides claim the brick and mortar building which
will be higher than every temple but one will ruin the beauty of the
area. But public fear of the military is so high that no one is
willing to voice discontent. UNESCO, the UN agency that has the power
to grant or withhold prestigious World Heritage status and funding,
has spoken out loudly against the tower. This project adds to the
severe criticism already surrounding the Myanmar’s junta for its
allegedly unplanned and inaccurate rebuilding of many ruins. An
archaeologist working in Bagan said almost half of the 2,237 monuments
have been rebuilt, sometimes from the ground up, and sometimes
horribly. The outcome is an incomplete spectacle of fake antique
temples made with new bricks and cement which house plaster Buddhastatues. Replastering in one temple has given the four-armed Hindu god
Vishnu two extra arms.

Sacred Maya language discovered in spoken form


In our final story, a group on linguists have discovered a
still-surviving version of the sacred religious language of the
ancient Maya. For years, some Mayan hieroglyphic texts have defied
interpretation. Archaeologists and linguists have identified a
little-known native language as the descendant of that spoken by
ancient Mayan rulers and religious leaders. The language Ch’orti
(ch-OR-ti) is spoken today by a small number of Guatemalan indians.
It will become a key in translating hieroglyphics that are not
understood. Over the next few years, dozens of linguists and
anthropologists are expected to start investigating Ch’orti
(ch-Or-ti) language and culture for words and expressions relating to
everything from bloodletting to fasting. The Maya civilization lasted
for 2,000 years, roughly from 550 BC to 1450 AD. They constructed huge
cities, some covering 100 square miles with a population as large as
170,000. Their art, architecture and culture were extremely
sophisticated, as were their study of astronomy and mathematics. Their
writing system was a complex script similar to Chinese. Up till now,
researchers thought the sacred language of the Maya elite was extinct
in its spoken form. The language that Ch’orti (ch-OR-ti) descended
from seems to have originally been spoken throughout the area that
today encompasses Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and southern Mexico.
Archaeological research has shown that as the civilization progressed
and spread, other Central American Maya languages came into existence.
But because of its association with the first Maya civilization,
successive generations of Maya elite preserved proto-Ch’orti as a
sacred language.

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