Audio News for February 2nd to February 8th.

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I’m Laura Pettigrew and these
are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from February 2nd to
February 8th.

Discovery of Anglo-King Tomb is Impressive Find


Our first story is from Britain, where archaeologists have unearthed the
stunningly rich tomb of a Dark Age Anglo-Saxon king dating to the early
seventh century. Excavations at Southend revealed the tomb and its contents
are in almost perfect condition. The spectacular grave goods were found
still "hanging" from iron pegs, which had been hammered into the walls of
the tomb. Originally the burial chamber had been lined and roofed with
planks, but the wood has long since disintegrated, allowing the tomb to fill
up with earth. The grave goods - designed to enable the king to live well
in the next world - include a copper cauldron, a hanging bowl from northern England or Ireland and an exquisite copper bowl, probably from Italy. There
is also a 12 inch high flagon, almost certainly from the Byzantine Empire,
two gold foil crosses, a gold reliquary which would probably have contained
a bone fragment from a saint, four glass vessels, the king's sword and the
remains of his shield, and several iron-clad barrels and buckets, presumably
for alcoholic drink. The king's skeleton has not survived due to the acidic
nature of the soil. The royal tomb is one of the most important
archaeological discoveries in Britain. It dates from the same period as the
great Sutton Hoo ship burial, found in Suffolk in 1939, which contained the
body of a king of East Anglia.

Flood in Turkey Reveals New Finds from an Old Site


In Turkey, with the help of a flood, the Oriental Institute is recovering
important additional artifacts from a site abandoned 55 years ago. British
archaeologist Sir Leonard Woolley was the first to excavate the site of Tell
Atchana (tel-AT-cha-na), located in the Amuq (a-MOOK) region. This area in
southern Turkey was at the crossroads of many of the ancient Near East’s
important civilizations. The Amuq (a-MOOK) Valley is an extremely rich
source of archaeological information. Woolley’s excavation trenches
collapsed from flooding in 2001, and the site was flooded again in 2003. But
the flooding also revealed a Bronze Age wall, and work enabled access to a
forgotten storeroom collection of artifacts that became accessible for the
first time in decades. During the fall, the team re-excavated the site,
dated circa 2000 to 1200 B.C., revealing an area that had once been the west
wing of a Hittite period palace and private houses. Items recovered included
cuneiform texts that spoke of a rich trade system connecting the community
with Anatolia, the Aegean Sea, the Baltic Sea, Egypt and the Indus valley in
India. Also found was a tomb, dating from about the 14th or 15th century
B.C., apparently one of several at the site. The tomb was formed unlike any
other excavated in the Middle East. The special burial consisted of a
plaster-arched structure on a cobblestone foundation with two columns of
clay tile headstones stacked four high. The tomb included four people, each
separated from the other by a level of plaster. Based on the burial goods,
individuals buried in the tomb apparently had high status in the community.
Necklaces of gold, carnelian, and ivory were found buried in the grave.
There also were many appliqués with a rosette design that were probably sewn
on garments or an elaborate headdress. The remains of one individual had
plaster in the mouth and lay in a flexed position. At each corner of this
person’s grave was the leg bone of a cow, numerous bird bones, seeds and
what appeared to be dried fruit. The person also was buried with pottery
vessels, including flasks that would have contained beer or wine to provide
sustenance for the afterlife. The material will help scholars understand the
transition of regional states to empires, such as the Hittite empire, and
then their disintegration into small, local Iron Age kingdoms. The work at the site, which includes excavation of a palace and finds such as cuneiform
tablets and seals, will help scholars determine the role of private
entrepreneurs as opposed to royal officials in commerce. By exploring a
palace location, the researchers hope to determine if the craftsmen and
merchants were attached socially and economically to the palace or if they
were part-time farmers.

Original Headline: Kennewick Man Must Wait for Burial


In the United States, the U.S. appeals court ruled this week that scientists
should be allowed to continue testing on a 9,000-year-old skeleton, denying
a request by American Indian tribes who sought an immediate burial. The
legal battle dates back to 1996. Scientists say the “Kennewick Man” remains
are 8,340 to 9,200 years old, which makes it a puzzling find, because its
features were different from those of American Indians. Scientists hoped
further study would shed light on early North Americans. Northwestern
tribes filed suit demanding the burial of the remains, which they believe
belong to a distant ancestor of modern-day tribes. The battle pitted eight
scientists against the U.S. Department of Interior, U.S. Army and other
agencies that sided with the Indian tribes. Until recently, most scientists
thought North America was first populated after the end of the Ice Age
12,000 years ago, when Asian mammoth hunters walked from Siberia. But that
theory has been shaken by evidence of late Ice Age human settlements on
California’s Channel Islands and in Chile, evidence that suggests America’s
first humans traveled by boat much sooner than earlier believed. The core
of the legal arguments centered on whether the remains were Native American,
because the 9th Circuit Court said existing laws on reburial requires that
the remains have some link to a presently existing tribe. The ruling found
that the age of Kennewick Man’s remains, given the limited studies to date,
makes it almost impossible to establish any relationship between the remains
and presently existing American Indians.

South African Cave Art Accurately Dated With New Technology


Our final story is from South Africa, where intricate rock paintings, once
dismissed as primitive doodlings, turned out to be 2,000 years older than
previously thought. New carbon-dating technology has revised the prehistory
of the Drakensberg (DRA-kenz-BURG) plateau, which has the largest and most
concentrated collection of rock paintings in sub-Saharan Africa.
Archaeologists from the University of Newcastle reported that many of the
40,000 paintings in 500 caves and rock shelters are 3,000 years old. This
changes the previously accepted theory that the artwork dated from about the
second half of the 11th century, which itself was a revision of 19th-century
assumptions that the paintings were more relatively recent tribal work. The paintings at the world heritage site of Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg
(DRA-kenz-BURG) use sophisticated red, orange, white and black pigments to
portray animal and human scenes. The images include hunts in progress and
close-ups of animals. Other pictures pose questions about the social and
economic life of the artists, the San people, who moved into the Drakensberg
(DRA-kenz-BURG) 8,000 years ago. One intriguing picture is a procession of
half-human, half-animal figures with human bodies, but hooves and animal
faces and hair. The dating breakthrough follows years of frustration over
basic carbon dating that required samples too big too remove without
destroying the paintings. The new study pioneered a technical improvement,
which uses accelerator mass spectrometry applied to salt samples taken from
painted rock without causing damage.

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