Audio News for March 8th to March 14th

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

Byzantine villa provides new mosaic examples


Our first story is from Israel, where the ruins of a two-room villa with
complex geometric mosaics from the early Christian Byzantine era were
unearthed near Netanya (ne-TAN-ya). The villa, dated to between the 5th
or 6th centuries AD, is the first to be found in this area. One of the
villa’s two rooms is a central courtyard. In it a faded mosaic was
found, showing a floral spray with black and red leaves surrounding a
black, red and yellow geometric design on a white background. In the
second room, which is still being excavated, archaeologists found a
mosaic made of small stones that depicts red flowers surrounded by
parallel lines of grey, red, white and yellow. The intricate mosaics, together with a lead water pipe that circled the courtyard, indicate the
affluence of the building’s owner. Following the fourth century split in
the Roman empire, the Judea came under the rule of Christian Byzantium
until the Arab conquest of the region in AD 636. Archaeologically, the
period is noted for the building of many monasteries and churches across
the country.

Skeleton in Tierra del Fuego is 4,000 years old


From the north coast of Argentine Tierra del Fuego (tea-ER-a del
FWAY-go) a surprisingly well-preserved human skeleton has been found. The skeleton is
of an adult male that lived in this area, the southernmost region of
South America, about 4,000 years ago. The burial’s age is suggested by
its discovery under a 3,900-year-old archaeological site of the type
called a "conchero (con-CHAIR-o)" or "shell center". These centers were
where the original inhabitants of the area would settle for months to
feed on mollusks and other local shellfish. This ancient man was
approximately 5 feet tall, and was discovered curled in a fetal position
on his right side, with his left hand under the head and knees close to
his chest. The burial ground is more than a quarter mile from the
current coastline. Experts say the skeleton is very well preserved, with a
complete set of teeth, but they can’t say what tribe he might have
belonged to. The remains have been taken to a laboratory for further
examination and DNA tests to determine genetic relationships. So far,
tools and utensils up to 12,600 years old have been found in Tierra del
Fuego (tea-ER-a del FWAY-go), but no human remains. Researchers are very
interested in understanding the different migrations to Tierra del Fuego
(tea-ER-a del FWAY-go) in the Holocene.

Croatian valley yields early battle evidence


Now, an update to an earlier story from Croatia. In 2001, when Dr. Vince
Gaffney was asked by the Museum of Croatian Archaeology if he would like
to visit a site at the valley of the River Cetina (CE-tina), he never
knew it would exceeded his wildest expectations. Here was evidence of
previous Balkan wars spanning many millennia. Some of the metal
artifacts dated back to the Neolithic period, 6,000 years BC. Divers
were coming up from the water and holding aloft Bronze-Age swords. To
find one bronze sword is enough to set an archaeologist's pulse racing.
To find more than 60 was almost heart stopping. In addition, there were
over 30 Greco-Illyrian helmets, a Roman legionary dagger, plus jewelry,
axes and spearheads. Among his many questions was why this site had not
been found before, but he did discover that a Croatian archaeologist had
excavated some remains in the 1950s; however, his findings had never been published. The Cetina (CE-tina) valley, narrow and steep, could
hold up to 14 significant sites spread over 80 sq kilometers of the
mountainous landscape. The mountains formed a border between the
Venetian and Turkish empires, and between the Roman Empire and the
Slavic kingdoms. The British Academy has given some financial backing
for a three-year investigation, but serious money is needed to explore
the area properly. Gaffney and his team are going back again this spring.

Japanese complex yields early emperor's pleasure garden


Our final story is from Japan where archaeologists have unearthed the
remains of a wooden palace believed to be that of a seventh-century
emperor. The discovery in the village of Asuka (AH-soo-ka), about 250
miles west of Tokyo, revealed new details about the layout and
architecture of a complex of palaces and temples that briefly served as
Japan's capital in ancient times. The site has been excavated for
decades but recently the remains of a stone courtyard, a pond and holes
for wooden pillars were found. It is believed the building formed part
of the residence of the Emperor Temmu, who reigned for over ten years
and is remembered for establishing a centralized bureaucracy modeled on
that of ancient China. Previous digs had uncovered remains of walls,
gates and other outlying parts of Temmu's palace, but never the
emperor's residence itself. Archeologists believe the courtyard, paved
with more than 2,000 granite stones, and the pond were part of a private
garden adjoining a wooden palace that was 72 feet long and 36 feet wide.
The Palace is described in detail in the first official history of
Japan, believed to have been started during Temmu's reign and completed
about 40 years later in AD 720. It describes an elaborate complex with a
hall of state, officials' quarters and an elaborate drainage system. The
discovery of what appears to be remains of his residence corroborates
that chronicle, which is known as the Nihon Shoki, and other evidence
indicating Asuka was Japan's capital for about 20 years during the
seventh century. During that period, Japan assimilated various cultural
influences from China, including Buddhism. After Temmu's death in AD 686
his widow ruled in Asuka until 694, when Japan's capital was moved to a
site close to the present-day western city of Kashihara.

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!