Audio News for May 24th to May 30th.

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I’m Laura Pettigrew and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from May May 24th to May 30th.

New research reveals Roman ports on Red Sea

In our first story, University of Southampton archaeologists have just returned from a ground-breaking expedition investigating Roman sites in the East African country of Eritrea (ER-i-TREE-a), a remote area on the shores of the Red Sea, previously part of Ethiopia. Examinations center on the ancient settlement of Adulis (a-DUL-is), which was known in Roman times as a substantial settlement and mentioned in ancient chronicles as a key port in the India trade. The researchers also believe they have found the site of the 6th century harbor of Adulis (a-DUL-is), known as Gabaza (ga-BA-za) and a mausoleum, both known only from documentary sources. A map drawn in the 6th century led the team to them. The map appears in a Christian topographical text written in the 6th century by a trader turned monk, to promote his belief that the earth was flat, not spherical. The site was surveyed using current topographic and geophysical methods.  A satellite image of the region provided useful information about land-use and permitted the ancient coastline to be re-constructed. However, minefields from the recent war with Ethiopia and the effects of heat posed a significant challenge to researchers. More work is scheduled for February 2005 when, it is hoped, students from the University of Asmara will be part of the team and training will become an important element. It seems that Adulis (a-DUL-is) met an untimely end: in AD 640 Arabs retaliated for attacks on Jeddah and other Arabian coastal settlements, and in the process totally destroyed the town.

Antler-handled scraper surprises Macktown excavators

In the north central United States, archaeologists and their students have discovered a prehistoric pocketknife of sorts, fashioned from a deer antler buried deep within the soil of Winnebago County, Illinois. An ancient Native American hunter used this tool to scrape the flesh from a bear, elk or other animal that was common to the area now known as Rockton. The antler remained intact, much to the surprise of the diggers, who are used to finding only non-perishable materials such as stone and pottery. The acidic soils common to northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin had spared this artifact from ruin.  The 1835 settlement founded by fur trader Stephen Mack is a concentration of historic and prehistoric artifacts, some dating as far back as 10,000 years and shards of prehistoric pottery and stones from Macktown fill plastic bags and bins.  Archaeologists haven’t tagged a specific date to the antler tool because a piece of the artifact would need to be destroyed for the radiocarbon dating process, but estimates date it to before the 1600s.  The thicker end is notched and still has residue from an adhesive likely used to hold a stone scraper. Native American hunters would grind up pieces of bone or use plants to make glue. The stone scraper would then be inserted into the notched end of the handle and bound with sinew or cord. Previous digs at the Macktown historic site have yielded small discoveries from tool shavings and shell midden to pottery and arrowheads, some dating back to 8,000 years ago.

Tamil Nadu discoveries may revise prehistory of South Asia

In India, new discoveries may alter theories about the origin of ancient culture in the state of Tamil Nadu (TAM-il NA-doo)and the origin of writing in South Asia.  In a spectacular find, the Archaeological Survey of India has unearthed a dozen 2,800-year-old human skeletons intact in urns in Tamil Nadu, located on the the Indian peninsula. Three of these urns contain writing resembling the early Tamil Brahmi (TAM-il BRA-me) script. The urns were found at a depth of six to nine feet.  General thinking has been that the megalithic culture, which ranges from the 3rd century BC. to the 3rd century AD, is the earliest complex culture in South India; this dig has come across a culture earlier than the megalithic period.  The ASI will conduct a thorough exploration of the area to find out whether there had been any habitation nearby.  If such a site was found, it would be the first discovery of its kind in Tamil Nadu.  So far, no habitation belonging to this period has been found in the State.  Samples of the skeletons have been sent to the National Geophysical Research Institute for carbon-14 dating.  Along with the skeletons, husks, grains of rice, charred rice and neolithic axe-like instruments have been found.  The skeletons found in two or three urns show that prior to the megalithic period, these people interred the dead in urns along with the items they had used.  At the site, pottery belonging to the early historic period was found on the upper layers of the trenches and the urns were found below. So the discoveries at may go back to 7th or 8th century B.C., possibly earlier.  Evidence of Brahmi writing on more than 75 pieces of pottery has been found in Sri Lanka, and radiocarbon dating has established that they belong to the period between 600 and 500 BC.  Many artifacts were found along with the Tamil Nadu skeletons. These included miniature clay bowls used in rituals, black and red wares of the megalithic period ranging from the 7th century BC. to 2nd century AD., potsherds with graffiti marks, iron spearheads, knife-blades, and hopscotch markers of various shapes including those in perfect circles. These hopscotch markers were used as weights.

Nubian statues may re-shape history of Kush

The recent discovery of seven statues in Karma, northern Sudan, is giving pause to historians.  Previous beliefs about the history of the Nile River valley may change with the finds, which represent monarchs of the ancient Nubian Kingdom. These researchers established that five of them date back to the era of Nubian Kings.  Charles Bonnet, archaeologist from the University of Geneva, reports that the statues are sculptural masterpieces and important additions to our knowledge of the history of the region.  Another team member, Tim Kendall, predicted the discovery could raise public awareness about the importance and advancement of Nubian civilization during the period. According to Kendall, the general public is familiar with Egypt and the pharaohs, but it is not so aware that there was a highly important, sophisticated, and independent ancient civilization in Nubia, which is now northern Sudan. Two Nubian kings, sometimes referred to as the Black Pharaohs, ruled Egypt from roughly 760 to 660 BC.  Ancient Egyptians gave the name "Kush" to the Nubian land or the Nubian Kingdom, which extended from what is today southern Egypt to northern Sudan. The area had a long history intertwined with that of ancient Egypt, a history with periods of war and occupation and periods of peace and prosperity.

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