Audio News for June 14th to June 20th
Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I’m Laura Pettigrew and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from June 7th to June 13th.
Devastating Earthquake Unveils Secrets to Iran's Ancient Past
Our first story is from the Iranian city of Bam, where an earthquake last year that
killed more than 26,000 people has revealed important new archaeological
sites. Photographs are revealing sites that date from between 2,400BC and
2,600 BC. These new finds prove the city is centuries older than experts had
previously thought. The history of the city of Bam rests on an astounding
network of qanats (KA-nats), huge underground irrigation channels, miles long.
After the earthquake struck, aerial photographs were taken to appraise the
damage. Archaeologists working with Iran's Cultural Heritage & Tourism
Organization (CHTO) asked to see the pictures showing the unique mud citadel
that symbolized the city. They immediately realized that the citadel should be
seen as part of a larger site. They noted that many qanats (KA-nats) ended at
the fault line, thus giving the impression that there were large pools alongside them. Then they discovered that the fault line had been used to
build the agricultural side of the ancient society. Qanats (KA-nats) tap
water supplies deep below the feet of nearby mountains. They slope down at a
slightly shallower angle than the slope of the hill, and surface miles away,
often in areas that would otherwise be completely dry. In Bam, the qanats (KA-
nats) surfaced much closer to the water source because the fault line caused a
sharp fall in the ground level. So agriculture developed along the line,
eventually leading to the development of the city. In addition to helping
archaeologists discover the new sites, the earthquake has revealed the
historical landscape beneath the fallen citadel, revealing a layered
Evidence of Colonial-Era Surgery Practice at Jamestown
In the United States, archaeologists working at Jamestown say they have
unearthed a human skull that shows markings that could represent the earliest
attempts at surgery in Colonial North America. Two marks from a saw run along
the curved top edge of the 4-by-6 inch fragment, which appears to be from base
of the skull. Three small circular markings also seem to suggest attempts were
made to drill through the bone. The fragment was found during the excavation of
a moat outside the west wall of the fort that dates to the first years of the
settlement in 1607. The skull appears to be that of an adult male, and it will
undergo study by forensic anthropologists with the Smithsonian Institution's
National Museum of Natural History to see if there is evidence of trauma, age,
sex and ethnicity. The three circular plug marks are typical of those made
during an age-old surgical procedure known as trepanation. Dating back as many
as 10,000 years, the practice involved physicians trying to treat head injuries
and other diseases by drilling holes in the skull, allowing medicine to be
applied, bone pieces to be removed and pain and pressure to be relieved.
Records from the early years of the settlement show that at least four surgeons
practiced at disease-plagued Jamestown between 1607 and 1610. The excavations
have unearthed two of the instruments from the surgeon's kit.
Etruscan Road Discovered Before Area Turned into Dump
In Italy, an area in Tuscany destined to become a dump has turned out to reveal the biggest Etruscan road ever found. Digging near Lucca (<b>LOO-la</b>), archaeologists have uncovered amazing evidence of an Etruscan "highway" which linked Etruscan Pisa, on the Tyrrhenian (<b>ti-RAY-nay-ean</b>) coast. It all started with the discovery of four big stones. Experts dug a sample area and found a large road still bearing the ruts left by chariots 2,500 years ago. Dating to the end of the 6th century B.C., the 23-foot road supported intense chariot traffic towards a trading center where Etruscan and Greeks lived and worked together. Experts believe that a great amount of information, including tombs, monuments and villages, lie hidden along this road. Greek geographer Skylax (<b>SKE-lax</b>), who in the 4th century B.C. wrote that a great road linked Pisa with Spina (<b>SPEE-na</b>) by a three-day journey, also mentioned the ancient highway. The team has so far brought to light a 700-foot section. The discovery took place in an area that, from the 6th century A.D. until 1850, contained a large and rather deep lake. The lake gave birth to the legend of Sextum, a rich and powerful city that disappeared under a terrible flood. Sixteenth-century texts found in Lucca's archives recount fishermen who could see the remains of a submerged city on the bottom of the lake. They even used the city's streets and square as reference points for their fishing. The archaeologist hopes to uncover at least nine miles of the ancient road.
Helwan Necropolis Provides Glimpse Into Early Egyptian History Original
In our final story from Egypt, twenty newly excavated tombs, several hundred years older than the great pyramids of Giza, are shedding light on history’s first complex society. Archaeologists have found ancients up to 5000 years old curled up in the fetal position in what would have been ancient Egypt's first capital city, Memphis. The team unearthed the tombs during a recent excavation at Helwan, 15 miles south of Cairo. The Helwan necropolis consists of 10,000 tombs from Egypt's first and second dynasties. Experts say the site was the largest and the most significant site from what archaeologists call the earliest historical period. This is the time when kings took over from village chiefs and a time that gives researchers an insight into the development of complex society. The necropolis provides remains of a cross-section of people, buried in tombs of a range in sizes, which reflects the different wealth and status of the people buried in them. One tomb was no more than a hole in the ground, less than one cubic yard in size, and contained the remains of a poor man. The family couldn't even afford to put a pottery vessel into his grave and all they could do was give him literally a piece of bread that he was still holding in his right hand in front of his head. By contrast, someone high up in the hierarchy could get a tomb of 20 to 100 cubic yards. One high-status tomb previously excavated was lined with a ton of limestone slabs. The latest tombs revealed the remains of a "very tall" person, and a woman with a shell bracelet on her left arm. Researchers are concerned about the Helwan necropolis site was being destroyed rapidly. A military base surrounds it and there are encroaching high rises and illegal shantytowns. The site itself once covered a vast area and now it has been reduced by half.
That wraps up the news for this week!
For more stories and daily news updates, visit Archaeologica on the World Wide Web at www.archaeologica.org , where all the news is history!
I’m Laura Pettigrew and I’ll see you next week!