Audio News for July 5th to July 11th.

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I m Laura Pettigrew and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from July 5th to July 11th.

Mystery road points to long-lost early British town


Our first story is from Britain, where an undiscovered Roman town may exist in Essex, according to archaeological evidence being uncovered in London. A large Roman road has been found heading out of London towards the village of Chipping Ongar (ON-gar). Archaeological evidence suggests Chipping Ongar (ON-gar) was an important communications hub in Roman times and probably the site of a small town. Excavations have unearthed a Roman highway with a gravel surface about 18 feet wide. Roman wheel ruts have been found in the road surface and six foot-wide drainage ditches run on each side of the road. The highway was probably built for military purposes, but would also have  served small towns and large country estates. At Chipping Ongar (ON-gar), the road appears to change direction towards the small Roman town located at what is now Great Dunmow (DUN-mow), 22 miles west of the important Roman city of Camulodunum (CAM-you-loh-DUNE-um). Developers building and refurbishing houses discovered the road as part of a seven-year housing program. It is likely the road was built soon after the Romans conquered southeast Britain in AD 43 and was used for several hundred years. The Romans constructed an extensive network of roads and towns. Most of those named in ancient documents have been located. However, a number of towns that are referenced in early records have never been found.

Bonanza season adds to knowledge of early Spanish life in Florida


From the U.S. in the state of Florida, a flood of rare artifacts and the remains of wooden buildings offer surprising insights into life at a Spanish presidio, or military outpost, that vanished under the sands 250 years ago. On the barrier island of Santa Rosa, archaeologists, students, and public volunteers recovered more than 40,000 artifacts last year, and they are digging up more this summer. Judy Bense, director of West Florida's Archaeology Institute, reported that the quantity of artifacts is unexpected, and they’re finding things that they don't usually find. Most are personal items. They include pieces of figurines, earrings, bracelets, cufflinks, keys, colorful pottery, and rosary beads. Guns, bullets and other military artifacts common at other presidios have been found to a lesser degree. All this points to the fact the presidio was more than a typical military and penal colony. Family life also thrived there. The Santa Rosa presidio lasted 30 years, until 1752. It was hidden by sand, scrub oak and palmetto and not rediscovered until four decades ago. Presently protected inside the Gulf Islands National Seashore near Fort Pickens, a Civil War-era structure on the island's western tip, Santa Rosa is the third of four Spanish colonial sites that were built in the area. The first Spanish settlement was founded in 1559 but abandoned after only two years; its exact location remains a mystery. The Spanish did not return until more than a century later in 1698 at Presidio Santa Maria de Galve. The French captured and burned it in 1719 but handed it back to Spain three years later. Santa Maria, on the mainland, was vulnerable to Indian attack, so when the Spanish returned in 1722 they built the Santa Rosa fort on an island, with more than 50 buildings and dozens of fences surrounded by water on three sides and a swamp on the fourth. The attacks stopped, but the Spanish had another problem. A series of hurricanes forced them to repeatedly rebuild or repair. The island's soft white sand is a reason for the wealth of artifacts. "The sand is an artifact trap," Bense said. That's what may have happened to a cloak button inscribed "Royal Martyr" and picturing King Charles I of England, one of the rarest items yet found. The site also contains artifacts from Mexico, France, Holland and China. The island site also is intriguing for archaeologists because it has been undisturbed for so long. Development has overtaken parts of the island, but the presidio site is protected because it is in the National Seashore. The National Park Service is thus the owner of all the artifacts, although they are loaned to the university and other entities for study and display.

Cyprus dig stabilizes late Hellenic building complex


In Cyprus, excavations conducted by the New York University are underway on an island just off the coast of the Paphos (PAY-foss) district. In 1982, the discovery of extensive remains there led to the islands designation as an important cultural heritage resource. Work began in May in the area along the southern coast designated as the Central South Complex. Trenches from excavations in 1992-1996 seasons were re-opened. The ground plan of the Central South Complex can now be seen as a series of roughly square rooms opening onto a large courtyard. The rooms are oriented along north/south and east/west axes and average about 15 by 15 feet square. Two of the rooms have platforms that rise some 18 inches above floor level. Another includes two sizable stone slabs inscribed with the monogram HG. Material recovered from the Central South Complex during previous seasons is dated between 80-30 BC. An even narrower chronology is likely and it is during the third quarter of the first century BC that the island enjoyed its most robust period of activity. The nearby Paphos (PAY-fos) district served as the capital of Cyprus during its important Hellenistic period, 323-30 BC. As part of the work to preserve this evidence of Classical Cyprus, a major enterprise of this seasons work at the Central South Complex was the consolidation of all walls and architectural features, part of an ongoing program of in situ conservation.

Names of Taj Mahal craftsmen discovered etched in stone


Our final story is from India, where archaeologists have found more than 670 names of previously unknown masons and laborers who built the 17th century Taj Mahal. The names, written mostly in Arabic, Persian, and Hindi are etched on the sandstone used in the wall and other peripheral structures on the northern side of the structure. Workers from the Archaeological Survey of India stumbled upon names while doing routine documentation of the Taj Mahal. Survey staff also found tridents, stars, geometrical patterns and flowers carved into some of the sandstone, symbols that imply the masons and laborers were drawn from diverse religions. At least 20,000 people were employed to construct the Taj Mahal, built by the Mogul Emperor Shah Jahan as a mausoleum to his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, after her heartbreaking death in childbirth. The white marble monument stands by the river Yamuna in Agra, the Mogul capital in India. Work on the building began in 1631 and was completed in 1647. A team of experts is now working to decipher the epigraphs and names engraved in the stones.

That wraps up the news for this week!  For more stories and daily news updates, visit Archaeologica on the World Wide Web at , where all the news is history!

I m Laura Pettigrew and I ll see you next week!