Audio News for July 26th to August 1st

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I m Laura Pettigrew and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from July 26th to August 1st.

Archaeologists at Pompeii Focus Efforts on Life Before the Romans


Our first story is from the site of Pompeii, where researchers are unearthing a pre-Roman civilization that thrived for three centuries, with its own temples, houses, and baths. Looking for the remains of Pompeii's harbor, researchers from Italy's Basilicata University found a pre-Roman temple wall, clay offerings to the Samnite (SAM-nite) goddess of love, and a basin and terra cotta pipes indicating the site of a ritual bath. The Samnites (SAM-nite) were a mountain warrior people who conquered and ruled Pompeii before the Romans. The focus of excavations here has recently changed. In the past, most excavation concentrated on the city that was suspended in ash by the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79. Until the 1990s, local officials believed constant discoveries from the Roman era were needed to preserve Pompeii's position as Italy's most popular tourist attraction. However, current administrators say this approach has become counterproductive, noting they can barely afford to maintain the scores of monuments already exposed. Pompeii's archaeological superintendent, Pietro Giovanni Guzzo, decreed an end to the expansion of digs outward, stating, "By searching vertically, one uncovers the full history of the city. The surface Roman part is only part of the story." Subterranean Pompeii may not contain the luxurious villas and elegant sculptures found on the surface, but for archaeologists trained to perceive a universe in a clay shard, it is no less exciting.

Rare Georgian Discovery Sheds Light on War of 1812


In the United States, archaeologists in the state of Georgia have made a rare discovery at Cumberland Harbor. They have found evidence of a fort and barracks dating back to the early 1800s. "This was a war of 1812 site and they are very rare in the United States. There aren't many of them, especially in the South,” declared Scott Butler, lead archaeologist. Artifacts that tell a lot about the history of this area, such as how the soldiers lived, what they ate, and how they were armed, are being found. In one area of the excavation, archaeologists have discovered part of a chimney and the foundation of what is believed to be the barracks. About a hundred feet away is the trash pile. Researchers are also finding a lot of personal items like buttons, bone toothbrushes, pocketknives, and coins. All of these items exemplify what soldiers used and discarded every day. The British burned down the fort and barracks in 1815. Not much is known about the War of 1812 in this area. There are no sketches, no records, and no details of what happened here. But archaeologists are piecing together this area's history one artifact at a time.

Major Iron Age Discovery in Scotland


In Scotland, excavations at a large hill fort have uncovered what archaeologists believe to be one of the nerve centers of the Iron Age. The new findings in East Lothian include the first coal jewelry workshop unearthed in Scotland as well as hundreds of artifacts giving new insight into life in the 700 BC-AD 43 era. Thanks to the discovery of multiple ramparts, Roman pottery, gaming pieces, tools and beads, archaeologists are now able to paint a picture of a densely populated hilltop town which was home to leaders of local tribes. At the center of the site is a medieval building, first uncovered by a fire in 1996, that has since been fully excavated by the team of archaeologists. The thirty foot-long building is believed to have been built during the 14th century to supply pilgrims visiting the hill because of its connections with St. Mungo, whose mother was banished from the hill by her father, the mythical King Loth, when she became pregnant. St. Mungo brought Christianity to the west of Scotland. Pottery found at the site proved that in AD 80-400 inhabitants had regular contacts with Roman visitors. Experts at the latest excavation, the largest since 1923, have also produced the first detailed plan of the hill using new global positioning satellite equipment to chart the 125-acre area. Dr Ian Armit, Queens University Belfast, said they had found even more than he had hoped for at the site, which was subject to a
fire last year. "This dig has given us new insight into the kinds of activities that went on at the site and paints a picture of a thriving hilltop town with a mixture of high status people and lower ranked individuals." The excavations undertaken are being funded by Historic Scotland.

Oldest Brewery in the Andes Discovered

Our final story is from Peru. A team from Chicago's Field Museum uncovered a brewery in the mountains where members of the Wari Empire made a beer-like drink called chicha more than 1,000 years ago. "This was a very large scale of production that they are undertaking here in order to serve large numbers of people," said Patrick Ryan Williams, an assistant curator at the museum. The brewery may be the oldest large-scale facility of its kind ever found in the Andes and predates the Inca Empire by at least four centuries. Scientists have long known the Wari made the spicy drink, but nothing on the scale of the brewery found. Based on the brewing room that contained the pieces of several 10- to 15-gallon ceramic preparation vats, Williams estimates the facility could produce as much as a few thousand liters of chicha a day. The brewery was found during the excavation of Cerro Baul, a mountaintop city about 8,000 feet above sea level that was active from AD 600 to 1000 and had a population of about 1,000 to 2,000. Excavations started in 1989 and about five years ago, archaeologists uncovered evidence that the Wari consumed chicha. Scholars believe that the elite members of the Wari Empire who lived in the city hosted large gatherings. They invited subordinates from throughout the empire, which stretched from northern Peru to southern Peru. Williams said these gatherings might have been particularly important because they served as a means of incorporating diverse groups of people who may have spoken different languages into a "single political structure." Archaeologists found fire pits fueled with animal dung that were apparently used to boil water and other ingredients such as fruits, grains and pepper tree seeds. The liquid was then transferred from the ceramic vats into fermenting jars. The last gathering was likely the most memorable. According to scientists, when the Wari decided to abandon the complex, they held elaborate closing rites at the ceremonial drinking halls and brewing facilities, then set the whole place on fire. Later, elaborate drinking vessels were thrown into the charred remains of the halls. According to Williams, it is unknown as to why Cerro Baul and other Wari cities were abandoned after this last gathering, but there is evidence that it was in part due to internal strife and natural disasters.

That wraps up the news for this week!

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