Audio News for August 16th to August 22nd

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I’m Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from August 16th to August 22nd.

Bulgarian tomb yields solid gold death mask


Our first story is from Bulgaria where an archaeologist has unearthed an ancient gold mask and a ring featuring an "Olympic" rower. Project leader Georgi Kitov (YORG-ee KEE-tof) said the artifacts likely belonged to a fifth century BC leader of the Thracians, the dispersed tribes who once lived in parts of what is now modern-day Bulgaria, Romania, Macedonia, Turkey, and Greece. He believes the mask is a portrait of a Thracian king, from the tomb of Teres (te-RAYS). The portrait might be a more significant find than the so-called Mask of Agamemnon. The Mask of Agamemnon was made of gold foil and weighs only 2.1 oz, while this mask weighs 24.3 oz and is of solid gold. Kitov (KEE-tof) said the ring, found near the mask, featured what looked like an Olympic rower in mid-stroke. The Thracians lived on the fringes of the Greek and Roman civilizations, often intermingling and clashing with the more advanced cultures until they were absorbed around AD 45. Archaeologists have discovered a large number of artifacts in Bulgaria's Thracian tombs in recent decades, providing most of what is known of the culture, as it had no written language and produced no lasting records.

Maryland site may predate14,000


In the United States, a soybean field where an anthropologist has been digging for more than a decade is yielding hints that someone camped there, on the banks of the Potomac River, as early as 14,000 BC. Robert D. Wall is too careful a scientist to say he's on the verge of a sensational discovery. If further digging and carbon dating confirm it, the field in Allegany County could be among the oldest and most important archaeological sites in the Americas. The discovery of a human presence in Maryland anywhere near 14,000 BC would feed the debate about when the continent was first peopled, and by whom. For now, the age of Wall's find is still in doubt. Three radiocarbon dates taken from buried organic matter found there all suggest the site dates to roughly 14,000 BC. But another, derived from charcoal found beside an ancient hearth at the same depth, was pegged to 7,000 B.C. Wall says the challenge now is to find another charcoal sample for more carbon dating along with a tool or other artifact whose design clearly shows its age. Archaeologist Dennis Curry of the Maryland Historical Trust said scientists were taught for decades that the first humans came to North America after the last Ice Age ended about 13,500 years ago. According to the theory, they crossed a "land bridge" from Asia into what is now Alaska and spread quickly across the continent. The stone tools they left behind — all less than 13,500 years old -- support the theory. But in the past decade, a handful of excavations in the eastern United States have turned up traces of different tools and encampments buried beneath the "paleo-Indian" sites. Those materials are presumed to be older, or pre-paleo. For example, burned wood found with tools at a Virginia site called Cactus Hill, south of Richmond, was dated to 16,000 BC. But such finds have been controversial. Skeptics argue that the sandy soil at Cactus Hill might have allowed ground water to mix older organic matter with much younger artifacts, which would affect carbon-dating technology. A pre-paleo find at the western Maryland site would be harder to dispute, Curry said. On the floodplain where Wall is working, the river deposits silt, and the soil builds up over time. Ancient artifacts are buried in simple, stable, horizontal layers, with the oldest buried the deepest.

Saharan sands reveal ancient Berber town


The remains of a prehistoric town believed to date back 15,000 years and belonging to an ancient Berber civilization have been discovered just south of Morocco. A team of scientists stumbled across the sand-covered ruins of the town Arghilas deep in the desert of Western Sahara, a territory administered by Morocco . The remains of a place of worship, houses and a necropolis, as well as columns and rock engravings depicting animals, were found at the site. The isolated area is known to be rich in prehistoric rock engravings, but experts said the discovery could be significant if it is proven that the ruins were of Berber origin, as this civilization is believed to date back only 9,000 years. "It appears that scientists have come up with the 15,000-year estimate judging by the style of the engravings and the theme of the drawings," said Mustapha Ouachi, (WAH-chee), a Berber historian. Berbers were the original inhabitants of North Africa before Arabs came to spread Islam in the seventh century. The population of Western Sahara, seized by Morocco in 1975 when former colonial power Spain pulled out, is mostly of Berber and Arab descent.

Peruvian jungle city predates the Incas


Our final story is from Peru, where U.S. and Peruvian archaeologists working in the northeastern tropical forest have discovered an ancient metropolis with five stone citadels that predate the Incan empire. The archaeologists found walls, squares and mausoleums in the Amazon region of San Martin, in a nearly inaccessible forest area at an altitude of 9,200 feet above sea level. The explorers, led by Peruvian-American archaeologist Sean Savoy, searched a 35-square-mile area in an archaeological zone dubbed Gran Saposoa (GRAHN sa-poh-SOH-a). "It is a tremendous city," Savoy said, "containing areas with stone etchings and 30 foot high walls." Stone paths connect the 1,300-year-old citadels, located along the Huabayacu (WAH-bye-YAH-coo) river valley, and experts had to hack through dense vegetation to reach the city. Savoy said the citadels, which date from the seventh and eighth centuries, also had aqueducts and turrets. They are the most ancient citadels built by the Chachapoya (CHAH-chah-POY-ah) culture. According to early accounts by Spanish conquistadors from the early 1500s, the Chachapoyas (CHAH-chah-POY-as) were a fair-skinned warrior tribe, and tall. The tribe is thought to have been conquered by the Incas. Savoy also stated that his team found an Inca settlement within the Chachapoya (CHAH-chah-POY-ah) city complex that could prove that theory. The Incas territory expanded to rule the region from Ecuador to northern Chile between 1300 and 1500. Another exploration is planned for next year.

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 Kelley and I’ll see you next week!