Audio News for August 23rd to August 29th

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I'm Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from August 23rd to August 29th.

Headless Bodies Pique Interests Concerning Pacific People


Our first story is from the island of Vanuatu, where headless bodies buried 3,000 years ago in the oldest cemetery in the Pacific could reveal much about the earliest settlers of Vanuatu, Fiji and Polynesia. The burial site contains the oldest human remains found in the region to date. Archaeologists say the discovery will unearth many clues about the appearance and culture of the Lapita (LA-pita) people; some of the earliest settlers of the Pacific islands and believed to be ancestors of the region's Polynesian people. "This is easily one of the most significant sites of the Pacific," stated Matthew Spriggs, a leading archaeologist. He said the skeletons would show archeologists what Lapita (LA-pita) people would have looked like, and the way they were buried, thus shedding light on various aspects of their culture. All of the adult skeletons at the burial site were missing heads. Archaeologists working at the site found the heads had been removed from the bodies sometime after burial and were replaced with shell bracelets. Reasons for this are not yet readily known. Spriggs said so few remains of the Lapita people had been discovered at other archaeological sites that researchers had previously thought they must have been buried at sea.

South Dakota Paleo-Indian Campground Looks Back 12,000 Years


In the United States, around the Black Hills area of South Dakota researchers think they have stumbled on to something rare. About 9,000 to 12,000 years ago, on the banks of a creek southeast of the Black Hills, ancient hunters found themselves a good place to camp. "My impression was that this place was ideally suited for access to water, game animals, stones suitable for working into tools, and had good visibility over the surrounding region," said Jim Donohue of the state Archaeological Research Center. Few archaeological sites this old and this intact have been found, he said. This one was discovered during a routine cultural resources survey that preceded construction of a highway. In 2001, during the first phase of the survey, Donohue and his crew walked the proposed route looking for landforms such as creek terraces that might yield deeply buried artifacts. During phase 2, crews returned to the most promising sites to take a much closer look. They dug 3-foot-by-3-foot holes and sifted the soil in search of bone fragments, flint flakes or other evidence of human activity. For archaeologists, bone fragments or arrowheads by themselves hold little interest. But if the artifacts are relatively undisturbed, and if their age can be verified by radiocarbon dating, experts start getting excited. Initially, this site was one of the least promising of the places crews investigated, Donohue recalled. However, the first hole yielded an incredible 1,468 artifacts. So they excavated nine test holes and did 32 shovel tests at the site, which could cover nearly 26 acres. The crews ended up digging down nearly 12 feet. At various levels, they found stone artifacts buried at the same level with campfire charcoal and burned animal bones that could be carbon dated. One artifact, a dart-point base, has Donohue very excited. Its style of manufacture is similar to the Goshen type, from an age of tool making known as the Paleo-indian Goshen-Plainview cultural complex. Goshen is a point style first defined in southeast Wyoming. It is generally believed to be a point type that was made 12,000 to 13,000 years ago. At the Black Hills site, radiocarbon dating of the soil and charcoal puts the age of the artifact find at 10,000 to 12,000 years old. More research into the artifacts here will also fill in some of the wide gaps in the archaeologists' portrait of Paleo-indian life.

Ancient Village Discovered in the Holy Land


In Israel, the Antiquities Authority revealed two extraordinary findings in the archaeological dig near Modi'in: a 5,000-year-old Canaanite city and a 2,000-year-old Jewish village from the Second Temple period. The adjacent ancient sites, which were known to exist but previously lay untouched, lie on a barren, hilltop near the present-day Israeli town of Shoham. The rural Jewish town uncovered at the site existed from about 100 BC to AD 135, until the Bar Kochba revolt, according to archeologist Dr. David Amit. An estimated several hundred people lived there, perhaps the members of five to eight extended families. Excavations at the ancient village have uncovered a 2,000-year-old street, Jewish coins from the time of the rebellion, and wine presses, as well as a spiritual bath. The bath, which is still visible, was turned into a regular water well by pagans who lived at the village for several generations after the Jews vacated the area. Adjacent to the Jewish village lies a 5,000-year-old Canaanite city from the Early Bronze Age.  The city was divided into a smaller upper and a larger lower level and was surrounded by a wall and watch towers. It existed for up to 400 years. The impressive remnants of a 5,000-year-old street, an assortment of pottery and cutting vessels, flint Canaanite blades, stone beads, and a variety of colored juglets, have been uncovered by the team. The Antiquities Authority says that the quality and extent of the finds uncovered during the three-month excavation at both sites is "unprecedented."

Rare Discovery of Inuit Burial Grounds in Greenland


In final story, a team of archaeologists from Denmark, Greenland and Canada announced they had made the first ever discovery of ancient Inuit, or Eskimo, burial sites in the far north of Greenland. The three burial grounds were found in Ingefield Land, around 60 miles north of Qaanaaq (QUAN-nac) in the northwest of the island. According to team member Hans Lange, curator of Greenland's national museum, the burial grounds probably dated from the 13th century. The researchers also found marker stones, tent rings and the remains of winter houses that were up to 2000 years old. They were on a six-week expedition to find traces in the region of the main periods of ancient Inuit history; the Dorset and Thule (THOO-lee) cultures. The expedition was backed by US funding as part of a series of projects to commemorate US explorer Robert Peary, whose expedition, on April 6, 1909, was the first to reach the North Pole.

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 Kelley and I'll see you next week!