Audio News for November 8th to November 14th.

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I m Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from November 8th to November 14th.

Ancient Greek site could be famous temple of Apollo in Thebes


Our first story is from Greece, where work this year in Thebes has uncovered important building remains and artifacts from the ancient city.  Excavations started in February on a private plot close to the ancient Gate of Electra, finding materials dating from the third millennium BC to the late Byzantine era.  The eras are mingled, as was the case with late medieval walls into which sixth-century BC architectural fragments, sculpture, ceramics, and even bronze vessels had been built. Among the discoveries is what is believed to have been a huge ancient altar on which were burnt the carcasses of animals sacrificed to a god.  Worshippers also dedicated terracotta vases that were deposited among the ashes.  Archaeologists excavated a deep layer of ash, which reached
over 7 feet deep in places.  It contained large quantities of charred bones and pottery dating to Geometric and Archaic times, the eighth to late sixth centuries BC.  An exciting number of whole ceramic pots were found: a total of 380.  Researchers are optimistic that the great number of broken pieces found among the ashes can be pieced together to produce more complete pots.  The find is being tentatively associated with the Altar of Spondios Apollo or Apollo of the Ashes, which was described by the ancient writer Pausanias as standing close to the Electran Gate. Additionally, remains of a late Archaic temple were located at the other end of the site.  Among the architectural remains, a number of bronze vessels and statuettes, including some of Herakles, the mythical Theban-born hero, were found.  This could mark the site believed by ancient Thebans to be the house where Herakles grew up.

Texas coastal site is early fish camp


In the United States, researchers have discovered a cache of artifacts near South Padre Island on the Gulf coast of Texas that they say could be up to 5,000 years old.  This might provide new clues about early peoples of the Texas coast, according to archaeologist Robert Ricklis.  The items were found in a protective clay dune about 6 feet underground and appear to be part of a fishing camp for a nomadic group of hunter-gatherers.  They include fragments of shell tools, chipped flint projectile points, and a fish earbone, that can be analyzed for information about the bay environment of the time.  The find is considered significant because so little is known about the ancient Rio Grande Valley.  Most early manmade items would have been eroded by sand and sea air, or washed out by the ever-changing course of the waterways of the Rio Grande River.  The artifacts were found in May during an environmental company's archaeological survey of the Bahia Grande, a 6,000-acre lowland between Brownsville and Port Isabel.  The survey was required before the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service proceeds with plans to restore wetlands lost to the digging of ship channeling during the 1930s.  Geologists say the Gulf of Mexico once reached much farther west.  Paleo-Indians, the name for the earliest peoples, may have seen the Gulf's final rise and retreat about 10,000 years ago.  Ricklis said he believes the artifacts come from a later group of peoples who belonged to the archaic period, 7,500 B.C. to A.D. 750, which is characterized by grinding tools and certain types of projectile points.  The artifacts have not yet been carbon dated, so estimates are based on the shape of the projectile point and what's known about the bay between South Padre Island and the mainland.  Between 1908 and 1944, archaeologist Andrew Elliott Anderson, one of the few who did much work in the area, documented nearly 400 prehistoric site locations.  When the ship channel was being dug, Anderson recovered artifacts that fell from the mud, including fossil fragments of mammals from the Pleistocene era (1.5 million to 11,000 years ago) and a bright red pot with the cremated remains of a child.  Anthropologists know that groups such as the Coahuiltecans (KWA-wheel-teck-ans) regularly visited the area to hunt, fish and gather fruits and berries, and that by the time Spanish explorers arrived, there were thriving villages.  But scientists know little about earlier peoples.  The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has decided to move at least one of the planned flooding channels so as not to disturb the site.

More medical research planned for King Tut


In Egypt, plans are afoot to x-ray the mummy of Tutankhamun to find out what killed the teenage king who ruled more than 3,000 years ago.  Archaeologists will move the body from its tomb, which was found packed with treasure in 1922, to Cairo for tests which should resolve whether or not he was murdered.  According to Egyptian antiquities chief Zahi Hawass , the work will disclose any diseases he had, any kind of injuries and his real age, as well as the answer to whether he died normally or was killed.  A CAT scan, which will produce a 3D x-ray of his remains, will be completed this year.  Tutankhamun's treasures, including a gold mask which covered his mummy, were removed from the tomb in Luxor's Valley of the Kings by British archaeologist Howard Carter.  They are usually on show in the Cairo Museum.  But his mummified remains were left in the tomb in a stone coffin.  Archaeologists last opened the coffin in 1968, when an x-ray revealed a chip of bone in his skull.  That fueled speculation that a blow to the head had killed the king, whose high priest and army commander have been singled out as chief suspects.  But since 1968, the mummy has been withheld from display or inspection.  A scan of what seems to be a fracture would show if a blow to the head caused it.  Mr. Hawass said Tutankhamun's mummy had largely been smashed to pieces by Carter's expedition, when tools were used to remove the king's gold mask from his body. The mask had been firmly attached with resin, he said.  But that would not hinder the research.

Fire in Scotland exposes new evidence of early times


Our final story is from Scotland, where archaeologists are set to learn about new discoveries at one of the country’s most important ancient sites.  Investigators began work at Traprain Law, which means “Hill of Staves,” in East Lothian after a major fire in 2003 that damaged some historical remains and endangered others.  But the burned ground meant archaeologists were able to access artifacts and features that were previously not visible.  The field team, called in to carry out a full assessment, made a number of finds, including 5,000-year-old Neolithic rock art and Bronze Age axes.  The other discoveries, on a series of flat terraces, included evidence of a jewelry workshop and part of a roadway in excellent condition.  Fraser Hunter, a curator at the National Museums of Scotland, said the discoveries all helped to reinforce Traprain's reputation as a power and population center in prehistoric Scotland.  Traprain Law's inhabitants had regular contacts with Roman visitors between AD 80 and 400.  A huge hoard of Roman silver was found in 1919 on the Law, which dominates the countryside east of Haddington.  The work is on temporary hold until additional funding can be found.

That wraps up the news for this week!

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