Audio News for November 22nd to November 28th

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I’m Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from November 22nd to November 28th.

Unexpected signs of Spanish forts far into southeastern U.S.

Original Headline: Evidence of 16th-Century Spanish Fort in Appalachia?


Our first story is from the United States, where evidence of a Spanish fort may have turned up in North Carolina. Until recently historians regarded a 16th-century Spanish presence this far north in North America as more theory than fact. But archaeologists working in a farm field near a tiny community might change that perception. The team may have unearthed ruins and artifacts showing that Spanish soldiers did roam the Appalachian Mountains. The researchers think they've found the site of Fort San Juan, where Spanish explorers reportedly stayed from 1566 to 1568. The outpost was near the American Indian village of Joara, about 50 miles east of present-day Asheville. The Spaniards' stay in western North Carolina would have been brief, but possibly long enough to have a deep impact. Scholars believe the Spanish may have brought diseases such as smallpox to the area, for which the Native Americans lacked any immunity. David Moore, an archaeologist at Warren Wilson College, suggests that this may have been a region where early European diseases contributed to a loss of the native populations. Moore and several colleagues spent decades searching for clues about 16th-century Spanish raids into North America and how those expeditions may have affected Native Americans. The researchers knew that the Spanish built forts near Indian villages, where they could obtain food. About 20 years ago Chester DePratter from the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology came across a detailed account of an expedition commanded by Captain Juan Pardo. It told the story of Pardo's attempt in 1566 to find a route from the Spanish port of Santa Elena (now Parris Island, South Carolina) to the Spanish gold mines in Mexico. The theory began to take on substance when archaeologists discovered the remains of four buildings in the nearby field that likely were part of Fort San Juan. They also found artifacts that never would have been traded to the Indians, including lead shot for the Spaniards' primitive firearms. This past summer was the fourth season for the excavation. The latest dig unveiled evidence of a fifth building from the old fort was apparently discovered. The archaeologists will resume their work next summer.

New Mycenaean tomb excavated in Greece

Original Headline: Mycenaean tomb found in southern Greece


In Greece, an untouched family grave, dating back over 3,000 years, has been discovered in the southern Peloponnese. The Mycenaean chamber tomb, an artificial cave dug into the soft rock, was found during terracing work near the village of Peristeri, some 30 miles southeast of Sparta. It contained the skeletons of nine adults and a child, and grave goods made of clay, bronze and semiprecious stones. The artifacts also included a seal-stone, a bronze razor and a pair of tweezers used by Mycenaean women to pluck their eyebrows. The child’s bones were ringed with upturned vases. The finds, tentatively dated to between 1340 and 1050 BC, were extracted during a non-stop rush dig carried out around the clock for security reasons. Local residents helped state archaeologists and laborers. The Mycenaean culture, named after its capital city Mycenae, thrived from 1580-1100 BC.

Ancient Gallic war goods found in southern France

Original Headline: Gallic war treasure discovered in southern France


Moving on to France, archaeologists have discovered an extraordinary Gallic war treasure in the southern region of the country. Some 470 objects, or fragments of objects, were found during a dig at Naves in a ditch dug through a Gallic-Roman temple. They include rare war trumpets and ornate helmets. According to Christophe Maniquet, an archeologist working with the materials, the exceptional character of this discovery lies mainly in the presence of five almost complete carnyx. Carnyx are Celtic war trumpets used to scare off the enemy by confusing the battle. He said it was the first time these ceremonial musical instruments had been found in one piece. The bronze tubes measure more than six feet long and have flags on the end. Four bear the head of a wild boar, the fifth a snake. These trumpets are only known from drawings.  Only fragments of these instruments have been found in Scotland and eastern France. Research at the temple, which dates back to the first century BC, began in September 2001. In addition to finding swords, sheathes and spearheads, the archaeologists made another special discovery of nine war helmets, eight of bronze and one of iron. One of them was particularly original, decorated with a swan, while another was decorated with golden leaves. Also unearthed in the search are bronze animals' heads -- boars and a horse which might have been war emblems, placed at the ends of the poles which guided soldiers during battles. Most of the collection has been sent to Toulouse to be cleaned, carefully studied and then restored.

Bronze Age burials reveal ancient Scottish beliefs

Original Headline: Unearthed: ancient burial pit shows how Bronze Age Scots prepared for afterlife


Our final story is from Scotland, where archaeologists have discovered what they believe is the most significant Bronze Age site in Britain. The 29 cremation pits, containing artifacts as well, were uncovered during the installation of a gas pipeline in Aberdeenshire in the northern region. In the pits were 10 pottery urns containing the ashes of 35 men, women and children who lived between 1900 and 1600 BC. Among the remains, researchers found a variety of artifacts, including two golden eagle talons. The talons are of particular importance, as they have never been excavated from this period before. Archaeologists were called to the site after the discovery was made during construction. According to archaeologist Dr. Melanie Johnson, the find is extremely important for the reliability of the dating, which is not often possible. The find of the eagle talons with the remains indicates a belief in the after-life. Other artifacts excavated include antler toggles, which could have been used to fasten clothing, and bone pins. Dr. Johnson stated that many of those buried had medical problems, including arthritis and bad teeth, but this was not an indicator of an unhealthy community, as such problems were common at the time. The remains represent burials over several generations, probably of people who farmed in the area.

That wraps up the news for this week!

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