Audio News for November 29th to December 5th

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I’m Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from November 29th to December 5th.

Ancient Roman rest stops


Our first story is from Germany where the 2,000-year-old remains of a Roman
roadside rest stop have been discovered deep under a bus terminal near
Düsseldorf. The complex was once included a forecourt, chariot workshop,
restaurant and an area to give horses water and hay. A Roman traveler would
have been able to order a quick meal before setting off on the road, which ran
the length of Germany, or book a room and spend the night. Travelers could
also buy other essentials such as clothes, preserved meat and olives. The
remains found so far cover 240 square yards, and the team believes that the
entire Roman complex, which appears to run beneath several existing buildings, may have been twice this size. Structures have been built from high-quality
tuff stone and included under-floor heating and an overhanging slate roof to
trap the warmth of the sun. According to Sabine Sauer, the archaeologist
leading the team, the site has been nicknamed “Big Maximus.” Big Maximus was
situated on the main road that formed part of the Roman Long Road. Travel was
only possible by day and historians believe that there would have been similar
rest stops every 20 miles or so. This building could have housed up to 30
travelers and their animals overnight. In addition, archaeologists have
uncovered signs of a workshop where local mechanics would have repaired
chariots. Roman crockery also suggests that its restaurant likewise flourished.

Decapitated sacrifices at Teotihuacán provide tantalizing clues yet spark more questions


In Mexico, a newly opened chamber within Teotihuacan’s Pyramid of the Moon
reveals a grisly sacrificial burial with artwork unlike any seen before in
Mesoamerica. Archaeologists hope that discoveries at the pyramid will answer
lingering questions about the culture that built the great city. However, the
new find deepens the mystery. The burial is common relative to others at the
site, but there are some striking new elements as well. The discovery
strongly suggests that the Pyramid of the Moon served the Teotihuacano people
as a site for celebrating state power through ceremony and sacrifice. Contrary
to some past interpretation, militarism was apparently central to the city’s
culture. A co-operative excavation effort between the Aichi Prefectural
University in Japan and Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and
History found the tomb. The filled-in burial vault contains the remains of
twelve people, all apparently sacrificed, with a large variety of offerings
and the remains of various animals. Ten of the human bodies were
decapitated. All of the human remains had their hands bound behind their
backs, and the ten decapitated bodies appear to have been tossed, rather than
arranged, on one side of the burial. The other two bodies were "richly
ornamented" with greenstone ear spools, beads and other items indicating high
rank. Animal remains were found arranged on the sides of the burial structure
and included canine skeletons, feline skeletons, and complete bird remains–
all animals that are believed to be symbols of warriors in Teotihuacano
iconography. The current burial, however, also contains some startling new
features. A commemoratory “offering" at the center of the burial features a
mosaic human figure, found on top of 18 large obsidian knives, carefully set
in a radial pattern. Nine of these had a curving form, while the other nine
took the shape of the feathered serpent, a symbol of maximum political
authority. The burial also contained obsidian human figures, knives,
projectile points, shell pendants and beads, ceramics, plaques, and a large
disk. Teotihuacan, the 2,000-year-old, master-planned metropolis that was the
first great city of the Western Hemisphere, has long been perplexing to
Mesoamerican archaeologists. This ancient civilization left behind the ruins of a city grid covering eight square miles and signs of a unique culture. The
Pyramid of the Moon is one of the site’s oldest structures, and has long been
suspected to be its ceremonial center.

Salt man discovered in Iran


In Iran, a miner working at a salt mine in northwest area of the country
recently discovered the remains of a skeleton of a man buried in the salt.
According to the director of the Zanjan Cultural Heritage and Tourism
Department, this is only the second Salt Man ever discovered in the world.
The remains of the skeleton are almost perfectly complete, and they include
parts of the skull, jaw, both arms, as well as the legs and feet. Part of the
skin, nails, and hair are also in good condition. Initial studies on the
skeleton indicate that the Salt Man stood about six feet tall and was 35 to 40
years old. Several pieces of wool cloth and a piece of a straw mat with a
unique style of weaving were also discovered beside the Salt Man.
Archaeologists plan to carry out excavations at the site of the discovery in
search of other artifacts. The second skeleton was found 30 to 40 yards from
the place where the first Salt Man was discovered. The first Salt Man, a
miner whose body was preserved by the salt, lived over 1700 years ago. He was
also a man between the ages of 35 and 40. His remains are currently being kept
in a glass case at the National Museum of Iran in Tehran. The first Salt
Man’s withered face stares into the distance. He has long white hair and a
beard and was discovered wearing leather boots and with some tools and a
walnut in his possession. The remains of the Second Salt have been
transferred to the city and experts are continuing their studies on the

Evidence of agricultural complexity in the La Plata Basin of Uruguay 4,800 years ago


Our final story is from Uruguay where the discovery of a 4,800-year-old
farming community on the plains of the La Plata Basin indicates that
agriculture was much more widely dispersed than previously believed.
Inhabitants of the region were considered to be only hunters and gatherers,
but new findings by archaeologist Jose Iriarte of the Smithsonian Tropical
Research Institute in Panama and his colleagues indicate that a change in
climate forced the people to form farming communities. The people, known to
archaeologists as "Constructores de Cerritos," or Mound Builders, grew corn,
squash and beans. They also constructed seven platform mounds surrounding a
central plaza at a site called Los Ajos. Preliminary evidence suggests that
there are at least 10 other mound sites in the region. Little archaeological
research has been conducted in Uruguay, in large part because of the belief
among many scholars that most cultural advancements arose among the Inca and Maya populations in the Andes. The drive for creating large villages was a
drying of the climate during the mid-Holocene period, about 5,000 years ago.
That drying reduced natural resources and made small-scale farming more
difficult. But the drying also exposed wetland areas, uncovering fertile soil
that could be readily tilled and a perfect environment for planting crops.
The Mound Builders did not use pottery and had no written language, so little
is known about their culture. They apparently survived for nearly four
millennia before they were pressed into slavery by Spanish conquistadors.
That wraps up the news for this week!
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I’m Laura Kelley and I’ll see you next week!