Audio News for December 13th to December 19th

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I’m Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from December 13th to December 19th.

Ancient child mummy found in Mexico


Our first story is from Mexico, where archaeologists have discovered a 2300-year-old mummy of a female child along with some fabric, hair, feathers and plant remains. The remains were found in a dry, cold, high-altitude cave in the central state of Queretaro. Researchers received a tip about some human remains in the cave in a mountainous area known as the Sierra Gorda. They searched the cave, located about 1,000 feet above sea level, and found the girl's mummified remains. The mummy was missing one arm. According to a press release from the Templo Mayor Museum, this is one of the oldest mummies to have been found in Mexico. The mummification was deemed to be due to natural causes, the quick drying of the corpse, along with the high altitude and cool climate, rather than any man-made mummification technique. Equally interesting was what was found along with the body: a bit of cloth, feathers, the spines of maguey plants and patches of hair, in what may have been funeral offerings. The girl is believed to have died around 320 BC, according to tests carried out on her skin and the fabric. Researchers are still unsure what prehispanic culture the girl belonged to. The remains were found north of the area covered by prehispanic cultures such as the Olmec or Maya.

Ancient massive irrigation systems discovered in Iran


In Iran, a team of Iranian, French, and Belgian archaeologists discovered ruins of eight Achaemenid dams on the Morghab Plain near Pasargadae, the ancient capital of Persia in southern Iran. The Morghab is one of the ancient places of Iran, which contains ruins and dates back to several millennia BC.  In recent years, more and more people have been living in the Morghab, which is considered archaeologically very important because it is so close to Pasargadae.  Aerial photos and other survey methods completed during trips to the site revealed the dams.  The findings show that the earthen dams were built in and after the Achaemenid era which lasted from the Sixth to the Fourth centuries BC.  At 24 to 30 feet high, six of the dams would have supplied potable and irrigation water while the other two are over 60 feet high, according to Remy Boucharlat, who is a University of Lyon archaeologist specializing in Iran.  Boucharlat is the writer of the article “The Persepolis Area in the Achaemenid Period: Some Reconsiderations.” The book was published by the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA in 2003.

"Curtain wall" of a Dublin castle reveals how structures were defended


In Ireland, a new discovery thought to be those of a "curtain wall"extending up to 240 feet and dating from the 17th century, has been made at Carrickmines Castle in south Dublin. According to archaeologists, the area of the remains, on a hillside to the southwest of an existing farmhouse, indicates the castle itself was a considerably larger complex than was originally thought. The curtain wall is separate to the "fosse,” in essence an outer defense, and archaeologists are hoping the find will reveal more information on how the castle was defended. The discovery of the curtain wall would suggest the original keep and its walls were on a scale similar to that of Trim Castle in Meath. Archaeologist Dr. Mark Clinton, who led the original dig at the castle, said it represented "a very significant find". The council's director of transportation, Mr. Eamon O'Hare, said it had always been known or suspected that there were additional artifacts at Carrickmines and this has proven challenging in deciding whether to move a planned interchange and motorway.

Bioarchaeology field school publishes its findings


In our final story, for 10 years, University of Arkansas students and professors have been digging up pieces of the past and altering the way archeologists view life in the Middle East during the first millennium. Now the U of A and Yarmouk University in Jordan have published the results of their initial years of excavation and study. "Sa'ad: A Late Roman/Byzantine Site in North Jordan" was recently published by the Deanship of Research and Graduate Studies at Yarmouk University. It is the first of a series of monographs to be produced as part of the agreement between the U of A and Yarmouk. The goal of the field school research project is to reconstruct the quality of life of the rural people during the Byzantine era, from about the time of Christ to A.D. 800. The evidence shows that these people had better health and more wealth than typically believed to be characteristic of rural Byzantine life, said professor Jerome Rose, a co-director of the fieldwork. The field school is one of few expeditions studying the smaller rural villages of Jordan in the Byzantine era. Most expeditions focus on the large cities and big towns, but so much of the research being done at Sa’ad is providing new information about this time. Also unique is the presence of an on-site osteologist, a person who studies bones. Sa’ad is likely the only expedition site in Jordan with osteologists as directors, according to Rose. The students use their field research to write their honors or masters theses. These have been incorporated into the published monograph. The monograph is seven chapters long, including an introduction and conclusion by Rose and adjunct assistant professor Dolores Burke, who also edited the publication. Four of the chapters incorporate research papers by U.S. students. Two others include research papers by Yarmouk students. In 1995, the Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology at Yarmouk University and the department of anthropology and Fulbright College at the U of A conducted the first mutual bioarchaeology and mortuary archaeology field school at the site of Sa'ad in Jordan. "We started out with what we thought was a small area, and it turned out much larger than we thought," Rose said. "With the archaeology we found and the material parts, the churches, buildings and artifacts, plus the biological parts in the bones and skeletons, we really had a holistic piece of that era to look at." The following year the institutions established a five-year agreement through 2000, when the agreement was renewed for five years. The eight-week bioarchaeology field school is conducted in the summer for up to 30 students from both universities.

That wraps up the news for this week!

For more stories and daily news updates, visit Archaeologica on the World WideWeb at , where all the news is history!

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