Audio News for December 20th to December 26th

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I'm Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from December 20th to December 26th.

Roman army burials in Britain include Amazons

Original Headline: Women warriors from Amazon fought for Britain's Roman army


Our first story is from Britain where the remains of two Amazon warriors serving with the Roman army in Britain have been discovered. It is believed they died some time between AD 220 and 300. They were burnt on funeral pyres with their horses and military equipment. The remains were uncovered in the 1960s, but full-scale analysis and identification has been possible only since 2000 with technological advances. The women are thought to be from the Danube region of Eastern Europe, where the Ancient Greeks said the fearsome Amazon warriors could be found. The soldiers are believed to have been part of the numerii (NOO-mer-ee), the name for an irregular unit, which would have been attached to a Roman legion serving in Britain. Other finds show that their unit originated from the Danubian provinces of Noricum, Pannonia and Ilyria, which now form parts of Austria, Hungary and the former Yugoslavia. The cemetery where the remains were found, served a fort and the civilian settlement of Brocavum in the 3rd century. Analysis of the remains of more than 180 people showed that the population as a whole was buried there. Archaeologists have been able to determine the ages and gender of the dead and to build up a detailed picture of Roman funerals in Brougham. One of the sets of women warrior's remains were found with the burnt remnants of animals. Bone veneer, used to decorate boxes, was also found alongside evidence of a sword scabbard and red pottery. The possessions suggest that she was of high status and her age has been estimated at between 20 and 40 years old. The other woman, thought to be between 21 and 45, was buried with a silver bowl, a sword scabbard, bone veneer and ivory.

Throne of Darius the Great found in Persian dig
Original Headline: Archaeologists believe they have discovered part of throne of Darius


In Iran, archaeologists believe they have found a part of the throne of Darius (dah-RYE-us) the Great during their excavations at Persepolis. At the ancient capital of the Achaemenid (ack-a-MEE-nid) dynasty, the team found a piece of lapis lazuli during their excavations in water canals passing under the treasury last year. Analysis of that piece of stone over the past year led archaeologists to conclude that it had probably been a part of a leg of the throne of Darius. According to historical sources, the upper parts of the throne of Darius were been made of gold, silver, and ivory and its legs were made of lapis lazuli. The throne had been transferred to the treasury after Xerxes I, the son of Darius, was crowned king. Archaeologists have speculated that the piece of stone fell into the canals after Persepolis was destroyed and looted by Alexander the Great. Darius I established Persepolis when he transferred the capital of the Achaemenid dynasty to Persepolis from Pasargadae (pa-SAR-guh-dee), where Cyrus the Great, the founder of the Persian Empire, had ruled.

Sprawling Peruvian site may be earliest New World city

Original Headline: Ancient Peru site older, much larger


A Peruvian site previously reported as the oldest city in the Americas is turning out to be part of
a much larger complex than previously thought. The complex is thought to contain as many as 20 cities with huge pyramids and sunken plazas sprawled over three river valleys, researchers report. According to a team from Northern Illinois University and Chicago's Field Museum, the city’s construction started about 5,000 years ago at a time when most people around the world were simple hunters and gatherers. The society and its populace existed in their lifestyle for 1,200 years before warlike neighbors overran them. That is the longest time any known ancient civilization survived, according to archaeologist Jonathan Haas of the Field Museum. The results greatly expand understanding of how complex states began in the Americas. Haas said people always have thought the Americas were behind Europe, Africa and Asia in terms of developing civilizations. The new dates for the region show the two worlds developed more or less simultaneously. The findings also are overturning the previous belief that South American civilization was based in coastal cities supported by fishing. Instead, Andean society seems to have been built primarily on cotton farming and trade, supported by fishing villages. The first city to be discovered, Caral in the Supe River Valley, about 120 miles north of Lima, lay virtually ignored for more than 100 years after its discovery, despite its nearly 100-foot-tall pyramids. It had no golden or jeweled artifacts, no pottery shards with which to date it, and no art or writing to indicate its origins. It was not until Haas' team first reported radiocarbon dates for the site three years ago that scientists appreciated its antiquity. Those dates indicated that Caral was built about 2600 BC., much earlier than thought possible. A new series of dates from the Supe River Valley, as well as the nearby Pativilca and Fortaleza valleys, show construction began even earlier, about 3000 BC. But the climate turned much drier beginning about 3100 BC., eliminating naturally growing fruits and vegetables that villagers relied on to supplement their diet of fish. They began looking inland for new food sources, Haas said. They grew guava, beans, peppers and fruits -- but not the corn or potatoes that researchers previously believed necessary to support a large population. But their most important crop was cotton, which was traded to coastal villagers to make fishing nets. But beginning about 1800 B.C., possibly because the soil began to lose its productivity, new buildings and monuments got smaller and the big cities began to decline. New, larger cities appeared north and south of Norte Chico. Warfare eventually began, and Norte Chico was conquered and abandoned.

Original Headline: Archaeologists strike gold in secret spot


Our final story is from Norway where eleven small, golden reliefs have been unearthed at an archaeological dig at an undisclosed site in the eastern region of the country. The first of the 1,400-year-old pieces were unearthed in October, before digging had to stop for the winter. Professor Heid Gjøstein Resi said they were found on the excavation's first day, and the thrill intensified when further digging yielded 10 additional gold plaques. The archaeologists call the small reliefs gullgubber, which basically translates to "golden old men." That's because the first of their kind found in Scandinavia depicted men with beards, even though those found this fall depict a man and a woman. They date from AD 600-700, are only about 1.1 centimeters in size and are believed to have been used as a form of payment or offering at rituals. The last ones found in Norway were unearthed at Borg on Lofoten in the 1980s. The biggest collection, around 2,300, was found on the Danish island of Bornholm. The so-called gulgubber also have been found in Sweden. Archaeologists will resume digging at the site in the spring, and its location is expected to be made public next year..

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!