Audio News for December 27th to January 2nd

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I’m Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from December 27th, 2004 to January 2nd, 2005.

Burnt City had thousands of years on Warner Brothers


Our first story is from Iran, where in Burnt City archaeologists have discovered a 5000-year old earthen goblet featuring an animated design. The decoration features a goat jumping towards a tree in an attempt to sample its leaves and is considered the first animated art. The goblet, with a diameter of 3 inches and height of 4 inches, shows image movement in an intricate and unprecedented way.  Other earthenware found in Burnt City shows repetitive images, but none of them demonstrate such movement.  The archeologists have managed to put together an animated 20-second film using these images.  After 8 seasons of research in Burnt City, this 5000-year-old site occupied until the 2nd or 3rd century BC still holds many secrets.  Burnt City was a civilized and developed community, and a hub for its valued jewelry makers and potters.

Wealthy Romans developed earliest out-of-town shopping malls


In Britain, work in Bath suggests that rich Romans were so keen to live close to attractions associated with city centers that they abandoned the empire's traditional habit of building lavish villas in the countryside.  Excavations reveal that at least half a dozen elegant homes existed near one another and within easy reach of leisure areas.  One villa was found while sprinkler pipes were being laid across a golf course.  A second villa with mosaic floors was found a few hundred feet away.  David Musgrove, the editor of the BBC's History magazine, reports that Bath was as much of a hot spot then as it is now.  The evidence suggests that Romano-Britons developed luxury housing on the edge of the center.  Bath had many attractions for well-to-do Romans.  It had three hot springs, each with a complex of bathing pools, places of worship and perhaps a huge theatre.  Research over the past 15 years has found repeated proof that commerce was exiled to a ribbon development outside the city.

Researcher hopes to delve into the lives of runaway slaves


In the United States, a student from the College of William and Mary is spending a second year in the thickets of the Great Dismal Swamp in hopes of documenting the small communities fugitive slaves may have created.  Daniel Sayers has located and begun examining six areas of relatively high ground, some on the swamp's North Carolina side, that may have been settled between the late 1600s and mid-1800s by slaves known as Maroons, fugitive slaves from the West Indies or Guyana.  His work got a boost recently when Sayers was named one of eight doctoral candidates who each received a three-year research grant.  Sayers is searching for artifacts and archaeological "features" left by structures that will support historical accounts that Maroons lived in the swamp and may have formed small communities.  Documents show that slaves began fleeing into the swamp as early as the 1680s, about the time slavery became institutionalized in Colonial Virginia. Sayers also hopes to find evidence of interaction among Maroons and American Indians who moved into the swamp to avoid English settlers early in the Colonial period.  He's also interested in finding support for historical accounts of interaction between Maroons and enslaved laborers brought into the swamp starting in the 1760s to build a series of canals.  The swamp has become part of the National Park Service's Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program.  Sayers, who is conducting his research with volunteer help from students and other archeologists, started his quest more than one year ago with two months of looking at maps and slogging through miles of challenging terrain to find likely high spots.  A breakthrough came as he mentioned to a federal law-enforcement officer working in the wildlife refuge that he was interested in finding islands.  It turned out that hunters and those who enforce hunting laws knew exactly where they were. Among the six islands on which Sayers has been working, several, ranging from 10 to 30 acres in size, are arranged in a row at about quarter-mile intervals in the North Carolina portion of the swamp.  Before choosing his site, Sayers and his volunteer assistants spent months in general examinations of potential sites. This work included digging small holes systematically to search for physical artifacts and features indicating human occupation.  But among the artifacts were also some objects from the target period, such as a piece of ceramic pottery made and used between the 1820s and 1840s.  Sayers also hopes to interview descendants of enslaved canal workers and runaways who lived in the swamp, Indians who have oral traditions related to the swamp and anyone who worked there before it became a wildlife refuge.  Between the archaeology and the interviews, Sayers hopes to develop a much clearer picture of how people once lived in the swamp.

Early granaries give clues to important transitional period in Egyptian history


Our final story is from Egypt, where an American excavation mission has unearthed eight granaries dating from agricultural life in the Neolithic era.  The granaries were discovered last week in Fayoum, an oasis some 50 miles southwest of Cairo.  The granaries date back to the Neolithic era that began around 9,000 B.C., known as a transition point from roaming and hunting societies to an agricultural one.  They reveal much about the agricultural techniques and system used by a prehistoric community.  Top antiquities official Zahi Hawass also described the "unique" granaries as "our witness of the oldest agriculture communities of Egypt."  Hawass added that the "excellent" preservation of the granaries has helped scientists to understand the transition from hunter-gatherer to agricultural lifestyles.  William Z. Wendrich, the head of the American archaeological mission, said in the statement that the granaries were found north of a site where several granaries full of Emmer wheat, flax and fruit were discovered in 1926.

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!