Audio News for January 3rd to January 9th

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica!  I’m Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from January 3rd to January 9th, 2005.

Roman racetrack found in British soldier’s town
Original Headline: Builders find chariot race track


Our first story is from Britain, where archaeologists believe they may have unearthed a Roman chariot-racing track dating to the 2nd century.  Excavations of part of the garrison in Colchester, Essex, have revealed traces of a track that are being examined by English Heritage.  It was preliminary groundwork for a new residential development that opened the way for experts from Colchester Archaeological Trust to unearth its Roman origins.  Boadicea and her Celtic army, renowned for its war chariots, sacked Colchester, which was first mentioned by Pliny the Elder in AD77.  Finding the chariot track was an exercise in detective work, according to archaeological consultants RPS of Colchester.  Director Robert Masefield stated that they have been excavating on the site for several years to assess any significant archaeological finds.  Phillip Crummy, director of the Colchester Archaeological Trust, suggested that it might be a Roman circus where chariot races were held.  Director Crummy took a drawing from a known racetrack in Spain and superimposed it over a plan of the Colchester finds.  All of the features fitted, with a discrepancy of only one meter.  According to Masefield, chariot racing was very popular in the Roman world, but only four tracks have been found in the northwestern provinces.  Colchester was a colony town and its inhabitants were mainly veteran Roman soldiers and their families.  Chariot racing would have been one of their favorite pastimes.

Nuclear dating technique helps Hawaiian historical understanding
Original Headline: Temples Indicate Swift Rise of Hawaiian Society


In the Hawaiian Islands, researchers are finding that the conversion of ancient Hawaii from a loose collection of chiefdoms into the beginnings of a united political structure may have happened in as little as 30 years, according to new evidence from 400-year-old temples. Researchers employed an unusual technique to test the age of eight temples on the islands of Maui and Molokai and found that all were apparently built from about 1565 to 1638. Anthropologists had previously believed the temples, which served as religious and economic centers, were built over a period of 250 years.  Patrick Kirch and Warren D. Sharp of the Berkeley Geochronology Center used a technique called thorium-uranium dating to measure the age of branch corals tucked among the stones of the temple foundations. According to Kirch, when all the results came back within a tight time span, that was an unexpected finding.  Like other Polynesians, ancient Hawaiians plucked coral from shallow ocean waters as an offering to their gods.  Temple construction on Maui was particularly rapid, occurring during a 30-year period beginning in the early 1600s, the researchers said.  The time frame coincided with the rise of Chief Pi'ilani, who is recognized with unifying two Maui chiefdoms into an enduring political, religious and economic system that went on to encompass nearby islands, according to oral histories taken in the 1800s.

Peruvian site produces plagiarism charge
Original Headline: US archaeologists accused of plagiarism


A Peruvian archaeologist has accused two US archaeologists of plagiarizing her work on the Caral complex.  The Society for American Archaeology confirmed this week it had received a complaint from archaeologist Ruth Shady [shah-dee] against Field Museum archaeologist Jonathan Haas and his anthropologist wife, Winifred Creamer of Northern Illinois University. Shady claims that the Illinois team plagiarized her work at Caral, the oldest known urban center in the Americas.  Officials from Peru's National Institute of Culture told reporters in Lima that they are supporting Shady.  Creamer and Haas last month attracted worldwide news coverage for finding, based on radiocarbon dating of samples taken, that the oldest civilization in the Americas dates to 3100 B.C., 400 years earlier than previously thought.  In 2001, Haas, Creamer and Shady co-authored a report that used carbon dating of plant fibers at Caral to document a city at the site about 2600 B.C.  News accounts quoted Haas and Creamer extensively, which irked Shady.  She was annoyed because she had been doing research in the area years before Haas and Creamer joined the project.  Since the 2001 research, reporters often have used the two Americans as sources in stories about ancient Peru.  Creamer acknowledged some of those news stories have given the couple more credit than they deserved.  A Shady supporter, anthropologist Betty Meggers of the Smithsonian Institution, said Haas and Creamer shortchanged Shady's work in their report.  Shady is cited in two footnotes, which Meggers said was insufficient.  Caral is located some 120 miles on the coast north of Lima.  It is part of several sites collectively known as the Norte Chico.  Peru's National Institute of Culture, headed by distinguished archaeologist Luis Lumbreras, said the institute is working on a formal document to submit to the SAA's ethics committee.  Recent work led by Dr. Shady uncovered five 20-meter high platform mounds in Caral.  You can hear Dr. Shady describe her research right here on The Archaeology Channel in a bilingual audio interview we posted in 2001, titled "Caral: Oldest City in the New World."

Viking burial site has UK archaeologists excited


Our final story is from England where archaeologists in Cumbria may have discovered what could be the country's most significant Viking burial site.  The discoverers are thrilled about the find and its wealth of artifacts.  They are keeping its location undisclosed so they can work without interruption.  All that has been revealed is that it contains artifacts dating back to the 10th century. According to archaeologist, Steve Dickinson, who has been involved in the dig, the researchers are particularly excited about a merchant's weight, which is the size of a finger and shows a dragon design with two figures.  The piece is considered an example of local craftsmanship and represents an extraordinarily rich burial.  Dickinson continued, (quote)"The weight is currently with the British Museum for conservation. We do not want to be cagey about the site and raise people's expectations too high, but all the indications are that this is a high status burial site” (unquote).

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!