Audio News for January 31st to February 6th

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I’m Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from January 31st to February 6th, 2005.

Ancient Malay capital is goal of jungle expedition


Our first story is from Malaysia, where archeologists plan their search for what might be a 1,000-year-old lost city. Somewhere in the dense jungles of the south, the Department of Museums and Antiquities hopes to find the site known as Kota Gelanggi, the first capital of the Srivijaya Malay Empire in the seventh century. Research on Malay manuscripts, along with aerial searches of the area, has led to the suspicion that under the dense ground cover are brick structures, an irrigation system and other buildings that could be older than the famous Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia, the most famous and enormous ancient site in this region. According to one researcher, aerial interpretation suggests that a set of double walls are present, which would have protected the inner city. Also expected are simple granite and brick structures, walls, buildings and possibly undisturbed tombs. The area was mainly a trading post, but also a center of sacred learning. The Srivijaya maritime and commercial kingdom flourished between the seventh and the thirteenth centuries in the Malay Archipelago. The kingdom, which originated in Palembang on Indonesia's Sumatra Island, soon extended its influence and based its power on control of the international sea trade. The expedition is to begin later this year.

Norway’s earliest church confirmed by radiocarbon


In Norway, researchers say they have the remains of what is probably the country's oldest church - dating back nearly 1,000 years. The church was first discovered in 2001, but its age could only be recently pinpointed with radiological tests. The church at Skien in southern Norway is believed to have been built between 1010 and 1040. Oslo historian Jon Vidar Sigurdsson says recent finds suggest that Norway first adopted Christianity in the 800s. Olav Haraldsson (995-1030) is credited with having Christianized Norway. Mr. Sigurdsson says there have been similar finds in other Nordic countries and it is known that the first churches were built in Scandinavia in the 10th Century. But the Skien find is being hailed as sensational for Norway. The church was found during excavations in hospital grounds and archaeologists believe it may be "Hakastein", which is mentioned in a manuscript from 1354. Experts believe the find strengthens theories that Norway was Christian in several spots long before Håkon the Good, Olav Tryggvason and Olav Haraldsson began their missionary raids.

American South yields details of slavery


In the United States, experts are sifting through dirt from the floor of a small cabin in Georgia and finding unexpected treasures. After a week of digging, archaeologist Dan Elliott has unearthed a doll-sized porcelain plate and clay marbles, as well as lead shot and a French-made gunflint. All are fascinating finds, considering the cabin's former inhabitants. Few would expect the slaves of a plantation played with children's toys, or kept firearms. The site is on Ossabaw Island, an undeveloped barrier island off the Georgia coast. Researchers say the three cabins they have found are made of tabby - a cement mixture of oyster shells, lime and sand – and are among the best-preserved slave quarters in the South. They hope the shards of clay pots; animal bones and other artifacts buried beneath the cabins will yield a more concrete picture of how Southern slaves lived in the 18th and 19th centuries. According to Dave Crass, Georgia's state archaeologist, this is easily one of the most important African-American slave sites in the southeast. Ossabaw Island, purchased by the state in 1978, remains one of coastal Georgia's wildest places. Hogs, deer, armadillos and Sicilian donkeys roam the island's 11,800 acres. The first slaves came to the island in the 1760s, when the North End plantation was established to harvest live oaks for shipbuilding timber and to grow indigo and other cash crops. Researchers believe about 100 slaves lived at the plantation. More came later to work three additional plantations established on the island. The island had no clay suitable for making bricks, and they were expensive to ship, so slaves constructed their homes using oyster shells plentifully piled in trash heaps left by Indians. Elliott, the study's lead archaeologist, has located buried tabby foundations that indicate 18 slave cabins once stood at North End. Only three survived intact, built 32-by-16 feet and divided like duplexes into two living quarters sharing a chimney and hearth in the center wall. Ironically, the three slave cabins survived not because they were left alone, but because they continued to be used as living quarters until the 1990s by staff of the state and the island's last private owners.

Ancient Iran produces new evidence of early civilization


Our final story is from Iran, where a brick tablet unearthed in the vicinity of Jiroft is providing evidence that civilization in the area dates back to the first half of the third millennium BC. Archaeologist Holly Pittman, from the University of Pennsylvania, stated that the tablet had been unearthed during this year's excavations at Halilroud. The script on the brick tablet has been identified as what is known as Ilamid. Samples of this script have been found in excavations at few sites anywhere near the region. Therefore, the team from University of Pennsylvania and the local experts believe that the discovery of the brick tablet indicates that this ancient monarchy enjoyed a flourishing trade. The third phase of the excavations is underway in a co-operative effort by Iranian and international archaeological teams, with 28 archaeologists and other experts and some 150 workers. The area occupied by the Halilroud civilization spreads 400 km along the river of the same name.

That wraps up the news for this week!
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I’m Laura Kelley and I’ll see you next week!