Audio News for February 14th to February 20th

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I’m Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from February 14th to February 20th, 2005.

New Roman find may mark the city’s mythical birth
Original Headline: Palace found in Roman Forum


In our first story, legend has it that the famous twins Romulus and Remus, sons of the god Mars, founded Rome in 753 BC.  Archaeologists believe they have found evidence supporting at least part of that myth.  Traces of a royal palace have been discovered in the Roman Forum and dated to roughly the period of the eternal city's legendary beginnings.  Andrea Carandini, a professor of archaeology at Rome's Sapienza University, has been conducting excavations at the Forum for more than 20 years.  He said that he made the discovery during the past month at the spot where the Temple of Romulus stands today.  Previously archaeologists had only found huts dating to the 8th century BC.  Now, Carandini and his team have unearthed traces of regal magnificence: a 3,700-square-foot palace, some 1,000 square feet of it the roofed building, and the rest courtyard. There was an immense entrance, and sophisticated furnishings and ceramics.  The walls were made of wood and clay, with a floor of wood shavings and pressed turf.  It was tests on the clay that allowed the archaeologists to confirm the age of the find.  Carandini said that compared to other buildings of the time, the residence had absolutely extraordinary dimensions, dimensions not formerly known.  It could be nothing other than the royal palace, he thinks, because the average home during that period was about one-tenth the size.  The palace is located next to the famous Sanctuary of Vesta; the Roman goddess of the hearth.  Carandini also found a hut where vestal virgins are believed to have lit a sacred flame.  The superintendent of monuments for the city of Rome has confirmed the interpretation of the ruins.  Rome's founding myth involves treachery, imprisonment, gods and wolves.  The story began when a king was overthrown by his brother and the daughter of the deposed king was forced to become a vestal virgin to prevent her from having children who could avenge him.  But the king’s daughter, Rhea Silvia (RAY-ah SIL-ve-a), became pregnant with sons of the Mars, the god of war.  When the infants were discovered, the princess was imprisoned and the babies, Romulus and Remus, were set adrift in a basket on the Tiber River.  They were rescued by a female wolf who nursed them as her cubs, and raised them. When they learned the story of their past, they killed the usurper Amulius (ah-MOOL-eus), restored Rhea Silvia's father to the throne, and set off to found a city.  While there is little evidence of the historical existence of twins called Romulus and Remus, the discovery of the palace offers enticing indications that the legend had roots in fact.

German project uncovers Roman river port
Original Headline: Archaeologists hope to rewrite Cologne's past


In the German city of Cologne, archaeologists have started one of the biggest projects ever undertaken in Europe, in hopes of rewriting the 2,000-year history of the area before a railway construction project begins.  The Romans founded "Colonia" and it was one of European biggest cities in late Roman times and the Middle Ages.  Past digs have yielded Roman mosaics, tombstones and oil lamps.  Now, archaeologists have four years to shift 100,000 cubic yards of soil, looking for foundations and artifacts that will help explain the changes that caused the Roman river port to silt up, affecting Cologne drastically 1,800 years ago.  The teams are digging up to 40 feet under the surface on land that has been reserved for an underground railway.  When the 100 archaeologists leave, the engineers will move in.

Santa Fe’s own city hall is a pueblo site
Original Headline: Archaeologists Find Ancient Pueblo Site


In the United States, a report by the Museum of New Mexico's Office of Archaeological Studies confirmed what Santa Fe historians and archaeologists long suspected.  A 600-year-old pueblo is buried under Santa Fe's City Hall, the convention center next to it, and the parking lot they share.  The relatively undisturbed village dates to between A.D. 1350 and 1400 and was possibly a village of the Tewa (TAY-wuh), one of the many Pueblo peoples still living in New Mexico.  State archaeologists dug tests pits in January and last October across parts of the parking lot.  The pits helped the team uncover pottery shards, kivas, tools, and what seemed to be burial pits with human remains.  Also found were artifacts from Santa Fe's Territorial period from 1846 to 1912. Test pits are required before the city can give approval to build a new civic center.  Some leaders are expressing concern about building on an ancient pueblo site, but supporters of the civic center say any construction in the capital city is likely to disrupt ancient sites.  State archaeologists suggest not building on the site, as their first option is always preservation.  If building has to take place, however, there are ways to mitigate the disturbance to the archaeological remains.  These methods include taking digital photographs and mapping the site so any settlement can be reproduced, and excavating until the data recovery process is exhausted.  The city archaeological review committee is expected to give the go-ahead Thursday to begin a data recovery process.  The team will reopen the trenches that already have been dug and recover any artifacts that were not gathered or analyzed through carbon dating.  A full-scale excavation would take several months after that.  State Archaeologist Stephen Lentz has floated the idea of creating an interpretive center at the new civic center that would include an open area showing a once-buried structure uncovered by archaeologists.

Antarctic island tells story of early seal hunters

Original Headline: Sealers camps unearthed in South Shetlands


Our final story is from Chile, where researchers from the country’s Antarctic Institute Natural History Museum working  in the South Shetland Islands, just north of the Antarctic Peninsula, have discovered remains and utensils from sealing settlements that date back to the early 19th century.  The researchers from Punta Arenas (POON-ta ah-RAIN-as) have found two intact camps in Rugged Island, west of Livingston Island with many artifacts and tools of daily life when the first seal hunters established their operational bases in 1820 through 1823.  One of the camps was set up in a cavern, and in it researchers have unearthed shoe remains, ceramic mugs, pipes, glass bottles, buttons, carpentry nails and even some food, presumably seal meat, next to what seemed a cooking place.  The other camp, in the open, showed remains of what once had been several shacks, a cast iron stove and other remnants of the sealers existence.  But the most surprising find was an iron lance or spear, almost four meters long, in good condition.  Presumably, this was the type of early weapon used to hunt the seals.  Researchers will try to determine the exact date of the many utensils and remains found and begin compiling adding this to their register of cultural heritage sites in the South Shetlands.

That wraps up the news for this week!

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