Audio News for March 14th to March 20th

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

Central Asian republic may be birthplace of Zoroastrianism
Original Headline: Archeologist says Central Asia was cradle of ancient Persian religion


Our first story is from Turkmenistan, where new excavations have suggested that the region’s mysterious Margianan civilization was the cradle of the ancient Persian religion of Zoroastrianism. The interpretation may rouse controversy, but the excavations around the site of Gonur Tepe have uncovered temples and evidence of sacrifices that are indeed consistent with a Zoroastrian cult. Amongst the discoveries are the foundations of a huge palace, seven temples and a vast mausoleum from a religion founded by Zarathustra, a Persian prophet who was one of the world's first monotheists. According to the excavators, the ruins of the mausoleum look extremely similar to those of Mesopotamia, now in the countries of Iraq and Syria. One thought is that civilization emerged in this region as a result of the arrival of people escaping drought in Mesopotamia. The latest finds from excavations in 2004 suggest a highly refined civilization. They feature superb mosaics depicting griffins, wolves and lions, as well as a marble statue of a ram and finely worked vases in gold and silver. Zoroastrianism is still practiced today in Iran and India.

Scottish monastery remains investigated
Original Headline: Medieval friary remains reburied


In Scotland, archaeologists working at a construction site have unearthed the city's original Franciscan friary and the remains of 20 buried within it. Glasgow's first Franciscan friary was confirmed by Pope Sixtus IV in 1476, but destroyed little more than 80 years later during the Reformation. The friary’s destruction began in 1559 under the Duke of Chatelherault and the Earl of Argyle. Those buried in the cloister of the ruined friary cannot be named, as the friary’s archives were also destroyed. The remains show that 12 skeletons were male and seven were female. Insufficient remains were discovered to determine the gender of the final skeleton. Their burial within the hallowed ground of the cloister is clear evidence that these individuals were closely connected to the Franciscan Order. The men, if not actually friars, may well have been benefactors whose contributions to the friary had entitled them to the privilege of burial within the grounds. A new garden commemorating the site of the Franciscan friary will be built as part of the development and the remains of the 20 followers of St Francis have been reburied at a cemetery in the city. St Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscan order, was born in the Italian city of Assisi in 1181. He intended that the friars should lead a way of life modeled on Christ's apostles. The friars took vows of chastity, obedience and above all poverty.

Lost Chinese tomb is found but mystery remains
Original Headline: The Sand Dune Forgotten by Time


In the extreme western region of China, archaeologists excavating an ancient tomb compound are one small step closer to understanding a 4,000-year-old civilization. Researchers in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region have unearthed 163 tombs at the Xiaohe Tomb complex, which sprawls over a 2,500-square-yard oval-shaped dune. The site is 100 miles from the ruins of the Loulan Kingdom, an ancient culture that vanished 1,500 years ago. The complex contains about 330 tombs, but about 160 of them were spoiled by grave robbers, said Idelisi Abuduresule, head of the Xinjiang Cultural Relics and Archaeology Research Institute. Archaeologists found boat-shaped coffins in the tombs, including one just 20 inches long, designed for an infant's body. Four of the unearthed coffins, located at the bottom of the tomb complex, were coated with mud. The bodies in the four coffins were all female, but researchers found wooden male genitals in the coffins along with other funerary objects. The massive burial site was first discovered in 1934
by Swedish explorer Folke Bergman. His archaeological diary helped Chinese researchers locate the site at the end of 2000, after the diary was published in Chinese. The researchers are attempting to determine the dates of the tombs through tree-ring analysis on wooden coffin boards and chronometry on the earth from the tombs. Idelisi said that the terraced burial style is unique and unveiling the mystery surrounding it should involve the research efforts of archaeologists, historians, anthropologists, religion experts and environment researchers.

New excavations set at major U.S. mound site

Original Headline: Archaeological dig set for spring at Angel Mounds


Our final story is from the United States, where the first archaeological dig in more than a decade will take place at Angel Mounds in Indiana this spring. Here on the banks of the Ohio River, a Native American city flourished from 1100 to 1450 AD. Experts from Indiana University have used an underground imaging device called a magnetometer to discover the remains of more than 100 homes. It also revealed sections of a stockade wall thousands of feet long. The unexpected find prompted the new dig. While many have tried to answer the question of why Angel Mounds and the larger network of Mississippian Culture communities disappeared, the new dig will look to answer how it originated and developed. The dig will take place from May 16 to June 10. Students from the University of Southern Indiana and the University of Evansville will be working on the project. Park officials stated the public will be able to observe the dig during guided tours.

That wraps up the news for this week!

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