Audio News for May 2nd to May 8th

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I’m Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from May 2nd to May 8th, 2005.

Prehistoric Indians came for the cranberries, stayed for the trading

Original Headline: Bog drew American Indians to Cranberry


Our first story is from the United States, where newly uncovered evidence shows that American Indians settled an area in Central Pennsylvania 3,000 years ago because of a huge cranberry bog. Archaeologist Christine Davis said four campsites had previously been documented, and current excavations have uncovered six more. Some were carbon-dated to 1000 B.C.  More than 3,400 artifacts were recovered, including stone scrapers, arrowheads, knives, hammers, hearths, seeds and nuts, all of which helped paint a picture of what happened at the site.  Native Americans were drawn to the 2,000-acre bog to collect the berries and to hunt the animals, including bears, drawn there for the food.  Davis said the bog developed into an important seasonal trading outpost. Farmers drained the bog in the early decades of the 19th century.  Researchers also found tools made of stone from Flint Ridge, Ohio, more than 150 miles away. Davis said small chips of the prized, reddish stone have been found throughout the region, but the large amounts at the bog site indicate that it was traded there. The evidence shows that extended family groups of perhaps 15 people would come to the area from permanent settlements along the region's rivers and camp out for a week or so.  Excavators uncovered small, poorly made "toy" arrowheads indicating that the visiting groups included children.  Davis stated there probably were many more campsites than the 10 discovered, but most were covered up later when a turnpike was built through the middle of the former bog.  Mike Diehl, director of parks and recreation for the town of Cranberry, said the department is working with Davis to use the artifacts in a movable display about the history of the site, as well as to make a CD-ROM for local teachers.  Davis said because part of the park will remain a natural area, further research could be conducted in the future.

Scottish graveyard dates to middle ages

Original Headline: Unearthing of skeletons sheds light on legend of saint


On the eastern coast of Scotland, about 200 skeletons dating as far back as 1200 years have been unearthed along with the foundations of a medieval church and graveyard. Some of the graves are believed to be medieval, but others could date from the time of St. Baldred, who lived in the eighth century.  The saint founded a monastery at nearby Tyninghame and lived as a hermit on Bass Rock in the Firth of Forth before his death in AD 756.  It is believed that the team could uncover structures dating from the time of the saint.  According to Biddy Simpson, East Lothian council archaeologist, this is an extraordinary multi-period site in an area already known to be rich in archaeological remains, and more tantalizing because of the historical associations with the legend of St. Baldred.  John Gooder, senior project officer with AOC Archaeology, which is carrying out the excavation work for Historic Scotland, said: "The excavation provides an exciting addition to East Lothian's rich heritage. The area we are working on overlooks the Bass Rock and appears to have been a focal point for many centuries for worship and burial in the medieval period, but perhaps also for a prehistoric settlement." The foundations of the early chapel uncovered on the site show signs of several layers, including a mortar-bonded structure, which could possibly be a mausoleum.  The date of the earliest settlement is unknown, but the discovery of a prehistoric round cairn and Iron Age burials nearby suggest the area was occupied from at least the Bronze Age.

Vietnamese mummy was wealthy man

Original Headline: 200-year-old mummy found in Vietnam


In Vietnam, the well-preserved remains of a 200-year-old mummy, buried in layers of fine silk, have been discovered in Hanoi.  The body is thought to be that of a man who died in his early sixties.  His mummy was unearthed last week by workers at a construction site, said Nguyen Lan Cuong of the National Institute of Archaeology.  The remains had been placed in a two-layer wooden coffin and sealed by a covering of limestone, sand, syrup and paper, and had remained intact.  Experts have removed scented oils from the coffin, along with 14 traditional silk tunics and two pairs of trousers that the man was dressed in, all still in good shape.  Cuong believes the man belonged to a wealthy family and was probably buried at the end of the 18th century or early 19th century.  The National Institute has discovered about 35 other similar corpses, with the oldest dating back to the 17th century.  However, the scented oils poured onto this corpse to preserve it, did not have the foul odor that was characteristic of the others.  The body was expected to be reburied later because experts would not be able to preserve it, he said.

Ancient city in Turkmenistan was Classical period capital

Original Headline: Italian digs unearth ancient Parthian court


In our final story, an Italian team in Turkmenistan is unearthing an extensive complex that was once a flourishing artistic and political center for the ancient civilization of Parthia.  The latest round of digs has revealed invaluable detail about a fortified complex, located 11 miles southwest of the country's modern capital Ashkhabad, near the border of Iran.  Archaeologists believe that Old Nisa, one of the Parthian Empire's earliest capitals, was founded in the 2nd century BC.  It was renamed Mithradatkirt, or fortress of Mithradates after the king who ruled Parthia from 171-138 BC, turning it into a powerful empire and one of Ancient Rome's greatest rivals.  According to the excavation director, Antonio Invernizzi of Turin University, the complex expanded out from an original cluster of buildings protected by walled fortifications after Mithradates conquered Iran and Mesopotamia.  So far, perfectly conserved walls of 18 to 25 feet high had been uncovered, with the original decoration still discernible.  Substantial buildings, mausoleums and shrines to the god Mithras, inscribed documents and a looted treasury have also come to light. Smaller finds include various artworks, marble statues, fragments of massive clay monuments and around 40 ivory drinking horns, the outer rims of them decorated with figures of people or classical mythological scenes.  Italian archaeologists started excavating Old Nisa in 1990, picking up where earlier digs by the Russians had left off in the 1950s.  The Parthian Empire was the most powerful force on the Iranian plateau from the 3rd century BC onwards, intermittently controlling Mesopotamia between 190 BC and AD 224.  Originally a tribe of nomads, the Parni people rose to power under Mithradates.  At one point, its empire occupied all of modern Iran, Iraq and Armenia, parts of Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan.  It also briefly held territories in Pakistan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Palestine.

That wraps up the news for this week!

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