Audio News for June 13th to June 19th

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica!  I’m Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from June 13th to June 19th.

Russian jewelry shows medieval magical beliefs
Original Headline: Jewelry find puzzles Russians

Our first story is from the Kaliningrad area of Russia, where archaeologists have uncovered some jewelry from the sixteenth century that is unlike any found in the area before. The discovery was made during excavations at a medieval castle. When a 4-inch round box was unearthed, it proved to contain 11 items made of gold, silver, tin and hematite.  The box was covered with hieroglyphs and inscriptions in Hebrew, ancient Greek and Latin.  The castle was a stronghold in Kaliningrad, a major medieval city formerly known by its German name, Koenigsberg.  Anatoly Valuev, from the Kaliningrad museum of history and arts, stated that one of the objects found has a depiction of a symbolic scene portraying human beings with heads shaped like stars.  He theorizes it was used for fortune telling.  According to Russian reports, specialists have said that there are no more than 10 such items in Europe.  Archaeologists believe the rings and amulets might have belonged to a counselor of Albrecht, Duke of Prussia, who had an interest both in astrology and black magic. Archaeologists have promised that the objects will remain in Kaliningrad and be displayed in a local museum following detailed examination.

Early glass factory proves Egypt’s industrial ability
Original Headline: Ancient Glassmakers: Egyptians crafted ingots for Mediterranean trade


In Egypt, more evidence has been found to indicate that 3,250 years ago, Egypt had become a major glass producer and was shipping the valuable material throughout the region for reworking by local artisans.  During the time of the pharaohs, Egypt made elaborate glass items that were exchanged as a symbol of political alliances.  But the source of the glass itself was under dispute. British and German archaeologists, from University College London and the Pelizaeus-Museum Hildesheim in Germany, now believe that their recent discovery can settle a debate, more than a century old, over whether ancient Egyptians manufactured raw glass themselves or imported it from Mesopotamia.  The oldest-known glass remains come from a 3,500-year-old Mesopotamian site.  Some researchers took this as an indicator that ancient Egypt's glass depot was located there. However, recent excavations at Qantir, a village on the eastern Nile Delta, have yielded remnants of a glassmaking factory in operation just after that time.  Caroline M. Jackson of the University of Sheffield in England comments that the excavation data convincingly show the Egyptians were making their own glass in large, specialized facilities that were under royal control.  Workers at Qantir have so far uncovered pieces of hundreds of pottery containers, some with glass chunks attached to them.  Other finds include waste products from glass production.  The evidence reflects a two-stage glassmaking process.  In the first stage, crushed quartz pebbles were mixed with alkali-rich plant ash and the mixture heated at relatively low temperatures in small clay vessels.  Then the glassy material was removed and ground into powder and colored red or blue. In the second stage, workers poured this powder into ceramic crucibles and melted it at high temperatures.  After a cooling stage, they broke the crucibles to remove puck-shaped glass ingots. The lead researchers propose that Egyptians exported these ingots to workshops throughout the Mediterranean, where artisans reheated the glass and fashioned it into decorative items.  Dating of the glass artifacts found at various elite Mediterranean sites points to around the time of Rameses II and matches that of the Egyptian ingots.

Japanese tomb is painted with zodiac animals

Original Headline: Horse-headed image found in Kitora tomb


In Japan, images of what is believed to be a horse-headed figure were discovered in the stone chamber of the Kitora ancient tomb in the Nara Prefecture.  The figures are thought to be the sixth of the 12 animals in the Asian zodiac.  The 1,300-year-old images have been protected from weathering by soil and have retained a vivid vermilion color.  The south wall of the tomb was covered with soil that accumulated in a hole made by ancient grave robbers.  The Cultural Affairs Agency removed sections of mortar from the south wall below the image of the deity Suzaku, a phoenix like bird, and discovered the vermilion pigment and black vertical lines.  The images could be seen through two 2-centimeter-square holes where the mortar had fallen away.  It appears that all 12 of the animal-headed figures from the Asian zodiac were painted in the tomb, three on each wall.  The agency has identified three on the north wall, one on the east wall and another on the west wall.  According to Wataru Kawanobe, head of the restoration material-science section of the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, the red color was more vivid than in the image of Suzaku, although the same pigment could have been used to paint both figures.

Montreal’s first settlement may finally be found
Original Headline: Baker has archeologists hot on trail of Ville Marie fort


Our final story is from Canada, where a messy baker of old could lead researchers to the location of Montreal’s first settlement, Ville Marie fort.  The baker, after he made bread for the settlers, raked the coals out of the oven and onto the floor.  According to Brad Loewen, those quickly forgotten remains are part of set of clues to the location of the settlement.  Montreal's first European inhabitants arrived in 1642.  Their settlement, Ville Marie fort, would become the first on the island.  The first map of the city was drafted in 1686 - three years after the fort's demolition.  It showed city streets, and the Pointe a Calliere, where the fort was located, but did not show the fort itself.  A joint project by the Pointe a Calliere museum of archeology and history and the Universite de Montreal's anthropology department has uncovered what it thinks to be the 5,000-square-foot settlement.  In 1998, Jean-Guy Brossard, the museum's chief archeologist, approached a company selling its warehouse right across from the museum, what Brossard calls a "rich and precious" archeological site.  After receiving grants from the Quebec Department of Culture and Communications, as well as from the city of Montreal, the museum bought the building, which has now been partially excavated.  The fort is buried under five more recent layers of civilization.  Governor Louis-Hector de Calliere built his chateau directly above what might be the fort's site.  For some reason, he constructed it on a raised platform of soil.  Loewen points out the soil around the chateau sealed everything beneath it in place.  With no actual map of the area, the fort's location has been debatable.  Archeologists have searched other places with no luck. Loewen, Brossard and their team have several reasons for believing that this is the site.  First, the artifacts found can be dated back to the settlement's time period.  Second, the fort's alignment is not the same as that of Calliere's residence or those of sites above it.  That's a sign that it was the first construction here.  In one corner, Loewen said, the archeologists were digging but did not reach natural soil.  They realized they were, in fact, digging down a well.  A few feet away, another excavated area might have been a kitchen, he said.  About 40 archeology students have helped dig up these remains over the past four years.

That wraps up the news for this week!

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