Audio News for June 27th to July 3rd

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I’m Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from June 27th to July 3rd.

Bulgarian gold marks home of gods Dionysus, Orpheus
Original Headline: Thracian Gold Found at Tatul Temple


Our first story is from Bulgaria, where archeologists have found another piece of nearly pure gold in the ancient southern region known as Thrace.  Discovered in a layer from the Late Bronze Age, the team was examining the Tatul (tah-TOOL) sanctuary near Kardzhali (CARD-jah-lee) when they found the precious 23-carat gold artifact.  The researchers believe that the piece was a part of a gold-trimmed stone mask. Tatul (tah-TOOL), an extremely rich archeological site, is expected to reap sensational finds.  Already discovered are a thin bronze knife, pieces of bronze earrings and cups, as well as ceramic pieces of a scepter bearing unique images of the sun.  The royal symbol is believed to have belonged to a Thracian king buried at the site of the temple.  Tatul (tah-TOOL)is believed to be a unique temple sacred to the semi-mythical royal descendants of the artist and demi-god Orpheus.  The continued excavations are confirming preliminary suggestions by archaeologists that the sanctuary at Tatul (tah-TOOL) had flourished for more than two thousand years in ancient times.  It is probably the largest ancient temple of the god Dionysus (die-oh-NYE-sus).  It lay near the sanctuary town of Perperikon (pear-PEAR-a-con), located in the mountains of the Rhodopes (roh-DOP-eez), which divide southern Bulgaria and northern Greece.  In ancient legends, both Dionisos (DEE-oh-NYE-sus) and Orpheus came from this northern Thracian region, which the ancient Greeks of the Aegean area regarded as dangerous and wild.

Unexpected Arizona pit house may be saved as interpretive display
Original Headline: Antiquity unearthed Downtown


At Tucson, Arizona, in the U.S., the Rio Nuevo (REE-oh nuh-WAVE-oh) project has turned up the remains of a pit house built 2,000 years ago, well before the time of the Hohokam (HOH-ho-kahm).  Homer Thiel, project director for Desert Archaeology Inc., said it was a surprise to discover the semi-circle of post molds from the 2,000 year old house beneath the yard of a mid-19th-century historic building the firm had been hired to stabilize. The 19th-century triplex, where a noted seamstress and her six daughters lived from 1866 to 1911, will eventually be a museum in the Presidio (pray-SID-ee-oh) Historic Park. A tower of the Presidio fort at its original site will also be reconstructed as part of the historic project. Other evidence recently excavated from the Presidio historic era, from 1775-1850, suggests that horses, cats and dogs were present, and possibly as food sources. Recent finds include the head of a porcelain doll, a packet of Dukes Cameo Cigarettes and other, more recent habitation debris. Marty McCune, the historic-preservation officer for the city of Tucson, stated the pit house and the pottery found inside it may date from the early agricultural period, as far back as the 750s.  Other pit houses from the same era have been found in the parking lot behind the triplex, near the Main Library and under the lawn of City Hall.  The older pit house just found will be covered with protective cloth and filled back in with dirt after study, so that restoration of the historic seamstress’s house can be completed. But the pit house one in the parking lot, which dates to around 900, is under a corner of the Presidio wall and may be able to be kept uncovered as an interpretive exhibit.

Newly found sarcophagus at Saqqara is from Rameses period
Original Headline: Cairo heralds discovery of large sarcophagus


In Cairo, a large sarcophagus dating to the reign of Pharaoh Ramses II, around 1279 to 1213 BC, was discovered at Saqqara, south of the city. The sarcophagus is made of red granite and bears hieroglyphics of the many titles of the deceased, an overseer of stables during the reign of Ramses II. The sarcophagus was found inside an old kingdom tomb previously discovered in the 1980s by an excavation team from Cairo University.  A spokesperson for the Supreme Council of Antiquities stated that no skeleton was found within.  However, a collection of human bones and skulls were excavated nearby, in eight burial pits discovered during the same work.  The burial pits were inside a 16 square meter tomb.  An amulet featuring the goddess Nephtis and god Osiris, an alabaster quadrilateral star, and a small scarab bearing the name of the god Amun Re were also found.

Massive computer database of Greek inscriptions pays off in knowledge
Original Headline: Ancient Greek Writings Inscribed In Stone, Digitized By Case Classicist


In our final story, computers have eliminated the countless hours it used to take to compile information about ancient Greek inscriptions, and the work is already paying off for scholarship on the ancient world.  Case University classicist Paul Iversen leads the Packard Humanities Institute Greek Epigraphy Project.  Thanks to the generosity of the PHI grants and the power of the computer, classics scholars can now search more than 150,000 inscriptions in a comprehensive digitized database in a matter of minutes.  The information is currently available in CD form, but a Web site is being launched that can be updated regularly as new research surfaces, to make information available in moments on Greek inscriptions from about 750 BC to AD 500, from all over the Greco-Roman world.  Professor Iversen said if the information now available on CD-ROM were in paper form, the books and journals would fill his third-floor office and spill out into the hallways.  The digital inscription archives are finding their way into almost every classics department in the country and around the world. Iversen can attest to the speed and value of mining the inscriptions data.  Although his work focuses on collecting, entering, and proofreading the data on Greek and Roman inscriptions and related information, compiling it from the hundreds of journals and books in which it has previously been published, every so often something intrigues him. Recently, he tracked down the history of an inscription on a stone fragment belonging to a private collector of antiquities in Rome. Iversen saw from the numbering and script on the stone that it had to come from some other region of the Greek colonial expansion in the late centuries BC.  A quick search of the project's database of ancient recorded writings, and "Lo and behold,” said Iversen, it was part of an inscription of donations supporting the First Cretan War of 205 to 202 BC, and originated on the island of Cos (KOSS).  More significantly, the database allowed Iversen to link the fragment to another piece now in the British Museum. In 1845, a scholar had published a list of the ancient inscriptions recording donations to the war fund. At that time, this particular piece was intact, and built into the stairwell of the church of Saint John of Jerusalem on Rhodes. The database showed that the inscription had been carved originally on the island of Cos (KOSS) and later transported to a Christian-era church on nearby Rhodes. Eventually, the church became a mosque.  And one day not long after the inscription had been recorded, gunpowder stored in the mosque exploded, shattering the inscribed stone plaque. The local ruler, the Pasha of Rhodes, gave most of what remained to Prince Edward Albert of Wales in 1873, who donated them to the British Museum.  One of the pieces, however, ended up in Rome. This was the piece with the information Iversen spotted in the database, and reunited with the evidence to complete its ancient story. Iversen's detective work is an example of the many kinds of new discoveries that will be made through the PHI Greek Epigraphy Project. The project began 17 years ago as a collaboration between Cornell University and The Ohio State University. PHI was founded and funded by David Packard Jr.--also a classicist and the son of the Hewlett-Packard computer giant.  The computer guru's son saw the potential for digitizing known inscriptions, and developed special software and computers specifically for the project. Over the years, upgrades have allowed the data to be used on both PC and Macintosh computers, and the coming Web site will enable even wider use. When complete, the database will contain all known Greek inscriptions on stone, marble, metal and even some ceramics. These inscriptions are found on grave markers, at the bases of statuary, on the sides of buildings, on ceramic vessels or even lead or gold leaf message scrolls with prayers or curses left at temples of the oracles or in grave sites. A standardized editing system is used to input the known Greek symbols, and notations show missing words or letters. Also reported are where the inscription was found, and some of the bibliography of earlier research published about the work. Inscriptions are invaluable in comparison to manuscript texts. Writings on papyrus are usually copies of copies of copies, but the durable outdoor inscriptions come down to us directly with no intervening hand. They are thus original documents. The PHI project will make sure the texts of these Greek inscriptions survive the jump from printed to digital form to be available for future scholars.

That wraps up the news for this week!

For more stories and daily news updates, visit Archaeologica on the World Wide Web at , where all the news is history!

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