Audio News for July 11th to July 17th

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I’m Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from July 11th to July 17th.

New Dead Sea scroll fragment shows potential for more discoveries

Original Headline: Biblical scroll found in desert


Our first story is from the Judean desert near the Dead Sea, where a local Bedouin stumbled up fragments of a Biblical manuscript. The two fragments date back to the last Jewish revolt against Roman rule in AD 135. After four decades with an absence of new finds, archaeologists had resigned themselves to believing the desert caves in the region had already yielded all their secrets from the Roman era. This new find gives hope to biblical and archaeological scholars that more will be found. For the past 20 years, archaeology professor Hanan Eshel, a Biblical specialist at Israel's Bar Ilan University has scoured the Judaean desert around the Dead Sea, overturning stone after stone in search of Biblical parchments. According to Eshel, no new scrolls have been found since 1965. The new discovery encourages scholars to believe that if they continue to excavate, survey and climb they will still find things in the Judean desert. Only a few centimetres long, the pieces contain extracts in Hebrew from the Biblical Book of Leviticus. They were damaged by bat droppings and lying under a film of dirt in a cave near the Ein Gedi oasis. The Bedouin had glued them together and stowed the whole thing in aluminum foil, further damaging the fragments. However, thanks to this find, Professor Eshel said, we now know a little more about the troubled period that gave rise to the Jewish struggle against the Romans. During the second Jewish revolt against Roman occupation, led by Simeon Bar Koshba, 900 Jewish towns and villages were pillaged, 10,000 Romans were killed, and at its conclusion, Jews were banned from their holy city of Jerusalem. The Jews managed to hide 14 Torah scrolls in the caves. Professor Eshel says the new fragments prove there is a 15th such scroll. The earlier finds of manuscripts from the period were discovered between 1952 and 1961.

First church of Sweden's patron saint is found under medieval cathedral

Original Headline: Historic church found in Uppsala


In Sweden, according to archaeologists, an Uppsala (OUPS-a-la) Cathedral could be built on the remains of the church where Saint Erik, the country’s patron saint, was killed. Investigations at the 13th century cathedral, which is the largest church building in northern Europe, have revealed the remains of an earlier building underneath the high altar. Archaeologists used ground penetration radar to find the remains. They theorize this could be the remains of the old Holy Trinity Church, which was known to have stood in Uppsala before the present cathedral was built. It was not known until now where the church was situated. Researchers have also found seven graves under the floor of the high altar, and eight graves under the cathedral’s southern doors. Holy Trinity Church plays a significant part in Sweden's national story. The Dane Magnus Henriksson murdered Erik Jedvardsson, king of Sweden, outside the church in 1160. Erik's son later made him a saint, and he is now patron saint of Sweden. Legend maintains that the Holy Trinity Church was situated on the Domberget, where the cathedral now stands, but this has never been confirmed, nor has its exact location ever been found. But archaeologists, while cautious in their conclusions, say that the building that they have found under the cathedral is typical of a Romanesque church built in the 12th century. The location of the remains also fits with the archaeologists' theories. That the cathedral's high altar – the most sacred part of the cathedral – is placed over the location of the church would be symbolically appropriate, they say. According to Ronnie Carlsson, archaeologist at Uppsala Museum, the church's existence has been known, but its location has not.

Southern Oregon fort dates from Indian wars

Original Headline: Archaeologists excavating Fort Lane


In Oregon, in the United States, Mark Tveskov, a Southern Oregon University anthropology professor, is leading a crew of students and historical society volunteers in the recovery of the remains of Fort Lane. More than 150 years after the Rogue Indian Wars, Fort Lane has melted into a field covered with star thistle, with little but foundation stones, clay pipes and brass buttons to show the federal government's efforts to protect local Indians from gold miners and pioneers intent on extermination. Built in 1853 in what is still a rural region, the fort is now marked by a monument made of stones scavenged from the foundations of the cabins that housed a company of dragoons. The fort has a hard time telling its own story any more. The Army abandoned the site in 1856 after only three years, and local settlers quickly collected the bricks used to build the chimneys. The logs had turned to dust by 1900. The bronze plaque from the monument was stolen years ago. The foundations were still visible underneath the star thistle as late as the 1970s, but now the only signs of existence are the square plots where students and volunteers have dug a few inches into the ground. Whites traveling between California and the Willamette Valley had been passing through here since the 1830s on an old Indian trail that traces the same route as Interstate 5, but the first permanent white settlement didn't come until 1851, following the discovery of gold. Within two years, there was a small settlement in Jacksonville, the economic center of the gold rush, grain mills in Ashland, and scattered cabins. Indians angry at the invasion of their homeland and pollution of their salmon streams by mining attacked the pioneers, and the pioneers attacked the Indians, even when they were on their reservation. Indian leaders tired of fighting signed a treaty in 1853 that created the Table Rocks Indian Reservation, the first in the Northwest. Fort Lane, named for Joseph Lane, Oregon's first territorial governor, was built in the same year on a bench overlooking the reservation. There was no stockade, just a dozen log cabins arranged in a U shape. It did not stop a band of pioneers from raiding the reservation, killing some 20 Indians, in 1855. An Indian arrow killed the leader of the raid, James Lupton. The escalating raids and retaliation led to the disbanding and removal of the tribe by 1856. The fort that had failed to protect the Indians was abandoned. In relocating the fort's buildings, Professor Tveskov used a map and drawing left by the fort's commanding officer, Captain Andrew Jackson Smith, along with magnetometer readings and surviving small mounds in the earth to guide his crew to the foundations of an officer's cabin, the guardhouse, and a storehouse, as well as a pioneer cabin burned by Indians before the fort was built. Military buttons and buckles, a .58-caliber lead ball, and a faceted red glass bead rewarded their work. The site has been heavily searched over the years by local artifact collectors.

Underground roadway found in medieval Egypt

Original Headline: Knights may have traveled beneath citadel


In our final story, Egyptian authorities announced the discovery at Cairo's citadel of an underground passageway tall enough to accommodate a mounted horseman. The 450 foot-long tunnel, the longest of several beneath the citadel, was found in the vicinity of the 19th century Mohamed Ali mosque in the course of a project to drain off groundwater from under the compound. The Cairo Citadel dates to the 12th century. The narrow passageway, which runs three to twenty one feet beneath the ground at different points along its length, appears to have connected palaces dating to the late 13th and early 14th centuries. The exact age of the passage is yet to be determined. It is blocked at one end by a wall that presents a modern mystery for antiquities officials, who say it appears no older than 50 years. Officials will study whether removing the wall could have an adverse effect on the surrounding and overlying structures before making any decision. Experts participating in Napoleon's late 18th century expedition to Egypt mapped out several passageways beneath the citadel, but so far antiquities officials are uncertain if the new discovery was one of them.

That wraps up the news for this week!

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