Audio News for August 22nd to August 28th

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I’m Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from August 22nd to August 28th.

New start for U.S.-Iran archaeology partnership


Our first story is from Tehran, Iran, where a newly signed agreement allows a co-operative effort between Iranian archaeologists and the University of Pennsylvania to carry out joint excavations in Iran. The agreement brings the University’s archaeologists back to Iran after 26 years, when they left their work at key historical sites because of the Islamic Revolution of 1979. The agreement, signed by director of Iran’s Archaeology Research Center, Masud Azarnush, and director of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Richard M. Leventhal, is a five-year co-operative effort between Iranian and American experts. The University of Pennsylvania is the second American Institute, following the Oriental Institute of Chicago University, to sign an agreement for archaeological collaboration with Iran during the last two years. Cultural Heritage and Tourism officials of Iran have been actively trying to revive the country’s archaeology by welcoming foreign experts to the sites and studies in the past three years. The new approach of Iranian officials has led to the presence of archaeologists with diverse nationalities, including German, French, Japanese, and Polish, in historical sites throughout Iran, such as Jiroft in Kerman and Sialk in Kashan, Khuzestan.

Old business: The brickmaking brothers who built the Coliseum


In Italy, excavations have found a brickworks north of the Italian city of Viterbo that provided material for some of ancient Rome's most famous monuments. Tiziano Gasperoni, an archaeologist at Tuscia University, has uncovered the remains of a Roman factory that appears to have produced bricks for the Coliseum, the Pantheon, the Trajan Markets and Hadrian's mausoleum. The site is about 60 miles north of Rome and is littered with brick and tile remains, marked with the stamp of the Domitius Brothers. Roman law required brick makers to include a series of details on their products, so the manufacturer could be held liable for the quality of buildings made with their bricks. The mark was usually an image, the figure of a god, plant or animal, encircled by the brick makers' own name. The place and the date of manufacture were also included. Although experts had known of the Domitius Brothers' existence and general location from their mark on materials found in numerous monuments, the precise site of their business had been not been known. Work is only just starting on the site, but experts have already established that the factory comprises two different sites. The enterprise appears to have been hugely successful, running from the 1st century AD through the 5th century. Brick was so common in Rome that Suetonius reported Augustus as saying "I found Rome a city of bricks and left it a city of marble." But underneath Rome's marble surfaces, brick remained the main construction material. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the art of brick manufacturing was lost in most of Europe, surviving only in Italy itself. Central Europe didn't rediscover the skill until the 8th century, England only in the 1100s.

Church in Sweden may be the oldest


In Sweden, archaeologists have found what could be one of the country's oldest stone churches, under the ruins of a 12th century church in Sigtuna. Archaeologists were researching the already-known ruins of St. Olof, St. Per and St. Lars from the Middle Ages in the town north of Stockholm. But the project has led to an unexpected discovery. Hidden in the ground under the ruins of St. Olof's church, which dates back to the early 12th century, are traces of another stone church from an earlier period. The find is surprising, because the eleventh century has always been linked with the construction of wooden churches in medieval Sweden. Until now, Herrestad church in Östergötland, thought to have been built in the 1100s, was the oldest dated stone church in Sweden. In 2001, archaeologists began digging at St Olof's and making the various small discoveries that led them to this conclusion. A solid stone floor, a layout exposed a meter beneath the surface and graves even deeper are among the pieces of evidence that make the researchers fairly certain that they have found a stone church. But the precise year of construction is one of several questions that still remain to be answered. According to Sten Tesch, archaeologist and head of Sigtuna Museum, the shape is a little unclear. The church is rather squat and there is no chancel. It's possible that this was the chancel, and perhaps the construction of the church was stopped. Unlike Herrestad, it will not be possible to use dendrochronology, measuring the age of wood using the tree rings, to date the church, since no wooden beams have yet been found. Instead, researchers hope to pin down the age of the surrounding graves using carbon-14 dating.

Highest Inca city is mapped near Lake Titicaca


In our final story, a Czech expedition has claimed to find, in the Andes Mountains of Bolivia, the ruins of an Inca city at the highest altitude recorded to date. According to Ivo Bartecek, a Czech specialist in Ibero-American studies, the Inca settlement area consists of several sites near Lake Titicaca at an altitude between 9,000 and 12,000 feet. The expedition of two Czech scientists and two researchers spent three weeks during the South American winter exploring the region. The team's main goal was to prove the hypothesis that Inca and pre-Inca civilizations existed in the highest possible regions of the Andean mountain range. Bartecek, who has participated in nine expeditions to research the Inca, is confident that this region, around Lake Titicaca, is the birthplace of South American cultures. The Inca civilization ruled from the 13th century to the middle of the 16th century, when the Spanish conquistadors arrived on the continent. The current expedition is researching connections between Inca city layout and cultural origins. The city they have found has the remains of 100 buildings organized in an urban settlement along a square or circular plan. The Czech team currently is analyzing the photographic and video documentation collected at the site.

That wraps up the news for this week!

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