Audio News for September 19th to September 25th

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I’m Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from September 19th to September 25th.

Google search finds new Roman ruin
Original Headline: Google Earth Finds Roman Ruins


Our first story is from Italy, where a computer programmer discovered that the popular internet search engine Google can even find new archaeological sites. Italian programmer Luca Mori made the surprising discovery recently when he used the Google Earth geographic imaging program to examine satellite photos of his hometown of Sorbolo. What it revealed to him was the location of an ancient Roman villa. Mori said that at first he thought it was a stain on the photograph. But when he zoomed in, he began to realize the marks suggested something buried under the earth. Close examination of the Google Earth image showed an oval-shaded form more than 1,640 feet long, with some strange-looking rectangular shadows adjacent to it. Mr. Mori contacted some archaeologists via the Internet, who theorized that the shape might correspond to an ancient river, and the rectangular shapes could be a buried structure. Next he tried the National Archaeological Museum of Parma. The archaeologists there were struck by Mr. Mori’s use of Google for his sleuthing and sent out a team, who verified the discovery. Ceramic and stone materials show it is a Roman villa, from the period just before the birth of Christ. According to Manuela Catarsi Dall’Aglio (dall AWL-yeo) of the museum staff, the structure may be similar to another villa that the museum has been working at, but only a scientific dig will be able to tell. Local authorities will need to approve of an excavation before archaeologists can begin digging up the site. Given the enormous interest in his discovery, Mori has created a website at where he plans to describe the latest news about the discovery.

American Civil War ship uncovered at modern navy base
Original Headline: Civil War brig uncovered at base


In the United States, the remnants of a Civil War-era brig have been partially unearthed by construction crews at Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida. The site was uncovered late last week by work crews demolishing buildings at the south end of the base. Navy spokesman Harry White said an archaeologist with Panamerican Consultants is on site, examining what's there, and will compile a preliminary report. The discovery reveals several rows of iron bars cut a few inches above concrete flooring. Also anchored in the floor are several large cast iron rings that might have been part of a shackling device. At another nearby demolition site, work crews also uncovered a drawn-to-scale map of the Pensacola Bay Area etched into what's left of a concrete floor in a separate building foundation. The significance of the etching is not yet known, White said, but some people have speculated that it was used as a range map for large-bore shore guns. The Navy has contracts with Panamerican and several other private archaeological firms to determine the historical significance of any objects or structures found beneath the ground or underwater. The report on the latest discovery should be released in the near future.

Scottish monastery dig finds burial of early medieval monk
Original Headline: Archaeologists find 6th-century monk in dig


In Scotland, archaeologists excavating the site of a Pictish monastery have unearthed an extremely well preserved cist burial, thought to be the grave of a 6th or 7th-century monk. Excavation director Cecily Spall explained that they were about to finish this season's investigation of the site when they made the exciting discovery. They were very surprised to discover the cist burial outside the area they had thought to be the monastery cemetery. Cist burials consist of a makeshift coffin formed from stone slabs. They are often found in fields, when the weight of farming equipment pushes the lid in. Under such circumstances of discovery, the skeleton inside is usually crushed as well. The preservation of this skeleton, on the other hand, was described by excavation director Spall as absolutely perfect. Inside the coffin, everything was just as it had been when it was laid to rest. The remains are believed to be those of a mature adult male. The bones are very robust, particularly the head and jaw. He had all his teeth and they were quite well worn, showing that he was fairly mature, as might be typical for a monk. One of the burials from inside the church has been carbon dated to the mid 6th century AD and the excavators are expecting the latest discovery to be of a similar age. Researchers are particularly excited to find burials of this date because it was the period when St. Columba was going out from Iona to complete his missions in pagan Pictland, which may have resulted in this particular monastic settlement. Finding the cist burial, outside the limits of even the modern cemetery, shows that the monastic cemetery was far more widespread than previously thought.

Turkish sands disclose the seats of an ancient democracy
Original Headline: A Congress, Buried in Turkey's Sand


Our final story is from Turkey, where tons of sand have been moved to begin to uncover the actual parliament building of one of the oldest elected bodies in western history. In Patara, now a small village and ex-patriate resort on the coast of the Aegean, the elected representatives of the ancient Lycian (LYE-SEE-an) League gathered and deliberated for many centuries. Alexander the Great came to Lycia and the city of the League. So did Saint Paul, on his way to Ephesus. The Lycian League had some 23 city-states as members. Each sent one or more representatives, depending on the city's size, to the Bouleuterion (BOO-lu-TEAR-ee-on), as the parliament was called. Inscriptions discovered at the site reveal the names of the various Lyciarchs (LYE-see-arks) who presided down through many centuries over the gathering of representatives. Under the Roman Empire, Lycia was an important province. An inscription uncovered by archaeologists at the ruins of an immense granary, which has also been recently dug out of the sand, records the visit of the Emperor Hadrian and his wife, Sabine, in the spring of A.D 131. The Lycian League continued as a federation until the fourth century A.D., when it was taken over by the Byzantines. Centuries later, the drafters of the American Constitution took the ancient Lycian League as one early example of the form of republican government they imagined. Now, after centuries of neglect, teams of archaeologists have been working to uncover some of its treasures. Among these discoveries are the parliament building, with its rows of stone seats arranged in a semicircle, in the pattern of so many governmental assemblies ever since. The building’s stone-vaulted main entrances are intact, and so is the throne-like seat where the elected Lyciarch, the effective president of the League, presided over the meetings. But other things make Patara important besides its later role in the creation of the United States. It is often said of Turkey that it has more Greek ruins than Greece. But Patara is a Greek ruin, as well as a Roman one and a Byzantine one, which makes this site, after centuries under the sand, likely to take its place alongside Troy, Pergamon or Ephesus as one of the most important ones for research and tourism. Patara is mentioned in the "Iliad," and was a port city for the Persians during their wars with classical Athens. Though Patara has been known by archaeologists for 200 or more years, serious excavation of the site started only recently due to the difficulties of working there. Deep and shifting sands continue to accumulate, vegetation runs riot in the fall rainy season and water seeps in from the nearby sea. Large multinational teams are part of the plan for the continued recovery of Patara’s – and western civilization’s – important past.

That wraps up the news for this week!

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