Audio News for October 10th to October 15th, 2005.

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I’m Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from October 10th to October 15th, 2005.

Oldest Chinese noodles found


Our first story is from China, where scientists have uncovered the world's oldest known noodles. Dating back 4,000 years, the pasta was found at the archaeological site of Lajia, located along the upper reaches of the Yellow river in northwest China. The noodles were preserved in an upside-down bowl covered in the debris of a gigantic earthquake. Previously, the earliest evidence for noodles was a Chinese written description of noodle preparation dating back 1,900 years. The Lajia settlement was thought to have been destroyed by earthquake and calamitous floods. Houyuan Lu and his team from Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing were excavating the site when they came across a well preserved earthenware bowl, stuck upside-down in a layer of clay. In the bowl were the remains of somebody's dinner. According to Dr. Lu, the thin, delicate and yellow noodle resembled the traditional La-Mian variety. This noodle is often made by repeatedly pulling and stretching the dough by hand. The empty space between the sediment and the bottom of the bowl had helped preserve them. By analyzing phytoliths, the microscopic mineral particles that form within plants, and starch grains from the noodle powder, the scientists managed to narrow down what kind of flour the noodles were made from. Modern noodles tend to be made from wheat flour, but analysis of the ancient noodles revealed they were made from millet, a food product used in making alcoholic drinks. According to Dr. Lu, "the findings support the belief that early plant domestication and food production relied on millet in the semi-arid Loess plateau region of China.” The next question is what the Lajia people ate with their noodles. Dr. Lu and colleagues found bone fragments and an oily substance in the bowl and hope to analyze them to determine the recipe.

Uncovering icons of early winged goddess in Iran


In Iran, the first ever icons of winged goddesses have been discovered. The recent excavations in Rabat Teppe, an archaeological site in Northwestern Iran, have led to discovery of four icons of winged goddesses on bricks, which date back 3000 years. According to Reza Heydari, an archaeologist of Western Azarbaijan Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization, the four winged goddesses in Rabat Teppe are unique and have no counterpart even in Persepolis. In Persepolis there is no sign of women, he added. The figures on the icons are women with haunches similar to that of a deer or cow, and each has two raised wings. The outward edges of the site date to the first millennium BC. The current excavation was started in an effort to compare the site to the ancient city of Mushashir. Based on historical documents, one of the biggest ancient religion’s temples was based at the location. Mushashir was a city within the Urartu kingdom, the biblical Ararat. Urartu flourished from the 13th century to the 7th century BC.

Probing the location of Lewis and Clark’s Fort Clatsop


In the United States, archaeologists will start probing under the site of the destroyed replica of Fort Clatsop in the state of Oregon to look for clues to where Lewis and Clark built the original fort 200 years ago. A fire of uncertain origin burned most of the replicated Fort on October 3. Historians believe it was built on or near the site of the original, but several efforts to find the 1805-1806 site have been inconclusive. The project will be led by Doug Wilson, the archaeologist at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site in Washington State and will include five archaeologists from the National Park Service. The excavation is to begin early November and last several weeks. With the time allowed for research, reconstruction might begin December 10, 200 years to the day since Lewis and Clark began constructing their winter quarters. According to Wilson, this will be one of the most extensive excavations ever done at the site. The replica has limited what could have been done from an archaeological standpoint in the past. Lewis and Clark and 31 other members of the Corps of Discovery began construction of their fort on December 10, 1805, and were under shelter by Christmas Day. They remained at the soggy encampment until March 23, 1806. The precise location of Lewis and Clark's fort has intrigued and frustrated scientists for decades. Previous excavations have turned up a few promising artifacts, including a lead musket ball, a cast brass bead and a pointed piece of wood. None of the items, however, can be conclusively linked to the explorers. A 60-by-60-foot tent will be placed over the excavation, and the public will be allowed to view the archaeologists as they work. Park Superintendent Chip Jenkins says plans are to rebuild the fort where the expedition spent the winter of 1805-1806. Research since the burned replica was built may make it possible to reconstruct one that is more authentic. A final report on the cause of the fire is not expected for several weeks. A preliminary investigation found no signs of arson.

Cave excavations paint a bleak picture for trapped Byzantine Christians


Our final story is from Greece where, deep under a quiet valley, archaeologists are struggling to untangle a 1,400-year-old calamity that wiped out a rural Byzantine community. In the late 6th century, a group of at least 33 young men, women, and children sought sanctuary from an unidentified horror in an expansive subterranean network of caves in the eastern Peloponnese. According to archaeologist Dimitris Hatzilazarou, while carrying supplies of food and water, oil-lamps, a large Christian cross, and their small savings, the refugees apparently hunkered down to wait out the threat. However, it is believed the sanctuary became a tomb once supplies ran out. At the time, Greece, which was part of the Byzantine Empire, was reeling under a wave of invasions by Slavs and Avars, a nomadic people of Eurasia, some of whom may have penetrated as far south as the Peloponnese. The caves, near the modern village of Andritsa some 105 miles southwest of Athens, retained their dark secret until their discovery in 2004. Hatzilazarou and fellow-excavator Lina Kormazopoulou are still searching for clues to explain the disaster.
Digs in late 2004 and early 2005 revealed human remains, many huddled in what look like small family clusters, 113 fired clay pots, a large bronze processional cross inscribed with the Lord's Prayer in Greek, inexpensive jewelry, and over 200 coins, mainly low-denomination copper pieces. Some of the pots had been wedged among the cave's impressive stalagmites in an indication the refugees tried to gather water dripping from the roof. The refugees, Greek-speaking Christians believed to have come from a nearby village, probably entered the caves through a near-vertical, 46-foot shaft, down which they lowered several large water jars and other pottery before descending by rope or ladder. The coins helped date the events to just after AD 575, some 40 years after Emperor Justinian built the crowning achievement of Byzantine architecture, the church of Hagia Sophia, in Constantinople. A Byzantine chronicle mentions a Slav invasion of the Peloponnese in AD 587, but so far, no archaeological evidence has been found to back that up. Excavators believe the victims succumbed to thirst, hunger and hypothermia.

That wraps up the news for this week!
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I’m Laura Kelley and I’ll see you next week!