Audio News for January 22nd to January 28th, 2006

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I’m Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news for January 22nd to January 28th, 2006.

Statue is Egypt's Queen Tiy


Our first story is from Egypt, where researchers have discovered a statue of Queen Tiy (TEA-ee) at an ancient temple in Luxor.  Tiy was the wife of one of Egypt's notable pharaohs, Amenhotep III, and grandmother to the boy-king Tutankhamun.  Found buried under rocks and sand, officials said the 3,400 year-old statue is missing its legs but it is otherwise well preserved.  It shows the powerful Queen standing, wearing a wig and a cobra-decorated crown.  Tiy was the mother to Akhenaten, the sun-worshipping pharaoh who started the world's first known monotheistic religion.  Tiy also helped to prepare Akhenaten's son, Tutankhamun, for kingship.  Archaeologists from Johns Hopkins University in the United States discovered the five-foot high black granite statue at the Temple of Mut at the ancient temple complex in Karnak.  A number of cartouches, or royal name signs, of Amenhotep III were found on the statue, and the statue's design and features allowed researchers to identify it as a new kingdom 18th-dynasty statue of Queen Tiy.  Additional inscriptions written on the statue also include a cartouche of a 21st Dynasty queen called Henutaw, which reveals that the same statue was used in a subsequent era.

U.S. dig traces origins of Cherokee “Trail of Tears”


In the United States, archaeologists working in the mountains of southwestern North Carolina are adding new details to the story of a tragedy that took place more than 160 years ago.  Brett Riggs, an archaeologist with the University of North Carolina's Research Laboratories of Archaeology, is leading the excavations that are uncovering the remains of farms and homes belonging to the Cherokee Indians before they were forced to abandon their property and move to Oklahoma. About 16,000 Cherokee and hundreds of other Native Americans were forced out of North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama in the late 1830s.  The event came to be known among the Cherokee as the Trail of Tears.  Riggs stated they were finding the stuff of everyday life such as refuse.  In terms of documenting the Trail, this confirms that these particular sites were associated with Cherokee families.  The archaeologists have recovered pieces of pottery and china, buttons, glass, cast-iron cook pots, and other artifacts.  The objects suggest that the lifestyle of the Cherokee was unexpectedly modern and westernized but that they were still very distinctive and native.  The decision to move Indians arose from the U.S. decision to purchase the Louisiana Territory from France in 1803.  When white settlers moved into the newly acquired land, they began pressing the federal government to remove Native Americans east of the Mississippi River.  A small group of Cherokee signed a treaty in 1835 agreeing to leave their lands.  Although the group did not represent the entire Cherokee Nation, the U.S. government used the treaty as justification for rounding up the Indians and forcing them to move to what is now Oklahoma.  Most Cherokee were angry and deeply resentful, and some saw indications of divine displeasure as well.  A few hundred Cherokee managed to avoid relocation and stayed in the North Carolina Mountains.  As for the rest, as many as 15 percent died during the journey west.  The dislocation had a deep psychological effect on the tribe.  A dry and detached tale of the relocation was left behind in records compiled by the federal government and missionaries of the Moravian Protestant sect in western North Carolina.  Riggs, the University of North Carolina archaeologist, drew on those records to figure out where to look for abandoned Cherokee farms. Historians are praising the archaeology team's work for adding human details to the sketchy story.  According to Aaron Mahr, a National Park Service historian in Santa Fe, understanding of pre-removal Cherokee culture and the removal experience in general are very incomplete.  In 1987, the U.S. Congress included about 2,200 miles of the Trail of Tears in the National Park Service's National Trails System.  The federally recognized segment of the trail begins in eastern Tennessee, where assembly camps for the Cherokee were established to prepare for the trek west. A bill is pending in Congress to include other sections of the trail in the national system.  If approved, the legislation would also provide money to mark sections of the trail and build displays to tell the story.

By the way, if you’d like to learn more about Cherokee history, you can watch our video about the historic Cherokee capital.  Just go to our Home Page at and click on “The New Echota Traditional Cultural Properties Study.”

Mass grave from Classical Athens confirms that famous plague was typhoid


In a report released by Greek scientists, writing in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, the mystery of a plague in ancient Athens may be solved.  Typhoid was the plague in 430 BC that killed up to one-third of the people in Athens, including Pericles, their leader.  There has long been speculation about the nature of the disease, which devastated the city and led to the end of the golden age of Athens.  Details of the famous plague were tantalizingly inconclusive in accounts from the time, even that given by the historian Thucydides.  Ebola fever, anthrax, tuberculosis and Lassa fever have been suggested as possibilities.  Now, the discovery of a mass grave dating from the time of the epidemic appears to have solved the mystery.  A co-author of the report, Manolis Papagrigorakis of the dental school at the University of Athens, described how teeth from the human remains supplied the missing evidence.  Analysis of the DNA in the teeth revealed traces of the infection that killed so many.  At the time, Athenians were trapped in a city surrounded on land by Spartans and relying on its navy's control of the sea through the port of Piraeus (pir-AYE-us) during the first years of the Peloponnesian war.  A mass burial site was located in Kerameikos (ker-a-MAY-kos), the ancient cemetery in Athens and was excavated in the mid-1990s.  In it were at least 150 bodies buried in more than five layers.  The irregular manner of burial along with the age of the few burial offerings links the site with the plague of Athens.  The scientists took three teeth at random from the remains in the pit and extracted DNA from the dental pulp.  They compared it with sequences from plague, typhus, anthrax, tuberculosis, cowpox and cat-scratch disease, and found a match with typhoid fever.  Many of the symptoms Thucydides described are consistent with typhoid fever.  Others, such as the rapid onset of the illness, are still unexplained, however.

Tudor palace floor is chapel where Henry VIII married, and married


In our final story, a London parking lot pavement has been removed to find a floor once walked by Henry VIII, his father Henry VII, and at least two of his unfortunate wives, as well as his daughters Elizabeth I and Mary Tudor.  The Renaissance pavement is part of a royal chapel thought to be completely destroyed by centuries of later re-building at Greenwich in the southern area of the city.  Although only smears remain of the original black and white surface glaze, the tiles themselves, bordered in an elaborate lozenge pattern, are in surprisingly good condition.  They mark the site of the altar in the chapel Henry VII built at his palace of Placentia, between 1500 and 1504.  Unlike the bloodsoaked history of other regal residences, Placentia was far from the stink of London, in clean riverside air, providing a palace for pleasure and entertainment.  It was the birthplace of Henry VIII and became his favorite royal home.  There he married his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and, three wives later, Anne of Cleves, in a private apartment above the chapel.  Although the excavation is a confusing mixture of broken stone and stumps of redbrick wall, the finding of the odd chunk of carved door or window frame made of expensive stone imported from Caen, France, is delightful news for historians.  The discovery brings home the reality of the weddings of Henry VIII more directly than any other surviving buildings.  Simon Thurley, chief executive of English Heritage, an expert on Tudor palaces, has called it an astonishing survival.

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