Audio News for March 12th to March 18th, 2006

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica!  I'm Laura Kelley and these are the headlines
in archaeological and historical news for March 12th to March 18th, 2006.

Numismatist’s dream in Japan

Original Headline: Ancient coins offer clue to riverside ritual 1,300 years ago


Our first story is from Japan where the discovery of some rare ancient coins may offer clues to a riverside ritual.  According to archaeologist, a practice similar to tossing coins into a fountain may explain the recent discovery of rare copper coins from the Nara (710-784) and early Heian (794-1185) periods at a dried-up riverbed.  The coins are unique because they are what are known as Kocho-Junisen, several types of copper coins minted in Japan by the imperial court of the time.  These included Kangen-Taiho coins minted in AD 958 and were the last Japanese coinage before the imperial court switched to relying on imports from China.  Seven types of coins were discovered, along with fragments of earthenware jars that suggest they were tossed into a tributary of the Yamatogawa River in a ritual ceremony for salvation and illness prevention.  Distinctive faces were painted in black ink on the small containers.  In total, 23 Kocho-Junisen coins were found out at the site.  The coins were stamped with the Chinese character mon, which apparently specified the value of each one.  One coin, known as Wado Kaichin, is thought to be the first copper coin minted in Japan.  Researchers date its minting to AD 708.  Other precious finds include five so-called Ryuhei Eiho coins from 796; seven Showa Shoho coins from 835, and one Teikan Eiho coin from 870.  Most of the coins had been freshly minted when they were tossed into the river.  According to Masayoshi Mizuno, professor emeritus of archaeology at Nara University, it is extremely rare to discover a batch of Kocho-Junisen together at one site.

Sicilians search for more underwater bronzes

Original Headline: Hunt on for satyr's 'brothers'


In Italy, the quest is on for the “brother”' of a 2,400-year-old bronze satyr fished out of the sea off Sicily seven years ago.  Because of their experience in underwater work, the regional government has contacted top Italian fuel group Eni to provide special equipment to assist in the search for satyr's brothers.  Sicily's maritime culture chief, Sebastiano Tusa, said Eni's dredging probes had already enabled specialists to locate the wreck of a 4th century AD Roman ship that will be raised from the sea floor in the next few weeks.  The Dancing Satyr, retrieved from the waters of the Sicilian Channel in March 1998, was the star attraction at the Italian pavilion at Japan's major cultural and trade event last year, the World Expo 2005.  The 6 foot-high figure, found by a fishing crew, is one of Italy's most important marine archaeological finds ever, second only to the famed Riace Bronzes.  The satyr's origin is still an enigma.  Some experts think it is the work of the fabled ancient Greek sculptor Praxiteles, while others believe it is a Roman copy.  Though missing both arms and one leg, its cocked head, tossed hair, torso and bounding leg are remarkably well-preserved.  It is considered to have been part of a larger group of statues including Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and fertility, other satyrs, fauns and mythological creatures.  The last find to spark as much excitement as the satyr were the Riace Bronzes, a pair of breathtaking fifth-century BC Greek sculptures of warriors, found in Sicilian waters in 1972.

Underground passages evidence Jewish revolt planning against the Romans

Original Headline: Archaeologists Find Ancient Israel Tunnels

In Israel, underground chambers and tunnels used during a Jewish revolt against the Romans nearly 2,000 years ago have been uncovered in the northern region of the country.  According to Yardenna Alexandre of the Israel Antiquities Authority, the finds demonstrate that the ancient Jews planned and prepared for the uprising, contrary to the common belief that the revolt began spontaneously.  The Jews stocked up supplies and were preparing to hide from the Romans during their revolt between AD 66 and 70.  The pits, linked by short tunnels, would have served as a concealed subterranean home.  The underground chambers at the village of Kfar Kana, north of Nazareth, were built from materials common at the time and hidden directly beneath the floors of aboveground homes, giving direct access to the hideouts.  Other refuges found from the time of the revolt are cut out of rock.  Alexandre reported that the construction was well camouflaged inside one of the houses. Three pits occur under one house and one tunnel leads to another pit containing 11 storage jars.  Researchers say they believe the ancient Jews at the site built their houses over the ruins of an earlier, fortified Iron Age city dating to the 10th and 9th centuries BC. The Iron Age city was also a new find, which they dated from extensive pottery shards.  The excavators also found large quantities of animal bones, a scarab depicting a man surrounded by two crocodiles, and a ceramic seal bearing the image of a lion.  The Jewish revolt against Roman rule ended in the year AD 70, when the Romans sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the Second Temple.

Recent Egyptian discovery not as first thought

Original Headline Pharaonic find was mummification room, not tomb


Our final story is a follow-up from Egypt, where archaeologists say a chamber they found last month in Egypt's Valley of the Kings was not a tomb, as first thought, but rather a room used to mummify pharaohs.  The chamber, discovered by a team from the University of Memphis, dates from the 18th Dynasty, between 1539 BC and 1292 BC.  It contained seven wooden coffins and a number of sealed jars that subsequently were found to contain materials used in the mummification process.  Initially, Egypt's head of antiquities, Zahi Hawass, speculated that the coffins belonged to royals or nobles moved from original graves to protect them from grave robbers.  Further examination revealed the chamber was actually an embalming workshop.

That wraps up the news for this week!  For more stories and daily news updates, visit Archaeologica on the World Wide Web at, where all the news is history!

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