Audio News for March 26th to April 1st, 2006

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica!  I'm Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news for March 26th to April 1st, 2006.

Archaeologists tie ancient palace with Trojan hero Ajax


Our first story is from Greece, where archaeologists claim to have found the ruins of a 3,200-year-old palace belonging to legendary warrior-king Ajax, hero of the Trojan War.  On the island of Salamis, Archaeologist Yiannis Lolos is confident he's found the site where Ajax ruled.  The site also has provided evidence to support a theory that residents of the Mycenaean island kingdom fled to Cyprus after the king's death.  According to Lolos, the site was the seat of the maritime kingdom of Salamis that was involved in trade, warfare and piracy in the eastern Mediterranean.  The site flourished in the 13th century BC, coeval with the major centers of Mycenae and Pylos in southern Greece, and was abandoned during widespread unrest about 100 years later.  Scholars have long suspected a core of historical truth in the story of Troy, and archaeological evidence from the Kanakia on Salamis' southwestern coast dig appears to support such claims.  Lolos also theorizes that part of Salamis' population left for Cyprus in the face of an external threat, and founded a new town named after their homeland.  According to Lolos, there is no other explanation for the creation on Cyprus of a city named Salamis.  It’s been previously established that there was a population exodus from Salamis, ending in total abandonment after 1200 BC.  They presumably first went to Enkomi on Cyprus, which was already an established center.  Kanakia was first inhabited around 3000 BC.  The Mycenaean settlement covers some 12.5 acres and features houses, workshops and storage areas.  To date, archaeologists have uncovered 33 rooms in the 8,000-square-foot palace, including two central royal residences containing what appear to be two bench-like beds.  Finds include pottery, stone tools, a sealstone and copper implements.  Lolos was particularly pleased with a piece of a copper mail shirt stamped with the name of Pharaoh Ramses II, who ruled Egypt from 1279-1213 BC.  This reportedly was a unique find, which may have belonged to a Mycenaean mercenary soldier serving with the Egyptians.  It could have been a souvenir, a mark of honor or even some kind of a medal.  Excavations will continue in September.  Future targets include the settlement's cemetery, which Lolos has located nearby.  Ajax was one of the top fighters in the celebrated Greek army that inundated Troy to win back the kidnapped queen of Sparta, Helen.  Described in Homer's Iliad as a towering hero protected by a huge shield, Ajax killed himself after a quarrel with other Greek leaders.

Henry I charter discovered by archivist


In England, historians at Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire have discovered a long-lost royal charter.  The document grants the manor of Maisemore from King Henry I to St. Peter's Abbey in Gloucester.  Although dating has not been confirmed, experts know the charter was made 900 years ago on September 3rd, 1101, and have confirmed that it is original.  According to the castle's owner, John Berkeley, it had lost its royal seal, but was in all other ways appears authentic.  Archivist, David Smith, came across it while looking for something else in the Berkeley family papers.  No one had any idea it was there.   Only about 300 such documents from Henry I's reign from 1100 to 1135 have survived.  An extract, translated from Latin, reads: "Know that I have given to God and to St Peter of Gloucester and Serlo their Abbot for the sustenance of the monks my land of Maesmores and all the woods and fields."

Tablets from ancient Ur discovered by Italian team


In Iraq, Italian archeologists have found a collection of ancient stone tablets from the fabled civilization of Ur.  According to team leader Silvia Chiodi, the tablets bear around 500 engravings of a literary and historical nature.  Noting that the area in question had previously yielded only prehistoric artifacts, Chiodi called this an exceptional find.  The tablets, made of clay and bitumen, were discovered by chance at a dig site not far from the location of the ancient city.   An expert on Sumerian civilization, Giovanni Pettinato, said the finds probably dated back to one of Ur's most prosperous periods.   According to Pettinato, the most surprising thing is the time span the tablets cover, ranging from 2,700 BC, the First Dynasty of Ur, to 2,100 BC, the Third Dynasty.  The place where the tablets were found, not far from the surface, leads one to suppose they contain information from a library.  Chiodi said the tablets would probably occupy a prominent place in a new Virtual Museum of Iraq which Italy is building to show people what Baghdad's celebrated museum of antiquities looked like before it was looted in the wake of the 2003 US-led invasion.  Ur, near the southern Iraqi city of Nassiriya, is cited in the Bible as the birthplace of the prophet Abraham.  It was the religious hub of the Sumerian civilization during a series of dynasties that ruled Mesopotamia starting around 4000 BC.  The most famous classic of ancient literature, Gilgamesh, was written at Ur.

Virginia to be thoroughly surveyed for reservoir project


In our final story from the United States, archaeologists will launch one of the biggest investigations of its kind in Virginia history when they begin to explore thousands of acres this summer.  The shear number of sites promises such rich potential for discoveries that one expert equates it to a research park.  The fields and forests are filled with stone tools and other traces left by centuries of Indian inhabitants at places that could be jeopardized by reservoir construction.  The area also is home to three modern-day Indian tribes that strongly oppose the reservoir.  They are keeping a guarded eye on what archaeologists intend to do as they search for sites on the 6,000 acres.  Among the sites are the last stronghold of Chief Opechancanough, who shocked the fledgling Jamestown Colony with attacks against English settlers in 1622 and 1644.  The Pamunkey Tribe, along with the Mattaponi and Upper Mattaponi tribes, has refused to sign an agreement with the Corps of Engineers that governs the archaeological project.  The refusal is largely symbolic.  Federal law compels that archaeological resources threatened by the reservoir either be protected for the Tribes or that Tribes be mitigated for their loss.  One option would be to excavate sites that would be destroyed.  According to Upper Mattaponi Chief Ken Adams, the Tribes have felt all along that this sort of problem cannot be mitigated  The tribes and the town of Newport News have been on uneasy terms since the city proposed the reservoir years ago.  Indians complain that the reservoir encroaches on land guaranteed free of outside interference by a 17th-century peace treaty with the British crown.  Despite their formal opposition to the archaeological plan, the tribes are informally cooperating with the project.  Based on what archaeologists and historians know about the region, odds are the survey will encounter plenty of Native sites to consider.  In 1996, when archaeologists surveyed the 1,500 acres of gullies, streams and hillside forests that would be flooded by the reservoir, they found, but did not excavate, 112 camps and bivouacs.  Differences in projectile-point styles and pottery showed that Native Americans inhabited the area for 8,000 years.  According to Chris Stevenson of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, the amount of ground the archaeologists will cover makes the survey hugely important, giving a comprehensive overview of the evolution of Indian culture across a broad landscape.  Joe Jones, director of the College of William and Mary Center for Archaeological Research, declared that the potential of dig is unprecedented.

That wraps up the news for this week!
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I'm Laura Kelley and I'll see you next week! Audio News Script, April 2, 2006


This is The Archaeology Channel and I’m Rick Pettigrew.

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Audio News from Archaeologica.  Excavators on a Greek island may have found the palace of Ajax.  An archivist has found a 900 year old English royal charter.  An Italian team in Iraq has found a cache of Sumerian tablets.  And a survey of a Virginia reservoir project is likely to yield dramatic results.

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And now, here’s Laura Kelley with the Audio News from Archaeologica.  We hope you find this to be a valuable part of your day.


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