Audio News for May 7th to May 13th, 2006

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I'm Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news for May 7th to May 13th, 2006.

Olmec or similar culture found in far north of Mexico


Our first story is from Mexico, where a recently unearthed monolith may show that the Olmec civilization, one of the oldest in the Americas, was more widespread than thought or even that another culture prospered alongside it 3,000 years ago.  Findings at the newly excavated Tamtoc archeological site in the north-central state of San Luis Potosi (san lu-eese poh-toh-SEE) may cause a rethink of Mesoamerican history.  According to archeologist Guillermo Ahuja, (gee-AIR-moh ah-OO-ha) who has been excavating the site for the past five years, the find is an important indication that the Olmecs had extended much farther to the north than thought, or else another group, previously unknown, lived here at the same time as the Olmecs.  The Olmecs are considered the mother culture of pre-Hispanic Mexico.  Ruins of Olmec centers believed to be as early as 1200 BC have been found in the Gulf Coast states of Veracruz and Tabasco, with only limited artifacts found anywhere else.  The monolith appears to represent a lunar calendar containing three human figures and symbols in relief.  Measuring 25 feet long, 13 feet high, 16 inches thick and weighing more than 30 tons, it may date to as early as 900 BC.  Researchers will try to understand the icons to learn more about the artists and their culture.  Ahuja stated these are new symbols in Mesoamerica.  At Tamtoc, scientists found evidence of an advanced civilization, with a hydraulic system, canals and other technology, making it the oldest and most advanced center of its time found in what later became Huasteco (wahs-TEC-oh) Indian region.  The 330-acre complex has three plazas and more than 70 buildings and may indicate that the Olmecs migrated northward and mingled with other peoples there.

New bronze statue fished from Greek seas


In Greece, a fisherman has handed over to authorities a large section of an ancient bronze statue brought up in his nets in the Aegean Sea.  The male torso was found last week near the eastern Aegean island of Kalymnos (kah-LIM-nos).  The 3-foot high find belonged to a statue of a horseback soldier, and would have been part of the cargo of an ancient ship that sank in the area. It was taken to Athens to be cleaned and dated.  Along with the torso, the fisherman also brought up two small pieces of bronze believed to belong to the statue, and a wine-jar from the ancient city of Knidos (C’NEE-dos) dating from the first century BC.  The seas around Kalymnos are rich in ancient wrecks and have yielded several impressive finds in recent years, including a large female statue known as the "Lady from Kalymnos", now exhibited at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.  It dates from ancient Greece's Hellenistic period, which began roughly with the reign of Alexander the Great in the fourth century BC.  Other scattered pieces of bronze statues found in the area include a head, legs and arms, but it is unclear whether these could match the horseman's torso.

Ancient city rises from lake floor on border of China and Korea


In China, the ruins of a 2,000-year-old walled city have been found in a reservoir on the northeastern border with North Korea.  The mud-covered ruins were exposed when the water level in the Yunfeng Reservoir was lowered for repairs.  The site, near the present-day city of Ji’an, is believed to date to China's Han Dynasty, which ran from 202 BC-AD 220.  But Korea's Koguryo kingdom also ruled the area at that time, and the city included tombs of Koguryo design.  Another burial area found some 12 miles away on the reservoir floor has over two thousand tombs, also believed to date from Koguryo.  The Koguryo kings reigned from 37 BC to AD 668 over the Korean Peninsula and northeastern China. The era is regarded as one of the high points of Korean cultural and political power.  The ruined city's wall is five feet high and 13 feet thick enclosing an area 600 feet by 700 feet, and is surrounded by a moat.  Zhang Fuyou, chairman of the Mount Changbai Cultural Society of Jilin Province, said further excavation would be required to confirm when the city was built.

Turkish undersea tunnel construction slowed by Byzantine find


Our final story is from Turkey, where workers digging a railway tunnel under the Bosporus Strait have uncovered the remains of a major Byzantine harbor.  Archaeologists say it is a trove of relics dating back to Roman Emperor Constantine the Great.  Chief archaeologist Metin Gokcay and his team have found preserved leather sandals, hairbrushes, candle holders, mosaics, massive anchors, eight ships and the remains of a pier and stone harbor jetties.  The Roman emperor Constantine moved his capital from Rome to Byzantium in AD 330 and renamed the city Constantinople.  It grew into the busiest trading center in the eastern Mediterranean.  This paradise for archaeologists has been hell for engineers who want to finish the tunnel by 2010. The Marmaray tunnel will be the deepest underwater tunnel in the world, built to withstand earthquakes up to magnitude 9.0.  So far the project has been on schedule. But the site under the Yenikapi area will be its focal point, and the archaeologists can't say when they'll be finished.

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