www.archaeology.ws/archive

http://dsc.discovery.com/news/briefs/20040614/etruscanroad.html

Huge Etruscan Road Brought to Light

By Rossella Lorenzi, Discovery News

June 16, 2004

 

A plain in Tuscany destined to become a dump has turned out to be an archaeologist's dream, revealing the biggest Etruscan road ever found.

Digging in Capannori, near Lucca, archaeologist Michelangelo Zecchini has uncovered startling evidence of an Etruscan "highway" which presumably linked Etruscan Pisa, on the Tyrrhenian coast, to the Adriatic port of Spina.

Passing through Bologna, the ancient "two-sea highway" runs just a few meters away from today's modern highway which links Florence to the Tyrrhenian coast.

"It all started with the discovery of four big stones. I realized they could not lie in an alluvial plain by chance. As we dug a sample area, we found a large road still bearing the ruts left by chariots 2,500 years ago," Zecchini told Discovery News.

Dating to the end of the 6th century B.C., the seven-meter-wide (23-foot) road supported intense chariot traffic towards Spina, an Etruscan-controlled trading emporium where Etruscan and Greeks lived and worked together, and through which were imported great quantities of Greek goods.

"A great amount of information, including tombs, monuments and villages, lie hidden along this road," Zecchini said.

The ancient highway was also mentioned by Greek geographer Skylax, who in the 4th century B.C. wrote that a great road linked Pisa with Spina by a three-day journey.

Zecchini and his team have so far brought to light a 200-meter-long (656-foot) section. The discovery took place in an area that, from the 6th century A.D. until 1850, contained a large and rather deep lake.

The lake gave birth to the legend of Sextum, a rich and powerful city that disappeared under a terrible flood.

Sixteenth-century texts found in Lucca's archives recount fishermen who could see the remains of a submerged city on the bottom of the lake. They even used the city's streets and square as reference points for their fishing.

"Our archeological survey has shown that the remains do not belong to the legendary Sextum, but to innumerable ancient Roman farms. Indeed the area has been dubbed 'the plain of the 100 farms.' But nobody would have ever imagined that this plain could hide such an imposing road," Zecchini said.

The archaeologist hopes to uncover at least 15 kilometers (nine miles) of the ancient road.

"This is a fantastically important discovery for many reasons. It confirms the importance of the Etruscan roads which linked the great cities of Etruria, which have not been found so far because they lay beneath the later Roman roads. This section of the road was long covered over by a lake, a fact which accounts for its excellent condition, which will allow archaeologists to study details of its construction," Larissa Bonfante, professor of classics at New York University and an authority on the Etruscan civilization, told Discovery News.

Bonfante added that the road's early date — the archaic period of 500 B.C. — means that it was made and used during the period of the Etruscans' greatest power and influence, when they had extended their influence south to Rome.

"They had craftsmen who specialized in making various types of chariots, including the sturdy vehicles with standard widths which left the ruts on this road," Bonfante said.

 

http://www.eadt.co.uk/content/news/story.asp?datetime=11+Jun+2004+05%3A15&tbrand=EADOnline&tCategory=NEWS&category=News&brand=EADOnline&itemid=IPED10+Jun+2004+20%3A15%3A34%3A240

Ancient remains found at bypass site

June 11, 2004 05:15

 

VITAL clues into how we lived thousands of years ago have been unearthed on a bypass site.

 

Among the items uncovered along the A142 between Newmarket and Fordham include skeletons from the Bronze Age and Iron Age, along with a body from Roman times.

 

Flints and pottery, buried since the Neolithic period around 4,500 years ago, have also been discovered, and will now be cleaned and carefully examined to help experts learn more about the history of East Anglia's ancestors.

 

“It is very exciting. We have found an awful lot of archaeology in general at the Fordham bypass site,” said Richard Mortimer, project officer at Cambridgeshire County Council's archaeology field unit.

 

“We found skeletons from the Bronze Age and Iron Age, along with a Roman skeleton and some lovely other pieces, such as flints and pottery. We have also found large, pit-like shafts and a couple of Roman roads – all manner of things which are very rich and very prehistoric.

 

“Finding skeletons is not that unusual, but to find the amount of pieces we did, from difference periods but all in the same place, is very rare.”

 

One of the skeletons dates back around 6,000 years, and coincides with the birth of farming.

 

“This is the first evidence of people settling down and becoming more sedentary, after we had stopped being hunter-gatherers,” added Mr Mortimer.

 

The pieces will be sent away to specialists and cleaned, which will take up to a year.

 

The team were asked to move onto the site before work begins on the Fordham bypass scheme in July. They then spent around 12 weeks painstakingly clearing the area, using pick axes and shovels, before uncovering all the archaeological gems the site has to offer.

 

“The skeletons will be put into a county store for archaeological pieces, to allow further study into the past,” added Mr Mortimer.

 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2004/06/11/nswall11.xml

Borders folk may be descended from Africans

By David Derbyshire

(Filed: 11/06/2004)

 

Families who have lived in the English-Scottish Borders for generations could be descended from African soldiers who patrolled Hadrian's Wall nearly 2,000 years ago.

Archaeologists say there is compelling evidence that a 500-strong unit of Moors manned a fort near Carlisle in the third century AD.

Richard Benjamin, an archaeologist at Liverpool University who has studied the history of black Britons, believes many would have settled and raised families.

"When you talk about Romans in Britain, most people think about blue eyes and pale complexions," he said. "But the reality was very different."

Writing in the journal British Archaeology, Mr Benjamin describes a fourth century inscription discovered in Beaumount, two miles from the remains of the Aballava fort at Burgh by Sands. The inscription refers to the "numerus of Aurelian Moors" - a unit of North Africans, probably named after the emperor Marcus Aurelius.

The unit is also mentioned in the Notitia Dignitatum, a Roman list of officials and dignitaries. It describes the prefect of the "numeri Maurorum Aurelianorum, Aballaba".

The unit was probably mustered in the Roman province of Mauretania, in modern-day Morocco, by the emperor Septimus Severus and arrived in Britain in the second or third centuries AD. Aballava lay at the western end of Hadrian's Wall in Cumbria.

Mr Benjamin suspects that the unit would have been blooded in battles in Germany and the Danube where more inscriptions refer to a unit of Moors. Their number is unknown, but the fort could have held up to 500 men.

"There was freedom of movement for civilians and those in administration of the armed forces. Discharge certificates indicate that the veteran soldiers settled in Britain," he said. "Soldiers would have had plenty of money to spend in native settlements on the outskirts of the forts. They would have sought entertainment in brothels. Many would probably have wanted more permanent relationships."

Mr Benjamin is calling for a major study of black Roman Britons. He believes that DNA tests of locals could reveal genetic links with modern-day north Africans, while skeletons of Romans found in the area might contain telltale clues to their childhood origins.

Buildings in the village may have been built from recycled Roman materials. Some might be of African origin, he said.

The unit is likely to have been composed of Berbers from North Africa, but may also have had darker-skinned soldiers from Nubia.

In 1989, archaeologists discovered a 1,900-year-old wooden sculpture of a black African head in London carved in the first century.

Contemporary records also point to Africans living in Britain during the Roman occupation. The emperor Septimus Severus is reported to have been approached by a black African soldier while he crossed Hadrian's Wall on his return from a battle in Scotland.

 

In South Shields, a Roman tombstone refers to a 20-year-old "Moor by race, the freed slave of Numerians".

 

 

Ancient graves found on cliffs

A 1,250-year-old cliff-face cemetery has been found in Pembrokeshire revealing the county's early Christian past.

Two skeletons dating from the Dark Ages of around 750AD have been recovered and a stone with a carefully chiselled cross has also been found.

Archaeologists had to work using ropes to reach the site at Longoar Bay, near St Ishmaels.

The graves were discovered by chance by Steve Brick who works for the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.

The site was impossible for us to reach but from our researches we realised that this area was likely to be the site of an early Christian cemetery

Phil Bennett

"Steve was monitoring the coast path and found this new cliff fall," explained the park authority's heritage manager Phil Bennett.

"Through binoculars he noted what looked like graves in the cliff-face, similar to ones already known about at St Brides Haves."

Mr Bennett has enlisted the help of the Church in Wales and a television production company to find out more about the site.

The Dean of St David's, the Very Rev Wyn Evans, an authority on early Christianity in Wales, has been closely involved.

"He told us to look out for inscriptions on stones covering the graves and we were delighted to find a very well rafted simple cross," said Mr Bennett.

The stone is now being kept at the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff after recording and analysis by the city's university archaeology department.

Mr Bennett said: "The site was impossible for us to reach but from our researches we realised that this area was likely to be the site of an early Christian cemetery.

"The involvement of the TV company opened up the opportunity for the cliff-face graves to be investigated and recorded by archaeologists working off ropes."

Footage will be used as part of the next series of Extreme Archaeology on Channel 4.

"Hi-tech equipment was used at the top of the cliff and two graves were detected," he added.

"These were excavated, filmed and recorded and each found to contain the remains of a female.

"One may have had an infant burial above it but no bones were found."

The site is on private land and not accessible to the public.

But Mr Bennett said: "We have worked closely with the landowner to ensure its protection."

Story from BBC NEWS:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/uk_news/wales/south_west/3813181.stm

Published: 2004/06/16 17:09:53 GMT

© BBC MMIV

 

http://www.thisismilfordhaven.co.uk/milford_haven/news/NEWS10.html

TV date for 1,200 year old graves

by Rhiannon Llewellin

 

AN EARLY Christian burial site near St Ishmaels, which remained hidden from the world for over 1,250 years, has been discovered thanks to a falling cliff and will feature in a TV programme next month.

The chance discovery of graves at Longoar Bay led to a clifftop cemetery from which two skeletons dating from the around 750 AD in the Dark Ages were excavated, and a lintel stone with a carefully chiselled sign of the Cross inside which was used to cover one of the graves.

The graves were found when officers from Pembrokeshire Coast National Park were mapping the cliff face around the coastal path and noticed them protruding from the rocks.

Archaeological Heritage Manager, Phil Bennett said: "Steve Brick was monitoring the coast path and found this new cliff fall. Through binoculars he noted what looked like graves in the cliff-face, similar to ones already known about at St Brides Haven.

"The site was impossible for us to reach but from our research we realised that this area was likely to be the site of an early Christian cemetery."

In order to investigate the graves and recover fragments of bone for analysis, archaeologists from new Channel 4 series Extreme Archaeology had to abseil down the 40ft red sandstone cliff.

Phil added: "High-tec geophysical prospecting equipment was also used at the top of the cliff and two graves were detected. These were excavated, filmed and recorded and each found to contain the remains of a female. One may have had an infant burial above it but no bones were found."

`Extreme Archaeology' will begin on Channel 4 on Sunday June 20 at 8 pm. The Pembrokeshire programme is scheduled for July 25.

 

 

 

 

05/02/2004

 

Channel 4 Takes Archaeology to the extreme with ESRI GIS

 

Extreme Archaeology is a new Channel 4 archaeology series. The series aims to go beyond the confines of traditional archaeology programmes to bring the subject to life and spark the imagination of the viewer. By using GIS from ESRI, Extreme Archaeology has been able to unearth information about new sites, which couldn’t have been determined using traditional methods, and provides viewers with a better understanding of the complexities of each dig.

 

Extreme Archaeology is a new eight part television series from the producers of Channel 4’s highly successful Time Team series. The series, made by Mentorn, aims to unearth archaeology sites which cannot be reached by traditional archaeologists. Each programme follows a presenter and core team of archaeologists as they climb, dive, abseil or tunnel into some of the most inhospitable archaeological sites in Britain – effectively taking archaeology to the extreme. The team has a limited time in which to gain access, assess and survey the site, decide on the excavation objectives, carry out the excavation, extract artefacts and evidence, then re-instate and stabilise the site, before getting safely back to base.

 

By its very nature, The Extreme Archaeology series pushes the boundaries of traditional archaeology excavations, and the series producers wanted this innovation to be reflected across all aspects of the show – both in front of and behind the camera. Series director Mel Morpeth explains:

 

“We wanted to create a series that wouldn’t be perceived as being just another archaeology TV show. Too often TV viewers see experts wading across muddy fields with paper maps being blown about by the wind. We wanted to bring archaeology bang up to date and into the 21st Century.”

 

Making a series like Extreme Archaeology involves a juggling act. Firstly, the programme must be interesting enough to keep the TV audience watching. Secondly like all archaeological excavations, the programme makers are required to provide accurate records of their findings to the wider archaeological community. .

 

“We recognised the value that Technology and in particular, GIS technology, could bring to the show,” affirmed Morpeth. “Not only could it help make the programme interesting and easy for the viewers to understand, but it could improve the accuracy of the excavations and the subsequent reporting of our findings.”

 

Through its involvement with the HP Visual and Spatial Technology Centre at the University of Birmingham, ESRI’s ArcInfo is widely acknowledged as the leading geographical and mapping analysis and research tool. For this reason, Mentorn approached ESRI (UK) to work with the company on the programme. As well as providing its core ArcMap GIS and supporting applications, ESRI (UK) seconded one of its consultants, Peter Wilkinson, to work on site with the production team to develop the technology in line with the changing requirements of the programme.

 

Each Extreme Archaeology site visit begins with an analysis of available information on the immediate area. This may include aerial photographs from Get Mapping, the UK’s leading aerial photography company, historical maps, ordnance survey data or distance readings taken using Cyrax 3D laser scanning technology from Leica. The Cyrax works by firing a laser beam which will travel in a straight line until it reaches a solid surface, enabling the user to measure depth with great efficiency.

 

By integrating data from these and many other different sources, a fuller picture of the geographic landscape can be created. Using ESRI’s three dimensional analytics tool, ArcScene, a new perspective on the data can be generated, making for enhanced visualisation, manipulation and analytical purposes.

 

When arriving at the programme location, the Extreme Archaeology team already knows that there is a archaeology site in the vicinity – the challenge is to find it quickly and accurately. Jim Mower, archaeology researcher on the series explains:

 

“We have a limited time in which to set up, excavate and film each show which means that time is of the essence. However, archaeology isn’t naturally suited to such tight deadlines. As archaeology is a finite resource, as soon as excavation starts, you begin to destroy the area. Patience and accuracy is needed, often over a long period of time.

 

“Through easier analysis, GIS technology helps us manage this time constraint, enabling us to identify where we want to dig more precisely than if we simply relied on paper maps. This precision eliminates the need to dig a wider area than required, with minimal disruption to the surrounding area. The enhanced visualisation provided by the GIS gives benefits both behind and in front of the cameras - making it easier for the production team to assess what are the best camera angles to take when filming the excavation, and giving the viewers a clearer understanding of what the excavation is trying to unearth.”

 

ESRI (UK) GIS was at the centre of every Extreme Archaeology dig - effectively serving as the hub for all of the information gathered on each site. Each time additional data was sourced, it was fed into the GIS where the historical and geographical jigsaw would be pieced together. By dissecting and analysing the information, the Extreme Archaeology team could get a clearer understanding of how the landscape may have looked in the past.

 

In one episode, filmed in a copper mine in Parys, Anglesey, the work done by the Extreme Archaeology team will go beyond simply making a TV programme. It is hoped that the mine will eventually become a tourist location, and that the findings generated by Extreme Archaeology using the ESRI GIS will form the basis of a forthcoming application for world heritage status.

 

At one time, the Parys mine was the largest copper mine in Europe, but after it was shut down it became derelict and flooded. When the team arrived on location, the only information they had at hand were paper maps of the complex tunnel network, based on historical data, with the depth of each tunnel indicated by varying colours.

 

Using ESRI’s ArcScan scanning solution, these paper maps were loaded onto the GIS and a three dimensional model was created. By integrating paper-based measurements of the depth of the tunnel network with ordnance survey data and aerial photographs, Extreme Archaeology could bring the mine network alive, enabling viewers to see for themselves how the tunnels interconnected and how the mine would have operated.

 

During the excavation of the mines, the progress of the archaeologists underground could be tracked above ground on the GIS by the rest of the production team. Using Hey Phone communication devices which can operate through rock, the production team was able to advise and guide the archaeologists on the directions to take within the network, so that the most interesting tunnels could be investigated and the original map data verified. While underground, the archaeologists digitally recorded their findings using ArcPad, ESRI’s mobile GIS solution, running on tablet PCs. Upon returning to the surface, this information was then easily uploaded into the central GIS resource, ensuring data accuracy.

 

Jim Mower. “In making Extreme Archaeology we wanted to bring archaeology to life and capture the imagination of the viewers – the ESRI technology has enabled us to do just that. Quite simply, without GIS, the exciting programme format, of completing a dig from beginning to endin such a short time, would not be possible. The data analysis capabilities provided by the GIS have helped the accuracy and timeliness of each dig, while the visualisation and graphics allow us to explain our actions and thoughts to the viewers. Although the use of GIS in archaeology is still in its infancy, I believe that Extreme Archaeology has demonstrated what it can achieve, and will increase recognition of GIS to both the archaeology community and the viewing public alike.”

 

By using a new geographical information system (GIS), Extreme Archaeology has been able to unearth information about new sites, which couldn’t have been determined using traditional methods, and provides viewers with a better understanding of the complexities of each dig. Each programme follows a presenter and core team of archaeologists as they climb, dive, abseil or tunnel into some of the most inhospitable archaeological sites in Britain – effectively taking archaeology to the extreme. The team has a limited time in which to gain access, assess and survey the site, decide on the excavation objectives, carry out the excavation, extract artefacts and evidence, then re-instate and stabilise the site, before getting safely back to base.

 

http://www.waterford-news.ie/news/story.asp?j=14729

Friday, June 11, 2004

Viking ‘town’ is Ireland’s equivalent of Pompeii

By Marion O’Mara

 

IT’S likely to be some weeks yet before Minister for the Environment Martin Cullen announces recommendations for dealing with and possibly preserving what historians are now describing as Ireland’s first town.

 

The discovery of the Viking settlement, at Woodstown, five miles from the city, which is believed to date back to the mid-9th century, was made as preparatory work got underway on the city’s €300m by-pass.

 

The site, located close to the River Suir, is 1.5 km long by 0.5 km wide and so far up to 3,000 artifacts have been found over a distance of 150 yards. From photographs, which have been examined by the country’s leading archaeologists, early indications suggest that the complete original town of Waterford founded by the Vikings remains virtually intact with dozens of streets and dwellings just under the soil surface.

 

It is thought that up to 4,000 people may have lived there. To date, nails, weights, jewellery, silverware, weapons and some ceramics have been found along with some ship fragments.

 

From evidence found at the site, a fleet of 120 Viking ships occupied the Woodstown site about 812. This, in turn, gave them control of Waterford Harbour and of the three-river system, the Suir, the Barrow and the Norse, allowing them ready access upriver to the rich lands and monasteries of these river valleys.

 

The settlement began as a longphort and that is what archaeologists originally thought the find was until further examination. This is a Dshaped fortification made by the Vikings to protect themselves and their ships from attack. It was the typical fortress from which the Vikings raided the countryside.

 

The Suir Valley Railway runs along the edge of Woodstown between the site and the Suir. The builders of the railway demolished a mound in a field called Seandún ‘old fortress.’ The mound was found to contain a large number of bones. All indications now suggest that this may have been a Viking ship burial, the only one found in Ireland.

 

John Maas, an academic PhD researcher, said that it was sheer luck that the aerial photographs showed from the plant colouring that a larger site lay beneath the surface.

 

“This is Ireland’s equivalent of Pompeii. The find, if it proves to be what we think it is, is the most significant piece of Viking history in Europe. This will be worth up to €200 million annually to the local economy if properly dealt with by the authorities,” explained Mr Maas.

 

http://www.thisisbrightonandhove.co.uk/brighton__hove/archive/2004/06/14/NEWS200ZM.html

First published on Monday 14 June 2004:

Archaeologists solve medieval mystery

by Chris Baker

 

An archaeologist has helped solve a medieval mystery about a thieving monk.

Gabor Thomas' work has finally laid to rest a centuries-old argument about where in Sussex the errant monk did his pilfering.

The story began when a ship was forced to take shelter from a storm one Easter Sunday in the 11th Century and a monk among the passengers travelled to a nearby church to praise God.

But he left with the remains of St Lewinna hidden in his luggage, which became a famed money-spinner for his monastery at Bergues, near Dunkirk.

A cult built up around the relics of St Lewinna, a woman who lived during the reign of Saxon King Egbert and whose bones were said to have miraculous healing powers.

The tale was later written down by the monks of Bergues, larceny and all.

The old manuscript describes an anchorage that is almost certainly Seaford Bay and a church called St Andrew's, provoking an argument which has lasted until today.

Alfriston, Bishopstone and Jevington each has a church named after St Andrew and each has claimed to be the place of the monk's profitable theft.

Dr Thomas used the tale to direct his team towards Bishopstone where they discovered a lost Anglo-Saxon village and the probable answer to the mystery.

Excavation leader Dr Thomas said: "Of the three candidates, Bishopstone is the only one that can be clearly seen from an anchorage in that bay and it was an important religious centre.

"What the work has done is provide a much stronger context to prove Bishopstone as the candidate. We have got all this Anglo-Saxon activity centred around the church."

Dr Thomas' dig, which is about to enter its third and final summer, is shedding new light on the origins of Sussex villages, which mostly date from the later Anglo-Saxon period, a time when people were moving from the hills to the lowlands and river valleys.

His team has slowly unearthed a small group of timber-framed buildings with thatched roofs, the largest with an indoor lavatory, grouped around the famous 8th Century church.

The inhabitants of Anglo-Saxon Bishopstone were relatively well off - proved by the discovery of cooking pots, household implements, jewellery and coins, many of them minted in France.

Dr Thomas, who is based at the University of Kent, said: "Some of these people could afford to dress up to the nines and wear fashionable clothes.

"It suggests this was not just a community of peasants living in hovels but people who had disposable incomes.

"The present-day obsession of nipping over the Channel and coming back with loads of wine was something that was going on during that period."

Another insight into the lives of the early villagers has been provided by skeletons found buried outside the modern graveyard, although the bones have not yet been fully analysed.

This summer's work will concentrate on finding out whether the village was a lordly or religious settlement, exploring boundaries and ditches, and trying to find out if there was once a monastery at Bishopstone.

This Anglo-Saxon village is unusual because it was founded at the same time as many others but quickly abandoned.

Dr Thomas said: "This is the first time a Sussex village has been subject to this kind of investigation.

"It is difficult to dig in existing villages because they are all built up. We have got this window into the Anglo-Saxon world right smack bang on the village green."

 The Sussex Archaeological Society dig has been partly funded by running week-long training courses.

Courses, priced £180 and starting in early August, are tailored for beginners and no previous experience is needed. For more details, call Alison Lawrence on 01273 405730.

 

Archaeologists find ancient fort

Part of an artillery fort built in 1627 has been discovered near to the docks in Hull.

The South Battery once formed part of the city's defences but it has not been seen since it was demolished around 1855.

Archaeologists working next to the old Central Dry Dock in Humber Street have uncovered the remains of three of the Battery's gun positions.

Pottery has also been found as well as a collection of clay tobacco pipes.

Dave Evans from the Humber Archaeology Partnership said: "This is a tremendously important discovery for the city.

"It is of major regional, and even national, importance for our understanding of the development of artillery fortifications.

"Finding the remains of the South Battery so well-preserved under the later concrete of the dock structures has been a real treat."

Story from BBC NEWS:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/uk_news/england/humber/3801365.stm

Published: 2004/06/13 12:17:43 GMT

© BBC MMIV

 

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2004-06/uow-ama061504.php

Contact: Roberto Rodríguez

608-238-3161

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Ancient maps and corn help track the migrations of indigenous people

 

MADISON- Maps are tools to show you where you are going, but they can also show you where you came from. That principle drives the work of Roberto Rodríguez and Patrisia Gonzales, who study ancient maps, oral traditions and the movement of domesticated crops to learn more about the origins of native people in the Americas.

"How do you bring memory back to a people that were told not to remember?" asks Rodríguez. As longtime scholars and syndicated columnists, Gonzales and Rodríguez explore this issue and others related to native people in the Americas. They recently entered the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences as graduate students in the life sciences communication department, and are teaching a class this summer that shows how the stories of Wisconsin's native people fit into the larger history of the continent.

European efforts to homogenize indigenous people in the Americas destroyed much knowledge of the origins, migrations and history of different peoples, explains Rodríguez. However, some migration stories persist in oral traditions, including a central story - told in Mexico and depicted on the Mexican flag - of native people moving south from a place called Aztlán. The location of that place and the paths of movement are unclear, says Rodríguez, because people were moving around in all directions for thousands of years.

He's trying to untangle the different paths, and trace them back to their root.

"I'm not looking for an individual answer to the question 'where did I come from,'" he adds. "Patrisia and I want to know where we as a people came from."

Rodríguez and Gonzales have pursued this question as authors, teachers, distinguished community scholars at the University of California-Los Angeles, and now as CALS graduate students. One line of inquiry has led them to study dozens of maps of what is now Central America, Mexico and the United States, created by cartographers from around the world and dating as far back as the 1500s.

"Europeans back then were fascinated with newly discovered lands and people," Rodríguez explains. Mapmakers often added notes and comments to their drawings, including references to the homelands of indigenous groups on some of the maps. One notation from the1768 Alzate map reads, "The Mexican Indians are said to have departed from the shores of this lake to found their empire," in reference to what is now the Great Salt Lake in Utah. Another shows an ancient city near the Colorado and Green rivers, also in Utah.

Rodríguez says that the maps represent a previously untapped source of information. "These maps were all in public archives," including the Wisconsin State Historical Society, says Rodríguez. "However, we could find only one other researcher that had used them, and he dealt with the topic much differently than we have. What we are pursing is not in the realm of legend or myth, but as historical fact and narrative."

Besides maps, Rodríguez and Gonzales have researched ancient chronicles, pictographs, and oral traditions. They are also studying the spread of plants-including corn and herbs-to track migration.

"I was taught to follow corn-that is who we, as a people, are," explains Rodríguez. "Looking at the story of this continent, civilization has to do with food, in this case, corn." Corn was first domesticated in southern Mexico at least 5,000 years ago, and was moved by humans across the continent, he says.

"I was drawn to Madison for grad school in part because of the name of the department, which used to be called agricultural journalism," he recalls. "The word 'agriculture' with the journalism was a perfect fit with our ideas about corn."

Rodríguez and Gonzales have visited some of the sites indicated on the maps and have found intriguing possibilities, but no firm evidence of a single migration point, though many of the maps allude to the Salt Lake region. "What is clear," says Rodríguez, "is that the people of this region, from the Utes, Paiutes, Shoshones, Hopis and Yaquis, on south to Mexico and Central America, spoke a common language and were related. But many other people were also related via maize and trade."

 

Rodríguez and Gonzales recently organized a UCLA symposium (http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/chavez/Aztlanahuac/index.htm) examining the migrations and origins of native people, and displayed 40 of the ancient maps they have studied. They also spoke at a UW-Madison conference called "Who Owns America," sponsored by the Land Tenure Center.