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Breaking new ground in Spain. CAS Assistant Professor of Archaeology Murray McClellan and his team have unearthed some new discoveries during their work in the southeastern Spanish town of Torrevieja, which confirms that the area was part of a complex trading network nearly three millennia ago.

The team, consisting of McClellan, Professor James Wiseman, Lecturer Pamela Russell, 2 teaching assistants, and 19 undergraduates from BU and two other universities, went to Torrevieja in May 1998 for the six-week excavation of this previously unexcavated region.

Scholars agree that Iberian culture was profoundly transformed in the first millennium b.c. as a result of contacts with Eastern Mediterranean peoples. The earliest such evidence to date is a Phoenician trading post from around 800 b.c. at Cádiz, the southern tip of Spain.

"Our goal was to discover more information about the interactions between these indigenous communities and the Phoenician and Roman-era communities established along the coast as trading routes prospered," McClellan explains. "Spanish archaeologists had already interpreted the distribution of the earliest settlements as representing a stratified social organization with centralized political control, with later settlements illustrating that central political control had diminished. Our excavations tested these ideas."

In the end, the team dug up quite a few surprises. After excavating only a few centimeters, they found 11 mid-16th century a.d. burial sites, which is indicative of the amount of erosion that has taken place over the past 400 years. At a site nearby, they discovered 9th- and 10th-century a.d. artifacts. "This makes Torrevieja one of the few places in southern Spain with material from this era," McClellan says.

Perhaps the most significant discovery was a series of four large pits cut into bedrock, which suggests they were used in the ninth to seventh centuries b.c. "We found Phoenician pottery, ivory, glass, and a large amount of indigenous Iberian ceramics in the Phoenician style," he says. "These trading opportunities transformed the indigenous Iberian culture, which became more socially complex and intensely exploiting of the agricultural and natural resources of their territories."

The team's next steps will be geophysical remote sensing of the area, using noninvasive ground-penetrating radar and electrical resistivity methods to find out the exact extent of the site's settlement, and taking a series of aerial photographs.

Screening benefits for women with HIV. According to the American Cancer Society, cervical cancer used to be one of the most common causes of cancer death for American women. Today, with improved screening methods and early treatment, it accounts for only about 6 percent of women's cancers. For most women, a Pap test every three years is the best way to screen for the disease.

Women with HIV, however, are at a higher risk for cervical cancer than noninfected women. Until now, they have been the focus of debate on what the most effective screening might be for cancerous and precancerous lesions. "At the one end are people who believe they shouldn't be screened at all, since they're going to die eventually; at the other, those who think they should be screened every six months," explains lead author Dr. Sue Goldie of the Harvard University School of Public Health. "Since screening is very expensive -- and is money that could be used for other health-care issues for women with HIV -- we wanted to find the best possible strategy for cervical cancer screening."

The researchers concluded that cervical cancer screening in HIV-infected women should take the form of annual Pap smears after two negative Pap smears six months apart, consistent with the current recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Our study shows that annual Pap smears can provide effective screening at a reasonable cost," says senior investigator Dr. Kenneth Freedberg, associate professor of medicine and of epidemiology and biostatistics at the School of Medicine. "Screening more frequently than once a year did not provide substantial additional benefits."

The study provides clinicians with practical information regarding the most appropriate choice in screening strategy for HIV-infected women, even those receiving the newer combination antiretroviral therapies.

This study was funded in part by the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research and was published in the January 19 edition of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

"Research Briefs" is written by Joan Schwartz in the Office of the Provost. To read more about BU research, visit


15 May 2003
Boston University
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