Audio News for November 19th to November 25th, 2006.
Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I'm Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news for November 19th to November 25th, 2006.
New discovery in Peru sheds light on the mysterious “tumi” knives
Our first story is from Peru where archaeologists have unearthed 22 graves in northern Peru containing many pre-Inca artifacts, including the first tumi ceremonial knives ever discovered in their original context. Archaeologist Walter Alva asserted the importance of the dig because it allows scientists to better understand how and where the tumi were used. The tombs, more than 900 years old, were found next to a pyramid in the Pomac Forest Historical Sanctuary, 420 miles northwest of the Peruvian capital of Lima. The graves belong to the Sican culture, which flourished on Peru's northern desert coast from AD 750 to 1375. Izumi Shimada, an anthropology professor at Southern Illinois University, began excavations at the site this summer with Carlos Elera Arevalo, director of Peru's Sican National Museum. According to Arevalo, 10 tumi knives were found, including a 14-inch copper alloy tumi bearing the image of the Sican deity. Shimada and his team have found a total of 22 tombs thus far, some up to 33 feet below ground level. The occupants are clearly from the social elite; therefore, some of them have gold objects, while others have copper-gilded objects. Nevertheless, they are quite complex, well-endowed tombs, according to Shimada. One grave contains the remains of an approximately 25 year-old woman who was buried with 120 miniature clay crucibles.
Capitoline she-wolf not so old after all
In our next story, the icon of Rome's foundation, the Capitoline she-wolf, has been dated to the Middle Ages, not to antiquity, according to a research into the statue’s bronze-casting technique. The discovery could put an end to the long established belief that the earliest Romans adopted the she-wolf as an icon for their city. The story of the she-wolf relates that she had fed Romulus, the founder of Rome, and his twin brother, Remus, after they had been thrown in a basket into the Tiber River. Since then, the statue has been always linked to the ancient world. The statue was thought to be the product of an Etruscan workshop in the 5th century BC or the masterpiece of the 6th century BC Etruscan sculptor, Vulca of Veii. It was believed that the Romans later adopted the wolf since her defiant stance and raised eyebrows seemed to reflect Rome’s liberation from Etruscan rule. In contrast, scholars have long recognized that the bronze figures of Romulus and Remus were added in the Renaissance. According to Adriano La Regina, Rome’s former archaeological superintendent and professor of Etruscology at Rome's La Sapienza University, analysis carried out during the 1997 restoration of the bronze statue showed that the she-wolf was cast as a single unit, a technique typically used in the Middle Ages. Ancient bronzes were cast in separate parts in a technique first used by the Greeks and then adopted by Etruscan and Roman artists. This ancient method consisted of brazing the separate joints using bronze as welding material. The new dating of the Capitoline she-wolf, however, was not revealed at the presentation of the restored statue in 2000. The museum, where the bronze is displayed, still claims the artwork traces back to 480-470 B.C. La Regina wrote that the analysis and findings from the restoration were ignored. It may not be easy for the Romans to accept that the classic symbol of Rome was cast in the relatively recent Middle Ages. According to Gregory Warden, a professor of art history at Southern Methodist University who specializes in Etruscan bronzes believes that since we have so little comparative evidence for large-scale bronze casting in the Etruscan world, we cannot assume that Etruscan bronze-casting techniques would always have been identical to those of the Greeks.
Researchers find traces of lost Amazonian civilization
In Bolivia, a Japanese team has found further evidence of a little-known ancient civilization in the Amazon. Katsuyoshi Sanematsu, a professor of anthropology at Rikkyo University in Tokyo, completed an excavation in August of a massive man-made mound, or ‘loma,’ in Bolivia's northeastern Beni state. Such mounds indicate settlements of the Mojos civilization, which is believed to have thrived in the region for thousands of years before the arrival of the Spanish. The research is part of a three-year study by Japanese and Bolivian researchers called Project Mojos that began in 2005. According to Sanematsu, author of numerous books on ancient Central and South American cultures, the main objective of this year's work was to gather more data on the loma. There are a total of some 20,000 loma in the flood plain called the Llanos de Mojos. The excavation confirmed that one particular mound, called Loma Chocolatalito, is full of pottery and animal bones. Over 10,000 fragments were unearthed from the top 36-inch sectional layer of just one of the loma. Also discovered were numerous animal bones, some of which had been worked and painted, suggesting the area was densely populated in ancient times. Among the most interesting objects are a fish hook made of animal bone and a pottery fragment with a carved design that Sanematsu believes may be a map. Sanematsu said although it isn't possible to draw conclusions based on a few years of research, the results indicate an important civilization once existed in the Llanos de Mojos, but what caused it to disappear remains a mystery.
Modern technology helps protect important site along the Silk Road
Our final story is from China where researchers are using satellite technology to draw up maps of the ancient city of Milan. Located in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region work is being conducted to better protect this important point along the Silk Road. Milan is home to many cultural relics, including the world-renowned angel murals that were created some 2,000 years ago. Using cutting-edge satellite technology, a team from the Beijing Special Engineering Design Research Institute collected detailed data on the 40-plus-square-kilometre area surrounding the ruins of Milan. According to Lu Hanqian, the senior engineer, they will be working with advanced global positioning systems to draw up maps of the ancient city of Milan by the end of the year. The maps will be the most accurate representations of the ruins available. Once completed, authorities will come up with measures to further restore and protect the ancient ruins. Milan is located in the southern part of Lop Nur in Xinjiang. The city was an important transportation hub during the Western Han Dynasty, from 206 BC to AD 24. Milan was a major stop on the Silk Road, playing a key role in trade between East and West of 2,000 years ago. It was abandoned after the Tang Dynasty, AD 618-907, because of war. In 1907, British-Hungarian explorer Aurel Stein found the murals depicting angels in the ruins of Milan. These angels probably dated back some 2,000 years. Both Chinese and foreign archaeologists believe that the angel murals reflect a Roman influence, indicating deep cultural exchanges between China and the future countries of Europe during the Western Han Dynasty. The ancient Silk Road starts in Xi'an, capital of the Western Han Dynasty, and ends in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
That wraps up the news for this week!
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I'm Laura Kelley and I'll see you next week!