Audio News for February 25th to March 3rd, 2002.
This is Rick Pettigrew for The Archaeology Channel. And welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I'm filling in for Claire Britton-Warren and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from February 25th through March 3rd.
New shipwreck analysis may help save waterlogged artifacts
Original Headline: X-ray analysis of shipwreck may help conservators save waterlogged artifacts
Scientists from Sweden and Stanford University have been conducting tests on the chemistry of wood decay in the Swedish warship Vasa using a new x-ray absorption technique. Evidence found suggests that highly corrosive sulfuric acid has accumulated within the beams of the vessel. Tests produced chemical "fingerprints" that identify different oxidation decay states in a sample. The air of the museum and the iron fasteners in the wood were the medium for the oxidation to occur. This is drawing attention to a previously unknown danger to recovered wooden marine-archaeological artifacts that are on display or in storage in museums all around the world. These findings may help conservators worldwide preserve wooden artifacts retrieved from the deep. Based on their findings, the researchers are recommending strict guidelines for marine artifact environments. The Vasa sank in 1628 a mere 4,265 feet into her maiden voyage and was raised in 1961.
Archaeologists explore medieval Irish town
In the middle region of Ireland, an archaeological summer school will be held for students from the University of Florida and students from the National University of Ireland. The project is to reveal the old town of Granard, a deserted village dating from the 13th Century to the 16th or 17th Century. Little is known about the old settlement, but aerial pictures show approximately forty buildings and a street. To Dr O'Connor of the NUI and the students he will bring to the town, the date of the village is not the most important thing; the knowledge that could be gained about life in medieval rural Ireland is of greater value. Dr. O'Connor pointed out that very little work has been done on rural settlements, especially on Midland and Western Ireland sites dated between the 12th and 17th centuries. Rural excavations have also tended to be small, hurried projects taking place one step ahead of modern development. The findings of the summer school could reveal more about the region's history and what life in the area was like hundreds of years ago.
New excavations illuminate the Dilmun civilization of Bahrain
From Bahrain, excavations at Saar(sar) have unearthed some of the island's precious past. Saar is a critical site for information on the Dilmun (dil-moon) civilization, which dates back to 2000 BC. Excavations have produced a large quantity of Bronze Age seals and artifacts, adding a unique record of the art of the period and providing valuable information about the commercial activities of the inhabitants. Harriet Crawford, a former director of the London Bahrain Archaeological Expedition, pointed out that Dilmun, as it was known in the cuneiform record, was one of the major powers in the Gulf in the late third and early second millennium BC. Information shows the area was a crucial port in the network of trade routes in the ancient Middle East for this period. Dilmun was part of a web of contacts that reached from the Indus Valley to Assyria and Central Anatolia.
Bronze Age 'star chart' reported in Germany
In Germany, archaeologists claim to have found a Bronze Age star chart. Thought to be around 3,600 years old, the artifact depicts the sun, the moon, a star formation, and a ship. Apparently found by two men in the central state of Sachsen-Anhalt (zak-sen an-halt), the piece was with a bronze sword and bracelets. Measuring 16 inches in diameter and weighing almost 4.5 pounds, the bowl shows a journey across the skies. This depiction is well known in ancient Egypt, but rare in central Europe. German laws on the ownership of this kind of discovery are unclear and negotiations are now under way to recover the item from the private collector holding it. If the piece is genuine, it could well be an important find in European cultural history and may suggest astronomy was practiced hundreds of years earlier than thought.
US Scholars Submit Renovation Plan for Endangered Site in India
A team of landscape architects from the University of Illinois has a proposal to restore a centuries-old sacred site in India. Two professors recently submitted to the Heritage Trust a plan for the design of the proposed Champaner Pavagadh (cham-pan-er Pa va-gad) Archaeological Park. The professors and a team of UI design students studied the land and developed a plan that over time would rehabilitate the site. Originally excavated in 1969-75, the site includes numerous mosques, homes, and fortification walls, revealing a complex history dating back some 1,200 years. Initial conservation efforts would focus on the revival of the traditional waterworks. Then the focus would fall on restoration of pilgrim paths and construction of heritage trails and restoration and rehabilitation of heritage sites. Earlier cities were situated on nearby Pavagadh hill that draws millions to the site each year. The hill is perceived as the toe of the goddess Sati that fell on earth when grief-maddened Shiva carried her dead body on his shoulders.
Digital Domesday Book lasts only 16 years
Original Headline: Digital Domesday Book lasts 15 years not 1000
In Britain, in a twist of irony, a digital, multimedia version of the Domesday Book, created only 16 years ago, has reached an unexpected condition: it is unreadable. By contrast, the original Domesday Book, a census of eleventh-century England compiled in 1086 by Norman monks, is in good condition in the Public Records Office. In 1986, text and maps were stored on 12-inch videodiscs requiring special computers to play the archive. Both are so out of date that no one can access the information that is equivalent to several sets of encyclopedias. This problem is just one example of the crisis in digital preservation now affecting all countries. Historical databases recorded in old formats can no longer be accessed on new-generation computers, while magnetic tapes and discs have physically decayed, ruining valuable databases. In a effort to rescue the project, work has begun on Camileon, a program aimed at recovering the data on the Domesday discs. Experts are confident they will restore the data but don't know what they will do after that. Future storage of data could be on desktop computers, but these are likely to become obsolete in a few years. One of the world's experts on data preservation at Rand Corporation points out: “There is currently no viable technical solution to this problem; yet if it is not solved, our increasingly digital heritage is in grave risk of being lost.”
New evidence of a long-forgotten North American culture
Original Headline: Archaeological site yields relics from long-forgotten culture
In our final story, from the Midwest of the United States, anthropologist Brad Logan hopes to find the answers to questions about a little-known culture called the Steed-Kisker. Named after the owners of the land where the first site was unearthed in the 1930s, nobody knows where this culture came from or where it went. Nor can anyone say what language they spoke or even what they called themselves. What is known is they lived in western Missouri and eastern Kansas between AD 950 and 1400. Over the years, about a dozen sites with houses have been found. Hope is now pinned on an archaeological site uncovered last June when a creek flooded and revealed a cache of relics less than a foot below the surface. Besides thousands of pottery shards and arrowheads, there are charred wood posts, the remains of the first complete Steed-Kisker dwelling found. The pottery is unique to its creators. The clay was mixed with crushed mussel shells and vessels display distinctive decorative incised lines. Logan and his team have recovered dozens of bags of pieces and say it may take a couple of years to reconstruct some of the vases and cooking pots. When Logan returns to the site, Logan is certain that much more is waiting to be found when he returns to the site.
That wraps up the news for this week! For more stories and daily news updates, visit Archaeologica on the World Wide Web at www.archaeologica.org, where all the news is history! Log on again for next week’s edition, when Claire Britton-Warren promises to return for another batch of fascinating Audio News stories!