Audio News for April 8th to April 14th, 2002.
Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I'm Claire Britton-Warren/Rick Pettigrew and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from April 8th through April 14th.
Meeting highlights ancient Alaska
From Alaska, a multi-country conference of scientists presented about 120 reports on their findings and research during the annual meeting of the Alaska Anthropological Association. Some of the projects discussed were the multiyear excavation of a huge, ancient Aleut community that thrived for 1,200 years on an Alaska Peninsula ridge and evidence that the first people to settle North America could have traveled along the coast. The report on the ancient settlement on the Alaska Peninsula comes after archaeologists have found increasing evidence that Aleut people often developed large communities as they took advantage of the rich marine resources. Evidence has been uncovered showing 250 homes and hundreds of storage pits along with sophisticated tools and the remains of numerous animals. Experts believe the area evolved into a regional center with up to 1,000 residents and that it would have been the largest structured settlement in the Artic.
French researchers reveal Egyptian perfume recipe
From France, scientists have discovered the secret of ancient Egyptian perfume used by the pharaohs and recreated it for the first time in 3,000 years. Experts at the cosmetic manufacturer L'Oréal, combined their knowledge of oils found in vessels taken by Napoleon's forces with recipe hieroglyphics at Edfu temple on the Nile. The symbols show a variety of plants and procedures that were used to produce the solid perfume ball. Others pictures at Philae temple, near Aswan, portray pictures of the perfume being applied. After six years of research, assisted by the writings of Plutarch, the Ancient Greek historian, scientists have reproduced the complicated scent. Experts stated the ancient Egyptians had a subtle and advanced understanding of the scientific process. According to Lise Manniche, an Egyptologist at the University of Copenhagen, perfume was an indispensable funerary gift because it was believed to promote sex after death.
First proof of Jews in Armenia
In Armenia, a country lacking any Jewish history, a bishop discovered absolute proof of one ancient community. Prof. Michael Stone of the Hebrew University received innocent photographs from the bishop that opened another avenue in Jewish history. Armenia is surrounded on all borders with Jewish heritage in Iran, Georgia and Turkey, but no evidence within its own territory. The photographs were of headstones from the Middle Ages that were clearly inscribed in Hebrew. Last September a preliminary survey was conducted in the central region at some moderate ruins that once was the medieval capital of the area. Findings were substantial enough to warrant a full dig. To date stones covering 71 years between 1266 AD and 1337 AD have been found. There are indications that the origins of the community may be Persia. In his preliminary report Stone writes, "The use of standard Jewish funerary formula and abbreviations, as well as the familiarity with rabbinic sources, show that the community cultivated a tradition of Jewish learning." Stone is contemplating future surveys into the area.
Experimental archaeologists build crane replica
From the United States, in the backyard of a Massachusetts College of Art professor a class is taking part in a new approach to history called experimental archaeology. The project is to recreate a 50-foot wooden crane used in the construction of a French bridge in the 1750s. In one end of the yard the sound of hot metal being worked over an anvil. Wood is everywhere, including two massive timbers of white pine, brought down and shaped by hand. The crane began as an educational project for students of history, art, and architecture at several local colleges. It was imagined as a kind of time travel, taking students into the past in search of clues on how to build the crane, primarily from paintings and old texts. The design is ingenious as it allows the lift and move massive blocks using only human power. Near its base is a large wheel wide enough to fit a pair of people, who power the wheel like gerbils. The wheel then pulls a rope that lifts an object. Building the crane has been difficult. The old plans included a parts list written in French, sprinkled with technical terms whose meaning has been lost and the crane's construction has been complex because the team has used historical techniques. Although this project hasn't yielded any scientific breakthroughs, other experimental archeology projects have produced valuable insights into such topics as the manufacture of stone tools and possible techniques used to build the pyramids.
Ancient Syrian manuscripts to be restored digitally
Original Headline: Desert songs
In Britain, a joint effort between the British Museum and the Deir-el-Suriyan monastery is underway to digitalize the monastery's collection of ancient Coptic and Syriac manuscripts. In 1837 British collector, Robert Curzon stumbled on to some of the earliest samples of the eastern roots of Christianity. Priceless examples of some of the earliest dated books in existence, complete-bound Christian texts as well as fragments, most written on vellum in ancient Syriac - a language now known by only a few scholars in the world were being used as stoppers in olive jars. Monks fleeing from religious persecution in their homelands of Baghdad and Syria had brought many of these works to the monastery in the eighth century. The books Curzon found included fourth- and fifth-century gospels, lives of the saints, theological writings, and doctrinal disputes. There were palimpsest fragments too: in one a transcription of Homer's Iliad, for example, had been overlaid by sacred texts. Some pieces of vellum had been used and reused three or four times, and the traces of original texts could still be detected. Further digitalization will be carried out at the monastery in the near future for the documents still located there.
German archaeologists explore Uxmal
Original Headline: Archaeologists Launch Excavations On Yucatan Peninsula
final story is from the Mexican peninsula of Yucatán, where a German Archaeology team is starting a series of excavations. They are investigating the living conditions of the population just before the city of Uxmal (oos-mall) final abandonment at the end of the 10th century, as well as the city's role as the royal residence during the period of its decline. The city dates to the classical and late classical Maya from 500AD to 1000AD. The primary focus of the current excavations is smaller buildings with a C-shaped ground plan, which are regarded as a reliable indicator of the last large-scale settlement of the region. A second focus of this research project is to investigate the living conditions of the less well-off sections of the population. The project is the first to specifically focus on the peasant class in the late classical period of the Maya culture; almost all of the other archaeological excavations in this region have been predominantly concerned with the role of the local and elites.
That wraps up the news for this week!
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I'm Claire Britton-Warren/Rick Pettigrew and I'll see you next week!