Audio News for April 22nd to April 28th, 2002.
Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I’m Claire Britton-Warren and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from April 22nd through April 28th.
Technology "Sees" Ancient Nubia's Royal Palace Under the Sand
Our first story is from Sudan, where archaeologists working in the royal capital of ancient Nubia have found a 2,000-year-old palace and colonnade. Using magnetometers , the Canadian-led team has mapped out streets and buildings, buried half a meter below the modern-day ground surface. Magnetometers are advanced versions of the metal detectors people use to find coins on beaches and in parks. The instrument can differentiate between the magnetic properties of materials such as sand, pottery, and bricks. A computer converts the magnetometer readings into a map that reveals what lies beneath the ground. The discovery was made in the ancient city of Meroe, which thrived along the upper Nile River from about 750 BC to 350 AD. It is located about 120 miles northeast of present day Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. At the height of their power, from 750 to 650 BC, the Nubian kings of Meroe conquered and ruled Egypt. The city mapping discovered staircases as well, suggesting that the tops of multi-storied buildings lie waiting to be explored. When excavations on the palace and colonnade begin next winter, experts hope they will also find keys to the Nubian language. The Nubians borrowed 24 symbols from Egyptian hieroglyphics to use as their alphabet, but had a separate, unknown language. To date, 1,500 inscriptions in ancient Nubian have been found, but no one knows what they mean.
Computers Help a Chinese Scientist Reconstruct Faces From the Past
Original Headline: Beauty Who Lived 2,200 Years Ago Comes to Life in Pictures
In China, a professor with the Criminal Police Institute has created four portraits of a woman who lived 2,200 years ago. Professor Zhou employed a blend of x-ray technology and three-dimensional animation to produce the images. The woman, who was about 50 when she
died, is believed to be the wife of the prime minister of the Changsha Kingdom, part of the Western Han Dynasty era of 206 BC to 24 AD. Her body, wrapped in 20 layers of silk clothing, was unearthed in 1972 in Hunan province. In February this year, Professor Zhou also produced pictures of a Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) princess. He hopes to be given access to the mausoleum of China's first Emperor to recreate his image. The mausoleum is east of Xi'an, the site of the well-known terra cotta warriors.
Exeter Hopes To Resurrect Its Roman Baths
In Exeter England, a plan has been launched to uncover the remains of the city's early Roman baths, which experts consider to be one of the finest archaeological sites in Britain. Constructed in 60 AD, the baths were used by the foot soldiers of the Second Augustan Legion, and are part of a large military encampment that later developed into the city of Exeter. The baths were discovered in 1971, but were reburied once an archaeological dig had established their scope. The ruins now lie below the pavement in front of Exeter cathedral.Bryn Walters, director of the Association for Roman Architecture, confirmed that the site has historical and educational value. He stated: "Its importance as the first Fortress of the Legio II Augusta is well known to scholars, but the significance of the site and the town which developed over it is not well appreciated by the public."A trust has been established to raise money for the project. The trust members hope that the time is right to re-excavate the bath complex for permanent public display.
2,000-Year-Old Site Clocks Changes in the Ancient Mayan Calendar
From Guatemala, archeologists working at the Abaj Takalik site haveunearthed an important early ceremonial center that they believe will offer valuable insight on the origin of the Mayan civilization. Described as one of the largest in the Mayan geographical area, the site lies 124 miles southeast of Guatemala City.Approximately 660 artifacts have been unearthed, including obsidian knives and ceramic objects. The ritual area, covering 134 square yards, opens out from a stone slab with an enigmatic carved serpent design, akin to the Draco constellation.
This may be a clue that Abaj Takalik, which means "still stone" in the Quiche Mayan language, could be a birthplace of the Classic Mayan civilization. Until nearly 600 AD, the people of the area followed the Ursa Major constellation for rituals and to develop their calendar. Later, they changed their focus to the Draco constellation. For 2,200 years, the Draconis star moved along the Meridian on the same date and time, providing an exact measure of the star-based year. According to experts, the switch to the Draco calendar happened"precisely at the time that the Olmec culture began to disappear, and marked the emergence of the Mayan culture."
Egyptian Tomb Discoveries Suggest A Late-Dynasty Priest-King
In Egypt, excavations at Luxor have revealed a new ancient king. Harwa was a high-ranking priest, born in the 8th century BC into a family of Theban priests. Early in Harwa's career, the Kushite king from Sudan, to the south of modern Egypt, conquered Egypt and founded the Nubian 25th dynasty. During this poorly documented period of the so-called Black Pharoahs, Harwa the priest appears to have governed all of southern Egypt. The evidence for this theory comes from Harwa's tomb on the western bank of the Nile, which yielded an unusually large number of limestone funerary statues. One is of a figure holding the crook and the flail, which are two of the ancient royal emblems. Harwa was evidently not considered a pharaoh, however, because the piece lacks the royal cobra. On the wall of one room, Harwa is depicted with Maat, Goddess of truth and justice, Hu, God of Authority and Sia, God of the mind, traditional privileges of the Egyptian king. The tomb statues reveal that Harwa was an overweight, bald man with almond-shaped eyes and thin lips. His elaborate tomb takes up 4500
square meters on four separate levels, a size rivaled only by the tombs of well-known pharoahs such as Tutankhamon and Sety I.
Oil Company Saves Sacred Rock Art
Our final story is from the United States, where an oil company has saved an area of ancient rock paintings from drilling by transferring their leases to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The Weatherman Draw Rock Art Complex and Archeological District, in south-central Montana, contains petroglyphs and pictographs sacred to a number of Indian tribes. Some of the rock art is more than 1,000 years old. The area has the highest concentration of polychrome painted art in
the Northern Plains. In 1999, the U.S. Interior Department designated the area as a critical site, after the oil and gas leases had been awarded to Denver oil baron Philip Anschutz, leading to four years of discussions on how to protect the sites during oil exploration. Now Anschutz, acknowledging the cultural significance of the site, has handed the leases over to the National Trust. The trust will hold the leases until they expire, after which the Bureau of Land Management will have a new management plan in place to protect the area.
That wraps up the news for this week!
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I am Claire Britton-Warren and I?ll see you next week!