Audio News for April 29th to May 5th, 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 29th through May 5th.
China's Earliest Map Found to be 2,200 Years Old
From China, a wooden map discovered in the Gansu province of northern China has been confirmed as the country's earliest, at more than 2,200 years old. Sketched in black on four pine planks, the drawings depict a general picture of the geography and economic situation of Guixian (kwei-she-an) County, during the Warring States Era of 471 BC to 221 BC. The map shows the names of 82 places, along with rivers, mountains and forests. Unlike modern maps, place names were written within big or small square frames, while the names of rivers, roads, major mountains, water systems and forested areas were marked directly with Chinese
characters. The map of Guixian (kwei-she-an) was one of over 400 relics unearthed from tombs of the Qin (chin) Kingdom in 1986 and was listed as a national treasure in 1994.
Students Gather in Petra to Learn Heritage Preservation
In Jordan, a special project is bringing school age children together with history and a preservation effort at Petra. As part of UNESCO's "Young People's Participation in World Heritage Preservation and Protection," students and teachers from Syria and Jordan engaged in activities based on interaction with the ancient desert ruins. The program showed the students how to document what they saw and how to clean Petra's fragile archaeological walls with special tools. Also as part of their trip, students were shown how to prepare mortar. This is used to repair the weathered-away stone walls and other ancient relics in the elaborate stone-carved treasury, Petra's towering monument of the first century BC. The goal of the project was to help students gain better understanding of the environmental and socio-economic issues relating to site protection. UNESCO also organized sessions in the field with various site managers and experts involved in culture and heritage preservation and archaeology. The students composed a creative slogan that best reflected their mission: "Let's save our heritage before it's too late."
Excavations to Continue at Early Scottish Monastery
In Scotland, archaeologists from the University of York have received additional funding and support to continue excavating a unique Pictish monastery site. The site is next to the Tarbat Old Parish
Church, on the coast of Scotland northeast of Inverness. The monastery is thought to date to 580 AD, around the time of St. Columba and his conversion of the Highlands culture to Christianity. A crypt and foundations proved the existence of former churches on the site and has produced some interesting Pictish stone carvings. Experts think it conceivable that St. Columba or his followers may have founded the monastery. The Picts inhabited the region from approximately 300 AD to 800 AD, when their kingdom was merged with the kingdom of the Scots.
Roman Colosseum Reveals New Secrets of Construction
The University of California, Los Angeles, has been rebuilding Rome since 1996 - on a computer. The project uses three-dimensional modeling to reconstruct buildings so that one can virtually "walk through" them. The most recent accomplishment is the virtual recreation of the Colosseum. In their virtual reality walk-through, researchers have discovered that in some sections the world's most famous arena had dark, narrow upper hallways, which probably hemmed in spectators, slowing them to a snail's pace.3-D software makes this sort of detailed understanding possible by taking into account both building materials and the laws of physics. It allows scholars to address construction techniques in ways that may be overlooked in two-dimensional drawings. Researchers have generally held that the entire Colosseum was a masterpiece of circulation, with people able to enter and leave in as little as 10 minutes. Now, after touring the virtual Colosseum, some are not so sure. Other experts hesitate to rely on such modeling, saying that it can gloss over the realities of the past. But even scholars who have embraced interactive 3-D modeling caution that their reconstructions can never be accepted as final, but only as another perspective, partly because new information is always surfacing.
New Pyramid Find near Cairo Once Held a Fourth-Dynasty Queen
In Egypt, archaeologists have discovered the base of a small, 4,500-year-old pyramid believed to have been built for a Pharaonic queen in the desert outside Cairo. Found near Djedefre's pyramid, the tomb holds three chambers, and lies fifteen feet underground. It is thought to have been built for the wife of Djedefre, whose father Cheops built the Great Pyramid at Giza, about 10 miles south of the excavation site. Archaeologists had found the name Khufu, or Cheops, in hieroglyphic inscriptions in the tomb, which held part of a limestone sarcophagus and an alabaster jar. No mummy was found, and it appears that ancient grave robbers looted the tomb. Djedefre is believed to have usurped the throne in Egypt by murdering his older half-brother roughly 4,500 years ago to become the third king of the fourth Pharaonic dynasty. He reigned for eight years.With this discovery, the total number of Egyptian pyramids known is now 110.
Epic Of Gilgamesh Confirmed by City Mapping Project
Our final story is from Iraq, where a German team has made a partial map of the ancient site of Uruk, in Mesopotamia. They have discovered that some of the city's features are just as described in the ancient epic, The Song of Gilgamesh. The location of Uruk has long been known, but much about the city is still a mystery, including how its neighborhoods were laid out. Although the international situation has decreased archaeological research in Iraq severely, the German Archaeology Institute was able to send researchers to make a partial map of the buried city, using remote sensing devices to detect man-made objects beneath the soil. To make the partial map the scientists, using a system of grids, walked back and forth over the city's ruins with a hand held magnetometer for 10 days. The city is vast - about 5.5 square kilometers, more than 1,000 acres. So far, the surveyors have covered a total of 100 hectares -- about 250 acres -- and converted the data into detailed maps using computers. The map has revealed walls, canals, and residential districts.From the beginning of the fifth millennium BC until the end of the third century AD, Uruk thrived on the ancient sea trade between the Mediterranean, the Persian Gulf, and India. Its prosperity ended late in the third century when the area was conquered by a Persian dynasty that shifted trade to overland routes in modern Iran. According to the Sumerian epic of Gilgamesh , which is one of the world's earliest known works of literature, Uruk in the third millennium BC was a bustling city, with not only homes, but also many gardens and temple precincts. The archaeology project has confirmed that gardens and temples make up as much as two-thirds of the city, as described in the poem. Even more exciting, according to project leader Margarite Van Ess, is the discovery that Uruk was lined with canals filled with water from the Euphrates River, which once lay near the city. She said, "The more astonishing thing is that they used water canals to move through the city" instead of streets. "This was not described [in the poem]."
That wraps up the news for this week!
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I'm Claire Britton-Warren and I'll see you next week!