Audio News for May 20th to May 26th, 2002.
Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I'm Claire Britton-Warren and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from May 20th through May 26th.
Sons of Ramses II May Be in Tomb
Our first story originates from the KV5 excavation site in Egypt, where archaeologists are close to identifying at least one of four of the ancient bodies found in a 3,200-year-old tomb. They suspect that these may be remains of four sons of Ramses II. One of the greatest pharaohs, Ramses II ruled from 1279 BC to 1212 BC, and is identified as the Biblical pharaoh from whom Moses freed the Hebrews. The tomb in which the bones were discovered contains at least 110 rooms. It is thought that ancient tomb robbers unwrapped the mummies to remove their amulets and jewels, and left the bodies to become skeletons. One skull shows evidence of a lethal head wound. Experts believe that this may be the skull of Ramses, a son of Ramses II, and his chief military spokesman. It is recorded that he died in battle from a blow to the head.
Researchers will compare the four skulls with x-rays of the mummies of Ramses II, his father Seti I and Merenptah, the 13th son and heir to Ramses II. DNA matching is not possible, because only skeletal material is present. However, scientists and archaeologists believe that skull comparisons could ascertain at least the statistical probability of a genetic link. The tomb has already yielded the names of two sons of the great pharaoh: his first-born and Ramses the military leader.
Remote Sensing Finds Prehistoric Footpaths Buried in Costa Rica
In Costa Rica, ancient buried footpaths invisible to the human eye have become visible with the help of satellite technology and NASA. Images of the footpaths, some dating to 2,500 years ago, were first made in 1984 by a NASA aircraft equipped with instruments that can "see" in the electromagnetic spectrum invisible to humans. Experts have been able to date the ancient paths using stratigraphy gathered from a near by volcano, which has erupted 10 times in the last 4,000 years. The footpaths are covered by as much as six feet of volcanic ash and vegetation. Excavation through these layers has revealed stone tools and ancient houses. Because the buried footpaths seem to have more vegetation growing over them and a thicker web of plant roots beneath the soil, the infrared instrument on the satellite IKONOS picked up a unique spectrum "signature" that caused the paths to show up as thin red lines in the images. Previously, remote sensing was used to detect ancient Roman roads and large prehistoric roads around Chaco Canyon in New Mexico.
Discovery May Help Solve Mystery Death that Brought Henry VIII
to England's Throne
From England, archaeologists have discovered the grave of Prince Arthur, the older brother of Henry VIII, who died of an unknown illness when he was 15. Using ground-probing radar, they have pinpointed the final resting place of the first Tudor Prince of Wales below the limestone floor of Worcester Cathedral. Experts believe the discovery could identify the "sweating sickness" that killed the young prince 500 years ago. The researchers hope to use an endoscope to examine Prince Arthur's grave without disturbing the remains. Prince Arthur's illness could point to a genetic condition that might also provide information on the fate of Edward VI, born half a century later to Henry VIII and Jane Seymour in 1537. He also died before his 16th birthday, having ascended to the throne when he was nine.
Prince Arthur was born in 1486, the first son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. When he was a small child, he was betrothed in a political arrangement to Catherine of Aragon, the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. Catherine of Aragon remained in England after the prince's death, eventually marrying his younger brother, Henry VIII, and becoming the first of his famously unfortunate six wives.
Lost Olmec Jade Ends Maya Mystery
In Guatemala, scientists have found huge deposits of blue jade, which they believe is the source of the stone used by early Central American cultures for their most valued objects. Archaeologist have searched for decades for the source of the jade that was made into exquisite artifacts by the Olmec civilization thousands of years ago. The discovery began when one scientist, Russell Seitz, found modern jade jewelry on sale and realized it was of the Olmec material. Led by Seitz and local jade hunters, scientists scoured the forested ravines of the Guatemalan highlands for years. In the end, the scientists made a series of discoveries culminating in large boulders of Olmec blue jade, some straddling creeks. The discovery was aided in part by Hurricane Mitch, which hit the area in 1998 and exposed the old veins. The Olmecs were a thriving Mesoamerican civilization on the coast of Mexico from 1,000-400 BC.
Conservation Problems Put Roman Library Dig Back on Shelf
From Rome, a group of scholars headed by a British authority on Roman archaeology has stopped plans to resume excavations of the "lost library" at Herculaneum, near Pompeii. A feasibility study has been launched to consider whether excavations at the Villa of the Papyri, stopped four years ago when funds ran out, should be restarted. The Superintendent of the site stated that contrary to reports that a dig was imminent, there should be no further excavations until there was "a clear program to conserve what we already have". Those in opposition to halting the dig argue that continuing excavations could turn up "incalculable treasures". To date 1,800 papyrus scrolls have been unearthed; some of them, however, are beginning to deteriorate. The villa belonged to Julius Caesar's father-in-law and was overwhelmed in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD79.
British Museum Begins Quiet Discussion of Elgin Marbles Return
Our final story is from Britain, where a possible decision reversal could result in the return of the marble sculptures from the Parthenon friezes to Greece. Neil McGregor, the newly appointed Director of the British Museum, has agreed to private talks with a committee for the restitution of the marbles. Discussions will focus on a Greek offer presented last year that consists of trading newly discovered artifacts for the 2,500-year-old marbles. Although the British Museum has always stated that it has no intention of handing the marbles over to Greece, the new willingness to talk is viewed as a positive move.
The Parthenon marbles were removed from Greece between 1803 and 1812 by Lord Elgin, who was at that time the English Ambassador to Greece. The British Museum has long argued that removing the marbles ensured that they were saved for posterity, during periods when war and looting damaged other Acropolis monuments, and more recently, when the air pollution of Athens has become hazardous to marble left outdoors. Greece has sought their return since 1829. Greek authorities emphasize that they now have adequate facilities to care for the friezes, and would like them back in Athens before the 2004 Olympic games take place there.
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 ishistory!
I'm Claire Britton-Warren and I'll see you next week!