Audio News for November 3rd to November 9th
Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I'm Laura Pettigrew and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from November 3rd to November 9th.
Vietnam halts huge project on ancient palace site
Our first story is from the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi, where construction on a new parliament building was stopped after archaeologists discovered the ruins of a royal citadel dating back to the 11th century. The Politburo, the decision-making arm of the government, has postponed further work on the new National Assembly pending further discussions. The move follows an appeal by archaeologists and historians for the government to put back the deadline for the official ground-breaking ceremony. Land clearance on the site of the proposed parliament began early in 2002. Archaeologists were called in to conduct a mandatory survey when they found the surprising and priceless discovery. Uncovered were the foundations of a large palace, a number of architectural works and millions of artifacts from the Chinese Tang dynasty and the Vietnamese dynasties of Ly (Lie), Tran, Le and Nguyen (nwin). The prize discovery was the palace, the largest of its kind discovered in Vietnam, with foundations reaching 190 feet in length and 80 feet in width. It was built in the 11th century by monarch Ly Thai To. Human remains dating back to the Ly d ynasty (1010-1225) were also unearthed. More than three million bronze, gold, porcelain and ceramic artifacts, some depicting dragon and unicorn heads, were also discovered. Also found at the site was a sophisticated drainage system, including some wells that still bear water. Some of the artifacts appeared to have originated from China, Japan and the Middle East. The Politburo will consider whether or not to find a new site for the legislature. For the moment at least, archaeologists have won the opening round to preserve Vietnam's cultural heritage against certain elements in the government dismayed by the financial costs of finding a new location for the legislature.
New ruins in Peru are part of vast Machu Picchu complex
In Peru, new exploration shows that the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu were part of a much larger complex. A British and American-led expedition investigated a mountain ridge facing the famous ancient city in the Andes, and discovered a previously unknown group of buildings spread over at least a square mile of jungle. The used airborne infra-red scouting along with exploration of the jungle on foot and found 33 previously unknown buildings. They also found seven lost buildings. These had originally been described by the American explorer Hiram Bingham when he discovered Machu Picchu in 1912, but could not be found again, because Bingham recorded no compass bearings for their location. The new work suggests that the complex just discovered was a large religious center used for ceremonies and astronomical observations. It lies two miles from Machu Picchu. Identified so far are buildings, eight plazas, seven 10ft-high platforms and a series of walled walkways connecting structures. The buildings include a massive storehouse, a possible sun temple, and a two-story observatory. Evidence suggests it was built by the Inca emperor Pachacuti (PAH-cha-COO-tee) in the mid-15th century. It appears that this center and Machu Picchu were constructed as part of a single overall plan. Archaeologists say the discovery reinforces the need to expand the Machu Picchu Historical Sanctuary's borders to include and protect a wider area. At present, the ruins lie outside the protection of the Peruvian National Park Service, and this makes them vulnerable to looters.
Fifth of November might have destroyed fifth of London
In London, explosive experts have calculated that Guy Fawkes (FOX) could have changed the face of London if his 1605 plot had not been thwarted. Their reconstruction shows that the would-be revolutionary’s 1200 pounds of gunpowder could have caused chaos and devastation across an area 3000 yards in diameter. The blast would have been enough to destroy Westminster Hall and the Abbey, with streets as far as Whitehall suffering damage. Another expert has said Guy Fawkes (FOX) used 25 times the amount of explosive he needed to carry out his planned goal, to destroy Parliament. Experts say that if the explosion had occurred as planned, windows would have broken up to a third of a mile away. Fawkes and his plot were discovered, however, early on the morning of November 5, 1605, in a cellar under the House of Lords, where 36 barrels of gunpowder awaited the 'slowmatch' to ignite them. Fawkes (FOX) hoped to use the explosion to kill King James I of England when he attended Parliament later that day. Instead, Fawkes (FOX) was tried and brutally executed. Since the amount of gunpowder that had been assembled is known, the Institute of Physics asked researchers at the University of Wales to work out the size of blast that might have resulted. The researchers worked backwards from a standard equation that calculates how much explosive was used, by measuring the amount of damage done. The results suggest that the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Hall might even have been completely obliterated. According to explosives expert Dr Sidney Alford, Fawkes used substantially more gunpowder than he needed. In their report published in the New Civil Engineer, the researchers surmise that Fawkes (FOX) and his fellow conspirators intentionally went for overkill, filling the cellar beneath the House of Lords with 25 times the explosive necessary to bring the building down. Guy Fawkes was no amateur in explosives. Before he became a professional plotter, he worked in the army, where his job was to pack gunpowder. Therefore, the amount he planned to use is unlikely to have been an accident. As a spokesman for the Institute of Physics said, this raises the question of exactly how much damage Guy Fawkes intended to cause.
Etruscan demons await the dead in underground tomb
Our final story is from Italy, where Etruscan art of strange demons and monsters is emerging in a Tuscan village. Found on the wall of a 4th century B.C. tomb, the remarkably preserved monsters have been unearthed during the ongoing excavation a necropolis in Sarteano (SAR-tay-AH-no), a village 50 miles from Siena (see-ENN-a), Italy. So far the dig has uncovered wall paintings showing banquets, snake-like monsters, demons, and a hippocampus (HIP-o-KAM-pus), a sea horse of Greek myth having two forefeet and a tail like a dolphin. Also found was a sarcophagus broken in many fragments, probably by tomb robbers. The workers expect to find more art as the digging continues. The vividly colored scenes in the tomb appear to show a sinister change in the Etruscan concept of death. Although the Etruscans had historically been famous as a fun-loving, sensuous people, on the verge of decline they adopted the Greek vision of a demon-infested underworld. The Etruscans are considered one o f Europe's most mystifying people. They forged Italy's most sophisticated civilization before the rise of the Romans, appearing around 900 B.C. and ruling most of the peninsula for about five hundred years. At one time Rome’s respected elder neighbors, they came increasingly into conflict with them, and received their final defeat by Rome in the 4th century B.C. In 90 B.C., after further centuries of decline, the Etruscans became Roman citizens. They left no literature to record their culture; few traces of their puzzling, language survive. Only the richly decorated tombs provide a glimpse into their mysterious, pre-Roman worldview, and the full extent of its influence on Rome remains largely a guess.
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!
I'm Laura Pettigrew and I'll see you next week!