Audio News for February 23rd to February 29th.
Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I’m Laura Pettigrew and these
are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from February 23rd
to February 29th.
Coin Proves Existence of Roman Emperor
Our first story is from England, where it has been confirmed that a Roman
coin found last year bears the head of a virtually unknown Roman ruler
called Domitianus. Since references to Domitianus are extremely rare, his
very existence has been doubted. This copper coin confirms the existence of
the Roman emperor who ruled Britain briefly in AD 271. It is only the
second coin ever found showing the head of Domitianus, who seized power in
the breakaway Gallic Empire, which included modern England, France and parts
of Germany. The first coin bearing Domitianus’ head was found in the Loire area of France in 1900, dismissed as a fake because his name was unknown.
At the time it was minted, the once-mighty Roman Empire was undergoing a
period of intense flux. The years between 270 and 285 were marked by chaos
in the empire, with more than 20 different emperors and 30 different
pretenders fighting for power. Only one of these leaders died a natural
death. The Gallic Empire was established in 260 by Postumus (POS-tu-mus)
when rule from Rome was weakening. He was succeeded nine years later by
Marius, who held the throne for a matter of weeks before being strangled and
in turn replaced by Victorinus (vik-TOR-I-nus), who ruled until 271 when he
too was murdered. Domitianus is believed to have murdered Victorinus,
before he was ousted by Tetricus (te-TRI-cus) only a couple of weeks into
his reign. Tetricus (te-TRI-cus) ruled from 271 to 274, when he was defeated
by Aurelian (o-REE-lee-an) and the empire was restored.
Ancient Mummies Found in Peru
In Peru, two of the oldest mummies ever found in the region went on display
Monday after being discovered by construction workers at a school.
Officials from the National Institute of Culture said the two mummies, a boy
roughly 5 years old and a farmer in his mid-30s, were 700 to 900 years old.
They came from a culture that predated the Incas. The level of
conservation of the mummies astounded experts. The man had one eye open and
the interior eye was perfectly preserved. On other parts of the body, fat
adhering to the skin was also extremely well preserved. The mummies were
found on Feb. 12. They were put on display at the institute for 30 minutes
on Monday. They will now be cleaned and studied by archeologists. The
clothing on the mummies and the style of burial identifies them as being of
the Chiribaya (CHIR-I-bo-YA) culture. The culture developed in the arid
coastal stretch of northern Chile and southern Peru around A.D. 800 to 1350.
The two bodies were buried separately, wrapped in red and blue alpaca
cloth and tied with rope. They were placed in the fetal position at a depth
of 10 feet.
Site of Original Paris Found
In France, the ancient city of Paris, known as the Gallic town of Lutetia
(loo-TEA-sha) which was captured by Julius Caesar in 52 BC has been found.
The location was not on an island in the center of the modern capital, but
in a suburb six miles to the west. Recent excavations at a site in the
suburb of Nanterre (nan-TERR) have exposed a pre-Roman settlement that
surpasses in density and complexity traces found on the island which had
previously been regarded as the main base of the Parisii (PAR-is-ee) tribe.
Nanterre (nan-TERR) is the only cluster of any size identified on the
territory of the Parisii (PAR-is-ee). Until now no major remains from an occupation predating the Roman conquest have been found in the city center.
The Nanterre (nan-TERR) site was discovered near the bank of the river Seine
at the end of last year. It has revealed a tightly planned urban area
constructed around two parallel streets and a market square. Found were
ditches with wastewater drainage and each home, constructed out of wood and
a clay-straw mixture, had its own stone-lined well. Other items found on the
site include bronze brooches, coins and a cooking fork. Taken together with
a previously discovered site that dated from around 200 BC, the entire
Gallic settlement spread over 37 acres, and is nearly double the size of the
supposed capital in central Paris.
Scholar Shows Muslim Interest in Ancient Egypt
Our final story is from Cairo, where an Egyptian scholar studies the obscure
world of medieval Muslims who wrote about ancient Egypt, and their insights
on hieroglyphic writing. Among Western scholars, the conventional wisdom
has been that Arabs and Muslims dismissed ancient Egypt as an irrelevant
pagan civilization. Okasha El Daly states that a thousand years earlier,
when Arab civilization was close to its peak, Muslim scholars not only took
an interest in ancient Egypt, but also could interpret at least a few
characters in the hieroglyphic script. From libraries in Paris and Istanbul
he has dug up manuscripts that contain tables showing the phonetic value of
hieroglyphs. The Arab scholars grasped two basic principles of hieroglyphs:
that some signs represented sounds while others were signs that expressed
the concept of the word graphically. This breakthrough came from the work
of a ninth and 10th century academic who lived in what is now Iraq and wrote
about everything from chemistry to pre-Islamic cultures. His work on
ancient writing systems, entitled the "Devotee's Yearning to Understand the
Symbols of Pens," realized that hieroglyphs were not pictures. He was the
first to talk about determinatives or concepts expressed by pictures. Okasha
El Daly states, "What is wrong in Egyptology is that we assume that
knowledge of the ancient Egyptian language completely died with the arrival
of Islam...The knowledge was still alive when Muslims came to Egypt. The
Muslims assumed that Egypt was a land of science and magic and wisdom, and
as such they wanted to learn hieroglyphics to have access to such vast
knowledge," he added. El Daly notes that scholars continued to copy the
early Muslim manuscripts on ancient Egypt well into the 18th century.
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!