Audio News for April 12th to April 18th
Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I’m Laura Pettigrew and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from April 12th to April 18th.
Ancient lion finds, two heads better than one
In our first story, two halves of a 2,500-year-old terracotta lion's head that spent most of their existence apart have been reunited for a new exhibition. It all ends an international search, which began when half was lent to Newcastle University's Shefton Museum of Greek Art and Archaeology in the 1970s. The second half was traced to a Swiss collector who has since bequeathed it to the museum. The quest began when a museum benefactor bought the right half at Christie's and loaned it to the museum. Professor Brian Shefton later spotted the second half in a catalogue of an exhibition and traced it to Switzerland, and Dr. Leo Mildenberg. At the time, the Mildenberg’s collection was on tour in the US, but a museum curator in Ohio made a plaster cast of the broken edge of the Swiss lion and sent it to Newcastle University. The cast was an almost perfect fit - confirming the professor's suspicion that the two halves were part of the same head. Dr. Mildenberg left his half of the lion to the museum after he died and subsequently the family of the late Mr. Jacobson donated their half to the museum - where the two halves have now been reunited. The two halves of the lion's head once formed the upper portion of a waterspout from the guttering of a small shrine or temple built by Greek colonists living in Southern Italy in the 5th Century BC. It is likely to have come from a Greek sanctuary at San Biagio (SAN bee-AH-jee-o), near the Greek colony of Metaponto (MET-a-PON-to), where a complete head of the same type was recently excavated. On the Swiss half of the lion's head, fragments of the original decoration - the eye and whiskers - are still clearly visible. On the Newcastle half, there is less paint remaining and the overall color is much paler, suggesting that the two halves have been subjected to different methods of cleaning.
Peruvian mural destroyed in looting attempt
In Peru, a museum archaeologist reports that grave robbers destroyed a 1,000-year-old mural at an ancient Peruvian ceremonial site. The thieves entered the Huaca Bandera (WAH-ca bon-DAIR-ah) site, 425 miles northeast of Lima, sometime over the past few days. It is believed they probably used picks or wooden poles in a useless effort to steal the mural, a black, yellow and white dragon in sculpted relief on a painted red background, but only succeeded in obliterating it. The mural design was characteristic of the Lambayeque (LAM-bay-que) group, which ruled Peru's north Pacific coastal region hundreds of years before the rise of the Incan empire. The site was once an administrative area and a temple but appeared to be little more than an earthen mound when archeologists first excavated it 10 years ago and discovered the mural. The damage was irreversible and that the museum had filed a criminal complaint with the police - one of 1,000 they have brought before the authorities in recent years. The remote site was not guarded due to a lack of funds.
Warrior may be Druid burial
In Scotland, archaeologists believe that a warrior thought to have died in battle more than 2,000 years ago could help pinpoint the location of an ancient Druid holy site. The warrior, aged about 30, was found with his spear, a sword, his belt and scabbard, within his stone coffin last year. Unusual for Scotland, a copper pin remained, which once fastened his uniform at the neck, along with eight rings, two of them on his toes. He was gripping his sword. Experts now believe the hill where he was found may have been used for holy ceremonies and burials at least 1,500 years earlier. Also found was the skeleton of a Bronze Age woman buried in 2000 BC just feet away. More than 20 cremation urns and a cist burial from the Bronze Age were also found there in 1828. Researchers belief it is not just chance that this warrior was buried in such close proximity to the Bronze Age burial ground. It is unique is that the site seems to span more than 1,500 years, and those within it seem to have had considerable wealth. The warrior’s possessions, and the care given to his burial, suggest he was in the upper echelons of his group. Such richly furnished graves are very rare in Scotland. It suggests that this area was regarded as a special, sacred holy ground for more than a millennium. The theory is to be revealed in more detail in an upcoming edition of Current Archaeology magazine.
Hunley crew buried, this time with honors
Our final story is a conclusion to the saga of the crew of the Civil War Submarine H.L. Hunley. This weekend past, in what was billed as the “the last Confederate funeral”, the remains of the Hunley's last crew was borne on caissons to their rest. The Hunley, an early submarine, was the death of 21 of the 28 Confederate sailors who dared to sail aboard it, including the eight on its dramatic last voyage, who were buried this weekend with honors and fanfare. It remains a mystery why the Hunley sank on February 17, 1864 after sticking an explosive charge to the hull of the USS Housatonic. The crew members' remains were found still at their respective stations, suggesting they died of asphyxiation rather than drowned from a sudden leak that would have sent them scrambling for the only exits. Archaeologists believe that more careful examination of the sub and the silt inside it will test alternate theories, including the possibility that the Hunley was accidentally struck and sunk by another Union warship rushing to the Housatonic's rescue. The submarine was nothing short of a deathtrap, a restricted cylinder roughly 40 feet long, with only two ways out, lit by a single candle and powered by a hand-crank. It had sunk on two training missions with the loss of all hands, including H.L. Hunley, the sub's chief sponsor and namesake, a late replacement for the regular commander, Lt. George Dixon, who had been away on business. But Dixon returned to lead the final voyage and apparently had no trouble rounding up a crew in Charleston, a city whose fierce support for the Confederate cause had been sharpened by a long siege and blockade by union ships. Confederate leaders hoped - in vain - that a successful strike by the Hunley would frighten away the blockading fleet and perhaps free Charleston. But the city fell to the Union exactly one year after Dixon's mission. An artist, using information from archaeologists, records and family documents, has reconstructed the faces of the eight crew members, down to the facial hair they are likely to have worn. The likenesses, along with the submarine, will be among the featured exhibits in a museum planned around the Hunley in Charleston.
That wraps up the news for this week!
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I’m Laura Pettigrew and I’ll see you next week!