Audio News for May 23rd to May 29th
Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I’m Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from May 23rd to May 29th.
New research produces map of 1,000 year old Imperial tomb in Japan
Our first story is from Japan, where a topographical rendering of an ancient Imperial tomb has been published by the Imperial Household Agency. This represents its first attempt to map the mausoleums of the Imperial family. A diagram of Empress Jingu's tomb in Nara at the Gosashi Mound was included in the recent annual report of the agency. The report indicates a change in the agency's approach to research involving Imperial tombs because it had not made any effort before to discover what the tombs actually looked like when they were constructed. Empress Jingu was the wife of Emperor Chuai and mother of Emperor Ojin. Chuai and Ojin represented the 14th and 15th Imperial emperors, respectively. Her tomb, a 800 foot-long and 100 foot-high keyhole-shaped mound, was constructed in the latter half of the fourth century. The agency excavated the tomb while it was under repair in 2003 and measured the mound in March 2004. An existing map of the tomb based on data gathered between the late Taisho era (1912-1926) and the early Showa era (1926-1989) did not clearly show the shape of the tomb because it only mapped contours at two-meter intervals. The latest rendering maps the tomb at one-meter intervals. Erosion has affected the mound for more than 1,000 years and repair work during the Edo period (from 1603 to 1868) has likewise changed the appearance of the mound. According to Masahiko Fukuo, the agency's official in charge of research on Imperial tombs, research was conducted because the existing map didn't provide enough information for serious archaeological study. Fukuo hinted the agency was considering examining tombs where the agency has identified the person buried.
Iraqi artifacts still missing
In a follow up to a continuing story on Iraq, the latest figures presented to the art crime conference of the British Museum suggest that half of the 40 iconic items missing from the Iraq National Museum in Baghdad still have yet to be retrieved. And of the 15,000 items looted from its storerooms, about 8,000 have yet to be traced. About 4,000 of the objects taken from the museum have been recovered in Iraq. Illustrating the international demand for such antiquities, John Curtis of the British Museum said that around 1,000 had been confiscated in the US, 500 pieces had been impounded in France, 250 in Switzerland and 200 or so in Jordan. Other artifacts have been retrieved from surrounding countries such as Syria, Kuwait, Iran and Turkey. None of these objects have yet been sent back to Iraq. Other items had been destroyed or stolen from extremely important archaeological sites such as those at Nimrud and Babylon. Random checks on Western soldiers leaving the area have revealed that some soldiers possessed artifacts illegally. The full extent of the damage has been impossible to gauge so far because of the deteriorating security situation. The director of the Iraq National Museum has been forced to seal his storerooms because it is currently too dangerous for his staff to start work on an inventory of the material that has been returned. An international mission planned under the support of UNESCO, with advice from experts at the British Museum, has been unable to start work for similar reasons. The delays all make it more likely that material will continue to be lost from the country's archaeological sites, some of which have been permanently damaged by war.
Early Buddhist statue found
In India, archaeologists in Sirpur have discovered a rare statue of a Buddhist female monk dating back to the sixth century. Arun Kumar Sharma, chief of the excavation project, said that it was the first time they have discovered the image of Haritika, who supposedly abducted infants. This find lends credence to the idea that female deities were as popular as their male counterparts in that era. Also, rare emblems of Hindu lord Shiva have been discovered. Sharma reported that he has so far excavated nearly seven mounds, including Shiva temples. The archaeologists have also excavated a unique nine-room area with eight ladders leading to several rooms. This residence is unique. One must climb eight steps to enter the residence and there are nine rooms with a 12-pillared columned hall in the center. Buddhism in India began with the life of Siddhartha Gautama, who lived from 563 to 483 B.C. Also known as the "Buddha,” he was a prince from a small kingdom located in the foothills of the Himalayas in Nepal. Siddhartha sacrificed luxury and wandered as a beggar in search of a meaningful life. At the age of eighty, the Buddha achieved his final passing away and died, leaving a thriving monastic order and a community to carry forth his work. Legend has it that when the Buddha came to know about Haritika’s practice of abducting infants, he kidnapped her two-year-old child to make her realize the sufferings of the mothers. Haritika then turned into a monk in remorse about her past conduct. Until the 13th century, the monastery in eastern Nalanda in Bihar was a world centre for Buddhist philosophy and religion. Although Buddhism has its roots in India, the religion has all but vanished from the country, but it is widely followed in East and Southeast Asia
Wine glass may date Blackbeard’s ship
Our final story is from the United States, where a broken piece of stemware found by divers this week gives archaeologists more evidence that they're dealing with a very early 18th century vessel. The shipwreck is thought to have belonged to the pirate Blackbeard. The four-sided design of the stem of a wineglass dates the artifact to between 1710 and 1720. According to Linda Carnes-McNaughton, an archaeologist at Fort Bragg who specializes in historic ceramics, the stem is embossed with little diamonds and little crowns commemorating the coronation of George I. King George I, a German, took the throne of England in 1714 after the death of Queen Anne. The Queen Anne's Revenge, Blackbeard's flagship, ran aground in Beaufort Inlet in 1718. These Silesian wine glasses, named for a region of Germany, were popular in Germany and France but were never widely adopted by the English. They were made of leaded glass, which is clear but not as delicate as the elaborate crystal that was used later. The wine glass -- missing its base and about half its bowl -- was found at the stern of the vessel in an area archaeologists believe was the captain's quarters. Divers made another major discovery in the same area, the sternpost. The sternpost is a large piece of timber at the keel of the boat that connects to the ends of the vessel's planking and supports the rudder. Divers found iron rudder straps, called gudgeons, attached to the sternpost. Divers did not try to raise the sternpost because they were not sure how big it was and, with the month-long expedition at the site ending, there was not enough time to find out. Divers were also able to retrieve an 8-foot-long cannon. It was the eighth cannon hoisted from the site since the original discovery.
That wraps up the news for this week!
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I’m Laura Kelley and I’ll see you next week!