Audio News for February 5th to February 11th, 2006
Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I’m Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news for February 5th to February 11th, 2006.
Near tomb of Tutankhamun, a new tomb is found
Our first story is from Egypt, where a new tomb was uncovered in the Valley of the Kings. This is the first such find since the spectacular discovery of the nearby tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922. U.S. archaeologists discovered the tomb by accident while working on a nearby site. According to Edwin Brock, co-director of the University of Memphis excavating team, the tomb contains five wooden sarcophagi with painted funeral masks which probably hold the members of an 18th Dynasty pharaoh's court. Archaeologists have not entered the tomb, having only opened part of its four-foot-high door to peer into the chamber. They described the tomb as a single chamber, with around 20 pharaonic jars surrounding the wooden sarcophagi. The Supreme Council of Antiquities said the interior of the tomb was bare stone, with undecorated walls. The coffins appear to have some damage from termites and will require a lot of conservation work before they can be taken out. The team, led by Otto Schaden, will continue its excavations of the site for the remaining five months of the season. It is not known when the tomb will be completely open so archaeologists can go inside. The researchers were working last year on the neighboring tomb of Amenmeses, a late 19th Dynasty pharaoh, when they found the remains of ancient workmen's huts. They then discovered a depression in the bedrock that they suspected was a shaft. When they returned to work during this excavation season, they opened the shaft and found the door. The excavators do not believe this is a royal tomb, rather one for members of the court, who might have been contemporaries of Tutankahmun, Amunhotep III or even Horemheb. The discovery has broken the long-held belief that there's nothing left to dig up in the Valley of the Kings. The desert region near the southern city of Luxor was used as a burial ground for pharaohs, queens and nobles in the period from 1500 BC-1000 BC known as the New Kingdom. Since the discovery of Tut's tomb, experts believed that the Valley of the Kings contained only the 62 previously known tombs - labeled KV1-62 by archeologists. Now we have KV1-63.
French spelunkers find new trove of Stone Age cave art
In France, cave drawings thought to be older than those in the famed caves of Lascaux have been discovered in the Charente region of western France. A first analysis by officials from the office of cultural affairs suggests the drawings were made some 25,000 years ago. This will be confirmed by further investigations. Cavers exploring a part of a grotto in the Vilhonneur forest made the discovery in December. News was withheld until a preliminary investigation could be carried out. Michel Boutant, head of the local government, told France-Info radio that if this first analysis were confirmed, the paintings discovered here would change the scientific findings date of Lascaux and Altamira in Spain. The famed Lascaux Cave in Montignac, in the Dordogne region of southwest France, has been considered one of the best examples of cave paintings. The art there dates back 13,000 years, like those in Altamira in northwest Spain. However, Chauvet Cave, discovered in the mid-1990s in southeast France, features some 300 examples of Paleolithic animal art dating back in some cases 31,000 years.
Iron Age trove of weapons is turned in by Czech collector
In the Czech Republic, a local man stumbled on a pile of Teutonic artifacts dating back to the 2nd century AD. According to museum officials in the north Bohemian town of Chomutov, the trove of twenty-two Teutonic items, including weapons or parts of shields and dating back 1,800 years, were almost not reported. About six months ago, a local man walking through a nearby highland forest discovered the items lying uncovered in a quiet grove. He gathered the items up, not realizing their value, and stored them in his cellar. Later it occurred to him to hand the rust-covered items over to officials at the local museum. Archaeologist Lenka Onderkova explained the importance of the find as remarkable not because of individual items, but because of the number of items found. Germanic tribes regularly buried key warriors together with their weapons. What's unusual in this case is the high number of items found at a single site as well as their variety. The only previous and comparable discovery in Czech lands was a 1950s find of four spears, far less than the eleven in the new trove. Academics are still debating whether that 1950s find marked a burial site or a sacrifice. The new find might have revealed more information about the function of such larger troves. However, the man who made the discovery not only removed the items from the area, but also waited so long to report his find that the original location of the items cannot be confirmed. This information would have revealed far more about the items' long-dead owners and the circumstances of their burial than just the weapons on their own. Given the delay, archaeologists may not be able to answer, for example, why the items had originally been placed in such a shallow grave. One thing researchers do agree on is that since they were found at high altitude, far from the nearest settlement or the nearest river, this must have been a ritual burial site, providing a final, quiet resting place for Teutonic warriors.
Long lost Greek geography book resurfaces after 2000-year odyssey
In our final story, Italian researchers have recovered part of a lost ancient Greek treatise, the earliest map-making of the Greek-Roman era, and a sketchbook for ancient painters. All this has come from piecing together 50 fragments of a first century BC parchment used in a mummy's wrapping. Known as the papyrus of Artemidorus (ar-teh-mih-DOR-us), the eight-foot long and 13-inch wide parchment will go on display for the first time in Turin. According to Claudio Gallazzi, a professor of Papirology at the University of Milan, the single papyrus was used at different times, for different purposes, and by different people. The papyrus' timeline begins around the mid-first century BC, in Alexandria, Egypt, when a copyist transcribed a book by Greek geographer Artemidorus. Born in Ephesus around 100 B.C., Artemidorus wrote 11 books on his Mediterranean travels, which are now lost in their entirety. His work "Ta geographumena" (TAH GAI-oh-gra-FUH-men-a), or “dissertation on geography,” is only known through the references to it in the books of the 1st century B.C. Greek geographer, historian, and philosopher Strabo. Featuring a detailed description of Spain, the papyrus is believed to be the most extensive remaining portion of Artemidorus' work. What is clear is that the copyist left blank spots to insert drawings of maps within the text. But after the parchment was sent to a painter's studio for these, an artist made a mistake in drawing the map of Spain. This ruined the dissertation and sent the geography treatise on its own strange travels across 2000 years of use and re-use. First, even though the preparation of the book was abandoned, the papyrus was kept. Its blank spots were re-used for other sketches, probably within the same craftsmen’s studio, some time later. The blank sections of parchment became a design catalog for drawings that could be copied to make mosaics and frescos. These drawings, all with Greek captions, represent mythical animals. In the following years, pupils from the workshop used the remaining blank spots as a sketchbook to practice drawing heads, feet and hands. By the last decades of the first century AD, the papyrus was full. It was then sold as pulp paper and ended up in a cartonnage (CAR-ton-AZH), one of the shell-like coffins of paper and glue used to hold late-period mummies. The mummy case that it became part of lay buried for 1,800 years. It was then discovered in the 1900s by local diggers, who sold the cartonnage to a collector. The collector had it for about 50 years. From there it passed into the hands of a skilled German collector, who managed to recover the fragments of the Ptolemaic papyrus. In 2004, the papyrus was bought by an Italian foundation that sent it to a restoration lab where infrared and high-definition image processing revealed the lost writing. Now scholars will begin their study of this ancient treatise on geography, completing its long odyssey across 2000 years and returning it to the world’s storehouse of ancient knowledge.
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 Kelley and I’ll see you next week!