Audio News for March 19th to March 25th, 2006
Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I'm Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news for March 19th to March 25th, 2006.
Painted sarcophagus shows scenes from Homeric epics
Our first story is from Cyprus, where archeologists discovered a sarcophagus they believe to be about 2,500 years old. The stone coffin features well-preserved painting in red, black and blue. It illustrates scenes from the epics of Homer. So far, experts have identified depictions of the hero Ulysses, and battles from The Iliad. According to Pavlos Flourentzos, director of Cyprus's antiquities department, this is a very important find because the style of the decoration is unique, not so much from an artistic point of view, but for the subject and the colors used. Workers unearthed the limestone artifact while excavating a tomb near the village of Kouklia, near the southwestern coastal town of Paphos. The sarcophagus is believed to date from 500 BC. Experts believe the battle scenes portrayed on the sides may be a clue to the original occupant of the coffin. The Homeric scenes might have been chosen because the coffin held a warrior. According to the antiquities department, Cyprus produced two similar, but more faded, sarcophagi during the 19th century. These other sarcophagi are now housed at the Metropolitan Museum in New York.
New evidence for ancient metallurgy is found at site in India
Our next story is from just outside Calcutta, India, where excavations at Tilpi have unearthed evidence of ancient metallurgy. Tilpi is the neighboring site to Dhosa, where earlier excavations suggested that a stupa, a Buddhist religious monument, existed there in the second and first centuries BC. The importance of the Tilpi find, according to Goutam Sengupta, Bengal’s director of archaeology and museums, is the recovery of eight hearths for smelting metals. At the site, state archaeology department supervisor Amal Roy reported on four hearths discovered on March 18, which were at a slightly lower level than the four found on the level of the ancient surface. The hearths measure 20 to 36 inches across and are around 12 inches high. These hearths are typical of the 2nd century BC. Strewn around them are crucibles, charcoal rubbish, copper ingots, and punch marked and cast-copper coins. The small crucibles may have been used to melt metals like silver and copper while the larger ones were used for iron. Archaeometallurgist Pranab K. Chattopadhyay of the Centre for Archaeological Studies and Training confirmed the importance of the Tilpi find as the single instance in the region where all kinds of evidence of the indigenous smelting and casting processes are seen together. The coins are being tested for bronze, which would prove that the residents of Tilpi knew how to combine metals in various proportions. High tin-bronze or kansha was in use by the period between the 2nd century BC and the 2nd century AD.
Roman painted statue find is first to reveal full colors
In Italy, a British-Italian archaeology team has recovered the first painted Roman statue with its colors preserved. The head of a female Amazon warrior was salvaged from the rubble of a collapsed escarpment at Herculaneum, the seaside resort for the rich and powerful of ancient Rome that was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. Domenico Camardo, the archaeologist who dug the head from the volcanic rock, stated when he was first alerted to the discovery, he dared hope that the bust would be intact. The nose and mouth were missing, but the hair, pupils and eyelashes were as perfect as they were when Herculaneum was inundated by the eruption. Although it has been known that Roman statues were painted, only faded traces of pigment had been found before now. The coloring on the head is a delicate shade of orange-red, which, although faded, indicates that classical coloring was subtle and sophisticated. Herculaneum was buried in the same catastrophic eruption that overwhelmed nearby Pompeii. Whereas Pompeii was buried in volcanic ash, Herculaneum became entombed in molten rock. The site was excavated in the 18th century and again in the Fascist period but was then neglected for decades, until the British School in Rome and the Superintendency of Pompeii started the Herculaneum Conservation Project, funded by the Packard Humanities Institute, of California, in 2004.
DNA creates new controversy over American colonist’s identity
Our final story follows up on controversial analysis of skeletal remains from Jamestown, in the United States. Experts have claimed that the bones belong to a founding father, Bartholomew Gosnold, and that a skeleton buried in the United Kingdom, which was thought to be his sister, is not. The controversy arose when DNA tests, carried out to confirm the identity of Gosnold by comparison to his sister, revealed that the respective bones were not in any way related. Archaeologists in Virginia claim they have the real Gosnold, while UK scientists believe the Suffolk skeleton is authentic. The British experts believe the remains tested from Shelley, in Suffolk, are those of Gosnold's sister, buried in the 1600s. Thus, they are casting doubts on the American find. But US scientists, who aim to prove the remains found in Jamestown in America are those of Gosnold, claim that the woman buried at Shelley was probably not Elizabeth Gosnold Tilney. Bartholomew Gosnold is said to be the founder of the first English-speaking American colony in Virginia in 1607. Nick Clarke, spokesman for the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, said the Advisory Panel on the Archaeology of Christian Burials in England has now examined the test results. The panel determined that the inference drawn by the American scientists remains open to interpretation and that the remains could belong to Elizabeth Gosnold Tilney. According to Clarke, further tests were carried out on the remains and carbon dating put the date of the woman's death at Shelley close to that of Elizabeth Gosnold Tilney, who died in 1646, somewhere in her late 60s. An alternative identity is possible, however: that of a non-relative named Anne Framlingham. American Bill Kelso, director of archaeology at Historic Jamestown, said that the advisory panel's interpretation is being discussed with researchers in an effort to reconcile the differences. According to Kelson, until questions about these new interpretations are answered, and further tests are carried out, the Jamestown experts will continue to rely on the historical and archaeological evidence that identifies the remains as Gosnold’s.
That wraps up the news for this week!
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I'm Laura Kelley and I'll see you next week!