Audio News for March 23rd to March 29th, 2008

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I'm Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news for March 23rd to March 29th, 2008.


Giant statue of ancient Egyptian queen discovered


Our first story is from Egypt, where archeologists have discovered a giant statue of Queen Tiy (TEE), the wife of 18th dynasty Pharaoh Amenhotep (Ah men HO tep) III. The almost 12 foot high statue was found on the site of the Colossi of Memnon. Queen Tiy was the daughter of Yuya (YOU ya), a high official under Thutmose (TUT moz) IV. Her mother was Thuya (TU yah). She was the first queen of Egypt to have her name on official acts, including the announcement of the king's marriage to a foreign princess. Tiy was also the mother of Akhenaten (Aw ken NAH ten). The statue was located around the site of the massive Colossi of Memnon, twin statues that control the road to Luxor's famed Valley of the Kings. The Colossi of Memnom depict Amenhotep III in a seated position, his hands resting on his knees and his gaze turned eastward toward the river and the rising sun. They are massive quartzite sandstone statues, some 60 feet high, used to guard Amenhotep’s mortuary temple. The temple was destroyed by an earthquake in the first century AD. Two sphinxes representing Tiy and Amenhotep III, as well as 10 statues in black granite of the lion-headed goddess Sekhmet (Sek MET) also were found. The new finds will be placed 100 yards behind the Colossi of Memnon as part of an "open air museum." With the exception of the Colossi, today very little remains of Amenhotep's temple. Successive annual inundations have gnawed away at the foundations, which stand on the edge of the Nile floodplain. Archaeologists hope to rehabilitate the site within five years.

Earlobe stolen on Easter Island


In the eastern Pacific, a Finnish tourist was arrested after allegedly stealing a piece of an earlobe from one of the massive statues on Easter Island. Marko Kulju, 26, faces seven years in prison and a fine of $19,100 if convicted of snapping off the volcanic rock from a Moai statue. Moai are monolithic human figures carved from volcanic rock between 400 and 1,000 years ago. Nearly half are still at the main quarry, but hundreds were transported and set on platforms, mostly at the island's perimeter. Almost all have overly large heads representing the living faces of deified ancestors. A native Rapanui woman told authorities she witnessed the theft, and saw Kulju fleeing from the scene with a piece of the statue in his hand. According to Easter Island Police Chief Cristian Gonzalez, Kulju used his hands to tear off the earlobe, which fell to the ground and broke into large pieces. Kulju ran away with at least one of the pieces. Damaging Moais is punishable under a law protecting national monuments. Authorities are inspecting the statue to see if it can be repaired. While some of the island's 400 Moais are more than 70 feet tall, most have an average height of 20 feet and weigh about 20 metric tons. The statues gaze out on the south Pacific more than 2,300 miles west of Chile. Chile annexed Easter Island in the 19th century. Approximately 3,800 people, the majority of them native Rapanui, still live on the 70 square-mile Easter Island.

Barbary lions roared at the Tower of London


Now we go to England, where a new study reveals that Barbary lions were kept at the medieval Royal Menagerie zoo at the Tower of London. Researchers have used DNA evidence to analyze two skulls, the oldest being late 13th to late 14th century (between 1280 and 1385) and the youngest to the 15th century (between 1420 and 1480). They conclude that the lions were male Barbary lions, a species that hails from North Africa, where no natural lion population remains today. Lion manes can vary from light blond to black and can be up to a foot long. However, the now-extinct Barbary had a magnificently black mane. These lions were members of the royal "zoo," which survived for more than 600 years. The remains were originally excavated from the moat in the 1930s. The DNA in the skulls revealed the lions shared unique genes with the North African Barbary lion. According to Richard Sabin, Curator of Mammals, the results provide the first genetic evidence clearly confirming that the lions found during excavations at the Tower of London originated in North Africa. Direct animal trade between Europe and sub-Saharan Africa was not developed until the eighteenth century, so the results provide new insights into the patterns of historic animal trafficking. The lions are also a sign that the UK had good relations with foreign monarchs, who presented exotic animals as gifts. The Royal Menagerie was established in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries by King John, in Woodstock near Oxford and later relocated to the Tower of London. Among the first residents were three leopards sent to Henry III by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II in 1235. The earliest written record of an English lion occurs in 1240. It refers to the upkeep of "the King's lion.” Radiocarbon dating of the skulls supports historic documents. The last known Barbary Lion in the wild was shot in 1942 on the northern side of the Tizi-n-Tichka pass in the Atlas Mountains, near the road to Marrakech.

Stone Age weapons discovered in eastern India


Lastly we travel to India, where archaeologists in West Bengal have discovered small stone weapons apparently dating back 15,000-20,000 years. The weapons, including small axes, were found during excavations in the Muslimabad District, near Bangladesh. The team was digging for archaeological evidence related to Sultan Hussein Shah, a former ruler from the area, when the weapons were discovered. Since finds such as this, on the floodplain of the River Ganges, are very rare, although Stone Age evidence occurs regularly in upland areas above the floodplain. Researchers believe the find suggests man's presence in the locale dates back much earlier than previously thought. According to archaeologists, the weapons were found in a soil layer belonging to the mid-Pleistocene period, well below the Holocene layer where evidence of recent human habitation tends to be found. Dr. Gautam Sengupta, Director of the State Archaeology Department, notes that raw materials and other traces of habitation also were found at the site, indicating that the weapons were made there.
Another reason the find is significant is that Stone Age weapons are not normally found at such an old soil layer in the Lower Gangetic alluvial plain. As yet, no human fossils have been found at the site. Excavators have recovered some charcoal, but radiocarbon dating of the charcoal has not yet been done to confirm its age.

That wraps up the news for this week!
For more stories and daily news updates, visit Archaeologica on the World Wide Web at , where all the news is history!
I'm Laura Kelley and I'll see you next week!