Audio News for March 11th to March 17th, 2002.

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I'm Claire Britton-Warren/Rick Pettigrew and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from March 11th through March 17th.



Builders uncover 2,000-year-old Salvadoran sculptures



In El Salvador, 40 miles from San Salvador, four ancient carved rocks were uncovered at a construction site. The pieces found are consistent with a late pre-classic period of Meso-American civilization, dating from 200 BC to 260 AD. Comparatively little is known about the people living in the area shortly before the flourishing of Mayan culture of the same region. The four pieces, measuring about 25 inches long and 15 inches wide each, were discovered about 20 inches below ground. Three of the rocks were carved into jaguar heads, while the fourth resembles a sculpture of a human head. Archaeologist Valdivieso of the National Museum said the four pieces represent "one of the most important archaeological findings" of the past 10 years in El Salvador. He said the type of sculpture indicates the objects had a ceremonial use, "but investigations will help us confirm that theory."



3D technology visualizes ancient mummy   



In London, research conducted by the British Museum using 3D technology resulted in the first-ever virtual image of an Egyptian mummy locked away in its outer casing. Through a remarkably lifelike 3D image, researchers have been able for the first time to determine what lies hidden beneath the casing, or cartonnage, of a 3,000-year-old mummy housed at the museum since 1899. The image shows the skeleton and a number of artifacts placed on the mummy's body.  Interestingly, researchers have recognized for the first time a mysterious, never seen before caplike object on the head as a ceramic bowl, raising new questions about the history of the ancient mummies.  Dr. John Taylor at the British Museum, said, "The visually stunning quality of the images gives the project enormous potential, not only for research but also as an educational resource. One of the great virtues of this method is that it is totally noninvasive, so we are obtaining exclusive new data while preserving a valuable scientific resource for future research."



Iraqi archaeologists reveal Assyrian tomb finds



At a recent conference, Iraqi academics shared the details of Assyrian tomb and the outstanding artifacts that it contained. The ancient jewels and gold funereal pieces are from four tombs containing what is thought to be the remains of four consorts of the Assyrian king Ashurnasirpal II at Nimrud, in what is now northern Iraq. Dating from the 9th and 8th century BC, the find is thought, by experts, to rival that of 3,500-year-old Tutenkhamun in its quality and significance. It comprises hundreds of solid gold objects, including earrings, rings, necklaces, toe rings, diadems, plates, bowls and flasks, many of which are exquisitely engraved and set with semi-precious stones or enamel. One of the most spectacular pieces is an elaborate headdress made up of dozens of small linked pieces of gold and decorated with filigree work. Two of the tombs were discovered before the Gulf war in 1991, and details began to emerge in the West, but the subsequent isolation of Iraq put an end to the flow of information.



Temple to love goddess found at Olympics site



In Greece, an ancient brothel was unearthed at an area designated for Olympic equestrian events in the upcoming games. The site has turned out to be a valuable discovery of antiquities, including a temple to the love goddess Aphrodite, which experts say doubled as a bordello. Archaeologists say they have started nearly 20 separate digs on the site, and have found ruins believed to be baths and massage rooms.  The 2,500-year-old Aphrodite temple complex is significant as one of the few examples in the Athens area of activities associated with the love deity.  The digs also have uncovered agricultural dwellings from the 4th century BC and Mycenaean tombs dating back 3,600 years.



Surprise find of oldest Maya mural



From Guatemala, archaeologists have uncovered what they think is the earliest intact wall painting of the Maya civilization. The 1,900-year-old mural is an illustration collection of mythology and ritual, hailed by experts as a masterpiece. The mural was discovered accidentally at the ruins of San Bartolo, a Maya ceremonial site, in a buried room previously unknown to archaeologists. Dated about 100 A.D. from the Maya Pre-Classic period, only part of the mural is exposed so far. The visible part is about six feet long and more than two feet high, but may be only 10 percent of the total painting. The scene depicted is about the Maize God. Whether the figure is the god himself or a ruler impersonating the god is unknown.  Experts cautioned, "The painting is so early that we are not quite sure how to look at it." National Geographic Society, which supported the research, is publishing an article on the findings in the April issue of its magazine.  



Sonar device illustrates underwater landscape 



In our final story, a specialty firm in the United Kingdom is helping archaeologists look back at thousands of years of marine history using sonar. In the last 10,000 years sea level changes and coastline shifts in the River Solent, off the Isle of Wight, have created an underwater landscape rich in archaeological information. Over the past three years, the local Archaeology Trust has been investigating sites in the region using divers. The technology of the Submetrix Sonar, is enabling the trust to produce maps and images of the submerged peat beds and river channels in these shallow coastal waters. The maps and images are assisting in identifying sites for further diver investigation.  Data is now being interpreted and has enhanced the archaeological record of the Solent Coast.



That wraps up the news for this week!
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I'm Claire Britton-Warren/Rick Pettigrew and I'll see you next week!