Audio News for May 6th to May 12th, 2002.

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I'm Claire Britton-Warren and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from May 6th through May 12th.



Peruvian Burial Reveals Pre-Columbian Chief



Our first story is from northern Peru, where archaeologists have found  the remains of a pre-Columbian chief of the Lambayeque tribe. The discovery was made at a burial ground in the complex called El Brujo, home of the Lambayeque around 900 AD. The site lies some 350 miles from the modern capital of Lima.  The body was found buried in a crossed-leg sitting position, with copper plates placed in the chief's mouth, and bracelets, masks, cups and other personal items between his legs. Two heavily deteriorated wooden scepters, one copper tipped, also accompanied the burial. Excavations continue with hopes of finding more artifacts in the Lambayeque cemetery.



World's Oldest Monastery Preserves Its Ancient Library



In Egypt, at the base of Mount Sinai, is St. Catherine's Monastery and within its walls, an ancient library that can only be rivaled by the Vatican. Built in 527 AD on the assumed site of the biblical burning bush, St. Catherine's is the world's oldest continuously inhabited Christian monastery. The library contains more than 10,000 early printed books, manuscripts and scrolls. Its remote location and arid mountain climate is almost perfect for preserving such works as early printings of Homer  and Plato, 9th century parchments in Syriac, a precursor to Arabic, and fragments of one of the oldest surviving Bibles, the Codex Sinaiticus, which dates to the 4th century.  To preserve this treasured knowledge, and make it available to scholars around the world, the monks of St.  Catherine's are now working with scholars and researchers to digitally reproduce the entire library and eventually create CD's for research. A computer catalog will also be created, to list the manuscripts as well as the printed books, which date back to the 1600's.


Newly Discovered Masterpiece Appears to be Work of Athenian Sculptor



In Greece, a recently excavated 2,600-year-old statue appears to be another masterpiece by an acclaimed, anonymous, ancient artist. The nearly complete statue of a young man, called a "kouros", is in the style attributed to an artist known only as the Sculptor of Dipylo, after the neighborhood where two works by him were found a hundred years ago. The sculpture of the youth was in excellent condition, displaying the steady expression, almond-shaped eyes, long, ornate curls and closed fists that characterize works of the Archaic period. Two lion sculptures and a sphinx were also found by the German Archaeological Institute in the excavation near the Sacred Gate, one of two portals into ancient Athens. The Archaic period dates from about 900-510 BC.


Buried Ship in Thailand is 400 Years Old, But Well-Preserved



In Thailand's Surat Thani province, a 400-year-old ship has been found in pristine condition. Measuring 45 feet long by 9 feet wide, the ship is constructed from Pride of India wood and ironwood and uniquely held together with strands of rattan, rather than nails.  Experts from the Chaiya Museum speculate the vessel was either a naval or cargo ship.  The current landowner was surprised to come upon the ship about 5 feet below the ground in a mangrove swamp, while preparing foundations for a new house.  The bow and stern of the ship are in perfect condition, although some of the midship planking has been loosened by the hot climate.


Britain and Iraq Transcend Political Differences To Restore Culture



The British Museum in London has agreed to assist the Government of Iraq with a major cultural project. Iraqi archaeologists and academics hope  to recreate the famous library of the Assyrian King Ashurbanipal  and want to use material held in London.  Some  25,000 brittle clay tablets containing priceless information of life in  ancient Assyria are to be plaster-cast as the centerpiece of the new library.

In the 7th century BC, Ashurbanipal's empire reached from Egypt to Persia. His capital and the library were at Nineveh, the modern city of Mosul in northern Iraq. The ancient library that he established held the first properly indexed and catalogued collection in history, consisting of clay tablets written in cuneiform script. These tablets have provided modern scholars with historical, religious and political records, along with folk tales and myths such as The Tale of Gilgamesh.

UNESCO, the cultural body of the United Nations, has been asked to help fund the project, which will include a new museum and the research collection.


Colorful Sculpture Glows After Archaeologists Preserve Pigments from
the Past


Our final story is from Turkey where a sarcophagus (sar-COUGH-uh-guss) abandoned by fleeing thieves turns out to be one of the most colorful sarcophagi (sar-COUGH-uh-jai) surviving from Classical Greek antiquity. Most people mistakenly think of ancient Greek artwork work as being pure white, but that is because the brightly colored paint they used did not withstand the ravages of time.

The broken marble coffin, left in a forest by tomb looters in 1998, dates to about 400-375 BC. On its front panel a horseman, probably the occupant, is depicted spearing a boar during a hunt. On one short side of the coffin, the same man in the heat of battle spears a fallen Greek opponent in the eye. Although the looters damaged the sarcophagus when they used a bulldozer to break into the tomb, Turkish archaeologists recognized the value of the rare, colorful painting, and waited for months until American conservators could arrive to help clean and preserve them.

Because paint tends to stick to the encrusted dirt on top of it rather than the original surface beneath it, solvents could not be used to clean it. Instead, small instruments such as scalpels, and blower bulbs were used to patiently remove dirt from the painted carvings. The restored find carries the most extensive painted decoration known on a sarcophagus from the Classical Greek Period.


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