Audio News for July 16th to July 21st, 2002.

Audio News for July 16th to July 21st Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I'm ______________ and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from July 16th through July 21st.



To house the past in splendor, Athens destroys heritage site 


Greek authorities have begun destroying a unique archaeological site at the foot of the Acropolis in a rush to build a museum for the anticipated return of the Parthenon marbles. The antiquities, which speak volumes on the uninterrupted habitation of Athens, include the extraordinary remains of an ancient Christian city and Roman baths, and span millennia, from the late Neolithic era to the post-Byzantine period. Greek archaeologists, architects, and other leaders in the arts and sciences denounced the construction as "cultural vandalism" in a petition, and a suit was brought to stop it. The Greek culture minister rejected their accusation that the findings should delay the museum's construction, stating, "Wherever you excavate in Athens you come across antiquities, and research has shown that these are not invaluable." Those in favor of the museum say that it is "an imaginative solution that takes both the classical backdrop and the current excavation into account.” If the marble friezes are ever returned, visitors will be able to look at them and simultaneously, look up to see exactly where they once were on the Parthenon temple above. Opponents say the planned glass structure is unsuitable, and has insufficient parking for the expected hordes of tour buses. The museum's floor space will exceed that of the Parthenon in size, thereby detracting from it. In the meantime, Acropolis conservationists have come under great pressure to complete restoration by the 2004 Olympics.



Archaeologists suit up to explore cold war nuclear ruins



In the United States, archaeologists are donning yellow radiation suits to explore and research the cold war relic known as the Nevada Test Site. The area was the site of 928 nuclear test explosions from 1951 to 1992. The Department of Energy and The Desert Research Institute have sponsored an archaeological mission to survey and discover structures worthy of preservation. To date, seven spots have received "historical place" status, with more pending. The scarred landscape is dotted with mock towns, bridges, bomb shelters, bank vaults and more, which were exposed to atomic blasts to see how well they would survive a nuclear attack. Experts stated that many things that on the original blueprint were never built, while some things were built that weren't on the plans, so the only way to know what is out there was to go there. The more destruction that occurred at a spot, the more its information is worth. For example, a 700-foot tower at Yucca Flat, which once stood at Ground Zero holding a bomb, is now a twisted and gnarled mass of I-beams and steel cables covered in glass formed from molten sand. At another site, a bank vault 1,150 feet from a blast site sits battered but intact, with all the documents placed inside at the time still unharmed. Archaeologists also explored a crater that was created when testing moved underground in 1963. The blast crater was so moon like, it was used to train Apollo astronauts for lunar walks.



Hot chocolate brewed by Mayans, ancient dish suggests 


A brown-stained teapot is proving that hot cocoa was being sipped by the Mayans 1,000 years earlier than previously thought. But it wasn't as sweet as modern hot chocolate, chemistry shows. Analysis of 2,600-year-old pottery confirmed that ancient Mayans made cocoa drinks as early as 600 B.C. in an area of Central America including what today is Guatemala, Mexico, and Belize. The research team used a mass spectrometer and liquid-gas chromatography equipment to detect traces of cocoa.The results pushed back the confirmed date of cocoa residue in the region from the original date of A.D. 400.  Archaeologists have shown that cocoa was cultivated in Central America for thousands of years. Previously, the earliest direct evidence of chocolate consumption came from 1,500-year-old ceramic vessels found in a Mayan tomb at Rio Azul in Guatemala. 



Spanish police recover looted artifacts 

Original Headline:  New Forest cemetery yields glass find


In Spain, police have recovered over 200,000 artifacts, including a sculpture of an ancient goddess, all plundered from sites across the
country. More than 100 people were arrested in a network of illicit excavations and collectors. The pieces, which were illegally excavated from 530 sites around the country, date from 3,000 BC to the Visigoth kingdoms of 7th-century Spain. A Roman sculpture of Calliope, the Greek muse of epic poetry, was among the most valuable treasures found among the stolen works. Also recovered were Greek, Roman, Phoenician and Punic pottery and ancient armaments stolen from grave sites in Spain’s southern provinces. Roman, Islamic, Visigoth and early Christian coins were found, as were a collection of official mercantile seals that will help historians study Roman trade routes. Police said they grew suspicious last summer when paramilitaries, working with the Civil Guard, identified a resident of the city of Seville who was collecting artifacts without authorization.



Archaeologists resume rescue digs at ancient city of healing 


In Turkey, a rescue excavation of the ancient city of Allianoi, launched in 1994, has finally begun again thanks to good weather in Bergama. The ancient city is threatened by water from the Caltikoru barrage, a water control structure that will inundate the site when it is finished. At present, 68 workers and 17 archaeology students are working on the excavation, and an additional 120 people are expected to join the work to accelerate the excavation. Historically, Allianoi was well known as the native land of Asklepion, god of medicine and healing. The city was established during the Hellenistic Age and reached prominence during the reign of Roman Emperor Hadrian, in the 2nd century A.D. It had a reputation as one of the most important health centers from the sixth century BC to the 11th century AD. 



Chemistry answers riddle of rust-free iron in India


Our final story is from India, where experts have solved a 1,600-year-old mystery. An iron pillar in New Delhi, measuring 21 feet high, has never corroded, despite the humid climate of the capital city. Metallurgists have discovered that a naturally occurring surface layer has formed on the iron and protected it from rust. The surface layer is a compound of iron, oxygen and hydrogen.  It began to form shortly after the erection of the pillar, and has continued to grow, till it is now one-twentieth of a millimeter thick. Experts say the formation of the protective film was caused by high amounts of phosphorus in the iron, resulting from the unique iron-making process practiced by ancient Indians, who reduced iron ore into steel in one step by mixing it with charcoal. Modern methods use limestone in place of charcoal, yielding molten slag and pig iron that is later converted into steel. In the modern process most phosphorus is carried away by the slag. The pillar, which weighs almost six tons, was erected by Kumara of the Gupta dynasty, which ruled northern India from AD 320-540.



That wraps up the news for this week!
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