Audio News for June 2nd to June 8th,2003

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I'm Laura Pettigrew and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from June 2nd to June 8th.

Early medieval cathedral rediscovered


Our first story is from Magdeburg, (MOG-de-burg) Germany, where archaeologists are uncovering the foundations of a giant tenth-century cathedral. They believe it may be the one built by Holy Roman Emperor Otto the Great and dedicated in AD 968. The discovery is being hailed as an important advance in understanding the history of the early Middle Ages in Europe. At 240 feet long and 180 feet tall, the Cathedral was the largest house of worship north of the Alps. At one time, the interior was decorated with Italian marble, mosaics, and glazed wall tiles. Remains of these materials were found at the site. Last week, researchers uncovered a stone crypt. Also recently discovered are foundation stones, believed to mark the western wing of the church, constructed in AD 955. The physical size of the cathedral was a tangible demonstration of power in the turbulent times of the early middle ages. The Holy Roman Empire began as little more than a loose federation of peoples ruled by a Christian dynasty aspiring to the glory of the collapsed Roman Empire.

Archaeologists rescue Asia Minor monuments


In Turkey, an international team is starting restoration work on the summit of Mount Nemrut (NEM-rut), where a group of colossal two-thousand-year-old statues of ancient gods have suffered damage from air pollution and careless visitors. The 10 monuments are 10 meters tall, or 30 feet, and made from stone blocks weighing six tons. The site lies in an eastern province of the country, and was constructed by Antiochus (an-TIE-o-kus) the First, who ruled from 69 to 34 BC and claimed descent from Apollo. To make the mountaintop into a temple, about 200,000 cubic meters were cut away, by hand, from the mountain’s summit to make a platform. There King Antiochus (an-TIE-oh-kus) built a statue of himself alongside those of Apollo, Zeus and other ancient gods. The huge statues, along with a number of reliefs and inscriptions, lie scattered now across the peak of the mountain, which some have called the eighth wonder of the world. It was placed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1987 as one of the most ambitious constructions of the Hellenistic period following the break-up of Alexander the Great's empire. Archaeologists believe that the tomb of Antiochus (an-TIE-o-kus) is also located at the site and expect it to be as important and rich as those of the Egyptian Pharaohs. Some of the Mount Nemrut (NEM-rut) sculptures will be repaired on site, while others will be transferred to a museum to preserve them from further destruction. Including restoration, rescue and conservation, the project is expected to take up to eight years.

Neglected mummy may be Nefertiti


After 12 years of research, British archaeologists believe they may have confirmed the identification of the mummy of Queen Nefertiti (NEF-er-TEE-tee). A French team originally found the badly preserved mummy in 1898, walled up in a side chamber of the tomb of Amenhotep (A-men-HO-tep) the Second. But due to its poor condition, it was largely ignored. Recently, Egyptian authorities allowed the 3,500-year-old tattered mummy to be examined in detail for the first time. Experts say that even though there cannot be absolute certainty of the identity, this was a royal woman of the 18th dynasty and that narrows the odds. Clues included fragments of a wig, the piercing of the mummy's ears and a broken off arm bent in a way that was permitted only to a Pharaoh or Queen. The remains were found in a tomb in the Valley of the Kings. Queen Nefertiti (NEF-er-TEE-tee) was the stepmother of the boy king Tutankhamun (TOOT-an-KA-men) and the wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten (ak-NAHT-en). After the death of Akhenaten (ak-NAHT-en), he was branded a heretic and anything connected with his reign was eradicated or destroyed.

Archaeologists complete excavation on Ohio River prehistoric site


In the United States, after nearly three years of digging, excavations have ended at the Leetsdale site in southwestern Pennsylvania. The deeply stratified site has revealed evidence of lifestyles and cultures from 8,000 years ago to about 2,000 years ago. The site is on land that began as a sandbar in the Ohio River, eventually became an island and then finally became part of the mainland. But because the location escaped agricultural plowing or other digging over the recent centuries of American settlement, archaeologists were able to expose a perfectly preserved sequence of prehistoric layers. Whenever the river flooded, soil was deposited over the surface, effectively sealing it and everything underneath. Archaeologists, geologists, botanists, and geophysicists were thus able to excavate what turned out to be a massive depository of preserved history. In many places the site was 16 to 18 feet deep. The layers clearly revealed the point at which the ancient inhabitants went from being hunters and gatherers to growing their own food. A common artifact in the site is stone chips from the production of stone arrowheads, spear points, and other tools. The site was discovered through an archaeological survey that was required as part of a federally funded project to replace a dam. Excavations began in fall of 2000 on the first of three sections of the site. While digging in one section of the site, archaeologists located soapstone discs that are not characteristic of southwestern Pennsylvania, suggesting that people from the eastern part of the state had migrated to the area. Also found in that part of the site was an 8-pound sandstone bowl that is about 3,000 years old. Researchers have determined that occupation of the site dates to the Early Woodland periods, roughly 1,100 B.C. to A.D. 200, and the Archaic periods, about 6,000 B.C. to 1,100 B.C. Exact times have not been pinpointed yet because testing has just begun on the soil samples extracted from each strata. The excavation will be backfilled and returned to industrial use this summer, as the analysis of the thousands of artifacts and vast amount of data begins. Plans for public education about the project by the Corps of Engineers, which funded it, include a detailed booklet to be published when the scientific research is complete.

Missing Iraqi antiquities found in secret bank vault


Our final story is an update from Iraq, where some of the items feared stolen from the Baghdad Museum have been found hidden away safely in a secret vault. According to the U.S.- led administration for Iraq, the 179 boxes in the vault contained some 8,000 pieces of the museum’s catalogued treasures, a substantial portion of the museum's holdings. Most of the missing items were from the research collection, however, rather than being part of the famous permanent displays. U.S. investigators on the special museum team say that about 3,000 items remain lost or stolen, much better than the initial estimates of up to 170,000. Another trove of priceless jewelry, the Treasure of Nimrud, was found in a flooded vault below Baghdad’s Central Bank. This hoard comprises hundreds of pieces from the ninth century B.C., which were found in the ancient royal tombs of the kingdom of Assyria. The Assyrian cache was found in the vaults below the gutted shell of the looted bank building after they were drained. U.S. investigators learned they were placed in the vault in the early 1990s, possibly to protect them during the 1991 Gulf War. Iraqi officials who served at the bank say they were never lost, it just took a bit of time to get at them because of the flooding. Many antiquities that were feared lost have now been discovered. Some were taken home by staff for safekeeping, and others had been hidden in the vault. The museum staff members were reluctant to reveal the existence of the vault in the early days following the U.S.-led takeover of Iraq. The failure of U.S. forces to prevent Baghdad Museum being plundered sparked a storm of protest around the world in April. The U.S. military said its men were initially too busy fighting in the streets around the museum to halt the looting. The U.S.-led administration said the Nimrud treasure seems to have come through the flooding of its hiding place in good condition. A team of experts from the British Museum will arrive soon to evaluate conservation needs. Despite the recovery of many of the museum's treasures, the investigators said 47 items from the main exhibition, the museum's most treasured pieces, have not been found.

That wraps up the news for this week!
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I'm Laura Pettigrew and I'll see you next week!