Audio News for March 22nd to March 28th.

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I’m Laura Pettigrew and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from March 22nd to March 28th.

Egypt unveils restored Ramses VI sarcophagus

Our first story is from Egypt, where the restored sarcophagus of Pharaoh Ramses VI is now back on display in the tomb where ancient robbers had smashed it into pieces. Ten American, Canadian and Egyptian experts worked for two years on the sarcophagus reconstruction. The U.S. Agency for International Development funded the work. The sarcophagus was pieced together from 250 fragments likely broken and scattered in the pharaoh's tomb by ancient tomb robbers, reconstruction experts said. The sarcophagus is carved from a single block of green conglomerate to resemble a mummy. The restored lid shows a face with wide-set eyes and full lips, and crossed hands holding royal scepters. Much of the lid is missing, and some fragments on the sides are supported with steel rods. Only the face is a replica. The original face is on display at the British Museum. The tomb of Ramses VI is one of the largest in the Valley of the Kings, the ancient royal burial ground for Egypt's pharaohs. Ramses VI ruled about 3,100 years ago.  Also unveiled were the statues of Amenhotep III, who ruled around 1372 BC, and his wife, Queen Tiye. The statues were partly buried in Nile silt and a pool of water near the Temple of Memnon. The 10-foot statue of Queen Tiye shows her wearing a wig and a long dress and holding a floral whisk and papyrus, which were royal symbols. Egyptian and German archaeologists also showed off newly excavated sites of a mortuary temple of Seti I in Qurna, on the west bank of the Nile. The temple, built about 1250 B.C., was dedicated to the god Amun-Re. It was built for Seti's father, Ramses I, who ruled for only two years. Seti’s son, Ramses II, completed the temple.

Carbon dating confirms early Illinois occupation

In the United States, an archaeologist, Steven Tieken, spent five years carefully excavating material from a 30- by 60-foot patch of ground near Lima (LYE-ma) Lake in western Illinois. For the first time, he has scientific evidence to back up his contention that the site was occupied nearly 2,000 years ago by a Middle Woodland culture, in the results of carbon-14 dating performed by scientists at the University of Illinois. Tests conducted on material taken from two trash pits at the Lima (LYE-ma) Lake site showed one pit dates back to AD 78 and the other to AD 540. The Middle Woodland period lasted from 200 B.C. to AD 300, while the Late Woodland period went from AD 300 to 550. Tieken said the test results are significant because they identify a minimum range of dates that the site was occupied by a small band of Native Americans who lived off the land by hunting, fishing and gathering nuts and other natural foods, unusual for this area. The site is near the mouth of a creek that empties into the Mississippi River. Tieken started digging at the Lima (LYE-ma) Lake location in 1996 and excavated there until 2000.  While fending off vandals who periodically looted parts of the site, he meticulously catalogued every artifact he found, including various bone and stone tools, arrowheads, spear points and elaborate pottery. His most significant find was a rare Hopewell ceramic fertility figurine estimated to date back to about AD 150.

Israel fears First Temple relic may be forged

In Israel, antiquities authority officials now fear a First Temple treasure, an ivory pomegranate belonging to the High Priest, may be a fake. On the basis of an inscription it had been dated from the period of the First Temple, around the10th century BC.  However, it is information on the origin of the inscription that has raised doubts about the authenticity of the item.  Authorities so far have refused to reveal the nature of this information. The inscription, as pieced together by archaeologists, is translated as "Belonging to the Temple of Yahweh, holy to the priests." The expert who confirmed the authenticity of the inscription is Andre Lemaire, who also asserted the authenticity of the "James Ossuary," with its inscription referencing the brother of Jesus - which proved to have been a forgery. The Ivory Pomegranate has been on display in the Israel Museum since 1988. The sum spent on its purchase, along with the circumstances of its finding, resulted in severe criticism at the time of its acquisition. The director at that time of the Israel Antiquities Authority, who authorized the purchase, was accused of encouraging antiquities theft. The museum argued, however, that the find is unique. Now, the current director of the Israel Antiquities Authority has asked the Israel Museum to deliver the item for examinations by experts of the Antiquities Authority. Sources at the Israel Museum expressed confidence that the item's authenticity will be proved. The Pomegranate is the final and most important of a number of items whose authenticity has been called into question by the Antiquities Authority. The investigation into suspected forged antiquities began following the discovery of the item known as the "Yehoash Inscription." Subsequently dozens of forged items have been discovered. It is not believed that the forgers of these items had anything to do with the Ivory Pomegranate.  Members of the Antiquities Authority assigned to protecting antiquities from thieves and officers from the Jerusalem District Fraud Squad, are handling the investigation. According to the investigators, for the past 15 years a group of forgers has been identified as running a "factory" for forgeries. The investigators maintain that at the center of the ring is the collector Oded Golan, the owner of the "James Ossuary" and the "Yehoash Inscription." One of the common denominators of all the items, investigators say, is that they were presented as originating from the First and Second Temple periods.

Nelson's beloved ship found in its South Atlantic tomb


Our final story is from just off the coast of Uruguay, where Admiral Horatio Nelson’s favorite ship has been found. International treasure divers said yesterday that they had found HMS Agamemnon, a 64-gun vessel, which was the pride of Britain’s naval fleet when it went down in 1809. Plans are now being made to lift the ship from its watery grave following the multi-million-dollar deep-sea exploration. Ten years after having found a single cannon buried in the shifting sands and dangerous currents that separate Uruguay and Brazil, the divers have now found the Agamemnon’ s final resting place and two more cannons. The Agamemnon fought in the battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and sailed the globe, wreaking havoc on Britain’s enemies off every continent, for more than 20 years. Nelson loved the vessel, which he described as highly responsive. It was built by master shipbuilder Henry Adams in 1777. Divers risked their lives to raise one cannon from the depths last week. It will take five years to prove conclusively the provenience of the cannon, because it has to be taken to a specialist laboratory for expert cleaning and preservation. It has the date 1787 stamped on it, and the letters AB. They are clues that the maritime detectives will follow up.  It is not clear what will be the ultimate disposition of the ship and its contents.

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