Audio News for May 10th to May 16th.

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I’m
Laura Pettigrew and these are the headlines in
archaeological and historical news from May 10th to
May 16th.

Irish find of wooden musical pipes has archaeologists dancing with delight


Our first story is from Ireland, where
archaeologists are elated after discovering a set of musical pipes believed to have been used 4,000 years
ago. The six wooden pipes, which are not joined, were discovered during excavations at the site of a proposed housing development near a coastal town
south of Dublin. Well-preserved by the constant dampness at the site, these are considered to be the
world's oldest wooden instruments. The hollow pipes, measuring between 12 inches and 20 inches long are
tapered at one end but have no perforations or finger holes. Experts have been able to play a
series of notes, including E flat, A flat and F natural, on the yew wood pipes. The pipes were
discovered in the bottom of a wood-lined trough. A wooden peg used in the construction of the trough
has been radiocarbon dated to between 2,120 BC and 2,085 BC. A number of prehistoric musical
instruments made from bone, including simple flutes and whistles dating back more than 100,000 years,
have already been uncovered in Ireland.

Laser scans will create 3-D model for Civil War gunboat conservation


In the United States, experts are mapping the Civil War ironclad USS Monitor’s turret and steam engine
using advanced laser-scanning equipment. The documentation is part of the ongoing treatment
process for these and hundreds of other USS Monitor artifacts undergoing conservation at The Mariners’
Museum. The process is expected to take a week and will provide a 3-D image of the turret and steam
engine as they are right now. Detailed documentation of these large complex components of the Monitor is
required before disassembly for conservation. Once complete, the data will then be translated into a
3-D model of each artifact. This type of mapping will need to be performed a few more times
throughout the conservation process. The steam engine is expected to take 10 years to conserve and
the turret is expected to take 20 years. In 1862, the Civil War ironclad, USS Monitor sank in
turbulent waters off the coast of North Carolina. Almost 100 years later, scientists discovered the
wreck, which became the nation’s first national marine sanctuary in 1975.

Iron Age tool reveals early development of steel


In Holland, a tiny Iron Age tool is one of the oldest objects unearthed in Europe made from the
alloy steel. The 2 1/2 inch punch or nail has a carbon content (2%) rarely seen in iron-based
objects from the region at the time. Made in the 4th century AD, the tool was probably made using the
process of furnace smelting. The first production of iron, like other pure metals, is imagined to have
occurred through observing ore-containing rocks in a campfire. At some stage, humans learned how to
improve the quality of basic iron by raising temperatures, reducing impurities and controlling
the content of carbon – eventually making the far more resilient alloy known as steel (which generally
has a carbon content of less than 2%). The origins of ultra-high carbon steel production are
traditionally thought to lie in Asia. In India, the production of a type of cast iron known as crucible
steel can be traced to the 3rd Century BC.  And Romans were demonstrating knowledge of cast iron
manufacture by the 5th or 6th Centuries AD. But the 4th Century AD steel punch is the first solid
evidence of an indigenous steel-making tradition in northern Europe. Experts suggest that the steel
punch was not made using iron casting, but with the traditional "bloomery" furnace smelting process used
throughout Iron Age Europe. The punch's 2% carbon content is at the limit of what can be produced using the furnace smelting process. During the 4th
Century AD, a Germanic-speaking tribe known as the Salian (SAY-lee-yun) Franks were the occupants of
the region. The Frankish tribes of modern Europe would later give their name to the country of France.

Ancient cipher challenge handed to famed Enigma decoders


Our final story is from the United Kingdom, where the experts who cracked Germany's secret codes in
World War II are tackling a 10-letter enigma that has stumped researchers for more than 250 years.
Former code-breakers from Britain's World War II intelligence center at Bletchley Park set out this
week to decipher a cryptic inscription on a mysterious 18th-century marble monument at an
English country estate. Some believe it is a private message to a deceased beloved. Legend says it
reveals the location of the Holy Grail. No one knows for sure; 85-year old Oliver Lawn, a Bletchley Park
veteran who is leading the quest along with his linguist wife, Sheila, believes the solution to the
inscription must start with understanding its classical origins. The Latin or Greek cipher is
carved below a depiction of three shepherds taken from a painting by French artist Nicholas Poussin
(poo-SANN). The shepherds point at an inscription on a tomb that reads "Et in arcadia ego" (ET in
ar-CAY-dee-ah EGG-oh), which literally means "I, too, am in Arcadia." Below the image is a line of
letters -- O.U.O.S.V.A.V.V -- and beneath that on either end, the letters D and M.  The challenge is
to guess the abbreviated words in the context of the quote and the carefully modified picture. Some
believe the monument may be the key to finding the Holy Grail. The ancestral earls of Litchfield, who
built the estate in the 17th century, had a long-standing interest in the Knights Templar, a
secretive medieval order who claimed to be guardians of the grail. The fact that Poussin's (poo-SAN’S)
painting is carved as a mirror-image, in reverse, may be one clue to the riddle. The Director at
Bletchley Park, however, noted some other possibilities the codebreakers have to consider. One
is that the letters are meaningless, scratched on the monument to tease future generations. The other
was they are not the message itself but the key to another message elsewhere. Even the construction of
the monument, and its location in the rolling landscaped grounds of the Staffordshire estate, may
be significant. Christine Large, current director of the Bletchley Park Center, believes that language
mapping techniques and thinking with an open mind are the keys. She wants visitors to Bletchley Park
to assist. The famous codebreaker shop plans to use visual displays and code and cipher workshops to
expose the problem to as wide an age range as possible with all sorts of different backgrounds, in
the hope that one will come up with the clue. It is estimated that work carried out at The National
Codes Centre at Bletchley Park helped to shorten the Second World War by two years. The famous Enigma
decoding machine that solved the German ciphers is most associated with the brilliant mathematician
Alan Turing, who died shortly after the war.

That wraps up the news for this week!
For more stories and daily news updates, visit
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I’m Laura Pettigrew and I’ll see you next week!