Audio News for September 27th to October 3rd

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I’m Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from September 27th to October 3rd.

Statue of Venus rises from German work


Our first story is from Germany, where a priceless statue of the Roman goddess Venus has been found bricked up in the walls of a Cologne sewer. Construction workers found the statue in a 16-foot shaft under the city's streets while carrying out repair work on the sewer that dates back to Roman times. They believe the statue was damaged when the city was destroyed in 355 AD and used as building material for the sewer wall when the city was recaptured and rebuilt a year later. All that remains of the Venus, made of valuable Italian Carrara marble, is her naked torso. There is no head or arms. The statue will go on display in a Cologne museum at the start of November once the remains have been cleaned up.

English art loss may be healed by technology


In England the search is on for something missing from the ornate church in one of Norfolk's most picture-perfect villages. Twelve stone apostles and a stone Jesus Christ were stripped from it during Henry VIII's Reformation, so folklore goes, and then thrown into the nearby harbor in a bout of religious fervor. Now the residents want them back and they are relying hi-tech methods to sniff them out. It will be a two-pronged attack, with a Norfolk-wide appeal for any archivists who have information on their whereabouts to come forward, and a top-rated geophysicist making use of his hi-tech equipment. There have been rumors in the village that the statues were hurled into the harbor, either during the Reformation, or during Oliver Cromwell's regime-- rumors that have been passed on generation to generation. Renowned Sculptor Colin Miller sits on the parochial church council, which has enlisted the services of St Andrews University geophysicist Dr Richard Bates, an expert in marine archaeology and a friend of one of the committee. Bates has promised to bring down his equipment and join in the search. But before he comes down all of the historical possibilities will be researched through historical documents. Miller stated, "After that the next thing is to ask the University of East Anglia to dig a trench where something has shown up, if anything does, in order for us to rescue it.

Greek dig is fruitful with fruit 2500 years old


In Greece, an archaeological dig has uncovered four pomegranates believed to be 2,500 years old preserved inside a woven basket nestled in a bronze vessel. The fruit was found at a dig in the area of ancient Corinth, about 63 miles west of Athens. "They were preserved because the vessel was closed very well," said the director of the dig. "The oxidization of the bronze functioned protectively, so no microorganisms developed and destroyed them." Archaeologists have been digging in a search for antiquities ahead of the construction of an area railroad line. Such digs are common before major construction projects. The pomegranates were placed in a special refrigerator for further study. Archaeologists would not allow the fruit to be photographed.

Rosetta Stone decoding may have begun in Arab world


In our final story, there could be a change in the most famous episode of code-breaking history. Using a piece of basalt carved with runes and words, 19th-century scholars broke the secret of hieroglyphs, the written 'language' of the ancient Egyptians. A baffling language had been made intelligible, and the secrets of one of the world's greatest civilizations revealed - thanks to the Rosetta Stone and European scholarship. But now, Western thinking has been challenged by a London researcher who claims that hieroglyphs had been decoded hundreds of years earlier - by an Arabic alchemist. 'It has taken years of painstaking research to prove this,' said Dr Okasha El Daly (oh-KOSH-ah el DAH-lee), at University College of London's Institute of Archaeology. 'I was convinced that Western scholars were not the first, and I have found evidence that shows Arabian scholars broke the code a thousand years ago.' The Rosetta Stone was found by French engineers during Napoleon's military campaign in Egypt. The stone bears a text repeated in Greek, Coptic and hieroglyphics, which required 23 years' work to be decoded. The task was achieved by a young scholar, Jean-Fran?is (ZHAHN frahn-SWAH) Champollion (CHAHM-pol-ee-OWN), in 1822. The key was when he realized hieroglyphs should not be read as symbols of ideas or objects, but as a phonetic script, each representing a syllable combining vowel and consonant sounds. But now it is claimed that Arabian scholars who, eight centuries earlier, had figured out that sounds were crucial to their decoding had beaten Champollion. An expert in both ancient Egypt and ancient Arabic scripts, El Daly spent seven years chasing down Arabic manuscripts in private collections around the world in a bid to find evidence that Arab scholars had unlocked the secrets of the hieroglyph. He eventually found it in the work of the ninth-century alchemist. El Daly said, 'I compared his studies with those of modern scholars and realized that he understood completely what hieroglyphs were saying.' He stressed that Muslim scholars had not simply been handed the secrets of hieroglyphs after Egypt was taken over by Islam. 'The secret of the hieroglyph was lost and then rediscovered by Arab scholars, who used diligent work to break their code, eight centuries before Champollion,' he said. 'These were people who possessed great astronomical and mathematical knowledge. Decoding hieroglyphs was just the kind of thing they would have been good at.'

That wraps up the news for this week!

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I’m Laura Kelley and I’ll see you next week!