Audio News for February 7th to February 13th

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I’m Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from February 7th to February13th, 2005.

Original Headline: Tsunami throws up India relics
New Headline: Tsunami disaster reveals ancient Indian artifacts


Our first story is from India, where the deadly tsunamis that crashed into the southern coastal areas have unearthed priceless relics, including an ancient port city and two granite lions.  A team from the Archaeological Survey of India descended on the ancient seaport of Mahabalipuram to examine the "gifts" left after the tsunami waters had re-drawn the entire coastline.  Archaeologists discovered the remnants of a stone house and a half-completed rock elephant. There are also two giant granite lions, one seated and another poised to attack. The statues are each carved out of a single piece of granite stone, testifying to the carver's skill. The archaeologists believe that these
could be the remains of an ancient and once-flourishing port city in the area.  These lions are located near a famous 1200-year-old rock-hewn temple and bear the same elaborate engravings as those found in the temple.  The myths of Mahabalipuram were first set down in writing by British traveler J Goldingham, who visited the South Indian coastal town in 1798.  The myths speak of six temples submerged beneath the waves and the seventh temple still standing on the seashore.  The myths also state that a large city, which once stood on the site, was so beautiful the gods became jealous and sent a flood that swallowed it up entirely in a single day. The objects were uncovered when the towering waves withdrew from the beach, carrying huge amounts of sand and silt with them.

Original Headline: Millionaire to fund dig for lost Roman library
New Headline: Computer mogul keeps search alive for Roman library


A former classics scholar in California has stepped forward to fund excavations at the ancient city of Herculaneum.  Researchers believe a Roman library lies buried beneath 90 ft of lava from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79.  David W. Packard, whose family helped found the Hewlett-Packard corporation, is concerned that the site may be poorly preserved or that excavation of the library may not continue unless he underwrites the work.  Packard is directing the money from Packard Humanities Institute.  To date the Institute has spent around $2 million dollars, much of it on conservation work.  Some in academic circle have expressed concern that the already excavated parts of the Roman city are falling into disrepair and that there are no plans for excavating the Villa of the Papyri.  The building, which contains the library, once belonged to Julius Caesar’s father-in-law.  The villa is regarded as one of the most important unexcavated sites in Italy.  Previous exploratory digs unearthed 1,800 charred manuscripts, many of them unknown or known only through references in other works.  The scrolls were originally stored in crates, and it appears that slaves were removing them from the libraries when they were inundated with ash from the eruption.  Although they appeared to be in a poor state, scientists at Oxford University have been able to read the documents after subjecting them to imaging techniques.  Thousands more scrolls are thought to remain in the building and theses may include lost works by Aristotle, Livy and Sappho.  Packard runs the Packard Humanities Institute, which supports archeological work in Bosnia, Albania and other countries.

Original Headline: Canadian resort in court over burial site
New Headline: Hotel renovations may have destroyed a part of aboriginal history in Canada


In British Columbia, Canada, a resort on South Pender Island has been charged with illegally damaging an ancient aboriginal burial site two years ago during renovation and expansion.  Poets Cove Seaside Resort faces two charges under the rarely used B.C. Heritage Conservation Act. Developer Bill James and the two companies that own Poets Cove are charged with unlawfully damaging a burial place that has historical or archeological value as well as for excavating a
site which contained materials or other physical evidence of human habitation or use before 1846. These charges stem from provincial law that is supposed to protect archaeological sites.  Rob Morales is a lawyer and chief negotiator, which represents aboriginal or native Indian groups in the action.  He said he and others went to South Pender Island about two years ago after an elder heard that a large aboriginal midden had been disturbed. A midden is an ancient refuse heap, where aboriginal tools and other artifacts are often found.  Morales alleged that midden materials were removed to make way for a new pool, and then used for a roadbed.  If a judge convicts a company of violating the B.C. Heritage Conservation Act, that company is subject to a maximum fine of $1 million.  An individual faces a maximum fine of $50,000 or two years in prison.  Two years ago, when the aboriginal group publicly complained that an ancient village and burial site had been destroyed, James said the company had satisfied every government agency, even to the point of hiring an archeologist.

Original Headline: Large Tibetan religious site discovered in Sichuan
New Headline: Possible Tibetan religious site belonging to heroic King Gesser found in China


Our final story is from China's Sichuan Province, where archaeologists recently have discovered a large Tibetan religious site.  Because of its remote location, the site is well protected, according to Shi Shuo, a professor on Tibetan culture in Sichuan University, who discovered the site.  The site, which is 220 feet long, 140 feet wide and 45 feet high at the center, has been carefully studied and authenticated by the Sichuan Provincial Relics and Archaeology Institute.  Walls measuring 27 feet, dotted with 383 stone Buddha shrines, surrounded the site.  Inside were huge piles of Buddha sculptures and stones engraved with Buddhist sutras.  Locals believed the site was related to King Gesser, a Tibetan hero whose exploits have been handed down in songs and stories for eight centuries among the Tibetan people.  Some legends say the site was built to pay regard to Gesser's spirit and some believed it was used to memorialize the deceased soldiers who died fighting alongside Gesser at a nearby battlefield.  Judging from the Tibetan and Sanskrit sutras on the stones, the site might date to the 11th or 12th century. The director of Sichuan Provincial Relics and Archaeology Institute called the site a stone sculpture museum.  Rocks with engraved sutras are linked to Tibetan Buddhism and also relate to the local worship of rocks.  The sculptures and sutra stones are thought to bear the wishes of believers.

That wraps up the news for this week!

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