Audio News for March 7th to March 13th

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I’m Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from March 7th to March 13th, 2005.

Ancient Gallic burial beneath Geneva cathedral 
Original Headline: Ancient skeleton found under Geneva cathedral

Our first story is from Geneva, Switzerland, where a skeleton of a Gaul more than 2,100 years old was discovered under Geneva's St Peter's cathedral. The body of a man aged about 45, buried at around 120 BC, was found 30 feet under the church, and is believed to be that of a military or religious dignitary from the Allobroges (ulo'brujez) tribe. Only the legs, pelvis, arms and half of the lower spinal cord have been exposed, as large heavy rocks covered the rest of the body. Charles Bonnet, the archeologist who is known for having found the statues of the black pharaohs in Sudan in 2003, made the discovery. The Allobroges were a Gallic tribe that occupied the region more than 2 000 years ago. The Romans who took control of most of the Rhone valley defeated them. The deceased seems to have been the object of a cult during the centuries that followed his death. There was evidence of a strange cavity dug under his head as well as the remains of burnt branches, which may have been used during ritual ceremonies. Visitors to the cathedral have access to the building's foundations, where they can see what remains of the earlier structures on the site before the current cathedral was erected in the 12th century.

Archaeologists expose large section of Mayan city
Original Headline: Experts Uncover Ancient Mayan Remains

In Honduras, researchers working at the Copan [kopän'] archaeological site in the western region unearthed the 1,450-year-old remains of 69 people and 30 previously undiscovered ancient Mayan buildings. Copan flourished between AD 250 and 900, part of an immense Mayan empire which expanded over parts of modern-day Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. The site was eventually abandoned, due in part to overpopulation. Seiichi Nakamura, one of a team of Japanese scientists working alongside Honduran counterparts, said the human remains likely belong to people who inhabited Copan around 550. Nakamura stated that offerings have been discovered in and around the sites where the bones were buried. Artifacts found near the remains of a 12-year-old child were among the richest ever discovered in Copan, experts theorize that the youngster was likely an important member of Mayan society. The first European report of Copan is believed to be that of Diego Garcia de Palacios, a representative of Spain's King Felipe II. On March 8, 1576, he wrote to the crown with news of the archaeological site. Accounts published by U.S. explorers John L. Stephens and Frederick Catherwood made the site an international phenomenon in the 1840s. Once a thriving commercial center, Copan is thought to have been settled by the ancient Maya in around 1200 B.C.

Chariot of the Scot
Original Headline: Chariot find is a victory for Scots

Our next story is from England where new archaeological evidence is suggesting that the first national leader of the British Isles was a Scot. The remains of a mysterious figure found in an Iron Age chariot burial under a motorway, was of "extraordinary significance" according to archaeologists, who have also unearthed the leftovers of one of Britain's biggest feasts at his funeral site in Yorkshire. Decorated with jewelry and fine harness and chariot gear, the 2,400-year-old grave is thought to have been a rallying-point for Britain's tribes 500 years later when the Romans moved north. According to Angela Boyle of Oxford Archaeology there is so much more to find out from an excavation full of surprises. The slender man, who was in his 30s or 40s was 5ft 9in tall with excellent teeth. He was initially thought to be a local warrior. High levels of strontium in his bones show that he was not from Yorkshire, but more than likely from the Scottish highlands. Ms Boyle said that the delicate iron wheels, jewelry and bones were in "an unparalleled state of preservation" and more discoveries are expected. Chariot burials are unique to the middle Iron Age (500-100BC) and only 19 others have been found in Britain; all of them in Yorkshire apart from one near Edinburgh.

Osiris shrine under Swiss restoration

Original Headline: Swiss help restore Egyptian tomb

In our final story, Swiss experts in Egypt are helping restore the Osireion, which is crumbling away with time. The 4,500-year-old Osireion was a place of pilgrimage for the ancient Egyptians, who went there to worship King Osiris who they believed was buried there. Theo Abt, who lectures at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, says that despite the tomb’s importance, the site has been allowed to fall into a "shocking" state of decay. It was Abt who came up with the idea for the restoration project involving geologists and construction engineers from universities and technical colleges in canton Bern. The tomb of Osiris is in the Nile Valley, around 350 miles south of Cairo and 70 miles north of Luxor. The site is as wide as a football field, almost twice as long and divided into numerous chambers. An important part of the site is a subterranean chamber that connects with the river Nile. Within it is a kind of island, which was flooded when the Nile waters rose. The island was meant to symbolize life, which no flood can totally wipe out. Water traditionally played an important part in ancient Egyptian worship, but has now become part of the tomb’s problem. The island is no longer periodically flooded; it is constantly under water. The stones are steadily disintegrating because the heat of the sun causes water to rise up through the stones and evaporate, leaving behind salts which crystallize. Students at the technical college of architecture, construction and wood in the town of Burgdorf have come up with four separate proposals for the site, which would at the very least prevent any further deterioration. Their preferred option would ensure the long-term preservation of the monument. It entails the removal of all the stones, sealing of the floor and replacement of some stones. The tomb would then be rebuilt exactly as before. The aim is to remain as true as possible to the original and allow public access to the memorial. The periodic flooding of the tomb, which was part of the original design, would be a feature of the rebuilt tomb too. It is up to the Egyptian authorities to decide which of the proposals is adopted.
That wraps up the news for this week!
For more stories and daily news updates, visit Archaeologica on the World Wide Web at , where all the news is history!I’m Laura Kelley and I’ll see you next week!