Audio News for March 28th to April 3rd

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I’m Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from March 28th to April 3rd, 2005.

Neutron scan adds insight on Inca ritual burials

Original Headline: Nuclear Analysis Reveals Secrets Of Inca Burial Site


Our first story comes to us from high in the Andes, where researchers have applied a unique nuclear analytic technique to pottery found at an ancient burial site. They believe that the girl buried at this site was carried here from more than 600 miles away, in a ritual pilgrimage that could reveal some customs and ceremonies of the ancient Inca Empire. Scientists from Oregon State University wrote about their findings in the recent issue of the Journal of Anthropological Archaeology. In the Andes, sacrificial burial sites have been discovered since the early 1900s.  In one of them was the fully intact, frozen body of a girl who was sacrificed at age 15.  Archaeologists dubbed her "The Ice Maiden”. She was buried five centuries ago, along with some pottery vessels, in what appeared to be the ritual ceremony called "capacocha." Leah Minc coordinated the new research at Oregon State University's Radiation Center, where this latest examination of the pottery moved beyond comparison of style to call on very sensitive, high precision instrumental technology. The neutron activation analysis technique is a way to learn about raw materials in artifacts. According to Ms. Minc, the geochemical signature from the raw materials showed that the vessels were manufactured far away from the burial site, in the Inca capital. This offers new insights into the origins of the children who were sacrificed in such ceremonies. To carry out this type of analysis, scientists use samples of the pottery, from which they derive a series of radioisotopes and monitor their decay. The results show a pattern of characteristic trace elements, which scientists can then compare to those in artifacts from other regions, such as other pottery from central Peru and northern Chile. Neutron activation analysis is one of the advanced capabilities of the OSU Radiation Center's research reactor. Minc has helped OSU apply this technology to a number of archaeological problems. This approach, called "archaeometry," can help unlock mysteries, including the diet of prehistoric populations, from bone chemistry and the authentic or fake status of an "ancient" artifact. The technology has regularly been used for research in engineering, medicine, nutrition, forestry, and geology.

Missing Gospel of Judas finally to be translated

Original Headline: Gospel of Judas back in spotlight after 20 centuries


In Geneva, a Swiss foundation says it is translating for the first time the controversial text of the Gospel according to Judas, named after the apostle said to have betrayed Jesus Christ.  According to the Maecenas Foundation in Basel, the 62-page papyrus manuscript was uncovered in Egypt during the 1950s or 1960s, but its owners did not fully grasp its importance until recently.  The manuscript was written in the ancient dialect of Egypt's Coptic Christian community.  It will be translated into English, French and German in about a year.  The foundation's director, Mario Jean Roberty, said that carbon dating shows the text is older than previously thought.  It dates to sometime in the third century, or possibly as late as the early fourth. The existence of a Gospel of Judas, originally written in Greek, was confirmed by a second century bishop, Saint Irenaeus, when he wrote to denounce the text as heretical.  His comments are the only source proving that such a Gospel did exist. The Swiss group declined to say what account Judas is said to give in his alleged gospel. According to Christian tradition, Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus Christ by helping the Romans to find him before he was crucified.  The actual author of the text is unknown, however.  According to Roberty, no one can clearly show that Judas wrote it himself, as the other gospels probably were not written by their supposed authors, either.  The four recognized gospels of the New Testament are said to be from four of his disciples, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The Roman Catholic Church limited the recognized gospels to the four in A.D. 325.  After the manuscript is restored, the text is due to be translated and analyzed by a team of specialists in Coptic history led by a former professor at the University of Geneva, Rudolf Kasser.

Pennsylvania traces route of WWII era jailbreak

Original Headline: Archaeologists Seek Prison Break Site


In the United States, Pennsylvania archaeologists have successfully excavated the tunnel used in an infamous 1945 prison break at Eastern State Penitentiary.  In their own exploratory tunneling below the prison's hulking walls, they found a 1945 nickel, which posed the question: Could one of the 12 inmates who emerged from a carefully dug tunnel in the spring of that year have come up five cents short?  Workers stumbled upon the artifact about a foot below the ground, shortly before finding the tunnel where notorious bank robber Willie Sutton and 11 others emerged April 3, 1945.  While the coin was a great find, they eventually concluded it probably didn't belong to any of the escapees.  The now-closed historic prison is sponsoring the $30,000 dig.  Archaeologists were searching for evidence of the tunnel, tracing its path under a prison courtyard and into the cell of mastermind Clarence Klinedinst.  Klinedinst, a prison plaster worker who had access to plenty of tools, is believed to have done most of the work, along with cellmate William Russell, and covered up the entrance with a metal laundry basket nailed to the cell wall.  Sutton at one point tried to take credit for the daring escape, but historians believe that he simply heard about it through prison gossip and tagged along.  The tunnel, which took more than a year to dig, ran out of the cell, under the prison recreation area, and below a prison wall before popping up just past one of the prison's huge stone pillars.  Six of the convicts were captured less than three hours after escaping, while the rest were captured after a citywide manhunt was launched. Workers found the ash that prison officials used to fill the tunnel after the escape.  They searched for other artifacts and planned to use ground-penetrating radar to trace the tunnel's exact path through the prison courtyard.  Prison officials got the idea of tracing the escape path about a year ago, when some concrete on the ground of the prison's recreation area partially collapsed. One mystery that has never been resolved fully is what the inmates did with all the excavated earth. Klinedinst likely flushed much of the excavated dirt down the toilet at first, then found a way to start putting it directly into a sewer, project manager Rebecca Yamin said.  But officials have no way of finding out exactly where it all ended up.

Walls of Roman Empire may rise again

Original Headline: Hadrian’s Wall Could Link With Past Frontier


In our final story, an English heritage group is planning a new site called Frontiers of the Roman Empire.  The group has plans to resurrect the “frontiers” by joining Hadrian’s Wall with the chain of forts and walls across Europe in one large World Heritage Site.  Such a move could create a European rival to the Great Wall of China.  An Anglo-German bid will be considered by the World Heritage Committee in July to create the new heritage site.  Hadrian’s Wall already has world heritage status but has no links to the thousands of miles of ancient Roman boundary sites in countries like Austria, Slovakia and the Limes (“Leem”) defenses in Germany, about 300 miles of forts and ditches.  The Romans built Hadrian’s Wall and defenses across Europe almost 2,000 years ago to define the Empire and as a symbol of strength.  English Heritage officer Paul Austin, coordinator of Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site, stated that the old boundary stretches from the Solway Firth to Morocco and through 22 countries. It is hoped that stronger links with other sites will be built up and that each country will work together to develop their section of the wall. Other countries will take their lead from how Hadrian’s Wall has been developed and promoted.

That wraps up the news for this week!

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