Thursday, March 22, 2007

Egyptian-Spanish mission discovers flowers funerary items in Djehuty tomb


"An Egyptian-Spanish archaeological mission discovered Wednesday 21/3/2007 instruments, used in the funeral of Queen Hatshepsut (1502-1482 BC)'s chief of works in Thebes Djehuty, in Djehuty's tomb in Dar-Abul-Naga area in Luxor's West Bank," Al-Ahram reported.


Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) Dr. Zahi Hawwas said the new discovery includes 42 clay pots and 42 flower bouquets, which had been thrown into the deceased's tomb at the end of the funeral ceremony. This ritual is featured on a wall at Djehuty's burial chamber showing the family of the deceased, along with priests holding clay pot and flower bouquets. According to Dr. Hawwas, during the cleaning of the area in front of the tomb, archaeologists hit upon the remains of a six meter long wall that once made the tomb's facade.


Jose Gallan, head of the Spanish team said that during excavation works at the tomb's open court, a moderate wooden sarcophagus was found inside a small pit. It includes the bones of an unidentified woman that can be dated to the New Kingdom era.


Early studies on the bones reveal that they may go back to 500 years before the construction of Djehuty's tomb.


Gallan pointed out that neighboring the sarcophagus, the team also uncovered two burial sites filled with a number of 18th dynasty clay pots.



Why the Greeks could hear plays from the back row

An ancient theatre filters out low-frequency background noise.

Philip Ball

Published online: 23 March 2007


The wonderful acoustics for which the ancient Greek theatre of Epidaurus is renowned may come from exploiting complex acoustic physics, new research shows.


The theatre, discovered under a layer of earth on the Peloponnese peninsula in 1881 and excavated, has the classic semicircular shape of a Greek amphitheatre, with 34 rows of stone seats (to which the Romans added a further 21).


Its acoustics are extraordinary: a performer standing on the open-air stage can be heard in the back rows almost 60 metres away. Architects and archaeologists have long speculated about what makes the sound transmit so well.


Now Nico Declercq and Cindy Dekeyser of the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta say that the key is the arrangement of the stepped rows of seats. They calculate that this structure is perfectly shaped to act as an acoustic filter, suppressing low-frequency sound — the major component of background noise — while passing on the high frequencies of performers' voices1.


It's not clear whether this property comes from chance or design, Declercq says. But either way, he thinks that the Greeks and Romans appreciated that the acoustics at Epidaurus were something special, and copied them elsewhere.


In the first century BC the Roman authority on architecture, Vitruvius, implied that his predecessors knew very well how to design a theatre to emphasize the human voice. "By the rules of mathematics and the method of music," he wrote, "they sought to make the voices from the stage rise more clearly and sweetly to the spectators' ears... by the arrangement of theatres in accordance with the science of harmony, the ancients increased the power of the voice."


Later writers have speculated that the excellent acoustics of Epidaurus, built in the fourth century BC, might be due to the prevailing direction of the wind (which blows mainly from the stage to the audience), or might be a general effect of Greek theatre owing to the speech rhythms or the use of masks acting as loudspeakers. But none of this explains why a modern performer at Epidaurus, which is still sometimes used for performances, can be heard so well even on a windless day.


 The acoustic cut-off frequency is right where you would want it


Nico Declercq, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta


Declercq and Dekeyser suspected that the answer might be connected to the way sound reflects off corrugated surfaces. It has been known for several years now that these can filter sound waves to emphasize certain frequencies, just as microscopic corrugations on a butterfly wing reflect particular wavelengths of light. The sound-suppressing pads of ridged foam that can plastered on the walls of noisy rooms also take advantage of this effect.


Declercq has shown previously that the stepped surface of a Mayan ziggurat in Mexico can make handclaps or footsteps sound like bird chirps or rainfall (see 'Mystery of 'chirping' pyramid decoded'). Now he and Dekeyser have calculated how the rows of stone benches at Epidaurus affect sound bouncing off them, and find that frequencies lower than 500 hertz are more damped than higher ones.


"Most of the noise produced in and around the theatre was probably low-frequency noise," the researchers say: rustling trees and murmuring theatre-goers, for instance. So filtering out the low frequencies improves the audibility of the performers' voices, which are rich in higher frequencies, at the expense of the noise. "The cut-off frequency is right where you would want it if you wanted to remove noise coming from sources that were there in ancient times," says Declercq.


Declercq cautions that the presence of a seated audience would alter the effect, however, in ways that are hard to gauge. "For human beings the calculations would be very difficult because the human body is not homogeneous and has a very complicated shape," he says.


Filtering out the low frequencies means that these are less audible in the spoken voice as well as in background noise. But that needn't be a problem, because the human auditory system can 'put back' some of the missing low frequencies in high-frequency sound.


"There is a neurological phenomenon called virtual pitch that enables the human brain to reconstruct a sound source even in the absence of the lower tones," Declercq says. "This effect causes small loudspeakers to produce apparently better sound quality than you'd expect."


Although many modern theatres improve audibility with loudspeakers, Declercq says that the filtering idea might still be relevant: "In certain situations such as sports stadiums or open-air theatres, I believe the right choice of the seat row periodicity or of the steps underneath the chairs may be important."



Turning back time to York 1300

By Press reporter


RESEARCHERS from York Archaeological Trust have identified a remarkable artefact which shows that in 1300, York was at the forefront of science and engineering.


The object, a small circular copper-alloy disc, was discovered during excavations on the site of the former York College For Girls in Low Petergate.


It has been cleaned to reveal an abbreviated Latin inscription around its edge - SIGNUM ROBERTI HOROLOGIARII - which translates as "The seal of Robert the clockmaker".


What makes the discovery exceptional is the fact that early historical records indicate that the first clocks prevailed at a number of major English churches only a few years before the seal was made, with York previously notable for its absence from this list - until now.


Experts say it is likely that Robert the clockmaker was engaged on works in York in 1300 with the most likely venue for his skills being York Minster, although the first references to a clock there do not appear in the surviving documents until much later.


Dr Richard Hall, director of Archaeology at York Archaeological Trust, said: "This is one of the most interesting single objects that we have found for some time. We are still trying to find out more about it - for example, we haven't yet managed to read the last part of the inscription, which should tell us where Robert came from. It opens up a new insight into the sounds and wonders of medieval York."


More information on the excavations can be found on York Archaeological Trust's website at www.yorkarchaeology.co.uk


8:09am Friday 23rd March 2007



Castle reveals secrets after 900 years

Mar 24 2007

Rin Simpson, Western Mail


AN ancient castle which has been off limits to the public since it was built in 1088 is about to reveal its secrets for the first time.


Aberlleiniog Castle, located on the south east corner of Anglesey, has been witness to a long and fascinating series of owners and events.


The little-known castle has been the site of a murder mystery, love triangles and even fatal duels, but few people are aware of its significance and no one has been allowed to visit for almost a thousand years.


All that is now set to change thanks to a £317,500 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.


The money will fund crucial restoration work of the castle masonry and strengthen the fabric of the castle mound to preserve its historic features and, through improved access, will ensure it remains a well-preserved focal point for the community for years to come.


Aberlleiniog Castle holds an important place in Welsh history.


A site of conflict between Anglo-Norman colonists and the indigenous Welsh Princes, it was built by Hugh of Avraches, Earl of Chester, after his victory over Gruffydd ap Cynan, King of Gwynedd.


Later it was also significant in the struggle between local families which characterised the Civil War in mid 17th century Anglesey.


The castle remained privately owned from the 11th century until 2004 when Menter M n, the Rural Development Agency for Anglesey, purchased the castle and the 26 acres of adjoining land to give ownership to the people of Anglesey.


The funding will ensure this significant archaeological resource, which holds vital information about Anglo-Norman structures, will be secured for future generations. Recent work has discovered that a fourth tower has already collapsed completely and two of the remaining towers would almost certainly be lost if this essential maintenance work is not carried out.


Jennifer Stewart, Heritage Lottery Fund manager for Wales, said, "Wales' many castles are a key element of our heritage and help to make Wales unique.


"This latest project will secure the future of a castle that is steeped in history but largely unknown outside of the local area.


"Menter M n can now share its fascinating story not only with the local people of Anglesey but across the world. Castles are a big attraction for European and American visitors to Wales and Aberlleiniog will be no exception.


"Once restoration is complete Aberlleiniog Castle will undoubtedly give the area's tourism a boost providing the perfect setting for a rural day out where families can learn about our past while exploring our natural heritage."


The grant will also support the employment of a two-year community coordinator to encourage local people to get involved in the project as volunteers on the site or to assist in the creation of a interpretation panel and leaflet.


The castle is located in ancient woodland in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that is the perfect habitat for birds, insects and bats, so volunteers will undergo training on how to manage the biodiversity of the site, which Menter M n hopes will achieve Local Nature Reserve status.


Neil Johnstone, an archaeologist and Menter Mon project leader, said, "This is without doubt a very important archaeological site and we are totally focused on increasing interest in promoting the island's heritage."


The untold story of Aberlleiniog Castle


Aberlleiniog Castle was built by Hugh d'Avranches, Earl of Chester, pictured, at the time when Gruffydd ap Cynan was ruler of Gwynedd. When Gruffydd escaped imprisonment at Chester and raised an army, the castle was captured and burnt to the ground.


Sometime later a stone-built castle was constructed on the site, probably by a colourful 17th century character called Thomas Cheadle.


Cheadle, who worked for the Bulkeleys of Baron Hill, had a relationship with Sir Richard Bulkeley's wife. Lady Ann and Cheadle were accused of Sir Richard's murder, but were cleared and later married.


Cheadle professed to be on the side of the Royalists in the Civil War and held the post of Constable of Beaumaris Castle.


But his loyalty appears to have been questionable and he was accused of negotiating to hand the castle over to the Parliamentarians.


Some years later the sons of both Bulkeley and Cheadle fought a duel in which Bulkeley was killed. Cheadle was tried for murder, found guilty and executed by public hanging in Chester.



Norman House find


Contractors working on the £12 million revamp of Shrewsbury’s Music Hall have made a startling discovery after uncovering a Norman house within its structure.


An archaeological evaluation of the site has revealed that Vaughan’s Mansion, which was originally thought to date back to Tudor times, is actually a defensive house which could be 800 years old.


Councillor Charles Armstrong, portfolio holder for leisure, said the Music Hall was a “time capsule of history” and said the shock discovery would lead to the Mansion becoming a key focal point for the whole scheme.


Dominic Wallace, partnerships and development manager at Shrewsbury and Atcham Borough Council, said part of the house was uncovered following digs at the site.


He said: “The Music Hall is eight buildings wedged into a 2,500 sq ft footprint in the town centre.

“Located inside this foot print is what was believed to be a Tudor manor house but what we have discovered during phase two of the project is that it is actually significantly older.


“Archaeological studies have revealed Vaughan’s Mansion was registered in 1300 but we believe it would have been built in the 1200s as a Norman defensive house, of which there are only a handful in the country.

“The building has a first floor and retraceable stairs and the proposal now is to return Vaughan’s Mansion partly to its original state.”


Mr Wallace said the team was investigating the viability of ripping out the boiler house and toilet block next to the Mansion so the house could be fully exposed to the public along with a neighbouring courtyard.


He said: “The house could be even more Norman than the Castle because of all the repair work carried out to it. This could well be the oldest bit of kit we have in the town and we didn’t even know about it.”


Mary White, museums manager for SABC, said: “In terms of its structure this is a very exciting dis




Viking woman had roots near the Black Sea

The bones of one of the women found in one of Norway's most famous Viking graves suggest her ancestors came from the area around the Black Sea.

Related stories:


The woman herself was "Norwegian," claims Professor Per Holck at the University of Oslo, who has conducted analyses of DNA material taken from her bones.


But Holck says that while she came from the area that today is Norway, her forefathers may have lived n the Black Sea region.


Holck, attached to the anthropological division of the university's anatomy institute (Anatomisk institutt), isn't willing to reveal more details pending publication of an article in the British magazine "European Archaeology" later this year.


He told newspaper Aftenposten, though, that he's recommending the woman's bones be retrieved for further study. They were first found in 1904, when the Oseberg Viking ship was excavated, and analysed by the university.


The analysis data was withheld, however, and the woman's remains were returned to the Oseberg burial mound in 1947. Holck has only worked with the DNA extracted at the time, and he thinks they should be reexamined.


He worries, however, that her bones may have been damaged during the past 60 years. If the remains are intact, he said, it would probably be possible to take more DNA tests that could reveal more about the woman and another female's bones also extracted from the Oseberg site.



Spain, Britain to dive for treasure on 1694 wreck

Fri Mar 23, 2007 10:20PM GMT


MADRID (Reuters) - Three hundred years after the British warship Sussex sank in a storm off southern Spain, researchers are preparing to dive to the site to see if it was carrying a fortune in gold coins.


Spain and Britain said on Friday they had agreed to start underwater exploration to find the ship that sank near Gibraltar in 1694. Any treasure will be claimed by Britain, the Spanish foreign ministry said in a statement.


According to the Council for British Archaeology's (CBA) website, the Sussex was taking money to the Duke of Savoy in Italy in exchange for his help in the war against French King Louis XIV.


It says the booty could now be worth hundreds of millions of dollars (pounds).


The CBA has criticised a deal Britain has done with Florida-based salvage company Odyssey Marine Exploration, which will run the dives under which Odyssey will receive a share of whatever is found on the wreck.