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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (12/2003) Headlines (11/2003) Headlines (01/2004)   Vol. 37 December 2003 
Treasure In The Headlines
As seen in the December 2003 edition of W&ET Magazine


Stonehenge, the mysterious ring of ancient monoliths from the dawn of Britain's proud civilization, could be the work of a central European immigrant, archaeologists said recently.

An early Bronze Age archer, whose grave was discovered near the stone circle last year, may have helped build the monument. And tests on the chemical components of his tooth enamel showed he grew up in the region that is now Switzerland.

The archer "would have been a very important person in the Stonehenge area," said Andrew Fitzpatrick, Wessex Archaeology's project manager in charge of Stonehenge. "It is fascinating to think that someone from abroad- probably modern-day Switzerland- could have played an important part in the construction of Britain's most famous archaeological site."

From The Oak Ridger, submitted by John H. Wadsworth, Oak Ridge, TN.


This is no ordinary map. At 36 square feet and nearly 500 years old, it is the earliest known map of the world that features the name "America," and it made its national debut recently at the Library of Congress.

The 12-panel creation by Martin Waldseemuller cost the library $10 million, paid over several years. The funding came from private and corporate donors and from Congress, which granted $5 million toward the purchase in 2001. It is the single priciest acquisition in the library's exhibition office.

The black-and-white woodcut print map is the only known surviving copy of 1,000 prints made in 1507, according to the library. Its former home was the castle of Prince Johannes Waldburg-Wolfegg in southwest Germany, where it was rediscovered in 1901.

The map belonged to the prince and his heirs for 350 years and was considered a German national treasure. The government there granted permission for its sale.

"I think it was worth it," said Bette Gordon, a docent at the library who viewed the map, part of the library's new Lewis and Clark exhibit.

Waldseemuller, a German geographer, was the first to label the continent America, honoring the discoveries of Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci. Vespucci correctly identified America as a continent, bounded by two distinct oceans, while Columbus envisioned the region as islands adjacent to Asia.

A portrait of Vespucci, compass in hand, is at the top of the map. The map's kidney-shaped world includes a recognizable Africa, Europe and Asia, complete with cities and major rivers, and an elongated and slightly curved sliver for North and South America. The label "AMERICA" appears approximately where Brazil now is.

"It looks a little off," complained one passerby. Kris Kamm, who was visiting the library with her family, agreed. "They said on the news it was an amazingly accurate representation of South America; that wouldn't be my first impression," she said.

To some visitors, however, the map's value lay not in Waldseemuller's precision, but rather his imagination. "It's the first visible evidence of anybody even imagining a fourth continent," Chambers said. "Once you place something like that on a document, all the rest of the exploration and imaginings of journeymen and writers can take place."

The map, a drawing of a world twice as big as ever before conceived, was "Waldseemuller's vision," Gordon, the docent, said.

Made of thin parchment paper, the document is in "pristine condition" for its age, Chambers said.

Now part of the library's permanent collection, the map is mounted on special acid-free material and kept under low lighting and controlled temperature and humidity.

The map's 16th-century perspective on a newly expanded world sets the stage for the rest of the library's new exhibit, "Rivers, Edens, Empires: Lewis & Clark and the Revealing of America." The map will remain on display in the exhibit for the next three months, until it is moved to a special Hall of Exploration designed to showcase it, a project that will be completed next year, Chambers said.

Explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark set out in 1803 at President Jefferson's behest to chart the area from the Appalachian Mountains to the Mississippi River. The newly acquired territory of the Louisiana Purchase, made later that year in a deal with France, doubled the size of the United States and hugely expanded the scope of their exploratory mission.

From the Tampa Tribune, submitted by Jose Martinez, Mulberry, FL.


Jim Hoel is very glad to have his watch back, even though it's stopped working since he last saw it- during World War II.

The last time he recalls wearing the old Gallet chronometer was on May 17, 1943, the day he used it while navigating a B-26 Marauder before the bomber was forced to ditch in a canal in the Netherlands.

He knows he no longer had the elaborate watch when he arrived at a German prisoner of war camp a few days later.

The watch arrived at his home this past week in a package sent from England by truck driver Peter Cooper, 56, who found it in the possession of an elderly neighbor in the village of Kirton, about 75 miles northeast of London.

"It's just eerie, isn't it? That was 60 years ago. I've sort of got gooseflesh," Hoel, 82, told the Chicago Tribune. Cooper said the neighbor, "Tiny" Baxter, 89, told him his mother gave it to him.

The watch, an enlistment present from the bank where Hoel worked before the war, bore his name and Evanston address on its back.

Cooper was able to track him down at his new address using the internet and friends who had contacts in the United States. He got his neighbor to give the watch to him so he could forward it to Hoel.

From the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, submitted by Ron Paul Smith, Honolulu, HI.

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