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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (06/2005) Headlines (05/2005) Headlines (07/2005)   Vol. 39 June 2005 
Treasure In The Headlines
As seen in the June 2005 edition of W&ET Magazine

MAYAN SITE YIELDS 1,450-YEAR-OLD REMAINS

Scientists working at the Copan archeological site in western Honduras said recently that they have unearthed the 1,450-year-old remains of 69 people, as well as 30 previously undiscovered ancient Mayan buildings.

Copan, about 200 miles west of Tegucigalpa, flourished between A.D. 250 and 900, part of a Mayan empire that stretched across parts of modern-day Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. The site eventually was abandoned.

Seiichi Nakamura, one of a team of Japanese scientists working alongside Honduran counterparts, said the remains likely belong to people who inhabited Copan around 550.

Nakamura said offerings were discovered in and around the sites where the bones were buried and artifacts found near the remains of a 12-year-old child were among the richest ever found in Copan, meaning the youngster likely was an important member of Mayan society.

Scientists hope to open the area to tourists in 2007, Nakamura said.

From The Chicago Tribune, submitted by Bob Bolek, Hometown, IL.



EGYPTIAN MUSEUM "EXCAVATES" TREASURES

A collection of Roman-era gold treasures has spent centuries hidden from view, either concealed by thieves in a clay jar, buried under the desert or languishing in a dusty corner of Cairo's rambling Egyptian Museum.

Recently, the set of magnificent gold necklaces, crowns and coins dating back to the second century were put under the spotlight when Cairo's 102-year-old museum launched a program to give prominence to many of its neglected exhibits in new monthly displays.

The pieces being exhibited were discovered in 1989 by a French archaeology team digging in Cairo's vast Western Desert.

"These golden treasures will be the first of many other exhibits in the Egyptian Museum that will be "excavated' from its corridors and halls and put on display with various educational tools explaining their significance," Zahi Hawass, chief of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said at the exhibit opening.

Egyptian antiquities officials acknowledge that one of the museum's greatest flaws has been the poor manner in which its thousands of artifacts have been exhibited in its building in downtown Cairo.

"Like our vast desert; the Egyptian Museum has thousands of hidden treasures that people don't know about," Hawass said.

Attempts have been made to improve a visit to the museum by offering hand-held digital guides. Lots more space will be made available once 60 percent of the exhibits are transferred to the new $350 million Grand Museum near the Giza pyramids, where construction is to finish in 2008.

The lack of space in the existing museum- designed to exhibit about 5,000 artifacts- has consigned many of the more than 100,000 pharaonic, Coptic, Greco-Roman and Islamic objects to basements and warehouses.

"The Golden Jewelry of Dush" exhibit will be the first monthly display of "lost" pieces to be polished and exhibited in a main galley, Hawass said.

The display includes several necklaces of various sizes and a stunning crown made of multiple pieces of gold fashioned into the shape of leaves. One necklace weighs more than 17 ounces and comprises 77 individual golden pendants bearing the image of the Greek-Egyptian god Serapis. A composite, serapis was formed by the merger of the lesser gods Osiris and Apis during the Ptolemaic Period, which ran for about 300 years before 30 B.C.

The museum's director-general, Wafaa El-Sediq, said thieves stole the second century treasures from a temple built by the Romans in Dush, an area south of Kharga Oasis, about 370 miles southwest of Cairo.

"The robbers dismantled the items and hid them in a clay jar which they placed into a wall of a building," El-Sediq said. "But, thanks to God, the deserts later covered the treasures and the robbers could not find them again."

Egypt's western and southern deserts are some of the country's most neglected in terms of archaeological excavations, El-Sediq said. They are believed to conceal many more treasures.

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



MIAMI POLICE RECOVER MISSING COINS

Police hit paydirt recently, digging up 3.6 million nickels that disappeared along with a trucker who was supposed to deliver them to the Federal Reserve Bank in New Orleans.

Authorities found the $180,000 in coins buried in a 4-foot hole in the backyard of a suburban Miami home. The nickels, still stored in their Federal Reserve bags, were in a wooden box, covered with a plastic tarp.

Investigators continued searching for the trucker, who disappeared in December after picking up the coins in New Jersey and setting out on the 1,100-mile trip. His rig was found empty at a truck stop in Fort Pierce, FL.

From The Courier, submitted by Jeffrey L. Hauenstein, Linda Bennett, and Bob Bolek.



RIVERBANK FINDS COULD REWRITE HISTORY

Scientists have found evidence along a South Carolina riverbank suggesting that humans lived in North America 50,000 years ago, more than twice as long as any research has yet shown.

Radiocarbon dating of burned plant remains at a site near Allendale, South Carolina, along the Savannah River shows the excavated sediments, bearing possible stone tool artifacts, are at least that age, the University of South Carolina said today in a statement.

The findings, which have not yet been verified by other researchers, are "a potentially explosive revelation in American archaeology," the university said.

A longer human presence in North America raises questions about how and when people came to the continent. The discovery of tools in the 1990s at sites in Virginia and at Allendale that date to before the accepted migration from Asia across the ice age Bering land bridge prompted the search for older signs.

In May, University of South Carolina archaeologist Albert Goodyear was further excavating the so-called Topper site near Allendale, where in 1998 he found stone tools that proved humans lived on the continent as far back as 16,000 years ago.

Goodyear dug below the site of his previous discovery and, 13 feet below ground level, found artifacts similar to the ones he unearthed earlier.

On the last day of the week-long project, Goodyear and his team found charcoal samples in the soil where the artifacts were discovered, allowing for radiocarbon dating, the university said.

Tests done at the University of California at Irvine on charcoal samples from Topper showed the material was about 50,300 years old. The dating may yet be challenged.

One archaeologist said Goodyear was working in an "ambiguous area" where it wasn't clear whether items arousing interest were made by human hands or by natural processes, such as erosion and the breaking of rocks over thousands of years.

"It's kind of shaky in some ways, it doesn't contain what we'd want in a perfect site, a lot of activity areas, a campsite, things like that," said Gary Haynes, a professor of anthropology at the University of Nevada-Reno, in a telephone interview.

The site, on the bank of the Savannah across from Georgia, is on land owned by Clariant AG, a Swiss chemical maker.

From the Honolulu Advertiser, submitted by Ron Paul Smith. Honolulu, HI.



RARE DIME FETCHES $1.3 MILLION AT AUCTION

A dime struck in 1894 at the San Francisco mint was auctioned recently for $1,322,500, a coin dealer said.

The winning bidder took part in the sale by phone and was not identified. The coin was one of only 24 dimes made that year at the mint.

The coin was consigned to the auction by Bradley Hirst of Richmond, Indiana, who bought it for $825,000 six years ago, according to John Feigenbaum, president of David Lawrence Rare Coins of Virginia Beach, VA, the auctioneer.

From The Courier, submitted by Jeff Hauenstein, Findlay, OH, and Robert Bolek, Hometown, IL.



PENNY FROM 1792 FETCHES $437,000



A copper penny minted in 1792 that was kept in a tobacco tin for decades fetched $437,000 at auction recently.

The experimental penny, the ninth known example of its type, represents "the birth of United States coins," said Michael Sherman of Newport Beach's Professional Coin Grading Service, which directed the team that authenticated the coin.

The penny's owners were descendants of Oliver Wolcott, the governor of Connecticut in the 1790s and a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

The coin bears the date 1792 and an inscription, "Parent of Science & Industry: Liberty."

The winning bidder at the Beverly Hills auction was not identified.

From The Orange County Register, submitted by Leonard D. Katanich, Tustin, CA, and Ron Paul Smith, Honolulu, HI.

FLAWED STATE COINS ARE WORTH A MINT

Some Wisconsin quarters issued last year are turning out to be worth considerably more than 25 cents.

Collectors say quarters with two variations in the design of a cornstalk on the back of the coin have been spotted in Arizona and Texas.

Individual coins with the variations were selling for $500 to $600, depending on their condition, said coin dealer Rick Snow in Tucson, Arizona.

The U.S. Mint, which produced 453 million Wisconsin quarters, is trying to determine how the differences came about.

"Throughout history, there have been some instances of variations- very, very rare instances," said U.S. Mint spokesman Mike White.

From The Chicago Tribune, submitted by Robert Bolek, Hometown, IL.



ICY PLUNGE YIELDS LONG LOST BILLFOLD

It wasn't part of the Isanti County Safety & Rescue Unit ice dive training session but a St. Paul man now has a billfold back that he lost in the 1970s.

Karl Kanowitz was water skiing on Spectacle Lake, nine miles west of Cambridge, with his billfold in the pocket of his cut off jeans, when he lost his billfold in about 30 feet of water.

It wasn't until the Safety & Rescue ice dive training session this winter that the billfold turned up.

The billfold contained a driver's license that had been damaged by the long time in the water but also a high school identification card with a photograph and still very clear signature, according to Safety & Rescue Unit Sgt. Garvin Mindt.

An Isanti County Sheriff's Department dispatcher ran the man's name through the sate computer to see if he still had a Minnesota driver's license and found Kanowitz living in St. Paul.

Mindt notified the man by mail and a very surprised Kanowitz called to claim the long missing item.

From the Isanti County News, submitted by Doug Amundson, Cambridge, MN.



RUN OF LUCK HELPS TEAM IN FINDING 500 B.C. MUMMIES

Archeologists uncovered three coffins and a remarkably well-preserved mummy in a 2,500-year-old tomb discovered by accident- after opening a secret door hidden behind a statue in a separate burial chamber, Egypt's chief archeologist said Wednesday.

The Australian team was exploring a much older tomb- dating back 4,200 years- belonging to a man who might have been a tutor to the 6th Dynasty King Pepi II when they moved two statues and discovered the door, said Zahi Hawass, Egypt's top antiquities official.

Inside, the archeologists found a tomb from the 26th Dynasty with three intricate coffins, each with a mummy.

"Inside one coffin was maybe one of the best mummies ever preserved," Hawass told reporters at the excavation site in Saqqara, where a barren hillside is pocked with ancient graves about 15 miles south of Cairo.

"The chest of the mummy is covered with beads. Most of the mummies of this period- about 500 B.C.- the beads are completely gone, but this mummy has them all," he said, standing over one of the mummies that was swathed in turquoise blue beads and bound in strips of black linen.

Identification of the mummies still must be determined, but the tomb is thought to be that of a middle-class official.

Hawass said the wooden coffins, called anthropoids because they were in the shape of human beings, bore inscriptions dating to the 26th Dynasty, together with a statue of a deity called Petah Sakar. Petah was the god of artisans, Hawass said, while Sakar was the god of the cemetery.

The door was hidden behind 4,200-year-old statues of a man believed to have been Meri, the tutor of Pepi II, and Meri's wife, whose name was not disclosed.

Meri also might have overseen four sacred boats found in the pyramids, which were buried with Egypt's kings to help them in the afterlife, Hawass said.

"I believe this discovery can enrich us about two important periods in our history, the Old Kingdom, which dates back to 4,200 years, and the 26th Dynasty, that was 2,500 years ago," he added.

According to tradition, Pepi II- the last ruler of the 6th Dynasty- was in power from 2278 to 2184 B.C., one of the longest reigns in ancient Egypt.

Naguib Kanawati, the head of the Australian team from Sydney's Macquarie University, said the site had fallen into neglect after Pepi II's rule and was covered by 50 feet of sand until it was used again as a cemetery 2,600 years later.

Archeologists would begin tests on the mummies to learn more about their medical conditions, including using CT scans.

From The Chicago Tribune, submitted by Robert Bolek, Hometown, IL, and Ron Paul Smith, Honolulu, HI.








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