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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (08/2005) Headlines (07/2005) Headlines (09/2005)   Vol. 39 August 2005 
Treasure In The Headlines
As seen in the August 2005 edition of W&ET Magazine


In 11 years of excavating the remains of James Fort on Jamestown Island, archaeologist William Kelso has uncovered more than 750,000 artifacts.

He is only about a third of the way done.

"Although it looks like a lot has been found, it hasn't," Kelso said.

Since 1994, Kelso has been in charge of a project to identify and interpret the remains of the James Fort and James Towne on Jamestown Island, the site of the first permanent English settlement in America.

In 1996, archaeologists found remains of James Fort, disproving the long-held belief that the fort was lost to the James River. The project is considered to be one of the most important archaeological digs in the United States.

At a lecture at Randolph-Macon Woman's College on Wednesday night, Kelso discussed the history of his excavations, his discoveries so far and the painstaking process that goes into an archaeological dig.

"Novelist Patricia Cornwall, who's been a big supporter of our work, wanted to come out to the site one time," Kelso said, "and I warned her that these digs could be like watching paint dry. She came out anyway, and watched and watched, and finally she said, 'the paint never dries, does it?"'

Kelso illustrated his process with a time-lapsed video clip showing the six weeks it took to excavate a well set to the banjo tune "Foggy Mountain Breakdown."

In another video clip, Kelso illustrated his crew enthusiastically discovering a pewter flagon that had fallen down the well.

"That was a major discovery, because pewter does not keep well when it is buried," Kelso said.

Kelso's other discoveries included the signet ring of William Strachey, secretary of the Jamestown colony for one year. On his way to the colony, Strachey was shipwrecked in Bermuda, where he and his fellow survivors spent months building new ships to escape.

"It is believed that Strachey's ordeal may have inspired William Shakespeare to write "The Tempest," said Kelso, who wears a replica of Strachey's ring.

Another discovery was part of a human skull with saw marks on it. Kelso said that the physical evidence suggested that the skull had been hit with a rock, and that a doctor had tried trepanning it.

"That's a process where they tried to bore a hole in the skull to relieve pressure," Kelso said.

"From the marks, it looks like they didn't get all the way through before the patient died... and it must have been pretty painful."

Kelso, who has also worked at Monticello in Albemarle County and Poplar Forest in Bedford County, said that the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (APVA) is working on an "Archaearium," an exhibit hall that will display the discoveries from the dig, and detail the process of the discovery.

He added that the APVA hopes to have the Archaearium opened by fall 2006, to help coincide with the national celebration of the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown colony in 2007.

Kelso said that he hopes the research at Jamestown will continue into the future.

"It's my hope that someone will always be studying Jamestown," he said.

From The News & Advance, submitted by Chadwic T. Anderson, Bedford, VA.


The Old Testament says that in 701 B.C., as 200,000 Assyrian soldiers massed outside the walls of Jerusalem under the bloody-minded King Sennacherib, the Jewish king Hezekiah prayed to God to save his city, his people and himself.

"That night," the Bible relates in the second book of Kings, "the angel of the Lord went out and put to death 185,000 men in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning- there were all the dead bodies! So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew."

The ancient Assyrians, however, contend it didn't happen that way at all.

Their side of the story is contained in a 2,700-year-old document called the Sennacherib Prism, which will be on permanent display beginning Saturday as a part of a new gallery opening in the museum of the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute.

The prism is a 16 inch high, six-sided clay post inscribed with a cuneiform text, an early written language used by the Assyrians. Sennacherib dictated the inscription to royal scribes, telling his version of the siege:

"As to Hezekiah, the Jew, he did not submit to my yoke. I laid siege to his strong cities... and conquered them by means of well-stamped earth ramps and battering rams brought near the walls with an attack by foot soldiers, using mines, breeches as well as trenches."

"I drove out 200,150 people, young and old, male and female... and considered them slaves. [Hezekiah] I made prisoner in Jerusalem, his royal residence, like a bird in a cage."

To get the Assyrians to leave, Sennacherib claims Hezekiah paid a tribute that included Hezekiah's daughters and harem, and a great fortune in gold, silver, precious stones, sumptuous palace fixtures and other valuables, all brought to Nineveh, Sennacherib's royal city.

Sennacherib had several copies of the prism made. Only two intact copies of it remain, one in Europe and the one in Chicago.

"It's a rare example of a biblical event confirmed by a totally different text," said Gil Stein, director of the Oriental Institute. There are only a few incidents in the Bible, he said, that historians can reasonably verify as fact through use of non-biblical documents.

"What's so great," he said, "is to see the two contrasting stories, this one from the Assyrian side, the other told from the Hebrew point of view. Each side has its own spin control. The Bible says God struck down the Assyrian siege army with a great plague. Sennacherib says the Hebrew king sent rich tributes to lift the siege."

The new gallery in which the prism is exhibited, "Empires in the Fertile Cresent: Ancient Assyria, Anatolia and Israel," features more than 1,000 artifacts ranging from 8,000 to 2,600 years old.

Among the treasures is a collection of decorative and utilitarian ivory objects fashioned mostly from the teeth of hippopotamuses. They come from the ruins of Megiddo, an ancient Jewish city known in the Bible as Armageddon.

The elegantly carved ivory pieces- including furniture knobs, cosmetic boxes and game boards- had been carefully hidden away more than 2,000 years ago in the basement of the palace of the Egyptian ruler of the city. The cache of 382 ivories was discovered by Chicago archaeologists excavating the site in the 1920s.

"The Megiddo ivories are one of the great treasures of the world," said Stein. "Half of them here, half in Jerusalem. You just won't see them anywhere else."

The various ivory pieces were crafted by ancient artisans in varying artistic traditions and motifs from different Mediterranean cultures- styles emerging from the Aegean, Cyprus, Anatolia and Egypt.

They serve as concrete examples of how in ancient times artistic styles, new technologies, evolving political structures and ideas spread from one culture to another along mercantile trade routes.

"Globalism is a current popular buzzword for the interconnectedness of the world's economy," said Geoff Emberling, the museum director. "It isn't really anything new, tough, and that is what we want the exhibit to convey, that ideas, technology and artistic styles moved rapidly along the ancient trade routes, too."

An exhibit case dedicated to the earliest rise of metalworking contains crude human figurines that are the earliest examples ever found of true brass, an alloy made of copper and tin. They date to 3000 B.C. from an excavation in Anatolia, which is in modern-day Turkey.

Such objects allow archaeologists to trace the earliest copper and tin mines and the international trade routes that sprouted as other peoples and cultures adopted bronze-making technologies.

The new gallery is the fourth to open since the museum, 1155 E. 58th St., was closed in 1996 for construction of a major addition to the building. Since 1999, the museum already has refurbished and opened its Egyptian, Persian and Mesopotamian galleries.

Visitors can enter into the Mesopotamian gallery and follow the progress of civilization between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers from prehistoric hunter-gatherer societies through the first empires of Ur, Uruk and Babylon.

The first gallery ends with the museum's famous monumental sculptures that once graced the walls of Assyrian King Sargon II's ceremonial courtyard in his royal city at Khorsabad.

From there visitors pass into the new "Empires" gallery, which displays the carved reliefs on stone walls leading from the courtyard into Sargon II's most private palace quarters.

The reliefs on one of the walls, carved nearly at life size, show ambassadors of King Midas, glorified in folk tales for his golden touch, arriving at Khorsabad to give tribute gifts to Sargon II. In the reliefs, the tribute they bring is not gold but horses.

They lead to carved relief walls from Sargon II's throne room, an ornate depiction of the king riding through a forest in his chariot.

From there, the story line goes to Sargon II's son and successor, Sennacherib, and wends through history to Jerusalem circa 600 B.C. The region at that time was the incubator of many of the world's great religions, which is reflected in the artifacts on display, including figurines of El and his son Baal, the "false" gods the Bible forbids its followers to worship.

From the new gallery, visitors pass through the door to be met by a 3,400-year-old, 17 foot sculpture of King Tut- the largest existing likeness of him in the world- at the beginning of the Egyptian exhibit.

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


Honesty prevailed when a couple turned in $42,000 they found in a folder on the road and turned it over to police.

Christopher Dondlinger and his wife, Cheryl, were driving to an appointment in town when he spotted a folder in the road.

"I thought maybe some child dropped it in the street and maybe we would find some children's drawings," he said. "I opened it up and found a substantial amount of money." A total of $42,240 in cash and checks, to be exact.

They never considered keeping the money, Christopher Dondlinger said: "We were not brought up that way."

As an officer counted the folder's contents, authorities received a call from the woman who lost it- an accountant for a local fast food company.

Police speculate she had set it on the roof of her car and drove off.

From The Courier, submitted by Jeffrey L. Hauenstein, Findlay, OH.

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