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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (11/2005) Headlines (10/2005) Headlines (12/2005)   Vol. 39 November 2005 
Treasure In The Headlines
As seen in the November 2005 edition of W&ET Magazine


Archaeologists have unearthed a 2,400-year old golden treasure in an ancient Thracian tomb in eastern Bulgaria, the director of the country's History Museum said recently.

The gold-rich burial was discovered recently by a team of archaeologists, working on excavations near the village of Zlatinitsa, some 290 kilometers (180 miles) east of the capital, Sofia.

The most impressive finds included a golden ring and wreath, finely crafted silver rhytons, or horn-shaped drinking vessels, and many golden and silver pieces of armor and horse trappings, Prof. Bozhidar Dimitrov told the Associated Press in a telephone interview.

"This was an extremely rich funeral, suggesting that the buried man could have been a Thracian king," Dimitrov said. "Although he was not buried according to Thracian traditions, all objects of art bear Thracian imagery."

The king's body was laid in a huge wood-paneled pit together with two horses and a dog, while Thracian kings were usually buried in vast stone tombs under huge earth mounds.

The Thracians lived in what is now Bulgaria and parts of modern Greece, Romania, Macedonia and Turkey from 4,000 B.C. to the 8th century A.D., when they were assimilated by the invading Slavs.

"Greek pottery that was also found in the tomb helped us safely date the whole burial to 360-370 B.C.," Dimitrov said.

According to a hypothesis, the newly discovered tomb could have been that of the Thracian governor Seutus, who declared himself kind and used Greek mercenaries to oppress local Thracian tribes. His governance was described by the ancient Greek chronicler Xenophontes, Dimitrov said.

"Excavations continue, and new finds literally pop out every 10 minutes," Dimitrov said.

Thousands of Thracian mounds are spread throughout Bulgaria, and archaeological finds suggest that the Thracians established a powerful kingdom in the 5th century B.C. One of their capitals appeared to be the ancient city of Seutopolis, the ruins of which are now drowned under a large artificial lake near the town of Kazanlak, 200 kilometers (120 miles) east of Sofia.

Despite numerous archaeological discoveries, little is known about Thracian rulers, because no inscriptions have been found. Thracians had no alphabet and apparently refused to use Greek letters, Dimitrov said.

Last year, another archaeological expedition discovered two vast Thracian tombs in the Kazanlak region, prompting archaeologists to name it "the Valley of Thracian Kings" in reference to the Valley of Kings near Luxor, Egypt, home to the tombs of Egyptian Pharaohs. A 2,400-year-old mask was found then, along with many golden artifacts.

From the Associated Press, submitted by many readers via e-mail.


Two teenagers swimming in seas off eastern Cuba discovered a sunken U.S. ship from the late 19th century, possibly a remnant of the Spanish-American War, a maritime expert said recently. Bronze nails, chains and old-fashioned containers were among artifacts inside the ship, said Nicasio Vina, director of Santiago de Cuba's Investigative Center of Ecosystems and Biodiversity. Vina said the remains of the 106-foot boat were uncovered by Hurricane Dennis. The ship was found in 8 feet of water near Siboney beach, about 10 miles south of Santiago, an area used by U.S. troops during the Spanish-American War.

From the Associated Press, submitted by David M. Wolan, Charlotte, NC.


The deep-diving scientists of the University of Hawaii have discovered another monster lurking in the waters off Oahu.

During test dives recently, the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory's Pisces submarines found the remains of the Imperial Japanese Navy's I-401 submarine, a gigantic underwater aircraft carrier built to bomb the Panama Canal.

"We thought it was rocks at first, it was so huge," said Pisces pilot Terry Kerby. "But the sides of it kept going up and up and up, three and four stories tall. It's a leviathan down there, a monster."

It is not the first World War II-era "monster" that the HURL scientists have found. Last year, off Pearl Harbor, they located the wreck of the gigantic seaplane Marshall Mars, one of the largest aircraft built and used as a transport plane by the U.S. Navy. Two years earlier in the same area, the HURL crew also found the wreckage of a Japanese midget sub that was sunk on Dec. 7, 1941.

The latest HURL discovery is from the I-400 "Sensuikan Toku" class of submarines, the largest built prior to the nuclear ballistic missile submarines of the 1960s. They were 400 feet long and 39.3 feet high, could reach a maximum depth of 330 feet, and carry a crew of 144.

Each carried three fold-up bombers inside a watertight hangar, plus parts to construct a fourth airplane. The bombers, called Seiran or "Mountain Haze," could be made ready to fly in a few minutes and had wing floats for return landings. Fully loaded with fuel, the submarines could sail 37,000 miles, one and a half times around the world. Three were captured at the end of the war, as well as a slightly smaller test design called the I-14.

Their first mission was called "Operation PX," a plan to use the aircraft to drop infected rats and insects with bubonic plague, cholera, dengue fever, typhus and other diseases on American West Coast cities. When the bacteriological bombs could not be prepared in time, the target was changed to the Panama Canal.

I-400 and I-401 were captured at sea a week after the Japanese surrendered in 1945. The commander committed suicide and the huge submarines' mission was never completed.

I-400 and I-401 were ordered to sail to Pearl Harbor in late 1945 with an American prize crew, who smuggled Japanese war souvenirs in the aircraft hangars. Also along to be evaluated were I-201 and I-203, two top-secret Imperial Navy submarines that were twice as fast as American designs.

The submarines were greeted with ceremonial brass bands in early 1946, but within a few months it was decided to scuttle the Japanese designs, partly because Russian scientists were demanding access to them. On May 31, 1946, I-401 and the other four top-secret Japanese submarines were sunk by torpedoes from the American submarine USS Cabezon. I-401 was last seen sinking by the stern, vanishing until last week.

"It's about 820 meters down, off the coast of Barbers Point," said HURL Acting Director John Wiltshire. "The box is broken of just forward of the aircraft hangar- it looks like it came apart as it was sinking, as the two pieces aren't far apart and they're connected by a debris field."

According to Pisces VI pilots Kerby and Colin Wolleman, the "debris field" is a twisted landscape of gigantic metal pieces ripped into jagged shreds.

"We had to be very careful approaching that thing," said Wolleman.

Nearby, the Pisces V crew consisted of John Smith, Max Cremer and Steve Price, and the submersibles helped each other illuminate a path through the wreckage.

"The main hull is sitting upright on the bottom, and it's in great shape," said Kerby. "The I-401 numbers are clearly visible on the sides of the conning tower, and the antiaircraft guns are in almost perfect condition."

With only a few hours available before setting off on a research trip to Samoa, the HURL scientists noted the location of the I-401 for future exploration.

Also discovered last week was the American submarine S-19, a World War I-era design that was deliberately scuttled in 1938 to meet treaty obligations.

"The S-boat wasn't much of a surprise, because we had a good idea of where she might be," said Kerby.

He said the S-19 is lying on her starboard side, and many of the external parts, such as the propellers and conning tower, were removed prior to scuttling.

"We came up to her from behind, and you could tell immediately she was from a different era," said Kerby. "Almost a turn-of-the-century, Jules Verne look to her. Lots of big rivets."

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


As a boy, Brook Monroe never thought much about the national relic hanging on his bedroom wall.

The 44-year-old Jacksonville resident was in middle school or high school before he really looked at the framed fragment of the original "Star-Spangled Banner," the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the national anthem.

"With a teenager's lack of grasp of the big picture, it was 'Oh, that's nice."

But his mother, Emily, treasured it, as she has for 50 years.

"I always felt that if there was a fire, it would be the first thing I would grab."

The rest of the banner- or most of it- is on display at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. It recently underwent an $18 million conservation project.

Senior curator Marilyn Zoidis was surprised to learn about Monroe's 6-by-12 inch fragment.

"It's unusual to find a larger snippet in private hands, since many were given to museums years ago," she said.

In 1873, nearly 60 years after the banner flew over Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor, U.S Navy Rear Adm. George Henry Preble snipped a chunk from it and presented pieces to friends and fellow officers, a common practice with historic mementos at the time.

An elegantly written inscription with Monroe's swatch of history says it was presented by Preble to Albert H. Hoyt, who may have been the brother of one of Monroe's great-grandmothers.

"Where he falls in the family tree, I'm not really sure," she said.

Contrary to lore, the banner flew after, not during, the attack by British ships during the War of 1812. It rained on the evening of Sept. 13, 1814, so a small storm flag was raised in its place.

The banner was hoisted about 7 the next morning and did catch some shot from the retreating British.

Key, a Washington lawyer detained on a flat-of-truce sloop while negotiating the release of a prisoner of war, spotted it when he looked through his telescope to see whether the fort had fallen.

Thrilled to see the familiar colors, he pulled a letter from his pocket and began writing his ode to the banner, matching the meter of an old English song, "To Anacreon in Heaven." His work became the unofficial national anthem, and was formally adopted by Congress in 1931.

"It (the flag) probably is the earliest example of our Stars and Stripes and without a doubt is the most important American flag that's still with us," said Jeffrey Kenneth Kohn, a noted American-flag scholar and consultant to Sotheby's auction house.

Kohn said the piece Monroe has would fetch $2,000 to $4,000 if sold at auction.

The Smithsonian owns 14 bits of the flag donated by people over the years. Curators haven't decided whether those will be displayed with the banner when its new gallery is completed in 2007. But the curators do want to know about as many pieces as they can, Zoidis said.

"Not only do we lack documentation on how much Preble removed, but we can be assured that many of the large pieces were cut into smaller pieces, and those pieces cut into even smaller pieces," she said.

"We know that some worn parts of the flag also were removed, which just adds more pieces to the puzzle."

Originally 30 feet by 42 feet, the banner had been cut to 30 by 34 feet by the time the Smithsonian acquired it in 1907. Turn-of-the-century preservationists worked to restore it, a labor mostly undone during the museum's more recent conservation.

That entailed seven years of work, with conservators suspended above the banner plucking away dirt and foreign fibers on the cloth.

Another group worked for two years removing the linen backing sewn on with 1.7 million tiny stitches by their predecessors 90 years ago.

Fashion designer Ralph Lauren donated $10 million to the project. Private organizations and trusts gave $5 million more, and the U.S. government contributed $3 million. Conservators hope the money bought another 500 years of protection.

The banner was created in Baltimore in August 1813 by professional flagmaker Mary Pickersgill with help from her 13-year-old daughter. She cut and sewed the wool pieces at home, but because of the banner's size, the final stitching together was done on the floor of a local brewery. It was delivered to Fort McHenry on time, and Pickersgill handed over a bill for $405.90.

Lt. Col. George Armisted, stationed at Fort McHenry, ended up with the flag, then his widow handed it down to her daughter, Georgiana Appleton.

Appleton lent the flag for various patriotic events, and in 1873 sent it to Preble to photograph. Appleton gave Preble permission to cut out pieces, which he gave to friends, historians and military officers.

Georgiana's son, Eben Appleton, carried on the tradition, lending and displaying the banner, but was bent on protecting it. After inheriting it, he lent it to the Smithsonian and later made it a gift.

Eben, a New York stockbroker, specified that it was not to be exhibited outside the Smithsonian, that it be well cared for and displayed for the public.

Monroe, who grew up in Ohio, acquired her piece of the banner when she was 19. It was among materials in a box left to her by her uncle.

As a young mother, she thought the heirloom looked masculine, so she hung it in Brook's room instead of her daughter Jennifer's.

It moved to Naples with the family 31 years ago and again to Sebring 11 years ago, when she and husband Jack retired there.

Monroe no longer displays the framed square; she worries about damage from the light. She does plan to keep it in the family, though.

"I've always been in awe of it."

From The Tampa Tribune, submitted by Kenneth W. Reckart, Seffner, FL.

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