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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (06/2010) Headlines (04/2010) Headlines (08/2010)   Vol. 44 June 2010 
Treasure In The Headlines
As seen in the June 2010 edition of W&ET Magazine


If you missed out on the chance to bid on Alberto Giacometti's bronze sculpture, "Walking Man I," which sold for a world record $104 million in London recently, there's good news: The sculptor made another one just like it, and it's in Chicago.

"Walking Man II" isn't for sale, but you can see it at the Art Institute of Chicago. The lifesize sculpture- which looks a bit like spaghetti slathered in mud- is one of seven sculptures made by Giacometti, a Swiss surrealist who died in 1966. Some of the other Art Institute works are imaginatively titled: "Tall Figure," "Standing Woman," "Head" and "Three Men Walking II."

From The Chicago Sun Times, submitted by Bob Bolek, Hometown, IL.


Egypt's most famous pharaoh, King Tutankhamun, was a frail boy who suffered from a cleft palate and club foot. He died of complications from a broken leg exacerbated by malaria, and his parents were likely brother and sister.

Two years of DNA testing and CT scans on Tut's 3,300-year-old mummy and 15 others are helping end many of the myths surrounding the boy king. While a comparatively minor ruler, he has captivated the public since the 1922 discovery of his tomb, which was filled with a stunning array of jewels and artifacts.

The study provides the firmest family tree yet for Tut. The tests pointed to Pharaoh Akhenaten as Tut's father. His mother was one of Akhenaten's sisters.

Tut, who became pharaoh at age 10 in 1333 B.C., ruled for just nine years. Speculation has long swirled over his death at 19. The newest tests paint a picture of a pharaoh whose immune system was likely weakened by congenital diseases. His death came from complications from the broken leg- along with a new discovery: severe malaria.

The revelations are in stark contrast to the popular image of a graceful boy-king as portrayed by the dazzling funerary artifacts in his tomb that later introduced much of the world to the glory of ancient Egypt.

They also highlighted the role genetics play in some diseases. The members of the 18th dynasty were closely inbred, and the DNA studies found several genetic disorders in the mummies tested such as scoliosis and club feet.

From The Chicago Sun Times, submitted by Bob Bolek, Hometown, IL.


An engraver fired by Chile's mint for an error that led to the release of 1.5 million coins featuring the country of "CHIIE" said recently that his bosses deliberately covered up the mistake.

The error showed up on Chilean 50-peso pieces for the year 2009.

Engraver Pedro Urzua Lizana told the Associated Press he unknowingly left off the bottom part of the letter "l" when, in December 2008, he was hurriedly fixing a minor deformity in the original mold for making the dies to stamp out the coin.

The coins were released to the public last year but no one at the mint, including himself, knew about the error until a coin collector called late last year to point it out, he said.

Once informed, officials at the mint fixed the stamp for future 50-peso pieces, but sent another batch of bad coins to the Central Bank without telling officials there of the error, Urzua said. Those coins never were released to the public, he said.

From The Napa Valley Register, submitted by Jerry R. Hallett, Napa, CA.


She was a beautiful English princess who married one of Europe's most powerful monarchs and dazzled subjects with her charity and charm.

Now a team of scientists say they think they've found the body of Princess Eadgyth (pronounced Edith) - a 10th-century noblewoman who has been compared to Princess Diana.

"She was a very, very popular person," said Mark Horton, an archaeology professor at Bristol University in western England. "She was sort of the Diana of her day if you like- pretty and full of good works."

Eadgyth married Duke Otto of Saxony, who eventually became the first ruler of the Holy Roman Empire.

Horton is one of a team of experts working to verify the identity of some bones found bundled in silk at Magdeburg Cathedral in Germany.

Should the skeleton be positively identified as Eadgyth's, it would be the oldest remains of any English royal. Experts say her closest competitors- the bones of various Saxon royals in Winchester Cathedral- are so jumbled together that no single person can be identified.

"If (Eadgyth's) skeleton is intact then, yes, as far as I'm aware, it would be the earliest identifiable remains from Anglo-Saxon England," said Simon Keynes, a professor of Anglo-Saxon history at the University of Cambridge.

The skeleton was uncovered as part of a wider research project into Magdeburg Cathedral, about 90 miles west of Berlin. Archaeologists opened the monument back in 2008 and found a lead coffin bearing her name, with the bones inside.

Horton said the skeleton belonged to a woman between 30 and 40 years of age. But tests must be performed to figure out the age and area of origin of the bones; historians say bodies of saints and royalty were often moved.

From The Charlotte Observer, submitted by David Wolan, Charlotte, NC.


A Model A Ford that bank robber John Dillinger used as a getaway car sold at auction recently in Scottsdale, Arizona, for $165,000, according to media reports.

The buyer is not being identified.

Dillinger and two members of his gang used the car to escape the Little Bohemia Lodge in Manitowish Water, Wisconsin, in 1934. The car, which sports a bullet hole from a later gunfight between police and Dillinger partner John "Red" Hamilton, was featured in the 2009 movie "Public Enemies," according to the reports.

From The Chicago Sun-Times, submitted by Bob Bolek, Hometown, IL.


Remains of the first airplane ever taken to Antarctica, in 1912, have been found by Australian researchers.

The Mawson's Huts Foundation had been searching for the plane for three summers before stumbling upon metal pieces of it recently.

"The biggest news of the day is that we've found the air tractor, or at least parts of it!" team member Tony Stewart wrote on the team's blog from Cape Denison in Antarctica's Commonwealth Bay.

Australian polar explorer and geologist Douglas Mawson led two expeditions to Antarctica in the early1900s, on the first one bringing along a single-propeller Vickers plane.

The wings of the plane, built in 1911, had been damaged in a crash before the expedition, but Mawson hoped to use it as a kind of motorized sled.

Stewart said the 1911-14 Australian Antarctic Expedition used the plane to tow gear onto the ice in preparation for their journeys.

But the plane's engine could not withstand the extreme temperatures and was eventually abandoned.

The plane, the first from Britain's Vickers factory, had not been seen since the mid-1970s, when researchers photographed the steel fuselage nearly encompassed in ice.

The foundation- which works at Cape Denison to conserve the huts used by Mawson in his expeditions- said it believed the plane would still be where it was left by Mawson, near the huts and the harbor, which is covered in ice for most of the year.

From The Charlotte Observer, submitted by David M. Wolan, Charlotte, NC.


Archaeologists always suspected they might find the remains of the Byzantine-era street hidden below a road inside the city's main Jaffa Gate.

But this is the first time in centuries that archaeologists have been allowed to dig beneath the road to the site, which is shown on an ancient mosaic map that still exists in Jordan.

Israeli archaeological law says that whenever new construction begins in an area of historical importance, the site must first be opened to archaeological excavation.

In a land so ancient, virtually every square metre of earth is a potential archaeological treasure.

Amazing things can be found in the most unlikely places.

After weeks of digging, archaeologists reached four meters below the road surface and suddenly uncovered the ancient flagstones that once paved one of Jerusalem's busiest streets in Byzantine times.

Metal detectors have uncovered coins and jewelry from about 500 AD.

The head of excavation, Ofer Sion, says it is the first time archaeologists have ever dug so far down in this part of the Old City.

"This is the first time that [we have] ever found the Byzantine street from [the] Madaba Map in Jerusalem," he said.

Even more exciting is the doorway and window of a large building- perhaps a monastery or even a palace- that for centuries has lain hidden under the road.

"Jerusalem in that period was a great city- more than 30,000 to 40,000 people lived in it," Mr. Sion said.

"This was the Christian period of Jerusalem. [There were] so many churches. Hundreds of thousands of Christian people were living in Jerusalem. Pilgrims [from] all over the world were coming to this city and going through this gate."

It is not by chance that archaeologists chose to dig in this exact spot.

They have had more than a hunch as to what they would find because of the Madaba Map- a famous mosaic map, 16 meters long, that was built in about the sixth century into the floor of a church in Jordan.

The map described the city of Jerusalem in intimate detail and is still the only known map of Jerusalem from the Byzantine era.

"We knew that the Byzantine street was down there because of the Madaba Map," said Mr. Sion.

But what archaeologists still do not know is whether this ancient Byzantine road is also the original Roman road built by Emperor Hadrian in 135 AD. They may never know.

As much as archaeologists would love to keep on digging, the tiny window of opportunity while the current road is repaired will not stay open for long.

In a few more weeks the road will likely be back to normal and the deep pit, with its glimpse into ancient life, will most likely disappear back into the earth.

The demands of modern-day life beckon.

From the Associated Press, submitted by Dan Knuth, Thiensville, WI.


Historians investigating a hoard of Roman coins unearthed in south Warwickshire are hoping to ensure they remain in the county- and to solve the mystery of who buried them. The cache of 1,146 silver denarii dating from 209 BC to 64 AD- the largest in the county- was found by metal detector enthusiast Keith Bennett and declared treasure trove last year.

The coins themselves shed light on the brutal and often corrupt machinations of the Roman Empire, but Warmington Heritage Group is trying to find out why they were buried and what they reveal about life in the area in the first century AD.

One theory has it that whoever buried the coins- then around five years' pay for a Roman soldier- knew that the Emperor Nero was devaluing denarii by lowering the silver content.

Archaeologist David Freke, who has been involved in excavations nearby in 2008, believes whoever did so was a "financially astute" individual effectively gambling on the currency market.

Speaking to Warmington Heritage Group recently, Dr. Stanley Ireland of Warwick University warned that the collection, currently being valued, should not be broken up and sold to private collectors.

Dr. Ireland also explained how some coins' rarity gave an insight into the political turmoil of the time.

Some, bearing the head of the Emperor Caligula, were recalled after he was murdered. Another double-headed coin shows the young Nero with his mother, whom he later tried to have killed in an 'accident', sending soldiers to finish the job when she escaped.

Others, known as 'tribute' coins, date from the reign of the Emperor Tiberius and are taken to be the money Jesus referred to when he told people to pay their taxes.

The hoard also contains counterfeits with a low silver content and a north African silver coin dating to the period of the Roman Republic and the Greek Empire.

Although Roman farms have recently been identified in nearby Tysoe, the hoard is the earliest Roman find in Warmington by some 300 years. The village group has applied to the Heritage Lottery Fund to pay for digs that may reveal why a wealthy person would have been there and why that spot- possibly a ditch or inside a building- was chosen.

Warwickshire Museum keeper of archaeology Sara Weir hopes to keep and display the hoard at Warwick Museum. She said: "The potential story behind who collected these coins and buried them is a tantalizing clue to what happened here almost 2,000 years ago."

From the Associated Press, submitted by Daniel C. Knuth, Thiensville, WI.


Sometimes, history's turning points come in blood and gunfire, and sometimes in pen and ink.

Dozens of epoch-changing moments are preserved in the library of Britain's Royal Society, an academy of scientists founded in 1660 to gather, discuss and spread scientific knowledge- a role it still fills today.

Its members form a rollcall of scientific fame: Isaac Newton, Benjamin Franklin, Charles Darwin, Stephen Hawking. All contributed scientific papers that recount what geneticist Alec Jeffreys- the father of DNA fingerprinting and a current member of the society- calls "this amazing journey over the past 350 years."

The society is marking its 350th anniversary in 2010 by putting more than 60 of its most important scientific papers online, alongside commentaries by modern scientists. The site- went live recently.

Among the papers, whose originals are at the society's London headquarters, is a 1672 work by Newton detailing his discovery that white light is made of many colors.

In a letter from 1752, Franklin recounts how he flew a kite in a storm to prove that lightning is electricity- not a supernatural force, as many people then thought.

Franklin describes clearly how to carry out the feat, from building a kite from silk rather than paper- "fitter to bear the wet"- to sheltering in a doorway against the rain.

Other papers include Francis Galton's 1891 discovery that fingerprints are unique, Hawking's early work on black holes in space and experiments conducted on 8-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to determine whether he really was a musical genius. Researcher Daines Barrington declared "his genius and invention... most astonishing."

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

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