Monday, December 13, 2004

We'll be posting in small increments today.

It's not about the missing nose? 'Answer' found to riddle of Sphinx

The riddle of the Sphinx has confounded generations of tourists and experts alike. Who built it, why, and what does it mean? Now a leading Egyptologist believes that he has pieced together the puzzle.

After researching the pyramids of the Giza Plateau and their imposing half-human, half-animal guardian for 20 years, Vassil Dobrev of the French Archaeological Institute in Cairo has concluded that the Sphinx was the work of a forgotten pharaoh.

Well, it beats space aliens. . . .

And more from Egypt SCA launches operation to rescue sun boats

The Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) will embark within few days on carrying out an emergency project to rescue the ancient sun boats, dubbed "Cheops" in the Giza pyramids area.

The boats have been badly affected by the strong sun, especially by the ultra-violet rays which damage the organic components of the wooden hulls.

SCA Chairman Zahi Hawas said the sun Boats Museum displays, among others, a boat which is the only one of its kind in the world. The museum's glassy windows allow the sun to penetrate directly into the body of the boat, a matter that exposes the ship to damage. Other museums in the world have only small windows that do not allow the sun rays to penetrate inside, he said.

Ancient textiles update Remnants of the Past

In a museum lab, Irene Good is studying pieces of silk from long-lost cloth found at archaeological sites in western Europe and central and south Asia. The material at hand—short lengths of threads that were spun from the cocoons of moths—is barely visible. Good immerses the threads in a solution to tease apart the strands of protein. Then, she uses several methods of biochemical analysis to examine the proteins' amino acids. What amino acids are present and their order vary for proteins from different species of moths and therefore give a clue to the place where the silk was made.

"What I love most is being able, not just to alter what's known, but to improve access to the past based on very tiny pieces of evidence," Good says.

This is probably what the earlier post's story was based on. Good article. Read the whole thing.

Indiana Jones: Not. Science winces at adventurer's ways (Free reg required for the next two items)

Gene Savoy plunged into the Peruvian jungle half a century ago in search of the fabled El Dorado, a lost Incan city so wealthy that its king reputedly walked coated in gold dust.

For months at a time Savoy tromped through mountain terrain that local Indians were reluctant to enter. He was bitten by snakes, lost in the jungle and once nearly lynched by irate campesinos.

Now semiretired, Savoy never found El Dorado. But he became the world's foremost chronicler of a forgotten civilization known as the Chachapoya — and a blight to traditional archaeologists.

We really wish this whole explorer/adventurer business would just go away. Not to defend "science" too strongly -- after all, we have commented many times on this blog regarding the amount of archaeological remains rotting in museum basements with no research to show -- but one ought to get something out of finding this stuff besides a thrill.

Trouble at the graving yard Tribe's letter deepens dilemma over project

The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe has asked the state Department of Transportation to find a new location for a marine facility now being built in Port Angeles, making it increasingly likely that the state will have to stop construction after spending more than $50 million.

In a letter sent Friday to the state, the tribe requested that the state move the project from the Port Angeles site, where remains of hundreds of the tribe's ancestors and remnants of an ancient Klallam village were inadvertently unearthed, because further construction would disturb more graves and destroy more of the tribe's cultural heritage.

"It would be most difficult to continue the project with their opposition," Gov. Gary Locke said Friday.

We agree that court proceedings be avoided and that a negotiated solution be found. Still, that's about the worst that can happen at a construction site. We think a pretty detailed study ought to be done to find out why the sampling procedures failed to find anything significant before construction began. Not that it can't happen, but this seems awfully extensive to have been missed.