Wairau Bar is one of the oldest and richest sites in New Zealand. Located at the north end of the South Island, it was discovered in the 1930s by Jim Eyles. Roger Duff’s major excavations there in the 1940’s produced a series of rich burials and evidence of habitation. Several other archaelogists have excavated parts of the site since then.
Duff defined his “Moa-hunter” Period of New Zealand archaeology on the basis of his finds at Wairau Bar (the now extinct moa were very large flightless birds). Although his terminology is no longer used , the material culture from the site still defines the Archaic Phrase in New Zealand. The artifacts resemble those from sites elsewhere in eastern Polynesia.
There are three distinct burial areas at Wairau Bar, with more than 40 graves. Grave goods include moa eggs and joints, stone adzes (cutting tools), and necklaces and pendants fashioned from whale ivory and moa bone. Features such as postholes and ovens indicate the main settlement. Large numbers of moa bones were found at the site. these have been conservatively estimated to represent the remains of 8,733 moa. Other species found include fur seal, dolphin, dog, and the extinct swan, as well as fish and shellfish.
Wairau Bar was occupied in the late 13th century AD, just decades after the first humans arrived in New Zealand. New dating evidence suggests that the occupation was very brief, perhaps even as short as 20 years. This, along with other early sites with similar features, suggests that the earliest colonists in New Zealand targeted large game and moved their settlements frequently, whenever local resources were depleted.
Excavating the Site
Wairau Bar on the South Island of New Zealand was discovered by Jim Eyles in 1938. Since its first major excavation, in the 1940’s, several archaeologists, including this 1964 team, have investigated the early site.
Necklace and Ax
The artifacts recovered from Wairau Bar include a chunky necklace made from reel-shaped pieces of moa-bone units and a sperm-whale tooth and a huge argillite axhead.
Machu Picchu is the most famous archaeological site in the Andes. Located at the low end of the Urubama Valley (known as the Sacred Valley of the Incas), several hours’ journey from the Inca capital of Cuzco, this extraordinary site was built high above the river in the saddle between the two jungle peaks of Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu. With its beautiful, impressive architecture, breathtaking location, and dramatic views, Machu Picchu stands out even from other well-planned and finely built Inca sites.
Machu Picchu was established by the Inca emperor Pachacuti as a royal estate or possibly as a spiritual retreat. The location of the site suggests its religious significance – Machu Picchu is situated among a number of mountain peaks that were sacred to the Inca. The city was built to take advantage of countless views of sacred sites, as well as to facilitate astronomical and solar observations.
Located about four days’ walk from Cuzco, Machu Picchu appears to have had only a small permanent population, even though the city could hold about a thousand inhabitants. Apparently, the site was looked after by a small group of retainers, and only truly came to life when the emperor visited with his entourage. After Pachacuti’s death, his descendants continued to maintain the city for some time, but it gradually fell into disuse, and had been abandoned by the time the Spaniards arrived in Peru. Because of this, the site is barely mentioned in early Spanish chronicles, and it remained unknown until early in the 20th century. Today, the site is one of Peru’s top tourist spots.
The site of Machu Picchu contains some of the finest Inca architecture known, with shrines and temples, waterworks and baths, and royal living quarters. The peak of Huayna Picchu rises in the background.
This striking sculpture was carved into the bedrock in a small grotto beneath a structure known as the torreon (tower).
The 19th Dynasty Ramesses II had founded a magnificent capital city, Pi-Ramesse, in the eastern Nile Delta. By the end of the New Kingdom, however, the Pelusiac branch of the Nile was silting up and Pi-Ramesse was losing its water supply. The kings of the 21st Dynasty established a substitute capital at nearby Tanis, moving many of the more impressive monuments from Pi-Ramesse and incorporating them into their new city. Therefore, although none of the Tanis buildings predates the Third Intermediate Period, many of the statues and inscribed blocks are considerably older. Today, this site is represented by a large mound, or tell, which is still being excavated. Most of the archaeological work so far undertaken has concentrated on the temple site.
The Third Intermediate kings, rejecting both the pyramid form and the Valley of the Kings, had chosen to build their tombs within the precincts of the Tanis temple. Here, it was hoped, the royal burials would lie undisturbed, protected by temple priests. In 1939 the French archaeologist Pierre Montet was excavating within the temple enclosure when he stumbled across the hidden royal tombs. A series of chambers yielded spectacular finds, including the silver falcon-headed coffin of Shoshenq II.
Most impressive of all was the intact burial of Psusennes I: inside a pink granite sarcophagus lay a black granite mummiform sarcophagus holding a silver coffin. Within his coffin, Psusennes wore jewelry, amulets, and an inlaid golden face mask. His canopic jars – holding his lungs, liver, intestines, and stomach – stood beside his sarcophagi.
Much of Tanis remains to be excavated, but finds to date include numerous relief carvings. The city was well known from the Bible as Zoan, but it was not until 1722 that the connection was made with the prominent town-mound at San el-Hagar.
The royal tombs of Tanis were discovered in 1939 by the French archaeologist Pierre Monnet.
Gold mummy masks covered the faces of Shoshenq II and Psusennes. Shoshenq’s coffin lay in the entrance chamber to the tomb of Psusennes.
The modern town of Rosetta (also known as Rashid) lies on the Mediterranean coast in the Nile Delta east of Alexandria. Here, in 1799 during the Napoleonic invasion, French engineers discovered a broken, inscribed basalt block. Following Nelson’s victory over Napoleon at Aboukir Bay, the Rosetta Stone was seized and transported to London.
Linguists soon recognized the stone as a very important find. Its inscriptions represented the same text repeated in three different languages – a Middle Egyptian version written in hieroglyphs, a cursive Demotic version (the language spoken in Egypt during the Ptolemaic age), and a Greek version. All knowledge of the Egyptian hieroglyphic script had been lost centuries before when it was replaced by Arabic. Despite the abundance of hieroglyphs on Egyptian monuments, their meaning had eluded scholars. Since the Greek version on the Rosetta Stone could be read, the linguists realized that it might be possible to use this text as the key to deciphering the other two. Copies of the texts were circulated throughout Europe, and scholars set to work.
It was already known that the Egyptians wrote their royal names in a flattened ring, or cartouche. The French Linguist Jean-Francois Champollion, identifying the cartouches in the Middle Egyptian inscription, was able to translate the name of Ptolemy by referring to the Greek inscription. This allowed him to start constructing an Egyptian alphabet. In 1822, Champollion reported that he had cracked the code – Egypt’s ancient texts could now be read.
The names of Egyptian royalty were written in cartouches, flattened ovals. The cartouche on this earing represents the name of Tawosret, one of the few women to proclaim herself pharaoh of Egypt.
The Key to Egypt
The trilingual text on the Rosetta Stone marks the anniversary of the king and records his achievements. The basalt slab’s real significance, however, is that it enabled scholars to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphs.
The written language of the ancient Egyptians was in the hands of scribes, some of whom achieved great status. This sculpture is of Nespekasuti, the scribe of Karnah.