The Long-Buried 16th-Century Theater Where Shakespeare's Earliest Plays Were Performed Will Reopen

Archaeologists on site at The Theatre during the 2008 excavation
Archaeologists on site at The Theatre during the 2008 excavation
Museum of London Archaeology

Before Shakespeare performed his plays at the famous Globe theater, he graced the stage of another London-based playhouse. It was known simply as The Theatre, and Shakespeare staged some of his most famous plays there (including Romeo and Juliet). Plans are now underway to publicly unveil the site for the first time in over 400 years, Smithsonian reports.

The remains of the 16th-century playhouse were discovered in 2008 during an excavation. Now, the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) is working to turn the site into a public exhibition.

Floor plan of the exhibition
A floor plan of the exhibition, including The Theatre's footprint
Nissen Richards Studio

A reconstructed view of The Theatre
A reconstructed view of what The Theatre once looked like
David Toon, Lee Sands, and Museum of London Archaeology

Visitors will have the chance to view the remains of The Theatre through a window inside the exhibition, dubbed The Box Office. Other artifacts unearthed during the excavation will also be on view, as well as items loaned from institutions across London that highlight the history and culture of Elizabethan theater. The exhibition is expected to open in late 2019.

In the meantime, the process continues to be a learning experience for archaeologists. Just last week, MOLA announced new findings that showed that actor James Burbage, who designed the polygonal, three-tiered Theatre, also created a space surrounding the theater where visitors could relax during long performances. Shakespearean plays often lasted over four hours, and Burbage's complex was an area where guests could chat and stretch their legs.

"Shakespearean playhouses were melting pots of society, and whilst the interior seating arrangements reflected the everyday class divides, theatregoers from across the social spectrum gathered outside to eat and drink and mingle before a performance," MOLA said in a statement. "The recent archaeological excavations are exploring small pockets of these outside areas, and it is hoped that this ongoing research will reveal new insight and artifacts that will eventually be displayed in the exhibition."

[h/t Smithsonian]

Advanced CT Scans Reveal Blood Vessels and Skin Layers in a Mummy's Hand

Jenny Romell, et al./Radiology
Jenny Romell, et al./Radiology

Mummies hold some intriguing secrets to their pasts, like the food they ate and the diseases they had when they were alive. Now scientists are using a tool originally designed for medicine to get an even deeper look at the clues mummified bodies carry with them into the present day, Gizmodo reports.

In a proof-of-concept study published in the journal Radiology, researchers from the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden detail how a new-and-improved CT scanning technique can be used to visualize the interior of mummies on a microscopic level. By creating detailed X-ray images, CT scans allow doctors to see inside their patients without invasive surgery. Archaeologists have been using this technology to study delicate ancient artifacts for years, but the level of detail that can be achieved this way—especially when it comes to looking at interior soft tissue—is limited.

The upgraded version of the tech, called phase-contrast CT scanning, measures the phase shift, or the change in the position of a light wave, that occurs when X-rays pass through solid objects. The images generated this way have a higher contrast level than conventional X-rays, which means they capture more detail.

Cross-section of mummy hand.
Jenny Romell, et al./Radiology

Doctors have been using this 10-year-old technology to examine soft tissues like organs and veins in living patients, but it hadn't been used on a mummy until recently. Working with a mummified human right hand dating back to 400 BCE in Egypt, which they borrowed from the Museum of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Antiquities in Stockholm, the researchers fired up a phase-contrast CT scanner. It produced images with a resolution of 6 to 9 microns, giving a clear picture of the different layers of skin, individual cells in the connective tissue, and the blood vessels in the nail bed—all without damaging the artifact. Previously, researchers looking to study these same tissues in mummies would have needed to use a scalpel.

As Ars Technica reports, a phase-contrast CT scanner is similar in cost to the conventional machine. The study authors hope their work will lead to phase-contrast CT scanning becoming just as common in archaeology as regular CT scanning, potentially creating new research opportunities in mummies that will be discovered in the future and even in artifacts that have already been examined.

[h/t Gizmodo]

A 2.63-Carat Diamond Was Unearthed by a Grandmother at an Arkansas State Park

iStock
iStock

Visitors to the Crater of Diamonds Park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas clearly have an objective in mind: Excavate one of the diamonds lurking on or beneath the park's soil, the onetime site of a volcanic crater. If they do, it's theirs to keep.

Earlier this month, a 71-year-old grandmother from Colorado made the biggest discovery on park grounds of 2018: a 2.63-carat ice white diamond. And she did it in about 10 minutes.

The retiree, who asked media outlets not to identify her by name, visited Crater of Diamonds with her husband, son, and grandchildren. After briefly scraping away dirt, she saw the gem on the surface. The diamond was so large and clear—roughly the size of a pinto bean—that she assumed it was just a piece of glass. Further inspection by her family and park personnel revealed it was a diamond.

Park officials told press that employees frequently till the soil, which can loosen the gems and allow them to catch the reflection of the sun, making them easier to spot. Roughly 33,000 diamonds have been found by visitors since the park opened in 1972.

It's hard to know the exact value of the diamond. While there is a certain fluctuating value assigned to a carat, appraisers also look at three other "Cs": clarity, color, and cut. A two-carat diamond is often more than double the price of a one-carat diamond because the larger gems are more rare. But tourists have profited from their finds: In 2015, a visitor retrieved a 8.51-carat white diamond that was cut down to 4.6 carats by a jeweler and valued by the American Gem Society at $500,000.

[h/t WGN TV]

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