EVEN if 1995 were to end this week, it would go into the...

salmagundi

September 13, 1995

EVEN if 1995 were to end this week, it would go into the books as one of archeology's great years. Discovery follows discovery:

* The tombs of Mesoamerican rulers, with decipherable inscriptions making possible the first tentative kinglists.

* Vast Egyptian burials, apparently relatives of Ramses II.

* A whole new gallery of underground, 20,000 B.C. paintings in southern France.

It'll take years to glean and publish all the new knowledge. Peter Young, the former Evening Sun reporter who is now the editor of Archaeology, has a hard time squeezing the preliminary reports into his monthly magazine.

He is still marveling at the paleobiologists' discovery that birth control was practiced in antiquity, via certain herbs.

And Classical Greek studies have been stood on end by an American, Joan B. Connelly of New York University, who points out the real meaning of the Parthenon frieze. Both the British Museum which holds onto the so-called Elgin Marbles and the Greek Government which covets them have misread the frieze as depicting a placid folk festival. Instead, it shows the mythical founding of Athens -- with King Erectheus and Queen Praxithea about to sacrifice their three daughters.

The most startling surprises physically, says Pete Young, are in China. Not just an emperor's 56 sets of tuned bronze bells, but his additional armies of life-sized terra cotta cavalry, amid miniature rivers, under a vaulted, star-chart ceiling.

Archeology must have limits; the supply of seeds and shards must (alas) be finite. Also, now and then, better not to know something. During August's 19th Amendment anniversary, it's just as well no excavator sought out how The Evening Sun and The Sun stood editorially, 75 years ago, on women's suffrage.

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