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The Museum -

View in ParlView

(generated from captions) a sportsman, how do you want to

be remembered? I want to be

remembered in terms of what era

of cricket and cricketers that

I was playing amongst - that's

really - it's as simple as

that, I think. It's a toast to

Australia. I'm proud of the

fact that I played for

Australia, proud that I played

for Queensland. Very proud of

the fact that I've been able to

represent my family that have

given so much to me over such a

long and privileged

career. Matthew Hayden, you

have given us lots of good

memories too, we appreciate you

talking to us, thank you very

If you enjoyed that interview much. It's a great pleasure.

with Matthew Hayden, and wanted

to hear more, go to the website

at abc.net.au/7.30. That is the

program for tonight. We'll be

back at the same time tomorrow.

Enjoy your evening, I'm Mark

Bannerman, goodnight. Closed Captions by CSI

there's a collection like no other, 'Deep inside the British Museum of the planet, gathered from every corner and every age of human history. never sees the light of day. The vast majority Most of it is kept here,

in acres and acres of storerooms.

and the tombs of kings. These once graced temples Now they just wait. to their waiting. But there's a purpose of the public's admiration, Though not basking in the glow on the mysteries of the past. these objects can still shed light Each one tells a story.' about the whole business One of the exciting things what you're going to find. is you never quite know a library of objects The museum is like that we can read them. and science is one way that light bulb moment. Yes, we can suddenly have 'For these curators and scientists, is a jigsaw puzzle the history of humanity is where the pieces are kept.' and the British Museum THEME MUSIC

EXCITED HUBBUB in the museum today, 'There's a bit of a riot and this is the man responsible. Doctor Irving Finkel has spent almost 30 years here studying the Ancient Near East. He's also mad about board games.' Well, the Great Court is a throb with excitement as a whole load of children have been browbeaten into participating in a life-size version of the Royal Game of Ur. 'The Royal Game of Ur is one of the world's oldest board games. For over 2,500 years it was played everywhere from India to Egypt.

Irving's been obsessed with it since he was a boy.' This horrible thing is a homemade version of the Royal Game of Ur and I made it when I was about 12 because that was when I first got interested in all this kind of activity and I was determined from then on to find out how to play this game. 'The rules had been lost for thousands of years. But eventually, Irving discovered them. And that was only possible because he could read the oldest writing in the world - Cuneiform.' I always wanted to study a really difficult writing system and I thought about doing Egyptian and I thought about doing Chinese, but then I discovered cuneiform, which is definitely the hardest. 'Pressed into tablets of clay, cuneiform was used in ancient Mesopotamia 5,000 years ago. The rules Irving had been looking for were on just such a tablet. He found it here, in the Museum's famous Arched Room. These drawers are stuffed with over 130,000 cuneiform tablets.

Every single one, a piece of history waiting to be brought back to life.' If you open a draw in this collection at random you can find something interesting for certain. It's part of a school text, you can see, it's got very large writing, it's ruled into columns and it was probably a tablet this sort of size originally. I think that's rather interesting. This is a Sumerian hymn. And these are tablets from Nineveh they belonged to the King of Assyria, Ashurbanipal, as part of his own private library. It's as clear as news print and twice as interesting. 'Cuneiform was used to write not just one, but all of the major languages of the Ancient Near East. This room holds 3,000 years of history from the cradle of civilisation.' Our collection is so broad and so extensive that it's true to say that the bulk of what we know about Ancient Mesopotamia comes from the documents in this room. 'But of course there's a problem - all the tablets are broken into tiny fragments. You can't read a text here until you've first found all the pieces, then glued them together.' It is a cosmic jigsaw puzzle and it will never end, even if we live to 150. 'It's what people like Irving have been doing here since the 19th-century.'

It's not uncommon for a shout to go up in this sedate room when somebody makes one big piece, where previously you had two small ones. It's a kind of on-going torment and pleasure. Nobody laughs in here - they cry, but nobody laughs. But, triumph. (SIGHS) 'Much of the research in the British Museum starts like this, with the curiosity and passion of the individual curators. Judith Swaddling is a curator in the Greek and Roman Department. She thinks she's found evidence of drug use in the Museum's back rooms. But it's not the staff she's investigating. These ceramic vessels date from around 1600BC and they've been found everywhere from Egypt to Palestine. Whatever was inside them must have been very popular.' In fact, if you turn the vessel over you get a clue to what was actually inside it, or what we think was inside it. There's this flattish disk on top, and then you have the round globular body. So, what it actually resembles is a dried poppy-head and that's why we think that they contained opium. 'To find out, she'll need a scientist. Rebecca Stacey is a specialist in organic residues, these are the soft leftovers of ancient life. She's also pretty handy with a screwdriver.' Well, you've always got a screw left over, haven't you? It will reveal itself when we switch it on.

'The focus of her investigation is on a pair of the poppy pots which are a bit special. Whoever owned these never got round to opening them. They are still perfectly sealed. Rebecca's mission is to find out what's inside.' Nobody's had access to the inside of these pots for 3,500 years. We're the first people to look inside. I know it's not quite so exciting as going into a tomb, but... But whatever we find, it's going to be really interesting. I think we're going to get high on it as soon as we open them up. 'The first step is to check if there really is anything in the pots. The X-ray reveals fine craftsmanship. The ceramic walls are thin and delicate. More crucially, there is still something inside. The question is how to get it out without damaging this fragile vessel. The most obvious way in is through the stopper, but there's a snag.' This material is going to be a big problem because it's just falling apart when I touch it. 'If the stopper crumbles,

it will contaminate whatever's inside, and the evidence will be lost forever. Rebecca is left with only one real option - to drill a hole through the delicate pot and risk destroying it. There are so many artefacts in the museum that no-one knows the precise number. There simply isn't the time or money to research more than a fraction of this vast collection. The objects inside these boxes are from ancient Peru, and have been here for almost 100 years. Colin McEwan heads up the Americas section. He thinks it's time to get them off the shelf.' These are an unstudied resource and we're just right at the beginning of the process of understanding how we make them come alive, how do the images on these vessels start to really reveal things to a broader audience. 'These were made by the Nazca, who lived 1,000 years before the Inca.

Their culture thrived over 1,500 years ago, between the Andes and the coast of what is now Peru. The Nazca left their mark not only on their pottery, they famously etched mysterious symbols into the harsh desert landscape around them. These images are so huge they can only be seen from the air. It's thought they were used in ancient ritual processions. But the Nazca had no written language, so no-one knows for sure. The meaning of their symbols remains a mystery.' But we know that the secrets to decoding this imagery - the keys to decoding that - are really on this body of material. This is a masterpiece. What's clear here... 'Colin and his fellow researcher Edward de Bock have gathered all these pots in one place so they can compare them to one another. They believe that this will reveal the meaning behind the images. At first glance the paintings appear to be simple decoration,

but there's more to them than meets the eye.

This vessel may look like a girl in a pretty dress, but in the figure's hand is a clue to its real identity. What looks like a stick is really a weapon - a Nazca throwing spear. And the pattern on this tunic seems to have a deeper, less cheerful meaning.' Sometimes it has been published as being flowers,

but why would a warrior walk with flowers? You get the answer with this fantastic trophy head, if you turn it around.

Actually, you can see that severed dot

representing the severed spinal column. So, then it becomes very clear what we see here. And since the whole combination of trophy heads with blood streaming out of their neck, you know, it's painted on top of here.

'So this figure is in fact a warrior, displaying the severed necks of his enemies on his tunic, and their heads at his feet.

Colin will have to see thousands of pots,

far more than he can gather in one place. He needs another way to compare the images, if he is ever to understand the Nazca's silent language.

Rebecca's about to risk breaking a 3,500-year-old piece of history.' Today we're actually drilling the hole to try and get at the residue inside. So, hopefully it'll all go OK and then we'll have something to analyse. Hi. Thanks, Denise. Can I give you that?

'She's asked a ceramics expert to be with her while she does the drilling.' I'm a bit nervous because there is the chance that the pot might break, and that's a worry. 'There's no way to know how clay fired so long ago will react to an electric drill.'

There's no other way of getting at the residue so we have two options - we can either do this, or we can say we're not going to. "It's interesting that there's stuff inside, but we're not going to investigate it any further." And I don't think that's what anybody wants because it's just a bit too interesting. Right, let's stop messing about. It worked. 'Rebecca gets her first glimpse of something

that hasn't seen the light of day in 3,500 years.' Whatever is in there is gooey and sticky. Oh, it smells! Does it? It smells fragrant. You know, it smells kind of like hand cream. I'm trying to think what that means. It's almost got a coconuty smell. But it can't be. It smells like cocoa butter. Mmm. I'm happy. It's all gone according to plan. 'Thousands of years will have changed the contents of the pot, it's now a sticky paste. To find out what it's made of, Rebecca has to compare it to something just as old. Her first port of call is usually this cabinet. It's full of goo and gunk, all well past its sell-by date.' That's terrific because all the time they're in here they're ageing naturally. Pure gum mastic in original bottle, dated 1892. 'She may have Victorian glue and Edwardian resin in the cabinet, but what she doesn't have is opium from 1600BC. She's going to have to make some. She's managed to get hold of some fresh opium, from a reputable supplier.

Now she has to artificially age it. Aging opium is a bit like aging a rock star - first, you soak it in alcohol... ..and then you shake it up. After all that, it needs to go and dry out. It'll be stuck in the oven for a month. This is the next step on the long journey to decode the visual language of the Nazca. Each pot is photographed over 40 times, from every possible angle.' Our task is to bring this to life. These are images that are wrapped round the vessels. They can't actually be appreciated just from one single view in front.

'Before an image can be studied, it must first be seen in its entirety. To do this, all the photographs are cut up and matched precisely to make a detailed collage.' And that effectively helps it unwrap from around the vessel and it reveals the whole design in all its detail. 'Once the montage is complete, it's then painstakingly traced by hand.' We're aiming for 3,000 drawings. And so, that's thousands of hours of drawing time. Well, this isn't a second masterpiece so to speak. 'Colin's managed to collect over 900 drawings like this one.' The breakthroughs happen when they're compared to one another.' Where is this one from again? 'They believe this complex image is an evolution of a far simpler one. This is an image from a far earlier pot. It's been identified as a killer whale. The fins are the most visible clue. A later pot shows the same creature, but now it carries a spear.

The predator has been given the symbol of a warrior.

Over time, these elements remain, but become ever more stylised. Here, you can still see the fins, but they're not as recognisable. The spear is gone, but new features appear. The killer whale now has human feet. Later changes are dramatic. Here the killer whale carries trophy heads,

another sign of a great Nazca warrior.

The image Colin began with can now be understood. All the elements are here. It has fins and human feet and it is festooned with trophy heads. The killer whale was the most powerful predator in the Nazca world. They revered it and gave it the attributes of a warrior. And this is only one of thousands of images waiting to be decoded.' This is a process that could take many years.

We're about five years into the project. It's a lifelong pursuit. We're trying to do it, at least make measurable progress within our lifetimes. 'The rare skills and extraordinary interests of curators are much in demand beyond the four walls of the British Museum.

Across town, Irving Finkel's ability to read cuneiform is required in an unexpected place. He's been asked to help the police with their enquiries.' Oh, Vernon. Hello. Irving, nice to see you again. Thank you very much for coming. Pleasure. 'Detective-sergeant Vernon Rapley heads up Scotland Yard's Art and Antiques Unit. He's called Irving in to look at this.' I'm sure you've seen many of these before. 'An ancient Assyrian relief that's been taken into custody. The police suspect it's come from Iraq illegally.' This is a photocopy of a photograph that was taken by the Polish archaeology team back in 1974, showing the two sections... 'This photo shows two halves of a relief side-by-side. One half is known to be in Iraq, the other half looks very much like the one here in Scotland Yard's secret storeroom in London.

But that's not enough proof for a court of law. The key to identifying the relief is the cuneiform inscription.' From my understanding, the cuneiform which we can see at the bottom, or what I believe is cuneiform - runs straight across both sections. So, if we can decipher and maybe translate certainly the latter part of the lines of script on this part, we can match them to the other. That would be a good forensic link for us to take it back to the object which is still in Iraq. I understand. That should be fairly straightforward. Let's have a look. OK, the inscription begins here. This is the word for palace, so that's the beginning of the inscription which is the left edge as you'd expect. OK. Let's see if we can see who the king is - it's presumably Sennacherib from the style. OK, this is the bit it must be the name of Sennacherib. I think the Palace of Sennacherib.

Let's have a look. Is it possible to say that a certain word, or phrase, or sentence here, would carry on in another form on the other section? Yes, this is Ashur his Lord. That's the end of the word, so you have a new word starting here. This says, "King of", so there would have to be a word here that fits in that relationship. King of something, or king of a certain place. 'Irving's ability to read cuneiform like the rest of us read newspapers has helped provide a crucial link for Scotland Yard.' Clearly, I can't decipher the script here and it's one of the strongest forms of evidence we can have is to link these lines of script to the piece that's missing in Iraq. To have Irving and other people from the museum on hand to do this sort of thing for us in London is fantastic. 'Now it's up to the CID to decide whether to proceed with the case. Irving's work is done.' In a way, all museum work is detective work. There are always difficult puzzles to sort out, sometimes it's reading the thing, sometimes it's identifying it, sometimes it's working out where it came from, or how old it is. All museum work, in a way, is one big puzzle-solving operation. 'Rebecca's back in her lab again. She's hunting for traces of opium in the tiny sample she took from the poppy pot. Her machine breaks down the sample

and draws a graph of what's in it. Each chemical shows up as a peak at a different point on the graph. She's already run the artificially aged opium through the machine, so she knows what she's looking for. But she can't see it. What these peaks are showing is oil - lots of oil.' Well, I've been searching through all of the peaks on here and I can't find any opiates at all. 'If there's any opium in the sample, it's being swamped by the oil. It's like trying to see a pebble in a mountain range.

So Rebecca decides to try a different test. She's going to warm up a small sample to release its fragrance

and run this through her machine. If she can find out what is making it smell the way it does, it could tell her what else is in the ointment.' There's something coming out. Nothing. Bother! 'It's another setback, but if she gave up that easily she wouldn't be here.' I do it because there's always something new. I do it because I'm curious, because I want to find out more about the collections, about the stories that we can tell through them, the way that we can use science to learn more about these objects

and the way people have understood them, used them, made them, all of these kind of questions. I think it's a fascinating subject. 'She's discovered another technique which might reveal traces of opium. For that, she'll need a much larger sample and a new piece of kit.' It's like a kind of heating element really. So it will flash heat the sample, it breaks down in the heat and then we analyse everything that comes out of that.

You're desperately hoping for me to leap out of my seat, aren't you?

And say, punch the air, and say, "Wahey! I've found the answer!" Um...

'She's found the faintest trace of ancient opium,

but it's not enough to be sure.' It's a tiny, tiny, tiny amount, but it's the best chance we've had yet. 'It's not the end of her search. It's the beginning of months more work in the lab. Like all research in the British Museum, this won't be finished any time soon. In the Great Court, Irving Finkel's campaign to introduce the next generation

to the thrills of cuneiform is in full swing.' It's an opportunity to sort of brainwash them generally and try and recruit their assistance in the great challenge of reading cuneiform inscriptions, which we all tackle on a daily basis, as you know. You are in a crocodile, aren't you? Yes. Right, OK, here's the head of the crocodile. Go on then. (CHILDREN CHAT) What we've got here is a few bits of writing on clay - clay tablets, which are written in a kind of writing called cuneiform writing. And when you went to school, every day you'd make one of these tablets and then you'd make rulings across

and write an exercise on one side of the tablet. There's endless work to be done in this museum, we have such huge resources,

there's probably three or four centuries of work to be done, and there are never enough people and it would be just great if more kids decided not to do the obvious things at university but did a bit of the strange stuff, like serology and ended up doing this kind of work. It's very fascinating and very worthwhile. 'But even if each one of these children becomes an Irving Finkel, that wouldn't be enough to find the story of every object in the British Museum. Someone will have to takeover Colin's mission to decode the silent language of the Nazca. And there are endless puzzles in the storerooms

for scientists like Rebecca to solve. Perhaps one day, each piece in the storerooms will have their chance to speak. But for the moment, they'll have to wait.' Closed Captions By CSI

This program is not subtitled

This Program is Captioned Live.

Good evening. Virginia Haussegger

with an ABC News update. The Federal

Government is discussing with

airlines the possible evacuation of

hundreds of Australian tourists

stranded in Fiji. But hopes of

getting them out soon are slim. The

island nation is bracing for more

devastating flooding, with another

big storm on the way. Six people

big storm on the way. Six people have died and 9,000 Fijians have been

died and 9,000 Fijians have been left homeless. Homes are under threat

tonight from a blaze burning out of

control at Port Lincoln in South

Australia. A tuna processing plant,

two homes, a boarding kennel, and

several cars have already been

destroyed. The fire's been fuelled

destroyed. The fire's been fuelled by 43-degree heat and strong winds. And

New South Wales firefighters are

waterbombing a blaze that's been

threatening homes on Sydney's North

Shore. So far, there have been no

evacuations. More than 100

firefighters are battling the fire.

Matthew Hayden has announced his

retirement from international

cricket. Described by past and

present team mates as Australia's

greatest opening batsman, Hayden

leaves the sport after more than 100

Tests and 8,000 runs. And Canberra's

weather - a scorcher is forecast,

getting up to 37 degrees. Just 17

overnight. Sydney - 29. Melbourne -

39. Adelaide - 34. More news in an hour.