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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Czech archaeologists to explore old vault by radar

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Prague, Aug 27 (CTK) - Czech archaeologists plan to explore the mysterious vault of the Rozmberk noble family on the underground premises of the Cistercian monastery in Vyssi Brod, south Bohemia, using a modern radar equipment, the daily Lidove noviny (LN) reported Monday.

The vault was sealed up after the last Rozmberk family member, Petr Vok, was buried there in 1611, and it has remained untouched since then.

It was protected by an old legend warning that he who opens the vault and disturbs the peace of the late Rozmberk ancestors will be cursed - he will die within a year, the paper says.

The monastery was occupied by the SS troops during WW2, and later by the then Czechoslovak communist secret police (StB). However, neither the Germans, nor StB officers dared to open the vault in fears of the ancient curse, LN recalls.

Now the archaeologists who want to inspect the Rozmberk vault after 400 years hope to avoid the dreadful curse by using modern "non-destructive methods" that will enable them to explore the vault without opening it by force.

The experts will first map the monastery underground by a special radar system that will provide a precise computer model of the premises, including architectonic elements. Then they will drill an about 2-centimetre-wide hole into the vault through which a probe with a camera is to be set down to film the interiors, archaeologist Zuzana Thomova, head of the research, explained in the paper.

She also pointed out that it was difficult in the past to find out the exact location of the Rozmberk vault without the modern electrotechnical devices archaeologists have at their disposal now.

LN adds that the same method was successfully applied during the exploration of the vault of King of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV (1316-1378) at Prague Castle, the former royal residence and the present presidential seat.

The daily also writes that archaeologists apply electronics more and more frequently as such non-destructive methods, based on geological radars or magnetic-field research, are more considerate towards ancient heritage. Changes in the magnetic field helped Czech archaeologists discover Egyptian tombs in Abusir, south Egypt, a couple of years ago.

After thorough preparations, the radar exploration of the Rozmberk vault is to be launched next year, LN says.

Asked whether she fears of the legend accompanying the vault, Thomova said her team took rather more recent allegations connected with WW2 into consideration. Since the Nazis used to hide stolen artifacts in the Vyssi Brod monastery, in cannot be ruled out that there are still some wartime explosives and ammunition in the underground, she added.

This is also why her team will apart from archaeologists and anthropologists include various technical experts, such as geophysicists.

A period chronicle says the Rozmberks were not buried in coffins, but seated in armchairs placed in a circle, but current experts consider it improbable, the paper says.

Thomova stressed that in spite of the old rumours, the archaeologists would seek nothing sensational in the vault.

"The main aim of the exploration is to gather information not only about the architectonic developments of the monastery, but also about the history of burial services in the Czechs Lands. The Rozmberk vault was used from the the 13th century and if it has never been opened since 1611, its research may bring a number of significant results," Thomova told the paper.

The Rozmberks, seated in south Bohemia with a five-petal rose on their coat-of-arms, were one of the oldest and most influential Czech noble families. Its members occupied important posts at the Royal and Imperial courts.

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