Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Classical sea battle at Salamis inspires epic search

smh.com.au: "The Persians' defeat at Salamis is seen as one of the first victories of democracy over tyranny, a crucial moment in Western history. Without it, say scholars, there would have been no golden age and the world would have been a very different place.

All of which makes a new week-long mission to locate one of the Greek triremes involved in the struggle more poignant as experts try to discover how the Greeks managed to defeat a much bigger and better-equipped enemy.

Although archaeologists have discovered ancient Greek and Persian ships, they have always been cargo vessels."

Friday, June 17, 2005

Ancient statue returned to Samos

MSNBC.com: "Authorities cheered the return of a tiny, 2,600-year-old statue stolen during World War II, and said the news should offer hope to antiquity officials in Iraq as well.

A British ancient art dealer returned the tiny statue of a smiling, long-haired youth after realizing the piece had been stolen from the Aegean Sea island of Samos during World War II. Greece was occupied by forces from Germany, Italy and Bulgaria during the war.

James Ede, chairman of the London-based International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art, bought the 4?-inch (11-centimeter) bronze figure from the widow of a Greek art collector who lived in Switzerland. He turned it over to the Greek Embassy in London and accompanied the statue on its flight home.

The piece will be displayed at the archaeological museum of Samos."

Descendants of Alexander's army struggle to survive modern incursions

Guardian Unlimited: "Reputed to have descended from the armies of Alexander, the Kalasha have lived for thousands of years in a nest of idyllic valleys near the Afghan border. But their identity is being threatened by Muslim missionaries, tourism and neglect by central government.

The Kalasha are the last remnants of the population of Kafiristan, the ancient 'land of infidels' that straddled the borders of present-day Pakistan and Afghanistan. About 4,000 of them survive in three majestic valleys that awe visitors as a sort of paradise lost.

Turquoise streams rush through leafy glades of giant walnut trees and swaying crops. Clusters of simple houses cling to steep forested slopes. Compared with many compatriots beyond their valleys, the Kalasha are charmingly liberal: drinking wine, holding dancing festivals and worshipping a variety of gods. Women wear intricately beaded headdresses, not burkas, and may choose their husband.

But, a new community centre financed by the Greeks, which aims to provide everything from schooling to surgery, has reignited debate about how best to save the Kalasha way of life. Some community leaders feel the Greek initiative is good-hearted, but wrong-headed. 'I don't blame them for wanting to help, but that help could damage us,' said Saifullah Jan in Rumbur valley. 'There is too much interference. Our people are getting spoilt. They should just let us be.'

Theories of ancestry with Alexander the Great are fuelled by some Kalashas' fair skin and Caucasian features, but ethnologists say the link remains unproven."

Michelangelo's "anatomy code"

CNN.com : "Completed nearly 500 years ago, the brightly colored frescoes painted on the Vatican's famous sanctuary are considered some of the world's greatest works of art. They depict Biblical scenes such as the 'Creation of Adam' in which God reaches out to touch Adam's finger.

But Gilson Barreto and Marcelo de Oliveira believe Michelangelo also scattered his detailed knowledge of internal anatomy across 34 of the ceiling's 38 panels. The way they see it, a tree trunk is not just a tree trunk, but also a bronchial tube. And a green bag in one scene is really a human heart.

Barreto and his friend Oliveira are not the first physicians to see depictions of human organs in the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican church where popes are elected.

Fifteen years ago, U.S. doctor Frank Meshberger pointed out the figure of God and his surrounding angels in the "Creation of Adam" panel resembled a cross-section of the human brain.

He believes Michelangelo was equating God's gift of a soul for Adam with the divine gift of intelligence for mankind.

Packing up his desk as he prepared to move houses, Barreto came across Meshberger's theory.

"I said to myself, 'If there's a brain, he surely didn't just paint a brain. There have to be others,"' Barreto said."

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The origin of the mirror

The Hindu: "The origin of the mirror, the most widely used object in all homes, rich or poor, is lost in antiquity. The earliest mirrors date back to 2000 years. They belonged to Etruscans, Greeks and Romans and consisted of a thin convex disc of a metal, mostly bronze, which was polished on one side. Mirrors were made from glass and coated with tin or silver. It has been mentioned by Pliny in his "Natural History" that these were made at Sidon in the second century C.E..

Greek mirrors dating back to 400 B.C. have been unearthed in Corinth with wooden frames and handles carved with the figure of Greek goddess of Love - Aphrodite."

How Egypt turned dust into treasures of glass

MSNBC.com: "Archaeologists have uncovered for the first time the remains of a Bronze Age glass factory, where skilled artisans made glass from its raw materials. Surprisingly, this factory, which was bustling around 1250 B.C., is in Egypt rather than Mesopotamia, which is generally thought to be where glass was first made.

The oldest-known glass artifacts of consistently high quality date back to approximately 1500 B.C. These may have been made in Mesopotamia.

The most common glass objects made during this time period were glass beads and vessels with narrow necks, which may have held perfume or other valuable liquids. They were often made of blue glass, colored to emulate precious stones like turquoise and lapis lazuli, inlaid with white and yellow lines.

Most of these objects have been found in Egypt and the region between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers that was once Mesopotamia. They were made in two separate stages.

In the primary production stage, glass was made from plant ash and crushed quartz dust into round disks or ?ingots.? In the secondary stage, the ingots were melted down and re-formed into specific objects. Many clues - such as a Late Bronze Age shipwreck off the coast of Turkey that contained a cache of cobalt-blue glass ingots - indicate that the ingots could have been made in one location and then exported to distant locations for the second stage."

Monday, June 13, 2005

American Archaeologist Authenticates Afghanistan?s Recovered National Treasures

American Archaeologist Authenticates Afghanistan?s Recovered National Treasures: "Miraculously, fewer than 100 objects are now missing from the Kabul Museum?s original display collection. The museum had gained notoriety for its collection of more than 21,000 primarily gold objects of the Bactrian culture recovered in 1978 at Tilya Tepe (Mountain of Gold) by Russian archaeologist Viktor Sarianidi. Exquisitely carved ivory plaques from the Kushan culture, cast bronze busts of the classical Roman style, Chinese lacquer bowls, Buddhist bodhisattva sculptures, first century glassware and a crystal vase engraved with the image of Alexandria?s Pharos lighthouse were withdrawn from battered containers used to safeguard the treasure during the Taliban regime in an inventory witnessed by American archaeologist Fredrik Hiebert earlier this year."