Thursday, January 19, 2006

Braveheart killing 'topped bill at fair'

"WILLIAM Wallace's execution was the opening attraction of a giant medieval carnival, according to research which sheds new light on the freedom fighter's death in August 1305.

The killing of 'Braveheart' Wallace, during which he was hanged, drawn and quartered, is now believed to have marked the opening of Bartholomew Fair - the largest medieval market in England, held annually for centuries to commemorate St Bartholomew's Day on August 24.

Tens of thousands flocked to Smithfield - the site of his execution - for the fortnight-long celebration, which featured vast cloth and meat markets as well as sideshows, musicians, wire-walkers, acrobats, puppets, freaks and wild animals.

The fair, which was first held in 1133, was unique in that everyone from peasants to the upper echelons of England's aristocracy attended. By the 18th century it was one of the most spectacular national and international events of the year. It ended in 1855.

Bartholomew Fair presented the perfect opportunity for King Edward to demonstrate his power to the maximum number of people.

"A vast number of people thronging to the medieval fair would have seen the champion of Scotland torn to pieces, and known what would happen to those who crossed Edward."

Ross added: "Bartholomew Fair was the biggest fair in the country - the population of London doubled as traders came from far and wide to Smithfield.

"The fair centred around St Bartholomew's feast day, and at its focal point was St Bartholomew's Church, outside which Wallace was executed.

"It was customary for the Lord Mayor of London to open the fair formally at that place on St Bartholomew's Eve - the very day Wallace was executed.

"It seems clear that Wallace's hideous murder was the fair's opening spectacle, timed perfectly for the day when most people congregated from all over the country - and led by the Lord Mayor himself to commence the celebrations.""

Yemen Temple possible site of new excavation

Researchers hope for large-scale excavations to begin near the Temple of As-Sawda in Yemen following the release of a report citing partial destruction of the site by looters.

"
Temple I is located to the northeast of the city of As-Sawda?. Its remaining pillars are covered with images and inscriptions describing the hierarchy of divinities in Nashshan. The names include Aranyada and Almaqah, Yada?sum and Nab?al, Nakrah and Hawar as well as Athtar and probably Il. Athtar is one of the principal divinities of Nashshan and dominates the assembly of South Arabian pantheons.

The names of goddesses Banat?il appear at the bottom of the pillars and above the scene of the dancing girls. They are the only female divinities attested on these pillars. Their location at the bottom of the pillars suggests their rank in the hierarchy of the South Arabia pantheons in general. There are other divine heroes mentioned for the first time such as Hamat, Hawar and Yatha?an.

Almaqah, the official divinity of the kingdom of Saba?, is present in the pantheon due to a strategic alliance between Saba? and Nashshan during the eighth c. BC. The alliance with Saba? ended with Sabaean domination under the reign of Karib?il Watar."

Keros excavation planned to explain cache of Cycladic figurines


CBS News: "British and Greek archaeologists are preparing a major excavation on a tiny Greek island to try to explain why it produced history's largest collection of Cycladic flat-faced marble figurines.

Artwork from barren Keros inspired such artists as Pablo Picasso and Henry Moore but also attracted ruthless looters. Now experts are seeking insight into the island's possible role as a major religious center of the enigmatic Cycladic civilization some 4,500 years ago.

The Cycladic culture _ a network of small, sometimes fortified farming and fishing settlements that traded with mainland Greece, Crete and Asia Minor _ is best known for its elegant artwork: mostly naked, elongated figures with their arms folded under their chest. The seafaring civilization was eclipsed in the second millennium B.C. by Crete and Mycenaean Greece."

Tooth marks link Vikings, Indians

"A scientist who found deep grooves chiselled into the teeth of dozens of 1,000-year-old Viking skeletons unearthed in Sweden believes the strange custom might have been learned from aboriginal tribes during ancient Norse voyages to North America -- a finding that would represent an unprecedented case of transatlantic, cross-cultural exchange during the age of Leif Ericsson.

The marks are believed to be decorations meant to enhance a man's appearance, or badges of honour for a group of great warriors or successful tradesmen. They are the first historical examples of ceremonial dental modification ever found in Europe, and although similar customs were practised in Asia and Africa over the centuries, the Swedish anthropologist who studied the Viking teeth is exploring the possibility that trips to Newfoundland and other parts of the New World a millennium ago introduced the Norsemen to tooth-carving styles being carried out at that time in the Americas.

'The cases from the North American continent are from the time period,' Caroline Arcini, a researcher with the National Heritage Board in Lund, Sweden, told CanWest News Service. 'So it is within the same timespace as the Swedish ones that are dated from 800-1050 A.D.'

In a paper published by the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, Ms. Arcini details the horizontal etchings across the front teeth of about 25 young men whose remains were found at several Viking Age burial sites in Sweden and Denmark. The 'furrows' -- some teeth have several parallel grooves -- 'are so well made that it is most likely they were filed by a person of great skill,' Ms. Arcini writes.

But 'the reason for, and importance of, the furrows are obscure. The affected individuals may have belonged to a certain occupational group, or the furrows could have been pure decoration.'

Examples of tooth modification have been found at archeological sites around the world -- with the exception, until now, of Europe.

The study notes a similarity in style between the Scandinavian specimens and dental markings common about 1,000 years ago in parts of North America, including Mexico and the present-day United States as far north as Illinois."

Evidence of pre-Greek civilization discovered in Sicily's Valley of Temples


ANSA.it : "Archaeologists working in Sicily's Valley of the Temples have found traces of a settlement thought to pre-date the famous Greek temples built there in around 600 BC .

The valley near Agrigento on Sicily's southern coast is one of Europe's most important archeological sites. It marks a sacred area built when Greeks landed there to start the civilisation of Magna Grecia in southern Italy .

The discovery of a structure possibly built before the Greeks arrived came during preparatory work ahead of a project to shore up the ground near the Temple of Hera. Archaeologists uncovered a mysterious walled structure on top of which ancient Greeks had apparently built a shrine and a burial ground .

Until now it has been thought that Agrigento was settled by the Greeks soon after they began starting colonies in much of the Mediterranean in the 7th century BC .

Pietro Meli, head of the agency which administrates the Valley of the Temples archaeological park, noted that the settlement appeared to have been built along the line of the ancient road to Gela, a town about 70 km southeast of Agrigento ."

Acadian ruins discovered in northeast Syria

Excavations conducted by sixteen archaeological teams examining ancient remains in the northeast Syrian province of al-Hasaka have led to the discovery of structures featuring the architecture of Mabtouh which dates back to Late Acadian Era 2250-2100 B.C., and a second style identified with the Ancient Acadian Period 2400-2250 B.C.

"Dwellings made of mud and wood were discovered in the Late Acadian Era, and included a group of primitive ovens in addition to a number of bronze findings preserved inside a jar along with a set of potteries with distinguished and ordinary ornaments."

Hair-gelled Celt may be proof of ancient Irish trade


The hair-gelled head of an ancient Celt, dubbed the Iron Age Beckham because of his slicked-back look, has been reconstructed by Scots scientists.

Examinations of the Clonycavan man, found fully preserved in a peat bog in Ireland, revealed he used a gel made from a mixture of plant oil and pine resin, believed to be from south-west France or Spain, on his hair.

The discovery has been held up as the first evidence of the trade of luxury goods between Ireland and Southern Europe 2,500 years ago.

Archaeologists suggest the gel may have been applied in an attempt to increase the man's diminutive stature - he was only 5ft 2in tall.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Virtual Nile Valley - Egypt and Sudan


I'm always interested in the use of technology to advance history education so I was quite interested in this project that was a joint effort between the Deutsches Archaeological Institute and the ART+COM AG Computer company:

Virtual Nile Valley - Egypt and Sudan: "The project's objectives are the computer-based, virtual presentation and reconstruction of selected Egyptian and Sudanese sites from different periods of their history in real time to enable the user to choose the point of view himself. The 3D reconstructions are supplemented by important information supplied in multimedia techniques. Preference is given to such sites which are or were excavated by the DAI.

The project is aimed on one hand at the public to implement and increase archaeological knowledge and to develop an awareness of the difficulties of archaeological disciplines. On the other hand it is aimed at the scientific community since it should be investigated whether and how VR can supplement archaeological work.

The project included the following Egyptian sites: the Early Dynastic royal cemetery as well as monuments from the Middle and New Kingdom at Abydos (ill..: Preliminary overview over the Cemetery of Umm el-Qaab, version: October 2002; ill.: the tomb of Qa'a during virtual reconstruction, version: October 2002 (about 3500-1200 BC) and the temple and selected tombs at Siwa; the town of Elephantine including the Early Dynastic fortress as well as the temples of Satet and Khnum (3. - 1. millennium BC) is in preparation. Information on the archaeological sites of Amarna and Giza was also collected.

In Sudan, the capital of the Kerma kingdom will be reconstructed in its classical period (ca. 1500-100 BC; ill.: Kerma - main temple, hut of the council and palaces, partial 3D-reconstruction, ill.: Kerma - main temple, hut of the council and palaces during excavation). In addition, the temples and pyramid fields of Gebel Barkal (ca. 1500-100 BC; ill.: Ruins of the temples of Napata), the royal cemetery of El Kurru (8. cent. BC), and Hamadab/Kabushiya, an urban settlement of the Meroitic period in the 1. cent. AD, were selected for virtual reconstruction and partially prepared for modelling (Jebel Barkal). "

Cache of Horse Skeletons May be Evidence of Ancient Battle


Haaretz - Israel News - Article: "Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologists conducting a salvage dig in the Armenian monastery in Jaffa expected to find artifacts connected to the ancient fortifications of the city. However, a few days ago they were surprised to discover, some 60 centimeters below the monastery floor, no fewer than 10 horse skeletons.

Excavation directors Amit Re'em and Martin Peilstoker said yesterday the horses may have died in battle, and if so, it occurred long before the 17th century, when the monastery was constructed. It was possible, the archaeologists said, that the horses were buried as early as the Hellenistic period, about 2,200 years ago, or in the Early Arab period, 1,500 years ago. The archaeologists assume the horses were buried outside the city wall because of the stench of them decaying.

"So many horse skeletons in one place is rare and special. They may have died in battle or from a plague. Laboratory tests will reveal what kind of horses they were and what they were used for. At the moment we know they were adult males, which suits the theory they were battle horses," Hadas Moto of the Hebrew University Faculty of Agriculture, who is heading a team examining DNA samples from the remains, said. "

Note: Image is of horse skeletons found in royal tomb in Xinzheng China from about the same time period.

100 Parthian Statuettes Discovered in Halil-Rud


The latest archaeological excavations in the basin of Halil Rud River resulted in the discovery of more than a hundred clay statuettes belonging to the Parthian era. The excavations have also led to the discovery of 53 pre-historic sites, cemeteries, workshops, and residential areas.

Historical site of Halil Rud, located on the basin of the river, enjoys a rich civilization. Some stone and clay evidence and architectural remains belonging to the third millennium BC were unearthed during the archeological excavations as well as the illegal diggings of the smugglers. 120 historical sites have been identified so far in the 400 kilometer length of Halil Rud River?s basin.

Animal and human clay statuettes were the most important discoveries during these excavations. These statuettes which were either simple or had beautiful designs were buried with the dead as gifts during the Parthian era.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Construction on Asia's largest marine museum begins


"Construction of the Nanhai No. 1 Museum, designed to display a first ancient vessel discovered on the "Marine Silk Road" of the South China Sea, has begun in Yangjiang city of south China's Guangdong Province.

The museum, also named "China's Marine Silk Road Museum", will open to the public in 2007. It will mainly exhibit the merchant ship of the Southern Song Dynasty in the 13th century, namely the Nanhai No.1, and thousands of historical wares it carried.

The salvage work of the ship will go side by side with the museum construction, which is expected to complete by the end of 2006.

The 25-meter-long Nanhai No.1 sank 20 nautical miles off the Hailing Island of Yangjiang city. It is reportedly the earliest and best-preserved merchant ship discovered in the world.

Green glazed porcelain plates, blue porcelain pottery and other rarities have been found during the initial exploration of the ship. Archaeologists estimate that there are probably 60,000 to 80,000 relics on the ship."