Friday, September 30, 2005

Statues of Athena and Hera discovered near Iraklion

The life-sized marble statues of two ancient Greek goddesses have emerged during excavations of a 5,000-year-old town on the island of Crete, archaeologists said Friday.

The works, representing the goddesses Athena and Hera, date to between the second and fourth centuries during the period of Roman rule in Greece and originally decorated the Roman theater in the town of Gortyn, archaeologist Anna Micheli from the Italian School of Archaeology told The Associated Press.

"They are in very good condition," she said, adding that the statue of Athena, goddess of wisdom, was complete, while Hera long-suffering wife of Zeus, the philandering king of gods was headless.

Standing six feet high with their bases, the works were discovered Tuesday by a team of Italian and Greek archaeologists excavating the ruined theater of Gortyn, about 27 miles south of Iraklion in central Crete.

Micheli said the goddesses were toppled from their plinths by a powerful earthquake around A.D. 367 that destroyed the theater and much of the town."
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Ithaca location to be revealed by British Management Consultant

Here's another example of accessible satellite imagery being used by non-credentialed enthusiasts to make important scientific discoveries. "Robert Bittlestone, a management consultant, spent two years searching for a rocky island that matched Homer's description of Ithaca, the homeland of legendary hero Odysseus. Some experts have argued that the island of Ithaki, sometimes called Ithaca in English, in southwest Greece does not match Homer's description.

Bittlestone used satellite imagery and 3D global visualization techniques developed by NASA to look for clues in the Greek landscape. He showed his findings to experts who said they were likely to be correct.

He planned to announce his conclusions at a news conference in central London. Bittlestone's book 'Odysseus Unbound - The Search for Homer's Ithaca' is co-written by James Diggle, a professor of Greek and Latin at Cambridge University, and John Underhill, professor of stratigraphy, or the science of studying the layers of rocks in the earth's crust, at Edinburgh University."
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Smugglers threatening Zahak Castle in Iran

From every side Zahak Castle is surrounded by mountains and long plains bedecked with wild red anemones. At a distance one can see the railway and the railway station. At the depth of the valley like a snake a twisting river comes from west, makes a circle and follows the railway towards east. As if the mountain underneath is like a giant statue of Arab Zahak and the two banks of the river are the dreadful snakes growing from the monsters shoulders. This is the landscape of a mountain which has preserved one of the Iranian ancient sites for thousands of years.

This mountain has housed different civilizations from the second millennium B.C. up to several centuries A.D. If you walk towards the northern mound from the middle cavity you will see a layer of stone walls without mortar. These walls in fact used to serve as the prehistoric battlements of Zahak Fort and date back to the second millennium B.C. The prominent rectangular brow on the battlement is still visible. The entrance gate is located at the end of the western wing and near the valley slope. Remnants of this ancient wall is visible here and there at the northern wing of the castle and where no such walls can be traced the mountain or a sharp slope serves as a wall. Near the prehistoric stone fence earthenwares as old as the second millennium B.C. have been discovered which are related to Median and Achamenid periods. Many of these wares meanwhile belong to the Parthian Dynasty, but few Sassanian earthenware have been unearthed.

Archaeologists excavating the site have found that smugglers have looted the site so there are plans to establish a permanent research facility and guard house in order to protect the cemetery after current excavations are completed.
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Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Stela depicting Cleopatra as male pharaoh discovered in China

In Beijing, an international joint research group from the Catholic University in Leuven and Beijing University discovered a collection of Egyptian art that was believed lost. A Chinese ambassador to Cairo compiled the collection in 1906; when he died the items of the collection were distributed between the Beijing University Museum, the Arts Museum in Beijing and Beijing National Library.

Chinese Ambassador Duan Fang who took keen interest in Egyptian culture, wanted to exhibit the collection in Europe, but he was killed in 1911. After his death, the collection was scattered about various museums and some items were even lost.

A year ago, Professor Willy Clarysse from the University of Leuven agreed to study a stela kept at the Beijing University Museum that allegedly belonged to Duan Fang collection. The study gave rise to recording the inventory of the entire unique collection.

The collection consists of over 50 stelae and 60 rubbings made with coal on paper. A special find is a stela which depicts Cleopatra as a male pharaoh. This is only the second known example of such a depiction in the world."
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Monday, September 12, 2005

Unique statue of Persian goddess uncovered near Prague

Prague Daily Monitor:Czech archaeologists have uncovered a unique seal shaped as the Persian fertility Goddess Anahita from the period of the Migration of the Nations near Prague, archaeologist Petr Charvat told CTK today.

'It is a completely unique finding,' Charvat, an expert in oriental cultures, said, adding that it can be compared to the renowned ancient statue of 'Venus of Vestonice' from south Moravia or the bronze bull statue found in the cave Byci skala at Adamov, south Moravia.

Archaeologist David Danicek found the Anahita statue on the same spot where he uncovered an ancient burial ground from the period of the Migration of the Nations (4th-5th centuries A.D) during his research. He said that a grave of a woman 'of higher social rank' can be hidden there as well.

'It is a sitting or half-kneeling woman's figure in a long green coat with a golden hook and probably a golden necklace who is hiding her face behind a book or a codex or maybe a couple of ivory plates. The lower part of the statue, which is apparently formed as a seal, is decorated with an erotic motive,' Charvat said, describing the statue."
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Church Pulpit Unearthed in Thracian Sanctuary of Perperikon

Church Pulpit Unearthed in Thracian Sanctuary of Perperikon: .

Archaeologists have found a church pulpit at the peak of the Thracian rock sanctuary Perperikon.

This is the first of the kind finding in Bulgaria, the team's chief Nikolay Ovcharov said. According to him, the pulpit was built at the end of the 4th century AD or the early 5th century during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Honorius and coincided with the period of the christening the Thracians in the Rhodopes area.

It has the form of one-ship basilica of 16.5 m length, which is the most typical form of an early christen religious temple.

The pulpit, which is almost untouched by time, is richly decorated with stone-carved ornaments. An eagle with largely spread wings is clearly seen on the rock."
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Michelangelo's Source for David Marble Identified

"In a study carried out for the Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence, where Michelangelo's naked David attracts 1.2 million visitors a year, Donato Attanasio, head of the research team at the Istituto di Struttura della Materia in Rome, analyzed three tiny samples from the second toe of David's left foot.

The fragments were retrieved in 1991, when the statue was damaged in act of vandalism.

It emerged that fine grain size is the most distinct property of David's marble, Attanasio and colleagues report in the current issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science.

The researchers then compared the fragments with samples from a database that included all the quarrying sites known to yield fine-grained marbles.

The comparison involved samples from the Turkish marbles of Afyon and Altintas, the Greek marbles of Mt. Hymettos and Mt. Pentelicon, and Italian marbles from Serravezza and Carrara, where more than one hundred quarries produce over one million tons of marble blocks per year.

Spectroscopic, isotopic and petrographic analysis narrowed down the search to the Fantiscritti site in Carrara, ruling out a previous theory that the David's marble might have come from a quarry in Seravezza, in the Apuan Alps.

"Finding the precise origin of David's marble block can help greatly in the conservation and restoration work," Attanasio observed."
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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

New artifacts from the intermediate Philistine period unearthed in Israel

"An important archaeological discovery made in Israel could shed more light on the ancient culture of the Philistines, a seafaring people that left the area of Greece in about 1200 BCE and landed on Israel's shores. At a dig in late July at Tell es-Safi, a site approximately halfway between Jerusalem and Ashkelon, a young woman found a pottery shard inscribed with what appear to be ancient Hebrew letters, though it also records a Greek name.

While the initial stage and later stage of Philistine settlements are well-represented in the field of archaeology, the middle stages - in which the Grecian Philistines began to assimilate with the local Semitic people and customs - remain more of a mystery. The find at Tell es-Safi may illuminate that intermediary period."
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