Sunday, December 24, 2006

Silver coin from reign of Henry III uncovered in Berwick

A SILVER coin dating from the 13th century reign of King Henry III is among the medieval finds uncovered by archaeologists in the Walkergate area of Berwick.
The short-cross penny, which is still in very good condition having been preserved in the soil for centuries, dates from the 1260s.
"This date and the quality of the building's construction suggest that it may relate to the medieval heyday of Berwick," explained Chris Burgess, Northumberland county archaeologist.
"It appears to have been slightly disturbed by some of the later pits and robbing, but should be in a comparatively good state of preservation, having been largely protected by the depth of the dark-earths that overly it.
"We won't know more until we can expose more of this by removing them."
Archaeologists from Tyne and Wear Museums have been working on the former Beehive site for over two months prior to construction work starting on the new £3.3 million business start-up units.
Early in the dig they found the foundation walls of three separate buildings, the one nearest the road thought to date back to the Elizabethan period.
These three phases of building seem to show how the street has become wider over the years, with a progression from early to late from the front of the site to the back through a series of different buildings gradually moving away from Walkergate.
However, the team were always confident the site would throw up some older archaeology given Berwick's rich history and that has turned out to be the case.
"As expected, several walls and a possible floor are now visible in the sill-beam trenches," revealed Mr Burgess.
"At this stage, it's hard to see exactly what this means. What seems most likely is that we have a building with good quality stone walls and floor extending east to west in the southern part of the site."
The team were also recently given the go-ahead to extend the excavation site slightly to the south to match the final building footprint more closely.
Mr Burgess said: "We have hired in a JCB to take off the majority of the garden soil and are quickly recording any features that we encounter in this area.
"This means that we can make a start on digging the various sill beams and the lift-shaft that go much deeper than the majority of the excavation area.
"This is our best chance of investigating the earlier medieval deposits from a time when Berwick was, in theory at least, much more densely populated than it was in the later periods that we have been looking at so far.
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Ancient cemetery discovered in Chernihiv Ukraine

In the center of the Chernihiv city builders have excavated remains of an ancient cemetery dated to the 11-13th centuries. Diggers found 30 tombs of the first Christians ? men, women and children. It is only a small part of the big necropolis. Historians say the archeological find proves that Chernihiv was a very powerful city in the times of Kyiv Rus?.

In accordance with ancient customs, Christians were buried without decoration. But it was dug out a lot of nails ? only what remained from wooden coffins of the 11 century. Anthropologists assert that examination of remains of skeletons, which have been lying underground for nine hundred years, can show diseases then citizens suffered.
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Discovered Stone Slab Proved to be Gate of Cambyses' Tomb

Maryam Tabeshian:
Agricultural activities by local farmers near the world heritage site of Pasargadae last year resulted in the accidental discovery of a big stone slab bearing some carvings typical of Pasargadae monuments. The discovered slab was recently proved by archeologists to have been the entrance gate to the mausoleum of Cambyses II, son and successor of Cyrus the Great, founder of the Achameneid Empire (550-330 BC).

"A huge stone slab measuring 1.60 meters in height comprised of 5 broken pieces was discovered last March by farmers at a distance of 100 meters from Tall-e Takht and was immediately transferred to Parse-Pasargadae Research Center to be studied by archeologists," said Afshin Yazdani, archeologist of Parse-Pasargadae Research Center.

Tall-e Takht or 'throne hill' is a citadel located at the heart of Pasargadae historical complex, the first dynastic capital of the Achaemenid Empire, founded by Cyrus the Great, in Fars province. Remains of an unfinished tomb denoted to Achaemenid King Cambyses II can be seen close to Tall-e Takht, from which only a wall has survived the ravage of time.

Based on studies by British archeologist David Stronach, the Tomb, also known as Zendan-e Soleiman/Eskandar (Solomon/Alexander Prison), originally consisted of an almost square, 4-meter-high tower in which a solitary, raised room was approached by a projecting monumental stone staircase. It resembles the Achaemenid era monument of Zoroaster's Kaba in Naqsh-e Rostam historical site

According to Yazdani, the stones used in the gate of Cambyses' tomb are very similar to a stone slab discovered 50 years ago by archeologists. At the time, Stronach proposed a theory that the stone belonged to the mausoleum of Cambyses and drew a sketch of the original gate which he believed to have had two leaves, each comprising of 6 rectangular frames. He also drew 3 flowers each having 12 petals on the top and bottom of each frame.
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Bone fragment likely not Joan of Arc - Yahoo! News

Bone fragment likely not Joan of Arc - Yahoo! News:
A rib bone and a piece of cloth supposedly recovered after Joan of Arc was burned at the stake are probably not hers, according to experts trying to unravel one of the mysteries surrounding the 15th century French heroine.

Eighteen experts began a series of tests six months ago on the fragments reportedly recovered from the pyre where the 19-year-old was burned for heresy.

Although the tests have not been completed, findings so far indicate there is "relatively little chance" that the remnants are hers, Philippe Charlier, the head of the team, told The Associated Press on Saturday.

The fragment of linen from the 15th century "wasn't burned. It was dyed," Charlier said. And a blackened substance around the 6-inch rib bone was not "carbonized remains" but vegetable and mineral debris, "something that rather resembles embalming substance," he said.

Joan of Arc was burned to death on May 30, 1431 in the Normandy town of Rouen following a trial. Legend has it that her ashes were scattered in the Seine River.

The rib bone and piece of cloth were supposedly recovered from the pyre by an unidentified person and conserved by an apothecary until 1867, before being turned over to the archdiocese of Tours. They are now stored at a museum in Chinon, about 150 miles southwest of Paris.

In 1909, scientists declared it "highly probable" that the remains were those of Joan of Arc. Given developments in genetic technology in recent years, researchers decided to test the remains again to try to determine if they were definitely hers.

But the probability that the remains are those of Joan of Arc are "enormously lessening," Charlier said. "We're instead moving toward the hypotheses of a fake relic or of a relic that was transformed."
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Archaeologists find evidence that North China also produced porcelain

People's Daily Online:
Archaeologists have unearthed three high-temperature ceramic kilns dating back about 2,000 years in a North China village, which shows North China was also the cradle of porcelain, against the conception that porcelain only originates from south China.

The archaeologists from the Hebei provincial cultural relic research institute drew the conclusion on the basis that analysis on wares in the kilns suggests they were made at more than 1,100 Celsius degree, exceeding the temperature of 800-900 Celsius degree required for pottery-making.

Although built during the Western Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 24), the kilns in Duting village, Tangxian County of Hebei Province are in good conditions. They were named Duting Kilns after the place where it was excavated according to the convention in archeology.

"Many kilns during the Western Han Dynasty have been found before. However, they are not as well-kept as these ones that contain all the information we want," said Meng Fanfeng, head of the excavation team and researcher with the Hebei institute.

The academic circle used to believe chinaware originates from South China, especially Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces because of many ancient kilns unearthed there.

Archaeologists had believed there was no porcelain clay in North China, which has been proved to be wrong.

Some Chinese archaeologists argued in the 1960s that North China is also the cradle of porcelain. However, their idea lacked the support of material evidences and was not widely recognized.

Before the Duting kilns, the earliest pottery site ever found in Northern China dates back to Northern Dynasties(386 A.D.-581 A.D.).
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8th Century Psalter Found in Ireland

Martin Bailey:
An astonishing discovery in an Irish bog is posing an unusual conservation challenge. A chance find by a peat cutter last summer in County Tipperary, southern Ireland, turned out to be a psalter, which has been dated to around 800 AD. The discovery has been described as the Irish equivalent of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The Faddan More Psalter is now safe in the National Museum of Ireland?s conservation laboratory. It is kept damp, at 100% relative humidity, in refrigerated storage (at four degrees centigrade). The room in which examination and recording takes place is cooled to 14 degrees, and the compacted vellum mass is only removed from the refrigerator for a maximum of two hours a day.

Sadly, much of the text has been lost. Some of the periphery of most of the pages has survived, but the centres of all the pages have rotted away. Where the vellum has survived, written portions vary from full legibility to complete loss. In some areas the ink has had a preservative effect, although the vellum around the letters has been lost. This has led to a series of inked letters piled on top of each other.

The first stage of the work, which has almost been completed, is a full investigation of the book in its excavated condition. This has involved an analysis of the binding and book structure, photography, magnetic resonance imaging, multi spectral imaging, analysis of vellum deterioration and an investigation of pollen samples.

Work is about to start on the second stage, which will involve the delicate separation of the pages and the process of drying out the vellum. Sadly, the vellum losses mean that only a fairly small part of the text of the Psalms remains, but it should be enough to enable scholars to see how the book has been written, decorated and bound.

The realisation that the Faddan More find was a psalter was made very quickly, after two words of the exposed Latin text were read as ?ualle lacrimarum?, or ?valley of tears? (Psalm 83). Trinity College Library keeper Bernard Meehan dates it to around 800AD, almost the same time as the Book of Kells. The psalter is in a large format (32 by 22 cm), almost as large as the latter, and was conceived on a lavish scale.

It has now been determined that the Faddan More Psalter comprises 104 (or possibly 108) pages. There are around ten words to a line, and 30 lines to the page. This means that the entire text of Psalms would fit neatly into the book, with perhaps a few pages left over for decorations.

The exposed front of the book offers a tantalising glimpse of a highly decorated page, including an interlaced border and the figure of a bird, possibly an eagle. Throughout the psalter, initial letters appear to be painted in red lead, now oxidised and badly discoloured.

The hope is that somewhere in the book it may be possible to identify the place where the psalter was compiled, the abbott who commissioned it or the name of the scribe. So far it remains speculation, but a possible owner was Birr monastery, which lay seven kilometres from Faddan More. Nearly 1,200 years ago, it is likely that the precious book was taken to the peat bog, possibly to hide it during a raid by Vikings from Norway.

National Museum of Ireland conservator Rolly Read and his team are now stabilising the compacted vellum mass. The difficult issue is how to separate the pages, preserving as much as possible of the ancient text.

The story began on 20 July, at Faddan More. Bulldozer driver Edward Fogarty was cutting peat when he spotted something unusual in his excavator bucket. After it was realised that the find was an ancient book, Kevin and Patrick Leonard, the bog?s owners, immediately called for archaeological assistance, and followed advice to keep the find damp and not expose it to air. The following morning National Museum of Ireland conservators safely moved the find to their laboratory at Collins Barracks, in Dublin.
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Underwater Archaeological Center planned for Partho-Sassanid shipwreck site

CHN | News:
Based on initial agreements between Iran?s Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization (ICHTO) and South Pars Oil Company, a center for underwater archeology will be established in the Persian Gulf as the first attempt to recover the Partho-Sassanid shipwreck discovered last September at a depth of 70 meters near the port of Siraf.

?According to articles 9, 10 and 11 of the memorandum of understanding signed between ICHTO and South Pars Oil Company, the Company has accepted to take charge of the establishment of a research center for underwater archeological excavations in the Persian Gulf. Based on this agreement, recovering the discovered Partho-Sassanid shipwreck will be the first priority of this center,? said Hossein Tofighian, director of ICHTO?s Underwater Archeology Research Center to CHN.

The recent discovery of the remains of an ancient merchant ship and its cargo, believed to have belonged to either the Parthian (248 BC-224 AD) or Sassanid (224-651 AD) dynasties, in the Persian Gulf attracted the attention of world archeologists and many expressed their willingness to cooperate in its recovery process, which is an absolutely challenging task.
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Shrouded 5000-year-old child unearthed in southeastern Iran
The skeleton of a 5000-year-old child wrapped in a winding sheet was discovered at the foot of a wall in the Taleb Khan Mound, which is located near the Burnt City in Sistan-Baluchestan Province.

?The skeleton was discovered in a room of a house, while remnants of a white cloth were found around it. The cloth shows that the child had been shrouded before burial,? Mehdi Miri, the director of the archaeological team working at the site, said on Tuesday.

?It was common for children to be buried at home during prehistoric eras, but what astounds the archaeologists is that the Taleb Khan Mound is located a short distance from the Burnt City and was one of the city?s satellite villages, but the Burnt City has a cemetery separate from the urban area while the Taleb Khan site has burials in its residential area,? he explained.

The skeleton of the child, whose milk teeth still remain, has been sent to the Burnt City Research Center and a team of experts is carrying out botanical studies on pieces of the cloth at Zabol University.

The archaeologists discovered a similar burial at the site two years ago, but it had deteriorated and very little was left.

The team has also discovered many pottery works as well as several slings and grey dishes bearing motifs similar to those on the dishes discovered at the Jiroft ancient site in Kerman Province.

Four ovens for baking bread, which date back to about 2000 BC, are some of the other important finds made at the Taleb Khan Mound.

Most of the artifacts discovered at the Taleb Khan Mound date back to about 2800 BC, but the most significant fact about the site is that the settlement remained inhabited even after the Burnt City was abandoned.
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Archaeologists Preserve And Record Ancient Bath Stone Mines - 24 Hour Museum - official guide to UK museums, galleries, exhibitions and heritage

Johnny Wilson:
Combe Down Stone Mines near Bath are being stabilised and recorded as part of a long running programme by Oxford Archaeology.

The mines, situated about two kilometres south of the city of Bath, were extensively quarried for the highly sought after Bath limestone between 1730 and 1860 and did not cease operations until the early years of the 20th century. The high quality stone was used not only for buildings in Bath but also in the construction of prestigious buildings such as Buckingham Palace.

Working in tandem with Hydrock, the structural engineering company who are stabilising the site, Oxford Archaeology hope to assess the significance of the deposits and provide advice upon their preservation and recording.
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106 Sassanid Ossuary Tombs Discovered in Khark Island

Soudabeh Sadigh:
- Archeological excavations in the Persian Gulf Island of Khark led into discovery of 106 ossuary tombs dating back to the Sassanid dynastic era (224-651 AD) dug into a cliff.

"Ossuary tombs are graves which were used during the Sassanid dynastic period. We succeeded in identifying 106 ossuaries in Khark Island in the heart of a giant cliff. Discovery of large numbers of ossuary tombs indicates that this rock cliff was used as a cemetery 1700 years ago," said Hamid Zarei, head of archeology team in Khark Island to CHN.

The people of the Sassanid period used to dig holes in the rocks in which they placed remaining skeletons of their deceased. According to Zarei, in the newly discovered tombs, the corps was buried in an east-west direction, the reason of which is not known yet.

Regarding other discoveries in Khark Island, Zarei explained: "The archeology team has discovered a big cistern 12 meters in length and 3 meters in width which was dug in a cliff. A big aqueduct dating back to the Sassanid era which is 19 meters in depth has also been found in this area."
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Saturday, December 16, 2006

French archaeologist says Ur royal tomb artifacts came from Burnt City
French archaeologist Michele Casanova said that the artifacts unearthed from the royal tombs in the ancient Sumerian city of Ur came from Iran?s 5200-year-old Burnt City, the Persian service of CHN reported on Friday.

?Now, we are almost certain that the beautiful artifacts discovered in the city of Ur had been brought from the Burnt City, Jiroft, and Central Asia. This fact raises many questions, including why trade relations were established between the regions,? Casanova said.

Casanova, who is also an expert on ornamental stones and particularly lapis lazuli, and several other foreign archaeologists are working together with the Iranian team at the Burnt City, near the city of Zabol in Sistan-Baluchestan Province.

?The most interesting point is that all the ornamental dishes made of soapstone have been discovered in temples and royal tombs,? noted Casanova, who is also a professor at the University of Rennes.

?This fact indicates that ornamental dishes were very common, so the artifacts were buried with ordinary people. However, such dishes had been brought to Mesopotamia as a precious object for temples and royal families,? he explained.

An artificial eye is one of the most amazing artifacts discovered at the Burnt City during the current excavations led by Mansur Sajjadi.

The team also discovered an earthenware bowl at the Burnt City which bears images of what experts believe is the world?s oldest ?animated? picture drawn around it.

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Art of Athens and Sparta displayed at Onassis Cultural Center

Onassis Cultural Center

Statue of a Hoplite known
as "Leonidas." 480-470 b.c.
Parian marble. H. 0.93 m
(with restored crest of helmet).
Archaeological Museum, Sparta, 3365
Athens-Sparta, an exhibition of rare archaeological artifacts and works of art from Athens and Sparta, Greece, opened at the Onassis Cultural Center in New York City on December 6, 2006. Highlights of the exhibition include treasures such as a marble statue of a hoplite, known as "Leonidas", from the end of the 5th century B.C.; a marble statue of an Athenian Kore from the Acropolis Museum, from the 5th century B.C.; bronze figurines of hoplites from Sparta, from the 8th to the 6th centuries B.C.; a ceramic kylix by the Arkesilas Painter from the 6th century B.C.; a marble statuette of Athena from the mid-4th century B.C.; Attic marble reliefs and grave stele from the late 5th century B.C.; and arrowheads and spearheads from Thermopylae, the famous 5th century battlefield. The 289 exquisite artifacts in the exhibition, many of which are traveling abroad for the first time, will be on view at the Onassis Cultural Center in New York through May 12, 2007.

Tetradrachm of Athens.
Ca. 510-500 b.c. Silver.
Max. diam. 22.5 mm, wt. 15.93 g.
Numismatic Museum, Athens,
1899-1900, Heldreich Collection 5
Athens-Sparta consists of three sections representing the cultural development of the two most important city-states in ancient Greece, along with an introduction that focuses on the two cities' formations. The first section explores their artistic, social, and cultural developments from the Late Geometric period through the Archaic period (8th to the 5th centuries B.C.), including metal work, pottery, and public monuments. While Sparta was not making the same strides in monumental structures as Athens during this period, it did flourish in other areas including metal work, ivory sculpture, and pottery.

In the first half of the 6th century B.C., Sparta was one of the most important centers for artistic production, particularly for bronze works, as shown in such rare pieces as the hoplite figurines, a black-figure hydria depicting riders and warriors, from 555-550 B.C., a relief votive stele representing an enthroned couple, from 550-525 B.C., and a group of ivory figurines from the Sanctuary of Artemis Orthia from 700-650 B.C.

Part of an Attic Red-Figure
Loutrophoros. Detail. Ca. 430 b.c.
Clay. Work of the Kleophon Painter.
National Archaeological Museum,
Athens, 1700
The two other sections in Athens-Sparta represent the artistic development during the 5th century B.C., in the broader context of the continuously changing dynamics between the two cities, during the Persian Wars (500 B.C. to 449 B.C.) and the Peloponnesian War (431 B.C. to 404 B.C.). These momentous events greatly influenced each city-state's culture and artistic development, as represented through the magnificent artifacts in the exhibition, including an Attic black-figure lekythos from 500-490 B.C., a bronze statuette of an athlete from about 500 B.C., and a Nike figurine from the late 6th century B.C.

Statuette of an Athlete. ca. 550 B.C.
Bronze. Attic workshop. Found on
Acropolis of Athens, 1888. National
Archaeological Museum, Athens, 6445
In the 5th century B.C., Attic art made advances in the areas of sculpture and pottery which led to the popularization of these art forms, examples of which include a votive relief with the Delian Trinity and a helmeted head of Athena from the late 5th century B.C., and the silver Tetradrachm of Athens from 450-404 B.C. In contrast, there is a remarkable scarcity of excavated Laconic artifacts from this period, with scant metal work pieces and little evidence of advancements in Laconian pottery. The archaeological evidence of Laconic monumental stone sculpture from the Classical period is also considerably less than that of the Archaic period. Athens-Sparta features a rare example of stone sculpture from this period: a statue of a hoplite, known as "Leonidas", from 480-470 B.C., one of the most widely studied artifacts in the exhibition. The statue depicts a running hoplite (a heavily armored foot soldier), known as the Spartan king Leonidas, who led a small force of soldiers against the much larger Persian army in Thermopylae in 480 B.C., during the Persian Wars. Leonidas and all of the soldiers died in the battle, becoming a symbol of the Spartan willingness to sacrifice oneself for the greater good of society.

Kore Statuette. Ca. 500 b.c.
Pentelic marble. H. 0.68 m.
Attic workshop. Acropolis Museum,
Athens, AKR 676, 527
Athens-Sparta balances out contemporary perspectives on the uneven cultural relationship between the two ancient city-states, in which Attic art has traditionally been recognized as the more advanced of the two. This higher regard for Attic art can be understood in the broader context of Attic culture as a whole, perceived as more refined and expressive than its rival neighbor. In contrast, Laconic culture - and by extension Laconic art - is generally considered austere and conservative. By bringing together such a vast selection of important artifacts from each city-state, Athens-Sparta challenges these perceptions, bringing to light the refinements of Laconic art and culture. This exhibition highlights the accomplishments of Spartan artists and gives viewers the chance to find a depth and complexity in Laconic art that is normally overshadowed by that of Athens. Shedding light on Laconic art's refinements, Athens-Sparta features such exquisite artifacts as a bronze figurine from 525-500 B.C., of a young female runner in mid-stride, with an expressive face, long flowing hair, and graceful athletic body; a rare clay Laconian kylix from 560-550 B.C., one of the earliest to portray the myth of Atlas and his brother Prometheus' suffering eternally under Zeus' punishments. Through such artifacts visitors are given the rare opportunity to examine the differences between the distinct philosophical, political, and cultural ways of life of the two Hellenic city-states, aspects of which continue to resonate in culture and human behavior in the present.

This exhibition includes loans from the Acropolis Museum, Epigraphical Museum, Kerameikos Archaeological Museum, National Archaeological Museum, the Numismatic Museum, 3rd Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, the Archaeological Museum in Marathon, the Archaeological Museum in Olympia, the Archaeological Museum in Rhodes, and the Archaeological Museum in Sparta, all located in Greece. Athens-Sparta will also include pieces from the Vatican Museums, Vatican City; the Boston Museum of Fine Arts; and the American Numismatic Society, in New York.

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Paris exhibits Afghan archaeological treasures

By Amber Haq
Newsweek International

Pierre Cambon peers at the intricately carved second-century ivory statuettes, his eyes sparkling. The head curator of Afghan arts at Paris's historic Musée Guimet is contemplating the elegance of the sculpted female figures. "One cannot ignore the homage to femininity these represent," he says, keenly aware of the irony of their provenance. They were discovered in 1937 by Cambon's predecessor, the French archeologist Joseph Hackin, in Afghanistan, where women have since been forced to hide their feminine forms under burqas.

These figures are among the 220 remarkable artifacts that have survived the Soviet occupation, a civil war and the rise of the Taliban to compose the eye-opening exhibit "The Rediscovered Treasures of Afghanistan" (through April 2007). Many of the pieces have not been seen since 1988, when the Soviets departed and President Mohammad Najibullah ordered treasures stored in the vaults of the Afghan central bank and the Ministry of Culture for safekeeping. Others?including the ivory statues?have never been displayed before. Their arrival in Paris is an important reminder of the country's resilience. "This exhibit shows that Afghanistan is something other than a war zone," says Roland Besenval, head of the French Archeological Delegation to Afghanistan (DAFA). "International organizations dealing with the reconstruction of the country must not ignore the important role of this cultural heritage in the Afghan identity."

Visitors will receive a colorful crash course in Afghan history. The exhibit journeys from the Greco-Bactrian civilization (2200-1800 B.C.), which re-presented the eastern frontier of the Hellenistic world during the Bronze Age, to the Kushan Empire (A.D. 100-300), which once extended across Afghanistan from the Caspian Sea to the Ganges Valley. Separate galleries are devoted to four of the country's most important archeological sites. Artifacts from Fulol include gold vases representing the last vestiges of the Bactrian Greco-Buddhist style and the influence of the Indus Valley civilization. The gold pieces from Ai-Khanoum, built by Alexander the Great in the fourth century B.C., reflect Hellenistic influences. The royal tombs of Tilla Tepe reveal astounding gold jewelry, adorned with Afghan lapis lazuli, Indian garnet and Chinese jade. And the treasures from the silk-route town of Baghram include Hellenistic bronzes and Greco-Roman glassware. Together they offer a clear picture of the rich and diverse traditions that shaped the country. "Afghanistan has stood at the crossroads of civilizations throughout the millennia," says Cambon. "The region represents the place at the end of the world from both Eastern and Western perspectives?a land where cultures intermingled to give birth to new forms of art and craftsmanship."

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Classics Majors Embark on Groundbreaking Scholarly Research in Homeric Poetry | College of the Holy Cross

This project is similar to something I've always thought would be a boon to classical scholars - the ability to embed digital copies of passages from original ancient sources about a particular event or person in history in a comprehensive reference to the event or person. Bibliographies simply are not as interactive as our computer society now expects. For example, if I am studying about political assassination in the ancient world, my research could be so much more productive and efficient if I could have the pertinent passages available as a linked pop-up window rather than a list of books that, somewhere within their pages, contain a reference to assassination.

Holy Cross University:
Classics Majors Embark on Groundbreaking Scholarly Research in Homeric Poetry

Four Holy Cross classics majors are tackling a project of epic proportions.

William Dolan ?10, Michael Kinney ?10, Katherine Schmieg ?09, and Patrick Walsh ?09 have been selected to serve a crucial role in the pioneering preservation of the world?s most important works of literature. They are working during the 2006-07 academic year with their professors on the Homer Multitext Project, a long-term analysis and electronic presentation of all the many variations of Homer?s epic poetry. As the newest Homer Multitext Fellows, their contributions will join those of classical scholars at the Center for Hellenic Studies, Furman University, the University of Houston, and several other colleges and universities.

The project is unusual in several respects, not the least of which is its electronic component. The epic poetry of Homer was originally passed on orally, taking on a slightly different form every time it was told. The work of these scholars involves examining all references and sources in all Homeric variations. When complete, every element connected to the original Homeric poetry will be available in a digital format so scholars and general readers alike will be able to experience much more than reading the plain text on a page.

?We?re putting all the components of Homeric epic as it survives today ? in medieval manuscripts, shredded scrolls from the sands of Egypt, the remnants of ancient scholarship on Homer, even vase paintings from Athens ? into a single framework, to let them ?talk? to each other directly,? explains Jack Mitchell, assistant professor of classics at Holy Cross and one of the editors of the Multitext Project. ?This is why it?s called a ?multitext?? we want as much variety as possible.?
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Sacrificial altars plentiful among National Museum antiquities - Yemen Times

By: Abdulaziz Al-Jendari For the Yemen Times:
Sacrificial altars associated with Yemen?s ancient religion used to worship the sun, moon and the goddess Venus are abundant at the National Museum. Their Republican Guard recently discovered seven important antiquities, including several altar tables.

Such tables were used during religious rituals in ancient Yemeni temples to slaughter sacrifices, as well as offer water and milk in an attempt to get closer to a god or goddess.

The recently discovered antiquities are rectangular and square-shaped altars with smooth bases. On one side is a bull?s head, which several researchers believe is a symbol for the Moon Goddess in ancient Yemeni religion because the bull?s horns are crescent-shaped, which is one of the moon?s phases.

Its sculptors took the bull?s strength as a symbol of fertility.

Photo by
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Saturday, December 09, 2006

India's "Pompeii" to be further excavated

The first construction boom began about 2,000 years ago, when Ashoka the Great was founding the first Indian empire, when Julius Caesar reigned over Rome, when traders from the Mediterranean found their way to what is now an obscure Maharastra village in India.

Now, state archeologists, backed by a Ministry of Culture grant that will fund 13 restoration projects across Maharashtra, are preparing to finally uncover and preserve the mysteries of the white mounds of Ter, 450 kms southeast of Mumbai, in Osmanabad.

Ter was first "discovered" in 1901 and minor excavations ranged through the 1960s and 1970s. A dusty village museum houses a treasure-trove of 23,852 pieces of stone and terracotta sculptures, replicas of Roman coins and lamps, miniature inkpots, jewellery and household vessels and ivory.

There are uncounted thousands more in Ter's sands of time, civilizations layered over one another. A highly skilled people lived here: bricks excavated from the site are light enough to float on water.

Former state archeological director A Jamkhedkar calls Ter "one of the most exceptional historical sites" in India. He said: "With evidence ranging from the 2nd century BC to the 15th ? 16th centuries AD ?it is an archaeologist's dream!"

Ter's link to ancient Rome and Greece ran through Nalasopara, now the second-last stop on Mumbai's western commuter line and then a port that linked middle India to the Mediterranean.

"There are several ancient mounds in and around Ter awaiting excavation," said Director (Art & Archaeology) Dr Ramakrishna Hegde. "A stroll in the village, and one stumbles upon historically valuable objects."

Ter's ascent came after trade with the Roman Empire under the Satavahana dynasty that ruled Dakshinapatha or the Deccan. A 1st century Greek navigation document The Periplus of the Erythrean Sea is history's earliest reference to Tagara or Ter. It calls it a great emporium where merchants brought goods like muslin and carnelian, which were traded with the Romans.

Ter then acquired a religious aura as successive Southern dynasties ? from the Vatakatas, Chalukyas and Yadavas ? came and went. We know that from its range of Buddhist caves, stupas, and Hindu and Jain temples in brick, stone, or hewn out of rock, built from donations and royal patronage. Maharashtra's 13th century saint-poet Gora Kumbhar lived here, with the town playing host to saint conventions. Experts call Ter a 'citadel city'. Limited excavations have revealed remains of a wooden rampart.

Jamkhedkar points to ivory figures "comparable to those from Pompeii". Later, terra cottas are cast in double moulds, suggesting craftsmen were influenced by Western techniques.
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Saturday, December 02, 2006

Burkholder Near East research documents to be available at Binghamton University

Materials compiled by the late Grace Burkholder, a teacher and amateur archaeologist, will soon be available to researchers through Binghamton University Libraries Special Collections.

Grace Burkholder became famous in the field of Near Eastern archaeology for discoveries she made while serving as a teacher in ARAMCO oil camps during the 1950s and ?60s in Saudi Arabia. She found pottery from the fifth millennium B.C. that proved Mesopotamian Ubaid culture extended farther into the Arabian desert than had been known, Professor Reinhard Bernbeck said.

The materials donated to Special Collections include maps, drawings, letters, books, photographs and slides. Bernbeck?s lab is serving as a staging area while the materials are catalogued and examined.

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Archaeologist claims Pythons worshipped 70,000 years ago


An ar­chae­ol­o­gist claims to have found evi­dence of what may have been man­kind?s ear­li­est rit­u­als: wor­ship of the py­thon, 70,000 years ago in Af­rica.

Un­til now, schol­ars have large­ly held that the first ri­t­u­als oc­curred over 40,000 years ago in Eu­rope, ac­cord­ing to Shei­la Coul­son of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Os­lo in Nor­way.

Coul­son ar­gues that an­cient wor­ship­pers saw the like­ness of a py­thon in this rock, and pock­marked it to mim­ic snake skin. (Full image here. Pho­to: Shei­la Coul­son)

Coul­son said she turned up ev­i­dence of the py­thon cer­e­mo­n­ies while stu­dy­ing the or­i­gin of the San peo­ple of Nga­mi­land, a sparse­ly in­hab­it­ed part of north­west­ern Bot­swa­na.

?Our find means that hu­mans were more or­ga­n­ised and had the ca­pac­i­ty for ab­s­tract think­ing? much ear­li­er than pre­vi­ously as­sumed, she said.

Coulson said she found the ev­i­dence while seek­ing Mid­dle Stone Age ar­ti­facts in the Ka­la­ha­ri De­s­ert?s Tso­di­lo Hills, an iso­lat­ed clus­ter of small peaks with the world?s larg­est con­cen­tra­tion of rock paint­ings.

The hills are still sa­cred to the San, who call them the ?Moun­tains of the Gods? and the ?Rock that Whis­pers.?

San mythology holds that man­kind de­scended from the py­thon. An­cient, ar­id stream­beds around the hills are said to have been made by the snake as it cir­cled, cease­less­ly seek­ing wa­ter. Coul­son said her find shows lo­cal peo­ple had a spe­cif­ic place for py­thon-re­lated rit­u­als: a small cave on the hills? north­ern side, so se­clud­ed and hard-to-ac­cess that it was was un­known to ar­chae­ol­o­gy un­til the past de­cade.

The spear­heads were de­scribed as par­ti­cu­lar­ly beau­ti­ful, and as brought to the site from hun­d­reds of kilo­me­ters away. (Pho­to: Shei­la Coul­son)

When she en­tered it this sum­mer with three mas­ter?s stu­dents, they no­ticed a rock re­sem­bling a huge py­thon?s head, she said.

The six-meter-long by two-meter-tall (20 feet by 6.6 feet) stone bore more than 300 dents that she ar­gues are man-made.

?You could see the mouth and eyes of the snake. It looked like a real py­thon. The play of sun­light over the in­den­ta­tions gave them the ap­pear­ance of snake skin. At night, the fire­light gave one the feel­ing that the snake was ac­tu­al­ly mov­ing.?

There was no sign of re­cent work on the rock; its sur­face was heav­i­ly worn, she said.

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Ancient Egyptian Magic featured in new exhibit at the Walters Art Museum

I wish I had time to go back to Baltimore. I totally agree with this article that says The Walters Art Museum contains one of the finest collections of ancient art in the world.

Check out my Flickr image set of their collection: The Walters Art Museum presents the exhibit Daily Magic in Ancient Egypt through November 18, 2007. Magic played an important role in religions of the ancient world. Amulets in particular were believed to posess great power to bring protection, health, luck, and even immortality through their images and symbols. This small exhibition will feature 46 amulets, scarabs, figurines, and ritual objects associated with this belief in the power of magic in ancient Egypt.

The art and history of the ancient world comes alive in one of the Walters Art Museum?s best-loved collections, which comprises amazing treasures from ancient Egypt, Nubia, Greece, Rome, Etruria, and the Near East. The Walters? collection is one of the largest and finest assemblages of ancient art in the United States.

Statuary, reliefs, stelae, funerary objects, jewelry, and objects from daily life, dating from prehistoric to Roman Egypt (5th millennium BC? 4th century AD ), can be found in the museum's collection of ancient Egyptian art. Among the most impressive pieces are two monumental 3,000-pound statues of the lion-headed goddess Sekhmet, sarcophagi, an intact mummy still in its elaborate wrappings, as well as images of private individuals and kings and impressive jewelry.

The ancient Near Eastern collection represents the art of ancient Mesopotamia, Persia, the Levant, Syria, and Anatolia and covers a period of 2,500 years, beginning around 3000 BC with the rise of Mesopotamian civilization. Among the outstanding works in the collection are the 9th-century BC alabaster reliefs from the palace of Ashurnasirpal II.

The outstanding collection of ancient Greek art illustrates the history and culture of Greece from the Cycladic to the Hellenistic period (ca. 3rd millennium?1st century BC). It ranges from engraved gemstones to exceptional vases and marble statues. Among the dazzling jewelry in the ancient treasury are the extraordinary Olbia bracelets, which are encrusted with multicolored gemstones.

The most treasured objects in the collection of ancient Roman art at the Walters are the seven sarcophagi from the tomb of the prominent Licinian and Calpurnian families in Rome. The intricate marble carvings, depicting mythological scenes, rank them among the finest ancient Roman sarcophagi in the world. Exquisite Etruscan bronzes and Roman portraits, including powerful depictions of the emperors Augustus and Marcus Aurelius, are further highlights of the collection.
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Saturday, November 25, 2006

Dam Threatens Tomb of Cyrus the Great

History be dammed |Guardian Unlimited: "He founded the world's first multinational empire, was celebrated in the Bible and Qur'an and is recognised as ancient Persia's greatest king. But now the 2,500-year-old tomb in which Cyrus the Great rests is at risk from one of the many vast dam projects that Iran's present rulers say is vital to future development.

Conservationists, including the UN's heritage body, Unesco, say the 15.5m pound Sivand dam threatens the long-term survival of the historic tomb and the remains of several adjoining palaces at Pasargad in southern Iran.

The dam's opening has already been postponed by more than a year to allow international teams of archaeologists to dig in the neighbouring Tange Bolaghi gorge, where civilisation is believed to date back 6,500 years. Excavations have uncovered a wealth of remains, including remnants of a palace belonging to King Darius the Great, a successor to Cyrus, and an iron smelting plant traced back to around 2,500BC. The skeleton of a human female, originating from around 4,000BC was also discovered in a cave.

The gorge, thought to have been a hunting area for kings during the 2,800-year-old Achaemenid dynasty, will be flooded once the dam starts operating. Hundreds of hectares of farmland will also be swamped, necessitating compensation for local farmers.

The water authority insists the tomb will be unaffected but has offered to install humidity measuring devices to monitor possible damage."

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Tomb find reveals pre-Inca city

BBC NEWS: "Archaeologists working in northern Peru have discovered a spectacular tomb complex about 1,000 years old.

The complex contains at least 20 tombs, and dates from the pre-Inca Sican era.

Among the discoveries are 12 'tumis', ceremonial knives which scientists have not been able to study in a burial site before, as well as ceramics and masks.

The Sican culture flourished from approximately AD 800-1300, one of several metalworking societies which succumbed to drought and conquest.

The burial site sits on Peru's northern coast, near the town of Ferrenafe.

Discoveries in the tomb complex include tumis formed from an alloy of silver, copper and gold; masks, breastplates and ceramics.

The dig. Image: AP
The site contains at least 20 tombs, making it a "religious city"
Buried in a pyramid 30m (100ft) long, archaeologists found the bones of a woman in her early 20s surrounded by figurines of Sican gods, ceramics and objects in copper and gold.

Another set of bones, clearly from a person of some stature, were found in a seated position accompanied by a metallic crown, part of a thorny oyster, and various ceramic objects including a vase.

The tumis are a prize find, because until now the knives have come to scientists from tomb raiders. Finding them in situ would allow a closer understanding of their role in Sican culture, researchers said.

One of the tumis features a representation of Naylamp, the mythical founder of Sican society who according to legend emerged from the sea and became a god."

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Java sunken treasure to be sold

BBC NEWS : "Scientists in Indonesia are preparing to auction tens of thousands of artefacts salvaged from a sunken ship off the coast of Java.

The items, which are believed to be more than 1,000 years old, include ceramics, tombstones and swords.

The ancient treasure, which was discovered 18 months ago, is expected to fetch several million US dollars.

About 150,000 pieces are still intact and some of them are expected to go to Indonesia's museums.

Salvaged after 1,000 years at the bottom of the sea, the haul includes bowls from China, Thailand and Vietnam; perfume bottles from Persia; and swords and tablets engraved with Koranic inscriptions.

It is an extraordinary finding because on the ship we can find artefacts that come from five Chinese dynasties
Expert, Siawaori Nissia

They were only discovered when fishermen off the coast of Java brought up nets clogged with shards of ancient ceramics.

According to Horst Liebner, an expert involved in cataloguing the find, the artefacts probably came from onboard an Indonesian trading ship.

'There is a chance of about 70% that the cargo was loaded in China and then traded down the coast of Palembang and then was heading for Java.

'It's a very funny ship. It's very broad, it's very flat on the bottom, it's very sharp in the bow. It must have been very high if you see the amount of cargo which was on there - about four metres high, maybe four-and-a-half,' he said."
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Tomb of Aztec Emperor May Lie in Mexico - "Mexican archeologists are investigating if the tomb of an Aztec emperor lies beneath a recently excavated stone monolith depicting a fearsome god.

It would be the first burial site ever found of a leader of the 1427-1521 Aztec empire, said archaeologist Eduardo Matos Thursday.

Matos, who leads the excavation project at the Templo Mayor ruins in Mexico City's main square, said a date carved on the stone suggests it contains the remains of emperor Ahuizotl, the father of Moctezuma, the Aztec ruler defeated by the Spaniards.

The stone was unearthed at the foot of the western face of the Templo Mayor, the Aztecs' main religious site. Carvings on the stone show Tlaltecuhtli, an Aztec god was so fearsome the Aztecs normally buried her depictions face-down in the earth."
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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Ancient Qawwali musical traditions to be presented in Japan

The Japan Times Online - Celebrating civilizations: "Qawwali originated in ancient Persia but achieved its current form on the Indian subcontinent more than 700 years ago. Featuring sung recitations of Sufi poems written in Urdu and Punjabi, a lead singer is usually accompanied by a large ensemble that includes a chorus, harmonium and tabla players. A typical qawwali song often lasts more than 30 minutes, ranging from languid episodes of delicate call and response to feverishly quick free-for-alls in which the entire ensemble combines in praise of divine love and wisdom, bringing audiences to such a fevered pitch of excitement that the songs might be best described as the Islamic equivalent of foot-stomping African-American spirituals."
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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Red-lined tomb unearthed in Bulgaria

Bulgaria's recent archeological triumphs continue with the discovery of over 100 ancient spearheads and arrowheads near the southeastern village of Konush.

Famed archeologist Georgi Kitov an his crew have unearthed a Thracian tomb that dates back to the beginning of the fourth century BC, shedding some more light on ancient Thrace's belief in the afterlife.

The grave was built by well-moulded stone blocks, connected with metal joints. The whole tomb was covered in red lines, the symbol of Thracian god Zagreus, believed to be the archetype of Dionysus.
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Thursday, September 07, 2006

Discovery Channel filming documentary about ancient Thracians

A team of Discovery Channel has commenced filming the royal palace at Perperikon - ancient sanctuary believed to be even more respected than the Delphi Oracle.

The world-popular travel channel has sent its team for the first time in Bulgaria, intrigued by the yet not completely known world of ancient Thracians.

The team including a producer and a photographer is to tour all the sites related to the history and culture of Thracian tribes.

Besides Perperikon, located in the bosom of the Rhodopes mountain, Discovery's audience will see also Tatul, where the tomb of Orpheus is believed to be, and the Valley of Thracian Kings locating some of the most fabulous Thracian treasures.

"The world knows a lot about ancient Greeks and Romans, but few of achievements made by the Thracian civilisation have been displayed," a team member told state-run BTA news agency.

Discovery Channel will shoot a one-hour documentary dedicated to this little known page of history and will feature it first in the UK and the US.

Summer 2006 has marked even more enhanced archaeological work at Perperikon's excavations, near Kardzhali. In July they hit an amazing streak at the site unearthing a temple five times larger than Athens' Acropolis.
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Friday, August 18, 2006

Mehregan Persian Festival slated for Sept 9 and 10 in Costa Mesa

The 11th Annual Mehregan Festival is planned for Saturday and Sunday, September 9 and 10 at the Orange County Fair & Expo Center in Costa Mesa, CA. This annual Persian event attracts thousands of people to Orange County, CA. It is the largest Iranian-American gathering in the United States.

Come and enjoy ancestral Dances, Persian Customs, Arts and Crafts, Ancient Sports, Live Musical Performances, and taste the exotic Persian food.
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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Gold and Silver knives and ritual vessels as well as Trojan patterned pottery found in Bulgarian field

Novonite: A field in central Bulgaria believed to be a Thracian hotspot for bringing gifts for the gods has delighted archeologists once again.

A gold plate, silver and bronze ritual knives, and two fine silver vessels are among the latest findings at the site near Dabene, it was announced on Monday.

Archeologists have also come across a clay vessel with rich diaper decoration, which is typical for ancient Troy, the National Museum of History revealed.

Over the past weekend, at the same spot near Dabene a team discovered 545 gold items, including a unique, perfectly-preserved dagger.
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Friday, August 04, 2006

Greek archaeologists confirm authenticity of 'Theseus Ring'

Greek archaeologists confirm authenticity of 'Theseus Ring': "The long-lost 'Theseus Ring,' a gold ring found in the Plaka district of Athens in the 1950s and generally dismissed as a fake, has been identified by Greek archaeologists as a genuine 15th century BC artifact, reports said Wednesday.

The Greek press had reported the discovery of a gold signet ring, with dimensions 2.7 x 1.8 cm dating from the Minoan period, and the National Archaeological Museum wanted to purchase it for 75,000 euros from the woman who owned it.

There was a huge debate about its authenticity until a panel of experts from the Culture Ministry declared the piece to be genuine.

The ring, which depicts a bull-leaping scene, is believed to come from the area of Anafiotika in the Athens ancient city centre of Plaka. The scene also includes a lion to the left and a tree to the right."
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Hidden Archimedes texts revealed by X-ray fluoresence

BBC NEWS : "A series of hidden texts written by the ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes are being revealed by US scientists.

Until now, the pages have remained obscured by paintings and texts laid down on top of the original writings.

Using a non-destructive technique known as X-ray fluorescence, the researchers are able to peer through these later additions to read the underlying text.

The goatskin parchment records key details of Archimedes' work, considered the foundation of modern mathematics.

The writings include the only Greek version of On Floating Bodies known to exist, and the only surviving ancient copies of The Method of Mechanical Theorems and the Stomachion."
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Strontium analyses reveals ancient Wari took noncombatant trophy heads

"The Wari were notably violent. Unearthed stone iconography, for example, depicts Wari warriors carrying or wearing decapitated heads. They were known to eat the bodies of vanquished enemy warriors.

In 2001, researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found direct evidence of the Wari's grisly ways: 21 trophy heads buried at a site called Conchopata near the city of Ayacucho in southern Peru. The heads had been severed, the brains scooped out and holes drilled through the crania and jawbones.

But the skulls were not solely those of enemy warriors killed in battle. Many, in fact, belonged to women, children and old people. Scientists didn't know what to make of the discovery. Was this evidence of a more benevolent side to the Wari? Did they, like other early cultures, practice some kind of ancestor veneration? Were these skulls the cherished remains of Wari mothers and daughters, sons and grandparents?

"It's been a huge debate," said Tiffiny Tung, a member of the North Carolina research team and now at Vanderbilt University. "Where did the Wari get their heads?"

Recently, a different group of scientists came up with a possible answer by measuring levels of a trace element in the skulls and in guinea pigs living in the region. Strontium is a radioactive alkaline earth metal found in rocks and soils, and by extension in plants and animals living in the region.

Kelly Knudson, director of the Center for Bioarchaeological Research at Arizona State University, looked at the ratio of two isotopes or forms of strontium found in the trophy skulls and in nontrophy skulls recovered in the same area. Because geologists did not have strontium isotope measurements for Conchopata bedrock, they used measurements taken from native guinea pigs.

In the skulls, Knudson and colleagues measured strontium isotope ratios in tooth enamel and in bone. The isotope ratio in tooth enamel remains constant throughout life, a reflection of where the person originates. The ratio in bone changes constantly, reflecting a person's recent history (for example, diet).
All the strontium isotope ratios detected in the nontrophy heads were similar, suggesting that their owners had all eaten food from the same geographic region throughout their lives. The trophy heads, however, displayed much more variability in their strontium isotope ratios. Those ratios also differed markedly from measurements in the Conchopata guinea pigs.

Such diversity, says Knudson, suggests the original owners of the trophy heads were not locals or cherished ancestors, but rather luckless victims of Wari raids upon enemy communities. The Wari took the heads of enemy warriors, but apparently considered skulls of all ages and genders to be trophy material."
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Radar surveys suggest another tomb in the Valley of Kings : "Another unopened tomb may lie hidden next to King Tut's burial chambers, archaeologists report.

In an in interview with Archaeology Magazine, archaeologist Nicholas Reeves of the Amarna Royal Tombs Project (ARTP), reveals that radar surveys suggest an undiscovered burial shaft, similar to a burial cache opened earlier this year dubbed KV 63, lies buried about 50 feet north of King Tut's tomb.

'My aim in posting our data was not to claim a prize for discovering the next Tutankhamun. It was to alert people to the immense potential the Valley of the Kings still holds, despite two centuries of serious archaeological abuse,' Reeves says. The newly reported find, tentatively 'KV64', may contain more burial materials from Tut's tomb, or perhaps the burial"
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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

To excavate or not to excavate?

Xinhua - English: "Many experts have confirmed that the Qianling Mausoleum is truly one of China's most outstanding examples of an imperial tomb.

It is so special because it was carved out of a mountainside, and is estimated to contain about 500 tons of cultural relics including jewels, calligraphy, paintings, silk and ceramics. And it is virtually unique because it has never been robbed.

Given its virtually incomparable nature, any proposal to excavate the site is bound to spark controversy.

With their plan to investigate the site, archaeologists from Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, where the mausoleum is located, have kick-started the latest debate on this thorny issue.

Those in favour of the excavation have repeatedly stated that technologies are advanced enough to preserve any cultural relics unearthed from the mausoleum, adding that these cultural relics will give a clearer picture of life 1,300 years ago during the Tang Dynasty.

However, financial gain is another important reason behind their call for the site to be excavated. A local archaeologist predicted that if the mausoleum is excavated and opened as a museum exhibiting the unearthed cultural relics, it would attract at least 5 million tourists annually and would give local economic development a great fillip.

The contents of this mausoleum, where the legendary Tang Empress Wu Zetian and her husband Emperor Gaozong were buried together, may shed more light on these mysterious figures. It is also believed that a famous work by well-known calligrapher Wang Xizhi may also be buried in the tomb. It is quite probable that the excavation may create a sensation, which will undoubtedly attract tourists in their droves."

I, myself, have mixed feelings about this controversy. Although silk and paper items are extremely fragile and have disintegrated in past excavations, their presence in this fabulous cache of cultural art should not be the deciding factor in sanctioning its excavation. I fear that waiting to excavate a major site like this will merely increase the probability that much more careless tomb robbers will find a way to hijack the contents that can be salvaged. I would rather have the bulk of the artifacts preserved and made available for study and appreciation than wait for the possibility that more advanced preservation techniques will be developed.
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Culture Ministry aims to build a museum in every city in Egypt

The Culture Ministry aims to build a museum in every city in Egypt to preserve its heritage and raise cultural and archaeological awareness among residents and visitors.

High-profile developments underway include the building of the Grand Egyptian Museum, National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation and Al Arish National Museum, and renovation of the Rashid National Museum, Coptic Museum and Graeco-Roman Museum in Alexandria.

The $350 million Grand Egyptian Museum, expected to attract five million visitors annually, will be the world's largest with around 150,000 artefacts when it opens in 2010 - making it larger than the Metropolitan in New York or British Museum in London.

Work on the showpiece museum is due to start next year on a 50-hectare area of land two kilometres from the Pyramids - near enough for Pyramid-bound tourists to make a combined visit, but far enough away to preserve the area's historical ambience.

The National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation will display and interpret artefacts that are unique to Egyptian culture and history, from the Pharaohs era to the present day. This major project is being undertaken in co-operation with UNESCO.
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Friday, July 14, 2006

Terrorism litigation threatens loaned antiquities

I find the following article very troubling! This type of court ruling could eliminate the willingness of countries to loan cultural exhibits to institutions in the United States and severely restrict the access of American scholars to "Old World" historical artifacts. Cultural heritage should not be used as a political pawn between nations. World history is a heritage we all share so historical artifacts should be treated as items in the public trust not subject to ownership and sale by private individuals.

Antiquities Stuck in Legal Limbo - Los Angeles Times: "For decades, scholars at the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute have painstakingly pieced together ancient clay tablets they had on loan from the government of Iran ? deciphering the cuneiform writings and studying what these thousands of fragments revealed about the history of Persia.

But now, this treasure trove sits in the middle of a politically charged legal battle that has museum professionals worried about the willingness of other countries to loan artifacts to the U.S.

A federal court last month upheld a decision to seize and sell off the collection, in order to raise funds to compensate Americans injured in a terrorist attack in the Middle East. The reasoning, according to court documents, is that the Islamic Republic of Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism.

The lawsuit dates back to a 1997 attack in Israel, when suicide bombers attacked the Ben Yehuda mall in downtown Jerusalem. Five people were killed and more than 190 were injured. Hamas, the party that controls the current Palestinian government and has received some support from Iran, claimed responsibility for the bombing.

Some of the survivors were Americans, who filed suit in federal court in Chicago against Iran in 2001. They said that the country was responsible for their injuries because of its support of Hamas.

A federal judge in 2003 ruled in their favor and, when Iran didn't appear in court to fight the claim, awarded the survivors more than $400 million.

That opened the way for the plaintiffs to go after Iran's assets in America ? including the collection of ancient Persian tablets.

Patty Gerstenblith, a professor of cultural property law at DePaul University College of Law in Chicago, said this was believed to be the first case to link cultural artifacts on loan to terrorism litigation."
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Frescoed Liao Dynasty Tomb discovered

Xinhua - English: "Chinese archeologists have uncovered a frescoed tomb of a man and his wife who must have lived in today's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region about 1,000 years ago.

The tomb, found in Horinger county, 45 km south of the regional capital Hohhot, has more than 20 square meters of frescoes on the walls of its chamber, said Chen Yongzhi, vice director of the Inner Mongolia Cultural Heritage Institute.

Chen said most of the frescoes depicted the tomb owners' life with scenes of hunting and cattle herding, while the rest included the 12 animals of the Chinese birth sign system, namely: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

He said the couple must have been born in the years of pig and snake respectively, as there is a picture showing the two animals embracing each other.

archaeologists have also uncovered valuable sacrificial offerings in the tomb, including 18 sets of dainty chinaware and a miniature pagoda.

From the high standards of the tomb and the outfit of the man on the frescoes, Chen assumed the tomb owner must have been someone of high status. 'The man must have been a top official of the county.'

He said the couple lived in the Liao Dynasty (916-1125 AD), a state founded by the Khitan ethnic group."
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Friday, July 07, 2006

Ancient Statue of Artemis unearthed near Larissa

Unique ancient statue of Artemis unearthed

A unique ancient statue of the goddess Artemis, considered one of the most exquisite artifacts found in the Thessaly province of central Greece, was unearthed on Thursday by archaeologists at the site of an ancient theater near the modern city of Larissa, where restoration works are underway, it was announced on Friday.

The 80cm-tall statue -- only the torso was found -- depicts Artemis, in Greek mythology (Diana in Roman mythology) the virgin goddess of the hunt and the moon, and the twin sister of Apollo. The artifact is tentatively dated back to the mid 1st Century BC. "
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Thursday, June 29, 2006

2000 year old tomb unearthed in central China

Chinese archaeologists have unearthed a large tomb, possibly the grave of an aristocrat, dating back 2,000 years in the central province of Hunan.

The tomb could belong to the eminent Changsha King appointed by an emperor of the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 24), archaeologists from Changsha Archaeology Research Institute cited initial study as saying.

Discovered at a construction site in northwestern Changsha, the provincial capital, the tomb is about 30 meters long and 15 meters wide, with high-quality construction techniques and design.

The tomb is the largest excavated in the province, and bigger than the Mawangdui Tomb, which is famous for the preserved 2,000-year-old women's corpse.

Grave robbers had broken into the tomb, stealing many funerary objects and causing serious damage.

Fortunately, the coffin remained intact. The identity of the tomb owner would be determined after the coffin was opened and seals or other materials are found, archaeologists said.

A bronze goat-shaped container, a gilded jade, a celadon bowl and a celadon jar were excavated from the tomb. Experts said the first two were original items in the tomb but the others were left by the robbers."

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Turkey requests return of Mausoleum reliefs

Until I visited the British Museum earlier this spring, I was not even aware that anything remained from the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Therefore I was thrilled to see the wonderful statues of a very handsome King Mausollos and Queen Artemisia there.

See my pictures!

So, the following article caught my eye:

The New Anatolian: "Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Mugla Deputy Fahrettin Ustun has asked Culture and Tourism Minister Atilla Koc to take the initiative to get remaining sections of the Mausoleum, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, currently at the British Museum, back to Turkey. Ustun said that a similar request was made in the past as well, but it didn't bear any fruit, and told the following story:

King Mausolus' wife and sister built a mausoleum for the deceased ruler in 350 B.C. in Halicarnassus (modern-day Bodrum). According to the ancient Greek historian Pliny, the Mausoleum is the first example of its kind in Anatolia with a pyramidal roof and is about 50 meters high. The white marble used in the pyramid was brought from the island of Pharos, which lay at the mouth of the harbor of Alexandria, Egypt. On the top step of the pyramid stood lion monuments and at the summit of the whole mausoleum were statues of King Mausolus and Queen Artemisia in a chariot. But the Mausoleum was demolished probably in the large Anatolian earthquake of 1304. When the Knights of Rhodes arrived in Bodrum, they used the stones and pillars of the Mausoleum to build the Bodrum Castle.

British Ambassador to Istanbul Lord Stratford Canning asked Ottoman Sultan Abdulmecid (1823-1861) for permission to take to the United Kingdom the 13 reliefs that were used in the walls of the castle by the Knights of Rhodes."

Later, famous writer Cevat Sakir Kabaagacli (1890-1973), known as the Fisher of Halikarnas, sent a letter to Britain's Queen Elizabeth. Kabaagacli, a graduate of Oxford University, said that he was very sad that the Mausoleum pieces that were sent to the British Museum were kept in London's cold, foggy weather instead of their own natural atmosphere. He said that the pieces that were exhibited in London were built for Bodrum, and that their real beauty can only be seen when they are juxtaposed with the blue of the Bodrum sea, and so they shouldn't be taken out of the place where they truly belong.

The queen sent the letter to the director of the museum. A few months later, the director sent the following reply: "We've taken your suggestion very seriously. Indeed, their real value can be seen when together with blue. Therefore, we painted the hall in the museum where they are exhibited a Bodrum blue. Thank you very much for your interest."
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Coptic Museum reopens after three year renovation

The Coptic Museum, the only one in the World dedicated to the art and antiquities of Christian Egypt, reopened its doors today after three years of restorations. Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, was present at the inauguration of the museum located at Misr Al Qadim (Ancient Egypt), where Christian, Islamic and Judaic temples are located. The museum, whose renovations have cost 5 million dollars, contains antiquities that date from the Coptic period, which spanned between the V and VII centuries of our era.

The objects displayed rise up to 16000 pieces approximately, arranged as possible in chronological order in 12 different sections.
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DNA shows foreigner worked on royal tomb

DNA shows foreigner worked on royal tomb: "DNA tests have identified the remains of what may prove to be China's first foreign worker - an early European who worked on the mausoleum of China's first emperor.

The DNA tests were done on remains from one of the laborers' tombs surrounding the mausoleum of Qinshihuang, in northwestern Shaanxi Province.

The mausoleum was built more than 2,200 years ago.

Scientists found the foreign remains among 121 shattered human skeletons in a tomb about 500 meters from the famous museum housing the life-sized terracotta warriors and their horses and weapons.

The discovery means contacts between the people in east Asia and those in what is now central Asia began a century earlier than the previously supposed Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) period, said Duan Qingbo, head of the Qinshihuang Mausoleum Excavation Team under the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Cultural Heritage.

Scientists collected bone fragments from 50 sets of remains in the laborers' tomb that was unearthed in 2003 and from these extracted 15 DNA samples.

Most of the bodies were males aged from 15 to 55, Duan said.

Tan Jingze, an associate professor at Shanghai-based Fudan University, which conducted the DNA tests, said one sample had genetic features commonly associated with the Parsi in India and Pakistan, the Kurds in Turkmenistan and the Persians in Iran."
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Thursday, June 15, 2006

'Fang' dentures link to skeleton

BBC NEWS : "A man whose 4,500-year-old bones were found in Mexico may have worn ceremonial dentures made from jaguar or wolf fangs, an archaeologist claims.

The find is said to represent one of the earliest examples of dentistry in the Americas.

The man's remains were found in volcanic ash beneath a cliff painted with ancient rock art in a remote mountain region of western Mexico.

James Chatters, an archaeologist and palaeontologist with Amec Earth and Environmental and a member of the research team, said the man's upper and front teeth had been removed - possibly to insert a ceremonial denture made from the palate of a wolf or a jaguar.

"Such a denture might be something like the mouthparts of a predatory animal or some fierce animal of some sort," he said.

It was also possible the man's teeth had been cut off for cosmetic reasons, or to indicate special status, perhaps as a priest or shaman, Dr Chatters said.

He would not have been able to bite with his front teeth but appears to have been well-fed. An examination of the body indicates he did not do hard work, perhaps having been an important person in the society.

The man may have died from an infection related to his dental work, Dr Chatters explained.

"They cut his teeth off right down to gum and exposed the pulp cavity, and he had two abscesses in his mouth at the time he died. Blood poisoning is a possibility there," he said."

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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Museum boss held for stealing riches of Croesus

World - Times Online: "The director of a Turkish state museum has been arrested over an alleged plot to steal the riches of Croesus and substitute the golden treasure for fakes.

Kazim Akbiyikoglu, the head of the Usak museum in western Turkey, was among nine people to be held after several ancient artefacts were found to have been switched for counterfeit copies.

A golden brooch in the shape of a winged seahorse and a golden coin are among the pieces found to have been swapped for fakes, according to Atilla Koc, the Turkish Tourism Minister.

Stories of the fabulous wealth of the king of Lydia in what is now western Turkey during the 6th Century BC have bequeathed the phrase 'as rich as Croesus'. Croesus was believed to be the first king to order coins to be minted as money, using the gold from his mines and panned from the sands of the River Pactolus."
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Restoration of tomb of Cyrus underway

Restoration of tomb of Cyrus underway: "A team of experts recently began restoring the tomb of Cyrus the Great at the ancient site of Pasargadae in Fars Province, the Persian service of CHN reported on Sunday.

Several megaliths of the tomb have been dislocated over time, and the restoration project aims to put them in their proper positions in order to prevent water from seeping into the monument.

?Studies of the damage to the tomb were carried out last year, and the experts prepared a plan, which is currently being implemented,? Parseh and Pasargadae Research Foundation director Mohammad-Hassan Talebian said.

?(Iranian archaeologist Ali) Sami had restored the tomb with cement before the Islamic Revolution. Since stone discharges cement after a time, gaps emerge among the stones, allowing rainfall to leak into the tomb. But the new plan will resolve the problem forever,? he added."
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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Weapons Found in Moche Woman's Tomb

The Boston Globe: "Archeologists in Peru have discovered a 15-century-old mummy of a tattooed Moche woman entombed with a dazzling collection of weapons and jewelry.

The woman, clearly a member of royalty, was buried with a sacrificed teenage slave at her feet and surrounded by signs of femininity, including precious jewelry, golden needles and bejeweled spindles and spindle whorls for spinning cotton.

But her burial bundle also contained gilded copper-clad war clubs and finely crafted spear throwers -- objects never seen in a Moche woman's tomb."
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Susa Park Museum reopens

CHN | News: "On the occasion of World Museum Day, Susa Park Museum will be inaugurated as the largest museum of Khuzestan province. This way the Susa Museum will be re-opened after more than two decades.

?The park of Susa Museum has been established in a 3-hectare area in the vicinity of the museum. Some historical relics unearthed during different archeological excavations in Susa historical site such as stone pillars belonging to the Achaemenid era, stone and clay objects, and many more which had been forgotten for many years will be displayed in this park museum,? said Reza Chenani, director of the Cultural Heritage and Tourism Department of the city of Susa.

Increasing the security system of the museum and setting the articles in chronological order are some measures taken by the Cultural Heritage Department of Susa. ?One of the major problems we had with the Susa Museum in the past was that its objects were not organized in a chronological order; therefore the visitors could not get a sense of time and trace the changes in the styles of these objects. In the new decoration we have tired to set them in sequential order from the pre-historic to the Elamite and Sassanid periods,? added Chenani. "
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Friday, May 12, 2006

2,400-year-old salt filter unearthed in Hebei

China View: "Archaeologists have discovered a 2,400-year-old filter that was used to extract salt from seawater in North China.

Ancient Chinese in coastal areas used to extract salt from seawater, by using a filter that would be placed under a caldron containing seawater blended with plant ash, said Wang Lingfeng, director of the office for protection of cultural relics in Haixing County, Cangzhou City of Hebei Province.

The filter is believed to be from the Spring and Autumn Period (770 BC-476 BC) and was in good condition when it was found in Haixing County, Wang said.

The helmet-shaped filter is 22 cm tall with the inside diameter of 13.7 cm and the outside diameter of 19.5 cm. Winding gullies were found inside the filter."

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Archaeologist sweats as fierce sun savages Taj Mahal

LANKA BUSINESS ONLINE - LBO: "An Indian archaeologist is praying for a respite from a heat wave engulfing the Taj Mahal town of Agra, warning that heavy dust in the dry air could permanently scar the marble monument to love.

Temperatures hovered this week at 45 Celsius (115 degrees Fahrenheit) in the city, 200 kilometres (124 miles) south of New Delhi, as a heat wave that has killed 60 people nationwide in the past week dragged on.

The Yamuna River, which runs behind the 17th-century white Mughal tomb, was dry and Agra's chief archaeologist Doraiswamy Dayalan said he was worried that dust from the nearby desert and factories would turn the marble yellow.

'The dry river allows dust and suspended particulate matter to rise and flow in the air and slam into the monument's surface,' said Dayalan, of the Archaeological Survey of India which cares for the Taj.

'If water returns to the Yamuna then there will be less suspended matter in the air,' Dayalan said, adding that he was praying the annual monsoon rains arrived by the end of June."
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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Jamestown well is ''a virtual time capsule,'' "Archaeologists digging in what may be Capt. John Smith?s well at Jamestown have found seeds, insects, bones and artifacts that will shed light on the environmental conditions and culture of 400 years ago.

The items are well-preserved because they were found below the water table, which protected them from contact with air. The well is a virtual time capsule, according to archaeologists at Historic Jamestowne.

A child?s leather shoe, surgical tools, buttons, untarnished copper, nuts and seeds, including a tobacco seed, have been unearthed. Above the water level, a German jug, weapons, ceramics, beads and large quantities of butchered animal bones and seafood remains have been found. Items include clam, mussel and scallop shells; fish bones; dorsal plates from Atlantic sturgeons ; crab claws; and barnacles."

I'm sorry I didn't have time to explore Jamestown when I visited Williamsburg several years ago.

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Fisherman Nets Ancient Statue in Greece

Yahoo News: A Greek fisherman has handed over to authorities a large section of an ancient bronze statue brought up in his nets in the Aegean Sea, officials said on Monday.

The male torso was located last week near the eastern Aegean island of Kalymnos, the Culture Ministry said in an announcement.

The one-meter (3-foot) high find belonged to a statue of a horseback soldier, and would have been part of the cargo of an ancient ship that sank in the area. It was taken to Athens to be cleaned and dated.

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