Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Japan Donates Money for Building of Thracian Art Museum in Bulgaria

This is wonderful news. I wonder when the projected opening date will be. I'd love to schedule a visit when this new museum opens.

"Japan's government has granted USD 2,860,000 to Bulgaria for the founding and building of a museum of the Thracian art in the eastern Rodopi Mountains.

The Japanese Ambassador to Bulgaria Koichiro Fukui and Bulgaria's Foreign Minister exchanged notes on Tuesday for the donation.

The Thracian art Museum is a joint project of the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture, the Haskovo Municipality and Japan. The idea is to build a whole museum complex around the Thracian tomb near the village of Alexandrovo."
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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Hidden City Found Beneath Alexandria | LiveScience

Hidden City Found Beneath Alexandria: "The legendary city of Alexandria was founded by Alexander the Great as he swept through Egypt in his quest to conquer the known world.

Now scientists have discovered hidden underwater traces of a city that existed at Alexandria at least seven centuries before Alexander the Great arrived, findings hinted at in Homer's Odyssey and that could shed light on the ancient world.

Alexandria was known to have developed from a settlement known as Rhakotis, or Râ-Kedet, vaguely alluded to as a modest fishing village of little significance by some historians. Seven rod-shaped samples of dirt gathered from the seafloor of Alexandria's harbor now suggest there may have been a flourishing urban center there as far back at 1000 B.C."
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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Trove of Ancient Mariner's Tools found off the coast of Cyprus

University of Colgate’s Albert Ammerman, Olive B. O’Connor Professor in the humanities, and a team of nine researchers recently discovered a trove of ancient mariner tools while excavating a seabed near Cyprus. Divers found the pre-Neolithic artifacts — which included chipped stone tools and ground stone implements — in water about 33 feet deep and about 330 feet offshore of Aspros, an archaeological site discovered in 2004.

Ammerman and his archaeologist colleagues believe the find — which they said consists of the oldest materials found off the island’s coast — could provide significant insight on the early history of Cyprus and Mediterranean seafaring.

According to the article, experts believe the discoveries indicate that ancient Aspros was much larger than the landward section visible today.

“All of what we see on the land is just a tip of the iceberg of what is in the water,” said Ammerman, who served as the director of the survey.

The tools he and his team found are believed to be used by mariners more than 10,000 years ago, before the island had permanent settlers. “These are the people who are the pioneers; without their knowledge, people who came later maybe would not have had it that good,” explained Ammerman

The researchers discovered the implements in aeolianite, a coastal formation of old cemented sand dunes, and are in the process of completing radiocarbon tests to determine their precise age.

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Jinsha excavation continues to yield relics

"The construction site in the western suburbs of Chengdu, in Sichuan Province, looked much like any other. It all started when a bulldozer driver heard a scraping sound as his machine bit deep into the ground: he struck a collection of golden, jade and bronze objects. Workers and passersby snapped up the treasures and scurrying off. Those too late to get anything, disgruntled, report the find to the police. And that''s how, in February 2001, the world learned about the relics of a mysterious 3,000-year-old Jinsha kingdom in the mountains of southwest China.

"Jinsha culture is unique, quite different from cultures in other parts of China, but is scarcely mentioned by Chinese historians," said Zhu Zhangyi, a veteran archaeologist in Sichuan and deputy-curator of the Jinsha Museum. "The harsh geography made it difficult for outsiders to enter the kingdom and so it was able to preserve its endemic culture."

Police have been able to recover most of the relics purloined from the construction site -- about 100 items in all, but no one can confidently claim that they have recovered everything.

In the past six years, the site has yielded up about 6,000 gold, jade, bronze and stone artifacts, tens of thousands of pottery items and also hundreds of elephant tusks. Gold fever

Jinsha means ''gold sand''. True to its name, the site has proved extraordinarily rich in gold relics.

"Chinese people typically use gold as jewellery -- earrings, bracelets or necklaces -- but Jinsha people used gold for sacrificial purposes. They made gold masks, gold headware and strange, horn-shaped objects in finely worked gold," said Sun Hua, an archaeologist from Beijing University.

Two relics in particular showcase their technical prowess.

One is a round foil bearing images of the Sun and of four flying birds. The gold foil is only about 0.02 cm thick, the width of a piece of paper, 12.5 cm in diameter and 94 percent pure. Some people have speculated that the twelve lights around the Sun represent the twelve months and the four flying birds the four seasons. "It''s just speculation. No one can say for sure what the pictures really mean," Zhu said, "but we do know that the ancient kingdom worshipped the Sun and birds."

Others have said that ancient Chinese may have believed that the Sun is carried from east to west on the backs of birds. The sun and birds appear on many Jinsha relics. The piece, dubbed the Sun and the Immortal Birds, has since become a logo for Chinese cultural heritage protection.

Another important piece of gold ware is a gold mask, discovered in February 2007. The mask was probably worn by sorcerers who communicated with divine forces.

It is 19.5 cm wide, 11 cm long, 0.04 cm thick and weighs 46 grams.
Gold masks were not common in China at that time, but widely used in Egypt and the Middle East.
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Royal Shakespeare Company to present Atwood's Penelopiad

"To say that the world’s great myths are a little male-centric is rather like saying that Vlad the Impaler was a bit of a lad. If women get any mention at all in Ancient Greek, Roman or Norse mythology, they are usually there to be ravished, kidnapped or dumped by the “heroes” of the stories.

Well, that’s about to change. After nearly 3,000 years, Homer’s great epic The Odyssey has had a sardonic feminist makeover. Next week the Royal Shakespeare Company premieres The Penelopiad. It retells the story of Odysseus’s 20-year wanderings after the Trojan War from the point of view of his wife Penelope, waiting chastely and patiently (or, in this version, not so chastely and patiently) back in Ithaca. Also given a long-overdue “right of reply” are her 12 handmaidens, whom – in the original Homer – Odysseus hangs shortly after dispatching Penelope’s suitors with a few well-aimed arrows.

That the author of this revisionist drama is Margaret Atwood won’t surprise anyone familiar with the Canadian writer’s work. Her bestselling The Handmaid’s Tale, for instance, was a savage satire about a totalitarian state run by religious zealots who deprive women of education, property and the right to say no. The Penelopiad (which came out as a novel two years ago) is no less provocative. Penelope and her murdered maids emerge from the grave to retell the story with all the bitterness of women who have been brooding on ancient wrongs for three millennia."

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Golden mask found in Bulgarian tomb

I really MUST visit Bulgaria!

"Archaeologists have unearthed a 2 400-year-old golden mask in an ancient Thracian tomb in south-eastern Bulgaria, scholars announced on Monday.

The mask was discovered over the weekend by a team of archaeologists excavating near the village of Topolchane, 290km east of the capital, Sofia. Its discovery, archaeologists said, indicates a Thracian king was buried in the tomb.

It was found together with a solid gold ring engraved with a Greek inscription and with the design of a bearded man in a timber-lined Thracian grave.

Team leader professor Georgi Kitov said that they also found a silver rhyton, silver and bronze vessels, pottery and funerary gifts.

"These finds confirm the assumption that they are part of the lavish burial of a Thracian king," said professor Margarita Tacheva, who was also on the dig.

"The artifacts belonged to a Thracian ruler from the end of the 4th century BC who was buried here," Kitov added."
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Friday, July 13, 2007

Green Crystals gorwing on bones in Chinese Tomb

Beijing, July 11: "Chinese archaeologists excavating a 2,500-year-old tomb in east China's Jiangxi province have discovered several pieces of rare green crystal lodged in the bones of 47 skeletons in the coffins, the state media reported today.

One of the diamond-shaped crystals was 8.5 centimetres long. Archaeologists said the crystals appeared to have "grown" in the bones.

The coffins also contained bronze, gold, silk, porcelain and jade items and even body tissue. They pointed out that the coffins were made from halved nanmu, a rare and extremely durable wood, and covered in white plaster and a layer of loess.

The fact that the coffins were fire-heated to make them waterproof and airtight may be a factor in the creation of the crystals. Classically, crystals are formed when rocks are heated and then cool slowly over time.

Archaeologists said there were no previous records of green-coloured crystals being found in tombs and said they would help scientists understand changes to the human body in different conditions.

Discovered in December 2006, the tomb in Lijia village in Jing'an county in Jiangxi is 16 metres long, about 11.5 metres wide and three metres deep. It is believed to date back to the eastern Zhou dynasty (770-221 B.C.), Xinhua news agency reported."
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Bulgaira seeks return of 13th century silver plates

"Bulgarian prosecutors have demanded that three Greek museums return nine silver plates, dating back to the 12th century, illegally dug up and smuggled out of the country.

The items are part of a 13-piece set dug up in 2000 by local tomb raiders and sold abroad over the next year, the prosecutors claim.

Their assertion is backed up by Nayden Blanghev, the tomb raider who claims to have found the set near Pazardzhik in central Bulgaria, selling it on to antiquities dealers.

The unique set belonged to an Alani chieftain who settled in Bulgaria in the 13th century, possibly fleeing the Mongol invasion.

The Alans were an Iranian nomad group hailing from the North Caucasus, but reached as far as modern-day France and Spain in the early Middle Ages.

Of the 13-piece set, nine pieces are in Greece, two more in private collections in the UK and one more in France. The location of the last piece is unknown."
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Friday, July 06, 2007

Cappadocia: A Forgotten Kingdom?

"There had indeed been a period in time (from 332 to 17 B.C., to be precise) when Cappadocia had gloried in the title of “kingdom.” This followed hot on the heels of a less glorious period when this part of Central Anatolia had been a Persian satrapy, ruled by a governor who permitted the locals to keep their own language and religion provided they paid tribute to an overlord in what is now Iran. Even today visitors to the great ruins of Persepolis can pick out the exquisitely preserved carvings of the Cappadocians bringing their tax of horses (and woolen socks!) to the Persian king as far back in time as the fifth century B.C.

It was Alexander the Great who saw off the Persian satrapy as he carved out a new empire on his way east in 334 B.C. But, as film fans everywhere will remember, Alexander was not to make old bones, and on his death his sprawling empire quickly fell apart. It was at this time that the wily Cappadocians grabbed their chance and declared independence. Unfortunately geography was against them. To their west lay the expanding Roman Empire, to their north the equally ambitious Pontic Kingdom based around Amasya. Sandwiched between these two warring parties, the Cappadocian Kingdom had little hope of peace, although history records it as having had several very capable rulers -- most of them called Ariarathes or Ariobarzanes -- who were famous for switching political allegiance as the wind blew.

We are indebted to the Greek geographer Strabo (born in Amasya in c.64 B.C.) for much of what we know about this period of Cappadocian history. The picture he paints is rather bleak, although it may have been darkened by his own pro-Roman leanings. Certainly he suggests that, in its dying days, the kingdom was seriously strapped for cash. Eventually he reports that Archelaus, the last king of Cappadocia, was summoned to Rome and accused of plotting against the Emperor Tiberius. An old man, Archelaus was no match for the Romans, and in 17 B.C. his kingdom was absorbed into their empire where it became the sprawling province of Cappadocia, with its capital at Caesarea (modern-day Kayseri).

Nowadays Cappadocia is a marketing term that gives a quick touristic identity to an area that overlaps the provinces of Aksaray, Nevşehir, Niğde and Kayseri."

I noticed that a visit to Cappadocia is usually included in many Turkey hosted tours. Perhaps I'll see it myself one day.

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Sunday, July 01, 2007

Japanese tomb murals removed for restoration

The last piece of a colorfully painted stone wall was removed Tuesday from the Takamatsuzuka tomb in the ancient village of Asuka, Nara Prefecture, as part of a government restoration project that began in April.

News photo

The murals, estimated to have been drawn between the late seventh and early eighth centuries, were discovered in March 1972. They have been designated national treasures and will be restored at an outside facility near the tomb over a period of 10 years.

On Tuesday, the Cultural Affairs Agency's archaeological preservation team used a crane to hoist the final piece, which comes from the tomb's west wall, from its chamber to a truck.

The slab, weighing 840 kg and measuring 106 cm wide, 115 cm high and 43 cm thick, bears a depiction of a group of men, agency officials said.

Takayasu Koezuka, head of the Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, told reporters the work went smoothly.

The tomb still has four pieces of the stone flooring with no paintings. They will be removed in late July, the officials said.

The work to remove the wall paintings in 12 sections is part of the agency's efforts to protect them from mold, which was detected in 2002.

The colorfully painted walls depict groups of men and women and three of the four ancient constellation symbols — the White Tiger, the Azure Dragon and the Black Warrior.

The fourth symbol — the Vermilion Bird — is believed to have been on the south wall but is no longer there due to looting.

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