Monday, November 05, 2007

Oldest UK skeleton even older than previously thought

Scientists say more accurate tests date the earliest human burial found in the UK to just over 29,000 years ago.

The skeleton of the Red Lady - actually a young male - was discovered at Goat's Hole Cave at Paviland on Gower in 1823 by William Buckland, then a geology professor at Oxford University. It owes its name to the red ochre covering the bones. When discovered the bones were thought to be around 18,000 years old, but were later redated to between 25,000 and 26,000. The remains were found along with a number of artefacts including ivory wands, bracelets and periwinkle shells.

"The remains and artefacts were previously difficult to date accurately," said Dr Higham.

"Many of the bones were treated with preservations in the 19th Century and some of this contamination is often difficult to remove."

He said their analysis was the bones were "just over" 29,000 years old.

It would mean The Red Lady lived in an age when the climate was much warmer than it would have been 4,000 years later.

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

Search continues for temple of Artemis Amarysia

"Near Amarynthos (Euboea, Greece), a joint excavation by the Swiss School and the 11th Greek Ephorate brought to light the foundations of a large building, possibly belonging to the renowned sanctuary of Artemis Amarysia.

In September, a team of Swiss and Greek archaeologists led by Denis Knoepfler and Amalia Karapaschalidou discovered the massive foundation of an edifice that could belong to the most renowned -yet still unlocated- sanctuary on the island of Euboea, dedicated to Artemis Amarysia.

Deep trenches opened at the foot of the Paleoekklisies hill, near modern Amarynthos (10 kilometres east of Eretria), unearthed a foundation composed of two courses of large tuff blocks. Excavated on a length of 6 meters, the line of the wall extends in the neighbouring fields, making impossible at this stage to ascertain the exact shape and function of the building to which it belonged. Hundreds of crushed fragments of marble were also recovered; they once belonged to the elevation of the buidling, whose marble parts were later used for lime production. This is confirmed by the discovery of an old limekiln just a few meters from the foundation. The preliminary study of the stratigraphy and the pottery suggests that the first course of blocks was laid in the second half of the fourth century BC; the second course belongs to a later phase, dated to the second century BC.

The foundation cuts a large wall from the Late Geometric period (around 700 BC), excavated at a depth of 3 meters from the surface."

"ARTEMIS was the goddess of hunting, wild animals and wilderness, and the protectress of girls and women.

She was widely worshipped in ancient Greece, with numerous shrines and temples throughout the countryside. This page describes her cult in the southern and eastern regions of the Peloponnese. Here her most celebrated shrines were that of the bear-goddess of Brauron in Attika, and the Lakedaimonian shrine of Artemis Karyai (of the Walnut-Trees).

Artemis was portrayed in classical Greek sculpture as a young woman or girl, with her hair tied back, and usually armed with bow and arrows. Sometimes she was attended by a hunting dog or stag, the so-called Artemis Agrotera (Huntress) type...Artemis Cult

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Tuareg exhibition blends old and new

"The Tuareg of northeastern Africa present an apparition. Suddenly you see: a billowy and shimmery intimidating vision; ripplings of cloth; glints of bladed weapons, slender leaf-thin spears, silver-studded daggers; calmly watching eyes. What you don't see is whole faces. Among the Tuareg it's the men, not the women, who go veiled. Hardened Tuareg warriors, knowing with precision how fabulous they look, arise out of the desert on their tall, swift cloud-white camels looking arrogant and elegant and dangerous and blue.

An exhibition at the National Museum of African Art looks at the culture of the Tuareg people, a semi-nomadic group from West Africa.
'The Art of Being Tuareg'
An exhibition at the National Museum of African Art looks at the culture of the Tuareg people, a semi-nomadic group from West Africa.

In "Art of Being Tuareg: Sahara Nomads in a Modern World" at the National Museum of African Art you get to meet the modern Tuareg, who aren't all that modern.

The Tuareg who inhabit parts of Algeria, Libya, Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger are sometimes called by travelers the "Blue Men" of the Sahara. The blue that stains their skin comes from the dark indigo that dyes the tagulmust -- the 15-foot-long cloth, part turban and part veil, that the best-dressed Tuareg noblemen still wrap around their heads.

Their tent poles look like the standards borne by the Roman legions. The patterns of their amulets have antecedents in Carthage. The Cross of Agadez, the chief emblem of the Tuareg, appears to be descended from the ankh of ancient Egypt. There are marks on Tuareg bracelets that are identical to those seen in Libyan inscriptions of the 2nd century B.C.

Most Tuareg men are lean. Their movements, by intent, suggest both elegance and arrogance. Their leanness isn't seen as much as it's suggested by the way their loose and flowing robes move about their limbs.

All in all, the Tuareg don't look much like Parisians. When 19th-century French imperialists first came upon the Tuareg in the wastes of the Sahara, they reacted as they might have when meeting men from Mars.

The Tuareg were, to French eyes, menacing, imposing, alien and exotic. Their beauty was undeniable, as was their ferocity (it took more than 20 years before imperialist French armies felt confident in entering traditional Tuareg lands), as was their ability to navigate the desert. The Tuareg didn't just raid French colonialists. They raided each other. Sometimes 20,000 camels would be gathered for the long and risky Tuareg-guarded caravans that carried loads of salt south to Timbuktu.

It is still easy to see why the beauty of the Tuareg, and other desert peoples, sent a shiver through French art, tinting with strange hues the otherworldly Orientalism of painters as diverse as Eug¿ne Delacroix, Jean-Leon Gerome and Henri Matisse.

The African Museum's thoughtful exhibition -- a joint product of the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University and the Fowler Museum at UCLA -- is far too self-aware to indulge in overcooked stereotypical Orientalism. But its leather bags and hand-forged swords, its camel saddles and sugar shears, share this with the ripe paintings of Delacroix and Matisse. Both intentionally conflate, as does most of Tuareg art, the wholly up-to-date with the very old indeed.

The Tuareg's written language, Tifnar, also points one toward antiquity. Modern is what it isn't. Tifnar can be written vertically or horizontally, and from left to right or from right to left. Its script is composed of lines and dots and circles. Its characters are shared with the cuneiforms of Babylon and the alphabet of the Phoenicians.

Judaism, too, has a place in Tuareg art, almost all of which is made by a people called the inadan -- an admired and despised class of Tuareg artisans (and diplomats, censors, clowns and spies) who believe themselves related to the House of David, and are thought to be descended from enslaved Moroccan Jews.

Tuareg nobles rule by right. Commanding is their duty, as is guarding family honor -- always showing, through their bearing, proper dignity and reserve. Unlike the inadan beneath them, they don't soil themselves with soot, or muck about with blacksmithing, or produce things to use.

"The blacksmith," observed one Tuareg informant in the 1940s, "is always a born traitor; he's fit to do anything. . . . His mendacity is proverbial; moreover it would be dangerous to offend him, for he is skillful at satire and if need be will spout couplets of his own devising about anyone who brushes him off; thus, no one wishes to risk his taunts. In return for this, no one is as ill-esteemed as the blacksmith."

The disdain is almost palpable. It feels ancient, too."

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Carnarvon photographs discovered

How exciting!

"Hundreds of unpublished photographs taken by the amateur Egyptologist George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon, as he helped to bring the lost tomb of King Tutankhamun to light, have been discovered in the family’s private collection.

Approximately 900 photographs, taken mostly between 1907-14, convey the enormous scale of excavations that Lord Carnavon and the archaeologist Howard Carter conducted in the decade before their most sensational discovery, which was first announced to the world by The Times.

Fiona, 8th Countess of Carnarvon, found the photographs recently inside three ordinary-looking albums in the archives of the family home, Highclere Castle, Berkshire. She spoke of the thrill of discovering the photographs, saying it was “like going back in time”. John Taylor, an assistant keeper in the British Museum’s Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan, described the images as “important historically . . . very evocative of what it was like to be an Egyptologist in 1910 and 1920”.

He said: “Lord Carnarvon was a photographer. He took a lot of very good shots of the excavations, mainly before the Tutankhamun discovery. He was working with Carter for a number of years before that and they found a lot of intereresting things. These photos show the work going on.

“They give an idea of the scale of it. Nowadays, Egyptologists are concerned with quite small areas, with small numbers of workers digging. In those days, there were dozens and dozens of workers clearing large areas.

“These photographs show them carrying baskets, the dust flying up, the hive of activity. You see them bringing objects out of the tombs, including mummy cases. You wouldn’t see that kind of thing happening today.”

There are also images of Carnarvon and Carter directing the operation, wearing three-piece suits despite the intense heat of the Egyptian sun. The Earl is shown in shots from 1911 at the cobra-infested Tel el Balamun site in the Delta, and at a tomb discovery in 1910 at Thebes. Carter can be seen staffing a desk as he supervises the workers’ pay day.

Some of the treasures went to Carvarvon’s collection, which is today open to visitors at Highclere Castle. Others were transported to Cairo and the Metropolitan in New York.

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