Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Grave of Real D'Artagnan found in the Netherlands

Dutch archaeologists believe that they have located the tomb of Louis XIV musketeer Charles de Batz de Castelmore d'Artagnan in a small Catholic church in the Netherlands.

According to a leading French historian, Charles de Batz de Castelmore dArtagnan, who served Louis XIV as captain of the Musketeers of the Guard, was buried a few kilometres away at Saint Peter and Paul Church in Wolder, Holland, The Times Online reports.

The trail is very precise, according to Odile Bordaz, author of several works on the musketeer.

She has marked down theories that d'Artagnans body was brought back to France, and has been insisting the Dutch authorities and the Catholic Church approve an archaeological dig of the site.

According to recently discovered documents, during the siege, bodies of French officers were buried in the nearest Catholic Church. D'Artagnan died during the Siege of Maastricht on June 25, 1673.

Alexandre Dumas wrote the novel The Three Musketeers in 1844 after reading about d'Artagnans exploits in Les Memoires de Monsieur d'Artagnan, which was published almost 150 years earlier.

Bordaz also said that d'Artagnan reputation as a lady killer was absolutely right

The musketeers and their officers led joyous lives and multiple conquests not only on the battlefield but also in the secret of the alcoves, she said.- From CathNews

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Saturday, November 08, 2008

Ancient Apulian treasures to be returned to Italy

Ritual Water Jar (loutrophoros) with Perseus Battling the Sea Monster Greek made in Apulia South Italy 340-330 BCE TerracottaSwitzerland will return 4,400 Roman artifacts to Italy which were seized from a Basel art dealer and were probably stolen from illegal digs, the SDA news agency reported on Thursday.

[Vases, like this example of an Apulian loutrophoros (ritual war jar) depicting Perseus battling a sea monster, are among the treasures seized in a raid on Basel art dealer]

The objects include vases, statues, mosaics and bronze items from pre-Christian times which were found in the Basel warehouse of an Italian art dealer as part of an investigation launched in 2001 on Italy's request.

"We felt like we had been transported back to ancient Rome," the SDA agency quoted investigator Mario Plachesi as saying.

After 80 officers worked for months to catalogue the items - most of which are likely from Apulia in southern Italy - the Swiss authorities are now handing them back. A further 1,400 artifacts, probably from Greece, were also found in the warehouse but will stay in Basel.

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Ramses III's linen girdle centerpiece of new Liverpool World Museum Egyptian gallery

HEAVILY guarded in a north Liverpool ware-house, within a special container power-sealed with a dozen rivets, there lies a treasure greater than either of its counterparts from Tutan-khamen’s tomb.

The battle girdle worn by the last of Egypt’s great battling pharaohs, Rameses III, is delicately coiled on a bed of layered tissues: a 3,000-year- old gem as priceless as our own crown jewels.

The five-metre exquisitely embroidered multi-coloured linen belt will form the centrepiece of Liverpool World Museum’s new Egyptian gallery.

The girdle would have been donned by Rameses as he proudly rode his war chariot on campaigns against invaders.

It is an item, held in Liverpool since the 1860s, but known to scholars the world over.

The belt is among 1,500 items that go on display from December 5.

Among the others likely to vie for attention are five mummies, including one of a female contemporary of Cleopatra, who inspired a classic novel from the celebrated Victorian writer Henry Rider Haggard.

The new permanent exhibition covers life in Egypt from the time of Menes, the first king, who reigned 3000 years BC, through to the time of the pharaohs, and on to the periods of the Greek and Roman occupations...

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C. David Claudon's Cleopatra Costume Site Interesting

I stumbled across C. David Claudon's Ceopatra Costume article while I was looking for a picture of Ramses II's girdle. I found it very interesting

The Cleopatra Costume on Stage and in Film

Perhaps one of the most well-known Egyptian pharaohs, Cleopatra VII Philopater ("father-lover") has captured the imaginations of countless artists and authors. In William Shakespeare's The Tragedie of Anthonie, and Cleopatra, (better known as Antony and Cleopatra), John Dryden's All for Love, Victorien Sardou's Cleopatra, George Bernard Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra, and the numerous Cleopatra-peopled films of the twentieth century, each artist has invested his own period's interpretation in the lady. Any study of the costumes worn on the stage and screen by actresses playing Cleopatra VII first requires familiarity with what the Egyptian pharoah herself might have worn. To do this, the costumes described can be divided into two categories: those worn as "everyday" clothes and those worn for state or religious occasions.

The clothes worn as everyday dress were probably Hellenic Greek in origin, for Cleopatra was a Roman-sponsored monarch, whose Greek ancestors had ruled Egypt since the death of Alexander the Great. This Roman apparel, described by Barton (1961), was based on Greek dress. It consisted of an underdress of soft linen or silk (the tunica interior) and a long over-robe (the stola) of the same material. Over these two garments would be worn the palla, or draped outer-cloak.

Barton describes the range of color for this ensemble:

Colors mentioned in contemporary texts include scarlet, violet, mari-gold yellow, crocus yellow, hyacinth-purple (which would be nearer our modern shade than the Tyrian), rust, sea-green or blue, and green. Probably the tints of the garments themselves were fairly light and bright (not what we understand by "pastel," but stronger) and designs were applied in deeper tones. (p. 88)

On her feet, if she wore complete Roman garb, Cleopatra could wear either sandals (solae) for house-wear or shoes (calcei) if she went outdoors. Those shoes were made of leather and also varied in color from white to red, green or pale yellow.

- More

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shaman graveIn a dusty cave in Israel, archaeologists have unearthed a 12,000-year-old grave that they say may be the resting spot of one of the earliest known shamans. The grave contains the artfully arranged bones of a roughly 45-year-old woman as well as a collection of animal and human body parts, including a complete human foot, 50 tortoise shells, and bones from a wild boar, an eagle, and a leopard.

“What was unusual here was there were so many different parts of different animals that were unusual, that were clearly put there on purpose,” said researcher Natalie Munro…. This care along with the animal parts point to the grave belonging to both an important member of the society and possibly a healer called a shaman…. Such healers mediate between the human and spirit worlds, often summoning the help of animal spirits along their quests, according to the researchers [LiveScience].

In the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [subscription required], researchers describe the cemetery of a prehistoric Natufian settlement. The Natufian culture, which lasted from roughly 15,000 to 11,500 years ago, played a central role in the transition from foraging to farming and was the first known society to live in year-round settlements. Burials of the dead increased dramatically in number among the Natufians, indicating that these people assigned much symbolic importance to treatment of the dead [Science News].

The woman’s skeleton was separated from the other 26 burial sites found in the cave, and her grave was the only one lined with slabs of limestone. Ten large stones had been placed on her head, arms, and pelvis, perhaps to hold her body in a particular position, or because the community was trying to keep the shaman and her spirit inside the grave, [study coauthor Leore] Grosman said. It is likely that the 50 tortoises were brought live to the site and were eaten as part of a feast surrounding the burial, according to the researchers [Bloomberg].

- Compiled by Eliza Strickland

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Karanis target of 1st Archaeology Field for US Undergrads the UCLA students, exploring the sprawling agricultural settlement that was Karanis and uncovering plant remains and animal bones from the fourth through sixth centuries is turning into the trip of a lifetime.

[Karanis textile]

Just two weeks into the dig, the field school has made some new discoveries.

"Based on dates in Greek papyri previously found at Karanis, the city was thought to have been abandoned in the fourth century … but the section we are working on dates from the fourth to the sixth centuries, which expands the occupation of Karanis by approximately two centuries," Wendrich said. "It certainly was rural, but it was also a large town, in which the inhabitants, mostly small landowners, created a comfortable life for themselves."

There are more mysteries to uncover, she added.

"One of the main mysteries is how the city inhabitants were provided with water," Wendrich said. "Karanis lies in the desert at the edge of the Fayum depression, and there were several canals that ran near the town. To date, six bath houses have been identified, but it is as yet unclear how the water from the canals reached the town."

Karanis is now believed to have been inhabited from 300 BC to the sixth century. The field school is uncovering plant remains, animal bones, textiles, basketry, leather and fragments of papyrus.

It's all part of the adventure of being in Egypt's first officially sanctioned field school for American undergraduates. See UCLA Egypt Archaeology blog for personal experiences.

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Sunday, November 02, 2008

Valley of Elah yields oldest Hebrew text ever found

Archaeologists in Israel said on Thursday they had unearthed the oldest Hebrew text ever found, while excavating a fortress city overlooking a valley where the Bible says David slew Goliath.
Archaeologist Yosef Garfinkel shows a shard of pottery at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem October 30, 2008. Archaeologists in Israel said on Thursday they had unearthed the oldest Hebrew text ever found, while excavating a fortress city overlooking a valley where the Bible says David slew Goliath. (REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)

The dig's uncovering of the past near the ancient battlefield in the Valley of Elah, now home to wineries and a satellite station, could have implications for the emotional debate over the future of Jerusalem, some 20 km away.

Archaeologists from the Hebrew University said they found five lines of text written in black ink on a shard of pottery dug up at a two-hectare site called Elah Fortress, or Khirbet Qeiyafa.

Experts have not yet been able to decipher the text fully, but carbon dating of artefacts found at the site indicates the Hebrew inscription was written about 3,000 years ago, predating the Dead Sea Scrolls by 1,000 years, the archaeologists said.

Several words, including "judge", "slave" and "king", could be identified and the experts said they hoped the text would shed light on how alphabetic scripts developed.

In a finding that could have symbolic value for Israel, the archaeologists said other items discovered at the fortress dig indicated there was most likely a strong king and central government in Jerusalem during the period scholars believe that David ruled the holy city and ancient Israel.

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Genetic Links to Ancient Phoenicians Focus of New Research Phoenicians, enigmatic people from the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, stamped their mark on maritime history, and now research has revealed that they also left a lasting genetic imprint.

Scientists reported Thursday that as many as one in 17 men living today on the coasts of North Africa and southern Europe may have a Phoenician direct male-line ancestor.

These men were found to retain identifiable genetic signatures from the nearly 1,000 years the Phoenicians were a dominant seafaring commercial power in the Mediterranean basin, until their conquest by Rome in the second century B.C.

The scientists who conducted the research said this was the first application of a new analytic method for detecting especially subtle genetic influences of historical population migrations

Samples of the male Y-chromosome were collected from 1,330 men now living at six sites known to have been settled in antiquity as colonies and trading outposts of the Phoenicians. The sites were in Cyprus, Malta, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia and the Palestinian territories.

Each participant, whose inner cheek was swabbed for the samples, had at least three generations of indigenous ancestry at the site. To this was added data already available from Lebanon and previously published chromosome findings from nearly 6,000 men at 56 sites throughout the Mediterranean region. The data were then compared with similar research from neighboring communities having no link to Phoenician settlers.

From the research emerged a distinctive Phoenician genetic signature, in contrast to genetic traces spread by other migrations. The scientists thus concluded that, for example, one boy in each school class from Cyprus to Tunis may be a descendant of Phoenician traders.

"We were lucky in one respect," said Pierre Zalloua, a geneticist at Lebanese American University in Beirut who was a principal author of the journal report. "So many Phoenician settlement sites were geographically close to non-Phoenician sites, making it easier to distinguish differences in genetic patterns."

In the journal article, the researchers wrote that the work "underscores the effectiveness of Y-chromosomal variability" in tracing human migrations. "Our methodology," they concluded, "can be applied to any historically documented expansion in which contact and noncontact sites can be identified."

Zalloua said that with further research it might be possible to refine genetic patterns to reveal phases of the Phoenician expansion over time - "first to Cyprus, then Malta and Africa, all the way to Spain." Perhaps, he added, the genes may hold clues to which Phoenician cities - Byblos, Tyre or Sidon - settled certain colonies.

Wells, a specialist in applying genetics to migration studies who is also an explorer-in-resident at the National Geographic Society, suggested that similar projects in the future could investigate the genetic imprint from the Celtic expansion across the European continent, the Inca through South America, Alexander's march through central and south Asia and multicultural traffic on the Silk Road. - More from the International Herald Tribune

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Can High Tech Tools Find Tomb of Genghis Khan? article naturally caught my eye as I am currently listening to Conn Iggulden's first novel in his trilogy about Genghis Khan and have found it both thrilling and fascinating. It is historical fiction but hopefully Iggulden has not strayed too far from the facts. His incarnation of "Timujin" is a warrior of admirable strength and skill as well as a man of vision and deep conviction. Some may also perceive him as ruthless although I think he demonstrated more restraint than other men spawned in such an environment. The tribal society Iggulden depicts on the unforgiving steppes is that of a hard people struggling often just to survive in a land where the dispossesed or just unfortunate are prey to any passing group who simply want their meager belongings even if they are just an old worn dell (coat) and a small pouch of rancid mutton. But it was from these very wanderers that Genghis Khan forged a nation.

I also saw the award-nominated film "Mongol" that gave further insight into the nomadic cultures of the 13th century. It, too, is supposed to be one of a trilogy of films and I eagerly await its successors.

Somewhere beneath the wind-swept deserts of Mongolia lies the body of
one of the most enigmatic warlords in history, a ruthless but brilliant
leader who united his people and built the largest empire in the world.
Nearly 800 years after Genghis Khan died, the legends continue to grow,
as do the mysteries.

Now, a young scientist at the University of California, San Diego, is
hoping to succeed, where others have failed, and answer a question that
has puzzled historians for centuries: Where, precisely, is the tomb of
Genghis Khan?

Albert Yu-Min Lin doesn't plan to search for his answer with
the traditional tools of archaeology, a small pick and good brush.
Instead, he will rely on high-tech, and if he is successful, he will
find the long-sought tomb without turning a single space of dirt.

"We're trying to locate the tomb, not dig it up," said Lin, who lived for awhile in Mongolia with a family of horsemen.

Lin's tools will be "non invasive" implements, ranging from
satellite photos, ground-penetrating radar, and sensitive devices that
can detect clues that the ground was disturbed hundreds of years ago.

Lin has already begun his search with satellite photos donated by
GeoEye, Corp., that could hold clues to "anomalies" on the surface that
could indicate an ancient disturbance of the soil. Lin is an affiliate
research scientist in UC San Diego's Center for Interdisciplinary
Science in Art, Architecture and Archaeology.

The satellite images are the first phase of the three-year
project. If he finds some promising sites, and if he gets approval from
local authorities, he will lead a team of researchers for on-site,
non-intrusive investigations. They will use several new techniques,
including magnetometry, which can pinpoint subsurface disturbances,
like ditches and plowing, by detecting variations in soil magnetism
against the general background of the Earth's magnetic field.

Archaeologists have used that technology to locate other sites,
but it does have limitations. It is effective if the area has been
burned at some time in the past, because burning changes the magnetic
properties of the surrounding soil by altering the magnetism of tiny
iron particles. But a grave is less likely to show up because the hole
usually is immediately refilled with the same dirt.

Ground penetrating radar could also be used to create reasonably clear
images of the first few feet of soil, but it, too, has its limitations.
It does not work as well in moist soils, because water attenuates the
signal. However, the burial site is probably in a high desert location
with typically dry soils.- More from ABC News

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Hotel construction halted after survey shows ancient Susa perimeter three times as big as originally thought construction of Laleh and Amir Zargar hotels began following authorization of the project by the Khuzestan Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Department (KCHTHD) in 2007.

However, the projects were halted after cultural heritage enthusiasts caused a media frenzy and in early September 2008, Shush Cultural Heritage Center (SCHC) director Mohammadreza Chitsaz said that the project had been banned following a series of expert investigations.

Meanwhile, a deputy director of the Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Organization (CHTHO) said in mid October that there are no obstacles to the construction of the hotels.

A team led by Mohammad-Taqi Ataii made 61 excavations at Susa and determined a 1200-hectare perimeter for the city as 32 of the digs have resulted in identification of ancient strata.

The previous demarcation, which had been carried out decades before, determined a 400-hectare perimeter for Susa.

Susa consists of many satellite suburbs, villages, and workshops said Boucharlat, adding that the city is not limited to the 400-hectare perimeter.

It most likely that there are many ancient sites and artifacts in the area, which should be safeguarded by Iranian cultural officials, Boucharlat said.

Susa was an ancient city in the Elamite, Persian, and Parthian empires of Iran, located about 150 miles east of the Tigris River in Khuzestan Province of Iran.

Susa is one of the oldest known settlements in the region, probably founded around 4000 BC, although the first traces of an inhabited settlement date back to 7000 BC. - More - Tehran Times

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