December 31, 2005

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 11:58 am

Remote sensing update Aerial photographers map archaeological sites

Archaeologists call it the Persian carpet effect.

Imagine you’re a mouse running across an elaborately decorated rug. The ground would merely be a blur of shapes and colors. You could spend your life going back and forth, studying an inch at a time, and never see the patterns.

Like a mouse on a carpet, an archaeologist painstakingly excavating a site might easily miss the whole for the parts. That’s where the work of aerial photographers like Georg Gerster comes in.

For four decades, Gerster, 77, has been flying over sites from the Parthenon to Ayers Rock to provide archaeologists with the big picture. Seen from high above, even the most familiar turf can appear transformed, with a coherence and detail invisible on the ground.

“In the Middle Eastern and classical (archaeology) world, it’s a tool people recognize as extremely valuable,” says archaeologist William Sumner, a University of Chicago professor emeritus, of aerial photography. “The thing about Georg’s images is they are superb. If there’s anything to be seen, it’s in his images.”

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 11:42 am

Some things never change Ancients Rang In New Year with Dance, Beer

Many ancient Egyptians marked the first month of the New Year by singing, dancing and drinking red beer until they passed out, according to archaeologists who have unearthed new evidence of a ritual known as the Festival of Drunkenness.

During ongoing excavations at a temple precinct in Luxor that is dedicated to the goddess Mut, the archaeologists recently found a sandstone column drum dating to 1470-1460 B.C. with writing that mentions the festival.

The discovery suggests how some Egyptians over 3,000 years ago began their New Year, which for them started around the end of August to coincide with seasonal, desired flooding that drenched farmlands where they would grow crops, such as barley and wheat. The Festival of Drunkenness usually occurred 20 days after the first big flood.

The red beer angle has its source, as noted in the article, in the Destruction of Mankind myth:

This function of Sekhmet-Hathor as an agent of Re is made manifest in the Destruction of Mankind myth found on five royal New Kingdom tombs — Tutankhamun, Seti I, and Ramesses II, III, and VI — and is itself part of a larger work known as “The Book of the Cow of Heaven”
(Lichteim 1976:197; Watterston 1999:42). According to this story, Re plans the destruction of rebellious mankind and the council of gods advises him: “Let your Eye go and smite them for
you [i.e. Re], those schemers of Evil! (…) May it go down as Hathor!”. The Eye finishes a day of slaying mankind and returns to Re who says “I shall have power [= sxm] over them [i.e. mankind] as king by diminishing them” and concluding with “Thus The Powerful One [ = sxmt ] (Sekhmet) came into being.” The destructive aspect of the Eye is thus manifested as Sekhmet. Sekhmet, however, performed her task so well that Re was alarmed and decided to save mankind. Re had his priests prepare barley beer mixed with red ochre to give it the color of blood and on the morning that Hathor was to finish her destruction, Re poured the beer over the land. Hathor/Sekhmet, thinking the red beer was blood, drank it until she forgot about destroying mankind. “She drank and it pleased her heart. She returned drunk without having perceived mankind. The majesty of Re said to the goddess: ‘Welcome in peace, O gracious one!’. Thus beautiful women came into being in the town Imu” (all quotes from Lichtheim 1976:198-199)

[Quoted from Cagle 2003]

Cagle, A.J.
2003 A Spatial Analysis of Deposits in Kom el-Hisn, in A Delta-man in Yebu: Occasional Volume of the Egyptologists’ Electronic Forum No. 1, edited by A. K. Eyma and C. J. Bennett, Universal Publishers.

Lichtheim, M.
1976 Ancient Egyptian Literature 2: The New Kingdom. University of California Press, Berkeley.

Watterston, B.
1999 Gods of Ancient Egypt. Bramley Books Limited, Godalming.

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 11:39 am

Overly exciting headline of the year Ancient “Weapons Factory” Found on Connecticut Ridge

About 3,000 years ago, a group of hunters perched on a ridge near what is now New Haven Harbor in Connecticut and fashioned quartz into projectile points.

The points were likely intended to form the lethal end of an atlatl, or spear-thrower, dart.

A skillful stalker could wield the weapon, which predated the bow and arrow, with enough force and accuracy to send a dart into a deer, turkey, or other small prey.

Those ancient hunter-gatherers have since vanished, but the quartz artifacts survive on the ridge, known as West Rock.

It’s actually a pretty good article, but the headline is a little. . . over the top. Technically true, but trivially unimportant.

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 11:31 am

Experimental archaeology update The Great Wall of MIT

When it comes to scientific progress, sometimes you have to look back in order to move forward.

Parts of the Great Wall of China, still standing after more than 2,000 years, were built using a construction technique called rammed earth.

Now a group of architecture students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have imitated the technique in an experiment aiming to confirm the usability of the ancient building method in the modern world.

Led by graduate student Joe Dahmen, the MIT team began work in September, using twelve tons of local Boston blue clay mixed with two parts sand and gravel. Their blend was packed, by hand and with the help of a pneumatic compactor, into a wooden shell that was removed once each section was complete and dry.

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 11:25 am

Medieval mystery! Restoration of medieval manor house opens up a mystery

Turn right off a quintessentially dull suburban parade of shops and 1930s houses, down a lane past the scrapyard and the playing fields, and there is something so bizarre it seems a hallucination: a medieval manor house, still surrounded by a moat and flanked by its tithe barn, as it has been for almost 700 years.

Headstone Manor is a treasure that most outsiders have never known and most people in the Middlesex suburb of Harrow had forgotten. “Secular buildings of this date are extremely rare anywhere,” said Stephen Brindle, an ancient monuments inspector for English Heritage. “To find it surviving here is quite extraordinary.” Half a lifetime ago the timber-framed 1310 hall was about to fall to bits: it was stripped of roof tiles, floors and plaster down to a skeletal frame, then wrapped in scaffolding and corrugated plastic. English Heritage offered a grant for restoration, and the local heritage trust raised £50,000, but the rest of the money could not be found. The building, designated a scheduled ancient monument, remained wrapped up for over 20 years.

Have to go all the way to the bottom to find the MYSTERY: Many windows buried in later building work re-emerged, including a little one under the roof of the hall which our photographer found standing open. It was no surprise to project manager Ian Wilson: when the window was reinstated the last worker to leave the site at night would carefully close it – but the first to arrive would find it open. Spooks!

A short description of the manor house (with pictures) can be found here.

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 11:21 am

On a mission to explore deepest Lycia

Children play in the dirt between humble abodes with tin roofs, as carts, donkeys and farm vehicles pass by. We assure the owner of the yard where we know there is an inscribed stone that we have the permission of the Culture Ministry.

He warmly welcomes us with tea as the neighbors gather. I try to persuade him that it is not necessary to cut down the rose bush and the tree growing in front of the tombstone bearing a relief of a youth’s head. The children want to know the language of the inscription, carved in Ancient Greek about 18 centuries ago.

We are in ancient Cibyratica, at the site of the ancient city of Bubona, at an altitude of about 1,000 meters, less than 100 kilometers from the southwest Turkish coast, in the village of Ibecik. It is here that a group of beautiful bronze statues was discovered, the only group of its kind ever to be found dating from Roman times. Unearthed during illegal excavation, they are now exhibited in foreign museums. We — a research team from Heidelberg and Athens — are the only visitors to the area, and we come every year.

Mostly something of a travelogue, but it’s got some good bits in information.

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 11:18 am

Year-end wrap-up from Egypt Pharaohs on the move
Ramses stayed put, while a fragment of the Great Pyramid fell off.

Suddenly, as the second half of 2005 began, what had been a relatively sluggish year in the cultural sphere picked up with a vengeance. The culture minister found himself at the centre of at least two major controversies in July and September. First, he received the Israeli ambassador to Egypt, inspiring much criticism, as well as rumours of an impending cultural normalisation that didn’t actually occur. Then he tendered his resignation — subsequently revoked — in response to the tragic death of 55 people in a fire that erupted during a theatrical performance at the Beni Sweif Cultural Palace, a ministry- owned and operated venue (see ‘Staging dissent’). As usual, the year was also filled with battles on the antiquities front, as Egypt continued to pay greater attention to its treasure trove of monuments, and seek out new ways to keep them from harm.

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 11:16 am

Do it! Calls to dig into village’s rich archaelogical past

THERE have been calls for an archaeological dig to take place in Stonehouse.

In the past there have been attempts to get digs arranged, as the village has a number of historical sites of interest, but so far none have taken place.

Fred McDermid, of Boghall Road, is one resident who thinks it’s time for a dig in Stonehouse, which has records dating back to the ninth century.

He said: “We hear regularly about archaeological digs taking place in various parts of the country which reveal finds of great interest. How about one in Stonehouse? This village has a very long history and there must be a great deal of history to be revealed.

Hey, someone out there come up with the money and we’ll direct it ourselves.

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 11:14 am

Eunuchs, not Unix Ancient eunuch tombs unearthed in SW China

Seven eunuch tombs belonging to the imperial Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) were unearthed in Chengdu, capital of southwestern China’s Sichuan Province.

The 400-year-old tombs yielded approximately 60 pieces of relics including porcelains, jade belts, jade hair decoration clasps and silver kettles.

The tomb chambers are all some seven meters deep with stone tables for incense burners and bottles at the entrance. The tomb gates were equipped with a stone dragon head at each side and the walls were decorated with dragon patterns.

No indication how these were ID’d as such. We’re guessing inscriptions.

December 28, 2005

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 4:11 pm

Ancient trees ‘discovered’ in Yellowstone

An independent scientist from Bozeman has documented some astonishingly ancient trees in Yellowstone National Park.

John King has found live juniper trees 1,500 years old in the Mammoth Hot Springs area, and a live limber pine in the Absaroka Range that is an incredible 1,921 years old.
When the limber pine tree sprouted, Christianity was beginning to root in the Middle East.

King is a dendrochronologist, which means he studies tree rings, sifting out patterns of past events and hoping to provide relevant information for today’s land managers.

Rare bronze horse, chariot unearthed in SW China

A rare bronze horse and chariot were unearthed in Ziyang, a city in southwest China’s Sichuan Province, according to Sichuan Provincial Archaeology Research Institute.

The bronze funeral object is believed to have been built in the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) or even earlier in the Qin Dynasty (221 BC – 206 BC), according to preliminary study.

The object was buried in a chamber about nine meters from the ground. Archeologists also found an ancient tomb about ten meters from the ground.

Score one for the good guys Police recover 9,000 stolen artefacts

Police in Rome have put on display an astonishing haul of artefacts they say was plundered from archaeological sites in Italy by a 74-year-old man.

Officers who raided the man’s home found 9,000 antiquities stolen over a period of years as well a sophisticated restoration lab, metal detectors and other devices used by amateur archaeologists. Thousands of Etruscan and Roman terracotta vases, polychrome mosaic tiles, pieces of travertine and multi-coloured marble that once adorned Roman villas were recovered. Ancient copper and bronze objects, amphorae, goblets, masks, brooches, votary statuettes and oil lamps were also found. Art experts say it will take months to assess the value of the hoard.

Yeesh. Talk about a mother lode. . . .

Army’s Fort Bliss Uncovers Its Prehistoric Past

In a recent find,
Army archeologists have discovered several pueblo and pit-house sites on the
Dona Ana Range at Fort Bliss, Texas believed to date between the 14th and 15th
This time frame coincides with the occupation of the area by the Jornada
Mogollon, a branch of the “Mogollon” culture, the prehistoric people who
inhabited much of southern New Mexico, east-central Arizona, northern
Chihuahua, and far western Texas. A large percentage of the Jornada Mogollon
culture is found on Fort Bliss and White Sands Missile Range.
The Army identified the site last year, but just recently investigated it.
“We scraped back some of the sand and sure enough the pueblo walls started
turning up,” said Brian D. Knight, senior Army archeologist speaking about the
find. “The site is pretty spectacular, it’s huge. We had never anticipated it
was going to be this nice.”

Fight! Fight! Obelisk, new finds unleash debate in Ethiopia

Ato Gebrmedihin, who estimates his age at about 90, remembers when Italy’s invading army in 1937 looted this ancient city’s 1,700-year-old, intricately carved obelisk, on the orders of Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, who wanted to mark his brief occupation of Ethiopia.

“Their van kept breaking down as they tried to rush to the airport with our heavy monument,” the gray-bearded Gebrmedihin recalled with a chuckle. “But they eventually fixed the truck. Then they took our stele away.”

Earlier this year, the 180-ton, 80-foot granite obelisk — a tombstone and monument to ancient rulers — was returned from a square in central Rome and flown in three parts to this northern town. A national holiday was proclaimed.

Upshot: They’re starting to deal with the same issues confronting any place where significant archaeological remains are. Balancing the needs of modern people to make a living and the conservation needs of archaeology. It’s an odd juxtaposition in this case, since widespread excavation and PR involving the remains in the area could A) Put the place on the map, bring in tourists, etc., contributing capital to the local economy; and B) Raising the profile of artifacts from this time and place. Both of those will, of course, have severe impacts on the stuff itself from destruction due to the consequent development, and from looting once the stuff becomes valuable. It’s a nasty cycle. Definitely bears watching.

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