Sunday, July 24, 2016


British and French archaeologists used lasers to scan prehistoric paintings at a site more than 2,000 meters above sea level in Southern France. The Abri Faravel Rock shelter site, about 100 kilometers southeast of Grenoble in the Parc National des Ecrins, is believed to have been used as summer pasture from the Mesolithic to Medieval period, and is still used by shepherds today.

One of the paintings depicts a deer with a spear in its back, fending off a dog - a common motif in cave paintings. Researchers say that while other regions the Alps have examples of engraved rock art, painted rock art at high altitudes is extremely rare and the Abri Faravel paintings are the highest yet found.

In addition to revealing new detail about the ancient artwork, the scans have been used to make a digital model of the site - part of a larger project which the team has been working on since 1998, focusing activities above 2,000 meters in the Alps over the last 2,000 years.

Doctor Kevin Walsh, an archaeologist at University of York and lead researcher on the project, explains that "in the past, maybe 4,000 or 5,000 years ago, people were living and working in these landscapes and that's the kind of thing that our project has demonstrated, that the origins of activity of high altitude go back a very long time."

Researchers working at the site have uncovered a number of artifacts, including flint, pottery, metalwork, and even a Roman brooch.

Edited from Mail Online (25 May 2016)
[10 images, 1 map]


Spanish archaeologists say they have discovered an exceptional set of Paleolithic cave drawings that could rank among the best in a country which already boasts some of the world's most important cave art.

Chief site archaeologist Diego Garate says that an estimated 70 drawings were found on ledges 300 meters underground in the Atxurra cave in the northern Basque region, describing the site as being among the top 10 in Europe. The engravings and paintings feature horses, buffalo, goats, and deer, dating to between 12,500 and 14,500 years ago.

Garate says access to the area is so difficult and dangerous that it is unlikely to be open to the public. The cave was discovered in 1929 and first explored in 1934-35, but it was not until 2014 that Garate and his team resumed their investigations and the drawings were found.

"No one expected a discovery of this magnitude," said Jose Yravedra, a prehistory professor at Madrid's Complutense University. "There a lot of caves with drawings but very few have this much art and this much variety and quality." Garate says one buffalo drawing depicts what must be the most hunting lances of any in Europe. Most have four or five lances but this has almost 20.

Yravedra says that, given the cave's hidden location and the number, variety, and quality of its drawings, the site was being classified as a "sanctuary," or special Paleolithic meeting ritual place, like those at Altamira in Spain, or Lascaux in France. Regional officials hope to set up a 3-D display of the art so that the public can appreciate it.

Edited from (27 May 2016)
[3 images]


In Europe, the oldest boat ever discovered is a 10,000 year-old dugout canoe from the Netherlands. The oldest plank-built vessels in the region are Bronze Age boats found at Dover and in Yorkshire, dated to between 3,500 and 4,000 years ago. At Bouldnor Cliff, 11 meters underwater off the northwest shore of the Isle of Wight in the south of England, Garry Momber and the Maritime Archaeology Trust have found something up to twice that age.

In 2005, at the bottom of a 7-metre high underwater cliff, Garry saw something. "Among the branches of an old tree was a collection of colored flints, some of which had been superheated."

Two years later the team had enough money to investigate further. Their 2 by 3 meter excavation revealed charcoal, flint tools, wood chippings, well-crafted functional items, and dozens of pieces of well-preserved timbers. Most of the timbers were oak, still in position where they had fallen over 8,000 years ago. Some had been shaped and trimmed, while others had been charred to make them easier to work.

One piece, just under 1 meter long and about 8,100 years old, had been split - a technique which doesn't appear elsewhere in the British archaeological record for another 2,500 years, when it was used during the Bronze Age to build deeper log boats, by removing 1/4 of the tree and hollowing out the remaining 3/4. When it was felled, the tree would have been a couple of meters wide and several tens of meters high.

The team also found a scalloped out end-piece, timbers that formed the end of the structure, and cord which would have united the various elements. Taken together, these would make Bouldnor Cliff the oldest known boat-building site in the world. "The trouble is we still need more evidence to be 100% certain," says Garry.

Garry and his team will return to the site in June. You can follow their progress at DigVentures on Facebook, and TheDigVenturers on Twitter.

Edited from DigVentures (2 June 2016)
[2 images]


Paintings at Laas Geel in the self-declared state of Somaliland retain their fresh brilliance some 5,000 years or more after Neolithic artists swirled red and white color on the cliffs of northern Somalia, painting antelopes, cattle, giraffes and hunters carrying bows and arrows.

Abdisalam Shabelleh, site manager from Somaliland's Ministry of Tourism, says: "These paintings are unique. This style cannot be found anywhere in Africa." Then he points to a corner, where the paint fades and peels off the rocks. "If nothing is done now, in 20 years it could all have disappeared."

Amazed by the remarkable condition of the paintings as well as their previously unknown style, Xavier Gutherz, the former head of the French archaeology team that discovered the site in 2002, asked for the cave's listing as a UNESCO world heritage site, but that was refused because Somaliland is not recognized as a separate nation. "Only state parties to the World Heritage Convention can nominate sites for World Heritage status," said a UNESCO spokesperson. Requests for funding from donor countries face the same legal and diplomatic headache.

The cave paintings have become one of the main attractions for visitors to Somaliland. Around a thousand visitors each year endure rugged terrain with armed escorts to reach Laas Geel, and numbers are growing. Archaeologists say that Laas Geel may only be one of many treasures awaiting discovery in the vast rocky plains stretching towards the tip of the Horn of Africa.

Edited from Mail Online, News24 (26 June 2016)
[3 images]
[1 image]


In an area of New Brunswick the Canadian Department of Transportation had plans to construct a by-pass of Route 8 around the city of Fredericton, capital of the region.

As part of the investigations which are made for the planning of any major road, not just in Canada, an archaeological team was sent to see if there was anything of interest. What they found was actually so important that there was an immediate cessation of ground works and the by-pass would have to be permanently re-routed.

The find centered on a campsite, dated at 10,000 BCE, which would have been based on the shores of a long lost lake. So far over 600 artifacts have been unearthed, ranging from stone tools to arrow heads and a fire pit.

One of the First Nation tribes of this area of New Brunswick was the Maliseet and several members of the archaeological team were members of that tribe, including Shawna Goodall, who is quoted as saying "These are my ancestors. And just to be able to be the first one to hold things in 13,000 years - I get goose bumps every timer, (from) every single artifact. That never ores away, that feeling".

The other exciting part of the find is that it provides a missing link. Team Leader, Brent Suttie, is quoted as saying "We have a few sites down in the Pennfield area and then we have very famous sites in Debert, Nova Scotia that dates to 11,600 years old. We don't have anything between those two sites. This site just happens to fall within that".

Edited from CBC News, CTV News, Global News (23 June 2016)
[2 images, 2 videos]
[1 image, 1 video]


A 5,000-year-old figurine, discovered in the 1860's was recently rediscovered in the Stromness Museum collections by Dr. David Clark. The figurine was found among artifacts from Skaill House donated to the museum in the 1930's.

The figurine is made of whalebone measuring 9.5 cm in height and 7.5 cm in width, adorned with a mouth, eyes, and a navel with no other decorations. It was originally discovered by William G. Watt while excavating a stone bed in house 3 of the Neolithic village. It was originally seen as an 'idol' or 'fetish' and described as such in the 1867 Skara Brae report written by George Petrie.

The figurine represents the first Neolithic example of a representation of a human form, which are exceptionally rare in Britain. The figurine, nicknamed 'Skara Brae Buddo' is now being displayed for the first time in Stromness Museum alongside other artifacts from Skara Brae.

Edited from The Orcadian (15 June 2016), Live Science (21 June 2016)
[1 image]
[1 image, 1 movie]


A study of 44 people from the Middle East show that two populations invented farming independently, then spreading it to Europe, Africa, and Asia. The results were published on the bioRxiv preprint server, showing that it supports archaeological evidence of farming starting in multiple places.

The evidence is important as it is the first detailed look into the ancestry of individuals from the Neolithic revolution. During this period, some 11,000 years ago, humans living in the Fertile Crescent shifted from a nomadic lifestyle to a sedentary lifestyle, which domesticated crops and transformed sheep, wild boars, and other creatures into domestic animals over thousands of years.

Previously it has been difficult to obtain DNA from this area due to the hot climates. Recent successes in extracting DNA from the petrous let Iosif Lazaridis and David Reich, population geneticists at Harvard Medieval School, analyze these genomes, which were 14,000 to 3,500 years old.

The genomes showed a stark difference between the populations from the southern Levant region and those living across the Zagros Mountains. The Zagros population were found to be closely related to hunter-gatherer populations, supporting the theory that farming was developed independently in the Southern Levant.

Roger Matthews, an Archaeologist from the University of Reading says that: "There has been a school of thought arguing that everything happens first in the southern Levant and everyone learns how to be farmers from this initial dispersal. But the archaeological evidence shows very strong local traditions that are clearly not in communication with each other, persisting for centuries if not millennia."

The farmers from Zagros domesticated goats and cereal such as emmer, while their counterparts in the west had barley and wheat. According to Rogers, Sometime 9,500 years ago, the traditions spread through the Middle East, possible mixing in eastern Turkey while seeking out materials for tools, such as obsidian. Rogers also states that more research is needed to find how farming spread to the east.

LaLueza-Fox sees that the ability to extract DNA from hotter climates as an important step for prehistoric research, "Retrieving genomic data from the ancient Near East is a palaeogenomic dream come true."

Edited from Nature magazine (20 June 2016)
[2 images]


Excavations at Must Farm, 50 kilometers north-west of Cambridge, have unearthed the earliest examples of superfine textiles ever found in Britain - among the most finely-made Bronze Age fabrics ever discovered in Europe. Finds include more than 100 fragments of textile, processed fiber and textile yarn - some of superfine quality, with some threads just 1/10 of a millimeter in diameter and some fabrics with 28 threads per centimeter, fine even by modern standards. Most of the superfine fabrics were made of linen, and hundreds of flax seeds have been found, some of which had been stored in containers. Timber fragments with delicate carpentry may be the remains of looms, and fired clay loom weights have been found.

Some of the textiles had been folded, some in up to 10 layers. These may have been large garments, potentially up to 3 meters square - capes, cloaks, or drapes.

As well as making ultra-fine fabrics, at least some of the inhabitants wore exotic jewellery made of blue, black, yellow and green glass manufactured in the eastern Mediterranean. They lived in well-built 6 to 8 meter diameter houses and had a wide range of tools and other possessions. Around 50 bronze axes, sickles, spears, swords, razors, hammers, tweezers and awls have been found along with some 60 wooden buckets, platters and troughs, as well as around 60 well preserved ceramic bowls, mugs and storage jars - the largest collection of complete bronze, wooden and ceramic artifacts ever found in a British Bronze Age settlement. Dug-out canoes, and two wooden wheels have also been unearthed.

Yet evidence suggests that this settlement was attacked, burnt and destroyed less than a year after it was built. In the five houses excavated so far, people have left all their possessions behind - meals half eaten, salted or dried meat hanging in the rafters, garments neatly folded on or around well-made wooden furniture. Excavation director Mark Knight says: "It's a bit discovering the Marie Celeste. Everything is exactly as it was left. Only the inhabitants are missing."

Saturday, April 30, 2016


In the desert upland just a few miles from both Mexico and New Mexico, researchers have uncovered a 3,000-year-old bison kill site, featuring hundreds of bones and bone fragments, along with dozens of cobblestones and flaked and ground stone tools. Adding to the surprise is the fact that this location, known as Cave Creek Midden, near the town of Portal, is already well-known to archaeologists.

When it was first investigated in 1936, the site revealed stone tools and other artifacts that came to typify a critical phase in Southwestern history: the period from about 4000 and 500 BCE, when humans first started to re-settle the desert Southwest and develop methods for farming corn.

The discovery of a large bison kill here adds a whole new chapter to the story of the site, and a new understanding of the hunter-gatherers who lived here.Excavations revealed bison bones, cobblestones, and manos in a layer dated to around 1300 BCE.

“We found a bunch of bison where we hoped to find corn,” said Dr. Jesse Ballenger, of the University of Arizona, who co-led the new study with Dr. Jonathan Mabry.

“The presence of bison at the Cave Creek Midden site opens interesting avenues of research,” added Francois Lanoe, an Arizona doctoral student who also took part in the study.

“If bison were a major component of people’s diet, well, it is unexpected in that region of the Southwest.


he history of humans living in Ireland just added 2,500 years to its timeline, but the discovery wasn’t made in a peat bog or after excavating tons of dirt—it was found in a cardboard box.

In 2010 and 2011, animal osteologist Ruth Carden of the National Museum of Ireland began re-analyzing bones collected from cave excavations in the early 20th century when she came across part of a knee from a brown bear with several cut marks on it, according to a press release from the Sligo Institute of Technology.

Carden brought the bone to the attention of Marion Dowd, a specialist in cave archeology at Sligo. Dowd was intrigued, so the two sent samples to Queen’s University in Belfast and later to Oxford University to get the age of the samples.

The data from both labs showed that the bear was butchered 12,500 years ago, or 2,500 years before the earliest previous evidence of human habitation on the Emerald Isle. Three specialists additionally confirmed that the cut marks were made on fresh bone, further suggesting that humans were present in Ireland much earlier than previously thought.

Read more:


ISIS failed to demolish the Roman ruins in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra which was recaptured by pro-Government troops following a major offensive, although blood marked the scenes where the terror group murdered its victims.

ISIS captured the city in May 2015 and began blowing up some of the major landmarks at the UNESCO-listed world heritage site.

However, it used the 2,000-year-old Roman amphitheater to conduct public executions, with the blood of the victims staining the sand.

Read more:


Skeletons unearthed in Kenya may be the oldest known evidence of human warfare, according to a new study.

The skeletons of 27 people who died about 10,000 years ago bear marks of blunt force trauma and projectile wounds, the researchers said in the study. The victims included men, women and children.

"That scale of death — it can't be an individual murder or homicide amongst families," said study co-author Robert Foley, an anthropologist and archaeologist at the University of Cambridge in England. "It was a result of some intergroup conflict."


Penn's libraries are home to a wide range of special and general collections related to the Holy Land.

These include primary sources such as rare manuscripts, early modern printed books, travelogues, early photographs and printed postcards, engraved and hand-illustrated maps and atlases, original archeological artifacts, field reports, and extensive circulating secondary sources.

Among the most important are the Lenkin Collection of Photography, which consists of over 5,000 early photographs of the Holy Land, dating from 1850-1937 and the Paola and Bertrand Lazard Holy Land Print collections, including hundreds of early printed books, postcards, maps, drawings, and watercolors.

Recent acquisitions include the Moldovan Family Digital Holy Land Map Collection and the Zucker Holy Land Travel Manuscript. Related materials at Penn are found in the University of Pennsylvania Museum's rich collection of early photographs, including nearly 1,500 original Maison Bonfils photographs, as well as in the Museum's historical records and field reports of archeological excavations at places like Bet Shean in Israel.


Archaeological sites in Alexandria are facing ruin, with renovation projects by the Antiquities Ministry covering 13 ancient Islamic, Coptic and Jewish monuments stalled due to a shortfall in funding that stretches back many years.
Eighty percent of the province’s sites, meanwhile, have not been touched by conservators for tens of years.

Archaeologists have told Al-Masry Al-Youm that the whole history of Alexandria is threatened with extinction, especially since the only UNESCO-registered ancient Coptic site, the Abu Mina archaeological zone, may be removed from the organization’s world heritage record due to high levels of underground water at the 600-feddan site.

Among those concerned is Antiquities Ministry official Mohamed Ali Saeed, the former director of Alexandria’s antiquities. He told Al-Masry Al-Youm that many ancient Islamic sites are near collapse, either due to a lack of renovation work or work being interrupted. Enumerating the endangered structures, Saeed listed the Shorbagy Mosque, the Terbana Mosque, the Haqqania courthouse, the Ptolemaic Wall, the old towers, the cisterns of Ibn al-Nabih, Ibn Battouta Ismail and Ingy Hanem, as well as the entire Abu Mina Coptic site. He said that while renovations at some sites have been halted for at least six years, others have not seen conservators for more than 20 years.

Saeed urged “immediate intervention" by the ministry to save the historic sites, warning that weather conditions, most notably seasonal winter storms, represent a serious threat to them. In his warning, Saeed gave special attention to the Abu Mina area, which, he explained, is Egypt’s only Coptic site listed by UNESCO. He said groundwater levels at Abu Mina have reached 5.5 meters, submerging the ancient tomb of Saint Mar Mina.

Ahmed Abdel Fattah, another expert and a member of the ministry’s permanent antiquities panel, warned of rising groundwater levels at the ancient Ptolemaic and Greek tombs of Mostafa Kamel, Shatbi and Anfoushi, where walls and floors are being gradually eroded. He said the structures should be prioritized for renovation, especially due to their exposure to high humidity levels resulting from proximity to the sea.

Abdel Fattah pointed to the endangered ancient Ptolemaic cemeteries of Alabaster and Wardian near the seaport, which he identified as two of the most historical sites in the Alexandria area. The Ptolemaic cemeteries of Souq al-Gomaa, are also suffering “severe deterioration” according to Abdel Fattah. “They fall between the tramway and low-income housing, surrounded by piles of garbage on all sides,” he noted.

Speaking from Abu Mina, the region’s antiquities official, Father Tedaous Avamina, said that in 2005 the Antiquities Ministry embarked on a LE50 million scheme, sponsored by UNESCO and the government, to reduce groundwater levels at the site. He explained that, though the project was completed in 2010, political upheaval and economic hardship meant there was not enough money for periodic maintenance of the water drainage equipment.

Political instability was also responsible for stalled renovations at other sites. An official source at the ministry’s engineering administration said nearly LE57 million had been earmarked for renovations at the Terbana and Shorbagi mosques since 2009. The official said that, while the first phase of renovations was concluded before the 2011 uprising, later phases were halted due to political upheaval.

According to the official, four other schemes are planned for the same sites, including the renovation of the ancient cemeteries and draining groundwater there. However, work cannot begin until the money has been found.


New fossils from Kenya suggest that an early hominid species -- Australopithecus afarensis -- lived far eastward beyond the Great Rift Valley and much farther than previously thought. An international team of paleontologists led by Emma Mbua of Mount Kenya University and Masato Nakatsukasa of Kyoto University report findings of fossilized teeth and forearm bone from an adult male and two infant A. afarensis from an exposure eroded by the Kantis River in Ongata-Rongai, a settlement in the outskirts of Nairobi.

"So far, all other A. afarensis fossils had been identified from the center of the Rift Valley," explains Nakatsukasa. "A previous Australopithecus bahrelghazali discovery in Chad confirmed that our hominid ancestor's distribution covered central Africa, but this was the first time an Australopithecus fossil has been found east of the Rift Valley. This has important implications for what we understand about our ancestor's distribution range, namely that Australopithecus could have covered a much greater area by this age."

A. afarensis is believed to have lived 3,700,000-3,000,000 years ago, as characterized by fossils like "Lucy" from Ethiopia.

Stable isotope analysis revealed that the Kantis region was humid, but had a plain-like environment with fewer trees compared to other sites in the Great Rift Valley where A. afaransis fossils had previously appeared. "The hominid must have discovered suitable habitats in the Kenyan highlands. It seems that A. afaransis was good at adapting to varying environments," notes Nakatsukasa.

Monday, April 18, 2016


Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq are netting between $150 million and $200 million a year from illicit trade in plundered antiquities, Russia's ambassador to the United Nations said in a recent letter. "Around 100,000 cultural objects of global importance, including 4,500 archaeological sites, nine of which are included in the World Heritage List of ... UNESCO, are under the control of the Islamic State ... in Syria and Iraq," Ambassador Vitaly Churkin wrote in a letter to the U.N. Security Council.

The smuggling of artifacts, Churkin wrote, is organized by Islamic State's antiquities division in the group's equivalent of a ministry for natural resources. Only those who have a permit with a stamp from this division are permitted to excavate, remove and transport antiquities. Some details of the group's war spoils department were previously revealed by Reuters, which reviewed some of the documents seized by U.S. Special Operations Forces in a May 2015 raid in Syria. But many details in Churkin's letter appeared to be new.

The envoy from Russia, which has repeatedly accused Turkey of supporting Islamic State by purchasing oil from the group, said plundered antiquities were largely smuggled through Turkish territory. "The main center for the smuggling of cultural heritage items is the Turkish city of Gaziantep, where the stolen goods are sold at illegal auctions and then through a network of antique shops and at the local market," Churkin wrote.

Turkish officials were not immediately available for comment on the Russian allegations. Russian-Turkish relations have been strained ever since Turkey shot down a Russian plane near the Syrian border last November.
Churkin said jewelry, coins and other looted items are brought to the Turkish cities of Izmir, Mersin and Antalya, where criminal groups produce fake documents on their origin.

"The antiquities are then offered to collectors from various countries, generally through Internet auction sites such as eBay and specialized online stores," he said. Churkin named several other Internet auction sites that he said sold antiquities plundered by Islamic State.

"Recently ISIL has been exploiting the potential of social media more and more frequently so as to cut out the middleman and sell artifacts directly to buyers," he said. EBay said it was not aware of the allegations that it was being used to sell plundered items."eBay has absolutely zero interest in having illicit listings of cultural or historical goods appear on our platforms," it said. "We're currently looking into the claims of this letter."

Read more:
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

Sunday, April 17, 2016


An "elaborate" Roman villa has been unearthed by chance by a homeowner laying electric cables in his garden in Wiltshire. It was discovered by rug designer Luke Irwin as he was carrying out some work at his farmhouse so that his children could play table tennis in an old barn.

He uncovered an untouched mosaic, and excavations revealed a villa described as "extraordinarily well-preserved". Historic England said it was "unparalleled in recent years".

Thought to be one of the largest of its kind in the country, the villa was uncovered in Brixton Deverill near Warminster during an eight-day dig. It is being compared in terms of its size and its owners' wealth to a similar, famous site at Chedworth in Gloucestershire.

A stone planter which had been holding geraniums by Mr Irwin's kitchen was also identified by experts as a Roman child's coffin

Finds including hundreds of oysters, which were artificially cultivated and carried live from the coast in barrels of salt water, suggest that the villa was owned by a wealthy family. The dig also turned up "extremely high status pottery", coins, brooches and the bones of animals including a suckling pig and wild animals which had been hunted.

"We've found a whole range of artifacts demonstrating just how luxurious a life that was led by the elite family that would have lived at the villa," said Dr David Roberts, of Historic England. "It's clearly not your run-of-the-mill domestic settlement." Dr Roberts said the villa, built sometime between AD 175 and 220, had "not been touched since its collapse 1,400 years ago", which made it "of enormous importance". "Without question, this is a hugely valuable site in terms of research, with incredible potential," he said. "It's one of the best sites I have ever had the chance to work on."


After being told that antiquities looted in Syria and Iraq may be on sale in Britain, Channel 4’s Dispatches program sent two academics undercover to pose as collectors.

Augusta McMahon, a senior lecturer in archaeology at Cambridge, and Alessio Palmisano, from University College London, wore hidden cameras as they browsed upscale London Mayfair antiques shops.

During a visit to a shop owned by Elias Assad, a dealer in Middle Eastern and Islamic antiquities, they spotted an ornate 6 ft piece of carved stone that they recognized as a lintel. The academics suspected that it originated from Syria.

Assad originally quoted a price of £50,000, but when McMahon and Palmisano returned several weeks later, he said the owner of the antiquity had agreed to drop the price.


The Islamic State has ruined a part of the historic great city wall that circled the Iraqi city of Nineveh, the ancient capital city of the Assyrian empire, Iraqi media reported Thursday. According to Alsumaria news, an Iraqi news site, the terror organization shattered in the past few days Adad gate, which was part of the northern sector of the Acropolis walls of ancient Nineveh.

ISIS fighters who devastated the historic wall of the Iraqi city have reportedly transferred the archeological ruins to Syria, where they would probably sell them.

The Adad gate, named after the God Adad, is one of 15 gates that constituted the great wall of Nineveh, which was built in 700 BCE by the Assyrian King Sennacherib.

In light of previous reports alleging that ISIS would bomb the city walls if the Iraqi army attempts to liberate Mosul, ISIS’ move appears to be an indication that the group has started losing ground as a result of the American-led campaign to recapture the city of Mosul.

This is not the first time the Islamic State has targeted Nineveh's ancient wall. In January 2015, the terror organization blew up large parts of the archaeological wall of Nineveh in the al-Tahrir neighborhood.


The first foreign experts who visited the museum in Palmyra after it was taken over from Islamic State militants said they spent a week collecting fragments of priceless broken sculptures from the museum grounds and preparing them for transportation to Damascus in a rescue mission they hope will help salvage most of its contents. Back in the Syrian capital Saturday, they offered grim new details about the extent of the destruction caused by the extremists during their 10-month stay in the ancient town.

The museum was trashed and some of its best-known artifacts and statues were smashed by the militants, who cut off the heads and hands of statues and demolished others before being driven out last month.

Bartosz Markowski, from the Polish Archaeological Center at the University of Warsaw, told The Associated Press that most of the 200 objects which were exhibited on the ground floor of the Palmyra museum were destroyed, many of them apparently with hard tools like hammers. Many artifacts have been stolen, he added, thought it was not possible to know how many.

He and his colleagues were the first specialists to visit Palmyra after it was taken over by the Syrian army, and spent a week working and assessing the damage. “We collected everything we could. The fragments were spread around the whole museum among broken glass and furniture … It is a catastrophe,” he said, speaking to the AP in the garden of the National Museum in Damascus.

During their rule of Palmyra, the extremists demolished some of the most famous Roman-era monuments that stand just outside the town, including two large temples dating back more than 1,800 years and a Roman triumphal archway, filming the destruction themselves for the world to see. The sprawling outdoor site, a UNESCO world heritage site, as well as the museum were among Syria’s main tourist attractions before the civil war.

Among the best-known statues destroyed was the famous Lion of Allat, a 2000-year-old statue which previously greeted visitors and tourists outside the Palmyra museum. The statue, which used to adorn the temple of Allat, a pre-Islamic goddess in Palmyra, was defaced by IS militants and knocked over by bulldozers.

On a visit to Palmyra on Thursday, The Associated Press saw the statue lying outside the museum building with its face cut and some of its broken pieces lying next to it. “Fortunately we collected most of the fragments and I hope it can be reconstructed very soon,” said Markowski, who in 2005 took part in a Polish archaeological mission that did renovation work on the statue. His colleague, Robert Zukowski, said the limestone lion statue should be the first thing restored and “it should stay in Palmyra as a sign of resistance against the barbarians. “

In addition to the damage inflicted by IS, Markowski said the museum building has suffered structural damage due to bombs falling. “There’s broken ceilings, broken walls, roofs, a lot of garbage and fragments of bricks everywhere, and among that there are fragments of sculptures,” he said. He said the restoration will require a massive international effort and years to accomplish.

“I think most of the objects can be restored, but they will never look as they did before,” he added.


One of Saddam Hussein’s former palaces, based in Basra, southern Iraq, will reportedly be transformed into a museum this September (2016), just over 13 years after Western powers invaded Iraq. It will be the first museum to open in the country for decades, according to reports by National Geographic. The U.K.’s national British Museum has offered free curatorial support for it.

Partly funded by donations from oil companies to British charity, Friends of Basrah Museum, the project will cost an estimated $3.5m (£2.5m). The new museum will showcase at least 3,500 objects from Baghdad's Iraq Museum representative of different periods of the country’s history from ancient Sumer to Babylon.

The Basra government agreed to provide the rest of the necessary funding, but has not yet contributed the agreed $3 million share of the money. “Like anything else in Iraq, it is difficult to achieve the simplest task,” Lamia Al-Gailani Werr, a trustee of the Friends of Basrah Museum and an Iraqi who lives in London, tells National Geographic.


Analysis of a series of inscriptions on 2,600-year-old ceramic shards found during excavations at a fortress in the Israeli desert has shown they were written by at least six authors at different levels in the Judean military. It suggests literacy was much more widespread than had been believed. They contain a series of military commands regarding the movement of troops and the provision of supplies.

Using computerized imaging processing and machine learning, researchers have discovered the 16 inscriptions were written by at least six different authors. They are some of the most important historical and religious documents to have ever been discovered, giving a rare and detailed insight into Biblical times.

Advanced digital tools are also being developed to suggest new ways of joining these together by looking for connections between images, text and matches between fragment edges.The project will also assist attempts to translate the scrolls as they are fitted together, helping researchers unravel the secrets they contain.
Experts estimate there around 20,000 fragments of scrolls being scanned as part of the project but there could be many more.

This, they say, suggests writing, and so reading, within the Judahite military was common place as a way of issuing commands and recording information.

They argue this also suggests literacy was widespread throughout the kingdom of Judah - and this may have set the stage for the compilation of the hefty biblical works. It supports the idea that the Hebrew Bible was a massive composition of texts by many authors which were then gathered together rather than a single literary work.

Professor Israel Finkelstein, archaeologist at Tel Aviv University who led the work, told MailOnline: 'Biblical texts carry ideological and theological messages and as such were probably meant to be known to the population.
'Hence there has been an ongoing discussion on literacy in ancient Israel/Judah. 'Our work shows that late-monarchic Judah (around 600 BC) had an educational infrastructure which was suitable for compilation of texts and use of the written-word medium to convey ideological messages.'

Read more:
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook


From delicate tableware to mirrors and jewellery, the Romans prized glass for its decorative qualities. Now archaeologists have unearthed an ancient glassworks where raw glass was made before being exported across the Empire.

The kiln, which dates to the Late Roman period 1,600 years ago, are the oldest to be found in Israel and suggest the region was one of the foremost centers for glass production in the ancient world.

Archaeologists have unearthed an ancient glassworks where raw glass was made, before being exported across the Empire. The extraordinary discovery was made by an archaeologist from the Israel Antiquities Authority while excavating a site south east of Yagur, before the construction part of the Jezreel Valley Railway Project.
Abdel Al-Salam Sa'id spotted chunks of glass and a floor, sparking further excavations.

Read more:
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook


Fire, a tool broadly used for cooking, constructing, hunting and even communicating, was arguably one of the earliest discoveries in human history. But when, how and why it came to be used is hotly debated among scientists. A new scenario crafted by University of Utah anthropologists proposes that human ancestors became dependent on fire as a result of Africa's increasingly fire-prone environment 2-3 million years ago.

As the environment became drier and natural fires occurred more frequently, ancestral humans took advantage of these fires to more efficiently search for and handle food. With increased resources and energy, these ancestors were able to travel farther distances and expand to other continents. The study was funded by the National Science Foundation and the findings were published April 10, 2016 in Evolutionary Anthropology.

Current prevailing hypotheses of how human ancestors became fire-dependent depict fire as an accident—a byproduct of another event rather than a standalone occurrence. One hypothesis, for example, explains fire as a result of rock pounding that created a spark and spread to a nearby bush. "The problem we're trying to confront is that other hypotheses are unsatisfying. Fire use is so crucial to our biology, it seems unlikely that it wasn't taken advantage of by our ancestors," said Kristen Hawkes, distinguished professor of anthropology at the U and the paper's senior author.

The team's proposed scenario is the first known hypothesis in which fire does not originate serendipitously. Instead, the team suggests that the genus Homo, which includes modern humans and their close relatives, adapted to progressively fire-prone environments caused by increased aridity and flammable landscapes by exploiting fire's food foraging benefits.

Read more at:


When scientists unveiled the fossil remains of a newly discovered human species from South Africa called Homo naledilast September, the find electrified audiences around the world. It was an astonishing haul: some 1,550 specimens representing at least 15 individuals, recovered over just a few weeks of intensive excavation from the Rising Star Cave system outside Johannesburg. But it was the researchers’ favored explanation for how the remains ended up in the cave, more than the fossils themselves, that captured the public imagination and jolted the paleoanthropology community. They proposed that this creature—whose geologic age is unknown but who was clearly primitive; it had a brain the size of an orange—had deliberately disposed of its dead there. Many experts consider this behavior exclusive to our own far brainier species, H. sapiens.

Now an outside researcher has published the first formal critique of that provocative interpretation of the remains in a scientific journal. Members of the team that made the discovery dispute her claims, but other observers think that some of her criticisms are valid—and that the team has yet to make a convincing case that H. naledi deliberately disposed of the bodies in the cave.

Cavers discovered the H. naledi fossils in a chamber some 10 meters underground in Rising Star. To reach this inner sanctum, named the Dinaledi chamber, they squeezed through passages less than 25 centimeters across and climbed steep, jagged rocks in what would have been pitch darkness if not for their headlamps. How, the researchers wondered, did the fossils end up in such a remote part of the cave system?

To answer that question, geologist Paul Dirks of James Cook University in Queensland, Australia, and his colleagues analyzed the cave’s geology and features of the bones for clues. Bones can accumulate in caves by any number of mechanisms: For example, floodwaters can wash them in from their original resting place and carnivores can bring their kills in from outside. But such situations tend to produce fossil assemblages that contain a mix of animal species. And one of the most distinctive aspects of the Rising Star site is that H. naledi is the only medium or large animal species found there.

In the absence of any of the telltale signs of things like flooding or carnivore activity, the researchers concluded that the best-supported explanation thus far was that H. naledi dragged its dead into the chamber, following at least part of the same arduous route the scientists took. The implication was that this extinct species with a brain a third the size of ours had an understanding of mortality—and a cultural tradition built around that concept.

That argument has met with skepticism from the outset. A number of experts expressed doubts in the popular press when Dirks, along with project leader Lee Berger of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and their collaborators, went public with their findings in two papers published in the online journal eLife last September. But none had published their counterarguments in a peer-reviewed scientific journal—until now.

Aurore Val, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of the Witwatersrand, wrote the critique, which is in press at the Journal of Human Evolution and available online. In it she argues that it is impossible to establish—based on the evidence presented in the team’s paper on the geologic context of the H. naledi fossils and bone features that hint at their fate—that the complete bodies were disposed of inside the chamber or at its entrance in the manner the team proposes.

Val, who was Berger’s PhD student and who has published papers with Berger, Dirks and other members of the H. naledi team in the past, uses several lines of evidence described in the initial reports to make her case. Noting that the discoverers have yet to determine the fossils’ age, she contends that they cannot know what the cave was like when the remains entered the Dinaledi chamber. Caves can change dramatically over time, and Rising Star may have once allowed easier access to the chamber. Val also argues that the team did not analyze enough fossil material to rule out water transport or carnivore damage.

In a response submitted to the Journal of Human Evolution, Dirks, Berger and their teammates charged that many of Val’s criticisms are “spurious” and stem from misinterpretations of their published data. Mapping of the cave and surrounding rock indicates that there has never been a direct opening from the surface into the Dinaledi chamber, they counter, and although the geology shows the cave has changed over time, such changes have not fundamentally altered the way into the chamber.

Furthermore, Dirks and his co-authors wrote, the studies of the sediments in the chamber show that the fossils were not waterborne. And they noted that macroscopic examinations of all the fossil specimens, and microscopic inspections of more than a third of them representing all skeletal elements, did not reveal any carnivore tooth marks. Likewise, they wrote that analysis of the fractures in the fossils failed to identify a single one consistent with carnivore damage.

The fact that the Journal of Human Evolution has yet to publish the response has riled the authors, who were under the impression that it would appear simultaneously with Val’s critical commentary. According to Co-Editor in Chief Sarah Elton of Durham University in England, that was a misunderstanding on the authors’ part. She explains that publication of a response is not guaranteed. All content goes through peer review. If a response is accepted for publication, it will appear in the same print issue, but a critique may appear online before the associated response because of the journal’s production schedule. The response from Dirks and his co-authors is currently under consideration for publication, Elton says.

Outside researchers who have seen Val’s comment and the team’s response think some of Val’s claims have merit. “Caves are very dynamic systems, and it is difficult to reconstruct past structures,” says Jeffrey McKee of The Ohio State University, who has excavated other fossil human sites in South Africa. He also agrees with Val that the researchers have ruled out water transport and carnivore activity, among other possibilities, prematurely. Analysis of the taphonomy—what happened to the organisms between death and fossil discovery—“must be much more thorough,” he insists. The fact that H. naledi is the only medium-to-large animal species represented in the fossil assemblage, although unusual, is nonetheless consistent with scenarios other than deliberate interment. Another South African site, Taung, where he has worked, contains a fossil deposit that consists mostly of baboons—probably the work of leopards. Leopards often concentrate their hunting efforts on a single prey species, McKee explains. And they may do so without leaving any incriminating scratches or punctures on the bones. “Most carnivores take the guts first, so in many cases there are no marks at all,” McKee says, adding that the Taung baboon fossils show few carnivore marks. “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,” he says.

As for the burning question of how old the H. naledi remains are, Dirks says dating of the site is underway: "We are currently exploring five different techniques at seven different labs on several continents, conducting double-blind tests for three techniques to obtain maximum confidence in our results.” Although the team has been under intense pressure to ascertain the age of the material, the geology of the site is complex and the researchers want to get it right, he explains. “Hang in there,” he adds. “It won't be that long anymore.”

Wednesday, March 23, 2016


Sir Elton Joh, the 68-year-old rock star, will perform live for a crowd of just 2,000 people at the Amphitheatre of Pompeii on July 12th.

The amphitheatre is the oldest stone building of its kind, built in 80 BC.

Until 79 AD, when the city was buried by the erupting Mount Vesuvius, thousands of ancient Romans regularly crammed inside to watch gladiators do battle.

Sir Elton will be the first global music icon to play Pompeii since UK prog rockers Pink Floyd, who recorded Live at Pompeii in 1971, but did not perform in front of an audience for the occasion.


A rare gold coin dating to the rule of emperor Trajan but bearing the face of Augustus, has been discovered by a hiker in Israel. It suggests the ruler, known for his philanthropy and social welfare policies, was a fan of Rome's first emperor and ordered the issue of a coin in tribute.

The golden coin, which was unearthed in the countryside of eastern Galilee, northern Israel, is 1,900 years old and the twin of an identical artifact kept in London's British Museum.

Read more:
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook


Our human ancestors, who looked like a cross between apes and modern humans, had access to food, water and shady shelter at a site in Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. They even had lots of stone tools with sharp edges, said Gail M. Ashley, a professor in the Rutgers Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences in the School of Arts and Sciences. But "it was tough living," she said. "It was a very stressful life because they were in continual competition with carnivores for their food."

During years of work, Ashley and other researchers carefully reconstructed an early human landscape on a fine scale, using plant and other evidence collected at the sprawling site. Their pioneering work was published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The landscape reconstruction will help paleoanthropologists develop ideas and models on what early humans were like, how they lived, how they got their food (especially protein), what they ate and drank and their behavior, Ashley said.

Famous paleoanthropologist Mary Leakey discovered the site in 1959 and uncovered thousands of animal bones and stone tools. Through exhaustive excavations in the last decade, Ashley, other scientists and students collected numerous soil samples and studied them via carbon isotope analysis. Early human habitat, recreated for first time, shows life was no picnic

The landscape, it turned out, had a freshwater spring, wetlands and woodland as well as grasslands. "We were able to map out what the plants were on the landscape with respect to where the humans and their stone tools were found," Ashley said. "That's never been done before. Mapping was done by analyzing the soils in one geological bed, and in that bed there were bones of two different hominin species."

The two species of hominins, or early humans, are Paranthropus boisei - robust and pretty small-brained - and Homo habilis, a lighter-boned species. Homo habilis had a bigger brain and was more in sync with our human evolutionary tree, according to Ashley.

Read more at:

Monday, March 21, 2016


To people passing by, the piece of land doesn’t look like much, but to archaeologists it is historic.

“What the archaeologists ended up finding were a couple of cooking pits and evidence of a campsite that had been used over a longer period of time,” said City of Albuquerque Open Space Superintendent Matt Schmader.

The city wanted to transform the area into a community park in 2015. Its plans were put on hold after crews found ancient artifacts on the site. Schmader, who is an archaeologist, and his team were called to investigate.

“The surface is scraped with mechanical equipment. You expose the tops of the fire pits and other features and then you hand excavate very carefully to get the material out,” he said. The team uncovered hundreds of broken pieces of pottery, chipped stones from making tools, a pair of fire pits and remnants of a 1,000-year-old shelter.

Experts believe the land was once used by Native Americans as a specialized food gathering and preparation area.
The findings have been excavated and are being cataloged for a future museum display. Archaeologists have given the city clearance to build a park at the site. The city plans to incorporate the land’s history into the new playground.

“I think it gives an extra value to your experience at at park when you can go there aside from enjoying the great outdoors and you know that it has a historic value and you are standing on place where people had lived and worked 1,000 years ago,” Schmader said. Schmader said the artifacts from the site will likely be on display at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe.


Five newly restored houses which were once buried under the volcanic ash of mount Vesuvius can now be seen in the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Pompeii.

The new exhibit which allows visitors to walk through the ancient homes and their gardens is called “Myth and Nature, from Greece to Pompeii” will remain open until October.

Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD79 covering the Roman city of Pompeii in volcanic ash and capturing everything from human beings to food exactly there they were at the time.

The exhibit at Pompeii is in collaboration with the National Archaeological Museum of Naples which includes items found during excavations in Pompeii, including a piece of bread, seeds and grapes.


As the pillaging continues in a region rich in layers of ancient civilizations, the international community is focusing on the marketplace, doing what it can to scare off demand in hopes that supply will shrink. “There wouldn’t be any looting if there wasn’t money to be made,” said Kathryn Walker Tubb, a lecturer at the Institute of Archaeology at University College London.

In the past few years, the effort to intercept the illicit trade has intensified.

In February last year, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution banning trade in artifacts illegally removed from Syria since 2011 and from Iraq since 1990. The International Council of Museums has issued “red lists” for objects at risk in Iraq, Syria and now Libya. Last August, the State Department in Washington announced a $5 million reward for information that could disrupt the ransacking and looting of cultural sites by the Islamic State, or ISIS.

Last month, Unesco followed up its Emergency Safeguarding of the Syrian Heritage Project, introduced in 2014 with the European Union, with a special task force that would deploy experts from Italy’s carabinieri force, with its long experience in tracking down looted art, to help hunt down stolen items.

The Asia Society and the Antiquities Coalition recently concluded an international conference on “cultural racketeering” with calls for special training for customs agents and support for local governments in conflict zones to catalogue and safeguard their treasures.

There have been scattered successes in recuperating smuggled antiquities from war zones. In March 2015, a police raid in Bulgaria uncovered a cache of statues and other objects thought to be from the ancient Sumerian city of Lagash, in southern Iraq. Also that month, the United States returned to the Iraqi government 65 stolen artifacts that had come from a Dubai-based dealer who had tried to sell them, with faked paperwork, to American museums and galleries. investigations rarely produce arrests because of the difficulty in proving the provenance of antiquities, often produced by civilizations that stretched across the ancient world.

Traffickers are also masters at coming up with fake documents that purport to show that the disputed object had been long held by mysterious collectors, now conveniently deceased. Such lack of evidence often means that the authorities often choose to avoid pursuing criminal charges in return for reclaiming the objects, which results in shady dealers getting off the hook, experts say.

But the publicity surrounding the effort to stem the flow of smuggled artifacts from Syria, Iraq and other war zones in the Middle East has had a dampening effect, said Christopher Marinello, the founder and director of the Art Recovery Group, an organization in London that has developed a database to recover lost and stolen artworks around the world.

“The media coverage has done such an incredible job that any reputable dealer will have taken a huge step backwards,” Mr. Marinello said. “We see dealers and auction houses coming in with questions about specific objects. We have seen catalogues for antiquities shrink.” Small items periodically appear on e-commerce sites: Two coins from Apamea, a looted archaeological site in Syria, recently showed up on eBay, priced at $84 and $133.

But most people agree that the market for larger, more valuable pieces has shrunk under international pressure. This concerns Ms. Tubb who fears that precious artifacts are being stashed in warehouses — in the Middle East but also in Europe — where they will remain hidden until the pressure eases.

Col. Ludovic Ehrhart, an investigator for France’s cultural theft police unit, told Le Monde that those trading in “blood antiquities” can afford to bide their time. “These long-standing networks wait three, five, even 10 years before they sell them on the official market, ‘’ he said.

The role played by terrorist groups such as Islamic State in the looting of antiquities from the Middle East has helped put a chill on the market, Mr. Marinello said. “It didn’t hurt that the F.B.I. has said you could be arrested for aiding international terrorism,” he said. “That is quite an incentive to not buy something.” Although Islamic State’s vicious attacks and subsequent pillaging of Syrian sites like Palmyra have attracted attention, there are other culprits.

The looting at Apamea, one of the largest and best preserved Roman and Byzantine sites in the world, took place on an industrial scale, as seen on satellite images that show the area pockmarked by a grid of more than 5,000 looting pits, at a time when the area was under the control of the Syrian government.

According to a 2015 report by the American Schools of Oriental Research’s Cultural Heritage Initiative, based on satellite images of 1,200 archaeological sites in Syria, more than 25 percent have been looted since the civil war began. Most of the pillaging happened in areas with weak governance, including places occupied by Kurdish and opposition forces, the report says.

Hard proof of the Islamic State’s involvement in antiquities trafficking came in May, when a United States-led raid on a compound in eastern Syria used by Abu Sayyaf, a commander identified as the director of the terrorist group’s oil smuggling and its trade in antique objects.

Abu Sayyaf, who was killed in the operation, was in possession of an odd assortment of artifacts — including an ivory plaque traced to the museum in Mosul, Iraq — Islamic State territory — as well as a collection of coins, bracelets and other easy-to-transport objects and a few obvious fakes.

The cache also revealed receipts for the 20 percent tax on precious materials — antiquities, but also minerals — collected from civilians by Islamic State. The total sum shown from these “tax” receipts reportedly amounted to $265,000, suggesting that the antiquities trade is just a small part of the group’s financing streams. But it shows the lengths to which the local population is willing to go to survive.


Follow Yahoo News
. .






News Home
Odd News
Dear Abby
ABC News
Katie Couric

Recommended Games

More games »

Watch live:

John Kasich speaks at AIPAC; Donald Trump slated next


Scans of Tutankhamun tomb show '90% chance' of hidden chambers


By Tony Gamal-Gabriel
March 17, 2016 7:24 AM

. ˠ



Associated Press Videos

Scan of King Tut’s Tomb Shows Hidden Rooms

Scan of King Tut’s Tomb Shows Hidden Rooms

Scan of King Tut’s Tomb Shows Hidden Rooms

Radar scans of the tomb of pharaoh Tutankhamun in the ancient necropolis of Luxor showed a "90 percent" chance of two hidden chambers, possibly containing organic material, Egypt's antiquities minister has announced. Thursday.

Experts had scanned the tomb to find what a British archaeologist believes could be the resting place of Queen Nefertiti, the legendary beauty and wife of Tutankhamun's father whose mummy has never been found.

Preliminary scans of Tutankhamun's tomb reveal "two hidden rooms behind the burial chamber" of the boy king, Antiquities Minister Mamduh al-Damati told reporters.

"Yes, we have some empty space, but not total empty, including some organic and metal material," Damati said in English.

Experts are also scanning four pyramids to unravel the mysteries of the ancient monuments.

Using infrared technology, a team of researchers have been scanning the pyramids of Khufu, also known as the Great Pyramid, and Khafre at Giza and the Bent and Red pyramids in Dahshur, all south of Cairo.

Operation ScanPyramids, which aims to search for hidden rooms inside those four monuments, is expected to continue until the end of 2016.


In the Nefud Desert of northern Saudi Arabia, large sandstone outcrops diverted the flow of sand, allowing lakes and marshes to form several times in the past, and evidence has been found for repeated human occupations extending back hundreds of thousands of years.

The Arabian Peninsula saw some of the earliest human migrations, yet until just five years ago not a single Paleolithic site had been excavated or dated. Recent excavations in the United Arab Emirates and Yemen have confirmed early human occupations, yet most of the Peninsula remains almost unknown.

In the East Mediterranean Levant, the transition from the Lower to the Middle Paleolithic occurs about 250,000 years ago, with an abrupt change in material culture often attributed to population replacement. Though this transition occurs at different times around the world, research in Saudi Arabia suggests that in the north the change happens at the same time as in the Levant.

The early phases of the Middle Paleolithic remain poorly understood. The era between about 130,000 to 75,000 years ago has produced a far larger body of finds in Arabia. This is the period when we see evidence for the earliest expansion of Homo sapiens out of Africa and into the Levant, generally regarded as a failed dispersal.

No archaeological sites are currently known for the period of around 70,000-60,000 years ago. The next wave of human occupation occurred about 60,000 to 55,000 years ago, still associated with a Middle Paleolithic technology broadly similar to tools produced at this time by Neanderthals in the Levant. The youngest known Middle Paleolithic assemblages in Arabia, dating to around 40,000 years ago, are found in the United Arab Emirates. There is then a complete absence of human occupation across the Peninsula until the transition to the Holocene, about 12,000 years ago.

Major debate surrounds the process by which the Neolithic way of life developed in Arabia: was it imported from the Levant, or of indigenous origin? Evidence from stone tools and rock art which date to the earliest phases of this period suggest a bit of both - not simple population dispersal, but rather of some form of cultural diffusion.

At the remarkable site of Shuwaymis, 'Neolithic' rock art reflects at least two phases. The first is associated with hunter-gatherers, often showing horses, hunting dogs, and human figures with bows. The second shows cattle, but no hunting scenes, and the pastoralists selectively re-engraved some of the earlier hunter-gatherer images. For example, humans were sometimes re-engraved, but the bow and arrows they were holding were not.

Along with findings from southern Arabia, this suggests both continuity and change: Arabia was not simply an empty space into which people moved.


A team of researchers, headed up by the Tel Aviv University (Israel), has recently been studying animal remains fund in a cave known as the Qesem Cave, located 12 km from Tel Aviv.

Human occupation of the cave was first identified in 2010 and is recorded as having started approximately 400,000 years ago and covered a span of 200,000 years. Whilst it is widely known that early humans captured, cooked and ate large game (in addition to a vegetarian diet), the discovery made by the team indicates that turtles also formed a significant part of their diet. Whilst not being as nutritious as larger game, the turtles nevertheless provided substantial calorific value, enough to warrant the time and effort needed in their capture, transport and preparation.

Studies of the remains found indicate that there were two main ways of cooking these heavily armored creatures, either by roasting whole within the shell or by splitting the shell open with flint tools and roasting the flesh on its own. As turtle remains were found at most levels throughout the cave it is thought that they must have been part of the diet throughout the 200,000-year human occupation.

Edited from EurekAlert! (1 February 2016)
[4 images]

Wednesday, March 02, 2016


The extra sites include the house of Julia Felix, an extravagant ancient spa, the Little House of the Orchard, which is home to colorful frescoes, and the gardens of the House of Venus in the Shell.

Tourists will also be able to see some human casts, shown for the first time, and an exhibition of Egyptian art and statues, called 'Egypt Pompeii', from mid-April.

New routes around the site will also be opened, allowing access to these new areas and also ensuring that the usual routes do not get worn out by the three million visitors who come to Pompeii each year


The western appetite for antiquities has always been a motivation for others to loot them. The same individuals who pride themselves on their appreciation of cultural heritage create situations that lead to the pillage of ancient sites, as the trade in illicit artifacts is fueled by demand. Objects are placed on the market because they have economic value. Western buyers purchase antiquities at depressed prices after they have passed hands from looters, smugglers or middlemen, creating greater incentive to loot and smuggle. In fact, there is evidence that Islamic State acts with the market in mind.

Tellingly, there has been a vast increase in supply of antiquities from Syria and Iraq. According to US customs, there has been a 145% increase in imports of Syrian cultural property and a 61% increase in imports of Iraqi cultural property between 2011 and 2013, suggesting that illicit trade is piggybacking on the legal trade. Government officials opine that antiquities have become a more significant revenue source for Isis as the conflict has progressed.

Buyers are either unaware of the damage caused by the black market, feel callously unconcerned that their purchases lead to destruction, or justify their actions believing that they are “saving” objects from conflict zones. (This reasoning is facetious because removing antiquities from their historical contexts and into private collections without proper archaeological research contributes nothing to the historical record or the public.) Thus, one way to reduce demand for loot is through education. Some collectors are uninformed about the buyer’s instrumental role in the looting mechanism and the harm that their purchases create.

Art collectors and art dealers must apply robust due diligence; purchasers should buy objects from reputable sources, investigate an object’s history and procure all documentation, including all requisite licenses and customs forms. If these documents are unavailable, then buyers must refrain from the acquisition. The provenience or “find spot” of objects from politically torn nations should act as a red flag. With increased education and available information, it becomes difficult for buyers to claim that they lacked information about the illegal origin of an object. In fact, there is ample information available to art buyers through databases, government warnings, art consultants, social media and educational resources. Just as investors complete due diligence before entering business transactions, so should art buyers bear the responsibility for their purchases. Collectors should confer with art lawyers and art market professionals to investigate a dealer’s reputation, professional standing and prior lawsuits involving their business practices. Due diligence encourages legitimate and responsible trade.

Quite simply, Isis profits from loot and regulates black market profits. During a raid on one of Isis’s leaders, armed forces discovered extensive records concerning plundered goods. Through their findings it is clear that the objects come to the west. The FBI issued a warning that looted artefacts are on the market. The notice is supported by first-hand accounts of Syrian objects being bought and sold. Impoverished, unemployed locals loot objects to support and feed their families, paying Isis a tax on artefacts leaving its territory. Turkey commonly serves as the gateway, and the objects reach the international market quickly. The works enter commerce surreptitiously, often sold online via photos or video chat, with items even appearing on eBay. Undercover investigations have confirmed that illicit goods have reached buyers in Europe and the US; government officials have evidence that loot appears on the markets in New York and London.

American and European legislators are tackling the problem by proposing laws to reduce the influx of plundered antiquities. Yet even with targeted laws, unscrupulous buyers will purchase loot. Collectors should be made aware that there are dangers other than legal penalties. Illicit goods are problematic from an investment perspective. At resale, lower prices are generated for objects without clear ownership histories. Provenance (an object’s ownership history) is considered during the valuation process, and pieces with strong provenance typically sell for significantly higher prices. If a work is revealed to be looted, there may be a cloud on its title that vitiates its value and makes the work vulnerable to seizure. Buyers may be rightfully haunted by their purchases for years to come.


Prosecutors Tuesday will unveil charges against an alleged Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist accused of destroying monuments at the fabled city of Timbuktu in an unprecedented case before the world's only permanent war crimes court.