Tuesday, December 03, 2019


John Oleson with the University of Victoria has reported that a small object found in Jordan made of sandstone might be the oldest chess piece ever found. In his presentation at the American Schools of Oriental Research this past week, he spoke about the object and what it might represent.

Historians believe the game of chess originated in India approximately 1,500 years ago, though it is also believed that its name, rules and piece names have changed over time. Since its invention, the game has spread around the world. In his abstract for the conference, Oleson notes that references to chess playing in the Islamic world go as far back as the seventh century AD, and it was apparently a very popular pastime.

In his presentation, Oleson described the two-pronged object carved from sandstone that has been dated (using context) to approximately 1,300 years ago. The object, found in 1991, is otherwise rectangular in shape. Oleson claims it looks very much like other early Islamic chess pieces—specifically, a rook (castle). He points out that other objects identified as rooks in Jordan and the Near East, whether wood, stone or ivory, are nearly identical to the sandstone object. In modern chess games, the piece resembles a medieval tower—it moves horizontally or vertically through any number of unoccupied squares. In earlier times, the rook was fashioned to look like a dual-horse chariot, which may account for the two-pronged look of early Islamic figures.

The sandstone rook was found at a site called Humayma, which Oleson notes was along the busy Via Nova Traiana—a trade route between Asia and the Near and Middle East. It appears likely that the game of chess made its way to the Middle and Near East along the route. Humayma was a trading outpost run by the Abbasid family. Oleson notes that the family kept up with what was going on in Iraq and Syria. Taken together, the evidence suggests that the rook is possibly the earliest evidence of such a chess piece design, and possibly the oldest example of any type of chess piece. More work is required to verify that the stone object is, indeed, a chess piece before it can be designated as such.

Monday, December 02, 2019

Book read Nov 30,2019

The Island of Sea Women by Lisa Sea

Women divers in Korea during WWII --- Confusing but interesting.

Sunday, November 24, 2019


Italian art police investigating antiquities smuggling arrested on Monday 23 people and searched a number of locations in Italy and abroad. Investigators coordinated by prosecutors in the Calabrian city of Crotone believe the suspects were members of an alleged criminal holding that trafficked ancient items of huge value. The artifacts came from illegal archaeological digs in Calabria and were illegally exported outside Italy, investigative sources said.

In the course of the investigation, which kicked off in 2017, police retrieved several archaeological items worth a few million euros, investigative sources said.

Culture Minister Dario Franceschini on Monday said in a statement: "Thanks to sophisticated investigative techniques and the collaboration of Europol and foreign police forces" in France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Serbia, as well as in Italy, Carabinieri cops "successfully concluded a vast operation to counter illegal trafficking of archaeological findings from Calabria to northern Italy and abroad, recovering thousands of items and seizing material used for the illegal digs"


Northern Mongolian "eternal ice" is melting for the first time in memory, threatening the traditional reindeer-herding lifestyle and exposing fragile cultural artifacts to the elements, according to a study published November 20, 2019 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by William Taylor.

The mountainous tundra of the northern Mongolian steppes features "munkh mus" or "eternal ice", ice patches which remain intact even in the summer. For the reindeer-herding Tsaatan people, they provide a place for heat-stressed reindeer to cool down, as well as fresh water, useful plants, and a reprieve from summer insects for herders and reindeer alike.

The authors of the present study visited the Ulaan Taiga Special Protected Area of Mongolia to investigate the potential for cultural artifacts in the ice. They conducted an archeological survey on foot and on horseback, and also held ethnographic interviews with eight local families over 2018.

The families interviewed described how many ice patches had melted for the first time in memory between 2016 and 2018, while stressing the importance of eternal ice for reindeer and herding families alike. Many herders complained that recent declines in pasture quality had led to reindeer sickness and death.

The archeological survey revealed a number of wooden artifacts at one melted ice patch site which dated from the 1960s, when herders moved into the area - the first discovered artifacts from this region. Organic materials are preserved in ice but degrade rapidly upon exposure to the elements, meaning that melting ice could affect the archeological record.

As Mongolia continues to warm at a higher rate than the global average, the authors note that the eternal ice appears to be melting due to the increasing summer temperatures--and stress this puts both cultural heritage and traditional reindeer herding at extreme risk in the years to come. The authors add: "This study shows us that global climate change is an urgent threat in Inner Asia - melting ice is threatening both reindeer herding as a way of life, and the region's cultural heritage."


A team of researchers from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Universidad Técnica de Manabí in Ecuador has found and reported on ancient infant skulls that were excavated at a site in Salango, Ecuador. In their paper published in the journal Latin American Antiquity, the group describes how the infant skulls were encased in the skulls of older children.

The researchers note that the human head was often a powerful symbol for many early South American cultures, which might explain what they found. While on a dig in Salango, Ecuador, the researchers came across and unearthed the remains of 11 people buried at the site approximately 2100 years ago. The people that lived there at the time were called Guangala—the researchers also found multiple artifacts in addition to the bones.

The researchers report that among the remains they found were two infants, each with the skull of an older child fitted over their head—like a helmet. One of the infants was believed to have been approximately 18 months old at the time of death—its skull helmet came from a second child who was believed to have been approximately four to 12 years old at the time of death. The other infant was believed to have been approximately six to nine months old at death, and its skull helmet was believed to have come from a child approximately two to 12 years old at death. It is not yet known if the deceased children were related to one another, or the reason skulls were used as helmets for deceased infants. The researchers did note that the skull helmets fit snugly, which, they suggest, could indicate a simultaneous burial of the infant and the child that donated the skull helmet.

The researchers note that the find is the only known instance of using children's skulls as helmets for infants as part of a burial ceremony. They also note that it was possible that those who buried them were attempting to confer some sort of protection in the afterlife. They also note that it was possible the infant and/or the child involved in the ceremony were part of a ritual meant to calm a nearby active volcano, though they also suggest either of the deceased young ones could have died as a result of starvation due to the aftereffects of the volcanic eruption.


Archaeologists have discovered a 3000-year-old megalithic temple in Peru that an ancient "water cult" used for fertility rituals.

The temple, found at the Huaca El Toro archaeological site, is located in modern-day Oyotún in the Zaña Valley of northwestern Peru. It is the first megalithic temple, or one made from large stones, found in this valley, which sits between two rivers that join together and give rise to the Zaña River.

The ancient cult, whose members worshiped water, likely built the temple in an area where a new river rises as a kind of "territorial symbolism," said Edgar Bracamonte, an archaeologist with the Royal Tombs of Sipan Museum in Peru, who took part in the excavations. "Water is the most important element to live, and in this time, water was so difficult to access without technology."

Sunday, November 17, 2019


Just outside Durango, Colo., archeologist Rand Greubel stands on a mesa surrounded by juniper trees. He points to a circular hole in the ground, about 30 feet across and more than 8 feet deep. There's a fire pit in the center of an earthen floor, ventilation shafts tunneled into the side walls and bits of burned thatching that suggest how the structure once continued to rise above the ground. It's a large pit house from what's known as the Pueblo I period.

It is awe inspiring, standing inside this space that has held human history for so long. But its existence will be short-lived. This pit house is about to be filled in and covered up by a highway, as are six other important ancient sites on this mesa.

Dan Jepson, an archaeologist with the Colorado Department of Transportation, says all of these cultural resources were discovered as a result of the highway project itself. Under federal law, potential sites for things like road expansions must be surveyed and then sometimes excavated to see what important historical features might lie below the ground. And that's how these pit houses were found.
Over the last two decades, Jepson says, the department has explored scores of other possible routes for the road to avoid destroying cultural artifacts. But because southwest Colorado is so full of Native American history, every option would have hit potential archaeological sites.

His agency reached out to dozens of tribes in the region to offer them a chance to participate in the project and give feedback. The Southern Ute tribe agreed to consult with the agency. The new construction site will cross the outer boundaries of the tribe's reservation. But some Southern Ute citizens are still upset that the digs are happening at all, and they don't feel empowered to stop them.

Just down the road, crews are using pickaxes, shovels and brushes to finish excavating the last of the seven sites. Trucks barreling up the hill behind them are a reminder of the regular heavy road traffic that already passes through this area. Sam Maez, a member of the Southern Ute tribe, is here too. The Transportation Department invited him to talk with the archaeologists about their work and the highway project as a whole. The tribe isn't fighting the construction legally. But Maez isn't afraid to speak his mind.

You know, those are my family's bones in there. Sam Maez, Southern Ute tribe member "You know, after generations and generations of basically exterminating us and getting rid of everything that we believe in, and here we are picking the scabs of Mother Earth, you know, and wondering what, why and who these people were," Maez says. "Well, they're us." He alludes to the human remains that the archaeologists found while excavating several of the sites under the proposed highway path. "You know, those are my family's bones in there," Maez says. "We don't have a ceremony to dig them up and put them somewhere else." He says projects like this have forced tribes to adapt to that process and create new rituals to remove and rebury remains.


south-west Sweden's best preserved rock painting has now been dated—it is from the late Stone Age. With the aid of new technologies, researchers at the University of Gothenburg have been able to reveal a number of previously unknown motifs that are no longer visible to the naked eye. The most important of these newly discovered motifs are boats with elk-head stems. This is the first time that these kinds of boats have been documented in southern or western Scandinavia and these motifs provide further evidence of the long-distance sea voyages undertaken by Stone Age maritime hunters.

In recent years, what we know about prehistory has undergone quite a change thanks to ever-advancing technological development. Today, there are new technologies for documenting and analysing rock paintings that are many thousands of years old. This technology has made it possible for the first time to date the rock painting in Tumlehed. It is from the late Stone Age and was painted some time between 4200-2500 years BCE by mobile hunters who had come by boat to the west coast of Sweden to hunt seal and whales.

Many motifs previously unknown in the area were discovered, the most important of these being pictographs of boats with elk-head stems—motifs that have only been found before in Finland, Russia, the north-east of Norway and northern Sweden.

The new technologies used on the Tumlehed rock painting included the digital image enhancing program Dstretch, which was originally developed by NASA and is being increasingly used in rock art research. It was used to digitally enhance symbols that are no longer visible to the naked eye.

The most important findings from the study were the new motifs that emerged showing boats with elk-head stems. "Elk-head boats are often associated with hunting and fishing scenes, and we have interpreted the motifs in Tumlehed as three elk-head boats related to a small whale, a seal and four fish," says Bettina Schulz Paulsson.

The Tumlehed rock painting indicates similar maritime voyages during the Stone Age that are culturally connected to the peoples of eastern and northern Fennoscandia, an area that covers Norway, Sweden, Finland, the Kola Peninsula and Russian Karelia.
"Deer, reindeer and elk are frequent depicted motifs in Fennoscandian rock art. These species were important game for hunting but may also have had important symbolic and spiritual roles for these societies," says Bettina Schulz Paulsson.

The study entitled Elk Heads at Sea: Maritime Hunters and Long‐Distance Boat Journeys in Late Stone Age Fennoscandia has been published in the November issue of the Oxford Journal of Archaeology.

Monday, November 11, 2019


TEHRAN - Excavations in a cave in western Iran have shed new light on the history of the region, which has previously proved to have links to the Paleolithic times. “An analysis of the sediment layers in the cave, conducted by a joint Iranian-Danish [archaeological] delegation, revealed that the cave bears evidence of the Lower Paleolithic, Middle Paleolithic, and Upper Paleolithic ages,” senior Iranian archaeologist Hajat Daribi said on Sunday, IRNA reported.

The Paleolithic, also called the Old Stone Age, is a period in human prehistory distinguished by the original development of stone tools that covers c. 99% of human technological prehistory. It extends from the earliest known use of stone tools by hominins c. 3.3 million years ago, to the end of the Pleistocene c. 11,650 cal BP.

The cave was first excavated in 1974 by a team of Danish experts led by archaeologist Mortensen Peter who was able to discover evidence of the three Paleolithic periods, which at the time yielded poor information about the sequence of the findings.

The onset of the Paleolithic Period, according to Encyclopedia Britannica, has traditionally coincided with the first evidence of tool construction and use by Homo some 2.58 million years ago, near the beginning of the Pleistocene Epoch (2.58 million to 11,700 years ago). In 2015, however, researchers excavating a dry riverbed near Kenya’s Lake Turkana discovered primitive stone tools embedded in rocks dating to 3.3 million years ago—the middle of the Pliocene Epoch (some 5.3 million to 2.58 million years ago). Those tools predate the oldest confirmed specimens of Homo by almost 1 million years, which raises the possibility that toolmaking originated with Australopithecus or its contemporaries and that the timing of the onset of this cultural stage should be reevaluated.


Egypt's parliament is set to change the law to implement harsher jail sentences and stiffer fines for smuggling ancient artifacts out of the country, and to criminalize abusing or climbing the country’s monuments.

A new article that punishes anyone found in an archaeological site or museum or climbing any antiquity without obtaining a license with at least one month’s imprisonment and/or a fine of not less than EGP 10,000 and not more than EGP 100,000. The penalty will be doubled if the acts are associated with violations of public decency.

"The amendments aim at stopping thuggish acts toward Egyptian antiquities," Suzy Nashed, a member of the committee, said during the meeting. Ahmed Maher, an advisor to the antiquities minister, said that these amendments aim to protect Egyptian artifacts after recent abusive practices, the latest of which was the climbing of one of the pyramids of Giza by a foreign person who committed a “negative deed.”

Maher added that no one has the right to enter any archaeological site without permission or a ticket.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019


Ancient weapons discovered on a building site will go on display at the Museum of London Docklands. The group of 453 artifacts found in Havering, east London, is the third largest ever discovered in the UK. It "adds immensely to our understanding of Bronze Age life", Historic England said.

The find, which dates from between 800 BC and 900 BC, was officially declared treasure by a coroner earlier this year. The discovery, dubbed the Havering Hoard, was uncovered last September, and will form the centrepiece of a major exhibition from April.
Archaeologists believed the manner in which the weapons had been so carefully buried in groups close together suggested the site could have been a metal workers' former vault or an armoury recycling bank or exchange, the Local Democracy Reporting Service said.

"The finds have already taught us a great deal about this distant age, and ongoing analysis and public outreach means that many more people will benefit from this window into the past thanks to this example of successful development-led archaeology." Archaeologists believe the site could have been a metal workers' former vault

"It's incredibly rare to have uncovered four separate hoards of such size on one site. "This discovery is also of huge importance due to the deliberate placement of each deposit and raises questions as to why this treasure was buried in this way and why it was never recovered. "These questions and more will be investigated in the exhibition."


Currently the second-largest city in France and definitely among the oldest in Europe, Marseille can trace its origins back to 600 BC, when the first Greeks arrived in the area and established a trading colony. This was at a time when many Phocaeans left their homeland in today’s Turkey (then Greek-speaking Asia Minor), and reached the northern shores of the Western Mediterranean. They found a locale which could easily accommodate a large port and in a few years’ time, a new Greek colony had been established. Its name was ”ΜΑΣΣΑΛΙΑ” (”Massalia”).

The entire coastal region comprised of the modern regions of Catalonia, Spain and France had seen the arrival of many Ionian Greeks before that time, during their expeditions to the West to find new places to live and people to trade with. Nonetheless, the city of Massalia itself was indeed established by Phocaeans, as they were the first to settle permanently there. These first Greek settlers of the port city very soon established a wide network of trade relationships with neighboring cities, not only along the coast but into the French mainland areas as well, where various Celt tribes once lived.

The “Massaliotes,” as the Greeks of Marseille were known, first established good relations with other neighboring Greek colonies in the region beginning in the early stages of their colonization.

Shipments of Greek produce constantly arrived at the region’s ports, and ancient Gaul was able to form a consistent, well-established network of communications and relations with the metropolitan areas of Greece via their colonies, especially Marseille. During the following centuries, the people of Marseille continued to traded with the entire Mediterranean region, and the port grew in importance and size. Consequently, a great deal of pottery, artwork, coins and other objects from that period have been discovered all over France, from the southern to the very northern extremes of the country.

Greek coinage was freely circulating across France, local Celtic tribes were using Greek themes to make their own coins, and the whole region was heavily influenced by the Greek settlers’ ”soft power” of commerce and trade. Their influence even reached the shores of Britain, where local coins discovered in Kent and Surrey have depictions of Apollo. These coins are believed to have been influenced by the designs used in Marseille.

Of course, as the centuries went by, the Romans arrived, other peoples and tribes made it to the shores of southern France, and history moved on. However, the distinctive Greek origins of Marseille have somehow managed to remain intact in the city’s psyche to this very day.



—According to a Reuters report, Herculaneum’s House of the Bicentenary, a lavish three-story property boasting more than 6,000 square feet of living space, has reopened following extensive conservation.

Gaius Petronius Stephanus and his wife Calantonia Themis lived in the House of the Bicentenary, which is located on the main street of the ancient Roman town buried by about 50 feet of volcanic ash during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79.

Herculaneum was smaller than Pompeii, which is located about ten miles to the south, but is thought to have been inhabited by wealthier Romans. Archaeologist Domenico Camardo of the Herculaneum Conservation Project said a sliding wooden grill, placed at the entrance to the building, survived the disaster. The house, discovered in 1938 and named after the 200th anniversary of the first excavations in the ancient city, was closed to the public in 1983 for restoration and repair, including the removal of a coating that had been applied to its frescoes which had caused the paint to flake

“It was an occasion to develop new, innovative materials and methods for conservation that can be used in the site and elsewhere,” the Getty Conservation Institute's Leslie Rainer explained. To read more about Herculaneum's frescoes, go to "Putting on a New Face."

Tuesday, October 15, 2019


The fresco was uncovered in what experts think was a tavern frequented by gladiators. A vivid fresco depicting an armour-clad gladiator standing victorious as his wounded opponent stumbles gushing blood has been discovered in the ancient Roman city of Pompeii, Italy's culture ministry said Friday.

The striking scene in gold, blue and red was uncovered in what experts think was a tavern frequented by gladiators, who fought each other, prisoners and wild animals for the public's entertainment. A "Murmillo" fighter wearing a plumed, wide-brimmed helmet with visor, holds aloft his large rectangular shield in his left hand, as he grips his short sword in the right. On the ground next to him lies the shield of the defeated "Thraex", who has suffered deep wounds and is on the point of collapse. "What is particularly interesting is the extremely realistic representation of the wounds, such as the one on the wrist and chest of the unsuccessful gladiator, from which the blood runs, wetting his leggings," Osanna said. "The Thraex is gesturing with his hand, possibly asking for mercy," he said.

The fresco—which measures 1.12 metres by 1.5 metres—was found in what excavators believe was a basement room, as the imprint of a wooden staircase can be seen above it. It was found in what excavators believe was a basement room
Treasures of a ruined city The building was situated not far from the gladiators' barracks in Regio V, an entire quarter of the site that has recently offered up several impressive archaeological finds but is yet to open to the public. It was most likely a tavern with an upper floor of rooms used either by the innkeeper or by prostitutes, the ministry said.

The discovery was made during works to secure an area of the north of the archaeological park under the Great Pompeii Project, launched after years of bad maintenance and poor weather caused a series of wall collapses. The ruined city in southern Italy is the second most visited tourist site in the country, after the Colosseum in Rome, with more than 3.6 million visitors in 2018.


Israel's Antiquities Authority on Sunday said that researchers have discovered the remains of a large, 5,000-year-old city that sheds new light on experts' understanding of the period. Calling it a "cosmopolitan and planned city," the authority said the early Bronze Age settlement covered 65 hectares (160 acres) and was home to about 6,000 people. "In this city, we have a planned settlement with a whole net of streets and alleys and squares, and drainage installations, storage installation," said Yitzhak Paz, a director of excavation on behalf of the authority. The city was discovered during preparations for a highway interchange project near Harish, a town some 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of Tel Aviv.

Researchers said the discovery "dramatically changes" their understanding of the period—a time in which a rural, agrarian society was beginning to establish urban sites. They said that residents made their living from agriculture and traded with other regions and kingdoms. Among the discoveries was an unusual ritual temple, burnt animal bones—evidence of sacrificial offerings—and a figurine of a human head. There also were millions of pottery fragments, flint tools and stone vessels.

"The remains of residential buildings, diverse facilities and the public buildings are an indication of the organized society and the social hierarchy that existed at the time," the researchers said. The Antiquities Authority said that during the dig, archaeologists also found evidence of an earlier settlement dating back 7,000 years underneath the city's houses.


The first discovery as recounted by Hawass was in the West Valley, also known as the Valley of the Monkeys, and the second one was in the East Valley, which houses the famed pharaonic tombs.

Hawass said that the Egyptian expedition has uncovered “an industrial area” for the first time ever in the location. The Expedition has been working in the Valley of the Monkeys since December 2017. He further added that the area houses an oven tailor made for making clay products, and a water storage tank used by workmen. The findings discovered at the site include: a scarab ring and hundreds of inlay beads and golden objects which were used to decorate royal coffins. Some of the discovered inlays are decorated with the wings of Horus. Hawss announced as well that the discovery of 30 workshops is very important. They are comprised of storage buildings and buildings for the cleaning of the funerary furniture, and contained many pottery finds dated to the eighteenth dynasty.

The Egyptian expedition has also discovered a royal tomb, labelled KV 65. They found inside it tools used for tomb construction.
Hawass said that the expedition that is working in the East Valley is the largest excavation which has taken place since the time of Howard Carter. It is searching for tombs that have never been found before, as well as those of the wives and sons of the kings of the eighteenth dynasty buried in the Valley of the Kings, since the Valley of the Queens did not start taking on burials until the beginning of that dynasty.

The expedition is working near the tomb of Ramses VII, the tomb of Hatshepsut, the tomb of Ramses III and behind the tomb of Merenptah, the son of Ramses II. The expedition also excavated the surroundings of Tutankhamun tomb. It found many important objects.