Monday, March 25, 2019

SKARA BRAE WOMEN ARCHAEOLOGISTS WERE IGNORED!

Skara Brae women archaeologists who were written out of history. The photographs were taken at Skara Brae, probably in 1929. An "excavation" on social media has provided names for four women shown in pictures of a dig in Orkney.
The women - shown in photographs taken in 1929 - had been assumed to be tourists or visitors.

But since Prof Dan Hicks, from the University of Oxford, tweeted the images they have been named as archaeologists working on the site. Those behind the search say it shows how women have been written out of the history of archaeology.

Another version of the picture shows excavator Prof Gordon Childe in a trench. One of the women in the image is clearly shown holding a trowel. Dr Antonia Thomas from the University of the Highlands and Islands told BBC Radio Orkney the photographs were "brilliant". But highly staged.

She says: "Everybody on site is looking towards Gordon Childe", who led the excavation of Skara Brae in 1928 and 1929. The Neolithic village at the Bay of Skaill on the west coast of Orkney's mainland had first been uncovered by storms towards the end of the 19th Century. "But just in the foreground, within the trench area, are two women who are laughing, and looking toward Gordon Childe as well." The Neolithic village of Skara Brae in Orkney was uncovered by storms at the end of the nineteenth century One of the women is clearly holding a trowel, and close examination of their shoes suggests they are covered in mud and dust. Dr Mairi Davies from Historic Environment Scotland explained that despite the preconceptions, women were active in archaeology at the time.

"In the arts faculty at that time in some years there were actually more female students than male. And his classes reflected that gender balance. "So we know that there were several women in Prof Childe's classes at Edinburgh. And we know that some went on to be very active field archaeologists."

ARTISTIC PIECE FROM 12,500 YEARS AGO FOUND IN CATALONIA

Now, an article published in the journal L'Anthropologie tells how University of Barcelona researchers found -in the site of Hort de la Bequera (Margalef de Montsant, Priorat)-, an artistic piece from 12,500 years ago in which humans and birds try to interact in a pictorial scene with exceptional traits: figures seem to star a narration on hunting and motherhood.

The piece they found is a 30-centimeter long limestone which shows two human figures and two birds, which the researchers identified as cranes. Since they found the piece in 2011, they underwent all cleaning, restoration and 3D copying procedures to study it in detail. Those figures were engraved in the stone board with a flint tool so that they created an organized composition compared to the other pieces of the same period.

"This is one of the few found scenes so far which suggest the birth of a narrative art in Europe, and this theme is unique, since it combines an image of hunting and a motherhood one: a birth with its young one," says the first signer of the article, ICREA researcher and lecturer at the UB Inés Domingo. "In the represented scene the birds catch the attention, they are copied or chased by two human figures," continues Domingo. "We do not know the meaning of the scene for prehistoric peoples, but what it says is that not only they were regarded as preys but also as a symbol for European Palaeolithic societies," she continues.

"We do not doubt this is an exceptional milestone in European Palaeolithic rock art due its singularity, its excellent conservation and the chances to study it within a general context of excavation," say the authors of the article; members of the Prehistoric Studies and Research Seminar (SERP).

The director of the excavation, Pilar García Argüelles notes that "the findings of the engraved scene are exceptional, and proves the importance of the site and the area regarding Palaeolithic art in the peninsular north-east area; where we can find nearby the only Palaeolithic cave engraving in Catalonia, the deer in the cave of Taverna (Margalef de Montsant), and about 40 kilometers away there is Molí del Salt (Vimbodí), with an interesting series of stone blocks with engraved animals and a representation of huts."

The first to identify the engraving was the co-director of the excavation, Jordi Nadal, who remembers that moment with excitement: "Since the first moment I was aware of the importance of this finding, of its uniqueness; these things do not happen very often, this is seeing a figure that has been forgotten and buried for 12,500 years."

ROME CELEBRATES 2,7772 BIRTHDAY

Rome's birthday celebrations for Natale di Roma include historical re-enactments including a costumed parade and gladiator fights. Rome celebrates its 2,772nd birthday on 21 April which this year coincides with Easter Sunday festivities.

Known as Natale di Roma, the annual birthday celebration is based on the legendary founding of Rome by Romulus in 753 BC.

Events are centered in the Circus Maximus and include the trench-digging ritual, known as the tracciato del solco, which recalls the founding of ancient Roman towns when a trench was dug and offerings thrown into it to encourage the gods to watch over the inhabitants.

Other re-enactments include the agricultural Palilia ceremony. Dating back to before the founding of Rome, the ceremony was held in honor of the goddess Pales, protector of flocks and herds, and involved vestal virgins distributing straw and the ashes and blood of sacrificed animals before jumping over a bonfire three times.
The Circus Maximus also hosts historical re-enactments including gladiator fights, aimed at children.

The main event each year however is a costumed parade, featuring more than 2,000 gladiators, senators, vestal virgins and priestesses, which begins and ends at the Circus Maximus. The pageant is organized by the Gruppo Storico Romano, an historical dramatic society which, for more than 20 years, has brought history to life by re-enacting battles, historic events, and displays of ancient theater and dance in the city center.

GUCCI WILL SPONSOR RESTORATION OF ROMAN CLIFF

Fashion house Gucci to sponsor restoration of Roman cliff from which traitors were flung to their deaths Even by the bloody standards of the ancient Romans, it was a particularly grisly way to die. The Tarpeian Rock is a precipitous cliff in the heart of Rome from where, during Roman times, traitors, perjurors and larcenous slaves were hurled to their deaths.

Now, in an unlikely marriage between the worlds of high fashion and ancient history, the cliff, which still exists, is to be restored with the help of the Florentine fashion brand Gucci.

Paths around the cliff will be cleared and a new lighting system installed in what is being described as a “restyling” of the area. Gucci has not divulged how much it will contribute, but the project will take a year and a half to complete. “According to history, up to the first century AD traitors were sentenced to death from the cliff to the underlying Roman Forum, symbolically expelled from the city.

“Today the cliff, made mainly of tufa, a porous rock, carved and dug over the centuries, is a unique natural space,” the fashion house said. The restoration is just the latest example of wealthy Italian fashion brands coming to the rescue of Rome’s crumbling cultural heritage.

The sweeping stone staircase, built between 1723 and 1726, has featured in many films, most notably Roman Holiday, the 1953 romantic comedy starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. Work on the area, where Julius Caesar was stabbed to death by senators on the Ides of March in 44BC, will be completed towards the end of 2022, according to Virginia Raggi, the mayor of Rome.

Bulgari will reportedly contribute around €800,000 to the site, which is home to a large population of feral cats and a cat sanctuary.











JERUSALEM'S BYZANTINE CHURCH MAY OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

The underground vaults of Jerusalem’s Nea Church, a large complex erected by Emperor Justinian in the sixth century, have remained closed to visitors since their excavation in the 1970s. One of Jerusalem’s great archaeological wonders, long closed to the public, may soon be open to visitors for the first time since it was excavated in the 1970s. The New Church of the Theotokos, commonly referred to as the Nea Church, was a large Byzantine church constructed in sixth-century Jerusalem that has sat in ruins for a thousand years.

Byzantine Emperor Justinian I ordered the construction of the church in A.D. 534 as part of a vast imperial construction campaign, which was considered an engineering triumph by contemporary and modern historians but has been ignored by the general public.

When it was first constructed, the Nea Church was a massive edifice, rivaling the nearby Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the holiest site in Christendom, where Jesus is believed to have been crucified and buried. Both churches appear on the Madaba Mosaic, a sixth-century map depicting Jerusalem, in Jordan’s Church of Saint George in Madaba. Emperor Justinian’s chronicler, Procopius of Caesarea, said the emperor built the church “with which no other can be compared,” and detailed how Justinian “gave orders that it be built on the highest of the hills, specifying what the length and breadth of the building should be.”

Now, almost half a century after Israeli archaeologists plumbed its depths, a group of activists is pushing for the church's restoration and opening to visitors.

Although the company describes the Nea Church as a “unique architectural monument in Jerusalem,” most of the enormous site has remained closed to visitors since Nahman Avigad's archaeological excavations ended in 1981. Avigad’s study of the site was part of a large number of excavations carried out by Israeli archaeologists in the Jewish Quarter after Israel captured Jerusalem's Old City in the 1967 war. Unlike other discoveries, such as a Roman-era neighborhood and marketplace and ancient fortifications, the Nea Church was never developed for tourists.

The church complex included a hostel for Christian pilgrims to the holy city, a monastery and a hospital. Like King Herod’s Temple Mount, atop which the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque stand today, Justinian had massive stone vaults constructed to provide the church a level foundation. These were plastered over and used as enormous underground cisterns. Archaeologists discovered a Greek inscription exalting the emperor inside the cisterns.


But Daniel Shukrun, secretary of the Company for the Reconstruction and Development of the Jewish Quarter, told Al-Monitor that the Nea Church vaults are presently unsafe for the general public. In late 2017, the company conducted a major clean-up operation inside the subterranean chambers to clear out years of accumulated bat droppings and refuse, but the area remains unsuitable for tourists, he said. He cautioned that while the company is interested in developing the church, and the wheels are now in motion, the Nea Church restoration project would cost an enormous, as yet indeterminate sum.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

5,000 ROMAN COINS SEIZED IN ANTI-SMUGGLING OPERATION

Gendarmerie forces in the western city of Kütahya seized 5,000 coins dating from the Roman and Byzantine eras in an anti-smuggling operation yesterday.

Acting on a tip-off, the anti-smuggling unit of the gendarmerie raided a gas station in the city's Geven neighborhood, catching two suspects red-handed while they were selling and buying the coins. Searching the suspects' cars, security forces found the trove of coins. Suspects are being detained while an investigation is underway on how they got hold of the coins.

It is unclear if the coins originated from Kütahya, which was ruled by the Roman and Byzantine Empires before the Seljuks seized it. Kütahya is also home to Aizanoi, an ancient Roman city which was the largest city in western Turkey in its era. In another operation last December in Kütahya, security forces confiscated around 10,000 historical Roman coins from smugglers.

Thousands of anti-smuggling operations are carried out across Turkey every year to halt the illegal sale of historical objects and protect the country's rich cultural heritage.The issue is crucial to a country that is home to about 3,000 ancient cities from 42 civilizations and whose tourism industry relies on its rich historical heritage to attract millions of foreign visitors each year.

CIVIL WAR ERA TUNNELS AND BUILDINGS FOUND UNDER ALCATRAZ

A new study has found US Civil War-era tunnels and buildings buried beneath the famed Alcatraz island prison in San Francisco, California. Historians had long-suspected that the notorious federal penitentiary had been constructed atop US military fortifications built in the 1800s. A study published last week in Near Surface Geophysics describes the complex found beneath the prison yard.

The now-closed jail imprisoned some of the worst criminals in US history. The study of the land, which is now controlled by the National Park Service, was conducted with ground-penetrating radar and terrestrial scans.
Beneath the prison's recreation yard, researchers discovered evidence of fully buried structures, ammunition magazines and tunnels. "They weren't erased from the island - they're right beneath your feet."

Armed with the new evidence, researchers are now planning to do more testing on the island known as The Rock. The island was first claimed by the US government for military use after it was used to take control of California from Mexico in the 1840s. A photo from 1869 shows soldiers on the island back when it was still a fort
During the US Civil War, Fort Alcatraz was used at the official military prison of the West Coast. The first inmates from the federal prison system began arriving in the 1930s, and the last were moved out in 1963.

Monday, March 04, 2019

MUMMIFIED BODY PARTS DISCOVERED AT CAIRO'S AIRPORT

Egyptian security officials at the Cairo International Airport foiled a plot to smuggle out of the country mummified limbs that were hidden inside a loudspeaker, Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities announced on Sunday. The contraband was to be loaded on a plane to Belgium when authorities spotted something strange on the X-rays.

In a hollowed-out speaker, they found six preserved body parts belonging to two different mummies: two sets of feet and lower legs; two sets of hands and forearms; an upper arm; and part of an upper torso, according to Iman Abdel-Raouf, an Egyptian official who works on archaeological matters. The authorities did not identify the smuggler, or whether any perpetrators were charged.

The recovered remains will be brought to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo so that a team of archaeologists can inspect and conserve them, according to the ministry. Their analysis could provide insight into the origins of these body parts, and how they relate to other discoveries. Every artifact from Egypt’s past, no matter the size, helps shape scientists’ understanding of its ancient civilizations.

Grave robbing and smuggling have long troubled Egypt. Looting of ancient Egyptian artifacts escalated during the 2011 revolution, and the country has lost an estimated $3 billion to illegal smuggling since then, according to the Antiquities Coalition, an American nonprofit that tracks the looting and trafficking of antiquities.

“So long as there is a demand for looted and stolen artifacts, thieves and traffickers are going to find the supply,” said Tess Davis, the coalition’s executive director. “It’s impossible to police all of the country all of the time.”

Some stolen bits of history are finding their way home. Earlier this month, the Metropolitan Museum of Art announced that it would return to Egypt a gilded coffin that belonged to a priest named Nedjemankh, dated to the 1st century B.C. It was purchased in 2017 from an art dealer in Paris for $4 million. Bogus papers claimed it had been exported out of Egypt legally, when it had in fact been looted in 2011.


OLDEST TATTOO IN WESTERN NORTH. AMERICA DISCOVERED

A 2,000‑year‑old cactus spine tattoo tool discovered by WSU archaeologist Andrew Gillreath‑Brown. Archaeologists have discovered the oldest tattooing artifact in western North America.

With a handle of skunkbush and a cactus‑spine business end, the tool was made around 2,000 years ago by the Ancestral Pueblo people of the Basketmaker II period in what is now southeastern Utah. Andrew Gillreath‑Brown, an anthropology PhD candidate, chanced upon the pen‑sized instrument while taking an inventory of archaeological materials that had been sitting in storage for more than 40 years.

His discovery pushes back the earliest evidence of tattooing in western North America by more than a millennium and gives scientists a rare glimpse into the lives of a prehistoric people whose customs and culture have largely been forgotten. Tattooing is an artform and mode of expression common to many indigenous cultures worldwide. However, little is known about when or why the practice began. This is especially the case in places like the southwestern United States, where no tattoos have been identified on preserved human remains and there are no ancient written accounts of the practice.

Previously, bundled and hafted, or handled, cactus spine tattoo tools from Arizona and New Mexico provided the best archaeological examples of early tattoo implements from the Southwest. The earliest of these have been dated to between AD 1100‑1280. So when Gillreath‑Brown came across a very similar looking implement from a site in Utah that is 1,000 years older, he knew he had found something special.

The tool consists of a 3 ½ inch wooden skunkbush sumac handle bound at the end with split yucca leaves and holding two parallel cactus spines, stained black at their tips. “The residue staining from tattoo pigments on the tip was what immediately piqued my interest as being possibly a tattoo tool,” Gillreath‑Brown said.

Encouraged by Aaron Deter‑Wolf, a friend and co‑author of the study who has done studies on ancient tattooing and edited several books on the subject, Gillreath‑Brown analyzed the tips with a scanning electron microscope, X‑ray florescence and energy dispersive ray spectroscopy. For good measure, he did several test tattoos using a replica on pig skin. He saw the crystalline structure of pigment and determined it likely contained carbon, a common element in body painting and tattooing.

ANCIENT MESOLITHIC OBSIDIAN TOOLS FOUND IN ARCTIC CIRCLE

CHUKOTKA, RUSSIA—Haaretz reports that ancient obsidian tools have been found at a Mesolithic site in the Arctic Circle by a team of researchers led by Vladimir Pitulko of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Pitulko said the small settlement on what is now Zhokhov Island was inhabited by 25 to 50 people of the paleo-Arctic Sumnagin cultural complex, who hunted, fished, and lived in reindeer-skin tents. The small number of volcanic glass tools, found among some 19,000 stone tools and other objects made of antler, mammoth ivory, and bone, have been dated to between 8,000 and 9,000 years ago, when sea levels were lower and the island was still connected to mainland Siberia.

Chemical analysis of the obsidian indicates it came from the Lake Krasnoye region, more than 1,000 miles away from the site. Pitulko and his colleagues suggest the obsidian could have been carried by traders traveling by dogsled, since traces of wooden sleds, and the remains of dogs who would have weighed around 55 pounds—the size of dog used to pull sleds today because they have sufficient strength but are not so large that they overheat—have also been recovered on the island.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

JODI MAGNESS LECTURES ON UNUSUAL MOSAICS IN ISRAEL

Dr. Jodi Magness as been directing excavations in the ancient village of Huqoq in Israel’s Galilee, where crews discovered mosaics depicting biblical scenes and the first non-biblical story ever discovered decorating an ancient synagogue. She will be speaking in Pensacola Sunday, Feb. 17 about her research team's discovery of mosaics in an ancient synagogue in Israel. The lecture “More than Just Mosaics: The Ancient Synagogue at Huqoq in Israel’s Galilee” will be held Sunday, Feb. 17 at Voices of Pensacola Multicultural Center, downtown.

The featured speaker is Dr. Jodi Magness, professor of Early Judaism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and director of the Huqoq Excavation Project. Magness is an archaeologist by training and currently serves as President of the Archaeological Institute of America. She published 10 books, including The Archaeology of The Holy Land. Additionally, she has taken part in numerous excavations in Greece and Israel, specializing in the area of Israel in the Roman Byzantine and the Early Islamic periods.

The talk by Dr. Magness will explore the excavation and findings at the ancient synagogue in Huqoq. The first mosaics there were discovered by Magness' team in 2012. The 2018 dig, their eighth at the site, revealed a wealth of the mosaic flooring. “The site of Huqoq is actually a village near the Sea of Galilee that was occupied for many periods throughout history, including in the time of Jesus, when it was a Jewish village,” said Dr. Magness.
“About, let’s say, 400 years after the time of Jesus, (400 A.D.) the Jewish villagers at Huqoq built a monumental synagogue building decorated with amazing mosaic floors, and that’s what we have been working to bring to light.”

The vibrantly colored mosaics, made with local stones of naturally different hues, portray a number of Biblical stories. Among them are scenes depicting stories about Samson, Noah’s Ark and the parting of the Red Sea where Egyptian soldiers are being swallowed by huge fish, while their chariots are scattered about and destroyed.
Magness says it’s not unique or unparalleled to have an ancient synagogue in Israel decorated with mosaic floors that depict Biblical stories. “But, what is unparalleled is the sort of richness of the repertoire that we have,” she said, adding that usually archaeologists find a limited number of panels depicting Biblical stories, if any at all.

“In our case, the entire synagogue was covered with mosaics depicting different Biblical stories and also a couple of panels that are not Biblical stories. So, it’s really the richness and variety of the mosaics and the fact that many of the scenes that we have are not paralleled at other synagogues.” The reason why I like our story Jonah so much is because like some of our other mosaics actually, there's a lot of humor in it," she said. In addition to being funny, Magness says there are elements that are unexpected.

Magness says also interesting about this particular mosaic is that it's marks the first time they've found an ancient Jewish art depiction of the story of Jonah. "It was something that always puzzled scholars, because early Christians used the story of Jonah a lot in their art," she explained. "So what scholars always wondered is well why did Christians like the story of Jonah, but Jews didn't seem to like the story of Jonah. So, now we know the Jews actually did like the story of Jonah, and we have the first depiction."

All of the mosaics have been removed from the site at Huqoq for conservation and the excavated areas have been backfilled. Excavations are scheduled to continue this summer. Magness hopes that eventually the Israeli government will develop the site for tourism.

Magness says one significant aspect of her findings of these ancient mosaics in Israel is the new insight it gives them about the life and culture of an ancient Jewish village. She points to the fact that the Huqoq synagogue dates to the 5th century, when the once Roman Empire was under Christian rule. "It shows that these Jewish communities continued to flourish even under Christian rule," she said. "That's important because a lot of scholars today think that Jews suffered under Christian rule, that it was oppressive to Jews. But, apparently, at least in the case of our village, we have a community that prospered, even after they came under Christian rule."

Sunday, February 03, 2019

MOSCOW MUSEUM PAINTING STOLEN BY MAN WHO WALKED IN

A Man Walked Into a Moscow Museum, and Walked Out With a $182,000 Painting. A man wearing a black V-neck sweater walked up to a moody painting of a mountain range on display at the renowned Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. He leaned forward as if to admire the artist’s brushwork. Then he reached up, lifted the painting off the wall, and sauntered out of the exhibition, swinging the painting from his right hand.

The work, titled “Ai Petri, Crimea” and painted by Arkhip Kuindzhi in 1908, had been insured for $182,000, according to a spokeswoman for the museum. The painting, which was on loan from the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg, was not lost for long. On Monday, a day after it was taken, police recovered it undamaged in a construction site outside Moscow and arrested a 31-year-old man, according to the Russian news agency TASS.

But the brazen theft will still embarrass the Tretyakov, the museum with the most important collection of Russian art in Moscow, especially as it comes less than a year after another man attacked a revered Russian painting with a pole — piercing it in three places — after drinking vodka in the gallery’s cafe.

The episode is the latest in a string of bold art thefts across Europe. Last weekend, thieves stole a door from the Bataclan concert hall in Paris that featured a mural attributed to the British street artist Banksy and thought to be a tribute to the victims of the 2015 terrorist attack at the venue. In November, three men walked into the Dorotheum auction house in Vienna, cut a landscape painting by Renoir from its frame, and walked out. A 59-year-old Ukrainian man with a history of art theft was arrested in December over the crime, but the artwork has yet to be recovered, according to Harald Sörös, a spokesman for the Vienna police.

With his closely cropped haircut and black clothes, the thief appeared to many visitors to be a hip young member of the museum staff, Russian news reports said, although one visitor eventually raised the alarm. .

FIRST ANTIQUITIES DISCOVERY IN EGYPT OF 2019 -MINYA BURIALS

Egypt's first antiquities discovery of 2019: Mummy-filled burial chambers in Minya. A maze of Ptolemaic burial chambers filled with more than 40 mummies, including men, women and children, was discovered at Tuna El-Gebel in Minya.

As the sun warmed the air at Tuna El-Gebel necropolis in Minya governorate on Saturday morning, hundreds of media and officials gathered to witness the announcement of the first discovery of 2019. Over the last two years, a large number of new discoveries in Egypt have grabbed the world’s attention. At the site, Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany announced that a joint mission from the ministry and the Research Centre for Archaeological Studies at Minya University had stumbled upon a collection of Ptolemaic-era rock burial chambers, filled with a large number of mummies of different sizes and genders.

“The newly discovered tombs are a familial grave which was probably for a family from the upper middle class,” El-Enany said. He highlighted that the grave consists of a number of burial chambers containing a large number of human mummies of different genders and age, including children. All are in a good conservation condition and some are wrapped in linen, or decorated with Demotic handwriting. There are over 40 mummies. Some of them still have fragments of colored cartonnage covers near their feet.

“The methods used in burying the mummies inside the maze of tombs varies in style,” Waziri told attendees, explaining that some of the mummies were inside stone or wooden sarcophagi while others were buried in sand or were laid on the floors of the tombs or inside niches.

Ostraca and fragments of papyri were also found in the tomb, he said, which helped reveal that it could date to the Ptolemaic, early Roman and Byzantine periods. Wagdi Ramadan, the head of the mission, said that the mission started its work for the first time in Tuna El-Gebel in February 2018, when it discovered a tomb engraved in rock composed of a corridor leading to sloping stairs that opened to a rectangular chamber with a number of burials.

Another chamber was also located at the western side filled with mummies and large stone sarcophagi. At the northern side there is a third chamber with a collection of stone sarcophagi inside niches. This is the typical burial style used in Tuna El- Gebel, which once was the necropolis of Egypt’s 15th nome during the late New Kingdom and the beginning of the New Intermediate Period.


NEW PREHISTORIC HAND PRINTS FOUND IN ALTAMIRA SPAIN

Three new prehistoric hand prints found inside Altamira cave in Spain. The art, which is in bad condition, was identified during the course of inventory work inside the world-famous Paleolithic site Members of the Museum of Altamira’s research team and managers of the Handpas project, a venture that documents and spreads images of Paleolithic hand representations in Europe, have found three new hand prints on the walls of Altamira cave, in Spain’s northern Cantabria region, that “almost certainly” were done more than 20,000 years ago.

These three painted hands, which are in bad condition, add to the six that were already known to exist, and were identified during the course of some documentary and inventory work on the other drawings inside the world-famous cave.

After they were discovered, the hands were digitally photographed and added to Handpas’ 3D catalogue of Paleolithic hands in Europe. The collaboration between the project and the museum was announced by Pilar Fatás, director of Altamira Museum, by her deputy Carmen de las Heras, and by the director of Handpas, Hipólito Collado, who is also head of the archeology department of the regional government of Extremadura.

Eight of the painted hands are located on the ceiling of Sala de Polícromos (Polychrome Room), between horse representations, and the other one is in the Galería Final, the furthermost space located over 200 meters from the cave mouth. This particular work of art, whose existence had been known since the 1980s, but which had not been properly analyzed, is different from the rest. Apart from being a print rather than a stencil, meaning that the full hand was painted and used to make a print, it is also the hand of a child. Painted a deep black, it is “quite exceptional,” as very few hands of this size have been documented, says De las Heras.

According to analysis, 70% of the prehistoric population was right-handed

The others, located in the Polychrome Room, vary in color, ranging from a dark violet to an intense red. Although it is not known for sure, De las Heras believes that the hands are superimposed on the images of horses. According to data obtained and analyzed by Collado, 70% of the prehistoric population was right-handed.

The importance of the finding does not lie in the number of prints discovered, but rather in the way that they illustrate what the Polychrome Room looked like before the famous bison painting, says De la Heras. “Thirty-two years after the last publication on the art of Altamira, the cave continues to produce relevant findings that never cease to amaze us and show us its greatness,” she says.

The Museum of Altamira has showcased a documentary called Handpas, manos del pasado (Handpas, hands of the past), which aims to provide answers to many of the questions raised by the prehistoric art. The documentary has been shown at multiple international science film festivals.


Sunday, January 27, 2019

80% MOHENJODARO NEGLECTED DUE TO GOV'T NEGLIGENCE

Mohenjo Daro’s historical ruins are fast losing their originality due to climate change, rains, water-logging and salinity as the site’s bricks, which are thousands of years old, are decaying day by day. According to a PPI survey, only 20 per cent bricks are safe at the moment and 80 per cent have been damaged due to lack of interest of the Sindh government.

Despite the fact that new bricks were used by the artisans by replacing old ones but even then, neither basic work has been done on a permanent basis nor annual works have been carried out to safeguard this treasure which is cherished globally.

According to experts, work must continue around the year to conserve the heritage but since last six months, it has been stopped for want of funds. Mud slurry has not yet been carried out and no work has been done since the past 30 years on walls due to which cracks have started developing in these ancient walls and many walls have been given support.

About 500 walls of the monuments have lost the originality and out of 700 wells, only 10 are available at the moment. The international experts had advised cheap local measures to protect the ruins from damage but the Sindh government has constantly shown non-serious attitude to save the historical ruins from collapse.

Several international seminars and workshops have also proved to be useless for the preservation of these monuments of Indus Civilization which has so far attracted thousands of foreign tourists who have visited this unique site. A dry core drilling work report has also been submitted to the government but the demarcation of the site is still awaited.

Mohenjo Daro could be saved with local expertise, which includes mud, water and labor. “If work is carried out, 12 months of a year and sanctioned funds are utilized properly then there would be no harm to the monuments,” he said. Proper drainage system must be built to save the monuments, adding that workshops were not needed as only practical works could ensure conservation for which local people should be recruited and trained properly.



ELGIN MARBLES WILL NOT RETURN TO GREECE FROM BRITAIN

The director of the British Museum has appeared to rule out returning the Elgin Marbles to Greece. The 2,500 year-old marble sculptures were brought over to Britain in the early 19th century and bought by the Government who passed them on to the British Museum where they remain one of the most prized exhibits. Debate over where the sculptures should be located has raged for decades.

In an interview with Ta Nea, Greece's daily newspaper, British Museum director Hartwig Fischer said: "The Trustees of the British Museum feel the obligation to preserve the collection in its entirety, so that things that are part of this collection remain part of this collection."

Asked if he thinks the Greeks are right to want the Parthenon sculptures back, he told the newspaper: "I can certainly understand that the Greeks have a special and passionate relationship with this part of their cultural heritage. "Yes, I understand that there is a desire to see all of the Parthenon Sculptures in Athens."

Asked about Jeremy Corbyn's pledge to return the Elgin Marbles to Greece if he became prime minister, Mr Fischer told Ta Nea: "I think that this is Mr Corbyn's personal view on the question, that you take note of. "Obviously, that is not the stance and the view of the Trustees of the Museum."

Mr Fischer was asked if he would accept that Greece is the legal owner of the Parthenon Sculptures, and he replied: "No, I would not. The objects that are part of the collection of the British Museum are in the fiduciary ownership of the Trustees of the Museum." In a statement, the British Museum said: "Hartwig Fischer was stating the long-standing position of the British Museum. We believe there is a great public benefit in being able to see these wonderful objects in the context of a world collection.

TOMB OF TUT RESTORED IN THE LAST 10 YEARS - DONE!

Luxor city on Thursday will celebrate the end of the Egyptian-American project seeking to restore and protect the tomb of King Tutankhamun, in the Valley of the Kings at the West Bank of Luxor.

The project is the largest of its kind inside the tomb, which was discovered 96 years ago by British archaeologist Howard Carter. The restoration project has been working for the past ten years. The ceremony will include documentary films, pictures and explanations on the stages of work done on the Golden Pharaoh’s tomb.

According to sources within the Egyptian Antiquities Ministry, the restoration and protection work carried out by a GCI team and a team from the Ministry included lighting and ventilation works, wooden floors inside the tomb, metal floors for the exterior entrance and restoration of the inscriptions, drawings and colors of the tomb.

On November 4, 1922, Carter found the first stone leading to the tomb of King Tutankhamun and its treasures left intact and untouched by thieves, which included statues of the king, golden jewelry and pots made of porcelain.
The contents of the tomb gave archaeologists a unique opportunity to deepen their knowledge of the nature of life in the 18th dynasty, a period of great importance in the history of ancient Egypt.

20,000 YEAR OLD SEWING NEEDLES DISCOVERED

Last year, in a cave above the Inya River’s middle reaches, scientists discovered 20,000-year-old sewing needles. Despite their prehistoric origin, the needles are sophisticated. Not only are they sharp enough to perforate thick animal hides, they possess a needle “eye,” which would have allowed early tailors to thread the needle and sew.

In a new study, published in the December issue of the Journal of Human Evolution, a team of researchers has pieced together what we know about prehistoric garment making using needle artifacts collected around the world, including from the site by the Inya River. Sewing, the analysis reveals, can offer a portal into human technology and cognition in the Upper Paleolithic, a period stretching from 50,000 to 10,000 years ago.

“Many of the needles we discovered were not simply used to manufacture clothes but for embroidery and ornaments. There was an aesthetic role,” says Francesco d’Errico, an anthropologist at the University of Bordeaux in France and a co-author of the study.

In other words, prehistoric humans were not only concerned with finding warmth in wintry weather—they also may have dressed in order to communicate social identity, display tribal affiliations, and, indeed, to look good.

The researchers found that humans developed eyed sewing needles in what is now Siberia and China as early as 45,000 years ago. In Europe, clothing fabrication likely began around 26,000 years ago; it probably began some 13,000 years ago in North America.

For the new study, the research team examined Paleolithic period needles from a dig site in China. In addition, d’Errico and his colleagues uncovered evidence of extensive production sites for needles and garments. For example, at a site in the northern deserts of China, researchers extracted needles that were more than 10,000 years old, along with tools that may have aided their creation. Some of the needles are wide and flat, perhaps used to stitch thick hides. Others are narrow and circular, which may indicate they were used for delicate work such as embroidery.

The researchers also discovered that some of the world’s most sophisticated early stitch work may have come from North America. Sites in eastern Wyoming and central Washington yielded 13,000-year-old needles that have a striking level of refinement and suggest what the researchers call a “never previously achieved mastery” in needle production.

There’s other evidence for decorative dress in the Upper Paleolithic. For example, in a previous project, d’Errico and his colleague Marian Vanhaeren, an anthropologist at the University of Bordeaux, identified shells on the remains of a child in the Madeleine Cave in France, a site they attribute to the late Magdalenian period, around 10,000 years ago. Tiny holes hint that someone stitched these ornaments to the child’s clothing, though the textile itself has since disintegrated.

At the same time that the needle unleashed an aesthetic revolution in clothing, it might have signaled two other developments integral to human prehistory: the ability to travel long distances and the capacity for complex thought.

REPLACEMENT OF NEANDERTHALS IN SPAIN WITH MODERNS


This new dating study of Bajondillo Cave, instead calibrates the replacement of Mousterian industries by Aurignacian ones there to between ~45-43,000 years ago, raising questions about the late survival of Neanderthals in southern Iberia. Further research is necessary to determine whether the new Bajondillo dating indicates an earlier replacement of Neanderthals across the whole of southern Iberia, or in fact, an altogether more complex scenario of co-existence over several millennia.

Co-author Jimenez-Espejo explains that the takeover by modern humans at the site at Bajondillo was not associated with a Heinrich (severe cooling) event, "Heinrich events represent the harshest and most variable climate conditions in Western Europe at the millennial scale, but at least in this Mediterranean coastal region, they did not control the Mousterian to Aurignacian transition."

Professor Chris Stringer, Research Leader at the Natural History Museum and co-author of the study, said 'Finding such an early Aurignacian from a cave so close to the sea adds to speculation that the Mediterranean coast could have been used by modern humans dispersing into Europe. This dating also fits with growing evidence that Homo sapiens had already spread rapidly across much of Eurasia more than 40,000 years ago'.

Considering the importance of coastal regions, co-author Arturo Morales-Muñiz suggested that the Bajondillo evidence also revives the idea that the Strait of Gibraltar could have been a potential dispersal route for early modern humans out of Africa.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

SCOTTISH STONE CIRCLE IS A REPLICA

A stone circle in Aberdeenshire (Scotland) initially thought to be thousands of years old has been identified as a modern replica. An investigation into the site at the parish of Leochel-Cushnie found the stones to be about 20 years old.

It was originally thought to be the site of a recumbent stone circle - until the man who built it came forward.

The findings sparked excitement among experts and were widely reported, including our article here. They were initially celebrated as an authentic recumbent stone circle by Adam Welfare of Historic Environment Scotland and Aberdeenshire Council's Archaeology Service. Further archaeological analysis of the stones was being conducted when a former owner of the farm contacted Mr Welfare to say he had built the stone circle in the 1990s.

"These types of monument are notoriously difficult to date. For this reason we include any modern replicas of ancient monuments in our records in case they are later misidentified. We always welcome reports of any new, modern reconstructions of ancient monuments, especially those built with the skill of this stone circle..."

Edited from BBC News, The Independent (21 January 2019)
https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-north-east-orkney-shetland-46946652
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