Monday, September 02, 2019


The artifacts would be considered among the earliest evidence of people in North America.

The findings, published today in Science, add weight to the hypothesis that initial human migration to the Americas followed a Pacific coastal route rather than through the opening of an inland ice-free corridor, said Loren Davis, a professor of anthropology at Oregon State University and the study's lead author.

"The Cooper's Ferry site is located along the Salmon River, which is a tributary of the larger Columbia River basin. Early peoples moving south along the Pacific coast would have encountered the Columbia River as the first place below the glaciers where they could easily walk and paddle in to North America," Davis said. "Essentially, the Columbia River corridor was the first off-ramp of a Pacific coast migration route. "The timing and position of the Cooper's Ferry site is consistent with and most easily explained as the result of an early Pacific coastal migration."

Cooper's Ferry, located at the confluence of Rock Creek and the lower Salmon River, is known by the Nez Perce Tribe as an ancient village site named Nipéhe. Today the site is managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

Over the last two summers, the team of students and researchers reached the lower layers of the site, which, as expected, contained some of the oldest artifacts uncovered, Davis said. He worked with a team of researchers at Oxford University, who were able to successfully radiocarbon date a number of the animal bone fragments. The results showed many artifacts from the lowest layers are associated with dates in the range of 15,000 to 16,000 years old.

"Prior to getting these radiocarbon ages, the oldest things we'd found dated mostly in the 13,000-year range, and the earliest evidence of people in the Americas had been dated to just before 14,000 years old in a handful of other sites," Davis said. "When I first saw that the lower archaeological layer contained radiocarbon ages older than 14,000 years, I was stunned but skeptical and needed to see those numbers repeated over and over just to be sure they're right. So we ran more radiocarbon dates, and the lower layer consistently dated between 14,000-16,000 years old."

The dates from the oldest artifacts challenge the long-held "Clovis First" theory of early migration to the Americas, which suggested that people crossed from Siberia into North America and traveled down through an opening in the ice sheet near the present-day Dakotas. The ice-free corridor is hypothesized to have opened as early as 14,800 years ago, well after the date of the oldest artifacts found at Cooper's Ferry, Davis said. "Now we have good evidence that people were in Idaho before that corridor opened," he said. "This evidence leads us to conclude that early peoples moved south of continental ice sheets along the Pacific coast."

The oldest artifacts uncovered at Cooper's Ferry also are very similar in form to older artifacts found in northeastern Asia, and particularly, Japan, Davis said. He is now collaborating with Japanese researchers to do further comparisons of artifacts from Japan, Russia and Cooper's Ferry. He is also awaiting carbon-dating information from artifacts from a second dig location at the Cooper's Ferry site.

"We have 10 years' worth of excavated artifacts and samples to analyze," Davis said. "We anticipate we'll make other exciting discoveries as we continue to study the artifacts and samples from our excavations."


With their metal detectors and spades "detectors" are a common sight in the British countryside. When their equipment bleeps, they start to dig in the hope of finding something old and valuable. They are often seen as figures of fun—in fact, the BBC shows a comedy series about a pair of such amateur archaeologists which has a cult following. But part-time treasure hunters do much of the heavy lifting when it comes to discovering antiquities buried in fields across the UK.

Two such detectors, Lisa Grace and Adam Staples, recently uncovered a haul of more than 2,000 silver coins in Somerset in the south-west of England, dating back to the turbulent period following the Norman conquest of England in 1066.

In the years after William of Normandy defeated Harold II and took the throne, the Norman invaders were confronted by frequent rebellion. They responded by planting castles to subdue the population. The coin hoard found in the Chew Valley in Somerset dates from the years of unrest when William was establishing himself on the throne.

One of the largest hoards ever recovered from the years around 1066, it includes more than 1,000 coins minted in Harold's name and a similar number in William's. Harold had been king for only ten months at the time of his defeat and death in battle, so all the coins of Harold date from no earlier than January 1066. Some may have been minted in his name after his death, as a desperate measure by survivors to hold the regime together in the two months that elapsed between the Battle of Hastings and William's coronation. Funds were very important at moments when the succession to the throne lay in doubt.

It is certain at any rate that whoever concealed the hoard was a person of high rank, probably one of the nobility—a circle of no more than 150 landed aristocrats, many of whom were related. A coin hoard of this size may have been to pay for an army. But we might only guess whose army or whether the hoarder was a supporter or opponent of the Norman regime.


ALEXANDRIA, Egypt (AP) — Egypt’s coastal city of Alexandria, which has survived invasions, fires and earthquakes since it was founded by Alexander the Great more than 2,000 years ago, now faces a new menace in the form of climate change.

Rising sea levels threaten to inundate poorer neighborhoods and archaeological sites, prompting authorities to erect concrete barriers out at sea to break the tide. A severe storm in 2015 flooded large parts of the city, causing at least six deaths and the collapse of some two dozen homes, exposing weaknesses in the local infrastructure. Alexandria, the country’s second city, is surrounded on three sides by the Mediterranean Sea and backs up to a lake, making it uniquely susceptible to the rise in sea levels caused by global warming and the melting of the polar ice caps. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that global sea levels could rise by 0.28 to 0.98 meters (1-3 feet) by 2100, with “serious implications for coastal cities, deltas and low-lying states.”

The land on which Alexandria is built, along with the surrounding Nile Delta, is sinking at roughly the same rate, due in part to upstream dams that prevent the replenishment of silt and to natural gas extraction. That is expected to exacerbate the effects of the rise in sea level, with potentially catastrophic consequences. A 2018 study predicted that up to 734 square kilometers (more than 280 square miles) of the Nile Delta could be inundated by 2050 and 2,660 square kilometers (more than 1,000 sq. miles) by the end of the century, affecting 5.7 million people.

Authorities installed sea defenses to protect the neighborhood, which is home to an oil refinery, a cement plant and tanneries, but residents say it hasn’t made much of a difference. Huge cement barriers have been placed as reinforcement against rising water levels near the famed citadel in Egypt's port city of Alexandria. The city’s antiquities sites — those that survived its tumultuous history — are also under threat.

Rising sea levels threaten to inundate poorer neighborhoods and archaeological sites of Alexandria, Egypt's second-largest city which draws hordes of tourists to its beaches in the summertime. “We are aware that this street, which survived for hundreds of years, could be underwater in the coming years, in our lifetime,” he said. “Every year the waves are stronger than in the previous one. The winter is harsher and the summer is more sweltering.”


Tuesday, August 27, 2019


Unlike many books that delve into the history of restaurants and begin with France (or wayside taverns elsewhere), the academics who have written “Dining Out,” a compelling volume, start in the Bronze Age.

Their definition of a restaurant is elastic, referring to places where strangers might have gathered to eat and drink, including the symposiums of ancient Greece.

Long before social upheavals gave rise to the modern restaurant in France, there were what we would consider to be restaurants in 12th-century China; the authors cite a traveler’s memoir of a huge dumpling house with more than 50 ovens. (The influence of Chinese restaurants globally is significant.)

The book discusses the economic and technological evolution of restaurants; restaurant service and hierarchy; tipping; the influence of transportation; sexism; chain restaurants; and food writing up to the present day.

“Dining Out: A Global History of Restaurants” by Katie Rawson and Elliott Shore (Reaktion Books, $35).


The site lies east of Yarmouth, and the new platform is the most intact, wooden Middle Stone Age structure ever found in the UK. The site is now 11 meters below sea level and during the period there was human activity on the site, it was dry land with lush vegetation. Importantly, it was at a time before the North Sea was fully formed and the Isle of Wight was still connected to mainland Europe.

The site was first discovered in 2005 and contains an arrangement of trimmed timbers that could be platforms, walkways or collapsed structures. However, these were difficult to interpret until the Maritime Archaeological Trust used state of the art photogrammetry techniques to record the remains. During the late spring the new structure was spotted eroding from within the drowned forest. The first task was to create a 3-D digital model of the landscape so it could be experienced by non-divers. It was then excavated by the Maritime Archaeological Trust during the summer and has revealed a cohesive platform consisting of split timbers, several layers thick, resting on horizontally laid round-wood foundations.

Garry continued "The site contains a wealth of evidence for technological skills that were not thought to have been developed for a further couple of thousand years, such as advanced wood working. This site shows the value of marine archaeology for understanding the development of civilization. Being underwater, there are no regulations that can protect it. Therefore, it is down to our charity, with the help of our donors, to save it before it is lost forever."

This material, coupled with advanced wood working skills and finely crafted tools suggests a European, Neolithic (New Stone Age) influence. The problem is that it is all being lost. As the Solent evolves, sections of the ancient land surface are being eroded by up to half a meter per year and the archaeological evidence is disappearing.


Experts are trying to find out as much about Dinas Dinlle as possible before it falls into the sea A huge Iron Age roundhouse, thought to be about 2,500 years old, and roman pottery have been uncovered during an archaeological dig at a coastal fort. Volunteers have joined experts to find out more about the little-known Dinas Dinlle National Trust-owned monument in Gwynedd before it falls into the sea. The 43ft (13m) wide roundhouse was buried by coastal sand, thought to have blown there during a sandstorm in 1330. Coins found at the fort near Caernarfon suggest it was occupied in Roman times.

The "well-preserved" roundhouse - with its 8ft (2.5m) thick walls - was uncovered close to the cliff edge buried underneath 3ft (1m) of sand during a two-week dig. "In another trench we have another big wall which may be another roundhouse but we're not entirely sure yet. "The main problem is that everything is under a meter of sand and we're wondering if it blew in in the big storm in 1330 - so it looks like it's been buried for a long time and it's superbly preserved."

Archaeologists' initial estimations think the Roman pottery could be from around 200 to 300 AD while the fort is thought to be from the Iron Age, which dates from around 800 BC to 43 AD. "That's not to say Romans occupied the site but perhaps a tribe lived there that traded with the Romans," said Dan Amor, of the Gwynedd Archaeological Trust. Experts predict, due to climate change, the 125-acre Dinas Dinlle site could be completely lost within 500 years.

This is the first archaeological excavation of the hillfort that formed part of a golf course in the early 20th Century before a pill box was constructed on the site during the Second World War. Early maps and the curve of the defences suggest the fort was once entirely enclosed but part of the western defenses have been lost to the sea following thousands of years of coastal erosion.


Νew archaeological discoveries from excavations at the site of the ancient city Troy in Turkey’s northwestern Canakkale province suggest that people had settled in the area six centuries earlier than experts had previously believed. According to a report from the Daily Sabah, Rustem Aslan from the Archeology Department of Canakkale Onsekiz Mart University (COMU) stated that the ancient city of Troy had been destroyed and re-established many times because of war, fires, and earthquakes.

A total of 10 layers of settlements, or cities, had been discovered as a result of 156 years of archaeological excavations carried out in the city in the south of the Dardanelles, and each layer had been named and numbered, from Troy I to Troy XI. Aslan declared that this year they came across a new layer — which they have decided to call “Troy 0.”

“We found traces of burns, pottery and wooden beams in the Troy 0 layer,” Aslan told the Daily Sabah, adding that the new findings put the founding history of Troy centuries back into antiquity. “This shows that the settlement’s history dates back to some 5,500 years before our day,” Aslan explained. In other words, the new discoveries indicate that the storied city was likely founded around the year 3,500 BC. The archaeologist said that previously unearthed layers of human settlement belonged to a period between 3000 BC and 1300 AD, all the way from ancient Greek times to the Byzantine era.

The Turkish government had declared 2018 the “Year of Troy” in honor of the 20th anniversary of the ancient city’s recognition as a priceless UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The city of Troy was at the center of the Trojan War, which took place in approximately the 13th century BC. The entire war was immortalized by the Greek poet Homer in his epic “The Iliad,” which described the Achaeans’ besieging of the city in a desperate attempt to conquer it.


Two hundred and fifty years ago, on August 15, Napoleone di Buonaparte was born in the small city of Ajaccio in Corsica. He later changed his name to Napoleon Bonaparte and became a leader who not only changed the face of Europe but also of the Middle East.

In December 1797, as a 29-year-old general, Napoleon returned victorious from his campaign in Italy, but England remained the principal enemy. The French Directory (the French Revolutionary government from November 1795 to November 1799) wanted to declare war on England and march on London, but did not have the resources to achieve that ambitious goal. It seemed easier to fight British influence in the Levant, so Napoleon was requested by the directory to test the power of the British Army by cutting its communication lines to India and damaging its trade route eastward. France couldn’t fight the British in England, so it fought them in Egypt.

Indeed, in May 1798, Napoleon set out to Egypt with the Armée d’Orient, including 40,000 soldiers, 10,000 sailors and 800 horses. He led the expedition aboard L’Orient, the 120-gun flagship of the Escadre d’Orient, a fleet of 55 warships tasked with the operation, sailing along with 300 transport ships departing from various French ports. Only a few knew the secret destination of the campaign, among them the scholars Gaspard Monge and Claude-Louis Berthollet.

Although the purpose of the campaign was primarily political – to drive the English out of the Middle East and weaken their trade – the military expedition also had indisputable scientific and cultural aspects. On these specific points it proved to be a success, and for many it helped to shape the oriental myth of Bonaparte. The French statesman and military leader commissioned a delegation of more than 160 intellectuals to accompany the French Army to Egypt. Caffarelli du Falga, who perished during the siege of Acre, commanded the delegation. Caffarelli’s tomb was discovered in 1969 in a small cemetery near the Galilee College. Napoleon also brought a library on board from which he sourced the three holy books he read during his journey at sea.

At an early stage, Napoleon decided to establish a scientific institution in Egypt, following the model of the National Institute of France (of which Napoleon was a member). Soon after reaching Cairo, and after the July 21, 1798, Battle of the Pyramids, he directed Berthollet and Monge to establish what would become the Institute of Egypt.

THE SCHOLARS of the Napoleonic Egyptian Scientific Expedition documented and researched all aspects of Egyptian civilization, ancient and modern alike. They produced a vast amount of knowledge, condensed into a monumental work called Description d’Egypte whose first volumes were published in 1809. The work was finally concluded in 1828, and a total of 23 volumes were included in the first “Imperial” edition. Three of these were the largest books ever to be printed, standing over one meter tall.

The first city the French forces encountered during the campaign was Alexandria, founded by Alexander the Great. The city was famous because of the Lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and because it housed the most extensive library known at the time.

Napoleon conquered Egypt. His forces marched 12 hours every day, sometimes in the burning sand. Suffering from the heat and lack of water, soldiers collapsed and died. Blinding sunlight also took its toll as some soldiers went blind. Morale was usually low, and scores of men developed diseases such as dysentery and bubonic plague.

In the end, Napoleon wasn’t able to take Acre, and he lifted the siege on May 17, 1799, returning to France via Egypt. On the way back, his forces were severely hit by bubonic plague. The famous painting of Antoine-Jean Gros, Bonaparte Visits the Plague Stricken in Jaffa, depicts that dark episode. Regardless, his defeat of the first Ottoman Army of Syria at Mount Tabor on April 16 allowed him to march triumphantly into Cairo on June 14.

That historic episode and the situation today remind us of the constant instability of the Middle East. Over the centuries, the region has been a magnet for foreign interventions, rarely reaching unity. Napoleon helped to understand the past through his scientific discoveries but had difficulties grappling with the challenges of his time.

We have similar challenges today. Global powers like Russia, the US and China are competing for influence in the Middle East. France, Britain and the Ottomans fought back then for the same reasons. As can be seen through Napoleon’s campaigns, Israel’s northern border invites great challenges and hardships. It is known to be a difficult and challenging military theater. This has been true for millennia: 2,000 years ago during the Hellenistic period’s Syrian Wars; 1000 years ago with the Crusades; 200 years ago with Napoleon; 50 years ago with Syria; and today with Israel’s campaign – in-between wars – against Hezbollah and Iran.

Monday, August 19, 2019


With just a week to go for the festival of Krishna Janmashtami, India on August 15 regained possession of a priceless bronze Navaneetha Krishna, thanks to a rare instance of moral courage by an art collector from London. After U.S. authorities charged Indian antiquities dealer Subhash Kapoor with possession of stolen property last June, the London-based connoisseur, who had bought a few artifacts from him, came forward to U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), expressing a desire to surrender the pieces. The artifacts were recovered in June this year.

On Thursday, authorities in the U.S. and U.K. formally handed over a lime stone relief, originally from Andhra Pradesh, and the bronze Krishna to the Indian High Commissioner in London. Kapoor is lodged in Tiruchi prison and faces criminal cases for illegally exporting idols and artifacts from temples in Tamil Nadu. He was also charged by U.S. HSI for operating a massive smuggling ring, allegedly run from his New York gallery. The two artifacts from India are linked to one of the most prolific art smugglers in the world, who was recently charged in Manhattan, New York. An individual in the United Kingdom who possessed the items came forward to HSI expressing a desire to surrender the pieces.

A preliminary examination has dated the limestone relief to between the first Century BC to first Century AD. The Krishna bronze is estimated to be from 17th Century from Tamil Nadu. Both items will be subject to further examination by domain experts at a later date to establish their exact period and original location. The repatriated antiques are just two of more than 2,600 antiquities that have been recovered around the world. The investigation remains ongoing, the Home Land Security Investigation said in a release.

S. Vijay Kumar, art enthusiast and founder of India Pride that tracks Indian antiques, said there is strong reason to believe that the relief could be from Buddhist Vaddamanu site near Guntur. “The theft from the Buddhist site in Andra Pradesh comes close on the heels of thefts from the Chandavaram site. Very little is known about Vaddamanu site and to see that robbers have targeted the freshly excavated sites is shocking,” he said.


Two artifacts, linked to one of the world’s largest smuggling rings, have been repatriated to India through a joint US-UK operation.

In June this year an unnamed London-based collector came forward to the US Department of Homeland Security (HSI), “expressing a desire to surrender the pieces”, according to a report released by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).


Several stones fell from the vaulted ceiling of fire-ravaged Notre Dame after last month’s European heat wave, a French official said Wednesday, urging renewed stabilization efforts to prevent further damage to the iconic Paris cathedral.

The Culture Ministry official said the stones crumbled after temperatures reached a record 108.7 Fahrenheit (42.6 Celsius () in Paris in late July. The official said heat quickly dried out the mortar that was holding the ceiling stones in place.

The damage is “not serious” but the 12th-century cathedral remains at risk of further damage — and possible collapse, the official told The Associated Press.

The vaulted ceiling is particularly fragile, after the April fire destroyed the massive lead-and-wood roof that kept the cathedral’s overall structure stable. The ceiling vaults are also among the many features that make Notre Dame a treasure of world heritage and testament to medieval ingenuity.


To the rescue comes Jodi Magness in her new book, Masada: From Jewish Revolt to Modern Myth. Magness, a prominent archaeologist and a professor at the University of North Carolina, studied when young with the great Yadin and now oversees the fruitful, though less famous, dig at Huqoq in Galilee.

The Masada story, as it’s generally known, goes like this: Herod the Great, famous for colossal building projects (and for murdering his own relatives) built a grand winter palace there around 31 BCE. Nearly a century later, in 66 CE, when the Jews revolted against their Roman overlords, a contingent of rebels known as the Zealots fled to the palace and held out as the rest of Judea succumbed.

In Zionism’s early years, that story helped turn Masada into a powerful symbol. But it’s been a rough few decades for Zionist symbols, and for the Masada mythology. Many scholars now doubt that a mass suicide of Jewish defenders actually occurred; despite Yadin’s best efforts, the archaeological evidence remains ambiguous. The only source for the story is Josephus Flavius, the Jewish rebel commander turned Roman historian who described the event in rousing, gory detail in his The Jewish War. He left us a precise number—967—for the men, women, and children who died on the hilltop as the legions broke through. But no mass grave has ever been found, and no other account has come to light.

In Masada, Magness does an admirable job of explaining to a general audience where current scholarship stands: an especially valuable service to a reader who, like me, might know the story but couldn’t quite tell you where the line runs between evidence and wishful thinking. Magness comes neither to mythologize nor to myth-bust, but rather to explain what she and her colleagues have actually found in the soil, what can reliably be said to have happened, and what will have to remain unresolved.

If you come to the site assuming that the Josephus account is true, as Yadin did, you’ll find evidence—like those three dramatic skeletons by the pool—to support it. But if you discard that account you might conclude, like another archaeologist, that the skeletons were just a jumble of bones dragged into a corner of the palace by hyenas. If you think the suicide happened as Josephus describes, with the rebels drawing lots, then ceramic shards inscribed with Hebrew names will seem like those lots. But if you’re a skeptic you might conclude that the shards had to do, more prosaically, with the distribution of food.

Magness weighs the evidence and reaches a responsible conclusion: “I am often asked if I believe there was a mass suicide at Masada,” she writes, “to which I respond that this is not a question that archaeology is equipped to answer.” Despite the desire for a tale of heroic sacrifice, such a tale might be an invention or an exaggeration. And yet, despite the modern fashion for debunking anything that smells like heroism, it could also be true.

Equally memorable, in Magness’s book, are the insights unconnected to the controversy. For example: although the Masada rebels are usually referred to as Zealots, the Greek term for one Judean faction, the dominant party on the hill was actually the Sicarii (Latin for “daggermen”), a nastier group whom Magness, channeling Josephus, describes as “urban terrorists.” This rebel sect didn’t fight only the Romans. In 68 CE, about five years before the fortress finally fell, Josephus recounts, they massacred hundreds of their fellow Jews in a raid on the nearby town of Ein Gedi.

Among the Jewish women taking refuge on the hill, we learn from ceramic shards, was a certain Shalom the Galilean, as well as “the daughter of Domli” and “the wife of Jacob.” They wore hair nets that seem to have been dyed to match the color of their hair. As the end approached, a couple named Joseph and Miriam somehow found time to get divorced; the religious paperwork, or get in Hebrew, was found in a cave nearby. A child left a sock.

More detail comes from the Roman army camps, their outlines still visible beneath the hill, built by Tenth Legion soldiers and auxiliaries commanded by Flavius Silva: hobnailed military sandals, the cheek-guard of a helmet, bronze scales from armor worn by light infantry, triple-pointed arrows. Potsherds inform us of the presence of legionnaires named Aemilius, Fabius, and Terentius. A grunt named C. Messius of Beirut left behind a military pay slip. One papyrus

Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem found in Mt. Zion excavation

Researchers digging at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte's ongoing archaeological excavation on Mount Zion in Jerusalem have announced a second significant discovery from the 2019 season—clear evidence of the Babylonian conquest of the city from 587/586 BCE.

The discovery is of a deposit including layers of ash, arrowheads dating from the period, as well as Iron Age potsherds, lamps and a significant piece of period jewelry—a gold and silver tassel or earring. There are also signs of a significant Iron Age structure in the associated area, but the building, beneath layers from later periods, has yet to be excavated.

The Mount Zion Archaeological Project, co-directed by UNC Charlotte professor of history Shimon Gibson, Rafi Lewis, a senior lecturer at Ashkelon Academic College and a fellow of Haifa University, and James Tabor, UNC Charlotte professor of religious studies, has been in operation for over a decade and has made numerous significant finds relating to the ancient city's many historical periods, including the announcement made in July, 2019 on evidence concerning the sack of the city during the First Crusade. The current find is one of the oldest and perhaps the most prominent in its historical significance, as the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem is a major moment in Jewish history.

"The arrowheads are known as 'Scythian arrowheads' and have been found at other archaeological conflict sites from the 7th and 6th centuries BCE. They are known at sites outside of Israel as well. They were fairly commonplace in this period and are known to be used by the Babylonian warriors. Together, this evidence points to the historical conquest of the city by Babylon because the only major destruction we have in Jerusalem for this period is the conquest of 587/586 BCE," he said. The clay artifacts also help date the discovery. The lamps, Gibson notes, are the typical high-based pinched lamps of the period.

"Frankly, jewelry is a rare find at conflict sites, because this is exactly the sort of thing that attackers will loot and later melt down."

"I like to think that we are excavating inside one of the 'Great Man's houses' mentioned in the second book of Kings 25:9," Gibson speculated. "This spot would have been at an ideal location, situated as it is close to the western summit of the city with a good view overlooking Solomon's Temple and Mount Moriah to the north-east. We have high expectations of finding much more of the Iron Age city in future seasons of work. "

The unexpected and rare piece of jewelry found is apparently a tassel or earring, with a bell-shaped gold upper part. Clasped beneath is a silver part made in the shape of a cluster of grapes. Gibson noted that this discovery of jewelry "is a unique find and it is a clear indication of the wealth of the inhabitants of the city at the time of the siege." The only other discovery of jewelry in Jerusalem from this period was made many years ago in 1979 in an Iron Age tomb at Ketef Hinnom outside the city.

The researchers say that finding evidence of a critical historical event is what makes the discovery particularly exciting. Lewis, another co-director of the project, explained that "It is very exciting to be able to excavate the material signature of any given historical event, and even more so regarding an important historical event such as the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem."

By all accounts the Babylonian conquest of the city by the Neo-Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar was ferocious and resulted in a great loss of life, with the razing of the city and the burning of houses, and the plundering and dismantling of King Solomon's Temple to God. The local ruler of the Kingdom of Judah, King Zedekiah, made an attempt to flee the city with his retinue, but was eventually caught and taken captive to Babylon.

The Babylonian siege of Jerusalem lasted for quite a while even though many of the inhabitants wanted to give up. "King Zedekiah simply was not willing to pay tribute to Nebuchadnezzar and the direct result of this was the destruction of the city and the Temple", said Gibson.

The complex architectural sequence of superimposed structures dating back 3000 years or so is being carefully mapped by a team of recorders and draftsmen headed by Steve Patterson. The University of North Carolina at Charlotte has been conducting archaeological excavations in Jerusalem since 2006 and much vital historical and archaeological information has been steadily extracted from the digging operations.

Monday, August 05, 2019


To many, ancient Egypt is synonymous with the pharaohs and pyramids of the Dynastic period starting about 3,100 BC. Yet long before that, about 9,300-4,000 BC, enigmatic Neolithic peoples flourished. Indeed, it was the lifestyles and cultural innovations of these peoples that provided the very foundation for the advanced civilizations to come.

One reason why we know so little about Neolithic Egypt is that the sites are often inaccessible, lying beneath the Nile's former flood plain or in outlying deserts.With permission from Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) we—members of the Combined Prehistoric Expedition – explore Neolithic sites in Egypt's western desert. The sites we are currently excavating lie along the former shores of an extinct seasonal lake near a place called Gebel Ramlah.

Though not lush, the Neolithic was wetter than today, which allowed these ancient herders to populate what is now the middle of nowhere. We focus on the Final Neolithic (4,600-4,000 BC), which was built on the success of the Late Neolithic (5,500-4,650 BC) with domesticated cattle and goats, wild plant processing and cattle burials. These people also made apparent megaliths, shrines and even calendar circles—which look a bit like a mini Stonehenge.

In 2001-2003 we excavated three cemeteries from this era—the first in the western desert—where we uncovered and studied 68 skeletons. The graves were full of artifacts, with ornamental pottery, sea shells, stone and ostrich eggshell jewelry. We also discovered carved mica (a silicate mineral) and animal remains, as well as elaborate cosmetic tools for women and stone weapons for men.
We learned that these people enjoyed low childhood mortality, tall stature and long life. Men averaged 170 cm, while women were about 160 cm. Most men and women lived beyond 40 years, with some into their 50s—a long time in those days.

Astonishingly, the largest of these two cemeteries had a separate burial area for children under three years of age, but mostly infants including late-term fetuses. Three women buried with infants were also found, so perhaps they died in childbirth. In fact, this is the world's earliest known infant cemetery.

The sites also shed light on the family structures of the time. The overall sex ratio across all cemeteries is three women to each man, which may indicate polygamy. However, the total number of burials and a lack of reference to individual houses suggests these were extended family cemeteries.

These behavioral indicators, together with the seemingly innovative technological and ceremonial architecture mentioned earlier, such as the calendar circles and shrines, imply a level of sophistication well beyond that of simple herders. Taken together, the findings provide a glimpse of things yet to come in Ancient Egypt.

In fact, the pace of destruction has increased significantly since 2001. Once exposed, the context of these sites can be lost and organic material can get sandblasted to bits. This means that if we hadn't discovered these remains when we did, they would have soon been lost forever. But sadly this likely means that other sites from the time are literally disappearing. For that reason, we and the SCA have decided that, when we have studied our material, all will be reburied on site to, hopefully, survive for thousands more years.

Monday, July 22, 2019


New research is helping the hunt for missing art, largely amassed by Hitler, then re-stolen by desperate Germans in the closing days of the war. Chaos reigned in the bomb-ravaged streets of Munich on April 29, 1945. American troops were closing in. Hitler was a day away from killing himself in his bunker in Berlin. The Nazi guards who protected important buildings had fled.

Hungry crowds stormed the Führerbau, the Führer’s building. First they looted the food, the liquor and the furniture. Then they turned to the air-raid cellar, which was filled with art, climbing over piles of Panzerfaust anti-tank grenades to get at the paintings. “By the end of the second day,” Edgar Breitenbach, an art intelligence officer in the United States Army, wrote in a 1949 report “when the looting was finally stopped, all the pictures were gone.”

Institute for Art History in Munich has conducted the first comprehensive investigation into the fate of the art that was stored in the Führer’s building and the adjacent Nazi headquarters. A lot of it had been ferried there by dealers who scavenged for art across occupied Europe to help fill Hitler’s planned “Führermuseum” in Linz, his hometown. Most of those works were already stored in Austrian salt mines to protect them from bombings.

But the Munich buildings still held some 1,500 works, the researchers found, and at least 700 were looted in the two-day spree — many more than previously thought. Much of the art was already stolen property, having been confiscated by the Nazis from Jewish collections. Hundreds of the works stored there, for example, had been taken from the family of Adolphe Schloss, a French Jew who had collected the Dutch and Flemish old masters that Hitler revered.

In the aftermath of the looting, the authorities were able to recover almost 300 paintings, many in the weeks after the plunder. Some were found buried in a nearby potato patch. In 1948, 30 paintings were found in a house a few minutes’ walk from the Führerbau.

So far, the research has managed to find traces of some three dozen of the missing works. One is in the Fisher Museum of Art at the University of Southern California, which discovered 14 years ago that a painting in its collection had been looted from the Führerbau. The painting by Gerard Dou, “Still Life With Book and Purse,” entered the collection in 1964 as part of a donation by Armand Hammer, who had purchased it in New York in 1947. But its prewar ownership history, and the circumstances of how it went to Hitler, remain unclear.

One obstacle to the full restitution of works, even when they are found, is a principle of German law known as Ersitzung. It dictates that someone who acquires an item in good faith and possesses it for 10 years becomes the rightful owner. So in Germany, even in cases where the government seeks to restitute a work it has found, it can be difficult to dislodge it legally from a collector who bought it without knowledge that it was stolen.

In a case from 2017, the government tried to intervene when a portrait of two girls by Franz von Stuck that was destined for Linz appeared in a catalog for an auction in Cologne. The government persuaded the auction house to withdraw it from sale so researchers would have time to examine the provenance. But they found no evidence that the painting had been looted from a Jewish collection and the private collector held good title to the work under the Ersitzung rule. So the sale to another private collection went forward. Down the road, if it emerges that the work was indeed looted from a Jewish collector, experts say it may prove difficult to find again.

As the decades pass, it is certainly true that multiple transfers and legal complexities in varying jurisdictions make it increasingly hard to trace looted art and to resolve tangled questions of ownership.


Reuters reports that a 9,000-year-old settlement estimated to have covered dozens of acres of land has been discovered near Jerusalem.

As many as 2,000 to 3,000 people once lived at the site, according to researchers from the Israel Antiquities Authority. Large buildings, alleyways, and storage sheds full of legumes and seeds have been uncovered.

Bones from the site suggest the residents kept sheep in addition to planting lentils and other crops. Arrowheads, axes, sickle blades, and knives have also been uncovered.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019


A 210,000-year-old skull has been identified as the earliest modern human remains found outside Africa, putting the clock back on mankind's arrival in Europe by more than 150,000 years, researchers said Wednesday. In a startling discovery that changes our understanding of how modern man populated Eurasia, the findings support the idea that Homo sapiens made several, sometimes unsuccessful migrations from Africa over tens of thousands of years.

Two fossilised but badly damaged skulls unearthed in a Greek cave in the 1970s were identified as Neanderthal at the time. One of them, named Apidima 2 after the cave in which the pair were found, proved to be 170,000 years old and did indeed belong to a Neanderthal. But, to the shock of scientists, the skull named Apidima 1 pre-dated Apidima 2 by as much as 40,000 years, and was determined to be that of a Homo sapiens.

That makes the skull by far the oldest modern human remains ever discovered on the continent, and older than any known Homo sapiens specimen outside of Africa. Apidima 1 lacked classic features associated with Neanderthal skulls, including the distinctive bulge at the back of the head, shaped like hair tied in a bun.

Homo sapiens replaced Neanderthals across Europe for good around 45,000-35,000 years ago, in what was long considered a gradual takeover of the continent involving millenia of co-existence and even interbreeding.
But the skull discovery in Greece suggests that Homo sapiens undertook the migration from Africa to southern Europe on "more than one occasion", according to Eric Delson, a professor of anthropology at City University of New York.

Harvati said advances in dating and genetics technology could continue to shape our understanding of how our pre-historic ancestors spread throughout the world.

Monday, July 15, 2019


In a sweeping new criminal case, Subhash Kapoor, a former Manhattan art dealer the authorities describe as one of the world’s largest smugglers of antiquities, was charged Monday with running a multinational ring that trafficked in thousands of stolen objects, valued at more than $145 million, over 30 years.

Mr. Kapoor, 70, is currently jailed in India, where he has been awaiting trial on similar charges for nearly eight years. Before his downfall in 2011, he was widely feted in New York art circles for consistently obtaining remarkable items for sale and for his donations to museums. After his imprisonment in India though, federal officials referred to him as “one of the most prolific commodities smugglers in the world.”

Even though the general scope of Mr. Kapoor’s smuggling had been laid out in previous investigations, many details in the complaint filed by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office were new, and jarring.
For example, officials revealed that 39 looted antiquities, valued at $36 million, are still missing. Officials said Mr. Kapoor had been able to hide those items, even after his initial arrest in Germany in 2011, by instructing employees to entrust the most valuable ones to his family members, who moved them to “an unknown location.”

So far, some 2,600 antiquities, valued at more than $107 million, have been seized from storage locations Mr. Kapoor controlled in Manhattan and Queens during a decade-long investigation, the authorities said. The smuggling ring harvested objects from Afghanistan, Cambodia, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Thailand, the complaint said, and it created false paper trails that gave the items a patina of legitimacy, then sold them globally for large profits to collectors, art dealers and museums.

Mr. Kapoor was charged along with seven co-conspirators, most of them overseas, who would also require extradition. Arrest warrants for all eight men were filed Monday in the Criminal Court of the City of New York, along with a painstakingly detailed complaint that reconstructed a smuggling scheme stretching back to 1986. Much of the evidence put forward by the authorities, including federal agents from Homeland Security Investigations, was based on tens of thousands of records seized from Mr. Kapoor’s former Madison Avenue gallery, Art of the Past.

Those records, officials say, included detailed logs of trips Mr. Kapoor made to India to meet with conspirators, often to see the objects he would ultimately acquire. The records also show how artifacts were secreted into the United States using false import documents; how many were then shipped to London to be cleaned and restored for sale; and how the conspirators created fraudulent invoices and provenance papers asserting the items had left their nations of origin legally.

Two of the accused co-conspirators were identified as restorers who enhanced the value of the pieces — often still marked by the dirt from which they had been dug up by hired thieves — and brought them back to life as treasures. Items said to have been smuggled by the ring and later sold include Hindu and Buddhist statues in stone and bronze that are considered national treasures.

Investigators said buyers included many museums around the world, among them the Toledo Museum in Ohio and the National Gallery of Australia. Often, Mr. Kapoor would briefly lend an item to a museum to bolster its legitimacy, telling his customers the object had been vetted by reputable experts, the complaint said.

For now, the objects are being held in secure storage by both federal and local investigators.
Mr. Lederman also said he does not know why Mr. Kapoor has been held in India without trial for so long.

Mr. Kapoor’s case has been a cause célèbre in India for years, in part because it illustrated the vulnerability of that nation’s ancient treasures, many of which were in remote, unguarded temples that were easy targets for thieves. “The scale and brazenness of the thefts is mind-blowing,” said S. Vijay Kumar, a private investigator from Singapore who has for years tracked many of the items Mr. Kapoor is accused of stealing. Mr. Kumar said he grew suspicious after noticing that Mr. Kapoor was selling so many rare Indian idols out of New York.


Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities will organize the opening ceremony of the Bent Pyramid of the Pharaoh King Sneferu in Giza’s Dahshur archaeology area. The Bent Pyramid was one of the three pyramids built by King Sneferu. Its construction took about 14 years, and the pyramid rises from the desert at a 58-degree inclination, but the top section (above 47 meters) is built at the shallower angle of 55 degrees, lending the pyramid its very obvious ‘bent’ appearance.

The restoration works were carried out from the base of the pyramid to a height of approximately four meters. The stones were collected from around the pyramid and returned to their original places. The joints between the stone pillars, which were destroyed due to erosion, were also restored.

King Sneferu, the first king of the Fourth Dynasty, began the construction of his colossal pyramid in Maydum, but his architect Nefermaat found that Maydum did not have enough stones to build a huge pyramid. So this pyramid became a symbolic burial ground for the king, while his residence was transferred from Maydum to Dahshur, where he began to build the pyramid known as the Bent Pyramid. When the architect found that changing the angle might hinder the burial of the king should he die suddenly, he started constructing the Northern Pyramid, but Sneferu settled on being buried inside the Bent Pyramid and then turned the Step Pyramid in Maydum into a full pyramid.


A 210,000-year-old skull has been identified as the earliest modern human remains found outside Africa, putting the clock back on mankind's arrival in Europe by more than 150,000 years, researchers said Wednesday. In a startling discovery that changes our understanding of how modern man populated Eurasia, the findings support the idea that Homo sapiens made several, sometimes unsuccessful migrations from Africa over tens of thousands of years. Southeast Europe has long been considered a major transport corridor for modern humans from Africa. But until now the earliest evidence of Homo sapiens on the continent dated back only around 50,000 years.

One of them, named Apidima 2 after the cave in which the pair were found, proved to be 170,000 years old and did indeed belong to a Neanderthal. But, to the shock of scientists, the skull named Apidima 1 pre-dated Apidima 2 by as much as 40,000 years, and was determined to be that of a Homo sapiens.

That makes the skull by far the oldest modern human remains ever discovered on the continent, and older than any known Homo sapiens specimen outside of Africa.

But the skull discovery in Greece suggests that Homo sapiens undertook the migration from Africa to southern Europe on "more than one occasion", according to Eric Delson, a professor of anthropology at City University of New York. Harvati said advances in dating and genetics technology could continue to shape our understanding of how our pre-historic ancestors spread throughout the world.