Wednesday, July 18, 2018


Natalie Haynes, writer, broadcaster and classicist:
For ancient Greece, I’d recommend Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad. And if you haven’t already read The Odyssey, treat yourself to Emily Wilson’s terrific new translation. The introduction alone will probably get you through your first-year exams. Daniel Mendelsohn’s An Odyssey is a gorgeous memoir about his late father (who decided, aged 81, to join the undergraduate course Mendelsohn taught on Homer at New York’s Bard College). It is learned, funny and will make your heart hurt. And Zachary Mason’s The Lost Books of the Odyssey is a brilliant Borgesian exploration of the epic poem, if you can’t get enough of the flawed Greek hero.

As for Rome, how about Lindsey Davis’s Roman mysteries? The Silver Pigs introduced me to Marcus Didius Falco (her first-century gumshoe) when I was younger. Twenty or so books later, and they are still the place I go and hide when I’m feeling gloomy.

You could also try Robert Harris’s Cicero novels: the first two especially are great.

If you fancy something from after the end of the Roman Empire, try Stella Duffy’s luscious Theodora. And if you’d like some nonfiction about the fall of Rome, Catherine Nixey’s The Darkening Age is great.


yrian archaeologists have begun work restoring artifacts damaged by Isil during the time the jihadist group controlled the ancient city of Palmyra. A group of eight experts is attempting to reconstruct statues and sculptures recovered from the Unesco heritage site, with the help of specialists from the Pushkin Museum in Moscow.

The Syrian government lost Palmyra, one of the Middle East's most spectacular archaeological sites, when it was overrun by Isil militants who took sledgehammers and explosives to the 2nd century BC Temple of Baalshamin and the famous limestone lions guarding Al-lāt. The army recaptured it in March 2016 with the help of allied Russian forces, but lost it again briefly a few months later before reclaiming it finally in March 2017.

Unesco sent assessors to Palmyra, where they discovered the city's museum had suffered considerable damage: statues and sarcophagi too large to be removed for safekeeping had been smashed and defaced, busts had been beheaded and were lying on the ground in ruin. Russia archaeologists have since made 3D models of the destroyed temple complexes for Syrian scientists to work from. The restoration is currently being carried out in museum laboratories in Damascus.

"The work is very complicated, the terrorists have broken the sculptures into many pieces,” said Maher al-Jubari, the director of the laboratory of national museums in Syria. “We collected everything in one box and marked the parts. Now my task is to glue them together with a special solution.”

Violence has destroyed not only the country's heritage, but its infrastructure, including electricity and water systems, schools and hospitals, and other institutions needed for daily civilian life.


The Egyptian security authorities discovered an ancient Greco-Roman site in the province of Minya, after chasing a gang specialized in antiquities excavation, based on information received by the Archaeological Police in Minya, saying that a group of strange men had been frequently visiting the area of ​​"Eastern Sheba", Abu Qurqas.

Investigation showed that the arrested men formed a gang specialized in archaeological excavations, and discovered a full ancient city dating back to the second century AD and the Constantinian era, as well as an ancient church. The gang members agreed to smuggle and sell the artifacts in batches. The first batch, which was supposed to be smuggled for sale, included a large pottery with 484 ancient coins dating back to the Greco-Roman era.

According to a statement by the Interior Ministry based on the thieves’ confessions, the first suspect was planning to transport the smuggled objects in his car, however, the area was raided, and the gang has been caught with the car, the excavation equipment, the pottery, and the 484 antiquities.

The statement said that “the Ministry of the Interior is working according to a strategy aimed at preserving the country's wealth and national heritage, by tightening the security control over the archaeological areas, and combating and controlling artifacts traders, and members carrying secret excavations violating the antiquities preservation law.”

At a five-meter-deep pit, the authorities also found some pottery fragments from the excavation work, as well as the tools used. They also discovered an ancient Greek-Roman city with many rock-carved tombs extending to about 2 km, 600 meters wide, with columns and a Greek Roman church with a niche, a pillar and a cross.


Science in Poland reports that archaeologist Maciej Grzelczyk of Jagiellonian University has found hundreds of ancient rock paintings spread out over more than 50 locations in Tanzania’s Swaga Swaga Game Reserve.

Grzelczyk said the paintings, made with red or white pigments, resemble those at Kondoa, a nearby UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many of them are so faded they can only be seen with special camera filters. “Red paintings are particularly varied: In addition to the images of animals, there are also meteors or comets,” Grzelczyk said.

Some of the images may be baobab trees. “Perhaps we are dealing with images related to mythology—according to the local beliefs, baobabs played an important role in the creation of mankind,” he explained. He added that the white paintings are thought to have been made more recently, yet were never placed over the earlier red images, perhaps as a sign of respect.

The white paintings often feature giraffes and elephants, and may have played a role in fertility rituals, since the animals are often shown pregnant or during delivery. To read about early hominin footprints found in Tanzania, go to “Proof in the Prints.”


The artifacts show that our earliest human ancestors colonised East Asia over two million years ago. They were found by a Chinese team that was led by Professor Zhaoyu Zhu of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and included Professor Robin Dennell of Exeter University. The tools were discovered at a locality called Shangchen in the southern Chinese Loess Plateau. The oldest are ca. 2.12 million years old, and are c. 270,000 years older than the 1.85 million year old skeletal remains and stone tools from Dmanisi, Georgia, which were previously the earliest evidence of humanity outside Africa.

The artifacts include a notch, scrapers, cobble, hammer stones and pointed pieces. All show signs of use—the stone had been intentionally flaked. Most were made of quartzite and quartz that probably came from the foothills of the Qinling Mountains 5 to 10 km to the south of the site, and the streams flowing from them. Fragments of animal bones 2.12 million years old were also found.

The Chinese Loess Plateau covers about 270,000 square kilometres, and during the past 2.6m years between 100 and 300m of wind-blown dust—known as loess—has been deposited in the area.

Discovery of ancient tools in China suggests humans left Africa earlier than previously thought. The 80 stone artifacts were found predominantly in 11 different layers of fossil soils which developed in a warm and wet climate. A further 16 items were found in six layers of loess that developed under colder and drier conditions. These 17 different layers of loess and fossil soils were formed during a period spanning almost a million years. This shows that early types of humans occupied the Chinese Loess Plateau under different climatic conditions between 1.2 and 2.12 million years ago.

The layers containing these stone tools were dated by linking the magnetic properties of the layers to known and dated changes in the earth's magnetic field.

Read more at:

Sunday, July 08, 2018


St-Dié-des-Vosges is a small, leafy town in the Meurthe valley in north-east France. It lies 68km south-west of Strasbourg in France, 93km north-west of Basel in Switzerland and 74km north-west of Freiburg in Germany. Today, due to modern maps and precise methods of measuring longitude and latitude, we can pinpoint exactly where it is on the planet. However, a few hundred years ago, when much of the world was mysterious and unknown, a group of European humanists came together here to produce an extraordinary map of the world – one that differed radically from what came before, and whose effects are still with us today.

This town is responsible for giving the entire continent of America its name

The map, printed in 1507, measured about 1.4m by 2.4m, a size that matched its grand ambition to portray the world in its entirety. And indeed, it did depict more of the world than ever before. For centuries, Europeans had believed that the world was made up of three landmasses: Asia, Africa and Europe, with Jerusalem at its cente. That’s why Italian explorer and coloniser for Spain, Christopher Columbus, had gone to his deathbed just a year earlier believing that where he had landed in the Americas was just another part of Asia. However, this new map depicted a fourth part of the world for the first time. To the left of Europe, it showed a long, thin version of South America, with a small-sized North America above it. The new continent was surrounded by water, and, on the part that is known today as Brazil, the map-makers placed a name: America.


Researchers have long debated whether the people who lived here between 800 and 1300 AD were self-sufficient or relied partially or entirely on imported food to survive. These ancestral Puebloans built elaborate adobe structures, some of them four stories tall and recessed among cliff faces under the hot New Mexico sun. UC's soil analysis suggests that the most significant challenge for growing crops was irrigation. That's where ancestral Puebloans demonstrated particularly adroit farming skills and perceptive land management, said Jon-Paul McCool, a UC graduate and lead author of the study.

"The major limitation is water. You couldn't rely on rain for field agriculture," McCool said. "You'd have to gather and control water, which we know people in the region did." McCool earned PhD and master's degrees in geography and museum studies at UC and now teaches at Valparaiso University.

The study was published in June in the journal PLOS ONE.

Dunning said the study was able to determine that the soils could support agriculture in Chaco Canyon and that irrigation canals found at the site were built at least as early as the eighth century. "The evidence is compelling that they produced most of the food that they consumed in Chaco Canyon and devised sophisticated irrigation strategies to do it," Dunning said.

Today, Chaco Canyon sees about 9 inches of rain per year, four times less than the breadbasket of the American Midwest. To make the most of this precious resource, ancestral Puebloans built elaborate canals to divert rainfall to their farm fields. UC researchers re-examined soil samples taken from sites in and around Chaco Canyon. While some of these sites indeed did have saline levels too high to support agriculture, that was the exception, researchers found. Instead, researchers found that the desert soils were not much different from soils in other parts of the Southwest where agriculture was practiced. "The evidence is persuasive that they grew their own food," Dunning said.

UC's team consisted of geologists, archaeologists and biologists. They spent weeks each summer studying different aspects of Chaco Canyon. Many of the study sites are accessible only by foot so researchers would hike in at dawn before the afternoon heat became too oppressive. A collapsible tent shelter provided some relief from the sun.

UC's research is adding to what scientists already know about ancestral Puebloans in New Mexico. These former occupants of Chaco Canyon left behind evidence of having traded goods with people from distant places. Archaeologists have found seashells from California and macaw feathers and cacao from Mexico.

The people of Chaco Canyon left behind petroglyphs carved into the rock -- drawings of animals, people and symbols. These included the famed "Sun Dagger," a notch in a slot canyon that casts a dagger-shaped beam of light onto a shaded rock face upon which is a carved petroglyph spiral that marks the sun dagger's path across the wall over the four seasons. They also were known for their turquoise carvings, including a famous frog figure among the collection of the National Park Service.

Scientists still aren't sure why the population of Chaco Canyon declined over the centuries. Chaco Canyon continued to be occupied intermittently after 1300.


When archaeologists arrived on the scene of an unassuming field in Suffolk, England, they didn’t expect to find much in the way of significant archaeological relics. They had been hired by the energy company ScottishPower to make sure that the area was clear of artifacts before beginning a planned construction project. But “[the field] didn’t really point to much being there,” Claire Halley of Wardell Armstrong, the company that oversaw the dig, tells Rory Smith of CNN. “It didn’t register as a site of great potential.”

As they dug into the field, archaeologists hit upon what appeared to be a wooden walkway, which they initially believed was built during the medieval period. But radiocarbon dating of the wood revealed that the construction was, in fact, a Neolithic trackway that dates to approximately 2300 B.C.

Around 100 feet of the timber walkway and a host of other intriguing artifacts were unearthed during the excavation, according to Maev Kennedy of the Guardian. Archaeologists found wooden posts that seemed to mark the route of the trackway, which seemed to lead up to a platform, Kennedy writes. Along the trackway were white pebbles not commonly seen in the area, indicating that they were transported there deliberately. The team also discovered the hulking skull of an aurochs, an extinct wild ox, which had been cut in a way that suggests it sat atop a pole or was used as a headdress. The skull was already 2,000 years old when the trackway was built, so it likely held profound significance to the people who brought it to the area.

These artifacts offer compelling evidence to suggest that the trackway was a ritual site. Neolithic peoples “weren’t living here,” Vinny Monahan, one of the archaeologists involved in the excavation, tells Kennedy. “[T]hey made this place deliberately and they were coming here because it was important to them.”

Natural water springs, which were unearthed by the dig, have kept the trackway in remarkably good condition. According to a ScottishPower statement, the wood is in such good condition that archaeologists can identify two different sets of markings; one set, archaeologists believe, was made by an apprentice, while the other was made by a more experienced craftsman who took over the job. The presence of the springs may also explain why the site was chosen “as a special place” more than 4,000 years ago, the statement notes.

The site was used for hundreds of years by several ancient cultures. A Neolithic enclosure found in the area was built 500 years before the trackway. Archaeologists also found a Bronze Age enclosure, an Iron Age ditch, Roman ditches and the remains of Saxon buildings. According to Kennedy, the site was filled in the 11th century, which buried the springs and the artifacts that surrounded them.

“Undoubtedly this is a site of international archaeological significance,” Richard Newman, associate director at Wardell Armstrong, said in the statement. “It is exceptionally rare to find preserved organic materials from the Neolithic period, and we will learn a great deal from this discovery.”

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Sunday, July 01, 2018


For millennia, the cold has conserved ivory artifacts, driftwood houses and human remains in often near-perfect conditions. But with faster and more severe climate change in the poles than the rest of the world, the situation has become desperate, with far more sites that will soon be lost than scientists have the time or resources to document. "An increasing number of ancient sites and structures around the world are now at risk of being lost," said the study published Thursday in the research journal Antiquity.
"Once destroyed, these resources are gone forever, with irrevocable loss of human heritage and scientific data."

There are at least 180,000 sites in an area that covers more than 12 million square kilometers (4.6 million square miles) in Canada, Russia, Alaska and Greenland.

Researchers pointed to an Inuit village on the Mackenzie River delta that was the site of first European contact, as an example of lost heritage. In 1826, a member of explorer John Franklin's famed Arctic expedition reported 17 winter houses and a communal structure there. Today, there is nothing left. "It is often assumed that the remoteness and the climate associated with these sites provide protection enough... however, climate change means that this may no longer be the case," the study concluded, noting that Arctic temperatures have risen twice as fast as in temperate regions. Paradoxically, their remoteness also make it hard for scientists to reach these sites.

Last month, an organized a panel of 30 archaeologists and indigenous leaders to brainstorm an emergency response to the "crisis."

Other effects of global warming cited in the study include storms, the growth of vegetation covering the landscape, tundra fires, resource development, and the arrival of tourists navigating increasingly ice-free Arctic waters and illegally picking over coastal archaeological sites for souvenirs. For most archaeological sites, experts are recommending excavation and high resolution documentation—which includes the collection of artifacts, mapping out their exact locations and compiling the data for later study.


Sunday, June 24, 2018


No Roman Empire. No Mongols. No ancient Chinese dynasties or early Indian states. And you can forget about the Incan and Aztec empires before the Europeans dropped their anchors. That’s a sample of what would be missing from the Advanced Placement World History exam if the College Board, the nonprofit organization that owns the A.P. program, follows through with a plan to start the test material at the year 1450.

The board’s announcement last month that it would drastically revise the test prompted a swift backlash from history educators across the country, many who assert that the move would turn the course into a meditation on the rise of the West. “They couldn’t have picked a more Eurocentric date,” said Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks, president of the World History Association and a former developer of the exam and course.

The College Board is reconsidering its decision in response to the vocal opposition, Trevor Packer, the head of the organization’s A.P. program, said in an interview. The board is now weighing moving the start date to “several centuries earlier” than 1450, he said. The final decision will be announced in July.

The College Board’s original plan would have split A.P. World History into a two-year course, with the first year covering material from before 600 B.C.E. to 1450. Mr. Packer said the plan, set to take effect starting in the 2019-20 school year, was based on feedback from teachers that they struggled to cover 100 centuries of material in one year.

Other world history teachers fear their diverse groups of students will lose the chance to learn about Asia, Africa and the Americas before European dominance. Amanda DoAmaral, who taught A.P. World History for five years in Oakland, Calif., said she valued the way the curriculum allowed students of color to learn about eras in which empires other than those in the West were in power.

For other world history purists, the only correct syllabus is the current one. All 10,000 years of it.


Riding a camel and fighting like a Bedouin tribesman, T.E. Lawrence played a leading role as a British adviser to Prince Feisal during the Arab revolt against Turkish rule (1916–1918) and was clearly torn between his pro-British and pro-Arab sympathies. As an adviser to Winston Churchill after the war, Lawrence helped establish Prince Feisal’s family, the Husseins, as rulers in the Middle East. The present King Hussein of Jordan is the beneficiary of Lawrence’s work in helping his grandfather, King Abdullah, solidify control of Transjordan.

Much of Lawrence’s story is fairly well known, But despite all this publicity, it is sometimes forgotten that Thomas Edward Lawrence (1888–1935) was a very competent Middle Eastern archaeologist before the war and that his archaeological activities and Biblical interests helped shape him for the military and political role he later played. Although his pre-war work focused on the Crusaders and on the Hittites, he contributed to the resolution of at least one important issue in Biblical archaeology and touched on several others.

Indeed, Lawrence derived his earliest interest in the Middle East from his religious training. The Bible was read in Lawrence’s home in the mornings before he and his four brothers went to school and on Sundays, and he studied the Holy Land during his Sunday school classes. Given this training and his exceptional abilities, it is not surprising that at the age of 16 Lawrence achieved distinction in an examination of religious knowledge.1

Lawrence’s family was more devout than most—with special reason. His father, originally named Chapman, was the lord of a manor in Ireland. He ran off with the family governess, leaving four daughters and a wife who never divorced him. The father and the governess
had Lawrence. He was dispossessed of his rightful inheritance because of his parents’ illicit relationship, which may have given him sympathy for the national movements of various groups who considered themselves dispossessed. It may also have strengthened his steadily developing interest in castles and their lords.

At a relatively early age, Lawrence began studying the Middle Ages, especially the time of the Crusades. When he was only nine, he took up the very British hobby of “brass rubbing,” recording the inscriptions and insignia on medieval tombs by placing a cloth over them and rubbing them with a waxy substance, leaving a black impression on the cloth. He loved medieval artifacts, including books, crypts and clothing.

At 13, Lawrence bicycled to various castles and churches in England, and during the summers of 1906 through 1908, he toured France, again on bicycle, studying castles and sending home detailed letters, sometimes accompanied by excellent sketches, concerning them. During his student days at Oxford from 1907 to 1910, these pursuits culminated in a professional interest in the great strongholds built by the Crusaders in the Holy Land. He was encouraged in this interest by D.G. Hogarth, keeper of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, who had noticed Lawrence’s exceptional abilities when Lawrence worked at the museum as an undergraduate.

Lawrence chose the topic of Crusader castles, then a relatively new subject of academic study, for his honors B.A. thesis, and in the summer of 1909 set out to do fieldwork in the Middle East. This involved a 1,100-mile walking tour in broiling heat. During that summer, Lawrence who turned 21 on August 16, 1909, visited no fewer than 36 castles in the area that now comprises Syria, Lebanon and Israel. During this trip, Lawrence, although never as religious as his mother, was nonetheless influenced by Biblical memories.

Based on this firsthand research, Lawrence’s thesis was so good that his tutor threw a dinner party in his honor and he received a “First,” the rare, highest grade possible at Oxford. The thesis was first published in 1936 and has recently been published again in two different editions. In it, Lawrence advances the controversial idea that except for the newer fortresses of the Templars, the Crusader castles were influenced almost exclusively by Western designs. The prevailing opinion at the time was that the Crusaders had been strongly influenced by Eastern architectural designs. It now appears that Lawrence was extreme in finding only Western influence in Crusader architecture, apart from that of the Templars. It is now generally agreed that all Crusader orders were influenced by both Eastern and Western castle architecture and that they often created their own unique designs. The longer the Crusaders stayed in the East, the more Eastern influence exerted itself on them.

After Lawrence’s graduation in 1910, Hogarth used a small scholarship to bring him to the dig that he himself was conducting in Jerablus, Syria. This was the site of Carchemish, the eastern capital of the ancient Hittite empire. The Hittites (and later the neo-Hittites) ruled much of the Middle East from about the 13th through the 9th century B.C.E.a They are referred to in many places in the Bible: Abraham bought the cave of Machpelah from Ephron the Hittite (Genesis 23) and both David and Solomon enlisted Hittites among their soldiers. David had Uriah the Hittite killed so that he could have Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11). Solomon apparently had Hittite wives and sold chariots and horses to the Hittites (1 Kings 10:29; 11:1). This powerful people was, however, defeated by the Assyrian king Sargon II at Carchemish in 717 B.C.E.

At this dig, Lawrence worked not only with Hogarth but with C. Leonard Woolley, who later discovered Ur of the Chaldees.b Here Lawrence served as the foreman of a group of local workers. He copied inscriptions, photographed finds, catalogued discoveries, bought antiquities and used his mechanical ingenuity to solve any small problems that would arise. This dig and the subsequent publication of its results, titled Carchemish: Report on the Excavations at Djerabis on Behalf of the British Museum, containing contributions by Lawrence, set the course of future British study of the Hittites. During the dig, Lawrence played a leading role in salvaging many important objects from a cemetery that was being looted, and recognized that some of the graves were from the later Parthian period (c. 250 B.C.E.—250 C.E.).5

As an apprentice at Carchemish, Lawrence increased his knowledge of archaeology and made worthy contributions of his own. He also took part in covering up a spying expedition—a precursor of things to come.

In December 1913 a telegram from the British Museum directed Woolley and Lawrence to join Captain Stewart Newcombe of the Royal Engineers in Beersheva, then part of Palestine, for a six-week survey. On the surface, the expedition was archaeological: to look at the Biblical, Nabatean and Byzantine sites in the northern Sinai and southern Negev deserts for the Palestine Exploration Fund. This archaeological expedition (which came to be called the Wilderness of Zin survey) received prior Turkish approval and was confined to a relatively small area. But as Lawrence wrote his mother, the real object was to spy on the Turkish defenses in southern Palestine, about a hundred miles from the Suez Canal.

Working with his mentor Leonard Woolley (who later excavated Ur), T. E. Lawrence helped draw plans of the Nabatean city Shivta that are still used. Prominent traders, merchants and caravan guides, the Nabateans controlled much of the land between the Dead Sea and the Red Sea in the first century C.E. Located in the central Negev desert, Shivta was probably founded during the reign of the Nabatean king Aretas IV (9 B.C.E.–40 C.E.), whose daughter married Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great. The city prospered as the Nabateans began to breed horses and to farm the desert.

Since Aqaba was outside the Turkish-approved survey area, Lawrence and Dahoum had to evade the Turkish police to explore this town, which would become the site of Lawrence’s most important military victory during World War I. After a daring swim during which they used an improvised raft made of their camel water-tanks, they explored the ruined structure, possibly of Crusader origins, on the Ile de Graye (now also called Jezirat Faroun and the Coral Island), about 250 yards from the Sinai coast and approximately 7 miles south of Aqaba.c Lawrence was ordered away from Aqaba after this expedition but was able to study the area north of Aqaba on his return journey to Carchemish via Petra, Maan and Damascus.

When World War I broke out in August 1914, Lawrence and Woolley were in England. They were told to finish their report on the survey quickly, to make the survey appear to have been solely archaeological in intent. While subscribers to the Palestine Exploration Fund publications received Woolley and Lawrence’s archaeological report, titled The Wilderness of Zin, Newcombe’s detailed maps and photos of the area went to the British military. The surprising thing is that this rushed book, designed as a cover for a relatively brief spying survey, remains of permanent importance in Biblical studies.

The Israeli archaeologist Rudolph Cohen has noted that Lawrence and Woolley were the first to study the remains on the Ain el-Qudeirat tell.d He bases his identification of the site as Kadesh-Barnea on the reasons given by Lawrence and Woolley in The Wilderness of Zin, and by Woolley in a 1914 article,9 even though Cohen’s own excavations uncovered no remains dating earlier than the tenth century B.C.E., the time of King Solomon. In The Wilderness of Zin, Lawrence and Woolley speculate that the tribes of Israel must have numbered some thousands and were possibly “a tribal group keeping to one district and moving a mile or two in this direction or in that as they devoured the pasture.” If so, they reasoned that only in the Kossaima district, which includes the sites of Ain el-Qudeirat, Kossaima, Muweilleh and Ain Kadeis, was there enough water and greenery to support a large tribal group. Moreover, Moses, in writing to the King of Edom, described Kadesh as “a city in the uttermost of thy border” (Numbers 20:16), and Lawrence and Woolley thought that the fortifications at Ain el-Qudeirat—assuming, on the basis of pottery, that they dated from the time of Moses—more nearly fit that description than any other site in the Kossaima area.

Woolley and Lawrence were also the first to identify the rough earthenware pottery now known as “Negev” pottery.

After the war, from 1919 to 1926, Lawrence wrote and rewrote a memoir of his role, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, which is now widely regarded as one of the finest British autobiographies of the 20th century. Given his firsthand knowledge of and meditation on the Biblical sites in the Negev and Sinai, as well as his early Biblical training, it is no surprise to find that Lawrence refers to both the Old and the New Testaments at many points in this book.

Just as interesting as Lawrence’s use of Biblical phrases are his thoughts on Judaism and Islam, which he at first regarded as too ascetic and abstract to embody real love between God and man. But as he cleansed himself of the dirt of war and politics in a pool in the Wadi Rumm, in modern Jordan, as if in a baptism, he met an old Arab man. This man, whom he names a “new prophet,” declared, “The love is from God; and of God; and towards God.” This statement seemed to overturn all of Lawrence’s theories about the distance between God and man in Judaism and Islam, and to bring those religions closer to his conception of Christianity.

Because of the trust they placed in him, Lawrence was able to play a major role in bringing together Jews and Moslems in the service of peace. In 1919, when he was at the Paris Conference, he served as go-between for Prince Feisal, the leader of Arab nationalism at that time, and Chaim Weizmann, the head of the Zionist movement, when they signed the only treaty between the two movements until the 1978 Camp David accords. Both sides pledged to help one another and to work together. When Feisal was evicted from Syria by the French in 1920, this treaty became void. But that it existed at all was thanks entirely to Lawrence’s persistence and persuasion. To get them to sign it, Lawrence may have even mistranslated a bit to convince each party that the other was being more flexible than was in fact the case. But both Feisal and Weizmann always felt that Lawrence was friendly to their movements and that he had done them a service by bringing them together.


A new book, Megalith, has re-examined the ancient geometry of Neolithic monuments and concluded they were constructed by sophisticated astronomers who understood lengthy lunar, solar and eclipse cycles and built huge stone calendars using complex geometry. One contributor, megalithic expert Robin Heath has even proposed that there exists a great Pythagorean triangle in the British landscape linking Stonehenge, the site from which the Preseli bluestones were cut in Wales, and Lundy Island, an important prehistoric site.

Pythagoras’ discovery that the sum of the areas of two squares on the sides of a triangle will add up to the area of a square on hypotenuse has been used for millennia to help builders attain perfect right-angles.

The new book, published today to coincide with today’s summer solstice, shows how within one of Stonehenge’s earliest incarnations, dating from 2750 BC, there lies a rectangle of four Sarsen stones which when split in half diagonally forms a perfect Pythagorean 5:12:13 triangle. The eight lines which radiate from the rectangle and triangles also perfectly align to important dates in the Neolithic calendar, such as the summer and winter solstices and spring and autumn equinoxes.

They also mark Imbolc, the ancient date for the beginning of Spring on February 1, Beltane, or May Day, lammas, the start of the wheat harvest and Samhain, October 31 which traditionally marked the time when cattle were brought down from summer pastures and slaughtered for the winter which has become Halloween.

Pythagorean triangles have also been found at Avebury, the inner ring of the Druid Temple in Inverness, Castlerigg in Keswick, Cumbria, Barbrook, in Derbyshire, Borrowston Rig, on the Scottish borders, and Daviot ‘B’, in Aberdeenshire. Consequently many stone ‘circle’ were not fully circular but have geometry derived from Pythagorean triangles often in whole numbers of Megalithic yards (2.72 feet) which were probably laid out using ropes and pegs.

Mr Heath added: “The phrase ‘a length of time’ may originally derive from an epoch when the length of a ruler, rope or set measure actually represented a time period—a technique manifested within many megalithic structures, which enshrine the time periods of the Sun and Moon.”

The huge stones of Stonehenge were also once surrounded by 56 wooden posts or stones which could be used for predicting eclipses as well as showing the position of the Sun and the Moon and the lunar phases. And the bluestone horseshoe in the center is thought to contain 19 stones to represent the number of years it takes for the Sun and Moon metonic cycle to go full circle and reset.

Megalith is published by Wooden Books.


Archaeologists have raised the alarm over damage caused by “nighthawks” illegally searching for treasure along Hadrian’s Wall. More than 50 holes have been found at the Brunton Turret section of the 1,900-year-old world heritage site. Nighthawks, the term for illegal metal detectorists, have targeted the turret and well-preserved section of wall, which was built by the Roman army’s 20th legion.

The ruins just south of the border are surrounded by further buried archaeological remains, which are very vulnerable to damage from nighthawks, according to Historic England. In the past three years there have been other incidents along the wall, at Corbridge, Housesteads and Steel Rigg. All the sites are scheduled monuments where using a metal detector without authorisation is a criminal offence.


A Kenyan archaeologist has discovered ancient stone artifacts in Nyeri County, opening a new frontier in the study of human origins and evolution of technology. The stone tools are similar to those found in the world-famous Olorgesailie site on the road to Lake Magadi, and which date close to 1.2 million years. Similar stone tools have been found in Kariandusi in the Rift Valley. The artifacts, which include Acheulian hand axes, were found in Gatarakwa, Kieni, on the foothills of the Aberdare Ranges.

Their discovery changes the narrative on the early human habitat as it means early man could have lived in the highlands and not just on the floor of the Rift Valley, as previously thought. Last year, an early human species classified as Australopithecus Afarensis and dating close to 3.5 million years was discovered near Ngong Hills on the outskirts of Nairobi, the first such site in the highlands.

Previously, early man was thought to have occupied the open grasslands only, but new evidence is now leading scientists to the woodlands, too. The Nyeri tools were discovered by 51-year-old archaeologist and farmer Richard Kinyua. They have a striking similarity to those used by Homo Erectus. Mr Kinyua discovered the stones in April this year on the Kiawara-Belleview Road, which is under construction. Professor Christopher Nyamai, a geologist at the University of Nairobi, described the findings as unique. He said they are being studied. Mr Kinyua’s findings came almost by chance as they were excavated unknowingly by construction workers.

“As they were grading and digging the road, I would follow them searching for clues. After the recent heavy rains, I spotted a rock that looked a bit different. I gave it a closer look and realized it was actually an early man tool,” he says. On further examination, Mr Kinyua was convinced that the rock had an identical formation to that of a hand axe made by Homo Erectus.

“Looking at the edges and the flaking on the stone, it is evident this was a hand axe used by early man,” he explains. The discovery pushed him to set up a roadside museum and to map out a study area where he dug for more clues. His efforts bore fruit and he has so far collected more than 40 artifacts. From the samples collected, he has identified tools that were possibly used by early man, among them a hand axe, light hand axe, stone hammer, flakes and discoid.

Flakes and discoid were used for slaughtering while stone hammers were for carving out tools and crushing. Mr Kinyua and various other scientists now believe early man could have lived in the highlands and not just in the Rift Valley. Theories of possible habitation of the highlands by early man emerged around 1997 after palaeontologists researched on fossils found in Gatarakwa. But there was no tangible proof to substantiate the theory. “We studied a site known as Nguruwe but there wasn’t sufficient evidence at the time. But right now these findings are enough evidence to carry forward the research,” Mr Kinyua says. With the ongoing road construction and human activities in the area, he is afraid that some crucial artifacts may be lost.

Monday, June 18, 2018


In China archaeologists have found the oldest rocks pictures

Experts explained that this discovery will push you to new stages of the study of life in ancient times. As shown by the results of the examination, inscriptions due to the unusual method of mixing paint with glue.

In China in the area of the Small Hinggan mountains (province of Kalunasan) archaeologists have found drawings on the rocks by the age of 12 thousand years. Scientists have suggested that this area was populated by hunters, because the quality of the images the artists chose mammoths. This fact also gave experts reason to believe that this is the age of the drawings.

Archaeologists said that in those days, to draw on the rocks could be using a paint called ochre, but without the impurities the duration of its preservation was not so good. Therefore, experts have suggested that the ancient inhabitants of the area mixed with glue of animal origin, so that the drawings still adorn rocks.


A fine and complex burial cave dating from the Roman period (c. 2,000 years ago) came to light a few days ago in Tiberias, in the course of development works carried out by the Tiberias municipality for a new neighborhood in the northern part of town. The contractor immediately informed the Israel Antiquities Authority after a mechanical digger exposed the cave entrance, and an antiquities inspector rushed to the site.

The rock-hewn cave comprised an entrance hall decorated with colored plaster, a central room with several burial niches, decorated ceramic and stone ossuaries (burial chambers), and a small inner chamber. Carved stone doors stood at the entrances into the rooms. In one of the chambers, Greek inscriptions were engraved with the names of the interred. These inscriptions will be studied by specialists.
The cave was probably robbed in antiquity. According to Yair Amitsur, Antiquities Inspector of Tiberias and Eastern Lower Galilee for the IAA, “the cave must have served as a burial complex for a family who lived in the town of Tiberias or in one of the adjacent villages.”

Two thousand years ago, in 18 CE, Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great and Governor of the Galilee, established the city of Tiberias and named it in honor of the Roman Emperor Tiberius. Over the centuries, Tiberias served as the capital of the Galilee, and was one of the largest cities in the country. The city extended from south of the Hamei Tveria hot springs to the center of the modern city.

In the Roman and Byzantine periods, several smaller villages grew up on the outskirts of the city, including Bet Ma’on, the home of gladiator-turned-rabbi Reish Lakish, Kofra, and Be’er Meziga. The cave must have been owned by a family from Tiberias, or from one of the surrounding villages, who chose to be interred north of Tiberias, overlooking the Lake of Galilee.

According to Amitsur, “the burial cave is a fascinating discovery since it is an almost unique find in this area. The high-quality rock-hewing, the complexity of the cave, the decorations, and the Greek inscriptions point to the cave belonging to a wealthy family, who lived in the area in the Roman period.”


—According to an Associated Press report, rock art panels and extensive flint-working areas have been discovered in Egypt’s Eastern Desert by a team of Egyptian archaeologists and researchers led by John Coleman Darnielen of Yale University.

Bulls, donkeys, Barbary sheep, an addax, and a giraffe are said to be among the images found in three areas in the Wadi Umm Tineidba.
The oldest of the panels is thought to date to the Predynastic period, between 3500 and 3100 B.C.

The team also found an ancient well, burial tumuli, and a previously unrecorded settlement dating to the Late Roman period. One of the burial tumuli contained the remains of a woman who had been buried with a strand of carnelian beads and shells from the Red Sea.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018


Why returning the Elgin Marbles to Greece would be madness
The Parthenon Sculptures have been on display in the British Museum for more than 200 years
The Parthenon Sculptures have been on display in the British Museum for more than 200 years CREDIT: GETTY
Nick Trend
5 JUNE 2018 • 10:53AM
Jeremy Corbyn declared in an interview with the Greek newspaper Ta Nea this week that, as prime minister, he would open negotiations for the return of the Elgin Marbles - more properly known as the Parthenon Sculptures - to Athens. This apparently on the grounds that the original permission for their removal 200 years ago came not from the Greeks, but from the Ottoman Empire which occupied Greece from 1458 until the 1820s.

Mr Corbyn has been making this argument for many years, but I don’t know how much thought he has given to the ramifications. From his latest statement it seems that he is anticipating a widespread repatriation of all artefacts “stolen or taken from occupied or colonial possession” included those “looted from other countries in the past”. That could quite conceivably leave the archaeological galleries of the British Museum denuded and, if applied in other countries, virtually empty many of the world’s great museums.

Let’s take this one step at a time. First, in pure academic terms, it would surely be a good thing to see all the surviving sculptures and friezes that once adorned the Parthenon re-united (and - in a perfect world - remounted on the building). That wouldn’t happen if the British Museum returned its marbles. The risk from pollution and earthquake is too great to re-install them and they would therefore join the other remnants already in the new Acropolis Museum in Athens, which has a view over the original building. And there would still be lots of missing pieces - other decorative fragments and panels from the Parthenon are held in seven other museums around the world.

There are fragments from the Parthenon held in museums around the world The immediate consequence of the repatriation would then be that the sculptures are seen by far fewer people. The Acropolis Museum gets about 1.5m a year compared with over 6m who come to the British Museum. Those 6m would not only miss out one of the high points of world art, but the sculptures could no longer be studied or appreciated against the relics of other great cultures from around the globe.

Because that is why the British Museum is so important. It - and great museums like it, from the Louvre, to the Pergamon, the Hermitage and the Met - are not just some of the biggest academic institutions and tourist attractions in the world, each is a world in it own right, an extraordinary repository of the high points of human achievement across many different cultures. For 250 years, visitors have been able to walk into the British Museum and travel in wonder through both time and space. We owe two of Keats’ greatest poems - Ode on a Grecian Urn and On Seeing the Elgin Marbles - to his visits to the British Museum. In many, many ways, the museum it is a far more important and influential cultural construct than the Parthenon. Repatriation of its treasures would destroy it forever.

And now perhaps you think I am just over-complicating things. Not that many artifacts are, in practice, being argued over. But how that would surely change if the sculptures were returned and other countries saw a chance to build new museums and fresh tourist attractions. And then it wouldn’t be me who was complicating the argument, it would be the international lawyers and nationalist politicians sensing a precedent. And once legal arguments start, things rarely end well.


Jeremy Corbyn will order the British Museum to return the Elgin Marbles to Greece if elected Prime Minister, opening the door to dozens of historical artifacts being repatriated under a Labour government.

The Labour leader has claimed that the Parthenon sculptures “belong to Greece” and that on entering Downing Street he would begin “constructive talks” with its government to begin the process of their return.

In an interview with the Greek newspaper Ta Nea, Mr Corbyn said that the Marbles had been made in Athens and had adorned the Parthenon temple for “hundreds of years” prior to some being brought to Britain in the 19th century.


Not a day goes by without new archaeological discoveries in Regio V, a hitherto largely unexplored area of the ancient Roman city of Pompeii, which was destroyed in 79 AD when Mount Vesuvius erupted, spewing hot ash and rubble over the settlement and killing over 1,000 of its inhabitants. According to Laura D’Esposito, one of the many experts toiling away to uncover the buried remains of Pompeii, the site has become an area of archaeological interest unmatched by any other.

This was the first time the press had been invited for a tour of the Regio V site since archaeologists began the painstaking work of excavation there a year ago. Since then, experts have uncovered three new domus residences, which once housed the upper echelons of Roman society. The vibrant walls, often red in typical Pompeii fashion and only slightly dulled by the passage of time, slowly come to light as excavators chip away at the layers of encrusted ash.

One such domus was dubbed the “house of the dolphins” after a depiction of two golden dolphins adorning its interior wall. Teams on site have also found upturned Roman pots and jugs, left in situ where they were laid out in the sun to dry on that fateful day.

These relics owe their well-preserved condition to the fact that they have spent the better part of two millennia suspended in a pile of ash and rubble sandwiched between the ground and a collapsing wall.

Perhaps the best-known finding in Regio V so far is the skeleton of a man whose flight from the eruption was brought to an abrupt end when a huge rock smashed him in the face. Images of his remains were shared by media the world over.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018


In an area below the southern wall of the Temple Mount, across the road from the City of David, Hebrew University Prof. Eilat Mazar revealed construction and fortification walls, which she contends date back to the time of King Solomon. Based on distinctive pottery shards, she identified the city wall which Solomon built on the edge of the Kidron Valley (Kings, I, 3:1). The 6-meter-high wall, built on bedrock, she says, was part of a 10th century BCE city gate and tower system that provided access to and protected the entrance to the royal quarter.

In addition, she found dozens of small seals used for official documents, bullae, and engraved jug handles in ancient Hebrew script from the 7th and 8th centuries BCE. She recently discovered a seal thought to be used by the Prophet Isaiah. Over 50 such seals were found inside the City of David 30 years ago – bearing names found in the Bible.

Mazar is also excavating what she believes was the palace of King David in the City of David, although she has yet to find enough evidence to prove her contention conclusively. Also in the City of David, at Warren’s Shaft and at the bottom of the valley below, around the Gihon Spring, Prof. Ronnie Reich and Eli Shukron have exposed structures which date back to the pre-Israelite Jebusite period. At the southern end of the City of David, they excavated what they believe was a large open ritual bath, mikve, from the Second Temple period, a site mentioned in John 9, as “the pool of Siloam,” where, according to the New Testament, Jesus healed a blind man.

Adjacent to the pool, Reich and his team uncovered a stairway used during the Second Temple period which reached the Temple Mount. Recently, a tiny seal from the First Temple period was found with the word “Bethlehem” – the earliest proof that the city of Bethlehem existed at that time.

Excavations just inside the Jaffa Gate, led by Prof. Ofer Sion, of the Israel Antiquities Authority, exposed a Byzantine-era street depicted in the 6th century CE Madaba Map, part of a mosaic floor from that period found in a church in Jordan. Discovered about a hundred years ago, the Madaba Map includes major churches and streets of “Holy Jerusalem” at the time. After 1967, archaeologists revealed many of these sites, including the Cardo, in the Jewish Quarter, and a secondary Cardo near the Western Wall. The dig at the Jaffa Gate is the first confirmation of a street depicted in the Madaba Map, which is now called the Arab shuk (market) and an aqueduct from the late Second Temple (Roman) period.

As Mazar says, stones and artifacts can’t speak, but, as silent witnesses, they often reveal the authenticity of Biblical sources and provide a link between the Jewish people and their ancient homeland. Contested by those who believe that Biblical stories are myths with no connection to archaeology, these discoveries are also disputed by Arab and Muslim activists and academics who view them as “Palestinian,” rejecting their origins and Jewish history.

Regardless of which side you’re on, archaeological discoveries in areas once under Jordanian occupation and often claimed by Palestinians are impacting not only our historical understanding, but are shaping political reality based on Jewish history. Archaeology provides the most powerful proof of the authenticity of Jewish history and the connection between the Jewish people and the land of Israel, and particularly, Jerusalem.

The author is a PhD historian, writer and journalist.