Sunday, January 28, 2007


Italian police recover ancient Roman marble reliefs from tomb looters' cache

Italian police have unearthed a hidden cache from a group of grave robbers, recovering ancient Roman marble reliefs depicting stunningly lifelike gladiators locked in mortal combat. The 12 panels were found buried in the garden of a private home near Fiano Romano, 25 miles north of the capital, and officials hailed the recovery as a major archaeological find and a blow to the illegal antiquities market.

The relief dates back to the late 1st century B.C. and is believed to have decorated a tomb, yet to be located, in the nearby Roman settlement of Lucus Feroniae, said Anna Maria Moretti, the superintendent for antiquities in the area north of Rome.

The pieces, made of high-quality Carrara marble, are notable for their size and age, and are among the finest examples from their period depicting one of Rome's favorite blood sports, Moretti said.

"The attention to detail is incredible," she said at a presentation of the finds at Rome's Villa Giulia museum.

The panels show bare-chested fighters, armed with swords and shields, engaged in duels while surrounded by trumpet and horn players who accompanied the phases of combat in the bloodied arena.

In one of the most dramatic scenes, a gladiator steps on the wrist of a downed opponent who raises a finger in a traditional plea for mercy.

The reliefs will undergo study and restoration before being shown to the public at Villa Giulia, officials said.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


An exciting side result of the Olympics to be held in China next year is that about 1,100 cultural relics were unearthed at Beijing Olympic venue construction sites just last year. The relics were discovered at 10 different venues and included about 700 tombs dating from the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

Beijing is building or renovating 31 venues for the Games, and has embarked
on a $40 billion upgrade of the city's infrastructure.

Last October, work was halted at the Beijing Olympic shooting venue after
workers found an imperial-era tomb several hundred meters away from the site
of several Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) tombs unearthed during construction.

This is not a new phenomena: during the lead-up to the 2004 Olympic games in Greece, archaeologists discovered a number of antiquities at several Olympic venue sites.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


There is a delightful interactive site now available with a click of your computer. Hierakonpolis is the largest site from the Pre- and Protodynastic period (3800-3100 B.C.) It is very important for understanding the foundations of Egyptian civilization. It is 400 miles south of Cairo. There is up-to-date information on the small field school now happening there. Students are from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Director is Renee Friedman. Check out these field notes and feel part of an excavation.

Monday, January 15, 2007


My book Stonehenge, written with Caroline Malone and published by Oxford University Press, gets constantly updated by the news coming out of the Stonehenge Riverside Project, a joint initiative to explore the land around the area and involves six English Universities. Our book is still an excellent resource for the basics with fine illustrations. Check it out on Amazon or through Oxford directly.

New discoveries just announced on National Geographic News January 12 indicate that similar monuments may have been erected in the shadow of Stonehenge, possibly forming part of a much large complex.

Two miles east of Stonehenge a 9.2 foot-long sarsen stone was found lying in a field next to the River Avon. It had once been upright. A team from Bristol University found the hole that originally held the stone, dug between 2500 and 2000 BCE, as well as two people buried next to the stone. One was a large male at least 6 feet tall. Several archaeologists have suggested that prehistoric burials in the area are connected to mainland Europe and that Stonehenge was an important pilgrimage destination where travelers hoped for miracle cures. Although not all experts agree with this fairly new theory.

There are also new discoveries at Woodhenge 1.2 miles northeast of Stonehenge. Joshua Pollard's team from Bristol University has found new evidence for stone settings at Woodhenge where a timber circle was constructed in about 2200 BCE. Only fragments were found but the holes the stones were set in suggest the block stood up to 9.8 feet tall, according to Pollard. There was also evidence for four smaller stones that replaced the bigger sarsens. Pollard sums up: "So it goes from a timber monument to being a meglaithic monument, albeit not on the same scale as stonehenge." What happend to the stones at Woodhenge? It's a mystery. For the full article: