Monday, January 26, 2009


An archaeological site dating back about 5,500 years and believed to be older than Mohenjodaro has been found in Pakistan's southern Sindh province. A team of 22 archaeologists found some semi-precious and precious stones and utensils made of clay, copper and other metals during an excavation at the site in Lakhian Jo Daro in Sukkur district.

"At present, we can say that it (the site) is older than Mohenjodaro," Ghulam Mustafa Shar, the director of the Lakhian Jo Daro project said. The find is believed to date back to the Kot Diji era, experts said. Shar said the remains of a 'faience' or tin-glazed pottery factory had been found at the site. It is believed to be of the era of mirror factories in Italy that date back to some 9,000 years. A painting has also been found at the site and the discovery of more such items could establish the site as 9,000 years old, like the remains found at Mehargarh in Balochistan and Jericho in Palestine, Shar said.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


In its final days, the Bush administration reached a long-anticipated agreement with China that will ban imports of a wide range of Chinese antiquities into the United States to help stanch the growing illicit traffic in such artifacts.

The accord, signed on Wednesday, covers antiquities dating from the Paleolithic period, starting in 75,000 B.C., through the end of the Tang dynasty, in A.D. 907, and all monumental sculpture and wall art at least 250 years old. Yet it is not as broad as the ban China originally proposed in 2004, when it asked the United States to bar imports on a wide range of artifacts from the prehistoric period through the early 20th century.

Still, many archaeologists and other advocates of restrictions praised the policy and said they believed it would help prevent the plundering of ancient material and sites.

“I think this is a very appropriate way for the State Department to have applied the statute and the statutory requirements to China’s request,” said Patty Gerstenblith, a law professor at DePaul University in Chicago and the president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation. “We wish this would have come earlier, but we’re very glad to have it finally happen.”

China’s request had stirred passionate debate in the Asian art world. Prominent archaeologists and scholars supported the Chinese government, while many antiquities dealers and museum officials argued that China’s request was too broad and would be ineffective in reducing looting because of a thriving illicit market for such items inside China itself.

Over the last few years, the trade in plundered Chinese artifacts has drawn growing attention in the United States. In one of the more high-profile cases customs officials seized a 10th-century marble relief panel in 2000 that they said had been chiseled from an ancient tomb in northeastern China and was scheduled be sold at Christie’s.

United States customs officials have in principle been able to reject imports of items from China that they suspected of having been stolen or looted, but in practice relatively few items were intercepted. Now, many artworks and artifacts entering the United States will require detailed documentation, and items covered under the ban will be prevented from coming in unless the Chinese government makes specific exceptions.

The agreement, which was signed by Zhou Wenzhong, the Chinese ambassador to the United States, on the 30th anniversary of the opening of diplomatic relations between the United States and China, comes with a written understanding that China will devote more money and take other steps to stem looting and illegal exports, especially the movement of antiquities to the busy black markets in Hong Kong and Macao.

China has also agreed to ease the way for more archaeological loans and cooperation with American museums, to restrict its own museums from acquiring looted material and to explore ways of approving the legal export of more artifacts for sale.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


One of the UK's largest hauls of Iron Age gold coins has been found in Suffolk. The 824 coins were found in a broken pottery jar buried in a field near Wickham Market using a metal detector. Jude Plouviez, of the Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service, said the coins dated from 40BC to AD15. They are thought to have been minted by predecessors of the Iceni Queen Boudicca.

Ms Plouviez said their value when in circulation had been estimated at a modern equivalent of between £500,000 and £1m, but they were likely to be worth less than that now.

Ms Plouviez said the find was the largest collection of Iron Age gold coins found in Britain since 1849, when a farm worker unearthed between 800 and 2,000 gold coins in a field near Milton Keynes. She said secret excavations had been carried out on the latest find in Suffolk after a man reported it to the council's archaeological service in October.

The coins that each weigh about 5g, will now be valued ahead of a treasure trove inquest. "We don't know how much they will be worth but it will be less than they
were at the time," said Ms Plouviez. "After the treasure trove inquest, they will be offered to museums at their current value." She said the exact location of the find would not be made public but added "thorough" searches of the area had not uncovered any further artifacts.

Monday, January 12, 2009

STONEHENGE --Music/Voice Capabilities?

Having written a book for young people on Stonehenge with Cambridge Don Caroline Malone, I am always interested in the newest speculations. The following is intriguing:

Rupert Till, an expert in acoustics and music technology at Huddersfield University, West Yorkshire (England), believes the standing stones at Stonehenge had the ideal acoustics to amplify a 'repetitive trance rhythm'. The original Stonehenge probably had a 'very pleasant, almost concert-like acoustic' that our ancestors slowly perfected over many generations

Because Stonehenge itself is partially collapsed, Dr Till used a computer model to conduct experiments in sound. The most exciting discoveries came when he and colleague Dr Bruno Fazenda visited a full-size concrete replica of Stonehenge, with all the original stones intact, which was built as a war memorial by American road builder Sam Hill at Maryhill in Washington state (USA). Although the replica has
not previously gained any attention from archaeologists studying the original site, it was ideal for Dr Till's work.

"By comparing results from paper calculations, computer simulations based on digital models, and results from the concrete Stonehenge copy, we were able to come up with some of these theories about the uses of Stonehenge. We have also been able to reproduce the sound of someone speaking or clapping in Stonehenge 5,000 years ago. The most interesting thing is that we managed to get the whole space (at Maryhill) to resonate, almost like a wine glass will ring if you run a finger round it. While that was happening a simple drum beat sounded incredibly dramatic. The space had real
character; it felt that we had gone somewhere special."

Dr Till concluded: "Our research shows that there are particular spots in the site that produce unusual particular acoustic effects, intimating that perhaps a
priest or a shaman may have stood there, leading the ritual. This kind of ritual may also have been for healing, so this acoustic study may tie the two main competing theories about Stonehenge together."


Archaeologists in Istanbul (Turkey) have discovered a grave that proves the city is 6,000 years older than they previously thought. The skeletons of two adults and two children lie curled-up, perhaps to save space. Alongside them are pots: gifts placed in the grave to use in the afterlife. The ancient family was unearthed at the site of a 21st Century rail project.

Ismail Karamut, head of the Istanbul Archaeology museum, the dig's leader, says:
"It all shows there was a Neolithic settlement here in the historic peninsula of Istanbul where people lived, farmed and fished." Historians had believed modern-day Istanbul was first settled around 700 BCE. The discovery of the skeletons has revealed far deeper roots.

Neolithic remains were discovered in two Istanbul suburbs in the 1950s and 1980s, but this is the first such find in the historic heart of the city that has created a stir the other sites never managed.

Experts believe the Yenikapi settlement dates from between 6400 BCE and 5800 BCE - long before the Bosphorus Strait had formed and in the days when the Marmara Sea was a small, inland lake. Istanbul's first inhabitants appear to have lived on both sides of a river that flowed through Yenikapi.

Scheduled to last six months, Yenikapi archaeological dig is still going strong four years later. Under pressure to complete their excavations and let-in the rail project construction workers, archaeologists have at times worked in shifts, digging 24 hours a day. The cost of the delay to construction has not been calculated. The Yenikapi dig has now reached bedrock, so archaeologists don't expect any more major discoveries. They're still working through piles of ancient swamp mud that has preserved some of the oldest wooden artifacts ever found.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


The glories of Ancient Rome are to get a total makeover over the next two years, officials said this week.

The famed architectural sights will then be illuminated by a new lighting system, they said. Sites set for ''a complete clean-up'' include the Colosseum, the Palatine Hill, the Roman and Imperial Forums and Nero's Golden House, said Heritage Undersecretary Francesco Giro.

Long-awaited projects such as an underpass linking the forums and a new walkway up to the Palatine are part of the scheme which aims to restore Rome's ancient splendour by the spring of 2011.

Unsightly scaffolding, rusty fences and open digs will be cleared away ''so that the central archaeological area regains all its sumptuous beauty,'' Giro said.

The ''crowning touch,'' he said, would be an ''integrated'' illumination system for the entire area.

Giro said the culture ministry hoped to have the lights in place for the 2,764th anniversary of Rome's traditional founding date, April 21 753 BC.

BABYLON --A Plan to Preserve by WMF!!

Jan. 8 (Bloomberg) -- The World Monuments Fund is launching a project with Iraq to preserve the ancient city of Babylon, where King Nebuchadnezzar II (630-562 B.C.) built his hanging gardens, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

The New York-based nonprofit group, which protects architectural and cultural sites, will work with Iraq’s State Board of Antiquities and Heritage to develop a master plan to promote conservation and tourism in the city, located about 55 miles (90 kilometers) south of Baghdad on the east bank of the Euphrates.

The U.S. Department of State has given the fund about $700,000 for the project, called “The Future of Babylon,” Holly Evarts, the fund’s spokeswoman, said in a phone interview. The organization is seeking more funding from other sources, she said.

“Iraqi heritage belongs to all humanity,” Samir Sumaida’ie, Iraq’s ambassador to the U.S., said in a statement. “In the immense task of caring for its world heritage, Iraq welcomes help from and collaborations with the international preservation community.”

The ancient city, founded around the 18th century B.C., has sustained damage in recent years from Saddam Hussein’s efforts to make it a tourist attraction, from looting after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 and from being used as a military base during the Iraq War.

The World Monuments Fund’s project marks the second initiative this decade to aid Babylon. In October 2003, the fund partnered with the Getty Conservation Institute to set up the Iraq Cultural Heritage Conservation Initiative to help preserve museums, archeological and historical sites in Iraq.

Others sites in Iraq targeted for restoration by the fund include the ancient region of Sumer and sites associated with the Babylonian, Assyrian and Parthian cultures.

This year the fund will begin teaching board of antiquities specialists in Iraq modern techniques of site evaluation and restoration. It also wants to develop a national database for mapping and managing thousands of cultural heritage sites in that nation.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


Try this one -- not the one in the previous posting. Sorry!


UK (ChattahBox) – Over the last several centuries artists have attempted to paint the image of Cleopatra, to give a face to the name that has become one of the most famous and mysterious in history. But for the first time we may have finally gotten it right. See it on

After a year of extensive research, Dr. Sally Ann Ashton of Cambridge University has pieced together what she believed to be the true face of Cleopatra, one that differs greatly from the many depictions throughout history.

Pieced together from images on ancient artifacts, including a ring dating from Cleopatra’s reign 2,000 years ago, it is the culmination of more than a year of painstaking research. It shows her as a woman of mixed race, with dark eyes, hair, and skin, and nice looks, a far cry from the extremes of the unattractive depiction of ancient artifacts or the Hollywood version of beauty of modern movies.

Dr. Ashton is scheduled to release the full results as part of a five part documentary.


An inscribed limestone block might have solved one of history's greatest mysteries -- who fathered the boy pharaoh King Tut."We can now say that Tutankhamun was the child of Akhenaten," Zahi Hawass, chief of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, told Discovery News.

I doubt that this is a surprise to most Egyptologists. Over the years that I have taught the Archaeology of Egypt this "exciting new news" was assumed.

The finding offers evidence against another leading theory that King Tut was sired by the minor king Smenkhkare.

Hawass discovered the missing part of a broken limestone block a few months ago in a storeroom at el Ashmunein, a village on the west bank of the Nile some 150 miles south of Cairo. Once reassembled, the slab has become "an accurate piece of evidence that proves Tut lived in el Amarna with Akhenaten and he married his wife, Ankhesenamun," while living in el Amarna, Hawass said.

The text also suggests that the young Tutankhamun married his father's daughter -- his half sister.

"The block shows the young Tutankhamun and his wife, Ankhesenamun, seated together. The text identifies Tutankhamun as the 'king's son of his body, Tutankhaten,' and his wife as the 'king's daughter of his body, Ankhesenaten,'" Hawass said.

Found among other sandstone slabs in the storeroom of El Ashmunein's archaeological site, the block was used in the construction of the temple of Thoth during the reign of Ramesses II, who ruled around 1279-1213 B.C.

But the block wasn't freshly cut by the workers of the temple. Instead, it was recycled and brought there from el Amarna, along with some other thousand blocks, originally used to build the Amarna temples.

Now known as el Amarna, the city was once called Akhetaten after the "heretic" pharaoh Akhenaten (1353-1336 B.C.) had established the capital of his kingdom, introducing a monotheistic religion that overthrew the pantheon of the gods to worship the sun god Aton.

When Akhenaten died, a state decree was issued to purposefully destroy Amarna and its building materials were distributed for use elsewhere. According to Hawass, the block comes from the temple of Aton in Amarna and the forms of the inscribed names clearly date it to the reign of Akhenaten.

As the last male in the family, his death in 1325 B.C. at age 19 ended the 18th dynasty -- probably the greatest of the Egyptian royal families -- and gave way to military rulers.

Doubts also remain about King Tut's mother. Scholars have long debated whether he is the son of Kiya, Akhenaten's minor wife, or Queen Nefertiti, Akhenaten's other wife.

Egyptian researchers are currently carrying out DNA testing on two mummified fetuses found in King Tut's tomb, believed to be his offspring.

"If the fetus DNA matches King Tut's DNA and Ankhesenamun's DNA, then we would know that they shared the same mother," Hawass said.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Stonehenge's Bluestones

When Caroline Malone and I wrote Stonehenge (published by Oxford University Press) for young people some seven years ago, we included the following information that is just getting more credence.

Long-standing theories that teams of ancient tribesmen hauled 80 giant bluestones from Pembrokeshire to build Stonehenge have been dismissed by a Welsh geology expert, Brian John. It has often been claimed that Neolithic people dragged the two-ton megaliths over 156 miles of mountain, river and sea to build the iconic stone circle in Wiltshire.

The theory gained fresh credence in October when, after new excavation work at the site, Professor Geoffrey Wainwright claimed the site was a 'prehistoric Lourdes' famed for its healing powers. But geomorphology expert Brian John has now poured scorn on the 'human transport' scenario in a new book – by suggesting the stones were moved by glaciers.

Dr John said: "Why on earth would anyone in their right minds in 2,600 BCE consider hauling these huge rocks up and down hills and across the sea? It couldn't be done."

The scientist is better placed than most to comment, having taken part in the ill-fated bluestone transport reconstruction in 2000. An army of volunteers using modern ropes and – at one point – a crane, failed dismally to get a bluestone out of Pembrokeshire. It ultimately ended up in the sea off Milford Haven. Dr John's new book, The Bluestone Enigma: Stonehenge, Preseli and the Ice Age (Greencroft Books at £9.95) sets out his glacial transport theory.

Dr John, who received his doctorate for studying the glaciation of Pembrokeshire, believes the huge megaliths at Stonehenge are glacial 'erratics', stones transported in a moving glacier to a spot near Stonehenge from where it would have been possible to drag them into a rough circle.

He said: "It is well known that the great Irish Sea Glacier crossed Pembrokeshire during the Ice Age, and that it flowed up the Bristol Channel from west to east. This could have transported the stones and deposited them in Wiltshire one by one as the ice eventually melted." This theory is supported, he says, by findings that the Stonehenge megaliths come from some 20 different sites around West and South Wales. He added: "The theory of human transport has been embellished to a ludicrous degree."

However, Professor Wainwright, chairman of the London- based Society of Antiquities, and fellow archaeology expert Professor Tim Darvill of Bournemouth University, who worked together on the dig at Stonehenge earlier this year, are sticking to their theory. Their hypothesis, which they say was backed by their excavation results, was
that the stones were brought to Stonehenge by a mammoth human effort because of the belief in their healing power. When they presented their findings, they dismissed the rival theory of the stones being carried there by glaciers. "The one tiny flaw in the theory is that there is absolutely no evidence for glaciation of Wiltshire,"

Prof Darvill said of the bluestones: "Their meaning and importance to prehistoric people was sufficiently powerful to warrant the investment of time, effort and resources to move the bluestones from the Preseli Hills of Wales to the Wessex downs."

But Dr John said: "It is now known that the Irish Sea Glacier flowed as far east as Somerset, the Mendips and the city of Bath. The collection of ill-assorted bluestones at Stonehenge can only be an assemblage of glacial erratics, left by the wasting ice somewhere to the west of Stonehenge."

Indonesian Hobbit -- newest word

Anthropologist concludes 'Hobbit' represents a new species

University of Minnesota anthropology professor Kieran McNulty (along with colleague Karen Baab of Stony Brook University in New York) has made an important contribution toward solving one of the greatest paleoanthropological mysteries in recent history - that fossilized skeletons resembling a 'hobbit' creature represent an entirely new
species in humanity's evolutionary chain.

Discovered on the Indonesian island of Flores in 2003, controversy has surrounded Homo floresiensis ever since. Experts are still debating whether the 18,000-year-old remains merely belong to a diminutive population of modern-day humans (with one individual exhibiting 'microcephaly,' an abnormally small head) or represent a
previously unrecognized branch in humanity's family tree.

Using 3D modeling methods, McNulty and his fellow researchers compared the cranial features of this real-life 'hobbit' to those of a simulated fossil human (of similar stature) to determine whether or not such a species was distinct from modern humans. "The specimens have skulls that resemble something that died a million years earlier,
and other body parts reminiscent of our three-million-year-old human ancestors, yet they lived until very recently -- contemporaries with modern humans," said McNulty.

Comparing the simulation to the original Flores skull discovered in 2003, McNulty and Baab were able to demonstrate conclusively that the original 'hobbit' skull fits the expectations for a small fossil hominin species and not a modern human. Their study was published online this month in the Journal of Human Evolution. The cranial
structure of the fossilized skull, says the study, clearly places it in humanity's genus Homo, even though it would be smaller in both body and brain size than any other member. The results of the study suggest that the theorized 'hobbit' species may have undergone a process of size reduction after branching off from Homo erectus or even something more primitive.

While the debate over Homo floresiensis will continue, McNulty believes this comprehensive analysis of the relationship between size and shape in human evolution is a critical step toward eventually understanding the place of the Flores 'hobbits' in human evolutionary history.

Source: ScienceDaily (19 December 2008)