Monday, June 22, 2015


The Ministry of Tourism and the Iraqi Antiquities, has recovered 663 artifacts smuggled to three countries in the framework of its efforts to recover thousands of lost artifacts of the country.

Undersecretary for Antiquities, Qais Hussein Rashid,said in a statement "the ministry received 663 artifacts were smuggled, were received in coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, one of America, Italy and Jordan." He added that "it is part of the national campaign to protect Iraqi antiquities launched by the ministry this month."

He pointed out that the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities at the beginning of July next will showcase the recoveries."
And thousands of artifacts looted from Iraq, including about 16 thousand pieces from the Baghdad museum.

Iraq,was invaded by US forces in March 2003 with the support of other coalition forces action that made the country suffer the ransacking of its cultural heritage many of which remains hidden in galleries and museums of other countries.


In July 1996, two college students were wading in the shallows of the Columbia River near the town of Kennewick, Wash., when they stumbled across a human skull. At first the police treated the case as a possible murder. But once a nearly complete skeleton emerged from the riverbed and was examined, it became clear that the bones were extremely old — 8,500 years old, it would later turn out.

The skeleton, which came to be known as Kennewick Man or the Ancient One, is one of the oldest and perhaps the most important — and controversial — ever found in North America. Native American tribes said that the bones were the remains of an ancestor and moved to reclaim them in order to provide a ritual burial.

But a group of scientists filed a lawsuit to stop them, arguing that Kennewick Man could not be linked to living Native Americans. Adding to the controversy was the claim from some scientists that Kennewick Man’s skull had unusual “Caucasoid” features. Speculation flew that Kennewick Man was European. A California pagan group went so far as to file a lawsuit seeking to bury the skeleton in a pre-Christian Norse ceremony.

“It’s very clear that Kennewick Man is most closely related to contemporary Native Americans,” said Eske Willerslev, a geneticist at the University of Copenhagen and lead author of the study, which was published in the journal Nature. "In my view, it’s bone-solid.”

Kennewick Man’s genome also sheds new light on how people first spread throughout the New World, experts said. There was no mysterious intrusion of Europeans thousands of years ago. Instead, several waves spread across the New World, with distinct branches reaching South America, Northern North America, and the Arctic.

But the new study has not extinguished the debate over what to do with Kennewick Man. Dr. Willerslev and his colleagues found that the Colville, one of the tribes that claims Kennewick Man as their own, is closely related to him. But the researchers acknowledge that they can’t say whether he is in fact an ancestor of the tribe.

Nonetheless, James Boyd, the chairman of the governing board of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, said that his tribe and four others still hope to rebury Kennewick Man and that the new study should help in their efforts.

The scientific study of Kennewick Man began in 2005, after eight years of litigation seeking to prevent repatriation of Kennewick Man to the Native American tribes. A group of scientists led by Douglas W. Owsley, division head of physical anthropology at the Smithsonian Institution, gained permission to study the bones. Last year, they published a 670-page book laying out their findings.

Kennewick Man stood about 5 foot 7 inches, they reported, and died at about the age of 40. He was probably a right-handed spear-thrower, judging from the oversized bones in his right arm and leg.


Islamic State has reportedly planted mines and bombs in the ruins of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, according to a monitoring organization.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it was not immediately clear whether the group was preparing to destroy the ancient ruins, or if they were simply attempting to prevent government forces from advancing towards the city in the center of the war-torn country, also known as Tadmur.

"They have planted it yesterday. They also planted some around the Roman theater we still do not know the real reason," Rami Abdulrahman, the head of the Observatory, told Reuters.

The ultra-hardline Sunni Muslim group in May seized the city of 50,000 people, site of some of the world's most extensive and best-preserved ancient Roman ruins, which are feared to be at significant risk of destruction.

Saturday, June 13, 2015


We investigated the remarkable remains of the iconic Egtved Girl, who belongs to an impressive group of Bronze Age oak coffin burials from Denmark that were placed in monumental elite burial barrows dated to 1500-1100 BC. Excavations in 1921, close to the village of Egtved in Denmark revealed the partially preserved remains of a high status, fully dressed female of approximately 16 to 18 years of age. Dendrochronological analysis indicates that she was buried in an oak coffin approximately 3,400 years ago. Hair, tooth enamel, nails, and parts of the brain and skin are still
preserved, but no bones survived, most likely due to their dissolution in the partially acidic waterlogged environment prevailing within the oak coffin. A small container with some cremated skeletal remains of a 5 to 6-year-old child was placed by her head.

Ancient human mobility at the individual level is conventionally studied by the diverse application of suitable techniques (e.g. aDNA, radiogenic strontium isotopes, as well as oxygen and lead isotopes) to either hard and/or soft tissues. However, the limited preservation of coexisting hard and soft human tissues hampers the possibilities of investigating high-resolution diachronic mobility periods in the life of a single individual. Here, we present the results of a multidisciplinary study of an exceptionally well preserved circa 3.400-year old Danish Bronze Age female find, known as the Egtved Girl.

We applied biomolecular, biochemical and geochemical analyses to reconstruct her mobility and diet. We demonstrate that she originated from a place outside present day Denmark (the island of Bornholm excluded), and that she traveled back and forth over large distances during the final months of her life, while consuming a terrestrial diet with intervals of reduced protein intake. We also provide evidence that all her garments were made of non-locally produced wool.

Our study advocates the huge potential of combining biomolecular and biogeochemical provenance tracer analyses to
hard and soft tissues of a single ancient individual for the reconstruction of high resolution human mobility.Recent advances in tracing techniques at the individual level provide us with methodologies to map individual mobility during different life stages 1–14. However, the limited preservation of coexisting hard and soft human tissues often impedes the diachronic investigation of a single individual.

Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to K.M.F. (email:

Published in Scientific Reports: 21 May 2015

Friday, June 12, 2015


Maybe the Greek women used a curling arm -- that's what Katherine Schwab discovered when she turned her attention to the hairstyles of the Caryatids, the six marble maidens created as columns on the south porch of the Erechtheion, part of the Acropolis of Athens. The ancient figures wear their tresses in intricate, subtly individualized arrangements of curls and wraparound plaits, each anchored by a thick fishtail braid dangling down the back.

An art history professor at Fairfield University in Connecticut, Schwab wondered whether flesh-and-blood women could wear their locks the same way. She found a hairstylist to reproduce the Caryatid coiffures and used some of her students as models.

Now she has turned her experiment into an exhibition, which is on show at the Greek Embassy in Washington DC. "The Caryatid Hairstyling Project" includes photos of the stone Caryatids, photos of the student models during and after the styling session, and a video of the undertaking.


Archaeologist Ann Olga Koloski-Ostrow had members and guests of the Archaeological Associates of Greenwich alternately aghast and amused last week at tales of the sordid smells and deplorable sanitation that existed in places like Pompeii, Herculaneum, Ostia and Rome in the first and second centuries.

Professor AOKO, as her classical studies students at Brandeis University call her, addressed "Raising a Stink in the Roman City: Creating an Archaeology of Smell" at the Bruce Museum. "Stench and smells and health are all pungent topics," she began, "and in the first and second centuries AD these cities were very smelly places where people got used to sordid smells." She presented a drawing of a typical kitchen scene that showed a woman cooking a stew -- flush up against the toilet.

"Shops and homes were mixed in together and rich and poor houses were mixed." There were "garlic sellers, felt makers, poultry handlers, fish sellers, perfume makers and olive oil makers," all in the residential mix. "Nothing stinks more than rotting olive oil," she said, "even 2,500 years later in excavations." People would throw dead animals into the streets. "With street fires burning flesh ... there were hideous smells that had to be endured," she said.

Daily baths were definitely not de rigueur. A photo showed a "hot tub" in Pompeii that was said to hold up to eight people. "Your companions might have open wounds, lesions, diarrhea, gonorrhea, or a strong smell of excrement or urine -- all very unhealthy," Koloski-Ostrow said. Romans were said to have lice-infested hair and bad breath, and kept animals in their houses, which added to "the smelly interiors, the stench," she said.

Koloski-Ostrow moved on to the state of Roman amphitheaters -- in particular one called Pozzuoli located on the Bay of Naples. "It's the best preserved amphitheater in the world," she said, pointing out on a slide the holes in the arena through which the animals were brought up from below. "The smell after days of games must have been ghastly, that of dead men, animals, blood and animal parts, and there must have been millions of flies," she said.

After Koloski-Ostrow completed her fragrant account of ancient Rome, one of the evening's attendees asked a question surely on the minds of many: How did Romans counteract all the terrible smells on and around them?

"With incense and perfume," Koloski-Ostrow answered. "They mixed perfume and sweat."


The remains of a triumphal arch built in honor of the Emperor Titus have been unearthed from underneath Rome's Circus Maximus chariot-racing arena The arch, which was built immediately after the emperor's death in 81 AD, would have formed a magnificent entrance to the Circus Maximus, where charioteers competed against each other in races that were depicted in the 1959 Hollywood epic Ben Hur.

Authorities in Rome now hope to reconstruct the imposing, 17-metre-wide, 15-metre-long marble arch, in a project that would cost at least €1 million (£718,000). They have already starting building a detailed digital image of what the monument probably looked like, based on their findings.

The remains of the arch were found at a depth of around 10ft below ground at the eastern end of the Circus Maximus, which is located between the Colosseum and the Tiber River. Its existence had been known only from historical records from the medieval period – it is thought to have disappeared from sight 800 years ago, after its stone was pilfered for other buildings and its foundations sank beneath the ground. Archaeologists found more than 300 marble fragments of the monument, some of them the size of a small car.

They discovered the bases of the four giant columns that formed the front of the arch, as well as the plinths on which they rested and traces of the original travertine pavement. Emperors and generals would have passed beneath the huge arch during triumphal processions to celebrate military victories against the enemies of the Roman Empire.

Until the money to reconstruct the arch can be raised, its foundations will be reburied in order to protect them from the elements – a common archaeological practice. Excavating the remains of the arch was complicated because much of it lay below the water table and the site was prone to flooding, said Claudio Parisi Presicce, a cultural heritage official. "When the four plinths emerged we realized that there was more down there so we expanded the dig," he said.

If it is to be reconstructed, the first task will be to divert or block the water, the legacy of a system of channels and mills that were built in the area during the medieval period. The arch is one of two that was built in honor of the emperor, whose full name was Titus Flavius Vespasianus. The other arch, which is intact and in a state of excellent preservation, stands at the entrance to the Forum, the heart of the Roman Empire.


Looting priceless artifacts has raised tens of millions of dollars for Isil – a sum comparable to the profit the terrorists have made by the kidnap and ransom of Western hostages

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) has established a "ministry of antiquities" to maximize the profits from looting priceless artifacts across the territory it controls.

Since its lightning sweep through Iraq and Syria last year, Isil has sought to transform itself into an organization capable of ruling its own state, setting up an elaborate hierarchy of leadership and ministries. But while elsewhere in the Middle East, ministries of this kind try to protect antiquities; Isil's version was established to pillage and smuggle these treasures in a territory replete with classical ruins.

"They happened upon a pre-existing situation of looting and turned it into a highly organized trade," said Amr al-Azm, a former official in the Syrian antiquities ministry who now runs a network of archaeologists and activists to document the destruction of the country's treasures.

In Iraq, the jihadists have desecrated and looted the Assyrian remains at Mosul, Nimrud and Hatra. Earlier in May they captured the Roman city of Palmyra in Syria, raising fears that it might suffer the same treatment.

When Isil set up its self-described "Islamic Caliphate", it imposed a 20 per cent tax on looted antiquities. The jihadists then tried to gain control of the trade by regulating access to ancient sites.

By last summer, various "antiquities ministries" had been established across their strongholds. They have since been drawn together to form part of a "Ministry for Precious Resources", according to Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, who has helped to gather an archive of Isil's operational documents.

A number of groups have been contracted to carry out digs, helped by local archaeologists who identify the most lucrative sites. Accurate estimates for the revenue raised through this trade are hard to establish. But the Financial Action Task Force, an inter-governmental body, has put the figure at tens of millions of dollars.
Experts say the focus on figures distracts from the human consequences of the smuggling trade.

"The bottom line is that it's funding terrorism – and the deaths of Iraqi and Syrian people," said Michael Danti, an archaeologist at Boston University who is advising the US State Department on how to tackle the problem. Isil is believed to have developed a network of middlemen for the onward trade of the artifacts, providing one dealer with an armed escort for trips to the Turkish border.

In other cases, local people sell the treasures to middlemen, paying Isil a tax of at least 20 per cent on the profits.
The spoils have also been found in the possession of senior commanders. When US commandos killed Isil's alleged chief financial officer, Abu Sayyaf, on May 16, they discovered various relics inside his home, including an ancient Assyrian Bible.

Archaeologists say they are beginning to find evidence of organized pillage on a scale unseen throughout the Syria's civil war.


The world's oldest stone tools have been discovered, scientists report. The tools include sharp-edged flakes, hammers and anvils. They were unearthed from the shores of Lake Turkana in Kenya, and date to 3.3 million years ago.
They are 700,000 years older than any tools found before, even pre-dating the earliest humans in the Homo genus.

The find, reported in Nature, suggests that more ancient species, such as Australopithecus afarensis or Kenyanthropus platyops, may have been more sophisticated than was thought. "They are significantly earlier than anything that has been found previously," said Dr Nick Taylor, from the National Center of Scientific Research (CNRS) in France and the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. "It's really quite astonishing to think what separates the previous oldest site and this site is 700,000 years of time. It's monumental."

This stone tool is known as a core - flakes, used for cutting, are sheared away from its edges The first tools from the site, which is called Lomekwi 3, were discovered in 2011. They were spotted after researchers took a wrong turn as they walked through the hot, dry Kenyan landscape.

By the end of 2012, a total of 149 tools had been found, and another field trip in 2014 has unearthed more still. They include sharp flakes of stone, sheared off from larger rocks, which were most likely used for cutting. Hammers and anvils were also excavated, some of which were huge in size. "The very largest one we have weighs 15kg, which is massive," Dr Taylor told BBC News. "On this piece, it doesn't show the signs of actually having been flaked to produce other artifacts... rather, it was probably used as an anvil. "It probably rested in the soil and the other cobbles brought to the site, which were intended to be smashed apart to make tools, were struck against this large anvil."

Until this discovery, the oldest examples of this technology were the Oldowan tools from Tanzania, which date to about 2.6 million years ago. The researchers say the 700,000-year time difference reveals how manufacturing methods and use changed over time, growing more advanced.

Other finds, such as animal bones found in Ethiopia with cut marks that date to 3.39 million years ago, also suggest tool use began before H. habilis. Scientists now believe the 3.3-million-year-old implements were crafted by another, more primitive species

Dr Taylor said: "There are a number of possible candidates at present. "There was a hominin called Kenyanthropus platyops, which has been found very close to where the Lomekwi 3 tools are being excavated. And that hominin was around at the time the tools were being made. "More widely in the East African region there is another hominin, Australopithecus afarensis, which is famously known from the fossil Lucy, which is another candidate."

Australopithecus afarensis is a primitive species with both human and ape-like features Neither of these species was assumed to be particularly intelligent - they had both human and ape-like features, with relatively small brains.
However the tools suggest they may have been smarter than assumed.

Dr Ignacio de la Torre, from University College London's Institute of Archaeology, described this as "a game-changing" find. "It's the most important discovery in the last 50 years," he told BBC News. "It suggests that species like Australopithecus might have been intelligent enough to make stone tools - that they had the cognitive and manipulative abilities to carry tasks like this out."


A new species of ancient human has been unearthed in the Afar region of Ethiopia, scientists report. Researchers discovered jaw bones and teeth, which date to between 3.3m and 3.5m years old.It means this new hominin was alive at the same time as several other early human species, suggesting our family tree is more complicated than was thought.

The new species has been called Australopithecus deyiremeda, which means "close relative" in the language spoken by the Afar people.

The remains belong to four individuals and date to between 3.3m and 3.5m years old The ancient remains are thought to belong to four individuals, who would have had both ape and human-like features.Lead researcher Dr Yohannes Haile-Selassie, curator of physical anthropology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History in the US, told BBC News: "We had to look at the detailed anatomy and morphology of the teeth and the upper and lower jaws, and we found major differences.
"This new species has very robust jaws. In addition, we see this new species had smaller teeth. The canine is really small - smaller than all known hominins we have documented in the past."

The age of the remains means that this was potentially one of four different species of early humans that were all alive at the same time. The most famous of these is Australopithecus afarensis - known as Lucy - who lived between 2.9-3.8m years ago, and was initially thought to be our direct ancestor. However the discovery of another species called Kenyanthropus platyops in Kenya in 2001, and of Australopithecus bahrelghazali in Chad, and now Australopithecus deyiremedaI, suggests that there were several species co-existing.