Tuesday, August 15, 2017

NAZI-LOOTED BOOKS FOUND IN GERMAN LIBRARIES

A man in California holds a book in his hand. It contains a personal dedication from his former school teacher. The elderly man was the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust. Beyond a family photo and one item of clothing, the book is the only thing that he has from his former home country. He has tears in his eyes. The book was recently returned to him, its rightful owner. "Such moments are truly filled with happiness, because we see that all of our work is really worth it," says Uwe Hartmann, head of provenance research at the German Lost Art Foundation in Magdeburg.

The Lost Art Foundation has organized a program called "Initial Check" in order to enable the search for stolen books in smaller German libraries: The program has tasked three experienced provenance researchers to scour libraries in Saxony-Anhalt, and look for suspicious items. Their aim is to find out whether such inventory items are in fact looted goods.

Elena Kiesel is conducting research related to the Magdeburg City Library. The historian knows exactly which Jewish families or political parties in the region were dispossessed. "She has the lists compiled during earlier studies," says librarian Cornelia Poenicke, referring to inventories put together after German reunification. In the early 1990s, researchers were looking at a completely different chapter in Germany's history of confiscations - namely those of estate owners in the early stages of East Germany's nascent communist era. "In the end, she will go through the library's shelves and look through the books, at least part of them," adds Poenicke. "She won't make it through all 80,000 volumes but she will make random samples."

Finding looted books in small and medium-sized libraries is a bit like finding a needle in a haystack. In Magdeburg, researchers are not even certain that there are any needles to be found. But larger finds have indeed been made in other libraries. For instance, the library of Jewish department store owners Hermann and Oskar Tietz - whose company Herman Tietz & Co. was rebranded as Hertie after the Nazis took possession of it - had been thought lost forever until just two years ago. Then 500 volumes from the collection were found in the city of Bautzen.

Uwe Hartmann says that books from Jewish collections started making their way into public libraries after compulsory expropriation began in the wake of the November 1938 Reichspogromnacht - also referred to in English as the Night of Broken Glass. But also when those fortunate enough to be able to emigrate were forced to sell off everything they owned in order to pay the obligatory Reich Flight Tax. Additionally, looting increased in areas occupied by the Nazis as the war went on. The persecution of the Jewish people in Nazi Germany was characterized by its perfidious systematization. But that is exactly what makes it possible to identify once stolen items today. One source of information is the inventory of the Reichstauschstelle, which functioned as an exchange for those interested in restocking libraries destroyed during the course of the war. Many of those exchanges were documented.

Unlike looted artworks, the Nazis were not necessarily interested in the financial value of individual books, but rather, at times, in their value in terms of "ideological counter research." The National Socialists and their leading ideologue, Alfred Rosenberg, were keenly invested in collecting intellectual arguments against Judaism.

Since 2014, the German Lost Art Foundation has been spending some four million euros ($4.7 million) annually for provenance research in German libraries and museums. The financing, which comes from Germany's federal government, is a direct result of the 1998 Washington Principles agreement: In the agreement, signatory states pledged to find the prewar owners of looted property and find "fair and just solutions" for how to deal with such items.

The German Lost Art Foundation publishes descriptions of found books along with photos and stamp marks in its lostart.de databank when it cannot locate rightful owners or their heirs. This provides those owners or heirs the opportunity to contact the foundation. Although it is impossible to know what such research will bring, Maik Hattenhorst of the Magdeburg City Library says that he hopes to be able to point to positive discoveries by the time the library celebrates its 500th anniversary in 2025.

"We look at Bautzen and now the five libraries in Saxony-Anhalt as examples," says Uwe Hartmann. "Six thousand libraries across Germany are stocked with historical books. That is why I always tell my students: Not even the next generation of museum and library staff will be able to finish what you have started."


MOSAICS IN "POMPEII" OF THE EAST REVEAL MOMENT OF DESTRUCTION THAT CRUSHED A CITY 1,200 YEARS AGO



Mosaics in the city of Jerash lie where they were left more than 1,200 years ago when the settlement was abandoned. A devastating earthquake struck the city in the year 749 CE, after which the surviving inhabitants of the town never returned. Now a house where mosaics were made has been discovered in the city, offering a snapshot in time of an artisan's studio when the disaster struck.

Jerash has been studied and gradually excavated for more than 100 years, but archaeologists are still revealing new aspects of the city at the time of the earthquake. Recent investigation has revealed several mosaics from the Roman, Byzantine and Early Islamic periods.
One building discovered in 2015 stood out as something unusual, described in a study published in the journal Antiquity and found in the north-west quarter of the city.

"This area, covering approximately 3,000 square metres, might almost be termed the 'Pompeii of the East', displaying frozen moments in time," write study authors Achim Lichtenberger of the University of Münster, Germany, and Rubina Raja of Aarhus University, Denmark.

The building was centered around a rectangular room with an arch, opening onto a courtyard. It was well maintained with layers of plaster showing suggesting that it was in the process of renovation when the earthquake hit. It's thought that the building was a work space rather than someone's house. A trough full of perfect tesserae – or small cubes of stone for making mosaics – was found at the site.

"The trough served for the storage of tesserae; it was completely filled with thousands of pristine unused white tesserae," the authors write. "No similar installation for tesserae storage had ever been found before. In this case it is clear that the tesserae were unused and therefore part of the preparation for mosaic production."

There has been much debate about how mosaicists worked in this period. Until now there had been relatively little evidence to determine whether they worked in a mobile, traveling fashion or had permanent bases. The discovery of the 'House of the Tesserae' suggests the latter scenario is the more likely.

"The trough in the house at Jerash clearly suggests a kind of storage intended for more than just short-term construction. It could be claimed, therefore, that we do indeed have a studio of a workshop with a tesserae storage facility in the room where craftsmen worked."

HUMAN TOOTH HINTS AT EARLY MIGRATION OUTOF AFRICA

Kira Westaway of Macquarie University and her colleagues have found evidence of the presence of Homo sapiens on the Indonesian island of Sumatra dated to between 63,000 and 73,000 years ago, according to a report in New Scientist. “This is a significant finding because it supports emerging ideas that modern humans left Africa and reached Australia much earlier than we thought,” said Michelle Langley of Griffith University.

The evidence came in the form of two teeth, discovered by Dutch archaeologist Eugene Dubois in a cave on Sumatra in the late nineteenth century. The researchers confirmed the teeth belonged to Homo sapiens by comparing them to orangutan fossils found near the cave, and then dated them with electron spin resonance dating. Scientists could now look for traces of early human habitation in the rain forest, such as evidence of cooking and stone tool use. But, Langley notes, “It’s possible they were just passing through.”

Monday, August 07, 2017

3,000 YEAR OLD FOOTPRINTS FOUND IN PIMA. ARIZONA

Not long after Dan Arnit made the biggest archaeological find of his career, he had to go build a parking lot.

The news of his discovery—3,000-year-old footprints made by a family walking through ancient fields—had made it up the chain at the Pima County government in Arizona, which wanted to show off the oldest footprints ever found in the Southwest. But the archaeological site was a mess. Arnit was his team’s backhoe operator when he found the footprints, so he and his tractor got a new job: Build a parking lot for hundreds of eager visitors.

Arnit doesn’t usually build parking lots anymore. He specializes in the delicate work of using heavy machinery to dig trenches at archaeological sites. With custom equipment made in his own machine shop, Arnit can shave off as little as one millimeter of dirt at a time with a backhoe. “He is by far the most knowledgeable operator I know,” said Mary Prasciunas, an archaeologist at Pima Community College. Prasciunas has worked with Arnit on digs throughout Arizona as well as a mammoth site in Wyoming. Archaeologists frequently rely on heavy machine operators like Arnit—“artists with a backhoe,” as one archaeologist called them—to dig delicately but quickly through the earth.

STANFORD U. SUMMER HUMANITIES INSTITUTE HAS JULIUS CAESAR AND AUGUSTUS GIVING ADVICE TO PRESIDENTT DONADL TRUMP ABOUT GOVERNANCE


In an eight-minute skit, the students reenacted a fictional segment of a Fox News program in which ancient Roman leader Julius Caesar and his adopted son, Emperor Augustus, give advice to President Donald Trump about governance.

“President Trump, you have done a great job at getting some of the people to love you, but in doing so, you’re actually dividing the country,” said the student portraying Julius Caesar. “If you truly want to make America great, you need to unite the nation under a common identity. It’s the stuff of the Romans’ genius – their ability to integrate the people they conquered.”

The skit was part of the final project for students who took the institute’s new class on ancient Rome. The institute offers a three-week intensive program for high school sophomores and juniors every summer. The program’s courses, taught by Stanford faculty, offer deep immersion in history, philosophy and literature, and expose students to the life of a humanities scholar.

The new class, Ancient Rome and Its Legacies, examined the rise and fall of the influential civilization and how its legacies have shaped the European colonization of the Americas and the development of the United States. The class, co-taught by history Professor Caroline Winterer and Associate Professor of classics Christopher Krebs, compared similarities and differences between the worlds of ancient Rome and America.

Students attended lectures and question-and-answer sessions with professors, discussed reading materials in small groups with Stanford graduate students, examined Stanford University Libraries’ rich collection of early modern books about ancient Rome and spent an afternoon in the Cantor Arts Center exploring Roman artifacts and neoclassical painting and sculpture.

“We wanted to offer a course that showed why the classical past is still so important for us to understand today,” Winterer said. “Ancient Rome isn’t dead – it’s alive and well and continues to shape the way we think about our world today, often in subtle ways that we don’t see unless we know how and where to look.”

Many modern societies have borrowed some aspect of ancient Roman thought, but its shaping influence on the United States has been especially profound. The framers of the U.S. Constitution incorporated Roman ideas about the separation of powers and the need for a senate. The fluted white columns decorating the neoclassical facades of many antebellum American plantation mansions mimic those on Roman temples.

The class also focused on slavery, another similarity between ancient Rome and America. Both were slave societies, holding a significant proportion of their populations in legal bondage. “For most of human history, slavery was not seen as morally problematic,” Winterer said during the lecture on the rise of anti-slavery ideas in the United States before the Civil War. “That shift in human consciousness and understanding was so great that it’s difficult for us to put ourselves in a moment before that time.”




ROMAN TOMBS VANISH UNDER BUILDING OF HYATT HOTEL IN SOFIA, BULGARIA



Construction of a luxury hotel is continuing in Sofia despite the discovery that the site covers part of an ancient Roman necropolis.
While numerous machines laid concrete and strengthened the foundations of the future 190-room five-star hotel, a team of archaeologists with an excavator was carefully digging a rare find out of the ground. They recently discovered an ancient Roman tomb – part of the eastern side of the necropolis of the Roman city of Serdica, which lies under Bulgaria’s capital – which could soon be buried under the luxury new hotel.

The same fate has already befallen six other tombs discovered at the construction site in April. “We have researched almost eight tombs, all of them with half-cylindrical arches, with different sizes, containing over 112 single graves,” Polina Stoyanova co-leader of the archaeological salvation team, told BIRN. She explained that all of the remains were damaged when the former Serdica cinema was built in the 1950s. It was demolished in July, opening up the space for the Hyatt Regency hotel, which is set to open in 2018.

“All the tombs we have discovered were flattened to the level needed for the construction of the cinema, so none of the arches were completely preserved,” Stoyanova added. The archaeologist explained that the Ministry of Culture, which holds the rights to determine the fate of excavations, as state public property, issued a conservation order for one of the tombs.

Large parts of the center of Bulgaria’s capital lie above the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Ulpia Serdica, which flourished between the 1st and 6th centuries AD. Parts of the ancient city have been revealed. In 2016, the second government of current Prime Minister Boyko Borissov opened the Ancient Serdica complex in the heart of the city, which forms the largest open-air museum in Bulgaria.

Among the most important attractions of ancient Serdica are Decumanus Maximus, the main road of the Roman city, as well as the amphitheatre, one of the largest in the Eastern Roman Empire. The amphitheatre was discovered by accident in 2004 during the construction of another high-end hotel in central Sofia, which is currently named Arena di Serdica and has parts of the archaeological remains exposed in its lobby.
The necropolis of Serdica occupies large parts of Sofia’s downtown, including the space under the building the National Assembly and the area of the Alexander Nevski Cathedral and Sofia University.

Remains of the ancient burial area can be seen exposed in the St Sofia Basilica.

The remains discovered at the Hyatt construction site are located at the further eastern periphery of this necropolis, formed between the second and third centuries AD, where the tombs are of a lower density, Simeonova explained.

LOWER PALEOLITHIC PERIOD ARTIFACTS FOUND IN SAUDI ARABIA, FROM 1.8 MILLION TO 250,000 YEARS AGO

Forty-six sites containing artifacts, mainly stone tools, have been discovered beside the remains of ancient lakes in the western Nefud desert in Saudi Arabia.

Some of the tools, left by early humans, date to the Lower Paleolithic period, from 1.8 million to 250,000 years ago, the researchers said in a new study describing the findings. Animal fossils, including fossils from now-extinct forms of jaguar and elephant, were also discovered at some of the sites.

The discoveries shed light on so-called Green Arabia, periods when the climate in Arabia — the area spanning modern-day Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman and other Gulf States — was wetter and supported more vegetation and wildlife than it does today. Green Arabia was also home to early humans.











































































































"These repeated wet phases, called 'Green Arabia' events, affected much of Arabia and were driven by periodic variations in the Earth's orbit and axis, causing the monsoons to move north into Arabia — and into the Sahara," said Paul Breeze, a landscape archaeologist and research associate at King's College London. "Between these times, Arabia was as arid as it is today."

Breeze is part of the Palaeodeserts Project, which aims to better understand Saudi Arabia's environmental and human history. The project brings together researchers from the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, the Saudi Geological Survey, Saudi Aramco and scientists from all over the world.

In their research Breeze and his colleagues searched for lakes that may have existed in ancient times by examining high-resolution satellite and aerial imagery, as well as geological maps. They found that many of these so-called paleolakes might have been located in basins between sand dunes.

The researchers traveled to as many possible paleolakes as they could, using 4 x 4 vehicles or helicopters to reach these locations. They focused on a section of the western Nefud desert.

Once the team reached a site, they examined paleolake sediments, confirming the existence of the ancient lake. Then, they excavated any human artifacts and animal fossils they could find.

From early humans to the future

The discoveries revealed how life changed in the western Nefud desert.

"Lower Palaeolithic hominins in particular could, at times, have experienced widespread favorable environmental conditions," the team wrote in their study, published online in the June 2017 issue of the journal Archaeological Research in Asia. Early human sites that date to the Lower Paleolithic "appear concentrated close to raw material sources near the Nefud fringe, despite the presence of freshwater and fauna deeper in the dune field," the team wrote.

Previously reported research suggested that around 200,000 years ago, after the Lower Paleolithic, modern humans(Homo sapiens) might have used Arabia as a corridor to migrate out of Africa. The new findings suggest that, at that time, humans (whether Homo sapiens or other human species) appear to have been venturing deeper into the western Nefud desert and were no longer sticking to the fringes. [In Photos: Oldest Homo Sapiens Fossils Ever Found]

The researchers did not find any archaeological sites that dated to the Upper Paleolithic or Epipaleolithic time periods, between roughly 40,000 and 10,000 years ago. This may be a sign that the western Nefud had become more arid and less capable of supporting life by that time, the researchers said.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

RESEARCHERS HAVE FOUND EVIDECE THAT HUMANS ARRIVED IN AUSTRALIA ABOUT 65,000 YEARS AGO

A team of researchers, has found and dated artifacts in northern Australia that indicate humans arrived there about 65,000 years ago — more than 10,000 years earlier than previously thought. A paper published in the journal Nature describes dating techniques and artifact finds at Madjedbebe, a longtime site of archaeological research, that could inform other theories about the emergence of early humans and their coexistence with wildlife on the Australian continent.

The new date makes a difference, co-author and University of Washington associate professor of anthropology Ben Marwick said. Against the backdrop of theories that place humans in Australia anywhere between 47,000 and 60,000 years ago, the concept of earlier settlement calls into question the argument that humans caused the extinction of unique megafauna such as giant kangaroos, wombats and tortoises more than 45,000 years ago.

“Previously it was thought that humans arrived and hunted them out or disturbed their habits, leading to extinction, but these dates confirm that people arrived so far before that they wouldn’t be the central cause of the death of megafauna,” Marwick said. “It shifts the idea of humans charging into the landscape and killing off the megafauna. It moves toward a vision of humans moving in and coexisting, which is quite a different view of human evolution.”

Since 1973, digs at Madjedbebe, a rock shelter in Australia’s Northern Territory, have unearthed more than 10,000 stone tools, ochres, plant remains and bones. Following the more recent excavations in 2012 and 2015, a University of Queensland-led research team, which included the UW, evaluated artifacts found in various layers of settlement using radiocarbon dating and optical stimulated luminescence (OSL).

The new research involved extensive cooperation with the local Aboriginal community, Marwick added. The Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, representing the Mirarr people, joined much of the excavation and reviewed the findings, Marwick said. Researchers had both a memorandum of understanding and a contract with the community, which gave control to the Mirarr as senior custodians, oversight of the excavation and curation of the finds. The Mirarr were interested in supporting new research into the age of the site and in knowing more about the early human occupants, particularly given environmental threats posed by nearby modern-day mining activities.

Noteworthy among the artifacts found were ochre “crayons” and other pigments, what are believed to be the world’s oldest edge-ground hatchets, and evidence that these early humans ground seeds and processed plants. The pigments indicate the use of paint for symbolic and artistic expression, while the tools may have been used to cut bark or food from trees.

Labs in Australia used OSL to identify the age range, Marwick explained. Radiocarbon dating, which requires a certain level of carbon in a substance, can analyze organic materials up to about 45,000 or 50,000 years old. But OSL is used on minerals to date, say, the last time a sand grain was exposed to sunlight — helpful in determining when an artifact was buried — up to 100,000 years ago or more. That process measured thousands of sand grains individually so as to establish more precise ages.

The UW researchers worked in the geoarchaeology lab on the Seattle campus, testing sediment samples that Marwick helped excavate at Madjedbebe. One graduate student and six undergraduate students studied the properties of hundreds of dirt samples to try to picture the time in which the ancient Australian humans lived.

Using a scanning electron microscope, the students examined the composition of the sediment layers, the size of the grains of dirt and any microscopic plant matter. For another test, the students baked soil samples at various temperatures, then measured the mass of each sample, said UW doctoral student Gayoung Park, another author on the paper. Because organic matter turns into gases at high heat, a loss of mass indicated how much matter was in a given sample. This helped create a picture of the environments across the sedimentary layers of the site. The team found that when these human ancestors arrived, northern Australia was wetter and colder.

CHINESE MUSEUM OFFERING CASH TO WHOEVER CAN DECIPHER 3,000 YEAR OLD INSCRIPTIONS



During the 19th century, farmers in China’s Henan Province began discovering oracle bones—engraved ox scapulae and tortoise shells used by Shang Dynasty leaders for record-keeping and divination purposes—while plowing their fields. More bones were excavated in subsequent years, and their inscriptions were revealed to be the earliest known form of systematic writing in East Asia.

But over the decades, scholars still haven’t come close to cracking half of the mysterious script’s roughly 5000 characters—which is why one Chinese museum is asking membes of the public for help, in exchange for a generous cash reward.

As Atlas Obscura reports, the National Museum of Chinese Writing in Anyang, Henan Province has offered to pay citizen researchers about $15,000 for each unknown character translated, and $7500 if they provide a disputed character’s definitive meaning. Submissions must be supported with evidence, and reviewed by at least two language specialists.

MONUMENTAL TOMB DISCOVERED NEAR POMPEII


A monumental tomb with a long funerary epigraph describing the life of the deceased has been discovered in Porta Stabia, according to a report in ANSAmed. The inscription is missing the man’s name, but it says he was a duoviro, or Pompeii city magistrate, and describes his coming of age, his wedding, and his sponsorship of banquets and games.

The inscription also contains information about an armed brawl at a gladiator show in Pompeii in 59 A.D., in which the tomb’s occupant may have been killed. We know from an account left by the Roman historian Tacitus that after a Senate investigation into the brawl, ordered by Emperor Nero, that the residents of Pompeii were forbidden to hold gladiator games for ten years, and those who organized the games and incited the clash were exiled.

Pompeii’s general director, Massimo Osanna, said the newly found inscription complements the account left by Tacitus and mentions that some of the city’s magistrates were also exiled.

NEW EVIDENCE ABOUT SOLOMON'S STABLES ON THE TEMPLE MOUNT IN ISRAEL


The structure housed the horses of the Knights Templar during the Crusades. We have found many horseshoe nails, arrowheads, coins, and bits of armor from the Crusader period.

On the stones in the piers that hold up the vaulted ceiling of the structure, you can see the draft margin from the Herodian period. The other sides imitate this poorly, so we know these stones are in secondary use, originating from the Southern Wall of the Temple Mount platform. The structure was constructed in the Early Islamic Period.

As reconstruction, earthquakes, or other building happened on the Temple Mount over the last millennium, the debris would be removed to the Eastern side of the Temple Mount. Therefore, the material we are sifting is not necessarily specific to this corner of the Mount. Rather it is a sample of many different sites across the Temple Mount and shows us bits and pieces of the whole history of the Temple Mount.

There is possibly another structure beneath Solomon’s Stables because the walls of the Temple Mount platform could not hold so much soil without further support and the bedrock is very low.

The Destruction:
1.In 1996, renovation began in Solomon’s Stables in order to convert it into a usable mosque (Al-Marwani Mosque). The wall between the Triple Gate and Solomon’s Stables was breached to create an entrance to the new mosque. Dirt heaps were removed from within the structure.

2.In 1999, a new monumental (huge) entrance way was opened. This was done by bulldozer and without archaeological supervision. This was initiated by the Northern Flank of the Islamic Movement in Israel in coordination with the Waqf. Prime Minister Barak gave oral permission for this new entrance as well on a smaller scale. Legally in Israel, any construction must first complete a salvage excavation to record any archaeology in the proposed construction zone. Especially in a place as sensitive and historic as the Temple Mount, this excavation is not only necessary legally but also ethically. No such excavation took place.

IN ISRAEL FRESHWATER TURTLES WEREE HUNTED BY HOMININS 60,000 YEARS AGO

According to a report in The Jerusalem Post, Rebecca Biton of Hebrew University has found evidence that hominins hunted freshwater turtles in the northern Jordan Valley some 60,000 years ago.

“In Israel, at every archaeological site you will find some evidence of the exploitation of tortoises, which do not have much meat, but were consumed,” she said. The discovery of Western Caspian turtle remains, which live in fresh water, suggests that humans were also exploiting animals from Hula Lake and the surrounding swamps. “They took the turtle and smashed the shell and cooked whatever meat they could extract,” she said. The meat was carefully removed with a flint knife, she added. For more, go to “Let a Turtle Be Your Psychopomp.”