Sunday, October 28, 2018


It may be hard to imagine now but at the start of the 20th Century much of Stonehenge was propped up with wooden poles and parts were in danger of collapse. The ancient stone circle had been privately-owned by the Antrobus family who had looked after it since the early 19th Century. But they put it up for auction in 1915.

It was bought for £6,600 by Cecil and Mary Chubb, who gave it to the nation 100 years ago - on 26 October 1918.
Kate Mavor, English Heritage's Chief Executive, said their "generosity saved Stonehenge and transformed it from a neglected ruin to a national treasure". "Their gift started a program of care and conservation for the ancient stones and the surrounding landscape, one that continues today," she added. Mrs Chubb received a legacy in 1905 of £100,000 - the equivalent of nearly £8m today. Her husband used part of this money to buy the Stonehenge site at the auction in 1915.

Brian Edwards, a visiting research fellow at the regional history center at the University of the West of England, who has documented their lives, said: "She was absolutely crucial to this story because, without her legacy, Stonehenge would never have been purchased." Mr Chubb was knighted a year after Stonehenge was handed to the nation via a deed of gift, and the pair became Sir Cecil and Lady Chubb.

A number of repairs took place between 1919 and 1920. Realizing the care and attention Stonehenge needed the government oversaw a number of projects to improve the site for visitors. Many of the stones had fallen and several had become twisted as a result of many years of neglect.

Prof William Gowland carried out an excavation at Stonehenge in September 1901. English Heritage historian Susan Greaney said the circle was in a bad state of repair when it was donated by the Chubbs but that their generosity "would never be forgotten". Two major sets of work took place, she said, between 1919 and 1921 and in the 1950s and 60s, which left the stones in their current state.

Nowadays, the stone circle is perhaps best known for its use during the summer and winter solstices - when thousands of people gather to celebrate the longest and shortest days of the year. The Stonehenge area is now a Unesco World Heritage Site - joining other UK sites such as the Giant's Causeway, the Lake District and Canterbury Cathedral. But that status could be under threat.

The government wants to build a 1.9 mile (3km) tunnel to replace the single-carriage road that currently runs alongside the monument, arguing the move would help alleviate congestion. Highways England argues the tunnel would "restore the tranquil environment and setting of the monument" but archaeologists claim digging the area up would cause irreparable damage. And because of this, Unesco, which argues a bypass would be better than a tunnel, has threatened to withdraw World Heritage Status.


An ancient Greek trading ship dating back more than 2,400 years has been found virtually intact at the bottom of the Black Sea, the world's oldest known shipwreck, researchers reported. The vessel is one of more than 60 shipwrecks identified by the Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project including Roman ships and a 17th-century Cossack raiding fleet.

During the three-year project, researchers used specialist remote deep-water camera systems previously used in offshore oil and gas exploration to map the sea floor. "A small piece of the vessel has been carbon dated and it is confirmed as the oldest intact shipwreck known to mankind," the project said in a statement.

The ship, which is lying on its side with its mast and rudders intact, was dated back to 400 BC—a time when the Black Sea was a trading hub filled with Greek colonies. The team said the vessel, previously only seen in an intact state on the side of ancient Greek pottery, was found at a depth of more than 2,000 meters (6,500 feet).
The water at that depth is oxygen-free, meaning that organic material can be preserved for thousands of years.

"A ship, surviving intact, from the Classical world, lying in over two kilometers of water, is something I would never have believed possible," said Professor Jon Adams from the University of Southampton in southern England, the project's main investigator. "This will change our understanding of shipbuilding and seafaring in the ancient world," he said. Helen Farr, a project team member, said: "We have bits of shipwreck which are earlier but this one really looks intact". "The project as a whole was actually looking at sea level change and the flooding of the Black Sea region... and the shipwrecks are a happy by-product of that," she told BBC radio.

Read more at:

Saturday, October 27, 2018


Archaeologists and preservation activists in the Gaza Strip have managed to halt the destruction of a Bronze Age site for now, but the future of what remains may still be in jeopardy.

Palestinian archaeologist Moain Sadeq says the mound at Tell es-Sakan near Gaza City is a "unique" site that could offer an invaluable glimpse into the region's ancient heritage. It is "maybe the only fortified Canaanite city in southern Palestine" occupied continuously from 3200 to 2000 BC, he says. Since it was discovered by chance in 1998, the man-made mound has been scarred by bulldozers more than once.

A few weeks ago the earthmoving equipment returned yet again, destroying a large part of archaeological excavations carried out in 1999 and 2000 by Sadeq and his French colleague Pierre de Miroschedji. The land was to be cleared for homes for public officials in the Palestinian territory ruled by the Islamist Hamas movement.
After a concerted effort by archaeologists, academics and those concerned with Gaza's heritage, the work was eventually halted. But the activists are unsure how long the reprieve will last in a strip of land that has already seen its archaeological riches devastated by three wars with Israel, Palestinian infighting, overcrowding and indifference.

The latest attempt to build over the ancient mound was the third time the site has been threatened by bulldozers since 1998. The first building works actually helped uncover the site as vigilant archaeologists spotted traces of ancient civilization being revealed and quickly intervened to stop construction.

After that French and Palestinian experts moved in, but their dig was cut short in 2000 when the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, against Israeli occupation drove them away. Since then excavation work has remained frozen in time—with any attempt to restart it complicated by a new housing project that has cut off the north of the site. When the bulldozers recently returned, they devastated the excavation Sadeq and his colleagues had left as a work in progress.

But archaeologists insist the site is of major interest, marking the shift from agricultural to urban society.
Beneath the surface is "a huge, very important site, with (the remains of) fortifications, houses," Sadeq said.
"It is a city—not a small town, but a royal city, with a high level of organisation, administrative and military structures."

The site is located at the mouth of Gaza's main watercourse, on the coastal route between Egypt and the ancient Canaanite region and beyond, to Syria and Mesopotamia. The oldest finds are remains of Egyptian design of clay dwellings, ceramics, stone tools and fragments of pendants.

Pottery was found that could be linked to Narmer, Egypt's first king, whose seal has been located elsewhere in the Gaza Strip, indicating Gaza's close ties with its giant neighbor 1,000 years before the pyramids were built.

To most Gazans the spot is a weekend leisure destination, where children play in the sand and young men practice motocross. They are vaguely aware of its historical significance, although no signs point it out. Nevertheless it was Gaza's citizens who raised the alarm when the earthmovers rumbled in lately, said Jean-Baptiste Humbert, of the French Biblical and Archaeological School in Jerusalem.

Gaza's citizens raised the alarm when earthmovers rumbled in recently, Jean-Baptiste Humbert, of the French Biblical and Archaeological School in Jerusalem says. His report and enlistment of supporters paid off, with the authorities behind the housing program agreeing to halt it, Jamal Abu Rida, general secretary of the Gaza archaeology authority, told AFP. The site, he said, is the authority's property. "Nobody has the right to strip it," he said. Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, has been accused of neglecting the strip's past, especially its pre-Islamic heritage.

"We have a housing crisis and high population growth. We are talking about 2.05 million people in Gaza now," said Amal Shmalee, a spokeswoman for the housing authority. "This necessitates new housing programmes." She said that nevertheless construction work at Tell es-Sakan had been halted and "we are going to stick" to that decision.

Read more at:

Wednesday, October 24, 2018


Some of the most important ancient sites in the Mediterranean region — the Greek city of Ephesus, Istanbul’s historic districts, Venice’s canals — might not survive the era of climate change.

Those places joined a list of others that we’ve covered extensively here at The Times. Our series on cultural heritage has looked at the Cedars of Lebanon, the Stone Age villages of Scotland and the statues of Easter Island, all of which are threatened by climate change.

In the case of Scotland and Easter Island, the menace is from rising seas. Many civilizations of the past, much like many present-day cities, were centered on coastal areas. As sea levels rise — both because warmer water takes up more space than cooler water, and because of melting glaciers — these heritage sites face sharply increased risks from both coastal erosion and flooding.

The new study, published in the journal Nature Communications, analyzed 49 Unesco heritage sites in the Mediterranean region in terms of end-of-century sea level rise projections that assume we don’t mitigate climate change.

Citizens and scientists on the Orkney Islands are racing to protect thousands of ancient structures threatened by climate change.

In Lebanon, the danger is shrinking habitat. The conditions the cedar trees need to live are becoming more and more rare as the Middle East heats up. Global warming could wipe out most of the country’s remaining cedar forests by the end of the century.

The researchers concluded that of the 49 sites, 46 will be threatened by coastal erosion and 40 by flooding if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise.


The gallery, spread over two rooms, tells the story of cultures of the Islamic world from a region that stretches from West Africa to Southeast Asia from the seventh century to the present day. The Albukhary Foundation Gallery provides an extraordinary opportunity for visitors to view artifacts presented in displays with themes such as science, calligraphy, fashion and storytelling.

The collection includes archaeology, decorative arts, shadow puppets, textiles and contemporary art, Anadolu Agency reported. The gallery notably features many examples of Ottoman culture, including an Ottoman mosque lamp made in Iznik, northwestern Turkey and a beautiful Ottoman banner from the period of Selim III (1789-1807).

The Albukhary Foundation is a non-profit organization based in Malaysia with an international presence. For the past 40 years, it has been promoting goodwill through education and cultural heritage.


- A charcoal inscription uncovered during new excavations at Pompeii backs the theory that the Mount Vesuvius eruption that destroyed the ancient Roman city took place in October of 79 AD, not August. The inscription is dated the 16th day before the calends of November - i.e. October 17.

It is the latest in a series of important finds made during recent excavations of the Regio V section of Pompeii.

Monday, October 15, 2018


A jade ax from the Italian Alps and three drums carved out of Yorkshire chalk are among artifacts that have been brought together for an exhibition at Stonehenge and tell the story of a prehistoric version of Brexit. The exhibition, Making Connections: Stonehenge in its Prehistoric World, explains the movement of people between the British Isles and continental Europe.

Before Stonehenge appeared, the exhibition shows, Britain and Ireland had close connections with their continental neighbors as the earliest farmers migrated to and from mainland Europe: hence the appearance of the highly polished jade ax from the Alps, which arrived in Britain in about 4000 BC.

However, during the era when Stonehenge was being built and used – the stones arrived in about 2500 BC and the structure was complete by 2000 BC or thereabouts – there was an apparent hiatus in cross-Channel cultural exchange.

Later, by the early bronze age, mass migration between the continent and the British Isles had begun again and objects shown in the exhibition, such as the Blessington lunula, a spectacular golden collar found in Ireland but with European markings, were being created.

Susan Greaney, an English Heritage historian, said the exhibition illustrated a constantly changing ebb and flow of people, objects, styles and ideas. “Our ancestors have been making and breaking relationships with continental Europe for thousands of years,” she said. The central question that cannot be answered is what brought about the hiatus at the time of Stonehenge’s construction. “We don’t know why,” said Greaney. “It seems the British Isles and mainland Europe diverged. It may be there are different languages, different religious beliefs.”

The idea of the exhibition was to bring objects from the British Museum in London to Stonehenge – the first time this has been done – to help to place the Wiltshire site in this ancient, shifting European context. It is not trying to make any political statements about current relations between the UK and Europe.

One of the standout objects is the jade ax, which was not a practical object but is believed to have ceremonial or symbolic significance and shows close links between continental Europe and the British isles in the pre-Stonehenge days. Another stunning exhibit is the Folkton drums, three elaborately carved chalk cylinders found in the grave of a child in North Yorkshire. They probably date to the late Neolithic period as the geometric and spiral decoration and stylized faces are seen on grooved ware pottery and megalithic monuments of this period. They are in the exhibition to represent the hiatus when what is now the UK and Ireland appeared to become more insular. People were travelling all around the British Isles but if they were venturing to the continent they appeared not to be bringing back objects – or ideas.

Neil Wilkin, a curator of the bronze age collection at the British Museum, said: “To be able to bring all these objects together for the first time at Stonehenge, one of the most important symbols of ancient Britain, is an exciting prospect.”

13,000 year old brewery discovered in Israel --earliest production!

The earliest evidence of alcohol production has been discovered in the Rakefet Cave in Mount Carmel. Probably a kind of beer made from fermented grains, the brew was produced by the Natufians who lived in the region at that time.

The Epipaleolithic Natufian culture existed from around 13,050 to 7,550 BCE in the Levant, and was unusual in that it supported a sedentary or semi-sedentary population before the introduction of agriculture. Natufian communities may be the ancestors of the builders of the first Neolithic settlements in the region, which may have been the earliest in the world.

Natufians are believed to have founded Jericho, considered by many to be the oldest city in the world. Some evidence suggests Natufian cultivation of cereals at Tell Abu Hureyra in what is now northern Syria - site of earliest evidence of agriculture in the world. The world's oldest evidence of bread-making has been found at Shubayqa, a 14,500 year old site in Jordan's northeastern desert.

Excavation leader Professor Danny Nadel of the University of Haifa: "The Rakefet Cave does not stop offering new discoveries about the wonderful Natufian culture. We have already discovered that they buried their dead and that they lined the graves with a bed of flowers. We discovered their technological capabilities through a variety of tools and now we find that they produced beer and consumed it, apparently at special ceremonies."

Another finding at the Rakefet Cave site were dozens of craters carved several centimeters deep in the rock. One test revealed evidence of several different grains stored in the same craters, including wheat, barley, oatmeal, legumes, and flax. Other tests showed remains of starch grains that underwent changes corresponding to fermentation, craters used to store grains before and after fermentation, and for crushing and grinding of grains. Remnants of fibers found at the bottom of the craters indicates grains were stored in woven baskets.

Edited from (13 September 2018)
[4 images, 1 drawing, 1 map]

Thursday, October 11, 2018


According to a report on the Swedish news site Andy and his 8-year-old daughter Saga were wrapping up a day at Vidöstern lake, near their summer home, when the girl reached underwater and felt something hard and metallic greet her fingers. She pulled the mystery object from the lake and found it had a handle, a scabbard and a long, rusted blade. She thought it was a Viking sword — but a call to the local history museum revealed it to be much older.

"The sword is now presumed to be around 1,500 years old," Mikael Nordström, head of archaeology, conservation and preservation at Sweden's Jönköping County Museum, told Live Science in an email.

According to Nordström, the weapon is estimated to date to the fifth or sixth century (the Viking era began around the late eighth century), is about 2.8 feet (85 centimeters) long and was found encased in a scabbard made of leather and wood. The sword is remarkably well-preserved for a hunk of metal that's been sitting in a lake for, presumably, 1,000-plus years.

"Why it has come to be there, we don't know," Nordström told The Local. "When we searched a couple of weeks ago, we found another prehistoric object; a brooch from around the same period as the sword, so that means — we don't know yet — but perhaps it's a place of sacrifice."

A third expedition to the lake turned up a coin from the 18th century (oh, Europe!), but so far, no other pre-Viking artifacts.

Whatever secrets The Sword in The Lake holds will likely unfold slowly. According to The Local, Saga generously donated the sword to the Jönköping County Museum, where experts will work to conserve it for about a year before eventually putting it on display. For now, the investigation of the Vidöstern lake area continues, and young Saga will have to content herself with being Queen of Our Hearts, at least for today


a Roman bowl and an intact Bronze Age urn are among "hugely significant" artifacts found during work to upgrade the A14. A team of 250 archaeologists have been on site as part of Highways England's £1.5bn scheme to improve the stretch between Cambridge and Huntingdon.

More than four tonnes of pottery fragments have been unearthed since work began two years ago. Experts said some of the pottery was of the "highest quality". Teams led by the MOLA Headland Infrastructure have dug more than 40 separate excavation areas covering an area of 350 hectares (3.5 sq km).

The entire area was the site of a medieval village and a Roman trade distribution center archaeologists found.

Among the pieces recovered are a Samianware Roman bowl, depicting a male figure fighting a lion, which would have been imported from France - giving an insight into the wealth, status and travels of the people who lived here.


New archaeological discoveries in Jerash have been described as “priceless” by historians and archaeologists, among them was an almost-whole sculpture of the Greek goddess of love and beauty "Aphrodite". For archaeologists, the sculpture of Aphrodite (Venus in Rome) is an unprecedented find in the Middle East.

According to Head of the Jerash Department of Antiquities Ziyad Ghuneimat, several full sculptures including that of Aphrodite, in addition to 14 other large pieces that are thought to be part of various unknown sculptures, were the findings of the three-year-long digging discovery. “Aphrodite’s sculpture has an invaluable worth in the archaeological and historical world, so to find a whole sculpture of her is an unprecedented achievement," Ghuneimat told The Jordan Times.

Thomas Weber-Karyotakis, a professor in archaeology and also the head of the team in Jerash, told The Jordan Times that this discovery is “very unique and very exceptional in the Middle East because similar sculptures were only found in Greece and Rome”.

Another discovery described as also “priceless” by Ghuneimat and his team of archaeologists is a sculpture of Zeus — the Olympian god of the sky and the thunder and the chief figure in Greek mythology. The sculpture will be displayed at the existing Zeus temple in Jerash.

Seven out of the "Nine Muses", the inspirational Greek goddesses, were also found in Jerash, according to Weber who expressed his concerns that the remaining two might be under modern buildings which are near the archaeological site. "We hope to find them before the digging process is finalized in November.”

Ghuneimat predicted that this discovery will draw archaeological experts and gurus from all over the world to Jerash, "since it is now one of [the] place[s] with a full sculpture of the Greek goddess”. Jerash Tourism Director Bassam Tobat told The Jordan Times that “the discovery will not only attract archaeologists, but also tourists”. The sculptures will be ready for show by November. "Displaying the newly-found Aphrodite sculpture in the Jerash tourist museum and the Zeus sculpture in the temple will add value to both these places.”


A house with a room containing a 'lararium', a shrine dedicated to the Lares, protectors of the ancient Roman home, has been discovered in Pompeii and exclusively visited by ANSA.

The room, which is incredibly well-preserved and has the largest lararium found to date in Pompeii, is an "enchanted garden", experts said. Its walls are painted with snakes, a peacock, golden beasts fighting against a black wild boar, skies decorated with birds, a well, a colored tub and the portrait of a figure that is partly man and partly a dog.

The director of the Pompeii archaeological park, Massimo Osanna, told ANSA that it is "a marvelous, enigmatic room", a treasure "to be studied in-depth".


Dozens of Syria's archaeological sites have been destroyed, damaged or looted since the start of the seven-year civil war, with all sides blamed for the plundering. On Wednesday evening, golden coins, bronze statues and amphorae were among 500 artifacts on show at the Damascus opera house. Visitors could admire two rare busts rescued from the ancient city of Palmyra and restored in Italy after being damaged by the Islamic State jihadist group.

The exhibits were "found by the Syrian army and its allies, and the different security forces," after they retook cities and archaeological sites from rebels and jihadists, antiquities chief Mahmoud Hamoud said. They "are from all historical eras -- from the tenth century BC to the Islamic era", Hamoud said. In total, more than 9,000 pieces have been salvaged, he said.

"But tens of thousands of archaeological pieces that were smuggled out of the country have not returned," Hamoud alleged. Several artifacts were retrieved from neighboring Lebanon, he added, but were not part of the exhibition. Thousands of Syrian archaeological treasures remain in neighboring Turkey and hundreds more across the border in Jordan, the antiquities chief said.

All warring sides have been accused of looting artifacts during the Syrian conflict, from both major archaeological sites and the country's museums. More than 360,000 people have been killed since the war started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor says.


The Czech archaeological mission operating in Abusir, north of the Saqqara region in Giza and headed by archaeologist Miroslav Barta has uncovered a huge limestone and brick tomb for a man identified as Kaer S, dating back to the middle of the Fifth Dynasty in the eras of King Nyuserre Ini and King Neferirkare Kakai.

Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities Mostafa al-Waziry said that the owner of the tomb had several titles, including the “Supervisor of the King’s affairs”, and that his name was found engraved on the walls of the cemetery.

Adel Okasha, director of the Central Department of Antiquities of Cairo and Giza, said that during the excavation the mission found a rose granite statue in the main well of the tomb, broken into two parts.

The statue represents Kaer S sitting on a small backless chair, while wearing a short beret and a hair wig. His name as well as his titles were engraved on the seat.

His titles included the “Morning House Secret Keeper”, and “His Master’s Beloved”.

Barta said the archaeological mission will complete work to uncover the rest of the tomb.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm