Friday, 6 January 2012

Freshen Up With Archaeology Friday (Post III)

Lots have been going on in the past week so let's get down to it.


Orcadian temple predates Stonehenge by 500 Years:

Archaeologists have discovered a Stone age temple on the island of Orkney (to the north of Britain) that seems to predate the legendary Stonehenge!

A computer model of the site (from the BBC)
Archeologists have so far found undisturbed artefacts including wall decorations, pigments and paint pots, which are already increasing their understanding of the Neolithic people.

Experts believe the huge outer wall suggests the site was not domestic, while the layout of the buildings has reinforced the view it might have been a major religious site. Archaeologists think the temple was built 500 years before Stonehenge, regarded as the centre of Stone Age Britain.

However, only 10% of the site at Ness of Brodgar has been excavated and it could be years before the scale and age of the discovery is fully understood.
 It sits close to the existing Ring of Brodgar stone circles and the standing stones of Stenness, near to the town of Stromness.

The uncovered wall around the edges of the site was built with 10,000 tonnes of quarried rock and may have been up to 10 ft high.
Thermal technology also indicates the site could cover the same area as five football pitches, with some parts potentially older than Stonehenge, in south-west England, by as much as 800 years.

Charcoal samples from beneath the wall indicate it was built around 3200 BC. A 30mm high figurine with a head, body and two eyes, and called the "Brodgar Boy", was also unearthed in the rubble of one of the structures.

About 18 months ago, a remarkable rock coloured red, orange and yellow was unearthed. This is the first discovery in Britain of evidence that Neolithic peoples used paint to decorate their buildings.

Project manager Nick Card said the discoveries are unparalleled in British prehistory and that the complexity of finds is changing the "whole vision of what the landscape was 5000 years ago." He said it was of "a scale that almost relates to the classical period in the Mediterranean with walled enclosure and precincts".
Mr Card added: "It's a huge discovery; in terms of scale and complexity there really is nothing else quite like it.

Archaeologists Excavate Legendary City of Dan:

According to the Biblical account, ancient Israel established one of its great temples in the city of Dan. And here, late Neolithic people first settled as early as 4500 B.C.E., and Bronze Age inhabitants constructed the world’s oldest known gated archway.

Known today as Tell el-Qadi, more popularly as "Tel Dan", the site is located near Mount Hermon in Northern Israel adjacent to one of the sources of the Jordan River. The 'Tel', or mound, was defined very early on during the Middle Bronze period when massive defensive ramparts were constructed, encircling the city.
One of the iconic ramparts (now ruined) of Dan

Although the ramparts rise about 20 meters from the surrounding surface area, the interior of the site is actually as much as 10 meters lower than the tops of the ramparts. It was first identified based on historical records as the city of Laish, a town allied with the Phoenician Sidonians and later renamed "Dan" after the early Isrealite tribe of Dan, which conquered and settled it as documented in the Book of Judges.

Thanks to a bilingual Greek and Aramaic inscription found at the site in 1976, this city name has been confirmed. Translated, that inscription reads, “To the God who is in Dan, Zoilos made a vow.”

Ancient Egyptian texts and cuneiform tablets from Mesopotamia document Dan’s significance during the second millennium B.C.E.  Later, during the Iron Age, Aramaeans, Israelites, and Assyrians fought over this city. Dan was a recognized cultic center even into the Greco-Roman period.

Although the site was first identified by Edward Robinson in 1838, the best known excavations of the site began in 1966 under the late Israeli archaeologist Avraham Biran, and it was under his direction that the most spectacular discoveries were made. His team of excavators uncovered a mud-brick city gate (pictured right) dated to around 1750 BCE (the Middle Bronze period), the time of the Biblical patriarchs.

It is popularly known as Abraham's gate because, according to the Biblical account, Abraham journeyed to Dan to rescue his nephew Lot. They also uncovered an Israelite temple, thought by Biblical scholars to be the temple built by Jeroboam, King of Israel after the United Monarchy split into Israel in the north and Judah to the south.

It was this temple where, according to the Bible, he housed the golden calf and challenged the temple in Jerusalem as a religious center of Israel. Additionally, an elaborate Israelite gate was discovered, consisting of an upper gate and a lower gate, each featuring inner and outer gates and plazas.

Arguably the most sensational find, however, was the discovery of parts of a basalt stone stele bearing an inscription containing a declaration by a king of Damascus (possibly Hazael, c. 840 BCE, or Ben-Hadad, c. 802 BCE). Translated, it proclaims his military victory and destruction of at least some parts of the Kingdom of Israel, and the killing of two kings of Israel.

Notably, it contains the phrase "House of David" ["......and I killed [Ahaz]iahu son of [Jehoram kin]g of the House of David"], a phrase rarely, if at all, seen in any extra-biblical context. Today, many Levantine archaeologists and scholars agree that it refers to a royal dynasty of David and that the Tel Dan Stele therefore represents tangible evidence that there was indeed a "kingdom", or royal dynasty, of David.

For more pictures and information, they are available here

Greatest Mystery of Incans was their Strange Economy:

I'd like to keep this part short. This is an extract from this article (Greatest Mystery of the Incans), follow the link for more information if you'd like.

In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the Inca Empire was the largest South America had ever known. Centered in Peru, it stretched across the Andes' mountain tops and down to the shoreline, incorporating lands from today's Colombia, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina and Peru - all connected by a vast highway system whose complexity rivaled any in the Old World. Rich in foodstuffs, textiles, gold, and coca, the Inca were masters of city building but nevertheless had no money.

In fact, they had no marketplaces at all.

The Inca Empire may be the only advanced civilization in history to have no class of traders, and no commerce of any kind within its boundaries. How did they do it?

Many aspects of Incan life remain mysterious, in part because our accounts of Incan life come from the Spanish invaders who effectively wiped them out. Famously, the conquistador Francisco Pizzaro led just a few men in an incredible defeat of the Incan army in Peru in 1532. But the real blow came roughly a decade before that, when European invaders unwittingly unleashed a smallpox epidemic that some epidemiologists believe may have killed as many as 90 percent of the Incan people.

Our knowledge of these events, and our understanding of Incan culture of that era, come from just a few observers - mostly Spanish missionaries, and one mestizo priest and Inca historian named Blas Valera, who was born in Peru two decades after the fall of the Inca Empire.

Scientists say Shroud of Turin was created by ultraviolet lasers!

Perhaps the jaw-dropper headline of the Archaeology world, certainly no one was prepared to hear this!
The shroud of Turin (positive and negative comparison)

The exact origins of the Turin Shroud remain a great mystery, but scientists are now disputing the long-held belief that the religious artifact is a medieval forgery.

Italian researchers at the National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development say they believe the image was created by an ultraviolet "flash of light." However, if that theory is true, it remains a mystery as to exactly how that technology could have been implemented at the time of the Shroud's creation. While the technology is readily available in present day, it was far beyond the means of anyone around pre-20th Century.

The Turin Shroud is said to be the burial cloth of Jesus, but has long been believed to be a fake, created during medieval times. It is currently kept in a climate-controlled case in Turin cathedral. Scientists at the Italian agency have reportedly spent years attempting to recreate the Shroud's imagery.
'The results show a short and intense burst of UV directional radiation can colour a linen cloth so as to reproduce many of the peculiar characteristics of the body image on the Shroud of Turin,' the scientists said.

"When one talks about a flash of light being able to color a piece of linen in the same way as the shroud, discussion inevitably touches on things such as miracles," said Professor Paolo Di Lazzaro, who led the study. "But as scientists, we were concerned only with verifiable scientific processes. We hope our results can open up a philosophical and theological debate."


Believers in the Shroud say it contains the image of a man with nail wounds to the wrist and feet. Still, skeptics of the Shroud's authenticity are unlikely to be swayed. There has been substantial evidence working against it, including a 1988 radiocarbon test conducted at the University of Oxford, which dated the cloth to a time between 1260 and 1390.

Infamous 'Yeti Finger' is a Fraud:

A finger long claimed to be from a yeti, once revered in a monastery in Nepal and taken in the 1950s by a Bigfoot researcher, has been identified after decades of mystery. Turns out, it's just a regular old human finger — albeit one with a very interesting history.
The Mysterious Finger (photo from the Daily Mail)

The yeti is said to be a muscular beast weighing between 200 and 400 pounds and covered with dark grayish or reddish-brown hair. As in the case of its North American counterpart, Bigfoot, most of the evidence of its existence comes from fuzzy sightings, oversize footprints in the snow, or the occasional strand of funny-looking hair.

But there has been one interesting piece of physical evidence of the yeti: a finger that was either bought or stolen from the Pangboche Buddhist monasteryin the 1950s, depending on which disputed story you believe. It has been in London, among the collection of the Royal College of Surgeons, for more than half a century.

The finger was taken from the monastery by Bigfoot researcher Peter Byrne and was smuggled out of the country, so the story goes, by beloved Hollywood actor Jimmy Stewart, who hid it amid his wife's lingerie. The monstrous finger ended up in the possession of Dr. William Osman Hill, who had searched for the yeti in the 1950s on behalf of Texas millionaire Tom Slick; Hill later bequeathed the finger to the Royal College of Surgeons.

The finger has generated controversy among Bigfoot and yeti believers for decades and, until relatively recently, when researchers at the Edinburgh Zoo performed DNA analysis on the mysterious digit, it was impossible to know for certain what kind of animal it belonged to. [Mythical Beasts That Might Actually Exist]

If it is indeed a Yeti finger, then the mysterious beast is even more man-like than anyone imagined. According to the researchers' DNA analysis, the Yeti finger is human, perhaps from the corpse of a monk. But definitely human.
Rob Ogden of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland explained to BBC News: "We had to stitch it together. We had several fragments that we put into one big sequence, and then we matched that against the database and we found human DNA." The researchers said that the result “wasn’t too surprising, but obviously slightly disappointing.”

It is not the first yeti claim to be debunked by science. In 1960 Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to scale Mount Everest, searched for evidence of the beast and found a "scalp" that scientists later determined had been fashioned from the skin of a serow, a Himalayan animal similar to a goat.

Earlier this year a team of researchers in Russia claimed to have found "indisputable proof" of the yeti, though so far the evidence has fallen far short of the claims. If populations of yetis really exist, they, like Bigfoot, have somehow managed to avoid leaving any physical traces of their presence: bodies, bones, teeth, hair, or anything else.

NATO: Libyan Heritage Sites survive because of "No Strike" list:

Earlier this week (actually, two days ago), NATO released a report about its operations in Libya with regards to the UNESCO heritage sites, claiming that the sites were relatively unscathed from the Libyan Civil War,due to a strict 'No Strike' list adopted by the military alliance.

The report says:
During the conflict in Libya there were allegations that pro-Qadhafi troops and missiles were being hidden in the ancient city of Leptis Magna and that Qadhafi was using it as an archaeological shield.
With such explosive storage, the risk of damage was great, but the sites of Leptis Magna and Sabratha have survived the conflict unscathed. That is excellent news for the cultural heritage of Libya and the tourism industry that the nation hopes to resurrect.
Conflict is not the only threat to ancient artefacts. There is also the risk that a breakdown in law and order can give criminals the opportunity to steal items of great significance. In perhaps the worst case of looting during the conflict, nearly eight thousand ancient gold, silver and bronze coins, as well as a small number of artefacts, were stolen from a Benghazi bank vault.
In some areas documentation, archiving and cataloguing was never carried out, making it difficult to estimate the loss to Libya’s cultural heritage. But, by and large, Libya seems to have avoided the kind of cultural looting and vandalism that occurred after the invasion of Iraq.
In a first of its kind initiative, two men were instrumental in setting up a ‘No Strike List’ of heritage and cultural sites that should be preserved in the conduct of air operations. They were Karl Von Habsburg, President of the ‘Blue Shield Committee’ in Austria and Dr Joris Kila, teacher at the University of Amsterdam and Chairman of ‘The International Military Cultural Resources Work Group’.
They have now returned to make an assessment of the damage inflicted by the conflict on Libya’s heritage. “We both know the importance to be fast and in a place where there is a potential conflict or an actual conflict,” says Karl, “you have to be there really fast to make an assessment and to see what you can do to immediately help.”
The two have been granted special access to sites that several months earlier had been welded shut for protection, a practice both experts agree is critical to protect heritage in times of unrest. While it works for museums, protecting sites like Leptis Magna and Cyrene in wide-open spaces is a lot more difficult.
The work they are undertaking fills the gap in the protection of heritage sites until the Libyan Government is able to take over. “We hope that we will encourage them to take over part of our duties,” says Joris, “and do the work that has to be done.
Some of the sites they visited had been in close proximity to air strikes and escaped with only cosmetic damage. “It seem like our no strike list with cultural sites was very effective,” Joris notes, “because we didn’t find serious damage with bombardments by NATO on cultural sites.”
Libyan archaeologists and historians can now breathe a sigh of relief that their heritage is still safe and secure.

2,000-year-old relief bust found in Stratonikeia, Turkey:

A picture of the bust (Photo from AA)

A 2,000-year-old relief bust of a king was discovered during excavations in ancient Stratonikeia in Muğla's Yatağan district.
Dr. Bilal Söğüt, a professor of archeology at Pamukkale University and head of the excavations, told the Anatolia news agency that they found a street in the ancient city which began with a gate and was lined with columns. During their excavations, they also discovered the bust of a king dating back to the Hellenistic period. The bust, which is one-and-a-half meters tall and nearly two meters wide, features depictions of bull heads and the figure of a goddess, Söğüt said.


The depictions of bull heads on the bust represent wealth and power. It was in this region that we previously found a racing chariot. The discovery of 1,500-year-old mosaics here was another welcome breakthrough for us,” he said.


According to Söğüt, the city walls constitute an important part of the excavation work carried out in the ancient city. “The city walls were restored approximately 2,400 years ago by King Mausolus. We have begun excavating these 2,400-year-old walls of this ancient city. Upon the completion of the excavations, we will start work on restoring the area,” he said.

Söğüt said he thinks the walls surrounding the ancient city are nearly 3,600 meters long.

“We discovered that one 400-meter section of wall has been preserved to this day. After completing restoration, we will open the wall to visitors," Söğüt said.

A 100-person team of academics, field workers and students discovered 460 artifacts in the ancient city in the seven-month-long excavations that took place last year, according to Söğüt. The artifacts were delivered to the Muğla Museum. The pieces date back to the Roman and Byzantine periods, he said.

Civil War-era wreck off Egmont Key to become preserve:

A Civil War-era ship that participated in one of the nation's most famous naval battles before sinking in the mouth of Tampa Bay is set to become Florida's 12th underwater archaeological preserve.

The wreck of the USS Narcissus tugboat off Egmont Key just north of Anna Maria Island "provides not only a fascinating underwater preserve to explore, it also offers a unique and adventurous look into our nation's naval history," Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning said this week in announcing the nomination.
A part of the wreckage (Photo from Herald Tribune)

Built in East Albany, N.Y., in 1863, the Narcissus steamed south in January 1864 to support the Union Navy's blockade of Confederate shipping routes, according to a report complied by state researchers.
The ship was involved in operations from New Orleans to Pensacola, but its most famous engagement came during the Battle of Mobile Bay on Aug. 5, 1864.

The union fleet's victory at Mobile Bay captured a key Confederate port and lived on in popular culture thanks to the "Damn the torpedoes!" command attributed to Rear Adm. David G. Farragut as he urged his ships forward against an array of defenses.

The Narcissus was ordered to return north for sale after the war but sank in 1866 off Egmont during the journey, killing the entire crew. Once almost completely buried in sand, the shipwreck reemerged in recent years about 15 feet below the surface, according to the state report.

A 2006 archaeological expedition reported "all of the steam machinery, propeller, propeller shaft, pillow block, boiler pieces, and a portion of the wooden hull were exposed."

Lovers' Pipe Dreams Emerge from Jerusalem Excavation:

An interesting find from Jerusalem, once again !

The pipe, in all its glory !
An archaeological excavation in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem has uncovered a centuries-old clay pipe inscribed with the phrase "Love is the language for lovers."

Literally translated, the inscription reads "Heart is language for the lover." And, not surprisingly, it was most likely a gift to a lover, according to Shahar Puni, of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

"Clay pipes of this kind were very common in the Ottoman period, were mostly used for smoking tobacco, and some were even used to smoke hashish," Puni said in a statement. Hashish comes from the cannabis plant, like marijuana.

During this period, from the 16th to the 19th century, Jerusalem was part of the vast Ottoman Empire, a Turkish state that reached into Asia, Africa and Europe.

"The Ottoman authorities tried to combat this practice [smoking] but failed when it became clear that smoking was firmly entrenched in all levels of society. Pipes were also used as a piece of jewelry that could be worn on a garment, and smoking itself was popular amongst both men and women," Puni said.

Jerusalemite women are shown smoking clay pipes similar to this one in 19th-century drawings. Smoking was often done in cafes and with groups of friends, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority. 
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And that's a wrap up for this Friday. See you next Friday !

Update:
Just hot off the presses and I thought it would be worthwhile to share.

Financial Crisis grips Bosnia Heritage sites:

To the average history-buff, it is of no doubt that Bosnia houses some of the wonders of the Balkan region (and has seen way more than its fair share of turmoil ). This from the BBC:

Reading rooms in Bosnia-Hercegovina's National Library have opened without heating as a funding crisis grips the divided country's heritage sites.

The institution in the capital Sarajevo is unable to meet its utility bills or pay its staff, deputy director Bedita Islamovic told the BBC News website.

Heating was switched off as the temperature hovered just above zero.
Other cultural institutions have closed completely as a result of disagreement over who should pay for their upkeep.

The Dayton peace agreement which ended the 1992-95 war split the country into two parts, linked by a weak central government.

The central government has no ministry of culture and no obligation to provide permanent funding for sites regarded as part of Bosnia-Hercegovina's national heritage.

Bosnian Serbs largely oppose giving the central government control over the sites, with their politicians arguing that each of the country's ethnic groups should care for its own heritage.

Bosnia's cultural breakdown

  • No central culture ministry
  • Bosniak-Croat Federation has a culture and sports ministry
  • Bosnian Serb Republic has an education and culture ministry
So deep are the continuing divisions that it has taken the sides 14 months to agree on the make-up of a new central government, after elections in October 2010.

This week, the Historical Museum closed and the National Gallery shut its doors early in the autumn.
The National Museum expects to close piece by piece in coming weeks as its power supply is cut off due to unpaid bills, director Adnan Busuladzic told the Associated Press news agency.

"By no will of our own, we have found ourselves in the middle of a political battle and have become a political problem," he said.

Among other things, the National Museum's collection includes the Sarajevo Haggadah, an illuminated manuscript brought to Bosnia by a Jewish family expelled from Spain during the Inquisition and saved from Hitler's forces during World War II.

The culture minister of the country's Bosniak-Croat Federation, Salmir Kaplan, reportedly pledged his government would provide funding to cover the unpaid utility bills of the National Museum.
However, he admitted this was just a temporary solution, AP says.

The Bosnian Serb Republic (Republika Srpska) has a culture ministry of its own.

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