sábado, 30 de junio de 2012

La Draga Neolithic site in Banyoles yields the oldest Neolithic bow discovered in Europe

Archaeological research carried out at the Neolithic site of La Draga, near the lake of Banyoles, has yielded the discovery of an item which is unique in the western Mediterranean and Europe. The item is a bow which appeared in a context dating from the period between 5400-5200 BCE, corresponding to the earliest period of settlement. It is a unique item given that it is the first bow to be found in tact at the site. According to its date, it can be considered chronologically the most ancient bow of the Neolithic period found in Europe. The study will permit the analysis of aspects of the technology, survival strategies and social organisation of the first farming communities which settled in the Iberian Peninsula. The bow is 108 cm long and presents a plano-convex section. Worth mentioning is the fact that it is made out of yew wood (Taxus baccata) as were the majority of Neolithic bows in Europe.
In previous archaeological campaigns, fragments of two bows were found (in 2002 and 2005) also from the same time period, but since they are fragmented it is impossible to analyse the characteristics of these tools. The current discovery opens new perspectives in understanding how these farming communities lived and organised themselves. These bows could have served different purposes, such as hunting, although if one takes into account that this activity was not all that common in the La Draga area, it cannot be ruled out that the bows may have represented elements of prestige or been related to defensive or confrontational activities.
Remains have been found of bows in Northern Europe (Denmark, Russia) dating from between the 8th and 9th centuries BCE among hunter-gatherer groups, although these groups were from the Paleolithic period, and not the Neolithic. The majority of bows from the Neolithic period in Europe can be found in central and northern Europe. Some fragments of these Neolithic bows from central Europe date from the end of the 6th millennium BCE, between 5200-5000 BCE, although generally they are from later periods, often more than a thousand years younger than La Draga. For this reason archaeologists can affirm that the three bows found at La Draga are the most ancient bows in Europe from the Neolithic period.
IMAGE:The process of the work was carried out at the La Draga site in Griona, Spain.
Click here for more information.
The research carried out at the La Draga site is financed by the Department of Culture of the Government of Catalonia and the Spanish Ministry for Economy and Competitiveness. This project is being conducted under the coordination of the County Archaeological Museum of Banyoles, with the participation of the UAB Department of Prehistory, the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology of the CSIC Institute Milà i Fontanals, the National Museum of Archaeology of Catalonia and the Centre for Underwater Archaeology of Catalonia. The excavation includes the participation of archaeology students from UAB and other universities in Spain and Europe.
The Neolithic people of La Draga, BanyolesLa Draga is located in the town of Banyoles, belonging to the county of Pla de l'Estany, and is an archaeological site corresponding to the location in which one of the first farming communities settled in the north-east of the Iberian Peninsula. The site is located on the eastern part of the Banyoles Lake and dates back to 5400 and 5000 BCE. The site occupies 8000 sq m and stretches out 100 m along the lake's shore and 80 m towards the east. Part of the site is totally submerged in the lake, while other parts are located on solid ground. The first digs were conducted between the years 1990 and 2005, under the scientific leadership of the County Archaeological Museum of Banyoles. Since 1994, excavations were also carried out by the Centre for Underwater Research (Museum of Archaeology of Catalonia). The current project (2008-2013) includes participation by the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and the Spanish National Research Council.
The site at La Draga is exceptional for several reasons. Firstly, due to its antiquity, which is considered to be one of the oldest of the Neolithic period existing in the Iberian Peninsula. Secondly, because it is an open-air site with a fairly continuous occupation. Lastly, and surely most remarkably, because of its exceptional conditions in which it is conserved. The archaeological levels are located in the phreatic layer surrounding Lake Banyoles, giving way to anaerobic conditions which favour the conservation of organic material. These circumstances make La Draga a unique site in all of the Iberian Peninsula, since it is the only one known to have these characteristics. In Europe, together with Dispilo in Greece and La Marmota in Italy, it is one of the few lake settlements from the 6th millennium BCE.
The phenomenon of Neolithic lake settlements is well known in the more modern chronologies of central Europe, where there is an abundance of lakes and humid environments, but extremely rare outside this geographic area. For this reason, the La Draga site is well-known amongst specialised scientific sectors and attracts researchers from around the world because of the quality of the data which can be obtained from this archaeological context. La Draga is a palaeodiverse island offering a set of extraordinary bioarchaeological elements, key for the analysis of how farming and livestock rearing communities came into existence in Europe.

Maya archaeologists unearth new 2012 monument

Archaeologists working at the site of La Corona in Guatemala have discovered a 1,300-year-old-year Maya text that provides only the second known reference to the so-called "end date" of the Maya calendar, December 21, 2012. The discovery, one of the most significant hieroglyphic finds in decades, was announced today at the National Palace in Guatemala.
"This text talks about ancient political history rather than prophecy," says Marcello A. Canuto, director of Tulane's Middle American Research Institute and co-director of the excavations at La Corona.
Since 2008, Canuto and Tomás Barrientos of the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala have directed excavations at La Corona, a site previously ravaged by looters.
"Last year, we realized that looters of a particular building had discarded some carved stones because they were too eroded to sell on the antiquities black market," said Barrientos, "so we knew they found something important, but we also thought they might have missed something."
What Canuto and Barrientos found was the longest text ever discovered in Guatemala. Carved on staircase steps, it records 200 years of La Corona history, states David Stuart, director of the Mesoamerica Center at The University of Texas at Austin, who was part of a 1997 expedition that first explored the site.
While deciphering these new finds in May, Stuart recognized the 2012 reference on a stairway block bearing 56 delicately carved hieroglyphs. It commemorated a royal visit to La Corona in AD 696 by the most powerful Maya ruler of that time, Yuknoom Yich'aak K'ahk' of Calakmul, only a few months after his defeat by long-standing rival Tikal in AD 695. Thought by scholars to have been killed in this battle, this ruler was visiting allies and allaying their fears after his defeat.
"This was a time of great political turmoil in the Maya region and this king felt compelled to allude to a larger cycle of time that happens to end in 2012," says Stuart.
So, rather than prophesy, the 2012 reference places this king's troubled reign and accomplishments into a larger cosmological framework.
"In times of crisis, the ancient Maya used their calendar to promote continuity and stability rather than predict apocalypse," says Canuto.
Members of the media who are interested in additional high-resolution photography and video of this find should contact pr@tulane.edu. For information on Tulane's Middle American Research Institute visit http://mari.tulane.edu/PRALC


CSIC recovers part of the genome of 2 hunter-gatherer individuals from 7,000 years ago

A team of scientists, led by researcher Carles Lalueza-Fox from CSIC (Spanish National Research Council), has recovered - for the first time in history - part of the genome of two individuals living in the Mesolithic Period, 7000 years ago. Remains have been found at La Braña-Arintero site, located at Valdelugueros (León), Spain. The study results, published in the Current Biology magazine, indicate that current Iberian populations don't come from these groups genetically.
The Mesolithic Period, framed between the Paleolithic and Neolithic Periods, is characterized by the advent of agriculture, coming from the Middle East. Therefore, the genome found is the oldest from Prehistory, and exceeds Ötzi, the Iceman, in 1700 years.
Researchers have also recovered the complete mitochondrial DNA of one of these individuals, through which they could determine that European populations from Mesolithic Period were very uniform genetically. Carles Lauleza-Fox, from the Institute of Evolutionary Biology (CSIC-UPF), states: "These hunters-gatherers shared nomadic habits and had a common origin. Despite their geographical distance, individuals from the regions corresponding to the current England, Germany, Lithuania, Poland, and Spain, shared the same mitochondrial lineage".
The DNA data, which represent the 1.34% and the 0.5% of both individuals total genome, show that they are not directly connected to current populations of the Iberian Peninsula. Iberians from the Mesolithic Period were closer to current populations of northern Europe, who could have assimilated part of the genetic legacy of these hunters-gatherers.

La Braña-Arintero site was discovered in 2006 by chance. Juan Manuel Vidal Encinas, archeologist from the Regional Government of Castilla y León, who has also participated in the study, has excavated it at a later date. The cave, due to its location in a cold and mountainous area, is a suitable place for the good preservation of the DNA of these two individuals, found inside it.
The oldest remains from PrehistoryCSIC researcher emphasizes: "So far, we only had one genome of the European Prehistory, that of Ötzi [also known as the Iceman], from the Neolithic Period. His mummy, belonging to a man who lived 5300 years ago, was found in the Tyrolean Alps, on the border between Austria and Italy. La Braña-Arintero site offers a unique opportunity to obtain pre-Neolithic genomes".
According to Lalueza-Fox, this is only a first result since the intention of the team is to recover the complete DNA of these individuals, and to compare it with that of the modern humans. CSIC researcher discloses: "The arrival of the Neolithic Period brought about a replacement of populations, and could cause genetic changes in genes associated with new infectious diseases, and in metabolic genes linked to changes in diet. Therefore, all the information extracted from this genome will be absolutely important".


New technologies help us better understand Ancient Rome

Historians and archaeologists have studied the ruins of the Roman Forum for centuries, employing the tools on hand to add to the knowledge of this center of Roman public life that hosted elections, triumphal processions, speeches, trials, shops and gladiatorial spectacles.

The latest research suggests these structures, which we know as white marble, may have been brightly painted.
Bernard Frischer, a classics and art history professor in the University of Virginia's College of Arts & Sciences, led a team of experts who used cutting-edge technology to find traces of yellow pigment on a bas-relief of a menorah on the forum's Arch of Titus. In its heyday, the yellow pigment would have appeared gold from a distance.
Frischer said the menorah has historical significance. "The menorah on the relief is extremely important to Jews, since it shows the menorah from the Second Temple in Jerusalem, which Titus captured and sacked in A.D. 70."
Exposed to the elements for centuries, today no traces of pigment are visible to the naked eye. The arch was cleaned and restored in the 1820s. "For all we knew, any surviving pigment had been scraped off the marble, as has happened all too often in the past with other monuments and statues," Frischer said. A 1999 study "found plenty of discoloration owing to pollution, but no traces of ancient pigment."
Frischer, co-director for technology of the "Arch of Titus Restoration Project," headed by Steven Fine at Yeshiva University in New York, brought together experts for a pilot project – to use 21st-century technology to seek any remaining traces of pigment.
"This entailed the use of two different technologies with which I am very familiar from earlier projects," Frischer said.
The consultants used non-invasive, 3-D optical data capture and ultra-violet visual spectrometry to determine the chemistry of the pigment deposits. Frischer called on the expertise of Unocad of Vincenza, Italy for the 3-D capture using the Breuckmann smartSCAN for its precise optical measurements, and Heinrich Piening, a conservator with the State of Bavaria Department for the Conservation of Castles, Gardens and Lakes in Germany and a pioneer in ultra-violet visual spectrometry, for analysis.
"UV-VIS spectrometry is still a relatively new technique in Roman archaeology," Frischer said.
Frischer has applied cutting-edge technologies in creating 3-D digital models for polychromy restoration of Roman figures, such as the Virginia Museum of Art's statue of Caligula, on behalf of the Virtual World Heritage Laboratory, [link: http://vwhl.clas.v … rginia.edu/] which he founded in July 2009. The laboratory is administered by the classics department and hosted by the art department.

The Arch of Titus project findings will also add another dimension to his lab's virtual "Rome Reborn" [link: http://www.romereb … rginia.edu/] project, a digital recreation of Rome as it appeared in A.D. 320. Frischer directs that ongoing effort, which was created by an international team of experts and launched in 2007.
Following final studies of the arch, Frischer will use the data to oversee two 3-D digital recreations for the Arch of Titus Restoration Project.
"In the first, or 'state model,' we will add just the color that is attested by Dr. Piening's studies," he said. "In the second, or 'restoration model,' we will go beyond the spotty evidence that survives to restore color all over the arch, inspired both by the actual traces and by analogous examples of painted Roman imperial monuments.
"What has been learned thus far can encourage even 'minimalists' like myself to dare to restore color even to monuments that have not yet been studied. After all, the ancient color palette was limited, and we are starting to see conventions emerge in the use of color. And one thing we do know is that white marble – whether on a public building or on a statue – was rarely, if ever, left unpainted."
From Ancient Greece until the 21st century, the arts and sciences have moved in tandem in an implicit and unconscious way, Frischer said.
"Today, the unity of art, science and technology is rapidly becoming a conscious theme as we embrace interdisciplinarity and unity of knowledge derived from concurring conclusions from a variety of disciplines in which the knowledge and expertise of different, seemingly unrelated fields such as archaeology, history, chemistry and physics can converge to give a better understanding of both the human and natural worlds. I see the Arch of Titus project as a good case in point."


The Earliest Known Pottery

Discovered in a cave in China, the pottery shards predate the earliest known pottery by 2,000 years

 A team of scientists led by Dr. Xiaohong Wu of Peking University has recently dated sediment layers containing pottery fragments in Xianrendong Cave in China and found them to be approximately 20,000 years old, predating the earliest known pottery dates by about 2,000 years, and predating the advent of agriculture by about 10,000 years. The finding refutes the long-held view that pottery production coincided with the beginning of agriculture.
 Pottery has been considered an important invention in the evolution of human society, as ceramic containers are more effective devices for holding and storing food than other prehistoric human constructs, such as baskets and hide pouches. And unlike other devices used for collecting and storage, pottery was also useful for cooking, an important development in food processing and preparation. Prior to these latest finds, the most ancient pottery, dated to about 18,000 years ago, was also found in China and Japan. The 20,000-year-old fragments date to the time of the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), which occurred about 25,000 to 19,000 years ago. Many of these early fragments showed burn or scorch marks, possible evidence of cooking.

States Gideon Shelach of the Hebrew University in his Perspective analysis of the discovery: "The period around the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), about 25,000 to 19,000 years ago, saw the advent of a new technological array that, in addition to pottery, included in many parts of China the production of small flake tools (or microliths) and grinding slab stones. It is widely held that the artifacts produced by these new technologies enabled exploitation of a wider range of plants and animals and more efficient extraction of their nutritional elements through grinding and intensive cooking". Moreover, he adds: "The proverb “necessity is the mother of all invention” not only assumes a direct functional explanation, but also assumes that conditions of stress (caused by external forces, such as climate change, or by internal social tension) force people to change their old ways of doing things. Such assumptions are embedded in the idea that the scarcity of resources during the LGM forced people to develop better ways of collecting and processing food".[1]
In other words, the harsh conditions served as a catalyst for spurring innovation necessary for survival. Humans had to "rise to meet the occasion". So they invented pottery, among other things.
But the extensive, widespread use of pottery as typically depicted within the context of the early human agricultural societies may not have come until perhaps thousands of years after its first use 20,000 years ago. Shelach, in his Perspective, makes this point using the archaeological evidence of grinding stones as an example: ".....The archaeological data suggest that grinding stones only started to be widely used toward the end of the last glacial age, ~13,000 years ago; ceramic production on a larger scale may have commenced even later. It is thus likely that these technologies initially had a much more limited set of functions, and that their full socioeconomic potential remained dormant until ecological and social conditions provided opportunities for the realization of this potential."[1]
The evidence supporting the suggestion that use of pottery significantly predates the development of agriculture could lead to a paradigm shift in the generally accepted scenarios of human socio-economic development. But it could also mean something else -- namely, that the evolution of human socio-economic development differed in different regions of the world.
Says Shelach: "More general issues awaiting serious consideration include, for example, whether the fact that in East Asia pottery predates agriculture by some 10 millennia, whereas in the Levant it postdates the transition to agriculture, signifies a fundamental difference in the socioeconomic development of the two regions".[1]
This research appears in the 29 June 2012 issue of Science. Science is published by AAAS, the nonprofit science society.


viernes, 29 de junio de 2012

World's Oldest Purse Found—Studded With a Hundred Dog Teeth?

"It seems to have been very fashionable at the time."

Andrew Curry in Berlin
Published June 27, 2012
The world's oldest purse may have been found in Germanyand its owner apparently had a sharp sense of Stone Age style.
Excavators at a site near Leipzig (map) uncovered more than a hundred dog teeth arranged close together in a grave dated to between 2,500 and 2,200 B.C.
According to archaeologist Susanne Friederich, the teeth were likely decorations for the outer flap of a handbag.
"Over the years the leather or fabric disappeared, and all that's left is the teeth. They're all pointing in the same direction, so it looks a lot like a modern handbag flap," said Friederich, of the Sachsen-Anhalt State Archaeology and Preservation Office.
(Related: "World's Oldest Leather Shoe Found—Stunningly Preserved.")
The dog teeth were found during excavations of the 250-acre (100-hectare) Profen (map) site, which is slated to become an open-pit coal mine in 2015.
So far the project has uncovered evidence of Stone and Bronze Age settlements, including more than 300 graves, hundreds of stone tools, spear points, ceramic vessels, bone buttons, and an amber necklace.
Thousands of finds from later periods—including the grave of a woman buried with a pound (half a kilogram) of gold jewelry around 50 B.C.—have also turned up.
Even among such a rich haul, the purse is something special, according to Friederich, who managed the excavation project. "It's the first time we can show direct evidence of a bag like this."
(Pictures: the evolution of dogs.)
Fierce Fashion
As rare as the dog-tooth handbag may be, canine teeth are actually fairly common in Stone Age northern and central European burials, Friederich said. (Related: "Buried Dogs Were Divine 'Escorts' for Ancient Americans.")
In fact, the sheer numbers of teeth in graves around the region suggest dogs were as much livestock as pets—the purse flap alone required the teeth of dozens of animals.
In other area Stone Age burials, dog and wolf teeth, as well as mussel shells, have been uncovered in patterns that suggest that corpses were covered with studded blankets, which have long since disintegrated, Friederich said.
More commonly, though, dog teeth are found in hair ornaments and in necklaces, for both women and men.
"It seems to have been very fashionable at the time," said Harald Staueble, senior archaeologist at Germany's Saxon State Archaeology Office.
"Not everyone was buried with such nice things—just the really special graves."
Next: the secret recipe behind the spectacular variety of dog shapes and sizes >>


Ancient treasure found in Azerbaijan’s Aghsu region –

Baku. Kamala Guliyeva – APA. Ancient treasure was found in Azerbaijan’s Aghsu region.

Chief of Aghsu archeological expedition of the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography of the Azerbaijani National Academy of Sciences Gafar Jabiyev told APA that a treasure consisting of gold coin examples were found during digging work on June 22. Total number of coins is 37. One of them was minted in 1781, one – in 1786, three – in 1787, one – in 1796, 31 – in 1800. All coins are in good condition. 

The coins are gold ducats of Dutch production. Alloy of the coins is 986, diameter – 21.8mm, thickness – 1.3mm, legal weight -3.49gr, shape – round, edge – milled. Obverse: Within ornamental square tablet the Latin legend - MO:ORD PROVIN FOEDER BELG.AD LEG.IMP expands to MOneta ORDinum PROVINciarum FOEDERatorum BELGicarum AD LEGem IMPerii which translates as "Coin of government of the provincial federation of Belgium Conforming with the law of the Imperial".

Reverse: A Knight facing right standing in armor with a sword in right hand and a bundle of arrows in the left divide the year of issue 17 52. Along periphery the Latin legend CONCORDIA.RES PAR.CRES.HOL expands to CONCORDIA RES PARvae CREScunt HOLlandiae which translates as "Through concord little things grow - Holland" (Union is strength).

The extensive influence of Provinces of the Netherlands in commerce of the 18th century made these gold coins the International standard of World trade similar to the acceptance of the US$ in the late 20th Century.

Completing necessary research works within two weeks expedition surrendered the treasure to the National History Museum of Azerbaijan on June 25 with advice of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography.

Aghsu Archaeological Expedition is continuing researches on the treasure


Mysterious Structures Found in Syrian Desert

An ancient landscape of stone circles, alignments and possible tombs lies out in the Syrian Desert, according to a Royal Ontario Museum archaeologist who has dubbed the mysterious structures "Syria's Stonehenge."
"These enigmatic arrangements are not especially imposing, they are not megaliths or anything like that, but they are very intriguing and clearly deliberately aligned," Robert Mason of Canada's Royal Ontario Museum told Discovery News.

According to Mason, the stones are arranged to stand out from the empty landscape.
"There is nothing that seems to exhibit evidence of occupation - no houses or occupation at all. This is unusual for the Neolithic in that typically people lived where they buried their dead and worshipped," Mason said.
ANALYSIS: Dawn of Urban Life Uncovered in Syria
"As such it may reflect the development of the concept of a 'land of the dead' distinct from a 'land of the living' which has been hypothesised for Neolithic ritual sites in Europe. However it may also reflect a seasonal population that left very limited occupation evidence," he added.
The only building in the area is the monastery, which was built in the late 4th or early 5th century and decorated with 11th and 12th century frescoes depicting Christian scenes and Judgment Day.

According to Mason, the monastery was originally a Roman watchtower that was partially destroyed by an earthquake and then rebuilt.
The archaeologist was looking for lost Roman watchtowers when he stumbled across the strange features.
"The centre of the complex that I found is a natural rock formation that had been the site of quarrying for chert," Mason said.
ANALYSIS: Satellite Views Reveal Early Human Settlements
Built against the quarry face were corbelled constructions about 7 feet across that would have been originally closed over in beehive-like structures.
"These have every appearance of being tombs. Radiating out from this rock were alignments of stones -- nothing big, but deliberately aligned and typically ending in one or more corbelled structure," Mason said.

He noticed that those distal tombs were associated with small circles of stones, about 20 feet across.
"Desert kites" -- walls used to corral and trap migrating gazelle - were also present in the area.
"It looked like one of the corbelled structures had been robbed of stone for construction of the kite. This would possibly suggest three phases on the site: quarry, tombs and alignments, and kite," Mason said.
Similar structures have been found near Palmyra and Northern Syria in the desert, but researchers could not find any associated dating evidence.
ANALYSIS: Stonehenge Built as Symbol of Unity
"The highlands of Western Syria also feature structures like this. However, they were later joined by tombs of the Bronze and Iron Ages, and of the Roman, and so later material obscures any dating evidence for the early structures," Mason said.
According to the archaeologist, more research is required to understand the mysterious stone arrangements.
"I really never had a chance to investigate them fully, and now I am not sure when I ever will," he said.

Photos: A corbelled structure (pile of rocks) with an associated circle. Credit: Robert Mason;
- A typical corbelled structure ("tomb"). Credit: Robert Mason;
- The monastery of Deir Mar Musa . Credit: Bernard Gagnon/wikimedia Commons;
- The rock at the centre of the complex: perhaps a "high place" of some significance to the people at the time. Credit: Robert Mason.

jueves, 28 de junio de 2012

Requena aplaza la apertura de la muralla y la torre del homenaje rehabilitadas

La recuperación de ambos elementos patrimoniales ha costado 2,3 millones de euros, pero permanecen nueve años y 15 meses cerradosLa muralla de plaza de armas y la torre del homenaje de la alcazaba de Requena siguen cerradas para la visita de los turistas a pesar que las obras para su rehabilitación acabaron hace nueve años y 15 meses respectivamente. Fondos municipales, autonómicos y nacionales sirvieron para financiar los 2,3 millones de euros que se emplearon para poner en valor estas dos fortificaciones medievales y convertirlas en el principal reclamo turístico de la población y de su barrio medieval. Son miles de visitantes los que anualmente se acercan a ellas y se quedan sin poder visitarlas porque estan cerradas. A pesar que en el caso de la torre del homenaje hay fondos y planificación desde hace 3 años para convertirse en el centro de interpretación para la visita al barrio medieval de La Villa.

El 31 de marzo de 2003 se inauguraron las obras de la muralla de la plaza de armas de la alcazaba de Requena. Una inversión de dos millones de euros permitió la recuperación de 60 metros de muralla, de tres metros de grosor y más de 10 de altura, con dos torreones defensivos y una plaza de 1.700 m2 destinada al uso público, capaz de acoger actos culturales y lúdicos.

El proyecto contaba también con un ascensor, para facilitar la accesibilidad, hasta la zona superior de la muralla. Además de una pasarela para la comunicación del adarve de la fortificación con la torre del homenaje.

La instalación estuvo cerrada durante cinco años porque, a pesar de estar inaugurada, las obras no estaban recepcionadas por retrasos en el pago y por unas deficiencias en las obras. El ascensor funcionó solamente durante unas semanas, y a pesar de repetidas reparaciones, hasta hace unos meses estaba fuera de servicio.

Desde la entrega de las obras se ha abierto en contadas ocasiones la plaza de armas —para actos festivos o como cine de verano durante dos meses—. Mientras que el paseo por la ronda de guardia de la muralla, que ofrece una de las mejores vistas tanto de Requena como del complejo defensivo no se ha abierto nunca al público en nueve años. La falta de uso y mantenimiento ya ha provocado algunos desprendimientos del enfoscado de mortero de arena y cal en algunos puntos del lienzo de la muralla. La torre del homenaje de la alcazaba será el logotipo de la nueva imagen turística de Requena. Se cerró en 2009 para recibir un lavado de cara en su estructura interna, dañada por la humedad y el paso del tiempo, y convertirse en el centro de interpretación para la visita al barrio medieval de La Villa.

Con 312.000 euros los expertos realizaron una intervención arqueológica que sacó a la luz antiguas estructuras y despejó numerosas dudas sobre su estructura arquitectónica. También mejoraron la bóveda superior, la azotea, la zona almenada, la antigua escalera y el casetón de acceso.

Las obras se inauguraron el 24 de marzo y a pesar que el Plan de Dinamización del Producto Turístico de Requena contemplaba su adecuación como centro de interpretación, sigue cerrado. Mientras, los turistas que llegan con intención de visitarla, tienen que conformarse con dar vueltas a su alrededor.


Santa María recupera el osario medieval (Pontevedra, Galicia)

La antigua necrópolis se descubrió en el año 2007

En el 2007, las intervenciones arqueológicas realizadas con motivo de las obras de rehabilitación del entorno de Basílica de Santa María dejaron al descubierto un antiguo cementerio medieval, donde aparecieron una veintena de tumbas, muchas de ellas colectivas, y medio centenar de esqueletos.
Se cree que muchos de esos enterramientos eran incluso anteriores a la basílica, ya que en la calle que va por detrás del monumento las tumbas estaban cortadas por el propio edificio actual. Eso hace pensar a los arqueólogos que eran vestigios del cementerio de una primitiva iglesia medieval. Los huesos fueron inventariados y analizados por una antropóloga física en la Universidad de Santiago.
Cinco años después de aquel hallazgo, la concejalía de Patrimonio Histórico, que dirige Luis Bará, en colaboración con la asociación de vecinos y de la propia parroquia de Santa María rendirán un homenaje a aquellos feligreses enterrados en el cementerio medieval hace al menos cuatro siglos.
El acto consistirá en el descubrimiento de una inscripción en su recuerdo y los restos de esos feligreses serán depositados en un osario construido al efecto en el lateral norte de la iglesia.
Será mañana, jueves, a las ocho de la tarde, y en este acto está prevista una breve explicación del arqueólogo municipal, Xoán Carlos Castro, sobre la relevancia histórica del hallazgo, además de las intervenciones del alcalde, del párroco de Santa maría y de la presidenta de la asociación de vecinos, Pilar Señoráns.
Esta ceremonia, que coincide con el remate de las obras de restauración del entorno de la basílica, culminará con un paseo por la avenida de Santa María donde se hicieron los trabajos más recientes de reparación de la fuente de hierro y otras obras de mantenimiento.

Hallan en el recinto fortificado de Aracena varias monedas de oro de la época almohade

El delegado de Cultura en Huelva, Ángel Romero, ha presentado junto al alcalde de Aracena, Manuel Guerra (PSOE), los hallazgos producidos en el contexto de la intervención arqueológica que se está llevando a cabo en el recinto fortificado de Aracena, entre los que se encuentran varias monedas de oro de época almohade.

El delegado de Cultura en Huelva, Ángel Romero, ha presentado junto al alcalde de Aracena, Manuel Guerra (PSOE), los hallazgos producidos en el contexto de la intervención arqueológica que se está llevando a cabo en el recinto fortificado de Aracena, entre los que se encuentran varias monedas de oro de época almohade.
Según ha informado la Junta en una nota, en la rueda de prensa, también han estado presentes los arqueólogos encargados de la intervención, Timoteo Rivera, y Eduardo Romero.
El delegado de Cultura ha destacado que "es una satisfacción" colaborar con el Ayuntamiento de Aracena dentro del Plan Director de la puesta en valor del recinto fortificado de Aracena, y ha señalado que el hallazgo "más que el valor material, es el valor científico, que nos permite reescribir la historia de la ciudad de Aracena, la sierra de Huelva y el conjunto de la provincia".
Por su parte, el alcalde de Aracena ha señalado que "estamos de enhorabuena por poder visualizar un proyecto que empieza a caminar, estamos avanzando abordando un proyecto muy ambicioso".
Las acciones de investigación arqueológica, integradas
Las excavaciones arqueológicas que se vienen desarrollando en el alcázar del castillo de Aracena han documentado un importante poblamiento islámico, principalmente de época almohade, previo a la edificación de la fortaleza. En concreto, se ha constatado una cultura material entre los siglos X al XIII y la presencia de viviendas islámicas de los siglos XII y XIII que formarían parte de la población conquistada por Portugal, a través de la Orden del Hospital, a mediados del s. XIII.
Las estructuras se encuentran en buen estado de conservación lo que permite el estudio de los elementos que se han documentado, así como la importancia de los materiales va a contribuir al conocimiento de esta época. Dado el valor científico en cuanto a la documentación de poblamiento islámico en el solar donde se erige el castillo bajomedieval y el estado de conservación de los restos, se va a integrar en el proyecto de restauración y puesta en valor del Alcázar del castillo de Aracena. La actuación arqueológica realizada en el castillo de Aracena tiene el objetivo de investigar este inmueble como paso previo para su conservación y puesta en valor.
La intervención también está permitiendo sacar a la luz una importante cultura material, cuyo máximo exponente es un tesorillo de 7 dinares acuñados en la Taifa de Sevilla, bajo el reinado de Al-Mutadid, en los años 441-450 de la Hégira (1049-1058 de la Era cristiana). Este conjunto monetal tiene un gran valor histórico porque permite, junto a otros elementos establecer la cronología del poblamiento islámico, así como precisar sus características.
También se ha podido documentar cerámica del tipo "verde manganeso" que podría precisar la fecha del asentamiento durante la etapa del Califato de Córdoba (s.X). Otros elementos que han visto la luz es la decoración epigráfica mediante estampilla en la cerámica, característica durante la etapa andalusí. Los textos que aparecen con mayor frecuencia son al-yumn (la fortuna, la felicidad), baraka (bendición), o al-mulk (el poder). También se documentan otros motivos decorativos: geométricos, vegetales, arquitectónicos o la "Mano de Fátima".
Las estructuras documentadas en los trabajos arqueológicos responden a los cánones de las viviendas islámicas. Este modelo de casas, datadas en los siglos XII y XIII, cuentan con patio central y una distribución periférica de las habitaciones. Desde la entrada se accedía al atrio o zaguán (satwuan) y desde este, al patio que contaba con jardines o estanques.
El patio de la casa islámica (wast al-dar) era el eje de la vida familiar, servía para comunicar, iluminar y ventilar todas las habitaciones
de la vivienda. Ocupaba la parte central de la parcela y era un lugar de estancia, donde se realizaban muchas de las tareas diarias y se accedía a las otras dependencias: cocina, letrina y salones.
Los trabajos arqueológicos dirigidos por Eduardo Romero Bomba, Timoteo Rivera Jiménez y Omar Romero de la Osa, ha sido promovidos y financiados por el Ayuntamiento de Aracena, contando con el apoyo de la Delegación en Huelva de la Consejería de Cultura y Deporte de la Junta de Andalucía.
A través de la arqueología se ha constatado que en la cumbre del cerro no sólo se asentó el castillo y la población bajomedieval de Aracena, sino que, cuenta con una importante secuencia de poblamiento que hay que retrotraer hasta la Prehistoria, teniendo uno de sus máximos exponentes la etapa andalusí.
El castillo de Aracena es una de las fortificaciones medievales que se integran en la Banda Gallega, como se denomina al conjunto de castillos que se localizan en las estribaciones occidentales de Sierra Morena y que han sido objeto de revalorización patrimonial en los últimos años gracias a los trabajos del Plan de Arquitectura Defensiva de Andalucía promovido por la Consejería de Cultura. El recinto fortificado de Aracena se componía de un primer anillo amurallado o cerca urbana que circundaba todo el cerro para ofrecer protección a los pobladores medievales. Entre esta muralla y el castillo se localizaban las viviendas y la iglesia Prioral.
El castillo se dividía, a su vez, en dos zonas: patio de armas y alcázar, separadas por una muralla diafragma en cuyo centro destacaba la Torre Mayor, siendo ésta, el último de los reductos defensivos del castillo.
El conjunto fortificado se construye a mediados del siglo XIII, siendo en el s.XV cuando la población comienza a expandirse extramuros, por la ladera noreste. La zona de actuación arqueológica se ha ubicado en el extremo oeste del cerro que domina a la localidad serrana, donde se erige la zona del alcázar


Los arqueólogos alertan: Madrid facilitará la destrucción de yacimientos para atraer a Eurovegas

Un grupo de arqueólogos madrileños denuncia que el Gobierno de Esperanza Aguirre prepara una legislación a medida para que la Comunidad de Madrid se quede con el proyecto Eurovegas, que prevé 8.300 tragaperras, cuatro hoteles de 3.000 habitaciones cada uno y varios campos de golf. Según Materia, el Gobierno regional pretende modificar la Ley de Patrimonio Histórico, vigente desde 1998, y los cambios "lo único que facilitan es la destrucción de más patrimonio", según la Asociación Madrileña de Trabajadores y Trabajadoras en Arqueología (AMTTA). El Ejecutivo autonómico, sin embargo, niega las acusaciones: "No tiene nada que ver". Según fuentes gubernamentales consultadas por EcoDiario.es, los cambios no preparan el terreno a Eurovegas y el borrador del anteproyecto de Ley de Patrimonio Histérico se está tramitando con total normalidad.
"La reforma de la ley no pretende facilitar ninguna destrucción de nada, como es obvio, sino agilizar la protección del patrimonio histórico aclarando trámites", recalcan desde el Ejecutivo regional. "Esta reforma legislativa no tiene nada que ver con el proyecto de Eurovegas", sentencian.

La versión de los arqueólogos

"Si se hace una carretera y aparece un acueducto, la constructora podrá destruirlo sin decírselo a nadie, porque con el borrador de ley que hay sobre la mesa la protección desaparece", denuncia Alicia Torija, secretaria de AMTTA y arqueóloga que ha colaborado, entre otros, con los proyectos Djehuty en Egipto y Medio Éufrates Sirio, ambos participados por el CSIC.
La asociación sostiene que, con el borrador del anteproyecto de Ley de Patrimonio Histórico que ha preparado la Comunidad de Madrid, los bienes inmuebles, como un acueducto o un teatro romano, no serán de dominio público. El artículo 31.2 del borrador, al que ha tenido acceso MATERIA, afirma que "los bienes muebles descubiertos como consecuencia de intervenciones arqueológicas, paleontológicas o remociones de tierra o por azar, tendrán la consideración de bienes de dominio público". Los bienes inmuebles, denuncia AMTTA, se quedan fuera.

Prisas en el Gobierno

La asociación, con 50 arqueólogos socios, critica la "incomprensible premura" con la que el Gobierno de Aguirre ha preparado el borrador "a oscuras" y expresa su "miedo a una tramitación de urgencia". Los enviados del magnate estadounidense Sheldon Adelson, promotor de Eurovegas, visitaron el martes terrenos en Valdecarros, Alcorcón y una enorme parcela entre Torrejón y Paracuellos del Jarama.
Los alcaldes de estos dos últimos municipios han ofrecido 10 millones de metros cuadrados para el macrocomplejo de casinos. Esta opción, por ejemplo, implicaría construir carreteras desde Eurovegas a las cercanas autopistas M-45, M-50, A-2 y R-2, pasando por encima de un patrimonio histórico ahora inimaginable. La propia Torija se encontró con un poblado de la Edad del Hierro cuando participaba en la construcción de la autopista AP-41 entre Madrid y Toledo.
"La nueva ley que preparan es un coladero, para Eurovegas y para cualquier proyecto de este tipo. Es una ventana al expolio tutelado desde la Administración", clama Torija. AMTTA ha presentado una batería de alegaciones para mejorar la ley, en línea con la nueva Ley de Patrimonio Histórico aprobada en Andalucía en 2007. "Nosotros no pedimos ninguna locura, sino algo que ya se está haciendo en España", explica.

Dinero para Adelson

El arqueólogo Jaime Almansa, también miembro de AMTTA, cree que el borrador de la Ley, tal como está, es "inconstitucional", ya que el dominio público del patrimonio cultural está regulado por la Constitución. Además, señala Almansa, "si el señor Adelson está en sus solares haciendo un casino y se encuentra un mosaico romano tasado en una millonada, por ejemplo, se lo tendríamos que pagar entre todos los españoles". El artículo 31.4 postula que "el descubridor y el propietario del lugar en que hubiera sido hallado casualmente el bien mueble tienen derecho, en concepto de premio en metálico, a la mitad del valor que en tasación legal se le atribuya".
El borrador, lamenta Almansa, elimina prácticamente la arqueología preventiva, como se denomina a las investigaciones que se llevan a cabo antes de ejecutar una obra que puede destruir restos valiosos, para protegerlos. "Al eliminar la fase de la arqueología preventiva, todo lo que se encuentre en un solar se considerará hallazgo casual. Esta ley permite lucrarse con los hallazgos casuales de manera casi ilícita", manifiesta el experto, que acaba de lanzar con su editorial JAS el libro Indiana Jones sin futuro, sobre la lucha contra el expolio del patrimonio arqueológico.
La sección de arqueología del Colegio de Doctores y Licenciados en Filosofía y Letras y en Ciencias de la Comunidad de Madrid también ha criticado el borrador, en un informe enviado a la Dirección General de Patrimonio Histórico al que ha tenido acceso Materia. "Nos sorprende que no se hayan incluido aspectos del Convenio europeo para la protección del Patrimonio Arqueológico de enero de 1992, y que debemos cumplir desde el 20 de julio de 2011", apunta el documento. Uno de estos aspectos no incluidos se echa de menos en el artículo 15, que sugiere a los promotores de proyectos sometidos a procedimientos ambientales que consulten de manera previa a las autoridades si algún bien del patrimonio histórico puede verse afectado por las obras. "Esta consulta debería ser obligatoria", se queja el informe del Colegio.
El documento también exige al Gobierno de Aguirre más arqueología preventiva. "Lo recogido es absolutamente insuficiente", afirman los arqueólogos del Colegio.
La catedrática de Prehistoria María Ángeles Querol, de la Universidad Complutense de Madrid, también es muy crítica con el borrador, pero no lo vincula al macrocomplejo de casinos, como hace AMTTA. "Eurovegas es un proyecto tan grande que no se detendrá porque aparezca un yacimiento arqueológico", opina. "No obstante, no tengo más que críticas hacia esta nueva ley que se está preparando. El proyecto es tan malo que no puede salir adelante", añade. Querol es autora del Manual de Gestión del Patrimonio Cultural, editado por Akal en 2010. En el libro, Querol reivindica la arqueología preventiva, "completamente ausente" del borrador de la Ley de Patrimonio Histórico de la Comunidad de Madrid.


miércoles, 27 de junio de 2012

Reflected Infrared Light Unveils Never-Before-Seen Details of Renaissance Paintings

ScienceDaily (June 18, 2012) — When restoring damaged and faded works of art, artists often employ lasers and other sophisticated imaging techniques to study intricate details, analyze pigments, and search for subtle defects not visible to the naked eye. To refine what can be seen during the restoration process even further, a team of Italian researchers has developed a new imaging tool that can capture features not otherwise detectable with the naked eye or current imaging techniques

The system, known as Thermal Quasi-Reflectography (TQR), is able to create revealing images using reflected light from the mid-infrared part of the spectrum (3-5 micrometers in wavelength). Researchers from the University of L'Aquila, the University of Verona, and Italy's National Institute of Optics in Florence successfully demonstrated the TQR system on two famous works of art: the Zavattari frescos in the Chapel of Theodelinda and "The Resurrection" by the Italian Renaissance artist Piero della Francesca. The researchers detail their work in a paper published June 18 in the Optical Society's (OSA) open-access journal Optics Express.
Thermography, the traditional infrared imaging technique in this part of the spectrum (greater than 3 micrometers) detects subtle temperature differences due to the pigmentation on the surface of paintings. These thermal maps can be used during art restoration to reveal internal defects that are not evident in visible light.
In contrast, the TQR imaging system uses a very different tactic and doesn't detect heat emitted from paintings at all; in fact it tries to minimize it: The TQR system shines a faint mid-infrared light source onto the surface of the painting and records the light that is reflected back to a camera.
"This is, to the best of our knowledge, the first time that this technique has been applied on artworks," said Dario Ambrosini of the University of L'Aquila in Italy, one of the paper's authors. "This novel method represents a powerful yet safe tool for artwork diagnostics." All objects emit some infrared radiation. Depending on their temperature, certain materials shine more brightly in one wavelength than in others. At normal room temperature (20° C or 68° F), paintings typically emit more energy in the longer infrared wavelengths (42 percent) than they do in the mid-infrared (1.1 percent).
To take advantage of this weak mid-IR emission, the researchers applied the basic tools of thermography and ran them in reverse. Since the painting would not normally shine brightly in the mid-IR, the researchers used under-powered halogen lamps as very simple yet effective sources of mid-IR radiation. To measure only the reflected light, special care had to be taken to prevent the lamp from heating the surface of the painting and to exclude all other potential sources of mid-IR radiation.
The researchers developed the TQR system to find a thermal imaging tool capable of better differentiating materials in a painted surface. The mid-infrared has advantages over other wavelengths in this regard. It also has better contrast and produces sharper images than studies in the far-infrared, and can detect features not seen in the near-infrared (NIR) with wavelength less than approximately 2 micrometers.
In its first test on a small section of the Zavattari frescos in the Chapel of Theodelinda, the TQR system revealed details that were missed by earlier optical and near-infrared studies. "Our system easily identified old restorations in which missed gold decorations were simply repainted," said lead author Claudia Daffara of the University of Verona. "The TQR system was also much better at visualizing armor on some of the subjects in the fresco."
To further evaluate the potential, the TQR system also studied a painting known as "The Resurrection" by Piero della Francesca. The TQR system identified interesting features, such as highly reflective retouches from previous restorations, all while operating during normal museum hours without interruption. The most surprising feature was an area around a soldier's sword that was painted by using two different fresco techniques. This subtle distinction was not detected by NIR photography.
"For mural paintings the use of the mid-infrared regions reveals crucial details," said Daffara. "This makes TQR a promising tool for the investigation of these artworks."
The researchers are currently conducting tests to determine if the TQR system can also provide infrared spectra of the surface of paintings, which may be able to identify the pigments used. "Determining the chemical makeup of the pigments is important in determining how best to protect and restore the artwork," said Ambrosini. And they note that TQR may have applications beyond art preservation. "In principle, it should work whenever we desire to differentiate surface materials," said Ambrosini.


King’s Lynn: Bronze Age burial pot find excites experts

AN exciting find of an intact Bronze Age burial urn has been made by a team of archaeological experts working on the site of a new link road under construction at Lynn.
The team had already unearthed Iron Age timber posts beside the route of the road which will take traffic from the A149 Queen Elizabeth Way to Scania Way on the Hardwick Industrial Estate, where the new Sainsbury’s superstore is being built.
Ken Hamilton, Norfolk County Council’s senior historic environment officer, said now a collared urn, believed to contain cremated human remains from about 2,500 years ago, had been found.
The pot, which has a thick rim around it, has been removed from the site for further investigation.
Mr Hamilton said: “It is rare to find these urns complete and this one is quite unusual, so it is an exciting find.
“The inside of it is being excavated in a laboratory, as it was full of soil.
“This soil is being taken out slowly to work out if it was all from one deposition or whether it contained more than one individual’s remains.”
He said that after cremation, human remains would have been put in such pots and buried in small pits.
The discovery means there was almost certainly people living in that area during the Bronze Age and further archaeological exploration of the site is being carried out.
Mr Hamilton said: “This urn will find its way into Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service and a decision will be made on whether to display it in one of the museums.
“The team’s findings will also be published in a report.”


Interactive map like GPS for Roman Empire

Simulation calculates cost of shipping goods in days and dinarii

martes, 26 de junio de 2012

Cow and woman found in Cambridgeshire Anglo-Saxon dig

Cambridgeshire Anglo-Saxon dig

Anglo-Saxon grave of woman and cow Archaeologists described the find as "unique in Europe"

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Archaeologists excavating an Anglo-Saxon cemetery in Cambridgeshire say the discovery of a woman buried with a cow is a "genuinely bizarre" find.
The grave was uncovered in Oakington by students from Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Central Lancashire.
At first it was thought the animal skeleton was a horse.
Student Jake Nuttall said: "Male warriors might be buried with horses, but a woman and a cow is new to us."
He added: "We were excited when we thought we had a horse, but realising it was a cow made it even more bizarre."
Co-director of the excavation, Dr Duncan Sayer, from the University of Central Lancashire, said: "Animal burials are extremely rare, anyway.
Skeleton of a woman found in Anglo-Saxon grave Grave goods including brooches indicated the woman was of high status
"There are only 31 horse burials in Britain and they are all with men.
"This is the first animal to be discovered with a woman from this period - the late 5th Century - and it's really interesting that it's a cow, a symbol of economic and domestic wealth and power.
"It's also incredibly early to find any grave of a woman buried with such obvious wealth."
'Unique' burial The skeleton was found with grave goods including brooches and hundreds of amber and decorated glass beads.
"She also had a complete chatelaine [keychain] set, which is an iron girdle and a symbol of her high status," Dr Sayer said.
"It indicates she had access to the community's wealth.
"She is almost certainly a regional elite - a matriarchal figure buried with the objects that describe her identity to the people who attended her funeral."
Joint director Dr Faye Simpson, from Manchester Metropolitan, said: "A cow is a big thing to give up.
"It's a source of food and something that would have been very expensive to keep, so to sacrifice it would be a big decision.
"They would have wanted to give her something really important to show respect and they wouldn't have done that for just anybody.
"That's why we don't find cows with burials," she said.
Dr Sayer added: "The cow burial is unique in Europe which makes this an incredibly exciting and important find.
"I don't think I'll find anything as significant as this again in my lifetime."


lunes, 25 de junio de 2012

Historians seek answers from a different sort of buried treasure

- jprice@newsobserver.com
KURE BEACH -- The surf line along the coast here is littered with the wrecks of a rakish, speed-at-all-costs breed of ship that briefly made Wilmington the most important city in the South.
Dozens and dozens went aground or were sunk while trying to slip past the Union blockade, creating the largest concentration of Civil War-era shipwrecks anywhere in the world.
Hundreds of times, though, these blockade runners got through. They’d tie up on the docks and their often-rowdy, daredevil crews would hit the streets, bars and hotels of the city, throwing around their hefty pay.

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2012/06/24/2155352/historians-seek-answers-from-a.html#storylink=cpy
Meanwhile, their fabulously valuable cargos would be offloaded, and the arms and other military supplies shipped off to keep the Confederate Army fighting.
Now, 150 years later, archaeologists and historians are taking a closer look at this central but nearly forgotten chapter of U.S. and North Carolina history, a time when Gen. Robert E. Lee called the port city his lifeline.
“For me, its role made Wilmington the single most important place in the Confederacy,” said Stephen Wise, a historian, director of the Parris Island Museum and author of “Lifeline of the Confederacy: Blockade Running During the Civil War.”
Researchers have applied for a federal grant to locate more of the wrecks and better document the sites. The clock is ticking because this was the dawn of metal shipbuilding and the wrecks that are made of iron are vanishing rapidly.
A historical group is also raising money for both a film about one of the most important wrecks – that of the Modern Greece – and for conserving the vast horde of artifacts brought ashore from it.
Wise is among the presenters at a symposium this week. He’ll talk about blockade running, and other speakers will focus on how the blockade worked from a Union perspective, the fortifications protecting the two entrances that the runners used to reach the port, and details about the Modern Greece.
Having two ways into the port to pick from gave Wilmington a big advantage for blockade running, Wise said.
And given that Union forces effectively blocked shipments into Charleston and took New Orleans early in the war, Wilmington was the only thing that allowed the South to keep fighting.
“If it also had been taken early in the war, the Confederacy couldn’t have survived past 1863,” Wise said.
A rough party
Not that the people of the city were thrilled with their role. Many of the sailors partied with abandon, and their money and lifestyle attracted prostitutes, con men and other criminals. The murder rate jumped, and one ship was even blamed for unleashing a yellow fever epidemic that killed hundreds in the fall of 1862.
The pay that allowed all that high living sounds like modern drug-running. Midway through the war, a captain could make the equivalent of $100,000 today for a single voyage, Wise said. A first officer might make the modern equivalent of $20,000 to $25,000 and a simple crewman $5,000. A handful of crews were Confederate military and paid much less. A Confederate Army private was making the equivalent of about $254 a month.
The sky-high war prices on the goods brought in, and the valuable commodities such as cotton that were shipped out, made for huge profits when a voyage succeeded. Cotton bought here for pennies a pound could be sold in Britain for as much as a dollar. The companies that owned the ships, many of them British ventures, could reap as much as a 100 percent return on the investment with a single run.
Some never completed a single voyage, but others got through a 20 times or more.
Many Wilmington residents would have looked upon the sailors and the problems they created as a necessary evil, said Chris Fonvielle, an assistant professor in history at UNC-W and author of two books on the Civil War in southeastern part of the state.
“They understood that this really was the only way the Confederacy was going to be able to fight, by continuing to get these vital supplies from Europe and in particular great Britain,” Fonvielle said.
About 60 percent of Confederate small arms came in via blockade runners, Wise said, along with about 30 percent of the lead they used for bullets, and at least three-quarters of the saltpeter that was a key ingredient in gunpowder.
Also coming on the ships was most medicine needed for the troops, most of the cloth used in their uniforms and leather for boots and other uses. Late in the war, there were shipments of canned meat for Lee’s army, some of it produced in places such as Chicago and Cleveland and routed surreptitiously to neutral ports, then onto blockade runners.
Built for speed
Offshore, the Union blockaders suffered through month after month of some of the most tedious duty of the war, sailing back and forth, scanning the horizons day and night as best they could.
Still, the duty was considered desirable because it was much safer than fighting ashore. The blockade runners generally weren’t armed and, so that they could preserve non-combatant status, didn’t fight back. Many crew members were foreign, and if captured by the Union navy, Wise said, could only be held briefly.
Also, blockading could pay well, particularly if your ship caught a valuable runner, as the crew got to divvy up “prize” money that could be the equivalent of years of normal pay.
Aboard the prey that they were hunting, life was much more tense. The chance of getting through on any given run was about 75 percent, Wise said.
The ships came from neutral and relatively close ports, typically Bermuda but sometimes Nassau, he said.
Larger ships brought the goods to those places, and they were then loaded into blockade runners. They would then depart, timing their approach to land so that it came just after dark.
The ships that kept the Confederacy alive were the very fastest that could be built, stuffed with giant engines. But their final approaches to land were made softly.
They would try to cut across the warm, blue waters of the Gulf Stream in late afternoon, just before the light started to fail, looking all the while for the tall masts of the first of three picket lines of ships that were hunting them, said Kevin Foster, the recently retired head of the National Park Service’s Maritime Heritage Program. Foster is writing a book on the blockade running ships.
Skippers would shoot for landfall well north or south of Cape Fear, then run along the coast, just outside the breakers. With luck, Confederate artillery might be able to keep any Union chasers at bay until they could get into either New Inlet to the north, or the mouth of the Cape Fear to the south.
The stealth required meant that tiny details counted. Lights were all snuffed and crew members weren’t allowed to smoke. Aloft , there might be just one lookout, dressed in the loosest, most shapeless clothes he could find so as not to present even the sharp line of a starched sleeve that would stand out in the evening haze.
Every man on deck would be in light clothing, which blended better than dark with the nighttime haze.
Softly, softly, the ship pushed on, slowed just enough that the paddle wheels and stern wave didn’t trigger much natural luminescence on the sea surface, and fire from the coal didn’t flare from the top of the smokestacks. But enough steam was up that the ship could rapidly accelerate if the time came.
The toughest test, Foster said, could be the inner of the three lines of blockaders, which sometimes included captured blockade runners that were as fast as the ones they pursued.
“And speed was the main requisite for these ships,” Foster said.
And, oh, the names …
In fact, the Darwinian nature of the trade pushed developments in ship design to new heights.
At the beginning of the war, ships such as Modern Greece – a bulky ship designed for the timber trade – could achieve perhaps 10 knots (11 miles per hour). By the end, some of the long, slender, engine-stuffed and purpose-designed blockade runners, such as the Presto or its sister ship the Dare could make more than twice that speed.
“They’d put the cargo in the space they had left over after they had crammed in these giant engines,” Foster said.
The runners also were the first to make serious use of camouflage colors to blend in better with the sea and sky.
The names are fun to contemplate. Some were named for fast, wily or simply elusive animals: Bat, Lynx, Stag, Deer, Fox, Night Hawk, Condor. Others were named for goddesses with attributes perceived to be tied with Southern values of hearth, home or growing things: Flora, Hebe, Ceres.
A favorite of Foster‘s: “Let ’er Rip.”
“That seems particularly Southern to me,” he said. “I mean, you can see that painted on the side of a moonshiner’s car just as well as you can a blockade runner.”
Some were so lightly built that they would be badly damaged in groundings, or simply by heavy seas. At least six disappeared without a trace while being delivered from their shipyards in Britain to transshipment ports for their first run, he said.
The ships were glamorous and some of the characters that emerged from the tales about them equally so. There was the famous spy and prominent society figure Rose O’Neal Greenhow, who drowned in the surf when fleeing a grounded runner via rowboat because she was weighed down by $2,000 in gold hidden under her dress, according to legend.
Then there was the true story of another female Confederate spy – a legendarily promiscuous one at that – named Belle Boyd, who was among a crew captured by Union sailors. She talked one Yankee crewman into letting her captain escape to Canada and then later married the crewman accused of helping her.
There were captains celebrated for making more than 20 successful runs. Another was known for a prodigious capacity for rum punch, hardly a stretch, given that many modern yachtsmen are known for the same.
Price: (919) 829-4526


Desert mystery

Archaeologist hopes to resume investigation in Syria

There’s a mystery in the Syrian desert shielded by the conflict tearing apart the Middle Eastern nation.
In 2009, archaeologist Robert Mason of the Royal Ontario Museum was at work at an ancient monastery when, walking nearby, he came across a series of rock formations: lines of stone, stone circles, and what appeared to be tombs.
Mason, who talked about the finds and about archaeology at the monastery on Wednesday at Harvard’s Semitic Museum, said that much more detailed examinations are needed to understand the structures, but that he isn’t sure when he will be able to return to Syria, if ever.
Analysis of fragments of stone tools found in the area suggests the rock formations are much older than the monastery, perhaps dating to the Neolithic Period or early Bronze Age, 6,000 to 10,000 years ago. Mason also saw corral-like stone formations called “desert kites,” which would have been used to trap gazelles and other animals. The region is dry today (“very scenic, if you like rocks,” Mason said), but was probably greener millennia ago.
It was clear, Mason said, that the purpose of the stone formations was entirely different from that of the stone-walled desert kites. The kites were arranged to take advantage of the landscape and direct the animals to a single place, while the more linear stone formations were made to stand out from the landscape. In addition, he said, there was no sign of habitats.
“What it looked like was a landscape for the dead and not for the living,” Mason said. “It’s something that needs more work and I don’t know if that’s ever going to happen.”
The monastery is home to many frescoes — some badly damaged— depicting Christian scenes, female saints, and Judgment Day.
In a talk in 2010, Mason said he felt like he’d stumbled onto England’s Salisbury Plain, where Stonehenge is located, leading to the formations being dubbed “Syria’s Stonehenge.”
Mason also talked about the monastery, Deir Mar Musa. Early work on the building likely began in the late 4th or early 5th century. It was occupied until the 1800s, though damaged repeatedly by earthquakes. Following refurbishment in the 1980s and 1990s, it became active again.
Mason thinks the monastery was originally a Roman watchtower that was partially destroyed by an earthquake and then rebuilt. The compound was enlarged, with new structures added until it reached the size of the modern complex, clinging to a dry cliff face in the desert about 50 miles north of Damascus.
Mason was searching Roman watchtowers when he came across the stone lines, circles, and possible tombs.
The monastery is the home to many frescoes — some badly damaged — depicting Christian scenes, female saints, and Judgment Day. Mason also explored a series of small caves that he believes were excavated and lived in by the monks, who returned to the monastery for church services.
Mason said that if he’s able to return, he’d like to excavate the area under the church’s main altar, where he thinks there might be an entrance to underground tombs. He’s already received the permission of the monastery’s superior, who was recently ejected from the country.


Photos by Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer
Archaeologist Robert Mason spoke at the Semitic Museum about the discovery of mysterious rock formations near the Syrian monastery Deir Mar Musa (above), and the need for further exploration.

Arqueología Sanabria aboga por preservar y difundir el patrimonio

A. S.La arqueóloga de la asociación Arqueología Sanabria, Estefanía Muñoz, trasladó ayer la responsabilidad del cuidado y la divulgación del patrimonio a los propios habitantes del territorio, como una fórmula para preservar su expolio y evitar su deterioro. La investigadora sanabresa presentó ayer esta asociación dentro de las actividades que desarrolla el colectivo Sanabria Natural, que representó ayer Teresa del Estal en el Ayuntamiento viejo de Ribadelago. El representante de la Asociación arqueológica Zamora Protohistórica, Oscar Monterrubio, desgranó las dificultades para conseguir financiación para realizar las excavaciones, aunque también demostró los buenos resultados con un inversión mínima.

La historiadora sanabresa precisó que existen en Sanabria, en un área con 90 pueblos, 40 castros que se conozcan en estos momentos y no todos ellos están dentro del Inventario Arqueológico de la provincia de Zamora, cuya inclusión supone la protección inmediata. Una parte importante de esos castros pertenecen a la II Edad del Hierro. Los primeros trabajos realizados por Arqueología Sanabria han sido recopilar toda la documentación y las publicaciones que se han elaborado, que no son muchas por otro lado.


La falta de inversión agudiza el riesgo de decenas de bienes (Burgos)

H.J. /G.G.U./Burgos

La aparición de un claustro románico cuyo origen puede estar en Burgos en una finca privada de Palamós (Girona) ha abierto un debate sobre la conservación del patrimonio que tiene la provincia. Y hay quien llega a la conclusión de que más que lamentarse por lo que se fue, todavía podemos trabajar para que no se repitan episodios indeseables.
«No debemos perder las esperanzas de que, algún día, recuperemos nuestro legado, sobre todo si su salida se produjo ilegalmente. Pero creo que nuestra gran responsabilidad, en estos momentos, es mantener lo mucho que aún nos queda». Esta reflexión del profesor de Historia del Arte de la UBU René Jesús Payo, expresada hace unos días en este periódico, se refiere al recurrente asunto del patrimonio expoliado, o vendido, o exiliado, o robado, o desaparecido, o como se le quiera denominar.
La provincia de Burgos, gracias a sus condicionantes históricos como origen del reino de Castilla y sede de importantes centros de poder político y religioso, conserva espectaculares monasterios, conmovedoras abadías, iglesias que son una joya y edificios civiles admirables. Pero son tantos que sus titulares no dan abasto a conservarlos, y muchos de ellos están en riesgo de desaparición. No porque una fortuna norteamericana venga, los despiece y los monte en un barco como ocurrió a principios del siglo XX, sino simplemente porque la maleza, el viento, la lluvia y el sol, el mero paso del tiempo, acaban con ellos. Es el caso del Monasterio de Fresdelval, de la Colegiata y del Monasterio de Santa Clara, ambos en Briviesca, del convento de Nofuentes, del Palacio de Cadiñanos, en Trespaderne... El listado sería interminable si fuésemos concienzudos. Pero hay algunos ejemplos que merece la pena repasar para hacerse una idea de lo que está en juego. Por ejemplo, el Monasterio de San Pedro de Arlanza, en su día tan significativo o más que Silos, propiedad del Estado y en el que la Junta de Castilla y León ha hecho en los últimos años esfuerzos de consolidación para evitar el avance de la ruina pero que sigue esperando un plan de actuación definitivo que le dé vida y asegure su futuro.
O el de Santa María de Rioseco, en el que el trabajo de decenas de vecinos y voluntarios ha sido fundamental para asegurar un mantenimiento básico. Gracias a ellos se han realizado obras de conservación y la venta de libros ha permitido conseguir financiación para poder pagar los 8.000 euros que cuesta consolidar los primeros cuatro arcos del claustro, un paso imprescindible para poder recuperar las cubiertas de la iglesia y de la sala capitular. «Es una lucha terrible», explica el párroco de Rioseco, Juan Miguel Gutiérrez.
Él es uno del casi centenar de voluntarios que están tomando las medidas que la Administración no adopta. «Hace tiempo se aprobó una moción para la consolidación de las ruinas de Rioseco que incluso llegó al Congreso, pero no se hizo nada. Ahora se achaca a la crisis, pero está demostrado que por cada euro que se invierte en patrimonio, revierten dos o tres», apunta Gutiérrez. Este fin de semana comenzarán las visitas guiadas por las ruinas que se celebrarán durante todo el verano, y con las que los voluntarios y amigos del monasterio pretenden conseguir más fondos para el conjunto y poder seguir trabajando en su conservación. En este caso, se trata de una ruina propiedad del Arzobispado, pero hay otras muchas de particulares que, directamente, se declaran incapaces de asegurar un correcto mantenimiento. Es el caso del Monasterio de San Antón, en Castrojeriz, que en sus tiempos fue parada imprescindible para los peregrinos del Camino de Santiago, o del de Alveinte, en Monasterio de la Sierra.
En este último se celebra todos los veranos la romería de Alveinte y es muy probable que si el propietario de las ruinas, Jesús María Esteban, decidiera venderlo y permitir que se lo llevaran de Burgos, la provincia pondría el grito en el cielo. Pero de seguir así, acabará cayéndose. «Está claro que a mejor no va a ir, pero hago lo posible porque se mantenga», explica por teléfono Esteban. Este serrano explica que cuando él era niño, el monasterio conservaba buena parte de sus piedras de sillería y de su estructura original, pero los familiares del entonces propietario permitieron que se llevaran cientos de piedras para emplearlas en la construcción de una central eléctrica. «Yo nunca lo hubiera consentido, me pregunto cómo es posible que lo hicieran, porque si se hubiera conservado como yo lo conocí...». Explica que él lo compró hace más de 50 años por «más de 20.000 pesetas» y subraya que para entonces. «ya estaba mal». Sin embargo, afirma que nunca ha pedido ayuda a la Administración. «Me preocupo de limpiar y de mantener la bóveda, pero no hago más inversión», cuenta. Además, ha tenido que vallar todo el perímetro y cambiar reiteradamente los candados porque la gente, dice, seguía entrando para robar piedra. A pesar de todo, Jesús María Esteban asegura que no tiene la más mínima intención de vender y confía en que sus herederos puedan conservar el monaterio.
Tampoco el presidente de la fundación propietaria del monasterio de San Antón, Eliecer Díez, vendería las ruinas si pudiera hacerlo. Este caso es distinto del de Alveinte porque en varias ocasiones se ha recibido dinero de la Administración para obras de consolidación, pero a juicio de Díez no se aprovechó correctamente. El próximo agosto se cumplirán 35 años desde que compró las ruinas y al cabo de poco tiempo, la Junta aprobó una partida de 5 millones para conservar lo que quedaba. «Se lo encargaron a tres albañiles que hicieron muchas cosas, hasta que dejaron de mandarles material y no pudieron seguir», cuenta Díez.
Pasaron los años, le hicieron varias ofertas para comprarle el monasterio que rechazó y llegó el momento en el que Díez se encontró con que la Administración le obligaba a constituir una fundación para poder recibir subvenciones y lo hizo, aunque ahora asegura estar arrepentido. «De haber sabido que iba a tener tan poco apoyo, no hubiera hecho esto, en absoluto», afirma, explicando que una vez constituida la fundación Eliecer Díez Temiño San Antón, «nos dieron 40 millones para obras de consolidación, pero se hizo muy poca cosa y cuando me quise dar cuenta, ya no había dinero», apunta indignado. Explica que del proyecto de rehabilitación se encargó un equipo que, según explica, no se preocupó de destinar el dinero a lo más importante: reconstruir la cubierta. «Por la parte de abajo está consolidado, lo que hace falta es cubrirlo. Viene el invierno y con él viene el agua, los hielos y eso es lo que perjudica. Si hemos visto un hueco en las paredes, lo hemos cubierto, hemos metido la luz y el agua, pero yo no puedo techarlo», apunta.
Tampoco las ruinas que tienen la declaración de Bien de Interés Cultural (BIC) cuentan con más protección; todo lo contrario. El alcalde de Encío, Benjamín Fuente, asegura sentirse impotente para conseguir que la Junta haga algo con la iglesia de San Cosme y San Damián, declarada BIC en 1983 y que, a pesar de ello, ha ocupado durante mucho tiempo uno de los puestos en la lista roja del patrimonio que elabora la asociación Hispania Nostra. Salió en 2005, después de que la Junta acordara invertir 74.455 euros en la iglesia. Sin embargo, Fuente explica que lo único que se hizo fue «echar una plancha y, desde entonces, no se ha vuelto a actuar». Y suponiendo que el Ayuntamiento estuviera dispuesto a dedicar parte de su presupuesto, no podría hacerlo porque al ser un BIC, la competencia es de la Junta.
Payo admite que «la situación es inabarcable, pero no debemos renunciar a mantener lo que tenemos, porque sería malo que alguien viniera, pagase y se lo llevase, pero peor sería que lo dejáramos caer y desaparecer para siempre». Cree que la responsabilidad sobre el futuro de nuestro patrimonio es cuestión de muchas partes: «Yo hablaría de una corresponsabilidad», explica. «De las comunidades que tutelan estos bienes, de los ayuntamientos, la Diputación o la Junta en su caso, también de la Iglesia aunque es imposible que pueda con todo...» La clave, dice, es un trabajo constante: «Hacemos inversiones cada 20 años y luego dejamos que empeore, y la solución está en el mantenimiento». Lo malo, sin embargo, es que serían necesarios unos cuantos millones de euros que ahora nadie tiene.