jueves, 28 de febrero de 2013

Desert finds challenge horse taming ideas

Recent archaeological discoveries on the Arabian Peninsula have uncovered evidence of a previously unknown civilisation based in the now arid areas in the middle of the desert.
The artefacts unearthed are providing proof of a civilisation that flourished thousands of years ago and have renewed scientific interest in man and the evolution of his relationship with animals.
The 300-odd stone objects so far found in the remote Al Magar area of Saudi Arabia include traces of stone tools, arrow heads, small scrapers and various animal statues including sheep, goats and ostriches.
But the object that has engendered the most intense interest from within the country and around the world is a large, stone carving of an "equid" - an animal belonging to the horse family.

Start Quote

Discoveries like this could change things”
End Quote Juris Zarins Archaeologist
According to Ali bin Ibrahim Al Ghabban, vice-president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities, DNA and carbon-14 (radiocarbon) tests are continuing. But initial evidence suggests that the artefacts date back 9,000 years.
"These discoveries reflect the importance of the site as a centre of civilisation," he told BBC News.
"It could possibly be the birthplace of an advanced prehistoric civilisation that witnessed the domestication of animals, particularly the horse, for the first time during the Neolithic period."
The crucial find is that of a large sculptural fragment that appears to show the head, muzzle, shoulder and withers of an animal that bears a distinct resemblance to a horse.
The piece is unique in terms of its size, weighing more than 135kg.
Moreover, further discoveries on the same site of smaller, horse-like sculptures, also with bands across their shoulders, have opened the possibility that an advanced civilisation here may already have been using the accessories of domestication - tack - in order to control horses.
Question time While archaeologists and other experts have held that horses were first tamed and exploited by man some 6,000 years ago in west Kazakhstan, experts are now starting to consider whether both location and date should be revised in light of these remarkable finds.
Whether yoking man and animal together in this way is supported by evidence is one of the many questions that face an international scientific team brought together to examine the finds.
Selected from a wide background of specialisations, their unique expertise is expected to paint a picture of life in the area during pre-historic times.
Saudi Arabian desert Regions that are now desert may have been covered with lush vegetation in the past
Michael Petraglia, professor of human evolution and prehistory at the University of Oxford has been working on the radiocarbon dating at Al Magar.
He says that the site dates back even further than first thought and can reveal much about the fluctuations between wet and dry periods in the Arabian Peninsula. He adds that the horse fragment dating links with the peninsula going through a wet phase.
"This is a crucial piece of information about an area that is now hyper arid but in the past must have been a lush river valley," he explains. "It confirms that there were savannahs and grassland in the vicinity," he explains.
Traces of other stone tools such as scrapers have been estimated as dating back more than 50,000 years. They were found at the site and suggest that Al Magar was a hospitable place for humans to settle in over thousands of years. In part this is due to its topography, or terrain.
Michael Petraglia says that in the past, the spot must have been a lush river valley: "There is a major valley across the area which once was a river running westward forming waterfalls and taking water to the low fertile lands west of Al-Magar," he explains.
"Al Magar was situated on both banks of the river. Man lived in this area before the last desertification or before the drastic climatic changes ended with the hot dry conditions and development of deserts."
Huge impact The name Al Magar means gathering or meeting place. Juris Zarins, who worked in the early days of archaeology in Saudi Arabia and found tethering stones dating back to the Neolithic period, claims that the site is within an archaeological hot bed.
"There has not been enough exploration carried out," he says. "Discoveries like this could change things."
And indeed the finds have had a huge impact, sparking intense interest in Arabia's prehistory. Other finds made beyond the large and well-preserved Al Magar dovetail with current Arabian passions. Of particular interest are canine remains that resemble one of the oldest known domesticated dog breeds, the desert saluki, as well as traces of a dagger.
Arabian horses Arabian horses are famed around the world, but the region's equine traditions may date back even further
Abdullah Al Sharekh, an archaeologist at King Sa'ud University in Riyadh, and a pioneer of the Al Magar site, found statues within the precinct of a building. This, he says, may reveal vital clues about trade, migration and ritual. "The variety of the finds can tell us about social life and culture," he explains.
"This will take time but all the evidence is here."
The discovery of the large horse sculpture fragment has naturally awakened regional interest. This in turn has compounded curiosity about other important Arabian finds.
"It is an amazing discovery that raises all sorts of questions about when man stopped tracking down wild horses and began taming and exploiting them for transport," Mr Al Ghabban says.
"On this site there are very important symbols of authentic Arabian culture - equestrianism, falconry, the saluki hunting dog and wearing of the dagger."
More excavations are planned of yet other sites which have never been surveyed, and further studies are expected to unveil more important information on the Al Magar civilisation along with its impact on the history of Saudi Arabia.

miércoles, 27 de febrero de 2013

Découverte d'un « cimetière public » de dames de cour de la Dynastie Tang près de Xi'an

D'après les dernières fouilles et recherches menées par les archéologues, les dames de cour de la Dynastie Tang disposaient, il y a 1 300 ans, d'une sorte de « cimetière public » situé à proximité de la ville de Xi'an.

S'appuyant sur les excavations archéologiques menées en 2012, Liu Daiyun, chercheur à l'Institut Provincial d'Archéologie du Shaanxi, a précisé que les dix tombes de dames de cour découvertes à l'Ouest de la ville de Chang'an sont pour l'essentiel similaires et que la structure générale de ces tombes est conforme aux caractéristiques de l'époque ; il n'est pas exagéré de dire qu'il s'agit là d'une sorte de « cimetière public » de dames de cour de la Dynastie Tang. D'après les données archéologiques, les tombes font de 3,5 à 4,5 mètres de long et de 3,5 à 4 mètres de profondeur.

Selon Liu Daiyun, le mobilier funéraire découvert dans les tombes de ces dames de cour est similaire, les pièces plus intéressantes étant des objets en laque, tous typiques de ce qu'utilisaient les femmes d'alors. Selon l'épitaphe de sept de ces tombes, les femmes qui reposent dans ces tombes appartenaient du 6e au 9e grade, ce qui témoigne que ce cimetière de dames de cour de Chang'an était conforme au système rituel régissant les dames de cour à Chang'an sous la Dynastie Tang.

Le contenu des épitaphes permet de conclure que, sous la Dynastie Tang, les objets utilisés par les dames de cour étaient strictement et précisément réglementés, allant du 9e au 6e grade. Des inscriptions funéraires, il ressort également que les dames de cour étaient réparties en deux catégories, la première étant celles qui, après avoir été choisies, restaient jusqu'à leur mort dans le palais et ne pouvaient en partir, la seconde étant celles destinées au service exclusif de l'empereur et qui, après la mort de celui-ci, se retiraient dans un temple, voire devenaient nonnes dans un couvent après avoir fait sacrifice de leur chevelure et ne pouvant pas se marier. Après leur mort, elles avaient toutefois droit à des funérailles conformes à leur rang passé.

Selon Liu Daiyun, les épitaphes sont également fortement imprégnées de philosophie bouddhiste. Tous ces témoignages physiques et écrits seront précieux pour l'étude du système politique du palais, de la vie et du système funéraire après la mort sous la Dynastie Tang


martes, 26 de febrero de 2013

Shards of south Louisiana's ancient history found

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — An archaeological project arising out of Hurricane Katrina's floods has turned up bits of pottery fired about 1,300 years before the first French colonists slogged into south Louisiana swamps.
The project also has turned up artifacts from later Native Americans, Spanish and American fortifications, as well as a hotel and amusement park near the mouth of Bayou St. John, once an important route from Lake Pontchartrain to New Orleans.
"It's very exciting," said state regional archaeologist Robert Mann, who was not involved in the dig but said he has looked at photographed artifacts. The pottery bits, he said, are from what is known as the Marksville period, from about A.D. 1 to A.D. 400, he said. The shards — or, as archaeologists call them, sherds — are incised with broadly spaced lines, making their age clear.
"They just yell out Marksville," Mann said.
Patterns stamped between the lines on the pottery pieces narrow the period to the late Marksville, between about A.D. 300 and A.D. 400, said state archaeologist Charles "Chip" McGimsey.
When the pottery was made, Southeast Louisiana was populated by hunter-gatherers. Most of their artifacts are found in trash heaps, made up mostly of shells from a freshwater clam that they ate by the billions. Some shell middens, or dumps, were a quarter-mile long and 10 to 20 feet high, McGimsey said.
At one time, such middens probably ringed Lake Pontchartrain, said Jerame Cramer, the Federal Emergency Management Agency's deputy environmental liaison officer with the Louisiana Recovery Office. Some evidence remains on the north shore but almost none on the south shore, he said.
The shells were mined as construction material into the early 20th century, McGimsey said. Cramer said other heaps washed away or were buried under concrete when the lakefront was armored against erosion.
Cramer and FEMA were involved in the dig because of a hazard mitigation grant program to raise and otherwise protect houses from storms after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. More than 37,000 homeowners applied statewide, most of them in the New Orleans area.
Before the start of any construction project using federal money, the agency must investigate its effects on potential historic property.
FEMA, state and Native American officials agreed that, rather than going door to door, archaeologists should concentrate on public lands that might be used for emergency housing or temporary debris dumps. As part of the program, they would also check a few known archaeological sites and reanalyze some existing collections.
"The goal was to have people get their elevation grants as quickly as possible," Cramer said. "This is a very unique type of mitigation program. But Katrina was a very unique event."
The new pottery pieces were discovered at a site now called Old Spanish Fort. The French built a small, crude fortification there in the early 1700s, and the Spanish built a true fort in about the 1770s, Cramer said. Americans added a brick wall in the early 1800s, apparently digging deeper into the shells for a fresh foundation. A hotel was built there in 1829, and a casino and amusement park were added later.
It looks as if the Spanish leveled a shell mound, building their fort on the newly flattened area and using the shells they removed to raise low areas and make walkways, said Jason Emery, lead FEMA archaeologist on the project.
"I don't think any of us even knew there was a shell midden there originally," McGimsey said. "And to realize that so much of it was still undisturbed ... the fact that the fort was there has preserved it all these years."
Notes from earlier excavations at Old Spanish Fort had been lost, and cataloging those artifacts also was part of the project, Cramer said.
Emery said a preliminary estimate is that the archaeologists found about 100 sherds, about a dozen with decorations that can help identify when they were made. McGimsey said charcoal or shells from long vertical samples of soil will be carbon-dated to double-check the age.

Archaeologist: Bones found in Turkey are probably those of Cleopatra's half-sister

Long-buried bones and a missing monarch. Add some historical notoriety and modern technology and you have a heck of a captivating, science-driven story.
Just this month, it was announced that bones found under a parking lot in Leicester, England, belonged to King Richard III. DNA evidence, according to the lead archaeologist at the excavation, proved this “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
For Hilke Thur, a Vienna-based archaeologist at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, a similar quest awaits empirical closure. The locale is more exotic – western Turkey – and the evidence is much more difficult to analyze: The bones in question are a bit more than 2,000 years old.
She will cover this and other aspects of her work in a March 1 lecture at the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh.
The title: “Who Murdered Cleopatra’s Sister? And Other Tales from Ephesus.”
In a recent interview, Thur discussed…

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What took her to Ephesus
“I’m an architect as well as an archaeologist, and Ephesus – a large and important city on the coast

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of Asia Minor centuries before it became part of the Roman Empire – has long been one of the biggest archaeological sites. It is the main excavation of the Austrian Archaeological Institute.
“I was a student when I started working there in 1975, and have based a great deal of my career around the site. From 1997 to 2005, I was assistant director of the Ephesus excavations.
“An English engineer directed the first archaeological digs there in 1869, but since 1895, only Austrian-led projects have permission to do that, though Turks sometimes have excavations. I’d like to add that it’s quite an international team there, with researchers from all over the world.
“My specialty is interpreting buildings and monuments. The excavations of one monument, The Octagon, began in 1904. In 1926, a grave chamber was found inside The Octagon. The skeleton inside it has been interpreted to be that of a young woman about age 20.”
What thickened the plot
“When I was working with the architecture of The Octagon and the building next to it, it wasn’t known whose skeleton was inside. Then I found some ancient writers telling us that in the year 41 B.C., Arsinoe IV – the half-sister of Cleopatra – was murdered in Ephesus by Cleopatra and her Roman lover, Marc Antony. Because the building is dated by its type and decoration to the second half of the first century B.C., this fits quite well.
“I put the pieces of the puzzle together.”
The eight-sided clues
In antiquity, ordinary people were not buried within the city. That privilege was only for special people – those with an aristocratic background, or people who did special things for their city. So the body must have belonged to a special person. Also, the skeleton was of a woman.
“Then there is the shape of the building. While The Octagon exists only as ruins today, its pieces have been photographed. The images were digitized and ‘virtually rebuilt’ on a computer. The shape of the building, an imperial grave monument, resembles the famous Lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The lighthouse, destroyed centuries ago, was built at Alexandria, on the Egyptian coast, by the Ptolemy dynasty from which Cleopatra and Arsinoe IV were descended.
“The center portion of the lighthouse tower was octagonal, which was quite unusual at the time.”
Forensic evidence
“The site of The Octagon has a grave chamber. It was opened in 1926, but the opening was very small, and no one entered it until later on.
“The skull had been removed for tests; it disappeared in Germany during World War II. But there are photos of the skull, and notes written down by those who examined it.
“In 1985, the back side of the chamber became accessible, and I re-found the skeleton – the bones were in two niches. The body was removed and examined. The bones were found to be those of a woman younger than 20 – 15 or 16, perhaps.
“The revised age was used for arguments against my theory of the body belonging to Arsinoe IV, but those arguments didn’t find anything to disprove my theory.
“This academic questioning is normal. It happens. It’s a kind of jealousy.”
What would prove her theory
“They tried to make a DNA test, but testing didn’t work well because the skeleton had been moved and the bones had been held by a lot of people. It didn’t bring the results we hoped to find.
“I don’t know if there are possibilities to do more of this testing. Forensic material is not my field.
“One of my colleagues on the project told me two years ago there currently is no other method to really determine more. But he thinks there may be new methods developing. There is hope.”

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/02/24/2697973/archaeologist-says-bones-found.html#storylink=rss#storylink=cpy

Curetes was one of the main streets in ancient Ephesus, and the site of the long-destroyed Octagon. This photo has been manipulated to superimpose a facsimile of the Octagon in its location, at left.

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News in Brief: Radial routes ran outside Mesopotamia

Cold War–era imagery reveals transportation networks extended throughout Middle East

By Bruce Bower
Spoke-like dirt paths extend as far as five kilometers from several ancient Mesopotamian cities that have been excavated in what’s now northeastern Syria. Although often regarded as transportation features unique to these more than 5,000-year-old sites, new evidence reveals similar radial paths in western Syria and southwestern Iran that date to as recently as 1,200 years ago.
Archaeologist Jesse Casana of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville made these discoveries by analyzing declassified, Cold War–era satellite images that show Middle Eastern landscapes before intensive farming erased all traces of ancient dirt roads. Some researchers think that Mesopotamia’s radial routes were created by herding sheep and goats to and from grazing lands through narrow strips that separated cultivated fields next to city centers.
That same path-breaking process occurred over the next four millennia at cities across the Middle East, Casana proposes February 13 in the Journal of Anthropological Archaeology.

Conservation work of a Macedonian site is under way

Work on preserving the ancient observatory at Kokino, 30km from Kumanovo, in northern Macedonia, will finish this year, the National Museum in Kumanovo announced. "Works include the outer wall as well as the astronomical platform, which will be presented to the public so that visitors can understand what happened a long time ago in Kokino," the director of the National Museum in Kumanovo, Jovica Stankovski, said. Stankovski described this as the final phase of research at the archeological site, which was discovered in 2001.
The Bronze Age site is about 100 metres in diameter and is on two levels underneath the Tatikev Kamen mountain, at an altitude of 1,013 metres. Research suggests it was a sacred place and was used to observe celestial objects. Among the important findings are stone markers used to track the movement of the sun and moon, the winter and summer solstices, as well as the equinox. Excavations carried out on the upper platform have uncovered ceramic objects, animal bones, pyramidal weights and fragments of grinding stones.
Stankovski said that after conservation work is finished, the site will be presented to scientists and experts. Several universities are already negotiating with the musem to visit Kokino.


jueves, 21 de febrero de 2013

Israel muestra por primera vez los tesoros de la tumba de Herodes

El Museo de Israel en Jerusalén inauguró el pasado 13 de febrero la primera exposición en el mundo sobre la vida y el legado de Herodes el Grande, una de las figuras más influyentes y controvertidas de la historia romana y judía antigua.
La exposición 'Herodes el Grande: la travesía final del rey' estará abierta hasta el 5 de octubre y presenta aproximadamente 250 hallazgos arqueológicos de la tumba, recientemente descubierta, del rey en Herodión, así como de Jericó y otros sitios relacionados, para arrojar una nueva luz sobre el impacto político, arquitectónico y estético del reinado de Herodes, desde el 37 hasta el 4 a.C.
Entre los objetos, todos los cuales han pasado una restauración exhaustiva en el Museo de Israel para la presente muestra, se cuentan tres sarcófagos de la tumba de Herodes y frescos restaurados de Herodión, su cuarto de baño privado en el palacio en Cypros, elementos de piedra tallada nunca vistos antes del Monte del Templo y un recipiente imperial de mármol considerado como un obsequio de Augusto.
Reconocido como "el mayor constructor de la historia humana", el rey Herodes fue también demonizado debido a su incierto origen étnico y religioso, sus controvertidas alianzas políticas, la ejecución de su esposa y tres de sus hijos, y la asociación con el relato del Nuevo Testamento sobre la matanza de los Santos Inocentes en Belén.
La exposición busca ofrecer una comprensión mejor de esta figura del pasado a través de la arquitectura monumental que creó y el arte y los objetos con los que se rodeaba. Así, examina los proyectos de Herodes, sus complejas relaciones diplomáticas con los emperadores y la nobleza romana, y la dramática procesión funeraria desde Jericó hasta el mausoleo que construyó para sí mismo en Herodión.
'Herodes el Grande: la travesía final del rey' se organiza en torno a la ruta, cuidadosamente planificada, de la procesión funeraria de Herodes, desde la sala del trono en su palacio de invierno en Jericó, pasando por Jerusalén, hasta su tumba monumental en Herodión.

Los temas centrales de la exposición incluyen el impacto de Herodes sobre el paisaje arquitectónico de la Tierra de Israel, sus complejas relaciones con el Imperio Romano y su muerte y sepelio.
El Museo de Israel es la institución cultural más grande del Estado de Israel, y está considerado como uno de los museos de arte y arqueología líder en el mundo

lunes, 18 de febrero de 2013

Encuentran restos de una posible fortaleza romana en unos pastizales de Navatejera Mónica Castro ya ha dado conocimiento al Ayuntamiento de Villaquilambre de este casual hallazgo, que se relacionaría con el asentamiento de la Legio VI que fundó León

Luis V. Huerga
La investigadora leonesa Mónica Castropuede haber descubierto uno de los hitos arqueológicos más importantes de la historia reciente. Un hallazgo que se produjo por causalidad, merced a su afición por probar las nuevas tecnologías aplicadas al análisis del patrimonio, su especialidad.Haciendo pruebas con la tecnología LiDAR, un programa que permite ver archivos de captaciones de satélite, capaz de explorar zonas donde existen restos arqueológicos y de penetrar en la tierra varios metros para visualizar lo que hay enterrado, se topó con la sorpresa. En Navatejera, frente a la Villa Romana, sin querer, ha hallado una estructura de grandes dimensiones que “apostaría a que cumple los requisitos de una estructura militar romana”.
El hallazgo, de confirmarse, tiene trascendencia desde un punto de vista arqueológico e histórico porque puede tratarse de un campamento militar auxiliar o, incluso, del asentamiento de la Legio VI, que dio origen a la ciudad de León. Se trata de una estructura típica de la arqueología militar.
Sus dimensiones (Eje Este-Oeste, 282.1 metros; Eje Norte-Sur, 171.64 metros; y un perímetro de 915.86 metros), su forma, rectangular con las esquinas redondas; su ubicación, frente a la Villa Romana de Navatejera donde en el siglo XIX se encontraron los restos romanos que hoy se pueden visitar; o, incluso, la comparación con otros modelos en el mundo romano, como las fortalezas de algunas ciudades alemanas o húngaras, llevan a pensar que puede tratarse de un asentamiento militar importante.

Descripción de las dimensiones del rectángulo detectado por el satélite.
Una estructura "llamativa por sus dimensiones"
Mónica Castro comenzó las pruebas con el sistema LiDAR hace unas semanas sobre los restos romanos donde ella, a través de su experiencia en labores de arqueología militar romana, sabía que existían restos. Al analizar la zona de la Villa Romana de Navatejera, se topó con una estructura “llamativa pos sus dimensiones” enterrada un metro bajo tierra en una zona de fincas privadas que, actualmente, es un pastizal embarrado, en la vega que comunica esta localidad con el campus de la Universidad de León.
El hecho de que estas fincas hayan sido utilizadas durante más de dos mil años como pastizales, que estén catalogadas como propiedad privada desde hace años o que las últimas excavaciones en la zona, realizadas por la Universidad de León en los restos de la necrópolis, sólo aportaran como novedad alguna tumba aislada pueden ser los motivos por los que nadie hasta ahora había reparado en la posibilidad de encontrar en este lugar esa fortificación. Eso y que la mayoría de la gente no sabe que está disponible este tipo de archivos LiDAR, que es una tecnología por satélite que registra a más profundidad, que pasa sobre vegetaciones y edificaciones y que en España se prueba desde hace sólo unos meses.
La investigadora ya se ha puesto en contacto con el Ayuntamiento de Villaquilambre para notificar el hallazgo y ha trasladado el hecho a varios colegas de profesión, reputados arqueólogos especialistas en el legado romano, que le han confirmado la posibilidad de que en ese lugar existiera una fortificación que “podría ser, o no” el asentamiento de la Legio VI que dio origen a la ciudad de León. “Si fuera un campamento auxiliar de la ciudad de hoy en día, no sería algo exagerado. Pero si fuera el campamento original, estaríamos ante nuestros orígenes”, ha señalado Castro.

Recreación en 3D de los restos hallados en el pastizal.
"Quizá no cambie la historia, pero aportará"
“Estas características se corresponden en medida y proporción con fortificaciones romanas. Mantienen la misma proporción, que hace pensar que te estas moviendo en el mundo romano”, ha indicado, aunque, eso sí, hasta que el Ayuntamiento de Villaquilambre analice la notificación o que algunos de los arqueólogos con los que ha contactado confirmen su interés por el análisis del caso, mantiene todas las cautelas.
“Quizá no cambie la historia, pero por lo menos aportará algo nuevo a lo que ya sabemos. Desde luego, es una novedad. No todo lo militar y romano se circunscribe a lo que hay en el centro de León”, ha señalado la descubridora de esta fortificación que lamenta que el hallazgo se haya realizado en este momento de recortes y de escasos recursos para la conservación del patrimonio aunque, al menos, apuesta por llevar a cabo un estudio preliminar para proteger y catalogar estos restos.

domingo, 17 de febrero de 2013

Abre al público la casa de Vélez donde se halló el arco de un mihrab nazarí

La estructura corresponde a una mezquita situada en los arrabales de la ciudad en el siglo XIV

El Ayuntamiento de la localidad malagueña de Vélez-Málaga ha abierto al público este jueves la casa en la que, a mediados de los años 90, se descubrió el arco de un mihrab del siglo XIV, perteneciente a una mezquita situada en los arrabales de la ciudad durante la época nazarí.
El concejal de Cultura y Patrimonio, José Antonio Fortes, ha informado de que la casa, situada junto al palacio de Beniel y que fue rehabilitada en 2006, abre sus puertas a los visitantes por primera vez desde el hallazgo del arco, y ha detallado que el horario de visitas será de lunes a viernes de 10.00 a 14.00 horas.
Fortes ha explicado que este mismo jueves se han instalado en la casa una serie de paneles informativos a través de los cuales los ciudadanos podrán conocer la historia y las características del arco, que, según ha señalado, pertenecía a una antigua mezquita de barrio del periodo nazarí, que se encontraba situada en el antiguo arrabal Los Gomeres, extramuros de la medina andalusí de Vélez-Málaga.
"Todas las personas que visiten por primera vez este arco podrán conocer con detalle todos sus elementos compositivos decorativos y, especialmente, sus cartelas con textos coránicos", ha precisado el edil, quien ha recordado que el arco está recorrido parcialmente por un conjunto de 11 dovelas radicales de morfología lobulada "y sendas albanegas de palmetas dobles y simples digitadas en una excelente labor de ataurique".
En el centro de las albanegas aparecen cartelas circulares con mensajes coránicos y todo el conjunto queda delimitado por un alfiz que desarrolla un programa epigráfico que está parcialmente incompleto por las reformas efectuadas en la vivienda, según Fortes, quien ha añadido que, por las características epigráficas y textuales, el arco puede datarse en la segunda mitad del siglo XIV o inicios del siglo XV.
Además de contemplar el arco en sí, los visitantes podrán observar también la fachada, definida por un arco de herradura ligeramente apuntado, abriendo a un pequeño nicho, originalmente de planta cóncava, aunque alterado también en las reformas que sufrió la vivienda en el siglo XVI, tras la conquista de la ciudad por los castellanos.
El concejal ha destacado "la gran apuesta" que está haciendo el Gobierno municipal por la cultura y la recuperación del patrimonio a través de las actuaciones enmarcadas en el plan 'Recupera 2011- 2015', que permitirá la rehabilitación de monumentos como la ermita de San Sebastián, el entorno de la Fortaleza y su torre del homenaje o la próxima licitación del jardín del cerro de la Virgen de los Remedios, entre otros.

Cultura y Fomento acuerdan financiar 26 proyectos de conservación del Patrimonio

Los Ministerios de Cultura y Fomento han acordado, durante la LXIII Comisión Mixta del 1% Cultural, destinar 7.116.822,99 € a la conservación y recuperación del Patrimonio Histórico Español.

Un año más el Ministerio de Cultura, a través de la medida 1% cultural, mantiene su compromiso con la protección y puesta en valor del Patrimonio Histórico Español financiando un total de 26 actuaciones en nueve Comunidades Autónomas.

Dichos proyectos, realizados con cargo a los recursos generados con el 1% de la inversión en obra pública del Ministerio de Fomento, sin duda se convertirán en un importante agente generador de empleo en el sector cultural.

El “1% Cultural” es una medida que recoge la Ley del Patrimonio Histórico Español, por la que al menos el 1% de los presupuestos de cada obra pública financiada total o parcialmente por el Estado se destina a proyectos de conservación o enriquecimiento del Patrimonio Cultural o al fomento de la creatividad artística.

Como en anteriores ocasiones, entre los proyectos a financiar cabe destacar varias actuaciones en bienes incluidos en la lista Patrimonio Mundial UNESCO, como son la Fase II de Rehabilitación de la finca Borges Estévanez en San Cristóbal de la Laguna, la Restauración de los interiores de la Iglesia Parroquial de Sta. María Magdalena en Zaragoza, diversas actuaciones en el Conjunto Histórico de Toledo y las intervenciones en el pórtico de la Basílica del Foro de la Colonia y en los pilares del Patio de la Torre del Pretorio en Tarragona; proyectos en los que se invertirán 562.500 €, 880.327,96 €, 353.989,88 € y 95.196,35 € respectivamente.

Asimismo, se han aprobado diversas actuaciones enmarcadas en Planes Nacionales de conservación. Es el caso de varios castillos repartidos por la geografía española, dentro del Plan de Castillos y otros elementos de la Arquitectura Defensiva: el Castell del Palau en Bagà (Barcelona), el Castell de Hostalric (Girona), el Castillo de L'Albi (Lleida), el Castillo de Tartareu en Les Avellanes i Santa Linya (Lleida), el Castillo de Barberà de la Conca (Tarragona) y el Castillo de Sumacàrcer (Valencia), por un importe total de 1.485.533,14 €. Dentro del Plan de Monasterios, Abadías y Conventos, la futura restauración del Monasterio de San Pedro de Eslonza (Gradefes-León), donde se llevará a cabo la consolidación de las ruinas, y la Fase IV de Restauración del Monasterio de Sant Daniel en Girona, por un importe total de 496.413,49 €.

Además se financiarán otras actuaciones en bienes singulares como las Salinas del Roser en Baix-Pallars (Lleida), el Molino de Aceite de Alquézar (Huesca), el Cementerio de Casabermeja (Málaga) y el Mirador Almohade de Marchena (Sevilla).

Junto con las actuaciones aprobadas en marzo y julio de 2011, se ha acordado la financiación de un total de 80 proyectos y más de 40 millones de euros con cargo a los fondos del 1% cultural, consolidándose así como herramienta clave en la protección y conservación del Patrimonio Histórico Español.

Unos Baños Árabes para el siglo XXI (Jaén)

100% accesibles y energéticamente eficientes. Así son los Baños Árabes que la Diputación reabrió, ayer, al público después de quince meses de obras y ante la presión de los empresarios turísticos. El monumento será visitable, de martes a domingo, por la calle Cuna, mientras continúan los trabajos en el Palacio de Villardompardo.
Y la espera ha merecido la pena. Después de quince meses cerrados a cal y canto como consecuencia de las obras de adecuación y mejora de la accesibilidad del Palacio de Villardompardo que se iniciaron en el marco del ya extinto Activa Jaén, los vecinos y los turistas que visiten la capital podrán extasiarse de nuevo con la belleza arcana y recogida de una de sus maravillas arquitectónicas, los Baños Árabes. Un edificio del siglo XI que, gracias a esta reforma, se adentra en el XXI con dos nuevos alicientes: los de ser 100% accesible y eficiente energéticamente, ya que se ha mejorado y optimizado el sistema de iluminación de las distintas salas con la instalación de 84 nuevos soportes y luminarias de tecnología LED que se adaptan totalmente a las características del edificio con el fin de simular la luz natural que le entraba en los orígenes.
Nuria López Priego /Jaén


Publicado el homenaje a José Ángel García de Cortazar

Más de 150 autores, de 40 universidades o centros de investigación internacionales, reúnen sus contribuciones en un ímprobo esfuerzo editorial para dejar constancia de su gratitud al maestro José Ángel García de Cortazar y dar mayor valor, si cabe, a su fecunda obra y enseñanzas, cruciales para entender no solo nuestra Edad Media sino el influjo que esta época y sus condicionamientos han tenido en el desarrollo y actual estructura de España.

La obra está estructurada en cuatro grandes secciones.

<< La primera se titula "Semblanzas" y participan seis profesionales que son buenos conocedores de la obra y la persona del Profesor Cortázar, que nos ofrecen una semblanza humana, académica y científica del homenajeado
La segunda de las secciones que lleva por título "Generales" acoge una miscelánea de dieciséis trabajos, cuyas temáticas abarcan desde la historia del género hasta las nuevas propuestas para el estudio de los cartularios medievales o el estudio del vino.

La tercera sección, titulada "Siglos VI-XII" está integrada por cincuenta estudios que se ocupan de temas como el poblamiento y la organización social del espacio, la sociedad visigoda, la invasión islámica, los reinos cristianos, la monarquía feudal, la reconquista, entre otros muchos.

Por último, la sección cuarta está dedicada a los ochenta y dos trabajos de cronología comprendida entre los "Siglos XIII-XVI", cuya temática abarca el estudio de las sociedades urbanas, las fiestas de los toros, las cofradías de pescadores, el poblamiento, los señoríos, la nobleza, la conflictividad social o la vida política.

La satisfacción intelectual de todos los lectores que se adentren en las páginas de esta obra está asegurada gracias al alto nivel y contrastado rigor científico de los autores.>>

(Fuente: Jesús Ángel Solórzano Telechea, Decano de la Facultad de Filosofía y Letras de la Universidad de Cantabria)

La compra de este libro se puede realizar bajo pedido solicitándolo en el correo info@romanicodigital.com

Universidad de Cantabria
ISBN: 9788481026504
Nº Edición: 1
Año de Edición: 2013
Páginas: 2070. 2 v.
Tamaño: 170 x 240
Formato: Tapa blanda o Bolsillo
Precio: 58,00 € + Gastos de envío 6,00 €


sábado, 16 de febrero de 2013

Selkirk water works unearth medieval village remains

The remains of a medieval village in the Borders have been uncovered during the laying of a new water main.
Scottish Water was carrying out the works at Philiphaugh on the outskirts of Selkirk.
It was laying new pipes between Howden and Yarrowford water treatment works when the discovery was made.
Initial studies suggested it was an Anglo-Saxon settlement, but closer inspection indicated it may have been the site of a medieval village.

“Start Quote

It is not every day that medieval villages are found - most of them are known, this one was completely unknown”
End Quote Chris Bowles Scottish Borders Council archaeologist
Archaeologists found evidence of a number of stone buildings with stone floors across the entire area, with cobbled sections in between.
It is over a sizeable area - which suggests there may have been a settlement on the site rather than an individual farm building.
Scottish Water spokesman Stewart Cooper said: "The Borders is of course a particularly historic part of Scotland.
"While projects of this kind by Scottish Water are all about improving Scotland's water infrastructure, they can often involve an element of digging and excavation - which can be fascinating when they help shed light on an area's past."
Scottish Borders Council's archaeologist Chris Bowles said it was an exciting discovery.
"We knew there had been something there, we just didn't know where it was," he said.
"Now we have the village, and it is quite an extensive village.
"We have got a really extensive area of maybe half a kilometre where we have had buildings right along the road running to the salmon viewing centre.
"It is not every day that medieval villages are found - most of them are known, this one was completely unknown."
Mr Bowles said the artefacts found on the site would now be taken away and examined more closely.
Carbon dating will be used to try to give a more precise timeframe for when the settlement was inhabited.


Mexico finds fire-god figure at top of Pyramid of the Sun

MEXICO CITY -- Did the rulers of the ancient city of Teotihuacan dedicate their largest pyramid to the god of fire, the so-called old god with a signature beard and fire atop his head?
Mexican archaeologists announced this week that a figure of the god, called Huehueteotl, was found in a covered pit at the apex of the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan, a popular archaeological site north of Mexico City.
Excavations are ongoing, but the discovery suggests that a long-disappeared temple at the top of the pyramid was used to perform ritual offerings to the fire god, Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History, or INAH, said in a statement Monday.
Huehueteotl is known in the archaeology of various Mesoamerican civilizations, such as the Olmecs and Aztecs, and the Aztecs' predecessors in the Valley of Mexico, the Teotihuacanos. He is commonly represented as a viejo, or old man, sitting in a cross-legged position, often with a beard and a beaked nose, and with a hearth-like source of fire balanced on his head. Huehueteotl is associated with wisdom and rulership.
Archaeologists found the Huehueteotl, along with two stone pillars, in a covered pit about 15 feet deep, at a height of about 214 feet from the ground. The pit is below the remnants of a platform at the top of the Pyramid of the Sun that probably served as the foundation for a temple.
The people of Teotihuacan finished building the pyramid around AD 100 and destroyed its apex temple themselves around the end of the 5th century or the beginning of the 6th century, INAH said.
Archaeologists did not know that a pit existed at the top of the stepped pyramid, renowned as one of the largest of its kind in the Americas. It is now thought that Leopoldo Batres, the pioneering archaeologist who restored the pyramid to the basic form seen today, covered the platform a century ago without properly excavating it.
"Once we didn't find the bottom of the platform, upon further digging we figured out it was pit," INAH archaeologist Nelly Nuñez said in a video.
In 2011, INAH archaeologists announced they had found a 400-foot-long tunnel at the base of the Pyramid of the Sun, which is still being studied. Mexico's government has been excavating the structure in earnest since 2005. Only a fraction of the Teotihuacan site has been studied in about 100 years of government archaeological work there.
The Huehueteotl was uncovered between June and December. It weighs 418 pounds and is made of a gray volcanic stone. An INAH spokeswoman said Wednesday that the fire-god figure and other objects found with it were still being examined. It was unclear when they might be exhibited to the public.

Serbian cave produces oldest human ancestor in this part of Europe

A fragment of lower jaw recovered from a Serbian cave has now been dated as the oldest hominin ancestor found in this part of Europe. The fossil was dated to between 397,000 and 525,000 years old, a time when distinctly Neanderthal traits began to appear in Europe. The evolution of these traits was strongly influenced by periodic isolation of groups of individuals, caused by glacial episodes.
According to research published in February 2012 in the open access journal PLoS ONE, the individual probably evolved under different conditions than populations who inhabited more western parts of the continent during the same time frame.

Geographic isolation

Humans in southeastern Europe were never geographically isolated from Asia and Africa by glaciers, and according to the authors, this resulted in different evolutionary forces acting on early human populations in this region. Roksandic explains that their study confirms the importance of southeast Europe as a ‘gate to the continent’ and one of the three main areas where humans, plants and animals sought refuge during glaciations in prehistoric times. She adds, “We have very few fossils of hominins in general from this time, a period that was critical for shaping the appearance and evolution of uniquely human morphology and behaviours.”
In 2000, Dr. Mirjana Roksandic, a paleoanthropologist with the University of Winnepeg and a leading research team member began excavating a cave in Balanica, Serbia, along with her colleagues. While they were away, looters secretly dug a deeper pit within the cave. On discovering this, the scientific team then decided, as the site had already been disturbed to a deeper layer, that they should excavate further.
In June 2008, a possible Homo erectus jaw was excavated from this lower stratum; The morphology of the mandible differs significantly from Homo heidelbergensis; and there is a complete lack of derived Neanderthal features.
The jaw represents one of an increasing number of specimens from the southeast of Europe demonstrating plesiomorphic ‘erectus-like’ traits coupled with synapomorphic traits common to Middle Pleistocene hominins.

New dates for the fossil

Newly obtained ages, based on electron spin resonance combined with uranium series isotopic analysis, and infrared/post-infrared luminescence dating, provide a minimum age that lies between 397 and 525 ka for the hominin mandible BH-1 . This confirms it as the easternmost hominin specimen in Europe dated to the Middle Pleistocene.
In the past, anthropologists assumed that Neanderthals were widespread throughout Europe, basing that assumption on Neanderthal fossils almost exclusively found in Western Europe“, Roksandic told Live Science.
The new findings suggest that Neanderthals may not have evolved in this region of Southeastern Europe, instead, several ice ages cut off Western Europe from the rest of the continent, and this isolation contributed to the evolution of Neanderthals’ distinctive features from the more primitive Homo erectus.
Ancient humans in Southeastern Europe, by contrast, were never cut off due to rising glaciers. “So there is no pressure on them to develop into something different,” she said.
But not everyone is convinced of this interpretation and the specimen may come from “an unusual individual in a population of which some others might be more Neanderthal-like,” according to Fred Smith, a paleoanthropologist at Illinois State University, who was not involved in the study.
What is certain is the date – and this in itself pushes forward the study of hominin dispersal around half a million years ago.



lunes, 11 de febrero de 2013

Edinburgh First World War trench survey begins

WORLD renowned experts have begun a major survey aimed at unlocking the secrets of the Capital’s First World War trenches.
The network of trenches at Dreghorn Woods, Colinton, which will cost an estimated £10,000 to save, were almost forgotten and had been left to become overgrown by trees. In December, Edinburgh City Council awarded £3500 to enable survey work to take place following months of campaigning by writer and historian Lynne Gladstone-Millar and the Evening News, calling for the trenches to be preserved.
And yesterday, experts in military archaeology arrived to assess the significance of the practice trenches, using state-of-the-art surveying systems and GPS equipment.
The team – made up of archaeologists from the MoD’s Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO), the council and specialists from the University of Glasgow’s Centre for Battlefield Archaeology – will chart the route and condition of the trenches before making recommendations for future management of the site.
The 16th Battalion The Royal Scots dug the trenches in Colinton and Dreghorn – which was open countryside at the time – before they made their way to France.
With trench design rapidly progressing throughout the First World War, experts will also be hoping the exciting study will lay bare the secrets of trench design and any methods used to keep up with the initially superior trench-building German forces.
The survey follows a campaign to save the trenches led by Mrs Gladstone-Millar, whose father, William Ewart Gladstone-Millar, was trained in the trenches before he was sent to the Battle of the Somme.
DIO environmental sdviser Phil Abramson said: “Hopefully, the survey will reveal just what sort of warfare was being practised here.
“We do not know anything about the extent of the trenches, what condition they are in, or the type of trenches they are.
“Dreghorn Trenches is a monument of national significance.
“The results of this survey will be vital in helping us plan how best to manage the future of this important piece of military heritage.”
Mr Abramson added he could envisage the site being used educationally, along the lines of a woodland walk with a leaflets and an information panel. Investigations will take four days to complete and a comprehensive report will be available to DIO in March.
This will allow DIO’s historic advisers to work with a range of partners, including Edinburgh City Council, to begin developing a range of options about how the site might be managed in the future.
Colonel Philip Bates, Commander Edinburgh Garrison, said: “I am very happy that work is now starting on this project. This first stage will be to establish exactly what is there and what condition it is in.
“Once we have that information we will, with our partners in Edinburgh City Council and the DIO, decide what we are going to do in terms of preservation and use of these historically important trench systems.
“This is an important project. There is the clear military historic connection, but it is probably even more important in terms of social history, since WWI is probably the first major conflict to have such a profound effect on the home-based civilian population as well as the service personnel.
“This would be important at any time, but it is especially relevant now, as we approach the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI in 2014.
“In terms of currency, I also believe this project is important to us here and now. Working with our local authority partners, it is a tangible manifestation of the UK Armed Forces Covenant and our more local Community Covenant, through which we are working to ensure enduring and positive links between our service personnel, their families and the communities in which we live.”
Survey work on the site will be led by the city council’s archaeologist, John Lawson, and Dr Tony Pollard and Dr Iain Banks from the Centre for Battlefield Archaeology. City culture and sport Ccnvener Richard Lewis said: “The council has a duty to preserve Edinburgh’s rich cultural heritage and I am delighted that we have identified funding to take this fantastic project forward.”
Realistic training experience
The practice trenches were dug to train the troops in all forms of trench warfare they could expect to tackle on the Western Front – so they had to provide a realistic training experience.
Trenches would not have been straight as this would have enabled bullets and shrapnel to travel long distances along the interior, leading to potentially high casualties.
Instead, the trenches were either crenelated or zig-zag to restrict the distance that bullets and shrapnel would travel and protect the men inside.
There are several examples of well-preserved practice trenches on MoD land, including examples on the Castlelaw training area just to the south of Dreghorn Barracks.
However one of the best preserved examples of training trenches is on the Barry Buddon training area near Dundee. This shows the two different trench designs: zig-zag and crenelated.
Another common feature of trenches were underground bunkers or dug-outs, which offered soldiers a greater degree of protection from bombardment. It is possible such structures were dug at Dreghorn, and the experts will be looking for any evidence to support that theory.


Qom’s Parthian fire temple left at her own devices to be destroyed

LONDON, (CAIS) -- A recent report from Qom, indicates Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicraft and Tourism Organisation (ICHHTO) has purposely left a 2,000-year-old Kermejgān (recently Karamjegān) fire temple at her own devices at the mercy of zealous religious leaders and harsh weather, to be destroyed.

Kermejgān fire temple, which in fact is a chār tāqi (small fire-temple with astrological and calendrical functionalities) is located in the northwest of a village of the same name, in the Kahak District of the central Iranian province of Qom. The chār tāqi is 7.10 x7.10 meters, and there is a 3.5-meter gap between each 1.8 x 1.8 meters tick pillars. Although smaller, the similarity between Kermejgān and Niāsar chār tāqi in Kashn, led to believe Kermejgān is a Parthian dynastic (248 BCE-224 CE) construction, dating to the early first century CE.

In 1997 a number of zealous Muslim leaders from Kahak and Qom, in Taliban style fighting and destroying pre-Islamic heritage, brought 2000-year-old Kermejgān to the ground, by destroying two of her pillars, causing her ancient dome to collapse – her ashlars were taken away in order not to be restored, and some were reused in the construction of a nearby underground water reservoir.

The collapse of the dome and lack of protection, particularly during the wet seasons, has caused the rainwater to penetrate into her foundation from within, causing the floor to rise. Today, from her two remaining pillars only portions of it are visible. No scientific research has ever been carried out on the site, and if no immediate measures are taken to protect the remains then nothing will be left of her within the next few years.

Although the criminals for destroying the heritage site are known to the authorities, no charges were brought against them. This suggests the action was sanctioned by the ruling clerics.

Qom today is considered as the main centre for the Shiat sect of Islam, it held the same religious prominence during the Sasanian period, but as the Zoroastrian Centre. The city was called Godmān/Gomān and later Ērān Win(n)ārd Kawādh.

While nothing is known of Qom’s history during the Median (850-550 BCE) and Achaemenid (550-330 BCE) dynasties, there are significant archaeological remains from the post-Achaemenid and Parthian dynasties, of which the ruins of Khurha (85 km from the city of Qom, and since 1978 part of Markazi Province) are the most famous and important remnants.

Qom during the Sasanian dynasty (224-651 CE) continued to thrive and contained numerous palaces, religious, military and administrative buildings. It is believed that the city was divided into twelve sectors, each having a fire temple.

During the 7th century CE, the city was formed as the core of the Persian resistance against the Arab invaders, where the Persian nobles and soldiers gathered there after the fall and massacre of Nahavand. The city finally felt into the Arab hands in 644 CE, after a long few days of hard resistance and a number of bloody battles.

After the fall, the city had continued to survive as a Zoroastrian city but under Isfahan’s administration, by placing a poll-tax on the population’s head. This was due to the fact that the Zoroastrian and mythical personalities in connection with the city and its surrounding area was too strong to be Islamicised. However, due to the migration of groups of Arab refugees to the city between 685 and 696 CE, the tables were turned; all the fire temple were razed to the ground and Persian inhabitants were forced to accept Islam or killed and their properties were confiscated. Many of those fire temples had become the foundation for the later mosques, including the Masjed-e Emām.

domingo, 10 de febrero de 2013

Palaeopathology: Two recent case studies

by Katy Meyers
Palaeopathology, the study of ancient diseases in human or animal remains usually means analysis of the skeletal material to examine the diseases effect on the bone. However, palaeopathology is not a straightforward science with many diseases not even appearing on the bone, and when they do, they present very similar manifestations but with very different causes.
Radiograph of knees revealing new bone formation (arrows) of periostitis along the femur and tibia.
Radiograph of knees revealing new bone formation (arrows) of periostitis along the femur and tibia.
Periostitis, for example, is a non-specific infection of the bone that causes extra bony growth in long small layers across the bone. It can appear from any number of infections or diseases, and therefore is not indicative of a single cause. In order to diagnose pathology in bones, it takes a careful inspection of all the possible pathological signs and careful analysis of all the potential diseases within the historical context.
In most cases we are left not with a single correct diagnosis, but with a differential diagnosis of the most likely pathology and others that are also possible. Here are two case studies in paleopathology: ovarian teratoma, and osteogenesis imperfecta.

Ovarian Teratoma: La Fogonussa (Lleida, Catalonia)

The individual investigated by Armentano et al. (2012) was an adult female, aged 30-40 years, who was recovered from a 5th century Roman necropolis in the Iberian Peninsula. She was found complete, well preserved, and lying in supine position in a tegulae (tile) covered grave.
Burial of individual 87 from the late Roman site of La Fogonussa (Catalonia, Spain). The structure of the grave was made of tegulae placed to form a gabled roof., via Armentano et al 2012
Burial of individual 87 from the late Roman site of La Fogonussa (Catalonia, Spain). The structure of the grave was made of tegulae placed to form a gabled roof., via Armentano et al 2012
Initial analysis found that she had a number of degenerative changes, primarily osteoarthritis, that comes with ageing. There was also a round calcified mass in the pelvic region.
In order to determine it’s nature, they conducted macroscopic analysis and CT scans. The mass measured 43 by 44 mm and had a rugose (wrinkled) texture. Internal investigation of the tumour found it had two small deformed teeth within the sediment and two small teeth embedded in the bone itself.
Ovarian Teratoma, via Armentano et al 2012
Ovarian Teratoma, via Armentano et al 2012
The localization of the protuberance to one side, the overall shape, and the presence of bony structures and teeth within are pathognomonic (diagnostically unique) of ovarian teratoma.
An ovarian teratoma is a benign tumor of varying shape that is usually characterized as being ‘bizarre’. They often occur on one side of the pelvis, and are found mainly in women of child-bearing age. They contain germ layers which can lead to development of hair, teeth, thyroid glands, or bone in the tumour. It can be cause of death as it may result in anaemia or interruptions in neighbouring organs.
What is unique about this case is that it is the first documented example of an ancient ovarian teratoma. While other types of teratomas and calcifications have been found, even these are quite rare. It is only because the tumour contained bone and teeth that an exact diagnosis was possible, since any soft tissue structures do not preserve. It is not that they did not happen, it is that unless the evidence is present (as in this case) it is nearly ‘invisible’ in the record.

Osteogenesis imperfecta: Dakhleh Oasis, Egypt

This investigation by Cope and Dupras (2011) is based on the skeletal remains of a foetus from the Romano-Byzantine period Kellis 2 cemetery (circa A.D. 50–A.D. 450), in the Dakhleh Oasis, Egypt.
Typically in this period and region, sub-adult burials are found oriented east-west in a supine extended position. However, the individual under investigation was recovered from a shallow grave, partially on its right side and back in a semi-flexed position. All of the skeletal elements were recovered, though most of the cranium was fragmented due to taphonomic processes.
The bones were very brittle with a light beige colour, which was not normal for skeletons excavated from Kellis 2. Most of the bones had an abnormal curvature, including a ribcage that was barrel shaped, and a number of bones were partially or completely fractured. There was also abnormal bone growth at the metaphyses (the ends of the long bones where growth occurs).
Infant's skeleton with osteogenesis imperfecta next to coffin and larger image of skull. From Speos Artemidos, Egypt 22nd Dynasty, around 850 BC (not the individual discussed in article)  {c} Trustees of the British Museum
Infant’s skeleton with osteogenesis imperfecta next to coffin and larger image of skull. From Speos Artemidos, Egypt 22nd Dynasty, around 850 BC (not the individual discussed in article) {c} Trustees of the British Museum
Given the appearance of the bones, bending, fractures, and a lack of other pathological indicators, they diagnose this individual as having osteogenesis imperfecta.
It is a genetic disorder that causes problems with the production of collagen to strengthen bones. Individuals with this condition have extremely fragile bones, are prone to fractures, and many die prior to or at birth. Other individuals have been found in the archaeological literature with this condition, but this is the youngest.
Other individuals from the Dakhleh Oasis have been found with the condition. The findings from these archaeological studies shows that it is highly likely that this foetus has osteogenesis imperfecta.
Foetal skeletons are very rarely recovered from excavation sites and it is extremely unusual to find ones with recognisable pathological conditions. The finding of a foetus with osteogenesis imperfecta suggests the disorder had some prevalence in the population, and is the youngest documented case of this disorder to date.


jueves, 7 de febrero de 2013

National Museum’s archaeological expedition uncovers more of Ancient Nubia’s secrets

Lorna Stephen
Last December a group of archaeologists from the National Museum returned from an excavation expedition in the Sudanese locality of Wad Ben Naga. They have been working there since 2009 and are helping their Sudanese colleagues fulfil the requirements to enable the whole area to be registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Radio Prague spoke to some members of the team and chief archaeologist Vlastimil Vrtal told her what exactly they have been uncovering.
“There are at least 4 temples, one large palatial structure and vast cemeteries to the north and the south. Currently, we’ve finished revising excavations of four structures which were already excavated before, but they weren’t properly published or even documented.
“Now, in this last year, we’ve started excavating in the so called“Typhonium” which is a temple building. This one was only known from pictures of ancient ruins from the 19th Century but it wasn’t excavated until we came.”
Previously at the site, fragments of an altar were discovered by the famous Prussian Egyptologist Karl Richard Lepsius. His expedition in the mid 19th Century uncovered two stands upon which sacred bark would have been laid. Pavel Onderka, the leader of the archaeological exhibition told me what had happened to them.

The larger of the two was taken to Berlin and now forms part of the collections at the Egyptian museum there. The other one was left at the site. One and a half centuries later we discovered parts of it - sadly not the complete piece - but luckily with both Meroitic and Egyptian hieroglyphs.”
But archaeological digs aren’t always straight forward. Alexander Gatzsche, the conservator of the exhibition explained to me some of the problems with the finds.
“It’s really nice to get in touch with the finds there but sometimes, from the point of view of a conservator, they are in such bad condition that it is more of a big challenge to go there. The conditions and circumstances of the things there are very different to many other places and so the experiences are new for me.”

The expedition however isn’t just there to discover ancient remains. In 2011, a partnership between Otrokovice, Mr Onderka’s home town, and Wad Ben Naga was declared meaning the district receives financial support on a yearly basis. I asked him what else this partnership means for the towns.
“At first the cooperation was only established between the schools. The children from the Czech Republic were sending teaching materials and toys and clothes to children in the Sudan, but soon the town realised that this is actually an opportunity for not only the schools, but also for all the citizens of the city to help in some way.
“In 2012 we were able to build a water cleaning plant in Wad Ben Naga and to reconstruct the local kindergarten and in this coming year, 2013, we are supposed to buy new equipment and furniture for the local schools.”

In the coming year the expedition is also expecting to publish the first detailed study on Wad Ben Naga. They are also hopeful that at some point in the future, they will have the chance to present their research in an exhibition. Pavel Onderka, the leader of the archaeological expedition again:
“Whoever came to Wad Ben Naga as an explorer did not leave the site disappointed. We do not only discover wonderful things but we also discover things that bring us closer to understanding everyday life in ancient times.”


Workmen find Georgian artefacts at old hospital site

ARCHAEOLOGISTS have uncovered a slice of Georgian history on the former site of the Royal Infirmary hospital.
Pottery, bits of bottle, coins and buttons from the 18th century were found by workers at what is now Edinburgh University’s High School Yards.
A dig took place after contractors drafted in to lay utilities uncovered a series of outer walls from the old Royal’s Surgical Hospital, which was built on the site in 1738. Among the highlights was a sixpenny piece dating from 1816 and the reign of George IV.
High School Yards was once the site of Blackfriars Monastery, which was founded in 1230 by King Alexander II.
The monastery and church were destroyed in 1558 by a mob, who were followers of John Knox’s reformation. Stone from the ruined buildings was quickly reused for other buildings.

Read the full article in scotsman.com



Archaeological dig finds that ancient groups incinerated and buried their departed in pots

The pots emphasized by their variety of shapes and forms; some represent pumpkins, others are oval shaped with two perforations, or with a tall neck and a larger mouth (like flower pots). They also found earthenware bowls, one of these was decorated. All the ceramic collection belongs to what is known as the “Tradicion Trincheras”, from the lower desert zone of Sonora.

From the pots, they recovered the cremated remains of almost 150 individuals (some pots contained two individuals’ remains), some of which were incinerated with rock beads, crystal quartz, frog shaped earrings, bracelets and shell rings. This is concluded as most of the materials were burnt and fragmented.

According to Villalpando Canchola, the process of incineration was at high temperatures (for hours or maybe days), until the pyre cooled off. The remains were cleaned, manipulated and then deposited in the ceramic objects which explain the absence of charcoal and the pyre residue inside the pots on “Loma de las cremaciones”.

In the pyre digging, they recovered “carbonized tree trunks, charcoal and ash concentrations: stone beads, pots, rings and shell bracelets, bones of carbonized animals and small charred human bones.

The investigators James T Watson and Jessica Cerezo Roman, from the Anthropology school of the University of Arizona, lead the remains’ analysis; also in this same institution they are making tests to determine their precise date.

All these findings and interpretations will be a part of a museographic script of what will be the permanent exposition of the Visiting Center of Cerro de Trincheras, the first archaeological zone open to the public in Sonora, which in 2012 received almost three thousand visitors, most of the originating from the north of Mexico and southern United States.


A new chapter opens in the study of the Assyrian empire

Dr John MacGinnis, a specialist in Assyrian civilisation at Cambridge University’s McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, will fly to the city of Erbil in north east Iraq. En route he will stop off in Turkey where for more than a decade he has been involved in the excavation at the Neo-Assyrian site of Ziyaret Tepe, the ancient garrison town of Tushan.
The capital city of today’s Kurdish Autonomous Region, Erbil is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and has retained its name (variously as Urbil, Arbil and Irbil) for more than 4,000 years. At its centre is a mound or tell that dates back more than 7,000 years. Such mounds, made by the continuous building and rebuilding of mud brick structures, are characteristic of the sites of Assyrian and other ancient near eastern cities.

Book launch

In Erbil Dr MacGinnis will launch his latest book Erbil in the Cuneiform Sources, a work documenting the history of this extraordinary city from the first references dating to the third millennium BC up until the time of Alexander the Great. He will also take part in meetings with archaeologists working for the Kurdish Regional Government which is investing substantial effort in re-establishing the cultural and social identity of a region that was for many years closed to outsiders under the Saddam regime and subsequent political upheavals.
There is a huge amount to be learnt about the Assyrian civilisation from investigation of the thousands of Assyrian sites in north east Iraq, which was the hub of the empire. These sites reflect every aspect of the civilisation – from royal palaces to centres for worship, from farming settlements to fortifications. Some are well known to local people, others have yet to be identified,” says Dr MacGinnis.
The opening up of the Kurdish Autonomous Region – a region roughly half the size of Wales that stretches from the River Tigris to the Zagros Mountains – to archaeological enquiry was one of the key themes to emerge from a conference held at Cambridge University last December. It was the first international conference ever to focus on the provincial archaeology of the Assyrian empire.

Opening up the possibility of exciting new discoveries

The emergence of the Kurdish Autonomous Region brings with it the possibility of the discovery of forgotten kingdoms and lost languages. “I hesitate to mention Indiana Jones – but the excitement that accompanies the chance to explore the archaeology of the area is tremendous,” says Dr MacGinnis.
In some cases, it’s a question of looking at sites that we know exist and carrying out surveys and other fieldwork. In other cases it’s a question of looking for sites mentioned in cuneiform texts and seeing if we can locate them on the ground. Sometimes, as with Erbil, the ancient name may be preserved in the modern name. In still other cases, it’s a matter of discovering entirely new sites which have never been explored before.”
The Assyrian empire rivals those of the Romans, Egyptians and Babylonians in terms of its extent, ambition and organisation. Archaeologists have been working on the history of this great civilisation ever since the scholar and traveller Claudius Rich, Resident of the East India Company in Baghdad, measured the towering mud brick walls of Nineveh in 1820, thus laying the foundations for the exploration of Assyria.
Cambridge has a distinguished history in the discipline with some of the most famous names in the field coming from the university. They include CHW Johns, who from 1895 held the University’s first post in Assyriology and went on to become Master of St Catharine’s College, and Professor David Oates, who worked on some of the greatest excavations of the 1950s and 1960s.
The current Eric Yarrow Professor of Assyriology, Professor Nicholas Postgate has worked extensively on the decipherment of Assyrian cuneiform texts as well as directing some of the leading field projects of the past few decades. Dr Augusta MacMahon, the University’s Senior Lecturer in Middle Eastern Archaeology, is another key scholar in this tradition, while Dr Martin Worthington is revolutionising the study of Mesopotamian literature by applying principals of textual criticism of the sort which have been applied to classical manuscripts for generations but hardly applied to cuneiform texts at all.
As a centre for scholarship, Cambridge made an excellent base for the first ever international conference to focus on the provincial archaeology of the Assyrian empire. The meeting brought together researchers from Europe, the Middle East and North America to share their knowledge of a wide range of fields. “Feedback suggests that the conference came at exactly the right time in fostering renewed interest in this aspect of archaeology,” said Dr MacGinnis.
We were especially honoured to have the participation of Dr Ali Jaboori from the University of Mosul who is directing field work at Nineveh and who was able to tell us about the resumption of excavation at Kuyunjik, the great palace mound of this imperial metropolis.”
Relief showing an Assyrian Lionhunt from the north palace Ninevah 645-635 BC. Image: Wikimedia Commons, used under a CC BY-SA 3.0
Relief showing an Assyrian Lionhunt from the north palace Ninevah 645-635 BC. Image: Wikimedia Commons, used under a CC BY-SA 3.0

A strict military hierarchy

The Assyrian empire expanded by swallowing up smaller kingdoms and installing provincial rulers. At its peak from the 9th to 7th centuries BC, the empire encompassed a huge swathe of territories. It was an empire characterised by a strict military hierarchy, with the tiers descending from the king at the top down to foot soldiers at the bottom. Its dominance was based on a mastery of metal weaponry, and its authority was feared. As the empire expanded, so did its needs for raw materials such as people, horses, wood and grain.
How these resources were controlled and allocated was recorded by the Assyrians in inscriptions written in cuneiform script incised into clay tablets. Extensive libraries of these tablets – which also record many other aspects of life – were found both at Nineveh and also at other sites scattered across the empire. Many are now in the British Museum. Deciphered by scholars they provide an extraordinarily detailed account of the organisation of the Assyrian empire.
Archaeological investigations have unsurprisingly focused on some of the great cities of the Assyrian empire, among them Nineveh and Nimrud, both of which were capitals at different times and which have yielded huge amounts of information. Provincial settlements are also interesting for their diversity and, in many respects, tell a different story, each one reflecting regional differences as Assyrian rulers embraced aspects of local culture – such as religious beliefs. A good example here is the discovery that in the northwestern part of the empire there was a tradition of ‘cremation burials’, a practice not found in the Assyrian heartland.
Racing the sunrise to prepare the excavation area for photography. Image: Ziyaret Tepe Archaeological Expedition
Racing the sunrise to prepare the excavation area for photography. Image: Ziyaret Tepe Archaeological Expedition

Field Director at Ziyaret Tepe

Dr MacGinnis is best known for his work as a field director at Ziyaret Tepe (site of the provincial Assyrian city of Tushan) on the northernmost border of Assyria (an area that is part of modern day Turkey). Some 12 years of survey and excavation at Tepe have revealed the layout of this provincial capital with its palace, administrative centre, streets and outer walls.
A development highlighted by the conference is the growing use of ‘overhead’ imagery (satellite and aerial photographs) in the detection and mapping of the region’s archaeological remains. Such imagery can both improve our understanding of a site and lead to the discovery of previously unknown sites – and not just settlement sites but other features such as road networks, river beds and irrigation systems. Such material can be irreplaceable as the imagery from earlier decades may preserve evidence which no longer exists on the ground.
A tablet found at the site in 2009, and deciphered by Dr MacGinnis, proves to be a list of women whose names appear to indicate the existence of a previously unknown language; this is likely to be either Shubrian, the indigenous language of the people who lived in the area of Tushan prior to the Assyrian arrival, or perhaps a language spoken by deportees taken from the Zagros mountains which now form the border between Iraq and Iran.
Dr MacGinnis says: “Our discovery of this latest tablet at Ziyaret Tepe was thrilling as it suggests that there is so much more to be learnt – there will be exciting discoveries for generations to come. The conference held at Cambridge last month represented a real step forward, bringing together scholars from across the region – everyone made new friends and contacts. It came at the perfect time, pooling the knowledge and understanding won over past decades in order to feed into and inform this resurgence of research in Iraq.”
Source: University of Cambridge