Sunday, July 30, 2006

Metro excavation could illuminate Hellenistic and Roman periods in Thessaloniki

Source: ekathimerini

By Iota Myrtsioti

THESSALONIKI - Archaeologists are ready to begin work on the largest-ever excavation site in this city's historic center using the so-called «metro-mouse,» the giant drill already used to dig tunnels under the city of Athens.

As the drill moves ahead, it is expected to help unearth finds that will illuminate the history and topography of the city's Hellenistic and Roman periods.

The greatest archaeological interest lies in the site of the six metro stations along the ancient Via Egnatia, where monuments and archaeological exploration point to the existence of a rich store of artifacts.

Potential sites were mapped as part of Attiko Metro's plan for the tunnels, and the Culture Ministry signed a memorandum of cooperation with the construction firm this week.

«The metro will not only improve life for the city's residents but will shed light on its history,» said the ministry's secretary-general Christos Zachopoulos.

The 15 articles in the memorandum offer ways for how findings should be preserved, stored, protected, transported, restored, documented and displayed at the six stations along the route. These displays will be under the exclusive jurisdiction of the archaeological ephorates.

«We have an excellent working relationship with the archaeological services,» said Attiko Metro's board chairman Giorgos Yiannis. «The goal is to respect and highlight the city's rich heritage.»

Focal points

New Railway Station. This area is the site of the city's extensive cemetery dating from the Hellenistic and Roman periods, as well as layers of Early Christian and Byzantine periods. Finds so far include Hellenistic and Roman graves dating from the 2nd-8th century AD.

Dimokratias Square Station. Sections of the ancient western wall have been found here, and over a wider area, about 40 archaeological digs have unearthed buildings with mosaic floors, mostly from the Roman period, among other monuments.

Venizelos Station. A central area with many monuments, this could be the site of a Byzantine monastery, and Roman and Late Roman buildings and public buildings.

Aghia Sophia Station. Another potential source of artifacts, 50 digs in the wider area have pinpointed buildings dating from the Hellenistic to the Byzantine periods.

Sintrivani Square and Panemistimiou Stations. Sections of the eastern cemetery and perhaps architectural remains of various buildings such as Roman baths and ancient wells are here.

Findings at other stations are not expected to produce many antiquities, apart from a few Hellenistic funereal monuments.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Greek researchers discover prehistoric primate skull

Source: CBS News

(AP) Greek researchers said Wednesday they had discovered a well-preserved skull of 5 million-year-old primate.

The remains of the Mesopithecus Pentelicus _ a monkey-like animal, a little more than 3 feet long _ were found in the northern Halkidiki peninsula, outside the city of Thessaloniki.

"It's an important find because it's in such good condition," Evangelia Tsoukala, a professor of geology at Thessaloniki University who is heading the excavation, told state-run NET television.

"It had a tail ... it was herbivorous, and the skull is intact as well as the teeth," she said.

Local officials said they hope to build a museum in the area to put the skull and other prehistoric animal remains found at the site on display.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Ramses statue finds serene home in Cairo

Source: iol

By Anna Johnson

Cairo - The giant statue of Pharaoh Ramses II will be moved next month from a congested downtown square to a more serene home near the Great Pyramids, in a bid to save it from damaging pollution and traffic gridlock, Egypt's antiquities chief said on Monday.

Exhaust fumes from trains, cars and buses and subway vibrations are eating away at the more than 3 200-year-old granite statue at Ramses Square, its home since the early 1950s when it was taken from a temple at the site of the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis.

To try to prevent further deterioration, the 125 ton statue - a popular feature on postcards and guide books - will be part of the new Grand Museum of Egypt, to be located about two kilometres from the pyramids, Hawass said.

'I don't think people will miss it here'
"The statue in that square now has pollution and therefore there is no way (to keep it downtown), we have to move that statue," antiquities chief Zahi Hawass said.

Contractors plan to test the move when they transport a replica statue next week. If all goes well, Ramses will make its way through the sprawling city on August 25.

"Statues are not made to be in squares, they are made to be in temples or in museums," Hawass said.

Officials have been talking about moving the statue for more than a decade as experts bickered over where it should be. But Hawass said the Grand Museum location was recently agreed upon and engineers began investigating how to move the statue.

Ramses II was a warrior king who is credited with bringing Egypt unprecedented power and splendour during his 67-year reign. He died in 1225 B.C.

'I don't see tourists coming down here to see it'
Engineers plan to construct a steel cage around the statue and connect the cage to steel beams. Two flatbed trucks will carry the statue through the city, a move that will take several hours, said Ibrahim Mahlab, the chairperson of Arab Contractors, the company in charge of moving the statue.

Once the statue is moved, it will be renovated and wait for its new home to be built. The museum, which also will house King Tut's mummy and other treasures, is not expected to open for at least five years, officials said.

With crews already preparing the statue to be moved, some Egyptians said they thought Ramses was better off near the pyramids and away from the non-stop traffic and pollution.

"I don't think people will miss it here," said Muhammad Said, 26, a computer engineer. "I don't see tourists coming down here to see it. But if they move it to a better place, perhaps more people will value it."

Medical student Marco Gobran, 23, also said he didn't mind if they moved Ramses, especially if it aided with what he saw as one of Cairo's biggest dilemmas.

"Egypt has problems with traffic jams, and moving this will help," Gobran said. - Sapa-AP

War Criminals

I just can't understand how the "civilised" world allows Israel to continue its military action against Lebanon. Hundrends of innocent civilians have been killed and wounded and thousands have been forced to flee their country.


Where's the U.N. when you need it?

Monday, July 24, 2006

AIA/ASOR Call on Mid-East Combatants To Honor Hague Convention of 1954

The Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) and the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) deplore the loss of innocent life in northern Israel and Lebanon and profoundly wish for a quick resolution of the armed hostilities in the area.

We also urge all parties to the conflict to honor the terms of the 1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and the principles of customary international law to protect the region's rich archaeological, cultural and historic heritage. The Hague Convention calls on parties to armed conflict to avoid targeting of, and to minimize damage of, such cultural artifacts as monuments, sites and antiquities.

The region of the Levant, encompassing the modern states of Israel and Lebanon, is rich in cultural remains of many time periods, including occupation sites of early man, sites of the Biblical period, Phoenician, Hellenistic and Roman eras, and sites of the Crusader, Byzantine, Islamic and Ottoman Turkish periods. This region embodies much of the early history of the three great religions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, and contributed significantly to the development of the ancient cultures of the Eastern Mediterranean. Numerous sites in northern Israel and Lebanon have been inscribed on the World Heritage List and thus have been recognized for their contribution to human religious, historical and cultural values. Their preservation is an international priority. World Heritage sites include the Biblical sites of Megiddo and Hazor and the Crusader Old City of Acre in northern Israel. In Lebanon, the Roman cities of Baalbek and Tyre, the Phoenician site of Byblos and the Umayyad city of Anjar are also inscribed on the World Heritage List. These sites are all located within the area of military conflict and are therefore at great risk.

Both Israel and Lebanon are parties to the 1954 Hague Convention. While the AIA and ASOR realize that not all parties to this conflict are nation-states and therefore not parties to the Hague Convention, we nonetheless urge all parties to the conflict to work within the terms of the Hague Convention and customary international law to minimize damage and destruction of these cultural sites, which are of great value to all of humankind.

Eric Meyers, President, American Schools of Oriental Research

Jane C. Waldbaum, President, Archaeological Institute of America

Source: AIA website

Friday, July 21, 2006

Augustus' birthplace believed found

Source: Yahoo News

ROME - A team of archaeologists announced Wednesday they have uncovered part of what they believe is the birthplace of Rome's first emperor Augustus.

Leading archaeologist Clementina Panella said the team has dug up part of a corridor and other fragments under Rome's Palatine Hill, which she described as "a very ancient aristocratic house."

Panella said that she could not yet be certain that the house was where Augustus was born in 63 B.C., but added that historical cross-checks and other findings nearby have showed that the emperor was particularly fond of the area, she said.

Excavations on the Palatine in recent decades have turned up wonders such as another renewed Augustus' house, including two rooms with stunning frescoes of masked figures and pine branches.

Panella said there are at least two houses on the Palatine where the emperor was known to have lived. Much has yet to be uncovered, hidden in underground passageways.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Appeal by the International Observatory for the Protection of Cultural Heritages in Areas of Crisis

Naples, 15 July 2006

To the President of Israel, H.E. Moshe KATZAV
To the Prime Minister of Israel, H.E. Ehud OLMERT
To the President of Lebanon, H.E. Emile LAHUD
To the Prime Minister of Lebanon, H.E.Fuad SINIORA

Copy to: the General Secretary of UNESCO
the Head of Governments parties to The Hague Convention of 1954
U.N. General Secretary


The undersigned Dr. Prof. Fabio Maniscalco, as Director of the
"International Observatory for the Protection of Cultural Heritages in Areas
of Crisis", and on behalf of all those who wish to sign this appeal,

Considering that

- Following the various armed conflicts of the last century, after a hard and sometimes contradictory process, the International Community has recognized some juridical instruments finalized to safeguarding cultural heritage in conflict areas. We refer, in particular, to the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict;

- In the Preamble of the Hague Convention of 1954, States parties recognize that ".damage to cultural property belonging to any people whatsoever means damage to the cultural heritage of all mankind, since each people makes its contribution to the culture of the world" and that ".the preservation of the cultural heritage is of great importance for all peoples of the world and that it is important that this heritage should receive international protection";

- During the long-lasting and endless crisis in the Middle East, a huge amount of cultural and religious heritage have been destroyed, damaged or stolen by conflicting factions;

- Israel and Lebanon have signed the 1954 Hague Convention (in 1957 and in 1960).

Calls upon the Government of Israel and of Lebanon

- To make aware Israeli and Lebanese Defense Forces for the respect of its and others historical and cultural identity and to adopt any useful measure to observe the provision of the 1954 Hague Convention, for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, in the territories of Lebanon and of Israel.

Fabio Maniscalco

If you are interested in signing, please contact Dr. Maniscalco:

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Underwater museum to be built in Alexandria?

Source: Al-Ahram Weekly

Will Egypt build the first offshore underwater museum? Nevine El-Aref investigates

Setting up an offshore, submarine archaeological site anywhere is not an easy task, let alone in a city with the water pollution problems of Alexandria. Yet the remarkable discoveries made by underwater archaeologists over the last decade justify further serious efforts for what would be Egypt's first ever offshore underwater museum.

The site and form gives cause for conjecture. Should it be in Alexandria's Eastern Harbour, the Sisila area, or Abu Qir Bay? What will it look like? Should it resemble the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney or the Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology at the spectacular Uluburun Wreck in Turkey, or the Mus?e de Marine in Paris? All these display a collection of sunken ship wrecks, flora and fauna.

These questions and more were raised at an international workshop held last week in Alexandria to discuss the feasibility of constructing such a museum. On the table were a projected ground plan, an architectural design and a programme to study the environmental conditions of Alexandria's Mediterranean Sea and its state of marine pollution, the socio- economic problems related to the success of the underwater archaeological museum project and urban impacts. The workshop was held under the umbrella of UNESCO and the Ministry of Culture at the Alexandria Art Creativity Centre, where a multidisciplinary team of 28 international and Egyptian experts were gathered.

Full Story

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Egyptian archaeologists discover ancient Greek insciption

Source: Middle East Times

CAIRO -- Egyptian archaeologists have discovered carvings with Greek inscriptions dating back to the era of the second century Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, the Supreme Council of Antiquities announced on Tuesday.

The carvings, believed to form part of the altar of a temple, were unearthed while archaeologists were excavating in the area around Pompey's Pillar in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria.

"This carving is composed of six lines of writing in the Greek language on a stone which is 50 centimeters [20 inches] by 36 centimeters long," said Zahi Hawass, the secretary-general of the council.

Hawass believes that the writing dates back to the ninth year of Aurelius' rule that lasted from AD 161 to 180.

It appears to be an exaltation to the God Serapis, a composite of Egyptian and Hellenistic deities, including Zeus and Helios, as part of efforts to integrate Egyptian religion with that of their Hellenic rulers.

The council also announced that works were currently underway to restore the area around Pompey's pillar, the tallest ancient monument in Alexandria.

"The project to develop the area of Pompey's pillar at a cost of E£10 million [about $1.8 million] will be finished within the next year," said Mohammed Abdel Maqsud, a senior official of the council.

The 27-meter-high (90-foot) granite column is located on Alexandria's ancient acropolis and was originally part of the temple of Serapis.

More on Artemis...

(AP) A 2,000-year-old marble statue of a goddess has been discovered among dozens of broken columns and inscriptions during excavation at an ancient theater in central Greece, archaeologists said on Monday.

The headless statue of hunting goddess Artemis dates from the middle of the first century B.C., archaeologist Athanassios Tziafalias said.

Full Story

Monday, July 10, 2006

Getty Museum to return sculptures to Greece

The Associated Press

The J. Paul Getty Museum has agreed to return two ancient sculptures at the center of a major cultural heritage dispute with Greece, officials said Monday.

Greek Culture Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis said he was "extremely satisfied" with the decision, and voiced optimism similar moves would follow from the Getty and other international museums.

"This is just the beginning," Voulgarakis said. "I believe that in the future we will have very good results concerning other antiquities whose return we are seeking."

Full Story

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The "Theseus Ring" Debate

Last November, the Greek press reported the (re) discovery of a gold signet ring (2.7 x 1.8 cm) dated to the late 15th-early 14th century BC and conventionally named "The Theseus Ring". The ring, which depicts a bull-leaping scene, is said to come from the area of Anafiotika at Plaka, Athens. The scene also includes a lion on the left and a tree (?) on the right.

Today, the National Museum at Athens wishes to buy the ring but there is a huge debate about its authenticity. Although preliminary archaeometric analyses from the "Democritus Institute" are said to verify its authenticity, some archaeologists, including Yannis Sakellarakis, are still sceptical.

For more info (in Greek), take a look here.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Hitch in Acropolis restoration

From ekathimerini

Restoration work on the Acropolis monuments has hit “another small delay” but this should not hinder the overall course of the project, Culture Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis said yesterday after touring the ancient site.

The ministry will release further funding, if necessary, to tackle the latest glitches, which have arisen in the Temple of Athena Nike and the Parthenon’s vestibule, Voulgarakis said. Since 1999, more than 28 million euros has been spent on restoring the Acropolis, the minister said, noting that 86 percent of these funds came from the European Union. Voulgarakis said cutting-edge technology would be used to analyze the condition of the Acropolis’s peripheral walls, which will also be restored.

Voulgarakis also expressed his satisfaction with the progress in construction of the New Acropolis Museum, which he said was ready for the return of the Parthenon Marbles (currently in the British Museum) and other fragments in other foreign museums. “Greece now has the infrastructure to accommodate all the missing parts of the Parthenon,” he said.

The minister also heralded planned features for the new museum, including a virtual-reality theater which will project three-dimensional movies about the history of the Acropolis monuments.

As for the old Acropolis museum, its possible demolition is being debated. “The building is no architectural monument,” the president of the Committee for the Conservation of Acropolis Monuments (YSMA), Haralambos Bouras, said.

A few hours after Voulgarakis’s visit to the Acropolis, Culture Ministry staff on short-term contracts blocked access to the site for two hours in an unexpected protest over job security.