Thursday, November 30, 2006

France Detains Man Selling Mummy Hair

Source: Associated Press

Associated Press Writer

GRENOBLE, France (AP) -- Police detained a French postman behind an Internet operation selling strands of hair and tiny pieces of cloth allegedly taken from the mummy of Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses II. If authenticated, Egypt wants the hair back.

The suspect, identified as Jean-Michel Diebolt, allegedly obtained the items from his late father, a French researcher who analyzed the 3,200-year-old mummy in the 1970s, judicial officials said on condition of anonymity because the case is ongoing.


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Boy king may have died in riding accident

Ian Sample, science correspondent
Tuesday November 28, 2006
The Guardian

The world's most celebrated boy king, Tutankhamun, may have died after badly breaking a leg while playing sport.

A detailed scan of the mummy, which was uncovered in the Valley of Kings in 1922, has revealed the high-impact fracture as the most likely cause of death.

Speculation over the death of Tutankhamun has raged since the mummy was first inspected in 1925, three years after his tomb was excavated by Howard Carter and his patron Lord Carnarvon. The first x-ray scans conducted in 1968 found signs of damage to the skull, prompting suggestions that he had been killed by a blow to the head.

Researchers led by Ashraf Selim, a radiologist at Kasr Eleini Teaching Hospital at Cairo University, used a mobile CT scanner to build up a 3D image of the 3,300-year-old body from 1,900 separate images. The reconstruction showed him to be 5ft 11in tall and probably 19 years old when he died.

But precision scans of the king's left thigh revealed extensive details of a high-impact fracture above the left knee. The kneecap was badly twisted to the outside of the leg, and the wound was open to the outside world, where it was vulnerable to infection. What is believed to be the remnants of embalming fluid had deeply penetrated the fracture, suggesting the injury was sustained in the king's lifetime and not inflicted during the original excavation.

"In my view this is a deadly fracture. It is a major bone - the injury probably involved the rupture of a major blood vessel, and it is open to outside air, meaning it was likely to become infected. It's a common injury among horse riders and, without antibiotics or surgery, he may have been dead from blood infection within a few days," said Frank Ruhli, a paleoanthropologist on the project at the University of Zurich's Institute of Anatomy.

How the injury was sustained is still uncertain, but the type of fracture matches a common breakage suffered by jockeys and other horse riders. A member of the team, Eduard Egarter Vigl, chief conservator at Bolzano hospital in Italy, said: "We think it's possible it was a sporting accident."

The research was presented at a conference of the Radiology Society of North America in Chicago yesterday.

Monday, November 27, 2006

New clues about Ptolemaic past

Source: Cyprus Mail

By Tatiana Yalamova

AN inscription has been found by archeologists conducting excavations in the Lower City of Amathus that provides new information about Cypriot society in the Ptolemaic period, a statement from the Antiquities Department said yesterday.
The inscription was found on the floor of the interior doorway connecting two rooms and is as old as 3rd century BC. Although it is quite worn, it consists of 12 verses and is one of the longest texts from the Hellenistic period discovered in Cyprus. This inscription with arithmetic in Greek may refer to land portions given by the Ptolemaic General. It appears that it was laid in the floor in secondary use. Once the inscription is studied further, it is expected to provide more information about that period.

Another noteworthy find was a large gold cross that must have belonged to a high ranking official of the early Byzantine period (7th century AD). It was discovered in the complex of rooms with few fragments of paintings on the walls, and a lot of coins were found on the floor in the same room with the cross. The official may have resided in the room or in the entire complex.

Apart from the above, the movable finds also consisted of plaster interior architectural fragments with plant and geometrical motifs, vessels, lamps, copper objects, Hathoric capital and a pithos jar found in the southeastern corner of a room on the main avenue leading from the Amathus West Gate to the Agora. Also an almost life-size head depicting Alexander the Great was found in the room with inner arch, but its features were almost worn away.
The dig lasted six weeks and this was the last season of the second series of excavations carried out by the Department of Antiquities in the Lower City of Amathus. Overall conclusions will be published in separate volumes in the near future. Following the necessary conservation work, the excavated remains will be open to the public.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Challenging antiquity’s stereotypes

Source: ekathimerini

An Athenian tetradrachm from the Numismatic Museum.


How much do we know about the ancient Greek city-states Athens and Sparta, other than the stereotypes of Athens as the founder of democracy and the militarily-governed Sparta? An exhibition organized by the Onassis Cultural Center (the New York-based affiliate of the Onassis Foundation), which will open in New York on December 6, aims at looking beyond and challenging the preconceived notions about the two cities as well as putting their respective development into its broader historical context.

«Athens-Sparta: From the 8th to the 5th Centuries BC,» which will be showing at the Olympic Tower on Fifth Avenue until May 12, 2007, is organized in collaboration with the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. It will feature 289 exhibits, ranging from sculptures to pottery, inscriptions, coins and more, some of which have never traveled outside Greece. The Acropolis Museum, the archaeological museums of Sparta, Rhodes and Olympia and the Kerameikos Museum are only some of the institutes (other than the National) that have volunteered items from their permanent collections for inclusion in the forthcoming exhibition.

«The exhibition compares the development of the two cities, how they began and how they evolved,» said Antonis Papadimitriou, the president of the Onassis Foundation, at yesterday's press conference. «It was a period of great historical and political significance and many people draw parallels between these two cities and current events.»

«With their different forms of government and artistic expression, both Athens and Sparta played a decisive role from the geometric to the Roman eras,» added the president of the National Archaeological Museum, Nikos Kaltsas. «Greek history would be different if either of the two had not existed; they shaped what we call classical Greek civilization.»

Among other things, the exhibition will demonstrate that, contrary to popular belief, Sparta can boast more than military achievements, especially in the Archaic period, although subsequent events turned Athens into a leading artistic force. «This will be the first time that so many Laconian works will go on display alongside Attic artifacts of the same period,» said Kaltsas. (Laconia and Attica are the greater areas in which Sparta and Athens lie respectively.) He explained that because the subject is so vast, the display will not follow the evolution of the two cities in detail but will, nonetheless, give a satisfactory account.

The exhibition has three sections. The first one examines the two cities' formation and follows their cultural development from the Late Geometric to the end of the Archaic period (8th to the early 5th century BC). The other two sections focus on the artistic evolution during the 5th century and the changing relationship between Athens and Sparta, as it was tainted by the two great events at the time: the Persian Wars, in which the Greek cities joined forces against the Persians and then the Peloponnesian War (431 to 404 BC), the destructive war between Athens and Sparta and their respective allies, which was the culmination of a gradual process of polarization of the Greek world into two camps.

«The exhibition ends with the end of the Peloponnesian War. Athens (which lost to Sparta) came out exhausted but remained an intellectual center and Sparta still featured prominently in various disputes, but in essence the war signaled the beginning of the dissolution of the city-state and paved the way for King Philip of Macedon,» said Kaltsas.

The exhibition will be enriched by a variety of parallel activities, namely an international conference, a program of lectures in New York and a series of dramatic readings of Thucydides' «History of the Peloponnesian War» and Aeschylus' tragedy «The Persians.» A rich 300-page catalog will also complement the exhibition, with contributions by distinguished scholars, such as professors Donald Kagan and Paul Cartledge, as well as acclaimed Greek historians and archaeologists. «The parallel events are very important. Catalogs from past exhibitions have always been very successful and have been requested by universities and libraries. The readings have also proved a success and various universities have asked us to send them this program in the past,» explained Papadimitriou.

Highlights among the exhibits include the late 5th century marble statue of a Spartan warrior titled «Leonidas,» arrowheads and spearheads from the legendary battle of Thermopylae, a 5th century marble statue of an Athenian kore (young woman), Archaic bronze figurines of warriors from Sparta and much more.

«This will be our 15th exhibition in New York since 2000,» said Papadimitriou. «We are interested in targeting the wider American audiences, the average American, not Greeks of the diaspora. We want our exhibitions to be Greek-related, but do not want to repeat ourselves.»

Last season's exhibition of post-Byzantine Greek art, titled «From Byzantium to Modern Greece: Greek Art under Difficult Circumstances, 1453-1830,» had very good attendance, despite its rather specialized focus, and Papadimitriou said the foundation is hoping for even greater interest this time round.

«Athens-Sparta» will be on display at the Onassis Cultural Center, Olympic Tower, 645 Fifth Ave, New York, to May 12.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Rome's She-Wolf Younger Than Its City

Rossella Lorenzi, Discovery News

Nov. 22, 2006 — The icon of Rome's foundation, the Capitoline she-wolf, was crafted in the Middle Ages, not the Antiquities, according to a research into the statue’s bronze-casting technique.

The discovery quashes the long-prevailing belief that the she-wolf was adopted as an icon by the earliest Romans as a symbol for their city.

Recalling the story of a she-wolf which fed Romulus, the legendary founder of Rome, and his twin brother, Remus, after they had been thrown in a basket into the Tiber River, the statue has been always linked to the ancient world.

t was thought to be either the product of an Etruscan workshop in the 5th century B.C. or the masterpiece of the 6th century B.C. Etruscan sculptor Vulca of Veii.

It was believed that the Romans later adopted the wolf since her defiant stance and raised eyebrows seemed to reflect Rome’s liberation from the Etruscan rule.

On the contrary, scholars have long established that the bronze figures of Romulus and Remus were added in the Renaissance, in accordance to the legend of Rome’s foundation.

"Now incontestable proofs tell us that also the she-wolf is not a product of the Antiquities," Adriano La Regina, former Rome’s archaeological superintendent and professor of Etruscology at Rome's La Sapienza University, wrote in Italy’s daily "La Repubblica."

According to La Regina, analysis carried out by restorer Anna Maria Carruba during the 1997 restoration of the bronze statue showed that the she-wolf was cast as a single unit. This technique was typically used in the Middle Ages.

"Ancient bronzes differentiate from those made in the Middle Ages because they were cast in separate parts, and then brazed together," La Regina said

First used by the Greeks and then adopted by Etruscan and Roman artists, the technique basically consisted of brazing the separate joints using bronze as welding material.

The new dating of the Capitoline she-wolf was not revealed at the presentation of the restored statue in 2000. The Capitoline Museum, where the bronze is displayed, claims the artwork traces back to 480-470 B.C.

"Analysis and findings from the restoration were ignored," wrote La Regina.

Indeed, it might have not been easy for the Romans to accept that the archetypal symbol of Rome was cast in the relatively recent Middle Ages.

The she-wolf was one of the favored images of Benito Mussolini, the fascist dictator, who considered himself the founder of the New Rome. He sent various copies of the bronze to American cities.

The Capitoline she-wolf was also used in the poster of the 1960 Rome Olympics and is one of the most popular items among souvenir sellers in Rome.

Gregory Warden, a professor of art history at Southern Methodist University who specializes in Etruscan bronzes, found the suggestion that the she-wolf may be medieval "intriguing." But, he does not consider the matter closed.

"While the statue is singular, and thus difficult to compare to other Etruscan statuary, I do not think that the technical argument is fully persuasive, since we have so little comparative evidence for large-scale bronze casting in the Etruscan world," he said. "We certainly cannot assume that Etruscan bronze-casting techniques would always have been identical to those of the Greeks."

Bones of Cyprus missing unearthed

Source: BBC News

By Sarah Rainsford
BBC News, Nicosia

On the south side of the line that cuts through the divided capital of Cyprus there is a small exhibition.

It is a collection of photographs in memory of the Greek Cypriots still missing since 1974, when Turkey sent troops onto the island following an attempted coup backed by Athens.

"That's my mother at a demonstration of the relatives," says Marios Kouloumas, pointing out a woman holding up a photograph of her husband.

"I was there too. We are demanding to know what happened to our relatives."

Some 1,500 Greek Cypriots and 500 Turkish Cypriots are officially registered as missing on Cyprus, never seen since fighting broke out between the two communities in the 1960s.

Marios was 10 years old when his own father disappeared. He still remembers very clearly how Turkish troops entered his village in August 1974 and separated the men from the women and children. Nikos Kouloumas was taken away and never returned.

"If we don't find a solution to this problem we can never live together as before," Marios believes.

"We always ask about the fate of our people and we will never stop. If the United Nations wants a solution on Cyprus, they have to find solution to this matter first. They have to close the wound."

The UN established a Committee on Missing Persons in 1981 to investigate the fate of the disappeared. In 25 years no family has received an explanation.

Slowly all that is changing.

Partial skeletons

In a prefabricated laboratory built in the buffer zone that still divides the two communities, a team of scientists is finally searching for answers.

They have begun excavating mass graves all over Cyprus, led there by those who actually saw what happened.

Some of the first bones to be recovered have been reassembled into partial skeletons, laid out on white tables in the laboratory.

"We are trying to gather as much information as possible to help identify the remains," explains scientist Oran Finnegan. "That is more complicated at some sites where bodies were thrown on top of one another.

"First we have to piece the bones together, like a jigsaw. Then if we have any information about an old fracture, or dental work - we can narrow down the work of the DNA lab."

Samples will soon be sent to a separate lab for DNA testing - the final stage of identification. But first any evidence that can be gleaned from the skeletons or the grave is cross-checked against data provided by relatives.

Some files are incredibly detailed, down to the brand of a watch or the colour of someone's socks.

Frozen conflict

The team carrying out this delicate task is a combination of Greek and Turkish Cypriot scientists, working alongside international experts. It is the only official joint project on the divided island that is actually working.

"I think this project will eventually help ease things," says Anthe, a Greek Cypriot archaeologist.

"What happened on the island is not a secret so at least we are facing it now, and we are facing it together."

The exhumations are laying bare evidence of terrible violence committed by and against both communities on this island. It is a process that has been undertaken elsewhere - but the conflict on Cyprus is frozen, not resolved.

So is there a danger the scientists are unearthing fresh trouble, along with the remains?

"I think we are unearthing answers to families. Now what that can trigger, either in the legal or political arena, is rather terra incognita," admits Christophe Girod, the UN member on the Committee for Missing Persons.

Mr Girod says the scientists record all the information the bodies provide - including evidence of any injury. That data will ultimately be handed to the relatives. But his committee is not mandated to investigate the cause of death.

"We hope the bi-communalism of this project will set an example, that it triggers positive steps. But the need for justice is something usual and legitimate and that will have to be addressed here on the island as well," he explains.

DNA samples

Across the Green Line in the north of Nicosia, Emine Degirmencioglu only has one photograph of her husband Munir - a portrait of the young couple on their wedding day.

Emine was in her early 20s when their village came under attack by Greek Cypriot fighters in December 1963. The family fled in panic.

A couple of days later Munir returned to their home to collect clothes and food for his children, and disappeared without trace.

The UN-led committee has just unearthed human remains at a site close to their village.

Emine's family has given DNA samples. Now, just like Marios in the south, Emine hopes her long wait for answers is almost over.

"I already feel a sense of relief," she says. "At least we'll be able to bring him back onto the Turkish side; to bury his bones in a proper grave, and visit and pray for him as our religion requires."

"What more can we do - now we know he is definitely not coming back alive?"

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Greece’s rich culture fails as vigorous economic product

Almost 100,000 work in sector, but value of cultural product is low

By C. Kallergis - Kathimerini

BRUSSELS – Greece produces remarkably little in a field where it has a lot to offer – culture.

Apart from being a somewhat abstract notion, culture is also an economic activity that benefits large countries with advanced economies and is vital to a small country like Greece with a dearth of exportable resources and an abundance of cultural treasures.

An extensive report by the European Commission has measured and evaluated how much each EU member state has converted its cultural resources into an economically active product. The result for Greece is disappointing, with the country coming close to last on the list.

The added value of the Greek cultural product is just 1 percent of its GDP, the third lowest in Europe, and less than much smaller countries such as Cyprus, Luxembourg and Malta. At the other extreme, France draws 3.4 percent of its GDP from culture, which corresponds to more than 80 million euros, or more than 10 times the amount for Greece.

The Commission employed a fairly broad definition of culture that includes, along with museum and archaeological sites, activities such as cultural tourism, the sale of cultural products, theater and dance, publications, audiovisual material, and even architecture.

Using that broad definition, the report estimates that Greece employs almost 100,000 people in the culture sector, a relatively high number by European standards. But the economic output is way out of proportion. What is not lacking is the cultural heritage, which in Greece absorbs 50 percent of total state funding for culture, a proportion similar to that in France and Italy. State funds, useful though they are, do not bring about the same results in all countries.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Stealing Zeus’s Thunder

Here's the original article by Frank L. Holt mentioned in our previous post.

Stealing Zeus’s Thunder, Saudi Aramco World 56.3, 2005.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Ptolemy's Alexandrian Postscript

In an article entitled "Stealing Zeus’s Thunder," published in the May/June 2005 issue of Saudi Aramco World, historian Frank L. Holt reported that a new discovery could add a new chapter to the story of Alexander the Great and his elephant medallions — and indeed, it has. Here is his account of the new evidence: Ptolemy's Alexandrian Postscript

Getty risks 'embargo,' Italy warns

Source: LA Times

Officials in Rome threaten to suspend "all cultural cooperation" with the museum as talks on the return of antiquities stall.

By Jason Felch and Ralph Frammolino, Times Staff Writers
November 11, 2006

ROME — Frustrated by the J. Paul Getty Trust's refusal to return a prized statue of Aphrodite and a score of other antiquities, Italian officials are threatening to impose an unprecedented "cultural embargo" on the Los Angeles museum that would prevent its borrowing any artwork from or conducting research in their country.

The impasse in talks came as new evidence was submitted Friday in the criminal trial of the Getty's former antiquities curator that the museum chose not to pursue information about the Aphrodite statue's origins when presented with an opportunity a decade ago.

Marion True told prosecutors in a statement entered into evidence that in 1996 the statue's former owner provided the Getty with photos of the 7 1/2 -foot depiction of the goddess and offered several fragments still in his possession.

But True said she was "highly skeptical" of the man's motives and decided it was "inappropriate" to accept his invitation to meet in Switzerland, according to a copy of the statement obtained by The Times.

That decision looms large today for both True and the Getty, because the marble and limestone figure has come to play the starring role in the dispute between Italy and the trust.

To Italian authorities, the statue symbolizes what they see as the museum's brazen exploitation of the illicit trade in ancient art. Getty officials say there is insufficient evidence to determine exactly where the statue comes from, and they have so far refused to return it.

Four months ago both sides announced an agreement in principle for the museum to return "a number of very significant" artworks in exchange for loans from Italy.

Since then, the Getty has quietly offered 26 objects, including masterpieces such as a marble statue of Apollo and a sculpture of mythical griffins devouring a fallen deer. Italy, in turn, agreed to withdraw its claim for six objects that it conceded may have been found outside its borders.

But deciding the fate of the 21 remaining disputed objects, dominated by the Aphrodite and a bronze statue of a young athlete, has proved difficult.

"Basta!" said Giuseppe Proietti, a senior cultural official, in a recent interview, using the Italian word for "enough."

"The negotiations haven't made a single step forward," he said. "We will not accept partial solutions. I will suggest the Italian government take cultural sanctions against the Getty, suspending all cultural cooperation."

Francesco Rutelli, Italy's minister of culture and vice president, was awaiting the latest response from the Getty before deciding whether to go ahead with an embargo, but he warned Friday that time was running out.

"I tried to explain it amicably to the people responsible for the Getty for the last six months," Rutelli said in a statement to The Times. "If they still haven't understood it, I'm afraid the process of conciliation will end and a serious conflict will begin." READ FULL STORY

Monuments in danger

Source: ekathimerini

Climate change poses a serious threat to world heritage sites

Researchers at the Stockholm Environment Institute say the greenhouse effect is damaging monuments around the world, including the Parthenon.


Governments must realize that the greenhouse effect is damaging world heritage monuments such as the Parthenon, climatology experts said at the International Conference on Climate currently under way in Nairobi.

Climate change is a grave threat to some of the greatest world heritage monuments, from Darwin’s favorite coral reef in Belize to the archaeological treasures of Scotland.

Scientists have warned of the serious consequences of climate change, such as extreme weather conditions, mass population movements due to floods and droughts. But they have not managed to galvanize world governments into taking effective measures to curb activities that waste energy and cause pollution.

In just a few decades, natural and man-made monuments may suffer partial or total destruction, say researchers from the Stockholm Environment Institute in their report titled “The Atlas of Climate Change: Mapping the Greatest Challenge to Humanity.”

In many cases the effect of climate change will be immediate, with destruction caused by a rise in sea levels, floods and massive storms.

For other monuments, mainly cathedrals and mosques, the threat comes from drastic changes in local climate. Even minor changes in humidity can have dramatic consequences, either by directly altering the structures themselves, or by affecting the chemistry and the stability of their foundations.

It may seem a distant threat, yet such destruction has already begun, the researchers note.

In 2002, for instance, floods that hit the Czech Republic caused serious damage to historic buildings such as theaters, museums and libraries, while an estimated 500,000 books and archived documents were destroyed.

Apart from the Czech Republic, which the report lists among the states vulnerable to climate change, Thailand has already lost part of its cultural heritage to the effects of climate change, when floods swept away 14th century ruins in the cities of Sukothai and Ayutthaya in northeastern Thailand.

Egypt is also at risk. Coastal erosion and flooding in the Nile Delta pose a risk to the monuments of Alexandria, such as the Acropolis of Qaitbey and some 12,000 archaeological sites, ranging from Viking-era ruins to medieval monuments.

Many natural ecosystems that support local economies will not be able to withstand climate change. One of these is the coral reef of Belize, which Darwin referred to in 1842 as “the most marvelous reef in the West Indies.”

The reef has already started to lose its color due to the rising temperature of the surface water, a process which is expected to intensify.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Dazzling discovery in waters off Spain: 1st-century vessel

Source: eitb 24

The remains were discovered by accident in 2000 and after years of arranging financing and assembling crews, exploration of the site off Alicante in southeast Spain began in July.

Marine archeologists said Monday they have made a dazzling discovery in waters off Spain _ the shipwreck of a first century vessel that was taking delicacies to the wealthiest citizens of the Roman Empire.

The remains were discovered by accident in 2000 and after years of arranging financing and assembling crews, exploration of the site off Alicante in southeast Spain began in July, said Carles de Juan, a co-director of the project who works for the Valencia regional government.

The ship is estimated to have been 30 meters (100 feet) long with capacity for around 400 tonnes of cargo, making it much larger than other Roman shipwrecks found in the Mediterranean, de Juan said in an interview.

The ship probably sank in a storm while sailing from Cadiz in the south of what is now Spain back to Rome.

Besides the size of the ship and good condition of its cargo, the site is also unique because it is so accessible _ in just 25 meters (80 feet) of water about 1.5 kilometers (one mile) from the coast.

"I am not going to say it was on the beach but almost," said de Juan, who was among the first divers to examine the shipwreck in 2000. "We knew it was an important find but had no real idea until now," de Juan said. "It is an exceptional find."

De Carles and the other co-director of the project, Franca Ciberchinni of the University of Pisa in Italy, presented their first academic report on the site at a marine archaeology conference last week in the town of Gandia near Valencia.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Herakleio Museum Closed

rogueclassicism reports:

The archaeological museum of Iraklio on Crete will close for repairs on Nov. 13, the culture ministry said Wednesday.

The museum, which contains the world's richest collection of artifacts from the island's Minoan culture (3000-1100 B.C.) attracts around 250,000 visitors annually.

The minister did not say when the museum would reopen.

I visited the museum two weeks ago and I asked when it's going to open again. They told me that the works will last for at least TWO years.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Getty Ex-Curator Says Antiquities Trade 'Corrupt' Art Smuggled

Source: Bloomberg

By Vernon Silver

Nov. 10 (Bloomberg) -- The J. Paul Getty Museum's former antiquities chief said the market for ancient art is probably the ``most corrupt'' of art markets, with unscrupulous dealers peddling smuggled goods, according to a written statement made to a Rome court where she's on trial for buying loot for the Getty.

Marion True, the former antiquities curator of the Los Angeles-based Getty, the world's wealthiest art institution, said she fought the illicit trade by tightening the Getty's acquisition standards, and by purchasing and documenting objects of unknown origin so they wouldn't be lost to the private trade.

``The museum had to accept the premise that the majority of antiquities available on the market had, in all probability, been exported from the countries of origin illegally,'' True, 58, wrote, explaining why the Getty adopted policies that restricted artifacts it could buy.

True's lawyers submitted her statement today to the Rome Tribunal as evidence in her trial, in which she's charged with conspiracy and receiving stolen antiquities for the Getty's collection. True denies the charges.

Among the steps she took to battle the illicit trade was a ban on buying objects that hadn't been part of a known collection or been documented in a publication before 1995. Last month the Getty further limited its antiquities purchases in most cases to those documented before 1970.

``I knew, in fact, that the antiquities market was filled with risks for those who wished to purchase objects, as it included many unscrupulous dealers, who had no qualms about selling fakes or objects that had been stolen or exported illegally from their country of origin,'' True wrote in the 19- page memo, a copy of which was obtained by Bloomberg News.


She wrote the statement to clarify and add to comments she made in earlier questioning by prosecutors, one of her lawyers, Francesca Coppi, said.

Judges in the case will base their ruling both on written evidence submitted to the court and verbal testimony of witnesses. A transcript of her earlier questioning, conducted in Los Angeles, is already in evidence.

True hasn't testified in the Rome court and isn't required to be present at the trial, which started a year ago and which she has attended once.

Her statement, which casts True and the Getty as reformers in a corrupt market, comes as the Getty negotiates with Italy over government demands that the museum return some of the 52 disputed antiquities in its collection.

True, who was antiquities curator from 1986 through 2005, said in her statement that when she took the job she helped draft a memo to the Getty board to explore whether it was possible to continue to collect antiquities in a tainted market.

``The memorandum pointed out that the antiquities market was probably the most corrupt of the art markets,'' she wrote in her statement to the Rome Tribunal.

Sweden returned Erechtheion fragmnet to Greece

And here it is!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Sweden to return Acropolis frieze to Greece

Source: Middle East Times

STOCKHOLM -- A marble frieze from the Acropolis in Athens that was taken to Sweden by a naval officer 110 years ago and remained in his family's possession until last year is to be officially returned to Greece this week, a Stockholm museum announced Monday.

The marble fragment comes from the Erechtheion temple, built around 420 BCE and known for its ornamental decoration and pillars in the form of statues of women known as Karyatides, the Museum of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Antiquities said.

Birgit Wiger-Angner, a retired gym teacher, turned the piece over to the museum after reading an article about Greece's desire to recover friezes from the main temple of the Parthenon, which were taken by Britain's Lord Elgin in the nineteenth century and that London refuses to return.

Wiger-Angner inherited the piece - measuring 20 centimeters (7.8 inches) wide and eight centimeters high - from her father, whose brother Henning Lund acquired it from the Acropolis around 1895-96 and took it to Sweden.

Until February 2005, the frieze served as a decoration in Wiger-Angner's home.

Wiger-Angner is due to hand over the piece to Greek culture minister Georgios Voulgarakis at a ceremony to be held at the Acropolis Friday, the museum said.

Suzanne Unge-Soerling, assistant head of the museum in Stockholm, said that it was of great historical interest.

"Today the Erechtheion temple is a long way from being complete ... the frieze is a piece of a puzzle ... and the small number of similar pieces that have emerged ... are mostly held by museums, for example the Metropolitan in New York," Unge-Soerling said.

The fact that the frieze was not left in the open has helped preserve the piece from the effects of pollution.

Paint that once adorned the temple has disappeared due to the twin ravages of time and pollution, whereas some traces of paint remain on the piece to be returned Friday, Unge-Soerling added.

The museum displayed the frieze since Wiger-Angner turned it over to the institution in February 2005.

After its return to Greece the piece will feature in a new Acropolis museum currently under construction in Athens.

Roman grave stele discovered in the village of Zabeni, Bitola region

Source: MPT

The grave stele of the Roman period has been discovered by the citizens of the village of Zabeni, Bitola region while they conducted construction works.

- It is fragmented marble segment of monument, which with additional analysis will give an answer to the question whether there is new archaeological locality in the village of Zabeni or it belongs to already discovered one from the Neolithic period, Anica Gjorgjievska, the archaeologist of Bitola museum, said.

Gjorgjievska said that it was possible underground waters to throw out the grave stele.

This discovery starting Tuesday is under the authority of the Bureau for Protection of the Cultural Heritage.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Tourism damaging Egyptian heritage

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

Booming tourism, a key part of Egypt's economy, is having a catastrophic effect on the country's unique cultural heritage, experts said on Wednesday.

So large were the numbers of people now visiting Egypt's famed ancient sites like the Valley of the Kings that they were causing serious damage in a way that even centuries of weather had failed to do, they said at a meeting in London.

"Tourists are scuffing walls with bags and bodies, wearing away paintings and colour," Michael Jones, of the American Research Centre in Egypt, said during the meeting of the British Egyptian Society and the London Middle East Institute.

"The humidity caused by the crowds' breathing and perspiration is also taking a terrible toll on the fabric," he added.

After tailing off sharply following a string of attacks by militant Islamists in the 1990s, tourist numbers in Egypt climbed to eight million in 2004 and up again to 8.6 million last year.

Figures from the Egyptian Tourism Authority show that in the first six months of this year tourist numbers were 12 percent up on the same period the previous year, and there are plans to boost numbers to 16 million by 2014.

Jones, a speaker at the Anglo-Egyptian conference to mark 50 years since the diplomatic crisis caused by Britain's invasion of the Suez canal, was not alone in his concerns.

"The time has now initiate a detailed study of the damage being caused to all Egypt's sites," said Egyptologist Gaballa Ali Gaballa, a former head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities.

"Above all we must work with the tourism industry on this to raise awareness and seek solutions. We all gain from tourism but seeing the damage it is causing makes you feel very sorry indeed," he added.

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Dendra Cuirass: Part II

Unique Mycenaean suit of armor due for conservation
Found 46 years ago, this rare relic of the Bronze Age needs repair

The Mycenean suit of armor found at Dendra in the Argolid.

IOTA SYKKA - ekathimerini

The only complete example of a Mycenaean suit of armor ever found is to be sent for conservation work, 46 years since its discovery at Dendra in the Argolid, the Central Archaeological Council (KAS) has decided.

Dating from the 15th century BC, it is made up of four pieces: a neckpiece, two epaulettes, a breastplate and an articulated section with three straps to protect the rest of the warrior’s torso.

Broad strips of metal were fastened to a leather lining which appears to have covered the body from neck to knee. At 15 kilos, its weight must have made it hard to move in and it is believed that it was not worn on the battlefield but in circumstances where a show of prestige was in order.

Until recently, the armor was on display at the Archaeological Museum of Nafplion among other objects found in May 1960 by Nikos Verdelis, then head of the Fourth Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, and Paul Astrom, director of the Swedish Archaeological School.

At that time they were investigating one of the graves in the cemetery at Dendra, which had been the subject of an attempted raid. They found a large number of impressive objects, of which the suit of armor was an exceptional example of Mycenaean art, the only one known to have been found that predates the Geometric era.

The Ancient and Modern Monuments Conservation Directorate, which studied the suit of armor, reported that it needed treatment, not only because it was 46 years since the original preservation work, but because modern methods can reveal more detail.

So far, examination has shown that the armor is fragile, has severe cracks and is broken in places.

The study proposes construction of a new display case from Japan with anti-seismic features and made of glass so that the armor is visible from all angles, as well as a firmer means of support.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

No future for Kerameikos

No progress on ancient cemetery

Source: ekathimerini

Only a small part of the Dimosio Sima ancient cemetery has been excavated. The entire area, measuring 1,100x40 meters, contains the graves of such notable figures as Thrasybulus, Cleisthenes, Lycurgus and Solon.

The first digs and expropriations took place in the 1870. Another part of the cemetery was discovered in February 1997 at 35 Salaminas, during construction work for a new theater. Four mass graves were found containing bones and grave ornaments (red-figure vases and white lekythoi) dating to the time of the Peloponnesian War. The Culture Ministry announced the expropriation of the adjacent plots of land so that the monuments could be uncovered in their entirety, with the prospect of linking them to the Dipylon site and including them in the unification of archaeological sites, then being planned.

Now no excavations are in progress, and the much-discussed expropriations seem to have been frozen “due to unclear ownership status.”

A metal structure blocks the grave monument from the view of passers-by, and a small, rusty notice board at the top of the structure notes that “work was done here to highlight the Dimosio Sima.”

“Those of us who still live in Kerameikos feel that nobody cares about discovering the graves of renowned Athenians,” notes Bouzanis, “Kerameikos is a neighborhood with many ruined houses. You’d expect the expropriations to go ahead on Salaminas Street and on the shacks nearby which have become garbage dumps.” He believes that as long as the authorities are too timid to take action, “then not only will the Dimosio Sima cemetery not be unearthed or the area enhanced, but we will end up living here with the trash, the no-hopers, the nightlife types and whatever else flourishes under such circumstances.”