Monday, December 25, 2006

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Discovered Stone Slab Proved to be Gate of Cambyses' Tomb

Source: Payvand's Iran News

By Maryam Tabeshian

A huge stone slab discovered accidentally last year was proved to have once been the entrance gate to the mausoleum of Cambyses II, son and successor of Cyrus the Great.

Tehran, 13 December 2006 (CHN) -- Agricultural activities by local farmers near the world heritage site of Pasargadae last year resulted in the accidental discovery of a big stone slab bearing some carvings typical of Pasargadae monuments. The discovered slab was recently proved by archeologists to have been the entrance gate to the mausoleum of Cambyses II, son and successor of Cyrus the Great, founder of the Achameneid Empire (550-330 BC).

"A huge stone slab measuring 1.60 meters in height comprised of 5 broken pieces was discovered last March by farmers at a distance of 100 meters from Tall-e Takht and was immediately transferred to Parse-Pasargadae Research Center to be studied by archeologists," said Afshin Yazdani, archeologist of Parse-Pasargadae Research Center.

Tall-e Takht or 'throne hill' is a citadel located at the heart of Pasargadae historical complex, the first dynastic capital of the Achaemenid Empire, founded by Cyrus the Great, in Fars province. Remains of an unfinished tomb denoted to Achaemenid King Cambyses II can be seen close to Tall-e Takht, from which only a wall has survived the ravage of time.

Based on studies by British archeologist David Stronach, the Tomb, also known as Zendan-e Soleiman/Eskandar (Solomon/Alexander Prison), originally consisted of an almost square, 4-meter-high tower in which a solitary, raised room was approached by a projecting monumental stone staircase. It resembles the Achaemenid era monument of Zoroaster's Kaba in Naqsh-e Rostam historical site

According to Yazdani, the stones used in the gate of Cambyses' tomb are very similar to a stone slab discovered 50 years ago by archeologists. At the time, Stronach proposed a theory that the stone belonged to the mausoleum of Cambyses and drew a sketch of the original gate which he believed to have had two leaves, each comprising of 6 rectangular frames. He also drew 3 flowers each having 12 petals on the top and bottom of each frame.

"As Stronach himself was uncertain about his own drawing of the gate, recent discovery of the gate proves his theory wrong. Based on the new studies, it became known that the entrance gate of what is called Tomb of Cambyses was made of two stone leaves each having a 35 by 59 cm frame with three 12-petaled flowers on the top and bottom," explained Yazdani, adding that the height of each door leaf was found to be 1.75 meters - that is 8 centimeters shorter than the height of the wall. Archeologists believe that the gate was made shorter on purpose to allow circulation of air in and out of the mausoleum.

According to the inscriptions of Bisotun historic site, the mausoleum of Cambyses was destroyed by the Mongol invader Geomat who disguised himself as Bardia, King Cambyses' brother and came to power shortly after Cambyses' assassination and razed down Achaemenid temples. Achaemenid King Darius the Great clearly accounts in Bisotun inscription that he restored the Achaemenid temples after murdering Geomat. "Evidence left on the stone gate very well confirms that it was restored during the early days of Darius the Great's reign," added Yazdani.

According to Yazdani, the new findings together with the fact that a similar structure to the mausoleum of Cambyses, Zoroaster's Kaba, was built also by Darius the Great at Naqsh-e Rostam, proved that it was a temple whereas it had previously been variously regarded as either a tomb, or a fire temple, or a depository.

Cambyses was the son and successor of Cyrus the Great who ruled the Persian Empire from the death of his father in 530 BC to his own death in Ecbatane (Syria) eight years later.

During his reign, Cambyses continued the politic of expansion started by his father. First, he took part with his father to the conquest of Babylonia and was named King of Babylon after he captured the city in 539. After rising to the throne, he invaded Egypt in 525 BC, putting an end to the 26th Dynasty of the Pharaohs and beginning a period of Persian rule that covered much of the next two centuries.

Cambyses later personally led a force up the Nile to conquer Ethiopia, but after annexing the north of the country, he ran short of supplies and had to return.

While on his way back from Egypt with his army in 522 BC, Cambyses was assassinated upon order of one of his brothers, Smerdis, which he himself tried to have assassinated. At his death, after a short period during which Smerdis assumed the leadership, more palace struggles led to the rise to the throne of Darius the Great, whose task was to organize such a vast empire.

The mausoleum of the son and successor of Cyrus the Great, Persian King Cambyses II, was also registered with other ancient monuments of Pasargadae historic complex in UNESCO's list or World Heritage List in 1979.

Pope asked to return Greek artifact

Source: IOL

Vatican City - Greece's top religious leader asked Pope Benedict on Thursday to return a piece of the Parthenon in the Vatican Museums, Greek officials said.

Christodoulos, Orthodox archbishop of Athens and of all Greece, made the request during a visit when he and the Pope signed a joint declaration on issues of common concern, such as the defence of life.

According to spokespersons for Christodoulos, the Pope was a bit perplexed by the request, perhaps not knowing that the vast museums he technically owns as sovereign of Vatican City have a fragment of the 5th century BC structure.

He said he would consider the request, they said.

Greece has been campaigning for decades to get back all pieces of the Parthenon held in museums and private collections around the world. The
2 500-year-old Acropolis monument is seen as the epitome of the Golden Age of Athens.

Much of a procession frieze from the Parthenon is in the British Museum as part of a collection known as the Elgin Marbles, after the British ambassador who took them from the Acropolis and transported them to Britain in 1802.

The British Museum has repeatedly turned down requests to return them, saying the marbles are in better care in London, safe from the Athens pollution that damaged those left behind.

Greece hopes a museum being built at the foot of the Acropolis, especially to house the marbles, will be ready in 2007.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Getty Museum to return another two artifacts

Source: ekathimerini

A golden funerary wreath from Macedonia, dating to the 4th century BC, is one of two artifacts that the Los Angeles Getty Museum yesterday agreed to return to Greece. The date of their return was not specified.

The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles has agreed to give back two ancient artifacts whose return Greece has sought for more than a decade, Culture Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis said yesterday.

The pieces – a gold wreath dating to the 4th century BC and a marble statue of a young woman dating to the 6th century BC – are the final two in a list of four objects owned by the Getty which, Greece has long claimed, had been smuggled out of the country before the museum acquired them.

“We have agreed in principle on the return of two ancient objects from the Getty Museum’s collection... that the Greek Culture Ministry has been seeking,” said a joint declaration from the ministry and the LA museum.

The official agreement, to be signed soon, will give details about the date of the handover and include plans for future cooperation between the ministry and the museum, the statement said.

The announcement added that a “collaborative, analytical approach” had also led to the return of two other antiquities from the Getty over the summer and was “the appropriate way to resolve complex ownership claims involving ancient works of art.”

The other two pieces sought by Greece – a 4th-century-BC funeral stele and a 5th-century-BC engraved sculpture – were returned by the Getty in August.

“The way we got the objects back from the Getty is a very good example of how we can reclaim such artifacts,” Culture Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis told a press conference yesterday.

“Athens will now seek to cooperate with the museum in the form of long-term leases of artifacts or joint exhibitions,” Voulgarakis said. “We are not interested in raiding museums but do not want to have antiquities leaving Greece illegally,” he said.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Turkish mayor demands cancellation of Ilisu dam project

Source: AP via International Herald Tribune

VIENNA, Austria: A Turkish official appealed Thursday for the cancellation of a dam project in his country, saying it would destroy cultural heritage and do little to boost economic development.

"Of course we want economic and social development ... but development should not disregard people, nature and history," said Osman Baydemir, president of the Union of South Eastern Anatolia Municipalities and mayor of Diyarbakir.

The Ilisu dam, on the Tigris River 47 kilometers (30 miles) north of the Syrian border, will be one of the largest dams in Turkey and is scheduled to be completed by 2013. A ground breaking ceremony took place in August.

Opponents of the project say it will flood dozens of towns and destroy archaeological treasures including the medieval fortress city of Hasankeyf, which overlooks the Tigris.

"The cultural and historic heritage of Hasankeyf is indescribable. It is not comparable with other places and we have a large responsibility," Baydemir, speaking through a translator, said at a news conference organized by WWF.

Baydemir was in Vienna to lobby against project participation by an Austrian company, Andritz Va Tech Hydro. The company, whose financial involvement totals some €240 million (US$319 million), still needs an export guarantee from the Republic of Austria.

Baydemir argued that funding for the roughly €1.2 billion project should be invested in the region's cities, the construction of an international airport, restoration of cultural heritage sites and tourism.

In prepared English remarks provided later, Baydemir added that 40,000 hectares (98,840 acres) will be affected and that people would be evacuated "without a proper and effective resettlement plan".

Those in favor of the dam say it will create jobs and improve thousands of lives.

Some 40,000 people would benefit from it directly, said Yunus Bayraktar, Turkish project coordinator at a separate news conference at the Turkish Embassy.

Nihat Eri, a Turkish parliamentarian, said Turkey has no choice but to exploit its water resources.

"We have no oil, we have no gas ... the only thing we have is water," Eri said, noting that hydroelectric power was "clean energy".

Friday, December 08, 2006

Fact or Fiction?: Archimedes Coined the Term "Eureka!" in the Bath

Source: Scientific American

The famed mathematician made many important scientific contributions. Was this exclamation really one of them?

By David Biello

Let's begin with the story: the local tyrant contracts the ancient Greek polymath Archimedes to detect fraud in the manufacture of a golden crown. Said tyrant, name of Hiero, suspects his goldsmith of leaving out some measure of gold and replacing it with silver in a wreath dedicated to the gods. Archimedes accepts the challenge and, during a subsequent trip to the public baths, realizes that the more his body sinks into the water, the more water is displaced--making the displaced water an exact measure of his volume. Because gold weighs more than silver, he reasons that a crown mixed with silver would have to be bulkier to reach the same weight as one composed only of gold; therefore it would displace more water than its pure gold counterpart. Realizing he has hit upon a solution, the young Greek math whiz leaps out of the bath and rushes home naked crying "Eureka! Eureka!" Or, translated: "I've found it! I've found it!"

Several millennia later, the scientific world is replete with the exclamation, and many people have received inspiration in the shower. The mathematical conjectures of Henri Poincar╬╣, Einstein's theory of relativity, Newton getting dinged on the head with an apple and discovering gravity--all have been described as eureka moments. Edgar Allan Poe wrote a prose poem to science by that title and the prospectors of California's gold rush were so fond of the phrase that it crept into that state's motto. Even the American Association for the Advancement of Science calls its breaking scientific news site EurekAlert.

Too bad, then, that Archimedes probably never uttered the phrase in that way.

First and foremost, Archimedes himself never wrote about this episode, although he spent plenty of time detailing the laws of buoyancy and the lever (prompting him to reputedly pronounce: "Give me a place to stand and I will move the earth"), calculating the ratio of circles we know as pi, and starting along the path to the integral calculus that would not be invented for another 2,000 years, among other mathematical, engineering and physical feats.

The oldest authority for the naked-Archimedes eureka story is Vitruvius, a Roman writer, who included the tale in his introduction to his ninth book of architecture some time in the first century B.C. Because this was nearly 200 years after the event is presumed to have taken place, the story may have been improved in the telling. "Vitruvius may have gotten it wrong," says Chris Rorres, a mathematician at the University of Pennsylvania and a self-described Archimedes "groupie." "The volumetric method works in theory so it sounds right but when you actually try it you find that the real world gets in the way."

In fact, Rorres is one of a long line of scientists, including Galileo, who have read the account and thought "That can't be right." As Galileo showed in his tract La Bilancetta, or "The Little Balance," a scientist of Archimedes' stature could have achieved a far more precise result using his own law of buoyancy and an accurate scale, something far more common in the ancient world than a very precise pycnometer, which is used to measure displacement. (The surface tension of water can render the volume of a light object like a wreath unmeasurable.) "There may be some truth to it," Rorres adds. "Archimedes did measure the volume of things but the eureka moment was maybe due to his original discovery [concerning buoyance], not to sitting in the bathtub and then running through the streets of Syracuse naked."

Much like Newton's apple, the exclamation persists because of the enduring power of the story: a golden crown, a life in the balance, a naked mathematician. Archimedes was a font of both mathematical insight and smart quotes as well as the hero of some really great stories. (One credits him with the invention of the death ray--actually an array of mirrors to focus sunlight--to set fire to an invading Roman fleet.) The suspect foundations of the eureka moment take nothing away from the word's ability to uniquely and concisely convey the flash of inspiration.

A new picture of ancient ethnic diversity

Source: The

By Tom Avril

The Philadelphia Inquirer


PHILADELPHIA - Scholars have long believed that ancient Egypt was a genetic stew of ethnicity, as the fabled kingdom was both a center of international trade and often the victim of foreign invasions.

Now, new evidence suggests that may have been true even in the upper echelons of society, according to researchers who have used a blend of art and science to re-create what the ancients looked like in real life.

They have used CAT scans to model the skulls of seven mummies from various museums, including one unveiled last month at Philadelphia's Academy of Natural Sciences, revealing physical features that range from Mediterranean to African.

All seven were buried with the trappings of a high status in society, including two clearly connected to the priesthood, said project leader Jonathan Elias, director of the Harrisburg, Pa.-based Akhmim Mummy Research Consortium.

He cautioned against drawing firm conclusions from such a small sample, and he stressed that ethnic traits were a small part of his research. But he said the findings suggested a society where race had little to do with class.

"They all identified themselves as Egyptians," Elias said. "These are people. You can't slice them up like they're chocolate cake or vanilla cake."

Philadelphia sculptor Frank Bender has created plaster busts from five of the seven skull models, including one of the anonymous young woman - dubbed Annie - whose 2,200-year-old remains are on display at the Philadelphia academy.

Bender sculpted her with a nose and cheekbones that Elias described as "northern Mediterranean" - the location of modern-day Greece and Turkey. Another one of the five has what Elias called "Sudanese" features: full lips and a "prognathous" profile - meaning the jaw protrudes farther than the nose. The others have a blend of ethnic facial characteristics.

Anthropologists who have heard Elias speak about the work have been impressed.

"In the past, Egyptology has been very much based on architecture and artifacts and text," said Robert Yohe, an anthropologist at California State University, Bakersfield. "You got reconstructions of culture based on things and people's impressions of things."

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Egypt finds 4,000-year-old doctor's mummy

Source: Reuters via Yahoo! News

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian archaeologists have discovered the funerary remains of a doctor who lived more than 4,000 years ago, including his mummy, sarcophagus and bronze surgical instruments.

The upper part of the tomb was discovered in 2000 at Saqqara, 20 km (12 miles) south of Cairo, and the sarcophagus came to light in the burial pit during cleaning work, state news agency MENA said on Tuesday, quoting Egyptian government antiquities chief Zahi Hawass.

The doctor, whose name was Qar, lived under the 6th dynasty and built his tomb near Egypt's first pyramid. The 6th dynasty ruled from about 2350 to 2180 BC.

Hawass said the lid of the wooden sarcophagus had excellent and well-preserved decoration and the mummy itself was in ideal condition. "The linen wrappings and the funerary drawings on the mummy are still as they were," he said.

"The mask which covers the face of the mummy is in an amazing state of preservation in spite of slight damage in the area of the mouth."

The tomb also had earthenware containers bearing the doctor's name, a round limestone offering table and 22 bronze statues of gods.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Emperor Maxentius Insignia Found in Rome

Source: AP via Yahoo! Asia News

Archaeologists have unearthed what they say are the only existing imperial insignia belonging to Emperor Maxentius _ precious objects that were buried to preserve them and keep them from enemies when he was defeated by his rival Constantine.

Excavation under Rome's Palatine Hill near the Colosseum turned up items including three lances and four javelins that experts said are striking for their completeness _ digs usually turn up only fragments _ and the fact that they are the only known artifacts of their kind.

Clementina Panella, the archaeologist who made the discovery, said the insignia were likely hidden by Maxentius' people in an attempt to preserve the emperor's memory after he was defeated by Constantine I in the 321 A.D. battle of the Milvian Bridge _ a turning point for the history of the Roman empire which saw Constantine become the unchallenged ruler of the West.

"Once he's lost, his objects could not continue to exist and, at the same time, could not fall in the hands of the enemy," she said Friday.

Some of the objects, which accompanied the emperor during his public appearances, are believed to be the base for the emperor's standards _ rectangular or triangular flags, officials said.

An imperial scepter with a carved flower and a globe, and a number of glass spheres, believed to be a symbolic representation of the earth, also were discovered.

The discovery was announced Wednesday by Italy's Culture Minister Francesco Rutelli during a visit to New York.

The items, inside wooden boxes and wrapped in linen and silk, were found buried at a sanctuary last year and have since been restored and analyzed. The depth of the burial allows experts to date them to the early 4th century A.D., ministry officials said.

"These artifacts clearly belonged to the emperor, especially the scepter, which is very elaborated, it's not an item you would let someone else have," Panella said.

"As far as we know, there are no similar findings," said Angelo Bottini, the state's top official for archaeology in Rome. "Similar representations are only on coins and paintings, but we never saw them for real," he said. Bottini added that the artifacts will be shown to the public in February.

Darius A. Arya, an archaeologist and professor at the American Institute for Roman Culture, said the discovery was highly unusual.

"Here's something precious that represents the greatness of Maxentius, buried by his loyal people to save something that belonged to him," said Arya, who was not involved in the excavation. "All together, they represented the power of this particular emperor and you wouldn't want the enemy or the usurper to get a hold of it."

Excavations on the Palatine in recent decades have turned up wonders such as the house of Rome's first emperor, Augustus. Experts said that much has yet to be uncovered, hidden in underground passageways.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Robot to penetrate deep inside Cheops pyramid

Source: Yahoo! News

CAIRO (AFP) - A robot archaeologist is to be sent deep inside Egypt's largest pyramid in a bid to solve secrets revealed by a first foray more than four years ago, antiquities supremo Zahi Hawass said.

"The new robot will be sent down very narrow passages in the so-called Queen's Chamber, where the first robot was sent in 2002," said Hawass, who heads Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities.

Teams from Egypt and Singapore and a joint group from Britain and Hong Kong plan to insert the robot in February inside the Pyramid of Cheops at Giza, near to Cairo.

Equipped with tiny cameras, the robot will be sent down the chamber's north and south passages in the hope of discovering what lies behind two inner walls -- or doors -- revealed during the first robotic expedition in September 2002.

At the time, the robot was sent into a northern shaft leading from the Queen's Chamber, only to be blocked about 65 metres (yards) from the chamber by "a stone wall or door" with copper handles.

It also revealed the existence of a similar obstruction the same distance down the south passage.

The robot drilled a tiny hole through this blockage that was large enough to insert a micro camera which showed a cavity filled with stones -- itself closed on the far side by another wall or door.

Archaeologists have always hoped to find clues that might lead them to discover the tomb of Cheops himself. The pharaoh reigned more than 2,500 years before Christ, and it he was he who had the largest pyramid in Egypt built.

Artifacts found in Luxor (Bani-mesu's sarcophagus)

Source: Egypt State Information Service

An Egyptian-Polish archaeological mission discovered a large collection of pottery fragments, pieces of car tonnage and parts of the priest Bani-mesu's sarcophagus while excavating at Queen Hatshepsut's temple at Deir el-Bahari on Luxor's west bank.

Numerous pieces of ostraca, pottery, ushabti figurines, papyri written in Coptic and fragments of a nemes headdress of king Thutmose III have also been unearthed.

The te?m also continued its programme of restoring, documenting, and drawing of the New Kingdom shrines on the third terrace of Deir el-Bahari, including those of Thutmose III, Queen Hatshepsut, and the northern and southern shrines of Amun-Re.