Saturday, September 29, 2007

Museum for Alexander the Great

Source: ekathimerini

Greece will dedicate a museum to Alexander the Great in the northern town of Pella, his birthplace and the seat of the Macedonian kingdom that ruled an empire from Europe to India, an official said yesterday.

Expected to be ready by late 2008, the new museum will house mosaics, weapons, jewelry and other finds from a 20-year excavation of the Pella archaeological site, an official at the Culture Ministry’s museums department told AFP.

“The finds, mainly from temples, show how these people lived... we even found a curse which shows that the Macedonians spoke Doric, an ancient Greek dialect, from the 5th century BC,” the official said. “This is very important, also in political terms,” she added.

In recent years, Greece has faced a challenge from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) over the “intellectual rights” to Alexander’s heritage and has been at pains to stress that the ancient Macedonians were Greek.

But the tiny Balkan nation, which became independent after the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, has staked a claim as it lies in what was once part of ancient Macedonia.

Greece has refused to recognize its neighbor under its constitutional name of Macedonia because that is also the name of the northern Greek province of Macedonia.

Athens has threatened to block Skopje’s bid to join the European Union and NATO unless it changes its name, and efforts by the UN to resolve the 15-year dispute have so far proved fruitless.

Skopje last year infuriated Athens by officially renaming its capital’s main airport after Alexander the Great.

Born in Pella in 356 BC, Alexander conquered the Persian Empire and much of the world known to ancient Greeks before dying in Babylon in 323 BC. (AFP)

Friday, September 28, 2007

Free journal issues

Electronic Antiquity Volume X, Number 2 (May 2007)

Aegean Archaeology Volume 7 (2006). Feature article A. VAN DE MOORTEL and E. ZACHOU, 2004. Excavations at Mitrou, East Lokris.

Classics Ireland Volume 12 (2005)

Rosetta Issue #02. Spring 2007.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Polish atomic physicists study Egyptian frescoes


Thousands of years ago, Egyptians knew many complicated methods of producing dyes. They used them to create many magnificent frescoes, which cover the walls of temples, royal palaces and tombs. Time and atmospheric factors have caused the paintings to lose their initial colours. The chemical reactions have modified the chemical content of the pigment. Thus, the colours we see today, are very distant from the pieces created by their ancient painters.

This is why scientists, with the help of modern knowledge, are looking for ways of recreating these processes to restore the creations of the Egyptian masters and craftsmen to their former glory. According to Dr Marek Pawłowski the spokesman for Andrzej Sołtan Institute for Nuclear Studies in Świerk, this study is a bit like a fascinating detective adventure.

Modern atomic physics provides a valuable research tool. Samples of the plaster covered in ancient dyes are radiated with beams of speeding protons, so that through analysing the radiation emitted from the radiated sample it is possible to establish its chemical and particle content. This way, one can collect the “pieces of the puzzle”, which tell us, what the initial colour of the painting was.

For the past few weeks, a scholarship holder of the Egyptian government – Shaaban Abd El Aal is running research on the ancient dyes, under the eye of Prof. Andrzej Turos. He is applying Particle Induced X-ray Emission (PIXE), which means that characteristic X radiation, emitted from atoms as a result of ionisation of the inner atom layers, is registered on the beam of protons from the electrostatic Van de Graaff accelerator. The energy of the registered radiation provides information on the type of particles, while the intensity indicates its concentration in a given sample.

“Work on this has only started and it is difficult to predict its results. However, we have very high hopes” – Pawłowski explained.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Out of storage and into the courtyard in Thessaloniki

A small archaeological park in the pipeline for museum grounds

By Iota Sykka - Kathimerini

The Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki has found a way to make the most of its outdoor space and to realize, though on a smaller scale, a longstanding ambition.

Alongside building improvements, new workshops and storerooms, as well as new fencing that will create a natural wall and enhance the greenery, there are plans for a small archaeological park.

The open-air exhibition will include 70 sarcophagi, 53 altars and Greco-Roman mosaic floors from Thessaloniki that will be taken from the museum's storerooms for the purpose.

«The archaeological park will start with the reconstruction of an ancient cemetery road running parallel to Stratou Avenue,» said the museum's director, Christina Zarkada. The study, which has already been approved, places the sarcophagi on either side of the road, and the altars in the area surrounding the museum.

There will be a reconstructed, actual-size villa from Roman Thessaloniki (2nd-4th century AD), with the typical layout of spaces around a peristyle.

The 70 sarcophagi will be grouped into five categories, depending on whether they are of local origin, adorned or unadorned, with or without inscriptions, reliefs and garlands, or from the Assos workshop. The 53 altars on display will also be grouped.

The exhibits will be shown in their natural surroundings, as Zarkada noted. The mosaics have been chosen for their durability.

One part of the study is still pending, that part which involves linking the environs of the Archaeological Museum and of the Museum of Byzantine Culture (in addition to the shared ticket which visitors can already choose).

Approval for a proposed 12-meter underground passage that would link the two museums and also provide space for temporary exhibitions will be discussed at a future meeting.

The revamping of the museum and the new outdoor exhibition space, budgeted at just over 5 million euros, are expected to boost the number of visitors to a museum which offers an acquaintance with the world of ancient Macedonia.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Resumption of Archeological Excavations in Cyrus Palace

Source: CHN

Soudabeh Sadigh

Tehran, 24 September 2007 (CHN Foreign Desk) – By allocating a budget by Boushehr’s Governor Office, the fifth season of archeological excavations is going to be picked up in a near future in Borazjan palace which is denoted to Cyrus the Great, the founder of Achaemenid dynasty (550-330 BC).

Announcing this news, Hamid Zareie, archeologist, further said that the exact time for resuming the fifth season of excavations have not been clarified yet. However, since the weather of Boushehr province is still very hot, they have to postpone excavations until the weather make the attendance of archeologists in the region possible.

Based on archeological evidence, construction of this half-constructed palace was started by order of Cyrus the Great, and architectural evidence show that it was very similar to those implemented in Pasargadae palace. However the construction of the palace must have been stopped following the death of Cyrus the Great and it was never residential.

Prior archeological excavations conducted under supervision of Ali Akbar Sarfaraz, resulted in discovering some architectural remains including parts of the pedestals scattered over the area. Archeologists are determined to identify the origin place of the columns to reorganize them. However all these discoveries reveal the importance of this historical evidence and the necessity for continuing archeological excavations in the area.

Archeologists are also determined to increase security measures in the region in order to protect the area and what have been unearthed so far.

Discovery of such a magnificent monument which is unique in its own kind and the delicate artistic works implemented in it was never seen elsewhere even in Persepolis, which was the main seat of Achaemenid kings, have faced archeologists with new questions which have still remained unknown.

Anyway discovery of this wonderful palace in coastal area of Boushehr brings into light that the power of Iranians in Persian Gulf region goes back to 2500 yeas ago. However, despite all its importance this historic palace has been somehow neglected by cultural heritage authorities so far and was abandoned for centuries.

The palace covers a 50x50 square meters area and archeological researches indicate that the huge stones which were implemented in construction of the palace were brought from Tangjir quarry.

New discovery in Tutankhamun's tomb

Source: Digital Journal

Intact clay pots sealed with cartouches of King Tutankhamun and eight baskets have been discovered in his treasure room in the Valley of the Kings, the Egyptian culture minister said Monday.

Farouk Hosni said the discovery was unearthed by the first Egyptian excavation team to work in the Valley of the Kings near the city of Luxor in southern Egypt.

The Valley of the Kings was used for burials for around 500 years from 1540 BC onwards.

Egypt's chief archaeologist, Zahi Hawas, explained that inside the Tutankhamun treasure room the team discovered eight baskets filled with almost 60 cartouches printed with the king's stamp.

Cartouches are oval or oblong in shape and typically contain the Egyptian hieroglyphs for a monarch.

Hawas said those cartouches had previously been found by Howard Carter in 1922 but he left them inside the treasure room.

"It is the first time ever to find such cartouches," said Hawas, adding that Egyptian archaeologists would start documenting them and open the clay pots to know what they contain.

Hawas thinks the pots may contain seeds and drinks.

Friday, September 21, 2007


The 12th INTERNATIONAL AEGEAN CONFERENCE will be held at the university of Melbourne, 25-29 March 2008

on the theme


The Aegean Feast

The context of feasting includes the use of courts and palaces, tombs, elite houses, extra-urban sanctuaries, and other special buildings that served as feasting centers, interpretations of feasting representations and feasting as metaphor in iconography as well as in Bronze Age texts, paraphernalia, and deposits - including floral, faunal and residue remains as well as pottery and discussions of consumption patterns. There is also interest in the symbolic, religious (such as sacrifice & warfare), economic (mobilizing resources), social (forming relationships or identity), ethnic identity (Aegean consumption practices abroad, such as Mycenaean IIIC1b feasting ware), and ideological aspects (legitimation of elite identities or promotion of community bonds) of feasting.

The Conference is being organized by the University of Melbourne and the University of Liège. The proceedings of the conference will be published in Aegaeum. Annales d'archéologie égéenne de l'Université de Liège .

Organizing Committee :

Louise HITCHCOCK (University of Melbourne)
Robert LAFFINEUR (Université de Liège)
Janice CROWLEY (Australian Archaeological Institute at Athens)

List of participants

Thursday, September 20, 2007

New monuments discovered near Luxor temple

Source: Monsters and

Luxor/Cairo - A collection of new kingdom pillars, lintels and reliefs were accidentally found by Egyptian restorers from the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), Egyptian Minister of Culture Farouk Hosny said Thursday.

The monuments were discovered within the internal walls of Abul Haggag El Loxory mosque, built on top of the open court of Luxor temple during restoration operations, Farouk added.

SCA Secretary General Zahi Hawas said the collection dated back to the reign of King Ramses II.

Among the most important reliefs were those featuring Ramses II while offering god Amun Re' two obelisks to be installed at the temples front facade. One of the obelisks is now at the Place de la Concorde in Paris.

The second relief shows three statues of Ramses II wearing his formal suit and white crown and another shows a type of ancient Egyptian writing known as iconography.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Bronze Age building uncovered near Gaza

Source: The Jerusalem Post

A building from the Late Bronze Age apparently constructed for Egyptian authorities before the Israelite settlement in the Land of Israel has been uncovered in an excavation on the edge of the Negev desert near the Gaza Strip, Ben-Gurion University announced Monday.

The month-long summer dig on the eastern section of the Besor Stream, about 12 kilometers east of Gaza, revealed the 3,000-year-old site buried underneath a 7th century Philistine rural village from the Second Iron Age, said Ben-Gurion University archeologist Dr. Gunnar Lehmann.

The Israeli and German archeologists working on the dig had known of the existence of the Philistine village at the site due to earlier surface exploration in the area, but were stunned to find the much earlier structure which lay underneath it, he said.

About 10-15 such buildings are known to exist off the Egyptian border, but most have been found in an urban context.

"We did not expect to find an administrative building in such a rural site," Lehmann said.

The site has features of Egyptian architecture, as well as Egyptian pottery and amulets.

Archeologists are not sure why this site was built there, but assume it was some type of rural estate.

Among the signs of the Philistine village which existed at the site include a taboon for pita bread, the remains of a wine press installation and storage jars for agriculture.

Zoom on cultural policy

Source: Athens News

Over the last couple of years, the culture ministry has taken some positivesteps, but problems persist


AN EVALUATION of the culture ministry's post-Olympics cultural policy runs the gamut from ambitious planning and actual conquests to pending promises and public criticism.

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis had originally assumed responsibility over the culture ministry in a supervisory role (a rather symbolic gesture in view of the Olympics) and then-deputy culture minister Petros Tatoulis displayed a rather subdued profile. But it is during current Culture Minister George Voulgarakis' one-and-a-half year tenure that the ministry appears to be at its most active.

Maybe the strongest point on Voulgarakis' agenda concerns the reclaiming of Greece's cultural heritage. The repatriation of the Parthenon Marbles - removed from the 5th century BC Parthenon temple in the early 19th century by Lord Elgin and displayed at the British Museum - remains, to a great extent, a deadlocked debate. However, the systematic targeting and recovering of fragments and antiquities from abroad has raised the Greek government's hopes over what has been a long - and for decades fruitless - campaign.

Antiquities return

The first step in this direction was in September 2006 when Germany's Heidelberg University Museum of Antiquities returned Greece a palm-sized marble fragment taken from a Parthenon frieze. (Fragments from the Parthenon are also kept in the Louvre and the Vatican, as well as smaller museums in Palermo, Vienna, Copenhagen, Munich and Wurzburg.)

The sculpture, which depicts in relief the foot of a chiton-clad leaf-bearer (thalloforos), ended up in Heidelberg's collection via a traveller who took the piece to Germany in 1871 as a souvenir. The sculpture's return was first requested in 2004 by Benaki Museum director Angelos Delivorrias, who is also the president of the Hellenic Committee for the Return of the Parthenon Marbles.

Greece's repatriation crusade was further bolstered through the acquisition of another marble fragment that was taken from the Acropolis by a Swedish naval officer over a century ago and passed down to his great-niece in 1972. Decorated with oval and floral motifs, the sculpted piece, which once adorned the 5th century BC Erechteion temple - dedicated to goddess of wisdom Athena and sea god Poseidon - was given back to Greece in November 2006 following a public appeal by a Swedish lobby group for the return of the Acropolis sculptures.

One of the culture ministry's most successful achievements involves the restitution of four ancient artefacts that, until recently, were part of the collection of Los Angeles' J Paul Getty Museum. At the heart of a major cultural heritage dispute, the illegally excavated antiquities (first claimed back in 1995) were handed over to Greece in two instalments.

August 2006 saw the homecoming of a 2,400-year-old black limestone stele (grave marker) and a marble votive relief, dating from around 490BC - both currently on display at the National Archaeological Museum. The other two artefacts - a gold wreath dating from the 4th century BC and a 6th century BC marble statue of a young woman, or Kore - were returned last March.

At the inauguration of the National Archaeological Museum's state-of-the-art giftshop in August, Voulgarakis said that two more antiquities have been added to the lot. Nevertheless, he refrained from elaborating as his announcement, he said, could be misinterpreted in view of the September 16 elections.

Voulgarakis, however, committed a major blunder in January 2007. A mere 24 hours before a Christie's auction of heirlooms that once belonged to the Greek royal family was to occur, he threatened to take legal action against the auction house, unless it agreed to withdraw the royal items from the sale on the basis that they may have been illegally exported from Greece. Despite the culture ministry's warning, Christie's carried out the auction.

Four months later the culture ministry announced that the former king's palace will be turned into a museum, its precious contents - ranging from children's toys and delicate fabrics to ancient artefacts and rare paintings - restored and displayed in their original places.

The ambitious plan is for the Tatoi estate to be turned into a green haven for future visitors.

New Acropolis Museum

Though last year was unusually productive regarding reclaiming looted antiquities, it failed to see the inauguration of the long-delayed new Acropolis Museum, meant as a home for the Parthenon Marbles (for which an empty glass hall has been reserved), as well as art treasures that are presently crammed in the outdated display rooms atop the Acropolis hill.

Originally scheduled for completion before the 2004 Olympic Games, the opening of the 129 million euro, 20,000m2 glass-and-concrete building, which was designed by French-Swiss architect Bernard Tschumi in collaboration with Greek architect Michalis Fotiadis, was delayed due to legal issues and archaeological discoveries on the site.

Meanwhile, the controversy over the possible demolition of two listed buildings on Dionyssiou Areopagitou Street remains unresolved. The buildings reportedly block the view of the Parthenon, even though the initial construction guidelines stated that any design must respect the existing listed buildings.

The museum is expected to open its doors to the public in early 2008. The old Acropolis museum closed down in July to facilitate the exhibits' mammoth transfer operation, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2007.

National Museum of Contemporary Art

The National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST), another museum that has had its share of problems, sees the light at the end of the tunnel. A wandering Museum, the EMST has been holding its shows at the Megaron Mousikis and the Athens School of Fine Arts since 2003 when its base, the run-down FIX - a former brewery on Syngrou Avenue - closed for a much-needed facelift.

Objections initiated by a construction company regarding the tender have been overruled by both the Greek court and the relevant EU committee. Part of the Third Community Support framework, the work's 40 million euro budget (at risk of reaching the deadline) was saved, and the official contract for the work's commencement was signed on 26 June 2007.

Nonetheless, the museum's 2008 opening will once more be delayed. EMST director Anna Kafetsi has pointed out in the past that construction work should not exceed two years - a somewhat optimistic assessment for a 19,000m2 museum with a glass facade, two temporary exhibition halls, an open-air sculpture display, a restaurant, an art shop and a direct connection to the metro. The museum's progress will be reported on its newly-launched blogspot www.fixit-emst.blogspot, also a platform of discussion for architects, journalists and the wider public.

National Opera

The National Opera has its own troubled past. More than seven years ago, then-prime minister Costas Simitis committed in his election campaign to the construction of a new opera house - as well as the National Gallery's expansion - and yet Athens remains the only European capital, and the only one in the Balkans, without an opera house of its own.

Olympia Theatre, the small, rented opera house on Academias St, was originally meant to be a temporary solution, but it has been operating for five decades now. The opera is currently unable to cope with the building's restoration and space issues. Technicians and performers are deprived of basic comforts such as dressing rooms, and space limitations prevent the staging of certain works like Wagner's epic operas.

The much-anticipated solution to the opera's pending problems was provided by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, which has offered to finance with 300m euros the construction of a new opera building, as well as a digital library at the old hippodrome in Delta Falirou. The two buildings will be incorporated into a park almost the size of the National Gardens and will provide a much-needed environmental and sports outlet for Athenians.

The time-consuming project raises hopes, but Voulgarakis has been criticised for having robbed the National Opera of its artistic director, Stefanos Lazaridis. Though he brought a breath of fresh air to the National Opera, the internationally recognised stage and costume designer (his opera productions of Wagner works at Covent Garden are legendary) who was trusted with the opera's artistic, financial and administrative matters, was dismissed just before the announcement of the coming season's programme on the basis that "he had difficulty handling people".

Grey areas

The culture ministry still has many other issues to address. No official announcement has been made regarding the much-anticipated expansion of the National Gallery. Two years after the roof of the Akrotiri, Santorini, archaeological site collapsed, causing the death of a Welsh tourist, the site remains closed to the public.

The 2006 antiquities' looting case of two island villas on Paros and Schoinoussa - whose owners are linked with the international art trade - still remains hazy, while a draft law aimed at battling antiquity smuggling failed to be submitted to parliament as a result of the announcement of early elections.

There has been no further notice regarding the much-publicised opening of the Academy of Arts in Nea Liossia, which was to operate on a trial basis from as early as this autumn, taking in drama, cinema and dance students.

Most recently, after wildfires ravaged Ancient Olympia, among other places, many reacted with anger at Voulgarakis' comments that "a few old trees have burned down" and that the archaeological site "would not have any problems". Later on, the ministry announced that the sacred Cronion Hill had been seriously damaged and that the roof of a German Archaeological School storeroom had caved in, damaging part of a marble statue and other antiquities.

Yet Another Thracian Tomb Unearthed in Bulgarian Village


Bulgarian archaeologists unearthed an ancient Thracian tomb during the weekend while making urgent excavations near the village of Cherniche.

The team of Georgi Nehrizov, a specialist in Thracian history and culture with the Bulgarian Archaeology Institute, stumbled absolutely accidentally on the tomb.

The sepulchre is dated back to the 4-3 century BC. The burial chamber with two-slope surface of the walls is completely intact. It is 2 metres long, 1,8 metres wide and 2 metres high.

The antechamber was destroyed by treasure hunters, which had obviously tried to penetrate the tomb with a digger.

Specialists from the Archaeology Institute have already arrived on the spot to make further research and discuss how to best preserve the finding.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Ξηλώνεται όλο το στέγαστρο στο Ακρωτήρι της Σαντορίνης για στατικούς λόγους


Ύστερα από δύο χρόνων επεξεργασία και μελέτη, αποδείχθηκε ότι είναι λάθος η στατική μελέτη του στεγάστρου στον αρχαιολογικό χώρο του Ακρωτηρίου της Σαντορίνης και ότι για να υπάρξει στατική επάρκεια θα πρέπει όλο το στέγαστρο να ξηλωθεί και να γίνει από την αρχή.

Όπως αναφέρουν τα Νέα, ενώ όλοι περίμεναν να ολοκληρωθεί και να γνωστοποιηθεί το πόρισμα αγγλικής εταιρείας ανεξάρτητων εμπειρογνωμόνων για τα αίτια της πτώσης και οι μελέτες για την αποκατάσταση της στατικής επάρκειας του στεγάστρου, έπεσε η «καμπάνα»: το στέγαστρο ή τουλάχιστον η εσωστέγη του με εμβαδόν 14 στρέμματα, πρέπει να γίνει από την αρχή.

«Ύστερα από δύο χρόνων επεξεργασία και μελέτη, αποδείχθηκε ότι είναι λάθος η στατική μελέτη και ότι για να υπάρξει στατική επάρκεια θα πρέπει όλο το στέγαστρο να ξηλωθεί και να γίνει από την αρχή» δήλωσε στην εφημερίδα ο πρόεδρος του ΔΣ της Αρχαιολογικής Εταιρείας, καθηγητής του Διοικητικού Δικαίου Επαμεινώνδας Σπηλιωτόπουλος.

Η πρόταση και μελέτη της βρετανικής εταιρείας Οvearup θα περάσει από τον έλεγχο και δεύτερου ανώτατου εμπειρογνώμονα, της βρετανικής εταιρείας Αtkins και πιθανόν και από τον έλεγχο του καθηγητή στο Πιρς Κόλετζ κ. Ανδράζη.

Τριάντα τρία εκατομμύρια ευρώ στοίχισε η μελέτη κατασκευής του πρωτότυπου βιοκλιματικού στεγάστρου. Πριν καλά καλά ολοκληρωθούν οι εργασίες, που προέβλεπαν την κάλυψη της στέγης με σαντορινιό χώμα για λόγους αισθητικής αποκατάστασης του περιβάλλοντος, αλλά και για λόγους φυσικής μόνωσης, ο αρχαιολογικός χώρος άνοιξε πρόωρα στο κοινό, με εντολή του τότε υφυπουργού Πολιτισμού Πέτρου Τατούλη.

Αυτό παρά την αντίθεση και τις αντιδράσεις των αρχαιολόγων και κυρίως του υπεύθυνου της ανασκαφής Χρίστου Ντούμα. Η προσφυγή που έκανε στον εισαγγελέα μπήκε στο αρχείο, ο χώρος άνοιξε και όταν καταβράχηκε το χώμα της στέγης, με την υπερφόρτωση της επιχωμάτωσης και της ψευδοροφής έφθασε να είναι δυόμισι με τρεις φορές βαρύτερο και τμήμα του τόξου της κυψέλης αρ. 7 κατέρρευσε, αφού προηγουμένως είχε σπάσει μία από τις 55.000 χαλύβδινες ράβδους του στεγάστρου.

Από τότε, ο κλειστός αρχαιολογικός χώρος του Ακρωτηρίου και το εργοτάξιο της μελέτης-κατασκευής βρίσκεται στα χέρια της κατασκευάστριας εταιρείας, που ανέθεσε στους Βρετανούς εμπειρογνώμονες τον έλεγχο των στατικών μελετών, ενώ η Αρχαιολογική Εταιρεία περιμένει να της δοθεί το «πιστοποιητικό στατικής επάρκειας» και να προχωρήσει η αποκατάσταση της βλάβης.

Train vibrations threaten tomb of Xerxes I

Source: Tehran Times

TEHRAN -- Vibrations caused by passing trains are likely to broaden existing cracks in the tomb of Xerxes I and result in its collapse if a nearby railway route becomes operational, archaeologist Mohammad-Taqi Ataii said during a seminar at the University Of Tehran (UT) on September 11.

Entitled “Naqsh-e Rustam in Danger”, the one-day colloquium was held to survey the threats from the railway route to the tomb of Xerxes I at the Naqsh-e Rustam site in southern Iran’s Fars Province.

“The builders of the tomb were aware of the natural cracks in the mountainside and built a canal to divert rainwater to a large pool thus preventing it from flowing into the gaps,” Ataii explained.

“The cracks in the rock are already widening as the pool has become full.

“This is happening as the result of a natural process and so far people have not made any effort to preserve the huge cliff. The situation will worsen if the railway route becomes operational.”

Attaii’s remarks met with protest from an unidentified man defending the railway project.

The man, who declined to introduce himself, said that according to seismographic studies, vibrations from trains using the railway route would not cause damage to the monuments in the Naqsh-e Rustam region.

It has been rumored that a number of the project’s officials attending the ceremony denied that the man had any relationship with the railway project.

Moreover, the Ministry of Roads and Transportation has not published the results of the seismographic studies.

Experts have previously said that if the railroad, the embankment of which has been constructed at a distance of about 350 meters from Naqsh-e Rustam, were to become operational, train vibrations would eventually damage the monument and cause the destruction of Zoroaster’s Kaba within less than ten years.

In December 2006, the Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Organization (CHTHO) and cultural heritage enthusiasts finally convinced the Ministry of Road and Transportation to alter the railway route. However the extent of the modification has not satisfied the CHTHO or the cultural heritage enthusiasts.

The modification would place the route at a distance of 500 meters from the Naqsh-e Rustam site.

Naqsh-e Rustam is an extremely important historical site since the tombs of Achaemenid kings including Darius I and Xerxes I have been carved into the solid rock of Mt. Hossein in that region. The site also contains remnants dating back to the Elamite and Sassanid eras.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Ancient stones and modern-day mistakes

The inadequate fire-extinguishing system at Olympia failed to work when it should have, due to lack of maintenance

By Olga Sella - Kathimerini

On that first day of the fire in Ancient Olympia, August 26, “just a few trees” were destroyed. As the days went by, when the fire had reached the entrance to the museum, the list had grown – the Hill of Cronus, the stadium, the storeroom of the German Archaeological Institute, the site of the Olympic Academy. Slowly the Culture Ministry began to make announcements about the damage caused by the flames. Every day there were more. On Tuesday of last week, it was found that 3,000 of the architectural structures at the site had suffered damage. A week later, the archaeological site was reopened to the public. Where once was green forest is now gray ash, with the charred remains of the Olympic Academy site and the Hill of Cronus, the blackened bed of the Kladeos River, and the burnt-out watershed above the stadium providing a tragic background.

In the first few days after the fires it appeared that there was something wrong with the way ancient sites are being protected. A state-of-the-art, very expensive fire-extinguishing system took the brunt of the criticism, as if that alone was to blame for the fire that reached as far as the door to the new museum.

Ten days after the fire, the Culture Ministry has begun to announce new fire-prevention measures for Ancient Olympia – a case of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.

Also: Mourning the burnt forest and anger about who is to blame

‘Prevention is everything’

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Temple to Herakles identified

By Iota Sykka - Kathimerini

Inscription on a bronze flask links the sanctuary with the legendary hero

Bronze vases, lead and clay objects, weapons, iron tools and figurines are among the harvest of finds from an archaic-era sanctuary on the hill of Spartia, Sesklo, in the prefecture of Magnesia.

One outstanding find was a bronze, navel-shaped flask bearing the inscription “Tilephilos dedicated me to Herakles.” This rare discovery identifies the sanctuary with the altar to the mythical hero. In any case, the cult of Herakles is directly linked to the ancient city of Pherae, and is documented in the area by commemorative inscriptions from the Hellenistic era. It is also linked, as Ephor Argyro Doulgeri-Intzesiloglou said, with the myth of Alceste and Admetos which we know from the work of Euripides.

Written in the local archaic alphabet, from right to left – which enhances its value – the inscription and flask were discovered in excellent condition, to the delight of the archaeologists. This will make it the prime unpublished find that the ephorate presents, along with other objects, at the Fifth International Pherae-Velestinos-Rigas Conference being held October 4-7 in Velestinos.

The bronze flask was found some years ago during work on a natural gas pipeline at the hill of Spartia near the ancient Pherae-Pagasses road, now the Volos-Velestinos-Larissa highway. Doulgeri-Intzesiloglou, who was jointly in charge of the excavation along with Evangelia Stamelou, explained to Kathimerini how it came to light along with scores of other rare finds in 1999. As the XII Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities had a heavy workload at that time, the finds were put in storage awaiting study. The surprise came when the flask was cleaned during conservation work.

The Spartia-Latomeio archaeological site was made known in 1922 by the first Ephor of Thessaly, A. Arvanitopoulos, who showed that it was a prehistoric settlement that was also inhabited in the Archaic, Classical and Byzantine eras. As Stamelou explained, Arvanitopoulos had hypothesized on the basis of a small excavation he conducted that there was a 5th- or 4th-century temple on the site which revealed black-figured roof tiles and ceramics with black tin.

Other finds – clay metopes with yellow veneer, bronze commemorative vases, spearheads and part of the arm of a marble statue – were among other discoveries that he attributed to the existence of an earlier phase of the same temple.

In 1999, a rescue dig by the ephorate confirmed his hypothesis, revealing part of a plate made of large limestone slabs. “It was 3 meters wide and around 4 meters of its length was visible. It probably continued beneath the Volos - Larissa road,” she said.

Around the base was a dense layer of stones that covered the spaces where the objects were found. Burnt animal bones found nearby were another confirmation that this was an altar.

Stamelou added that observation of the layers uncovered during the excavation, the presence of a lamp, Hellenistic pottery and an Istiaian coin (3rd century-146 BC), were indications that the monument was built during that period on top of the ancient temple.

Elsewhere on the site, excavators found pottery dating from Neolithic to Ottoman times, and part of the road linking Pherae and Pagasses.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Ancient Escape Tunnel Found in Israel

Source: AP via AOL News


JERUSALEM (Sept. 9) - Under threat from Romans ransacking Jerusalem 2,000 years ago, many of the city's Jewish residents crowded into an underground drainage channel to hide and later flee the chaos through Jerusalem's southern end unnoticed.

The ancient tunnel was recently discovered buried beneath rubble, a monument to one of the great dramatic scenes of the destruction of the Second Temple in the year 70 A.D.

The channel was dug beneath what would become the main road of Jerusalem, the archaeology dig's directors, Ronny Reich of the University of Haifa and Eli Shukron of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said Sunday. Shukron said excavators looking for the road happened upon a small drainage channel that led them to the discovery of the massive tunnel two weeks ago.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Mesopotamian city grew regardless of kingly rule

Source: NewScientist

Roxanne Khamsi

Contrary to the assumption that ancient cities always grew outwards from a central point, the urban site of Tell Brak in north-eastern Syria appears to have emerged as several nearby settlements melded together, according to researchers' analysis of archaeological evidence.

Experts say that the findings lend support to the theory that early Mesopotamian cities developed as a result of grassroots organisation, rather than a mandate from a central authority.

The new study provides important details about Tell Brak, helping to make it "the first early city of which we have a picture about how it formed," comments Geoff Emberling at the Oriental Institute Museum in Chicago, Illinois, US, who was not involved in this study but has done archaeological work at Tell Brak.

Located in north-eastern Syria, Tell Brak lies between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and can therefore be considered as an ancient Mesopotamian site. It is thought to have been settled as early as 6000 BCE, according to Harvard University researcher Jason Ur.

Ceramic clues

Ur and his colleagues examined the distribution of ancient pottery pieces around Tell Brak to determine a timeline of urban development there. He says this is possible because certain ceramic styles appeared within a specific time period.

For example, pottery that contains sand and bits of fabric for structural reinforcement appeared sometime around 4200 to 3900 BCE. Around 3900 to 3400 BCE people switched to mixing in chaff – the inedible husks of wheat plants – for the same purpose, and created pots with grooves around the top, presumably to hold lids.

The archaeologists determined the presence of six discrete settlements dating back to between 4200 and 3900 BCE about 500 meters from the central site at Tell Brak. Ur says it is still unclear whether these six settlements represented offshoots from the central site, or migrants coming from faraway places to settle.

Either way, the site does not show a pattern suggesting that it spread gradually outwards in concentric circles from a central point, as one might expect, he notes.

Diverse political structures

Ceramic artifacts from the later period, 3900 to 3400 BCE, appear more closely distributed towards the central site, suggesting that the satellite settlements expanded inwards towards the middle.

By this later time period, some 15,000 people likely called Tell Brak home, according to Ur. Some experts put the number even higher. "It's not just a sleepy village," says Emberling.

Ur believes his new findings contradict the impression given by early written texts that the earliest cities typically emerged under the strict control of kings who liked to keep their people as close as possible.

"Undoubtedly a good deal of early urban development was motivated by the state" and aristocratic rulers in particular, says the archaeologist Michael Shanks at Stanford University in California, US. But, he says, "one of the major things we've learned in archaeology over the past 50 years is that there's no single pattern" when it comes to urban development.

Shanks adds that the different ways in which ancient cities developed point to a diversity in early political structures.

And, says Ur, some of these political structures may have been less autocratic than historians have previously assumed.

Journal reference: Science (DOI: 10.1126/science.1138728)