Ancient Buddhist city uncovered in Afghanistan


Villagers in Afghanistan have uncovered a lost Buddhist city thought to date back to the 2nd Century.


The city, known locally as Kaffir Got, is buried under sand in a remote part of southern Afghanistan.


Unesco officials have appealed for the area to be guarded to stop the site being looted by illegal traders.


The Sunday Times reports archaeologists hope to uncover a reclining Buddha, similar in size to ones blown up by the Taliban last year.


Robert Knox, head of the oriental department at the British Museum, said: "Kaffir Got is a dramatic discovery, vital to the future cultural life of the country."


He said the discovery may radically rewrite the history books. The ancient city was probably built by the Buddhist Gandharan civilisation, which until now had been thought to exist only in parts of northern Afghanistan and Pakistan.


The newspaper says a black charcoal line in the sand indicates the city may have been destroyed by fire and then abandoned.


Jim Williams, from Unesco, wants the 20-square-mile site to be guarded. He said: "Without protection, it will be reduced to rubble and a place of national importance will have been destroyed."


Experts say artefacts from illegal excavations are already finding their way onto the black market.


Story filed: 11:57 Sunday 28th July 2002


Website exposes Valley of the Kings' secrets

Gwladys Fouche

Thursday August 1, 2002


The most comprehensive website on Egypt's Valley of the Kings launches today, providing exhaustive information on all the tombs so far discovered.


The Theban Mapping Project website offers maps, pictures and full histories of the 62 identified tombs in the valley where some of ancient Egypt's most important pharaohs are buried.


Egyptology lovers can take a virtual tour of every tomb, view any of the murals and take measurements at a click of the mouse. They can also consult a detailed account of each burial place on its geography, contents and state of conservation, or just watch a movie clip introducing its history. An overall map of the valley allows users to select tombs by type of architecture, exploration history or time of construction.


The website has been set up by the archaeological team behind the 1995 discovery of KV5, one of the largest tombs ever discovered in Egypt and where four of Ramses II's sons have so far been identified as being buried. The team, led by Professor Kent Weeks of the American University in Cairo, has been mapping the valley's burial places for the past 23 years.


For Professor Weeks, the project was an opportunity to make accessible to a wider audience a wealth of technical material only available in print and in a few specialised institutions.


"An eight-year-old student can [visit the site] at an elementary level and learn something about the Valley of the Kings and Egyptology, and then can proceed to whatever level he might want ... even though there is no library of Egyptology within a thousand miles of his home."


But the site will be useful for professionals too, the professor promises. "Our colleagues can access material they would have a hard time finding ... it is possible to track the changing conditions in tombs and temples with this material, [or] keep track of problems of conservation."


The website is also a means to meet the needs of a public fascinated by all things Egyptian. The Theban Mapping Project's existing website, dedicated to the discovery of KV5, receives 18 million hits a year and between 200 and 300 emails per week requesting information.


"There is plentiful interest in ancient Egypt," says Professor Weeks, "you only need to look at the ratings of television programmes on the world of Egypt, when there is a jump [in ratings]. National Geographic says that every time they put an Egyptian figure on their cover, their circulation doubles. Time Magazine did a cover story on our project a couple of years ago and that was the largest selling issue of Time they had for three years."


The Theban Mapping Project


I am delighted to announce the launch of the new Theban Mapping Project website, www.thebanmappingproject.com [18327], replacing our former website kv5.com [18326]. For the past year, the TMP staff has been devoting all its efforts to creating what we believe to be the most exciting Egyptological and archaeological website ever. And I believe that what you can now explore on the web will confirm that belief.



We decided to enlarge our website for several reasons:


One: Our old website received about 18,000,000 hits annually, a clear indication that there is wide interest in Egyptology in general, as well as in the work our project is conducting at Thebes. Our scholarly hard copy publications have already gone through complete first or second printings, further evidence of the interest the TMP’s work has generated.


Two: Audience demographics indicate that our site is used by a broad spectrum of people, from elementary school students to senior Egyptological colleagues. The site has been adopted in both schools and universities as part of history, art history, and archaeology curricula worldwide.


Three: The breadth and depth of the data we have collected on the monuments of Thebes is so great that it cannot adequately be published in traditional hard copy format. We wanted to make available scaleable tomb plans, zoomable photographs of tomb and temple walls, historical images as well as new photography, descriptive details and explanations [18328]. In order to do achieve this goal, the viewer needs an interactive medium to examine and search the material. This could have been done on CD-ROM, but website publication permits us to easily add and amend data as needed. In the future, we will be adding several more features and expanding the area covered by the website, making it even more useful to scholars and amateurs.


Four: We want to make available comprehensive data on Thebes and the Valley of the Kings in a way that is accessible both to scholars and to young students. This means that the data must be accessible at several different levels, something that a hard copy publication would not permit, no matter how many indices and appendices it contained.


I want to express my most sincere thanks and congratulations to the hard-working TMP staff who researched, assembled and produced all the material on this website and the staff of Second Story (www.secondstory.com), who designed its final format [18325].


Without further adieu, I would urge you to dive into our new website’s data rich contents.


Stonehenge facelift plan revealed

Staff and agencies

Wednesday July 31, 2002


English Heritage today unveiled a £57m scheme to redevelop the site of Stonehenge with a new visitor centre and possible road tunnel beneath the attraction.


The organisation said the plans marked a "new dawn" for the world heritage landmark.


It said the plans would redeem the presentation of the ancient monument, which the government has called "a national disgrace".


The Heritage Lottery Fund has pledged £27m towards the redevelopment project, the government has promised £10m and English Heritage will contribute £11.7m. It is hoped the public will make up the remainder after a major fundraising appeal later this year.


The National Trust, which owns land around the stones, will arrange funding for improvements to the surrounding Wiltshire landscape.


The chairman of English Heritage, Sir Neil Cossons, said the new visitor centre would be placed away from the stones themselves.


He said while 830,000 people visited the site each year, they spent on average just over half an hour at the stone circle.


"Visitors to Stonehenge deserve better than this and at long last they will be able to engage with the wonder of the Stonehenge landscape as never before," he said.


English Heritage said it would clear "the 20th century clutter", including fences and paths, from the site. The visitor centre, which has been designed by the Australian architects Denton Corker Marshall, will be sunk below ground level.

Once the centre has been built, visitors will be given an introductory multimedia presentation on the midsummer and midwinter solstice events. Film and graphic presentations will also try to explain astronomical theories related to the stones.

While agreement has been reached on the construction of the visitor centre, controversy continues to surround road access to the site.


The Highways Agency is considering plans to close the existing A344 and to sink an enlarged A303 under the site in a tunnel.


The Highways Agency said draft road plans should be completed by January 2003. A public inquiry is expected to follow late next year.


New roads are expected to be ready by 2008, two years after the new visitor centre is completed.


Ancestors of horses revealed

Emma Thomas

30 July 2002


The origins of the domestic horse has been revealed in a five- year study carried out by German scientists


Scientists investigating the domestication of horses have found that modern-day horses are descended from several wild populations.


The five-year study carried out by Dr Peter Forster from Cambridge University and Thomas Jansen for the University of Bonn has shown how horses are linked via their genetic type.


They conducted their study using data collected from more than 600 horses and found 17 major genetic types.


One type was found in northern European ponies, while a different type was found in breeds and their descendants originating from Iberia and northern Africa, and another in the mustangs of America.


It is believed that these genetic types may represent the ancestral wild populations.


"The results of this five-year study are surprising," said Peter. "Now that we have established the different genetic types, we hope to determine their ages using the evolutionary DNA mutation rate."


"This can be done by comparing genetic data, from data collected from fossils."

There are several theories surrounding the domestication of the horse. Some archaeologists believe that 10,000 years ago horses were originally hunted as wild animals for their meat and skin.


As man evolved over thousands of years, he progressed from catching foals and taming them to domesticating horses by breeding them in captivity.


Horses found buried with chariots in Central Asia around 2,000BC prove that by this time, man had successfully domesticated horses.


Some archaeologists argue that domestication took place much earlier, around 4,000BC. This argument will hopefully be settled as more is learnt about genetic data.


2,000-year-old 6ft 6ins warrior giant discovered


The remains of an enormous warrior who fought more than 2,000 years ago have been found in Kazakhstan.


The soldier was heavily armed and stood around 6ft 6ins tall.


Archaeologists believe he was well-built and revered by people who buried him with his weapons.


The BBC says the warrior lived around the first century BC.


Historians say this may lead them to re-examine the origins of the region's people.


Story filed: 10:01 Wednesday 31st July 2002