Pyramid rover finds another closed door
Robot's discovery to help map further explorations
Tuesday, September 24, 2002 Posted: 1347 GMT
CAIRO, Egypt (AP) -- Scientists using a robot have discovered yet another door deep inside the Great Pyramid, Egypt's head archaeologist said.
The discovery followed the September 17 revelation on live television of a chamber behind a similar stone door in an 8-inch square shaft in the pyramid Pharaoh Khufu built more than 4,000 years ago.
"This find in the northern shaft, coupled with last week's discovery ... in the southern shaft, represents the first major new information about the Great Pyramid in more than a century," said Zahi Hawass, director of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, on Monday.
The 452-foot-high pyramid is the largest of three that form a group with the Sphinx in the desert outside Cairo.
"This is not 'Raiders of the Lost Ark,'" Hawass said, scoffing at the idea that hidden treasure would be found.
A camera thrust through the south shaft's door last week revealed what appeared to be another door on the other side of a 9-inch-square chamber, for a total of three so far in the pyramid.
Hawass said he would consult with other experts to try to determine whether the doors have symbolic or structural roles, and use those theories to map further exploration.
The latest find, made Friday, is "an exciting thing," said Dieter Arnold, an expert on ancient Egyptian architecture. "We are all waiting for the continuation of Dr. Zahi's project."
Arnold said the shafts and doors could be related to ancient Egyptians' religion. Egyptian texts, Hawass said, speak of the pharaoh's soul encountering a series of doors before reaching the rewards of afterlife.
"Don't expect that I can tell you what's behind the stone" door, Arnold said. "We're all stunned. We have no parallel."
Researchers long have been aware of the narrow shafts, which are found in no other pyramids.
The first door -- in the south shaft -- was found by a team using another robot in 1993.
National Geographic commissioned the Boston firm iRobot to design and build Pyramid Rover, a small robot, to explore the shafts.
Hawass said the south shaft's first door and the door just discovered in the north shaft were each 211 feet from the large central chamber.
Study of humble grave unearths pyramid tomb
Tim Radford, science editor
Tuesday September 24, 2002
British archaeologists who set out to study inscriptions in a 4,000-year-old grave have identified a new pyramid tomb and a surrounding necropolis, or "city of the dead", which could throw dramatic light on ancient Egypt's darkest age.
Mark Collier, an egyptologist at the University of Liverpool school of archaeology, Bill Manley of the National Museums of Scotland and colleagues, have just returned from Moalla, a village 20 miles south of Luxor on the Nile.
They had gone to examine a small rock-cut tomb first described by French archaeologists 80 years ago. It was known to be the grave of Ankhtify, a governor and warlord who held power in the region around 2100 BC.
With authorisation from Egypt's supreme council of antiquities, they had planned only to clear away rubble and examine hieroglyphic evidence in the tomb, which is described as being cut into a cliff.
"The first thing we noticed was that it was not built into a cliff, but a free standing jebel, a small mountain, all on its own, separated from the cliffs - and perfectly pyramid-shaped," Dr Manley said. "And then as we began to look at it we realised that it wasn't simply a small tomb excavated in the side. The French had only dug out one part and in fact there was a heck of a lot more."
Pyramid burials were the preserve of kings. Ankhtify was a governor who nominally, at least, held power on behalf of a king, with no right to a pyramid burial. Ankhtify had, however, a clear idea of his own distinction. One inscription in his tomb read: "I am the beginning of men and the end of men, for no one like me will come again, nor could there be such a one; no one like me will be born again, nor could he be."
The archaeologists climbed the jebel and looked down. From above, they could see the outline of an ancient courtyard, and then a causeway and what seemed to be the remains of a temple or pilgrimage site.
"So instead of a small rock tomb, we realised it was a proper pyramid tomb: it had all the features you would expect of a pyramid, the only difference being that it was a natural pyramid, rather than a built one. The whole thing is surrounded by huge tombs, so that his forms the centrepiece and it looks exactly westward to the setting sun," Dr Manley said. "We have at least four to five kilometres of tombs. We went there with this very small scale expedition to record the inscriptions in a very small tomb, and instead we found this massive necropolis."
Egypt 4,000 years ago was a divided nation. The presence of so many tombs near the warlord's grave raises hopes of finding Ankhtify's lost city of Hefat.
"We went out there thinking it was a relatively limited project for which we would only have to raise smallish sums of money. It is now going to be a much bigger restoration and clearance operation which is going to be eight times the size," Dr Collier said.
Rock collapses could hide still more tombs. The chances of any having remained undisturbed for 40 centuries is slight. Grave robbery was a booming business even at the dawn of history.
"But they will still have a wealth of information," Dr Collier said. "The robbers were interested in the really nice bits, but they would have left behind all the intellectually interesting bits. There will probably be a lot of it - but it won't be gold."
PROFESSOR UNRAVELS THE MUMMIES' MYSTERIES
BY DANIEL PARKINSON
10:30 - 25 September 2002
The lives - and sometimes grisly deaths - of mummies on show in a Leicester museum have been unravelled for the first time in 3,000 years.
Professor Rosalie David, of Manchester University, has been leading an investigation into the five New Walk Museum mummies by taking X-rays and tissue samples.
And at least one of them met an unpleasant end.
She said her research had revealed the presence of bilharzia, a tropical disease for which treatment was only developed 25 years ago. "The one with bilharzia would have had stomach ache and felt ill generally.
"It was quite a common disease and the problem wouldn't have been treated. They would have suffered and death would have been slow and painful."
The mummies were donated to New Walk Museum between 1859 and 1927 when it was fashionable for the wealthy to collect exotic artefacts as they travelled. The mummy with bilharzia was given to the museum by Edward, Prince of Wales, who later became Edward VII, after his visit to Egypt in 1868/69.
It is the body of a female called Pa-nesit-tawy who was about 40 when she died.
John Mason Cook, son of Thomas Cook, Leicester's travel pioneer donated three of the mummies.
For the last six years, Prof David has been studying the mummies as part of the Manchester Museum Egyptian Mummy Project.
She is close to completing her analysis and said the mummies have helped to build up a picture of life in the ancient world.
Prof David has also been able to calculate that the average lifespan of an ancient Egyptian was 40 years.
Since 1973 she has helped to developed techniques for the study of mummies at Manchester Museum.
The Leicester mummies have been X-rayed at Manchester University's medical school, had tissue samples taken and their teeth studied.
Prof David had developed methods of obtaining samples without damaging the mummy using an endoscope, a tiny camera mounted on a flexible tube.
"We go in through existing holes in the bandages to extract tissue, sometimes from the organs, and these are processed in various ways.''
The head of one mummy will remain in Manchester and will be the subject of a facial reconstruction.
Dr Alan McWhirr, of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society, said: "There are quite a few mummies dotted around the country and the ones we've got here are significant and the investigation is going to tell us a great deal more about those bodies. We shall all be waiting to find out everything Professor David has discovered."
A lecture by Prof David will take place in the Victorian Gallery of New Walk Museum, from 7.30pm on October 10.
Wednesday, 25 September, 2002, 09:44 GMT 10:44 UK
UNC team excavates lost Greek city
By JANE STANCILL, Staff Writer
A team of archaeologists headed by a UNC-Chapel Hill researcher has unearthed a lost city on the Greek island of Crete -- a rare find that will lead to a better understanding of a "silent period" of Cretan history about the 6th century B.C.
The dig began in June under the direction of Donald C. Haggis, associate professor of classical archaeology, and will continue over the next several summers.
Only about 1 percent of the site has been uncovered so far, but already the discoveries are yielding clues to life during a relatively unknown period of early emergence of the Greek city-states.
"One of the reasons we're so excited is that we weren't sure what we would find," Haggis said last week. "We actually found what we said we would find, which is pretty rare in archaeology."
Among the artifacts: glass and gold beads, bronze pins and nails, iron tools, decorated pottery, animal bones, even olive pits and grape seeds.
Researchers were ecstatic when they found a piece of a bronze helmet crest decorated with lotus flowers. The helmet, worn by Greek aristocrats and military leaders of that era, is only the second of its type ever found.
The site, called Azoria, overlooks the Aegean Sea from a mountain on the northeast coast of Crete, a rugged, narrow island, 160 miles long, southeast of the Greek mainland. Azoria covers an estimated 150,000 square meters. It was first explored by American archaeologist Harriet Boyd, who dug a trench about 1900 and found a series of walls. But she never published illustrations or details about her findings.
A Greek city destroyed
Crete was the home of the ancient Minoan civilization, which reached its peak about 1500 B.C.
Haggis and researchers from Iowa State University and the Smithsonian Institution believe the Azoria site was occupied from 1200 B.C. until 500 B.C., when disaster struck. The city was heavily damaged by fire, reoccupied for a short time, then abandoned before an earthquake destroyed it.
During the excavation this summer, the team found boulders in rooms of houses. "It's really incredible evidence of an earthquake," Haggis said.
Few human remains have been found at Azoria, leading researchers to believe the city was abandoned when the earthquake struck. The city was never inhabited again, which is good news for the archaeologists.
"Most large, well-known Greek cities have been inhabited through the years, so they have these layers and layers of stuff on top of them," Haggis said. "What we have is a pristine 6th-century city."
The researchers knew they were on to an actual city when they discovered the remains of an "andreion," or dining hall. One of the hallmarks of early Greek society was the "syssitia," or communal meal for a town's elite residents. The meals were served in a dining complex that included large food storage containers. The syssitia became a meeting place in the community, leading to early Greek political organizations.
By studying the remains of the andreion, Haggis is learning plenty about the way early Greek cities operated, and details about the way people lived.
"We found actual remains of plants and animal bones," Haggis said. "We can find out precisely what they were eating, how they were using the land and something about the structure of the economy."
During this period, known as Early Iron Age, village farming communities were becoming wealthier and more economically and politically sophisticated. The age eventually saw a rise in internationalism, with the beginnings of trade with the Near East and advances in agricultural technology.
"This is an important opportunity to study the early establishment of cities in Greece," Haggis said. "It's really a study of emerging complexity in early Greece."
Hard, dusty work
The dig, which has been in the planning for three years, lasted six weeks. A team of about 35 people participated in the excavation, including four scientists, a half-dozen graduate students, eight undergraduate assistants and about 16 Greek laborers. Each day, the group climbed into three pickup trucks and Haggis' 1972 Volkswagen van to get to the site.
The team uncovered about 1,300 square meters -- a small area, but no small task. The students and researchers sifted through some 64 tons of soil to recover tiny pieces of fish bones and shells.
The students say the experience was incredible.
"To be a part of a project where you know you're in the initial stages of a huge discovery of a portion of history no one else has done, it kind of makes you feel important," said Nichole Doub, a UNC-CH senior who has always wanted to be an archaeologist. "It was really exciting."
The excavations were conducted with permission from the Greek Ministry of Culture. The artifacts must remain in Greece.
Besides UNC-CH, the project is sponsored by the National Geographic Society, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, the Institute for Aegean Prehistory, the INSTAP Study Center for East Crete and the Azoria Project Fund.
The digging will go on for at least four more years, and Haggis hopes one day the site will be open to the public, like the famed Minoan Palace of Knossos on Crete.
"It's years of study," Haggis said. "We don't intend to dig it all. The rest will be left for future generations."
Staff writer Jane Stancill can be reached at 956-2464 or email@example.com.
Prehistoric puzzle of house in middle of an Iron Age cemetery
ARCHAEOLOGISTS are trying to work out why 100 bodies lie buried around an Iron Age home in Orkney.
The stone building on the remote island of Westray is the best preserved house from the period ever found in Scotland.
As a dig at the site came to an end yesterday, the skeletons of six or seven Pictish people were carefully removed for analysis.
“Everywhere we’ve looked we’ve found bones,” said Graeme Wilson, from EASE Archaeology, the company leading the excavation.
“We’ve only scratched the surface so far, but it looks as if the entire mound covering the house is full of bones – between 50 and 100 individuals could well be buried here.”
The team working at the site – the Knowe of Skea – believe that a house was first built on the remote headland around 2,000 years ago.
The evidence suggests it was abandoned at some stage, then taken over again in Pictish times, in the seventh or eighth century AD, when the island was still a pagan community.
“It’s a very important site, but it’s also very baffling,” said Mr Wilson. “It’s about the best preserved Iron Age site I’ve seen in Scotland. It’s obviously a house of some kind and yet it has burials surrounding it. We just can’t make sense of what was happening here – it’s very confusing.”
The headland is in an isolated corner of the island, battered by Atlantic storms in winter.
It would have been an inhospitable place for living people, leading the archaeologists to believe it may have served a ritual purpose linked to the burial of an entire community.
“This is an exposed location and it would have been a very odd place to build a house,” said Mr Wilson. “We’ve found very few finds associated with a settlement – but everywhere we’ve looked we’ve found skeletons.”
The bones are from people of all ages and both sexes. Some of the bodies were laid out straight, some were crouched and lying on their side and one was on its back.
“This was a pre-Christian pagan burial site and we need to come back for another two summers if we are to get a better understanding of what happened here,” he added.
“This is a very rare opportunity to excavate a prehistoric cemetery and we have a wonderful opportunity to find out more about the people buried here – how they lived and died.
“It seems as if the entire mound is a cemetery – and that in the middle we have a house. One thing is for sure – this a very strange place.”
The dig was sponsored by Historic Scotland and Orkney Island
£7m boost for Hadrian's Wall
Hadrian's Wall is to receive £7m to boost tourism around the ancient ruins.
The cash is part of a plan to help the site's recovery from the foot-and-mouth crisis.
Visitor numbers to the rural Roman forts dropped by 38% during the epidemic, and 80% of farms within the World Heritage Site and its surroundings had their livestock destroyed.
Hadrian's Wall, which stretches from Newcastle to the Solway Firth in Cumbria, is widely recognised as the northernmost frontier of the Roman Empire.
It attracts an average of about 1.25m visitors a year, 500,000 of whom go to the 10 museums and forts which are open to the public.
Our responsibility is to ensure that the wall and its setting are protected, enjoyed and, where possible, enhanced
Dr Simon Thurley, chief executive of English Heritage, said: "It is not just a pile of stones but representative of one of the greatest civilisations the world has known.
"It is a World Heritage Site, which puts it on a par with the Pyramids, and one thing we have to ensure we do is preserve it.
"Hadrian's Wall isn't just a wall, it's a complex of forts, temples, turrets, museums, exhibitions and reconstructions that bring the frontier to life.
"The remains of the wall, lying in an outstanding landscape of national and international significance, are a world-famous visitor attraction.
"Our responsibility is to ensure that the wall and its setting are protected, enjoyed and, where possible, enhanced for future generations."
Hadrian's Wall was made a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1987.
It is the most complex and best preserved frontier of the Roman Empire, and stretches more than 70 miles across rugged countryside.
The main sites to benefit from the plan are Chesters Roman Fort, a preserved example of a cavalry fort, and Housesteads Roman Fort, which is accepted as the most complete Roman fort in Britain.
There will also be a new youth hostel and visitor centre within the Northumberland National Park at Once Brewed.
Repairs are also being carried out at Bewcastle, which was partially damaged in the 17th century after the Civil War and whose last recorded repairs were undertaken in the 15th Century by Richard, Duke of York, later Richard III.
Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell said: "Hadrian's Wall is one of the country's most famous landmarks...
"It is a tangible reminder of the significant impact which Roman occupation had on this country."
English Heritage worked with 50 organisations over two years to finalise the plan, and also conducted a four-month public consultation.
Tuesday, 24 September, 2002, 21:16 GMT 22:16 UK
Moor dig finds Roman iron factory
A huge Roman iron factory has been unearthed at a remote spot on the southern edge of Exmoor.
Scientists believe the site near Brayford would have supplied markets right across the Roman Empire.
Archaeologists have found furnaces and equipment buried which would have been used to smelt hundreds of tonnes of iron nearly 2,000 years ago.
Preparations are being made to carry out further excavations.
Was it being operated by the Roman imperial army or being run by a local entrepreneur?
A team of 20 students and staff from the University of Exeter's archaeology department, plus local volunteers, have been carrying out the dig.
The team has dug a trench over 10 feet (3 metres) deep across a platform and through a heap of discarded iron slag.
The trench has revealed the scale of iron production on the site.
Pottery fragments found within the trench have also indicated that much of the activity at the site took place during the second and third centuries AD.
Excavation director Dr Gill Juleff said: "One of the questions the team will be addressing is if the Roman army were overseeing and directing iron production.
"Was it being operated by the Roman imperial army or being run by a local entrepreneur, supplying iron to markets throughout the Roman Empire?
"Certainly the amount of metal produced here was far greater than would have been needed locally."
The four-year project is being funded by English Heritage and run by the Exmoor National Park Authority, the University of Exeter and the National Trust.
Story Filed: Thursday, September 26, 2002 8:32 AM EST
Ancient City Discovered in China
Sep 26, 2002 (Xinhua via COMTEX)
The Turkish-speaking Xiongnu tribesmen founded their first steppe empire in the 3rd century B.C. By the time the Qin Dynasty conquered the other six states and began its reign over a unified China in 221 B.C., the nomadic ethnic Xiongnu had grown into a powerful invading force in the north and started expanding both east and west.
The Xiongnu threat was a constant problem for the Han rulers. Qin Shihuang, the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty, sent a 300,000- strong army headed by General Meng Tian to drive the Xiongnu northward for 350 km and built the Great Wall to guard against its invasion.
Tongwancheng used to be a prosperous city on the upper reaches of the Wuding River, a major tributary of the Yellow River. It remained the political, economic and military center of the southern part of the Ordos Plateau for over five centuries. As a result of the drying up of the river, it then gradually became buried by moving sand and totally disappeared into the desert for more than 1,000 years, said Xing Fulai, a research fellow at the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology.
The discovery of the city gives vital information to the study of Xiongnu tribesmen, who have remained a mystery to Chinese and foreign archaeologists because of a lack of adequate material and evidence on this ethnic tribe, Xing said.
He said because of their cultural significance, the ruins of this ancient city will be considered for the world heritage status by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Copyright 2002 XINHUA NEWS AGENCY.
Ancient skeletons found in dig
September 25, 2002 12:18
ARCHAEOLOGISTS have unearthed around 30 skeletons thought to date back to the 13th century in a dig in an Ipswich town centre building site.
The dig is taking place in Wolsey Street in what is thought to have been an old cemetery.
A team of eight archaeologists are currently clearing the site in preparation for a new block of flats to be built there.
A number of graves have been uncovered, with some graves containing up to four bodies.
The site is thought to have been part of an old friary in Ipswich.
The bones found at the site are being collected and sent away for examination to try and establish details about the bodies.
The team, who have been working on the site for over two weeks, are due to continue their work until the end of next week.
The excavation work comes only weeks after builders digging foundation trenches for new homes in Murrills Road, Warren Heath, found four bones. Archaeologists believed the site could date back nine centuries and could contain hundreds of skeletons.
Along with sites like Sutton Hoo, and Suffolk's long links with historical invaders, Suffolk has proved to be one of the hotbeds for archaeological finds.
For more on the Wolsey Street find see tomorrow's Evening Star.
Wed 25 Sep 2002
Skeletons dug up in kitchen at Holyrood
By MICHAEL HOWIE and JANE HAMILTON
THE skeletons of eight people have been discovered under the Queen’s kitchen in The Palace of Holyroodhouse.
The origin of the remains puzzle experts, although it is believed they were probably townsfolk who lived near a monastery which once stood on the site of the palace.
Police were alerted on Monday after gas workers laying new mains under the kitchen found the skeletons.
Archaeologists working on the site believe the four adults, three children and a baby were probably buried in medieval times.
They say they do not want to disturb the bodies further and are content to leave their precise histories a mystery.
Royal apartments were thought to have once stood on the site before the palace was established by King James IV in the late 15th century, leading experts to consider the theory that the bones could have belonged to royalty.
But they have concluded the presence of so many bodies close to the Abbey Church, the remains of which still stand to the west of the palace, means they were more likely Canongate townsfolk.
Detective Chief Inspector Ronnie Macintosh, based at St Leonards, said Historic Scotland called police in yesterday as a matter of routine, but it quickly became clear it was not a police matter after archaeologists confirmed the remains dated back to before the 17th century, when the abbey was replaced by the main palace.
In recent years other bones have been found in the grounds of the palace, leading archaeologists to believe that a burial site existed there.
But, unlike previous discoveries, the most recent find is under the palace itself.
Gordon Ewart, the man overseeing the dig, said: "We simply don’t know who they are, although they are most likely to be local townsfolk."
He added: "It is thought the north range of the palace is the site where earlier royal accommodation might have been, which makes it interesting.
"I don’t think we have got that many candidates for royal burials in that area. It is more likely to be part of a bigger secular burial ground."
The theory the skeletons could be linked to royalty was supported by the fact that kings and queens regularly stayed on the grounds, even before it became a palace.
"Holyrood became an occasional residence for the Royal House. Edinburgh Castle was a windy and cold place, while Holyrood was nicer and you could go hunting in the park," Mr Ewart said.
However, the remains were discovered close to the west of an old palace boundary wall, the remains of which were discovered during the gas work, suggesting the bodies were given an outdoor, and therefore common, burial.
Oddly, one of the bodies was laid facing west, while the rest face eastwards, as religious practice dictated.
But despite the somewhat mysterious discovery, and the many questions which remain to be answered, Mr Ewart said they will not disturb the graves any further.