Dig low sweet chariot



SHOCKED workmen digging up a field for a new motorway found a driver already there — a 2,500-year-old skeleton sitting in his CHARIOT.

The ancient commuter had been stuck there since around 500BC, when he was buried with full honours.


Ecstatic archaeologists raced to the site and identified him as an Iron Age noble. Yesterday the discovery — on the route of a £520million extension to the A1(M) — was hailed as “rare and nationally significant”.


Amazingly the tribal bigwig had been laid to rest just as he would have looked heading to battle. The wheels of the chariot were upright. The wooden axle had rotted to little more than a stain in the earth.


But the iron “tyres” were still in good nick. And just like motorists today who shop for the cheapest replacements, his were mismatched.


The chieftain, thought to be a member of the Parisii tribe who settled here from France, was aged about 40 when he met his death.


Mourners held a huge wake as he was laid to rest at Ferrybridge, West Yorks. The bones of 250 cattle slaughtered for the feast were discovered alongside the grave — an oval pit hewn from limestone.


Nineteen similar burials have been discovered in Britain — but the latest is the first to feature an intact chariot. The others were dismantled and their wheels laid flat.


The find also indicates that the Parisii were more widespread than first thought.

A spokesman for the group Oxford Archaeology, who are carrying out the excavation, said: “This latest discovery will make a significant addition to our understanding of the burial rites of the period.”





A rare and nationally significant Iron Age chariot burial site has been found in West Yorkshire during excavations for the route of the new A1 motorway, one of Britain's largest road improvement schemes.


The burial site, the first of its type to be found in West Yorkshire, is thought to be linked to the Iron Age 'Arras' culture, named after the original site of Arras in East Yorkshire.


Archaeologists, who have been excavating the burial say the West Yorkshire site is particularly significant because the chariot appears to have been placed in the burial pit intact. Most other British examples were dismantled prior to burial.

The remains of the chariot comprise two wheels whose iron tyres survive in relatively good condition. A wooden axle, which would have run between the two wheels, along with the pole and the yoke of the vehicle, have also been identified as soil stains where the wood has completely decayed. A number of well preserved bronze and iron objects have been identified, some of which are likely to be items of horse harness. The skeleton of an adult male around 40 years of age was found with the chariot. The skeleton also survives as a soil stain.

The ditch of a small square enclosure around the burial site contained the bones of around 250 cattle - a unique quantity for an Iron Age burial in Yorkshire, and perhaps for the country as a whole.


The cattle are thought to have come from a number of herds from a wide surrounding area, suggesting the man buried with the chariot had considerable influence in life. It is believed the bones were the remains of a huge feast which took place close to the monument not long after the original burial.


The remains came to light during initial work on the route of the new A1 motorway, which is being upgraded to dual three lanes between Darrington and Dishforth as part of a £520 million scheme to upgrade the route in the North of England. This site and others along the route have been excavated by teams from Oxford Archaeology and RPS consultants.


Excavator Angela Boyle, who is supervising the dig for Oxford Archaeology, said:

"From the evidence we have uncovered this is one of the most significant Iron Age burials ever found in the UK. It is extremely unusual to have found an intact chariot burial of this type and its westerly location will shed new light on the influence of tribes which we thought were only located in East Yorkshire. In addition, the evidence for the wooden parts of the chariot are unparalleled.

"The finds have now been removed and are being conserved for future study and deposited with the local museum service."


Alec Briggs, Highways Agency Project Leader for the A1 Darrington to Dishforth DBFO scheme said:

"This is a unique find and it was essential that the team from Oxford Archaeology were given the necessary time to reveal, record and remove it. The Project to upgrade the A1 is one of the largest road improvement schemes currently under way in the country.

"At all stages of the scheme, the Highways Agency has taken a responsible approach to ensure that sufficient time and resource was allocated to investigate any historic features which are discovered during the preparatory works. The quality of the remains found during this dig underline how important this approach is."


Only 19 other chariot burials were known in the UK prior to this discovery. All are in East Yorkshire around Wetwang, the notable exceptions being a recently excavated example from Newbridge near Edinburgh plus this latest discovery.

A radiocarbon date of 520-370 BC has been obtained from the intact Newbridge cart and it is believed that the West Yorkshire example will prove to be of similar date. Intact vehicle burial was more usual on the Continent during the 5th and 4th centuries BC and it is likely that the closest parallels will be found there.

The burial pit would originally have been covered by a low earth mound derived from the surrounding square-ditched enclosure. As the ditch had been dug into limestone, the mound would have been clearly visible from a distance.


Notes to Editors:

1.         The Highways Agency is an Executive Agency of the Department for Transport, which manages, maintains and improves the network of trunk roads and motorways in England on behalf of the Secretary of State. It works closely with other transport operators and with local authorities to integrate the trunk road network with the rest of England's roads and other forms of transport.

2.         The Highways Agency aims to reduce delays and accidents during wintry weather conditions by pre-treating motorways and trunk roads to prevent the formation of ice and snow, and by clearing snow from carriageways and hard shoulders as soon as conditions permit. Local authorities are responsible for this work on the local road network.

3.         Advice on driving safely in winter weather is available in a leaflet called 'Winter Driving', which is published by the Highways Agency and the Department for Transport's Think! Road safety campaign. The advice can also be found on the Highways Agency's website. Copies of the leaflet can be ordered by phoning 0870 1226 236 or email: highwaysagency@twoten.press.net, quoting reference number 'T/INF/192'

4.         Information about roadworks throughout the region is available from the Highways Agency information line on 08457 50 40 30 or online in the Current Roadworks Information Bulletin.

5.         In February 2003, the Highways Agency awarded the Darrington-Dishforth Design Build Finance and Operate (DBFO) contract to Road Management Services (Darrington) Ltd. RMS is wholly owned by AMEC, Alfred McAlpine, Dragados and Kellogg Brown and Root (the Road Management Group). RMS will raise the necessary finance for the project, design and construct the highway improvements and operate and maintain these and other sections of the A1(M) and A1(T) for 33 years after the completion of construction.



Ancient chariot found

An archaeologist helps excavate an Iron Age chariot in northern England that was found by workers building a highway. After 2,500 years, the chariot's two wheels remain intact, complete with their iron tires. Inside lie the remains of a man in his 30s, believed to be a tribal chief. Oxford Archaeology, an independent archaeological agency investigating the find at Ferrybridge in West Yorkshire, said it was the first chariot burial to be found so far inland. Surrounding the grave are the remains of at least 250 cattle, which may have been slaughtered for a funeral feast. Oxford Archaeology said from 500 B.C. to 400 B.C., chariot burial was practiced by a tribe known as the Arras, who came to England from France.  



Motorway Diggers Unearth Ancient Chariot

By Alistair Keely, PA News


Archaeologists have discovered a “rare and nationally significant” Iron Age chariot buried along the route of a new motorway, it emerged today.


The remains, which have remained buried for 2,500 years, were unearthed by motorway builders constructing the new A1M at Ferrybridge, West Yorkshire.


The find is a complete chariot containing the skeleton of a tribal leader, with the remains of at least 250 cattle, probably slaughtered for the funeral feast.


It is the first burial of its type to be found in West Yorkshire.


The excavation is being carried out by Oxford Archaeology, which has described the find as rare and nationally significant on its website.


It said: “Insights gained from this latest discovery will make a significant addition to our understanding of the burial rites of the period, and help us to understand a wide range of other elements of cultural exchange, including aspects of social reproduction and cross-Channel contact and communication.”


Chariot burial at the time – between 500BC and 400BC – was reserved for high-ranking figures from a tribe in France.


They had been thought to have limited their settlement to the east coast, and Ferrybridge is 40 miles beyond previously known boundaries.


It is thought that a small number of elite individuals moved from the continent to the Yorkshire region.


The chariot had been placed in a large oval pit in the centre of a square ditched enclosure. The burial pit would originally have been covered by a low earth mound.


The remains of the chariot itself comprise two wheels whose iron tyres survive in good condition.


A wooden axle, which would have run between the two wheels, has been identified as a soil stain where the wood has completely decayed.


A number of well preserved bronze and iron objects have been identified, some of which are likely to be horse harness items



Dig unearths Bronze Age sun disc

The sun disc is the first recorded example of its kind in Wales


An ancient gold disc which was used as an item of adornment at a burial 4,000 years ago has been discovered in Ceredigion.


Experts say the priceless sun disc is the first one of its kind to be found in Wales and only the third known piece of gold from the Bronze Age uncovered here.


The disc found by chance by an archaeologist digging at Copa Hill at the Cwmystwyth Mines - 10 miles outside Aberystwyth - was the subject of a treasure trove inquest heard by Ceredigion coroner on Tuesday.


The find - roughly the size of a milk bottle top - is said to be as significant as the famous Mold cape - thought to have been worn as a garment for religious ceremonies by a great authority - the Bronze Age disc now housed at the British Museum.


Similar items have been found in Ireland and Europe, but never before in Wales.


If it is declared treasure trove, the National Museum of Wales will try to buy the sun disc for its collection, once its true value has been independently assessed.

Adam Gwilt, the museum's curator, said: "Gold sun-discs are one of the very earliest kinds of metal objects ever to have been made and used in Britain and Ireland."


"The first of its kind from Wales, this fragile sheet disc seems to have been used as an item of adornment on a few special occasions, here upon the death of an individual."


But it was found in a burial site so ancient that the occupant of the grave will probably never be known


"It is tempting to see this person as connected in some way with the very early mining on Copa Hill over 4,000 years ago, perhaps one of a group of travelling prospectors or a person of some standing who lived nearby," said Mr Gwilt.


The sun disc was found by Simon Timberlake, a freelance archaeologist, when he was digging on the site of a Roman and medieval lead smelter in October 2002.


"We were very surprised to find this disc here with an early burial," said Mr Timberlake, a member of the Early Mines Research Group.


"This discovery was made quite by chance while we were investigating a Roman and medieval lead smelting site about 500 metre away from the early mine (at Copa Hill)."


The coroner adjourned the inquest until 17 December because members of the Cardiff museum had not brought the disc itself to the hearing - merely a photograph of it.


The coroner said he needed to see the disc itself.




09:30 - 24 November 2003


A Second prehistoric log boat has been unearthed in a Derbyshire quarry less than a mile from where a similar find was discovered five years ago.


Archaeologists found the 3,500-year-old log boat, which dates back to the Bronze Age, at Shardlow Quarry, Shardlow, in an area that used to be river channel into the Trent.


The boat lay 1km away from the area where a similar boat, now on display at Derby Museum and Art Gallery, the Strand, was found in 1998.


University of Birmingham archaeologists made the discovery in September while carrying out a study on behalf of the quarry's owners, Hanson Aggregates, but news of the find has just been revealed.


The company wanted to build an access road on the land as part of the quarry's extension, but the find now means the road will be constructed elsewhere.


Archaeologists believe the nine-metre boat sank and had been covered by silt - preserving the wooden structure, carved from a single oak log.


Dr David Barrett, Derbyshire County Council archaeologist, said: "The log boat is quite well preserved and is similar to others found in the country.


"We do not know how it sank and we believe it dates back to between 1500BC and 1000BC, but that is yet to be confirmed.


"This discovery shows the flood plain by the Trent was quite well used by people in that period."


The council and English Heritage have now decided to re-bury the latest find to ensure it is preserved. Its condition will be monitored and the boat will be excavated if it deteriorates.


The boat on display at Derby Museum was excavated at a cost of almost £119,000, funded by the Hanson Environment Fund and the museum.


Dr Barrett added: "The latest boat is underwater to ensure it is preserved because it will dry out if it is exposed to the air.


"We will be recording details about the boat and taking photographs of it before we re-bury it in silt.


"It has survived being buried for 3,500 years, so I'm sure it will be there for generations to come."


An English Heritage spokesman said: "We are working with Derbyshire County Council about the future preservation of the latest find."


Log boats were used between the mesolithic and medieval periods and carried cargo and people.



Stone warrior delights experts

By Paul Rincon

BBC News Online science staff


Archaeologists are delighted by a 2,500-year-old stone statue that offers a rare insight into life in western Europe before the Roman conquest.


The stone torso, unearthed at Lattes in southern France, is one of just a few detailed figurines considered to have been made by the ancient Celts.


The statue of a male warrior wears a style of armour worn in Spain and Italy and was life-size when it was complete.


The "Warrior of Lattes" is described in the scholarly journal Antiquity.


It is around 79 centimetres in height and was discovered in the wall of an Iron Age house where it had been used as a building stone.


Some time after it was created, the statue was mutilated to be re-used in a door opening. The head was removed, the left leg and arm hacked off and the crest of the warrior's helmet smoothed away.


The statue's pose is also unusual for Iron Age sculptures from southern France. Most are shown cross-legged, but the Lattes sculpture was in a crouched position - a pose reminiscent of some Greek sculptures.


Experts say the statue provides a unique insight into early interactions between the inhabitants of western Europe and the classical world prior to the Roman conquest.


The style of armour worn by the warrior is similar to that found in graves and on statues associated with the Iberian culture of ancient Spain. However, the Iberians may have adopted this style of armour through links with Italy.


This is unusual because the people of the eastern Languedoc region of France, where the statue was found, are generally thought to have had a Celtic culture, different from people from the Iberian zone to the west.


Michael Dietler, of the University of Chicago, US, and Michel Py of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Lattes, France, propose that a cultural elite in the eastern Languedoc may have adopted exotic customs, while the majority of the people held on to their old ways.


Professor Greg Woolf, a historian at the University of St Andrews in the UK, told BBC News Online: "I can't think of anything to compare it to. But this could be the result of a broad range of interaction [in the Mediterranean]."


He added that the statue was not necessarily a depiction of someone indigenous to that region.


"Are they sure it's not a god? Not all pictures are self-portraits."



Neanderthal 'face' found in Loire

By Jonathan Amos

BBC News Online science staff


A flint object with a striking likeness to a human face may be one of the best examples of art by Neanderthal man ever found, the journal Antiquity reports.

The "mask", which is dated to be about 35,000 years old, was recovered on the banks of the Loire at La Roche-Cotard.


It is about 10 cm tall and wide and has a bone splinter rammed through a hole, making the rock look as if it has eyes.


Commentators say the object shows the Neanderthals were more sophisticated than their caveman image suggests.


"It should finally nail the lie that Neanderthals had no art," Paul Bahn, the British rock art expert, told BBC News Online. "It is an enormously important object."


It is described in Antiquity by Jean-Claude Marquet, curator of the Museum of Prehistory of Grand-Pressigny, and Michel Lorblanchet, a director of research in the French National Centre of Scientific Research, Roc des Monges, at Saint-Sozy.


The mask was found during an excavation of old river sediments in front of a Palaeolithic cave encampment. Tool and bone discoveries suggest Neanderthals used the location to light a fire and prepare food.


Triangular in shape, the object shows clear evidence, the researchers say, of having been worked - flakes have been chipped off the block to make it more face-like.


The 7.5-cm-long bone has also been wedged in position purposely by flint fragments.


Marquet and Lorblanchet tell Antiquity: "We think that this is indeed a 'proto-figurine'; that is, a small flint block whose natural shape evokes a crudely triangular human face - or a mask if one notes that it is primarily the upper part of the face that is concerned, like a carnival mask, or, rather less clearly, an animal face, perhaps a feline?


"It was not only picked up and brought into the habitation, but was also modified in various ways to perfect its resemblance to a face: the forehead, the eyes underlined by the bone splinter, the nose stopped at its extremity by an intentional flake-removal, and the rectified cheeks."


The standard view of Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) is that they lacked the thought processes capable of producing art - certainly to any real level of sophistication produced by modern humans (Homo sapiens).


Clive Gamble, an expert from Southampton University on the early occupation of Europe by human species, says science has been reluctant to see Neanderthals as great conceptual thinkers.


"The great problem with all the Neanderthal art is that they are one-offs. What is different about the art of modern humans when it appears 35,000 years ago is that there is repetition - animal sculptures and paintings done over and over again in a recognisable style.


"With Neanderthals, there may have been the odd da Vinci-like genius, but their talents died with them."


Bahn, on the other hand, believes the Roche-Cotard mask should set the record straight on Neanderthals' artistic capabilities.


"There are now a great many Neanderthal art objects. They have been found for decades and always they are dismissed as the exception that proves the rule."

"This is not just a fortuitous bone shoved into a hole in a rock. Whether the Neanderthal artist saw a rock that looked like a face and modified it, or conceived the thing from the start - who knows? Either way it is pretty sophisticated."


Perhaps the oldest example of modern human art generally accepted by the scientific community would be the 77,000-year-old engraved ochre pieces found in the Blombos Cave in South Africa.


There are claims for even older items, dating back 200,000 years or more, that comprise mainly rock objects apparently sculpted to look like the human form.

But many sceptical researchers believe these objects are merely accidents of geological processes, and doubt they have been intentionally modified in any way by a human hand.


However, earlier this year, scientists announced the discovery of the oldest Homo sapiens skulls. These 160,000-year-old fossil bones had been polished after death.


This mortuary practice suggests at least these early people were abstract thinkers, capable of analysing ideas of life and death.



SAD, but true: introducing the Stone Age Diet

Scientists say that for good health we should adopt the eating habits of cavemen. It could become a mammoth craze...

By Roger Dobson

30 November 2003


Forget Atkins, abandon the other modern fads, and get stuck into the Stone Age diet.


It may be more than a million years old, but a regime of organic meat, or a leg of game bird, accompanied by fresh leaves, nuts and fruit, washed down with water, is just about perfect for the human body.


Researchers in evolutionary medicine have come up with the healthiest diet for humans, and while it does include lean meat and fresh fish, there is no milk, cheese, or any other dairy products, and the fat count is low.


Scientists from Liverpool and other universities in Europe and America have investigated the idea that the Palaeolithic diet eaten by pre- agricultural humans is best because the human body evolved around it. They say today's chronic health problems could well be the result of dietary changes, and that a modern diet may do as much harm to man as putting diesel in a petrol engine.


Archaeological evidence suggests that Stone Age man did not suffer from heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis and other chronic diseases. He was not obese, and had no allergies or high blood pressure. As the researchers say in the Journal of Nutritional & Environmental Medicine: "Available evidence suggests that obesity, hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular disease are rare or unknown in populations preserving traditional subsistence and lifestyle patterns."


The scientists reviewed dietary data from archaeological sites and from bone examinations, and also looked at the health and diet of remote peoples who still are hunter-gatherers. They found that meat, fish, shellfish, leafy vegetables, fruit, nuts, insects and larvae were the main ingredients of the human diet during the Palaeolithic period. In the later period roots were added to the diet.


A typical diet would have included available game meat like deer with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and other beneficial compounds found at greater levels in muscle meats compared to modern grain-fed beef. There would have been plenty of uncooked fruit, vegetables and nuts rich in minerals, vitamins and soluble fibre. Calcium content is high in the diet, largely because of the high calcium density in vegetables.


The researchers say that a Palaeolithic diet may prevent stroke because of its low salt content, and large amounts of vegetables and fruit, and because of its generous content of protein, folic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, potassium, magnesium and vitamin C. Total fat intake was low, and fibre intake was high.

"Lean meat, fish, leafy and green vegetables and fruits are advisable as health-promoting because of our long pre-agricultural ancestral experience during which such foods fuelled human evolution."



New secrets revealed in ancient stone circle

Huge stones thought to have been destroyed seven centuries ago have been found within Avebury stone circle. LEWIS COWEN meets the archaeologist whose 21st century equipment made the exciting discovery


THE history of Avebury stone circle over the past 700 years will have to be rewritten after the amazing discovery of 17 huge Sarsen stones buried within the circle.


National Trust archaeologists, using geophysical investigation equipment have found the stones within the existing circle, but buried one or two feet below ground.


It had been thought that the stones had been destroyed and used for building material in the 17th and 18th centuries.


Martin Papworth, the National Trust's archaeologist for Wessex, was brought in by the local custodians of the World Heritage Site two weeks ago to undertake the investigation using the "geofizz" machine, which maps out the underground contours of land using electrical impulses which are then mapped by computer.

He told the Gazette: "I can't understand why nobody thought of doing this years ago. On our first day we found stones that no one knew were there.


"This is a truly exciting find and completes the circle of Avebury. These stones were erected over 4,500 years ago and the world of archaeology suspected that most of these stones had been demolished and lost forever.


"We know that many of the Avebury stones still standing up to 300 years ago were broken up for building stone in the 17th and 18th centuries."


Many of the stones were pushed over and buried by local people during the 13th and 14th centuries. Mr Papworth said: "We don't realise now how religious these people were. They had suffered the Black Death and were looking around for a cause for their affliction. Stones erected by Pagans seemed as likely a cause as any, so they removed them from the sight of man."


In the 1930s, Dundee marmalade heir, Alexander Keiller, excavated and re-erected many of the stones that can be seen today, standing in the west half of the circle. However, the outbreak of the Second World War brought an end to his project.


Now, although the National Trust has no plans to raise the stones that have been so well protected by the earth for the last seven centuries, it is considering using ground-probing radar to create three-dimensional images of each of the buried stones and raise them as computer images.


Mr Papworth said: "The stones are safest where they are at the moment, but we have the technology to be able to show everyone their shape, size and how they would have looked when they were first erected."


The geophysical survey has been undertaken using a "geofizz" machine which measures the density of the earth at any particular point. A reading of more than 100 ohms identifies rock under the ground and with the use of pegs it is possible to mark the outline of the stone.


The measurements from the "geophizz" machine are automatically registered on computer and the area underneath the feet of the tourists is mapped. Mr Papworth and his team still have two or three days' more work on the site and he is confident that the 17 stones found so far, 13 of them in an arc in the south-east sector of the site, are not the end of their discoveries.


He said: "We are concentrating on an area where we think we might have found a circle of post holes, indicating that some other kind of structure lay there.

"That is the most exciting thing about investigating an area like this ¬ you never know what you may come across next."


Avebury is considered once of the most important megalithic monuments in Europe. It was built from 2800BC onwards and includes the largest stone circle in the world.



Discovery of buried megaliths completes Avebury circle

By Amanda Brown

03 December 2003


Archaeologists have discovered an arc of buried megaliths that once formed part of the great stone circle at Avebury in Wiltshire.


Most of the standing megaliths visible today at Avebury formed the western half of the circle. The famous map of the site drawn in the 1720s by William Stukeley, the first secretary of the Society of Antiquaries of London, showed that many of the stones in the south-east and north-east quadrants of the circle were missing.

Now, the first geophysics survey of these areas of Avebury, carried out by the National Trust, has revealed that at least 15 of the megaliths lie buried in the circle itself. The massive stones show up very clearly as computer images and the National Trust has been able to identify their sizes, where they lie and how they fit in the circle.


The National Trust said the existence of the stones has puzzled scientists for the past 300 years. Martin Papworth, the National Trust's archaeologist for Wessex said: "This is a truly exciting find and completes the circle of Avebury. These stones were erected over 4,500 years ago and the world of archaeology suspected that most of these stones had been demolished and lost for ever.

"We know that many of the Avebury stones still standing up to 300 years ago were broken up for building stone in the 17th and 18th century. Until now, no one had realised that some of these stones had survived intact and that they actually lay buried in the earth, next to their original locations.


"It is quite likely that they have lain there since the 13th and 14th centuries, pushed over and buried there by the local population who may have seen these pagan symbols as a threat to the established church."


In the 1930s, Alexander Keiller excavated and re-erected many of the stones that can be seen today, standing in the western half of the circle. The outbreak of the Second World War brought an end to his project.


The National Trust has said it has no plans to raise the stones that have been so well protected by the earth for about 700 years. But it is considering using ground-probing radar to create three-dimensional images of each of the buried stones and raise them as computer images.



Canadian-backed dam in Belize faces legal challenge

Canadian Press


London — The British Privy Council begins a hearing Wednesday that will determine the future of a Canadian-backed dam in Belize, which its opponents say will damage the country's sensitive environment and destroy Mayan archeological sites.


The Chalillo dam project on the Macal River has been the subject of a long legal battle, pitting a growing demand for electricity in Belize against the preservation of the Central American country's fragile natural resources.


The 49-metre high dam to be built by the Belize Electric Co. Ltd. — or BECOL, a subsidiary of Newfoundland-based Fortis Inc. — would flood about 810 hectares of land in the Macal River valley, says a coalition of nine environmental groups fighting its construction.


A large part of the valley consists of ancient rainforest that has been left untouched by humans since the age of the Mayas, about 500 years ago.

“This dam heralds a catastrophic dawn for one of Belize's most precious natural treasures,” said Ute Collier of World Wildlife Fund International, one of groups behind the Belize Association of Non Governmental Organizations (BACONGO).

“An unblemished wilderness teeming with exotic flora and fauna risks being razed to the ground and flushed from the face of the earth.”


The group will argue that an environmental assessment and geological study done on the dam site by a British-based consulting company are deeply flawed.

It claims, among other things, that a geological survey has misidentified rock in the area as granite, raising questions about the safety and the cost of building the $30-million (U.S.) dam.


A judicial panel of the Privy Council — effectively Belize's supreme court under its membership in the Commonwealth — is being asked by the environmental coalition to stop construction until new environmental and geological surveys of the project are done. The council has scheduled two days to hear the case.

A spokesman for Fortis could not be reached for comment on Tuesday, but in August the company defended the dam after the Privy Council rejected an application for an interim injunction to stop construction until it rules on the project.


“We view the court's ruling as another vindication for BECOL for the misleading allegations made by BACONGO,” said Lynn Young, a director of the electricity company.


Fortis said the environmental coalition has lost seven legal rulings in its battle against the dam.


Sharon Matola, director of the Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Centre, said the hydroelectric project would have a modest impact on the country's hydro supply but woud place at risk rare species, including jaguars, tapirs and the last 200 scarlet macaws in the country.


“What we're selling off in order to do that (generate electricity) is one of the most pristine areas left in northern-central America, an area where you find species that have been driven to extinction in other parts of central America” Ms. Matola said.


“These species play a direct role to our socio-economics, I mean you are looking at a country that is growing in its stature for its nature-based tourism industry. This dam would do serious harm to that.”



Remembering the Great Storm of 1703


Weather experts from across the country are gathering to mark 300 years since one of the most ferocious storms ever to hit the UK.


The Great Storm of 1703 left a trail of devastation greater than that caused by the "hurricane" of 1987 or the floods of 1953.


Thousands of lives were lost including 8,000-10,000 at sea as gales lashed the east coast of Britain.


To mark the tercentenary, the Royal Meteorological Society, East Kent Maritime Trust and the National Maritime Museum teamed up to host a conference in Sandwich, Kent.


Guest speakers, including BBC broadcaster Adam Hart-Davis, were discussing various aspects of the storm, including its legacy to UK weather.


The conference also included a visit to Ramsgate Maritime Museum's Great Storm collections.


Elementary weather-forecasting facilities meant no-one was prepared for the Great Storm which struck on the night of Friday, November 26 1703.


By Saturday morning, winds of more than 100mph had decimated villages across East Anglia and Kent and heavy rain had caused flooding in many parts of the country.


Cambridge was one of the worst-hit places, and King's College chapel was badly damaged.


Gale-force winds wreaked havoc for ships in the North Sea causing many to sink, while others reappeared on the coast of Denmark and Norway.


Story filed: 09:12 Saturday 29th November 2003