The battle for the Rosetta Stone

Things are looking decidedly rocky at the British Museum - Egypt's leading archaeologist has demanded the return of the Rosetta Stone. But the museum argues that the removal of the four-foot slab that unlocked the mysteries of the pharaohs would be disastrous

By Paul Vallely

24 July 2003


Just before Zahi Hawass was due to begin his lecture at a British Museum colloquium on Ancient Egypt last week, the lights blew. The symbolism was not lost on many in the audience. For the new director of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Egypt is a man much given to rupturing what has come to be regarded as the normal order of things. While he was in London for the conference, he dropped a diplomatic bombshell. At a private dinner with the British Museum's director, Dr Neil MacGregor, he calmly announced that Egypt would be applying for the return of the Rosetta Stone.

No wonder the lights fused. The 2,000-year-old relic is perhaps the Bloomsbury museum's most important exhibit. It draws millions of people each year, and is seen by more of the museum's 5.5 million annual visitors than any other single object.

Until recently, Dr Hawass was the director of the Pyramids at Giza, but last year he took over as secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities. He has been throwing his considerable weight about ever since.

In recent weeks he has fallen out with one of the world's foremost Egyptologists, the director of the Egyptian Museum in Berlin, Dieter Wildung. Wildung allowed two Hungarian artists temporarily to fuse a 3,300-year-old bust of Queen Nefertiti to a modern bronze statue - based on an actual statue from the same period in the Berlin museum - to make a video installation for the Venice Biennale. It was attached to the statue for "only a few hours", but it brought an outcry from Cairo that Wildung had "defamed Egypt's history". Wildung - and his archaeologist wife - have now been denied permission to excavate in Egypt in the future, and told that no Egyptian official will co-operate with them in any capacity.

That is not all. The British Egyptologist, Dr Joann Fletcher, a mummification specialist from the University of York, recently announced that she may have found the mummy of Nefertiti, the stepmother of the legendary boy king Tutankhamun who ruled the Nile kingdom in the 14th century BC - and whose tomb, when it was discovered in 1922, became Egyptology's most famous find, containing so many artefacts that it took almost 10 years to remove them from the site.

Hawass reacted furiously to Fletcher's announcement. The British academic had found, in a tomb of the right period, a mummy with a long neck similar to Nefertiti's, as well as other physical links, including the impression of a tight-fitting browband (as the queen once wore), a double-pierced ear lobe and shaved head.

"Fletcher is a beginner and obtained her PhD only a short time ago and cannot, with her limited experience, judge such a discovery," Hawass fulminated. Foreign excavation teams who made incorrect announcements, he warned, would find their work stopped. One well-known British archaeologist has already been banned, according to the Cairo paper Al-Ahram.

In a world of high-octane academic rivalry there are those who complain - anonymously for fear of retribution - that the new antiquities chief hates the idea of foreigners getting the glory. Certainly he has said publicly that from 2007 foreigners are to be banned from starting new work at the prime sites of Giza and Saqqara. New excavations will be exclusively by Egyptian teams. Foreign experts will only be allowed to restore existing monuments there.

There was something threatening about the tone the Egyptian antiquities chief struck at the British Museum last week. Britain should voluntarily return the Rosetta Stone, he said, "otherwise I will have to approach them using a different strategy. There are various stages to our negotiations. I don't want to fight anyone now, but if the British Museum doesn't act, we will have to employ a more aggressive approach with the Government. I don't care if people know my strategy; the artefacts stolen from Egypt must come back."

Given the precedent of the Elgin Marbles, you might think he has the chance of a snowball in the Sahara. The 2,500-year-old sculptures depicting religious and mythological scenes, which once adorned the Parthenon in Athens, were removed around 1804 and brought to London by the British diplomat Lord Elgin. Athens has called for their return since 1829 without success - and Neil MacGregor has recently said that they will never be returned to Greece, even on loan.

As the Egyptian Antiquities department at the British Museum is perhaps the biggest and most important outside Cairo - illustrating every aspect of ancient Egyptian culture from pre-dynastic times (c4000BC) to the Coptic (Christian) period (12th century) - it might be supposed that it was immune from pressure. But the wife of its keeper of Egyptian antiquities, Vivian Davies, is the archaeologist Renée Friedman, who is the director of the American expedition to Hierakonpolis, the site of Egypt's first capital, where she discovered a full blown writing system in the pre-dynastic necropolis dating from 3500BC. Already there have been mutterings that Davies and Friedman could find themselves in the same position as Wildung and his wife.

On Hawass's shopping list, as well as the stone, are the bust of Queen Nefertiti from the Berlin Museum, the statues of Hatshepsut in the Metropolitan Museum of New York, and even the obelisk in the Place de la Concorde, one of the most famous landmarks in Paris, which he wants to restore to the Luxor temple, where it was originally one of a pair. And that is just the big stuff. He also wants a 5ft red granite statue of Alexander the Great from Frankfurt museum, as well as 17 items from Norway and four from Japan.

Under international agreements brokered by Unesco, governments have the right to recover antiquities stolen after 1971, but Hawass is also after artefacts such as the Rosetta Stone, which has been in the British Museum since 1802. It is not hard to see why the stone is top of his list.

On the face of it, the stone is just a compact basalt slab, less than 4ft long, on which is carved a text written by a group of priests assembled at Memphis on the first anniversary of the coronation of Ptolemy V as king of all Egypt. It was an attempt to emphasise in the eyes of the Egyptian elite the legitimacy of the 13-year-old king, whose dynasty was Greek but which had ruled Egypt since the fragmentation of the empire of Alexander the Great. So it listed all the good things that the pharaoh had done for priests and people. The list was to prove the key that unlocked the door to the mysteries of Ancient Egypt.

The stone was found in 1799 by French soldiers digging the foundations of an addition to a fort near the town of Rashid (Rosetta in English) in the Nile delta during Napoleon's expedition to Egypt. The stone was ceded to Britain under the Treaty of Alexandria in 1801, and the next year it was moved to the British Museum. There it puzzled cryptologists for decades.

What was unique about the stone was that it said the same thing in three languages. The first was in the pictograms known as hieroglyphs - the script of official and religious texts the Egyptians used for nearly 3,500 years. It was also in demotic - the everyday language of the time. Both of these no one could read. But it was also in the Greek used by the country's Ptolemaic rulers. Until the discovery of the stone, all attempts to uncover the secrets held by the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics found on walls inside tombs had failed. The pictures were believed - wrongly - to be symbolic, each representing an object or idea.

But then Thomas Young, an English physicist who studied the stone, showed that the seven elongated ovals, or cartouches, in the hieroglyphic section spelled something phonetically - the royal name of Ptolemy. This suggested that hieroglyphs did not have only symbolic meaning, but that they also served as a "spoken language".

Gradually others built on his work. Finally, in 1822, the French scholar J-F Champollion worked out, cross-referring to modern Coptic, what the seven demotic equivalents were. Then he began tracing these demotic signs back to hieroglyphic signs, enlarging Young's list of phonetic hieroglyphs until he had laid bare the foundations of the ancient language.

It was, as a previous director of the British Museum, Graham Green, put it with forgiveable hyperbole, "the most important event of the second millennium". Which explains why Zahi Hawass is anxious to have the stone in his collection in Cairo.

The arguments against returning it are the same as those for hanging on to the Elgin Marbles. They can - in the words of Neil MacGregor, at the time when he ended discussions with a British campaign group seeking their return to Greece - "do most good" in their current home, where they can be seen in a broader historical context. "The British Museum is one of the great cultural achievements of mankind: it is very important that there is a place where all the world can store its achievements. I personally don't see any difference between Greek visual culture and the visual culture of Italy and Holland, which is also spread around the world," MacGregor said.

The Rosetta Stone is the centrepiece of the British Museum's Egyptology collection. If it were to be moved to the Cairo Museum, which has less than half the British Museum's number of visitors, it would be seen by far fewer people. Which is why the British are taking the same line on the Rosetta Stone as on the Marbles. "What curator in the British Museum would actually want to see leave an object that is absolutely core to our function as an institution?" the museum's Egyptian curator, Vivian Davies, has said.

But they can expect Zahi Hawass to fight tough. Within weeks of taking up his new office he created a new Department of Foreign Archaeological Missions, which has sent ripples of concern moving through non-Egyptian archaeologists. They are now required to submit a plan defining the borders of the excavation area, which cannot be subsequently extended. They are allowed only one excavation per season. They must now submit archaeological reports in Arabic as well as their own language. In the prime areas of Giza and Saqqara, they have to wind up their work within four years.

"Our policy is not to decrease the number of foreign archaeological missions in Egypt, nor to make things more difficult for them," Hawass told Al-Ahram, "but to control the excavations and encourage documentation, publication, restoration and conservation."

But foreign archaeologists are anxious. "We thought he was one of us until he got this job," said one, "but he seems to have gone power-mad; either that or he is exacting revenge for what he sees as slights in the past." (Hawass has been criticised by Dieter Wildung and others for starring in TV documentaries that use Hollywood clips and computer graphics).

The Egyptian himself is rather more philosophical. "If this [control of foreign archaeologists] is not done now, 100 years hence most of our marvellous monuments will be beyond repair," he has said. But he is emotional, too. When statues discovered in his excavations were sent, temporarily, to an exhibition at the Louvre, he said: "I was very sad that day because they were taking my children away from me." And he has offered a mystical justification, too. "We [modern Egyptians] are the descendants of the pharaohs. If you look at the faces of the people of Upper Egypt, the relationship between modern and ancient Egypt is very clear."

His government - his special backer is the President's wife, Suzanne Mubarak - sees in his cultural nationalism a tool to appease the discontent of Islamic fundamentalists who argue that Egypt is too pro-Western. One prominent Egyptian politician denounced Berlin's Nefertiti experiment as "un-Islamic", despite the fact that the queen co-ruled with the pharaoh Akhenaton, who changed Egyptian society to worship one god, the sun god, some 2,000 years before the Prophet Mohammed was born.

"Zahi Hawass is doing his job quite aggressively," said one British archaeologist, with considerable understatement. "The fear is," said another Egyptologist, "that Zahi has really got it in for foreigners and that in five years there will be no foreign-run digs in Egypt. He has said that he thinks that only about 30 per cent of Egyptian monuments have been unearthed, and he wants to make sure that the other 70 per cent are found by Egyptians. Meantime, he wants to get back as much as he can from foreign museums."

As he left to return to Egypt, Dr Hawass offered a compromise - "a possible three-month loan of the stone". Officials at the British Museum have publicly described the idea as "constructive". Privately, they fear they might never get it back.

Perhaps the loan should be reciprocal. The iconic golden death mask of King Tut could come west as the Rosetta Stone goes east. The idea of a hostage is, after all, one which should be familiar to anyone who knows the intrigues of that ancient land.


Joy over double Stone Age find in Fife


TWO hugely significant Neolithic finds have been made in Fife within weeks of each other, thanks to sharp-eyed amateur archeologists.


Historic Scotland has confirmed that intricate markings on boulders on the Binn Hill, a volcanic plug above Burntisland, are neolithic cup and ring marks which may be 4,000 years old.


In a separate find, an outstanding example of a ceremonial Neolithic axe, which may have belonged to a leader or a priest, has been unearthed in a newly ploughed field at Mid-Conlan, just below East Lomond Hill.


Amateur archeologists Colin Kilgour and Jock Moyes contacted Historic Scotland after seeing photographs of Neolithic carvings in an exhibition and recognising the designs they had seen as children playing on the Binn Hill.


"It was then we realised we had seen these markings before," explained Mr Kilgour. "When we were kids we used to play on the Binn Hill, and I remembered finding patterns just like that when we were building a gang hut. We went back and, sure enough, the carvings were still there. We knew what the markings were, but had never imagined they would be so important."


Historic Scotland is now considering the best way to protect the neolithic cup and ring marks on Binn Hill.


Fife Council archaeologist Douglas Speirs said: "It’s fantastic - truly amazing. The carvings are what is called a cup and ring design on a large boulder, with a spiral carved out on a nearby rockface.


"They are about 4,000 years old - which means they were already about 3,000 years old when the famous carvings were made in the Wemyss Caves.


"We know of examples of this style mainly from Perthshire and Argyll, and even there they are rare, so to find one here in Fife is hugely important.


"The fact that one of the cup and ring marks has not been completed gives us confirmation of the method used to carve them."


Cup and ring marks are found throughout Scotland and date from about 2000 to 3000 BC, making them up to 5,000 years old.


But only six known examples have been discovered in Fife, and one of those, in a cave at West Wemyss, was lost in a rockfall in 1902.


Common to all cup and ring carvings is a central scoop, or "cup" surrounded by spiral incisions and often surrounded by other curvilinear decorative designs.


Archeologists are unclear about the significance of the recurring patterns, with theories that they were used for making offerings of milk or blood or that they are artistic representations of elemental forces.


Despite the mystery which surrounds their creation, experts agree the find in Burntisland is of national historic significance.


Councillor William Leggatt has pushed for the site to be both recognised and protected since the discovery came to light.


"There’s a lot more in Fife and I’m quite sure there is a lot more to find on the Binn Hill itself, because it has been an important site through the ages," he said.


The actor and poet Michael Kelly, who has appeared in films with Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson, made a similarly momentous discovery when he noticed something glinting at his feet in a freshly ploughed field, while scouting for film locations.


The polished axe head, which may be 5,000 years old, is a very rare example of a ceremonial axe. The craftsmanship that has gone into its production means it could have been used or owned by an important individual or by a religious figure for ceremonial or ritual purposes.


The stone itself is probably not native to the area and appears to have been imported from another region, possibly as far away as Cumbria, probably already as a finished tool.


Such long-distance trade in fine exotic axes is well recorded in the Neolithic period and there were various centres that produced axes that supplied large geographical areas.


Mr Kelly discovered the axe head in April, but it wasn’t until he showed it to a friend that he began to realise its true significance.


He has so far resisted requests to hand over the small axe head, saying he intends to resist the law of treasure trove, which means artefacts of a certain age have to be handed over to the Crown.


He said: "It really is something to hold in your hand, and think about what has happened.


"I found it two miles from my house and it makes you think about people working and living in your own wee town all those years ago."


He added: "I am aware of the laws. But I want to make my film and I think if Fife Council want to put this in their museum or their library they should put up some money.


"I have been told I will be given about £300 or £400 for it but I think it is worth at least £5,000.


"If they don’t manage to come up with that I might just lose it."


Mr Speirs has had an exciting few weeks, having been privy to two hugely significant Neolithic discoveries on his patch.


Of the axe-head, he said: "This is exciting, a rare and remarkable find, and an outstanding example of a mid-neolithic ceremonial piece."



ARCHEOLOGY: 'A piece of history dug up each day'


ARCHAEOLOGISTS digging at a Bronze Age excavation site in the city have discovered part of an ancient spear.


The exciting discovery, which has delighted experts, was made at the Flag Fen Bronze Age Centre, in Northey Road, Peterborough.


A photograph of the item, showed that the spear could be up to 3,500 years old – is to be sent to the British Museum in London for identification.


Michael Bamforth, archaeologist and site supervisor today said he thought the item was once fixed to the base of a spear.


He said: "At the moment we think we have found a ferrule from an ancient spear.


"It would have been used to stop the end of the wooden shaft breaking.


"We find something almost every day here but this is a special find."


The ferrule was found 4ft below the surface in a layer of prehistoric topsoil.


It has been perfectly preserved by a thick layer of peat, which has built up on the surface over the past two or three thousand years.


Mr Bamforth added: "The soil we stand on today is modern topsoil and if it you examine it carefully you find things like five pence pieces and Mars bar wrappers.


"When we dig down into the prehistoric topsoil, we find items which would have been used every day thousands of years ago, such as pieces of pottery, flint and metal work."


Maisie Taylor, another archaeologist working at the site said the exact date of the metal work would be established using radiocarbon dating.


She said: "It is very difficult to date metal work, but the item we have found still contains what looks like a piece of ash in the socket where the shaft would once have been.


"By examining the amount of carbon in the wood we will know how old the metal is because they were made at the same time."


Once the latest find has been cleaned and properly identified, it will go on display in the museum at Flag Fen.



FACTFILE: Excavations


>> Flag Fen is one of the most important Bronze Age sites in Europe.


>> It was discovered in 1982 when ancient timber was found during work on a drainage ditch.


>> Large quantities of organic material from the period, including wood and leather, have been preserved by the wet fenland peat.


>> Excavations take place every summer at the site.


>> Archaelogists concentrate their efforts on areas which are in danger of drying out.


>>Members of the public can watch the archaeologists at work between Monday and Friday throughout the summer.


Gladiator glass is a sparkling find

24 July 2003

AN ENGRAVING of a gladiator carved on the side of a glass by Romans more than 1,500 years ago has been found in a Northamptonshire field.

Archaeologists found the ancient fragment of glass on the site of a villa near Nether Heyford last week and it was displayed to the public for the first time at the weekend.

Archaeologist Barbara Evans-Reese said the engraved fragment of glass, which shows a male gladiator in a fighting pose, was an amazing find.

"Everybody was very excited when we found it last Thursday," she said. "It was a very special moment

"Carved Roman glass like this is not a common find. It would have been very expensive and it's a very special piece. It gives us a clear idea of the status the villa had."

The carved glass was found in the bath house of the Roman Villa, which was discovered in a field near Nether Heyford four years ago.

Other finds at the site have included more than 300 Roman coins, pottery, jewellery and animal bones.

Archaeologist John Ward, who has carried out extensive excavations at the site, said: "This is a very important site for Northamptonshire. It gives us a better understanding of what the frontier towns of the Roman Empire would have been like.

"Some mornings I come up and it's so quiet you get the feeling of exactly what it was like. You can imagine them lighting their fires and using the bath house. It's fascinating."

Investigations carried out on animal bones discovered at the site have also revealed the Romans had a good diet.

Mr Ward said: "We've found a lot of animal bones so we know exactly what they would have eaten. The bones show their diets were fantastic. They would have been very healthy."

Over the past year, 30 archaeology students have taken part in excavations at the site.

They have found an Iron Age round-house, which dates the site back to the second century.

The site is thought to have fallen out of use in the eighth century. Victorians later found the Roman villas and used bricks from the building to build a farm house. Stones were also used to build houses in Nether Heyford.

In the future the archaeologists hope to explore fields surrounding the current site to find more Roman buildings.

22 July 2003

Stuffed dormice a Roman favourite


The remnants of a Roman hare stew

Archaeologists in Northamptonshire are unearthing the recipe secrets of the Romans.

Excavations in the county have shown the dish of the day 2,000 years ago was freshly-grilled hare and stuffed dormice.

The excavations are at Whitehall Villa, Nether Heyford, just yards from the Grand Union Canal, are revealing the secrets of Northamptonshire's Roman Heritage, including their unusual diet.

Archaeologist Martin Weaver said a burned bowl found at the site contained the remnants of hare stew.

"They also ate dormice - stuffed - and oysters. They loved their oysters," he said.

The villa sits on land now owned and farmed by Nick Adams who is discovering he has more in common with his ancestors than he realised.

"I had no real interest in archaeology or Roman things before this came along but, because it's on my land, I get a real kick.

More than 60 students from across the world are taking part in the dig

"The Romans were actually living and working here as I am doing now. They raised sheep and farmed crops as I am doing today," he said.

More than 60 students from across the world are taking part in the dig and some of the finds are believed to date back to the Iron Age.

Stephen Young, of University College, Northampton, said the level, variety and richness of the finds was very revealing.

"It is really starting to highlight the interaction of the people who were living here and gives a real insight into what they were doing here and how long they were here."

The Whitehall Villa and all the finds can be viewed by the public this weekend.


Roman villa saved by Lottery windfall

by Echo reporter

A WORLD-renowned Roman villa site which faced the threat of being reburied because of a cash crisis has been saved.

Brading Roman Villa on the Isle of Wight, which has some of the most complete mosaics in western Europe, has been given a £2m-plus grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The cash, together with a further £650,000 raised by trustees, leaves just £50,000 needed to build a new protective building around the mosaics.

Without proper protection from the elements, the fear was that the mosaics would be damaged and reburial had been seen as the best way of preserving them.

With the vast majority of the project cost now banked, trustees say the future of the villa as a working historical attraction - it had been on the World Monument Fund's list of the world's 100 most endangered buildings and on English Heritage's register of at-risk buildings - is secure.

David Guy, chairman of the trustees, said: "We are absolutely delighted with the response to our plight, particularly from the Heritage Lottery Fund, which demonstrates the huge support for the villa.

"It would have been a tragedy to have had to rebury such an important site."


Ruins of 3,000-year-old Village Unearthed in Central China

Chinese archaeologists have discovered the ruins of a complete ancient village on the western edge of Yinxu, an important archaeological excavation site dating back more than 3,000 years, in central China's Henan province.

Chinese archaeologists have discovered the ruins of a complete ancient village on the western edge of Yinxu, an important archaeological excavation site dating back more than 3,000 years, in central China's Henan province.


Archaeologists from the Archaeological Research Institute under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences CASS) and Henan Provincial Cultural Heritage and Archaeological Research Institute unearthed 27 homes (or suites) with 70 rooms during their excavations at Yinxu.


The village has the first houses inhabited by ordinary people to be found at Yinxu.


"This is the first time that semi-subterranean residences half built into the ground have ever been found at Yinxu or among ruins from the Xia (2100 BC-1600 BC), Shang (1600 BC-1100 BC) and Zhou (1100 BC-771 BC) Dynasties," said Wang Xuerong, an associate research fellow with the Archaeological Research Institute under the CASS.


"Although the unearthed rooms are small compared with the foundations of palaces and temples unearthed at Yinxu, they reflect the vivid and colorful lives of ancient common people who lived in areas adjacent to the city proper," Wang said.


The discovery provided completely new materials for the study of society during the Shang Dynasty (1600 BC-1100 BC).


The ruins of Yin (Yinxu) were discovered an 1899 in Anyang, capital of the Shang Dynasty. Yin was the ancient name for the Shang Dynasty.


Excavations at Yinxu ruins have revealed tombs, foundations of palaces and temples, bronzes, jade carvings, lacquer, white carved ceramics, and high-fired, green-glazed ware, and oracle bones.


One of the major discoveries of Yinxu is the inscribed animal bones and tortoise shells, known as the oracle bones. The bones and shells, used for divination by Shang kings, carry the earliest known examples of Chinese characters.


The discovery of the ancient village enriched the study of Yinxu culture, according to Wang.


The newly-excavated houses were concentrated and laid out on north-south lines. The houses were properly spaced for ventilation and all the rooms were connected by "halls" and "living rooms", similar to modern buildings.


Earthen platforms found in some rooms were used as "beds", experts believe.


Judging from the number of rooms and beds, the population of this ancient village was estimated to be around 100 to 150, Wang said.


The buildings included one-room, one-bed room and one-living room, two-bed room and one-living room, and three-bed room and one-living room apartments, indicating the different social status of the villagers.


Archaeologists confirmed that these houses were built over several decades around 1200 BC.


Intact cooking ranges were also found at the ancient village.


Archaeologists with the Archaeological Research Institute under the CASS and Henan Provincial Cultural Heritage and Archaeological Research Institute have been excavating an area of 23,000 squares meters at Yinxu since April this year.


They excavated 380 tombs of different historical periods from the Shang Dynasty to Song Dynasty (960-1279), from which several thousand gold, bronze, iron, jade, stone, pottery, porcelain, bone, shell, lead and lacquer items were unearthed.


Also excavated from the tombs were 150 bronze weapons of the Shang Dynasty, including daggers, spears, swords, axes and arrowheads.



Sleepy hamlet wakes up to historical find



MANDVI: The year is 300 C. A boat sails into the port of Nani Rayan with wine in Roman amphoras. On its way back, it would take home textiles, ornaments and pottery.

Over 2,300 years later, pieces, probably from those amphoras surfaced as workers dug the ground to create the Narmada canal through the sleepy hamlet of Nani Rayan, situated on the banks of the Rukmavati, 4 km from the river’s confluence with the Arabian Sea.


The digging has unearthed a treasure trove of archaeological artefacts—pottery, pieces of Roman period amphoras, an iron smelting foundry and evidence of human settlement dating back to about the 3rd century B.C., a contemporary of the Sunga-Kushana period.


“Although evidence of human settlements had been found in and around Nani Rayan in the form of scattered pottery and other artefacts at the surface level, revealed mostly during tilling of the land, the excavation for the canal has revealed almost a whole city between three and ten feet below the ground.


“The excavation has revealed walls of houses, brick kilns and a foundry for iron smelting,’’ says Pulin Vasa, a physician based in Mandvi and adviser to the state department of archaeology. “The town may have got buried due to siltation by the Rukmavati,’’ says Dr Vasa, who has written to Gandhingar about the find.


“This is, no doubt, a very important find in Kutch, after the Harappan sites. It establishes the place as a major trade centre as well as its close contacts with the Roman world. The period when it flourished could be judged by distinct diagnostic traits like the brick size, structural remains and terracotta pottery with animal figurines,’’ says head the archaeology department of M. University V.S. Sonawane.


“The artefacts found also reveal the extent of mixing of eastern and western cultures. We have found piece of black pottery with an impression of two women, one playing the harp and the other a mridang. Plenty of copper and silver coins different Khsatrap and Gupta rulers have also been found,’’ says Dr Vasa.


He adds, “The inhabitants of Nani Rayan recall the myth of Dada Dhoramnath, who meditated on the banks of the Rukmavati and was angered when his disciple was refused alms. “ Dattan so pattan,maya so mitti ,’’ he said to have remarked (May the town be destroyed and buried and all wealth turned to dust). Villagers, who sit on the buried township, believe the saint’s curse came true, says Dr Vasa.


Massive burial site of Silla dynasty found in Ulsan


In an archeological finding of enormous significance, more than 800 tombs from the Silla dynasty (57 B.C.-668 A.D.) were recently excavated near a dam construction site in Ulsan, a discovery that could possibly reshape the current knowledge of the kingdom's early stages.

The ancient burial ground is the largest ever found in Korea, even surpassing the mounds of Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province in density and total number. The tombs date back to the second century and early seventh century, and were found nearly perfectly preserving their inner structure and burial articles.

The excavation site was accidentally located through the geological research operations related to the dam construction project. The spot was planned to submerge under water at the finish of the construction.

"This is unbelievable. I've never seen anything like this before," said Kim Soo-nam, a researcher from the Foundation for the Preservation of Cultural Properties who heads the excavation team.

"The burial ground was quietly covered beneath a village before the government recently removed the houses for construction, completely being sealed away from grave robbers and antique collectors. They will undoubtedly give us invaluable information on the burial customs and the culture of the Silla dynasty before the unification period."

The FPCP is currently under research of around 400 tombs from the site, including 280 graves with stone outer coffins (5th-6th century), 20 graves with wooden outer coffins (3rd century) and two stone-line graves with wooden outer coffins (4th-5th century), unearthing a number of artifacts rarely found before in its kind. The relics include a carefully decorated bird-shaped pottery, the largest of its kind ever to be found, a pottery jar pierced in the upper and lower sides and inlaid with triangular images, a kind never seen ever before, and an array of metal swords and axes well preserving their original form.

However, the research work may face serious obstacles in the near future as the dam construction project, scheduled to be finished around September, may be too advanced in its process to be easily canceled out.


By Kim Tong-hyung





Minoan ship born again in time for next year’s Games

Reconstruction proceeding swiftly in Crete


Scientists first studied all the historical data, including images and text on the technology of the time and materials used in order to design a model to work from.

By Alexandra Kassimi - Kathimerini


In 2000, the Navy Museum of Crete decided to embark on an extremely challenging project: the reconstruction of a Minoan ship, the most ancient European seagoing craft.

Part of an integrated research program titled Experimental Naval Archaeology and with the cooperation of the Navy Museum of Crete and the NA-U-DO-MO Ancient Shipbuilding Research Group, which designed and constructed the model, the entire project has been under the auspices of the Culture Ministry since last May. The main goal of the project is to build a realistic model of the Minoan ship by the beginning of summer 2004, when it is to sail from Cape Spatha on the island of Crete to Piraeus.

The first trial run is scheduled for June next year with a crew of 26, all but two of them oarsmen. The ship is also fitted with sails, and will be accompanied on its first 15-day voyage by ships of the Greek navy, for security reasons and for supply purposes. All parties involved hope the ship will stay in Athens on exhibit during the Olympic Games. Similar reconstructions of historic ships have all been of later models (600-300 BC), and these were not based on scientific data.

This particular reconstruction, divided into three parts, was particularly difficult. The first phase included the scientific study (lasting a year) during which the researchers relied on all the information at hand about the culture of the time. The lack of any remnants of ships forced them to look into the geographical and technological environment, at images and illustrations from archaeological finds as well as existing literary sources (linguistic remnants and the decodification of the Linear B script).

The results of the research are considered to be well-founded and include, apart from the natural and geographical environment, the materials available to shipbuilders in 1500 BC, the carpentry tools they used, as well as the technology and experiential rules of shipbuilding.

Next came the phase of building a model on a 1:4 scale, which took six months. Research indicated that the precursor of the Minoan ship was the raft which the Minoans decided to convert into a curved shape for practical reasons. They then strengthened the structure by installing a frame inside the curve.

The material used for the sides of the ship consisted of split cypress trunks attached together with ropes. The interior of the ship was about 17 meters long by 4 meters wide.


Bulgarian Archaeologists Partner US Peers in Grand Under-Water Project


Bulgarian and US scientists will study an ancient ship with a cargo of amphorae on the bed of the Black Sea off the Bulgarian coastal city of Varna. The government in Sofia is expected to issue Thursday a license for a two-year archeological research under an international interdisciplinarian scientific project studying Bulgarian waters.


The main goal of the project is geological research but it is also paired by archeological expeditions hoped to discover submerged pre-historic, antique or mediaeval settlements, havens, and vessels.


Under the project, the Archeological Institute in Sofia partners the Institute of Archaeological Oceanography at the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island, and the Institute of Exploration, Sea Research Foundation in Mystic, Connecticut.


The sides have agreed that the conservation and restoration of the archeological finds will be carried out in Bulgaria. The objects discovered by the multinational team will be delivered for manipulations following the end of the expeditions for each year to the scientific labs with the Bulgarian Academy of Science or to other labs preferred by the US explorers.


The final monographic publication on the subaquatic research will be compiled by all members of the team - Bulgarians and Americans. The paper is agreed to appear no later than five years following the conclusion of the under-water works.


The US partners are required to secure the full financing of the project as well as technical equipment and competent specialists to handle the scientific gear.


However, the government in Sofia has stipulated that all archeological finds produced by the joint research are the property of the Republic of Bulgaria and would remain in the country.


Seabed excavation could reveal lost secrets of Henry VIII warship

A major excavation of the wreck site of the Mary Rose which could uncover a host of secrets about Henry VIII's warship has been launched.

The archaeological dives at the request of the Ministry of Defence form part of a survey ahead of plans to regenerate Portsmouth naval base.

The Royal Navy recently announced a £200 million regeneration of Portsmouth so it can be home to the next generation of warships, particularly the new aircraft carriers.

But the current route into the naval base is not deep enough for the new super-carriers - which will be twice the size of existing aircraft vessels - and the navy is planning to dredge a new approach into the harbour.

The navy's preferred route crosses the wreck site of the Mary Rose which is a couple of miles out into the Solent from the harbour mouth.

The dives being launched are primarily a clearing operation prior to a full archaeological and environmental survey.

John Lippiett, chief executive of the Mary Rose Trust, said it would enable them to excavate important parts of the ship which have remained buried since the raising of the hull in 1982.

He said: "These are very exciting times indeed for the Mary Rose. This is the most thorough examination by divers of the wreck site since 1982.

"We are preparing the wreck site to clear it up for the survey but really, we might find all sorts of things.

"We don't want to raise expectations too high but, at the same time, it's the excitement of the unknown that is spurring us on."

Story filed: 13:24 Tuesday 22nd July 2003


Divers explore Mary Rose wreck

The ship's bow and stern are still on site

The secrets of the wreckage of the Mary Rose may be finally uncovered as archaeological dives get under way ahead of the regeneration of Portsmouth Naval base.

The major excavation of Henry VIII's 15th Century warship is a clear-up operation prior to a full archaeological and environmental survey.

The dives, which began on Tuesday, were commissioned by the Ministry of Defence.

The move comes after the Royal Navy revealed £200m will spent on regenerating Portsmouth so it can house the next generation of warships, including the new aircraft carriers.

However, the route to the naval base is not shallow enough for the new super-carriers - which are twice the size of existing aircraft vessels.

The Navy's preferred route crosses the wreck site of the Mary Rose, a couple of miles out into the Solent from the harbour mouth.

John Lippiett, chief executive of the Mary Rose Trust, said the operation would enable them to excavate important parts of the ship which have remained buried since the raising of the hull in 1982.

He said: "These are very exciting times indeed for the Mary Rose. This is the most thorough examination by divers of the wreck site since 1982."



Clear the site of rubbish and debris left behind by the original excavation team

Excavate items that had to be left buried at the wreck site

Find other items and even sections of the ship

Mr Lippett added: "We don't want to raise expectations too high but, at the same time, it's the excitement of the unknown that is spurring us on."

Ian Oxley, head of maritime archaeology at English Heritage, praised the MoD for carrying out the survey.

He said: "It is the same as a survey on land when a motorway or a runway is being built. The MoD is recognising the possible impact their plans could have."


Discovery of Cromwell's flagship rivals the Mary Rose


WHEN it sank in the ‘graveyard of a thousand ships’, the Great Lewis was the pride of Oliver Cromwell’s fleet.


During a mission to recapture a fort near the Irish port of Waterford from Royalist forces in 1645, Cromwell’s flagship was sent to the bottom of the sea by a combination of enemy cannon and the rocky coastline.


Now archaeologists believe they have found the wreck and have begun to bring up the first artefacts.


Historians are already comparing its importance to the discovery of the Mary Rose, Henry VIII’s flagship, which sank near Portsmouth exactly 100 years before.


Cromwell’s attack on Waterford, which involved three other ships, gave rise to a famous saying when the Lord Protector declared he would take the town "by Hook or by Crook", referring to the two headlands which surround it.


It is not known yet what the remains of the Great Lewis will yield, but along with skeletal remains of some of the crew and 200 soldiers on board, divers expect to find artillery and the personal booty of the ship’s skipper, Captain Beale.


The National Maritime Museum at Greenwich said the find was very important.


Brian Lavery, curator of naval history at the museum, said: "Our knowledge of ships of this period is so limited, a discovery like this is very exciting.


Any clues she has to offer about her era will be very welcome."


The Great Lewis’s mission failed miserably when a battery of guns from the Royalist-controlled Duncannon fort turned on the attacking fleet, which also included the Mayflower, Elizabeth and Magdalen.


The latter three managed to escape, but the Great Lewis, caught by adverse tides and winds, floundered and sank after her masts were shot down.


She now lies just eight metres below the surface of the water in the main shipping lane of Waterford harbour, one of the busiest in Ireland.


Local fishermen in the area said they had known for years about the wreck, but it was not until the area was being dredged in 1999 that it first came to the attention of archaeologists.


Its precise location was pinpointed in 2001 and inspections of the wreck have since been carried out by a private company on behalf of the Port of Waterford.


Divers from the Irish heritage service, who have spent the past two weeks carrying out underwater surveys of the shipwreck, said they were excited about their preliminary findings.


Connie Kelleher, one of four underwater archeologists employed by the Irish government, said: "When we heard about the wreck, we suspected it was the Great Lewis and everything still seems to point in that direction.


"So far we’ve found decking and timber lined with leather which was a feature of the period and we’ve also uncovered canons."


The County Waterford coastline holds an abundance of shipwrecks. And the shore around Hook Head in particular boasts so many that the area is known as the ‘graveyard of a thousand ships’.


Gerald Hawkins

Astronomer who claimed Stonehenge was a computer


Mike Pitt

Thursday July 24, 2003

The Guardian


In 1961, Gerald Hawkins, who has died of a heart attack aged 75, was professor of physics and astronomy at Boston University in Massachusetts. It was then that he returned to Salisbury Plain to film the sun rise over the marker Heelstone at Stonehenge. Assistants meanwhile plotted every stone and pit, punched coordinates on to cards and fed them, and astronomical data, into an IBM 704.

This was at a time when computers were rare and glamorous. Asking that age's technological wonder to decipher the ancient world's icon was a gesture of timely genius. The journal Nature published Hawkins's first results in 1963. Two years later Stonehenge Decoded, written by Hawkins with John B White, was published in the US.

The IBM machines, Hawkins argued, showed Stonehenge to be a neolithic computer-observatory for predicting eclipses of the sun and moon. From New York to Iraq, newspapers praised the professor and his computer for rewriting prehistory. Stone-age savages were revealed as skilled scientists.

Archaeologists were less happy. They sniffed at his "overconfident style", resented his publicity and questioned his results. Hawkins's statistics were shown to be dodgy; he had contrived a computer from a monument believed to have developed piecemeal over centuries.

Stonehenge excavator Richard Atkinson described Hawkins's book as: "tendentious, arrogant, slipshod, and unconvincing" - for him the builders of Stonehenge were "howling barbarians".

The popular archaeologist Jacquetta Hawkes, meanwhile, observed that "every age has the Stonehenge it deserves - or desires".

Hawkins claimed surprise at the response. That contribution to Nature was his 61st scientific paper and many of his others, on subjects such as tektites, meteors and steady-state universe theory seemed to him more exciting. But none of his other dozen books was as successful.

Hawkins had changed the way we think about Stonehenge, and inspired the science of archaeo-astronomy. Repeated studies have failed to do more than support a few solar, and perhaps lunar alignments, and deny a computational function. Yet in the public mind, Stonehenge is now fixed as an observatory and computer. Stonehenge Decoded initiated a debate still alive, and inspired the first generation of archaeo-astronomers.

Hawkins also analysed the Nazca lines in Peru and the temple of Amun at Karnak, Egypt. He recently developed a crop circles theory based on Euclidean geometry and musical intervals. He first saw Stonehenge in 1953, when working at nearby Larkhill camp. He read that the monument was aligned on midsummer sunrise, a fact first noted by William Stukeley in the 18th century, and made much of by Sir Norman Lockyer in 1906.

Hawkins's hometown was Great Yarmouth. He obtained his first degree at Nottingham University in 1949 in physics, with pure maths subsidiary, and a PhD in radio astronomy under Sir Bernard Lovell at Manchester University in 1952.

Manchester awarded him a DSc in 1963 for astronomical research at the Harvard-Smithsonian Observatories. He was professor of astronomy and chairman of the department at Boston University (1957-69), and dean of the liberal arts Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania (1969-71).

Boston presented him with the Shell award for distinguished writing in 1965. Other awards came from the Smithsonian Institution and the National Academy of Sciences, and he was a proud member of the prestigious intellectual Cosmos Club, Washington DC. He was a science advisor to the US Information Agency.

Hawkins was dedicated to his research, and enthusiastic and generous with those ready to listen. He was due to address an Oxford conference with a new Stonehenge study and, to the surprise of some British academics, he continued to see himself as an Englishman. He leaves his second wife, Julia Dobson.

• Gerald Stanley Hawkins, archaeoastronomer and author, born April 20 1928; died May 26 2003.