Uncovering Ice Age archaeology in Jordan

Early humans hunted large game near now-vanished lakes

Copyright (c) 2004 The Daily Star

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

By Daily Star Staff



The early prehistory and archaeology of the Middle Pleistocene, or Ice Age, is being revealed in remarkable detail in studies in southern Jordan. The work, begun in the late 1990s, has documented the presence of Homo erectus, our ancient ancestor, at a series of archaeological sites at Ayoun Qedim in the al-Jafr Basin.


Today al-Jafr Basin is one of the most arid places in the Middle East. During the Pleistocene, the basin was filled with an enormous freshwater lake fed by springs and run off. Its shores were frequented by large animals ancestral to those that occupy the East African savannah today. Al-Jafr Basin was one node on a chain of ancient lake basins that stretched from northwestern Saudi Arabia to northeastern Syria during the wetter times of the Ice Age. These lake basins formed an inland corridor for occupation by Homo erectus moving between Africa and Eurasia, say investigators Leslie A. Quintero and Philip J. Wilke from the University of California at Riverside, and Dr. Gary Rollefson from Whitman College, Washington.


The sites have yielded hundreds of heavy-duty butchering tools chipped from local deposits of flint. The tools are cleavers, a form of handaxe, that could be resharpened by striking distinctive flakes from the cutting end. Even these resharpening flakes were found, showing the tools were maintained as needed. The investigators say the tools were used to butcher animals like elephants and rhinos, which were hunted there when they came for water a quarter- to a half-million years ago. They note the similarity of the cleavers found at Ayoun Qedim with those from as far away as Boxgrove, England. Boxgrove was occupied at about the same time, upwards of 400,000 years ago. The cultural complex of that time is referred to by archaeologists as the Acheulian, and is distributed across much of the Old World.


The research at al-Jafr is conducted under permit from the Department of Antiquities of Jordan, and is funded by the American Center of Oriental Research in Amman and Whitman College. The investigators said their work was significantly aided by logistical support they received from the local Abu Tayeh Bedouin. - The Daily Star is grateful to Leslie A. Quintero, Philip J. Wilke and Dr. Gary Rollefson for contributing this report.

Copyright (c) 2004 The Daily Star






Aug. 20, 2004. 08:32 PM

A 2,400-year-old golden mask is seen

Friday, Aug. 20, 2004, in Shipka, Bulgaria.

he discovery was made on Thursday in the tomb of an ancient Thracian king, near the village of Shipka, 124 miles east of Sofia.


SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — Bulgarian archeologists have unearthed a 2,400-year old golden mask in the tomb of an ancient Thracian king, a newspaper said Friday.


The mask bears the image of a human face and is made of 500 grams of solid gold, the project's lead archeologist Georgi Kitov told the local Trud daily.

The discovery was made on Thursday near the village of Shipka, 200 kilometres east of Sofia.


Kitov, who is at the excavations site, could not be reached immediately for comment.


Dozens of Thracian mounds are spread throughout this region, which archeologists have dubbed "the Bulgarian valley of kings" in reference to the Valley of Kings near Luxor, which is home to the tombs of Egyptian Pharaohs.

"This unique mask looks even better than the famous image of King Agamemnon," the Greek hero described by Homer in the Iliad, Kitov was quoted as saying.


"This is the first Thracian mask of solid gold ever found," he was quoted as saying, adding that previously archeologists had only found masks covered with golden foil.


Kitov suggested that the mask could belong to King Seutus III, the Thracian king who ruled these lands in the fifth century BC.


The tomb was covered with six stone slabs, each weighing at least two tonnes. The king's remains have not yet been found, but excavations at the tomb continue, Kitov said.


In addition to the golden mask, archeologists discovered a golden ring with a rower's image as well as many bronze and silver vessels, the report said.


First Toilet And Sewer System Of Prehistoric Period Found In Van

Anadolu Agency: 8/22/2004


VAN - The first toilet and sewer system of prehistoric period was found in an Urartian castle in Gurpinar town of eastern province of Van.


In an interview with the A.A correspondent, Istanbul University Eurasian Archaeology Institute Director Prof. Dr. Oktay Belli said on Saturday that they had unearthed a toilet in the western part of Cavustepe Castle built by Urartian King Sarduri II in 764 BC.


''We revealed that Urartian architects had formed a sewer system before building the castle. The toilet and sewer system in the castle is similar to today's toilets,'' he said.


Prof. Dr. Belli said, ''Urartu Kingdom had attributed great importance to architect. Their architects had used the most developed techniques of the prehistoric period. They had built their castles in strategic areas after carrying out ground studies. We believe that Urartu Kingdom was the first civilization using toilet and sewer system.''


The Urartu Kingdom was formed in eastern Anatolia at the beginning of the first millennium BC after the fall of the Hittite empire. The kingdom survived for three hundred years. During the early Urartu period, they were grouped in a series of emirates known as Nairi, but in 900 BC, they formed a confederation under a central monarch.


(UK) 21.08.2004

Copyright 2004 Anadolu Agency. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.



Dad's Viking treasure discovered


A gold Viking arm ring, only the second of its kind to be found in Britain, has been unearthed in York.


The 325g artefact was taken to the Yorkshire Museum by a man who found it among his late father's belongings.


Although the ring has been cut through and straightened, it is otherwise complete and has been described as a "beautiful object" by museum bosses.


Now they hope to raise cash to put it on display in York after the coroner officially declared it a treasure.


The ring, which is 95% gold, is currently on display in the British Museum where it is being studied.


Simon Holmes, of the National Portable Antiquities Scheme at the Yorkshire Museum, said a similar artefact had been found in Wipholm in Germany.


"The only other similar example to be found in Britain was found in Goodrington in Devon and I believe our example is the larger of the two," he added.


"It's a fascinating find and a beautiful object."


The man who was in possession of the ring was a builder who worked in the York area his entire life.


"It is a possibility he found it at work one day years ago, but he could just as easily have found it in his flower bed last year," Mr Holmes said.


An independent valuation committee will now decide on the ring's market value, which the museum will have to pay the finder to secure it for display.


Until then, it remains property of the Crown.


Mr Holmes told BBC News Online the figure was likely to run into thousands, rather than tens of thousands, of pounds.


"It will be interesting," he added, "because as far as I am aware there has never been a Viking arm ring sold on the open market."


Under the Treasure Act 1996, finders of objects containing a substantial proportion of gold or silver must report the finding to the district coroner.


If a museum wants to acquire the artefact, the coroner holds an inquest to decide whether it is a treasure.


Story from BBC NEWS:


Published: 2004/08/26 09:09:18 GMT




Experts Study Rare Gold Viking Arm Ring

Thu 26 Aug 2004

By Wesley Johnson, PA News


A gold Viking arm ring, only the second of its kind to be discovered in Britain, has been handed in to experts for analysis, museum officials said today.


The 325-gram ring, which consists of 95% gold, was discovered in the possessions of a deceased York builder whose relatives brought it in to experts at the Yorkshire Museum.


It is now being studied and valued at the British Museum after being declared treasure at an inquest in York earlier this week.


Simon Holmes, of the national Portable Antiquities Scheme, based at the Yorkshire Museum, said: “It’s a very rare object indeed, there’s just so much gold there.


“Someone who could afford to take that much gold out of the economy and use it as an armband must have been a very wealthy merchant or a member of the ruling class.


“The only other similar example to be found in Britain was found in Goodrington in Devon and I believe our example is the larger of the two.


“It’s a fascinating find and a beautiful object.”


He said he was unaware of anything similar ever coming on to the open market and its value was still being assessed.


The ring has been cut through and partly straightened into a curved L-shape, but is otherwise complete and measures 26cm in diameter.


It consists of two thick, round rods with beaded wires between them, twisted into a cable and tapering to the ends. The original ends are then joined to a plain, polyhedral knob.


The York Museums Trust hopes to acquire the arm ring for display at the Yorkshire Museum.


Andrew Morrison, curator of access for archaeology, said: “It’s a really exciting find.


“Gold Viking arm rings are not common objects at all and we would be very keen to acquire this object, subject to us raising enough funds.”



Genghis Khan's pen as mighty as his sword?

Beijing - A Chinese historian says he has evidence that ruthless conqueror and master of the Mongol horde Genghis Khan was as masterful with the pen as he was with the sword.


Historians have long assumed the ancient Mongolian ruler was illiterate, primarily because the Mongolian written language was created in the early 13th century, when Genghis Khan would have been in his 40s and not have had time to learn, the official Xinhua news agency said.


However, Tengus Bayaryn, a professor at China's Inner Mongolia University, announced he had found an "autographic edict" written by Genghis Khan in 1219 inside a book sent to a Chinese Taoist priest, it said.


"The original message, in Mongolian, was written in a unique style and tone and could only have been been drafted by the great ruler himself," Bayaryn was quoted as saying.


A later note penned to the same Taoist scholar read: "I've ordered the ministers to compile a handbook of your lesson and will read it personally," Xinhua said.


"That 'I will read it personally' suggests clearly Genghis Khan could read the Mongolian version of the sermon," Bararyn said.


Genghis Khan, born around 1167, unified disparate Mongolian tribes to create a lethal, horseback fighting force that rode roughshod over China and Central Asia and forged a short-lived empire that reached as far west as Poland and Hungary.


WWI bodies are found on glacier

The bodies of three Austrian soldiers killed in World War I have been found on an Italian glacier, almost perfectly preserved, an Italian museum says.

The corpses were found at about 3,400m (11,500ft) on the mountain of San Matteo in the Trentino region.


The area was the scene of high-altitude fighting between Austrian and Italian forces towards the end of the war.


Historians believe the men may have died on 3 September 1918, during what was called "the great battle".


The preserved bodies were spotted and retrieved by Maurizio Vincenzi.


Not only is he an amateur historian, but he is also a member of the local mountain rescue team, and the director of the military history museum at the small town of Peio.


The museum announced the discovery on Sunday, after Mr Vincenzi and his colleagues recovered the bodies on Friday.


Mr Vincenzi, 46, said: "Using binoculars, I saw what looked like a stain on the Forni glacier and went to look."


"When I got close, I discovered they were the bodies of soldiers frozen in the glacier. Nothing like this has ever happened in my lifetime. Bodies haven't been found in the ice around here for decades," he said.


He said the bodies were found upside down, encased in ice.

Their uniforms included leather belts, a gas mask and a cap with a star on it - all in good condition.


It is thought the men may have died in a grenade attack.


The battle, 86 years ago, was won by the Austrians, but they lost 11 men in the process.


"This is an important discovery from a historical point of view, and exciting for the communities on both sides of the border," said Mr Vicenzi.


A funeral for the men is planned for Tuesday afternoon, after which they will be laid to rest in the local military cemetery.



Story from BBC NEWS:


Published: 2004/08/23 17:13:43 GMT




Dealers steal 40ft iron bridge


A rare iron bridge that survived three wars has been stolen by a gang of scrap metal dealers.


The bridge near the city of Mostar came through the Balkans war of the 1990s because locals covered it with sandbags.


The 40ft bridge had been built by Imperial architects from the the Austro-Hungarian empire.


Bosnian police say a gang of seven men may have been involved in the theft. Officers said the gang managed to get away with the crime because of the bridge's remote location.


They said the bridge sections were sold to a local scrap yard for £90, where most of them were melted down before they could be saved.


Locals had alerted police after they saw the men carrying round huge pieces of iron and recognised them as part of the bridge.


The seven men have not yet been found.



Robots reach ancient Russian shipwreck

August 23 2004 at 07:00PM 


Moscow - Russian divers, with a little help from a state-of-the-art robot, have reached the wreck of a famous icebreaker that has lain untouched for 70 years at the bottom of Russia's far-northern Chukotsky Sea, RIA Novosti news agency said on Monday.


The scientific ship Akademik Lavrentyev left the Arctic port of Anadyr, on Russia's Chukotsky peninsula, last week to reach the spot where the Chelyuskin icebreaker sank in 1934 after becoming trapped in ice.


According to Yevgueny Kupavykh, who heads the scientific expedition, the shipwreck lies 50m under the sea, 250km from Cape Severny and 230km from Cape Uelen, RIA Novosti said.


Kupavykh said that the expedition's divers were trained to work in extreme conditions as the temperature of the water around the wreck hovered the freezing point.


A state-of-the-art robot operated by remote control and equipped with video cameras and scanners was also used to explore the wreck of the Cheliuskin.


According to Kupavykh, more information will be available after the expedition's return to Anadyr, planned for Tuesday.


The icebreaker Chelyuskin left the port of Murmansk in July 1933 to explore Russia's far northern waters. But it soon became trapped in an icefield in the Chukotsky Sea and drifted with the ice for seven month before finally sinking in February 1934.


About 100 passengers, including a two-year-old child, managed to flee the sinking ship and spent three months in a tent built on the ice before being rescued in a spectacular airlift. No one died in the incident. - Sapa-AFP