Saturday January 15, 03:00 AM
ABOUT 20 per cent of all Scots have Iraqi blood, according to a new book and television series examining the pre-history of what is now Scotland.
The remaining four in five Scots are descended from bands of hunter-gatherers who came from England and northern Europe after the Ice Age - dispelling the myth of the Scots as a mongrel race made up of Romans, Angles, Vikings, Normans and other arrivals.
These revelations come from a documentary series Before Scotland: The Story of Scotland Before History, to be screened later this year on STV and Grampian.
The programmes - accompanied by a book - also claim the mythical land of Atlantis existed in what we now know as the North Sea, and that many Scots spoke Old Welsh before Gaelic.
And they dispel the myth that the population in 4000BC was made up of grunting cavemen running around in animal skins, saying the people were actually very similar to Scots today.
Alistair Moffat, the writer and producer of the series, said many people would be surprised by the findings: "We find it very difficult to believe that 10,000 years ago people who looked like us lived on this island, hunted and gathered food, had families that they cared for, talked about ideas, gossiped, told funny stories, lied and were often worried about the future.
"Yet all the evidence shows that they were indeed like us, and, further, they were in fact our direct ancestors. They deserve a history and nothing less," added Mr Moffat.
Telling the country's story from the end of the last Ice Age - about 8000BC - to the fall of the Pictish kingdom, the series ends in 900AD when the name Alba, Gaelic for Scotland, came into common use.
The original name Scotland, said Mr Moffat, meant the Land of the Pirates.
Using new research into Scottish DNA by Professor Bryan Sykes of the Oxford Ancestors Project, the revelation that some Scots have an exotic set of Iraqi ancestors is also backed by his research, which traced the movement of early farmers in the centuries around 4000BC. It showed them coming from Iraq and ultimately to prehistoric Scotland.
Fi Harris, marketing and communications consultant for the Scottish genealogy website ScotlandsPeople, said: "It certainly promises to offer a fascinating and innovative insight into Scottish ancestry and the role it has played in shaping modern-day Scotland.
"Since we launched ScotlandsPeople in 2002, interest in genealogy has soared and we now have over 245,000 registered users.
"Although this new documentary concentrates on 8000BC to 900AD, it will help to demonstrate how fascinating it can be to trace the lives of our ancestors."
Before Scotland: The Story of Scotland Before History, by Alistair Moffat, is published by Thames and Hudson on 31 January
By: SHARON WARD -- 15-Jan-05
Public release date: 14-Jan-2005 Contact: Aron Mazel email@example.com 44-191-222-7845 University of Newcastle upon Tyne
New prehistoric rock carvings discovered in Northern England
More than 250 new examples of England's finest array of prehistoric rock art carvings, sited close to the Scottish border, have been discovered by archaeologists compiling a unique database.
Now over one thousand of the 'cup and ring' carvings can be admired on a new website, which carries 6,000 images and is said to be the most comprehensive of its kind in the world.
The site, which goes live today, includes the 250 panels unearthed during a two-and-a-half year trawl of some of England's remotest countryside, in the expansive moorlands of Northumberland.
Experts, however, are still grappling with the origins and meaning of these abstract carvings, believed to be the work of Neolithic and Early Bronze Age people between 6000 and 3500 years ago, although there are several theories.
Among the new discoveries made by the University of Newcastle upon Tyne archaeologists is a collection at Goatstones, near Wark, where a haul of 14 carved stones was spotted and recorded for the first time. Elsewhere in the county, a local farmer alerted the team to seven panels on his land, which had not been previously recorded.
Old favourites will also be featured in the website, such as the country's largest collection of rock art featured in one place, at Roughting Linn.
Inspiration for the project came from the Northumberland rock art specialist, Dr Stan Beckensall, who donated his archive of books, photographs, drawings, rubbings and more to Newcastle University. Funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Board enabled Dr Stan Beckensall and University archaeologist Dr Aron Mazel to take things a step further.
For the past two and a half years the pair have been updating and expanding the resource so that a comprehensive archive accessible for all elements of the international community, academic and school children alike, can be made available.
The new website, which goes live today, has been created with the help of Heritage Media, a company specialising in the design of websites for heritage topics, set up by Newcastle University graduates Jessica Kemp and Marc Johnstone, together with computer database and website expert Horacio Ayestaran. The principal investigator was Prof Geoff Bailey, previously at Newcastle University but now with the Department of Archaeology at the University of York.
Features of the new website, which can be viewed at http://rockart.ncl.ac.uk include:
A browse facility where users can view all panels or browse by parish, map, panel type, location, access (including suitability for wheelchairs), image type, and art motifs
· An advanced search facility
· An extensive bibliography of Northumberland rock art for academic and specialist users
· An 'interactive zone', mainly aimed at younger and non-specialist users. Features include video and audio clips, games with a rock art theme, photo galleries presenting some of the project's finest images of Northumberland rock art and showing the team and colleagues at work
· An archive featuring around 6,000 images, including 360 degree photographs ('bubbleworlds') showing rock art in its landscape setting, drawings, digital images, and digitised slides and negatives.
Project leader, Aron Mazel, of Newcastle University's School of Historical Studies, said: "It's incredibly important that we are aware of our heritage, not least because it helps us understand our own origins and identities. Our team has spent the last few years on a prehistoric 'adventure' and now we're at the stage where we can share our finds with others.
"The Beckensall archive gave this project a head start but we've also been very excited to find new specimens of this very special art. There are likely to be more carved stones there hidden under the undergrowth so we're sure this is not the end of the story," said Dr Mazel, adding that he hoped that the information presented on the website would encourage further research into this special archaeological resource.
Stan Beckensall added: "One of the key aims was to promote widespread enjoyment of this fascinating part of our history, and the web was the obvious medium to reach out to the 21st century historian, amateur and professional alike.
"I'm sure the artists who hammered their symbols on the stones thousands of years ago, on their windswept moorland settlements, never imagined their work would become such a world phenomenon as this!"
John Holmes, One NorthEast director of regeneration and tourism, said: "The site is great news for visitors looking to explore the region's amazing and little known historical treasures including ancient rock art, Iron Age hillforts and standing stones.
"Hopefully this will whet the appetite of many would be visitors, keen to see these rock features in the flesh, and give people an extra reason to make the
North East of England a place to visit this year."
One NorthEast will be making it easy for visitors to access this new site by adding a link from www.visitnorthumbria.com
MEDIA INFORMATION: Interviews: Dr Aron Mazel 44-191-222-7845 or 44-774-313-0466. Available from 0900 to 1600 GMT Friday January 14 only. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Photographs: The following are available for use free of charge and can be downloaded from Newcastle University website:
Example of rock art at Weetwood Moor, Northumberland (credit, Aron Mazel): http://www.ncl.ac.uk/press.office/press.release/photos/230WeetwoodMoor_3a.jpg
Example of newly-discovered rock art (picture) at Snook Bank, Northumberland (credit, Aron Mazel): http://www.ncl.ac.uk/press.office/press.release/photos/225SnookBankPIC.jpg
Example of newly-discovered rock art (drawing) at Snook Bank: (credit, Stan Beckensall) http://www.ncl.ac.uk/press.office/press.release/photos/226SnookBankDRAWING.jpg
Aron Mazel and Stan Beckensall with Northumberland rock art (credit North News and Pictures): Portrait: http://www.ncl.ac.uk/press.office/press.release/photos/2278_ANCIENT_CARVINGS.jpg Landscape: http://www.ncl.ac.uk/press.office/press.release/photos/2287_ANCIENT_CARVINGS.jpg
END OF PRESS RELEASE: Issued by Newcastle University Press Office. Further information from Claire Jordan. Tel. 44-191-222-6067/7850 or 44-781-675-6027. Email email@example.com
Updated: 2005-01-11 22:28
An archaeological project will be carried out to conduct a DNA analysis on a dozen horse skeletons unearthed from ancient burial tombs in Shaanxi, an inland province in Northwest China.
A file photo shows the horse skeletons and carts buried as early as between 1100 B.C. to 700 B.C near Xi'an,capital of Northwest China's Shaanxi Province. [newsphoto]
Just approved by the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, the effort is set to begin next month.
A joint Chinese and British team of scientists from the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology, Peking University and Cambridge University will undertake the project, said Li Gang, a Shaanxi Provincial Administration of Cultural Heritage official.
Archaeologists have used a professional database to process and date material collected from the skeletons, including the size and weight of the skulls, spinal columns and limbs.
A Cambridge laboratory will be entrusted to carry out the DNA analyses, and the samples from the unearthed horses will be sent to Britain next month, said Sun Anna, a researcher with Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology.
"These unearthed skeletons were chosen as samples especially because they are more fresh and without any pollution," Li said.
These horses were unearthed last June from the burial site of a prominent duke who lived more than 2,500 years ago. They are well protected, Li said.
The tests should provide information such as the horses' bone mineral density and other trace elements, which may shed light on how the animals were fed and tamed, archaeologists say.
Experts say this will be the first comprehensive study on ancient Chinese horses, though sacrificial horses and carts are often found in northern China.
The find was made in Fengxiang County, 170 kilometres west of the provincial capital Xi'an, in the No 1 tomb of Duke Jinggong (577 BC-537 BC).
The Kingdom of Qin was one of the major power during the Spring and Autumn Period (770 BC-475 BC).
The duke's tomb was excavated between 1976 and 1986, during which time archaeologist found 3,500 valuable cultural relics even though it has been broken into by thieves and robbers more than 200 times.
Its funeral chamber, 24 metres from the surface, 16 metres long, 5.7 metres wide and 4.2 metres high, was separated by a wooden partition into two parts.
The chamber to the east was designed in imitation of the duke's office and rear chamber to the west as his dining room.
Fengxiang County is home to the graveyard where 17 other Qin dukes are at rest.
Louisiana State University 14.01.2005
An ancient mystery may have been solved by LSU Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy Bradley E. Schaefer.
Schaefer has discovered that the long-lost star catalog of Hipparchus, which dates back to 129 B.C., appears on a Roman statue called the Farnese Atlas. Hipparchus was one of the greatest astronomers of antiquity and his star catalog was the first in the world, as well as the most influential. The catalog was lost early in the Christian era, perhaps in the fire at the great library in Alexandria.
The Farnese Atlas is a Roman statue, dating to the second century, that depicts the Titan Atlas holding a sky globe on his shoulder. The statue, currently housed in Italy, includes relief figures on the globe depicting the ancient Greek constellations in fine detail. Schaefer has discovered that the constellation figures on the Farnese Atlas are an accurate rendition of Hipparchus’ star catalog. According to Schaefer, the discovery will likely lead to the solution of several long-debated questions.
Indeed, Schaefer’s discovery is already stirring interest among those in the field of astronomy. "The constellations are one of our more enduring intellectual properties, and in antiquity, they turned the night sky into familiar territory. Dr. Schaefer’s clever and disciplined analysis of the oldest graphic representation of the traditional Greek constellations reveals unexpected roots of scientific astronomy in a celebrated work of ancient art," said E.C. Krupp, director of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles.
Schaefer, who earned his doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1983, specializes in astronomy and astrophysics. He has long been interested in the history of astronomy and has written extensively on the subject. He began his examination of the Farnese Atlas statue while conducting research on ancient constellation lore.
Schaefer said that scientists have long held Hipparchus in high regard for his work, which was conducted between 140 B.C. and 125 B.C. He is known for the discovery of the first nova and a process called precession; a theory for the motions of the sun and moon; top-quality planetary observations; and the first-ever catalog of about 1,000 stars. Unfortunately, only one of Hipparchus’ books has survived to today: "Commentaries," which describes the constellation figures in detail. The rest of his written work is known only through the references of later astronomers. For example, Schaefer said, Hipparchus’ star catalog was described in the work "Almagest" by the influential Greek astronomer and geographer Ptolemy, who lived around A.D. 85 to A.D. 165.
The Farnese Atlas, roughly seven feet tall and made of marble, is now in the Farnese Collection in the National Archaeological Museum in Naples, Italy. The statue’s sky globe, which is 26 inches in diameter, shows 41 Greek constellations, as well as the celestial equator, tropics and ecliptic. Art historians have concluded that the statue is a late Roman copy of a Greek original. Schaefer said that the constellations are accurately depicted, so the sculptor must have based his work on some specific astronomical observations. Throughout the last century, Schaefer explained, these observations have been attributed to many sources, but not Hipparchus.
Schaefer said that a number of facts led to the conclusion that the statue’s sky globe was based on Hipparchus’ catalog.
Precession, as discovered by Hipparchus, is a process whereby the stars and constellation figures slowly move with respect to the celestial equator, tropics and lines of constant right ascension. This provides the key to dating the original observations, Schaefer explained, because it means that investigators need only look on the sky globe to see what date matches the constellation positions. Thus, Schaefer traveled to Naples and made the first astronomical analysis of the constellation positions.
For his analysis, Schaefer took his own pictures, because the photographic analysis requires knowledge of the distance between globe and camera. He measured a total of 70 positions on the globe and made a formal mathematical fit to find the best date. Schaefer concluded that the best date for the original observations is 125 B.C. He said that the normal margin of error in this result is ±55 years. In other words, Schaefer said, there is a two-thirds chance that the real date was somewhere between 180 B.C. and 70 B.C.
Schaefer said that the date of 125 B.C. immediately points to Hipparchus’ circa-129 B.C. catalog as the original observational source. Indeed, he said, all previously proposed source candidates are confidently eliminated because they come from time periods that are either too early or too late.
Positioning on the globe is another key indicator of the source, said Schaefer. The positioning of the constellation figures on the Farnese Atlas has a typical accuracy of 3.5 degrees. Schaefer said that such accuracy is essentially impossible to achieve by simple verbal descriptions (as found in the works of other potential sources, such as Aratus or Eudoxus) which are accurate to around 8 degrees. Nevertheless, ancient star catalogs would have the required accuracy. However, it is Hipparchus who is known to have a star catalog created around the correct time, 129 B.C., whereas the next catalog, created by Ptolemy, came much too late, in A.D. 128.
In addition, Schaefer said it is known that Hipparchus constructed many sky globes based on his star catalog. For instance, ancient coins depict Hipparchus seated in front of a globe and Ptolemy writes explicitly of Hipparchus making such globes. Thus, Schaefer explained, a likely scenario is that Hipparchus used his catalog to make an accurate globe, which was later copied exactly by a Greek statue sculptor. Then, the Greek statue was later copied by a Roman sculptor.
The constellations of the Farnese Atlas also contain many specific details that point to Hipparchus as the original observer. Schaefer made a comparison between the Farnese Atlas and all ancient constellation descriptions, including those of Ptolemy and other ancient astronomers and thinkers, such as Hipparchus, Aratus, Eratosthenes, Eudoxus and Homer. All ancient sources other than Hipparchus have many and major differences in their descriptions of the constellations. However, the detailed comparison shows Hipparchus’ "Commentary" to have no differences and many unique similarities.
Thus, the case for Hipparchus’ lost star catalog appearing on the Farnese Atlas is based on:
The derived date of 125 B.C., which matches Hipparchus and rejects all other candidates;
The fact that the accuracy of the sky globe requires a star catalog, and only Hipparchus had created one before A.D. 128;
The fact that Hipparchus is known to have produced working sky globes from his catalog;
The fact that only Hipparchus’ description of the constellation figures matches the Farnese Atlas.
Schaefer said that the discovery of Hipparchus’ lost star catalog on the Farnese Atlas could provide answers to two long-standing questions that have been the source of heated debate: What did Hipparchus use as coordinates and what fraction of Hipparchus’ star catalog made it into Ptolemy’s "Almagest?" Now, Schaefer said, with an accurate representation of Hipparchus’ catalog, researchers can make exhaustive correlations between all constellation figures on the Farnese Atlas and those contained within "Almagest." But, Schaefer said, perhaps the best part of the discovery is "simply that we have recovered one of the most famous known examples of lost ancient wisdom."
Schaefer announced his discovery today, at the American Astronomical Society meeting in San Diego, Calif.
For more information on the discovery, contact Schaefer at 225-578-0015 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Schaefer will be attending the AAS conference until Jan. 13, but will be reachable through messages left at 619-908-5062 or 619-908-5065. The results of Schaefer’s research will be published in the May 2005 issue of the Journal for the History of Astronomy. More information, including Schaefer’s journal paper, is available at http://www.phys.lsu.edu/.
January 12, 2005 06:42
THE lead archaeologist at a groundbreaking dig in Britain's oldest recorded town has issued reassurances about the future of the site.
The move comes after Colchester MP Bob Russell called for national heritage bodies to take action to make sure the town's recently discovered chariot racetrack was preserved for generations to come.
Mr Russell made his comments in an early day motion published in yesterday's order paper at the House of Commons.
The motion called for the recognition of the national importance of the discovery and the fact it was within the former Colchester Garrison boundaries, an area that was sold by the Ministry of Defence for housing development.
Mr Russell's motion also called “on all with a responsibility for safeguarding our national heritage to take the necessary action to ensure this unique ancient site is preserved for future generations to view.“
However, yesterday Rob Masefield, senior archaeological consultant for environmental assessors, RPS, said that English Heritage was already involved in considering the future of the find, as was Colchester Borough Council.
RPS has been managing Colchester Archaeological Trust in the way the digs on the Abbey Field site, where the Roman Circus was discovered, have been located and conducted. The firm was hired by construction firm Taylor Woodrow to deal with the archaeological implications of the area.
Mr Masefield said: “I can reassure the public the remains have been, and will be, dealt with in the correct way.
“Taylor Woodrow are going to propose a solution to English Nature and Colchester Borough Council, who will each have their views about what should happen - and the MP should really be speaking to those people.”
Phillip Wise, curator of archaeology at Colchester Borough Council, also said he was happy in the way work on the dig and its future was progressing.
“I think Mr Russell is perhaps being a little bit premature. Taylor Woodrow are doing all the right things. RPS are doing all the right things. We are being kept fully informed, as is English Heritage.
“There is to be a formal meeting between RPS, Taylor Woodrow, Colchester Borough Council and English Heritage within the next fortnight.
“I am very happy with the way things are going. It is a major discovery and needs quite a lot of careful thought and reflection.”
A spokeswoman for the housing developers said: “As far as Taylor Woodrow is concerned the discovery is a positive thing and we are in discussion with RPS, Colchester Archaeological Trust, the council and English Heritage to agree what is going to be the best possible way to preserve the site.
“There is absolutely no possibility of it being destroyed or built over.
“How it will be preserved has not yet been decided but we will consult all concerned. There is no possibility we are going to do anything we should not.”
Tuesday, January 11, 2005
Submitted Photo Andrew Martin, an archeologist with Cultural Resource Analysts, talks recently in Lewis County with Tom Batenhorst, transportation project manager for MoDOT, about trenching the company is performing for MoDOT in preparation for the upcoming costruction of the new four-lane highway for U.S. 61. Archeologists have found some artifacts and other items of historical significance during the trenching operations and will continue with a larger excavation later this year.
By Ann Pierceall
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
CANTON, Mo. Archeologists working along the proposed route for a new four-lane U.S. 61 north of Canton have found several artifacts that date back about 1,500 years.
"It's like working with a jigsaw puzzle. You're finding each of these small parts to put together to get the whole story" about those who lived in Northeast Missouri so long ago, said Larry Ayres, archeologist with the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT).
"This is a view into our past. It's not just the Indians, who were here before Europeans for sure, but it's mankind. It's a view to the past, to what people did then, what we were like.
"Most of the information we've found dates to what archeologists call the woodland period, about 1,500 to 2,000 years old," he said.
Most recently the contractor in charge of working the archeological sites, Cultural Resource Analysts Inc. of Kentucky, had been at work in an area where utility lines are to be laid beyond the highway. But Ayres said similar archeological digs have been ongoing for the last 10 years as improvements have been made along U.S. 61.
Items found in the digs, then and now, include stone tools and flakes from stone tool manufacturing, pottery shards, and mussel shells and animal bones.
"We have been very careful to make it clear we have found no human burials or no indications that we expect to," Ayres said.
During the planning stages, MoDOT attempted to avoid locations that appeared to have a strong potential to disturb burials. If any human remains are identified, there are both state and federal laws that will direct how they will be treated. In the case of prehistoric burials, the Federal Highway Administration would be responsible for contacting the appropriate Native American tribes. Those same tribes have already been contacted about the work being done along U.S. 61.
Ayres said as heavy equipment removes what he calls the "plow zone," the uppermost layers of soil, archeologists have found at several sites such artifacts as pits for cooking fires or food storage. Those kinds of sites often later became used as refuse pits, which for archeologists can be a gold mine of information.
Ayres admits nothing "really tremendous" has been found yet, but what has been found indicates that information is available.
The sites, about 12 in all, were identified through an archeological survey several years ago. The work up to now will determine areas where larger digs might occur in the spring.
Ayres said the goal is to "only open and dig ... what we have to." Such work destroys a site, he said, "because as you dig, you can't put it back."
The purpose of these archeological investigations is to make sure no "significant or important" historical site is destroyed through construction, especially that which involves federal dollars.
The Lewis County excavation should be complete next year. Then, once the land has been acquired, archeologists will move into Clark County.
Once digging begins again this spring, Ayres said the goal is "to determine which sites will provide the best information for the least amount of money." He said the methods being used so far, trenching and core drilling, usually suffice in reconstructing habitat from thousands of years ago.
If it is possible to provide safe parking and viewing areas and once the major sites have been determined and the excavation is underway, MoDOT will invite area residents and other interested parties to on-site tours.
"We will also attempt to document all of the activities so we can provide education in the classroom as well," Ayres said.
A Web site is being developed to help document activity and will be available at www.modot.org/northeast.
Contact Staff Writer
Ann Pierceall at email@example.com
or (573) 221-5879
AUSTRALIAN archaeologists have unearthed one of the oldest log canoes ever found in South-East Asia.
A team from the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra and conservators from the National Museum of Australia excavated a 2.5m section of the boat last month at Dong Xa, about 50 kilometres southeast of the capital Hanoi.
The boat was used for burial and contained the body of an adult.
It would have been about 10m long and was believed to have been used in the Red River delta area around 100BC by a people known as the Dongson, ANU's Peter Bellwood said.
"This was a bronze age culture, the people were quite well known because they manufactured very large bronze drums which often had designs on them, and many of the designs show these boats," Professor Bellwood said.
"We've only found one end of it. The end was chopped off and used for burial.
"It's one of the oldest surviving boats under conservation in South-East Asia."
Project co-ordinator Judith Cameron, a specialist in prehistoric textiles from ANU, said the adult's body was covered with a shroud and surrounded by pottery and a large amount of matting.
"These textiles will reveal a great deal about the material and structural composition of textiles and the role of cloth in burials by the Dongson people more than 2000 years ago," Dr Cameron said.
Samples of the textiles and the bark lid and wood of the coffin are being analysed in Canberra.
The team also excavated the grave of a young child at Dong Xa, and will return to Vietnam in December.
© The Australian
A REPLICA of an ancient boat set out to relive part of a 4,000-year-old journey yesterday in the shadow of the Humber Bridge.
With the sun breaking through mist in shafts of light, it was easy to imagine its Bronze Age ancestor attempting to cross the North Sea.
But yesterday's paddlers were a smaller, and lighter, bunch of rowers, including instructors from Trinity House School, in Hull, and students from Hull University Boat Club.
The boat, named Oakleaf by North Ferriby schoolgirl Katherine Imrie, floated off the Humber foreshore, just down river from where the oak timbers of three Bronze Age vessels were excavated by amateur archaeologist Ted Wright between 1937 and 1963.
The only earlier similar planked boats found so far have been ceremonial vessels of the Egyptian pharaohs.
Despite being half the size of the original, the replica handled well on its first short trip on the river.
John Davis, former chairman of the local Sail Training Association, has worked to bring the replica to Hull as part of SeaBritain 2005, a celebration of the UK's maritime heritage.
He said: "The weather was great, the tide was right and the crowds turned out. Everybody had a great day. We were a bit worried as she hadn't been in the water for a year."
The replica was built in Southampton and funded by engineer Edwin Gifford, naval architect John Coates and Mr Wright's family.
Rod Wright, Ted Wright's son, travelled from the Cotswolds to see the "fantastic" sight.
His father maintained his passion for the three Ferriby boats he discovered until his death three years ago and his ashes are scattered on the Humber foreshore.
Mr Wright said: "It was his life's hobby and he was still going when he was in his 80s. For the first time there was a puddle of Humber water in the boat when it came out of the river."
It is hoped a full-size replica of the boat can be built, possibly at Dunstan's Shipyard in Hessle, near Hull, where the sail training ship Sir Winston Churchill was built in 1966.
17 January 2005
January 12 2005 at 07:54AM
By John Phillips
Rome - Researchers have discovered the hidden laboratory used by Leonardo Da Vinci for studies of flight and other pioneering scientific work in previously sealed rooms at a monastery next to the Basilica of the Santissima Annunziata, in the heart of Florence.
The workshop rooms, located between the Institute for Military Geography and the Basilica, include frescos on walls painted by Da Vinci that have "impressive resemblances" to other examples of his experimental work, including a tryptich of birds circling above a subsequently erased representation of the Virgin Mary that "constitutes a clear citation of the studies by the Maestro on the flight of birds", according to the three researchers, Alessandro Del Meglio, Roberto Manneschalchi and Maria Carchio.
An angel painted as standing at the side of the fresco scene bears a striking resemblance to the angel in an Annunciation attributed to Da Vinci in Florence's Uffizi Gallery.
Da Vinci's use of the rooms was referred to in letters written by Piero da Novellata to Isabella D'Este and they were cited by Giorgio Vasari in his 16th century biography, Lives of the Artists, they said.
"The finds are particularly interesting as they will help us to understand the context in which Leonardo was working in these rooms exactly 500 years ago," said Prof Alessandro Vezzosi, a prominent Da Vinci scholar.
The Tuscan-born scientist, painter, philosopher and poet was aged 51 when he returned to Florence in 1503 after many years in Milan, where he already had established his reputation and a period of extended travel.
The rooms he took in the 16th century were in a religious house run by monks from the order of the Servi di Maria, the Servants of Mary, but in a part of the monastery set aside for renting to lay people as guestrooms, the researchers added.
The discovery coincides with the opening in Rome on Tuesday of another major exhibit of 70 tables from Da Vinci's Codex Atalanticus, incorporating his visions of flying and other machines at Rome's Lincei Academy.
"This will be the only chance many people ever get to see the Codex," said the curator of the exhibition, Carlo Barbieri.
The tables on display are from the so-called Hoepli version of the Codex.
Academics from the 400-year-old Lincei spent 15 years copying a reproduction of the original that was published in 1904 by the Hoepli publishing house.
The exhibition displays Da Vinci's designs next to working models of his versions of machines and modern machines operating today.
There are models of Da Vinci's bicycle, his flying machine and his "car", driven by spiral springs contained within drums beneath the wagon, rather like a wind-up toy.
Most academics believe the loose car forerunner was created for the entertainment of nobles at a Renaissance celebration.
Some suggested it was designed at the request of the Duke of Milan, Ludovico Sforza, possibly for use as a kind of mobile stand for a theatrical prop. - The Independent
This article was originally published on page 3 of The Mercury on January 12, 2005
Hipparchus was the greatest astronomer in Antiquity, with part of his reputation being based on his creation of the first star catalog around 129 BC. His star catalog has been since lost, although a few partial star positions are recorded in his only surviving work, the Commentary. Independently, a late Roman statue called the Farnese Atlas (now in Naples) has been known since the Middle Ages which records ancient Greek constellations. This marble statue shows the Titan Atlas kneeling on one knee while hold a large globe (65 cm in diameter) on one shoulder. This globe records 41 constellations accurately placed against a grid of reference circles, including the equator, tropics, colures, Arctic circle, and Antarctic circle. As the constellation positions shift over time (due to precession as discovered by Hipparchus), the position of the constellations on the Titan's globe will reveal the date of observations as ultimately used by the sculptor. Prior brief work on the globe has resulted in dates spread out over six centuries, with recent reviews only concluding that a thorough study is desperately needed. To fill this need, I have taken photographs appropriate for photogrammetry and have measured the positions of 70 points in the constellation figures and transformed these into RA and DEC in the globe's reference frame. A chisquare analysis then shows the date of the constellations to be 125 BC with a one-sigma uncertainty of 55 years. This date points directly at Hipparchus as being the observer and it strongly excludes all candidates that have been proposed over the past century (Aratus at c. 275 BC, Eudoxus at c. 366 BC, the original Assyrian observer at c. 1130 BC, and Ptolemy at AD 128). In addition, a very detailed comparison of the constellation figures and symbols on the Atlas' globe has been made with Hipparchus' Commentary, Aratus' (and Eudoxus') Phaenomena, Eratosthenes' Catasterismi, and Ptolemy's Almagest. I find essentially perfect agreement with Hipparchus' description of the sky (including many points unique to Hipparchus) with the Farnese Atlas; while all other ancient sources have many significant differences. In all, I have the very confident conclusion that the constellation figures on the Farnese Atlas are a depiction of Hipparchus' lost star catalog.