Panda skeleton found in ancient tomb

The skeleton of a giant panda has been found in a 4,000-year-old tomb in central China.


Wu Xianzhu from the Hubei Provincial Archaeology Research Institute says the giant panda was most likely part of a burial ritual.


Wu says pigs and dogs have been used in burials as funerary objects since the early New Stone Age, dating back about 8,000 years.


"Burying the giant pandas with the dead shows that ancient people had close contact with the creatures," he said.


The Number 77 tomb is the only tomb to have been found with panda remains.


"When the tomb was first excavated in 2001, the animal remains found were believed to be the bone of the lower jaw of a pig. But with further research, archaeologists decided that the bone belonged to a giant panda," Wu said.


Panda bones have been unearthed from other ruins from the same period, indicating that pandas were hunted by human beings at the time.


Pandas have boosted their numbers in the wild by almost half to about 1,600 in just a few years thanks to enlarged habitat and improved ecosystems.



New Colossus of Rhodes will keep watch on drunken Britons

By Harry de Quetteville in Athens (Filed: 27/02/2005)


More than two millennia after it was toppled by an earthquake, the Colossus of Rhodes - one of the seven wonders of the ancient world - is to rise again.


Instead of standing astride the venerable port of Rhodes town, however, the 100ft bronze figure will tower over the island's downmarket resort of Faliraki, infamous for the drunken antics of thousands of British tourists who go there every year.


Faliraki, about five miles south of Rhodes town, boasts a strip of bars and clubs a third of a mile long, where cut-price alcohol lures hordes of tourists on drinking binges and pub crawls.


Girls lie propped unconscious outside bars, while inside, others dance on table tops and compete in wet T-shirt contests, furthering Faliraki's reputation for promiscuity and casual sex.


Undeterred, a British-based Greek artist, Nikos Kotziamanis, has assembled a 10-strong Colossus team, including landscapers and structural engineers, who will ensure that it can stand up to the earthquakes which affect the region of Rhodes today.


"Rhodes occasionally suffers earthquakes of up to 6.5 on the Richter scale," Mr Kotziamanis said. "But we have a seismologist and are designing the new Colossus to be able to withstand much stronger shocks. The idea is that the new statue doesn't suffer the same fate as the old one."


Few details are known of the original Colossus of Rhodes, which was built by a local sculptor between 304 and 292BC and whose face was reputedly modelled on that of Alexander the Great. It was destroyed little more than half a century later.


Pliny the Elder recorded that before they were sold off, the surviving fragments attracted the awe of onlookers.


"Few men can clasp the thumb in their arms,'' he wrote, "and its fingers are larger than most statues."


Faliraki's mayor, Iannis Iatridis, said: "The Colossus was one of the wonders of the ancient world. The new statue will be the miracle of the 21st century."


Greek designers have long dreamed of rebuilding the Colossus. Permission has never been granted, however, to restore the statue to its original location, even with the support of politicians including the former prime minister, Andreas Papandreou.


According to superstition dating back thousands of years, the Delphic oracle warned islanders not to rebuild the Colossus after it was destroyed. That has not, however, scared off Mr Iatridis, who has claimed the project as his own, describing it as "the finishing touch to complete beautiful Faliraki".


"Faliraki is a very beautiful place and it's irrelevant that British people see it as a place to get drunk," he said. "What we're doing is for future generations."


Mr Kotziamanis said: "I'm sure it won't come to be seen as an icon for British drunkenness. I think they will see this in a different way. This will not be a theme-park caricature but a genuine achievement for the 21st century."


Scholars and devotees of the classical world are likely to be less enthusiastic, given Faliraki's seedier claim to contemporary fame.


Nelina Filimonos, director of the Archaeological Museum in Rhodes, said that she supported neither the statue, nor its proposed site.


"We are against this project. We know very little about the original statue and so we don't think we have enough information to build a new Colossus," she said.


"There are more important things to be done, and putting it in Faliraki is a gross distortion of history." Mr Kotziamanis plans to cast each section of the monument in his foundry, in London Docklands, before shipping them to Rhodes.


"It will be like the Statue of Liberty, which was crafted and assembled in France before being taken apart and shipped to New York," he said.


His designs resemble a male counterpart to the New York landmark, itself supposedly an echo of the Colossus, and the completed statue will bear a crown and carry a torch. Work is due to begin next month, when Mr Kotziamanis will lead a survey team to Faliraki. Once construction is under way, the £35 million project will take a further four years to complete.


Mr Iatridis said that funding would come from companies eager to be associated with the landmark. Because of Greek bureaucracy, however, ob‐taining building permits could take at least a year, he said.



Thu 24 Feb 2005 4:24pm (UK)

Archaeologists Baffled by Headless Bodies Find

By Nick Foley, PA


Archaeologists have been left mystified by the discovery of 36 decapitated bodies, it was revealed today.


Experts from the York Archaeological Trust unearthed the skeletons of 49 young men and seven children at a Roman cemetery they discovered in The Mount area of the city.


But they were stunned to find that most of the men had had their heads chopped off, while another was bound with iron shackles.


Dr Patrick Ottaway, the trust’s head of field word, said he was left baffled by the find because Romans had no tradition of decapitations or shackling men.


“One theory we are working on is that the men’s heads were removed after death with a very sharp implement through the cervical vertebrae.


“After removal their skulls had been placed in the grave by their feet, legs or pelvis as part of a burial ritual.


“Romans also believed that the head was the seat of the soul and they may have cut off their heads to stop them haunting the living.”


He said the men could have been foreign soldiers serving under Emperor Septimuis Severus in 200AD who were burying their dead according to their local tradition.


Dr Ottaway said he would be liaising with archaeologists abroad to see whether burial rituals from Rhineland, where many of soldiers in the Army originated, or North Africa, where the emperor came from, fitted the York deaths.


But the most puzzling discovery was the man found shackled with two iron rings around his feet.


“We haven’t seen anything like this before in Britain. The shackles may have been put on as a punishment or to stop the dead escaping.


“York has quite a reputation for ghosts and Romans were terrified of them and their influence.”


Researchers will carry out tests on the skeletons in an attempt to find out more about the men and why they had been decapitated.


Archaeologists also discovered pottery at the cemetery, during a three-month excavation at the site, which is being redeveloped by building contractors.


The Trust had targeted the area because it lays alongside the main Roman road leading to York from Tadcaster. Romans forbid burials near settlements so most cemeteries were located alongside roads.





Roman coin hoard revealed


23 February 2005 07:08


These are just some of the nearly 1000 silver coins found in Norfolk's biggest ever hoard of Roman money.


The staggering haul was found by metal detector hobbyists Pat and Sully Buckley in a field, near Dereham, just before Christmas.


But the find keeps growing, with a further 15 coins found on Friday.


As the EDP reported last week, the discovery was kept secret to allow a proper field search and yesterday was the first time the coins themselves were revealed.


The collection of 963 Roman denarii includes coins from 270 years of early British history, most of which were found in a ceramic pot buried 14 inches down.


The earliest coins date from 32BC and feature Cleopatra's consort Marc Anthony. The most recent are from 240AD and the short-lived reign of teenage emperor Gordian III.


Mr Buckley said: "The archaeologists were just as amazed as us at the quality and quantity of the coins as we were.


"The biggest thrill was when they let us take the coins out of the pot. It meant I was the first person to have touched those coins since they were put in hundreds of years ago. To hold something that old is amazing."


The couple – members of the East Norfolk Metal Detectors Society - got the searching bug 20 years ago when they found themselves at a loose end in Yarmouth.


"We were there for a day and bought a metal detector, but didn't find very much. When we moved house we tried it out on the land and we started finding pieces that turned out to be pagan and Saxon brooches from the seventh century," said Mr Buckley, who lives at Morton, near Norwich.


"We've found hundreds of pieces since then and it's become a full-time hobby. I've lent pieces to my sister who is a teacher, and she takes them into school so the children can handle history for real."


Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service finds officer Dr Adrian Marsden said he was still cleaning and cataloguing the coins, but the hoard could be worth around £20,000.


Dr Marsden said Norwich Castle Museum hoped to acquire the coins after they have been formally valued by experts at the British Museum in London.



A Place to Rest for German Kings


Mainz's throne may be older, but Aachen's (pictured) is still complete


When an engraved stone was dug up nearly a century ago on a building site, it didn't excite many. But now an archeologist has determined that it's actually part of Germany's oldest throne, sat in by Emperor Charlemagne.


Usually the western city of Aachen gets all the press -- at least when it comes to Charlemagne. It was the favorite residence of the emperor and served as the principal coronation site of Holy Roman emperors and German kings from the Middle Ages to the Reformation.


But now Aachen's been upstaged somewhat since an archeologist at the Roman-Germanic Museum in Mainz has uncovered part of an armrest that supported Charlemagne's royal left arm when he was visiting the city of Mainz.


The piece was actually discovered in 1911 when it was dug up while a clothing store was being constructed. It was handed over to museum officials, who apparently were not that impressed. It was catalogued, briefly described and promptly put away to gather dust in a museum storeroom.


Decades later, the piece was pulled out of cold storage because a museum archeologist, Mechthild Schulze-Dörrlamm, was researching stone monuments from the Carolingian period. After seeing the engravings on the piece, she realized she had more than a medieval signpost on her hands.


Further research and comparisons with other royal artifacts showed that the object supported the royal arm in the year 790 at the latest, making it older than the marble throne in Aachen which dates from around 800. That royal chair previously held the record for the oldest extant throne, but has now been knocked off its perch.


DW staff



Island storms uncover medieval bones



SEVERE storms which hit Orkney last month have exposed human skeletons at a historic burial site.


Now a team of archaeologists are racing against time to excavate and study the site before the sea destroys it altogether.


The January storms revealed the remains on the foreshore below St Thomas’s Kirk and the broch at Hall of Rendall, near Tingwall. The Orkney Archaeological Trust informed Historic Scotland of the damage, and a decision was taken to move forward an excavation planned for this summer.


Patrick Ashmore, the head of archaeology for Historic Scotland, said: "St Thomas’s Kirk itself probably dates to the 12th century, and the cemetery is probably medieval.


"Of course, it is possible that there was an earlier chapel on the site, or that the cemetery continued in use after abandonment of the kirk.


"Rescuing these burials before they are destroyed by the sea will give us unique information about the people who lived and worshipped here. And we need information about the site to consider whether anything can be done to save the rest of it, or whether we have to think about more excavation in advance of its destruction."


Ronan Toolis, the excavation team leader of the AOC Archaeology Group, which is carrying out the dig, said: "We will find at least 18 burials, but there may be more than one skeleton in some of the graves and we may end up with more than 20. We're only excavating the most threatened burials."



Past is revealed as skeletons are found

The hidden medieval past of Thetford has been uncovered as eight skeletons were dis-covered in a previously unknown burial ground.

Archaeologists from Norfolk County Council made the surprise discovery as they excavated land, off the Croxton Road, which is due to be developed.

The adult and juvenile skeletons date from about the 13th century and prove for the first time there was a medieval burial site in that part of the town.

Archaeologists are excited the discovery could provide evidence of a church or chapel that has not appeared in any historical records.

Jayne Bown, from the Norfolk Archaeological Unit, said: "This excavation has added to our knowledge about the medieval period in Thetford.

"Although we did expect to find some human remains during the excavation, we were excited to find evidence of a burial ground.

"The location of the burial ground raises even more questions – was there a nearby chapel or church, which we do not know about?"

The skeletons were excavated by six archaeologists and have been removed for further tests, to see what gender they are and how they died.

Other discoveries made during the excavation include storage pits, walls and posts.

Ms Bown said: "For a small area, we found quite a lot of finds, which will help us understand about medieval life in the town."

The archaeologists have completed their excavations and Abel Development is now working on the site.

22 February 2005



India finds more 'tsunami gifts' 


Divers have been scouring the site for three years

Indian divers have found more evidence of an ancient port city, apparently revealed by December's tsunami.

Stone structures that are "clearly man-made" were seen on the seabed off the south coast, archaeologists say.


They could be part of the mythical city of Mahabalipuram, which legend says was so beautiful that the gods sent a flood that engulfed six of its seven temples.


Other relics were revealed when the powerful waves washed away sand as they smashed into the Tamil Nadu coast.


The Archaeological Survey of India launched the diving expedition after residents reported seeing a temple and other structures as the sea pulled back just before the tsunami hit.


Experts say a lion revealed by the tsunami is from the 7th Century


The new finds were made close to the 7th Century beachfront Mahabalipuram temple, which some say is the structure that survived the wrath of the gods.


"We've found some stone structures which are clearly man-made," expedition leader Alok Tripathi told the AFP news agency.


"They're perfect rectangular blocks, arranged in a clear pattern."


The ancient "gifts" of the tsunami are expected to be presented to an international seminar on maritime archaeology in Delhi next month.


Other discoveries made at Mahabalipuram earlier this month include a granite lion of a similar age to the temple that experts believe had been buried for centuries before the tsunami shifted the sand.


Archaeologists have been working at the site for the last three years, since another diving expedition discovered what appeared to be a submerged city, including at least one temple.


The myths of Mahabalipuram were first written down by British traveller J Goldingham who was told of the "Seven Pagodas" when he visited in 1798.




Archaeological body confirms ancient settlement:

[India News]: Chennai, Feb 26 : Catastrophic tsunami could very well have uncovered an ancient settlement - officials have confirmed the findings of new structures off the Mahabalipuram coast in Tamil Nadu.


A three-month joint excavation by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the Indian Navy after the tsunami, has now led to the discovery of huge, cut, blocks and step-like stone structures, said Alok Tripathy, ASI's deputy superintendent.


"The search has thrown up promising evidence of man-made structures, buried about eight metres under water. Further search is on for more such structures", Tripathy said.


The initial search for an obsolete settlement was started after the Dec 26 tsunami exposed some structures off the Mahabalipuram coasts.


Officials who confirmed the findings, said that more evidence was now required to date them.


In the 1590s, European travellers to India had reported of settlements here.


However, Tripathy said that the findings could even pre-date the Pallava era (between 1st century A.D. and 12th century A.D.).


Indo-Asian News Service




Feb 17 2005

Roman brothel under new store

By Jeremy Charles


SEXY murals are among a wealth of Roman relics which have been uncovered on the site of a new Ikea store.


The erotic paintings were found by workmen building a massive new outlet for the Swedish furniture giants.


Roman tombs, villas, baths and a complex aqueduct system were also uncovered.


It is believed the relics date back to the 5th century BC.


The site where the artefacts were found was used as a brothel, or lupanar, by the Ancient Romans.


The murals depict an elderly man entangled with a young woman and a variety of animals' sex organs.


Professor Francesco Di Gennaro, an expert on Ancient Roman archaeology, said: 'This is a fascinating discovery. We have found some very interesting items and the murals are of particular note.


'However, it is not just that. There is also a street system, an aqueduct and several villas and tombs.


The murals were found at Radicicoli, near Rome.


Experts believe they are relics from the Ancient Roman town of Fidene.


Prof Di Gennaro added: 'From historical records, we know that the town of Fidene was very close to this site. But it had never actually been properly located until now.'


Historians hope to put the items discovered on display at a museum close to the site of the Ikea store, which is due to open later this year.


Yesterday, no one at Ikea's office in Rome was available to comment on the discovery.


Brothels in Ancient Rome were often adorned with erotic artwork.


In Pompeii, graphic images were found on top of the doorways of the city's brothel.