Source: BBC News (16 and 17 June 2005)



Stonehenge open for sunrise event


English Heritage is again allowing public access to the 5,000-year-old Stonehenge stone circle for this year's summer solstice celebrations. Sunrise will occur at 0458 BST on Tuesday, 21

June, on what is the longest day of the year. The monument and car park will be open throughout the previous night. Access to the stones will be free but subject to safety conditions. Animals, fireworks and loud music are banned and climbing on the stones is prohibited.

     Dr Simon Thurley, chief executive of English Heritage, said: "We are very pleased to be welcoming people to Stonehenge once again to enjoy the summer solstice. This builds on the considerable success of the celebrations in previous years. Summer solstice is a special time

which means different things to different people. We work closely with many agencies and people from all sectors of the community to ensure that everyone who comes to solstice is able to enjoy the occasion safely and peacefully. Over the last few years, English Heritage has successfully balanced the solstice with the need to protect the stone circle and its surrounding monuments.

     Staff at Stonehenge and other English Heritage sites are planning a two-hour stoppage later the same day. Their union said it was protesting at an imposed pay rise of 1.5% coupled with job losses and claimed that the heritage body was facing a financial crisis.

     An EH spokeswoman said Stonehenge would be totally unaffected because the site closed every year following the summer solstice gathering. She said they expected around 21,000 people for the celebrations, starting at 2200 BST on 20 June and finishing at sunrise on 21 June. The site is cleared and tidied up from 0900 and reopens on 22 June, she added.



One of oldest glassmaking sites found in Egypt Thu Jun 16, 6:56 PM ET


WASHINGTON (AFP) - British and German archaeologists have found an ancient glassworks in Egypt, believed to date back to around 1250 BC, according to a study published in Science magazine.


The site, at Qantir-Piramesses on the eastern Nile Delta, suggests that Mesopotamia may not have been the sole cradle of glassmaking from raw material, say the study's authors, British archeologist Thilo Rehren, of University College London, and German colleague Edgar Pusch, of the Pelizaeus Museum in Hildesheim, Germany.


The artifacts discovered at the site suggest that raw materials -- quartz powder mixed with carbonate and other ingredients -- was first partially reheated in recipients possibly made from recycled beer jars.


In a second phase the glass was tinted, often red by using copper, and heated in special crucibles then transformed into round ingots then exported to other workshops to be reheated and made into decorative objects.


Often they became perfume jars and containers for other liquids, said the archaeologists.


A British archaeologist from the University of Sheffield, Caroline Jackson, said the discovery was "highly significant."


She said the trade of glass probably played an important role in political changes of the Near East, Middle East and Mediterranean during the late Bronze age.



Search on for secret of Greek sea battle

A team of experts are to trawl the Aegean for triremes, the ships that were crucial to the victory over Xerxes of Persia

Helena Smith in Athens

Monday June 20, 2005

The Guardian


They were hopelessly outnumbered, but even then the Greeks knew it would be the battle that could change history.

The Asian invaders had entered the Aegean. The "comeliest of boys" had been castrated; the throats of the "goodliest" soldiers ripped out.


Mounted on his marble throne, Xerxes, Persia's formidable warrior king, looked over the bay of Salamis, confident that he was about to enslave Europe. But instead of victory came defeat.


As the Greeks' triremes trapped the Asian fleet, smashing it with their bronze rams, Xerxes watched incredulously. His soldiers, he said, were fighting like women.

That was 480BC. Nearly 2,500 years later, the quest to better understand the battles that the victorious Greeks would see as a defining point in their history has reached new heights, as experts yesterday began searching for the lost fleets of the campaign in the northern Aegean.


In the world of underwater archaeology the hunt for the legendary armadas is the expedition that might, just, scoop all others.


Topping the international team's wishlist is the remains of a trireme, the pre-eminent warship of the classical age.


"This is high-risk archaeology," said Shelly Wachsmann of Texas A&M University and the team's co-leader. "Discovering a trireme is one of the holy grails. Not one has ever been found."


The Persians' defeat at Salamis is seen as one of the first victories of democracy over tyranny, a crucial moment in western history.


Without it, say scholars, there would have been no Golden Age and the world would have been a very different place.


All of which makes this week-long mission more poignant as experts try to find out how the Greeks managed to defeat a much bigger and better-equipped enemy.


Although archaeologists have discovered ancient Greek and Persian ships, they have always been cargo vessels.


For their guide around three of the five sites where Persian and Greek vessels are believed to have sunk - the Magnesian coast of Thessaly, Artemision in northern Euboea and the "hollows of Euboea" - the scholars have Herodotus.


Known as the father of history, the 5th century BC historian chronicled the wars in his masterpiece, The Histories. But while his story is a good read, few artefacts have emerged to support it.


"This is a reversal of how we usually work in that we know the history but lack the physical evidence," said Katerina Delaporta, who heads Greece's department of underwater antiquities and is co-leading the project.


Previously, she said, the search would have been impossible because of the technical requirements involved. With the passage of time and the Aegean's unpredictable weather conditions, maritime experts believe the wrecks will be buried under mud and silt. That means surveying the seabed at depths of up to 600 metres where visibility is limited. Among the team's state-of-the art equipment are sonar scanners, a two-man submersible and a remote operated vehicle capable of sending video messages to the surface.


"This is the first time such sophisticated technology is being employed," she added.


More than 1,000 of the three-tiered triremes took part in the second Persian war.


But while ship sheds and dry docks have been unearthed, scholars have had to make do with images of the galley on pottery. The discovery of a trireme, either Greek or Persian, would not only unravel the mysteries of antiquity's greatest fighting vessel but shed light on the civilisation.


"Ships throughout time are among the most complex artefacts that any culture creates," Dr Wachsmann said.


Although the sea is more difficult to explore, it has the benefit of preserving artefacts better than if they were on land. Among the assembled geologists, archaeologists, historians and oceanographers there is no doubt that the ancient shipwrecks exist.


"It's just a question of finding them," said Stefanie Kennell, the director of the Canadian Archaeological Institute.


Because triremes had very little ballast, and when destroyed were unlikely to sink but float, archaeologists have long debated the likelihood of finding one. Most have set their hopes on finding a bronze ram, or the arms and armour that went down with the crews.


"If we can find part, or even the metal fittings of a trireme, it would add immeasurably to our knowledge of military seafaring in the early 5th century BC," Dr Kennell said.


In an earlier attempt to find the lost Persian fleet of the first Persian war, wrecked off Mount Athos in a storm in 492BC, the searchers discovered two helmets and a bronze-tipped spear butt.


But around Mount Athos, the waters are much deeper.


"Here, the chances of making more finds are higher," Ms Delaporta said.


The big prize - Salamis - has been left for now. But time is of the essence. With the technological advances a new kind of menace has arrived - looters, rushing to beat the scholars to the ancient wrecks.



Ancient structures found near highway


Two longhouses estimated to be about 2000 years old have been found during excavations near the E6 highway just south of Sarpsborg.


For the first time archeologists in Norway have been able to reveal a large surface area linked to known helleristninger - rock carvings - and the dig has produced results.


Traces of two 12-15 meter (39-49 foot) long constructions have come to light in the middle of the key area for rock engravings in Østfold County, near Solbergkrysset in Skjeberg. A few meters to the side of the longhouses lies a large stone bearing carved drawings of a great ship and a rider on a horse.


"Before we had indications of a dwelling from a posthole. But the find of two fine longhouses is much more than we could have dared to predict," said archeologist Gro Anita Bårdseth of the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo and head of the E6 project.


"The houses are probably built during the Roman iron age, in the first few centuries AD. In one of the houses we have found an iron knife, ceramics and burnt animal bone, the remains of a ritual burial of sacrifices to protect the house and its inhabitants," Bårdseth said.


Six pairs of holes for supporting posts and two fireplaces, plus a cooking hollow just outside a house, have been found.


The archeologists believe the rock carvings came first, possibly around 500 BC or earlier. The ship has a fine, rich style and indicates many rowers. The carving of a man on horseback is probably newer, and may be contemporary with the houses.


The longhouses are in the middle of a planned four-lane E6 and so the excavation has taken place. The helleristning of the rider will be cut out of the rock and preserved while the ship will be covered and protected on site.


Aftenposten's Norwegian reporter

Cato Guhnfeldt

Aftenposten English Web Desk

Jonathan Tisdall


Source: Channel News Asia (15 June 2005)


Chinese tomb raiders leave little for archaeologists


Chinese archaeologists have said a cluster of elaborate tombs unearthed in China's northwest Shaanxi Province may be the most significant historical find in many years.  Unfortunately, the

archaeologists were not the first to find the tombs - grave robbers have left very little for historians to work with.

     The 22 ancient tombs are all linked by tunnels or they have their own funeral pit.  Chinese archaeologists said the tunnels in the tombs suggested the cemetery was reserved for high-ranking officials from the Western Zhou Dynasty (1100 BCE to 770 BCE).  The Western Zhou Dynasty had a series of more than 10 kings, but their tombs have so far, never been found. And historical records and documents offer very limited information on the history of the

Western Zhou Dynasty, which lasted some 300 years.

     To protect the site, local authorities have banned any construction for 10 square kilometres around. Wang Zhankui, Head of Archaeological Excavation Team and Deputy Director of Shaanxi Provincial Archaeology Research Institute, said:  "Such big tombs with four linking tunnels probably means it is a tomb of a king. Or maybe it could be someone of a slightly lower rank than the king, such as 'Zhou Gong' (the Premier). This is a significant discovery because we have never found a four-tunnel tomb of the Western Zhou Dynasty."

     Unfortunately, archaeologists cannot be certain who occupied the tombs in this cemetery because they have all been looted. Wang added: "This is definitely a very sad situation, but there is nothing we can do, we are helpless. We can only work with what is left. The damage

done over the years has been very severe." Over the past five years, it is believed that more than 100,000 ancient burial grounds in China have been looted by tomb raiders.



Ancient tomb unwittingly mangled


The Asahi Shimbun


OSAKA-A tomb that had remained basically undisturbed since the sixth century was destroyed when an NTT DoCoMo group company began work on a steel tower for cellphone services in Ikeda, Osaka Prefecture, stunned officials said.


The company said it initially went ahead with construction for the base relay station without realizing what was in the ground.


The Osaka prefectural board of education immediately ordered the company to suspend construction work.


The Furue tomb, discovered in 1976, is a mound standing 1.2 meters and with a diameter of 13 m. The stone chamber is believed to have housed the remains of an influential figure.


Board of education officials were aghast when they learned of the construction work because the site had largely been unexcavated.


NTT DoCoMo Kansai leased the land to build a steel tower standing 14.8 m high.


In September 2004, company representatives met with officials of the Ikeda city government and an Osaka prefectural government's civil engineering office in Ikeda city to discuss the project.


The cellphone service operator was instructed to submit notification documents under a landscape-related ordinance and the sand control law, which is aimed at guarding against landslides and sand erosion.


In February, NTT DoCoMo Kansai submitted only the report required under the sand control law, and went ahead with construction in late April.


However, in May, local residents complained that the cellphone service operator had not submitted notification under the landscape-related ordinance.


It was only then that NTT DoCoMo Kansai learned the site was a designated cultural property.


The company suspended construction work on May 27, and submitted the relevant notification under the landscape-related ordinance and the Cultural Properties Protection Law to local government authorities.


But by then, most of the ancient tomb had been covered in concrete and the stone chamber destroyed.


A company representative apologized for the error and pledged to follow instructions by the authorities on how to deal with the mess.(IHT/Asahi: June 17,2005)






VELIKY NOVGOROD, June 18 (RIA Novosti, Andrei Letyagin) -Archeologists are to hold a conference in Veliky Novgorod (a city in northeastern Russia) to discuss progress in the search for the remnants of the Great Bridge built across the Volkhov river at the turn of the 10th and 11th centuries.


The press center of the Novgorod Region administration told RIA Novosti on Saturday that the conference would bring together scholars from Armenia, Italy, Russia and France. They will discuss the first results of the underwater search on the Volkhov riverbed.


The underwater search for the remnants of the medieval bridge started last year. Scuba divers from the Novgorod Diving Club surveyed the riverbed near the Yaroslav Yard and the Novgorod Kremlin. They found objects on the bottom that look very much like remnants of old bridge pillars.


"We cannot say for certain that what we have found are bridge pillars because a huge mass of sunken logs and other debris has accumulated in this part of the riverbed over the past centuries," experts said.


Divers plan to resume work on the Volkhov riverbed in June or July this year. In case the results of last year's underwater scanning operation find further proof of relevance, the archeologists are going to make saw cuts of the wooden bridge pillars to establish the exact age of the structure.


According to the so-called Ioakim Chronicle, the Great Bridge was built in Veliky Novgorod at the turn of the 10th and 11th centuries and remained in operation, albeit periodically repaired, until the 17th century.


In ancient times, the bridge linked the Yaroslav Court and the Novgorod Kremlin located on the opposite banks of the Volkhov river. It used to be near the site which is currently hosting a modern pedestrian bridge. In the 17th century the Great Bridge was pulled down, with the city building a new stone-pillared bridge in its place at the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries.


"Unfortunately, the original text of the Ioakim Chronicle has not survived to our days and we have to deal with renditions of some of its fragments compiled in later times," historians said.


According to experts, they can state with absolute certainty that the Great Bridge linked the banks of the Volkhov river in the middle of the 12th century.


In any case, the medieval Novgorod bridge was one of the oldest engineering facilities built by ancient Slavs on water.


This summer's diving operations may not only allow archeologists to confirm or dispute the information contained in the renditions of the Ioakim Chronicle but also find other notable relics.


In total, archeologists plan to carry on with their riverbed search operation for another two years.


In addition to scuba divers, archeologists also plan to bring members of Novgorod's Amateur Historians Club into the project.


According to the Culture, Sport, Cinema and Tourism Committee of the Novgorod Region Administration, the `Great Bridge` search project is financed by the Brussels-based INTAS research fund.


The project's budget is about 100,000 euros.


In addition to Veliky Novgorod, the INTAS project provides for underwater archeological research of presumed locations of medieval bridges in Venice, Paris and Armenia.



Roman ‘dumping ground’ unearthed

By Kerry McQueeney


Roman remains unearthed from the site of a former car park in Croydon have sparked speculation that other ancient artefacts could lay undiscovered close by.


Archaeologists say the Roman dumping ground' unearthed during an excavation of a former car park in Lower Coombe Street could be an indication of an occupied settlement nearby, which may be hidden under houses or businesses.


A two-month excavation at the site in Lower Coombe Street, carried out by Pre-Construct Archaeology (PCA) and overseen by English Heritage, uncovered finds dating from the second to fourth centuries AD and is believed by experts to be a rubbish site.


During the dig, a thick layer of pottery and rubble was unearthed containing a small number of precious artefacts including a Roman dress pin and a copper alloy lion's head.


Jo Taylor, senior archaeologist, said: "All the information it had to offer, about the occupation of the area and its use 2,000 years ago, has been recorded and preserved for future generations.


"Although this site was, by and large, a waste pit, it indicates that there was an occupied settlement close by, perhaps now hidden underneath the nearby housing or commercial units.


"We are lucky to have had the opportunity to fully excavate this area which, having been only used as a car park, has known relatively little sub-surface disturbance."


The site is owned by Wandle Housing and has been handed to Mansell Partnership Housing to be redeveloped as affordable housing.


As part of the planning conditions for this development, an excavation was undertaken by PCA which predicted that, based on the history of the site, there was a high probability of archaeological remains.


PCA project manager Tim Bradley said: "In terms of the locality, it is very significant. It provides the first real concrete evidence of Roman settlements in that area."


12:02pm Wednesday 15th June 2005




7:51am (UK)

Archaeologists Head to Shipwreck



A team of Bristol University archaeologists are heading for Tortola in the British Virgin Islands this week to survey the shipwreck site of the HMS Nymph, a Royal Navy sloop which sank after a fire in 1783.


The survey will identify and assess the extent of the ship’s remains and will ultimately aid future excavation of the site.


The HMS Nymph was launched at Chatham Dockyard in May 1778 and served King George III’s Navy as a support vessel in both the East and West Indies.


The researchers will gather photographs, video and data through acoustic positioning, a new and more accurate method of mapping shipwreck sites.


The two-week survey, scheduled for 18 June to 2 July 2005, will be conducted by a team of four archaeologists, led by Kimberly Monk of the University’s Department of Archaeology and Anthropology.