Ancient lakes of the Sahara


The Sahara has not always been the arid, inhospitable place that it is today – it was once a savannah teeming with life, according to researchers at the Universities of Reading and Leicester.


Eight years of studies in the Libyan desert area of Fazzan, now one of the harshest, most inaccessible spots on Earth, have revealed swings in its climate that have caused considerably wetter periods, lasting for thousands of years, when the desert turned to savannah and lakes provided water for people and animals.


This, in turn, has given us vital clues about the history of humans in the area and how these ancient inhabitants coped with climate change as the land began to dry up around them again.


In their article ‘Ancient lakes of the Sahara’, which appears in the January-February issue of American Scientist magazine, Dr Kevin White of the University of Reading and Professor David Mattingly of the University of Leicester explain how they used satellite technology and archaeological evidence to reveal new clues about both the past environment of the Sahara and of human prehistory in the area.


“The climate of the Sahara has been highly variable over the millennia and we have been able to provide much more specific dating of these changes,” said Dr White. “Over the last 10,000 years, there have been two distinct humid phases, separated by an interval of highly variable but generally drying conditions between roughly 8,000 and 7,000 years ago. Another drying trend took place after about 5,000 years ago, leading to today’s parched environment.”


The researchers determined where surface water was once present by using radar images of the desert taken from space. These images showed rivers, lakes and springs now buried below shifting sand dunes. As these bodies dried out thousands of years ago, the resulting mineral deposits cemented the lake sediments together and these hardened layers are detectable by using radar images.


“This information was essential because archaeologists need to focus their efforts near ancient rivers, lakes and springs, where people used to congregate due to their basic need for water,” said Dr White. “We found large quantities of stone tools around the ancient water sources, indicating at least two separate phases of human occupation.”


The earliest humans in the area were Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers, who lived in the Fazzan between about 400,000 and 70,000 years ago. They survived by hunting large and small game in a landscape that was considerably wetter and greener than it is now. A prolonged arid phase from about 70,000 to 12,000 years ago apparently drove humans out of the region, but then the rains returned – along with the people.


Around 5,000 years ago the climate began to dry out again, but this time people adapted by developing an agricultural civilization with towns and villages based around oases. This process culminated with the emergence of the Garamantian society in the first millennium BC.


Professor Mattingly said: “We have been given a completely new view of this elusive and remarkable society. The Garamantes were known to the ancient Romans as a race of desert warriors, but archaeology has shown they had agriculture, cities and a phenomenally advanced system of water extraction that kept their civilisation going for 1,000 years as the land was drying up around them.”


They cultivated a variety of high-grade cereals, such as wheat and barley, and other crops such as date palms, vines, olives, cotton, vegetables and pulses.


As the Saharan climate began to dry out they drew their water from a large subterranean aquifer (an underground bed of rock that yields water) and transported it through a network of tunnels.


“The fact that the Garamantes developed this ingenious irrigation system shows that our ability to apply engineering solutions to deal with climate change is by no means only a modern phenomenon,” said Dr White. “The gradual drying up of springs and dessication of the surrounding landscape must have seemed ominous , but they knew they had to develop sophisticated methods to cope with it.


“But even this remarkably adaptable society – one of the first urban civilisations built in a desert – could not cope forever with a falling water table and intensifying aridity. Sometime around 500AD, the Garamantian society collapsed and their irrigation system fell into disuse.”


Associated with this research, Reading’s School of Human and Environmental Sciences, in collaboration with the Department of Meteorology, are undertaking a major project, linking climate, water and civilization in the Middle East and North Africa, with a Ł1,240,000 grant from the Leverhulme Trust.



Kadusi Era Citadel Discovered in Gilan

Jan 18, 2006


Archeological studies in Kaluraz Tepe in Gilan province indicated that this historical site was once the governmental citadel of Kadusi people. Being used as a border guard, it prohibited the invasion of Amarta and Marlik people to this region.


The first season of archeological excavations in Kaluraz Tepe led to the discovery of the first architectural plan belonging to the Iron Age (800-550BC). There is a construction with big halls and several rooms in this historical site.


Kaluraz historical hill, located in Rostam Abad, is the most ancient historical site of Gilan province. This historical site was once excavated by Iranian archeologists in the 1960s, but since it belonged to an official authority of the previous regime, archeological excavations had stopped until recently. Finally, last year digging boring pits and stratigraphy works started on this site.


"The discoveries during the first season of excavation in Kaluraz Tepe indicate that this hill could not have been the residence of ordinary people or even the aristocrats of the society. The 2-meter shell-keep surrounding the hill and the halls as well as the intricate rooms with brick floors all indicate that this complex should have been the residence of prominent social classes. Considering these evidences and that this historical site was a frontier area during Kadusi era, prove the fact that Kaluraz was a governmental citadel which also played a defense role," says Mohammad Reza Khalatbari, director of the pre-historic unit of the Archeological Research Center and head of Kaluraz excavation team.


According to Khalatbari, Sefidrud River has always played an important role in shaping the culture and civilization in Gilan province. "During the middle ages, Sefidrud River divided Gilan province into two sections of biapas and biapish regions, with Lahijan and Fooman being their capital cities. Prior to this and during the first millennium BC, the river had separated Gilan province into two parts. The eastern section was captured by Amarta people, and the western section by Kadusi people. The latter was located at the present-day Talesh region," added Khalatbari.


Khalatbari believes that Kaluraz and also the Pila fortress located in Marlik historical site in west and east of Sefidrud River were two governmental citadels which were established on the frontier zone of this river to protect Kadusi and Amarta borders.



Marlik Tepe, which is considered as the first cemetery of the inhabitants of Pila fortress, is one of the most important historical sites of Iran which was excavated by Ezatollah Negahban in 1961. Marlik bowl is one of the most valuable Iranian historical relics found in the region.


Archeologists believe that most probably Kadusi and Amarta people had got into conflicts and the governmental citadels were constructed on the Sefidrud River's frontier zone to protect the borders between these two tribes.


Most parts of Kaluraz architectural construction is made of earthen and stones which have also been used in some parts including the shell-keeps.


© Iranian.ws



Largest Ever Ancient Temple Discovered in Shabwa

By Observer Staff

Jan 21, 2006 - Vol.IX Issue 02

SANA’A- Archeologists in Shabwa governorate have discovered what is said to be the biggest temple ever discovered in the Arabian Peninsula, dating back to the 5th Century BC.


The Italian archeological expedition, who have been digging in the ancient Royal Palace in Tamna’a city, say it is one of the oldest and most extensive temples ever discovered in the region. They found the temple on their recent dig, which lasted for 25 days.


Khyran Mohsen Al-Zubairi, the Director of Archeology in Shabwa, told the Al-Thawrah daily newspaper that the Italian archeologists said it was believed to be the largest temple ever found in the Arabian Peninsula. The temple is 42 meters in length and 35 meters wide.

He added that the work was continuing to clear all the sand that still covered the site. However he said that the Italian archeologist had reached an initial conclusion that a temple of such size could have been a Royal Palace for on Qatban state king.


The temple contains nine foundations at the entrance to its yard, with 16 platforms made of granite.

Archeological experts said that several religious rituals were practiced in the temple to worship the pagan God they believed in at that time. Experts estimate that there could be as many as 60 temples in Tamna’a alone.


Al-Zubairi added in a statement to the 26September website that digging will continue in the eastern section of the temple complex to find more information out about the site. He said the archeologists also hoped to see if further secrets could be revealed in the surrounding buildings.


Al-Zubairi said that an American expedition had worked on the site in 1951, as had a later French expedition. Archeological surveys in the governorate have identified 74 archeological sites so far, he added.


Copyright (c) 2004 - 2005

Yemen Observer Newspaper



Archaeologists Find Tomb Under Roman Forum

Thu Jan 19, 8:02 PM ET


ROME - Archaeologists digging beneath the Roman Forum have discovered a 3,000-year-old tomb that pre-dates the birth of ancient Rome by several hundred years.


State TV Thursday night showed an excavation team removing vases from the tomb, which resembled a deep well.


Archaeologists were excavating under the level of the ancient forum, a popular tourist site, when they dug up the tomb, which they suspect is part of an entire necropolis, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.


"I am convinced that the excavations will bring more tombs to light," ANSA quoted Rome's archaeology commissioner, Eugenio La Rocca, as saying.


Also found inside the tomb was a funerary urn, ANSA said.


State TV quoted experts as saying the tomb appeared to date to about 1,000 B.C., meaning the people who constructed the necropolis pre-dated the ancient Romans by hundreds of years.


Legend has it that Rome was founded in 753 B.C. by Romulus and Remus, the twin sons of the god of war, Mars.


Last year, archaeologists who have been digging for some two decades in the forum said they believed they found evidence of a royal palace roughly dating to the period of the legendary founding.



Necropolis tomb hailed as milestone find

January 20 2006 at 10:08PM 

By Marta Falconi


Rome - Archaeologists said Friday they have spied what appears to be the roof of another tomb in a 3000-year-old necropolis, the latest discovery about a little-known, hut-dwelling people who preceded the legendary founders of Rome by some three centuries.


Archaeologist Alessandro Delfino said the roof is just meters away from a tomb he discovered and dug up on Thursday that appears to date to about 1 000 BC. The location was under Caesar's Forum, which is part of the sprawling complex of Imperial Forums in the heart of modern Rome.


Thursday's find set off a storm of excitement among archaeologists in Rome, as they anticipate a possible treasure trove of artifacts and architecture that could greatly enlarge knowledge about that period, which roughly straddles the transition from Bronze to Iron ages.


Finding another tomb could "indicate the existence of a series of tombs that were built well before the city's foundation," Delfino said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.


He said the necropolis was destined for high-ranking personalities - like warriors and ancient priests - heading the tribes and clans that lived in small villages scattered on hills near the area which later spawned one of the world's greatest civilizations.


"The discovery is a milestone for the knowledge of Rome's history," he said. "It allows us to have information on these people's lifestyles, and even on what they ate."


Delfino said a funerary urn that contains human ashes was found in the tomb, as well as bone fragments that appeared to be from a sheep.


"We've found people's possessions, like small miniatures of lances, vases and shields that reproduce the aspects of the dead person's domestic life," he said.


The tomb excavated Thursday is exceptionally big and well-preserved, with its 1.2-metre-wide, hut-like roof. Its form resembles a well.


"The effort (to build the tomb) was directly proportional to the importance of the person buried there," said Roberto Meneghini, who is directing the excavations. "While the city (of ancient Rome) did not exist, there were still small groups of families who lived in huts," he said.


In an 2000-2001 excavation, two other tombs were found in the area, Delfino said. In the early 1900s, other tombs "not quite as old as the more recent finds" were discovered, he said.


Legend has it that Rome was founded in 753 B.C. by Romulus and Remus, the twin sons of the god of war, Mars, who were suckled as infants by a she-wolf in the woods.


Last year, archaeologists who have been digging for about two decades in the Roman Forum area, said they found evidence of what appeared to be a royal palace roughly dating to the period of the legendary founding. - Sapa-AP



School dig uncovers Roman grave 


The skeleton was found during construction of a new IT block

A Roman grave has been uncovered during building works at a school in Cheddar in Somerset.

Construction of the new IT block at the Kings of Wessex School was paused when the skeleton was found during digging of a gas main.


Experts believe it be of a man aged about 50, who was buried in a coffin and was probably a pagan.


County council archaeologist, Steven Membery, described the discovery as a "really significant find."


"Although we think he was probably buried in the late Roman period, about 1600 years ago it is possible that he actually lived in the Dark Ages in the 5th or 6th centuries AD," he said.


"We are sending off a bone for radio-carbon dating to discover exactly when this individual died."


The man is thought to have been buried fully clothed as shown by the preserved hobnails from his boots and a copper alloy earring found near his skull.


Archaeologist Heidi Dawson, who recorded and excavated the skeleton, said: "He had been buried orientated north-south which indicates he was a pagan, as Christian graves are normally east-west."


Experts are continuing to monitor the construction work.



Secret of ancient Athens plague is being unraveled

Greek scientists find typhoid after excavating graves


Kerameikos, Athens’s ancient cemetery, has yielded conclusive evidence as to the nature of the plague that decimated a third of the population of the ancient city and influenced the outcome of the Peloponnesian Wars. Scientists at Athens University’s School of Dentistry have used molecular biology to help solve the riddle of one of history’s biggest mysteries.

By Dr Manolis Papagrigorakis (1)


Recent findings from a mass grave in the Ancient Cemetery of Kerameikos in central Athens show typhoid fever may have caused the plague of Athens, ending centuries of speculation about what kind of disease killed a third of the city’s population and contributed to the end of its Golden Age.


Examined by a group of Greek scientists coordinated by Dr Manolis Papagrigorakis of Athens University’s School of Dentistry, the findings provide clear evidence that Salmonella enterica serovar Typhi was present in the dental pulp of teeth recovered in remains from the mass grave.


The plague that decimated the population of Athens in 430-426 BC was a deciding factor in the outcome of the Peloponnesian Wars, ending the Golden Age of Pericles and Athens’s predominance in the Mediterranean.


It broke out during the siege of the city by the Spartans in the early summer of 430 BC; after a brief hiatus in 428 BC, the epidemic returned in the winter of 427 BC and lasted until the winter of the following year. It is assumed that one-third of the Athenians, including one-fourth of their army and their charismatic leader, Pericles, perished in the epidemic.


All data pertaining to the disease’s outbreak and its clinical characteristics were until now based on the account by the fifth-century-BC Greek historian Thucydides, who himself fell ill with the plague but recovered. In his famous history of the Peloponnesian Wars, Thucydides gives detailed descriptions that have formed the basis of several hypotheses regarding its nature. However, researchers had never managed to agree on the identity of the plague due to the lack of definite microbiological proof in the absence of paleopathologic evidence. Several pathogens have been putatively implicated in the emergence and spreading of the disease.


In recent decades, molecular biology tools (DNA PCR and sequencing techniques) have made it possible to detect and, furthermore, specifically identify microbial DNA fragments in ancient human skeletal remains, thus making possible the retrospective diagnoses of ancient diseases.


In 1994-1995, under the supervision of archaeologist Effi Baziotopoulou-Valavani for the Fourth Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities Ephorate, excavations of a mass burial pit unearthed in the Ancient Cemetery of Kerameikos in Athens provided the required skeletal material for the investigation of ancient microbial DNA.


The grave yielded the remains of about 150 individuals and were dated, through archaeological site documentation, to around the time of the plague outburst between 430-426 BC. The remains were found piled up in a manner that indicated a hasty burial without the usual care dictated by the respect that ancient Greeks usually showed for the dead.


Dental pulp was the material of choice in this research, as its good vascularization, durability and natural sterility has proven to be an ideal source of ancient DNA, also providing for the recovery of adequate genetic material of specific septicemic microorganisms which after death remain trapped in the dental pulp and become mummified.


Using modern laboratory methods under strict sterile conditions at the molecular neurobiology laboratory at Athens University’s medical school, the research team first found the existence of microbial DNA in the dental pulp. This DNA was then separated and subjected to successive tests to identify which of the possible microbes was linked in the past with the Athens plague.


Teeth from three different skeletons were examined. After six negative results from six candidate microbes, a positive reaction was found for Salomonella enterica serovar Typhi, which is responsible for the appearance of typhoid fever.


The correspondence with the genes examined in the ancient DNA with known sequences of the contemporary form of the microbe was as high as 99 percent.


This evidence allowed for a definite conclusion regarding the microbes found in the teeth of the three bodies from the mass burial pit — the presumed victims of the Athens plague.


Typhoid fever almost certainly played a part in causing the Athens plague, either exclusively or in combination with another — and so far unknown — infection.


Even today, typhoid fever is a major health problem on a global scale. Every year there are about 20 million new cases that lead to about 600,000 deaths in the developing world where overpopulation, inadequate water supplies and hygiene, as well as poor access to health services, allow epidemics to spread with tragic results.


Overcrowding and resultant public health problems — as well as standards of personal hygiene — in the besieged city of Athens in 430 BC as described by Thucydides would have been sufficient to allow the disease to appear and then develop into a deadly epidemic.


The scientifically documented diagnosis of typhoid fever is in accordance with many of the clinical characteristics of the Athens plague as described by Thucydides. The differences in the modern form of the disease from Thucydides’ references pose another challenge for the Greek research team.


Studying the historical aspects of infectious diseases can be a powerful tool for several disciplines to learn from. We believe this report to be of outstanding importance for many scientific fields, since it sheds light on one of the most debated enigmas in medical history. Archaeology, paleontology, history, paleopathology, certain fields of medicine, anthropology and even genetics, molecular biology and studies on evolution are clearly implicated in such matters and can benefit from relevant studies.


The results of this particular study are extremely important as they shed light on one of the greatest mysteries in world history. Also important is the fact that the research was organized, carried out and completed by Greek scientists at Greek research centers, under the aegis of Athens University.


(1) Dr Papagrigorakis is an assistant professor at Athens University’s School of Dentistry.


The other authors of the study, published today in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, are geneticist Christos Yiapitzakis, orthodontist Philippos Synodinos and archaeologist Effi Bazioto



Australian in Bosnia pyramid riddle

January 20, 2006 - 7:39AM


Australian archaeologist Royce Richards is among a team preparing to look for the truth behind a theory that Bosnia-Herzegovina has an ancient pyramid.


Archaeologists from Australia, Scotland, Ireland, Austria, and Slovenia will begin excavation work in April on the Visocica hill, 32 kilometres north-west of Sarajevo.


The hill is quite symmetrical, and the theory that it was once a pyramid is supported by preliminary investigations.


If true, it would rewrite world history, putting Europe alongside South America and of course Egypt as homes of ancient pyramids.


Bosnian Semir Osmanagic put forward his theory last year that a 100 metre geometrically-shaped hill with evenly shaped sides and corners that point north, south, east and west is an ancient man-made edifice.


Osmanagic, who has spent 15 years studying the pyramids of the Americas is convinced the hill is a genuine man-made pyramid from an ancient civilization.


His preliminary excavations shows what he believes is evidence that the earth has been shaped to form a pyramid and covered in prehistoric concrete and stone blocks.


"We have already dug out stone blocks which I believe are covering the pyramid," Osmanagic said.


"We found a paved entrance plateau and discovered underground tunnels.


"You don't have to be an expert to realise what this is."


Osmanagic's assertions have been supported by experts studying aerial and satellite images.


Theorists believe the Illyrian people who inhabited the Balkan region before the conquering Slavic tribes overran them about 1,400 years ago had the sophistication to shape a hill into a pyramid.


Excavation work to test Osmanagic's theory will begin on April 14 in the Visoko region and is expected to continue until October and the rugged mountainous area has become an archaeological park.


© 2006 AAP



Ancient dress made from bark found

10:48' 20/01/2006 (GMT+7)


A collection of ancient dresses made from tree bark has been found in Quang Tri Province. It is believed that is a relic of the Van Kieu, one of the Vietnamese ethnic minorities in the Central Highlands.


It was a collection of seven bark dresses, made from a hundred years ago.


According to experts, making a tree dress is very difficult. First, skilful artisan is chosen to get the bark from the Pi, a tree in the Central Highlands. He would not chop down the tree, just pare round it and take a layer of bark.


At home, the artisan’s partner prepared cask of boiling water, with spices such as ginger, sugar-cane, and citronella. The tree skin would then be soaked in the water in 10 days to release its poisons. It would then be dried for a week and restored. On the 14th day of a lunar month, people would take it and sew into clothing.


Normally, each bark dress included three parts: two in the front and one in the back. The collar was round and it was sleeveless. The thread was made from rattan fibres. The inside surface of the dress was smooth.


Although made from tree bark, this dress was very tough, flexible and warm. Both Van Kieu men and women liked to wear it, especially in Winter.


In the past, Van Kieu people wore the dress when hunting, working and fighting enemies. According to ethnologists, the tree bark dress is the oldest relic of the Van Kieu people. It shows that they related closely with the forest.


According to Ho Ta Khu, a Van Kieu person, only a few people know how to make the dress now. Sewing is the difficult part. Only a few people can do it.


According to Le Duc Tho, Deputy Director of Quang Tri Museum, a culturist, the bark is seen as a Van Kieu costume art. The collection they found is very valuable.


(Source: NLD) poulou-Valavani.



Archeologists unearth 3,200-year-old woman in Vietnam

Jan 23, 2006, 14:58 GMT 


Hanoi - Archeologists in northern Vietnam have unearthed the skeleton of a young woman buried at least from 3,200-3,700 years ago, local media reported Monday.


The discovery is one of the oldest human remains found in archeological sites documenting the emergence of Vietnamese civilization during the Bronze Age in the Red River delta.


The skeleton, believed to be of a woman age 20-30 when she died, was discovered Sunday in a tomb being excavated in Phu Tho province, 80 kilometres west of Hanoi, according to the on-line newspaper VN Express.


The 1.5-meter-tall skeleton was buried with hundreds of pieces of pottery, and the surrounding area has yielded axes, chisels and utensils such as vases and bowls, VN Express reported.


The Phu Tho site, in the remote village of Ren, represents the earliest evidence of the Hung dynasty, considered the first Vietnamese rulers.


According to the tradition, the first Vietnamese ruler was Hung Vuong, who legend holds founded his dynasty in 2879 B.C.


The rise of the Hung dynasty - which ruled until about 300 B.C. - was marked by the beginning of rice cultivation, which legend has it was taught to the Vietnamese people by the dragon lord Lac Long Quan, who was Hung Vuong's father from a marriage with an immortal woman.



© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur 



16th century Old Goa arch discovered



OLD GOA, JAN 20 — An historical arch dating back to the late 16th century was discovered on Friday at the Portaria (entrance) of the Casa Professa (Professed House), attached to the Bom Jesus Basilica at Old Goa.


When workers of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) were busy carrying out repairs to the wall behind the life-sized statue of St Francis Xavier, they stumbled upon an opening to the wall. They then widened the opening and found an arch, with the faded designs clearly visible.

Speaking exclusively to Herald, Bom Jesus Rector Fr Savio Barretto stated that the Superintending Archaeologist N Taher has said that the ASI would restore and preserve the newly discovered arch.

Commenting on the new find, noted author Fr Moreno de Souza stated that the Casa Professa existed 10 years before the construction of the Basilica.

“The foundation for the Basilica was laid on November 24, 1594 and it was consecrated by the Augustinian Archbishop Alex Menezes on May 6, 1605,” he said.

“I would presume that the newly discovered arch on the wall, below which must have been the altar, was where the Jesuits from Casa Professa celebrated the mass in the chapel,” opined Fr Moreno.

He further disclosed that the arch extends right up to the ‘Pilgrimage of the Heart’ centre.

Meanwhile, the news of the discovery of the arch spread around Old Goa, with curious people rushing to the Basilica to have a look at the arch.