African cave art depicts peace

POSTED: 0903 GMT (1703 HKT), November 22, 2006


CLANWILLIAM, South Africa (Reuters) -- In the caves of South Africa's Cederberg mountains, an ancient people left a legacy of rock art that could teach modern man a valuable lesson or two about living in harmony with nature.


That is the view of John Parkington, professor of archaeology at the University of Cape Town, who has spent 40 years in the Cederberg and neighboring areas researching rock paintings and other artifacts left by the pre-colonial hunter-gatherers who once roamed southern Africa.


The Bushmen, or San, left tens of thousands of paintings in ochre and clay, most depicting humans or three or four key animal species, and some showing men with the heads of animals.


Parkington launched the Living Landscape Project in the Cederberg town of Clanwilliam, about 250 km (155 miles) north of Cape Town, five years ago to increase understanding of the region's archaeological assets and use them to attract tourists.


The project has trained local people to work as guides to the rock art sites. Some are members of South Africa's mixed-race, or colored, population who trace their ancestry back to the hunter-gatherers.


Parkington believes the pictures -- some painted as recently as 200 years ago, others up to 10,000 years old -- reflect the way the hunter-gatherers saw nature and their place in it, and include elements of shamanism.


With the domestication of plants and animals, humans started "moving ourselves out of the ecosystem ... that was the beginning of the process that took us to the position of being outsiders", he said.


"That's why we unbelievably and inexplicably are failing to recognize the threat of global warming, because we're outside it," he said. "We're going to carry on manipulating it, as apparent owners of it, until it's too late."

On the inside


Parkington says the hunter-gatherers placed themselves inside the ecosystem, rather than outside looking in.


"So they see animals as other beings who know the world in a different way ... and sometimes in a very valuable way, and sometimes they want to take on that knowledge."


The animal that occurs most often in Cederberg rock paintings is the eland, a large antelope that Parkington said was revered by the Bushmen as "a beautiful sentient being".


He said they developed rules for hunting, "a guiding ethos", as a way of justifying their pursuit of eland and of behaving "sustainably and responsibly in the world ... as a species that actually shares the landscape and vegetation with other beings".


The hunter-gatherers went into decline after the arrival of white settlers in the Western Cape from the 1650s and with the encroachment of black pastoralists from the north.


Persecuted by armed commandos, decimated by disease and driven from their territory by farmers, most of the survivors ended up as laborers or servants.


"The pre-colonial hunter-gatherers were very much caricatured under colonialism and particularly under apartheid," Parkington said.


"All (their) achievements were denied or belittled. So one of our objectives is we want to rehabilitate pre-colonial people, we want to celebrate their achievements."


Rock art researchers learned much about hunter-gatherer culture from groups of Bushmen who continued to follow their traditional lifestyle until relatively recently in remote areas of Botswana and Namibia. Their descendants still live in the Kalahari desert.


Another important source of information is an archive left by 19th century linguist Wilhelm Bleek and his sister-in-law Lucy Lloyd, who recorded the stories and myths of Bushmen who were jailed in Cape Town by British colonial authorities.


"All archaeologists now recognize that this is the way in -- these prisoners and the Kalahari hunter-gatherers have unlocked the meanings of the paintings by explaining how they saw the world ... you have to interpret the paintings from that perspective," Parkington said.


Copyright 2006 Reuters. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.



Satellites draw up maps of ancient city in Xinjiang

www.chinaview.cn 2006-11-23 10:57:55


    BEIJING, Nov. 23 -- Researchers using satellite technology are drawing up maps of the ancient city of Milan in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in a bid to better protect this important point along the Silk Road.


    Milan is home to many cultural relics, including the world-renowned angel murals that were created some 2,000 years ago.


    A team of experts from the Beijing Special Engineering Design Research Institute visited the region early this month to survey the ruins.


    Using cutting-edge satellite technology, the team collected detailed data on the 40-plus-square-kilometre area surrounding the ruins of Milan, said Lu Hanqian, the senior engineer leading the team.


    "We will work with advanced GPS (global positioning system) to draw up maps of the ancient city of Milan by the end of the year. The maps will be the most accurate representations of the ruins available," the engineer said.


    Once the survey and maps are completed, concerned authorities will come up with measures to further restore and protect the ancient ruins, said Sheng Chunshou, director of the Administration Bureau of Cultural Heritage of Xinjiang.


    Milan is located in the southern part of Lop Nur in Xinjiang, more than 900 kilometres away from the region's capital, Urumqi. The city was an important transportation hub during the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-24 AD), according to Yang Yiyong, a researcher at the Xinjiang Archaeology Research Institute.


    Yang said Milan was a major stop on the Silk Road, playing a key role in exchanges between the East and West of 2,000 years ago. Milan was gradually abandoned after the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) because of war and worsening environmental conditions.


    In 1907, a British-Hungarian explorer named Aurel Stein found murals depicting winged angels in the ruins of Milan. In a book that he wrote on his travels along the ancient Silk Road, he said that Milan's angels probably dated back some 2,000 years.


    Both Chinese and foreign archaeologists believe that the angel murals reflect a Roman influence, indicating deep cultural exchanges between China and the future countries of Europe during the Western Han Dynasty.


    The satellite maps of Milan represent just part of the central government's efforts to protect local cultural relics and ruins.


    The central government last year drew up a plan entitled "Rescue and Protection Programme of the Key Relics in Xinjiang Along the Silk Road." Under the plan, the government will invest 420 million yuan (52.5 million U.S. dollars) in preservation projects in the next five to eight years, Sheng said.


    "There are 21 cultural relics, and ancient sites and ruins in Xinjiang along the ancient Silk Road listed in the protection programme. We will make maps of other places to be protected in the following years," Sheng added.


    The ancient Silk Road starts in Xi'an, capital of the Western Han Dynasty, and ends in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Xinjiang was an important section along a route that spanned the Eurasian continent, Sheng said.


(Source: China Daily)



Archaeologists dig deep to revive 2,200 year-old ancient capital


Fifty years of excavation work on the ancient city of Chang'an, situated in the northwestern part of Xi'an, have now passed and archaeologists have been able to map out a clear layout of the former capital of the Han Dynasty.


But there is still much work to be done. Experts, such as Liu Qingzhu, a veteran archaeologist with the Institute of Archeology at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), insist that only one thousandth of the total ruins has been unearthed.


"Like the ancient site of Pompeii, the study of large-scale ruins requires about 100 or 200 years of excavation," Liu said.


The Western Han Dynasty was one of the most prosperous periods in ancient China and lasted for about 200 years. Its capital Chang'an, today's Xi'an, once rivaled Rome as the largest metropolis in the world.


Although no discernible structures have been found, archaeologists have been able to identify the sites of the former palaces from the different soil types. Perhaps the most significant discoveries have been of underground passages underneath the palace ruins, which are thought to represent the political power struggles that occurred within the imperial house.


"The underground passages are the first of their kind ever to be discovered in the ruins of an ancient Chinese capital," said Liu.


"The tunnels were mostly discovered under the palaces where the royal women lived, including the emperor's mother, the empress and the emperor's concubines," said Liu.


Historical records show the emperors in the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC - 25 AD) relied partly on the families of the imperial females to consolidate their rule.


"The emperors had many concubines, some of whom were chosen for political reasons to consolidate royal power through their families," Liu said. "The political groups might have used the tunnels to meet secretly in various palaces in the capital.


"The underground passages are very intricate. Some had gatekeepers to control who went in and who went out."


The ruins of nearly 20 underground passages have been discovered and some stretch for about 20 meters, according to Zhang Jianfeng, an archaeologist with the Chinese Institute of Archeology in the CASS.


Numerous basements under the palaces have also been found.


"Some small basements with thick pillars might have been used to keep ground humidity away from the upper constructions, some middle-sized ones less than two meters high might have been used as warehouses and some large ones of about 50 square meters might have been used as residences or offices," said Zhang. "But we still need further evidence to prove these theories."


The main building of Weiyang Palace, where the emperor resided, was far larger than the 0.72-quare-kilometer Forbidden City covering, about five square kilometers, the largest of the ancient Chinese palaces.


Standing before the ruins, it looks like nothing more than a man-made earth hill. However, archaeologists have picked up vital clues from studying the nuances of the ruins' height, the color of the earth and its layers.


"Judging by the height of the rammed earth and the size of the stones used to support the pillars, there must have been a marvelous construction here," says Shi Xingbang, President of the Shaanxi Society of Archaeology.


Another unique construction to the east of the central palace is a weapons warehouse, also the military headquarters of the empire.


"This is the first weapon warehouse ever discovered in an ancient capital, though many historical records have described have hinted at such a building," says Liu. Iron swords, bows, arrows and armor were found littered around the ruins.


Another construction thought to have performed the same function as a modern-day refrigeration unit was also found.


"The walls were about six meters thick to ensure temperature isolation," says Liu Zhendong, another archaeologist in charge of the excavation, "The room is about 27 meters long and seven meters wide."


The capital is divided into eleven districts with twelve gates and eight roads each 45 meters wide. The districts include a palace area, a residential area for senior officials, a civilian residential area, a business area and an industrial area.


About 240,000 people were estimated to have lived in the capital. The population might have been 1.2 million if the satellite towns were included.


The northern line of the ancient capital looks like the Big Dipper, a unique feature given Chinese ancient capitals were usually rectangular.


Some experts believe the shape was adopted deliberately in line with astrological beliefs. Others believe the shape was dictated by the zigzagging Weishui River, at the city's northern end.


Huang Xiaofen, a scholar with the University of East Asia in Japan, supports the former theory.


"The Chinese traditionally built rectangular capital cities but the northern line of the Han capital twisted six or seven times, similar to the shape of the Big Dipper. It reflects not only an architectural philosophy, but also the ancient emperors' ruling philosophy of achieving harmony between heaven, earth and human beings," she said.


"The Western Han Dynasty was very strong at that time and would not have allowed the design of the palace complex to be compromised by a river, unless it was done on purpose.


"The ancient rulers paid great attention to the study of the stars. Near the palaces, a river and several highlands could form an auspicious horoscope, ensuring the peace and unity of the empire."


Others disagree. "The delicate design shows the designers were familiar with the landscape in Chang'an and could make full use of it. We shall not misrepresent their meanings with horoscope mumbo jumbo," says Ma Zhenglin, an expert with the Shaanxi Normal University.


In 2005, China pledged to set aside 250 million yuan (31 million U.S. dollars) to protect its large-scale ruins across the country, including the ancient capitals. However, parts of the Han capital of Chang'an are still being destroyed near the urban areas as economic development clashes with protection of cultural heritage. Even though the Cultural Relics Protection Bureau has the final say over whether or not restaurants and offices can be built on protected land, it is often ignored.


"Many constructions have been built inside the large-scale ruins near downtown Xi'an without permission from the cultural and relics protection department. Some high rises have wreaked great havoc on the ruins," said Liu.


Source: Xinhua



More than 100 ancient settlement areas discovered in eastern Anatolia

Thursday, November 23, 2006

ANKARA - Turkish Daily News


  Researchers working on the Archaeological Settlements in Turkey (TAY) project have discovered 120 previously unknown ancient settlement areas in various locations in eastern Anatolia, the project's manager announced on Wednesday.


  Assistant Professor Alparslan Ceylan, a lecturer at Erzurum's Atatürk University and the project's leader, told the Anatolia news agency that the 120 settlement areas, thought to belong to the Iron Age, included a temple and several fortresses.


  Ceylan said inventories for 480 ancient settlements in the region -- including the newly discovered sites -- were also prepared as part of the project, which has been under way for the last one-and-a-half years.


  He and his team traveled 7,500 kilometers for the project, which once again proved the abundance of archaeological remains in Anatolia, according to Ceylan. The presence of 480 settlement areas in eastern Anatolia alone is the biggest proof of Anatolia's historical wealth, he said.


  The results of their research will be available online soon, Ceylan noted.


  Among the most significant sites they discovered were an Iron Age fortress at a site named Ağababa, located in Erzincan's district of Tercan, and a fortress and temple with still-intact altars in the same district, he said.



Italian UNIFIL troops turn up archaeological treasures

Road-construction site becomes excavation for antique earthenware, human remains

By Mohammed Zaatari

Daily Star staff

Saturday, November 25, 2006


TYRE: The Italian contingent of the newly expanded United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) stumbled upon the unexpected this week. Rather than cluster bombs or other sinister detritus resulting from this past summer's 34-day Israeli bombardment, the troops found a cache of antique earthenware and ancient human remains.


The Italian team made the archaeological discovery while it was in the process of building new roads in the area surrounding its headquarters in the Southern village of Tebnin.


Captain Magistreti, media officer for the Italian contingent, said the troops will deliver the antiquities to the Lebanese Directorate General of Antiquities with help from the Lebanese Army.


Magistreti said it would be premature to speculate on the historical era to which the earthenware belonged "before they are examined by specialized archaeologists."


Ali Badawi is the director of Lebanon's archaeological sites in the South. He said he suspected the clay pots might belong to the Roman or Byzantine eras, which corresponds to the third and fourth centuries AD.


In a separate announcement, Deputy Italian Foreign Minister Ugo Intini said Friday that Italy, along with other members of the international community, was working hard to put an end to the nasty cycle of political assassinations that have wracked Lebanon, beginning with the killing of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in February 2005 and running through Tuesday's murder in broad daylight of Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel. Intini stressed that Italy was committed to helping Lebanon fend off any resurgence of civil war.


Intini spoke after paying a visit to the Italian contingent of UNIFIL on Friday. He participated in the funeral service for Gemayel on Thursday as a representative of the Italian government, and met with Prime Minister Fouad Siniora on the same day. Intini quoted the Lebanese premier as saying he was ready to hold dialogue with both Syria and Iran. Intini added that the European Union was also expected to discuss the situation in Lebanon with both Syria and Iran. Intini said Iran and Syria should come to realize that "Lebanon is a gathering place, and not a source for discord and hostilities."



Before he left Lebanon on Friday afternoon, Intini also held a meeting with members of the Italian UNIFIL contingent in Tebnin. The troops briefed him about the humanitarian nature of their mission in Lebanon, including the clearing of cluster bombs and other unexploded ordnance. They also showed Intini the earthenware fragments and bones they had discovered.


While archaeological excavations and the care of objects from antiquity fall rather far afield of the Italian team's duties, Italy is particularly sensitive to issues of national heritage and cultural patrimony, and has played a leading role in efforts to retrieve looted antiquities from several international museums, including the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and, most recently, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.


Earlier this week, Italy insisted that the Getty return 46 artworks in its collection that were allegedly stolen, smuggled out of the country and eventually sold to the museum. The Getty, however, disputes Italy's claims on at least half of the artifacts - most notably with regard to a bronze statue called "The Statue of a Victorious Youth" and a 2,500-year-old limestone marble statue of Aphrodite, which the museum maintains was discovered in international waters in 1964. Italy, nonetheless, wants it back. Other countries that have been aggressively pursuing the repatriation of looted antiquities include Greece and Egypt. - With agencies



3,000-year-old tools to museum


A man with a metal detector who came across a hoard of prehistoric bronze tools and weapons has handed over his find to the National Museum Wales.


Phil Smith came across the Bronze Age haul on land in Llanbadoc in Monmouthshire and reported his find.


Dating between 1,000 and 800 BC, the haul contains axes, fragments of swords and a spearhead as well knives and harvesting tools.


The 3,000-year-old pieces are being studied by experts.


The treasure was thought to have been buried together in the ground, probably in a small pit, as a ritual gift to the pagan gods of the time.


Phil Smith with some of the tools

Detector enthusiast Phil Smith reported his find to the museum


Hoards of this type since 2003 have been legally classified as treasure and it has been given to the museum by the local community council.


Mr Smith initially reported his find to the Portable Antiquities Scheme, which voluntarily records and studies archaeological finds.


Adam Gwilt, curator of the bronze age collections at the National Museum Wales in Cardiff said: "We are very grateful to Llanbadoc Community Council for their generosity in donating this hoard to the national collections.


"We would also like to thank Phil Smith for his reporting of the find and his support for the Portable Antiquities Scheme in Wales.


"This discovery, and the story that it tells, can now be shared with public audiences, now and for generations to come."



Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2006

Team finds more traces of lost Amazon civilization

Kyodo News


A well-known Japanese archaeologist said Tuesday a team he is leading has found further evidence of a little-known ancient civilization in the Bolivian Amazon.


Katsuyoshi Sanematsu, a professor of anthropology at Rikkyo University in Tokyo, completed an excavation in August of a massive man-made mound, or "loma," in Bolivia's northeastern Beni state.


Such mounds mark settlements of the Mojos civilization, which is thought to have flourished in the Amazon region for thousands of years before the arrival of the Spanish.


The excavation is the second stage of a three-year study by Japanese and Bolivian researchers called Project Mojos that began in 2005.


Sanematsu, author of numerous books on ancient Central and South American cultures, said the main objective of this year's work was to gather more data on the loma, one of some 20,000 in the flood plain of the Bolivian Amazon called the Llanos de Mojos.


The four-week excavation confirmed that the mound, called Loma Chocolatalito, is full of pottery and animal bones.


"There were over 10,000 fragments of pottery unearthed from the top 100-cm layer of just one of the units," he said, referring to a sectional cut from the loma.


"Also we discovered numerous animal bones, some of which had been worked and painted. All this suggests that this place was densely populated in ancient times."


Among the most interesting objects are a fish hook made of animal bone and a pottery fragment with a carved design that Sanematsu believes may be a map.


The project team, which includes seven other Japanese researchers and experts, brought 39 samples back to Japan for analysis.


Sanematsu said although it isn't possible to draw conclusions based on a few years of research, the results indicate an important civilization once existed in the Llanos de Mojos, but what caused it to disappear remains a mystery.



Tomb find reveals pre-Inca city


Archaeologists working in northern Peru have discovered a spectacular tomb complex about 1,000 years old.


The complex contains at least 20 tombs, and dates from the pre-Inca Sican era.


Among the discoveries are 12 "tumis", ceremonial knives which scientists have not been able to study in a burial site before, as well as ceramics and masks.


The Sican culture flourished from approximately AD 800-1300, one of several metalworking societies which succumbed to drought and conquest.


Archaeologists working on the project say the find will help them understand details of the culture.


"It is a religious city, a sacred settlement, and at each excavation site is a cemetery," Izumi Shimada told Peru's El Comercio newspaper.


"That tells us that Sican was a very organised society."


Professor Shimada, based at the University of Southern Illinois in the US, has been excavating Sican sites for a quarter of a century. The latest dig was performed in conjunction with the Sican National Museum.


The burial site sits on Peru's northern coast, near the town of Ferrenafe.


Discoveries in the tomb complex include tumis formed from an alloy of silver, copper and gold; masks, breastplates and ceramics.


The site contains at least 20 tombs, making it a "religious city"


Buried in a pyramid 30m (100ft) long, archaeologists found the bones of a woman in her early 20s surrounded by figurines of Sican gods, ceramics and objects in copper and gold.


Another set of bones, clearly from a person of some stature, were found in a seated position accompanied by a metallic crown, part of a thorny oyster, and various ceramic objects including a vase.


The tumis are a prize find, because until now the knives have come to scientists from tomb raiders. Finding them in situ would allow a closer understanding of their role in Sican culture, researchers said.


One of the tumis features a representation of Naylamp, the mythical founder of Sican society who according to legend emerged from the sea and became a god.


The Sican were noted for producing gold, silver and copper in quantities which were substantial for the period.


They traded shells and stones with societies in what are now Ecuador, Chile and Colombia.


Their civilisation had already declined by the time that the mightiest of Peruvian cultures, the Inca, rose to prominence about AD 1200.



Peruvian archaeologists excavate first 'tumi' knives from pre-Inca tombs

The Associated Press

Published: November 21, 2006


FERRENAFE, Peru: Archaeologists said Tuesday they have unearthed 22 graves in northern Peru containing a trove of pre-Inca artifacts, including the first "tumi" ceremonial knives ever discovered by archaeologists rather than looted by thieves.


The find, which prominent archaeologist Walter Alva called "overwhelmingly important," means that scientists can study the tumi — Peru's national symbol — in a natural setting to learn about the context in which it was used.


"This discovery comes as an important contribution to know the burial rites of the elite of this culture," said Alva, who was not involved in the dig. He confirmed that no tumi had before been unearthed by archaeologists.


The tombs, more than 900 years old, were found next to a pyramid in the Pomac Forest Historical Sanctuary, 680 kilometers (420 miles) northwest of the capital, Lima. They are from the Sican culture, which flourished on Peru's northern desert coast from A.D. 750 to 1375.


The occupants "are clearly from the social elite and therefore some of them have gold objects, some of them have copper-gilded objects, but they are quite complex, well-endowed tombs," said Izumi Shimada.


Shimada, an anthropology professor at Southern Illinois University, began excavations at the site in July with Carlos Elera Arevalo, director of Peru's Sican National Museum. He said 10 tumi knives were found, including a 34-centimeter (14-inch) copper alloy tumi bearing the image of the Sican deity.


"The tumi has for many years been the symbol of Peru, and yet no decorated tumi has ever been found or documented scientifically," he told The Associated Press.


All known tumi knives were looted by grave robbers, Shimada said. Sican artifacts, he has argued in his research, were often misidentified as coming from the later Inca Empire because they were always seen out of context.


"It is the first time that such a tumi has been found in context, in a scientific manner, and therefore we will be able to speak a lot about the cultural significance of this object," he said.


Alva — who led one of Peru's most famous archaeological discoveries, the Lords of Sipan tombs, in the late 1980s — agreed.


"Finally, archaeologists have the opportunity to show a scientifically excavated tomb where the context can be known for these objects," he said.


The archaeologist gave President Alan Garcia a tour Tuesday of the excavation site, where Shimada said his team has found 22 tombs at up to 10 meters (33 feet) below ground level.


"This is an extraordinary find," Garcia said.


One grave contains the remains of a woman about 25 years old buried with 120 miniature clay "crisoles," Shimada said, which he believes were made by each member of the funeral ceremony "as a sort of last offering to be placed in the burial chamber."



FOR RELEASE     #06-228

November 21, 2006

Archaeology Dig Unearths Original Fort Selkirk


WHITEHORSE - An archaeological dig this summer near the confluence of the Pelly and Yukon rivers unearthed the remains of the original Fort Selkirk Hudson's Bay Company post, Selkirk First Nation Chief Darin Isaac and Minister of Tourism and Culture Elaine Taylor announced today.


The project, organized by the Selkirk First Nation and the Yukon Department of Tourism and Culture, was headed by archaeologist Victoria Castillo. Castillo is in her second year of PhD studies in Anthropology at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.


"My thesis is on interaction between Northern Tutchone people and the Hudson's Bay Company at Fort Selkirk," Castillo said. "Some historians actually believed that the original site was lost to flooding and erosion by the Pelly River. The fact that we actually found it is very exciting."


The original Fort Selkirk was built on the banks of the Pelly River in 1848 by Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) trader and explorer Robert Campbell. The site was not well-chosen, and the post was damaged every spring by floodwaters. In early 1852, Campbell moved the post to a nearby site on the Yukon River - the location of today's Fort Selkirk Historic Site.


The discovery of "Fort Selkirk 1" goes back to 1988, when Yukon Archaeologist Ruth Gotthardt, along with archaeologists Greg Hare and Norman Easton, discovered a small, well-defined depression in the ground. It was the remains of a cellar, and Gotthardt guessed that it might be Robert Campbells original HBC post. The location was marked, but no further investigations were made.


Castillo was assisted on the dig by Morgan Ritchie, a recent Archaeology graduate from Simon Fraser University, and by Curtis Joe and Lauren McGinty from the Selkirk First Nation. The crew also included two Student Training and Employment Program (STEP) students, plus four Selkirk First Nation youths.


"This project is of great interest to Selkirk people," said Chief Isaac. "By encouraging our young people to be involved in archaeology, we contribute to their understanding of our history. The results of this year's work show promise for more exciting discoveries and we look forward to continuing the investigations."


"We are very pleased to be a partner with Selkirk First Nation on the exploration of a very significant historic site," said Taylor.


Funding for this project was provided by the Government of Canada's Historic Places Initiative, a nation-wide program designed to conserve Canada's historic places, and by the Government of Yukon Archaeology Program.




 Albert Petersen         Michael Edwards      Beverly Brown

 Cabinet Communications    Communications Officer      Lands & Resources Director

 (867) 633-7961         Tourism & Culture     Selkirk First Nation

 albert.petersen@gov.yk.ca              (867) 667-8947         (867) 537-3331 ex 331

             mike.edwards@gov.yk.ca  brownbj@selkirkfn.com





(November 25, 2006) A delicately elaborated nautical telescope, metal handheld lamps, intact pieces of dinnerware, and even a sailor’s shoe buckle are among the artifacts recovered from a sunken merchant ship in the bay of Valparaíso, discovered by a submarine sent out to monitor the progress of a project to make the bay deeper.

This archaeological discovery comes from one of the nearly 600 shipwrecks that occurred over the past three centuries in the Valparaíso bay.


The remains were discovered by experts contracted by the Terminal Pacifico Sur firm (TPS), who are carrying out the bay expansion project to accommodate larger boats.

Little is known for certain about the ship. Nevertheless, through an analysis of the pieces recovered and an archaeological report done by the company Arka Consultores, it appears to be an English merchant ship, which in the mid-nineteenth century ran a route from Great Britain to the west coast of North America. The ship used Valparaíso as a port of call. “The elements we’ve recovered ought to be of British origin, but we have to confirm that, given that at that time many ships were built in US shipyards,” explained Renato Simonetti, one of the firm’s specialists.


Through submarine investigation, it was verified that the ship was found nearly entirely buried and covered in sediment at about 17 meters depth. Only a thin layer of the ballast was exposed, which has been attributed to the ship’s cargo of steel and the structure of the hull on the bottom of the boat. These clues lead the researchers to think that the ship is split in two.


On various trips to the sea floor, specialists brought back various artifacts of British origin, among them a telescope, dishes, bottles and a sailor’s shoe buckle, dated between 1850 and 1880. “Regarding the dishes, there was one plate with a stamp on it. At that time sets of dishes were done in series, and, in accordance with some documents we’ve consulted, we’ve established that the dishes are from 1860,” Simonetti said.


The Region V Regional Environmental Commission (COREMA) approved a project for the dredging of ports, but in accordance with the Council of National Monuments, they inserted as a condition that TPS must develop a recovery project in order to leave the archaeological site unharmed.


The firm must finance a new archaeological expedition to collect the artifacts and the most valuable pieces, with the purpose of documenting the shipwreck. The parts of the wreckage which remain submerged after the project’s conclusion will be covered with fabric to avoid their dispersion.


In related nautical news, another submarine mission with potential for historically significant results will be carried out in Valparaíso on December 4th at 8AM.

The project, led by researcher Juan Enrique Benítez with the support of the Chilean navy, is to refloat the “Flach,” the first submarine built in Chile. The vessel was the second of its kind in South America and the fifth worldwide. The submarine, twelve and a half meters long and weighing nearly 100 tons, sunk near the bay in Valparaíso on May 3rd, 1866. Karl Flach, the German who built the submarine, perished in the wreckage along with 10 crew members.


The submarine lies in the middle of the bay, no more than 300 meters from the Prat Dock at a depth of between 35 and 50 meters. The pedal-powered, two-propeller vessel was commissioned by the Chilean government for defense against the Spanish.


Source: La Tercera

Translated by Cynthia McMurry (editor@santiagotimes.cl)