Vatican may open St Paul's tomb

By Philip Pullella


VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican said on Monday it was studying the possibility of opening a thick marble sarcophagus believed to contain the remains of the 1st century apostle St Paul to study its contents.


The prospect was raised at a news conference at which Vatican officials unveiled the results of an archaeological dig which has made part of the sarcophagus in Rome's Basilica of St Paul's Outside the Walls visible to pilgrims.


"We tried to X-ray it to see what was inside but the stone was too thick," said Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, archpriest of the basilica on Rome's outskirts.


"We will now take the necessary steps to seek the authorisation to explore the inside. This is being studied," he said, adding that the Pope would have to give eventual permission since the Vatican owns the basilica.


Montezemolo belittled some media reports that the apostle's tomb had only now been discovered.


"There has been no doubt for the past 20 centuries that the tomb is there. It was variously visible and not visible in times past and then it was covered up. We made an opening (in the basilica floor) to make it visible at least in part," he said.


According to Catholic tradition, St Paul was killed for his faith in the 1st century and buried on Rome's Via Ostiense.




Born Saul in the city of Tarsus in present-day Turkey, he persecuted early Christians but converted when he had a blinding vision on the road to Damascus years after Christ's death and became known as "Apostle to the Gentiles".


A small church was built at a burial site near the Tiber River at the start of the 4th century and a basilica was constructed at the end of the same century.


The basilica was changed over the centuries and nearly destroyed by a fire in 1823. With each change, enlargement or rebuilding, the sarcophagus became less accessible and ended up about 1.3 metres below the surface of the current floor.


Before the end of the recent excavations under the current basilica's main altar, pilgrims could only stick their heads in a small opening and look down a vertical hole towards mortar that covered the tomb.


Most of the sarcophagus, which is near a marble plaque reading "Paul Apostle Martyr," is still covered by mortar but part of one side of it has been exposed and is now visible through a new glass opening on the current floor.


Opening the sarcophagus, which measures about 2.55 metres by 1.25 metres and is about 1 metre high, would take years of more archaeological work since most of it is still embedded in the foundations of earlier churches.


The most recent dig to make the sarcophagus partly visible lasted four years and ended last September.


St. Paul's is the second-largest of Rome's basilicas, after St Peter's in the Vatican.


(c) Reuters 2006. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by caching, framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters and the Reuters sphere logo are registered trademarks and trademarks of the Reuters group of companies around the world.


This article: http://news.scotsman.com/latest.cfm?id=1840742006

Last updated: 11-Dec-06 15:14 GMT


Vatican confirms St Paul's coffin has been found

Desmond O'Grady in Rome and agencies

December 9, 2006


VATICAN archaeologists have confirmed that St Paul was buried beneath the Roman church bearing his name.


They said they have identified a Roman sarcophagus beneath the main altar and an epigraph: Paul apostle-martyr.


A small hole in the lid of the stone coffin, through which pilgrims would push pieces of fabric to touch the bones of the martyr, has been filled.


"I have no doubt that this is the tomb of St Paul, as revered by Christians in the fourth century," said Giorgio Filippi, the Vatican archaeologist who made the discovery, and who will present the results of his scientific tests on the remains of the saint on Monday.


St Paul's sarcophagus was found after five years of extensive excavations at the church, which is second only in size to St Peter's in Rome.


The announcement reinforces the move by the Vatican in recent years to present the Pope as the successor not only of St Peter, but also of St Paul the great missionary.


Paul of Tarsus was a Jew who campaigned against Christians until converted on the road to Damascus. Arrested on obscure charges, he insisted on his right as a Roman citizen to be tried in the capital of the empire.


He was acquitted, but was later a victim of Christian persecution in Rome, and was beheaded.


In the early fourth century Emperor Constantine built a church above his tomb outside the walls of the city.


"Our objective was to bring the remains of the tomb back to light for devotional reasons, so that it could be venerated and be visible," Dr Filippi said. He began looking for the tomb at the request of Archbishop Francesco Gioia, within whose jurisdiction the church falls.


In 2000 the archbishop was inundated with queries from pilgrims about the whereabouts of the saint, which eventually persuaded the Vatican that there was enough demand from tourists to warrant raising the sarcophagus to the surface so that it could be viewed properly.



Vatican archaeologists find tomb believed to be that of Apostle Paul

Updated 12/6/2006 5:04 PM ET


ROME (AP) — Vatican archaeologists have unearthed a sarcophagus believed to contain the remains of the Apostle Paul that had been buried beneath Rome's second largest basilica.


The sarcophagus, which dates back to at least A.D. 390, has been the subject of an extended excavation that began in 2002 and was completed last month, the project's head said this week.


"Our objective was to bring the remains of the tomb back to light for devotional reasons, so that it could be venerated and be visible," said Giorgio Filippi, the Vatican archaeologist who headed the project at St. Paul Outside the Walls basilica.


The interior of the sarcophagus has not yet been explored, but Filippi didn't rule out the possibility of doing so in the future.


Two ancient churches that once stood at the site of the current basilica were successively built over the spot where tradition said the saint had been buried. The second church, built by the Roman emperor Theodosius in the fourth century, left the tomb visible, first above ground and later in a crypt.


When a fire destroyed the church in 1823, the current basilica was built and the ancient crypt was filled with earth and covered by a new altar.


"We were always certain that the tomb had to be there beneath the papal altar," Filippi told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.


Filippi said that the decision to make the sarcophagus visible again was made after many pilgrims who came to Rome during the Catholic Church's 2000 Jubilee year expressed disappointment at finding that the saint's tomb could not be visited or touched.


The findings of the project will be officially presented during a news conference at the Vatican on Monday.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Posted 12/6/2006 10:57 AM ET



Buried Babies Suggest Prehistoric Compassion

Heather Whipps

Special to LiveScience

LiveScience.com Thu Dec 7, 5:30 PM ET


Infants may have been considered equal members of prehistoric society, according to an analysis of burial pits found in Austria.


Two separate pits, one containing the remains of two infants [image] and the other of a single baby were discovered at the same Stone Age camp of Krems-Wachtberg in Lower Austria. Both graves were decorated with beads and covered in red ochre, a pigment commonly used by prehistoric peoples as a grave offering when they buried adults.


Using radiocarbon dating, archaeologists from the Prehistoric Commission of the Austrian Academy of Sciences put the remains at about 27,000 years old.


"Nothing comparable to these burials of such young Upper Paleolithic individuals has been found before," study co-author Christine Neugebauer-Maresch wrote in a recent edition of the journal Nature.


The discovery could challenge the long-held belief that—since child burials seem to be so rare—infants in this period were treated with a degree of indifference, the researchers said.


Archaeologists first found two skeletons entombed together in a pit protected by the scapula of a woolly mammoth that had been placed on top, while excavating at Krems in 2005.


"Equal age at death, which is supported by equal measurements of long bones, and that the babies had been buried together contemporaneously, suggests that they are twins," Neugebauer-Maresch said. "The birth of twins would have been a rare and therefore special event in a hunter-gatherer society of the ice age, which could be an explanation for the ritual burial activities."


But the recent discovery of the third infant grave also adorned with red ochre and jewelry suggests that the special treatment extended to many or all babies and not just twins, she said.


Probably no foul play


Further testing on the skeletons will try to determine how the infants died, said Neugebauer-Maresch, but it can't be performed until the bones are fully excavated.


She denied that the twin anomaly may have scared the hunter-gatherers into performing some kind of sacrifice ritual, however.


"We prefer natural circumstances, because there is just now no evidence for a ritual killing," she told LiveScience.



Egypt finds 4,000-year-old doctor's mummy

Tue Dec 5, 11:59 AM ET


CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian archaeologists have discovered the funerary remains of a doctor who lived more than 4,000 years ago, including his mummy, sarcophagus and bronze surgical instruments.



The upper part of the tomb was discovered in 2000 at Saqqara, 20 km (12 miles) south of Cairo, and the sarcophagus came to light in the burial pit during cleaning work, state news agency MENA said on Tuesday, quoting Egyptian government antiquities chief Zahi Hawass.


The doctor, whose name was Qar, lived under the 6th dynasty and built his tomb near Egypt's first pyramid. The 6th dynasty ruled from about 2350 to 2180 BC.


Hawass said the lid of the wooden sarcophagus had excellent and well-preserved decoration and the mummy itself was in ideal condition. "The linen wrappings and the funerary drawings on the mummy are still as they were," he said.


"The mask which covers the face of the mummy is in an amazing state of preservation in spite of slight damage in the area of the mouth."


The tomb also had earthenware containers bearing the doctor's name, a round limestone offering table and 22 bronze statues of gods.



Mummy of ancient doctor comes to light



EGYPTIAN archaeologists have discovered the funerary remains of a doctor who lived and worked in the country more than 4,000 years ago, including his mummy, sarcophagus and bronze surgical instruments.


The upper part of the tomb was discovered six years ago at Saqqara, 12 miles south of Cairo.


However, the sarcophagus only came to light in the burial pit as archaeologists carried out cleaning work.


The doctor, whose name was Qar, lived under the 6th dynasty and built his tomb near Egypt's first pyramid. The 6th dynasty ruled from about 2350BC to 2180BC.


Zahi Hawass, Egypt's government antiquities chief, said the lid of the wooden sarcophagus had excellent and well- preserved decoration and the mummy itself was in ideal condition. "The linen wrappings and the funerary drawings on the mummy are still as they were," he said.


"The mask which covers the face of the mummy is in an amazing state of preservation in spite of slight damage in the area of the mouth."


Also buried in the tomb along with the medic were earthenware containers bearing the doctor's name, as well as a round limestone offering table and 22 bronze statues of gods.


This article: http://news.scotsman.com/index.cfm?id=1809452006


Last updated: 06-Dec-06 00:37 GMT



Dam threatens ancient remains

By Jamal Shahid


ISLAMABAD, Dec 4: Leading German archaeologists had mapped out thousands of years old archaeological remains which would be lost forever as a result of the construction of Diamer-Bhasha dam.


The reservoir would not only inundate 32 villages located between Basha and Raikot Bridge and force resettlement of more than 30,000 people, but also endanger the precious regions archaeological remains some 50,000 rock carvings and 5,000 inscriptions.


Prof (Dr) Harald Hauptmann, Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, who had been working on these sites with Dr Ahmad Hassan Dani of Quaid-i-Azam University since 1985, said it made him ‘very sad’ that ancient remains ranging from the Epipalaelolithic or Neolithic age to 16th century AD would be no more.


So much had been written about the construction of the dam and so many issues and problems highlighted, he said. “But it is so sad that not once has anyone ever raised the concern that the world was about to lose one of its greatest treasures.”


Dr Hauptmann was heading the research project focusing on documenting and publishing the rock carvings and inscriptions to be found in the high mountain region of northern Pakistan.


Speaking here on Monday, Dr Hauptmann said the greatest part of the rock art galleries of Diamer District would be destroyed as a result of the construction of the dam which was a tragedy. “Forget everything. More than 80 per cent will be submerged and the remaining rock carvings on the slopes be destroyed because of the construction of the new 100-km stretch of Karakorum Highway.”


Although, Dr Hauptmann was fighting a losing battle against Pakistan’s appetite for energy, he was visiting the country to present solutions if not convince the government to shift the dam site.


Describing the remains as the heritage of the whole world, Dr Hauptmann said: “We feel responsible to preserve this knowledge of the past for the future generations. We have documented more than 80 per cent of the carvings and scriptures.”


It would be impossible to move huge boulders. Cutting the granite boulders was time consuming and doable, but transporting huge rock pieces impossible. So German archaeologists will bring their high-tech equipment to perform three dimensional scanning, take photographs and sketch the impressions and produce replicas to be saved in museums.


The professor said he had met Culture Ministry Secretary Jalil Abbas and he was pleased at the considerable level of cooperation extended to him to make the project a success. “There is now a chance to get a decision out of the government to preserve its rich archaeological treasures. We have proposed establishment of museums and documentation centre in Gilgit where replicas will be preserved. Visitors and tourists will thus have access to knowledge of the cultural heritage of the region, their people, traditions and living lifestyles a step that can develop the tourism industry enormously.”


Rock carvings could be found in Africa and Australia, but nowhere in the world would we find world’s largest and richest rock art galleries like the ones in Pakistan’s north, the professor said.


Counsellor for Media Affairs and Public Diplomacy of the German Embassy Patrick Heinz said a seminar was being held at the Serena Hotel where all stakeholders would gather to work out as many options as possible. “Prof Hauptmann will give a presentation to highlight the importance of this problem.”


It was sad that this heritage site would be submerged and people did not know about it. It was the heritage of the world that the world could not afford to lose, he said.


According to a booklet published in this regard, one of the world’s largest rock art provinces was spread along the banks of upper Indus in the high mountains of northern Pakistan, adjoining Hindukush, western Himalayas, and Karakorum.


Petroglyphs of unique diversity and abundance covered cliffs, rock faces, and boulders lining Indus river from Indus Kohistan to Baltistan and reaching as far as Ladakh and Tibet.


The rock art sites did not only follow the routes along the Indus itself, but also graced important mountain passes and the valleys of the Indus tributaries including Gilgit river up to Yasin and Hunza valley. A main cluster, however, was found between Shatial in Indus-Kohistan and Raikot Bridge extending over more than 100km. The heart of this complex lay at the foot of Nanga Parbat (8,125m) around Chilas and Thalpan in the Diamer District.


Their tremendous diversity not only permitted insight into the history of various peoples with different social-cultural and political traditions and religious beliefs, but also disclosed the strategic importance of the region.


These high mountainous areas had been a crossroad of important trade routes connecting China and Central Asia to the subcontinent.



Turkish mayor demands cancellation of Ilisu dam project

The Associated Press

Published: December 7, 2006


VIENNA, Austria: A Turkish official appealed Thursday for the cancellation of a dam project in his country, saying it would destroy cultural heritage and do little to boost economic development.


"Of course we want economic and social development ... but development should not disregard people, nature and history," said Osman Baydemir, president of the Union of South Eastern Anatolia Municipalities and mayor of Diyarbakir.


The Ilisu dam, on the Tigris River 47 kilometers (30 miles) north of the Syrian border, will be one of the largest dams in Turkey and is scheduled to be completed by 2013. A ground breaking ceremony took place in August.


Opponents of the project say it will flood dozens of towns and destroy archaeological treasures including the medieval fortress city of Hasankeyf, which overlooks the Tigris.


"The cultural and historic heritage of Hasankeyf is indescribable. It is not comparable with other places and we have a large responsibility," Baydemir, speaking through a translator, said at a news conference organized by WWF.


Baydemir was in Vienna to lobby against project participation by an Austrian company, Andritz Va Tech Hydro. The company, whose financial involvement totals some €240 million (US$319 million), still needs an export guarantee from the Republic of Austria.


Baydemir argued that funding for the roughly €1.2 billion project should be invested in the region's cities, the construction of an international airport, restoration of cultural heritage sites and tourism.


In prepared English remarks provided later, Baydemir added that 40,000 hectares (98,840 acres) will be affected and that people would be evacuated "without a proper and effective resettlement plan".


Those in favor of the dam say it will create jobs and improve thousands of lives.


Some 40,000 people would benefit from it directly, said Yunus Bayraktar, Turkish project coordinator at a separate news conference at the Turkish Embassy.


Nihat Eri, a Turkish parliamentarian, said Turkey has no choice but to exploit its water resources.


"We have no oil, we have no gas ... the only thing we have is water," Eri said, noting that hydroelectric power was "clean energy".



S.Korea moving ancient gate 15m to right old wrong

Mon Dec 4, 2006 11:16 AM GMT21


SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea started a 15 million pound, three-year project on Monday to move the main gate of an ancient royal palace about 15 metres (50 feet) in order to right a wrong it sees as being caused by Japan's colonial occupation.


Workers in downtown Seoul began the delicate process of taking apart and demolishing parts of Kwanghwamoon (brightness) gate, which was moved during Japan's 1910-1945 occupation of the Korean peninsula because it blocked the view from a Japanese administrative office.


The gate burnt then down in the early stages of the 1950-1953 Korean War.


The gate, which stands at the end of a main thoroughfare in the capital, was rebuilt by South Korea in 1968, using materials such as concrete, in a spot removed from its original location because of new roads constructed during Japanese rule.


"The Japanese invasion caused the gate to be shifted from where it had historically been located," said Park Wang-hee, a Cultural Heritage Administration official.


The majestic arched gate will be rebuilt using materials that were part of the original structure such as wood and stone and restore a centuries old sight line from Kyongbok Palace.


Animosity towards Japan over its colonial rule still runs high in South Korea, with the government launching major projects to restore palaces and other historic structures to how they looked prior to Japanese occupation.


© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.



Scientist Fights Church Effort to Hide Museum's Pre-Human Fossils

Kendrick Frazier

Skeptical Inquirer Sun Dec 3, 11:55 AM ET


Famed paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey is giving no quarter to powerful evangelical church leaders who are pressing Kenya's national museum to relegate to a back room its world-famous collection of hominid fossils showing the evolution of humans' early ancestors.



Leakey called the churches' plans "the most outrageous comments I have ever heard."


He told The Daily Telegraph (London):  "The National Museums of Kenya should be extremely strong in presenting a very forceful case for the evolutionary theory of the origins of mankind. The collection it holds is one of Kenya's very few global claims to fame and it must be forthright in defending its right to be at the forefront of this branch of science." Leakey was for years director of the museum and of Kenya's entire museum system.


The museum's collections include the most complete skeleton yet found of Homo erectus, the 1.7-million-year-old Turkana Boy unearthed by Leakey's team in 1984 near Lake Turkana in northern Kenya.


The museum also holds bones from several specimens of Australopithecus anamensis, believed to be the first hominid to walk upright, four million years ago. Together the artifacts amount to the clearest record yet discovered of the origins of Homo sapiens.


Leaders of Kenya's Pentecostal congregation, with six million adherents, want the human fossils de-emphasized.


"The Christian community here is very uncomfortable that Leakey and his group want their theories presented as fact," said Bishop Bonifes Adoyo, head of the largest Pentecostal church in Kenya, the Christ is the Answer Ministries.


"Our doctrine is not that we evolved from apes, and we have grave concerns that the museum wants to enhance the prominence of something presented as fact which is just one theory," the bishop said.


Bishop Adoyo said all the country's churches would unite to force the museum to change its focus when it reopens after eighteen months of renovations in June 2007. "We will write to them, we will call them, we will make sure our people know about this, and we will see what we can do to make our voice known," he said.


It was these comments Leakey termed outrageous. Calling members of the Pentecostal church fundamentalists, Leakey added: "Their theories are far, far from the mainstream on this. They cannot be allowed to meddle with what is the world's leading collection of these types of fossils."


For its part, the museum sounded like it was trying to walk a tightrope. It said it was in a "tricky situation" in trying to redesign its exhibition space for all kinds of visitors.


"We have a responsibility to present all our artifacts in the best way that we can so that everyone who sees them can gain a full understanding of their significance," said Ali Chege, public relations manager for the National Museums of Kenya. "But things can get tricky when you have religious beliefs on one side, and intellectuals, scientists, or researchers on the other, saying the opposite."


This article first appeared in Skeptical Inquirer magazine.



Last Updated: Thursday, 7 December 2006, 13:11 GMT

Digging dog's archaeological find


Rowan dropped the axe head on her owner's foot


A dog proved to be a canine Indiana Jones by finding a stone axe head dating back thousands of years in Aberdeenshire.


Rowan the inquisitive black labrador unearthed the Neolithic find at the Drum Estate.


She dropped it on owner Alec Gordon's foot and he took it for examination, with early analysis estimating it as perhaps 6,000 years old.


Mr Gordon said: "I wonder if she knew it was something special."


Mr Gordon was on a woodland walk with his dogs when Rowan made the unusual find.


He told BBC Scotland: "I was walking through the wood and we arrived at a spot where we normally stop. One of them dropped a stone which she'd been carrying.


"I took it back to Drum Castle and saw it had edges.


"I gave it to the local National Trust for Scotland (NTS) archaeologist who almost immediately confirmed that it was Neolithic, 4-6,000 years old, and pretty special."


Shannon Fraser, regional archaeologist for NTS in the north east of Scotland, said: "I think it's really exciting because we have not had finds from Drum Estate from this period."


She said of Rowan: "I think she should become my honorary assistant."


Mr Duncan said of his dog: "I wonder if she knew it was something special because when she dropped it she dropped it on my foot.


"It's not every day you get an axe dropped on your foot."



2nd century curse is a blessing to scientists

By Thomas H. Maugh II, Times Staff Writer

December 2, 2006


Somebody stole his cloak, and Servandus was angry enough to curse.


The resident of 2nd century Leicester, England, wrote out a curse, including a list of suspects, on a lead sheet and posted it on a temple wall.


The curse tablet was recently unearthed by University of Leicester archeologists excavating the remains of the Roman-occupied city.


"The curse is a remarkable discovery and, at a stroke, dramatically increases the number of personal names known from Roman Leicester," said Richard Buckley, of the university's Archeological Services, who announced the find Thursday.


Previously, he said, the only known names were Marcus Ulpius Novantico, from a military discharge certificate dated to the year 106; Verecunda and Lucius, from a graffito on a piece of pottery; and Primus, who inscribed his name on a land title.


The forms of the names on the curse tablet, he continued, "will help us to understand the cultural makeup of the population, whilst the subject matter tells us about the spread of spoken Latin and the religious practices of ordinary people."


The Latin inscription has been only partially translated. It reads: "To the god Maglus, I give the wrongdoer who stole the cloak of Servandus. Silvester, Riomandus … that he destroy him before the ninth day, the person who stole the cloak of Servandus…. "


The curse lists 18 or 19 names — a mixture of common Roman (such as Silvester and Germanus), Celtic (Riomandus) and Roman names found in Celtic-speaking provinces (Regalis).


The archeological team has investigated four large sites in the city in preparation for modern development. Other discoveries include thousands of pottery shards, building materials, animal bone, Roman weighing scales, coins, brooches, gaming pieces,



Age of archaeology turns 100

Updated 12/6/2006 9:35 PM ET

By Dan Vergano, USA TODAY

From the Grand Canyon to Governors Island, ancient Alaskan villages to Virgin Island reefs, American archaeology is quietly celebrating a centennial.


At two national parks — El Morro (N.M.) and Montezuma Castle (Ariz.) national monuments — simple commemorations Friday will mark 100 years since the federal Antiquities Act was signed by President Theodore Roosevelt.


"The Antiquities Act absolutely was a major step for professional archaeology," says archaeologist Jane Waldbaum, head of the Archaeological Institute of America. "The act raised up the public image of archaeology to a highly responsible one," she says, particularly after Congress chartered her organization two months after the signing of the law June 8, 1906.


"Teddy Roosevelt didn't waste any time," says El Morro superintendent Kayci Cook Collins of the National Park Service. Roosevelt proclaimed 18 national monuments, starting with Wyoming's Devils Tower on Sept. 24, 1906. Most notably, he set aside Arizona's Grand Canyon two years later.


The two-page act ("Government was simpler in those days," Collins says) allowed excavation and investigation of monuments only "for the benefit of reputable museums, universities, colleges, or other recognized scientific or educational institutions."


With a pen stroke, Roosevelt created a need for professional archaeologists, Waldbaum says, and spurred the field's growth.


The nation's legacy


The act's primary power allows presidents to preserve vast tracts of federal land. President Bush in June set aside the 124th national monument, 140,000 square miles of ocean acreage called the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument.


Other American treasures preserved as monuments include:


•African Burial Ground National Monument in New York. Set in lower Manhattan, the nation's oldest known urban African cemetery, where freed and enslaved Africans buried their dead as early as 1712, was set aside this year.


•Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico. Archaeological investigations stretching back to the 1920s established Chaco Canyon as a center of Puebloan activities in the Southwest from A.D. 850 to 1250.


•Devils Tower in Wyoming. Archaeologists discovered that people living 11,500 years ago hunted mammoth and bison with spears.


"The act was put forward at a time, the beginning of the 20th century, when very few people were doing anything like archaeology as we know it today," says Francis McManamon, the park service's chief archaeologist.


Pot hunting and destruction of Pueblo sites by settlers had become notorious in the decades before the law was signed. It explicitly outlawed looting, although pot hunters remain a concern today. "A lot of places are still around today only because of (the Antiquities Act)," McManamon says.


"Archaeology is a field in transition," says archaeologist Stephen Plog of the University of Virginia. "There still are excavations in areas around parks, but very little in the parks themselves."


High-tech research


At Chaco Canyon, where Plog has worked, a typical pattern was followed. American Museum of Natural History and National Geographic Society-backed excavations took place in the 1920s. There were federal work projects to build facilities in the 1930s and more park service-directed excavations from the 1950s to 1970s. After that, major digging efforts halted as Native Americans' demands for a voice at the table became a central concern.


"Archaeology has been forced to grapple with issues it ignored for too long, and you can really see that at the parks," says Plog, who heads the Chaco Digital Initiative, an effort to digitize archives of archaeological digs at the monument and put them online.


In fields from cuneiform studies to Inca studies, archaeologists are pursuing these consolidating activities, he says.


Looking at old excavation records with a modern eye can uncover new findings, Plog says. At Chaco's Pueblo Bonito, a 600-room ruin that once housed perhaps 1,200 people, records from the 1890s are still yielding clues.


Compiled by 19th-century archaeologist George Pepper, archival records showed that 20 burials at the site considered haphazard may have had a deeper meaning. Pepper's notes showed the bodies were buried with care but, most unusually, were dismembered.


Such a practice is more reminiscent of how Central American cultures of the time, such as the Classic Maya, buried their nobility, rather than the normal Native American burials then.


"(The burials) suggest some people had higher status at Chaco," Plog says. That contrasts with the prevailing view of Chaco as an egalitarian society.


Using technology, such as ground-penetrating radar, to get more out of archaeological sites without destroying anything is a trend at the national monuments today, McManamon says.


"Don't worry, we haven't run out of archaeological sites or archaeological questions," he says.


"But we have the (Antiquities) Act to thank for allowing us to think there will be archaeologists to answer those questions 100 years from now."

Posted 12/6/2006 9:26 PM ET



Posted on Thu, Dec. 07, 2006

Ohio men plead guilty to looting Kentucky archaeological site

Associated Press


BOWLING GREEN, Ky. - Two Ohio men pleaded guilty to stealing Native American artifacts from federal land in western Kentucky, authorities said.


Richard C. Kirk, 56, of Stout, Ohio, and David A. Whitling, 47, of Bellefontaine, Ohio, pleaded guilty Wednesday to violations of the federal Archaeological Resources Protection Act, U.S. Attorney David L. Huber said in a statement.


Kirk and Whitling admitted that they entered federal land to dig for archaeological relics, on Feb. 28, Huber said. Kirk and Whitling used rakes and digging implements to disturb and displace the surface of the ground, creating holes and displacing archaeological sediment at a site near Barren River Lake, Huber said. The site contains numerous Native American artifacts, including Early Woodlands ceramics that date back to roughly 1500 to 300 B.C. It also is known to contain a variety of other items such as projectile points and stone tools.


Kirk faces up to two years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and supervised release for one year. Whitling faces up to one year in prison, a $10,000 fine, and supervised release for one year.


The plea was entered before U.S. District Judge Thomas B. Russell in Bowling Green.


Both Kirk and Whitling are scheduled to be sentenced on March 8, 2007.



Chinese firm coughs up $ 63,000 for destroying Great Wall

Press Trust of India

Beijing, December 4, 2006


A Chinese construction firm has forked out USD 63,776 as fine for "deliberately" damaging a section of the Great Wall, one of the seven wonders of the world.


Hongji Landbridge Investment Development Inc paid the fine on Sunday after China's first regulation on the protection of the Great Wall came into effect last Friday.


The law prohibits the removal of soil or bricks from the Wall, planting trees, carving on the wall or building anything that does not protect it. It also bans the use of vehicles on the world heritage site and unauthorised tourism activities.


The erring company began construction of a highway through a section of the Great Wall in Ulanqab City in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, without government approval in March.


Regional cultural heritage protection officials said the company refused to halt construction even after warnings.


Wang Dafang, an official with the regional cultural heritage bureau, said the construction led to the demolition of large sections of the Great Wall and three ancient villages under government protection.


The Great Wall stretches more than 6,700 km from west to northeast China and dates back to the Warring States Period (475-221 BC), when separate sections were built in scattered strategic areas to defend against northern nomadic tribes.


Experts said the Wall has suffered extensive natural and human damage in recent years. Only 30 per cent of the Wall built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) still stands.


Individuals violating the law are fined USD 1,276 to USD 6,378 while institutions can face a penaly of USD 6,378 to USD 63,776.



'Church of the Ark' found on West Bank

By Harry de Quetteville in Shiloh

Last Updated: 1:40am GMT 04/12/2006


Archaeologists claimed yesterday to have uncovered one of the world's first churches, built on a site believed to have once housed the Ark of the Covenant.


The site, emerging from the soil in a few acres in the hills of the Israeli occupied West Bank, is richly decorated with brightly coloured mosaics and inscriptions referring to Jesus Christ.


Archaeologists look over a mosaic discovered at Shiloh


According to the team, led by Yitzhak Magen and Yevgeny Aharonovitch, the church dates to the late 4th century, making it one of Christianity's first formal places of worship.


"I can't say for sure at the moment that it's the very first church," said Mr Aharonovitch, 38, as he oversaw a team carrying out the final excavations before winter yesterday. "But it's certainly one of the first." He said the site contained an extremely unusual inscription which referred to itself, Shiloh, by name.


"That is very rare and shows early Christians treated this as an ancient, holy place," said Mr Aharonovitch. According to the Old Testament, the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the two tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments, was kept by the Israelites at Shiloh for several hundred years.


It was eventually moved to the Holy of Holies in the Jerusalem temple that the Bible says was built by King Solomon around 1000 BC. When the temple was sacked by the Babylonians 400 years later, the Ark was lost, sparking theories about whether it had been hidden or destroyed.



The team at Shiloh is considering whether to dig under the beautiful mosaics that they have uncovered, in order to find traces of the Ark. "We have to decide whether to fix the mosaics here or take them to a museum," said Mr Aharonovitch.


Jewish residents in the modern settlement of Shiloh, which sits on a hill amidst Palestinian villages, want the team to keep digging.


David Rubin, a former mayor of Shiloh, said: "We believe that if they continue to dig they'll reach back to the time of the Tabernacle," referring to the portable place of worship where the Israelites housed the Ark.