Aboriginal people built water tunnels

Judy Skatssoon

ABC Science Online

Wednesday, 15 March 2006


The rainbow serpent, a key Aboriginal Dreamtime creation symbol, is closely connected with Indigenous knowledge of groundwater systems (Image: Reuters)

Indigenous Australians dug underground water reservoirs that helped them live on one of the world's driest continents for tens of thousands of years, new research shows.


The study, which is the first of its kind, indicates Aboriginal people had extensive knowledge of the groundwater system, says hydrogeologist Brad Moggridge, knowledge that is still held today.


Some 70% of the continent is covered by desert or semi-arid land, which meant its original inhabitants needed to know how to find and manage this resource if they were to survive.


"Aboriginal people survived on one of the driest continents for thousands and thousands of years," says Brad Moggridge, who is from Kamilaroi country in northern New South Wales.


"Without water you die. They managed that water sustainably."


Moggridge, currently a principal policy officer in the New South Wales Department of Environment and Conservation, did his research as part of a Masters degree at the University of Technology, Sydney.


He based his work on oral histories, Dreamtime stories, rock art, artefacts and ceremonial body painting as well as written accounts by white missionaries, surveyors, settlers, anthropologists and explorers.


Managing scant resources


Moggridge says Indigenous Australians channelled and filtered their water, covering it to avoid contamination and evaporation. They also created wells and tunnel reservoirs.


"Groundwater was accessed through natural springs or people used to dig tunnels to access it," he says.


"Sometimes they'd dig till they found the water and then they'd build a system so they could access the water. Sometimes they've go fairly deep and people would slither down there and get their water."


Aboriginal people also used terrain, birdlife, vegetation and animals as markers for water, Moggridge says.


For example, they followed dingos to rock pools and waterholes while ants led them to subterranean reservoirs.


"They used the landscape," he says. "For example, you're in a dry area and all of a sudden there's a large number of ghost gums, so you'd think there must be some groundwater."


The Dreamtime


Aboriginal people's understanding of their groundwater system permeates Dreamtime stories, Moggridge says.


For example, the rainbow serpent is a key symbol of creation but its journey from underground to the surface also represents groundwater rising to the top via springs.


Moggridge says European settlers owed their subsequent knowledge of groundwater to local tribes and trackers, and even much of Australia's modern road system is based on water sources identified by the original inhabitants.


"A lot of the old roads in New South Wales are based on Aboriginal walking tracks ... and their water supply would have been along the way," he says.


The Desert Knowledge CRC is also trying to link traditional knowledge with science in terms of water management in central Australia, home to numerous remote Indigenous communities.


Current projects include looking at the cultural values of water, a spokesperson says.



Investigating canals across time, from space

Ur takes a step back to see ancient networks

By Alvin Powell

Harvard News Office


The view from space of an ancient canal network is recasting archaeologists' understanding of the Assyrian capital of Nineveh and of the farming economy that supported it at its height of power almost 3,000 years ago.


The work of Assistant Anthropology Professor Jason Ur, detailed in the November/December issue of the archaeology journal Iraq, is casting doubt on the long-held belief that canals that brought water from springs and rivers far to Nineveh's north were mainly constructed to support the city's elaborate gardens.


Using declassified satellite photographs taken decades ago, Ur found what he believes is evidence of branches in the canals that indicate extensive agricultural irrigation in the lands north of Nineveh that scholars had thought dependent on rainfall for their annual production.


With irrigation, those fields would have been potentially far more productive than if they had been reliant on the vagaries of natural rain. Ur said the canals indicate that the farming system underlying what was then the Middle East's dominant empire was more complex and organized than previously thought.


There were likely smaller satellite cities in the areas where the canals branched, Ur said, some of which remain undiscovered or buried under modern villages.


"What I would guess is that there are undiscovered population centers there," Ur said. "The irrigation infrastructure is there to support larger settlements. We have to go and find them."


Satellite images of Tell Brak, Syria, led archaeologist Jason Ur to a deeper understanding of how ancient road networks moved food into the city. 


Satellite photographs can be powerful tools for archaeologists in detecting broader patterns of settlement and networks that accompany ancient civilizations, such as roads and canals, Ur said.


An archaeologist trying to piece together these great works can walk the ground, digging to examine a promising mound here or an outcropping there. It helps, however, to step back from the landscape and look for patterns and structures that may be difficult or impossible to detect from the ground, where thousands of years of farming, road building, and urban development obscure all but bits and pieces.


"If you press your nose against a Monet, all you see is a blur. If you take a few steps back, you see lilies, you see bridges," said Ur. "For this reason, remote sensing data is really irreplaceable."


Low-level aerial photographs can serve a similar purpose as satellite photos, Ur said, but some nations don't allow archaeologists in, never mind flying over their countryside with a camera.


Further, he said, Cold War-era photographs allow researchers to look back in time at a landscape that may have been lost in the intervening years through urban development, military action, or other human activities.


Urban sprawl from the nearby Iraqi city of Mosul is a concern around Nineveh, which lies across the Tigris River. Already, Ur said, expansion of Mosul has obscured many features around Nineveh's clearly defined walls that were visible in satellite photos from the 1960s.


In addition to his work on Nineveh, Ur is examining the road system around the Bronze Age city of Tell Brak in northeastern Syria. The roads into the city, about 2,000 years older than Nineveh, probably arose spontaneously, Ur said, as people and goods flowed into and out of Tell Brak. Ur said he's detected a progression from the main city, to smaller satellite settlements, out to farms, to fields, and to pastures beyond.


"I'm interested in urban settlements and in how they were maintained and sustained," Ur said. "Irrigation, agriculture, networks of roads to satellite cities were probably very important to these early settlements because they were too large to sustain themselves."


In contrast to the natural growth of Tell Brak's road system, Nineveh's canals were public works, instigated and controlled by the central government, which at the same time was importing conquered people to act as labor. Ur said the Assyrians brought in not just men from the conquered lands, but whole families and villages, what he called entire "productive units."


"I see this as part of an overall demographic program, not only creating a new landscape, but also importing the labor to work it," Ur said.


Ur is a year into a new project in northwestern Iran, examining a new system of canals there thought to have been built by the Sasanian Empire, which battled Rome and the Byzantine Empire in the Middle East.


The researchers found the Sasanian canals from the satellite photographs, but also noticed small, brightly colored rings of what looked like stones dotting the landscape. On their first field expedition, in January 2005, Ur said they discovered the rings were circles of large holes - each hole about 6 feet wide - dug into the ground with earth mounded around them.


Researchers believe the holes were winter quarters for livestock, and the rings of holes represented winter campgrounds for pastoral people who spent summers in the nearby mountains.


Many of these ancient campsites have been destroyed by farming and development in the years since the photographs were taken, Ur said, making the satellites a valuable resource to understand how the land was used by ancient people. Without evidence from the photographs and a visit to investigate remaining campsites, the visible canals would have left evidence of the landscape's agricultural past, but remained silent on the land's use by ancient herding people.


"This is what I find interesting," Ur said, "how structures emerged."





Bangladesh discovers ancient fort city

Wed Mar 15, 2006 6:19 AM ET

By Nizam Ahmed


WARI, Bangladesh (Reuters) - Archaeologists in Bangladesh say they have uncovered part of a fortified citadel dating back to 450 B.C. that could have been a stopping off point along an ancient trade route.


So far, a moat round the citadel has been uncovered along with parts of an ancient road at Wari, 85 km (53 miles) northeast of the capital Dhaka.


"The citadel and a raft of artifacts may help redefine history of India," said Sufi Mostafizur Rahman, head of the department of archaeology at Jahangirnagar University, near Dhaka.


"The well-planned road with even manholes proves that the citadel was managed by a very efficient administration," Mostafizur added.


"I am confident further excavation will lead us to residue of a palace," he said.


Archaeologists have been excavating the ancient roads and unearthing artifacts for several years. Tests by a Dutch university revealed the objects dated to around 450 B.C.


Artefacts found in the 600 x 600 meter (1,800 x 1,800 ft) include metal coins, metallic chisels, terracotta missiles, rouletted and knobbed pottery, stone hammers and bangles. Ornaments suggested Buddhism dominated life in the urban centers. Mostafizur said the citadel was believed to be a part of Harappan civilization and a prime trade center might have flourished there, possibly serving as a link between contemporary South Asian and Roman civilizations.


The Harappan civilization flourished in the Indus and Ganges valleys between 2,700 B.C. to 700 B.C.


Archaeologists hope the citadel and surrounding area yield many more surprises.


In Wari and the nearby Batteswar village there are 47 raised areas and archaeologists are planning to excavate all of these as well.


© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.



In the Monitor

Friday, 03/17/06

from the March 15, 2006 edition

Before Scandinavia: These could be the first skiers

By Robert Marquand | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor


BEIJING – Move over Bode. You may have competition you don't know about - among a sturdy skiing clan in northwest China.

They are central Asians, Mongols, and Kazaks, living in the remote Altay mountains of Xinjiang province, where some claim skiing was first conceived.


Using curved planks whose design dates back 2,000 years, the Altaic peoples are formidable skiers. They might not win a medal on perfectly groomed Olympic trails. But they can break their own paths, track elk for days in deep snow, and capture them live.


They don't zig-zag through slalom courses or bump down moguls. But using a single pole, they plunge straight down mountainsides in a blaze of efficiency, and climb hills with a speed and grace that has wowed the few Western experts who have witnessed their prowess.


"These skiers wouldn't do well in the Olympics," says pro skier Nils Larsen. "But the Olympians from Turin couldn't make their skis do what the Altaic skiers can.


"The Altaics learn at age three, and by seven they are really good. They saw us skiing, swerving and turning, and they thought it was the funniest thing," Mr. Larsen adds. "For them, going straight down the mountain is the manly thing. They think it is silly to turn, unless you have to."


In fact, until a few years ago, no one in the West's serious ski communitywas aware of the Altaic skiers, and no one knew that "ancient" skis were in use anywhere on the planet. Archeologists have long known about long skis with animal-skin bottoms preserved in Swedish bogs and depicted in old cave paintings.


But Larsen, a telemark-skiing expert from Washington state, heard a few years ago from friends on a scholarly expedition in the Altay region who saw locals using what had been identified as aboriginal skis.


For ski buffs, the discovery was exciting, spawning informal visits by foreigners desiring more information about how old skis were made, and how locals used them. This January, some 40 Altay herdsmen took part in what was billed as an "ancient-skiing contest" (except it wasn't "ancient" for the locals).


"My father told me about these older skis," says J.Suhee, a Mongolian diplomat raised in the Altaic region and now in Beijing. "But they were for survival, not for sports."


The skis used today in Altay are not unlike the 4,500-year-old skis found preserved in bogs near Hoting, Sweden. Local Altays hack them out of a single piece of lightweight wood - spruce or white pine - and wrap them with hairy, brittle horse-shank skin.


The skins are permanently attached to the bottom of the ski, providing a "grip" going uphill, and a natural "brake" going down. (The skins stay tight on the frame since they are soaked and stretched over the form, and then shrink as they dry.)


The skier's foot is kept in place using what is known in the West as an "arctic binding." Four holes are drilled through the ski, with rawhide binding threaded through in the shape of an "X." The foot is slid into that X, and it keeps the foot relatively stable.


"The skis have a distinctive shape, and the designs we saw are fairly uniform. But they seem more like cousins of our [modern] skis, than brothers and sisters," says Larsen, whose business card reads, "minister of ski culture."


Differences in ski styles are major. The Altay skis are at least twice as wide as even the latest hourglass-shaped alpine skis. And unlike modern skis, which have the boot clamped into place, these skis require much more maneuvering with foot and pole to steer the skis.


Balance is completely different. Altay skiers do not lean forward in a knee-intensive crouch. Rather, going down the mountain, they lean far back and use the pole as ballast. The pole tends to get used on one side or the other - not on both sides, as a kayaker would use a paddle.


Larsen, who videotaped the making and use of the Altay skis, says he was impressed with the local talent: "I've taught skiing 25 years, so I know when someone has good balance and .... they are naturals. The ski is like an extension of their body. You can tell they are totally confident on the ride."


Altay snows are so deep that cross-country skis are ineffective. But with their "ancient" skis and highly developed stamina, many Altaic skiers go for 12 hours at a time. They hunt for days, following deer, elk, bear, wolves, and other game through deep snows. Eventually the game tires, and often local Altays will tie them up. "They have scads of captured elk, which they use for antlers," Larsen says.


The origins of skiing are disputed. Research of ancient skiing methods is not highly funded. But anthropologists and ski-history buffs debate two main origins: Scandinavia, where the oldest preserved skis are found, and the Altaic area. Of late,a consensus has been forming among scholars and ski enthusiasts that it was the Altaic area.


Civilization developed earlier there. Altaic peoples may have brought skis to Sweden or Norway. Or the common-sense concept of skiing may have arisen independently in each place.


On Jan. 25, days before the ancient-skiing contest, China's state-run news service Xinhua announced that China had essentially invented skiing.


Citing newly discovered Altaic regional cave paintings of four hunters on boards with poles in their hands, chasing cattle and horses - the Xinhua story proposed that "Chinese were adept skiers in the Old Stone Age," and that skiing originated there 100 to 200 centuries ago.


Historians did not rush to embrace the theory. The ethnic Han Chinese, let alone a corporate state called China, did not exist inthis part of the world in stone-age days, 10,000 years ago, they note.



Parthenon Once a Riot of Color

By Heather Whipps

Special to LiveScience posted: 20 March 2006 12:35 am ET


If the ancient Greeks sold kitschy postcards to tourists 2,000 years ago, they would have depicted much different views of the popular sites that visitors flock to today.


Archaeologists say many of the stony ruins looked much different in their prime. Many were brightly painted in hues that have faded with time and, in some cases, with forced removal.


The Parthenon in Athens was once covered in colorful splashes of paint, for example.


It has long been known that the formidable marble temple, which sits atop the capital city’s Acropolis citadel, had been painted. New tests, performed by Greek archaeologist and chemical engineer Evi Papakonstantinou-Zioti, confirm the use of brilliant shades of red, blue and green.


Traces of the colors were found during a laser cleaning done as part of ongoing restorations to the temple, built in 432 B.C.


Simple weathering caused the colors to fade over time, said Sara Orel, associate professor of art history at Missouri’s Truman University.


 “Weathering through the bleaching of the sun, blowing of the sand, etc., and more modern pollution-caused damage,” are the major culprits, Orel told LiveScience. She sees this through much of Egypt, where the carved designs on most ancient buildings were painted to make them stand out more prominently against lighter stone. Today those colors are barely visible.


One renowned institution comes under fire for how it may have helped the Parthenon’s aging process along.


Some of the Parthenon’s most intricate carvings now reside in a specially-built wing of the British Museum in London. The Elgin Marbles, as they’re jointly dubbed, may have been stripped of some of their remaining color for aesthetic purposes when they arrived in London in the early 19th-century and again over subsequent cleanings, experts say.


One clean-up in the 1930s was particularly devastating. A historian at Cambridge University claims museum representatives used steel wool and chisels for the task—hardly the stuff of sophisticated conservation efforts employed today. The thinking is that the museum reps were operating under the same assumption held by most of the modern public: that the sculptures were originally a bright white.


“Michelangelo's sculpture wasn't painted, and great classical sculpture was thought not to be either, so they improved the stuff,” Orel explained. “At the time it was not quite the horrific thought that we would make it now.”


Ian Jenkins, writing in a paper released by the British Museum in 2001, stops short of saying the mistakes in the 1930s were responsible for turning the Elgin Marbles from a Technicolor spectacle into the blander grey-white collection currently on display, however.


“I estimate that when the sculptures entered the Museum, less than 20 percent of their overall surface retained its coating, of which in the 1930s about half was removed,” Jenkins writes. “But natural weathering is by far the single most important factor determining the surface and color of the sculptures as we see them today.”



Underground Tunnels Found in Israel Used In Ancient Jewish Revolt

Brian Handwerk for National Geographic News

March 15, 2006


A series of underground chambers and tunnels recently found in Israel were likely used as refuges during the First Jewish Revolt, archaeologists with the Israel Antiquities Authority announced.


Storage jars found in one pit were an apparent stockpile of foodstuffs for the uprising against Roman rule that began in A.D. 66.


Archaeologist Yardenna Alexandre directed excavations at the Israeli Arab village of Kfar Kana—a Galilee-region site near the city of Nazareth in Israel (see map).


"The pits are connected to each other by short tunnels, and it seems that they were used as hiding refuges—a kind of concealed subterranean home—that were built prior to the Great Revolt against the Romans," Alexandre said in a statement.


The complex was located underneath homes and was probably accessed through the floors.


In the entire first century A.D. the Galilean community sat atop the ruins of a still-older Iron Age city.


Galilean Jews had to dig through some 5 feet (1.5 meters) of debris from that older settlement to excavate their underground passages. They reused stone from the destroyed city to build the igloo-shaped pits.


The ruins of the Iron Age settlement are also a new discovery. Sections of the city wall and buildings, which date to the tenth and ninth century B.C., have been exposed.


Alexandre suggested that this settlement, too, was likely sacked by some enemy force and only reinhabited during the first century A.D.


So far Alexandre's team has found pottery, animal bones, and other artifacts at the Iron Age site.


A ceramic seal was unearthed bearing the image of a lion, as well as a scarab beetle ornament featuring a man flanked by two crocodiles.


Site Suggests Organized Revolt

The pit and tunnel complex may offer new evidence about how the First Jewish Revolt was conducted.


"I think it's important and fascinating, because it shows deliberate preparation," said Andrea Berlin, an archaeologist at the University of Minnesota.


"This evidences a kind of organization, planning, and subversiveness that we didn't have any idea was going on."


When Roman armies reached the Middle East to stamp out the revolt, they turned first to the Galilee region, because it was a hotbed of civil unrest.


While southern communities had time to prepare for the oncoming legions, those in the northern region of Kfar Kana probably did not.


The timing suggests that the underground dwellings were prepared prior to the arrival of the Romans in A.D. 67 and therefore might have been used to conduct the revolt.


"When the Romans came from the coast, it was just a matter of weeks before they got to the first siege site," Berlin said. "And I don't think these sort of tunnels could have been constructed that quickly."


But Andrew Overman, an archaeologist at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, said that the carefully prepared complex might not have had a military purpose.


"[It's] proof of the unrest and the conflict that happened, but it's not necessarily a place where rebels were," he said.


"I think it also may have been a place where people prepared to take cover when they were aware that this grand presence, in the form of the Roman army, was about to be visited on them."


The chronicles of Josephus, a Jewish scholar and priest, are the only literary sources that describe the revolt. Josephus initially led troops against the Romans but later became a favorite at imperial court.


"Josephus describes what it was like at Jotapata [the site of one of the revolt's definitive engagements]," Overman said.


"He claims to have watched the whole battle and the massacre of the village. It's so apocalyptic. So people hid, they got ready for the war to end all wars."


Archaeological research confirms a history of savage fighting and massacres in the region. Some evidence has been found to closely match descriptions given by Josephus to events at the same locales.


Jotapata, the Golan Heights city of Gamla, and several Jerusalem sites have yielded Roman arrowheads, boots, weapons, and other remnants of battle dating to the second half of the first century.


Conquest Boosted Roman Dynasty


The First Jewish Revolt began during the reign of the Roman emperor Nero, who placed a military official named Vespasian in charge of the war against the Jews.


But Nero died in A.D. 68 while Vespasian was in Egypt gathering troops to quell the uprising.


Vespasian became the new emperor at this opportune time. The revolt was essentially crushed two years later when Vespasian's son Titus sacked Jerusalem and left the city in ruins.


Their conquest of the revolt became an important symbol of their family's strength. The victory was heavily exploited on subsequent triumphal arches and coinage.


Overman suggests that the story of the revolt has endured largely because it served the needs of the Flavians—the emperor Vespasian and his son Titus.


"What the Flavian house did was use this relatively minor event on the eastern outskirts of the empire to prop up their image as suitable rulers of the whole empire."


"Vespasian and especially Titus had never really won battles on their own," Overman explained, "and that was one of the main ways that you could prove that the gods were with you.


"So they promoted the hell out of it."



This undated but recent photo made available by the Israeli Antiquities Authority Monday March 13, 2006, shows an aerial view of the archaeological excavation site in Kfar Kana in northern Israel. Archaeologists said Monday they have uncovered underground chambers and tunnels constructed in northern Israel by Jews for hiding from the Romans during their revolt in A.D. 66-70. (AP Photo/Israeli Antiquities Authority)

: AP


March 13, 2006, 9:47PM

Archaeologists Find Ancient Israel Tunnels

By LAURA RESNICK Associated Press Writer

© 2006 The Associated Press


JERUSALEM — Underground chambers and tunnels used during a Jewish revolt against the Romans nearly 2,000 years ago have been uncovered in northern Israel, archaeologists said Monday.


The Jews laid in supplies and were preparing to hide from the Romans during their revolt in A.D. 66-70, the experts said. The pits, which are linked by short tunnels, would have served as a concealed subterranean home.


Yardenna Alexandre of the Israel Antiquities Authority said the find shows the ancient Jews planned and prepared for the uprising, contrary to the common perception that the revolt began spontaneously.


"It definitely was not spontaneous," Alexandre said. "The Jews of that time certainly did prepare for it, with underground hideaways here and in other sites we have found."


The underground chambers at the Israeli Arab village of Kfar Kana, north of Nazareth, were built from housing materials common at the time and hidden directly beneath the floors of aboveground homes _ giving families direct access to the hideouts. Other refuges found from the time of the revolt are hewn out of rock.


"This construction was very well camouflaged inside one of the houses," Alexandre said. "There are three pits under this house and one tunnel leading to another pit. There are 11 storage jars in that pit."


Built like igloos, the chambers are wide at the base and small at the top. The tunnels between them are short and the ceilings are too low for standing upright.


Zeev Weiss, a professor of archaeology at Hebrew University in Jerusalem not connected to the discovery, said the find "can give us more information about life in the Galilee in the first century and the preparations Jews were making on the eve of the revolt." Weiss is director of excavations at Sepphoris, which was the largest city in the Galilee at the time of the revolt.


The Jewish revolt against Roman rule ended in A.D. 70, when the Romans sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the Second Temple.


The ancient Jews at the Kfar site built their houses over the ruins of a fortified Iron Age city, reusing some of the stones from the original settlement. Then they dug through 5 feet of debris from the ruins to build their hideaway complex. "It was quite a lot of work," Alexandre said.


The original settlement, which dates from the 10th and 9th centuries B.C., is also a new discovery.


Alexandre attributes current dating of the original city as an Iron Age settlement to pottery remains, which are plentiful. The excavators have also found large quantities of animal bones, a scarab depicting a man surrounded by two crocodiles and a ceramic seal bearing the image of a lion.


The excavation of the city's architecture has uncovered fortified walls which still stand 5 feet tall in some places. "It's magnificent," said Alexandre. "You can walk among them."



Hunt on for satyr's 'brothers'


Special equipment scours seabed where ancient bronze found

 (ANSA) - Palermo, March 14 - The hunt is on for the 'brothers' of a 2,400-year-old bronze satyr fished out of the sea off Sicily seven years ago .


"We are sure there are similar objects down there," said Sicily's maritime culture chief Sebastiano Tusa .


The Sicilian regional government has contacted top Italian fuels group Eni to tap into its experience laying underwater cables .


"They've provided us with special equipment that should enable us to find the satyr's brothers," Tusa said .


The official said Eni's dredging probes had already enabled specialists to locate the wreck of a IV century AD Roman ship that will be raised from the sea floor in the next few weeks .


The Dancing Satyr, retrieved from the waters of the Sicilian Channel in March 1998, was the star attraction at the Italian pavilion at Japan's major cultural and trade event last year, the World Expo 2005 .


It attracted some 10,000 visitors a day and helped make the Italy pavilion the second most popular after the host nation's. The 2m-high figure, found by a crew from the fishing port Mazara del Vallo south of Trapani, is one of Italy's most important marine archaeological finds ever - second only to the famed Riace Bronzes .


The satyr's origin is still a riddle .


Some think it is the work of the fabled ancient Greek sculptor Praxiteles but others believe it is a Roman copy .


While missing both arms and one leg, its cocked head, tossed hair, torso and bounding leg are remarkably well-preserved .


It is thought to have been part of a group of statues of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and fertility, with other satyrs, fauns and mythological creatures .


Art restorers spent four years cleaning the sculpture and fitting it with a steel bracing to help it stand upright .


Thousands flocked to see it when it went on display in Rome in 2004 and museums such as the Louvre in Paris and the Metropolitan in New York have been clamouring for the piece ever since .


But Sicilian politicians including officials in Mazara del Vallo, which is now home to the statue, have argued against lending the statue out .


Restorers have also underscored the risks and difficulties involved in transporting the statue, particularly abroad .


Mazara del Vallo Mayor Nicolo' Vella proposed making a copy of the statue to send in its stead to world venues .


But the prestige of the World Expo and the measures taken to ensure that the priceless satyr came to no harm convinced critics that the statue should be allowed to visit Japan .


The last find to spark as much excitement as the satyr were the Riace Bronzes, a pair of breathtaking fifth-century BC Greek sculptures of warriors, found in the sea in 1972 and now housed in a museum in the southern city of Reggio Calabria .



Carving of 'northern god' found 


The image is thought to be that of Cocidius

A 2000-year-old carving of a so-called "northern god", adopted by the Romans for protection and good luck, has been uncovered in Northumberland.

The 40cm high figure, holding a shield in one hand and spear or sword in the other, was discovered near Chesters Fort on Hadrian's Wall.


Experts say the find is exciting as it helps shed light on how people used local idols for protection.


The carving is thought to be that of Cocidius, a Romano-British warrior god.


Rock art expert Tertia Barnett said: "This is a completely unexpected discovery.


"It shows how much there is still to discover about Northumberland's ancient past."


The carving was uncovered by a team of volunteers looking for prehistoric rock art as part of the Northumberland and Durham rock art project.


The rock has now been covered again to protect it.


Research by the volunteers is on-going.



Ancient cesspit found in castle 


A glass-floored corridor will allow public viewing of the cesspit

An ancient cesspit has been discovered during restoration work at Mont Orgueil Castle in Jersey.

The archaeological discovery is believed to have been built sometime between the 13th and 15th Century.


Glass, clay pipes, tableware and bottles found in the pit are being cleaned before being put on display for members of the public at La Hougue Bie.


The castle is currently undergoing a £3m improvement programmed by the Jersey Heritage Trust.


Sweet wrappers


The cesspit, which is said to be in very good condition, has two chambers and an exit drain through a curtain wall.


It was discovered at the new location for the main castle's toilets, which will now be redesigned to incorporate a glass-floored corridor. This will allow the remains of the structure to be viewed by the public.


Sweet wrappers were also found in the cesspit, indicating it was filled in some time between the 1960s and 1970s.


Olga Finch, the curator of archaeology, said it was an important find which had not been previously recorded.



Searching for city's lost Cock's Tower Mar 20 2006

Aled Blake, Western Mail


ARCHAEOLOGISTS will today begin a search for traces of Wales' long-lost medieval history.


Many of Cardiff's historic landmarks have been lost in post-war redevelopment, while archaeological evidence of the city's past is buried deep beneath the modern roads and buildings.


Specialists will begin a dig in the Hayes ahead of construction on the St David's 2 shopping centre.


They are searching for remains of the city's historic city wall and a medieval tower which was used as a watch tower and dungeon until around the 16th century.


Studies undertaken by archaeology specialists CgMs have confirmed that part of the Oxford Arcade lies within the south-eastern part of medieval Cardiff.


In the 12th century, Cardiff was walled, with a wooden palisade. The location of the town wall and ditch can be traced through historic maps, roughly running north-south along the western part of the old Primark shop.


The archaeological team will also be searching for remnants of the Cock's Tower.


This watch tower, also referred to as Cokes Tower or Cox's Tower, was a massive structure which stood halfway along the wall and was apparently used as the prison dungeon in the middle of the 16th century.


The Glamorgan canal also followed the line of the town ditch and wall and this can also be traced on the historic maps.


The modern buildings on the Hayes were built on piles which may have had significant impact on any previously surviving archaeological deposits.


Cardiff historian Peter Finch said he was unsure whether the archaeologists would find any remains of Cock's Tower.


He has written about Cock's Tower in his book, Real Cardiff Two.


Mr Finch explained, "The architect Jonathan Adams, who designed the Wales Millennium Centre, and myself decided to walk along the town wall to find what was left of it. But there is nothing.


"One of the most significant sections of the town wall was the thing called Cock's Tower which we found on old maps of Cardiff."


After overlaying those maps onto modern maps, Mr Finch said they made a judgement that it was in the area the archaeologists will be looking.


"Cock's Tower was an observation post and medieval prison in the town wall," he said. "It was used for looking out on the salt marches to see if there were any invaders.


"They also built a prison at its bottom and some of the murderers at the time of the reformation were held there. It's a significant building, it was the tallest tower in the wall.


"During the development which took place back in the 1970s, when they rebuilt Hill Street, nobody took any notice of the whereabouts of Cock's Tower.


"There were photographs that exist dating back to the end of the 19th century and they show the bottom of Cock's Tower.


"We located Cock's Tower as the staff toilets of a shop called Perfect Present next to the Post Office."


Mr Finch bemoaned the loss of Cardiff's historic buildings. He said, "The vandalism of Cardiff's past which took place at the slum clearance of the 1960s is very difficult to put right.


"Somebody should have done this 40 years ago, but good for them for trying."


If archaeological deposits are found, more work will be needed. The work will pave the way for construction to commence on the £535m mixed-use development in September.


Matt Holman, project manager of the St David's Partnership, said, "This is an important step towards start of construction later this year.


"The need to undertake an archeology dig for a development of this nature is not unusual these days - especially since legislation came into place in 1990.


"The team will be looking for remnants of the old town wall and perhaps other medieval activity such as rubbish pits and the like. The results of the dig are expected in April."



Golf, from Royalty to the youngest of subjects



IT IS the kind of sporting heritage other towns can only dream of – and Stirling is not about to let the opportunity pass it by. This month it is celebrating no less than 500 years of golfing history.


Exhibitions, competitions, lectures and pageants are all being staged to mark the anniversary of one of the first-ever recorded games of golf.


It was on 29 March 1506 that King James IV bought a dozen golf balls and rode out from his palace at Stirling Castle to play a match against the Earl of Bothwell. History does not record the result, but we do know the game was played on the Kings Park, then a royal hunting ground and now the home of Stirling Golf Club.


"It would not have been a golf course in the way we understand it," says Sarah Fairclough, exhibitions officer at the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum. "Like St Andrews and other ancient golfing territory it would probably have been little more than sticks and rabbit holes."


In fact, Kings Park was not formally laid out as a golf course until the 19th century and the present 18 holes only date from 1912. Through the years, golfers have had to compete for space with a race course - the remains of which can still be seen - and a tenant farm which grazed its cattle on the land. Additionally, there is still a public right of way that bisects the course.


This history of the park will be the focus of an exhibition at the gallery and museum running from 24 March to 16 April.


But, with Provost Colin O'Brien in the vanguard, it is the game of golf in Stirling through the ages that will be celebrated in a series of events ranging from junior golf competitions and a costumed re-enactment of James IV's round to an anniversary dance at Stirling Golf Club.


O'Brien, who found the references to the King's purchase of "XII golf ballis" from a local trader in the records of the Lord High Treasurer of Scotland, believes there was more to Stirling's golfing past than the famous game in 1506.


"Mary Queen of Scots, who lived in Stirling Castle as a child, was Scotland's first recorded female golfer," he says. "We have a rich history of golf in the Stirling area, many wonderful courses and we want to celebrate our links with the game."


The new 18-hole course is opened at the King's Park, Stirling, on 29 June 1912 by Mrs Irvine Robertson, captain of Stirling Ladies Golf Club.

Picture: Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum

Other notable dates in Stirling's golfing history include 1603 when three local men were found guilty of "profaning the Sabbath" by playing golf on a Sunday, and 1873 when four-times Open champion Tom Morris jnr was appointed the club professional at Stirling.


But it is perhaps fitting that James IV should be at the centre of the commemorations since it was he, following the peace treaty with England in 1502, who lifted the nationwide ban on golf. That had stood since 1457 when his grandfather, James II, passed an act of parliament denouncing golf and football as being "unprofitable sports" which should be "utterly cryit doun and not usit". Citizens, he said, should practice their archery instead.



By contrast, today the Scottish Executive is so keen to promote golf that it is undertaking the biggest junior golf development programme in this country. A programme called clubgolf aims, by 2009, to have introduced every nine-year-old in Scotland to sport. With the backing of top golfers such as Colin Montgomerie and Sandy Lyle, the scheme is already being hailed a great success.


It's a chance for youngsters to become kings of golf themselves.



20lb gold coin put up for auction

A 16TH century gold coin struck in the reign of King James VI of Scotland is to go under the hammer when one of the finest privately owned collections of Scottish coins is put up for auction.


The 20lb gold piece, dating from 1575 and featuring the "Boy King", is the heaviest hand-hammered gold coin ever struck in the British Isles and is only one of seven believed to be in the hands of private collectors. The auction will be in London on 29 March.


This article: http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/scotland.cfm?id=417902006


Last updated: 17-Mar-06 01:40 GMT