500k-year human fossil remains found in Casablanca

Rabat, May 25 - A new human fossil remain of an upper premolar tooth of a Homo erectus has been discovered recently in the Thomas 1 quarry site in Casablanca.


    "The human fossil is associated to an Acheulian tool and to numerous remains dating back to at least 500,000 years," said a communiqué of the Culture Minister, recalling that this site had previously yielded notably a Homos erectus lower jaw in 1969, and an upper premolar tooth in 1994.


     The discovery was made by a Moroccan-French team composed of members of the Moroccan institute of science and archaeology (INSAP) and France's Centre National de Recherche Scientifique (CNRS).




May 27, 2006

The Saturday Profile

Great Pyramid as Cuckoo Clock? It Might Not Be Crazy




THEY have been called mystical, awe-inspiring, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. But it is safe to say that in the 45 centuries the great pyramids of Giza have cast their formidable shadow over the desert, they have never before been described as a cuckoo clock.


But that is what Jean-Pierre Houdin said as he lifted his tall lanky body up the steps into the pyramid of Cheops, the largest of the three pyramids high up on the Giza plateau overlooking this teeming, ancient city on the Nile.


"This is not just a pile of rocks," he said, his words curled around a soft French accent. "This is a cuckoo clock."


Then with a short, friendly laugh, he loped through the cool, dank passage and examined his cuckoo clock with the enthusiasm of a child. He pointed excitedly at what he calls its mechanics — every carving, every joint, every scratch — all, he said, part of a fabulously intricate engineering design by ancient Egyptians.


"It is an engineering project, from A to Z," he said, again with the same friendly chuckle.


People in search of themselves often look to great challenges: running a marathon, climbing a mountain or learning a new language. Mr. Houdin selected the pyramids as his vehicle for personal reflection, as the salve for his midlife crisis. His was an analytical venture, a quest to explain what appears impossible to prove, at least given the current public record: exactly how the ancient Egyptians built the pyramids using about 2.5 million stones, each weighing at least several tons.


Now, eight years later, he is ready to present his findings, one step at a time, and in doing so will be remembered either as the man who unlocked the secrets of ancient brilliance or as a bit of an eccentric who merely indulged his imagination.


"When you work every day, your mind is turned off to new ideas," said Mr. Houdin, whose wardrobe seems to be primarily black T-shirts and black jeans. "Then one day you are old. I looked for a new life."


Mr. Houdin says he had a successful business in France for 20 years designing buildings and homes, when he shut everything down to focus on the pyramid built by Cheops, second ruler of the fourth dynasty. Mr. Houdin thinks he has the answer to how it was built — a series of theories, really — which he says he developed over more than 5,000 hours working with three-dimensional imaging software on his computer. Along the way, he also learned a bit about the challenges of dealing with modern Egypt and a bit about the competitive and ego-laden world of Egyptology.


"It's huge, yes it's huge," he said, staring up at the eastern face. "But it is a cuckoo clock. Everything is precise."


OVER the years, those who study the pyramids have learned a lot about their construction. They know that the bedrock of the plateau was incorporated into the base, so fewer stones were needed than originally estimated. Egyptologists say there is evidence that the stones of the pyramid were cut from the earth south of the base of the pyramid and that some of the granite rafters were transported from Luxor in the south.


What no one is exactly sure of is how the ancient Egyptians managed to move and assemble the stones into a pyramid 480 feet high. There are theories, including one popular one that the builders constructed a huge ramp leading to the very top of the pyramid. (There is another theory, too, that aliens were involved.)


Mr. Houdin says the large ramp theory could not have worked because it would have to be way too long, miles in fact, to avoid a slope that was not too steep. Mr. Houdin's main theory is that the only way to get stones up to the apex would be with a small outside ramp and a second ramp that spirals up the inside the pyramid. By his estimation, the outside ramp went up about a third of the way, while there was an inside ramp that is still there, sealed inside the walls of the pyramid, waiting centuries to be discovered.


"Every time I explain my ideas to people, they say it is logical," Mr. Houdin said, again with the laugh. "Now there is nothing else to say; we have to prove it."


His second central point is that everything in the pyramid has a practical — not necessarily mystical — explanation. And so, he says, for example, the Grand Gallery leading up into the burial chamber was designed to accommodate a sort of conveyor belt built on logs, and an extensive counterweight system that ran up through the middle of the pyramid to help hoist huge stones. The system he envisions is linked to clues inside the pyramid, but is nevertheless based on his own calculations.


"This is engineering!" he declared, as he climbed up inside the Grand Gallery, now a passageway for tourists willing to brave the slippery wooden ramp that passes for stairs.


MR. HOUDIN'S enthusiasm has not exactly been embraced by the experts who have dedicated their lives to Egyptian antiquities, particularly the most important person in Egypt, the godfather of all that is pharaonic, Dr. Zahi Hawass, general secretary of the Supreme Council of Antiquities. For starters, Mr. Houdin is not part of the club, not a trained Egyptologist, and while his work is premised on facts it relies heavily on his imagination. Where some Egyptologists, for example, saw a tunnel leading from the burial chamber to the stars, Mr. Houdin said he saw a ventilation shaft.


"It is difficult to say whether he's right or not, there is no proof of anything," said Audran Labrousse, a French architect directing the excavation on the pyramids of South Sakarra, south of Cairo. "It is such a mystery because, of course, it is a question of engineering."


Dr. Hawass is less charitable. He says Mr. Houdin is wrong. Period. "Any Egyptologist cannot accept this," he said. "He imagined this. I don't see his evidence."


It is a slightly strange condemnation, given that Dr. Hawass has written the foreword to Mr. Houdin's most recent book, published in Egypt. In it he described the theory as worth considering. Perhaps because of that he is generous, if dismissive, about Mr. Houdin. He said in an interview that he wrote the foreword to get Mr. Houdin off his back.


"This is not a crazy book, and he is not a pyramidiot," Dr. Hawass said, mustering a degree of charity while employing a term he said described many of the people he had encountered during his two decades working with the pyramids.


Mr. Houdin recognizes that his theories may ultimately be proved wrong. There may not be a ramp waiting to be discovered. There may never have been an elaborate counterweight system, at least not exactly as he envisions it. But it seems that even if there is not, he has already found what he was looking for.


"Why care?" he responded when asked why he would spend so much of his life studying a pyramid. "Because it's a pleasure. It's my third life. My first life was until I was 20. My second life was until I was 45. Three lives are very nice."



Egypt to excavate Roman city submerged in sea

May 22, 2006 — CAIRO (Reuters)

The Egyptian authorities have given the go ahead for the underwater exploration of what appears to be a Roman city submerged in the Mediterranean, Egypt's top archaeologist said on Monday.


Zahi Hawass said in a statement that an excavation team had found the ruins of the Roman city 35 km (20 miles) east of the Suez Canal on Egypt's north coast.


Archaeologists had found buildings, bathrooms, ruins of a Roman fortress, ancient coins, bronze vases and pieces of pottery that all date back to the Roman era, the statement said. Egypt's Roman era lasted from 30 BC to 337 AD.


The excavation team also found four bridges that belonged to a submerged castle, part of which had been discovered on the Mediterranean coastline in 1910.


The statement said evidence indicated that part of the site was on the coast and part of it submerged in the sea. The area marked Egypt's eastern border during the Roman era.



Bones in togas puzzle Vatican archaeologists

By Nick Pisa in Rome

(Filed: 21/05/2006)


Archaeologists exploring one of Rome's oldest catacombs are baffled by neat piles of more than 1,000 skeletons dressed in elegant togas.


The macabre find emerged as teams of historians slowly picked their way through the complex network of underground burial chambers, which stretch for miles under the city.


They say the tomb, which has been dated to the first century AD, is the first known example of a "mass burial".


The archaeologists are unable to explain why so many apparently upper-class Romans - who would normally have been cremated - were buried in the same spot, apparently at the same time.


Forensic tests are being carried out to try to establish whether the Romans suffered violent deaths, or were victims of an undocumented epidemic or natural disaster.


There are dozens of catacombs beneath the ancient city, some dating back 2,000 years and many used as burial places by early Christians. Others were used as secret places of worship to avoid persecution.


The Vatican's Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology is overseeing the dig. Its chief inspector of catacombs, Raffaella Giuliani, said: "This is the earliest example of such a mass burial. Usually two or three bodies at the most were put into holes dug out of the rock in the catacombs, but in these case we have several rooms filled with skeletons.


"They are placed one on top of the other and not in a disorderly fashion. They have been carefully buried, with dignity, but the puzzle is why so many at a time?"


The skeletons were dressed in fine robes, many containing gold thread, and wrapped in sheets covered with lime, as was common in early Christian burials.


The discovery was made at the Catacomb of SS Peter and Marcellinus on the ancient Via Labicana in south-east Rome.


Miss Giuliani said there was no obvious sign that violence was the cause. "We are trying to establish whether the skeletons were buried there following some form of epidemic or natural disaster.


It is possible they could have been persecuted and killed by the Romans and then buried there by fellow Christians - we just don't know."


The Vatican will officially present the discovery next month, along with officials from the University of Bordeaux who had been involved in the excavations.



Bulgaria, Greece to Revive Ancient Perperikon Together

On EU Doorstep: 27 May 2006, Saturday.


Bulgaria and Greece will pool efforts together to bring the ancient Thracian sanctuary of Perperikon to new life.


A project envisioning the modification of the fortress, situated in the heart of the Rhodopes, into a centre of cultural tourism in South Eastern Europe was approved within the cross-border cooperation program INTERREG-III between the two countries.


Another seven Bulgarian projects were given the green light for EU financing after consideration in the Joint Bulgarian-Greek Steering Committee.


The total cost of projects as proposed by the Bulgarian side stands at EUR 25.5 M. They include also infrastructure reconstruction, road rehabilitation, environment initiatives, and human resources enhancement.


There is also a project for monitoring and forecasting of floods within the basins of cross-border Maritsa river.


If finally approved, EU Phare will allot EUR 20 M for realising the projects, and the rest of EUR 5 M will be national co-financing.



Last Updated: Saturday, May 27, 2006 13:07:29 Vietnam (GMT+07) 

Hanoi’s ancient citadel unearthed during car park construction


The project management unit in charge of building the new parliament house decided this week to halt construction of a new car park after unwittingly uncovering remnants of Hanoi’s 1000-year-old citadel. 

The management unit (PMU) also instructed the Management Bureau of National Assembly Office, the agency that ordered the building of the car park to disassemble structures built there to reduce degradation to the valuable historic site.


Earlier the Managing Bureau had begun to set concrete in 7,500 sq. m there to build a new car park, which, according to experts and archeologists, would be to the detriment of the citadel remains.


Continued construction of the project encountered major protest from the public media.


The PMU has now given back a section of the area to the National Archeology Institute to supervise and carry on archeological studies there.


The citadel was discovered early in 2003 during excavations to rebuild the Ba Dinh Hall Complex, the seat of Vietnam’s legislature.


After conducting a thorough archeological search of the site, researchers discovered layers of structures built on top of each other and millions of artifacts dating back to the 7th century that detailed long-lost history of the ancient capital.


The citadel was inaugurated as a museum for the public in October 2003.


Source: SGGP – Translated by Thanh Tuan




Last Updated: Thursday, 25 May 2006, 11:36 GMT 12:36 UK 

Is Boudicca buried in Birmingham? 


Queen Boudicca was defeated by the Roman Army

The burial ground of Queen Boudicca could be next to a burger restaurant in Birmingham, it has been claimed.

An excavation is to take place at the site in Kings Norton after evidence it has Roman remains buried there.


Queen Boudicca, who led ancient tribes in battle against the Romans, died in 62 AD, possibly in the Midlands.


It would be a "world-shattering" find, said Councillor Peter Douglas Osborn. But experts warned there is no evidence the site is linked to Boudicca.


"We are hoping that there will be an archaeological exercise next to the McDonalds site in Kings Norton in order to uncover the possible last battle of Queen Boudicca and Seutonius Paulinus," said Mr Douglas Osborn, a member of Birmingham City Council.


  It would be fascinating if it were true but as yet I haven't seen any evidence it is


Dr Simon Esmonde Cleary, Archaeology expert


Of a possible find he told BBC Radio Five Live: "It could be England-shattering if not world-shattering."


Boudicca, also known as Boadicea, became Queen of East Anglia's Iceni tribe when her husband Prasutagus died. She united other Ancient British tribes to fight Roman occupiers.


Her army sacked Colchester and St Albans before facing the Romans, whose main army were marching from north Wales. It is thought the battle may have taken place in the Midlands.


Sceptical experts


But the claim that she was buried in Kings Norton is disputed by Mike Hodder, planning archaeologist at Birmingham City Council.


He said: "There is no doubt that this is an important archaeological site, with remains which are probably Roman in date, but there is no evidence whatsoever of any link with Boadicea."


Dr Simon Esmonde Cleary, an archaeology expert from Birmingham University, was also sceptical about the Boudicca claims.


He said: "The short answer is we don't know where the battle took place, anybody's guess is as good as anyone else's.


"The last time we had Boudicca was in what is now Hertfordshire. We know the Roman Army was coming down from Wales."


He said the battle could have taken place anywhere in between.


"It would be fascinating if it were true but, as yet, I haven't seen any evidence it is," he said.



500 year-old human remains are discovered in Bawtry


ARCHAEOLOGISTS have descended on a Bawtry building site – after human remains were found by surprised workmen.

Last Wednesday police cordened off the site believing it could be a crime scene, but visiting history experts confirmed the bones were 500 years old.


It is thought the skull and bones belong to a small adult or child, but the gender has not yet been determined.


Work on the Bett Homes development has been temporarily halted while a team of archaeologists dig for clues that could reveal more about Medieval Bawtry.


Dinah Saich, South Yorkshire Archaeology Services's principal archaeologist, said there could be much more to find.


"Finding the remains is not a huge surprise to us because the building site is on top of an old chapel – this is a traditional burial and there is the possibility that more remains could be found," she said.


"Although we don't expect to find any artefacts because people in those times were usually buried alone without any possessions."


The mini excavation is expected to last two weeks, but it is not yet known what will happen to the remains or any more found during the dig.


"It depends on what we find. Sometimes they are taken away to be studied, left where they are or are taken to be buried somewhere else," said Mrs Saich.


"We have been very pleased with the response from locals and we have had quite a lot of interest – it's good when these events get people thinking about local history."


"Bawtry is a Medieval town, the parish church dates back from that period, as do all the road structures, so history is really all around the area."


At the time the remains were buried, Bawtry was a thriving port known as the Gateway to the North, thanks to the River Idle.


Several Roman military camps were situated close to the town because it lay across the route from Lincoln to York. The legions would have forded the Idle close to where the stone bridge on Gainsborough Road now stands.


However, its great port tradition was ended with the introductions of railways, and this was compounded when the river dried up.


For an update on any more historic finds in Bawtry, see next week's Worksop Guardian.

26 May 2006



Race against time to unearth Wolds history

Alexandra Wood


ARCHAEOLOGISTS face a race against time to excavate ancient sites found along the path of a 32-mile pipeline in East Yorkshire.

So much has been uncovered on the route of the new Ganstead to Asselby pipeline – including an unknown Bronze Age burial mound in the Yorkshire Wolds – that workers have been drafted in from all over Europe.

And with more than 100 sites which need to be excavated before the end of June they have their work cut out.

Dave Evans, archaeology manager at Humber Archaeology Partnership, is monitoring the work. He said: "There are around 50 archaeologists working now – they have bought them in from all over Europe.

"We have got Polish site supervisors, Irish excavators – you name it. They have been bringing them in from wherever because they are that desperate for people.

"There's a national shortage of trained diggers. Most of the contractors are struggling to find enough diggers – they are working 69-hour weeks to try and keep up with pipeline construction," he added.

"The archaeologists will record all the finds and structures which are within the pipeline corridor to make a permanent record of anything which will be destroyed or damaged.

"Because of the depth and size of the pipe and the weight of construction traffic many of the deposits on the line of the pipeline will be inevitably destroyed."

While they were expecting some interesting results, none of them realised just what would turn up. So far the archaeologists have discovered Iron Age settlements – and possibly the site of a Roman temple.

But one of the most fascinating finds is that of a previously unrecorded Bronze Age barrow, or mound, on a hilltop east of Hotham.

Thought to date back to the early Bronze Age, between 2100 and 1500BC it was later used by the Romans for their own cremations.

As well as four burials there are around six cremations, and burnt bones, ash and shards of pottery have been found by diggers.

Originally the mounds would have been blinding white because of the chalk used to build them and visible on the hilltops to the settlements all around. But this one was ploughed out years ago.

Archaeologists, both amateur and professional, have been digging barrows up for years. It was a local vicar and doctor who uncovered the Arras cemetery of square barrows near Market Weighton in East Yorkshire in 1816. But these days most are protected Scheduled Ancient Monuments – making the Hotham excavation particularly unusual.

Mr Evans said: "Up until the 1850s and 1860s large numbers of barrows were visible as mounds. Mounds that were four foot high 150 years ago are now ploughed out."

Archaeologists are expected to return to the site next month.

Near High Hunsley, a Roman roadside settlement was discovered buried under silt that has washed down from the hillsides over the last 2,000 years. Animal burials have been found close to human ones.

"We may end up with substantial Roman buildings, something like a temple," Mr Evans said.

"It is certainly a masonry building with a lot of burials around it. At the moment they think it is a religious

or ritual site because there are strange animal and human bones round there."

Archaeologists have also been working on an Iron Age square barrow, found to the east of Hotham. South-west of Beverley, a large Iron Age settlement which extended over 1,600ft in length, has also been discovered, with seven or eight roundhouses and enclosures.

Mr Evans added: "We told them in the beginning because they would be crossing the Wolds they would be going across one of the most intensively-occupied bits of England. I think it's come as a surprise that there is so much here."

The work to lay the pipeline should finally allow natural gas from Norway coming in at Easington to reach all parts of the National Grid.


25 May 2006



May 23, 2006, 6:05PM

Archeologists to Search for Lost Mission

By ELLIOTT MINOR Associated Press Writer

© 2006 The Associated Press


ALBANY, Ga. — Amateur archeologists will get a chance to search this summer for the lost mission of Santa Isabel de Utinahica, built in the wilderness in the 1600s for a lone friar who was dispatched to evangelize among the Indians on the edge of Spain's colonial empire.


"This was on the frontier," said Dennis Blanton, curator of native American archaeology at Atlanta's Fernbank Museum of Natural History. "It was perched on the edge of the known world in this hemisphere. A barefoot Franciscan was dropped alone into alien territory and given his marching orders to convert these Indians and probably gather a certain amount of intelligence."


Fernbank and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources' Historic Preservation Division have teamed up to launch the exploration in June near the rural south Georgia town of Jacksonville, about 160 miles south of Atlanta.


"You'll get a sense of what these friars were dealing with," said Blanton, who will supervise the work. "We want to put people in the crucible and be a part of this educational experience."


The program is intended to give adults and high school and college students an opportunity to take part in an excavation and to heighten appreciation for the state's history and archaeological treasures. The amateurs will be guided by professional archeologists.


"This really is the perfect example of how archaeology contributes," Blanton said. "If we want to understand the situation on the ground in any detail, we've got to go move some earth and that's what we want to do."


The site is in a Telfair County forest in an area known as "the forks," where the Ocmulgee and Oconee rivers converge to form the Altamaha River. Based on historical accounts and American Indian artifacts, there's no doubt there was a mission in the area, one of the most remote of several dozen missions set up by the Spanish in northern Florida and southern Georgia, Blanton said.


The mission was named Utinahica after the Indians that lived in the area, Blanton said. They were ancestors to the well-known Creek Indians.


Archeologists have already surveyed the area using remote sensing devices and plan to check it further with ground penetrating radar, he said.


Spanish artifacts have already been recovered at three sites and those will be targeted first, Blanton said.


"We want to set a good model for what ought to be done on these places," he said. "We want people to come away with an appreciation of how it's done well. It'll be thoughtful and systematic. By the end of the summer, we'll be targeting places that look particularly interesting."


Blanton has hired two assistants to help with the program, which is expected to be offered again during the summer of 2007. Teachers who participate can get continuing education credits.


"My strongest personal interest is to get people in middle and south Georgia deeply involved," he said. "But we've got people coming from as far away as Oklahoma. It's really appealed to a lot of folks."


Most Georgians know about the role of the English and Gen. James Oglethorpe, who arrived with a band of settlers in 1733 to establish Savannah and the Georgia colony, but they know little about the role of the Spanish, who had a mission on St. Catherines Island south of Savannah that was active from about 1575 to 1680, Blanton said.


"There's nearly 200 years of prior European history that had a huge bearing on the later history we attribute to the English," Blanton said. "What we're trying to do is give people a healthy reminder of this longer history, which is also pretty interesting history. It's almost like reading fiction."


British archaeology discussion list [BRITARCH@JISCMAIL.AC.UK]; on behalf of; Michael Cunningham [vargeisa@NTLWORLD.COM]

The Ancient White Horse Stone

Under Attack!!

Once again the ancient White Horse Stone in the county of Kent, England and the area around it has come under attack from the mobile phone company Orange! Only two years ago Orange proposed to put a mobile phone mast and cabin next to the White Horse Stone, that application was rejected by Tonbridge and Malling council thanks to the support of many hundred of caring people, now Orange has applied for planning permission to erect an 8m high Double mobile phone mast less than 100m away from the White Horse Stone. (This time they have applied to Maidstone council as the proposed site is just on the other side of the boundary) The White Horse Stone is an ancient monument of significant historical, archaeological and cultural importance. A sacred site to Odinist's the world over and seen by many as the birth place of the English nation.

Unbelievably Orange's proposed site is just 5m from the edge of Boxley Warren Nature reserve, an AONB and SSSI area. It is also just 5m from the North Downs Way, a long distance national trail.

We need your support to fight this application and to protect this ancient monument, our countryside and the environment from this insidious attempt to destroy our heritage and what remains of our green and pleasant land.

Please give your support to our campaign to save the White Horse Stone and the environment around it from this deliberate attempt to destroy our Heritage, we say deliberate because Orange know very well the history of this area and how people feel about it, yet they have once again targeted this sacred site. Orange's arrogance is clearly demonstrated as two months ago they had over 150m of underground duct work and cable installed up to the proposed site before they had even applied for planning permission. Are they hoping this will be just a rubber stamp job! We hope the Local Planning authority will treat this arrogance with the contempt that is deserves and reject this application.

Below we have given some suggested points which you could raise in your objection letters to the council. Please do not copy them word for word, individual letters have a much greater impact than mass produced objections.

Please ensure your mention that this application will have a harmful effect on the environment, especially as this area has been designated as both AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) and SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest).

The White Horse Stone is a listed ancient monument of both historical and cultural importance.

Archaeological evidence has clearly proved that this whole area is a site of high status and of significant historical importance to the county of Kent and England.

The siting of mobile phone equipment just 5m from the Boxley Warren Nature reserve, an AONB and SSSI area would have a detrimental effect on this area by visually scarring the approach to the Nature reserve, an AONB and SSSI site.

Siting of mobile phone equipment within close proximity of an AONB, SSSI, North Downs Way and Nature reserve would present an impression that these designations have no importance or integrity and can be ignored.

If this application is approved it will open the door to other mobile phone network operators to also develop this area.

The siting of mobile phone equipment on this site will have a detrimental effect on the enjoyment of the many thousands of visitors that come to this area for leisure, walking, cycling, horse riding etc.

The siting of 3G mobile equipment will have a detrimental effect on the wildlife in this area. There is concern that 3G's more powerful signal strength could cause long term health problems.

(you do not have to provide proof that there are health issues, it is merely the concern or fear caused by the mobile equipment, real or not, that interests the Local Planning Authorities) Lastly please ensure your objections are clear, polite and to the point.

Please ask your family to send a letter as well.  Letters from children always carry an impact so if you have children please encourage them to send letters also.

The more letters and e-mails we send the greater the chance we have of stopping this at the first stage. Our heritage, our environment and our holy site is in danger, please send your objections to the following address.

Please be sure to give your address so that may reply.

Remember your letters / e-mails must be in by the 6th June 2006.

Maidstone Borough Council

Katie Lazam. Planning Dept

13 Tonbridge Road


Kent, ME16 8HG


You may e-mail your objections, but we would prefer you to send letters if possible.

e-mail:  Katie.lazam@maidstone.gov.uk

Please give the following reference number in all your communications to the council.

Planning Application Reference: MA/06/0792/N



London's heart of stone 

By Sean Coughlan

BBC News Magazine 


The London Stone, rather upstaged by some 20th Century sports logos


The mysterious "London stone" is going to be rescued from a building due to be demolished. Does it mean that London is going to be saved from an ancient legend?


You couldn't get much less of a romantic setting for an historic monument. It's in a kerbside cage, stuck on the wall of a sports shop in Cannon Street due for demolition.


The only clouds of mystery billowing around it are the car exhaust fumes from the traffic crawling through the City of London.


But this is the neglected setting of the London Stone - an ancient and mysterious object mentioned by Shakespeare, William Blake and Dickens, which has been seen as one of the capital's greatest relics since at least the Middle Ages and probably much earlier.


Now there are plans for the limestone block to be put into the Museum of London for safekeeping, while the building to which it's gloomily attached is pulled down and the site is redeveloped.


Protecting the stone might not be such a bad idea - since there is a legend that, like the ravens at the Tower of London, the fortune of the city is tied to the survival of the stone.


"So long as the stone of Brutus is safe, so long shall London flourish," says the proverb.


This relates to the myth that the stone was part of an altar built by Brutus the Trojan, the legendary founder of London. This might be unlikely, but then again no one really knows its origin.


The man who saved London: Chris Cheek protected the stone from builders


Hedley Swain, archaeologist at the Museum of London, says it is clearly an ancient block - but despite the many legends, there is no way of confirming its date or purpose.


A more pressing concern is how to rescue the stone from its current position, in a building that is set to be pulled down.


"The trouble is that at the moment it's not really looked after by anyone," he says. And although there is no fixed timetable, he is expecting the stone to be brought to the Museum of London for display while the new building is constructed.


"People go to look for it, thinking it's going to be a grand object, and then they walk up and down Cannon Street and can't find it."


"We get letters from people saying that it's appalling that it's being kept in this way."


But he says there is no way of confirming rival theories that it was a Roman distance marker or part of a prehistoric standing stone or any of the many more exotic myths.


The area between Cannon Street and the River Thames was a site of important Roman buildings - and he says that the stone could have been from these buildings.


But it could also have been much older and part of some other pre-Roman edifice.


It's not entirely the case that no one is looking after the stone, because it does have a current custodian: Chris Cheek, the manager of the Sportec sports shop to which the stone is attached.



The London stone, as seen from inside the sports shop


And even though he isn't a household name, Londoners might not realise that he has already saved their city from the destruction promised if the stone is lost.


"When we were setting up the shop, there were cowboy builders here, and one of them was just about to take a chisel to the stone. I told him 'Whoah. Stop right there.'"


And Mr Cheek has become attached to this strange situation, where one of the city's most ancient objects is parked in his shop, surrounded by football shirts, cricket bats and trainers.


In fact, while people try to see it from outside, the only decent view of the stone is from the cricket section in his shop.


Does he believe in the legend that London's future well-being depends on this stone?


"Yes. I do really. I'm not into hocus pocus, but there is something about this stone. For some reason it's been kept, there's something special about it."


This could be because of its associations with druids, he suggests, or maybe just the sheer weight of history - from the Roman legionnaires through to the Blitz.


He also says it reveals something about people's characters.


"There are people who have travelled all the way from Australia to see this stone. And there are other people who are so hectic, so busy with their appointments, that they walk past it every day of week and never even see it."


"And there are people who come in for a pair of socks and then suddenly see it. 'Is that the London stone? I've heard of that'."


Mr Cheek also enjoys the idea that, until it's shifted to a museum, he is the latest in a long line of people to be in charge of something so mysterious and ancient.


The idea of sacred stones is a very ancient tradition - monarchs are still crowned on the Stone of Scone, the so-called "stone of destiny", in Westminster Abbey.


And the London stone has been the source of speculation right through the capital's history.


Queen Elizabeth I's adviser and occultist, John Dee, was obsessed by the stone, believing that it had magic powers.


The stone was built into the wall of a church, later destroyed in the Blitz


Shakespeare depicted the 15th Century peasants' rebellion leader, Jack Cade, striking the London stone as a symbolic sign of taking control of the city.


And Mr Cheek can point out the grooves in the top of the stone, furrowed, he believes, by repeated sword blows.


Christopher Wren saw the foundations of the stone being excavated - and believed it to be part of a bigger Roman structure.


William Blake used the story that the stone had been part of a druid altar - reflecting another belief that it was from a pre-Roman religious stone circle on the site now occupied by St Paul's Cathedral.


The persistent story that the stone was the symbolic centre point from which every distance in Roman Britain was measured was already in circulation in the 16th Century.


But maybe the London stone's most remarkable achievement is to have survived at all - through wars, plagues, fires and even 1960s planning, right in the middle of the financial district of the capital.


The building housing the London stone is due for redevelopment


It's probably still in a setting not too far from where it stood when the Romans were building London.


In 18th Century prints it was kept in an elegant stone casing - and there are photographs of Victorian police men guarding the stone, when it was set into the wall of a church at waist height.


This church, St Swithin, was damaged during a bombing raid during World War II - and the stone was then attached to a new building on the site.


This current building is set to be pulled down - and the Corporation of London is ensuring that the replacement will be put the chunk of limestone on display in a way that is more prominent.


Archaeologist Hedley Swain says the stone also serves as a reminder that "under the superficial veneer of being a modern business capital, London has so many deep layers of accumulated history".


Mr Cheek says that the real appeal is its mystery. "If it doesn't have a beginning, then perhaps it doesn't have an end either."


Add your comments on this story, using the form below.

The stone is a listed structure, part of our visible Roman history and an important part of the street scene. Although I have not taken to hitting the stone with a sword like my predecessors, I recognise that the London Stone is an intriguing part of the history of the unique City. As guardians of the past and future of the Square Mile, the City of London aims to ensure the stone -and any mythical powers it may have - remains intact.

Lord Mayor of London, David Brewer



A great tale and many thanks to Chris Cheek for looking after the stone. Now, let's make sure it is kept close to ordinary Londoners, not lost in the storerooms of a museum.

John Brook, Windsor



I have seen it many times. It has to be preserved and returned to its current spot. It will keep London safe

John P Most, Cambridge



Look what happened when Carlisle moved its stone. Better leave it where it is I think.

Abbie, London



I'm from London and I never even knew it existed! What a fascinating story. Mr Cheek is a hero and should get an OBE in my opinion.

Debbie Seymour, Connecticut, USA



Something as ancient as the London Stone deserves to not be removed to a museum. Besides, if the proverb is correct, bad things could happen. Three cheers to Mr Cheek for keeping it safe!

Brendan, Tucson, US



The stone has always lived in the heart of London, perhaps it is the heart of London, nothing can survive without its heart.

Ylva, Gravesend



Very interesting story. I think it should definitely be returned to its location once the new building on the site has been constructed. Also think the idea of having it on a plinth would be quite nice. Having these little artefacts tucked away in London streets is one of the things that makes our city so interesting.

Robin, London



Chris Cheek deserves a medal! Or what about a new award - 'Defender of the Stone' - to ensure it's kept safe in future centuries - because there are a heck of a lot of dodgy builders about - with chisels at the ready!

Simon Morrison, Truro



Leave that stone right where it is... terrible things will happen if we move it.. like beer going flat or losing the World Cup... Hang on... WHO MOVED THAT STONE?

JPS, Germany



Being originally from London I loved the story. I never realised the stone was there and will definitely find it when I'm next down. As for the Stone of Scone, I heard recently that the stone currently at Edinburgh is a fake and that the original is believed to be buried somewhere in the Scotish countryside. Is this a widely held belief, and does anyone have any details?

Maria, Isle of Skye



What a curious curiosity. Personally I agree with those people who think it should stay close to its current location. I think it's a wonderfully quirky, British thing to have a 'lost' artefact like this residing peacefully somewhere in the heart of the capital.

Lee, Grantham



The stone must stay close to where is is now ... I don't think we should risk the wrath of Gog and Magog!

Ian Waite, London



Just to clarify, the Stone will only come to the Museum of London temporarily while the site is being redeveloped, it will then be put back on display in Cannon Street.

Hedley Swain (Museum of London), London



I'd walked past the London Stone every day on my way home, via Cannon Street and didn't have a clue it was there. Then one day I decided to go for a walk at lunch-time and spotted it. The associated plaque doesn't give you much information, so I found this article fascinating - having heard of the name, I now understand a little more behind it.

GDW, London



The ravens are currently locked in the tower to stop them getting birdflu and the legend is coming true. Not sure a stone in the middle of a locked room of ravens is a good idea to preserve it. They might use it for target practice.

Suzie, Milton Keynes



What about the Trafalgar Square plinth ?

Clare, London



Sad will be the day when everything that is ancient and woven with stories is confined to a museum. As a young man I went looking for this stone and eventually found it tucked away in the shop. That thrill then was worth far more than wandering past it in some museum in the 'ancient lumps of rock' section.

Lon Barfield, Bristol



Having read about this mysterious stone I made every effort to look for it during my stay last April, and I was thrilled to see it. Being a City stone, I think it should remain nearest to the place where it was found originally.

Gisela Whelan, Essen, Germany



I'm glad there's still some magic and mystery left in this country. We need more of it!

Adam, Cardiff



The British Museum is too stuffy to keep it. This is supposed to be a living momument, not a relic, and it belongs in the City of London. Besides, the cricket section of a sports shop is a far more suitable place to keep it.

Julian, London



I wonder how many of these ancient monuments sit in our busy streets unnoticed. In Kingston there is a coronation stone in a shady patch of grass beside the guildhall on which were crowned seven Saxon kings of England. I have never seen anyone near it and the only sign post to it is a small brown sign above a bus stop. I just love that. There is so much history in London surrounding us everywhere we simply take it as read.

David, Kingston upon Thames



I look at the stone every time I go past Cannon St. I cannot understand why it is not in the British or the Museum of London. It must be one of the oldest monuments in London, yet no one seems to go and see it. I hope it rests in peace in its new home (in the Museum of London please!)

Louise, London



What irony. The London Stone is an old old reminder in the heart of the Saxon capital, that the great city of London used to be a Welsh / British stronghold. Brutus is seen by many as the founder of the Welsh nation, our very own Hengist and Horsa.

Osian Jones, Aberystwyth.



An interesting story and no conclusion! What is it? Where is it from? I won't sleep now....

Neil Hopkins, Haywards Heath



The stone of London is a wonderful story, and the reaction to it is also wonderful. Think of a stone of New York and have a laugh. The Indians having been obliterated it would have to have been put there by the Dutch maybe three hundred years ago? The approach of Americans to this limited history is instructive. A stone? Britons seem to respect not only the age of the stone but also its mystery and the myth that surrounds it.

Christopher Hobe Morrison, Middletown, NY, USA



I don't think it should be put in a museum, it should stay where it is, if this is where it was originally placed (it may not like being moved!).

Ruth, Isle of Wight



I would not put the Stone in a museum, it has spent centuries on the roadside, surviving time, history, traffic and the blitz. It would be nice to move the stone away temporarily just to put it back on its place in a display incorporated in the new building, like it was done after WWII.

Andrea , Milano, Italia



I had never heard of the London stone but I now need to know more! Why move it? If it has stood on the same spot for so many years why lock it up in a museum? I should like to make a trip to see in situ.

Owen Wyn-Jones, Ironbridge, Shropshire



Rather than stuck inside or in-the side-of a building, London should build a pedestal nearby with a plaque describing the history of the stone. That way both Londoners and visitors can admire and reflect on the history that surrounds them.

Clark Glenn Jr., Lawrenceville, NJ, USA



Perhaps when they excavate to rebuild the significance of its position may become apparent

Stephen Belcher, Ryde, Isle of Wight



I think it is very important that the London stone should return to a safe and properly visible home on Cannon Street once the building works are finished. It must not be allowed to disappear into storage, or be put on display in a place which has to be specially visited, instead of simply being passed by thousands daily.

Isobel, Salisbury



This story reminds me of a children's TV programme where they move a sacred artefact and the world went a bit mad until it was returned...spooky!

Dennis, Pembrokeshire



The Museum of London is a great place to visit and would do the stone justice. At the moment not many visit because they don't know.

Nancy, London



If they have similar legends attached to them, why can't the ravens in the Tower look after the stone?

Myf, Berks



Can we have our Stone of Scone back please?

Anon, Edinburgh



Protection for wreck sunk in 1703 


Divers will need licences to investigate further

An English warship thought to have sunk in the Great Storm of 1703 is to be given protected status, Culture Minister David Lammy has announced.

The wreck, lying in Pevensey Bay, off the East Sussex coast, is believed to be that of the 70-gun Resolution.


The ship, now designated under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973, could provide an insight into the maritime and military history of the period.


Local divers found the wreck last year while trying to free a lobster pot.


Its designation under the Act follows a recommendation from English Heritage.


The law means the government can prevent uncontrolled interference in sites identified as being likely to contain the remains of a vessel, or its contents, which are of historical, artistic or archaeological importance.


  Shipwrecks and their sites are a vital - and mysterious - part of our heritage


David Lammy, culture minister


The wreck includes a cluster of at least 45 iron guns lying on top of ballast material along with a timber hull structure and other artefacts.


After the wreck was discovered last spring an archaeologist identified the remains as those of a large warship dating between 1600 and 1800.


Initial interpretations concluded it was likely to be the wreck of the Resolution, built in Harwich, Essex, between 1665 and 1667.



The Resolution was the flagship of an expedition against the Barbary Corsairs in 1669, and took part in the unsuccessful attack on the Dutch Smyrna convoy, which resulted in the Third Dutch War.


It sank during the Great Storm on 26 November 1703.


After being blown across the Solent and striking the Owers Banks six or seven times, the crew were able to round Beachy Head.


As the vessel took on water they attempted to beach her in Pevensey Bay but were unsuccessful.


Such in situ preservation of shipwreck material dating from the 17th and 18th centuries is uncommon.


Mr Lammy said: "Shipwrecks and their sites are a vital - and mysterious - part of our heritage."


The site was a "crucial part" of England's seafaring heritage, added Ian Oxley, Head of Maritime Archaeology at English Heritage.


Further investigation of the wreck is expected to be carried out by local divers under licence.