www.archaeology.ws/archive

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2006-07/29/content_4891709.htm

Tomb of 1st emperor's grandmother unearthed

www.chinaview.cn 2006-07-29 20:19:32

 

XI'AN, July 29 (Xinhua) -- After more than a year's excavation and research in a large tomb in northwest China's Shaanxi Province, Chinese archaeologists have concluded that the tomb belonged to the grandmother of Qinshihuang, the country's first emperor.

 

Zhang Tian'en, an expert with the Shaanxi Provincial Archaeology Institute, told Xinhua on Saturday that the tomb was chronologically the closest to the mysterious mausoleum of Qinshihuang, and was probably built on the emperor's orders.

 

"We are hoping that the excavation of his grandmother's tomb will help unravel the mystery about the first emperor's mausoleum, which still cannot be excavated. It will also contribute to research into Qin Dynasty burial culture," Zhang said.

 

 The tomb, located in the southern outskirts of Xi'an, provincial capital of Shaanxi, is the second largest ancient tomb excavated in China. Only the tomb of King Jinggong of the State of Qin (897-221 BC) is bigger, said Zhang.

 

Located under the new campus of the Xi'an Business College, the tomb is about 30 kilometers southwest of Qinshihuang's famous mausoleum. Qinshihuang united seven warring states and founded the Qin Dynasty in 221 BC.

 

550 meters long and 310 meters wide, the tomb covers an area of 17.3 hectares.

 

Archaeologists unearthed two carriages designed to be driven by six horses, which could only be used by kings and queens in the State of Qin.

 

The seals of court officials responsible for running errands on behalf of queens, queen mothers and princes, have also been found, said Wang Hui, an expert with Shaanxi Normal University.

 

After further examination on the unearthed articles and comparisons with Qin mausoleums, the archaeologists concluded that the tomb belonged to Qinshihuang's grandmother, Queen Mother Xia.

 

According to Ding Yan, an associate researcher with the Shaanxi Research Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, the main tomb for the Queen Mother is 140 meters long, 113 meters wide and 15 meters deep, with the tomb chamber covering an area of more than 100 square meters.

 

Ding said that since the tomb was raided and burned several times, only fragments of Qin coins, grey clay vases and red clay boilers have been unearthed, as well as shards of decorative and ritual jade objects, broken pottery and pieces of bronze.

 

Sadly, Qingshihuang's grandmother's inner and outer coffins were also burned, Ding added.

 

The tomb is still under excavation.

 

Zhang Tian'en said that the Queen Mother lived until Qinshihuang was 20 years of age and in the seventh year of his reign. The royal lady is believed to have exerted considerable influence on the politics of the later years of the State of Qin and on Qinshihuang in particular.

 

China's survey of the 2,200-year-old Qinshihuang mausoleum has lasted nearly 40 years. What has been discovered is believed to be just the tip of the iceberg.

 

The site remains a mystery even if the terra cotta warrior underground army has long been unearthed and hailed as the world's eighth wonder.

 

"The best choice is to leave the ancient tomb untouched because, given the complicated conditions inside, excavation errors could lead to its destruction," said Duan Qingbo, a top archaeologist with the Shaanxi Provincial Archaeology Institute.

 

"Current techniques cannot ensure that the mausoleum will be properly protected after excavation."

 

According to historical records, some 720,000 workers labored 38 years to build the mausoleum for the emperor, who ruled the Qin Dynasty, China's first unified dynasty, from 221-206 BC.

 

Archaeologists, using remote sensing equipment, have located symmetrical staircases leading down into the tomb and wooden structures inside the tomb.

 

They have also discovered that the tomb was built with an effective drainage system that has prevented ground water from seeping inside, according to Duan.

 

Legends maintain that a huge underground palace was modeled on the emperor's realm with rivers flowing with mercury and the ceiling studded with pearls and diamonds representing the stars and sun.

 

"Our survey shows that the mercury density in Qinshihuang's cemetery area is vastly higher than that in the surrounding area, and confirms that the mercury comes from the mausoleum," Duan said.

 

The mausoleum was also said to have architectural designs that archaeologists believe have successfully kept out tomb robbers.

 

 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,,-5980254,00.html

Archaeologists Seek Clues in Slaves' Tombs

Friday July 28, 2006 7:46 PM

By MATT APUZZO

Associated Press Writer

 

EAST HADDAM, Conn. (AP) - Archaeologists have begun digging up the 200-year-old graves of a slave family in hopes of separating fact from fiction in the legend of ``the black Paul Bunyan.''

 

The dig has the blessing of more than a dozen descendants of Venture Smith who believe science can finally lend credence to the tales they have heard all their lives about the fabulous feats of strength that helped the lumberjack slave win his freedom.

 

Standing 6-foot-1 by his own account and weighing more than 300 pounds according to local lore, Smith is said to have carried a nine-pound ax and split seven cords of wood each day. His biography describes him carrying a barrel of molasses on his shoulders for two miles and hauling hundreds of pounds of salt.

 

Smith's story became one of the nation's first slave narratives in 1798 and is regarded by scholars as one of the most important such works. But slave biographies - particularly those told to writers, as Smith's story was - were sometimes embellished.

 

Scientists say a look at Smith's remains could indicate his height and weight, his diet and any injuries he suffered during a life of labor. And DNA taken from him, his wife, his son and his granddaughter could help pinpoint where in Africa he was born and corroborate the account of his early life there.

 

``It could substantiate that these are not fables, stories,'' said Frank Warmsley Sr., who at 85 is believed to be Smith's oldest living descendent. ``They're truths. He was a great man.''

 

Historians and literary scholars say the dig represents a remarkable opportunity - one that could help yield one of the most complete reconstructions of American slave life.

 

``Of all the early black writers, his is the only grave that we can identify. He is the only one we could try this on,'' said Vincent Carretta, an English professor at the University of Maryland who studies slave narratives and was the first to compare Smith to Paul Bunyan. ``This is extraordinary. There's nothing to compare it to.''

 

Moreover, scholars will have the rare advantage of being able to draw on documentary evidence, too. Unlike most other slaves, who left behind no records and were buried in unmarked graves, Smith died a free man and landowner with local records to supplement his biography.

 

``It's absolutely an extraordinarily rare opportunity to have such documentation about one man and his family,'' said Nicholas F. Bellantoni, Connecticut's state archaeologist. ``We can look at the biology and match it up with that history.''

 

Family members and historians believe Smith was born in or around modern-day Ghana. Smith's owner allowed him to work side jobs until, in 1765, he bought his freedom for seventy-one pounds and two shillings, according to his biography, which was based on the story he told to a local teacher. He then saved up to buy freedom for his wife, Meg, and their sons.

 

He was buried beneath a marked headstone in a small, well-kept cemetery in this riverside Connecticut town.

 

Archaeologists working beneath a white tent slowly began digging this week. By midweek they had gone about three feet deep, and Bellantoni said it could be next week before they locate the remains.

 

The remains will not be exhumed. Rather, scientists will take small samples of bone, teeth and genetic material to study. It will take months for genetic results to come back.

 

The process hit a snag Tuesday when Nancy Burton, a disbarred Connecticut lawyer who no connection to the Smith family, challenged the dig in court. She said it was disrespectful to Smith's legacy. A judge denied her request for an injunction and said digging could continue at least until he heard her arguments on Friday.

 

Warmsley said family members were consulted and all agreed that Smith would have wanted them to know their history.

 

David Richardson of the Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation, a British group helping support the dig, concurred.

 

``He wanted the world to know his story. It was a story of optimism and hope, of someone who was brought from Africa as a slave but nevertheless freed himself and built a new life,'' Richardson said. ``In a way, we're carrying on what Venture himself wanted to accomplish.''

 

http://www.int.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1&click_id=588&art_id=qw1154032204997B262

Archaeologists ready to tunnel for treasure

July 28 2006 at 02:44AM

By Costas Kantouris

 

Tunnelling work to build a metro system for the country's second-largest city started on Thursday, as culture ministry officials signed an agreement to protect antiquities they expect to be discovered during construction.

 

The agreement follows a massive horde of antiquities uncovered while building a new subway system in Athens, which opened in 2000, with extensions added before the 2004 Olympics. Some of the discoveries are on display at Athens stations.

 

The Thessaloniki subway system will span about 10 kilometres with 13 stations and is due to be completed by 2012.

 

Work involving two large tunnel-boring machines started Thursday. The machines were named Cassander and Thessalonica, after the king who founded the northern city 2 300 years ago and his wife.

 

Haris Tsimatzis, a government project inspector, said the position of several subway stations and tunnelling depth had been changed to accommodate archaeologists' recommendations.

 

"Antiquities will be on display at at least three subway stations - just as they are in Athens," Tsimatzis said.

 

He said the excavation site would span about two hectares.

 

Archaeologists are hoping to find a cemetery, more than 2 000 years old, and parts of the city's ancient wall, as well as centuries of old roads, public baths and other buildings.

 

"We're taking great care to protect the antiquities. Planning has been worked out in such a way that this care will not slow down the project," said Giorgos Yiannis, head of Attiko Metro, the state-run company, which is supervising the Thessaloniki subway.

 

Yiannis said most tunnelling would occur at 16m to 21m below ground, while most ancient artifacts were expected to be found at between 11m and 13m.

 

More than a million people live in greater Thessaloniki and about 430 000 cars are registered in the city. - Sapa-AP

 

http://news.independent.co.uk/europe/article1205976.ece

France's new Stonehenge: Secrets of a neolithic time machine

A spectacular discovery of Stone Age menhirs in Brittany could unlock the code to one of the most puzzling chapters of human development, and transform our knowledge of mankind's early history

By John Lichfield

Published: 31 July 2006

 

Some months ago builders were clearing a piece of wasteland in southern Brittany when they struck an enormous hunk of granite. The developer was no historian but he knew instantly what the obstacle must be: the remains of a buried "menhir" or neolithic standing stone.

 

He ordered a bulldozer to shove the stone underground again before any passing busybody spotted it. He did not want the work on his six seaside bungalows to be halted for a prolonged archaeological dig.

 

Brittany, he probably reasoned, is crammed with old stones. At Carnac - the largest neolithic site in the world, just down the road - there is a linear forest of 3,000 menhirs in the space of four kilometres. Was that not enough ancient monuments to satisfy the historians, the tourists and the Ministry of Culture in Paris? Too late. A passing busy-body had noticed the unearthed menhir. Work on the bungalows was halted. An archaeological dig was ordered.

 

As a result, our knowledge of early human history may be transformed - or at least deeply enriched. Preliminary exploration of the site has just been completed. One of France's foremost experts on neolithic times calls the results a "miracle". Other experts speak of a "time machine".

 

The Ministry of Culture is in the process of designating the whole area - 10 times larger than the 3,000 square metre preliminary dig - as a place of overwhelming historical importance. In other words, the six new bungalows at Kerdruelland, near Belz, in Morbihan, will never be built.

 

To neolithic experts, the name Kerdruelland may yet come to have something of the same significance as Stonehenge or Carnac or Newgrange in Co. Meath. The site may provide - like a kind of modern-day Rosetta Stone- some of the clues to unlock the code of one of the most important but puzzling chapters in human development.

 

The middle and late-neolithic (or Stone Age) and early Bronze Age in western Europe - roughly from 4000 BC to 1500 BC - was a period of rapid and revolutionary advance. European man made pottery and tamed animals for the first time. He turned from hunting to agriculture. He emerged from caves and built houses. He progressed from cave-painting to the building of elaborate stone and earth tombs and - many years before the Egyptian pyramids - to the construction of carefully plotted and painstakingly laboured alignments and circles of standing stones. There are 3,000 of them in Britain, Ireland and Brittany alone. They are also scattered from Denmark to Portugal and southern Italy. Much has been discovered about the period in the past 50 years. Much remains utterly mysterious.

 

Archaeologists working on the Kerdruelland site over the past nine months have discovered not one but 60 "lost" menhirs. They believe that they were erected - and then destroyed - during the "middle period" of the standing stones era in western Europe, in around 2500 BC. (This was about the same time that the main ring at Stonehenge was constructed, possibly by invaders from Brittany).

 

Because the Kerdruelland menhirs have been preserved in mud and silt for 4,500 years, they should offer important new information on how such alignments were created and why. At the well-known sites, such as Carnac and Stonehenge, some of the stones have been moved or propped up or stolen or added over the centuries. Here the stones, up to 2m long, lie just as they did after they were felled four-and-half millennia ago.

 

At neolithic sites elsewhere, the soil of the period has been eroded by the ravages of time and man. At Kerdruelland, the neolithic sub-soil - the soil on which the stones were erected - has been preserved intact. This offers a cornucopia of possible new archaeological finds. Already, a brief dig has yielded a rich harvest of flint tools and shards of pottery.

 

Just as importantly, the preservation of the neolithic sub-soil will help the experts to discover traces of the original earthworks and study the methods of assembling and positioning the menhirs.

 

The fact that the stones were erected, and then deliberately toppled, at roughly the same time, is also an important discovery. It offers new evidence that the neolithic was a period of social and religious upheavals, revolutions and wars. In other words, the neolithic may have been "megalithic" - obsessed with whacking great stones - but it was not socially or culturally monolithic. Ancient man was as fractious and destructive as modern man.

 

Professor Jean-Paul Demoule is president of the French agency which undertakes urgent archaeological digs on threatened sites - L'Institut national de recherches archéologiques préventives (Inrap) - which undertook the preliminary dig at Kerdruelland. He is also one of France's, and the world's, leading experts on the neolithic era: "This site is, historically and archaeologically speaking, a miracle," he told The Independent. "It is a great paradox. Precisely because it was destroyed, it has been preserved: like the wreck of an ancient ship beneath the ocean."

 

"The great neolithic sites like Stonehenge, such as Carnac, have come down to us, still standing, through the millennia and we can look at them as we imagine that they always were. But we cannot be sure that they were exactly that way and - most importantly - the soil in which they were planted has gone. If you dig at Stonehenge or Carnac today, you are mostly digging into the soil of previous ages, before the stones were placed there. Here, we are digging into the neolithic soil itself, the soil on which the erectors, and destroyers, of the stones once stood and lived."

 

Stephan Hinguant, 43, the chief archaeologist on the site, said: "This is as a truly astonishing find, a time machine. We have only explored a small part of it, and very rapidly, but we have found enough to know that there is a treasury of information here which will take several years to uncover fully.

 

"We have found 60 stones, some complete, some broken, but we believe that there must be many more in the surrounding site. Once we have established where the stones originally stood, we will be able to draw conclusions, based on scientific fact, not on guesswork. The artefacts we find in the soil and evidence of how the stones were placed upright could make enormous contributions to our understanding of neolithic culture..."

 

Until the archaeological work resumes, probably next year, the experts are unwilling to say whether the stones originally formed lines, or a circle, or, typically for Brittany, a horse-shoe.

 

Kerdruelland today is a banal stretch of seaside suburbia. Here and there a huge lump of rough, yellow-orange coloured granite pokes through the plastic protecting the site from summer storms. To have some idea of how Kerdruelland must have looked 4,000 years ago, you do not have to go far. Eight miles to the east are the three vast alignments of stones, and their associated "cromlechs", or large stone circles, near the village of Carnac.

 

The stones are large and small, straight and jagged, mostly erected just as they were found. They stretch into the distance, like rotting giants' teeth, offering little clue as to why they were strung out over such a large area.

 

Neolithic historians believe that the original rows of stones at Carnac were a kind of ceremonial avenue, leading to a large enclosure of stones or "cromlechs", where ritual gatherings took place. The first stones may have been erected around 3500 BC - 1,000 years before those at Kerdruelland.

 

In his seminal, recently republished work The Stone circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany (Yale University Press), the British neolithic expert, Aubrey Burl, suggests that the original, simple avenues at Carnac were augmented and muddled until Roman times, and maybe even more recently, by an annoying local habit of adding a couple of stones each year.

 

Hence, the frustrations of neolithic archaeologists and historians. Professor Burl also refers despairingly to a stone circle at Hampton Down in Dorset. A photograph from 1908 shows 16 pillars. By 1964, there was a ring of 28. Later excavation suggested that only eight were genuine. But which ones? Professor Burl also complains that our understanding of standing stones has been warped by Stonehenge, which is extraordinary but atypical.

 

Most circles use stones which were lying around near by. Rock was rarely quarried or carried very far. The "sarsen" stones in the main ring at Stonehenge are an exception. They came from 20 miles away. It is estimated that it would have taken 200 men to drag each slab 100m a day. The ambitious "lintels" joining the sarsen stones at Stonehenge do not occur in any other neolithic monument.

 

Mr Burl insists that the Wiltshire masterpiece is a "unique example of megalithic madness". Most other stone circles are more modest and could have been put together little by little, and changed over the centuries, by small clans or family groups.

 

But why build stone circles or alignments at all? In a book published last year, Inside the Neolithic Mind (Thames and Hudson), David Lewis-Williams and David Pearce try to psychoanalyse the late stone age. They bring together archaeological evidence from the Middle East, western Europe and modern scientific studies of the chemistry of the brain. The results are sometimes far fetched but the book traces a convincing progression from cave art to stone circles.

 

As man emerged from the caves and forests to cultivate open ground, he replicated the old, sacred caves by building cave-like tombs. These were made of groups of stones, covered with soil. At some point, in around 4000 to 3500 BC, mankind emerged further into the light. The pattern of stones within the tombs was expanded and uncovered to form ceremonial stone circles.

 

What happened inside such enclosures has excited fevered speculation for centuries. Human sacrifice? Elaborate astronomical observations? Sexual and drunken orgies? Ceremonies at the winter and summer solstices to encourage the healthy growth of crops? Professor Burl suggests that, far from being elaborate astronomical observatories, most stone-circles are shaped by local topography. They do often, however, have alignments with summer and winter solstices and the movements of the Moon. Professor Burl's best guess on their purpose is a mixture of propitiation of the crop gods and sexual and alcoholic-psychedelic orgies. There is much archaeological evidence that the late Stone Age was also a stoned aged.

 

Professor Jean-Paul Demoule says that it is clear that the neolithic period was "not a calm river of slow evolution" but a "period of violent upheavals, wars and revolutions" as cultural and religious groups fought and colonised one another. In no other site before the discovery of Kerdruelland, however, have archaeologists found a large group of standing stones which were toppled but not re-used.

 

For this reason alone, the site offers the prospect of startling new discoveries and insights in the years ahead. It is a pity about the bungalows. However, southern Brittany, though crammed with ancient monuments, is not short of a few bungalows.

 

Some months ago builders were clearing a piece of wasteland in southern Brittany when they struck an enormous hunk of granite. The developer was no historian but he knew instantly what the obstacle must be: the remains of a buried "menhir" or neolithic standing stone.

 

He ordered a bulldozer to shove the stone underground again before any passing busybody spotted it. He did not want the work on his six seaside bungalows to be halted for a prolonged archaeological dig.

 

Brittany, he probably reasoned, is crammed with old stones. At Carnac - the largest neolithic site in the world, just down the road - there is a linear forest of 3,000 menhirs in the space of four kilometres. Was that not enough ancient monuments to satisfy the historians, the tourists and the Ministry of Culture in Paris? Too late. A passing busy-body had noticed the unearthed menhir. Work on the bungalows was halted. An archaeological dig was ordered.

 

As a result, our knowledge of early human history may be transformed - or at least deeply enriched. Preliminary exploration of the site has just been completed. One of France's foremost experts on neolithic times calls the results a "miracle". Other experts speak of a "time machine".

 

The Ministry of Culture is in the process of designating the whole area - 10 times larger than the 3,000 square metre preliminary dig - as a place of overwhelming historical importance. In other words, the six new bungalows at Kerdruelland, near Belz, in Morbihan, will never be built.

 

To neolithic experts, the name Kerdruelland may yet come to have something of the same significance as Stonehenge or Carnac or Newgrange in Co. Meath. The site may provide - like a kind of modern-day Rosetta Stone- some of the clues to unlock the code of one of the most important but puzzling chapters in human development.

 

The middle and late-neolithic (or Stone Age) and early Bronze Age in western Europe - roughly from 4000 BC to 1500 BC - was a period of rapid and revolutionary advance. European man made pottery and tamed animals for the first time. He turned from hunting to agriculture. He emerged from caves and built houses. He progressed from cave-painting to the building of elaborate stone and earth tombs and - many years before the Egyptian pyramids - to the construction of carefully plotted and painstakingly laboured alignments and circles of standing stones. There are 3,000 of them in Britain, Ireland and Brittany alone. They are also scattered from Denmark to Portugal and southern Italy. Much has been discovered about the period in the past 50 years. Much remains utterly mysterious.

 

Archaeologists working on the Kerdruelland site over the past nine months have discovered not one but 60 "lost" menhirs. They believe that they were erected - and then destroyed - during the "middle period" of the standing stones era in western Europe, in around 2500 BC. (This was about the same time that the main ring at Stonehenge was constructed, possibly by invaders from Brittany).

 

Because the Kerdruelland menhirs have been preserved in mud and silt for 4,500 years, they should offer important new information on how such alignments were created and why. At the well-known sites, such as Carnac and Stonehenge, some of the stones have been moved or propped up or stolen or added over the centuries. Here the stones, up to 2m long, lie just as they did after they were felled four-and-half millennia ago.

 

At neolithic sites elsewhere, the soil of the period has been eroded by the ravages of time and man. At Kerdruelland, the neolithic sub-soil - the soil on which the stones were erected - has been preserved intact. This offers a cornucopia of possible new archaeological finds. Already, a brief dig has yielded a rich harvest of flint tools and shards of pottery.

 

Just as importantly, the preservation of the neolithic sub-soil will help the experts to discover traces of the original earthworks and study the methods of assembling and positioning the menhirs.

 

The fact that the stones were erected, and then deliberately toppled, at roughly the same time, is also an important discovery. It offers new evidence that the neolithic was a period of social and religious upheavals, revolutions and wars. In other words, the neolithic may have been "megalithic" - obsessed with whacking great stones - but it was not socially or culturally monolithic. Ancient man was as fractious and destructive as modern man.

 

Professor Jean-Paul Demoule is president of the French agency which undertakes urgent archaeological digs on threatened sites - L'Institut national de recherches archéologiques préventives (Inrap) - which undertook the preliminary dig at Kerdruelland. He is also one of France's, and the world's, leading experts on the neolithic era: "This site is, historically and archaeologically speaking, a miracle," he told The Independent. "It is a great paradox. Precisely because it was destroyed, it has been preserved: like the wreck of an ancient ship beneath the ocean."

 

"The great neolithic sites like Stonehenge, such as Carnac, have come down to us, still standing, through the millennia and we can look at them as we imagine that they always were. But we cannot be sure that they were exactly that way and - most importantly - the soil in which they were planted has gone. If you dig at Stonehenge or Carnac today, you are mostly digging into the soil of previous ages, before the stones were placed there. Here, we are digging into the neolithic soil itself, the soil on which the erectors, and destroyers, of the stones once stood and lived."

 

Stephan Hinguant, 43, the chief archaeologist on the site, said: "This is as a truly astonishing find, a time machine. We have only explored a small part of it, and very rapidly, but we have found enough to know that there is a treasury of information here which will take several years to uncover fully.

 

"We have found 60 stones, some complete, some broken, but we believe that there must be many more in the surrounding site. Once we have established where the stones originally stood, we will be able to draw conclusions, based on scientific fact, not on guesswork. The artefacts we find in the soil and evidence of how the stones were placed upright could make enormous contributions to our understanding of neolithic culture..."

 

Until the archaeological work resumes, probably next year, the experts are unwilling to say whether the stones originally formed lines, or a circle, or, typically for Brittany, a horse-shoe.

 

Kerdruelland today is a banal stretch of seaside suburbia. Here and there a huge lump of rough, yellow-orange coloured granite pokes through the plastic protecting the site from summer storms. To have some idea of how Kerdruelland must have looked 4,000 years ago, you do not have to go far. Eight miles to the east are the three vast alignments of stones, and their associated "cromlechs", or large stone circles, near the village of Carnac.

 

The stones are large and small, straight and jagged, mostly erected just as they were found. They stretch into the distance, like rotting giants' teeth, offering little clue as to why they were strung out over such a large area.

 

Neolithic historians believe that the original rows of stones at Carnac were a kind of ceremonial avenue, leading to a large enclosure of stones or "cromlechs", where ritual gatherings took place. The first stones may have been erected around 3500 BC - 1,000 years before those at Kerdruelland.

 

In his seminal, recently republished work The Stone circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany (Yale University Press), the British neolithic expert, Aubrey Burl, suggests that the original, simple avenues at Carnac were augmented and muddled until Roman times, and maybe even more recently, by an annoying local habit of adding a couple of stones each year.

 

Hence, the frustrations of neolithic archaeologists and historians. Professor Burl also refers despairingly to a stone circle at Hampton Down in Dorset. A photograph from 1908 shows 16 pillars. By 1964, there was a ring of 28. Later excavation suggested that only eight were genuine. But which ones? Professor Burl also complains that our understanding of standing stones has been warped by Stonehenge, which is extraordinary but atypical.

 

Most circles use stones which were lying around near by. Rock was rarely quarried or carried very far. The "sarsen" stones in the main ring at Stonehenge are an exception. They came from 20 miles away. It is estimated that it would have taken 200 men to drag each slab 100m a day. The ambitious "lintels" joining the sarsen stones at Stonehenge do not occur in any other neolithic monument.

 

Mr Burl insists that the Wiltshire masterpiece is a "unique example of megalithic madness". Most other stone circles are more modest and could have been put together little by little, and changed over the centuries, by small clans or family groups.

 

But why build stone circles or alignments at all? In a book published last year, Inside the Neolithic Mind (Thames and Hudson), David Lewis-Williams and David Pearce try to psychoanalyse the late stone age. They bring together archaeological evidence from the Middle East, western Europe and modern scientific studies of the chemistry of the brain. The results are sometimes far fetched but the book traces a convincing progression from cave art to stone circles.

 

As man emerged from the caves and forests to cultivate open ground, he replicated the old, sacred caves by building cave-like tombs. These were made of groups of stones, covered with soil. At some point, in around 4000 to 3500 BC, mankind emerged further into the light. The pattern of stones within the tombs was expanded and uncovered to form ceremonial stone circles.

 

What happened inside such enclosures has excited fevered speculation for centuries. Human sacrifice? Elaborate astronomical observations? Sexual and drunken orgies? Ceremonies at the winter and summer solstices to encourage the healthy growth of crops? Professor Burl suggests that, far from being elaborate astronomical observatories, most stone-circles are shaped by local topography. They do often, however, have alignments with summer and winter solstices and the movements of the Moon. Professor Burl's best guess on their purpose is a mixture of propitiation of the crop gods and sexual and alcoholic-psychedelic orgies. There is much archaeological evidence that the late Stone Age was also a stoned aged.

 

Professor Jean-Paul Demoule says that it is clear that the neolithic period was "not a calm river of slow evolution" but a "period of violent upheavals, wars and revolutions" as cultural and religious groups fought and colonised one another. In no other site before the discovery of Kerdruelland, however, have archaeologists found a large group of standing stones which were toppled but not re-used.

 

For this reason alone, the site offers the prospect of startling new discoveries and insights in the years ahead. It is a pity about the bungalows. However, southern Brittany, though crammed with ancient monuments, is not short of a few bungalows.

 

http://www.24hourmuseum.org.uk/nwh_gfx_en/ART38901.html

3,000-YEAR-OLD LOG BOAT TO BE RAISED FROM TAY ESTUARY

By Caroline Lewis     27/07/2006

 

One of the oldest boats discovered in Scotland is being excavated and raised from its site in the Tay Estuary.

 

The Carpow log boat, as it is known, situated near Abernethy, was discovered in 2000. Identifying it as a log boat, used for fishing and wildfowling, Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust radiocarbon dated it to 1000BC - the late Bronze Age.

 

Archaeologist David Strachan of the Trust explained: “It was discovered in 2000 by a metal detectorist – half of it was sticking out of the mud.”

 

“The buried portion of it was very well preserved with intact transom boards [stern timbers], but the exposed part is deteriorating.”

 

There are records of 150 log boats from Scotland, yet only 30 survive in museums or in situ and these are often distorted by shrinkage or warping. Records show seven log boats found in the Tay estuary, but only one survives, in Dundee Museum. Found in 1860, it has been dated to about 500AD.

 

The Carpow log boat is not only one of the best preserved, but also the second oldest dated log boat from Scotland.

 

The Trust decided that although the half under the mud was in good condition, the boat needed to be excavated to save the upper half. When tides are at their lowest it is revealed, but the moving waters and fluctuating conditions are also eroding the wood. Until a strategy for its long-term preservation was devised, the vessel had to be sandbagged to protect it.

 

The log boat, which measures 9.25 metres (30ft) long and is made from a single piece of oak, is being lifted in two stages, with work due to be completed by August 12 2006. A specially constructed floating cradle is being used.

 

“It’s progressing well,” said David of the project. “We’re looking to lift the boat in three sections – it’s going to have to be cut into three parts anyway for conservation and as the lower part is buried at a very steep angle it would be extremely difficult to raise it otherwise.”

 

Excavations are taking place during the short low-tide windows, while the actual lifting on the cradle will happen at high tide. It will then be transported to the National Museum of Scotland.

 

“It will go through drip-drying conservation processes,” said David, “during which time it will go through further analysis that will continue for possibly two or three years.”

 

It is hoped that the boat will then be stable enough to go on show in Edinburgh and Perth, where visitors can admire the prehistoric workmanship.

 

The project is a partnership between Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust and Historic Scotland.

 

http://edition.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/europe/07/25/ireland.psalms.ap/index.html

Medieval book of psalms unearthed

First millennium manuscript, open to Psalm 83, found in Irish mud

Tuesday, July 25, 2006 Posted: 2228 GMT (0628 HKT)

 

The ancient book was found by a construction worker, who was removing peat with a backhoe.

 

DUBLIN, Ireland (AP) -- Irish archaeologists Tuesday heralded the discovery of an ancient book of psalms by a construction worker while driving the shovel of his backhoe into a bog.

 

The approximately 20-page book has been dated to the years 800-1000. Trinity College manuscripts expert Bernard Meehan said it was the first discovery of an Irish early medieval document in two centuries.

 

"This is really a miracle find," said Pat Wallace, director of the National Museum of Ireland, which has the book stored in refrigeration. Researchers will conduct years of painstaking analysis before putting the book on public display.

 

"There's two sets of odds that make this discovery really way out," Wallace said. "First of all, it's unlikely that something this fragile could survive buried in a bog at all, and then for it to be unearthed and spotted before it was destroyed is incalculably more amazing."

 

He said an engineer was digging up bogland last week to create commercial potting soil somewhere in Ireland's midlands when "just beyond the bucket of his bulldozer, he spotted something." Wallace would not specify where the book was found because a team of archaeologists is still exploring the site.

 

"The owner of the bog has had dealings with us in past and is very much in favor of archaeological discovery and reporting it," Wallace said.

 

Crucially, he said, the bog owner covered up the book with damp soil. Had it been left exposed overnight, he said, "it could have dried out and just vanished, blown away."

 

The book was found open to a page describing, in Latin script, Psalm 83, in which God hears complaints of other nations' attempts to wipe out the name of Israel.

 

Wallace said several experts spent Tuesday analyzing only that page -- the number of letters on each line, lines on each page, size of page -- and the book's binding and cover, which he described as "leather velum, very thick wallet in appearance."

 

It could take months of study, he said, just to identify the safest way to pry open the pages without damaging or destroying them. He ruled out the use of X-rays to investigate without moving the pages.

 

Ireland already has several other holy books from the early medieval period, including the ornately illustrated Book of Kells, which has been on display at Trinity College in Dublin since the 19th century.

 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,1830350,00.html

Bog discovery hailed as Ireland's Dead Sea scrolls

Sam Jones and agencies

Wednesday July 26, 2006

The Guardian

 

Irish archaeologists are celebrating the discovery of their own Dead Sea scrolls after a bulldozer unearthed fragments of a psalter that may have lain in a bog for more than 1,000 years. The book of psalms was found last Thursday when an engineer excavating bogland in the midlands noticed a bundle near his digger's scoop. It turned out to be the animal skin pages of an early Christian psalter that appears to date back as far as AD800. One psalm - number 89 - was still legible.

 

The National Museum of Ireland hailed the discovery as the "Irish equivalent to the Dead Sea scrolls" and the "greatest find ever from a European bog". The Dead Sea scrolls, found in the mid-20th century, contain some of the earliest known surviving biblical documents.

 

Specialists at the museum said it was impossible to know how the manuscript ended up in the bog, but believe it may have been lost in transit or dumped after a Viking raid, possibly 1,000 to 1,200 years ago.

 

"It is not so much the fragments themselves, but what they represent, that is of such staggering importance," said Dr Pat Wallace, the museum's director. "In my wildest hopes, I could only have dreamed of a discovery as fragile and rare as this. It testifies to the incredible richness of the early Christian civilisation of this island and to the greatness of ancient Ireland."

 

The 20 or so pages, which seem to be those of a slim, large format book with a wraparound vellum cover, were taken to the museum last Friday. After a long and painstaking process of restoration, they will be displayed in its Early Christian gallery alongside such treasures as the Ardagh chalice and the Derrynaflan paten.

 

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/07/060727-book-psalms_2.html

Newfound Book of Psalms Doesn't Predict Doom, Experts Say

Blake de Pastino

National Geographic News

July 27, 2006

 

It's not the end of the world, experts announced today. The opening passage of a thousand-year-old Christian prayer book discovered in Ireland does not say that doomsday is near.

 

When the medieval text—a Book of Psalms dated to about A.D.1000—was unearthed by a construction worker in a bog last week, archaeologists described the find as a miracle.

 

(Read "Medieval Christian Book Discovered in Ireland Bog" [July 26, 2006].)

 

But the discovery has since met with some nervous speculation about its possible religious significance.

 

Doomsayers have focused on the passage that the 20-page text, written in Latin, was opened to when it was first uncovered: Psalm 83. (See photo at left.)

 

In the King James Bible, the psalm is a lament to God describing the attempts of nations to wipe out the name of Israel.

 

"Thine enemies … have said, Come, and let us cut [thy people] off from being a nation," the psalm reads, "that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance.'"

 

Given the current conflict in Lebanon between Israeli troops and Islamic Hezbollah guerrillas, this detail struck some observers as particularly ominous.

 

(See "Photo Gallery: Hezbollah, Igniting Conflict" [July 14, 2006].)

 

"Mention of Psalm 83 has led to misconceptions about the revealed wording and may be a source of concern for people who believe Psalm 83 deals with 'the wiping out of Israel,'" officials at the National Museum of Ireland, where the manuscript is being kept, said in a statement today.

 

The true meaning of what the text reveals, they say, has been quite literally lost in translation.

 

"[We] would like to highlight that the text visible on the manuscript does NOT refer to wiping out Israel but to the 'vale of tears,'" the officials said.

 

The newfound prayer book, they explain, is an ancient Latin translation from the Greek known as the Vulgate. But the King James Bible, which was translated from Hebrew to English more than a thousand years later, assigns different numbers to the psalms.

 

So the Psalm 83 found in the Irish book, they say, appears in King James as Psalm 84, which is a song of praise and longing for godliness.

 

"Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee," the passage reads, "… who passing through the valley of Baca [the vale of tears] make[s] it a well."

 

The museum officials say they expect the difference speaks for itself.

 

"It is hoped that this clarification will serve comfort to anyone worried by earlier reports of the content of the text," they said.

 

http://www.newswise.com/articles/view/522288/

Archaeologists Hot on the Trail of Columbus' Sunken Ships

COLUMBUS SHIPWRECKS, TAINO, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

 

Indiana University archaeologists say they are closer to discovering some of Christopher Columbus' lost ships -- and the answer to a 500-year-old mystery, "What was on those ships?"

 

Newswise — As luck would have it, time ran short, and the silt and mud in La Isabela Bay on the north coast of the Dominican Republic ran deep.

 

Despite these setbacks, Indiana University archaeologists are confident they are closer to discovering some of Christopher Columbus' lost ships -- and the answer to a 500-year-old mystery, "What was on those ships?"

 

"The discovery of a Columbus shipwreck, let alone the finding of the flagship Mariagalante, would be a tremendous contribution to maritime archaeology," said Charles Beeker, director of Academic Diving and Underwater Science Programs in IU Bloomington's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. "Perhaps more important would be the cargo. Were the ships laden with native Taino Indian artifacts heading to Spain? Such a find would shed new light on the nature of the contact period between the Old and the New Worlds."

 

Earlier this summer, Beeker and Geoffrey Conrad, director of IUB's Mathers Museum of World Cultures, took a team of faculty and graduate students to the Dominican Republic to explore intriguing magnetometer anomalies the IU researchers had discovered 10 years ago. The readings suggest large objects buried under silt and mud, and within coral colonies. The readings indicate also that the objects are scattered -- similar to how a shipwreck, or several for that matter, would appear -- in a 75-square-meter area.

 

In the years since the anomalies were discovered and mapped, Beeker, Conrad and their graduate students have returned yearly to the Dominican Republic to complete a variety of projects related to tourism, conservation and the archaeological exploration of village sites and ceremonial wells related to the Taino Indians.

 

La Isabela Bay was the site of the first permanent Spanish settlement established by Columbus, and the Taino were the first indigenous people to interact with Europeans. Beeker said much of the history of this period is based on speculation, something he and Conrad are trying to change.

 

Their research teams are multinational and multidisciplinary, tapping such resources as the Anglo~Danish Maritime Archaeological Team (ADMAT) -- a nonprofit educational organization -- and the Genetic Anthropology Laboratory in IUB's Department of Anthropology. The latest research team included ADMAT as well as four professors and 10 graduate students from HPER, the School of Public and Environmental Affairs and the IU departments of anthropology, biology and mathematics.

 

Among their latest efforts, they retrieved a 300-pound kedge anchor that could be from the Columbus era. The anchor, which is being conserved at the laboratory of the Oficina Nacional De Patrimonio Cultural Subacuàtico (ONPCS), was encrusted with dead as well as live coral within the area of interesting magnetometer anomalies. The live coral was removed from the anchor and cemented onto nearby coral colonies.

 

"We're strong advocates that you need to respect the biology when you excavate," Beeker said.

 

Beeker and Conrad's team used a water dredge to dig down to the most prominent magnetometer anomaly pinpointed. The pump, which acted like a vacuum cleaner, was able to dig an 8-foot hole through the silt and mud, with the magnetometer reading getting stronger as they went deeper. The team ran out of time, however, and had to postpone the search until later this summer. They are optimistic. When they return, they plan to determine which shipwreck they found, not whether one actually is buried in the bay.

 

Beeker said that several ships sank in La Isabela Bay during a hurricane in 1495. Researchers estimate that eight or nine vessels were lost in the bay, including smaller caravels and one or two larger store ships, or naos. One of the lost naos is believed to be the Mariagalante, Columbus' flagship on his second voyage to the New World. Documents indicate some of the ships carried cargo when they left for Spain, but Beeker said the contents are unknown.

 

Conrad and Beeker described the La Isabela Bay research project as a long-term investment by IU, which has funded much of the research. They also believe it is a project for which the land excavations and exploration of Taino village sites are as important as the underwater explorations.

 

"Everyone knows the name 'Columbus,'" Beeker said. "We want people to know Taino, too."

 

http://www.24hourmuseum.org.uk/nwh_gfx_en/ART38881.html

ARCHAEOLOGISTS INVESTIGATE 18TH CENTURY SCILLY ISLES FIRESHIP WRECK

By Caroline Lewis     27/07/2006

 

Researchers and students from the University of Bristol are investigating a fireship that sank off the Isles of Scilly nearly 300 years ago in one of the worst maritime disasters in British Naval history.

 

The dive will be the first archaeological survey of HMS Firebrand and the first physical study of this type of British Royal Navy ship. It sank along with a fleet led by Sir Cloudesly Shovell returning from Gibraltar in October 1707, when navigational error took them on to rocks.

 

Firebrand was launched at Limehouse in 1694, serving in the Caribbean and Mediterranean until her disastrous final voyage. Fireships were loaded with incendiaries with the potential to cause a huge amount of damage sailed against enemy fleets at anchor, but they were most often used as a threatening patrol or to escort sloops in convoy.

 

 “This survey will contribute to a new chapter on the significance of small warships to the British Royal Navy,” said Kimberley Monk, leading the team. “The English were considered to be the very ‘Devils with their Fire’ since, under certain conditions, fireships could inflict more devastation than any weapon at the navy’s disposal.”

 

Firebrand could carry 45 men and was fitted with an arsenal of eight cannon, and had a tonnage of 268. The tragedy took the lives of more than 1,500 Royal Navy seamen in all, along with ships HMS Association, HMS Eagle and HMS Romney, and highlighted the pressing need for an accurate method of calculating longitude.

 

Following the disaster, the British Longitude Act created the Longitude Prize for anyone who could devise a practical method of determining longitude at sea (achieved by John Harrison).

 

Leading the field school with Kimberley Monk are freelance maritime archaeologist Kevin Camidge and Martin Read, a conservator from the Isles of Scilly. It will run until August 7 2006.

 

http://fullcoverage.yahoo.com/s/afp/20060725/sc_afp/archeologymarine_060725191935;_ylt=AhsEQh9p8_7PX5YyobhcqO9FeQoB;_ylu=X3oDMTBiMW04NW9mBHNlYwMlJVRPUCUl

Archeologists identify second 18th-century ship wrecked off northwest France

Tue Jul 25, 3:19 PM ET

 

SAINT MALO, France (AFP) - The wreck of a second ship from the early 18th century has been identified by underwater archeologists working off the Brittany coast in northwest France, officials said.

 

After several false starts, the researchers determined last month that the wreck known as "Natiere 1" was the royal frigate La Dauphine, which sank in December 1704, Michel L'Hour, co-director of the project, told a news conference.

 

The identity of "Natiere 2" was established in 2002. It was the frigate Aimable Grenot, which went down in 1749.

 

Both were found at a major archeological site at Natiere, near the medieval walled city of Saint Malo, L'Hour said.

 

Work at the underwater dig began in 1999.

 

L'Hour's colleague Elisabeth Veyrat said the two ships had abundant "collections of all kinds."

 

The site is a boon for archeologists because it is only between seven and 18 meters (25 to 60 feet) deep, depending on the tides. In addition, the wrecks were protected by layers of sediment deposited by the Rance River.

 

"The wrecks were found as they were when they were abandoned," L'Hour said.

 

Work on the site is set to continue into 2007.

 

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/national/1103AP_Poland_Graf_Zeppelin.html

Thursday, July 27, 2006 · Last updated 11:48 a.m. PT

Lost Nazi ship likely found off Poland

By VANESSA GERA

ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER

 

Polish Navy Commander Dariusz Beczek holds up an images showing with near certainty that a sunken ship in the Baltic Sea is the Graf Zeppelin, Nazi Germany's only aircraft carrier, on Thursday July 27, 2006 in Gdansk, Poland. The discovery is expected to shed more light on the fate of the ship, which was last seen 59 years ago. The top image shows a Nazi-era drawing of the ship, the second a sonar picture made this week by the Polish navy, and the last, a photograph made in the 1930s during the building of the ship. The size and other characterists of the old photographs and new sonar pictures match up exactly. (AP Photo/Wojtek Jakubowski )

 

WARSAW, Poland -- Poland's Navy said Thursday that it has identified a sunken shipwreck in the Baltic Sea as almost certainly being Nazi Germany's only aircraft carrier, the Graf Zeppelin - a find that promises to shed light on a 59-year-old mystery surrounding the ship's fate.

 

The Polish oil company Petrobaltic discovered the shipwreck earlier this month on the sea floor about 38 miles north of the northern port city of Gdansk.

 

Suspecting it could be the wreckage of the Graf Zeppelin, the Polish Navy sent out a hydrographic survey vessel on Tuesday, said Lt. Cmdr. Bartosz Zajda, a spokesman for the Polish Navy.

 

"We are 99 percent sure - even 99.9 percent - that these details point unambiguously to the Graf Zeppelin," said Dariusz Beczek, the Navy commander of the vessel, the ORP Arctowski, said soon after returning to port Thursday morning after the two-day expedition.

 

During their time at sea, naval experts used a remote-controlled underwater robot and sonar photographic and video equipment to gather digital images of the 850-foot-long ship, Zajda said.

 

"The analyses of the sonar pictures and the comparison to historical documents show that it is the Graf Zeppelin," Zajda told The Associated Press.

 

Zajda said a number of characteristics of the shipwreck exactly matched those of the Graf Zeppelin, including the ship's measurements and a special device that lifted aircraft onto the launch deck from a lower deck.

 

The naval experts were still waiting to find the name "Graf Zeppelin" on one the ship's sides before declaring with absolute certainty that it is the German carrier, Zajda said.

 

The Graf Zeppelin was Germany's only aircraft carrier during World War II. It was launched on Dec. 8, 1938, but never saw action. After Germany's defeat in 1945, the Soviet Union took control of the ship, but it was last seen in 1947 and since then the ship's fate has been shrouded in mystery.

 

Navy researchers plan to continue to examine the material they gathered during their two days at sea, but the analysis of the shipwreck will then fall to historians and other researchers, Zajda said.

 

The Graf Zeppelin will almost certain remain on the sea bed, he said.

 

"Technically it's impossible to pull it out of the water," Zajda said.

 

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,13509-2288238,00.html

Times Online             July 27, 2006

Italy's derelict lighthouses get new lease of life

From Richard Owen, of The Times, in Rome

 

For sale: early 18th-century lighthouse in need of renovation. Built 1709 by Cosimo III de Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, inactive since mid-19th century. Property consists of 20 metre (66ft) cylindrical white stone tower on arched base.

 

Peace and quiet guaranteed: the lighthouse is on a shoal four miles northwest of Livorno, accessible only by boat.

 

Italy, whose lighthouses have been famed since Roman times, is offering 88 on long-term leases in an attempt to stop them deteriorating or collapsing altogether.

 

The Italian navy, which has been responsible for their upkeep since 1910, operates 200 functioning fari (lighthouses) dotted around Italy’s 8,000km (4,970 miles) of coastline. But many have fallen into disuse, and the state can no longer afford to maintain them.

 

The solution, devised by the Agenzia del Demanio, the body that administers state properties, is to offer them for conversion into hotels, health and fitness centres, restaurants or museums. Officials said the length of the lease was negotiable.

 

One celebrated 1850 lighthouse, at Capo d’Otranto in southern Italy, has been turned into a “virtual museum” of the sea and navigation, with financial help from the local council, and is due to open later this year. Tommaso Farenga, the engineer who designed the museum, said the venture was “a wager which I believe will pay off”.

 

Offers have also been made on 20 others, from Livorno and Elba on the Tuscan coast to Ischia near Naples, Trapani in Sicily and the Tremiti Islands on the Adriatic. Ten will be converted into hotels and ten into restaurants.

 

Enrica Simonetti, author of a guide to Italian lighthouses, said many people seeking a refuge from modern life applied to the naval authorities to become lighthouse-keepers and were disappointed to find that most operational lighthouses were automated and therefore unmanned.

 

“I have seen many, many of our lighthouses in a state of near-collapse, and change of use is one way to save them,” Signora Simonetti said. Italian officials said restructuring projects would be monitored to ensure they were “in keeping with the historic and environmental traditions of the property and its landscape”.

 

One famous lighthouse not available for change of use is the 16th-century Lanterna at Genoa, whose predecessor — built in the 12th century — is said to have had Columbus’ uncle, Antonio, as its keeper.

 

The 120 metre tower is the symbol of Genoa, and has the city’s coat of arms painted on its side.

 

The lighthouse leasing plan forms part of a wider project to sell off unneeded state-owned properties to help to plug Italy’s huge budget deficit. The scheme was contested by conservationists, who said Italy’s “cultural heritage” should remain in public hands.