Found in river - the real bust of Julius Caesar

The bust of Julius Cesar, believed to be the oldest representation of the Roman emperor

 (C Chary/AFP/Getty)

Charles Bremner in Paris


The world has been introduced to the true face of Julius Caesar with the discovery in a river in southern France of a bust that was sculpted in the lifetime of the Roman leader.


The marble sculpture, found in the bed of the Rhône in the town of Arles, has been authenticated as a realistic likeness of Caesar, wrinkled and balding in his fifties and probably modelled from life.


“It is the only known bust of the living Caesar, except for the Mask of Turin, which was made just before or after his death, said Luc Long, the Ministry of Culture archaeologist who found it along with other treasures last autumn. “Even in Rome, no one has found a portrait of the living Caesar,” he added.


The bust, which has a broken nose, dates from between 49 and 46BC, the period when Caesar founded the Roman colony of Arles, to thank the town for helping him to conquer the nearby port of Marseille. Caesar used Arles as a base for his campaign against Pompey, his rival.


Mr Long speculated that the bust may have been thrown into the river just after Caesar was assassinated by Brutus and fellow conspirators in 44BC “because it wouldn’t have been a good idea to show you were his supporter”. Experts agreed that the life-sized head matched the known official portrait of Caesar, which featured on coins struck in his lifetime.


“These really are his features. I recognised them immediately,” said Mr Long. “It is a new image, with the realism of the period, before the conventional representations of a divine Caesar. He has a long neck, wrinkles showing his age, the prominent Adam’s apple, the high and wide forehead and marked baldness.” Michel L’Hour, director of the underwater architecture institute at Marseilles, to which Mr Long belongs, said that the bust became apparent after a movement in the silt bed of the Rhône.


“It is very well preserved, as items found under water often are. It is very realistic. Not at all prettified. Caesar’s features are hard and ageing. That makes it remarkable. It is much more human than the stereotypical statues which show him with laurel crowns. It is the oldest bust of Caesar and it was doubtless sculpted to honour him as the patron of the town of Arles.” Christine Albanel, the Culture Minister, congratulated the archaeologists on finding a unique object that enriched the world’s heritage.


Ms Albanel called the Caesar bust unique and “an outstanding discovery in a class of its own”. Her ministry called it “the oldest representation yet known of Caesar”. The other items found by the underwater team were a marble statue nearly six feet tall of the god Neptune dating from the beginning of the third century AD, and smaller bronzes, one of a Greek satyr with its hands tied behind its back.


Mr L’Hour said that it was common for residents of ancient towns to throw unwanted goods into the river.


“The Caesar bust may have been on display in a public institution or in a patrician villa. One can imagine that with the assassination of Caesar, they tried to get rid of it quickly by throwing it into the river because he had become an embarrassing person to venerate. We do not have much knowledge of Caesar’s time in Arles,” he told The Times.



Clue unearthed Fossil shatters previous theories about human migration to Europe, U-M researcher says

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Ann Arbor News


Hidden underneath layers of sediment in a cave in northern Spain was an unassuming but breakthrough scientific find: the jawbone of the oldest-known human ancestor in Europe.


The fossil, dated at approximately 1.2 million years old, shatters scientists' previous theories about human migration to Europe, said University of Michigan researcher Josep Pares, who was a member of the team that found the jawbone last summer.


"We totally confirmed that human occupation in Europe was much earlier than previously thought. ... I think that the present theories need to be reconsidered, honestly,'' said Pares, who left May 2 to return to the Spanish work site for three months.



The fossil is from an ancestor to modern humans called Homo antecessor, or "pioneer man,'' which begot Homo sapiens and the Neanderthal species.


Conventional wisdom says that Europe remained untouched by human populations until around 500,000 years ago. But the jawbone proves that theory extinct, Pares said.


It instead suggests that as human migration moved north out of Africa, it formed two "pulses'' - one that moved east into Asia and another that moved west into Europe. Fossils approximately 1.7 million years old found in the country Georgia also support that theory, Pares said.


An expert in paleomagnetism and rock magnetism, Pares was closely involved in dating the fossilized jawbone from Spain. One clue to the fossil's age was the fact that it was found in under eight layers of sediment, he said.


The team, which is mostly composed of Spanish researchers, used three different methods to date the fossil: biostratigraphy, which examines the teeth of small, fossilized mammals near the fossil in question; paleomagnetism, which uses historic data of the earth's changing magnetism; and cosmogenic burial dating, which is based on the radioactive decay of the sediment surrounding a fossil.


The jawbone's approximate age astounded the scientists. "That was really an earth-shattering discovery,'' said Pares, the only current U-M researcher involved in the dig.


The cave system where the fossil was found, called Atapuerca and located north of Madrid, is teeming with past and potential archaeological finds, Pares said.


And since the cave system is a few kilometers long, and the site where the jawbone was found still has several unexcavated layers of sediment, Pares said there's no telling how many more treasures there are to find.


"We're looking at the tip of the iceberg here,'' he said. "There's so much more to come.''


Although Pares will move to Spain later this year to become the program director of the newly created National Research Center on Human Evolution, or the CENIEH, he says he will continue to return and work on the Atapuerca site.


"Today, it's the most important (archaeological) site in the world,'' he said. "The information we can gather from the bones ... makes it the most important site right now.''


Reporter Amanda Hamon can be reached at 734-994-6852 or ahamon@annarbornews.com.



The lost Ark: are the Germans on its trail?

Archaeologists claim to have found the palace of the Queen of Sheba, an altar that may have held the Ark of the Covenant

From The Times

May 13, 2008

Roger Boyes in Berlin


It is only a breathless Hollywood script: treasure-hunter Indiana Jones races with German archaeologists to track down the fabled Ark of the Covenant, the chest that held the stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments were etched.


Now German researchers claim to have found the remains of the palace of the Queen of Sheba — and an altar that may have held the Ark.


The discovery, announced by the University of Hamburg, has stirred sceptical rumblings from the archaeological community. The location of the Ark, indeed its existence, has been a source of controversy for centuries.


Regarded as the most precious treasure of ancient Judaism, it is at the heart of a debate about whether archaeology should chronicle the rise and fall of civilisations or explore the boundaries between myth and ancient history.


Professor Helmut Ziegert, of the archaeological institute at the university, has been supervising a dig in Aksum, northern Ethiopia, since 1999.


“From the dating, its position and the details that we have found, I am sure that this is the palace,” he said. The palace, that is, of the Queen of Sheba, who is believed to have lived in the 10th century BC.


After she died her son and successor, Menelek, replaced the palace with a temple dedicated to Sirius. The German researchers believe that the Ark was taken from Jerusalem by the Queen — who had a liaison with King Solomon — and built into the altar to Sirius.


“The results we have suggest that a Cult of Sothis developed in Ethiopia with the arrival of Judaism and the Ark of the Covenant, and continued until 600AD,” an announcement by the University of Hamburg on behalf of the research team said. Sothis is the ancient Greek name for the star Sirius.


The Ark was made, according to the Bible, of gold-plated acacia wood and topped with two golden angels. It is said to be the source of great power. In about 586BC, when the Babylonians conquered the Israelites, the Ark vanished.


For many centuries finding it has been one of the great quests — inspiration not only for the 1981 film Raiders of the Lost Ark, but also for countries seeking to position themselves in the mainstream of ancient civilisation.


Many archaeologists believe that their profession should not be in the business of myth-chasing. Even if the Ark were found it would be impossible to establish scientifically whether it was the original receptacle for the Ten Commandments.


Iris Gerlach, of the German Archaeological Institute in Sanaa, Yemen, believes the religious centre of Sheba is in present-day Yemen.


Although she does not go headto-head with her colleague Professor Ziegert, the message is clear: a relic such as the Ark would have been stored in an important relgious city rather than Aksum.


Quest goes on

— The location of the Ark has been put in Egypt, Zimbabwe and even Ireland, where the Hill of Tara was excavated

— The Ethiopian holy town of Aksum is regarded as a more credible site

— Ethiopians believe that it is defended by monks in the church of St Mary of Zion and is seen only by the guardian of the Ark, making it impossible to verify



Remnants of Possible Oldest Buddhist Tower Uncovered


Archaeologists believe they have nailed down the site of the oldest wooden tower in East Asia. The area in question is within the Pungnap Fortification in southern Seoul, which dates back to the Baekje Kingdom settled around the Han River, one of Korea's original three kingdoms.


What struck the archaeologists was an area that resembled a perfect square, 11 m in both length and width. According to the experts it has the markings not of a building or home site but of some kind of monument or tower.


A 3-m deep depression in the ground also points to the remnants of a foundation for the purported wooden tower which they contend is somehow linked to Buddhism. This got the team excited that the finding, given the date of the site and its size, is a tower older than any other in East Asia.


The Pungnap Fortress site dates back to the Baekje Kingdom, one of Buddhism's chief portals into Korea in the fourth century A.D. and a time before wooden towers used as Buddhist symbols spread across East Asia.


This could make the tower, if it indeed was one, the oldest in Northeast Asia. Archaeologists are now hoping to find evidence of a Buddhist temple as well as more hints of the possible tower to prove their theory.


Excavations at Pungnap Fortress were halted some eight years ago but those involved hope excavations can resume through better funding and more experts onboard.



Silbury gives up its final secret



The enigma of Silbury Hill's origins is now over, thanks to extensive repairs of the crumbling chalk mound

Maev Kennedy

Monday May 12, 2008



The secret of Silbury Hill, the most enigmatic prehistoric monument in Europe, isn't the monument but the monumental effort which went into building it, according to the archaeologist who has spent most of the last year slipping around on wet chalk deep in the heart of the hill.


On a sunny morning last week a local druid scattered Wiltshire grass and wild flower seed on the summit of Silbury, to mark what engineers and archaeologists devoutly hope is the completion of a project to prevent the 4,500 year old hill from collapsing - 10 months and £1m over budget.


Jim Leary, the archaeological director for English Heritage throughout the work, thinks he has solved a riddle which archaeologists have fretted over for centuries: why thousands of people piled up 35 million baskets of chalk into the largest artificial hill in Europe, now part of the Stonehenge World Heritage site. It wasn't the final structure, but the staggering contribution of work which was important, he now believes, marking a site of immense but only guessable significance to the hunters and farmers of Bronze Age Wiltshire.


After following their predecessors into the heart of the monument, and then leaving the warren of Georgian, Victorian and 20th century tunnels packed again with chalk slurry so that they hope nobody will ever follow in their footsteps, the archaeologists and engineers are convinced there is no secret chamber, prehistoric passage or treasure hoard, only the hill itself rising 40 metres above the Wiltshire watermeadows, by the shoulder of the modern A4 following the line of the Roman road which jinked to avoid it. Leary, announcing his preliminary findings to a meeting of the Society of Antiquaries in London, thinks the builders were revering the site - overlooking both sacred springs, and the source of the Kennet which he believes was then seen as the source of the mighty Thames - by joining in a spectacular communal effort, continued over generations. Even before the first hill rose, he has discovered a dense layer of compacted clay, which appears to be the result of thousands of feet trampling - or dancing - across the site.


"We assume the building to be a process towards the final form or function, but this is a very modern and western way of looking at monuments. Instead I suggest that the act of construction was the ceremony, and the final form was the by-product."


In the 20th century, backed up by a major excavation broadcast live on the BBC - by means, one of the original engineers revealed this week, of a cable running from Silbury all the way to the studios in Bristol - it was believed there were three phases of Silbury, each enlarging the hill using tons of chalk dug from encircling ditches. Instead Leary now believes there were scores of Silburies, some left for long periods, others worked on continuously.


His research is a by-product of eight years of near disaster for Silbury, since incredulous English Heritage and National Trust authorities heard that a gaping hole had opened at the summit, in the torrential rains of the year 2000: the Duke of Northumberland's 1776 shaft, believed securely filled centuries earlier, had collapsed. While they were still debating what to do, there was a further collapse, swallowing the temporary cover. Further collapses followed, and a remote camera probe uncovered to their horror a series of spreading voids inside the hill.


Last May, Skanska Engineering reopened the 1849 tunnel dug by Dean Merewether, and the 1960s BBC tunnel, to get into the hill and start plugging the holes: the work was planned to last only a few months, but the worst summer floods on record followed, and further collapses forced everyone off the site. Once back in, they were confident of finishing by Christmas - and then a further hole opened in the flank, as another void reached the surface. When completion was finally announced last week, the project had cost at least three times the original £500,000 budget.


Post excavation work will continue for years on the land snails and broken sarsen stones, wisps of still green grass and beetle wings taken from the heart of the hill. Nothing has been left behind except a cable to monitor movement - which they hope will lie idle. They hope that a job begun 4,500 years ago is complete, and no man will ever set foot inside Silbury Hill again.



Old cobbled street opens new path to Templar history

19 May 2008

By Mike Brooke


AN EARLY Victorian cobbled street more than 150 years old has been unearthed by archaeologists investigating the site of a 12th Century Knights Templar mill at the 2012 London Olympics park.


The cobbled thoroughfare is to be ‘lifted up’ and preserved, then used in the huge park now being laid out as a legacy for East London.


Archaeologists believe the street unearthed 20ft below ground may be part of the original Temple Mills lane that was demolished in 1854 before being covered by thousands of tonnes of rubble over the last century-and-a-half.


The archaeologist Kieron Tyler said: “Looking below the amazingly preserved Victorian remains reveals an older mill structure and the exact form of the crucial industries in the Lea Valley down the centuries.”


His team of archaeologists from the Museum of London are carefully digging up the cobblestones and stockpiling them to be laid down in the new Olympics park.


Then they begin digging deeper to search for evidence of the original Knights Templar mill, known as Temple Mills, which started the industrialisation of the Lea Valley.


Olympics authority chief David Higgins said: “Clearing the massive site has given us the unique opportunity to look back into East London’s past before the area is transformed.


“Bringing back to life this cobbled street will be an important way of telling the fascinating story of the development of East London.”


The authority invited the archaeologists to look for evidence of prehistoric remains, from pre-Roman right through to Viking, Medieval and relatively recent industrial and military activities on the site.


Previous archaeological finds include a prehistoric settlement and the skeletons of four of its inhabitants, Roman artefacts and a complete 19 century boat used for hunting wild fowl on the River Lea. Second World War gun emplacements have also been unearthed.


The archaeological investigations are part of the work to clean up nearly two square miles of land to make way for the 2012 Games, much of it contaminated by its industrial past.




THE Knights Templar built a water mill at Temple Mills between 1185 and 1278. A second mill was built on the opposite side of the mill stream in 1308.


The mills passed to the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem in Clerkenwell after the suppression of the Templars, then eventually back to the Crown after the Dissolution of the Catholic Church and leased to Clement Goldsmith in 1593.


A gunpowder mill and a leather mill were added in the 16th century, with another added in 1627 to grind corn. Other mills followed in the 1630s for working leather and gunpowder.



Archaeologists find bullet cartridges from Kelly siege

Posted Wed May 14, 2008 8:19am AEST

Updated Wed May 14, 2008 8:56am AEST


Archaeologists believe they have found more evidence of the 1880 gun battle between Ned Kelly's gang and police at Glenrowan, in central Victoria.


Bullet fragments were uncovered during excavations at the former Anne Jones Inn site earlier this month.


Now archaeologists have revealed that two bullet cartridges from a Martini-Henry rifle were discovered in the northern section of the site on Friday afternoon.


Excavations Director, Adam Ford believes they came from weapons that would have been used by police at the time.


"They [the cartridges] were only released to the police approximately two weeks before the siege event," he said.


"They were superseded reasonably quickly after the event. I mean within a couple of years. S I feel quite certain that they are physical evidence of the gun battle."