Turkish officials bury ancient city of Allianoi under sand

Monday, December 13, 2010

ISTANBUL - Daily News with wires


The ancient city of Allianoi, near Turkey’s Aegean coast, has been completely covered with sand in preparation for building a dam in the area, despite protests from activists and archaeologists.


Though officials say covering the Roman-era spa settlement with sand is the only way to protect the ruins while they are submerged under the waters of the new dam, experts disagree with that assessment.


“The method is obsolete and it will destroy, rather than protect, the ancient site,” İlker Ertuğrul, a member of the Istanbul Chamber of Architects, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Monday.


The decision to bury Allianoi was made in August by a local natural and cultural assets preservation board in the Aegean province of İzmir’s Bergama district; it is still pending the outcome of a court challenge by the Allianoi Initiative Group, or AGG.


“Not only is this approach wrong, but it has also been applied in an unlawful way,” Ertuğrul said, adding that officials should have waited for the court’s decision before covering the site with sand.


“[Authorities] could have at least sped up the court proceedings for this decision, which greatly concerns the public,” Necmi Karul, the chair of the Istanbul branch of the Archaeologists’ Association, told the Daily News on Monday.


The Allianoi site will be submerged underwater after the Yortanlı dam is built. Unlike many other dams in Turkey, which are constructed in order to generate energy, the Yortanlı dam will supply water to agricultural settlements in the region.


“The [archaeological] excavations were stopped after it was first announced the site would be covered by sand, while construction work on the dam continued,” Karul said. He added that this indicates authorities did not believe covering the ancient city with sand would protect it from the water.


“Ten thousand square meters [of a historical site] have been covered with sand,” Karul said, adding that such a bad approach had not been used anywhere else in the world.


Civil society organizations, led by the AGG, have long argued that covering the ancient site with sand before submerging it is not a viable method of protection. According to Ertuğrul, the physical, geological and geographical conditions of the region make the approach particularly unsuitable to Allianoi.


“Water in this region has temperatures over 40 degrees, which will cause chemical reactions and destroy the walls, mosaics [and other parts] of the ancient site,” he said, adding that the site was not made only of stone, and that other materials, such as metals, could be oxidized and destroyed by water that penetrates through the sand to the ancient site.


“Water does not penetrate only from above, it can get in from the surrounding soil underneath or beside the ancient site,” Karul said.


Some villages in the Anatolian province of Elazığ that were similarly covered by water with the construction of the Keban dam in 1965-75 became intermingled with each other as the water caused the soil to shift, Karul added.


Ertuğrul said academic studies and research have indicated alternative methods of providing water for agricultural use in the region; experts will discuss them Dec. 25 at a panel.


“Allianoi is waiting silently out there, but we will not wait. Our [struggle] will continue with the same speed,” said İffet Diler, a spokesperson for the AGG, adding that the group will continue organizing awareness-raising activities and protests. The organization expects a court in İzmir to rule on whether or not the method used to protect the site was lawful.


Though it may be too late for Allianoi, a court ruling against the method used there could help battles in other regions, Karul said. “Many responsibilities fall to both people and public authorities, especially the Culture Ministry,” he said, adding that all protected areas have to be registered to keep infrastructure plans from being developed in such regions. “The ministry has already started doing this, but projects are moving with higher speed,” he said.


Some 300 members of environmental associations and professional chambers marched Sunday on Istanbul’s İstiklal Avenue to protest the construction of dams in protected areas. An exhibition with the theme “Allianoi Under Water,” was also launched Sunday by the AGG in cooperation with Istanbul’s Architects’ Chamber, to support the struggle to save Allianoi. The exhibition will be open until Jan. 13.



Lucky duck! Spanish Bronze Age man suffered broken bone in neck – and lived


Archaeologists exploring a Bronze Age fortress at La Motilla del Azuer, in Spain, have come across a very lucky man.

One of the skeletons is of a man that lived more than 3,400 years ago and suffered a broken hyoid bone, likely caused by a blow to his neck.

The hyoid bone is a horseshoe shaped object located at the root of the tongue. Amazingly enough the injury healed and the man lived to be in his 40’s. He was five and a half feet and had a “moderate” build.

“This injury is extremely rare apart from hanging and strangulation, and it is even rarer since the individual survived this injury to his neck,” writes the research team that made the discovery. “This injury was probably produced by a direct impact to the neck.”

The discovery is set to be published in the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology. If you have a subscription to the journal (or access to a library with one) you can already see it on their website. The research team is from the University of Granada, in Spain, and is led by Silvia Jiménez-Brobeil.

Archaeologists don’t yet have a firm date for the skeleton but the site itself dates back between 3,400 and 4,200 years ago.

Brobeil’s team says that it’s unlikely that this man’s injury was an accident. “The location of the injury and the fact that it is healed, suggest that a direct impact was the cause rather than a bimanual strangulation,” the team writes. 

Furthermore the place where this man lived, Motilla del Azuer, was clearly built with war in mind. “It was a fortification, surrounded by a small settlement and a necropolis,” a team of archaeologists led by Trinidad Nájera Colino and Fernando Molina González said in a 2007 press release.

“The mound of the fortification which has been recovered has a diameter of about 50 metres, and is composed of a tower, two walled enclosures and a large courtyard.” The tower was “7 metres high, east and west.”



Woodhenge: Is this one of the greatest discoveries of archaeology...or a simple farmer's fence?


Last updated at 1:51 AM on 12th December 2010


The discovery of a wooden version of Stonehenge – a few hundred yards from the famous monument – was hailed as one of the most important archaeological finds for decades.

But now experts are at loggerheads after claims that what was thought to be a Neolithic temple was a rather more humble affair – in fact the remains of a wooden fence.

One leading expert on Stonehenge criticised the announcement of the ‘remarkable’ find in July as ‘hasty’ and warned it could become a ‘PR embarrassment’.


The discovery of what appeared to be a previously unknown ‘henge’, or earthwork, by a team of archaeologists conducting a multi-million-pound study of Salisbury Plain was widely reported amid great excitement.

The team said they had found evidence of a ring of 24 3ft-wide pits that could have supported timber posts up to 12ft tall, surrounded by an 80ft-wide ditch and bank.

They explained that, just like Stonehenge, the entrances to the site were aligned so that on the summer solstice the sun’s rays would enter the centre of the ring. Holes where the wooden posts once stood were identified below the ground using the latest high-resolution geophysical radar-imaging equipment.


Circle of confusion: An artist's impression of how Woodhenge may have been 5,000 years ago

Team leader Professor Vince Gaffney of Birmingham University said the ritual monument had been built about 5,000 years ago, making it roughly the same age as its stone counterpart 980 yards away, and it could have been used for Stone Age feasts or elaborate funerals.

He said the find showed Stonehenge had not existed in ‘splendid isolation’ and he predicted further discoveries during the three-year survey of five square miles of countryside around Stonehenge.

But sceptics have now suggested that the evidence is far from conclusive, especially as it appears from images of the plot produced by the Birmingham team that the ring of post holes was not arranged in a circle but was angular and more like a hexagon.


Mike Pitts, editor of the magazine British Archaeology and an acknowledged expert on Stonehenge, said he had been prompted to study maps of the area after receiving a letter from an American reader.

In the spot where Prof Gaffney had claimed to have uncovered his post holes, Mr Pitts said he and colleagues examined a Seventies Ordnance Survey map – and saw a fence marked out.

He thought it probably was an early 20th Century construction, erected by the then Government’s Office of Works or a local farmer to protect what was thought to have been the most important site in a cluster of burial mounds that were ancient but later than Stonehenge.

Mr Pitts said: ‘Vince Gaffney says his discovery encircles a burial mound within its circumference, but unless he has some unpublished material to substantiate his discovery, I am in no doubt that this was a modern fence line.

‘If I’m right then the post holes contained modern fencing stakes and they are actually in a hexagonal shape, not a circle.’

He added: ‘I think that perhaps what has happened is that the professor’s field workers have presented him with the wrong picture and he’s shot from the hip and made an over-hasty announcement. He’s generally known for the high quality of his work and his enthusiasm which, on this occasion, may have let him down.

‘The full publication of his results and small-scale excavations of the site would clinch the matter.’

But Prof Gaffney said: ‘We have mapped numerous fences and we know what they look like. The features appear to be 3ft across and as deep as 3ft. I have never seen a fence line that required holes that are 3ft across and 3ft deep.’

He said that in the fuzzy, black-and-white radar image the post holes appeared angular but that was partly due to the poor resolution of the picture and because such monuments were not perfect circles.

He went on: ‘The poles that would have stood in them would have been more like telegraph poles. You would not use them to build a fence.’

Prof Gaffney added that no metal such as old nails had been found in the holes, which would have

been expected.

‘On balance, we would still suggest this is a ritual monument of the late Neolithic period.’



Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1337890/Woodhenge-Is-greatest-discoveries-archaeology--simple-farmers-fence.html#ixzz18fBCXqGG



Gales unearth Roman-era statue on Israel's coast

ASHKELON, Israel | Tue Dec 14, 2010 5:56pm GMT



A Roman statue that had been buried for centuries has been unearthed by the winter gales that have raked Israel's coast.


The white-marble figure of a woman in toga and sandals was found in the remains of a cliff that crumbled under the force of winds, waves and rain at the ancient port of Ashkelon, the Israel Antiquities Authority said on Tuesday.


"The sea gave us this amazing statue," said Yigal Israeli, a researcher with the authority.


He said the statue, which lacks a head and arms, is about 1.2 meters (4 feet) tall, weighs 200 kg (440 pounds) and dates back to the Roman occupation of what was western Judea, between 1,800 and 2,000 years ago. It will be put on display in museums.


Also recovered at the site were fragments of a Roman bath-house and mosaics.


But long-established Israeli archaeological sites such as the ruins of coastal Caesarea suffered serious damage in the storm, so the statue's find brought the Authority little joy.


"We don't see this discovery as such good news," said another Authority official, who declined to be named. "Better that relics remain hidden and protected, than that they be exposed and damaged."



13th Century Shipwreck found near Gothenburg



A wreck  found in Jorefjorden, north of  Hamburgsund, Sweden has proved to be of a ship probably built in the early 1200s, making it the oldest shipwreck located in the Bohuslän archipelago to date. The wreck was discovered in an aerial photograph in the summer of 2008 by HydroGIS Ltd, which reported the find to the County Museum of Bohuslän.



Aerial image of shipwreck with inset enhanced image of ship Photo © HydroGIS AB.

A survey by the museum’s marine archaeologists indicated that the shallow wreck may well be of some age and to confirm this wood samples were collected last year.


These samples have now been studied by His Linderson at Lund University.  Using dendrochronological analysis , he was able to ascertain that one of the samples was from a tree grown in western Germany or perhaps Belgium between 1210 – 1220 AD.


A  shipwreck from the 1200s has never been found in this region before and marine archaeologists are excited about the discovery.


Ship types from this period are poorly understood, and an investigation of the wreck in Jorefjorden could therefore provide important new information on shipbuilding technology.


It is entirely possible that this may have been a laden cargo ship and if so it would provide insights into 13th century commercial trade in the region.  Marine archaeologists are hoping  to proceed with a closer examination of the wreckage over the next year if funding can be found.


The initial dating of the wreck was part of Bohuslän Museum’s ongoing project “Medieval trades and transport structures in the Bohuslän archipelago” and was part financed  by the Carl Jacob Lindberg’s Monument Fund.



Medieval Mystery From The UK

By Stephen 13/12/2010 04:02:00


Archaeologists working through the Victorian spoil heaps at Creswell Crags in 2006 uncovered a stone with a familiar carved geometric pattern, it opened yet another aspect of the ever-developing story of the important prehistoric caves.

Creswell Crags located in Worsop, UK,  represents one site among a significant cluster of cave sites inhabited during the last Ice Age in Britain.  Archaeological and environmental evidence excavated from the caves show how the area witnessed dramatic changes in climate at the edge of the northern ice sheets and was populated by Ice Age animals such as hyenas, mammoths, woolly rhinoceros, and migrating herds of reindeer, horse and bison.

Archaeology investigations at the caves have uncovered stone, bone and ivory tools which date occupation to the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic era.  In, addition archaeology have discovered 13000 year old engraved rock art figures of deer, birds, bison, and horse.

What makes this recent discovery at the caves so important is the piece of rock art discovered dates from the medieval period.

Experts from Sheffield University have identified the piece as an medieval example of the strategy board game Nine Men’s Morris, which had been popular since Roman times.

Each player has nine pieces, or "men", which move along the board's twenty-four spots. The object of the game is to leave the opposing player with fewer than three pieces or, as in draughts, with no legal moves left.



This discovery provided a glimpse into medieval activity at the Crags. But it also opened up a medieval mystery; how did the game get there and who had made it?


A new exhibition in the special exhibitions gallery at the caves looks at the people who might have owned and played game.


This is not the only medieval find at the cave. Other items that have been uncovered include coins and bottles.  These items were discovered in conjunction to the stone carved game and are believe to be contemporary.   This has lead experts to suggest the caves may have been used as an illegal drinking and gambling den by the monks who lived at nearby Welbeck Abbey.

Welbeck Abbey near Clumber Park in North Nottinghamshire was the principal abbey of the Norbertinesorder in England until 1538.  The abbey was then purchased and became the principal residence of the Dukes of Portland.



Sovereign's Head Identified After More Than Four Centuries

ScienceDaily (Dec. 14, 2010)


The skeletons of kings and queens lying in mass graves in the Royal Basilica of Saint-Denis in Paris could finally have the solemn funeral ceremonies they deserve, say experts in the Christmas issue published in the British Medical Journal.


Many of the graves in the Royal Basilica were destroyed by revolutionaries in 1793 and very few remains of the mummified bodies have been preserved and identified.

Dr Philippe Charlier led the scientific breakthrough that has identified the head of the French King, Henri IV.

A team of scientists from different fields of expertise including anthropology, pathology, forensic medicine and genetic studies worked together to make the identification.

Henri IV was known as the "green gallant" because of his attractiveness to women or "good King Henry" because of his popularity amongst his people.

Despite his popularity, Henri IV was assassinated in Paris at the age of 57 on 14 May 1610 by Francois Ravaillac, a fanatical Catholic. Along with the bodies of other French kings and queens, his remains lay in the graves of the Basilica of Saint-Denis, before the graves were desecrated and the corpses mutilated in the wake of the French Revolution.

The authors conclude that "similar methods could be used to identify all the other kings' and queens' skeletons lying in the mass grave of the basilica, so that they can be returned to their original tombs."

Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.



English Civil War Battle Brought To Light

By Stephen 16/12/2010 16:59:00


Archaeologists are unearthing Worcester’s Civil War past in the heart of the city. An excavation is taking place in Lowesmoor, just metres away from the street King Charles II used to escape the Battle of Worcester in 1651.


Staff from Worcestershire County Council’s historic environment and archaeology service, working with Carillion Richardson as they lay the foundations for the area’s £75 million retail redevelopment, started digging at the end of November.


They have already exposed a huge ditch, found decorated 17th century tiles and a tiny coin that dates back to Charles I’s reign.


Hal Dalwood, senior archaeological project manager, said the ditch stretching across the site was three metres deep and probably part of a bastion – an earthen defence constructed around the city walls in 1646 when Worcester was under siege.


“They built these defences to protect St Martin’s Gate,” said Mr Dalwood.


“What’s interesting about that is St Martin’s is the gate that Charles would have escaped through when the Battle of Worcester was lost. It all happened right here.”


The bastion, known as St Martin’s Sconce, would have cut through people’s gardens and orchards.


When the war was over, they simply pushed the earth mounds back into the ditches.


It is one of these filled-in ditches that archaeologists are now excavating. “It’ll be quite impressive when it’s dug out,” said Mr Dalwood.


“We’re hoping to find material from the 1651 battle.”


Selwyn Rowley, of Carillion Richardson – the firm behind Lowesmoor’s £75 million retail redevelopment – is now inviting the public to take a look behind usually closed doors and see the dig for themselves.