Greek archaeologists discover long-lost marble friezes in Acropolis

Mar 4, 2011, 10:01 GMT


Athens - Greek archaeologists on Friday said they had discovered five long-lost friezes from the 2,500-year-old Parthenon in the walls of the ancient Acropolis.

The friezes, which had been taken away to be used as building materials for the ancient Acropolis which at one point served as a fortress, were located along its southern walls by a weather balloon camera, officials at the Culture Ministry said.

The fragments were detected by air during a vertical scan of the walls of the Acropolis by the Culture Ministry, where a total of 2,250 photographs were taken.

The Parthenon has suffered extensive damage over the centuries and archaeologists believed many of the friezes adorning the southern part of the temple were destroyed after it was bombed during a 17th century Venetian siege of Ottoman-held Athens or taken.

Most of the interior walls of the temple, apart from the west end, were destroyed during the bombing, bringing many of the friezes and metopes down with them.

In the early 19th century, British diplomat Lord Elgin tore down a large number of the remaining friezes from the Parthenon and shipped them to Britain.

The artifacts were sold to the British Museum, which has since refused to relinquish the sculptures, insisting the transaction was legal. The sculptures include depictions of religious and mythological scenes.

Greece remains steadfast in its demand for the permanent return of the Parthenon Marbles to the new museum in Athens but the British government and museum has refused, arguing that the marbles are more accessible to visitors in London.

At a cost of 120 million euros (160 million dollars), the new museum is the Greek government's key argument for the return of the Parthenon, or Elgin, marbles from Britain.



Treasure hunter finds Bronze Age founders hoard


It took Mr Richardson 34 years to find anything worth more than £100

A treasure hunter has found 18 Bronze Age items in a field near Newark in Nottinghamshire.

Maurice Richardson stumbled across the collection, which includes four socket axes, a spear head, a chisel and a fragmented sword, by mistake.

"I was on my way back to the car after being out all afternoon and wandered off the track," he said. "If I hadn't I wouldn't have found it."

This is the third major discovery Mr Richardson has made. In 2005 he dug up an ancient necklace valued at £350,000 while in 2010 he found a hoard of Roman coins.

The tools were found just a foot below the surface of a farmer's field.

The first things to be dug out were three of the four axes; Mr Richardson said he immediately knew what they were.

The items have been confirmed by Dr Chris Robinson, an archaeological officer from Nottinghamshire County Council, as a founders hoard.

"Bronze Age metal workers tended to be itinerant. They would travel around the land plying their trade," said Dr Robinson.

"Often they would bury their produce and come back for it later."

The finds will now be submitted to the Portable Antiques Scheme (PAS) so that they can be recorded.


Out of the 18 items only only one item has not been able to be identified

All prehistoric base-metal artefacts found after 1 January 2003 qualify as treasure and the PAS will forward the items to the British Museum for further assessment, dating and valuation.

Research by Mr Richardson suggests that his latest hoard may be worth a few thousand pounds.

But the tree surgeon said his hobby, which he has been doing every Saturday and Sunday afternoon for 40 years, is nothing to do with the money.

"It's the interest in the local history and the buzz from handling something that is thousands of years old," he said.

Mr Richardson confessed that there was no secret to his success.

"It's embarrassing really. There's no recipe. It just seems to happen," he said.




By Phil Coleman


Last updated at 16:17, Tuesday, 01 March 2011

A freelance archaeologist and his wife came face to face with a chunk of unique Roman history as they walked across a Wigton farm.


Karl James Langford, 36, and his wife Lisa, 43, are over the moon with their chance discovery of a sandstone fragment which still bears part of a Roman inscription.


The couple had gone with their two children – a boy aged two and a five-month-old girl – to visit the remnant of the Maglona Roman fort near Wigton last week when Lisa spotted the stone on the ground. It had been exposed by a heavy rain storm.


Still clearly visible on the sandstone fragment – which is about the size of a tea saucer – are the Roman letters M, R and P.


Karl, 36, believes the artefact may once have spelled the name of the settlement, which was abandoned a few decades before the Romans pulled out of Britain in AD 410.


He said: “We were having a short holiday to see Hadrian’s Wall and wanted to see the Maglona Roman Ford, known locally as Old Carlisle. Lisa found the stone alongside a wall that overlooks the remains of the Roman fort.


“It would have been garrisoned by about 1,000 men who were mainly auxiliary soldiers and there to support the eastward side of Hadrian’s Wall. I feel this is quite a significant find.


“It’s impossible to know for sure but I suspect the M may have spelled out the name Maglona, and perhaps the P and the R were part of the word prefectus, [usually indicating a soldier who was the third most senior in a legion.]


“A find like this shows that important archaeological finds are not always made by people with a metal detector.


“The stone would have been inscribed at the site of the fort and it was interesting to find out that the farmer’s son there is a stonemason, doing the same kind of work today.”


Lisa, who shares Karl’s passion for history and archaeology, said: “It was pouring with rain and very, very muddy and I was walking ahead of Karl with our daughter in her carrier when I glanced down.


“I did a double take and then called Karl over, but he thought I was joking.”


Lisa said it was the second time she has made a chance archaeological find.


“When I was a teenager I dug up a vegetable patch and found a canon ball which dated from the English Civil War and the time of Cromwell. Finding the Roman stone was quite exciting.”


The couple, who were on the site with the farmer’s consent, hope to return to the Roman Fort to further explore it while Lisa would like the stone to possibly go to Tullie House Museum in Carlisle, which is due to open a new exhibition about the Roman Frontier in the summer.



New Death Ritual Found in Himalaya—27 De-fleshed Humans

Ker Than for National Geographic News

Published March 1, 2011


The remains of 27 ancient men, women, and children have been found in cliffside caves in Nepal. Many of the bones bear cut marks that point to a previously unknown Himalayan death ritual, experts say.


The corpses—many of which had been stripped of flesh—were placed in the high mortuaries some 1,500 years ago, the team announced Friday.


Nearly 67 percent of the bodies' had been defleshed, most likely with a metal knife, say the researchers, who found the remains in 2010.


After the de-fleshing process, the corpses had been neatly laid to rest on wide wooden shelves, the researchers speculate. But due to centuries of exposure to the elements, the bones and bunks—and much of the caves themselves—had collapsed by the time the team entered the chambers.


Also in the jumble: goat, cow, and horse remains—perhaps sacrificial offerings for the dead, though their purpose remains a mystery.


Dug into characteristically reddish cliffs of the Upper Mustang district, the human-made caves lie at 13,800 feet (4,200 meters) above sea level, high above the village of Samdzong.


In ancient times, rock outcrops and probably ladders would have eased access to the caves. Since then, however, erosion has rendered the chambers accessible to only expert climbers, such as seven-time Everest summiter Pete Athans, who co-led the team.


"Clues to when these caves were built, and by whom, are melting before our eyes," Athans said in a press statement. "The cave tomb we found is under great threat. It is situated in a fragile rock matrix that has already collapsed some time in the past. I don't believe the tomb would've lasted one more monsoon."


Little is known about the three ancient Himalayan groups that de-fleshed and entombed their dead in the high Mustang caves, making the motives behind the rite even murkier. The team has, however, ruled out cannibalism.


"When you're going for meat, you process a skeleton in a very different way than if you were trying to strip the flesh off," explained project leader Mark Aldenderfer, an archaeologist at the University of California, Merced.


"In cannibalism, the base of the skull is often smashed [to get at the brains], and bones are broken and twisted, usually for marrow. There's nothing like that in any of the bone parts that we recovered.


"This was done in a respectful fashion," added Aldenderfer, who received partial funding from the National Geographic Society's Committee for Research and Exploration. (The Society owns National Geographic News.)


Preliminary DNA analysis of some of the bones suggests the de-fleshing subjects were related.


"I would imagine that many of these mortuary caves are for large extended families," Aldenderfer said.


"This would be their traditional burial place, and another family would have their own."


Aldenderfer and his team think the practice of de-fleshing corpses and entombing them in caves might be a previously unknown bridge between two other known death rituals.


One, the Tibetan sky burial—thought to have originated several hundred years later—involves dismembering a body and exposing it to the elements and to scavengers such as vultures. Present-day Tibet is just 10 miles (16 kilometers) from the cave tombs.


The other funerary rite is older and hails from the Zoroastrian religion, which has its roots in ancient Persia (now Iran). Zoroastrians, Aldenderfer said, "are known to have de-fleshed their dead and fed the flesh to animals."


Ancient people living in the Upper Mustang region may have adopted funerary rituals of passing Zoroastrians as they traveled west, Aldenderfer said. These rites, in turn, may have transformed into, or inspired, the Tibetan sky-burial ritual.


That idea, according to anthropologist Mark Turin, who wasn't part of the project, is "an interesting and perfectly workable hypothesis."


The new finds are only the latest to be uncovered in the remote cliffs.


In the 1980s a Nepalese-German team discovered cave tombs dating back about 3,000 years. The human remains in those caves hadn't been de-fleshed, however.


And in 2009 the team behind the new discovery announced they'd found a cliff-cave trove of Tibetan art, manuscripts, and skeletons dating back to the 15th century.


In addition to the newfound mortuary caves, Aldenderfer's team has found nearby caves that were created later, likely for use as living spaces.


"I don't think the people who built those 'apartment complexes' actually knew that those mortuary caves were nearby," Aldenderfer said.


Turin, director of the Digital Himalaya Project at the University of Cambridge, said he's not surprised that people have been repeatedly drawn to the Upper Mustang cliffs, despite the challenges.


In fact, the cliffs' isolation may have been an important part of their allure. Many of the local beliefs that have been practiced in the region, including Buddhism, place great value on the idea of religious retreat, Turin said.


"Monks can now practice and reside in monasteries, but we're talking about long before the establishment of any monastery," he said.


"These [caves] may well have been proto-monastic places ... and as such, people might retreat or bury their dead there."


Also, Turin said, ancient people may have felt tied to the landscape in a way that might be hard for many modern Westerners to understand.


Even today, "a well-known story is in circulation about the taming of the territory. ... When the Buddhist saints came up and slew the local deities, their blood and [body parts] stained the Earth and created the colors" of the landscape, Turin said.


"The religious culture that exists in people's minds can be mapped onto the landscape. This means that the landscape is sacred, and that caves and places of retreat are similarly sacred."



She's aged well: Face of incredibly preserved 700-year-old mummy found by chance by Chinese road workers


Last updated at 2:55 PM on 4th March 2011



Amazing discovery: The 700-year-old mummy was found in the city of Taizhou, in Jiangsu Province


The corpse of the high-ranking woman believed to be from the Ming Dynasty - the ruling power in China between 1368 and 1644 - was stumbled across by a team who were looking to expand a street.


And the mummy, which was found in the city of Taizhou, in the Jiangsu Province, along with two other wooden tombs, offers a fascinating insight into life as it was back then.


Discovered two metres below the road surface, the woman's features - from her head to her shoes - have retained their original condition, and have hardly deteriorated.

When the discovery was made by the road workers, late last month, Chinese archaeologists, from the nearby Museum of Taizhou, were called into excavate the area, the state agency Xinhua News reported.


They were surprised by the remarkably good condition of the woman's skin, hair, eyelashes and face. It was as though she had only recently died.






  1. The Ming Dynasty was the ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644
  2. It was 'one of the greatest eras of orderly government and social stability in human history' according to venerated tome A history of East Asian civilization
  3. Ming rule saw the construction of a vast navy and a standing army of one million troops
  4. There were enormous construction projects, including the restoration of the Grand Canal and the Great Wall and the establishment of the Forbidden City in Beijing (pictured) during the first quarter of the 15th century
  5. Estimates for the late-Ming population vary from 160 to 200 million


Her body, which measures 1.5 metres high, was found at the construction site immersed in a brown liquid inside the coffin.

And the coffin was opened earlier this week, on March 1, much to the excitement of the local city - and further afield. And the right hand of the 700-year-old mummy showed her preserved skin, and a ring.

The mummy was wearing traditional Ming dynasty costume, and also in the coffin were bones, ceramics, ancient writings and other relics.

This is the latest discovery after a lull of three years in the area. Indeed, between 1979 and 2008 five mummies were found, all in very good condition.

Those findings raising the interest in learning the techniques of preservation funeral of this dynasty and customs in time to bury the dead.

Director of the Museum of Taizhou, Wang Weiyin, told Xinhua that the mummy's clothes are made mostly of silk, with a little cotton.

He said usually silk and cotton are very hard to preserve and excavations found that this mummifying technology was used only at very high-profile funerals.

The first finding of the Ming Dynasty in Taizhou dates from May 1979 and led the opening of the museum.

At that time the bodies were also found intact, but due to lack of experience of archaeologists only clothing, belts and clamps could be preserved.

The Ming Dynasty, who built the Forbidden City and restored the Great Wall, was the last in China and marked an era of economic growth and cultural splendour which produced the first commercial contacts with the West.


Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1362957/700-year-old-mummy-road-workers-east-China-excellent-condition.html#ixzz1Fp7DOSYg



Pirate of the Caribbean: cannons found in Panama linked to Henry Morgan

Archaeologists believe weapons found at site of shipwreck could have belonged to legendary pirate

Associated Press, guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 1 March 2011 15.51 GMT


The cannons which archaeologists believe may have belonged to Henry Morgan. Photograph: Donnie Reid/AP

Archaeologists say six cannons recovered from a river in Panama that could have belonged to legendary privateer Henry Morgan are being studied and could eventually be displayed.


The group of Panamanian and foreign archaeologists say the cannons were found at the mouth of Panama's Chagres river, the site where Morgan's flagship, the Satisfaction, was wrecked in 1671 while carrying him and his crew to raid Panama City.


The team said that the size and shape of the pieces looks very similar to the small iron guns of the 17th century.


The cannons were found in 2008 and recovered last year.


The archaeological survey was coordinated by the Waitt Institute with collaboration with Panama's National Culture Institute.


• This article was amended on 2 March 2011. The original referred to Henry Morgan and his crew as pirates. This has been corrected.



Brazilian slave port ruins unearthed in Rio's Olympic facelift

Archaeologists find remains of port where hundreds of thousands of Africans were sold to plantation owners

Tom Phillips in Rio de Janeiro

guardian.co.uk,          Friday 4 March 2011 14.17 GMT


A view over Rio de Janeiro, where archaeologists believe they have unearthed the ruins of a notorious slave wharf. Photograph: Rodrigo Abd/AP

It was one of the busiest slave ports in the Americas, a filthy, bustling harbour where hundreds of thousands of Africans were sold into a life of exploitation and abuse.


Famished, exhausted and with their heads half-shaved, the slaves were herded off ships, groomed in "fattening houses" and dispatched to sugar and coffee plantations across Brazil.


Now, nearly two centuries after Rio's notorious Valongo wharf began operating, local archaeologists believe they may have located the slave port's ruins during a multibillion-dollar, pre-Olympic renovation of the city's harbour. "As soon as the discovery was made I went there," said Washington Fajardo, Rio's secretary for cultural heritage. "It is a moving experience, seeing an existing city and then another city two metres below. You feel a bit like Indiana Jones."


The possible discovery of the Cais do Valongo, or Valongo wharf, was made during the regeneration of Rio's port area.


With the 2016 Olympics in mind, authorities are steaming ahead with a project known as Porto Maravilha or Marvellous Port, intended to transform Rio's dilapidated port into a vibrant tourist and business hub.


Tania Andrade Lima, an archaeologist from Rio's National Museum who has been leading the hunt for the Valongo, said 10 local archaeologists had been digging since February and now believed they had started unearthing "structures" connected to the notorious slave market.


Her team has confirmed discovery of Rio's Empress's wharf, believed to have been built on top of the slave port in the 1840s by the French architect Grandjean de Montigny and designed to welcome Brazil's future empress, Teresa Cristina. A 19th-century sewerage system, created by British architect Edward Gotto, was also found.


Lima said the Valongo represented a crucial part of the city's history that had been erased as Brazil sought to cover up the "brutal period of enslavement". It is believed that some 3 million African slaves were shipped to Brazil between 1550 and 1888, when slavery was officially abolished.


"This area played an important role in Rio's history – the Valongo wharf area has a strong symbolism for Afro-Brazilian descendants in our city," Lima added.


Historians say the Valongo slave market operated from 1818 to 1830.


During those 12 years men, women and children from across west Africa were shipped into the port on squalid ships, packed into warehouses and sold.


The British clergyman Robert Walsh detailed the horrors of Valongo wharf following a visit in 1828. "The poor creatures are exposed for sale like any other commodity," he wrote in Notices of Brazil in 1828 and 1829, describing how slave buyers would manhandle the slaves as if "buying a dog or mule".


"They were all doomed to remain on the spot, like sheep in a pen, till they were sold; they have no apartment to retire to, no bed to repose on, no covering to protect them; they sit naked all day, and lie naked all night, on the bare boards, or benches, where we saw them exhibited."


In another section Walsh, then chaplain at the British embassy, recalls: "The miserable slaves of Rio, employed only as beasts of burden in the streets, are, of all classes of the human race, by far the most abandoned and degraded."


Maria Graham, a British writer who also visited the Valongo, described "rows of young creatures … sitting, their heads shaved, their bodies emaciated, and the marks of recent itch upon their skins.


"If I could, I would appeal to their masters, to those who buy, and to those who sell, and implore them to think of the evils slavery brings."


Lima hopes her team will be able to officially confirm the Valongo's discovery "over the coming months". Fajardo, the heritage secretary, said the authorities planned to integrate the finds into the new port's design. In the lead-up to the Olympics, changes to Rio de Janeiro's urban landscape were likely to reveal further archaeological sites, he added. "We have high hopes," he said.


Rio's mayor, Eduardo Paes, vowed to build a square where the 19th century ports once stood. "These are our Roman ruins," he said.



Gold Rush "GHOST SHIP" in Canada's Sub-arctic

By Archnews Editor 01/03/2011 17:01:00


A perfectly preserved steamboat from the Klondike Gold Rush lies in the freezing waters of Lake Laberge, in the subarctic wilderness of Canada’s Yukon.


The sternwheeler A.J. Goddard is the wreck of a frontier steamer that disappeared in a winter storm on the lake in October 1901. Only two members of the five man crew survived, and Goddard’s location remained a mystery for one hundred and seven years.

The wreck was found during a survey of Klondike Gold Rush wrecks by an international team from the Institute of Nautical Archaeology (INA), the Yukon Transportation Museum, and the Yukon government led by INA Research Associate John Pollack. The survey, ongoing since 2005, is a collaborative project designed to pinpoint and document the dozens of wrecks that mark the river and lake routes once used by gold seeking “stampeders” during the last great gold rush at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century.


While the team has documented dozens of broken and abandoned steamers off the Yukon’s rivers, the discovery of Goddard is the first find of an untouched ship from the Gold Rush. Finding Goddard has been a dream of many years for team member Doug Davidge of the Yukon Transportation Museum. A sonar survey of Lake Laberge in 2008 made a contact with a wreck at the edge of the lake, and Davidge canoed back to the site before the winter ice set in and lowered an underwater camera. The camera revealed the paddles of a steamboat’s sternwheel, and Davidge was convinced that the elusive Goddard had at last been found. Winter ice set in, locking the steamer’s grave until this summer, when, one day after the ice thawed, the team returned to dive the target.


What the team found was that the wreck is literally a time capsule - the boots, and a jacket of one of the crew lie on the deck along with the stove, scattered dishes, and tools. When the ship sank in a winter storm on fabled Lake Laberge in 1901, the crew had opened the fire box of the boiler and had thrown in more firewood to get steam in a futile effort to claw off the shore. The boiler door still lies open with the lightly charred wood in the firebox, 108 years later. An axe used to chop the tow line for a small barge loaded with supplies still rests on the deck where a crew member dropped it.


In 1901, a trapper camped on the shores of the lake saw Goddard's tiny pilothouse, torn off the sinking steamboat, with two survivors, half frozen, clinging to it.  He saved them. Three other crew members drowned, their bodies washing ashore to be buried by the North-West Mounted Police.  Diving on A.J. Goddard, it is as if these events happened yesterday. Thanks to the magic of archaeology and the generous support of the National Geographic Society-Waitt Grants program, as well as the support of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology, the RPM Nautical Foundation, Promare, the Canadian Geographical Society, the Yukon Transportation Museum, and the Yukon government, this gold rush time capsule shipwreck has been revealed in its freezing cold watery grave.


A.J. Goddard was fitted out by its crew as a self-sufficient floating home on the frontier, and their workshop. This forge, used by the crew to repair ironwork, remains in place, bolted to the deck. Close by lie the anvil and the tools they used, all resting in place in this time capsule of the last great gold rush of the 19th century. Photograph by Donnie Reid, courtesy of INA.

A.J. Goddard is a small iron sternwheel steamboat built in San Francisco, brought to Alaska, dismantled and hauled over the mountain passes to Lake Laberge, a staging point for the Klondike Goldfields. The steamer operated on the lake and rivers that led to Dawson City as a passenger and freight boat - and as this discovery now shows, the steamboat also operated as a small floating repair shop, forge and kitchen - a self-sufficient depot on the Gold Rush frontier.

The discovery has been reported to the Canadian government and the Yukon government, and the winter ice has once again sealed the grave of A.J. Goddard. A return expedition to continue the study of the wreck is planned for 2010, when the team will document the wreck further and probe its interior for further revelations about life on the gold rush frontier.



Stirling Castle's 16th Century defences unearthed

2 March 2011 Last updated at 14:51


Archaeologists have found fragments of Stirling Castle's 16th Century outer defences.


The discovery was made during work to extend the castle's main shop and ticket office.


Historic Scotland said the find would help establish exactly where the defences stood.


European experts are believed to have been used to apply the latest Italian military engineering techniques at the castle in the 1540s.


They were brought in by Mary of Guise, widow of James V, at a time when intermittent warfare with England made it essential to have fortifications that could protect against heavy artillery in a siege.


The defences are shown in a 17th Century engraving by John Slezer.


Gordon Ewart, of Kirkdale Archaeology - whose team discovered the walling - said: "We knew the defences would have been in this area, but not exactly where because the Slezer engraving, and remaining military plans, are not entirely accurate.


"This is what makes the discovery of physical evidence so important - it helps us identify exactly what existed - and to understand more about what the castle was like in the past."


Much was changed at the castle between 1711-14 when the old defences were demolished during a programme of modernisation.


Further alterations took place when the esplanade was created in the early 19th Century.


Peter Yeoman, from Historic Scotland, said the discovery gave a "tantalising glimpse" of the fortifications created for Mary of Guise and paid for by the French king Henri II.


Mr Yeoman said they were probably designed by the Italian engineer Signor Ubaldini, who was working on a similar defensive spur at the time at Edinburgh Castle.


He added: "They are of great interest because they were early examples of a changing approach to military engineering, and among the most advanced in the whole of the British isles."