Archaeologists find first ancient mirror workshop in China

24 April 2013| last updated at 04:20PM


JINAN: A 2,000-year-old bronze mirror workshop has been excavated in east China's Shandong Province in the first such discovery in the country, Xinhua news agency reported.

Bai Yunxiang, deputy director of the archeological institute of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that more than 100 stone moulds along with foundry pits, wells and blastpipes were unearthed at a site in a village near Zibo City.  

The workshop is believed to have been active in the early period of the Han Dynasty (202 BC - 220 AD), when the once-costly bronze mirrors gradually became household objects. 

"It is the first time that a bronze mirror workshop has been discovered, providing precious insights into technologies used for China's ancient mirror making," Bai said.  

Bai said the artifacts are representative of mirror designs during the Han dynasty, including a mould with patterns incorporating "panchi," a dragon-shaped monster commonly used in mirror decoration and another with a grass-leaf design that became popular at the start of the era.  

It is believed that the workshop formed part of the industrial zone of the ancient city of Linzi, which flourished as a commercial hub during the Eastern Zhou Dynasty (770 BC - 221 BC).  

A dozen other coin and ironware workshops have also been discovered in the area. -- BERNAMA



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Lion statue guarding Etruscan tomb discovered

Posted by TANN


Recent excavations at the necropolis of Banditaccia in Cerveteri have unearthed a statue of a lion and an Etruscan tomb.


Italian newspaper ‘Il Messaggero’ reports that a team of archaeologists has uncovered a masterpiece of Etruscan art in the form of the Leone di Cerveteri (Cerveteri Lion). The statue of a crouching lion is made from volcanic tuff and dates to the 6th century BC. The piece is said to be in perfect condition, showing taut muscles and well-defined legs.


The Cerveteri Lion is the first entire lion statue found at the site. It was found at the foot of what experts describe as an altar for funeral rites and was the “guardian” of an extraordinary tomb discovered only a few yards away.


The newly discovered tomb is in the form of an underground rectangular chamber accessed by a monumental staircase. The chamber dates from the 4th to 3rd century BC. The chamber contained some 20 skeletons, of which seven are well preserved.


The tomb also contained 10 stones complete with inscriptions, along with a treasure trove of ceramic and bronze funereal objects. The main burial area belonged to an adult woman and contained the remains of wicker baskets, along with fragments of wool and flax. Experts believe the tomb belonged to a noble family and that the woman was a prestigious figure in her clan.


The Etruscans lived in west-central Italy from the 9th century BC onwards and Etruscan culture reached its height in the 6th century BC. The Cerveteri necropolis in Lazio, Rome developed from the 9th century BC. It contains thousands of tombs that replicate Etruscan town-planning schemes, with streets, squares and neighbourhoods. The tombs vary in kind according to when they were built and family status. Some are tumuli, some trenches cut in rock and other form the shape of houses.


Author: Carol King | Source: Italy Mag [April 27, 2013]



Lost city of Heracleion gives up its secrets

A lost ancient Egyptian city submerged beneath the sea 1,200 years ago is starting to reveal what life was like in the legendary port of Thonis-Heracleion.

By Richard Gray, Science Correspondent7:20AM BST 28 Apr 2013


For centuries it was thought to be a legend, a city of extraordinary wealth mentioned in Homer, visited by Helen of Troy and Paris, her lover, but apparently buried under the sea.

In fact, Heracleion was true, and a decade after divers began uncovering its treasures, archaeologists have produced a picture of what life was like in the city in the era of the pharaohs.

The city, also called Thonis, disappeared beneath the Mediterranean around 1,200 years ago and was found during a survey of the Egyptian shore at the beginning of the last decade.

Now its life at the heart of trade routes in classical times are becoming clear, with researchers forming the view that the city was the main customs hub through which all trade from Greece and elsewhere in the Mediterranean entered Egypt.

They have discovered the remains of more than 64 ships buried in the thick clay and sand that now covers the sea bed. Gold coins and weights made from bronze and stone have also been found, hinting at the trade that went on.

Giant 16 foot statues have been uncovered and brought to the surface while archaeologists have found hundreds of smaller statues of minor gods on the sea floor.

Slabs of stone inscribed in both ancient Greek and Ancient Egyptian have also been brought to the surface.

Dozens of small limestone sarcophagi were also recently uncovered by divers and are believed to have once contained mummified animals, put there to appease the gods.

Dr Damian Robinson, director of the Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology at the University of Oxford, who is part of the team working on the site, said: “It is a major city we are excavating.

“The site has amazing preservation. We are now starting to look at some of the more interesting areas within it to try to understand life there.

“We are getting a rich picture of things like the trade that was going on there and the nature of the maritime economy in the Egyptian late period. There were things were coming in from Greece and the Phoenicians.

 “We have hundreds of small statues of gods and we are trying to find where the temples to these gods were in the city.

“The ships are really interesting as it is the biggest number of ancient ships found in one place and we have found over 700 ancient anchors so far.”

The researchers, working with German TV documentary makers, have also created a three dimensional reconstruction of the city.

At its heart was a huge temple to the god Amun-Gereb, the supreme god of the Egyptians at the time.

From this stretched a vast network of canals and channels, which allowed the city to become the most important port in the Mediterranean at the time.

Last month archaeologists from around the world gathered at the University of Oxford to discuss the discoveries starting to emerge from the treasures found in Heracleion, named for Hercules, who legend claimed had been there.

It was also mentioned fleetingly in ancient texts.

Dr Robinson said: “It was the major international trading port for Egypt at this time. It is where taxation was taken on import and export duties. All of this was run by the main temple.”

Photo: Reuters

Submerged under 150 feet of water, the site sits in what is now the Bay of Aboukir. In the 8th Century BC, when the city is thought to have been built, it would have sat at the mouth of the River Nile delta as it opened up into the Mediterranean.

Scientists still have little idea what caused the city to slip into the water nearly 1,000 years later, but it is thought that gradual sea level rise combined with a sudden collapse of the unstable sediment the city was built on caused the area to drop by around 12 feet.

Over time the city faded from memory and its existence, along with other lost settlements along the coast, was only known from a few ancient texts.

French underwater archaeologist Dr Franck Goddio was the first to rediscover the city while doing surveying of the area while looking for French warships that sank there in the 18 century battle of the Nile.

Photo: Christoph Gerigk

When divers began sifting down through the thick layers of sand and mud, they could barely believe what they found.

“The archaeological evidence is simply overwhelming,” said Professor Sir Barry Cunliffe, an archaeologist at the University of Oxford has also been taking part in the excavation.

“By lying untouched and protected by sand on the sea floor for centuries they are brilliantly preserved.”

The researchers now also hope that they may even find some sarcophagi used to bury humans in some of the outlying areas around the sunken city.

“The discoveries enhance the importance of the specific location of the city standing at the 'Mouth of the Sea of the Greek’,” said Dr Goddio, who has led the excavation.

“We are just at the beginning of our research. We will probably have to continue working for the next 200 years for Thonis-Heracleion to be fully revealed and understood.”

* Egypt’s Sunken City/ A Legend Is Revealed is to be shown on the German television station Arte on Saturday 11 May at 8.15pm



Sewer workers in Bath reveal part of Roman city's walls

24 April 2013 Last updated at 17:01


Engineers carrying out sewer repairs in Bath have uncovered part of the Roman city walls.


The discovery in Burton Street was made when a large stone block was uncovered nearly 3ft (90cm) below the pavement, a Wessex Water spokesman said.


Further investigations revealed the block was part of the stone wall which dates back to the 4th Century.


"This is a very significant discovery," said Natalie Doran, an environmental scientist with Wessex Water.


'Very exciting discovery'


"Bath is an archaeologically rich city, however, discoveries of this significance on our schemes is very unusual.


"From archaeological consultation with Bath and North East Somerset Council we knew that there were surviving sections of the city wall nearby, but this discovery was still a surprise both for us and the archaeologists."


The wall, which was built as a defensive structure, is made up of five blocks of Bath stone and possibly forms part of the buttress of the original city wall.


While no dating evidence has been recovered, tool marks on the stone suggest it was originally worked in Roman times.


Once all the surveys have been completed the wall will be preserved in situ and the trench will be back filled and work relocated.



Dealing with the doldrums on a Viking voyage

April 23, 2013 - 06:35

The outline of a foot on the Gokstad Ship gives us an inkling of what it might have been like for Vikings to cross the ocean.

By: Hanne Jakobsen


He’s crowded into a sleek sailing ship with 65 other men. Scarcely room to move. It’s been days since anybody has seen land − longer since anyone bathed. The old-timers’ repeated tales of bygone raids and voyages are beginning to wear thin.


His place is behind an oar, but there is no need to row continuously on the North Sea. With wind in the sail, the boat surges towards England, where riches await.


But what is there to do while waiting to reach a foreign coast?


Maybe it was a teenager engaged in a Viking version of tagging a school desk. In any case, someone took out his knife, bent down and traced the outline of his foot on the deck of the Gokstad Ship.


Today, 1,100 years later, researcher and storage manager Hanne Lovise Aannestad shows us a couple of deck planks that are among her favourite artefacts at the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo.


“I think this particular item gives us a clear idea of what it was like to be living in the Viking Age, in a way that few other things do,” she says.


“I was here”

The Gokstad Ship was excavated in the late 1800s and is a permanent feature of the Viking Ship Museum at Bygdøy in Oslo.


For about a decade, from 890 to 900, the ship sailed on ocean voyages. The holes cut for oars along the upper hull are well worn, evidence that the ship had been used for more than just a funeral ceremony.


The ship’s deck was fitted with loose floorboards. These could be lifted up so that supplies and plundered treasure could be stored below deck. The outline of a foot covers two of these floorboards.


“My guess is that some time or another a person was bored and simply traced his foot with his knife. It’s a kind of an ‘I was here’ message,” says Aannestad.


A person behind the myths

There are two outlines of feet on the Gokstad Ship. One is a distinct right foot. The other is a weaker outline of a left foot on a different floorboard.


The ship was buried on land in a massive grave and the loose floorboards were helter-skelter when it was excavated. So we don’t know whether the planks with left and right feet had been originally next to each other or had been the capricious result of two separate individuals.


This makes the footprints no less fascinating for Aannestad:


Hanne Lovise Aannestad of the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo points at the footprint of a bored Viking. The footprint is enhanced by ScienceNordic. (Photo: Hanne Jakobsen/Per Byhring)

“This is an artefact that gives us an empathetic understanding of a person behind the myths of the Viking Age. We know something about major events, of wars and battles and the building of kingdoms and all that, but this little outline puts you right down at the level of an individual,” she says.


“You can’t add a chapter to history with this. It shows that Vikings had feet, but we knew that. Yet it gives us an immediate emotional connection on a general human level. These were real people who went on Viking voyages, not cartoonish stereotypes. The voyages could be boring as well as harrowing.”


The outlines weren’t discovered until 2009. The floorboards were being moved from the museum at Bygdøy when one of Aannestad’s colleagues spotted the carved footprints.


So even 130 years after its excavation, researchers continue to make discoveries about one of Norway’s most famous and thoroughly studied vessels.


A young man on his first voyage?

Aannestad has measured one of her own feet against a tracing of the carved outline – because no one can actually step on the fragile floorboard, of course. The foot was smaller than hers, and even though people were generally shorter in the Viking days, this was probably a little person.


“It could have been a young man. People were treated as adults much earlier in those days. They took off sooner than we would allow young boys to do today,” says Aannestad.


So we are free to let our imaginations run:


A young lad is bored with the tedium of a long voyage. On a whim he looks down at his foot and considers something that would provide a little diversion.


He was sufficiently dedicated to the task to include his toenails in his outline.


Maybe this was his first voyage and the drawing of his foot took his mind off the test of his manhood awaiting him in English or Irish towns? Perhaps this outline is the foot of a person who grew famous and whose name has been passed down to us through the sagas?


“We can only speculate. We’ll never know. In any case, we see the outline of an individual here,” says Aannestad.



Syria clashes destroy ancient Aleppo minaret


24 April 2013 Last updated at 16:34


The minaret of one of Syria's most famous mosques has been destroyed during clashes in the northern city of Aleppo.

The state news agency Sana accused rebels of blowing up the 11th-Century minaret of the Umayyad Mosque.

However, activists say the minaret was hit by Syrian army tank fire.

The mosque, which is a Unesco world heritage site, has been in rebel hands since earlier this year but the area around it is still contested.

Last October Unesco appealed for the protection of the site, which it described as "one of the most beautiful mosques in the Muslim world".

Images posted on the internet showed the minaret reduced to a pile of rubble in the mosque's tiled courtyard.

Other parts of the mosque complex - which dates mostly from the 12th Century - have been badly damaged by gunfire and shell hits.

A report by Sana said fighters from the al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra group had destroyed the once famous landmark.

It quoted an official source saying that "terrorists... placed explosive materials in the minaret and the mosque's southern door and set them off".

However, Aleppo-based activist Mohammed al-Khatib, quoted by AP news agency, said a tank shell had "totally destroyed" the 45m (148ft) minaret.

The mosque has suffered extensive damage during months of fighting, with antique furnishings and intricately sculpted colonnades affected.

Reports say some ancient artefacts have also been looted, including a box purported to contain a strand of the Prophet Muhammad's hair.

However, rebels said they had salvaged ancient handwritten Koranic manuscripts and hidden them.

Earlier, rebels and government forces reportedly clashed near Aleppo as they fought for control of a military airbase.

Rebels took a key military position outside the Minnigh airport on Tuesday and launched another raid on Wednesday, according to opposition activists with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

"The rebels, who have laid siege to the airport for months now, entered it for the first time around dawn," Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the UK-based activist group, told AFP news agency.

Heavy fighting was taking place in the grounds, he added.

Analysts say losing control of the airport would be a strategic blow for the government.

The Free Syrian Army has been trying to seize a number of airbases in the area to disrupt regime supply routes.

In another development on Wednesday, Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister told the BBC that his country was fighting a war against terrorism.

Faisal Mekdad said the international community should be supporting President Assad and his government.

Asked if he thought the Syrian government could still defeat the rebels, he said: "We shall defend our sovereignty and independence to the last drop. We have a strong army, we have a lot of our people who are supporting the government, who are uniting their ranks to defend the country. And in such a situation they will never defeat Syria."

According to the UN, at least 70,000 people have been killed in the civil war and more than a million are now living as refugees in neighbouring countries.



Love beyond the grave: Skeletons discovered holding hands in coffin together

LOVE can last beyond the grave as shocked archaeologists working in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, discovered.

By: Dion Dassanayake

Published: Mon, April 22, 2013


While excavating the courtyard of a former Dominican monastery in experts discovered skeletons of a couple buried together holding hands.


The bodies were discovered in the former cemetery of the monastery and it is believed the double grave dated back to the Middle Ages.


Adrian Rusu, from the Cluj-Napoca Institute of Archaeology and History of Art, said: "It is a mystery - and rare for such burials at that time.


"We can see that the man had suffered a severe injury that left him with a broken hip from which he probably died.


"Because of the fact that the young woman obviously died at the same time and was presumably healthy we are speculating that she possibly died of a broken heart at the loss of her partner."


Experts believe the female was buried with her partner after dying from a broken heart


We are speculating that she possibly died of a broken heart at the loss of her partner

Archaeologist Adrian Rusu

It is believed the bodies were buried somewhere between 1450-155.


The remains of a child were also found in the grave but archaeologists believe that may not have been linked to the pair.


Mr Rusu added: "Suicide is unlikely as it is regarded as a sin and it's unlikely she would have been buried in such a holy place if that was the case.


"They were obviously buried together as a tribute to the love they had for each other."