Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Pax Minoica in Aegean

Source: ekathimerini

Karpathos excavations reveal settlements safe from piracy

New and interesting information on the proliferation of Pax Minoica (the Minoan Peace) has come to light from a Thrace University mission to the Aegean which examined a number of newly found settlements of Minoan character, built and destroyed by earthquakes during the so-called Palace period (circa 1800-1500 BC).

Some of these settlements are located near the sea and may have served as ports, while the others are located 400-800 meters from the coast but maintained complete visual contact with the sea. “This illustrates – beyond the maritime activities (fishing and commercial) and the contact with Crete – the security the Minoans felt, probably because of King Minos’s legendary victory over piracy,” said Associate Professor Manolis Melas, who headed the excavations.

The research, which began a year ago, is part of a program run by the University of Thrace and is estimated to last for four more years. The focus is on the systematic examination of the ground surface in Afiarti, a lush plain in southern Karpathos. “Other than archaeology, the program also focuses on geology, geomorphology, ecology and ethnography,” explained Melas. “It is looking to examine a particular type of island environment where we can map changes over time in a number of areas, such as the natural environment, history and the material aspects of a civilization.

“The central aim of the investigation is to study the relationship between the natural and human environment, especially during the Minoan period.” This is necessary, says the professor, in order to understand why the settlements were built as they were and where they were, in relation to the use they made of the natural resources at their disposal, the strategic positions of the settlements and their sociopolitical organization.

The Afiarti Plain, says Melas, can be separated into three ecological zones, all more or less parallel to the coast and facing east. Evidence suggests that the area was constantly cultivated for farming, to a greater or lesser degree, depending on what crop was being grown and the availability of water.

“Fertile land was a very valuable asset and this is why its use for anything other than farming was avoided,” said Melas.

Land use, according to the archaeologist, was always worked out in advance and human habitation on it was almost always limited – especially during the Minoan period – to rocky, arid areas of the land that were normally located on a rise (low hills or on amphitheatrical ridges), so that they would have solid foundations and a wide view that would ensure control over the area and safety. Evidence of this has been discovered in two zones in Minoan, Roman and earlier settlements.

What does Melas think the future holds? He says he expects several more similar settlements to come to light, which will “establish in a more solid way the mythical, historical tradition of the Minoan civilization’s domination of the sea and the peace it brought to the Aegean.”

Monday, January 22, 2007

Gothic version of Thermopylae

A different take on the legendary story of the 300 Spartans will premiere in two months

The film, starring Scottish actor Gerard Butler as Leonidas, is a frame-by-frame screen adaptation of the comic book of ‘300,’ which circulated in five issues in 1998.

By Panayiotis Panagopoulos - Kathimerini

In another two months, Greeks are sure to witness another clash between the big movie industry and local critics. Following Oliver Stone’s “Alexander,” Ang Lee’s “Brokeback Mountain” and Wolfgang Petersen’s “Troy,” there are plenty of people here who feel they know what should and shouldn’t be allowed to be shown on the silver screen.

This time round the debate will revolve around a number: 300. But, this is not just any number: It refers to the 300 Spartan warriors led by Leonidas in the 480 BC battle of Thermopylae, told in a Gothic heavy-metal version of the tale, directed by Zack Snyder (“Dawn of the Dead”) and designed by Miller, the man behind great comics such as “Sin City.”

How many Greeks are prepared to see a Xerxes who is black, bald and covered in body and face piercings, Ephialtes as a hunchback and rhinos running across Thermopylae to the music of Nine-Inch Nails? The film may not be 100 percent true to history but it is 100 percent true to Miller’s style. He says that despite the liberties he has taken, he is quite familiar with the story of Leonidas and has tremendous respect for it. “There is a scene where the Persian emissary asks for a gift of land and water. A Spartan leads him to a well and throws him in. This scene, like most others in the book, is exactly the same as it is told,” says Miller. “The Spartans behaved this way to tyrants.” Why did he choose to tell this chapter of Greek history? “Because it’s the best story I have ever laid my hands on.”

The comic book of “300” circulated in five issues in 1998. Five years later, it was slated to become a film, with Snyder in the director’s chair and Miller acting as consultant and coproducer. The film is a frame-by-frame screen adaptation of the comic books. This accounts for the fact that the trailer, which has already gone into circulation (on, has such a strong sense of being drawn, with effects that resemble video games. The film “300,” starring Scottish actor Gerard Butler, is not aimed at telling a historically accurate story. It is a spectacle, and an impressive one at that, that uses every new technology at its disposal and simply bases itself on the story of Leonidas.

The film’s budget reached an impressive $60 million and it was shot exclusively with the actors performing against digital screens on which the effects were added later. The digitally created image of the film has also been made into a video game titled “300: March to Glory,” which is to be launched on the same date as the film, while stores will soon have action figures of the characters as well.

There is little doubt that “300” will have Greek purists screaming for blood as soon as it hits movie theaters, but whether they like this style of film or not, the genre is here to stay. “Sin City 2,” the sequel to the noir thriller directed by Miller and Robert Rodriguez – with the help of Quentin Tarantino as special guest director – made Miller a household name.

In the world of comics, however, Miller, now aged 49, has nothing to prove; his status is already legendary. World literature and Japanese cinema, especially the masterpieces of Akira Kurosawa, have deeply influenced the American artist’s work and this is reflected in his dark, personalized style of drawing and his references to the art of the manga Japanese comics.

Born in Maryland and raised in Vermont, Miller was like so many other teenagers of his time, growing up on the stories of superheroes such as Batman and Superman. However, even though he loved these comic books, he was annoyed by the heroes’ one-dimensional characters. For several years, he put down comics and began watching movies and reading books instead. Miller’s earliest foray into the world of television was in 1978 for “The Twilight Zone.” His first hit came when he wrote and penciled several series of Marvel Comic’s “Daredevil,” the film version of which, starring Ben Affleck, was a box-office flop. Even though Miller had not created Daredevil himself, he nurtured and developed him further.

Miller’s first independent work was the hit miniseries “Ronin” in the mid-1980s, while in 1986 he relaunched Batman and a series of stories about how the Caped Crusader survives the death of Robin. Ever since, Miller has continued to develop this character, updating him constantly and involving him in contemporary stories.

However, Miller’s success is not just seen in the work he has signed himself, but in the work of others who are inspired by him as well. The new-era Batman, as presented and directed by Christopher Nolan in the 2005 “Batman Begins,” was clearly drawn from Miller’s Gothic atmosphere, in contrast to previous Batman films that were glossier and glitzier.

Last year’s “V for Vendetta,” directed by James McTeigue and based on the comic book by David Lloyd, gives the impression that it would not have reached such a big, wide audience had it not been preceded by “Sin City” by just a year.

Even the clean-cut Spider-Man, whose latest film is coming out in the spring, will this time be a bit darker and moodier, in step with the public demand for a darker atmosphere.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Meteorites from under the pyramids

Source: Science and Scholarship in Poland

Samples of rock and fragments of pyramid walls brought from Egypt are being examined at the AGH University of Science and Technology. It is very likely that meteorites had dropped near the pyramids. The material was collected during the December expedition of geologists. Another aim of the expedition was to study some geoglyphics, i.e. gigantic pictures drawn on the ground.

According to "Dziennik Polski", the scientists were intrigued by some unusual structures, which resembled craters formed after meteorites hit the ground. They noticed them when analysing satellite pictures of areas north of the great pyramids in Giza.

“We found very solid metallic fragments in this area. These are probably meteorite fragments” – says Prof. Maciej Pawlikowski from the Mineralogy, Petrography and Geochemistry department at AGH University, who was the supervisor and main organiser of the geological expedition. “We hope that further tests on the patina covering the rocks, which formed during the meteorites’ fall, will help us to establish the exact time of the event” – the scientists said.

The aim of the expedition was also to study the geoglyphics, i.e. gigantic pictures on the ground. Located east of Cairo, they form two several-kilometre-long curved lines, which almost meet in one point. On satellite pictures, they look like a huge drawing of a scarab.

The origins of these mysterious structures remain unknown. “It is not known, whether they are made by man or a natural land formation. Up to now, there have been no publications on the subject” – said Prof. Pawlikowski.

The results of the Krakow geologists’ expedition do not confirm the research of American scientists, who claimed that the pyramids were built from prefabricates.

Society bought the sites it intended to excavate

Source: ekathimerini

“One of the most important moments in the history of the Greek state was the founding of the Archaeological Society in Athens in January 1837,” said its current general secretary, Vassilios Petrakos, a member of the Athens Academy.

“Inspired by the romantic classicism of an overseas Greek, Constantine Bellios, a group of scholars headed by Alexandros Rizos Rangavis and Kyriakos Pittakis founded a society for ancient artifacts, the country and science,” Petrakos added.

Their main purpose was to discover ancient ruins in Athens and to preserve them as well as possible.

During the first half of the 19th century, only low-rise buildings went up in Athens and so the society wasn’t concerned about overbuilding.

Because it did not have state powers, the society had to buy the sites it excavated.

Their work was visible for all to see. At the Acropolis for example, medieval buildings and others dating from the Turkish occupation were demolished.

Heinrich Schliemann paid for the Frankish tower at the Propylaea to be demolished. Excavations on the southern side of the Acropolis reached from the Asclepeio to the Herod Atticus Theater.

At Kerameikos, the gravestone of Hipparete, the granddaughter of Alcibiades, was found.

In Elefsina, houses and football fields were bought to save the Temple of Demeter, and the famous excavation of the five royal tombs at Mycenae was begun at Schliemann’s own expense.

The Archaeological Society, apart from the battles it fought, often bought shares; they did so notably in Tanagra, where antiquities smugglers rented properties so they could dig undisturbed – and legally.

The society bought the antiquities in order to save them. In other words, it was often forced to make many such purchases in order to ensure valuable artifacts at risk of being spirited out of the country stayed in Greece.

A typical example was the marble statue of Poseidon from the island of Milos.

Bringing ancient civilization to light

The Greek Archaeological Society marks its 170th anniversary of excavations by featuring a series of vibrant exhibitions over the next two years

By Iota Sykka - Kathimerini

Without the excavations it has carried out in Athens and elsewhere in Greece, our perception of the country’s archaeological map would be quite different. Many monuments would have been destroyed and information on others would have been limited.

Athens still has remnants of ancient civilization – including the Acropolis, Philopappou Hill, the Roman Forum and Hadrian’s Library, the Pnyx, Observatory Hill, Kerameikos and Lycabettus – thanks to the Greek Archaeological Society, which has also excavated at Mycenae, Sesklo and Epidaurus.

The society has every good reason to celebrate this year, its 170th anniversary. It’s an opportunity to look back at some of its work, which is recorded in its archives and library and is continually being updated. These rich files are considered comparable to that of the great old foreign archaeological schools here, including the French, British and American schools.

Four interesting archaeological exhibitions will be taking place over the next two years, beginning this month with a show on the Cycladic civilization in the basement of the society’s headquarters at 22 Panepistimiou Street. For the first time, drawings by the archaeologist Anastassios Orlandos will be shown, along with impressive watercolors of ancient sites. There will also be an exhibit with images of excavations at Akrotiri on the island of Santorini, marking the 40th anniversary of the work begun by Spyros Marinatos.

Worshippers of Zeus demand access to temple for ceremony

Source: ekathimerini

Plan to defy ban by Culture Ministry on entering Athens archaeological site

After all these centuries, Zeus may have a few thunderbolts left. A tiny group of worshippers plans a rare ceremony tomorrow to honor the ancient Greek gods, at the 1,800-year-old temple of Olympian Zeus.

Greece’s Culture Ministry has declared the central Athens site off-limits, but worshippers say they’ll defy the decision.

“These are our temples and they should be used by followers of our religion,” said Doreta Peppa, head of the Athens-based Ellinais, a group campaigning to revive ancient religion.

“Of course we will go ahead with the event... we will enter the site legally. We will issue a call for (world) peace, who can be opposed to that?” Peppa said the ceremony will be held in honor of Zeus, king of the ancient gods, but did not give other details.

The daily Ethnos newspaper, citing the group’s application to the Culture Ministry to use the site, said the 90-minute event would include hymns, dancers, torchbearers, and worshippers in ancient costume.

Greece’s ancient religion is believed to have several hundred official followers, mainly middle-aged and elderly academics, lawyers and other professionals, typically with a keen interest in ancient history and a dislike for the Greek Orthodox Church.

Ancient rituals are re-enacted every two years at Olympia, in southern Greece, where the flame-lighting ceremony is held for the Summer and Winter Olympic Games – but the event is not regarded as being religious and actresses are used to pose as high priestesses. Last year, the Culture Ministry, fearing damage to monuments, blocked an initiative to hold an international track meet at Olympia. A panel of ministry experts ruled against tomorrow’s ancient ceremony in Athens on similar grounds.

“Ancient sites are not available for this kind of event... the (panel) ruled unanimously against the proposal,” ministry official Eliza Kyrtsoglou said. It was not clear whether the government had plans to block the worshippers.

Revivalists of the ancient Greek religion are split into rival organizations which trade insults over the Internet.

Peppa’s group is at odds with ultra-nationalists who view a revival as a way to protect Greek identity from foreign influences.

The worshippers also face another obstacle: Greece’s powerful Orthodox Church.

About 97 percent of native-born Greeks are baptized Orthodox Christian, and the Church regards ancient religious practices as pagan. Representatives of the Church in the past have not attended flame ceremonies at Olympia because reference is made to Apollo, the ancient god of music and light.

Christianity took hold in Greece in the 4th century after Roman Emperor Constantine’s conversion. Emperor Theodosius wiped out the last vestige of the Olympian gods when he abolished the Olympic Games in AD 394. The modern revival of the Olympiad maintains a slender link to ancient ceremonies.

“Christianity did not prevail without bloodshed,” said Peppa, a novelist and historical writer. “After 16 centuries of negativity toward us, we’ve gotten something in our favor.” Peppa’s group, dedicated to reviving worship of the 12 ancient gods, was founded last year and won a court battle for official state recognition of the ancient Greek religion.

Ellinais is demanding government approval for its downtown offices to be registered as a place of worship and is threatening further court action unless that permission is granted. “The court decision is clear but the (government) has done nothing to put it into effect,” Peppa said. “There should be respect for people who want to express their religious feelings in a different way, not the typical Orthodox or Christian way. We should not be stopped or denied our rights.” (AP)

Monday, January 15, 2007

Temple Aqueduct and Ritual Bath Excavated Opposite Temple Mount

Source: Arutz Sheva

By Ezra HaLevi

Excavations being conducted opposite the Western Wall Plaza have uncovered an aqueduct that brought water to the Holy Temple, as well as a ritual bath from that period.

The never-before-excavated area is situated behind the Western Wall police station, adjacent to the plaza where millions of worshipers and tourists come each year to visit the Western Wall and Temple Mount.

The new archaeological find uncovers a missing link in the ancient water system, known as the "Lower Aqueduct." This system channeled water from Solomon’s Pools near Bethlehem (located several miles south of Jerusalem) directly to the national focal point of Jewish worship - the Temple Mount.

Solomon’s pools, situated just north of the modern Jewish town of Efrat, cover an area of about 7 acres and can hold three million gallons of water. A lengthy aqueduct conveyed the water from the lowest pool through Bethlehem, across the Gihon valley, along the western slope of the Tyropoeon valley, and into the cisterns underneath the Temple Mount. Today, the water from the pools reaches only Bethlehem due to the destruction of the aqueducts.

Current plans for the partition wall will leave Solomon’s Pools outside the area of Jewish sovereignty.

The plastered hewn-stone mikva (ritual bath) unearthed at the excavation is from the Second Temple period. It was originally situated in the foundation level of a private home during the time of the Second Temple. The ritual bath was damaged at a later date when the bedrock cliff opposite it was hewn into a vertical wall that rose up to a maximum height of about thirty feet.

The most extensive remains of the period are those of a Roman-Byzantine colonnaded street – the Eastern Cardo. Included in that area is a covered stoa, a row of shops and several artifacts.

The street appears on a 6th century map known as the Medaba Map and is known as the Eastern Cardo or the Valley Cardo. The lavish colonnaded street began at the Damascus Gate in the north and led south, running the length of the channel in the Tyropoeon Valley. Sections of this street were revealed in the past in the northern part of the Old City, at a depth of about four meters (12 feet) below the pavement. The full eleven-meter (33 foot) width of the original road was exposed in the present excavation for the first time.

“The street was paved with large flagstones that were set in place diagonally, in the customary method of the Roman world, which was probably meant to prevent wagons from slipping,” Shlomit Wexler-Bdolah, the director of the excavations, explained. She added that a drainage system was installed below the flagstones.

To the west of the street was a covered stoa that was six meters wide, and beyond it was a row of shops set inside cells whose walls were hewn out of the bedrock cliff. A large base of a magnificent corner column has just been exposed in the eastern side of the street and may be part of a building that stood there, or an intersection with an entrance to the road that runs to the east.

The Antiquities Authority is carrying out the excavations of the 80 by 200 foot area west of the Western Wall at the request of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation. The area will soon be the site of the Western Wall Heritage Center.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Indiana Jones to Start Production in 2007!!!!

It's finally official!!!


In a long-awaited announcement, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg revealed today that the fourth installment of Indiana Jones will begin production in June 2007. Harrison Ford returns in his role as the daring Dr. Jones for the new adventure. The film will be produced by Lucasfilm Ltd., directed by Steven Spielberg and released by Paramount Pictures throughout the world in May 2008.

The screenplay has been written by David Koepp.

Spielberg states "George, Harrison and I are all very excited. We feel that the script was well worth the wait. We hope it delivers everything you'd expect from our history with Indiana Jones."

The film will be produced by Frank Marshall with George Lucas and Kathy Kennedy as executive producers. "Working with Steven, Frank, Kathy and the Indy crew is like working with family," states Lucas. "These films are such great fun to make. I'm looking forward to reuniting with the team and starting this new journey."

The film has plenty of action in store for the rogue archeologist. Harrison Ford comments "I'm delighted to be back in business with my old friends. I don't know if the pants still fit but I know the hat will. "

It will be shot on undisclosed locations around the world as well as in the United States.

For more than 25 years, audiences have been enraptured by the exploits of Indiana Jones. The film trilogy -- Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade -- garnered 14 Academy Award nominations, won 7 Oscars, and grossed over $1,182,000,000 at the box office. The films are among the most popular films ever made and have become a legendary part of film history.

It was about time! :-)

Dynasty revealed

Source: Al-Ahram Weekly

A quartz stela unearthed in the Avenue of Ram-headed Sphinxes in Luxor has changed what we know of the 20th dynasty, writes Nevine El-Aref

For more than three centuries, since historians and Egyptologists began to write the first history in modern times of the 20th dynasty of Ancient Egypt, compiled from hieroglyphic texts drawn on papyri or engraved on tombs and temple walls, the history of the dynasty has remained virtually unchanged. However, this is archaeology, and in archaeology nothing can be said to be fixed. A newly-unearthed stela in the avenue lined with ram-headed sphinxes that once connected the temples of Luxor and Karnak, along which official and religious processions passed for centuries, has thrown further light on this ancient era.

The new information not only illustrates the growing power of the priesthood during the New Kingdom, but also changes some concepts of the 20th dynasty, especially the facts and figures relating to its founder, the Pharaoh Setnakhte.

The stela is a quartzite religious relief engraved in two parts; the upper one featuring Setnakhte wearing the blue crown and kneeling before the god Amun- Re, who holds the key of life in his right hand and the waset symbol in his left hand. The pharaoh is offering the god the feather of justice, while the goddess Mut, standing in the background, raises her left hand as a symbol of protection and holds the key of life in her right. The lower part bears 17 lines of hieroglyphic text followed by a scene showing Bakenkhunsu, the High Priest of Amun-Re, wearing his religious robes and praying.

Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), described the discovery as one of the most important finds of 2006. "It adjusts the history of the 20th dynasty and reveals more about the life of Bakenkhunsu," Hawass says.

Ever since the discovery several years ago of his four limestone statues, now exhibited at the Egyptian Museum, nothing was known about Bakenkhunsu except for his title as the High Priest of Amun-Re. Now, Hawass says, after deciphering the hieroglyphic text, the priest's family members and relatives have been identified. The priest's construction achievements at Karnak Temple's Great Hall can also be recognised. The text mentions that Bakenkhunsu carried out and oversaw several construction projects at the Great Hall.

Luxor monuments director Mansour Borayek told Al-Ahram Weekly that early studies on the stela revealed that it was a very well-preserved Ancient Egyptian object carved for Bakenkhunsu during the fourth year of Setnakhte's reign. It was made to be installed in the Temple of Amun-Re at Karnak. This date contradicts with the accepted record, which says Setnakhte ruled Egypt for only three years. According to the new information provided by the stela, Setnakhte's reign certainly lasted for four years, and may have continued for longer. Hence, early constructions at the Temple of Amun-Re in Karnak could be attributed to Setnakhte and completed by his son and successor Ramesses III, who also built a mortuary temple at Medinet Habu on Luxor's west bank.

Ramesses III was arguably the last of the great pharaohs to sit on the throne of Egypt. His reign was a time of considerable turmoil throughout the Mediterranean that also saw the Trojan wars, the fall of Mycenae and a great movement of displaced people from all over the region that was to wreak havoc; even toppling empires.

The stela is now being subjected to comprehensive studies in an attempt to reveal more of the 20th dynasty's secrets and, according to what may be discovered, to rewrite its history.

The stela was found accidentally by an Egyptian excavation team working on a project to reconstruct the ram-headed sphinx avenue in Luxor.

Although the 20th dynasty was founded by Setnakhte, its most important member was Ramesses III, who modelled his career after the great pharaoh of the previous dynasty, Ramesses II. The 20th is considered to be the last dynasty of the New Kingdom of Egypt, and was followed by the Third Intermediate Period.

The era of these rulers is notable for the beginning of the systematic robbing of royal tombs. Many surviving administrative documents from this period are records of investigations and punishment for these crimes, especially in the reigns of Ramesses IX and Ramesses XI.

Unfortunately the bickering between the royal heirs that had been a feature the 19th dynasty continued in the 20th, with the winner being the strongest. This group of heirs was described by Diodorus Siculus as "confirmed sluggards devoted only to indulgence and luxury," without "any deed worthy of historical note". However, at this time Egypt was increasingly beset by a series of droughts, below- normal flood levels of the Nile, famine, civil unrest and official corruption -- all of which would limit the managerial abilities of any king. The power of the last pharaoh, Ramesses XI, grew so weak that in the south the High Priests of Amun at Thebes became the de facto rulers of Upper Egypt, while Smendes controlled Lower Egypt even before Ramesses XI's death. Smendes went on to found the 21st dynasty at Tanis.

'Priceless' Roman find in farmer's field

Source: Manchester Eveing News

Gary Skentelbery

A RARE solid silver Roman bracelet unearthed in a farmer's field has been declared treasure trove.

The snake-shaped ornament could be the only one of its kind in the world, making it priceless, it was revealed at a Stockport coroner's hearing.

Archaeologist James Balme didn't even need his metal detector to make the discovery, gleaming in the soil in the field at Lymm near Warrington.

The ancient jewellery will now be valued by a panel of experts at the British Museum in London.

Warrington Museum has already expressed an interest in displaying the item and James will consider selling it - if the price is right.

He will share the proceeds with farmer Tony Cookson, who owns the land on which James made his important find. James, who says it is impossible to put a value on the find, has previously discovered an unknown Roman fort and numerous prehistoric sites in the area, where he has recovered large quantities of prehistoric flint tools and weapons.

All his finds have been recorded by the portable antiquities scheme, the official body working in conjunction with the British Museum.

His discovery has provided new, exciting information about the wealth and social standing of the Roman citizens who lived and farmed in the area almost 2,000 years ago.

Clues found for early Europeans

Source: BBC News
An archaeological find in Russia has shed light on the migration of modern humans into Europe.

Artefacts uncovered at the Kostenki site, south of Moscow, suggest modern humans were at this spot about 45,000 years ago.

The first moderns may have entered Europe through a different route than was previously thought, the international team reports.

The research is published in the journal Science.

"Until now, it appeared as though the earliest presence of modern humans in Europe was in south central Europe, in places like Bulgaria and Greece," explained John Hoffecker, author on the paper and a research scientist at the University of Colorado at Boulder, US.

"This reflects an entry from the Levant (eastern shores of the Mediterranean) just before 44,000 years ago."

Friday, January 05, 2007

Why covet ancient chariots...

Source: The Times

Richard Owen

ITALY Conservationists are campaigning for the return of a unique Etruscan “golden chariot” which is due to form the centrepiece of a new exhibition this Spring at the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

The chariot, found in 1902 by a farmer at Monteleone near Spoleto in Umbria, and sold to the Met the next year, dates back to the 6th century BC. It is the star attraction in a collection of antiquities to go on show at the $155 million (£80million) Leon Levy and Shelby White Court at the museum.

Villagers in Monteleone (population 651), say that it was exported illegally. The campaign comes as Italy is stepping up its battle to regain a number of allegedly looted antiquities from institutions including the Met and the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

The farmer who found the chariot sold it — for two cows, according to some accounts — to dealers who allegedly smuggled it to New York.

Tito Mazzetta, a lawyer in Atlanta, Georgia, whose family came from Monteleone and who has taken up the case, said the Metropolitan Museum had so far refused to return the chariot, although it “has not produced any documentation to prove its legal provenance”.

Marion True, a former curator of antiquities at the Getty Museum, is currently on trial in Rome for allegedly acquiring stolen artefacts.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Archaeologist finds traces of "humanity's first war" in Syria

Source: Yahoo! News

BERLIN (AFP) - A German archaeologist says he has found relics of "humanity's first war" in the northeast of Syria in the form of clay balls used as ammunition almost 6,000 years ago, Die Zeit weekly said in its edition due for publication on Thursday.

"We have there the oldest example of an offensive war," said Clemens Reichel, who is leading an archaeological dig in the ancient city of Hamoukar, on the border with
Iraq, for the University of Chicago.

Reichel said that the city, whose fortifications were three metres (10 feet) thick, was besieged and reduced to ashes probably by attackers from southern Mesopotamia.

"It was not a little skirmish which took place here," said Reichel, who has been leading the dig since 2003. He spoke of a real "combat zone", to which the some 2,300 balls of clay discovered at the main part of the site bear witness.