Norman Hammond, Archaeology Correspondent
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Hidden Portrait Found Beneath Van Gogh Painting
TU Delft: An unknown portrait of a woman peeks out from underneath Van Gogh's 'Patch of Grass.'
A previously unknown portrait of a woman by Vincent van Gogh has been revealed in a high-tech look beneath another of his paintings, it was announced today.
Scientists used a new technique to peer beneath the paint of van Gogh's "Patch of Grass."
Already it was known there was something there, likely a portrait of some sort. Van Gogh was known to paint over his work, perhaps as much as a third of the time.
Behind the painting, done mostly in greens and blues, is a portrait of a woman rendered in browns and reds.
Iron Age warrior's grave a unique find
THE 2,000-year-old grave of an Iron Age warrior has been discovered in the trenches of a new housing development.
The discovery by archaeologists is thought to indicate a burial site unique in the UK – and so important that the find was kept under wraps until the delicate process of moving the remains to a laboratory had been completed.
This was for fear of illegal treasure-hunters descending on North Bersted, Bognor Regis.
Archaeologists believe the remains, from between 40AD and 60AD, are of a wealthy man in his 30s who was either a highly decorated soldier or a member of an extremely important family, maybe even a prince.
He was buried with a rich array of Roman goods including a Montefortino helmet – only ever previously found on the continent – a shield and highly-decorated lattice sheets.
The helmet and shield suggest he may have been sent to Britain by his family to be educated or fight.
Read the rest here.
Many hands painted Lascaux caves
The painted caves of Lascaux in the Dordogne region of France are one of the most famed monuments of Ice Age art. Dating back about 17,000 years, the great Hall of the Bulls and its adjacent chambers proved so popular with visitors that a generation ago the cave had to be closed to save the paintings from encroaching mould. A replica, Lascaux II, was built nearby and has proved equally popular.
One thing that strikes the visitor is the exuberance of the compositions, with hundreds of animals, including bison, horses and deer, parading along the walls and ceilings, often overlapping. A big problem in sorting out possible groupings of animals, and possible motives for painting them, has been the issue of contemporaneity — what was painted when?
A recent study by scientists at the Louvre’s research and conservation laboratories has suggested one avenue of approach, by studying the chemical structure of pigments from the cave walls and ancient antlers from Palaeolithic sites. The presence of minuscule antler fragments in the paints may enable animal figures composed at the same time, using the same batch of paint, to be isolated and then studied apart from neighbouring depictions.Read the rest on the Times UK.
Grave secrets: A new exhibition reveals the hidden secrets of 26 disinterred skeletons
It's all that's left of us after our flesh has decayed - but even a pile of old bones can still reveal how we lived our lives.
A new exhibition, Skeletons: London's Buried Bones, looks at the secrets etched into 26 disinterred skeletons, from that of a gout-ridden man who clearly loved his pipe, to a bon viveur who died at the ripe old age of 84, to a pregnant young woman.
Here, we tell their extraordinary, and often disturbing, stories.
Found in Cross Bones cemetery in Southwark, an unconsecrated area reserved for paupers and prostitutes, the tiny skeleton of this young woman shows that she had a very tough life.
The hardship of her childhood is written into her skeleton: the disrupted formation of her tooth enamel is indicative of great stress - either famine or disease - during her early years.
She also suffered from two conditions typical of London's poor: syphilis, which together with her burial place may indicate that she was forced into prostitution; and rickets.
Severe enough to have attacked her skull, the syphilis would have been visible as large open sores on her forehead, while the rickets is evident from the curvature of her leg bones.
THE INFANT SMALLPOX VICTIM
Smallpox was so prevalent in the 18th century that diarist Samuel Pepys described it as being 'as common as eating or swearing'.
It accounted for around ten per cent of all deaths, among them that of this nine-month-old baby.
The case had to be severe in order to affect the bones, and for this poor mite it clearly was, as you can see its legacy in the swelling around the elbow joint.
THE BON VIVEUR
This elderly man has an extra, bony growth on his spine that resembles dripping candle wax and has fused together the vertebrae in his lower back.
It is caused by a disease known as DISH, which is often seen in men who have a high protein diet, are obese and possibly suffering from type 2 diabetes.
There's also damage to his hip joints, where the bones have rubbed together, probably caused by heavy load-bearing, adding weight to the theory Wood was on the porky side.
In fact, he was buried in Chelsea Old Church, whose records tell us that as Chelsea parish beadle and butcher, he ought to have been able to feed himself royally.
By the time he died, satisfying his gastronomic urges had become problematic: Wood had lost all his teeth.
The cause of his death in 1842 was recorded as 'decay of nature'.
THE EXPECTANT MOTHER
This mother-to-be died sometime between 1700 and 1850 with what is thought to be her first child still in the womb - the slender size of her hips suggests that she had not given birth before.
She was only 22 weeks into her pregnancy at the time of her death, so she probably succumbed to an infection rather than complications relating to childbirth.The skeleton of her foetus is one of the youngest ever found in British archaeology and has been recovered with each of its minuscule bones intact, though the skull, which does not fuse until a child reaches toddler age, is in pieces.
Read the rest on DailyMail.co.uk.
New light thrown on Roman villa remains
Skeleton of a 4th-century man found at a Roman villa in Lullingstone, Kent. Photograph: Anthony Upton/PA
A rare, complete set of 30 glass counters for a Roman board game has been set out again, more than 50 years since they were excavated and almost 1,700 years since they went into the tomb with their twentysomething owner.
His skeleton, still in its handsome scallop shell decorated lead coffin, is now surrounded again by the refreshment provided for his journey to the next world - flagons, bottles, spoons and bowls, and the 30 counters, probably for the gambling game duodecim scripta, laid on top of his coffin - as well as hundreds of other objects excavated a lifetime ago but now going on show.
The ruins of Lullingstone Roman villa in Kent have been on display since the 1960s. But the leaking structure used to cover it was not safe for the more fragile objects, which remained in store. A £1.8m English Heritage display, opening today, will show off the ruins with an elaborate light show, and for the first time reunite the villa and its contents.
Iron Age warrior's grave a unique find
THE 2,000-year-old grave of an Iron Age warrior has been discovered in the trenches of a new housing development.The discovery by archaeologists is thought to indicate a burial site unique in the UK – and so important that the find was kept under wraps until the delicate process of moving the remains to a laboratory had been completed.
Read the rest here.
Emperor of the first holocaust: How the death of his male lover left Hadrian a tyrantBy William Napier
His name is Rabbi Akiba ben Joseph, one of the greatest scholars of his day. But that means nothing to these ruthless military men who continue to beat and insult him as their senior officer looks on approvingly.
An appalling scene from Nazi Germany, perhaps?
No. The scene took place in the Roman Province of Judea, in AD135. And the senior officer is none other than the Emperor Hadrian himself, witnessing the torture and death of the rabbi with grim satisfaction.
Emperor Hadrian's name has lived on through the ages thanks to his colourful legends, but it is little-known he was responsible for the slaughter of 600,000 Jews
Yet when he had ascended the imperial throne 18 years before, Hadrian was hailed as one of the most enlightened and peace-loving of all emperors. What had gone so terribly wrong?
Rabbi Akiba, the Romans would say, was the spiritual inspiration behind the Jewish Revolt which had raged for the past four years, and left so many hundreds of thousands dead throughout Judea.
Now, Hadrian sat on his fine white Spanish horse and watched the muscled legionaries inflicting a punishment of unimaginable brutality on their captive.
They stretched him out on the ground, ripped his ancient, tattered robe from his emaciated body, and fixed iron hooks into his flesh as the rabbi began to mutter the ancient prayer of his people, the Shema Yisrael.
Then the Romans roped the hooks up to four horses, cracked their whips, and the animals pulled in four different directions. The old man's voice rose to a scream, but still he prayed even as his body was torn apart: 'Hear, O Israel, The Lord is our God, the Lord alone!'
Hadrian finally turned his horse away in disgust and gazed out westwards over the mountains of Judea, this wretched, fanatical little province, towards the sunlit calm of the Mediterranean.
How had it come to this? This scene of utter degradation and death which, he knew, was also the death of all his own hopes and ideals?
A colossal marble head of Hadrian installed at the British Museum by volunteers Danaliese Crawford (l) and Tracy Sweek (r)
This week, a blockbuster exhibition opens at the British Museum that will attempt to answer that very question. Using fascinating archaeological finds - including, as its centrepiece, a halfton marble bust of Hadrian that was discovered in Turkey only last year - it will tell the story of this most contradictory of leaders.
Best known, of course, for the 73-mile wall that he commanded to be built to separate his provinces in what is now England from the marauding picts of the north, Hadrian was a man who was in many ways a Renaissance figure ahead of his time, combining military brilliance with refined artistic sensibilities.
First farmers cultivated an interest in green stone beads
Scientists found that green beads (like the ones shown) emerged in large numbers with agriculture some 11,000 years ago.National Academy of Sciences, PNAS
Fledgling farmers in the
Bead-making began by 110,000 years ago in what’s now
“Because beads in white, red, yellow, brown and black colors had been used earlier, we suggest that the occurrence of green beads is directly related to the onset of agriculture,” Bar-Yosef Mayer says.
Green jewelry mimicked the color of young leaf blades, thus signifying a wish for successful crops and fertility, in her view. Green beads remain popular in agricultural groups today. Based on meanings attributed to these ornaments over the past few centuries, green beads originally served not only as fertility charms but as amulets to ward off the evil eye, the researchers propose online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Digging into the Roman Legion
Archaeologists from Cardiff University today began excavating part of the remains of the 2,000 year old Roman Fortress in Caerleon, Newport.
Led by Dr Peter Guest, of the School of History and Archaeology, the team of 50 archaeologists from Cardiff and University College London will excavate the remains of a monumental courtyard building in the south-western corner of the fortress.
The building's existence was discovered during geophysical surveys undertaken by staff and students from the University and was investigated during trial excavations in 2007.
This year's excavation will open a large trench over the building, which is believed to be a store-building or warehouse. It is hoped that the excavations will reveal a wealth of new information about the storage facilities, provisioning, and supply of a Legion in Britain.
Read the rest here.
Biblical Text-Writing May Have Poisoned Monks
by Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News
90 years on, Russia remembers slain royals MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- It was 90 years ago Thursday that Russia's last royal family was executed -- but t
MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- It was 90 years ago Thursday that Russia's last royal family was executed -- but this year's anniversary comes with scientific proof ending years of speculation that some of the Romanovs managed to survive.
Czar Nicholas II and his son, Crown Prince Alexei, saw wood during their captivity before their execution.
Chemically damaged and burnt remains found outside the city of Yekaterinburg in 2007 are those of Crown Prince Alexei, 13, the last emperor's only son and heir to the throne, and his sister Grand Duchess Maria, about 19, according to the Investigative Committee of the Russian Prosecutor General's Office.
"The remains that were found belong to Alexei and Maria. We can say that with certainty," Vladimir Solovyov, a senior investigator with the committee, told a news conference Wednesday.
Bolsheviks executed the czar's family and a few servants July 17, 1918 in the basement of a home in Yekaterinburg. But the two children's bodies were missing for decades, leading to persistent hopes Camong royal supporters that one or both of them had survived.
Cavemen and their relatives in the same village after 3,000 years
Uwe Lange meets a recreation of one of his Bronze Age ancestors
The good news for two villagers in the Söse valley of Germany yesterday was that they have discovered their great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-
The bad news is that their long-lost ancestors may have grilled and eaten other members of their clan.
Every family has its skeletons in the cave, though, so Manfred Hucht-hausen, 58, a teacher, and 48-year-old surveyor Uwe Lange remained in celebratory mood. Thanks to DNA testing of remarkably well-preserved Bronze Age bones, they can claim to have the longest proven family tree in the world. “I can trace my family back by name to 1550,” Mr Lange said. “Now I can go back 120 generations.”
Mr Lange comes from the village of Nienstedt, in Lower Saxony, in the foothills of the Harz mountain range. “We used to play in these caves as kids. If I’d known that there were 3,000-year-old relatives buried there I wouldn’t have set foot in the place.”
The cave, the Lichtensteinhöhle, is made up of five interlocked natural chambers. It stayed hidden from view until 1980 and was not researched properly until 1993. The archaeologist Stefan Flindt found 40 skeletons along with what appeared to be cult objects. It was a mystery: Bronze Age man was usually buried in a field. Different theories were considered. Perhaps some of the bodies had been offered as human sacrifice, or one generation had been eaten by another.Read the rest on the Times Online.
History's Horrors In The Present: Child bride gets divorced after rape, beatings
Nujood Ali, 10, has been chastised by some in Yemen for speaking out about her arranged marriage.
SANAA, Yemen (CNN) -- Nujood Ali is 10 years old, but she already has been married and divorced. It was an arranged marriage in which she said a husband three times her age routinely beat and raped her.
"When I got married, I was afraid. I didn't want to leave home. I wanted to stay with my brothers and sisters and my mom and dad," she said, speaking to CNN with the permission of her parents.
"I didn't want to sleep with him, but he forced me to. He hit me, insulted me."
As she plays marbles with her brothers and sister, Nujood is a portrait of innocence, with a shy smile and a playful nature.But what happened evokes anger and shame. Asked if what she went through was torture, she nods quietly.
Read the rest on CNN.
Titanic discoverer Robert Ballard called to find lost sarcophagus
It has been a source of enduring fascination for archaeologists and amateur Egyptologists everywhere: what exactly happened to the sarcophagus of Menkaure, one of Egypt's greatest Pharaohs? Now, more than 170 years after it was found and lost, the mystery could be solved.
Built from polished blue basalt to transport the king's earthly remains to the next world, the elaborately decorated vessel lay hidden inside the third-largest of Giza's renowned Pyramids for more than 4,000 years. In 1837 the British colonel Richard William Howard Vyse blasted his way into Menkaure's sepulchral chamber using gunpowder and discovered the stone casket.
The mummy was missing by that time — ancient Arabic graffiti indicated that the colonel was not the first to find the chamber — and he realised that his discovery could open the way for a new generation of grave robbers. “As the sarcophagus would have been destroyed had it remained in the Pyramid,” he noted in his diaries, “I resolved to send it to the British Museum.”
In a twist worthy of an Indiana Jones film, the sarcophagus was lost again the following year before it could reach British shores. The merchant ship Beatrice, which was carrying it and other antiquities found by the archaeologist, sank while sailing from Malta to Gibraltar — reportedly off the coast of Spain, near Alicante.Read the rest on the Timeonline.
Happy Bastille Day!
Israeli Lifeguard Finds 2,500-Year-Old Sea Relic
JERUSALEM — An Israeli lifeguard taking his regular morning swim off the Mediterranean coast in southern Israel discovered a 2,500-year-old marble talisman to ward off the evil eye, the Israel Antiquities Authority said Sunday.
The lifeguard turned over the ancient disc that once adorned the bow of an ancient warship or cargo ship to keep evil away, the Israeli archaeology body said.
Experts say the relic, discovered off the coast Palmahim beach where the ancient Yavne-Yam port city once stood, dates back to the 5th or 4th century B.C. The white disc, flat on one side and convex on the other, measures 8 inches in diameter. The center of the disc is perforated, and the remains of two circles are painted around the center of it to represent the pupil of an eye.
Yaakov Sharvit, director of the Marine Unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said the finding confirms mythological tales about superstitious sailors.
"We know from drawings on pottery vessels ... that this model was very common on the bows of ships and was used to protect them from the evil eye and envy, and was meant as a navigation aid and to act as a pair of eyes which looked ahead and warned of danger," Sharvit told The Associated Press.
Ancient River Camps Are Oldest Proof of Humans in Paris
for National Geographic News
Hunter-gatherers who made temporary camps along the Seine about 9,500 years ago were among the earliest "residents" of what is now Paris, archaeologists say.
A recent dig near the river revealed thousands of arrowhead bits and animal bones from about 7600 B.C. that scientists say are the oldest evidence of human occupation within modern city boundaries.
Previously the oldest such evidence was a 4500 B.C. fishing village near the current Gare de Lyon railway station.
Nomadic tribes camped at the newfound site for periods of days or even weeks while they collected flint to make arrowheads for hunting, the dig team believes.
"It was a strategic choice, next to the river," said Bénédicte Souffi, a lead archaeologist on the dig.
Chris Scarre, a French prehistory expert from Durham University in the U.K., said the hunter-gatherers may also have used the river "for transport and for fishing as well, of course, as a ready supply of fresh water."
Although there is no evidence of ancient river transport at the site, dugout canoes from the same time period have been found in other parts of Europe, said Scarre, who was not involved with the Paris project.Read th rest on National Geographic.
Pond digging leads to rare statue
While re-digging his pond recently, Mongal Member at Sultanpur of Brahmanbaria Sadar upazila found a 10th century statue of Lord Vishnu five metres below the ground.
The night after the discovery, the so-called Magnet Party (smuggling group) of the locality offered Mongal Tk 10 lakh for the statue. He refused the offer. He feared about the safety of the artefact and contacted the local police station to handover custody of the statue.
Meanwhile, local journalist and cultural activists contacted Asiatic Society of Bangladesh (ASB) and urged them to help preserve the statue properly. Editor of Smatat Barta, a local daily of Brahmanbaria, Manjurul Alam said, "We thought it is our responsibility to protect our heritage from the clutches of smugglers."
Chairman of ASB Prof Sirajul Islam along with archaeological experts rushed there to have a look at the statue. The experts claimed the five feet high and 2.6 feet wide statute of Lord Vishnu, weighing 262 kg, is an artefact of 10th century made during the Chandra dynasty's rule of Samatat Kingdom, now the greater Comilla district.
Renowned archaeologist AKM Zakaria went to the spot to look at the artefact just after it was discovered on June 14. He said, "It is a unique piece of art made with superior quality black stone… could be made of high-quality Basalt. It is one of the finest and one of the largest artefacts discovered in the country."
Read the rest here.
'Stylish' Roman life found on dig
All the artefacts will go to the National Museum of Wales
The "stylish" lives of the affluent have been unearthed at one of the "best preserved" Roman towns in Britain by a TV archaeology team.
A bath house, villa and artefacts including a penknife were found at Caerwent, Monmouthshire by Channel 4's Time Team.
What are believed to be shop buildings on a Roman high street were also found during the dig by a team of 50.
Presented by Tony Robinson, the episode will be broadcast early next year.
The three-day excavation at the Roman site, close to the modern day village, involved Wessex Archaeology and volunteers from the local Chepstow Archaeology Society.
Stone of Destiny is fake, claims Alex Salmond
Scottish, English and British monarchs have been crowned on the ancient coronation stone since the ninth century.
It spent 700 years under the chair in Westminster Abbey after it was seized in 1296 by King Edward I, and was finally returned to Scotland 12 years ago.
It has since been viewed at Edinburgh Castle by tens of thousands of people, and is regarded as a symbol of Scottish independence.
A little note from Europe
After retracing the journey of Odysseus with the Archaeological Institute of America and Travel Dynamics, I'm off on a photographic safari through Rome to capture the places Kleopatra Selene would have lived two thousand years ago.
Here are a few photos from my travels! I'll post more - including maps of Odysseus's travels for other Homer lovers - on my website when I return.
"The wine dark seas" off the coast of Greece
Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens
The city of Pompeii. These round stones were added so the inhabitants wouldn't have to step in the muck and dirty water that flowed through the streets.
When the buried city of Pompeii was discovered, so were the unfortunate inhabitants who couldn't escape. Most were slaves who had been told to stay behind to guard the gold and silver inside their masters' villas. After the ash hardened around their bodies, the victims decomposed, but their outlines remained, and when Pompeii was rediscovered, the hollows left in the ash were filled in with plaster, giving life to people who died nearly two thousand years ago. This woman, perhaps a slave or simply someone who couldn't get out fast enough, was pregnant.
A young boy holds a handkerchief to his face.
This dog couldn't escape because he had been left behind and chained.
The view over Malta.
Nestor's Palace, where Odysseus's son Telemachus went for news of his father. I'm squatting in front of the palace hearth, where the king and queen would have greeted their visitors.
The island of Mykonos
The blue and white is dazzling
Doors painted in the tradition of ancient portraiture
A local tavernae
The Acropolis, Athens
The Emperor Augustus, who defeated Marc Antony and Kleopatra VII. After Kleopatra's enforced suicide, he took three of her children to Rome.
Empress Livia's bust in Greece's National Museum. She played a defining role in Selene's life while Selene was in Rome.
The National Museum's collection of gold artifacts from the "Treasury of Mycenae"
Ancient royal burial ground found in Egypt
CAIRO (AFP) - Archaeologists have uncovered ancient wooden coffins in what appears to be a royal burial ground near the necropolis of Abydos in southern Egypt, the state-run MENA news agency reported on Saturday.
The agency said that the discovery, made by a team from the Supreme Council of Egyptian Antiquities, could be dated back to the Old Kingdom (3,000 B.C.) -- the golden age of pyramid building in ancient times.
The team "has found what could be a royal complex of 13 tombs of different shapes and sizes that could have belonged to high officials from that period or people who contributed to building these tombs," MENA said.
Acoustics Expert: Cavemen Must Have Loved to Sing
By Heather Whipps, LiveScience
Iegor Reznikoff, University of Paris X (Nanterre)
A painted bison in the Salon Noir, which sounds like a Romanesque chapel, in a cave near Niaux, in the Ariège department of southwestern France.
Ancient hunters painted the sections of their cave dwellings where singing, humming and music sounded best, a new study suggests.
Analyzing the famous, ochre-splashed cave walls of southwestern France, the most densely painted areas were also those with the best acoustics, the scientists found.
Humming into some bends in the wall even produced sounds mimicking the animals painted there.