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Welcome to History Buff, a blog for history lovers everywhere! History Buff brings news stories about archaeology from around the world together on one site. From finds in ancient Egypt to new discoveries in anthropology, History Buff wants to know.

Michelle Moran
Historical fiction author


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Researchers: Asteroid Destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah

BNy Lewis Smith

A clay tablet that has baffled scientists for 150 years has been identified as a witness's account of the asteroid suspected of being behind the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Researchers who cracked the cuneiform symbols on the Planisphere tablet believe that it recorded an asteroid thought to have been more than half a mile across.

The tablet, found by Henry Layard in the remains of the library in the royal place at Nineveh in the mid-19th century, is thought to be a 700 B.C. copy of notes made by a Sumerian astronomer watching the night sky.

He referred to the asteroid as a "white stone bowl approaching" and recorded it as it "vigorously swept along."

Using computers to recreate the night sky thousands of years ago, scientists have pinpointed his sighting to shortly before dawn on June 29 in the year 3123 B.C.

About half the symbols on the tablet have survived and half of those refer to the asteroid. The other symbols record the positions of clouds and constellations. In the past 150 years scientists have made five unsuccessful attempts to translate the tablet.

Read the rest here.

Early Weapon Evidence Reveals Bloody Past

Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News

Weapons Like These
Weapons Like These

New research concerning some of the world's earliest weapons suggests that while some Stone Age Africans benefited from spurts of high-tech brilliance, Neanderthals and modern humans in Europe battled big beasts in face-to-face combat that must have been bloody and brutal.

The recent discoveries shed light on Paleolithic life in ancient Europe and push back the invention of the bow and arrow in Africa by at least 20,000 years. They paint a picture nearly as vivid as a scene from The Lord of the Rings, with modern humans, Neanderthals and archaic humans all struggling for survival with their various favored weapons in hand.

Early weapon usage may even go back to our primate ancestors.

Read the rest on Discovery.

Shakespeare's church found in Shoreditch


Picasso self-portrait found stacked against a bedroom wall with a Stubbs and a Munnings


As artworks by Picasso go, it might be considered a steal.

The chance to own one of the great painter's works has come up - with a guide price of just £100,000.

The seven and a half inch by four and three quarter inch watercolour shows the artist naked in bed with one of his many girlfriends.

Etreinte: The watercolour depicts Picasso and his lover in bed

It is being sold by an anonymous private collector, to the delight of the auctioneer who was called to value the painting along with works by two other well known artists.

It is considered rare in the art world for works by artists of such repute to be sold by regional auction house instead of the famous companies of London and New York.

But Duke's auction house in Dorchester, Dorset, is to sell the small watercolour by Picasso entitled "Etreinte" as well as equine paintings by the British artists George Stubbs and Sir Alfred Munnings.

The sexually-charged Picasso piece depicts the artist and his lover in bed and was probably painted in 1901 or 1902 when the artist was in his early 20s.

Read the rest on the DailyMail.


Teenage Dinosaurs Might Have Butted Heads

Dome-headed dinosaurs might have passed through a combative teenage stage in which they butted heads in violent clashes.

New research reveals the skulls of a group of these young dinosaurs would have compressed and rebounded after a head ram, preventing a brain bashing.

The study, to be announced Friday and detailed in the journal Palaeontologia Electronica, sheds light on a debate over head-butting in so-called pachycephalosaurs, or thick-headed reptiles.

This group of relatively small dinosaurs lived from about 80 million to 65 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous Period mainly in Asia and North America, where they likely grazed on ferns and some flowering plants.

Their claim to fame would have to be the dinosaurs' thick bony caps. The ornate head gear ranged from Prenocephale's sloping skull, which resembled a sleek bike helmet, to the lengthy horns that topped the skull of Stygimoloch or the more delicate cap worn by Stegoceras, outlined with a fringe of bony knobs.

Read the rest on FoxNews.


Neanderthals wore make-up and liked to chat news by Dan Jones

Could Neanderthals speak? The answer may depend on whether they used make-up.

Francesco d'Errico, an archaeologist from the University of Bordeaux, France, has found crafted lumps of pigment – essentially crayons – left behind by Neanderthals across Europe.

He says that Neanderthals, who most likely had pale skin, used these dark pigments to mark their own as well as animal skins. And, since body art is a form of communication, this implies that the Neanderthals could speak, d'Errico says.

Working with Marie Soressi of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, d'Errico has recovered hundreds of blocks of black manganese pigment from two neighbouring sites at Pech de l'Azé in France, which were occupied by Neanderthals. These add to evidence of pigment among Neanderthal from some 39 other sites.

The pigments were not just smeared onto the body like camouflage, d'Errico says, but fashioned into drawing tools.

Read the rest on NewScientist.

The Titanic historical treasure trove discovered in a shoe box after death of last living survivor

The moving story of one of the last survivors of the Titanic can be revealed for the first time after touching letters and documents were discovered after her death.

For 94 years Lillian Asplund refused to speak about the tragedy that claimed the lives of her father and three brothers.

Instead, the spinster kept the final moments of her family locked in her memory and the poignant possessions of her father Carl hidden in a shoebox in her bureau.

It was only after her death aged 99 the box was found along with the collection of Titanic-related items that, pieced together, tell the tragic story of the family's demise.

Among them were notes Mr Asplund had copied from a flyer promoting the benefits of living in California, an American dream that enticed the family to set sail for a new life.

An incredibly rare and water-stained ticket for the luxury liner was also found. Only a handful of Titanic tickets are in existance as most of them sunk with the ship.

Lillian Asplund

Poignant reminders: Lillian Asplund refused to speak about the Titanic tragedy for 94 years

The paper documents recovered from his body miraculously survived for 12 days after the disaster because Mr Asplund's lifejacket kept his coat's breast pocket out of the water.

His pocket watch which stopped at 19 minutes past two - the exact time the liner sank - was also found on him. And a heart-rending note written by his grief-stricken mother in which she wrote of how she hoped to see her son again in heaven formed part of the collection.

Read the rest on the DailyMail.

Early Egyptians Revered Lowly Donkeys

When archaeologists excavated brick tombs outside a ceremonial site for an early king of Egypt, they expected to find the remains of high officials who had been sacrificed to accompany the king in his posthumous travels.

PNAS/National Academy of Sciences: Abydos donkeys discovered within brick tombs in Eqypt.

Instead, they found donkeys.

No other animals have ever been found at such sites. Even at the tombs of the kings themselves, the only animals buried alongside were ones full of symbolism like lions.

But at this funerary complex, overlooking the ancient town of Abydos on the Nile about 300 miles south of Cairo, the archaeologists discovered the skeletons of 10 donkeys that had been buried as if they were high-ranking human officials.

“They were very surprised to find no humans and no funerary goods, and instead to find 10 donkeys,” said Fiona Marshall, a professor of archaeology at Washington University in St. Louis.

“It was just a spectacular discovery,” said Dr. Marshall, one of the few researchers in the world dedicated to understanding the history of donkeys. “It’s not exactly what an Egyptologist would expect to find.”

Read the rest on the NYT.

Remains of rare Roman roundhouse found during sewer works

By Chris Gee

One of the most important archaeological finds for decades has been uncovered during a sewer improvement project in Poulton.

The remains of a Roman roundhouse, thought to date back to the second century, have been discovered on grazing land close to the town.

The find was made by workers from United Utilities who were involved in preliminary excavations at the start of a £10 million sewer improvement scheme for the area.

As is common when a major excavation starts, an archaeologist was present in case any important finds were made. Within a couple of hours of work beginning on the land off Garstang Road East, Poulton, it was obvious a significant discovery had been made.

"As the topsoil was stripped away, we realised we were looking at something very exciting and rare," said Alison Plummer, from the Lancaster office of Oxford Archaeology, archaeological consultants for United Utilities.

Read the rest here.


Meet The Ancestors' Teeth

New Genomics Software Infers Ancestry With High Accuracy

ScienceDaily — Some people may know where their ancestors lived 10 or 20 generations ago, but the rest of us can learn our distant biological heritage only from our DNA. New genomics analysis software developed by computer scientists at Stanford appears far more adept than prior methods at unraveling the ancestry of individuals. A new paper describes the HAPAA system, which takes its name from "hapa," the Hawaiian word for someone of mixed ancestry.

Going back 20 generations the software can identify what continent or broad global region an individual's ancestors were from. But going back about 10 generations the software can be much more precise, making distinctions as fine-grained as the traditional gene pools of nearby population groups—hypothetically differentiating Greek from Italian, or Russian from German.

Specifically what the software does is compare an individual to all those in the International HapMap database to see what distinct spans of genetic snippets, called haploblocks, they share in common.

"With very high accuracy, even for 20 generations, we can trace the populations of those individuals who are indeed represented in your genome," says Stanford computer science Assistant Professor Serafim Batzoglou, who led a team of graduate students to create HAPAA. They include co-lead authors Andreas Sundquist and Eugene Fratkin, as well as Chuong B. Do.

Batzoglou points out that because the HapMap database, a genetic record of 270 individuals of Western European, West African and East Asian ancestry, is very small, HAPAA now can only generate an ethnic profile in terms of these populations.

Fratkin himself was able to verify that he is of European ancestry, but not that he is 1/64th Polish. But more genomics data will become available, the researchers said, which will further expand the software's ability to help people discern their roots.

Read the rest here.

Primitive Mouse-Like Creature May Be Ancestral Mother Of Australia's Unusual Pouched Mammals

The Monito del Monte (Dromiciops gliroides) (Credit: Image courtesy of University of New South Wales)

ScienceDaily — They are separated by a vast ocean and by millions of years, but tiny prehistoric bones found on an Australian farm have been directly linked to a strange and secretive little animal that lives today in the southern rainforests of South America.

The fossilised ankle and ear bones are those of Australia's earliest known marsupial, Djarthia, a primitive mouse-like creature that lived 55 million years ago. It is a kind of Australian Eve, possibly the mother of all the continent's unusual pouched mammals, such as kangaroos, koalas, possums and wombats.

But a new study has confirmed that Djarthia is also a primitive relative of the small marsupial known as the Monito del Monte -- or "little mountain monkey" -- from the dense humid forests of Chile and Argentina.

Although scientists now generally agree that marsupials found their way to Australia from South America, the new finding suggests that the Monito del Monte may subsequently have made the return journey and is indeed a living fossil, the last of a lineage that can be traced back to Djarthia.

Read the rest here.

Jewish mosaics, ancient insights

By Cate McQuaid Globe Correspondent

In 1883, a French army captain stationed in Tunisia, Ernest de Prudhomme, went outside to dig in his garden and happened upon a trove of mosaics. It was quite a find: The mosaics dated to the sixth century, the period known as Late Antiquity. They included images of two menorahs, and a Latin inscription between them read "Your servant, the girl Juliana, paved the holy synagogue of Naro for her own salvation out of her own resources."

They came from the floor of an ancient temple.

Rome ruled North Africa in the sixth century, and Roman law forbade Jews from building synagogues or repairing them. But scholars say the law was not strictly enforced; indeed, many synagogues thrived.

Twenty-one of Prudhomme's mosaics from the ancient city of Naro (now Hammam Lif, Tunisia) lie at the heart of "Tree of Paradise: Jewish Mosaics From the Roman Empire," an intriguing exhibit at the McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College. The show was organized by the Brooklyn Museum, which acquired many of the mosaics in 1905.

Read the rest on the Boston Globe.


Easter Island statue 'vandalized'

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) -- A Finnish tourist was detained after allegedly stealing a piece of volcanic rock from one of the massive Moai statues on Easter Island.

Chilean Investigative Police released this photo showing the damage to the right earlobe.

Marko Kulju, 26, faces seven years in prison and a fine of $19,100 if convicted of stealing pieces of the right earlobe from a Moai, one of numerous statues carved out of volcanic rock between 400 and 1,000 years ago to represent deceased ancestors.

Read the rest on CNN.

Statue of Pharaonic queen discovered in south Egypt

LUXOR, Egypt (AFP) - Egyptian and European archeologists on Saturday announced they had discovered a giant statue of an ancient pharaonic queen on the spectacular south Egypt site of the Colossi of Memnon.

The statue represents Queen Tiy, the wife of 18th dynasty Pharaoh Amenhotep III, and stands 3.62 metres high (almost 12 feet).

It was discovered around the site of the massive Colossi of Memnon twin statues that command the road to Luxor's famed Valley of the Kings.

Two sphinx representing Tiy and Amenhotep III as well as 10 statues in black granite of the lion-headed goddess Sekhmet, who protected the pharaohs, we also found by the archeologists and presented to reporters and senior officials.

Read the rest on Yahoo.

Anglo-Saxons honoured their dead with household objects

MUNDANE household objects were used by our distant ancestors to honour their dead according to an expert from Chester University.

Combs, tweezers and razors were among the distinctive artefacts used by the Anglo-Saxons.

According to new research conducted by an international expert at the University of Chester, the popular perception that the early Anglo-Saxons would mark death with grandiose gestures is untrue.

Senior Lecturer in Archaeology Dr Howard Williams has conducted research suggesting that it was more modest items which were particularly important to those in the fifth and sixth centuries. Dr Williams, who has an international reputation as an expert in mortuary archaeology, presented his findings at the British Museum to representatives of the museum, University College London, and other professional archaeologists.

He said: “The latest discoveries from cemeteries show that portable and quite modest artefacts, such as carefully wrought combs made of deer antler, and small tweezers, shears and razors made of iron or bronze, were of clear importance in the commemoration of the dead.

“Some of the objects were miniatures especially made for the funeral, and many were deliberately broken, with only a portion interred in the cinerary urns, with the rest perhaps kept as mementoes for the living.

“Combs, tweezers, shears and razors were objects intimately connected with the presentation of the body in life, and so placing them with the dead was a way for pagan Anglo-Saxons to create continued bonds with their ancestors following the spectacle of open-air cremation.”

Read the rest here.


How Hitler Would Have Rebuilt Berlin

The dome of the 'Great Hall' is pictured at the exhibition 'Myth Germania' in Berlin March 11, 2008. The exhibition
The dome of the Great Hall is pictured at the exhibition Myth Germania in Berlin. The exhibition shows pictures, plans and architectural models of the Great Hall and the North-South Axis designed by Hitler's architect Albert Speer during the Nazi regime.
Johannes Eisele / Reuters

It's one of those spine-chilling what-ifs. What if Hitler and his helpers had been successful in their aggressive striving for world power? A new exhibition in Berlin attempts to answer this question in part by looking at the devastating architectural consequences Hitler's success would have had for the German capital.

In close collaboration with his confidant and architect of choice, Albert Speer, Hitler sought to cast his megalomania in concrete by radically re-shaping the city's center. His dystopian World Capital Germania, in the Fuehrer`s own words, would "only be comparable with ancient Egypt, Babylon or Rome. What is London, what is Paris by comparison!"

The plans included the construction of two main boulevards, 120 meters (131 yards) wide and running cross-shaped through the city, lined with a number of gigantic buildings, halls, squares and triumphal arcs.

"If the plans had been realized", says spokesman Sascha Keil, "Berlin's historical center would have forever been destroyed."

Read the rest on Time.

Historic First

Aged 3

Published for the first time, they show in astonishing detail how the skill and dedication of a team of pioneering surgeons transformed the horribly disfigured features of tumour-ravaged Pascal Coler.

And Pascal tells his moving story to the News of the World through normal lips he once thought he would never have...

He talks about his escape from a nightmare of deformity—and his hope of finding LOVE for the first time at the age of 30.

Pascal says: "The operation has revolutionised my life. I can live as a normal human being for the first time. People in the street look at me very differently. They no longer stop and stare or shout cruel words.

"Instead I am accepted. I even dream of myself in my new face—and now I would love to find a wife, settle down and have children."

He spent 24 YEARS horrifically disfigured by Von Recklinghausen's disease, a rare genetic disorder suffered over 100 years ago by Elephant Man Joseph Merrick—famously played by John Hurt in the hit movie.

Pascal was left unrecognisable by hideous bulbous tumours that engulfed his eyes, nose, and mouth with boil-encrusted, ulcerated skin.

And it took 16 DRAMATIC HOURS in an operating theatre to give him back a life he had not known since childhood—with the help of another human being's face and the skill of leading French surgeon Laurent Lantieri.

Read the rest on News of the World.

Jerablus and the land of Carchemish

 Biblical sites were highly sought after by some of our earliest and greatest archaeologists. One such site, Carchemish, was the famed city of the Hittite Empire. It attracted the attention of T.E. Lawrence and Woolley, pioneers of British Near Eastern Archaeology, who excavated there just before the First World War. Then came the crashing calamity of the Great War, and after it came new political borders...

Carchemish then found itself on the border between Syria and Turkey, which rendered the site inaccessible for further investigation. The region soon fell into neglect for some 70 years. All changed in the late 1980s when the construction of dams along the Euphrates River brought archaeologists back in major local and international rescue projects. But what have the archaeologists found? Edgar Peltenburg and T.J. Wilkinson were among the archaeologists to return. Here they tell of mega-floods linked to climate change, of champagne cup graves and of the changing fortunes of the land of Carchemish.

When we arrived in the land of Carchemish we arrived with a sense of great urgency. Dams were being built and the land was to be flooded. We needed to rescue excavate and we needed to survey. This is a key area of the Ancient Near East since Carchemish was the Hittite Empire’s capital of its Syrian provinces, and thereafter the centre of a paramount kingdom with lively relief sculptures and inscriptions lining processional ways from the Euphrates to the Inner City and Acropolis.

We were coming in the footsteps of T.E. Lawrence and Woolley. While Lawrence is best known for being Lawrence of Arabia, Sir Leonard Woolley (1880-1960) is considered to be one of the first 'modern' archaeologists. Thus, while at Carchemish he determined to set the city in a wider context and began exploring throughout the area, albeit in an unsystematic way.

Read the rest here.

Third Roman Fort discovered in Cornwall

View from the rampartUniversity of Exeter archaeologists have discovered a first century AD Roman fort in south east Cornwall that is only the third Roman fort ever to have been found in the county. The first, excavated in 1969, is at Nanstallon, near Bodminand the second, only discovered in 2006, is near Restormel Castle, Lostwithiel.

The latest find is next to St Andrew’s Church, at Calstock. ‘All three sites are close to mineral deposits in areas associated with tin mining’, says Dr Stephen Rippon of Exeter’s School of Geography, Archaeology and Earth Resources, ‘and this may be the significant factor in shedding light on the history of the Romans in Cornwall.’

Read the rest on

Sailor to recreate Phoenicians' epic African voyage

By Emily Dugan
Saturday, 22 March 2008

On the ancient Syrian island of Arwad, which was settled by the Phoenicians in about 2000BC, men are hard at work hammering wooden pegs into the hull of a ship.

But this vessel will not be taking fishermen on their daily trip up and down the coast. It is destined for a greater adventure – one that could solve a mystery which has baffled archaeologists for centuries.

The adventure begins not in Arwad but in Dorset, where an Englishman has taken it upon himself to try to prove that the Phoenicians circumnavigated Africa thousands of years before any Europeans did.

Philip Beale, 47, has commissioned the building of a replica Phoenician ship that he plans to sail around the continent with a crew of 20. Their 10-month expedition sets off in August and will follow the route that seafaring Phoenician merchants are said to have taken more than 2,500 years ago.

Apart from navigation and communications equipment, Mr Beale's crew will have none of the comforts of a 21st-century vessel – their ship has no toilet or running water, no spare sails and no emergency motor. If they run into difficulty, they will have to rely on old-fashioned brawn – and row.

Read the rest on the Independent.


Painting the ceiling this weekend? Spare a thought for the man who created the Sistine Chapel


As he hears the footsteps on the cold marble floor of the Sistine Chapel, 70ft below the scaffolding on which he was perched, Michelangelo hid himself in the shadows and prepared his attack.

Nobody, but nobody, was to see his ceiling until he had finished it, but he suspected that his assistants had been bribed to let someone in.

What he didn't realise was that the interloper was Pope Julius II, the very man who had commissioned the painting.

As the prying pontiff raised his eyes upwards, hoping for an illicit preview of Michelangelo's sumptuous religious imagery, he was greeted instead by the sight of heavy planks tumbling from the scaffolding and crashing down on the floor all around him.

The Pope narrowly escaped being hit and was driven out of the chapel by Michelangelo's fury, but he could hardly blame the artist for the attack since he had been guilty of many violent outbursts himself during the four fractious years it took to paint the ceiling.

Towering achievement: The Sistine Chapel - from the creation to Noah in 175 individual paintings covering 12,000 square feet

This year marks the 500th anniversary of Michelangelo's first brush-strokes on this most turbulent of projects, remarkable not just for its great beauty and technical accomplishments but for the fact it was finished at all. One of the world's most popular tourist attractions, the chapel draws millions of visitors to the Vatican every year, but few who stare up in awe at its ceiling are aware of the unholy conflict between painter and patron which lay behind its creation.

This enmity was perhaps inevitable, given the personalities of the two men involved.

Julius II, or the "Warrior Pope" as he was known, was a demanding and imperious man, given to wearing a suit of silver armour as he marched his armies up and down the Italian peninsula.

As for Michelangelo Buonarroti, he was a genius whose fiercely independent and often perverse personality had been shaped by a traumatic childhood. Like many children from families of education and social pretension, Michelangelo had been handed to a wet nurse soon after he was born in 1475.

He did not return to the family home in Florence until he was two, and when he was six his mother died.

Having lost his surrogate and natural mother in quick succession, he soon encountered difficulties in his relationship with his father, Lodovico.

Once prosperous money-lenders, the Buonarroti family had fallen on hard times, yet Lodovico was a snob who still looked down on people who worked with their hands, including artists, who were then regarded as little more than glorified craftsmen.

When his son's obvious talents for drawing and sculpture led him to seek out the company of such people, Lodovico feared he would bring disgrace to the family. He and Michelangelo's four brothers frequently beat the boy because of his interest in art.

Fortunately, his father's snobbery also worked in the young Michelangelo's favour. At 15, the boy's talents as a sculptor were spotted by Lorenzo de' Medici, head of Florence's leading family, who invited Michelangelo to live with him and his family and study at a new art academy he had founded in the grounds of his estate.

Summoned by Lorenzo to discuss the matter, Lodovico could hardly resist an invitation to meet his social superior. He accepted a job in the city's customs office in return for giving up his son.

Read the rest on the DailyMail.


Gold cup find led to graves discovery

by Nick Evans

AN important archaeological find by Broadstairs man Cliff Bradshaw prompted further excavations which uncovered centuries- old Anglo-Saxon graves.

These later finds, thought to be the graves of women from the fifth and sixth centuries, were the subject of an inquest held last week by coroner Rebecca Cobb to decide if the finds should be declared treasure.

She heard the excavations followed the discovery in 2001 by Cliff Bradshaw of what has since become known as the Ringlemere Cup, which was later declared a national treasure and is on show in the British Museum, London.

The Ringlemere Cup is thought to be one of only a handful found in Europe. Dating from 1700-1500BC and made of beaten gold, it emphasised the intricate craftsmanship of the early Bronze Age.

Read the rest here.

New tomb for 'Altai Princess' to be built in Siberia

NOVOSIBIRSK, March 20 (RIA Novosti) - A tomb to house the remains of a woman found after being preserved in ice for 2,500 years will be built in Siberia's Altai Republic, the director of a local museum said on Thursday.

The well-preserved remains of the woman dubbed the Altai Princess were discovered in the region by a team led by a Novosibirsk archeologist in 1993 near the Mongolian border, and have been studied at the Archaeology and Ethnography Institute in Novosibirsk.

Residents of Altai, where shamanism is still widespread, had repeatedly called for the body's return to its homeland, and blamed the removal for earth tremors and other natural disasters.

However, Novosibirsk scientists had been reluctant to return the body, saying local museums did not have the necessary facilities to preserve it.

The tattoo on the Ice Princess' thumb.
The tattoo on the Ice Princess' thumb.

"A decision has been taken to build a sloping building for the mummy, resembling a burial mound. This will be an extension to the main building of the national museum" in Gorno-Altaysk, the museum director said.

The body will now be housed in a state-of-the-art glass temperature-controlled case. Construction work should be finished by the end of this year.

Russian state natural gas giant Gazprom has contributed about $11 million to the reconstruction of the museum, and the building of the tomb and sarcophagus, the head of the republic, Alexander Berdnikov, said earlier.

Scientists have no information on the actual history of the Altai Princess, but DNA tests and facial reconstruction have suggested she was ethnically European.

Cave sculptures go on display for first time in 15,000 years

By John Lichfield in Paris

Prehistoric cave sculptures never seen by the public will be revealed today thanks to the most advanced, computerised techniques of laser-copying and visual display.

A museum to open near Poitiers, in western France, will span one-a-half millenniums of human image-making, from stone chisels to computers. The star of the show, at Angles-sur-L'Anglin, in the départementof Vienne, will be a 60ft-long frieze of bison, horses, cats, goats and erotic female figures, carved into the limestone of western France 15,000 years ago.

The caverns containing the frieze were discovered by French and British archaeologists in 1950 but have never been opened to the public. The Roc-aux-Sorciers (witches' rock) caves are the only site of their kind in Europe: a two-dimensional, carved equivalent of the celebrated cave paintings at Lascaux in Dordogne, 120 miles farther south, which were created 1,000 years earlier.

Read the rest on the Independent.


Workers Uncovering Mummified Dinosaur

Blake Nicholson in Bismarck, North Dakota
Associated Press

Using tiny brushes and chisels, workers picking at a big greenish-black rock in the basement of North Dakota's state museum are meticulously uncovering something amazing: a nearly complete dinosaur, skin and all.

Dino Fossil Photo

Unlike almost every other dinosaur fossil ever found, the Edmontosaurus named Dakota—a duckbilled dinosaur found in southwestern North Dakota in 1999 and announced to the public last December —is covered by fossilized skin that is hard as iron.

It's among just a few mummified dinosaurs in the world, say the researchers who are slowly freeing it from a 65-million-year-old rock tomb.

"This is the closest many people will ever get to seeing what large parts of a dinosaur actually looked like, in the flesh," said Phillip Manning, a paleontologist at Manchester University in England, a member of the international team researching Dakota and a National Geographic Expeditions Council grantee.

"This is not the usual disjointed sentence or fragment of a word that the fossil records offer up as evidence of past life," Manning said. "This is a full chapter."

Read the rest on National Geographic.

Robbing the cradle of civilization, five years later

Among the many unintended and unforeseen consequences of the U.S. occupation of Iraq that began five years ago this week was the wholesale looting of Iraq's museums and archaeological sites. Iraq has been called the cradle of civilization. Starting with the Sumerian civilization, which more than 5,000 years ago produced what may be the world's first examples of writing and math, the area centered on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and known as Mesopotamia has been home to a succession of cultures -- Akkadian, Babylonian and Assyrian. Many believe southern Iraq was the site of the biblical Garden of Eden. But within weeks of the first American airstrike, the cradle of civilization had been robbed. Baghdad's National Museum of Iraq, among the globe's premier repositories of antiquities, was ransacked over the course of a week in April 2003. Statues were dragged down the steps, artifacts six millennia old were carried off in plastic bags. American soldiers were not dispatched to protect the museum until the thieves were long gone.

It was partly in response to media queries about the unimpeded looting of Iraq's cultural heritage that former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld uttered the infamous and cavalier rejoinder, "Democracy is messy." Five years after the sacking of Iraq, we decided to ask the experts how bad it really was, how many priceless antiquities have come back to their homeland, and what, if anything, has changed about the Bush administration's approach to protecting Iraq's history.

Read the rest on

2,500-year-old sword excavated from tomb

Nanchang -- Chinese archaeologists have discovered an elaborately-made sword, which they believe is 2,500 to 2,600 years old, in an ancient tomb in the eastern province of Jiangxi.

A 2500-year-old sword is displayed. This sword was unearthed in an ancient tomb in East China's Jiangxi Prvovince. []

"It is reckoned as the oldest ever excavated in the country," said Xu Changqing, chief of the excavation team.

The well-preserved sword, some 50 centimeters long, is black, gold and bright red. "A dragon pattern was carved on both ends of the scabbard, and the middle part of the scabbard was decorated with two rows of a W-shaped design," said Xu.

Read the rest here.


Ancient Roman gate discovered

By Wendy Brading
Don Shimmin with the exposed Roman remains
Don Shimmin with the exposed Roman remains

PART of Colchester's ancient Roman wall has been uncovered.

Parts of the South Gate were discovered while gas mains were being laid by Morrisons in Queen Street, Colchester.

Philip Crummy, director and chief archaeologist of the Colchester Archaeological Trust, said the remains found showed the original Roman gate had been remodelled in medieval times.

Mr Crummy said: "We have been monitoring the gas works and came across the South Gate in the town.

"We know that was pulled down in 1818, so this is the first time anyone has seen it since then.

Read the rest here.

Ancient Greek Outpost Discovered, Spectacularly Preserved

By Clara Moskowitz, LiveScience Staff Writer

Long before Homer wrote the Iliad, the real-life progenitors of the epic poem's characters might have visited a small outpost on the Greek coast.

Archaeologists have discovered a spectacularly preserved ancient harbor town of the Mycenaeans, the civilization on which many ancient Greek legends were based. Though the settlement was built 3,500 years ago, hundreds of walls are still standing.

The site, which is partially underwater, lies along a rocky, isolated stretch of shoreline. Scientists suspect it may have been built as a military outpost.

Read the rest here.


Mummified dinosaur unearthed in North Dakota

BISMARCK, North Dakota (AP) -- Using tiny brushes and chisels, workers picking at a big greenish-black rock in the basement of North Dakota's state museum are meticulously uncovering something amazing: a nearly complete dinosaur, skin and all.


Workers slowly uncover a 65-million-year-old dinosaur mummy from it's sandstone tomb.

Unlike almost every other dinosaur fossil ever found, the Edmontosaurus named Dakota, a duckbilled dinosaur unearthed in southwestern North Dakota in 2004, is covered by fossilized skin that is hard as iron. It's among just a few mummified dinosaurs in the world, say the researchers who are slowly freeing it from a 65-million-year-old rock tomb.

"This is the closest many people will ever get to seeing what large parts of a dinosaur actually looked like, in the flesh," said Phillip Manning, a paleontologist at Manchester University in England, a member of the international team researching Dakota.

Rerad the rest on CNN.

The Neanderthal-Human Split: (Very) Ancient History

Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News
Distant Relative
Distant Relative

Neanderthals and humans once shared a common ancestor, but we split from the stocky, hairy hominid group as long as 400,000 to 350,000 years ago, concludes a new study.

That estimate matches prior DNA studies, putting a date to the time when human beings first emerged on the planet. But would these first humans have been anatomically just like us? Probably not, suggests lead author Timothy Weaver, an anthropologist at the University of California at Davis.

"Early fossils along this lineage are quite different from later ones," he told Discovery News.

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Florida Woman Sues to Collect on 147-Year-Old Promissory Note - With Interest

Tampa issued a promissory note for $299.58 to pioneer storekeeper Thomas Pugh Kennedy on June 21, 1861. And his great granddaughter Joan Kennedy Biddle, 77, who has known about the note since she was a little girl, wants to collect with interest.
The great-granddaughter of a Civil War-era storekeeper in Tampa, Fla. is suing the city for a 147-year-old unpaid promissory note. With interest, the note is now worth over $22 million.

The financially-strapped city of Tampa, in need of ammunition during the Civil War, issued the note to Thomas Pugh Kennedy on June 21, 1861, the St. Petersburg Times reported Sunday. Kennedy's great-granddaughter, Joan Kennedy Biddle and her family are suing to collect the payment, plus 8 percent annual interest.

"This thing has been in the family since the date on the note, and it has never been repaid," Biddle, 77, told the Times. "My daddy told me, and I certainly believe him."

Tampa City Attorney David Smith told the Times that he doesn't consider the claim valid.

In legal documents, Biddle's attorney argues that the statute of limitations doesn't apply, for at the time the note was issued, the state had no such statute on such documents.

Read the rest here.

Egyptian mummy exhibit is son of Ramesses II

By Lucy Cockcroft

An Egyptian mummy kept on display in a provincial museum for nearly 80 years has been identified as a son of the powerful pharaoh Ramesses II.

The 3,000-year-old relic was thought to have been a female temple dancer, but a hospital CT scan showed features so reminiscent of the Egyptian royal family that experts are 90 per cent sure it is one of the 110 children Ramesses is thought to have fathered.

The Bolton Museum mummy: Egyptian mummy exhibit is son of Ramesses II
The Bolton Museum mummy was thought for many years
to have been the remains of a female temple dancer

Tests showed that the mummy had a pronounced over-bite and misaligned eyes, akin to members of the 19th Dynasty, and his facial measurements were found to be almost identical to those of Ramesses himself.

Experts believe that the mummified man died in his thirties between 1295 and 1186 BC of a wasting disease, likely to be cancer.

Chemical analysis also showed that the body had been embalmed using expensive materials, including pistachio resin and thyme, the preserve of priests and royalty. The story of the royal mummy was uncovered by a team from York University who were filmed carrying out the tests for History Channel series Mummy Forensics.

Read the rest on the Telegraph.

Bronze Age burial 'with beer mug'

Bronze Age skeleton
The skeleton was "crouched" which was typical of the time

A 4,000-year-old Bronze Age skeleton has been unearthed by archaeologists working on a site in east Kent.

Canterbury Archaeological Trust said the curled-up skeleton was an example of a "Beaker" burial because of the pottery vessel placed at its feet.

Education officer Marion Green said the "beautifully decorated" pot could have been "a type of beer mug".

She said tests on beakers from other sites suggested Bronze Age man was brewing a type of beer from grain.

The body was in a "crouched" position typical of the period, with knees drawn up to the chest, she added.

Possibly ceremonial objects were found buried with the individual, who could have been a high-status male, she said.

Read the rest on the BBC.


Inside the amazing cave city that housed 25,000 Allied troops under German noses in WWI


The wax is still melted on to the chalk pillar which served as an Easter Sunday altar for the men of the Suffolk Regiment more than 90 years ago.

Old helmets are scattered around the floor. A heap of cans, including a tin of Turnwrights Toffee Delight, lies alongside a collection of old stone jars - flagons of rum, perhaps, to numb the fear of the battle ahead.

The word "Latrine" is still written above an arrow on a 30ft chalk pillar. Next to it, two large rusting buckets sit beneath wooden holes.

Robert hardman sits where troops once waited to attack: A drawing of a sweetheart, and soldiers' food and drink

Robert Hardman sits where troops once waited to attack

Further down the labyrinth, another arrow points up to "No 10 Exit".

Here a staircase hacked into the rock leads up to a tunnel and on through 60ft of chalk towards the outside world.

Today, the tunnel is blocked. In 1917, it led to fresh air and daylight. But it was also a stairway to hell.

And I feel extraordinarily privileged to be one of the few people to climb it without feeling the angel of death sitting on his shoulders.

After the best part of a century, a stupendous remnant of World War I can be unveiled to the world.

Toffee delight: Remains of soldiers' food and drink

Toffee delight: Remains of soldiers' food and drink

Here, beneath the northern French town of Arras, years of careful excavation have finally unveiled the secret city where 25,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers lived just yards beneath an unsuspecting enemy.

Canteens, chapels, power stations, a light railway and even a fully functioning hospital were all established in this chilly labyrinth where I am standing with freezing water dripping on my head.

Scarred by the devastating losses on the Somme in 1916, British generals came up with a new strategy ahead of their next major offensive at Arras in 1917.

A series of subterranean medieval quarries on the edge of the town would be linked by tunnels to create the most extensive underground network in British military history.

These were not narrow shafts for men on all fours to crawl along. Tunnels had to be wide enough for soldiers to march in one direction and pass stretcher parties coming the other way. The larger routes had to accommodate a supply railway as well.

Sweethearts: A drawing of a woman on a cave wall

Sweethearts: A drawing of a woman on a cave wall

It proved to be a mighty feat of engineering but, in the chaotic aftermath of war, it was simply forgotten and covered up. But that neglect is our gain.

Today, much of it remains exactly as it was on that extraordinary morning in 1917 when, at the given signal, several British divisions burst forth under the noses of the enemy.

By the end of one day, they had advanced further into enemy territory than the entire British Army had advanced in years.

And yet the subsequent Battle of Arras would still see the worst bloodshed of the war.

As far as the Great War is concerned, the Arras discovery is on a par with the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb.

Next to a suburban supermarket, beneath a former camp site, the public can take a glass elevator from the 21st century straight down to the world of Tommy Atkins and bully beef.

Clever lighting and sound effects have created a mesmerising insight into life on the Western Front.

Accompanied by a bilingual expert and an excellent audioguide, parties of 20 are able to weave their way through an authentic slice of the Great War.

The museum entrance to the tunnels

And I have been allowed an exclusive wander among the chiselled walkways, wells and troughs, the 91-year-old graffiti and wall etchings.

Who is that mysterious dark-haired sweetheart drawn on the wall next to the regimental cookhouse? Who carved an exquisite little crucifix into a pillar?

The trenches, the poppy, the Somme and Flanders' fields have become sacred elements of our national identity - and that of many other countries.

The received story is one of heroic failure and senseless slaughter. We do not associate the Great War with much brilliance and ingenuity. But that was not the case in Arras.

Hardman enters the tunnels through a manhole cover

The generals had learned a few lessons from the 1916 Battle of the Somme. Chief among them was the fact that frontal assaults on well-defended enemy trenches and artillery were mass suicide.

As the Western Front stalemate continued from the North Sea to the Swiss border, the French hatched a grand plan to win the war in 48 hours. They would smash through the German lines along the River Aisne in the spring of 1917.

The British would play their part with a colossal pre-emptive strike around Arras 50 miles to the north. A dazzling plan then took shape.

Today, Arras is an unremarkable town an hour's drive south of Calais. Most British tourists whizz past it on the autoroute as they drive to Paris and beyond. But if they look out of the window, they will glimpse some clues to the carnage in these parts.

Beautifully tended Commonwealth War Graves are dotted on either side. Soaring to the east is the stirring Canadian memorial to the 11,000 men who died in the heroic capture of Vimy Ridge. It is often said that Canada came of age as a nation that day.

Arras was a forlorn and battered frontier town. In 1914, it had been captured by the Germans, recaptured by the French and then put under British control to allow the French to concentrate elsewhere. In 1916, it was a shell of a place.

Civilians had been evacuated and British occupied the ruins while the Germans, who held the higher ground, sat to the East lobbing shells into the town.

It was just another stalemate situation on the Western Front. But, unseen by the Germans, something extraordinary was going on under the ground.

Behind Hardman is one of he exits used by the troops

Read the rest on the DailyMail.

Pre-Inca temple uncovered in Peru

LIMA, Peru (AP) -- Archaeologists have discovered the ruins of an ancient temple, roadway and irrigation systems at a famed fortress overlooking the Inca capital of Cuzco, according to officials involved with the dig.


Archaeologists say the temple could predate Inca structures.

The temple on the periphery of the Sacsayhuaman fortress casts added light on pre-Inca cultures of Peru, showing that the site had religious as well as military aims, according to researchers.

It includes 11 rooms thought to have held mummies and idols, lead archaeologist Oscar Rodriguez told The Associated Press.

The team of archaeologists that made the discoveries believes the structures predated the Inca empire but were then significantly developed and expanded.

"It's from both the Inca and pre-Inca cultures; it has a sequence," Washington Camacho, director of the Sacsayhuaman Archaeological Park, told the AP on Thursday. "The Incas entered and changed the form of the temple, as it initially had a more rustic architecture."

Read the rest on CNN.


Ancient Rome's Earliest Temple Reconstructed

Sara Goudarzi
for National Geographic News

Experts have digitally reconstructed Rome's earliest major temple, the Temple of Apollo, built by the first Roman emperor, Augustus.

The temple dates to 28 B.C., and its ruins stand adjacent to the emperor's imperial palaces on the city's famous Palatine Hill.

Until now the original design of the temple had not been well understood, partly due to the ruins' poor state of preservation.

Also, previous efforts to model the temple had been based on outdated historical assessments rather than on the ruins themselves.

Stephan Zink, a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, studied the site and its archaeological remains to produce new measurements and other data to accurately recreate the temple.

"This reconstruction provides an entirely new reference point—not only for archaeologists and scholars of Augustan temple design, but also for ancient historians and classicists," Zink said.

The Augustan period of the Roman Empire, from about 43 B.C. to A.D. 18, saw a flowering of activity in science, politics, technology, and architecture.

The Temple of Apollo was Augustus' first temple project and may have played a role in the emperor's effort to secure his power.

Read the rest here.

Silver of the Iceni

ImageThe traditional image is of backward, hostile, bluepainted hordes led by a red-haired fury. Unlike the Celtic sophisticates of the South East, with their wheel-thrown tablewares and imported wines, the Norfolk Iceni were rural primitives. Or were they? Megan Dennis, specialist in Late Iron Age metalwork, pays tribute to the high culture of Boudica’s people.

Ancient Brain Surgery Patient Found?

Thessaloníki, Greece; March 12, 2008—Greek archaeologists believe a large hole in the skull of a third-century A.D. skeleton is rare evidence of ancient—and failed—brain surgery.

The patient, a young woman, is believed to have died during or shortly after the operation.

Although references to such delicate operations abound in ancient writings, discoveries of surgically perforated skulls are uncommon in Greece.

Read the rest on National Geographic.

Irish and Dutch vessels found in Scottish graves

Evidence that some of our prehistoric ancestors travelled considerable distances has come from two graves in Upper Largie, near Kilmartin in Argyll and Bute.

One grave contained three distinctive beakers which Alison Sheridan, of the National Museums Scotland, describes as belonging to an early, international style, best paralleled by finds from the lower Rhine region of the modern-day Netherlands. Radiocarbon dates of 2500-2280 BC from hazel charcoal from within the grave confirms an early Bronze Age date.

Read the rest here.

Mystery of Aunt Pete's message in a bottle solved by soldier's grandson

By John Lichfield in Paris

When "Aunt Pete" wrote to her soldier nephew in France in 1918, she had no idea what she was starting. Her letter began life inside a US mail bag, spent almost 90 years as a message in a bottle and ended up generating an avalanche of transatlantic emails.

Earlier this month, The Independent published an article reporting that Aunt Pete's letter, sent from Oklahoma City in July 1918, had been found by French archaeologists in a spring-topped beer bottle near old trench lines in Lorraine.

The letter – almost perfectly preserved – gave a jaunty account of the mood in the midwest of the United States four months from the end of the First World War. But who was Aunt Pete? And who was her nephew soldier, Sgt Morres Vickers Liepman, of D Battery of the 130th Field Artillery?

It was known that Sgt Liepman survived the war but little else emerged from US government records.

The story, spotted by an American reader of The Independent in France, produced a flurry of emails and calls to the French government archeological agency, L'Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques Preventives (INRAP). One of the calls came from Sgt Liepman's grandson, Cecil Liepman, 56, an investment manager in Houston,Texas.

"My first thought was that granddad had had his five minutes of fame at last," he said. "I knew him very well. He died in 1980 but he never spoke to us much about the First World War.

"The finding of this letter has brought distant parts of the family together and it has made us all think, and read, about that war so long ago. If a German shell had fallen on granddad, none of us would have existed."

Read the rest on the Independent.


American Indian Ancestry Traced Back to Six Women

NEW YORK — Nearly all of today's Native Americans in North, Central and South America can trace part of their ancestry to six women whose descendants immigrated around 20,000 years ago, a DNA study suggests.

Those women left a particular DNA legacy that persists to today in about about 95 percent of Native Americans, researchers said.

The finding does not mean that only these six women gave rise to the migrants who crossed into North America from Asia in the initial populating of the continent, said study co-author Ugo Perego.

The women lived between 18,000 and 21,000 years ago, though not necessarily at exactly the same time, he said.

The work was published this week by the journal PLoS One. Perego is from the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation in Salt Lake City and the University of Pavia in Italy.

Read the rest on FoxNews.


700-year-old artefact found thanks to pub smoking ban

By Jim McTaggart
SURPRISE: Blacksmiths Arms landlord Billy Nettleton and below, Percival Turnbull, who discovered the stone during a smoking break
SURPRISE: Blacksmiths Arms landlord Billy Nettleton and below, Percival Turnbull, who discovered the stone during a smoking break

PUB landlord Billy Nettleton was astonished after a 700-year-old grave cover was discovered in his village pub - thanks to the smoking ban.

He knew nothing about the carved stone relic that had been built into an internal passage wall.

But one of his regulars, archaeologist Percival Turnbull, spotted it low in the wall as he stood outside puffing his pipe, because he can no longer smoke in the bar of the Blacksmiths Arms in Mickleton, County Durham.

Though the stone had been painted over, he identified it as part of a stone used to cover the grave of an important person, such as a merchant or successful craftsman in about 1300. Graves of less important people were not marked in that era.

Mr Nettleton said: "I've run the pub for ten years and walked past the stone many hundreds of times without noticing it. Nobody would ever have known about it, but for the smoking ban. I am really amazed.

"It is in a passage on the way to the gents' toilets. I opened up a door in the passage so customers could go out for a smoke. It was pure luck that Percival was standing outside with his pipe when he spotted it."

Read the rest here.

More on the Hobbits: Discovery Challenges Finding of a Separate Human Species

More bones of unusually small-bodied people who lived long ago have been found on another Pacific island, and some scientists say this calls into question claims that the first such specimens, from Indonesia, represent a separate human species.

In a report released Monday, Lee Berger, a paleoanthropologist at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, described finding the skulls and bones of at least 25 individuals in two caves in Palau, in the Western Caroline Islands of Micronesia. The people apparently lived there 1,400 to 3,000 years ago.

Palau is more than 1,000 miles north of the Indonesian island of Flores, where in 2003 scientists discovered bones of several individuals who were only a little more than three feet tall and one surviving skull indicating a brain the size of a chimpanzee’s.

Australian and Indonesian scientists who made the discovery said those “little people” had lived on Flores until 13,000 years ago and were sufficiently distinct from modern humans to be a separate species, Homo floresiensis. That started a heated debate in which critics contended that those people were only dwarfed or malformed Homo sapiens.

Read the rest on the NYT.

Historic first... or are dolphins smarter than humans have been giving them credit for throughout history?

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) -- A dolphin swam up to two distressed whales that appeared headed for death in a beach stranding in New Zealand and guided them to safety, witnesses said Wednesday.

The actions of the bottlenose dolphin -- named Moko by residents who said it spends much of its time swimming playfully with humans at the beach -- amazed would-be rescuers and an expert who said they were evidence of the species' friendly nature.

The two pygmy sperm whales, a mother and her calf, were found stranded on Mahia Beach, about 500 kilometers (300 miles) northeast of the capital of Wellington, on Monday morning, said Conservation Department worker Malcolm Smith.

Rescuers worked for more than one hour to get the whales back into the water, only to see them strand themselves four times on a sandbar slightly out to sea. It looked likely the whales would have to be euthanized to prevent them suffering a prolonged death, Smith said.

"They kept getting disorientated and stranding again," said Smith, who was among the rescuers. "They obviously couldn't find their way back past (the sandbar) to the sea."

Along came Moko, who approached the whales and led them 200 meters (yards) along the beach and through a channel out to the open sea.

Read the rest on CNN.


Frozen remains of WWII airman identified

By Saeed Ahmed

(CNN) -- The U.S. military has identified frozen remains found atop a California glacier as those of a World War II era airman who vanished more than half a century ago.

Peter Sketel and a friend found the remains of a World War II airman atop a glacier in California.

Ernest G. Munn had been missing since his training flight disappeared over the Sierra Nevada mountain range on November 18, 1942, the U.S. military said Monday. He was 23 at the time.

Last year, two hikers found the frozen remains of a man with blond, wavy hair in a remote area of Kings Canyon, east of Fresno, California. A tattered sweater still clung to the body, and an unopened parachute lay nearby, said Peter Sketel, one of the hikers who made the discovery.

DNA analysis confirmed that the remains were Munn's, the Department of Defense said Monday. The military has notified his family in St. Clairsville, Ohio.

"You don't often have an opportunity in life to provide people with the answers to questions that they have always wanted to know the answer to," Sketel told CNN Tuesday. "Having the ability to supply that information just makes me really happy."

Read the rest on CNN.

More on the House of Augustus opening to public

By Christian Fraser
BBC News, Rome

One wall is painted with a trompe l’oeil of a theatre

Almost 50 years ago, archaeologists searching for the ruined house of Augustus found a tiny clue buried deep in 2,000 years' worth of rubble overlooking the Forum in Rome.

The single fragment of painted plaster, discovered in masonry-filled rooms, led the experts to unearth a series of exquisite frescoes commissioned by the man who would later become Rome's first emperor.

On Sunday following decades of painstaking restoration, the frescoes in vivid shades of blue, red and ochre went on public show for the first time since they were painted in about 30BC.

One large room boasts a theatrical theme, its walls painted to resemble a stage with narrow side-doors.

High on the wall a comic mask peers through a small window.

Other trompe l'oeil designs include an elegant garden vista, yellow columns and even a meticulously sketched blackbird.

Builders' names preserved

The Rome authorities have spent nearly 2m euros preserving the four Augustus rooms - thought to comprise a dining-room, bedroom, an expansive reception hall at ground-level and a small study on the first floor.

Fresco in House of Augustus
The quality of the work has been compared with that in Pompeii
Experts say the frescoes are among the most splendid surviving examples of Roman wall paintings, on a par with those found in the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Archaeologists believe they may have been painted by an Egyptian.

In the large entrance hall, graffiti on one wall is believed to have been left by the builders, who seem to have sketched out geometric designs, possibly for mosaic floors, and left their names.

In 31BC Augustus - or Octavian, as he was then known - had triumphed over the combined forces of Mark Antony and the Egyptian queen Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium.

The victory brought Egypt, and with it immense wealth, into the empire.

But if the frescoes on the walls are exquisite, their surroundings, though impressive, with vaulted ceilings, are less than palatial.

The Roman historian Suetonius described how Augustus lived in a modest house on the Palatine before he assumed supreme power and built a sprawling imperial complex higher up the hill.

Read the rest on the BBC.