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Secret History


Discoveries at Mendes and Theban Tombs Opening More Windows on Ancient Egypt

© Susan Redford, The Theban Tomb Survey
Entrance and courtyard of one of the newly-discovered tombs of the Assasif concession (the region that includes Parennefer's tomb).
A wealth of discoveries and information already, with a promise of more to come.

One might think that the archaeological treasures of ancient Egypt have been pretty much picked over by now. Of all the civilizations that have graced the pages of archaeological romance, ancient Egypt stands arguably on top. For thousands of years, tomb robbers have looted it, and since the 18th century, archaeologists have systematically pored over the remains. Thus it could be said that this field has already seen its heyday.

But for Professor Donald Redford and Dr. Susan Redford of Pennsylvania State University, like other scholars in their field, it offers a seemingly inexhaustible supply of new finds and surprises that continue to excite the imagination of would-be Egyptologists and archaeologists.

For the past two decades, they have directed expeditions to two separate ancient locations in Egypt, one near the west bank of the Nile in the Valley of the Nobles, part of the Theban necropolis opposite Luxor, and the other much farther to the north in the Nile Delta region. Both locations have yielded discoveries that have made archaeology news headlines and have created new questions and avenues of investigation.


Famous Nasca Lines of Peru at Risk, Say Conservationists

© Unknown
The monumental Nasca lines may not be around for long if steps are not taken, according to conservationists in the know.

Located in the arid coastal plain south of Lima, Peru, these incredible lines are only visible in their entirety from a tower, airplane or from space. Created on a gigantic scale, they consist of hundreds of simple lines, geometric shapes, and zoomorphic figures representing entities such as human figures, hummingbirds, spiders, sharks, orcas, llamas, jaguar, lizards, fish, and a monkey. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, the geoglyphs or "lines" of Nasca and the pampas of Jumana are well-known to the world, and are today an important tourist destination.

These Nasca Lines, as they are popularly called, date from 500 B.C. to 500 A.D. and cover an area consisting of foothills and desert for more than 450 square kilometers. Attributed to three different stages of development corresponding to the Chavín, Paracas, and Nasca cultures respectively, they were made by removing the overlying dark sand and iron oxide gravel to expose a lighter ground underneath. Although numerous theories abound concerning their origin and meaning, many scholars suggest that they had ritual astronomical functions.


US - Colorado: Earthquakes Could Have Created Snowmastodon Site

Tremors Could Have Deposited Thousands Of Fossils

Just before beginning his weekend on Friday, Dr. Kirk Johnson of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science received some exciting news.

"We found a baby ground sloth," said Johnson, the chief curator at the museum."We found it about an hour ago. It is pretty exciting."

The fossil of the adolescent Jefferson's ground sloth is the first discovered and just one of many discoveries that have come from the Snowmastadon Project.

The Snowmastadon Project began in the summer of 2010 when construction crews excavating earth to enlarge the Ziegler Reservoir outside of the resort town of Snowmass unearthed the bones of a juvenile mammoth.
© Jan Vriesen

Since that small discovery, teams of paleontologists squeezed in two large digs that produced a bevy of fossils that surprised even them.

"This one is so good it's a once-in-a-lifetime find," Johnson said.


Crusader's Arabic Inscription No Longer Lost in Translation

Ancient Inscription
© Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority
The 800-year-old inscription was created with special Arabic characters, making it tricky to translate.

A rare Arabic inscription from the Crusades has been deciphered, with scientists finding the marble slab bears the name of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, a colorful Christian ruler known for his tolerance of the Muslim world.

Part of the inscription reads: "1229 of the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus the Messiah."

The 800-year-old inscription was fixed years ago in the wall of a building in Tel Aviv, though the researchers think it originally sat in Jaffa's city wall. To date, no other Crusader inscription in the Arabic language has been found in the Middle East.

"He was a Christian king who came from Sicily, the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, and he wrote his inscription in Arabic," said Moshe Sharon, of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, adding that it would be like the U.S. president traveling to a region and leaving an inscription in that area's language.


US: Ancient bronze artifact unique in Arctic Alaska archaeology

Nothing like this has ever before been found in an Arctic Alaska archaeological site: a cast bronze buckle-like object, discovered in August in a 1,000-year-old Inupiat dwelling on Cape Espenberg, just south of Kotzebue on the Chukchi Sea coast. Since ancient Alaskans had no bronze culture, the object was either carried across the Bering Strait by ancestors of modern Inupiat or obtained by trade from Asia, say the University of Colorado-led scientists who discovered it.


10,000 Unique Archaeology Treasures to Be Unveiled in Bulgaria

Bulgaria's National History Museum will put on display about 10 000 "extremely valuable" archaeological finds and artifacts.

The finds in question were seized from a treasure hunting and antiques trafficking crime group back in 2004, and are now being transferred from the Sofia City Prosecutor's Office to the ownerships of the National History Museum in Sofia.

10 000 previously unexplored archaeological finds are to be shown to the public in Sofia.
They feature archaeological items from various ages - from prehistory all the way to the 20th century, the Bulgarian National History Museum announced.

Some of the more interesting treasures to be put on display include:

22 silver coins from the rule of medieval Bulgarian Tsar Mihail Shishman (1323-1330 AD);

154 silver coins minted in the northwest of the Second Bulgarian Empire in the 14th century, as well as Venetian and Serbian coins;

56 silver coins minted by the last ruler of the Second Bulgarian Empire before it was conquered by the Ottoman Turkish Empire - Tsar Ivan Sratsimir, who was killed in 1396 AD by the Ottomans.


Paleontologists turning to neural networks to find new dig sites

For hundreds, if not thousands of years, researchers of one kind or another have dug into the earth in search of clues to help explain our past. In so doing they have found evidence of ancient peoples that roamed around in an environment that we can only vaguely imagine. Such evidence is generally composed of remnants of dwellings, clothing, tools and most especially bones. Traditionally, such relics have been found either by accident or by serious-minded teams of professional scientists scanning likely terrain and having at it with small axes and shovels.

Now however, new technology is helping such teams better their chances. Satellite imagery, for instance can highlight certain types of geographical regions that are similar to others that have been found to contain fossils, thus reducing the amount of ground that paleontologists must cover. But even that can only reduce the work so much. Enter Bob Anemone, a paleontologist and his team from Western Michigan University; they've developed a computer system that can scan satellite images for them and highlight the areas that are most likely to contain fossils, thus increasing the chances of finding fossils while doing far less work. They have published their findings in Evolutionary Anthropology.


US: Northwest natives were fishers, not hunter-gatherers

© Society for American Archaeology Press
In two new books, the University of Oregon's Madonna Moss challenges conventional thinking about the region's early inhabitants, pointing to cultures built around fishing, fish processing and fish resource management

Native people of the Pacific Northwest were fishermen and food producers, as well as stewards of their environment who timed their fishing practices to promote the production of salmon and the other fish that they relied on. They were not simply hunter-gatherers, says University of Oregon archaeologist Madonna L. Moss.

Moss takes aim at the label "hunter-gatherer," writing in chapter three of her new book Northwest Coast: Archaeology as Deep History (Society for American Archaeology Press) that the "moniker has outlived its utility" for the people who inhabited the land from Alaska to Oregon long before European explorers arrived.

Moss, who has studied the Northwest since the mid-1970s, provides readers with an overview -- in easy-to-read language -- of what researchers have discovered at archaeological sites dating back more than 12,000 years. Most sites, she notes, are rich in fish remains. And many more sites, she says, likely have been buried by rising sea levels and never will be found.

"Most of what makes up these sites are faunal remains [animal bones and shells]. Most of the bones in these sites are fish bones. This book is about the 85 percent fish bones that make up these sites and what they can tell us about the people who lived here in the past," Moss said in an interview. It doesn't make sense for archaeologists to refer to early people of the Northwest coast as hunters-gatherers anymore, not even as complex hunter-gatherers. These people were fishers. They were fishermen. They knew how to process fish, live on fish. Local tribes often are confused by the term 'hunter-gatherer.' They have always thought of themselves as fishermen."


Pompeii Is Crumbling - Can It Be Saved?

Last month, part of a major wall came tumbling down in Pompeii, the ancient Roman city frozen in time by a first-century eruption of Mount Vesuvius. It was only the latest in a spate of collapses at the site, which experts say is in critical condition.

Though the site is said to be safe for tourists, the disintegration is alarming enough to have spurred the European Union to pledge 105 million euros (145 million dollars) for preservation.
© Roberto Salomone, AFP/Getty Images
The structural problems in Pompeii started with the collapse of a wall a year ago.

(Related: "Pompeiians Flash-Heated to Death - 'No Time to Suffocate.'")

Troubles at the World Heritage site, near modern Naples in southern Italy, began in earnest last year. In November 2010 Pompeii's Schola Armaturarum, a large building once used by gladiators for training, crumbled overnight due to water infiltration. Just a few weeks later, a 12-meter-long (13-yard) wall protecting a structure known as the House of the Moralist had fallen down in heavy rain.

Now that poor weather has returned, more trouble has followed. In late October, a portion of Pompeii's perimeter wall came apart.


Udupi: Ancient Sculpture Causes Ripples in Archaeology Circles

A rare stone sculpture depicting a bullock cart has been found by professor and students of Government First Grade College, HD Kote. The sculpture is assumed to be of the Punnata era.

© Unknown
Punnata was an ancient kingdom of Karnataka. There are various references to several naval expeditions sent by the rulers of Egypt from V and VI dynasties to the distant and mysterious land of 'Punt'. This reference of Punt is identified as 'Punnata' by some scholars. Ptolemy called it 'Pounnata'. An inscription from 300 AD says it is adorned by the rivers Kaveri and Kapini. Punnata rulers had matrimonial alliances with Kadambas and Gangas. All these evidences indicate the antiquity of Punnata.