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Nancy Dupree dies in Afghanistan

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Nancy Hatch Dupree an American historian who spent decades in Afghanistan working to preserve the heritage of the war-torn country has died following a long illness. 

An Afghan government statement said on Sunday that Nancy Hatch Dupree, who first came to Afghanistan in 1962 and spent much of her life collecting and documenting historical artifacts, died in Kabul overnight at the age of 90.

She amassed a vast collection of books, maps, photographs and even rare recordings of folk music, all now housed at Kabul University, and wrote five guidebooks.

Many Afghans viewed Dupree as one of their own, and hundreds of people posted condolences on social media.

“The Earthworks” were once important ritual communication spaces.

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The geometric earthworks of southwestern Amazonia have raised the interest within the scientific community as well as the media and the general public, and they have been explored recently by several international research teams.

These unique archaeological sites have been labeled the Geoglyphs of Acre, as most of them are located in the Brazilian State of Acre. Nearly 500 sites have already been registered and have been included on the Brazilian State Party’s Tentative List for inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The construction period and use, span the time period of approximately 3000-1000 BP. The earthwork ditches form geometric patterns, such as squares, circles, U-forms, ellipses and octagons. They can be several meters deep and enclose areas of hundreds of square meters.

Members of the community interacted with the environment

Pirjo Kristiina Virtanen, Assistant Professor of Indigenous Studies at the University of Helsinki, Finland, has conducted research with indigenous peoples in the study area for a long time. Sanna Saunaluoma, Post Doctoral researcher at the São Paulo University, Brazil, is specialized in Amazonian archeology and made her doctoral dissertation on Acre’s earthwork sites. Their article published in the American Anthropologist (119[4], 2017), already in early view, examines pre-colonial geometric earthworks from the point of view of indigenous peoples and archaeology.

The study shows that the sites were once important ritual spaces where, through the geometric designs, certain members of the community communicated with various beings of the environment, such as ancestor spirits, animals, and celestial bodies. Thus people were constantly reminded that human life was intertwined with the environment and previous generations. People did not distinguish themselves from nature, but nonhumans enabled and produced life.

The geometric earthwork sites were especially used by the experts of that era, who specialized in the interaction with the nonhuman beings. The sites were important for members of the community at certain stages of life, and the various geometric patterns acted as “doors” and “paths” to gain the knowledge and strength of the different beings of the environment. Visualization and active interactions with nonhuman beings were constructive for these communities.

Contemporary indigenous peoples of Acre still regard earthwork sites as sacred places

The geometric patterns inspired by characteristics and skin patterns of animals still materialize the thinking of indigenous people of Amazonia and are also present in their modern pottery, fabrics, jewelry, and arts. As the theories of Amerindian visual art also show, geometric patterns can provide people with desired qualities and abilities, such as fertility, resistance, knowledge, and power.

Contemporary indigenous peoples of Acre still protect earthwork sites as sacred places and, unlike other Brazilian residents in the area, avoid using the sites for mundane activities, such as housing or agriculture, and therefore protect these peculiar ancient remains in their own way.

UNIVERSITY OF HELSINKI

People may have lived in Brazil more than 20,000 years ago

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People hunted giant sloths in the center of South America around 23,120 years ago, researchers say — a find that adds to evidence that humans reached South America well before Clovis hunters roamed North America roughly 13,000 years ago.

Evidence of people’s presence at Santa Elina rock shelter, located in a forested part of eastern Brazil, so long ago raises questions about how people first entered South America. Early settlers may have floated down the Pacific Coast in canoes before heading 2,000 kilometers east to the remote rock shelter, or they might have taken an inland route from North America, archaeologist Denis Vialou of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris and his colleagues report in the August Antiquity. Other South American sites reportedly occupied by Stone Age humans lie much closer to the coast than Santa Elina does.

 

Could Ancient Roman Concrete Stop Rising Seas?

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The recent events and flooding of Texas and Louisiana coasts are further evidence that sea levels rise and shorelines erode and our shores and coastal regions are continuously impacted by water.  Two thousand years ago, Romans constructed vast sea walls and harbor piers. The concrete they used outlasted the Roman Empire and we still see evidence of that around us.

Today,  the modern concrete that we use in our buildings could corrode within decades but the materials that the Romans used was a marvel of engineering according to experts and engineers.  DuPont engineers have examined the material and believe that what the Romans built has been the most durable building material in human history according to an article published last month (July 2017) in the Washington Post and several other news outlets. 

Therefore, the mystery is what the Romans made the ancient concrete from (what is the recipe) and how they made it.  According to a scientific paper published in the Journal of American Mineralogists, a team of University of Utah scientists have examined the concrete and believe that the rocklike concrete behaves very much like volcanic deposits. Roman concrete is filled with tiny growing crystals. The crystals, like tiny armor plates, may keep the concrete from fracturing as the scientists report. The scientists subjected the concrete samples to a battery of advanced imaging techniques and spectroscopic tests. The tests revealed a rare chemical reaction, with aluminous tobermorite crystals growing out of another mineral called phillipsite.  However, the big surprise was that the recipe needed a key ingredient and that proved to be sea water.  The experts believe that as the seawater percolated within the tiny cracks in the Roman concrete, it reacted with the phillipsite naturally found in the volcanic rock and created the tobermorite crystals.

 

The question now is if we can learn from this study and what we have learned about the ancient Roman concrete and build better future concrete to protect our cities and shorelines.

Does World Heritage Status Harm Cities?

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We have all recently been hearing about the protests by Venice residents who came out in opposition of excessive tourism and in a recent article in the Guardian newspaper,  the story of Malaysia’s George Town was outlined.  The World Heritage status increased tourism and as a result has overwhelmed the local residents in that UNESCO World Heritage listed town.

As reported by the Guardian, Chew Jetty in Malaysia’s George Town attracts thousands of tourists but the price is too great for that historic town where homes are now commercial stalls branded with neon signs and tour buses deposit vacationers from early in the morning until well after sunset. The locals report daily intrusion where tourists sometime enter homes uninvited and windows are boarded and “no photo” signs are unescapable. 

The “clan jetties” on the outskirts of George Town on Penang Island, were a bustling seafront hub, where stilt houses and sheds, stretching along a line of wooden piers each bearing the surname of its Chinese clan, reminded the visitor of the Malaysia’s old Chinese settlements. According to the Guardian, the seven remaining jetties survived two world wars and Japanese occupation, but as the decades wore on the piers deteriorated.  The victory was when their application to be granted the UNESCO‘s designation status was approved. In 2008 the clan jetties were awarded UNESCO world heritage status – though not before two of the clan enclaves were razed to make way for a housing complex.

That victory gave the residents the protection from the developers, but, not from the tourists and today the “clan jetties” are facing what many other cities like Venice, Barcelona and Prague are facing and according to many reports, the local residents are fed up.  There have been many discussions and the phenomenon has even been given a name by Italian writer Marco d’Eramo, who argues that UNESCO preserves buildings but allows the communities around them to be destroyed, often by tourism. He calls it “Unesco-cide” (as reported by the Guardian).  According to more experts the UNESCO designation can be a potential major money maker for the city or the site.  On the other hand, the waves of tourists who will be coming to come and visit the site/city over many years could bring with them many problems. 

Ancient warehouses found in Turkey’s Antalya

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Two-thousand-year old shops and warehouses were revealed at an excavation site of the ancient Aspendos city, located in the Serik district of Turkey’s touristic Antalya province.

Excavations in the the area where the ancient warehouses and shops were found started in 2008 with surface surveys, and turned into a ministry approved excavation site in 2014.

Associate Professor Veli Köse from Haceteppe University, who oversees the excavations, said he believes valuable materials were sold and stored in the recently discovered area, and that some of the sites might have been used as offices. The proximity of the shops to the city center support his views, he said.

Professor Köse also said that a wealth of coins dating back to the Hellenistic and Roman periods, a glass amphora, oil, pieces of perfume bottles, candles, bronze belt buckles, bone hair pins, plenty of nails, rings and gems were found during excavations at the site.

Köse said that the coins, made in the 5th century B.C., were widely used during the Hellenistic period.

The ancient city of Aspendos is one of the most frequented destinations for tourists visiting Antalya.

Aspendos has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2015

From daily sabah history

Texas museums brace for full impact of Hurricane Harvey

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Tropical Storm Harvey continues to batter south-eastern Texas with torrential rain, potentially displacing thousands of residents in Houston and the surrounding area. Most museums across the region remain closed and many took precautions before the storm to protect their collections and staff. This page will be updated with replies from institutions as they come in.

The Museum of Fine Art Houston (MFAH) closed its main campus, Bayou Bend, Rienzi and Glassell School locations on Friday. It has posted on its website that “our collections are safe, but the Museum remains closed to the public for now. Our thoughts are with our fellow Houstonians.”

On Monday, a museum spokesperson said the museum’s collections “have not been impacted at all, and there have been only limited issues with our facilities.” She added: “Advance planning—for sandbags, emergency water pumps, and the floodgates that are installed at various critical points around the campus—has largely mitigated potential issues.”

A spokesperson from the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (CAMH), says: “Our thoughts are with those who have been impacted by Harvey and our fellow Houstonians during the on-going storm. We are thankful to our crew who prepared CAMH for the storm and who continue to monitor the museum.” The museum will release further updates via its social media channels.

The Menil Collection has maintained a 24-hour security presence on its campus since Friday. Museum employees have been “making regular checks on our basements in the main building” as well as periodic checks on other buildings, including the Menil Drawing Institute construction site, according to a spokesperson.

“At this time, and thankfully, our buildings have not been impacted by the storm. Our director, conservation, and registration departments, which includes art handling services, are receiving regular updates about building status.”

The Rockport Center for the Arts in Corpus Christi appears to have “sustained serious external damage,” according to a Facebook post from its executive director, Luis Purón, who has seen pictures of the building.

“One image demonstrates that the front porch is completely gone and a roof structure in the front of the building is exposed and thus compromised,” Purón wrote. “It is entirely possible that additional damage to the roof exists, yet only an onsite inspection will reveal that.”

The Houston Center for Photography (HCP) “has experienced no visible damage to our facility that we have been able to locate during a brief visit before the heavy rains began again,” says its director, Ashlyn Davis. “No artwork has been damaged and our library is still in good shape. We are very lucky.”

Davis added: “There are several artists in the HCP community though who have taken direct hits and are in real need of support. They’ve all evacuated to dry homes with their small children and are safe, but HCP’s community of artists will likely need major support in the weeks ahead.”

The Texas-based publication Glass Tire has video from the owner of the Cardoza Fine Art Gallery in Houston that shows extensive flooding in his home and gallery. According the the publication: “Cardoza says that although his building has been damaged, most of the art in the gallery was out of harm’s way. As of this morning, water in the area has been receding.” The journal also has a list of emergency resources for artists.

The city of Austin has missed the brunt of Hurricane Harvey, but institutions like the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas and the San Antonio Museum of Art were prepared nonetheless.

“Whenever something like this in on the horizon, we monitor the weather very closely and watch for alerts from the University of Texas emergency notification system, which is very responsive,” says a Blanton Museum spokesperson. “When it’s raining, our gallery staff frequently check all levels of the museum for any signs of leaks.”

Although the museum is closed Mondays, it will be open and free the rest of the week for anyone who has been displaced by the storm.

Necessary precautions were also taken at the San Antonio Museum of Art, says William Rudolph, the museum’s chief curator.

“We are in an area prey to flash flooding and unexpected torrential rainfall and lived through a catastrophic hailstorm in 2016 so we have a very good knowledge of any trouble spots,” Rudolph says. “We did monitor the storm in advance and to that end, we moved particularly vulnerable objects out of harm’s way and made protective modifications, such as draping cases with plastic, etc., by the end of the work day on the Friday that the storm made landfall.”

He added: “We luckily were spared any of the worst of Harvey, due to its impact being mainly to the south and east of our city.”

As reported in The Art Newspaper

Two Roman Sarcophagi Discovered in Rome

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Two Roman sarcophagi in marble, one of which is decorated in bas-relief, were discovered in the area around Rome’s Stadio Olimpico stadium during a preventative archaeological dig at a construction site of public utility ACEA, according to the city’s special superintendency.

The finds were most likely burials of children from a well-off Roman family.

“At first analysis, they could be from between the 3rd and 4th century A.D., but dating can only be confirmed after a thorough examination,” the special superintendency said.

The tombs were found at a depth of about 2.5 metres on the northwest slope of Monte Mario, behind the stadium’s north curve, during work to place utility service pipes underground.

The dig is being led by Dr. Marina Piranomonte with archaeologist Alice Ceazzi, restoration expert Andrea Venier, anthropologist Giordana Amicucci and topographer Alessandro Del Brusco.

The finds were removed and brought to the special superintendency’s workshops in Rome for analysis, study, and restoration in the coming months.

The results of the research will be released in the fall.

International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition

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The night of 22 to 23 August 1791, in Santo Domingo (today Haiti and the Dominican Republic) saw the beginning of the uprising that would play a crucial role in the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade.

International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition is intended to inscribe the tragedy of the slave trade in the memory of all peoples. In accordance with the goals of the intercultural project “The Slave Route”, it should offer an opportunity for collective consideration of the historic causes, the methods and the consequences of this tragedy, and for an analysis of the interactions to which it has given rise between Africa, Europe, the Americas and the Caribbean.

The Director-General of UNESCO invites the Ministers of Culture of all Member States to organize events every year on that date, involving the entire population of their country and in particular young people, educators, artists and intellectuals.

International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition was first celebrated in a number of countries, in particular in Haiti (23 August 1998) and Goree in Senegal (23 August 1999). Cultural events and debates too were organized. The year 2001 saw the participation of the Mulhouse Textile Museum in France in the form of a workshop for fabrics called “Indiennes de Traite” (a type of calico) which served as currency for the exchange of slaves in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Archaeologists uncover ancient trading network in Vietnam

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A team of archaeologists from ANU has uncovered a vast trading network which operated in Vietnam from around 4,500 years ago up until around 3,000 years ago.

A new study shows a number of settlements along the Mekong Delta region of Southern Vietnam were part of a sophisticated scheme where large volumes of items were manufactured and circulated over hundreds of kilometres.

Lead researcher Dr Catherine Frieman School of the ANU School of Archaeology and Anthropology said the discovery significantly changes what was known about early Vietnamese culture.

“We knew some artifacts were being moved around but this shows evidence for a major trade network that also included specialist tool-makers and technological knowledge. It’s a whole different ball game,” Dr Frieman said.

“This isn’t a case of people producing a couple of extra items on top of what they need. It’s a major operation.”

The discovery was made after Dr Frieman, an expert in ancient stone tools, was brought in to look at a collection of stone items found by researchers at a site called Rach Nui in Southern Vietnam.

Dr Frieman found a sandstone grinding stone used to make tools such as axe heads out of stone believed to come from a quarry located over 80 kilometres away in the upper reaches of the Dong Nai River valley.

“The Rach Nui region had no stone resources. So the people must have been importing the stone and working it to produce the artifacts,” she said.

“People were becoming experts in stone tool making even though they live no-where near the source of any stone.”

Dr Phillip Piper of the ANU School of Archaeology and Anthropology, an expert in Vietnamese archaeology, is working to map the transition from hunting and gathering to farming across Southeast Asia.

“Vietnam has an amazing archaeological record with a number of settlements and sites that provide significant information on the complex pathways from foraging to farming in the region” Dr Piper said.

“In southern Vietnam, there are numerous archaeological sites of the Neolithic period that are relatively close together, and that demonstrate considerable variation in material culture, methods of settlement construction and subsistence.

“This suggests that communities that established settlements along the various tributaries and on the coast during this period rapidly developed their own social, cultural and economic trajectories.

“Various complex trading networks emerged between these communities, some of which resulted in the movements of materials and manufacturing ideas over quite long distances”

The research has been published in the journal Antiquity.

as reported per Australian National University