Taq Kasra Wonder of Architecture

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SOAS University of London was the venue for the world premiere screening of the film Taq Kasra: Wonder of Architecture, directed by documentary film-maker Pejman Akbarzadeh.

The premiere was attended by more than 150 people, including international students, scholars and members of the Persian and Iraqi communities in London.

The film was produced by the Persian Dutch Network in association with Toos Foundation, and was funded by the Soudavar Memorial Foundation.

Taq Kasra

Taq Kasra is the only visible remaining structure of the ancient Persian city of Ctesiphon.  Once part of a much bigger palace, Taq Kasra remains the largest single-span brick vault in the world and, as such, is an object of great architectural and historical importance.

The palace was once the symbol of the Persian Empire in the Sasanian era (224-651 AD).  Nowadays, the remains of the site are located in modern-day Iraq, approximately 25 miles southeast of Baghdad.

Pejman Akbarzadeh

Pejman Akbarzadeh’s first documentary film Hayedeh: Legendary Persian Diva was nominated ‘best documentary’ at the Noor Iranian Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Taq Kasra: Wonder of Architecture is his second film.

Here Pejman answers questions about the project.

What fostered your own personal interest in Taq Kasra?

“I am originally from Persia so, in general, I am interested in ancient Persian monuments, but in regard of Taq Kasra the story was different. It is a Persian monument, but now it is no longer on Persian soil. It is located in Iraq, a country, which has experienced war and violation since the early 1980s. Even before that date, Iraq’s relationship with Persia (Iran) was not very friendly, so very few people from Iran dared to go there to visit the arch. And now almost no one!

“During the recent conflict with ISIS in Iraq, I was shocked watching the footage of ISIS attacks to historical monuments and museums in northern Iraq. Some years beforehand, the Taliban did the same thing to various sites in Afghanistan. During the Battle of Fallujah in 2016, ISIS came quite close to Taq Kasra, around 60 kms away. So, it became a nightmare for me thinking that a similar attack might happen to this monument as well. I told myself I had to go there and film the arch from various angles before it is destroyed. I could not prevent ISIS, but I could document the arch before destruction. However, fortunately, the Iraqi army defeated ISIS in Fallujah before any destruction occurred.”

The attacks on Nimrud and the destruction of the Great Mosque of Al-nuri in Mosel hit the Western media headlines.  Can you quantify what else has been lost?

“I think the Western media coverage was fantastic. Before that, people knew very little about cultural heritage in Iraq, which is related to ancient Mesopotamia. But reports about the attacks to the historical monuments in northern Iraq, and also museums being looted, informed the public about the situation in the country and its rich cultural heritage. Currently – as far as I know – various organisations from Europe and the United States are cooperating with Iraqis to restore the sites and museums. A few months ago, a team of Iraqi archaeologists were in London for an intensive training course at the British Museum, and also there is a UK-based charity for the restoration of Basra Museum. There is an ongoing campaign to find looted artefacts of the National Museum as well.”

It must have been hard getting permission to film in Iraq.  What difficulties did you face?

“One of the biggest problems working in Iraq is that it is very difficult to find out which organisation is responsible for what, and also inside Iraq various organisations interfere in each other’s areas. In December 2016, when I travelled to Iraq for the first time, even though I had a valid Press Visa from the Embassy of Iraq in The Hague and also permission for filming from ‘CMC’, my equipment was confiscated upon my arrival at Baghdad Airport. I noticed that some other journalists from Western countries had the same problems.”

“I returned to Amsterdam without having been able to film even one second of film.”

“But later I was lucky enough to be introduced to Qahtan Al-Abeed, the director of Basra Museum in southern Iraq. He advised me to enter Iraq through Basra, which is much safer than Baghdad, and from there travel to the Ctesiphon area by car, to film the arch. It was because of Qahtan’s cooperation that I was able to finish the project.”

Did you use a drone camera to obtain the footage of Taq Kasra from above?

“Yes. Getting permission to use a drone was very difficult, because ISIS started to drop bombs in Iraq via drones. But I convinced the Iraqi authorities that I was going to use it just to film Taq Kasra, which is located 35 kms outside Baghdad. However, the area (Salman Pak) was/is not safe, and after around 30 minutes, I was told that I had to leave.”

There are intentions to restore Taq Kasra by the current Iraqi Government.  Do you see a more stable future for the site?

“In general, Iraqi officials are becoming more active trying to protect the historical monuments and sites in their country. Particularly after the ISIS attacks to the monuments and also the looting of the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad, I feel they are paying more attention to such issues. In recent years, the Iraqi Ministry of Culture has invited a Czech firm to restore Taq Kasra but I am a little bit surprised why they have assigned this Czech firm. Taq Kasra is an ancient monument and there are Italian teams with more experience of similar missions.”

World Day of Social Injustice

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The United Nations’ (UN) World Day of Social Justice is annually observed on February 20 to encourage people to look at how social justice affects poverty eradication. It also focuses on the goal of achieving full employment and support for social integration.

The World Summit for Social Development, which promoted social justice, was held in Copenhagen.

What Do People Do?

Many organizations, including the UN and the International Labour Office, make statements on the importance of social justice for people. Many organizations also present plans for greater social justice by tackling poverty, social and economic exclusion and unemployment. Trade unions and campaign groups are invited to call on their members and supporters to mark the day. The Russian General Confederation of Trade Unions declared that the common slogan would be “Social Justice and Decent Life for All!”.
Schools, colleges and universities may prepare special activities for the day or plan a week of events around a theme related to poverty, social and economic exclusion or unemployment. Different media, including radio and television stations, newspapers and Internet sites, may give attention to the issues around the World Day of Social Justice.
It is hoped that particular coverage is given to the links between the illicit trade in diamonds and armed conflicts, particularly in Africa, and the importance of the International Criminal Court. This is an independent court that conducts trials of people accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Background

The World Summit for Social Development was held in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1995 and resulted in the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action. At this summit, more than 100 political leaders pledged to make the conquest of poverty and full employment, as well as stable, safe and just societies, their overriding objectives. They also agreed on the need to put people at the center of development plans.
Nearly 10 years later, the UN’s member states reviewed the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action when they gathered at a session of the Commission for Social Development in New York in February 2005. They also agreed to commit to advance social development. On November 26, 2007, the UN General Assembly named February 20 as the annual World Day of Social Justice. The day was scheduled to be first observed in 2009.

In Memoriam: Asma Jilani Jahangir

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Local media in Pakistan reported human rights champion Asma Jahangir has died. She died in a hospital on Sunday morning after suffering from cardiac arrest.

Asma Jilani Jahangir was a Pakistani human rights lawyer and social activist who co-founded and chaired the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan

The pro-democracy activist championed women’s rights throughout her career. Asma Jahangir was also UN special rapporter on human rights in Iran.

Truck Runs Over Ancient Peruvian Archaeological Site

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Peru’s Nazca Lines, an ancient archaeological site and UNESCO World Heritage site, were damaged after a driver plowed a cargo truck through the sand, officials announced on Tuesday. 

The driver left “deep prints in an area approximately 100 meters long,” and damaged part of three geoglyph lines, according to a statement given to Agence France-Presse. 

He ignored warning signs that tell drivers not to enter the area, and drove over the lines on January 27, AFP reported. The man was detained and had charges filed against him. 

 

4,400-Year-Old Egyptian Tomb Discovered

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Egyptian archaeologists unearthed a well-preserved 4,400-year-old tomb from Egypt’s Fifth Dynasty, a prosperous era where pharaohs ruled, palaces were erected and pyramids were built.

The tomb was discovered in Giza’s western cemetery by a team of Egyptian archaeologists at the helm of Mostafa Waziri, the secretary general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities.

Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Enany said that the tomb belonged to Hetpet, a priestess to the goddess of fertility Hathor. Female priests were not common in ancient Egypt.

al-Enany told reporters during a press conference on Saturday that the cemetery where the tomb was found is home to the graves of other official figures from the Old Kingdom’s Fifth Dynasty, which spanned from 2465 BC to 2323 BC.

Hetpet’s name and various titles are engraved inside the tomb, alongside paintings and other artifacts including a purification basin.

“The tomb is in very good condition,” Waziri told the Agence France-Presse. ” The paintings show scenes of music and dance. “

Groundwork Prior to Reconstruction of Stoa of Philip V on Delos is Complete

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All the preparatory work before reconstruction begins on a major ancient public building on the island of Delos has been completed, the ministry of Culture announced on Thursday.

The reconstruction of the marble Stoa of Philip V is being funded by the Paul and Alexandra Canellopoulos Foundation at a total cost of 550,000 euros, and the work will be undertaken by the Ephorate of Antiquities of the Cycladic Islands.

The Stoa of Philip II, one of the first monuments that the visitor to the archaeological site of Delos meets, is located south of the temple of the Sanctuary of Apollo and, along with the South Stoa, defines the Sacred Way, which ends in the Propylaea. The 11,000-square-meter building, which is to be restored, is built entirely of marble and was erected at the end of the 3rd century / early 2nd cent. B.C. A few years later it was extended across the west and along to the north. Nowadays the building is preserved only at the foundation level, but a scattered array of ancient architectural members is preserved, which allows and encourages its restoration. Thus, this important patronage of the King of Macedonia on the Holy Island of Apollo will be able to be restored using a large percentage of his original material.

The first phase of the works took place in the middle of the summer and involved cleaning inside the building, its extension and the surrounding area, work required first to capture the existing state of the monument and to gather the architectural members belonging to the monument. Numerous identification, counting and cataloging of the ancient members within the building’s outline and extension were also made, and the architectural members to be used in the restoration began to be designed.

During the second phase of the works, in the middle of autumn, the dense vegetation in the inaccessible marshy area to the west of the Stoa, 600 sq. Meters. where, according to archival material, at the beginning of the 19th century many architectural members of the building and its extension were deposited. The image of the scattered ancient material after the cleansing was impressive, as the number of members reached 1,000, of which around 900 were architectural members of the Stoa. The laborious work of methodical hauling, matching and temporary sorting by type was carried out by qualified personnel using a large telescopic crane that arrived on the island with an open-air ferry from Paros.

In December, the third phase of the works, during which they were discovered (through dense vegetation), were identified and recorded the remaining unregistered architectural members (approx. 300) located in two other areas near the port. At the same time, the three-dimensional mapping of the broken architectural members to be used in the restoration to build the supplements began.

The work for the restoration of the Lodge of Philip II is expected to continue at an intensive pace in 2018, aiming at upgrading the special and sensitive area of Delos with the rendering of the third dimension to a remarkable monument of antiquity.

Last Remaining Fragments of Dead Sea Scrolls

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More than 60 years after their discovery, Israeli experts have finally figured out the contents of one of the last two undeciphered fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Scientists at Haifa University reconstructed 60 tiny fragments that were part of six different scrolls.
What they discovered after they put it all together was a unique 364-day calendar used by a Jewish sect living during the Second Temple time.
“Most Jews used a calendar that is similar to the one used today,” Dr. Eshbal Ratzon of Haifa University told Israel’s Haaretz newspaper. “The sect used a calendar that is almost based on a solar year, comprising 364 days.”
Notes on the fragments show the sect even gave names to the days marking the four seasons. The days were referred to by the word “Tekufah” which in Hebrew means “period.”
“This term is familiar from the later Rabbinical literature and from mosaics dating to the Talmudic period, and we could have assumed that it would also be used with this meaning in the scrolls, but this is the first time it has been revealed,” remarked professor Jonatan Ben-Dov, who helped Ratzon decipher the ancient texts.
Some of the fragments were so tiny, measuring approximately 0.155 sq inches.
“This is the most important archaeological find ever made in Israel,” Ratzon said. “This is literature from the Second Temple period, and that’s rare.”
The scrolls, which date back almost 2,000 years, were part of 900 ancient Jewish manuscripts discovered in the Qumran caves near the Dead Sea between 1947 and 1956.
Ratzon and fellow scientist Ben-Dov, who teaches at the Bible Department at Haifa University, said they also discovered fascinating comments in the margins of the scrolls.
“What’s nice is that these comments were hints that helped me figure out the puzzle,” exclaimed Ratzon.
He believes the notes were made by a scribe as changes were being made to the ancient documents.
Razton added that the scribe’s annotations “showed me how to assemble the scroll”.
Ratson and Ben-Dov said they spent over a year reassembling the 60 fragments, most of which were written in Hebrew.
Now, only one more known scroll remains untranslated.

Swiss archaeologist discovers the earliest tomb of a Scythian prince

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Deep in a swamp in the Russian republic of Tuva, SNSF-funded archaeologist Gino Caspari has discovered an undisturbed Scythian burial mound. All the evidence suggests that this is not only the largest Scythian princely tomb in South Siberia, but also the earliest — and that it may be harbouring some outstandingly well-preserved treasures.

Gino Caspari made the most significant find in his career to date not with a shovel, but at a computer. A recipient of Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) funding, archaeologist Caspari discovered a circular structure on high-resolution satellite images of the Uyuk River valley (Siberia) on his computer screen. An initial trial dig carried out this summer by the Bern University scientist together with the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Hermitage Museum confirmed his suspicion: the structure is a kurgan, a Scythian princely tomb.

Crocodiles, giant vipers, side-necked turtles and Komodo dragon ‘cousins’ lived in Ancient Greece

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A team of scientists from the universities of Torino and Frieburg, headed by Greek paleontologist Giorgos Georgalis announced that crocodiles, cobras and giant Komodo-dragon-sized lizards called varanids once walked the banks of the Axios River and lived on the Greek island of Evia between nine and 18 million years ago, according to recent findings from the study of the fossil record, ANA reports.
The experts examined a number of fossilized crocodile teeth found in Aliveri in Evia by a team from Utrecht University and Georgalis, who published a paper on the fossils in “Historical Biology”, stressed that these are some of the oldest crocodile fossils ever found in Greece while The same area yielded fossils of chameleons that are unique in Greece, as well as snakes, lizards, turtles and frogs.
Georgios Georgalis is a researcher who studies fossil finds of reptiles particularly from the Aegean region (Greece and the western part of Turkey). He has a rather diverse topic since he does comparative analysis of recent and extinct specimens which belong to three large reptile groups: lizards, snakes and turtles. Before his stay at the Hungarian Natural History Museum within the Synthesys program, he also visited the Herpetological Collections of the National Museum of Natural Sciences in Madrid and the Natural History Museum in Vienna to examine skeletons of extant snakes.
He has managed to discover a new species of turtle, which was named Nostimochelone lampra. This species was a so- called side-necked (Pleurodira) turtle. The peculiarity of the finding is that the side-necked turtles group is only inhabiting the Southern hemisphere today, and became extinct from the European continent a long time ago, however, the fossil of Nostimochelone lampra was found in an 18 million year old sediment in western Greece.
“There was a very warm climate in the area at that time, you see, with a very strong watery element, while it most likely resembled a jungle,” Georgalis said to ANA.
On the contrary, the area around the Axios River, resembled a savannah and was inhabited by cobras and giant lizards similar to the present-day Komodo dragon about nine million years ago.
Their fossils were discovered a few years back in Nea Mesimvria and were stored at the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki (AUTH) geology department but were only recently identified. The findings were presented in a paper published by the “Swiss Journal of Geosciences” by Georgalis, Jean-Claude Rage from Paris University, Louis de Bonis (Poitier University) and Giorgos Kougos at AUTH.
“We identified approximately 10 fossils and recognised a small snake, a large lizard, a cobra and a varanid that then made up the reptile fauna of the region,” Georgalis told the ANA. He noted that these were the first fossils of lizards and snakes identified around the Axios River area, where scientists had so far identified mainly mammalian fossils, such as the ape Ouranopithecus macedoniensis, lions, hyenas and antilope.
Georgalis clarified that fossil reptiles in Greece have not been thoroughly studied, even though they are found in many places in the country and their study would help enhance understanding of the evolution of snakes and lizards in Europe, as well as the paleogeography and paleoclimate of the region.
He states that his most intresting discovery was a fossil of the 4 million year old giant viper, (Laophiscrotaloides) which was excavated near the city of Thessaloniki. This enormous creature was probably the biggest viper of all time. It had been discovered previously and for the first time by the world famous palaeontologist Richard Owen in the 19thcentury. His material unfortunately got lost and there was not any trace of this mysterious giant viper for a long time. The rediscovery of the new finding from the same locality proves that the giant viper really existed. The new vertebra provides valuable information about the taxonomic status and size of this bizarre, enigmatic snake.

As reported on Tornos News

Ancient Sunken Warship, Steamboat and Lighthouse Discovered off Coast of Mexico

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Recording Divers found remnants from not one, but three archaeological features off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. A Dutch warship, a British steamboat and a lighthouse, which sounds like the beginning of an extremely nerdy joke but is really just a factual list of discoveries.

The relics lie near the small seaport town of Sisal, according to Reuters. These days, Sisal is a quiet fishing village. In the 18th and 19th centuries, however, it was a major port for all manner of vessels, according to Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History. Some of those vessels were luckier than others.

Neither the Dutch warship nor the British steamboat have been seen since they sank, in the 18th and 19th centuries, respectively. They lie at separate sites, to which local guides led experts from the institute’s Sub-Directorate of Underwater Archeology.

The Dutch warship lies in the Madagascar Canyons, about 22 nautical miles (basically the same distance as a mile) northwest of Sisal. It features 12 cannons, each more than eight feet long. Based on records from the General Archive of the Indies in Seville, Spain, the ship went down in February of 1722, a season of lethal north winds, according to the Yucatan Times. The archive lists two Dutch frigates from that time that were carrying contraband merchandise (though exactly what kind of contraband wasn’t specified). One sank, while the crew was rescued and brought ashore to Sisal.

Helena Barba Meinecke, a marine archaeology expert at the institute, reported that the cannons were probably thrown overboard by the crew in an attempt to save the sinking ship. Eight additional cannons and cannonballs were found about 60 feet away—covered in nearly six inches of coral, an ideal artificial reef for local marine life.

The 18th century Dutch frigate, which was carrying contraband when it sank. Helena Barba/INAH

The second ship, just over one nautical mile from shore, is a Mississippi-style steamboat complete with a rocking machine and paddle wheels, according to the second part of the Yucatan Times report. The archaeologists dated it to between 1807 and 1870, before the era of more modern boilers. It’s been newly named “Vapor Adalio” to honor the grandfather of the Sisel fisherman who guided the researchers to the site.

The lighthouse rests at a third site, just two nautical miles from Sisal. Experts dated it to the late 19th or early 20th century. It measures a little over 26 feet high and around 11 and a half feet wide and probably met its fate during a tropical storm, the Yucatan Times reported.

By Kastalia Medrano Newsweek