Sasanian loom discovered in Northern Iraq


A team of Frankfurt-based archaeologists has returned from the Iraqi-Kurdish province of Sulaymaniyah with new findings. The discovery of a loom from the 5th to 6th century AD in particular caused a stir.

The group of Near Eastern archaeology undergraduates and doctoral students headed by Prof. Dirk Wicke of the Institute of Archaeology at Goethe University were in Northern Iraq for a total of six weeks. It was the second excavation campaign undertaken by the Frankfurt archaeologist to the approximately three-hectare site of Gird-î Qalrakh on the Shahrizor plain, where ruins from the Sasanian and Neo-Assyrian period had previously been uncovered. The region is still largely unexplored and has only gradually opened up for archaeological research since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

The objective of the excavations on the top and slope sections of the settlement hill, some 26 meters high, was to provide as complete a sequence as possible for the region’s ceramic history. Understanding the progression in ceramics has long been a goal of research undertaken on the Shahrizor plain, a border plain of Mesopotamia with links to the ancient cultural regions of both Southern Iraq and Western Iran. These new insights will make it easier to categorise other archaeological finds chronologically. The excavation site is ideal for establishing the progression of ceramics, according to archaeology professor Dirk Wicke: “It is a small site but it features a relatively tall hill in which we have found a complete sequence of ceramic shards. It seems likely that the hill was continuously inhabited from the early 3rd millennium BC through to the Islamic period.”

However, the archaeologists had not expected to find a Sasanian loom (ca. 4th-6th century AD), whose burnt remnants, and clay loom weights in particular, were found and documented in-situ. In addition to the charred remains, there were numerous seals, probably from rolls of fabric, which indicate that large-scale textile production took place at the site. From the neo-Assyrian period (ca. 9th-7th century BC), by contrast, a solid, stone-built, terraced wall was discovered, which points to major construction work having taken place at the site. It is possible that the ancient settlement was refortified and continued to be used in the early 1st millennium BC.

UNESCO calls for protection of the World Heritage Site of Sabratha in Libya


According to the UNESCO and other news outlets, on 21 September, UNESCO was informed by several sources that military action is intensifying within and around the Archaeological Site of Sabratha in Libya, inscribed on the World Heritage List since 1982. According to these reports, military action has been growing within and around the site and therefore, UNESCO is expressing concerns on the matter.  UNESCO has now called on all parties to cease violence and ensure the protection of Sabratha’s invaluable cultural heritage, including its archaeological museum. The UNESCO’s Director-General underscored the need to protect cultural heritage in times of conflict, as recently urged by the UN Security Council in its Resolution 2347.

The World Heritage Archaeological Site of Sabratha, once a Phoenician trading-post that served as an outlet for the products of the African hinterland, was part of the short-lived Numidian Kingdom of Massinissa before being Romanized and rebuilt in the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D.

UNESCO has also reiterated its commitment to work with all Libyan cultural professionals to reinforce emergency measures for cultural heritage protection, and enable the rapid assessment, documentation and monitoring of heritage.

Ancient warehouses found in Turkey’s Antalya


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

Ancient Royal Limousine


Archaeologists have found an ancient royal “limousine” in central China once owned by the Lord of Zheng State dating back to 2,400 years, after five months of excavation. The giant, extravagant chariot, which is 2.56 metres long and 1.66 metres wide, was equipped with rain and sun protection on the top and decorated with bronze and bone ornaments. It has more than 26 spokes in each wheel, which indicated the owner’s noble status.

The “limousine” was excavated in a funerary pit in tomb of Lords of Zheng State, in Xinzheng City, a vassal state during the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 B.C) and the Warring States Period (475-221 B.C), state-run Xinhua news agency reported. “The chariot is the largest and most extravagant one so far in the excavation site,” said Ma Juncai, leader of an archaeological team with Henan Provincial Institute of Cultural Heritage and Archaeology.

DNA reveals genetic history of ancient Egyptians


A recent finding that the ancient Egyptians and their modern counterparts share less – genetically – in common than you might think has been very intriguing to researchers and archeologists. A team of scientists from the University of Tuebingen and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, both in Germany, have decoded the genome of ancient Egyptians for the first time, with unexpected and surprising results. Their findings were recently published in the journal of Nature Communications.

Their study concluded that preserved remains found in Abusir-el Meleq, Middle Egypt, were closest genetic relatives of Neolithic and Bronze Age populations from the Near East, Anatolia and Eastern Mediterranean Europeans. On the other hand, modern Egyptians, by comparison, share much more DNA with sub-Saharan populations. These new findings are not only intriguing but also have created major questions and re-evaluation of the region’s history and migration patterns.

It is important to note that ancient Egyptians have experienced more investigation and studies than any other ancient civilization.  However, extracting genome data and utilizing this type of incredibly modern technology is a new frontier for Egyptologists.  In this recently published study, scientists took 166 bone samples from 151 mummies, dating from approximately 1400 B.C. to A.D. 400, extracting DNA from 90 individuals and mapping the full genome in three cases.  Previous DNA analysis of mummies has been treated with a necessary dose of skepticism, according to Professor Johannes Krause of the Max Planck Institute.   We know that heat and high humidity in tombs, paired with some of the chemicals involved in mummification, all contribute to DNA degradation, but the paper describes its findings as “the first reliable data set obtained from ancient Egyptians” as reported by CNN and other international news outlets.

Next researchers looked for genetic differences compared with Egyptians today. They found that the sample set showed a strong connection with a cluster of ancient non-African populations based east of the Mediterranean Sea.  The researchers describe the new findings as incredibly far reaching as the DNA is not just telling us about one person but about the ancestors and parents.

The scientists report that this period covered the rule of Alexander the Great (332-323 B.C.), the Ptolemaic dynasty (323-30 B.C.) and part of Roman rule (30 B.C.-A.D. 641) and they note that Strict social structures and legal incentives to marry along ethnic lines within these communities may have played a part in the Egyptians’ genetic continuity.  The researchers also reported that the modern Egyptians were found to “inherit 8% more ancestry from African ancestors” than the mummies studied the report cites increased mobility along the Nile, increased long-distance commerce and the era of the trans-Saharan slave trade as potential reasons why.


Bleaching of Coral Reefs


A recent report on the condition of the world’s coral reefs last week was published and it was a mixture of good news and bad news but mostly bad news. As announced a few days ago, the good news of the report is that the global coral bleaching event that started in 2015 appears to be finished, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). However, the bad news, is that the 3 successive years of bleaching conditions damaged all but three of the 29 reefs that are listed on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)’s World Heritage sites. The worse news is that the long term prognosis is not good. The real warning is that unless dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are implemented all these reefs will cease to host functioning coral reef ecosystems by the end of the century.  That is a disastrous prediction for the planet.

It is important to understand that bleaching occurs when overly warm water leads corals to expel symbiotic algae called zooxanthellae. Without the colorful algae, which use photosynthesis to produce nutrients for themselves and their hosts, the corals turn white, or bleach. If the waters cool soon enough, algae return; if bleaching persists, the corals die – and that is what has been happening due to rising temperatures. Reefs are ecosystems that support more than a million marine species. And an estimated half billion people around the world rely on reefs for livelihoods from fishing and tourism. Therefore, these outcomes have major economic and social impact beyond the ecological and environmental impacts.

NOAA has been actively monitoring and recording their findings.  NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch uses satellite observations of sea surface temperatures and modeling to monitor and forecast when water temperatures rise enough to cause bleaching. According to Science magazine, in the most recent case, waters in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Ocean basins began rising in mid-2014 and bleaching started in 2015. The 3-year duration of this latest event is unprecedented; previous periods of global bleaching came and went within a year.

Reefs can recover from bleaching, but it takes 15 to 25 years. The recent numbers show that 13 of the 29 World Heritage listed reefs were exposed to bleaching more than twice per decade between 1985 and 2013, that is, even before the latest bleaching event which killed significant numbers of corals on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef 2 years in a row according to Science magazine.

But even if CO2 emissions are curbed, reefs face challenges from climate change. The Paris Agreement sets the goal of holding the increase in the global average mean temperature to well below 2°C above preindustrial levels but calls for efforts to limit that increase to 1.5°C. The report states that any increase greater than 1.5°C will likely cause “severe degradation of the great majority of coral reefs.”  However, limiting the rise in atmospheric temperatures will at least give reefs some time to adapt.

New report stresses urgency of protecting the Arctic


A recent report just published earlier this month (April 2017), calls for urgent need for the protection of The Arctic Ocean. According to experts, due to the melting sea ice in the Arctic ocean, previously inaccessible areas are opening up to activities such as shipping, bottom trawl fishing and oil exploration. According to a recent scientific report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), in partnership with the US-based Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre, the experts identify seven globally significant marine sites in the Arctic Ocean that warrant protection and could potentially qualify for World Heritage status. The Director of IUCN’s Global Marine and Polar Programme, Carl Gustaf Lundin said recently that the Arctic Ocean plays a crucial role in shaping global climate and hosts a diverse range of species.
Currently, the climate change is posing a serious threat to the Arctic region, which is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet. The Arctic Ocean stretches across the northern most side of the planet, spanning 14 million square kilometers. Environmentalists have reported that the arctic is home to wildlife found nowhere else on the planet, including bowhead whales, narwhals and walruses. As one of the most unspoiled oceans on Earth, it provides critical habitat for threatened species, such as polar bears and Atlantic puffins, both assessed as vulnerable by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
The sites identified in the report that could potentially qualify for World Heritage status include: the Remnant Multi-Year Sea Ice and  Northeast Water Polynya Ecoregion, which boasts the oldest and thickest ice in the Arctic and may give polar bears the greatest chance of survival through the 21st century; the Bering Strait Ecoregion, one of the world’s great migration corridors for millions of seabirds and marine mammals; the Northern Baffin Bay Ecoregion, which supports the largest aggregation of a single species of seabirds, the little auk; the Scoresby Sound Polynya Ecoregion, the world’s largest fjord system which supports the Critically Endangered Spitsbergen stock of bowhead whale; the High Arctic Archipelagos, which support 85% of the world’s population of ivory gulls; Disko Bay and Store Hellefiskebanke Ecoregion, a critical winter habitat for the West Greenland walrus and hundreds of thousands of king eiders; and the Great Siberian Polynya, where the seasonal formation and melting of ice influences oceanic processes on a large scale. 

Tourists Vandalizes the Colosseum


When you visit Rome, the very first place on your list of World Heritage places to see, is of course the Colosseum. But the 2,000-year-old amphitheater is a magnet for tourists and vandals alike. It has recently been reported that the police in Rome have ticketed yet another tourist for vandalizing the Colosseum.

This recent incident involves an Ecuadorian visitor who decided that it was a good idea to carve the names of his wife and child onto the ancient site, as reported by the Associated Press. An official tour guide for the Colosseum found the defacement in progress and reported it to the local authorities. Fines for this type of vandalism have ranged, carrying up to a 20,000 euro fine, or approximately $21,000, according to AP. The tourist will have his day in court and a judge has will decide what the fine will be.
The Colosseum is one of the most-visited attractions in the world, and it has been reported that the World Heritage site usually welcomes nearly 7 million people annually. Colosseum is an ancient Roman amphitheater that served as a center of entertainment starting in the first century according to experts. Local residents would come to the Colosseum to watch gladiators fight each other or wild animals to the death. The 2,000-year history of this structure, and in particular its violent displays, has long drawn people from around the world who want to learn about life under ancient Roman rule.

It has also been reported that just a couple of months ago, in February a French tourist was arrested for carving her name into the Colosseum using an ancient coin she found. Two Brazilian men attempted to break into the Colosseum just one month earlier, with one man falling 13-feet and breaking his hip. All of these incidents come after the Colosseum recently opened its doors again after a three year renovation.

Archeologists discover statue in Cairo slum


Archaeologists in Egypt discovered a massive statue in a Cairo slum earlier this month as reported by a number of news outlets.  The experts believe that the statute may be of Ramses II, one of the ancient Egypt’s most famous and longest ruling pharaohs.

As reported a large portion of the head of the statute was pulled from mud and groundwater by a bulldozer was around eight meters (26 feet) high.  The large portion of the head which was removed from the ground was near a street market in the slums of Cairo.  However, the experts believe that it will be very difficult to excavate the area further as there are structures and buildings where people live.

The team of German-Egyptian archaeologists have said that this is an impressive find.  Ramses II, who took the throne in his early 20s as the third pharaoh of the 19th Dynasty, ruled Egypt more than 3,000 years ago. He is credited with expanding ancient Egypt’s reach as far as modern Syria to the east and modern Sudan to the south. The expansion earned him the title “Ramses the Great.”   Historians believe that Ramses II ruled Egypt for 60 years and besides his military exploits is known for being a great builder whose image can be seen at a string of sites across the country. Massive statues of the warrior-king can be viewed in Luxor, and his most famous monument is in Abu Simbel, near Sudan.

In November last year, Egyptian archeologists discovered a village and cemetery used by officials tasked with building royal tombs. The findings at the site some 250 miles (390 kilometers) south of Cairo included 15 large tombs dating back to the Early Dynastic Period, more than 4,500 years ago.

Ancient Treasures Recovered by Europol


Late last month (January 2017) it was announced that collaboration between police from 18 countries had led to recovery of 3,561 stolen ancient artifacts. The Europol or the European Police Agency also reported that they arrested more than 75 people in the process as reported by the Guardian newspaper and other news outlets.

The items recovered included a marble Ottoman tombstone, a post-Byzantine icon depicting Saint George and hundreds of coins. The operation which was named Pandora took place in October and November, 2016. A major part of the operation was led by Spanish and Cypriot police who carried out checks on more than 48,500 people, about 50 ships and more than 29,000 vehicles. It has been reported that approximately 500 objects were uncovered in Murcia, south-eastern Spain, including 19 coins that had been stolen from an Archaeological Museum in 2014. In Cyprus, 40 ancient objects were found at the post office in Larnaca, near the island’s main airport. It is believed that in addition to airports, post – offices and ships, police also searched internet sites, and art galleries for information and posts.

The officials have said that they are unable to put a total value on the total number of artifacts found, as experts are still going through the process of appraising everything. However, it is quite obvious that many of the retrieved artifacts are of great cultural importance to Syria where most of these items were stolen from. These artifacts were looted in Syria by the Islamist terrorists and many were going to be sold in London and other major cities and to private collectors. The police and experts believe that many relics and artifacts from the ruins of Palmyra and Nimrud as well as other heritage sites are still being smuggled and sold in private global markets and even in British shops.