The Ochre Crayon Was Discovered Near An Ancient Lake

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Archaeologists say they may have discovered one of the earliest examples of a ‘crayon’ — possibly used by our ancestors 10,000 years ago for applying colour to their animal skins or for artwork.

The ochre crayon was discovered near an ancient lake, now blanketed in peat, near Scarborough, North Yorkshire. An ochre pebble was found at another site on the opposite side of the lake.

The pebble had a heavily striated surface that is likely to have been scraped to produce a red pigment powder. The crayon measures 22mm long and 7mm wide.

Ochre is an important mineral pigment used by prehistoric hunter-gatherers across the globe. The latest finds suggest people collected ochre and processed it in different ways during the Mesolithic period.

The ochre objects were studied as part of an interdisciplinary collaboration between the Departments of Archaeology and Physics at the University of York, using state-of-the-art techniques to establish their composition.

The artifacts were found at Seamer Carr and Flixton School House. Both sites are situated in a landscape rich in prehistory, including one of the most famous Mesolithic sites in Europe, Star Carr.

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. 

Syria’s Heritage Sites: Home to Refugees

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Idlib_SyriaRoman structures, columns, temples and churches that date back to the 1st century are a few U.N. World Heritage sites in the northern Syrian province of Idlib. They’re known as the Dead Cities, tracing the transition from ancient pagan Rome to Christian Byzantium, and until recently, they were deserted and frozen in time. Last month, as the U.S. National Public Radio (NPR) reported, these once quiet ancient sites have now become homes for Syrians who seek refuge and a safe place from the unrest in Syria.

Recent survey by Syrian and international aid workers says there are millions of displaced Syrians inside the country. In Idlib, villages are now completely empty. These refugees have in many cases fled from one village or city to another and then to another, basically running away from the war. In most cases, these are families with small children and/or pregnant women. Many of these families now live in ancient cities among the graves and artifacts.

As international experts have been monitoring the destruction to Syria’s vast archaeological and historical heritage even before the uprising began in 2011, it is especially difficult to watch the destruction to the Dead Cities. Experts believe that not only are people now using these ghost towns as a place to live, but also as a way to make a living. Every day, remains of a site are dug up and pieces and relics are taken and sold in the international market after being transported out of Syria. It is believed that there are well-established networks for selling such artifacts in the region, and internationally. In a recent auction a Syrian Bronze Age artifact that was thought to be looted sold for $400,000.