Category: malcolmj - Part 8

Tour the Great Pyramid of Giza with Zahi Hawass

Anyone looking for a holiday that gets much closer to the cultural core of a historic destination than the average tourist experience would do well to check out the Global Explorer Series a partnership between Fairmont Hotels & Resorts and the National Geographic Society. Theyre inviting intrepid travellers to do better than peer at their attractions of choice from behind a cordon while leafing though a guidebook, but better still engage with them in top destinations from Kenya to Cairo, Monaco and St Andrews up-close and in context together with a leading expert.

The latest package offered is the Wonder With One of the Seven Wonders tour, a three day exploration of Egypts historic capital Cairo in the company of renowned archaeologist and Secretary General of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities Zahi Hawass. Participants will be put up in Fairmont Towers, Heliopolis and the Fairmont Nile City, spend a whole day spent exploring the Great Pyramids of Giza and Saqqara, take a guided tour of the Egyptian Museum Cairo and a trip on the Nile Felucca ride, then finally sit down for a dinner lecture with Hawass, during which hell reveal some of the many secrets of ancient Egypt he has unlocked in his line work.

Egypt is a fascinating and mysterious part of the world, Frank Naboulsi, Vice President & General Manager of Fairmont Nile City, Cairo, told Heritage Key. We are excited to give our guests a rare chance to explore its wonders in the company of a world-renowned expert. Its his hope that Global Explorer Series holidays will represent luxurious, adventurous and educational experiences all rolled into one. Luxury today is about enriching experiences, Naboulsi adds. Travel that can broaden the mind and nourish the soul is what creates a truly memorable vacation.

Luxury today is about enriching experiences. Travel that can broaden the mind and nourish the soul is what creates a truly memorable vacation. — Frank Naboulsi

Its a trip bespoke to a rapidly growing demand in the global tourist market. Worldwide tourism is expected to top 1 billion arrivals in 2010 and grow to 1.6 billion by 2020; estimates suggest that more than 40% of travellers put a cultural experience in their top three holiday objectives. Where would you like to see tours such as the Global Explorer Series visit next? Mark your destinations of choice on the Heritage Key Directory.

Of course, if you cant afford the cool $960 USD per head price tag for the Wonder With One of the Seven Wonders Tour, you can always check out our King Tut Virtual experience free of charge from the comfort of your own computer.

Zahi Hawass picture by Kenneth Garrett. All rights reserved.

Bling Bling: Shell Jewellery Discovered In Morocco Desert Suggests Ancient Trade

It was hardly bling worthy of an East Coast rapper, but stashes of symbolic jewellery found recently in the desert of Morocco dating back 82,000 years are being hailed as vital discoveries in the scientific quest to establish the earliest juncture between human culture and cognition. Unearthed at four different spots, the items comprise 25 tiny marine shell beads, drilled with holes and showing evidence of pigment and frequent wear. They were found as part of the European Science Foundation‘s EUROCORES programme: Origin of Man, Language and Languages.

So early humans had a little bit of fashion sense whats the big deal? Because it shows that it they werent just thinking about how to dress up, but also communicate an impression of themselves through a coded cultural language.

The common element among such ornaments is that they transmit meaning to others, said Francesco dErrico, lead author and director of research at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), in an ESF press release. They convey an image of you that is not just your biological self. The early invention of the personal ornament is one of the most fascinating cultural experiments in human history.

The fact that many of the shell beads were found far inland, well away from the coast, suggests that they were probably considered valuable items, traded between communities. Either people went to sea and collected them, or more likely marine shell beads helped create and maintain exchange networks between coastal and inland peoples, said dErrico. This shows well-structured human culture that attributed meaning to these things. Organised networks would also assist trading of other items, as well as genetic and cultural exchange so these shells help reveal the connections between cognition and culture.

The common element among such ornaments is that they transmit meaning to others. They convey an image of you that is not just your biological self.”

Until as recently as 2006, when shell beads dating back 75,000 years were found in the African and Near Eastern desert, the invention of personal ornaments was thought to be a European thing originating around the time of the colonisation of the continent 40,000 years ago. These new discoveries join a lock-box of new precious finds dating back way further still some other similar items unearthed recently in Algeria, Morocco, Israel and South Africa date from as early as 110,000 years ago.

Picture by d’Errico/Vanhaeren. All rights reserved.

Scottish School Pupils to Exhibit Art in a Virtual Gallery

Long gone are the days of school children creating minor masterpieces in art class only to take them home for mum to pin on the fridge. Pioneered as part of a wider initiative to discover innovative ways of bringing new technologies and computer games-based learning into the classroom in Scotland, CANVAS (Childrens Art at the National Virtual Arena of Scotland) will allow Scottish school kids the chance to display their work to thousands of other pupils in a specially-designed, safe and secure online domain. Better still, theyll then be able to create their own avatars and discuss their creations in-world.

CANVAS operates via Glow, the world’s first national intranet for education, on the application Open Sim the same platform used for Heritage Keys King Tut Virtual. It was developed through Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS)s Consolarium programme, in conjunction with Aberdeen-based company Second Places, who have worked with clients as varied as British Petroleum, The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and comedian Jimmy Carr. The initiative arrives at a time when innovative thinking in the classroom is becoming increasingly de rigeur in Scotland, with an Edinburgh primary school having recently created a “living museum”featuring real exhibits linked to the Vikings and the ancient Egyptians.

Long gone are the days of school children creating minor masterpieces in art class only to take them home for mum to pin on the fridge.

Each of Scotlands 32 local authorities will have a separate room within the gallery, and each authority will be left to decide individually how best to make use of the space. CANVAS will additionally feature areas fulfilling other functions, such as transmitting curriculum information to pupils and teaching good practice in online domains. There will eventually be a seminar space too, capable of seating up to 150 avatars. Not all kids will be able to remain in-world at all times, so a function is being setup whereby pupils can record and upload a short video introducing their work. The creation of these videos in itself is expected to prove a rich learning experience. Each artist will also have their own forum, where they can pick up and respond to comments on their work.

We believe, writes LTSs New Technologies Development Officer Derek Robertson on the Consolarium blog, that the participative nature of the (CANVAS) design will offer a context in which young learners experiences, thoughts and understanding of their own work and development can be enriched and enhanced by the proposed opportunity for dialogue and discussion that the world offers.

Picture by Derek Robertson. All rights reserved.

Edinburgh School Gets Virtual Museum – and Real Zoo!

A school in Edinburgh, Scotland, has developed an innovative alternative to the rigmarole of loading kids onto a bus for a visit to the museum bringing the museum to the kids. Developed with 10,000 from the Big Lottery Fund, the Living Links Museum at South Queensferrys Echline Primary School will represent the only in-school museum of its kind in Scotland, and feature displays relating to the Vikings and the ancient Egyptians and Africans.

The museum will be housed in an old library. Exhibits will come from an extensive collection built up by the school over the past few years, via donations from parents, museums and local history groups and through links with other schools in such far-flung locations as Kenya, Austria and Switzerland. The museums zoo lab will receive regular visits from real live animals including birds of prey, snakes and creepy crawlies, and therell be a dress-up area filled with costumes from all over the world. Other schools and local community groups will be invited to make use of the unique, hands-on resource.

Over the years we have built up a collection of costumes and artefacts that have just been stored away, Echline Primary School business manager Patricia Stefanovic told the Edinburgh Evening News. We thought it would be great having a learning museum which brought together all of these things. We got in touch with local museums and historical societies and they have given us things on loan to add to the collection.

Whatever we are doing curriculum-wise ties in with Living Links. If the children are studying Egyptians then the area is set up for them to use.

Children love it and it’s really popular, Stefanovic added. Whatever we are doing curriculum-wise ties in with Living Links. If the children are studying Egyptians then the area is set up for them to use. The museum will be officially launched on September 24 by Hermione Cockburn from the BBC TV programme Coast.

It comes as another pioneering new approach to education is introduced to Scottish schools Canvas, a virtual gallery, allowing pupils to exhibit their artwork in a safe and secure real time online environment. It seems that virtual reconstructions such as Heritage Key’s Virtual King Tut have a strong role to play in school-age education, making far-flung heritage sites available to all.

National Museum of Scotland picture by Chris Malcolm. All rights reserved.

Archaeologists On Orkney Come Face-to-Face With A Neolithic Scot

Jakob Kainz, a young archaeologist working on the excavation of the Links of Noltland on the Orkney Island of Westray, has discovered what is being described as a eureka find Scotlands earliest representation of the human face. Crudely scraped into a flat piece of sandstone, and measuring just 3.5 centimetres by 3 centimetres, the so-called Orkney Venus might not look like much, but its got the phizzogs of all from leading heritage experts to the Scottish Culture Minister Mike Russell who called it a find of tremendous importance beaming from ear to ear.

The tiny pendant dates from as far back as 4,500-5,000 years ago. No other depiction of the human form dating from the Neolithic period has ever been found in Scotland, and only two others of comparable age have been found in the UK at large. None of the archaeology team have seen anything like it before, commented Richard Strachan, project manager and senior archaeologist with the Historic Scotland cultural resources team, who are behind the dig at Links of Noltland. Its incredibly exciting. The discovery of a Neolithic carving of a human was quite a moment for everyone to share in.

The head is round, and the body lozenge-shaped. Eyebrows, tiny eyes and a nose are identifiable on the face, while the scalp seems to have hair carved into it. It looks to be female: patterns on the back are suggestive of the fabric of womens clothing, while two round dots on the front of the chest appear to be breasts suggesting a similar fascination with the form of the fairer sex among prehistoric Scots as the carvers of the far older Venus of Hohle Fels, which was found in Germany earlier this year. Such a figurative design is ultra-rare for the period in Scotland. This is certainly a significant discovery, said Dr Gordon Noble, of Aberdeen University, speaking to the Scotsman newspaper. We have some Neolithic art in Scotland, but it is all abstract art designs.

This is certainly a significant discovery. We have some Neolithic art in Scotland, but it is all abstract art designs. — Dr Gordon Noble, Aberdeen University

Orkney one of the northern most groups of islands in Scotland is an area of immense archaeological importance, and bears ancient sites from the settlement of Skara Brae to the Ring of Brodgar. It recently made archaeological headlines with the discovery of a massive cathedral.

Links of Noltland a prehistoric settlement in the dunes around Grobust Bay, in north-west Westray is one of the most recent locations on the islands to be investigated in depth, after the discovery of the remains of a Neolithic farmhouse at the spot. Scottish Culture Minister Russell added that the find of the five millennia old face, once again emphasises the tremendous importance of Orkneys archaeology and also of the Links of Noltland site.

Picture from Historic Scotland. All rights reserved.

Tut Tomb Closure Could Lead to KV62 Replica for Tourists

Tourism is a massive industry in Egypt, thanks to the countrys venerable past it accounts for 11% of GDP, and creates jobs for around 12% of the total national workforce. Chief among Egypts antiquarian attractions are the tombs of the pharaohs, the vast network of lavishly decorative burial chambers for its ancient rulers spread across the Valley of the Kings near Luxor, such as KV62 the final resting place of Tutankhamun. So why, then, is the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities calling for them to be closed?

The Council have been faced with an almighty catch-22. The tombs are extremely fragile and poorly ventilated; with so many tourists funneling through them every year, the quantity of humidity and fungus generated through breath and sweat is gradually eroding the soft stone of the chambers, slowly destroying paintings and carvings thousands of years old. This means that the tombs could disappear in between 150 and 500 years, warns Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, in a statement.

A team of experts is currently using laser technology to examine the tombs in order to build the replicas which would then open to visitors in a place near the Valley of the Kings. – Zahi Hawass

Its a similar problem to that faced by many fine examples of cave art around the world. So whats the solution? In the short term, expedients such as improved ventilation (a project to improve ventilation at the Great Pyramid of Giza, for similar reasons, was undertaken in the early 90s). In the long term, the only feasible expedient might be a similar one to that settled upon at cave complexes such as Lascaux and Altamira building exact replicas nearby. A team of experts is currently using laser technology to examine the tombs in order to build the replicas, adds Hawass, which would then open to visitors in a place near the Valley of the Kings.

Unsurprisingly the most popular tombs are among the first slated for closure, including those of Tutankhamun, Nefertari and Seti I so if you want to see the real things, best get to Egypt soon. Visitor numbers are becoming restricted though, so dont hold your breath (No, actually do hold your breath. Ah, you get the point).

If you’re serious about preserving the wonders of antiquity, however, you might want to do the right thing by the boy king, and visit Virtual King Tut instead.

Picture by Michael Reeve. All rights reserved.

A Celt in China: The Mysterious Origins of Cherchen Man

The Loulan Beauty - she's not much a catch these days, but we're assured she was a looker in her day. Picture by Bharat Vij.Cherchen Man, who died around 1000 BC, appears to be as Scottish as square sausage tall, dark-haired, clad in a red tunic and tartan leggings and sporting a beard as ginger as a burning fox. His DNA attests to his Celtic origins. So why on earth, then, was his mummified corpse discovered buried in the barren sands of the Taklamakan Desert, in the far-flung Xinjiang region of western China?

Its a question that still has experts scratching their heads, especially since Cherchen Man is just one of hundreds of ancient desiccated corpses of European origin found in the Tarim Basin in western China over the last 25 years. His remains, along with others, are now kept in a museum in the Xinjiang provincial capital of Urumqi, which also houses a reconstruction of how this intrepid traveller might have looked before he died.

It had been well known and accepted that Celtic influence stretched far and wide at the civilizations peak around 300 BC, from Scotland in the north to Ireland in the west, southern Spain and Italy in the south and parts of Poland, Ukraine and central Turkey in the east. But few experts expected to discover the remains of humans of Celtic descent in central Asia, almost as far east as Tibet. Theyve been described as among the most important archaeological finds of the past quarter century, and point to an ancient connection having evidently existed between east and west as early as the Bronze Age.

Theyre among the most important archaeological finds of the past quarter century, and point to an ancient connection between east and west as early as the Bronze Age.

The burial site of Cherchen Man and his people bore other hallmarks of Celtic culture, such as large standing stones that look like British dolmens. He was found buried with what appears to be his family three women and a baby, all of whom have equally European features. One womans hair is light brown, and it looks like it was freshly brushed and braided before her mummification.

An even older Tarim mummy than Cherchen Man is the 4,000-year-old Loulan Beauty discovered near the town of Loulan who too has long, flowing fair hair, and features that look to be of Nordic origin. All of these European migrants seem to have been peaceful folk, since very few weapons have been found in their graves, or valuable goods that suggest evidence of a caste system. Nonetheless, they might have done well to learn the meaning of the name of the Taklamakan Desert before they made their long journey there you go in, it translates, and never come out.

Picture by Farrukh Younus. All rights reserved.

Invergarry Castle The Latest Historic Site to Be Given Virtual Second Life

A Scottish castle ransacked by government soldiers after the Battle of Culloden has been rebuilt in the online virtual reality domain Second Life. Virtual reality tours are now being offered of Invergarry Castle, in Glengarry in the Highlands, which has been cloned in two different forms the intact 1740 version, and the modern ruined remains, which are in such a state of disrepair theyre almost inaccessible.

The project is a publicity initiative by the My Glengarry Conservation Trust an organisation who are attempting to raise money for the preservation of the Glengarry area, by selling off legal deeds to plots of land which can be zoomed in on in high quality detail through the trusts website. The virtual models were constructed using the original plans of the building, dating from 1700 (when it was rebuilt after previously being sacked by Oliver Cromwell in 1654), together with a photo archive.

Virtual reality tours are now being offered of the intact 1740 version, and the modern ruined remains.

There have been numerous similar examples of 3D virtual reality recreations of historic monuments. As weve reported, recent projects have made it possible to pay online visits to all from Qumran in the West Bank to the temple complex of Karnak in Egypt, ancient Rome, one of Cambodias earliest Khmer temple complexes Sambor Prei Kuk. While in Heritage Key, of course, make sure you pay a visit to the tomb of Virtual King Tut, and let us know what you think.

Picture by My Glengarry. All rights reserved.

Hadrian’s Wall Originally Wooden, Speculates Expert Ahead of Major Congress on Roman Frontiers

The public are being invited to have their voices heard at an open session in Newcastle, England of a major congress of experts in the field of Roman history and archaeology, on the subject of the frontiers of the Roman Empire. Titled ‘Presenting the Roman Frontiers Communicating the Evidence’, it’ll take place at Newcastle University on August 21. Newcastle lies just south of the line of Hadrians Wall, the huge fortification built across northern England and southern Scotland by the Romans in the 2nd century AD at the northernmost extreme of their empire, to keep out marauding Picts.

International specialists gather every three years to discuss Rome’s frontiers, which once stretched from Hadrians Wall and the Antonine Wall in the north, along the banks of the Rhine and the Danube in the east, to the deserts of North Africa in the south. Their aim is to establish new and different means by which to best transmit the story of the frontiers of Rome to visitors, in a way that balances their protection and preservation for future generations with adequate public access and interaction. As well as the opinion of academics and museum curators, the congress want to canvass the views of the public too.

The congress is hosted by Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums, and will see the army of experts head to various Roman sites in the north of England, which as well as Hadrians Wall, include the likes of Ravenglass and Hardknott Roman Forts in Cumbria, Binchester Roman Fort in County Durham and Segedunum Roman Fort in Wallsend.

The congress comes after Geoff Carter a local archaeologist from Hexham, Northumberland has produced the findings of a study, 20 years in the making, on what he believes to have been the original composition of Hadrians Wall. Its based on his theory as to the purpose of the three lines of mysterious double postholes that run parallel to the stone rampart’s remains. Similarly to the Aubrey Holes at Stonehenge, theyve baffled experts for years. The large ditch that also runs parallel to the wall is confusingly too far away to have been much use when it came to repelling invaders. Carter thinks he finally has the answer: the ditch was dug at the foot of a wooden wall, which was erected swiftly by the Romans as a transitory expedient, to give the builders of the real defensive line ample cover while they carried out their work.

“The Roman army was good at this sort of thing. Its what they did for a living. And to some extent their lives depended on it.” — Geoff Carter

The most popular theory about the postholes is that they simply held pointed wooden sticks. But in his 65,000-word thesis, the outlines of which are sketched in his Theoretical Structural Archaeology blog, Carter argues that the postholes actually represent the foundation of a hardier fortification. I demonstrate, he told the Hexham Courant, that these thousands of postholes, six posts every 4ft, are the foundation of massive timber ramparts 10ft wide, about 20ft tall, and quite probably stretching all 117kms from coast to coast. The temporary timber wall joined the turrets together during the six years it took to build the stone wall behind it.

By his reckoning, the wall would have required around 2.5 million trees to build. That would make it one of the largest wooden structures ever erected in history. But Carter doesnt think it was beyond the Romans in the 2nd century AD to construct such a massive temporary wall, and quickly too. He points to an example in Julius Caesars Account of the Gallic War, where the great Roman Emperor describes how during the siege of Alesia in France, 58-51 BC, the Roman army threw up 18kms of siege works, protected by a second wooden defensive line, in as little as three weeks. On that basis, he speculates that the large Roman legion in northern England could have constructed Hadrians Wall Mk1 in as little as 20 weeks.

Of course it wasnt that simple, he adds, but the Roman army was good at this sort of thing. Its what they did for a living. And to some extent their lives depended on it. Creating the 117kms corridor was probably achievable within a year.

Picture by Leon Reed. All rights reserved.

Lost Underworld of the Pharaohs “Found”, Claims British Explorer

In an adventurous and decidedly tall tale swarming with giant bats and poison spiders and strewn with places called exotic things like The Well of the Soul and the Hidden Realm of Sokar (the words Jones, Indiana and too much spring to mind), British explorer Andrew Collins will next month tell the full story of what he claims to be his discovery of the long lost subterranean realm of the Egyptian pharaohs. How much hard fact will be contained in his new book Beneath the Pyramids: Egypts Great Secret Uncovered (due for release in September) seems dubious, but it should certainly make for amusing bedtime reading nonetheless.

Taking his lead from an obscure reference in the memoirs of 19th century Egyptologist and British Consul General in Egypt Henry Salt who apparently recounted investigating catacombs beneath the Giza plateau in 1817, together with maverick Italian explorer Giovanni Caviglia Collins claims to have found a hidden entrance to a network of subterranean caves, the same ones that are apparently alluded to in Egyptian funerary texts, and whispered about in Egyptian popular legend. Within these subterranean caverns, says Collins, may even be the mythical Hall of Records the great library full of all sorts of treasures which is said to be buried somewhere underneath the Sphinx.

There doesnt appear to be any disputing that Collins has located and entered some whopping big caves somewhere near Giza, but hard archaeological discoveries so far are scant; certainly he hasnt divulged much yet about what he found within them. We explored the caves before the air became too thin to continue, he told Discovery News, in one of his less Indiana Jones-like moments. They are highly dangerous, with unseen pits and hollows, colonies of bats and venomous spiders.

We explored the caves before the air became too thin to continue. They are highly dangerous, with unseen pits and hollows, colonies of bats and venomous spiders.” — Andrew Collins

Collins credentials are in the realm of pseudo-science than hard academia his pet theory, divulged in his book The Cygnus Mystery, is that the Cygnus or Northern Cross star constellation is the key to understanding humanitys belief in the origin of life. He reckons this new find supports it too. Join me in experiencing, he booms on his website, in a statement that will make serious scholars wince, as we uncover the final truth behind the existence at Giza of an underground realm with a womb-like chamber of first creation reflecting the influence of Cygnus, the visible sign in the night sky of the celestial Shetayet, the womb of the cosmic mother personified as the Milky Way.

Secretary General of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities Zahi Hawass hasnt minced his words in writing off Collins findings. There are no new discoveries to be made at Giza, he stated, quite bluntly, to Discovery News. We know everything about the plateau.

Collins hit back by challenging the world-renowned Egyptian archaeologist to present some evidence of these catacombs. To the best of our knowledge nothing has ever been written or recorded about these caves since Salts explorations. If Hawass does have any report related to these caves, we have yet to see it. Were yet to hear a retort from Zawass. We wont be too surprised if one isnt forthcoming.

Picture c/o Wikimedia Commons. Some rights reserved.