Category: sean-williams - Part 4

Terracotta Warriors coming to Calgary’s Glenbow Museum

Terracotta Warriors

Fresh from shows in Washington D.C.and Toronto, 18 Terracotta Warriors will make their debut at Calgary’s Glenbow Museum next summer. The 18 statues, the afterlife bodyguards of China’s First Qin Emperor – of which 8,000 have been excavated so far – will be joined by some brand new archaeological relics from the emperor’s giant tomb including two horses and a painting, as well and hundreds of other artefacts associated with the warriors.

It’s a big coup for the museum, who will expect blockbuster attendances akin to those seen at D.C.’s National Geographic Museum and the Royal Ontario Museum. The First Qin Emperor’s mausoleum is one of ancient history’s enduring enigmas, and is still being excavated 36 years after its discovery by farmers in 1974. Just last week another 114 warriors were discovered, hitting headlines worldwide.

Qin Shi Huang was the first emperor to successfully unite China 2,200 years ago. His monumental mausoleum, near the ancient capital city of Xi’an, took 700,000 conscripts around 36 years to complete, just in time for his death.

Further reading:

Top 10 Terracotta Warriors facts

Beardless warriors evident of teenage conscripts?

Video of the Qin Mausoleum excavations

2 ‘Fabulous’ Ancient Greek Statues Recovered in Corinth Sting Operation

Old Corinth

Police have seized two ‘outstanding’ ancient Greek statues in the Peloponnese, shortly before they were due to be sold for 10 million (8.6m). Two men aged 42 and 48 were arrested while loading the pair of 2,500-year-old relics onto the back of a truck near the ancient city of Corinth. Police are seeking a third man they believe to be the group’s ringleader.

The pair of marble statues stand 5’8″ and 5’9″ tall, and are of the Kouros style popular during the 6th and 7th centuries BC. Experts believe both were made by the same sculptor between 550 and 520 BC, and excavated from a temple or cemetery only months ago. Culture minister Pavlos Geroulanos is relieved the statues could be saved before their imminent disappearance. “This is a very important find, of fabulous value, and (both statues) were ready to be taken out of Greece,” he tells AP.

“This is a very important find, of fabulous value.”

The statues, whose legs have been badly damaged by shoddy digging, have been whisked away to Athens’ National Archaeological Museum on temporary display. The precise spot from which they were taken is still unknown, yet some experts think it could be the lost city of Tenea, which served as a POW camp during the Trojan War. Recovering looted ancient treasures is a top priority for Greece’s police, who have to combat dozens of cases per year. “Going after antiquities thieves is our main priority,” adds Geroulanos. “Work has been done in that direction…and we are starting to see the first major results.”

The looting of antiquites is a major worldwide issue. Headline-grabbing incidents have recently hit Bulgaria, Israel and the US, and the issues facing the national museums of Iraq and Afghanistan have been a continued threat to Mesopotamian history.

10 Problems with Mount Ararat Noah’s Ark ‘Discovery’

The recent ‘discovery’ of Noah’s Ark on Mount Ararat, Turkey has taken the archaeological world by storm, and it’s no surprise that some are less inclined to believe the audacious claims of Noah’s Ark Ministries International (NIMA). At the same time the team released a computer-generated image of the site, right, American Biblical historian Randall Price has already refuted the team’s claims, stating he went to the ark’s purported location and saw nothing. Price has since been met with Orwellian media backlash on NIMA’s website, but another leading expert has added his concerns to the debate.

Dutch Biblical expert M.J. Paul has serious reservations about the ‘discovery’, which so far has only comprised sketchy videos and interviews with NIMA. And in true Biblical style he has issued a list of ten points he wants cleared up before he believes its veracity, in an interview with Reformatorisch Dagblad (translated):

1. Every few years claims that the ark has been found surface. How do we know this is the real ark? That the wooden remains really originate from Noah’s ship?

“It is the test of the finders to show what is truly going on.”

2. Archaeologists are obliged to pinpoint exactly where they’ve found something, but these ‘discoverers’ keep their location secret though they do name Ararat. This makes control/checking impossible.

3. In the news it is stated the find is at a height of four kilometres. At this height there is a massive amount of ice, and many scholars/researchers doubt if in ‘movable gletsjer ice’ the structure of a ship can be preserved.

4. The mountain that is currently named Ararat is – according to most geologists – only ‘created’ quite recently, definitely after the flood. It is a volcano without sedimentation layers, which would have been deposited by the flood’s waters. Are they sure they are aiming at the right mountain?

5. The wood is said to be tested in a laboratory in Iran, and estimated to be about 4800 years old. Does Iran actually have laboratories where one is skilled at determining this correctly? Why did this happen in Iran? And why aren’t the official ‘reports’ publicised so the results can be double-checked?

6. The news release mentions a ‘black substance’ on the wood found and refers to the tar mentioned in Genesis. That’s too quick a conclusion. Why wasn’t this substance further examined?

7. The ‘iron pins/nails with square heads’ found could indeed be interpreted as nails to tie animals to, but there is a total lack of considering other interpretations/possiblities of use.

8. It induces distrust that the discoverers first want to make a film documentary before actual factual data is released and verified/reviewed. When will the finds be presented on the normal way to the scientific community so that verification is possible?

9. One of the published photographs shows a spider web/cobweb in one of the corners. Is it possible for spiders to live at that height? Survive in that cold? Or did they photograph a cave positioned much lower than 4000m?

10. The guide leading the search/mission is known to be very unreliable. Why did they hire him anyway?

A damning critique indeed. It’s unsurprising how quickly people have pounced on the story as proof Noah’s Ark exists – it’s always the case with a Biblical mission, always will be. Yet these ten points, if left unanswered, are surely enough to put down even the sturdiest of claims from NIMA’s leading officials. Dr Paul signs off with a poignant message to NIMA, and the archaeological world as a whole:

“Various orthodox scholars believe that this is pseudo-archaeology, doing more damage to God’s word than it does good. It is the test of the finders to show what is truly going on.” It seems an obvious thing to say, but judging by NIMA’s ever-increasing arsenal of provocative videos and images they feel the public should believe them with the little proof they’ve exhibited thus far. Watch this space – this argument could get very messy in the coming days, and I’ll keep you updated as things move forward. In the meantime check out our list of archaeology’s top ten hoaxes, not that we’re pre-empting anything…

Nefertiti Bust Should Stay in Berlin (No Matter What Hawass Says)

The bust of Nefertiti, gyptisches Museum Berlin

This week Egypt’s antiquities chief Zahi Hawassplans to make a formal request for the return of the Bust of Nefertiti from Berlin. Neues Museum officials have already dismissed his continued attacks on the legality of the bust’s ownership, and are all but certain not to let go of their most prized asset. Hawass still has the backing of millions worldwide. But Nefertiti should stay where she is, and his quest to repatriate Egypt’s ancient relics is misguided, dangerous even, to Egypt’s cultural heritage.

Dr Hawass has been planning the campaign for quite some time: in August last year he told Heritage Key he would “reveal (the evidence for Nefertiti’s return) in October (09) when I write the letter to the Berlin Museum for the return of the piece, because it left Egypt illegally.” The evidence can’t be too compelling for him to have postponed the project for nearly eight months. “We are no longer discussing whether to do this, but only how to formulate this demand,” he added to a German press agency recently.

Prussian Cultural Heritage, which safeguards the Neues among other high-profile museums, was having none of it. A request from Egypt to return (Nefertiti) has not reached us yet, a spokesman says. Everything has been said on this subject, adds Germany’s Ministry of Culture. “Nefertiti is accepted, not assimilated. She keeps her separateness and her uniqueness – yet she belongs here,” says top German Egyptologist Dietrich Wildung. It seems Hawass’ claim will not so much fall flat as barely make it onto two feet at all.

Borchardt may have played a cool hand, but Nefertiti should go nowhere

Hawass and Egypt have argued for decades that the Bust was stolen by archaeologist Ludwig Borchardt in 1913. It’s true to say Borchardt’s intentions weren’t completely noble when he ‘accidentally’ noted the Bust was made from gypsum, when in fact it is fashioned from limestone and stucco, and photographed it in a poor light. But Germany claims Egyptian officials had the chance to check all the items Borchardt took back to Europe, an offer they declined. Nefertiti was at the top of the exchange list,says the German Oriental Society, the inspector could have looked at everything closely at the time. It’s not admissible to complain about the deal reached at the time.

Hawass should drop the issue: Nefertiti is going nowhere. There’s no doubting Hawass’ good intentions: he feels these items are stolen and he wants them for the Egyptian people. He sees Nefertiti as a hostage, trapped thousands of miles from home. But she’s one of Egypt’s greatest ambassadors, and is doing more good from Berlin than she could ever do from Cairo.

Over half a million people see the Bust each year, many of whom aren’t necessarily interested in ancient Egypt. It’s these people who flock from all over the world to Egypt on holiday, having seen its ancient treasures in a museum back home. For a country whose tourism industry is worth a reported $12.5 billion (8.7 billion) it would be unwise to take blockbuster pieces like Nefertiti and the Rosetta Stone back to Egypt, when they’re creating such a strong global brand.

Hawass, ironically, proves this point perfectly every time he globetrots to another western nation, extolling the virtues of ancient Egypt before another giant exhibition. Would they still be interested in him if they couldn’t get a bite of Egypt on their doorstep? With his grizzled looks and Indiana Jones wardrobe, Dr Hawass knows how to play the underdog battling colonial tyrannies. But this isn’t Repatriation: The Movie, and you can only complain so much when you’re knocking back vol-au-vents with the enemy.

Clegg and Cameron: Britain’s Spartan Kingship?

Having two leaders might be uncharted territory for Britain, but it’s an arrangement that worked well over 2,500 years ago when Sparta was ruled by two kings. The fearless Greek city-state found that having two leaders was the best way to plunder its neighbours and promote harmony amongst its citizens.

This Monday ‘Dave and Nick’, as the PM and his deputy are to be known, gave a press conference backing their ambitions for the next five years. This government would be a radical, reforming government where it needs to be and a source of reassurance and stability at a time of great uncertainty, said Nick Clegg. He may not have known it, but he was delivering a Spartan manifesto.

Most equate Spartans, not altogether wrongly, with the impossibly chiselled warriors from graphic shock-fest 300. Yet Sparta’s awesome army was propped up by a rigid governmental system, at the front of which stood not one but two kings. The kings presided over a privy council of 28 elders, five of which, the ephors, decided policy and made sure each king had the state’s best interest at heart.

“Madness? This is Sparta!”

It worked perfectly. While enemies quarrelled over affairs Sparta’s two kings could do it all at once. Neither king could outweigh his opposite’s veto, so decisions were swift and final. It meant both could wage war separately, or govern back home. This autocratic stability was at odds with the Athenians in particular, whom Sparta would defeat in 404BC, who obsessed over rhetoric and debate.

Did having two kings create tension? You bet. Two royal houses twice the potential for the rows that all monarchies are prone to, points out historian Bettany Hughes in her recent Ancient Worlds series. The Spartans explained this arrangement by claiming that their kings were direct descendants of the great-great grandsons of Herakles, the strongman of Greek myth.

Nick and Dave’s ancestry are well-documented: Clegg the grandson of Russian nobility; Cameron the blue-blooded offspring of a Baronet’s daughter. Neither can claim to be the son of a god, yet. And they can tick rowing off the list having called each other ‘arrogant’ and ‘a joke’, among other pleasantries, during the election campaign.

Eventually Sparta’s dual kingship would prevent it spreading its wings – Some historians call this stability ‘political stagnation’, says History Walker Herald – and by the end of Sparta’s renaissance its two kings were little more than ceremonial generals pandering to radical councillors. With Britain facing economic turmoil and a pair of unpopular wars, Nick and Dave’s partnership might not last beyond the next election. But if their coalition is questioned in future, maybe a line from Gerard Butler’s Leonidas would be apt: Madness? This is Sparta!

Michael Katsidis: Boxing’s Spartan Warrior

88742971EM007_Michael_KatsiThis Saturday Britain’s next great boxing hope ( all tabloids) Kevin Mitchell faces off against Aussie Michael Katsidis for the WBO Interim Lightweight title at West Ham’s Upton Park. Anyone who’s seen Katsidis, 29, in action will know 25-year-old Mitchell is walking into an epic battle. And though he’s expected to defeat his antipodean opponent, Mitchell’s rise to stardom could well be dealt a Greek tragedy.

One of around 350,000 Australians with Greek heritage, Katsidis’ father lives in a hamlet said to be the birthplace of Trojan hero Achilles, the warrior whose body was invincible bar his infamous heel. Katsidis loves his Greek heritage, and has made it his trademark to step into the ring wearing a Spartan war helmet and warrior’s skirt.

Katsidis’ back is even emblazoned with a tattoo of the Vergina Sun, a decorative symbol associated with Alexander the Great’s father Philip II of Macedon. It is who I am – and I am so proud of who I am, he tells the BBC. (Greeks) love what I do in their name – that I walk out there with my heart on my sleeve, with the Greek warrior helmet – and they love their boxing.

“Greeks love what I do in their name – that I walk out there with my heart on my sleeve, with the Greek warrior helmet.”

Katsidis is famed for a particularly brutal brand of pugilism, so the allusion to ancient Sparta couldn’t be more apt. Sparta was a feared city-state from the Peloponesse which rose to prominence from the 10th to the 5th century BC, when it defeated Athens and her allies in the Peloponnesian War of 404 BC. Famed for their steely attitude and terrifying bloodlust, Spartan warriors have been immortalised thanks to films like 300 and Spartacus. Recent series Spartacus: Blood and Sand was even dubbed the goriest show in TV history.

True to his Greek ancestory Katsidis remains philosophical on his chances against Mitchell, a true-born Eastender being carried on a wave of publicity. He can’t be disrespected. He can’t be underestimated either. But I believe when it comes to the eighth, ninth and 10th rounds and he’s going back to his stool and he’s lucky to be able to stand up, he’s cut everywhere and he’s got nothing left in his body, nothing I say beforehand will have made a difference to the fight.

There are no plans for the future,” Katsidis adds. “Every fight I’ve had has been a war and I can’t see this being any different. Kevin Mitchell beware: few have gone to war with a Spartan and survived.

Romans were famed for their bloodsports: click here to view a special video on London’s hidden past, including its incredible gladiatorial amphitheatre.

Barkay: Stop ‘Barbaric’ Temple Mount Digs

View of Temple Mount

A top Israeli archaeologist claims ‘barbaric’ Muslim digs are stripping Jerusalem’sTemple Mount of its Jewish heritage. Dr Gabriel Barkay, of BarIlan University, has likened Israel and the West’s denial of the site’s Jewish history to that of the Holocaust, and has warned that thousands of years of history could be lost if authorities do not step in soon to prevent more damage at the hands of the controlling Islamic Wafq council, who he says have been dumping vital archaeological material miles away as waste.

“(It is) the most important archaeological site in Israel, and despite all this, Israel has abandoned it,” Barkay tells Arutz Sheva magazine. ” Over the past ten years, the Waqf has taken control, making major changes in the status quo: It has conducted illegal digs, built mosques and the like, and the situation has changed from one extreme to the other.

“Some years ago,” adds Barkay, “they took 400 truckloads of dirt from the Temple Mount and dumped it into the Kidron Valley – totally illegally. This is dirt that is filled with Jewish history from many periods.” Barkay has been leading a team of archaeologists in the ‘Screening the Waste’ project in the valley, which he claims has thrown up many objects from the Mount’s past including ornaments from the Second Temple Period and Roman and Babylonian arrowheads, latterly from the Nebuchadnezzar-led army that sacked Zedekiah’s Jerusalem in 587BC.

“It is the most important archaeological site in Israel, and Israel has abandoned it.”

“This is of course not the optimum way to perform archaeology, because you need context, layers and the like,” says Barkay, “but this is the best we can do in light of these barbaric digs, and we are trying to get the most out of it. Jerusalem is filled with archaeological digs, but the most important site has never been done; this dirt is the only source we have.”

And Barkay believes Israeli antiquities law should be introduced to the site as quickly as possible to prevent any further damage. “These are cultural assets for which we have a tremendous responsibility towards future generations,” he says. “I would like to see the removal of all the Waqf’s heavy equipment, and I would like to see the Waqf observe the law; the Israel Antiquities Authority must be allowed to always be on site to supervise, and not have to come in various disguises and the like.” Israel’s archaeology has always been a febrile issue – it was even excluded from a recent world conference.

Excavation next to Wall_1866

Temple Mount is one of the world’s holiest sites for both Jews and Muslims, and is the subject of continued conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, both of whom claim sovereignty. The first and second Jewish temples were built on the site in the 10th and 6th centuries BC respectively. Yet following the 637AD Muslim conquest of Jerusalem the al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock were constructed on the spot, which remains a focal point for Muslims.

For the past decade the site has been under the control of the Waqf, and non-Muslim prayer is strictly forbidden. Barkay claims the Waqf aims to destroy recognition of Temple Mount’s Jewish heritage: “They act as if there never was a Holy Temple. This is very very grave: regarding the Holocaust, there are living people who still remember it, but the same cannot be said regarding the Temple.”

Pagan Police Officers Get Days Off For Solstice Festivals

Stonehenge Summer Solstice 2009 - A Druid and the StonesBritain’s pagan policemen and women have been given the right to take time off to celebrate their ancient festivals. The Pagan Police Association (PPA) has been recognised as a ‘diversity staff support organisation’ by the Home Office, a move which has polarised the force.

The PPA is thought to have up to 500 members, including Wiccans andDruids. Co-founder Andy Pardy has hailed the group’s progress, which will see members allowed time off to observe dates like the recent Beltane Fire Festival and Spring Equinox at Stonehenge.

“The recognition of paganism is a slow process, but the progress is evident,” he says. “Officers can, for the first time, apply for leave on the festival dates relevant to their path, and allow them to work on other dates such as Christmas which bore no relevance to them.” Followers of major world religions like Christianity, Islam and Judaism already get time off to celebrate events such as Easter, Ramadan and Hannukah respectively.

“What has it come to when a cop gets time off to dance around drinking honey beer with a wand in his hand?”

The Home Office’s move, made to have a police force which “reflects the diverse communities it serves,” hasn’t gone down well with everyone in the force. “When they talk about political correctness gone mad, this is exactly what they are talking about,” an unnamed officer tells the Daily Mail. “What has it come to when a cop gets time off so he can sit about making spells or dance around the place drinking honey beer with a wand in his hand?”

Paganism is believed to be Britain’s fastest growing religion, and its followers have enjoyed an increased exposure to the British media in recent years for their protests at Stonehenge. Major festivals include Yule, an ancient precursor to Christmas in which pagans burn a yule log in honour of the Germanic god Kriss Kringle, and Samhain, on Halloween, when food is left for the dead and worshippers cast spells as ghosts.

HD Video: Episode 8 – Spring Equinox at Stonehenge

(Transcription of this video)

What do you think – should Pagans be given the same rights as believers of other religions? Or is it just ‘time off to dance around the place’? Have your say in the comments box below.

‘Painted Stone Goat’ Discovered in Henan, China, Could be World’s Oldest Map

Dragon's Gate GrottoesAn ancient ‘stone goat’ covered in strange rock paintings has been discovered in central China. The ‘incredible’ relic was found by a team of student archaeologists led by Ma Baoguang in Yangce Town, Biyang County, Henan Province.

The goat, which is 8m long and 3.7m wide, is covered in around 500 of the paintings, which consist of rounded craters joined by lines to create what experts believe may be an ancient map of the region, famous for the village of Banpo and Yangshao culture. Several larger craters have also been spotted. “It is quite incredible that a large stone goat carries ‘Hetu and Luoshu’ (maps of the Yellow and Luo rivers) on its back,” says Mr Ma.

“It is quite incredible that a large stone goat carries ‘Hetu and Luoshu’ (maps of the Yellow and Luo rivers) on its back.”

In just one week Mr Ma and his team have discovered over a thousand of the hieroglyphic roundels, in just a 5km area which includes villages such as Chenzhou, Tangligou, Xuzhuang, Leigutai, Anzhai and Guogang.

If the markings are an ancient map, they may have some way to go to steal the title of ‘world’s oldest’ away from one in the northern Spanish town of Abauntz, which was deciphered last October. Abauntz’ map dates back around 14,000 years, while one in the ancient Turkish city of atalhyk dates back to around 6,200 BC. Read our top ten cave paintings here.

Clegg Would Return Elgin Marbles to Athens

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg vows to return the Elgin Marbles to Greece if voted into power in today’s general election. As an MEP (Member of the European Parliament) in 2002 Clegg even spearheaded a conference on sending the marbles back to Athens named Marbles in Exile.

Clegg described the marbles being housed in the British Museum (BM) like displaying Big Ben in the Louvre. When Tory MEPRoger Helmer criticised the stance, Clegg wrote to him, “During the opening of the Marbles in Exile exhibition yesterday, I took the opportunity to read out your message. Everyone agreed that you appear to have lost your marbles.”

The BM has long argued that the famous friezes, taken controversially from the Parthenon in 1801 by Lord Elgin while Greece was under Ottoman rule, are better off in London for a number of reasons. These include the argument that they are better understood as part of a world collection such as the BM’s, and that they would have suffered irreparable damage from war and pollution had Elgin not brought them to Britain.

“You appear to have lost your marbles,” Clegg told him

The BM’s position is one of the most controversial in world heritage, not least because Greece claims they were removed illegally. The opening of the New Acropolis Museum in Athens has intensified the debate, with the Greeks claiming they now have a world-class museum in which to house their nation’s most famous ancient treasures.

Britain’s three major parties are divided on European relations on the eve of the general election (not to mention Heritage Key’s own Fantasy Election 2010). Clegg’s Liberal Democrats, who have enjoyed a surge in popularity since recent televised debates, are the most pro-Europe with views to joining the single European currency in the future.

His comments are sure to divide the British public on the issue of repatriation, who are becoming increasingly aware of issues regarding ancient artefacts such as the Rosetta Stone and Benin Bronzes. Egypt has even led the International Cooperation for the Protection and Repatriation of Culture Heritage conference in reaction to a myriad relics stored in foreign museums across the world.