Roman mosaic discovery in Italy

This video says about itself:

14 January 2008

A short film about Roman mosaics. The film shows a series of Roman mosaics and information about their construction.

From Discovery News:

Ancient Roman Mosaic Found in Tuscany

Oct 6, 2015 02:30 PM ET // by Rossella Lorenzi

Italian archaeologists digging in a small Tuscan village have unearthed part of what they believe is a large and impressive ancient Roman mosaic.

Laying in a private property next to a local road in the village Capraia e Limite, the mosaic features two different designs. One, dating to the second half of the 4th century AD, features geometric patterns framed by floral motifs, the other, dating to the 5th century AD, boasts octagons decorated with animals, flowers and a human bust.

The large mosaic graced the floor of a luxurious Roman villa that stood in the Tuscan countryside for four centuries, from the 1st to the beginning of the 6th century AD.

Photos: See Images of the Mosaic

“Evidence of this villa was first found in 1983, when workers digging to build an orchard unearthed some black and white mosaic fragments and, most interestingly, an inscription mentioning one of the owners of the complex,” Lorella Alderighi of the Archaeological Superintendency of Tuscany, told Discovery News.

The inscribed slab of stone referred to Vettius Agorius Praetextatus, one of the most famous pagan senators of the later fourth century AD. He came from an ancient and noble family and died in 384 while serving as the praetorian prefect at the court of Emperor Valentinian II.

It is well known that Vettius Agorius Praetextatus owned villas in Tuscany — and liked them very much.

“The Roman statesman and orator Quintus Aurelius Symmachus even complained in his letters that Vettius enjoyed too much opium in his estates in Etruria, instead of dealing with politics in Rome,” Federico Cantini, the archaeologist of the University of Pisa who led the dig, told Discovery News.

Built in the first century, the villa in Capraia e Limite had its most glorious time in the 4th century AD, when Vettius Agorius Praetextatus rebuilt it according to luxurious standards. By the beginning of the 6th century AD it was completely abandoned and plundered.

1500-Year-Old Mosaic Map Found

“Luckily, they could not remove the mosaics,” Alderighi said.

Excavations in 2013 brought to light a stunning oval mosaic with a wild boar hunting scene which dates to the second half of the 4th century AD.

Because of legal issues and lack of funding, the mosaic was covered soon after its discovery in order to preserve it. The finding prompted new archaeological investigations.

“We speculated the mosaic floor extends further, thus we tested the hypothesis with a survey dig,” Cantini said.

The excavation proved Cantini and his team were right.

Parts of two floor mosaics came to light. The older one consisted of geometric patterns framed by red decorations with acanthus and vine leaves in various shades of grey, blue and black. The other displayed scenes with animals, flowers, geometric patterns framed by octagons. Catching the attention at the center of one of such octagons, is the bust of a man with a tunic and large eyes.

“We believe it is not a portrait, but just a decoration,” Alderighi said.

According to the archaeologists, the investigated portion of the villa had an hexagonal structure with rooms opening onto a central hall.

“We estimate the size of the floor mosaic to be about 300 square meters (984 square feet). We only have unearthed one-eighth of it,” Cantini said.

Photos: Greek God Hermes Featured in Ancient Mosaic

Unfortunately, most of the mosaic lies beneath an industrial shed. Although the archaeologists believe the artwork is still intact, it is unlikely it will be brought to light in the near future.

The newly unearthed mosaics have been already covered for preservation — just like the mosaic with the hunting scene.

“Our goal is to open these beautiful artworks to the public. We are working to make this happen,” Alessandro Giunti, mayor of Capraia e Limite, said.

He added that the first mosaic to be restored and displayed will be the one showing the wild boar hunting scene.

British archaeological discovery, bigger than Stonehenge, near Stonehenge

This video from England says about itself:

7 September 2015

At Durrington Walls, 3 km away from Stonehenge, the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project team has now discovered evidence for a super-henge: a row of up to 150 standing stones, some of which may have originally measured up to 4.5 metres in height.

From the BBC today:

Stonehenge researchers ‘may have found largest Neolithic site’

Stone monoliths found buried near Stonehenge could have been part of the largest Neolithic monument built in Britain, archaeologists believe.

The 4,500-year-old stones, some measuring 15ft (4.5m) in length, were discovered under 3ft of earth at Durrington Walls “superhenge”.

The monument was on “an extraordinary scale” and unique, researchers said.

The Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes team has been creating an underground map of the area in a five-year project.

Remote sensing and geophysical imaging technology has been used to reveal evidence of nearly 100 stones without the need for excavation.

The monument is just under two miles (3km) from Stonehenge, Wiltshire, and is thought to have been a Neolithic ritual site.

Experts think it may have surrounded traces of springs and a dry valley leading into the River Avon.

Although no stones have been excavated they are believed to be fashioned from sarsen blocks found locally.

Sarsen stones are sandstone blocks found mainly on Salisbury Plain and the Marlborough Downs in Wiltshire.

A unique sarsen standing stone, The Cuckoo Stone, remains in the field next to Durrington Walls.

The stones are believed to have been deliberately toppled over the south-eastern edge of the bank of the circular enclosure before being incorporated into it.

Lead researcher Vince Gaffney, of the University of Bradford, said: “We don’t think there’s anything quite like this anywhere else in the world.

“This is completely new and the scale is extraordinary.”

Archaeologist Nick Snashall said: “The presence of what appear to be stones, surrounding the site of one of the largest Neolithic settlements in Europe adds a whole new chapter to the Stonehenge story.”

The earthwork enclosure at Durrington Walls was built about a century after the Stonehenge sarsen circle, but archaeologists believe the newly discovered stone row could have been put in place at the same time or even earlier.

Andy Rhind-Tutt, Heritage Trust founder, described the findings as “an incredible discovery”.

He and University of Buckingham researchers have been involved in another nearby site, Blick Mead, thought to be at least 9,500 years old.

Mr Rhind-Tutt fears this and other sites could be damaged or lost to a planned A303 road tunnel past Stonehenge.

“It’s a big concern to all of us, especially as we are at the tip of the iceberg with this particular discovery, and it would be horrible to destroy one of the most significant sites in the world,” he said.

“The hidden treasure trove of the Stonehenge landscape just begs the question about why are all these incredible structures here?”

David Jacques, from the University of Buckingham, who is also involved in Blick Mead, described the find as “absolutely brilliant “and a “game changer”.

“All the monuments have a relationship with each other,” he said.

“So rather than just ‘atomising’ them and looking at them as individual entities there are deliberate lines of sight or knowledge that things are just over the hill.

“When you put that together in the late Neolithic – there’s something vibrant, exciting and dynamic [about the find].”

The findings were being announced on the first day of the British Science Festival being held at the University of Bradford.

A prehistoric monument has been discovered near Stonehenge.

MEET THE MAN WHO BOUGHT, AND THEN GAVE AWAY, STONEHENGE “Cecil Chubb paid £6,600 for the monument at an auction in Salisbury, Wiltshire. It happened, he said, ‘on a whim.'” [BBC]

Ancient Egyptian sculpture acquired by Dutch museum

Newly aquired sculpture from the age of Pharaoh Amenhotep III

Translated from the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden, the Netherlands:

The Egyptian collection of the Museum of Antiquities has recently been supplemented by a series of objects from the former collection of HC Jelgersma (1897-1982), a psychiatrist who studied Egyptology in his spare time. The most striking object of this is a small statue from the time of Amenhotep III (1391-1353 BC), the father of the famous Pharaoh Akhenaten. It is a thirteen centimeters tall head of a statue that has stood in an Egyptian temple.

Figurine with features of Amenhotep III

The sculpture has the characteristic features of Pharaoh Amenhotep III, but the wig with vertical strands indicates that the head does not represent the pharaoh himself, but a god with the facial features of the monarch. Amenhotep III had hundreds of these idols made for many temples in the country.

Rise and fall of the sun cult

The statue is made of red quartzite, a type of stone that was popular in this period of Egyptian history. Probably the colour was associated with the rising sun. That suited the cult of the sun as almighty god, which was booming at this time and culminated during the reign of Akhenaten. On the forehead was originally the head of a cobra, a symbol of power, worn both by gods and kings.

September 2, 2015

British King Charles II used child soldiers, archaeologists discover

This video, recorded in Scotland, says about itself:

The Battle of Dunbar

27 August 2010

On a hill in Scotland, I remember the distant relative whose ill fate became my good fortune.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Skeletons of Scottish prisoners provide evidence of child soldiers in Britain’s civil wars

Troops at the brutal Battle of Dunbar in 1650 may have been as young as 12

David Keys, Archaeology Correspondent

Wednesday 02 September 2015

Physical evidence that children were used as soldiers in Britain’s mid-17th century civil wars has been discovered by archaeologists.

Investigations in Durham have identified the remains of up to 28 skeletons as Scottish prisoners of war including a dozen teenage soldiers, five of whom were aged 12 to 16.

They were taken prisoner after English parliamentarian forces defeated the pro-Charles II Scottish Presbyterian army at the Battle of Dunbar on 3 September, 1650.

Scientific and other investigations carried out by the Durham University show that they almost certainly died of malnutrition, disease and dysentery.

One 13-15 year old boy who may have been suffering from scurvy had infections in his leg and foot bones.

A 14-15 year old appears to have been suffering from malnutrition for several years – and had had severe tooth decay and a leg infection.

A 12-16 year old had leg and foot infections – and probably also suffered from rickets.

The Battle of Dunbar was short and brutal. After less than an hour, a 12,000 strong English parliamentarian army, under the command of Oliver Cromwell, defeated the 11,000 strong Scottish covenanting army who supported the claims of Charles II to the Scottish throne.

Between 1,000 and 2,000 Scottish soldiers were killed by Cromwell’s forces who only lost 20 men.

The Scottish army had suffered from desertion, political purges and a severe lack of fighting age recruits. That almost certainly explains the presence of child soldier prisoners-of-war, unearthed in Durham.

Around 6,000 Scots were taken prisoners after the Battle of Dunbar. A thousand were immediately released because they were sick or wounded. The remainder were marched 100 miles south towards Durham where they were to be incarcerated in the castle and cathedral. Around a thousand died on the march – from hunger, exhaustion and dysentery. A few were executed. Some others escaped.

Around 3000 finally arrived in Durham, of who some 1700 then died of dysentery or disease at the rate of around 30 per day.

The identification of the Durham skeletons as Scottish prisoners taken at the Battle of Dunbar has involved detailed scientific and historical research – including isotopic tests showing that the individuals came from Scotland.

“Taking into account the range of detailed scientific evidence we have now, alongside historical evidence from the time, the identification of the bodies as the Scottish soldiers from the Battle of Dunbar is the only plausible explanation,” said Dr. Andrew Millard, Senior Lecturer at Durham University’s Department of Archaeology.

French Guiana archaeological discoveries

This 2010 BBC video says about itself:

11 August 2010

Michelle Jana Chan explores the heritage of Suriname before crossing the Maroni River into French Guiana.

Translated from Leiden University in the Netherlands, 25 August 2015:

Original inhabitants of French Guiana were not nomads

Archaeologically, French Guiana is still largely unexplored. “The work is hard,” says Martijn van den Bel, “but all you find is brand new. For example, that Indians really lived in the so-called virgin forest.” PhD on September 2.

Finds from unknown epoch

Van den Bel focused on the period from 3000 BC. until the present time. He discovered that French Guiana had already residents then and also that these Indians were not so primitive. He and his colleagues found shards which could be reconstructed into open, round bowls of 30 cm high with powdered quartz stone mixed into the baking clay. They can be dated to the Early Ceramic period (2500 BC.). “There was nothing known about that time,” says Van den Bel.

Palmyra in Syria, ISIS and the CIA

This 2010 video is called Palmyra, Syria.

By Bill Van Auken in the USA:

The atrocities of ISIS and the US wars of sociocide

26 August 2015

Images posted Tuesday on social media have confirmed the destruction by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) of the 2,000-year-old temple of Baal Shamin in the Syrian city of Palmyra. The images show ISIS fighters planting explosive charges throughout the ancient structure and then detonating them, reducing the temple to rubble.

The willful demolition of this site, one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world and one of the best preserved Greco-Roman ruins in existence, followed the savage murder a week earlier of Professor Khaled Assad. The 82-year-old Syrian archeologist had participated in the excavation and restoration of Palmyra’s ruins and had remained there as the head of antiquities for nearly half a century. He was beheaded for refusing to assist ISIS in looting the site.

UNESCO, the United Nations cultural and educational agency, justifiably denounced these atrocities as “war crimes,” adding that “their perpetrators must be accountable for their actions.”

There is no question that those responsible for these acts and for far bloodier atrocities against the Syrian people are criminals and should be held accountable. The obstacle to bringing to justice those principally responsible, however, is the fact that they are the former and current chief officials in the White House, the Pentagon and the CIA.

It was they who laid waste to one Middle Eastern country after another, while working with the Islamist forces that comprise ISIS to carry out their wars of regime-change against a series of secular Arab governments.

The systematic destruction of a cultural heritage carried out by ISIS has a historical precedent in the crimes carried out by the Pol Pot regime and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979. This regime set out to erase the country’s cultural heritage, while carrying out a reign of terror and mass murder against the population.

The similarities between ISIS and the Khmer Rouge do not end with their barbaric assaults on culture and human life. In both cases, the preconditions for these atrocities had been created through the destruction of entire societies by US imperialism.

In Cambodia, a US bombing campaign dropped some 532,000 tons of explosives on the country in four years—more than three times the tonnage dropped on Japan during all of World War II. The resulting death toll is estimated as high as 600,000, while 2 million people out of a population of 7 million were made homeless and economic life was shattered.

ISIS and the current bloodshed across Syria and Iraq are the direct products of similar acts of sociocide on the part of US imperialism. In Iraq, the illegal US invasion of 2003, the subsequent occupation and the systematic destruction of what had been one of the most advanced health and social infrastructures in the Arab world claimed the lives of over 1 million Iraqis, while turning another 5 million into refugees. The divide-and-rule strategy pursued by the Pentagon stoked a sectarian civil war by deliberately manipulating tensions between Iraq’s Shia and Sunni populations.

The ramifications of this policy have long since spilled across national borders, with increasingly catastrophic consequences, all driven by Washington’s resort to militarism to advance its aim of hegemony over the energy-rich regions of the Middle East and Central Asia.

To this end, the US has been involved in wars for over 35 years, beginning with the CIA’s orchestration of the war for regime-change against the Soviet-backed government in Afghanistan, where it allied itself with Islamist forces, including Osama bin Laden and the other founders of Al Qaeda.

Nine months before the last US troops withdrew from Iraq in December 2011, Washington and its NATO allies launched another unprovoked war of aggression to topple the government of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya and impose their own puppet regime over the oil-rich North African country. The destruction of the Libyan state and the murder of Gaddafi plunged the country into chaos and bloodshed that continues to this day. Islamist militias used as US proxies in the Libyan war, along with tons of captured Libyan weapons, were subsequently funneled—with the aid of the CIA—into the civil war in Syria, strengthening ISIS and helping create the conditions for it to overrun more than a third of Iraq.

In the name of the never-ending “war on terrorism,” Washington is prosecuting another military campaign in alliance with the Shia-based government in Baghdad against ISIS in the predominately Sunni regions of Iraq, while in Syria it is stepping up military operations in alliance with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the other Sunni Gulf monarchies, while attempting to find “moderate” Sunni Islamists it can utilize as proxies in the war to topple the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

The New York Times Tuesday published a lengthy article reflecting an internal debate within the Obama administration over whether to provide more direct US support to Ahrar al-Sham, a Sunni Islamist militia with multiple links to Al Qaeda. The group already receives extensive backing from key US allies Turkey and Qatar.

The horrific consequences of decades of US wars are now spilling into Europe, with the increasingly desperate flight of hundreds of thousands of refugees—in many cases at the cost of their own lives—from homelands that Washington has turned into killing fields.

Politically and morally, the US government and its top officials, starting with Bush and Obama, are totally responsible for all of the crimes, atrocities and human suffering resulting from the multiple wars of aggression they initiated.

None of them have been held to account. Representatives and defenders of an oligarchy of corporate billionaires, they are not, under the present political setup, answerable to the American people, whose opposition to war they routinely defy.

The task of bringing these war criminals to justice and putting an end to the succession of wars and growing threat of a new world war lies with the working class.

Svalbard expedition animals news update

This video says about itself:

15 November 2012

Extremely Rare White Whale Spotted Off The Coast Of Spitsbergen

That was a humpback whale.

Translated from a blog post today by Ms Liesbeth Noor, a participant in the big Dutch Svalbard expedition:

The first day [near Edgeøya island] (last Thursday, August 20th), we immediately spotted a polar bear (from the ship and far away), which meant we were not allowed to land. In the afternoon there was a number of whales in sight, fin, humpback and sei whale. Two came quite close, the rest you had to see with binoculars.

I’ve on Friday joined a day of field work by the team of archaeologists. That meant taking sand samples around a hut of Pomors. Those were Russian seafarers around 200 years ago who had a cabin on the west coast of Edgeøya (just around the corner from where the four Dutch students wintered in 1968, three of these gentlemen are with us now too).

Translated from a blog post by participant Nienke Beintema, about 21 August 2015:

Some researchers counted the seals and collected their droppings. Others took water samples. …

Brünnich’s guillemots overhead, pink-footed geese, a pomarine skua.

Translated from a blog post by Nienke Beintema, about 20 August 2015:

And beneath flat rocks [on the east coast of Spitsbergen island], the scientists found a dozen species of mites and springtails. Which are preserved for genetic research. Are these the same species as on the warmer west coast of Spitsbergen?