By Stefano Ambrogi,
By Stefano Ambrogi,
"Modern technology may allow researchers to read ancient scrolls that were buried almost 2,000 years ago in a volcanic eruption. Dr. Brent Seales, a professor of engineering at the University of Kentucky, will attempt to use an X-Ray CT scanning system to create a digital image of the writing inside two rolled scrolls, which are too fragile to unroll manually." Read More
"A discovery that is being hailed as Israel’s “Atlantis” has been made close to 400 meters off the shore of the bay of Atlit. Submerged below 12 meters of water, Dr. Ehud Galili, an Israel Antiquities Authority marine archaeologist, discovered the 9,000-year-old village of Atlit-Yam—a late Pre-Pottery Neolithic site that is very well preserved. Due to the pristine condition of the submerged ancient village, it is expected that research will yield a great deal of data regarding life in the village, such as the health conditions and burial customs of its inhabitants." Read More
"After three years of excavations in Jordan, a team of archaeologists led by Dr. Steven Collins of Trinity Southwest University believe they have pinpointed the location of the Biblical city of Sodom. Collins, along with his large team of volunteers of all ages, began excavating at the site in 2006. So far, they taken thousands of pieces of pottery found at the site, some of which are 7,000 years old, back to New Mexico for documentation and analysis. Collins believes the site to be so large that it will take an extremely long time, decades or more, to completely excavate."
May 11, 2009
"A team of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have begun using modern chemistry to identify key ingredients in ancient Egyptian medicines. Chemical testing techniques have allowed scientists to identify certain herbs and other ingredients that were added to wine. The mixture had medicinal qualities that were so highly valued that people traveled from abroad to seek them. Some ingredients were recorded as hieroglyphs, and these inscriptions are being used as well to help with the identification of the medicinal ingredients.
Recently two clay jars, one approximately 1,500 years old and the other as old as 5,000 years, have provided residue that can be identified as herbs such as coriander and rosemary. Some researchers, including scientists from Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center, are testing these ancient remedies to see if the herbalists of antiquity were on to anything with their concoctions. By taking these ancient compounds and applying them to modern medical studies such as cancer research, scientists are effectively using archaeology to gain greater knowledge of modern science."
May 13, 2009
"Archaeologist Charles Stanish of UCLA has recently published his findings that online auction sites such as eBay have actually help reduce the instances of antiquities looting. This is in part due to the fact that sellers have found that fakes are just as easy to sell, and are simpler to come by. The drastic change from looting sites to creating fake antiquities that sell online has saved many of the real artifacts from being put out into the market, but has not completely eliminated the problem.
This new market for forgeries, which Stanish estimates at 30% of the total products on eBay, has expanded because techniques used to authenticate the artifacts have not been able to keep up with the realistic fakes. Eventually, the evolution and advancement of technologies will make the creation of fakes that pass as real after authentication analyses more difficult. This could result in more looting, and the illegal selling and transporting of real antiquities once again."
by Joey Corbett
" Sodom and Gomorrah. They are perhaps the most infamous cities of the Bible, inhabited by men and women so vile and wicked that only their utter annihilation could appease God’s wrath (Genesis 19).
But where does the Bible locate these legendary dens of iniquity, and does any trace of them still exist?
It is clear from various Biblical passages that Sodom and Gomorrah should be located in the Dead Sea region. When Abraham and his nephew Lot part ways (Genesis 13:8-13), Lot chooses to settle in the Jordan valley “in the direction of Zoar” and moves his tents to “the cities of the plain” as far as Sodom. According to Genesis 14, the “cities of the plain,” which include Sodom, Gomorrah, Zoar, Zeboiim and Admah, join forces to battle a coalition of Mesopotamian kings in the “Valley of Siddim (that is, the Salt Sea),” a clear reference to the Dead Sea region. Another clue is found in Genesis 10:19, which describes the southern border of Canaan as extending east from Gaza “in the direction of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim,” again placing the cities in the vicinity of the Dead Sea.
But Biblical scholars have long been divided about where exactly around the Dead Sea the cities were located. Most traditional theories place the cities at the southern end of the Dead Sea, in and around the well-watered and fertile plains and valleys south of the Lisan peninsula. At the southern end of this region, the Bible and other sources, including the first-century A.D. historian Josephus and the sixth-century A.D. Madaba Map, locate Zoar, one of the cities of the plain and the place to which Lot and his daughters fled following the destruction of Sodom (Genesis 19:22-23).* ..." Read More
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Archeologists and forensic experts believe they have identified the skeleton of Cleopatra’s younger sister, murdered more than 2,000 years ago on the orders of the Egyptian queen.
The remains of Princess Arsinöe, put to death in 41BC on the orders of Cleopatra and her Roman lover Mark Antony to eliminate her as a rival, are the first relics of the Ptolemaic dynasty to be identified.
The breakthrough, by an Austrian team, has provided pointers to Cleopatra’s true ethnicity. Scholars have long debated whether she was Greek or Macedonian like her ancestor the original Ptolemy, a Macedonian general who was made ruler of Egypt by Alexander the Great, or whether she was north African.
Evidence obtained by studying the dimensions of Arsinöe’s skull shows she had some of the characteristics of white Europeans, ancient Egyptians and black Africans, indicating that Cleopatra was probably of mixed race, too. They were daughters of Ptolemy XII by different wives.
The results vindicate the theories of Hilke Thür of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, who has long claimed that the skeleton was Arsinöe. She described the discovery of Arsinöe’s ethnicity as “a real sensation which leads to a new insight on Cleopatra’s family”.
Fellow experts are now convinced. Günther Hölbl, an authority on the Ptolemies, said the identification of the skeleton was “a great discovery”.
The forensic evidence was obtained by a team working under the auspices of the Austrian Archeological Institute, which is set to detail its findings at an anthropological convention in the United States later this month.
An unusual alliance between archaeologists and satellite technology has revealed just how much history has yet to be uncovered. In an analysis of satellite images taken of Egypt from space, hundreds of as-yet-unexcavated sites have been identified in the regions of the eastern Nile River Delta and Middle Egypt. The results are causing archaeologists to reconsider the complexity of layering of the ancient sites, and the enormity of the work that is still left to do. It is estimated that the sites recorded so far represent a small fraction of archaeological sites in Egypt.
Sarah Parack, an archaeologist who directs the Laboratory for Human Health at the University of Alabama, has pioneered the project that has used space technology to reveal the past. According to Parack, the use of satellite technology allows scientists to see much more than traditional archaeological methods would allow. “We can see patterns in settlements that correspond to the [historical] texts,” she says, “such as if foreign invasions affected the occupation of ancient sites. We can see where the Romans built over what the Egyptians had built, and where the Coptic Christians built over what the Romans had built.” While archaeologists needn’t relinquish their trowels anytime soon, this technology, says Parack, “gives us information about broader ancient settlement patterns, such as patterns of city growth and collapse over time, that excavations do not.”
Medical researchers at the University of Chicago gave their new CT scanner a test run by examining a very unusual patient: a 3,000-year-old mummy known as “Meresamun.” The new scanner, which is the first of its kind in the state of Illinois, uses technology called computed tomography (CT) in order to obtain three-dimensional, cross-sectional images of the body, which allow for faster and more accurate diagnoses of conditions such as blood clots and tumors. In Meresamun’s case, scientists are hoping to gain insight into how the ancient Egyptian woman died.
The mummy is owned by the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago. In 1992, it took a similar machine 8 hours to scan the mummy, obtaining images of 16 cross-sections. This new machine completed a full-body scan in about 10 seconds, and provided 265 cross-sectional images.
A magnificent Byzantine-era bathhouse has been discovered in the Neve Sharrett neighborhood of Zikhron Ya’aqov. An excavation conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority prior to construction by a private contractor has reveled that the bath complex, which measures approximately 20m x 20m, featured hot, warm and cold water rooms as well as marble architectural and decorative elements that were imported from Asia minor. The director of the excavation, Orit Segal, believes that the bath complex was part of an estate house that is located to the north of the site.
Ancient artifacts discovered in Iran’s Joobji archaeological site are among the rarest of their kind in the world. Discovered in an Elamite tomb, the coffins, bronze dishes, braziers, jewelry and gold buttons are of exceptional quality and condition. Joobji archeology team director, Arman Shishehgar, announced the discovery at Iran's 10th International Archaeology Conference. He noted that the coffins contained the skeletal remains of two women, who were buried facing north.
The Elamite period in antiquity is thought to have developed in the late 4th century B.C, and lasted several millennia until its ultimate demise in the mid-1st century B.C.
The largest known statue of Ramses II is about to be uncovered in the southern Egyptian town of Sohag. The statue was originally discovered 15 years ago, but excavation work could not proceed due to the presence of a Muslim cemetery in the region of Akhmim, across the Nile River from Sohag. The burials in the modern-era cemetery were eventually relocated so that excavation of the ancient statue could begin.
Aside from the sheer size of the piece, which is believed to be over 25m in height, the find is also remarkable for the fact that very few statues and temples of the famous pharaoh have been found in this region of Egypt. Ramses II was the most important pharaoh of the New Kingdom’s 19th Dynasty. During his 67-year reign, he is believed to have constructed more buildings and monuments in Egypt than any other pharaoh.
A hoard of 4,500-year-old bronze weapons and tools recently recovered off the northern coast of Greece is the largest of its kind ever found in the country. A statement made by the Ministry of Culture on Thursday said that the cache of artifacts, found over 10 feet below the ocean’s surface, includes at least 110 ax and hammer heads, though more are expected to be extracted from the masses of corroded metal also found with the objects. There are no traces of a suspected shipwreck as the potential origin of the enormous collection of ancient weapons, and archaeologists suspect that the area may have once been a coastal region in antiquity that was eventually submerged. It is presumed that the weapons and tools were buried during a time of unrest or war, when such objects would have represented a fortune.
"According to the American Board of Forensic Anthropology, forensic anthropology is the application of the science of physical anthropology to the legal process. The identification of skeletal, badly decomposed, or otherwise unidentified human remains is important for both legal and humanitarian reasons. Forensic anthropologists apply standard scientific techniques developed in physical anthropology to identify human remains, and to assist in the detection of crime.
Forensic anthropologists frequently work in conjunction with forensic pathologists, odontologists, and homicide investigators to identify a decedent, discover evidence of foul play, and/or the postmortem interval. In addition to assisting in locating and recovering suspicious remains, forensic anthropologists work to suggest the age, sex, ancestry, stature, and unique features of a decedent from the skeleton. " Read More
October 31, 2008
CONTACT: Sarah Yeomans
The Biblical Archaeology Society
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WASHINGTON, D.C. (October 31, 2008) — The reputation of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) is in shambles. After a nearly four-year trial (and still counting), 75 witnesses and more than 5000 pages of testimony, what has been billed as the “forgery trial of the century” is about to collapse. The Israeli judge who will decide the case has advised the prosecution in open court to consider dropping the case. The evidence isn’t there.
The story was reported by Matthew Kalman in the San Francisco Chronicle, and from there around the world. He described Judge Aharon Farkash’s evaluation as a “humiliating collapse” of the government’s case and “a major embarrassment ... for the [Israel] Antiquities Authority.”
The principal target of the case has been the bone box inscribed “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus” that was brought to the world’s attention in 2002 by Biblical Archaeology Review in an article by Sorbonne epigrapher André Lemaire. The inscription, it was charged in the criminal indictment, was a forgery, engraved on an authentic stone box of the kind that Jews used 2000 years ago to rebury their dead—after a year following the initial burial when the flesh had decayed and desiccated.
The government’s principal witness was Professor Yuval Goren, a former chair of Tel Aviv University’s archaeology department, who testified that the forger had used a fake covering to conceal evidence of his forgery. But other witnesses suggested other ways this covering could have formed.
More importantly, on cross-examination Goren was forced to admit that after the police had removed this covering, he could see original ancient patina in the critical word “Jesus.” With that, the case blew up.
This should not have been surprising. One of the members of the IAA’s committee that long ago had declared the inscription a forgery, supposedly by a unanimous vote, had also written the IAA that she saw this original ancient patina in the engraving of the inscription.
Although the IAA advertised the committee’s forgery decision as unanimous, it never was. Many members of the committee expressed no opinion, but the IAA registered them as “yes” votes. Others committee members relied on the commanding standing and reputation of Professor Goren. One member of the committee who would have found the inscription authentic said he was “forced” to change his mind because of Professor Goren’s scientific analysis. In short, the committee, which included no non-Israeli, not even Professor Lemaire who had originally published the inscription in Biblical Archaeology Review and vouched for its authenticity, was bum-rushed into a supposedly unanimous decision.
At the trial, not a single expert in the Semitic script of the period testified that the inscription was a forgery. Nor did a single scientist back up Professor Goren’s scientific testimony—and several scientists testified otherwise.
But it took several years to prove that the emperor had no clothes. This is a painful example of how the judicial process can be manipulated by unscrupulous bureaucrats. The Israel Antiquities Authority hates the antiquities market, which is where this inscribed ossuary came from. This supposedly drove the prosecution. Until now, it has been widely assumed by almost everyone who has mentioned the inscription publicly, based on the IAA committee’s supposed unanimous decision and the ongoing forgery trial, that this inscription is a forgery. Now that will end.
But this is not the end of the matter. All the court can decide is that the prosecution has not proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Logically, the inscription can still be a forgery. It is never possible to prove to a 100 percent certainty that an inscription is authentic. Theoretically, there is always one more test that might reveal it to be a forgery. Even inscriptions found in professional archaeological excavations can be salted.
And there is still another question: Is the “Jesus” of this inscription the “Jesus” we know from the New Testament? All three of the names in the inscription—James (rather Jacob or Yaakov in its Hebrew form), Joseph and Jesus (Yehoshua in the Aramaic of this inscription) were very common among Jews at this time. Scholars are already discussing and writing about whether or not this inscription refers to Jesus of Nazareth. This is where the discussion should be—not in the hands of an official committee or in a criminal indictment.
Hershel Shanks is editor of Biblical Archaeology Review.
To arrange for an interview with BAR editor Hershel Shanks, please call Sarah Yeomans at 301.904.6641, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact information for other sources, including script experts André Lemaire of the Sorbonne and Ada Yardeni of Hebrew University, are also available.
Researchers have revealed the complete mitochondrial genome of one of the world's most celebrated mummies, known as the Tyrolean Iceman or Otzi. The sequence represents the oldest complete DNA sequence of modern humans' mitochondria, according to the report published online on October 30th in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication.
Mitochondria are subcellular organelles that generate all of the body's energy and house their own DNA, which is passed down from mother to child each generation. Mitochondrial DNA thus offers a window into our evolutionary past.
"Through the analysis of a complete mitochondrial genome in a particularly well-preserved human, we have obtained evidence of a significant genetic difference between present-day Europeans and a representative prehistoric human - despite the fact that the Iceman is not so old - just about 5,000 years," said Franco Rollo of the University of Camerino in Italy.
The Tyrolean Iceman witnessed the Neolithic-Copper Age transition in Central Europe more than 5,000 years ago. His mummified corpse was recovered from an Alpine glacier on the Austro-Italian border in 1991. In 2000, scientists defrosted the Iceman's body for the first time and sampled DNA from his intestines.
Earlier study of the DNA showed that he belonged to the lineage, or "subhaplogroup," known as K1. About 8% of modern Europeans belong to the K haplogroup, meaning that they share a common ancestor, and that group is divided into two "subhaplogroups," K1 and K2. The K1 haplogroup, in turn, can be divided into three clusters.
In the new study, the researchers took advantage of advanced genome-sequencing technologies to shed more light on the Iceman's genetics. They sequenced his entire mitochondrial genome and compared that sequence to other published human mitochondrial DNA sequences to construct his evolutionary (or phylogenetic) family tree.
"The surprise came when we found that the lineage of the Iceman did not fit any of the three known K1 clusters," Rollo said. His team has informally named the newly discovered branch on the human family tree "Otzi's branch."
"This doesn't simply mean that Otzi had some 'personal' mutations making him different from the others but that, in the past, there was a group - a branch of the phylogenetic tree - of men and women sharing the same mitochondrial DNA," Rollo said. "Apparently, this genetic group is no longer present. We don't know whether it is extinct or it has become extremely rare."
At least for the moment, he said, that means no one can claim to be "the issue of Otzi."
Article adapted by Medical News Today from original press release.
The researchers include Luca Ermini, University of Camerino, Camerino, Italy; Cristina Olivieri, University of Camerino, Camerino, Italy; Ermanno Rizzi, Istituto di Tecnologie Biomediche, C.N.R., Milano, Italy; Giorgio Corti, Istituto di Tecnologie Biomediche, C.N.R., Milano, Italy; Raoul Bonnal, Istituto di Tecnologie Biomediche, C.N.R., Milano, Italy; Pedro Soares, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK; Stefania Luciani, University of Camerino, Camerino, Italy; Isolina Marota, University of Camerino, Camerino, Italy; Gianluca De Bellis, Istituto di Tecnologie Biomediche, C.N.R., Milano, Italy; Martin B. Richards, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK; Franco Rollo, University of Camerino, Camerino, Italy.
Source: Cathleen Genova
A new study uses a sophisticated genetic strategy to reveal new roads past an apparent dead end in the historical record of a distinctive civilization that dominated the Mediterranean Sea during the first millennium BC. The research from National Geographic and IBM's Genographic Project, published by Cell Press in the November 14th issue of the American Journal of Human Genetics, describes a methodology that may prove to be useful for discovering previously undetected signals left by migrations for any historically documented expansion.
Although extensive documentation by writers and archeologists has provided detailed insight into the origins and early expansion of the Phoenician people, their genetic contributions to the current population are unknown. "The Phoenicians were the dominant traders in the Mediterranean Sea two to three thousand years ago, and expanded from their homeland in the Levant to establish colonies and trading posts throughout the Mediterranean, but then disappeared from history. We wished to identify their male genetic traces in modern populations," explains senior study author Dr. Chris Tyler-Smith from The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.
Drs. Zalloua, Platt, Tyler-Smith and colleagues developed a strategy to identify a genetic pattern associated not with an overall geographical gradient, but with the specific historical expansion of the Phoenician people. They chose Phoenician-influenced sites based on well-documented historical records and collected new Y chromosomal data from 1330 men in these sites as well as comparative data from the literature. "We chose the Y chromosome because its male-specificity means that it would have been carried by the predominantly male Phoenician traders, and is high level of geographical differentiation provides the best chance of recognizing colonization events," offers Dr. Tyler-Smith. The researchers developed an analytical strategy to distinguish between lineages linked with Phoenicians and those associated with geographically similar but historically distinct events.
This technique allowed them to identify weak but systematic genetic signatures shared by the Phoenician sites that could not be explained by chance or by other expansions. Specifically, the Phoenician signature contributed at least 6% to the modern Phoenician-influenced populations that were examined. "Our work underscores the effectiveness of Y-chromosomal variability when combined with appropriate computational analysis for studying complex patterns of human migration, and the utility of wide geographical sampling using a uniform marker set. This method is applicable to any type of genetic information from which descent could be inferred," concludes Dr. Tyler-Smith.
Article adapted by Medical News Today from original press release.
The researchers include Pierre A. Zalloua, The Lebanese American University, Beirut, Lebanon, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA; Daniel E. Platt, Bioinformatics and Pattern Discovery, IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Centre, Yorktown Heights, NY; Mirvat El Sibai, The Lebanese American University, Beirut, Lebanon; Jade Khalife, The Lebanese American University, Beirut, Lebanon Nadine Makhoul, The Lebanese American University, Beirut, Lebanon; Marc Haber, The Lebanese American University, Beirut, LebanonYali Xue, The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Cambridge, UK; Hassan Izaabel, Laboratoire de Biologie Cellulaire & Génétique Moléculaire (LBCGM), Université Ibn Zohr, Agadir, Maroc; Elena Bosch, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain; Susan M. Adams, University of Leicester, University Road, Leicester, UK; Eduardo Arroyo, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Ciudad Universitaria, Madrid, Spain; Ana María López-Parra, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Ciudad Universitaria, Madrid, Spain; Mercedes Aler, Universidad de Valencia, Valencia, Spain; Antònia Picornell, Institut Universitari d'Investigació en Ciències de la Salut i Departament Biologia, Universitat de les Illes Balears, Palma de Mallorca, Spain; Misericordia Ramon, Institut Universitari d'Investigació en Ciències de la Salut i Departament Biologia, Universitat de les Illes Balears, Palma de Mallorca, Spain; Mark A. Jobling, University of Leicester, University Road, Leicester, UK; David Comas, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain; Jaume Bertranpetit, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain; R. Spencer Wells, The Genographic Project, National Geographic Society, Washington, DC; Chris Tyler-Smith, The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Cambridge, UK; and The Genographic Consortium, The Genographic Project, National Geographic Society, Washington, DC.
Source: Cathleen Genova
Certified Forensics Nurse Examiner and Independent Consultant