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It does something to our sense of ourselves, and of humanity, when we see pictures of men, willfully and with impunity, destroying some of the world’s oldest and rarest archeological treasures. A couple of weeks ago, it was video clips of the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham’s extremists wielding sledgehammers and drills, methodically destroying an exquisitely carved stone lamassu, or winged man-bull, at the Assyrian complex of Nimrud, which was created by artists nearly three thousand years ago. A few days later, it was the ancient temple complex of Hatra, in northern Iraq, which was built by the Seleucid Empire around two or three centuries before Christ. Hatra had been the site of a series of glorious colonnaded buildings and statues; it is reported that beginning on March 7th, ISIS destroyed what was left of them. On Monday, there were new images on social media showing ISIS extremists attacking the grounds of St. George’s, a centuries-old Chaldean Catholic monastery outside of Mosul. In this world of all-seeing, all-hearing killer drones, these acts somehow continue.
All around the Middle East, archeological treasures of the ancient world have been stripped of their original glory—often, of what some call graven images.ISIS’s fanatics do so hatefully, as if to spite all others, but they are not the only perpetrators. Muslim extremists have long sought to destroy the physical evidence that any other faith worth valuing existed before their own. In March, 2001, the Afghan Taliban announced to the world that they would destroy the ancient, giant Buddhas of Bamiyan, and then, using explosives and artillery, proceeded to do just that. In the last decade, the Saudis, as the keepers of the Muslim holy places, have razed hundreds of historic sites in the cities of Mecca and Medina to make way for new construction, including shopping malls and hotels.
On a recent trip to Libya, I revisited the ancient Greco-Roman temple complex of Cyrene, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. I had been there three years ago while Qaddafi was still in power. Most of the statues had already been defaced, but some had their human countenances still intact. On this return trip, on a line of pillars topped by bas reliefs showing the faces of gods, there were signs of even more recent vandalism, and a spray-painted message on the stone wall condemning idol worship. There were no guards that I could see. That evening, I spoke to Ahmed Hussein, who was recently named head of the Department of Antiquities (in one of Libya’s rival governments, anyway), and who attributed the damage to a band of footloose “local boys.” Even without interference from extremists, Cyrene was already succumbing to these casual forms of vandalism and to land grabbers who have been bulldozing sites to build cement-block houses around the edges of the temple complex. “The biggest threat we face is from the mentality of the local people, who don’t realize the economic value Cyrene has for us through tourism,” Hussein said. I pointed out that the city of Derna, which then, as now, was in the hands of ISIS extremists, lay only a short distance down the coast from Cyrene. Hussein acknowledged worryingly that that they “might come here.” He said, “We must be ready, because if they come, it will be like Iraq.”
via ISIS and the Destruction of History – The New Yorker
The uncovering of the engraving, in 1864, was the handiwork of a joint British-French archaeological expedition and it provided the first, unambiguous evidence that human beings had once shared this planet with long-extinct animals such as the mammoth. Its discovery was also an act of extraordinary good fortune, it transpires.
“The site has since lent its name to a period known as the Magdalenian era, which thrived across Europe between 12,000 and 16,000 years ago, and which we now appreciate was a time of incredible artistic creativity,” says Professor Chris Stringer, curator of the Natural History Museum exhibition.
The site has certainly produced many wonders, but in terms of their sheer scientific importance none can match the splintered mammoth figurine that was spotted by Lartet and Falconer on that day in May 1864. In their hands lay fragments, freshly dug from the earth, of a beautiful engraving of a mammoth, with its distinctive domed head, that was, for good measure, made of mammoth ivory.
“You couldn’t really top that in terms of proving that humans had lived at the same time as mammoths,” says Stringer. “Indeed, when you examine the piece you can see details of the mammoth’s anatomy that we only know about today from the frozen mammoth carcasses that we have found in Siberia.”
In other words, only an artist who had shared that ancient landscape (the Madeleine mammoth was carved about 14,000 years ago) with these creatures would have been able to record one with such precision and flair – and on a piece of the animal’s own ivory.
***HAPPY 150TH BIRTHDAY, DEEP TIME!***
The Wiltshire, England, site harbors evidence of ancient occupation, with traces of pine posts raised about 10,500 years ago. The first megaliths at Stonehenge were erected 5,000 years ago, and long-lost cultures continued to add to the monument for a millennium. The creation consists of massive, 30-ton sarsen stones, as well as smaller bluestones, so named for their hue when wet or cut…
The new findings raise more questions than answers about how the rocks could have made it to Stonehenge.
But pinpointing the exact location of the stones’ origins could help archaeologists looking for other evidence of ancient human handiwork near the area, which could then shed light on the transportation method, Bevins said.
“For example, if we could determine with confidence that the stones had been worked by humans in Neolithic times, then the ice-transport theory would be refuted,” Bevins said.
Source of Stonehenge Bluestone Rocks Identified
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Animist practice, sacred sites, and cultivating a relationship to significant otherness: a talk with Robert Wallis, professor of Visual Culture at Richmond University and a scholar of paganism, shamanism, and rock art.
Expanding Mind – The New Animism – 02/02/14 at Expanding Mind
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Arkaim is the remnants of an ancient settlement, which is basically a village that was fortified by two large stone circular walls. The settlement covers an area of some 220,000sq-ft and consists of two circles of dwellings separated by a street, with a central community square in the center. The site was discovered (rediscovered?) in 1987 by a team of Russian archaeologists, and a wave of excitement washed through the world of archaeology. The site and associated artefacts have been dated to the 17th century BCE and it’s generally agreed that it was built somewhere between 4000-5000 years ago, which puts it in the same age bracket as Stonehenge.
It has been of great interest to archaeoastronomers, and therein lies the reason for its association with Stonehenge. It’s long been known that Stonehenge has and was built with astronomical observation in mind. In fact it’s technically called an observatory. Stonehenge allowed for, and possibly may still allow for observations of 10 astronomical phenomena using 22 elements, whereas some archaeoastronomers claim that Arkaim allows for observations of 18 phenomena using 30 elements. This essentially means that certain events in the sky could be observed and tracked by using the site in particular ways and from different positions, and that Arkaim offered more observable events than Stonehenge.
It may seem obvious to some, but the fact that these sites were apparently constructed, deliberately, to act as astronomical observatories and even calendars of a sort, before the same expertise was achieved in the great foundational empires of antiquity, like the Egyptians and the Greeks, is seemingly strong evidence for attributing greater development and sophistication to these pre-historic cultures. The more conspiratorial among us might even say that these sites offer clues to the existence of an unknown or lost civilization in our distant past.
It is accepted by mainstream archaeology that civilization started in Iraq, in ancient Mesopotamia with the great civilisation of Sumeria. However, there is an archaeological discovery at the Al Ubaid archaeological site, where many pre-Sumerian 7,000-year-old artefacts were found, depicting humanoid figures with lizard characteristics.
The Ubaidian culture is a prehistoric culture in Mesopotamia that dates between 4000 and 5500 BC. As with the Sumerians, the origins of the Ubaidian people is unknown. They lived in large village settlements in mud-brick houses and they had developed architecture, agriculture and farmed the land using irrigation. The domestic architecture included large T-shaped houses, open courtyards, paved streets, as well as food processing equipment. Some of these villages began to develop into towns, temples began to appear, as well as monumental buildings such as in Eridu, Ur and Uruk, the major sites of the Sumerian Civilization. According to the Sumerian texts, Ur was believed to be the first city.
The main site where the unusual artefacts were discovered is called Tell Al’Ubaid – although figurines were also found in Ur and Eridu. The Al’Ubaid site is a small mound of about half a kilometre in diametre and two meters above ground. The site was first excavated by Harry Reginald Hal in 1919. Male and female figurines were found in different postures and in most of the figurines, they appear to be wearing a helmet and have some kind of padding on the shoulders. Other figurines were found to hold a staff or sceptre, possibly as a symbol of justice and ruling. Each figurine has a different pose but the strangest of all is that some female figurines hold babies suckling milk, with the child also represented as a lizard-type creature.
The figurines are presented with long heads, almond shaped eyes, long tapered faces and a lizard-type nose. What exactly they represent is completely unknown. According to archaeologists, their postures, such as a female figure breast-feeding, does not suggest that they were ritualistic objects. So what did these lizard figures represent?