Saturday, 28 May 2016

Britain’s biggest ever gold nugget discovered near treasure-laden shipwreck in Wales

Vincent Thurkettle discovered a 3oz (97g) nugget off the coast of Anglesey in 2012. The gold prospector kept his find a secret for four years so he could continue to search the area for gold - only going public once he was sure there was no more.

The nugget is believed to be part of a £120million haul that went down with the Royal Charter when it was shipwrecked during a hurricane in 1859.
The Royal Charter was a steam clipper which was wrecked off the beach of Porth Alerth in Dulas Bay on the north-east coast of Anglesey on 26 October 1859. About 450 lives were lost. The Royal Charter was returning to Liverpool from Melbourne. Her complement included many gold miners, some who had struck it rich at the diggings in Australia and were carrying large sums of gold. A consignment of gold was also being carried as cargo.
The Royal Charter broke up on these rocks near Moelfre
The wreck was extensively salvaged by Victorians shortly after the disaster. The remains of Royal Charter lie close inshore in less than 5 metres of water as a series of iron bulkheads, plates and ribs which become covered and uncovered by the shifting sands from year to year.

Gold sovereigns, pistols, spectacles and other personal items have been found by scuba divers over the years
Britain's second biggest nugget was the Carnon Nugget found in Cornwall in 1808 and weighing 2.08oz (59g). The Rutherford Nugget, which was found in Scotland in 1869, comes in third at 2.04oz (57.9g).

Friday, 27 May 2016

'Aristotle's tomb' discovered by archaeologist?

A Greek archaeologist believes he may have discovered Aristotle’s tomb. Konstantinos Sismanidis excavated the birthplace of the ancient philosopher in northern Greece in the 1990s, and now thinks that a destroyed structure he came across may have been the last resting place of Aristotle.

He has no proof, but Sismanidis said the arched structure was unearthed in the ruins of Stageira, 40 miles east of Thessaloniki, and was once a public monument where Aristotle was honoured after his death. He said the location of the structure, its view, its positioning at the centre of a square marble floor, and its estimated time of construction all pointed to it having been a shrine to the philosopher.
Aristotle, who was born in 384 B.C., was a pupil of Plato in Athens and became a crucial figure in the emergence of Western philosophy. His work forms the basis of modern logic, and his metaphysics became an integral part of Christian theology.

King Philip II of Macedon engaged him as a tutor to his son Alexander.
A separate excavation in another part of northern Greece, Amphipolis, in 2014 led to the discovery of the largest ancient tomb ever found in the country.

Speculation linking the tomb to Alexander the Great set off huge media interest, but archaeologists later concluded that it had probably been built for Hephaestion.
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Thursday, 26 May 2016

2,300-year-old Ancient Greek gold crown kept for decades in a box of old newspapers under bed

A rare gold crown believed to be more than 2,300 years old has been discovered under a bed in a Somerset cottage. The delicate Greek myrtle wreath, which is thought to date to 300BC, was found in a tatty cardboard box in the modest Taunton property.

Its elderly owner was stunned when he found out the valuable artifact is worth at least £100,000. Stylistically it belongs to a rarefied group of wreaths dateable to the Hellenistic period and the form may indicate that it was made in Northern Greece. It is eight inches across and weighs about 100 grams. It's pure gold and handmade and it would have been hammered out by a goldsmith.
Gold wreaths like the one found were meant to imitate the wreaths of real leaves that were worn in Ancient Greece in religious ceremonies and given as prizes in athletic and artistic contests. They usually depicted branches of laurel, myrtle, oak and olive trees, which were symbolic of concepts such as wisdom, triumph, fertility, peace and virtue.

Due to their fragile nature, they were only worn on very special occasions. Many were dedicated to the Gods in sanctuaries or placed in the graves of royal or aristocratic people as funerary offerings.
The current owner's grandfather was a great collector who was fascinated by archaeology and the ancient world. Although his family do not know how he acquired it, it is likely he bought it sometime in the 1940s.

A gold wreath similar to this one sold at auction in 2012 for almost £200,000. The antiquity will be sold on June 9.

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Saturday, 21 May 2016

500 BC Grave of Celtic Prince reveals Gold

In June 2015 French archaeologists completed excavations of an ancient burial site revealing the decorated skeleton of a Celtic prince. The tomb dating back some 2,500 years was discovered in an industrial area of Lavau, a village near Troyes, about 150km southeast of Paris.

The finding was described as "extraordinary" by experts. Buried with a two-wheeled chariot, the body is believed to be a high-ranked aristocrat from the Hallstatt culture that dominated central Europe during the Early Iron Age.

The skeleton sported ancient pieces of jewellery including a richly decorated gold torque weighing more than half a kilogram and gold bracelets.

Remains of the deceased's costume, such as shoe parts, finely worked amber beads that formed a necklace or hair decoration, and iron and coral hooks that attached to a piece of clothing were also retrieved.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Ancient Humans interbred with Neanderthals

In 1997, scientists found the first scrap of Neanderthal DNA in a fossil. Since then, they have recovered genetic material, even entire genomes, from a number of Neanderthal bones. Their investigations have yielded a surprise: Today, 1 to 2 percent of the DNA in non-African people comes from Neanderthals.

That genetic legacy is the result of interbreeding roughly 50,000 years ago between Neanderthals and the common ancestors of Europeans and Asians. Recent studies suggest that Neanderthal genes even influence human health today.

Neanderthal child
The DNA extracted in 1997 was from the original specimen of Neanderthals, found in the Neander valley near Dusseldorf, Germany. It suggested that the Neanderthal lineage is four times older than the human lineage, meaning that Neanderthals split off much earlier from the hominid line than did humans.

Humans and Neanderthals split from a common ancestor in Africa some 600,000 years ago. At some point afterward, the ancestors of Neanderthals spread to Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia. Along the way, Neanderthals took on a distinctive anatomy — a stocky, powerful build — and became impressive hunters.
Now scientists have found that the genes flowed both ways. In a study published in Nature, a team of scientists reported that another instance of interbreeding left Neanderthals in Siberia with chunks of human DNA. In 2010 scientists recovered about 60 percent of a Neanderthal genome from fossils found in a Croatian cave.

A toe bone from a male Neanderthal dating back at least 50,000 years.
Neanderthals shared certain mutations with living Europeans and Asians, but not with modern Africans. They concluded that humans must have interbred with Neanderthals after leaving Africa.

Three years later the complete genome of a male Neanderthal was recovered from a toe bone dating back at least 50,000 years, which had been discovered in the Altai Mountains of Siberia. Comparing the Altai genome to modern human DNA confirmed the interbreeding.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Tiny coffin containing fetus shows ancient Egyptians valued unborn

For more than 100 years, the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, England, has been in possession of a 44-centimetre-long ancient Egyptian coffin containing a mysterious package.

Bound in bandages and coated with black resin, the contents of the coffin were long thought to be internal organs, removed during the embalming process.
Recently, using cutting-edge imaging techniques, the museum discovered the coffin holds what was a fetus at just 16 to 18 weeks gestation, by far the youngest academically verified fetus to be found at an ancient Egyptian burial site.

The fetus was likely the result of a miscarriage. It's impossible for scientists to determine the gender. Although the cedar coffin has deteriorated, it's clear to the museum's experts that it was painstakingly carved. It's considered a perfect miniature example of a Late Period (664-525 BC) ancient Egyptian wooden coffin.

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Friday, 13 May 2016

Mystery of the missing Gods

A tumbled ruin: the Brihadeeswara temple. A stone warrior guards the doorway, half-sunk in sand. Hundreds of bats whirl overhead, shrieking at the intrusion. Exposed beams, textured by time and mold, add to the musty smell in the air. Cobwebs on prayer lamps enhance the sense of abandonment. The altar is stripped bare, like a frame without a picture: It's a temple without a god. The 1,000-year-old guardian of the temple, Shiva Nataraja, is missing from his abode.
The Lord of Cosmic Dance has travelled 9,000 km to the National Gallery of Art in Canberra, Australia. How did he get there? Ask Subhash Kapoor, 65, a New Delhi-born and New York-based antiquity dealer, considered an art connoisseur as well as one of the biggest idol smugglers in the world.

He sold the Nataraja for $5.1m 2008. Kapoor is suspected of stealing over 150 idols worth $100 million from India. "Art and antiquity theft is one of the most lucrative crimes," says IPS officer Prateep V. Philip, director general, EOW, in Chennai. "It outbids drug trafficking, arms dealing, and money laundering." The odds of recovering stolen treasures are abysmal, one in ten. But in this case, authorities managed to trace the idol
Six gods were identified in museums and private collections across the world: Canberra, New South Wales, Chicago, Ohio to Singapore. The Australian government has ordered NGA to remove the Nataraja from display.

American and Indian investigators have compiled an enormous dossier on Kapoor. Much of the material has been the product of an investigation called Operation Hidden Idol.

American authorities say Kapoor was, in volume and value, the largest antiquities smuggler in American history.
Their best evidence is an almost unimaginable 2,622 items, worth $107.6 million that was confiscated from storerooms in Manhattan and Queens, and virtually all of it contraband from India. American museums have begun returning possibly stolen artifacts to India. Museums from Hawaii to Massachusetts have handed over items bought from Kapoor’s defunct business, Art of the Past, which was on Madison Avenue in Manhattan.

Another 15 American museums have been identified as holding items obtained from Kapoor
February 5, 2016. The special court in Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu falls silent. No one answers to “Subhash Chandra Kapoor”, the court officer looks at the prosecutors and police officers. They explain that he is being brought from the Puzhal prison in Chennai, his home since 2012. The court is adjourned.

In a while, a police van enters. Policemen escort a balding, fair man in his 60s, whose face is covered with a blue cotton towel. Though this was his first visit in handcuffs to Kumbakonam, Kapoor has known the temple town closely for many years. This was, after all, a major source for his colossal antique business. On March 11, US Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) seized two more stolen Indian sculptures, dating back to the 8th and 10th centuries from auction house Christie's in New York. Though the Homeland Security Investigations seized 2,622 objects from his warehouse, only 18 idols have been mentioned in the two cases registered by the Tamil Nadu police.

Every day, Kapoor has bread, a cup of rice and five pieces of fried fish.

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