Saturday, March 8, 2014

California couple may have to return $10 million treasure trove.

A US couple who unearthed gold coins worth more than $10 million might have to return them as they may have been stolen, a report said.
The California couple uncovered eight cans filled with more than 1,400 coins on their property, in what is believed to be the most valuable treasure trove ever discovered in the United States.
They took them to a firm specializing in ancient coins, Kagin’s Inc, which valued them and announced last week that they will sell them, via online retail giant Amazon.
But on Monday the San Francisco Chronicle linked the find — called the Saddle Ridge Treasure trove — to a robbery at the San Francisco Mint.
It published a newspaper report from January 1, 1900, referring to the recent theft which it said mostly involved mint, uncirculated coins, with an overall face value of up to $27,000 — similar to the Saddle Ridge trove.
Company boss Donald Kagin however told AFP he was “very confident” that the Saddle Ridge trove was not linked to the San Francisco Mint theft.
“There’s a number of reasons why they can’t possibly be” connected, he said.
He cited records from the time of the San Francisco theft suggesting it involved five canvas sacks filled with $20 gold coins — whereas the Saddle Ridge horde also had $10 and other coins.
In addition the stolen coins “would have all been mint state, recently struck coins,” he said.
“But only some of the coins in the Saddle Ridge horde are. Many others are circulated coins, struck over a long period of time and clearly buried over a long period of time.
“The only parallel here is the similar (face) value. But again, not even that’s that close because of the different denominations,” he said.
He also pointed to a statement from the US Mint in Washington, sent to him in an email, which said: “We do not have any information linking the Saddle Ridge Hoard coins to any thefts at any U.S. Mint facility.”
Kagin said plans to sell the Saddle Ridge hoard in about two months remain in place.
Asked if he could guarantee to the couple, named only as John and Mary, that there would be no hitches in the sale, he said: “Nobody can guarantee anything.
“But we are absolutely on our timeline with and, to be selling these coins sometime in May,” he added.

Source: Raw Story

Why Everyone from the Mormons to the Muslim Brotherhood is Desperate for a Piece of Tutankhamun.

We can’t get enough of magical Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun. After telling us how Mormons want to posthumously convert Tutankhamun to their religion, Jo Marchant writes at Medium:
…The possibility that Mormon researchers were trying to convert the ancients was a particular, peculiar threat to Egypt’s sense of self, but it soon became apparent that it wasn’t just the Mormons that the Egyptians were worried about: it was all foreigners.
In 2000, Sakuji Yoshimura, the respected director of the Institute of Egyptology at Waseda University in Japan, secured the permission of Egypt’s antiquities service to test Tutankhamun’s DNA. He hoped to determine the king’s lineage by comparing his genetic code to that of several other royal mummies thought to be his relations. But Yoshimura’s project, too, was cancelled, reportedly, just an hour before he was due to take his samples in the Valley of the Kings. The excuse given by the authorities was brief and vague: security reasons.
The press reported that the idea of anyone testing the mummies, even a team with impeccable credentials, had provoked anger within Egypt. Critics complained that foreigners were once again meddling with their country’s heritage, this time by trying to alter the established view of the pharaohs and their succession. One of those opposed to the project was Zahi Hawass, who was then in charge of the great pyramids at Giza. Hawass told a local newspaper that he refused to allow DNA tests on the bones of Giza mummies because there are some people who try to tamper with Egyptian history.
Such a response is perhaps understandable after decades of interference by foreigners, but that does not necessarily make it a security threat. It seems the biggest fear, as with Woodward’s work, was something else: what the results of genetic data might show about Tutankhamun’s origins.
The editor of Archaeology magazine, Mark Rose, reported in 2002 that the work was cancelled “due to concern that the results might strengthen an association between the family of Tutankhamun and the Biblical Moses.” An Egyptologist with close links to the antiquities service, speaking to me on condition of anonymity, agreed: “There was a fear it would be said that the pharaohs were Jewish.”
Specifically, if the results showed that Tutankhamun shared DNA with Jewish groups, there was concern that this could be used by Israel to argue that Egypt was part of the Promised Land.
This might seem an outlandish notion, but given the context of the Middle Eastern history, it is understandable. Egypt has waged several wars with Israel in recent history, and lost most of them, with territories like the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula falling under Tel Aviv’s control. Israel even crossed the Suez Canal into the Egyptian mainland during the Yom Kippur War of 1973…

Source: Disinformation

Friday, March 7, 2014

The 16th century plan to weaponize cats and birds with rocket packs.

Back during the 1530s, a military planner in what is now Germany devised a rather strange means of siege warfare that would have seen cats and birds strapped with bombs to "set fire to a castle or city which you can't get at otherwise."

The strange depictions appear in a manual that was discovered by BibliOdyssey in 2012. The book, which was written by artillery master Franz Helm of Cologne, has since been analyzed by University of Pennsylvania humanities expert Mitch Fraas, who, when first encountering the strange depictions, said, "I really didn't know what to make of it...It clearly looks like there's some sort of jet of fire coming out of a device strapped to these animals."
The manual, which was circulated widely at the time, was written when gunpowder was changing warfare. It's filled with all sorts of bizarre ideas, including bombs packed with shrapnel, missile-like explosives studded with spikes — and of course these weaponized cats and birds.
Here's Fraas's translation of the German text:
Create a small sack like a fire-arrow. If you would like to get at a town or castle, seek to obtain a cat from that place. And bind the sack to the back of the cat, ignite it, let it glow well and thereafter let the cat go, so it runs to the nearest castle or town, and out of fear it thinks to hide itself where it ends up in barn hay or straw it will be ignited.
So, the idea is that you capture a cat from enemy territory, attach a bomb to its back, light the fuse — and hope like hell it runs back home where it starts a raging fire.
Fraas describes it as a sort of harebrained scheme. "It seems like a really terrible idea, and very unlikely the animals would run back to where they came from," he says. "More likely they'd set your own camp on fire."
Source: io9
Associated Press | Images via University of Pennsylvania/Fraas]

Melting glaciers in northern Italy reveal corpses of WW1 soldiers.

The glaciers of the Italian Alps are slowly melting to reveal horrors from the Great War, preserved for nearly a century.

At first glance Peio is a small alpine ski resort like many others in northern Italy. In winter it is popular with middle-class Italians as well as, increasingly, Russian tourists. In summer there’s good hiking in the Stelvio National Park. It has a spa, shops that sell a dozen different kinds of grappa, and, perhaps, aspirations to be the next Cortina. A cable car was inaugurated three years ago, and a multi-storey car park is under construction.
But in Peio, reminders of the region’s past are never far away. Stroll up through the village and, passing the tiny First World War museum on your left, you come to the 15th-century San Rocco church with its Austro-Hungarian cemetery and sign requesting massimo rispetto. Here, one sunny day last September, 500 people attended the funeral of two soldiers who fell in battle in May 1918.
In Peio, you feel, the First World War never quite ended. And in one very real sense, it lives on, thanks to the preserving properties of ice. For Peio was once the highest village in the Austro-Hungarian empire, and had a ringside seat to a little-known but spectacular episode of that conflict called the White War.
In 1914 both Trentino – the province in which Peio lies – and the neighbouring South Tyrol were Hapsburg domains. Italy, recently unified and eager to settle her frontiers permanently, looked on the two provinces, along with Trieste, as ‘unredeemed lands’. In May 1915, with the aim of reclaiming them, she entered the war on the side of the Allies. Conflict was already raging on the western and eastern fronts; now a third front opened up. It stretched from the Julian Alps, which Italy now shares with Slovenia in the east, to the Ortler massif near the Swiss border further west – some 250 miles.
As much of the front was at altitudes of over 6,500ft, a new kind of war had to be developed. The Italians already had specialist mountain troops – the Alpini with their famous feathered caps – but the Austrians had to create the equivalent: the Kaiserschützen. They were supported by artillery and engineers who constructed an entire infrastructure of war at altitude, including trenches carved out of the ice and rudimentary cableways for transporting men and munitions to the peaks.
In the decades that followed the armistice, the world warmed up and the glaciers began to retreat, revealing the debris of the White War. The material that, beginning in the 1990s, began to flood out of the mountains was remarkably well preserved. It included a love letter, addressed to Maria and never sent, and an ode to a louse, ‘friend of my long days’, scribbled on a page of an Austrian soldier’s diary.
The front line between the Allied forces and those of the Central Powers as seen from Punta Linke, 1918. Photo: Museo della Grande Guerra, Peio
The bodies, when they came, were often mummified. The two soldiers interred last September were blond, blue-eyed Austrians aged 17 and 18 years old, who died on the Presena glacier and were buried by their comrades, top-to-toe, in a crevasse. Both had bulletholes in their skulls. One still had a spoon tucked into his puttees — common practice among soldiers who travelled from trench to trench and ate out of communal pots. When Franco Nicolis of the Archaeological Heritage Office in the provincial capital, Trento, saw them, he says, his first thought was for their mothers. ‘They feel contemporary. They come out of the ice just as they went in,’ he says. In all likelihood the soldiers’ mothers never discovered their sons’ fate.
One of the oddities of the White War was that both the Alpini and the Kaiserschützen recruited local men who knew the mountains, which meant that they often knew each other too. Sometimes family loyalties were split. ‘There are many stories of people hearing the voice of a brother or a cousin in the thick of battle,’ Nicolis says.
For both sides the worst enemy was the weather, which killed more men than the fighting. At those altitudes, the temperature could fall to -30C, and the ‘white death’ — death by avalanche — claimed thousands of lives.
The remains of two Austrian soldiers found on the Presena Glacier in 2012. Photo: Office for Archaeological Finds, Autonomous Province of Trento
The people of Peio lived these stories because unlike the inhabitants of other frontline villages, they stayed put. ‘The Emperor decreed that this village should not be evacuated,’ Angelo Dalpez, Peio’s mayor, says. ‘As the highest village in the empire, it was symbolic — a message to the rest.’ They worked as porters and suppliers of food. They tended the injured, buried the dead, and witnessed the remodelling of their ancestral landscape (shelling lowered the summit of one mountain, San Matteo, by 20ft).
In 1919 the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye awarded Trentino to Italy. ‘There was never any clash,’ Nicolis says. ‘No revolution. It was an entirely smooth transition.’ People here had always felt autonomous, in their mountainous border region, and under the new arrangement the Italian government granted them a degree of autonomy. They carried on drinking grappa, eating knödel and speaking Italian (which had been one of the 12 official languages of the empire), but they never forgot their history. Many of their relations had fought on the Hapsburg side, and when the soldiers started melting out of the ice, they looked on them as their grand-fathers or great-grandfathers.
This became clear in 2004, when Maurizio Vicenzi, a local mountain guide and the director of Peio’s war museum, whose own family fought for the Austrians, stumbled on the mummified remains of three Hapsburg soldiers hanging upside down out of an ice wall near San Matteo — at 12,000ft, scene of some of the highest battles in history. The three were unarmed and had bandages in their pockets, suggesting they may have been stretcher-bearers who died in the last battle for the mountain, on September 3 1918. When a pathologist was granted permission to study one of the bodies, to try to understand the mummification process, there was an outcry among local people who felt that the dead were being profaned.
The mummified remains of three Hapsburg soldiers found in 2004. Photo: Museo della Grande Guerra, Peio
The three now lie in the cemetery at San Rocco next to the two from the Presena glacier, in five unmarked graves. All have passed through the lab of the forensic anthropologist Daniel Gaudio and his team, in Vicenza. His priority is to name the mummified soldiers if he can. It is rare that he succeeds for although he can almost always extract DNA, contextual information about the circumstances of their deaths tends to be lacking, meaning that he can’t locate potential living relations to find a match.
In 2005 Vicenzi started exploring a site called Punta Linke, almost 6,500ft above Peio. He found a natural cave in the ice and material scattered over the surface — steel helmets, straw overshoes, boxes of ammunition — and realised there was a structure beneath. With friends from Peio, Great War enthusiasts all, he investigated. Nicolis’s team arrived on the scene two summers later, and together they excavated a wooden cabin — a station on one of the cableways that provided vital supplies to the troops.
The cabin is built against the rocky peak of Punta Linke, and behind it a tunnel runs for 100ft through that peak. When the team first found the tunnel, which is the height of a man, it was filled with ice that they cleared with the help of giant fans. During the war wooden crates brought up on the cableway were pushed through the tunnel before being launched on the final stage of their journey – an impressive 4,000ft leap – using an unsupported cableway, across the glacier to the front line. Beside the tunnel’s exit is a window through which a lookout watched the crates go.
The tunnel dug by Austrian soldiers behind the cableway station at Punta Linke. Photo: Laura Spinney
Inside the cabin is a Sendling engine, made in Munich, dismantled by the departing Austrians and now restored. The archaeologists have left in place three documents they found pinned to the wall: handwritten instructions for operating the engine, a page from an illustrated newspaper, Wiener Bilder, showing Viennese people queuing to buy food, which by 1916 was in short supply in the crumbling empire, and a postcard addressed to a surgeon in the engineering corps, Georg Kristof, from his wife in Bohemia. The card shows a woman sleeping peacefully and is signed, in Czech, ‘Your abandoned lover’.
In their lab in Trento, Nicolis and his colleague Nicola Cappellozza show me the love letter written to Maria, which was found in a box of letters ready to be posted, on Punta Cadini (11,500ft), and dated late in 1918. (The archaeologists do not want to reveal the contents of the letter until they can trace Maria’s family.) ‘Perhaps hostilities ended before they could be sent,’ Nicolis says. Other finds include fragments of newspaper printed in Cyrillic. The Russian tourists who visit Peio today may not know it, but other Russians were there before them — prisoners brought from the eastern front and used as pack mules, or put to work weaving the straw overshoes that protected the Austrians’ feet from frostbite.
Documents pinned to the wall by soldiers at the Punta Linke cableway station. Photo: Laura Spinney
Peio’s war museum fills out the picture. Inside its display cases are primitive-looking surgical instruments of the kind Kristof might have used, rosaries, porcelain pipes that resemble small saxophones, decorated in the Tyrolian style, and ‘trench art’ carved out of fragments of shells or shell casings. In the hungry period following the armistice, the villagers roamed the mountains looking to salvage material they could reuse or sell. Some pieces they kept as souvenirs, donating them to the museum when it opened 10 years ago. ‘They consider the museum their collective property,’ Dalpez says. ‘They’re proud of it.’
More than 80 soldiers who fell in the White War have come to light in recent decades. There are certainly more to come, but one body continues to elude the rescuers – that of Arnaldo Berni, the 24-year-old captain who led the Italians to their conquest of San Matteo on August 13 1918. Berni’s story illustrates the tragedy of a war where, as the British historian Mark Thompson explained in his 2008 book, The White War, Herculean feats produced trivial territorial gains, and no one down below took much notice.
An Austrian rifle found melting out of the ice. Photo: Museo della Grande Guerra, Peio
After his victory, in a letter that must have slipped past the censors, Berni complained to relations about the press coverage. ‘There is a short and confused description of our battle, which was in fact brilliant and incurred very little loss of life… The journalists don’t come to us at such high altitudes, so the prodigious efforts of our men are not known.’ He died three weeks later, when the Austrians — on their way to recapturing San Matteo — dropped a shell on the crevasse in which he was sheltering. Two months later, the Italians dealt a shattering blow to the Austro-Hungarian war effort at Vittorio Veneto, on the Venetian plain, and the war was over.
There have been many attempts to find Berni over the years, first by his own men, then by his devoted half-sister, Margherita — the once skinny little girl he nicknamed Ossicino, or ‘Little Bone’ — who for long after the war made annual pilgrimages to the mountains, and finally by Vicenzi, Cappellozza and others, who in 2009 climbed down into the crevasse where the hero almost certainly met his death. They found no trace of him, but Cappellozza hasn’t forgotten the experience. ‘We were able to walk horizontally a long way. I remember the colours in the ice — the blues, the violets.’
Inside the Peio's war museum. Photo: Laura Spinney
In the summer of 2013, just before the snow came, Nicolis’s team put the finishing touches to the restoration of the way-station at Punta Linke. From next summer, intrepid hikers will be able to visit this simple monument and, as he puts it, ‘smell the war’. Sometimes, Nicolis says, he looks through the window at Punta Linke and tries to see the mountains as the soldiers did. Those, like Kristof, who came from distant corners of the empire, must have been mystified by the struggle for this inhospitable wilderness. For others, local highlanders, the mountains were the prize and the Emperor the abstraction, but one for whom they were expected to fight men they had climbed with all their lives.
In both cases, he believes, the mountains signified death before they signified beauty. ‘Snow is truly a sign of mourning,’ Giuseppe Ungaretti, the Italian war poet, wrote in 1917. Peio’s mayor has a different take on things. At the funeral of the Presena pair, three anthems were played — the Italian, the Austrian and the Ode to Joy. ‘The people who fought here,’ he says, ‘were Europeans before their time.’
Source: Telegraph

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Race to save Mes Aynak.

The fight to save an ancient Buddhist city in Logar from destruction
American documentary maker Brent Huffman is racing against time.
Since 2011, he's been trying to raise money for a film to document the last days of Mes Aynak,  a 2,600 year old Buddhist city in Logar province, before it is destroyed by a Chinese mining company.
In December 2012, the company, MCC,  was due to start mining the huge copper deposits which lie below the ancient site as part of a $3 billion dollar deal with the Afghan 
government.  Mes AynakHowever, a major campaign by Huffman and others has succeeded in winning more time for archaeologists excavating the 400,000 square metre site, which includes Buddish temples and monasteries.
In an interview with BAAG, Huffman outlined the importance of the site.  "We really saw there this melting pot of cultures, meeting and influencing each other in a way that could really define the importance and the history of Afghanistan in this period.  If it’s destroyed, to me, that's the equivalent of erasing that history ... and erasing Afghanistan’s place in that history”
"The biggest success we've had is to get the Ministry of Mines in Afghanistan to really pay attention to this and to see the significance of the site - and to see this global outcry really recognising how important this site is."
Mes Aynak Thai ProtestsHuffman says one big breakthrough was getting Buddhist countries involved in the campaign.  "In Thailand we actually had people protesting in the street," he says, "they protested  outside the UN and UNESCO offices there.  They did video stories, they did Facebook and they also really pushed support for our petitions."
And that pressure has yielded results.  "We've been able to buy more time" adds Huffman.  "Recently the deadline has been pushed to 2014.  All that's relatively good news.  But still Mes Aynak faces the exact same threats."
When he talks about the "threats" posed by the Aynak copper mine project, Huffman doesn't just mean the loss of this amazing cultural site - a site so huge that archaelogists say it could take 30 years to excavate properly. 
Seated Buddha Mes AynakHe, along with many other campaigners, fears that if it isn't handled transparently and responsibly, the mining project might actually prove detrimental to the local environment - and to Afghans living there.
It's been estimated that the huge copper reserves under Mes Aynak could be worth $100 billion dollars.  According to the Afghan Ministry of Mines, "The Aynak project represents the largest private sector project in the country’s history, and it will generate more jobs, revenues, and enhancements to Afghanistan’s infrastructure than any other single project to date."
Huffman agrees that Afghanistan needs good development projects.  However, he has also worked in Africa - and has seen first-hand how Chinese mining companies operate there.  Buddha Statue Mes Aynak And because of that, he fears that China's promises of large numbers of jobs and services for local Afghans will not materialise.
"In my experience ... China makes these big promises but if someone doesn’t hold them to it, if the Afghan government basically doesn’t force them to follow through on these things, they just won't happen" he says. 
Campaigners - including BAAG member agency Global Witness - have also expressed concerns about the transparency of the Mes Aynak contract.  According to Global Witness, if the project is managed well it could provide economic and social benefits for years to come.  However, it also warns, "managed badly, it could seriously undermine long-term security and development, and set a poor precedent for much needed future foreign direct investment." 
Buddha Statue Mes AynakHuffman is one of many campaigners who would like to know more about environmental safeguards, saying if the project's managed badly there could be environmental devastation, with aquifers under Mes Aynak poisoned.  Such allegations have been denied by the Afghan government.  It says it will shortly publish details of the Mes Aynak contract, adding that other issues raised by campaigners are covered "in the laws, regulations and international standards that the Consortium is required to adhere to as specifically stated in the contract".
For now, Huffman says, the important thing is to keep up the pressure.
Brent Huffman"I think the pressure we've exerted on the Ministry of Mines in Afghanistan has been working.  We are seeing results.  So I would say, 'Let's ramp it up; let's continue on to put pressure on them'.  I still want to see the site preserved.  I still want to see these temple structures, these monasteries, these Buddhist statues preserved for future generations of Afghans."
To sign the petition to President Karzai on Mes Aynak click here 
To read Global Witness' recent report on the Aynak copper project click here
To read the Afghan Ministry of Mines' reply to the Global Witness report click here
Source: BAAG

Monday, March 3, 2014

Ancient bison allows scientists to travel back in time - 9,000 years

The autopsy, conducted on 27 February 2014, is understood to be the first in the world on a 9,000 bison, and it could provide vital scientific information. 
The creature was found in exceptional condition in July 2011 by Yukagir community members in the Sakha Republic, also known as Yakutia, where mammoth remains were also found. This bison, dating from 9,000 years ago, was located on the shore of a lake in the north of Ust-Yana district.
The body became visible after a part of the shore collapsed into the water. The Yukagirs delivered the precious find to regional Academy of Science experts. 
Albert Protopopov, chief of the Mammoth Fauna Research Department of the Yakutian Academy of Sciences, said: 'The discovery has an enormous value for scientists since it is the best preserved bison ever found. We have ascertained that the bison lived 9,000 years ago, at the very beginning of the Holocene epoch and died aged approximately four. By that time, many mammoths had died here, but the bison still lived. 
'The careful and thorough examination we have began will give us answers to many questions, first of all as to why did the bison die out'.
Currently, scientists continue a full anatomic autopsy, taking out and describing every organ, with a simultaneous microbiological, genetic and histological tests, as well as studying of animal's parasites. 
A brilliant scientific team is working together to carry the autopsy and the tests, with paleontologists from the Yakutian Academy of Sciences, experts from Institute of Geology of Diamond and Precious Metals, Yakutsk Agricultural Research Institute and the Agricultural Academy of Yakutsk. 

The autopsy, conducted on 27 February 2014, is understood to be the first in the world on a 9,000 bison, and it could provide vital scientific information. 
The creature was found in exceptional condition in July 2011 by Yukagir community members in the Sakha Republic, also known as Yakutia, where mammoth remains were also found. This bison, dating from 9,000 years ago, was located on the shore of a lake in the north of Ust-Yana district.
The body became visible after a part of the shore collapsed into the water. The Yukagirs delivered the precious find to regional Academy of Science experts. 
Albert Protopopov, chief of the Mammoth Fauna Research Department of the Yakutian Academy of Sciences, said: 'The discovery has an enormous value for scientists since it is the best preserved bison ever found. We have ascertained that the bison lived 9,000 years ago, at the very beginning of the Holocene epoch and died aged approximately four. By that time, many mammoths had died here, but the bison still lived. 
'The careful and thorough examination we have began will give us answers to many questions, first of all as to why did the bison die out'.
Currently, scientists continue a full anatomic autopsy, taking out and describing every organ, with a simultaneous microbiological, genetic and histological tests, as well as studying of animal's parasites. 
A brilliant scientific team is working together to carry the autopsy and the tests, with paleontologists from the Yakutian Academy of Sciences, experts from Institute of Geology of Diamond and Precious Metals, Yakutsk Agricultural Research Institute and the Agricultural Academy of Yakutsk. 

Source: The Siberian Times

Geologist who unearthed Mungo Man fights for 40,000-year-old remains

Forty years after Mungo Man was unearthed in the dunes of western New South Wales, the geologist who made the discovery is urging the NSW government to speed up repatriation of the remains.
Professor Jim Bowler said the process of returning the remains dated at more than 40,000 years old, whose 1974 discovery confirmed that Indigenous Australians belonged to the world’s oldest continuing culture, had “stalled”, and needed to be “dealt with quickly, and dealt with authoritatively by [NSW environment minister] Robyn Parker”.
Bowler said the World Heritage-listed Willandra Lakes region, where the remains where found, was being improperly managed and could soon “fall into a stage that we would regret, unless moves are made to put management into a better, more efficient level of operation”.
It had been hoped that the repatriation would take place on Wednesday, 40 years to the day since Bowler made his famous find. But obstacles meant it would still be “some weeks” before Mungo Man was returned to country, he said.
“We’re waiting on the protocols to be worked through. But we’re using the anniversary to highlight the relevance of Mungo Man, and to speed up his repatriation.”
Long-term plans to commemorate the discovery include building a mausoleum near the site, “as we have built for Australian soldiers in [the first world war battleground] Fromelles”, Bowler said. “The remains we hope will be put in a crypt with appropriate dignity, in a place that’s in keeping with their sacred nature and their national and international importance.”
Mungo Man is currently housed at the Australian National University in Canberra, where his remains have been intensely scrutinised. The ancient bones have been Cat-scanned and thoroughly documented at a local hospital. But the research has long since been exhausted, and Mungo Man now sits “incarcerated in a cardboard box in Canberra”, Bowler said. “The time has come now for the bones to come back to country.”
Bowler discovered Mungo Man (though some local Aboriginal elders insist it was the other way around) while conducting geological research in the dried-up lake basins of far-western NSW. The rich sands had, five years before, yielded the 20,000-year-old remains of a woman, dubbed Mungo Lady, whose bones showed signs of ritualistic cremation and burial, evidence she had belonged to a developed culture.
That afternoon, heavy rain had battered the dunes, forcing the geologist to take shelter. When he emerged, he spotted a patch of bone glinting in the shore of a then unnamed lake. He brushed away the sand to reveal an intact jawbone. Archaeologists would soon unearth Mungo Man, the oldest skeleton ever discovered in Australia. Dated at 41,000 years old, it more than doubled previous estimates of the length of human settlement in Australia.
Mungo Lady was returned to what is now called Lake Mungo national park in 1991, and is awaiting reburial.
Bowler said he hoped to forge an agreement with the local Aboriginal people to allow scientists future access to both her and Mungo Man. He was also working to “develop a forum with scientists, Aboriginal people and the community, to discuss the incredible significance of this turning point in Australian history”.
“There will be a national dialogue about the contribution of these remains. They are the iconic foundations for the World Heritage area. They have defined the almost sacred nature of Aboriginal connections with land,” he said.
“It puts the Australian cultural context right at the forefront of the international story of what it means to be human.”
Parker said in a statement: “The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage and the Aboriginal community at Mungo are in discussion about how to best manage the repatriation of remains to Mungo national park, including those of Mungo Man.
“These discussions and associated planning is now occurring while the current keeping place at Mungo national park is being upgraded to improve its cultural appropriateness in readiness.
“While we are committed to the repatriation as soon as possible, the decision as to what will occur with the ancestral remains rests with the traditional owners – members of the Mutthi Mutthi, Ngiyampaa and Paakantji tribal groups, and those discussions are continuing.”

Source: The Guardian

Nine manuscripts with biblical text unearthed in Qumran.

The West Bank excavation site Qumran has brought to light another exceptional find after that of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Working on materials from archaeological excavations of the 1950s, archaeologist Yonatan Adler found three phylacteries - pouches used by religious Jews containing small manuscript scrolls with a biblical text - dating back to about 2,000 years ago.

A total of nine manuscripts have been found by the Israel Antiquities Authority by using technology known as multispectral imaging, which makes it possible take specialized photos. The discovery was announced at the International TerraSancta Conference on 'Qumran and the Dead Sea Region' held in the Swiss city of Lugano. The conference brought together 65 of the top international experts on Qumran, an archaeological site that garnered international attention in the mid-twentieth century when the 900 documents comprising the Dead Sea Scrolls (also known as the 'Qumran manuscripts') - which date back to between 150 BC and 70 AD - were unearthed there. The three phylacteries are from caves 4 and 5, which were excavated in 1952 by the archaeologist Roland de Vaux.

''It's not every day that you get the chance to discover new manuscripts,'' Adler said. ''It's very exciting.'' The Israel Antiquities Authority is also very pleased about the find. Pnina Shor, tasked with the laboratory for the conservation of the scrolls within the government agency, said that ''I am very proud of the fact that, by using the most advanced technology, we can contribute to reconstructing the history of 2,000 years ago.''

Source: ANSAmed