Viking hunting outpost on Greenland

Ruins recently discovered on Greenland may mark the Vikings’ most northerly year-round hunting outpost on the icy island, a researcher said on Monday.

Knut Espen Solberg, leader of ‘The Melting Arctic’ project mapping changes in the north, said the remains uncovered in past weeks in west Greenland may also be new evidence that the climate was less chilly about 1,000 years ago than it is today.

‘We found something that most likely was a dock, made of rocks, for big ships up to 20-30 metres (60-90 ft) long,’ he told Reuters by satellite phone from a yacht off Greenland. He said further study and carbon dating were needed to pinpoint the site’s age.

Viking accounts speak of hunting stations for walrus, seals and polar bears in west Greenland. Inuit hunters also lived in the area.

‘This is the furthest north on Greenland that evidence of year-round Viking activity has been found,’ Solberg said of the finds in an area called Nuussuaq. ‘At the time the Vikings were living here it was warmer than today.’

In a Medieval warm period, trees and crops grew on parts of Greenland. The Vikings disappeared in the 14th century, coinciding with a little-understood shift to a cooler climate.

Solberg said that the expedition, linked to Norwegian climate research institutes and including an archaeologist, reckoned the dock was probably built by Vikings because the Inuit only used small kayaks and had no need for a large quay.

The team, which came upon the ruins during their expedition, also found remains of several small stone buildings nearby. Both Inuit and Vikings had similar building styles.

Christian Keller, a professor of archaeology at Oslo University, was quoted as telling the daily Aftenposten that the buildings were similar to Viking structures in west Norway but that the dock was unlike known Viking quays.

Any carbon dating placing the site between 900-1400 would make it ‘an exciting find’ from the Vikings, he said. A later date could mean it was built by European whalers in the 16th century.

Solberg said Vikings in Greenland were unlikely to have built with wood, traditionally used in Scandinavia for docks. A wooden structure would not have survived thick winter ice.

He also said that modern climate change, blamed mainly on human emissions of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, was bringing erosion to archaeological sites on Greenland.

Warmer summers mean fewer days with ice on the sea, increasing a battering of waves on the shore, while permafrost is also thawing. Seas have also been rising, largely because of a long-term coastal subsidence unrelated to climate change.

Article retrieved from here.

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2,000-year-old Roman body found in West Sussex

A 2,000-year-old body has been uncovered in North Bersted. The rare find has excited archaeologists who have labeled the discovery as being of international importance.

The skeleton is believed to have been a warrior who died around the time of the Roman invasion of England in AD43. He is likely to have been a prince or rich person of some status because of the quantity and quality of goods found with his remains.

Dr Steve Ford, a director of Thames Valley Archaeological Services, said the site had yielded secrets beyond compare anywhere in this country.

Of particular interest were two highly decorated bronze latticework sheets. These were probably used to cover a shield.

“There is no comparison for this metalwork that we know of,” said Dr Fox. “It might well be unique. It’s a very intricate piece of work for its time.

Professor Barry Cunliffe, the professor of European archaeology at Oxford University, visited the site when he was in Chichester and said he knew of nothing like this metalwork.

“The provisional date of the burial from the associated pottery indicates that it took place either at the end of the Late Iron Age or just into the Roman period, perhaps around 40-60AD.”

“The Iron Age people of this age were in essence pro-Roman and the Emperor Claudius launched an invasion, initially, to restore the local king Verica to his throne. The deceased may have been one of the local ruling caste, proud to be buried with his Roman goods.”

The grave of the oldest body ever found around the Bognor Regis area was unearthed by archaeologists who have been given time to explore what lies underneath the surface of farmland before it is covered by housing.

Allowing the dig is a condition of the planning permission granted by Arun District Council to the developers, Berkeley Homes and Persimmon Homes, before they use the land for 650 homes and part of the Bognor northern relief road.

The requirements of the dig have been set out by the county council’s archaeologist, Mark Taylor. The digging has been based north of North Bersted Street. The discovery of the grave was made a few weeks ago but it has been kept under wraps until now to allow the valuable metalwork and the body to be removed to safety for detailed examination and away from the unwanted attention of illegal prospectors.

Digging has been going on for several months. Dr Ford said the isolated burial was the main point of interest of the work. It was found just 40cms, or 16ins, below the surface.

“The deceased, a mature male more than 30 years old, was laid out in a grave and was accompanied by grave goods.”

“These comprised three large pottery jars placed at the end of the grave, presumably containing offerings to the gods or food for the journey into the afterlife, an iron knife and several items made of bronze.

“One appears to be a helmet and the other a shield boss. Also present are two latticework sheets highly decorated, perhaps used to cover a shield.

“The burial and its grave goods seem to have been placed in a large coffin or casket bound by iron hoops with an iron-framed structure place on top,” he explained.

The bronze objects have been lifted in blocks of soil by a specialist conservator for careful examination and conservation in a laboratory before they are studied in detail.

The North Bersted burial shared similarities with famous graves of the Late Iron Age in places such as Welwyn Garden City, St Albans and Colchester. All of them were graves of princes or chiefs, or possibly priests, he added.

Also revealed in the excavations were revealed Bronze Age boundary ditches and occupation, a small hoard of four Middle Bronze Age bronze axes, or palstaves, an Iron Age roundhouse and a Roman building set among fields.

Article retrieved from Littlehampton Gazette features a video too.

50 000 exhibits “missing” from Russian museums

CNN article

A sweeping government audit has revealed that up to 50,000 pieces are missing from Russia’s museums — everything from Pre-Revolutionary medals and weapons to precious works of art — a member of the survey team said Thursday.

Former Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered the survey after his government was deeply embarrassed in 2006 by hundreds of thefts from the crown jewel of Russia’s art world, St. Petersburg’s Hermitage gallery.

Over 1,600 museums have been inspected since then, and most of them have items missing, Interior Ministry Col. Ilya Ryasnoi told The Associated Press in a phone interview.

The lost items were worth a total of “several million dollars,” he said, adding most of the disappeared inventory was pre-Revolutionary and Soviet-era medals, weapons and clothes.

Precious works of art were among the missing items but separate investigations were being conducted for those, Ryasnoi said.

“Yes, there have been thefts. Museum staff have used their contacts to steal some of the artifacts without a trace,” he said. “But most has simply been lost during transportation.”

Citing specific cases, Ryasnoi said 88 World War II medals had vanished from a museum in the Altai region, and weaponry had disappeared from a museum in the Siberian city of Novokuznetsk. Almost 300 artifacts were missing from the Russian Museum of Ethnography in St. Petersburg, he said.

So far authorities have opened 15 criminal cases of large-scale theft, which carries a maximum prison sentence of seven years, Ryasnoi said. More than 100 museum employees — including security guards and storage workers — have been charged with minor infractions.

However, Ryasnoi said the majority of the missing items had been mislaid or stolen during Soviet times, meaning many of those responsible may not face prosecution due to statutes of limitation.

A government spokeswoman refused immediate comment on Ryasnoi’s statements.

The commission is to present its findings early next year. In the meantime it will continue auditing more 400 museums, including the State Historical Museum on Moscow’s Red Square, he said.

A spokeswoman for the State Historical Museum would not comment on the audit while it was being conducted.

The commission, headed by Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov, has a mandate to check around 80 million items in total, a difficult task given the state of Russian museum catalogues.

“Only two million of the artifacts are even photographed,” Ryasnoi noted.

Furthermore, most Russian museums do not have computerized records, he said. Some items have handwritten descriptions logged in Soviet-era log books, but most just carry a single-line description, he said, making tracking them all but impossible.

Ryasnoi’s remarks came the same day that President Dmitry Medvedev visited an art museum in Petrozavodsk, in northwestern Russia, which had recently computerized its inventory.

In July 2006, the Hermitage Museum, which includes the grandiose former Winter Palace of the czars, announced that 221 items — including jewelry, religious icons, silverware and richly enameled objects worth about $5 million — had been stolen.

Two paintings stolen from the Hermitage have been found recently in Moldova and are scheduled to be returned

27 new sites inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List

Quebec City, Canada, 8 July – The World Heritage Committee, meeting for its 32nd session, finished inscribing new sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage List on 8 July with the addition of 19 cultural sites and eight natural sites to the List.

New cultural sites inscribed during the 32nd session:

  • Preah Vihear Temple (Cambodia)
  • Fujian Tulou (China)
  • Stari Grad Plain (Croatia)
  • Historic Centre of Camagüey (Cuba)
  • Fortifications of Vauban (France)
  • Berlin Modernism Housing Estates (Germany)
  • Armenian Monastic Ensembles in Iran (Iran)
  • Baha’i Holy Places in Haifa and Western Galilee (Israel)
  • Mantua and Sabbioneta (Italy)
  • The Mijikenda Kaya Forests (Kenya)
  • Melaka and George Town, historic cities of the Straits of Malacca (Malaysia)
  • Protective town of San Miguel and the Sanctuary of Jesús de Nazareno de Atotonilco (Mexico)
  • Le Morne Cultural Landscape (Mauritius)
  • Kuk Early Agricultural Site (Papua New Guinea)
  • San Marino Historic Centre and Mount Titano (San Marino)
  • Archaeological Site of Al-Hijr (Madâin Sâlih) (Saudi Arabia)
  • The Wooden Churches of the Slovak part of Carpathian Mountain Area (Slovakia)
  • Rhaetian Railway in the Albula / Bernina Cultural Landscape (Switzerland and Italy)
  • Chief Roi Mata’s Domain (Vanuatu)

Natural properties inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List during the 32nd session:

  • Joggins Fossil Cliffs (Canada)
  • Mount Sanqingshan National Park (China)
  • Lagoons of New Caledonia: Reef Diversity and Associated Ecosystems (France)
  • Surtsey (Iceland)
  • Saryarka – Steppe and Lakes of Northern Kazakhstan (Kazakhstan)
  • Monarch Butterfly biosphere Reserve (Mexico)
  • Swiss Tectonic Arena Sardona (Switzerland)
  • Socotra Archipelago (Yemen)

Extensions added onto properties already on the World Heritage List:

  • Historic centres of Berat and Gjirokastra (Albania)
  • Mountain Railways of India Paleolithic Cave Art of Northern Spain The Antonine Wall (United Kingdom)

The following countries have had sites inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List for the first time this year: Papua New Guinea; San Marino and Saudi Arabia, Vanuatu .

UNESCO’s World Heritage List now numbers a total of 878 sites, 679 cultural and 174 natural sites and 25 mixed in 145 countries.

INFO retrieved from here