Antikythera Mechanism fragment courtesy of Wikimedia
The famous Roman shipwreck at Antikythera may in fact be the resting place of two wrecked vessels. The underwater site was discovered in the early 1900s and became quickly famous when nautical archaeologists discovered a device they termed the Antikythera Mechanism, a sophisticated device used to calculate astronomical positions.
The breadth of the wreck and vast array of artifacts have led researchers to question whether or not there are actually two ships at the site rather than the assumed one.
The site’s preservation is due to its remote and deep location, which protects it from curious scuba divers and would be looters. However, the attention that has been showered on the site has encouraged documentary film makers and reporters to be more… creative in how they have presented the finds and the site itself. As such, researchers are planning to return to the site to better explore it.
“Because the site has been so intruded upon for more than a century it gets really hard to disambiguate what’s myth and what’s fact,” – Brendan Foley
To learn more about the excavation and proposed return to the Antikythera wreck, see the article at Discovery News.
With the debt crisis and pending austerity measures in Greece, one of the great losers in this could be the Antiquities of Ancient Greece. Already plagued with deficiencies in conservation, preservation, guarding (as highlighted in the recent armed theft at Olympia), Greek antiquities face further cuts. Greek authorities are reaching out to private investors and philanthropists, but without much success.
To read more about the campaign to preserve Greek Antiquities, see the article at MSNBC.
Thieves robbed the museum at Olympia (the site of the ancient Olympic Games). Two armed masked men smashed display cases and grabbed priceless artifacts (at least 60) after overpowering guards at the museum.
In the wake of the chaos of Greece’s financial crisis, violent crime (targeting art) has skyrocketed. To read more about the theft, see the article at BBC News.
After the death of Muammar Gaddafi has provided a brief respite for Libyans. As the civilization begins to take a catalogue, one of the greatest heists in history has been publicized. The so called “Treasure of Benghazi,” the world’s largest collection of gold and silver coins (many dating to the time of Alexander the Great) have gone missing from a bank vault in Libya.
Antiquities dealers believe this could be the largest archaeological heist in history. Some have speculated the the looted coins are now in Egypt. To learn more about this, see the article in the BBC or the Sydney Morning Herald.
In the wake of the civil unrest in the Libya, the state of its antiquities has been cause for concern for scholars and archaeologists. Due to the current political state, independent reporters and UNESCO investigators cannot travel to the state to verify their status.
Libya has a wealth of historical material, prehistory, Carthaginian, Phoenician, Greek, Roman, and more modern amenities. Such sites are often of little to no concern during bloody coups when people are most concerned about basic survival.
We know that artifacts have already been stolen, and UNESCO has issued statements to auctions houses warning them to be on high alert for looted antiquities (see the article on BBC). Native archaeologists have already begun to petition the provisional government to take special efforts to preserve sites and artifacts. CNN has issued a special report on Libya’s “other wealth” and you can read more about here.
It is not as dramatic as the collapse of an ancient Egyptian dynasty, but the abrupt fall of Zahi Hawass is sending ripples around the planet. The archaeologist who has been in charge of Egypt’s antiquities for nearly a decade has been abruptly sacked in an overhaul of the country’s cabinet.
The antipathy toward Hawass in Egypt may be difficult to grasp in the West, where he is typically found on American television, fearlessly tracking down desert tombs, unearthing mummies and bringing new life to Egypt’s dusty past. But in Egypt he has been a target of anger among young protesters who helped depose President Hosni Mubarak in February. Hawass had been accused of corruption, shoddy science and having uncomfortably close connections with the deposed president and first lady⎯all of which he has vociferously denied. Many young archaeologists also are demanding more jobs and better pay⎯and they complain Hawass has failed to deliver. “He was the Mubarak of antiquities,” said Nora Shalaby, a young Egyptian archaeologist who has been active in the revolution.
A statue of the Roman Emperor Caligula was recently uncovered at an illegal dig in Italy. There are fewer statues of the Roman Emperor as he suffered a damnatio memoriae (erasure of his name from history) by the Senate shortly after his assassination.
The site is located at Nemi, south of the city of Rome, where Caligula was known to have luxurious retreat. Archaeologists recovered the statue in January after the Italian government stopped an illegal dig at the location. You can read more about the statue and the excavation in this Discovery News article.
Most visitors of Central Park do not realize that they have a piece of Ancient History in the midst. In the 19th century, Egypt made a gift of Cleopatra’s Needle, one of three identical obelisks, to the Cities of New York, Paris, and London. The obelisks themselves are not related to the famed Queen, but rather were inscribed during the reign of Thutmose III.
Recently, Zahi Hawass, head of Egypt’s Council of Antiquities (and a controversial figure in his own right) condemned the city of New York for ill-keeping of the artifact – arguing that the heavy pollution and acid rain of the city has eroded the inscriptions and even suggesting that Egypt should confiscate the monument. New York has responded by pointing out the instability of Egypt and recent lootings of its museums and monuments as well as denying the accusation that New York City’s pollution is having any negative effect on the monument.
Advanced sonar techniques are being employed off the coast of Virginia and North Carolina to explore Civil War era shipwrecks located in the area. The researchers are hoping that the new technology will allow them to develop 3D imagery that would permit the public to explore the sites in full without risking damaging to the wrecks themselves (a common danger to under water sites in shallow water).
Researchers hope to eventually map all “Battle of the Atlantic” shipwrecks for public consumption. Right now, they are focused on the USS Cumberland, that was sunk by the CSS Virginia off the coast of Newport News, Virginia, and the CSS Florida, also located off the coast of Virginia. Locals often feel an affinity and connection to the wrecks and are eager to see them preserved for future generations.