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Hands off Ancient Olympia June 21, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece, Athens 2004 Olympics.
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A state archaeological committee has turned down a request to host an international athletics competition at Ancient Olympia because of fears that it will cause irreparable damage to the historic site.

The Culture Ministry’s Central Archaeological Council said that Ancient Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympic Games, does not have the right infrastructure to host an athletics meet with 15,000 spectators.

The council also pointed out that the event would render the area off-limits to visitors at a time when tourist traffic is heavy.

The Sports Secretariat, which belongs to the Culture Ministry, had recently submitted a plan to host an annual track event in May after the shot put was successfully staged there during the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.

If the international event is held in a stadium close by, such as in Pirgos, then Ancient Olympia can host a medals ceremony with no more than 3,000 spectators, the committee said.

Archaeologists dig Greek temple in Cyprus June 21, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Cyprus.
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The uncovering of ancient civilisations, and the study of the rise and fall of their empires, can teach us very valuable lessons about the path that our own modern civilisation has taken.

In the first of a series of stories tracing the way Australians are helping countries around the world in uncovering their heritage, and the incredible civilisations that once dominated whole parts of the Earth, Adam Connors spoke with archaeologist Craig Barker.
For instance, this University of Sydney academic spends months at a time unearthing an ancient Greek theatre on the island of Cyprus.
It was a place where, for 650 years and nearly 2,000 years ago, it entertained and enthralled local residents before being swallowed up by the sands of time.

Venetian coins found in Cyprus June 21, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Cyprus.
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Some 300 to 400 copper Venetian coins have been unearthed during excavations in the old city of Nicosia, local press reported.

The coins were found near the remains of an Ottoman Bath, where new offices of the Sewage Board will be built. The excavation site of the coins led to speculation that the bath was built during the first few years of the Ottoman period in Cyprus, when Ottoman currency may not yet have been initiated and circulating around the island.

The Venetian Period in Cyprus lasted from 1489 until 1571, when the Ottomans conquered Famagusta and brought Cyprus under the umbrella of the Ottoman Empire for the next 300 years.

“The most likely scenario is that the Ottoman bath was built sometime from 1571 to 1578 when they might have still been using the Venetian coins,” Pavlos Flourentzos, Director of the Antiquities Department, was quoted as saying.

The copper Venetian coins are currently being treated in the Cyprus Museum for preservation purposes.

Modern Nicosia is built upon the ruins of a succession of civilizations, including Byzantine, Frankish, Venetian, and Ottoman. Because there were no mechanical means to remove the rubble created when ancient builders demolished old structures, they would simply build on top of the rubble, thereby creating a new layer of ruins on top of the old ones.

Cypriot archaeological officer George Georgiou said that since Nicosia was a Bronze Age town, Bronze Age remains can be found in some parts of the city, thereby making it “one of the most ancient capitals in Europe”.

The island’s Antiquities Department classifies certain areas of Cyprus as Class A or Class B Monument sites. Class A sites are under the ownership of the Antiquities Department, while Class B sites can be privately owned, although the Antiquities Department can inspect them and halt construction if valuable artefacts are discovered.

However, there are no plans to stop the construction of the Sewage Board offices due to the bath and coins findings, Flourentzos said, adding that the remains of the bath will be maintained and preserved within the building.

Archaeological parks: A dream to bring life to northern Greece’s ruins June 21, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece, Culture History Mythology.
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The names of the dead are still visible on the walls of the small, moist chamber, a family tree buried for more than two millenniums in a Macedonian tomb.
Hidden from public view since 220 B.C., the tomb of Lyson and Kallikles contains 22 niches that held the ashes of at least four generations of a military family that served the ancient Macedonian empire from the fourth to the second centuries B.C.
It’s one of many ancient tombs in northern Greece that have been overlooked for centuries as classicists and archaeologists concentrated on the better known ruins to the south.
Now, experts want to make a showcase of past glories in many of these modern backwaters.
Unlike their more famous ancient cousins in the south, including the Acropolis, Delphi and ancient Olympia, little is known outside of Greece about many of the archaeological treasures in the north.
“All of Greece is an archaeological area, and lately archaeologists are getting into the frame of mind to publicize them,” says Culture Minister. “All they used to care about was excavating.”
Archaeologists are lobbying the government for funds to finish preserving tombs and transform this ancient city and Pella, the capital of ancient Macedonia about 19 miles away, into archaeological parks.
This city is where many experts believe the philosopher Aristotle had as one of his pupils a young man who would later be known as Alexander the Great, who was born in Pella in 356 B.C.
At the age of 16, while his father, Philip II, the king of Macedonia, marched against Byzantium, Alexander was entrusted with governing his country. When his father was murdered, he became king and leader of the powerful Macedonian army. Alexander undertook a military campaign that freed the Greek cities of Asia Minor from Persian rule. He then went on to conquer Egypt, Persia and part of India before his death at the age of 33. (more…)

Neolithic daily life shown in dig at ancient Greek site June 21, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece.
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The finds at Avgi in Kastoria (northern Greece) are far from common. At a site of 3.5 hectares near the Aghia Triada municipality, a 7,500-year-old rural community has been unearthed. Rare miniature vessels the size of a ring, nine fine impressive stamps, 20 human and animal-shaped idols, two bone flutes, ornaments made from shell, amber and malachite, stone tools, bones and horns are just some of the finds discovered. The hundreds of finds together constitute a historical archive of a little-known prehistoric period in Greece and the Balkans, the Neolithic period (7000-4000 BCE). The site provides important information about the social relationships developed at that time, how settlements were structured, farming and grazing areas, and the new ideological strategies for survival and reproduction that evolved.

"The 1,200 square meters at the site has brought to light dense and extremely well-preserved construction remains that will allow us to broach subjects such as size, density and usage of building installations and free spaces,” said excavator Georgia Stratouli, who is in charge of the excavation team of specialists and postgraduate students from prehistoric archaeological departments of Greek and foreign universities.

The excavators have unearthed sections of a rectangular ground plan and stonework (foundations and upper structures) in at least four buildings measuring from 80 square meters to 30-40 square meters representing two and three construction phases.

Wooden poles in various arrangements, in a straight line or diagonally positioned in pairs, driven straight into the soil or into prepared shallow trenches measuring 50 centimeters in width, have revealed the techniques applied by builders at that time.

The upright poles were tied to each other so as to create a diagonal wooden skeleton and the space in between was then filled in with thick layers of straw to make the walls. These were then coated with a special mixture of clay to protect the building from rain, damp and fluctuations in temperature. "Fine organic remains found on the flooring were examined using a water sieve which revealed large concentrations of plant remains from food, such as grain, pulses and fruit,” the excavator said. The buildings at Avgi also suggest they might have had lofts or even a second floor.

The data archive of the excavation shows that it is "an unusual settlement for prehistoric times in the Balkans, with well-preserved construction remains and imprints on the soil from the falling walls and roofs of the buildings." The site’s excavation has also unearthed large building structures. The mayor of Aghia Triada, together with the 17th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, is planning undertakings with funding from the European program INTERREG III/Greece-Albania, which will assist in the documentation and showcasing of the finds.

Ancient Cypriots fed olive oil to furnaces June 21, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Cyprus, Food Cyprus.
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Pyrgos, Cyprus: It is praised for its culinary and health properties by any cook worth his salt, but long before olive oil made it into the Mediterranean diet Cypriots used it as fuel to melt copper, archaeologists say.

Italian researchers have discovered that environmentally friendly olive oil was used in furnaces at a site in southern Cyprus up to 4,000 years ago, instead of the fume-belching charcoal used in industry for hundreds of years since.

Described as “liquid gold” by the ancient Greek poet Homer, olive oil has long been associated with grooming, pampering and the religious rites of the ancients, but not, at least in the Mediterranean, with heavy industry.

“We know that olive oil made it into our food around 1,000 BC, but it is the first time we have laboratory evidence that it was used in smelting as a fuel,” archaeologist Maria Rosaria Belgiorno said.

Cyprus was famed in antiquity for its copper and is believed to have given its name to the Latin term for the metal, Cuprum.

The find by Belgiorno’s team suggested mankind might be returning to its roots, at least in terms of energy.

“It is the first time this has been discovered … and in Europe it’s only recently that industry has turned to biofuels. This oil burns like benzene,” Belgiorno said.

Today’s Cypriots might, however, think twice about pumping this precious commodity into their petrol tanks instead of drizzling it over their meals. Average annual production of about 13,500 tones just about meets local demand and olive oil now sells for around $6 per liter, compared to around 55 cents for regular fuel.

DARK MARKS LEFT BY TIME > The smelting site known as Pyrgos Mavroraki is thought to be part of a larger industrial unit dating from 2,000 BC, when Cyprus was in its early to mid bronze age. Lying some 90 km (60 miles) southwest of the capital Nicosia among sprawling villas, the complex includes copper smelting works, facilities for textile weaving and dyeing, a winery and an olive press.

“The olive press and storage facilities were in the middle of two areas where copper was worked. It shows that for sure they used olive oil. Can you imagine building an olive press in the middle of a metallurgy plant. Why?” said Belgiorno.

Tests carried out by the Italian Institute of Technologies Applied to Cultural Heritage, for whom Belgiorno works, have discovered olive oil residues in ovens on the site.

Belgiorno said researchers were puzzled by the fact that no charcoal, the fuel most widely used at the time, was found. Charcoal remains intact despite the passage of time, she said. “There were no storage areas for charcoal. We have discovered that to melt copper you need five kilos of olive oil, compared to 80 kilos of charcoal.”

Dark marks on the hard-packed earth in the complex might escape the untrained eye. But these are stains from the oil used in the furnaces, traces which also do not fade.

CYPRUS, THE FILTER > Belgiorno said metallurgy sites have been found close to olive oil production areas in Egypt and Jordan, so Cypriots could not lay claim to being the first to use biofuels. It was, however, the first time science had conclusively proven that olive oil was used as a fuel, she said.

The highly prized commodity was a key ingredient of perfumes and ancient geographers noted the abundance of olive groves and copper mines in Cyprus.

“I suspect the technology came from abroad, most probably through contact with Palestine and Jordan,” said Belgiorno.

Last year at the same site, Belgiorno’s team found what they described as the world’s most ancient perfumery, which used olive oil infused with local herbs.

The site’s textile dyeing facilities also suggested Cypriots had a fashionable flair with their fabrics, using tiny veins painstakingly extracted from Mediterranean sea snails to dye their clothes indigo.

“Nobody can really speak about prehistory without mentioning Cyprus. It was a filter, it took technology from the Middle East and redistributed it to the western world,” said Belgiorno.

Cyprus “loukoumi” in the Guinness Book of Records June 21, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Food Cyprus.
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Cyprus has secured a place in the Guinness Book of Records for the biggest ”loukoumi” in the world, a mouth-watering dessert made of sugar, corn-flour and almonds.

Geroskipou Mayor Tasos Kouzoupos announced that Guinness World Records e-mailed on 20 June, saying that it had accepted the information sent from Cyprus for the specific ”loukoumi”, which was made on 15-17 October 2004.

The record breaking ”loukoumi” will be included in the 2006 edition of the Guinness Book of Records.