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  • 18August

    Tombs Found in Egypt's Nile Valley Date Back More Than 2,000 Years

    One tomb from Ptolemaic-era burial shaft carved into the bedrock, another a child's grave: This was not an army camp.


    Three tombs dated to the Ptolemaic Period, more than 2,000 years ago, have been discovered in the Nile Valley, the Egyptian antiquities ministry said on Wednesday. The discovery was made in an area called al-Kamin al-Sahrawi, south of Cairo.

    The discovery of sarcophagi and clay fragments suggests that the archaeologists found a major necropolis used over generations. It was evidently used sometime between the 27th Dynasty (when ancient Egypt was under Persian control, from 525 B.C.E. to 404 B.C.E.) and the subsequent Ptolemaic period.

    A burial shaft carved out of the bedrock in one of the tombs leads to a chamber where four sarcophagi with anthropoid lids, containing two women and two men, were found.


    Another tomb contains two chambers, one with six burial holes, including one for a child. Excavation on a third tomb is still underway, the ministry stated.

    Since women and children were buried there, the necropolis is unlikely to be part of an ancient military site, as had been previously suggested, postulate the archaeologists.


    The 27th Dynasty had been founded by the Persian emperor Cambyses II, son of Cyrus the Great. Cambyses II conquered Egypt in 525 B.C.E., wresting control from the unfortunate and short-lived pharaoh Psamtik III. He tried to continue onto Libya, to no avail. The Greco-Roman Ptolemaic period began in 305 B.C.E. when the Roman general Ptolemy assumed the title of King, dubbing himself Ptolemy I Soter, i.e., the Savior. His dynasty would rule Egypt for over three centuries: male rulers took the soubriquet Ptolemy, while the queens tended to be named Arsinoe, Berenice and, famously, Cleopatra.

    More info : HAARETZ
  • 07August

    India's Lesser Known UNESCO World Heritage Sites

    The striking thing about a country as vast as India is the sheer, overwhelming variety that it encompasses—of landscapes, cultures, languages, cuisines, and even UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

    Yet of its 35 cultural and natural heritage sites, travelers frequent only about a dozen. They miss some of India’s most outstanding wonders either because they are tucked in a little known, far-flung corner, or because they’re hiding in plain sight, in the shadow of an oft-visited attraction.

    Up for a surprise? Here are seven of India’s little known UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

    More info : Travel
  • 03August

    France: archaeologists uncover 'little Pompeii' south of Lyon

    A “little Pompeii” is how French archaeologists are describing an entire ancient Roman neighbourhood uncovered on the outskirts of the southeastern city of Vienne, featuring remarkably preserved remains of luxury homes and public buildings.

    “We’re unbelievably lucky. This is undoubtedly the most exceptional excavation of a Roman site in 40 or 50 years,” said Benjamin Clement, the archaeologist leading the dig on the banks of the Rhone river, about 18 miles (30km) south of Lyon.

    The city of Vienne – famous for its Roman theatre and temple – was an important hub on the route connecting northern Gaul with the Roman province of Gallia Narbonensis in southern France.

    The site unearthed on land awaiting construction of a housing complex covers an area of nearly 7,000 square metres (75,000 sq ft) – an unusually large discovery in an urban area that has been labelled an “exceptional find” by the French culture ministry.

    The neighbourhood, which contains homes dating to the 1st century AD, is believed to have been inhabited for around 300 years before being abandoned after a series of fires.

    Many of the objects in place when the inhabitants fled were conserved, transforming the area into a “real little Pompeii in Vienne”, according to Clement, referring to the Roman city-state that was largely preserved after being buried by volcanic ash.

    Among the structures to have partly survived are an imposing home dubbed the Bacchanalian House after a tiled floor depicting a procession of maenads (female followers of the god of wine, known as Dionysus or Bacchus) and joyful half-man, half-goat creatures known as satyrs.

    A blaze consumed the first floor, roof and balcony of the sumptuous home, which boasted balustrades, marble tiling, expansive gardens and a water supply system, but parts of the collapsed structure survived.

    The archaeologists believe the house belonged to a wealthy merchant.

    “We will be able to restore this house from the floor to the ceiling,” Clement said.

    In another house, an exquisite mosaic depicts a bare-bottomed Thalia, muse and patron of comedy, being kidnapped by a lustful Pan, god of the satyrs.

    The mosaics are being removed with infinite care and taken away to be restored, with a view to being exhibited in Vienne’s museum of Gallo-Roman civilisation in 2019.

    Among the other finds are a large public building with a fountain adorned by a statue of Hercules, built at the site of a former market.

    Clement believes it may have housed a philosophy school.

    The excavations, which began in April, had been due to end in mid-September but have been extended by the French state until the end of the year to allow time for more discoveries.

    In the coming months Clement’s team of 20 will dig down to older parts of the site and explore an area containing workshops.

    More info :
  • 02August

    History's 1st Emoji? Ancient Pitcher Shows a Smiley Face

    The iconic smiley face may seem like a modern squiggle, but the discovery of a smiley face-like painting on an ancient piece of pottery suggests that it may be much older.

    During an excavation of Karkemish, an ancient Hittite city whose remains are in modern-day Turkey near the Syrian border, archaeologists came across a 3,700-year-old pitcher that has three visible paint strokes on it: a swoosh of a smile and two dots for eyes above it.

    "The smiling face is undoubtedly there," Nikolo Marchetti, an associate professor in the Department of History and Cultures at the University of Bologna in Italy, told Live Science in an email. "There are no other traces of painting on the flask." [The 25 Most Mysterious Archaeological Finds on Earth]

    The team of Turkish and Italian archaeologists found the pitcher, which dates to about 1700 B.C., in what was a burial site beneath a house in Karkemish, Marchetti said. The pitcher was likely used to drink sherbet, a sweet beverage, he told the Anadolu Agency, a Turkish news outlet.

    The archaeologists also found other vases and pots, as well as metal goods in the ancient city, which measures about 135 acres (55 hectares), or slightly more than 100 football fields.

    The name Karkemish translates to "Quay of (the god) Kamis," a deity popular at that time in northern Syria. The city was inhabited from the sixth millennium B.C., until the late Middle Ages when it was abandoned, and populated by a string of different cultures, including the Hittites, Neo Assyrians and Romans, the archaeologists said in a statement. It was used once more in 1920 as a Turkish military outpost, the archaeologists added.

    British archaeologists visited the site in the late 1800s and early 1900s, but there was still much to be uncovered, so the new team, directed by Marchetti, began excavating it in 2003. But it wasn't until this past field season, which began in May, that the archaeologists unearthed the pitcher with the emoji-like painting.

    "Ithas no parallels in ancient ceramic art of the area," Marchetti told Live Science. "As for the interpretation, you may certainly choose your own."

    More info : Live Science
  • 01August

    Romania's Medieval Marital Prison

    Picturesque Biertan, one of Transylvania’s seven Saxon Unesco World Heritage villages, feels frozen in time. Horse-drawn carts are still a part of daily life, and local residents gather to trade their wares in a cobbled village square. At the heart of the village, a 15th-Century fortified church towers over the surrounding structures from its hilltop perch.

    Inside the church grounds, along one of its fortification walls, is a small building with a room inside barely larger than a pantry. For 300 years, couples whose marriages were on the rocks would find themselves here, locked away for up to six weeks by the local bishop in hope that they would iron out their problems and avert a divorce. 


    It may sound like a nightmare – but records show that this ‘marital prison’ was rather effective.

    “Thanks to this blessed building, in the 300 years that Biertan had the bishop’s seat we only had one divorce,” said Ulf Ziegler, Biertan’s current priest.

    Today, the small, dark prison is a museum complete with long-suffering mannequins. The room has low ceilings and thick walls, and is sparsely equipped with a table and chair, a storage chest and a traditional Saxon bed that looks small enough to belong to a child. As couples attempted to repair their marriages inside this tiny space, everything had to be shared, from a single pillow and blanket to the lone table setting.


    Lutheranism, the religion of the Transylvanian Saxons, governed most aspects of life, and although divorce was allowed under certain circumstances – such as adultery – it was preferred that couples attempt to save their union. So a couple seeking divorce would voluntarily visit the bishop, who would send them to the marital prison to see if their differences could be reconciled before they parted ways.

    “The prison was an instrument to keep society in the old Christian order,” explained Zielger, who noted that it also protected women and children, who were dependent on the family unit to survive. If a divorce did occur, the husband had to pay his ex-wife half of his earnings, but if he remarried and divorced again, the second wife was entitled to nothing.

    In the 12th Century, Saxon settlers ‒ originally from areas that today are France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany ‒ were invited by Hungary’s King Géza II to settle rural Transylvania and protect it against threats from Tatar and Ottoman invaders, as well as develop the area economically. Transylvanian Saxons were industrious craftspeople; Biertan became an important market town and cultural hub with a 5,000-strong population in 1510. 


    Walking through the streets of Biertan as the sun begins to disappear behind the rolling hills, a few locals sit outside drinking beers and a farmer moves his hay cart through the village. The imposing church, with its nine surrounding fortification towers, is illuminated by bright lights and its purpose evident: it was a central point for the early Saxon settlers ‒ a place of safety and worship. 

    The view from the church’s nearly 11m-high fortification walls next to the marital prison extends out across the village and surrounding countryside. Many current residents work their land using old-age farming techniques, and trade their wares to earn a living. Weather-worn shepherds can be spotted in the surrounding green hills herding sheep ‒ a scene that likely hasn’t changed much over the past several centuries.

    Life continues to move at a slow, meditative pace; however, these days there is less economic and religious pressure on struggling couples to remain together.

    “The reason to remain together was probably not love. The reason was to work and to survive,” Ziegler said. “If a couple was locked inside for six weeks, it was very hard for them to have enough food the following year, so there was pressure to get out and to continue to work together.” 


    Ziegler believes that, even today, the concept of a marital prison has potential lessons for any modern marriage. And he’s not the only one: he says that he’s received requests from couples looking to use the prison to repair their own struggling marriages.

    “In modern families, there is less and less time for each other, we are more selfish than our ancestors,” Ziegler said. “We suffer from loneliness, which is why today we need to talk more, so we can find out what is important to us and what connects us.”

    Join over three million BBC Travel fans by liking us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

    If you liked this story, sign up for the weekly features newsletter called "If You Only Read 6 Things This Week". A handpicked selection of stories from BBC Future, Earth, Culture, Capital and Travel, delivered to your inbox every Friday.

    More info : BBC
  • 31July

    Scotland in a new golden age of archaeology as number of discoveries trebles

    Scotland has entered a “new golden age of archaeology” according to experts, with hundreds of relics uncovered every year.

    Remote sensing and sophisticated devices such as x-ray guns means more discoveries are now being made than ever before.

    Finds in Scotland are curated and distributed to museums by the Treasure Trove - which looks after rare archaeological discoveries. The Treasure Trove has seen the number of discoveries reach its highest level ever.

    Among the artefacts uncovered are items belonging to ancient bishops, key figures in the wars of Scottish independence and the Glorious Revolution, as well as a haul of more than 200 rare Roman coins. 


    More info :
  • 27July

    'Journeys through our Fragile Heritage' Photo Exhibition by UNESCO & Wikimedia, July 2017

    Starting this July a new photo exhibition entitled ‘Journeys through our Fragile Heritage: discover, preserve, transmit’ will be on display at UNESCO HQ in Paris. Prepared jointly by Wikimedia and UNESCO, this exhibition  showcases freely licensed Open Access digital resources that illustrate the richness and diversity of our common cultural heritage. It also highlights beauty and fragility of culture with the aim of helping to preserve and transmit this cultural heritage that is, often times, vulnerable. This exhibition is organized within the framework of the #Unite4Heritage campaign and the Connected Open Heritage project. The goals of the #Unite4Heritage project are to celebrate and safeguard cultural heritage and diversity around the world. Under this movement, the exhibition focuses on three main aspects of cultural heritage: Built Heritage, Intangible Cultural Heritage and Illicit Trafficking.

    More info : Unite 4 Heritage
  • 13July

    A feast of finds from Cornwall’s First Golden Age

    Excavations at Tintagel Castle have revealed that the early Cornish kings feasted on a diet of oysters, roast pork and fine wine, dining and drinking from bowls imported from Turkey and glass goblets from Spain, English Heritage announced today (13 July 2017) as archaeologists return to the legendary castle to continue their investigations.

    More info : Heritage Daily
  • 11July

    Grand designs: saving Yangon’s crumbling colonial architecture

    Events in Myanmar’s capital, Naypyidaw, have been the focus of most attention since Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party was swept to power in a landslide election in November 2015.

    But an upheaval is also taking place in the country’s economic heart of Yangon – and it could have significant implications for how the city develops in the years to come.

    Yangon is at a juncture. It’s fuelling Myanmar’s economic boom – the country had the fastest-growing economy in Asia in 2015-16 – but it’s also choked with traffic, suffers regular power outages and is enduring a housing affordability crisis. Many have no access to government-supplied water or sewerage.

    There’s an obvious need to improve infrastructure and living conditions. At the same time, there’s contestation over how much of the city’s heritage – not just individual buildings, but entire neighbourhoods – can and should be protected from what conservationists deem inappropriate development.

    For decades, but particularly after the capital shifted to Naypyidaw, Myanmar’s military rulers adopted a policy of neglect toward Yangon’s heritage buildings. The new Yangon Region government, formed in March 2016 and headed by long-time NLD activist Phyo Min Thein, has changed the equation. It has thrown out the leadership of the notoriously corrupt municipal council and taken steps to improve delivery of public services. It is reviewing major projects initiated by its predecessor, including controversial ‘new cities’ on Yangon’s fringes. New initiatives, such as river transport, are being trialled. A long-delayed zoning plan is also being dusted off. Some of the reforms have been difficult, even unpopular – a new bus system launched in January remains a work in progress and has been widely criticised, while a night market to shift vendors off the streets failed to gain traction.

    But for those leading the country’s heritage conservation movement, it’s still been a welcome shift.

    Moe Moe Lwin from the Yangon Heritage Trust said the group and the regional government “share the importance of heritage and the conservation of it”, as well as the need for “more facilities for the public, particularly recreational facilities”.

    She’s cautiously optimistic about the likely direction of urban development in Yangon but also anticipates pushback. “I think the government will have pressure from the developers – where to give or where to allow the new developments, and how much to give and in which area, as well as what to limit.”

    Founded in 2012, the Yangon Heritage Trust has been a tireless advocate for sensitive development of the city. Chairman Thant Myint-U, a noted writer and historian, regularly outlines a vision for a modern, liveable city that integrates the new and old. But the trust also struggles to fight perceptions that it is anti-progress or seeking to retain Yangon’s time-warp atmosphere.

    More info : Southeast Asia Globe
  • 22June

    Syrian refugees to be trained to rebuild Palmyra and other heritage sites

    The World Monuments Fund (WMF) is launching a £500,000 scheme to train Syrian refugees living in and around the Zaatari camp on the Jordanian border in traditional stone masonry. The aim is to develop skills so that cultural heritage sites that have been caught in crossfire or destroyed by Isil can be rebuilt once peace is restored to Syria. 

    Organisers of the training course, which is due to launch in the border town of Mafraq in Jordan in August, are also hoping to recruit Jordanian students in a bid to alleviate some of the pressures put on the local community by the volume of people fleeing war-torn Syria. The project is being developed with Petra National Trust, a Jordanian not-for-profit organisation whose mission is to promote the protection and conservation of the Unesco World Heritage site of Petra.

    “There has been enormous destruction in Palmyra, Nimrud and Aleppo,” says John Darlington, the executive director of the World Monuments Fund Britain, which is working with the New York-based WMF on the scheme. “When the dust settles, one of the things that will stop restoration is that we will see money going into places like Palmyra but the skills on the ground won’t be there. Because so many people have left, there’s a huge skills deficit.” 

    There are an estimated 80,000 refugees living in the Zaatari camp, with a further 80,000 thought to be living in the neighbouring towns and villages. 

    The blueprint for the Syrian project came from a similar scheme begun by the WMF in Zanzibar two years ago. While the Anglican Christ Church Cathedral was being repaired, an intensive programme of skills development was also launched. There is now a pool of local trained stone masons to help with future repairs.

    “We are looking for stone masons who are already living in the local community or in the refugee community. It’s a long-held tradition in that part of the world,” Darlington says. “We don’t want to parachute in a load of experts and then leave. The idea is to train people who will become trainers themselves, so it will cascade out.”

    With the conflict in Syria raging on, it is too early to say how long the project will last, or indeed when the WMF will be able to start work there. “We are aiming to recruit 34 trainees who will be able to train others,” Darlington says. “If the project is shown to make a real difference, we will be rolling it out elsewhere.”

    Since civil war broke out in Syria in 2011, much of the country’s cultural heritage has come under attack, especially in the cities of Palmyra and Aleppo, where historical buildings such as the Citadel of Aleppo and Great Mosque of Aleppo have been either destroyed or damaged.

    The scheme is supported by the UK’s Cultural Protection Fund, which was established in 2016 to safeguard monuments and heritage sites at risk due to conflict. Other projects to benefit from the £30m fund include a scheme, led by the University of Liverpool, focused on Yazidi historic shrines in Dohuk, Mosul and Sinjar in Iraq; the creation of a database of cultural heritage on Soqotra, a Yemeni archipelago between Yemen and the Horn of Africa; and initiatives in the Occupied Palestinian Territories including the establishment of a new cultural and youth centre. 

    More info : The Art Newspaper
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