Africa

Treasure Trove of Ancient Human Footprints Found Near Volcano

Treasure Trove of Ancient Human Footprints Found Near Volcano

by Michael Greshko via “National Geographic

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Nine miles from the volcano the Maasai call the “Mountain of God,” researchers have cataloged a spectacularly rare find: an enormous set of well-preserved human footprints left in the mud between 5,000 and 19,000 years ago.

The more than 400 footprints cover an area slightly larger than a tennis court, crisscrossing the dark gray mudflat of Engare Sero, on the southern shore of Tanzania’s Lake Natron. No other site in Africa has as many ancient Homo sapiens footprints—making it a treasure trove for scientists trying to tell the story of humankind’s earliest days. . . .

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Dazzling jewels from an Ethiopian grave reveal 2,000-year-old link to Rome

“Dazzling jewels from an Ethiopian grave reveal 2,000-year-old link to Rome”

by Dalya Alberge via “The Guardian

British archaeology team uncovers stunning Aksumite and Roman artefacts
Grave in Ethiopia
The grave in Ethiopia where the woman dubbed ‘Sleeping Beauty’ was discovered. Photograph: Graeme Laidlaw

Spectacular 2,000-year-old treasures from the Roman empire and the Aksumite kingdom, which ruled parts of north-east Africa for several centuries before 940AD, have been discovered by British archaeologists in northern Ethiopia.

Louise Schofield, a former British Museum curator, headed a major six-week excavation of the ancient city of Aksum where her team of 11 uncovered graves with “extraordinary” artefacts dating from the first and second centuries. They offer evidence that the Romans were trading there hundreds of years earlier than previously thought.

Schofield told the Observer: “Every day we had shed-loads of treasure coming out of all the graves. I was blown away: I’d been confident we’d find something, but not on this scale.”

She was particularly excited about the grave of a woman she has named “Sleeping Beauty”. The way the body and its grave goods had been positioned suggest that she had been beautiful and much-loved.

Perfume flask found at the site.
Perfume flask found at the site.

Schofield said: “She was curled up on her side, with her chin resting on her hand, wearing a beautiful bronze ring. She was buried gazing into an extraordinary Roman bronze mirror. She had next to her a beautiful and incredibly ornate bronze cosmetics spoon with a lump of kohl eyeliner.”

The woman was also wearing a necklace of thousands of tiny beads, and a beaded belt. The quality of the jewellery suggests that she was a person of very high status, able to command the very best luxurious goods. Other artefacts with her include Roman glass vessels – two perfectly preserved drinking beakers and a flask to catch the tears of the dead.

There was also a clay jug. Schofield hopes that its contents can be analysed. She believes it would have contained food and drink for the afterlife.

Although “Sleeping Beauty” was covered only with soil, her grave was cut into a rock overhang, which is why the finds survived intact.

The team also found buried warriors, with each skeleton wearing large iron bangles. They may have been killed in nearby battlefields. . . . .

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Tomb of previously unknown pharaonic queen found in Egypt

“Tomb of previously unknown pharaonic queen found in Egypt”

via “AFP

Czech archaeologists have unearthed the tomb of a previously unknown queen believed to have been the wife of Pharaoh Neferefre who ruled 4,500 years ago, officials in Egypt said Sunday.

The tomb was discovered in Abu Sir, an Old Kingdom necropolis southwest of Cairo where there are several pyramids dedicated to pharaohs of the Fifth Dynasty, including Neferefre.

The name of his wife had not been known before the find, Antiquities Minister Mamdouh al-Damaty said in a statement.

He identified her as Khentakawess, saying that for the “first time we have discovered the name of this queen who had been unknown before the discovery of her tomb”.

That would make her Khentakawess III, as two previous queens with the same name have already been identified.

Her name and rank had been inscribed on the inner walls of the tomb, probably by the builders, Damaty said. . .

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NJ Rhino Horn Smuggling Case ~ Outcome

I know I’m a little late to the table on the whole “Ivory-banning” topic, but a case was just settled on the issue, so I thought it was an interesting share.   Message To Leave With–Ivory of all kind is pretty much forboten in the States right now. So don’t try smuggling in or out anything made of Rhino or Elephant ivory; you risk a hefty fine and/or prison time.  

A little (Super-Simplified) background on the laws themselves:

Endangered Species Act (1973)–>More or less stated that protecting our “natural heritage” (as opposed to  artifacts/art/man-made heritage) was an important duty for Americans. It went on to begin outlining basic legal protections for the “native plants and animals” that were considered endangered or on the verge of extinction.  Out of this came the:

African Elephant Conservation Act (1989)–> This act acknowledged that African elephants (and because they are “indistinguishable,” Asian Elephants) were on the verge of extinction (note the link here they made to previous law). Furthermore, the “illegal trade” was a large part of the problem, and the US had a responsibility to put a stop to such trade on its own shores.  Take note: sport hunting was left out in this act as being OK. Thus, you just needed to prove that your ivory/Elephant parts came from sport hunting instead of poaching, and you were all good.  Closely linked to and resembling this act was the soon to follow:

Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Act (1994)–> As with the Elephant Act, the Rhino & Tiger Act started by stating that the Rhinos and Tigers were (under the Endangered Species Act definitions) considered to be endangered.  And once again, the “illegal trade” was most of the problem, and the US had a responsibility here to stop such trade.  Exact wording:  “A person shall not sell, import, or export, or attempt to sell, import, or export, any product, item, or substance intended for human consumption or application containing, or labeled or advertised as containing, any substance derived from any species of rhinoceros or tiger.”  

 This one went a little further in that the US had signed a contract with a bunch of other countries that it would actually destroy any stockpiles of Rhino horns that it found. Personally, I think this was a massive waste of ivory that didn’t benefit the Rhinos and only boosted the black market for their horns (where there is less of an item, more and more people want it).  Whatever you believe, this was a huge situation between US and Chinese/Taiwanese wildlife exporters.  The US actually put into place a ban on Taiwanese exports of wildlife into the US in 1994 because Taiwan had not changed their rules enough to suit the US government.  Nonetheless, there was still a  loophole for sport hunting or “legally taken trophies” here.  This meant that all the little “buddhas” or trinkets made out of ivory, or even the old pianos that had real ivory keys, were still okay for transport if you could show that they weren’t poached ivory.

Everything moved along, with minor disputes arising as to what was ivory, how bad the penalties should be etc. Then the next major change actually showed up this year (2014).  

February 11, 2014, the Department of Interior announced that it was going to officially ban ALL Commercial trade of Ivory in an effort to stop poaching.  This meant that it was taking away the little “Sport hunting”/”Legal Trophy” loophole that was left by previous laws.  It would impact all ivory taken from African Elephants and Rhinos.   Their argument was that the ivory trade was increasing; I would argue that this was a direct result of the rising demand for a suddenly “rare” commodity such as the governments had created with their previous bans.  

PROBLEM: suddenly, picking up little buddha or ivory trinket during your layover in India wasn’t quite so safe as it had been.  It was now going to be illegal to trade in pretty much any type of Ivory. The only exceptions were a “narrow class of antiques” already protected under the original Endangered Species Act (see how the lawyers intertwined these laws!) and those ivory pieces you already owned. Basically, you had to prove that you were exempt and this requirement was getting fairly strict (it had to be imported into the US before 1990 for African Elephant Ivory and 1975 for Asian Elephants).

This has potentially serious impacts on a ton of cultural resources, which is why you are probably still seeing quite a few articles discussing the situation.

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Now, with that extensive background, I bring you the recently decided NJ Rhino Horn Smuggling Case.

In December 2013, Zhifei Li, a Chinese citizen and owner of “Overseas Treasure Finding, pled guilty to smuggling rhinoceros horns from the United States into China.  He apparently paid three different antiquities dealers to assist him in exporting around thirty rhino horns and “objects” made from rhino and elephant horns.  Altogether, the items were worth approximately $4.5 million.  He has just been sentenced to six years in prison and a $3.5 million fine.

Mr. Li was officially tried under the older, pre-2014 amended laws.  But now with the changes, those laws could apply to you to.  So, as I said at the beginning, don’t try bringing in or out anything made of Rhino or Elephant ivory; it’s not worth the battle.

 

“Nigerian Archaeologists Protest German Exhibition of Looted Art”

“Nigerian Archaeologists Protest German Exhibition of Looted Art”

By Zacharys Anger Gundu via “All Africa”

The Archaeological Association of Nigeria (Aan) presents a statement on the recent German Nok exhibition in Frankfurt.  They accuse the German curators of academic colonization of archaeology for failing to agree to the exhibition first being hosted on Nigerian soil and for several other breaches concerning the heritage of NigeriaFollowing years of controversial archaeological investigations in parts of the Nok valley by German scholars led by . . . .”

Additional Sources