Archaeology

Brazil museum fire: ‘incalculable’ loss as 200-year-old Rio institution gutted

The Museu Nacional houses artefacts from Egypt, Greco-Roman art and some of the first fossils found in Brazil Dom Phillips The Guardian Brazil’s oldest and most important historical and scientific museum has been consumed by fire, and much of its archive of 20 million items is believed to have been destroyed. The fire at Rio de Janeiro’s 200-year-old National Museum began after it closed to the public on Sunday and raged into the night. There were no reports of injuries, ... Read More »

Labyrinthine investigation concludes the Minotaur’s lair never existed

Long held to be a known archaeological site, the Labyrinth of Crete was never built, says a new study. Fotis Kapetopoulos reports. Since the late nineteenth century, archaeologists, documentary-makers and novelists have asserted that the Cretan Labyrinth – the lair of the terrifying Minotaur – was a real place. But now a major paper suggests that the legendary maze was just that – legend, a figment of collective imagination. The labyrinth is popularly held to have been in the Palace ... Read More »

The surprising role cheese played in human evolution

A solid white mass found in a broken jar in an Ancient Egyptian tomb has turned out to be the world’s oldest example of solid cheese. Penny Bickle The Conversation Probably made mostly from sheep or goats milk, the cheese was found several years ago by archaeologists in the ancient tomb of Ptahmes, who was a high-ranking Egyptian official. The substance was identified after the archaeology team carried out biomolecular identification of its proteins. This 3,200-year-old find is exciting because ... Read More »

Ancient Greek music: now we finally know what it sounded like

In 1932, the musicologist Wilfrid Perrett reported to an audience at the Royal Musical Association in London the words of an unnamed professor of Greek with musical leanings: “Nobody has ever made head or tail of ancient Greek music, and nobody ever will. That… Armand D’Angour The Conversation Indeed, ancient Greek music has long posed a maddening enigma. Yet music was ubiquitous in classical Greece, with most of the poetry from around 750BC to 350BC – the songs of Homer, ... Read More »

Time to honour a historical legend: 50 years since the discovery of Mungo Lady

This month we celebrate an event 50 years ago in western New South Wales that changed the course of Australian history. Jim Bowler The Conversation On July 15, 1968, the discovery of burnt bones on a remote shoreline of an unnamed lake basin began a story, the consequences of which remain sadly unfinished today. It’s the story of a legend, the discovery of Mungo Lady, the first in the series of steps that led to the creation of the Willandra ... Read More »

Point of No Return? Britain and the Elgin Marbles

Britain’s ownership of the Parthenon Sculptures has caused controversy since they were first brought to London in the early 1800s. Ioannis D. Stefanidis History Today Keen to keep the Greeks onside, the debate became highly charged during the Second World War. Since they were first ‘acquired’ in 1816, Britain has never seriously considered returning the sculptures collectively known as the ‘Elgin Marbles’ to their place of origin. Successive governments have argued that they are better preserved and more accessible in ... Read More »

Illegal trade in antiquities: a scourge that has gone on for millennia too long

Looting of artefacts has always been a sign of military might or economic power. Evangelos Kyriakidis The Conversation Over millennia, conquering generals would take away with them trophies to adorn their cities. In more recent centuries, the wealthy upper classes would make “grand tours” of classical sites and acquire – through whatever means – anything from vases to statues to entire temple friezes to show off at… Owning a piece of antiquity was seen as demonstrating wealth, a love of ... Read More »

How the Parthenon Came to Live in Nashville

At first, no one expected this building to last: The Tennessee Centennial Exposition — picture something like a World’s Fair or Walt Disney World’s Epcot — was held in Nashville in 1897 and it featured a full-scale replica of the famous Parthenon in Greece. Kathryn WhitBourne Adventure – HowStuffWorks The plaster building, which fit in with Nashville’s ambition to be the “Athens of the South,” housed an art exhibition. Over six months, 1.8 million people visited the exposition, small when compared ... Read More »

Yes, we should return the Elgin Marbles—and all the other spoils of colonialism

Returning artefacts to their rightful owners shouldn’t be a controversial argument but somehow, when it comes to British cultural institutions, it is Steve Bloomfield Prospect Sat in a sun-drenched courtyard, a senior official at a British cultural institution was explaining with some excitement how the digitisation of their archives meant that thousands of artefacts could now be viewed all around in the world. “Including in the places we stole them from,” I added. There was a pause. “That’s not the ... Read More »

UK’s Labour Party Leader Vows to Return Parthenon Marbles to Greece

The leader of the UK’s labour party, Jeremy Corbyn, is the latest public figure to declare that colonial-era objects that were taken unlawfully should be returned to their country of origin. ArtForum If elected prime minister in the next general election, which will take place in 2022, Corbyn has pledged to return the famous Parthenon Marbles to Greece. Also known as the Elgin Marbles, the fifth-century sculptures—made under the sculptor Phidias—were taken from the Parthenon, an ancient temple dedicated to ... Read More »

Corbyn says he wants to hand the ‘stolen’ Elgin Marbles back to Greece if he becomes Prime Minister

Jeremy Corbyn has insisted he wants to hand the Elgin Marbles back to Greece if he becomes Prime Minister. By James Tapsfield, Political Editor For Mailonline The Labour leader made clear he viewed the ancient statues as ‘stolen’ and they should be returned. Many Parthenon sculptures have been housed in the British Museum since 1816 after they were bought by the government from Lord Elgin. Greece has long campaigned for their repatriation, but supporters insist they were purchased legitimately and ... Read More »

Jeremy Corbyn would give British Museum’s Elgin Marbles back to Greece

The UK should start “constructive talks with the Greek government on the return of the sculptures”, Mr Corbyn says. SkyNews Jeremy Corbyn has said he would give the Elgin Marbles back to Greece if he became prime minister. The Labour leader told Greek newspaper Ta Nea “the Parthenon sculptures belong to Greece” when asked whether he would consider returning the carved figures and stelae. The Parthenon sculptures, as they are also called, have been housed in the British Museum since ... Read More »

BBC historian suggests the British Museum should have a ‘Supermarket Sweep’ where every country has two minutes to take back their artifacts

The British Museum should have a ‘Supermarket Sweep’ where countries have two minutes to take back their artifacts, a BBC historian has suggested. By Jim Norton for the Daily Mail David Olusoga said there was a ‘moral imperative’ for relics to be returned and that it could help our relationship with the Commonwealth after Brexit. Born in Nigeria, he said he felt strongly that the Benin Bronzes should be given back to the country of his heritage after they were ... Read More »

Gaia’s Map of 1.3 Billion Stars Makes for a Milky Way in a Bottle

Call it a galaxy in a bottle. Last Wednesday, astronomers in Europe released a three-dimensional map of the Milky Way. Dennis Overbye The New York Times It is the most detailed survey ever produced of our home galaxy. It contains the vital statistics of some 1.3 billion stars — about one percent of the whole galaxy. Not to mention measurements of almost half a million quasars, asteroids and other flecks in the night. Analyzing all these motions and distances, astronomers ... Read More »

Long lost art of first major global war discovered in Kent

Exclusive: Largest selection of pre-19th century prisoner of war art ever found in Britain David Keys Independent The long-lost art of the world’s first major global war has been rediscovered inside a historic manor house complex in the Kent countryside. Eighteen images of ships, scratched on the building’s walls by French prisoners of war in the mid-18th century, have been found by historical investigators carrying out conservation work at a National Trust property, Sissinghurst Castle, 13 miles south of Maidstone. Together with 16 ... Read More »

Ancient Amazonians lived sustainably – and this matters for conservation today

Our colleague, the archaeologist Santiago Rivas, recently made a remarkable discovery. Authors (4) The Conversation On a small plateau above the outskirts of Iquitos, a town in the northern Peruvian Amazon, he found a layer in the soil which contained small pieces of ceramic pottery, that were around 1,800-years-old. Digging deeper, he found another layer of soil, this time containing pottery that was about 2,500 years old. This is the archaeological site at Quistococha which has been occupied for at ... Read More »