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TOPIC: archeology


Peruvian Farmers Plough Through 3,000-Year-Old Mural

First, the good news: A major archeological find has been discovered in the north of Peru. A ceremonial mound or temple that's thought to date back some 3,200 years, the site also contains a mural with a vaguely visible image of a giant spider and, for reasons yet unknown, a spoon. Cool, right?

This is a story that comes, however, with a caveat, because unfortunately, the precious, pre-Hispanic structure is partially destroyed — and not just due to the passage of time.

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In The Footsteps Of The Pharaohs

The step pyramid of Djoser in Saqqara, 30 kilometers south of modern-day Cairo, is the oldest remaining pyramid in the world. I pulled out this slide after reading recently about botched restoration efforts that could threaten the whole structure.

Preserving Japanese Artifacts, One 3D-Printed Replica At A Time

CHIBA — Researchers are collecting 3D data of Buddhist statues and other cultural assets at a university here on the eastern outskirts of Tokyo in order to store the stereoscopic information in case of the objects' deterioration or theft.

The graduate school research laboratory at Chiba University is recording the 3D data, which is also already being used to help vitalize local communities. One temple, for example, sells miniature models of its Buddhist statues as charms, and a metalwork and engraving artist has used the data to produce fashion accessories.

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Jerusalem, Where Archeology Meets Religion And Politics

JERUSALEM — The pounding of the hammer resonates in Jerusalem. "They are in the process of constructing a synagogue," said the Israeli tour guide in front of the tunnel, which attracts hundreds of tourists even though they have difficulty navigating it.

"One might say that there are plenty of places of worship like this," said the guide, a 40-year-old originally from New York. "But the situation is a little different at these depths." Bewildered visitors walk through the tunnel until an unusual sight makes them pause. Three women are hunched over copies of the Torah, or Jewish law. They pray in silence in the cramped space in front of a stone wall close to the "Holy of the Holies" — the most sacred inner sanctum of the Temple of Herod. According to Jewish tradition, this is where Tables of the Law given to Moses on Mount Sinai was buried.

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Ghost Town Grandeur

On the first of our many trips to Greece, my wife and I drove down to Mystras in the south of the country. Abandoned in the 19th century, the town's churches, castle and fortress walls stand as a reminder of Byzantine grandeur.


Maltese Megaliths

The limestone temples on the island of Malta rank among the world's oldest religious sites. As with Stonehenge or the Ecuadorian Kalasaya, some of the site's prehistoric monoliths were astronomically aligned. I aligned this daytime shot with a perfectly blue sky.

Florence Evin

Palmyra, The Politics And Poetry Of Restoring War Ruins

PARIS — Should Palmyra be rebuilt? And under what conditions? No sooner had Syrian forces and the Russian Army freed the "pearl of the desert," a spectacular Greco-Roman city with traces of Eastern influence, from the yoke of the Islamic State (ISIS), then the debate over how to restore it to its former glory was underway. Scientists, archeologists, historians and architects have all weighed in on the question, but it's also become a source of political exploitation.

Half-way between the Euphrates River and the Mediterranean Sea, this "irreplaceable treasure" was once a wealthy hub for trade between the East and West. In the first century, Palmyra became a Roman province. With their caravans composed of hundreds of camels, Semitic tribes ferried silk, cotton, precious stones and spices from China and India, as well as Arabian incense, all sold at exorbitant prices in Rome. Thanks to this booty, they were able to finance the construction of an enormous city.

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Iran Hardliner Wins, Austrian Lessons, Old Brew


European leaders are wiping sweat from their collective brow. Once the final votes were counted late yesterday, Austria's ecologically-minded independent Alexander Van der Bellen had edged far-right Freedom party candidate Norbert Hofer in the country's presidential election. Had he won, Hofer would have been the first far-right European head of state since the end of Nazism. "Relief at seeing the Austrians reject populism and extremism. Each of us needs to learn lessons from that in Europe," tweeted French Prime Minister Manuel Valls. Austrian dailyKronen Zeitung quoted the president-elect as striking a conciliatory note, saying that "together we will work to reveal Austria's beauty."

Though in Austria the president's role is largely ceremonial, the closeness of the vote is just one more symptom of a worrying rise in Western public opinion of nationalistic, anti-immigrant populism. "Established parties everywhere face electorates impatient for solutions to problems, like the refugee crisis and unemployment, whose scale is unprecedented in modern times," wrote British daily The Guardian in an editorial following the results in Vienna. From France's Front National to Denmark's People's Party to Greece's Golden Dawn, and right up to the words coming out of Trump Tower, the message is the same: reinforce the borders, save the homeland...and don't be shy anymore about saying it loud and clear. For Europe, in particular, the next election day to gauge the effects of this sentiment is slated for June 23: the UK referendum on whether to remain in the European Union. Polls show that this race, like the one in Austria, may come down to the final vote.

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Notocolossus: Is This The Biggest Dinosaur Find Ever?

BUENOS AIRES — It's a dinosaur battle of titanosaurian proportions.

Argentine paleontologists announced last week the discovery of remains of what they termed the Notocolossus gonzalesparejasi — a dinosaur likely to dwarf another sauropod found in Patagonia in May 2014, whose cast skeleton has just made its debut at New York's American Museum of Natural History.

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Where All Roads Seem To Lead

This looks like Rome's Colosseum, but is actually the Arena of Nîmes in southern France. When I took this picture, archeological digging was still taking place in the Roman amphitheatre, which nowadays serves as a concert venue.


Can Infrared Scan Solve Old King Tut Tomb Mysteries?

Among the puzzles researchers hope to solve is whether Tutankhamun's tomb has hidden openings to the burial site of Queen Nefertiti, whose remains have never been found.

CAIRO — The Antiquities Ministry announced it would oversee a new infrared scanning of Tutankhamun's tomb on the 93rd anniversary of its discovery. The hope is that the process will reveal hidden chambers within the tomb, and shed light on whether it was initially constructed for Queen Nefertiti.

The scanning, in partnership with the Paris-based Heritage Information Preservation Institute (HIP Institute) and Cairo University's College of Engineering, has been scheduled for this week, according to a statement published on the ministry's webpage.

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Through The Lion Gate

Walking under Mycenae's Lion Gate and its monumental lintel, you understand why they call its construction the work of "Cyclopean masonry." How else but with the strength of giants could such imposing blocks of stone be lifted 3,300 years ago?