After 2,000 years underwater, it’s not always easy to tell ancient artifacts from the rocks that surround them. Philip Short scrutinises the wreck site with a video camera, metal detector and lights Photograph: Alexandros Sotiriou/Hellenic Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities /WHOI
Divers returning to the site of an ancient wreck off the Greek island of Antikythera have found artifacts scattered over a wide area of the steep, rocky sea floor. These include intact pottery, the ship's anchor and some puzzling bronze objects. The team believes that hundreds more items could be buried in the sediment nearby.
The Antikythera wreck, which dates from the first century BC, yielded a glittering haul when sponge divers discovered it at the beginning of the 20th century. Among jewelry, weapons and statues were the remains of a mysterious clockwork device, dubbed the Antikythera mechanism.
Bar a brief visit by the undersea explorer Jacques Cousteau in the 1970s (featured in his documentary Diving for Roman Plunder), no one had visited the wreck since, leading to speculation about what treasures might still be down there. The locals told tales of giant marble statues lying beyond the sponge divers' reach, while ancient technology geeks like me wondered whether the site might be hiding another Antikythera mechanism, or at least some clues as to whom this mysterious object belonged to.
GUATEMALA CITY - Guatemala called on France to stop a private auction scheduled for next week in Paris, in a lot of Latin American antiquities, including thirteen of the ancient Mayan culture from the Central American country, officials said.
The Guatemalan Ministry of Culture said in a statement that the embassy of the country in France formally asked the Parisian authorities "intervene" for the auction house Sotheby's is scheduled to perform on 22 and 23 March next be suspended because the pieces that aims to sell are legitimate property of the Guatemalan state.
The pieces that Sotheby's plans to auction, about 300 in all from the Barbier Mueller Museum of Barcelona which closed its doors earlier this year, and according to the Guatemalan authorities possessed illegally.
"The State of Guatemala expects French authorities involving the auction and enforce the requests made by the Latin American countries involved, and you cannot allow private collectors unlawfully enrich themselves at the expense of American pre-Hispanic cultural heritage" the ministry said.
The claim that Guatemala runs, "is based on the Guatemalan legal rules protecting cultural heritage, which constitutionally prohibits the sale or export of those goods that make up the cultural heritage such as archaeological," he added.
"The tenure of the 13 archaeological Guatemalan holders by Barbier Muller Collection cannot be considered legal, and according to law, under the description given by the owners of the collection pieces are credited to from Guatemalan Mayan Culture."
Artifacts that Sotheby's plans to auction come from archaeological sites in Mexico, Central and South America.
Courtesy Emisoras Unidas
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LONDON: Scientists believe an oblong crystal discovered in the wreck of a 16th-century English warship may be the legendary sunstone, a near-mythical device used by Viking mariners to navigate.
The 'sunstone' which was discovered in the wreck of an Elizabethan ship sunk off the Channel Islands has long been the subject of scientific intrigue after it was described in one Icelandic saga as a magical gem which, when held up to sky, would reveal the position of the Sun.
The navigational device could be one of the secrets behind the Vikings' reputation as remarkable seafarers whose prowess at heading into unexplored water might have enabled them to beat Christopher Columbus to discover America by hundreds of years, 'The Independent' reported.
Researchers from the University of Rennes in Brittany suggest Tudor sailors may have used the stone to navigate in much the same way as their Viking predecessors after they studied the cigarette packet-shaped crystal found on board the wreck off Alderney.
The stone - a calcite substance known as Iceland spar - was found by divers next to a pair of dividers, leading investigators to wonder whether it formed part of the navigational arsenal of the English vessel, which sank in 1592, some four years after the Spanish Armada.
Despite the literary references, no intact sunstone has been found on Viking sites.
However, after carrying out several tests, including an analysis to prove its cloudy appearance, the French-led team has concluded that shards of Icelandic spar can act as a remarkably precise navigational aid, the report said. "Alderney-like crystals could really have been used as an accurate optical sun compass as an aid to ancient navigation," Dr Guy Ropars, writing in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society, said.
"It permits the observer to follow the azimuth of the sun, far below the horizon with accuracy as great as plus or minus one degree. The evolution of the Alderney crystal lends hope for identifying other calcite crystals in Viking shipwrecks, burials or settlements," said Ropars.
The principle behind the sunstone relies on its unusual property of creating a double refraction of sunlight, even when it is obscured by cloud or fog of the sort that would have been commonplace for the Vikings, the report said.
Courtesy Zee News
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Many of the illegally obtained artifacts were offered for sale online or at trade shows. The asking prices for some of the looted pieces were as much as $100,000. Image: FWC
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), with the support of the Florida Department of State (DOS), completed a statewide investigation Wednesday that included more than 400 felony violations by 13 individuals from the Keys to the Panhandle. The undercover operation shut down a group of individuals who destroyed state lands to illegally uncover and sell historic Florida artifacts.
“The suspects were part of a criminal conspiracy,” said Maj. Curtis Brown, head of the FWC’s Investigations section. “Their crimes pose serious environmental, economic and cultural consequences.”
Florida statute establishes that historic properties, including artifacts, are an important legacy to be valued and conserved for present and future generations. Artifacts on public lands are part of the public trust and should be enjoyed by all. When people take them and sell them illegally, they are stealing from the citizens of Florida.
It is with profound pleasure that I can formerly announce my latest salvage project, "The Logic Project".
As you may be aware, I have had a lifetime devotion to the careful and logical study of shipwrecks, especially those where contemporary records were still available. I have dedicated countless hours of research and fieldwork in this pursuit. My efforts have been rewarded with many discoveries, some of which have been widely publicized, such as those of the H.L. Hunley and the S.S.Georgiana. My work also played an important role in other major discoveries, that you probably read about, including the wreck of the S.S. Republic, from which large recoveries of gold and silver have been made.
There are several more wrecks, which I also discovered over the years, but had dared not to publicize or do any extensive work on them before I could establish legal rights to them. However, I am now in a position to move forward on several wrecks in United States Territorial Waters.
A couple of months ago, I entered into an agreement with United Gold Explorations Limited, a United Kingdom Company, to finance my expedition. And, I have mobilized my team towards the salvage of our first target.
Highlights of the “Logic Project” include:
- Six well-researched targets comprised of multiple shipwrecks of high commercial and historical value.
- Several located wrecks including some of which treasure has already been recovered.
- Several targets for which permits have already been secured
- A top notch, well-equipped team of salvage and archaeological professionals
I consider this to be the greatest undertaking of my life.
Dr. E. Lee Spence
This email has been sent out by United Gold Explorations Limited.
To learn more about UGEL’s venture with Dr. Spence, go to: www.ugelimited.com
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Students studying Civil War-era shipwreck artifacts from Modern Greece at the N.C. Underwater Archaeology Branch in Kure Beach include B. J. Howard (left) and Robin Croskery (center), shown working with Assistant State Archaeologist Nathan Henry. (Photo courtesy of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources)
KURE BEACH, NC – While their peers may be whiling away spring break on the sunny beaches of Key West or the Bahamas, 11 graduate students from East Carolina University (ECU) and two interns from UNC-Wilmington (UNC-W) are looking for treasure in murky tanks of crusty old objects. They are examining artifacts from the shipwreck of Modern Greece, a Civil War-era blockade runner that sank in June 1862.
Under the direction of Susanne Grieve, director of conservation for ECU’s Maritime History program, and Nathan Henry, an assistant state archaeologist for the Underwater Archaeology Branch (N.C. Department of Cultural Resources), the students will examine some of the 11,500 artifacts that were recovered from the wreck, which was discovered lying just 300 yards off Fort Fisher in 25 feet of water in 1962. Some of the artifacts were conserved and now are exhibited at the N.C. Maritime Museum branches in Beaufort and Southport, the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh, and other museums in and out of state. Thousands more remain to be researched.
The students will determine the type and condition of the artifacts and will record, catalog, photograph and evaluate future conservation needs. From water-filled tanks the students have retrieved cases of Enfield rifle muskets, antler-handled knives, hand cuffs, hoes, picks, and other 1860s farm and household goods.
Modern Greece represents an important period in history as an early casualty in the naval battlefield associated with Fort Fisher. Research on the Modern Greece, found 100 years after it sank, prompted development of the field of underwater archaeology and maritime artifact conservation in North Carolina and throughout the nation.
Fort Fisher State Historic Site and the Friends of Fort Fisher are co-sponsors of this project. Find Civil War Sesquicentennial programming at (www.nccivilwar150.com).
For more information on underwater archaeology or the Modern Greece shipwreck project, call (910) 458-9042. The Underwater Archaeology Branch, State Historic Sites and State History Museums are within the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources, the state agency with the mission to enrich lives and communities, and the vision to harness the state’s cultural resources to build North Carolina’s social, cultural and economic future. Information on Cultural Resources is available 24/7 at www.ncculture.com.
Courtesy Beach Carolina
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Wreck of the Jennie M. Carter from 1894, the ribs of which can still be seen off Salisbury Beach Center at low tide. The weekend's blizzard has once again exposed the wreck.
By Angeljean Chiaramida, STAFF WRITER
SALISBURY BEACH — On April 13, 1894, local residents rose to find the schooner Jennie M. Carter smashed on the sands of Salisbury Beach, its crew gone while its cat remained curled up on the captain’s chair.
Sunk as the result of one of the worst storms of the 19th century, the broken bones of the 130-foot, three-masted vessel are now more visible, further exposed through the sand after the sea ravaged Salisbury’s shoreline during the weekend blizzard.
“You can usually see it when there’s a low, low tide, but after this storm it would be more visible,” said Cassie Adams, the hostess at Salisbury Beach’s Seaglass Restaurant. “The beach lost a lot of sand in this storm.”
Playing on Salisbury Beach as a child, Adams hadn’t been aware that the wooden stubble peeking up in the sand during very low tides was a 139-year-old sunken ship. Forming a remote oval in the shape of a ship, its remains look like wooden stubble sticking up in the sand, she said, its inner realm filled with what looks like driftwood.
by ANGELA KOCHERGA
WFAA Border Bureau
BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK -- The illegal trade in ancient artifacts is thriving, and pre-Colombian relics from Mexico are among the prized items.
“Like almost like any crime, it’s really the same -- it’s profit,” said Tim Stone, Resident Agent in Charge of the Homeland Security Investigations office in Alpine. HSI is the investigative arm of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Archaeological theft is so profitable, drug smugglers along this remote stretch of border use the same routes to smuggle artifacts into the country.
“It’s just kind of a unique place, in that it doesn’t attract much attention," Stone said. "But it’s a very lucrative corridor."
The Big Bend region gets its name from the curve of the Rio Grande as it cuts through ancient limestone canyons. Some of those canyons hold archaeological treasures.
“What’s cool about this site is when they were doing the archaeological excavation, they found a very unique arrow point,” said Mary Bones, senior curator at the Museum of the Big Bend, as she stood in front of a pictograph exhibit.
The collection of artifacts at Sul Ross State University includes relics that are still being studied by archaeologists, trying to piece together the history of the early people of the region.
“For those folks who like a good mystery, that’s all we have are the pictographs, and no one has been able to interpret what the pictographs mean and their very unique arrow points,” Bones said.
Some of the artifacts that could help solve that mystery are threatened by thieves.
“Because once you remove an artifact from where it is, you lose so much information,” Bones said.
According to Homeland Security Investigations, thieves removed thousands of items from archaeological sites in the area of Northern Mexico near Big Bend National Park.
Photo: Shipwreck (A. Vanzo/UNESCO)
The Spanish navy has documented 1,580 shipwrecks in a database created in 2011 to track all the ships lost at sea based on information in the naval archives, the Defense Ministry said Thursday.
The database confirmed that most of the ships lost at sea went down off the Iberian Peninsula and in the Caribbean, with many of the vessels involved in the intense maritime traffic with the Americas over the past few centuries.
The project’s goal is to locate and identify the vessels whose sinking’s are documented in the navy’s vast records of both Spanish ships that sank around the world and foreign ships that went down in Spain’s territorial waters.
Of the 1,580 shipwrecks registered so far, references to locations exist in 1,176 cases, or 75 percent.
Europe accounts for 59.3 percent of the documented losses, with Spain accounting for 596 shipwrecks, or 50.7 percent.
North America, Central America and the Caribbean account for 314, or 26.7 percent, of the shipwrecks, with 176 of the sinking’s occurring off Cuba.
South America accounts for 80, or 6.8 percent, of the shipwrecks, while the Far East, especially the Philippines, and Australia account for 5.4 percent of the losses.
The Philippines alone were the scene of 50 of the documented shipwrecks.
North Africa, according to the navy database, accounts for 21 shipwrecks.
The date of the shipwreck is known in some 85 percent of the cases.
The project, which has not been completed, will continue over the next few years, depending on the availability of funding, the Defense Ministry said.
Courtesy Hispanically Speaking News
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Compiled by Mai Lan
VIETNAM - Dr. Nguyen Dang Vu, Director of the Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Quang Ngai province, says that the Department signed a contract with Doan Anh Duong Co., Ltd. on the excavation of antiques in the shipwreck in the waters of Binh Chau commune, Binh Son district on January 29.
The excavation began on January 30 and will last for 60 days. Doan Anh Duong Co., Ltd. is responsible for excavating the shipwreck on an area of 600 m2, at the cost of more than VND40 billion ($2 million).
There are about 40,000 artifacts in the shipwreck. It is estimated that over VND54 billion ($2.5 million) can be collected from auctions. The State will hold the shipwreck and exclusive artifacts. The remaining objects will be divided in three parts, with two parts for the excavator and one part for the State.
"This division has been approved by the People's Committee and it is strictly in accordance with law," Dr. Vu said.
According to experts, the shipwreck dated back to the late Yuan Dynasty in China in the 14th century. The antiques are mainly household ceramic wares such as bowls, pots, cups, plates, incense ... The unique feature of these artifacts are being decorated by the patterns of chrysanthemum, orchid, lotus and wrestlers.
The artifacts in the shipwreck in Binh Chau are the oldest compared to the underwater antiquities found in Vietnam so far.
Courtesy VietNamNet Bridge
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