Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Antiquities Market update I Archaeologists fear 'looters' charter'

Archaeologists were yesterday aghast over a plan by MPs loyal to Silvio Berlusconi to legalise the private ownership of archaeological treasures in Italy. One called the measure a "looters' charter".

At present, all antiquities found in Italian soil are deemed to be the property of the state and are meant to be handed over to the authorities.

But under the proposed legislation, treasure hunters who declare their finds can keep and own them if they pay the state 5% of the object's estimated value.

Supporters have argued that it would bring to light previously hidden treasures.

Antiquities Market update II 90% of archaeological sites in Pakistan plundered

According to research conducted by Robin Conningham, professor of archaeology at the University of Bradford, Pakistan is being robbed of antiquities created between 500BC and AD400, and Iran is being plundered of treasures dating from 3,000BC to AD500, The Times reported in its Monday edition.

Mr Conningham has done a six-year survey of the ancient sites in the region in collaboration with the universities of Peshawar and Tehran, and with the backing of the Royal Geographical Society, the British Institute of Persian Studies and the British Academy.

They found 18 new archaeological sites dating to the first millennium BC in the Hindukush region, of which 14 had been damaged by illicit excavations, and more than 120 sites dating back to 8,000BC in the Tehran plain, of which most had suffered recent damage.

Mr Coningham said: “Although the illegal destruction occurs abroad, much of the looted material is channelled here to Britain and is sold in London. The best material is coming to London.”

Homo hobbitensis update Hoping for hobbit DNA

An expert will examine hair and stone tool samples found in the "hobbit cave" in Indonesia hoping to extract DNA.

Scientists recently announced their discovery of a species of mini-human - Homo floresiensis - on Flores island.

Environmental archaeologist Dr Carol Lentfer, of the Southern Cross University, is examining residues on stone tools found in the cave. Any tools found with blood residue will be handed over to ancient DNA specialist, Dr Alan Cooper, of Oxford University, for analysis.

"We should be able to find out what impact the presence of modern humans had on the hobbits if they were living at the same time."

Lentfer will also examine the patterns found on the tools to determine how they were used.

That's the whole thing.