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The emerging fate of the Neandertals
23 April 2007
For nearly a century, anthropologists have been debating the relationship of Neandertals to modern humans. Central to the debate is whether Neandertals contributed directly or indirectly to the ancestry of the early modern humans that succeeded them.
As this discussion has intensified in the past decades, it has become the central research focus of Erik Trinkaus, Ph.D., professor of anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis. Trinkaus has examined the earliest modern humans in Europe, including specimens in Romania, Czech Republic and France. Those specimens, in Trinkaus' opinion, have shown obvious Neandertal ancestry.
In an article appearing the week of April 23 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Trinkaus has brought together the available data, which shows that early modern humans did exhibit evidence of Neandertal traits.
"When you look at all of the well dated and diagnostic early modern European fossils, there is a persistent presence of anatomical features that were present among the Neandertals but absent from the earlier African modern humans," Trinkaus said. "Early modern Europeans reflect both their predominant African early modern human ancestry and a substantial degree of admixture between those early modern humans and the indigenous Neandertals."
This analysis, along with a number of considerations of human genetics, argues that the fate of the Neandertals was to be absorbed into modern human groups. Just as importantly, it also says that the behavioral difference between the groups were small. They saw each other as social equals.
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Restoring Djoser's Step Pyramid (Egypt)
19-25 April 2007
When the architect Imhotep set out to design the funerary complex to hold the mummy of the Third- Dynasty King Djoser (2667-2648 BC) and preserve it for eternity, he initially envisioned a traditional flat-roofed mastaba. By the end of the Djoser's 19-year reign, however, his tomb in the Saqqara necropolis had risen to a six-layered structure 62 metres high. At the time of its completion, Djoser's Step Pyramid was the largest building ever constructed, demonstrating a sophisticated and dramatic leap in architectural size and style.
The Step Pyramid complex was enclosed by a limestone wall 10.5 metres high and 1.645 metres long. It covered an area of 15 hectares, the size of a large town in the third millennium BC. Within the walls was a vast complex of functional and mock buildings, including the north and south pavilions, large underground passages and terraces, finely carved façades, ribbed and fluted columns, stairways, platforms, shrines, chapels and life- sized statues. There was even a replica of the sub-structure, the south tomb. At the centre was the Step Pyramid containing 330,400 cubic metres of clay, stone, reeds and wood, which made the pyramid more durable than its mud- brick forebears.
The elements of Djoser's pyramid complex that are above ground level are only one part. An underground structure almost six- kilometres long, a maze of tunnels, shafts, chambers, galleries and storerooms, was also created to hide the king's burial chamber and discourage grave robbers. Nevertheless, the burial chamber was plundered in antiquity and re-used for other burials in the Late Period. Now all that remains of Djoser is his mummified left foot.
One of the most striking parts is the eastern chamber, thought to be the king's palace in the afterlife. Here craftsmen of advanced skill produced an exquisite decoration of faience and limestone. Rows of blue faience tiles with raised bands of limestone simulate a reed-mat structure. Blue also evokes the watery associations of the Egyptian Netherworld. The decoration was arranged into six panels, the three on the north side topped with an arch supported by simulated djed pillar. One contained the real doorway with the limestone frame bearing the name and title of Djoser. The three southern panels framed false-door stelae showing Djoser performing a ritual run and visits to shrines. This chamber was never completed as the builders left the east wall roughly hacked from the rock, and the decorators seem to have finished in a hurry. All four walls of two further chambers were covered with the blue tile inlay and the doorways were framed with the name of Djoser-ti, Djoser's successor. These must represent the inner private rooms of the palace.
To the north of the pyramid stands the mortuary temple, now totally in ruins, although its southern wall still bears a carved cobra-head frieze. The south wall is connected from outside to the southern tomb by a stairway with a large hole on its left side. At the bottom of this hole is an entrance leading to an amazing set of chambers lined with blue tiles similar to those in the Step Pyramid's burial chamber. The inscriptions in these chambers are remarkable, being perfectly executed and exactly in line.
The Step Pyramid complex stood untouched until the 17th century, when European travellers attempted to enter and explore its underground chambers. At the turn of the 19th century, shortly after the Napoleon expedition to Egypt which attracted the world's attention to Egypt's various monuments and archaeological sites, research inside the pyramid began. In 1821 the Prussian General Johann Heinrich Freiherr von Minutoli discovered the access tunnel that leads under the pyramid from the north. In 1837 the British pyramid researcher John Perring found the underground galleries beneath the main structure. Soon after that, a Prussian expedition led by Karl Lepsius carried out more excavations on the pyramid side. Systematic archaeological research on the Djoser complex was first conducted only in the 1920s by the British archaeologist Cecil Firth. He was soon joined by the young French architect Jean-Philippe Lauer, who made the excavation of this complex his lifelong mission. Later, others would work at the site, but most of our current knowledge about this complicated structure can be attributed to Lauer.
Regretfully, however, the sands of time have taken their toll of the Step Pyramid. Most of its outer casing has gone, the core of the masonry has disappeared in some places, deep cracks have spread all over the walls and ceilings of the pyramid's underground corridors and its southern tomb, while several parts of the queen's tunnels, found beneath the pyramid's main shaft, have collapsed. For safety reasons the pyramid is closed to visitors.
Several solutions have been proposed to save this unique monument. Now, following three years of archaeological and scientific studies, a comprehensive restoration project to save and preserve this great pyramid from further destruction has been outlined.
THE IMMEDIATE AIMS: The restoration project is the first complete plan to rescue the Step Pyramid of Djoser and the southern tomb. Speaking to Al-Ahram Weekly, Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), described it as a pioneer project comparable to the salvage operation of the Abu Simbel temples. Hawass added that the project would be carried out by Egyptian engineers and archaeologists in three phases with a budget of LE25 million. Plans include consolidating the underground tunnels, monitoring the cracks, restoring the wall decorations and inspecting the natural ventilation inside the pyramid and the southern tomb.
The first phase, which started early this month, requires the cleansing of the pyramid from inside and outside as well as removing all accumulated dust and sand of the past decades in an attempt to reduce the load on the pyramid's structure.
Fallen blocks scattered on the ground and around the pyramid will be collected, restored and returned to their original location. Blocks which are damaged beyond repair will be replaced with replicas after being subjected to accurate scientific analysis in order that they do not dismantle the pyramid's structure. Empty spaces between blocks will be refilled with small fallen blocks.
The second phase will begin immediately after the completion of the first, and will include the consolidation of all tunnels, corridors and ceilings of the pyramid's underground galleries as well as the main burial shaft located on top of the pyramid's bed rock.
The head of the Central Projects Administration Department at the SCA, Abdel-Hamid Qutub, said that to guarantee perfect consolidation the executive company was using a high-tech engineering system suitably adapted to the authentic features of the pyramid in order to protect it from further deterioration. The system would also supplement loads during the restoration without affecting the original bed rock. The system is also designed to be easily dismantled after the completion of the restoration. Cracks will be restored and a controlling system will be installed in order to monitor minute by minute the movement of cracks and give an alarm if any further cracks appeared on the walls or ceilings.
The last phase will entail removing salt that has accumulated on the pyramid's internal decorations and fixing fallen faience ceramic shreds back in their original place.
Ayman Mahmoud, the engineer in charge of the project, said that studies conducted over the past three years had focussed on photographic and architecture documentation of the pyramid's outer surface and subsurface elements. Geological surveys and laboratory tests of the ground materials were implemented, and analysis of structure ability at critical cavities has been also executed. Previous studies carried out on the pyramid's structure have also been taken into consideration.
Restorers and engineers have been on site since early April. They chose to start on the pyramid's southern façade, removing dust and sand which had accumulated inside the main burial shaft of the southern tomb and on the pyramid's first mastaba. They also dismantled the northern wall in the corridor leading to the southern tomb, and filled empty spaces between the pyramid's blocks with masonry similar to that used in the construction of this great pyramid.
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The researchers identified the dark line (seen as a vertical line in the centre of this image) as the shoreline of an ancient lake; here, the radar image is overlaid with a topography that shows depressions in blue and reveals a very small lake next to the mega-lake (Image: Boston University Center for Remote Sensing / Ghoneim)

The study was carried out in northwestern Sudan (Image: Boston University Center for Remote Sensing / Ghoneim)
Ancient mega-lake discovered in Darfur (Sudan)
12 April 2007
The discovery of a massive ancient lake in Darfur could help explain how the world’s biggest groundwater reservoir came to be under one of the driest parts of the planet. It is also indisputable evidence that the Sahara was once a wet, green region, researchers claim. Eman Ghoneim at the Boston University Center for Remote Sensing in Massachusetts, US, was using satellite imagery to study the ancient hydrology of north-western Sudan when she noticed a dark, 250-kilometre-long segment on the radar images. The discovery came as a complete surprise, Ghoneim says. The radar waves penetrate through the sand that covers the region, revealing the structure of the substrate below. Ghoneim says the line was very dark, contrasting with the bright white of the surrounding solid rock, and 1 kilometre wide. The dark colour is typical of a mixture of gravel and sand, suggesting there was an ancient shoreline buried underneath the sand. This was confirmed by other lines that intersected the main segment, representing the rivers that once supplied the lake in water. "There were nine tributaries in total," says Ghoneim. "Three were major rivers." "Also, in one section, there was not one shoreline but four next to each other," she adds. "This gives us an idea that at one point the lake began to shrink." High volume Having identified the shoreline, Ghoneim integrated the radar images into data from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission, which records geological elevations. This enabled her to outline and model the entire lake (see image, right). The topography data (bottom right) revealed that the shoreline outlines a large depression and that, at its largest, the lake covered an area of about 30,750 square kilometres and contained about 2,530 cubic kilometres of water – more than five times the volume of Lake Erie in North America. The Lake's surface would have been larger than Massachusetts, US. The researchers plan to return to the area for fieldwork to determine the exact age of the lake; though Ghoneim says they know it is "definitely a pre-Holocene lake", which would make it over 11,000 years old. It is known that the region has been dry since the Holocene. Water strike "One thing is certain: much of the lake's water would have seeped through the sandstone substrate to accumulate as groundwater," says Farouk El-Baz, director of the Center for Remote Sensing. Indeed, the ancient lake lies over what is now the world's largest groundwater reservoir. It was discovered in 1953, when efforts to find oil in Libya came across water instead. Since then, several projects have been set up to mine this millennia-old water. The aquifer now supplies agriculture in the region. The reservoir, which is several hundred metres underneath the surface of the Sahara in a large region shared between Egypt, Libya, Chad and Sudan, contains roughly 150,000 cubic kilometres of water. The water is held there by porous Nubian sandstone. "The ancient lake helped feed part of the Nubian groundwater aquifer," says Ghoneim, adding that "ancient rivers, such as the paleo-rivers under the Selima Sand Sheet in south west Egypt and the Kufra paleo-river in eastern Libya, also contributed greatly." Ghoneim's discovery will be published in an upcoming issue of the International Journal of Remote Sensing.
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Ethiopia: Ancient Phallic Stones Uncovered
8 April 2007
Some 16 phallic stones have been uncovered in Gedeb Woreda, Gedo Zone of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples State, the Zonal Trade and Industry Department said.
The discovery of the stelae adds to attractions in the area for tourists to come and marvel at, especially in connection with the Ethiopian Millennium celebrations, it said.
Head of Tourism, Parks and hotels desk Elias Megara said the newly uncovered phallic stones bring the number of stelae in the zone to 2,000.
Among these are stelae groups of Tutete and Tule Bela, which are being studied by French archeologists, he said.
According to him, efforts are exerted to repair roads to tourist sites.
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Space Data Unveils Evidence of Ancient Mega-lake in Northern Darfur (Sudan)
28 March 2007
Researchers at the Boston University Center for Remote Sensing used recently acquired topographic data from satellites to reveal a now dry, ancient mega-lake in the Darfur province of northwestern Sudan. Drs. Eman Ghoneim and Farouk El-Baz made the finding while investigating Landsat images and Radarsat data. Radar waves are able to penetrate the fine-grained sand cover in the hot and dry eastern Sahara to reveal buried features.
Segments of the lake’s shoreline were identified at the constant altitude of 573 ± 3 meters above sea level. Ghoneim incorporated these segments with the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) data into a Geographical Information System to reconstruct the lake and the ancient river courses that led to it. At its maximum extent, the lake occupied an area of about 30,750 km2 (larger than the area of Massachusetts) and would have contained approximately 2,530 km3 when full of water in the past.
The researchers made no inferences regarding the age of the lake; however, its vast extent suggests that it existed for a long period of time when rainfall was plentiful in the eastern Sahara.
“Field investigations and samples will determine the exact age of the lake,” said El-Baz, director of the Boston University Center for Remote Sensing. “One thing is certain – much of the lake’s water would have seeped through the sandstone substrate to accumulate as groundwater.”
“This ancient lake, which represents indisputable evidence of the past rainy conditions in the eastern Sahara, will have significant consequences for improving our knowledge of continental climate change and regional palaeohydrology,” said Ghoneim.
According to the researchers, mapping the site of the former lake, named the Northern Darfur Mega-lake, will help with groundwater exploration efforts in the Darfur region, where access to fresh water is essential for refugee survival.
As proven by El-Baz in Egypt, just north of Darfur, former lakes in this part of the Sahara are underlain by vast amounts of groundwater. His earlier detection of the “East Uweinat” basin in southwestern Egypt – where the groundwater rises to 25 meters below the surface – resulted in the drilling of 500 wells to irrigate 100,000 acres of agricultural land.
“Such large sedimentary basins have potential not only in groundwater resources, but also oil and gas resources at depth,” said El-Baz.
A paper detailing the discovery will be published in an upcoming issue of the International Journal of Remote Sensing.
The Boston University Center for Remote Sensing is a research facility that was established in 1986. Researchers at the Center apply techniques of remote sensing and geographic information systems (GIS) to research in the fields of archaeology, geography and geology. In 1997, the Center was recognized by NASA as a “Center of Excellence in Remote Sensing.”
Founded in 1839, Boston University is an internationally recognized institution of higher education and research. With more than 30,000 students, it is the fourth largest independent university in the United States. BU contains 17 colleges and schools along with a number of multi-disciplinary centers and institutes, which are central to the school’s research and teaching mission.
Source : Boston University /


The original reconstruction done by hand (left) of a 1.9-million-year-old skull found in Kenya shows a relatively flat face and large brain case. The profile has puzzled some scientists, because it suggests that an early human had more modern features than any other species living at the time. Now a controversial computer reconstruction of the same skull (right) has revised the profile, giving the specimen a more protruding jaw and a smaller brain.
Man's earliest direct ancestors looked more apelike than previously believed
First humans retained surprisingly apelike features, NYU study reveals
24 March 2007
Modern man"s earliest known close ancestor was significantly more apelike than previously believed, a New York University College of Dentistry professor has found.
A computer-generated reconstruction by Dr. Timothy Bromage, a paleoanthropologist and Adjunct Professor of Biomaterials and of Basic Science and Craniofacial Biology, shows a 1.9 million-year-old skull belonging to Homo rudolfensis, the earliest member of the human genus, with a surprisingly small brain and distinctly protruding jaw, features commonly associated with more apelike members of the hominid family living as much as three million years ago.
Dr. Bromage"s findings call into question the extent to which H. rudolfensis differed from earlier, more apelike hominid species. Specifically, he is the first scientist to produce a reconstruction of the skull that questions renowned paleontologist and archeologist Richard Leakey"s depiction of modern man"s earliest direct ancestor as having a vertical facial profile and a relatively large brain – an interpretation widely accepted until now.
Dr. Bromage"s reconstruction also suggests that humans developed a larger brain and more vertical face with a less pronounced jaw and smaller teeth at least 300,000 years later than commonly believed, perhaps as recently as 1.6 million to one million years ago, when two later species, H. ergaster and H. erectus, lived. Dr. Bromage presented his findings today at the annual scientific session of the International Association for Dental Research in New Orleans.
The fragmented skull Dr. Bromage reconstructed was originally discovered in Kenya in 1972 by Dr. Leakey, who reassembled it by hand and dated it at nearly three million years of age, an estimate revised to 1.9 million years by scientists who later discovered problems with the dating.
"Dr. Leakey produced a biased reconstruction based on erroneous preconceived expectations of early human appearance that violated principles of craniofacial development," said Dr. Bromage, whose reconstruction, by contrast, shows a sharply protruding jaw and a brain less than half the size of a modern human"s. These characteristics make the 1.9 million-year-old early human skull more like those of two archaic, apelike hominids, Australopithecus and early Paranthropus, living at least three million and 2.5 million years ago, respectively.
Dr. Bromage developed his reconstruction according to biological principles holding that the eyes, ears, and mouth must be in precise relationship to one another in all mammals.
"Because he did not employ such principles, Dr. Leakey produced a reconstruction that could not have existed in real life," Dr. Bromage concluded.
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L'Appel de Nouakchott pour le patrimoine africain
17 Mars 2007
Convoitée par les grands consommateurs de pétrole et de minerais comme par les promoteurs de tourisme, pillée par les trafiquants d’œuvre d’art, l’Afrique de l’Ouest est victime d’exploitations anarchiques qui menacent ses vestiges archéologiques. Plusieurs dizaines d’archéologues et de chercheurs africains et européens, réunis à Nouakchott, en Mauritanie, lancent un Appel à la mobilisation internationale pour sauvegarder le patrimoine africain.
Fouilles clandestines, pillages archéologiques et destruction des vestiges : considérant que c’est le patrimoine de tout un continent qui est sacrifié, les archéologues et les chercheurs ont décidé de crier haut et fort leur indignation et d’interpeller l’opinion internationale. L’Appel de Nouakchott pourrait être, en somme, défini comme un cri au secours des archéologues et des chercheurs, réclamant la «protection et la valorisation des vestiges archéologiques qui sont enfouis (…), des vestiges dont la contribution à notre connaissance du passé africain est irremplaçable». Les signataires défendent une archéologie dite «préventive» c’est-à-dire planifiée, intégrée dans les plans d’aménagement du territoire (constructions urbaines ou voies de circulation, par exemple) et financée en partie par les aménageurs.
Cet Appel de Nouakchott fait suite au colloque international qui s’est tenu du 1er au 3 février dernier, intitulé "Les perspectives de l’archéologie préventive en Afrique de l’Ouest". Ce colloque avait été organisé par l’Institut mauritanien de recherches scientifiques (IMRS) et par l’Institut national de recherches archéologiques préventives (Inrap), en présence d’un responsable de l’Unesco. Etaient alors réunis, autour d’une même table, des scientifiques africains et européens ainsi que des représentants d’aménagement du territoire, pour débattre des problèmes rencontrés dans les secteurs respectifs des protagonistes.
A titre d’exemple, le gouvernement libyen, soucieux de préserver la faune, la flore et les sites archéologiques du sud du pays, avait commandé une mission d’expertise en 2005. Cette dernière avait alors révélé que de grands boulevards, créés pour la circulation des camions, avaient rendu pénétrables en 4x4 des voies jusque-là inaccessibles; en conséquence de quoi, des sites qui avaient été jusque-là naturellement protégés par leur isolement avaient aussitôt été dégradés.

«Un principe de partenariat technique et financier obligatoire»

Une réglementation internationale rigoureuse s’impose donc, selon les scientifiques, si l’on veut concilier les impératifs de conservation du patrimoine archéologique avec les différents intérêts économiques –qu’il s’agisse de ceux liés au développement et à l’aménagement du territoire, ou bien encore de ceux liés à l’exploitation des richesses pétrolières, gazières et minières. Archéologues et chercheurs demandent que, selon «un principe de partenariat technique et financier obligatoire», les aménageurs s’engagent, avant d’entreprendre tout chantier, à faire des études de terrain et des fouilles.
Exploiter les richesses pétrolières rapporte beaucoup d’argent. Prospecter l’or noir occasionne de grands dégâts. Peut-on imaginer qu'à l'avenir les industriels soient, en contrepartie, impliqués dans des programmes éducatifs auprès des populations autochtones, et qu’ils financent des campagnes locales d’«information et de sensibilisation». Eduquer pour protéger : un moyen, peut-être, d'inciter les Africains à veiller, en première ligne, à la sauvegarde de leur patrimoine au lieu de continuer à le brader contre quelques devises. Les fouilles clandestines et les trafic de vestiges constituent encore un réel fléau pour des pays en proie à la pauvreté, aux conflits et à la corruption.
Enfin, et considérant précisément que les richesses exhumées ne doivent pas quitter le continent, les signataires de l’Appel de Nouakchott demandent qu’en cas de mis au jour de sites archéologiques, les aménageurs participent également à leur protection et à leur mise en valeur.
Source : - Dominique Raizon


160,000-year-old jawbone redefines origins of the species (Morocco)
13 March 2007
Modern humans were living in northern Africa far earlier than previously thought, according to scientists. A new analysis of a 160,000-year-old fossilised jawbone from Morocco shows that the homo sapiens in the area had started having long childhoods, one of the hallmarks of humans living today.
It is known that the species homo sapiens emerged in Africa 200,000 years ago, but the oldest fossils that resemble modern humans come from sites in Europe dated to around 20,000 to 30,000 years ago.
The latest find shows that the key time in the development of a complex human society came much earlier than previously thought. The longer people had to learn and develop their brains as children, the more sophisticated their society could become. The new study pushes the date that modern humans emerged back by more than 100,000 years.
"When you look across primates as a whole or mammals you see things that tend to grow fast and reproduce young, they don't tend to be as socially complex as things like great apes and humans," said Tanya Smith of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. "That has social implications. You can imagine being parents and having your kids grow up at 10 or 12 versus 16 or 18, it has a lot of implications for your social structure."
By looking at the teeth of a 160,000-year-old human fossil found at Jebel Irhoud in Morocco, she found remarkable similarities to modern humans. "If you were to take a jawbone of an eight-year-old person today and compare it with the relative degree of dental development with this individual from Morocco they would be nearly identical."
She said that the results, published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, were unexpected. "We know that earlier fossil humans show a more rapid period of growth and development. At a given age they show more teeth erupted than a living human today. This is the earliest evidence of something that ... hadn't been detected before in the fossil record older than maybe 20,000 - 30,000 years ago."
Analysing teeth is an established proxy for understanding the development of ancient humans. "In studying the teeth we understand more how growth and development would be characterised in a species and how it's changed through time," said Dr Smith. "There's a strong relationship between when an individual erupts their teeth and how long their childhood is, what age they begin reproducing, how long they live."
She said that as children grow a record of lines is left behind in their teeth, similar to rings in a tree. "These lines are left behind in the dental hard tissues and they persist for millions of years. You can count them and measure them. By knowing their spacing you know the speed of growth, and by knowing their number you know the time."
Chris Stringer, research leader in human origins at the Natural History Museum in London, said that the new study was important because the Jebel Irhoud site was often neglected by palaeontologists. "This paper certainly provides evidence of a pattern of growth like our own, and this is perhaps not surprising, as there is a very modern-looking child's skull from Herto in Ethiopia."
"While I think that the Irhoud material is probably less modern overall than do the authors of this paper, nevertheless these fossils could certainly represent populations ancestral to modern humans, and they show that North Africa may well have played a significant part in our origins."
Source : Alok Jha, science correspondent /,,2032480,00.html


Over 300 archaeological specimens discovered in Karaouine mosque (Morocco)
12 March 2007
Rare remains dating back to the 12th century have been discovered in the 9th century Karaouine Mosque in Fez. According to archaeologist Ahmed Tahiri, stonework structures were discovered buried underneath the floor of the central prayer hall of the famous mosque during restoration work. An archaeological dig made over an area measuring around 172 square metres unveiled a number of dwelling-houses and a cul-de-sac.
"This archaeological find relates to four periods, all of them prior to the Almoravid expansion [of the mosque] in 529AH (1134AD), and dates back to the period immediately after the first Karaouine Mosque was built in 245AH (859AD)," Tahiri explained. He added that the remains relate to the Almoravid Dynasty, whose major architectural monuments were later altered or rebuilt by the Almohads. "This is why the historic monuments of the Almoravids are among the rarest of all from Moroccan history, and it’s also why this find is particularly important."
In all, over 300 items were discovered during the dig. According to Tahiri, the painted plaster found on some of the walls of the houses constitutes examples of lines and decorative motifs never previously seen.
The restructuring work began on the Karaouine mosque in January 2006 and is due to be completed in June. "We are at an important stage in repairs to a place of worship which has suffered severe infrastructure problems. We must restore it in the proper way. Things are all go at the moment," contractor Mohamed Fikri Benabdellah, said.
The restoration work will finish in June.
Minister of Endowments and Islamic Affairs Ahmed Taoufiq told Magharebia that most of the work has been completed. "We’re in the final stage now because we’ve managed to overcome some technical hitches. We now expect the contractor to keep to the timetable set out in the specifications. In any case, I think the Karaouine mosque will be ready by next Ramadan," Taoufiq said. The total cost of the restoration will be $3.1m.
The mosque was built by Fatima Fihria, the daughter of a wealthy Tunisian merchant from Kairouan in 859AD and forms the central hub of the medina of Fez. Covering a total surface area of 7,800 square metres, it can hold up to 10,000 worshippers. At one time it was one of the greatest universities of the Muslim world, attracting students from Africa, Europe and the Arabian Peninsula who came to study medicine, philosophy, theology and literature.
Source : Text and photos by Hassan Benmehdi for Magharebia in Fez –12/03/07 /


Italian archaeologists to join international efforts to save Sudan's ancient artifacts
1 March 2007
Two top Italian archaeologists will join the international efforts to save ancient artifacts from being submerged by a dam project in Sudan, Italian news agency ANSA reported Wednesday.
Twin brothers Alfredo and Angelo Castiglioni, experts on Sudan's ancient history, have been called up to join the efforts coordinated by the British Museum of London and the National Corporation for Antiquities of Khartoum.
The two 69-year-old Italians are perhaps most famous for their 1989 discovery of the ancient Egyptian "city of gold", Berenice Panchrysos, which is in today's Sudan.
The Merowe hydro-electric dam on the Nile River, Africa's largest hydropower project, is being built in the heart of Nubia, a region that stretches across southern Egypt and northern Sudan.
The project is scheduled to be finished on the Nile's fourth cataract in September 2008, and archaeologists are trying to rescue treasures in the region around the dam before it turns into a huge reservoir.
Nubia was an independent kingdom in ancient times and is believed to have served as a trade corridor between Egypt and tropical Africa in 4,000 B.C.
Inhabitants in the region, where Paleolithic remains such as cave etchings of animals and hunting have been found, can be traced to some 200,000 years ago.
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