вторник, 11 сентября 2018 г.

Blast from the past: Yamnaya prediction from 2016

I wonder what’s holding up the publication of the Wang et al. “Greater Caucasus” preprint? It was released back in May at the bioRxiv (see here). On a related note, I was looking back at some of the stuff that I wrote about the origin of the Yamnaya people (aka Steppe_EMBA), and found this…



But here’s my prediction: Steppe_EMBA only has 10-15% admixture from the post-Mesolithic Near East not including the North Caucasus, and basically all of this comes via female mediated gene flow from farming communities in the Caucasus and perhaps present-day Ukraine.



The relevant blog post from 2016 is here. I totally forgot that I made such a bold prediction. But it actually has a very good chance now of being proven correct, more or less.
This, however, depends on the precise origin of the Yamnaya-like Eneolithic populations of the southernmost parts of the Pontic-Caspian steppe. But, considering the data in Wang et al., I think the chances that they date back to the Pottery Neolithic period, and are thus indigenous to the region, look pretty good.
About a year later I made a prediction about the genetic structure of the Maykop people, and was basically proven right by Wang et al. (see here). Admittedly, my jaw dropped when I saw how the Steppe Maykop individuals came out in the preprint, with their Botai-like ancestry that is missing in all Yamnaya populations sampled to date. But it was an interesting outcome and nice to be surprised by ancient DNA yet again.
See also…
Genetic borders are usually linguistic borders too
Ahead of the pack
Indo-European crackpottery

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Fluky Find Clonorchis sinensis is a leaf-shaped liver fluke –…


Fluky Find


Clonorchis sinensis is a leaf-shaped liver fluke – a hermaphrodite flatworm that feasts on a host’s blood. Common in China and other areas of Asia, infection brings a risk of Clonorchiasis, a potentially deadly disease that is hard to diagnose. Yet the fluke may have a big clue buried in its DNA – the genetic code for a protein called rCs1, which has a unique repetitive structure. Antibodies designed to recognise the tell-tale protein during blood analysis, or serology, will help speed up the fight against infections. Meanwhile, on this zoomed in section of C. sinesis (stained red), rCs1 (green) collects around the edge and inner ‘lips’ of its acetabulum, a sucker this fluky fiend uses to attach inside its prey – a place researchers are already searching for further signs of weakness.


Written by John Ankers



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2,500-year-old Persian palace found in northern Turkey

A reception chamber with columns and a throne chamber, which belong to a 2,500-year old Persian palace, were found during excavation at the Oluz Mound in the Göynücek district of Amasya province.











2,500-year-old Persian palace found in northern Turkey
Credit: AA

Amasya Governor Osman Varol visited the Oluz Mound to examine the excavations and to receive information about the technical and structural features of the excavation site. He announced that a new structure was discovered during the excavation.
Emphasizing that finding ruins belonging to a 2,500-year old Persian palace excited them, Varol said “We visited the excavation site and had a chance to see what has been found. This is long-running work. We would like to thank the professor and those who contributed to this. We saw how tough the conditions are here. We especially would like to thank the professor for his contributions to science and to Amasya.”

Istanbul University Archaeology Department faculty member and professor, Dr. Şevket Dönmez, is leading the excavation works; he said that movable cultural material ruins showed that a group of Persian-origin Akhamenids might have lived at the Oluz Mound in the year 450 B.C. The mound is located at 25 kilometeters southwest of the Amasya city center.


2,500-year-old Persian palace found in northern Turkey










2,500-year-old Persian palace found in northern Turkey
Credit: AA

Stressing that a Persian city was found during the excavation works this year, Dönmez said that “New units of this city have been revealed. We now know about a path, a mansion and a fire temple. All these are firsts in world history. A reception chamber with columns and a throne chamber have also started to emerge for the first time this year. We are in the beginning phase of the excavation work for these chambers. This current phase and discoveries are very exciting. These belong to a very significant period of the Anatolian Iron Age, Anatolian Old Age and Persian archaeology.
“They are very important discoveries which will add to their identity and uniqueness. We have found six column bases so far. A clear plan has not yet been revealed, but hopefully we will find it in one or two years of excavation works. We found a bull figurine belonging to the Hittite period this year during excavations. There is a very big Hittite city under the Persian city. We think that it is Shanovhitta. It shows us that this is a traditional sacred city and every new civilization built a temple here.


“We did not know that we would find such a Persian city. Neither such a temple nor such a reception chamber… We did not expect any of this,” added Dönmez.


Twelve academics, 10 archaeologists and 15 archaeology students worked on the excavation.


2,500-year-old Persian palace found in northern Turkey










2,500-year-old Persian palace found in northern Turkey
Credit: AA

Dönmez said that they only expected to excavate a mid-Anatolian mound and find answers to their questions regarding the Iron Age culture. “However, we came across an entirely different situation. The entire world has started to watch Oluz Mound on the basis of Mid-Anatolian and Anatolian archaeology. I believe that it has started to become a significant center in updating and changing Anatolia’s religious history after Göbeklitepe,” added Dönmez.
Oluz Mound is located on the Amasya-Çorum Highway. Measuring 280 by 260 meters, it covers nearly 45-decares of land, and is 15 meters above the plain level. The area was discovered between the years of 1997-99 during surface exploration conducted by a team led by Dr. Şevket Dönmez (who was an associate professor at that time). Later, excavation started under the leadership of Prof. Dönmez in 2007. Works were conducted from two different openings, called “A opening” located on the West side and “B opening” on the East side of the highest point on the hill. Two more openings were added, called C and D openings.


Source: Daily Sabah [September 07, 2018]



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Largest fossilized dinosaur skeleton unearthed in Japan unveiled

The largest fossilized dinosaur skeleton unearthed in Japan has been removed from its rocky bed and was unveiled to the press here on Sept. 4.











Largest fossilized dinosaur skeleton unearthed in Japan unveiled
Bones of a fossilized “Mukawa dinosaur” skeleton are seen after being cleaned, in the town of Mukawa,
Hokkaido, on Sept. 4, 2018 [Credit: Mainichi]

According researchers from the Hokkaido University Museum in Japan’s northernmost prefecture and the local Hobetsu Museum, the dinosaur is a type of Hadrosaurid, or plant-eating dinosaur, measuring about 8 meters in length. It is known as the “Mukawa dinosaur,” after the name of the town where it was discovered.
“There is a very high possibility that it’s a new species as the skeleton has characteristics not seen in other types of Hadrosaurid,” said research team member Yoshitsugu Kobayashi, a Hokkaido University associate professor specializing in ancient animals with backbones.











Largest fossilized dinosaur skeleton unearthed in Japan unveiled
The image shows the skeleton of a type of Hadrosaurid [Credit: Hobetsu Museum]

The fossil was discovered in the town in 2003 in a stratum believed to date back 72 million years, during the late Cretaceous period. It’s believed that the skeleton was almost completely preserved because at the time, that area lay at the bottom of the sea at a depth of 80 to 200 meters.
The team worked on cleaning about 6 tons of rocks where the fossilized skeleton lay for some four and a half years starting in 2013. In general, a Hadrosaurid skeleton consists of 255 bones. A total of 157 bones, including the skull and tailbones were found in the latest research. This is about 60 percent of the total number of bones and represents about 80 percent of the whole skeleton by cubic volume.


The team will try to identify differences between the skeleton and those of other types of Hadrosaurid.


Source: The Mainichi [September 08, 2018]



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UAE announces discovery of millennium-old mosque

UAE’s Department of Culture and Tourism announced on Saturday the discovery of the oldest mosque in the city of Al-Ain, east of the capital Abu Dhabi, adding that archaeologists in the department have studied the discovery dating back more than 1,000 years.











UAE announces discovery of millennium-old mosque
The latest discoveries that shed new light on the history of the UAE at the dawn of Islam 
[Credit: DCT Abu Dhabi]

Archaeologists from the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) are continuing to make spectacular discoveries that shed new light on the history of the UAE at the dawn of Islam.


This was a period of time, which ushered in a wave of change across the UAE. The new religion brought with it a set of values and beliefs that have since defined the history of the country.


Close to the construction site of the Sheikh Khalifa mosque in Al-Ain, DCT Abu Dhabi archaeologists discovered several falaj (irrigation waterways), at least three buildings and, more significantly, a mosque which dates back to Islam’s Early Golden Age of the Abbasid Caliphate, 1,000 years ago. The mosque is the earliest yet discovered in the UAE.


According to the Emirates News Agency (WAM), Mohamed Khalifa Al-Mubarak, Chairman of DCT Abu Dhabi, said: “The new findings at the Al-Ain archaeological sites prove the richness of the region’s history, which allows us to expand our knowledge of ages long past.”


“The discovery of a mosque from the Abbasid period in Al-Ain demonstrates the deeply-rooted influences of Islam in the region, despite the immense distance from where Islam first emerged and at a time when modes of transportation were quite rudimentary. However, these findings display clear and profound cultural influences that reveal how the connections established by our ancestors with neighboring cultures and nations transcended borders and surmounted transport difficulties, which in turn calls for further analysis to form a holistic understanding of our past.”











UAE announces discovery of millennium-old mosque
A computer generated three-dimensional view of the mosque 
[Credit: DCT Abu Dhabi]

Experts have revealed that the buildings at the site, made from mudbrick, are the remains of a small fortress and several other structures. People living in these buildings would have obtained fresh water from several falaj that they constructed around the settlement. Falaj technology has a deep history in Al-Ain stretching back 3,000 years. In the early Islamic period, the people of Al-Ain improved the existing technology by using fired bricks to ensure the stability and durability of the underwater channels. When excavated these falaj were still intact.


But the archaeologists believe it is the discovery and excavation of a mudbrick mosque that places Al-Ain on the global map as an important center during the early Islamic period. Experts were alerted to the fact that it is a mosque by the presence of a mihrab (a niche in the wall of the mosque, at the point nearest to Mecca) on the interior room and on the exterior. Thus the faithful would have prayed inside and outside the mosque, just as they do today.


Fragments of pots, which were likely used for ablution (ceremonial washing) and other ritual purposes, were found inside the mosque and date from the ninth to the 10th Centuries CE. These discoveries and a radiocarbon date from one of the nearby falaj confirm that the mosque is the earliest yet discovered in the UAE.


Experts believe that this simple mosque indicates the popularity and crucial position of Islam in the UAE in the centuries following the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH). Along with groves of date palms supported by the falaj, Al-Ain in the early Islamic period was already in a form that would be recognizable today.



Archaeologists also believe the finds from the mosque point to another important feature of early Islamic society – which the spread of Islam opened up trade and ushered in a new global age of commerce. In addition to imported ceramics from the rest of the Gulf, several fragments of Dusun ceramics were discovered in the mosque and adjacent buildings. This unique pottery was produced in the Guangdong province of south China and was traded across East Asia and the Middle East.


That Arab merchants and sailors ventured far from their homes to trade for these goods, is now indicated by the discovery of an Arabian dhow shipwreck off the coast of Indonesia.


DCT experts do not know if people in Al-Ain travelled that far, but the discoveries indicate that the town, perhaps known then as Tawwam, was part of a vibrant global economic system. It likely participated in the trade through one of the ports that existed on the coast at this time.


DCT’s experts are continuing to research in Al-Ain and elsewhere in Abu Dhabi, in a bid to shed further light on the early centuries of Islam.


Already, DCT archaeologists have investigated a Christian church that dates to this time on the island of Sir Bani Yas. This building highlights another critical feature of the early Islamic period: a tolerance and acceptance of other religions, which is still a feature of life in today’s UAE.


Source: Menafn [September 08, 2018]



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Mosaic floor fragments found under Rome’s Horrea Agrippiana

Mosaic floor fragments belonging to a domus of the 2nd century BC has been found under the area of the ‘Horrea Agrippiana’, the great warehouse of the Augustan Age located in the area adjacent to the church of San Teodoro.


Mosaic floor found under Rome's Horrea Agrippiana










Mosaic floor found under Rome's Horrea Agrippiana
Credit: Mimmo Frassineti/La Repubblica

This is certainly the most important discovery of the Third Day of Public Archaeology at the Archaeological Park of the Colosseum.
The remains of a small sculpture in Greek marble depicting a sphinx, perhaps used as the base of a table, was also found among the ruins of the great storehouses of the Roman Forum.


Mosaic floor found under Rome's Horrea Agrippiana










Mosaic floor found under Rome's Horrea Agrippiana
Credit: Mimmo Frassineti/La Repubblica

The building included a well, not yet completely excavated, filled with almost intact late republican amphorae.
The Horrea Agrippiana (warehouses of Agrippa) was built by Marco Vipsanio Agrippa in the Augustan age and served as a grain store.


Mosaic floor found under Rome's Horrea Agrippiana










Mosaic floor found under Rome's Horrea Agrippiana

Credit: Mimmo Frassineti/La Repubblica



The building was built around a large courtyard and on the street was surrounded by tabernae (shops). This area was in fact one of the most hectic for the economy, full of shops and businesses of all kinds.


Source: La Repubblica [September 08, 2018]



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Woolly mammoth ‘kill site’ discovered in Austria

Archaeologists have discovered a Stone Age kill site full of mammoth remains where ancient people used to herd the large mammals so they could be killed and butchered. The discovery was made during road works on a new bypass near Drasenhofen, a town in the Austrian state of Lower Austria.











Woolly mammoth ‘kill site’ discovered in Austria
Credit: CEN/ASFINAG

Archaeologists found massive mammoth tusks and bones as well as the remains of other large animals. Stone Age tools were found at the 16-square-metre (1,894-square-foot) site as well.
Martin Krenn of the Austrian Federal Monuments Office said: “The Palaeolithic ‘kill site’ is the first to be excavated in Austria and was analysed using state-of-the-art methods. It gives us a sensational overview of the Palaeolithic people’s way of life.”











Woolly mammoth ‘kill site’ discovered in Austria
Credit: CEN/ASFINAG

Ancient civilisations used to strategically drive large animals, including mammoths, to the so-called kill sites.
Areas were pre-selected by humans that they knew were difficult for mammoths to traverse, giving them a clear advantage over the giant woolly mammal. They would then kill mammoths using spears and butcher them on site.











Woolly mammoth ‘kill site’ discovered in Austria
Credit: CEN/ASFINAG

The site where the mammoth bones are located is estimated to be between 18,000 and 28,000 years old.
At a nearby site, where road workers are constructing a roundabout, graves attributed to the Bell-Beaker people were found.











Woolly mammoth ‘kill site’ discovered in Austria
Credit: CEN/ASFINAG

The Beaker culture was a prehistoric civilisation native to western and Central Europe which started in the late Neolithic period and lasted until the early Bronze Age. Archaeologists think the graves date from between 2,600 and 2,200 BC.


In total, €2.4 million (£2.16 million) will be invested in the archaeological excavations before the new motorway bypass opens in autumn 2019.


Source: Express [September 08, 2018]



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Newly uncovered Roman road unveiled in Utrecht, Netherlands

Part of a Roman road dating from 150 AD has come to light during building activities on the site of housing complex Leidsche Rijn in Utrecht.











Newly uncovered Roman road unveiled in Utrecht, Netherlands
Credit: Gemeente Utrecht

Archaeologists found the 600 metre stretch of what was an important Roman through-road as early as 1997 but it has taken until recently to properly uncover it.
According to city archaeologist Herre Wynia, the find can tell archaeologists much about the logistics and building techniques of 2000 years ago.











Newly uncovered Roman road unveiled in Utrecht, Netherlands
Credit: Gemeente Utrecht

‘The road is made of masses of gravel which must have been brought here by ship. Building this road must have cost an enormous amount of time and energy,’ Wynia told local broadcaster RTV Utrecht.
The find does not come as a complete surprise. Leidsche Rijn is on the border of what once was the Roman empire and there have been many spectacular finds in the area. In 1997 a Roman ship was found which is considered the best-preserved in the world.


The local council is reportedly thinking of ways of making the road a part of the public space in Leische Rijn, although, Wynia said, the investigation means that most of it will be demolished.


Source: DutchNews [September 08, 2018]



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Круг на поле в Канаде 30 июля 2018

Одна фотография круга на поле обнаруженного 30 июля 2018 в Канадской провинции Quebec



 


Круги на поле 27 июля 2018 Англия

Круги в Англии 27 июля 2018 в Wyke Lane, Nr East Worldham, Hampshire координаты











 


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Bulgaria’s ‘fake’ castles fail to inspire tourist boom

After Bulgaria funnelled 90 million euros from the EU into restoration projects that critics have slated, conservationists dread the results of the next spending spree – and the expected tourist boom has yet to materialise.











Bulgaria’s ‘fake’ castles fail to inspire tourist boom
The medieval fort of Krakra near Pernik has been dubbed the “cardboard castle” because of its Polymer concrete
additions [Credit: New Life for the Past, a contemporary art project by Dimitar Solakov, 2015-2016]

“It’s weeping – a weeping fortress,” conservation architect Stella Duleva told BIRN, describing the white substance leaking from the newly-restored walls of the 4th-century Roman fort of Trayanovi Vrata in Bulgaria.


“It had survived 16 centuries, and now it’s been ruined by 2 million euros,” she added.


Sitting atop a mountain pass between ancient Thrace and Macedonia, the fort is one of 120 heritage sites that Bulgaria’s government chose to restore as tourist attractions between 2011 and 2015, using its own money and nearly 90 million euros from the EU’s Regional Development Fund, ERDF.


While some sites, like the Roman villa of Armira, near Ivaylovgrad, are praised for their careful restoration, many others have provoked ridicule for their overblown reconstruction work and kitschy appearance, earning nicknames such as “cardboard castle” and “cheese fortress”.


Conservationists warn that much of the “restoration” work has damaged rather than preserved centuries-old landmarks, without attracting the hoped-for tourism boom. Even one of the scheme’s cheerleaders has suggested that funds have been misused.


Now another tranche of European funding, known in Bulgaria as “Operational programme ‘Regions in Growth’”, is due to become available this year. Under it, at least 100 million euros will be allocated to develop more tourist attractions.


The EU and Bulgarian authorities have conceded to BIRN that lessons need to be learned from the earlier programme, but are still backing the latest spending spree.


Expert groups, including the International Council of Monuments and Sites, ICOMOS, warn that the urge to absorb more EU money and make new additions to historic ruins, is “forging history” and “irreversibly destroying heritage sites”.


Minister justified ‘fakery’ as help for tourism


Back in 2011, the government’s plan was advertised as part of a new, “sustainable tourism” policy, which would bring thousands of visitors to the country and provide an economic uplift.











Bulgaria’s ‘fake’ castles fail to inspire tourist boom
The Byzantine fort of Yaylata, near the remote village of Kamen Bryag, has been mocked as “the cheese fortress”
thanks to its smooth new Ytong-style white blocks [Credit: Vladimir Rumenov, March 2018]

Though mostly funded from the EU, the scheme itself was designed by the government, and operated by the Ministry of Regional Development.


One of the most controversial results from the investment plan is the fort of Krakra at Pernik.


Visitors have been puzzled to see newly added polymer concrete, earning it the nickname “the cardboard castle”.


The local municipality has already announced plans to dismantle the additions in 2019, as soon as the minimum five years of operation required by the funding scheme are up.


The Byzantine fort of Yaylata, near the remote village of Kamen Briag, has meanwhile been dubbed “the cheese fortress”, thanks to its smooth new Ytong-style white blocks.


Its glass fence and signs, introduced as part of the 1-million-euro facelift, have been shattered for more than a year.


A much-contested 11-million-euro restoration of the ruins of ancient Serdica, the Roman city under the capital, Sofia, is also already falling apart.


Inaugurated in early 2015, amid protests that the bricks and mortars used did not meet the standards for restoration, its “underground museum” has yet to open.


The Ministry of Culture, which once fiercely defended the project, is now suing the building contractor for “improper execution” of the restoration work.


Even one of the key advocates of the restorations, Professor Bozhidar Dimitrov, the late former director of the National History Museum of Bulgaria, suggested last year that money from the programme had been embezzled.


“The fourth failure [of the programme], was of course, theft,” he said in an interview with the daily Dnevnik.


“A little bit of fakery will do a lot for tourism,” Vezhdi Rashidov, then Minister of Culture, famously remarked in parliament in 2015, responding to detractors who had accused him of constructing a historical Disneyland and the “Skopje-visation” of Bulgarian heritage, referencing the widely derided makeover of the Macedonian capital.


‘Fake’ castles dismissed as serious attractions


Not everyone agrees that “fakery” has helped the tourist industry. Tourist sector leaders and analysts told BIRN the programme was having little to no effect.











Bulgaria’s ‘fake’ castles fail to inspire tourist boom
The medieval fort of Krakra near Pernik has been dubbed the “cardboard castle” because of its Polymer concrete
additions [Credit: New Life for the Past, a contemporary art project by Dimitar Solakov, 2015-2016]

“To believe that a couple of concrete blocks on top of a metre of original stones will attract foreign tourists, who have all of Greece and Turkey, and furthermore medieval Europe, at their disposal, is not serious,” said Dimitar Popov, the Bulgarian owner of Danish based Penguin Travel, which operates tours in Bulgaria and worldwide.


“These ‘fake castles’ are of absolutely no significance to our business. At best, they are suitable for the entertainment of local schoolchildren,” he scoffed.


Popov said the programme was designed without regard for actual tourist demands and its goal was simply “the absorption of EU money”.


Dr Elka Dogramadjieva agrees. An assistant professor of tourism at Sofia University, who last year co-authored a paper on the effects of ERDF funds on the tourism sector, she said: “The initial goal of the programme wasn’t to sponsor kitsch. Unfortunately, in many cases this is exactly what happened, which has compromised the idea of developing tourist attractions.”


She and her colleagues said heritage sites should be developed, but that the existing funding scheme had failed “qualitatively”: it had absorbed the largest sum of money that Bulgarian heritage had seen in decades, but the government had failed to invest it wisely.


“Instead of focusing on strategic sites, funds were scattered among many similar projects that are of modest interest to visitors, and in some cases, of little scientific importance,” Dr Dogramadjieva said.


“You need more than nice alleyways and a signpost to attract people. In general, it seems the primary goal of municipalities has been the absorption of European money, rather than the actual effect on tourism.”


The impact of the scheme is difficult to measure, as the only source of information is the tourist attractions’ own reports – a source that a 2015 audit of the programme deemed unreliable.











Bulgaria’s ‘fake’ castles fail to inspire tourist boom
Experts fear that the “weeping” walls of the recently restored Trayanovi Vrata castle
are the result of poor quality material [Credit: jana Punkina]

Data obtained via the Freedom of Information Act showed Trayanovi Vrata had about 40,000 tourists in two-and-a-half years – nearly twice the projected numbers.


However, it reported only 50,000 euro in turnover from ticket sales, guided tours and souvenurs, which was 15,000 euros short of their business plan, seen by BIRN.


The fort at Krakra welcomed 15,412 people in 2016, but made only 8,000 euros from ticket sales and tours.


However, the average ticket price is 2 euros, so the income does not tally with the footfall figures.


One of the advocates of the castle boom, Professor Dimitrov, said the most expensive restoration project, the medieval Bulgarian capital of Pliska, drew 250,000 tourists in 2016.


Data obtained by BIRN, however, shows that the entire Museum of Shumen, which operates Pliska and three other reserves, recorded 150,000 visitors that year – far fewer than 250,000.


In Veliko Tarnovo, the newly restored sites of Trapezitsa and Nikopolis ad Istrum drew 8,778 and 7,092  visitors for 2017, respectively.


Two more sites, including the popular destination of Perperikon, ignored BIRN’s request for visitor numbers.


A tourist poll, conducted by the National Institute of Statistics, suggest that visitors have been spending less, not more, on cultural activities between 2013 to 2015 – the years when most sites were opened.


Historical sites left “damaged” by restoration


Kitsch designs and a failure to impress tourists are not the worst outcomes of the programme, according to heritage experts, who argue that shoddy work has damaged some historic sites. Gabriela Semova-Koleva, of the Bulgarian branch International Council on Monuments and Sites, told BIRN that the use of cement and other improper materials has made these interventions irreversible.











Bulgaria’s ‘fake’ castles fail to inspire tourist boom
The brand new ruins of ancient Serdica in Sofia are already in ruins
[Credit: Aneliya Nikolova/Dnevnik]

One site causing particular concern is Trayanovi Vrata, where the ruins were reconstructed to nearly twice their previous size in 2015.


When BIRN visited in January, a soft, white, mould-like substance appeared to be leaking from its new walls.


Elsewhere, layers of bricks appeared to have fallen off, leaving the original structure exposed. Two amphorae could barely be seen under the glass of poorly placed display cases.


Stella Duleva, the architect of the project, resigned in protest at the way the work was carried out.


She lodged complaints with the authorities, believing the builders used cheaper materials than the specifications she had set, including cement.


The Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Regional Development, which supervised ERDF programmes, found no wrongdoing on the site, however.


Duleva pointed to entire parts of the original structure, which were left unprotected after her company quit, and were visibly degrading under the elements. Her team believes that the white leaks from the walls are clear signs that the contractors did not use the right mortar.


Two experts consulted by BIRN – the head of the Association of Restorers Ivan Vanev and Ivan Rostovski, an expert in the field of construction materials and head of the testing lab at the University of Architecture and Civil Engineering in Sofia – said the white stains are probably a result of “a defect associated with the improper selection and application of construction materials, especially when exposed to cold and wet atmospheric conditions”.











Bulgaria’s ‘fake’ castles fail to inspire tourist boom
The brand new ruins of ancient Serdica in Sofia. Apart from the fact that the new bricks are visibly
  ruined, the ancient Roman walls are also damaged in many places under the new construction
[
Credit: New Life for the Past, a contemporary art project by Dimitar Solakov, 2015-2016]

Eurobuild Bulgaria, which was the lead contractor on the project, pointed out it that had changed ownership since the Trayanovi Vrata contract, and that it could not establish contact with any of its former partners, including its manager at the time.


It pointed out also the actual construction was conducted by a smaller company, Dano R, and that the work was approved by Bulgarian institutions.


The use of this type of consortium is one of the faults of the programme, Duleva says, as it was often far from clear who was carrying out the work.


Dano-R has denied wrongdoing. It claimed sections of the fort were left “without intervention” on the advice of a restoration expert, so that visitors could see the “authentic parts” of the structure, a claim dismissed as “preposterous” by Duleva.


Duleva argues that the countrywide restoration programme was poorly planned and there were not enough restoration experts to complete so many projects in such a short time.


“In most cases, the tender process was weighed in favour of finding the cheapest builder rather than the quality of the work,” she added.


Officials claim extra cash will deal with problems


The Ministry of Culture did not respond to requests for comment for this article; the Ministry of Regional Development declined to respond to questions about past failures, but insisted that the new 100 million euros would be allocated differently.











Bulgaria’s ‘fake’ castles fail to inspire tourist boom
The Archaeological Part ‘New Life for the Past’ in the town of Radnevo which abuts with a prefab
neighbourhood and a monument from socialist times 
[Credit: New Life for the Past,
a contemporary art project by Dimitar Solakov, 2015-2016]

It explained that the new cash would be provided in the form of loans and grants, to ensure that “the program funds economically viable projects which will attract enough tourists … so that the project is financially sustainable and will return a part of the investment in the long term”.


Public hearings about project designs will  “address the comments … regarding ‘fake restorations’ and the destruction of authentic monuments received regarding the projects completed under the Regional Development Programme 2007-2013,” the ministry added.


A European Commission source told BIRN the restoration projects were “contributing to local and regional growth in the country”, adding that “in the few cases where the end result was not according to the contract, corrections were carried out”.


“The Commission works closely with Bulgaria on learning the lessons from the 2007-2013 period and on making sure the funds are used in the best possible way,” the source added.


 These assurances, however do not address the concerns of experts like Dr Dogramadjieva, who told BIRN that the new programme is suffering from the same design flaws by failing to prioritise strategic sites and address real demand.


And, with all of Bulgaria’s 165 sites of national and world importance eligible to apply, conservationists fear that more sites of European heritage importance are about to turn into “brand new ruins”.











Bulgaria’s ‘fake’ castles fail to inspire tourist boom
Mannequines guard the medieval fort of Neutzikon near the village of Mezzek thanks to EU funds [Credit: New Life for the Past, a contemporary art project by Dimitar Solakov, 2015-2016]

Calls for the government to halt controversial projects, such as the state-funded restoration of the Great Basilica of Pliska into a fully functional church, have so far failed.


“We are offering our help, our expertise, but no one seems to hear,” Semova-Koleva of ICOMOS told BIRN. “We’re seen as a hurdle in the projects’ way.”


For more images see New Life for the Past, a contemporary art project by Dimitar Solakov, 2015-2016.


This story was produced as part of the BIRN Summer School of Investigative Reporting programme.


Author: Ana Blagova | Source: BIRN via Balkan Insight [September 06, 2018]



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Under the sea: antiquities make way for Israel’s Leviathan pipeline

Underwater archaeologists have been scouring the seabed where a gas pipeline is being built off Israel’s coast in a bid to preserve relics near a 5,000-year-old port which once was a key trade hub for the Mediterranean’s ancient civilizations.











Under the sea: antiquities make way for Israel's Leviathan pipeline
Credit: Israel Antiquities Authority/via Reuters

The pipeline from the deep-sea Leviathan gas field that is due to begin production late next year comes ashore near Dor Beach in northern Israel, a popular spot among Israeli sunbathers.


It is also the site of the ancient port of Dor, where hidden in the seabed lie the vestiges of marine traders throughout the ages – from the Phoenicians to the Romans.


To minimize damage to such ‘relics’, the Israel Antiquities Authority has been working over the past year with the Leviathan field’s operator, Texas-based Noble Energy.


A team spent weeks scuba diving in the warm crystal clear water off the beach, dispersing silt to uncover ancient artifacts. A remote-operated robot was used for searches in deeper water.











Under the sea: antiquities make way for Israel's Leviathan pipeline
Credit: Israel Antiquities Authority/via Reuters

They found earthenware jugs, anchors and the remains of wrecked ships, setting new guidelines for similar future projects.


“There has been unprecedented cooperation to protect the antiquities and the cultural assets,” Yaakov Sharvit, director of the Marine Archaeology Unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority, told Reuters TV.


Sharvit said Noble financed most of the archaeological surveys and a large research ship to help extract ancient objects along the pipeline’s route.


The pipeline is being buried 15-20 meters below the seabed to minimize any impact on the surroundings.











Under the sea: antiquities make way for Israel's Leviathan pipeline
Credit: Israel Antiquities Authority/via Reuters

Leviathan was discovered in 2010 about 120 km (75 miles) off Israel’s coast. Its development will be the largest energy project in Israel’s history.


“What is unique here in Israel is the ancient place that we’re operating,” said Binyamin Zomer, vice president for regional affairs for Noble Energy.


“We work very closely with the Antiquities Authority here in Israel to make sure that should we discover such finds, we first of all avoid causing harm to those areas and secondly, to make sure that they are aware of the resources and potential finds that they have.”


His company says the project will not harm the environment and will replace less healthy fossil fuels. But some local environmentalists and residents oppose the plan, which along with the pipeline includes a towering production platform to be built just 10 km from shore.



Local resident and marine archaeologist Kurt Raveh, who has been excavating at Dor for decades and founded its diving club, thinks the survey being done is insufficient. He worries the area is at risk from potential pipeline leaks.


“We have so many treasures and old shipwrecks and things like that, we should get them out of the water before we can’t enter the water anymore,” he said.


Author: Rinat Harash | Reuters [September 07, 2018]



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