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Archive for September, 2007

Seven wonders of the ancient world

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To you, O Sun, the people of Dorian Rhodes set up this bronze statue reaching to Olympus when they had pacified the waves of war and crowned their city with the spoils taken from the enemy. Not only over the seas but also on land did they kindle the lovely torch of freedom.

Dedicatory inscription of the Colossus

Although most people know that a list exists of the Seven World Wonders, only few can name them. The list of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World was originally compiled around the second century BC. The first reference to the idea is found in History of Herodotus as long ago as the 5th century BC. Decades later, Greek historians wrote about the greatest monuments at the time. Callimachus of Cyrene (305BC-240BC), Chief Librarian of the Alexandria Mouseion, wrote “A Collection of Wonders around the World”. All we know about the collection is its title, for it was destroyed with the Alexandria Library.

The final list of the Seven Wonders was compiled during the Middle Ages. The list comprised the seven most impressive monuments of the Ancient World, some of which barely survived to the Middle Ages. Others did not even co-exist. Among the oldest references to the canonical list are the engravings by the Dutch artist Maerten van Heemskerck (1498-1574), and Johann Fischer von Erlach’s History of Architecture.

Today, archaeological evidence reveals some of the mysteries that surrounded the history of the Wonders for centuries. For their builders, the Seven Wonders were a celebration of religion, mythology, art, power, and science. For us, they reflect the ability of humans to change the surrounding landscape by building massive yet beautiful structures, one of which stood the test of time to this very day.

Time Team

Time Team is a popular British television series explaining the process of archaeology for the layman in the UK. Broadcast by Channel 4, the programme was first shown in 1994, and is presented by Tony Robinson. It is aired by the ABC in Australia at 6:10pm Tuesday nights.

Archaeology isn’t just about digging up the mysterious remains of the long dead. It can reveal how we used to live in amazing detail by uncovering the minutiae of everyday objects, entire buildings and even the wrecks of vessels deep under the sea. It is a science that evolves as technology improves and there have been some amazing finds both on land and underwater. Archaeology isn’t just for the experts; there are opportunities all over the UK for amateur enthusiasts to get involved at various levels.


A team of archaeologists, usually led by either Mick Aston or Francis Pryor (the latter usually heads Bronze Age and Iron Age digs), and including field archaeologist Phil Harding, congregate at a site, usually in the United Kingdom. The site is frequently suggested by a member of the viewing public who knows of an unsolved archaeological mystery, or who owns property that is unexcavated and potentially interesting. Time Team uncover as much as they can about the archaeology and history of the site in three days, often in conjunction with the local archaeological unit.

At the start of the programme, Tony Robinson explains, in his “piece to camera”, the reasons for the team’s visit to the site, and during the dig he enthusiastically encourages the archaeologists to explain their decisions, discoveries and conclusions. He tries to ensure that everything is comprehensible to the archaeologically uninitiated.

Excavations are not just carried out to entertain viewers. The archaeologists involved with Time Team have published more scientific papers on excavations carried out in the series than all British university archaeology departments put together over the same period.

Nubia – The Forgotten Kingdom

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Nubia a region in northeastern Africa, roughly occupying both sides of the Nile River valley between AswÄ?n, Egypt, and Khartoum, Sudan. The area of the region in northeastern Sudan is called the Nubian Desert. In ancient times Nubia was called Kush and was ruled by Egypt for some 1800 years. In the 8th century bc the Nubians achieved independence and subjugated Egypt. After maintaining some degree of independence for more than 2000 years, Nubia was conquered by the Arabs in the 14th century and by Egypt in 1820. In the late 19th century the region was controlled by the Muslim revolutionary leader known as the Mahdi.

Once a powerful, sprawling presence in Northern Africa, the ancient kingdom of Nubia now lies buried beneath mounds of red brick rubble in the Sudan. Forgotten by history and largely neglected by archaeology, its cities have lain buried for centuries, harboring priceless secrets of a civilization that once rivaled Egypt. Join world-renowned archaeologists Julie Andersen and Salah Ahmed as they unearth Dangeil – a thriving Nubian city that once sat at the juncture of several prominent trade routes. While excavating a massive temple to the god Amun, the team makes a surprising discovery that could solve the mystery of why the city was abandoned.

Stonehenge

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Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument on Salisbury Plain, north of Salisbury, in southwestern England, that dates from the late Stone and early Bronze ages (about 3000-1000 bc). The monument, now in ruins, consists of a circular group of large upright stones surrounded by a circular earthwork. Stonehenge is the best preserved and most celebrated of the megalithic monuments of Europe. It is not known for certain what purpose Stonehenge served, but many scholars believe the monument was used as a ceremonial or religious center.

Stonehenge is not a single structure, but a series of structures that were rebuilt, revised, and remodeled over a period of approximately 1,500 years. Little is known of Stonehenge’s architects. In the 17th century English antiquary John Aubrey proposed that Stonehenge was a temple built by Druids, a caste of Celtic priests encountered by the Romans as they conquered ancient Britain in the 1st century AD. Another early notion was that the Romans themselves constructed the monument. These theories were disproved in the 20th century, when archaeologists showed that work on Stonehenge began some 2,000 years before Celts, and later Romans, had arrived in the area. Today it is widely believed that Neolithic peoples of the British Isles began constructing the monument about 5,000 years ago.

Why Stonehenge was constructed remains unknown. Most scholars agree that it must have been a sacred and special place of religious rituals or ceremonies. Many have speculated that Stonehenge was built by Sun worshipers. The axis of Stonehenge, which divides the sarsen horseshoe and aligns with the monument’s entrance, is oriented broadly toward the direction of the midsummer sunrise. In nearby Ireland the celebrated megalithic monument Newgrange, built approximately at the same time as Stonehenge, was oriented toward the midwinter sunrise.

In the early 1960s American astronomer Gerald S. Hawkins theorized that Stonehenge was an astronomical observatory and calendar of surprising complexity. Hawkins suggested that ancient peoples used the monument to anticipate a wide range of astronomical phenomena, including the summer and winter solstices and eclipses of both the Sun and the Moon. The astronomical interpretation of Stonehenge remains popular today, despite many uncertainties. Some scholars are doubtful that the peoples who constructed Stonehenge and other sites of the era possessed the mathematical sophistication necessary to predict many of the events that Hawkins theorized. They note that Stonehenge’s architects may have been aware of the subtle movements of the Sun, Moon, and other heavenly bodies without having an analytically advanced understanding of astronomy.

The true purpose of Stonehenge is an enduring mystery. Modern observers can only speculate about what it meant to its builders and what compelling impulse drove them to invest so much labor and care in creating it.

Man vs Wild – Kimberly Australia

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More than 5 million visitors come to Australia’s outback every year — but hundreds need rescuing in this land of extreme heat, snake bites and cyclones. Host Bear Grylls travels to Australia’s Kimberly region, which is roughly the size of California and a mixture of huge scrub deserts, dry riverbeds and red sandstone cliffs full of deep gorges. Bear puts himself in the position of a lost tourist to demonstrate how to prevent sunstroke, find bush tucker and explain why drinking your own urine could save your life. He also identifies what you can eat in the outback. During his journey, Bear builds a shelter in the middle of a lightning storm and confronts Australia’s deadly saltwater crocodiles.

(From: BBC)

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