Friday, August 10, 2012

Science crime scenes 5: Tourism, prevention, restitution, and recovery

Time to begin August's installments of this series, the last edition of which was Science Crime Scenes 4: Plagiarism, mysteries, and the usual looting and vandalism. This one is entirely archeology and consists of stories I originally included in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (PECASE, President's Birthday, and Curiosity edition) on Daily Kos.

The lead stories this week don't actually fit the theme, but are efforts to either recover from crime (Egypt) or do well while doing good in the process of preventing crime (Turkey). Both of them also fit the idea of sustainable economic development, at least in terms of generating a vibrant economy while preserving culture. In other words, both are good news.

Washington Post: In Egypt, archaeologists reopen tombs to woo tourists
By Simon Denyer, Published: July 29
GIZA, Egypt — More than 4,500 years since the paint was first applied, the reds, yellows and blues still stand out on the walls of the tomb of Queen Meresankh III.

A hunter throws a net to catch water birds, craftsmen make papyrus mats while a stream of people carry baskets filled with offerings for the afterlife.

Decorating the walls all around are paintings, reliefs and statues of Meresankh, draped in a leopard-skin cloak, standing beside her mother in a boat, pulling papyrus stems through the water or being entertained by musicians and singers.

Egypt’s tourism industry has been battered since last year’s revolution, but here, beside the pyramids of Giza, officials are trying to attract the visitors back.
Good luck to Egypt. They need it.

NBC News: A hotel? An archaeology site? Or both?
By Geoff Tofield, NBC News
ANTAKYA, Turkey – When Necmi Asfuroglu decided to build a hotel in Antakya, a small city in southern Turkey near the Syrian border, it made good business sense. The city, like the country, is in the middle of a growth spurt. Trade has been expanding and tourism from Turkey and other countries is on the rise.

Asfuroglu, who built his family firm on steel and concrete production, as well as textiles, moved into construction. He secured building permits, got a franchise from Hilton Hotels, had plans drawn up, brought in his project manager, and thought he’d have a working hotel within 18 months.

Three years later, his has to be one of the most ambitious hotel projects in the world. While digging the foundation of the building, workers found … the past. Lots of it.
This is a real cool story, so please read it. Also, I hope his plan pans out; he deserves success for attempting it.

Follow over the jump to read another example of an attempt a preventing loss, along with stories of restitution, fakery, and body recovery, one of which takes a detour through Australia's film industry. Yeah, science can be cool.

Voice of America: Cards Protect Combat Zone Historic Sites
July 27, 2012
AMELIA, Italy — Laurie Rush is on a mission. The American scientist is teaching the U.S. military about the value of archeological sites and ancient artifacts in combat zones.

Rush joined forces with the U.S. military in 1998, when she accepted a civilian post as an archeologist at Fort Drum, New York. The area is rich in Native American history, Rush’s specialty, and part of her job is to ensure that construction and training on the vast base don’t harm any valuable archeological sites.

That’s what happened in the ancient Iraqi city of Babylon in 2003 following the U.S.-led invasion. As American and Polish troops were building a camp, they inadvertently crushed an ancient brick pavement and destroyed dragon decorations on the Ishtar Gate, which was constructed at around 575 BC.
I'm glad to see a revival of the Iraq War Card Deck in a way that promotes sustainability.

One last prevention story.

Coast Reporter (Canada): SIB will fight to protect 4,000-year-old burial site
Christine Wood/Staff Writer
August 3, 2012
The Sechelt Nation will fight to save an ancient chieftain burial site found at the mouth of Salmon Inlet, described as one of the most important archeological discoveries in the province.

“We’ve proven without a shadow of a doubt this site is one of the most important in British Columbia — one of the most important for showing the development of chiefly status, and it’s right here,” Dr. Terence Clark of the Canadian Museum of Civilization said during Archeology Day at the Sechelt Indian Band (SIB) hall July 29.
Now, how fighting one crime led to solving another one.

Addison Independent: Vergennes drug bust nets stolen Bixby artifact
By John Flowers
Posted on July 26, 2012
VERGENNES — Bixby Memorial Library officials held out little hope of recovering a valuable Native American spearhead when it was stolen from the organization’s museum last October.

But thanks to a vigilant public and some good police work, the spearhead has been located and is on target for return to the Bixby’s museum within the next few weeks. And soon after it does, the spearhead and the rest of the museum’s thousands of artifacts will be formally catalogued to give Bixby officials a more polished picture of the little-known treasure trove of historical artifacts that has reposed for generations in a non-descript, second-floor room in the historic library.

“The Bixby Library is thrilled and impressed,” library Director Jane Spencer said of the recovery of the Shoshoni ceremonial spearhead by Vergennes police. Police on July 17 cited Susan J. Curavoo, 46, of Vergennes, for possession of stolen property after executing a search warrant at her home. Vergennes police Chief George Merkel said the spearhead — around a foot long and colored black on one side, red on the other — was found safely ensconced in bubble rap. He said Curavoo is scheduled to answer to citations for possession of stolen property and possession of marijuana at the Addison County Courthouse on Aug. 27.

It was last fall that someone unscrewed a hasp and removed a padlock to get into the glass display case that housed the spearhead. The culprit ignored other, potentially more valuable items in the same display case, Merkel noted. The spearhead is part of an expansive collection of Native American artifacts from throughout the country donated to the Bixby by the late Ernest Bilhuber, a former summer resident who was a friend of the late Lois Noonan, former longtime Bixby director.
Next, crime on top of crime--counterfeit stolen goods!

Business Recorder (Pakistan): Almost 90 percent of seized Gandhara-era artefacts fake: report
August 04, 2012
Almost 90 percent of the seized "ancient relics of Gandhara civilisation" seized some time ago by police in Karachi are fake and unauthentic, a member of a five-member committee of archaeologists cited a report compiled by the panel on Friday. The committee was formed to verify the authenticity of the seized artefacts by the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government.

The panel of experts, led by the former director and chairman of the University of Peshawar's Department of Archaeology, Professor Farid Khan, comprised Curator of Peshawar Museum Nidaullah Sehrai, Chairman of Hazara University's Department of Archaeology Dr Abdul Samad, Curator of Swat Museum Faizur Rehman and Mohammad Fawad Khan, a Gallery Assistant in the Peshawar Museum.
At least the next story has real stolen artifacts.

The Arizona Republic via USA Today: U.S. border agents find rare artifacts
By Daniel Gonzalez, The Arizona Republic
TUCSON, Ariz. – At a conservation center here, archaeologists are studying several ancient Native American pots discovered earlier this year deep in the remote desert mountains of southern Arizona.

The archaeologists believe the pots are hundreds of years old but still haven't determined their exact age or who made them. That could take a year or more.

What they do know is that the discovery of the pots was a rare and unusual find.

The reddish-brown pots, which likely stored water and food, were intact when they were found in mountainous alcoves of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, which lies just north of the U.S.-Mexico border and west of the Tohono O'odham Reservation. Most of the ancient pottery found these days are shards.
One final restitution story before moving on to body recovery.

The Art Newspaper (UK): Outstanding Roman sarcophagus recovered after more than 20 years
Executor of late, unnamed US antiquities dealer contacted Italian authorities
By Tina Lepri and Ermanno Rivetti. Web only
Published online: 26 July 2012
An ancient Roman alabaster sarcophagus, which was stolen more than 20 years ago from a church south of Rome, was returned to Italy on 18 July. It came from the London-based collection of an unnamed antiquities, flown back to Rome on a cargo flight in a container reportedly displaying the official seal of the Italian Embassy in London.
Now, a story about a criminal, if not a crime scene.

BBC: Australian outlaw Ned Kelly's remains to go to family
The remains of Australian outlaw Ned Kelly will be handed to his descendants for burial more than 130 years after he was hanged for murder.

The headless remains of Kelly, who led a gang in Victoria in the late 1800s, were identified last November through DNA tests.

The bones were found in a mass grave outside the former Pentridge Prison.
Ned Kelly is probably the most famous outlaw in Australian history. Here's a photo of him and his infamous helmet and armor.

He was notorious enough that there is a recent movie with some very famous actors in the lead and supporting roles.

Sweet.  That might be worth watching.

Someone else is going to their final resting place.

The Canadian Press via CP24: U.S. recovers bodies of WW2 airmen in Quebec water
Published Sunday, Jul. 29, 2012 9:45AM EDT
The wind was fierce and the waves were surging on Josephine Vibert's wedding day, 70 years ago in Longue-Pointe-de-Mingan, a small fishing village on Quebec's north shore.

In 1942, the village became the site of an emergency airstrip on the U.S. military's so-called "Crimson Route," a strategic air corridor to Europe through Maine and Newfoundland.

Late in the afternoon on Nov. 2, 1942, not long before the wedding reception, Vibert and most of the village stopped to watch a U.S. Army seaplane taxi from the harbour.

But the plane -- a PBY Catalina -- struggled to clear the water. Vibert recalls the towering waves of the Gulf lashing at the cockpit during its second take-off attempt.
I made a wish last week for this week's stories.
I hope this one has less criminality and more fun investigations of mysteries. Yeah, right. I should be so lucky.
I didn't get exactly what I was looking for, but it certainly was a more positive report than the previous installment. Here's to hoping that trend continues.

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