Saturday, 28 April 2012

Greeks, Cypriots and Neolithic Mediterranean Farmers Spread Agriculture to Scandinavia

Source: Kathimerini, 28.04.2012 (Translated from Greek and referenced by A.M.)

Agriculture spread to Europe thousand of years ago from the South to the distant North, with successive steps, according to the Swedish-danish scientific research. The study analysed the DNA of the four [inhabitants of Scandinavia] of the Neolithic period and found that they had many more genes in common with today’s Southern Europeans, as the Greeks, Cypriots the inhabitants of Sardinia, than with any other European people.

The researchers of the Universities of Upsala, Stockholm, and Copenhagen, having at their head Pontus Skoglund and Mattias Jakobsson who published the study in the American journal “Science” according to the French Agency and “Nature”, analysed using new developed techniques, the genetic material that they took from the skeletons of one farmer and three hunter-gatherers, who had been discovered in Sweden and are dated to about 5000 years from the present. The two distinct civilisations, one agricultural and one of hunter-gatherers, coexisted for about 1000 years at a distance of about 400 km, the first in the Swedish hinterland and the second on the island of Gotland, south of Stockholm.

By comparing the DNA of these people of the Stone Age with the DNA of modern populations of Europe, the team found that, from a genetic point of view, the hunter-gatherers were less developed and had a greater relation with the Northern populations – especially the inhabitants of today’s Finland, while the farmer had a very close genetic relationship with today’s Mediterranean populations, especially Cypriots and Greeks.

This discovery by the Scandinavian scientists shows that the ancient farmers transported their agricultural knowledge and technique from the South to the rest of Europe, up to the frozen North, where they finally mingled with the indigenous populations, while teaching them how to grow their food rather than hunt and gather fruits.

As Skoglund stated, the genetic findings reveal that agriculture spread to the whole of Europe by people who live in the Mediterranean and this happened through migratory waves and not just by the cultural transmission of agricultural knowledge from mouth to mouth. “If farming had spread only as a cultural process, we would not find a farmer in the North who has such a genetic relation to the Southern populations”, declared the Swedish scientist.

 The Scandinavian research illuminates a longstanding dispute among scientists concerning the way that farming reached Europe from the Middle East, where it appeared approximately 11000 years ago. At about 3000 B.C. farming had already spread to the greater part of Europe. The basic dispute concerns the way that the transition from the hunter-gatherer lifestyle to that of farmer, and whether farming spread through the migration of farmers or if just ideas and the agricultural know-how spread slowly from civilisation to civilisation. The new study gives more weight to the first view, confirming previous DNA analyses, which had found similar indications about the migration of people themselves from the Mediterranean, who brought their farming knowledge with them.

Furthermore earlier this year scientists published almost all of the genome of “Ötzi”, the Neolotic mummy that was discovered in the Alp in 1991. In this case as well, the genetic analysis shows a very possible Mediterranean origin.

Abstract from Science, 27.04.2012: Origins and Genetic Legacy of Neolithic Farmers and Hunter-Gatherers in Europe

The farming way of life originated in the Near East some 11,000 years ago and had reached most of the European continent 5000 years later. However, the impact of the agricultural revolution on demography and patterns of genomic variation in Europe remains unknown. We obtained 249 million base pairs of genomic DNA from ~5000-year-old remains of three hunter-gatherers and one farmer excavated in Scandinavia and find that the farmer is genetically most similar to extant southern Europeans, contrasting sharply to the hunter-gatherers, whose distinct genetic signature is most similar to that of extant northern Europeans. Our results suggest that migration from southern Europe catalyzed the spread of agriculture and that admixture in the wake of this expansion eventually shaped the genomic landscape of modern-day Europe.

Friday, 20 April 2012

1,900 year old sculpture unearthed in Stobi

Source: MINA, 20.04.2012

The Isis sculpture, the ancient Goddess of fertility is said to be at least 1,900 years old, is over 2m tall and well preserved much to the surprise of experts.

This is the second such sculpture unearthed in Stobi, which proved the believe of Macedonian archeologists that the location was home to worshipers. It took archeologists 4 years to locate the sculpture (sic!).

Thursday, 5 April 2012

During the German Occupation of Greece: 37 Towns Pillaged and 17 Illegal Excavations

How Greek archaeological treasures found themselves in German museums, while the question of their return remains open, as D. Reppas stated in the National Assembly.

By Aggeliki Kotti, To Ethnos, 04.04.2012 (Translated from the Greek Original)

Greece paid is own price from the German Occupation as far as its antiquities are concerned. And that price would have been greatly heavier if the archaeologists, dedicated to their science, had not had the forsight to hide our antiquities before the German inasion. And also if they had not protected them, even risking their own lives.

Members of the Archaeological Service hid cultural treasures, in order to save them, in caves, ancient tombs, hidden underground spaces of the museums, even under the stands of statues.

Dimitris Reppas mentioned in the Assembly that Greece will not abandon its claims against the German authorities concerning all that passed during the Occupation. These claims include the antiquities. In 37 towns and regions of the countries antiquities were stolen by the German conquerors. During the Occupation German archaeologists carried out illegal excavations in 17 areas of Greece. The various finds were sent to Germany. During the departure of the Germans from Athens they caused great harm to antiquities. By shooting and using their bayonets they destroyed statues and vases on the Acropolis and in the Kerameikos [Ancient Cemetery]. All of this is described in a report issued in 1946 by the [Greek] ministry of Education.

Just months before the fall of the front and the German invasion of Greece, foresighted workers of the Archaeological Service decided to hide the cultural treasures of the country. In caves (Acropolis), in ancient tombs (Delphoi), in hidden underground parts of the museums (National Archaeological Museum, Athens), even under the stands of statues (the Hermes of Praxiteles in the Archaeological Museum of Olympia) or in the vaults of banks (gold objects and ancient coins), these wise and humble people of the Archaeological Service secured as many as they could. In good order and with every solemnity. The Academic Vasileios Petrakos describes all of this in his book “The Antiquities of Greece during the War 1940-1944”.

He also describes how even from the first months of the Occupation, the Nazis created a special military “service for the protection of art”, supposedly to protect the antiquities. At its head was the archaeologist Hans Ulrich von Seneberg, who held the military rank of  Lieutenant Colonel. The “protection” lasted very little and was soon succeeded by the pillaging with illegal excavations and stealing.

Illegal excavations were carried out in many areas of Crete (even in Knossos itself), on Aigina, Chalkida, in a cave of the Kopais lake, in Laconia, in Hagia Theodora of Arta, in Nea Anchialos of Magnesia, in Larissa, in Volos, in Thessalonike, in Vergina.

In the report of the Ministry of Education characteristic examples of thefts are mentioned:

An ancient head of a woman of the 4th century B.C. was given as a gift to the Marshal List. From the Museum of the Kerameikos a black-figure plate was stolen. From the museum of Chaironeia a gold leaf-shaped ear-ring and five clay vases. The German military commander of Larissa Coller asked for and received from the prefect a statue of Athena of the 3rd century B.C.

In Thessalonike, armed German soldiers removed a marble statue of the Herakleiotissa (which was returned in 1947), a geometric vase, a statue of a woman and a late antiquity portrait.

From the Gortyna Museum a statue of a nymphe or Aphrodite of the roman period was stolen, as well as a statue of a sitting woman and a funerary marker of the Hellenistic period. The archaeological collection of Potidea, stored in a school, was pillaged in its entirety by the Germans.

The Occupiers tried using pressure to discover the hidden antiquities, but met with the stubborn resistance of Greek archaeologists. In a characteristic manner Keramopoulos answers to the argument that the antiquities are in danger because of the humidity, that the Greek government has other priorities, as for example to save the people from starvation. And that the interest of the People in antiquities is limited, “as long as the People is starving”.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

A Hoard of VenetianCoins found in Naxos

The coins as discovered

Coins form the Venetian Period, of a great value, were discovered at Sagri of Naxos, as was announced by the Ministry of Culture.

A total of 54 coins were recovered (two stuck together), being Venetian grossi, as well as a closed vase (height: 0,12m) in which the coins had been kept. 
The coins are believed to be Venetian grossi, including coins of the Doges Bartolomeo Gradenigo (1339-1342), Giovanni Soranzo (1329-1339), Andrea Dandolo (1343-1354) among others.

The Hoard has been transerred to the Numismatic Museum in Athens.