THE HAGUE (AFP).- A Dutch museum said on Wednesday it would delay the return of Crimean archaeological treasures it is exhibiting, fearing a legal tussle with either Russia or Ukraine.
The priceless medieval artefacts, on loan from four Crimean museums, went on display at Amsterdam’s Allard Pierson Museum in February, less than a month before the peninsula was annexed by Russia.
The museums, now under Russian authority, have asked for them to be returned, while the Ukrainian government in Kiev has also claimed the treasures.
The exhibition, entitled “The Crimea: Gold and Secrets from the Black Sea”, features items spanning the 2nd century BC to the late medieval era, including a ceremonial Scythian helmet made from gold, as well as a lacquered box, originally from China, which in Roman times found its way to Crimea via the Silk Road. Read more.
Archaeologists are trying to piece together clues to the identity of a shipwreck in the north-west Highlands.
Three cannons and part of a wooden hull lie on the seabed near Drumbeg in Sutherland.
Archaeologists believe it could be the remains of a Dutch vessel that got into difficulty between 1650 and 1750.
The site was given emergency protected status on 18 March this year, but the Scottish government has proposed giving it a more permanent designation.
Local scallop divers have known of the wreck site in Eddrachillis Bay since the 1990s, but only recently have archaeologists been able to make a proper assessment of it. Read more.
Australian researchers have discovered a 17th-century postal system made of dozens of stone inscriptions on the island of Madagascar.
Carved between 1601 and 1657 by sailors aboard Dutch East India Company ships on their way to the East Indies, the stones often featured letters placed at their base. The missives, carefully wrapped in layers of canvas, tar and lead envelopes, were left for other ships to pick up.
"The idea was that the crew of the next Dutch ship to anchor in that same place would pen down the message on the rock and collect the letters," Wendy van Duivenvoorde, a lecturer in maritime archaeology at Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia, told Discovery News.
"Basically it was like an early postal system," she said. Read more.
Ancient maritime inscriptions dating back to the early 1600s have been found on the coast of Madagascar by Flinders University researchers.
Dr. Wendy van Duivenvoorde (pictured), a lecturer in maritime archaeology, returned from the world’s fourth largest island last month with evidence of more than 40 inscriptions from Dutch sailing ships that once traversed the region en-route to South East Asia.
The team of researchers, including Flinders archaeology research associate Mark Polzer and Jane Fyfe, a PhD candidate and rock art specialist from the University of Western Australia, discovered the messages carved into rock outcrops and boulders on an island in the Bay of Antongil, on the northeast corner of Madagascar.
While some of the inscriptions were originally found in the 1920s, researchers have always believed there were no more than a dozen “postal stones”.
Dr. van Duivenvoorde said the inscriptions, which were carved into the rocks between 1601 and 1657, offered important insights into early Dutch seafaring to the Indies, and were a unique example of Dutch cultural heritage overseas.
“In the 1500s, the Portuguese were the only Europeans who knew the route to South East Asia so they supplied all the spices and exotica to the Netherlands,” Dr. van Duivenvoorde said. Read more.
Jaffna is the second town in the world which came under Dutch domination which has Dutch settlements outside the main Dutch Fort, Archaeology Director General Dr Senarath Dissanayake said.
Participating in an observation tour of the Jaffna Fort yesterday, he said the first Dutch settlement that is outside a Dutch Fort is in South Africa. “Therefore the archaeological value of the Jaffna town is high and the Jaffna Fort occupies an important position,” he said.
“There are 31 archaeological monuments identified from the inner part of the Jaffna Fort,” Dr Dissanayake said.
Among the items are Chinese and Roman coins and urns, he said. Read more.
A scientific battle over the fate of Easter Island’s natives is ready to erupt this summer with the publication of a book challenging the notion that their Neolithic society committed ecological suicide.
The debate has a modern political dimension. At stake is the central example, cited by Jared Diamond in his 2005 book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive, of the dire consequences that threaten if humans don’t take care of the planet.
The archaeological argument revolves around the moai, hundreds of stone statues that line the coast of the now treeless South Pacific island, known to its inhabitants as Rapa Nui.
The almost-naked natives discovered by a Dutch expedition on Easter Sunday 1722 were considered too impoverished to have carved and moved the statues themselves.
The accepted theory is that a more advanced civilisation, numbering some 15,000 people, must have erected the statues, with hundreds of men hauling them to the shore and whole industries devoted to making ropes, rollers and sledges while the rest struggled to feed the workers.
After the last of the island’s giant palm trees was felled, the theory suggests, its ecology collapsed, food production crashed, and civil war ensued, leading eventually to cannibalism, with the remnants of the population left to eke out an existence until the Dutch arrived.
But the revisionists, led by archaeologists Carl Lipo of California State University and Terry Hunt of the University of Hawaii, argue that this superior society never existed. Read more.