Posts Tagged With: tombs

Egypt recovers 90 ancient artefacts on sale in Jerusalem…..


Cairo (AFP) – Egypt said Sunday that it has recovered 90 ancient artefacts that were put on sale by a Jerusalem auction house, and has asked Israel to find other antiquities and return them to Cairo.

The ministry of antiquities said it had asked Israeli authorities to intervene after “spotting in recent weeks a sale of 110 ancient Egyptian artefacts on the website of an auction house in Jerusalem”.

The auction house was unable to provide documents proving who owned the items and Israeli authorities banned the sale, the ministry said, ordering 90 of the 110 artefacts to be returned to Cairo.

Egypt “will ask the Israeli authorities to investigate and find pieces that have already been sold so they can be brought back to Egypt,” the ministry added.

Ali Ahmed, an official at Egypt’s department of antiquities, said several ancient Egyptian artefacts were reportedly seen in Israeli auctions and that Cairo had taken legal steps to recover the stolen items.

In October, the ministry said it had received an assurance from online auction site eBay that it would not sell artefacts that had been illegally taken out of Egypt.

During the 2011 uprising that toppled longterm ruler Hosni Mubarak, several museums were pillaged, including the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities near Cairo’s Tahrir square, epicentre of the demonstrations.

Other museums were attacked in the unrest that followed the military’s overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi on July 3, and many items are still missing.egypt

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Vanishing Treasures: Tomb Raiders Exploit Chaos in Egypt…..


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Egypt’s cultural heritage is in danger. Grave robbers, sometimes heavily armed, are taking advantage of political chaos to plunder its poorly guarded archaeological sites. Authorities feel powerless to stop them and fear that ancient treasures might be lost forever.

A few hundred meters from the pyramids of Dahshur, the sandy-brown earth is full of holes. Dozens of open shafts lead into the depths, some up to seven meters (23 feet) long. Grave robbers have been at work. Lying belowground here in Dahshur is one of the oldest burial grounds in all of Egypt — tombs, possibly full of treasures from the age of the pharaohs. Archaeologists have partially mapped it but never exhumed its contents, as is the case at many sites in Egypt.

From the pharaohs and Romans to the Greeks, Copts and Fatimids, Egypt bears the traces of many ancient civilizations. Not all of the treasures have been discovered and secured. Egypt has admittedly always had to grapple with the problem of grave-robbing. But since the revolution in 2011, “this phenomenon has increased even more,” laments Abdel-Halim Nur el-Din, a professor of archaeology and the former head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), the authority responsible for ancient relics and archaeological excavations in Egypt. “We are losing our cultural heritage piece by piece,” he adds.

Gangs of Thieves Plunder at Will

In January 2011, the world-famous Egyptian Museum in Cairo was looted. Rioters destroyed priceless treasures. But valuable ancient relics went missing far from the capital, as well, due to a lack of supervision at historical sites. After the uprising, the repressive security apparatus withdrew everywhere, and the guarding of historical sites was neglected.

Two-and-a-half years later, the police are slowly venturing into the streets. But they are mainly concerned with ongoing protests. Elsewhere, some Egyptians are behaving as if the state and its laws have ceased to exist.

The army has placed two armored vehicles at the pyramids in Dahshur to deter grave robbers. But, so far, the thieves are undaunted. “We wanted to catch them,” says a guard in Dahshur who asked to remain anonymous. “But then they opened fire on us with automatic weapons.” He and his fellow guards were only armed with pistols. They jumped for cover, and the grave robbers carried on with their plundering.

The gangs are also getting bolder. At the pyramids of Saqqara, they advanced with weapons and cleared out a state-owned storehouse. According to the SCA department head in charge of the facility, it contained small statues. There have even been illegal excavations in the tourist centers of Aswan and Luxor, which experts attribute to organized gangs. Instead of shovels, some even bring along small excavators.

“Antiquities theft is a very profitable business,” says Professor Nur el-Din. “The government must make it a priority to stop the illegal excavations.” Guarding antiquities sites should be the focus, he adds. For everything else, such as excavation or restoration, there is simply no money anyway.

Stolen Artifacts Irrevocably Lost

Still, the recent thefts are not even the most pressing concern for the SCA. Its offices are suffering from one of the country’s all-too-familiar power shortages. Employees are sitting in the dark, their computers switched off. Temperatures hovering around 43 degrees Celcius (109 Fahrenheit) are not helping matters, either.
Osama Mustafa Elnahas heads the division taksed with recovering stolen artifacts. He is aware that illegal excavations are going on up and down the country. “They have become a daily occurrence since the revolution began,” he says.

The SCA still doesn’t know the actual extent of the lootings. Deborah Lehr, who runs the Paulson Institute, a Chicago-based think tank, has suggested that the US government should support the investigation by providing satellite images of the sites. But such plans have gotten stuck in the pipelines of the Egyptian bureaucracy.

As for the artifacts that have already been stolen, it’s likely they are irrevocably lost. Egyptian experts assume that many of the relics will end up abroad — beyond the reach of Cairo — and sold to collectors at places such as international auction houses.

“If we want to reclaim an artifact, we have to prove that it was registered as stolen in Egypt,” says Elnahas. A proper inventory of the stolen relics is something that the authority is unlikely to get around to, however, given the speed at which the plunderers are currently operating.

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Ancient Egyptian Sundial Discovered at Valley of the Kings


ancient-egyptian-sundial
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A sundial discovered outside a tomb in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings may be the world’s oldest ancient Egyptian sundials, say scientists.
Dating to the 19th dynasty, or the 13th century B.C., the sundial was found on the floor of a workman’s hut, in the Valley of the Kings, the burial place of rulers from Egypt’s New Kingdom period (around 1550 B.C. to 1070 B.C.).
“The significance of this piece is that it is roughly one thousand years older than what was generally accepted as time when this type of time measuring device was used,” said researcher Susanne Bickel, of the University of Basel in Switzerland. Past sundial discoveries date to the Greco-Roman period, which lasted from about 332 B.C. to A.D. 395.
The sundial is made of a flattened piece of limestone, called an ostracon, with a black semicircle divided into 12 sections drawn on top. Small dots in the middle of each of the 12 sections, which are about 15 degrees apart, likely served to give more precise times.
A dent in the center of the ostracon likely marks where a metal or wooden bolt was inserted to cast a shadow and reveal the time of day.
“The piece was found with other ostraca (limestone chips) on which small inscriptions, workmen’s sketches, and the illustration of a deity were written or painted in black ink,” Bickel told LiveScience in an email.
Bickel and her colleagues aren’t sure for what purpose the workmen would’ve used the sundial, though they suggest it may have represented the sun god’s journey through the underworld.
“One hypothesis would be to see this measuring device in parallel to the illustrated texts that were inscribed on the walls of the pharaohs’ tombs and where the representation of the night and the journey of the sun god through the netherworld is divided into the individual hours of the night,” Bickel wrote. “The sundial might have been used to visualize the length of the hours.”
The device may have also been used to measure work hours. “I wondered whether it could have served to regulate the workmen’s working time, to set the break at a certain time, for example,” she said. However, Bickel noted, a half-hour wouldn’t mean much to these people.
In the same area, Bickel and her colleagues have made several amazing discoveries, including a tomb with two burials, one from Egypt’s 18th dynasty and the other from the 22nd dynasty, which was brought into the tomb some time after the pillaging of the first burial. A wooden coffin linked to the secondary burial contained the mummy of a chantress of Amun called Nehmes-Bastet. The scientists are not sure who would’ve been buried in the original tomb, though they found remains of a mummy without linen bandages on the floor of the structure. “This badly broken mummy is probably the original first owner of the tomb,” write the researchers

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Archeologists in Egypt unearth 3000-year-old tombs…….


Egypt’s Antiquities Minister says Italian archaeologists have unearthed tombs over 3000 years old in the ancient city of Luxor.
Mohammed Ibrahim says the discovery was made beneath the mortuary temple of King Amenhotep II, seventh Pharaoh of the 18th dynasty who reigned from 1427 to 1401 B.C. The temple is located on the western bank of the Nile.
Ibrahim says remains of wooden sarcophaguses and human bones were found inside the tombs.
Mansour Barek, head of Luxor antiquities, says jars used to preserve the liver, lungs, stomach and intestines of the deceased were found. They were decorated with images of the four sons of the god Horus — figures seen as essential by ancient Egyptians to help the soul of the deceased find its way to heaven.

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A time to die in Ancient Rome…..


The Romans had two types of burials, cremation or inhumation, depending on the fashion at the time. Romans practiced cremation (burning) of their dead. The ashes would be placed in a small clay jar know as an urn and placed in a tomb. Cremation was the usual custom until about A.D. 100. The influence of the Christian religion moved the handling of the dead to burial, especially for those of the Christian faith. Many tombs in later Rome were along side the roads leading out of the city. Only the very rich could afford a tomb within the city. Poor people often could not afford a tomb and would be buried in a public pit on Esquiline Hill.The first thing they did was to close the deceased’s eye while calling out his name. This helped to make sure that the person was actually dead. Sometimes a deep coma could mimic death and if the family were going through the ritual and expense of a funeral, they certainly didn’t want the deceased sitting up in the middle of his funeral procession.
Then his relatives would wash the body and dress him in his finest clothes and wearing a crown if he had earned one in life. He would be laid out on a couch and a coin was placed in his mouth under his tongue so he could pay the ferryman Charon to row him to the land of the dead. The Romans believed that the soul of the dead would go underground to the river Styx. The soul had to cross the river. A coin was placed in the mouth of the deceased to pay Charon, the boatman of the underworld, for the passage across. If the body was not properly buried and did not have a coin, the soul was forced to stay for one hundred years before being allowed to cross the river Styx. He was laid out for eight days then taken out for burial.
The outside of the house where the wake was held was adorned with cypress branches as a sign of mourning and at times the male relatives and slaves would clip the front part of their hair as a token of grief.
In an expensive procession there was the “funeral director” called the designator, who had lictors. He was followed by musicians and mourning women. Other performers might follow, such as mimes, imitating or even satirizing the events of the person’s life. Next came the newly freed slaves (most Romans freed a number of slaves at their deaths). In front of the corpse, men representing the ancestors of the departed, wearing wax masks in the image of the ancestors, walked. If the deceased had been a famous person, a funeral oration would be given in the forum. This was called a laudatio and could be given for either a man or woman.
If the body were to be burned it was put on a funeral pyre and then when the flames rose, perfumes were thrown at the fire. When the pile burned down, wine was used to douse the embers and the ashes wee gathered and placed in an urn.
Because of the expense of a funeral, the poor Romans, including slaves joined burial societies which guaranteed proper burial in large community tombs called columbaria instead of simply being dumped in a pit to rot.

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Celtic sacrifices confirmed at famed ancient site…….


Ancient Celts practiced startling ritual murder practices, decorating sacrifice sites with ghoulish entanglements of human bones, most likely as a warning to foes and the folks they ruled.

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The ancient Celts who cooked up the autumn festival of Samhain, a predecessor to today’s Halloween, a new study confirms such displays were serious business.
“The ancient Celts were most definitely head-hunters,” prone to displaying these trophies, says anthropologist Mary Voigt, who has long headed the Penn Museum’s excavations at the storied site of Gordion in modern-day Turkey. “And they were definitely Celts at Gordion.”

What were those Celts (pronounced with a hard “K” sound) doing in Turkey? Well, in a forthcoming study in the Journal of Osteoarchaeology by archaeologist Page Selinsky of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, it seems they were definitely continuing some startling ritual murder practices. They decorated sacrifice sites with ghoulish entanglements of human bones, perhaps as a warning to foes and the folks they ruled.

Gordion is the place where Alexander the Great famously severed the intractable “Gordian Knot,” a knot so complex that legend has it that whoever undid the knot would rule all of Asia, on his conquests around 334 B.C. The death of Alexander also brought Celts, originally mercenaries and later conquerors, to Gordion, a citadel mound in central Turkey that was once ruled by the King Midas of the golden touch myth.

But by 240 B.C., the time examined in Selinsky’s study, Gordion was ruled by a group of Celts called the Galatians (which very roughly means the “Greek Gauls,” where the Gauls were the Celtic tribes who ruled today’s France in the era when ancient Rome was a rising republic). Houses and pottery, loom weights and other artifacts at the site take on Celtic appearances from that time.

The other thing that takes on a Celtic appearance at the time, Selinsky reports in her study, is a graveyard. Bones and skulls from more than a dozen men, women and children arranged in odd ways appear to have been scattered around the site, in six clusters. Later Roman-era burials at the site, in contrast, are in rows of coffins and cremation urns, unlike the Galatian ones, with one exception.

“Understanding what they intended is the million-dollar question in Celtic ritual practices,” Selinsky says. “These are big questions of life and death and what they believed. We may be seeing several different types of rituals.”
In one case, a middle-aged woman’s skeleton, her skull dented by three hammer blows, lay atop a younger woman’s skeleton pinned under two large grinding stones. The bones of two children lay placed among them. In another, a teenager’s clearly-decapitated head was arranged amid dog bones. Perhaps most bizarre, three skeletons mingled in doubled-over positions include the skull of a woman who appears to have been decapitated. Several men appear to have been decapitated among the bone clusters, their heads displayed singly in the manner of war trophies.

The Celts were big fans of skulls, Voigt notes in a chapter of the bookSacred Killing: The Archaeology of Sacrifice in the Ancient Near East, edited by Anne Porter and Glenn Schwartz. The Romans noted they collected heads of enemies to hang from their horses, and they sacrificed criminals and captured enemies, using their death throes to foretell the future. “The heads of those enemies that were held in high esteem they would embalm in cedar oil and display them to their guests, and they would not think of having them ransomed even for an equal weight of gold,” wrote the ancient Greek historian, Strabo.

Voigt suggests that the bodies displayed by the Galatians, which would have been clearly visible to anyone living in the town below their citadel, were meant as a warning either to foes or the subject population of the town. Perhaps some were victims of ritual murder in attempts to tell the future when the Romans invaded their realm. While Selinsky is more cautious about attaching meaning to the bone displays than Voigt, her study does confirm violent death as the end for many of the skeletons, a suggestion that first made news a decade ago. “Here we see further investigation confirming a hypothesis, which is a good thing in science,” Selinsky says.
It’s worth noting that the Galatians didn’t expose everyone who died this way. One young woman found near the ritual area was buried in a wooden coffin and was wearing lion-headed gold earrings, according to Voigt. The Romans who buried people so nicely after them weren’t sweethearts either; they wiped out the Galatians in a war marked by genocide around 189 B.C.

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Missing monarchs: The kings who did not rest in peace…..



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A king may expect an elaborate tomb as a perk of the job but the fates often have something else in mind
DNA tests may be about to prove a skeleton found beneath a Leicester car park are the mortal remains of King Richard III.
And while it may seem extraordinary that a king’s grave could be lost, history shows the last of the Plantagenets was not the only one to suffer such indignity.
Here are seven English kings who have no confirmed grave.
Alfred the Great
Alfred, who turned back the tide of Viking conquest, died in 899 and was buried with due ceremony and pomp in the Old Minster in Winchester, Hampshire. His corpse was then moved twice, ending up across town in Hyde Abbey.
When Henry VIII moved to disband the monasteries in 1538, Hyde was dismantled. Tradition has it the graves of Alfred and his family were left undisturbed but subsequently ransacked during the construction of the town jail in 1788.
But Robin Iles, education officer for Winchester Museums, said the truth was uncertain: “The decorated tombs would have been an obvious target for those stripping the abbey of valuables in 1538 but there was also a lot of disturbance during the building of the prison. The truth is we don’t know what happened.
“An excavation in the 1990s confirmed where the tombs used to be and slabs now mark the spot.”
Harold II
As if being the last English king to have his country successfully invaded was not bad enough, Harold Godwinson’s undoubted bravery and political manoeuvring did not guarantee a respectful burial.
His death in 1066 fighting William the Conqueror at the battle of Hastings – either by an arrow in the eye, the swords of cavalry, or possibly both – apparently left the body so mangled only his common-law wife, the ornithologically named Edith Swannesha (Swan-Neck), could identify the remains.
Rosemary Nicolaou, from Battle Abbey museum, said what happened next is confused: “We are told Harold’s mother offered William a sum of gold equal to the weight of the body but William refused. He ordered it to be buried in secret to stop it becoming a shrine.
“After that we just don’t know. There are various stories including his mother finally getting the body or it being taken by monks to Waltham Abbey, but nothing has been proved”.
Henry I
A son of William the Conqueror, Henry seized the crown in August 1100 with a series of well organised political manoeuvres in the days after brother William II was killed in an apparent hunting accident. After Henry died in Normandy in December 1135, his corpse was brought back to England in singular style.
Jill Greenaway, collection care curator at Reading Museum, explained: “His body was embalmed, sewn into a bull’s hide and brought to Reading where in January 1136 he was buried in front of the High Altar of the abbey that he had founded in 1121.
“His tomb did not survive the dissolution of the monasteries by his namesake Henry VIII and we do not know what happened to his body.”
A small plaque marks the rough area of his grave but rumours place the exact spot under nearby St. James’ School.
Stephen
After a reign so turbulent it was known as The Anarchy, it is perhaps no surprise Stephen also struggled for peace after his death in 1154. He was buried in a magnificent tomb in the newly constructed Faversham Abbey in Kent but – in what became a pattern – it was demolished on the orders of Henry VIII.
Local historian Jack Long said: “In John Stow’s ‘Annales’ of 1580, he repeats the local legend that the royal tombs were desecrated for the lead coffins and any jewellery that the bodies might have worn, and the bones thrown into the creek.
“(It adds) they were retrieved and reburied in the church of St Mary of Charity in Faversham. There is an annexe (in the church) dating from the period but which has no original markings.
“To the best of my knowledge, no work has ever been undertaken to establish exactly what exists behind or below this mysterious annexe.”
Edward V
Richard III plays a central role in one of the most emotionally charged stories in English history. In April 1483 Edward IV died leaving his 12-year-old son, also called Edward, as heir.
The dying king had appointed his brother, Richard of Gloucester, as the boy’s protector. In short order Edward was placed in the Tower of London, had his coronation postponed and was then barred from the throne after his parents’ marriage was declared illegitimate. In June Richard was declared king.
Along with his younger brother Richard, Edward was never seen outside the tower again.
In 1674, the skeletons of two children were discovered during building work in the tower and were reburied in Westminster Abbey under the names of the missing children but controversy rages as to who they really were – as well as the true fate of the princes and the identity of any killer.
Oliver Cromwell
Admittedly not a king, but Cromwell was certainly a head of state. And most of him has no grave.
After leading the Parliamentarian forces to victory in the civil war against Charles I, Cromwell took the reins of power until his death in 1658 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.
When Charles II came to the throne in 1660, his supporters decided to enact a peculiarly spiteful form of vengeance, exhuming Cromwell’s body and hanging it on the scaffold at Tyburn near modern day Marble Arch.
John Goldsmith, curator of the Cromwell Museum in Huntingdon, said: “It was then cut down and beheaded. Despite various stories about it being spirited away, his body was almost certainly dumped in a nearby pit.
“His embalmed head was later removed from a spike and went from owner to owner – including being an attraction in a travelling show – until eventually being reburied at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge in 1960.”
James II
Chased from the throne in 1688 for attempting to restore the absolute monarchy of his father Charles I, James lived in exile in Paris until his death and anatomical dissection in 1701.
He refused burial in the belief he would get his place in Westminster Abbey and the coffin was put in the Chapel of Saint Edmund in the Church of the English Benedictines in the Rue St Jacques.
His brain was sent to the Scots College in Paris and put in a silver case on top of a column, his heart went to the Convent of the Visitandine Nuns at Chaillot and his intestines were divided between the English Church of St Omer and the parish church of St Germain-en-Laye.
Aidan Dodson, author of The Royal Tombs of Great Britain, said: “It all disappeared in the French Revolution of 1789. The mob attacked the churches and his lead coffin was sold for scrap, as was the silver case for his brain.
“The church (of St Germain-en-Laye) was demolished but then rebuilt in 1824 and during this his intestines were found and reinterred – so a bit of him survives.”
And one who was just mislaid… Charles I
After losing the Civil War, Charles’s fortunes took a downward turn when he was executed in 1649. He was buried quietly in St George’s Chapel, in Windsor Castle, after being denied a place in Westminster Abbey.
Mr Dodson said: “He was put in with Henry VIII and Jane Seymour but the problem was that they forgot where that entire vault was.
“This was also an excuse for Charles II to pocket the money parliament had given him for his dad’s new tomb.”
Workmen rediscovered the vault by accident in 1813 and found a velvet draped coffin with the missing monarch’s name on it. To satisfy their curiosity, a group of notables opened the casket and, sure enough, found a body with a detached head and a pointy beard.

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Unique tombs found in Philippines……



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MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Archaeologists have unearthed remnants of what they believe is a 1,000-year-old village on a jungle-covered mountaintop in the Philippines with limestone coffins of a type never before found in this Southeast Asian nation, officials said Thursday.
National Museum official Eusebio Dizon said the village on Mount Kamhantik, near Mulanay town in Quezon province, could be at least 1,000 years old based on U.S. carbon dating tests done on a human tooth found in one of 15 limestone graves he and other archaeologists have dug out since last year.
The discovery of the rectangular tombs, which were carved into limestone outcrops jutting from the forest ground, is important because it is the first indication that Filipinos at that time practiced a more advanced burial ritual than previously thought and that they used metal tools to carve the coffins.
Past archaeological discoveries have shown Filipinos of that era used wooden coffins in the country’s mountainous north and earthen coffins and jars elsewhere, according to Dizon, who has done extensive archaeological work and studies in the Philippines and 27 other countries over the past 35 years.
Aside from the tombs, archaeologists have found thousands of shards of earthen jars, metal objects and bone fragments of humans, monkeys, wild pigs and other animals in the tombs. The limestone outcrops had round holes where wooden posts of houses or sheds may have once stood, Dizon told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview.
The tombs were similar to ancient sarcophagus, which have become popular tourist attractions in Egypt and Europe, although the ones found in Mulanay were simple box-like limestone coffins without mythological or elaborate human images on the tops and sides.
Archaeologists have only worked on a small portion of a five-hectare (12-acre) forest area, where Mulanay officials said more artifacts and limestone coffins could be buried.
A preliminary National Museum report said its top archaeologists found “a complex archaeological site with both habitation and burial remains from the period of approximately 10th to the 14th century … the first of its kind in the Philippines having carved limestone tombs.”
The discovery has been welcomed with excitement in Mulanay, a sleepy coastal town of 50,000 people in an impoverished mountainous region that until recently was best known as a major battleground between army troops and Marxist rebels.
“Before, if you mention this region, people will say ‘Oh, that’s NPA country,'” Mulanay Mayor Joselito Ojeda said, referring to the New People’s Army rebels. “But that era is past and now we can erase that image and this archaeological site will be a big help.”
Mulanay tourism officer Sanny Cortez said that after archaeologists have finished their work in a few years, his town plans to turn Mount Kamhantik’s peak into an archaeological and ecotourism park. A museum would also be built nearby.
Despite the loss of thick tree covers in the 1,300-foot (396-meter) mountain’s foothills as villagers clear the jungle for homes and farms, the forested mountain still harbors a rich wildlife, including rare hornbills, wild cats and huge numbers of cave bats, including a white one recently seen by environmental officials. The mountaintop offers a scenic view of Tayabas Bay and the peak of Mayon volcano, famous for its near-perfect cone, Ojeda said.
The archaeological site is part of 280 hectares (692 acres) of forest land that was declared a government-protected area in 1998 to keep away treasure hunters and slash-and-burn farmers. Treasure hunters looking for gold exposed some of the limestone tombs years ago, but it was only last year that Manila-based archaeologists started to unearth the graves and artifacts and realize the significance of the find.
Treasure hunting has damaged many archaeological sites in the country. In the early 1990s, Filipino archaeologists led by Dizon discovered that 2,000-year-old burial jars with unique human face designs had been destroyed by treasure hunters in a cave in Maitum town in southern Sarangani province.
Archaeologists worked for a few years to glue the sack loads of clay shards piece by piece and restored more than 150 ancient burial jars to shape. Some of the Maitum jars are displayed at the National Museum in Manila with a plan to exhibit them in France next year, Dizon said.

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