Category Archives: WORLD

Stolen 12th century Indian Buddha statue found in London

Stolen 12th century Indian Buddha statue found in London

In what was held up as an example of India-UK collaboration across all sectors, Britain’s Metropolitan Police recently marked India’s Independence Day by handing back a rare Buddha sculpture stolen from India in 1961.

A bronze Buddha statue of the 12th century stolen from an Indian museum 57 years ago has surfaced in London and is now returning to the country.

The bronze statue with silver inlay is one of 14 statues stolen in 1961 from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) site museum in Nalanda and changed several hands over the years before surfacing at a London auction.

Once the dealer and the owner were made aware the sculpture was the same one that had been stolen from India, the Metropolitan Police said they cooperated fully with the Met’s Art and Antiques Unit and agreed for the piece to be returned to India.

“I am delighted to return this piece of history. This is an excellent example of the results that can come with close cooperation between law enforcement, trade and scholars,” said Met Police Detective Chief Inspector Sheila Stewart, who was accompanied by officials from the UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport at the handover ceremony.

“Although this was stolen over 50 years ago, this did not prevent the piece being recognised and the credit must go to the eagle eye informants who made us aware that the missing piece had been located after so many years,” she said.

The statue was identified at a trade fair in March this year by Lynda Albertson of the Association for Research into Crimes Against Art (ARCA) and Vijay Kumar from the India Pride Project, who then alerted the police. Sinha described the return of the “priceless Buddha” as a “wonderful gesture” and a particular honour given his own roots in Bihar.

“I hope it will now go back to where it originally belongs… On our Independence Day, it [return of the statue] highlights the multi-faceted cooperation between our two countries,” he said, after a Tricolour-hoisting ceremony to mark India’s 72nd Independence Day at the Indian High Commission in London.

Detective Constable Sophie Hayes, of the Met’s Art and Antique Unit, said it had been established that there was no criminality by the current owner or the dealer who had been offering the stolen statue for sale.

“Indeed, from the outset, they have cooperated fully with the police to resolve this matter and they have made the decision to return the sculpture via the police,” Hayes said. “We are delighted to be able to facilitate the return of this important piece of cultural heritage to India,” she added.

The Art and antique Unit was founded 50 years ago and are one of the oldest specialist units in the Metropolitan Police Service. The unit prides itself on a “long history of reuniting owners with their stolen property”.

Michael Ellis, UK Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism, said: “As we celebrate India’s Independence Day, I am proud to highlight the latest example of the UK’s cultural diplomacy in action.

Thanks to the work of the Metropolitan Police’s Arts and Antiques Unit, we are one of the first countries to recover one of the 14 elusive Buddha statues stolen from Nalanda nearly 60 years ago.

“This underlines how law enforcement and the London art market are working hand in hand to deliver positive cultural diplomacy to the world.”

Valuable artefacts have been stolen from India over the centuries by colonial plunderers. However, the latest case involved a notorious smuggling ring. The model of a seated Indian God Vishnu was one of 14 statues taken from an archaeological museum in Nalanda, eastern India.

It is believed to have changed hands several times before it was unsuspectingly offered for sale and both the owner and the dealer agreed for it to be returned to India, for it to return to the place it was snatched from.

The recovered relic is a delicate artwork that depicts Buddha in the Bhumisparsha mudra —seated, with his right hand resting over his right knee, reaching toward the ground and touching his lotus throne.

The gesture symbolises the moment that Buddha summoned the earth as a witness to his enlightenment, and it is commonly represented in Buddhist iconography.

It was created using the specialist “lost wax” technique, which involves a wax model being made which can be used only once, as the wax melts away when the molten bronze is poured into the mould. This makes the statue an extremely unique piece of art and part of India’s ancient tradition.

The identity of the dealer and fair have been kept under wraps.

Bird Three Times Larger Than Ostrich Discovered In Crimean Cave

Bird Three Times Larger Than Ostrich Discovered In Crimean Cave

An artist’s conception of the giant, 1,000-pound bird that once roamed around Europe

Crimean researchers discovered a bird’s fossil remains three times larger than an oystrich, weighed nearly 450 kilograms, and roamed Europe nearly 1.5 million years ago.

The discovery was made in the Tauride Cave on the northern coast of the Black Sea and the specimen suggested the bird was bigger than the Madagascan elephant.

The researchers said the bird may have been a source of meat, feathers, bones, and eggshell for early humans in Europe.

“When I first felt the weight of the bird whose thigh bone I was holding in my hand, I thought it must be a Malagasy elephant bird fossil because no birds of this size have ever been reported from Europe.

However, the structure of the bone unexpectedly told a different story,” said Nikita Zelenkov, lead author from the Russian Academy of Sciences.

It was previously believed by experts that giant birds only existed on the islands of Madagascar, New Zealand, and Australia.

However, the latest discovery puts an end to all the theories.

While the researchers admitted they didn’t have enough data and evidence to prove the bird was closely related to ostriches, they believe it weighs around 450 kilograms.

The findings of the research have now been published in the Journal of Vertebrate Palaeontology.

It is for the first time in history that shreds of evidence of a giant bird have been found in the Northern Hemisphere.

The researchers believe the bird was flightless with a height of at least 3.5 meters.

The femur of the bird, which is long and slim, suggest it was a better runner than elephant birds couldn’t run fast because of their enormous size.

While many researchers knew about the existence of such species, no one ever calculated their size and speed.

Based on measurements from the femur bone, the researchers managed to reconstruct the body mass of the bird and also estimated its total weight.

Ancient Underground ‘City’ Investigated By Iranian Archaeologists

Ancient Underground ‘City’ Investigated By Iranian Archaeologists

Archeologists in Iran Open the Door to An Ancient Underground City

There are underground cities all over the planet, there are as many as 200 underground cities in Turkey alone.

That’s finding more subterranean cities in other parts of the world doesn’t come as a surprise.

Now, it has been reported how a group of archeologists has managed to open a door to an ancient underground city in Iran.

The underground city of Saleh Abad

The exact age of the underground city remains debatable, but archeologists estimate its anywhere between 800 to 1000 years old.

Scholars say that the subterranean city of Saleh Abad was most likely built in the 12th or 13th century when the Ilkhanate dynasty ruled the area.

During the initial works, ceramic pieces from that period were recovered among other artifacts.

Ahmad Torabi, a provincial tourism official who participated in the opening of the door to the city points out that the place was not made public when it was found three years ago in order to prevent possible looting before researchers could study the site.

“Now we need more time to investigate and explore this area,” Torabi said, explaining that the underground city may even have been used in modern times during World War II when entire families used it to hide from the Soviet armies.

A team of archaeologists has commenced an extensive research on a centuries-old underground “city”, which is located in Salehabad district of Hamedan province, west-central Iran.

“At the time when Russian soldiers crossed the area [during the World War II], the men of the region concealed their families in the underground city so that no one noticed their presence,” Torabi added.

The area where the underground city was discovered, Hamadan, is one of the oldest in Iran and was part of ancient Ecbatana, which was the capital of Media and a summer residence of the Achaemenian kings who ruled Persia from 553 to 330 BC.

This ancient city is not by far the oldest one discovered in the region. Experts have previously discovered subterranean cities in Iran (Samen and Arzan-Fu) and some of them are thought to date back more than 2,500 years.

Roman Lead Sarcophagus Accidentally Found In Granada

Roman Lead Sarcophagus Accidentally Found In Granada

Roman Lead Sarcophagus Accidentally Found In Granada
Workers remove the sarcophagus in Granada.

When archaeologists began exploring underneath a building in Granada, in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia, they weren’t expecting to find anything of importance.

After all, they were just completing a standard prospection of the Villamena building, as required for any planned underground work in the city to rule out the existence of historic remains.

The survey was going ahead as planned. They found a few remains from the Christian era and from the days of Muslim rule, but nothing truly relevant.

But before finishing the work, they decided to explore a little deeper. And that’s when they found it: a Roman grave covered with sandstone and mud, 2.5 meters below the surface.

Lead sarcophagus after removal from the grave
Lead sarcophagus after removal from the grave

For Ángel Rodríguez, the archaeologist in charge of the survey, the discovery was not a big surprise at first – not until they removed the slab and found a lead sarcophagus underneath. Now, this was certainly unexpected.

Rodríguez believes the sarcophagus dates back to the 2nd or 3rd century AD, a time when lead sarcophagi were not at all common.

In Andalusia, they were expensive as well as difficult to obtain, because the industry only existed in Córdoba, over 200 kilometers away. “Córdoba is the only place where they made lead sarcophagi,” Rodríguez explains.

According to this expert, the sarcophagus “probably belonged to a wealthy family, but that doesn’t mean that we are going to find great jewels inside.” The items buried inside may not be that valuable, given that precious goods were left “for the living,” says the archaeologist.

The main interest in this type of sarcophagus comes from the fact that lead conserves remains very well. This means that, if all goes as the archaeologist’s hope, inside there will be a body, personal valuables, and textiles in good condition, which will allow the team to “learn a lot about the burial ritual,” says Rodríguez.

The sarcophagus was moved last week to the Archaeological and Ethnological Museum of Granada. It will remain there until researchers decide on how to proceed with the opening.

Sarcophagus loaded on the back of a truck for transport to the museum

A multidisciplinary team of physical anthropologists, restorers and archaeologists will be present for the exciting reveal. Once opened, the body will go to the forensic anthropology laboratory at Granada University, while the sarcophagus and goods inside will remain in the museum to be studied, explains Rodríguez.

In Roman times, the historic center of Granada was actually a rural area on the outskirts of the city, and the real epicenter was the Albaicín district.

But there was something interesting about the area: the Darro river ran through it. The river stopped flowing overground more than a century ago in this part of the city when it was buried underground.

This was where the sarcophagus was found. Rodríguez explains that this area, on the banks of the Darro, was used to grow crops, “it was not a cemetery, but perhaps because of the Darro river, it had a special meaning as a funeral area.”

According to the archaeologist, a similar lead sarcophagus was discovered in 1902, but it was plundered by the workers who found it before it reached researchers, who only found “some bones.”

The lead sarcophagus found under the Villamena building, next to Granada Cathedral, weighs between 300 and 350 kilograms and has the same dimensions of a classic coffin: 1.97 meters long and 40 centimeters high. It is slightly wider at the head (56 centimeters) than at the foot (36 centimeters).

On the first inspection, Rodríguez says there is no sign of an inscription but adds that “it still has a lot of clay and sand,” and “we’ll see when we clean it.”

The outside of the sarcophagus has already given researchers many insights, and the inside is expected to give many more when it is opened in a few weeks.

Ancient temple found inside a pond in Odisha

1,200 Year Old Temple Found Buried In Odisha Sand

During the refurbishment job of the Bateswar temple close Rushikulya rookery in Ganjam District of Odisha, on the east shore of India, buried artifacts of the 8th century are emerging.

The temple is located on the coastal sand dunes around eight km from the Kolkata-Chennai Highway near Humma.

According to Odisha State Archaeology department superintendent Sanghamitra Satpathy, with the financial support of the World Bank, Rs.1.64-crore renovation work was taken up at the Bateswar temple under the Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project (ICZMP).

During the renovation, remnants of a Parvati temple were discovered from under the sand on the periphery of the Bateswar temple.

According to the priest of the Bateswar temple, some idols were also discovered from this newly-discovered small temple.

Steps to preserve the temple

Meanwhile, the State Archaeology department has decided to take necessary steps to preserve the newly-discovered temple.

Senior historian and retired head of history department of Berhampur University, Ashok Kumar Rath, who has researched on the archaeological remains of this region said the Bateswar temple as well as the newly-discovered temple on its premises belonged to the 8th Century.

“The two-chambered Bateswar temple has archaeological resemblance with Laxmaneswar, Bharateswar and Shatrughneswar temples of Bhubaneswar, which were also built in the 7th or 8th Century AD,” said Prof. Rath.

1,200 Year Old Temple Found Buried In Odisha Sand
The recently-discovered 8th-century temple in Ganjam district of Odisha

According to him, this ancient temple was built during the Shilodvhav period of the Odisha history and was linked with the maritime history of this region.

The Bateswar temple also has some stone inscriptions in ‘Devanagari’ and ‘Kutila’ scripts that have become dull with time.

But as per the historians, these inscriptions are of later period, may be of 10th Century during the reign of Ganga dynasty.

During ancient times, ports existed at Palur and Ganjam near the Rushikulya rookery.

It is felt that based on the maritime activity in the region, an urban civilization may have existed in the area and Bateswar temple was part of it.

“More excavation around the Bateswar temple can reveal more information,” said Prof. Rath.