Egyptologists uncover ‘lost golden city’ buried under the sands

Above, the remains of a 3,000-year-old city dating to the reign of Amenhotep III, which was uncovered by the Egyptian mission near Luxor. (Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities via AFP)
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Updated 09 April 2021

Egyptologists uncover ‘lost golden city’ buried under the sands

  • Site was uncovered near Luxor, home of the legendary Valley of the Kings
  • Find was the ‘second most important archaeological discovery since the tomb of Tutankhamun’ nearly a century ago

CAIRO: Archaeologists have uncovered the remains of an ancient city in the desert outside Luxor that they say is the “largest” ever found in Egypt and dates back to a golden age of the pharaohs 3,000 years ago.
Famed Egyptologist Zahi Hawass announced the discovery of the “lost golden city,” saying the site was uncovered near Luxor, home of the legendary Valley of the Kings.
“The Egyptian mission under Dr. Zahi Hawass found the city that was lost under the sands,” the excavation team said in a statement Thursday.
“The city is 3,000 years old, dates to the reign of Amenhotep III, and continued to be used by Tutankhamun and Ay.”
The team called the find “the largest” ancient city ever uncovered in Egypt.
Betsy Bryan, professor of Egyptian art and archaeology at Johns Hopkins University, said the find was the “second most important archaeological discovery since the tomb of Tutankhamun” nearly a century ago, according to the team’s statement.
Items of jewelry have been unearthed, along with colored pottery vessels, scarab beetle amulets and mud bricks bearing seals of Amenhotep III.
“Many foreign missions searched for this city and never found it,” said Hawass, a former antiquities minister.
The team began excavations in September 2020, between the temples of Ramses III and Amenhotep III near Luxor, some 500 kilometers (300 miles) south of Cairo.
“Within weeks, to the team’s great surprise, formations of mud bricks began to appear in all directions,” the statement said.
“What they unearthed was the site of a large city in a good condition of preservation, with almost complete walls, and with rooms filled with tools of daily life.”
After seven months of excavations, several neighborhoods have been uncovered, including a bakery complete with ovens and storage pottery, as well as administrative and residential districts.
Amenhotep III inherited an empire that stretched from the Euphrates River in modern Iraq and Syria to Sudan and died around 1354 BC, ancient historians say.
He ruled for nearly four decades, a reign known for its opulence and the grandeur of its monuments, including the Colossi of Memnon — two massive stone statues near Luxor that represent him and his wife.
“The archaeological layers have laid untouched for thousands of years, left by the ancient residents as if it were yesterday,” the team’s statement said.
Bryan said the city “will give us a rare glimpse into the life of the ancient Egyptians at the time where the empire was at his wealthiest.”
The team said they were optimistic that further important finds would be revealed, noting they had discovered groups of tombs reached through “stairs carved into the rock,” a similar construction to those found in the Valley of the Kings.
“The mission expects to uncover untouched tombs filled with treasures,” the statement added.
After years of political instability following the Arab Spring uprising of 2011, which dealt a severe blow to Egypt’s tourism industry, the country is seeking to bring back visitors, in particular by promoting its ancient heritage.
Last week, Egypt transported the mummified remains of 18 ancient kings and four queens across Cairo from the iconic Egyptian Museum to the new National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in a procession dubbed the “Pharaohs’ Golden Parade.”
Among the 22 bodies were those of Amenhotep III and his wife Queen Tiye.

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Young whale stranded in London’s Thames is put down

Updated 11 May 2021

Young whale stranded in London’s Thames is put down

  • The whale, measuring three to four meters (10-13 feet), was first spotted in southwest London on Sunday
  • Rescue efforts by the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) service and firefighters failed when the whale slipped its leash and then swam upriver

LONDON: A juvenile minke whale that became stranded in London’s River Thames has been put down after its condition deteriorated and vets decided it could not survive in the open water.
The whale, measuring three to four meters (10-13 feet), was first spotted in southwest London on Sunday and was washed ashore at a set of gates controlling water flow.
Rescue efforts by the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) service and firefighters failed when the whale slipped its leash and then swam upriver, instead of toward the sea.
“The last 45 minutes we were with the whale its condition was deteriorating, its breathing wasn’t right and it wouldn’t have survived much longer,” BDMLR national coordinator Julia Cable said late Monday.
She said vets from London Zoo injected a “large” anaesthetic dose into the malnourished whale. It is thought the whale got separated from its mother and was unable to fend for itself.
“It’s always sad, but we now know that putting it back out into the open sea would have been sending it to starve out there,” Cable said.
Minke whales are the smallest of the world’s great whales and typically grow to a length of 10 meters in adulthood.
They can usually be found throughout the northern Atlantic and Pacific oceans but have been spotted as far north as the Arctic and as far south as the Equator.
In January 2006, a northern bottlenose whale became stuck in the Thames, sparking huge media interest. It died as it was being ferried back out to sea.


Obama dog Bo, once a White House celebrity, dies from cancer

Updated 09 May 2021

Obama dog Bo, once a White House celebrity, dies from cancer

  • News of Bo's passing was shared by Obama and his wife Michelle on Instagram
  • Bo, a Portuguese water dog, was a gift to the Obamas from the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy

WASHINGTON: Former President Barack Obama’s dog Bo died Saturday after a battle with cancer, the Obamas said on social media.
News of Bo’s passing was shared by Obama and his wife Michelle on Instagram, where both expressed sorrow at the passing of a dog the former president described as a “true friend and loyal companion.”
“He tolerated all the fuss that came with being in the White House, had a big bark but no bite, loved to jump in the pool in the summer, was unflappable with children, lived for scraps around the dinner table, and had great hair,” Barack Obama wrote.
Bo, a Portuguese water dog, was a gift to the Obamas from the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., a key supporter of Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign who became close to the family. Bo helped Obama keep a promise to daughters Malia and Sasha that they could get a dog after the election.
A companion dog, Sunny, joined the family in August 2013.
Both were constant presences around the White House and popular among visitors there, often joining the Obamas for public events. The dogs entertained crowds at the annual Easter Egg Roll and Bo occasionally joined first lady Obama to welcome tourists. The dogs also cheered wounded service members, as well as hospitalized children the first lady would visit each year just before Christmas.
In a post featuring a slideshow of images of Bo — including one of him sitting behind the president’s Resolute Desk in the Oval Office — first lady Obama recounted his years bringing some levity to the White House.
“He was there when Barack and I needed a break, sauntering into one of our offices like he owned the place, a ball clamped firmly in his teeth. He was there when we flew on Air Force One, when tens of thousands flocked to the South Lawn for the Easter Egg Roll, and when the Pope came to visit,” she wrote.
First lady Obama wrote that she was grateful for the time the family got to spend with him due to the pandemic, and said that over the past year, “no one was happier than Bo.”
“All his people were under one roof again,” she wrote.

 

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Belgian farmer moves border with France by 2 meters

Updated 05 May 2021

Belgian farmer moves border with France by 2 meters

  • Group of local history enthusiasts discovered the move during a walk in a wooded area on the French side
  • In Belgian village of Erquelinnes, the mayor appeared keen to avoid an international incident

BRUSSELS: A Belgian farmer unwittingly extended his country’s territory by moving an ancient stone marking the border with France that was on his land.
A group of local history enthusiasts discovered the move during a walk in a wooded area on the French side.
The discovery of the stone, now sitting 2.20 meters (7.2 feet) away from where it was placed in accordance with a border agreement two centuries ago, has caused a flap in a normally sleepy rural area.
“If it belongs to us, it belongs to us. We don’t want to be robbed of 2 meters,” a resident of the French village of Bousignies-sur-Roc told RTL Info.
On the other side, in the Belgian village of Erquelinnes, mayor David Lavaux appeared keen to avoid an international incident.
“The land was sold and I think the person who bought it changed the borders the way he wanted,” he said. “But this isn’t just a private border, it’s a border between countries and you can’t just at will move boundary markers that have been there for a long time.”


Five charged in snatching at gunpoint of Lady Gaga’s dogs

Updated 30 April 2021

Five charged in snatching at gunpoint of Lady Gaga’s dogs

  • Gaga was filming in Rome in February when her dog walker was shot and her dogs stolen
  • The dogs were returned unharmed after Gaga offered a $500,000 reward

LOS ANGELES: Five people have been charged with attempted murder, robbery and other offenses in connection with the snatching at gunpoint in February of Lady Gaga’s dogs and the shooting of their walker, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office said on Thursday.
Police said in a separate statement that four of the five people arrested were known gang members. The fifth person, a woman, was the person who reported she had found the dogs and returned them.
The singer’s two dogs were returned two days after they were stolen in Hollywood.
The French bulldogs were snatched at night after their dog walker was shot in the chest. They were returned unharmed after Gaga offered a $500,000 reward.
Los Angeles police said on Thursday that detectives do not believe the suspects were targeting the victim because of the dogs’ owner.
“However, evidence suggests the suspects knew the great value of the breed of dogs and was the motivation for the robbery,” the statement said.
Gaga was filming in Rome when the theft occurred. Her dog walker, Ryan Fischer, said later that he had suffered “a very close call with death.”
Fischer was walking three of Gaga’s bulldogs in a residential area in Hollywood when a car pulled up alongside them and two men demanded he turn over the animals, police said at the time.
Fischer was shot once by the assailants, who drove off with two of the dogs. A third escaped and was later found by police.
The District Attorney’s Office said the defendants were expected to be arraigned later on Thursday.
Three individuals were charged with one count each of attempted murder, conspiracy to commit robbery and second-degree robbery. One of the three also was charged with assault and a firearms offense. The woman who claimed to have found the dogs and a fifth defendant were charged with being accessories after the fact. The woman additionally was charged with receiving stolen property.
“This was a brazen street crime that left a man seriously wounded,” District Attorney George Gascón said in a statement.
“We have alleged very serious charges in this case and have faith that justice will be appropriately served as this case unfolds in court.”


Polluted Lebanon lake spews out tons of dead fish

Updated 29 April 2021

Polluted Lebanon lake spews out tons of dead fish

  • A preliminary report said a virus had killed only carp in the highly polluted Qaraoun lake
  • Hundreds of fish lay dead on the lake’s banks and the stench of their rotting flesh clung to the air Thursday

QAROUN: Tonnes of dead fish have washed up on the shore of a highly polluted lake in eastern Lebanon in recent days, an official said Thursday.
It was not immediately clear what caused the dead fish in Lake Qaraoun on the Litani river, which several local fishermen said was unprecedented in scale.
A preliminary report said a virus had killed only carp in the lake, but a veteran water expert said their deaths could also have been caused by pollution.
Hundreds of fish of all sizes lay dead on the banks of the more than five kilometer long lake Thursday, and the stench of their rotting flesh clung to the air.
Men shoveled carcasses into a wheelbarrow, as a mechanical digger scooped up more into the back of a truck.
“It’s our third day here picking up dead fish,” said Nassrallah el-Hajj, from the Litani River Authority, dressed in fishing waders, adding they had so far “carried away around 40 tons.”
On the water’s edge, 61-year-old fisherman Mahmoud Afif said it was a “disaster.”
“In my life I’ve never seen anything like it,” said the father-of-two.
The Qaraoun lake was built as a reservoir on the Litani river in 1959 to produce hydropower and provide water for irrigation.
But in recent years experts have warned huge quantities of wastewater, industrial waste, and agricultural runoff containing pesticides and fertilizer flooding into it have made it increasingly toxic.
Since 2018 fishing has been forbidden in the reservoir as the fish there was declared unfit for human consumption, though fish from the lake have continued to appear in several markets.
The Litani River Authority and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon on Friday warned of a “viral epidemic,” and called for fishing to be forbidden in the Litani as well as in the lake.
It said the likely disease had only affected carp, while four other types of fish appeared to be unaffected.
AFP saw several dead fish with white cysts on their scales.
Kamal Slim, a water expert who has been taking samples of the lake water for the past 15 years, said pollution could also be the cause.
“Without analysis, we cannot be decisive,” said the researcher.
But the lake is also home to cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, and in warmer months the excess nutrients from pollution have caused the bacteria to erupt into bright green blooms that release toxins.
“Right now there is a cyanobacteria bloom, though less thick than last year,” he said, with the blooms harming fish, especially when they are weaker during mating and spawning seasons.
“Another possibility is very toxic ammonium,” he said.
In July 2016, Lebanese media reported that tons of fish floated to the surface overnight in Qaraoun.
Slim said at the time it was due to a toxic bloom.