200 miles inland from the coast of Libya, Roman influence elevated the Garamantes into living a surprisingly civilised existence…
One of the fascinating aspects of editing Current World Archaeology is not only to see some of the sites themselves, but also to look at the wide variety of ways in which the expeditions are funded. In this issue, we see two projects at least part-funded by somewhat unusual sources.
An unexpected source of funding is the Rolex watch company. Since 1976, Rolex has spent part of its advertising budget on the Rolex Awards, in which five 'Laureates' each win $100,000 dollars for their project, as well as an inscribed Rolex gold chronometer for themselves.
One of the five Laureates this year is David Lordkipanidze, a Georgian archaeologist who began excavating a deserted medieval village in the highlands of Georgia, but then suddenly discovered the remains of Palaeolithic people, dating back to 1.75 million years ago. But this was not Homo erectus, traditionally thought to be the 'first out of Africa', but a hominid considerably older, and here he tells the story of his discovery.
Two other Rolex Laureates are also briefly noted in our News Section. Claudia Feh is busy breeding Przewalski's (sha-val-ski) horse, the last remaining wild species of horse, which often figures in prehistory. And then in the Argentine, Teresa Manera de Bianco is preserving animal footprints made 12,000 years ago. The Rolex Awards are an imaginative innovation: perhaps other big advertisers might consider bending their budgets in archaeology's direction.
Another increasing source of funding is the American organisation, Earthwatch, which sends out volunteers to environmental projects around the world. Included in the fees is a substantial donation to those who run the projects, so that the volunteers make a double contribution both of their time and their money to support the chosen project. In Thailand, Professor Charles Higham, of Otago University in New Zealand, has been excavating a spectacular Bronze Age cemetery at Ban Non Wat, where recently he has been uncovering several stunning 'superburials'.
And then we look at the Garamantes, a hitherto unknown civilisation, in the Sahara Desert, 300 miles inland from the coast of Libya. The Roman Empire had a huge penumbra, as societies well beyond the Empire rose into prominence. The secret of the Garamantes' success is that they tapped the underwater supplies with a series of huge cisterns, and here Neil Faulkner describes their work, and the surprising sophistication of their towns.
From Egypt comes a moving story of the statue of Ramesses II. Found in 1882 in Luxor, it was later moved to a busy road junction in down-town Cairo, and is now about to be moved again, to a new museum just outside Cairo near the pyramids. It is the story, too, of a new project to record some of the major Egyptian sites by using a new method of laser scanning.
In addition, Neil Faulkner produces a typically provocative review of the new film of Alexander the Great - unlike the other critics, he liked it.