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Posted on Wednesday, April 27 - 2005

Archaeologists have found a vast new network of royal tombs in Ethiopia, near the site where the 1,700-year-old Axum obelisk is to be re-erected. Experts using sophisticated imaging equipment discovered the burial chambers, even older than the obelisk, under a 1963 car park, said the UN. The stone monoliths were originally erected to mark burial sites for deceased members of the aristocracy. The final piece of the Axum obelisk was flown homefrom Italy on Monday.

The whole structure - seen as a national religious treasure - is to be re-erected in September following the Ethiopian rainy season. The obelisk was stolen by fascist Italian troops in 1937. The archaeological team which discovered the new burial sites was sent to Axum to prepare for the re-erection of the obelisk. Unesco Director-General Koichiro Matsuura said it was likely that some of the tombs were still intact. "The site is a royal necropolis used by several dynasties before the Christianera," Unesco said, adding that the network stretches far beyond the perimeter of the present World Heritage site. "The opening of these new tombs to the public would represent, moreover, an additional asset for the site, which, by boosting cultural tourism, would contribute to the economic development of the country," Mr Matsuura said.


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Posted on Monday, July 17 - 2006

News coming out of Zimbabwe has been surreal for quite some time, but from this month it could become even more so, as witchcraft and wizardry are legal again after a 107-year ban. But if President Robert Mugabe's new legislation is applied humanely then only good witches will find any solace in it, as the act prohibits the practice of witchcraft by people who use their supernatural powers to harm others.The 1899 prohibition which made it illegal to accuse anyone of being a witch or a wizard was perhaps a wise colonial decree because to this day throughout sub-Saharan Africa people accused of being witches are killed unpleasantly in traditional ceremonies which bypass national laws.Among the most recent recorded mass burnings of witches were thoseorganised by Angolan rebel leader Jonas Savimbi, who killed scores of women – and their children – on public bonfires after tapping into deeply held tribal beliefs about witchcraft.

In reality, the victims tended to be women who had refused Savimbi's sexual advances.But with inflation now at 1200% and a loaf of bread costing more than one million Zimbabwean dollars, some agree that you need a bit of magic to keep body and soul together.Professor Gordon Chavunduka, a former vice-chancellor at the University of Zimbabwe and chairman of the 50,000-strong Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers' Association, were delighted at Mugabe's thumbs-up to wizardry. “Witchcraft and tokoloshes are making a comeback, he said.Tokoloshes, familiar to anyone living in southern Africa, may stretch the imagination of even JK Rowling devotees, but Google has nearly 20,000entries devoted to these tiny demons who cause havoc out of all proportion to their size. First-time visitors to the region are often puzzled by the fact that so many Africans have their beds raised high on piles of bricks to prevent tokoloshes getting into bed with them. Women have a particularly good reason to fear tokoloshes as sleeping partners. The creatures arrive naked in the dead of night, though sometimes covered by a cloak which makes them invisible, and try to impregnate women. Vendors of muti (traditional medicine) all over southern Africa sell and advertise products for protection against tokoloshes.

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Posted on Wednesday, April 28 - 2004

The remains of 20,000 African men, women and children have lain beneath the busy streets of New York for 300 years, waiting to tell their stories on the extent of slavery in the city. In March 1992, leading African-America archaeologist Michael Blakey arrived at the burial ground in downtown Manhattan. "I had readabout these people documented as chattel, " he said.

"Now I was going to learn about these Africans in New York as human beings." A haunting sight greeted him. Being winter, work was taking place under a translucent plastic tent. "I'd really never seen an excavation like that one," he said. "There were mini excavators working and kerosene heaters going." "By the timeI got there, about a dozen burials were in the process of being exposed. One could see very clearly the positions that were meant to put them at peace when they were buried." Many had their arms crossed. One female skeleton had tiny bones by her side, suggesting a woman cradling a new born child. Read FullArticle

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Posted on Wednesday, May 18 - 2005

The first humans who left Africa to populate the world headed south along the coast of the Indian Ocean, Science magazine reports. Scientists had always thought the exodus from Africa around 70,000 years ago took place along a northern route into Europe and Asia. But according to a genetic study, early modern humans followed the beach, possibly lured by a seafood diet. They quickly reached Australia but took much longer to settle in Europe. Dr Martin Richards, of the University of Leeds, UK,who took part in the study, says the first humans may have moved south in search of better fishing grounds when stocks in the Red Sea dwindled due to climate change.

"That might have been the push that set them off," he told the BBC News website. It is thought that when the first modern humans evolved in Africa, they lived mainly on meat hunted from animals. But by 70,000 years ago, they had switched to a marine diet, largely shellfish. The new research suggests they moved along the coasts of the Arabian peninsula into India, Indonesia and Australia about 65,000 yearsago. An offshoot later led to the settlement of the Middle East and Asia about 30 to 40,000 years ago. The data comes from studies by two teams of scientists on the DNA of native people living in Malaysia and on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands between India and Burma. Scientists can estimate how closely related we are by studying the DNA of the energy producing parts of the cell, our mitochondria.


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