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Monday, October 1
by Jessica E. Saraceni
October 1, 2012

The medieval souk in Aleppo, Syria, caught fire as fighting raged between rebels and government forces. Hundreds of shops have been destroyed. The souk, a major tourist destination and source of income, was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites in 1986. The area where it stood has been a market place for more than 2,000 years. “It’s part of the heritage of mankind that’s being destroyed,” a rebel fighter told a reporter. These photographs, taken by tourists, show Aleppo’s Old City in more peaceful times.

Museums around the world are responding to Turkey’s campaign to repatriate artifacts removed from the country after 1906, when the Ottomans made it illegal to export artifacts. Museum officials point out that in 1981, Turkey ratified a UNESCO convention allowing museums to acquire objects that were outside of their countries of origin before 1970. But Turkish officials now say that looting is wrong, no matter when it occurred. Egypt, Greece, and Italy have also been campaigning for the return of their artifacts.

The Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, which crosses the border between Kentucky and Tennessee, contains as many as 1,500 archaeological sites. Many of those sites are rock shelters where prehistoric peoples lived. The Mountain Dew rock shelter in particular is marked with holes dug by looters looking for prehistoric artifacts. “At this site we found 5,000-year-old points next to 1,200-year-old pottery. When looters dig for relics they mix things up to the point where we cannot separate them out,” said archaeologist Tom Des Jean.

Neanderthals and early modern humans may have lived side-by-side at Nahal Me’arot, a cave in northern Israel overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. “If that interbreeding did take place, it must have been here,” said archaeologist Daniel Kaufman.

A set of 11 bronze pen nibs dating to the early tenth century has been uncovered at a palace in Bulgaria’s Veliko Preslav historical and archaeological reserve. “The pen nibs were used during the time of the literary school of the First Bulgarian Kingdom of Simeon I of Bulgaria. They were in a separate bag and were used for the processing and making of books,” explained archaeologist Nikolay Ovcharov. The nibs are of different sizes and would have been used for writing and illustrating.

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