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Tuesday, October 16

The twelfth-century Umayyad Mosque in Aleppo’s walled Old City has been heavily damaged by fighting and fire this week. Rebel forces tried to push out government troops that have been camping in the mosque for months. The Old City is one of six UNESCO World Heritage sites in Syria; five of them have been damaged and an estimated 33,000 people have been killed in the conflict, which began in March 2011.

Archaeoastronomer Giulio Magli of the Politecnico of Milan thinks that the ancient city of Alexandria was built in a way that would highlight the power of Alexander the Great. He points out that the main east-west road through the city does not follow the coastline, but it does mark the position of the rising sun on the king’s birthday in the fourth century B.C. “With a slight displacement of the day, the phenomenon is still enjoyable in our times,” he said. The road would also have aligned with Regulus, the “King’s Star,” from the constellation Leo.

Images from Google Earth show lines that may represent a transportation network at Cambodia’s Angkor Wat. Researchers think the network may have been a series of canals used to transport millions of sandstone blocks from quarries to the building site. It had been thought that the Khmer shipped the stones by water over a much longer route.

An intact Roman grave was uncovered by a road crew in eastern Austria. “It was a child’s grave, which unusually for the time was a whole body burial and not a cremation. We have found milk teeth in the skull that will help us identify the age of the body,” said archaeologist Kurt Fiebig. Pottery and glass items had been buried with the young child.

A group of English school children discovered human bones in a cliff-side burial along the coast of the North Sea. “The location of the burial in the cliff, covered by many meters of sand, suggests that the burial took place in the distant past, perhaps several thousand years ago,” said archaeologist Rachel Grahame. The body had been buried in a crouched position, and no grave goods have been recovered.

A new archaeological investigation of Troy will begin next summer. “Our plan is to extend work to unexplored areas of the site and to systematically employ new technologies to extract information about the people who lived here thousands of years ago,” said William Aylward of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Troy was discovered in western Turkey by German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann in the 1870s. Less than 20 percent of the ancient city has been excavated.

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