1. PARIS (AFP).- The Louvre museum will launch an appeal for one million euros in donations to restore The Winged Victory of Samothrace, a second-century BC marble statue of the Greek goddess Nike and one of the world's most famous sculptures.
The appeal will be launched by the famed Paris museum on Tuesday, the day the statue will be removed from its normal site at the top of an imposing staircase.
The Winged Victory is one of the Louvre's main attractions along with the Mona Lisa and a statue of
Venus de Milo. Sculpted in white and grey marble, the Winged Victory portrays the goddess standing on the prow of a ship. The headless figure was discovered in Samothrace in 1863.
The Daru staircase which houses the Samothrace statue will also be renovated "without shutting off this major access which is used by seven million visitors every year," museum official Ludovic Laugier told AFP.
The cost of the renovation will amount to four million euros both for the staircase and the statue. The museum has already raised three million euros ($3.9 million) in donations from Nippon Television Holdings, Fimalac and Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
Donations can be made online on www.louvresamothrace.fr and www.tousmecenes.fr. artdaily.org
2. SYDNEY (AFP).- Solving the mystery of how 900-year-old African coins ended up in remote Australia could not only recast the history of foreign contact Down Under, but shed light on Aboriginal rock art.
How the ancient Kilwa coins, believed to date from about 1100, came to be discovered on the Wessels Islands off the Northern Territory in 1944 has long posed questions about foreign visits to far off Australian shores.
Australian Ian McIntosh, a professor of anthropology at Indiana University-Purdue University in the United States, said rock art found on the islands -- which includes one image which appears to show a type of European sailing vessel -- could hold some clues.
"A big part of the next stage will be documenting, dating and interpreting (the art), together with indigenous peoples," McIntosh told AFP from his home in Indiana.
The Kilwa coins were discovered lying in the sand by Royal Australian Air Force radar operator Maurie Isenberg during World War II when he was stationed on the island as the Pacific conflict raged.
He found nine coins in all, five African copper pieces and four Dutch coins of European origin which are not nearly as old.
Isenberg initially tried to sell the coins but was unsuccessful. He put them away for decades and it wasn't until 1979 that he sent them to a museum for identification, along with a map showing where he had found them.
McIntosh said there were several theories on the coins, including that they were washed ashore after a shipwreck.
European sailors are known to have sailed the coast of Australia in the 1600s, but it wasn't until captain James Cook landed in Sydney's Botany Bay in 1770 that the British laid claim to the country.
The coins -- believed to have originated in the medieval sultanate of Kilwa, an area which is now in Tanzania -- have led to speculation that parts of northern Australia were visited by other mariners from as far away as the Middle East and Africa.
As McIntosh wrote in a recent paper for the journal "Australian Folklore", in terms of the chain of events in the discovery, "the argument for the involvement of Kilwa traders and also the Portuguese is quite compelling".
He notes the sea route from Kilwa in east Africa to Oman and then onto India, Malaysia and Australia's close neighbour Indonesia was well established by the 1500s and probably for many hundreds of years before that.
McIntosh said a number of his team felt the coins had simply been washed ashore but admitted "we're still toying with a whole bunch of ideas here".
The academic says one explanation could be that a known Indonesian, a shipwreck survivor who lived his life on the Wessels Islands, could have brought the coins to the area. The coins, he speculates, may have represented this man's "worldly wealth".
McIntosh said an expedition he led in July to the site where the coins were discovered, which involved an intensive search in the harsh terrain, had not uncovered any further coins.
"Over the past couple of years we've developed a whole series of hypotheses to explain how those coins might have got from East Africa to northern Australia," he said.
"The whole point of this initial site survey was to try and get enough evidence to push us in particular directions."
What the researchers did uncover was the Aboriginal rock art and some potential evidence of shipwrecks -- a not unlikely proposition given the dangerous reefs off the islands -- in the form of a six-foot piece of timber from a boat.
McIntosh said the scientists would work with indigenous people to look at the art and see whether it matches any known ship types, adding that there were multiple stories of interaction in the past with "different people -- black and white from somewhere else, not Aboriginal".
For now the mystery remains.
"These coins probably remained in circulation for a couple of hundred years but only in the vicinity of East Africa, beyond that they didn't have value," McIntosh said, adding that other coins of this type had only been found in Zimbabwe and Oman.
"Nowhere else in the world have they been found, except for northern Australia," said McIntosh. "Very unusual. That's had everybody puzzled."
3. PHILADELPHIA, PA.- As a repository of wide-ranging, international collections, original field notes and archival data from roughly 300 archaeological and anthropological expeditions around the world, the Penn Museum in Philadelphia is committed to open, global, digital access for scholars and the public. In 2012, celebrating the Museum's 125th anniversary, the Penn Museum launched two online projects to expand access to its collections and share information about its research history: the online Collections Database and interactive Research Map and Timeline. While those projects continue to grow, the Museum has partnered with Digital Antiquity to further expand research data access to scholars.
Increased Data, Accessibility on www.penn.museum
Launched in January 2012, the online Collections Database has gradually expanded over the past 18 months with a wealth of additional content. It now contains more than 332,851 object records representing 692,850 objects, and more than 90,000 images illustrating 34,067 object records. In addition to the growth in available data, the functionality of the online interface has also been improved, allowing more refined searching and browsing of the Museum’s collections, and—new this month—the ability for online visitors to download the Museum’s collections metadata to sort, study, and use it to suit their own research interests under a CC BY 3.0 Creative Commons license.
Launched in December 2012, the interactive Research Map and Timeline highlights many of the Museum's research projects since its founding in 1887. Initially, showcasing 125 projects
(commemorating the Museum’s 125th anniversary on December 6, 2012), the interactive website has now grown to include 267 research projects.
New Partnership with Digital Antiquity Expands Scholarly Access
Finally, in another recent expansion of scholarly access, the Penn Museum has partnered with Digital Antiquity—a collaborative non-profit organization devoted to enhancing preservation of and access to irreplaceable archaeological records and data—to provide free, open access to supplementary material from 19 books previously published by the Museum since 2000. This supplementary material—archaeological data sets, color images, and original field reports from scholarly expeditions—is now available online at tDAR—The Digital Archaeological Record—a unique digital repository for archaeological data. Previously provided on CDs or DVDs in the back of the Museum’s research publications, these supplementary materials are now available for download free of charge by registered tDAR users. Since tDAR’s content is indexed by major search engines, this collaboration exposes the Museum’s published digital content to searchers who may otherwise be unaware of these books and their associated digital media. The books themselves are available for purchase at the University of Pennsylvania Press (Penn Press) website. Supplementary materials are currently available for the following books: