Archaeologists discover “Great Wall of Vietnam”

Archaeologists in central Vietnam have discovered what locals are calling the “Great Wall of Vietnam”, The Korean Times reports.

The wall is up to 4 meters (13 ft.) high in spots and stretches for 127 km (78 miles). While parts of it are an earth embankment instead of a stone wall, it’s still a major engineering feat and the longest monument in Southeast Asia. It’s almost as long as Hadrian’s Wall, the old Roman barrier between England and Scotland, and like Hadrian’s Wall has forts at regular intervals along its length.

Hiking Hadrian’s Wall is an awesome experience and has become increasingly popular in recent years. Perhaps Vietnam will add a Great Wall hike to the many attractions that draw tourists to their country.

Unlike its more famous namesake, the Great Wall of Vietnam is fairly recent. It was started in 1819 by order of the Emperor Gia Long of the Nguyen Dynasty, pictured here. It separated the lowlands from the northern mountains and was used not only for defense, but also to regulate trade.

[Photo courtesy Ledinhlong via Wikimedia Commons]

Zahi Hawass tells New York City: fix Cleopatra’s Needle or give it back

The Secretary General of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities has become famous in recent years for his regular television appearances and tireless campaign to preserve his nation’s heritage. Dr. Zahi Hawass has gotten the Met to return stolen artifacts and severed ties with the Louvre until they coughed up some of their own ill-gotten gains.

Now the fedora-wearing Egyptologist has a new location in his sights–New York City. On his blog he says Cleopatra’s Needle in Central Park has become “severely weathered”. He’s sent a letter to the president of the Central Park Conservancy and Mayor Bloomberg describing how some of the hieroglyphs had all but disappeared and that if they couldn’t take care of the obelisk, he’d “take the necessary steps” to bring it back to Egypt.

Dr. Hawass also posted photos showing the weathering the monument has suffered. With the city’s variable weather and acidic pollution, it’s not surprising it’s suffered damage. Manhattan news service DNAinfo, however, talked to Jonathan Kuhn, director of Arts & Antiquities for the Parks Department, who said the damage was done more than a century ago and that there’s no significant erosion happening now.

Considering the level of determination Dr. Hawass has shown in the past, expect to hear more about this story in the future.

(As a side note, “Cleopatra’s Needle” is misnamed. It was actually erected by the pharaoh Thutmose III around 1450 BC, centuries before Cleopatra was born. London and Paris have similar obelisks.)

[Photo courtesy user Ekem via Wikimedia Commons]

Archaeologists discover buried wall around the Sphinx

Archaeologists excavating at the Sphinx have discovered a 3,400 year-old wall around the famous monument.

The wall was built by the pharaoh Thutmose IV (reigned c. 1401-1391 BC) who had a dream in which the Sphinx told him it was choking on sand. The Sphinx itself was probably built during the reign of the pharaoh Khafra (c. 2558-2532 BC), who also built one of the nearby pyramids at Giza.

The archaeologists also found part of a settlement believed to have been for priests tending the cult of Khafra. Egyptian pharaohs were worshiped as gods and had temples dedicated to them. Some Roman Emperors also had mortuary cults and temples.

Now a modern wall is going up around Giza. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the number one tourist draw in the country, the Supreme Council of Egypt wants to keep away artifact hunters as well as the pushy touts who are one of the few downsides to a trip to Egypt.

[Photo courtesy LadyExpat via Gadling’s flickr pool]


Photo of the day (8.5.10)

This photo by narinnr from Kagoshima, Japan (the Naples of the East, says Wikipedia) captures a Ferris wheel built atop a shopping center next to the train station. How fun is that? Imagine if you could kill time between trains at Penn Station riding high above New York?! I’m partial to the Gravitron when choosing an amusement ride, although spinning around against centrifugal force is probably not so fun before a long train ride.

Even more interesting are the statues in front of the Ferris wheel, part of the Satuma students’ monument, dedicated to 19 Japanese students smuggled into Britain in 1865 to learn Western technology. Imagine being the first in your country to study abroad and being responsible for the start of the industrial revolution. Kinda makes a semester abroad in Prague drinking as much beer as humanly possible seem a little weak.

Do you have a photo that will inspire many Google and Wikipedia searches? Or maybe an interesting monument or an unusually-located amusement ride in your travels? Upload it to Gadling’s Flickr group and we might use it for a future Photo of the Day.

World Monuments Fund announces list of endangered treasures

The World Monuments Fund, a private organization battling to preserve the world’s great man-made wonders, has published a list of the most endangered monuments around the world.

It’s a depressing litany of priceless places that are under threat from a variety of factors, mostly related to human greed.

Some monuments are fantastic, such as the mountaintop monasteries of Phajoding in Bhutan, where centuries of peace and solitude are being disturbed by an increasing number of trekkers seeking peace and solitude.

Others are more mundane places that you might not even notice, yet they’re important artifacts of history, like the farm fields of Hadley, Massachusetts. When the Puritans first settled here in 1659 they replicated the system of open, narrow fields that they knew from England. The field system still exists today, but this legacy of America’s early settlers has now been rezoned for commercial and residential buildings, including a Wal-Mart Supercenter.

My own adopted country of Spain has seven entries to the list. The old medieval town of Avila (pictured here) is facing increasing pressure from new building, while Gaudí’s famous cathedral in Barcelona is threatened by the construction of a high-speed railroad right next to it. That a rich, moderately-sized country should have so many entries should come as no surprise to Spanish residents. “Developers” have been ruining the Spanish landscape for years, fueling a building boom that crashed last year and flung the country into a deep recession. The most glaring example of the rapacity of the Spanish real estate market is the coastline, where a ring of apartments, homes, and hotels encircle the country like a garrote. Some of this construction is illegal, but campaigners have had only limited success in stopping it.

The list has been published every two years since 1996 in order to bring attention to cultural heritage sites that are threatened by natural or man-made factors, although the bulk of them are man-made. Many of the sites that make it onto the list get sizable donations from the World Monuments Fund to help their caretakers preserve them.

Best of luck guys, given constantly expanding urban areas and a rising population, you’ll need it.