Monday, 25 June 2007


On the 10th of May 1959 was discovered the Petralona cave, which had been accidentally located by Philippos Chatzaridis. One year later (16-9-1960) the fossilized cranium of a prehistoric man, covered by stalagmitic material, was found by Christos Sariannidis. Followed a short report, published on the newspaper of Thessaloniki “Macedonia” (18-9-1960), astonishing the scientific world, because in Greece was never found before a prea- Homo sapiens skull.

The many questions raised were out of the field of the standard archaeological methodology, especially concerning the age of the find. The main tool for providing the answers, is the science of palaeoanthropology in combination with the stratigraphical, palaeolithical, palaeontological and archaeometrical data.

At that time, specialists in the particular subject, did not exist in Greece, and for that reason, Professors of the Thessaloninki University assumed the responsibility of keeping the human cranium. Same Professors, proceeded with surface collecting of animal bones, that were spread on the stalagmitical ground of the cave and invited from abroad two German scientists: the anthropologist E. Breitinger and the palaeontologist O. Sickenberg. At the same time, they also contacted the anthropologist Dr. Ar?s Poulianos at Moscow University, known by his thesis: “The origin of the Greeks” (first edition 1960), which was based on craniological and anthropometrical studies of modern Greek populations from Crimea to South Italy. With these studies, Aris Poulianos demonstrated that the Greek people are autochthonous, and that their roots are common to those of the ancient Greeks. By this thesis, he opposed the previous and widely accepted theories of the German anthropology, which classified Greeks among Slavic and other peoples.

Regarding the fauna and the man of the Petralona cave, Breitinger and Sickenberg (1964), came to the conclusion that they are of about 70.000 years old, while Breitinger affirmed also that, from the anthropological point of view, the cranium is so much similar to some African findings, that can be cosidered as the “first African out of Africa”. The Geological Department of Thessaloninki University adopted these conclusions, and furthermore, raised the hypothesis that the human skull drifted inside the cave by some kind of strimwater and thus no palaeontological or stratigraphical setting of the cranium can be sustained.

Aris Poulianos, after 1965 (year of his return from the former S. Union) continued his studies on the cranium and the Petralona cave. Contrary to Breitinger, he stated what today is considered as an established view, that the Petralona man presents a clearly European ancestral morphology, which is developed at the area of the South Eastern Europe. The almost perfect orthognathy, the shape of the dental arch, the construction of the occipital bone, were among others, the basic arguments of Aris Poulianos.

The need for systematic excavations and not only surface collection of findings was imperative. The realization of these excavations, was delayed due to the military coup in 1967, the removal of Aris Poulianos from every state job, but also because of his forced exile for a few months to the islands of Giaros and Leros. Despite all that, and with perseverance, in the spring of 1968, he managed to proceed with the first excavation of a cross-section in the Petralona cave. The excavations were ceased within a month in a dictatorial way, but the scientific conclusions which are announced to the Press (April 18th and 19th of 1968 and published in the journal “Archaeology” in January of 1971), are once again different from the previous studies. I.e., it is ascertained the existence of a cave stratigraphic sequence, which dates back more than 700.000 years and, the human presence in almost every geological layer. A presence that becomes evident from the discovery of palaeolithic tools of the same age and the traces of the most ancient -until today- traces of fire that was ever lit by human hand. These discoveries, revised not only the theories regarding the Petralona cave, but also all the previous beliefs about the exit of man from Africa and his arrival to Europe 200-300.000 years ago.

It was then when Sickenberg, complaining that he didn’t have comparative osteological material during the first study of the fossils in Thessaloninki, he asked for the findings to be send to him for a second study. Unfortunately, many of these findings were never returned. His new study (1971-1975) resulted in what he called “revision of the Petralona cave fauna”, which was in accordance with the age determined by A. Poulianos in 1968-1971.

The excavation and research continued when the dictatorship fell, basically from 1975 up to 1983, with permits given by the Ministry of Culture and the Archaeological Department. Since there was no other more qualified authority, the permits were edited in the name of Aris Poulianos as President of the Anthropological Association of Greece (A.A.G.). Worth to mention that thanks to his efforts the Department of Palaeoanthropology-Spelaeology of the Greek Ministry of Culture was established, with the hope of functioning in the future as the main institution of protecting the palaeoanthropological findings of Greece.

At the same time, the land of the cave was expropriated by the Greek Organization of Tourism (G.O.T.) and under special agreement, the scientific utilization (1979) of the cave and the findings were assigned to the Anthropological Association. On the expenses of the A.A.G., the building of laboratories for the needs of the excavations, and the construction of a Museum and several guest houses (1980/1), with a total capacity of 2.000 sq.m. went on.

The new conclusions, which resulted from the second excavating period, produce new evidence which is based on the studies of what is perhaps the biggest international scientific group ever formed for such a scientific topic (46 specialists, from 12 countries). The Ph.D. Professors B. Kourten (Finland), M. Kretzoi (Hungary), M. Ikeya (Japan), I. Horacek (Czech Republic), G. Belluomini (Italy), A. Moigne (France), R. Murrill (U.S.A.), are among the most sonorous names of the associates chosen by the Anthropological Company for staffing the research. From the Greek side the names of G. Maniatis of “Demokritos” (nuclear laboratory), G. Lyrintzis of the Athens Academy, S. Papamarinoppoulos of Patra University and C. Papastefanou of Thessaloniki University, should be mentioned.

Epigramatically, the new conclusions as a whole, apart from confirming, with the use of the most modern methods of absolute chronology, the age originally determined by Aris Poulianos, they also concern the stratigraphical relation of the cranium of the so called Archanthropus with various materials, which date back at about 700.000 years. The application of the most analytical excavating methods led to the discovery of remarkable findings like fossilized pieces of wood, an oak leaf, animal hair and coprolites. These methods also gave the possibility of correlation of various excavating sites from Siberia to England, as well as of the safest age control between them (through their stratigraphical and palaeontological horizons). The almost continuous presence of the stone and bone tools of the Archanthropus evolutionary stage, from the lower (~750.000 years) to the upper (~550.000 years) layers, showed his long lasting presence in the Chalkidiki area. Besides, the pattern of the evolutionary course in the area never stopped, since, anthropologically, Archanthropus’ nearest modern descendants was proved (already from 1973 at the 9th International Anthropological Cogress in Chicago by Aris Poulianos) are the nomads of Pindos mountains, known as Sarakatsani and in general, the inhabitants of the S. Balkans.

The author (son of Aris Poulianos) is Ph.D. in Anthropology of the Florence University and member of the International, European and Greek Anthropological Associations, working at the Department of Palaeoanthropology-Speleology of the Greek Ministry of Culture. In his doctoral thesis he proceeded to the research of a part of the Petralona cave findings and to the composition of the up today studies, examining also the opposite opinions that had resulted from time to time. In the preface of the thesis, the Director of the Florence Institute of Anthropology, professor Brunetto Chiarelli, quotes : “… The main evidence for concluding that the inhabitation of Europe amounts to at least 700.000 years, is the human cranium which was found in the Petralona cave … This work forms an offering of a highly European standard… with many original data about the antiquity, the conditions and way of life of this prehistoric man. Another side is the discerning but impartial presentation of the intense scientific disputes, in which were carried along and implicated even Greek governmental departments…”.

As previously mentioned, the excavations of Aris Poulianos continued until 1983. This occurred because they were interrupted for a second time, and obviously for reasons completely irrelevant to science. Any access was denied to the members of his team so much to the excavations, as well as to the findings, something that is opposed to every concept of human and research rights. As a result of this, for 15 years the findings remained inaccessible to study and kept at the mercy of deterioration, inside the Museum. One approach to the reasons caused this situation is the fact that the evident target was: a) to conceal the extend of errors which preceded the A.A.G. excavations and b) to prevent the extraction of whatever new scientific conclusions remained yet hidden, so much in the unpublished findings of the Museum, as well as in the sediments of the cave. In relation to the above, an analytical memorandum was submitted to the bureau of the Ministry of Culture in September of 1994. In this, is reported with clarity that besides the efforts (manifested even in official meetings) of snatching away intellectual work, the Ministry’s position after 1983 mainly favored the competitive, mostly foreign, institutions that are involved with relative studies. Because it is perfectly clear that the braking of the research of Aris Poulianos gave the chance to the excavators and researchers from abroad, to reconstruct and reorganize their theories on similar matters. As a result our country was deprived of the advances that was deserved.

In 1997 the Anthropological Association of Greece, after 15 years of trials, was justified by the Supreme Court and was ordered the continuation of its works in the cave. Since then the G.O.T. and the Ministry of Culture are trying in any way to overcome the Courts Decisions (p. ex. by stopping the water and telecommunications supply, or even by changing the low). Such a tactic is not acceptable by the A.A.G. and further trials proceed.

In conclusion, and on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the greatest discovery of the century in the field of Anthropology, one may say that from the Anthropological Association of Greece all means possible for the protection of the findings and for the projection of their great scientific importance were disposed. With or without the help of the state, it is a necessity but also an obligation for this effort to be continued. The anthropologists by the nature of their studies cannot be anything but optimistic. And this, because they are taught and they teach (in spite of some steps backwards) the almost constant biological, social and spiritual evolution of man, and a unique milestone of this evolution is the Petralona Archanthropous.

Note : The above text is here updated, originally published in the magazine “Mandragoras”, v. 10-11, January-April 1996.

By Dr. Nickos A. Poulianos, President of the Anthropological Association of Greece

Saturday, 2 June 2007

Ancient Greek Computing

One of the most-read articles in the May 14 edition of The New Yorker is a feature by John Seabrook about the The Antikythera Mechanism. The 2000-year old Greek instrument, fragments of which were hauled up from a shipwreck in the Aegean Sea where they were discovered in 1901, has been an object of fascination and puzzlement for generations of scientists who have tried to determine the instrument’s function.

But recently, the custom development of a 3D X-ray machine has provided computer tomography images that have enabled scientists to decipher a written user’s manual beneath the corroded surface of the fragments. Those findings were published in a letter in the November 30, 2006, edition of Nature.

Referred to by some as the world’s first computer, the geared box, now believed to have been used for predicting eclipses and other cosmic events, is held up as a rare piece of evidence of Greek superiority in technological development. Seabrook describes the first X-ray images of the mechanism’s innards as “a geared embryo—the incipient bud of an industrial age that remained unborn for a millennium.”

A slideshow of the images can be found at The New Yorker, and a replica of the instrument goes on display at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan later this month as part of its new exhibit, Gods, Myths, and Mortals: Discover Ancient Greece.

You can also hear Greek physicists, Xenophon Moussas and John Seiradakis, members of the Antikythera Mechanism Research Project, describe the amazing object in a Science & the City podcast.

Archaeologists find rare fruit, textiles in Greece

Archaeologists find rare fruit, textiles in Greece

Athens, May 10 : Greek archaeologists have discovered a rare find of textiles and fruit dating back over 2,600 years in a bronze funeral urn in northern Peloponnese.

The seventh-century BC urn, dating between the Late Geometric and the Early Archaic era, contained ash, bones and pomegranate fruits. It was found in a construction site near the city of Argos, approximately 150 km west of Athens, the culture ministry said Wednesday.

"Preserved organic matter from ancient times is extremely rare," the ministry said in a statement, adding that the "important find" is among the earliest ever found in the antiquities-rich area.

The city of Argos was considered a regional power in ancient Greece and a rival to neighbouring Sparta.

Ancient fabric discovery

Sunday, May 13, 2007 12:19 AM CDT

Associated Press Writer

Archaeologists in Greece have discovered a rare 2,700-year-old piece of fabric inside a copper urn from a burial they speculated imitated the elaborate cremation of soldiers described in Homer's "Iliad."

The yellowed, brittle material was found in the urn during excavation in the southern town of Argos, a Culture Ministry announcement said Wednesday

"This is an extremely rare find, as fabric is an organic material which decomposes very easily," said archaeologist Alkistis Papadimitriou, who headed the dig. She said only a handful of such artifacts have been found in Greece.

The cylindrical urn also contained dried pomegranates -- offerings linked with the ancient gods of the underworld -- along with ashes and charred human bones from an early 7th century B.C. cremation.

Papadimitriou said the material was preserved for nearly 3,000 years by the corroding copper urn. "Copper oxides killed the microbes which normally destroy fabric," she told The Associated Press.

Conservation experts from Athens will work on the fragile find.

"Our first concern is to save it," Papadimitriou said. "Afterward, it will undergo laboratory tests to tell us about the precise fabric and weaving techniques."

The burial was the only cremation among a half-dozen closely grouped graves found on the plot, which was scheduled for development.

"Cremation was very unusual in Argos, and this too makes it a special find," Papadimitriou said. "In my opinion, an affluent citizen may have wanted to imitate a funerary custom described by Homer to stand out among his peers buried nearby -- who were not cremated."

The poet's "Iliad" and "Odyssey" enjoyed huge popularity throughout Greece. Composed during the 8th century B.C, and thought to be inspired by a war four centuries earlier, the Iliad describes slain heroes being cremated in elaborate funerals, which fell out of fashion in later times.

Modern Argos in the northern Peloponnese, some 90 miles south of Athens, is built on top of one of the most famous cities of ancient Greece. Also named Argos, the ancient city was mentioned by Homer as the seat of a Mycenaean hero-king who fought with the Greek army in Troy. It flourished throughout antiquity.

British urged to flick marbles to Greece

5:00AM Tuesday May 29, 2007

The Elgin marbles are a huge tourist attraction at the British Museum.

The New Zealand Parliament's call for Britain to return the Elgin marbles to Greece has been welcomed by the NZ Parthenon marbles committee.

Last week in Wellington, MPs unanimously backed a motion that one of the world's longest-running diplomatic rows be ended with the marbles' return to Athens.

The Elgin marbles, known in Greece as the Parthenon marbles, are a series of friezes and sculptures removed from the Acropolis above Athens by British diplomat Lord Elgin 200 years ago. They are now housed in the British Museum.

Britain has refused to return the marbles, saying they are best preserved in London, where they are a major attraction.

Last week, Greek Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis made a flying visit to New Zealand and, on Thursday, Parliament passed this motion in the name of Wellington Central MP Marian Hobbs: "That this House joins its voice to that of other countries and urges the British Government to support the return of the Parthenon (Elgin) marbles to Greece, stressing the need for the collections of marbles in different locations to be reunited so the world can see them in their original context in relation to the Temple of Parthenon as an act of respect to one of the most significant monuments of Western heritage."

Committee chairman Bruce Blades said the stripping of the marble sculptures when Greece was under Turkish rule had been controversial for years.

"Lord Elgin sold the marbles to the British Government, which holds them in the British Museum," Mr Blades said.

"Half are in Athens and half are in London. Countries throughout the world are joining the call for the marbles to be reunited so that the magnificence of these sculptures can be truly appreciated in the place of their origin."


Clay pots found at ancient Greek shrine

Miniature pottery vases and statuettes are seen buried in a ritual pit at an ancient shrine discovered in Orchomenos, central Greece. The ministry said archaeologists found thousands of offerings at the shrine, which was dedicated to fertility goddesses.

ATHENS (AP) — Archaeologists in central Greece have discovered thousands of miniature clay pots and statuettes in the ruins of an ancient sanctuary possibly dedicated to the Three Graces, officials said on Wednesday.
In volume, it is one of the richest finds in recent years.

Excavations near Orchomenos, 80 miles northwest of Athens, revealed sparse remains of retaining walls from a small rural shrine, a Culture Ministry statement said.

But a rock-carved shaft was found to contain thousands of pottery offerings, dating from the early 5th century B.C. until at least the 3rd century B.C, the statement said.

The finds included miniature pots, clay figurines of women and animals, as well as clay busts and lamps.

FIND MORE STORIES IN: Athens | Greece | Archaeologists | Clay | Greek culture
"The identity of the deities worshipped there is not yet clear, but it is certain that they were goddesses associated with plant growth and fertility," the ministry statement said.

It said a famous sanctuary of the Three Graces — deities of growth and beauty — was known to have stood in ancient Orchomenos, and one of the offerings was inscribed with the name of Eurynome, mother of the Graces.

The world's oldest wooden anchor was discovered

The world's oldest wooden anchor was discovered during excavations in the Turkish port city of Urla, the ancient site of Liman Tepe -- the Greek 1st Millennium BCE colony of Klazomenai, by researchers from the Leon Recanati Institute for Maritime Studies of the University of Haifa. The anchor, from the end of the 7th century BC, was found near a submerged construction, imbedded approximately.1.5 meters underground.

The cooperative project between the University of Haifa and Ankara University sparked local interest, not only in marine archaeology, but also in the team of Israeli archaeologists. Israeli-Turkish relations have had their ups and downs over the past few years, but the cooperation between the Institute for Marine Studies at the University of Haifa and Ankara University has continually strengthened. In 2000, Prof. Hayat Erkanal of Ankara University invited Prof. Michal Artzy and scholars from the University of Haifa to join them in archaeological excavations in the port of Urla, a port city located near Izmir, with more than 5,000 years of maritime history. Remnants of an ancient port were uncovered during the excavations.

The finds revealed that the port, which served the ancient Greek settlement of Klazomenai, sunk following a natural disaster, probably an earthquake, in the 6th century BC. As there is no record of any such event occurring during this period, the actual cause of port's destruction remains a mystery.

During the recent excavation season, it became clear that a wooden log that was found wedged into the ground at the bottom of the ancient harbor in 2003 is actually a wooden anchor with a metal-covered crown. The anchor was found wedged into the ground one and a half meters below the surface and was dated from the end of the 7th century BC, which makes it the oldest wooden anchor found to date.

"In addition to the damage it caused to the port, the natural disaster that hit the area also destroyed the area of the city that was built along the coast. As soon as we finish uncovering the finds of the harbor we will know more about this period and perhaps we will know what actually caused the disaster," said Prof. Michal Artzy, who leads the University of Haifa team of researchers.

The excavations not only revealed interesting archaeological finds. For six years, while excavating the site, the researchers from the University of Haifa trained teams of divers and marine archaeologists from Ankara University, which is now opening a new institute for marine studies. During the years of excavations, the local community welcomed the Israelis with warm hospitality. Fascinated with their guests, the community began to research its own Jewish roots, and two forgotten Jewish cemeteries were recently discovered in the city.

The team from Haifa will return for a seventh season of cooperative excavations this summer. The "Haifa House", which was built to house the Israeli staff, with the help of the City of Urla and the Turkish Minister of Culture, is awaiting their arrival.

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"300" and the real story
Sat, 19 May 2007 19:43:23

The Hollywood flick 300 was at number one on the US Box Office chart for several weeks scoring sharp criticism especially from Iranians.

They rightfully protested that Iranians were ridiculed in the film and portrayed badly. Before a review of the film, let us look at the historical background of the Battle of Thermopylae, on which the film was based.

The Greek historian, Herodotus, is our major source of information on the battle that took place during the late 480s B.C. in Thermopylae, Greece, although his account of the battle, like all of his battle narratives, has a tendency towards exaggeration and is somewhat romanticized.

According to Herodotus, Xerxes, the Persian Achaemenid King, begins preparations to invade Greece in 481 B.C. by first sending ambassadors demanding 'earth and water', effectively their submission. He then marches toward Greece with an army of five million (although the Encyclopedia Britannica puts the number at only 360,000).

Xerxes and his army march to Sardis in present day Turkey, where they spend the winter.

Meanwhile, in the spring of 481 B.C. King Leonidas of Sparta, which was among the most powerful states in ancient Greece, calls a conference with other Greek states. The Spartans preside over the conference and make a series of political resolutions.

The allies decide to end all wars among themselves and declare war against Persia.

The Spartans know Xerxes and his Persian army are on their way and so they send a force to north under their king, Leonidas.

Herodotus, surely exaggerating, states there were 1,700,000 Persians against 7,000 Greek fighters including the 300 men of the Spartan King elite guard.

The Spartans decide to build a wall to defend themselves from a frontal assault. However, the basis of King Leonidas' strategy is that the Persians will arrive only by a certain road. When he discovers there is a well-disguised path in the mountains at their left flank along which an army could easily move, he stations a defense force of 1,000 Phocians in a streak of panic.

However, the Malians, who live near Thermopylae and are hostile to the Phocians, decide to inform Xerxes of the Phocians forces.

Ephialtes does just that and at the end of the third day of fighting Xerxes sends his immortal foot soldiers around the wall.

The Persians prepare themselves for an attack against the Spartans and there are three days of attacks by the Persians against the Spartans.

Herodotus writes when the Phocians hear that the Persians are coming they flee to the hilltops while a few report the news to King Leonidas, who then calls his forces together and dismisses the vast majority of the allies.

Therefore, King Leonidas is left with his 300 Spartan soldiers, armed helots and some of Boectians.

On the dawn of the fourth day, they prepare to die. The Persians come around on both sides and the Spartans are slaughtered. Leonidas dies and his men fight until the last man is down.

The result is that the road to Greece is now wide open. The Spartans have succeeded in delaying the Persians for a few days. They have inflicted thousands of casualties (although the actual figure cannot be verified). However, their major achievement is in the validation of the prime Spartan myth-self-sacrifice and undying loyalty to the State. They demonstrated that even a Spartan king is prepared to fight to the death.

Ultimately, the largest benefit to the Spartans is the growing legend that gives rise to stories illustrating Spartan courage.

Today, people tend to view the recent Hollywood account of this battle historically and criticize the film politically. However, that would be misguided. 300 is based on a comic book written in 1998 and is just like another picture based on Frank Miller's work, Sin City. The point is to make the comic book come to life. It is action, entertainment, and popcorn fun.

The visuals in 300 are all invented. The real Xerxes had a beard and never went near the front line. There was relatively little freedom in Sparta and daily life was highly controlled even by ancient Greek standards. Their society was rigid, strict and involved a caste system.

The helots, descendants of an earlier conquered race, were enslaved and forced to labor on large states. They were enslaved for life and closely watched by the secret police of the time, the Krypteia. When Spartan warriors were in shortage, helots were forced into the military.

Sparta did not produce much literature, art, architecture or other advancements that we could associate with great civilizations of the ancient world like the Persian Empire.

Cyrus the Great, the founder of the Persian Empire, was described as a liberator and an ideal ruler in the Bible and by Greek historian Xenephon.

In all 300 is not a film to be taken seriously; it is what it is - a cartoon in bad taste.


India Works to Shield Traditional Knowledge from Modern Copyrights

A new digital library in India is safeguarding ancient knowledge from patents, which can force royalty payments for knowledge that is common in that part of the world. NewsHour correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro reports from New Delhi.

RAY SUAREZ: Now, safeguarding ancient knowledge in a digital library in India. Special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro reports from New Delhi.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO, NewsHour Correspondent: The healing art of yoga goes back thousands of years in India. But over the past three decades, it's become a billion-dollar industry in the U.S. Yoga guru Balmukund Singh is proud of the Indian export, but when he hears that some asanas, or postures, have been copy-written by Indians who have moved to the U.S., Singh gets, well, forgive me, tied up in knots.

BALMUKUND SINGH, Yoga Guru (through translator): This is our cultural heritage. It's ours. How can anybody else patent this? If they invent it, they can patent it. But this is originally an Indian thing. Our sages long ago developed and demonstrated it.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: It's not just yoga. In 1997, a Texas company got a patent on basmati rice, which meant that it would get a royalty payment when anyone else sold rice by that name. The Indian government filed 50,000 pages of evidence to show that basmati rice grown in India for centuries was essentially the same stuff. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office finally revoked the basmati patent in 2001.

India's markets are filled with herbs and plants that, over the centuries, have been concocted into remedies for almost every ailment. It's a medicine chest that Dr. V.K. Gupta says is raided all the time by companies and individuals in the West.

Fred de Sam Lazaro
NewsHour correspondent

In the '90s, two Indian-American university researchers got a U.S. patent for turmeric, saying they've discovered its wound-healing properties. Once again, India's government fought to have the claim invalidated.

Elements of Indian culture
V.K. GUPTA, Director, Traditional Knowledge Digital Library: Every year, at least 2,000 wrong patents are getting awarded on India's system of knowledge, like turmeric for wound healing, which should not get granted.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The turmeric refers to is a mainstay of Indian cooking, but for centuries turmeric has also been used for medicinal purposes, applied to skin rashes and wounds.

In the '90s, two Indian-American university researchers got a U.S. patent for turmeric, saying they've discovered its wound-healing properties. Once again, India's government fought to have the claim invalidated.

Dr. Gupta says the problem is patent offices depend on accessible, understandable documentation to check on the validity of a claim. And that's just what India's government, under his leadership, aims to provide.

It's called TKDL, Traditional Knowledge Digital Library. The ambitious project began in 2002 and is transferring 5,000 years of ancient texts onto a digital database in Hindi, English and eventually French, Spanish and Japanese.

Dozens of scholars spend their day pouring over photocopies of ancient manuscripts. They'll eventually catalog architecture, music and the arts, but the first task is formidable enough: medical knowledge. There are three main healing traditions reflecting India's varied history and geography.

There is Unani, a system begun in ancient Greece, developed later by Arabs, and brought to India by traders and rulers. Unani texts can be in Persian, Urdu, or Arabic, all sharing the same script.

Nearby are desks for Siddha, a medical science developed in south India. These texts are in Tamil. On the other side is Ayurveda, in the ancient language of Sanskrit. Tens of thousands of drug formulations, or ingredients, are buried in verse, says Dr. Jaya Saklani Kala.

Dr. Jaya Saklani Kala
Ayurvedic Physician

Earlier, what the teachers, arajayas, used to do was, they used to transfer the knowledge orally.

Archiving 30 million pages
DR. JAYA SAKLANI KALA, Ayurvedic Physician: Earlier, what the teachers, arajayas, used to do was, they used to transfer the knowledge orally.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: So it was put into verse form so that the students could read them?

DR. JAYA SAKLANI KALA: Easily memorize them. Later on, it was penned down.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Some 30 million pages will eventually go from pen to hard drive. If a patent office in the West gets an application, they'll be able to check this new library for existing knowledge, or prior art, before granting a patent.

V.K. GUPTA: Through the route of TKDL, now we are giving access to the patent offices, several patent offices we are in dialogue with -- instead of stealing, we want to have a system when both collaborate with each other.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Not everyone is that optimistic. There's worry that putting the knowledge in one place will make it easier for those looking to steal ideas. And when there is a false patent claim, poor countries simply won't have the means to challenge it, says Devinder Sharma, an activist on biotechnology issues.

Devinder Sharma
Trade Policy Activist

Thousands of patents are being drawn every week in America on plant-based remedies and plant-based products.

Preventing exploitation
DEVINDER SHARMA, Trade Policy Activist: Thousands of patents are being drawn every week in America on plant-based remedies and plant-based products. What happens is that, when the company draws a patent, you know, and somebody challenges it, then you have to go on building up a huge battery of, you know, not only lawyers with them, but also a whole lot of research to challenge those cases in America.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: For his part, Dr. Gupta says patent offices will be better able to police false patent claims themselves by using the new library.

V.K. GUPTA: No patent examiner would ever like to grant a wrong patent. It is not in his interest.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: At the same time, he says access to the library will be strictly limited and regulated to prevent unscrupulous exploitation.

V.K. GUPTA: We will draw experts from all disciplines. Our view is for every country who is the holder of such resources must designate a national competent authority of experts and that authority must negotiate with the user of that knowledge so there is some level playing field.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Ultimately, Dr. Gupta hopes joint projects with drug and biotechnology companies can revitalize research in India's traditional systems, which languished under British colonial rule. In time, he says, the marriage of ancient plant-based remedies, the library will catalog at least 150,000 of them with modern biotechnology, and create effective new drugs for the world and an economic bonanza for India.

Step one in all of this: The library on traditional medical knowledge, including yoga, is expected to be complete by the end of this year.

Albania seeks return of antiquities from Greece

Albania has asked Greece for a quick return of two archaeological relics which had been stolen from Albania and housed in Greece, local media reported on Monday.

The Apollon statue of the second century A.D. was stolen from Butrint, a UNESCO site in the southern part of Albania, and the Artemis statue of the third century B.C. from Finiq.

Both objects were stolen and smuggled into Greece when Albania was caught in turmoil after the infamous pyramid scheme collapsed, it was reported.

Albanian Culture Minister Ylli Pango and his Greek counterpart George Vulgaraqis held talks over the issue of their restitution on May 19 in Greece.

"Vulgaraqis promised a quick return of the two relics which are now housed in the Piraeus Museum," Albanian ministry of culture said in a statement.