Gazan unearths ancient graves in vegetable patch

Abdel-Karim Cafran, a Palestinian resident of Beit Hanun, holds a pottery fragment at a freshly-discovered cemetery in the garden of his house in the town in the northern Gaza Strip, on Jan. 26, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 27 January 2018
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Gazan unearths ancient graves in vegetable patch

BEIT HANUN: When Abdul Karim Al-Kafarnah went to check the rainwater gushing down a hole in his garden he was in for quite a shock — hidden steps led him down to an ancient grave complex.
The 24-year-old lives in the Beit Hanoun district of the Gaza Strip by the Israeli border which suffered intensive bombardment during the 2014 conflict between the Israeli army and Palestinian militants.
The family home was destroyed and the surrounding plots heavily churned up, leaving extensive craters in the ground.
The flash-flooding earlier this week led him to one particular spot, where, on removing a large stone, he found a staircase leading four meters (13 feet) down into an ancient tomb.
“I discovered the place where the water was falling in,” he told AFP.
“I lifted the stone and a stale smell came out.”
As he descended he found a total of nine graves, with piles of bones in some of them — seemingly containing more than one body each. He also found votive lamps and other pottery.
Gaza-based archaeologist Ayman Hassouna said the finds suggested the grave dated back to the Roman era, 2,000 years ago.
“The burial and excavation methods in this tomb date it back to the Roman period but it may have continued in use into the early Byzantine period (5th to 7th centuries AD),” he said.
Professor Jodi Magness, an archaeologist at the University of North Carolina, said such tombs were relatively common in the Holy Land between 100 BC and 100 AD, and again between 300 and 500 AD.
“Typically, these were family tombs, or sometimes larger tomb complexes could be divided up among families,” she told AFP.
Gaza was a prosperous port in the Roman and early Byzantine periods and boasted many ancient monuments that have since been lost.


Rickshaw pullers fade from India’s streets

Updated 27 April 2018
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Rickshaw pullers fade from India’s streets

KOLKATA: Mohammad Maqbool Ansari puffs and sweats as he pulls his rickshaw through Kolkata’s teeming streets, a veteran of a gruelling trade long outlawed in most parts of the world and slowly fading from India too.
Kolkata is one of the last places on earth where pulled rickshaws still feature in daily life, but Ansari is among a dying breed still eking a living from this back-breaking labor.
The 62-year-old has been pulling rickshaws for nearly four decades, hauling cargo and passengers by hand in drenching monsoon rains and stifling heat that envelops India’s heaving eastern metropolis.
Their numbers are declining as pulled rickshaws are relegated to history, usurped by tuk tuks, Kolkata’s signature yellow taxis and modern conveniences like Uber.
Ansari cannot imagine life for Kolkata’s thousands of rickshaw-wallahs if the job ceased to exist.
“If we don’t do it, how will we survive? We can’t read or write. We can’t do any other work. Once you start, that’s it. This is our life,” he tells AFP.
Sweating profusely on a searing hot day, his singlet soaked and face dripping, Ansari skilfully weaves his rickshaw through crowded markets and bumper-to-bumper traffic.
Wearing simple shoes and a chequered sarong, the only real giveaway of his age is his long beard, snow white and frizzy, and a face weathered from a lifetime plying this disappearing trade.
Twenty minutes later, he stops, wiping his face on a rag. The passenger offers him a glass of water — a rare blessing — and hands a note over.
“When it’s hot, for a trip that costs 50 rupees ($0.75) I’ll ask for an extra 10 rupees. Some will give, some don’t,” he said.
“But I’m happy with being a rickshaw puller. I’m able to feed myself and my family.”