FIVE INCH EMERALD FOUND
Jamie Hill, excavator of the noted Carolina Queen and Carolina Prince emeralds, may have finally found what he's sought since he dug up his first quartz crystal at age 6.
Recently, blasting with dynamite on his 100 acres about 50 miles northwest of Charlotte in Alexander County, he found the second piece of what he says is the largest natural emerald crystal discovered in North America, and possibly the world. He saw the first piece Tuesday, and realizing its top had been sheared off, kept digging nearby for its match.
"I've been chasing this belief that the finest emeralds are in North Carolina and in this little town," Hill, 39, said at his mother's bed and breakfast, the Hidden Crystal Inn.
Glued together into its original formation, the emerald weighs an estimated 1,861.9 carats, Hill said. The previous largest natural North American emerald weighed 1,686 carats and was found on Hill's property in the early 1980s, although not by him.
The emerald stick juts out of a lumpy bed of muscovite, calcite, pyrite and other crystals. It is as wide as a silver dollar and at its longest point, five inches.
"In other word, it's a hog's leg," Hill said.
Last year, Hill found two joined emeralds on his property, weighing about a combined 140 carats, that gem experts at the time said put America on the world emerald map. In 1998, he found an 88-carat emerald that he later cut into the 18.8-carat Carolina Queen and 7.8-carat Carolina Prince.
The Prince sold for $500,000, and the Queen has offers in the millions.
Hill has spent the last year and a half raising money to dig again. When he started dynamiting again this week, he quickly uncovered a quartz vein blocking a 6-by-12-foot cave covered with more crystals than he's ever seen.
He watched "The Wizard of Oz" on TV that night, his favorite movie, and the next morning found what he called "Emerald City," the first piece, a nearly 1,300-carat emerald in the cave's doorway.
At auction, the emerald could bring between $2 million and $5 million, Hill estimates.
The find is likely just the start in proving the area's worth to the gem industry for good, Hill said.
"Emeralds love company; they hate to travel alone," he said. "Usually the deeper you go in the pocket, the solutions (of minerals) are better."
The cave's depth is impossible to estimate because it is honeycombed like floors in a skyscraper, Hill said. "I just busted into an Aladdin's cave," he said.
From the Charlotte Post, submitted by David M. Wolan, Charlotte, NC.
RELICS DATED 30,000 YEARS OLD
A people who may have been ancestors of the first American lived in Arctic Siberia, enduring one of the most unforgiving environments on Earth at the height of the Ice Age, according to researchers who discovered the oldest evidence yet of humans living near the frigid gateway to the New World.
Russian scientists uncovered a 30,000-year-old site where ancient hunters lived on the Yana River in Siberia, some 300 miles north of the Arctic Circle and not far from the Bering land bridge that then connected Asia with North America.
"Although a direct connection remains tenuous, the Yana... site indicates that humans extended deep into the Arctic during colder (Ice Age) times," the authors wrote in a study appearing this week in the journal Science.
The researchers found stone tools, ivory weapons and the butchered bones of mammoths, bison, bear, lion and hare, all animals that would have been available to hunters during that Ice Age period.
Using a dating technique that measures the ratios of carbon, the researchers determined the artifacts were deposited at the site about 30,000 years before the present. That would be about twice as old as Monte Verde in Chile, the most ancient human life known in the American continents.
Donald Grayson, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Washington in Seattle, said the discovery is very significant because it is so much earlier than any other proven evidence of people living in the frigid lands of Siberia that formed the gateway to the Americas.
"Until this site was reported, the earliest site in Bering land bridge area was dated at about 11,000 years ago," Grayson said. "Every other site that had been thought to have been early enough to have something to do with peopling of the New World has been shown not to be so."
At the time of the Yana occupation, much of the high latitudes on the Earth were in the grip of an ice age that sent glaciers creeping over much of what is now Europe, Canada and the northern United States.
But the Yana River area was ice-free, a dry flood plain without glaciers. It was home to mammoth, horse, musk ox and other animals that provided food for the human hunters who braved Arctic blasts to live there.
"Abundant game means lots of food," Julie Brigham-Grette of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, said in Science. "It was not stark tundra as one might imagine."
Among the artifacts found at the Yana site were weapons that resembled some found at a Clovis, NM, site dated around 11,000 years old. But Grayson and others said the evidence is weak linking those implements to the tool and weapon techniques used by the Clovis people. Similar artifacts have also been found in Europe and western Asia, Grayson said.
"The similarities (in the tools and weapons) are not enough to prove they were ancestral to the Clovis people in the New World," Grayson said.
Some experts, however, still hold out hope that the new discovery provides important new clues about the ancient migration from Asia to the Americas.
Finding evidence of human habitation at the Yana site "makes it plausible that the first peopling of the Americas occurred prior to the last glacial maximum," Daniel Mann of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, said in Science. The last glacial maximum was 20,000 to 25,000 years ago.
Grayson and others, however, said more evidence is needed before it becomes widely accepted that it was people from the Yana site who migrated to the New World.
The major problem, Grayson said, is that archaeological evidence for human dwellings in Siberia is still very sparse. Also, there is a gap of thousands of years between the 30,000-year-old Yana site and other sites in Asia and the Americas.
There was no physical barrier to going to the Americas from Asia during that period. The Bering land bridge connected the two continents until about 11,000 years ago, when a rising sea level flooded the connection and created what is now called the Bering Strait between Russia and Alaska.
"Getting people across to the New World was not the problem," Grayson said. "The problem was getting people into that part of the world so they could cross."
And the evidence that this happened from the Yana site, he said, is still unpersuasive.
From the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, submitted by Ron Paul Smith, Honolulu, HI.
ODD MIXTURE OF LUCK, COINCIDENCE AND CIRCUMSTANCE
What are the chances of finding a ring that slips off your finger while you're swimming and sinks to the bottom of a lake? Thomas L. Harrison of Glasgow, KY, would have guessed they were slim to none, until he got a call several days ago from Jim Ford of Louisville. To Harrison's surprise, Ford asked him to describe the high school ring he had lost in 1974 while swimming with his girlfriend at the beach at Barren River Lake State Resort Park.
"He described it to a T," Ford said. "He couldn't believe that 30 years later, somebody had found the ring." The ring's curious return path to Harrison is even more remarkable. "My grandfather and one of his buddies used to do a lot of metal detecting," Ford recalled.
"He passed away a few years ago and we were cleaning out the house and doing a few things, and I noticed this jar of rings. I started going through them and noticed this one inscribed, "Temple Hill High School, 1965," and it had the initials T.L.H. on the inside.
"I asked my uncle if he cared if I tried to find the owner of the ring, and he said, "Good luck." Ford, 35, who works at the Ford Kentucky Truck Plant, had never heard of Temple Hill High School, which closed in the early 1970s and was recently torn down, but he and his friend used the internet to find Temple Hill Elementary in Barren County.
Ford later reached the school librarian by phone, and she located a 1965 Temple Hill High yearbook and matched the initials in the ring with senior class member Thomas L. Harrison.
With this information Ford was able to reach Harrison. "Where I actually lost the ring I had been out in water over my head," Harrison remembered. "I didn't know exactly when it fell off. I just came up out of the water one time and noticed it was gone." Harrison, now 58 and a longtime employee of Sarah Lee Baking Group, Inc., said he had tried to find the ring when it was lost, but he finally gave up.
In later years he noticed the lake sometimes backed up over the beach house and he never dreamed the ring would ever be found. Ford's grandfather, Art Cooper, who lived in the Valley Station area of Jefferson County, is believed to have located the ring in the early 1980s while searching the Barren River shoreline during the months when the lake was at winter pool, many feel below summer levels.
Still, the odd mixture of luck, coincidence and circumstance that led to the ring's recovery so many years after it was lost, then caused Jim Ford to choose that ring from among a whole jar full of others including several class rings that he found in his grandfather's possessions years later, then enabled him to track down its owner, were enough to leave both Harrison and Ford scratching their heads. Ford returned the ring to Harrison a few days ago, and Harrison gave Ford a clock with an inscribed plaque thanking him for his act of kindness. "To have someone go to the trouble he had to go through to find me I just really appreciate it."
From the Louisville Courier, submitted by Steve Kweskin.
VIETNAM DISPLAYS HANOI RUINS THAT DATE TO SEVENTH CENTURY
Surrounded by metal fences to keep out the curious, the mammoth pit stretching over a city block in the heart of Hanoi contains relics from a sweeping range of history.
It is Vietnam's most important archaeological find, researchers say: Layers of different citadels built on top of each other and millions of artifacts, some as old as 1,400 years, others as new as French colonial times, which ended 50 years ago.
Among the discoveries so far are intricate ceramic fixtures adorned with dragons and birds; countless bowls, plates and vases; brick imported from China and elaborate drainage systems and stone wells. Storage rooms overflow with other artifacts that appear perfectly preserved, while imprints of an ancient river and lake remain littered with broken objects.
"The ancient citadel for us represents a long period of national history and construction," said lead archaeologist Tong Trung Tin, who hopes it will gain recognition as a UNESCO cultural heritage site.
"It is the center of politics, economics and culture."
Said Vietnamese historian and legislator Duong Trung Quoc, standing above the dig site: "You cannot quantify and qualify the national pride... I am very proud."
These and other officials, who gave foreign journalists a tour of the fortress site recently, explained how workers in Hanoi began excavating the area near Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum a year ago. Since then, 1,400 laborers, earning $2.60 a day, have scraped and dug 13 feet deep.
In addition to the cultural artifacts, workers also found graves and the bones of two children, between ages 8 and 12, and another skeleton.
Only a small part of the citadel foundation has been unearthed so far, and archaeologists say they're just getting started.
The excavated area is only 4 acres, and the structure underneath was believed to cover up to 346 acres under the Le Dynasty, during the 15th to 18th centuries.
But while more buildings will be razed for the project, officials say a busy road and adjacent property occupied by the military will likely keep them from uncovering the entire site.
Vietnam's communist government has allocated $2 million for the excavation, with $1.3 million already spent, said Tin, the lead archaeologist.
Several international organizations have expressed interest in paying for further excavation and to protect the site from bad weather, he said. Currently, most of the area remains open or shielded only by makeshift burlap covers.
Tin said wars and occupations kept archaeologists from exploring the site they suspected existed all along. They did not receive approval to clear the land and search for the ruins until a new National Assembly Hall was slated to be built there.
"The French invaded Vietnam and hired labor to destroy the citadel and rebuild Hanoi," Tin said. "The Vietnamese government's old citadels became a fairy tale, and people forgot it."
From The Post and Courier, submitted by Stephen & Julie Buckler, Walterboro, SC.