Saturday, January 28, 2012

US author traces Rimbaud's mysterious Java journey

US author traces Rimbaud's mysterious Java journey
By Loic Vennin | AFP News – 9 hours ago.

In 1876 French poet Arthur Rimbaud joined the Dutch colonial army, sailed to the Indonesian island of Java and then deserted and fled into the jungle. No one knows what happened next.

More than 130 years later, an American author followed in the Frenchman's footsteps to try and solve the mystery.

"It's like a Sherlock Holmes story," said Jamie James, alluding to the detective work needed to trace where the enigmatic Rimbaud, who was born in 1854 and died just before turning 37, wandered to.

Nearly 200 letters by the tortured poet, who described his process of attaining visionary insights as "a long, involved and logical derangement of all the senses," map out all -- or nearly all -- of his travels in Africa and the Middle East.

But little detail has escaped Java island about what transpired in Indonesia, then a Dutch colony.

"It remains one of the most elusive enigmas among the many that constitute his tumultuous life and is often overlooked outside Rimbaud circles," James wrote in "Rimbaud in Java: The Lost Voyage," published last year.

"He never wrote anything about Java because he was a fugitive. He could have been arrested" by the Dutch for desertion, said the Texan, who has lived in Indonesia since 1999 and has been a Rimbaud enthusiast since childhood.
The only fact known about Rimbaud's eastern sojourn is that he embarked on June 10, 1876, at age 21, for the Dutch East Indies, or modern-day Indonesia.

In a typically whimsical decision Rimbaud, who wrote the anti-militarist "The Sleeper in the Valley", embarked on the journey after signing up for six years in the Dutch colonial army.

"It was the call of money and the Orient," said James, adding that 300 florins were paid to all recruits, a small fortune at the time.

Rimbaud, he said, grabbed the opportunity to finally reach the East, which had attracted him so much.

On July 22 he and hundreds of other recruits arrived in Jakarta, or what was then called Batavia, to join their garrison at Salatiga, a village in central Java perched on the foothills of Merlabu, a dormant volcano.

In Java "The man with the wind at his heels" -- as fellow poet and friend Paul Verlaine once described Rimbaud's wanderlust -- had never been this far from home.

Author of "The Drunken Boat," and a big fan of alcohol, Rimbaud must have been overjoyed that gin was not only permitted but encouraged by the Dutch as a way of instilling bravery in soldiers.

But he remained only two weeks at the garrison. On August 15 he deserted, leaving his possessions to be sold for the benefit of the local orphanage.

He reappeared only on December 31, 1876, when he returned to his mother in Charleville-Mezieres in northern France.

Between the dates of his disappearance and reappearance lie four-and-half months of mystery, which have raised all manner of speculation.

Paterne Berrichon, who had never met the poet but became his self-proclaimed biographer after marrying Rimbaud's sister, affirmed that his late brother-in-law had hidden in the jungle, where orangutans had taught him to survive -- despite the fact orangutans disappeared from Java two centuries ago.

"No, Rimbaud was not Tarzan," James said.

Rimbaud experts are at odds over when he sailed back to Europe. Most believe it was aboard the "Wandering Chief", a Scottish ship that sailed from Java on August 30 and arrived in Ireland on December 6, 1876.

"That may be true," said James, although there is no evidence Rimbaud was on board.

James has made numerous trips to Java for clues to Rimbaud's whereabouts, and despite the absence of new information his book attempts to interpret the troubled poet's state of mind at the time.

"Since it's impossible to know, I tried to describe the environment at this time and how he (Rimbaud) was influenced by the readings he'd have had," James explained.

"It's possible he kept a journal and it could turn up in a flea market in Paris," he said.

"But no French poet has been
subject to so much research, so chances of discovery are slim.

"It's as likely as snow in Bali."

Quirky Asia - The Emperor of Indonesia

Kuala Lumpur (The Star/ANN) - It is not every day that you get to meet a trillionaire. So when I was invited to interview Kamal Ashnawi, a person I've never heard of, I said yes.

On Saturday morning, at a Kuala Lumpur hotel coffee house together with two of Kamal's aides, I waited for the so-called trillionaire.

Wearing a baseball cap, long-sleeved shirt and jeans, he sauntered over to our table. The two aides bowed, pressed their palms together to their forehead as if greeting royalty and kissed his hands.

"We call him Tuanku as he is a sultan from Indonesia," one of the aides whispered to me.

According to Kamal, he is a Dutch citizen born in Tanjung Malim, Perak, on Jan 1, 1964.

"I'm a descendent of the Emperor of China and in a history that went haywire, my family fled from China to Kedah. I traced my bloodline to the royal families of China, India, Java and Siam," claimed the man who is also known as Raden Mas Prabhu Gusti Agung Ki Asmoro Wijoyo.

"I grew up in Tanjung Malim and my family here is very simple and ordinary. Nobody in my family talks about our royal blood and wealth. But my grandmother once told me: "You are special and, when the time comes, you will know."

It was in Holland in the late 1980s that Kamal "found out who he really was". A member of an Indonesian royal family, kicked out of the country by president Sukarno, told him he was of royal blood.

In London in the early 1990s, a lawyer told Kamal about his royal family's massive wealth. Unconvinced, he told the lawyer to prove his claims.

He and the lawyer flew from London to Hong Kong to meet the "keeper of the royal treasure". From there, Kamal and the keeper travelled to Kunming in China.

They hiked up a mountain for four hours and reached a cave guarded by an old couple who, Kamal says, are immortals.

"If you tried to pass them without their blessing, you would cough blood and die," he said.

Inside the three-metre-high cave, Kamal saw gold bars stacked like a pagoda, US$15 million in jade and $10 million in diamonds and stacks of US dollars.

"I took a gold bar and knocked it on a rock. It was really gold. The treasure is the wealth of the dynasties that ruled China. Their wealth was also kept in other mountains and in vaults all over the world," he said.

About three years ago, when Kamal watched Nicholas Cage's movie National Treasure, he laughed.

"The treasure in the movie was small compared to the wealth I saw in the mountain," he said.

Next, Kamal told of his meeting two years ago in Kuala Lumpur with Dr Wong Eng Po, a royal physician from China.

Dr Wong placed his hand on Kamal's bald head, then immediately bowed in front of Kamal and ordered his five followers to do the same.

"He said I was the reincarnation of Emperor Nurhaci (1661-1626) of China. He felt an energy on my head which was superhuman because an emperor, unlike an ordinary human, has to think more.

"I'm the reincarnation of two emperors of China," Kamal added.

He elaborated that a few years ago, the royal family decided he would be the sole administrator of the royal wealth kept in secret accounts in about 1,000 banks worldwide.

"This means that 86.7% of the world's money belongs to me," he said.

Taking out several folders, Kamal said: "You're lucky, I brought documents."

He produced an A4-sized paper with the photographs of the national treasure, the immortal couple and several "official-looking" letters allegedly from HSBC certifying he has an account of five trillion euros ($6.5 trillion).

"That is a small amount. I have more money in other banks and institutions," he added.

I wondered why his name has not appeared in the Forbes' list of world's richest people. And a suspicion lingered about his claims.

However, I could not authenticate his documents since the bank was closed for Chinese New Year.

Kamal has not made any withdrawal from the account as "it is not money that you can move just like that".

"The money is under the control of Indonesia, Germany, Britain, the US and the Euro Central Bank and I've got to go smooth with them," he said.

"I can't use the money directly but I will invest in certain projects. Like three trillion euros to green a desert in China."

Curious, I asked what was the difference between a billionaire and a trillionaire.

He replied: "A billionaire needs to show he has the money. But for me, I don't need to show that I got money. I can travel in a bus. I can wear slippers."

Born in the year of the dragon, Kamal believes 2012 is his year. In March, he says he will negotiate with institutions such as the IMF to be recognised as the Emperor of Indonesia.

He says he's rich. But his story could just be as rich.

Let's hope he is not another Elie Youssef Najem, the so-called Lebanese billionaire who made headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Norway apologises for deporting Jews during Holocaust

27 January 2012

Norway apologises for deporting Jews during Holocaust

The Norwegian prime minister has apologised for the role his country played in deporting its own Jews as Europe marks Holocaust Remembrance Day.

"Norwegians carried out the arrests, Norwegians drove the trucks and it happened in Norway," Jens Stoltenberg said in a speech.

It is believed to be the first time a Norwegian leader has been so explicit about collusion under Nazi occupation.

More than a third of Norway's 2,100 Jews were deported to death camps.

Others fled to neighbouring Sweden, which remained neutral during World War II.

Norway acknowledged its role in the Holocaust in 1998 and paid some $60m (£38m) to Norwegian Jews and Jewish organisations in compensation for property seized.

However, the payout fell short of a full apology.

'Time to acknowledge'

Mr Stoltenberg delivered his speech at the dock in the capital Oslo where 532 Jews boarded the cargo ship Donau on 26 November 1942, bound for Nazi camps.

"Today I feel it is fitting for me to express our deepest apologies that this could happen on Norwegian soil," he said in the speech, translated into English on the prime minister's website.

"It is time for us to acknowledge that Norwegian policemen, civil servants and other Norwegians took part in the arrest and deportation of Jews."

He added that he was sorry to see that the "ideas that led to the Holocaust [were] still very much alive today".

"All over the world we see that individuals and groups are spreading intolerance and fear," he said.

Paul Levine, a history professor at Uppsala University in Sweden, likened Norway's role during the war to that of the Vichy regime in Nazi-occupied France.

"They implemented their own anti-Jewish laws, used their own manpower, confiscated property and discriminated against Jews before the Germans had demanded it," he told Reuters news agency.

"Norway didn't have to do what it did."

The Holocaust, during which some six million Jews were murdered, is commemorated on the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet troops.

In other news related to Holocaust Remembrance Day:

Austria's Green Party leader, Eva Glavischnig, suggested attendees at a Vienna ball on Friday evening which traditionally attracts the far right would be "dancing on the graves of Auschwitz"

A public TV channel in Turkey began broadcasting the epic 1985 documentary Shoah - the first mainly Muslim state ever to do so - in what its director Claude Lanzmann, 87, called a "historic event"

Auschwitz survivor Kazimierz Smolen, 91, who went on to become director of the memorial at the site, died in the neighbouring Polish town of Oswiecim

German parliamentary Norbert Lammert told a memorial ceremony in Berlin that he was concerned about lack of awareness of the Nazi genocide among young people

Flowers were laid at the Sachsenhausen Nazi death camp site in Oranienburg, Germany, where some 10,000 Soviet prisoners-of-war were shot by the Nazis

Raymond Aubrac: How I tricked the Gestapo By Hugh Schofield

Raymond Aubrac: How I tricked the Gestapo By Hugh Schofield

BBC News, Paris

The capture of French Resistance hero Jean Moulin is one of the country's darkest chapters of the war. The last surviving Resistance leader, Raymond Aubrac, recalls that night and the audacious escape that followed.

Of all the momentous events that helped build the legend of the wartime French Resistance, one episode outstrips the rest for its combination of tragedy, mystery and high-octane drama.

In France they refer to it simply as the "raid on the house in Caluire". To the rest of the world, it is the story of how the Gestapo finally laid hands on Jean Moulin.

Jean Moulin was the former prefect who in January 1942 was sent by General de Gaulle to organise the anti-German underground. For a year-and-a-half, he travelled incognito around occupied France, using the pseudonyms Rex then Max.

Under his aegis, the Resistance grew from a patchwork of hostile grouplets into a unified structure with genuine fighting potential.

But the end came on 21 June 1943 at a doctor's house in Caluire, a suburb of the south-eastern city of Lyon. A clandestine meeting of Resistance leaders had been called to make arrangements following the arrest of a senior colleague.

But someone had tipped off the Gestapo and its notorious local chief Klaus Barbie. Moulin was arrested with seven others. After prolonged torture, he died on a train to Berlin.

Extraordinarily, some 70 years later, the man who walked with Jean Moulin across Lyon to take part in that ill-fated meeting - who actually stood next to him in the doctor's waiting-room as they were handcuffed by Barbie's men - is still alive to tell the tale.

Raymond Aubrac is France's last survivor from the senior ranks of the Resistance. He is 97 and slightly stooped, but otherwise hale and more than happy to relive those extraordinary times.

"What you have to remember is that when you are living your life on the run, as we were, you are constantly worrying about being arrested," he says.

"So when the Gestapo burst into the house, it was a shock but not a surprise. I was sitting beside Moulin and when the Gestapo burst in, he told me: 'I have a piece of paper in my pocket. Make it disappear.'

"So I put my hand in his pocket and took out the paper and swallowed it - which is not easy. I have no idea what was written on it.

"After the war, I came back to the house in Caluire - and there on the mantelpiece in the waiting-room was my pipe. Exactly where I had left it when the Gestapo came!"

Born in eastern France in 1914, Aubrac had studied engineering in Paris and in 1937 spent a year at MIT in Boston - hence his precise English.

He was also closely involved in left-wing politics - a supporter of the Communist party if never a member. After the outbreak of war, he married fellow left-winger Lucie Bernard; he saw brief military service during the battle for France before being taken prisoner and then escaping; and then in late 1940 the couple settled in Lyon.

"I never 'joined' the Resistance because at the beginning there was nothing to join," he says. "It started off with us buying boxes of chalk and writing graffiti on walls. Then we progressed to writing tracts and putting them through people's letter-boxes.

"And then the third stage was our newspaper Liberation. It's when you have an underground press that you can first talk of an organisation - because you need a proper structure for it to work."

By mid-1942, Aubrac had become an important player in Moulin's nascent Resistance. The two men first met within days of Moulin's arrival by parachute in Provence, and Aubrac was put on the organising committee of the so-called "Secret Army".
This was the paramilitary body that brought together the fighting units of the various underground groups. In June 1943, it was the sudden arrest of the Secret Army's leader - Aubrac's superior, General Charles Delestraint - that triggered the Caluire conference.

By that time Aubrac had met Moulin on several occasions and, like everyone else, he had fallen under his spell. "He is very difficult to describe, because in physical appearance he was very normal - except perhaps his eyes," says Aubrac today.

"But it was his way of discussing matters that was so interesting. Never once did he use the way of authority. Don't forget he had real power - over money, over communications, over all the agents.

"And many in the Resistance could have seen him as an enemy. But he never forced his ideas on people. Instead he used a kind of Platonic discussion method, so that all views were aired.

"He was indeed a remarkable man. And do you know for the last 70 years, every time that I find myself confronting a problem I always ask myself what Moulin would have advised me to do. That was the kind of person he was."

After the Caluire arrests, Aubrac saw Moulin only one more time. It was at the Montluc prison in Lyon, were they were taken after the arrests.

"My cell was on the first floor. There were eye-holes in the doors which were meant for the guards, but we could also use them to look out. And the last time I saw Moulin, he was being carried down the stairs outside my cell by two SS men.

"He was in a very bad state. Only later did I learn that he was being taken to Paris, and from there on to Berlin. But he died on the way."
The Caluire meeting remains controversial to this day because of the continuing mystery over who betrayed it.

Aubrac is in no doubt that the most commonly accepted version is the correct one, that the culprit was a fellow Resistance member called René Hardy.

"Hardy was not supposed to be at the meeting. He was too junior. And when it came to the handcuffs, he was the only person not to have them put on. That meant he could make a run for it. And from all the Germans with their sub-machine guns, there were only a couple of scattered shots."

Hardy escaped. It later emerged that in the weeks before the Caluire rendez-vous, he had been detained by the Gestapo, giving rise to speculation he had been "turned". However after the war he was twice put on trial and acquitted.

Much more recently, Aubrac himself came under the spotlight, after a book was published suggesting he was the traitor. The writer based the theory on a number of contradictions and lacunae in the Aubracs' account of what happened. For example, it was not known until long after the war that Aubrac too had been taken prisoner prior to the Caluire meeting.

Raymond and Lucie took the writer to court and a committee of historians and experts cleared them of guilt. But the affair left a nasty after-taste.

Aubrac's subsequent story is another chapter of courage and derring-do. Within weeks of his arrest, he was sentenced to death by a court in Paris.
"But luckily they did not shoot me straightaway. That was standard practice. They would wait because they thought we could still be useful to them in some way." The delay gave Aubrac's wife Lucie time to come up with an escape plan.

How Lucie and her Resistance group sprung Aubrac from the clutches of the Nazis is today one of France's best-known stories from the war - as uplifting for the French as the Caluire episode is grim.

Somehow Lucie managed to persuade the German commander that she was a) pregnant by the prisoner Aubrac (this was actually true) and b) unmarried to him.

By feigning horror at the prospect of the child being born out of wedlock, she got the commander to agree to a pre-execution marriage.

And so on 21 October, the convoy taking Aubrac back to Montluc jail from his "marriage" ceremony at police headquarters was attacked by a heavily-armed Resistance gang. Three Germans were killed and 14 prisoners escaped.

"One of the Resistance cars overtook the truck in which I was being transported, and when the two vehicles were level they shot the German driver," recalls Aubrac, who received a ricochet bullet in the side of the face.

Second child

A few months later Raymond and Lucie were picked up by an RAF Lysander from a secret location north of Lyon and flown to London.

The call sign which was read aloud on the BBC to arrange the rendezvous was the line: "Ils partiront en ivresse" (They will leave drunk).

"It was more or less true," says Aubrac, though presumably with elation rather than alcohol, because just a few days later, Lucie Aubrac gave birth to their second child at Queen Charlotte's hospital in London.

After the Liberation, Raymond Aubrac was appointed commissioner to govern Marseille, where his main concerns were ensuring food supplies and maintaining law and order during the period of rough anti-collaborator justice known as the Epuration.

Later he was given the job of overseeing the destruction of millions of mines and other live ordnance.

His post-war career took him to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation in Rome. He advised on decolonisation in Morocco and was a close friend of the Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh.

He and Lucie remained a close couple until her death in 2007.

Jean Moulin

- Son of a history professor
- Rapidly ascended Civil Service to become France's youngest prefect (regional administrator)
- Extreme left-wing politics
- Arrested in June 1940 by Gestapo and tortured
- Dismissed by Vichy government for refusing to sack all elected officials with left-wing views
- Smuggled out of France in 1941 to meet De Gaulle in London
- Parachuted back to France in Jan 1942 to organise Resistance movement
- Betrayed in June 1943, tortured and died

Monday, January 23, 2012

Bombarding Charleston: USA Today

Bombarding Charleston: Museum chronicles city's many sieges
By Bruce Smith, Associated Press

CHARLESTON, S.C. – They were the messengers of death in America's bloodiest war: special rifle ammunition that caused mayhem on Civil War battlegrounds, artillery shells designed to blow ironclads out of the water and early mines and napalm

They are one display in a new exhibit at the Charleston Museum in the city historians say has been bombarded more than any place in the Western Hemisphere.

As part of the sesquicentennial of the war that started in nearby Charleston Harbor and saw the city bombarded by Union shells for 567 days, the museum is mounting the exhibit Blasted: Assorted Projectiles and Explosives of the Civil War.
More than 100 rarely seen items from museum collections are on display through Sept. 10 chronicling the shot and shells used in the war in which historians estimate more than 600,000 died.

The items include a rare Confederate Quinlivan shot, a solid shot used against ironclads and one of only four thought to be in existence.

There's a two-chambered shell that was an early form of napalm that Union gunners lobbed at the buildings of Charleston. The shells had an explosive charge in one chamber and in the other, a mixture of coal oil, coal tar and petroleum that would splatter and burn.

"This exhibit goes into the nitty-gritty of things that are not normally discussed," said Grahame Long, curator at the museum founded in 1773 and which is the oldest in the nation.

The exhibit has more than 100 items including models of torpedoes - what we today would call mines - that were anchored in the waterways around Charleston during the Union blockade. If a ship's hull hit the detonating pin, the torpedo would explode. But they sometimes caused more problems for the Confederates than the Yankees.

"The problem is that salt water corroded them and they would break free and float aimlessly with the tide," threatening Southern vessels on the rivers and harbor, Long said. Torpedoes adapted as land mines were used to defend Morris Island where, in 1863, the black 54th Massachusetts made the attack commemorated in the movie Glory.

The most chilling display is far smaller. It shows exploded Minie balls, the rifle ammunition that could be fired at longer range on the battlefield. The round tumbled when it hit flesh, causing gaping wounds. Photos show the damage from the balls developed in the years before the war.

"During the war the weaponry outpaced the tactics" Long said. He said while weapons could fire farther, many officers still used the European method of lining their men shoulder to shoulder to mass their fire on the enemy. That made them easy targets in the open field.

Officers saw the casualties, but developing new tactics took time.

"There actually were quite a few leaders on both sides who experimented with methods of overcoming the basic problem approaching a line of infantry under fire," said Maj. Ben Richards, a historian at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was criticized early in the war for urging his men to use field fortifications - such as digging trenches and foxholes - as protection from the enemy, he said.

"But as the war went on, you see that becoming much more common," he said. Other officers, he said experimented with massing their fire, not along an entire line of attack, but at a small point in the enemy defenses to achieve a breakthrough.

Officers also tried more open order with the troops, instead of keeping them in close formations. That meant a change in thinking for officers on both sides, said Maj. Joe Scott, a colleague of Richards' in the West Point Department of History.

"Part of the issue was they didn't think they could trust soldiers by themselves to get from point A to point B," he said. "The European vision of warfare that influenced American warfare was you can't trust soldiers to do anything by themselves and you need an officer in front of them and an officer behind them."

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Egyptian tomb holds singer Nehmes Bastet's remains

Egyptian tomb holds singer Nehmes Bastet's remains BBC, 16 Jan 2011

Archaeologists working in Egypt have discovered the tomb of a female singer in the Valley of the Kings.

The tomb was found by a team from the University of Basel in Switzerland who came across it by chance.

The woman, Nehmes Bastet, was a temple singer during Egypt's 22nd Dynasty (approximately 945 - 712BC), according to an inscription in the tomb.

The coffin found in the tomb contains an intact mummy from almost 3,000 years ago.

Professor Susanne Bickel of the University of Basel told the BBC that the coffin was opened on Monday and she was able to see the "nicely wrapped" mummy of the woman who was buried in the tomb.

The opening of the coffin was carried out by Prof Bickel and her Basel colleague, field director Elina Paulin-Grothe, together with the Chief Inspector of Antiquities of Upper Egypt, Dr Mohammed el-Bialy and inspector Ali Reda.

Prof Bickel said that the upper edge of the tomb was found on the first day of Egypt's revolution, on 25 January 2011. The opening was sealed with an iron cover and the discovery was kept quiet.

Last week, after the start of this year's field season, the feature was identified as a tomb - and one of the very few tombs in the Valley of the Kings which have not been looted.

'Painted black'

Elina Paulin-Grothe said that the tomb was not built for the female singer, but was re-used for her 400 years after the original burial, according to AP.

There are other non-royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings, Prof Bickel said, which mostly date from the 18th Dynasty (1500 - 1400BC).

The woman in the coffin was the daughter of the high priest of Amon, Egypt's Antiquities Minister Mohammed Ibrahim told AFP.

The discovery was important because "it shows that the Valley of the Kings was also used for the burial of ordinary individuals and priests of the 22nd Dynasty", he added.

Egyptian news site Ahram reports that the wooden sarcophagus was painted black and decorated with hieroglyphic texts.

This tomb is only the second found in the Valley of the Kings since the discovery of Tutankhamun in 1922, and is referred to as KV64 in the naming system used to label tombs in the valley. It is one of a cluster of tombs without any wall decoration found near the royal tomb of Thutmoses III.

A tomb found in 2006, known as KV63, had seven coffins in it but none of them contained any mummies - it seems to have been used as a burial cache.

Egypt tombs suggest free men built pyramids, not slaves, BBC, Jan 11 2010

Tombs discovered near Egypt's great pyramids reinforce the theory they were built by free workers rather than slaves.

The location of the tombs, where workers who built the pyramids of Khufu (Cheops) and Khafre (Chephren) are buried, suggests they were not slaves.

The tombs, made from bricks of dried mud, date back 4,500 years.

They are the first to be discovered since the first such workers' tombs were found in 1990.

"These tombs were built beside the king's pyramid, which indicates these people were not by any means slaves," Zahi Hawass, the chief archaeologist heading the Egyptian excavation team, said in a statement.

"If they were slaves, they would not have been able to build their tombs beside their king's."

Evidence from the site indicated the approximately 10,000 workers who built the pyramids had eaten 21 cattle and 23 sheep sent to them daily from farms in the Delta and Upper Egypt, said Dr Hawass.

This would suggest the farmers who sent the animals were not paying their taxes to the Egyptian government, but were sharing in one of Egypt's national projects, he added.

The workers were employed for three-month stints, and the tombs, which date from the 4th and 5th Dynasties (2649-2374 BC), were for those who died during construction.

The authorities have long fought what they call the "myth" of slaves building the pyramids, saying it undermines the skill involved in their construction, and the sophistication of ancient Egypt's civilisation.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

World's most controversial monuments

African Renaissance Monument, Senegal

President Abdoulaye Wade didn’t win any popularity votes when he funnelled millions into the construction of a monument to the African Renaissance. A waste of money wasn’t the only reaction to this 160ft colossus, unveiled in April 2010. It depicts a stylized muscular man with a baby in his arms, emerging from a volcano and pulling along a half-naked woman — and has been criticized for both skimpy clothing and sexism

Valley of the Fallen Spain

Dictator Francisco Franco ordered the construction of this monument outside Madrid to honour those who died for his cause during the Spanish Civil War. He enlisted political prisoners to carve the massive basilica into a mountainside — infuriating many Spaniards. In May 2011, after years of demonstrations and debate, the government assembled a commission to evaluate its future. Its initial recommendation calls to remove Franco’s body from the site

Brown Dog Statue, London

A small dog statue in London’s Battersea Park looks harmless, but it is a 1985 replacement of a statue with a fraught backstory. The original terrier was erected in 1906 by a group opposed to the use of animals in medical experiments. It displayed a plaque condemning pro-vivisection students at the University College. Outraged and embarrassed, those students destroyed it. The new statue is plainer, sans fountain or plaque.

Beatles Monument, Mongolia

The statues of Buddha and Genghis Khan that loom over Mongolia have some unexpected company: a brick guitar-shaped memorial to the Beatles in downtown Ulaanbaatar. Mongolian sculptor Den Barsboldt moulded this tribute to the band for their music and to represent Western democratic freedoms. Mongolia had a peaceful, democratic revolution, but the older generation still doesn’t want to give this monument a chance

Che Guevara Statue, Bolivia

Infamous revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara fought for the rights of the poor and incited passions along the way. While some condemn his violent methods or philosophy, to farm workers in the town of La Higuera, he remains “Saint Ernesto”. There, on the spot where the leader of a guerilla Marxist movement was captured and executed, residents dedicated a bust in his honour in 1997.