Remains of a man and dog trying to escape ancient tsunami found on Aegean coast

Remains of a man and dog trying to escape ancient tsunami found on Aegean coast

Roughly 3,600 years ago, the massive Thera volcano in the Aegean Sea blew its top, unleashing massive tsunamis. Now, archaeologists in western Turkey have unearthed the bones of a young man and a dog killed by one of those tsunamis. 

It’s the first time that any victims of the ancient eruption have been found in their archaeological context, and it’s the northernmost evidence found of the tsunamis that followed it.

Archaeological excavations at the site in the town of Çeşme, about 40 miles (70 kilometres) west of the city of Izmer, began more than 10 years ago when construction workers built an apartment complex there found Bronze Age ruins. 

Remains of a man and dog trying to escape ancient tsunami found on Aegean coast
The skeleton of a man killed in a tsunami after the eruption of the Thera volcano is the first found in its archaeological context.

But only recently did researchers realize that the destruction they saw was caused by tsunamis from the Thera eruption, said Vasıf Şahoğlu, an archaeologist at the University of Ankara, who led the excavations from 2009 until 2019 and is the lead author of a new study on the discoveries.

“It took some years, and then everything started to have some meaning,” Şahoğlu told Live Science. “This is going to help us enormously. … We will now be able to interpret everything in a much better way.”

The Bronze Age ruins were discovered in 2009 near the waterfront of Çeşme ahead of the construction of a new apartment building.

The Thera volcano, which was then at the centre of the resulting archipelago of Aegean islands now known as Santorini, erupted in about 1600 B.C. It was one of the worst natural disasters in human history; scientists estimate the volcano erupted with 2 million times the power of the Hiroshima atomic bomb, NASA reported. 

The blast wiped out the Minoan town of Akrotiri on the island, and its aftermath may have contributed to the demise of the Minoan civilization on Crete, about 75 miles (120 km) to the south. The volcano’s plume may have been seen in Egypt, and it likely caused a global volcanic winter that reached as far as China. 

The site is near the busy waterfront of a popular seaside resort on Turkey’s Aegean coast. It will now become an archaeological museum.

Ancient eruption

Despite the widespread devastation and the tens of thousands of people who must have died, the remains from only one death attributed to the eruption have ever been found — those of a man buried by rubble on Santorini, which was discovered in the 19th century, Şahoğlu said.

Many victims of at least four tsunamis that spread across the Mediterranean after the Thera eruption were likely swept out to sea. Archaeologists may also have found other skeletal remains from the cataclysm, but they may have assumed those people were killed by other causes, such as earthquakes, he added.

It can be difficult to see the signs of destruction caused by an ancient tsunami, and often these signs can only be confirmed by the presence of microscopic marine animal fossils, said Beverly Goodman-Tchernov, an archaeologist at the University of Haifa and senior co-author of the study.

Before now, traces of the tsunamis from Thera have been found at only six sites in the Aegean, and Çeşme — about 140 miles (220 km) away — is the most northerly.

The discovery in 2017 of the bones of the man and dog mean the site at Çeşme can serve as a “frozen moment” of life at the time of the eruptions, she said.

The man was about 17 years old when he died; he was killed by one of the tsunami waves and then washed up against a wall in the Bronze Age town. 

The remains of the dog were found nearby, but there is no evidence that the man and the dog were together when they were killed, Goodman-Tchernov said.

Rescue efforts

Interestingly, a pit had been deliberately dug above the man’s body, possibly in an attempt to rescue him or to retrieve his body for a proper burial. Similar pits had been dug elsewhere at the site, apparently soon after one of the earliest tsunami waves, she said.

“We think these are actually the preserved ‘negative spaces’ from where people have come and rescued the injured survivors or removed [the dead],” Goodman-Tchernov told Live Science. “Unfortunately, there was another tsunami wave that came in and filled all of those.”

Şahoğlu said scientific tests would be carried out on the remains, including DNA analysis, to try to learn more about the young man and the dog. Archaeologists will also look for other traces of the tsunami in the area, and the discovery of tsunami destruction at Çeşme should spur experts to reassess the evidence from archaeological sites nearby, he said. 

Today, Çeşme is a thriving resort town on the Aegean coast, and the archaeological site is right beside the town’s popular waterfront. “It was very difficult to work in the middle of one of the most touristic destinations in Turkey,” Şahoğlu said.

But the archaeological work at Çeşme has now concluded, and authorities are now awaiting approval to build a museum above the site to preserve the excavations, he said.

The remains were described in a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Archaeology breakthrough as 1,000-year-old mummy found in underground tomb ‘bound by rope’

Archaeology breakthrough as 1,000-year-old mummy found in underground tomb ‘bound by rope’

Archaeologists have unearthed a mummy dating back around 1,000 years at the site of Cajamarquilla in Peru. The researchers discovered the mummy lying in a fetal position and bound by rope.

Archaeology breakthrough as 1,000-year-old mummy found in underground tomb 'bound by rope'
The mummy — the remains of a male between 18 and 22 years old — was found buried in a fetal position in a tomb at the site of Cajamarquilla in Peru.

At the time the mummy was buried, Cajamarquilla was a thriving city located on the right bank of the Rímac river about 16 miles (25 kilometres) inland, and was a place where people from the coastal and mountainous areas of Peru engaged in trade, researchers said in a statement.

More than 10,000 people might have lived in the city at the time, the researchers said. 

The well-preserved mummy was found in an underground tomb that had a seven-step staircase leading down to it, researchers said in the statement.

The mummy, a male who was between 18 and 22 years old when he died, was found covered in a textile, their body wrapped in rope — a common practice at the time for those who lived in mountainous areas close to Cajamarquilla, the researchers said. 

The remains of a dog and an Andean guinea pig were found beside the mummy, along with corn and the remains of other vegetables, Pieter Van Dalen Luna, an archaeology professor at the National University of San Marcos who led the team, said in another statement.

The buried man died sometime between 1,200  — and 800 years ago, and he may have been the son of a wealthy merchant, the researchers said. 

The mummy was bound in a fetal position.

Family members would have visited his tomb at times after his burial to give offerings. “After the body is placed in the tomb, there are constant events and activities,” Van Dalen Luna told CNN.

“That is to say, their descendants keep coming back over many years and placing food and offerings there, including molluscs.” He noted that llama bones were found outside the tomb and may have been cooked by visitors who brought those bones as offerings. 

The mummy is now being displayed at the National University of San Marcos’s museum. Analysis of the mummy is ongoing. Van Dalen Luna did not respond to requests for comment at the time of publication. 

Ancient Egypt archaeologists find 30 mummies in a fire-scorched sacrificial chamber

Ancient Egypt archaeologists find 30 mummies in a fire-scorched sacrificial chamber

Hidden within a fire-scorched structure near the Nile River in Aswan, Egypt, archaeologists discovered the entrance to a 2,000-year-old family tomb. Inside, they found 30 mummies of various ages, including several arthritis-ridden elderly people, as well as children and a newborn.

The tomb was discovered beneath a set of stairs.

Though the archaeologists have yet to date the tomb, they suspect a single family buried their dead in it over generations spanning the Ptolemaic and Roman periods (the first century B.C. to the second or third century A.D.)

According to Patrizia Piacentini, a professor of Egyptology and Egyptian Archaeology at the University of Milan, who was co-director of the excavation.

This new tomb is one of more than 300 recently discovered surrounding the Mausoleum of the Aga Khan, a pink granite structure built in the 20th century that sits on top of a slight hill along the Nile River.

But while most of the other tombs were found underground or dug into rocky hills, this particular tomb was unique in that it was found inside a larger above-ground structure, which the researchers think was likely used as a place of sacrifice.

“It seems that, due to its position along a valley of access to the necropolis, this building was used as a sacred enclosure where sacrifices were offered to the god Khnum in the form of Aries, creator god and protector of the fertile floods of the Nile, particularly revered in Aswan,” Piacentini told Live Science. “Who better than he could have propitiated the eternal life of those who rested in this necropolis?”

The archaeologists discovered a copper necklace with the inscription “Nikostratos” next to a mummy.
The researchers found this broken offering table in front of the tomb.
A barbotine bowl was among the finds.
A knife with an iron blade and wooden handle was among the finds, and the researchers think it may have been used by ancient robbers to cut the bandages of the mummies.
The researchers used a portable x-ray machine at the site to analyze the mummified head of a child.

Further supporting its use as a place of sacrifice, Piacentini and the team discovered signs of fire on the structure walls possibly from offering ceremonies; but some of the fire marks may have also been made by grave robbers, she added. Either way, inside that burned structure, they discovered animal bones, plant remains and offering tables.

Also hidden inside was a mummy of a man next to a copper necklace engraved with his name “Nikostratos.”

At the bottom of a staircase leading to the tomb entrance — which had been dug out of the rock —, they found a broken offering vase that still contained small fruits. The tomb, which was made up of four deeply-excavated chambers, contained the remains of around 30 mummies. 

Some of the mummies were very well preserved, such as the remains of a child tucked inside a terracotta sarcophagus, while others had their bandages and cartonnage, a material ancient Egyptians used to wrap mummies, cut by ancient robbers.

The researchers also discovered a knife with an iron blade and wooden handle that may have been used by the plunderers. The researchers also say that Nikostratos was likely once inside the tomb with the other 30 mummies, but was taken out by the robbers. 

The excavation was a joint venture between the Aswan and Nubian Antiquities Zone in Egypt and by the University of Milan in Italy; the researchers are continuing to analyze and date the finds.

“The study of the newly discovered structure is just beginning,” Piacentini said.

Golden Pectoral and Bronze Mirror- Discoveries of Archaeologists in a Siberian Barrow

Golden Pectoral and Bronze Mirror- Discoveries of Archaeologists in a Siberian Barrow

The archaeological site Chinge-Tey is located in the Touran-Uyuk valley in northern Tuva, a republic in the Asian part of the Russian Federation. It is called the ‘Siberian Valley of the Kings’ because of the many large barrows with rich equipment, dating back more than 2.5 thousand years. Some of them are referred to as princely barrows.

Last year, Polish archaeologists from the Jagiellonian University in Kraków discovered two intriguing graves. The first of them was in the central part of a destroyed, almost completely flattened barrow with a diameter of approx. 25 m. Almost invisible to the naked eye, It was detected by aerial laser scanning.

The wooden burial chamber, built in the framework of solid beams, contained the remains of two bodies. The chamber itself was covered with three layers of beams. The floor was covered with planks. According to the researchers, the deceased were a woman who died at the age of approx. 50 years old and a 2-3 years old child.

Golden Pectoral and Bronze Mirror- Discoveries of Archaeologists in a Siberian Barrow
Burial of a woman with a child

Next to the remains of the woman, the researchers found gold ornaments, an iron knife, a bronze mirror and a very well preserved wooden comb decorated with engraved ornament.

‘A particularly interesting artefact was a golden pectoral ornament, a decoration hung at the neck in the shape of a sickle or crescent’, says the head of the Polish part of the expedition, Dr Łukasz Oleszczak from the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. He emphasises that objects of this type, known from mounds in southern Siberia, have so far been found almost exclusively in the graves of men.

‘They were considered symbols of belonging to a social group, caste, perhaps warriors – in any case, men. Its presence in the grave of a woman is a very interesting deviation from this custom. This certainly confirms the unique role of the deceased in the community of the +Valley of the Kings+’, the archaeologist says.

He points out that the woman was buried in the central part of the tomb located in the immediate vicinity of the great barrow that, according to the researchers, belongs to a nomad prince. ‘It seems that, like the others buried in this barrow, she belonged to the prince’s entourage’, says Oleszczak.

He mentions the condition of the grave goods made from organic material. The researchers from the Polish-Russian expedition had previously found arrow shafts, an ice axe handle, a piece of a quiver. The woman’s grave contained a wooden comb connected with a leather loop to a mirror made of bronze. This set of cosmetic items was placed in the grave in a leather pouch.

The second grave discovered in the last season of excavation was located outside the ditch surrounding the barrow. It was the skeleton of a teenage child, placed in a small pit surrounded by stones. It did not contain any equipment.

‘Graves of children on the perimeter or just outside the ditch surrounding the barrow are a typical part of the funeral rites of this early Scythian culture’, adds Dr. Oleszczak.

The archaeologists also found evidence that a treasure of objects made of bronze was most likely deposited around the perimeter of the barrow at some point. Evidence of this is the discovery of tens of horse tack parts, a bronze ice axe, as well as an ornament in the form of a goat.

They were located with a metal detector. According to Dr. Oleszczak, the treasure was scattered by deep ploughing in the 20th century, when a kolkhoz operated near the cemetery.

In 2021, Polish archaeologists continued their research within the barrow they started to excavate two years earlier. Back then, they found two burials – a central, robbed one, and an intact side grave that contained the body of a young warrior, richly equipped with weapons, a knife, a whetstone and gold ornaments. This is one of the 10 tombs located in a row on the north-south axis in the western part of the cemetery.

According to the researchers, the graves come from the 6th century BCE, when the peoples of Scythian origin lived in these areas. According to the experts, it was the Aldy-Bel culture. In the early Scythian period, the Touran-Uyuk valley was one of the most important ritual centres of the Scythian and Siberian worlds. It was from there, from the mountains of southern Siberia, that the people originated who dominated the steppes of Eastern Europe.

Archaeological camp on the bank of the river Uyuk.

The Scythians were known for being warlike. Their achievements have been described, among others, by the famous Greek historian Herodotus.

The research was supported by a grant awarded by the Polish National Science Centre. The excavations were carried out in cooperation with scientists from the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, under the supervision of Konstantina V. Chugunova.

Bronze Dagger Discovered in Slovakia

Bronze Dagger Discovered in Slovakia

During their time off, relaxing by the River Váh, near Hlohovec, a local came across an object that they found interesting. Only when they returned home, did they discover that it was an archaeological find and paid a visit to the nearest museum?

Similar finds should be handed over to the regional offices of the Monuments Board of the Slovak Republic.

The local had discovered a short sword, or a long dagger, with a length of almost 26 cm and a weight of almost 150 g, the Trnava Office of the Monuments Board said. Its handle from organic material has not been preserved. Only traces of the rivets remained.

The recently discovered sword is the fourth reported and handed over find from the River Váh in the Trnava Region since 2002.
The recently discovered sword is the fourth reported and handed over find from the River Váh in the Trnava Region since 2002.

Similar short swords have been found in the Danube basin, stretching from southern Germany to the Vojvodina province in Serbia.

“They are typical for the emerging Tumulus culture, which began to dominate the central European region in the 16th century BC, that is during the Middle Bronze Age,” said Matúš Sládok from the Trnava Office.

In the past, a similar sword was discovered in Včelince, near Rimavská Sobota, where it was part of discovered bronze objects.

Long daggers from the Early and Middle Bronze Ages are often found in richly filled tombs, as part of mass discoveries, and often in rivers.

The sword found in the River Váh may have fallen into the water as part of the cult, but it may also be a lost object, Sládok said. The dagger’s owner could have lost it, for example, when wading the river, he added.

At the end of the Early Bronze Age, the first metal swords began to appear in Central Europe, as a separate invention that most likely evolved from long bronze daggers.

The sword from the Váh could serve as a very interesting developmental link between these two types of weapons, Sládok argued.

More Váh finds

The sword is the fourth find from the River Váh in the Trnava Region since 2002, which has been reported and handed over, the year the Monuments Office of the Slovak Republic was established.

In the Váh, people have found a bronze blade from a dagger on a stick from the early Bronze Age, iron semi-finished products dating to the 2nd century BC – 2nd century AD, and a fragment of a millstone.

What Did Human Ancestors Eat?

What Did Human Ancestors Eat?

Quintessential human traits such as large brains first appear in Homo erectus nearly 2 million years ago. This evolutionary transition towards human-like traits is often linked to a major dietary shift involving greater meat consumption.

A new study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, however, calls into question the primacy of meat-eating in early human evolution.

While the archaeological evidence for meat-eating increases dramatically after the appearance of Homo erectus, the study authors argue that this increase can largely be explained by greater research attention on this time period, effectively skewing the evidence in favour of the “meat made us human” hypothesis.

Homo erectus in East Africa surrounded by contemporary fauna

“Generations of paleoanthropologists have gone to famously well-preserved sites in places like Olduvai Gorge looking for — and finding — breathtaking direct evidence of early humans eating meat, furthering this viewpoint that there was an explosion of meat-eating after 2 million years ago,” W. Andrew Barr, an assistant professor of anthropology at the George Washington University and lead author on the study, said.

“However, when you quantitatively synthesize the data from numerous sites across eastern Africa to test this hypothesis, as we did here, that ‘meat made us human’ evolutionary narrative starts to unravel.”

Barr and his colleagues compiled published data from nine major research areas in eastern Africa, including 59 site levels dating between 2.6 and 1.2 million years ago.

They used several metrics to track hominin carnivory: the number of zooarchaeological sites preserving animal bones that have cut marks made by stone tools, the total count of animal bones with cut marks across sites, and the number of separately reported stratigraphic levels.

The researchers found that, when accounting for variation in sampling effort over time, there is no sustained increase in the relative amount of evidence for carnivory after the appearance of H. Erectus.

They note that while the raw abundance of modified bones and the number of zooarchaeological sites and levels all demonstrably increased after the appearance of H. Erectus, the increases were mirrored by a corresponding rise in sampling intensity, suggesting that intensive sampling – rather than changes in human behaviour – could be the cause.

“I’ve excavated and studied cut marked fossils for over 20 years, and our findings were still a big surprise to me,” Briana Pobiner, a research scientist in the Human Origins Program at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and co-author on the study, said.

“This study changes our understanding of what the zooarchaeological record tells us about the earliest prehistoric meat-eating. It also shows how important it is that we continue to ask big questions about our evolution, while we also continue to uncover and analyze new evidence about our past.”

In the future, the researchers stressed the need for alternative explanations for why certain anatomical and behavioural traits associated with modern humans emerged.

Possible alternative theories include the provisioning of plant foods by grandmothers and the development of controlled fire for increasing nutrient availability through cooking.

The researchers caution that none of these possible explanations currently have a strong grounding in the archaeological record, so much work remains to be done.

“I would think this study and its findings would be of interest not just to the paleoanthropology community but to all the people currently basing their dieting decisions around some version of this meat-eating narrative,” Barr said. “Our study undermines the idea that eating large quantities of meat drove evolutionary changes in our early ancestors.”

In addition to Barr and Pobiner, the research team included John Rowan, an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Albany; Andrew Du, an assistant professor of anthropology and geography at Colorado State University; and J. Tyler Faith, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Utah.

Possible Spanish Cross Discovered at St. Mary’s Colonial Fort

Possible Spanish Cross Discovered at St. Mary’s Colonial Fort

The tiny, dirt-encrusted cross showed up in the sifting screen at the Maryland dig site, and when archaeologist Stephanie Stevens spotted it she said she gasped, “Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!”

It was a strange object, with two crossbars instead of one, and unusual flared ends on the vertical and horizontal pieces. Stevens, the crew chief at the newly-discovered colonial fort at St. Mary’s, Md., didn’t know exactly what she had, but she knew it was important.

What she had found was a rare 370-year-old Spanish cross that had likely been made in the pilgrimage city of Caravaca, Spain, around 1650 and had made its way 4,000 miles to a meadow in southern Maryland.

Possible Spanish Cross Discovered at St. Mary’s Colonial Fort
HANDOUT- A rare Caravaca cross with two crossbars that probably originated in the town of that name in southeastern Spain. On the left is the cross before it was cleaned up. On the right is the cleaned-up version.

“It’s a … fascinating object,” said archaeologist Travis Parno, director of research for Historic St. Mary’s City. “We’ve grown accustomed to finding Catholic artefacts… just because there was such a powerful Catholic and particular Jesuit presence.

But research soon revealed this cross was Spanish in origin and tied to an ancient Spanish legend about the appearance of a miracle cross that held a splinter of the one on which Jesus died.

But St. Mary’s was an English colony.

“What is a Spanish artefact doing here?” Parno said Thursday. . “Given the [tense] relationships between Spain and England it’s always interesting to find a Spanish object.”

The find came on Oct. 25 during excavation of the historic fort at St. Mary’s, the first permanent English settlement in Maryland and one of the earliest in what would become the United States.

Last March, Historic St. Mary’s City announced that the outlines of the palisaded fort, which had been erected by White settlers in 1634, had finally been discovered. Archaeologists had been looking for it since the 1930s.

Maryland’s original 150 colonists, including many English Catholics fleeing Protestant persecution, had arrived at St. Mary’s on two ships, the Ark and the Dove, in late March 1634.

The fort soon began giving up secrets to the archaeologists. Pieces of pottery, pins, hundreds of musket balls and birdshot, arrowheads, a trigger guard for a musket turned up.

ST. MARY’S, MD — MARCH 3: Archaeologist Dr Travis Parno, foreground, with his dig among the outline of the original fort at St. Mary’s City, the first settlement in Maryland in 1634, in St. Mary’s, MD.

Then, last April, Parno revealed that a 380-year old English shilling, made of silver in the royal mint in the Tower of London, had been found — also by crew chief Stevens.

“It was quite a revelation,” Parno said at the time.

Now, here was another one, excavated from what appears to be the cellar of a large building inside the fort.

At first, the archaeologists weren’t exactly sure what it was.

“It stuck out … because it’s got the double bar cross,” Parno said. “Usually, if you’ve got a double bar cross and a slash at the bottom of the cross you associate that with Russian Orthodox or Greek Orthodox.”

“Without that slash at the bottom, it was, ‘Ok, where did this thing come from?’” he said. Was it a French Cross of Lorraine, which has two plain horizontal pieces?

“This one didn’t quite match any of those images,” he said. “It’s got those flares on the ends of the bars. It almost looks like bells, [with] a very ornate almost Baroque design to it.”

“That was when we started really digging into this and found this example of these Caravaca crosses,” he said.

The crosses stem from a 700-year-old legend about angels miraculously delivering a cross, said to hold a fragment of Christ’s cross, to an imprisoned priest who was about to say Mass before a Muslim king in Caravaca.

In later versions of the cross, the angels carry it by the vertical bar, while Jesus hangs crucified on the upper bar. The St. Mary’s cross lacks the angels and the figure of Jesus. “This is sort of the stripped-down version,” Parno said.

The artefact is tiny and fits easily in the palm of a hand. It’s made of a copper alloy, Parno said. And it probably was manufactured in or near Caravaca, about 250 miles southeast of Madrid. It has a broken hole at the top of the vertical piece, perhaps for a necklace or rosary.

But how did it get to Maryland?

Was there a Spaniard at St. Mary’s? There’s no such evidence, Parno said. Was it brought to St. Mary’s by a Jesuit Catholic priest who had visited Spain? Also unlikely, because dates don’t line up well, he said.

Was it carried by a devout Catholic among the settlers? Possibly.

Perhaps the best scenario is that the cross was acquired in a trade with local Native Americans, Parno said.

“We know that Spanish material culture, particularly religious material culture, was … traded in … networks up and down the East coast,” he said. There were then Spanish outposts in Florida and South Carolina. The cross might have been given to Native Americans as part of Spanish missionary work and then traded to someone at St. Mary’s, he said.

“If you have a Catholic colonist who’s interested in a Caravaca cross that an indigenous person is wearing … maybe it was a reverse exchange — an object that was European and ended up in indigenous hands and then ended up back in colonial hands,” he said.

“Every day we’re going out there, we’ve got new mysteries that we’re shaking our heads at,” he said. “Every time we think we’ve figured something out, three more questions emerge.”

1,500-Year-Old Mosaic Depicts Jesus Feeding 5000 People Unearthed Near The Galilee Sea

1,500-Year-Old Mosaic Depicts Jesus Feeding 5000 People Unearthed Near The Galilee Sea

A 1,500-year-old mosaic depicting Jesus’s feeding of the five thousand has been unearthed during an excavation of an ancient city near the Sea of Galilee. The discovery of the so-called Burnt Church in Hippos, northern Israel, has enthralled archaeologists who have spent the summer combing it for historical evidence. 

A fire destroyed the fifth-century church in 700AD but the mosaic-paved floor has been remarkably preserved throughout the centuries by a layer of ash.

Located in the heart of the Holy Land, Hippos overlooks the Sea of Galilee – also known as the Kinneret – where it was once the site of a Greco-Roman city.

1,500-Year-Old Mosaic Depicts Jesus Feeding 5000 People Unearthed Near The Galilee Sea
A 2,000-year-old mosaic depicting Jesus’s feeding of the five thousand has been unearthed during an excavation of an ancient city near the Sea of Galilee
The discovery of the so-called Burnt Church in Hippos, northern Israel, has enthralled archaeologists who have spent the summer combing it for historical evidence

The mosaic purports to capture one of the miracles referred to in the New Testament where Jesus used just five loaves and two fish to feed 5,000 people gathered on the banks of the water. 

A team from the University of Haifa found the Burnt Church in 2005, but only began the dig this summer.

Head archaeologist Dr Michael Eisenburg said: ‘There can certainly be different explanations to the descriptions of loaves and fish in the mosaic, but you cannot ignore the similarity to the description in the New Testament.

‘For example, from the fact that the New Testament has a description of five loaves in a basket or the two fish depicted in the apse, as we find in the mosaic.’

He added that the generally accepted location of the miracle performed by Christ may have to be reconsidered in light of the new evidence. 

A team from the University of Haifa found the Burnt Church in 2005, but only began the dig this summer
A fire destroyed the fifth-century church in 700AD but the mosaic-paved floor has been remarkably preserved throughout the centuries by a layer of ash

The historian said: Nowadays, we tend to regard the Church of the Multiplication in Tabgha on the north-west of the Sea of Galilee as the location of the miracle, but with a careful reading of the New Testament it is evident that it might have taken place north of Hippos within the city’s region. 

‘According to the scripture, after the miracle, Jesus crossed the water to the northwest of the Sea of Galilee, to the area of Tabgha/Ginosar, so that the miracle had to take place at the place where he began the crossing rather than at the place he finished it. 

‘In addition, the mosaic at the Church of Multiplication has a depiction of two fish and a basket with only four loaves, while in all places in the New Testament which tell of the miracle, there are five loaves of bread, as found in the mosaic in Hippos. 

‘In addition, the mosaic at the burnt church has a depiction of 12 baskets, and the New Testament also describes the disciples who, at the end of the miracle, were left with 12 baskets of bread and fish.

‘There is no doubt that the local community was well familiar with the two miracles of Feeding the Multitude and perhaps knew their estimated locations better than us.’

After centuries of falling into the hands of several empires and religious groups, Hippos was abandoned in around 600AD when an earthquake devastated the hilltop city.

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