Roman treasure discovered by chance: Hundreds of ancient gold coins hidden for centuries
A precious cache of ancient Roman coins discovered on the site of a former theatre in northern Italy is being investigated by archaeologists. The coins, at least 300 of them, date back to the late Roman imperial era and were discovered in the basement of the Cressoni Theatre in Como, north of Milan, in a soapstone jar.
“We do not yet know in detail the historical and cultural significance of the find,” said Culture Minister Alberto Bonisoli in a press release. “But that area is proving to be a real treasure for our archaeology. A discovery that fills me with pride.”
Whoever placed the jar in that place “buried it in such a way that in case of danger they could go and retrieve it,” said Maria Grazia Facchinetti, a numismatist — or expert in rare coins — at a press conference.
“They were stacked in rolls similar to those seen in the bank today,” she said, adding the coins have engravings about emperors Honorius, Valentinian III, Leon I, Antonio, and Libio Severo “so they don’t go beyond 474 AD.”
“All of this makes us think that the owner is not a private subject, rather it could be a public bank or deposit,” Facchinetti added.
Archaeologists also uncovered a golden bar inside the jar.
According to the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities, coins were transferred to the Mibac restoration laboratory in Milan where archaeologists and restorers are examining them.
The ministry did not place a value on the coins. But reports in the Italian media suggest they could be worth millions of dollars.
The historic Cressoni Theater opened in 1807 before transitioning into a cinema and eventually closing in 1997. The site is not far from the Novum Comum forum area, where other important Roman artefacts were discovered, according to the ministry.
The find is one of several surprising discoveries of Roman coins in recent years.
In 2016, archaeologists unearthed a rare 2,000-year-old Roman a gold coin in Jerusalem. The coin featured the face of Nero, the Roman emperor best known for playing the fiddle while Ancient Rome burned, and was likely struck in 56-57 AD.
A quadrillion tons of diamonds lie deep beneath the Earth’s surface It was discovered at the Mount Zion archaeological dig, south of the Old City of Jerusalem, where a University of North Carolina-Charlotte team was excavating throughout the summer.
That same year, a team of archaeologists unearthed 10 ancient Roman and Ottoman coins from the ruins of a castle in Okinawa, Japan.
Tens of Thousands of ice age Paintings across a cliff face shed light on people and animals from 12,500 years ago
In the Colombian jungle, archaeologists have found tens of thousands of ancient drawings dating back about 12,500 years. This prehistoric depictions of animals and humans have been discovered adorning cliff faces that stretch for almost eight miles. On top of that, some depict long-extinct ice age animals.
Archaeologists were shocked to discover numerous human handprints on the site, according to the Daily Mail. Funded by the European Research Council, the British-Colombian team had no idea what awaited them in the Chiribiquete National Park — but is now finally ready to share the remarkable discovery with the world.
Pictures of animals such as mastodons and paleo lamas, the extinct ancestors of elephants and camels, were perhaps the most exciting. The cliff face art also includes giant sloths and ice age horses, all of which were clearly seen and painted by some of the first humans to ever reach the Amazon.
According to The Guardian, the find has been aptly lauded as “the Sistine Chapel of the ancients.” Based on the sheer scale and plethora of paintings, experts say it’ll take generations to properly analyze. While it was uncovered last year, the find was kept secret for a documentary set to air on Britain’s Channel 4 in December.
“When you’re there, your emotions flow…We’re talking about several tens of thousands of paintings,” said lead archaeologist José Iriarte, professor of archaeology at Exeter University. “It’s going to take generations to record them…Every turn you do, it’s a new wall of paintings.”
The site is so remote that it took experts a two-hour drive from Chiribiquete National Park to Serranía de la Lindosa — followed by a four-hour hike to reach it. After this long journey, the team was awed to discover such extensive paintings.
Regional natives of the Amazon didn’t keep written records until fairly recently. With a humid climate and high levels of acid in the soil, nearly every trace of their tangible presence — including human remains — have been lost. Most about the region’s history before 1,500 has been inferred from ceramics and arrowheads.
Most native tribes of the Amazon are believed to have descended from the first prehistoric group of migrants to cross the Bering Land Bridge around 17,000 years ago. The discovery is thus sure to shed unprecedented light on various aspects of their culture.
“We started seeing animals that are now extinct,” said Iriarte. “The pictures are so natural and so well made that we have few doubts that you’re looking at a horse, for example. The ice-age horse had a wild, heavy face. It’s so detailed, we can even see the horsehair. It’s fascinating.”
While it’s yet unclear exactly which tribe was responsible for the uncovered art, there are some preliminary wagers at hand. Both the Yanomami and Kayapo tribes have been around for thousands of years and appear to be likely candidates.
Of course, not everything worth doing is easy — and the region’s more hostile factors rapidly made that clear for Iriarte and his team. Ella Al-Shamahi, presenter of the upcoming Channel 4 documentary series Jungle Mystery: Lost Kingdoms of the Amazon, spoke about these hidden threats.
“Caimans are everywhere, and we did keep our wits about us with snakes,” she said, recalling a giant bushmaster, “the deadliest snake in the Americans with an 80 per cent mortality rate” which the team encountered in the dead of night. “You’re in the middle of nowhere.”
Unfortunately, there was another lethal threat abounding in the jungle not to be taken lightly — the FARC. Colombia suffered decades of civil war between these guerrillas and the government, with a shaky truce and heavy militant presence in the jungles not particularly calming.
Fortunately, they allowed the experts entry.
“When we entered Farc territory, it was exactly as a few of us have been screaming about for a long time,” said Al-Shamahi. “Exploration is not over. Scientific discovery is not over but the big discoveries now are going to be found in places that are disputed or hostile.”
It was only last week that evidence of ancient hallucinogenic rituals was uncovered in California. It seems these Colombian tribes engaged in the same, as paintings of psychoactive plants were also found on the walls.
“For Amazonian people, non-humans like animals and plants have souls, and they communicate and engage with people in cooperative or hostile ways through rituals and shamanic practices that we see depicted in the rock art,” said Iriarte.
“It’s interesting to see that many of these large animals appear surrounded by small men with their arms raised, almost worshipping these animals,” added Iriarte.
For Al-Shamahi, one of the more intriguing aspects was the height of some of these illustrations. They were so elevated that they could only be viewed with camera-drones and some depicted wooden towers with figures bungee jumping off of them. Still, the historical context blew her away more than anything.
“One of the most fascinating things was seeing ice age megafauna because that’s a marker of time. I don’t think people realize that Amazon has shifted in the way it looks. It hasn’t always been this rainforest. When you look at a horse or mastodon in these paintings, of course, they weren’t going to live in a forest.”
“They’re too big. Not only are they giving clues about when they were painted by some of the earliest people — that in itself is just mind-boggling — but they are also giving clues about what this very spot might have looked like: more savannah-like.”
As it stands, the COVID-19 pandemic has put a damper on continued research here. Fortunately for us, we’ll get to see these initial discoveries up close when the documentary series airs its episode on the matter on Dec. 12.
Saudi Arabia Opens Its First UNESCO World Heritage Site ‘Hegra’ After 2,000 Years
Saudi Arabia is now opening the ancient archaeological site – Hegra – for the public in order to promote historical sites. Hegra, which has been unchanged for nearly 2000 years, is the first UNESCO World Heritage site in the Kingdom.
This lesser-known sister city of Petra in Jordan was founded by the Nabateans, an ancient Arab people who inhabited northern Arabia and the southern Levant.
They had created a huge empire in the desert from the 4th century BC to the 1st century AD when Emperor Trajan conquered them and they became subjects of the Romans. These nomads controlled the spice trade, and later they built an astonishing civilization in the desert.
Petra was rediscovered in the 19th century, however, the earliest historic location in the kingdom — Hegra — was left forgotten by all but the Bedouin until recent decades. But all that remains now of the city they built is some rock-cut tombs and relics.
Over 90 of the total 111 tombs recorded at the location are decorated. Many of the tombs have inscriptions, written in an early form of Arabic that “warn the living not to interfere with the tombs”, according to a report.
One inscription reads, “May the lord of the world curse upon anyone who disturbs this tomb or opens.” The site also features some 50 inscriptions of the pre-Nabataean period and some cave drawings.
According to UNESCO, the site “bears witness to the development of Nabataean agricultural techniques using a large number of artificial wells in the rocky ground”.
The remains at Hegra show a lot of Roman influence as it was also once subjugated by the Romans. Despite the Roman subjugation, the city of Hegra continued to prosper until the 3rd century AD.
Ever since the city fell into decline, it had been left practically undisturbed for almost 2,000 years. It was abandoned by the Middle Ages, but the Ottomans built a fort at the site during World War 1 during the Arab revolt which was instigated by Lawrence of Arabia.
Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia’s tourism minister had said that the country could see a decline in the tourism sector this year due to measures taken by the government to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Saudi Arabia is now determined to wean its economy off the petro pipeline.
It is a roadmap for the kingdom over the next two decades to transform into a global hub for trade and tourism that connects Africa, Asia, and Europe. Also, magnificent antiquities in Saudi Arabia are being promoted as must-do itineraries for travellers seeking undiscovered locations.
800-year-old Pueblo Indian blanket made out of 11,500 turkey feathers
There are more uses for a turkey than the centerpiece of your Thanksgiving feast. Researchers believe the flightless fowl held a deep significance for ancient Pueblo Indians in the American Southwest, who domesticated the bird but didn’t eat it.
Archaeologists at Washington State University examined an 800-year-old feather blanket from southeast Utah, one of the few remaining examples of its kind. They determined it took more than 11,000 turkey feathers to make the spread, likely plucked painlessly from live birds during molting periods. It would have taken between four and ten turkeys to make this single blanket, now on display at the Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum in Blanding, Utah.
‘The birds that supplied the feathers were likely being treated as individuals important to the household,’ said anthropologist Bill Lipe. ‘This reverence for turkeys and their feathers is still evident today in Pueblo dances and rituals.’
An 800-year-old blanket from Pueblo Indians in the Southwest US took more than 11,500 turkey feathers to make, according to a new report. Turkeys were an integral part of tribal life for thousands of years, and not really a food source until the 11th or 12th century.
To determine how many turkeys would have been needed for this blanket, Lipe’s team counted feathers from the pelts of wild modern-day turkeys ethically sourced from dealers in Idaho.
Such feathers were widely used to make blankets and robes by the Ancestral Pueblo people but, because they’re so fragile, few examples have survived.
‘The goal of this study was to shed new light on the production of turkey feather blankets and explore the economic and cultural aspects of raising turkeys to supply the feathers,’ said Lipe, lead author of a paper in Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.
Protective fabrics made from animal pelts, fur, and feathers would’ve been needed as tribes ventured into higher, colder elevations in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona. Feathers from modern-day turkeys used to help determine how many would have been needed for the blanket, Researchers counted feathers from the pelts of wild turkeys ethically sourced from dealers in Idaho.
Turkey-feather blankets were made by weaving feathers into nearly 600 feet of yucca fiber cord. The ancestors of the modern-day Pueblo Indians, who include the Hopi and Zuni, tended to live at elevations above 5,000 feet, where the winters were brutal and even summer nights could be cold.
Made by women, the fabrics would have served tribespeople through various stages of life — as blankets for sleeping, cloaks in cold weather, and finally as funerary dressing.
This particular blanket measured 39 by 42.5 inches and took approximately 11,550 soft body feathers wrapped around almost 600 feet of yucca fiber cord.
Turkey feathers began replacing rabbit skin as the preferred material for twined blankets between 400 BC and 700 AD, according to Lipe. They lasted longer and plucking turkey rather than skinning hares would have allowed for an ongoing resource.
Turkeys were one of the very few domesticated animals in North America before Europeans arrived but they weren’t really used as a food source until the late 12th century when deer became more scarce.
New feathers could be collected several times a year for the life of the turkey, which could more than a decade.
‘As ancestral Pueblo farming populations flourished, many thousands of feather blankets would likely have been in circulation at any one time,’ said Shannon Tushingham, a professor of anthropology at WSU and co-author of the study. ‘It is likely that every member of an ancestral Pueblo community, from infants to adults, possessed one.’
Surprisingly, the turkeys would have been treated more like pets or members of the family than dinner.
Washington State University archaeologists Bill Lipe (left) and Shannon Tushingham hope understanding how Ancestral Pueblo people made turkey blankets will shine a light on the animal’s role in their culture
Turkey feathers began replacing rabbit skin as the preferred material for twined blankets about 2,000 years ago. They lasted longer and plucking turkey rather than skinning hares kept the animal alive and made them a renewable resource
Turkeys were one of the very few domesticated animals in North America before Europeans arrived but they weren’t really used as a food source until the late 12th century when deer became more scarce.
Turkey remains found among the ancient Pueblo were usually whole skeletons that had been intentionally buried, not scattered bones in hearths or trash heaps. That indicates a ritual or cultural significance for the birds, Lipe believes.
‘They are right up there with eagle feathers as being symbolically and culturally important,’ he said.
OU archaeologists uncover buried building in the ancient Mexican city
University of Oklahoma researchers have made a finding that they believe could change the world’s view of an ancient capital.
The location of a buried building under the surface of the Main Plaza at Monte Alban, one of the first towns to establish in all of pre-Hispanic Mexico, was recently found by archaeologists from the University of Oklahoma.
The team used ground-penetrating radar, electrical resistance, and gradiometry to locate the structure.
“This discovery changes our understanding of the history of the Main Plaza and how it was organized and used,” said Marc Levine, assistant curator of archaeology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History and assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology, College of Arts and Sciences. “Everything is deeply symbolic here.”
The building appears to resemble stone temples that were excavated by Mexican archaeologists in the 1930s.
Evidence from those temples indicates they were used for religious practices like burning incense, making offerings and ritual bloodletting.
Monte Albán was established in 500 BCE and eventually grew to become a powerful regional capital with impressive buildings featuring carved stone monuments with a highly developed artistic style and written language.
The Main Plaza was built, expanded and remodelled over 1,000 years before the site’s collapse around 850 CE.
Archaeologists have investigated many of the buildings erected around the Main Plaza, but have never focused research on the plaza itself to better examine its role in society.
OU researchers hope to develop a clearer picture of what the Main Plaza looked like during its early history and better appreciate the amount of work that went into its construction.
“If you think of the National Mall in Washington, D.C., every monument and every building that goes on that mall has a significance and was thought over, carefully planned and oriented in a certain way,” Levine said. “The same goes for Monte Albán.”
Levine stresses the importance of the site, saying the Main Plaza is even featured on the country’s 20 peso note.
The OU team also used a drone to create a digital map of the Main Plaza and its associated structures. With the help of a supercomputer, the team is creating 3-D images of all the buildings to measure their volume.
This will provide a better understanding of the effort required to move all the dirt and construct the buildings. Levine estimates the team will spend about two years analyzing all of their data to complete their study of the plaza.
“We may find some other things that are important that we haven’t had a chance to process yet,” he added.
Thousand-Year-Old Goblet Shows Ancient Romans Used Nanotechnology
Finally, researchers have discovered why the jade-green cup appears red when lit from behind. The colourful secret of a 1,600-year-old Roman chalice at the British Museum is the key to a supersensitive new technology that might help diagnose human disease or pinpoint biohazards at security checkpoints.
When lit from the front, the glass chalice, known as the Lycurgus Cup because it bears a scene involving King Lycurgus of Thrace, appears jade green when lit from the front but blood-red when lit from behind—a property that puzzled scientists for decades after the museum acquired the cup in the 1950s.
The mystery wasn’t solved until 1990 when researchers in England scrutinized broken fragments under a microscope and discovered that the Roman artisans were nanotechnology pioneers: They’d impregnated the glass with particles of silver and gold, ground down until they were as small as 50 nanometers in diameter, less than one-thousandth the size of a grain of table salt.
The exact mixture of the precious metals suggests the Romans knew what they were doing—“an amazing feat,” says one of the researchers, archaeologist Ian Freestone of University College London.
The ancient nanotech works something like this: When hit with light, electrons belonging to the metal flecks vibrate in ways that alter the colour depending on the observer’s position.
Gang Logan Liu, an engineer at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who has long focused on using nanotechnology to diagnose disease, and his colleagues realized that this effect offered untapped potential.
“The Romans knew how to make and use nanoparticles for beautiful art,” Liu says. “We wanted to see if this could have scientific applications.”
When various fluids filled the cup, Liu suspected, they would change how the vibrating electrons in the glass interacted, and thus the colour. (Today’s home pregnancy tests exploit a separate nano-based phenomenon to turn a white line pink.)
Since the researchers couldn’t put liquid into the precious artefact itself, they instead imprinted billions of tiny wells onto a plastic plate about the size of a postage stamp and sprayed the wells with gold or silver nanoparticles, essentially creating an array with billions of ultra-miniature Lycurgus Cups.
When water, oil, sugar solutions and salt solutions were poured into the wells, they displayed a range of easy-to-distinguish colours—light green for water and red for oil, for example.
The prototype was 100 times more sensitive to altered levels of salt in solution than current commercial sensors using similar techniques.
It may one day make its way into handheld devices for detecting pathogens in samples of saliva or urine, or for thwarting terrorists trying to carry dangerous liquids onto airplanes.
The original fourth-century A.D. Lycurgus Cup, probably taken out only for special occasions, depicts King Lycurgus ensnared in a tangle of grapevines, presumably for evil acts committed against Dionysus, the Greek god of wine.
If inventors manage to develop a new detection tool from this ancient technology, it’ll be Lycurgus’ turn to do the ensnaring.
9,000-Year-Old Stonehenge-Like Structure Found Under Lake Michigan
Archaeologists found something much more fascinating than they got credit for when searching under the waters of Lake Michigan for shipwrecks: they uncovered a rock with a prehistoric carving of a mastodon, as well as a collection of stones arranged in a Stonehenge-like manner.
Gazing into the water
In modern archaeology, the use of remote sensing techniques is common: scientists regularly survey lakes and soil for hidden objects.
Archaeologists uncovered sunken boats and cars and even a Civil War-era pier at a depth of around 40 feet into Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay, using sonar techniques to search for shipwrecks, but among all these, they found this prehistoric surprise, which a trained eye can guess by looking at the sonar scans photos in this article.
“When you see it in the water, you’re tempted to say this is absolutely real,” said Mark Holley, a professor of underwater archaeology at Northwestern Michigan University College who made the discovery, during a news conference with photos of the boulder on display in 2007. “But that’s what we need the experts to come in and verify.
The boulder with the markings is 3.5 to 4 feet high and about 5 feet long. Photos show a surface with numerous fissures.
Some may be natural while others appear of human origin, but those forming what could be the petroglyph stood out, Holley said.
Viewed together, they suggest the outlines of a mastodon-like back, hump, head, trunk, tusk, triangular-shaped ear and parts of legs, he said.
“We couldn’t believe what we were looking at,” said Greg MacMaster, president of the underwater preserve council.
Specialists shown pictures of the boulder holding the mastodon markings have asked for more evidence before confirming the markings are an ancient petroglyph, said Holley.
“They want to actually see it,” he said. Unfortunately, he added, “Experts in petroglyphs generally don’t dive, so we’re running into a little bit of a stumbling block there.”
If found to be true, the wannabe petroglyph could be as much as 10,000 years old – coincident with the post-Ice Age presence of both humans and mastodons in the upper midwest.
The formation, if authenticated, wouldn’t be completely out of place. Stone circles and other petroglyph sites are located in the area.
The discovery was made back a few years ago, and surprisingly enough the find hasn’t been popularized at all, with little to no information available online, but I’ll be sure to update this post as soon as I can get ahold of more info.
3000-year-old temple-era gold bead found by 9-year-old Jerusalem boy
A nine-year-old boy, the Temple Mount Sifting Project (TMSP) revealed earlier this week, found the first-ever Temple-era gold granule bead during wet sifting of earth from the Temple Mount.
In August, while sifting through the soil with his kin, Binyamin Milt, a resident of Jerusalem, unearthed a perfectly preserved small, flower-shaped cylinder, made of four layers of tiny gold balls, unaware that the item he carried was probably forged around 3,000 years ago.
In fact, the bead was so well preserved that when the boy took the bead to the supervising archaeologist, he initially wrote it off as likely to be an unidentified modern object, not even writing down the boy’s contact information before hurrying back to continue sifting.
It was only while sorting through the summer’s artefacts in Dr Gabriel Barkay’s backyard that he realized the bead was strikingly similar to several similar items he had found when he excavated burial systems from the First Temple period in Katef Hinnom.
While those beads were made of silver, they were identical to the gold bead in both shape and manufacturing method (called granulation).
Similar beads have been found in several other sites across Israel, dated to various periods, with the overwhelming majority dating to the Iron Age (12th to 6th centuries BCE).
Once the bead’s significance had become clear, TMSP researchers called all the families who participated in the sifting on that specific day, until they made contact with Binyamin.
Pieces of gold jewellery are rarely found among archaeological artefacts from the First Temple period since gold at that time was not refined and generally contained a significant percentage of silver.
Granulation is a technique which demands of the goldsmith a considerable amount of expertise and experience, due to the many components and complex manufacturing stages.
The granules are shaped using tiny metal pieces which are melted on a bed of charcoal or charcoal powder, which absorbs air, preventing oxidation.
Once the metal melts, the surface tension of the liquid produces ball-shaped drops. An alternative method involves dripping the liquid metal from a height into a bowl and constantly stirring the drops.
At this stage, it is not yet clear what purpose the bead served, though initial projections by TMSP members say it could have been part of an ornament worn by an important personage who visited the Temple, or by a priest. More info on the piece will be published once all the artefacts from the summer are processed.
TMSP was founded in response to illegal renovations which were carried out in 1999 by the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, disposing of over 9,000 tons of dirt, mixed with invaluable archaeological artefacts, dumping it all into the Kidron Valley.
Archaeologists Dr Gabriel Barkay and Zachi Dvira retrieved the rubble and began sifting through it in 2004, with the goal of understanding the archaeology and history of the Temple Mount, while preserving history.
Over the years, it has grown into an internationally significant project, bringing in over 200,000 volunteers who have helped the researchers find thousands of priceless artefacts.