An Ancient Site Found in UAE may be Sixth-Century Lost City of Tu’am

An Ancient Site Found in UAE may be Sixth-Century Lost City of Tu’am

Ruins from the sixth century have been discovered during excavations in the United Arab Emirates Umm Al Quwain region, which may be the remains of the lost city of Tu’am.

The discovery on Al Sinniyah Island is potentially one of the most significant archaeological finds in the Persian Gulf region. Located on Al Sinniyah Island, the island forms part of a group of small islands on the western side of the Khor Al Bidiyah peninsula.

It is thought the city was once the capital of a territory, on the Gulf coast of what is now the Emirates, and a pearl fishing center famed for the quality of its gems.

When Tu’am reached its zenith, in the sixth century, it was so well-known that old Arabic manuscripts mentioned it. After a plague and regional tensions, the city declined and faded from memory.

Under the direction of Sheikh Majid bin Saud Al Mualla, the Umm Al Quwain Department of Tourism and Archaeology is excavating the site in cooperation with regional and global specialists.

The excavation team unearthed evidence of a sizable settlement that began in the fourth century CE and peaked in the fifth and sixth centuries.

The settlement was once an important coastal city.

Previous research on the island revealed a pearling village and monastery, which have been the focus of the latest excavations.

This year, archaeologists discovered the settlement’s large semi-urban tenement buildings, each about 30 square meters, and tightly packed around narrow alleyways. These buildings, indicating a sophisticated and densely populated city, suggest the presence of a stratified social structure and a thriving urban environment.

Professor Tim Power of United Arab Emirates University (UAEU), who is leading the research, noted, “Our archaeological work has discovered by far the largest settlement ever found on the Gulf coast of the Emirates, aligning perfectly with the city described in early Islamic geographical sources. It’s a really important place. No one has ever found it.”

A jar popped out from the soil. Experts believe this may have been one of the tanner ovens or used for storage.

Archaeologists had previously believed that the settlement could have been a lay community serving the monks. However, it is believed that they have discovered something far more significant after four seasons of work at the location.

Professor Power explained that while they have not found definitive evidence, such as an inscription with the town’s name, the absence of other major settlements from this period on the coast strengthens the argument that this is Tu’am. “It’s a process of elimination,” he said.

Archaeologists have unearthed significant amounts of date wine jars, likely from Iraq, and fish bones, indicating a well-connected and diverse trade system. Findings also show the inhabitants were connected to wider trade networks that ran through Iraq, Persia, and India.

Experts examine the site of a mass burial in the monastery area of the site

The discovery also sheds light on the region’s pre-Islamic history. The town would have been called To’me in Aramaic, and Tu’am in Arabic, which means twins.

Over time, this name was transformed into Greek and English as Thomas, though the original meaning was lost. So it is thought the city was named after St Thomas, who was sent to the East to spread Christianity.

Lost 14th Century Church Discovered under a Tennis Court in Hungary

Lost 14th Century Church Discovered under a Tennis Court in Hungary

During an archaeological excavation in  Visegrád, a fortified medieval castle on a hill overlooking the Danube in northern Hungary, the ruins of the Church of the Virgin Mary, built during the reign of King Sigismund, were found under a tennis court.

Traces of a clash from hundreds of years ago were also discovered in the area surrounding the crypt in front of the excavated high altar.

Sigismund of Luxembourg founded a Franciscan monastery that included the Church of the Virgin Mary, which was constructed next to his palace.

Charles IV’s son, Sigismund, ruled as king of Germany, Bohemia, Hungary, and Croatia before ascending to the throne as Holy Roman Emperor in 1433 and dying in 1437.

“No doubt, most promising for archaeologists was the excavation of the tennis court next to the royal palace, where the Franciscan monastery founded by Sigismund of Luxembourg once stood.”

The former tennis court became a development area of the Visegrad Renaissance program.

On the first day, the church’s remnants were discovered, and in front of the high altar, a crypt was discovered. Among the debris of the collapsed crypt lay the remains of three bodies.

The objects found beside them, such as a spur and several shots (pellets made of lead), suggested that they were soldiers. There was a copper bowl near them, which may have been used for defense, as its surface shows indentations made by weapons.

This could suggest that the church was not only the scene of looting, but also of a bloody clash.

After the beginning of the archaeological work, the foundation of the buttress of the sanctuary of the church belonging to the monastery was found.

After the Ottomans captured  Visegrád in the sixteenth century, the building is believed to have collapsed. The lower, fortified part of  Visegrád also revealed traces of an Ottoman settlement, including coins, an Ottoman cemetery, and an oval-shaped oven.

In 2021, the Visegrád Renaissance Development Program was initiated with the goal of revitalizing  Visegrád Castle and its environs. The Royal Palace, the  Visegrád Citadel, and Solomon’s Tower will all be rebuilt in the upcoming years in addition to the Lower Castle.

The lower, fortified part of Visegrád also revealed traces of an Ottoman settlement, including coins, an Ottoman cemetery, and an oval-shaped oven.

The castle system’s upper and lower levels will be connected, and the complex will be made pedestrian-friendly. In order to allow for visits to the citadel, lower castle, and portions of the Royal Palace during the reconstruction, the work will be done in stages.

Archaeologists Discovered Medieval Silver Communion Set and 70 Silver Coins in Hungary

Archaeologists Discovered Medieval Silver Communion Set and 70 Silver Coins in Hungary

Archaeologists Discovered Medieval Silver Communion Set and 70 Silver Coins in Hungary

A 14th-century silver communion set (chalice and wafer holder) and a treasure trove of 70 silver coins were discovered in a research project by the Hungarian National Archaeological Institute (Nemzeti Régészeti Intézet) near Lake Tisza.

The discovery was announced on the Institute’s Facebook page. In 2023, experts from the National Archaeological Institute of the Public Collection Centre of the Hungarian National Museum discovered the remains of a medieval Benedictine abbey founded by a clan during their microregional research near Lake Tisza, a unique cultural heritage.

The main purpose of the ten-year research plan of the National Archaeological Institute is to identify all the sites in the country within the framework of the “Archaeological Topography Programme”. To this end, micro-regional pilot projects have been launched, one of which can also provide the basis for developing tourism in the southeastern region of Lake Tisza based on its historical and cultural heritage.

In October 2023, in the village of Tomajmonostora, the remains of the former Benedictine abbey church were revealed during a trial excavation of the archaeological work carried out by archaeologists on the site of the former monastery.

Photo: Hungarian National Archaeological Institute

“Last year the layers of the three-nave monastic basilica and the early round church were also clarified. So we have found the medieval Benedictine abbey and the church of the settlement that preceded it,” he said. Excavation leader Gábor Virágos, archaeologist, deputy director general of the Public Collection Centre of the Hungarian National Museum, and president of the National Archaeological Institute.

A special discovery made during this year’s excavation was a communion set that was in the deceased person’s hand at the time of burial.  The ceremonial vessels are thought to be from the 13th or 14th century and include a wafer holder and a silver chalice.

They were put into the hands of a deceased individual. Although more excavation is required to determine the precise findings, it is most likely a burial component.

The micro-regional research, including the excavation at Tomajmonostora, also produced other outstanding results.

The National Archaeological Institute of the Public Collections Centre of the Hungarian National Museum also pays special attention to the sites of key, fate-transforming events in Hungarian history.

Photo: Hungarian National Archaeological Institute

One of the milestones of this work is the identification of key sites of the battle of 1596 near Mezőkeresztes, and the collection and interpretation of artefactual material related to the battle.

Here, archaeologists have found a treasure trove of 70 silver coins of the Viennese penny (denar). The hidden treasure, dating back to the 13th-14th centuries, was uncovered during a search by volunteers from the Community Archaeology Programme, led by archaeologist Gábor Bakos.

The Viennese denarii that make up the treasure were issued by the Austrian princes, contrary to their common summary name, not only from the Viennese mints but also from the Enns and Bécsujhely mints. Due to the intensive trade relations, their traffic also extended to the territory of the Kingdom of Hungary in the 1200s and 1300s.

Photo: Hungarian National Archaeological Institute

“Their presence is attested by the presence of coins such as the one just discovered, mainly from the western part of the country and along the trade route through Kassia to Cracow.

The latter includes the medal material found in the Mezőkeresztes area,” said Enikő Kovács, numismatist and research associate.

Research continues with the participation of volunteers and local people.

Viking sword with ‘very rare’ inscription discovered on family farm in Norway

Viking sword with ‘very rare’ inscription discovered on family farm in Norway

Viking sword with 'very rare' inscription discovered on family farm in Norway
A farmer in Norway’s southwestern Rogaland district found the clay-encrusted remains of the Viking Age sword in a field he was clearing.

While clearing a field on his farm, a Norwegian man discovered a rare Viking Age sword that’s thought to be 1,000 years old.

“We were about to start sowing grass on a field that has not been plowed for many years,” Øyvind Tveitane Lovra, who found the weapon, said in a translated statement. 

When a piece of old iron turned up, he was about to throw it away. But a closer inspection revealed that it was most of a centuries-old sword, so he contacted archaeologists with the local government, as Norwegian law requires.

“I quickly realized that this was not an everyday find,” said Lovra, who is a part-time farmer, ferry engineer and local politician in the Suldal municipality of Norway’s southwest Rogaland county. “It’s about our history, and it’s nice to know what has been here before.”

Rogaland government archaeologists recovered the artifact from his farm last week and have now confirmed that it is the remains of an iron sword from the Viking Age (A.D. 793 to 1066).

X-rays of the ancient iron weapon have revealed the contours of what appears to be an inscription inlaid on the blade.
The inscription suggests this may be a rare Ulfberht sword, which were made at this time in the Frankish Empire (modern Germany and France).

Notably, the sword seems to be of the rare type of Frankish origin known as Ulfberht swords, which are distinguished by inscriptions inlaid along their blades.

“This is very rare,” said Rogaland archaeologist Lars Søgaard Sørensen. “The sword was the greatest status symbol in the Viking Age, and it was a privilege to be allowed to wear a sword.”

Ancient sword

The remnant of the sword is about 14.5 inches (37 centimeters) long and consists of the handle, the cross guard and part of the blade. The rest of the blade is missing — about half its length — but archaeologists consider it surprisingly well preserved for Rogaland, where the soil generally has poorer conditions for preservation than other parts of Norway.

The sword was discovered by local man Øyvind Tveitane Lovra, who was clearing a field on his farm with his son Haakon.
Local folklore tells of a visit by a Viking ship to a fjord near the farm, and that the Vikings gave gifts to the farm’s landowners.

Sørensen said the sword seems to have been embedded in dense clay, which prevented the iron remains from being exposed to more oxygen and rusting away.

When the archaeologists X-rayed the sword in an attempt to find out more about it, the scans revealed the contours of an inscription on the blade.

“This means that it could be a so-called VLFBERHT [Ulfberht] sword from the Viking Age or the Early Middle Ages,” Sigmund Oehrl, a professor of archaeology at the University of Stavanger, said in the statement. “These are high-quality swords produced in the Frankish Empire [now Germany and France] that are marked with the weapon manufacturer’s name.” 

He noted that up to 4,000 swords from the Viking Age have been found throughout Europe, but only about 170 — 45 from Norway — have Ulfberht inscriptions.

“We are not aware of similar swords being found in Rogaland before,” he said.

The archaeologists estimate that the sword was made between 900 and 1050, which corresponds to the late Viking Age — roughly from 800 to 1066. 

Lovra thinks the sword arrived at the farm, which bears the family name, with Vikings bringing gifts — an event described in local folklore.

“I know that the Vikings sailed into the fjord and decorated the lady of the house at Lovra with nice things, including from Ireland,” he said in the statement.

1,600-year-old Hunnic double burial found in Poland

1,600-year-old Hunnic double burial found in Poland

1,600-year-old Hunnic double burial found in Poland

In 2018, archaeologists uncovered a 1,600-year-old double burial in the village of Czulice near Krakow, Poland, containing the remains of two young boys.

This discovery, reported in the June issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, provides some of the earliest evidence of Hunnic presence in Europe. Radiocarbon dating placed the burial between CE 395 and 418, making it the oldest known Hunnic burial site in Poland.

As warriors, the Huns inspired almost unparalleled fear throughout Europe. Attila was the last sole king of the Huns. He ruled a vast empire, that from its firm center in Pannonia extended to the Baltic Sea and the “islands of the Ocean” in the north, and to the Caspian Sea in the east. Attila’s military prowess was so formidable that both the Eastern (Byzantine) and Western Roman empires paid him tributes to avoid his wrath.

The grave was discovered thanks to an excavation led by Polish Academy of Sciences archaeologist Jakub Niebylski. This site contained the remains of two boys aged between 7 and 9 years, buried alongside an assortment of grave goods and animal remains.

The grave contained numerous artifacts, including gold and silver trinkets, an iron knife, a clay pot, and the remains of various animals. Notably, one of the boys exhibited an artificially deformed skull, a practice common among Hunnic elites.

The Huns took up the practice of cranial deformation as a sign of aristocracy and elite status from the Alans, an ancient Iranian nomadic tribe. As a result, this burial site in Czulice provides a glimpse into the cultural practices and social hierarchies of the Huns, as well as their interactions with local populations during their migrations into Europe.

Facial reconstructions of the boys who were found buried at the site.

The boys’ bones were scattered in the oval-shaped grave, which was slightly over two feet below the surface. DNA testing revealed the boys’ separate ancestries. One boy, identified as Individual I, was of local European origin, likely connected to the Pannonian Plain in modern-day Hungary.

The other, identified as Individual II, was found to be of Hunnic origin and showed genetic similarities with modern Asian populations, especially nomads from Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

The Hunnic boy’s remains were buried with several valuable items, including a gold earring, silver buckles, a clay vessel, and an iron knife, indicative of his high status. In contrast, the European boy, who lacked grave goods, was found buried on his stomach, suggesting a lower social status, possibly as a servant or companion to the Hunnic boy.

The double burial also included the remains of a dog, a cat, and a crow, which were thought to be the boys’ animal companions on their journey to the afterlife. This aspect of the burial is unusual for the Huns and may indicate a borrowing from Roman funerary practices.

More information about the lives and origins of the boys was discovered through isotope and ancient DNA testing, CT scans, X-rays, and further examination of the human bones.

The Hunnic boy’s lesions in his eye sockets suggested chronic anemia or another disease that may have contributed to his early death. Isotopic analysis of the boys’ diets indicated that both had protein-rich diets, but the lack of grave goods for the European boy hinted at his lower social status.

Scientists extracted and sequenced genes from the skeletons of the deceased and compared them with available genetic material. The genes have been deposited in a genetic database and will be compared with further material obtained from other graves across Europe.

Rare 2,500-year-old ‘Golden Warrior’ found buried under precious ornaments in Kazakhstan

Rare 2,500-year-old ‘Golden Warrior’ found buried under precious ornaments in Kazakhstan

The fascinating discovery of a golden treasure left by the ancient Saka people in a burial mound in Kazakhstan was reported by Ancient Origins last week.

Rare 2,500-year-old ‘Golden Warrior’ found buried under precious ornaments in Kazakhstan
The man’s remains were removed from the site for analysis.

It was hailed as one of the most important discoveries in helping archaeologists in deciphering the ancient Scythian sub-group. group’s Archaeologists have now discovered the missing component of the Saka burial mound – a ‘golden man.’

The mummy of a Saka man who died in the 8th-7th centuries BC was discovered in the remote Tarbagatai Mountains of eastern Kazakhstan, according to Archaeology News Network.

He died when he was just 17 or 18 years old and it is estimated he was 165-170 centimeters (5.4-5.6 ft.) tall.

There are plans underway to find out more about the man, as lead archaeologist Zeinolla Samashev, stated, “We will do facial reconstruction from the skull of this young man, extract DNA from the bones to find out the environment people lived in back then, to learn about their everyday life and habits”.

Kazakhstan’s ministry of information and communications explained why the human remains received its shining nickname, “When buried, the young man was dressed in gold, with all of his clothes being embroidered with gold beads.

The man was buried with a massive gold torc around his neck (suggesting his noble origin) and a dagger in a golden quiver beside him.”

These gold beads would have been used to decorate his clothing.

That fits in well with the previous discovery of 3000 golden artifacts in the kurgan (burial mound). 

Archaeologists have unearthed plates, necklaces with precious stones, earrings, beautifully crafted figurines of animals, and golden beads which may have been used to embellish Saka clothing.

The find also corresponds with the belief that elite members of the culture were laid to rest in the Saka burial mound.

As Yegor Kitov, an anthropologist at Moscow’s Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, said, “The finds and the size of the mound suggest that the young man buried inside had a high social status.” Kitov also suggests “The body was mummified to allow time for those coming from far away to say farewell to the man,” further exemplifying the man’s social status in his time.

The burial mound which held the man’s remains was created by members of the Saka culture. This was a Scythian nomadic group who spoke an Iranian language and lived on the Eurasian Steppe. The Saka are best remembered as skilled horsemen and metalworkers.

Danial Akhmentov, head of the East Kazakhstan regional administration, notes the craftsmanship of the Saka in the recently revealed treasures from the burial mound, “The finds indicate the high level of technological development in gold jewelry production in the 8th century B.C., which, in turn, suggests the high level of civilization at that time,” he said .

The Saka are known to have buried members of the elite in their kurgans, usually in pairs or as a family unit. That means that there may still be other skeletons inside the Yeleke Sazy burial mound.

One of the gold figurines found in the treasure.

There are still more plans to excavate in the area because estimates suggest that there may be 200 burial sites in varying states of conservation nearby.

Unfortunately, it is believed that looting has been an issue in at least some of the kurgans.

Akhmetov said that the discovery of the burial mound “shows that the people of Kazakhstan are descended from a great culture” and “gives us a completely different view of the history of our people.”

Huge Christian Grave Slabs Recovered From 13th-Century Shipwreck

Huge Christian Grave Slabs Recovered From 13th-Century Shipwreck

Maritime archaeologists from Bournemouth University have recovered two medieval grave slabs from the remains of the 13th Century Mortar Wreck, the oldest known shipwreck in British waters.

Located in the Swash Channel on the approach to Poole Harbour off the coast of Dorset, England, the site of the wreck was first noted as far back as 1982, but was assumed to be nothing more than a pile of rubble.

The wreck itself was discovered in 2019 by Trevor Small of Rocket Charters, after his dive boat’s scanner picked up an unusual reading from the sea floor; a subsequent site survey by Bournemouth University divers revealed the wreck’s unique archaeological significance.

A diver examines the grave slab in situ

The ship – a design made from overlapping planks of wood known as a ‘clinker’ – was carrying a large number of grinding mortars – large stone wheels for grinding flour – made from Purbeck marble, a hard form of limestone quarried from the nearby Isle of Purbeck.

The ship’s timbers were dated to between 1242 and 1265, meaning it would have sunk during the reign of Henry III, King of England from 1216 to 1272.

The two large gravestone slabs, also made from Purbeck marble, were found at a depth of around 7m in a remarkable state of preservation. One immaculately preserved slab measures 1.5m in length and weighs an estimated 70kg, while a second, larger slab is broken into two pieces with a combined length of 2m and a weight of around 200kg. 

The recovery was led by Tom Cousins, pictured here with the grave slabs

Divers and archaeologists brought the slabs to the surface on 4 June 2024 in a two-hour operation led by Tom Cousins, a Maritime Archaeologist at Bournemouth University.

The slabs will now be desalinated and conserved by the Bournemouth team until they can be put on public display along with the other recovered artefacts in Poole Museum’s new Shipwreck Gallery, expected to open in Spring 2025 following the museum’s £4.3m redevelopment.

The recovery of the gravestones, together with other artefacts such as the mortars, smaller stone vessels and cauldrons, will enable the researchers to learn more about 13th-century life and the ancient craft of stonemasonry.

Huge Christian Grave Slabs Recovered From 13th-Century Shipwreck
The smaller of the two slabs is amazingly well preserved

‘The wreck went down in the height of the Purbeck stone industry and the grave slabs we have here were a very popular monument for bishops and archbishops across all the cathedrals and monasteries in England at the time,’ said Cousins. ‘Examples have been found in Westminster Abbey, Canterbury Cathedral and Salisbury Cathedral.

‘Although Purbeck marble was quarried near Corfe Castle there has always been a debate about how much work was done here and how much was done in London,’ Cousins added. ‘Now we know they were definitely carving them here, but they hadn’t been polished into the usual shiny finish at the time they sank so there is still more we can learn.’ 

The larger of the two slabs is broken in two but the engraving is still clearly visible

The team will continue to explore and protect the wreck over the coming years, and hope to include an operation to record the timber frames of the ship’s hull which are still well preserved in the sand. Cousins says he is also planning to use this as a training opportunity for his students at the university.  

‘The future aim of the project is to train the next generation so that they get the same opportunities I had,’ said Cousins. ‘We’ve already started teaching our second-year students to dive and as they get into the third year we’re going to take them out to sea and teach them their first steps to becoming maritime archaeologists.’

Scenes of Warriors from 6th Century BC on a Slate Plaque Discovered at Tartessian Site in Spain

Scenes of Warriors from 6th Century BC on a Slate Plaque Discovered at Tartessian Site in Spain

Scenes of Warriors from 6th Century BC on a Slate Plaque Discovered at Tartessian Site in Spain

Archaeologists representing Spain’s National Research Council (CSIC) excavating at the archaeological site of Casas del Turunuelo have uncovered a slate plaque about 20 centimeters engraved on both sides where various motifs can be identified.

The slate plaque includes drawing exercises, a battle scene involving three characters, and repeated depictions of faces or geometric figures.  According to early indications, this rare find in Guareña (Badajoz, Spain) may have supported the engraver as they carved designs into pieces of wood, ivory, or gold.

Three digitally silhouetted figures on the front face of the plate.

The new campaign has also made it possible to discover the location of the east door that gives access to the Stepped Room, excavated in 2023 and known for the discovery of the first figured reliefs of Tartessos.

The Tartessians, who are thought to have lived in southern Iberia (modern-day Andalusia and Extremadura), are regarded as one of the earliest Western European civilizations.

The Late Bronze Age saw the emergence of the Tartessos culture in the southwest of the Iberian Peninsula in Spain.

The culture is characterized by the use of the now-extinct Tartessian language, which is combined with local Phoenician and Paleo-Hispanic characteristics. The Tartessos people were skilled in metallurgy and metalworking, creating ornate objects and decorative items.

The team from the Institute of Archaeology of Mérida (IAM), a joint center of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and the Junta de Extremadura, directed by Esther Rodríguez González and Sebastián Celestino Pérez, is responsible for these archaeological excavations.

At a press conference, the team of CSIC experts highlighted the importance of the discovered slate plaque, which shows four individuals identified as warriors, given their decorated clothing and the weapons they carry.

Initial indications, though they require further investigation, point to the piece being a jeweler’s slate, a material that would have supported the artist while they engraved the motifs on pieces of wood, ivory, or gold.

“This discovery is a unique example in peninsular archaeology and brings us closer to understanding the artisanal processes in Tartessos, previously invisible, while also allowing us to complete our knowledge of the clothing, weaponry, or headdresses of the depicted characters, as they proliferate with details,” says Esther Rodríguez.

This documentation complements the finding made in the previous campaign, where the documentation of several faces allowed, for the first time, admiration of how the society of the 6th-5th centuries BC wore their  jewelry.

The researchers also worked on the eastern gate, which they identified in 2023. Based on the nature of the documented architectural remains and the discovery of the building’s east door in the center of a monumental facade more than three meters high, the research team believes that this door confirms the main access to the building on its eastern end, which retains its two constructive floors.

The door links the Stepped Room to a large slate-paved courtyard, which has a cobblestone corridor in front of it. This corridor separates the main body of the building from a set of rooms where interesting material lots have been recovered.

Additionally, the archaeological materials recovered from the adjoining rooms located in front of said access suggest that it is the production or artisanal area of the building.

The finding of the outside rooms devoted to various artisanal activities is also noteworthy since it sheds light on societal issues that were unknown during this time period and strengthens Tartessos’ artisanal identity.

“Our efforts will now focus on studying the recovered remains, both from the face reliefs and the ivories. As for the archaeological work at the site, our goal for the next campaign is to delineate these production areas that seem to extend, at least, along the entire eastern side of the site. In parallel, we will begin to open the rooms flanking the main space, which have an excellent degree of preservation and can help us define the functionality of the building,” said Sebastián Celestino.

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