All posts by Archaeology World Team

490-Million-Year-Old Trilobites Could Solve Ancient Geography Puzzle

490-Million-Year-Old Trilobites Could Solve Ancient Geography Puzzle

490-Million-Year-Old Trilobites Could Solve Ancient Geography Puzzle

The humble trilobites may be extinct, but even as fossils, they can teach us much about our planet’s history. Indeed, ancient arthropods from nearly half a billion years ago, including ten newly discovered species,  may be key to understanding Thailand’s place on the former supercontinent Gondwana.

Trilobites are extinct sea creatures with half-moon-shaped heads that breathed through their legs. A 100-page monograph in the British journal offers great detail about the new species, including one named in honor of Thai Royal Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.

The trilobite fossils were trapped between layers of petrified ash in sandstone, the product of old volcanic eruptions that settled on the sea floor and formed a green layer called a tuff. Unlike some other kinds of rocks or sediment, tuffs contain crystals of zircon — a mineral that formed during an eruption and are, as the name of the rock layer containing them suggests, tough.

Zircon is chemically stable as well as heat and weather resistant. It is hard as steel and persists when minerals in other kinds of rocks erode. Inside these resilient zircon crystals, individual atoms of uranium gradually decay and transform into atoms of lead.

“We can use radio isotope techniques to date when the zircon formed and thus find the age of the eruption, as well as the fossil,” said Nigel Hughes, monograph co-author and UC Riverside geology professor.

It is rare to find tuffs from this particular period of time, the late Cambrian period, between 497 and 485 million years ago. “Not many places around the world have this. It is one of the worst dated intervals of time in Earth’s history,” Hughes said.

Artist’s rendering of a trilobite based on preserved soft body parts.

“The tuffs will allow us to not only determine the age of the fossils we found in Thailand, but to better understand parts of the world like China, Australia, and even North America where similar fossils have been found in rocks that cannot be dated,” said Shelly Wernette, former Hughes lab geologist now at Texas State University, and first author of the monograph.

The fossils were uncovered on the coast of an island called Ko Tarutao. It is about 40 minutes southwest from the mainland via high-speed boat and is part of a UNESCO geopark site that has encouraged international teams of scientists to work in this area.

For Wernette, the most interesting discovery was 12 types of trilobites that have been seen in other parts of the world, but never in Thailand before. “We can now connect Thailand to parts of Australia, a really exciting discovery.”

During the trilobites’ lifetime, this region was on the outer margins of Gondwanaland, an ancient supercontinent that included Africa, India, Australia, South America, and Antarctica.

“Because continents shift over time, part of our job has been to work out where this region of Thailand was in relation to the rest of Gondwanaland,” Hughes said. “It’s a moving, shape shifting, 3D jigsaw puzzle we’re trying to put together. This discovery will help us do that.”

Location of the fossil discoveries.

For example, take the species named for Royal Princess Sirindhorn. The species was named in tribute to the princess for her steadfast dedication to developing the sciences in Thailand. “I also thought this species had a regal quality. It has a broad headdress and clean sweeping lines,” Wernette said.

If researchers can get a date from the tuffs containing her namesake species, Tsinania sirindhornae, and determine when they lived, they will be able to say that closely related species of Tsinania found in northern and southern China are roughly the same age.

Ultimately, the researchers feel that the pictures of the ancient world hidden in the fossils they found contain invaluable information for the present day.

“What we have here is a chronicle of evolutionary change accompanied by extinctions. The Earth has written this record for us, and we’re fortunate to have it,” Hughes said. “The more we learn from it the better prepared we are for the challenges we’re engineering on the planet for ourselves today.”

A rare 6,000-year-old elephant ivory vessel was unearthed near Beersheba

A rare 6,000-year-old elephant ivory vessel was unearthed near Beersheba

A rare 6,000-year-old elephant ivory vessel was unearthed near Beersheba

A recent excavation near Beersheba in southern Israel uncovered an ivory vessel crafted of elephant tusks dating to the Chalcolithic period (around 4,000 BC). The find is the first Chalcolithic ivory vessel discovered in Israel.

Although the ship was originally disassembled, careful restoration work at the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) laboratories has brought it back to its former glory.

The vessel is of a type known to researchers as an amphoriskos, a small jar. This rare find sheds light on ancient trade connections between the Holy Land and Egypt some six millennia ago

The diameter of the ivory container is approximately 8 inches. Its exquisitely designed and skillfully crafted small matching handles are arranged symmetrically around its lower body and neck.

The find is the first Chalcolithic ivory vessel discovered in Israel, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) said and was likely either imported from Egypt or carved locally from ivory imported from there.

The broken ivory vessel deposited within the large basalt bowls.

The rare item was discovered in 2020 at Horvat Raqiq, an archaeological site near Beersheba in southern Israel, during infrastructure work to lay a water pipe, the IAA told The Times of Israel.

More than just artifacts were discovered during the excavation at Horbat Raqiq; it also uncovered an old settlement with underground buildings etched into the Loess ground. Emil Aladjem discovered the edge of a basalt vessel during the last stages of the dig, which prompted additional investigation.

Three imposing vessels were found within the excavation site after an extended search. Among them, nestled within layers of soil, lay the shattered remnants of the ivory vessel, carefully interred in antiquity – a testament to its significance.

“This find deepens our understanding of the Chalcolithic period and of the cultural exchange ties of our region with both neighboring and distant cultures,” the researchers said.

“The vessel is well-made and makes maximum use of the original tusk – which was a most precious material. If it was manufactured here, it reveals the high standard of craftspeople who dwelt here, who knew how to treat ivory, and also knew elephant anatomy.”

IAA researchers, specialists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and ivory conservationist Olga Negnevitsky collaborated to analyze and restore the ivory vessel, which was a difficult and drawn-out process.

The vessel is to be presented to the public on Thursday in Jerusalem at the annual Israel Prehistoric Society conference, along with other recent prehistoric discoveries.

600 Years Old Sword and Equipment Found in Olsztyn

600 Years Old Sword and Equipment Found in Olsztyn

Aleksander Miedwiediew, a history buff, and detectorist discovered a bare sword, a sheath, and a knight’s belt with two knives attached, all of which most likely date from the Battle of Grunwald.

The objects were sent to regional authorities by the finder, who then passed them on to the Battle of Grunwald Museum.

The Marshal’s Office of Warmia and Masuria informed about the finding on Thursday, saying in a statement that “such findings happen once in decades”.

“It’s a phenomenal set of a sword, a sheath, a belt, and two knives. Taking into account that these artifacts date back somewhere between 14th and 15th centuries, and thus spent approx.

600 years below the earth, they have been preserved in an exceptionally good condition” – said the finder of the items Aleksander Miedwiediew. He added that in the times of their origin, such items had been extremely valuable – their price would match the price of a car today.

Miedwiediew found the items near Olsztyn. The exact location has not been revealed, as the director of the Battle of Grunwald Museum Szymon Drej said preparations for archeological exploration of that area were ongoing. “It’s puzzling that no one had taken hold of these items, very precious at the time. Maybe we will find the remains of a knight whom these things belonged to” – Drej added.

The finder of the weapons took them to the Marshal of Warmia and Masuria Marek Brzezin. The marshal passed the findings on to the Battle of Grunwald Museum where they will undergo conservation.

“The weapons will now undergo conservation and research process. We have a theory as to the sword’s medieval owner’s status, and we’re curious what’s underneath the layer of rust” – Drej added.

Other sensational discoveries have been made by Aleksander Miedwiediew.

During his annual archeological study at the Fields of Grunwald in the fall of 2020, he discovered two perfectly preserved battle axes. They were taken to the Grunwald Museum.

Name of Iranian city identified on 1800-year-old Sassanid clay seal

Name of Iranian city identified on 1800-year-old Sassanid clay seal

Name of Iranian city identified on 1800-year-old Sassanid clay seal

In a stunning archaeological find, the name “Shiraz” was identified on a clay sealing from the Sassanid era written in Pahlavi script.

The Sassanid Empire‘s (224-651CE) territory encompassed all of what is now Iran, Iraq, Armenia, Afghanistan, eastern parts of Turkey, and parts of Syria, Pakistan, Caucasia, Central Asia, and Arabia.

The Sassanids called their empire Eranshahr “Empire of the Aryans (Persians)”. Ardashir I established the Sassanid Empire or Sassanian Dynasty following his victory over Artabanus IV Ardavan, the final Parthian (Arsacid) monarch. It came to an end when Yazdegerd III (632–651), the final Sassanid Shahanshah (King of Kings), lost his 14-year struggle to expel the growing Islamic empires.

The Sassanid era is regarded as one of Iran’s most significant and influential historical periods. Persia had a significant impact on Roman civilization during the Sassanid era, and the Romans only granted equal status to the Sassanid Persians.

The finding is important due to cementing the history of Shiraz, which is situated some 60 km south of Persepolis, once the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire (c. 550–330 BC).

The sealing is being kept at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. These sealings were unearthed during three seasons of archaeological excavations by experts from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, conducted from 1932 to 1935.

According to the Met Museum, this sealing was impressed with four seals of varying sizes. The imagery on the seals depicts a lion walking right, a monogram, an inscription, and a horned quadruped.

This sealing was one of more than five hundred that were unearthed from the Sasanian stronghold located at Qasr-e Abu Nasr. The building burned, baking the clay and preserving the seal impressions, which is how the cache survived.

Iranian archaeologist Mohammadreza Nasab-Abdollahi said that based on the research he has done, he has identified the name of Shiraz in the Pahlavi script (Middle Persian) on the “Sasanian clay seal”, which were obtained nearly a century ago from the archaeological excavations in the “Qasr-e Abu Nasr” in the east of Shiraz.

On 6 April, Iranian archaeologist Mohammadreza Nasab-Abdollahi affirmed to ISNA news agency that the inscription “Mugh-e Shiraz” has been deciphered on these Sassanid clay sealings.

Name of Iranian city identified on 1800-year-old Sassanid clay seal

According to Nasab-Abdollahi, archaeological investigations indicate that Qasr-e Abu Nasr in Shiraz exhibits a cultural sequence from the Achaemenid to the Abbasid period, with its primary settlement dating back to the Sassanid era.

“The archaeological findings from Qasr-e Abu Nasr reveal a wide spectrum of administrative systems, techniques, and defensive structures,” the archaeologist remarked.

Furthermore, he emphasized that archaeological evidence from the Sassanid period, including such clay sealings, as well as artifacts from the Achaemenid era such as inscribed bricks from Persepolis, corroborates that the city known today as Shiraz bore the same name in antiquity and was among the significant cities of ancient Iran.

A 4000-Year-Old Seal Found in the prehistoric coastal site of Kalba on the Gulf of Oman

A 4000-Year-Old Seal Found in the prehistoric coastal site of Kalba on the Gulf of Oman

A 4000-Year-Old Seal Found in the prehistoric coastal site of Kalba on the Gulf of Oman

Archaeologists discovered a Gulf-type seal made of soft stone dating to the end of the third millennium BC at Kalba, a prehistoric coastal site in the Gulf of Oman.

Since 2019, excavations have been carried out on the south-eastern Arabian Peninsula by the Austrian Academy of Sciences (OeAW) to investigate.

As a result of this research, researchers can be detected for the first time the extensive trade networks extending from the Indus region to the Aegean Sea about 4500 years ago. According to researchers, presumably, the Gulf region already served as a nexus between East and West about 4500 years ago.

Kalba is a multi-period site situated in the Emirate of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, on the Gulf of Oman, and it is one of the sites under investigation as a hub for these early commercial networks in the southeastern Arabian Peninsula.

Kalba was continuously inhabited from the Early Bronze Age to the Iron Age (c. 2500–600 BC), despite environmental changes that made the area more arid.

In addition to providing favorable weather, Kalba’s strategic location made it an excellent entry point for caravan routes connecting land and sea. The Hajar Mountains can still be crossed via this route, which also makes it possible to trade goods with the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula.

However, the researchers emphasize the importance of considering the question of what objects or raw materials were brought to Kalba, produced and used at the site, and which presumably served as trade goods.  All indications point to a special relevance of mineral resources.

The research findings show that a multi-crafting coastal community not only occupies a favorable ecological niche but also employs sophisticated and adaptable raw-material procurement strategies. Moreover, a “Gulf-type” seal attests to Kalba’s involvement in extensive networks of trade and exchange.

According to archaeologists, this type of seal, originally produced in the Dilmun region, can be dated to the late third millennium BCE. The seal depicts a bull and possibly a lion in an attacking posture.

The bull motif, widely recognized in similar seals, is influenced by the iconography of the Indus Valley seals.

The lion, however, is intriguing, as it is not represented in Indus seals, but is rather known as a motif in the cylinder seals of the westernmost Mesopotamian region.

The motifs on the “Gulf-type” seal from Kalba, they conclude, seem to represent a potential synthesis of Eastern and Western motif traditions within a distinct local seal type in the southeastern Arabian Peninsula, emphasizing the cohesive nature of this coastal trading hub.

“Nikasitimos Was Here Mounting Timiona,” 2,500-year-old erotic graffiti on Astypalaia, Greece

“Nikasitimos Was Here Mounting Timiona,” 2,500-year-old erotic graffiti on Astypalaia, Greece

“Nikasitimos Was Here Mounting Timiona,” 2,500-year-old erotic graffiti on Astypalaia, Greece

In 2014, an archaeologist working on Astypalaia, a remote Greek island of the Dodecanese discovered one of the world’s oldest erotic graffiti a pair of phallus carvings dating from the 5th century BCE and a proclamation of sexual conquest from the 6th century BCE.

Archaeologists believe it is the oldest record of erotic graffiti ever found, with inscriptions and etchings documenting an ongoing sexual relationship between two men in Ancient Greece.

Professor Dr. Andreas Vlachopoulos discovered the two carved penises while he was giving his students a tour of the island. They were found etched into a limestone outcropping on the island’s windswept, rugged peninsula overlooking Vathay Bay.

In an interview with The Guardian,  Professor Andreas Vlachopoulos, a specialist in prehistoric archaeology was surprised to find such sophisticated inscriptions in such an unlikely place. He called the inscriptions “monumental in scale”.

“They claimed their own space in large letters that not only expressed sexual desire but talked about the act of sex itself,” he told the Guardian. “And that is very, very rare.”

Even though sexual relations between men were not taboo in ancient Greece, these racy inscriptions and phalluses carved into Astypalaia’s rocky peninsula shed light on the very private lives of ancient Greece.

Carved on the side of the rock, archeologists found the name “DION” (ΔΙΩΝ). There was another inscription which was found 52 meters above sea level. “Nikasitimos was here mounting Timiona” (Νικασίτιμος οἶφε Τιμίονα), noted the inscription.

In addition to illuminating the intimate lives of the ancients, the graffiti demonstrated the degree of literacy at a period before the construction of the Acropolis in Athens.

The graffiti is written in the Greek alphabet, which was first developed in the 8th century BCE. It is written in a style known as “rustic,” which was popular in the sixth and fifth centuries BCE.

The letters have been expertly carved into the rock, demonstrating that regular island residents were also trained in the art of writing, in addition to philosophers, academics, and historians.

Remarkably, the erotic rock carvings have survived despite remaining exposed all these millennia to weather and erosion from the sea.

Three Strange Skull Modifications Discovered in Viking Women

Three Strange Skull Modifications Discovered in Viking Women

Three Strange Skull Modifications Discovered in Viking Women

In recent years, research has provided evidence for permanent body modification in the Viking Age. The latest of these investigations focused on the discovery of three Viking Age women from the Baltic Sea island of Gotland who had their skulls lengthened.

This investigation sheds light on the fascinating tradition of body modification prevalent among the Norse and Vikings.

The study, authored by Matthias Toplak and Lukas Kerk and published in the journal Current Swedish Archaeology, has identified around 130 individuals, mainly men, with horizontal grooves carved into their teeth, with a surprising concentration on Gotland.

Although there have been many interpretations of these dental changes, ranging from slave markings to symbols of warrior elites, the researchers suggest that on closer examination they may have served as identity markers within a closed group of traders.

Artificial cranial modifications in the Viking Age are so far known from just three female individuals from Gotland. Dating back to the latter part of the eleventh century, all three women were interred in different locations across Gotland. Their skull modifications gave them a unique and remarkable appearance, elongating their heads.

Further details are discerned in two of the cases: one woman passed away between the ages of 25 and 30, while the other was between 55 and 60 years old.

These cranial alterations, unlike dental modifications, appear to be alien to Scandinavian Viking culture; cases dating from the 9th to the 11th century AD have been found in Eastern Europe, suggesting that they may have originated there.

Drawing of the grave of the female individual with an artificially modified skull in grave 192 from Havor, Hablingbo parish, Gotland, by Mirosław Kuźma/Matthias Toplak

The presence of these women with modified skulls raises questions about how Gotland society interacted with and reinterpreted this form of foreign identity, the practices of which are still unknown when they arrived in Scandinavia.

“It remains unclear how the custom of skull modification reached Gotland,” the authors write. ”Either the three females from Havor, Ire, and Kvie were born in south-eastern Europe, perhaps as children of Gotlandic or East Baltic traders, and their skulls were modified there in the first years of life. Or the modifications were made on Gotland or in the eastern Baltic, respectively, and thus represent a cultural adoption long unknown to the Scandinavian Viking Age.

A common background of the three females can be assumed due to the close chronological dating of the three burials, and especially due to the very similar execution of the skull modifications.”

These three women’s elaborately decorated tombs, which feature jewelry and other accessories typical of Gotland women’s clothing, suggest they were accepted and integrated into the local community.

While the religious affiliations of these women remain unknown, Toplak and Kerk propose they were laid to rest within a Christian framework.

High-status Macedonian tomb discovered in ancient Aegae, Central Macedonia

High-status Macedonian tomb discovered in ancient Aegae, Central Macedonia

High-status Macedonian tomb discovered in ancient Aegae, Central Macedonia

In the ancient city of Aegae (present-day Vergina) in Imathia, Central Macedonia, during the construction of the sewerage network, tomb of a local noble, buried with his wife, was discovered.

Aegae or Aigai was the original capital of the Macedonians, an ancient kingdom in Emathia in northern Greece. In antiquity, the city remained the burial place of the royal family after the capital was transferred to the city of Pella at the beginning of the 4th century BC.

This and other important findings of the archaeological excavations carried out during the rescue excavations in the necropolis of Aigai last year were presented by Angeliki Kottaridis, Honorary Director of Antiquities, at the 36th Annual Archaeological Meeting of the “the Archaeological Project in Macedonia and Thrace in 2023” in Thessaloniki.

The tomb, which dates back to the third century BC, was discovered in an area with mounds in the northwest corner of the necropolis.

The entranceway of the tomb enclosed by piles of stones was unearthed. The interior of the tomb measures 3.7 x 2.7 meters.

Helmet discovered by archaeologists in Aigai.

“This is an important tomb because the man buried here, the main deceased, had a shield reinforced with iron pieces, and the weapons preserved in sections show that they were made in a very good workshop, so it is probably one of the hetairai (Macedonian elite cavalry),” said Kottaridi.

The interior of the tomb is decorated with an encircling golden band with bows.

The colored mortars on the facade observed by the archaeologists belong to two phases and are explained by the later burial of his wife here, while a crown of gold myrtle attracted attention among the jewels found in the tomb.

The tomb that Dimitris Pandermanlis excavated in 1969 is located just 100 meters away from this one, and it contains two additional tombs. In the archaeologist’s opinion, it is most likely a group of wealthy tombs.