All posts by Archaeology World Team

Thousands of Mummified Ram’s Heads Uncovered in Abydos

Thousands of Mummified Ram’s Heads Uncovered in Abydos

Thousands of Mummified Ram’s Heads Uncovered in Abydos
A group of 2000 mummified heads of rams

Excavation work carried out by an American mission from New York University at the temple of Ramses II in Abydos has stumbled upon a menagerie of mummified animals that provides previously undocumented evidence of cultic worship through the ages.

The most significant find at the site is over 2,000 mummified heads of rams from the Ptolemaic period along with other mummified ewes, dogs, wild goats, cows, gazelles and mongooses, said Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities.

The mummified remains, some still in their linen wrappings, were found stored in one of the recently discovered magazines within the temple’s northern precinct, Waziri added.

Sameh Iskander, head of the mission, noted that the discovery of this large number of mummified rams, presumably as votive offerings, placed inside the temple points to an unprecedented rams’ cultic practice in Abydos during the Ptolemaic period. It indicates that the memory of Ramses II was still revered in Abydos a thousand years after his time (1303-1213 BC).

The mission also discovered a large palatial structure with an unusual architectural layout with walls about five metres thick, which appears for the first time in Abydos, and dates to the end of the Sixth Dynasty (c.2181 BC) of the Old Kingdom.

“This structure will provide important, multifaceted and spectacular information on the activities of the Old Kingdom in Abydos, opening up major new perspectives that will contribute to reestablish the sense of the ancient landscape of Abydos before the construction of the Ramses II temple,” Iskander said.

Mohamed Abdel-Badei, head of the central department of Upper Egypt Antiquities, said that the mission was also able to clear the temple’s northern enclosure walls and its various structures, which clearly defines the boundary of the temple’s domain and helps us better understand the daily life in the precinct, its administration and cultic activities.

This will lead to reconsidering the image of the temple and its details as perceived by earlier research since the temple’s discovery over 150 years ago.

The mission also recovered a number of statues, papyri, remains of ancient trees, leather garments and shoes.

The new discoveries contain a wealth of information that drastically expands our knowledge of the temple’s site, located along the Nile more than 400 kilometres south of Cairo, to a period spanning over two millennia, from the Sixth Dynasty to the Ptolemaic period.

The secret of the mummy in the Crystal coffin found in a garage in San Francisco

The secret of the mummy in the Crystal coffin found in a garage in San Francisco

The secret of the mummy in the Crystal coffin found in a garage in San Francisco

Mysterious mummies are a symbol of ancient lost times, which we often associate with Egypt and other ancient civilizations. Therefore, the discovery of a coffin made of crystal with the body of a girl come from under the floor of a garage in San Francisco is absolutely shocking.

In 2016, while remodeling an old garage in San Francisco, California, workers found a strange object that, upon closer inspection, turned out to be a child’s coffin with an extraordinary design.

Rusted bolts held a metal object together that resembled a large shaped casket, and it was only by unscrewing the bolts that it was possible to identify what it was. Bolts fixed a sheet of metal that covered two windows made of thick glass. Looking inside the box, the workers were taken aback — inside lay the body of a small blonde girl, almost untouched by decay.

The discovery of an old coffin containing the body of a child terrified the people of San Francisco and perplexed scientists. It took them a long time to figure out the mystery of an unusual burial.

Coffin inside lay the body of a blond girl dressed in a lace dress. Her hair was decorated with lavender petals, and on her chest lay a wreath in the form of a cross of blue bindweeds. In her hands, she held a large purple nightshade flower.

There were no details inside the coffin that would help identify the body.  The body was examined, described, and photographed, after which the experts drew up a protocol, placed the metal coffin containing the child in a wooden box, and… handed it over to the garage owner.

According to the law, if the corpse is not a criminal and the relatives are unknown, the burial duties are assigned to the owner of the land where the body was discovered.

During the paperwork, the police gave the deceased the name Eva. And the mistress of the garage, where they found the burial, named the child Miranda.

But how did the coffin with the little dead girl end up under the garage? This was not a surprising occurrence given that the structure stood on the grounds of Odd Fellows Cemetery, San Francisco’s largest cemetery. When the rapidly growing metropolis came close to the extreme graves, a large city churchyard was closed for burials in 1890.

When the cemetery started to negatively impact the neighborhood over time, it was decided to close it down in 1923. Most of the remains were exhumed and buried in common graves, while some of the bodies were taken by relatives for reburial. The coffin with the girl was obviously forgotten in the confusion and remained in the ground, which was handed over to developers.

Tissue and hair samples were taken from the deceased girl for DNA analysis. Erica Karner was busy burying Eva-Miranda while the examination was taking place. The girl’s body began to decompose after the airtight coffin was opened. It was impossible to delay the burial.

Tissue analysis revealed that the baby’s mother was born in the British Isles. Even more interesting were the results of the hair study.

“Hair DNA analysis showed that the child had a protein deficiency and severe malnutrition.

And experts said that most likely this arose due to some kind of illness or due to the amount of medication that the child used,” the lawyer said.

Volunteers explored the city archives. They found a record of the burial of a two-year-old girl who died due to severe exhaustion. Her name is Edith Howard Cook. The child died in October 1876.

The parents’ names were Horatio Nelson and Edith Skaufi Cook. Scientists have even found living relatives of the “girl from the crystal coffin.”

Thus, volunteers and scientists were able to solve the mystery surrounding the mysterious burial and give the girl’s name back who passed away nearly 150 years ago.

Sleeping Beauty.

Parents often embalmed their dead children’s bodies centuries ago. The famous mummy of a child is kept in Palermo’s Capuchin catacombs. Rosalia Lombardo, the daughter of a Sicilian official, died of pneumonia in 1920. The girl’s body was so well preserved that she was nicknamed “Sleeping Beauty”.

Chinese Paleontologists discovered a 170-million-year-old flower

Chinese Paleontologists discovered a 170-million-year-old flower

Chinese Paleontologists discovered a 170-million-year-old flower

Chinese paleontologists discovered fossils of an ancient plant dating back approximately 170 million years.

The Chinese Academy of Sciences Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology recently announced the discovery of the earliest angiosperm known in Northwest China through the reexamination of fossil specimens.

The study was jointly worked on by the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou University, Ningxia Geological Museum, and Northwest University. The findings of this study were recently published in Life, an international biological journal.

The fossil flower buds are oval, 17 millimeters in length, and 9 millimeters wide, on a 15-millimeter-long stalk. There is a larch-like structure at the bottom, which is covered with flower petals, the researchers said.

The researcher in charge of the study said that flowers and fruits are part of the angiosperm family. Angiosperms are the most evolved, diverse, widely distributed, and adaptable group of plants today. There are 300,000 species of extant angiosperms around the world.

Fruits of Qingganninginfructus formosa and contained seeds.

The research team reexamined a Jurassic plant fossil from about 170 million years ago in the Northwest of China. The plant was previously thought to be a gymnosperm, named as Drepanolepis formosa Zhang, 1998.

In the latest study, the team used micro-CT technology to scan the fossil and found that the interior contained inverted ovules, which is a key feature for determining angiosperms.

The latest study found that an inverted ovule with two integuments is enclosed in each carpel or fruit, which is a key feature for determining angiosperms, and they named the fossil plant a Qingganninginfructus formosa.

The fossil plant is the earliest evidence of angiosperms in Northwest China. Its discovery indicates that angiosperms appeared and spread widely as early as 170 million years ago, during the Middle Jurassic, and reached a certain level of prosperity.

Paleonursery offers a detailed glimpse at life 518 million years ago

Paleonursery offers a detailed glimpse at life 518 million years ago

Paleonursery offers a detailed glimpse at life 518 million years ago

Fossilized specimens of thousands of undersea animals buried under a sedimentary avalanche 518 million years ago have been found near Kunming, China, many of which are of new species.

Paleontologists who found the fossil trove believe they’ve unearthed a Cambrian-era ‘paleonursery,’ according to their report in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, with more than half of the specimens juveniles.

The Haiyan lagerstätte—from the German for storage place,’ it refers to a sedimentary deposit with exceptionally well-preserved fossils—contains approximately 2,800 specimens from at least 118 species, including predecessors to modern-day insects, worms, crabs, jellyfish, sponges, and trilobites.

There were also specimens with preserved eggs, larvae, and appendages intact and the inner soft tissues still visible.

Of the species found, 17 were previously unknown species.

Fossil of a juvenile arthropod, Isoxys auritus, preserving the eyes and internal soft tissues.

“It’s just amazing to see all these juveniles in the fossil record,” said Julien Kimmig, collections manager at the Earth and Mineral Sciences Museum & Art Gallery, Penn State. “Juvenile fossils are something we hardly see, especially from soft-bodied invertebrates.”

The Cambrian Period, which lasted 541 million to 485 million years ago, witnessed unprecedented climatic and biological changes, including the Cambrian explosion—the planet’s fastest and most extensive diversity of life in history.

There is a comprehensive fossil record from that time period when life existed solely in the water, but little of it depicts juvenile animals.

According to the researchers, each sediment layer in the lagerstätte represents a distinct ‘burial event,’ and while more recent strata have yielded some results, none equal the richness of the lowest level. It is unknown what triggered the burial event that wiped out the specimens at that level.

According to the team, it might have been caused by a fast change in oxygen levels or a storm that caused thick sludge to ‘wash down a hill and bury everything in its path.’

It may have killed them, but it preserved them so well that they are exposing bodily parts never seen before, including entire three-dimensional eyes.

According to the researchers, scientists may utilize CT scanning on these 3D characteristics to rebuild the fossils and extract even more information from the remains.

Scientists will be able to use this collection to study how these ancient animals developed from the larval to the adult stage.

Fossil of a juvenile arthropod, Leanchoilia illecebrosa, showing fine anatomical details of the appendages and preserving the gut tract.

“We’ll see how different body parts grew over time, which is something we currently do not know for most of these groups,” Julien Kimmig said. “And these fossils will give us more information on their relationships to modern animals. We will see if how these animals develop today is similar to how they developed 500 million years ago, or if something has changed throughout time.”

The fossils will also allow researchers to analyze how animals acted 500 million years ago, when the planet was somewhat warmer than it is today, and use it as a proxy for where the world is heading in terms of animal behavior in a warmer climate.

“In this deposit, we found the ancestors to most modern animals, both marine and terrestrial,” Julien Kimmig said. “If the Haiyan Lagerstätte is actually a paleonursery, it means that this type of animal behavior has not changed much in 518 million years.”

Xianfeng Yang, a paleobiologist at Yunnan University, China, led a team of Chinese researchers that collected the fossils at the research site. Additional contributors to this study include Dayou Zhai and Yu Liu, Yunnan University; and Shanchi Peng, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

This research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the State Key Laboratory of Palaeobiology and Stratigraphy at the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, and the Key Research Program of the Institute of Geology & Geophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The colored skeletons of Çatalhöyük provide insight into the burial rituals of a fascinating society that lived 9000 years ago

The colored skeletons of Çatalhöyük provide insight into the burial rituals of a fascinating society that lived 9000 years ago

The colored skeletons of Çatalhöyük provide insight into the burial rituals of a fascinating society that lived 9000 years ago

New research provides new insights into how the inhabitants of the “oldest city in the world” in Çatalhöyük (Turkey) buried their dead.

Their bones were partially painted, excavated several times, and reburied. The findings provide insight into the burial rituals of a fascinating society that lived 9000 years ago.

The research was done by an international team with the participation of the University of Bern and is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Çatalhöyük (Central Anatolia, Turkey) is one of the most important archaeological sites in the Near East, with an occupation that dates back to 9000 years ago. This Neolithic settlement, known as the world’s oldest city, covers an area of 13 ha and features densely aggregated mudbrick buildings.

The houses of Çatalhöyük present the archaeological traces of ritual activities including intramural burials with some skeletons bearing traces of colorants, and wall paintings.

Detail of the cinnabar stripe on the cranium of the male individual.

The association between the use of colorants and symbolic activities is documented among many past and present human societies. In the Near East, the use of pigments in architectural and funerary contexts becomes especially frequent starting from the second half of the 9th and the 8th millennium BC.

Near Eastern archaeological sites dating back to the Neolithic have returned a large body of evidence of complex, often mysterious, symbolic activities. These include secondary funerary treatments, retrieval and circulation of skeletal parts, such as skulls, and the use of pigments in both architectural spaces and funerary contexts.

The first analysis of the pigments used in funerary and architectural contexts from this essential Neolithic site.

According to the senior author of the study Marco Milella (Department of Physical Anthropology, Institute of Forensic Medicine, University of Bern): “These results reveal exciting insights about the association between the use of colorants, funerary rituals and living spaces in this fascinating society”.

Geometric wall painting in the building.

A time travel into a world of colors, houses, and dead

Marco Milella was part of the anthropological team who excavated and studied the human remains from Çatalhöyük. His work involves trying to make ancient and modern skeletons “speak”. Establishing the age and sex, investigating violent injuries or special treatment of the corpse, and solving skeletal puzzles are routine activities at the Department of Physical Anthropology.

The study shows that red ochre was most commonly used at Çatalhöyük, present on some adults of both sexes and children, and that cinnabar and blue/green were associated with males and females, respectively.

Intriguingly, the number of burials in a building appears associated with the number of subsequent layers of architectural paintings. This suggests a contextual association between funerary deposition and application of colorants in the domestic space. “This means: when they buried someone, they also painted on the walls of the house”, Milella says.

Furthermore, at Çatalhöyük, some individuals “stayed” in the community: their skeletal elements were retrieved and circulated for some time, before they were buried again. This second burial of skeletal elements was also accompanied by wall paintings.

Hand Print on the wall.

Neolithic mysteries

Only a selection of individuals was buried with colorants, and only a part of the individuals remained in the community with their circulating bones.

According to Marco Milella, “the criteria guiding the selection of these individuals escape our understanding for now, which makes these findings even more interesting. Our study shows that this selection was not related to age or sex”.

What is clear, however, is that visual expression, ritual performance, and symbolic associations were elements of shared long-term socio-cultural practices in this Neolithic society.

The naked Venus statue was discovered in a Roman garbage dump in France

The naked Venus statue was discovered in a Roman garbage dump in France

The naked Venus statue was discovered in a Roman garbage dump in France

Archaeologists from the French National Institute for Preventative Archaeological Research (Inrap) has been uncovered a trove of artifacts, including two statues of the goddess Venus, in a Roman-era quarry-turned-trash-dump in the city of Rennes, France.

Artifacts dating back to 1800 years included statues of Venus, as well as a pottery kiln, clothes pins, and coins.

Archaeologists reported earlier this month that they had discovered a quarry that was probably important in constructing Roman Rennes while excavating before a development project.

The founding of the city of Rennes dates back to 100 A.D. Back then, it was still the Condate Riedonum, which was a Roman town.

The foundations for several of Condate’s walls and streets were constructed using tiny slabs of Brioverian schist that were extracted during the first and second centuries of our era.

 The excavation of such a set can teach archaeologists more about the management and organization of the quarry, as well as the gestures of the quarry workers (tools used, extraction techniques), the evolution of the working face over time, and the development of the quarry in successive levels.

Large atypical vase from the Gallo-Roman period in ceramic, with drippings of pitch.

During the quarry excavation, a piece of the mother-goddess Venus genetrix, depicted with her chest covered in fabric, was found.

The statuette dates from between the 1st to 2nd century AD and depicts a 10cm tall naked Venus made from terracotta. She is shown holding her hair which is held in place by an imposing headdress.

 The second and more thorough example is Venus Anadyomene, who emerged from the sea. She is naked and is wringing the water from her hair with her right hand.

Venus is a Roman goddess associated with love, beauty, desire, sex, fertility, prosperity, and victory.

According to Roman mythology, she was an ancestor of the Roman people through her son, Aeneas, who survived the fall of Troy and fled to Italy.

Excavations of the accumulated layers of Roman rubbish has revealed a multitude of finds, including fragments of ceramic tableware, several terracotta statuettes of deities, coins and items of adornment (fibulas).

Unique and very well-preserved prehistoric engravings found in southwestern Catalonia

Unique and very well-preserved prehistoric engravings found in southwestern Catalonia

Significant prehistoric rock art has been discovered in La Febro, in southwestern Catalonia. The team that discovered the art inside Cova de la Vila described it as “exceptional, both for its singularity and excellent state of conservation.”

In the Cova de la Vila cave in La Febró (Tarragona), in northeastern Spain’s region of Catalonia, more than 100 prehistoric engravings have been found, arranged on an eight-meter panel.

According to experts, it is a composition related to the worldview of agricultural societies and farmers of the territory. One of the singularities of this mural is that it is made exclusively with the engraving technique, with stone or wood tools.

The engravings include shapes that resemble horses, cows, suns, and stars.

Julio Serrano, Montserrat Roca, and Francesc Rubinat were the cavers responsible for the discovery; they collaborated with Josep Vallverd, Antonio Rodrguez-Hidalgo, and Diego Lombao, researchers from the Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution (IPHES-CERCA), and Ramón Vias, an expert in prehistoric rock art.

It was in May 2021, during some scans and topographical work by a group of speleologists in the Barranc de la Cova del Corral, that they discovered the Cova de la Vila, a cavity excavated by Salvador Vilaseca in the 1940s and whose coordinates appear to have been lost.

The set is very homogeneous stylistically and presents few overlaps. From the stylistic point of view, the set is part of the post-Paleolithic schematic art. It is an art associated with peasant and livestock communities during the transition period between the Chalcolithic and the Bronze Age, that is, between 5,000 and 3,000 years BC.

In Catalonia, these types of ensembles, in underground cavities, are very rare, being the case of the Sala dels Gravats of the karstic complex of Cova de la Vila exceptional for being inside a cave and possibly associated with an archaeological context.

These types of representations are uncommon in Catalan territory, though some examples can be found, such as the Vallmajor Cave in Albinyana, Baix Penedès. In the peninsular area, it would be classified as “underground black schematic and abstract schematic,” which are heterogeneous groups distinguished by their formal or typological, thematic, and technical affinities.

La Pileta and Nerja in Málaga, La Murcielaguina in Córdoba, and the Los Enebralejos caves in Segovia, the Galera del Flex in Burgos, or the Maja Cave in Soria are some Andalusian caves with painted (black or red) or engraved representations and similar chronologies.

The engravings are in exceptional condition, but they are extremely fragile due to the instability of the support on which they are found. Because it is a soft and humid surface, changes in the atmospheric conditions in the room may affect the conservation of the panel.

To ensure these climatic conditions, the Department of Culture, the Febró Town Hall, and the IPHES collaborated to close it both outside and inside, ensuring its physical conservation. Similarly, a closure has been installed in the access to the cat flap, which provides direct access to the Sala dels Gravats, to return it to the climatic conditions it had prior to discovery.

A unique set of engravings

The rock art collection of the Sala dels Gravats of the Cova de la Vila karstic complex is completely unique. Despite the fact that its research phase has not yet begun, all indications point to it being one of the best compositions of post-paleolithic subterranean abstract art in the entire Mediterranean region.

On one of the cave walls, a large number of schematic representations have been discovered. The engraving panel is made up of five horizontal lines, one on top of the other, with different engraved figures that each have their own meaning and symbolism.

Various figures such as quadrupeds, zigzags, linear, angular strokes, and circles are represented. There are several zoomorphs (possibly bovids and equines), steliforms (single and/or stars), and reticulates that stand out. There’s also a composition that looks like an ‘eyeballed’ idol. The overall aesthetic is very consistent, with few stylistic overlaps.

The distribution of the various elements suggests that it could be a composition: zoomorphic in the lower part of the panel, reticulated, particularly in the central part, and steliform in the upper part of the group, with an eye in the upper part of the group.

Archaeologists uncovered a ‘golden tomb’ during excavations in Armenia

Archaeologists uncovered a ‘golden tomb’ during excavations in Armenia

Archaeologists uncovered a ‘golden tomb’ during excavations in Armenia

A team of archaeologists made up of Polish and Armenian scientists has discovered a “golden tomb” containing two skeletons in Metsamor, Armenia.

The team discovered the remains of three gold necklaces while excavating the grave of two people, most likely a couple (a man and a woman). The tomb dates back to Ramesses II’s rule over Egypt.

Metsamor is one of the most studied archaeological monuments of V-I century BC in the Armenian Highland, and throughout the Ancient Near East. It includes the Bronze-Iron Age settlement (citadel, city districts, and celestial observation platform) as well as the cemetery.

The land area exceeds 200 hectares. The site is located in the Ararat plain, about 35 kilometers west of Yerevan, in the Taronik administrative district.

The ancient site of Metsamor is the place where the oldest known gold jewelry in the territory of Armenia was found.

Discovery was a cist grave, meaning that the two skeletons were found in chambers dug in the ground and lined with large stones. Researchers also found the remains of a wooden burial bed.

Metsamor. View of the citadel.

“Their death is a mystery to us, we do not know the cause, but everything indicates that they died at the same time, because there are no traces of tomb reopening,” said the head of the research project, Professor Krzysztof Jakubiak from the Faculty of Archaeology of the University of Warsaw.

The bones, according to archaeologists, were well preserved. Both skeletons had slightly crouched legs. According to preliminary estimates, the couple died between the ages of 30 and 40.

Professor Krzysztof Jakubiak believes that this is a unique find because the very richly equipped grave has not been robbed.

Archaeologists discovered over a hundred beads and gold pendants inside the tomb. Some of them look like Celtic crosses. There were also a large number of carnelian pendants.

“All these elements probably made up three necklaces,” said Professor Jakubiak.

The ancient site of Metsamor is the place where the oldest known gold jewelry in the territory of Armenia was found.

A dozen or so complete ceramic vessels and a unique faience flask were also found in the grave. The flask had not been made in the area. It was brought from the Syrian-Mesopotamian borderland, according to the researchers.

Archaeologists do not know who lived in Metsamor at that time (in the second half of the 2nd millennium BCE). The people who inhabited the large, fortified settlement there were not literate, so they left no texts. This makes identifying them difficult for scientists.

Jakubiak said: “But it was a very large settlement. Even fortifications made of huge stone blocks have survived to our times, encircling the so-called citadel on the hill. At the end of the 2nd millennium BCE, there was no other settlement in the region that could be compared in terms of importance and size.”