All posts by Archaeology World Team

France Returns to Senegal an 18th-Century Saber That It Looted During the Colonial Period

France Returns to Senegal an 18th-Century Saber That It Looted During the Colonial Period

As a symbolic gesture of France’s commitment in its dedication to restoring African cultural heritage, French Prime Minister Edouard Philip handed the historic sword to the President of Senegal Macky Sall.

Omar Saïdou Tall, a leading Muslim religious leader in the 19th century who fought French colonialists in the 1850s in a region of West Africa that is now Senegal.

Decades later, French troops seized its possessions including the sword.

Omar Saïdou Tall’s sword was seized by French troops

The act followed one year after a report by the French president Emmanuel Macron was published that recommends the return of African artifacts in French museums.

There are about 90,000 Sub-Saharan artifacts in French public collections, many of them looted or acquired during the colonial era. Senegal gained independence from France in 1960.

France has yet to make good on Macron’s pledges: nothing has as yet been definitively returned, and a promised conference on the subject has yet to materialise.

Permanent repatriations will also require a change in French law, which deems museum collections to be “inalienable.”

Today’s ceremony is, therefore “not strictly speaking restitution,” the French government said in a statement.

The sword, whose leather handle is trimmed with a base shaped like a bird’s beak, has already been on display in Senegal’s new Museum of Black Civilisations as a loan from the Musée de L’armée in Paris.

Nonetheless, Sall welcomed the return as “historic,” saying it signals “a new chapter in French-Senegalese relations.”

UK family finds Indian treasure worth millions looted under British rule lying in the attic

UK family finds Indian treasure worth millions looted under British rule lying in the attic

An auction for around 107000 pounds was made of a collection of rare objects found by a couple of years later in the English county of Berkshire and identified as artefacts from Tipu Sultan’s weapons.

The most impressive item was a silver-mounted 20-bore flintlock gun and bayonet from the personal arms of Mysore’s last ruler. Proved hugely popular as it attracted 14 bids before going under the hammer for 60,000 pounds.

“Unlike other Tipu Sultan guns, this one exhibits clear signs of having been badly damaged in its past…rather than being taken directly from the rack after the fall of Seringapatam it appears to have been collected from the battlefield,” the lot description notes.

Tipu’s battle-damaged flintlock musket
The war booty was brought back to Britain by Major Thomas Hart of the British East India Company

The other highlight lot, a gold-encrusted sword and suspension belt ensemble believed to be one of Tipu Sultan’s personal swords, attracted as many as 58 bids before being sold to the winning bidder for 18,500 pounds.

The two centrepieces formed part of a collection of eight items brought back by Major Thomas Hart of the East India Company after the Tiger of Mysore’s defeat at Seringapatam in 1799.

This golden snack box was home to some 220-year-old betel nuts
Major Thomas Hart’s solid gold seal ring

Alongside the arms, an intricately designed Betel Nut Casket (17,500 pounds) and a Gold East India Company Seal ring (2,800 pounds) belonging to Major Hart, believed to have passed down generations before landing in the hands of the current owners, were among the other big sellers for sale.

Berkshire-based Antony Cribb Ltd auctioneers, who specialise in arms and armoury related sales, had announced the auction following the “exciting discovery” earlier this year and said that majority of the buyer interest had come from Indian based.

The Indian High Commission in London was made aware of the artefacts by the India Pride Project, a worldwide volunteer network set up to track “India’s stolen heritage”, and attempted to convince the auction house to consider voluntarily restoring the items to India.

The India Pride Project, which was instrumental in the restitution of a 12th century Buddha statue stolen from Nalanda in Bihar last year via the Indian High Commission in London, said it would continue lobbying for such artefacts to find their way back to India.

“You haven’t really decolonised a nation unless you’ve given back what’s theirs,” said Anuraag Saxena, founder of the India Pride Project.

However, the auction house insisted that no laws were being broken and also confirmed that the beneficiary family had decided to make a sizeable donation to a school in India from the money generated from the auction.

“The family is not motivated by money and sincerely hope these items find their way back to India, maybe to a museum, for future generations to have access to it,” said Antony Cribb of the auction house.

An Indian miniature painting of Tipu Sultan, the famous Indian freedom fighter

The latest cache of Tipu Sultan related artefacts, which included three further swords from the ruler’s armoury and a lacquered leather shield, was described as special because of its rare discovery under one roof after nearly 220 years.

The items bore the trademark tiger and tiger stripes associated with the Tiger of Mysore as proof of their provenance.

The lots came to light in this year when the couple who made the discovery of this innocuous family heirloom contacted Antony Cribb Ltd about a sword they had in their attic.

After an evaluation, a gold “Haider” symbol found on the sword confirmed that the sword belonged Haider Ali Khan Tipu Sultan’s father. The three other swords bearing similar gold markings were found soon after, along with the other items.

Ancient Egypt: Archaeologists Discover Hidden Palace Marked With Symbols of Ramesses the Great

Ancient Egypt: Archaeologists Discover Hidden Palace Marked With Symbols of Ramesses the Great

An Egyptian palace was discovered on the same site as Ramesses II’s adjacent Temple by New York archeologists.

The palace and temple are located at the ancient site of Abydos, Egypt, where numerous kings are also buried.

Archaeologists were excavating in and around the temple when they discovered the palace.

Ramesses II

They first found a walkway made from stones at the southwest entrance to the temple and they ended up finding a new entrance to a different building that had the markings of Ramesses II.

When the researchers excavated the cornerstones of the temple, they noticed very similar royal symbols.

The newly found symbols and the discovery of the palace give archaeologists more information regarding temples from that period of time.

In fact, for the first time in around 160 years, the floor plan of the temple will have to be changed because of these new discoveries.

Ramesses II was also known as Ramesses the Great and is considered to be one of the most important rulers in Egypt’s ancient times.

It is believed that he ruled from 1279 B.C. to 1213 B.C. He is said to have built huge temples and put cartouches (an oval engraving that represents the name and title of a monarch) on several of the monuments.

Cartouche found at the palace site identifying Ramesses the Great.

Professor Joann Fletcher from the University of York informed Newsweek that King Ramesses III’s Luxor funerary temple also included a palace.

The ancient city of Abydos is located about 300 miles south of Cairo and is where pharaohs from the dynasties of the earliest times are believed to be lying in tombs.

These early dynasties include Qaa from the first one ever, as well as Peribsen from the second dynasty.

Abu Simbel, the Great Temple of Ramesses II, Egypt

The city also includes temples that are dedicated to the god Osiris and the Pharaoh Seti I.

In fact, around the years 2025 B.C. to 1700 B.C. (also known as the Middle Kingdom), many people went to the city to worship Osiris.

Fletcher stated, “The new discovery will certainly emphasize the way Ramesses II, like his father Seti, saw Abydos as the origin of royal power,” adding, “The fact Ramesses II required a palace at Abydos also reveals that he didn’t just order a new temple at the site but was spending enough time there to warrant such accommodation.”

She went on to explain that the discovery “begins to balance out Abydos’ role as purely a cemetery and temple site. To have a building in which people lived their lives is always a fascinating thing to find.”

2,500-Year-Old Chariot Found – Complete with Rider And Horses

2,500-Year-Old Chariot Found – Complete with Rider And Horses

In Yorkshire, a Chariot from the Iron Age was found, making it the second such find in two years.

In a small town in Yorkshire named Pocklington, on a construction site, houses were built. The discovery was made.

There has now been a delay in construction on the homes as a new dig begins in October.

Interesting is that not only the chariot is discovered but the horse’s skeletons are also found that pulled up the wagon and the driver’s human remains.

2,500-Year-Old Chariot Found – Complete with Rider And Horses

The managing director of Persimmon Homes in Yorkshire confirmed that an archaeological discovery of significant importance had been made. That discovery is a horse-drawn chariot from the Iron Age.

He went on to say that excavation is ongoing by archaeologists who will date the find along with detailing it.

During the Iron Age, it was common practice to bury chariots. What the archaeologists were not expecting to find was the remains of the rider of the chariot and the horses that pulled it.

The find dated back to 500 BC and at the time it was the only find of the kind in 200 years. To date, there have only been 26 chariots excavated in the UK.

Archaeologists said that it was unusual for horses to be buried along with the chariot and human remains.

Paula Ware the managing director of MAP Archaeological Practice Ltd said:

“The chariot was located in the final square barrow to be excavated and on the periphery of the cemetery. The discoveries are set to widen our understanding of the Arras (Middle Iron Age) culture and the dating of artifacts to secure contexts is exceptional.”

In the Iron Age, the chariot was seen to be something of a status symbol owned by those with money.

Including horses in the burial of human remains of such a person is unknown. It is something that has the researchers puzzled.

The Dig Revealed Numerous Artifacts

Archaeologists found pots, shields, swords, spears, and brooches among the many findings.

These all gave researchers a good look into the lives of the people who lived more than 2,500 years ago.

Yorkshire has been a good spot to find the remains of the Arras culture, which have been very well preserved.

Around 150 skeletons were found in the region during 2016, with researchers believing the skeletons were those of the Arras culture.

The skeletons along with their possessions were found in the Yorkshire Wolds, a small market town.

Climate change may be behind fall of an ancient empire, say researchers

Climate change may be behind fall of an ancient empire, say researchers

Despite a plethora of cuneiform textual documentation and archaeological excavations and field surveys, archaeologists and historians have been unable to explain the abruptness and finality of the historic empire’s collapse.

Numerous theories about the collapse have been put forward since the city and its destruction levels were first excavated by archaeologists 180 years ago.

But the mystery of how two small armies — the Babylonians in the south and the Medes in the east — were able to converge on Nineveh and completely destroy what was then the largest city in the world, without any reoccupation, has remained unsolved.

A team of researchers — led by Ashish Sinha, California State University, Dominguez Hills, and using archival and archaeological data contributed by Harvey Weiss, professor of Near Eastern archaeology and environmental studies at Yale — was able for the first time to determine the underlying cause for the collapse.

By examining new precipitation records of the area, the team discovered an abrupt 60-year megadrought that so weakened the Assyrian state that Nineveh was overrun in three months and abandoned forever. The research was published in Science Advances on Nov. 13.

An artist’s vision of the interior of an Assyrian palace, based on drawings made in 1849 by Austen Henry Layard on the site of 19th-century excavations.

Assyria was an agrarian society dependent on seasonal precipitation for cereal agriculture. To its south, the Babylonians relied on irrigation agriculture, so their resources, government, and society were not affected by the drought, explains Weiss.

The team analyzed stalagmites — a type of speleothem that grows up from a cave floor and is formed by the deposit of minerals from water — retrieved from Kuna Ba cave in northeast Iraq.

The layers of a stalagmite record the climate conditions of the time when they were created.

The speleothems can provide a history of climate through the oxygen and uranium isotope ratios of infiltrating water that is preserved in its layers.

Oxygen in rainwater comes in two main varieties: heavy and light. The ratio of heavy to light types of oxygen isotopes is extremely sensitive to variations in precipitation and temperature. Over time, uranium trapped in speleothems turns into thorium, allowing scientists to date the speleothem deposits.

Weiss and the research team synchronized these findings with archaeological and cuneiform records and were able to document the first paleoclimate data for the megadrought that affected the Assyrian heartland at the time of the empire’s collapse when its less drought-affected neighbors invaded.

The team’s research also revealed that this megadrought followed a high-rainfall period that facilitated the Assyrian empire’s earlier growth and expansion.

The Neo-Assyrian Empire rose during an unusual time of wet climate and collapsed soon after conditions swung to unusual dryness.

“Now we have a historical and environmental dynamic between north and south and between rain-fed agriculture and irrigation-fed agriculture through which we can understand the historical process of how the Babylonians were able to defeat the Assyrians,” said Weiss, adding that the total collapse of Assyria is still described by historians as the “mother of all catastrophes.”

Through the archaeology and history of the region, Weiss was able to piece together how the megadrought data were synchronous with Assyria’s cessation of long-distance military campaigns and the construction of irrigation canals that were similar to its southern neighbors but restricted in their agricultural extent.

Other texts noted that the Assyrians were worrying about their alliances with distant places, while also fearing internal intrigue, notes Weiss.

“This fits into a historical pattern that is not only structured through time and space but time and space that is filled with environmental change,” says Weiss. “These societies experienced climatic changes that were of such magnitude they could not simply adapt to them,” he adds.

With these new speleothem records, says Weiss, paleoclimatologists and archaeologists are now able to identify environmental changes in the global historical record that were unknown and inaccessible even 25 years ago. “History is no longer two-dimensional; the historical stage is now three-dimensional,” said Weiss.

Weiss’ previous research defined the 2200 B.C.E. global megadrought that generated societal collapse from the Mediterranean to China.

In addition to Weiss, researchers from California State University-Dominguez Hills, Xi’an Jiaotong University, University of Minnesota, University of Colorado-Boulder, University of Illinois-Chicago, University of Ankara, and the University of Southern California contributed to the study.

Restored Pompeii Kitchens Give Us An Idea Of How Romans Cooked

Restored Pompeii Kitchens Give Us An Idea Of How Romans Cooked

In a new project that seeks to give visitors a taste of the everyday life within the city the ancient roman kitchens of the Pompeii launderette were once again equipped with pots and pans.

The kitchens were once used to provide food for the hungry attendants of the three-story launderette, Fullonica di Stephanus before they were destroyed by a volcanic eruption in AD 79.

It was the location where rich Roman patricians were sent to clean their togas to be washed in huge baths using clay and urine. The garments were then rinsed, dried and placed on special presses to ensure they returned to their noble owners crease-free.

Thanks to a refurbishment which finished on Monday, the kitchens inside the Fullonica now appear as they did 2,000 years ago, complete with metal grills, pots, pans, and earthenware crockery.

The new installment provides an interesting window on Roman cooking practices.

Instead of using gas or electric hobs, the Romans cooked their food over specially-made troughs, in which beds of flaming charcoal were placed.

Hunks of meat, fish, and vegetables were then laid on grills directly over the coals, while soups and stews simmered away in pots and pans that were stood on special tripods to elevate them above the scorching embers.

All of the cooking equipment now on display was found in and around the kitchens when they were first excavated in 1912 by the then Superintendent of Pompeii, Vittorio Spinazzola.

Restored Pompeii Kitchens Give Us An Idea Of How Romans Cooked
The kitchens at the Fullonica di Stephanus.

Spinazzola initially left all the items in the kitchen, but his predecessors packed them away in storage or placed them in glass display cabinets in different areas of the site.

“We’re delighted the pieces have finally been put back on display where they were found and we’re certain they will be appreciated by modern tourists, eager to learn how people lived in antiquity,” said Massimo Osanna, the current Archaeological Superintendent of Pompeii.

As part of the same initiative, further examples of ancient Roman culinary practices were also given a permanent exhibition at the city gym, the Palestra Grande, on Monday.

Visitors can now marvel at a carbonized loaf of two-millennia-old bread and admire a metal pot containing the fossilized remnants of a bean and vegetable soup.  

Christian Cross Dashes Mummification Woman Hopes to Find Russian Fortresses

Mummified Woman with Christian Cross Dashes Hopes of Finding Russian Fortress

A woman with traditional Yakut clothes with a copper cross on her chest was found to be an unusually well preserved mummified body in summer 2019.

Lena River sandbank where the mummified woman was found.

The research team that worked on the discovery of the first Russian fortress constructed at Yakutia was surprised to see the level of preservation, considering that she had been buried in the sand rather than permafrost soil.

The copper cross on her chest was also a striking feature. We can assume that the woman was Christian.

There have been suggestions that graves on the site where the mummified woman was found – some 70km north of Yakutsk, the regional capital – were of an era that would allow them to be a burial site at the first Russian settlement in Yakutia.

It was founded in 1632 by Cossack Petr Beketov, one of Siberia’s most famous explorers, under the name Lensky Ostrog. Indeed earlier radiocarbon dating of the graves indicated that burials were from the years 1440 to 1670.

The copper cross found on the mummified woman.

Yet there has been a concern that these dates were not reliable, and now the discovery of the well-preserved Christian woman’s grave tends to suggest the burials here are later, from the mid-19th century. 

The woman – while Christian – was almost certainly ethnic Yakut and not Russian.

Mummified Woman with Christian Cross Dashes Hopes of Finding Russian Fortress
The body of the mummified woman.

The head of this year’s emergency excavation at the site Elena Solovyova, researcher at Arctic Research Centre of the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), told The Siberian Times: ‘The woman buried in a wooden coffin was very well-preserved, including her soft tissues in the process of natural mummification.

‘I can’t quite understand yet why the body got mummified since sand is rather aggressive to all organic material; possibly because the woman was buried in winter.

‘Clothes she wore on the lower part of her body, including fur-lined shorts (a piece of traditional female underwear at the time in Yakutia) and long fur-lined leather stockings up to her hips have also preserved.’   

On these stockings, the woman had ‘torbasa’, traditional Yakut soft leather boots lined up with fur. Clothes on top of the woman’s body didn’t preserve. The only item she took with her to the afterlife was a copper cross on her chest. 

Excavations of the cemetery made by the ‘Russky Sever’ Foundation in 2014.

‘After we cleaned this cross, we noticed that it didn’t quite look traditional,’ said Elena Solovyova. 

‘We analyzed the inscriptions and came to the conclusion that they were made by a local Yakutian master because there were some ‘mistakes’ in the lettering.’

Elena Solovyova said: ‘We did not carry the full morphological research of this woman, even though there was a plan to take the skulls of people buried on this cemetery, to understand their anthropological type. 

‘I could not do this with ethical reasons. The woman was mummified, she wasn’t just scattered bones, and I could not make myself to separate her head from the body.

‘I’m certain that she was Yakut. She was quite short, about 150 centimeters, the aged woman laid to rest in a set of traditional Yakut clothes.’

Drawing of the Lensky ostrog

The find helped to understand that this burial could not be related to the first Russian settlement in Yakutia, as the researchers initially thought. 

As Elena explained, the more recent graveyard which they studied this summer could have been built at the place of a much older one, but the team hasn’t found any proof of it yet. 

The search goes on for this fortress which is a key site in the Russian history of Siberia. It existed only two years before being flooded when a decision was made to move to the site of Yakutsk. 

It was from Lensky Ostrog that in 1633 Tobolsk Cossack Ivan Rebrov with a detachment of Yenisei Cossacks led by Ilya Perfilyev, went down the Lena River and reached the shores of the Arctic Ocean. This was also the first Russian sea voyage from the mouth of the river Lena. 

From Thebes to Nazi Germany: ancient vase returned to Greece

From Thebes to Nazi Germany: ancient vase returned to Greece

Upon his return to Athens, an amazing story about an ancient wine-cup given to the marathon champion of the first modern Olympics before being smuggled out of Greece by a notorious Nazi.

Spyros Louis, who was a water carrier when he surprisingly won the opening marathon in 1896, obtained the 6th century BC pottery vessel. It went missing then.

“When I was asked to review everything which happened in 2012. I started checking bibliographies and records. It was believed it had been inventoried in our archives but that is not at all the case,” said Georgios Kivvadias, curator of vase collections at the Athenian National Archeology Museum.

Two years of detective work began after the archeologist finally found a vessel at the University of Münster, Germany decorated with an image of two black-figured athletes with a clay-red background.

The double-handled cup – originally discovered in a tomb in Thebes – was acquired by the university in 1986.

From Thebes to Nazi Germany: ancient vase returned to Greece
The 6th century BC vessel will go on show in Athens before joining the Olympic collection in Olympia.

On Wednesday the cup was formally repatriated in a handover ceremony at the museum, where the university’s rector spoke of the “bittersweet” experience of giving it up, and Greece’s culture minister, Lina Mendoni, spoke of the gratitude of the Greeks for getting it back.

“The noble gesture of the University of Münster is a very important gesture of the German people to the Greek people,” she told an audience gathered at the museum. “Cultural heritage belongs to the people who created it.”

How the ancient vase got to Germany may have played no small role in the university’s decision to hand it back.

Kivvadias said: “After Louis was handed the pottery, it disappeared until 1934 when it re-appeared in the hands of Werner Peek, an archaeologist who had won a grant to work at the German Archaeological Institute in Athens.

Peek had amassed a collection of antiquities during his time here in the thirties and probably bought it on the art market in Athens.”

The connoisseur of ancient artworks and respected classical philologist was also an ardent Nazi sympathizer and antisemite.

Peek later confessed he handed his entire 68-strong collection to Hermann Göring, the notorious Nazi military leader when he paid a visit to Athens in 1934 – seven years before the Wehrmacht occupied Greece.

Göring, one of the architects of the Third Reich police state and later associated with the plundering of Jewish treasures, concealed the antiquities in diplomatic pouches.

“They were smuggled out of the country with the rest of his collection by Göring,” said Kivvadias. “Then when [Peek] returned in 1937 they ended up with him in East Germany, where he lived for years, was allowed to travel freely and taught as a professor.

“It was only when he went to the West in the late 1980s that he decided to sell the collection to the University of Münster, which acquired it without knowing the exact origins of the pieces.”

At a time when Athens has stepped up its campaign to retrieve the Parthenon marbles from the British Museum – ahead of the nation bicentennial independence celebrations – the repatriation of the cup could not be more timely.

The vessel, currently on display in the National Archaeological Museum, will remain in Athens until early next year, when it will be exhibited at a museum chronicling the history of the Olympics in ancient Olympia, the birthplace and venue of the original games.

Dr. Erofili Kollia, the director of the Archeological Museum of Olympia, said: “It will have pride of place here. The piece is hugely significant both as an artwork whose value is undisputed and because it was given to Louis, the victor of the first marathon when the modern Olympic games were revived. We are overjoyed that it will be here, with us, again.”