All posts by Archaeology World Team

Buried Roman basilica at Ostia Antica spotted by Google Earth

Buried Roman basilica at Ostia Antica spotted by Google Earth

The slight bump of the grassy field in Ostia Antica close to Rome is just that for the untrained eye: archaeologist Marcello Turci it is a pointer to an amazing discovery; a large chunk of ancient Roman property, the size of two football pitches, lurking centimeters below the ground.

The dots showing columns and other outlines of the forum in Ostia Antica are clear in a satellite image

“That’s the praetorium — the residence of the imperial perfect,” he says, “and just beyond, under the daisies, is a large basilica.”

The smart use of electrical sensors, some ancient sources, and Google Earth, Ostia Antica, the excavated, sprawling Roman city that rivals Pompeii is about to get bigger.

The buildings set to emerge in the unassuming field on the edge of town could also change the way historians view the once-bustling port at the mouth of the Tiber.

Boasting 100,000 residents in its heyday, Ostia Antica vanished under silt from the Tiber as the Roman Empire faded, before being dug up by Mussolini in the 1930s, allowing visitors today to wander streets lined with former restaurants, shops, homes, and a theatre.

Digging was halted during World War II, but in 2007 researche­rs checking Google Earth images noticed that strange lines and dots had emerged in a field just beyond the excavated thermal baths at the Porta Marina gate into the city.

“The lines were formed by differe­nces in vegetation, influenced by what lay below, which had become more evident due to a dry summer,” Mr. Turci said.

Backed by the University of Aix-Marseille and French research body CNRS, he and his colleagues merged images provided by Google­ with others from search engine Bing to get a better idea but also went back to ancient sources.

They recalled that a fourth-century­ chronicler had mentioned a forum built-in Ostia by the empero­r Aurelian in the late third century and an adjacent praetorium, built later, neither of which had been found.

Magnetic sensors and electrified metal probes — inserted in the field to create an underground map based on the path taken by the current — did the rest.

“We are looking at a large open area flanked on one side by a 30m by 60m building with five naves divided by rows of columns, which are the dots we saw from space,” Mr. Turci said. “It was likely used as a court and was part of the forum complex the source describes.

“We know the emperor Tacitus, the successor to Aurelian, donated 100 columns to Ostia, and this would explain where they went.”

Also revealed by the vegetation is the ghostly outline of the praetor­ium, with semicircular extensions from the facade typical of such buildings.

Maria Rosaria Barbera, director of the site, will oversee ­digging if funding arrives, and Mr. Turci said the discoveries would help to counter the view that Ostia went into decline shortly after the sacking of Rome in AD410, and that the city entered the sixth-century ­ with its civic life still going.

Researchers Find Ancient 3,600-Year-Old Mummy Near Luxor, Egypt

Researchers Find Ancient 3,600-Year-Old Mummy Near Luxor, Egypt

LUXOR, EGYPT—BBC reports that a wooden coffin containing a mummy, a small coffin made of mud, and funerary equipment dating to the 17th Dynasty (ca. 1635–1550 B.C.) were found in a mudbrick chapel in the Dra Abul Naga necropolis, which is located on Luxor’s West Bank.

The project chief, José Galán, clarified that during excavation activities in the area in front of Djehuty’s open courtyard these artifacts were uncovered.

The sarcophagus was mounted horizontally on the concrete. It measures 1.75 by 0.33m, and was carved in a woodcut from a single sycamore tree trunk, then coated with a whitewash and painted in red.

Inside the coffin was found the mummy of a 15- or 16-year-old girl resting on her right side. The mummy is in a bad conservation condition.

The mummy is wearing two earrings in one of her ears, both with a spiral shape and coated with a thin metal leaf, maybe copper.

It also had two rings, one made of bone and the other with a blue glass bead set on a metal base and tied with string. Four necklaces tied together with a faience clip are around the chest.

One necklace is 70cm long and made rounded faience beads, alternating dark and light blue.

The second one is 62cm long and made of green faience and glass beads.

The most beautiful is the third necklace which measures 61cm and is made of 74 pieces, combining beads of amethyst, carnelian, amber, blue glass, and quartz. It includes two scarabs, one depicting the falcon god Horus, and five faience amulets.

The fourth necklace is made of several strings of faience beads tied together at both ends by a ring combining all the strings.

At the opposite side of the mud-brick chapel, a small coffin made of mud was also found. It is still closed and tied together with string.

Inside there was a wooden ushabti wrapped in four linen bandages. The ushabti figurine and one of the linen bandages are labelled in hieratic text identifying its owner, “The Osiris, Djehuty,” who lived under the 17th dynasty (c.1600 BCE).

In the same area, but inside a funerary shaft, a pair of leather sandals was found together with a pair of leather balls tied together with string, also dating to the 17th dynasty.

“The sandals are in a good state of preservation, despite being 3,600 years old,” Galán noted. He added that they are dyed in a vivid red colour, and engraved with various motifs showing god Bes, goddess Taweret, a pair of cats, an ibex and a rosette.

From their decoration and size, he said, the sandals probably belonged to a woman, and also the balls, which were used by a woman for sport or as part of a dancing choreography, according to daily life depictions in Beni Hassan tombs of the 12th dynasty. 

Farmer Finds Roman Treasure Trove Scattered Across Field

Crown of Polish Archaeology! Farmer looking for abandoned antlers stumbles upon largest EVER haul of Roman coins

One of the largest ever hauls of treasure from the Roman period to be found in Poland and the largest ever in the Lublin region has been uncovered in Hrubieszów near Lublin.

Excited archaeologists think that the treasure of 1,753 silver coins weighing over five kilos was abandoned in the last stand of the Vandals before fleeing from the arriving Goths at the end of the second century AD when Europe was in upheaval as the Western Roman Empire was collapsing.

When he found a huge amount of ancient Roman coins, a Polish farmer searched for abandoned antlers when he discovered the coins. In addition, it was a very significant discovery because it is one of the largest in Poland and the largest ever uncovered treasures of the Roman era in Lublin.

In the field near Cichobórz to the south of Hrubieszów, near Lublin, the farmer whose name is Mariusz Dyl has uncovered the coins.

The coins were not all in one place, as they were spread out across the field and were discovered when farming equipment turned them up.

After his discovery last year, Dyl contacted the museum in Hrubieszów who then sent out a team of archaeologists and volunteers to search the area even further and they found another 137 coins.

A total of 1,753 ancient Roman coins weighing more than five kilos (eleven pounds) were uncovered at the location.

Experts were able to date the coins back to the second century because they had pictures on them of the Roman emperors Nerva (who ruled from 96 to 98 AD) and Septimius Severus (who ruled from 193 to 211 AD).

It is believed that the coins were placed in a leather pannier or wooden casket because eight silver-plated rivets made of bronze were found with the coins.

A total of 1,753 ancient Roman coins were found.

Archaeologists believe that the coins were abandoned by the Vandals before being forced out by the Goths at the end of the second century AD.

The Vandals were Roman-era Germanic people who lived in the southern part of Poland, while the Goths were also Germanic people who more than likely came from the southern part of Scandinavia and who played a part in the Western Roman Empire’s crumble.

It’s been suggested that the Vandals didn’t leave peacefully, “It didn’t happen without fighting. From this period we know of numerous Vandal cemeteries where warriors were buried with ritually destroyed weapons were buried,” explained Bartłomiej Bartecki, who is the museum’s director.

Andrzej Kozłowski, who works at the Archaeology Institute in Lublin and who uncovered the presence of the Goths in the area, weighed in by stating, “The situation was so bad for the Vandals retreating, or rather the fleeing from the Goths that they hid everything that was most precious,” adding, “They had to get rid of huge financial resources that were necessary to wage war with the Goths, and therefore they ended up helpless.

The hidden coins remained under Hrubieszów.” “They couldn’t come back for them and could not recruit soldiers. That is why the Goths peacefully spread to the whole south-east and occupied Ukraine.”

Kozłowski described the significance of the discovery, “This is an amazing phenomenon of an ancient culture that can be seen in one place. This treasure will be the crown of Polish archaeology.”

The coins are currently at the Hrubieszów museum and will be studied by experts from the University of Warsaw.

Archaeologists Diving Under a 2,300-Year-Old Pyramid Find Ancient Treasure

Archaeologists Diving Under a 2,300-Year-Old Pyramid Find Ancient Treasure

Objects, ‘ gold leaf ‘ were uncovered by a team of archeologists ‘ diving’ the sweltering deserts of northern Sudan once Nubia, in a 2,300- years-old submerged tomb belonging to a pharaoh named Nastasen who ruled the Kush kingdom from 335 BC to 315 BC.

A major difference between the pyramids of northern Sudan and the most prominent pyramids in Egypt is that the pharaohs were buried beneath them, rather than within them. 

This is why Georges Reisner, an egyptologist in Harvard, visited Nouri for the first time visited Nuri over a century ago and discovered burial chambers beneath Taharqa’s massive pyramid, the largest of 20 pyramids marking the burials of Kushite royal family.

Nuri pyramids.

Sometimes called the “black pharaohs,” this dynasty conquered Egypt in the 8th Century BC and ruled for almost a century. Reisner not only reported that he had found their water filled tombs, but he also noted the presence of a narrow, ancient processional staircase cut into the bedrock running deep below Nastasen’s pyramid at Nuri.

In 2018, the team located the 65-step stairway and began excavating, but when they got to around 40 stairs down they hit a water table – enters underwater archaeologist Pearce Paul Creasman – associate professor in the dendrochronology laboratory at the University of Arizona, who led the team into the subaquatic ancient tomb for the first time in at least 100 years.

In a National Geographic article Creasman said “normal scuba tanks would have been too cumbersome” and this is why he decided to pump oxygen through 150-foot-long (45.72 meters) hoses from a gasoline-fed pump on the surface.

With Fakhri Hassan Abdallah, an inspector with Sudan’s  National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums, manning the air pump, Creasman entered the ancient abyss.

There are three chambers, with these beautiful arched ceilings, about the size of a small bus, you go in one chamber into the next, it’s pitch black, you know you’re in a tomb if your flashlights aren’t on. And it starts revealing the secrets that are held within.

And in this instance, those secrets Creasman risked his life to touch came in the form of fragments of ancient gold.

According to Creasman, when he was making his way through the dark silt they… “Were still sitting there – small glass-type statues” which had once been leafed in gold.

A shabti found in the submerged chamber of a Kushite pyramid.

And while the water destroyed the glass underneath, “the little gold flake was still there”. Under normal circumstances all traces of gold leaf would have been stolen by grave robbers , but the rising water level made this particular tomb inaccessible, said underwater archaeologist Kristin Romey in National Geographic .

‘Kush gold leaf’ sounds like the name of a tea, or a brand of really strong hashish, both products associated with the Kush empire; however, while Creasman’s team might be slightly let down at not having found a collection of solid gold statues , the fragments of gold leaf are in themselves priceless in heritage terms.

The land of the Kush became one of the main gold-producing areas of the ancient world and its alchemists and craftspeople forged intricate and beautiful jewelry and they adorned their temples and statues with gold leaf.

In 2007, The Guardian published an article announcing that archaeologists discovered “An ancient site where gold flakes were hand-ground from rare ores.”

Gold leaf found in the tomb.

Located at Hosh el-Geruf, 225 miles (362 km) north of Khartoum in Sudan, the archaeologists first unearthed grinding stones made of a granite-like rock called gneiss, used to crush the ore and recover flakes of gold. Gil Stein, director of the Oriental Institute, told The Guardian, “This work is extremely important because it can give us our first look at the economic organization of this very important but little-known African state – the Kush empire.”

Funded in part by a grant from the National Geographic Society, for more information and updates on archaeology at Nuri, visit the official expedition website at  Nuri pyramids.

Archaeology bombshell: 7,000-year-old find older than Giza Pyramids stuns scientists in Poland

Archaeology bombshell: 7,000-year-old find older than Giza Pyramids stuns scientists in Poland

For years the archeological discovery was hidden in a field in the north of Poland, in plain sight, near the village of Lysomice. But with the aid of Google Earth scans, archaeologists were able to spot concentric outlines of where the ancient structures, or pans, once stood.

The scientists now claim that some of the first European communities have built buildings to farm the land. The discovery dates the neolithic structures to about 2,000 years before the Great Pyramid of Giza was built in Egypt.

Mateusz Sosnowski from the Institute of Archaeology at the University of Nicolas Copernicus praised the unexpected find.

The archaeologist said: “Our discovery can be boldly dubbed sensational due to the fact the pans are located east of the Vistula river.

“These constructions are the most north-eastern of their type in Europe. We did not expect such a discovery in this region.”

Researchers have found ancient, neolithic structures in Poland
The ancient structures were hidden in plain sight

The ringed structures or pans were found roughly three miles (5km) apart outside of Łysomice. The structures measure approximately 278ft (85m) across and feature three concentric ditches with a common center.

When viewed from space with the aid of Google Earth and Google Maps, the pans left distinct impressions in the land now used for modern farming. The archaeologists speculate the structures may have had ties to early astrological efforts due to the direction of their construction.

Dr. Sosnowski said: “What is also interesting, is that the entrances are most likely directly opposite one another on a northwest-southeast axis.

“We suppose they could also be linked to astronomical observations.” The entrances likely faced the direction of the rising Sun during the Winter Solstice.

Dr. Sosnowski said: “In order to confirm this concept we will need further analysis.” To date, archaeologists have found more than 130 of these pan-like structures all over Europe.

At least one-third of these structures can be found in Austria. The rest are peppered across Poland, Hungary, Germany, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic.

The neolithic structures were found in northern Poland
The structures were built by the first Europeans to farm the land

In this particular case, the archaeologists believe the structures were “planned and raised by a large group of people”.

According to some researchers, they may have served ceremonial roles or acted as temples for pagan practices.

The European pans were typically surrounded by concentric ditches and wooden palisades, which suggests they could have been defensive structures.

Dr Sosnowski and his team now want to visit the sites in person in the winter. The discovery comes after archaeologists in South America uncovered the 2,000-year-old remains of two infants wearing helmets.

The unusual remains were found on the coast of Central Ecuador at a burial site called Salango. Archaeologists in the UK have also made an incredible 8,000-year-old discovery at the bottom of the sea. The ancient find is likely a boat from the Stone Age, found just off the coast of Great Yarmouth.

Archaeologists have also solved an incredible Roman mystery after discovering a “forgotten city” buried in the Mediterranean.

Corinthian Helmet From the Battle of the marathon (490 BC) Found with the Warrior’s Skull Inside

Corinthian Helmet From the Battle of the marathon (490 BC) Found with the Warrior’s Skull Inside

This remarkable Corinthian style helmet from the Battle of Marathon was reputedly found in 1834 with a human skull still inside.

It now forms part of the Royal Ontario Museum’s collections, but originally it was discovered by George Nugent-Grenville, who was the British High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands between 1832-35.

The Corinthian helmet type is one of the most immediately recognizable types of helmet, romantically associated with the great heroes of Ancient Greece, even by the Ancient Greeks themselves who rapidly moved to helmet types with better visibility, but still depicted their heroes in these helmets.

In modern portrayals of Ancient Greek warriors, it is always the Corinthian type that is depicted, although often modified to suit the look desired – for instance in one movie the helmet was modified to expose more of the face of the actor.

It was a helmet made of bronze which in its later styles covered the entire head and neck, with slits for the eyes and mouth. A large curved projection protected the nape of the neck. Out of combat, a Greek hoplite would wear the helmet tipped upward for comfort.

This practice gave rise to a series of variant forms in Italy, where the slits were almost closed since the helmet was no longer pulled over the face but worn cap-like.

Although the classical Corinthian helmet fell out of use among the Greeks in favour of more open types, the Italo-Corinthian types remained in use until the 1st century AD, being used, among others, by the Roman army.

This helmet was excavated by George Nugent-Grenville, 2nd Baron Nugent of Carlanstown, on the Plain of Marathon in 1834, according to letters from Sutton dated to 2 & 20 August 1826.

Mound (soros) in which the Athenian dead were buried after the battle.
The Corinthian helmet on display at the Royal Ontario Museum

2500 years earlier, on the morning of September 17, 490 BC, some 10,000 Greeks stood assembled on the plain of Marathon, preparing to fight to the last man. Behind them lay everything they held dear: their city, their homes, their families.

In front of the outnumbered Greeks stood the assembled forces of the Persian empire, a seemingly invincible army with revenge, pillage and plunder on its mind. The two sides faced each another directly, waiting for the fight to start.

The Athenians stalled for days, anticipating reinforcements promised by Sparta. But they knew they could not wait for long. The Persians, expecting as easy a victory as they had won against enemies so many times before, were in no hurry.

The Greeks, knowing the time for battle had come, began to move forward. Ostensibly, they advanced with focus and purpose, but beneath this firm veneer, as they looked on a vastly larger enemy — at least twice their number — many must have been fearful of what was to come.

The Persian archers sat with their bows drawn, ready to loose a barrage of arrows that would send fear and confusion through the Greek ranks .Eventually, though, the infantry on both sides engaged in battle. Moving towards each other and perhaps with the Greeks running the final 400 metres whilst undoubtedly under fire from the Persian archers, the two armies clashed.

Few hours later the bloody battle ended. Herodotus records that 6,400 Persian bodies were counted on the battlefield, and it is unknown how many more perished in the swamps. The Athenians lost 192 men and the Plataeans 11.

Pheidippides giving the word of victory at the Battle of Marathon

One final legend of Marathon and one which has carried its name up to the present day is Herodotus’ account of a long-distance messenger (hēmerodromos) named Phidippides. He was sent to enlist the help of the Spartans before the battle and he ran to Sparta, first stopping at Athens, a total distance of 240 km (a feat repeated by an athlete in 1983 CE).

Later sources, starting with Plutarch in the 1st century CE, confuse this story with another messenger sent from Marathon after the battle to announce victory and warn of the Persian fleet’s imminent arrival in Athens. In any case, it was from this second legend that a race – covering the same distance as the 42 kilometers between Marathon and Athens – was established in the first revival of the Olympic Games in 1896 CE to commemorate ancient Greek sporting ideals and the original games at Olympia. Fittingly, the first marathon race was won by a Greek, Spiridon Louis.

Cave Full of Untouched Maya Artifacts Found at Chichén Itzá

Cave Full of Untouched Maya Artifacts Found at Chichén Itzá

In Mexico, archeologists found some 200 Mayan artifacts that seem to have been untouched for 1,000 years. In a cave of ruins in the ancient Mayan City of Chichen Itza on the Yucatán peninsula in Mexico, objects were discovered.

The discovery has been revealed at a press conference in Mexico City by the Mexican National Institute of Anthropology and History. The lead researcher on the project is Mexican archaeologist Guillermo de Anda. He called the cave a “scientific treasure.”

He said the artifacts appear to date back to around A.D. 1000. “What we found there was incredible and completely untouched,” he added.

Pre-columbian artifacts sit in a cave at the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico

The findings included bone pieces and burnt offering materials. In addition, incense burners, vases, plates, and other objects were discovered. Some items included the likeness of Tlaloc, the rain god of central Mexico.

The Mayans also had their own rain god, called Chaac. But experts believe the Mayans may have imported Tlaloc from other pre-Hispanic cultures.

The cave where the objects were found is part of a cave system known as Balamku or “Jaguar God.” The cave is about three kilometers east of the main pyramid of Kukulkan, which sits at the center of Chichen Itza.

The stone city is described by the United Nations as “one of the greatest Mayan centers of the Yucatán Peninsula.”

The cave sits about 24 meters underground, with areas connected by passages. De Anda said some of the passages were so narrow that researchers had to crawl in or pull themselves through.

Pre-columbian artifacts sit in a cave at the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico

He added that his team had so far explored about 460 meters of the cave, and is unsure how far it stretches. The team plans to continue exploring the cave. Artifacts found will not be removed, but studied inside, he said.

The team accidentally found the artifacts while exploring Chichen Itza in an effort to learn more about its underground water system.

A series of sinkhole lakes, known as cenotes, can be seen on parts of the surface. But the archaeologists are exploring other water sites below pyramids, temples, and other buildings.

Water was always central to the city. Its name in Maya means “at the mouth of the well of the Water Wizards.”

The cave had been discovered by local people 50 years ago, but was not fully explored, de Anda said. He hopes the new discovery will help scientists better understand the history, lives, and beliefs of people who lived in Chichen Itza.

He said archaeologists believe there may be another undiscovered cave hidden under the pyramid of Kukulkan that could be connected to the latest find.

“Let’s hope this leads us there,” de Anda said. “That is part of the reason why we are entering these sites, to find a connection to the cenote under the (Kukulkan).”

Neandertals had older mothers and younger fathers

Neandertals had older mothers and younger fathers

Work in three different countries reveals that neanderthals in Iceland are more like neanderthals in Croatia than neanderthals in Russia, according to research conducted in cooperation with three institutions.

Aurora Borealis over Jokulsarlon Lagoon in Iceland.

In comparison, mothers with children were older and fathers were younger in neanderthal communities.

When Africa’s ancestors left 50,000 years ago, Neanderthals came across it. Neanderthals have also contributed to 2% of the genomes of today’s non-African human populations.

Researchers from the Danish Aarhus University, Iceland deCODE Genetics, and Germany’s Max Planck Institute came together to analyze data from 27,566 modern Icelandic people.

The goal of the study was to reveal what percentage of the modern human genome contains neandertal DNA and its role in modern humans. Each person outside of Africa shares 2% of his DNA with Neandertals, but different people carry different neandertal DNA.

The researchers managed to rebuild at least 38% of the neandertal genome when it combined 14 million neandertal DNA fragments.

Icelandic Neanderthals are more similar to Croatian Neanderthals than in Russia:

According to these neanderthal genomes compared to the genomes of Neanderthal and Denisovan people, the neanderthal population that is mixed with modern Icelandic people is more like the neanderthals in Croatia than the neanderthals in Russia.

It was unexpectedly discovered that Icelandic people also have a Denisovan trail. This has been considered to be the case only in East Asian and Papua New Guinea populations so far.

One of the possibilities is that the ancestors of the neanderthal populations mingling with modern humans had previously been mixed with Denisovan.

In each generation, parents pass their DNA on to their children, and the age of the parents greatly influences which mutations they will transfer.

Comparing the genetic mutations in the Neanderthal DNA fragments to the corresponding modern human DNA fragments, neanderthal children were found to have older mothers and younger fathers on average.

Finally, according to the researchers’ findings, neandertal DNA has a minor effect on human health and appearance.

In a few instances, Icelandic people affected by Neandertals had a slightly reduced risk of prostate cancer (allowing them to massage the unusual spot of their prostate to help with sexual pleasure), as well as slightly short lengths, and also slightly faster blood clotting time.