All posts by Archaeology World Team

1000-year old Sword uncovered in Southern Poland

1000-year old Sword uncovered in Southern Poland

An almost one-metre-long sword estimated to be around a thousand years old has been found in southern Poland. Historians say it is one of the most valuable discoveries in the region in a long time.

The sword was found only 30 centimetres below ground level near the village of Lewin Klodzki, close to the border with the Czech Republic, by Konrad Oczkowski who is exploring the area with the permission of archaeologists.

No remains were found alongside the sword to indicate who its owner was, and neither were any other metal objects.

1000-year old Sword uncovered in Southern Poland
Joanna Klimek-Szymanowicz Wójt Gminy Lewin Kłodzki

Mr. Konrad Oczkowski explored the site with our permission and with all the permits – said archaeologist Marek Kowalski from the Wałbrzych branch of the Lower Silesian Monuments Conservation Department. – On Monday morning, he informed us about the possible discovery of an archaeological monument.

Mr Konrad was very professional. Since he was not an archaeologist, after removing the layer of soil and realizing it was a sword head, he covered and masked the monument with earth, marked the find’s location in a familiar way, and notified the conservation services. On Tuesday, July 19, archaeological services emerged at the site and picked up medieval weapons from the ground.

The sword is in good condition. However, it was deposited directly in the ground, so it was partially corroded due to oxygen ingress. The shaft is separated from the rest, and the blade is cracked at the blade. The sword was found in a place that restorers do not want to disclose yet. The fact is that there was a settlement in the area before 1945, but its origins date back only to the 17th century.

“Such a sword is priceless,” said archaeologist Marek Kowalski, quoted by Gazeta Wyborcza daily.

“It had the value of one or even several villages. So it undoubtedly belonged to some knight. Such things were not simply abandoned.”

It is not yet known whether the sword ended up underground in the 11th century or later. However, the expert who inspected the weapon, Dr Lech Marek from the Institute of Archaeology at the University of Wrocław, has no doubts regarding the sword’s age, said Kowalski.

“Identical swords have been excavated at Ostrów Lednicki, where one of the most important castles of the Piast state was,” Kowalski added, referring to the first historical ruling dynasty of Poland, which ruled Poland until the 14th century.

The first Piasts, probably of West Slavic and Lechitic tribe descent, appeared around 940 in the territory of Greater Poland (Wielkopolska).

The archaeologists speculate that there may have been a fortress near the site where the sword was found. In the 11th century, Bolesław the Brave, the first king of Poland, who was in conflict with the Czechs, ordered his son, Mieszko II, to invade Bohemia, today the westernmost and largest historical region of the Czech Republic.

The sword will now be subjected to a historical analysis, examined for metallography using CT scans in an attempt to find inscriptions despite the corroded surface, Kowalski told Gazeta Wyborcza.

This might help the researchers to determine where the sword was made and who was its potential owner.

Activists urge archaeologists not to assume the gender of ancient human remains

Activists urge archaeologists not to assume the gender of ancient human remains

Activists urge archaeologists not to assume the gender of ancient human remains
A group of activists have urged archaeologists not to categorise the gender of skeletons using only ‘male’ and ‘female’.

The Black Trowel Collective, a group of American archaeologists, claimed there are suggestions that many historical cultures had more than two genders and so archaeologists should be “wary of projecting our modern sex and gender identity categories onto past individuals”.

The group claimed scientists have a “long history of imposing modern patriarchal gender and sexual norms onto the past”.

“Human gender is highly variable and… human beings have historically been comfortable with a range of genders beyond modern ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ binaries,” the group wrote in a blog post.

The Daily Mail claims that some academics are beginning to label ancient human skeletons as ‘non-binary’ or ‘gender neutral.

The idea has been criticised by historian Jeremy Black, who said gender is key to understanding history.

“It is an absurd proposition as the difference between genders, just as the difference between religious, social and national groups, are key motors in history,” he told the Daily Mail.

“This very ideological approach to knowledge means that we’re in danger of making knowledge itself simply a matter of political preference.”

Rare Roman coin bearing Cancer zodiac sign found off Israeli Coast

Rare Roman coin bearing Cancer zodiac sign found off Israeli Coast

A nearly 2,000-year-old Roman coin, etched with a symbol of the zodiac, was fished from the waters around Haifa in northern Israel, reports the Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Rare Roman coin bearing Cancer zodiac sign found off Israeli Coast
The coin depicts Luna, the goddess of the moon, and the zodiac sign for Cancer.

Archaeologists with the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) made the discovery while conducting an underwater archaeological survey.

The bronze coin was minted in Alexandria, Egypt, during the reign of the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius, and it was found in “an exceptional state of preservation,” according to a statement from the Israeli prime minister’s office, per Google Translate.

One side of the coin features an image of Luna, the Roman goddess of the moon, and an image of the zodiac sign for Cancer; the other side depicts Antoninus Pius.

The coin also bears the inscription “Year Eight,” indicating that it was produced during the eighth year of Pius’ rule, which spanned from 138 to 161 C.E.

This ancient relic belonged to a series of 13 coins, portraying the 12 signs of the zodiac and the complete zodiac wheel, per a statement from IAA. It is the first such coin that has been discovered off the coast of Israel.

Astrology, which originated in Mesopotamia circa the third millennium B.C.E., was deeply entrenched in Roman culture.

Though sometimes viewed with suspicion and hostility by emperors, who understood that astrological predictions could be used to subvert their authority, astrology was a popular practice among all classes of Roman society.

“Astrology was only one of a wider number of divinatory practices in the empire,” writes Matthew Bunson in the Encyclopedia of the Roman Empire. “But for capturing the public interest and imagination, all paled alongside astrology.”

Pius led the empire through one of its most peaceful eras. Before this period, hostilities abounded in what is now Israel—particularly in the years after 70 C.E., when Roman forces destroyed the Second Temple in Jerusalem.

In 130 C.E., the emperor Hadrian initiated plans to build a Roman metropolis in Jerusalem. He also outlawed circumcision, a core practice in Judaism.

Shortly afterwards, Jews launched a rebellion against Roman rulers known as the Bar Kochba Revolt. Roman forces ultimately quashed the rebellion after three years of fighting and “enormous losses” on both sides.

Conversely, Pius, who succeeded Hadrian, was “not a military man,” writes the Washington Post’s Rachel Pannett. He helped cool relations with the empire’s Jews by allowing them to resume the practice of circumcision.

The bronze coin depicting Pius was found near a “small hoard” of other coins, indicating that it fell into the sea during a shipwreck, Jacob Sharvit, head of the IAA’s marine archaeology unit, tells the AFP.

“Along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea in the State of Israel, and in its maritime space, there are many archaeological sites and findings, which tell of connections that existed here in ancient times between the ports of the Mediterranean Sea and the countries along it,” Sharvit says in the statement from the prime minister’s office.

These ancient sites must be safeguarded “in the light of diverse development interests” along Israel’s coasts, says Eli Eskosido, the IAA’s general director, in the IAA statement.

“Rather than simply defining the country’s border,” he adds, “the sea is now recognized as an integral part of our cultural heritage.”

Early Humans Placed the Hearth at the Optimal Location in Their Cave 170,000 Years Ago

Early Humans Placed the Hearth at the Optimal Location in Their Cave 170,000 Years Ago

Early Humans Placed the Hearth at the Optimal Location in Their Cave 170,000 Years Ago
Reconstruction of ancient humans in the Lazaret Cave, France (Pay attention to the location of the hearth).

Spatial planning in caves 170,000 years ago.

Findings indicate that early humans knew a great deal about spatial planning: they controlled fire and used it for various needs and placed their hearth at the optimal location in the cave – to obtain maximum benefit while exposed to a minimum amount of unhealthy smoke.

A groundbreaking study in prehistoric archaeology at Tel Aviv University provides evidence for high cognitive abilities in early humans who lived 170,000 years ago. In a first-of-its-kind study, the researchers developed a software-based smoke dispersal simulation model and applied it to a known prehistoric site.

They discovered that the early humans who occupied the cave had placed their hearth at the optimal location – enabling maximum utilization of the fire for their activities and needs while exposing them to a minimal amount of smoke.

The study was led by PhD student Yafit Kedar, and Prof. Ran Barkai from the Jacob M. Alkow Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures at TAU, together with Dr. Gil Kedar. The paper was published in Scientific Reports.

Reconstruction of meat roasting on the campfire at the Lazaret Cave, France.

Yafit Kedar explains that the use of fire by early humans has been widely debated by researchers for many years, regarding questions such as: At what point in their evolution did humans learn how to control fire and ignite it at will? When did they begin to use it on a daily basis? Did they use the inner space of the cave efficiently in relation to the fire? While all researchers agree that modern humans were capable of all these things, the dispute continues about the skills and abilities of earlier types of humans.

Yafit Kedar: “One focal issue in the debate is the location of hearths in caves occupied by early humans for long periods of time. Multilayered hearths have been found in many caves, indicating that fires had been lit at the same spot over many years. In previous studies, using a software-based model of air circulation in caves, along with a simulator of smoke dispersal in a closed space, we found that the optimal location for minimal smoke exposure in the winter was at the back of the cave. The least favorable location was the cave’s entrance.”

Excavations at the Lazaret Cave, France.

In the current study the researchers applied their smoke dispersal model to an extensively studied prehistoric site – the Lazaret Cave in southeastern France, inhabited by early humans around 170-150 thousand years ago. Yafit Kedar: “According to our model, based on previous studies, placing the hearth at the back of the cave would have reduced smoke density to a minimum, allowing the smoke to circulate out of the cave right next to the ceiling. But in the archaeological layers we examined, the hearth was located at the center of the cave. We tried to understand why the occupants had chosen this spot, and whether smoke dispersal had been a significant consideration in the cave’s spatial division into activity areas.”

To answer these questions, the researchers performed a range of smoke dispersal simulations for 16 hypothetical hearth locations inside the 290sqm cave. For each hypothetical hearth they analyzed smoke density throughout the cave using thousands of simulated sensors placed 50cm apart from the floor to the height of 1.5m.

To understand the health implications of smoke exposure, measurements were compared with the average smoke exposure recommendations of the World Health Organization. In this way four activity zones were mapped in the cave for each hearth: a red zone which is essentially out of bounds due to high smoke density; a yellow area suitable for short-term occupation of several minutes; a green area suitable for long-term occupation of several hours or days; and a blue area which is essentially smoke-free.

Yafit and Gil Kedar: “We found that the average smoke density, based on measuring the number of particles per spatial unit, is in fact minimal when the hearth is located at the back of the cave – just as our model had predicted. But we also discovered that in this situation, the area with low smoke density, most suitable for prolonged activity, is relatively distant from the hearth itself.

Early humans needed a balance – a hearth close to which they could work, cook, eat, sleep, get together, warm themselves, etc. while exposed to a minimum amount of smoke. Ultimately, when all needs are taken into consideration – daily activities vs. the damages of smoke exposure – the occupants placed their hearth at the optimal spot in the cave.”

The study identified a 25sqm area in the cave which would be optimal for locating the hearth in order to enjoy its benefits while avoiding too much exposure to smoke. Astonishingly, in the several layers examined by in this study, the early humans actually did place their hearth within this area.

Prof. Barkai concludes: “Our study shows that early humans were able, with no sensors or simulators, to choose the perfect location for their hearth and manage the cave’s space as early as 170,000 years ago – long before the advent of modern humans in Europe. This ability reflects ingenuity, experience, and planned action, as well as awareness of the health damage caused by smoke exposure. In addition, the simulation model we developed can assist archaeologists excavating new sites, enabling them to look for hearths and activity areas at their optimal locations.”

In further studies the researchers intend to use their model to investigate the influence of different fuels on smoke dispersal, use of the cave with an active hearth at different times of year, use of several hearths simultaneously, and other relevant issues.

Early Human Evolution: Hominin Fossils in “Cradle of Humankind” May Be a Million Years Older Than Thought

Early Human Evolution: Hominin Fossils in “Cradle of Humankind” May Be a Million Years Older Than Thought

Early Human Evolution: Hominin Fossils in “Cradle of Humankind” May Be a Million Years Older Than Thought
Four different Australopithecus crania were found in the Sterkfontein caves, South Africa. The Sterkfontein cave fill containing this and other Australopithecus fossils was dated to 3.4 to 3.6 million years ago, far older than previously thought. The new date overturns the long-held concept that South African Australopithecus is a younger offshoot of East African Australopithecus afarensis. Credit: Jason Heaton and Ronald Clarke, in cooperation with the Ditsong Museum of Natural History

The Famous Sterkfontein Caves deposit is 1 million years older than previously thought.

New dates for the Australopithecus-bearing Sterkfontein Cave deposit place South African hominin fossils at the centre of global paleo research.

Nearly four million years of hominin and environmental evolution are revealed by fossils found at the Sterkfontein Caves in South Africa. Research began at the site in 1936 when Robert Broom discovered the first adult hominin of the genus Australopithecus.

Since then it has become famous for the hundreds of Australopithecus fossils yielded from excavations of ancient cave infills, including iconic specimens such as the Little Foot skeleton and the cranium known as Mrs. Ples.

Ancient cave infill called ‘Member 4’ is where the majority of Sterkfontein’s wealth of Australopithecus fossils have been excavated from. In fact, it is the richest deposit of Australopithecus fossils in the world.

Over the last 56 years of University of the Witwatersrand-led research at Sterkfontein, the age of Member 4 at Sterkfontein has remained contested. Age estimates have ranged from as young as about 2 million years ago, younger than the appearance of our genus Homo, back to about 3 million years.

New research presented in a paper published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) re-evaluates the age of Australopithecus from Member 4 at Sterkfontein together with the Jacovec Cavern, which contains a few additional hominin fossils in a deeper chamber in the cave.

“The new ages range from 3.4-3.6 million years for Member 4, indicating that the Sterkfontein hominins were contemporaries of other early Australopithecus species, like Australopithecus afarensis, in east Africa,” says Professor Dominic Stratford, director of research at the caves, and one of the authors on the paper.

The new ages are based on the radioactive decay of the rare isotopes aluminium-26 and beryllium-10 in the mineral quartz.

“These radioactive isotopes, known as cosmogenic nuclides, are produced by high-energy cosmic ray reactions near the ground surface, and their radioactive decay dates when the rocks were buried in the cave when they fell in the entrance together with the fossils,” says Professor Darryl Granger of Purdue University in the United States and lead author on the paper.

Previous dating of Member 4 has been based on dating calcite flowstone deposits found within the cave fill, but careful observations show that the flowstone is actually younger than the cave fill and so it underestimates the age of the fossils.

“This re-assessment of the age of Sterkfontein Member 4 Australopithecus fossils has important implications for the role of South Africa on the hominin evolution stage. Younger hominins, including Paranthropus and our genus Homoappear between about 2.8 and 2 million years ago.

Based on previously suggested dates, the South African Australopithecus species were too young to be their ancestors, so it has been considered more likely that Homo and Paranthropus evolved in East Africa,” says Stratford.

The new dates show that Australopithecus existed at Sterkfontein almost a million years prior to the appearance of Paranthropus and Homo, providing more time for them to evolve here, in the Cradle of Humankind, and placing the hominins from this site front and centre in the history early human evolution.

“This important new dating work pushes the age of some of the most interesting fossils in human evolution research, and one of South Africa’s most iconic fossils, Mrs. Ples, back a million years to a time when, in east Africa, we find other iconic early hominins like Lucy,” says Stratford.

“The redating of the Australopithecus-bearing infills at the Sterkfontein Caves will undoubtedly re-ignite the debate over the diverse characteristics of Australopithecus at Sterkfontein, and whether there could have been South African ancestors to later hominins,” says Granger.

For more on this research, read Fossils in the “Cradle of Humankind” May Be More Than a Million Years Older Than Thought.

8,000-Year-Old Neolithic Temple Discovered at Saudi Port Town

8,000-Year-Old Neolithic Temple Discovered at Saudi Port Town

The Saudi Heritage Commission has unveiled the archaeological discoveries made by a Saudi-international scientific team at the site of Al-Faw, located on the edge of Al-Rub’ Al-Khali (the Empty Quarter), south-west of Riyadh.

Visitors walk outside the tombs at the Madain Saleh antiquities site, al-Ula, Saudi Arabia February 10, 2019. Stephen Kalin, Reuters

A Saudi-led multinational team of archaeologists conducted a comprehensive survey of the site using state-of-the-art technology.

The study leveraged high-quality aerial photography; guided drone footage utilizing ground control points; a topographic survey; remote sensing, ground-penetrating radar; laser scanning; and geophysical survey, as well as extensive walkover surveys and sondages throughout the site, reported Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

Experts used photography, drone topographic surveying and geophysical surveying to discover the findings.

The survey has yielded several discoveries, the most significant of which are the remains of a stone temple and parts of an altar, where the locals of Al-Faw would have practised their rituals and ceremonies.

The rock-cut temple sits on the edge of Mount Tuwaiq, known as Khashem Qaryah, east of Al-Faw.

Rock drawings found etched on Tuwaiq Mountain depict daily activities, including hunting, travelling, and fighting.

Moreover, the remains of 8,000-year-old Neolithic human settlements have been discovered along with 2,807 graves of different periods dotted throughout the site, which have been documented and classified into six groups.

Several devotional inscriptions were found throughout the grounds, enriching our understanding of the religious belief system of the community that inhabited the site. Among these is the inscription in the Jabal Lahaq sanctuary addressed to the god Kahal, the deity of Al-Faw.

The significance of the inscription lies in its attribution to a family from the city of Al-Jarha and referring to the ancient name of the place where the sanctuary was built (Mount Tuwaiq).

The inscription indicates a relationship between the cities of Al-Faw and Al-Jarha – most likely commercial considering Al-Faw’s location on the ancient trade route. It may also imply either religious tolerance between residents of the two cities, or the worship of Al-Faw’s deity, Kahal, by some of the residents of Al-Jarha.

Though Al-Jarha was known for its wealth and economic power, its location has not yet been definitively identified, and several scholars associate it with the site of Thaj.

The discovery offers valuable data regarding the geographical distribution of Al-Faw’s sanctuaries, as well as revealing the foundations of four monumental buildings, some with corner towers. Their architecture, internal plans, and open-air courtyards suggest their use as resting places for trade caravans.

The archaeological study further uncovered a complex irrigation system, including canals, water cisterns, and hundreds of pits, dug by the residents of Al-Faw to bring rainwater to the agricultural areas. This may explain how the inhabitants of these lands overcame and adapted to the arid climate and minimal rainfall of one of the world’s harshest desert environments.

Extensive surveys and remote-sensing images have revealed several agricultural fields used to grow various crops to sustain residents.

Discoveries include a series of rock art and inscriptions carved on the face of Mount Tuwaiq, narrating the story of a man named Madhekar bin Muneim, and illustrating daily scenes of hunting, travel, and battle.

Fieldwork at Al-Faw had first been initiated by King Saud University in the 1970s in a study supervised by Prof. Abdulrahman Al-Ansari, lasting for over 40 years. The study uncovered many cultural aspects of the site, notably the residential and market areas, temples, and tombs. The results of these archaeological activities were later published in seven book volumes.

The new findings are a result of the Heritage Commission’s ongoing efforts to study, protect and preserve the nation’s cultural heritage sites. Research at the site will continue to build a greater understanding of the cultural landscape of Al-Faw archaeological area.

Oldest DNA from domesticated American horse lends credence to shipwreck folklore

Oldest DNA from domesticated American horse lends credence to shipwreck folklore

An abandoned Caribbean colony unearthed centuries after it had been forgotten and a case of mistaken identity in the archaeological record has conspired to rewrite the history of a barrier island off the Virginia and Maryland coasts.

Oldest DNA from domesticated American horse lends credence to shipwreck folklore
This tooth is all that remains from one of the first horses introduced to the Americas, and its DNA is helping rewrite the history of one of the best-known horse breeds in the United States: The Chincoteague pony.

These seemingly unrelated threads were woven together when Nicolas Delsol, a postdoctoral researcher at the Florida Museum of Natural History, set out to analyze ancient DNA recovered from cow bones found in archaeological sites. Delsol wanted to understand how cattle were domesticated in the Americas, and the genetic information preserved in centuries-old teeth held the answer. But they also held a surprise.

“It was a serendipitous finding,” he said. “I was sequencing mitochondrial DNA from fossil cow teeth for my Ph.D. and realized something was very different with one of the specimens when I analyzed the sequences.”

That’s because the specimen in question, a fragment of an adult molar, wasn’t a cow tooth at all but instead once belonged to a horse. According to a study published this Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE, the DNA obtained from the tooth is also the oldest ever sequenced for a domesticated horse from the Americas.  

An unexpected opportunity

Nicolas Delsol was originally sequencing ancient DNA from cow teeth preserved in archaeological sites when he realized one of his specimens actually belonged to a horse.

The tooth was excavated from one of Spain’s first colonized settlements. Located on the island of Hispaniola, the town of Puerto Real was established in 1507 and served for decades as the last port of call for ships sailing from the Caribbean. But rampant piracy and the rise of illegal trade in the 16th century forced the Spanish to consolidate their power elsewhere on the island, and in 1578, residents were ordered to evacuate Puerto Real. The abandoned town was destroyed the following year by Spanish officials.

The remnants of the once-bustling port were inadvertently rediscovered by a medical missionary named William Hodges in 1975. Archaeological excavations of the site led by Florida Museum distinguished research curator Kathleen Deagan were carried out between 1979 and 1990.

Horse fossils and associated artefacts are incredibly rare at Puerto Real and similar sites from the time period, but cow remains are a common find. According to Delsol, this skewed ratio is primarily due to the way Spanish colonialists valued their livestock.

“Horses were reserved for individuals of high status, and owning one was a sign of prestige,” he said. “There are full-page descriptions of horses in the documents that chronicle the arrival of [Hernán] Cortés in Mexico, demonstrating how important they were to the Spanish.”

In contrast, cows were used as a source of meat and leather, and their bones were regularly discarded in communal waste piles called middens. But one community’s trash is an archaeologist’s treasure, as the refuse from middens often confers the clearest glimpse into what people ate and how they lived.

The specimen’s biggest surprise wasn’t revealed until Delsol compared its DNA with that of modern horses from around the world. Given that the Spanish brought their horses from the Iberian Peninsula in southern Europe, he expected horses still living in that region would be the closest living relatives of the 500-year-old Puerto Real specimen.

Instead, Delsol found its next of kin over 1,000 miles north of Hispaniola, on the island of Assateague off the coast of Maryland and Virginia. Feral horses have roamed freely across the long stretch of a barrier island for hundreds of years, but exactly how they got there has remained a mystery.

Folklore meets science

According to the National Park Service, which manages the northern half of Assateague, the likeliest explanation is that the horses were brought over in the 1600s by English colonists from the mainland in an attempt to evade livestock taxes and fencing laws.

Others believe the feral herds descended from horses that survived the shipwreck of a Spanish galleon and swam to shore, a theory popularized in the 1947 children’s novel “Misty of Chincoteague.” The book was later adapted to film, helping spread the shipwreck legend to an even wider audience.

Until now, there has been little evidence to support either theory. Proponents of the shipwreck theory claim it would be unlikely that English colonists would lose track of valuable livestock, while those in favor of an English origin of the herds point to the lack of sunken vessels nearby and the omission of feral horses in historical records of the region.

The results of the DNA analysis, however, unequivocally point to Spanish explorers as being the likeliest source of the horses on Assateague, Delsol explained.

“It’s not widely reported in the historical literature, but the Spanish were exploring this area of the mid-Atlantic pretty early on in the 16th century. The early colonial literature is often patchy and not completely thorough. Just because they don’t mention the horses doesn’t mean they weren’t there.”

The feral herds on Assateague weren’t the only horses to revert back to their wild heritage after arriving in the Americas. Colonists from all over Europe brought with them horses of various breeds and pedigrees, some of which bucked their bonds and escaped into the surrounding countryside.

Today, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management estimates there are roughly 86,000 wild horses across the country, most of which are located in western states, such as Nevada and Utah.

Delsol hopes that future ancient DNA studies will help decode the complex history of equine introductions and migrations that occurred over the last several centuries and offer a clearer understanding of today’s diversity of wild and domesticated horses.

The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Remains of Mongol Summer Palace Investigated in Turkey

Remains of Mongol Summer Palace Investigated in Turkey

Archaeologists in Turkey have discovered the remains of an ancient palace that may have belonged to Hulagu Khan, a grandson of Genghis Khan. The site in eastern Turkey’s Van province, in the Çaldıran district, is currently being excavated.

Remains of Mongol Summer Palace Investigated in Turkey
Scientists are seen at the archaeological excavation site of what may be Hulagu Khan’s palace in Van, Turkiye. Hulagu Khan, a grandson of Genghis Khan, is believed to have built a summer palace in the 1260s.

Hulagu Khan, a Mongol warlord who lived from about 1217 to 1265, achieved military renown for leading several expeditions, including the sack of Baghdad in 1258.

After the Mongol Empire splintered in 1259, Hulagu Khan became the ruler of the Mongol Ilkhanid State in the Middle East, which at its height included territory in what is now Iran, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Armenia, Georgia, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, Dagestan, and Tajikistan.

Historical sources state that during the 1260s, Hulagu Khan built a summer palace in Çaldıran.

An aerial view of the archaeological excavation site of what may be Hulagu Khan’s palace in Van, Turkiye. Hulagu Khan, a grandson of Genghis Khan, is believed to have built a summer palace in the 1260s.

The newly discovered ruins have yet to be definitively identified as the lost residence, but the excavation team, led by Ersel Çağlıtütuncigil of the Izmir Katip Çelebi University Turkish-Islamic Archeology Department, is optimistic about the site, where scholars have unearthed shards of glazed ceramics and pottery, porcelain, bricks, and roof tiles.

The researchers, who are working under Turkey’s General Directorate of Cultural Heritage and Museums of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, believe this could be the first known architectural remains of the Ilkhanid State.

“No Ilkhanid work has been encountered until now. In this sense, this study was a first. It excited us and our friends from Mongolia,” Çağlıtütuncigil told Turkish publication the Daily Sabah.

Scientists are seen at the archaeological excavation site of what may be Hulagu Khan’s palace in Van, Turkiye. Hulagu Khan, a grandson of Genghis Khan, is believed to have built a summer palace in the 1260s.

Important clues pointing to Hulagu Khan’s ownership are a number of “‘s’-like symbols on the roof-ending tiles” known as the “svastika pattern or tamga,” Munkhtulga Rinchinkhorol, a Mongolian Academy of Sciences archaeologist working on the dig, told Live Science.

“[That is] one of the power symbols of the Mongol Khans.”

The site, which appears to have been heavily looted, also contains the remains of a caravanserai, one of the travellers’ inns that would have dotted the Silk Road trade route.

Through further excavations, researchers hope to uncover the church that historical sources say Hulagu Khan built for his wife.