All posts by Archaeology World Team

Monkeys from India Identified in Roman Pet Cemetery in Africa

Monkeys from India Identified in Roman Pet Cemetery in Africa

Polish archaeologists have discovered that ancient Romans and Egyptians imported monkeys from India as household pets.

Archaeologists from the Warsaw University’s Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology were in the process of excavating a vast animal cemetery when they came across the monkey skeletons.

Researchers found when examining monkeys buried in the animal cemetery in the Berenice Red Sea Port researchers found that the primates were rhesus macaques endemic to India, rather than some local species.

Archaeologists from the Warsaw University’s Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology were in the process of excavating a vast animal cemetery when they came across the monkey skeletons.

Researches have been working at this site for over a decade and during this time have uncovered monumental fortresses, defense walls and a massive underground complex

For years they assumed they belonged to guenon species, quite common in this area.

It was only by using 3D scanners and comparing the bones with others that they made the incredible discovery.

Professor Marta Osypińska, a zooarchaeologist from the Polish Academy of Sciences, said: “We believe that the influential Romans who lived in Berenice, a faraway outpost, in the first and second, wanted to make their time pleasant with the company of various animals. Among them were also monkeys.”

The archaeologists discovered trays of individual cat, dog and monkey burials.

The pets were carefully buried in an animal necropolis and arranged like sleeping children.

Additionally, one of them was covered with a woolen fabric. The other had two large shells by their heads, including one coming from the Indian Ocean or south-eastern shores of Africa.

On both sides of the animal, there were amphora fragments. In one of them there was a piece of cloth, and in the second one – a skeleton of a very young piglet, and next to it three kittens.

Researchers found that rather than the monkeys being local, they were instead rhesus macaques from India.

Osypińska said: “This is a unique finding. Until now, no one has found Indian monkeys in the archaeological sites in Africa. Interestingly, even ancient written sources don’t mention this practice.”

The settlement in Berenice existed since the pharaonic times. In the third century BC, it was used as a harbour for transporting African elephants used in battle and a military outpost.

However, it was only after the Romans took over Egypt, that the port flourished. It became a centre of transoceanic trade between Egypt, the Middle East, and India.

Previous findings in the port confirmed the frequent trade contacts with the Indian subcontinent. Spice, textiles, and other luxury goods were among goods transported across the Indian Ocean.

The Polish archaeological mission revealed perfectly-preserved organic (skins, textiles from China and India, sails) and botanical materials: rice, sesame, lotus, irises, frankincense, myrrh, coconuts, teak wood, as well as an offering of eight kilograms of black pepper in Indian jars found near the Great Temple.

The transport of monkeys from thousands of kilometres away was not small, especially since it was done only for entertainment purposes.

Professor Osypińska said: “It involved providing the animals with adequate food and water during a few weeks’ cruise across the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea.

“Unfortunately, after reaching Berenice the monkeys couldn’t adapt and died young. It was probably caused by s lack of fresh fruit and other necessary nourishment.”

Archaeologists from the Warsaw University’s Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology, together with Americans from the University of Delaware have been working in Berenice since 2008, with cooperation from the Polish Academy of Sciences’ researchers.

During their work, the archaeologists uncovered the remains of monumental fortifications, defence walls, towers, and an enormous underground complex, as well as temples and the animal cemetery.

Four Mummies Discovered in Chile

Four Mummies Discovered in Chile

Reuters reports that four mummies wearing colourful turbans and sandals were discovered in northern Chile’s Quebrada Blanca copper mine.

The mummies, which had been buried in graves, are thought to date between 1100 and 400 B.C.

The remains of four mummified humans dressed in bright colours and buried in formal graves have been uncovered during work to expand the Quebrada Blanca copper mine in the north of Chile, the mine’s operators said on Friday.

The remains were found last year during excavations for a new port and could date back to Mesoamerica’s Early Formative Period that ran between around 1,100 and 400 BC, Canada’s Teck said.

The company said the mummies, wearing sophisticated turbans and sandals, had been perfectly preserved in the arid climate. Tests are now being run on them to determine their precise age.

“As a result of the saline conditions of the soil, the lack of rainfall and relatively low humidity, the remains are mummified in complete outfits and with a number of implements that indicate their way of life,” it said in a statement.

Ancient kitchen areas and living rooms, as well as items including ornaments, baskets, mats and hunting items, were also identified, Teck said.

The company has reported the find to the Chilean government, which will determine how to preserve the artefacts, described by archaeologist Mauricio Uribe as “one of the most remarkable finds of recent years in the Norte Grande region.”

Teck said it would preserve the area and maintain archaeological monitoring during the remainder of the project, which seeks to extend the mine’s useful life by almost 30 years.

To read about mummies found in the Chilean desert that date as far back as 5000 B.C., go to “Atacama’s Decaying Mummies.”

Rare trove of 1,100-year-old gold coins discovered in Israel

Rare trove of 1,100-year-old gold coins discovered in Israel

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced on Monday that a rare hoard of 425 gold coins from the Abbasid Caliphate, dating back around 1,100 years ago, was discovered by teenage volunteers at an archaeological excavation in the centre of the country.

The IAA may not have defined the exact location of the place where gold was discovered for obvious reasons.

A group of young people carrying out volunteer work ahead of their mandatory army service found the trove.

Workers excavate a site where a hoard of gold coins dating to the Abbasid Caliphate was unearthed, at an archaeological site near Tel Aviv in central Israel

“It was amazing. I dug in the ground and when I excavated the soil, saw what looked like very thin leaves,” said teen Oz Cohen. “When I looked again I saw these were gold coins. It was really exciting to find such a special and ancient treasure.”

Old coins found at central Israel archaeological dig

Excavation directors Liat Nadav-Ziv and Dr Elie Haddad said that it was assumed that whoever buried the coins would have expected they would be able to retrieve the hoard and that the find could point to international trade carried out by the area’s residents.

“Finding gold coins, certainly in such a considerable quantity, is extremely rare.

We almost never find them in archaeological excavations, given that gold has always been extremely valuable, melted down and reused from generation to generation,” the directors said in a statement.

“The coins, made of pure gold that does not oxidize in air, were found in excellent condition as if buried the day before. Their finding may indicate that international trade took place between the area’s residents and remote areas,” the statement read.

Gold coins found at central Israel archaeological dig

Dr Robert Kool, a coin expert at the IAA, said that the total weight of the hoard — around 845 grams of pure gold — would have been a significant amount of money at the end of the 9th century.

“For example, with such a sum, a person could buy a luxurious house in one of the best neighbourhoods in Fustat, the enormous wealthy capital of Egypt in those days,” Kool said, noting that at the time, the region was part of the Abbasid Caliphate, which stretched from Persia to North Africa, with a central seat of government in Baghdad.

“The hoard consists of full gold dinars, but also — what is unusual — contains about 270 small gold cuttings, pieces of gold dinars cut to serve as small change,” Kool said.

He added that one of those cuttings was exceptionally rare and never before found in excavations in Israel — a fragment of a gold solidus of the Byzantine emperor Theophilos (829 – 842 CE), minted in the empire’s capital of Constantinople.

According to the IAA, the existence of the fragment in a trove of Islamic coins serves as evidence of the connections between the two rival empires.

“This rare treasure will certainly be a major contribution to research, as finds from the Abbasid period in Israel are relatively few. Hopefully, the study of the hoard will tell us more about a period of which we still know very little,” Kool said.

A 14,000-year-old puppy, whose perfectly preserved body was found in Russia, munched on a woolly rhino for its last meal

A 14,000-year-old puppy, whose perfectly preserved body was found in Russia, munched on a woolly rhino for its last meal

Russian scientists in 2011 found a perfectly preserved Frozen Aged puppy in Siberia. Recently, while examining the 14,000-year-old wolf-dog’s stomach contents, researchers were stunned to find evidence of what could be one of the last woolly rhinos on Earth still in its prehistoric bowels.

The gritted teeth of a 14,000-year-old dog discovered in Tumut, Siberia in 2011.

“It’s completely unheard of,” professor of evolutionary genetics Love Dalen said. “I’m not aware of any frozen Ice Age carnivore where they have found pieces of tissue inside.”

Scientists originally found the furry canine at a dig site in Tumat, Siberia, and shortly afterward found a piece of yellow-haired tissue inside its stomach.

Experts initially believed that the tissue belonged to a cave lion, but after sharing the evidence with a resourceful team in Sweden, learned otherwise.

“We have a reference database and mitochondrial DNA from all mammals, so we checked the sequence data against that and the results that came back — it was an almost perfect match for woolly rhinoceros,” Dalen explained.

The 14,000-year-old wolf-dog is just one of a few perfectly preserved canine specimens found in the Siberian permafrost over the last decade.

Dalen works at the Centre for Paleogenetics, which is a joint venture between Stockholm University and the Swedish Museum of Natural History, so his team had access to both highly-detailed DNA databases and radiocarbon dating.

After Dalen and his colleagues were able to assess with the overwhelming likelihood that this half-digested tissue belonged to a woolly rhinoceros, they then radiocarbon dated it at around 14,400 years old.

“This puppy, we know already, has been dated to roughly 14,000 years ago,” said Dalen. “We also know that the woolly rhinoceros goes extinct 14,000 years ago. So, potentially, this puppy has eaten one of the last remaining woolly rhinos.”

The tissue of the woolly rhino.

Modern research has shown that the woolly mammoth’s extinction was partly due to severe climate change. As for how this lucky puppy got its paws on such a specimen, which is the same size as a modern-day white rhino that weighs nearly 8,000 pounds and stands six feet tall, remains largely unclear.

Indeed, Edana Lord, a Ph.D. student who co-authored a research paper studying the woolly rhino’s road to extinction, asserted that due to the rhino’s size it is impossible that the puppy killed the animal itself.

Additionally, experts were surprised to see that the rhino was left mostly undigested in the puppy’s stomach, leading Dalen to conclude that “this puppy must have died very shortly after eating the rhino.”

“We don’t know if it was a wolf, but if it was a wolf cub, maybe it came across a baby rhino that was dead,” Dalen hypothesized. “Or the (adult) wolf ate the baby rhino. Maybe as they were eating it, the mother rhino had her revenge.”

A reconstruction of a woolly rhino using the remains of one found in the Siberian permafrost.

This wolf-pup is just one of a few amazing prehistoric canines specimens to be found in the last decade. In 2016, a miner in the Yukon region of Canada found a mummified 50,000-year-old wolf pup alongside a prehistoric caribou.

Then, in 2019, researchers found an 18,000-year-old wolf-dog hybrid perfectly preserved in the Siberian permafrost. They have since named that specimen “Dogor.”

Ultimately, researchers hope that this latest find can shed some more light on the last days of the woolly rhino — which are still being debated millennia later.

Extraordinary 1,000-Year-Old Viking Sword Discovered In Cork, Ireland

Extraordinary 1,000-Year-Old Viking Sword Discovered In Cork, Ireland

Among several significant findings that contradict the belief that the Scandinavian invaders were most strongly influential in the cities of Dublin and Waterford, a perfectly preserved wooden Viking sword was uncovered in Cork.

Archaeologists discovered the sword, about a foot long, at the historic site of the former Beamish and Crawford brewery in ‘ the Rebel City ‘

Believed to have been used by female weavers, the 1,000-year-old sword made of wood is heavily designed and has astounded those who found it with its pristine condition. 

Crafted entirely from yew, the hilt of the Viking sword is carved with faces associated with the Ringerike style of Viking art,  a style that dates to the 11th century. 

The sword was unearthed during recent excavations at the South Main Street site and consultant archaeologist Dr. Maurice Hurley said it was one of the several Viking artifacts of “exceptional significance” to be discovered at an excavation that ended last June. 

Other finds included intact ground plans of 19 Viking houses, remnants of central hearths, and bedding material. These finds have convinced archeologists that the influence the Vikings had in Cork city has been underappreciated, that it may be comparable to that in Dublin and Waterford. 

“For a long time there was a belief that the strongest Viking influence was in Dublin and Waterford, but the full spectrum of evidence shows that Cork was in the same cultural sphere and that its development was very similar,” Hurley told RTÉ.

The hilt of the 30cm (12 inches) long Viking weaving tool (BAM Ireland)

“A couple of objects similar to the weaver’s sword have been found in Wood Quay [in Dublin], but nothing of the quality of craftsmanship and preservation of this one. 

“The sword was used probably by women, to hammer threads into place on a loom; the pointed end is for picking up the threads for pattern-making. It’s highly decorated – the Vikings decorated every utilitarian object,” he continued.

The Viking sword was discovered at the building site of a new, 6,000-seat event center in Cork, a project that was put on hold as archaeologists were called in to further explore the discoveries.

Although the archaeological team left the site last June, the developers, BAM Ireland, have not yet given any indication as to when construction will resume. 

A spokesperson for the developers stated they were happy to fund the excavation and to add to the heritage and history of the city. 

Although originally discovered last May, the finds only recently become mainstream knowledge due to a visit to the Cork Public Museum by the Norwegian Ambassador to Ireland, Else Berit Eikeland. 

Miners Unearth 50,000-Year-Old Caribou Calf, Wolf Pup From Canadian Permafrost

Miners Unearth 50,000-Year-Old Caribou Calf, Wolf Pup From Canadian Permafrost

A mummified wolf pup and caribou believed to have walked Earth over 50,000 years ago were discovered with tissue and fur intact — a remarkable find, Canadian authorities say.

The caribou was found at the site of an 80,000-year-old volcanic ash bed and officials believe it’s among the oldest mummified mammal tissue in the world, according to a release.

It was discovered by gold miners, the wolf pub was remarkably well-preserved remains of a caribou calf and wolf pup that each lived more than 50,000 years ago.

The Ice Age specimens were found in the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Traditional Territory, a First Nation territory in Yukon.

Officials say the ancient caribou dug up from a site containing an 80,000-year-old volcanic ash bed now stands as one of the oldest examples of mummified mammal tissue in the world.

Gold miners in Canada have discovered the remarkably well-preserved remains of a caribou calf and wolf pup (shown) that each lived more than 50,000 years ago. The wolf pup’s remains were complete, with its head, tail, paws, skin, and hair

After miners first discovered the mummified animals in the Klondike region, researchers with the Yukon Paleontology Program recovered and conducted analyses of the remains.

With each still containing hair, skin, and muscle tissue, the experts say the discoveries are extremely rare.

The 50,000-year-old caribou and wolf pup could help to ‘shed light on Yukon’s fascinating Ice Age history and will help us understand how these long-gone creatures lived in the environment they inhabited,’ said Premier Sandy Silver.

Both of the mummies were discovered back in 2016.

The caribou calf was found on Tony Beets’ placer gold mine on Paradise Hill June 3 of that year. Beets are best known from Discovery’s show, Gold Rush.

The mummified wolf pup was found the following month.

Officials say the ancient caribou dug up from a site containing an 80,000-year-old volcanic ash bed now stands as one of the oldest examples of mummified mammal tissue in the world. Only the front half of its body remained intact

While the caribou carcass is missing some parts of its body, with only the front half still intact, the wolf pup was found to be complete, with its head, tail, paws, skin, and hair.

‘We found the caribou and our neighbours, the Favron’s found the wolf pup,’ Beets wrote on Facebook.

‘Such amazing things to be found here under the midnight sun.’

The discoveries hold special significance to the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, upon whose land they were discovered. Both animals will be on display for the rest of the month, before being moved to the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre in Whitehorse. The mummified wolf is shown

The two Ice Age specimens were unveiled at the Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre last week.

And, they hold special significance to the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, upon whose land they were discovered.

‘For Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, wolf and caribou are very important and interconnected,’ said Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Chief Roberta Joseph.

‘The caribou has fed and clothed our people for thousands of years. The wolf maintains balance within the natural world, keeping the caribou healthy.’

Both mummified animals will be on display for the rest of the month, before being incorporated into an exhibit at the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre in Whitehorse.

‘These specimens will help scientists learn more about the ancient mammal species that roamed Beringia, increasing our knowledge and ability to share the stories of this lost, ancient land,’ said Minister of Tourism and Culture Jeanie Dendys.

81 ‘rare’ Anglo-Saxon coffins found in England may shed light on early Christians

81 ‘rare’ Anglo-Saxon coffins found in England may shed light on early Christians

A remarkable discovery of 81 Anglo – Saxon coffins made from the hollow-out trunks of oak trees may give new insights into how people lived in Britain in the early days of Christianity, archaeologists say

The graves didn’t decay due to a combination of acidic sand and alkaline water

The bones, dated from the 7th and 9th centuries, is discovered by a previously unknown Anglo-Saxon cemetery on a site called Great Ryburgh in Norfolk, eastern England, where six rare plank-lined graves were also found.

Evidence suggesting the cemetery served a community of early Christians includes a timber structure thought to be a church or chapel, wooden grave markers, and a lack of grave goods that would have been expected at pagan burial sites.

“This find is a dramatic example of how new evidence is helping to refine our knowledge of this fascinating period when Christianity and the church were still developing on the ground,” said Tim Pestell, curator at Norwich Castle Museum in Norfolk, where the finds from the dig will be kept.

Few Anglo-Saxon coffins survive because wood normally decays over time, and evidence usually consists of staining in the round from rotten wood.

An archaeologist excavates human remains at the Great Ryburgh site

The site at Great Ryburgh had a combination of acidic sand and alkaline water that allowed the skeletons and wooden graves to survive.

Coffins made from hollowed-out tree trunks were first seen in Europe in the early Bronze Age and reappeared in the early Middle Ages. This is the first time examples of this type of coffin have been properly excavated and recorded by modern archaeologists in Britain.

The plank-lined graves are believed to be the earliest known examples in Britain.

Examination of the bones and wood is taking place at the Northampton offices of the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA).

“This find is absolutely unique in this country,” MOLA project manager Mark Holmes said.

“Finding wooden coffins of this period hasn’t happened before — it’s going to fill in an enormous amount of our knowledge of this period.”

Lead researcher on the dig Jim Fairclough said he hoped further analysis of the bones would reveal more of the individuals themselves, such as what their lifestyle was like and whether they had any family groups in the same cemetery.

“There are earlier Saxon cemeteries where there’s evidence wood was used in burials but all that remains is basically soil marks and staining where the wood has decayed,” he said.

“So this is the first time, especially in an early Christian context, where the wood coffins have been preserved.”

The excavation on private land at Great Ryburgh was launched to check for archaeological remains ahead of building work to create a lake and flood-defense system to boost biodiversity, alleviate flooding and create a new spot for anglers to fish.

Matt Champion believes they have stumbled upon an Anglo-Saxon “monastery” – a forerunner of a monastic settlement, which doubled as a civic community

19th-century wagon discovered at Detroit Lake when it was at its lowest level in 46 years

19th-century wagon discovered at Detroit Lake when it was at its lowest level in 46 years

The unprecedented drought on the west coast of the United States that has lasted for over four years now has had a major impact on everything from water supplies to agriculture to fisheries.

Preserved beneath the reservoir’s waves in a low-oxygen environment, the wagon was probably more damaged during its short public appearance than it was underwater for decades.

But in one town in Oregon, the resulting historic low water levels have dredged up history: the remains of a town that was abandoned and sunk beneath a reservoir more than 60 years ago.

Back in 1953, the 200 residents of the tiny town of Old Detroit deserted their homes after Congress approved a nearby dam, which, when finished, would flood the area to create the reservoir now known as the Detroit Lake.

Ever since, when the lake’s water level fell, remnants of the town would sometimes rise out of the water. With the lake’s water level at a record low this year, when a local sheriff’s deputy drove past the lake in late October to take a look, he discovered the perfectly preserved remains of a 19th-century wagon, half-sunk in the mud.

“I went on a treasure hunt down along the river, figuring I’d find foundations or something like that,” Marion County Sheriff’s Deputy Dave Zahn tells Christena Brooks for the Statesman Journal. “Then I saw a piece of old history right there.”

The lack of snowfall last winter caused Detroit Lake’s water levels to drop to the lowest they’ve been in almost 50 years, approximately 143 feet below capacity. 

When Zahn decided to poke around in the newly dry lake bed, he discovered the utility wagon alongside an octagonal pit lined with cement that experts still haven’t identified, Brooks reports.

“As far as I know, the wagon’s never been seen until this year,” U.S. Forest Service archaeologist Cara Kelly tells Brooks. “This might not have been its original resting place…It could’ve come from anywhere in the town of Detroit or even up the drainage.”

While Zahn first spotted the wagon on October 29, he and Kelly decided to keep its location a secret, so as not to attract potential looters and vandals.

According to a metal plate attached to the wagon as seen in some of Zahn’s photographs, the wagon was made in 1875 by the Milburn Wagon Company of Toledo, Ohio, which was one of the country’s largest manufacturers of wagons at the time.

As Brooks reports, the lake bottom’s low oxygen levels almost perfectly preserved the wagon – ironically, its brief stint on land probably damaged it more than all the decades it spent underwater.

Old Detroit isn’t the only town briefly revealed by a historic drought: that same month, a drought in the Mexican state of Chiapas uncovered the ruins of a 450-year-old church.

The “Temple of Quechula,” as it is known, was originally built by Dominican monks near a conquistador highway, but was abandoned in the 18th century after a series of plagues struck the region.

This year, lake levels dropped so low that locals were able to take tourists out to see the ruins.

Even though Oregon’s drought may have uncovered a reminder of Detroit’s history, this year’s dry weather had such a bad effect on the town that Zahn hopes his once-in-a-lifetime experience stays that way.

“Hopefully it will be another 40 years before Detroit’s this low again,” Zahn tells Brooks.