Well-Preserved Byzantine Church Uncovered in Israel
The Church of the Byzantine Age was discovered by Israeli archeologists on Wednesday in a neighborhood west of Jerusalem.
The Israel Antiquities Authority showed some of the objects of the almost 1.500-year-old church after three years of excavations.
During this discovery, scientists found many sophisticated mosaics depicting birds, fruit and plants and vivid frescoes on the church walls.
The church was also elaborately designed, including a marble chancel and a calcite flowstone baptismal.
One floor mosaic contains an eagle, a symbol of the Byzantine Empire.
“We know of a few hundred churches in the Holy Land but this church by far surpasses most of them by its state of preservation and the imperial involvement which funded it,” said Benjamin Storchan, the excavation’s director.
An inscription in the courtyard says the site is dedicated to a “glorious martyr,” although researchers are still puzzling over their identity.
An underground crypt below the main area of the church is believed to have contained the martyr’s remains.
“The martyr’s identity is not known, but the exceptional opulence of the structure and its inscriptions indicate that this person was an important figure,” Storchan said.
Another inscription on the site revealed that Byzantine emperor Tiberius II Constantinus helped fund the church’s expansion.
Researchers believe the site was likely a popular destination for pilgrims until it was abandoned during the Muslim Abbasid caliphate in the 9th century AD.
Following the collapse of the Byzantine Empire, the entrances to the church were sealed with large stones.
Excavators were able to move the heavy stones, revealing glass lamps and a piece of the vault where the nameless martyr is believed to have been buried.
Ancient City of ‘Mahendraparvata’ Hidden Beneath Cambodian Jungle
The “lost city of Cambodia” was eventually rediscovered by researchers. The city was officially called Mahendraparvata and was the first capital of the Angkorian Empire–a Hindu Buddhist empire that had been in Southeast Asia from the 9th to the 15th centuries.
Although archeologists and historians have been aware of several decades of the old city of Mahendraparvata, they did not know exactly where it stood before now.
The international research team was able to locate the old lost town under the Cambodian Jungle, thanks to laser scanning (or lidar) and ground surveys.
More precisely, the city was found in the Phnom Kulen plateau which is located to the north-east of Angkor.
According to their paper, “The mountainous region of Phnom Kulen has, to date, received strikingly little attention.”
It went on to read, “It is almost entirely missing from archaeological maps, except as a scatter of points denoting the remains of some brick temples.”The researchers went into further details on their findings in their paper which can be read in full here.
Between 2012 and 2017, the team conducted several Lidar survey flights over that area and were able to find numerous archaeological features that hadn’t been noticed during the ground surveys.
They noticed several features from the lost city that was around 50 square kilometers and were laid out in a grid-like pattern of linear axes.
The researchers explained it further by stating, “Dams, reservoir walls and the enclosure walls of temples, neighborhoods and even the royal palace abut or coincide with the embanked linear features.”
Jean-Baptiste Chevance, who is from the Archaeology and Development Foundation in the UK as well as the first author of the paper, told Newsweek, “The Ancient Khmer modified the landscape, shaping features on a very large scale – ponds, reservoirs, canals, roads, temples, rice fields, et cetera.”
He went on to say, “However, the dense forest often covering the areas of interest is the main constraint to investigating them.”
While the city was designed in an elaborate and sophisticated way, it did not last long as the Khmer Empire moved its important operations to Angkor which was their new capital city.
Team member Damian Evans, who is from the French School of the Far East, told New Scientist, “The city may not have lasted for centuries, or perhaps even decades,” adding, “But the cultural and religious significance of the place has lasted right up until the present day.”
An aerial view of Mahendraparvata as well as a photo of a temple site can be seen here.
8,000-Year-Old Pearl, Found In Abu Dhabi, Is World’s Oldest.
An 8,000-year-old pearl that archaeologists say is the worlds oldest will be displayed in Abu Dhabi, according to authorities who said Sunday it is proof the objects have been traded since Neolithic times.
Dubbed the ‘Abu Dhabi Pearl’, it was found in layers carbon-dated to 5800-5600 BCE, during the Neolithic period.
This finding proves that pearls and oysters have been used in the UAE nearly 8,000 years ago and is the first confirmed evidence of pearling discovered anywhere in the world.
The Abu Dhabi Pearl, on loan from the Zayed National Museum collection, will feature in the special exhibition 10,000 Years of Luxury, taking place at Louvre Abu Dhabi from October 30, 2019, to February 18, 2020.
Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of DCT Abu Dhabi, said: “The Abu Dhabi Pearl is a stunning find, testimony to the ancient origins of our engagement with the sea.
The discovery of the oldest pearl in the world in Abu Dhabi makes it clear that so much of our recent economic and cultural history has deep roots that stretch back to the dawn of prehistory.
Marawah Island is one of our most valuable archaeological sites, and excavations continue in the hope of discovering even more evidence of how our ancestors lived, worked and thrived.”
Prior to the Abu Dhabi Pearl discovery, the earliest known pearl in the UAE was uncovered at a Neolithic site in Umm al-Quwain.
Ancient pearls from the same time have also been found at a Neolithic cemetery close to Jebel Buhais in the emirate of Sharjah. The carbon dating indicates that Abu Dhabi Pearl is older than both these discoveries.
Aside from the priceless Abu Dhabi Pearl, significant finds from the Marawah site have included an imported ceramic vase, beautifully worked flint arrowheads and shell and stone beads.
Numerous painted plaster vessel fragments were also discovered and represent the earliest known decorative art yet discovered in the UAE. At the beginning of 2020, a major new excavation will take place at the site to further uncover its secrets.
Experts have suggested that ancient pearls were possibly traded with Mesopotamia (ancient Iraq) in exchange for highly-decorated ceramics and other goods. Pearls were also likely worn as jewellery by the local population, as indicated by the finds at Jebel Buhais in Sharjah.
The art of pearling required in-depth knowledge of pearl beds and their locations and expert seafaring skills.
Once these were mastered by the ancient inhabitants of Marawah, pearling was to remain a mainstay of the UAE’s economy for millennia.
The Venetian jewel merchant Gasparo Balbi, who travelled through the region, mentions the islands off the coast of Abu Dhabi as a source of pearls in the 16th century. The industry flourished until the 1930s.
Frozen pygmy woolly mammoth carcass unearthed in Siberia could be proof of a new species of ice age beast
Scientists have discovered relics of Mammuthus exilis, or what they’re calling a “Golden mammoth”, named after the color of its seemingly strawberry blonde colored hair.
The discovery of the carcass proves the existence of a miniature or “dwarf” species of a woolly mammoth — something that’s never been seen by scientists before.
The remains of this “Golden mammoth” was about two meters (or about six and a half feet) in height, which is extremely small when compared to a typical woolly mammoth that was on average three meters (or around ten feet) tall.
The mammoth was found on Kotelny island in the Siberian region of Russia. Scientists have heard reports of smaller mammoths being found in this particular area before, but the discovery of this carcass solidified their existence.
Dr. Albert Protopopov of the Yakutin Academy of Sciences said that scientists “have had reports about small mammoths found in that particular area, both grown-ups and babies. But we had never come across a carcass. This is our first chance to study it.”
Scientists have more to figure out, namely whether the discovery of the animal is a one-off or if mini woolly mammoths were specific to the region where the carcass was found.
The bones of what scientists believe were pygmy-sized woolly mammoths have been discovered in the Arctic region of Russia, but Dr. Protopopov believes that this “Golden mammoth” is an entirely new species of pygmy mammoth.
He believes that this species roamed the earth earlier and was not a rare breed, but an evolutionary adaptation specific to the location where it was found.
Dr. Protopopov was joined by a team of “paleontologists, archeologists, zoologists, botanists, entomologists and permafrost experts” on this expedition to Kotelny Island where the “golden mammoth” was discovered.
He told The Siberian Times, “I believe that this mammoth is related to the period of the heyday of the species, which was supposed to be in the Karginsky interglacial time (between 50,000 and 22,000 years ago).
Our theory is that in this period the mammoths significantly rose in numbers – and this led to the biggest diversity of their forms. So we want to check this theory.”
Where the new species of the woolly mammoth was discovered makes this find all the more interesting. Koletny island, as well as much of the Russian Arctic region of Siberia, is completely frozen in the winter — including the sea.
The mammoth was found in what Dr. Protopopov describes as “an inaccessible place, and is almost completely buried in the ground in a tidal area,” making this discovery particularly remarkable.
Europe has been experiencing one of the hottest summer’s of record, and the extreme temperatures could have enabled the ice to melt enough to make this discovery possible.
It’s a find that has scientists extremely excited, and it’s quite possible that they have the unusually hot summer season to thank for that.
Excavation of the “Golden Mammoth” has been set to start in the summer of 2019, and it’s likely that scientists will be able to find more animals that have been as well preserved underneath the ice as this latest discovery.
Archaeologists may have discovered the village where Jesus is said to have appeared after he was crucified.
In accordance with Luke’s Gospel. Following the crucifixion of Jesus, two of his disciples went to Emmaus, and a stranger walked by them on their way to the village, asked them what had just happened in Jerusalem.
The stranger disclosed that he was Jesus in this biblical story only when they reached Emmaus and stopped for supper.
Two archeologists suggest that an archeological site known as the Kiriath-jearim might be the Emmaus in a document released in the sequence “New Studies of Archeology of Jerusalem and its Region.”
The location of Emmaus has long been a topic of debate, with a few different sites proposed in the past.
While biblical scholars generally agree that Jesus was a real person, they’ve long debated which stories in the Bible actually occurred and which ones did not. The story of Jesus reappearing at Emmaus may have never happened.
Several clues point to Kiriath-jearim being Emmaus. For instance, the Gospel of Luke says Emmaus is “60 stadia” from Jerusalem, a distance about equal to the 8 miles (13 kilometers) that separates Kiriath-jearim from the Old City of Jerusalem, wrote Israel Finkelstein, professor emeritus at the Institute of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University in Israel, and Thomas Römer, a professor of biblical studies at Collège de France, in the forthcoming article.
Recent excavations at Kiriath-jearim have also uncovered a series of fortifications that were renovated during the first half of the second century B.C., and according to the Book of Maccabees, the Seleucid Empire (an empire ruled by the descendants of one of Alexander the Great’s generals) controlled much of the region, fortifying several sites, including Emmaus.
The researchers can’t be completely certain that Kiriath-jearim is Emmaus and not another site fortified by the Seleucids.
But the fact that the site is located 60 stadia from Jerusalem supports the proposal. Additionally, the other sites mentioned in the Book of Maccabees that the Seleucids fortified don’t appear to match up well with Kiriath-jearim.
Adding more evidence for the proposal, pottery found at Kiriath-jearim suggests that the site was inhabited around the time that Jesus is said to have lived. This means there would have been an active village at the site for Jesus’ disciples to visit and where Jesus could have appeared.
Problems with identification
There are, however, problems with the idea that Kiriath-jearim is Emmaus, the researchers wrote. For instance, there doesn’t seem to be any linguistic connection between the names Kiriath-jearim and Emmaus, the researchers noted. Also, other sites do have at least tenuous links to Emmaus: A fourth-century historian named Eusebius wrote in his book “Onomasticon” that Nicopolis is Emmaus.
Other sites also have potential. For instance, Josephus, a historian who lived during the first century, wrote that retired Roman soldiers settled at Emmaus, which he claimed was only 30 stadia from Jerusalem, at a site located near Qaluniya (a village that was not abandoned until 1948).
Finkelstein and Römer are co-directors of excavations at Kiriath-jearim. After their paper is published, scholars not affiliated with the research project will be able to evaluate the proposal’s evidence.
It is the oldest city in ancient Mesopotamia. It was located in the southern region of Sumeria (now Warka, Iraq) to the northeast of the Euphrates River. Uruk was an ancient city of Sumer and Babylon at one time.
The ruins of what once used to be the great city of Uruk show thousands of clay tablets that indeed it was a religious and scientific center. The oldest texts of the world were written here, according to Archeology Magazine.
A series of wedge-shaped symbols pressed into wet clay using reeds was developed around 3200 B.C. The writing system is known as cuniform. By Sumerian scribes in Uruk.
The combination of shapes represented different sounds, so the system could thus be adopted by scribes who spoke different languages. The script was used by multiple cultures for around 3,000 years.
Uruk is also well known as the city of Gilgamesh. The mythological Sumerian hero-king was made famous in the modern world with the discovery of a collection of stories — known as the “Epic of Gilgamesh” — in 1853. The 12 cuneiform tablets on which the stories were written were discovered by archaeologist Hormuzd Rassam at the site of the Royal Library of Ashurbanipal.
According to Professor John Maier of the State University of New York College at Brockport, “Ancient writings point to the existence of an actual, historical person we now call Gilgamesh. He lived, according to our best estimate, about 2600 B.C.”
It is also believed that Uruk is the biblical city of Erech, the second city of the kingdom of Nimrod in Shinar (Genesis 10:10). Archaeologists distinguish nine different periods in the rise of the city from a simple settlement to the first urban center of the world.
The foundations of the first settlements on the site date somewhere around 5000 B.C., the Eridu period. According to the Sumerian King List (an ancient stone tablet which lists all the kings of Sumer, in Sumerian language), Uruk was founded by King Enmerkar around 4500 B.C. This was during the Ubaid period (5000–4100 B.C.)
After 4000 B.C., Uruk rose from small, agricultural villages to a significantly larger and more complex center. This has been attributed partly to a period of climatic change; the area saw less rainfall and so people living in the hills migrated to the river valley of the ancient Euphrates. The course of the Euphrates has since shifted, an important factor in the decline of the city.
Nestled in the lush and fertile river valley, the population of Uruk continued to grow throughout the Early Uruk period (4000–3500 B.C.), Middle Uruk period (3800–3400 B.C.) and Late Uruk period (3500–3100 B.C.). Farming and irrigation techniques were refined, providing a surplus of food for the community.
By around 3200 B.C., the city of Uruk was the largest settlement in southern Mesopotamia, and probably in the world. It was an urban center with a full-time bureaucracy, stratified society, and a formal military. It was also a major hub of trade and administration.
The organization of Uruk in this period set the blueprint for cities ever since. There is evidence of social hierarchies and coercive political structures that would be familiar to most of us today. Clay tablets containing a “standard professions list” have been found, listing around 100 professions. As the city became more affluent, those at the top sought ways to display their wealth and power. Luxury goods were acquired by conquest or trade with lands as far as the Egyptian Nile Delta.
Uruk was a city of extraordinary architecture and works of art. The remains of monumental mud-brick buildings, the walls of which were decorated with mosaics of painted clay cones, pressed into the mud plaster — a technique known as clay cone mosaic — have been excavated. The most impressive creations discovered to date of this Sumerian craft are the two large temple complexes in the heart of Uruk.
One was dedicated to Anu, the god of the sky, and the other, known as the Mosaic Temple of Uruk, to Inanna (or Ishtar), the goddess of love, procreation, and war. There was a clear division of the city into the Anu and Eanna Districts.
Another famous piece of artwork, “The Lady of Uruk,” or the Mask of Warka, was discovered in 1939 by the German Archaeological Institute in Uruk. Dating from 3100 B.C., it is most likely that the mask was part of a much larger work from one of the temples and it is considered to represent of Inanna. The marble sculpture is one of the earliest representations of the human face.
To this day, the mask is the most significant artifact found on the site, and it is part of the collection of National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad. It is also called “The Sumerian Mona Lisa.” Uruk continued to expand and, as the center of luxurious materials and possessions, it demanded greater protection.
Although it was traditionally believed that the great wall of Uruk was built by King Gilgamesh himself, as it is written in the Epic of Gilgamesh, it was possibly created during the reign of King Eannutum who established the first empire in Uruk during the Jemdet Nasr Period (3100-2900 B.C.) By the time the wall was raised, it protected an area of 2.32 square miles and a population of almost 80,000.
During the Early Dynastic period (2900–2350 B.C.), Mesopotamia was governed by city-states whose rulers gradually grew in importance and power. Starting circa 2004 B.C. the struggles between the Sumerians in Babylonia and the Elamites from Elam, the Pre-Iranian civilization rose to serious national conflicts.
Uruk was still a prominent center during this time but suffered severely. There are recollections about the conflicts in the Gilgamesh epic. Sometime after 2000 B.C., Uruk lost importance, but it wasn’t abandoned.
The city remained inhabited throughout the Seleucid (312–63 B.C.) and Parthian (227 B.C.–224 A.D.) periods. The last people living there left Uruk after the Islamic contest of Persia in 633–638 A.D. The remains of probably the oldest city in the world laid buried until 1850 when archaeologist William Loftus led the first excavations on the site and identified the city as “Erech, the second city of Nimrod.”
The Katskhi Pillar – the Most Incredible Cliff Church in the World
It is not unusual to listen to tales of people who have lived a solemn life away from the world, whenever these stories are reported, people are fascinated and awestruck.
This idea is far from our normal life to most of us. This was the case when the news broke out of a monk alone living on a giant rock in Georgia.
Katskhi, the small town of the Katshkipillar – an enormous natural limestone column that rises 130 feet into the air – is located in the west-georgian area of Imereti.
Perched on the top is a church and three hermit cells, accessible only by climbing a precarious steel ladder. The rock was used by Stylites from at least the 9th century up until the Ottoman invasion in the 15th century.
The Stylites are a group of Christian ascetics who chose to follow the example of Saint Simeon Stylites the Elder, spending their days living in solitude on top of pillars in order to become spiritually closer to God.
In 1993, the Stylite tradition at Katskhi was revived by a monk named Maxime Qavtaradze.
After being abandoned and shrouded in the legend for 500 years, the rock was scaled in 1944 by a Georgian mountaineer named Alexander Japaridze.
Upon reaching the top, Japaridze found the dilapidated remains of an old church as well as the centuries-old bones of the last Christian ascetic who resided there, reports the Daily Mail.
Climbers also came across a slew of other structures, including a wine cellar, a curtain wall, a stone crypt, and three hermit cells. The church was built to honor Maximus the Confessor, a famous Christian monk and theologian.
St. Maximus the Confessor’s church is located in the southeast sector of the pillar. The structure is fairly small, measuring just 12 x 15 feet.
When excavations were carried out, the group also uncovered eight large containers known as kvevris which are used to hold traditional Georgian wine.
In a subsequent ascent up the rock in 2006, the presence of the kvevris along with the construction of a wine cellar provided researchers with enough evidence to conclude that extreme asceticism was a common practice for those who resided there long ago.
This would make it the third time in recent history that the rock has been examined by experts hoping to uncover more about its history.
At present, the rock is inhabited by Maxime Qavtaradze, a middle-aged monk who made the abandoned spiritual dwelling his home in 1993.
In a rare interview in 2013, Qavtaradze told photographer Amos Chapple that making the decision to live at Katshki Pillar was borne from a much-needed change in his personal life.
He explained that after being released from jail on drug-related charges, he felt that the best way to connect with God and purge himself of evil was to meditate upon the Kayshki Pillar, reports CNN.
“It is up here in the silence that you can feel God’s presence,” he claims. For him, living in isolation is the right way to establish a genuine, uninterrupted connection with God.
That said, he does come down the mountain periodically to pray together with men who live in the monastery at the bottom of the pillar — a climb that takes him around 20 minutes, according to the Daily Mail.
His efforts are supported by the men in the monastery, who send him food and other supplies via a winch.
Maxime has no regrets about deciding to live his life in borderline isolation. Although climbing a 130-foot ladder does pose its challenges to Maxime’s middle-aged frame, he told Chapple that he’ll continue to make the journey until his body gives up.
Scientists may have found one of the oldest Christian churches in the world
Scientists may have found one of the most ancient Christian churches in the world by using muon x-rays to scan a mystical subterranean building on the coast of the Caspian Sea in the ancient Russian city of Derbent. Now, thanks to the clever use of scanning technology, we might finally know what the building is.
The technology known as the muon X-ray is used by researchers to track the charged subatomic particles muons, generated when cosmic rays interact with Earth’s atmosphere.
As they pass through space, nuclear emulsion plates are used as detectors to ‘catch’ the particles and develop an image of where the muons passed through, and where they were absorbed or deflected. (This same method has been used on pyramids in Egypt before.)
By using this method to meticulously scan the subterranean structure, the team arrived at a suggestion it was once a vast church.
In fact, it could be the oldest church in Russia, dating from around 300 CE.
Until now, archaeologists had been split over whether this is the site of a church, a reservoir or water tank, or perhaps a Zoroastrian fire temple. Now, thanks to the new measurements, it seems that the first hypothesis has taken the lead in terms of probability.
“The unusual building, in which we have put our detectors, has the shape of a cross, oriented strictly to the sides of the world,” says physicist Natalia Polukhina, from the National University of Science and Technology (MISIS) in Russia.
“One side is two metres [six-and-a-half feet] longer than the others.”
Scientists can’t excavate what lies beneath the Naryn-Kala fortress because it has UNESCO cultural heritage site status (only a small fragment of its dome is above ground). Instead, they lowered detectors into the depths of the structure and spent four months scanning the internal dimensions.
The building appears to be around 11 metres (36 feet) high, 15 metres (nearly 50 feet) from north to south, and 13.4 metres (nearly 44 feet) from east to west. The dome is located at the centre of the cruciform design.
While the site has been referred to as a water tank – and was probably used for that purpose in the 17th and 18th centuries – the differences between this and another nearby reservoir suggest the building wasn’t originally used for storing water.
“It seems very strange to me to interpret this building as a water tank,” says Polukhina. “In the same fortress of Naryn-Kala, there is an equal underground structure of 10 metres [nearly 33 feet] depth, and it really is a tank. This is just a rectangular building.”
“As the archaeologists who began excavations say, during construction, the building was entirely on the surface and it stands on the highest point of the Naryn-Kala. What is the sense to put the tank on the surface, and even on the highest mountain?”
It’s thought that the building was buried by the Sasanian Persian Empire after it took control of Derbent around 700 CE – the area is part of a crucial trade route between Europe and the Middle East and has always been important strategically.
The scan also revealed an unusual build-up of muons in the western wing, perhaps indicating particular architectural features that have been preserved and could eventually be scanned in detail using a similar non-invasive approach.
Now the researchers want to continue their work with further scans to produce a full-size image of what’s buried under the ground at the Naryn-Kala fortress.
Before too long we might be able to say for certain what this ancient structure was originally built for.
“It is strange,” says Polukhina. “Currently, there are more questions than answers.”