Category Archives: EUROPE

Archaeology breakthrough: Bombshell discovery unearths third-century human mountains’

Archaeology breakthrough: Bombshell discovery unearths third-century human mountains’

The discovery was made near Rome, as researchers came across the remains of a man that would have been classed as a giant when he lived in the third century A.D.

It represents an incredibly rare find – as today gigantism affects about three people in a million worldwide.

The condition begins in childhood, when a malfunctioning pituitary gland causes abnormal growth.

Two partial skeletons, one from Poland and another from Egypt, had previously been identified as “probable” cases of gigantism, but the Roman specimen is thought to be the first clear case from the ancient past, study leader Simona Minozzi, a paleopathologist at Italy’s University of Pisa said.

The figure stood at about 6ft 8 inches, classed as a giant in third century A.D when the average height for a man was 5ft 5 inches.

The unusual skeleton was found in 1991 during an excavation at a necropolis in Fidenae (map), a territory indirectly managed by Rome.

At the time, the Archaeological Superintendence of Rome, which led the project, noted that the man’s tomb was abnormally long. It was only during a later anthropological examination, though, that the bones too were found to be unusual. Shortly thereafter, they were sent to Minozzi’s group for further analysis.

Archaeology breakthrough: Bombshell discovery unearths third-century human mountains'
Archaeology news: The researchers found a ‘human mountain’
The figure has gigantism according to the study

o find out if the skeleton had gigantism, the team examined the bones and found evidence of skull damage consistent with a pituitary tumor, which disrupts the pituitary gland, causing it to overproduce human growth hormone.

Other findings — such as disproportionately long limbs and evidence that the bones were still growing even in early adulthood — support the gigantism diagnosis, according to the study, published October 2 2012 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

His early demise — likely between the age of 16 and 20 — might also point to gigantism, which is associated with cardiovascular disease and respiratory problems, said Minozzi, who emphasized that the cause of death remains unknown.

A statue of Maximinus Thrax

Charlotte Roberts, an archaeologist at Durham University, said she was “certainly convinced with the diagnosis” of gigantism in 2012, but that she’d like to know more.

She said: “You can’t just study the disease, you have to look at the wider impact of how people functioned in society, and whether they were treated any differently.”

She added that one thing researchers to know is that the second-century A.D. emperor Maximinus Thrax was described in the literature as a “human mountain.”

Archaeologists have found other remains that could have been giants

Minozzi noted, though, that imperial Roman high society “developed a pronounced taste for entertainers with evident physical malformations, such as hunchbacks and dwarfs — so we can assume that even a giant generated enough interest and curiosity”.

Roberts also highlighted how the find has been useful in learning about gigantism.

She said: “Normally a doctor will be looking at a patient with a disease over short-term span.

“We’ve been able to look at skeletons from archaeological sites that are thousands of years old. You can start to look at trends of how diseases have changed in frequency over time.”

Archaeology breakthrough: Scientists discover chilling ‘nest’ of ancient humans in the cave

Archaeology breakthrough: Scientists discover chilling ‘nest’ of ancient humans in the cave

The discovery was made in a cave in France, which contained the remains of prehistoric hunter-gatherers who died some 30,000 years ago. First discovered 20 years ago, the Grotte de Cussac cave is located in the southwest of the country. Frequented by members of the Gravettian culture of the European Upper Paleolithic, the finding shed fresh light on the burial rituals of Paleolithic humans.

The group left evidence scattered across the continent of Europe, appearing around 33,000 years ago. Particularly notable for its prolific cave art “Venus” figurines portraying voluptuous female figures and elaborate burial rituals, the culture has become famous among archaeologists.

Researchers studied the cave and published their study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Here, an international team analysed the cave remains using photographs and 3D rendering.

Archaeology breakthrough: Scientists discover chilling ‘nest’ of ancient humans in the cave
Archaeology: France’s Lascaux cave and a crouched ancient skeleton found in Britain pictured
French cave: Grotte de Cussac cave is located in the southwest of the country.

They concluded that the site provided a “unique” setting for the dead in the Paleolithic. Previous papers had reported the presence of human remains inside the cave.

However, the newest study is the first to provide a detailed description of all of them and a comprehensive analysis of the mortuary behaviours that led to the particular distribution of the bones.

Contact with the cave’s surfaces is prohibited, forcing researchers to use indirect examination techniques. The researchers reported that the cave contained two areas of human remains.

Ancient humans: The Carnac Neolithic standing stones in western France erected by pre-Celtic people

The first included the skeleton of a young adult male in a shallow depression that was once a bear nest, as well as the fragmentary remains of at least two other individuals spread across two other former bear nests.

Deeper in the cave, the second area, containing the remains of at least three individuals—two adults and an adolescent—in hollows along a wall, which appeared to be sorted largely by lower and upper anatomy.

Some of the bones and underlying sediments featured a red pigment that the researchers have linked to the remains.

Stone Henge: Members of the Shakti Sings choir sing during the winter solstice, 2018
Ancient cemetery: A burial place in the ancient neolithic ruins of Aratane in Mauritania

Many of the burials were similar to traits discovered in other Gravettian sites. But the authors of the paper say a handful of characteristics appear unique to this ancient culture.

For example, the researchers said the remains were found much further inside the cave than is typical and are associated with abundant rock art— an unusual feature for Gravettian burial sites — with the cave containing more than 800 engravings.

“These human remains are located deep in the cave, which is a unique finding for this period—all previously known Gravettian burials are located in open-air sites, rock shelters, or cave entrances,” Sacha Kacki, with the French National Center for Scientific Research, told Newsweek.

Ancient humans: Neanderthals are our closest ancient human relatives

He added: “The Grotte de Cussac is not only a burial place, but also a decorated cave. It is quite rare that Gravettian human remains are found close to (cave) art, and the Grotte de Cussac is the first discovered cave where the mortuary rites and the art are very likely contemporaneous.”

According to the authors, the findings shed new light on the burial practices of Gravettian hunter-gatherers, providing evidence of significant social complexity during the Upper Paleolithic (roughly 50,000 to 12,000 years ago.)

Mr Kacki said: “Most of the human remains in Cussac are disarticulated due to human manipulations of bones or body parts after or during decomposition.

Stonehenge: Archaeologists believe the structure was built between 3000 and 2000 BC

“Although post-mortem manipulations of human remains have been previously documented for other Gravettian sites, some types of manipulations at Cussac are unknown elsewhere, including the removal of crania and the deliberate commingling of the remains of several individuals.

“These observations indicate diverse and complex mortuary behaviours during the Gravettian, which provides a window onto the social complexity of human groups from the Upper Paleolithic.”

A Polish-Croatian team discovered an Ancient Roman Temple under a Croatian 18th Century church

A Polish-Croatian team discovered an Ancient Roman Temple under a Croatian 18th Century church

A Polish-Croatian team discovered an Ancient Roman Temple under a Croatian 18th Century church

Under an 18th-century church, the Church of St. Daniel in Danilo near Sibenik, Croatia, the foundations of an ancient Roman temple have been found.

Sibenik is the location of the former Roman city of Ridit, though the secret of the ancient temple was previously unknown.

Finding the temple made use of LIDAR aerial scanning technology.  Using LIDAR techniques, the Polish-Croatian team found the frame of the temple’s entrance, which is likely all that remains of an old colonnade.

According to archaeologists, the temple once measured 66 feet by 33 feet and had walls that were significantly larger than they are now.

Discovering team, in addition to the church, the team also found a nearby cemetery, which is said to have been in use between the 9th and 15th Centuries.

Georadar surveyed around the church in Danilo, under which relics of the Roman sacral building were discovered.

Polish research leader, Professor Fabian Welc of the Institute of Archaeology of the Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw said that the temple was most likely part of a larger forum, which would have once been the location of several important public buildings, including courts and offices. He said, “The data we have collected indicate that under today’s church and the adjacent cemetery, there are relics of a temple, which was part of the forum, the most important part of a Roman city.”

He added that the forum was the centre of the social and economic life of the inhabitants of every Roman municipium (city). This forum was located at the intersection of the main communication arteries and was also the central point in the city.

Reconstruction of a building with a courtyard made by Professor Fabian Welc.

According to scientists, the church was not the only structure built on the ruins of the former temple. The nearby cemetery, which operated from the ninth to the fifteenth centuries, was also partially within its original range.

Some medieval graves were dug directly into Roman bath relics, as was the adjacent massive building with a central courtyard and a portico surrounded by numerous rooms.

Professor Welc said: “This means that the extensive medieval cemetery was founded directly on the relics of Roman buildings.”

A fragment of an ornamented monumental beaming of the Roman temple was unearthed in the 1950s in the medieval cemetery near the church in Danilo.

Archaeological research has been undertaken in Danilo for the last 70 years. The joint Polish-Croatian project started in 2019.

It is carried out by researchers from the Institute of Archeology of the Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw, the Institute of Archaeology in Zagreb, and the Šibenik City Museum.

An Ancient Fast Food Restaurant in Pompeii That Served Honey-Roasted Rodents Is Now Open to the Public

An Ancient Fast Food Restaurant in Pompeii That Served Honey-Roasted Rodents Is Now Open to the Public

The thermopolium, or fast food restaurant, of Regio V in Pompeii. Photo courtesy of Archaeological Park of Pompeii.

Archaeologists studying the Roman city of Pompeii recently discovered a thermopolium—a kind of ancient fast food restaurant—and it is now open to the public.

Visitors won’t be able to try the Roman delicacies that would have been served at the original restaurant—since this is a society that thought honey-roasted rodents raised in jars were a delicacy—but they will be able to see the establishment’s colourful fresco paintings.

One artwork seemingly features ingredients that would have been prepared at the thermopolium, such as a rooster, while another shows a scene from mythology, with a Nereid riding a sea-horse.

A third depicts a collared dog and Roman-era graffiti that roughly translates to “Nicias Shameless Shitter,” presumably an insult to the owner, Nicias.

A fresco of a collared dog at the thermopolium with Roman-era graffiti.

The discovery, in 2019, “led to a greater understanding of the diet and daily life of Pompeians,” Massimo Osanna, the former head of the Pompeii archaeological park and now director general of Italy’s museums, said in a statement.

Experts believe prepared food would have been displayed in large dolia jars set in holes carved in the stone counter, similar to today’s take-out restaurants.

The excavations uncovered duck, pig, goat, and fish bones, as well as snail shells amid shards of earthen pottery, suggesting that some kind of meat and seafood stew may have been on the menu. Typical dishes served at a thermopolium would have included salty fish, baked cheese, lentils, and spicy wine, according to the Guardian. (One jar apparently still smelled strongly of wine when archaeologists first discovered it.)

The dining culture and culinary traditions of Pompeii are currently the subject of “Last Supper in Pompeii,” an exhibition at San Francisco’s Legion of Honor museum.

The city’s sudden destruction with the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in the year 79 A.D. instantly carbonized food and cookware, leaving a record of day-to-day life frozen in time.

The thermopolium was a fixture of Pompeii—the newly discovered site is just one of 80 such restaurants that have been found in the city—because poor Roman families couldn’t afford to have kitchens in their homes. And, in an inversion of contemporary society, the wealthy didn’t go out for expensive meals. Instead, they had enslaved workers prepare feasts at home, served up in richly decorated banquet halls.

The thermopolium, or fast food restaurant, of Regio V in Pompeii.

Archaeologists uncovered the thermopolium during excavations at Regio V, a section of Pompeii that is not yet fully open to the public and has been home to most of the active digging on the site since the 1960s. In addition to the restaurant, sections of the Casa di Orione and Casa del Giardino mansions are also opening to visitors this week.

Other recent Regio V finds include a skeleton of a man believed to have been killed fleeing the volcano and a selection of amulets that may have belonged to a female sorcerer.

Human bones found at the new thermopolium suggest the business’s proprietor may have died on the premises.

U.K. Archaeologists Make a ‘Once-in-a-Lifetime’ Discovery: Three Well-Preserved Roman Busts Buried Along a Future Railway

U.K. Archaeologists Make a ‘Once-in-a-Lifetime’ Discovery: Three Well-Preserved Roman Busts Buried Along a Future Railway

In an unexpected find, archaeologists in England have unearthed three Roman busts near the ruins of an abandoned medieval church roughly 50 miles outside of London. 

U.K. Archaeologists Make a ‘Once-in-a-Lifetime’ Discovery: Three Well-Preserved Roman Busts Buried Along a Future Railway
Dr. Rachel Wood with one of the adult Roman busts discovered at the St Mary’s Archaeological dig in Stoke Mandeville, Buckinghamshire.

Two of the stone statues, found surprisingly intact, depict the faces and torsos of an adult man and woman, while the third represents the head of a child.

All are characteristic of early Roman sculpture, suggesting that they may date to when England belonged to the Roman Empire from A.D. 43 to about A.D. 410.

“The statues are exceptionally well preserved, and you really get an impression of the people they depict,” said Rachel Wood, the leading archaeologist on the dig, in an announcement. “Literally looking into the faces of the past is a unique experience.” 

Wood and her team excavated the objects at the remains of St. Mary’s Church in Stoke Mandeville, Buckinghamshire, where they’ve been at work for the last six months on a dig funded by the national Department of Transport.

The site sits in the path of the controversial new HS2 high-speed railway, which will connect corners of the United Kingdom over three phases of construction. (The first, a 140-mile passage from London to the West Midlands region, is expected to open between 2029 and 2033.)

It is one of some 60 sites along the future route that have been flagged for excavation, although detractors point out that a 2013 HS2 environmental impact survey identified nearly 1,000 potential sites. 

A Norman house of worship, St. Mary’s was erected in 1080, renovated in the 13th, 14th, and 17th centuries, and then abandoned in the late 19th century, according to the Guardian. Prior to that, the spot may have been home to a Bronze Age burial site, experts believe, followed by a Roman mausoleum.

An ancient glass vessel was unearthed at the St. Mary’s archaeological dig.

At the same site, researchers also uncovered a well-preserved hexagonal glass jug, which is similarly believed to be Roman and more than 1,000 years old, as well as roof tiles, cremation urns, and pieces of painted plaster.

The archaeologists compared the jug to one currently on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York.

The objects are being moved to a laboratory for further cleaning and examination, the statement explained. Where they’ll end up after that has not yet been determined. 

“Of course, it leads us to wonder what else might be buried beneath England’s medieval village churches,” Wood added. “This has truly been a once-in-a-lifetime site, and we are all looking forward to hearing what more the specialists can tell us about these incredible statues and the history of the site before the construction of the Norman church.”

A 19-Year-Old Intern Unearthed a Rare, 2,000-Year-Old Roman Dagger in a Tiny German Town

A 19-Year-Old Intern Unearthed a Rare, 2,000-Year-Old Roman Dagger in a Tiny German Town

A 19-Year-Old Intern Unearthed a Rare, 2,000-Year-Old Roman Dagger in a Tiny German Town
A restorer of the LWL-Archaeology for Westphalia holds a 2,000-year-old dagger in his hands in North Rhine-Westphalia, Münster on February 14, 2020.

An intern working for the Westphalie Department for the Preservation and Care of Field Monuments in Germany shocked his employers when he uncovered a rare Roman dagger at an archaeological site.  

Likely used in battles against the Germanic tribes in the first century AD, the 2,000-year-old object was unearthed last April at Haltern am See, a small town in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

It was an extremely rare find for the team of archaeologists, and one made even more special for the well-preserved state in which the dagger was found.

“The discovery of the dagger was emotional. We were lost for words,” Bettina Tremmel, an archaeologist working for the Westphalie Department told Live Science. “Imagine: Though thousands of Roman soldiers were stationed in Haltern over almost 15 years or more, there are only a few finds of weapons, especially complete and intact ones.”

The dagger was corroded to the point of being unrecognizable when Nico Calman, the 19-year-old man on work-study unearthed it and the remains of a decorated leather belt from the grave of a soldier. But after a rigorous restoration effort that lasted nine months, conservators in Germany unveiled the ornate 13-inch-long weapon and its bejewelled sheath underneath the grime this week.

Eugen Müsch, at right, a restorer of the LWL-Archaeology for Westphalia and the 19-year-old Nico Calmund, trainee and finder, hold a 2,000-year-old dagger of a legionnaire in their hands.

Silver and brass adorn the dagger’s handle, while its iron scabbard features inlaid wood, glass, and red enamel.

The weapon likely belonged to a legionary or auxiliary infantryman or a centurion officer in the Roman army, Tremmel says. But why the weapon was buried with its owner remains a mystery, she says, explaining that “it was not the normal practice for Roman soldiers to be buried with their military equipment.” 

Located at the edge of the Roman empire, Haltern am See was home to a large military camp during the Augustan period (27 BC to AD 14), where three legions of soldiers, each consisting of some 5,000 men, were slain by Germanic tribes.

Roman fighters killed during the battles were buried at a cemetery nearby.

Despite archaeological digs taking place at the site for nearly 200 years, a weapon as sophisticated and well-preserved as the dagger has never before been found.

The newly restored dagger will go on view in Haltern’s Roman history museum beginning in 2022.

Winepress Found at Georgia’s Roman Fort of Apsaros

Winepress Found at Georgia’s Roman Fort of Apsaros

Winepress Found at Georgia’s Roman Fort of Apsaros
Remains of the wine press immediately after soil removal and cleaning.

The well-preserved remains of an ancient winepress have been found near the Roman fort Apsaros (today’s Gonio near Batumi, Georgia).

According to the Polish-Georgian team of archaeologists, the installation almost certainly formed part of a farm producing wine for the Roman troops. The winepress was located a few hundred meters from the garrison. 

Polish team leader, Dr. Radosław Karasiewicz-Szczypiorski from the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology of the University of Warsaw said: “From the point of view of the military regulations, this area should be clear. But people have always been interested in doing businesses. Therefore, brothels were built near this and other Roman camps, and, in this case, a winepress.”

The Georgian side is represented by Shota Mamuladze from the Agency for the Protection of Cultural Heritage of Adjara.

Karasiewicz-Szczypiorski added that businesses near camps were often owned by veterans – retired soldiers who, thanks to good contacts with the camp command, started lucrative activity. Both legionaries and auxiliary troops (soldiers who did not have Roman citizenship), were probably stationed in Apsaros.

After examining the installation the archaeologists were able to also guess the kind of wine that was produced there.

Karasiewicz-Szczypiorski said: “It had to be Kvevri wine we also know from today’s Georgia. The wine fermented in clay vessels buried below ground. It had a very different taste from the wine aged in barrels or steel tanks. The wine was earthy and sweet.”

The Polish-Georgian expedition is carrying out research within the walls of the fort and outside the fortress. The winepress was discovered outside the walls with laser scanning (LiDAR), which revealed terrain anomalies.

Polish-Georgian team during excavations

The installation was used in the 2nd and 3rd century CE, when the Roman garrison was stationed in Apsaros.

Archaeologists believe that the installation almost certainly formed part of a farm producing wine for local needs, including for the Roman troops.

Karasiewicz-Szczypiorski said: “It is worth noting that the winepress has structural features typical of the local winemaking tradition but hydraulic mortar characteristic of Roman constructions was used to seal the working surface and the must tank.

The winepress is thus a testimony to the exchange of ideas on the border between the Roman Empire and the local Kingdom of Iberia.”

The successes of this year’s expedition, which took place in spring, also include the discovery of a large number of items used to write and illuminate the workplace.

Thanks to these finds, the researchers received confirmation of earlier assumptions that the building discovered in previous years served as the headquarters (principia) – the most important building in a Roman garrison.

Polish-Georgian excavations in the Roman fort Apsaros have been conducted since 2014. This is today’s Gonio, located near the holiday resort Batumi in West Georgia.

As part of the research project, a number of significant discoveries have already been made, including a mosaic floor in the garrison commander’s house. This is a unique discovery in Georgia. Today, Gonio is one of the major tourist attractions near Batumi.

Apsaros (as the fortress was known among the ancients), was built approx. 2,000 years ago on the border of the Roman province of Cappadocia. Due to its strategic location, the fort had an important role in the defence system of the eastern borders of the Roman Empire.

Today, picturesque ruins remain. Only fortifications are well preserved. Their interior is mostly an empty space with some outlines of the foundations of old buildings. Near the fortress there was once the only convenient road from Colchis (Western Georgia) to the Roman provinces in Asia Minor.

British Teenager Discovers Rare Bronze Age Ax Hoard

British Teenager Discovers Rare Bronze Age Ax Hoard

Milly Hardwick was searching for buried treasure in a field in Hertfordshire, England when her metal detector pinged. The 13-year-old’s father, Colin, joked that she’d found an axe. He was partially right: Hardwick had, in fact, stumbled onto a trove of 65 Bronze Age axes and artefacts dated to around 1300 B.C.E.

British Teenager Discovers Rare Bronze Age Ax Hoard
The 13-year-old discovered the cache on her third metal-detecting outing.

“I was shocked,” the teenager, who made the discovery on her third metal-detecting outing, tells Sarah Cooper of ITV News Anglia. “I almost fainted. I was like, ‘Dad, I’m going to faint!’”

Per Jacob Paul of the Express, Hardwick’s mother, Claire, adds, “A lot of people have said it’s a once-in-a-lifetime find.”

Milly Hardwick’s discovery earned her a spot on the cover of a British magazine. Courtesy of the Searcher magazine

At first, the father and daughter—residents of Mildenhall in Suffolk—dug up just a single bronze ax head. Keeping at it, they soon unearthed 20 more artefacts. Archaeologists brought in to excavate the site discovered the rest of the hoard the following day, reports BBC News.

Though she is new to the hobby, Hardwick appears to have a natural ability for locating artifacts.

“Whenever I go out, I find stuff,” she says, as quoted by Ben Turner of SWNS and Nick Wood of Suffolk Live. “I’ve found a gold-plated button and [an Elizabethan] coin. It’s just nice being in the field for hours and you get a signal and it could literally be anything.”

According to English Heritage, Britain’s Bronze Age began around 2300 B.C.E. During this period, ancient Britons mined copper and tin to smelt into axes, chisels, hammers, sickles and other tools.

The newly discovered cache dates to the Middle Bronze Age, which took place between about 1600 and 1200 B.C.E.

Hardwick and her father turned the find over to the local coroner’s office, which is responsible for determining if it qualifies as treasure. Next, reports BBC News, the cache will head to the British Museum, which manages archaeological finds made by the English public through its Portable Antiquities Scheme.

In accordance with the United Kingdom’s 1996 Treasure Act, a museum may decide to purchase the artefacts after they’ve been assessed and valued. If offered any money for the hoard, the young metal detectorist plans to split the proceeds with the field’s owner.

Hardwick’s discovery has caught the attention of other treasure seekers, even earning her a spot on the cover of the December issue of the Searcher magazine.

“The other metal detectorists are really pleased for her,” the teenager’s mother tells SWNS. Still, Claire adds, “On a couple of digs, people have gone, ‘Oh, she’s here now so we might as well go home.’”

Now bitten by the treasure-hunting bug, Hardwick wants to be an archaeologist when she grows up. In the meantime, she will continue searching for more artefacts.

“We’re going to try and find gold,” she tells ITV News Anglia. “That’s the one thing we’re aiming for, and when we do, we’re going to do a little dance.”