Category Archives: EUROPE

Buried Roman basilica at Ostia Antica spotted by Google Earth

Buried Roman basilica at Ostia Antica spotted by Google Earth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Farmer Finds Roman Treasure Trove Scattered Across Field

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pheidippides giving the word of victory at the Battle of Marathon

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

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

Neandertals had older mothers and younger fathers

Neandertals had older mothers and younger fathers

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

Aurora Borealis over Jokulsarlon Lagoon in Iceland.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Greek Helmet Discovered North of the Black Sea in Russia

First Greek Helmet Discovered North of the Black Sea in Russia

The agency RIA Novosti reported that a Corinthian helmet was found in a grave dated from the 5th century BC in the Taman Peninsula, south-west of Russia. It is the only such helmet found from the north of the Black Sea.

Helmet of Corinthian type, found in the necropolis

Corroded after 2500 years of burial and thus highly fragmented, its discovery remains still impressive.

Corinthian helmets made of bronze covered the whole head and neck with eye and mouth slits and protruding cheek covers (paragnathides).

The neck nape was covered by a broad, curved projection. For protecting the warrior’s head the interior was padded with fabric or leather.

The helmets were often surmounted by a crest (lophos) with a plume of horse hair. Highly protective because they protected the head completely, these helmets provided an important piece of equipment for the Greek hoplites, the famous phalanx foot soldiers.

Corinthian helmets originated in Greece around the 6th century BC and are one of ancient Greece’s trademarks. Also portrayed wearing them are the goddess Athena, or Pericles.

General view of the burial of the Greek warrior

When a warrior died, his helmets would be buried next to him. According to Roman Mimohod, director of the expedition of the Institute of Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IA RAS), “the Taman peninsula helmet belongs to the Corinthian Hermione-type and would date back to the first quarter of the fifth century BC.”

Archaeologists of the Russian Academy of Sciences have been working for two years in a necropolis of 600 burial mounds where many Greek warriors of the Bosporus kingdom are buried.

Several Greek colonies were indeed present in this region. Their settlement extends from the end of the 7th century BC until the second quarter of the 4th century BC.

“These settlements were in very close contact with the Scythian inhabitants of the steppe,” says historian Iraoslav Lebedynsky, specialist of these ancient Eurasian cultures. From the 6th century BC, the Greeks founded large cities on the northern coast of the Black Sea.

Amphora found in burial

The main ones were Olbia, at the mouth of the Dnieper; Panticapaion, today’s Kerch, in the extreme west of the Crimea, and Chersonese (Sevastopol); on the Russian bank, one found Phanagoria (Taman), also the name given to the peninsula on which the Corinthian helmet was discovered.

Created in 480 BC around the Kerch Strait and the Taman Peninsula, west of the Bosporus, this kingdom which had Panticapaion as its capital lasted almost a thousand years, the last written traces going back to the 5th century AD.

A place of synthesis between the Greek culture and the successive nomadic cultures of the steppe, be it the Scythians or the Sarmatians.

Between the 6th and 3rd centuries BC, Greeks and Scythians maintained extremely close cultural as well as commercial relations.

Earliest Mosaic in the World Found in Turkey

The oldest known polychrome mosaic floor dating to the second-millennium bc has been discovered at the Hittite settlement of usakli hoyuk Turkey.

An Italian-Turkish team has unearthed the world’s oldest-known polychrome mosaic floor at Usakli Hoyuk, a Hittite settlement in central Turkey.

The partially preserved mosaic measures 23 feet by 10 feet and once adorned an open courtyard belonging to a building that archaeologists believe was a second-millennium B.C. temple.

The mosaic, which was set into a beaten-earth surface, consists of more than 3,000 multicolored stones arranged in rectangular frames, each with three rows of alternating white, red, and blue-black triangles. Stone pavements served a practical function in Hittite architecture.

The mosaic was unearthed during a planned excavation at Uşaklı Höyük in central Turkey, some 14 miles (19km) north of Yozgat.  

It was “occupied from the end of the 3rd millennium, during the Middle Bronze and Paleo-Hittite phases (18th-16th centuries BC),” according to The Archaeological Project at Uşaklı Höyük. 

The stone Bronze Age mosaic floor is in the foreground.

Since 2008, the Anatolian Archaeological Project in Central Anatolia has been revealing the ancient town’s long history. They have found fragments of cuneiform tablets indicating that it was once a major Hittite center.  Dr. Anacleto D’Agostini of Pisa University, who took part in the mission, wrote that the site may be the “lost Hittite city of Zippalanda,” according to Haaretz.

Unusual Bronze Age Mosaic

During work on the site, a large building on a terrace, which dated to the Late Bronze Age , was found. This had the characteristics of a building that was constructed during the Hittite period. It was believed to be a temple that was possibly dedicated to the Storm God, a very important deity for the Hittites and other populations. 

Near this possible temple, a courtyard was located, and it was here that archaeologists made the remarkable discovery of a mosaic.  The experts found a paved floor that measured about 20 ft by 9 ft (7m by 3m), which was poorly preserved.

The floor was paved with some 3000 pieces of stone, that appeared to have been roughly shaped and cut. Haaretz quotes D’Agostini as saying that “the mosaic was framed with perpendicularly positioned stones in white, black-blue and white again”. 

Closeup of the Bronze Age mosaic at Usa̧klı Höyük. 

Unlike later mosaics, it was not made out of smooth and small stones.  All the stones that were found were cut in irregular shapes and the floor would not have had a smooth finish.

According to Haaretz “one wonders how comfortable it was to walk on and one envisions a lot of twisted ankles.” However, the mosaic was possibly deliberately made to be uneven so that slippery mud would not form on its surface.

A Bronze Age Mosaic for Gods

The stones have been clearly set to produce geometric patterns using divergent colors reports Antiquity. The mosaic is divided into three distinct areas, and each one contains a number of triangles. It is discerned to have been created at the same time as the Hittite temple because it is closely aligned with its eastern wall.

D’Agostino is quoted by Haaretz as saying that the “building and mosaic are characterized by ‘high-status architecture’” and this lends credence to the theory that indeed the unearthed structure was the Temple of the Storm God.

Art of Mosaic Making

The discovery of this Bronze Age mosaic at a Hittite site is astonishing. Flagstone and cobblestone, often painted, have been found at sites associated with this Bronze Age culture.  They have been found in temples and even private rooms. However, no decorative mosaics have been found ever, until this one at Uşaklı Höyük.

“The technique of making mosaic floors using different colored pebbles is well known during the Iron Age ,” according to the report in Antiquity. 

There are many examples of checkerboard mosaic floors from the Iron Age. But until the discovery at Uşaklı Höyük, the earliest known mosaic had been found in southern Anatolia at the 9 th century BC Phrygian Gordion citadel.

Aerial shot of the excavation area shown, including the Storm God Temple and the Bronze Age mosaic are (highlighted in yellow).

World’s Oldest Mosaic

However, the discovery of a Bronze Age mosaic floor at Uşaklı Höyük is considerably older than anything yet found. Moreover, the design of the mosaic was much more complex than anything found from the time. Antiquity reports that the find “provides the first evidence of a polychromatic mosaic floor with clear patterning.”

It is possible that the mosaic may represent an older tradition from Anatolia. Antiquity reports that the pavement “could represent a Late Bronze Age Anatolian forerunner for later polychromatic mosaic floors.”

The discovery may indicate that the art of mosaic making developed much earlier than widely believed and this could provide new clues into its stylistic development.

The find may result in the experts re-writing the history of images made out of polychromatic stones, an art-from that reached its zenith in the Classical Period in the Mediterranean. 

Metal detectorist finds £100,000 gold haul while looking for his mate’s wedding ring

Metal detectorist finds £100,000 gold haul while looking for his mate’s wedding ring

Now a metal detector who was looking for a mate’s missing wedding ring has discovered a haul of gold coins worth an estimated £100,000 – and shouted: ”yee-ha – there’s a f*cking fortune here!’.

Paul Raynard, 44, screamed “’there are millions – this is the moment we dreamed of!” to best pal Michael Gwynne, 52, when he realized the scale of the find. The businessman from Keighley, Yorks., “broke down in tears” when he stumbled across his very own pot of gold – a cluster of 84 coins in a field near Ballycastle, Northern Ireland.

Stunned Paul and Michael found the coins – dating back to the 1500s – whilst looking for a farmer’s wedding ring he’d lost in his field. They didn’t find the ring – instead of digging up a horseshoe and a 5p coin – but after just 90 minutes of searching they found the collection of coins. Lighting engineer Paul said experts have told him it could be the biggest haul ever found in Ireland and worth hundreds of thousands of pounds. Just one of the hoard – an ultra-rare Henry VIII coin – is estimated to be worth £5,000 on its own.

Edward VI coin

Paul found the underground treasure shows him pulling out muddy coin after coin from beneath the soil. He beamed at the Michael who is holding a phone struggled to contain his excitement.

Dad-of-two Paul said: ”I jumped up and down and ran down the field in tears to find Michael.

“It’s something I have dreamed of finding since I was a kid. It was an amazing feeling. It’s like checking your lottery numbers and realizing you’ve hit the jackpot.

“I saw one or two coins at first but had no idea of the size of the hoard to begin with.

This is the moment two metal detectorists looking for a mate’s wedding ring discovered gold coins

“I went to fetch Michael who was across the field so we could share the moment together. I was shaking, I still can’t believe it now.”

Paul and Michael were in Northern Ireland for a short holiday when their friend recruited them to help find his missing wedding ring. The coins have been sent to Ulster Museum for official identification and valuation by a team of experts. It will take several months for the 84 coins to be valued in full, but Paul has said other experts have told him the whole hoard could be worth more than £100,000.

The earliest coin in the hoard is dated 1512, was made when Henry VIII was king and could be worth as much as £5,000 on its own, Paul said. He added other coins – like one dated 1546 when the famed boy king Edward VI reigned – could be worth up to £3,000.

Many of the other 84 coins could fetch hundreds of pounds a piece if auctioned off. Paul said he and business partner, Michael, usually study old maps looking out for signs of ancient settlements or battlegrounds where hoards may be buried.

This is the moment two metal detectorists looking for a mate’s wedding ring discovered gold coins

Paul said: “We had just come back from a busy business trip to China and Michael said he knew of a nice little place we could go to in Ireland for us to take our detectors.

“But we only went to that field to try to find his mate’s wedding ring. He lost it and reckons it could be in the field somewhere.

“We didn’t find the ring and had only been there a couple of hours when we found the coins.

“I dug a small hole and there they were. I just could not believe it.”

Lighting engineer, Paul, has been interested in metal detecting since aged seven when his parents bought him a treasure island book as a present.

But he only took his hobby seriously when he turned 35 and purchased a £600 metal detector, capable of picking up gold and silver items buried up to 4ft below ground. This discovery is Paul’s most significant find and he has described it as a “once in a lifetime” discovery.

Paul said: “I’ve since found out it’s the biggest ever hoard to be found in Ireland.

“I’ve handed them all over to the museum to be properly identified and valued. It will take several months for that to happen.” The value of the coins will be split equally between Paul and the landowner if they choose to sell the hoard on for cash, following the completion of the valuation process.