Egyptian mummy believed to be of a male priest turns out to be a pregnant woman
According to the AFP, X-rays of a 2,000-year-old Egyptian mummy kept at Poland’s National Museum since 1917 showed the remains of a woman with long, curly hair who died between 26 and 30 weeks pregnant.
Marzena Ozarek-Szilke, an anthropologist at the Warsaw Mummy Project, was examining a CT scan of a mummy at the National Museum in the Polish capital when she spotted something peculiar.
“When I looked at the lesser pelvis of our mummy I was interested in what was inside… I thought I saw a tiny foot,” Ozarek-Szilke said.
She asked her husband, an archaeologist who also worked on the project, to take a look.
“My husband looked at the picture and as a father of three, he said: ‘Well, that’s a foot’. At that moment … the whole picture started to come together,” Ozarek-Szilke told Reuters.
The mummy came to Poland in the 19th century when the nascent University of Warsaw was creating an antiquities collection. For decades, it was thought the mummy belonged to an ancient Egyptian priest named Hor-Dehuti.
However, in discovery revealed in the Journal of Archaeological Science on Thursday, scientists at the Warsaw Mummy Project said the mummy was in fact a woman in her twenties who was between 26 and 28 weeks pregnant.
The cause of death is not clear, but Ozarek-Szilke said the pregnancy may have had something to do with it.
“It is possible that the pregnancy itself contributed to the death of this woman. Now we have modern medicine, women who are between 20 and 30 weeks pregnant and something happens to the pregnancy, they have a chance to be rescued. It used to be impossible,” she said.
The discovery sheds some light on the little-known role of children in ancient Egypt and the religious beliefs of the time, but also raises many questions, according to Wojciech Ejsmond, co-director of the Warsaw Mummy Project.
“What was the status of this child in the Egyptian religion? Did it have a soul, could it go to the afterlife on its own, could it be reborn in the afterlife… if it was not yet born?”
Ejsmond said scientists would study the mummy further to determine the cause of death and establish why the foetus was left in the body.
Medieval sword unearthed by a metal detectorist in Poland may have been used in the Battle of Grunwald in 1410
A medieval sword, metal pieces of a scabbard and a belt, and two knives that would have been worn on the belt were discovered in northern Poland by a metal detectorist who donated the artefacts to the Museum of the Battle of Grunwald, according to a Live Science report.
Alexander Medvedev discovered the sword near Olsztyn, in northern Poland, the local governmental Marshal’s Office of Warmia and Masuria reported in a translated news release on April 22.
“Such a find is found once in decades,” archaeologists said, according to the statement.
Despite spending more than 600 years buried underground, the weapons are well preserved, said Medvedev, an archaeology enthusiast, who donated the findings to the Museum of the Battle of Grunwald in Olsztyn.
According to Encyclopedia Britannica, the person who carried the sword might have been one of roughly 66,000 people who clashed at the Battle of Grunwald on July 15, 1410.
The battle fought near the Polish villages of Stębark (also known as Tannenberg), Grunwald and Ludwigsdorf, ended with a Polish-Lithuanian victory over the Knights of the Teutonic Order, which was founded during the Crusades to the Holy Land and later came to rule over what was then Prussia.
The Knights of the Teutonic Order often waged battles against their non-Christian neighbours, including the Duchy of Lithuania. But then, Lithuania’s pagan grand duke converted to Catholicism and married the Polish Queen Jadwiga; he became king when she died and took the name King Władysław II Jagiełło.
King Jagiełło also converted Lithuania to Christianity. But the Knights of the Teutonic Order doubted the sincerity of the king’s conversion, and in 1409, their Grand Master Ulrich von Jungingen declared war on Poland and Lithuania, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.
After a day of fighting, von Jungingen was killed when a lance pierced his throat and his troops withdrew. In all, of the 39,000 Polish-Lithuanian troops, about 5,000 died; of the roughly 27,000 Teutonic troops, 14,000 were captured and 8,000 died, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. After the defeat, the Teutonic Order’s power declined.
Hundreds of years later, the Soviets retrospectively claimed the battle as a Russian victory, because some soldiers from Smolensk, a city in Russia, were present on the Polish-Lithuanian side. During World War I, the Germans won a battle against Russia near the medieval battle site.
The Germans, who viewed the medieval knights as noblemen who spread Christianity, named the new battle the Battle of Tannenberg so they could claim revenge for the knights who were defeated in the medieval battle, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.
The newly discovered sword and its accessories are now undergoing conservation and analysis.
The team hopes to learn more about the “social status of a medieval sword owner, and we are curious to see what lies beneath the rust layer,” Szymon Drej, director of the Museum of the Battle of Grunwald, said in the statement.
“We will also examine the site of the excavation of the monument in more depth to get to know the situational context of its origin.” After all, It’s rare to find such valuable items from the Middle Ages buried underground, Drej said.
A farmer discovers an Ice Age cave hidden under his field that is over 11,000 years old
A farmer discovered an Ice Age cave that was naturally formed and used by humans. Adam Bryczek had been roaming his land near the town of Kraśnik in south-eastern Poland when he came across what appeared to be a large hole.
But what had originally been a small opening in the ground, had widened over time, before ultimately collapsing.
Startled Bryczek found the opening led down around 10 metres into an underground cave with an area of a few dozen square metres and a maximum height of up to around 140 cm – not enough for most adults to stand upright.
Bryczek reported his find to Dominik Szulc, the guardian of monuments in Kraśnik County, in January.
Since then, the site has been visited by archaeologists from Lublin, the capital of the region.
The underground space appears to be a solutional cave, which means that it was formed by the bedrock being dissolved by groundwater.
According to Szulc: “The cave undoubtedly dates back to the Pleistocene (2.58 million – 11,700 years ago), and more precisely, perhaps the so-called glaciations of the Nida or San (730,000-430,000 years ago).”
During this period, a Scandinavian ice sheet covered the Lublin Upland and the local area was covered by a thick layer of snow, he explains.
During temporary increases in temperature, there was a lot of flowing water, which dissolved the limestone rock, forming the walls, floor and ceiling of the cave.
Even though the cave formed naturally, the researchers point out that it was visited by humans, apparently to extract stone for building.
The cave’s walls show traces of mechanical work left by tools.
In a post on Facebook, Szulc did not publish the cave’s exact location, warning that it could be dangerous.
He wrote: “It is not suitable for access to visitors, because it is too small and low, with a steep and dangerous entrance leading to it.”
Experts are now working on a way to secure the cave so that people can enter it again to conduct scientific research.
Sprawling 5,000-year-old cemetery and fortress discovered in Poland
Archaeological treasures are usually discovered by digging deep into the earth. One Polish archaeologist, however, made an incredible discovery from the sky — and now he has unearthed a 5,000-year-old cemetery and a medieval fortress.
Jan Bulas, an independent archaeologist in Kraków, became intrigued after noticing straight lines on satellite images of a farm near the town of Dębiany — lines only visible from above. He went to investigate with fellow archaeologist Marcin Przybyła.
There, the pair made an astounding find: the sprawling cemetery, consisting of 12, roughly 150-foot tombs — and atop the cemetery, remains of a medieval fortress, complete with a moat.
“The megalithic cemetery in Dębiany is one of the largest and most interesting sites of this type in Central Europe,” said Bulas and Przybyła.
Using magnetic gradiometers — which can detect where the ground has been disturbed in the past without digging up the earth — Bulas and Przybyła found the foundations of the medieval fortress. Beneath the fortress lay even more treasure: the cemetery, which Bulas and Przybyła estimate to be around 5,500 years old.
Since they started digging two years ago, archaeologists have found seven Neolithic tombs and two horses buried during the Bronze Age, some 3,500 years ago. But they think there’s even more to uncover. Bulas and Przybyła suspect that the site could contain a dozen tombs.
The tombs they’ve uncovered so far are between 130 and 165 feet long. Their longer walls were reinforced with wooden palisades, most of which have long since disintegrated — only the post holes remain. The shorter walls seem to contain an entrance to a funerary chapel.
These tombs were once barrow mounds — that is, raised earth over a grave. Bulas and Przybyła have called their discovery “megaxylons”, combining the Greek words for big (“mega”) and wood (“xylos”). The barrows they’ve found near Dębiany were once much higher. However, over time, they’ve eroded into the earth.
“Unfortunately, most of the remains of the deceased and equipment were removed from these burials while the cemetery was in operation,” Przybyła said. “It was a ritual behaviour that we often encounter in cemeteries from that period.”
Built above the cemetery — perhaps unknowingly — is a fortress from the ninth and 10th centuries. In fact, the fortress is what first caught Bulas’ eye. The lines he saw on the satellite image were the outline of the medieval structure and its moat.
Both find stretch back deep into early European history and could prove invaluable when it comes to understanding ancient cultures and their customs. The fortress even predates the establishment of the first kingdom of Poland, in 1025. Bulas and Przybyła are especially hopeful that their discovery can shed light on some of the region’s first farmers.
“[The cemetery] provides us with extraordinary data on the funeral customs of the Funnel Beaker Culture,” they said.
The Funnel Beaker people, named after the distinctive pottery they left behind, are thought to be the first farmers in Europe. They came from the Middle East, passed through the Balkans, and began to spread across Europe in 4100 B.C.
The cemetery discovered by Bulas and Przybyła bears the marks of the Funnel Beaker people. They routinely built barrow cemeteries like this one. One cemetery found in the Polish region of Kujawy contained burial mounds so big that they’re sometimes called “the Polish pyramids.”
Alongside the cemetery, archaeologists are eager to learn more about the fortress itself. It’s not presently clear what purpose it served or how many people lived there.
“[The fortress] was not permanently inhabited,” explained Przybyła. “Perhaps it served as a military camp or an object associated with religious or social rituals.”
Beyond the history — and mysteries — the fortress structure holds, it appears to be one-of-a-kind. “It is worth noting that this is the only such structure known in Poland,” Przybyła said.
For now, Bulas and Przybyła plan to continue their investigation of the site to see what other treasures from the past they can unearth.
They’ll continue to excavate the cemetery to learn more about the Neolithic barrows and tombs. And they’re curious to see what they can learn from the apparently more recent fortress — as well as what it can tell them about medieval life in Poland.
Researchers Map World War II Bomb Craters in Poland
According to a Live Science report, Maria Fajer of the University of Silesia and her colleagues employed lidar technology to record some 6,000 bomb craters in the Koźle Basin, an area of forests and wetlands in southern Poland that was part of Germany during World War II.
Researchers recently mapped and analyzed the deeply scarred landscape for the first time, counting around 6,000 bomb craters ranging from 16 to 49 feet (5 to 15 meters) in diameter. Some areas held as many as 30 craters in a single hectare (10,000 square meters).
Their investigation presents a grim picture of the damage sustained by the battle-torn terrain, known as the Koźle Basin. But it also offers a glimpse of how the craters have since become an important part of the basin’s natural landscape and ecosystems, the scientists reported in a new study.
The Koźle Basin covers an area of approximately 180 square miles (470 square kilometers). Within the basin, extending for about 60 square miles (150 square km), “there are clusters of remnants of the Allied air campaign conducted there in the second half of 1944,” said study author Maria Fajer, a geomorphology researcher with the Faculty of Earth Sciences at the University of Silesia in Katowice, Poland.
“These are variously preserved bomb craters, ranging from those that are very well visible in the field to traces of backfilled and reclaimed craters,” Fajer told Live Science in an email.
Nazi Germany controlled the Koźle Basin during WWII and used the region for industrial fuel production. It was the biggest such site in the entire Third Reich, the scientists reported. Coal and water were easily accessible there, while dense forests and sheltering hills provided natural cover from air and ground attacks.
Because the basin’s topography trapped air masses, the Germans could add another layer of protection to their operation by producing thick anti-aircraft smoke screens.
Great Britain’s Royal Air Force began targeting the region for the bombing in February 1943, and in June 1944 Americans and British pilots prioritized the destruction of Nazi oil refineries, as well as fuel and chemical factories.
Wartime records describe Allied planes dropping a total of 39,137 bombs in the Koźle Basin. Most of these were delayed-action bombs that were “intended for the destruction of buildings, reinforced concrete, and metal structures, as well as land-cratering,” the scientists reported March 16 in the journal Antiquity.
Uncounted numbers of craters were scoured away during postwar construction and agriculture, and researchers decided to map the region before more evidence of this noteworthy wartime bombardment was lost forever, according to the study.
Scanning with lasers
The researchers deployed a remote sensing method called light detection and ranging, or lidar, which uses laser pulses to peer through vegetation and reveal features in the ground.
By examining the sizes, shapes, and distribution of thousands of craters, the researchers were able to piece together a picture of the types of bombs that were used; how many were dropped at the same time; and ground conditions at the time of impact.
Today, these craters “are relics that document important historical events, and that constitutes a link between the area and the battlefields of Europe and beyond,” the study authors wrote. In the 75 years that have passed since the war, these remnants of violent explosions have gradually become part of the forest habitat.
“They now represent places where many amphibian, reptile, insect, bird, and ungulate species reside, seek shelter, or breed. The craters also provide habitats for numerous plant species,” the study authors wrote.
“The many water bodies and marshes that formed in the bomb craters contribute to the diversification and enrichment of local ecosystems, where sandy soils dominate.”
Follow-up studies by the scientists will further explore the ecological role of craters in forest ecosystems and the threats posed by unexploded bombs, Fajer said.
In the decades since WWII, natural processes such as erosion have erased many of the craters, while industry, farming, and other human activities could wipe away still more. Mapping the bomb fields will therefore help to preserve a record of WWII devastation before it vanishes.
The researchers also argue that locations marred by WWII devastation, such as the still-scarred Koźle Basin, should be conserved for future generations. These areas “should be covered by special heritage protection measures to help us remember the consequences of the bad decisions that led to the war,” Fajer said.
Toothpick Use Identified on Neanderthal Tooth from Poland
Additional evidence of Neanderthal hygiene practices has been unearthed at Stajnia Cave, which is located in south-central Poland, according to a Science in Poland report.
Analyzing two teeth excavated from the Pleistocene layers of the Stajnia Cave (Kraków-Częstochowa Upland), the team led by Dr. Wioletta Nowaczewska from the Department of Human Biology, University of Wrocław, found traces left by a toothpick.
She said: “It appears that the owner of the tooth used oral hygiene. Probably between the last two teeth, there were food residues that had to be removed. We don’t know what he made a toothpick from – a piece of a twig, a piece of bone, or fishbone. It had to be a fairly stiff, cylindrical object, which the individual used often enough to leave a clear trace.”
This is the second known example of such hygienic procedures being practiced by Neanderthals from Stajnia Cave. Similar traces have been preserved on another tooth found earlier in the cave.
Scientists also believe that the teeth, a wisdom tooth (third lower molar) and an upper premolar, belonged to an individual over 30 years old, and the other to a slightly younger male in his twenties.
However, they found no pathological changes indicative of enamel growth disorders, hypoplasia, or caries. They note that the wisdom tooth shows signs of severe wear, which may be related to eating hard food.
To determine whether the tooth belonged to our immediate ancestor (Homo sapiens) or a fossil relative (Homo neanderthalensis), scientists assessed the structure of the tooth’s crown, enamel thickness, dentine surface contour, and crown surface microtrauma.
They compared the data with other data on the teeth of Neanderthals, as well as fossil and contemporary representatives of our species.
Dr. Nowaczewska said: “A set of features, i.e. the presence of a specific combination of features characteristic of Neanderthals indicates that further teeth from Stajnia Cave belonged to them. In the case of the lower molar, one can see a complicated structure: a large number of tubercles. In the front part of the crown, there was also a characteristic depression and enamel formation.
“The good condition of the premolar allowed us to carry out 2D and 3D analysis of enamel thickness, digital reconstruction, virtual ‘pulling’ of the enamel cap and assessment of enamel thickness, which in Neanderthals is thinner than in H. sapiens. All these features taken together point to Neanderthals.”
The teeth were initially discovered in 2010 along with numerous remains of the fauna during excavation works conducted under the supervision of Dr. Mikołaj Urbanowski.
But it is only recently that they have been analyzed using mitochondrial DNA. Dr. Mateja Hajdinjak from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology the tests along with additional analyses to confirm that the teeth belonged to Neanderthals.
Neanderthal bone remains are rare finds in Central and Eastern Europe (there are slightly more sites related to Neanderthal tools). In today’s Poland, such finds accumulate in the south; northern Poland remained within the reach of the glacier for a long time and the conditions for survival were difficult.
Officially confirmed discoveries are few and small in size: four teeth. Three of them were also discovered in Stajnia Cave, one in Ciemna Cave (also in the Kraków-Częstochowa Upland).
Dr. Nowaczewska believes that this is not the end of the discoveries in the Kraków-Częstochowa Upland. She said: “When I look at these areas as a palaeoanthropologist, I have the impression that time stands still there… If there are still any Neanderthal bone remains to be found, the search should focus on the Upland and other southern sites. Due to the then climatic conditions, this was the area with the best living conditions.”
The study was carried out by scientists from the University of Wrocław and the University of Silesia, the Institute of Systematics and Evolution of Animals of the Polish Academy of Sciences, the Polish Geological Institute, the University of Bologna (Italy), the Natural History Museum in London (Great Britain), the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (Germany). The results were presented in the Journal of Human Evolution.
Virtual tooth models were prepared by Dr. Marcin Binkowski from the University of Silesia, with the technical support of Michał Walczak and Martyna Czaja, as well as Professor Stefano Benazzi and Antonino Vazzana from the University of Bologna.
Polish Pyramids? Massive megalithic tombs discovered in Western Pomerania, Poland
While it has been quite some time since such a study and restoration work was conducted, these new findings have shown that there are at least a dozen huge megalithic tombs in the area near Dolice, Western Pomerania, in Poland.
These longitudinal structures, which run parallel to the ground floor, were discovered by archaeologists from the University of Szczecin, and belief them to be the handiwork of the Funnelbeaker Culture who dwelt in the proximate area from circa 4300 BC– 2800 BC.
As for the ‘pyramid’ analogy, the overview plan of each tomb resembles an extended triangle. So while their heights stood at only around 3 m (or 10 ft) – which is a far cry from their Egyptian or Mayan counterparts, the ground-kissing tombs encompassed impressive lengths of about 150 m (492.1 ft), while demonstrating variable widths ranging from 6-15 m (20 to 50 ft).
When it comes to developing technology and tools, the Funnelbeaker culture is known for ‘merging’ the expertise of local neolithic and mesolithic people residing between the lower Elbe and middle Vistula rivers.
In fact, they are known for propelling the scope of agriculture and animal husbandry, which led to farming being the major source of food production in the contemporary period, as opposed to hunting and gathering. And as was the trend with every advanced culture of its time, the Funnelbeaker community invested heavily in burial methods and traditions.
Initially, these burial structures only comprised cairns made of wooden frames that were plunged into elongated barrows. But later on, these components evolved into specially constructed passage graves and dolmens.
Unsurprisingly, given the Funnelbeaker culture’s limited tools and constructional capacity (in relation to logistics), the extended triangular tombs were only reserved for the elite members of the community.
But unfortunately, when it comes to Poland, many of these megalithic tombs tend to be only preserved in forest areas. That is because, over time, various agricultural lands had invaded such megalithic grounds – an archaeological scope made even more precarious due to Poland’s status in medieval times as the farming heartland of Europe.
However this time around, the researchers have made use of advanced technological applications to identify these elongated triangular tombs, including digital terrain models or DTM (based on ALS or airborne laser scanning). As Dr Agnieszka Matuszewska, from the Department of Archaeology, University of Szczecin said –
The potential of this method is huge. First of all, it allowed to precisely locate previously known megalithic objects and, importantly, discover previously completely unknown tombs.
It is also possible to verify in the field all, even slightly preserved objects. As a result, we were able to identify them and document the degree of destruction.
This is particularly important considering the aspect of the protection and conservation of forest areas, in particular the protection of monuments with their own landscape forms.
Now it should be noted that other than the Dolice specimens, the archaeologists have also (previously) identified Polish megalithic tombs at Skronie Forest near Kołobrzeg and at a site near Płoszkowo.
Moreover, the most famous of these ‘Polish pyramids’ were discovered in Sarnów and Wietrzychowice, and their original shapes were even reconstructed following detailed archaeological research.
Lastly (and pretty intriguingly), the date of the constructions of these Dolice megalithic tombs sort-of coincides with the initial building-phase of the Stonehenge in Britain (in late 4th millennium BC) – a renowned structure that can be associated with its fair share of human burials.
And if we stretch the ambit a bit, the advent of 4th millennium BC also saw a ‘spurt’ of other ambitious projects for megalithic monuments all around Europe – possibly due to some tremendous socio-political change.
Skeletons of WWII-era nuns murdered by Soviets unearthed in Poland
The remains of three Catholic nuns killed by the Nazis while they were trying to help the wounded Soviet soldiers at the end of the Second World War were found, as they cared for the wounded Soviets, to the last. The Red Army invaded Poland when the Nazis withdrew their soldiers in 1944.
An effort was made to gain control over the area by subduing militia as well as religious figures by looting and destroying churches.
Records discovered from 1945 showed Soviet soldiers killed seven nuns in the order of St. Catherine of Alexandria who was serving as nurses at Marian Hospital in Olsztyn.
A project by the Institute of National Remembrance in Poland was launched to discover their remains and Polish archaeologists announced they found the remains of Sister Charytyna (Jadwiga Fahl) in Gdansk last summer.
In October they found Sister Generosa (Maria Bolz), Sister Krzysztofora (Marta Klomfass) and Sister Liberia (Maria Domnik) in Orneta.
And now the bodies of the last missing trio, Sister Rolanda (Maria Abraham), Sister Gunhilda (Dorota Steffen) and Sister Bona (Anna Pestka) have been found too.
Experts also unearthed crucifixes, ‘religious clothing’ and rosaries from around the remains, according to Live Science.
A statement by the Institute of National Remembrance in Poland (IPN) said: ‘The purpose of the study was the finding of the remains of the Catherine Sisters who fell victim to the soldiers of the Red Army in 1945.
‘They all served the sick at the Marian Hospital (St Mary’s Hospital) in Olsztyn.
‘They worked as nurses, looking for help for the sick, and the deceased by organizing burials in a nearby cemetery.
Where they served, they died there as well – defending themselves against the disgrace of the Red Army soldiers who entered Olsztyn in the winter of 1945.
‘The works in Orneta were also the last stage of the search for the remains of the Sisters, for whom the church side is carrying out the beatification process at the same time. Earlier searches were carried out in Gdańsk and Olsztyn.
‘On the basis of historical data, anthropomorphic features and found objects, the remains of three women were selected for exhumation, with the probability that they are the wanted Sisters.
‘In the remains of the collected remains, religious medals, crucifixes, elements of religious clothing and religious rosaries were found.’
The skeletons have been taken to the Forensic Medicine Institute in Gdańsk. Historical records show Sister Generosa was ‘locked in the hospital’s attic’.
While the IPM says Sister Krzysztofora was stabbed with a bayonet 16 times, had her eyes gouged out and tongue cut out.