Category Archives: SPAIN

Family discover ‘perfectly preserved’ Roman tomb hidden beneath a home in southern Spain

Family discover ‘perfectly preserved’ Roman tomb hidden beneath a home in southern Spain

In Carmona, a city near Seville, Andalusia, a family made a remarkable discovery during building work on their houses.

They were stunned when they knocked a wall down the patio of their townhouse to find a small arched opening that led to an underground to a funerary chamber dating from the first century AD.

They found eight niches in the room, six of whom were occupied by funerary urns or chests containing what is thought to be human remains dating back more than 2,000 years.

An archaeological team dispatched by the town council to examine the site described it as “perfectly preserved” and said it was the most important discovery made in the area for decades.

Juan Manuel Román, an archaeologist employed by the council, emphasized “the outstanding importance of the discovery”.

“It’s been 35 years since a tomb was found in such a magnificent state of conservation,” he said, adding that it didn’t appear to have suffered any deterioration over the centuries since it was sealed.

“There is barely two fingers worth of sedimentation,” he added.

An initial study suggests the funerary urns are made of different limestones and glass and are sealed in protective lead casings. 

Vessels associated with funerary rights, including unguentaria (small bottles used to contain perfume or oil) and glass dishes where offerings would have been made, were also undamaged within the tomb.

The walls of the chamber are decorated with a geometric grid and there are inscriptions on three of the niches, perhaps indicating the name of those interred within. 

José Avilés, 39, the owner of the house, who is known by neighbours as Pepe, told local media that he was astounded by the discovery. “We never imagined when we were building an extension to the house that we should find such a thing,” he said.

“It’s all happened very quickly but our intention is to keep the chamber open, preserve it and protect it and somehow incorporate into the house,” he said.

“But we’ll have to see what the archaeological teams say,” he added. 

Work immediately started by the council’s archaeology department who said the artifacts found in the tomb would be closely studied and then go on display in the town’s archaeological museum.

Carmona, known as Carmo in Roman times, was one of the most important cities in Roman Spain and today is home to one of the most interesting Roman-era archaeological sites; the Roman Necropolis, a collection of over 300 tombs

Paleolithic ‘Sanctuary’ Containing Rock Art From 15,000 Years Ago Discovered in Spain

Paleolithic ‘Sanctuary’ Containing Rock Art From 15,000 Years Ago Discovered in Spain

Archeologists have discovered a treasure trove of fossil rock art that is 15,000 years old in the autonomous region of Catalonia, Spain. In an investigation, the engravings were found on cave walls. The art is believed to prove that the site once was a religious sanctuary or shrine.

Some of the caves, in October 2019 were investigated by a team of scientists headed by Assistant Professor Joseph María Vergès of the University of Rovira I Virgili.

They had just resumed their work after some serious flooding in the area and were working on a cave known as the Font Major, which is not far from the hamlet of L’Espluga de Francolí. In particular, they were investigating the cave to establish its archaeological potential, and what they found was breathtaking.

The team stumbled across the carvings on October 30, 2019, after resuming investigations following a bout of flooding. They decided not to make the find public until it was secured, to ensure it was not destroyed

They found around 100 examples of rock art, which are mostly examples of abstract art. Also found were some 40 images that represented animals including deer, horses, and oxen, which once inhabited this part of Europe. Catalan News quotes Prof. Vergès as stating that “we made a fortuitous, extraordinary and unexpected discovery.”

The sheer number and the quality of the art mean that they are an important discovery and are invaluable for researchers. Newsweek reports that “the team says the engravings were produced on a layer of soft, sandy silt.” The art was found in a difficult to access part of the Font Major cave. The team did not immediately announce the discovery to the public as they wanted to secure and study the site first.

Paleolithic rock art of horse found in Font Major Cave near L’Espluga de Francolí.

The ancient art is the oldest that has been found in Catalonia, and there is nothing else like them in the region. The team relied on a study of their style, which revealed the majority of the images date to around 13,000 BC and comes from the “Upper Paleolithic, and more specifically to the Magdalenian period,” according to El Periodico.

It is believed based on an analysis of their style that some could be even older, while others come from the later Neolithic period. The Catalan Institute of Archaeology (IPHES), stated that the discovery was “a milestone in the history of Catalan archaeology,” reports Newsweek.

More rock art found in Font Major Cave near L’Espluga de Francolí.

The archaeologists believe that the cave was once a shrine or a religious sanctuary. It is likely that religious and other ceremonies were held at the site.

The artworks may have had some magical or spiritual significance for the Stone Age people who created them. Given the various styles of the images, it would appear that the site was considered sacred for a considerable time.

Catalan News reports Prof. Vergès as saying that “the sanctuary may have even been bigger but that some of the engravings had in fact been erased by human activity.” In the past, the cave was part of an adventure trail. Many visitors had touched and drew graffiti on the walls with the engravings and had unwittingly destroyed the Stone Age art.

The shrine or sanctuary cannot be visited because of the small size of the cave and especially because of the delicateness of the rock art. Newsweek states that “the archaeologists say that the engravings can be easily damaged or destroyed with even minimal contact.” Therefore, it is highly unlikely that the shrine will ever be open to the public.

However, experts from IPHES and the regional Catalan Culture Ministry are working to record the ancient images.  They are using 3D scanning equipment to record the prehistoric art, and this will enable them to be studied without them being put at risk. It is hoped that the 3D scans, which will be in high resolution, will one day be made available to the public and allow for the sanctuary to be digitally recreated. Visitors will hopefully have an opportunity “to view a projection of the sanctuary in 3D,” according to the Catalan News.

The Catalan government has announced that the cave will be declared a cultural asset, which means that it will be protected by law.

Spain is home to some of the world’s most important examples of prehistoric rock art and engravings, such as those at Altamira and El Castillo, which have some of the earliest known. Indeed, the country is home to the greatest number of documented rock art sites in the world.

Researchers Will Search for Spanish Treasure Ship

Researchers Will Search for Spanish Treasure Ship

Nearly 400 years after storms sent one of Spain’s greatest treasure galleons on to the sea outside Mexico, archaeologists from the two countries are to renew their search for the ship and its precious cargo of gold, silver, and jewels.

According to the storm hit, the omens for the Nuestra Señora del Juncal’s return voyage in October 1631 were decidedly ill. A day before the fleet of which it was a part set sail from Mexico, its commander died. The ships pressed on even though the Juncal was in a poor state of repair and taking on water.

It is hoped the project will be a training ground for young underwater archaeologists.

After weathering a fortnight’s storms, cutting the main mast and tossing cannons and other heavy objects overboard in a desperate attempt to lighten the ship, the crew could do no more. Of the 300 people on board, 39 survived by climbing into a small launch.

In May, underwater archaeologists from Spain and Mexico will begin a 10-day search for the Juncal. It is hoped that the work will be just the beginning of a two-decade-long scientific and cultural collaboration.

The joint project, which comes six years after Spain and Mexico signed a memorandum of understanding over their shared underwater cultural heritage, aims not only to locate and protect the Juncal but also to train a new generation of Latin American underwater archaeologists.

Dr. Iván Negueruela, the director of Spain’s National Museum of Underwater Archaeology, has been working closely with Roberto Junco, the deputy director of underwater archaeology at Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History. Negueruela said the team had done its calculations and the chances of finding the ship were looking very promising.

“Because the cargo was so valuable – it was carrying lots of ingots – the authorities had a detailed inventory,” he said. “The survivors were also questioned in-depth and their statements help us to reconstruct what happened with quite a high degree of accuracy, so we have a fairly good idea of where the ship sank.”

The Juncal is thought to have been carrying between 120 and 150 tonnes of precious materials, dwarfing the 14 tonnes of cargo recovered from another Spanish wreck, the Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, in 2007.

Negueruela said the Juncal was transporting riches beyond silver and gold from the New World, among them cacao, dyes and animal hides. Anything organic is unlikely to have survived four centuries of sitting in saltwater, however.

The priority from an archaeological point of view is securing the site and carrying out a methodical, exhaustive and transparent excavation. “When you have a cargo of such extraordinary riches, you’ve got to be totally transparent about what you’re doing, whether you bring up two tonnes of silver or a single silver spoon,” said Negueruela.

“We also want this to serve as a training ground for young underwater archaeologists from Latin America so that countries don’t find themselves at the mercy of pirates and treasure-hunting companies. There will be grants to allow two or three young archaeologists to come out with us each year to train.”

The idea is that within eight or 10 years there will be a group of young, well-trained archaeologists in each country where they’re needed.

“We older archaeologists are running out of time and we need to train up young archaeologists so that we can leave the seabed in good hands,” said Negueruela.

For him, the Juncal’s true riches are not its cargo but the vessel itself – and the chance, for once, to get to a wreck before the treasure hunters do.

“I’m really keen to discover exactly how the ship was constructed and to see how the bulkheads and the decks were put together,” he said.

“We’ve seen that with Mary Rose and the Vasa in Sweden. I want to know exactly how a galleon looked in the first half of the 17th century, and that’s fundamental: where were the sleeping quarters, the stores, the latrines, the eating areas. We know about them from drawings from the archives from the 16th to 18th centuries but we’ve never excavated them. This is such a rich source of information.”

Construction Workers Stumble Across Old Pots With 1,300 Pounds Of Ancient Roman Coins Inside

Construction Workers Stumble Across Old Pots With 1,300 Pounds Of Ancient Roman Coins Inside

Building companies discovered a hoard of bronze Roman coins concealed in jugs in Tomares, Spain during this week.

19 pottery jugs were discovered in the Zaudin Park when the workers digged ditches. The urns were packed with coins showing an emperor on one side and various depictions of Roman stories on the back reported the Spanish newspaper, El Pais.

According to the Archeological Museum of Seville, where the treasure was carried, the coins weigh more than 1,300 pounds date back to the third or fourth centuries.

The workers were digging a ditch to run electricity to a park when they came across these old-looking pots. These pots are actually called amphoras, and they were made during the time when Rome ruled much of Europe.
There actually turned out to be 19 of these amphoras in the area. All of them were full the brim with bronze Roman Empire coins.
The weight of the coins totaled about 1,300 pounds! There was quite a bit of these thing.

Ana Navarro Ortega, who heads the museum, said that 10 of the jugs broke during the dig.

“I can assure you that the jugs cannot be lifted by one person because of their weight and the quantity of the coins inside,” she said. “So now what we have to do is begin to understand the historical and archaeological context of this discovery.”

Why so many coins would be hidden in jugs raises interesting questions for archaeologists and historians.

Investigators floated the hypothesis that the money was set aside to pay imperial taxes or army levies, reported El Pais. The jugs appeared deliberately concealed underground, covered by a few bricks and ceramic fillers, according to the Andalusian department of culture.

Richard Weigel, a professor of ancient Greece and Rome at Western Kentucky University, told the PBS NewsHour that the coins likely were buried during an era of “great discord in the Roman empire.”

The central authority in Rome broke down in the middle of the third century, he said. Germanic tribes invaded the country from time to time, in addition to other challenges to the various emperors.

Once the coins are thoroughly examined by researchers, they will be placed into the Seville Archeological Museum for everyone to enjoy.
It’s amazing that these amphoras and coins survived hundreds of years buried underground.

The part of southern Spain where the coins were discovered would have been considered a distant land to emperors before it became a normal part of the Roman Empire, said, Weigel.

“The suggestion that they were collected to pay taxes to the Roman Empire is, of course, possible,” he said. “But I suspect that they could have been stored to pay one of the Roman legions in the area and to hide the money from invaders in the region.”

Once the emperors on the coins are identified, he continued, it should be easier to date the coins and put them in the context of military activities and invasions.

Archaeologist Busted for Faking Artifacts Showing Jesus Crucifixion

Archaeologist Busted for Faking Artifacts Showing Jesus Crucifixion

An archaeologist accused of forging a trove of Roman artifacts that allegedly show a third-century depiction of Jesus’ crucifixion, Egyptian hieroglyphics and the early use of the Basque language. 

The Telegraph also announced that archeologist Eliseo Gil and his two former fellow members were present in a criminal court this week in the Spanish Basque Country’s capital Vitoria-Gasteiz.

Their allegation is that they have created forgeries of ancient graffiti on hundreds of pieces of pottery, glass, and brick that they claim was found in the Roman ruins at Iruña-Veleia, about 6 miles (10 kilometers) west of Vitoria-Gasteiz.

Gil claimed the graffiti on the artifacts showed very early links between the Roman settlement in Spain and the Basque language; he also claimed that a drawing of three crosses scratched on a piece of ancient pottery was the earliest known portrayal of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. 

But other archaeologists have disputed the finds. Among other major discrepancies, they pointed out that some of the languages of the graffiti show that it was made in modern times. 

Gil and his former colleagues, geologist Óscar Escribano and materials analyst Rubén Cerdán, say they are not guilty of any deception.

Gil and Escribano are facing five and a half years in prison if they are found guilty of fraud and damaging heritage items, while Cerdán faces two and a half years in prison if he is found guilty of making fraudulent documents vouching for the authenticity of the artifacts.

The artifacts were inscribed with phrases in Latin from the wrong period, Greek, Egyptian hieroglyphics and a modern form of the Basque language.

Gil became a celebrity in Spain’s Basque Country in 2006 when he claimed that hundreds of broken ceramic pieces known as “ostraca” — covered with drawings; phrases in Latin, Greek and Basque; and Egyptian hieroglyphics — had been unearthed at the Iruña-Veleia site.

But some other archaeologists became suspicious, and they alerted officials in the Álava provincial government, which owns the Iruña-Veleia site.

The other archaeologists alleged that writing on the artifacts, supposedly from the second to the fifth centuries, contained words and spellings from hundreds of years later, modern commas and the mixed-use of uppercase and lowercase letters, a practice which dates from after the eighth century.

The graffiti on some of the artifacts also contained hieroglyphics spelling out the name of the ancient Egyptian queen Nefertiti, who was probably unknown until her rediscovery in the early 20th century, and a Latin motto created around 1913 for an international court at The Hague in the Netherlands.

Experts also considered that the Christian iconography of the crucifixion portrayed on the most famous artifact dated from hundreds of years later than claimed. 

A scientific commission convened by the provincial government in 2008 ruled that 476 of the artifacts were manipulated or outright fakes and that Gil and his colleagues had perpetrated an elaborate fraud, according to its report. In response, the provincial government stopped Gil and his company from working at Iruña-Veleia and pressed charges, which have now come to court.

Gil maintains that he is innocent and that there is no scientific evidence that the artifacts are fake. At a news conference in 2015, Gil said the accusations, as well as his ostracism from the archaeological world, we’re like “going through torture.”

As well as ancient languages from the wrong time periods, some artifacts are inscribed with modern punctuation marks and a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters not used until more than 1,000 years later.

The prosecutor’s office of the provincial government is seeking more than 285,000 euros ($313,000) for damage to authentic artifacts from Iruña-Veleia allegedly inscribed with fake graffiti.

They’ve also asked the court to jail Gil and his associates, fine them and disqualify them from working on archaeological sites.  Many archaeologists are convinced that the artifacts are fake, but they don’t know if Gil and his associates are responsible for the inauthenticity of the artifacts. 

“I have no doubts about their falsity,” said archaeologist Ignacio Rodríguez Temiño, told BBC in an email. “There is no dispute on the Iruña-Veleia case in the academic world.”

Rodríguez Temiño works in Seville for the provincial government of Andalucía. He is the author of a paper published in the archaeological journal Zephyrus in 2017 that detailed evidence that the artifacts from Iruña-Veleia are fakes and possible reasons for the deception. He noted that Basque public companies and government bodies awarded Gil and his associates sponsorships worth millions of dollars for their work at Iruña-Veleia.

The fake artifacts were an attempt to promote certain ideas about Basque nationalism, including the early use of the Basque language and the early Christianization of what is now the Basque Country, he said. 

Both are “stories that a certain segment of Basque society longs to hear,” he said.

The Mystery of the Giant Crystals: How the 36-foot Geode of Pulpí Formed

The Mystery of the Giant Crystals: How the 36-foot Geode of Pulpí Formed

In an abandoned mine in southern Spain, there is a room of pure crystal. 

This is the geode of Pulpí

You have to go to a deep tunnel, get into a ladder in the rocks, and squeeze across a jagged gypsum crystal tube that is barely wide enough for a person. If you make it that far, you’ll be standing inside the world’s largest geode: the Pulpí Geode, a 390-cubic-foot (11 cubic meters) cavity about the size of a cement mixer drum, studded with crystals as clear as ice and sharp as spears on every surface.

While you may have never stood inside a geode, you’ve probably held, or at least seen, one before.

A researcher stands inside the crystal-filled cave known as the Pulpí Geode

“Many people have little geodes in their home,” Juan Manuel García-Ruiz, a geologist at the Spanish National Research Council and co-author of a new paper on the history of the Pulpí Geode, told BBC. “It’s normally defined as an egg-shaped cavity inside a rock, lined with crystals.”

Those crystals can form after water seeps through tiny pores in a rock’s surface, ferrying even tinier minerals into the hollow interior. Depending on the size of the rock cavity, crystals can continue growing for thousands or millions of years, creating caches of amethyst, quartz and many other shiny minerals. 

The crystal columns at Pulpí are made of gypsum — the product of water, calcium sulfate, and lots and lots of time — but not much else has been revealed about them since the geode’s unexpected discovery in 2000.

In a study published in the journal Geology, García-Ruiz and his colleagues attempted to shed some new light on the mysterious cave by narrowing down how and when the geode formed.

García-Ruiz is no stranger to giant crystals. In 2007, he published a study on Mexico’s fantastical Cave of Crystals, a basketball-court-size cavern of gypsum beams as big as telephone poles buried 1,000 feet (300 m) below the town of Naica. Uncovering the history of that “Sistine Chapel of crystals,” as García-Ruiz called it, was made easier by the fact that the crystals were still growing in the mine’s humid bowels. 

At Pulpí, however, the mine was completely dry, and the geode’s crystals had not grown in tens of thousands of years. On top of that, the geode’s gypsum spikes are incredibly pure — so translucent that “you can see your hand through them,” García-Ruiz said.

This means they do not contain enough uranium isotopes to perform radiometric dating, a standard method of analyzing how different versions of elements radioactively decay to date very old rocks. 

“We had no idea what happened,” García-Ruiz said. “So, we were required to make a cartography of the entire mine to understand its very complicated geology.”

The researchers analyzed and radiometrically dated rock samples around the mine for seven years to figure out how the area had changed since its formation hundreds of millions of years ago. The team’s driving question: Where did the calcium sulfate in the Pulpí Geode come from?

Ultimately, the researchers narrowed down the geode’s formation to a window of about 2 million years (not bad for the 4.5-billion-year-old calendar of geologic time). The crystals must be at least 60,000 years old, the team found because that was the youngest age of a bit of carbonate crust growing on one of the largest crystals in the geode. Since the crust is on the outside of a crystal, the crystal below must be even older, García-Ruiz explained.

Meanwhile, the composition of other minerals in the mine suggests that calcium sulfate was not introduced to the area until after an event called the Messinian Salinity Crisis — the near-total emptying of the Mediterranean Sea that is believed to have occurred about 5.5 million years ago. 

Based on the size of the gypsum crystals, it’s likely they started forming less than 2 million years ago, through a very slow-growing process called Ostwald ripening, in which large crystals form through the dissolution of smaller ones, García-Ruiz said. For an everyday example of this process, peer into your freezer.

When ice cream ages past its prime, small ice crystals begin to break away from the rest of the treat. As more time passes, those small crystals lose their shape and recombine into larger crystals, giving the old ice cream a distinctly gritty texture. 

The Pulpí Geode may not be as tasty as ice cream, but merely knowing that magical places like this exist comes with its own sweet satisfaction.

Thanks in part to the research team’s mapping efforts, tourists are now allowed to visit the Pulpí Geode, and García-Ruiz certainly wouldn’t blame you for doing so. Squeezing past the jagged gypsum gateway and into the geode’s cavity for the first time several years ago, García-Ruiz recalled one feeling: “euphoria.”

Archaeology dig in Spain yields prehistoric ‘crystal weapons’

Archaeology dig in Spain yields prehistoric ‘crystal weapons’

When you see a beautiful crystal how do you feel? Perhaps the perfection of the diamond, or the vivid colors of the different gems are your thing? The fact is that people have been fascinated by crystals ever since they had first discovered them.

The gems ‘ names come from ancient cultures that were obsessed with them pretty much, adding them to their jewelry, kitchenware, and weapons.

Do you know that even the Bible describes the new Jerusalem after the apocalypse built all in gems and crystals?

An archeological excavation in Spain reveals that even in the 3rd millennium BC, crystals were an object of fascination and ritual

Archeologists discovered a number of shrouds decorated with amber beads at the Valencina de la Concepción site, and they also found a “remarkable set of “crystal weapons

The Monterilio tholos, excavated between 2007 and 2010, is “a great megalithic construction…which extends over 43.75 m in total.” It has been constructed out of large slabs of slate and served as a burial site.

The period in which this site was built was well known for the excavation of metals from the ground, and where there is excavation – there can also be crystals.

In the case with the Monterilio tholos, the people there found a way to shape the quartz crystals into weapons.

However, the spot where these crystals were uncovered is not associated with rock crystal deposits, so it means that these crystals were imported from somewhere else.

The rock crystal source used in creating these weapons has not been pinpointed, but two potential sources have been suggested, “both located several kilometers away from Valencina.”

As the academic paper which focuses on these crystal weapons states, the manufacture of the crystal dagger “must have been based on the accumulation of transmitted empirical knowledge and skill taken from the production of flint dagger blades as well from the know-how of rock-crystal smaller foliaceous bifacial objects, such as Ontiveros and Monterilio arrowheads.”

The exact number of ‘crystal weapons’ found in the site has been estimated to “10 crystal arrowheads, 4 blades and the rock crystal core of the Monterilio tholos.”

Interestingly enough, although the bones of 20 individuals were found in the main chamber, none of the crystal weapons can be ascribed to them.

The individuals had been buried with flint daggers, ivory, beads, and other items, but the crystal weapons were kept in separate chambers.

These crystal weapons could have had ritualistic significance and were most probably kept for the elite. Their use was perhaps closely connected to the spiritual significance they possessed. Indeed, many civilizations have found crystals as having a highly spiritual and symbolical significance.

The paper states that “they probably represent funerary paraphernalia only accessible to the elite of this time period.

The association of the dagger blade to a handle made of ivory, also a non-local raw material that must have been of great value, strongly suggests the high-ranking status of the people making use of such objects.”

What Discovery of Oldest Human Poop Reveals About Neanderthals’ Diet

What Discovery of Oldest Human Poop Reveals About Neanderthals’ Diet

Neanderthals have consumed vegetables – we know that it has definitely been put under the microscope, thanks to the oldest piece of human fecal matter ever found.

The site where the poop was sampled from

Five soil samples from a known Neanderthal site in El Salt in Spain are thought to be obtained and are estimated to date back around 50,000 years.

The find puts to shame the previous oldest hominid poop discovered in the Western Hemisphere, a 14,000-year-old piece of shit found in an Oregon cave (that particular fecal find is in dispute).

Some brave souls from MIT and the University of La Laguna (“samples were collected by hand,” the researchers said) analyzed the makeup of the samples and found that Neanderthals ate a diet dominated by meat, but definitely ate some plants, as well.

That’s because lead researcher Ainara Sistiaga and his team were able to identify, for the first time, the presence of metabolites such as 5B-stigmastanol and 5B-epistigmastanol, which are created when the body digests plant matter.

The existence of those metabolites “unambiguously record the ingestion of plants,” Sistiage writes in a study published today in PLOS One.

Obtaining the poop wasn’t as gross as you might expect-Sistiage and his team took soil samples, crushed them into a fine powder, and used laboratory equipment to identify tiny pieces of fecal matter.

And direct evidence from something like poop is much better at painting a picture of what Neanderthals ate than analyzing their tools or dental records.

“Except for the evidence of entrapped microfossils and organic residues in Neanderthal teeth, all previous palaeodietary reconstructions have been based on indirect evidence where preferential or selective preservation plays a key role,” Sistiage wrote.

In other words, our previous analyses had a bias toward identifying proteins, because they are easier to detect.

Recent dental records suggested that Neanderthals probably ate plants, but now we know for sure.

We also know, thanks to various biomarkers found in the poop, that Neanderthals had a pretty advanced digestive system that is similar to modern humans. However, Neanderthals wouldn’t have had access to the same medicinal products we have today, such as unify health multi gi 5 and other alternatives that can be used to improve a person’s digestive health. This means that Neanderthals could have been a lot more susceptible to certain illnesses and diseases.

Advanced digestion, healthy diets, and smarts-Neanderthals are beginning to look a lot more like us than we ever could have expected.