Category Archives: SWITZERLAND

65,000-year-old ‘Swiss Army knife’ reveals the key to early human survival

65,000-year-old ‘Swiss Army knife’ reveals the key to early human survival

The presence of ancient multi-tools in southern Africa may suggest that communication between ancient humans spanned long distances, according to a study published in Scientific Reports on Thursday.

Map of the seven sites where ancient ‘Swiss Army knives were found in southern Africa that were analyzed in the study.

But ancient humans weren’t only talking to each other, the research found, they were also sharing knowledge that may have aided in the overall survival of the human race.

The Howiesons Poort blade is known as the “stone Swiss Army knife” of prehistory because it is an early example of a composite tool that had multiple purposes. While stone tools were not revolutionary for the time, the Howiesons Poort blades were so groundbreaking because they are ‘hafted‘ — meaning that the stone blades are affixed to handles — using glue and adhesives.

Ancient humans in southern Africa produced these early multi-tools in large numbers for hunting (fashioned into spears and arrows) and cutting wood, plants, bone, skin, feathers and flesh.

Stone tools from the Sibudu Cave site in South Africa, whose similarities with other tools in the region indicate that early humans were sharing knowledge with each other 65,000 years ago.

Researchers compared the Swiss Army knife-like tools from seven sites across southern Africa and found that they all had the same shape and used the same template.

Hafted tools were developed independently in other parts of the world across vastly different time periods — and they took on many shapes. But these southern African cultures chose to make their tools look the same, something researchers found “culturally meaningful.”

The team of international scientists analyzing these 65,000-year-old tools was led by University of Sydney archaeologist Amy Way. They concluded that the similarities among the tools across southern Africa indicate that early humans must have been sharing information with each other — they were social networking.

“The really exciting thing about this find is that it gives us evidence that there was a long-distance social connection between people, just before the big migration out of Africa, which involved all of our ancestors,” Way said via The Guardian.

Early humans had been migrating out of Africa in smaller numbers before the large exodus approximately 60,000 years ago.

“Why was this exodus so successful where the earlier excursions were not? The main theory is that social networks were stronger then,” Way added.

“This analysis shows for the first time that these social connections were in place in southern Africa just before the big exodus.”

But just how far did this knowledge-sharing reach? Way says Howiesons Poort blades have been found 1,200 kilometres apart in southern Africa.

“One hundred kilometres takes five days to walk, so it’s probably a whole network of groups that are mostly in contact with the neighbouring group,” she said.

Social networking may have been the reason why homo sapiens were so successful at migrating across the world where other early human species failed, according to Paloma de la Peña, a senior research associate at the University of Cambridge and a lead author in the study.

“The main theory as to why modern humans replaced all the other humans living outside Africa around 60-70,000 years ago is that our ancestors were much better at social networking than the other species, such as Neanderthals, who were possibly smarter and stronger as individuals, but not great at sharing information,” de la Peña said.

Perhaps this research suggests that what makes us people is not intelligence alone, but our capacity to help our fellow humans.

Roman Coin Cache Discovered in Switzerland

Roman Coin Cache Discovered in Switzerland

An amateur treasure hunter in Switzerland has discovered a buried clay pot filled to the brim with 1,290 Roman coins that date to the fourth century A.D. However, an odd divider found within the pot — a piece of cowhide — has stumped archaeologists. 

Archaeologists excavate a pot of Roman coins in Switzerland dating to the period of Roman emperor Constantine the Great.

“It was clearly used as a separation,” said Reto Marti, head of the archaeological department of the canton of Basel-Landschaft (informally called Baselland) in northern Switzerland, and who helped to excavate and examine the coin pot. “But why the coins are separated in two parts we cannot tell for the moment.”

Daniel Lüdin, an amateur archaeologist with a metal detector, discovered the coin pot on Sept. 6, 2021, not too far from the 13th-century Wildenstein Castle in Bubendorf, a municipality in Baselland, according to a translated statement released on April 13.

When the metal detector began beeping, Lüdin started to dig and soon discovered several Roman coins and pottery fragments.

Realizing he had unearthed a Roman coin hoard, Lüdin carefully reburied the find and told Archäologie Baselland of his discovery. This decision saved valuable clues about the stash, as the archaeologists were later able to excavate the pot in a large earthen block and then CT scan its contents without disturbing them.

During a CT scan, an object is bombarded with powerful X-rays that software can transform into a virtual 3D image of the specimen. It was during this scan that the scientists discovered the cowhide dividing the coins into two separate piles.

The 9-inch-tall (23 centimetres) pot is filled with “a large amount of small change” — coins made of a copper alloy and a small percentage of silver, according to the statement. In total, all of the coins are worth about as much as a solidus, a pure-gold coin introduced by Emperor Constantine during the late Roman Empire that weighed about 0.15 ounces (4.5 grams). A solidus was worth about two months’ salary for a soldier at the time.

The coins found in the pot have inscriptions and designs on each side.
CT images revealed a divider made of cowhide in the pot.

“There are two types of coins in the pot, but the exact denomination of these late antique bronze coins is not known,” Marti told Live Science in an email. All of the coins were minted, with inscriptions and designs on each side, during the reign of Emperor Constantine (A.D. 306 to 337).

It’s not too surprising to find Roman coins in this region, which was part of a Roman Empire province, Marti said. “There are even some coin hoards with much more coins than the Bubendorf finds,” he noted. But something big sets these other coin hoards apart from the new finding: The past findings were buried in times of crisis.

There were several wars during the late third and the middle of the fourth century A.D., which prompted many people to bury their Roman money for safekeeping. In contrast, the Bubendorf hoard dates to a time of relative peace and some economic recovery, about A.D. 330 to 340.

“Because of this, the new find will be very important,” Marti said. “It will give a very detailed insight into the use of money and the circulation of coins in the time of the Roman emperor Constantine the Great.”

So, this coin pot has two mysteries: Why was it buried during a time of political stability, and why does it have a cowhide divider in it?

“Maybe it was an offering to the gods,” Marti said. Another idea is that this area once bordered three Roman estates, so perhaps this burial location had something to do with that boundary, he added.

It’s rare to find such a large hoard from the last years of Constantine the Great’s life, said Marjanko Pilekić, a numismatist and research assistant at the Coin Cabinet of the Schloss Friedenstein Gotha Foundation in Germany, who was not involved with the new find. 

“A stroke of luck is certainly also the survival of the storage vessel, which contained not only coins but also a piece of leather, organic material that rarely survives,” Pilekić told Live Science in an email. Perhaps, the detailed excavation will reveal “which coins belonged to which side [of each Roman estate], which may help in the interpretation.”

Treasure of 1,290 Ancient Roman Coins Discovered by Amateur Archaeologist in Switzerland

Treasure of 1,290 Ancient Roman Coins Discovered by Amateur Archaeologist in Switzerland

An amateur archaeologist has found a big treasure trove of over 1,290 priceless, ancient Roman coins dating back to the 4th Century AD near Bubendorf, a municipality in the district of Liestal, in the canton of Basle-County, in Switzerland.

Treasure of 1,290 Ancient Roman Coins Discovered by Amateur Archaeologist in Switzerland

The hoard was discovered by volunteer archaeological scout Daniel Lüdin in a forested area near Wildenstein Castle in September 2021.

The finder, Daniel Lüdin, was searching a forest with a metal detector near Bubendorf, a municipality in the district of Liestal, in the canton of Basle-County, in Switzerland, when he made the discovery.

When his metal detector signalled a strong alert, Lüdin dug down a little and found a few Roman coins and some potsherds, not enough to explain the strength of the signal. He dug down a little more and hit the jackpot.

The coins which were made during the reign of Constantine the Great (AD 306-337) show portraits of the emperor and his relatives in the front.

Daniel Lüdin was very careful. He reconsidered the find, filled in the hole, and informed Archeologie Baselland.

Thanks to this professional approach, they removed the pot in a soil block so that all of the coins, pot fragments, and any invisible archaeological treasures like traces of organic remains could be excavated under laboratory conditions.

The block removal also allowed researchers to CT scan the soil block to map out the contents.

They revealed that the coins in the pot had been separated in two by a piece of cowhide at the time of their burial, although it is currently unclear why and what purpose this served.

Andreas Fischer, of Archaeologie Baselland said: “One can only speculate about the meaning and purpose of this separation.”

What is clear, however, is that these coins are made of a copper alloy and of silver, and they were all “minted during the reign of Emperor Constantine the Great (306-337 AD). The youngest specimens date from the years 332-335 AD.”

A black space seen in the CT scans between two layers of coins turned out to be a simple piece of leather.

The total value of 1290 coppers was the equivalent of a gold solidus or about two months’ salary for a soldier in the legions.

The expert said that often, there are simple explanations as to why people would bury their valuables, but none of them appears to apply here.

What makes the hoard so unusual is that it was buried during a time of political and economic stability. Coin hoards from the 4th century were typically buried during periods of unrest, but Constantine’s reign was not among them. Hoards from this period are vanishingly rare throughout the Empire.

3D model of the hoard after the external soil was cleaned but before the contents were excavated in the laboratory. Jan von Wartburg.

It seems likely that this one was buried for other reasons. One possibility is a religious offering as the find site was on the border between three known Roman estates, so it could have been a boundary line sacrifice.

7000-year-old grain reveals the origin of the Swiss stilt houses

7000-year-old grain reveals the origin of the Swiss stilt houses

Nowhere else are so many Neolithic pile dwellings known around the Alps. However, how this particular construction boom got its start is a mystery. Researchers at the University of Basel have now uncovered new evidence: Settlers on Lake Varese in northern Italy may have played a major role.

Remains of crops from the Neolithic period – here naked barley and naked wheat – indicate connections between geographically distant settlements.

When workers discovered the first pile-dwelling settlement on Lake Zurich in the mid-19th century, a whole branch of archaeological research began. 111 pile-dwelling villages in the Alps now belong to the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage. So far, however, it was unclear where this unique design came from. Until a few years ago, experts assumed that this was a local phenomenon.

Researchers around Prof. Dr However, Ferran Antolín from the Department of Integrative Prehistoric and Natural Scientific Archeology (IPNA) at the University of Basel are now providing new clues as to how the pile-dwelling culture came to the areas north of the Alps. 

Prehistoric plant remains from a settlement on Lago di Varese in northern Italy show the same composition as the useful plants from the oldest Swiss lake dwelling settlements in Zurich and in Egolzwil in Lucerne. 

The researchers report on this in the “Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports”.

Durum wheat, barley, opium poppy and flax

The team collected sediment cores around a prehistoric settlement on the Isolino Virginia and radiocarbon dated crops in the deposits. According to this, people seemed to have visited this artificial island as early as 4950 to 4700 BC. to call their home. The oldest known pile-dwelling settlements in Switzerland date back to around 4300 BC. Chr.

Through comparisons with the IPNA reference collection, the archaeobotanists were able to identify the composition of the approximately 7000-year-old plant material from this earliest settlement phase on Isolino Virginia: naked wheat (durum wheat), naked barley, opium poppy and flax. The same types of plants as those cultivated by the inhabitants of Switzerland’s oldest pile-dwelling settlements.

Connection to the western Mediterranean

However, these plant species are atypical for the northeast Italian population of the time, whose agriculture concentrated on the cultivation of spelled wheat such as emmer. 

The crops found around Lake Varese tended to be cultivated in the western Mediterranean. From this, the research team concluded that the settlement on the Isolino Virginia was probably founded by groups that came from the western Mediterranean or were closely connected with it through trade. 

“These groups probably played a major role in the spread of the pile-dwelling phenomenon north of the Alps,” says archaeobotanist Antolín.

The period between 4700 B.C. BC, when the settlement on the Isolino Virginia was temporarily abandoned, and 4300 BC, when the first pile-dwelling villages emerged north of the Alps, remains fraught with unanswered questions. 

The researchers suspect that other archaeological evidence, such as other settlements, may have remained undiscovered or lost.

In addition, ongoing research shows that there is also a wealth of evidence of prehistoric pile dwellings in other areas of Europe, such as in the central Balkans. Here, too, the team from the University of Basel is involved in research into the Neolithic pile-dwelling settlements.

However, these sites have a different agricultural tradition, so a direct connection to the pile dwellings of Switzerland seems unlikely.

According to Antolín, the origin of the pile dwellings remains a complex phenomenon that can hardly be explained from the remains of the buildings themselves. “However, the analysis of crop residues can make an important contribution here.”

Swiss archaeologists dig up the youngest Roman amphitheatre

Swiss archaeologists dig up youngest Roman amphitheatre

A construction project in Kaiseraugst, Switzerland has unearthed a lost ancient Roman amphitheatre that was once used for gladiator fights and animal hunts. Dating to the 300s CE, it’s about 50 meters (164ft) long and 40 meters (131ft) wide.

The amphitheatre was found in Augusta Raurica, located on the southern edge of the Rhine river. Once a Roman city, it is now an open museum and archaeological site. The reason for the construction was a new boathouse being put in for the Basel rowing club.

In December 2021, the construction team was accompanied by excavators with Aargau Cantonal Archaeology.

These archaeologists were quite surprised when they came across an ancient Roman construct.

Part of this surprise resulted from the fact that they were working in a spot thought only to be an abandoned Roman quarry.

Here are some details on how the amphitheatre was built:

It had three southern entrances. One large one stood in the middle of two smaller ones on either side of it. Another entrance was found on the western side of the amphitheatre.

Both of the entrance spots were made with sandstone that has been preserved to our present day. The inner walls were covered in plaster and the grandstands were made of wood.

It’s the third ancient Roman amphitheatre discovered in the Augusta Raurica, and also the youngest, dating to the 4th century CE.

It’s the eighth ancient Roman amphitheatre discovered in Switzerland.

Some of the others are known as: “Avenches (Aventicum), Martigny (Forum Claudii Vallensium), Nyon (Colonia Iulia Equestris) and on the Enge peninsula in Bern (Brenodurum)”.

The construction plans for the boathouse have been modified to accommodate the new discovery.

Here are some images of the ancient building as it is today:

Swiss archaeologists dig up youngest Roman amphitheatre
The water is the Rhine river. You can see here how close the amphitheatre was to the water.
The ancient sandstone
One of the walls

Melting Glaciers Reveal 10,000-Year-Old Artifacts Belonging to Mysterious People

Melting Glaciers Reveal 10,000-Year-Old Artifacts Belonging to Mysterious People

Climate changes are a major threat to humanity, but as it seems, there is one science that truly benefits from the terrible changes – archaeology.  When it comes to melting ice or, more specifically, melting glaciers around the world, it has created an incredible opportunity for archaeologists and scientists to dig out old and even ancient artefacts.

Recent Discoveries in Melting Alpine Glaciers

For years, archaeologists had theories that ancient hunters and gatherers collected rocks and crystals needed for tools from the mountains more than 9500 years ago in the Mesolithic era.

The continuous environmental changes and the melting glaciers in the Alps revealed another valuable archaeological site that confirmed these scientific suggestions. What they found was a crystal vein filled with rocks identical to those used millennia ago for ancient tools.

Although these climate changes are undoubtedly not in favour of Earth’s and our future, they laid the foundations of a brand new archaeology branch – glacier archaeology.

This recent excavation mission was conducted at an impressive altitude of 2,800 meters in eastern Switzerland.

How important is this discovery?

To be exact, any ancient artefact or archaeological discovery is significant since it puts another piece to the historical puzzle of our kind. When it comes to glacier archaeology and the discoveries from the past twenty or so years, they totally changed our prehistoric people’s perception.

For example, it was once believed that the prehistoric communities stayed away from the mountains since they were challenging to maneuver and gave few opportunities for settling down.

Opportunities for discoveries like those from the melting glacier ice changed this perception and showed that prehistoric individuals did climb the intimidating mountains in various instances.

Moreover, excavations from the recent decades unraveled evidence that the mountains were bustling with human activities from the earliest periods of human history.

The earliest discovery from melting glacier ice in the Alps occurred in 1991 when the fully-preserved body of a 5300-year-old warrior emerged from the melting ice.

The photographs are a tide intimidating, thus, I will not include them in the article, but you can see pictures of the ancient man by searching “Oetzi” online.

Laced shoes dated to at least 2,800 BC found in the melting glaciers of the Alps.

In 2003, a 3000-year-old birch bark quiver was found at an altitude of 2756 meters.

A few years later, excavations revealed leather clothes and shoes at an archaeological site dating to 4500 BC. In a normal scenario, these artefacts would have been destroyed by erosion and time, but they were perfectly preserved in the glacier ice, as can be seen in the photograph.

Melting Glaciers are an archaeological emergency

Unfortunately, it is estimated that more than 90% of all glaciers in the Alps could melt before the end of the current century. While this is an absolute climate disaster, it also creates an archaeological emergency since nobody knows how many important artefacts it could reveal and how many will be lost forever.

In other words, as I mentioned above, ice will preserve certain objects, but once it is gone, these objects will either be taken by normal people or be destroyed by erosion.

Archaeologists have already spoken about the issue that countless ancient artefacts could be laying in people’s homes after being found in the mountains.

Archaeologists do not have the funding or the capabilities to maintain consistent excavations on all melting glacier sites, which means that countless artefacts could be lost if we do not act quickly. All they have is a short window to extract all the useful historical data until it disappears forever.

They also mention that people in the Alpine regions need to be well informed of the possibility of finding an important item or artefact and, most importantly, then give it to the authorities instead of keeping it as a trophy on the wall.

2,000-Year-Old Battle Site Uncovered in Switzerland

2,000-Year-Old Battle Site Uncovered in Switzerland

The finds – including a dagger, well-preserved slingshot stones, coins, nails and part of a shield – are assumed to have been left on the battlefield after a clash between Romans and a local tribe at around 15BC.

2,000-Year-Old Battle Site Uncovered in Switzerland
A dagger is one of the hundreds of objects uncovered on the ancient battlefield.

Lucas Schmid, who volunteers for the local archaeological association, uncovered the remains using a metal detector at a remote southeast corner of Switzerland, near the Crap-Ses gorge between the towns of Tiefencastel and Cunter.

Other artefacts had previously been unearthed at the location, but the site was considered to have been picked clean by previous sweeps.

Schmid proved this was not the case after discovering a 2,000-year-old Roman dagger. 

This alerted an archaeology team from the University of Basel who has found several hundred other objects during an ongoing search of the 35,000 square metre site in September. These artefacts have now been made public.

How the battle unfolded

It is assumed that a battle took place between Roman forces and a local Raetian tribe near Cunter in what is now canton Graubünden

“It looks like the locals were holed up and were shot at by the Romans with slingshot and catapults,” Peter Schwarz, professor of Provincial Roman Archaeology at the University of Basel, told Swiss public broadcaster, SRFExternal link.

Schwarz believes that as many as 1,500 soldiers took part in the battle, making it a fairly minor skirmish compared to other Roman battlegrounds in Europe.

The coins and type of shoe nails found offer firm evidence of the time period of the battle. But the team is hoping to narrow down the date even further and hypothesize that it could be linked to a known decree from Roman Emperor Augustus to bring the area under Roman control in 15BC.

“This is the first time that remnants from a Roman battle site have been found in Switzerland,” Schwarz told SWI swissinfo.ch. “It seems that the Romans attacked their enemy on one side of the valley and them drove them over a river to the other side, before attacking again.”

Dig to continue next year

Excavations will continue in the region next year, organised by the University of Basel along with the cantonal and federal authorities. So far no grave sites have been discovered and it is not known how many people died in the battle.

READ ALSO: UNDERWATER STONEHENGE THAT PREDATES THE PYRAMIDS CONFIRMED IN SWITZERLAND

Raetian tribes occupied the eastern Alps at the time of the battle, including parts of modern-day Austria and Italy. The Romans conquered the region and named the area Raetia under Augustus.

The Swiss portion of Raetia eventually became the modern-day canton Graubünden.

Archaeological evidence of the Roman occupation of Switzerland is regularly unearthed. One of the most spectacular finds was a collection of mosaics in the western town of Orbe.

Underwater Stonehenge That Predates the Pyramids Confirmed in Switzerland

Underwater Stonehenge That Predates the Pyramids Confirmed in Switzerland

Archaeologists studying Switzerland’s Lake Lucerne have unearthed the remnants of a submerged Bronze Age village, suggesting people occupied the Lake Lucerne area 2,000 years earlier than previously thought.

As Swissinfo.ch reports, the new finds suggest that the area around the lake was settled 2,000 years earlier than previously thought.

Though researchers have long searched for proof of early habitation in the Lucerne region, a thick layer of mud had obscured traces of the village until recently.

As Per a statement from the local government, the construction of a pipeline at Lake Lucerne offered underwater archaeologists the chance to examine the lakebed up close.

The first dive took place in December 2019; between March 2020 and February 2021, reports Swissinfo.ch, the team recovered about 30 wooden poles and 5 ceramic fragments at depths of roughly 10 to 13 feet.

A piece of Poplar wood retrieved by the divers which may have been used as part of the construction or excavation of the rocks.

“These new finds from the Lucerne lake basin confirm that people settled here as early as 3,000 years ago,” says the statement, per Google Translate. “[W]ith this evidence, the city of Lucerne suddenly becomes around 2,000 years older than has been previously proven.”

Experts used radiocarbon analysis to date the artefacts to about 1000 B.C. when the lake level was more than 16 feet lower than it is today, writes Garry Shaw for the Art Newspaper.

According to the statement, these conditions “formed an ideal, easily accessible settlement area” around the lake basin.

The Archaeology Office of the Swiss Canton of Thurgau described the findings as ‘sensational’ after carrying out extensive excavations on the lake bed.

The team identified the wooden sticks found at the site as supports used in pile dwellings, or prehistoric coastal houses that stood on stilts. Dwellings of this kind were common in and around the Alps between 5000 and 500 B.C., notes Unesco, and can provide researchers with useful insights into Europe’s Neolithic period and Bronze Age.

A diver inspecting the underwater site

“The wood is very soft on the outside and hard on the inside,” archaeologist Andreas Mäder tells Swiss Radio and Television (SRF), per Google Translate. “Something like that is typical of prehistoric piles.”

For now, the scholars’ research is limited to the trench surrounding the underwater pipeline. Traces of other submerged settlements are likely hidden nearby, but the team will need additional funding to investigate the area further.

As Heritage Daily reports, Lake Lucerne is a 44-square-mile body of water that reaches depths of up to 1,424 feet. Per a second government statement, the city of Lucerne itself was established 800 years ago.

Written records indicate that humans had settled in the area by the eighth century A.D., but until now, archaeological evidence of earlier habitation was scant.

Lake Lucerne’s water level rose significantly in the millennia following the submerged village’s peak, with a weather-driven increase in rubble and debris buildup exacerbated by medieval residents’ construction of watermills and other buildings. The lake likely reached its current level during the 15th century, according to the statement.

The archaeologists’ announcement coincides with the tenth anniversary of Unesco adding “Prehistoric Pile Dwellings around the Alps” to its World Heritage List. In total, wrote Caroline Bishop for Local Switzerland in 2017, the listing includes 111 sites across Europe, including 56 in Switzerland.

See Also: MORE ARCHAEOLOGY NEWS

As Unesco noted in a 2011 statement, “The settlements are a unique group of exceptionally well-preserved and culturally rich archaeological sites, which constitute one of the most important sources for the study of early agrarian societies in the region.”