Remarkably Well-Preserved 2,500-Year-Old Canoe Discovered In Swiss Lake
Archaeologists have discovered a remarkably well-preserved dugout canoe from the Early Iron Age in Lake Neuchâtel in western Switzerland.
According to the Vaud canton’s archaeology department, the 13-meter-long canoe was resting at a depth of 3.5 meters on a sandbank on the north shore of the lake.
Experts assisted the cantonal archaeologists in underwater salvage techniques. This delicate operation required many months of preparation.
“This is an archaeological discovery of considerable importance for our understanding of the prehistory of the region.
Its radiocarbon analysis dates it to between 750 and 520 B.C., a time when there were no villages on the shores of the lakes.
It is one of the very few boats from this period in Switzerland that has been preserved almost in its entirety,” said cantonal archaeologist Nicole Pousaz at the press conference.
The canoe has now been transported to a lab for special analysis. Archaeologists examine it to see what clues it holds to life during this time.
Photogrammetry and laser measurements will also be used to create a 3D model of what the canoe would have looked like, fully intact.
“She’s a very sickly old lady. Part of the sides of the canoe were torn out by storms, and the portion buried in the sediment was very cracked. It’s a very fragile object,” Jean-Daniel Renaud, who runs a company specializing in the technical aspects of underwater and terrestrial archaeology, told the press agency Keystone-SDA.
“It was made at the time from an oak trunk about 13 meters long and about a meter in diameter.
This type of canoe, which was particularly large, was mainly used for transporting goods and people or for fishing,” added Renaud.
According to the specialist, it is one of the largest and most complete canoes of its kind to have been discovered in Switzerland.
Hiker found a place of holy worship at an altitude of 2,590 meters in the Swiss Alps
A trekking enthusiast stumbled upon an ancient Roman coin buried in rubble in a remote area high in the Alps in the Swiss Canton of Bern.
After reporting the finding to the local archeological unit, a whole hoard of ancient artifacts was found buried at the site, which archeologists now believe may have been a place of holy worship—a site to lay offerings to the Roman mountain gods.
Since the hiker’s fortunate discovery, archaeologists have conducted two dig seasons and discovered one hundred additional Roman coins dating from the first to the fifth century A.D.
The oldest is a Tiberian coin from 22 to 30 AD, and the most recent is an Arcadian coin from the eastern empire (r. 395-408 A.D.). A fibula from the first century B.C., 59 Roman shoe hobnails, and a piece of a bronze votive plate in the shape of a leaf were also discovered by the team.
“We do find single Roman coins occasionally in the Alps, but this site is unusual because of the amount of coins and the location,” Regula Gubler, the study’s scientific project manager, told Newsweek.
“More common would be finds—coins, brooches—on mountain passes. This site however, is far from human habitation, today and in Roman times, at 2,590 meters above sea level [nearly 8,500 feet], and definitely not a pass.”
Gubler said that the site sits on a plateau between the mountain peaks of Ammertenhorn and Wildstrubel, which she described as “pretty impressive.”
The unusual location of the site, as well as the concentrated collection of treasures that had amassed there, led the researchers to believe that this was a place of great religious significance.
“We are only at the beginning of the investigations, but we think it is a holy place, where people went to deposit votive offerings—mainly coins, but also other objects—asking the deities for things or thanking them,” Gubler said. “I guess a kind of pilgrimage.”
The town of Thun, which has several Roman temples, is only a little more than 12 miles away from the site. One of them contains an inscription that mentions female alpine deities, according to archaeologists.
The prevalence of local rock crystals may have been part of the reason the location was seen as sacred.
The researchers will continue to investigate the site in order to learn more about its possible historical significance.
Medieval Woman’s Burial in Switzerland Yields Gold Brooch
An excavation of a 7th Century grave site in Switzerland has thrown up a “spectacular” kind of jewellery and afforded valuable insight into medieval society.
The 15 graves belonged to wealthy people of that time who were buried in their finery. The most significant find was a golden robe brooch belonging to a woman aged about 20 at her death.
The woman was also buried with a treasure trove of other jewellery, including 160 pearls, an amber pendant and a belt with an iron buckle and a silver-inlaid tongue.
Other graves revealed high society occupants adorned with highly crafted ornaments.
The archaeological site in Basel, northwest Switzerland, has been excavated over a number of years. In the summer, the body of a warrior was uncovered with a significant head injury caused by a sword blow.
The latest graves were discovered when workers were laying new heating pipes in the city.
“It appears to be a hotspot, a special place where particularly wealthy people were buried,” said Basel cantonal archaeologist Guido Lassau.
Excavations will resume in January and plans are being made to display the finds in a public exhibition.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
“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
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.
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.
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.”
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
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.
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.”