WTOP News reports that the possible site of a 300-year-old slave quarter has been found near an eighteenth-century brick manor once inhabited by Jesuit missionaries.
The announcement was made Tuesday by researchers from the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration and St. Mary’s College in Maryland.
According to MDOT SHA, most of the items were discovered close to the brick manor of 18th century once owned by Jesuit missionaries in Newtowne Neck State Park.
The quarters may date back to around 1700.
“The Jesuits were prolific in their record-keeping, but very little survived on the enslaved African Americans who worked the fields and served the Catholic Church,” said Julie Schablitsky, MDOT SHA’s chief archaeologist in a news release.
“If there was ever a place in Maryland that holds the story of diverse cultures converging to find religious freedom in an environment of conflict, sacrifice and survival, it is here.”
MDOT SHA said documents point to the sale of 272 slaves from Maryland in 1838 near the manor.
Descendants of those slaves still live in Maryland.
The Rev. Dante Eubanks, a resident of Leonardtown, has traced his family to the St. Mary’s plantation.
“To be able to stand in the exact place where my ancestors lived and endured is a powerful experience,” Eubanks said. “We need to remember these stories, they are important to our history and healing.”
Maryland archaeologists are using metal detectors to pinpoint the locations of early cabins along Md. Route 243, places where the enslaved left evidence of their lives in broken clay tobacco pipes, ceramic cups and rusty nails.
“MDOT SHA’s participation in this archaeological dig is a unique way to experience history firsthand,” SHA Administrator Tim Smith said in a release.
“I’m proud of the work this team of archaeologists is doing to preserve the history of early Marylanders.”
MDOT SHA said the artefacts need to be analyzed to learn more.
The Scotsman reports that researchers have discovered traces of 23 structures dated to as early as 800 B.C. on heavily ploughed land in eastern Scotland, near the coast of the North Sea, ahead of a construction project.
The study is now continuing to decide whether the site has a flourishing domestic settlement or more industrial operation.
Proof has been identified of at least 23 structures on the land, which is due to be developed by Claymore Homes, with some pottery and flint tools also found.
The settlement may be estimated to be from 800 BC to 400 AD with large amounts of charcoal and other organic material now undergoing testing at the archaeology department at Aberdeen University in the search for an accurate timeline.
Ali Cameron, of Cameron Archaeology, first started working on the site in 2017 with the full extent of the settlement only now coming to light.
She said a find of such a scale was ‘very exciting’ with ‘a lot of hope’ pinned on the analysis of the samples.
She said: “ There are at least 23 structures there which date to the Late Prehistoric period. Some of the ditches were full of charcoal. We have more than 300 samples so we are going to get a really good picture of the dating.”
She added that the organic remains would help build up an understanding of what the site was being used for.
The archaeologist said: “If you get a lot of grain, you might be looking at a domestic site, for example. It might help determine what was happening in a particular building.
“We are pinning a lot on those samples.
“It could be that this was more of an industrial site. There are so many buildings over a huge area. We have got a lot more work to do.”
Ms Cameron said the land had been ‘so heavily ploughed’ that only a handful of artefacts had been found. She said there was little-known activity in the Cruden Bay area around the same time the settlement is thought to date from.
“The site is higher up and you get this fantastic view over the bay. It’s a great location and you can imagine why people wanted to settle there,” Ms Cameron added.
The site is due to be developed by Claymore Homes.
Ms Cameron said the company had been ‘fully supportive’ of all the archaeological works with the firm paying for the excavation, the analysis of finds, processing of samples and the publication of a report in an archaeological journal.
Mike Shepherd, of the Port Errol Heritage Group, told the Press and Journal: “You sometimes get told in Cruden Bay that it never gets boring here and the history of the place shows that this has been true for a very long time.
“The discovery of a prehistoric settlement here is astonishing. Just consider it: an ancient village which has been forgotten for centuries and is now finally, gradually coming to light.
“There will be a great curiosity to find out more about these ancient people who long ago made our place their place.”
Leshan Giant Buddha -largest carved stone Buddha in the world
The Leshan Giant Buddha is a huge statue carved into the side of Lingyun Mountain. Taller by 17 meters than the standing Buddha in Afghanistan, the Leshan Giant Buddha is the tallest and largest Buddha in the world.
There is a local saying: “The mountain is a Buddha and the Buddha is a mountain”. It was included by UNESCO on the list of World Heritage sites.
The Size of the Giant Buddha
The head is 14.7 meters long and 10 meters wide.
The statue depicts a seated Maitreya Buddha with his hands resting on his knees and a smile on his face. The Leshan Giant Buddha is about 71 meters high and 24 meters wide. The head is 14.7 meters long and 10 meters wide with 1,021 buns of hair on it.
His smallest toenail can accommodate a seated person. Each ear is 7 meters long and his nose is 5.6 meters long. Each eyebrow is 5.5 meters long.
The instep, which is 8.5 meters wide, can accommodate 100 people. The toe is large enough to accommodate a dining table.
Giant Sleeping Buddha
Behind the Leshan Giant Buddha, a sleeping Buddha with a body length of more than 4,000 meters “floats” peacefully on the water.
The head, body, and foot of the Buddha are composed of Wuyou Mountain, Lingyun Mountain, and Guicheng Mountain. The best way to observe the sleeping Buddha is taking a trip on a sightseeing boat.
Nine Bends Plank Road
It is a steep plank road with nine turns on the right side of the Leshan Giant Buddha. You can walk along the road from the Buddha’s head to its foot.
The widest part of the road is 1.45 meters and the narrowest part is only 0.6 meter, and there are 217 stone steps in total.
Oriental Buddha Park
It is a Buddhist theme park integrating sculptures, religion, and garden art. The park contains more than 3,000 Buddhist statues, including a 170-meter-long reclining Buddha, which is the largest in the world.
Located next to the Leshan Giant Buddha, Lingyun Temple has a history of over 1,400 years.
It is a quadrangle courtyard composed of the Tianwang Hall, the Daxiong Hall, and Depository of Buddhist Sutras. You can get to the Buddha’s head by crossing through Lingyun Temple.
In ancient times, Leshan was at the confluence of the Min River, the Qingyi River, and the Dadu River. The tempestuous waters caused numerous boat accidents and caused people to suffer who earned their living around the area.
A monk called Hai Tong thought that the spirit of the Buddha could suppress the tempestuous waters so he initiated its construction. The project was half done when Hai Tong passed away and two of his disciples continued the work. After a total of 90 years’ hard work, the project was finally completed.
Special Drainage System
The Leshan Giant Buddha has a special drainage system so that it can be well-preserved. Several drainage passages are hidden in the Buddha’s hair, collar, chest, and holes in the back of his ears and chest, preventing the statue from serious erosion and weathering.
The Buddha has been lovingly maintained on a regular basis throughout his 1,200-year history. Moss, however, does grow on the statue.
Local Farmers found 2,000 years old carved caves while pumping water out of five small pools
The caves are one of the largest structures ever excavated by human hands. First discovered in 1992, 24 caves have been found to date, one of which has been developed as a tourist attraction.
Interestingly, to date, not a single historical record has been found that details or explains the monumental construction process that involved the removal of more than 1,000,000 cubic meters of rock.
These caves have become a mystery to many people trying to figure out how builders in the past were able to carve out these gigantic caverns and leave such unique tool marks on the surface of its walls.
The mysterious tool marks found in the Longyou Caves have baffled scientists since their discovery. Scientists from around the world wonder how the caves have been able to keep their structural integrity for such a long time. And then there is the question of those tool marks.
The Lonyou Caves mystery
What really makes these caves so mysterious and what is so special about their tool marks?
Modern-day high-tech machines dig away stone and grind down the walls and ceilings in mines and quarries.
But when we discover the same types of tool marks in caves that date back far beyond the time of any formally recorded technology capable of even remotely producing any similar marks on stone surfaces, most of us can’t help but scratch our heads.
How did people in remote history manage to carve out these caverns leaving tool marks that only find their likeness in modern mining operations?
The elephant in the room
Mainstream academia generally believes that people in the remote past were mostly simple dwellers and technologically primitive compared to people today. According to academia, the evolution of technology went from primitive (in the past) to more advanced (today).
If what the tool marks in the caves suggest is confirmed, then the aforementioned assumption would be turned on its head.
While this hypothesis is an accepted theory in the field of academics, sites like the Lonyou Grotto in China put mainstream theories about what ancient people were capable of under scrutiny.
Longyou Caves and history
According to historians, the caves were created in the Qin Dynasty, 212 BCE; however, there is no historical record of their construction. The caves were first discovered in 1992. So far, 24 caverns have been discovered, one of which has been transformed into a tourist attraction.
Mainstream historians believe that the Lingyou Caves were carved out of the massive stone by hand. Each cave has a volume of several thousand cubic meters. Apparently, the ancient builders did it all by hand, with hammers and chisels.
But they didn’t chisel any simple way. The builders apparently chiseled the walls and ceilings in a way that left a uniform pattern.
A different paradigm
When deriving conclusions within a framework of fixed notions and the chronology of events, it is difficult to ascribe perfectly aligned tool marks to the crude hammer and chisel work done by people of ancient times.
While it seems plausible to people who just consume information and do not critically think about what is said, those who do some research will find it hard to reason the facts surrounding the Longyou Caves using mainstream explanations.
To truly understand and properly analyze the caves and similar structures, you will need to be able to literally “think outside of the box.” You must be ready to constantly change your previous notions and reconsider prevailing hypotheses and theories in the light of new facts and artefacts surfacing.
It is, however, understandably difficult for any academic to throw away theories that they spent almost a decade studying and on which they have based their entire academic careers.
Archaeologists discover 35 burial chambers in the Sudan desert with fascinating links to Ancient Egypt
Archaeologists excavating a site in Sudan have discovered 35 pyramids revealing fascinating links between the bygone Kingdom of Kush that once existed there and ancient Egypt.
The pyramids, which date back around 2,000 years, are smaller than most Egyptian examples with the largest being 22 feet in width and the smallest, likely constructed for the burial of a child, being just 30 inches.
The site in Sedeinga, northern Sudan, was part of the ancient kingdom of Kush which shared a border with Egypt and, later on, the Roman Empire.
One factor that has surprised the team was how densely concentrated the pyramids were. In a single area of 5,381 square feet, roughly the size of a basketball court, they found 13 pyramids.
Sadly the condition of the pyramids has suffered from the presence of a camel caravan route and the long passage of time and none of the top sections remains intact.
Capstones, depicting either a bird or a lotus flower on top of a solar orb, who have originally been placed at the top of the pyramids. Graves were discovered beside the pyramids in tomb chambers which were often found to have held more than one body.
Sadly these graves had all been plundered, possibly many hundreds of years ago, however, the archaeologists did find skeletal remains and some artefacts.
The archaeological team believes building of pyramids at Sedeinga continued for centuries and was strongly influenced by Egyptian funerary architecture.
Vincent Francigny, a research associate with the American Museum of Natural History in New York, told LiveScience: ‘The density of the pyramids is huge.
‘Because it lasted for hundreds of years they built more, more, more pyramids and after centuries they started to fill all the spaces that were still available in the necropolis.
‘They reached a point where it was so filled with people and graves that they had to reuse the oldest one.’
Some of the pyramids were found to have been built with cross-braces connecting the corners to an inner circle. Interestingly only one pyramid outside of Sedeinga is known to have been built in this way.
Mr Francigny believes that when pyramid building came into fashion at Sedeinga it could have been combined with a local circle-building tradition called tumulus construction, resulting in pyramids with circles within them.
He added: ‘What we found this year is very intriguing. A grave of a child and it was covered by only a kind of circle, almost complete, of brick.’
Among the artefacts discovered were depictions of Egyptian gods including Bes who is associated with children and pregnant mothers. One of the most interesting finds was an offering table depicting the jackal-headed god Anubis and a goddess believed to be Isis.
A dedication to a woman named ‘Aba-la,’ which researchers believe may be a nickname for ‘grandmother,’ was inscribed with ancient Meroitic writing – a script derived from Egyptian hieroglyphs.
Archaeologists Diving Under a 2,300-Year-Old Pyramid Find Ancient Treasure
Somewhere Below the surface of the kiddie-pool sized patch of brown water is the entrance to the 2,300-year-old tomb of a pharaoh named Nastasen. If I crane my neck back far enough, I can just make out the eastern flank of his pyramid rising nearly three stories above me.
It’s a sweltering morning in the desert of northern Sudan, the land of Nubia in the time of the pharaohs. Sweat drips into the dive mask hung around my neck as I negotiate my way down a narrow, ancient staircase cut deep into the bedrock. Waterproof flashlights clank from each wrist, and a 20-pound weight belt is slung commando-style across my chest. An emergency container of air, no bigger than a can of hairspray, is secured uncomfortably in the small of my back.
At the bottom of the stairs, archaeologist and National Geographic grantee Pearce Paul Creasman are standing chest-deep in the muddy water. “It’s really deep today,” he warns. “There’s not going to be any headroom in the first chamber.”
Creasman and I both trained as underwater archaeologists, so when I heard that he had the grant to explore submerged ancient tombs, I gave him a call and asked to tag along. Just a few weeks before I arrived, he entered Nastasen’s tomb for the first time, swimming through the first chamber, then a second, then into a third and final room, where, beneath several feet of water, he saw what looked like a royal sarcophagus. The stone coffin appeared to be unopened and undisturbed. Now, Creasman disappears into the water and resurfaces with a steel grate used to seal the tomb entrance. It looks no bigger than a large television set.
“This is how big the chute is,” he announces. “That’s your only space to get in and out of the tomb.” Back-mounted scuba tanks are too unwieldy in such tight confines, so we clip into 150-foot-long hoses that will supply us with air from a noisy, gasoline-fed pump.
“I’ll go first and pull my hose in,” Creasman says. “If I don’t see you in five minutes, I’ll come to find you.”
I nod and turn back to look up the ancient staircase, where Fakhri Hassan Abdallah, an inspector with Sudan’s National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums, stands silhouetted against the rising sun. He gives me a thumbs up and smiles. I shove the diving regulator into my mouth. It’s time to go pyramid diving.
The pyramids of Nuri
Nastasen’s watery tomb is located at the ancient site of Nuri, which sprawls across more than 170 acres of sand near the east bank of the Nile River in northern Sudan. Seen from the sky, its most commanding feature is an arc of some 20 pyramids built between 650 B.C. and 300 B.C. that appear strung together like gems on a delicate necklace.
These pyramids mark the burials of Kushite royals, the “black pharaohs” who operated as vassals on the gold-rich southern edges of the Egyptian empire, but who emerged as a force of their own during the political chaos that followed the demise of the New Kingdom. From about 760 B.C. to 650 B.C., five Kushite pharaohs ruled all of Egypt from Nubia to the Mediterranean Sea, embarking on ambitious building programs up and down the Nile and reviving the religious practices of a much earlier Egyptian empire—including the construction of pyramids, which they buried their kings under.
The largest and oldest pyramid at Nuri belongs to its most famous resident: the pharaoh Taharqa, a Kushite king who in the seventh century B.C. rallied his troops to the northern edges of his empire to defend Jerusalem from the Assyrians, earning him a mention in the Old Testament. George Reisner, a Harvard Egyptologist, visited Nuri a century ago to excavate the burial chambers beneath Taharqa’s massive pyramid.
Reisner’s team also mapped Nuri’s funerary monuments, which include more than 80 royal Kushite burials—roughly a quarter of which are topped with their sandstone pyramids. His field notes show that many of the tombs he encountered were already inundated with groundwater percolating from the nearby Nile, making traditional dirt excavation unsafe or impossible.
Reisner never published the results of his work (an associate cobbled what little was documented into a report published in 1955), and for almost a century Nuri was ignored. The Harvard archaeologist had offhandedly—and inaccurately—dismissed the Kushite kings as racially inferior and their accomplishments as an inheritance of older Egyptian traditions.
Then, in 1922, the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb shifted the public’s attention to the Valley of the Kings, nearly 500 miles up the Nile in Luxor. In the decades that followed, Nuri seemed too big and challenging a site to tackle. Many of its tombs were likely underwater, and no one had ever before attempted underwater archaeology in Sudan. Besides, northern Sudan—ancient Nubia—had plenty of other stunning sites to keep archaeologists busy for years to come.
Pearce Paul Creasman first visited Nuri in 2018. An unusual hybrid of Egyptologist and underwater archaeologist (as well as an associate professor in the dendrochronology laboratory at the University of Arizona), Creasman saw a rare opportunity to explore the watery tombs that Reisner was unable to tackle a century ago.
Funded in part by a grant from the National Geographic Society, Creasman zeroed in on the pyramid of Nastasen, a minor pharaoh who ruled Kush from 335 B.C. to 315 B.C. Because he was the last king buried at Nuri, his pyramid was built on the worst piece of real estate in the lowest elevations of the royal necropolis. If Reisner’s reports about the flooded tombs were true, Creasman reasoned, an exploration of pharaoh Nastasen’s final resting place would be the best way to gauge how inundated these monuments might be in the 21st century.
According to Reisner’s century-old field notes, his team located and excavated the rock-hewn stairwell that led down to the burial chambers deep beneath Nastasen’s pyramid. One of Reisner’s workers entered the tomb and, likely unnerved by the knee-deep water, hastily made his way to the third and final chamber. There he dug a small pit in the corner and collected a handful of shabtis—small magical figurines tasked with tending to the deceased’s needs in the afterlife. The research team left Nuri, and over the decades Nastasen’s tomb, and the staircase leading to it, were again buried under the desert sands.
Creasman’s team spent the 2018 field season and part of the 2019 season digging out the staircase. They reached the opening of the tomb this January and discovered that the entrance was now completely underwater, most likely due to rising groundwater caused by natural and human-induced climate change, intensive agriculture near the site, and the construction of modern dams along the Nile.
By the time I arrive at Nuri, Creasman has reinforced the narrow tomb opening with a steel chute to prevent a rock collapse that would trap divers in the chambers beneath the pyramid. I pull myself through the chute and into the first chamber. As Creasman had warned, the water reaches to the ceiling. Every movement kicks up a cloud of ultra-fine sediment that makes it almost impossible to see what’s directly in front of me.
I feel my way around the bus-sized chamber, swimming in circles until I eventually surface in the second chamber. There, the ceiling has collapsed, creating space for a large air pocket. I find Creasman hoisting bags of gear onto a pile of dry rubble and placing flashlights into plastic jerry cans that gently bob in the water and illuminate the darkness. Empty Red Bull cans serve as floats for a safety line that runs from the back of the tomb to the entrance.
Swimming through a low, rounded, rock-cut doorway, we enter the third chamber. The stone sarcophagus is dimly visible below us—a thrilling sight—and we spot the pit that was hastily dug by Reisner’s nervous worker a century ago. At this early phase of the project, Creasman’s objectives are to demonstrate the safety of the air-supply system, gather basic measurements, and thoroughly excavate “Reisner’s pit” to see what was overlooked. Peering inside the stone coffin will have to wait until next year.
But there are tantalizing clues that the rising groundwater kept grave robbers from looting Nastasen’s tomb. As we excavate Reisner’s pit—filling plastic buckets with sediment, swimming them out into the air-filled second chamber, dumping the sediment onto a screen and sifting for artefacts—we discover paper-thin foils of pure gold that likely once covered precious figurines that long ago dissolved in the water. Those gilded figurines would have been easy pickings for looters, and their remains are a sure sign that Nastasen’s tomb has been essentially untouched.
On our final dive, Creasman and I float silently in water in the back chamber of the tomb, hovering above what may very well be Nastasen’s undisturbed sarcophagus. We talk about the team’s goal for 2020: to excavate the pharaoh’s 2,300-year-old submerged royal burial chambers. It’s an audacious aim and a huge logistical challenge, but Creasman is optimistic.
“I think we finally have the technology to be able to tell the story of Nuri, to fill in the blanks of what happened here,” he says. “It’s a remarkable point in history that so few know about. It’s a story that deserves to be told.”
World War II Execution Site Investigated in Poland
Dawid Kobiałka of the Polish Academy of Sciences, with the assistance of an 88-year-old eyewitness, has found personal belongings, bullets, and charred human bone, including fragments of skulls, teeth, femurs, and a vertebra, just under the surface of the ground in an area of northern Poland dubbed “Death Valley,” according to a report by The First News.
On the outskirts of the town of Chojnice in northern Poland, where at least two mass killings took place at the hands of German death squads in 1939 and early 1945, at a site named ‘Death Valley’ the harrowing discovery was made. Dr Dawid Kobialka, from the Polish Academy of Sciences Institute of Archeology and Ethnology, who made the horrible discovery told TFN: “The bones and bullets are linked with the massacre of the second half of January 1945.
The crime was committed by the Gestapo and members of the German police, according to historical records. The bullets and shells came from the pistols of the Walther PPK and P08 Parabellum, indicating that the victims were executed at close range.” He added: “We found fragments of, among others, skulls, teeth, femurs, a thoracic vertebra. The bones lie just under the ground for one centimetre or two. To see the remains, it was enough to put a shovel in the ground once.
“There were more burnt human bones than sand.
“Most of the bones are actually ashes because of the temperature of the cremations. That is why the gasoline was used.” Eye-witness Jan Grunt said gasoline barrels were at Death Valley when the Germans left the site.
He said: “The shootings from pistols were heard almost all night. […]. The bodies were dowsed by gasoline and later burned. Three gasoline barrels that still lie in Death Valley confirm it. The fire was discernible for three days and nights at the Death Valley”. Another eye-witness Kazimierz Janikowski who is now 88 but was 13 at the time of the massacre and helped the researchers locate the site said: “We were going there [to Death Valley] because we were curious about what was happening.
“I was searching there and found [burned human] bones.
“I still see those 200-litre gasoline barrels. There was stench over town when the bodies were burned.”
Kobialka added that “marks of gasoline are preserved on fragments of wood discovered during the research.” The researchers also discovered humbling personal belongings the victims had on them when they were killed. One photo shows a battered wristwatch, another a spoon and plate. Yet another photo shows the fragment of a woman’s broach, confirming testimonies that both men and women were slaughtered.
Named Death Valley by locals, the area covers around 1.5km. Towards the end of the war, Gestapo officers shot dead around 600 prisoners in the ‘valley’ before setting their corpses on fire.
Kobialka said: “There were several columns of people and they went in different directions. One of them was herded to Chojnice and murdered in Death Valley.
“The townspeople saw a glow of light at night on the outskirts of the city in the Valley of Death, and a terrible smell of burning went over the city.
“The most probable version of events is that they were Gestapo prisoners from the prison in Bydgoszcz.
“There, among others, were detained members of the Polish resistance who were captured at the turn of 1944-1945.”
He added: “In materials, we found in one document, there is an annotation that in Death Valley, then it was called Ostrówek, about 600 people were murdered and burned.”
The Chojnice killing fields lie just 50 miles north of the town of Bydgoszcz where the Germans carried out brutal repression following Hitler’s invasion of Poland in September 1939.
By the end of the war, it is estimated that around 36,350 civilians had been ‘liquidated’ by German forces in Bydgoszcz and the surrounding areas.
Kobialka said: “When the Red Army was coming from the south in January 1945, the Germans organised the evacuation of the prison.
“A few columns of prisoners were made, with some of them going to the west.
“One of them went to Chojnice under the supervision of Gestapo guards.
“The guards, according to one of the witnesses, organised the massacre.”
Earlier this year, the Institute uncovered remains from the 1939 massacre where in the early stages of WWII, German SS shot dead more than 500 locals as part of their ‘action against the intelligentsia’ who the Third Reich considered ‘dangerous’. In charge of operations was Heinrich Mocek, a sadistic Nazi officer who between October 1939 and January 1940 ordered extensive exterminations across the whole region as part of the Nazis’ Polish Intelligentsia Action, which saw around 30,000-40,000 Poles living in the Pomerania region murdered.
He was later convicted for a string of atrocities and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1965 by a West German court. But by the time the Red Army arrived he had fled Poland, leaving the question of who ordered and carried out the 1945 massacre unanswered.
Kobialka said: “The massacre in 1939 is relatively well-known. We know some of the victims, we know some of the murderers, we know some of the witnesses.
“But the massacre in January 1945 is a mystery. We found burned human bones close to the meadow.
“So, Death Valley embodies different locations near Chojnice that were the theatre of mass executions during the Second World War.
“We are still looking for historical records that will shed light on the subject.”
Scientists Analyze Ancient Egyptian Ink containing lead were likely used as drier on ancient Egyptian papyri
Cosmos Magazine reports that a team of chemists, physicists, and Egyptologists from the University of Copenhagen and the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility used advanced X-ray microscopy equipment to analyze the chemical composition of the ink markings found on papyrus fragments from Egypt’s ancient Tebtunis temple library.
The studies, published in the Journal PNAS, not only illuminate how writing practices developed in Egypt and around the Mediterranean, it could help with the conservation of many famous manuscripts.
In this study, the focus was on a dozen papyrus fragments from the only large-scale institutional library known to have survived from ancient Egypt: the Tebtunis temple library.
And the team of chemists, physicists and Egyptologists called in the big guns, using the advanced X-ray microscopy equipment at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble to examine them.
The work was led by the ESRF and the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.
They combined several synchrotron techniques to probe the chemical composition from the millimetre to the sub-micrometre scale to provide information not only on the elemental but also on the molecular and structural composition of the inks.
They concluded that the lead was used as a dryer because they did not find any other type of lead, such as lead white or minimum, which should be present if the lead was used as a pigment.
This also suggests that the ink had quite a complex recipe and “could not be made by just anyone”, says Egyptologist Thomas Christiansen from the University of Copenhagen, co-corresponding author of a paper in.
“Judging from the amount of raw materials needed to supply a temple library like the one in Tebtunis, we propose that the priests must have acquired them or overseen their production at specialised workshops much like the Master Painters from the Renaissance,” he says.
The ancient Egyptians have been using inks for writing since at least 3200 BCE, with black used for the primary body of text and red to highlight headings and keywords.
The researchers discovered that red pigment is present as coarse particles, while the lead compounds are diffused into papyrus cells, at the micrometre scale, wrapping the cell walls, and creating, at the letter scale, a coffee-ring effect around the iron particles, as if the letters were outlined.
“We think that lead must have been present in a finely ground and maybe in a soluble state and that when applied, big particles stayed in place, whilst the smaller ones diffused around them”, says co-corresponding author Marine Cotte, from the ESRF.