Category Archives: WORLD

Well-Preserved Byzantine Church Uncovered in Israel

Well-Preserved Byzantine Church Uncovered in Israel

The Church of the Byzantine Age was discovered by Israeli archeologists on Wednesday in a neighborhood west of Jerusalem.

The Israel Antiquities Authority showed some of the objects of the almost 1.500-year-old church after three years of excavations.

During this discovery, scientists found many sophisticated mosaics depicting birds, fruit and plants and vivid frescoes on the church walls.

The church was also elaborately designed, including a marble chancel and a calcite flowstone baptismal.

One floor mosaic contains an eagle, a symbol of the Byzantine Empire.

“We know of a few hundred churches in the Holy Land but this church by far surpasses most of them by its state of preservation and the imperial involvement which funded it,” said Benjamin Storchan, the excavation’s director.

One of the Greek inscriptions said the church was dedicated to an unnamed ‘glorious martyr’

Mystery martyr

An inscription in the courtyard says the site is dedicated to a “glorious martyr,” although researchers are still puzzling over their identity.

An underground crypt below the main area of the church is believed to have contained the martyr’s remains.

“The martyr’s identity is not known, but the exceptional opulence of the structure and its inscriptions indicate that this person was an important figure,” Storchan said.

The site was likely a popular destination for pilgrims and was well-funded by the Byzantine empire

Another inscription on the site revealed that Byzantine emperor Tiberius II Constantinus helped fund the church’s expansion.

Researchers believe the site was likely a popular destination for pilgrims until it was abandoned during the Muslim Abbasid caliphate in the 9th century AD.

Following the collapse of the Byzantine Empire, the entrances to the church were sealed with large stones.

Excavators were able to move the heavy stones, revealing glass lamps and a piece of the vault where the nameless martyr is believed to have been buried.

Medieval pilgrim tombs found below Rome street

Medieval pilgrim tombs found below Rome street

ROME, ITALY—BBC reports that medieval burials were unearthed during utility work on the Via del Governo Vecchio in central Rome.

The graves had been damaged by previous construction projects.

According to Archeological Superintendence the city found two graves dating from the Middle Ages during gas works on Via del Governo Vecchio in the center of Rome, a road near Piazza Navona.

The first tomb, partially destroyed by gas and sewage pipes, contained two human skeletons: one belonging to a woman (25-30 years) with a shell in her hand, and a man (30-40 years).

Besides the female skeleton is a bronze coin dating from the late 11th and 12th centuries, and other fragments of shells.

The second burial site consists of several graves set against a brick wall thought to be associated with the Church of St. Cecilia at Monte Giordano, which was built in A.D. 1123 and demolished in the early seventeenth century. 

The second tomb, particularly damaged by modern-day infrastructural works, comprises a cemetery area with dividing sections against a brickwork wall whose graves appear to date to Mediaeval times.

The scallop shells found next to the skeletons contain two holes suggesting their use as necklaces traditionally worn by the pilgrims in the Middle Ages.

These elements lead experts to believe the find was a cemetery for pilgrims, located along the ancient Via Papalis pilgrimage route to St Peter’s.

The burial chambers probably belonged to the medieval Church of S. Cecilia at Monte Giordano, whose origins date back to 1123 but which was demolished in the first half of the 17th century to make space for the Oratorio dei Filippini designed by Francesco Borromini.

Ornately-tattooed 3,000-year-old mummy discovered by archaeologists

Ornately-tattooed 3,000-year-old mummy discovered by archaeologists

In 2016, an ancient Egyptian mummy with symbolic tattoos was discovered by a team of archeologists, they thought were first of their kind.

The 3000-year-old mummified woman was tattooed with various symbols, including cows, lotus and divine eyes, which could represent her religious status or practices.

It was the first time that researchers had an Egyptian mummy with tattoos showing recognizable objects rather than abstract patterns and designs that made this discovery significant!

The mummy, as the team pointed out, was uncovered at a site near the western bank of River Nile.

Between 1550 BC and 1080 BC, the area was home to a village, known as Deir el-Medina, which was populated by the artisans and workers responsible for building the royal tombs of the Valley of the Kings.

It was while examining the skeletal remains at the Deir el-Medina site that Stanford bioarchaeologist Anne Austin, who was working at the time for the French Institute of Oriental Archaeology, first stumbled upon the fascinating symbols on the mummy’s neck.

She initially thought the markings had been drawn on the woman’s neck.

As Austin explained, it was customary in ancient Egypt to put amulets around the deceased’s neck for burial.

At times, the amulets were simply painted or even tattooed on the torso, as was probably the case with this mummy.

According to the team, further analysis using infrared scanning revealed a bunch of other markings that were quite possibly intended as permanent skin adornments than just ritualistic designs.

Along with archaeologist Cédric Gobeil, Austin cataloged over dozens of these symbols, some of which had clear religious significance. Speaking about the find, Austin said at the time:

As we started to analyze the markings on the arms, we realized that these markings were shrunken and distorted. Therefore, they must have been made prior to mummification… Several are associated with the goddess Hathor, such as cows with special necklaces. Others — such as snakes placed on the upper arms — are also associated with female deities in ancient Egypt.

Wadjet eyes, which are basically divine eyes representing God’s protection, were tattooed all over the mummy’s neck, shoulders, and back.

Along the mummified female’s neck, these marks might have also pertained to what are known as nefer symbols, or “the sign of beauty and goodness”. Austin said:

At the nearby site of Deir el-Bahri, the combination of the Wadjet and nefer have been interpreted as a formula for the phrase ‘to do good.

As the researchers pointed out, the tattoos’ position along the mummy’s throat (as in voice box) seems to suggest that the woman invoked the power to do good, every time she spoke or sang.

The discovery, according to Austin, alluded to the symbolic nature and role of tattooing in ancient Egypt. She went on to say:

Interestingly, all of the tattoos found so far have been exclusively on women, though we are curious to see if that trend continues as more tattoos are identified.

And finally, in case you are wondering, in spite of these particular set of tattoos being around 3000-years old, they are not the oldest known tattoos ever discovered by archaeologists.

That honor actually belongs to the 5300-years old Ötzi the Iceman, who was found quite unintentionally by a group of hikers in 1991 in the Oetztal Alps (in modern-day north Italy).

Ancient City of ‘Mahendraparvata’ Hidden Beneath Cambodian Jungle

Ancient City of ‘Mahendraparvata’ Hidden Beneath Cambodian Jungle

The “lost city of Cambodia” was eventually rediscovered by researchers. The city was officially called Mahendraparvata and was the first capital of the Angkorian Empire–a Hindu Buddhist empire that had been in Southeast Asia from the 9th to the 15th centuries.

Although archeologists and historians have been aware of several decades of the old city of Mahendraparvata, they did not know exactly where it stood before now.

The international research team was able to locate the old lost town under the Cambodian Jungle, thanks to laser scanning (or lidar) and ground surveys.

Angkor

More precisely, the city was found in the Phnom Kulen plateau which is located to the north-east of Angkor.

According to their paper, “The mountainous region of Phnom Kulen has, to date, received strikingly little attention.”

It went on to read, “It is almost entirely missing from archaeological maps, except as a scatter of points denoting the remains of some brick temples.”The researchers went into further details on their findings in their paper which can be read in full here.

Between 2012 and 2017, the team conducted several Lidar survey flights over that area and were able to find numerous archaeological features that hadn’t been noticed during the ground surveys.

The researchers used light detection and ranging, or lidar, to create maps of Mahendraparvata.

They noticed several features from the lost city that was around 50 square kilometers and were laid out in a grid-like pattern of linear axes.

The researchers explained it further by stating, “Dams, reservoir walls and the enclosure walls of temples, neighborhoods and even the royal palace abut or coincide with the embanked linear features.”

A map showing the study area.

Jean-Baptiste Chevance, who is from the Archaeology and Development Foundation in the UK as well as the first author of the paper, told Newsweek, “The Ancient Khmer modified the landscape, shaping features on a very large scale – ponds, reservoirs, canals, roads, temples, rice fields, et cetera.”

He went on to say, “However, the dense forest often covering the areas of interest is the main constraint to investigating them.”

While the city was designed in an elaborate and sophisticated way, it did not last long as the Khmer Empire moved its important operations to Angkor which was their new capital city.

Team member Damian Evans, who is from the French School of the Far East, told New Scientist, “The city may not have lasted for centuries, or perhaps even decades,” adding, “But the cultural and religious significance of the place has lasted right up until the present day.”

An aerial view of Mahendraparvata as well as a photo of a temple site can be seen here.

8,000-Year-Old Pearl, Found In Abu Dhabi, Is World’s Oldest.

8,000-Year-Old Pearl, Found In Abu Dhabi, Is World’s Oldest.

An 8,000-year-old pearl that archaeologists say is the worlds oldest will be displayed in Abu Dhabi, according to authorities who said Sunday it is proof the objects have been traded since Neolithic times.

Dubbed the ‘Abu Dhabi Pearl’, it was found in layers carbon-dated to 5800-5600 BCE, during the Neolithic period.

This finding proves that pearls and oysters have been used in the UAE nearly 8,000 years ago and is the first confirmed evidence of pearling discovered anywhere in the world.

The small pearl was found in the floor of a room during excavations at Marawah Island

The Abu Dhabi Pearl, on loan from the Zayed National Museum collection, will feature in the special exhibition 10,000 Years of Luxury, taking place at Louvre Abu Dhabi from October 30, 2019, to February 18, 2020.

Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of DCT Abu Dhabi, said: “The Abu Dhabi Pearl is a stunning find, testimony to the ancient origins of our engagement with the sea.

The discovery of the oldest pearl in the world in Abu Dhabi makes it clear that so much of our recent economic and cultural history has deep roots that stretch back to the dawn of prehistory.

Marawah Island is one of our most valuable archaeological sites, and excavations continue in the hope of discovering even more evidence of how our ancestors lived, worked and thrived.”

Prior to the Abu Dhabi Pearl discovery, the earliest known pearl in the UAE was uncovered at a Neolithic site in Umm al-Quwain.

Ancient pearls from the same time have also been found at a Neolithic cemetery close to Jebel Buhais in the emirate of Sharjah. The carbon dating indicates that Abu Dhabi Pearl is older than both these discoveries.

Aside from the priceless Abu Dhabi Pearl, significant finds from the Marawah site have included an imported ceramic vase, beautifully worked flint arrowheads and shell and stone beads.

Numerous painted plaster vessel fragments were also discovered and represent the earliest known decorative art yet discovered in the UAE. At the beginning of 2020, a major new excavation will take place at the site to further uncover its secrets.

Experts have suggested that ancient pearls were possibly traded with Mesopotamia (ancient Iraq) in exchange for highly-decorated ceramics and other goods. Pearls were also likely worn as jewellery by the local population, as indicated by the finds at Jebel Buhais in Sharjah.

The art of pearling required in-depth knowledge of pearl beds and their locations and expert seafaring skills.

Once these were mastered by the ancient inhabitants of Marawah, pearling was to remain a mainstay of the UAE’s economy for millennia.

The Venetian jewel merchant Gasparo Balbi, who travelled through the region, mentions the islands off the coast of Abu Dhabi as a source of pearls in the 16th century. The industry flourished until the 1930s.

Backyard Bones May Have Been Buried by 19th-Century Students

Human remains found in Aberdeen garden may have been buried by medical students 187 years ago

OLD ABERDEEN, SCOTLAND—BBC reports that 115 human bone fragments recovered from a private garden in northeastern Scotland by archaeologist Alison Cameron may have been buried by medical student Alexander Creyk and his roommates, who lived on the property in the early nineteenth century. 

Dr. Rebecca Crozier.

Old Aberdeen staff who refurbished a house on Canal Street discovered bones on garden soil last November, sparking a complicated investigation into how they got there.

The police quickly ignored the errors and tasked the puzzle to archeologists from the Aberdeenshire Council and Aberdeen University.

And after studying the bones and deciphering records from the last 200 years over an 11-month period, the team has pieced together a puzzle – determining the most likely explanation was a medical student trying not to fall foul of the law.

“The discovery of these bones reveals a little piece of the city’s lost history. It is a fascinating tale,” said Aberdeenshire Council’s archeologist Bruce Mann.

Hard at work unearthing a little bit of history in the city

After the discovery, Alison Cameron, of Cameron Archeology, spent several days excavating the garden to collect all the bones. They were cleaned and given to Aberdeen University archaeology lecturer Dr. Rebecca Crozier.

In all, there were 115 bone fragments and Dr. Crozier pieced them together to make 84 fragments. Her tests showed the bones are those of between five and seven people – two of whom were aged between two and seven.

A carbon dating test, performed at a laboratory in East Kilbride, concluded there was a 95.4% likelihood the bones were those of people who lived at some point between 1650 and 1750.

Dr. Crozier was able to tell that, once they had died, two people’s bones had been used for the purposes of training new doctors.

Marischal Museum. Bones were discovered in Aberdeen in February. For months Aberdeen Uni and Aberdeenshire Council staff have been analyzing them and concluded they are historical. Pictured is Dr. Rebecca Crozier, lecturer in archaeology from the uni, who studied them in a lab at Marischal Museum.

She concluded procedures had been carried out on the skull of one of the adults and on one of the children after they had died. Records told the researchers that medical students lived at the Canal Street house around 1832.

That year, the Government introduced the Anatomy Act to regulate the study of donated human bodies and halt the illegal trade in corpses and grave robberies.

Street directories show a young trainee doctor named Alexander Creyk was living at the house on Canal Street around 1832 along with other lodgers who were also medical students. Mr. Mann and his colleagues believe Mr. Creyk, whose father was a surgeon from Elgin, was the likely culprit.

“At the time, there would have been medical students who were concerned about being caught with human remains that could land them into trouble, so it is likely he disposed of them within the boundaries of the property and they remained undiscovered until November.”

Mr. Mann said: “Often, the bones and the physical objects you find at the site only tell half the story. “Then it is a case of studying records to get a holistic picture of what has happened. “You have to consider all the other factors to build up a full story.

“There were also objects, such as china, found at the site which were consistent with the early 19th Century.” Dr. Crozier said: “In the early 19th Century, a lot of people were terrified of being anatomized and the Anatomy Act was brought in to regulate it.

Archaeologist Alison Cameron excavating the garden

“It has been a fascinating exercise. It’s interesting to think that, from this little box of bones, a tale from the dark history of Aberdeen has emerged.

“This has brought history to life. It is so cool because we’ve been able to put together a really fluent narrative about the sequence of events.” The carbon dating works by testing to what extent bone has decayed, allowing scientists to say how old they are.

Dr. Crozier added: “In the case of the child, we were able to tell that a hole had been drilled into the skull and I was able to match it to a particular tool. “It was not a procedure that would have been carried out when the person was alive. One of the adults showed similar signs of skull drilling.

“We’re going to have a student look into the study of surgery and how it can be distinguished that it happened post-mortem rather than during their lives.” Mr. Mann said: “Exercises like this are important in ensuring the people who have died are treated with dignity.

“Once our research is done, we arrange a burial for the bones. That can involve researching their religion so we get their preferred kind of ceremony. Then we will locate an appropriate place – usually a cemetery close to where they were found.

“We get on average five such cases a year.”

Ancient Roman sarcophagus found at London building site

Ancient Roman sarcophagus found at London building site

LONDON, ENGLAND—BBC News reports that a 1,600-year-old Roman sarcophagus with an opened lid was unearthed at a construction site on Swan Street in central London.

An infant’s bones and a broken bracelet were found in the soil near the sarcophagus.

The 1,600-year-old coffin found near Borough Market is thought to contain the remains of a member of the nobility.

Archaeologists have been unable to identify the body as the stone coffin has been left filled with soil after being robbed, experts believe.

The sarcophagus will be taken to the Museum of London and the bones will be analyzed.

The coffin was found several meters underground with its lid slid open, which indicates it was plundered by 18th-century thieves.

Experts discovered the coffin six months into the dig as they were due to finish their search
The coffin was found on Swan Street.

Gillian King, senior planner for archaeology at Southwark Council, said she hoped the grave robbers “have left the things that were of small value to them but great value to us as archaeologists”.

The grave owner must have been “very wealthy and have had a lot of social status to be honored with not just a sarcophagus, but one that was built into the walls of a mausoleum” Ms. King said.

She added: “We always knew this site had the potential for a Roman cemetery, but we never knew there would be a sarcophagus.”

The location is a prime spot for historical finds
The sarcophagus will now be taken to the Museum of London’s archive for analysis

The coffin was found on Swan Street after the council told developers building new flats on the site to fund an archaeological dig.

Researchers discovered the coffin six months into the dig as they were due to finish their search.

Experts at the Museum of London will now test and date the bones and soil inside.

Egypt unveils biggest ancient coffin find in over a century

Egypt unveils discovery of 30 ancient coffins with mummies inside

On Saturday, the Egyptian authorities revealed 30 ancient wooden sarcophagi found in Luxor, including mummies indeed.

The Supreme Council of Antiquities secretary general Mostafa Waziri told reporters that the discovery was the country’s largest in more than a century.

After years of foreign archeological digs, it is the first cache of coffins to be found in an Egyptian venture.

Egyptian archeologist opens a coffin belonging to a man in front of Hatshepsut Temple in Luxor on October 19, 2019.

“The last one was in 1891, [led by] foreigners. 1881, [also] foreigners. But … 2019 is an Egyptian discovery,” Waziri said. “This is an indescribable feeling, I swear to God.”

The discovery was unveiled in front of Hatshepsut Temple at Valley of the Kings in Luxor.

Egyptian Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany described the 3,000-year-old coffins, which were buried in Al-Asasif Cemetery, as “exceptionally well-preserved, exceptionally well-colored.”

They contained the mummified remains of men and women, as well as two children, who are believed to be from the middle class, Waziri said.

While the mummies were found completely wrapped in cloth, their genders could be identified by the shape of the hands-on the coffin.

Coffins that were carved with the hands open meant they were female, while if the hands were balled into fists, they held males, according to Waziri.

Tourists view the newly discovered coffins at Hatshepsut Temple on October 19, 2019.

According to archaeologist Zahi Hawass, finding coffins belonging to a child is a rare occurrence. The discovery of two has caused tremendous interest “worldwide,” he said.

The coffins were sealed, stacked on top of each other and arranged in two rows about three feet below the sand, he said.

They are adorned with intricate carvings and designs, including Egyptian deities, hieroglyphics, and scenes from the Book of the Dead, a series of spells that enabled the soul to navigate the afterlife. Names of the dead were also carved onto some of the coffins, Hawass said.

The inscriptions are especially unique because of the vivid colors, which stayed intact even though the coffins were buried for thousands of years. This is because ancient Egyptians used natural colors from stones, such as limestone, red oak, and turquoise, mixed with egg whites, according to Waziri.

After painting, egg yolk was mixed with candle wax and spread over the coffin to maintain a natural shine, which is still visible. he said.
Officials said the first coffin was discovered because its head was partially exposed. When they continued to dig, 17 more coffins were found. After those coffins were excavated, the archeologists discovered an additional 12.

The cache of coffins was most likely hidden to keep tomb robbers away from them, according to Waziri.

An open coffin displayed in Luxor reveals a mummy.
An open coffin displayed in Luxor reveals a mummy.

Hawass told reporters during a press event that the discovery reveals important details about ancient Egyptian burial rights, such as how they respected the dead regardless of gender or age.
“This will enrich our knowledge as Egyptologists about the belief of the afterlife,” Hawass said.

The mummies will be restored before being moved to a museum of ancient Egyptian artifacts near the Giza pyramids. The coffins will be given their own exhibit.

“They will be moved to the Grand Egyptian Museum, which will be opening at the end of 2020, as a new surprise for our visitors,” said El-Enany.