Victoria Cave: The underground Dales cavern that changed history

Victoria Cave: The underground Dales cavern that changed history

Victorian excavators were particularly fascinated by ‘bone caves’ where there might be a possibility of finding evidence for the earliest humans along with long-extinct animals.

The cavern near Settle is home to the skeletons of mammoths and Roman remains. Described as an ‘archaeologist’s dream’, Victoria Cave is made of limestone and can be found east of Langcliffe, in Ribblesdale.

It was discovered by chance in 1837 – the year Queen Victoria was crowned – and since then has yielded a number of incredible finds. It’s been completely excavated and has provided vital information about climate change over thousands of years.

Victoria Cave, the most famous of the ancient truncated caves that lie along Langcliffe Scar above Settle, although it was unknown until 1837 and discovered purely by chance. Stephen Oldfield

An amazing discovery

A group of men from Settle was out walking their dogs in 1837 when one of them disappeared inside a foxhole. Its owner, Michael Horner, followed and found himself in a passage that led to a cave with Roman objects clearly visible on the ground.

The original entrance discovered by Michael Horner: an ancient passage that once continued towards the camera and beyond. Stephen Oldfield
The artificial entrance leading to the excavated main chamber. Stephen Oldfield

He returned with his employer, Joseph Jackson, and the pair discovered a deeper chamber sealed from daylight. 20-year-old plumber Joseph had no knowledge of archaeology but began a large-scale candlelit excavation of the cave.

In 1840, he contacted Roman expert Charles Roach Smith, who visited the site just before Joseph dug up a hyena’s jawbone. A Victorian fascination with ‘bone caves’ soon developed, and the hunt for evidence of early man and the animals they had eaten began.

The excavated Main Chamber of Victoria Cave – once completely blocked by glacial sediment and containing the remains of animals over 120,000 years old. A passage known as Birkbeck’s Gallery can be seen leading off at the back. Stephen Oldfield

Charles Darwin himself even took an interest in Victoria Cave, and he became involved in another dig in 1870 that was linked to his emerging theories about human evolution. By this time, Joseph Jackson had become a full-time, eminent archaeologist.

Victoria Cave looked set to become a crucial archaeological and geological site – but two of the scientists involved later fell out over its contents.

The repercussions from the dispute, which centered around their conflicting views on cyclical climate change, led to Victoria Cave falling out of favor with the scientific community and it was gradually forgotten.

In the 1930s, the cave was re-discovered when a local greengrocer set up a society for cave explorers in his father’s pig yard. Tot Lord and his group collected as many of the artifacts as possible from the earlier digs and uncovered further remains.

His family has taken possession of the collection and archive material, and Victoria Cave returned to international prominence, with its importance highly valued. It offers the first proof that the Ice Age was cyclical and the final record of wild lynx living in Britain.

A prehistoric cache

Ancient bones found inside the cave, which is managed by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, include those of mammoths, hippos, rhino, elephants, and spotted hyenas who lived in the Dales over 130,000 years ago – when the climate was warm enough to support species that are nowadays more commonly found in Africa.

After the last Ice Age, evidence that a brown bear had hibernated in the cave was uncovered, and reindeer bones were found. One of the key discoveries was a key indicator of the first human life in the Dales – an 11,000-year-old antler harpoon point used for hunting the deer.

Scene outside Victoria Cave 130,000 years ago.
This barbed harpoon point is made from deer antler and was found during the 19th-century excavations of Victoria Cave. The tip is broken. It dates to around 11,000 years ago and it probably arrived in the cave embedded in a scavenged or dying animal that had been hunted by the first known inhabitants of the Yorkshire Dales. An antler rod and ‘lance point’ were also found.

Roman remains

The area seems to have later been inhabited by the Romans – artifacts such as brooches, coins, and pottery from the period were buried in the cave, some of them imported from France and Africa.

Experts believe the cave could have been a religious shrine, with a workshop outside. Some of the items have been put on display at the Craven Museum in Skipton.

Access to the cave is limited as the roof is dangerously unstable, but walkers can visit the entrance.

45,000-year-old Skull From Czech Cave May Contain Oldest Modern Human Genome

45,000-year-old Skull From Czech Cave May Contain Oldest Modern Human Genome

In the heart of the limestone region of Bohemian Karst in the Czech Republic stands the steep frontal walls of the Koněprusy Caves, within which researchers found the “golden horse” — what they claim are the remains of the earliest modern human in all of Europe.

The genome sequence from a skull found in the cave system is over 45,000 years old, which is roughly around the time modern humans migrated out of Africa and into Eurasia according to the study’s authors who published their findings Tuesday in Nature Ecology & Evolution.

The subject specimen, named Zlatý kůň (golden horse in Czech) by researchers, belonged to a population of non-African people that lived during the last glacial period whose ancestors no longer exist in the present day.

45,000-year-old Skull From Czech Cave May Contain Oldest Modern Human Genome
Lateral view of the mostly-complete skull of Zlatý kůň.

Zlatý kůň has long been the subject of scrutiny and also of at least one mix-up, thanks to a cow.

Zlatý kůň is a largely complete skull that was found with other skeletal remains in 1950 inside the cave system that is the present-day Czech Republic.

Previous observers thought that Zlatý kůň was at least 30,000 years old. Now, other ancient artefacts have been traced back to around the time when the first modern humans settled in Europe and Asia more than 40,000 years ago, according to the study’s authors.

There was “Ust’-Ishim, a Siberian individual who showed no genetic continuity to later Eurasians” and who’s DNA was around 45,000 years old, the study notes.

Frontal view of the Zlatý kůň skull.

Zlatý kůň was thought to be an ancient specimen, but radiocarbon dating showed results that dated to as recent as 15,000 years ago. But if Zlatý kůň could tell her own story she would have said that wasn’t the full picture.

“We found evidence of cow DNA contamination in the analyzed bone, which suggests that a bovine-based glue used in the past to consolidate the skull was returning radiocarbon dates younger than the fossil’s true age,” Cosimo Posth, co-lead author of the study, said in a statement.

Simply put, another researcher at a previous date used animal glue to hold together Zlatý kůň’s skull. But it wasn’t the animal DNA that intrigued researchers at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.

They were interested in the Neanderthal DNA because Zlatý kůň carried the same amount of Neanderthal DNA as Ust’-Ishim. On average, Zlatý kůň’s DNA ancestry segments were much longer.

Kay Prüfer, the study co-author from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, said Zlatý kůň lived closer to the time when Neanderthals were interbreeding with modern humans.

Prüfer said in an email that Zlatý kůň does not belong to any present-day groups. One theory is Zlatý kůň’s group was wiped out by another catastrophic event.

“We speculate that a large volcanic eruption that happened in Italy (about) 39,000 years ago may have contributed to their and the European Neandertals demise,” said Prüfer.

The volcanic eruption would have drastically changed the climate in the northern hemisphere and made it extremely difficult to survive in large swaths of Ice Age Europe.

“It is quite intriguing that the earliest modern humans in Europe ultimately didn’t succeed,” study lead author Johannes Krause and director at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology said in a statement.

Zlatý kůň’s own demise is unclear. Researchers found hyena chew marks on her skull and then there was the cow mix-up, but DNA tests show that she beat out Ust’-Ishim by a few hundred years to be one of the oldest modern humans in Europe, according to the study’s authors.

Traces of Medieval Jewish Diet Uncovered in England

Traces of Medieval Jewish Diet Uncovered in England

According to a statement released by the University of Bristol, analysis of food remains recovered from the medieval Jewish quarter in historic Oxford suggests that the community followed dietary laws known as Kashruth

Keeping kosher is one of the oldest known diets across the world and, for an observant Jew, maintaining these dietary laws (known as Kashruth) is a fundamental part of everyday life. It is a key part of what identifies them as Jews, both amongst their own communities and to the outside world.

Oxford’s Jewish quarter was established around St. Aldates in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, following William the Conqueror’s invitation to Jews in Northern France to settle in England.

Recent excavations by Oxford Archaeology at St Aldates, in the historic heart of Oxford, revealed evidence for two houses, which a medieval census suggested belonged to two Jewish families.

One was owned by Jacob f. mag. Moses and called Jacob’s Hall, and was said to be one of the most substantial private houses in Oxford and the other house was owned by an Elekin f. Bassina.

During excavations, archaeologists found a stone-built structure, identified as a latrine, and dated to the late 11th and 12th century.

View of excavations at St Aldates, Oxford, showing Carfax Tower in the background

A remarkable animal bone assemblage was unearthed in this latrine, dominated by domestic fowl (mainly goose), and with a complete absence of pig bones, hinting at a kosher diet.

Fishbones comprised only species such as herring which are kosher. This combination of species suggests a Jewish dietary signature, identified in British zooarchaeology for the first time, and just the third time in medieval Europe.

To investigate whether the inhabitants of the two houses were eating a Jewish diet, the team used a combined chemical and isotopic approach to identify and quantify the food residues absorbed into medieval vessels found at the site.

a. jar in Medieval Oxford Ware, probably used as a cooking-pot and dated to the late 11th or 12th century and b. near-complete miniature jar in Early Brill Coarseware from structure 3.1

Their findings, published recently in the journal Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, showed that the possible Jewish vessels were only used to cook meats from cattle, sheep and goat.

Evidence for pig processing was entirely absent. However, the cooking and eating of pork were evident from the pottery residues and animal bones from a contemporaneous site outside of the Jewish Quarter in Oxford (The Queen’s College), and from the earlier Anglo-Saxon phase at St Aldates.

Lead author, Dr Julie Dunne from the University of Bristol’s School of Chemistry, said: “This is a remarkable example of how biomolecular information extracted from medieval pottery and combined with ancient documents and animal bones, has provided a unique insight into 800-year-old Jewish dietary practices.”

This is the first study of its kind that has been able to identify the practice of keeping kosher, with its associated ritual food practices and taboos, using ancient food residues found in cooking pots, opening the way for similar studies in future.  

Edward Biddulph, who managed the post-excavation project at Oxford Archaeology, said: “The results of the excavation at St Aldates and Queen Street have been astonishing, not only revealing rare archaeological evidence of a medieval Jewry in Britain but also demonstrating the enormous value of a carefully focused analysis that combines traditional finds and stratigraphic analysis with scientific techniques.”

Dr Lucy Cramp who is a senior lecturer in the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology at Bristol, and is a co-author of the study, added: “Human dietary choices are based on far more than availability or caloric content.

What’s really exciting is how this evidence for dietary patterns in Medieval Oxford informs us about the diversity of cultural practices and beliefs that were present in the past, as today.”

Professor Richard Evershed FRS who heads up Bristol’s Organic Geochemistry Unit and is a co-author of the study, added: “This is another remarkable example of just how far we are able to go with using archaeological science to define many aspects of the lives of our ancestors.”

5,000 Years old Pavlopetri is the oldest submerged city in the world

5,000 Years old Pavlopetri is the oldest submerged city in the world

If you ask Greeks what do they know about Pavlopetri, they will probably look at you in amazement. Pavlopetri is the oldest submerged city in the world and only in 2011 became known to the world when BBC visited this place and using specialist laser scanning techniques on location accurately recreated three-dimensional models of artefacts!

In 1904 the geologist Fokion Negri reported an ancient city in the seabed between the island Elafonisos and beach Punta in southern Laconia.

Later, in 1967, oceanographer Dr Nicholas Flemming, University of Southampton, visited the underwater city and found the existence of an ancient submerged city in a depth of 3 – 4 meters!

In 1968 Dr Nicholas Flemming returned to Pavlopetri with a group of young archaeologists from the University of Cambridge and in collaboration with professor Angelos Delivorrias, they mapped and dated the sunken city.

They discovered a rare prehistoric residential town with many buildings, streets and even squares! Based on the findings, the team of the University of Cambridge announced that the Pavlopetri firstly inhabited in 2800 BC, while the buildings and streets dating from the Mycenaean period (1680-1180 BC)!!!

In 2007 Dr Jon Henderson and Dr Chryssanthi Frenchman from the University of Nottingham visited Pavlopetri and in collaboration with the Director of the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities Ilias Spondilis undertook a research program for further archaeological investigations Pavlopetri.

The project had a duration of five years (2009-2013), and it aimed to shed light on research questions concerning the dating and character of the submerged village in Elaphonisos and the role of the town in the control of the Laconian Gulf.

So, if you are interested in underwater archaeology, this is the ideal place, as the architectural remains of this sunken city are visible at a depth of about three meters!

5,000 Years old Pavlopetri is the oldest submerged city in the world

Pavlopetri is in Lakonia, in Peloponnese, which is 4 hours drive from Athens or 2.5 hours from Kalamata International Airport.

Pavlopetri is a fantastic finding, and there is a beautiful documentary by BBC, which will reveal you a spectacular view of an unknown world and civilisation 5000 years ago!

Japan’s Ancient Underwater “Pyramid” Mystifies Scholars

Japan’s Ancient Underwater “Pyramid” Mystifies Scholars

Submerged stone structures lying just below the waters off Yonaguni Jima are actually the ruins of a Japanese Atlantis—an ancient city sunk by an earthquake about 2,000 years ago. That’s the belief of Masaaki Kimura, a marine geologist at the University of the Ryukyus in Japan who has been diving at the site to measure and map its formations for more than 15 years. Each time he returns to the dive boat, Kimura said, he is more convinced than ever that below him rest the remains of a 5,000-year-old city.

“The largest structure looks like a complicated, monolithic, stepped pyramid that rises from a depth of 25 meters [82 feet],” said Kimura, who presented his latest theories about the site at a scientific conference in June. But like other stories of sunken cities, Kimura’s claims have attracted controversy.

“I’m not convinced that any of the major features or structures are manmade steps or terraces, but that they’re all-natural,” said Robert Schoch, a professor of science and mathematics at Boston University who has dived at the site.

These 10,000-Year-Old Sunken Ancient Ruins in Japan Remain a Huge Mystery

“It’s basic geology and classic stratigraphy for sandstones, which tend to break along planes and give you these very straight edges, particularly in an area with lots of faults and tectonic activity.”

And neither the Japanese government’s Agency for Cultural Affairs nor the government of Okinawa Prefecture recognize the remains off Yonaguni as important cultural property, said agency spokesperson Emiko Ishida. Neither of the government groups has carried out research or preservation work on the sites, she added, instead of leaving any such efforts to professors and other interested individuals.

Ruins Point

Yonaguni Jima is an island that lies near the southern tip of Japan’s Ryukyu archipelago, about 75 miles (120 kilometres) off the eastern coast of Taiwan (see map). A local diver first noticed the Yonaguni formations in 1986, after which a promontory on the island was unofficially renamed Iseki Hanto or Ruins Point.

The district of Yonaguni officially owns the formations, and tourists and researchers can freely dive at the site. Some experts believe that the structures could be all that’s left of Mu, a fabled Pacific civilization rumoured to have vanished beneath the waves. On hearing about the find, Kimura said, his initial impression was that the formations could be natural. But he changed his mind after his first dive.

“I think it’s very difficult to explain away their origin as being purely natural, because of the vast amount of evidence of man’s influence on the structures,” he said.

As teams of expert divers fanned out from the south coast of Okinawa using grid-search patterns, they found five sub surface archaeological sites near three offshore islands. The locations vary at depths from 100 to only 20 feet.

For example, Kimura said, he has identified quarry marks in the stone, rudimentary characters etched onto carved faces, and rocks sculpted into the likenesses of animals.

“The characters and animal monuments in the water, which I have been able to partially recover in my laboratory, suggest the culture comes from the Asian continent,” he said.

“One example I have described as an underwater sphinx resembles a Chinese or ancient Okinawan king.” Whoever created the city, most of it apparently sank in one of the huge seismic events that this part of the Pacific Rim is famous for, Kimura said.

The world’s largest recorded tsunami struck Yonaguni Jima in April 1771 with an estimated height of more than 131 feet (40 meters), he noted, so such a fate might also have befallen the ancient civilization. Kimura said he has identified ten structures off Yonaguni and a further five related structures off the main island of Okinawa. In total, the ruins cover an area spanning 984 feet by 492 feet (300 meters by 150 meters).

The structures include the ruins of a castle, a triumphal arch, five temples, and at least one large stadium, all of which are connected by roads and water channels and are partly shielded by what could be huge retaining walls. Kimura believes the ruins date back to at least 5,000 years, based on the dates of stalactites found inside underwater caves that he says sank with the city.

And structures similar to the ruins sitting on the nearby coast have yielded charcoal dated to 1,600 years ago—a possible indication of ancient human inhabitants, Kimura added. But more direct evidence of human involvement with the site has been harder to come by.

“Pottery and wood do not last on the bottom of the ocean, but we are interested in further research on a relief at the site that is apparently painted and resembles a cow,” Kimura said.

“We want to determine the makeup of the paint. I would also like to carry out subsurface research.”

Natural Forces

Toru Ouchi, an associate professor of seismology at Kobe University, supports Kimura’s hypothesis. Ouchi said that he has never seen tectonic activity having such an effect on a landscape either above or below the water.

“I’ve dived there as well and touched the pyramid,” he said. “What Professor Kimura says is not exaggerated at all. It’s easy to tell that those relics were not caused by earthquakes.”

Boston University‘s Schoch, meanwhile, is just as certain that the Yonaguni formations are natural. He suggests that holes in the rock, which Kimura believes were used to support posts, were merely created by underwater eddies scouring at depressions. Lines of smaller holes were formed by marine creatures exploiting a seam in the rock, he said.

“The first time I dived there, I knew it was not artificial,” Schoch said. “It’s not as regular as many people claim, and the right angles and symmetry don’t add up in many places.”

He emphasizes that he is not accusing anyone of deliberately falsifying evidence. But many of the photos tend to give a perfect view of the site, making the lines look as regular as possible, he said.

Natural Formations

Schoch also says he has seen what Kimura believes to be renderings of animals and human faces at the site. “Professor Kimura says he has seen some kind of writing or images, but they are just scratched on a rock that is natural,” he said.

“He interprets them as being manmade, but I don’t know where he’s coming from.”

But Kimura is undeterred by critics, adding that the new governor of Okinawa Prefecture and officials from the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization have recently expressed interest in verifying the site.

“The best way to get a definitive answer about their origins is to keep going back and collecting more evidence,” he continued.

“If I’d not had a chance to see these structures for myself, I might be skeptical as well.”

The broken Amphorae of monte testaccio in Rome

The broken Amphorae of monte testaccio in Rome

An immense mound overgrown with grass and small trees sits on the outskirts of Rome, near the Horrea Galbae, a short distance from the east bank of the River Tiber. It may seem to be just another hill, but it is actually an ancient landfill from the Roman era and one of the largest landfill of the ancient world.

It has a circumference of nearly a kilometre at its base covering an area of 20,000 square meters, and it stands 35 meters tall, though it was probably a lot higher in ancient times.

The hill is made entirely out of discarded Roman amphorae, a type of ceramic jar used to store olive oil. It has been estimated that the hill contains the remains of as many as 53 million olive oil amphorae, in which some 6 billion litres of oil were imported.

In ancient times, amphorae were the main containers used for transportation and storage of goods. They were massively produced because of their low cost and were usually recycled or destroyed once they reached their final destination.

Many amphorae were re-used to serve as drain pipes or flower pots, for instance. Broken amphorae were pounded into chips and mixed with concrete and widely used as a building material.

But the amphorae olive jars could not be recycled as they were too impregnated with oil which made them smelly and sticky. So they were dumped in landfills.

Monte Testaccio was not a haphazard waste dump, but a highly organized and carefully engineered refuse site. Excavations revealed that the mound had been raised as a series of level terraces with retaining walls made of nearly intact amphorae filled with shards to anchor them in place.

View of the Testaccio district of Rome, 1625.

Empty amphorae were probably carried up the mound intact on the backs of donkeys or mules and then broken up on the spot, with the shards laid out in a stable pattern. Lime was then spread over the broken jars to neutralize the smell of rotting oil.

The huge numbers of broken amphorae at Monte Testaccio illustrate the enormous demand for oil of imperial Rome, which was at the time the world’s largest city with a population of at least one million people.

Many of the amphorae still have the maker’s seal and other stamped inscriptions which record information such as the weight of the oil contained in the vessel, the place where it was bottled, who weighted it and the names of the exporter.

Studies of these inscriptions and the hill’s composition suggest Rome’s imports of olive oil reached a peak towards the end of the 2nd century AD when as many as 130,000 amphorae were being deposited on the site each year. It has been estimated that Rome was importing at least 7.5 million litres of olive oil annually.

Monte dei Cocci.
Types of Roman amphorae at Bodrum castle (Turkey) . 
The amphorae fragments were placed in an organized way.
Roman tituli picti from amphorae found at Monte Testaccio, Rome. From H. Dressel, Ricerche sul Monte Testaccio, Annali dell’Instituto di Correspondenza Archeologica [1878], plate L.
Broken amphorae on Monte Testaccio.

Peru archaeologists find a hall for human sacrifice

Peru archaeologists find a hall for human sacrifice

Archaeologists discovered an ancient ritual ground used by a Pre-Columbian civilization for human sacrifices on Peru’s northern coast.

The finding appears to support existing hypotheses about a ritual known as “the introduction” performed by the Moche people, an agricultural culture that existed between 100 B.C. and 800 A.D.

“There was a great ceremonial hall or passage integrated into the rest of the architecture that establishes the presence of certain figures of the Moche elite and also the practice of complex rituals such as human sacrifice,” Wester told Reuters.

Carlos Wester La Torre, director of the Bruning Museum in Peru and a leader of the dig, said the ceremonial site likely hosted ritual killings of prisoners of war.

Photographs were taken at the site show more than half a dozen skeletons on the floor of the hall.

Peru archaeologists find a hall for human sacrifice
Excavations at the San Jose de Moro site

The remnants of a mural found within the corridor depict three high priests whose ornamentation confirms the involvement of the culture’s political leadership in the ceremony, he said.

His team uncovered a 60-meter-long (197-foot-long) corridor opening up to face three equidistant porticos and five thrones on the archaeological site’s main pyramid.

Peru is believed to be one of the places in the world where agriculture first developed and has hundreds of ancient archaeological sites, including the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu.

The Sword in the Stone at Montesiepi Chapel

The Sword in the Stone at Montesiepi Chapel

The sword trapped in stone, only to be freed by a future king’s forceful grip, is an essential part of King Arthur mythology. The question of whether there’s a historical basis for Arthur in the mists of chaotic Dark Ages Britain has haunted many historians, writers, and treasure seekers. Bits and pieces of the Arthur legend have been analyzed endlessly to see if some real person or place might fit.

Montesiepi chapel in Tuscany.

In a version of the story, Merlin foretold that only a true king was worthy to draw the sword, and when a boy, Arthur, is the one who succeeds in doing it, he reveals himself to be the son of the brave king Uther Pendragon. That sword then becomes Arthur’s powerful weapon, called Excalibur.

But what if the inspiration for the tale of the sword in the stone comes not from England but Italy, and the proof of that can be found in a 12th century stone still thrust into the bedrock in Tuscany?

The Sword in the Stone of Saint Galgano can be seen today, in the Montesiepi chapel southwest of Siena. It was long a curiosity: Only the hilt, wooden grip and a few inches of the three-foot-long blade are visible to be seen in the chapel of a Cistercian abbey.

The story was that it was thrust into the stone by an Italian knight, Galgano Guidotti after he renounced war to become a hermit in 1180.

For years the sword was suspected of being some sort of fake. However, recent scientific tests dealt a surprise to skeptics. The metal of the sword was confirmed to be from the 12th century.

“Dating metal is a very difficult task, but we can say that the composition of the metal and the style are compatible with the era of the legend,” said Luigi Garlaschelli, of the University of Pavia, in an interview with The Guardian.

Interior of Montesiepi chapel, with the sword in the stone under the clear case.

“We have succeeded in refuting those who maintain that it is a recent fake.”

The sword from the medieval era and ground-penetrating radar analysis revealed that beneath the sword, there is a cavity that could be a burial recess, possibly containing a body.  “To know more we’d have to excavate,” said Garlaschelli.

The Italian academic Mario Moiraghi wrote a book suggesting that the stone’s Arthurian legend was inspired by the Tuscany sword.

Rotonda of Montesiepi chapel, with the sword in the stone below.

A 13th century English book about Merlin and the sword obviously came after the existence of the Italian sword in the stone, as did Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur in the 14th century. However, Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote about Arthur, Merlin, and Excalibur, called Caliburnus (or Caliburn), in Historia, completed in 1138.

Moiraghi said in an interview, “The sword which, having being plunged into the stone becomes a cross; this is a true symbol of the Christian life — the transformation of violence into love.”

In the same chapel are two mummified hands; scientific testing has revealed that they too date to the 12th century. According to legend, anyone who tries to steal the sword in the Tuscany chapel would have his arms ripped off.

The sword in the Stone at Montesiepi Chapel, San Galgano.

The knight, Galgano, was the son of a feudal lord known for his arrogance and violence when he had a vision of the Archangel Michael inviting him to change his life.

Galgano supposedly decided that he should become a hermit. As he climbed the mountain where he would devote his life to contemplation, a voice told him he had to leave all traces of worldly sin, to which the saint replied, “It would be easier to cut a stone with this sword to do that.”

When Galgano stuck his sword in the rock to prove his point, the sword sank smoothly. It went into the rock as if it were as soft as butter, the story goes.

Galgano was a hermit for the rest of his life. Four years after his death he was canonized and a chapel was built around the sword.

All In One Magazine