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Welcome to History Buff, a blog for history lovers everywhere! History Buff brings news stories about archaeology from around the world together on one site. From finds in ancient Egypt to new discoveries in anthropology, History Buff wants to know.

Michelle Moran
Historical fiction author


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Ancient gold treasure puzzles Greek archaeologists


In this hand out image provided by Aristotle University of Thessaloniki on Friday. Aug. 29, 2008, a 2,300-year-old gold wreath among human bones in a water-logged gold jar found is seen. Archaeologists say the discovery, at the ancient city of Aigai in northern Greece, is very important due to the richness of the artifacts and the unusual circumstances in which they were buried. The finds appear to have been removed from a grave and concealed under the marketplace of Aigai, the heart of the ancient city. (AP Photo/ Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, HO)

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A priceless gold wreath has been unearthed in an ancient city in northern Greece, buried with human bones in a large copper vase that workers initially took for a land mine.

The University of Thessaloniki said in a statement Friday that the "astonishing" discovery was made during its excavations this week in the ruins of ancient Aigai. The city was the first capital of ancient Macedonia, where King Philip II — father of Alexander the Great — was assassinated.

Gold wreaths are rare and were buried with ancient nobles or royalty. But the find is also highly unusual as the artifacts appear to have been removed from a grave during ancient times and, for reasons that are unclear, reburied in the city's marketplace near the theater where Philip was stabbed to death.

Read the rest here.

Scientists Discover Giant, 2-Feet Long Clams That May Have Fed Prehistoric Humans

Giant clams two feet long might have helped feed prehistoric humans as they first migrated out of Africa, new research reveals.

The species, Tridacna costata, once accounted for more than 80 percent of giant clams in the Red Sea, researcher now say. Today, these mollusks, the first new living species of giant clam found in two decades, represent less than 1 percent of giant clams living there.

This novel clam, whose shell has a distinctive scalloped edge, was discovered while scientists were attempting to develop a breeding program for another giant clam species, Tridacna maxima, which is prized in the aquarium trade. The new species appears to live only in the shallowest waters, which makes it particularly vulnerable to overfishing.

Read the rest on

Egypt's Ancient Glass

Egyptian glass is among the finest of the ancient world. Yet how did the ancient Egyptians make it? New work, at the world’s earliest-excavated glass making factory in Tell el-Amarna, is unravelling the mysteries. Here Paul Nicholson delves into the archives of the late great Egyptologist, Flinders Petrie, who excavated at Tell el-Amarna in the 1890s; and then takes us to his own excavations, a century later, as field director of the Egypt Exploration Society’s Amarna Glass Project. Here he tells of his excavations, how he undertook a host of fiery experiments, and why his team has shattered a raft of old interpretations.

Tell el-Amarna, some 360 miles south of Cairo, was the capital of the ‘heretic pharaoh’ Akhenaten (1352-1336 BC). Planned as a ‘new town’ by Akhenaten, Tell el-Amarna was abandoned soon after his death. His town, therefore, offers a rare and significant snapshot of urban Egyptian life and industry in the late 18th Dynasty of the New Kingdom (1550-1075 BC).

Read the rest on

Stone Clock from the First Bulgarian Kingdom Discovered

Велико Търново
Author: Stefan Nikolov

Bulgarian citizens have accidentally come across two stone blocks near a Proto-Bulgarian fortress near Mogila village, Kaspichan municipality.

The fortress is a part of the system, constructed for the defense of the capital Pliska. It closely resembles the Madara fortress, but is considerably smaller.

At the initial investigation enormous treasure-hunter decays can be seen, reaching a depth of 4 meters.

Up to this moment no regular archeological studies have been carried out, but just on-foot surveillance by the late Professor Rasho Rashev.

Typical Proto-Bulgarian graffiti are inscribed in one of the blocks, showing horsemen with their armory.

Several horses and a central figure of a horseman holding a long lance can be clearly seen.

The other stone block portrays a "stone clock" or a "stone calendar". This monument represents a semicircle, divided into 10 equal parts, plus two smaller parts marking its beginning and end.

Read the rest here.


'Sensational' fossil illuminates birth of dinosaurs

Artist's impression of Archaeopteryx

By Harry de Quetteville

An archaeological dig in central Germany has unearthed fossils which could be the oldest record of dinosaur life ever.

The dinosaur find, at a quarry near the town of Bernburg 90 miles south-west of Berlin, appears to date from 250 million years ago.

Scientists previously believed that dinosaurs evolved from smaller reptilians around 235 million years ago.

But the new find could radically redraw archaeologists' understanding of the dawn of the Triassic age, and the birth of the dinosaur era.

Read the rest on the Telegraph.


Pottery Shards Push Milk-Drinking Back to 6000 B.C.

By Andrea Thompson

The answer to "Got milk?" just got a little older: A new study indicates that people have been milking cattle and other domesticated animals as well as processing and storing milk products for 2,000 years longer than originally thought.

A group of scientists studied thousands of pottery shards from sites all over the Near East and the Balkans and tested them for residues of milk fats.

They found that milk was already being used and processed by societies there by the seventh millennium B.C.

Previously, the earliest evidence of milk use came from the fifth millennium, though cattle, sheep and goats had already been domesticated by the eighth millennium.

Read the rest here.

Pictured: Divers discover amazingly preserved shipwreck of HMS London on bottom of Thames

The largest-ever post-war salvage operation on the Thames has discovered seven shipwrecks up to 350 years old.

They include a warship that was blown up in 1665, a yacht converted to a Second World War gunboat, and a mystery wreck in which divers found a personalised gin bottle.

The vessels, in the Thames Estuary, are just some of about 1,100 ships which went down in the whole of the river.

Oldest find: HMS London, which sank in 1665, at the bottom of the Thames Estuary
Oldest find: HMS London, which sank in 1665, at the bottom of the Thames Estuary

The salvage by Wessex Archaeology and the Port of London Authority, which regulates the river, was both historical and practical.

Read the rest on the Evening Standard.

Archaeologists cover a female mummy of the Wari prehispanic ...

Archaeologists cover a female mummy of the Wari prehispanic ...
Reuters Photo: Archaeologists cover a female mummy of the Wari prehispanic culture

By Dana Ford

LIMA (Reuters) - Archeologists working at Peru's Huaca Pucllana ruins pulled a mummy from a tomb on Tuesday, thought to be from the ancient Wari culture that flourished before the Incas.

Besides the female mummy, the tomb contained the remains of two other adults and a child. It is the first intact Wari burial site discovered at Huaca Pucllana in the capital Lima, and researchers believe it dates from about 700 AD.

"We'd discovered other tombs before," said Isabel Flores, director of the ruins. "But they always had holes, or were damaged. Never had we found a whole tomb like this one -- intact," she said, standing on the ancient plaza, a huge partially excavated mound of rocks, bricks and dirt.

Read the rest on Yahoo.

Dead Sea Scrolls go from parchment to the Internet

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- More than 2,000 years after they were written, the Dead Sea Scrolls are going digital as part of an effort to better preserve the ancient texts and let more people see them than ever before.

A fragment of the Dead Sea Scrolls, left, as seen by a high-resolution single-wavelength infrared imager, right.
A fragment of the Dead Sea Scrolls, left, as seen by a high-resolution single-wavelength infrared imager, right.

The high-tech initiative, announced Wednesday, will also reveal text that was previously not visible to the naked eye.

Over the next two years, the Israel Antiquities Authority will digitally photograph and scan every bit of crumbling parchment and papyrus that makes up the scrolls, which include the oldest written record of the Bible's Old Testament.

The images eventually will be posted on the Internet for anyone to see.

Read the rest on CNN.


Tech-savvy Neanderthals couldn't blame their tools

Rounded blade (lower left) and straighter flake (upper right) (Image: Metin Eren)
Rounded blade (lower left) and straighter flake (upper right) (Image: Metin Eren)

Neanderthal stock is on the rise. A slew of recent studies have argued that the not-quite modern humans hunted, painted and communicated like their Homo sapiens cousins. Now new research suggests that Neanderthal technology was at least as good as that of early humans.

For most of the Stone Age, Homo sapiens and neanderthalensis both made disc-shaped stone tools called "flakes," says Metin Eren, an experimental archaeologist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. But around 40,000 years ago humans in Europe began exclusively producing rectangular blades.

Read the resat on New Scientist.


Huge statue of Roman ruler found

Marcus Aurelius ruled over the empire for 19 years

By Paul Rincon
Science reporter, BBC News

Parts of a giant, exquisitely-carved marble sculpture depicting the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius have been found at an archaeological site in Turkey.

Fragments of the statue were unearthed at the ancient city of Sagalassos.

So far the statue's head, right arm and lower legs have been discovered, high in the mountains of southern Turkey.

Marcus Aurelius was portrayed by Richard Harris in the Oscar-winning 2000 film Gladiator and was one of the so-called "Five Good Emperors".

Marcus Aurelius reigned over the empire from 161AD until his death in 180AD.

Read the rest on the BBC.

First Greek Mummy Once Led Privileged Life

Rosella Lorenzi, Discovery News
The Perks of Privilege
The Perks of Privilege

The first evidence of artificial mummification in ancient Greece lies in a lead coffin at the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki, according to a Swiss-Greek research team.

Dating to 300 A.D., when the Romans ruled Greece, the partially mummified remains belong to a middle-aged woman. Her Roman-type marble sarcophagus was unearthed in 1962 during archaeological excavations in the eastern cemetery of Thessaloniki, which was used from the Hellenistic to the Byzantine Periods for burials and other rituals.

Wrapped in bandages and covered with a gold-embroidered purple silk cloth, the woman lay on a wooden pallet.

"Besides the clothes, remnants of soft tissue as well as the individual's original hairstyle and eyebrows were exceptionally well preserved," Christina Papageorgopoulou of the University of Zurich and colleagues wrote in a paper to be published in the Journal of Archaeological Science shortly.

Read the rest on

'Iceman' Oetzi's Clothes Suggest Shepherd Life

Rossella Lorenzi, Discovery News
Shepherd's Shoes
A Shepherd's Shoes

Oetzi the Iceman walked his last steps on Earth wearing moccasins made from cattle leather, according to German researchers who have disclosed the 5,300-year-old dress code of the world's oldest intact human mummy.

Read the rest on


Ancient suspects cleared in Viking mystery tale

It's the oldest whodunit in Canadian history, and new research has conclusively ruled out one of the suspect aboriginal groups behind the retreat of Viking would-be colonists from the New World.

A scientific redating of the eastward migration of the Thule -- ancestors of modern-day Inuit -- has pegged their push across Canada's polar frontier to no earlier than AD 1200. That's at least 150 years after Norse voyagers from Greenland are believed to have abandoned their short-lived, 11th-century settlement at the northern tip of Newfoundland following hostile encounters there, and in Labrador, with native inhabitants they called Skraelings.

Because of their relatively late arrival in northern Canada -- originally set by experts at about AD 1000 -- the Thule (pronounced "too-ley") have always been outside contenders in the long-running quest to identify the people who scared the Vikings out of Canada.

Read the rest here.

Archaeology Archaeology: Fire lays bare prehistoric secrets of the moors in Yorkshire

by Martin Wainwright
Carved stones found on Fylingdales Moor in North Yorkshire
Carved stones found on Fylingdales Moor in North Yorkshire

A catastrophic fire which "skinned" a precious moorland to its rocky bones has unexpectedly revealed some of the most important prehistoric archaeology found in Britain.

The uncontrolled six-day blaze on Fylingdales Moor in North Yorkshire has exposed a lost landscape dating back 3,000 years which is now to be made accessible to the public by English Heritage.

Unique rock art and unprecedentedly clear bronze age field boundaries have emerged from the soot and cinders which were all that was left of two-and-a-half square miles of the North York Moors national park when fire crews and heavy rain finally swamped the area in September 2003.

The intense heat destroyed the entire blanket of peat which had accumulated over the area, close to the North Sea coast, since farmers abandoned it for unknown reasons in around 1000BC.

Read the rest on the Guardian.


2,000 Bodies Discovered in Berlin Medieval Cemetery

A skeleton dating from the 14th century, one of 2,000 uncovered in a medieval graveyard in central Berlin.
A skeleton dating from the 14th century, one of 2,000 uncovered in a medieval graveyard in central Berlin.

Archaeologists have made a grisly, fascinating discovery in central Berlin -- a giant medieval graveyard containing 2,000 corpses, many of them children.

Archaelogists in Berlin have uncovered 2,000 skeletons in a huge medieval cemetery near the city center since they started examining the site in March 2007.

The site was found during construction work in Petriplatz square. A large number of the skeletons are of children, a sign of their high mortality rate in the Middle Ages.

The bodies are being examined to determine the sex, age at death and possible disease, and they will be reburied at a different location, local newspapers reported.

Read the rest here.


Treasure hunter finds 11th century gold ring with rare black diamond in muddy field

Rare find: The stunning 1000 year old gold and black diamond ring was discovered by a treasure hunter

A treasure hunter was stunned when he unearthed a beautiful and historic gold ring with a rare black diamond set inside it in a muddy field.

John Stevens, 42, couldn't believe his eyes when he rubbed off the soil and saw lettering indicating the ring was from the early medieval period, possibly the 11th century.

It is believed the ring would have belonged to a wealthy person either from the Church, or possibly even royalty.

Black diamonds are rare today and would have been even rarer nearly 1,000 years ago, having come from Africa.

Read the rest on DailyMail.

2,500-Year-Old Greek Ship Raised off Sicilian Coast

Shipwreck photo
Maria Cristina Valsecchi in Rome
for National Geographic News

An ancient Greek ship recently raised off the coast of southern Sicily, Italy, is the biggest and best maintained vessel of its kind ever found, archaeologists say.

At a length of nearly 70 feet (21 meters) and a width of 21 feet (6.5 meters), the 2,500-year-old craft is the largest recovered ship built in a manner first depicted in Homer's Iliad, which is believed to date back several centuries earlier.

The ship's outer shell was built first, and the inner framework was added later. The wooden planks of the hull were sewn together with ropes, with pitch and resin used as sealant to keep out water.

Carlo Beltrame, professor of marine archaeology at the Università Ca' Foscari in Venice, said the boat, found near the town of Gela, is among the most important finds in the Mediterranean Sea.

"Greek sewn boats have been found in Italy, France, Spain, and Turkey. Gela's wreck is the most recent and the best preserved," Beltrame said.

Read the rest on National Geographic.

Ancient Pagan Temple Found in Israel

pagan temple picture
by Mati Milstein in Zippori National Park, Israel
for National Geographic News

Ruins of a pagan temple from the second century A.D. have been unearthed in the heart of a Jewish capital that existed during Israel's Roman period.

In its heyday, the temple sat within a walled courtyard abutting the most centrally-located homes in the ancient city of Zippori, about halfway between Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) and the Mediterranean.

Archaeologists discovered the temple's foundations under the ruins of a Christian church that had been built on the site during the Byzantine period, which spanned the fifth and sixth centuries.

Although pagan artifacts have been found in Zippori before, the temple represents the first significant structural evidence of a pagan settlement in the capital.

Read the rest on National Geographic.

Student finds world war skeleton

An archaeology student has uncovered the body of an Australian soldier 90 years after he died in battle during World War I.

Graham Arkley, 21, a student at Bradford University, found the skeleton while excavating the German trenches near St Yves, in Wallonia, Belgium.

The area was attacked by the Australian 3rd Division on the morning of 7 June 1917, during the Battle of Messines.

Mr Arkley is part-way through his BSc Archaeology degree.

He found the skeleton, dressed in full kit, while working with a project set up to examine the effectiveness of the training of the Australian 3rd Division during World War I.

Read the rest on BBC.


Britain's biggest Roman villa uncovered on Isle of Wight

One of the largest and best-preserved Roman villas yet discovered in Britain has been unearthed by archaeologists.

Built 1,800 years ago on the Isle of Wight, the building is as vast as an Olympic swimming pool and shaped like a church.

“It would have sung out the status of the owner,” Sir Barry Cunliffe, Emeritus Professor of European Archaeology at Oxford University and head of the excavation, told The Times yesterday. “It's a very impressive building, absolutely magnificent. It could have been seen for miles around.”

The discovery comes five years after readers of The Times helped to save spectacular mosaics from another Roman villa found on the same site in Brading, having them removed from the World Monuments Fund's list of endangered sites.

Read the rest here.

A 2,600-year-old clay seal uncovered intact in Jerusalem dig

An excavation site in the...
An excavation site in the City of David.
Photo: Courtesy of the Shalem Center

A 2,600 year old clay seal impression, or bulla, bearing the name Gedaliah ben Pashur has recently been uncovered completely intact during archaeological excavations in Jerusalem's ancient City of David, located just below the walls of the Old City near the Dung Gate.

The name appears in the Book of Jeremiah (38:1) together with that of Yehuchal ben Shelemayahu, whose name was found on an identical clay bulla in the same area in 2005. The two men were ministers in the court of King Zedekiah, the last king to rule in Jerusalem before the destruction of the First Temple.

According to Dr. Eilat Mazar of the Hebrew University who is leading the dig, this is the first time in the annals of Israeli archeology that two clay bullae with two Biblical names that appear in the same verse in the Bible have been unearthed in the same location.

Read the rest here.

Jamestown finds include pendant depicting Indian

AP: A tiny, paper-thin pendant with a rare depiction of a Virginia Indian is among four significant archaeological discoveries this summer at Jamestown, America's first permanent English settlement.

The "corn-flake" fragile copper relief is "tremendously significant" because there are so few renderings of Powhatan Indians, said William Kelso, director of archaeology at Historic Jamestowne.

Read the rest here.


Unearthed after 2,500 years, the gold earrings that could have been made yesterday

It's the sort of classic jewellery favoured by modern women except these earrings were worn 2,500 years ago.

An archeologist discovered gold earrings, a ring and other funeral gifts dating back to the 5th century B.C. while excavating a Thracian tomb near the village of Kushare, about 280km from Sofia, Bulgaria.

Some of the oldest examples of gold jewellery and artifacts have been discovered in Bulgaria and it's Black Sea coast is considered the birthplace of the world's metal production.

Thracian excavations
Thracian bling: The gold earrings discovered during excavations of a tomb in Bulgaria

Read the rest on

Questing lost manuscripts

From The Economist print edition

SOMEWHERE deep in the court of the Ottoman sultans lay the hidden library of Hungary’s most famous medieval king, Matthias Corvinus. If only it could be discovered and the books prised out of Turkish hands, then all would be well and Hungarian honour and glory restored. Or so believed many a 19th-century Hungarian academic and nationalist.

“We wanted to scream we had reached our goal,” wrote one, who in 1862 along with two companions had succeeded in gaining access to the court. A pile of books was brought out for them to see, including six manuscripts from the fabled library. In the end the quest was a failure; there was no hidden treasure trove. But some of the books had indeed survived for more than 300 years in Constantinople, others were found elsewhere and Marcus Tanner has written a lively account of the search.

Matthias, known as the “Raven King”, reigned from 1458 to 1490. He was born a commoner, albeit into a wealthy Transylvanian family. By the time he died, he had stemmed the relentless Ottoman advance through Europe and himself ruled over an empire that stretched from the Black Sea to Dalmatia and from Moravia to Bosnia. Within decades all of this was gone and for some 150 years Hungary was under Ottoman domination.

Read the rest on the Economist.


History's Horrors In the Present: Pakistan Burn Victims Turn to Art of Beauty

LAHORE, Pakistan — Saira Liaqat squints through her one good eye as she brushes a woman's hair. Her face, most of which the acid melted years ago, occasionally lights up with a smile. Her hands, largely undamaged, deftly handle the dark brown locks.

A few steps away in this popular beauty salon, Urooj Akbar diligently trims, cleans and paints clients' fingernails. Her face, severely scarred from the blaze that burned some 70 percent of her body, is somber. It's hard to tell if she's sad or if it's just the way she now looks.

Liaqat and Akbar are among Pakistan's many female victims of arson and acid attacks. Such tales tend to involve a spurned or crazy lover and end in a life of despair and seclusion for the woman.

Read the rest here.

Fetus Mummies Were Likely King Tut's

Rossella Lorenzi, Discovery News
King Tut's Little Girl?
King Tut's Little Girl?

Ongoing analysis on the mummified remains of two female fetuses buried in the tomb of Tutankhamun will most likely show that at least one of the stillborn children is the offspring of the teenage pharaoh, a scientist who carried serological analysis on the mummified remains told Discovery News.

"I studied one of the mummies, the larger one, back in 1979 [and] determined the blood group data from this baby mummy and compared it with my 1969 blood grouping of Tutankhamun.

"The results confirmed that this larger fetus could indeed be the daughter of Tutankhamen," said Robert Connolly, senior lecturer in physical anthropology from the University of Liverpool's Department of Human Anatomy and Cell Biology.

Read the rest on


Why does the weasel go pop? - the secret meaning of our best-loved nursery rhymes


Humpty Dumpty

Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall;
All the king's horses and all the king's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again

The real Humpty Dumpty was not a person but a powerful cannon used by the Royalist forces during the English Civil War of 1642 to 1651.

Sir Charles Lucas and Sir George Lisle led the King's men and overpowered the Parliament stronghold of Colchester early in 1648. They grimly held on while the Parliamentarians, led by Thomas Fairfax, encircled and besieged the town.

The supporters of Charles I almost won the day - all thanks to his doughtiest defender, Humpty Dumpty. In pole position, as it were, on top of the church tower of St Mary-at-the-Walls (Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall) their gunners managed to blast away the attacking Roundhead troops for 11 weeks.

Humpty Dumpty

Illlustrations: Kingfisher

Eventually, though, the top of the church tower was blown away, sending Humpty Dumpty crashing to the ground, where it buried itself in deep marshland (Humpty Dumpty had a great fall).

The king's cavalry (the horses) and the infantry (the men) hurried to retrieve the cannon, but they couldn't put Humpty together again - and without their weapon of mass destruction they were soon overrun by Fairfax and his soldiers.

Read the rest on the DailyMail.

Bronze age remains 'may be tribal chieftain'

A 3,000-year-old Bronze Age skeleton that was found in Cornwall
By Richard Savill

A 3,500-year-old bronze-age skeleton, found beside a beach, could be a tribal chieftain, archaeologists believe.

The discovery of the middle-aged man's remains and burial casket, or cisk, was made by an amateur archaeologist, Trevor Renals, as walked on Constantine Island, North Cornwall.

It was regarded as unusual because cremation rather than burial was popular in the bronze-age period and skeletons are not normally found in such a well preserved state.

A spokesman for the National Trust, which owns the land, said: "As soon as we found out we had to make arrangements for it to be excavated because of the danger of it going into the sea.

"We knew that storms were coming and we had to get it removed."

Read the rest on the Telegraph.

Female remains found at Roman dig

Archaeologists believe remains found in a 1,800-year-old Roman stone sarcophagus uncovered at a dig in Newcastle are female.

The coffin was one of two found at the site of a former chapel and thought to have been used to bury members of a powerful family from a fort.

The lid was painstakingly lifted on Friday and the coffin found to be full of water and sludge, as expected.

But teeth, bone fragments and a hairpin were also found by the team.

The other sarcophagus has been opened and contained the headless remains of a child.

Read the rest on BBC.

Portal to mythical Mayan underworld found in Mexico


By Miguel Angel Gutierrez

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican archeologists have discovered a maze of stone temples in underground caves, some submerged in water and containing human bones, which ancient Mayans believed was a portal where dead souls entered the underworld.

Clad in scuba gear and edging through narrow tunnels, researchers discovered the stone ruins of eleven sacred temples and what could be the remains of human sacrifices at the site in the Yucatan Peninsula.

Read the rest on Reuters.


Ancient Sahara Graveyard Hints at Once-Green Desert

WASHINGTON AP — A tiny woman and two children were laid to rest on a bed of flowers 5,000 years ago in what is now the barren Sahara Desert.

The slender arms of the youngsters were still extended to the woman in perpetual embrace when researchers discovered their skeletons in a remarkable cemetery that is providing clues to two civilizations who lived there, a thousand years apart, when the region was moist and green.

Read the rest on FoxNews.

Colossal Head of Roman Empress Unearthed

by Marc Waelkens

Excavators prop up the newly found head of the empress Faustina the Elder (Courtesy Sagalassos Archaeological Research Project)

Sagalassos, Turkey, August 12—Tuesday morning, archaeologists of the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven team (Belgium) directed by Marc Waelkens uncovered the colossal portrait head of the Roman empress Faustina, wife of the emperor Antoninus Pius, who ruled from A.D. 138 to 161. According to Waelkens, the excavation team was ecstatic at the discovery.

Professor Waelkens' excavations at Sagalassos, a classical metropolis, have been a regular feature on ARCHAEOLOGY's Interactive Digs, and he sent us this report about the new find direct from the field.—Mark Rose

The Discovery

[image] [image]
Excavators last year found fragments of a colossal statute of Hadrian as well as the toes of yet another statute.

[image] [image]
Excavating Faustina

[image] [image]
Transporting Faustina
(Photos courtesy Sagalassos Archaeological Research Project)

The find was made almost exactly one year after we discovered the remains of a colossal (ca. 5 m; 16 foot) statue of the emperor Hadrian (A.D. 117-138) at a spot about 6 m (20 feet) away. The Hadrian statue—represented by a head and the lower part of the right leg and joining foot—is currently on display in the rotunda of the British Museum where it is the centerpiece of the exhibition Hadrian: Empire and Conflict.

Both the Hadrian statute and Faustina head come from the largest room of the Roman Baths at Sagalassos, which have under excavation for the past 12 years. This room—cross-shaped, with mosaic floors, and up to 1250 sq. meters—was most likely a cold room or frigidarium. Other colossal statues once occupied this room, as shown by the front part of two female feet of colossal dimensions we discovered last summer standing on the floor and surrounded by mosaics which still follow the contours of the female statue's long dress.

Read the rest on


What do new discoveries about how Neanderthal man lived and died tell us about our human ancestors?

Neanderthal man
A Neanderthal man in profile: DNA recovered from a 38,000-year-old leg bone unearthed in a cave in Vindija in Croatia has become part of a landmark project to read the entire genetic sequence of our ancient human ancestor. Photo: Corbis

Your historical ancestors are unlikely to have done anything remotely interesting. But your prehistorical ones almost certainly did. Like a form of deep genealogy, tracing our origins back thousands and millions of years is a branch of science that never fails to capture the public's imagination.

At Nature, we often find that our most read, downloaded or listened to studies are those about our more ancient relatives, whether it's the hobbit of Flores or the oldest human ancestor, Toumai. Last week, a paper in the journal Cell uncovered the first completed sequence of the Neanderthal genome, and some fascinating insights into our evolutionary cousins. Expect more revelations from this project very soon.

Read the rest on the


Palace of Medieval Bulgarian Governor Discovered at Perperikon

Click to enlarge the photo
The remains of the Bulgarian governor's palace at Perperikon were discovered by Nikolay Ovcharov right next to the still standing battle tower. Photo by

The palace of the Bulgarian governor of the Rhodoppe region located at the ancient sanctuary on the mount of Perperikon. The discovery was made Thursday by a Bulgarian team of archeologists led by Professor Nikolay Ovcharov.

According to Ovcharov, the palace dates back to the 14th century, and from 1343 AD it was used by the Bulgarian governor of the region, who was appointed by Bulgaria's Tsar at the time, Ivan Aleksandar (r. 1331-1371), after a successful military campaign to re-conquer the Rhodoppe Mountains.

Read the rest here.

Prehistoric giant animals killed by man, not climate: study

The chance discovery of the remains of a prehistoric giant kangaroo has cast doubts on the long-held view that climate change drove it and other mega-fauna to extinction, a new study reveals.

The research, published this week in the US-based journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, argues that man likely hunted to death the giant kangaroo and other very large animals on the southern island of Tasmania.

The debate centres on the skull of a giant kangaroo found in a cave in the thick rainforest of the rugged northwest of Tasmania in 2000.

Scientists dated the find at 41,000 years old, some 2,000 years after humans first began to live in the area.

"Up until now, people thought that the Tasmanian mega-fauna had actually gone extinct before people arrived on the island," a member of the British and Australian study, Professor Richard Roberts, told AFP Tuesday.

Read the rest here.


Roman Temple Uncovered In Ancient Jewish Capital Of Galilee

View of the monumental building on the north side of the decumanus with a pile of collapsed columns in the courtyard -- probably the result of an earthquake. (Credit: Gaby Laron)

ScienceDaily (Aug. 11, 2008) — Ruins of a Roman temple from the second century CE have recently been unearthed in the Zippori National Park. Above the temple are foundations of a church from the Byzantine period.

The excavations, which were undertaken by the Noam Shudofsky Zippori Expedition led by of Prof. Zeev Weiss of the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, shed light on the multi-cultural society of ancient Zippori (also known as Sepphoris).

The discovery indicated that Zippori, the Jewish capital of the Galilee during the Roman period, had a significant pagan population which built a temple in the heart of the city center. The central location of the temple which is positioned within a walled courtyard and its architectural relation to the surrounding buildings enhance our knowledge regarding the planning of Zippori in the Roman era.

Read the rest here.

Students find three Roman busts

Spain Culture News
The three busts found in Badajoz - Photo EFE

The three busts found in Badajoz - Photo EFE

The busts date from the first and second centuries and one of Trajan is of particular interest.
A summer camp organised for youngsters by the Junta de Extremadura has resulted in the discovery of three Roman busts dating from the first and second centuries, and of considerable value. One of the busts, of Trajan, is said to be particularly valuable as it is one of the few items to link him to Hispania.

Read the rest here.


Gettysburg 'witness tree' falls

GETTYSBURG, Pennsylvania (AP) -- Standing just 150 feet from the platform on which President Lincoln delivered his most famous speech, one of the few remaining "witness trees" to the Battle of Gettysburg has been severely damaged by a storm, National Park Service officials said.

A park historian knows of only three other witness trees that stand in the heart of the battlefield.
A park historian knows of only three other witness trees that stand in the heart of the battlefield.

The huge honey locust tree on Cemetery Hill fell Thursday evening.

"The top of it is totally broken off, and [the storm] severely damaged 70 to 80 percent of the tree," Gettysburg National Military Park spokeswoman Jo Sanders said. "That means there's not a whole lot left of it. But it didn't kill the tree."

The tree, which stood on the right side of the Union lines, "was there as a silent witness -- to the battle, to the aftermath, to the burials, to the dedication of the cemetery," park historian John Heiser said.

Read the rest on CNN.


European woman 'arrived in New Zealand before Captain Cook'

Captain Cook
Captain Cook recorded in his log, a tale told to him by a Maori chief, of a ship having been shipwrecked many years earlier

Scientists are baffled after carbon dating showed the skull, a woman's which was found near the country's capital, Wellington, dates back from 1742 – decades before Cook's Pacific expedition arrived in 1769.

The discovery was made by a boy walking his dog on the bank of a river in the Wairarapa region of the North Island, an area settled by Europeans only after the establishment of a colony by the New Zealand Company in 1840.

Dr Robin Watt, a forensic anthropologist called in by police who investigated the discovery, said yesterday: "It's a real mystery, it really is. "We've got the problem of how did this woman get here? Who was she?

"I recommended they do carbon date on it and, of course, they came up with that amazing result."

Read the rest on the Telegraph.

Murderous City

GALWAY City and its people, famed for hospitality and their warm and welcoming ways, may not always have been so pleasant to visitors, according to archaeologists who have uncovered evidence of butchery and violent murder in the city centre hundreds of years ago.

Skeletons excavated from just outside the Eyre Square Shopping centre date from the 13th century and appear to have experienced extremely violent deaths.

Read the rest here.

First Neanderthal genome completed

  • news service
  • Ewen Callaway

A 38,000-year old bone has yielded the world's first complete Neanderthal mitochondrial genome sequence, offering a tantalising glimpse at the genetic changes that separate humans from Neanderthals, which split some 600 millennia ago.

The mitochondrion – a structure often dubbed the cell's powerhouse – contains a mere 16,565 DNA letters that code for 13 proteins, whereas the nucleus holds more than 3 billion letters that produce more than 20,000 proteins. If DNA were to the size of a standard soccer pitch, then mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) would be equivalent to a small flowerbed.

For the time being therefore, the largely symbolic and technical breakthrough offers only limited insight into the evolution of humankind. "It's kind of opening the window a crack," says Tom Gilbert, an expert on ancient DNA at the University of Copenhagen, who was not involved in the sequencing project.

Yet the research, led by Richard Green and Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, will pave the way for the construction and analysis of the complete Neanderthal genome. A rough draft should be finished by the end of the year, Green told New Scientist.

Read the rest on New Scientist.


Bulgarian archaeologists discover ancient chariot

Archaeologist works around a 1,900-year-old well-preserved chariot ...
Archaeologist works around a 1,900-year-old well-preserved chariot at an ancient Thracian tomb near the village of Borisovo, some 290 kilometers (180 miles) east of the Bulgarian capital Sofia, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2008. The archaeologist Daniela Agre said her team found the four-wheel chariot during excavations near the village of Borisovo. (AP Photo/Petar Petrov)

SOFIA, Bulgaria - Archaeologists have unearthed a 1,900-year-old well-preserved chariot at an ancient Thracian tomb in southeastern Bulgaria, the head of the excavation said Thursday.

Daniela Agre said her team found the four-wheel chariot during excavations near the village of Borisovo, around 180 miles east of the capital, Sofia.

"This is the first time that we have found a completely preserved chariot in Bulgaria," said Agre, a senior archaeologist at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.

Read the rest from the AP here.

Amateur treasure hunter finds £25,000 bejewelled cross in field with metal detector

A pure gold cross dating from the 7th century has been discovered by a man with a metal detector.

The inch-long piece of Anglo Saxon jewellery is made out of 18-carat gold and was probably worn as a pendant.

Experts believe the English-made piece could be worth at least £25,000.

It is thought the cross, which is decorated with fine detail and adorned with red gemstones, might have originally held a religious relic. Two of the four gemstones and any relic are missing.


A treasure hunter found an Anglo-Saxon cross in a field in Nottinghamshire

It is made with gold probably melted down from Merovingian French coins.

Two of the red cabochon gemstones are missing as is the relic that would have been kept in its centre.

Read the rest on the DailyMail.


Egypt to test fetuses for Tutankhamun family tree

In this undated photo released by the Egyptian Supreme Council ...
AP: In this undated photo released by the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities on Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2008, one of the two mummified fetuses found in the tomb of King Tutankhamun in 1922 is seen during preparations for a DNA test in Cairo, Egypt. Egyptian scientists are carrying out DNA tests on two mummified fetuses found in the tomb of King Tutankhamun to determine whether they are the young pharaoh's children, Egyptian antiquity authorities said Wednesday. (AP Photo/Supreme Council of Antiquities)

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian scientists are doing DNA tests on stillborn children found in the tomb of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun in the hope of identifying their mother and grandmother, who may be the powerful queen Nefertiti, Egypt's chief archaeologist said on Wednesday. British archaeologist Howard Carter found the mummified fetuses when he discovered Tutankhamun's tomb in 1922. Archaeologists assume they are the children of the teenage pharaoh but their mother has not been identified.

Many scholars believe their mother to be Ankhesenamun, the boy king's only known wife. Ankhesenamun is the daughter of Nefertiti, renowned for her beauty.

Read the rest here.

The truth about the Picts

By Ian Johnston

A depiction of Saint Columba from about 565AD, urging Picts on Iona to become Christians
A depiction of Saint Columba from about 565AD, urging Picts on Iona to become Christians

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    Experts find theatre where Shakespeare plays first staged

    The remains of a London theatre where William Shakespeare's early plays including "Romeo And Juliet" were first performed have been discovered by archaeologists, a museum said Wednesday.

    Shakespeare appeared at The Theatre in Shoreditch, east London, as an actor with a troupe called The Lord Chamberlain's Men, which also performed his efforts as a playwright there.

    "Richard III", "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "The Merchant Of Venice" are among the other plays which are likely to have premiered at the theatre, according to the Museum of London, whose team made the discovery.

    After a tenancy dispute in 1599, the owners of The Theatre dismantled it during the night and its timbers were used to construct the Globe Theatre, by the River Thames, which became the home of Shakespeare's plays.

    Read the rest here.


    Que? Spanish crew's lack of English sank the Mary Rose

    An examination of human remains at the Mary Rose Trust revealed that most were foreigners
    An examination of human remains at the Mary Rose Trust revealed that most were foreigners

    For generations, the reason why the Mary Rose sank during a battle with a French invasion force has divided historians.

    Now a new theory can be added to the list of suggestions about why the pride of Henry VIII's navy was lost: two thirds of its crew were foreigners who failed to understand orders.

    Forensic science examinations of the 16th-century crew's skulls have revealed that the majority were not British but southern European, most probably Spanish.

    Researchers believe that the vessel's fate was sealed because of their inability to understand their officers' orders when it began taking on water in the Solent, off Portsmouth, in 1545.

    It is believed that the crewmen were either mercenaries from the Continent recruited to fight by Henry VIII or Spanish soldiers shipwrecked penniless in Britain and forced into military service.

    The new theory also goes some way towards solving the riddle of the last words reputedly shouted by the ship's admiral, George Carew, to another English ship, that his men were “knaves I cannot rule”. The latest explanation has been put forward by Hugh Montgomery, a medical researcher at University College London.

    Until now, it had always been believed that the Mary Rose sank as it performed a sharp turn, causing the open gun ports to submerge, flooding the vessel.

    However, Professor Montgomery claims that the ports were left open only because the Spanish crewmen could not understand quickly enough the command to close them.

    Read the rest here.

    4,000-year-old Canaanite warrior found in Sidon dig

    By Mohammed Zaatari
    Daily Star staff
    4,000-year-old Canaanite warrior found in Sidon dig

    SIDON: The British Museum's excavation team in Sidon have recently unearthed a new grave containing human skeletal remains belonging to a Canaanite warrior, archeology expert and field supervisor Claude Doumet Serhal told The Daily Star on Monday. According to Serhal, the delegation made the discovery at the "Freres" excavation site near Sidon's crusader castle.

    "This is the 77th grave that we have discovered at this site since our digging activities has started ten years ago with Lebanese-British financing," she said.

    According to Serhal, the remains go back to 2000 B.C., with a British archeologist saying the warrior had been buried at the age of 15 to 20 along with a spear and two stamps.

    "We have discovered earlier this year a jar also belonging to the Canaanite period i.e. to 2,000 years B.C. where a skeleton for a newborn baby had been found," she added.

    The archeologist said that Freres "is the first excavation site in old Sidon that is located on a land owned by the General Directorate of Antiquities."

    "We can say that through the discoveries we have been making at this site, we will be able to draw a graph showing the history of this ancient Mediterranean merchant city since 3000 BC," she added.

    Read the rest here.


    Fragmentary Knowledge

    "Antikythera Mechanism Research Project."
    The main fragment of the Mechanism, found after two thousand years under water. Courtesy Antikythera Mechanism Research Project.

    In October, 2005, a truck pulled up outside the National Archeological Museum in Athens, and workers began unloading an eight-ton X-ray machine that its designer, X-Tek Systems of Great Britain, had dubbed the Bladerunner. Standing just inside the National Museum’s basement was Tony Freeth, a sixty-year-old British mathematician and filmmaker, watching as workers in white T-shirts wrestled the Range Rover-size machine through the door and up the ramp into the museum. Freeth was a member of the Antikythera Mechanism Research Project—a multidisciplinary investigation into some fragments of an ancient mechanical device that were found at the turn of the last century after two thousand years in the Aegean Sea, and have long been one of the great mysteries of science.

    Freeth, a tall, taciturn man with a deep, rumbling voice, had been a mathematician at Bristol University, taking a Ph.D. in set theory, a branch of mathematical logic. He had drifted away from the academy, however, and spent most of his career making films, many of them with scientific themes. The Antikythera Mechanism, which he had first heard about some five years earlier, had rekindled his undergraduate love of math and logic and problem-solving, and he had all but abandoned his film career in the course of investigating it. He was the latest in a long line of men who have made solving the mystery of the Mechanism their life’s work. Another British researcher, Michael Wright, who has studied the Mechanism for more than twenty years, was coincidentally due to arrive in Athens before the Bladerunner had finished its work. But Wright wasn’t part of the research project, and his arrival was anticipated with some trepidation.

    It had been Freeth’s idea to contact X-Tek in the hope of finding a high-resolution, three-dimensional X-ray technology to see inside the fragments of the Mechanism. As it happened, the company was working on a prototype of a CAT-scan machine that would use computer tomography to make 3-D X-rays of the blades inside airplane turbines, for safety inspections. Roger Hadland, X-Tek’s owner and chief engineer, was interested in Freeth’s proposal, and he and his staff developed new technology for the project.

    After the lead-lined machine was installed inside the museum, technicians spent another day attaching the peripheral equipment. At last, everything was ready. The first piece to be examined, Fragment D, was placed on the Bladerunner’s turntable. It was only about an inch and a half around—much smaller than Fragment A, the largest piece, which measures about six and a half inches across—and it looked like just a small greenish rock, or possibly a lump of coral. It was heavily corroded and calcified—the parts of the Mechanism almost indistinguishable from the petrified sea slime that surrounded them. Conservationists couldn’t clean off any more of the corroded material without damaging the artifact, and it was hoped that the latest in modern technology would reveal the ancient technology inside.

    Read the rest on the New Yorker.

    12th century chapel revealed

    By Aura Sabadus

    It is a discovery which has astonished archaeologists and has set tongues wagging in a small village near Swaffham.

    Residents in West Acre have always suspected their village once boasted an early 12th century chapel.

    Yet despite some records mentioning the existence of St Peter's Chapel in the distant past, they could not find any traces of the edifice which was dismantled at the time of the Reformation.

    Now, thanks to modern technology and dedication, a team of specialists and volunteers from all over the country have unearthed the foundation of the mediaeval building along with human remains.

    Working with Steve Brown, a metal detectorist, professional archaeologists John Shepherd and Michael de Bootman identified the site to the west of West Acre and started digging at the end of last month

    “He [Steve] noticed the slightest traces of mortar adhering to pieces of flint in a field near St Peter's pit and Michael and I followed up this sighting with a radar survey of the field,” said Mr Shepherd who worked for the Institute of Archaeology in London and is now looking to start a new project with Islington Museum.

    Read the rest here.


    Archeologists find Old Testament seal

    ISRAELI archeologists in Jerusalem have found the imprint of a seal that belonged to an 6th century BC official in the court of the last king of Judah who was mentioned in the Old Testament.

    "We found the imprint in clay, remarkably well preserved, of a seal with the name of Gedaliah the son of Pashur," said Eilat Mazar, who leads the team of archaeologists.

    Gedaliah is mentioned in the Bible as among the ministers in the court of King Zedekiah who called for Prophet Jeremiah to be put to death for urging Jerusalem residents to surrender to the city's Babylonian attackers.

    Read the rest here.


    Skeletons uncovered in friary dig

    More than 50 skeletons have been found at the site

    Archaeologists in Perth have uncovered more than 50 skeletons at the site of a medieval friary.

    The team is excavating land at the corner of Riggs Road and Jeanfield Road before retail units are built.

    As well as the bones, the team has discovered pieces of grave slabs, window glass and further evidence of the 13th century Carmelite friary.

    It is hoped that once the finds have been processed and catalogued they can be displayed in Perth Museum.

    During a previous excavation in 1982 about 20 skeletons were found at the site.

    Archaeologist Derek Hall said: "Perth had four friaries - Carmelite, Dominican, Franciscan and Carthusian.

    "They were taking advantage of the fact that Perth in the medieval period was a very rich Scottish burgh.

    "So, they were able to exist outside the town limits and people used to pay the friars to pray for their souls and if they wanted they could also get buried in the friary burial grounds."

    Read the rest on the BBC.