Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘archaeology’

pomp1-683x1024

Photos: Ciro Fusco / Pompeii Parco Archeologico
Frescoes in Pompeii’s newly discovered “Enchanted Garden” room. The ashes of Mount Vesuvius left the ancient city remarkably intact after the volcano erupted in 79 AD.

When my younger grandson told me about a volcano in Guadalupe, where Suzanne’s family spent the holiday, he hastened to reassure me that it didn’t erupt. He’s six, and a stickler for fact.

Whether young or old, we are all fascinated by the extraordinary power of volcanoes and the way they change the world very suddenly, sometimes with no warning at all.

The complete destruction of Pompeii by the volcano Vesuvius in Italy is one of the reasons eruptions have such a hold over the collective imagination.

Interestingly, Pompeii continues to yield previously unseen beauty to archaeologists even after all these years.

As Sarah Cascone reported in October at ArtNetNews, “Pompeii is the city that keeps on giving. More than two hundred and fifty years after the ancient Roman town was discovered buried under a heap of volcanic ash, the archeological finds show no sign of abating. Now, archaeologists for the Great Pompei Project have uncovered yet another impressive discovery: an ancient shrine, or lararium, covered in gorgeously preserved frescoes, in a 16-by-12-foot room containing an altar, a garden, and a small pool.

“The Italian media has dubbed the new room, which would have been partially covered by a tile roof, ‘the Enchanted Garden.’ The figures in the paintings include two serpents, a wild boar fighting unidentified creatures against a blood-red backdrop, and a mysterious man with the head of a dog that may have been inspired by the Egyptian god Anubis. In front of a painted peacock, strolling through the plants, there would have been a planted flower bed, extending the illusionistic decorative design into the real world.

“ ‘It is the first time that such complex decoration has been found in a space dedicated to worship inside a house,’ Massimo Osanna, the director of the Parco Archeologico di Pompei, told the Wall Street Journal, praising the find as exceptional.

“ ‘Every house had a lararium of some kind,’ Ingrid Rowland, a professor at the University of Notre Dame and the author of From Pompeii: The Afterlife of a Roman Town, told the New York Times. But ‘only the wealthiest people could have afforded a lararium inside a special chamber with a raised pool and sumptuous decorations.’

“After clearing out the volcanic rock fragments, or lapili, that had buried the room for almost two millennia, archaeologists found an altar decorated with eggs, a symbol of fertility. There are burnt remains, which archaeologists believe may have contained food offerings, such as eggs, figs, or nuts, to fertility deities. The altar is flanked by paintings of the Roman gods of household rituals. …

“New excavations are much more careful than the original explorations of the site, which began in 1748. Without modern technology and techniques to aid their excavations, early archaeologists could be quite destructive. The new discovery helps provide a better understanding of what the early excavations would have looked like when first uncovered. …

“Since 2011, Italy has been carrying out much-needed preservation and restoration work to preserve the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Great Pompeii Project, an initiative aimed at stemming the deterioration of the ancient structures, had an initial budget of €105 million ($140 million). … The discovery of the ‘Enchanted Garden’ represents perhaps the project’s greatest success thus far.”

More here.

In Pompeii, a recently uncovered household shrine, or lararium, features two serpents among its beautifully preserved frescoes.

B3-BZ760_POMPEI_M_20181009125255-1024x682

Read Full Post »

saga-sword

Photo:  Svt Nyheter
Saga Vanecek, an 8-year-old Swedish-American girl, pulled a 1,500-year-old sword from a lake in southern Sweden last July, prompting comparisons to Arthurian legends about the Sword in the Stone and the Lady of the Lake.

You never know when wonders will appear. This little girl was not out helping archaeologists on a dig like the 13-year-old boy in this earlier post. She was just dawdling in a lake while her father was calling her to hurry so he could watch the World Cup on television. And then — a miracle.

Jon Henley writes at the Guardian, “An eight-year-old girl has pulled a 1,500-year-old sword from a lake in southern Sweden.

“ ‘I felt something with my hand and at first I thought it was a stick,’ Saga Vanecek told the local Värnamo Nyheter [VN] newspaper. ‘Then it had a handle that looked like it was a sword, and then I lifted it up and shouted: “Daddy, I found a sword!” ‘

“The find, made in July but announced only [in October] for fear it would trigger a summer stampede to the site at Tånnö on the shore of Lake Vidöstern, felt ‘pretty cool and a bit exciting,’ she told the Swedish public broadcaster Sveriges Radio. …

“Her father, Andrew, said in a Facebook post that the sword, estimated by experts from the nearby Jönköping county museum to date to the 5th or 6th century AD, before the Viking era, was still in the remains of its wood and leather scabbard.

“He told VN he had been waiting impatiently for his daughter to come in from the water because the football World Cup final was about to start, but she was busy skimming stones. Then she stooped and held up the ancient weapon.

“Neighbours confirmed to the Swedish-American family, who moved to Sweden from Minnesota last year, that the rusted artefact did indeed look old, and Nevecek called an archaeologist the next day.

“Annie Rosén, from the museum, said: ‘I was on holiday, but when I saw the pictures I went straight away. You cannot imagine such a sword – so well preserved.’

“Another expert at the museum, Mikael Nordström, [said] they were exploring the possibility it could have been a place of sacrifice. … Subsequent searches by museum staff and local council workers uncovered a brooch from roughly the same period but there were no other significant finds.”

More at the Guardian, here. And you can read Saga Vanecek’s own report here.

May 2019 be the year that girls everywhere pull miracles from lakes and stones.

Read Full Post »

3709018635_ecef9dc046_b

Photo: Tom Blackie via Flickr
The Avenue of Sphinxes on the Al-Kabbash road in Luxor. Recently, a previously unknown sphinx was discovered by construction workers.

Every day new discoveries. Today I have a story about a recent discovery in Egypt. But first, to refresh your classical memory, the mythological creature called a sphinx has the body of a lion and the head of a human. Although the most famous sphinx story — the one that involved Oedipus — took place in Greece, all the statues of sphinxes are in Egypt.

Naomi Rea writes at artnet news, “A previously unknown statue of a sphinx has been discovered in Egypt, the general director of Luxor Antiquities, Mohamed Abdel Aziz, announced [in August].

“Construction workers upgrading the historic Al-Kabbash Road between the famous Luxor and Karnak temples stumbled upon the find, the English-language Egypt Today reports. …

“The Ministry of Egyptian Antiquities is developing a way to lift the newfound statue from its resting place. … In the meantime, construction work has been paused on the road and the Minister of Antiquities, Khaled al-Anani, is encouraging tourists to visit the site to see the statue.

“A researcher in Egyptology, Bassam al-Shamma, told Egyptian media that the find is not altogether surprising as many similar sphinx statues have been found across Luxor. Several new discoveries have been found in recent years, and the road is already lined with many other small stone versions of the mythical creatures dating from around 1400 BC. …

“The mythical creature of the sphinx has the head of a human and the body of a lion. In ancient Greek tradition, the sphinx’s head is often a merciless female. … For the Egyptians, though, the guardian creature was seen as benevolent, and the heads of the statues were often carved in the likeness of pharaohs. This is the case with the famous Great Sphinx; the monumental statue is thought to have been sculpted in likeness of the pharaoh Khafra.

“Other famous Egyptian sphinxes include a granite example with the head of the pharaoh Hatshepsut, which is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The Great Sphinx of Tanis in the Louvre is one of the largest sphinxes outside of Egypt.”

More at artnet, here

Read Full Post »

Photo: Jason Moon / NHPR
These large stones come from the foundation of an early 17th century garrison house near Durham, New Hampshire’s Great Bay. Sea-level rise is adding urgency to archaeological digs.

I’m losing count of the ways that melting glaciers and global warming are beginning to affect our lives. This story comes from New Hampshire, which some readers may be surprised to learn has a border on the ocean. As glaciers melt and waters rise, parts of that border are washing out to sea.

New Hampshire Public Radio’s Jason Moon “joined a [University of New Hampshire] researcher for a hike to see a centuries-old archaeological site that is literally washing away.

“UNH anthropological archaeologist Meghan Howey has a map. It was made in 1635 and it shows the location of garrison houses that once stood near Great Bay in what is now Durham. Garrison houses, in case you’re wondering, were a sort of fortified log cabin built by early colonial settlers in New England.

“But Howey says even though we’ve had this map for almost 400 years, until recently, no one has actually gone out to find the sites. To look for what may have been left behind. …

“Howey and a team of volunteers discovered the location of one of the garrison houses on that map – the remains of a structure where some of the earliest Europeans to ever be in this region lived, worked, and died.

“But that exciting discovery came with some sobering news.

“We reach the end of the forest, where a steep bank drops to a narrow strip of sandy beach. Howey points to the ground beneath our feet.

“I realize that she’s not showing me what’s here, so much as what’s gone. Most of the land where the garrison house once stood has been eaten away by the rising tidal water of the bay.

“ ‘Like quite literally washing away,’ says Howey, ‘and it’s gone, whatever the artifacts were with it – they’ve been, over the years, just washed away.’

“Just one corner of the garrison house’s foundation remains on solid ground. A few feet away, Howey points out a couple of bricks submerged in the shallow salty water. She says the bricks were likely part of the garrison house’s chimney and could date back to the 1600s. They are what remains of an archaeological site that’s largely been lost.

“ ‘Yeah it’s gone. It was a pretty depressing find,’ says Howey. …

“In a new report, she combined sea-level rise projections from climate scientists with the location of historic sites on the Seacoast. She found that as many as 1 in 7 of the region’s known historic sites are at risk.

“But even that number could be a low estimate because it doesn’t include sites like this one, which weren’t known until Howey found it just last year. …

“In many cases, saving historic sites like this from climate change just isn’t feasible. So the best Howey can do is to document what’s here before it’s gone — an archaeological race against time.

“ ‘I feel a great sense of urgency especially after finding these sites are washing away,’ says Howey, ‘there’s a part of me that feels I’m 20 years too late to the problem.’ ”

More here.

Read Full Post »

Photo: Vincent Francigny / Sedeinga archaeological mission
A large cache of recently discovered texts offers insight into one of Africa’s oldest written languages.

Archaeologists, whether professionals or amateurs like those in a recent post, keep discovering new wonders. They remind us never to make the mistake of thinking that everything has been discovered.

Jason Daley writes at Smithsonian magazine, “Archaeologists in Sudan have uncovered a large cache of rare stone inscriptions at the Sedeinga necropolis along the Nile River. The collection of funerary texts are inscribed in Meroitic, one of Africa’s earliest written languages.

“As Charles Q. Choi at LiveScience reports, the find is full of potential. … The archaeological site of Sedeinga — once part of the kingdoms of Napata and Meroe (which were jointly referred to as the ‘Kush kingdom’ by their ancient Egyptian neighbors) –- includes the remains of 80 small brick pyramids and more than 100 tombs created during a cultural period from about 700 B.C. to roughly 300 C.E.

” ‘The necropolis’ miniature pyramids were initially inspired by Egypt’s massive monuments, but during a later time, Meroitics refashioned the tombs and pyramids to include chapels and chambers where they could worship the dead. …

“In addition to the funerary texts, archaeologists also found pieces of decorated and inscribed sandstone. … One of the more interesting new finds from the dig is a lintel, or structural beam from a chapel with a depiction of Maat, the Egyptian goddess of order, equity, and peace. This is the first time archaeologists have found a depiction of Maat with black African features.

“Another find of note, a funerary stele, describes a high-ranking woman by the name of Lady Maliwarase and details her connections with royalty. Similarly, a lintel uncovered during the excavation explores the lineage of another woman of high rank, Adatalabe, who counts a royal prince among her blood line.

“These kinds of inscriptions are sure to help historians continue to piece together the story of Meroe. For instance, as Francigny tells Choi, the aforementioned finds reveal that in Meroe kingdom matrilineality — the women’s lineage — was important enough to record.”

More here.

Read Full Post »

Photo: beniculturali.gov.it
The newly discovered “commander’s house” was found while digging Rome’s Metro C subway line. It dates back to the 2nd century.

Nowadays, archaeologists get involved at construction sites early, especially if there’s a suspicion of buried culture deep down. It must be frustrating for builders to delay a project when something of historical significance is unearthed, but I like to think that some builders (or perhaps some low-level workers) find it exciting to be part of history. I like to imagine that once in a while an inspired worker goes back to school and becomes an archaeologist.

In Rome, a subway project first revealed unexpected treasure in 2016. Elena Goukassian has a report at Hyperallergic.

“In the summer of 2016, while digging the new Metro C subway line in Rome, workers came across a rare archeological find, a 2nd-century CE Roman barracks. [More recently] archeologists uncovered the remains of a ‘commander’s house’ (domus) connected to the barracks, ‘the first discovery of its kind in the Italian capital,’ according to the Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata (ANSA).

“Complete with marble floors, mosaics, and frescoes, the Hadrian-era house was found [roughly 39 feet] under the Amba Aradam station, close to the Basilica of San Giovanni Laterano. …

“Measuring 300 square meters (~3,200 square feet), the house contains 14 separate rooms, including a ‘bathhouse with underfloor heating.’

“The house will be dismantled piece by piece and temporarily moved, before returning to its original location and incorporated into the new metro station, which ‘will surely become the most beautiful metro station in the world,” [the head of Rome’s monuments authority, Francesco Prosperetti] told reporters.”

Great pictures at Hyperallergic, here.

Who wouldn’t love the mosaic owl discovered under a subway line in Italy?

Read Full Post »

Photo: Judy Benson, Day Staff Writer
Kevin McBride, far right, anthropology professor at the University of Connecticut and director of research at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum, contemplates artifacts uncovered by Hurricane Sandy.

Today I’m linking to a couple articles about the work of Prof. Kevin McBride, director of research at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum in Connecticut. The first describes how he found a mutually beneficial way to work with metal detectionists so that details of finds would not be lost.

The partnership is surprising as archaeologists put a high priority on removing artifacts from their surroundings in a scientific way, and are usually at loggerheads with people using metal detectors.

The New York Times, where I read about this, has new firewalls that make it hard to share excerpts of articles like this one, alas, so I scouted out a related article by Judy Benson, a Day staff writer. In this one, Kevin McBride’s team turned up signs of Manisses activity on Block Island after Hurricane Sandy.

Judy Benson wrote, “Each no bigger than a fingernail, the two brown shards easily could have been mistaken for insignificant bits of rock, hardly a fitting reward for a day’s work. But to Kevin McBride and his dozen-member archaeology crew … at Grace’s Cove beach [that was] exactly what all the careful digging, scraping and sifting were about. … They probably are pieces of pottery left by the Manissee tribe that once inhabited the island. …

“McBride has been running archaeological digs here since 1983, but it wasn’t until 2012, when Superstorm Sandy gouged out broad sections of these dunes, that his chance to lead this project — the most comprehensive archaeological study of Block Island that’s ever been done, he said — came along. The state of Rhode Island decided to use about $500,000 of federal storm relief funds earmarked for assessments of cultural resources damaged by the storm to fund archaeological work along the state’s shoreline and the Block Island coast. …

” ‘Sandy did things to this island’s coastline that no one’s ever seen before, stripping away these dunes. The sites we’re focusing on are at risk in the next storm. The artifacts we’re finding will be lost if you don’t pick them up.’ ”

More at the Day, here.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: