Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Ancient Roman Slingshot almost as deadly as a .44 Magnum

On a fortified hill called Burnswark in Scotland some 1,900 years ago a Roman army attacked local warriors by hurling lead bullets from slings that had nearly the stopping power of a modern .44 magnum handgun, according to experts. The assault must have been deadly effective, but Burnswark was just the opening salvo in a war against the tribes living north of Hadrian’s Wall. Despite their superior weaponry, Roman soldiers fought a tough, resourceful enemy capable of melting away into the hills and marshes.

Less than two decades after the Romans attacked Burnswark, they retreated south to Hadrian’s Wall.

Roman soldiers armed with slings used lead bullets to mow down foes.

Archaeologists also discovered two ballista balls

Hadrian’s wall
The Romans also employed psychological warfare against the Scots. About 10% of the bullets had holes in them. Researchers cast replicas, and asked an experienced slinger to test them. The bullets with the holes made “a weird banshee-like wail”

Isotopic studies of bullets from Burnswark and from other well-dated sites suggests that the bloody assault took place around A.D.140, early in the reign of the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Ancient coins from Amman Citadel replaced with fakes

AMMAN — The Lower House Integrity Committee recently asked the tourism minister to provide a list containing the ancient artifacts, coins and antiquities that are displayed in the Kingdom’s museums. The request was made following the discovery of fake ancient gold and silver coins in the Citadel Museum in Amman.

There were 401 ancient coins in the Citadel Museum. 400 of these were replaced by fakes.
A French archaeologist discovered the ancient gold coins a few years ago. He brought students to Jordan to show them his discovery, and found out that the coins were fake.

He alerted authorities.
The Amman Citadel is a historical site at the center of downtown Amman, Jordan. Known in Arabic as Jabal al-Qal'a, the L-shaped hill is one of the seven jabals that originally made up Amman. There is evidence of occupation since the Neolithic period.
Most of the buildings still visible at the site are from the Roman, Byzantine, and Umayyad periods.
The Temple of Hercules was built between 162-166AD when Geminius Marcianus was governor of the Province of Arabia. It is the most significant Roman structure in the Amman Citadel. The site contains a hand carved out of stone ... the hand of Hercules. It is the remains of a statue.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

The Flor de la Mar Treasure

The Flor de la Mar (Flower of the Sea) was a 400 ton Portuguese carrack (frigate) built in Lisbon during 1502 for traveling from Portugal to India and back. It was twice the size of other ships that had gone on the run.

The Flor’s service life had been long for a ship on the India run. Built for only three or four years of work, she lasted from 1502-1511. However, her design made her dangerously unseaworthy when fully loaded, and her service in various campaigns had necessitated many repairs.
In command of the Flor was Alfonso de Albuquerque. Alfonso was a Portuguese fidalgo, or nobleman, whose titles included Duke of Goa and Governor of Portuguese India. His successes in conquest were many and his bounty and tribute massive.

It was the largest treasure ever assembled by the Portuguese navy, and included 60 tons of gold from the house of the Sultan of Malacca. Supposedly, 200 gem chests were filled with diamonds, rubies and emeralds. Accompanied by four other ships, the Flor set sail for Portugal in November, 1511.
A violent storm blew up in the Straits of Malacca and the heavily overloaded Flor de la Mar was shipwrecked on the reefs near the Straits, just northeast of Sumatra on the 20th of November 1511. The ship broke in two and although Alfonso was saved, the treasure was lost to the waves.

The exact location of the shipwreck is confused due to the inaccurate maps of the time. It is considered one of the richest treasure yet to be found.

Sceptre of the Armillary, King Joao VI of Portugal

Friday, 19 May 2017

The Valkyries: Chooser of the Slain

In Norse Mythology Valkyries are female warlike virgins, who are mounted on horses and armed with helmets and spears. They decide who will die in battle. They hover over the battlefield like birds of prey.

In ancient Norse mythology, before they were linked to Odin and Ragnarok, the Valkyries were sometimes represented in carvings as carrion-eating ravens. The original Valkyries, appearing on battlefields as soon as the fighting was over, would weave tapestries from the intestines of slain warriors and feed corpses to their pet wolves.
Between the 3rd and 11th centuries, the perception of the Valkyries changed and they became associated with Odin. On the battlefield the Valkyries chose the souls of the bravest slain warriors to become Einherjar, soldiers to fight for Odin at Ragnarok, the final battle between the gods and the giants. Half of those who die in battle would go to Valhalla. The other half will go to the goddess Freya’s afterlife field Folkvangr. Freya always has the first pick, of the fallen Vikings. Odin allows some of the maidens to take the form of beautiful white swans, but if a Valkyrie is seen by a human without her swanlike disguise, she will become an ordinary mortal and can never return to Valhalla.
Once in Valhalla the dead warriors became Einherjar. (Old Norse "single fighters") Inside Valhalla the Valkyries changed clothes. Wearing simple white robes, they served the Einherjar fine foods, such as wild boar, and sacred wine made from honey. They would remain the Einherjar's servants until Ragnarok.
Valkyries were Odin's bodyguards and messengers. Mortals saw their flickering armor and light streaming from their spears. In the Middle Ages Scandinavians believed the northern lights (aurora borealis) were the Valkyries flying across the night sky. Valkyries usually appeared in groups of nine.

The Ride of the Valkyries is the popular term for the beginning of Act III of Die Walküre, by Richard Wagner. The main theme of the ride was first written down by the composer on 23 July 1851. It is one of Wagner's best-known pieces.

Thursday, 18 May 2017


In Greek mythology, Talos was a giant automaton made of bronze to protect Europa in Crete from pirates and invaders. He circled the island's shores three times daily. Talos threw rocks at any approaching ship to protect his island.
Talos had one vein, which went from his neck to his ankle, bound shut by one bronze nail. The Argo, transporting Jason and the Argonauts, approached Crete after obtaining the Golden Fleece. Talos kept the Argo at bay by hurling great boulders. Talos was slain when Medea the sorceress either drove him mad with drugs, or deceived him into believing that she would make him immortal by removing the nail. In Argonautica, Medea hypnotized him from the Argo, driving him mad with the keres she raised, so that he dislodged the nail, and "the ichor ran out of him like molten lead", killing him.
5th-century BCE Greek vase depicts the death of Talos

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Vetranio - Temporary Emperor

Vetranio entered the army and served with distinction under the mighty Constantine I (AD 306-337), the first Christian ruler of Rome, who even during his lifetime came to be called "Magnus" -- The Great. Upon Constantine's death, the Roman Empire was split between his three surviving sons: Constantine II, Constantius II, and Constans. In 340 CE, a spate of sibling bloodletting eliminated Constantine II and the survivors divvied up the spoils, with the West going to Constans, who late in his reign made Vetranio master of infantry for Pannonia. However, a coup toppled Constans early in 350, replacing him with Magnentius, who had no blood connection to the Constantinian dynasty. Magnentius quickly consolidated his power base. Commanding a large army at a critical crossroads between the two rivals, Vetranio was in a delicate position.
ConstantiusFor 10 months, Vetranio played the man in the middle, alternately professing loyalty to Constantius and telling Magnentius he might be open to an alliance. In December of 350, Constantius marched west and met Vetranio at Naissus in modern Serbia. On Christmas day, both emperors mounted a platform before the assembled armies, where Vetranio formally abdicated the throne. Constantius pensioned him off to an opulent estate in Bithynia. Vetranio had brilliantly played the difficult hand dealt him, had briefly been counted among the rulers of the Roman world, and enjoyed a far better fate than most other men who claimed the deadly purple. Having two mints under his control, Siscia and Thessalonica, Vetranio struck coins both in his own name and that of Constantius II. His bronze coinage is scarce, the silver rare, the gold extremely rare.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Tutankhamun's dagger made from Meteorite

Analysis of a dagger found within Tutankhamun's sarcophagus has found the blade was made of iron from a meteorite. The dagger has a finely embossed gold handle with a crystal pommel. It was encased within a golden sheath decorated with a floral motif, feather patterns and a jackal's head.

The blade contained high levels of nickel, along with traces of cobalt and phosphorus. Researchers were able to match the chemical composition to a meteorite which was found in 2000 on the Maras Matruh plateau in Egypt, 150 miles west of Alexandria.
Ancient Egyptian royal archives from 1,400BC mention royal gifts of iron in the period immediately before Tutankhamun's reign. Tushratta, King of Mitanni – a kingdom in northern Syria and Anatolia – sent iron objects to Amenhotep III, the grandfather of Tutankhamun.
Hieroglyphic term used to mean iron, it literally translates as “iron from the sky”.
The high manufacturing quality of Tutankhamun's dagger blade suggests a mastery of iron-working in his time. The 13 inch long (34.2cm) dagger was found lying beside the right thigh of King Tutankhamun's mummy.

Studies suggest the ancient Egyptians believed iron from meteorites had magical powers that could usher souls into the afterlife. To the ancient Egyptians, meteorite finds were gifts from the gods.

Kamil crater in southern Egypt
Egyptians considered the sky divine, so anything that fell from it would have been seen as a gift from the gods – if not a physical piece of one. They believed that the gods had bones made of iron. (as well as having flesh of gold, skin of silver and hair of lapis lazuli)

There’s no evidence of iron smelting in the region until nearly 1000 years later, so there is no argument over where the metal came from.
Tutankhamun’s daggers

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Monday, 15 May 2017

Ancient Mysteries

Tarim Mummies. During an excavation beneath the Tarim Basin in western China, archaeologists were surprised to discover more than 100 mummified corpses that dated back 2,000 years. Victor Mair was stupefied when he found blonde-haired and long-nosed Tarim mummies after they were dug up and put on display at a museum. In 1993 Mair returned to collect DNA samples from the mummies. Test results validated his hunch that the bodies were of European genetic stock.

While ancient Chinese texts describe groups of far-East dwelling Caucasian people, there is no mention of how or why they ended up there.

The Carnac Stones. With over 3,000 prehistoric standing stones, Carnac (in Brittany, France) is the largest megalithic site in the world.

Not all of the Carnac stones were apparently set up for the same purpose. There are stone circles, rows of stones aligned perfectly, and even mausoleums with roofs made entirely of large stones. Stones may have been periodically placed over thousands of years, but a rough calculation for the beginning of the stone placements is 4000 BC.

Minoan Palace Ruins at Knossos
Fall of the Minoans. The Minoans were an Aegean Bronze Age civilization that arose on the island of Crete and flourished from about 2600 to 1400 BC.

The Minoan eruption on the island of Thera (present-day Santorini) was among the largest volcanic explosions in the history of civilization. The eruption is believed to have severely affected the Minoan culture. Archaeological evidence found on Crete indicate that a massive tsunami, generated by the Theran eruption, devastated the coastal areas of Crete and destroyed many Minoan settlements.

Bog Bodies. A bog body is a human cadaver that has been naturally mummified in a peat bog. Such bodies, sometimes known as bog people, are widespread. Bog bodies have retained their skin and internal organs due to the unusual conditions of the bog. These conditions include highly acidic water, low temperature, and a lack of oxygen.

The overwhelming majority of bog bodies have been found in Northern Europe, particularly Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Ireland.

The Helike Delta with the Gulf of Corinth at left.
Lost City of Helike Helike was situated on the northwestern part of the Peloponnesian peninsula. During its heyday, Helike was an important economic, cultural and religious centre.

One night during the winter of 373 B.C., the city of Helike was obliterated. The rescue party that came in the following morning found no survivors. No trace of the legendary society existed outside of ancient Greek texts until 1861 when an archaeologist found a bronze coin with the unmistakable head of Poseidon.

In 2001, a pair of archaeologists located the ruins of Helike.
Rongorongo. Rongorongo is an indecipherable hieroglyphic script used by the early inhabitants on Easter Island. While no other neighboring oceanic people possessed a written language, Rongorongo appeared mysteriously in the 1700s.

The language was lost—along with the best hopes for ever deciphering it—after early European colonizers banned it.
Frozen for 40,000 years, this mammoth calf was discovered in 2007 by reindeer herders in Siberia. The remains of two Ice Age puppies were found perfectly preserved in 2015. Long extinct Siberian Cave Lion Cubs were discovered in 2014. Other long-frozen remains may emerge from shrinking ice sheets.