Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Tomb with ancient chariots found in central China

Archaeologists in China have uncovered a tomb with 2400-year-old chariots and horses.

The burial pit was uncovered in central China, in the city of Xinzheng, near Zhengzhou in Henan province.
Scientists believe the tomb may have belonged to a noble family of the Zheng state (806–375 BC), which was a vassal kingdom that governed during the Zhou dynasty (1100–221 BC).

Archaeologists found dozens of chariots and the skeletons of around 100 horses.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

3 Roman shipwrecks found in Egypt

Egypt announced Tuesday that archaeologists have uncovered three Roman shipwrecks off the country's north coast. The discoveries were made off the coast of Alexandria, in Abu Qir Bay.

Three gold coins that date to the time of Augustus were found.
Work in Alexandria’s harbor began in September, with researchers diving down to the sunken city of Heracleion.

Thonis-Heracleion was founded around the 8th century BC, underwent a series of natural catastrophes, and eventually sunk entirely into the depths in the 8th century CE.
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Monday, 20 November 2017


In Greek mythology Sisyphus was the king of Ephyra (now known as Corinth). He was punished for his self-aggrandizing craftiness and deceitfulness by being forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, repeating this action for eternity.

Sisyphus promoted navigation and commerce but was avaricious and deceitful. He also killed travelers and guests, a violation of xenia, which fell under Zeus's domain. He took pleasure in these killings because they allowed him to maintain his iron-fisted rule.

Persephone supervising Sisyphus in the Underworld.

Hades with Cerberus - Pluto Carricci painting
Sisyphus was notorious for his cunning. His greatest triumph came at the end of his life, when the god Hades came to claim him personally for the kingdom of the dead. Hades had brought along a pair of handcuffs, and Sisyphus expressed such an interest that Hades was persuaded to demonstrate their use - on himself.

The lord of the Underworld was kept locked up by Sisyphus, which meant nobody could die.
As a punishment for his trickery against the Gods, King Sisyphus was made to endlessly roll a huge boulder up a steep hill. The maddening nature of the punishment was reserved for him due to his belief that his cleverness surpassed that of Zeus. Zeus displayed his own cleverness by enchanting the boulder into rolling away from King Sisyphus before he reached the top which ended up consigning Sisyphus to an eternity of useless efforts and unending frustration.

Pointless or interminable activities are described as Sisyphean.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Evolution of Gold Coins

Gold has been used as a medium of exchange and a store of wealth for millennia due to its rarity, desirability, and high value. Ancient gold coins were first introduced into commerce in the kingdom of Lydia (modern-day Turkey) during the reign of King Croesus in the 6th Century BC.

The earliest coins were hand-made from electrum, a naturally occurring alloy of gold and silver. Electrum wasn't always desirable. When coinage started gaining popularity a way to standardize the purity of the gold and silver was needed.
The first technique of gold parting was invented by Croesus: salt cementation.

King Cyrus and the Persians defeated the Lydians in 546 B.C., and the region became part of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. Through trade and conquest, the Persians spread the use of gold coinage throughout the Mediterranean. The most popular gold coin of the empire was the Persian daric, introduced by Darius the Great sometime around 500 B.C. Production of darics continued for nearly two hundred years, until the Persians were defeated by Alexander the Great in 330 B.C.
Alexander and his armies allegedly looted some 700,000 troy ounces of gold coins from the Persians. These ‘spoils of war’ were subsequently melted and used to mint coins in his name.

In Britain and elsewhere, a number of Celtic tribes issues coins in gold. The early Roman Republic issued few coins in gold, their main coinage being in silver, with bronze or copper for smaller denominations. From the death of Julius Caesar, gold coinage came to be an important part of the Roman financial system.

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Saturday, 18 November 2017

Roman Emperor Galba

Surviving under emperors such as Caligula or Nero was a difficult task if you belonged to the Roman upper class. They tended to consider prominent members of the Senate their rivals, and thus found a need to eliminate them. Anyone who did not master the art of survival died. Galba mastered it.

Galba was 73 when the governor of the province of Gallia Lugdunensis contacted him in the winter of 67/68. Gaius Iulius Vindex put himself at the forefront of those who no longer wanted to fund Nero’s massive extravagances.

Galba, 68-69. Denarius April to late 68.

Galba Sestertius, Rome 68-69
When Nero learned about the rebellion of Vindex, he immediately assumed that Galba could become a threat. The murder attempt failed. It made clear to Galba that his tactics would not protect him from another assassination attempt by Nero.

On April 2, 68, he stepped in front of the army on the forum of Cartagena. The army did what it was expected to do: it proclaimed Galba emperor. The Senate dismissed Nero on June 9, 68, and sentenced him to death. Galba was appointed his successor.

Galba, Aureus July 68-January 69
Instead of concentrating on his army, Galba focused on the depleted state coffers. He tried to recover the 2.2 billion sestertii Nero had given away as gifts. The tide was turning for Galba on January 1, 69, when all the legions were requested to renew the oath on the emperor.

The Roman army on the Rhine refused. The legionaries were upset that Galba had not rewarded them adequately for their support during the rebellion. Galba vainly tried to take up the fight. A bad decision. Galba was killed and more conflict followed. The eventful year 69 AD went down in Roman history as the Year of the Four Emperors.
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Friday, 17 November 2017

Ancient Scythian Gold sparks spat between Russia, Netherlands

Moscow has accused the Netherlands of seizing gold artifacts claimed by the Kremlin following Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014.

A collection of gold that dates back to the Scythian era in the fourth century B.C. was on display in Amsterdam when Moscow invaded Crimea and annexed it from Ukraine almost three years ago.
A Dutch court ruled last year that Ukraine was the rightful owner of the ancient treasure and it should not be returned to the territory while it is occupied by Russia. Moscow claims that as Crimea is part of Russia, the artifacts should be returned.
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Thursday, 16 November 2017

The Hydra

The Lernaean Hydra was a serpentine water monster in Greek and Roman mythology. Its lair was the lake of Lerna. Lerna was reputed to be an entrance to the Underworld. In myth, the monster is killed by Hercules, using sword and fire, as the second of his twelve labors.

According to Hesiod, the Hydra was the offspring of Typhon and Echidna. It possessed many heads. Later versions of the Hydra story add a regeneration feature to the monster: for every head chopped off, the Hydra would regrow new heads. The Hydra had poisonous breath and blood so virulent that even its scent was deadly.

He then confronted the Hydra, wielding either a harvesting sickle, a sword, or his famed club.
Eurystheus sent Hercules to slay the Hydra, which Hera had raised just to slay Hercules. Upon reaching the swamp near Lake Lerna, where the Hydra dwelt, Hercules covered his mouth and nose with a cloth to protect himself from the poisonous fumes. He shot flaming arrows into the Hydra's lair, a deep cave from which it emerged only to terrorize neighboring villages.
The weakness of the Hydra was that it was invulnerable only if it retained at least one head. Realizing that he could not defeat the Hydra, Heracles called on his nephew Iolaus for help. His nephew then came upon the idea of using a firebrand to scorch the neck stumps after each decapitation. Heracles cut off each head and Iolaus cauterized the open stumps. Seeing that Heracles was winning the struggle, Hera sent a giant crab to distract him. He crushed it under his mighty foot. The Hydra's one immortal head was cut off with a golden sword given to Heracles by Athena.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

The First Circulating Coins

Ionia, Circa 650-600 BC. Hekte (one-sixth stater)Little is known about this electrum (natural alloy of gold and silver) coin. It was minted in Ionia, somewhere in central Western Anatolia on the shores of the Aegean, but the precise city-state that produced it is unknown. It could have been minted in Miletus, a city often referred to as the origin of the modern world.

This type likely represents the first true coins which circulated in everyday use. This type are small 1/24th staters which represented about a day’s pay. Larger denominations are rare. Even fewer trites (one-third stater) are known, and only three full-size staters have ever been found.
During the excavation of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus (present day Turkey near the Black Sea), a group of coins was found which are thought to be its 'foundation deposit', a custom that supposedly prevented the building from falling into ruin. The largest type in the group, a stater, had an inscription stating, 'I am the badge of Phanes'. It's meaning has been lost to antiquity.

Coins revolutionized commerce, offering an accessible, neutral medium through which transactions could be processed quickly and fairly.
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Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Ancient Skull from China raises Questions

Most scientists believe all modern humans are descended from African ancestors. But a new analysis of an ancient Chinese skull found too many similarities to the earliest human fossils found in Africa to be a coincidence. The 260,000 year old skull was discovered nearly 40 years ago in China’s Shaanxi Province. It belonged to a member of Homo erectus.

Its possible we need to reassess how our ancestors migrated, interacted and subsequently evolved.
The similarities show that early modern humans may not have been genetically isolated from other parts of the world. Characteristics of modern Homo sapiens may have actually developed in east Asia, and were later carried to Africa.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Amazing Historical Artifacts

Broadsword of Oliver Cromwell. Made in England c. 1650. This is one of the finest surviving swords of a type favored during the English Civil War (1642-51). The association of this sword with English statesman Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) is consistent with the inscription and heraldic arms of England and Ireland on the blade, and with the outstanding quality of the hilt's chiseled decoration.
Monomachus Crown – Hungarian National Museum, Budapest. The crown is engraved Byzantine goldwork, decorated with cloisonné enamel. King Constantine Monomachus ruled the Byzantine kingdom from 1042 to 1055 with his wife Zoe and her sister Theodora. It was probably made in Constantinople in 1042.

It was found in 1860 by a farmer while plowing. The objects passed to the local landowning nobility, who sold it in four transactions to the Hungarian National Museum between 1861 and 1870.
A Surviving Crate from the Boston Tea Party – The Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, Boston.

The Boston Tea Party was the spark in the powder keg for the American War of Independence. The rebelling colonials climbed aboard a ship carrying England’s most valuable commodity – tea, and threw it overboard in an act of open defiance. Two crates survived.

The Axe of Pharoah Ahmes – The Egyptian Museum, Cairo. This gold ceremonial axe was found among the treasures in the Tomb of Ahmes. It is funerary object that was not used in the life of the pharaoh. One of the sides of the blade is adorned with Nekhbet, vulture goddess and the guardian of Upper and Lower Egypt, and other deities who protect the pharaoh . The other side of the blade depicts the pharaoh tormenting one of his enemies as a symbol for sovereign power.
Corinthian Helmet and Skull from the Battle of Marathon 490 BCE – Royal Ontario Museum, Canada. A pivotal moment in Ancient Greek history, the battle of Marathon saw a smaller Greek force, mainly made up of Athenian troops, defeat an invading Persian army.

A fierce and bloody battle, with numerous casualties, it appears that this helmet (with skull inside) belonged to a Greek hoplite (soldier) who died during the fighting.

The story of the man who ran back to Athens with the news of the victory became synonymous with the long distance running event in the Olympics.
The Bullet that killed Lincoln – National Museum of Health and Medicine, Silver Spring, USA.

On April 14, 1865, five days after Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant in Appomattox, Virginia, an actor named John Wilkes Booth achieved historical immortality by firing the shot that claimed the life of Abraham Lincoln.

Roman Iron Slave Collar 4 CE – The Museo Nazionale alle Terme di Diocleziano, Rome Italy.

The inscription on the collar reads – “I have run away; hold me. When you have returned me to my master, Zoninus, you will receive a solidus" (gold coin)

Blood Stained Cloak of Archduke Franz Ferdinand – Austrian Military Museum, Vienna. The murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand plunged the world into the first World War.