Wednesday, 30 November 2016


In ancient times, the port city of Thonis-Heracleion was the main port of entry to Egypt for all ships coming from the Greek world.
Heracleion, also known as Thonis, was an ancient Egyptian city near Alexandria whose ruins are located in Abu Qir Bay, 2.5 km off the coast, under 10m (30 ft) of water. Its beginnings go back as early as the 12th century BC. Its importance grew during the waning days of the Pharaohs — the late period, when it was Egypt's main port for international trade and collection of taxes.

Heracleion was originally built on adjoining islands in the Nile Delta, and was intersected by canals. It had a number of harbours and anchorages.
Heracleion flourished from the 6th to the 4th century BC. Pharaoh Nectanebo I made many additions to the temple there in the 4th century B.C. Much of the city sank in the 3rd or 2nd century AD, probably due to liquefaction of the silts on which it was built following earth tremors.

Eventually it sunk entirely into the depths of the Mediterranean around the 8th century AD. The ruins submerged in the sea were located by the French underwater archaeologist Franck Goddio in 2000.
The submerged site spans about 40 sq miles (110 sq km) with probably only 1% or 2% of the site excavated – possibly less.

More than 200 objects are showcased at a new exhibition at Institut du Monde Arabe (The Arab World Institute) in Paris.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

The Crosby Garrett Helmet

The Crosby Garrett Helmet is a copper alloy Roman cavalry helmet dating from the late 2nd or early 3rd century AD. It was found by a metal detectorist near Crosby Garrett in Cumbria, England, in May 2010. Later investigations found that a Romano-British farming settlement had occupied the site where the helmet was discovered, which was located a few miles away from a Roman road and a Roman army fort.

It is thought to have been used for ceremonial occasions rather than for combat, and may already have been an antique by the time it was buried. It's design may allude to the Trojans, whose exploits the Romans re-enacted in cavalry tournaments. Only two other Roman cavalry parade helmets complete with masks have turned up in Britain.

The Ribchester Helmet was found in 1796 and is held by the British Museum. The Newstead Helmet was found around 1905 and is kept at the Museum of Antiquities in Edinburgh.

The headpiece is shaped like a Phrygian cap with a winged griffin standing with one raised foot resting on an amphora. The griffin was the companion of Nemesis, the goddess of vengeance and fate. They were agents of death and were often linked with gladiatorial combat.

Statuette of Nemesis in the form of Female Griffin with Wheel of Fortune, 2nd century C.E
The helmet and visor were cast from an alloy of 82% copper, 10% zinc and 8% tin. On October 7 2010, the helmet was sold at Christie's for £2.3 million (US$3.6 million)

Architectural panel with a griffin Roman, about A.D. 175–200.

Friday, 18 November 2016

The Malagana Treasure

In 1992 a sugarcane farm employee was working the fields at the Hacienda Malagana located in Colombia‘s Cauca Valley. The ground gave way, and both man and machine tumbled into the hole. The worker noticed shiny, golden objects in the dirt.

It was gold and he realized he’d found treasure, ancient gold artifacts from burial tombs of a previously-unknown indigenous culture of Colombia.

Jaguar lime flask with nose ornament, Calima Malagana, 200 BC
His secret didn’t last long. Word spread like wildfire, and a looting frenzy began. Between October and December 1992, approximately 5000 people are said to have descended upon Hacienda Malagana in what was called the “Malagana Gold Rush”.

Almost four tons of pre-Columbian artifacts were removed from the site to be melted down or sold to collectors in what was described as the “grandest haul since the Conquistadores.”
By 1994 the treasure hunters had given up as the cemetery site had been destroyed, and archaeologists were finally able to learn more about the mysterious culture. Research indicated that the habitation site dated to between 300 BC and 300 AD.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

The Quimbaya Treasure

Colombia’s Constitutional Court heard testimony from more than 20 national and international experts to determine whether treasures from the pre-Columbian Quimbaya culture were illegally handed over to Spain at the end of the 19th century.

In 1893, Colombian President Carlos Holguín Mallarino gifted more than 120 gold objects to Spain’s Queen Regent María Cristina. Since then, the Quimbaya Treasure has been on display at the Museo de América in Madrid. The Quimbaya civilization was first recorded as early as the 1st century BC in parts of the Eje Cafetero and Valle del Cauca. The Quimbaya were noted for their extraordinary skill in gold working.
For more than a decade, Colombian legal experts have debated whether the ancient artifacts should be repatriated. A 2006 case ended with a ruling that the gift of the treasure violated Colombia’s constitutional protections of cultural patrimony. But later appeals overturned the decision saying that the treasure had not been officially considered patrimony at the time it was handed over to Spain.

The current case has been before the Constitutional Court since 2012. When the Spanish arrived in Colombia, Quimbaya civilization was organized and centralized, with its center in what is now the department of Quindío. Their lifestyle was based on the cultivation of yuca and corn, hunting and mining. The Quimbaya largely disappeared as a distinct civilization by the 18th century as a result of Spanish colonization.

Mask with nose ornament, Colombia, Quimbaya