Thursday, 31 August 2017

Ancient Roman sarcophagi discovered

Two ancient Roman sarcophagi have been unearthed close to Rome’s modern-day football stadium. The marble coffins boast elaborate bas-reliefs and were probably the final resting place of the children of a wealthy Roman family. Discovered by chance when an energy utility company started digging in the area, they appear to date from the third or fourth century AD.

The Ludovisi sarcophagus
Ancient artifacts are routinely discovered beneath the streets of Rome during construction and maintenance work. In 2015, a routine operation to repair gas pipes beneath a street in the capital revealed the remains of a 2,000-year-old villa, complete with frescoed walls.
This spring a priceless Roman sarcopagus was identified at Blenheim Palace
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Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Ancient gold necklace found at Bulgaria’s Heraclea Sintica site

Archaeologists at the Heraclea Sintica site near Petrich in Bulgaria have found an extremely well-preserved gold necklace, possibly dating from the fourth century CE. A Hellenistic and later Roman city, Heraclea Sintica, about 180km south of Sofia, was founded in the fourth century BCE and lasted about 800 years when it was destroyed by an earthquake. Earlier, the city was the site of a settlement by the Thracian tribe the Sintians.
Over the centuries, Heraclea Sintica experienced several strong earthquakes, eventually triggering the decline of the city.

Necklaces of the kind found at Heraclea Sintica were in fashion from the second to the fifth centuries. They were made in specialist workshops and were a typical Roman product, called Istmion. The necklace is 48cm long including the fasteners and weighs 50 grams.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Vault 'B' of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple

All eyes are on the sealed 'vault B' of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple, one of the richest shrines in the world, with a Supreme Court-appointed amicus curie to hasten the process of opening it. The 16th century temple shot to fame six years ago when one of its six vaults ('A') was found to contain ancient valuables estimated at Rs 1 lakh crore. ($20 billion)
The royal family and a section of devotees have opposed the opening of the sealed chamber on the grounds that such an action would “violate the sanctity of the temple”. They had earlier conducted an astrological ritual – devaprasnam – to perceive the mood of the deity, and informed the court that opening the vault amounted to violating the temple tradition in a manner that would invite divine wrath.

Vault 'A' contained antique gold coins that alone weighed over 600 kg. Of the two lakh items documented by government officials, 600 were found embedded with gems.
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Tuesday, 22 August 2017

The Olmec Civilization

The Olmec were the first major civilization in Mexico following a progressive development in Soconusco. They lived in the tropical lowlands of south-central Mexico, in the present-day states of Veracruz and Tabasco.

The Olmec flourished from as early as 1500 BCE to about 400 BCE. Pre-Olmec cultures had flourished in the area since about 2500 BCE, but by 1600–1500 BCE, Early Olmec culture had emerged, centered on the San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán site near the coast in southeast Veracruz. They were the first Mesoamerican civilization and laid many of the foundations for the civilizations that followed. The aspect of the Olmecs most familiar now is their artwork, particularly "colossal heads".
The Olmec constructed permanent city-temple complexes at San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán, La Venta, Tres Zapotes, and Laguna de los Cerros. In this region the first Mesoamerican civilization emerged and reigned from c. 1400–400 BCE.

What is today called Olmec first appeared fully within the city of San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán, where distinctive Olmec features occurred around 1400 BCE.
San Lorenzo was all but abandoned around 900 BCE and La Venta became the most prominent Olmec center, lasting from 900 BCE until it was abandoned around 400 BCE. La Venta sustained the Olmec cultural traditions with spectacular displays of power and wealth. The Great Pyramid was the largest Mesoamerican structure of its time.

Between 400 and 350 BCE, the population in the Olmec heartland dropped, and the area was sparsely inhabited until the 19th century. Whatever the cause, within a few hundred years of the abandonment of the last Olmec cities, successor cultures became firmly established.

"Olmec-style" face mask in jade

The Olmec culture was first defined as an art style, and this continues to be the hallmark of the culture.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Stone Age 'Lunch Box' found

Over the past 100 years glaciers and ice fields of the European Alps have lost half their volume to global warming, and their continued retreat, like that of glaciers everywhere, is accelerating. By 2100 many scientists predict they will have all but disappeared. As glaciers recede, they are releasing human artifacts that they have absorbed through the ages, including humans themselves. Ötzi the iceman, the five-thousand-year-old mummified mountaineer discovered in 1991, being the most amazing.

An object four thousand years old was found in 2012: a circular box, several inches wide, made of willow and pine and sewn together with twigs. The recovery of a wooden artifact so old and well preserved is remarkable. Even more remarkable was it's contents, a blob found to be “some sort of wheat”.

As far back as seven thousand years ago, people who lived in the lower valleys brought their goats and sheep to graze in high-elevation fields for days or weeks at a time. The wooden containers held several days’ worth of meals.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Ancient Miocene infant ape skull - Redux

The complete cranium of a Miocene ape from Africa has been found. It lived before the human lineage split off from the common ancestors we share with chimpanzees some 7 million years ago.

Scientists in Kenya found the prize: an almost perfectly preserved skull roughly the size of a baseball from an infant. The remarkably complete skull was discovered in the Turkana Basin of northern Kenya 3 years ago.
Researchers measured argon isotopes—which decay at a fixed, predictable rate—within the fossil’s rock layer, revealing that it was about 13 million years old.

3D animation of the Alesi skull computed from the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) microtomographic data. It shows the skull in solid 3D rendering
X-rays fired at the skull turned up such high-res images of its teeth that the infant's age could be determined to within a matter of months. But the scientists were most excited about its ears. The inner ear structure suggests that it would not have had the balance to perform treetop aerial antics.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Drinking water in ancient Pompeii likely hazardous

The Romans were famous for their advanced engineering related to water supply. But the drinking water in the pipelines was probably poisoned on a scale that may have led to daily problems with vomiting, diarrhea, and liver and kidney damage. This according to an analysis of water pipe from Pompeii. Results suggest the pipes contained high levels of the toxic chemical element antimony.
Lead often takes the blame for the fall of the Roman Empire. Lead water pipes, lead cooking vessels, and lead utensils poisoned unwitting Romans, at least that was the theory. The fragment of an ancient lead pipe from Pompeii was loaded with antimony, a chemical that’s even more toxic than lead. The inside of lead pipes calcify quickly, forming a barrier between the poisonous lead and the drinking water flowing through the pipe. Antimony might have been the real culprit. A grey metal-like chemical used in making lead batteries, electronics, and other products, antimony is especially common in groundwater near volcanoes. Thus more samples from other locations is required for proof.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Chilesaurus; 'Most bizarre dinosaur ever found'

A vegetarian dinosaur with the silhouette of a flesh-ripping velociraptor, whose fossilized remains were unearthed in southern Chile 13 years ago, is a missing link in dinosaur evolution, say researchers. An inverted, bird-like hip structure and flattened, leaf-shaped teeth prove an exclusively vegetal diet, not a meat eating one. Chilesaurus is more closely related to a group including Triceratops and the three-tonne Stegosaurus.

The first dinosaur emerged some 228m years ago. The new findings support the idea that Chilesaurus is the 'missing link' between the T-Rex Family and Herbivores. Theropods and ornithischians may have shared a common ancestor as early as 225m years ago.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Roman artifacts recovered from shipwreck at the ancient port of Caesarea

Ancient artifacts have been recovered from a Roman merchant ship that sank off the port of Caesarea 1,600 years ago.

Figurine of the moon goddess Luna
The objects include thousands of coins and rare bronze statues, which were likely destined for an ancient Roman recycling depot. The artifacts include a bronze lamp depicting the image of the sun god Sol, a figurine of the moon goddess Luna, a lamp in the image of the head of an African slave and fragments of three life-size bronze cast statues.

Bronze lamp depicting the image of the sun god Sol
The range of finds recovered from the sea reflects the large volume of trade and the status of Caesarea’s harbour during the late Roman period, which was known as a period of economic and commercial stability.
The largest cache of gold coins ever found in Israel was discovered by chance by divers at Caesarea in early 2015. The treasure included at least 2,000 gold coins from the Fatimid period, approximately 1,000 years ago.
Most of the coins belong to the Caliph Al-Hakim, who ruled from 996 to 1021, and to his son, Al-Zahir (1021–1036), and were minted in Egypt and North Africa. The earliest coin in the cache is a quarter-dinar minted in Palermo, Sicily in the second half of the 9th century.

The latest coin dates to 1036, so it can be concluded that the ship sank around that year, although until excavations are carried out around the spot where the cache was found, the date is difficult to determine.

Caesarea was a harbor city founded by King Herod the Great about 2,000 years ago.

At the time the coins were minted, the city was a bustling, prosperous port that played an important role in the Fatimid's trading network.