Monday, 30 December 2019

Ancient ‘piggy bank’ found in central Israel

A hoard of 1,200 year old gold coins was recently discovered by a team of Israeli archaeologists working at an excavation in the city of Yavne. The seven gold coins were found hidden inside a small clay juglet and date to the 9th century AD, with one of them being a dinar of Caliph Harun al-Rashid, a key figure in Middle Eastern folk tales known as "One Thousand and One Nights" or "Arabian Nights".
The site included a large number of pottery kilns that were used to make storage jars, cooking pots and bowls, leading archaeologists to suspect that the coins were the savings of a potter.

Sunday, 29 December 2019

Greek Police seize head of ancient kouros statue in Nemea

The head of an Ancient Kouros statue, dating back to the Archaic period (6th century BC) was confiscated by police. A Greek man was arrested in Nemea, in Corinth, southern Greece, for illegal possession of the ancient artifact. He was looking for buyers to sell the head for 500k euro. A kouros is a modern term given to free-standing ancient Greek sculptures that first appear in the Archaic period in Greece and represent nude male youths. In Ancient Greek kouros means "youth, boy, especially of noble rank"

Saturday, 28 December 2019

The Lycurgus Cup - dichroic glass

While nanoparticles sound like a recent discovery, these tiny structures have been used for centuries. The famous Lycurgus cup, made by 4th century Roman artisans, features dichroic glass, with gold and silver nanoparticles sprinkled throughout, producing a green appearance when light is shining on it from the front, and a red appearance when illuminated from behind.

The cup is also a very rare example of a complete Roman cage-cup, or diatretum, where the glass has been painstakingly cut and ground back to leave only a decorative "cage" at the original surface-level. The cup features a composition with figures, showing the mythical King Lycurgus, who tried to kill Ambrosia, a follower of the god Dionysus (Bacchus to the Romans). She was transformed into a vine that twined around the enraged king and restrained him, eventually killing him. Dionysus and two followers are shown taunting the king.
The process used to create the dichroic effect remains unclear, and it is likely that it was not well-understood or controlled by the makers. The cup was perhaps made in Alexandria or Rome in about 290-325 AD. The early history of the cup is unknown, and it is first mentioned in print in 1845. In 1958 Victor, Lord Rothschild sold it to the British Museum for £20,000.

Monday, 23 December 2019

"Ides of March" Coins

Brutus issued a silver denarius celebrating the assassination of Caesar on the Ides of March (March 15). The denarius has a portrait of Brutus on the obverse, with on the reverse a liberty cap flanked by two daggers over the inscription EID(ibus) MAR(tiis). The liberty cap was the garment given to a manumitted slave to indicate his free status, so the reverse side symbolizes Brutus and Cassius liberating Rome with their daggers. There are about 60 known copies of the silver denarius. A superb example made $332,583 in a 2016 auction. Silver specimens in extremely fine condition have sold at auction for $120,000. Low grade silver examples come on the market for around $50,000.
There is only one genuine gold aurei, and it went on display at the British museum in honor of the 2,054th anniversary of Julius Caesar’s assassination.

In October of 42 B.C., just months after the coin was struck, Brutus and Cassius were routed by Marc Anthony and Octavian’s forces and died in the Battles of Philippi. Their coins were outlawed and very few survived.

Saturday, 21 December 2019

Ptolemy, son of Lagos

Bust of Ptolemy in the British Museum. Of all the successors of Alexander the Great, the family of Ptolemy, son of Lagos, was the most successful, ruling Egypt for nearly three centuries (305 – 30 BCE). The story of that success begins with a hijacking. When Alexander died in Babylon on 10 June 323 BCE, his corpse, embalmed by a team of Egyptian morticians, was placed in an elaborate cart for travel back to Macedon in northern Greece for burial. Ptolemy was one of Alexander’s boyhood companions and trusted bodyguards. He seized the body and diverted it to Memphis, capital of Egypt, where he had been appointed satrap (governor).

Alexander’s body became a trophy and symbol of legitimacy for Ptolemy’s dynasty.

The dynasty shared just three names – at least seven Cleopatras, four Berenikes and four Arsinoës.
The earliest coins of Ptolemy I followed the pattern of Alexander’s coinage. At an uncertain date (c. 316 – 312), Ptolemy issued a new type of silver tetradrachm bearing a portrait of the deified Alexander wearing an elephant head-dress (symbolizing his conquest of India). On the reverse, the goddess Athena.

Ptolemy had three official wives and numerous liaisons, fathering at least 11 children. In 289 BCE he appointed his son, Ptolemy II as co-ruler. He died in 283 or 282, aged 84, the only one of Alexander’s successors to die peacefully in his own bed.

Thursday, 19 December 2019

Titanic artifact: gold cigarette case

A gold cigarette case that once belonged to a controversial wealthy couple that survived the Titanic disaster is up for auction. The rare artifact belonged to Sir Cosmo and Lady Duff-Gordon. The couple were accused of bribing their way off the doomed liner.

Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon, his fashion designer wife, and her secretary, were among 12 people who escaped the sinking ship on Titanic’s Lifeboat Number 1. The lifeboat, dubbed the "millionaires’ boat," had a capacity of 40. The cigarette case made $50k.

Tuesday, 17 December 2019

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.

Monday, 16 December 2019

Biggest ever Roman shipwreck found in the eastern Mediterranean

Dated to between 100 BCE and 100 CE the find is the largest classical shipwreck found in the eastern Mediterranean. The wreck of the 110-foot (35-meter) ship, along with its cargo of 6,000 amphorae, was discovered at a depth of around 60m (197 feet) during a sonar-equipped survey of the seabed off the coast of Kefalonia -- one of the Ionian islands off the west coast of Greece. Most ships of that era were around 50 feet long.

Retrieving the wreck is a "very difficult and costly job." Instead, researchers want to recover an amphora and using DNA techniques find what it contained, wine, olive oil, nuts, wheat or barley.


The Laestrygonians are a tribe of man-eating giants from ancient Greek mythology. Odysseus visited them during his journey back home to Ithaca. ​Odysseus had departed the battlefield of Troy with his twelve ships intact, and with the help of Aeolus had even managed to come within sight of Ithaca. The greed of his own men though, had seen disaster fall, as his ships were blown back to the realm of Aeolus. Odysseus's men rowed for six days and nights until they reached landfall.
Eleven of Odysseus's twelve ships anchored there. Odysseus kept his ship outside the harbor. With no idea where they were, Odysseus sent out three of his men to scout. The giants ate them. They destroyed eleven of his twelve ships by launching rocks from high cliffs. Odysseus's ship was not destroyed as it was hidden in a cove.

The eleven ships perished with their crews, and only his vessel and crew survived. It is with this one ship that Odysseus put in to the island of Aeaea, having lost his whole army. Later Greeks believed that the Laestrygonians, as well as the Cyclopes, were to blame.
The Laestrygonians were said to be eight-foot-tall cannibal giants with heavily tattooed arms. They had yellow pointed teeth. Under their clothing is leather armor and they carry iron clubs.

Sunday, 15 December 2019

Golden artifacts found on Minoan island dedicated to purple

A storehouse of ancient objects, including precious jewels and gold beads, has been uncovered on an island near Crete. Chrysi, now uninhabited, was once devoted to making a precious purple dye from sea snails. The high value placed on the rare purple dye supported a flourishing settlement between 3,800 and 3,500 years ago, during the Minoan civilization on Crete. The prosperity of the island settlement was not shown by the remains of its simple buildings, but by the high quality of the artifacts found.
Archaeologists have investigated the settlement on Chrysi since 2008, revealing various discoveries, including the remains of large carved stone tanks near the waterline on the beach. Researchers believe the tanks were used to farm the shellfish — a species of Murex called Hexaplex trunculus. The difficulty of making the dye led to it only being used by the elite, and it became known as "Royal purple." It was also known as "Tyrian purple," after the ancient Phoenican coastal city of Tyre which also produced it.
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Saturday, 14 December 2019

The Ancient Kingdom of Axum

The greatest empire to ever exist in Africa, the Kingdom of Aksum lasted from around 100 AD to 940 AD, and extended across East Africa and beyond, including modern-day Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Sudan. Located in the northern province of Tigray, Aksum remained the capital of Ethiopia until the seventh century CE. The ancient Kingdom of Axum, also known as Askum, stands out for its early use of coins.
The kingdom is famous for its stone cut obelisks. These structures were carved out of a single stone and marked graves and underground burial chambers.

Its believed that the Queen of Sheba ruled the Kingdom of Aksum for more than 50 years. According to legend, the Ark of the Covenant came to Ethiopia and has till now been guarded by a succession of monks.

Thursday, 12 December 2019

Ancient Glass - “Drink That You May Live"

Cameo Glass Skyphos, Roman, c. 25 B.C - 25 C.E
The history of glass-making can be traced back to 3500 BC in Mesopotamia. They may have been producing second-rate copies of glass objects from Egypt, where the craft originated. The earliest known glass objects, of the mid second millennium BC, were beads. Glass products remained a luxury until late Bronze Age civilizations seemingly brought glass-making to a halt.

An exhibit at Yale University Art Gallery presented an array of jewelry, cups, bowls, pitchers, flasks, bottles, cosmetic vials and jars from the ancient world. The title of the exhibit, “Drink That You May Live” was drawn from one of the objects in the exhibit — a line also seen on other Roman drinking vessels of antiquity.
Naturally occurring glass, especially the volcanic glass obsidian, has been used by many Stone Age societies across the globe for sharp cutting tools and was extensively traded. As glassmaking processes grew and changed, glass came to replace silver and gold as the most popular medium for drinking vessels.

By the 1st century AD, glass blowing emerged. Production of raw glass was undertaken with large scale manufacturing, primarily in Alexandria. Glass was a commonly available material in the Roman world.

Inscribed Cup, Roman, Eastern Mediterranean, possibly Syrian, 3rd–4th century A.D. Free-blown glass with gold leaf.

Jar with Sixteen Handles, Roman, Eastern Mediterranean, 4th–5th century A.D. Free-blown glass

A bowl from Hellenistic or Roman society, Eastern Mediterranean, late 2nd century B.C.–early 1st century A.D.
Roman cobalt blue glass amphoriskos