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.

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.

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.

Friday, 6 December 2019

Cerberus

Cerberus is a well known creature in ancient mythology. Hades’ loyal guard dog, Cerberus was a massive hound with three heads that guarded the entrance to the underworld. It was said that the beast only had an appetite for living flesh and so would only allow deceased spirits to pass, while consuming any living mortal who was foolish enough to come near him. It is said that the three heads were meant to symbolize the past, present and future.

Cerberus is probably best known as the twelfth and final labor that Heracles performs.

Heracles must enter the underworld, wrestle the beast using no weapons, and then bring Cerberus to the surface world, alive, to present to the Mycenaean king Eurystheus. Heracles tackled the beast, throws the animal over his shoulder and drags him to the mortal world. Upon seeing Cerberus, Eurystheus was so terrified that he hid in a large vase and begged Heracles to return the hell hound back to Hades.
The domain of Hades in Greek mythology was not only hell, but was the whole of the afterlife.

The realm was Tartarus (hell), the Asphodel Meadows (nothingness), and the Elysian Fields (paradise).

Agostino Carracci (1557–1602)

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Iron Age shield found in Pocklington

The bronze shield formed part of a chariot burial, which also contained the upright skeletons of two ponies. They were found on a building site at Pocklington in 2018. Its owner was a high status male, in his late 40s or older when he died, between 320BC to 174BC. The shield was well used and a slash made by a sword is clearly visible in the upper right hand side. The only other shield like it, the Wandsworth shield boss, found in the Thames river in 1849, is now in the British Museum.

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Aqrabuamelu - Scorpion men

Scorpion men are featured in several Akkadian myths, including the Enûma Elish and the Babylonian version of the Epic of Gilgamesh. They were also known as aqrabuamelu or girtablilu. The Scorpion Men are described to have the head, torso, and arms of a man and the body of a scorpion. Their "terror is awesome" and their "glance is death."

Monday, 2 December 2019

Ancient puppy found in permafrost

This 18,000-year-old puppy, preserved in the Siberian permafrost, still has its nose, fur, teeth and whiskers – but DNA tests to determine whether it is a dog or a wolf have come up blank, suggesting it may represent a common ancestor of both.

The puppy’s remains were identified by researchers at a site near Yakutsk in eastern Siberia, last year. Researchers have determined that the animal is male, was 2 months old when he died and lived around 18,000 years ago. Research suggests that dogs and wolves may have diverged from a common ancestor around 40,000 years ago, although some dog breeds may have bred with wolves after that point.

Sunday, 1 December 2019

Praetorian Guard

The Praetorian Guard (cohortes praetoriae) was an elite unit of the Imperial Roman Army who were personal bodyguards to the Roman emperors. During the era of the Roman Republic, the Praetorians served as a small escort force for high-ranking officials. With the transition into the Roman Empire, Augustus refounded the Guard as his personal security detail.
Although they continued to serve in this capacity for roughly three centuries, the Guard became famous for its interference in Roman politics, to the point of overthrowing emperors and proclaiming successors.

The Guard was ultimately disbanded by Constantine the Great in 312.
Praetorian Cohorts intervened many times in the struggle for the imperial succession. Lacking troops of its own, the Senate had no choice each time but to accept the choice of the Praetorians as well as that of the various legions. The new emperor was always proclaimed by the Praetorians before being ratified by the Senate and the legions stationed in the various provinces.

While the guard had the power to make or break emperors, it had no formal role in government. Often after an outrageous act of violence, revenge by the new ruler was almost always forthcoming.