Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Rare Constantine I Solidus

A rare Roman solidus of Emperor Constantine I was dug up from a field in Somerset in 2019. Its estimated at £10k-12k. On the reverse is a rare portrayal of Constantine riding his horse in battle holding a spear and shield with two fallen enemy soldiers.

It commemorates a victory over Maxentius at Milvian bridge outside Rome on October 28, 312. Constantine the Great ruled between 306 and 337 AD.
Constantine enacted reforms. To combat inflation he introduced the solidus, a new gold coin that became the standard for Byzantine and European currencies for more than a thousand years. Constantine was the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity, which he did on his deathbed.
Constantine was a ruler of major importance, and a controversial figure.

Constantine had his eldest son Crispus seized and put to death by "cold poison" at Pola (Pula, Croatia) sometime between 15 May and 17 June 326. In July, he had his wife Empress Fausta killed in an overheated bath. Constantine was succeeded by his three sons born of Fausta, Constantine II, Constantius II and Constans. More bloodshed followed.

Sunday, 29 March 2020

Secret Crypt found in U.K. - Exploding Bishops

A forgotten crypt was uncovered in an ancient church in London in 2017. Inside are the remains of some of England’s most influential churchmen. They will remain undisturbed for now — being sealed in a lead coffin can have explosive consequences.

The tomb was accidentally uncovered by workmen refurbishing the Garden Museum in a neighborhood of London. The Garden Museum is located in the deconsecrated St. Mary-at-Lambeth Church, which dates back to 1062
The tomb appears to be 400 or 500 years old. At least five of the 30 coffins contain the remains of former archbishops of Canterbury — the most senior clergyman in the Episcopal Church of England.
Clergymen have been identified by plates affixed to the coffins. They include Richard Bancroft, who was England’s No. 1 churchman from 1604 to 1610. He played a major role in producing the King James Bible.

A corpse in a coffin that’s undisturbed for 400 or so years would turn most of us into dust. But some turn into so-called ‘coffin liquor.’

When the tightly sealed coffin lets the anaerobic bacteria win the day, some coffins will be one third full of a viscous black liquid. These contents can burst out violently when the seal is broken.

Friday, 27 March 2020


Medusa was a monster to the ancient Greeks, one of the Gorgon sisters and daughter of Phorkys and Keto, the children of Gaea (Earth) and Oceanus (Ocean). She had the face of an ugly woman with snakes instead of hair; anyone who looked into her eyes was turned to stone.

She was once a fair maiden, a priestess of Athena, and devoted to a life of celibacy; however, after being wooed by Poseidon she forgot her vows and married him. For this offence she was punished by the goddess. Each wavy lock of the beautiful hair that had charmed her husband was changed into a venomous snake; her love-inspiring eyes turned into bloodshot, furious orbs, which excited fear and disgust in the onlooker; whilst her milk-white skin turned a loathsome green.

After a life of misery deliverance came at the hands of Perseus. Medusa was beheaded by the hero Perseus, who used her head as a weapon until he gave it to Athena to place on her shield. In classical antiquity the image of the head of Medusa appeared in an evil-averting device known as the Gorgoneion.
Medusa's frightening appearance on coins served a propaganda purpose. Warfare was endemic in the classical world, a way of life, and death, as it has been throughout history.

Medusa served to both protect and terrify.

Thursday, 26 March 2020

Elephants on Ancient Coinage

Karshapana, or “punch-marked silver” coinage of India, dates from 600 BCE to ca. 300
Animals that cannot be domesticated, elephants have a long history of interaction with humans. The Indus Valley civilization used captive Asian elephants as early as 2000 BCE for logging, transportation and ceremonial processions. India provides the earliest appearance of elephants on coins.

A rare commemorative silver dekadrachm, Alexander the Great, lance in hand, charges at an elephant. This may have been an actual event during the Battle of the Hydaspes (326 BCE). Horses are spooked by the smell and sound of elephants unless trained.

Alexander III, The Great (336-323 B.C.), Silver Dekadrachm of 5 Shekels, 40.08g. Minted at Babylon, struck c. 327 B.C. $ 300,000
African elephants appear on the reverse of rare Carthaginian coins struck in Spain from about 220 to 206 BCE, probably to pay mercenaries.

The best-known elephant images on coins appears on a massive issue of Roman denarii in the name of Julius Caesar. Based on the multitude of different dies, the size of this issue is estimated at 22.5 million.
The specimen sold in 2013 for $980.
In 248 CE, Rome observed it's 1000th anniversary of its foundation. Emperor Philip I (“the Arab”) celebrated with elaborate gladiatorial games, fighting exotic animals brought from every corner of the empire. These were commemorated on his coins, which survive in large numbers.

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Bulgarian Valley of Kings

A four-wheeled wooden chariot, its intricately carved bronze plating and fittings, plus the skeletal remains of two horses and a dog have been preserved in situ instead of being removed to a museum. Thracian chariots were often buried with up to eight horses and their elaborately decorated bridles. Thracians established a powerful kingdom in the fifth century B.C.

The capital was thought to be Seutopolis, whose ancient ruins lie under a large artificial lake near Shipka, in an area dubbed 'the Bulgarian Valley of Kings' for its many rich tombs. It is believed that there are over 1500 funeral mounds in the region, with only 300 being researched so far.
The Kazanlak Tomb was found accidentally on 19 April 1944 by soldiers who were digging for entrenchment against aircraft. It dates to the first half of 3rd century BC.
The Svetitsa mound revealed a spectacular gold mask, which was laid on the face of the deceased person. It was made of a solid 673-g gold plate with individual features - thick hair, beard and mustache, the eyes half-closed. This is one of the earliest and richest tombs discovered in the Valley.

Monday, 23 March 2020

Ancient mosaics of Lod

An ancient mosaic that once belonged to a Roman villa in the city of Lod was discovered in 2018 by archaeological excavations at the site.

The mosaic-decorated reception and courtyard, as well as a water system were found as the Israel Antiquities Authority dug in preparation for the construction of a visitors’ center in Lod.
A 1,700-year-old mosaic discovered in Lod, Israel, was revealed to the public for the first time in November, 2015.

Measuring 36 by 42 feet, the impressive artwork covered in depictions of nature. It was found near another artwork found two decades ago in that same area.

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Ancient artifacts and DNA testing

Also trapped within the gum was genetic material from one of her meals—duck and hazelnuts—along with DNA from the bacteria and viruses she harbored in her mouth.Ancient people in Scandinavia used birch pitch as chewing gum. Scientists were able to sequence a complete human genome from a piece of birch pitch that was chewed up and spat out in southern Denmark some 5700 years ago. The chewer was female, with dark skin, dark hair, and blue eyes.

17,000-year-old puma shit from the southern Andes contains the oldest parasite DNA yet recorded. It proves pumas were infested with roundworm long before humans and their animals arrived.
Centuries-old manuscripts are appreciated for their words and illustrations, but recent research has shown they can also be treasure troves of DNA. Scribes often wrote on parchment made from the skin of animals. Religious pages containing oaths are rife with human microbial DNA, likely because they were often handled and kissed by clergymen.

DNA played a crucial role in identifying the bones of Richard III, which were unearthed beneath a city parking lot in Leicester, England in 2012.
Rodents of millennia past were nest builders. They collected bits from their surroundings and sealed the deal with their urine, which acts as a binder that preserves the nests for tens of thousands of years. These nests, middens, offer a snapshot of the local environment at the time they were built.

Because the enamel that coats our teeth is 97% mineral, human teeth are more likely to survive through time. In 2010 genetic material from a wisdom tooth discovered in Siberia lead scientists identify the Denisovans, a little-known group that shared a common ancestor with Neanderthals and Homo sapiens.

Tuesday, 17 March 2020

Celtic coins - Geoff Cottam collection

Spink London sold the Celtic coin collection of Geoff Cottam on December 2, 2015. One of the most stunning rarities is one of the finest known gold quarter staters of the Atrebates and Regni peoples, minted under Tincomarus, (c.20 BC-AD 10). It is a 'Medusa' type.

Celtic, Trinovantes and Catuvellauni, uninscribed coinage, (c.60-20 BC), gold Quarter Stater, 1.25g,

Addedomaros Crescent Cross. c.45-25 BC.
The Celtic tribes left little archaeological evidence  to understand their culture, and almost all written description of them comes from others.

All that remains are a few artifacts; of which this collection was an incredible treasure trove.

Monday, 16 March 2020

Stolen Roman ballista stone returned

The thief cited the current coronavirus outbreak as the reason for returning the artifact.
A man has returned an ancient Roman projectile that he took from an ancient site in Jerusalem 15 years ago.  The man took the ballista stone from the City of David in the Jerusalem Walls National Park.
The ballista stones at the City of David likely date to the Roman siege of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE.