Thursday 29 December 2022

Greek gods found in ancient Azanoi

Archaeologists have unearthed several statues and heads of statues depicting Greek gods in the ancient city of Azanoi in central Turkey. Stone heads of Eros, Dionysus, Herakles, and others were uncovered, as well as a full statue of an unidentified hero of Azanoi. The city of Azanoi was part of Phrygia. Azanoi would eventually become an important trade city in the Roman empire, located near the Aegean Sea in modern day Turkey.

Monday 26 December 2022

St Nicholas burial site

The church in the small coastal town of Demre is one of Christianity's most legendary sites. St Nicholas' body is believed to have laid in a tomb inside the church before being stolen by thieves. Using radar technology, Turkish archaeologists preparing for restoration work detected another tomb 5ft beneath the marble slabs which make the church's floor. One theory is that the tomb shifted underground during an earthquake and has remained undiscovered.

A well-worn church behind a scruffy shopping square in a small Turkish town has been described as the original Santa's grotto.
St Nicholas is believed to have been born 270 years after Jesus and lived in Demre for most of his life. Inspired by the message of Jesus, he sold all his possessions and gave out the cash to the poor. His legend for gift-giving gave rise was the inspiration behind Santa Claus.

Friday 23 December 2022


Centaurs are half-human, half-horse creatures in Greek mythology. They have the body of a horse and the torso, head and arms of a man. They were considered to be the children of Ixion, king of the Lapiths, and Nephele, a cloud made in the image of Hera. One of the best known centaurs of myth is the wise Chiron. Although most centaurs were depicted as lustful and wild, Chiron was modest and known for his medicinal and teaching skills.
Chiron lived on Mount Pelion in Thessaly and was the tutor of Achilles and Aesculapius. He was immortal but he was accidentally wounded by Heracles with an arrow treated with the blood of the Hydra, causing him insufferable pain. When Heracles asked his father to free Prometheus and Zeus demanded that someone must be sacrificed, Chiron volunteered and died, both to free Prometheus and himself from the pain.
Ironically, Chiron, the master of the healing arts, could not heal himself.

So he willingly gave up his immortality. He was honored with a place in the sky, identified by the Greeks as the constellation Centaurus.

Wednesday 21 December 2022

The Bactrian Treasure - Hill of Gold - Tillya Tepe

The Bactrian Treasure is a massive gold hoard that lay under the 'Hill of Gold' in Afghanistan, known as Bactria when Alexander the Great conquered the country 2100 years ago. The hoard is a spectacular collection of about 20,600 gold ornaments found in six burial mounds just beyond the oasis town of Sheberghan in northern Afghanistan. This is the treasure of Tillya Tepe, the Hill of Gold.

The treasure lay undisturbed until Soviet archeologists found it before the 1979 invasion. Soon after, a guerrilla war against the Soviets began, followed by civil war. During those years the treasure was at the Kabul Museum, which was looted.
The day before the Russians fled Kabul in February 1989, the treasure was moved to the presidential compound.

Gold stater of the Greco-Bactrian king Eucratides, Weight: 169.2 gm., Diam: 58 mm., the largest gold coin of antiquity.

The treasure remained safe due to the efforts of one man: Ameruddin Askarzai, a security guard of the central bank who was guardian of the vaults for 30 years. He is one of the few in history to have seen the entire collection of gold. "It's the best heritage of our country," he said. Mr Askerzai helped to seal the treasure in seven trunks and guarded it along with the assets of the central bank - gold bars the "size of your arm" worth about £50 million - also kept in the presidential palace. The real threat to the treasure came when the Taliban captured Kabul in 1996. A delegation of 10 mullahs arrived with a jeweler to inspect the vaults.
A pistol held against his head, he opened the combination lock so they could inspect the gold bars.
They had found the second prize, but didn't realize the real treasure was in a vault above their heads. The Taliban asked if there was any other gold, but Askerzai remained silent. He was imprisoned for three months and 17 days, during which he was beaten and tortured, but he did not reveal anything. "I wasn't scared," he said. "I didn't care for my life. They were foreigners. They were not Afghans." On the Taliban's last night in power, as coalition forces pounded the country with bombs, the Taliban stuffed the central bank's cash reserves into tin trunks and arrived at the vault for the gold bars. They spent four hours trying to open the vault. Askerzai watched. Unknown to them, five years earlier he had broken the key and left it in the lock. The Taliban gave up and fled Kabul as Northern Alliance forces edged closer. That saved the treasure.
In 2003 the vault was opened. Since then, the National Geographic Society has catalogued the collection, which appears to be complete. Also witnessing the re-opening was the archaeologist who originally found the hoard, Viktor Sarianidi.

Tuesday 20 December 2022

Gold hoard from Banias

44 gold coins were found at Banias, once known as Panaeas, an important spiritual site to successive cultures. The coins feature emperors Phocas (602-610 A.D.) and Heraclius (610-644 A.D.) Experts say the hoard was hidden during the Muslim conquest of the area around 635. Now a national park, Banias played an important role.
The site was a Canaanite shrine to the god Baal, it was then renamed in the Hellenistic era after Pan, the half-man, half-goat god of shepherds and fertility. The site grew to its peak in the early Roman era under Herod and his son Philip II. It was renamed Caesarea in honor of Augustus.
In Christian tradition it is where St. Peter declared Jesus to be the son of God.
Finds include the remains of a mosaic floor and a stone engraved with many crosses, indicating that Banias became a Christian pilgrim site. Banias is in the Golan Heights, which Israel captured from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967 and annexed later.

Sunday 18 December 2022

The Roman shoe hoard of Vindolanda

1,800 years ago the Roman army built one of its smallest but most heavily defended forts at the site of Vindolanda. The small garrison of a few hundred soldiers and their families took shelter behind a series of large ditches and ramparts, while outside the walls a war was raging between the northern British Tribes and Roman forces.
The war ended in 212 AD and the troops pulled out. Anything not required was tossed into the ditches. With the debris were dog and cat skeletons, pottery, leather and 421 Roman shoes. In 2016 researchers excavated the ditch and discovered a time capsule of life.
The shoe hoard gives an indication of the affluence of the occupants in AD 212 with stylish and well-made shoes, both adults and children’s.
They are the best preserved Roman shoes ever found.