The Roundup #6

The single most incredible thing I’ve seen this week was the discovery by a PhD student of two leaves of a Qur’an that date to within the lifetime (or very shortly thereafter) of Muhammad himself, making them the oldest yet discovered. The University of Birmingham is, naturally, ecstatic.

And with that, here’s this week’s roundup of finds, discoveries, and all-around curiosities.


I’m always fascinated by the so-called ‘Venus figurines’ that crop up in the material culture of pretty much every group of people on the planet at one time or another. This find from Germany of fragments of a figurine similar to the Venus from Hohle Fels discovered in 2008 is the latest.

It seems that the ancient peoples living in what is now Israel were experimenting with farming thousands of years earlier than originally thought.

Evidence of a 5,000 year old crannog – fortified farmhouse on stilts – has been discovered, and is, again, the oldest yet discovered in the United Kingdom.

Archaeologists have identified what they believe is the jaw bone of Philip II of Macedon, uniter of Greece and father of Alexander the Great. Philip’s tomb is believed to be part of the archaeological site at Vergina. For more on the recent excavations at Amphipolis, Robin Ngo has this article in Biblical Archaeology.

Harbours are great places to find new and wonderful things from the past. Recently, New York was the centre of such a discovery as remains from what appears to have been a meeting place for Native Americans was unearthed during construction work to repair a sea wall in the Bronx.

Egyptian reliefs from the port city of Berenice on the Red Sea have been discovered, one of which is in remarkable condition.

And fossil fuel emissions are doing yet more damage to the planet and ourselves as it has been estimated that carbon-14 testing may no longer function effectively as an archaeological dating technique if we keep pumping all this crap into the atmosphere.

From CTV News in Canada:

An 18th century village has been discovered during construction of a highway interchange in Montreal. Work is, naturally, on hold while archaeologists study the evidence.

From Biblical Archaeology:

Those pesky Egyptians are making life difficult for Biblical scholars who are as yet unable to draw a clear link between the book of Kings in the Bible, referring to the attack on Jerusalem by Pharaoh Sheshonq I. The Pharaoh himself recorded his exploits on the walls of Karnak but does not mention Jerusalem at all.

From the Smithsonian:

We’re not so different after all. DNA evidence from ancient Amazonians links them genetically with ancient Australians. I’m anticipating a renewed discussion on how neolithic peoples crossed the Pacific in the near future.

P.T. Barnum never ceases to fascinate. In this article, Helen Thompson recounts the fire that destroyed the American Museum in New York in 1865. At the time, the New York Times wrote that “it’s like cannot be seen again”.

And this is a fascinating meta-archaeological story about a 19th century artist, who created a Greco-Romanesque sculpture of a female Greek slave, and then tried to patent it.

And from LiveScience:

Toronto researchers are trying to build a digital database of all the holy sites in Iraq that have been looted and destroyed by ISIS/ISIL in the last several months. Godspeed, fellow Torontonians!