The Roundup #84

Getting this done on a Saturday, only because I’ve got a nasty bit of flu. Yay!

‘Tis the festive season, so of course there’s news of a relic of St. Nicholas being radiocarbon dated to his lifetime. Otherwise, lots more of culture to see here. Enjoy!

From the Smithsonian:

Perhaps the earliest evidence of slave burials in Delaware have been discovered in Rehoboth Bay.

A time capsule from the 1700s has been discovered in the back side of a statue of Christ in Spain.

A 1,300 year old complete Latin Bible created in Northumbria will return to England for the first time since it was sent to Italy shortly after it was completed in the 8th century.

From Archaeology.org:

Faint lines on stone in Cornwall suggest the site had been used for nighttime rituals since 2,500 BC/BCE.

The Natufian people of Jordan may shed light on the transition between hunter-gatherer culture and agriculture.

After 20 years of excavation and preservation work, the australopithecus skeleton of “Little Foot” will go on display in South Africa.

Greek texts from Nag Hammadi are showing the ongoing scholarly work of early Christians, despite Church regulations declaring such work anathema.

From Haaretz:

A 400,000 year old ‘school’ has been identified in Israel.

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Dead Links Six – The Colossus of Rhodes

I’m delighted to be diving in to work on the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Not only is the list a fascinating and engaging look at tourism in the ancient world, but the Colossus was the answer to a trivia questions at the pub last week, so I consider that particularly auspicious.

As a refresher, the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World (as listed by Antipater of Sidon around 100 BC) are:

  1. The Great Pyramid of Giza
  2. The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
  3. The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
  4. The Statue of Zeus at Olympia
  5. The Pharos of Alexandria
  6. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon; and,
  7. The Colossus of Rhodes

Great feats of architectural engineering and beauty, these seven wonders (from the Ancient Greek thaumata meaning “wonders”, or perhaps also or instead the Ancient Greek theamata meaning “sights” or “things to be seen”) only existed together for about 50 years. The one still standing is the oldest of the lot – the Great Pyramid of Giza – and the last of them to be built was also the first one to disappear: the Colossus of Rhodes.

Built to celebrate Rhodes’ victory over the invading forces of Antigonus Monopthalmos (Antigonus the One-Eyed), one of Alexander the Great’s generals, it was a statue of Helios, god of the sun and patron deity of Rhodes. Designed and constructed by a local man – Chares of Lindos – in 280 BCE, the Colossus was roughly the size of the Statue of Liberty in New York feet to crown.

In 226 BC/BCE, it toppled during an earthquake and was never rebuilt, perhaps due to the warnings of an oracle. The pieces – it was constructed in bronze – apparently lay about the harbour for the next eight centuries until they were sold off to Jewish merchants in Edessa in 654 AD/CE during the Arab Expansions of the 7th century.

Now, in all likelihood, the pieces were melted down and used in other projects and would be very nearly untraceable today. Nearly all bronze statues from the ancient world were repurposed or otherwise destroyed, particularly after the Roman Empire adopted Christianity and its aversion to false idols. The bronzes that exist today were lost, buried, or sunk and only discovered in the recent past.

What makes the Colossus unique is the engineering feat required to produce it. Even if it didn’t stand astride the harbour entrance, as some have suggested, there certainly wasn’t a mould or even a furnace in the vicinity capable of casting a statue 110 feet high. The copper Lady Liberty, originally conceived in 1870, was an iron truss structure with a secondary skeleton designed to limit stress on the statue, and was built in 350 pieces in France and painstakingly reassembled on arrival in New York. And her skin was added after. She is not a single cast, or even a predominantly single one.

So, either modern engineers saw the difficulty from the start and avoided casting a statue in full, or the ancient engineers knew something we don’t. Not outside the realm of possibility, since Roman concrete and Greek acoustics are two such engineering marvels that continue to baffle modern scholars and experimental archaeologists.

In short, it would be amazing if we ever found even one or two pieces of the Colossus intact to be able to understand how Chares designed and built it at all. In flights of fancy, one can wonder if perhaps the statue still exists somewhere, safely packed away in a dark cave or bunker, waiting. After all, Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt found it and much more in one of his many adventures…

The Roundup #84

The best news of the week has got to be the identification of the landing site Caesar used during his abortive invasion of Britain. The Guardian, Archaeology, and the Smithsonian have all reported on it.

And after you’ve had a look through those, here’s the rest of this week’s roundup. Enjoy!

From Archaeology.org:

A 230 foot long geoglyph likely from the Paracas culture has been rediscovered and restored in Peru. The Smithsonian reports on it here.

New evidence suggests that the Sutlej river in India originally took a different path, creating an ideal environment for the agriculture needed to sustain the Indus Valley Civilization.

Cave camels? They’re no sabre-tooth tigers, but new evidence from the Ural Mountains suggests that a cave painter may have travelled a long way after seeing one to add it to other animal figures painted on the walls.

Analysis of human remains from 5,000 BC suggest that women in that time were noticeably stronger than women today, particularly modern rowers and runners.

And the brightly painted head of a sphinx from DeMille’s 1923 film The Ten Commandments has been discovered in the California desert.

From the Smithsonian:

After being reopened in 2016, analysis of the materials used to build the famous Tomb of Jesus of Nazareth shows that it was restored during the time of the emperor Constantine.

A huge cache of over two hundred fossilized pterosaur eggs has been discovered in China.

The discovery of large cauldrons in Leicestershire, England suggests that the Iron Age site was a central hub for ceremonial feasts.

The Roundup #83

A day late but hopefully not a dollar short. As a result of some impromptu travelling this weekend, here is your Monday roundup! Enjoy!

From Archaeology.org:

A feature on the Jebel Qumra area of northeastern Jordan that is almost uninhabitable today, but shows evidence of human settlement dating back to at least the Early Bronze Age.

A mosaic from the Byzantine period found in Israel is the earliest example of the Georgian calendar in the region.

An extremely rare site in Denmark – a stone settlement – has been unearthed by archaeologists from the National Museum of Denmark.

A basalt relief of a lion dating to the 6th century AD/CE has been unearthed in the Galilee.

Three Roman shipwrecks and the wreck of an Egyptian barque have been identified in Alexandria’s eastern harbour.

Egyptian artifacts, originally thought to have been smuggled to Cyprus in the 1980s, are being repatriated with the help of the the Egyptian Embassy in Cyprus.

Two 800 year old tombs from the Song dynasty have been discovered at a construction site in Zhejiang Province, China.

From the Smithsonian:

More than 100 items once belonging to John Lennon and stolen from Yoko Ono in 2006 have been recovered in Germany.

From the University of Toronto:

Archaeologists have discovered rock-cut churches in Ethiopia.

From the Guardian:

A painting by Bartholome Esteban Murillo – long thought lost – has been rediscovered after an expert in Spanish portrait painters visited a castle in Wales.

The Roundup #82

Feet (well, shoes) and wine headline this week’s roundup; two things I’m rather interested in because a) I like wine, and b) I walk like a mutant (and not the yellow spandex kind).

Enjoy!

From the CBC:

The previous holder of the oldest confirmed evidence of wine, the Zagros Mountains, has been unseated by Gadachrili Gora in Georgia, where pots from neolithic times have tested positive for the acid found only in grapes in the region. Archaeology.org reports on it here.

From the Smithsonian:

A “Pictish” rock carving discovered in Perth, Scotland shows a man with a large nose (I put Pictish in quotations because it’s a somewhat derogatory descriptive used by the Romans rather than any name these people in Scotland called themselves).

A realistic portrait of Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson painted in 1799 (during his lifetime) is on display at Philip Mould & Company and for sale at an undisclosed price.

From Archaeology.org:

In a somewhat less than surprising research report, studies on the skeletons of Dutch farmers who wore the iconic wooden shoes were found to have bone malformations as a result.

A loom dating to the 5th or 6th century AD/CE has been discovered during recent excavations in Iraq.

During excavations of Norse longhouses in northern England, volunteers have discovered a Bronze Age settlement dating to 1300 BC/BCE.

Initial surveys of a hill in Turkey suggest that another Bronze Age site is waiting beneath layers upon layers of human habitation.

Sound engineers have looked at rumours about acoustics in Greek theatres, studying whether or not a whisper really could be heard from the last row of seats.

A mummy has been discovered in the Fayum in Egypt, complete with wrappings and votive objects from the Greco-Roman period.

Fire has irreparably damaged a unique pre-Inca site in Peru after a cane field blazed out of control.

A 1,000 year old ceramic box said to contain the ashes of the Buddha has been discovered at a monastery in China.

The Roundup #81

I may be a day late with my usual #roundup post, but there was a lot going on yesterday, I swear.

The single most remarkable update is news of a startlingly beautiful sealstone revealed from the Griffin Warrior tomb at Pylos in Greece. I was recently at a lecture at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto given by the lead archaeologists on this project from the University of Cincinnati, and it was enthralling. The Smithsonian reports here, and the New York Times dove in with their take on it here.

And so, without further ado, here is this week’s archaeology #roundup. Enjoy!

From Archaeology.org:

A mass grave from the medieval period with the remains of approximately 1,500 people has been discovered in Kunta Hora, Czech Republic.

Another mass grave, this time a Jewish site from the 1500s, has been identified in Bologna, Italy.

Highlighting the importance of cleaning out your closets once in a while, a box of Roman coins (including at least one fake) has been pulled out of the dust in a castle in Kent, England. The Guardian reports on it in detail here.

Ongoing excavations at the site of Greenwich Palace, Henry VIII’s favourite residence, have revealed a lead-glazed floor (likely for an armoury) and a room where beehives were kept warm in winter. This was initially reported back in August by Archaeology.org and The Independent.

A Greek gymnasion has been discovered in the Fayum in Egypt.

Some of the oldest baths ever found in China have been discovered in Shaanxi Province.

A rather lovely looking fragment of a sundial has been found in central Italy. What’s even more interesting is that it’s from the site of a Roman theatre that somehow managed to survive the ravages of the Allied bombardment of Monte Cassino during the Second World War.

The remains of several people from the 8th century have been unearthed under Hereford Cathedral in Kent, England.

Work is ongoing at the site of the White Shaman rock shelter petroglyphs in Texas.

From Biblical Archaeology:

At the ancient site of Jezreel, archaeologists believe they have identified an Iron Age site that could be the famous vineyard of Naboth described in the Book of Kings.

The Roundup #80

This has been a quiet week in terms of archaeological news. But even archaeologists need a break once in a while.

This week’s roundup. Enjoy!

From the Smithsonian:

The remains of 24 individuals have been repatriated to the Yupik people of Iguigig in northern Russia.

A series of items have been repatriated to Italy, including a mosaic used as a coffee table that is said to have once adorned a pleasure ship of the Emperor Caligula.

From Archaeology.org:

A large number of horse skeletons have been discovered in an as-yet unidentified tomb from the Spring and Autumn Period in China.

A wooden hut on Iona in Scotland, long associated with Saint Columba, has been dated to his lifetime.

Petroglyphs have been identified in caves on the island of Mona in the Caribbean.