The Roundup #19 and #20

Dear Readers, I’ve been remiss. Somehow I managed to entirely forget about posting a roundup last weekend, so this weekend – as I did a bit ago when I was away – I’ll post two. Roundup #19 will cover the week beginning November 2nd, and #20 will cover this past week beginning November 9th.

On November 7th, Sierra Leone was officially declared ebola-free, something that the WHO and Medecins sans Frontieres must be absolutely joyous about, let alone the people of Sierra Leone themselves.

Otherwise, the week of November 2nd was relatively quiet. Here goes Roundup #19:

From the Guardian:

Burial vaults are being discovered – or, rather, rediscovered – in New York City (Greenwich Village and Washington Square Park). They are approximately 200 years old themselves, and were at one point discovered by ConEdison in the 1960s, before offering archaeologists this week the chance to re-discover them.

A leather trunk in The Hague contains undelivered letters from nearly 300 years ago, including a sad plea from a woman – likely in a compromising situation – to the man who helped get there in that position. Archaeologists and social historians are agog.

And, in an update from the story about the Nazi gold train in Poland, members of the Krakow mining academy will begin surveys this week to determine just what is down there.


And here goes Roundup #20.

This week, the news that India was planning to launch a bid to have the Koh-i Noor diamond – currently the centrepiece of the British Crown Jewels – to be returned to them, fomenting debate once again about the repatriation of artworks and cultural treasures. History Today reissued an article written in the 1970s about the history of the diamond.


A Neolithic smoke house has been discovered in Siberia.

Tree ring studies have been used to develop a global history of drought going back two thousand years.

Archaeologists have digitally mapped the theatre district at Nea Paphos, the capital of the Roman province of Cyprus.

Who doesn’t enjoy news about sabre tooth cats? New evidence has been unearthed at Schoningen in Germany of how ancient peoples used the remains of these cats for weapons.

New studies on the aqueducts of ancient Rome are offering some solid numbers for how much water regularly flowed into the city.

The biggest news – so far as I’m concerned, at least – is of the discovery of a Roman amphitheatre in Volterra, northern Italy.

From the Smithsonian:

In a strange bit of genetic engineering, Vincent Van Gogh’s ear has been recreated from his DNA using a 3D printer. Yeah. I admit I’m a little creeped out by that too.

Residue from ancient pots suggest that people were using honey as far back as 8,500 years ago.

From The New York Times:

Sarah Parcak is to be awarded the $1million TED prize so that she may further her research into satellite tracking of looted archaeological sites.


The (appallingly belated) Roundup #15

I’ve managed to get well behind in my own self-imposed schedule of posting every weekend, so apologies if anyone was hoping for their fix this weekend. In my defence, I was distracted by the rugby… and the fact that Professor Mary Beard, yes THE Mary Beard, tweeted me back in response to my comment on her article in The Guardian last week. I admit I was a bit of a giggling idiot for a few moments. Her work is really quite brilliant, and such a joy to read.

Right. Enough of excuses. Here’s last week’s roundup.


There’s murder in the air, or there was, in northern Spain about 400,000 years ago, as evidence of the first known murder comes to light out of a cave containing a shaft full of bones.

We all know about Fiorelli’s plaster casting technique to reveal the victims of the volcanic eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE. Now archaeologist are using CT scanning technology to explore the teeth and bones permanently hidden by the plaster to learn more about these people.

There was a time when newsprint got everywhere, so gods help you if you were wearing white gloves while reading the “hatches, matches, and dispatches”. The same thing appears to have happened in the ancient world, leaving a Greek poem in negative on the bottom of a balsamarium from Bulgaria that was wrapped in parchment where the poem had been written.

Archaeologists have announced that the tomb recently discovered in Amphipolis was intended as a funerary monument to Hephaestion, friend and consort of Alexander the Great.

The Neolithic peoples of Scotland were keen to keep out the cold too, as evidence of a large building capable of creating sauna-like conditions has been unearthed on Orkney.

From the British Film Institute:

I’m apparently not able to watch this content in Canada, but in case you’re able to watch it (wherever it’s able to be watched), there is some footage of Stonehenge from the early part of the 20th century here.

From the Smithsonian:

So apparently cheese is the Honda Civic of the world of fromagerie, the most stolen food on the planet, and authorities have recently apprehended a group of thieves who have stolen approximately $875,000 worth of the famous Parmegiano-Reggiano cheese. It’s so valuable, some banks will accept a wheel of cheese as collateral.

A video detailing the art stolen by the Nazis during World War II and stored in the salt mines at Altaussee sheds light on the fascinating and nearly catastrophic looting of art from throughout Europe discovered after the war by the Monuments Men.

From Blouin Art:

A full length portrait of the Imperial consort Chunhui by Guiseppe Castiglione has sold at auction to an anonymous buyer for a record $17.6 million. What I found most fascinating about this portrait is that there is an inscription of Chunhui’s posthumous title by the Emperor himself. Kind of endearing.

The Roundup #10

It’s been yet another goofy week in the news about old things. ISIS continues its attempt to rewrite history by destroying a 4th century Christian monastery. This is also notably one of the rare occasions when I post a link to the Daily Mail. The assassination of renowned archaeologist Khaled al-Assad is a particularly sad bit of news, particularly since he worked so diligently to preserve Syria’s archaeological history in the face of the brutality of ISIS.

The most sensational story has to be the so far unsubstantiated report that a train loaded with Nazi loot from the Second World War has been found in a tunnel somewhere in Poland. Both the Guardian and the BBC have reported on this.

There’s also the strange case of Washington’s Bedpan which, I think, would be an amazing name for a punk band.

And with that, here’s this week’s roundup (albeit belated).


The craziest trophy room in the Americas, without a doubt, is this Aztec skull rack from the 15th century.

Marine archaeologists have the chance to study how 20th century materials degrade in water over time as they examine the wreck of the USS Macon, an airship that crashed in the 1930s.

Tests using DStretch technology have determined that the petroglyphs in the Black Dragon Canyon, previously believed to be one strange image of a monster, are in fact a series of individual figures. If the photo from this article makes you wonder what the confusion was, take a look at this photo (third image, on the right) taken before the images were doctored to show the DStretch results.

A Confederate warship, the CSS Georgia, is being raised from the bottom of a river in Savannah, Georgia a piece at a time.

Proof that humans have always been nasty to each other when the occasion called for it, this Neolithic site with human remains shows evidence of systematic torture.

From the CBC:

Cue Nicholas Sparks references; a message in a bottle sent more than one hundred years ago has been returned to sender, the Marine Biological Association of the UK. Whether this is a Guiness world record remains to be seen.

From the Economist:

An Instagram photo of gold coins recovered from a group of 11 Spanish ships that sank en route from Cuba to Spain. Shiny!

And from

Cuneiform has gone digital!

As a post script to my earlier link to efforts on the part of the German Minister of Culture’s attempts to stem the tide of conflict antiquities into Germany, here is a summary of the original report that drew attention to the situation in the first place.

The Roundup #5

It’s been an exciting week! The New Horizons flyby of Pluto was (so far, at least) a complete success and the world is basking in the light of all the new images pouring in from the spacecraft’s downloads to NASA.

It’s also been a weird week, considering the recent theft from the grave of acclaimed director FW Murnau’s head. Murnau is probably most recognized (well, until someone stole his head anyway) for the film Nosferatu.

And we haven’t had anything related to Nazis recently, so here’s something new: a metal detectorist (apparently that’s a word) has discovered a cache of gold coins from the late 19th and early 20th century along with two seals bearing swastikas and the imperial eagle with the stamp “Reichsbank Berlin 244”.

Otherwise, here’s what the world decided to reveal to us this time around:


A Viking sword with a beautifully preserved gold and silver hilt has been discovered in Norway.

Beautiful mosaics are being unearthed in a synagogue near Huqoq currently being surveyed by archaeologists from UNC Chapel Hill. One in particular may depict the first non-Biblical story yet to be found in the synagogue.

One of the largest and possibly earliest open settlements (ie. not a hill fort) has been discovered in southern England.

Two Roman ballista stones have been returned to the Israel Antiquities Authority with a note: “…they have brought me nothing but trouble. Please do not steal antiquities!” We hear you, loud and clear, anonymous thief.

A marble slab with a Greek inscription referring to the Odrysian kings of Thrace has been discovered in Bulgaria near the ancient site of Aquae Calidae.

And the mummified body of a young boy is being examined after its discovery in the Zeleny Yar necropolis in Siberia. The Siberian Times article on the same discovery include some fantastic pictures of the birchbark coffin and goes into more detail about this mysterious medieval civilization.

In LiveScience:

More on the stunning mosaics at Huqoq and the overall richness of the site in the Galilee region of Israel means that archaeologists have a lot more work to do in the coming seasons.

From the Beeb:

The Staffordshire Hoard continues to delight as conservationists learn about ancient metallurgy techniques and make connections between this hoard, discovered in 2009, and that found at Sutton Hoo.

From the Smithsonian:

The updated UNESCO World Heritage list is out, with new additions like Ephesus in Turkey, the Alamo in Texas, the controversial ‘Battleship Island’ in Japan, the Champagne region in France, and the Great Burkhan Khaldun Mountain in Mongolia.

From The Guardian:

The records and correspondence of the Slave Compensation Commission are being reviewed at the National Archives in the UK, containing the names of 46,000 slave owners and the compensation they received in 1833 for their recently emancipated ‘property’.

Tim Butcher talks about his new book ‘The Trigger’ and Gavrilo Princip, the man who shot Archduke Frans Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary and his wife in 1914, precipitating the First World War.

And from Popular Science:

Analyses of rock samples from Mars point to similarities between the Red Planet and our own Blue Marble.

The Roundup #2

A day late but hopefully not a dollar short (unless you’re the Greek government), here’s the second installation of my weekly roundup.

My favourite has to be the discovery of a piece of marble depicting a dolphin in Israel. Running in close second is this article on weapons of mass destruction from the Ancient world. was at the top of their game, news-wise this week:

A wreck off the coast of Italy has been discovered, heavily laden with Roman roof tiles still packed tightly in the hold of the ship.

Archaeologists theorize that two graves from a Greek settlement that seemed ‘peculiar’ are actually zombie burials.

Archaeological work at the Antikythera site will be funded for another five years, a triumph in an age of such austerity.

A bronze age settlement in England that appears to have been destroyed by fire will also continue to be excavated.

And the former home of Lady Jane Grey, England’s Nine Days Queen, is yielding a trove of artefacts from across the ages.

From the Smithsonian:

Recycling makes for delightful finds as one art lover discovered after purchasing what he thought were two pastels by French Impressionist Claude Monet.

And a Peruvian road regularly travelled is still a wonder to those who set foot on it.

From Biblical Archaeology:

Take a look at the toolkit of one of the archaeologists excavating at Huqoq.


The eeriest piece of the week has to be this one from the Guardian detailing the largest single collection of Nazi memorabilia in the world, tucked away in Leicestershire.

And more sad news from Palmyra as the destruction of the UNESCO World Heritage Site by the Islamic State continues.