Saturday, October 22, 2011

[Web : Vesti] Rare wooden votives found at Brauron sanctuary

The sanctuary of Artemis at Brauron [Credit: Panoramio]
Rare wooden votive offerings of the 5th century BC have recently been discovered in the sanctuary of Artemis at Vravrona on the eastern coast of Attica, according to a statement released on October 3 by the Greek ministry of culture and tourism. Unearthed during infrastructural improvements on the archaeological site, these fragmentary wooden artefacts are remarkable for their state of preservation and detailed ornamentation.

Archaeologists from the 2nd Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities were supervising the excavation of a new drainage system west of the site’s partly reconstructed stoa and north of the sacred spring, where they uncovered a rich deposit of ancient ceramic and bronze objects. The objects included Archaic figurines, two intact bronze mirrors and pottery from the Classical era. 

Perhaps most impressive in the deposit are wooden objects, including the head and upper torso of a female figurine (ca 500-450BC) wearing a peplos, or body-length garment, and a headscarf over ornately curled hair, with traces of red pigment. Also discovered among the wooden finds are fragments of ceramic vessels and flattened pieces of wood, perhaps from plank-shaped figurines. 

Fragment of upper torso of a female figure wearing a peplos [Credit: Athens News]
Particularly unique are the wooden soles of a woman’s sandals, only partly preserved but highly ornate with incised decoration. The sandals may represent the remains of a votive offering dedicated in the sanctuary by a female follower of Artemis Vravronia. 

Botanical specimens collected may assist in reconstructing the sanctuary’s natural environment. This diverse cache of ancient artefacts may be the contents of a bothros, a pit used in antiquity for the discarding of sacred objects. 

Once preservation and documentation of the artefacts has been completed, the most exceptional items will be displayed in the Vravrona Archaeological Museum.  

Source: Athens News [October 17, 2011]

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

[Web : Vesti] Intact 5th century merchant ship found near Istanbul

During the continuing archaeological excavations at the Yenikapı Marmaray construction site in Istanbul, the world’s best preserved shipwreck, a merchant vessel whose contents and wooden parts are in exceptionally good condition, was revealed.
Archaeologists believe the ship dates to the fourth or fifth century CE and that it sank in a storm, but remarkably most of the amphorae on the ship are still in perfect condition.
The excavations started in 2004 at the  construction site and reached back 8,500 years into the history of İstanbul. Skeletons, the remains of an early chapel and even  footprints, in addition to 35 shipwrecks, have been uncovered by archaeologists so far.
The ship was loaded with pickled fry (a type of small fish) and almonds, walnuts, hazels, muskmelon seeds, olives, peaches and pine cones
The 15 to 16-metre-long, six-metre-wide shipwreck loaded with dozens of amphorae found last May brings new historical data to life. The amphorae differ from previous finds. It is assumed that the ship was completely buried in mud and this oxygen-free atmosphere protected it and its contents from further damage. The ship was loaded with pickled fry (a type of small fish) and almonds, walnuts, hazels, muskmelon seeds, olives, peaches and pine cones were also found on the wreck in incredible condition.
One of the shipwrecks of a fully laden merchant vessel. Image: Yenikapı excavations
One of the shipwrecks of a fully laden merchant vessel. Image: Yenikapı excavations
Songül Çoban, an archaeologist on the excavation, says they need a further two months to completely uncover the shipwreck, which was found four-five metres below sea level, adding that they were working eight hours a day and that such a detailed excavation was incredibly demanding.
The Yenikapı vessel is one of the best examples of a shipwreck in the world in terms of both the actual structure and the cargo. When the wreck was first discovered, the mud above it was cleared away and the damaged upper layer of amphorae was removed piece by piece, after which the team began removing the undamaged amphorae below them. Once all of the artefacts have been retrieved, the hull of the ship will be given to İstanbul University.
It is thought that bronze nails were used in ship construction starting in the fourth or fifth century, prior to which they only used wooden pegs
The bronze nails found on the ship give clues about the age of the vessel and makes it an outstanding sample. It is thought that bronze nails were used in ship construction starting in the fourth or fifth century, prior to which they only used wooden pegs. Information about the destination of the ship and perhaps even it’s home port will be inferred by means of the artefacts found onboard.

The Port of Theodosius

The archaeological excavations of the fourth century port of Theodosius at the Yenikapı Marmaray construction site started back in 2004 and since then, 40,000 artefacts have been registered, while over 150,000 pieces are still being being studied.
To date, 35 wrecked ships that sank between the fifth and 11th centuries CE have been uncovered, 30 are merchant vessels equipped with sails, while the rest are oared galleys. The dig at Yenikapı features the largest number of shipwrecks  discovered in any one location anywhere in the world, with a team of 45 archaeologists and a further 265 staff members, consisting of architects and art historians still working at the excavation site.

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[Web : Vesti] Holey Roman pot likely held delicate mousey morsels

By Randy Boswell, Postmedia News August 29, 2011

An 1,800-year-old clay vessel, believed to have come from the Roman Empire, thatís been put back together after being found smashed into nearly 200 pieces.

An 1,800-year-old clay vessel, believed to have come from the Roman Empire, thatís been put back together after being found smashed into nearly 200 pieces.

Photograph by: Handout photo, Museum of Ontario Archaeology

A Canadian museum is seeking help from archeologists around the world to solve the mystery surrounding a bizarre, 1,800-year-old clay vessel — believed to have come from the Roman Empire — that was put back together this year after being found smashed into nearly 200 pieces at a dig site in Britain.

The painstaking reconstruction, performed by experts at the Museum of Ontario Archaeology in London, Ont., has revealed a large urn intriguingly riddled with precisely spaced, dime-sized holes.

And chief among the theories about the object's strange design is that it served as a kind of cookie jar for Romans snacking between meals — except that the treats stored inside were likely small rodents.

The vessel, which has a somewhat murky provenance, is presumed to have been excavated in the 1940s at a site dating from Roman-occupied Britain and sent as a gift — still in fragments — to the Canadian museum, which is affiliated with the University of Western Ontario.

Katie Urban, an archeologist with the MOA, spent two months earlier this year piecing the metre-wide jar together after it was rediscovered as a box of pottery shards on a museum storage shelf.

"We thought originally it was part of a drain," Urban told Postmedia News. "But when we put it together, it was in the shape of a pot. It's one of those really good examples of why archeologists put pottery back together."

Her glue job revealed a startlingly complete and well-crafted clay container, similar in design to hundreds of vessels documented from ancient Rome — but rare for its holey construction, and rarer still for its unusual interior features.

It was initially thought the 30-kilogram jar might have served as a type of lamp, with light emitted from the several dozen holes punched into the body of the vessel. There's also a possibility Romans stored food items such as onions or garlic in perforated vessels, said Urban.

Yet it more closely resembles other excavated "gliraria" — Roman-era containers used to keep live dormice, which Urban said were considered a tasty delicacy among the ancient empire's upper classes.

"They would keep a bunch of little dormice, feeding them nuts and things like that to fatten them up before they would stuff them and cook them and eat them," she said. "There's a couple of different recipes known from Roman texts. It would have been a luxury item."

However, the museum's possible example of a dormouse jar lacks the usual interior ramp-like structure that allowed the little rodents to climb around in their cage while waiting to be gobbled, say, by a hungry senator or centurion.

"There's not a lot of good examples of them, but all of the ones we've seen have a kind of built-in ramp that spirals up the pot so that the mice can run up and around," she said. "Otherwise all the mice would be stuck at the bottom. If ours was like that, it must have had a secondary — possibly wooden — platform inside."
And if so, she said, the climbing structure must have disintegrated in the elements after the buried jar was reduced to rubble untold centuries ago — or more recently as the result of a Second World War bomb blast.
Incomplete records indicating how the vessel came to Canada have complicated its identification. But Urban believes the jar was included with a collection of artifacts dug up in postwar London, England — possibly from a bomb crater made during the Blitz — and shipped to Canada as part of a scholarly exchange of research material.

To pin down the vessel's identification as a dormouse container, said Urban, "we need to find something that's very similar to it, which we have not been able to find."

So the museum, best known for its archeological holdings from prehistoric First Nations communities in Canada, has highlighted the mysterious jar as part of a new exhibition showcasing the MOA's relatively small collection of Old World artifacts.

The hope, said Urban, is that stoking public and scholarly interest in the hole-filled vessel will lead to a more certain understanding of its origins, purpose and design.

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Friday, August 26, 2011


American and Albanian archaeologists have discovered a well preserved Roman shipwreck full of wine jars off the coast of Albania.

Dating to the 1st century B.C., the 98 foot-long cargo ship was found about 130 feet deep near the port city of Vlora.
Most of the of the jars, or amphoras, lay unbroken on the sea floor. Unfortunately, they were empty, since their stoppers had gone.
"The ship is one among five ancient wrecks we discovered last month.The other four were just north in Montenegro," archaeologist Jeff Royal, of the RPM Nautical Foundation, told Discovery News.
The coasts of both Albania and Montenegro remained unexplored until 2007, when Florida-based RPM Nautical Foundation initiated a coastal survey aimed at identifying submerged archaeological artifacts in both countries.
"Thus far nine ancient wrecks have been discovered in Montenegro and eight in Albania that span the period of the 6th century B.C. through the 4th century A.D.," said Royal.
According to Royal, three of the shipwrecks discovered this season are associated with a flourishing wine trade industry in what is now central Croatia.

The trade developed shortly after the Roman entry into ancient Illyria, a region in the western part of the Balkan Peninsula which included present-day Albania.
"Large cargoes of these amphoras were shipped down the eastern Adriatic coast from Croatia, along the modern Montenegrin and Albanian coasts to about Vlore where most traversed westward and rounded Italy into the western Mediterranean," said Royal.
The sites will be left unexplored, and the retrieved jars restored to the wrecks, until local archaeologists will be in a position to carry the excavations.
"These finds provide each country's government the opportunities to protect their cultural heritage, train their first maritime archaeologists, and collaborate with established institutions in further study," Royal said.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

[Web : Vesti] Rare statue of Hercules discovered in Northern Israel

A rare statue depicting the Roman god Hercules has been discovered during an excavation in the Jezeel Valley in the north of Israel. 

By Phoebe Greenwood in Tel Aviv

16 August 2011

The white marble figure stands at 0.5 metres and is thought to have originally decorated an alcove in a Roman bathhouse. It has been dated to the second century AD and is said to be of exceptional quality.

Dr Walid Atrash of the Israel Antiquities Authority said: "This statue is unusual because it is small. Most statues of gods from this period were life-size. This is something special."

The demigod is depicted leaning on a club, draped with the skin of the Nemean lion that he slew in the first of his twelve labours.

The son of Zeus and the mortal Alcemene, Hercules was ordered to undertake twelve superhuman feats, known as 'The Labours of Hercules', by the Mycenaean King Eurystheus to atone for the murder of his wife and three children in a fit of mad rage.

The statue was discovered in Hovrat Tarbenet during work on the new Valley Rail line, which will run through the Jezreel Valley connecting the northern port of Haifa with Bet She'an on the Jordan border. Excavations have only recently begun on this site and Dr Atrash believes this may be the first of many archaeological discoveries.

The Jezreel valley was an important stop along the Roman Via Maris, an ancient trade route connecting Egypt to Mesopotamia, or modern day Iraq.


[Web: Vesti] Hellenistic theatre uncovered in SW Turkey

Archaeologists in Bodrum town of south-western province of Mugla have discovered an ancient theatre that was constructed in 400 B.C.. 

Dr. Derya Sahin, a faculty member of the Uludag University's Archaeology Department, said Monday that the 2,500-year-old ancient theatre was discovered during excavations in ancient Greek city Myndos in Bodrum. 

The theatre belongs to the Hellenistic period. We can say that it is a huge theatre, Dr. Sahin said. 

How big the ancient theatre is really will be known at the end of excavations in Myndos, said the archaeologists on site.

Friday, August 12, 2011


Analysis by Rossella Lorenzi

A sword used by a Roman soldier during the brutal pacification of the Jews and the destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem nearly 2,000 years ago, has emerged from an ancient drainage tunnel beneath the city, Israeli authorities announced this week.
Excavated since 2007, the tunnel, which was used by Jewish rebels as a hiding place from the Romans, has also yielded a stone object adorned with a rare engraving of a menorah, the seven-branched temple candelabra that was the symbol of ancient Judaism.
The 60-centimetre (23.6-inches) long weapon, still in its leather scabbard, is the third Roman sword found in Jerusalem.
What makes the finding unique is the fine state of preservation, said the excavation directors Eli Shukron of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Ronny Reich of the University of Haifa.
"It seems that the sword belonged to an infantryman of the Roman garrison stationed in Israel at the outbreak of the Great Revolt against the Romans in 66 AD," the researchers said in a statement.
At that time, the Jewish people revolted against the tyranny of Rome, but despite a remarkable resistance, they were ultimately crushed.
The Romans also destroyed the second Temple, which, according to Jewish tradition, was built by King Herod the Great on the site of King Solomon’s temple. This was razed by the Babylonians around 587 BC.
In 70 AD, the Romans under Titus plundered tons of gold, silver trumpets and gold candelabra from Herod’s magnificent white-and-gold temple. Then they paraded the treasure, which also helped finance the building of the Colosseum, through the streets of Rome in triumph.
The stone engraved with the image of the menorah. Courtesy of Vladimir Naykhi
The moment was captured in a frieze carved into the Arch of Titus, which clearly shows the menorah, the seven-branched temple candelabra, being exposed through the streets.
The menorah was also recorded in a stone object unearthed near the Temple Mount.
"Interestingly, even though we are dealing with a depiction of the seven-branched candelabrum, only five branches appear here. The portrayal of the menorah’s base is extremely important because it clarifies what the base of the original menorah looked like, which was apparently tripod shaped," the researchers said.
The fact that the stone object was found near the Temple Mount would suggest that it belonged to a passerby who saw the menorah with his own eyes.
"Amazed by its beauty, he incised his impressions on a stone and afterwards tossed his scrawling to the side of the road, without imagining that his creation would be found 2,000 years later," the researchers said