Category Archives: Archaeology

Calling Dr. Jones! Take the Famous Archaeologist Quiz!

Indiana Jones, care of Wikipedia

Indiana Jones, care of Wikipedia

Was there a real-life Indiana Jones? Take Discovery’s famous archaeologist quiz and demonstrate your mastery of archaeological history.

FYI, I scored 16/20 (80%)…. Disappointing…

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Famous Roman Shipwreck Off the Coast of Greece Could be Two Ships

Antikythera Mechanism fragment courtesy of Wikimedia

Antikythera Mechanism fragment courtesy of Wikimedia

The famous Roman shipwreck at Antikythera may in fact be the resting place of two wrecked vessels. The underwater site was discovered in the early 1900s and became quickly famous when nautical archaeologists discovered a device they termed the Antikythera Mechanism, a sophisticated device used to calculate astronomical positions.

The breadth of the wreck and vast array of artifacts have led researchers to question whether or not there are actually two ships at the site rather than the assumed one.

The site’s preservation is due to its remote and deep location, which protects it from curious scuba divers and would be looters. However, the attention that has been showered on the site has encouraged documentary film makers and reporters to be more… creative in how they have presented the finds and the site itself. As such, researchers are planning to return to the site to better explore it.

“Because the site has been so intruded upon for more than a century it gets really hard to disambiguate what’s myth and what’s fact,” – Brendan Foley

To learn more about the excavation and proposed return to the Antikythera wreck, see the article at Discovery News.

Google Makes Dead Sea Scrolls Available Online

Qumran cave 4, in which ninety percent of the scrolls were found. (courtesy of Wikimedia)

Qumran cave 4, in which ninety percent of the scrolls were found. (courtesy of Wikimedia)

Google paired with the Israel Antiquities Authority to publish the entirety of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The scrolls, primarily discovered in the 1940’s, are documents of both historical and religious significance. The scrolls, which date to the fourth and fifth centuries CE, are the earliest surviving copies of biblical and peri-biblical documents in existence.

“The Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Library offers an exceptional encounter with antiquity. Using the world’s most advanced imaging technology, the Digital Library preserves thousands of scrolls fragments, including the oldest known copies of biblical texts, now accessible to the public for the first time.” — Statement on the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Library website.

Visitors can browse the collection by geography (archaeological site at which they were found), language (my Aramaic is a bit rusty I must admit), or by topic (scripture, history, etc). The collection includes detailed information on the history and provenance of the texts.

Top 10 Archaeological Discoveries of 2012

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 12.24.08 PMToday, Archaeology Magazine has rolled out its “Top 10 Discoveries of 2012.” The list includes (in no particular order):

Maya Sun God Mask

Neanderthal Medicine Chest

First Use of Poison

Aztec Ritual Burial

Caesar’s Gallic Outpost

Europe’s Oldest Engraving

The First Pots

Scottish “Frankenstein” Mummy

2,000 Year Old Stashed Treasure

Oldest Egyptian Funerary Boat

 

How Pompeii Perished – Scientific American

Me in the Forum of Pompeii with Vesuvius in the Background

Every school child knows the story of Pompeii, the ill-fated city at the base of Mount Vesuvius. Pliny the Younger, an eye witness to the eruption, recorded the terrifying event:

You could hear the shrieks of women, the wailing of infants, and the shouting of men; some were calling their parents, others their children or their wives, trying to recognize them by their voices. People bewailed their own fate or that of their relatives, and there were some who prayed for death in their terror of dying. Many besought the aid of the gods, but still more imagined there were no gods left, and that the universe was plunged into eternal darkness for evermore.

Today, Scientific America highlights the death of the city and how many historians and archaeologists get the geology wrong. Mary Beard, an expert in Roman History, states that the problem is that historians and archaeologists are “not a volcanologist[s].”

To read more about the violent end of the city, see the article: “How Pompeii Perished.”

New Research Suggests Carthage Baby Cemetery Not for Sacrificial Victims

One of the infamous characteristics of Ancient Carthage was, according to their Roman enemies, their prolific practice of child sacrifice. Many ancient historians mention the practice, the most colorful by Diodorus Siculus

Denis Jarvis; burial ground of Tophet

“There was in their city a bronze image of Cronus extending its hands, palms up and sloping toward the ground, so that each of the children when placed thereon rolled down and fell into a sort of gaping pit filled with fire.” Hist20.14.6

New research suggests that the child burials of Carthage may not in fact be evidence of the practice (or at least of it being wide-spread). Rather, they are burial sites for infants and fetuses that died as a result of premature birth. Infant mortality was high in the ancient world (in some cases, 40% of children died before reaching their fifth birthday). The loss of a child during pregnancy or birth was also a common occurrence.

Jeffrey Schwartz, Ph.D. asserts that the majority of burials found here represent children that died of natural causes and not from the horrific murder of infants to the God Ba’al.

To learn more about these findings, read the article at MSNBC or purchase the more extensive Academic Journal Article at Antiquity.

Oldest Roman Military Encampment Uncovered in Germany

Gaul on the eve of the Gallic Wars. Courtesy of Wikipedia

Archaeologists working in the small German town of Hermeskeil have uncovered what they believe is the oldest Roman Military Encampment in Germany uncovered to date. They believe that the camp was constructed during Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars and may have played a key role in the conquest of Gaul.

Archaeologists confirmed the dating of the site as mid 1st century BCE using shards of pottery and stylized building nails. Its connection to a neighboring village, abandoned in the middle of the 1st century BCE, also collaborates the sites significance in combating local tribes that fought the Roman invasion.

To learn more about the excavations and its findings, see the article on Science Daily.