All posts by Archeology worldwide team

Ancient Toilet: A Peek into King Hezekiah’s Reforms in the Bible?

Ancient Toilet: A Peek into King Hezekiah’s Reforms in the Bible?

It was one of the most zealous religious crackdowns in the history of Judaism and saw the numerous cults in ancient Judah smashed to pieces.

Now evidence of the reforms implemented by King Hezekiah, which are described in the Old Testament, around 2,800 years ago have surfaced in a surprising form.

Archaeologists digging at the site of an ancient gate to the ruined city of Tel Lachish in Israel have uncovered the remains of a shrine that was desecrated during the purges in the 8th century BC.

Archaeologists have discovered a stone toilet in a shrine hidden within the city gate at the ruins of the city of Tel Lachish in Israel. It is thought to have been installed as part of a crackdown on religious cults by King Hezekiah

The Lachish city gate, as it is known, consists of six chambers which contain signs of city life at the time.

In one of the chambers, however, is a shrine that once had walls covered with white plaster and two altars decorated with raised corners – known as horns.

These, however, appear to have had their tops deliberately cut off, a sign that there had been an attempt to end the spread of religious cults and centralise worship in Jerusalem.

But perhaps the greatest sign that the shrine had been the site of one of King Hezekiah’s crackdowns was the installation of the toilet within the inner sanctum of the shrine.

This stone with a hole cut through the centre would have been the ultimate desecration of the Holy site.

Sa’ar Ganor, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said: ‘Steps to the gate-shrine in the form of a staircase ascended to a large room where there was a bench upon which offerings were placed.

‘An opening was exposed in the corner of the room that led to the holy of holies. ‘To our great excitement, we found two four-horned altars and scores of ceramic finds consisting of lamps, bowls and stands in this room.

‘It is most interesting that the horns on the altar were intentionally truncated. That is probably evidence of the religious reform attributed to King Hezekiah.’

According to the narrative given in the book of Kings in the bible, King Hezekiah oversaw a widespread effort to abolish the religious cults and idol worship that had sprung up in Judah.

It states in II Kings 18:4: ‘He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles…’ Tests at the site showed that while the toilet stone appears to have been installed to desecrate the shrine, it was never actually used.

Archaeologists instead believe it had been placed there symbolically and the inner sanctum of the shrine was sealed shut.

The gate itself was initially partially unearthed several decades ago by an expedition led by archaeologists from Britain and Tel Aviv University.

Now the entire gate, which measures 78 feet (24 metres) long by 78 feet wide, has been excavated.

In the first chamber, archaeologists found stone benches with armrests along with numerous jars and grain scoops scattered on the floor.

Dr Ganor said: ‘The size of the gate is consistent with the historical and archaeological knowledge we possess, whereby Lachish was a major city and the most important one after Jerusalem’.

‘According to the biblical narrative, the cities’ gates were the place where ‘everything took place’.

‘The city elders, judges, governors, kings and officials – everyone would sit on benches in the city gate. These benches were found in our excavation.’ There were also jar handles that bear an official seal impression indicating ownership.

Rare 1,900-Year-Old Roman Crucifixion Evidence Unearthed in Cambridgeshire, UK

Rare 1,900-Year-Old Roman Crucifixion Evidence Unearthed in Cambridgeshire, UK

Archaeologists in Cambridgeshire, U.K., have discovered what may be the best-preserved physical evidence of crucifixion—a 1,900-year-old skeleton with a two-inch iron nail driven through his heel.

Originally unearthed by a team from Albion Archaeology  during  excavations in the village of Fenstanton in 2017, the remains date to between A.D. 130 to 337.

The findings from the dig are published in the new issue of British Archaeology magazine.

“This is an extraordinarily important find because it is only the second discovery of a crucifixion victim from Roman times,” John Granger Cook, a professor at LaGrange College in Georgia and the author of Crucifixion in the Mediterranean World told the Independent.

The skeleton has a nail piercing its foot, perhaps the best-preserved archaeological evidence of crucifixion as carried out by the Roman Empire.

He estimates that the Romans used crucifixion, which kills its victims through asphyxiation, to execute only about 100,000 to 150,000 people before Emperor Constantine outlawed the practice in A.D. 337 after converting to Christianity.

As a particularly drawn-out and gruesome means of capital punishment, crucifixion is believed to have been reserved for enslaved people and enemies of the state.

Most victims were likely secured by rope, rather than nails, and would probably not have received formal burials, making it difficult to find physical evidence of their cause of death.

The skeleton has a nail piercing its foot, perhaps the best-preserved archaeological evidence of crucifixion as carried out by the Roman Empire.

The deceased found in Fenstanton would have been a 25-to-35-year-old man measuring about 5 foot 7, reports the Guardian. His foot was nailed down to keep him from writhing around during his last moments while existing injuries to his legs suggest he was kept enslaved and shackled prior to his death.

He was buried with a timber structure, perhaps the bier on which he was executed.

Only four other examples of the remains of possible Crucifixion victims, including ones from Gavello, Italy, and Mendes, Egypt, have been identified; this skeleton is the first to be found in northern Europe.

Construction workers in Jerusalem found the only other one featuring a nail in 1968, but the body was not intact, and thus is not fully accepted as firm evidence of crucifixion in archaeological circles.

“It’s essentially the first time that we’ve found physical evidence for this practice of crucifixion during an archaeological excavation,” dig leader David Ingham, of Albion Archaeology, told the Daily Mail.

The skeleton was found during a 2017 dig in the village of Fenstanton.

“You just don’t find this. We have written evidence, but we almost never find physical evidence.”

Excavations in Fenstanton have turned up 48 ancient graves, as well as ceramics and a horse-shaped copper alloy brooch decorated with enamel.

The village lies along an ancient Roman road called the Via Devana, between Cambridge and Godmanchester.

For the first time in 2000 years, the Biblical site where Jesus healed blind man to be excavated for public view

For the first time in 2000 years, the Biblical site where Jesus healed blind man to be excavated for public view

Several Biblical sites have been identified through archaeology over the course of history. They hold huge historical importance and are often tied to a theological significance.

Most of the sites were in their natural state when found by archeologists. But have locations been unearthed? Apparently not.

In the coming days, a new location will be opening to the public for the first time in 2,000 years.

The Israel Antiquities Authority, the Israel National Parks Authority and the City of David Foundation have announced that a site, cherished by the Christians and Jews, which is allegedly the place where Jesus miraculously healed a blind man will be opened to the public.

The Pool of Siloam is located in the southern part of the City of David archaeological site in Jerusalem.

“The Pool of Siloam, located at the southern end of the City of David, and within the Jerusalem Walls National Park, is an archaeological and historical site of national and worldwide importance.

According to the Bible, the pool was first built in the 8th century BCE in the reign of King Hezekiah, some 2,700 years ago, as part of Jerusalem’s water system,” Israel Antiquities Authority wrote on Facebook.

It has always been referred to as a number of rock-cut pools on the southern slope of the Wadi Hilweh, considered by some archaeologists to be the original site of Jerusalem.

According to the Gospel of John, Jesus sent the “man blind from birth” to the pool in order to complete his healing. A simpler and more popular belief is that Jesus applied mud to the eyes of the man before telling him to wash it off in the Pool. When he followed his instructions, he was able to see for the first time.

The story makes the Pool of Siloam an important historical site for Christians as well as Jews.

“The Pool of Siloam’s excavation is highly significant to Christians around the world. It was at this site that Jesus healed the blind man (John:9), and it is at this site that, 2,000 years ago, Jewish pilgrims cleansed themselves prior to entering the Second Temple.” American pastor John Hagee, the founder and chairman of Christians United for Israel, told Fox News Digital.

“The Pool of Siloam and the Pilgrimage Road, both located within the City of David, are among the most inspiring archaeological affirmations of the Bible,” he added.

Ze’ev Orenstein, director of international affairs for the City of David Foundation in Jerusalem, told Fox News Digital that the site ‘will be made fully accessible for the first time in 2,000 years’.

As of now, a small section of the pool has been fully excavated to be made accessible to the public. However, the vast majority of the pool will be opened later once the entire site is unearthed.

Reports have claimed that some tourists have already been able to visit the site. But full access will only be granted when the excavation is complete.

“The Pool of Siloam in the City of David National Park in Jerusalem is a site of historic, national and international significance. After many years of anticipation, we will soon merit being able to uncover this important site and make it accessible to the millions of visitors visiting Jerusalem each year,” said Jerusalem’s mayor Moshe Lion.

Roman-Era Cemetery With Over 100 Tombs Unearthed in Gaza

Roman-Era Cemetery With Over 100 Tombs Unearthed in Gaza

Archaeologists have unearthed two rare lead sarcophagi and at least 125 tombs at a Roman-era cemetery in Gaza.

The series of finds is “unprecedented,” says Jamal Abu Reida, general director of Gaza’s antiquities ministry, to Reuters’ Nidal Al-Mughrabi.

Construction crews discovered the site, which stretches over 43,000 square feet, while working on an Egyptian-funded housing project last year, according to Ellen Francis of the Washington Post.

It’s remarkably well-preserved: Roman aristocrats were likely buried in the graves, many of which still contain skeletal remains, reports Hyperallergic’s Elaine Velie. Some still have coins in their mouths, thought to help secure a safe journey to the underworld.

“It’s rare to discover an intact Roman burial site, where nothing has been stolen,” says Anthony Dutemple, the head of mission in Palestine for Premiere Urgence Internationale (PUI), a French humanitarian group, to the Art Newspaper’s Hadani Ditmars.

The first lead sarcophagus discovered at the site is decorated with reliefs of grapes, leaves and vines

Researchers working at the sprawling site found the first lead sarcophagus, which is decorated with reliefs of grapes and vines, earlier this year. The discovery of a second lead sarcophagus, which is engraved with dolphins, was announced last month.

The cemetery is located less than a mile from the ancient Mediterranean port city of Anthedon, which was inhabited by “a succession of ancient societies, including Persians, Greeks, Romans and early Islamic cultures” between 800 B.C.E. to 1100 C.E., per Hyperallergic.

Archaeologists create a wooden chest to protect a lead sarcophagus unearthed at the site.

The excavation—a joint effort between PUI and the French School of Biblical and Archeological Research (EBAF) in Jerusalem—employed about 30 recent graduates from Gaza’s Islamic University and the University of Palestine.

The project is meant to offer the young researchers a chance to engage with Palestinian cultural heritage and gain dig experience in Gaza, where archaeological tools and technologies are difficult to access, according to the Art Newspaper.

“In Palestine, in a society deeply affected by the Israeli occupation, culture and heritage are vital elements in keeping hope alive,” Dutemple tells Hyperallergic.

In June, experts moved the first lead sarcophagus to a museum in Gaza’s Qasr al-Basha museum, where it will be “one of the centerpieces of the museum’s collection,” according to the EBAF.

The team is now working to clean remains and piece together clay jars found at the graves, and investigations at the site will continue for a number of months. 

Fadel Al-A’utul, an archaeologist at the EBAF, hopes the cemetery can eventually become a tourist destination with its own museum to display the discovered artifacts. 

“We need funds to preserve this archeological site so that history does not get washed away,” he tells Reuters.

Ancient Egyptian Head Cones Were Real, Grave Excavations Suggest

Ancient Egyptian Head Cones Were Real, Grave Excavations Suggest

Researchers have revealed details of mysterious cone-shaped headgear discovered in the ancient Egyptian city of Amarna.

“Ancient Egyptian art frequently depicted people wearing cone-shaped headgear, but none had ever been found,” the researchers explained in a statement emailed to Fox News.

Archaeologists from the Amarna project have been working with Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities to analyze the mysterious head cones. A head cone was discovered at a grave in Amarna in 2010 and another head cone was uncovered at the site five years later.

“This confirms the objects actually existed, which some researchers were sceptical of,” the researchers added in the statement. “Instead, they thought they were just artistic additions, like Christian halos.”

Two figures wearing head cones in a wall painting from Akhetaten, Egypt

“It is unknown why these cones were included in the burials,” the experts continued. “They may have been thought to purify the wearer so they could engage with the rituals and deities of the afterlife. Alternatively, they could be connected with ideas of fertility and resurrection.”

A paper on the research is published in the journal Antiquity.

Egypt continues to reveal new details of its right history. Archaeologists, for example, recently discovered a long-lost 2,200-year-old ancient temple linked to Pharaoh Ptolemy IV.

In a separate project, an ancient fortress built by Pharaoh Ramses II is revealing its secrets. Archaeologists recently uncovered an ancient cemetery near the famous Giza pyramids just outside Cairo.

In another project, experts uncovered the 2,500-year-old remains of a powerful high priest in dramatic fashion.

The opening of the priest’s stone sarcophagus was broadcast by the Discovery Channel during “Expedition Unknown: Egypt Live,” a two-hour live event. Archaeologists discovered what they describe as an “exquisitely preserved” mummy inside the sealed sarcophagus, covered in gold banding.

A grave at Amarna with the remains of a head cone.

The incredible find was made at Al-Ghorifa, a remote site about 165 miles south of Cairo. Located within the inner chambers of the burial site, experts accessed the sarcophagus via a network of ancient tunnels.

Elsewhere, archaeologists found a large ram-headed sphinx that is linked to King Tutankhamun’s grandfather. In other projects, a teenage girl’s skeleton was discovered in a mysterious grave near the Meidum pyramid, south of Cairo.

In April, experts announced the discovery of dozens of mummies in ancient desert burial chambers. Archaeologists also recently explained the strange brown spots on some of the paintings in King Tutankhamun’s tomb.

Depictions of head cones in Ancient Egyptian art from the ancient city of Amarna.

In January, archaeologists announced the discovery of ancient tombs in the Nile Delta north of Cairo. In a separate project, two ancient tombs dating back to the Roman period were uncovered in Egypt’s Western Desert.

Archaeologists discovered a stunning sphinx statue at an ancient temple in southern Egypt in a separate project.

Last summer, experts unlocked the secrets of a mysterious ancient ‘cursed’ black granite sarcophagus. The massive coffin, which was excavated in the city of Alexandria, was found to contain three skeletons and gold sheets with the remains.

Archaeologists also found the oldest solid cheese in the tomb of Ptahmes, mayor of the ancient city of Memphis.

A mummy buried in southern Egypt more than 5,000 years ago has also revealed its grisly secrets, shedding new light on prehistoric embalming practices.

2000-Year-Old Children’s Shoe Unearthed in Austrian Iron Age Site

2000-Year-Old Children’s Shoe Unearthed in Austrian Iron Age Site

An “extremely well-preserved” Iron Age Children’s Shoe was discovered in Austria during excavations at Dürrnberg, near the historic town of Hallein.

Since 2001, the German Mining Museum Bochum, Leibniz Research Museum for Georesources, has been conducting mining archeological investigations with its mining archeology research area on the Dürrnberg near Hallein.

The Dürrnberg near Salzburg is known for its rock salt mining, which already occurred in the Iron Age.

Due to the preservation effect of the salt, organic remains are particularly well preserved, in contrast to other excavations, where such finds are in short supply. During this year’s campaign in the Georgenberg tunnel, a children’s shoe made of leather came to light.

An exceptionally well-preserved child’s shoe was found in the Dürrnberg salt mine.

The shoe is made of leather and roughly corresponds to today’s shoe size 30 (12.5-inch). The shape, as well as the lace-up closures, which were likely made of flax or linen, are still intact. The shoe’s design provides additional indications of its manufacture, which was most likely in the second century B.C.

“For decades now, our research activities on the Dürrnberg have repeatedly provided us with valuable finds in order to develop the earliest mining activities scientifically.

The condition of the shoe that was found is outstanding,” says the head of the research area, Prof. Dr. Thomas Stöllne. “Organic materials usually decompose over time.

Finds such as this children’s shoe, but also textile remains or excrement, such as those found on the Dürrnberg, offer an extremely rare insight into the life of the Iron Age miners.”

Several finds of leather shoes are already known from the Dürrnberg, but a child’s shoe is always something special, as it proves the presence of children underground.

In addition, in this case, as an exception, a remnant of a lacing made of flax or linen has been preserved. In this way, conclusions can be drawn as to how the shoes were laced.

In the vicinity of the well-kept find, archaeologists also found other organic materials, namely a fragment of a wooden shovel in the shape of a blade and the remains of fur with lacing that possibly belonged to a fur hood.

The research work on prehistoric salt production at Dürrnberg near Hallein in Austria is part of a long-term research project.

The work is funded by Salinen Austria AG and Salinen Tourismus and is carried out in cooperation with the Institute for Archaeological Sciences at Ruhr University in Bochum.

Ancient Humans Cooked And Ate Giant Land Snails Around 170,000 Years Ago

Ancient Humans Cooked And Ate Giant Land Snails Around 170,000 Years Ago

Slow-motion large land snails made for easy catching and good eating as early as 170,000 years ago. Until now, the oldest evidence of Homo sapiens eating land snails dated to roughly 49,000 years ago in Africa and 36,000 years ago in Europe.

But tens of thousands of years earlier, people at a southern African rock shelter roasted these slimy, chewy – and nutritious – creepers that can grow as big as an adult’s hand, researchers report in the April 15 Quaternary Science Reviews.

Analyses of shell fragments excavated at South Africa’s Border Cave indicate that hunter-gatherers who periodically occupied the site heated large African land snails on embers and then presumably ate them, say chemist Marine Wojcieszak and colleagues. Wojcieszak, of the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage in Brussels, studies the chemical properties of archaeological sites and artifacts.

The supersized delicacy became especially popular between about 160,000 and 70,000 years ago, the researchers say. The number of unearthed snail shell pieces was substantially larger in sediment layers dating to that time period.

New discoveries at Border Cave challenge an influential idea that human groups did not make land snails and other small game a big part of their diet until the last Ice Age waned around 15,000 to 10,000 years ago, Wojcieszak says.

Long before that, hunter-gatherer groups in southern Africa roamed the countryside collecting large land snails to bring back to Border Cave for themselves and to share with others, the team contends. Some of the group members who stayed behind on snail-gathering forays may have had limited mobility due to age or injury, the researchers suspect.

“The easy-to-eat, fatty protein of snails would have been an important food for the elderly and small children, who are less able to chew hard foods,” Wojcieszak says. “Food sharing shows that cooperative social behavior was in place from the dawn of our species.”

Small groups of people roasted and ate large land snails, much like this modern land snail, at a rock shelter in southern Africa starting around 170,000 years ago, a new study finds.

Border Cave’s ancient snail scarfers also push back the human consumption of mollusks by several thousand years, says archaeologist Antonieta Jerardino of the University of South Africa in Pretoria. Previous excavations at a cave on South Africa’s southern tip found evidence of humans eating mussels, limpets and other marine mollusks as early as around 164,000 years ago.

Given the nutritional value of large land snails, an earlier argument that it was eating fish and shellfish that energized human brain evolution may have been overstated, says Jerardino, who did not participate in the new study.

It’s not surprising that ancient H. sapiens recognized the nutritional value of land snails and occasionally cooked and ate them 170,000 years ago, says Teresa Steele, an archaeologist at the University of California, Davis who was not part of the work.

But intensive consumption of these snails starting around 160,000 years ago is unexpected and raises questions about whether climate and habitat changes may have reduced the availability of other foods,  Steele says.

Researchers have already found evidence that ancient people at Border Cave cooked starchy plant stems, ate an array of fruits and hunted small and large animals. The oldest known grass bedding, from around 200,000 years ago, has also been unearthed at Border Cave.

Several excavations have been conducted at the site since 1934. Three archaeologists on the new study — Lucinda Backwell and Lyn Wadley of Wits University in Johannesburg and Francesco d’Errico of the University of Bordeaux in France — directed the latest Border Cave dig, which ran from 2015 through 2019.

Discoveries by that team inspired the new investigation. Excavations uncovered shell fragments of large land snails, many discolored from possible burning, in all but the oldest sediment layers containing remnants of campfires and other H. sapiens activity. The oldest layers date to at least 227,000 years ago.

The chemical and microscopic characteristics of 27 snail shell fragments from various sediment layers were compared with shell fragments of modern large African snails that were heated in a metal furnace. Experimental temperatures ranged from 200° to 550° Celsius. Heating times lasted from five minutes to 36 hours.

All but a few ancient shell pieces displayed signs of extended heat exposure consistent with having once been attached to snails that were cooked on hot embers. Heating clues on shell surfaces included microscopic cracks and a dull finish.

Only lower parts of large land snail shells would have rested against embers during cooking, possibly explaining the mix of burned and unburned shell fragments unearthed at Border Cave, the researchers say.

Four 1,900-Year-Old Roman Swords Found in The Judean Desert

Four 1,900-Year-Old Roman Swords Found in The Judean Desert

Archaeologists report having discovered four incredibly well-preserved Roman swords in the Judean Desert. This very rare find was made in a small hidden cave located in an area of isolated and inaccessible cliffs north of ‘En Gedi, in the Judean Desert Nature Reserve, under the jurisdiction of the National Parks Authority.

Fifty years ago, a stalactite with a fragmentary ink inscription written in ancient Hebrew script, characteristic of the First Temple period, was found.

Recently, Dr. Asaf Gayer of the Department of the Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology at Ariel University, geologist Boaz Langford of the Institute of Earth Sciences and the Cave Research Center at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Shai Halevi, Israel Antiquities Authority photographer, visited the cave.

Their aim was to photograph the Paleo-Hebrew inscription written on the stalactite with multispectral photography that might be able to decipher additional parts of the inscription not visible to the naked eye.

While on the upper level of the cave, Asaf Gayer spotted an extremely well-preserved, Roman pilum— a shafted weapon in a deep narrow crevice. He also found pieces of worked wood in an adjacent niche that turned out to be parts of the swords’ scabbards.

The researchers reported the discovery to the Israel Antiquities Authority Archaeological Survey Team, who are conducting a systematic scientific project in the Judean Desert caves.

As part of this survey, initiated by the Israel Antiquities Authority, and in cooperation with the Ministry of Heritage and the Archaeological Office for the Military Administration of Judea and Samaria, hundreds of caves have been investigated over six years, and 24 archaeological excavations have been carried out in selected caves, with the aim of saving the archaeological remains from the hands of looters.

The Judean Desert Cave Survey team, together with Asaf Gayer and Boaz Langford returned to the cave and carried out a meticulous survey of all the crevices in the rock, during which they were astonished to find the four Roman swords in an almost inaccessible crevice on the upper level of the cave.

Experts say the four swords are 1,900-year-old and most likely from the Bar Kochba revolt that lasted from 132 to 135 C.E. Also called the Second Jewish Revolt, it was a Jewish rebellion against Roman rule in Judea led by rebel leader Simon Bar Kochba.

The most plausible scenario is that the swords were hidden in the cave sometime during the revolt, as it was dangerous for Jews to be found with Roman weapons.

“Finding a single sword is rare—so four? It’s a dream! We rubbed our eyes to believe it,” say the researchers.

The swords were exceptionally well preserved, and three were found with the iron blade inside the wooden scabbards. Leather strips and wooden and metal finds belonging to the weapons were also found in the crevice.

The swords had well-fashioned handles made of wood or metal. The length of the blades of the three swords was 60–65 cm, their dimensions identifying them as Roman spatha swords, and the fourth one was shorter with c. 45 cm long blade, identified as a ring-pommel sword.

The swords were carefully removed from the crevice in the rock and transferred to the Israel Antiquities Authority climate-controlled laboratories for preservation and conservation.

The initial examination of the assemblage confirmed that these were standard swords employed by the Roman soldiers stationed in Judea in the Roman period.

“The hiding of the swords and the pilum in deep cracks in the isolated cave north of ‘En Gedi, hints that the weapons were taken as booty from Roman soldiers or from the battlefield and purposely hidden by the Judean rebels for reuse,” says Dr. Eitan Klein, one of the directors of the Judean Desert Survey Project.

“Obviously, the rebels did not want to be caught by the Roman authorities carrying these weapons. We are just beginning the research on the cave and the weapon cache discovered in it, aiming to try to find out who owned the swords, and where, when, and by whom they were manufactured.

We will try to pinpoint the historical event that led to the caching of these weapons in the cave and determine whether it was at the time of the Bar Kokhba Revolt in 132–135 CE.”

Following the discovery of the swords, an archaeological excavation was undertaken in the cave by the Israel Antiquities Authority, directed by Eitan Klein, Oriya Amichay, Hagay Hamer, and Amir Ganor.

The cave was excavated in its entirety, and artifacts dating to the Chalcolithic period (c. 6,000 years ago) and the Roman period (c. 2,000 years ago) were uncovered.

At the entrance to the cave, a Bar-Kokhba bronze coin from the time of the Revolt was found, possibly pointing to the time when the cave served for concealing the weapons.

This Bread Was Made Using 4,500-Year-Old Egyptian Yeast

This Bread Was Made Using 4,500-Year-Old Egyptian Yeast

Seamus Blackley, best known as one of the minds behind the Xbox, is a hardcore amateur baker and Egyptologist. Recently, he decided to combine his two hobbies. As Alix Kroeger at the BBC reports, along with University of Queensland archaeologist and ancient brewing expert Serena Love, he negotiated access to 4,500-year-old Old Kingdom vessels used to bake bread and make beer from the Peabody Essex Museum and Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

The result. On Twitter, Samus Blackley describes it as “much sweeter and more rich than the sourdough we are used to.”

Richard Bowman, a doctoral candidate in microbiology at the University of Iowa, helped in the process, injecting a nutrient solution into the ceramics, which reawakened dormant yeasts.

The team then extracted the yeasty liquid. While most of the yeast was sent off to a laboratory for study, Blackley took one sample home, setting out to recreate the taste of ancient Egypt by baking with its yeast.

“It’s such a magical thing, to think we can share food in a rather genuine way with our distant ancestors,” Blackley writes on Twitter.

Maximilian Blackley

While it’s possible that humans began making some form of bread as early as about 30,000 years ago, they didn’t begin using yeast to produce beer, wine and leavened bread until about 6,000 years ago. Since then, yeast used for producing food has undergone a lot of changes, with strains from around the world combining with one another, and picking up mutations along the way.

It’s likely that the yeast the team captured is the real deal. While previous experiments have scraped the interiors of the bowl, which could easily be contaminated, and other techniques destroy the bowls to gain access to the yeast, this method is non-invasive.

“You pump a fluid in carefully with a syringe and some sterile cotton in contact with the ceramics. It soaks in and you vacuum it back out,” Bowman tells Will Pavia at The Times.

Genomic sequencing will conclude whether the ancient yeast is the real deal or contaminated with modern microbes. In the meantime, Blackley couldn’t resist baking with his sample. He cultivated the yeast for a week using unfiltered olive oil, hand-milled barley and einkorn, one of the earliest forms of wheat, until he had a starter, like that used to make sourdough bread.

Sarah Cascone at artnet News reports he then mixed the starter with barley, einkorn and kamut, all of which would have been at an ancient Egyptian baker’s disposal. “Modern wheat was invented long after these organisms went to sleep,” he says. “The idea is to make a dough with identical ingredients to what the yeast ate 4,500 years ago.”

Blackley documented his bread-baking adventure on his Twitter profile. He noted that the scent as it baked was different from other loaves of bread he’s made with the same combination of ancient grains, but with modern yeast. “It’s much sweeter and more rich than the sourdough we are used to. It’s a big difference,” he wrote.

Describing the look and taste of it, Blackley noted that the crumb “is light and airy,” particularly for a 100 percent ancient grain loaf. “The aroma and flavor are incredible,” he added. “I’m emotional.

It’s really different, and you can easily tell even if you’re not a bread nerd. This is incredibly exciting, and I’m so amazed that it worked.”

That being said, Blackley was careful to note that this loaf was just for practice, and he’s sure some modern yeast likely contaminated the sample. He hopes to try again with a purer strain of Old Kingdom yeast and has future plans to work with Love to replicate the tools and baking methods, like cooking bread in ceramic pots, used by the ancient Egyptians.

He also wants to work with a ceramicist to recreate the cooking vessels. Already the team has secured permission to collect samples from cooking pots in other museums, and they hope to gather yeast from the Old, Middle and New Kingdoms, each separated by 500 to 700 years, to understand if and how the yeasts changed over time.

Luckily, we have something to go along with the Pharaoh’s bread. Last year, the British Museum tasked a team with figuring out how to brew beer using ancient Egyptian methods, which produced suds similar to white wine.

Remarkable Paleolithic Sculpture Discovered in the Famous Cave of Foissac

Remarkable Paleolithic Sculpture Discovered in the Famous Cave of Foissac

A fascinating and unique Paleolithic sculpture of a figurine carved from a large bovine bone and with unusual designs engraved in it was discovered in the well-known cave of Foissac in Aveyron, France.

According to Le Figaro , the cave, which is closed to the public from October to June, still contains many mysteries, including the newest discovery – the sculpture, which is one of the most mysterious findings of the last years.

During the prehistoric era, people created a unique style of art, which was also perhaps a way of expressing information. It was carved in a bone of an auroch or bison with a flint tool. One part of the sculpture was polished with an unidentified tool.

The figurine was analyzed by an expert from La Direction régionale des affaires culturelles. The researchers believe that it was made 20,000 years ago. It depicts a human who appears to be holding something, possibly a baby.

Most sculptures from this period depict animals, so to find a figurine is quite rare. The statue is very well preserved, which is surprising considering that it was submerged in water for many centuries.

The newly-discovered Paleolithic figurine

The major problem with the analysis of such artifacts is that there are no historical sources to explain the meaning behind the art of Paleolithic people. Researchers may only speculate.  Du Fayet de La Tour believes that the sculpture is a woman carrying a child or an animal.

 It has also been suggested that some of the patterned marks may represent prehistoric tattoos. However, more analysis is needed. They hope that future discoveries will bring answers to the most intriguing questions the sculpture poses.

It is similar to the case of another artifact discovered in the cave La Roche-Cotard in the territory of Langeais, France. It is a piece of flat flint that may have been shaped by the hands of a Neanderthal who once lived near.

Many people see a face in this artifact, which they call one of the oldest pieces of art on Earth. The Mask of la Roche-Cotard , also called the “Mousterian Proto-figurine”, was discovered in 1975 and re-examined in 2003 by Jean-Claude Marquet, curator of the Museum of Prehistory of Grand-Pressigny, and Michel Lorblanchet, a director of research in the French National Centre of Scientific Research, Roc des Monges, at Saint-Sozy.

The mask of La Roche-Cotard at Langeais in Indre-et-Loire (France).

The mask is about 10 cm (3.94 inches) tall, and not very well preserved. It is dated to about 35,000 years old, thus created during the Mousterian period. This was a time when Neanderthals seemed to be quite advanced and creative.

However, they still lived in caves and it is believed that their lives were primarily focused on daily survival. In fact, we don’t know what sources of entertainment they preferred, if they played games, or even how they sounded when they spoke.

The most useful messages for researchers today have been found painted and carved on stones.