Category Archives: EUROPE

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.

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.

Naked Servant Depicted in Newly Discovered 2,200-Year-Old Tomb Mural

Naked Servant Depicted in Newly Discovered 2,200-Year-Old Tomb Mural

A naked man holding a wine jug and a vase is just one of many figures depicted in a 2,200-year-old mural of a banquet that’s decorating a newly discovered tomb in Italy.

A servant in his birthday suit holds a silver-colored jug and a vase for wine.

The painted tomb — discovered in the ancient city of Cumae — is a prize find. But its style was surprisingly retro at the time it was painted, between the second and third centuries B.C., said the archeologists who found it.

In fact, murals like this one were in vogue about 100 to 200 years earlier, making it quite “unfashionable” for its time, the archaeologists said in a statement.

Although a naked servant would be inappropriate (and extremely weird) by today’s standards, that wasn’t the case when the mural was painted.

During that period and the following Roman period, nudity was seen as the natural state of being, according to Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper. For instance, condemned criminals and even female gladiators were known to fight naked in Rome’s Colosseum.

The city where the mural was discovered, Cumae, is located about 15 miles (25 kilometers) west of Naples, on the Tyrrhenian Sea. Founded in the second half of the eighth century B.C., it’s considered the oldest ancient Greek settlement in the Western world, the archaeologists said.

Since 2001, the archaeologists have focused on an area of Cumae that included a Greek sanctuary, roads and a necropolis. They found hundreds of sepulchers (small, rock-carved rooms holding the deceased), including a series of vaulted burial chambers made of tuff — a volcanic stone native to the area.

The new discovery, found in June 2018 and announced Sept. 25, includes a chamber with three funerary beds. People entered the ancient tomb by using a door in the facade, which was sealed with a large stone block, the archaeologists said.

This past summer, archaeologists excavated a painted burial chamber dating to the second to third centuries B.C. A mural on the walls depicts figures at a banquet

Tomb raiders pilfered the burials in the 19th century, but the archaeologists managed to find a few remaining traces of funerary artifacts that helped them date the chamber.

The lavish space and mural indicate that the people who were buried there had a high social status, the archaeologists said.

The mural itself is unusual for its vast array of colors. The other tombs excavated in the necropolis are decorated murals painted only in red or white, the archaeologists said.

But the mural with the naked servant has a number of colors, including brown and pink, painted on top of the white plaster background. Much of the mural has crumbled over the years, but the banquet’s guests were likely painted on the side walls of the tomb, the archaeologists said.

To prevent further decay, the archaeologists opted to remove the fresco from the tomb, as well as painted fragments they found on the ground. Later, they plan to reassemble the pieces like a puzzle, they said.

Oldest Evidence of Wine Making Found in Georgia

Oldest Evidence of Wine Making Found in Georgia

While excavating two Stone Age villages in Georgia, researchers discovered 8,000-year old jars containing what they believe are traces of grape wine. It is the oldest evidence of wine production yet discovered, report Ashifa Kassam and Nicola Davis at The Guardian.

This is base of Neolithic jar being prepared for sampling for residue analysis.

The discovery, detailed in a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was made as part of an international collaboration of archaeologists and botanists who were studying the neolithic villages Gadachrili Gora and Shulaveris Gora. 

Positioned roughly 20 miles south of the city of Tbilisi, these sites host circular mud-brick homes and a smattering of the stone and bone tools commonly used by people of that age. The region is also home to what are likely among the first clay-fired pots found in the Near East.

The latest find came from large clay jars that were stuck in the floor of the circular dwellings, Andrew Curry at National Geographic reports. One jar found was three feet tall and decorated with what researchers suspected might represent clusters of grapes.

To investigate the purpose of the container, the team sent 30 pottery fragments and 26 soil samples of the surrounding region to be analyzed for evidence of wine-making. The result of this analysis revealed traces of tartaric acid, a compound found in high concentrations in grapes, stuck to the insides of the pots.

The soil collected near the pottery had much lower levels of the compound, which suggests that it wasn’t naturally occurring, report Kassam and Davis.

Three other grape-related compounds, malic, succinic and citric acid, were also found on the pottery. Other evidence discovered at the site includes grape pollen found in the soil, the remains of a fruit fly, grape starch and cells that may be from a grape vine, according to the Guardian.

“We believe this is the oldest example of the domestication of a wild-growing Eurasian grapevine solely for the production of wine,” co-author Stephen Batiuk of the University of Toronto says in a press release.

Gadachrili Gora site

As Nicholas St. Fleur at The New York Times reports, prior to this find, the oldest known evidence for grape wine came from the Zagros Mountains of Iran. The Georgian wine, however, pushes back the history of wine 600 to 1,000 years.

This latest analysis did not show the presence of pine resin, which later wine makers used to preserve the beverage, Patrick McGovern, lead author of the study and researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, tells Curry.

Because of that, McGovern says it was likely that wine was a seasonal beverage for the people of these villages, and needed to be produced and consumed relatively quickly before it turned to vinegar. The lack of seeds or stems at the site leads McGovern to think the Stone Age people in this region produced wine offsite in cooler areas then brought it to the villages in jugs.

While modern people often look at life in the Neolithic as a somewhat brutal, constant struggle to survive. This latest discovery along with other recent finds suggest that early human communities had the resources to focus not only on survival, but things like culture, spirituality, booze and more.

“Wine fermentation isn’t a survival necessity. It shows that human beings back then were about more than utilitarian activity,” Stanford archaeologist Patrick Hunt, who was not involved in the study, tells Curry. “There’s far greater sophistication even in the transitional Neolithic than we had any clue about.”

A Neolithic jar — possibly a Neolithic qvevri used for brewing wine — from the site of Khramis Didi Gora, on display at the Georgian National Museum.

While this is the earliest evidence of alcohol made from grapes, it’s far from the earliest evidence of alcohol consumption by humans. Evidence suggests that people in China were making a fermented-honey, rice and hawthorn concoctions 9,000 years ago. But McGovern thinks humans may have been imbibing much, much longer than that—an idea he explores in a book released over the summer entitled Ancient Brews.

Humans have enzymes in their mouth and digestive system that specialize in breaking down alcohol, suggesting that our early ancestors were consuming fermented fruit, he told Lorraine Boissoneault at earlier this year. This means it’s possible humans were brewing up their own alcohol long before the Stone Age, though little evidence of this has yet been discovered.

For Georgia, the discovery did not come as a surprise. “Georgia had always suspected it had a Neolithic wine, there were several claims,” David Lordkipanidze, the general director of the Georgian National Museum and co- author of the paper tells St. Fleur.

“But now there is real evidence.” Today, the wine culture has blossomed with some 500 varieties of wine grapes and unique wine-producing traditions.

As Curry reports, McGovern and his team hope to see if they can find an existing grape variety that is closely related to the Neolithic variety so they can plant a vineyard to learn more about how the villagers produced their wine. There is still more excavation to be done at the sites, too, which could push the story of wine back even further.

Iron Age skis buried under ice reunited after 1,300 years apart

Iron Age skis buried under ice reunited after 1,300 years apart

Two Iron Age skis are set for a happy reunion after 1,300 years apart, following the discovery of a second ski on an icy mountain in Norway by glacier archaeologists.

In 2014, the glacier archaeology group Secrets of the Ice uncovered a lone ski at the Digervarden ice patch in Reinheimen National Park in southern Norway.

Despite the ski’s age, its icy burial kept it well preserved, and even its original binding — where the skier placed their foot — remained intact. At the time, it was only one of two skis dating to more than 1,000 years ago with preserved binding, Secrets of the Ice reported in an Oct. 5 post.

The team monitored the ice patch for the next seven years, hoping that the melting ice would reveal the ski’s missing partner. Their patience paid off; in September, they spotted the second ski just 16 feet (5 meters) from the spot where the first one was found.

“The new ski is even better preserved than the first one!” Lars Pilø, a glacial archaeologist and the editor of the Secrets of the Ice website, wrote in the post. “It is an unbelievable find.”

Getting the second Iron Age ski to the lab for analysis was not an easy task. After satellite data suggested substantial ice melt at the ski-discovery spot on the mountain, the team hiked up and found the second ski on Sept. 20.

But they didn’t have the right tools to safely free it from the ice, so they left it there. Then, an autumn storm complicated the recovery effort by dumping a lot of snow, burying the ski again. 

When the researchers returned on Sept. 26, they were ready — carrying ice axes, gas cookers and packing materials they could wrap the ski in for the hike back.

After a three-hour hike, they finally found the ski under 12 inches (30 centimeters) of snow, thanks to their GPS tracker. Brushing off the snow was easy enough, but the ice had an “iron grip” on the ski, so the team used ice picks and lukewarm water heated on gas cookers to free the ski, Pilø wrote in the post. 

Skiing mystery

Both skis predate the Viking Age (A.D. 793 to 1066), and both are broad with a raised foothold and preserved binding. The skis are roughly the same size — the newfound one is 6.1 feet (1.87 m) long and 6.6 inches (17 cm) wide, slightly longer and wider than the first ski.

However, the new ski was buried about 16 feet (5 m) deeper than the previously found one, so it was better preserved, and that may account for the size differences, according to the post.

The bindings of the newfound ski are made from three twisted birch pieces, a leather strap and a wooden plug that fits through a hole in the foothold area. In contrast, the previously found ski had only one preserved twisted birch binding and a leather strap.

“There are subtle differences in the carvings at the front of the skis,” Pilø added. “The back end of the new ski is pointed, while the back end of [the] 2014 ski is straight.”

But archaeologists didn’t expect the skis to be identical. “The skis are handmade, not mass-produced,” Pilø wrote. “They have a long and individual history of wear and repair before an Iron Age skier used them together and they ended up in the ice 1,300 years ago.”

What’s more, the foothold of the new ski shows signs of repair, indicating it was well used. The back of the ski is missing, but it’s possible that this piece is still hiding under the ice, they said. On both skis, the upper part of the toe bindings, made of twisted birch, is missing.

The new ski also answers an important question: Did the skis have fur on their undersides? The 2014 ski didn’t have any nail holes along its sides that could have fastened a fur, the team said. Moreover, the newfound ski has a furrow on its underside, which would have been useless if fur was on it, so these skis were probably not fur-lined, the archaeologists noted.

The team is thrilled with the find — after all, this is the “best-preserved prehistoric pair of skis in the world,” Pilø wrote — but the skis’ discovery brings up more questions than answers; mainly, what happened to their owner?

Hunting artifacts and monuments on the mountain suggest that it was a prehistoric reindeer-hunting location. Moreover, several rock cairns may have been part of a mountain trail crossing, the team said. So, perhaps the owner was a hunter, traveler or both, Pilø wrote in the post. It’s possible that the owner was hit by an avalanche, or suffered from another accident. Or maybe the owner left the skis behind after the toe bindings broke.

“Is the skier still inside the ice at Mount Digervarden? This is probably hoping for too much,” Pilø wrote. “What we can say for sure is that we have not seen the last finds from the Digervarden ice patch. We will be back.”

The human skull that challenges the Out of Africa theory

The human skull that challenges the Out of Africa theory

This is the account of the discovery of a skull that has the potential to change what we know about human evolution, and a suppression and cover-up which followed.   

In 1959, in an area called Chalkidiki in Petralona, Northern Greece, a shepherd came across a small opening to a cave, which became visible when a thick covering of snow finally melted.  He gathered a group of villagers to help him clear the entrance so they could go inside and explore. 

They found a cave rich in stalactites and stalagmites. But they also found something surprising – a human skull embedded in the wall (later research also uncovered a huge number of fossils including pre-human species, animal hair, fossilized wood, and stone and bone tools).   

The skull was given to the University of Thessaloniki in Greece by the President of the Petralona Community. The agreement was that once the research was done, a museum would be opened featuring the findings from the Petralona cave, and the skull would be returned to be displayed in the museum – something that never happened.

Dr Aris Poulianos, member of the UNESCO’s IUAES (International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences), later founder of the Anthropological Association of Greece , and an expert anthropologist who was working at the University of Moscow at the time, was invited by the Prime Minister of Greece to return to Greece to take a position of a University Chair in Athens.  

This was due to the publication of his book, ‘The Origins of the Greeks’, which provides excellent research showing that Greek people didn’t originate from the Slavic nations but were indigenous to Greece.  Upon his return to Greece, Dr Poulianos was made aware of the discovery of the skull at Petralona, and immediately started studying the Petralona cave and skull.

The ‘Petralona man’, or Archanthropus of Petralona, as it has since been called, was found to be 700,000 years old, making it the oldest human europeoid (presenting European traits) of that age ever discovered in Europe. Dr Poulianos’ research showed that the Petralona man evolved separately in Europe and was not an ancestor of a species that came out of Africa. 

In 1964, independent German researchers, Breitinger and Sickenberg, tried to dismiss Dr Poulianos’ findings, arguing that the skull was only 50,000 years old and was indeed an ancestor that came from Africa. 

However, research published in the US in 1971 in the prestigious Archaeology magazine, backed up the findings that the skull was indeed 700,000 years old. 

This was based on an analysis of the cave’s stratigraphy and the sediment in which the skull was embedded.  Further research in the cave discovered isolated teeth and two pre-human skeletons dating back 800,000 years, as well as other fossils of various species.

Today, most academics who have analyzed the Petralona remains say that the cranium of the Archanthropus of Petralona belongs to an archaic hominid distinguished from Homo erectus, and from both the classic Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans, but showing characterists of all those species and presenting strong European traits.  A skull dating back 700,000 which is either Homo sapien or part Homo sapien is in direct conflict with the Out of Africa theory of human evolution.  

continued in the cave of Petralona with the participation of international researchers (46 specialists from 12 separate countries), which provided further proof of Dr Poulianos’ claims, including remarkable findings like fossilized pieces of wood, an oak leaf, animal hair and coprolites, which enabled accurate dating, as well as the almost continuous presence of stone and bone tools of the Archanthropus evolutionary stage, from the lower (750,000 years) to the upper (550,000 years) layers of sediment within the cave.

The research, after an interruption due to the dictatorship in Greece, continued up to 1983. It was then ordered by the government that all excavations at the site were forbidden to anyone, including the original archaeological team, and for 15 years nobody had access to the site or to the findings – no reason was provided by the government.  

Was this denial of access to prevent the extraction of whatever new scientific conclusions remained hidden within the incredible fossils embedded within the layers of the caves’ walls? 

After the Anthropological Society of Greece took the case to the courts, 15 years later they were again allowed access to the cave.  Since then the Ministry of Culture is trying in any way to overcome the Courts decision and further trials proceed.

Dr Poulianos’ findings contradicted conventional views regarding human evolution and his research was suppressed.  Dr Poulianos and his wife were physically attacked and injured in their home in 2012 and the culprits were never found.

He and his team have been denied further access to the cave to complete their research and study, and the whereabouts of the skull is now unknown.  

Today a sign sits outside the cave of Petralona stating that the skull found in the cave was 300,000 years old, and on Wikipedia today you will see references dismissing the evidence and trying to date the Petralona skull within acceptable parameters – between 160,000 and 240,000 years old.  

Recently, Professor C.G. Nicholas Mascie-Taylor of the University of Cambridge sent a letter to the Ministry of Culture in Greece saying that the correct date of the skull is 700,000 years old and not 300,000. He has also challenged the government’s suppression of information regarding this incredible discovery. 

Why were dozens of people butchered 6,200 years ago and buried in a Neolithic death pit?

Why were dozens of people butchered 6,200 years ago and buried in a Neolithic death pit?

Around 6,200 years ago, 41 people in what is now Croatia were killed and buried in a mass grave, and members of their own community may have murdered them, according to new analysis of the remains. 

Blunt force cranial injuries that occurred at or near the time of death in two individuals from Potočani: (left) a boy age 11 to 17 years old, and (right) a young adult female.

Adult men and women were among the dead, but ages in the group ranged from 2 years old to 50 years old, and about half of the skeletons belonged to children. Many of the killing blows were strikes to the skull that landed from behind, and there were no marks on the arm bones that indicated the victims tried to defend themselves from their attackers, scientists reported in a new study. 

Genetic analysis showed that about 70% of the deceased were not closely related to other victims, but all shared common ancestry. Researchers suspect that the massacre may have been prompted by a sudden population boom or shift in climate conditions that depleted resources and led to indiscriminate mass murder.

The grave was discovered in 2007, when a man who lived in a small village in the hills of Potočani, Croatia, was digging a foundation for a garage, and heavy rains exposed a pit holding dozens of skeletons.

Archaeologists with the University of Zagreb happened to be conducting a survey nearby, and they were able to start investigating the mass grave on the day it was discovered, said Mario Novak, lead author of the new study and head of the Laboratory for Evolutionary Anthropology and Bioarchaeology at the Institute for Anthropological Research in Zagreb, Croatia.

The pit is small, measuring about 6.5 feet (2 meters) in diameter and 3 feet (1 m) deep, and at least 41 bodies had been unceremoniously dumped there. At first, the archaeologists thought that the remains were modern, either from World War II or the Croatian War of Independence in the 1990s, Novak .

But there were no contemporary objects in the pit — just fragments of pottery that looked to be prehistoric. And when researchers inspected the victims’ teeth, they found no dental fillings. Radiocarbon dating of bones, soil and pottery fragments confirmed the age of the burial, dating it to around 4200 B.C.

The researchers identified 21 of the victims as children between the ages of 2 years and 17 years old, and 20 as adults between 18 years and 50 years old; 21 of the dead were male and 20 were female.

The Potočani mass burial, with the upper layers of the pit showing numerous commingled skeletons.

“Just random killing”

But how did they end up buried together? For the new study, Novak and his colleagues sampled DNA from remains and analyzed the bones of 38 individuals. When the researchers inspected the bodies, they found that most had at least one traumatic injury at the back of the skull, and some skulls had as many as four punctures.

Mass graves in medieval Europe frequently contained people of all ages and sexes who succumbed to the Black Death, but the victims in the Potočani pit died by violence, not of infectious disease, Novak explained. 

“The only plausible scenario was a massacre,” he said.

Distribution of men and women, and of adults and children, was roughly equal, and there were no wounds to their limbs or faces, so they likely weren’t killed in a skirmish during combat. It is unknown if the victims were restrained or otherwise incapable of defending themselves — “if someone attacks you with a club or a sword, you reflexively raise up your forearm to protect the head,” which would have left at least some remains with cut marks on the arm bones, Novak said. “But we didn’t see any facial injuries, and no defensive injuries whatsoever.”

Genetic data showed that only 11 of the victims were close relatives, so the massacre wasn’t targeting a specific family group. Neither did it look like a planned discriminatory killing, in which foes tended to murder older men while taking women captive. 

“In this case, it was just random killing, without any concern for sex and age,” Novak said.

A Neolithic death pit that was recently described in Spain also held a jumble of skeletons — male and female, young and old. DNA showed that the victims were recent arrivals to the region, so they may have been slaughtered by locals protecting their territory,  previously reported. But genetic evidence from the site in Potočani indicated that even though most of the dead weren’t closely related, they shared common ancestry.

This means that they weren’t newcomers; rather, they came from a local population that was homogenous and stable, “so we can exclude that this massacre was associated with the influx of new immigrants,” Novak said.

The most likely explanation is one that archaeologists and climatologists have suggested for other ancient massacre sites in Germany and Austria dating to about 5,000 years ago, in which adults and children were also killed indiscriminately and thrown into shallow mass graves. In those scenarios, prolonged climate change that caused flooding or droughts — perhaps combined with an unexpected population boom — could have led to squabbles over precious resources. 

And in Potočani, one of those struggles turned deadly.

“By studying such ancient massacres, we might try to get a glimpse into the psychology of these people, and maybe try to prevent similar events today,” Novak said. “We have evidence of ancient massacres going back to 10,000 years ago, at least. Today, we also have modern massacres — the only thing that’s changed is we now have more efficient means and weapons to do such things. But I don’t think human nature or human psychology has changed much.”

Archaeological El Dorado: Stunning Golden Sun Bowl Found in Austria

Archaeological El Dorado: Stunning Golden Sun Bowl Found in Austria

“A discovery of a lifetime” is what archaeologist Dr. Michal Sip termed the find: a golden sun bowl dated to 3,000 years ago, unearthed during ongoing excavations in a prehistoric settlement in Ebreichsdorf, Austria.

Work at this ancient settlement dated to 1300-1000 BC, has been in full flow since September 2019. Researchers at the site are focused on the “urn field culture” found here, a reference to their funeral rites and ceremonial cremation, reports Heritage Daily . 

The Golden Bowl with the Sun Motif

This latest find is that of a golden bowl, decorated with a beautiful motif that depicts the rays of the sun. The bowl is 20cm (7.8”) in diameter and 5cm (2”) high, and made of a very thin sheet metal consisting of 90% gold, 5% silver, and 5% copper.

Inside there is coiled golden wire wrapped around organic material clumps, originally fabric sewn with gold thread. This is possibly the remnants of decorative scarves attached to the bowl, used during the sun worship ceremonies and rituals.

The sun rays on the bowl interior, and the wire found in the bowl

Archaeologist Dr. Michal Sip, from Novetus, termed it a kind of “archaeological Eldorado” and considered it one of the most important archaeological discoveries ever made in Austria.

A first of its kind discovery in this region, only 30 such bowls have been scattered across the entirety of the vast European continent. “This is the first find of this type in Austria, and the second to the east of the Alpine line,” said the archaeologist. 

He added that single vessels of this kind have been found in France, Switzerland and Spain, but the production probably occurred in northern Germany, Scandinavia, and Denmark, reports PAP.

The “golden” finds, particularly the golden bowl, indicate extensive trade relations between western and northern Europe.

A Routine Excavation

The excavation was routine, and the discoveries purely accidental. At this site, 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) south of Vienna, the Austrian Federal Railways (the OBB) plans to build a railway station.

These plans required an archaeological survey before they could be approved, prompting archaeologists to check what was underground.

Franz Bauer, CEO of ÖBB-Infrastruktur AG, stated that archaeological excavation work as part of “such a major project” is also required as part of the environmental impact assessment. “Building new things and preserving the old is one of our premises when implementing construction projects.”

Apart from the golden bowl, in the 70 hectares (173 acres) excavated, 5,000 finds have been listed in total, including hundreds of items made of bronze items, and many dozens made of gold. This includes the remains of residential, work, and storage buildings.

These finds have sparked debate amongst historians, who are now asking probing questions into the living conditions and life of the late Bronze Age .

“We now have a very clear picture of this prehistoric settlement from 3,000 years ago. We were able to reconstruct where the economic area was and where the residential area was,” Dr. Sip told

The southern boundary had a dry riverbed, 25 meters (82 feet) wide, which was either a swamp or a seasonal, flowing waterbody. This entire stretch has revealed pins, daggers, knives, all of which were in great condition. This indicates that it was definitely not a refuse pit.

Weapon blades found at the site

Hundreds of kilos of animal bones, clay vessels, and ceramic shells have also been found in this area of the site. This has led Dr. Sip and his colleagues to speculate that this swamp was likely part of the larger religious ceremony involving the sun.

The Bronze Age “Urn Field Culture”

The “urn field culture” community led a sedentary lifestyle, and were proficient in animal domestication and breeding, particularly that of sheep. Echoes of this culture survive in contemporary Poland with the Lusatian culture, centered around their famous settlement at Biskupin, in northern Poland.