Category Archives: ROMAN

1600-Year-Old Roman Shipwreck Found in “Perfect” Condition in Spain

1600-Year-Old Roman Shipwreck Found in “Perfect” Condition in Spain

In 117 AD, at the time of Caesar Trajan’s death, the Roman Empire had reached its territorial peak, stretching across the Mediterranean Sea to North Africa and Western Asia. And the Romans used ships for much of the things that were sold to or bought from their distant colonies.

As a result, shipwrecks in Mediterranean Sea waters from the Roman era are common. Now another Roman cargo shipwreck, known as the Ses Fontanelles, has been found just off one of the busiest beaches in Mallorca, Spain reports The Guardian.

Dated to the 4th century AD, this incredibly well-preserved Roman cargo ship was carrying hundreds of amphorae of wine, olives, oil, and garum (fermented fish sauce). During a stopover at Mallorca, en route from southwest Spain to Italy, the ship anchored in the Bay of Palma when ferocious waves came and swallowed the vessel, burying it under the shallow seabed.

Project Arqueomallornauta and the Roman Cargo Ship

The Roman cargo shipwreck was first spotted in the summer of 2019. The ship was measured to be roughly 12 meters (39 feet) long.

Particularly surprising was the fact that this ancient shipwreck lay 50 meters (164 feet) from a very busy beach, with its contents only 2 meters (6.5 feet) below sea level. This very touristy beach just off the Balearics welcomes millions of visitors every year, but shockingly, none of the shipwreck artefacts were ever touched after the ship sank.

In the Guardian article Jaume Cardell, the head of archaeology at the Consell of Mallorca said, “The aim is to preserve everything there and all the information it contains, and that couldn’t be done in single emergency intervention. That’s where the project Arqueomallornauta comes in: it’s about recovering and preserving both the wreck and its historical cargo.

This isn’t just about Mallorca; in the whole western Mediterranean, there are very few wrecks with such a singular cargo.”

Researchers from the universities of Barcelona, Cadiz, and the Balearic Islands signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Consell of Mallorca for an inter-university 3-year project called Arqueomallornauta, which will be active till 2023.

The thrust of the project is “analyzing maritime traffic in Majorca in Late Antiquity through underwater findings” as per a press release by the University of Cadiz.

Late Antiquity, or the period between 284 and 700 AD, coincides roughly with the resolution of the Roman Empire’s crisis of the 3rd century, its collapse at the hands of the barbaric tribes, and the early Muslim conquests.

The first part of this MoU was put into action between November 2021, and February 2022, with the excavation of the contents of the ship’s cargo.

The finds were described as “…frankly exceptional, since they have made it possible to fully discover the cargo of the ship, which sank in the middle of the 4th century AD, in an excellent state of conservation,” said the research team.

This exceptional Roman cargo ship finds will shed new light on the condition of the Mediterranean in the 4th century and provide insights into the lives of crew members of such ships.

Just consider these artefacts found on the Mallorca Roman cargo shipwreck: a leather shoe, a rope shoe, a cooking pot, an oil lamp, and a carpenter’s drill (the fourth ever found in this entire region).

There were no human remains of the boat’s crew, however, which suggests that they might have made it to the coast or were swept away by the waves.

An Unparalleled State of Preservation

The best part? The sand created a natural barrier against oxygen, allowing for incomparable preservation of the boat’s organic materials. “Things have been so perfectly preserved that we have found bits of textile, a leather shoe and an espadrille.

The most surprising thing about the boat is just how well preserved it is – even the wood of the hull … It’s wood that you can knock – like it’s from yesterday,” said Dr Miguel Ángel Cau, an archaeologist at the University of Barcelona.

“It’s important in terms of naval architecture because there are very few ancient boats that are as well preserved as this one,” added Dr Darío Bernal-Casasola, an archaeologist at the University of Cádiz. “There are no complete Roman boats in Spain.”

He also notes that the amphorae are still so well preserved that the remains of the contents, the structure of the jar, and the inscriptions on them all remain perfectly intact, calling it an “improbable subaquatic archaeological hat-trick.”

Human Lives Illuminated: The Trading Elite and the Crew

Historian Enrique García Riaza from the University of the Balearic Islands made it clear that this wreck is proof of how important the Balearic archipelago was to the Roman Empire, particularly as a staging post between the Italian and Spanish parts of the Mediterranean.

The elites of the Balearic would have had extensive social and economic relationships with the elites of places like Cartagena and Tarragona.

The crew of the ship were likely Roman pagans, evidenced by the pagan symbol of the moon goddess Diana on an oil lamp found on the wreck. However, some of the ship’s amphorae were imprinted with Christian seals. This would mean that the crew itself was pagan but that the ship carried Christian cargo.

Once the hull of Mallorca’s latest Roman cargo ship is recovered, the plan is to put the ship and its cargo on display, for everyone to see. For the same purpose, conservationists and specialists are being invited to prepare a special report.

The archaeologists are particularly grateful because they acknowledge how easily this find fell into their laps, and the state of preservation only suggests that this is a once in a lifetime find.

Ancient Roman Shipwreck Marausa 2 Recovered Off Sicily Coast | Maritime Archaeology Discovery

Ancient Roman Shipwreck Marausa 2 Recovered Off Sicily Coast | Maritime Archaeology Discovery

A historical shipwreck has been successfully recovered from the seabed off the coast of Misiliscemi in the Trapani area, Sicily.

The 11-meter-long Roman commercial transport ship was discovered in July 2020 after a diver reported the presence of amphora fragments and wooden remains just 100 meters from the shore.

After an initial survey, which allowed scientists to understand the importance of the discovery, the Superintendence of the Sea took steps to secure the site by covering it with over 100 bags filled with sand.

Long and careful preparations were required before scientists could launch a project to recover the ancient ship from the waters.

In 1999, a similar ship was discovered at the same place. After being recovered, the find called “Marausa 1” was exhibited in the Baglio Anselmi Museum in Marsala.

Its cargo consisted of African amphorae closed by corks. These ancient jars transported dried fruits (pine nuts, hazelnuts, almonds, peaches, dried figs), olives, and, most likely wine and garum (fish sauce).

Considering its likeness and location, the current ship is thought to be its twin and was therefore given the name Marausa 2 by scientists.

“From the investigations carried out, the “Marausa 2” could be a cargo ship (used for the transport of goods) from the 4th century AD of great scientific interest, especially for the naval construction techniques of this particular historical period,” Regione Sicilia informs.

According to Finestre Sull Arte Marausa 2 is in excellent condition, almost intact. Even after 1,700 years, the preservation state has been described as “astonishing,” recovery operations, coordinated by the Sicilian Region’s Superintendence of the Sea were complex and required cutting-edge technology.

After an initial excavation phase and photographic documentation of the site, work began to secure the wreck, protected by nets and fabric. Next, a metal structure was erected around the hull, allowing the entire vessel to be raised in a unified manner.

Historians are confident that the findings will further illuminate information about trade between Rome and the North African provinces. The amphorae carried by the ship most likely contained wine, olive oil, and other foodstuffs.

“On the Marausa 1, it must be said that it represents one of Italy’s most important underwater finds.

The objects recovered and currently exhibited at the Pepoli Archaeological Museum in Trapani, particularly the ceramics, attest to the wreck’s function as an onerary ship, intended to transport foodstuffs, such as dried fruit, wine, and canned fish, contained in amphorae.

The co-presence of amphorae, both resin-coated and non-resin-coated, demonstrates the variety of goods transported (dated between the late 3rd and 4th centuries CE and predominantly North African production).

The presence of African table and kitchen pottery and the discovery of animal remains for the crew’s feeding constitute important evidence of life on board,” Finestre Sull Arte informs.

Both ships probably sank while maneuvering into the Birgi River.

Motya, Lilybaeum, and Drepanum, ports of reference at different ages in the Mediterranean routes, continue to reveal surprising archaeological discoveries that help researchers opportunity to “reconstruct fragments of our past, elements of the history of our Island, which has always been a crossroads of trade and cultures,” says the Councilor for Cultural Heritage, Francesco Paolo Scarpinato.

Raising the entire ship was possible because the timbers were still well-preserved. The cargo of amphorae and other artifacts are still intact and stored inside.

Holding Cell for Gladiators, Doomed Prisoners Found at Roman Amphitheater in England

Holding Cell for Gladiators, Doomed Prisoners Found at Roman Amphitheater in England

Archaeologists say that the amphitheater in Richborough, Kent, could hold up to 5,000 spectators who cheered on charging gladiators and roaring wild animals in epic fights.

Today, the Roman-era amphitheater in Richborough, Kent, blends into the landscape. But it was once the site of violent gladiatorial combat, and archaeologists with English Heritage have just come across a holding cell, called a “carcer,” where gladiators waited to fight.

“The discoveries we’ve made during the excavation at Richborough are startling and exciting, and dramatically transform our understanding of the structure of the amphitheater and the nature of adjacent settlement in the town,” said Paul Pattison, English Heritage senior properties historian.

Researchers have known about the amphitheatre since 1849 when Victorian archaeologists discovered it. But the most recent examination of the site revealed a cell within the arena.

With walls more than six feet tall, the cell once held “those who entered the arena to meet their fate, whether wild animals, criminals, or gladiators,” according to English Heritage.

Archaeologists have been aware of the amphitheater since 1849, but the holding cell for gladiators is a new discovery.

Though much is unknown about the amphitheater, its chalk and turf construction suggests it was built around the 1st century when Romans first invaded Britain. At its peak, it would have been an impressive sight: Archeologists found surprising traces of “vivid” red and blue paints on its interior walls.

“The evidence of painted decoration we have found on the arena wall, a unique find so far in amphitheaters in Britain, is remarkable, and a wonderful reminder that aspects of Roman culture abroad were also a feature of life in Roman Britain,” explained Tony Wilmott, senior archaeologist at Historic England.

Wilmott noted that the amphitheater could probably hold about 5,000 spectators, who — just like in Rome — descended to watch bloody gladiator fights. Sometimes, these fights pitted gladiators against each other. Other times, in especially violent battles called venationes, prisoners or gladiators fought against wild animals like lions and bears.

The mere existence of the amphitheater speaks to Richborough’s important place in the Roman Empire. Then called Rutupiae or Portus Ritupis, the settlement likely existed from the 1st to the 4th century, or as long as the Romans occupied Britain. It was said to be renowned throughout the empire for the quality of its oysters.

Richborough is now believed to have been occupied for almost the entire period of Roman rule in Britain

“As Richborough is coastal, it would have provided a connection between what was at the time called Britannia and the rest of the Roman Empire,” explained Pattison, noting that Richborough would have been unique and diverse.

“Because of that, all sorts of Romans who came from all corners of the Empire would have passed through and lived in the settlement.”

Alongside the carcer, archeologists found several artifacts that help paint a picture of life in Roman-era Richborough. They found coins, pottery, the bones of butchered animals, and jewelry.

Remarkably, archeologists also found the carefully buried skeleton of what appeared to be a pet cat.

Dubbed “Maxipus” by archeologists — after Russell Crowe’s character in The Gladiator — the cat was found buried just outside the amphitheater walls. It may have had nothing to do with the amphitheater itself but “appeared purposefully buried on the edge of a ditch,” according to English Heritage.

The skull of what appeared to be a carefully buried pet cat.

In addition, the most recent excavation also uncovered the puzzling remnants of two “badly burnt” and “bright orange” rectangular areas just outside the amphitheater.

“It is not yet known what function these buildings fulfilled,” noted English Heritage, “but it is possible they stood on each side of an entrance leading up to the seating bank of the arena.”

The fire that destroyed the structures, the organization said, “must have been dramatic.”

Now, Richborough’s amphitheater exists only as a circular field covered in grass. But, as the existence of the holding cell suggests, this part of the world once rang with thousands of screaming spectators, roaring animals, and charging gladiators.

English Heritage is hopeful to share it with the world. Following the end of their excavation, the on-site museum in Richborough will undergo a “major refurbishment and re-presentation.” It will open to the public in summer 2022.

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.

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.

Researchers Finish Separating World’s Largest Celtic Coin Hoard

Researchers Finish Separating World’s Largest Celtic Coin Hoard

Last Friday, conservators at Jersey Heritage finally completed separating and meticulously cleaning the largest hoard of Celtic coins and gold jewelry ever discovered. It took nearly three years of effort to go through the mass of treasure.

The Catillon II Hoard as it appeared before being separated
Some of the silver Celtic coins that made up the majority of the Catillon II Hoard
A piece of gold, believed to be a small ring, found in the Hoard
Some of the gold torcs, worn around the neck or as bracelets, discovered embedded inside the Catillon II Hoard
A gold torc found in the Catillon II Hoard

“This is a significant milestone for the team. It has been painstaking but thoroughly intriguing work, which has delivered some very unexpected and amazing finds along the way,” Neil Mahrer, who led the conservation effort says in a press release.

“There is still plenty to do and I am sure the Hoard will continue to surprise us as we clean and record the material.”

According to the BBC, the treasure was discovered in 2012 by amateur metal detector enthusiasts Reg Mead and Richard Miles. But it was no accidental discovery; the pair had been searching the area for 30 years looking for it.

They began their quest after a local woman told them that her father had discovered some silver Celtic coins in a pot in a field near her home in Jersey, a British island in the English Channel.

She did not recall the exact location, and the owner of the field only allowed the pair to search the area once a year after he harvested his crops.

Their patience paid off, and they did eventually find several coins in the field. “We then looked deeper into the ground to see if there was anything further.

We came down on a solid object and when Reg dug up a chunk of earth there was immediately five or six discs,” Miles tells the BBC. “We always said if we found anything significant it must remain in situ, it had to remain in its archaeological context so it could be studied.”

The hoard, dubbed Catillon II contained, at last count, at least 68,000 coins, approximately six times larger than any other Celtic hoard ever discovered, according to Jersey Heritage.

It also contained many gold neck torcs, glass beads, a leather purse and a bag with silver and gold decoration. Researchers estimate it was buried by French Celts known as the Coriosolitae around 30-50 B.C., around the time of Julius Caesar, likely as they fled a Roman invasion of the area.

According to the BBC, now that the contents of the hoard have been separated, the government of Jersey will vote on whether to pay to keep the treasure trove on the island or allow it to be sold off. At the time of its discovery, it was valued at 10 million pounds.

4,500-year-old ‘Stonehenge’ sanctuary discovered in the Netherlands

4,500-year-old ‘Stonehenge’ sanctuary discovered in the Netherlands

Archaeologists have discovered a 4,500-year-old sanctuary in the Netherlands that marks the solstices and equinoxes, and was also used as a burial ground.

An artist’s interpretation of the sanctuary’s layout for rituals in what is now the Netherlands.

Archaeologists in the Netherlands have unearthed a 4,500-year-old sanctuary whose earthen mounds align with the sun on solstices and equinoxes. And, just like Stonehenge, the sanctuary was also used for burials and rituals. 

People were buried at the sanctuary over a period of 800 years, according to a translated statement from the Municipality of Tiel, where the remnants of mounds, ditches, a flat burial field and a farm were discovered. 

The largest of the three mounds holds the remains of men, women and many children who died between about 2500 B.C. and 1200 B.C., the researchers said.

Excavators also discovered ancient burials surrounding the sanctuary, making the entire site about 9.4 acres (3.8 hectares), larger than seven American football fields.

More than 80 individuals were unearthed at the site; some were buried, and others were cremated, according to the statement, which noted that “these deceased must have played an important role in the rituals.”

The excavation site with the large burial mound highlighted with a virtual grass overlay.

Although the sanctuary doesn’t have stone boulders like Stonehenge does, it appears that the largest burial mound served as a calendar that helped people mark the sun’s movements, the researchers said in a translated statement.

For instance, precious artifacts, such as a bronze spearhead, were buried where the sun’s rays hit the ground through an opening at the sanctuary. 

Tracking the solstices and equinoxes was “important for religious festivals, for example, but also to calculate what the sowing and harvesting times [were],” according to the statement.

It’s likely these special solar days were celebrated, and a farm at the site might have served as a spot for festive gatherings, the archaeologists added.

Excavations at the ancient sanctuary in Tiel.

The team also discovered pits and the remains of poles and buckets. It appears that these pits held water, suggesting they were involved in cleansing rituals, according to the statement.

Researchers discovered the site at an industrial estate known as the Medel business park in late 2016 and spent the next year excavating it. During that time, they uncovered more than 1 million finds from the Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Roman Empire and Middle Ages, the team said in the statement.

It took six years to analyze and piece together the finds, which included artifacts of pottery, bone, loam (soil and clay), stone, flint and wood. 

A glass bead from Mesopotamia that archaeologists found in a woman’s burial at the site.

“Rarely do archaeologists get the chance to excavate so much terrain around burial mounds,” the researchers wrote in the statement. “Now it is clear how unique this find and this sanctuary” are.

In the oldest section of the burial field, archaeologists excavating a woman’s burial found a glass bead from Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq). This bead, which is the oldest known glass bead in the Netherlands, reveals that people in the region 4,000 years ago had contact with cultures nearly 3,100 miles (5,000 kilometers) away.

Although the site is not open to the public, archaeologists have set up two exhibits showing artifacts from the sanctuary.

At the Flipje and Regional Museum, a selection of Bronze Age grave finds will be on display until October 2023, and the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden is showing finds from a group grave located about 660 feet (200 meters) south of the burial mounds.

2,500-Year-Old Tartessian Anthropomorphic Reliefs Revolutionize Thinking on Ancient Culture

2,500-Year-Old Tartessian Anthropomorphic Reliefs Revolutionize Thinking on Ancient Culture

The Tartessian site of Casas del Turuñuelo in Spanish Extremadura, has been under excavation to examine the mythical pre-Roman civilization that occupied southwest Iberia between the 8th and 4th centuries BC.

Now, this vicinity of Guareña has yielded five beautiful anthropomorphic, figured reliefs from the 5th century BC belong to the Tartessian culture, found during excavation of the eastern sector of the deposit.

These are the first of their kind to be discovered in Tartessian culture , which had previously been thought of as an aniconic culture that represented divinity through animal or plant motifs or through betilos (sacred stones), reported the Spanish news agency EFE. 

In layman terms, the representations correspond to human faces, whereas by definition aniconic cultures are opposed to the use of idols or images.

The Building Tartessos Project: A Divine Goddess and a Warrior

The discovery was made during the V excavation campaign, which is part of the Building Tartessos project (known as Construyendo Tarteso in Spanish).

The project is focused on characterizing Tartessian material culture through the architectural analysis of large adobe buildings that have been excavated in recent decades.

The Construyendo Tarteso team began its first excavation campaign of the Tartessian site  in 2015, and the current campaign has received support from the General Secretary for Science, Technology, Innovation and University of the Junta de Extremadura, the Diputación de Badajoz and the Palarq Foundation.

The team from the Institute of Archaeology, a joint center of the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) and the Junta de Extremadura, led by Esther Rodríguez González and Sebastián Celestino Pérez, confirmed that two of the figurative reliefs are almost complete and correspond to two female figures adorned with outstanding earrings, reported CSIC, a Spanish research council known as the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas.

Figurative relief with earrings.

These represent typical techniques of Tartessian goldsmithing, and are evidence of a highly advanced culture. The reliefs are believed to represent female divinities from the Tartessian pantheon, but the researchers do not rule out the possibility that they may be prominent figures in Tartessian society.

In addition to the two female figures, other fragments of reliefs have been recovered, including one identified as a warrior due to a preserved part of the helmet.

The discovery of these figured reliefs is significant as it represents a profound paradigm shift in the interpretation of Tartessos. These human faces on the reliefs, along with the technical quality and artistic detail, suggest that the Tartessians may have had a more complex and diverse religious iconography than previously thought, reported Voz Populi .

Evidence of mass animal sacrifice has been unearthed at Casas del Turuñuelo in Extremadura.

Casas del Turuñuelo and the Tartessians

The Casas del Turuñuelo site remains in an excellent state of conservation. To date, it is the best-preserved building built on land in the western Mediterranean, and its two construction floors are still intact. Its excellent state of conservation makes it possible to document construction techniques and architectural solutions much ahead of their time.

Previously, the site has yielded a marble sculpture from Mount Pentelicus, of which only the feet are visible, and a set of glasses of Macedonian origin, next to the collection of Etruscan ivories.

The site is renowned for its mass sacrifice of animals, mainly horses – the largest sacrifice of animals documented till date in the western Mediterranean!

The Tartessian are believed to have been one of the earliest Western European civilizations that thrived in the Iberian Peninsula during the first millennium BC.

The Iberians, Celtiberians and the Phoenicians were all heavily influenced by the Tartessians, whose influence was centered in the region of modern-day Andalusia, along the Guadalquivir River.

One of the most fascinating aspects of Tartessian culture is their writing system, which is known as Tartessian script. This script is still not fully deciphered, and so we know relatively little about the Tartessian language and its literature. However, what we do know is that Tartessian script was used for inscriptions on pottery, metal objects and rock carvings.

The Tartessian religion was polytheistic, and their gods were associated with natural elements such as the sun, moon, and stars, as well as with animals such as bulls and horses.

They also believed in an afterlife and had a strong cult of the dead. One of the most famous Tartessian artifacts is the so-called “Lady of Elche,” a bust that is believed to represent a goddess or priestess of the Tartessian religion.

‘Liquid gypsum’ burial from Roman Britain scanned in 3D, revealing 1,700-year-old secrets

‘Liquid gypsum’ burial from Roman Britain scanned in 3D, revealing 1,700-year-old secrets

About 1,700 years ago, liquid gypsum was poured over the remains of an elite family in Roman Britain.

A researcher scans the negative cavity of a liquid gypsum burial from the Roman era.

About 1,700 years ago, a wealthy Roman family was buried with a bizarre material — liquid gypsum — poured over their corpses. Now, a noninvasive 3D scan of this burial has revealed the insides of their burial cocoon.

Gypsum is a mineral and key ingredient in cement and plaster that, on rare occasions, Roman-era people used in burials. Once the deceased were placed in lead or stone coffins, liquid gypsum was poured over the bodies, which then hardened into protective shells. After that, the coffins were buried in the ground

Most of the coffins’ contents eventually decayed, leaving behind plaster casts with cavities similar to those of the victims discovered at Pompeii. 

The scan’s finding is “unparalleled,” as these gypsum cavities are filled with details, preserving imprints of shrouds, clothes, footwear and even weaving patterns, according to a statement from the University of York in the U.K. 

The gypsum remains from the roughly 1,700-year-old burial of the two adults and infant from Roman Britain.

The burial examined, the multibody grave from York, is presumed to be that of a family who died simultaneously around 1,700 years ago. The scan revealed the contours of two adult bodies, as well as that of an infant who had been wrapped in cloth bands.

Even the small ties used to bind the burial shroud around one of the adults’ heads were visible from the scans.

The remains of a liquid gypsum burial from a long and narrow stone coffin. The gypsum cavity reveals that the body was once wrapped in cloth and that the poured gypsum did not cover the feet.

“The Roman family gypsum casing is particularly valuable because neither the skeletons, nor the coffin, were retained after their discovery in the 19th c[entury],” when there was a building boom in and around the city, project principal investigator Maureen Carroll, chair of Roman archaeology at the University of York, in an email. 

Remarkably, the casing reveals more than the skeletons could, she said. “We are very lucky to have this casing, as it shows the precise position of the bodies and their relationship to each other exactly at the moment when the liquid gypsum was poured over them and the lid of the coffin closed about 1700 years ago!”

However, it’s still a mystery why Romans poured gypsum into coffins. Grave goods indicate that gypsum burials were reserved for an elite social class.

Traces of aromatic resins from Arabia and the Mediterranean have been discovered in other gypsum burials from York. These resins were luxuries accessible only to the very wealthy.

Archaeologists have also discovered gypsum burials in Europe and North Africa, which were also occupied by the Roman Empire, but the burials are most common from the third and fourth centuries in Britain, with York and the surrounding region sporting about 50 of them — the highest concentration of gypsum burials discovered to date, Carroll said.

“3D scanning has never before been applied to the material in Britain or any of the other gypsum/plaster/chalk burials elsewhere,” Carroll noted.

Next, the team plans to scan all 16 gypsum burial cavities in the York museum, in hopes of identifying characteristics of those interred, such as their age, sex, health and region of origin, according to the statement.

The researchers presented their findings, which were done in partnership with the York Museums Trust and Heritage360, on June 3 at the York Festival of Ideas.

2,000-Years-Old Sapphire Ring Belonging to The Roman Emperor Caligula, Depicting his Wife Caesonia

2,000-Years-Old Sapphire Ring Belonging to The Roman Emperor Caligula, Depicting his Wife Caesonia

The Roman emperor Caligula, who had been governing for four years from AD 37 until his assassination, was said to own an exquisite 2,000-year-old ring of Sapphire.

Mysterious beautiful face engraved on a 2,000-year-old sapphire ring of the Roman emperor. The 2,000-year-old ring is believed to be from the Roman emperor Caligula.

The sky blue hololith, made from a single piece of the precious stone, is believed to have been owned by Caligula. The face engraved into the bezel is thought to be his fourth and last wife Caesonia, who was said to be so beautiful Caligula paraded her naked in front of his friends.

The reason for Caligula’s assassination could stem from the extravagance of spending, especially on precious stones, which depleted the Roman treasury.

There are even rumors that Caligula also incestuous relationships with sisters in the royal family and adultery with the wives of allies.

Worth mentioning, this ancient sapphire ring has a woman’s face engraved on it. According to the Daily Mail, this woman is Caesonia, Caligula’s fourth wife.

Caesonia possesses the beauty of tilting the water, tilting the city. Emperor Caligula even once naked his wife and march in front of friends for people to admire. However, “beautiful fate”, Caesonia was killed shortly after Emperor Caligula was assassinated.

The sapphire ring is said to have attracted attention during an exhibition of more than 100 gems held by jewelry company Wartski next week in London, England. Its value is about USD 7,000 – USD 750,000.

The auction became a major concern for gem collectors around the world. People from Japan even lined up outside Wartski’s premises days before the exhibition was first approved.

Mysterious beautiful face engraved on a 2,000-year-old sapphire ring of the Roman emperor. Close-up of the beautiful face engraved on the “Caligula ring”.

The “Caligula Ring” is in the Earl Marlund Gems “Marlborough Gems” from 1637 to 1762. This is a collection of 800 gems carved by George Spencer, the 4th earl of Marlborough, into the late 18th century, early 19th century.

They were sold in 1875 by John Winston Spencer-Churchill, 7th Earl of Marlborough, to fund the repair of the Blenheim Palace.

“This ring is one of the precious pieces of the” Marlborough Gems “collection. It is made entirely of sapphire. Very few of these rings still exist and I bet this is the best one of you. find.

We believe it belongs to Emperor Caligula and the face that appears on the ring is his fourth wife, Caesonia, “said Kieran McCarthy, director of Wartski.