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. 

Untouched and Unlooted 4,400-yr-old Tomb of Egyptian High Priest Discovered

Untouched and Unlooted 4,400-yr-old Tomb of Egyptian High Priest Discovered

Archaeologists in Egypt have made a new tomb discovery — the final resting place of a high priest, untouched for 4,400 years, decorated with hieroglyphics.

The secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Mostafa Waziri, described the find as “one of a kind in the last decades.”

The tomb was found buried in a ridge at the ancient necropolis of Saqqara. It was untouched and unlooted.

Officials say they expect more discoveries when archaeologists further excavate the site in the months to come.

The well-preserved tomb is decorated with scenes showing the royal priest alongside his mother, wife and other members of his family, the ministry said in a statement.

The high priest was devoted to his mother, evidence shows. “He mentions the name of his mother almost everywhere here,” said Waziri in an interview, pointing to the dozens of hieroglyphics, statues, and drawings.

“The color is almost intact even though the tomb is almost 4,400 years old,” he added.

The high priest “Wahtye” served during the Fifth Dynasty reign of King Neferirkare (between 2500-2300 BC), at the Saqqara necropolis in Egypt. In addition to the name of the deceased, hieroglyphs carved into the stone above the tomb’s door reveal his multiple titles.

Saqqara pyramid of Djoser in Egypt.

The grave’s rectangular gallery is said to be covered in painted reliefs, sculptures, and inscriptions, all in excellent shape considering how much time has passed.

The reliefs depict Wahtye himself, his wife Weret Ptah, and his mother Merit Meen, as well as everyday activities that include hunting and sailing and manufacturing goods such as pottery, according to National Geographic.

The team of Egyptian archaeologists found five shafts in the tombs. They had removed a last layer of debris from the tomb on December 13, 2018, and found five shafts inside, Waziri said.

Pyramid of Djoser (Stepped pyramid), an archeological remain in the Saqqara necropolis, Egypt. UNESCO World Heritage

One of the shafts was unsealed with nothing inside, but the other four were sealed. They are expecting to make discoveries when they excavate those shafts. He was hopeful about one shaft in particular.

“I can imagine that all of the objects can be found in this area,” he said in an interview, pointing at one of the sealed shafts. “This shaft should lead to a coffin or a sarcophagus of the owner of the tomb.”

The tomb is 33 feet long, 9 feet wide, and just under 10 feet high, Waziri said.

This picture taken on December 15, 2018 shows a general view of a newly-discovered tomb belonging to the high priest ‘Wahtye’ who served during the 5th dynasty reign of King Neferirkare (between 2500-2300 BC), at the Saqqara necropolis, 30 kilometres south of the Egyptian capital Cairo.

Various drawings depict “the manufacturing of pottery and wine, making religious offering, musical performances, boats sailing, the manufacturing of the funerary furniture, and hunting,” according to the site Egypt Today.

Also NPR is reporting that the Saqqara site is part of a larger complex where archaeologists have discovered art and architecture that yield insight into daily life in ancient Egypt.

Giza pyramids.

Ancient Egyptians mummified humans to preserve their bodies for the afterlife, and animal mummies were used as religious offerings.

The rate of discoveries seems to be increasing. In November 2018, archaeologists unearthed eight new limestone sarcophagi containing mummies at a site that is 25 miles south of Cairo.

Egypt’s Antiquities Ministry said the mummies were dated to the Late Period (664-332 BC) and have an outer layer of cartonnage — papyrus or linen which is covered in plaster — decorated with a painted human form. Three of the mummies are well-preserved.

1,800-year-old Headless Greek Statue Found at Turkey’s Metropolis Site

1,800-year-old Headless Greek Statue Found at Turkey’s Metropolis Site

Archaeologists in western Turkey have unearthed a 1,800-year-old marble statue from the ancient ruins of Metropolis, known as the ‘City of the Mother Goddess’ during the Roman period.

Earlier this month, the Turkish Culture and Tourism Ministry’s Department announced the discovery of the Roman-era statue, a robed female figure with her head and both arms missing.  

The limbs were probably attached separately, according to Art News, though more work needs to be done to uncover the identity of the figure, researchers say.

The current excavation is a collaboration between the ministry and Celal Bayar University in Manisa, Turkey.

Metropolis (Greek for ‘mother state’) was a name bestowed on various cities, though this one is in Western Turkey’s Torbali municipality, about 25 miles from modern-day Izmir, the country’s third-largest city.

Humans have occupied the land for at least 8,000 years, since the Neolithic period. 

Artifacts indicate it was inhabited by Hittites during the Bronze Age (when it was known as Puranda) and were also active during the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman periods.

It was founded as Metropolis by the Greeks in roughly 300 BC and, despite its matriarchal name, was home to one of only two known temples devoted to Ares, the Greek god of War.

The sculpture dates to the Metropolis Roman era—when the empire controlled Anatolia, the portion of Turkey located on the Asian continent.

Roman scientist-philosopher Ptolemy described the town as an important trading post in Lydia, about halfway along the ancient trade routes between Smyrna and Ephesus.

Though the figure’s head and arms are missing archaeologists say she is otherwise quite well-preserved

Fieldwork began in the region in the 1970s, with excavations at Metropolis starting in the mid-1980s.  

Since then, archaeologists have uncovered more than 11,000 artifacts, according to Art News, including coins, ceramics, glass, ivory and metal objects.

The city ‘has a deep-rooted history dating back to prehistoric times,’ Celal Bayar University archaeologist Serdar Aybek told the Turkish-language Demirören News Agency in January, according to an English-language report in Arkeonews. 

‘It has the fertility brought by the Küçük Menderes River. It is a region that has always been settled.’ 

Notable finds include a Hellenistic marble seat of honour uncovered in the outdoor theatre, elaborate Roman baths featuring sculptures of Zeus and Thyke, goddess of good fortune, as well as other Roman-era buildings including a sports complex, government building, various shops, galleries and public toilets.

More recently, four massive interlocking cisterns big enough to hold 600 tons of water were uncovered in the city’s acropolis last year.  It’s believed they were used during the Late Roman period and may have been helpful when the city was under siege by invaders.

In the 12th and 13th centuries, when the cisterns were no longer used to provide water, they became a garbage dump, with animal bones, broken ceramics and other detritus of daily life found on the site, according to the Daily Sabah. 

Humans were in South America at least 25,000 years ago, giant sloth bone pendants reveal

Humans were in South America at least 25,000 years ago, giant sloth bone pendants reveal

Humans were living in Brazil earlier than previously thought, prehistoric sloth-bone pendants suggest.

The date that humans arrived in South America has been pushed back to at least 25,000 years ago, based on an unlikely source: bones from an extinct giant ground sloth that were crafted into pendants by ancient people.

An artist’s interpretation of a human crafting a pendant from a giant ground sloth bone around 25,000 years ago in what is now Brazil.

Discovered in the Santa Elina rock shelter in central Brazil, three sloth osteoderms — bony deposits that form a kind of protective armor over the skin of animals such as armadillos — found near stone tools sported tiny holes that only humans could have made.

The finding is among the earliest evidence for humans in the Americas, according to a paper published Wednesday (July 12) in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 

Researchers in Brazil found three giant ground sloth osteoderms that were polished and had holes in them.

The Santa Elina rock shelter, located in the Mato Grosso state in central Brazil, has been studied by archaeologists since 1985. Previous research at the site noted the presence of more than 1,000 individual figures and signs drawn on the walls, hundreds of stone tool artifacts, and thousands of sloth osteoderms, with three of the osteoderms showing evidence of human-created drill holes. 

The newly published study documents these sloth osteoderms in exquisite detail to show that it is extremely unlikely that the holes in the bones were made naturally, with the implication that these bones push back the date humans settled in Brazil to 25,000 to 27,000 years ago.

These dates are significant because of the growing — but still controversial — evidence for very early human occupation in South America, such as a date of 22,000 years ago for the Toca da Tira Peia rock shelter in eastern Brazil.

Using a combination of microscopic and macroscopic visualization techniques, the team discovered that the osteoderms, and even their tiny holes, had been polished, and noted traces of stone tool incisions and scraping marks on the artifacts. Animal-made bite marks on all three osteoderms led them to exclude rodents as the creators of the holes. 

“These observations show that these three osteoderms were modified by humans into artefacts, probably personal ornaments,” the researchers wrote in their paper.

The osteoderms had traces of stone tool incisions and scraping marks, which suggests they were modified by humans.

In an email to , study co-author Mírian Pacheco, a lecturer in paleontology at the Federal University of São Carlos, Brazil, noted that “it is virtually impossible to define the real meaning these artifacts had for the occupants of Santa Elina.”

However, the shape and large number of osteoderms “may have influenced the making of a specific type of artifact such as a pendant,” she said. 

The presence of human-modified sloth bones in association with stone tools from geological layers that date to 25,000 to 27,000 years ago is strong evidence that people arrived in South America far earlier than previously assumed. 

It’s possible that ancient humans wore these bones as pendants.

Our evidence reinforces the interpretation that our colleagues working on Santa Elina have been talking about for 30 years,” Thaís Pansani, a paleontologist at the Federal University of São Carlos in Brazil, said in an email to Live Science — namely, that “humans were in Central Brazil at least 27,000 years ago.” 

The finding shows that ancient people used sloth remains in a variety of ways, said Matthew Bennett, a geologist at Bournemouth University in the U.K. who has researched human-sloth interactions in North America but was not involved in this project.

“This is an exciting piece of work which may, in time, support the idea of peopling of the Americas during the Last Glacial Maximum,” the coldest part of the last ice age, Bennett in an email.

However, many sites in South America have not yet been fully studied, meaning the debate about humans’ arrival in the Americas is far from over.

“We believe that there should be more evidence waiting to be found in the rock shelters and caves of Brazil in places little or not explored,” Pansani said. 

5,000-Year-Old Tavern With Food Still Inside Discovered in Iraq

5,000-Year-Old Tavern With Food Still Inside Discovered in Iraq

Archaeologists have unearthed the remains of an ancient tavern that’s nearly 5,000 years old in southern Iraq, the University of Pennsylvania announced last week.

Researchers discovered an ancient tavern at Lagash in southern Iraq.

The find offers insight into the lives of everyday people who lived in a non-elite urban neighborhood in southwest Asia around 2700 B.C.E.

Inside the public eating space—which included an open-air area and a kitchen—researchers with the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Pisa found an oven, a type of clay refrigerator called a zeer, benches and storage containers that still held food.

They also found dozens of conical-shaped bowls that contained the remains of fish, reports CNN’s Issy Ronald.

The tavern was discovered at Lagash, a 1,000-acre archaeological site that was a bustling industrial hub with many inhabitants during the Early Dynastic period. Researchers say Lagash was one of the largest and oldest cities in all of southern Mesopotamia.

An aerial view of the Lagash site in southern Iraq

“The site was of major political, economic and religious importance,” says Holly Pittman, an archaeologist at the University of Pennsylvania and the Lagash project director, in a statement from the university.

“However, we also think that Lagash was a significant population center that had ready access to fertile land and people dedicated to intensive craft production.”

Researchers have been conducting the most recent round of Lagash excavations since 2019, but work at the site dates back to the 1930s. Over the past four years, researchers have used an array of high-tech techniques to better understand the site, including capturing drone imagery and conducting magnetometry analysis.

They’ve also collected and studied sediment samples from as deep as 80 feet below the surface to understand the site’s geological and geophysical evolution over the years.

“It’s not like old-time archaeology in Iraq,” says Zaid Alrawi, project manager for the Lagash project at the Penn Museum, in the statement.

“We’re not going after big mounds expecting to find an old temple. We use our techniques and then, based on scientific priority, go after what we think will yield important information to close knowledge gaps in the field.”

To investigate the ancient tavern just 19 inches below the surface, the archaeologists used a technique that involves excavating thin horizontal sections one by one. Discovering the tavern suggests that the society at Lagash included a middle class, in addition to enslaved individuals and elites.

Archaeologists have also unearthed pits that held clay at Lagash.

“The fact that you have a public gathering place where people can sit down and have a pint and have their fish stew, they’re not laboring under the tyranny of kings,” says Reed Goodman, an archaeologist at the University of Pennsylvania, to CNN. “Right there, there is already something that is giving us a much more colorful history of the city.”

The researchers’ other discoveries at the site include an area where the city’s ancient inhabitants once made pottery, complete with six ceramic kilns, benches and a table. They also found a domestic dwelling that contained a toilet and a kitchen.

“As you excavate, you analyze and create a story that we hope gets closer and closer to the reality of the past,” says Alrawi in the statement.

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. 

Well-Preserved Remains of Two Vesuvius Victims Found in Pompeii

Well-Preserved Remains of Two Vesuvius Victims Found in Pompeii

When Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D., a wealthy man of 30 or 40 and a younger enslaved man survived the immediate impact, only to die in a second volcanic blast the following day.

Archaeologists made plaster casts of the pair, who are thought to be a high-status older man and a younger enslaved individual.

Two millennia later, reports Angela Giuffrida for the Guardian, archaeologists excavating a villa on the outskirts of the ancient Roman city have found the pair’s remains, eerily frozen in their final death throes.

Based on traces of the older man’s clothing, which included a woolen cloak, researchers from the Archaeological Park of Pompeii say he was probably a person of high status. The body of the younger man, aged 18 to 25, had several compressed vertebrae, suggesting he was a manual laborer.

Likely enslaved by his companion, the second individual wore a short, pleated tunic possibly made out of wool. The team found the remains in an underground corridor of the ruined structure beneath more than six feet of ash.

“The victims were probably looking for shelter in the cryptoporticus, in this underground space, where they thought they were better protected,” Massimo Osanna, director general of the archaeological park, tells the Associated Press’ Frances D’Emilio.

Instead, the duo died in a rush of heat and volcanic debris that flowed into the building

“It is a death by thermal shock, as also demonstrated by their clenched feet and hands,” Osanna tells Angelo Amante of Reuters.

Archaeologists preserved the newly discovered remains using a variation of a technique developed by Italian archaeologist Giuseppe Fiorelli in 1863.

The process involves pouring liquid chalk into cavities left by decomposing bodies; this plaster fills gaps in preserved bones and teeth, creating a cast of the bodies as they looked at the moment of death.

The bodies were found under more than six feet of ash in a ruined villa.
A close-up view of one of the victim’s clenched hands
A close-up view of one of the victim’s clenched hands

“It is impossible to see those deformed figures, and not feel moved,” wrote Italian author Luigi Settembrini in his 1863 “Letter to the Pompeians,” as quoted in a statement from the archaeological park.

“They have been dead for eighteen centuries, but they are human beings seen in their agony. This is not art, it is not imitation; these are their bones, the remains of their flesh and their clothes mixed with plaster, it is the pain of death that takes on body and form.”

Pompeii now contains the bodies of more than 100 people preserved as plaster casts. Osanna tells the Times that the technique captured fascinating details of the newly discovered bodies, including the “extraordinary drapery” of their wool garments.

“They really look like statues,” he says.

The new find is located in Civita Giuliana, about 750 yards northwest of Pompeii’s city walls. The villa is on private property, and government-commissioned excavations only began there in 2017, when archaeologists stepped in to help prevent looters from tunneling into the site and stealing artifacts.

This isn’t the first impressive find made at the villa: In 2018, archaeologists unearthed the preserved remains of three horses, still saddled and harnessed as if ready to depart at a moment’s notice. Research teams also found a whole street of large houses lined with balconies.

The ruins of Pompeii, a city of about 13,000 people at the time of its destruction, have fascinated people around the world for centuries. Roman magistrate Pliny the Younger, who witnessed the destruction from a neighboring city, described it as “an extraordinary and alarming” scene.

Spanish king Charles III of Bourbon began the first official excavations of the site in 1748. Work has continued ever since. (Launched in 2012, the $140 million Great Pompeii Project seeks to conduct the most extensive scientific investigation of the site to date.)

The preserved city, with its inhabitants forever caught in the middle of daily activities, has yielded much information about life in ancient Rome, from Pompeiians’ culinary habits to their fertility and love rituals.

Remarkably Massive Viking Longhouse Discovered in Norway

Remarkably Massive Viking Longhouse Discovered in Norway

While excavating near the ruins of a 17th century royal estate near the village of Sem in the Eiker district of southeastern Norway, archaeologists unearthed dozens of ancient postholes spread around the faint but unmistakable outline of a Viking longhouse.

The architectural structure would have been of tremendous size. Early indications suggest it was probably constructed during the Viking Age , which in Norway lasted from approximately 800 AD to the year 1066.

Postholes Provide Clues to the Viking Longhouse’s Distinctive Architecture

Postholes were a standard feature of longhouses, regardless of when they might have been built. Heavy wooden posts were needed to support the walls and roofs of these massive construction projects and the posts had to be firmly anchored in the ground. But the placement of the postholes at the newly discovered Viking longhouse is curious and unique, since they were only set up to support the walls.

Outside the outline formed by the first set of postholes, about 11 feet (3.5 meters) away, there were more postholes dug in straight lines. According to the Norwegian archaeologists, these would have supported separate roofing material that covered passageways running along the outside of the main structure. Given the distance between the outer and inner postholes, the archaeologists think the outer posts may have been slanted inward, bracing the outer walls to keep them from bowing under the weight of the structure’s roof.

An overview picture of the extraordinary house. Poles have been placed in the post holes. This is, however, only a small part of the house according to the archaeologists.

With the wood used to make the walls and roof of the house long gone, there is no way to know for sure what the house looked like when it was in use and how exactly it was designed. But the one thing the archaeologists can determine with certainty is the size of the house and they know it was huge by ancient standards.

From one outer posthole line to another, the longhouse measured 52 feet (16 meters) across. As for its length, that is yet to be determined—but there is no doubt the house was much longer than it was wide.

“It’s an extraordinary building, and we haven’t excavated the whole thing,” Løchsen Rødsrud explained. He noted that the outline of the house is currently bisected by a road, and that no digging will take place in the field on the other side of the road until next year.

“I expect the house is much longer,” Løchsen Rødsrud said. “Twice or three times as long as it is wide.” If this estimate is correct, it means the house could be as much as 150 feet (45 meters) long from end to end. This would make it a true long house, by the standards of any place or time.

Excavation work documenting the postholes which are providing clues about the architecture of the supposedly Viking longhouse.

The Hoen Hoard and Viking History in Southeastern Norway

The area around the newly discovered longhouse and the former royal estate in Sem has been famous since the 19th century. Or since 1834, to be more exact. That was the year that a stunned farmworker from the village of Hokkslund found a solid gold ring while digging in a bog on the plantation of his employer.

After the excited worker informed the landowner what he’d found the two of them dug down further. In the end, they recovered what would turn out to be the largest and most valuable Viking Age gold treasure ever found in Scandinavia.

The so-called Hoen Hoard , named for the owner of the farm who generously decided to split the treasure with the laborer who found it, included 5.5 lbs (2.5 kg) of golden coins and golden jewelry of different types and sizes. The hoard is believed to have been buried between 875 to 890, which coincides with the time when Viking ships were most active raiding and trading up and down the European coast.

There are approximately 50 jewelry pieces, 200 coins and more than 200 pearls and semi-precious stones in this priceless collection. While this gold could have been acquired through legitimate trading activity, it may also have been plundered from elite European homes during ninth century Viking raids. The gold and stones have been identified as coming from continental Europe and the Middle East, so there is no doubt it was not locally sourced.

The village of Hokkslund, where the Hoen Hoard was found, was a prominent port city in the Viking Age . The spot where the farmers dug up the gold is just 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) from the excavated 17th century royal estate at Sem, which highlights how much wealth circulated through the Eiker district of southeastern Norway between the peak of the Viking Age and the time when the country was ruled by hereditary monarchs.

Experts believe there were approximately 120 farms and about 3,000 people living in this region during the ninth century. The presence of a huge Viking longhouse and the most valuable Viking treasure ever found shows that wealthy and influential people were well-represented among that number.

There were definitely fortunes to be made in Eiker, thanks to the abundance of fertile farmland and to the ease with which large merchant ships could travel up and down the Drammen River, which had a water level that was 18 to 20 feet (five to six meters) higher 1,000 years ago than it is today. So perhaps the Hoen Hoard was imported to the region and then sold to an ultra-wealthy aristocrat or landowner by the Viking traders or raiders who’d acquired it. Or maybe such a person financed some Viking trading or raiding missions and was entitled to take possession of the most valuable items they recovered.

The Hoen treasure, which was found in 1834, is the largest treasure find from the Viking Age in Norway.

But Was This Really a Viking Longhouse?

At the moment, the archaeologists who found the supposed “Viking longhouse” near the royal estate in Sem are most concerned with figuring out its exact age. “We are very excited about which part of prehistoric or historical times it belongs to,” Løchsen Rødsrud said.

As of now, the house has been tentatively identified as a Viking Age construction project. This is because of its architectural style, which is consistent with other Viking fortresses that were built in Denmark in the late first millennium.

The design of those buildings was customized to produce tall, long and wide structures, like the longhouse discovered at the Sem site. Such an approach to construction was most convenient for Viking Age farmers, since Viking longhouses were multi-purpose buildings that contained living spaces, workshops, cattle barns and crop storage areas all under one roof.

But the linking of the expansive longhouse to the Viking Age remains in question. This is because pottery shards have been found inside some of the postholes, and these ceramics were apparently manufactured several centuries earlier, during the Scandinavian Iron Age (500 BC to 800 AD).

The postholes could have been dug during the Viking Age on top of a much older settlement, which left pottery pieces littered across the landscape. But that is only one possibility. “If these shards are not random, the house is much older than the aforementioned houses from the Viking Age. In that case, it’s quite a sensation,” Christian Løchsen Rødsrud stated.

To definitively discover the age of the structure, the archaeologists will have to wait for the results of radiocarbon dating tests that are currently being performed on seeds and charcoal recovered during the longhouse excavation. Once they know for sure when the house was built and by whom, they will gain some new and valuable insights into the construction practices of at least some ancient Norwegians, be they Vikings or earlier occupants of the Eiker region.