Tollund Man – the preserved face from Prehistoric Denmark and the tale of ritual sacrifice
Tollund Man is the naturally mummified body of a man who lived during the 4th century BC, during the period characterised in Scandinavia as the Pre-Roman Iron Age. He was hanged as a sacrifice to the gods and placed in a peat bog where he remained preserved for more than two millennia.
The face of the Tollund Man is as preserved as the day he died. The look upon his face is calm and peaceful, as though looking upon a sleeping man.
It was 6 th May, 1950, when two brothers cutting peat in the Bjaeldskov bog, an area about 10 kilometres west of the Danish town of Silkeborg, came upon the lifeless body of a man. The man’s physical features were so well-preserved that he was mistaken at the time of discovery for a recent murder victim and the police were called.
Puzzled by the appearance of the remains and recalling the discovery of two other ‘bog bodies’ in the same bog in 1927 and 1938, the police asked an archaeologist named P. V.
Glob to come and view the discovery. Recognizing that this was an ancient burial, Glob began efforts to remove the body for further study.
The examination of the Tollund Man at the National Museum of Denmark in 1950 revealed an unusually well-preserved body of an adult male who was slightly over five feet tall and approximately 40 years old when he died.
The stubble on his chain, eyelashes, and the wrinkles in his skin can still be observed in minute detail. His last meal was porridge made from 40 different kinds of seeds and grains.
Tollund Man was naked apart from a leather cap and a wide belt around his waist. Around his neck was a braided leather rope tightened in a noose.
It was clear that he had been hanged – but why? Was he a criminal, a victim of crime, or part of a ritual sacrifice? Archaeologists embarked on an investigation to find out.
Like all the other ‘bog bodies’ that have been found, Tollund Man showed no signs of injury or trauma, apart from that caused by the hanging. It was clear that he had also been buried carefully in the bog – his eyes and mouth had been closed and his body placed in a sleeping position – something that wouldn’t have happened if he were a common criminal.
When somebody died in the Iron Age, the body was cremated in a funeral pyre and the ashes placed in an urn, but Tolland Man was buried in a watery place where the early people of Europe believed they could communicate with their many gods and goddesses. He was also killed in the winter or early spring, a time that human sacrifices were made to the goddess of spring.
Taking into account all of these factors, archaeologists believe that Tollund Man was ritually sacrificed. He may have been an offering to the gods in return for peat that was taken from the bog.
The incredible discovery of Tollund Man has brought to life in vivid detail the lives and deaths of the people of prehistoric Denmark. He now resides in a special room of the Silkeborg Museum.
Unraveling the Mystery of the “Armenian Stonehenge”
The misty and mountainous valleys of the south Caucasus have been host to human activity continuously for thousands of years, but only recently has the Western archaeological world had access to them.
From the cave in which researchers found the world’s oldest shoe and the oldest winemaking facility, to traces of an Urartian city with hundreds of wine-holding vessels buried in the ground, the last four decades have witnessed extraordinary interest from scholars and tourists alike in the smallest republic in the former Soviet Union. None, however, are as quite as tantalizing as the 4.5 hectare archaeological site whose name is as contested as its mysterious origins.
Located in Armenia’s southernmost province, Zorats Karer, or as it is vernacularly known, Karahundj, is a site which has been inhabited numerous times across millennia, from prehistoric to medieval civilizations.
It consists of a prehistoric mausoleum and nearby, over two hundred neighboring large stone monoliths, eighty of which have distinctive, well-polished holes bored near their upper edge.
In recent years, to the dismay of local scientists, the monoliths have garnered the interest of the international community after some pre-emptive research emerged drawing comparisons between the astronomical implications of Zorats Karer and that of the famous Stonehenge monument in England.
Many touristic outlets responded to the comparison by branding Zorats Karer colloquially as the ‘Armenian Stonehenge’ and the resulting debate between the scientific community and popular culture has been a fierce one.
The first scholarly account of Zorats Karer took place in 1935 by ethnographer Stepan Lisitsian, who alleged that it once functioned as a station for holding animals. Later, in the 1950s, Marus Hasratyan discovered a set of 11th to 9th century BCE burial chambers.
But the first investigation which garnered international attention to the complex was that of Soviet archaeologist Onnik Khnkikyan, who claimed in 1984 that the 223 megalithic stones in the complex may have been used, not for animal husbandry, but instead for prehistoric stargazing.
He believed the holes on the stones, which are two inches in diameter and run up to twenty inches deep, may have been used as early telescopes for looking out into the distance or at the sky.
Intrigued by the astronomical implications, the next series of investigations were conducted by an astrophysicist named Elma Parsamian from the Byurakan Astrophysical Observatory, one of the main astronomy centers of the USSR.
She and her colleagues observed the position of the holes according to an astronomical calendar and established that several of them aligned with the sunrise and sunset on the day of the summer solstice.
She is also responsible for suggesting the name Karahundj for the site, after a village 40km away by the same name. Prior to her investigations, locals referred to the site as Ghoshun Dash, which meant ‘Army of Stones’ in Turkic.
Folk myth suggests the stones were erected in ancient times to commemorate soldiers killed in war. After the 1930s, locals transitioned to the Armenian translation, Zorats Karer. But Karahundj, Parsamian said, offered a more interesting name because Kar, means stone and hundj, a peculiar suffix which has no meaning in Armenian, sounds remarkably similar to the British ‘henge’.
In recent years, this name has received extreme criticism from scholars and in scientific texts, the name Zorats Karer is used nearly exclusively.
Several years later, a radiophysicist named Paris Herouni performed a series of amateur studies branching off from Parsamian’s, using telescopic methods and the precession laws of Earth. He argued that the site actually dates back to around 5500 BCE., predating its British counterpart by over four thousand years.
He strongly pioneered for a direct comparison to Stonehenge and even went so far as to etymologically trace the name Stonehenge to the word Karahundj, claiming it really had Armenian origins. He was also in correspondence with the leading scholar of the Stonehenge observatory theory, Gerald Hawkins, who approved of his work. His claims were quick to catch on, and other scholars who strongly contest his finding have found them difficult to dispel.
The problem with the “Armenian Stonehenge” label, notes archaeo-astronomer Clive Ruggles in Ancient Astronomy: An Encyclopedia of Cosmologies and Myth, is that analyses that identify Stonehenge as an ancient observatory have today largely been dispelled. As a result, he says, the research drawing comparisons between the two sites is “less than helpful.”
According to Professor Pavel Avetisyan, an archaeologist at the National Academy of Sciences in Armenia, there is no scientific dispute about the monument. “Experts have a clear understanding of the area,” he says, “and believe that it is a multi-layered [multi-use] monument, which requires long-term excavation and study.”
In 2000, he helped lead a team of German researchers from University of Munich in investigating the site. In their findings, they, too, criticized the observatory hypothesis, writing, “… [A]n exact investigation of the place yields other results. [Zora Karer], located on a rocky promontory, was mainly a necropolis from the Middle Bronze Age to the Iron Age. Enormous stone tombs of these periods can be found within the area.” Avetisyan’s team dates the monument to no older than 2000 BCE, after Stonehenge, and also suggested the possibility that the place served as a refuge during times of war in the Hellenistic period.
“The view that the monument is an ancient observatory or that its name is Karahundj is elementary charlatanism, and nothing else. All of that,” says Avetisian, “has nothing to do with science.”
Unfortunately for Avetisyan, dispelling myths about Zorats Karer is difficult when so few resources exist in English to aid the curious Westerner. Richard Ney, an American who moved to Armenia in 1992, founded the Armenian Monuments Awareness Project and authored the first English-language resource to the site from 1997, has witnessed over two decades of back-and-forth.
He believes Karahundj is “caught between two different branches of science with opposing views on how to derive fact. Both are credible,” he says, “and I feel both can be correct, but will never admit it.”
Despite all the controversy and whatever you end up deciding to call it, the monument itself is stunning and located in an area of Armenia well-endowed with natural beauty, making it an attractive journey for many tourists each year.
It’s even become an object of contemporary interest to young urbanites and neo-Pagans from Yerevan, who are known to celebrate certain solstices there. In many ways, Zorats Karer is a testament to the elusive nature of archaeology, and it’s perhaps the case that the mystery is–and will remain–part of its appeal.
The Italian hill made entirely of 53 million Roman olive oil jars
Monte Testaccio is a mound made up of shards of broken pottery covering about 220,000 square feet, holding 760,000 cubic yards of broken pottery vessels, known as amphorae, which were used to transport olive oil.
Excavations are still in progress, but the most recent finds indicate it may have originated as early as 140 A.D. Archaeologists agree future excavations could reveal that it could have been even earlier.
The easternmost side is the oldest of the triangular shaped, terraced mound. Paths were constructed by using smaller shard pieces throughout the four stepped terrace levels to enable the continuation of amphorae disposal and the height of the hill.
Most of the pottery shards are those of a Dressel 20, the one gallon sized amphorae from Baetica in what is now the Guadalquivir region of Spain, but remains from Tripolitania, now Libya, and Byzacena , now Tunisia, have also been found.
It has been established that these were bulk containers used for shipping olive oil, but why were no other types of shipping containers added to the mound?
The Romans also imported grain and wine, but as of yet, very few of these types of containers have been found. The Dressel 20 amphora did not easily break into the small pieces needed for recycling into concrete, which could be the reason they were simply discarded.
Another possibility is that the residual oil left on the shards would have reacted poorly with the lime content used when making the concrete. José Remesal of the University of Barcelona and co-director of the Monte Testaccio excavations believes the hill contains the remains of over twenty-five million amphora, and his team is recovering over a ton of pottery every day.
They are searching for any type of identification that could be stamped, painted or carved into the clay.
Most amphorae used during the time noted the weight, information about where the oil originated and names of the people who bottled and weighed the shipment which is indicative of a stringent inspection system used to control trade.
The empty weight, as well as the full weight, was recorded and the names found give insight into the Roman commercial structure. Many list family businesses such as “the two Aurelii Heraclae, father and son” and “the two Junii, Melissus and Melissa” as well as small groups of men “the partners Hyacinthus, Isidore and Pollio” and “L. Marius Phoebus and the Vibii, Viator and Retitutus”, who were most likely members of joint ventures of skilled freedmen.
The team is also able to identify that the state authorized the shipment of the oil and if the oil was for the military or civilian use.The search has already yielded inscriptions indicating oil shipments delivered to the Praefectus Annonae, the leading official of the state run food distribution services. According to Remesal, “There’s no other place where you can study economic history, food production and distribution, and how the state controlled the transport of a product. It’s really remarkable.”
Around the 260s, a new type of amphora was being used and the mound ceased growing.The area was abandoned after the fall of Rome and was used for jousting tournaments and pre-Lent festivals during the Middle Ages, and was still in use for celebrations by the end of the 19th century.
In 1827 Marie-Henri Beyle, a 19th-century French writer known by his pen name, Stendhal, attended a festival at the hill’s summit and had this to say: “Each Sunday and Thursday during the month of October, almost the whole population of Rome, rich and poor, throng to this spot, where innumerable tables are covered with refreshments, and the wine is drawn cool from the vaults.
It is impossible to conceive a more animating scene than the summit of the hill presents.Gay groups dancing the saltarella, intermingled with the jovial circles which surround the tables; the immense crowd of walkers who, leaving their carriages below, stroll about to enjoy the festive scene …”
The vaults to which Stendhal refers are excavations made when it was discovered that the porous structure of the interior provided a cooling effect, leading to the construction of wine cellars to keep the drink cool in the warmer months. In 1849 Giuseppe Garibaldi, the commander of an Italian gun battery successfully defended Rome against an attack from the French army at the mound.
Catholics use the hill as a representation of Golgotha, the hill on which Jesus was crucified.The Pope leads a procession to the top of the hill where they place crosses to memorialize those of Jesus and the two thieves crucified with him.
In 1872 German Archaeologist Heinrich Dressel began the first archeological study of Monte Testaccio and published his findings in 1878. Archaeologists Emilio Rodríguez Almeida and José Remesal Almeida also worked at the site during the 1980s.
After World War II developers came in and built middle class homes prompting stores and restaurants to open in the area. Velavevodetto, a popular pizza restaurant, was actually built into the side of the hill.Locals generally don‘t pay much attention to the mound and some don’t even realize the historical significance attached.
Up until August of this year Remesal’s web site www.archaeospain.com was taking applications for twenty-four volunteers at the geological site for two weeks during the month of September and describe the project as “Located in the heart of Rome, the Monte Testaccio project is one of the most important research programs on Roman epigraphy, economy, and commerce today.
The project, overseen by the University of Barcelona and ArchaeoSpain, studies the pottery shards from an artificial mound created by centuries of discarded amphorae‚ many of which still have the maker’s seal stamped on their handles, while others retain markings in ink relating the exporter’s name and indicating the contents, the export controls, and consular date.
Once an ancient pottery dump, Monte Testaccio is now one of the largest archives of Roman commerce in the world.”
The Huldremose Woman: One of the best preserved and best dressed bog bodies
More than 500 bodies and skeletons were buried in the peat bogs in Denmark between 800 B.C. and A.D. 200.
In 1879, Niels Hanson, a school teacher in Ramten, was digging peat turfs from a peat bog near Ramten, Jutland, Denmark. While doing this, he recovered a bog body of an elderly Iron Age woman. The body became known as “Huldremose Woman” or “Huldre Fen Woman”.
Supposedly, the woman had passed away sometime between 160 B.C. and 340 A.D. It is believed that she lived at least 40 years, which to the standards of the time was a very long life. Like most of the bog bodies found in Denmark, the woman from Huldremose was fully clothed.
More than 130 years after its discovery, it remains one of the best preserved and best-dressed bog bodies. This discovery offered a rare opportunity to understand the clothing of the Iron Age in Northern Europe and Scandinavia.
She was dressed in a costume consisting of a woollen skirt (tied at the waist with a thin leather strap inserted into a woven waistband), a woollen scarf (139-144 cm in length and 49 cm in width, wrapped around the woman’s neck and fastened under her left arm with a pin made from a bird bone) and two skin capes.
The fur coats she was wrapped in were made from the skin of 14 sheep. The sewn-in objects have probably functioned as amulets. Not only was her costume of high quality; it was also colored in a multitude of colors. olor analysis has shown that originally the skirt was blue and the scarf was in red color.
The finding of the woman has encouraged many different debates and interpretations over the years. Medical analysis revealed that she had received a cut to her upper arm, removing her arm from the rest of her body before she was deposited in the peat.
It was previously believed that the cut to the arm was the cause of death and the woman died as a result of a subsequent loss of blood.
However, later forensic analysis found evidence of strangulation, her hair was tied with a long woolen rope, which was also wrapped around her neck several times.
Mystery messages engraved in Scotland’s rocks up to 5,000 years ago might soon be decoded using 3D scans
About 6,000 rocks that display distinctive “cup and ring” carvings, alongside other ancient engravings, dot the landscape of Britain, with at least one-third of them found in Scotland. Archaeologists have offered several explanations as to what these strange symbols mean. Some have said the ancients inscribed them for ritual ceremonies.
Others believe the carvings served much more practical purposes, that possibly these were territorial markers on ancient trade routes or mapped the stars in the sky.
However, in the words of George Currie, an amateur archaeologist who discovered some 670 rock carvings in Scotland, “many have symbolism that dates back thousands of years and we know little about why they were created.”
A spokesperson from Historic Environment Scotland (HES) noted that “the purpose and significance of rock art to prehistoric and more recent communities is poorly understood.” In 2022, HES was awarded £807,000 (around $1.1 million in U.S. dollars) by the Arts and Humanities Research Council to carry out a five-year-long project to reestablish this lost link to Scotland’s prehistoric past.
We may never discover the full meanings of the engravings, but the project, making use of 3D scanners, will seek answers by documenting and analyzing a great number of rock carving examples. A result is expected probably by 2021: a database with 2D and 3D models of some of the decorated stones will be created, and perhaps some theories will follow too.
Experts from both the University of Edinburgh and the Glasgow School of Art are involved in the project activities, and scanning is expected to reveal new connections between the symbols, previously overlooked, between the rock carvings. Some are said to go as far back as to the Neolithic days.
Currie has also been invited to participate in the activities. Over a period of more than a decade, he has managed to discover, photograph, and GPS locate 670 rocks alone. While cups and rings are among the most recurring symbols of all, there are others that appear frequently, such as horseshoe shapes or some that remind of human footprints.
In statements in Mail Online, Currie, who comes from Dundee, said that “the idea is to cover the whole of Scotland to record all of the rock art in 3D where ever possible.” However, he remarks, challenges are certain to haunt the team as it is uncertain how scanning equipment will be brought to some of the locations of interest. Not all rocks are laid to rest in favorable terrains.
Potentially, the project could answer many other questions, such as why people have revisited the rocks, inscribing new symbols over rocks that had already had engravings. Meanwhile, new findings of rock carvings are still being encountered, with one major discovery of a “previously unrecorded example” being reported by BBC Scotland Highlands and Islands reporters in 2014.
Archaeologists stumbled upon new rock art with cup and ring engravings while trying to relocate one rock in the county of Ross-shire. As they examined the rock, the team was dazzled by corresponding marks on the other side of the rock as well. The discovery counted as a rare find.
Although Britain is the focus of the interest in cup and ring rock carvings, these symbols are not exclusively found only on the island. Differing from place to place, examples have been documented overseas, with many being located in Ireland and Scandinavia, one example being Hartola, Finland, where researchers point out that the cup markings are notably wider compared to the Scottish ones.
More can be seen in the Italian region of Piedmont, but also across Switzerland, on Sardinia, or in Israel. Similar forms can be seen as far away as Gabon and Australia.
Nearly 2 million years ago, an early human used a stone tool to carve hunks of meat held in its mouth, an activity that left behind wear marks in its teeth.
And the direction of the grooves suggest that this individual had a dominant right hand.
Right-handedness is significantly more common than left-handedness in modern humans, and the trait emerged early in the lineage’s evolution, researchers have said. This discovery, which presents the oldest evidence of right-handedness, could prompt a deeper look into the fossil record, to determine when human ancestors first demonstrated right-handed dominance.
Right-handed “handy man”
The fossil, a mostly intact upper jaw, was found in an archaeological dig site in northern Tanzania, in a location with stone tools and large mammal bones nearby. The jaw belonged to Homo habilis, a human ancestor that lived 2.4 million to 1.4 million years ago and is the oldest known ancestor in the Homo lineage.
Homo habilis means “handy man,” and though the newly discovered specimen’s hands were nowhere to be found, its jaw and teeth provided researchers with unexpected evidence of whether it was a so-called “righty” or “lefty.”
The teeth were very well-preserved, with enamel still covering most of their surfaces. Close inspection of two central incisors in the jaw revealed concentrations of scratch marks; in one tooth in particular, they were primarily angled to the right side of the body.
According to the scientists, these marks were created over time, as the “handy man” was cutting up his meat. He would have gripped a hunk of flesh in his mouth, steadied the meat by pulling on it with one of his hands and used the other hand — which was probably the dominant one — to saw pieces of meat with a stone tool, which would occasionally scrape against his teeth.
The right-leaning direction of these scrapes — which have also been detected in fossil teeth belonging to Neanderthals and other human relatives — told the scientists that a tool held in the right hand had made the marks.
“Righty” vs. “lefty”
Humans aren’t the only mammal species that favors one hand over the other; this trait appears in animals “from kangaroos to chimpanzees,” the study authors wrote. However, having a dominant hand that appears overwhelmingly across an entire species is uniquely human; 90 percent of people are right-handed, the researchers estimated, compared with 50 percent of individuals in humans’ primate relatives.
But when did humans first develop a preference for using the right hand over the left? Fossil arm bones might hold clues, but researchers would need both arms from a single individual to tell which hand the individual used more often in life, and that’s proven hard to find in the fossil record.
However, this new discovery suggests that scientists could find the evidence preserved in fossil teeth, which are more plentiful than matched pairs of arm bones, the researchers said. While this is as yet the only example of dominant hand use in humans’ early lineage, other fossils may provide the clues researchers need to trace the origins of “righty” vs. “lefty,” the scientists said.
The findings were published online in the November issue of the Journal of Evolution.
Listen to the Recreated Voice of a 3,000-Year-Old Egyptian Mummy
Media outlets have likened the sound to a “brief groan,” a “long, exasperated ‘meh’ without the ‘m,’” and “rather like ‘eeuuughhh’”
In the nearly 200 years since his mummy’s arrival at the Leeds City Museum in northern England, an ancient Egyptian priest named Nesyamun has slowly but surely revealed his secrets.
Employed as a high-ranking priest and scribe at the Karnak state temple in Thebes, Nesyamun performed rituals filled with both song and speech. Active during the turbulent reign of Ramses XI, who served as Egypt’s pharaoh between 1099 and 1069 B.C., he died in his mid-50s, likely due to a severe allergic reaction, and suffered from ailments including gum disease and heavily worn teeth. And, as evidenced by inscriptions on his coffin, Nesyamun hoped his soul would one day speak to the gods much as he had in life.
A new study published in the journal Scientific Reports fulfills the 3,000-year-old priest’s vision of the afterlife, drawing on CT scans of his surprisingly intact vocal tract to engineer an approximation of his voice.
The sound bite, created with a speech synthesizing tool called the Vocal Tract Organ, reconstructs “the sound that would come out of his vocal tract if he was in his coffin and his larynx came to life again,” says study co-author David Howard, a speech scientist at Royal Holloway, University of London, to the New York Times’ Nicholas St. Fleur.
The clip itself is brief and vaguely underwhelming, capturing a single vowel sound media outlets have described as “resembl[ing] a brief groan,” “a bit like a long, exasperated ‘meh’ without the ‘m,’” “a sound caught between the words ‘bed’ and ‘bad,’” and “rather like ‘eeuuughhh.’”
Per the Washington Post’s Ben Guarino, Howard and his colleagues used a CT scan of Nesyamun’s vocal tract—a biologically unique speech-supporting tube that stretches from the larynx to the lips—to 3-D print a copy of his throat.
They then hooked this artificial organ to a loudspeaker and played an electronic signal mimicking the sound of a “human larynx acoustic output.” (Howard has previously used this technique on living humans, including himself, but the new research marks the first time the technology has been used to recreate a deceased individual’s voice, reports CNN’s Katie Hunt.)
Though the study serves as proof-of-concept for future voice recreation research, it has several practical limitations. As co-author and University of York archaeologist John Schofield tells Gizmodo’s George Dvorsky, Nesyamun’s supine burial position curbed the experiment’s scope.
Schofield explains, “The vocal tract has only one shape here—the shape as he lies in his sarcophagus—that produced just one sound.”
Another limiting factor, says Howard to CNN, was the priest’s lack of tongue muscles, which had long since wasted away. In truth, the speech scientist adds, the noise heard in the audio isn’t a “sound he would ever likely have made in practice because the bulk of his tongue isn’t there.”
Daniel Bodony, an aeroacoustics expert at the University of Illinois who was not involved in the study, tells the Post the team’s electronic approximation “sounds tinny” because Nesyamun’s mummy lacks fleshy, vibrating vocal folds capable of adding “richness and emotion” to one’s words.
In the future, the researchers may be able to overcome this and other obstacles by modifying their software to better approximate such factors as the size of the priest’s tongue and the position of his jaw. The team’s eventual goal is to move beyond singular vowel sounds to words and even full sentences.
“When visitors encounter the past, it is usually a visual encounter,” says Schofield to the Post. “With this voice we can change that. There is nothing more personal than someone’s voice.”
Still, some scholars—including Kara Cooney, an Egyptologist at the University of California, Los Angeles—have expressed concerns over the implications of the new study.
Though she acknowledges the work’s potential, Cooney tells the Times, “When you’re taking a human being and using so much inference about what they looked or sounded like, it can be done with an agenda that you might not even be aware of.”
Egypt says another trove of ancient coffins found in Saqqara
Egyptian archaeologists have unearthed another trove of ancient coffins in a vast necropolis south of Cairo, authorities said Monday.
The Tourism and Antiquities Ministry said in a statement that archaeologists found the collection of colorful, sealed sarcophagi buried more than 2,500 years ago at the Saqqara necropolis.
Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said more than 80 coffins were found.
Archaeologists also found colorful, gilded wooden statues, the ministry said. Details of the new discovery will be announced in a news conference at the famed Step Pyramid of Djoser, it said.
Egypt has sought to publicize its archaeological finds in an effort to revive its key tourism sector, which was badly hit by the turmoil that followed the 2011 uprising. The sector was also dealt a further blow this year by the coronavirus pandemic.
Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly and Tourism and Antiquities Minister Khalid el-Anany toured the area and inspected the new discovery, which came just over two weeks after the ministry revealed 59 sealed sarcophagi, with mummies inside most of them, in the same area of Saqqara.
The Saqqara site is part of the necropolis at Egypt’s ancient capital of Memphis that includes the famed Giza Pyramids, as well as smaller pyramids at Abu Sir, Dahshur and Abu Ruwaysh. The ruins of Memphis were designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1970s.
The plateau hosts at least 11 pyramids, including the Step Pyramid, along with hundreds of tombs of ancient officials and other sites that range from the 1st Dynasty (2920-2770 B.C.) to the Coptic period (395-642).
2,000-Year-Old Roman Road Uncovered in British Field is Like No Other–And of ‘Global Importance’
Workmen have uncovered a suspected Roman road in a field dating back 2,000 years that could be the only one of its kind in Britain and of ‘world importance.’
Archeologists say the cobbled ford uncovered in Worcestershire could be the finest Roman example of its type in the UK. In fact, the only existing roads in such a state of preservation are found in Pompeii and Rome.
The stretch, measuring 32-ft by 9.6 feet wide (10 x 2.9 meter), was discovered during routine utility work by Severn Trent Water a few weeks ago in an area called Evesham.
The exact location of the discovery is being concealed but it was found by a river where a Roman-era villa complex was previously uncovered four years ago.
Excavations are now taking place to find out more about the site, but experts say everything points to it being a genuine Roman structure—built 1,900 years ago.
“At the moment everything is ticking the boxes for it to be Roman but it still feels too good to be true so we are keeping an open mind,” said Aidan Smyth, archeology officer from Wychavon District Council where the water works were being dug, adding that seeing it first hand “took his breath away.”
The owners of the property contacted Wychavon District Council and a team from Historic England is now expected to analyze the excavations.
The road is a ‘ford,’ or a small river crossing, and also has ruts in the stones indicating it was was used by carts for a long time.
“If it is a first-century Roman feature it is the only one of its kind to be found in Britain to date,” said Smith, who noted no one was building roads like this during the Medieval Period.
“If it was to be a Roman feature, with its only comparisons in Rome and Pompeii, you could argue it’s of world importance, not just of national importance. The stonework is absolutely perfect.”
Smith explains in the video below how the Romans were the only road builders to ever build their roads like they built walls. During excavations Smith explains the team found “batted” stone curbs, meaning to be laid at a steep angle rather than vertically. They were made of a different stone than the flat cobbles passersby would walk upon.
“Now I’ve lots of evidence in this part of Evesham for Medieval batted stone walls, my problem is I’ve not got anything Roman to compare it with,” Smith said. “So it’s not that it isn’t Roman, it just could have a Medieval phase to it.”
The native Picts, a Celtic-language speaking tribe, once populated the Scottish Islands, similar to the natives that live on what is now Scotland.
Several powerful storms on Scotland’s Orkney Islands have now revealed ancient human remains in a Pictish and Viking cemetery dated back to about 1,500 years ago.
To order to protect the damage to the former Newark Bay cemetery on Orkney’s largest island, volunteers are now placing sandbags and clay around. The site dates from the middle of the sixth century when ancient Pictish people inhabited the Orkney Islands.
Picts or Norse?
The cemetery was used for about 1,000 years, and numerous burials from the ninth to the 15th century were Norsemen or Vikings who had seized the Orkney Islands from the Picts. Now, storm waves are destroying the low cliff where the ancient site is located, Peter Higgins from the Orkney Research Center for Archaeology (ORCA), said.
“Every time we have a storm with a bit of a south-easterly [wind], it really gets in there and actively erodes what is just soft sandstone,” Higgins explained.
Approximately 250 skeletons were taken out of the cemetery about 50 years ago, but researchers do not know how far the site extends from the beach. They believe that hundreds of Pictish and Norse bodies are still buried there.
“The local residents and the landowner have been quite concerned about what’s left of the cemetery being eroded by the sea,” Higgins said.
Uncovered bones are usually either coated with clay to protect them or removed from the site after their positions are thoroughly labeled, so it is rather unusual for bones to end up on the beach, he explained.
Researchers do not know yet of the exposed bones belong to Picts or Vikings, as no burial objects or funeral clothes were spotted, and the bodies were buried four of five layers under the surface.
Historians claim that the first Norse immigrants to the Orkney Islands established there in the late eighth century, leaving a rising new monarchy in Norway. They used the Orkney Islands to begin their own voyages and Viking raids, and ultimately, all the islands were ruled by the Norse, according to The Scotsman.
The relationship between the Picts and the Norse on the Orkney Islands is highly argued by scholars. They cannot know for sure whether the Norse took over by force, or were settlers who traded and entered marriage with the Picts. However, now, the ancient cemetery at Newark Bay may help researchers answer their questions.
“The Orkney Islands were Pictish, and then they became Norse,” Higgins said. “We’re not really clear how that transition happened, whether it was an invasion, or people lived together. This is one of the few opportunities we’ve got to investigate that.”
A part of the scientific work on the remains would require testing genetic material from the ancient bones, which might demonstrate that some people living on the Orkney Islands today are successors of people who lived there more than 1,000 years ago.
“We’re fairly confident that we’re going to find that some local residents are related to people in the cemetery,” Higgins said.