Huge Bronze Age haul found in Austria
Europe's biggest-ever discovery of Bronze Age weapons and jewellery has been made in Austria.
Archaeologists believe the hoard could prove Bronze Age Europe rivaled Greece in terms of early society and technology.
The scientists from the University of Innsbruck and the Austrian National Memorial Office have so far found 360 pieces buried at the side of a crevice in Moosbruckschrofen am Piller in Tyrol.
It is thought they were laid there as part of a ritual offering sometime between 1550 and 1250 BC.
As well as swords, axes, spearheads, sickles and jewellery the historians also found part of a bronze helmet.
It is thought the helmet could be one of the earliest such finds, Austrian Broadcasting Company ORF reported.
The only other helmet thought to be from the 14th or 13th century BC was one that had been discovered on Crete, which the experts say is of a totally different sort.
Ancient Irish farm unearthed
Rosie Cowan, Ireland correspondent
Monday January 13, 2003
Road excavations in Northern Ireland have unearthed what appears to be evidence of the island's earliest settlers and first farmers.
As the diggers moved in to work on the Toome bypass, outside Toomebridge in Co Antrim, archaeologists found more than 10,000 artefacts, including stone age axe heads and flints from 9,400 years ago, through to bronze age times about 4,500 years ago.
Paul McCooey, of Northern Archaeological Consultancy, said the area was particularly significant because it was a rare transitional site, charting the change from the hunter gatherer life to farming, and providing a fascinating insight into how our ancestors lived.
"From the material we've uncovered so far, it seems farming in Ireland started about 200 years earlier than had previously been supposed," said Mr McCooey, who heads a team of 17 archaeologists working on the site.
"These people came to Ireland several thousand years after the last ice age, paddling across the Irish sea from Scotland in dugout canoes covered in skins.
"They were hunter gatherers at first. Then they appear to have settled on a drumlin [a hill formed by glacial activity] surrounded by fields which would have flooded when it rained."
The size of the houses - one was 12 metres in diameter - suggested that the settlement became permanent, rather than being a nomadic hunting camp. The inhabitants are thought to have fished and grown cereal crops.
Mr McCooey's team also found the remains of bronze age cooking pits, also used for bathing and religious rituals. They were lined with clay or wood to make them waterproof.
"One of the most thrilling finds has been a two-bladed bronze age knife, the size of a man's hand, carved from flint," he said. "It's extremely rare and beautiful. I've never seen one outside a textbook before."
Archaeologists are flocking to the site. The Ulster Museum in Belfast is keen to give the artefacts a home when excavation have finished next month.
Mr McCooey wants to stage an exhibition in Toome first. He would like some pieces to remain permanently on display locally.
He insisted that his dig was not holding up progress on the bypass.
"Cooperation with the construction workers has been excellent," he said. "We simply work on different parts of the site, but they are very interested in what we are doing and when there is a big find, everyone cranes round for a look."
Israeli Experts Examine Ancient Tablet
Monday January 13, 2003 7:10 PM
JERUSALEM (AP) - Israeli geologists said Monday they have examined a stone tablet detailing repair plans for the Jewish Temple of King Solomon that, if authenticated, would be a rare piece of physical evidence confirming biblical narrative.
The find - whose origin is murky - is about the size of a legal pad, with a 15-line inscription in ancient Hebrew that strongly resembles descriptions in the Bible's Book of Kings. It could also strengthen Jewish claims to a disputed holy site in Jerusalem's Old City that is now home to two major mosques.
Muslim clerics insist, despite overwhelming archaeological evidence, that no Jewish shrine ever stood at the site. That claim was made by Palestinian officials in failed negotiations with Israel in 2000 over who would be sovereign there.
The origin of the stone tablet is unclear, making it difficult to establish authenticity.
The Israeli daily Haaretz on Monday quoted an unidentified source as saying it was uncovered in recent years, during renovations carried out by the Muslim administrators of the mosque compound known to Muslims as the Haram as-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, and to Jews as the Temple Mount.
From there, it reached a major antiquities collector in Jerusalem, Haaretz said. The Holy Land has a thriving trade in antiquities, often operating on the edge of the law.
The sandstone tablet has a 15-line inscription in ancient Hebrew that resembles descriptions in Kings II, 12:1-6, 11-17, said Israel's Geological Survey, which examined the artifact. The words refer to King Joash, who ruled the area 2,800 years ago.
In it, the king tells priests to take ``holy money ... to buy quarry stones and timber and copper and labor to carry out the duty with faith.'' If the work is completed well, ``the Lord will protect his people with blessing,'' reads the last sentence of the inscription.
The Jerusalem collector has declined to come forward, and David Zailer, a lawyer for the collector, would not say where the tablet was found or give any further details.
Gabriel Barkai, a biblical archaeologist, said the collector asked the Israel Museum to determine the authenticity of the inscription and was told the museum's experts could not rule out a forgery. The Israel Museum declined comment Monday.
The collector then took the tablet to Israel's Geological Institute, whose experts studied it over the past year. ``Our findings show that it is authentic,'' said Shimon Ilani, who performed geological tests on the inscription. Carbon dating confirms the writing goes back to the 9th century B.C., he said.
In the outer layer, Ilani and his colleagues found microscopic flecks of gold that could have been burnt into the stone when a building containing both the tablet and gold objects was destroyed.
This could mean the tablet was actually part of Solomon's Temple, which was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C., said Amos Bean, director of the institute.
``These specks of gold are not natural material, but a sign of human activity,'' said Bean. ``They could be from gold-plated objects in the home of a very rich man, or a temple. ... It's hard to believe that anyone would know how to do these things to make it look real.''
The stone itself was probably from the Dead Sea area and was originally whiter than its current dark gray, Bean said.
Hershel Shanks, editor of the Washington-based Biblical Archaeology Review, said the tablet, if authentic, would be ``visual, tactile evidence that reaches across 2,800 years.''
Barkai said the inscription's resemblance to biblical passages ``has far-reaching implications of the historical importance of the biblical text.''
Several other inscriptions excavated in recent years refer to characters or events from the Bible. A stone inscription found in northern Israel includes the phrase ``house of David.'' Most experts consider this to be the first ancient writing outside the Bible that refers to King David or the Davidic line of kings, which has corroborated the basic history of the Hebrew Scriptures.
Adnan Husseini, the director of the Islamic Trust that administers the Jerusalem mosque compound, denied Monday the tablet was found during renovation work there.
In recent years, the Islamic Trust has turned an underground vault in the compound into a large prayer area, prompting complaints by Israeli archaeologists that important artifacts are being destroyed. At one point, the archaeologists said truckloads of soil from the holy site were dumped uninspected into the nearby Kidron Valley.
The mosque compound is Islam's third-holiest site, while the adjacent Western Wall, the last remnant of the second Jewish Temple compound, is Judaism's holiest site. Most rabbis ban Jews from entering the Temple Mount for religious purity reasons.
When Israel conquered east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war, it permitted Muslim clergy to continue administering the hilltop area to avoid conflict with the Muslim world.
The mystery surrounding the stone tablet - its murky origins, appearance on the private antiquities market and a collector unwilling to come forward - mirrors the controversy over an inscription on an ancient burial box that may be the oldest archaeological link to Jesus.
The burial box, or ossuary, had the inscription, ``James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus,'' leading some to believe it was used to store the remains of James, the brother of Jesus of Nazareth. Other experts said the inscription might be a forgery.
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003
Bulgarian Archaeologists Found Rich Funeral of Thracian Chieftain
Lifestyle: 10 January 2003, Friday.
A funeral of a high-ranking Thracian aristocrat, devotee of the Orpheus cult, was discovered by Bulgarian archaeologists during excavations in what they call "Thracia's sacred valley." The rich Thracian was buried in a mound near the largest yet found Thracian temple in the vicinity of the village of Starosel, 100 miles east of Bulgaria's capital Sofia. In the 5th century BC, the body of the dead aristocrat was dismembered in three pieces and buried at the foot of an apparently sacred rock. At one side of it, the ancient have built a chamber with two-level roof to resemble a sanctuary. The belongings of the chieftain were arranged in that chamber. There is a full set of arms and armour including gold-washed ruff and helmet, spears, sword, shield and arrows. Except the armour, the archeologists found silver and bronze vessels and a lot of pottery. The find that stirred the most excitement among them was a silver double-blade axe called by Thracians "labris." In Thracian civilization, it symbolized royal power. There was also a gold seal-ring engraved with an image of a horseman spearing a boar. The team that discovered the funeral is led by renowned Bulgarian archaeologist Georgi Kitov. After three years of excavations in the vicinity of the village of Starosel, his expedition has unearthed six Thracian temples of different architecture type and of different disposition. Thus, Kitov assumes that all Thracian tribes built their temples in this "sacred valley" and pilgrims from all parts of Thracia flocked to it. The archaeologist got world recognition in 2000 when he discovered the largest yet found Thracian temple near Starosel. The ancient Thracians, ruled by a powerful warrior aristocracy rich in gold treasures, inhabited an area extending over most of modern Bulgaria, northern Greece and the European part of Turkey.
Highway survey reveals ancient Chinese chariots
Tue, Jan 14 2003 7:58 AM AEDT
In an echo of Ben Hur and Gladiator, archaeologists in China have uncovered a number of well-preserved battle chariots dating from the Zhou Dynasty more than 2,000 years ago.
Among the artifacts is a chariot pulled by six horses, which experts say could only have been used by the emperor of the time.
The finds are among a wealth of objects unearthed in a set of ancient tombs discovered last year by archaeologists making a survey along the planned route of an expressway in central China's Hubei province.
Newspaper China Daily reports the legend of a great general who died at the battlefield has been passed down through generations along the Gunhe River in Hubei province.
It was said nine tombs were built and his body placed in one of them.
The survey showed a ridge beside the river and nine tombs were subsequently found.
Excavations began in September and ended in late December.
In one of the tombs, which the expressway was to cut across, a 52-metre by 12-metre cart pit was found, containing 33 bronze battle carts and 72 horses.
"The cart pit has been the largest and best preserved one ever excavated in China," Wang Hongxing, director of Hubei Provincial Archaeological Research Institute, said.
"In the pit was a battle chariot pulled by six horses.
"Only the emperor of the eastern Zhou Dynasty (770-256 BC) could use that kind of cart."
According to the paper, another pit close by revealed seven more well-preserved chariots.
While a body was found in a coffin with a sword in a sheath by its side, there were no inscriptions to indicate it was a king.
THEY SAY THE WATCHTOWER
was part of a chain of observation posts guarding the river, which marked the border of the Roman empire at its greatest extent.
Chief archaeologist on the project, Erik Graafstal, believes the towers were used to monitor shipping on the river and to sound the alarm if hostile Germanic tribes threatened to attack.
While most wooden structures crumble with time, the watchtower’s foundation survived because it was buried under a Roman road built about a century later.
With the discovery of the well-preserved tower foundation about 22 miles southeast of Amsterdam, other fragmentary remains can now also definitely be said to have been watchtowers, Graafstal said.
The towers were built at intervals of 500 to 1,500 meters (between 500 yards and a mile) — close enough that guards would have been able to signal each other and alert soldiers stationed at nearby bases to any trouble on the river.
Graafstal said the find rivals in importance the wreck of a fully loaded Roman freight ship that was found in the same area in 1997, which will be excavated this spring.
“The discovery of the watchtower is at least as nice, because due to its exemplary preservation, we can get a lot of new insights into the appearance of this kind of building and the functioning of the border,” Graafstal said.
The archeologists date the tower possibly as early as A.D. 50, in the reign of the Emperor Claudius.
Based on the size of the remaining corner poles, the tower would have been square, 10 feet on each side and about 16 feet high. It was ringed by a low wall, a moat and sharpened wooden stakes.
Detachments of three or four soldiers would have been sent to the tower from the nearby army base, traces of which have also survived. Near the tower, archaeologists found bones and other remains of food the soldiers ate and such objects as a spearpoint, a coin, an ax, a sickle and an ancient pen.
Professor William Harris of Columbia University, a historian not associated with the Dutch dig, said the discovery fits well with the broader background of Roman history. He said soldiers manning the towers would likely have been a mix of Roman legionaries and auxiliary troops recruited from other frontier regions of the empire.
“The Romans first arrived in this general area in the times of Caesar,” around 53 B.C., he said. “The Roman occupation was not heavy, but sufficient to keep order. ... They used very functional wooden forts which were put up and taken down according to need.”
By Claudius’s reign, A.D. 41-54, some stone structures similar to the Dutch tower were built along the German Rhine, Harris said. But only during the reign of Nero, in 54-68, did the Rhine become firmly fixed as the empire’s northern border.
“It’s not that they didn’t think about pushing forward, but while Nero was in power, if you were a local governor you didn’t wage war because the emperor got jealous,” Harris said. “If you were defeated that was certainly bad, but victory was also bad.”
The river was used for trading by both Romans and local Germanic tribes, known to the Romans as the “Batavi,” and the observation posts may have played a role in ensuring that taxes were levied on passing boats.
The Dutch archeologists believe the tower was destroyed sometime in the late 60s, and then rebuilt. Such a time frame would put the destruction during a revolt of the Batavi recorded by the Roman historian Tacitus.
Tacitus describes a clash between the Romans and Batavi in the Dutch countryside — as wet and marshy then as it is now — as “more a naval contest than a land battle.”
“The Batavi leapt lightly through the shallows,” wrote Tacitus, while the Romans, “struggling among the waters, exerting every limb where they found some firm footing, whether they could swim or not, were subject to one common destruction.”
In the end, though, the Romans won.
© 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Ancient Roman city discovered in Beit Ras
AMMAN (Petra) — The Department of Antiquities (DoA) on Sunday reported the discovery of an entire ancient Roman city in Beit Ras in the northern Irbid Governorate.
Announcing the significant find, DoA Director General Fawaz Khreishah said archaeologists digging in the area had unearthed 20 per cent of a Roman amphitheatre dating back to between the second and third centuries AD, which indicated the presence of a city surrounding it.
Work to excavate the rest of the city is proceeding as planned and could take up to three years to complete, according to Khreishah.
He said until excavation work on the site started last year nothing was known about the city, nor was it mentioned in old records written by travellers, usually used as sources to locate ancient sites.
Khreishah described the find as one of the most important discoveries by the department in years.
Referring to other recent finds, the official said churches were found by excavators at Um Quttain dating to the fourth and fifth centuries AD, and buildings at Al Jaloul near Madaba dating back to the early Islamic era of the 14th century AD.
According to Khreishah, the department last year conducted excavations on 58 sites around the country in Zarqa, Karak Shobak, Petra and Madaba, and carried out restoration work on 64 other sites in collaboration with French, American, Italian and Australian archaeological teams.
The various digs, he added, necessitated the employment of 2,800 local workers for about six months.
At present the department is involved in restoration works on ancient sites in the Mafraq, Jerash and Irbid areas, financed by the Ministry of Planning.
Monday, January 13, 2003
Researching The Earth’s Magnetic Field
Young archaeological researchers from across Europe could soon be recording the history of the Earth's magnetic field after the University of Bradford won £936,500 in funding.
Dr Cathy Batt, of the Department for Archaeological Sciences, co-ordinated the bid for European Commission money to establish a research training network. About 20 researchers will be recruited from across Europe, and will cross country boundaries to find out how to gather information about the history of the Earth's magnetic field.
Archaeological samples like pottery or volcanic lava have stored within them a record of the state of the magnetic field at the time they were being heated. These items are called archaeomagnetic samples.
Dr Batt said: "Archaeological materials provide an irreplaceable record of the direction and intensity of the Earth's magnetic field in the past.
"At present, such records within Europe are irregular; some countries recognise the importance of such information, but wide variations exist in measures to retrieve and preserve such data, hindered by the lack of a skilled workforce."
She said the research could offer clues to the past and future state of the magnetic field, which has a key role in protecting humans from solar radiation. Negotiations have now been completed to formalise the contract for the research, which will be worth £936,500.
The aim of the training network is to create a skilled workforce capable of collecting and measuring archaeomagnetic samples from archaeological and cultural sites. Special attention will be given to sites likely to be destroyed, or made inaccessible, as a result of economic development within the European Union.
The project brings together expertise from 12 laboratories across Europe, including France, Spain, Italy, Bulgaria, Belgium, Denmark, Austria and Greece, in addition to the UK.
The intention is to establish best practice in archaeomagnetic techniques to provide greater precision and consistency throughout the EU. This will optimise the information obtained and speed with which it is recovered.
Real life Roman odours cause sickness in museum
A museum is toning down its realistic smells of Roman life after youngsters on school trips were sick when they smelt an imperial soldier's flatulence.
Visitors were treated to the aroma of a harbourside toilet as they arrived at the Dewa Roman Experience in Chester.
"The smell was disgusting. It was like rotten cabbage but worse", supervisor Christine Turner told The Metro. She has asked specialist aroma maker Dale Air to make the smell less intense.
The firm, which also does dinosaur droppings, says the new smell will be softer.
Story filed: 10:40 Wednesday 8th January 2003