Bronze Age Mediterraneans may have visited Stonehenge


The links between the Stonehenge area and the Mediterranean have been debated for years. Recent research by the British Geological Survey (BGS) suggests people came from both the snow of the Alps and the heat of the Mediterranean to visit Stonehenge.

However, scientific studies show that some of the people buried in the area during the Bronze Age were not local.

The analysis of the teeth from two males provides new evidence that one, dubbed ‘the Boy with the Amber necklace’, had come from the Mediterranean area, whilst the previously known ‘Amesbury Archer’ had come from the Alps.

'Isotope analysis of tooth enamel from both these people shows that the two individuals provide a contrast in origin, and highlights the diversity of people who came to Stonehenge from across Europe.'

Strontium isotopes in teeth provide information on the geological setting of a person’s childhood and the oxygen isotopes tell us about the climate in which they were raised. The combined techniques provide a tool to compare the information about childhood origin preserved in their teeth, with reference data for the place in which they are found.

A match between the tooth and reference data supports a local origin whereas a mismatch shows their burial area was not the same as their childhood location. The data can then be used to point to likely regions in which they were raised.

The isotope composition of the ‘Amesbury Archer’s’ teeth shows that he was raised in a colder climate than that found in Britain. The combination of his strontium and oxygen isotope composition suggest that the most likely childhood origin for this person was in the Alpine foothills region of Germany.

The new evidence shows that ‘the Boy with the Amber necklace’ spent his childhood in a warm climate typical of Iberia or the Mediterranean. Such warm oxygen values are theoretically possible in the British Isles but are only found on the extreme west coast of South West England, western Ireland and the Outer Hebrides. These areas can be excluded as likely childhood origins of his on the basis of the strontium isotope composition of his teeth

European 'tourists'

What these results show is that people came from across Europe, travelling long distances to Stonehenge. It was still drawing people around 1500 BC when it was already over 1500 years old.

The ‘Amesbury Archer’ was discovered around five kilometres from Stonehenge. His is the richest Copper Age (2450–2300 BC) grave found in Britain and it contained some of Britain’s earliest gold and copper objects — a pair of gold hair clasps and three copper daggers.

‘The Boy with the Amber necklace’, whose grave was found on Boscombe Down, about 5 km south-east of Stonehenge, is from a more recent time — the end of the Early Bronze Age. His skeleton has been radiocarbon dated to around 1550 BC (dated by Wessex Archaeology). Aged 14–15 years when he died, he was buried wearing a necklace of around 90 amber beads.

Other people who had visited Stonehenge from afar include individuals from a collective Bronze Age grave, the ‘Boscombe Bowmen’ and a man buried beside the ‘Amesbury Archer’ and called the ‘Archer’s Companion’.



Stonehenge boy 'was from the Med'

By Paul Rincon

Science reporter, BBC News


Chemical tests on teeth from an ancient burial near Stonehenge indicate that the person in the grave grew up around the Mediterranean Sea.


The bones belong to a teenager who died 3,550 years ago and was buried with a distinctive amber necklace.


The conclusions come from analysis of different forms of the elements oxygen and strontium in his tooth enamel.


Analysis on a previous skeleton found near Stonehenge showed that that person was also a migrant to the area.


The findings will be discussed at a science symposium in London to mark the 175th anniversary of the British Geological Survey (BGS).


The "Boy with the Amber Necklace", as he is known to archaeologists, was found in 2005, about 5km south-east of Stonehenge on Boscombe Down.


The remains of the teenager were discovered next to a Bronze Age burial mound, during roadworks for military housing.


"He's around 14 or 15 years old and he's buried with this beautiful necklace," said Professor Jane Evans, head of archaeological science for the BGS.


"The position of his burial, the fact he's near Stonehenge, and the necklace all suggest he's of significant status."


Dr Andrew Fitzpatrick, of Wessex Archaeology, backed this interpretation: "Amber necklaces are not common finds," he told BBC News.


"Most archaeologists would say that when you find burials like this... people who can get these rare and exotic materials are people of some importance."


Professor Evans likened Stonehenge in the Bronze Age to Westminster Abbey today - a place where the "great and the good" were buried.


Tooth enamel forms in a child's first few years, so it stores a chemical record of the environment in which the individual grew up.


The amber to make the beads almost certainly came from the Baltic Sea


Two chemical elements found in enamel - oxygen and strontium - exist in different forms, or isotopes. The ratios of these isotopes found in enamel are particularly informative to archaeologists.


Most oxygen in teeth and bone comes from drinking water - which is itself derived from rain or snow.


In warm climates, drinking water contains a higher ratio of heavy oxygen (O-18) to light oxygen (O-16) than in cold climates. So comparing the oxygen isotope ratio in teeth with that of drinking water from different regions can provide information about the climate in which a person was raised.


Most rocks carry a small amount of the element strontium (Sr), and the ratio of strontium 87 and strontium 86 isotopes varies according to local geology.


The isotope ratio of strontium in a person's teeth can provide information on the geological setting where that individual lived in childhood.


By combining the techniques, archaeologists can gather data pointing to regions where a person may have been raised.


Tests carried out several years ago on another burial known as the "Amesbury Archer" show that he was raised in a colder climate than that found in Britain.


Analysis of the strontium and oxygen isotopes in his teeth showed that his most likely childhood origin was in the Alpine foothills of Germany.


People were visiting Stonehenge from afar during the Bronze Age


"Isotope analysis of tooth enamel from both these people shows that the two individuals provide a contrast in origin, which highlights the diversity of people who came to Stonehenge from across Europe," said Professor Evans.


The Amesbury Archer was discovered around 5km from Stonehenge. His is a rich Copper Age or early Bronze Age burial, and contains some of the earliest gold and copper objects found in Britain. He lived about 4,300 years ago, some 800 years earlier than the Boscombe Down boy.


The archer arrived at a time when metallurgy was becoming established in Britain; he was a metal worker, which meant he possessed rare skills.


"We see the beginning of the Bronze Age as a period of great mobility across Europe. People, ideas, objects are all moving very fast for a century or two," said Dr Fitzpatrick.


"At the time when the boy with the amber necklace was buried, there are really no new technologies coming in [to Britain]... We need to turn to look at why groups of people - because this is a youngster - are making long journeys."


He speculated: "They may be travelling within family groups... They may be coming to visit Stonehenge because it was an incredibly famous and important place, as it is today. But we don't know the answer."


Other people who visited Stonehenge from afar were the Boscombe Bowmen, individuals from a collective Bronze Age grave. Isotope analysis suggests these people could have come from Wales or Brittany, if not further afield.


The research is being prepared for publication in a collection of research papers on Stonehenge.



New statue of Amenhotep III uncovered!


The upper part of a granite double statue of king Amenhotep III (1410-1372 BC) was unearthed at Kom El-Hittan in the west bank of Luxor. Kom el-Hittan is the site of the temple of Amenhotep III, which was once the largest temple on Luxor’s west bank. The temple originally had two entrances: one on the eastern side where the Colossi of Memnon reside, and one at the northern side, where the double statue was located. The statue was found during a routine excavation carried out by an Egyptian team of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA).


Minister of Culture, Farouk Hosny reported that the statue depicts Amenhotep III seated on a throne accompanied by the Theban god, Amun. The king wears the double crown of Egypt, which is decorated with a uraeus.


Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the SCA, remarked that the statue is one of the best new finds in the area because of its expert craftsmanship, which reflect the skills of the ancient Egyptian artisans. Dr. Hawass pointed out that King Amenhotep III is well known thanks to the overwhelming amount of statuary, which feature him in groupings with different deities, such as Amun-Re, Re-Horakhti, Bastet and Sobek. The latter statue is now a masterpiece of the Luxor museum.


Since this new find is the third of such double statues to be discovered at the site of Kom el-Hittan, it is possible that a large cache for King Amenhotep III’s statuary may have been buried in the area.


Dr. Sabri Abdel Aziz, Head of the Pharaonic Sector of the SCA, said that the statue is the second of its kind to be found in the area. A similar statue was previously unearthed, which showed the king seated beside the solar god, Re-Horakhti. He continued that the mission also found a statue of the god of wisdom, Thoth, carved in the likeness of a monkey.

Mr. Abdel Ghaffar, head of the mission said that the newly discovered statue of Amenhotep III is 130 cm tall and 95 cm wide. Excavations are now focusing on unearthing the rest of the statue.



Archaeologists on Crete find skeleton covered with gold foil in 2,700-year-old grave

By Nicholas Paphitis (CP)

ATHENS, Greece


Greek archaeologists have found an ancient skeleton covered with gold foil in a grave on the island of Crete, officials said Tuesday.

Excavator Nicholas Stampolidis said his team discovered more than 3,000 pieces of gold foil in the 7th-century B.C. twin grave near the ancient town of Eleutherna.

Cemeteries there have produced a wealth of outstanding artifacts in recent years.

The tiny gold ornaments, from 1 to 4 centimetres (0.4 to 1.5 inches) long, had been sewn onto a lavish robe or shroud that initially wrapped the body of a woman and has almost completely rotted away but for a few off-white threads.

"The whole length of the (grave) was covered with small pieces of gold foil — square, circular and lozenge-shaped," Stampolidis told The Associated Press. "We were literally digging up gold interspersed with earth, not earth with some gold in it."

The woman, who presumably had a high social or religious status, was buried with a second skeleton in a large jar sealed with a stone slab weighing more than half a ton. It was hidden behind a false wall, to confuse grave robbers.

Experts are trying to determine the other skeleton's sex.

The grave also contained a copper bowl; pottery; perfume bottles imported from Egypt or Syria and Palestine; hundreds of amber, rock crystal and faience beads; as well as a gold pendant in the form of a bee goddess that probably was part of a rock crystal and gold necklace.

"If you look at it one way up, it's shaped like a lily," said Stampolidis, a professor of archaeology at the University of Crete who has worked at Eleutherna for the 25 years. "Turned upside down, you see a female figure holding her breasts, whose lower body is shaped as a bee with wings. The workmanship is exquisite."

The ruins of Eleutherna stand on the northern foothills of Mount Ida — the mythical birthplace of Zeus, chief of the ancient Greek gods. Past excavations have discovered a citadel, homes and an important cemetery with lavish female burials.

The town flourished from the 9th century B.C. — the dark ages of Greek archaeology that followed the fall of Crete's great Minoan palatial culture — and endured until the Middle Ages.

Copyright © 2010 The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



Mapping Ancient Germania - Berlin Researchers Crack The Ptolemy Code

2010-10-01 16:13:16 (3 days ago)

Posted By: Intellpuke


A 2nd century map of Germania by the scholar Ptolemy has always stumped scholars, who were unable to relate the places depicted to known settlements. Now a team of researchers have cracked the code, revealing that half of Germany's cities are 1,000 years older than previously thought.


The founding of Rome has been pinpointed to the year 753. For the city of St. Petersburg, records even indicate the precise day the first foundation stone was laid.


Historians don't have access to this kind of precision when it comes to German cities like Hanover, Kiel or Bad Driburg. The early histories of nearly all the German cities east of the Rhine are obscure, and the places themselves are not mentioned in documents until the Middle Ages. So far, no one has been able to date the founding of these cities.


Our ancestors' lack of education is to blame for this dearth of knowledge. Germanic tribes certainly didn't run land survey offices - they couldn't even write. Inhabitants this side of the Rhine - the side the Romans never managed to occupy permanently - used only a clumsy system of runes.


According to the Roman historian Tacitus, people here lived in thatched huts and dugout houses, subsisting on barley soup and indulging excessively in dice games. Not much more is known, as there are next to no written records of life within the barbarians' lands.


That may now be changing. A group of classical philologists, mathematical historians and surveying experts at Berlin Technical University's Department for Geodesy and Geoinformation Science has produced an astonishing map of central Europe as it was 2,000 years ago.


The map shows that both the North and Baltic Seas were known as the "Germanic Ocean" and the Franconian Forest in northern Bavaria was "Sudeti Montes." The map indicates three "Saxons' islands" off the Frisian coast in northwestern Germany - known today as Amrum, Fohr and Sylt.


It also shows a large number of cities. The eastern German city that is now called Jena, for example, was called "Bicurgium," while Essen was "Navalia." Even the town of Furstenwalde in eastern Germany appears to have existed 2,000 years ago. Its name then was "Susudata," a word derived from the Germanic term "susutin," or "sow's wallow" - suggesting that the city's skyline was perhaps less than imposing.


This unusual map draws on information from the mathematician and astronomer Ptolemy, who, in 150 A.D., embarked on a project to depict the entire known world. Living in Alexandria, in the shadow of its monumental lighthouse, the ancient scholar drew 26 maps in colored ink on dried animal skins - a Google Earth of the ancient world, if you will.


One of these drawings depicts "Germania Magna," the rainy realm inhabited, according to Roman sources, by rough barbarians whose reproductive drive, they said, was giving rise to an alarming number of tribes.


Ptolemy demonstrated extensive knowledge of this remote area, indicating the locations of mountains, rivers and islands. An index lists 94 "poleis," or cities, noting their latitude and longitude accurately to within a few minutes.


The map shows settlements as far afield as the Vistula River in present-day Poland, where Burgundians, Goths and Vandals once lived, and mentions the Saxons for the first time. It appears Ptolemy was even familiar with the Swina River, which flows from the Szczecin Lagoon into the Baltic Sea, near the present day German-Polish border.


It seems surprising that an academic living along the Nile had such detailed knowledge of northern Europe - and it's certain that Ptolemy never took his own measurements in the Germanic lands. Instead, researchers believe he drew on Roman traders' travel itineraries, analyzed seafarers' notes and consulted maps used by Roman legions operating to the north.


Yet the data the ancient geographer used is distorted. Errors of scale crept in as he transcribed the Earth's sphere to the flat plane of a map. Ptolemy believed the northern lands to be narrower and more elongated than they are and bent Jutland in Denmark and Schleswig-Holstein in Germany too far to the east.


Ptolemy also failed to accurately connect the different parts of his map. Mistakes worked their way in despite his attempts to locate calibration points to tie together his patchwork of geographical information. The inevitable result was confusion.


Linguists and historians have tried repeatedly to decode the yellowed document - in vain. Among researchers, it came to be known as an "enchanted castle," a mystery no one could crack. Access to Germany's prehistory was believed closed off forever.


Now the ancient map appears to be revealing its secrets at last. For the first time, a high-caliber team of experts in the field of surveying and mapping came together in a bid to solve the map's perplexing puzzle. The Berlin-based team pored over the recalcitrant data for six years, working together to develop a so-called "geodetic deformation analysis" that would help to correct the map's mistakes.


The result is an index that pinpoints the hometowns of the legendary figures Siegfried and Arminius to within 10 to 20 kilometers (6 to 12 miles). A new book, "Germania und die Insel Thule" ("Germania and the Island of Thule"), has just been published about the project. The publisher, Darmstadt-based WBG, calls it a "sensation."


The essential question is whether the new data is accurate. Ptolemy's "Geography" is preserved only in duplication. The copy so far considered the most authentic is an edition produced around the year 1300 and kept by the Vatican.


But the team of experts in Berlin had the great fortune to be able to refer to a parchment tracked down at Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, Turkey, the former residence of the Ottoman sultans. The document, consisting of unbound sheepskin pages with writing in Roman capital letters, is the oldest edition of Ptolemy's work ever discovered. A reproduction of this version is due to be published next year.


Using the parchment as a reference and drawing on their own geographical expertise, the academics from Berlin seem to have finally managed to bridge the gap back to the realm of Odin and Valhalla.


The new map suggests that minor German towns such as Salzkotten or Lalendorf have existed for at least 2,000 years. "Treva," located at the confluence of the Elbe and Alster Rivers, was the precursor to Hamburg; Leipzig was known as "Aregelia."

All this offers up rather exciting prospects, since it makes half the cities in Germany suddenly 1,000 years older than previously believed. "Our atlas is a treasure map," team member Andreas Kleineberg says proudly, "and the coordinates lead to lost places in our past."


Archaeological interest in the map will likely be correspondingly large. Archaeologists' opinions on the Germanic tribes have varied over the years. In the 19th century, Germany's early inhabitants were considered brave, wild-bearded savages. The Nazis then transformed them into great heroes, and in the process of coming to terms with its Nazi past, postwar Germany quickly demoted the early Germanic peoples to proto-fascist hicks. The Romans, it was said, had to put up a border wall between themselves and the nuisance Germans before they could finally get some peace.


More recent research proves this view to be complete invention. New excavations show that the Germanic groups were anything but isolated - quite the contrary. Veritable hordes of Roman traders crossed the border to deal in amber, pomade, smoked fish and leather with their neighbors. Caesar mentioned that his people traded with the "Sueben," the Swabians of southwestern Germany. As far back as the first century A.D., a Roman knight traveled from Carnuntum, a legion camp near Vienna, to the Baltic Sea coast to trade in amber.


Roman diplomats were also eager to intervene in their neighbors' affairs, bribing tribal princes, organizing assassinations and supporting their favorites all the way to the throne. Excavations in the state of Lower Saxony in August 2008 even uncovered a battlefield containing the remains of 3rd century weapons. Closer inspection revealed that a Roman legion equipped with catapults had advanced as far as the Harz region in central Germany in a lightning campaign probably intended to punish insubordinate tribes.


These soldiers didn't have to struggle through wastelands and swamps to get there. "We were able to locate 11 settlements along the highway that started at Moers on the Rhine and reached as far as the Sambia peninsula in present day Kaliningrad," Kleineberg explains.


Most Germanic sites appear to have been situated along rivers and at road junctions, indicated by the word "furd" included in many place names. "Lupfurdum," the predecessor to Dresden, for example, was located at a shallow, fordable spot along the Elbe River. Hanover, then "Tulifurdum," was a place where the Leine River could be crossed.


Researchers believe Ptolemy's map now allows them to trace the path followed by amber traders from the Vienna area up to Gdansk Bay as well.


It was primarily surveyors with the Roman army, which appears to have advanced as far as the Vistula River, who collected information on the barbarians' lands. Dieter Lelgemann, a geodesist in Berlin, is firmly convinced that "Ptolemy was drawing on work done by military engineers."


The ancient astronomer indicated cities' exact locations down to minutes of degrees. These coordinates, once decoded, indeed often turn out to line up precisely with sites where archaeologists have previously found Gothic or Teutonic houses and grand burial tombs erected for tribal princes.


The evidence suggests that the researchers in Berlin have truly cracked the code. The group appears, for example, to have accurately located three particularly important Germanic sites, known to Ptolemy as "Eburodunum," "Amisia" and "Luppia." The new calculations put these sites at the present day cities of Brno, Fritzlar und Bernburg (Saale), all places already possessing unusually distinguished recorded histories:


-- Waldau, now a part of Bernburg in eastern Germany, was mentioned in a monastic chronicle for the first time in 806, at which point the town was also a military center.


-- Brno in the Czech Republic has offered up a wealth of splendid Germanic archaeological finds and was likely a stop along the amber trading route.


-- Legend has it that Fritzlar in central Germany is the site where the missionary St. Boniface felled the Donar Oak, a sacred symbol to the Germanic Chatti tribe, in 723.


The next question is what these metropolises of early northern Europe looked like. Old maps mark them with massive defensive towers, but this makes little sense, since the Germanic tribes didn't have stone structures, only wood and clay mortar.


But this doesn't mean the villages this side of the Alps were unimpressive. On this point too, experts are adjusting their views. A town on the Elbe River called Hitzacker, for example, has yielded up astonishing archaeological finds over the years, such as magnificent tombs filled with silver dishes. This year, archaeologists added houses, a large farmstead and iron-working ovens to their finds here. The area under investigation extends across more than 10 hectares (25 acres).


This settlement too can be found in the new atlas. In Ptolemy's day, it was called "Leufana," a center of the Germanic Lombards.


Intellpuke: You can read this article by Spiegel journalist Mathias Schulz, reporting from Berlin, Germany, in context here: www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/0,1518,720513,00.html



Angers' Mithraeum: Sanctuary dedicated to Persian god Mithras discovered in France

Submitted by Ann on Tue, 09/28/2010 - 18:32


Archaeologists excavating a 9,000 square metre area at Angers, in the Loire District, France, have discovered the remains of the first mithraeum – a sanctuary dedicated to the Indo-Iranian god Mithras – in the west of France.


The cave sanctuary, a rectangular building, is dated to the third century AD.


The small, vaulted chapel in which worshippers hosted banquets and sacrifices dedicated to the god, is decorated with a starry sky.


The excavations revealed drums of columns – perhaps statue bases, but possibly altars. A sort of vestibule allowed worshippers to don their ceremonial robes before entering the sanctuary.


It is believed the cult of Mithras was first introduced to the Roman Empire by soldiers coming from the East, somewhere at the end of the first century AD. Mithraism, a religion exclusive to men, first became popular with the elite, but quickly spread through all layers of society. Later it became known as a soldier's cult.  Shrines dedicated to Mithras are most often found at the borders of the Roman Empire, where large amounts of troops were stationed.


Mithraism an individual religion, not a state cult, but it did not conflict with the Imperial Cult ('worship the Emperor'). Only later, when Mithraism became a competitor of early Christianity – and despite, or maybe because – certain similarities between both cults, the pagan religion was fiercely opposed. In 392 the cult was banned by Emperor Theodosius.


Mithraism was an initiation cult, its secrets passed through oral tradition. Today, the only written testimonies about the mysterious cult scholars have were written by early Christian authors, who concieved Mithras as the devil's representation on earth. This limited perception of the historical sources, makes the archaeological record relating to the cult all the more valuable.


At the sanctuary, a typical bas-relief of the god Mithras wearing his Phrygian cap shows him slaughtering a bull – the so-called tauroctony. The god's face was damaged in ancient times, possibly by early Christians trying to suppress the pagan cult.


The excavations further revealed scenes displaying dadophoroi (torch bearers), and miles (spearmen). Marble lion paws, as well as a pieces of a dog statue were unearthed from the cave, but are heavily fragmented. Likely these too were intentionally destroyed. Evidence of a fire was found, but it can not be confirmed if the fire was set on purpose, aimed at destroying the pagan sanctuary.


Among the finds in and around the Temple of Mithras is a unique zoomorph vase, probably used in purification rituals. Further artefacts discovered at the site include oil lamps, fragments of a lamp containing Nubian terracotta figures, a bronze 4th century crucifix fibula and about 200 coins.


Large quantities of cockerel bones (a favoured dish at the cultic banquets) were found spread inside and around the ancient temple.


A ceramic beaker – offered by a certain Genialis, in the first half of the 3rd century – reads:




“To the unconquered god Mithras, Genialis, citizen of …, offers in ex voto (this vase).”


A cartouche containing four lines in Greek was found on a piece of carved limestone decorated with palm leaves. It was partially deciphered, and indicates a dedication was made by a man named Theophilos (of Eastern origin) for the benefit of Retituitos (a name of Gallic consonance).


At the ancient settlement the INRAP archaeologists also unearthed the remains of two major urban roads; the cardo (north-south oriented street) and decumanus (east-west oriented) axes. The earliest evidence of occupation found so far is dated to the beginning of Emperor Augustus' reign, around 10 BC.


At the end of the first century, one or two domus (Roman villas), complete with hypocaust (floor heating) were constructed on the site.


Angers in Roman times was a fairly small oppidum, a fortified settlement – probably no bigger than 80 hectares at its height – with some 3,000 inhabitants. Its name, Juliomagus, means 'the market of Julius Caesar'.


The ancient city had its own amphitheatre, accommodating about 6,000 spectators, and Roman baths. In the fifth century AD, Angers became known as 'civitas Andecavorum' or 'Andecavis', after its Gaul inhabitants.


Mithraic temples are common in the Roman Empire; although very unevenly distributed, with considerable numbers found in Rome, Ostia, Numidia, Dalmatia, Britain (Londinium and Carrawburgh) and along the Rhine & Danube frontiers; while being much less common in Greece, Egypt, and Syria.