Saturday, November 22, 2008

Roman style paintings found at suspected site of Herod's tomb

King Herod may have been buried in a crypt with lavish Roman-style wall paintings of a kind previously unseen in the Middle East, Israeli archaeologists said Wednesday. The scientists found such paintings and signs of a regal two-story mausoleum, bolstering their conviction that the ancient Jewish monarch was buried there.

Ehud Netzer, head of Jerusalem's Hebrew University excavation team, which uncovered the site of the king's winter palace in the Judean desert in 2007, said the latest finds show work and funding fit for a king.

"What we found here, spread all around, are architectural fragments that enable us to restore a monument of 25 meters high, 75 feet high, very elegant, which fits Herod's taste and status," he told The Associated Press in an interview at the hillside dig in an Israeli-controlled part of the West Bank, south of Jerusalem.

No human remains or inscriptions have been found to prove conclusively that the tomb was Herod's, but excavation continues.

Herod is known for extensive building throughout the Holy Land.

Netzer said that since finding fragments of one ornately carved sarcophagus in 2007, he and his team have found two more, suggesting the monumental tomb may have been a royal family vault.

Netzer described the winter palace, built on a largely man-made hill 2,230 feet high, as a kind of "country club," with a pool, baths, gardens fed by pools and aqueducts and a 650-seat theater.

In Herod's private box at the auditorium, diggers discovered delicate frescoes depicting windows opening on to painted landscapes, one of which shows what appears to be a southern Italian farm, said Roi Porat, one of Netzer's assistants on the digs. Just visible in the paintings, dating between 15 and 10 B.C., are a dog, bushes and what looks like a country villa.

Site surveyor Rachel Chachy-Laureys said the paintings were executed using techniques unknown in the Holy Land at the time and must have been done by artisans imported from Rome.

"There has been no other discovery of this type of painting in the Middle East, as far as we know, until now", she said.

After Herod's death in the 1st century B.C., Herodium became a stronghold for Jewish rebels fighting Roman occupation, and the palace site suffered significant battle damage before it was destroyed by Roman soldiers in A.D. 71, a year after they razed the Second Temple in Jerusalem.

The insurgents reviled the memory of Herod as a Roman puppet, and Netzer and his team believe that the violence inflicted on the first stone casket they found suggests the rebels knew it held the king's bones.

"That sarcophagus was found shattered all over the place. It seems it was taken from its place and was destroyed in a fit of rage," Porat said. "That, among other things, is what tells us it was the sarcophagus of Herod."

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Roman gravestone found by treasure hunters in Scotland

The Roman Tombstone (Pic: National Museums of Scotland)

The first Roman tombstone found in Scotland for more than 170 years is among the rare artefacts unearthed by treasure hunters this year.

It forms part of Scotland's annual Treasure Trove, items found by archaeologists or enthusiasts which have been handed to the Crown Office.

Other pieces include a 5,000-year-old axe head, a Bronze Age sword and mysterious carved stone balls.

He said: "The most outstanding would have to be the Roman tombstone. The inscription suggests it was someone who had a military career, the equivalent of being in the elite guards."

Roman bodyguard

The red sandstone artefact was for a man called Crescens, a bodyguard for the governor who ran the province of Britain for the Roman Emperor.

It was found by amateur enthusiast Larney Cavanagh at the edge of a field near Inveresk.

The 5,000-year-old farmers axe head was unearthed at Dunragit, Stranraer, but made from stone found in the Lake District.

The Bronze Age sword was found in Lockerbie and the mysterious carved balls were discovered at Pitmilly and Newburgh in Fife.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Roman-era earring unearthed in Jersusalem

JERUSALEM: Archaeologists digging in East Jerusalem unearthed a perfectly-conserved 2,000-year-old gold earring inlaid with pearls and precious stones, the Israel Antiquities Authority said yesterday.
The earring is made of a coiled gold hoop and dates from the Roman period between the first century BC and the fourth century AD. It has a large inlaid pearl in its centre and two identical gold pendants, each of which is adorned with an emerald and pearl.
The rare jewel was uncovered during excavations in the ruins of a building which dates to the Byzantine period that is today located in a Palestinian neighbourhood several hundred metres from Jerusalem’s Old City.

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Saturday, November 08, 2008

Ancient Apulian treasures to be returned to Italy

Ritual Water Jar (loutrophoros) with Perseus Battling the Sea Monster Greek made in Apulia South Italy 340-330 BCE TerracottaSwitzerland is returning 4,400 ancient artifacts stolen from
archaeological sites in Italy, including ceramics, figurines and bronze
daggers dating as far back as 2,000 B.C., prosecutors said Thursday.

[Left - Apulian ceramics, similar to this one depicting Perseus battling a sea monster, are among the grave goods seized in a 2001 raid on a Basel art dealer. Photo by Mary Harrsch]

The transfer will require three tractor-trailers and all but end a seven-year legal battle over the antiquities.

were seized in 2001 in storage rooms belonging to two Basel-based art
dealers after a tip-off from Italy, said Markus Melzl, a spokesman for
city prosecutors. The couple have since lost several court battles to
prevent the antiquities from being returned to Italy, Melzl said.

than half the objects were from the eastern Italian region of Apulia,
an area that was heavily influenced by ancient Greek culture, said
Guido Lassau, a Swiss archaeologist who worked on the case.

include richly decorated vases and so-called kraters, large vessels
that were used for mixing wine with water. The objects were stolen from
upper-class tombs dating from the fifth to third centuries B.C.,
according to Lassau.

One item that looks like a ceramic mask
modeled on a woman's face retains the original water-soluble painting
from about 300 B.C.

"They're very well preserved because they
spent the last 2,000 years in a virtual time capsule until they were
plundered by grave robbers," Lassau told The Associated Press. "But the
tragic thing is that a lot of the archaeological information was lost
when they were removed."

Other items belong to the pre-Etruscan
Villanova culture of northern Italy, and some of the bronze figures
appear to have originated on the island of Sardinia.

The oldest are bronze daggers thought to be about 4,000 years old, said Lassau.

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Friday, November 07, 2008

Excavation of ancient Constantinople yields Neolithic finds

(Left) The Turkish minister of culture and tourism, Ertugrul Gunay, examines the excavation work and archaeological finds at the site of the Marmaray project in Yenikapi, Istanbul. Sinan Gul / Anadolu Ajansi

32 wooden ships, Stone Age skeletons, coins, amphorae and even a basket full of ancient cherries have been uncovered in an area that is thought to have been the first Byzantine port of the ancient city of Constantinople.Dating from the time of the Roman emperor Theodosius I, in the fourth century AD, the finds are an unprecedented glimpse into the ancient trade and maritime life of one of the world’s longest-inhabited cities.

Nautical gear, such as stone anchors with wooden poles and ropes, have been perfectly preserved in the depths of the murky water, while entire merchant vessels from various centuries have been uncovered, some filled with ancient merchandise, such as oil and wine amphorae. Fifteen ships thought to have sunk in a strong storm in 1,000 AD were discovered at the eastern end of the harbour, revealing a high-traffic port that connected the ancient granaries of Alexandria to the vineyards of northern Greece...the geological make-up of the site has allowed objects that would normally disintegrate to be preserved. They include a woman’s shoe with an ancient Greek inscription: “Use it in health, lady, be in beauty and happiness and wear it.”The site also bears relics of continued Byzantine presence after the harbour had been filled in. A Byzantine tannery and charnel house were discovered at the western end of the excavation, as well as human skulls – perhaps those of executed criminals – thrown into a well.

In August, Dr Karamut and his team came across four ancient skeletons buried in graves six metres below sea level. The two adults, aged approximately 35, and two children under two, are thought to have lived during the Neolithic age, around 6,000-6,500 BC. The objects found with them, particularly ceramic pieces, have led Dr Karamut and his colleagues to conclude there was an ancient settlement in Yenikapi whose inhabitants lived on animal grazing and farming. Researchers have also linked the findings to the remains of an ancient settlement in Çatalhöyük, a Neolithic site in southern Anatolia which was excavated in the 1960s. The similarity between the sites suggests that settlers in the Anatolian planes migrated to Istanbul’s shores some 8,000 years ago. - MoreTechnorati Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Sunday, November 02, 2008

6,000 gold Roman coins from age of Diocletian found in Wales

A deposit of almost 6,000 ancient Roman coins was unearthed in a farmer’s field by a metal detecting enthusiast.

A present-day value is yet to be put on the coins, found buried in two pots and compared by one expert to an early single European currency.

The pots’ combined contents of 5,913 copper-alloy coins from the early fourth century were uncovered over two days in April near Sully, in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Most of the coins were minted in London, Trier and Lyon, but some came from more distant imperial outposts in what is now Croatia and Syria.

National Museum Wales numismatist Edward Besly said the Emperor Diocletian reformed the Roman currency around 295AD, although some of the coins belonged to an earlier denomination.

He said: “They are the same standard, same design.

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