King Tut’s tomb may contain two hidden chambers, experts say

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King Tutankhamun’s tomb may contain two hidden chambers, archaeologists say, further fueling speculation that they could lead to Nefertiti’s tomb.

Egypt’s antiquities minister confirmed Monday that experts found evidence indicating the existence of two previously undiscovered rooms, National Geographic reports, citing Egyptian state media. The findings suggest that the western and northern walls of the burial chamber could hide two burial chambers, according to Antiquities Minister Mamdouh Eldamaty.

Related: Is this the face of Tutankhamun?

There is speculation that one of the hidden burial chambers could contain Nefertiti’s tomb. Archaeologist Nicholas Reeves, who participated in the study of King Tut’s tomb, wrote an article earlier this year in which he claimed that Tutankhamun’s tomb contains two hidden doorways.  The “ghosts” of the hitherto unrecognized doorways could lead to an unexplored western storage chamber and Nefertiti’s final resting place behind the chamber’s northern wall, he said.

Reeves argues that Tut, who died suddenly at the age of 19, may have been rushed into an outer chamber of Nefertiti’s original tomb. Earlier this year the archaeologist told the Times of London that he discovered the bricked-up doorways after examining digital scans of the walls of Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings, across the Nile River from Luxor in southern Egypt.

National Geographic reports that, until Monday, Reeves’ theory had not been supported by a physical examination of the tomb. The archaeologist cited a line on the ceiling of tomb as evidence that it had once been a corridor and also noted a marked contrast in the different materials used in the same wall. Reeves hopes that further examination of the tomb wall will be conducted using radar equipment and thermal imaging. The scope of future investigations will very much depend on Egypt’s Antiquities Ministry – one of the proposed doorways is covered by a priceless wall painting, according to National Geographic.

More on this…

  • Company for King Tut? Scientists suspect secret rooms

Related: Egypt invites expert behind new theory on Nefertiti’s tomb

Some archaeologists, however, believe the mummy of Nefertiti, fabled for her beauty, has already been found in a different tomb.

Nefertiti, who bore the titles “Lady of All Women” and “Mistress of Upper and Lower Egpyt” during her lifetime, ruled as the chief consort of the pharaoh Tutankhamun’s father Akhenaten in the late 14th century B.C.. She is believed to have died in around 1330 B.C., approximately seven years before the estimated date of Tutankhamun’s death.

Last year a BBC documentary attempted to shed light on the life and death of King Tutankhamun, using state-of-the-art technology to perform a ‘virtual autopsy’ on his 3,000-year old remains. By using 2,000 Computerized Tomography (CT) scans of the pharaoh’s mummified body, scientists have created a full size computer-generated image of Tutankhamun. The virtual autopsy reveals that the boy king suffered from a genetic bone wasting disease and a club foot, making him unable to walk unaided. The research challenged the theory that Tutankhamun died in a chariot crash.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Famous shipwreck isn’t done revealing its secrets

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In this undated photo provided by Argo via the Greek Culture Ministry, a diver with a metal detector holds a copper ship’s fitting next to a vase at the site of the Antikythera wreck off the island of Antikythera in southern Greece. (AP/ARGO via Greek Culture Ministry)

A shipwreck that gave the world the deeply mysterious Antikythera mechanism is still yielding treasures—and teaching researchers about the lifestyles of the Greek and ancient.

The latest finds at the ancient wreck dubbed the “Titanic of the ancient world” include a bone flute, a bronze armrest that may have come from a throne, glassware, fine ceramics, and a piece from an ancient board game. “This shipwreck is far from exhausted,” a marine archaeologist with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution says in a press release. “Every single dive on it delivers fabulous finds, and reveals how the ‘1%’ lived in the time of Caesar.”

The wreck, which dates from around 65BC, was found by sponge divers off a Greek island in 1900 and Woods Hole says it is carrying out the first systematic excavation of the site, using information gathered by a robotic submersible last year, UPI reports. In fact, it’s one of the biggest underwater archaeological projects in the world, notes New Scientist.

The institute says that over the last month, good weather helped teams make more than 60 dives to the wreck’s large debris field.

“We were very lucky this year, as we excavated many finds within their context, which gave us the opportunity to take full advantage of all the archaeological information they could provide,” an institute archaeologist says. One key, as New Scientist explains, is that divers have discovered they need to dig deeper into the ocean floor.

One of the last searches of the year using this technique yielded a wine jug, small bronze pieces, and possibly part of a cooking pot. But researchers say they think far more significant finds await when next year’s expedition begins. “There’s obviously stuff down there,” says one. “We just weren’t digging deep enough before.” (A maintenance crew uncovered an 18th-century shipwreck under a Maryland bridge.)

Famous shipwreck isn’t done revealing its secrets

shipwreck-internal-092715.jpg

In this undated photo provided by Argo via the Greek Culture Ministry, a diver with a metal detector holds a copper ship’s fitting next to a vase at the site of the Antikythera wreck off the island of Antikythera in southern Greece. (AP/ARGO via Greek Culture Ministry)

A shipwreck that gave the world the deeply mysterious Antikythera mechanism is still yielding treasures—and teaching researchers about the lifestyles of the Greek and ancient.

The latest finds at the ancient wreck dubbed the “Titanic of the ancient world” include a bone flute, a bronze armrest that may have come from a throne, glassware, fine ceramics, and a piece from an ancient board game. “This shipwreck is far from exhausted,” a marine archaeologist with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution says in a press release. “Every single dive on it delivers fabulous finds, and reveals how the ‘1%’ lived in the time of Caesar.”

The wreck, which dates from around 65BC, was found by sponge divers off a Greek island in 1900 and Woods Hole says it is carrying out the first systematic excavation of the site, using information gathered by a robotic submersible last year, UPI reports. In fact, it’s one of the biggest underwater archaeological projects in the world, notes New Scientist.

The institute says that over the last month, good weather helped teams make more than 60 dives to the wreck’s large debris field.

“We were very lucky this year, as we excavated many finds within their context, which gave us the opportunity to take full advantage of all the archaeological information they could provide,” an institute archaeologist says. One key, as New Scientist explains, is that divers have discovered they need to dig deeper into the ocean floor.

One of the last searches of the year using this technique yielded a wine jug, small bronze pieces, and possibly part of a cooking pot. But researchers say they think far more significant finds await when next year’s expedition begins. “There’s obviously stuff down there,” says one. “We just weren’t digging deep enough before.” (A maintenance crew uncovered an 18th-century shipwreck under a Maryland bridge.)

This article originally appeared on Newser: Famous Wreck Isn’t Done Revealing Its Secrets.

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Grisly discovery: 9,000-year-old decapitated skull covered in amputated hands

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The archaeologists spent several field seasons at Lapa do Santo, excavating the burials. (André Strauss)

Under limestone slabs in a cave in Brazil, scientists made a ghoulish new discovery: a decapitated skull covered in amputated hands.

These 9,000-year-old bones may be evidence of the oldest known case of ritual beheading in the New World, raising new questions as to how this grisly practice began in the Americas, the researchers said in a new study.

Decapitation was likely common in the New World, according to the scientists. For example, in South America, heads of defeated enemies were often used as war trophies — the Arara people in the Brazilian Amazon used skulls of defeated enemies as musical instruments, the Inca turned skulls into drinking jars, and the Jivaro people of Ecuador shrunk heads to imprison the souls of foes. The Uru-Uru Chipaya people in Bolivia also once employed skulls in modified Christian rituals, and the Chimú culture in Peru incorporated decapitation as a standard procedure in human sacrifices. [See photos of the 9,000-year-old decapitated skull and other remains]

“Few Amerindian habits impressed the European colonizers more than the taking and displaying of human body parts, especially when decapitation was involved,” said study lead author André Strauss, an archaeologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany.

Until now, the oldest reported instance of ritual beheading in South America took place 3,000 years ago in Peru, and the oldest known case in North America happened about 6,000 to 8,000 years ago in Florida.

Now, scientists have discovered a case of ritual decapitation in Brazil that dates back about 9,000 years.

“This is the oldest case of decapitation found in the New World,” Strauss told Live Science.

The scientists investigated an environmentally protected tropical region in east-central Brazil known as Lagoa Santa, which means “Holy Lake” in Portuguese. The area, which is covered in savanna-type vegetation as well as forests, was explored heavily in the 19th century by researchers looking for evidence of interactions between prehistoric humans and giant animals, such as saber-toothed cats and ground sloths.

The scientists focused on a site called Lapa do Santo, or “saint’s rock shelter.” It was here that the researchers previously found the oldest evidence of rock art in South America, which included pictures of penises, engraved on the bedrock there, that are about 9,400 years old.

Excavations at Lapa do Santo revealed signs of human occupation dating back about 12,000 years. Stone tools and animal bones found at the shelter suggest the prehistoric groups that lived there subsisted on plants they gathered and small and midsize animals they hunted.

In 2007, the researchers discovered 9,000-year-old fragments of human remains at Lapa do Santo, including a skull, jaw, the first six vertebrae of the neck and two severed hands. The bones were buried about 22 inches below the surface, under limestone slabs, which suggests they were part of a deliberate ritual entombment, the researchers said.

The amputated hands were laid palm-side down over the face of the skull, with the left hand pointing upward and covering the right side of the face, while the right hand pointed downward and covered the left side of the face. Until now, only relatively simple burials had been uncovered in Lagoa Santa, Strauss said.

In addition, the disembodied heads found in South America were typically discovered in the Andes mountain range, suggesting that decapitation began as an Andean practice. This new finding suggests that ritual beheading may have started elsewhere, the researchers said.

It remains unclear why this ritual decapitation at Lapa do Santo took place. The chemical nature and physical features of the bones suggest they came from a member of the group that lived there, the researchers said, meaning the body likely was not a war trophy of an outsider. Instead, the people at this site may have used these remains to express their ideas regarding death and the universe, Strauss said.

In the future, the researchers hope to extract and analyze DNA from the remains, to learn more about the person the bones belonged to. The scientists detailed their findings online today (Sept. 23) in the journal PLOS ONE.

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Witchcraft’ island reveals evidence of Stone Age rituals

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Archaeologists work on the island off Sweden where they discovered evidence of Stone Age rituals. The island has long been linked with tales of witchcraft, supernatural powers and curses. (Kenneth Alexandersson)

A Stone Age site where cave rituals may have been performed some 9,000 years ago has been discovered on Blå Jungfrun, an island off the east coast of Sweden. The island has long been associated with tales of witchcraft, curses and supernatural powers.

Blå Jungfrun’s “huge boulders and steep cliffs provide a dramatic landscape, and for centuries the uninhabited island has been associated with supernatural powers,” wrote a team of archaeologists in the summary of a presentation given recently at the European Association of Archaeologists annual meeting in Glasgow, Scotland.

According to a centuries-old legend, witches gather every Easter on the island toworship the devil himself. Curses have also been associated with the island. For instance, those who remove a rock from the site are said to endure a lifetime of bad luck. [See Images of the Stone Age Site on this ‘Supernatural’ Island]

How far back these beliefs and stories go is unknown. “The time depth of these stories is shrouded in mist but could be considerable,” the archaeologists say.

The team began archaeological fieldwork on the island in the spring of 2014. “The results are astonishing and reveal extensive human activities on the island in the Mesolithic Stone Age,” the archaeologists wrote.

People who travelled to the island may have practiced various rituals inside the two caves, archaeologists say. One cave contains what may be an altar where offerings could have been made to deities. Meanwhile another cave has an area that could have been used like a “theater” or “stage.”

“In two caves, distinct ritual features were identified,” wrote the team members, who hail from Kalmar County Museum and Linnaeus University, both in Sweden.

Stone Age rituals? 

One cave has a massive hollow, about 2.3 feet in diameter, which was hammered into a vertical wall. A fireplace lies underneath the hollow. “We believe the hollow is man-made and that the fireplace has been used in connection to hammering out the hollow, probably [on] several occasions,” said Ludvig Papmehl-Dufay, an archaeologist with Kalmar County Museum.

Archaeologists said they are not certain what took place here; however, one clue comes from the cave’s layout.

“The entrance to the cave is very narrow, and you have to squeeze your way in. [However,] once you’re inside, only half of the cave is covered and you can actually stand above the cave and look down into it, almost like a theater or a stage below,” said Papmehl-Dufay. [See Photos of the Cave of the Underworld]

The “act of producing the hollow could have been the important part [of the ritual], perhaps even the sound created while doing so,” he said. The noise from the hammering and the sight of the fire burning, as viewed from above, may have created an interesting effect for Stone Age audiences, the researchers said.

The second cave yielded yet more strange clues. Archaeologists found a hammerstone and an area that was used for grinding up material. This area “could have been used to place something in, perhaps as part of some form of offering, like an altar,” Papmehl-Dufay said.

In between the two caves, the archaeologists discovered a small rock shelter, just 20 by 26 feet, that contained stone tools and seal remains. Radiocarbon dating indicates people consumed the seals around 9,000 years ago.

“A few people could have been sitting or standing, perhaps just resting or spending the night during sporadic stays on the island,” Papmehl-Dufay said. “However, more-specific activities with ritual elements to [them] cannot be ruled out, such as feasting in connection to the rituals performed in the nearby caves.”

More to discover

Work on the island is continuing as archaeologists try to unravel the secrets of the site’s past. The scientists are currently investigating a layer of material, below one of the caves, that contains quartz that may have been used to help make tools.

Exploring the site has been quite an experience, Papmehl-Dufay said. The uninhabited island is now a national park, and though members of the public are allowed to visit the island during the day, they must stick to certain paths. Any visitors (the archaeologists excepted) must leave before nightfall. There is no water or electricity on the island, so all people traveling to the site must bring all the provisions they need.

“Hopefully, we’ll be able to do some more fieldwork on the island the coming spring,” Papmehl-Dufay said.

 

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Archaeologists have made an ‘exceptional’ find in Pompeii

Archaeologists have made an 'exceptional' find in Pompeii

In this May 14, 2014 photo, the sun shines on ruined walls in Pompeii, near modern-day Naples, Italy. (AP Photo/Michelle Locke)

The ancient city of Pompeii holds many treasures, but the most recent find hails to a time long before the city was destroyed. French archaeologists unexpectedly discovered an undisturbed pre-Roman tomb that dates to fourth century BC.

The remains of an adult woman were inside, along with clay jars called amphoras, the Local reports. Was what once held in those jars, which the AFPreports are in “perfect condition,” will be determined in the coming weeks, with the expectation being things like food, wine, and cosmetics.

“The burial objects will show us much about the role of women in Samnite society”—a people who fought the Roman Republic for control of Italy—says Pompeii Archaeological Superintendent Massimo Osanna.

Osanna calls the find an “exceptional” one as it harks back to a period “about which we know so little.” The tomb’s contents survived the Romans, Mount Vesuvius (which wiped out Pompeii in 79 AD), and WWII shelling.

“It’s a miracle that this has survived,” says Osanna. And there’s the chance something else survived near it. The area around the newly discovered tomb will also be explored because “tombs are not normally found alone,” says Osanna. AFP notes that thousands of archaeologists and related experts are contributing to Pompeii’s excavation and restoration. (An “underwater Pompeii” was recently discovered off of Greece.)

This article originally appeared on Newser: ‘Exceptional’ Pompeii Find Predates City’s Destruction

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Israeli archaeologists may have found tomb of Jewish Maccabees

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Sept. 21, 2015: A worker for the Israel Antiquities Authority walks at an archaeological site at Ben Shemen Forest near the Israeli city of Modiin. Israeli archaeologists may be one step closer to solving a riddle that has vexed explorers for more than a century: the location of the fabled tomb of the biblical Maccabees. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)

Israeli archaeologists may be one step closer to solving a riddle that has vexed explorers for more than a century: the location of the fabled tomb of the biblical Maccabees.

Israel’s government Antiquities Authority said Monday that an ancient structure it began excavating this month on the side of a highway appears to match ancient descriptions of the tomb of Jewish rebels who wrested control of Judea from Seleucid rule and established a Jewish kingdom in the 2nd century B.C.

Scholars in Israel’s quarrelsome archaeological community tend to agree that the site, in an Israeli forest west of Jerusalem and a short walk from the West Bank, is a significant burial site but reserve judgment about its connection to the Maccabees. Now the Antiquities Authority, which sometimes relies on private funding to help finance digs, is soliciting donations so it can keep searching for evidence.

“We still don’t have the smoking gun,” said Amit Reem, a government archaeologist who helped lead the dig.

The Maccabees are considered heroes in both Judaism and Christianity. The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah commemorates Mattathias and his five sons who revolted against Hellenic rulers who banned Jewish practices, and rededicated the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. The biblical Books of the Maccabees, which include a tale of Jewish martyrs dying for their faith, are a source of inspiration in some Christian traditions.

In the late 1880s, a succession of European explorers went searching for the tomb. They were drawn to a barren area near the West Bank village of Midya, a name that resembles Modiin, the ancient town where the biblical account says the Maccabee family was buried.

Arab villagers pointed one European explorer toward a hilltop dotted with rock-hewn graves known by locals as “the graves of the Jews.” Archaeologists today say these cannot be the graves of the Maccabees, but Israeli road signs still label them as such and Hanukkah ceremonies are held there to honor the ancient rebels.

Another 19th-century explorer was drawn to a nearby Arab tomb, where he announced that he found the remains of Mattathias. Archaeologists say the small domed structure has no connection to the elder Maccabee, but a modern tombstone engraved in Hebrew marks it as his burial site. Today, candles and Jewish prayer pamphlets are strewn about.

“It was more wishful thinking than hardcore archaeological evidence,” Reem said about the European explorers’ discoveries.

It is a third spot, just a few paces away from the domed structure, that captures Israeli archaeologists’ imaginations. French scholar Charles Clermont-Ganneau first excavated it in the late 1800s and found a mosaic floor featuring a Byzantine Christian cross. The site was then abandoned. This month, Israeli archaeologists and volunteers cleared away rubble and exposed the simple mosaic cross for the first time in more than 100 years.

Reem said the cross is a clue. It appears on the floor of a burial niche at the site. It is the only Byzantine-era site where a cross decorates the floor of a burial vault, he said, indicating that it may have marked the spot of an important figure. He thinks it is likely that the Byzantines — early Christians — identified this site as the Maccabees’ tomb.

“What other important figures would be here?” Reem said, standing in the deep pit of the archaeological site.

Oren Tal, an archaeologist at Tel Aviv University who was not involved with the dig, said the mosaic cross is not necessarily a significant clue. He said the burial niche may have been converted into a Byzantine chapel, where a cross would have been standard.

But he agreed with Reem about other characteristics that correspond to the biblical account and to an account by ancient historian Josephus Flavius. Both describe the Tomb of the Maccabees as a tall structure that could be seen from the Mediterranean Sea, featuring columns and seven pyramids.

Reem says four thick column bases found at the site may be indications that the structure was once 5 meters (over 15 feet) tall, and large rock slabs Clermont-Ganneau said he found — which have since gone missing from the site — could have been the bases of pyramid decorations. Before a forest was planted in the area, it had a direct line of sight to the sea.

Reem said he cannot yet date the site to earlier than the 5th century A.D. He wants to excavate more, to look for an inscription or architectural elements that could associate the structure with the time of the Maccabees.

For the past decade, he said, finding the tomb has been his personal holy grail.

“It (is) crucial for everybody … to solve once and for all this riddle,” he said.

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Board game pieces found in settlement built on Roman military fort

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Dice design has changed very little since Roman times. Researchers found a gaming piece and die during excavations of the Roman settlement. (Thomas Maurer)

The remnants of ancient water wells, pearls and hairpins are proof that a group of villagers set up a settlement on top of a military fort in ancient Roman times.

About 1,900 years ago, a group of Roman soldiers lived in a fort in what is now Gernsheim, a German town located on the Rhine River about 31 miles south of Frankfurt. Shortly after the soldiers left the fort in about A.D. 120, another group of people moved in and built a village literally on top of the settlement, researchers found.

Archaeologists have known about the site itself since the 1800s, but the new finding sheds light on its inhabitants and what they did for fun. (An ancient die and game piece were among the discoveries.) [See Photos of the Dice and Artifacts Found in the Roman Village]

“We now know that from the first to the third century, an important villagelike settlement, or ‘vicus,’ must have existed here,” dig leader Thomas Maurer, an archaeologist at the University of Frankfurt, said in a statement.

After excavating the fort last year, the researchers returned this summer to look for evidence of the Roman settlement. Their efforts paid off: They found relics of the village, part of it built on the foundations of the fort.

Excavation efforts, which began Aug. 3 and will last until early October, have already uncovered handfuls of artifacts. Researchers have found the well-preserved foundation of a stone building, fire pits, at least two wells and some cellar pits. They’ve also found ceramic shards, which they plan to date to get a better grasp of the village’s active periods.

“We’ve also found real treasures, such as rare garment clasps, several pearls, parts of a board game (dice, playing pieces) and a hairpin made from bone and crowned with a female bust,” Maurer said in the statement.

Who lived there?

Though they built their settlement over part of the fort, the villagers likely knew the soldiers, the researchers said. In fact, the villagers were likely the soldiers’ family members and tradespeople who made a business trading with the military.

“A temporary downturn probably resulted when the troops left — this is something we know from sites which have been studied more thoroughly,” Maurer said. But the little village managed to prosper after the soldiers left, as stone buildings were built in the second century A.D., during the Pax Romana, a 206-year period with relatively few conflicts in the Roman Empire.

The inhabitants likely had Gallic-Germanic origins, but a few “true” Romans — people with Roman citizenship who had moved from distant provinces — lived there as well, the researchers said. They based this idea on several tidbits of evidence, including pieces of traditional dress and coins found there. One coin is from Bithynia, in northwest Anatolia (modern-day Turkey), which may have been a souvenir from someone’s travels, they said.

The fort next door

The Roman fort once housed about 500 soldiers, who lived there between about A.D. 70 and 120, the researchers said. When the soldiers left, they dismantled the fort and filled in the ditches with dirt and everyday bric-a-brac, much to the delight of the archaeologists excavating the site.

It was “a stroke of luck,” said Hans-Markus von Kaenel, a retired professor of archaeology at the Institute for Archaeological Sciences at Goethe University in Frankfurt. More than 50 papers have been published on the findings, which Von Kaenel, his colleagues and students have worked on for almost 20 years. [See Photos of the Roman Fort Discovered in Germany]

Rome made the fort and settlement to expand its infrastructure and help it take possession of large areas east of the Rhine River in about A.D. 70, the researchers said. During that time, the fort and settlement were fairly accessible by roads.

It may have even had a harbor, “and that wasn’t really expected from this particular site.” However, archaeologists have yet to confirm that during thepresent dig, Maurer said.

However, modern-day Gernsheim is a busy town, and its expansion threatens the Roman remains, the researchers said. This year, they are excavating a 717-square-yard area — about the size of two Olympic-size swimming pools.

 

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Hull of Confederate sub, first in history to sink enemy warship, revealed

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    Sept. 17, 2015: The Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley, the first submarine in history to sink an enemy warship, sits in a conservation tank at a lab in North Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)

The hull of the first submarine in history to sink an enemy warship has been cleaned and revealed for the first time in 150 years.

After a year of painstaking work, scientists using small chisels and hand tools have removed encrusted sand, sediment and rust from the outside of the hand-cranked Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley.

Now, the outside appears much as it did when the Hunley and its eight-man crew rammed a spar with a powder charge into the USS Housatonic and sank the Union blockade ship off South Carolina in 1864.

But scientists said Thursday that cleaning the hull didn’t solve the mystery of why the Hunley itself sank with its crew before returning from its mission.

NO SMOKING GUN…

Cleaning the hull showed some dents on both sides of the submarine. But scientists say it’s not clear when the dents occurred. The Hunley sank twice before it went on its 1864 mission, though it also could have been dented at the time of the Housatonic attack or later when the sub sat for decades on the ocean floor off Charleston. “If there was a smoking gun, we would have seen it a long time ago,” said Johanna Rivera-Diaz, a conservator with the Hunley project.

…BUT MORE CLUES

The most significant find from cleaning the hull is an indication that a wooden boom at the front of the Hunley that supported the spar with the powder charge was damaged in the attack. It appeared as if the boom had been pushed back into the sub. That would be consistent with the boom striking a vessel, said Michael Scafuri, an archaeologist with the project.

A LOT OF WORK

The conservation team has laboriously removed about 1,200 pounds of sediment and other gunk from the outside hull of the Hunley, which was built in an attempt to break the Union blockade that was strangling Charleston. That’s roughly the same weight as a grand piano.

THE NEXT STEP

The next step in conserving the submarine, which was discovered in 1995 and brought to a conservation lab in North Charleston 15 years ago, is to remove encrusted sediment from the inside. That process will take another year, said Kellen Correia, president and executive director of Friends of the Hunley. The work will take time because conservators will work in the cramped 4-foot diameter interior of the sub.

INSIDE CLUES?

Scafuri said that cleaning the inside of the Hunley is vital to understanding how it worked and perhaps why it sank. “We have to learn how it functioned and how it was intended to function and then we can take the next step and see if anything went wrong,” he said. “We’re basically looking at the cabin. This is where the guys were and where they were operating.”

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16 pyramids discovered in ancient cemetery

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One of 16 pyramids uncovered in a cemetery in the ancient town of Gematon in Sudan. The pyramid likely rose more than 39 feet in height. (D. A. Welsby; Copyright SARS NDRS Archive)

The remains of 16 pyramids with tombs underneath have been discovered in a cemetery near the ancient town of Gematon in Sudan.

They date back around 2,000 years, to a time when a kingdom called “Kush” flourished in Sudan. Pyramid building was popular among the Kushites. They built them until their kingdom collapsed in the fourth century AD.

Derek Welsby, a curator at the British Museum in London, and his team have been excavating at Gematon since 1998, uncovering the 16 pyramids, among many other finds, in that time. “So far, we’ve excavated six made out of stone and 10 made out of mud brick,” Welsby said.

The largest pyramid found at Gematon was about 35 feet long on each side and would have risen around 43 feet off the ground. [See Photos of 2,000-Year-Old Pyramids Discovered at Another Site in Sudan]

Wealthy and powerful individuals built some of the pyramids, while people of more modest means built the others, Welsby said. “They’re not just the upper-elite burials,” he said.

In fact, not all the tombs in the cemetery have pyramids: Some are buried beneath simple rectangular structures called “mastaba,” whereas others are topped with piles of rocks called “tumuli.” Meanwhile, other tombs have no surviving burial markers at all.

Burial goods

In one tomb, archaeologists discovered an offering table made of tin-bronze. Carved into the tableis a scene showing a prince or priest offering incense and libations to the god Osiris, the ruler of the underworld. Behind Osiris is the goddess Isis, who is also shown pouring libations to Osiris.

Though Osiris and Isis originated in Egypt, they were also venerated in Kush as well as other parts of the ancient world. The offering table “is a royal object,” Welsby said. The person buried with this table “must have been someone very senior in the royal family.”

Most of the tombs had been robbed, to some degree, in ancient or modern times. The only tomb with a pyramid that survived intact held 100 faience beads (faience is a type of ceramic) and the remains of three infants. The fact that the infants were buried without gold treasures may have dissuaded thieves from robbing the tomb, Welsby said.

Kingdom’s end

The Kushite kingdom controlled a vast amount of territory in Sudan between 800 B.C. and the fourth century A.D. There are a number of reasons why the Kushite kingdom collapsed, Welsby said.

One important reason is that the Kushite rulers lost several sources of revenue. A number of trade routes that had kept the Kushite rulers wealthy bypassed the Nile Valley, and instead went through areas that were not part of Kush. As a result, Kush lost out on the economic benefits, and the Kush rulers lost out on revenue opportunities. Additionally, as the economy of the Roman Empire deteriorated, trade between the Kushites and Romans declined, further draining the Kushite rulers of income.

As the Kushite leaders lost wealth, their ability to rule faded. Gematon was abandoned, and pyramid building throughout Sudan ceased.

Wind-blown sands, which had always been a problem for those living at Gematon, covered both the town and its nearby pyramids.

 

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