Ancient citadel finds new home in apartment building

A photo from above the citadel, taken during the excavation.

A photo from above the citadel, taken during the excavation. (Guy Fitoussi, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority)

A 3,400-year-old citadel near Israel’s Mediterranean coast will soon be part of a modern, high-rise apartment building, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).

Architects are designing a building that will enclose the citadel, which will reside in the basement, said the IAA, which announced the project Thursday at a joint archaeological conference of the Northern Region of the IAA and the University of Haifa in Israel.

Archaeologists uncovered the citadel during a recent excavation in the coastal city of Nahariya in northern Israel. [See Photos of the Citadel Remains and Excavation]

The IAA partnered with youth groups during the excavation, working with students from Shchakim High School in Nahariya. The authority also worked with the Kochav Company, an engineering group, so a residential high-rise with underground parking — and the citadel — could be built on the spot.

“It seems that the citadel which we uncovered was used as an administrative center that served the mariners who sailed along the Mediterranean coast 3,400 years ago,” said Nimrod Getzov, Yair Amitzur and Ron Be’eri, excavation directors on behalf of the IAA.

During the Bronze Age, the citadel likely had a dock, they added.

The excavators, both the high-school students and the professionals, found artifacts in the various rooms of the fortress. These included ceramic figurines that were shaped like humans and animals, and “bronze weapons and imported pottery vessels that attest to the extensive commercial and cultural relations that existed at that time with Cyprus and the rest of the lands in the Mediterranean basin,” the excavation directors said.

Intense fires destroyed the citadel at least four times in the past, but ancient people rebuilt the structure every time, evidence shows.

Researchers also found plenty of cereal, legumes and grape seeds among the burnt layers, suggesting that the citadel held provisions sailors could purchase, the IAA said.

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Dinosaurs’ Last Moments Found—Behind a Lowe’s?

WEIRDLY, THIS QUARRY IS OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 10, 2016 3:16 PM CST

(NEWSER) – Amateur enthusiasts and kids on field trips have been flocking to a New Jersey quarry pit for years to dig up some of its many prehistoric fossils. Incredibly, this pit may also be the only known dinosaur graveyard dating back to their destruction 66 million years ago, the New York Times reports. “It sounds silly, but is it the case that this pit in South Jersey, behind Lowe’s, has the one window into this pivotal moment in time?” asks Kenneth Lacovara, who teaches geology and paleontology at Rowan University. The pit, which was in a shallow sea on the dinosaurs’ last day, happens to contain a host of fossils about 40 feet down—which puts it around the “extinction layer” marked by an element found in comets and asteroids called radioactive iridium.

“We are in the trying-to-poke-holes-in-it phase,” says Lacovara. “Certainly we have rocks that are near that time. I know we’re damned close.” Owned by a water treatment plant for nearly a century, it became unprofitable due to environmental regulations and was slated to become a lake—until Rowan, pressed by Lacovara, bought it for $1.95 million, the Star-Ledger reported in September. Now Lacovara wants even more school trips and fossil days so enthusiasts can search through the muck in Mantua Township, NJ. “We really want to integrate this in the community,” he says. “Kids start to think of science as a process. It’s a way of asking questions about your world.”

 

2 shipwrecks found in some of our ‘most unexplored’ waters

 Image result for 2 shipwrecks found in some of our 'most unexplored' waters

A small anchor; a chain plate, which held rigging used to tighten masts; and an iron knee, which was likely part of the ship's frame. (Credit: NOAA)

A small anchor; a chain plate, which held rigging used to tighten masts; and an iron knee, which was likely part of the ship’s frame. (Credit: NOAA)

The hunt for an abandoned whaling fleet took NOAA archaeologists to what they describe as “one of the planet’s most unexplored ocean regions”: the waters off the Arctic coast of Alaska.

There they say they’ve found two ships that have slumbered in the deep for almost a century and a half. And while the shipwrecks are associated with no human toll, an NOAA press release explains they did contribute to a death of sorts.

The backstory: In September 1871, 33 of 40 whaling ships operating in the North Pacific—a group that had dwindled from 292 ships 25 years prior—found themselves trapped in ice.

They were near the shore, and in prior years, the wind typically shifted, pushing the ice seaward and effectively unlocking the ships. That didn’t happen that year, leaving 1,219 people “stranded at the top of the world.” Incredibly, they all survived, having made the decision to row 90 miles in whaling boats to the seven ships that had escaped the ice, reports KTVA.

Still, the NOAA explains that the event is viewed as “one of the major causes of the demise of commercial whaling in the United States.” A project co-director explains to the Alaska Dispatch News that while items have washed ashore over the years, no items tied to the lost fleet had been found beneath the water.

Using modern sonar and sensing technology and aided by an absence of ice in the Chukchi Sea, the “magnetic signature” of the two ships was established down to the “outline of their flattened hulls.” And while sea ice typically proves unfriendly to such relics, “we found artifacts that were just sitting” there in the fall of 2015, perhaps long protected by a sandbar.

Among the finds: pots that rendered whale blubber into oil. (The ancientshipwreck capital of the world has been found.)

This article originally appeared on Newser: Shipwrecks That Helped Doom a US Industry Are Found

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Revolutionary War-era ship unearthed at Virginia construction site

 

Historic, centuries-old ship discovered at construction site

The remains of a ship dating back to the Revolutionary War have been found at a site of a new hotel under construction in Virginia.

Local archaeologists in Alexandria are now scrambling to identify the story behind the 250-year-old sailing ship. The area once was in the Potomac River before it was backfilled two centuries ago to expand Alexandria’s waterfront.

Related: Wreck of Civil War ship commandeered by slave believed found off SC coast

“A remarkable archaeological dream basically,” Francine Bromberg, who has been the archaeologist in Alexandria for a quarter century, told Fox 5. “We know that this ship was put in place sometime between 1775 and 1798.”

But who owned it? What did it carry? Who sailed on it? For now, that remains a mystery.

Related: Ancient shipwreck discovered near Aeolian Islands

John Mullen, the principal archeologist for Thunderbird Archeology, the firm responsible for monitor the construction for any historic finds, told The Washington Post that the ship probably was built to carry heavy cargo or was used by the military. It may also have provided the foundation to fill in the cove at Port Lumley, one of the locations where deep-water channels of the Potomac advance to the shoreline.

The ship’s partial hull – currently under a blue tarmac at the hotel construction site – has become a popular draw among local residents. The find comes just months after construction workers discovered a 1755 foundation from a warehouse which is believed to be the city’s first public building, according to The Washington Post.

Related: Incredible ‘ghost fleet’ site could become national marine sanctuary

As soon as the fences were opened up to let people get a peek at the old ship, big crowds showed up.

“I think it’s great,” said one person. “It’s like a great window into the past.”

“It makes you wonder what else is hidden and underneath our ground here,” said another resident.

What is next for this 18th century ship? A 21st century water tank will be used to stabilize the wood. That will also give experts like Bromberg more time to solve the mystery of Alexandria’s newest piece of history.

There is a little historical irony going on here. There is a big debate in Alexandria over the waterfront and it even cost the last mayor his reelection. Some development opponents are not happy about this hotel, but this discovery might not have been found without the hotel’s construction. In fact, the ship might not have been buried here at all if Alexandria’s founders had not decided to develop this waterfront 200 years ago.

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With ISIS Forced From Iraq, Old Bones Turn Up

 This image made from an apparent ISIS video posted April 11, 2015, purports to show a militant taking a sledgehammer to an Assyrian relief at the site of the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud in Iraq.

MORE NEANDERTHAL REMAINS DISCOVERED IN SHANIDAR CAVE

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 4, 2016 4:20 PM CST

(NEWSER) – Iraqis aren’t the only ones relishing recent victories against ISIS. There are also archaeologists who have returned and made new discoveries at a key Neanderthal site in Iraqi Kurdistan, one they describe as having “iconic status in Palaeolithic archaeology.” Shanidar Cave’s status was established following 1950s excavations by Ralph Solecki, a Smithsonian Institution archaeologist,Live Science reports. As modern-day archaeologists write inAntiquity, he uncovered several Neanderthal burials; the pollen contained in soil samples taken there was in 1975 proposed as evidence of flowers placed at the burials. Some five years ago, the Kurdistan Regional Government suggested archaeologists return to Shanidar. Initial fieldwork began in the summer 2014; interrupted by ISIS, two phases of excavation ultimately occurred in 2015.

Those excavations, which “focused on the location at which the earlier fieldwork discovered most of the Neanderthal remains,” yielded human bones (probably from those previously unearthed remains) and other “ephemeral but persistent evidence for human activity,” like ash and charcoal, from around 40,000 years ago. “The emerging picture is of small groups making regular short-term visits for shelter and tool maintenance in extreme conditions,” the article reads. Live Science points to additional research on the cave: a pollen-focused scientific paper published in December that suggests the pollen in the cave may have actually been carried in by bees, disrupting the notion of burial flowers. (The remains of a 16th-century pirate may have been found under a playground.)

 

In this image made from a purported ISIS video posted late Saturday, April 11, 2015, purports to show militants destroying the ancient Iraqi Assyrian city of Nimrud in Iraq.
In this image made from a purported ISIS video posted late Saturday, April 11, 2015, purports to show militants destroying the ancient Iraqi Assyrian city of Nimrud in Iraq.   (militant video via AP)

Son of Hercules vs. Hydra: Altar showing mythical battle discovered

This marble altar, dating to the second century A.D., was discovered near the Akçay River in Turkey. It shows a nude warrior battling a serpent monster. An inscription written in Greek is at top.

This marble altar, dating to the second century A.D., was discovered near the Akçay River in Turkey. It shows a nude warrior battling a serpent monster. An inscription written in Greek is at top. (Photo courtesy of Hasan Malay)

An ancient marble altar showing a nude warrior battling a serpent monster has been discovered by villagers near the Akçay River in Turkey.

Archaeologists said the altar likely dates to the second century A.D., a time whenthe Roman Empire controlled the area.

The carved scene on the altar is difficult to interpret, archaeologists said. They think it may show a son of Hercules, named Bargasos, fighting a monster in a battle that would bring forth a beneficial river god named Harpasos, to whom the altar is dedicated. At the time of the altar’s creation, the Akçay River was known as the Harpasos River. [The 7 Most Mysterious Archaeological Finds on Earth]

“According to [a command in] a dream, Flavius Ouliades set this up to the [river] god Harpasos,” the Greek inscription at the top of the altar reads. The altar is 2 feet (0.61 meters) high and 1.5 feet (0.45 m) wide, and is now in the Aydin Museum in Turkey.

The dedication suggests that Flavius Ouliades, the person who created the altar, had a strong belief in the river god, the archaeologists said. “As a result of a communication with the river god Harpasos in a dream, Flavius Ouliades was requested to dedicate an altar,” wrote Hasan Malay, a professor at Ege University in Turkey, and Funda Ertugrul, an archaeologist with the Aydin Museum, in an article published recently in the journal Epigraphica Anatolica.

Ouliades may have promised to set up the altar if the river god answered the man’s prayers “for a good harvest or protection (for himself or his animals) from flooding or falling down the steep slopes or cure from its healing waters,” wrote Malay and Ertugrul.

Mythical battle

The nude male warrior is shown wearing a helmet with a crest, holding a dagger in his right hand and round shield in his left. “In the right lower corner is the depiction of a curving snake with many heads,” a mythical beast called a Hydra, wrote Malay and Ertugrul.

In ancient mythology, the god Hercules battled a Hydra serpent in a swamp in a region of Greece known as Lerna. After Hercules killed the monster, the swamp could be drained and cultivated to become something beneficial.

However, researchers say that the warrior shown fighting in the carving is not Hercules. Instead, they said, it could be Bargasos, who, in ancient mythology, was the son of Hercules and a woman named Barge. An ancient town in Turkey was named Bargasa in the son’s honor.

In ancient mythology the battle depicted on the altar may have led to the creation of the river god Harpasos, researchers say. “The Harpasos valley, with a zone of sand where numerous arms join the river Harpasos, was comparable to Lerna,” wrote Malay and Ertugrul.

The “scene on our altar may be a representation of a local myth telling about Bargasos’ fight against the ravaging river with many arms,” Malay and Ertugrul wrote. After the warrior defeated this monster, “the river turned into a beneficial deity [the river-god Harpasos], the recipient of our dedication.”

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Ram statue unearthed on Christmas Eve may represent Jesus

Archaeologists found an ancient marble ram in Caesarea Harbor National Park along Israel's Mediterranean coast.

Archaeologists found an ancient marble ram in Caesarea Harbor National Park along Israel’s Mediterranean coast.(Vered Sarig | The Caesarea Development Corporation)

A hand-carved marble statue of a ram that was uncovered last week along Israel’s Mediterranean coast has archaeologists guessing about who carved the creation.

Archaeologists found the statue on Thursday (Dec. 24), but they say its unclear whether it was carved by Byzantine artisans, or if it was made by Romans and then later repurposed by the Byzantine church, the Israel Antiquities Authority said.

The researchers found the statue during the excavation of an ancient church in Caesarea Harbor National Park, a landmark about 25 miles (40 kilometers) south of Haifa. [The Holy Land: 7 Amazing Archaeological Finds]

“Caesarea never ceases to surprise, as evidenced by this amazing statue,” Peter Gendelman and Mohammad Hater, directors of the excavation working on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said in a statement.

Despite the artifact’s age, the original carvings can still be seen on the 1.3-feet-tall by 1-foot-long statue (40 centimeters by 30 centimeters). The ram’s textured fleece and curly horns are visible, the archaeologists said.

It’s possible that ancient artists carved the ram for religious reasons, the archaeologists said. In the New Testament of the Bible, there is a verse that refers to Jesus as a lamb: “The next day, he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

Rams, along with lambs, are frequently used in Christian art to represent faithful Christians, or Jesus himself, the Israel Antiquities Authority said in a statement. Sometimes, ancient artisans depicted rams around the shoulders of Jesus. Other times, a ram is shown on the left or right of the “Good Shepherd,” depicting how he tended to his flock.

“In ancient Christianity, Jesus was not portrayed as a person,” Gendelman and Hater said. “Instead, symbols were used, one of which was the ram.”

However, other cultures also use ram images symbolically. Archaeologists have spotted rams alongside depictions of the Greek gods Hermes and Mercury in Roman art, as well as next to the Egyptian god Amun, a deity associated with Egypt’s royalty.

“The statue that we found might have been part of the decoration of a Byzantine church from the sixth [to] seventh centuries C.E. at Caesarea,” Gendelman and Hater said. “By the same token, it could also be earlier, from the Roman period, and was [later] incorporated in secondary use in the church structure.”

Researchers have found other depictions of rams from archaeological digs in modern-day Israel, including a 9,500-year-old limestone ram with carved spiral horns that may have served as a lucky charm.

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Evil-thwarting ‘rattles’ found in prehistoric infant’s grave

This infant lived around 4,500 years ago and was buried in a birchbark cradle with eight intricately carved figurines. The infant also wears headgear made from 11 copper plaques sewn together. (Yury Esin)

This infant lived around 4,500 years ago and was buried in a birchbark cradle with eight intricately carved figurines. The infant also wears headgear made from 11 copper plaques sewn together. (Yury Esin)

Tiny figurines that may have been used as rattling toys or charms to ward off evil spirits were discovered in the grave of an infant dating back 4,500 years, archaeologists say.

The burial was discovered on the northwest shore of Lake Itkul in the Minusinsk basinin Russia. The infant’s remains, which were found in what appears to be a birchbark cradle, suggest he or she was less than a year old at death. On the infant’s chest, archaeologists found “eight miniature horn figurines representing humanlike characters and heads of birds, elk, boar and a carnivore,”wrote archaeologists Andrey Polyakov and Yury Esin, in an article published recently in the journal Archaeology, Ethnology & Anthropology of Eurasia.

The intricately carved figurines were likely made from deer antlers and have traces of red paint on them. “Some of [the figurines] have internal cavities and, upon coming in contact with each other, could produce noisy sounds like modern rattles,” wrote Polyakov, of the Institute for the History of Material Culture in Saint Petersburg, Russia, and Esin, of the Khakassian Research Institute of Language, Literature and History. [Images: Abandoned Baby’s Bones in Ancient Tuscany]

The figurines would have been attached in some way to the cradle, the researchers say. They could have functioned as toys and may also have protected the infant from evil powers. “Various apotropaic charms are a necessary element of cradle decoration in the traditional cultures,” Polyakov and Esin wrote.

Archaeologists cannot rule out the possibility that the figurines have “no relation to the cradle, and [were] placed into the burial to ensure successful transition of the deceased child to the next world,” they wrote.

Headgear

The infant also had some interesting headgear. The infant’s head was turned toward the southwest, and, on the skull, archaeologists found 11 small copper plaques, 10 of which were made from a thin oval copper plate no more than a half inch (1.5 centimeters) across, the archaeologists said.

Each of the plaques had two fastening holes, where thin leather laces would’ve been threaded through to attach them to one another. The cap could then be placed on the infant’s head. Remains of those laces were also found in the burial.

One of the plaques, located at the top of the infant’s headgear, was made of two metallic cones that would have been sewn together. “Probably these were adornments of the child’s cap,” Polyakov and Esin wrote. They note that an earring was also found to the left of the infant’s skull.

The infant’s people

The infant was buried along with several other people in a burial mound called a kurgan. The people buried in the mound were part of what modern-day archaeologists call the Okunev culture.

Although writing had not yet spread to this part of the world, “the Okunev people had mastered processing of copper and bronze manufacture from which they cast blades, daggers, axes and spear-heads, fishing hooks and other tools and ornaments,” Esin told Live Science in an email. In addition to metal, these people continued to use tools made of stone and bone, Esin added.

“People who were buried in this kurgan were early herders. We have images of domesticated animals (especially bulls), carts and wagons in Okunev rock art,”  Esin wrote.

The Okunev people may have venerated anthropomorphic [part-human and part-animal] deities. “In my view the anthropomorphic images in Okunev art could represent deities. In this period here in Minusinsk basin people have quite complicated mythology and rituals,” Esin told Live Science.

The work was supported by the Russian Foundation for the Humanities.

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Facebook user identifies mysterious gold object found in Israel cemetery

This undated photo by the Israel Antiquities Authority shows an object discovered in a Jerusalem cemetery six months ago that was identified by a Facebook user as a modern New Age device after experts had been stumped for six months (Israel Antiquities Authority)

This undated photo by the Israel Antiquities Authority shows an object discovered in a Jerusalem cemetery six months ago that was identified by a Facebook user as a modern New Age device after experts had been stumped for six months (Israel Antiquities Authority)

Facebook users helped Israel’s Antiquities Authority this week identify a mysterious gilded object once thought to be an ancient Jewish relic as a modern New Age device.

Director of theft prevention Amir Ganor told the Associated Press police alerted his office six months ago to a gold scepter with seven grooves found in a Jerusalem cemetery.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that the maintenace worker who found the device was initially concerned that it was some sort of explosive. He called the police, who in turn called in a bomb squad to conduct a controlled explosion. The object was undamaged.

Ganor says his office x-rayed the scepter and analyzed its materials. He mused whether it was used in the biblical Jewish Temples. Experts did not recognize it.

“At first we thought it was a military object, but then began to dream. I have been in this business for a long time and cannot recall such a mystery,” Gaynor told the paper.

With no further ideas, the Authority posted a picture on Facebook and one of 300 responders identified the object: It’s a Weber Isis Beamer, a German device that claims to create “a protective field” against radiation.

Haaretz reported that the objects are sold online in various sizes for up 120 euros ($131). The firm promises they will “ensure energy harmony” at home, at work and when traveling.

“The wisdom of the masses has done its part,” the Authority said Tuesday. What the object was doing in the cemetery remains a mystery.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Click for more from Haaretz.

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Sickle-wearing skeletons reveal ancient fear of demons

In addition to the sickle placed at her neck, the teenage girl seems to have been buried with a copper headband and a copper coin.

In addition to the sickle placed at her neck, the teenage girl seems to have been buried with a copper headband and a copper coin. (Polcyn et al. Antiquity 2015, DOI: 10.15184/aqy.2015.129)

How do you keep a demon from disturbing the living? A blade to the throat should do the trick.

A few skeletons unearthed in a 400-year-old Polish cemetery have been discovered with sickles placed around their necks. Archaeologists believe this strange burial practice is evidence of a belief in magic and a fear of demons.

The sickle burials were found at Drawsko cemetery, a site in northeastern Poland that dates from the 17th to the 18th centuries. Archaeologists, including Marek Polcyn, a visiting scholar at Lakehead University in Canada, have excavated more than 250 graves there since 2008.

Among those graves were four skeletons with sickles placed at their throats, and a fifth skeleton with a sickle placed over its hips. Previously, these burials had been described as “vampire” burials, with the sickles interpreted as a way to prevent the dead from reanimating and terrorizing the living. But in a new study detailed in the journal Antiquity, Polcyn and co-author Elzbieta Gajda, of the Muzeum Ziemi Czarnkowskiej, now reject that characterization. (“We deliberately dismiss the interpretation of a revenant (i.e. vampire),” isn’t something you read in an academic paper every day.) [See Photos of the Sickle Burials at Drawsko Cemetery]

Instead, the archaeologists prefer to use the blanket term “anti-demonic” to talk about these burials, partly because vampires weren’t the only kinds of evil incarnations of the dead, according to traditional folk beliefs in the region. But also, the sickle graves were afforded funerary privileges that weren’t usually extended to “vampires” buried elsewhere: They were given Christian burials in sacred ground alongside other members of the community, and their corpses do not appear to have been desecrated or mutilated.

In another sign that the people buried with sickles probably were not outsiders, scientists who studied chemical signatures locked in the teeth of these corpses found that all five individuals were locals. (They published those results in apaper in PLOS ONE last year.)

“The magical and ritual meaning of this gesture seems beyond doubt,” Polcyn and Gajda wrote, adding, however, that the sickle might have had more than one ritualistic meaning. The tool may have been intended to keep the dead in their graves under the threat of cutting their throat, but it also might have been used to prevent evil forces from tormenting their souls. What’s more, the use of a tool made of iron, which had to undergo a transformation in fire, could symbolize the passage from life to death, the authors wrote. [7 Strange Ways Humans Act Like Vampires]

Even though Christianity was the dominant religion in Poland at the time this cemetery was used, traditions from old Slavic pagan faith and folk belief systems still existed, including a belief in demons. Besides the sickles, there is not much that makes these graves unique, so the scientists aren’t sure exactly what about these people made them demonic. They may have been thought to have supernatural powers in life, or they might have had physical characteristics considered suspicious (which might have included “an exceptionally hairy body,” a unibrow, a large head and a red complexion, the authors said, citing traditional Polish folklore).

These people also might have died in a traumatic fashion, without any time for the appropriate rites and rituals to make for a smooth spiritual transition into death — a concept some archaeologists call a “bad death.” While some of the people buried with sickles may have simply died of old age, one of them, a girl, died as a teenager. The authors speculated that she might have met a violent and untimely end, perhaps through drowning, suicide or murder. Unfortunately for archaeologists, however, this death didn’t leave its mark on the girl’s bones.

Polcyn and Gajda wrote that they hope further scientific tests on the corpses, such as biomolecular analyses, will help them understand more specifically what led the dead in Drawsko to be buried with sickles.

 

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