archaeology news


Huge ancient Roman water basin uncovered

Rome, December 3

A dig in Rome related to work on the city’s new C metro line has uncovered the largest ancient Roman water basin ever found, Rossella Rea, the scientific head of the excavation, said on Wednesday. “It was inside an ancient Roman farm, the nearest to the centre of Rome ever found,” said Rea, who leads an all-women team at a site for the construction of a new metro station that also features archaeologists Francesca Montella and Simona Morretta.

The ancient structure, situated in the San Giovanni district of modern-day Rome, is a monster. “It’s so big that it goes beyond the perimeter of the (metro) work site and it has not been possible to uncover it completely,” Rea explained. “It was lined with hydraulic plaster and, on the basis the size that had been determined so far, it could hold more than four million litres of water”.

Rea said it was part of a facility that functioned from the third century BC. “In the first century (AD), structures to lift and distribute the water were added to an agricultural plant that was operative in the third century,” Rea said. “The basin was about 35 metres by 70, covering an area of about a quarter of a hectare. "It seems likely that its main function was to be a water reservoir for crops and an area that made it possible to cope with overflows from the nearby river.

"No other basin from ancient Roman agriculture is of comparable size. "Beyond the walls of the work site it extends toward the (ancient city) wall, where it is probably preserved”. She added that the structure also spreads out in another direction, towards an existing metro station of the A line. But she said that part of it was almost certainly “destroyed without its existence ever being documented”.

The excavation took place at more than 20 metres below ground. “The historic information about the San Giovanni area (in ancient Roman times) was scarce,” Rea said. “The area underwent transformations that hid republican and imperial age structures that existed up until the third century under metres of soil, first when the Aurelian Walls were built. The urbanisation of the 20th century led to the obliteration of every part of it.

"The dig for the new metro station made it possible to take archaeological research to depths that are otherwise impossible to reach”.

(Source :: Photo credit)

Archaeologists find smallest ever mummified fetus inside sarcophagus

For years, researchers didn’t investigate the contents of the cedar box, believing it likely contained an embalmed collection of internal organs. It was only after an X-ray suggested that its contents possibly included a small skeleton, that the coffin was sent for a micro CT scan, which revealed that the tiny bundled object in its center was actually a 17-inch human fetus. The tiny mummy must have been an important one.

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Breakthrough in world’s oldest undeciphered writing

The world’s oldest undeciphered writing system, which has so far defied attempts to uncover its 5,000-year-old secrets, could be about to be decoded by Oxford University academics.

This international research project is already casting light on a lost bronze age middle eastern society where enslaved workers lived on rations close to the starvation level.

“I think we are finally on the point of making a breakthrough,” says Jacob Dahl, fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford and director of the Ancient World Research Cluster.

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Forensic anthropology and archaeology in the news…and some strange stuff

Forensic Anthropology and Forensic Science in the News

Id’ing a Skull Just Got Easier: CT Scans May Soon Link Human Remains to Missing PersonsScientific American

You can tell a lot from a skull if you know what you’re doing: an expert can suggest a skull’s sex, age and ancestry just by looking at it. But such a subjective assessment would not hold water in a court of law, where it is essential to know how likely a skull belongs to a particular missing person. For that, you need numerical probabilities. Read more at Scientific American

Skeletal remains in backyard of Ocala home believed to be tied to cold

Marion County Sheriff’s deputies are trying to find out if human remains that were found buried in the backyard of an Ocala home belong to a person who was murdered years ago. Read more

Archaeology in the News

Long-Lost Mummy of Pharaoh’s Foster Brother Found Discovery News

The mummy of the pharaoh Amenhotep II’s foster brother may have been found in a former monastery, according to archival research into 19th-century documents.

The mummy, now reduced to a skeleton, is believed to be that of Qenamun, the chief steward of Amenhotep II (about 1427–1400 B.C.) who was the 7th Pharaoh of Egypt’s 18th Dynasty and likely Tutankhamun’s great-great-grandfather. Read more atDiscovery News

Richard III bones to remain in Leicester after court battle BBC

Distant relatives of King Richard III have lost their High Court battle over where his remains should be reburied. Read more at BBC

Read more at Strange Remains

Ancient ivory tablets reveal high status of Illyrian women

Newly-translated ancient tablets found in Albrania reveal that women were more equal to men in Illyria than anywhere else in Europe at the time, supporting ancient historical records that describe Illyrian women engaging in warfare, holding political and military power, and taking on leadership positions. 

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Calif. developer finds, then paves over ancient Indian village to build $55 million project

An ancient American Indian village and burial site in California that was older than King Tut’s tomb was discovered and then paved over so that a $55 million housing project could move forward.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the ancient site was found at the location of the Rose Lane development in Larkspur. The site reportedly contained a “treasure trove” of details about Coast Miwok life from as long as 4,500 years ago.

But all of the 600 human burials, the tools, the musical instruments and other items were reburied so that development could continue.

Nineteenth-Century Graves Protected from Body Snatchers


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While moving a nineteenth-century cemetery in the West Midlands, England, to make room for a new road, archaeologists found that some of the bodies had been buried with protective devices to deter grave robbers. At the time, fresh bodies could be dug up and sold to medical schools. One of the devices, called a mortsafe, was a metal cage fixed around the coffin of a young woman who suffered from a skin and bone disease. Her condition would have made her corpse desirable. Another grave contained a brick coffin with a false bottom that protected two bodies. “The simplest method of protecting the graves was to employ a guard. However it appears from records in other towns that the money paid for a fresh body, which could be over £25, that these guards were often bribed to turn a blind eye,” said Frank Caldwell, Sandwell Council’s Museums Manager.