institute of archaeology

Ancient sanctuary from obscure religion that competed with Christianity unearthed in Corsica

A sanctuary dedicated to the god of an ancient and mysterious religion known as Mithraism has been discovered on the French island of Corsica for the first time. The structure was erected in the Roman city of Mariana, created around 100 BCE.

The local authorities were planning roadworks in the vicinity of this major site, so they called the French National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (INRAP) to conduct excavations and make sure that no significant archaeological remains would be standing in the way.

A team, led by archaeologist Philippe Chapon, started working in Mariana in November 2016. It is thought that this little Roman town was at its peak in the third and fourth century and that it derived its strength from its commercial harbour, a point of contact for maritime exchanges with the whole Mediterranean.

After months of work at the site, the archaeologists can now reveal that they have identified a worship room and its antechamber. They appear to have been part of a religious sanctuary dedicated the Indo-Iranian deity Mithra. Read more.

[ NEWS ] Ancient Chinese sword unearthed after 2,300 years by archaeologists is still shiny

A Chinese sword removed from its scabbard for the first time in more than 2,000 years was so well-preserved it was still shiny.

Archaeologists discovered the ancient weapon, believed to be around 2,300 years old, in a tomb among the ruins of Chengyang City in central China.

When they unsheathed the large blade from its muddied cover, they found it had not oxidised but was still sharp, shiny and in near-perfect condition.

The team from Henan Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology posted pictures and a video of the sword on Chinese social network Weibo.

The artefact is believed to be from China’s Warring States period, from around 475 to 221 BC, when the Zhou Dynasty region was divided between eight states which often saw fierce fighting.

The sword, which had been buried inside a wooden coffin next to its owner, had been preserved because ancient tombs in the area are usually humid and sealed off from the outside, team leader Wu Zhijiang told the Daily Mail.

The video clip, taken last week after the sword was discovered on 30 December, has been widely shared online and broadcast by Chinese media.

In a Weibo post, the archaeologists said they hoped those reading would find 2017 as “radiant” and “invincible” as the glittering sword.

Source: Copyright © 2017 The Independent

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The Ruins of Palmyra, Captured in Vintage Photographs

An album of 47 photographs offers a glimpse at how Palmyra, Syria, looked 150 years ago. It includes views of Palmyra’s 3,000-foot-long colonnade, the tombs bordering the city, and the Temple of Bel and the Temple Baal Shamin, both of which have been reportedly destroyed during the Syrian war.

The negatives were made by Louis Vignes, a French naval officer who was trained by famed photographer Charles Nègre, and the prints by Nègre himself.

The album recently joined the collections of the Getty Research Institute.

Ancient Chinese sword unearthed after 2,300 years by archaeologists is still shiny

A Chinese sword removed from its scabbard for the first time in more than 2,000 years was so well-preserved it was still shiny.

Archaeologists discovered the ancient weapon, believed to be around 2,300 years old, in a tomb among the ruins of Chengyang City in central China.

When they unsheathed the large blade from its muddied cover, they found it had not oxidised but was still sharp, shiny and in near-perfect condition.

The team from Henan Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology posted pictures and a video of the sword on Chinese social network Weibo.

The artefact is believed to be from China’s Warring States period, from around 475 to 221 BC, when the Zhou Dynasty region was divided between eight states which often saw fierce fighting. Read more.

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Places and sites of ancient South Arabia

Yemen was home to six major kingdoms in antiquity and these formed the heart of the region we call ancient South Arabia. These kingdoms were Saba, Ma’in, Qataban, Hadramawt, Awsan and Himyar. There are many ancient sites across the entire region, including towns, villages, temples, cemeteries and impressive waterworks. The most famous of these is the site of Marib, former capital of the Sabaean kingdom, where a huge temple – known today as the Mahram Bilqis – and the remains of a monumental dam still stand. Other important sites are at Sirwah and Zabid. Sadly, even these great monuments have been damaged in the recent conflict.

Ancient settlements in Burkina Faso shed light on the secrets of the Kurumba people

Polish archaeologists working in northern Burkina Faso have uncovered traces of some of the most ancient settlements ever found to date in the region. They now plan to study the mysterious Kurumba community that lives in the area, hoping to uncover the secrets of when its first people established themselves in Burkina Faso.

The project, led by scientists from the universities of Krakow and Warsaw, began last October, with the aim of improving scientific knowledge of a country that is often ignored by archaeologists. The team focused on the northern department of Pobé-Mengao, where many Kurumba people live.

Krzysztof Rak from the Institute of Archaeology of the Jagiellonian University in Kraków said: “Burkina Faso remains a blank spot on the archaeological map of Africa − so far only random excavations have been carried out here. The research project we have started may shed new light on the history of this country since the beginning of human presence in this place,” as reported by the Polish Press Agency. Read more.

Mystery stone structure under Neolithic dump on Orkney

Archaeologists have uncovered a mysterious stone structure buried under what they describe as Scotland’s “largest Neolithic rubbish dump”.

The layout of the stone slabs, known as orthostats, found during a dig at Ness of Brodgar on Orkney is unlike anything previously found on the islands.

Archaeologists are also mystified as to why the structure was covered over by a huge midden.

They have speculated that it could possibly be a chambered tomb.

However, the dig team, which is led by University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute, said further “hard work” would be needed to properly understand the find.

Since 2002, Neolithic buildings, artwork, pottery, animal bones and stone tools have been discovered at Ness of Brodgar, the location of the Ring of Brodgar standing stones. Read more.

Palmyra's Arch of Triumph recreated in Trafalgar Square

A monumental recreation of the destroyed Arch of Triumph in Palmyra, Syria, is being installed in London’s Trafalgar Square.

The 2,000-year-old arch was destroyed by Islamic State militants last October and the 6-metre (20ft) model, made in Italy from Egyptian marble, is intended as an act of defiance: to show that restoration of the ancient site is possible if the will is there.

Roger Michel, the director of Oxford’s Institute for Digital Archaeology (IDA), said: “No one would have seriously considered leaving London in ruins after the blitz.

“Monuments – as embodiments of history, religion, art and science – are significant and complex repositories of cultural narratives. No one should consider for one second giving terrorists the power to delete such objects from our collective cultural record.

“When history is erased in this fashion, it must be promptly and, of course, thoughtfully restored.” Read more.

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Ancient Chinese artifacts in California

Situated on the edge of the Gobi desert, the Dunhuang caves features six miles of art many centuries old. Now an American audience will get a taste of it, as the Getty Conservation Institute in Los Angeles has brought the Cave Temples of Dunhuang to the museum.

Kathleen Kenyon at the Ashmolean Museum

The plastered skulls of Jericho are the most well known of Kathleen Kenyon’s finds, as well as the most grisly. Because Kenyon was digging on behalf of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem, the Institute of Archaeology doesn’t have any of these skulls knocking about in the stores. However if you make the trip to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford you can find this unique example which, instead of the usual bivalve shells for eyes instead has cowrie shells. Being 9000 years old, it is also possibly one of the earliest human portraits and form of ancestor veneration in the world. In the Neolithic period skulls were removed from some graves to be plastered and painted in the likeness of the deceased, and such skulls have been found at several sites in the Levant and Turkey. The images used in the exhibition were also taken by Peter Dorrel, a previous head photographer at the Institute of Archaeology.

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Kathleen Kenyon was honorary Director of the Institute of Archaeology during WWII, and excavated at Jericho from 1952 until 1958. She will form a part of the coming exhibition.