Stories tagged Archaeology

Four Gold Hats: A Bronze Age Mystery

Berlin Gold Hat Detail. Image from Wikipedia

After viewing thousands of artifacts in multiple museums, sometimes it can be tempting to just keep walking. But then there are times when something just grabs you, stopping you in your tracks.That’s what happened to me when I was in the Speyer, Germany State Museum a few days after visiting Museum Island in Berlin. I saw something I had seen in Berlin: a gold hat. It’s not just any gold hat, but a near perfectly preserved hat with such intricate designs that they warranted advanced mathematical study. I was not looking for these gold hats, and I had never heard of them before. I didn’t find them as much as they found me.

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Sources of History

The original and traditional source of historical knowledge is the written text. However, the concept of what a historical source is has undergone transformation and redefinition over the centuries. This has happened as new mediums of communication, record keeping, and non-textual data in the form of material remains have emerged. New disciplines have also developed that continually challenge historians to include these new sources in their analysis and explanation of the past.

The primary source of history is documents, or texts in various forms. Originally historians, limited to ancient manuscripts, used a wide number of sources to achieve an understanding of the past. These sources of history came from epic poetry, myths, fables, inscriptions left on buildings or objects, deeds of farms or land, proclamations, ancient letters, and any other form of writing. Before the 20th century, historians, without the benefit of archaeology, relied on evaluating the language used, the number of copies of a text and if there was agreement, and theories about transmission of those texts to develop a means to evaluate whether a source was reliable or unreliable. 

JERWAN, IRAQ: Cuneiform writing on the stones of the aqueduct at Jerwan in Iraqi Kurdistan. Constructed between 703 and 690 BC, by Sanherib (Sennecherib) of Assyria, the Jerwan Aqueduct (he oldest intact aqueduct in the world) delivered water in the Atrush Canal from the Khenis (Gomel) Gorge to the Khosr River above Nineveh. The canal used advanced techniques including sluice gates and the Jerwan aqueduct - a 275 m/900 ft limestone bridge, 9 m/30 ft high and 15 m/30 ft wide. Photo by Sebastian Meyer +964 750 792 2163

Cuneiform writing on the Jerwan Aqueduct (703-690 BCE). King Sennacherib I of Assyria made sure that, thousands of years later, people would know that it was he who ordered the construction of this feat of Assyrian engineering. Photo © Sebastian Meyer.

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The Nerva-Antonines in Florence

The Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence is one of the oldest and most famous art museums in the world. In addition to Renaissance masterpieces including works from Botticelli, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, the Uffizi houses one of the world’s most important collections of ancient Roman and Greek statues. The Medicis’ interest in ancient art started with the founder of the family Cosimo I de’ Medici (1519-1574) and grew over nearly four decades. The antiquities were stored and displayed in several rooms in Palazzo Vecchio and Palazzo Pitti where they could be admired by the visitors to the court. The antiquities were later transferred to the Uffizi.

Most of the ancient statues and busts are displayed on the u-shaped second floor of the museum. The wide corridors are filled with numerous portraits of the members of the different imperial dynasties including those of the Nerva-Antonine dynasty.

Nerva (ruled 96 – 98 A.D.)

Bust of Emperor Nerva in lorica military cloak and paludamentum, Greek marble, 96 – 98 AD. Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

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Beyond Dubai: The Ancient UAE


The Great Tomb at Hili, near Al Ain, is not only impressive but around 5,000 years old. © David Millar 2015.

“Dubai tries so hard to promote this image of an ultra-modern city that they almost seem to suppress its past.”

Dubai is a city that elicits sharp opinions. While its shopping malls, glittering lights, luxury hotels and villas, and iconic futuristic architecture continue to attract large numbers of tourists and business investors, many others simply avoid Dubai, convinced that it is nothing more than yet another mirage in the vast Arabian desert. In this exclusive interview with James Blake Wiener of Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE), Dr. David Millar, author of Beyond Dubai: Seeking Lost Cities in the Emirates, discusses why he wrote a book about the United Arab Emirates’ ancient, hidden treasures and where one can find them.

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Stunning Nemrut Dagi and the Kingdom of Commagene

Today we have another contribution from Timeless Travels Magazine in which Dr Christine Winzor writes about the colossal stone heads at Nemrut Dağ, Turkey.

Head of Zeus Ahuramazda with head of Antiochus I behind. Photographer: Alkans Tours, Nicholas Kropacek

Head of Zeus Ahuramazda with head of Antiochus I behind. Photo © Alkans Tours, Nicholas Kropacek

The colossal stone heads at Nemrut Dağ, with their distinctive array of crowns and caps, are among the most iconic images of Turkey. Many guidebooks and tour agencies stress the importance of visiting this monument – sometimes referred to as the Throne of the Gods – at either sunrise or sunset to appreciate fully the spectacular illumination and reflection of the suns rays on the sculptures and tumulus. Others specifically advise against visiting at these times on the grounds that inevitably you will share this impressive event with a large crowd of other spectators, thereby spoiling the sense of majestic isolation.

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Art and Sculptures from Hadrian’s Villa: Marble Head of Antinous

This week’s sculpture from Hadrian’s Villa is a marble head of Antinous, one of the ten marble images of Antinous found there.

Antinous, from Hadrian's Villa, late Hadrianic period 130-138 AD, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome

Antinous, from Hadrian’s Villa, late Hadrianic period 130-138 AD, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome

This portrait of Antinous is conserved in the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme in Rome. It is related to a coin type minted in the city of Adramyttium in Mysia (modern Edremit, Turkey) by an individual called Gessius (his name appears on the reverse of the coin). The coin was struck with the head of Antinous on the obverse and the words ΙΑΚΧΟC ΑΝΤΙΝΟΟC (Iacchos Antinous). Antinous is portrayed as Iacchos, a minor Dionysian deity (also epithet of Dionysus) associated with the Eleusinian Mysteries (Hadrian first took part in the Mysteries in about 124 AD and again in late summer 128 AD together with Antinous). The British Museum holds such a coin with the Eleusinian goddess Demeter on the reverse.

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New Discovery: Unearthing a Neo-Assyrian Grave in Erbil, Iraq

by Osama S. M. Amin October 19, 2015 Education 0 Comments

An archaeologist friend of mine once told me: “Less than 5% of the Mesopotamian history has been found, and wherever you dig, anywhere in the land of Mesopotamia, you will discover something.”

This story comes from Erbil (Hawler) Governorate. About 100-200 m away from the Citadel of Erbil (Arabic: قلعة أربيل; Kurdish: قه‌ڵای هه‌ولێر), an old house with a large garden was sold to an investment company. The company demolished the house and started to dig the foundation of a large building in late April 2015.

In response to my questions, Architectural Engineer Sarbast Mahmood Ahmed replied:

We were working 24/7. It was around 10 PM when we were digging the foundation of the building. The caterpillar excavator had reached 6 m in depth. Suddenly, one of the workers noticed that the machine had removed earth in addition to bricks. We stopped digging. After sunrise, we saw that we had unearthed what appeared to be a grave. Part of the grave was damaged while we were digging. Immediately, we informed the General Directorate of Antiquities. A specialized team arrived after a few hours and they prohibited us from further work. They did a short-lived excavation work within a few days together with a French archaeological team. The grave contained the skeleton of a human body. It seems that the corpse was laid on its left side. Nothing else was in the grave, no pottery or gold. The French team took the skeleton allowing for construction work to continue. I have been told that the skeleton was transferred to France using a private airplane. One of the team members told me that the unearthed grave dates back to the neo-Assyrian period. But I do not know whether the skeleton was a male or a female, an adult or a teen.

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New Discovery: Clay Tablet & Cylinder Seal from Tell Kunara, Iraq

by Osama S. M. Amin October 13, 2015 Education 0 Comments
Panorama view of part of Tell Kunara, where the excavating team of the French National Center for Scientific Research is working. Sulaymaniyah City, Iraqi Kurdistan. 3rd Millennium BCE. The mountain on the background houses the ancient Paleolithic caves of Hazar Merd.

Panorama view of part of Tell Kunara, where the excavating team of the French National Center for Scientific Research is working. Sulaymaniyah City, Iraqi Kurdistan. 3rd Millennium BCE. The mountain on the background houses the ancient Paleolithic caves of Hazar Merd. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin

On Thursday, October 1, I decided to pay Mr. Kamal Rashid, director of the General Directorate of Antiquities in Sulaymaniyah (GDAS), a short visit. He was thrilled and very happy to see me, “Osama have a seat…one of our French teams has just unearthed a clay tablet.” Rashid said. We were at the site of Tell (mound) Kunara (Arabic: تل كنارة; Kurdish: گردي كوناره).

Tell Kunara (35°31’9.06″N; 45°21’35.07″E) was first documented in the 1940s. A survey was conducted by the General Directorate of Antiquities in Baghdad. According to the Archives Department of GDAS, Mr. Sabri Shukri visited, surveyed the location and wrote an official memorandum describing the site on November 10, 1943.

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Angkor: Temples of Delight

Today we have another contribution from Timeless Travels Magazine in which Annabel Venn writes about her visit to the Angkor Archaeological Park.

Angkor Wat reflected in surrounding pool. Photo © Annabel Venn

Angkor Wat reflected in surrounding pool. Photo © Annabel Venn

Angkor is one of the most famous archaeological sites in Asia. Filled with fellow travellers, it can be overwhelming at times. Annabel Venn gives her advice on how to beat the crowds and experience this fabulous site in peace

The small light flickers on the front of my bicycle, barely illuminating the dark road ahead. A minibus full of snoozing passengers passes me, rather too close for comfort, offering me a brief glimpse of where I am pedalling. With a free hand, I wrap my Cambodian krama up around my neck; it is already warm but the cool breeze is chilling at this time of the morning. Not often am I persuaded to get up before the sun does, but today I am guided by a sense of exploration. Ahead of me lies the ancient city of Angkor.

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Trier: The Rome of the North

After so many years of travel, it is difficult to choose one single place as a favorite, but there is one place stands out in my mind more than the others. Trier, Germany’s oldest city, and nicknamed, “the Rome of the North,” calls me back again and again. Every visit to Trier is like the first visit. If you wander around long enough you’ll find something new every time. Trier is situated along the Moselle Valley in Germany, near Luxembourg. Trier boasts not one or two, but eight UNESCO World Heritage sites. If you’re looking to check a few UNSECO sites off your travel bucket list, Trier is an excellent place to begin.

Trier Black Gate

Although the history of Trier spans more than two millennia, it’s the Roman history that keeps bringing me back. I’ve been to Rome once, Trier at least five times, and there is no question that Trier wins out for me. Rome has more, and the ruins are bigger, but in Trier you get a sense of being back in time that you can’t get anywhere else. It’s not crowded so you can wander this beautiful city as slowly or as quickly as you like. Everything is within walking distance so there is no metro, and there is no need to jostle and bustle for a spot in line to see the ruins.There are no crowds, no matter the time of year, and there is a sense of relaxation and history everywhere. Coffee shops are everywhere and many offer a spectacular view of Trier’s famous monuments. Everything in Trier, with the exception the badly deteriorated ruins of the Barbara Baths are within walking distance of the central square.

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