Category Archives: EUROPE

2,000-Year-Old Shipwrecks With Cargo Discovered Off Greek Island

2,000-Year-Old Shipwrecks With Cargo Discovered Off Greek Island

Three shipwrecks from the ancient and medieval periods and large parts of their cargo are discovered in the remote Aegean island of Kasos, the ministry of cultural affairs in Greece reports.

Examining the ship off the shores of Kasos’s tiny Aegean island, divers reported finding cannons, stone anchors, pottery, fine tableware, and many other valuable items in an extensive underwater survey that ended this week.

Kasos Island lies on a historic maritime trading route that connects the Middle East with the Egean between Crete and Rhodes.

Iron Cannon discovered in a shipwreck.

The oldest of the wrecks, the Greek Reporter said, was a 2,300-year-old trading vessel with five anchors in stone, fine tableware, and amphorae, which were large pots of clay used to transport food, oils, and wines. Two other vessels from the 1st and 8th-10th centuries BC were also found.

An article in the National Herald says this phase of the project required “67 divers” who together covered more than one-third of the designated site during the 2019 exploratory season and they plan to resume diving in 2020 and will continue towards the end of 2021.

Stone anchor from a late classic shipwreck.

The archaeologists still need to “discover, study and identify” the hulls of these ancient ghost ships that once sailed this important route which served as a cross-cultural conduit with the eastern cultures, for many centuries.

The 8-10th century AD (Byzantine era) ship was found with an ancient Greek ship believed to have sunk in the 1st century BC, but the oldest shipwreck that has been found at Kasos dates way back to the 4th century BC.

Fortunately, the most ancient ship was also the one that contained the most archaeologically valuable treasure in the form of four different types of ancient pottery.

Lifting Amphora from Byzantine era shipwreck.

Kasos and the region around it served as a sort of maritime crossroads for many centuries where exotic products of the east came into contact with civilizations of the eastern Mediterranean, however, not all the finds are from the old world.

According to the Greek Reporter, “the last shipwreck” recovered by the archaeological divers was a modern era ship carrying construction materials and another shipwreck was found dating to the Greek War of Independence in the 1820s.

Frames and pipes from the shipwreck of the years of the Greek revolution.

The 4th century BC shipwreck, with all the different pottery, dates to exactly the same century as another shipwreck which is suspected to be the world’s “ oldest intact shipwreck ” which an October article in The Guardian said was discovered at the bottom of the Black Sea earlier this year.

The 2,400-year-old, 75 foot (23 meters) vessel of ancient Greek origins, was discovered in a near-perfect state of preservation still equipped with rudders, rowing benches, and its mast.

Professor Jon Adams is the principal investigator with the Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project (MAP), and he said the reason these shipwrecks are so well preserved at such depths is because of a lack of oxygen.

However, even with all his experience, he said finding surviving intact ships from the classical world beneath 1.24 miles (2 kilometers) of the sea is something he “would never have believed possible” and that such discoveries will “change our understanding of shipbuilding and seafaring in the ancient world”.

An article such as this, about ancient shipwrecks discovered in 2019, wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the April 2019 announcement in Daily Sabah of the incredible findings of a group of Turkish underwater researchers from Antalya University’s Underwater Research Department.

Just off the western shores of the city of Antalya, they found a 46 foot (14 meters) long Bronze Age shipwreck in 164 feet (50 meters) of water holding 1.5 tons of copper bullion. And dating to 3,600 years-old, if verified, this will be the world’s “oldest shipwreck”.

It is suspected that this shipwreck is older than a Greek merchant ship found off Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast in 2018 which dates back more than 3,400 years and described as the world’s oldest known “intact shipwreck”.

Built around 1,600 BC, Antalya Governor Münir Karaloğlu, told press at the time that the discovery of this shipwreck was the “Göbeklitepe” of underwater archaeology, a terrestrial site often referred to as Point Zero in cultural archaeology.

Genetic Study Reveals Exactly Who ‘The Romans’ Were

Genetic Study Reveals Exactly Who ‘The Romans’ Were

Ancient Rome was the capital city of an empire that encompassed some 70 million inhabitants. An international research team now reports on data from a genetic study suggesting that, just as all roads may once have led to Rome, in ancient times, a great many European genetic lineages also converged in the ancient city.

Results from the research present possibly the most detailed analysis to date of genetic variability in the region. They reveal a dynamic population history from the Mesolithic era (~10,000 BCE) into modern times, which spans the rise and fall of the Roman Empire.

“This study shows how dynamic the past really is,” said Hannah Moots, a graduate student in anthropology at Stanford University, who is the co-lead author of the published paper, which is reported in Science, and titled, “Ancient Rome: A genetic crossroads of Europe and the Mediterranean.”

At that time, “Rome was like New York City … a concentration of people of different origins joining together,” says Guido Barbujani, a population geneticist at the University of Ferrara in Italy who wasn’t involved in the study.

“This is the kind of cutting-edge work that’s starting to fill in the details [of history],” adds Kyle Harper, a Roman historian at the University of Oklahoma in Norman.

The study, published today in Science, traces 12,000 years of history using genomes from 127 people buried at 29 archaeological sites in and around the city of Rome.

Alfredo Coppa, a physical anthropologist at the Sapienza University of Rome, sought hundreds of samples from dozens of previously excavated sites. Ron Pinhasi of the University of Vienna extracted DNA from the skeletons’ ear bones, and Jonathan Pritchard, a population geneticist at Stanford University, sequenced and analyzed their DNA.

The oldest genomes came from three hunter-gatherers who lived 9000 to 12,000 years ago and genetically resembled other hunter-gatherers in Europe at the time. Later genomes showed the Romans changed in step with the rest of Europe, as an influx of early farmers with ancestry from Anatolia (what is now Turkey) reshaped the genetics of the entire region some 9000 years ago.

But Rome went its own way from 900 B.C.E. to 200 B.C.E. That’s when it grew from a small town into an important city, says Kristina Killgrove, a Roman bioarchaeologist at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill who wasn’t involved in the study.

During its growth, “probably a lot of migration [was] happening,” she says—as the genomes of 11 individuals from this period confirm. Some people had genetic markers resembling those of modern Italians, whereas others had markers reflecting ancestry from the Middle East and North Africa.

That diversity increased even more as Rome became an empire. Between 27 B.C.E. and 300 C.E., the city was the capital of an empire of 50 million to 90 million people, stretching from North Africa to Britain to the Middle East. Its population grew to more than 1 million people. The genetic “diversity was just overwhelming,” Pinhasi says.

But people from certain parts of the empire were far more likely to move to the capital. The study suggests the vast majority of immigrants to Rome came from the East. Of 48 individuals sampled from this period, only two showed strong genetic ties to Europe.

Another two had strong North African ancestry. The rest had ancestry connecting them to Greece, Syria, Lebanon, and other places in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East.

That makes sense, Harper says, because, at the time, areas to the east of Italy were more populous than Europe; many people lived in big cities such as Athens and Alexandria. And Rome was connected to Greece and the Middle East by the Mediterranean Sea, which was far easier to traverse than overland routes through the Alps, he says.

“The genetic information parallels what we know from historical and archaeological records,” Killgrove says. She and others have identified individuals from imperial Roman cemeteries who likely didn’t grow up in Rome, based on isotopes in their teeth that reflect the water they drank when young—though the studies couldn’t show their precise origins. Ancient texts and words carved on tombstones also point to large populations of immigrants in the city, Harper says.

But once the empire split in two and the eastern capital moved to Constantinople (what is now Istanbul, Turkey) in the 4th century C.E., Rome’s diversity decreased. Trade routes sent people and goods to the new capital, and epidemics and invasions reduced Rome’s population to about 100,000 people.

Invading barbarians brought in more European ancestry. Rome gradually lost its strong genetic link to the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East. By medieval times, city residents again genetically resembled European populations.

“People perhaps imagine that the amount of migration we see nowadays is a new thing,” Pritchard says. “But it’s clear from ancient DNA that populations have been mixing at really high rates for a long time.”

The Medieval Woman Who “Gave Birth” In A Coffin

The Medieval Woman Who “Gave Birth” In A Coffin

In Italy, a macabre discovery brought insight into two rare medical phenomena from the early Middle Ages. 

In Imola, Italy, among several burials. The well-preserved remains of an adult laid to rest with the bones of a fetus positioned between the legs were found by archaeologists.

A deeper analysis has now shown that the pair is an unusual case of ‘ coffin birth. ‘

Among several burials unearthed in Imola, Italy in 2010, archaeologists found the well-preserved remains of an adult laid to rest with the bones of a fetus positioned between its legs (shown). A closer look has now revealed the pair represents an unusual case of ‘coffin birth’

During the funeral both the mother and the child had already died-but, it wasn’t until after that the stillborn baby was pushed from her body.

It remains a mystery how exactly the pregnant woman died hundreds of years ago around the age of 25-35, but markings on her skull indicate she underwent medieval brain surgery at least a week prior, with a hole drilled neatly into her skull.

Researchers from the Universities of Ferrara and Bologna have detailed the grim findings in a paper published to the journal World Neurosurgery.

The procedure exemplified in the burial from the 7th-8th century AD is known as trepanation and is thought to date back to the Neolithic era.

It was used to treat all sorts of ailments by drilling or cutting into the skull – including a pregnancy disorder still common today.

‘Eclampsia is the outcome of seizures of pre-eclampsia, which can affect women after the twentieth week of pregnancy, and hypertensive diseases are still the first cause of maternal death,’ the authors wrote in the study.

‘Some of the most common manifestations of this disease are high fever, convulsions, consistent frontal, and occipital cephalalgia, high intracranial pressure, and cerebral hemorrhage.

‘All these symptoms, from Prehistory to the 20th century, used to be treated with trepanation.’

It remains a mystery how exactly the pregnant woman died hundreds of years ago around the age of 25-35, but markings on her skull indicate she underwent medieval brain surgery at least a week prior, with a hole drilled neatly into her skull. The procedure is known as trepanation

The nature of the lesion observed in the ancient skull suggests the injury was the result of surgical intervention, rather than violent trauma.

And, the researchers say it even exhibits signs of early bone healing, indicating the woman survived at least a week after the procedure was done. At the time, she was roughly 38 weeks into the pregnancy.

While it’s impossible to know for sure why the trepanation was performed, the researchers say it was likely an attempt to reduce pressure in the skull stemming from eclampsia.  How she died is even less certain.

‘There are still several unknown points about the woman’s cause of death,’ the authors explain, noting that she could have died from the pregnancy disorder, labor-related complications, or the surgery itself.

Coffin birth is rare, particularly in modern times where modern embalming practices remove bodily fluids and insert chemicals to prevent decomposition

In any case, the researchers say the discovery of both trepanation and coffin birth in the same set of remains is incredibly rare.

‘This finding is one of the few documented cases of trepanation in the European Early Middle Ages, and the only one featuring a pregnant woman in association with a post mortem fetal extrusion phenomenon,’ the authors wrote.

‘Considering all these factors, this case represents a unicum and sheds more light on the clinical history of neurosurgery and pregnancy during this historical period.’

Archaeologists unearth ancient settlement dating back 11,800 years in Turkey

Archaeologists unearth ancient settlement dating back 11,800 years in Turkey

On Thursday in south-eastern Turkey, an ancient historic site dating back to 11,800 years was discovered.

The area has been home to many different civilizations including the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Hittites, Urartians, Romans, Akkadians, Sumerians and Ottoman civilizations. This region belongs to the province of Mardin.

As part of a project to document and rescue cultural sites in the Dargecit district when they came across the 11,800-year-old sewer system and over two dozen architectural artifacts. found by Archeologist Ergul Kodas & his team.

There are currently 15 restorers and archaeologists and 50 staff in the area designated by Turkish authorities as a cultural and historical site.

Kodas, the head of the excavation team, said the historical site was inhabited for a long period around 9800 B.C. and that there were eight-story historical buildings reaching up to seven meters in height.

He noted that the sewer system was the oldest known in history, saying: “We were only able to unearth a certain portion of the sewer system, and confirmed it was [located] in a public use area.”

On Oct.31, an ancient temple estimated to be over 11,000 years old — which belongs almost to the same period as Gobeklitepe, the famed “oldest temple in the world” located in southeastern Sanliurfa province of Turkey — was found at the same excavation site.

Why There Are Six Million Skeletons Stuffed Into The Tunnels Beneath Paris

Why There Are Six Million Skeletons Stuffed Into The Tunnels Beneath Paris

One of his mysterious entrances into the French capital Paris should you be closely looking for. But if you trip over it, it shows a dark and dank and narrow tunnel underground world with a fascinating history.

The bones of 6 million people known as the French Empire of the Dead a reality brought to life in the recent CNN movie-lie underneath the City of Light where 12 million people are living there.

The Paris catacombs are a 200-mile network of old caves, tunnels, and quarries – and much of it is filled with the skulls and bones of the dead.

Much of the catacombs are out of bounds to the public, making it illegal to explore unsupervised. But nevertheless, it is a powerful draw for a hardcore group of explorers with a thirst for adventure.

A tourist-friendly, the legal entrance can be found off Place Denfert-Rochereau in the 14th arrondissement of Paris, near the Montparnasse district.

Here, visitors from all over the world can descend into the city’s dark and dank bowels for a whistle-stop tour of a small section of the catacombs.

One visitor told CNN: ‘I think people are fascinated with death. They don’t know what it’s about and you see all these bones stacked up, and the people that have come before us, and it’s fascinating. We’re trying to find our past and it’s crazy and gruesome and fun all at the same time.’

Why There Are Six Million Skeletons Stuffed Into The Tunnels Beneath Paris
The macabre mosaics lining the walls of the underground network are the remains of 6million former Parisians

The well-worn trail might be enough to satisfy the tourists, but other Parisians like to go further – and deeper – to explore the network. The name given to the group of explorers who go into the cave network illegally and unsupervised is Cataphiles.

The top-secret groups go deep underground, using hidden entrances all over the city. And they sometimes stay for days at a time, equipped with headlamps and home-made maps.

Street names are etched into the walls to help explorers navigate their way around the underground version of the city and some groups have even been known to throw parties in the tunnels or drink wine.

For catacomb devotees, the silence experienced deep in tunnels cannot be replicated anywhere else.

Urban explorer Loic Antoine-Gambeaud told CNN: ‘I think it’s in the collective imagination. Everybody knows that there is something below Paris; that something goes on that’s mysterious. But I don’t think many people have even an idea of what the underground is like.’

Empire of the dead: While much of the 200-mile network is out of bounds, a small section is open to tourists

Those caught exploring unauthorized sections of the network could end up out of pocket. Police tasked with patrolling the tunnels have the power to hand out fines of 60 euros to anyone caught illegally roaming the network.

A by-product of the early development of Paris, the catacombs were subterranean quarries which were established as limestone was extracted deep underground to build the city above.

However, a number of streets collapsed as the quarries weakened parts of the city’s foundations. Repairs and reinforcements were made and the network went through several transformations throughout history.

However, it wasn’t until the 18th century that the catacombs became known as the Empire of the Dead when they became the solution to overcrowding in the city’s cemeteries.

The number of dead bodies buried in Paris’s cemeteries and beneath its churches was so great that they began breaking through the walls of people’s cellars and causing serious health concerns.

So the human remains were transferred to the underground quarries in the early 1780s. There are now more than 6million people underground.

Space was the perfect solution to ease overcrowding in cemeteries but it presented disadvantages elsewhere. It is the reason there are few tall buildings in Paris; large foundations cannot be built because the catacombs are directly under the city’s streets.

The tunnels also played their part in the Second World War. Parisian members of the French Resistance used the winding tunnels and German soldiers also set up an underground bunker in the catacombs, just below the 6th arrondissement.