The oldest bottle of wine in the world remains unopened since the 4th Century
For a few years now, contemporary historians have been debating the future of the oldest bottle of wine in the world, known as the Speyer wine bottle, or “Römerwein.”
Historians have split opinions on whether the bottle should be opened or not. This extremely rare artifact is 1,650-years-old and it is placed in the Historical Museum of the Palatinate in Germany.
The glass amphora has handled in the shape of dolphins and is sealed with wax.
The contents of the bottle are about one-third olive oil which in the past was used as a preservative that prevented the wine from oxidizing.
The Speyer bottle was found in the grave of a Roman nobleman in 1867, in the Rhineland-Palatine region of Germany and caused a real stir among historians and archaeologists at the time.
It’s been said that the noble owner, believed to be a high ranking Legionnaire, was buried with the bottle of wine, an ancient custom which represents the Romans’ beliefs in the after-life, that is, sending valuable objects with the body of the deceased so she or he can use them in the “hereafter.”
Reportedly, the tomb near the city of Speyer also contained the sarcophagi of his two spouses.
The antique bottle, which represents thousands of years of human history and customs, was named after the city of Speyer.
In the glory days of Ancient Rome, wine and wine cults were diligently observed.
One of the inventions of Hero of Alexandria, an engineer who was centuries ahead of his time, was a delightful party centerpiece that seemingly turned one liquid into another.
His trick jug incorporated two separate, sealed compartments and some clever pneumatics to make it seem that water added to the vessel was dispensed as wine. This is one of several similar devices that Hero describes in his Pneumatica.
During WWI, a chemist analyzed the Speyer bottle but never opened it so the wine was given to the Historical Museum of the Palatinate collection in Speyer. Over time, numerous scientists have hoped to obtain permission to analyze the bottle’s contents thoroughly, though nobody has been granted one yet.
Some scientists and microbiologists are adamant that the bottle shouldn’t be opened, among them Ludger Tekampe, the curator of the Folklore Wine Museum collection.
“We are not sure whether or not it could stand the shock to the air. It is still liquid and there are some who believe it should be subjected to new scientific analysis but we are not sure,” said Tekampe on the matter.
This rare artifact of the ancient world was created during the early days of the tradition of wine production and consumption, which was begun by the ancient Greeks.
The tradition was later embraced by the ancient Romans, who also took Dionysus, the Greek god of agriculture, wine, and fertility, and renamed him, Bacchus.
Contrary to the general notion and belief that the older the wine is, the better, the Speyer wine is presumed to be undrinkable.
According to the Daily Mail, Professor Monika Christmann said that although the Speyer wine might not be microbiologically spoiled, it “would not bring joy to the palate.”
Fossil of a beetle inside a lizard inside a snake – an ancient food chain
Paleontologists have uncovered a fossil that has preserved an insect inside a lizard inside a snake – a prehistoric battle of the food chain that ended in a volcanic lake some 48 million years ago.
Pulled from an abandoned quarry in southwest Germany called the Messel Pit, the fossil is only the second of its kind ever found, with the remains of three animals sitting snug in one another.
Earlier excavations have revealed the fossilized stomach contents of a prehistoric horse, whose last meal was grapes and leaves, and pollen grains were identified inside a fossilized bird. Remains of insects have also been detected in a sample of fish excrement.
We have been lucky to glimpse such a primordial food chain of the snake, that ate a lizard, that had previously treated itself to a beetle, and ended up in a volcanic lake of the time. It is uncertain how the snake died.
Perhaps the snake’s body fell dead close to the shores of the lake before the waters claimed it. It had died there not more than 48 hours after its “last supper,” scientists say.
“It’s probably the kind of fossil that I will go the rest of my professional life without ever encountering again, such is the rarity of these things.” Such are the words of Dr. Krister Smith, a paleontologist at the Senkenberg Institute in Germany who took charge of the fossil analysis.
According to Dr. Smith, the almost entirely preserved snake was recovered from a plate found in the pit back in 2009, and the discovery soon turned out to be groundbreaking. Smith remarks, “we had never found a tripartite food chain–this is a first for Messel.”
Dr. Smith and Argentine paleontologist Dr. Agustín Scanferla used high-resolution computer imaging to identify the taxonomy of the snake and the lizard, however, they were unable to name the beetle, the least preserved of the three.
The snake, measuring some 3.4 feet in length, was identified as Palaeophython fischeri, a species which belongs to a group of tree-dwelling snakes that was able to grow to more than 6.5 feet in length and is related to today’s boas.
The preserved sample from Germany was only a juvenile, an assurance being not only the shorter length but also its food choice, the lizard. Adult boas are known to opt for bigger animals.
The lizard would have measured nearly eight inches and a clear hint for paleontologists that it was inside the snake’s body was that the snake’s ribs overlapped it.
It is an example of the now extinct species Geiseltaliellus maarius, a type of iguanian lizard that inhabited the region of what is now Germany, France, and Belgium. Messel has been the site that has provided some of the best-preserved samples of this lizard species.
What’s also interesting is that, even though lizards are known for shedding their tails when under threat, this one has kept it despite falling prey to the snake.
“Since the stomach contents are digested relatively fast and the lizard shows an excellent level of preservation, we assume that the snake died no more than one to two days after consuming its prey and then sank to the bottom of the Messel Lake, where it was preserved,” explained Dr. Smith.
This is a rare type of fossil, but it’s not the first instance in which a fossil has simultaneously exposed three levels of an ancient food chain. According to National Geographic, in 2008, a fossil dated at more than 250 millions of years old depicted a shark that had devoured an amphibian that had previously consumed a spiny-finned fish.
Both these findings are precious as they reveal significant details on how food chains functioned. In the case of the snake fossil, it is interesting that the lizard had eaten a beetle.
Before that, scientists didn’t know that the Messel lizard liked to dine on insects, as in previous digs they had been able to identify only remains of plants in fossilized lizard bellies. In the case of the shark, it was revealed that amphibians consumed fish before becoming a menu item to the fish itself.
‘Oldest Roman library Discovered Beneath German City’ unearthed by Cologne archaeologist
A team of archeologists who digged near the church of Antoniter, a Protestant church in the center of Cologne, Germany, found a puzzling discovery.
Beneath the foundations of the church were Roman walls—Cologne (then called Colonia) was founded by the Romans in 50 AD—with a series of niches measuring about 31 inches by 20 inches.
Initially, archaeologists thought that the niches used to host statues. But soon enough it became evident that they must have served some other purpose.
“It took us some time to match up the parallel—we could see the niches were too small to bear statues inside,” Dr. Dirk Schmitz, an archaeologist at the Roman-Germanic Museum of Cologne told The Guardian.
After more research, Schmitz and his team noticed how the niches were similar to those found in Roman-era libraries such as the 117 structure discovered in Ephesus, Turkey.
They concluded that the niches served as “cupboards for scrolls” and that the building used to be a library containing an estimated 20,000 scrolls.
According to the area excavated so far, the library used to measure 65 feet by 30 feet and was probably two stories tall—a monumental building for Roman times.
Its location, right in the center of the city, provided further evidence about the nature of the building.“It is in the middle of Cologne, in the marketplace, or forum: the public space in the city center,” Schmitz told The Guardian.
“It is built of very strong materials, and such buildings, because they are so huge, were public.”
Roman-era libraries are rare finds for archaeologists, making this an important discovery.
As Schmitz explained, it is probable that Roman towns had libraries but they are not usually part of excavations’ findings, partly because there is no distinctive sign that can identify a building as a library.
But what made a difference this time was the presence of niches in the walls.
“If we had just found the foundations, we wouldn’t have known it was a library,” Schmitz added.
“It was because it had walls, with the niches, that we could tell.”
An archaeologist unearths 100’s of silver artifacts from the reign of Viking ruler Harald Bluetooth, including 1,000-year-old coins, rings, and a Thor’s hammer
Hundreds of 1,000-year-old silver coins, rings, pearls, and bracelets are among treasures unearthed from the time of a legendary Viking ruler. Clues to the location of the haul were first discovered by two amateur archaeologists, a 13-year-old boy and his teacher.
The pair were looking for valuables using metal detectors when they chanced upon what they thought was a worthless piece of aluminium. Upon closer inspection, they realised that it was a shimmering piece of silver, and alerted experts to the find.
Further investigation revealed a trove believed to date to the era of King Harald Gormsson, who reigned from around 958 to 986 AD. Better known as ‘Harald Bluetooth’, his name lives on in the wireless technology standard named in his honour by its Swedish creators Ericsson. King Harald is also credited with unifying Denmark and introducing Christianity to the Scandinavian nation.
Experts uncovered the collection on the German Baltic island of Rügen, after a single coin was found in a field near the village of Schaprode by Rene Schoen and his student Luca Malaschnitschenko in January.
The state’s archaeology office then became involved, digging an exploratory trench covering 400 square metres (4,300 square feet).
This revealed the entire treasure, which was recovered by experts last weekend. Researchers said that around 100 silver coins of the roughly 600 are probably from the reign of Bluetooth.
He ruled over what is now Denmark, northern Germany, southern Sweden and parts of Norway. Braided necklaces, pearls, brooches, a Thor’s hammer, rings and up to 600 chipped coins were found.
This trove is the biggest single discovery of Bluetooth coins in the southern Baltic Sea region and is therefore of great significance,’ lead archaeologist Michael Schirren told German news agency DPA.
The oldest coin found in the trove is a Damascus dirham dating to 714 AD while the most recent is a penny dating to 983 AD.
The find suggests that the treasure may have been buried in the late 980s – also the period when Bluetooth was known to have fled to Pomerania where he died in 987.‘We have here the rare case of a discovery that appears to corroborate historical sources,’ archaeologist Detlef Jantzen added.
Bluetooth, a Viking-born king turned his back on old Norse religion, but was forced to flee to Pomerania after a rebellion led by his son Sven Gabelbart.
He was the son of Gorm the Old, the first significant figure in a new royal line centred at Jelling, in North Jutland. The Trelleborg type of fortifications, built in a circular shape with a rampart and four gateways, date from his reign.
A total of five are known to exist, located in modern Denmark and the south of Sweden. The expansion begun by Bluetooth in Norway was continued by his son Sweyn I, whose war with his father marked Harald’s last years.
After Sweyn conquered England in 1013 AD, his son Canute ruled over a great Anglo-Scandinavian kingdom that included parts of Sweden.