Family discover ‘perfectly preserved’ Roman tomb hidden beneath a home in southern Spain
In Carmona, a city near Seville, Andalusia, a family made a remarkable discovery during building work on their houses.
They were stunned when they knocked a wall down the patio of their townhouse to find a small arched opening that led to an underground to a funerary chamber dating from the first century AD.
They found eight niches in the room, six of whom were occupied by funerary urns or chests containing what is thought to be human remains dating back more than 2,000 years.
An archaeological team dispatched by the town council to examine the site described it as “perfectly preserved” and said it was the most important discovery made in the area for decades.
Juan Manuel Román, an archaeologist employed by the council, emphasized “the outstanding importance of the discovery”.
“It’s been 35 years since a tomb was found in such a magnificent state of conservation,” he said, adding that it didn’t appear to have suffered any deterioration over the centuries since it was sealed.
“There is barely two fingers worth of sedimentation,” he added.
An initial study suggests the funerary urns are made of different limestones and glass and are sealed in protective lead casings.
Vessels associated with funerary rights, including unguentaria (small bottles used to contain perfume or oil) and glass dishes where offerings would have been made, were also undamaged within the tomb.
The walls of the chamber are decorated with a geometric grid and there are inscriptions on three of the niches, perhaps indicating the name of those interred within.
José Avilés, 39, the owner of the house, who is known by neighbours as Pepe, told local media that he was astounded by the discovery. “We never imagined when we were building an extension to the house that we should find such a thing,” he said.
“It’s all happened very quickly but our intention is to keep the chamber open, preserve it and protect it and somehow incorporate into the house,” he said.
“But we’ll have to see what the archaeological teams say,” he added.
Work immediately started by the council’s archaeology department who said the artifacts found in the tomb would be closely studied and then go on display in the town’s archaeological museum.
Carmona, known as Carmo in Roman times, was one of the most important cities in Roman Spain and today is home to one of the most interesting Roman-era archaeological sites; the Roman Necropolis, a collection of over 300 tombs
Paleolithic ‘Sanctuary’ Containing Rock Art From 15,000 Years Ago Discovered in Spain
Archeologists have discovered a treasure trove of fossil rock art that is 15,000 years old in the autonomous region of Catalonia, Spain. In an investigation, the engravings were found on cave walls. The art is believed to prove that the site once was a religious sanctuary or shrine.
Some of the caves, in October 2019 were investigated by a team of scientists headed by Assistant Professor Joseph María Vergès of the University of Rovira I Virgili.
They had just resumed their work after some serious flooding in the area and were working on a cave known as the Font Major, which is not far from the hamlet of L’Espluga de Francolí. In particular, they were investigating the cave to establish its archaeological potential, and what they found was breathtaking.
They found around 100 examples of rock art, which are mostly examples of abstract art. Also found were some 40 images that represented animals including deer, horses, and oxen, which once inhabited this part of Europe. Catalan News quotes Prof. Vergès as stating that “we made a fortuitous, extraordinary and unexpected discovery.”
The sheer number and the quality of the art mean that they are an important discovery and are invaluable for researchers. Newsweek reports that “the team says the engravings were produced on a layer of soft, sandy silt.” The art was found in a difficult to access part of the Font Major cave. The team did not immediately announce the discovery to the public as they wanted to secure and study the site first.
The ancient art is the oldest that has been found in Catalonia, and there is nothing else like them in the region. The team relied on a study of their style, which revealed the majority of the images date to around 13,000 BC and comes from the “Upper Paleolithic, and more specifically to the Magdalenian period,” according to El Periodico.
It is believed based on an analysis of their style that some could be even older, while others come from the later Neolithic period. The Catalan Institute of Archaeology (IPHES), stated that the discovery was “a milestone in the history of Catalan archaeology,” reports Newsweek.
The archaeologists believe that the cave was once a shrine or a religious sanctuary. It is likely that religious and other ceremonies were held at the site.
The artworks may have had some magical or spiritual significance for the Stone Age people who created them. Given the various styles of the images, it would appear that the site was considered sacred for a considerable time.
Catalan News reports Prof. Vergès as saying that “the sanctuary may have even been bigger but that some of the engravings had in fact been erased by human activity.” In the past, the cave was part of an adventure trail. Many visitors had touched and drew graffiti on the walls with the engravings and had unwittingly destroyed the Stone Age art.
The shrine or sanctuary cannot be visited because of the small size of the cave and especially because of the delicateness of the rock art. Newsweek states that “the archaeologists say that the engravings can be easily damaged or destroyed with even minimal contact.” Therefore, it is highly unlikely that the shrine will ever be open to the public.
However, experts from IPHES and the regional Catalan Culture Ministry are working to record the ancient images. They are using 3D scanning equipment to record the prehistoric art, and this will enable them to be studied without them being put at risk. It is hoped that the 3D scans, which will be in high resolution, will one day be made available to the public and allow for the sanctuary to be digitally recreated. Visitors will hopefully have an opportunity “to view a projection of the sanctuary in 3D,” according to the Catalan News.
The Catalan government has announced that the cave will be declared a cultural asset, which means that it will be protected by law.
Spain is home to some of the world’s most important examples of prehistoric rock art and engravings, such as those at Altamira and El Castillo, which have some of the earliest known. Indeed, the country is home to the greatest number of documented rock art sites in the world.
Nearly 400 years after storms sent one of Spain’s greatest treasure galleons on to the sea outside Mexico, archaeologists from the two countries are to renew their search for the ship and its precious cargo of gold, silver, and jewels.
According to the storm hit, the omens for the Nuestra Señora del Juncal’s return voyage in October 1631 were decidedly ill. A day before the fleet of which it was a part set sail from Mexico, its commander died. The ships pressed on even though the Juncal was in a poor state of repair and taking on water.
After weathering a fortnight’s storms, cutting the main mast and tossing cannons and other heavy objects overboard in a desperate attempt to lighten the ship, the crew could do no more. Of the 300 people on board, 39 survived by climbing into a small launch.
In May, underwater archaeologists from Spain and Mexico will begin a 10-day search for the Juncal. It is hoped that the work will be just the beginning of a two-decade-long scientific and cultural collaboration.
The joint project, which comes six years after Spain and Mexico signed a memorandum of understanding over their shared underwater cultural heritage, aims not only to locate and protect the Juncal but also to train a new generation of Latin American underwater archaeologists.
Dr. Iván Negueruela, the director of Spain’s National Museum of Underwater Archaeology, has been working closely with Roberto Junco, the deputy director of underwater archaeology at Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History. Negueruela said the team had done its calculations and the chances of finding the ship were looking very promising.
“Because the cargo was so valuable – it was carrying lots of ingots – the authorities had a detailed inventory,” he said. “The survivors were also questioned in-depth and their statements help us to reconstruct what happened with quite a high degree of accuracy, so we have a fairly good idea of where the ship sank.”
The Juncal is thought to have been carrying between 120 and 150 tonnes of precious materials, dwarfing the 14 tonnes of cargo recovered from another Spanish wreck, the Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, in 2007.
Negueruela said the Juncal was transporting riches beyond silver and gold from the New World, among them cacao, dyes and animal hides. Anything organic is unlikely to have survived four centuries of sitting in saltwater, however.
The priority from an archaeological point of view is securing the site and carrying out a methodical, exhaustive and transparent excavation. “When you have a cargo of such extraordinary riches, you’ve got to be totally transparent about what you’re doing, whether you bring up two tonnes of silver or a single silver spoon,” said Negueruela.
“We also want this to serve as a training ground for young underwater archaeologists from Latin America so that countries don’t find themselves at the mercy of pirates and treasure-hunting companies. There will be grants to allow two or three young archaeologists to come out with us each year to train.”
The idea is that within eight or 10 years there will be a group of young, well-trained archaeologists in each country where they’re needed.
“We older archaeologists are running out of time and we need to train up young archaeologists so that we can leave the seabed in good hands,” said Negueruela.
For him, the Juncal’s true riches are not its cargo but the vessel itself – and the chance, for once, to get to a wreck before the treasure hunters do.
“I’m really keen to discover exactly how the ship was constructed and to see how the bulkheads and the decks were put together,” he said.
“We’ve seen that with Mary Rose and the Vasa in Sweden. I want to know exactly how a galleon looked in the first half of the 17th century, and that’s fundamental: where were the sleeping quarters, the stores, the latrines, the eating areas. We know about them from drawings from the archives from the 16th to 18th centuries but we’ve never excavated them. This is such a rich source of information.”
Construction Workers Stumble Across Old Pots With 1,300 Pounds Of Ancient Roman Coins Inside
Building companies discovered a hoard of bronze Roman coins concealed in jugs in Tomares, Spain during this week.
19 pottery jugs were discovered in the Zaudin Park when the workers digged ditches. The urns were packed with coins showing an emperor on one side and various depictions of Roman stories on the back reported the Spanish newspaper, El Pais.
According to the Archeological Museum of Seville, where the treasure was carried, the coins weigh more than 1,300 pounds date back to the third or fourth centuries.
Ana Navarro Ortega, who heads the museum, said that 10 of the jugs broke during the dig.
“I can assure you that the jugs cannot be lifted by one person because of their weight and the quantity of the coins inside,” she said. “So now what we have to do is begin to understand the historical and archaeological context of this discovery.”
Why so many coins would be hidden in jugs raises interesting questions for archaeologists and historians.
Investigators floated the hypothesis that the money was set aside to pay imperial taxes or army levies, reported El Pais. The jugs appeared deliberately concealed underground, covered by a few bricks and ceramic fillers, according to the Andalusian department of culture.
Richard Weigel, a professor of ancient Greece and Rome at Western Kentucky University, told the PBS NewsHour that the coins likely were buried during an era of “great discord in the Roman empire.”
The central authority in Rome broke down in the middle of the third century, he said. Germanic tribes invaded the country from time to time, in addition to other challenges to the various emperors.
The part of southern Spain where the coins were discovered would have been considered a distant land to emperors before it became a normal part of the Roman Empire, said, Weigel.
“The suggestion that they were collected to pay taxes to the Roman Empire is, of course, possible,” he said. “But I suspect that they could have been stored to pay one of the Roman legions in the area and to hide the money from invaders in the region.”
Once the emperors on the coins are identified, he continued, it should be easier to date the coins and put them in the context of military activities and invasions.
Archaeologist Busted for Faking Artifacts Showing Jesus Crucifixion
An archaeologist accused of forging a trove of Roman artifacts that allegedly show a third-century depiction of Jesus’ crucifixion, Egyptian hieroglyphics and the early use of the Basque language.
The Telegraph also announced that archeologist Eliseo Gil and his two former fellow members were present in a criminal court this week in the Spanish Basque Country’s capital Vitoria-Gasteiz.
Their allegation is that they have created forgeries of ancient graffiti on hundreds of pieces of pottery, glass, and brick that they claim was found in the Roman ruins at Iruña-Veleia, about 6 miles (10 kilometers) west of Vitoria-Gasteiz.
Gil claimed the graffiti on the artifacts showed very early links between the Roman settlement in Spain and the Basque language; he also claimed that a drawing of three crosses scratched on a piece of ancient pottery was the earliest known portrayal of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
But other archaeologists have disputed the finds. Among other major discrepancies, they pointed out that some of the languages of the graffiti show that it was made in modern times.
Gil and his former colleagues, geologist Óscar Escribano and materials analyst Rubén Cerdán, say they are not guilty of any deception.
Gil and Escribano are facing five and a half years in prison if they are found guilty of fraud and damaging heritage items, while Cerdán faces two and a half years in prison if he is found guilty of making fraudulent documents vouching for the authenticity of the artifacts.
Gil became a celebrity in Spain’s Basque Country in 2006 when he claimed that hundreds of broken ceramic pieces known as “ostraca” — covered with drawings; phrases in Latin, Greek and Basque; and Egyptian hieroglyphics — had been unearthed at the Iruña-Veleia site.
But some other archaeologists became suspicious, and they alerted officials in the Álava provincial government, which owns the Iruña-Veleia site.
The other archaeologists alleged that writing on the artifacts, supposedly from the second to the fifth centuries, contained words and spellings from hundreds of years later, modern commas and the mixed-use of uppercase and lowercase letters, a practice which dates from after the eighth century.
The graffiti on some of the artifacts also contained hieroglyphics spelling out the name of the ancient Egyptian queen Nefertiti, who was probably unknown until her rediscovery in the early 20th century, and a Latin motto created around 1913 for an international court at The Hague in the Netherlands.
Experts also considered that the Christian iconography of the crucifixion portrayed on the most famous artifact dated from hundreds of years later than claimed.
A scientific commission convened by the provincial government in 2008 ruled that 476 of the artifacts were manipulated or outright fakes and that Gil and his colleagues had perpetrated an elaborate fraud, according to its report. In response, the provincial government stopped Gil and his company from working at Iruña-Veleia and pressed charges, which have now come to court.
Gil maintains that he is innocent and that there is no scientific evidence that the artifacts are fake. At a news conference in 2015, Gil said the accusations, as well as his ostracism from the archaeological world, we’re like “going through torture.”
The prosecutor’s office of the provincial government is seeking more than 285,000 euros ($313,000) for damage to authentic artifacts from Iruña-Veleia allegedly inscribed with fake graffiti.
They’ve also asked the court to jail Gil and his associates, fine them and disqualify them from working on archaeological sites. Many archaeologists are convinced that the artifacts are fake, but they don’t know if Gil and his associates are responsible for the inauthenticity of the artifacts.
“I have no doubts about their falsity,” said archaeologist Ignacio Rodríguez Temiño, told BBC in an email. “There is no dispute on the Iruña-Veleia case in the academic world.”
Rodríguez Temiño works in Seville for the provincial government of Andalucía. He is the author of a paper published in the archaeological journal Zephyrus in 2017 that detailed evidence that the artifacts from Iruña-Veleia are fakes and possible reasons for the deception. He noted that Basque public companies and government bodies awarded Gil and his associates sponsorships worth millions of dollars for their work at Iruña-Veleia.
The fake artifacts were an attempt to promote certain ideas about Basque nationalism, including the early use of the Basque language and the early Christianization of what is now the Basque Country, he said.
Both are “stories that a certain segment of Basque society longs to hear,” he said.