The Most Beautiful Dead: Photographs of Europe’s Jeweled Skeletons

The Most Beautiful Dead: Jeweled Skeletons Unearthed From the Catacombs Of Rome!

A relic hunter dubbed ‘Indiana Bones’ has lifted the lid on a macabre collection of 400-year-old jewel-encrusted skeletons unearthed in churches across Europe.

Art historian Paul Koudounaris hunted down and photographed dozens of gruesome skeletons in some of the world’s most secretive religious establishments.

Incredibly, some of the skeletons, said to be the remains of early Christian martyrs, were even found hidden away in lock-ups and containers.

St Valerius in Weyarn: Art historian Paul Koudounaris hunted down and photographed dozens of gruesome skeletons in some of the world’s most secretive religious establishments
St Albertus and St Felix: Incredibly, some of the skeletons, said to be the remains of early Christian martyrs, were even found hidden away in lock-ups and containers

They are now the subject of a new book, which sheds light on the forgotten ornamented relics for the first time.

Thousands of skeletons were dug up from Roman catacombs in the 16th century and installed in towns around Germany, Austria, and Switzerland on the orders of the Vatican.

They were sent to Catholic churches and religious houses to replace the relics destroyed in the wake of the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s.

St Deodatus in Rheinau, Switzerland. The skeletons were sent to Catholic churches and religious houses to replace the relics destroyed in the wake of the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s
St Benedictus: Thousands of skeletons were dug up from Roman catacombs in the 16th century and installed in towns around Germany, Austria, and Switzerland on the orders of the Vatican

Mistaken for the remains of early Christian martyrs, the morbid relics, known as the Catacomb Saints, became shrines reminding of the spiritual treasures of the afterlife.

They were also symbols of the Catholic Church’s newly found strength in previously Protestant areas.

Each one was painstakingly decorated in thousands of pounds worth of gold, silver, and gems by devoted followers before being displayed in church niches. Some took up to five years to decorate.

St. Friedrich at the Benedictine abbey in Melk, Austria, is presented in a typical reclining pose and holds a laurel branch as a sign of victory.
The hand of St Valentin in Bad Schussenreid, By the 19th century they had become morbid reminders of an embarrassing past and many were stripped of their honors and discarded

They were renamed as saints, although none of them qualified for the title under the strict rules of the Catholic church which require saints to have been canonized.

But by the 19th century, they had become morbid reminders of an embarrassing past and many were stripped of their honours and discarded.

Mr. Koudounaris’ new book, Heavenly Bodies: Cult Treasures and Spectacular Saints from the Catacombs, is the first time the skeletons have appeared in print.

Mr. Koudounaris, from Los Angeles, said: ‘I was working on another book looking into charnel houses when I came across the existence of these skeletons.

As I discovered more about them I had this feeling that it was my duty to tell they’re a fascinating story.

St. Luciana arrived at the convent in Heiligkreuztal, Germany, in the mid- 18th century and was prepared for display by the nuns in Ennetach.

After they were found in the Roman catacombs the Vatican authorities would sign certificates identifying them as martyrs then they put the bones in boxes and sent them northwards.

The skeletons would then be dressed and decorated in jewels, gold, and silver, mostly by nuns.

They had to be handled by those who had taken a sacred vow to the church – these were believed to be martyrs and they couldn’t have just anyone handling them. They were symbols of the faith triumphant and were made saints in the municipalities.

One of the reasons they were so important was not for their spiritual merit, which was pretty dubious, but for their social importance. They were thought to be miraculous and really solidified people’s bond with a town. This reaffirmed the prestige of the town itself.’

He added: ‘It’s impossible to put a modern-day value on the skeletons.’

Roman Senate Building Unearthed in Egypt

Remains of Graeco-Roman Senate Building Unearthed in Egypt

With a history as rich as Egypt’s, there’s really no limit to the type of discoveries that can be unearthed between Sinai to Siwa and down to Aswan.

North Sinai holds the remains of the ancient Egyptian city of Pelusium – an area now known as Tell Farama, which dates back to the Greek, Roman, and Ptolemaic ages.

Remains of a huge Graeco-Roman building, believed to have been the Roman Empire’s main senate, has been unearthed at the Pelusiam archaeological site near North Sinai.

The building was found by the Egyptian archaeological mission working on location in Tel al-Farma in cooperation with the Institute of Archeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences.

The 2,500 sqm building consists of bricks and limestone and contains three main amphitheaters covered with marble.

With the remains of three 60 cm-thick circular benches found at the third amphitheater made of red brick. 

“The building was most probably used as a headquarters for the Senate Council of Pelusium, one of the North Sinai’s old cities,” said Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities.

The initial studies conducted on architectural planning and the construction of the building indicated that it was used to hold meetings for the citizens’ representatives.

During the rule of the Ptolemies and Romans for taking important decisions about the public affairs of the city and its citizens, Waziri said.

Ayman Ashmawy, head of the Egyptian Antiquities Department at the Ministry of Antiquities, said the 2,500-square-metre building shaped from outside as a rectangular, with circular terraces and the main gate located on the eastern side.

He pointed out that the interior design of the building consists of the remains of three 60 cm-thick circular benches which were built of red brick and covered with marble.

The mission also uncovered the main streets of Pelusium city, Ashmawy added.

He explained that during the fifth and sixth century AD, the building was used as a quarry where the stones, bricks, and columns were extracted from their original places for use in the construction of other buildings in the city.

Mysterious 4,000-year-old grave reveals boy and girl buried face to face

Mysterious 4,000-year-old grave reveals boy and girl buried face to face

Mysterious 4,000-year-old grave reveals boy and girl buried face to face
The bodies of a young man and woman inside the grave. The cemetery dates back approximately 4,000 years to the Bronze Age.

In a cemetery dating back about 4000 years, in Kazakhstan, the bodies of a young man and women were discovered buried face to face, probably in their twenties. You might be in a romantic connection they were a couple.

The bodies of a man and woman who died 4,000 years ago have been found buried face-to-face in a grave in Kazakhstan.

Archaeologists discovered the burial in an ancient cemetery that has remains of humans and horses, Kazakhstan archaeologists said in a Kazakh-language statement.

Some of the jewelry and bracelets that were found that belonged to the young man and woman. 
Large ceramic pots were found in the burial. 

The man and woman were buried with a variety of grave goods that includes jewelry (some of which is gold), knives, ceramics, and beads. The remains of horses were also found near the burial.

While some media reports claim that the archaeologists also found the burial of a priestess nearby, the archaeologists made no mention of this in their statement.

While the statement says that the pair is “young” it doesn’t give an age range.

It’s not clear what killed the man and woman or their exact relationship to each other, including whether they were romantically involved.

The rich burial goods suggest that the man and woman came from wealthy families, archaeologists said in their statement.

Archaeological remains found at other sites in Kazakhstan suggest that the pair lived at a time when fighting and conflicts occurred frequently in the region, archaeologists also said.

Excavation of the cemetery and analysis of the remains are ongoing. The archaeological team is led by Igor Kukushkin, an archaeology professor at Saryarka Archaeological Institute at Karaganda State University in Kazakhstan. Live Science was unable to reach Kukushkin at the time this story was published.

Numerous archaeological remains have been uncovered in Kazakhstan. In 2016, a team led by Kukushkin found the remains of a 3,000-year-old, pyramid-shaped mausoleum.

In 2014, a different team of archaeologists identified 50 geoglyphs with various shapes and sizes, including a massive swastika, that appear to date as far back as 2,800 years.

Archaeologists Have Finally Found Greece’s Lost City Of Tenea

Archaeologists Have Finally Found Greece’s Lost City Of Tenea

The story goes, that Tenea was founded by the survivors of the Trojan War in the 12th or 13th century BC, Until now, its location (and very existence) was entirely reliant on the words of historical text.

But the Ministry of Culture of the country announced the discovery of jewelry, pottery and even infrastructures by a team of archeologists, seemingly confirming where it was on a site near the village of Chiliomodi in southern Greece.

It’s a city that the ancient Greeks thought was settled by Trojan captives of war after the sack of Troy in the 12th or 13th century BC and up to now showed up only in texts.

Tenea Project Photo by Ministry of Culture and Sports, Greece

Also found were household pottery, a bone gaming die, and 200 coins dating from the 4th century BC and up to later in the Roman era.

Specifically, coins discovered were dated to the era of Roman emperor Septimius Severus, who ruled from 193 to 211.

Past digs have found clues near the city, but the most recent excavation uncovered the “city’s urban fabric,” including floors, walls and door openings, the culture ministry said, according to USA Today.

Satellite map

An unsettling discovery was a pottery jar containing the remains of two human fetuses, within the foundations of a building. Usually in Greek culture, the dead were buried in cemeteries.

Legend says the city thrived until the end of the Roman Empire, at which point it seems to have been damaged in a Gothic invasion. According to the Ministry, the city may have been left deserted in the 6th century CE during the Avar and Slavic raids.

Photo by Ministry of Culture and Sports, Greece

Lead archaeologist Elena Korka told the Associated Press that the discoveries indicated the citizens of Tenea had been “remarkably affluent.”

The city would have been located on a trade route between the cities of Corinth and Argos in the northern Peloponnese.

“(The city) had distinctive pottery shapes with eastern influences, maintained contacts with both east and west… and had its own thinking, which, to the extent that it could, shaped its own policies,” she told the AP.

Pottery found on location.

Throughout history, not much was known about Tenea, apart from ancient references to the reputed link with Troy and to its citizens having formed the bulk of the Greek colonists who founded the city of Syracuse in Sicily.

Korka said more should emerge during the excavations, which will continue over the coming years.

″(The city) had distinctive pottery shapes with eastern influences, maintained contacts with both east and west … and had its own way of thinking, which, to the extent that it could, shaped its own policies,” she said.

According to Reuters, among the findings was a golden coin to pay for the journey to an afterlife and an iron ring with a seal that depicted the Greek god Serapis sitting on a throne, Cerberus, which is a three-headed mythical dog that guards the gates of Ades, beside him.

Trojan War

The Trojan War is believed to have taken place near the end of the Bronze Age, around 1200 B.C. It took place around the time that a civilization called Mycenaean was active in Greece. They built palaces and developed a system of writing.

The earliest accounts of this war come from Homer, who lived around the eighth century B.C., several centuries after the events that took place. They do not appear to have been written down until even later, likely during the sixth century B.C.

The site of Hisarlik, in northwest Turkey, has been identified as Troy. It was inhabited for almost 4,000 years starting around 3000 B.C. After one city was destroyed, a new city would be built on top.

“There is no one single Troy; there are at least 10, lying in layers on top of each other,” writes University of Amsterdam researcher Gert Jan van Wijngaarden in a chapter of the book Troy: City, Homer, and Turkey.

4,000-Year-Old Ancient Babylonian Tablet is Oldest Customer Service Complaint Ever Discovered

4,000-Year-Old Ancient Babylonian Tablet is Oldest Customer Service Complaint Ever Discovered

People lived, worked and spent time in old Mesopotamia, just as we live with our families today. They also had daily issues, and clay tablets discovered at the site of the ancient city of Ur, today Tell el-Muqayyar in southern Iraq, show some of them.

Nanni, probably a man of business or a craftsman, wrote a letter to Ea-Nasir about four thousand years ago, according to Quartz, complaining that the ingots he bought were of lower quality and that Ea-Nassir had treated him poorly by not reimbursing his cash.

To collect his cash in individual Nanni would have had to cross enemy land. The following was written by him:

“How have you treated me for that copper? You have withheld my money bag from me in enemy territory; it is now up to you to restore (my money) to me in full.

Take cognizance that (from now on) I will not accept here any copper from you that is not of fine quality. I shall (from now on) select and take the ingots individually in my own yard, and I shall exercise against you my right of rejection because you have treated me with contempt.”

Illustration of the interior of an old Babylonian house found in the ruins of Ur, which may have been the residence of Ea-Nasir. 

The tablets were inscribed in cuneiform, one of the first written languages in the Middle East. According to Britannica.com, Europeans first learned of ancient writings that were not in languages such as the Arabic, Egyptian, Hebrew or Greek usually found on tablets in 1602.

In 1700, Thomas Hyde, a British Professor of Arabic, Regius chair of Hebrew, and author of Historia religion is veterum Persarum (The History of the Religion of Ancient Persia), called the new language “cuneiform.”

Cuneiform synonym list tablet from the Library of Ashurbanipal. Neo-Assyrian period (934 BC – 608 BC).

It took until the 19th century to decipher cuneiform, and the practice still goes on in the form of “Assyriology” so named because the earliest cuneiform writing to be found came from Nineveh, the largest city of the ancient Assyrian empire.

The area of Mesopotamia was located in modern-day Iraq, eastern Syria, and southeast Turkey, in the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. It lasted until about the 7th century AD, approximately three thousand years, and their civilization affected the entire world.

Mesopotamian tablet, 1200 BC.

Mathematics, the division of time into sections, astronomy, architecture, and astrology were practiced by the Mesopotamians at this time, as was a basic legal system.

Literature flourished with historical tales, myths of kings and queens, and fantastic animals, birds, and fish. Art and sculpture grew during the Mesopotamian years starting with simple terracotta statues and gradual improvement to finely detailed carvings.

Another set of tablets written in cuneiform from old Babylon was found in 1976 by Jacobus van Dijk, Professor Emeritus of Archeology at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.

While the actual tablet is now missing, van Dijk made a copy of the tablet, with a short translation. Because of the unpolished style of writing, he assumed the message was written by a student.

Cuneiform ruleset for the Royal Game of Ur. The oldest known rules for a board game (177 BC).

The writings were studied by Michael P. Streck, Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Studies and Head of the Institute of Ancient Near Eastern Studies at the University of Leipzig in Germany, and Nathan Wasserman, Professor of Assyriology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

They call the tablets “wisdom literature” due to the riddles and metaphors. They could be compared to Benjamin Franklin’s Silence Dogood essays published in his own newspaper, the New-England Courant in 1722.

One of the ancient clay tablets showing Cuneiform script.

The tablets were made from soft clay bricks and either written or stamped characters were added before the clay was completely dry. They were used for letters, proclamations, stories and just about everything we currently put on paper.

Streck and Wasserman reported that there are political jokes, riddles, and toilet humor, just like today. They even found the earliest form of “yo’ mama” jokes written on the tablet. It goes to show that people have always been much the same anytime and anywhere.