Saturday, 24 June 2017

Treasure of Nimrud

The Royal Tomb of Nimrud was discovered in 1989. The tomb is located in the ancient city of Kalkhu (modern Nimrud). Ancient Assyrian tombs have been found in the past but the goods had all been plundered in antiquity. The sarcophagus in the tomb chamber contained hundreds of items including jewelry, vessels and seals.
The treasures belonged to:
Yaba, Queen of Tiglathpileser III, king of Assyria 744-727 BC
Banitu, Queen of Shalmanasser V, king of Assyria 726-722 BC
Atalia, Queen of Sargon II, king of Assyria 721-705 BC

The treasure of Nimrud survived 2,800 years buried in northern Iraq. It then spent 12 years tucked away in a vault. Until 2013 it was uncertain whether it had survived Saddam Hussein, a U.S. missile strike, looters, a flood and a grenade attack. But it was found intact in the dark basement of a bombed out central bank building.




Antikythera shipwreck yields ancient human bones


The cargo is considered the most spectacular ever found from antiquity.
After more than 2,000 years, archaeologists have recovered the bones of a young man they call Pamphilos. In his late teens or early 20s, he was on the ship sailing from Asia Minor to Rome when disaster struck off the Greek island of Antikythera between Crete and the Peloponnese.

The catastrophe in the first century BC scattered the ship’s cargo across the seabed. It lay there until 1900. Salvage operations have since hauled up stunning bronze and marble statues, ornate glass and pottery, gold jewellery, and an extraordinary geared device – the Antikythera mechanism – which modelled the heavens.

The Antikythera Mechanism
With the latest discovery of human bones, scientists have their first real hope of sequencing DNA from a victim of an ancient shipwreck. The remains include the petrous bone, the hard part of the skull behind the ear. Dense and impenetrable to water and microbes, this is the best hope for finding intact DNA.
Analysis of the Antikythera Mechanism show it to be more advanced than previously thought—so much so that nothing comparable was built for another thousand years.

Researchers used three-dimensional X-ray scanners to reconstruct the workings of the device's gears and high-resolution surface imaging to enhance faded inscriptions on its surface.
By winding a knob on its side, the positions of the sun, moon, Mercury and Venus could be determined for any chosen date. Newly revealed inscriptions also appear to confirm the device could also calculate the positions of Mars, Jupiter and Saturn — the other planets known at the time. The device's construction date was radiocarbon dated to around 150 to 100 B.C.

Friday, 23 June 2017

The Crocotta

The crocotta is a mythical dog-wolf of India or Ethiopia, linked to the hyena and said to be a deadly enemy of men and dogs. Pliny variously described the crocotta as a combination between dog and wolf or between hyena and lion.

"its eyes have a thousand variations of color; moreover that when its shadow falls on dogs they are struck dumb; and that it has certain magic arts by which it causes every animal at which it gazes three times to stand rooted to the spot."
"In Ethiopia there is an animal called crocottas, vulgarly kynolykos [dog-wolf], of amazing strength. It is said to imitate the human voice, to call men by name at night, and to devour those who approach it. It is as brave as a lion, as swift as a horse, and as strong as a bull. It cannot be overcome by any weapon of steel."

Fossilized skull reveals the last 'Siberian unicorn' lived 29,000 years ago

For decades, scientists have estimated that the Siberian unicorn - a long-extinct species of mammal that looked more like a rhino than a horse - died out some 350,000 years ago, but a beautifully preserved skull found in Kazakhstan has completely overturned that assumption. Turns out, they were still around as recently as 29,000 years ago.

The real unicorn, Elasmotherium sibiricum, was shaggy and huge and looked just like a modern rhino, only it carried a mighty horn on its forehead.
The Siberian unicorn stood roughly 2 metres tall, was 4.5 metres long, and weighed about 4 tonnes. That’s closer to woolly mammoth-sized than horse-sized. The newly found skull was found in the Pavlodar region of Kazakhstan.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Evolution of Gold Coins

Gold has been used as a medium of exchange and a store of wealth for millennia due to its rarity, desirability, and high value. Ancient gold coins were first introduced into commerce in the kingdom of Lydia (modern-day Turkey) during the reign of King Croesus in the 6th Century BC.

The earliest coins were hand-made from electrum, a naturally occurring alloy of gold and silver.
Electrum wasn't always desirable. When coinage started gaining popularity a way to standardize the purity of the gold and silver was needed. The first technique of gold parting was invented: salt cementation.

King Cyrus and the Persians defeated the Lydians in 546 B.C., and the region became part of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. Through trade and conquest, the Persians spread the use of gold coinage throughout the Mediterranean. The most popular gold coin of the empire was the Persian daric, introduced by Darius the Great sometime around 500 B.C. Production of darics continued for nearly two hundred years, until the Persians were defeated by Alexander the Great in 330 B.C.
Alexander and his armies allegedly looted some 700,000 troy ounces of gold coins from the Persians. These ‘spoils of war’ were subsequently melted and used to mint coins in his name.

In Britain and elsewhere, a number of Celtic tribes issues coins in gold. The early Roman Republic issued few coins in gold, their main coinage being in silver, with bronze or copper for smaller denominations. From the death of Julius Caesar, gold coinage came to be an important part of the Roman financial system.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Ancient Roman Sculpture Fetches $930,000

An 1,800-year-old sculpture depicting a Roman military officer has been sold at auction by the Denver Art Museum for about $930,000. The sculpture likely depicts a senator or member of Rome's nobility who led the military during a campaign in the second century A.D.

"The portrait represents a Roman military officer, distinguished by the cape he wears over his shoulder. He was probably not a professional soldier, however, but rather a member of the elite senatorial or equestrian class whose command during a specific military campaign would provide the opportunity for political advancement or financial gain"

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

The Rise of Money

Human beings have long used currency as a means of exchange, a method of payment, a standard of value, a store of wealth and a unit of account. Money has many functions: It facilitates exchange as a measure of value; it brings diverse societies together by enabling gift-giving and reciprocity; it perpetuates social hierarchies; and it is a medium of state power.

Objects that were rare in nature and whose circulation could be controlled emerged as units of value for interactions and exchange.

Shang Dynasty cowry shells
Cowry shells were used in Africa, Europe, Asia and Australia. Native copper, meteorites or native iron, obsidian, amber, beads, copper, gold, silver and lead ingots have variously served as currency. People even used live animals such as cows until recent times as a form of currency. Stone weights were used not only for setting prices for goods, but also for converting between systems of weights and measures. The talent and the mina were standardized after the founding of the Akkadian Empire by Sargon of Akkad. He realized that standardizing weights and measures is essential for effective taxation. The Mesopotamian shekel – the first known form of currency – emerged. The earliest known coins date to 650 and 600 B.C. in Asia Minor.

Coinage as commodity money owes its success to its portability, durability and inherent value. Political leaders could control the production of coins – from mining, smelting, minting - as well as their circulation and use.

Ancient Celtic ringmoney
Money soon became an instrument of political control. Taxes could be extracted to support the elite and armies could be raised. It enabled the movement of goods and services, migration and settlement among strangers. Money was able to mobilize resources, reduce risks and create alliances in response to social and political conditions.

In short, money allowed humans to develop into the world we know today.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Ancient Gold Worker’s Tomb Excavated in Sudan

A 3,400-year-old tomb holding the remains of more than a dozen people has been discovered on Sai Island, along the Nile River in northern Sudan. The island is part of an ancient land known as Nubia that Egypt controlled 3,400 years ago. The Egyptians built settlements and fortifications throughout Nubia, including on Sai Island, which had a settlement and a gold mine.
The tomb appears to hold the remains of Egyptians who worked in gold production. Researchers found scarabs, ceramic vessels, a gold ring, and gold funerary masks. A shabti, or small stone sculpture, may have been intended to do the work of the deceased in the afterlife. Inscriptions on the artifacts indicate the tomb had been built for Khnummose, a master gold worker.