Monday, 16 October 2017

Tyrant of ancient Rome Commodus

Commodus as Hercules
Commodus (31 August 161 – 31 December 192), born Lucius Aurelius Commodus was Roman Emperor from AD 180 to 192. He also ruled as co-emperor with his father Marcus Aurelius from 177 until his father's death in 180.

Holding a huge club to beat his enemies with, the Roman emperor Commodus wears a lion skin in a marble portrait bust made in the second century AD, which is one of the treasures of Rome’s Capitoline Museum. The portrait literally equates the strength of Hercules with the power of the emperor. When the son of the respected Marcus Aurelius took control of the Roman empire in AD161 and embarked on a career of bizarre, erratic behavior and monstrous cruelty. As well as executing his enemies and perceived enemies, he liked to fight in the arena, killing gladiators with his own hands in a spectacle that Romans found shameful.
His accession marked the descent "from a kingdom of gold to one of iron and rust" – a famous comment which has led some historians to take Commodus' reign as the beginning of the decline of the Roman Empire.

He would go on to claim to be the son of Jupiter, the representative of the supreme god of the Roman pantheon. He began to view himself in megalomaniacal proportions.
In November 192, Commodus held Plebeian Games, in which he shot hundreds of animals with arrows and javelins every morning, and fought as a gladiator every afternoon, winning all of his bouts easily as his opponents always submitted. For each appearance in the arena, he charged the city of Rome a million sesterces, a vast sum that strained the Roman economy. He announced his intention to inaugurate the year 193 as both consul and gladiator.

His foes had had enough. They poisoned his food but he vomited up the poison; so the conspirators sent his wrestling partner Narcissus to strangle him in his bath in 192. Upon his death, the Senate declared him a public enemy. (a de facto damnatio memoriae)

Astronomers find the cosmic source of gold and rare metals

130 million years ago, the ultra-dense cores of two dead stars collided. The first evidence of the cataclysmic collision were gravitational waves. They reached Earth on August 17th. As astronomers targeted their source, they turned up a trove of riches. It is explaining, among other things, the source of such precious metals as silver, gold and platinum.

This is the first direct sighting of a collision between two neutron stars. The corpses of these stars are spectacularly dense. A single teaspoon of material would carry a mass that on Earth would weigh roughly one billion tons.
Churning debris produced in the afterglow of the collision included newly created gold, silver and platinum. There was also a smattering of other heavy elements, including uranium.

Until now, the birthplace of such elements had been theory. The extreme conditions produced in the collision forged heavier elements than the parent stars had hosted.
The actual smashup now appears to have taken place 130 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Hydra. The afterglow revealed the birth of elements.

As the collision spurted neutron-rich material into space, a variety of heavy elements formed through a chain of nuclear reactions known as the “r-process.”

Sunday, 15 October 2017

The Chimera

The Chimera of Arezzo, bronze, Etruscan, 5th century BC
In Greek mythology the Chimera was a monstrous fire-breathing hybrid, composed of the parts of more than one animal. It is usually depicted as a lion, with the head of a goat arising from its back, and a tail that ended with a snake's head. It was thought to be one of the terrifying offspring of Typhon and Echidna and a sibling of such monsters as Cerberus and the Lernaean Hydra.

The sighting of a Chimera was a certain omen for disaster. Homer's description in the Iliad: "a thing of immortal make, not human, lion-fronted and snake behind, a goat in the middle, and snorting out the breath of the terrible flame of bright fire."
The Chimera was defeated by Bellerophon with the help of Pegasus, at the command of King Iobates of Lycia. Since Pegasus could fly, Bellerophon shot the Chimera from the air in safety. Bellerophon finished the Chimera off by equipping his spear with a lump of lead that melted when exposed to the Chimera's fiery breath.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Ancient Greek Roman city of Phaselis Sinking

Almost two meters of the ancient city of Phaselis have submerged in 2,000 years say Turkish archaeologists. The submerging is a natural phenomenon. “The African continent puts pressure on the Asian plate. In some areas, it’s three-centimeters per year and in other areas, nine centimeters. Plate movements in the Mediterranean basin cause that area to collapse in some areas."

Phaselis, situated in the southern province of Antalya’s Kemer district, was important for trade in ancient times as it had three ports. Its possible to still see the wealth of the ancient city. The town was set up by the Rhodians around 700 BC.

Because of its location on an isthmus separating two harbours, it became an important center of commerce between Greece, Asia, Egypt, and Phoenicia.
The city was captured by Persians, and was later captured by Alexander the Great. After the death of Alexander, the city remained in Egyptian hands from 209 BC to 197 BC, under the dynasty of Ptolemaios. After 160 BC it was absorbed into Roman rule. In 42 BC Brutus had the city linked to Rome. In the 3rd century AD, the harbor fell under the constant threat of pirates.
The city gradually lost it's importance and the area was totally impoverished by the 11th century.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Psychology of Gold

Human beings' fascination with gold is as old as history itself. Gold has always had an irresistible appeal. Empires have flourished by possessing gold, they have fallen to ruin for it's failure to exist. Uncountable wars have been fought to control regions harboring it. Countless have died in pursuit of it.
Oxus chariot
The Aztecs described gold as the "excrement of the gods" while the Incas thought of it as the "sweat of the sun." In ancient Egypt, gold was considered the "flesh of the gods." Across human cultures, it was sacred. In ancient Rome and medieval Europe, laws prohibited people from wearing too much gold -- or wearing it at all unless they were from noble stock.

In many cultures, the word for money derives from the word for gold. Gold debuted as a recognized exchange standard for international trade around 1500 BC. In China, the ideogram for money is the ideogram for gold. Gold continues to feature heavily in religion and religious rituals worldwide.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

40,000-year-old “Tianyuan Man” pure Homo sapiens

When scientists excavated a 40,000-year-old skeleton in China in 2003, they thought they had discovered the offspring of a Neandertal and a modern human. But ancient DNA now reveals that “Tianyuan Man” has only traces of Neandertal DNA and none detectable from another type of extinct human and elusive cousin of Neandertals known as a Denisovan. Instead, he was a full-fledged member of our species, Homo sapiens, and a distant relative of people who today live in East Asia and South America.
The first modern humans arose in Africa about 300,000 years ago. By 60,000 years ago, a subset swept out of Africa and mated with Neandertals, perhaps in the Middle East. After that, they spread around the world.

Tianyuan Man shares DNA with one ancient European—a 35,000-year-old modern human from Goyet Caves in Belgium. But he doesn’t share it with other ancient humans who lived at roughly the same time in Romania and Siberia—or with living Europeans. Tianyuan Man is most closely related to living people in east Asia. All of this suggests that Tianyuan Man was not a direct ancestor, but rather a distant cousin, of a founding population in Asia that gave rise to present-day Asians.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Gold leaf from Napoleon's crown to go under hammer

A golden laurel leaf from Napoleon's crown will go under the hammer next month. Napoleon crowned himself emperor at the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris in 1804, famously taking the Roman-style laurel wreath and putting it on his own head, instead of letting Pope Pius VII do the honors.

At a fitting for the crown leading up to the spectacular event, Napoleon had complained that it was too heavy. So goldsmith Martin-Guillaume Biennais took six leaves out of the crown, later giving one to each of his six daughters. The original wreath was melted down after Napoleon's fall in the wake of the Battle of Waterloo.

The crown, modelled on the one worn by the ancient Roman caesars, is the centerpiece of Jacques-Louis David's monumental painting, "The Coronation of Napoleon" at the Louvre.
The crown Napoleon wore at his coronation had 44 large gold laurel leaves and 12 smaller ones. It cost him 8,000 francs, a considerable fortune, with the box it was stored in setting him back a further 1,300 francs.

Estimates suggest the gold leaf will sell for between 100,000 and 150,000 euros ($118,000 to $177,000).

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

3,200-year-old stone tells of invasion of mysterious sea people

Symbols on a 3,200-year-old stone slab have been deciphered by researchers who say they could solve "one of the greatest puzzles of Mediterranean archaeology". The 29-metre limestone frieze, found in 1878, in what is now Turkey, bears the longest known hieroglyphic inscription from the Bronze Age. Only a handful of scholars worldwide can read its ancient Luwian language.

Researchers believe the inscriptions were commissioned in 1190 BC by Kupanta-Kurunta, the king of a late Bronze Age state known as Mira. The text suggests the kingdom and other Anatolian states invaded ancient Egypt and other regions of the east Mediterranean before and during the fall of the Bronze Age. The script tells how a united fleet of kingdoms from western Asia Minor raided coastal cities on the eastern Mediterranean. The identity and origin of the invaders which scholars call the Trojan Sea People had puzzled archaeologists for centuries. The first translation provides an explanation for the unexplained collapse of the Bronze Age's advanced civilizations.
It suggests they were part of a marauding seafaring confederation, which historians believe played a part in the collapse of nascent Bronze Age civilizations.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Secrets of Europe's most ancient battlefield - Tollense Valley

The Gross Raden Archaeological Open Air Museum is presenting an exhibition featuring artifacts, many of them found on the site of a battle which took place in the Tollense Valley, in the northeast of Germany.
Since the beginning of the excavations in 2007, over 10,000 human bones have been found. A whole series of bronze weapons, such as lances, arrowheads and knives were found. A few wooden clubs which were used for battle as well as the remains of about five horses have been found. The horses died on the battlefield.

The discovery of this battlefield in the Tollense Valley provides much to consider.
Massive violence accompanied by the power represented by gold. It wasn't just random violence. The Tollense battle demonstrates a clearly organized form of violence. It was obviously required to be able to assemble such a large group of young men and issue orders. It demonstrates that power was conditional for such a large violent conflict.

This young man did not see death coming his way 3300 years ago. A bronze arrow tip pierced the back of his head. The bronze arrow tip is still stuck in the skull.
The warriors were exclusively men, mostly between the ages of 20 and 25. The bodies on the battle site that were accessible were apparently thoroughly looted. They had no metal left on them – although they must have been wearing metal, since bronze was also part of men's dress during this period. The remains of those who fell in the river are different, as metal objects have been found on them. Less than 10% of the site has been excavated.

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Sunday, 8 October 2017

Top Archaeological Discoveries in 2015

Ancient Mosaic in Israel. A 1,700-year-old mosaic discovered in Lod, Israel, was revealed to the public for the first time in November, 2015.

Measuring 36 by 42 feet, the impressive artwork covered in depictions of nature was found during construction of a visitor center for the Lod Mosaic, another artwork found two decades ago in that same area.
Musashi Japanese Warship Wreck. The wreckage of the Musashi was found at a depth of more than 3,000 feet. The ship went down in October 1944 after multiple torpedo and bomb hits during the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

About half of its 2400-member crew was lost.
Superhenge. Archaeologists in Great Britain discovered evidence of a row of up to 90 stones buried at Durrington Walls, a prehistoric henge less than 2 miles from Stonehenge. The line of stones, which have been pushed over and covered with an earthen mound, roughly outline the southern border of the Durrington Walls, forming a C-shaped arena about a third of a mile in diameter. Researchers believe the earthworks could have been built earlier than Stonehenge.
Amenhotep's Tomb. Egypt announced the discovery of the 3,000-year-old tomb of Amenhotep, a nobleman who guarded the temple of the Egyptian deity Amun. The tomb was discovered by an American research team in the city of Luxor, which is more than 400 miles away from Cairo. It is believed to date to 1543 B.C. - 1292 B.C. Colorful artworks and hieroglyphics are etched into the tomb walls, telling the story of the tomb owner and his family.
Burial Tomb in Pompeii, Italy. French archaeologists found a perfectly preserved pre-Roman tomb dating to the fourth century B.C. in Pompeii. It predates and survived the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. It was discovered near the Herculaneum Gate and held the remains of an adult woman about 45 years old, as well as a number of vases and clay jars known as “amphoras.”
Texas Supershark. Fossils of a megashark that lived 300 million years ago were unearthed in Jacksboro, Texas in October 2015. The sharks were more than half the length of a school bus. That's 25 percent larger than the modern great white shark and more than three times as long as other fossil sharks.

They lived before the age of dinosaurs, which emerged about 230 million years ago. The find indicates that giant sharks date back much further in the fossil record than previously thought.
Siberian Cave Lion Cubs. Scientists in Yakutsk, Russia discovered two incredibly well-preserved remains of two lion cubs approximately 12,000 years old.

The two cubs are cave lions, a long extinct species, and were about two weeks old when they died. Dug from permafrost, the cubs still had fur, soft tissue and even whiskers.