Posts Tagged With: remains

16 Pyramids discovered in ancient cemetery…


The remains of 16 pyramids with tombs underneath have been discovered in a cemetery near the ancient town of Gematon in Sudan.

 They date back around 2,000 years, to a time when a kingdom called “Kush” flourished in Sudan.Pyramid building was popular among the Kushites. They built them until their kingdom collapsed in the fourth century AD.

Derek Welsby, a curator at the British Museum in London, and his team have been excavating at Gematon since 1998, uncovering the 16 pyramids, among many other finds, in that time. “So far, we’ve excavated six made out of stone and 10 made out of mud brick,” Welsby said.

The largest pyramid found at Gematon was 10.6 meters (about 35 feet) long on each side and would have risen around 13 m (43 feet) off the ground. [See Photos of 2,000-Year-Old Pyramids Discovered at Another Site in Sudan]

Wealthy and powerful individuals built some of the pyramids, while people of more modest means built the others, Welsby said. “They’re not just the upper-elite burials,” he said.

In fact, not all the tombs in the cemetery have pyramids: Some are buried beneath simple rectangular structures called “mastaba,” whereas others are topped with piles of rocks called “tumuli.” Meanwhile, other tombs have no surviving burial markers at all.

Burial goods

In one tomb, archaeologists discovered an offering table made of tin-bronze. Carved into the tableis a scene showing a prince or priest offering incense and libations to the god Osiris, the ruler of the underworld. Behind Osiris is the goddess Isis, who is also shown pouring libations to Osiris.

Though Osiris and Isis originated in Egypt, they were also venerated in Kush as well as other parts of the ancient world. The offering table “is a royal object,” Welsby said. The person buried with this table “must have been someone very senior in the royal family.”

Most of the tombs had been robbed, to some degree, in ancient or modern times. The only tomb with a pyramid that survived intact held 100 faience beads (faience is a type of ceramic) and the remains of three infants. The fact that the infants were buried without gold treasures may have dissuaded thieves from robbing the tomb, Welsby said.

Kingdom’s end

The Kushite kingdom controlled a vast amount of territory in Sudan between 800 B.C. and the fourth century A.D. There are a number of reasons why the Kushite kingdom collapsed, Welsby said.

One important reason is that the Kushite rulers lost several sources of revenue. A number of trade routes that had kept the Kushite rulers wealthy bypassed the Nile Valley, and instead went through areas that were not part of Kush. As a result, Kush lost out on the economic benefits, and the Kush rulers lost out on revenue opportunities. Additionally, as the economy of the Roman Empire deteriorated, trade between the Kushites and Romans declined, further draining the Kushite rulers of income.

As the Kushite leaders lost wealth, their ability to rule faded. Gematon was abandoned, and pyramid building throughout Sudan ceased.

Wind-blown sands, which had always been a problem for those living at Gematon, covered both the town and its nearby pyramids.

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‘Sleeping beauty’: 2,000-year-old remains found in biblical city….


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It was the Queen of Sheba that first drew Louise Schofield — an archaeologist and former curator at the British Museum — to the Gheralta plateau in northern Ethiopia. She’d heard tell of a 20-foot stone stele carved with an inscription and a symbol often linked to the biblical queen: a sun and crescent moon.

“The story of the Queen of Sheba has a central place in the heart of all Ethiopians, so I became interested in the story myself,” she recalls (Sheba is thought to be located in parts of Ethiopia).

It was this initial visit that ultimately led her to discover the 2,000-year-old remains of a character she fondly refers to as “sleeping beauty.”

The grave was discovered at the stone stele, in an area that was once part of the ancient kingdom of Aksum, which today encompasses Ethiopia and Eritrea. Inside, Schofield’s team found the skeleton of a woman posed in a resting position, with her chin laid gently on one hand. A Roman-era bronze mirror was placed before her face. The corpse was surrounded with glass vessels (to catch the tears of the dead), as well as a bronze cosmetics spoon and a lump of kohl eyeliner.

“She must have been very wealthy, and probably well-loved to be placed in this position, and judging by all the items of finery around her,” surmised Schofield.

The dig also uncovered several other graves, all of which had several bodies buried beneath. In some, she found the remains of large warriors clad who each wore an iron bangle.

“We think they were warriors from a battle,” she says.

The unusual find suggests trade between Rome and Aksum started at least 200 years earlier than previously believed.

As the dig is less than a month old, there’s still a lot of information yet to come in about this restful lady. A bone expert wasn’t able to ascertain her age at the time of death because the pelvis — which usually provides a close approximation — had been consumed by termites. Schofield hopes that analysis of the teeth will provide some answers.

“There was something very personal about the way she was lying,” Schofield says. The remains were also found surrounded by clay containers that likely contained food or drink (these have also been sent off for analysis).

“The food, drink and cosmetics were all presumably left for her to use in the afterlife. She was pre-Christian and that’s how people buried their dead then,” says Schofield.

Shofield has a bit of the Midas touch when it comes to extraordinary finds. She also recently uncovered a Roman-era perfume flask in the same cemetery, although by chance. The archaeologist is also the director of London-based NGO The Tigray Trust, and the item was first brought to her attention by a local farmer she knew through the organization.

Schofield also uncovered a Roman-era perfume flask

“I had been showing around a member of the Peace Corps who had been working in a nearby town (around the site), and we’d been out in the blazing sun for 8 hours, when a farmer I knew said his friend found something old, and he’d been keeping it for me,” she recalls.

“I was apologizing to the Peace Corps guy. I told him, ‘it could be an old coffee pot, but you never know, it could be the Queen of Sheba’s perfume flask.'”

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England…..Pentillie Castle: Body found in knight’s grave hunt…


Human remains, found at a stately home in Cornwall, are thought to be those of the man who built it.

Sir James Tillie, who built Pentillie Castle in 1698, instructed his staff to place him in a chair with his pipe when he died.

The instructions were followed before he was removed, but no burial information has ever been found.

Archaeologists who examined a mausoleum built in 1713, upon his death, said a body had been found in a vault.

In his will, Sir James demanded that he should not be buried, but dressed in his best clothes, bound to a stout chair and placed with his books, wine and pipe on Mount Ararat on the estate.

‘Resurrection’ plan

Archaeologist Oliver Jessop said: “It would appear that potentially we do have real evidence that the story or the myth actually was true.

“In the early 19th Century it has been suggested that the bones were removed to the local churchyard.

“I can confirm that that’s not the case and there is a body actually still inside the vault.”

Mr Jessop said the vault was found after archaeologists dug an exploratory hole in the internal floor of the mausoleum and discovered a brick-built roof.

Inside it a structure with leather studs and woodwork with handles on it was found, which are thought to be either a chair or coffin.

Ted Coryton, the owner of Pentillie Castle, said: “It’s an extraordinary legacy really, 300 years after his death and we’re all talking about it, it doesn’t happen to many people so maybe he decided to be resurrected, then maybe this is his resurrection.”

The team had also hoped to find out if Sir James’ wife, Elizabeth, was buried with him, but this is yet to be discovered.

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King Richard III….Car park skull ‘was that of King Richard III’ say experts


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Researchers said there is a ‘highly conclusive case’ that the battle-damaged remains found in a Leicester car park belonged to the 15th-century monarch.
Scientists today revealed that a skeleton discovered under a car park in Leicester is that of King Richard III.

Researchers sensationally discovered a skull under the social services car park in September while hunting for the former king’s final resting place.

They had previously said there was ‘strong circumstantial evidence’ to suggest the bones are those of the 15th-century monarch, but experts were finally able to disclose the results of much-anticipated tests on the remains today.

The skeleton had a metal arrowhead lodged in its spine, along with other injuries matching those which Richard III sustained when he was killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.

The remains also had signs of ‘battle trauma’ and scoliosis – the spinal condition which gave the medieval monarch his infamous hunched back.

Richard III was the last English monarch to die in battle, after being defeated by an army led by Henry Tudor.

Historical records state that his body was taken 15 miles to Leicester, where it was displayed as proof of his death before then being buried in the Franciscan friary.

Experts today said that in making the ‘momentous’ find, they had ‘unlocked a 500-year-old mystery’.

They revealed their findings this morning in front of almost 150 journalists from around the world.

Initial examinations showed the bones to be those of an adult male and the remains were said to be in a good condition.

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Water mains work unearths Roman cemetery in Somerset……



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A Roman cemetery containing several human burials has been found during work on a new water mains in Somerset.

The finds were made by archaeologists during the laying of a four-mile (7km) long mains between Banwell and Hutton.

Among the skeletons, which have been exhumed for further study, there was one in a partially-preserved coffin.

A Bristol Water spokesman said the excavation had been described as “potentially the most important for 100 years in North Somerset”.

The cemetery was discovered “isolated from the surrounding landscape” in a curved water-filled ditch.

Roman cemeteries, according to Neil Shurety from Border Archaeology, are generally sited outside settlements and away from areas of human habitation.

“In this case, the cemetery is evidently associated not with a town but with a villa site and it could thus represent a private burial ground serving a wealthy landowner and his immediate family,” he said.

The human remains were orientated north-south “with the head to the north, which suggests a pre-Christian burial practice,” said Mr Shurety.

Pottery and brooches

“One of these individuals seems to lie within a partially-preserved wooden coffin – constructed from timber planking,” he added.

He said the site provided evidence of a “landscape almost continually in use for the last 5,000 years”.

“It covers a period ranging from an intriguing prehistoric timber structure to a Roman cemetery and defensive ditches through medieval land management features to today’s agricultural activity,” he said.

The finds, which include an estimated 9,000 pieces of pottery, brooches, a coin of Constantine the Great and a pin of Roman date are due to go on display at Banwell Village Hall on 19 November.

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TOMB OF MAYAN QUEEN FOUND……


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Archaeologists in Guatemala say they have discovered the 7th-century tomb of Lady K’abel, one of the greatest queens of classic Maya civilization.

Unearthed during excavations of the royal Maya city of El Perú-Waka’ in northwestern Petén, Guatemala, the grave contained the skeletal remains of a mature individual buried with rich offerings such as dozens of ceramic vessels, numerous carved jade, shell artifacts and a small, carved alabaster jar.

According to the archaeologists, the white vessel strongly suggest the tomb belonged to the warrior Queen Lady K’abel.

Carved as a conch shell, with a head and arm of an aged woman emerging from the opening, the alabaster jar portrayed a woman, mature with a lined face and a strand of hair in front of her ear, while on the other side it featured a brief glyphic text consisting of four hieroglyphs.
The final two glyphs named the owner as “Lady Waterlily-Hand, Princess of Calakmul.”

“This is almost certainly an alternative spelling of the name of Lady K’abel, as both names consist of hands holding waterlilies and both are titled as princesses of Calakmul,” David Freidel, professor of archaeology at Washington University in St. Louis and co-director of the expedition, said.

The most powerful person in Waka’ during her lifetime, Lady K’abel is known in Maya archaeology because of a beautiful and detailed portrait of her in a stela dated to 692 A.D. The carved stone slab was looted from Waka’ in the 1960s and is now in the Cleveland Art Museum.
Lady K’abel ruled with her husband, K’inich Bahlam, for at least 20 years (672-692 A.D.). She was the military governor of the Wak kingdom for her family, the imperial house of the Snake King, and carried the title Kaloomte’, which translates to “Supreme Warrior.”

“The significance of this woman’s powerful role as a ‘Kaloomte,’ a title rarely associated with Maya women, provides tremendous insight on the nexus of gender and power in Classic Maya politics,” Olivia Navarro-Farr, assistant professor of sociology and anthropology at The College of Wooster and co-director of the expedition, said.

The discovery of the tomb of the seventh-century Maya queen occurred while Navarro-Farr investigated “ritually potent” features at El Perú-Waka’, such as shrines, altars, and dedicatory offerings.
The tomb was found underneath various phases of a masonry shrine that had been placed on a staircase.

The shrine contained a monumental fire altar which had been dedicated by the sacrifice of a mature woman buried underneath it.

“Below that last shrine was a buried earlier version and it was below this earlier shrine that the royal tomb was found,” Freidel and Navarro-Farr said.

It soon became clear to the archaeologists why the structure received so much ritual attention throughout its final occupation.
“The golden age of the city, and the great queen and her husband who presided over it, were remembered and celebrated by ordinary people with their humble offerings,” the researchers said.

Inside the tomb the team led by Freidel and Navarro-Farr found the skeletal remains of an individual, whose skull was almost covered by ceramic vessels.

Deterioration of the bones did not permit a clear identification of the subject as male or female.

“If female, the interred individual had more robust than gracile features,” the researchers said. The traits would match the queen’s portrait on the stela on display at the Cleveland Art Museum.
One further clue favoring the identification of the skeleton as a queen was the presence of a large red spiny oyster shell on the lower torso.

“Late Classic queens at Waka’, including K’abel, regularly wore such a shell as a girdle ornament in their stela portraits while kings did not,” the researchers said.

According to Freidel, the newly uncovered tomb is a rare situation in which Maya archaeological and historical records meet.

“To put the discovery into perspective, there are five maya tombs in Classic Maya history that are indentifiable as to the person inside them — this is one of those five,” Freidel said.

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Israeli archaeologist digs into Nazi death camp…Sobibor



The most touching find thus far, he said, has been an engraved metal identification tag bearing the name of Lea Judith de la Penha, a 6-year-old Jewish girl from Holland who Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial confirmed was murdered at the camp.

Haimi calls her the “symbol of Sobibor.”

KIRYAT MALACHI, Israel (AP) — When Israeli archaeologist Yoram Haimi decided to investigate his family’s unknown Holocaust history, he turned to the skill he knew best: He began to dig.

After learning that two of his uncles were murdered in the infamous Sobibor death camp, he embarked on a landmark excavation project that is shining new light on the workings of one of the most notorious Nazi killing machines, including pinpointing the location of the gas chambers where hundreds of thousands were killed.

Sobibor, in eastern Poland, marks perhaps the most vivid example of the “Final Solution,” the Nazi plot to wipe out European Jewry. Unlike other camps that had at least a facade of being prison or labor camps, Sobibor and the neighboring camps Belzec and Treblinka were designed specifically for exterminating Jews. Victims were transported there in cattle cars and gassed to death almost immediately.

But researching Sobibor has been difficult. After an October 1943 uprising at the camp, the Nazis shut it down and leveled it to the ground, replanting over it to cover their tracks.

Today, tall trees cover most of the former camp grounds. Because there were so few survivors — only 64 were known — there has never been an authentic layout of the camp, where the Nazis are believed to have murdered some 250,000 Jews over an 18-month period. From those few survivors’ memories and partial German documentation, researchers had only limited understanding of how the camp operated.

“I feel like I am an investigator in a criminal forensic laboratory,” Haimi, 51, said near his home in southern Israel this week, a day before departing for another dig in Poland. “After all, it is a murder scene.”

Over five years of excavations, Haimi has been able to remap the camp and has unearthed thousands of items. He hasn’t found anything about his family, but amid the teeth, bone shards and ashes through which he has sifted, he has recovered jewelry, keys and coins that have helped identify some of Sobibor’s formerly nameless victims.

The heavy concentration of ashes led him to estimate that far more than 250,000 Jews were actually killed at Sobibor.

“Because of the lack of information about Sobibor, every little piece of information is significant,” said Haimi. “No one knew where the gas chambers were. The Germans didn’t want anyone to find out what was there. But thanks to what we have done, they didn’t succeed.”

The most touching find thus far, he said, has been an engraved metal identification tag bearing the name of Lea Judith de la Penha, a 6-year-old Jewish girl from Holland who Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial confirmed was murdered at the camp.

Haimi calls her the “symbol of Sobibor.”

“The Germans didn’t discriminate. They killed little girls too,” he said. “This thing (the tag) has been waiting for 70 years for someone to find it.”

Haimi’s digs, backed by Yad Vashem, could serve as a template for future scholarship into the Holocaust, in which the Nazis and their collaborators killed about 6 million Jews.

“I think the use of archaeology offers the possibility of giving us information that we didn’t have before,” Deborah Lipstadt, a prominent American Holocaust historian from Emory University, said. “It gives us another perspective when we are at the stage when we have very few people who can speak in the first person singular.”

She said that if the archaeological evidence points to a higher death toll at Sobibor than previously thought, “it is not out of sync with other research that has been done.”

Haimi’s basic method is similar to what he does at home, where he does digs for Israel’s antiquites authority in the south of the country — cutting out squares of land and sifting the earth through a filter. Because of the difficult conditions at Sobibor and the sensitive nature of the effort, he is also relying on more non-invasive, high-tech aids such as ground-penetrating radar and global positioning satellite imaging.

Based on debris collected and patterns in the soil, he has been able to figure out where the Nazis placed poles to hold up the camp’s barbed wire fences.

That led him to his major breakthrough — the mapping of what the Germans called the Himmelfahrsstrasse, or the “Road to Heaven,” a path upon which the inmates were marched naked into the gas chambers. He determined its route by the poles that marked the path. From that, he determined where the gas chambers would have been located.

He also discovered that another encampment was not located where originally thought and uncovered an internal train route within Sobibor. He dug up mounds of bullets at killing sites, utensils from where he believes the camp kitchen was located and a swastika insignia of a Nazi officer.

Along the way, he and his Polish partner Wojciech Mazurek, along with some 20 laborers, have stumbled on thousands of personal items belonging to the victims: eye glasses, perfume bottles, dentures, rings, watches, a child’s Mickey Mouse pin, a diamond-studded gold chain, a pair of gold earrings inscribed ER — apparently the owner’s initials — a silver medallion engraved with the name “Hanna.”

He also uncovered a unique version of the yellow star Jews were forced to wear by the Nazis, made out of metal instead of cloth, which researchers determined to have originated in Slovakia.

Marek Bem, a former director of the museum at Sobibor, said the first excavations began at the site in 2001, with several stages before he invited Haimi to join in 2007. He said the mapping of the 200-meter (yard) long Himmelfahrsstrasse opens the door for looking for the actual gas chambers.

“We are nearer the truth,” he said. “It tells us where to look for the gas chambers.”

Haimi is not allowed to take any of the items out of Poland, but he consults regularly with Yad Vashem’s International Institute for Holocaust Research, which helps him interpret his findings and gives them historical perspective.

Dan Michman, head of the institute, said Haimi’s research helps shed light on the “technical aspects” of the Holocaust. It also grants insight, for example, on what people chose to take with them in their final moments.

“His details are exact and that is an important tool against Holocaust denial. It’s not memories, it’s based on facts. It’s hard evidence,” he said.

But the accurate layout is Haimi’s greatest contribution, allowing researchers to learn more about how it functioned, said Deborah Dwork, director of the Strassler Family Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University in Worcester, Mass.

She said some critics have suggested that the sites of former death camps are “sacred” and “should remain untouched.” But she said she believes the excavation is justified. “I feel that our need for knowledge outweighs those concerns.”

Once his work in Sobibor is done, Haimi hopes to move on to research at Treblinka and other destroyed death camps.

Though archaeology is usually identified with the study of ancient history, Haimi thinks that with survivors rapidly dying it could soon become a key element in understanding the Holocaust.

“This is the future research tool of the Holocaust,” he said.

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