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Archive for June, 2009

Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, Archpriest of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls, shows the sarcophagus unearthed beneath the basilica during a press conference.

Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, Archpriest of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls, shows the sarcophagus unearthed beneath the basilica during a press conference.

Newsflash:  ROME (Reuters) – Pope Benedict announced on Sunday that fragments of bone from the first or second century had been found in a tomb in the Basilica of St Paul in Rome, which he said confirmed the belief that it housed the apostle’s remains.

“This seems to confirm the unanimous and undisputed tradition that these are the mortal remains on the Apostle Paul,” the pontiff said at St Paul’s-Outside-the-Walls, on the eve of the Feasts of St Peter and St Paul celebrated on Monday.

Peter and Paul are revered by Christians as the greatest early missionaries. Converting on the road to Damascus following a blinding vision of Jesus, Paul took the Gospel to pagan Greeks and Romans and met his martyrdom in Rome in about AD 65.

Christian tradition had it that St Paul was buried together with St Peter in a catacomb on the Via Appia, before being moved to the basilica erected in his honor. For centuries it was believed that his remains were buried beneath the altar.

But it was not until a stone sarcophagus was discovered there in 2006 that Vatican archeologists could apply scientific research to the religious tradition.

The first results come during the “Pauline Year,” when the Roman Catholic church has been celebrating the second millennium of the birth of the “Apostle of the Gentiles.”

Pope Benedict gave details of the discovery, saying a tiny hole had been drilled in the sarcophaguus to permit inspection of the interior, revealing “traces of a precious linen cloth, purple in color, laminated with pure gold, and a blue colored textile with filaments of linen.”

“It also revealed the presence of grains of red incense and traces of protein and limestone. There were also tiny fragments of bone, which, when subjected to Carbon 14 tests by experts, turned out to belong to someone who lived in the first or second century,” said the pope.

The FRESCOED IMAGE

discovery of the bone fragments coincided with news that Vatican archaeologists had discovered what they believe is the oldest image in existence of St Paul, dating from the late 4th century, on the walls of catacomb beneath Rome.

Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano, revealing the find on Sunday, published a picture of a frescoed image of the face of a man with a pointed black beard on a red background, inside a bright yellow halo. The high forehead is furrowed.

Experts of the Ponitifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology made the discovery on June 19 in the Catacomb of Santa Tecla in Rome and described it as the “oldest icon in history dedicated to the cult of the Apostle,” according to the Vatican newspaper.

Early Christians in Rome buried their dead in catacombs dug into the soft rock under the city and decorated the underground walls with devotional images, often in the Pompeian style.(from: http://www.reuters.com/article/ scienceNews/idUSTRE55R22O20090628)

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This new revelation in early food storage is important, and I cannot wait to hear more interpretations of its importance. “In many ways food storage is the missing link that helps us understand how so many people were able to live together.” Finally the peices of the early Neolithic revolution are starting to come together.

Notre Dame study describes evidence of world’s oldest known granaries

Newsflash: A new study coauthored by Ian Kuijt, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Notre Dame, describes recent excavations in Jordan that reveal evidence of the world’s oldest know granaries. The appearance of the granaries represents a critical evolutionary shift in the relationship between people and plant foods.

Anthropologists consider food storage to be a vital component in the economic and social package that comprises the Neolithic period, contributing to plant domestication, increasingly sedentary lifestyles and new social organizations. It has traditionally been assumed that people only started to store significant amounts of food when plants were domesticated. (more…)

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Professor Nicholas Conard of the University in Tuebingen shows a flute during a press conference in Tuebingen, southern Germany, on Wednesday, June 24, 2009. The thin bird-bone flute carved some 35,000 years ago and unearthed in a German cave is the oldest handcrafted musical instrument yet discovered, archeologists say, and offers the latest evidence that early modern humans in Europe had established a complex and creative culture. A team led by Conard assembled the flute from 12 pieces of griffon vulture bone scattered in a small plot of the Hohle Fels cave in southern Germany.

Professor Nicholas Conard of the University in Tuebingen shows a flute during a press conference in Tuebingen, southern Germany, on Wednesday, June 24, 2009. The thin bird-bone flute carved some 35,000 years ago and unearthed in a German cave is the oldest handcrafted musical instrument yet discovered, archeologists say, and offers the latest evidence that early modern humans in Europe had established a complex and creative culture. A team led by Conard assembled the flute from 12 pieces of griffon vulture bone scattered in a small plot of the Hohle Fels cave in southern Germany.

Another important discovery by a research team led by archaeologist Nicholas Conrad of the University of Tuebingen in Germany is a bird-bone flute estimated to be 35,000 years old. The same location where this flute was found is also where the team found an ivory venus sculpture which carbon dating suggests was also about 35,000 years old. Conrad stresses that even though the Hohle Fels cave was also frequented by Neanderthals, that by studying the layered deposits left by both species over thousands of years that he believes it was early modern humans that crafted the flute. “Together, the flute and the figure — found in the same layer of sediment — suggest that modern humans had established an advanced culture in Europe 35,000 years ago, said Wil Roebroeks, an archaeologist at Leiden University in the Netherlands.” “Conard said it’s likely that early modern humans — and perhaps Neanderthals, too — were making music longer than 35,000 years ago. But he added the Hohle Fels flute and the others found across Europe strengthen evidence that modern humans in Europe were establishing cultural behavior similar to our own.” Findings like this are big pieces of the overall cultural picture of early modern humans. This time period is also important to study because it is believed that both modern humans and Neanderthals lived side by side in Europe during this time period. (more…)

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The fossil Neanderthal skull fragment that is over 40,000 years old. Its characteristic thick browridge is clearly recognisable. This is the first fossil of a Neanderthal from the Netherlands. Photo: Erik de Goederen.

The fossil Neanderthal skull fragment that is over 40,000 years old. Its characteristic thick browridge is clearly recognisable. This is the first fossil of a Neanderthal from the Netherlands. Photo: Erik de Goederen.

A joint effort by research teams from the Max Planck institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany and the University of Leiden (Netherlands) have dredged up a Neanderthal skull fragment from the North Sea. According to a press bulletin from the Max Planck Institute this area of the North Sea used to be a dry lowland plain and that Stone tools of Neanderthals and large quantities of mammoths and other Ice Age animals have been trawled up from the bottom of the of sea regularly. However, this is a first time researchers have found fossils of actual Neanderthals themselves.  The first Dutch hominin fossil was a skull fragment including a characteristically thick Neanderthal eyebrow ride.

 

(more…)

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Newsflash:  JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli archaeologists said on Sunday they had discovered the largest underground quarry in the Holy Land, dating back to the time of Jesus and containing Christian symbols etched into the walls.

The 4,000-square-meter (yard) cavern, buried 10 meters beneath the desert near the ancient West Bank city of Jericho, was dug about 2,000 years ago and was in use for about half a millennium, archaeologist Adam Zertal said.

The cave’s main hall, about three meters tall, is supported by some 20 stone pillars and has a variety of symbols etched into the walls, including crosses dating back to about AD 350 and Roman legionary emblems. (more…)

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The town of Beth Shemesh, meaning “house of the sun” or “temple of the sun” in Hebrew, was named after the Canaanite sun-goddess Shemesh who was worshiped there prior to Israelite arrival to the city. By combining the evidence found during recent excavations at an archaeological site in Beth Shemesh (a plaque depicting a female ruler) and a reference to this woman on several Egyptian tablets dated to around 1350 B.C., it has been suggested that at one point this ancient Canaanite city-state was actually ruled by a female king. Females ruling as kings were rare in Egyptian history and prior to this revelation unheard of in this region. The archaeologists make a note to call her “king” rather than “queen,” which at the time described the wife of a male king.  I’d like to add that female rulers trying to make themselves appear (at least in title) more masculine to in some way perhaps legitimize their claim to the throne is not something completely uncommon throughout history (most notably the Pharaoh Hatshepsut and King Jadwiga of Poland).

(more…)

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The inner face differed slightly from the outer one, with creases around the mouth, less pronounced cheekbones and a bump on the ridge of the nose.

Egyptian Queen Nefertiti lived 1370-1330 B.C. and was the wife of the pharaoh Akhenaten and mother of Tutankhamun. Considered one of the greatest finds of ancient Egypt, the bust of Nefertiti was discovered in 1912, during excavation of the studio of famous royal sculptor Thutmose.

The Nefertiti bust consists of a limestone core covered in layers of stucco of varying thickness. The bust was examined using CT for the first time in 1992, but recent advances in CT technology allowed the researchers to analyze the statue in 2007 with greater precision. “CT has changed significantly since 1992,” Dr. Huppertz said. “We can now acquire three-dimensional (3-D) images at a much higher resolution.” (more…)

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