A Run Down of May’s Top Ancient News Stories
The top breaking stories of May 2022 include: A primeval forest in a Chinese sinkhole, the first full DNA sequence of a Pompeii victim, the oldest fake eye found in Iran, another Roman penis inscription, this time with a nasty insult, and 100 Indigenous settlements found not far from that, a 7,500-year-old stump is thought to be a goddess idol, and stunning reliefs at Esna.
A Lost Primeval World Has Been Found in a Giant South China Sinkhole!
An aerial photo of the giant China sinkhole or tiankeng at Leye-Fengshan Global Geopark, in south China's Guangxi Province, which was huge and is home to an amazing primeval forest. (Zhou Hua / Xinhua)
Chinese explorers have discovered a lost world in an exceptionally deep and large sinkhole in south China. And in this ancient subterranean space they expect to find flora and fauna unknown to science.
A cenote is a natural pit, or sinkhole, caused by bedrock collapsing in karst terrain that exposes groundwater channels. When we read the word cenote it's normally followed up with a story about Aztec or Maya bodies and artifacts. This is because Mexico and Central America virtually float on underground rivers with thousands of cenotes peppering the landscape. However, this sinkhole story is from China, where an enormous karst sinkhole has recently been discovered containing its own untouched primeval ecosystem.
First Complete DNA Sequencing Unveils Truth of Pompeii Victim
Pompeii man and woman discovered in the Casa de Fabbro, or House of the Crafsman, in a photograph taken in 1934. Source: Notizie degli Scavi di Antichità
The skeletons of a man and woman discovered around 100 years ago, as they were trying to survive the notorious Mount Vesuvius eruption of 79 AD, have been put under the scanner by scientists. Using genome sequencing successfully on the remains of the Pompeii man, the scientists learned that he shared DNA that is similar to modern Italians from central Italy and Sardinia. While Sardinian heritage has never been seen before in the published genomes of ancient Romans, the central Italian heritage is shared with those who lived in Italy during the Roman imperial age (27 BC – 476 AD). Their findings have been published in the journal Scientific Reports .
The team, led by Dr. Gabriele Scorrano , assistant Professor at the Section for Geogenetics at the University of Copenhagen, conducted bioarchaeological and palaeogenomic analyses of the two Pompeian human remains. These skeletons were found in what is known as the Casa del Fabbro or House of the Craftsman, and for the first time scientists have been able to sequence an entire human genome from a man who lived 1,900 years ago.
World’s Oldest Fake Eye from 2800 BC Found in Iran’s ‘Burnt City’
Rome’s National Museum of Oriental Art displayed the reconstructed face of a female skeleton which was found in Iran’s Burnt City wearing a fake eye. The museum closed in 2017 and its collections were transferred to the Pigorini National Museum of Prehistory and Ethnography in Rome. ( Pigorini National Museum of Prehistory and Ethnography )
Believe it or not, fake eyes have existed for thousands of years. Besides improving the physical appearance of the patient needing the artificial eye, fake eyes also prevent tissues in the eye socket from overgrowing and prevent foreign debris from entering the eye without a bandage or eyepatch. Though prosthetics may seem like a more recent medical development, they actually have one of the oldest origins in medical history. The world’s oldest prosthetic eye, for example, was discovered in Iran’s “Burnt City” in 2006. Archaeologists determined that this eye is from approximately 2900-2800 BC and was found still embedded in the eye socket of a woman’s skull.
The discovery of this eye reveals the ancient history of prosthetics including eyes, legs, and arms. Detailed craftsmanship of the eye also reveals early ideas regarding light, sight, and the purpose of prosthetics. By analyzing the structure, location, and purpose of the ancient prosthetic, we can infer more about the Burnt City itself as well as how this creation shaped medical advancement over time.
Roman Graffiti Shows Carved Phallus With Insult Found at Vindolanda Fort
This phallus has insulting Roman graffiti above it that was meant for another Roman soldier. The insult reads: “You shi**r!” Source: Vindolanda Charitable Trust
A sizable, engraved penis has been discovered at the Vindolanda Roman fort in England, with a clear insult carved above it. The Roman graffiti insult, aimed at another Roman soldier, reads: “You shi**r!”
Think back to school for a moment. Every class had a renowned phallus artist who would scratch, chalk, and carve their arts onto desks, chairs, blackboards, and school bags. Winter brought the prized media of snowy windscreens and giant male sex organs would line the streets of any school neighborhood.
Creating artistically enhanced penises was a hobby born in the Roman period. So popular was the pastime that archaeologists in England are no longer phased when they discover a carved penis on a smashed stone at a Roman fort. They are, however, taken aback when a penis is accompanied by Roman graffiti directed at another Roman soldier. Especially when the insult involves the word “shi**r.”
Over 100 Indigenous Settlements North of Hadrian’s Wall Discovered
Burnswark hillfort in southwest Scotland was used as the start point for discovering the indigenous Hadrian’s Wall settlements, which lay north of Hadrian’s Wall that was pretty much the northernmost frontier of the Roman Empire. Source: J. Reid / Antiquity Publications Ltd
Northern Britain, a fluctuating frontier area during the Roman occupation of Britain (43-410 AD), represented a tussle between Iron Age communities and the centralizing authority and power of the Roman state. A fascinating new paper published in the prestigious journal Antiquity has surveyed the area north of Hadrian’s Wall, and identified over a 100 previously undiscovered indigenous settlements, dated to the time of the Roman occupation. This is a breakthrough s tudy, since the vast majority of archaeological attention has long been focused on the Romans in the region as opposed to the indigenous inhabitants the Empire sought to control.
Forget the Romans! Indigenous Hadrian’s Wall Settlements
Hadrian was the emperor of the Roman Empire from 117 to 138 AD. Halfway into his reign, in 122 AD, work had begun on his eponymous wall. It was meant to represent the northernmost border of the Empire, which it was, for about 20 years. Incidentally, northern England and southern Scotland are one of the few areas in Western Europe where the Romans could not establish full-fledged control.
From the safety and security of Hadrian’s Wall , the Romans expanded further north and built Vallum Antonini or the Antonine Wall, as the newest northernmost Roman frontier . Construction began in 142 AD under the command of Antonius Pius, and took 12 years to complete (unlike Hadrian, Pius never visited Britannia). Just 8 years after its completion, in 162 AD, the wall was abandoned, and the frontier line was Hadrian’s Wall again.
Near-Pristine Bronze Age Spear Dated Over 3,000 Years Found in Britain
Bronze Age spear found in Cirencester, England. ( Thames Water )
Spearheads are often seen as representing the ‘highest tradition of the Bronze Age’. This statement is exemplified by the discovery of a Bronze Age spear at a Thames Water sewage works in Cirencester, England. It was discovered during construction work at a new wetland habitat in the region, and has been dated to between 3,500 and 3,000 years old. Adding to the mystery and intrigue are the simultaneous discovery of dwellings that are dated to the Late Bronze Age, right up until the Roman period, reports the BBC.
7,500-year-old Juniper Stump Is Believed Oldest Goddess Asherah Idol
Left: This juniper tree trunk, found in a pre-Biblical grave in Eilat, Israel is the earliest Asherah idol discovered so far in the Near East. Right: Israelite ceramic figure of a nude woman, identified as an Asherah idol pillar. Source: Left: Uzi Avner / Researchgate ; Right: The Met
Archaeologists excavating an ancient cemetery in Israel have uncovered an idol which they believe dates the worship of the goddess Asherah back an incredible 7,500 years.
During excavations that took place in the 1980s on a mountainside near Eilat, Israel’s southernmost city on the northern tip of the Red Sea, archaeologists found the remains of a cemetery that extends far back into antiquity. They also found other ruins and markers that show this location was an important place of worship long ago, and have now uncovered what is believed to be an Asherah idol. This particular site was constructed approximately 7,500 years old and was dedicated to the goddess Asherah, who in later times was worshipped as the wife of Israel’s creator god Yahweh.
Mixing the characteristics of a mother goddess, fertility goddess, and the embodiment of all that was feminine in nature, the Asherah idol (who was also called Athirat or Ashera at different time) was an important figure in the religion of the Canaanites, who occupied the lands of modern-day Israel in the second millennium BC. Once the Israelites appeared in Canaan they actually absorbed Asherah into their religious traditions, with archaeological evidence suggesting the Israelites first began worshipping the mother-fertility figure in the 12th century BC.
New Reliefs Revealed in Egypt’s Esna Temple Beneath 2,000 Years of Dust
This ceiling, covered with images of the cobra goddess Wadjet, was just one of the reliefs that were brought back to life by the Esna temple restoration project. Source: Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities
A joint German-Egyptian archaeological mission, who’ve been working at Egypt’s Esna temple since 2020, have succeeded in uncovering patterns, pictures, and colors from the ceilings and walls of the temple. With restoration and cleaning work completed, bright patterns and colors have been found depicting eagles and cobra heads, amongst others, as per a statement released by the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities .
The temple of Esna, also known as the Temple of Khnum, is dedicated to the ram-headed god, Khnum (god of creation), and his divine consorts Menhit and Nebtu, their son, Heka, and the goddess Neith.
It’s located 100 meters (328 feet) west of the bank of the river Nile in Esna City. Most of the temple was constructed during the reign of Emperor Claudius (41-54 AD) and was completed during the reign of Emperor Decius (249-251 AD), reports Ahram Online . The temple ruins consist of a hall of columns with ornate pillars caved with lotus and palm designs. The walls are covered with reliefs showing Ptolemaic and Roman Emperors offering sacrifices to the god Khnum.
Archaeologists Stumble Upon Key Romano-British Trade Center
English archaeologists have stumble upon a once-in-a-lifetime Romano-British settlement near Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire. This skeleton and a caltrop, a Roman era area denial weapon, similar to police spikes used to stop cars today, were unearthed at the Grange Paddocks site. Source: East Herts District Council
Archaeologists performing excavations near Bishop’s Stortford, an historic market town in Hertfordshire, England, have uncovered the ruins of a Romano-British settlement that served as a commercial center along a Roman roadway that had once passed through the area, the Daily Mail reports. In addition to the Romano-British settlement, researchers from the private contractor Oxford Archaeology also found evidence of facilities and various businesses that would have served the needs of travelers, essentially duplicating the function of a modern roadside service station.
Top image: Composite of May’s top stories images. Source: Credited in article
By Ancient Origins