Near the banquet hall where rulers of a Middle Bronze Age city-state and their guests feasted, a team of American and Israeli researchers broke through to a storage room holding the remains of 40 large ceramic jars. The vessels were broken, their liquid contents long since vanished — but not without a trace.
A chemical analysis of residues left in the three-foot-tall jars detected organic traces of acids that are common components of all wine, as well as ingredients popular in ancient winemaking. These included honey, mint, cinnamon bark, juniper berries and resins used as a preservative. The recipe was similar to medicinal wines used for 2,000 years in ancient Egypt and probably tasted something like retsina or other resinous Greek wines today.
So the archaeologists who have been exploring the Canaanite site, known as Tel Kabri, announced on Friday that they had found one of civilization’s oldest and largest wine cellars. The storage room held the equivalent of about 3,000 bottles of red and white wines, they said — and they suspected that this was not the palace’s only wine cellar.
Classical scholars from the Cluster of Excellence “Religion and Politics” made an unusually large find of seals in an ancient sanctuary in Turkey. They discovered more than 600 stamp seals and cylinder seals at the sacred site of the storm and weather god Jupiter Dolichenus, 100 of which in the current year alone. “Such large amounts of seal consecrations are unheard-of in any comparable sanctuary”, said excavation director Prof. Dr. Engelbert Winter and archaeologist Dr. Michael Blömer at the end of the excavation season. In this respect, the finding of numerous pieces from the 7th to the 4th centuries B.C. close to the ancient city of Doliche is unparalleled.
“The amazingly large number proves how important seals and amulets were for the worshipping of the god to whom they were consecrated as votive offerings”, according to Classical scholar Prof. Winter. Many pieces show scenes of adoration. “Thus, they provide a surprisingly vivid and detailed insight into the faith of the time.” The stamp seals and cylinder seals as well as scarabs, made of glass, stone and quartz ceramics, were mostly crafted in a high-quality manner. Following the restoration work, the finds were handed over to the relevant museum in Gaziantep in Turkey.
Different themes can be found on the seals and amulets: the spectrum ranges from geometric ornaments and astral symbols to elaborate depictions of animals and people. This includes, for example, praying men in front of divine symbols. Another popular theme was a royal hero fighting animals and hybrid creatures. “Even those images that do not depict a deity express strong personal piety: with their seals, people consecrated an object to their god which was closely associated with their own identity”, said Blömer. People wore the amulets found with the seals in everyday life. “Strung on chains, they were supposed to fend off bad luck”, explained the archaeologist.
…unlike offerings of fruit and grains, which could last for quite a while once dehydrated and placed in dry tombs, pieces of meat required special treatment. After just a few hours in the desert heat, “they will become a terrible mess if you don’t take some steps to preserve them,” says Richard Evershed, an archaeological chemist at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom. The solution? Mummify.
Now, a team of researchers led by Evershed is shedding light on the embalming processes used to create these so-called meat mummies. The work fills a gap when it comes to studying mummies from ancient Egypt, says Andrew Wade, a bioarchaeologist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, who was not involved with the research. “We’ve done quite a bit on human Egyptian mummies and even a fair bit on animal mummies,” he explains. “But the meat mummies … they’d been sort of left on their own.”
In order to find out which chemicals were used to mummify meat, Evershed and his team used mass spectroscopy to analyze samples of the bandages taken from four meat mummies housed in Egypt’s Cairo Museum and the British Museum in London. For some of the meat mummies, such as a calf that had been prepared as food and placed in a tomb dated between 1070 and 945 B.C.E. and a goat leg mummified around 1290 B.C.E., the only preservative was some type of animal fat smeared over the bandages.
The Greeks and Romans have left many legacies—democracy, philosophy, mathematics… But they have also left a plethora of sexually explicit imagery—statues with erect penises, bestiality as garden sculpture, and drinking vessels showing scenes of rape and sexual intercourse.
Over the weekend, thieves broke into the Early-Christian Museum in Carthage and stole a fifth-century A.D. marble statue depicting the mythological figure of Ganymede embracing Zeus in the form of an eagle. First discovered in pieces during a 1977 excavation in a cistern under the House of the Greek Charioteers in Carthage, the statue measured over a foot and a half once it was restored.