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Updated: 35 min 7 sec ago

Mimes, Paid Grievers, and Masks: The Insane Theatrics of Ancient Roman Funerals

3 hours 27 min ago

Two thousand years ago, funerals weren’t the quiet, somber affairs we have today. They were loud, boisterous shows that started with a massive procession of people parading down the streets, pounding away at musical instruments and trying to get everyone around to stop and watch the show.

Read moreSection: NewsHistoryAncient Traditions

Rethinking Homo sapiens? The story of our origins gets dizzyingly complicated

7 hours 24 min ago

You might say it’s the ultimate prize of science, to discover when, where and why humans evolved. For a long time, the evidence has been overwhelming that Homo sapiens evolved in Africa and later spilled out of the continent to settle the rest of the planet.

Read moreSection: NewsEvolution & Human Origins

The Ancient Trackways of Britain’s Ley-Lines Steered Bronze Age Tin Miners

11 hours 2 min ago

The Great St Michael and St Mary Alignment (or ‘corridor of incidence’) is probably the most famous ley-line in Britain, if not the world.

Read moreSection: NewsHistory

Kailasa Temple Was Carved Out of One Rock from the Top Down!

12 hours 25 min ago

The Kailasa Temple is number 16 out of 32 cave temples and monasteries collectively known as the Ellora Caves in Maharashtra, India.

Read moreSection: NewsAncient PlacesAsia

Searching for the Lost Tomb of Antony and Cleopatra

15 hours 2 min ago

Mark Antony and Cleopatra are among the most famous pairs of lovers from the ancient world.  Following their defeat at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC, their final refuge from the victorious Octavian was Egypt, where Cleopatra was queen. In 30 BC, Egypt was invaded, and following the Battle of Alexandria, the two lovers lost their lives, under circumstances that most historians believe was suicide (though some maintain it was murder). Nevertheless, it seems even death could not separate them, as historic sources record that they were laid to rest together. The location of their tomb, however, has never been found. It is a historical mystery that has endured over nearly two millennia.   

Cleopatra and Caesar by Jean-Leon-Gerome, 1866. (Public Domain)

The death of Mark Antony

In Suetonius’ The Lives of the Caesars: Augustus, the Roman writer records that Octavian forced Antony to commit suicide when he “tried to make terms at the eleventh hour”. Plutarch gives an alternative version of Antony’s death in The Parallel Lives: Antony. In his work, the Greek historian states that Antony committed suicide upon hearing false news that Cleopatra was dead. Upon Antony’s death, Octavian was eager to capture Cleopatra alive, as “he thought it would add greatly to the glory of his triumph if she were led in the procession”.

Read moreSection: NewsHistoryFamous People

False Doors: The Gateways to the Egyptian Underworld

15 hours 10 min ago

As the name would suggest, a false door is an imitation door usually found in mortuary temples and tombs across ancient Egypt.  Facing west, these doors served as an imaginary passage between the world of the living and the world of the dead, and were believed to allow the Ka (an element of the soul) to pass through them. The deity or the deceased could interact with the world of the living either by passing through the door or by receiving offerings though it.  The false door is one of the most common elements found within Egyptian tomb complexes, and is also one of the most important architectural features found in royal and non-royal tombs, beginning with Egypt's Old Kingdom.

Egyptian false door, c 2400 BC (Sharron Mollerus / Flickr)

Read moreSection: NewsAncient PlacesAfrica

The Rich Mythology and Megalithic Culture of the Ancient Berbers, Lords of the Desert

15 hours 22 min ago

The Barbary Coast of North Africa was named after the Berbers, the nomadic people who inhabited the region west of the Nile Valley in north Africa. Called the Amazigh or Imazighen in antiquity (meaning "free humans" or "free men"), they are among the oldest inhabitants of North Africa. Their rich mythology endured for thousands of years, eventually coming to influence the religious beliefs of the ancient Egyptians.

The history of the Berber people in northern Africa is extensive and diverse.  The Berbers are a large group of non-Arabic tribes, related by language and culture, inhabiting areas stretching from Egypt to the Canary Islands as well as regions south of the Sahara such as Niger and Mali.  Archaeologists have traced their origins to the Caspian culture, a North African civilization that dates back more than 10,000 years.  Berber-speaking people have lived in North Africa since the earliest times and are first referenced by the Egyptians in 3,000 BC under the name Temehu.  Phoenician, Greeks and Roman texts also make reference to them. 

A Crossroad of Peoples

Since prehistoric times, Berber lands have been a crossroad of peoples from Africa, Europe, and the Middle East.  The Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Arabs, Turks, Spaniards, French, and Italians have invaded and ruled portions of the Berber homeland.  The Berbers have never experienced a unified political identity. There have been many Berber kingdoms and cultures existing alongside one another in various regions of North Africa and Spain, but never a unified "Berber empire".  Throughout the centuries, Berbers have mixed with many ethnic groups, including Arabs, and because of this, they have come to be identified more by linguistics instead race.  Their language is one of the oldest in the world and belongs to the African branch of the Afro-Asian language family, along with ancient Egyptian.

Read moreSection: NewsAncient PlacesAfrica

Illegal Artifact Smuggling and Forgery Ring Smashed in Europe-Wide Police Swoop

15 hours 39 min ago

After a hunt lasting several decades, a team of almost 250 top European criminal investigators and highly-trained police officers have busted a 24-man strong, ring of international illegal artifact traffickers and professional forgers, which is believed to have smuggled over $30 million of stolen Greek treasures to traders, collectors and auction houses in Europe.

The investigators began following members of the illegal ring in 2014 and detailing the extent of the illegal goings on. They told reporters at The Telegraph that the gang “systematically looted Sicily’s rich archaeological heritage” selling over “25,000 items including ancient coins, statues and pottery.”

Greek Valley of the Temples Pillaged

Europol financed each country's forces to come together in an attempt to smash the ring that was channelling illegal artifacts from the ancient Greek Valley of the Temples in the provinces of Caltanisetta and Agrigento, a UNESCO world heritage site, to auction houses in Germany. This incredible archaeological matrix is famed for its extensive pagan and Christian necropolises and sprawling network of subterranean aqueducts and cisterns.

Read moreSection: NewsHistory & Archaeology

The Tomb of Humayun: The Garden Tomb that Inspired the Taj Mahal

Sun, 07/15/2018 - 15:49

The first garden-tomb that was constructed in India was the spectacular Tomb of Humayun devoted to the second Mughal Emperor. So magnificent was the monument, that it came to inspire major architectural innovations throughout the Mughal Empire, including the world-renowned Taj Mahal in Agra, built about a century after Humayun’s Tomb. The construction of this monument symbolizes the peak of Mughal garden-tomb construction.

A monument built in 1572 by Bega Begam in memory of her husband, Humayun. Photo by: Shailabh Suman, 2014. (Wikimedia Commons).

The emperor Humayun lived during the 16th century. Upon his death in 1556, Humayun was first buried in Purana Quila, a fort in Delhi. When the fort was captured by the Hindu emperor Hemu, Humayun’s body was exhumed by the fleeing Mughals, and transported to Kalanaur in Punjab. In 1569/70, 14 years after Humayun’s death, his first wife, Bega Begum, commissioned a tomb in Delhi for her late husband.  The man responsible for designing the tomb was Mirak Mirza Ghiyas, a Persian architect chosen by Bega Begum. It is perhaps thanks to Ghiyas that the tomb was heavily influenced by Persian architecture.  

Read moreSection: NewsAncient PlacesAsia

How it Ends: The Ancient Roots of Doomsday Prophecies and End of the World Beliefs

Sun, 07/15/2018 - 15:38

Hollywood’s obsession with the End of Times is not over yet – Armageddon, Deep Impact, Doomsday, Legion, Thor: Ragnarok and 28 Days Later, are just a few of the blockbusters, out of hundreds, that deal with mankind’s demise. And now, yet another apocalyptic film is set to be released. ‘How it Ends’ imagines how a sudden societal collapse could occur in the modern U.S. as a result of a geological apocalypse. But man’s obsession with the end of the world is not a new one. 

Doomsday prophecies are as old as recorded time.  For as long as humans have existed, there has been a fear of an apocalypse or ‘end of times’, when the gods wish vengeance upon their people, when humans pay for the sins of their fathers and forefathers, and when the demons of the world rise up and devour all that is good.  Prophecies of the end of times stem from the mythologies of civilizations past: the Norse story of Ragnarök, the tale of Noah and the Flood, and the Biblical apocalypse.  Though these civilizations are all thousands of years in the past, the same fear that drove them to make these myths—the fear of the unknown—continues to haunt the human race today.

Read moreSection: NewsHistory

Boy, 11, Finds 1,000-Year-Old-Message Written in Runes on Pendant Made of Mammoth Bone

Sun, 07/15/2018 - 13:15

A fifth-grade student has discovered a piece of ‘jewellery’ decorated with ancient Turkic runic inscriptions. Pavel Yakovlev made the ‘great scientific discovery’ near his village in Yakutia.

The four words are believed to be in the Orkhon-Yenisei type script.

Such writings are normally found in rock art in Yakutia, also known as Sakha Republic, the world’s coldest region and the largest within the Russian Federation. 

Academic Ninel Malysheva said: 'Runes rarely occur on such things as talismans and amulets. 

‘If it is confirmed that this bone found in Namsky district is genuine, it will be a great scientific discovery for the republic. 

‘A comprehensive study is now required involving paleontologists, archaeologists and Turkologists.’

The fifth-grade student Pavel discovered the ‘jewellery’ decorated with ancient Turkic runic inscriptions. Pictures: Michil Yakovlev

Studies on exact dating and decoding the inscription are underway at the Museum of Writing, part of the North-Eastern Federal University (NEFU).

One theory is that the words express ‘good wishes’, but scientists hope to find the exact meaning. 

Pavel’s village is some 100 kilometres north of Yakutsk, the regional capital, and the world’s coldest city.

Another example of Turkic runes in Yaktutia is the so-called Petrov inscription.

It is a writing made using ocher some 200 km from Yakutsk. 

It is known as the most northerly rune inscription in the world.

Read moreSection: NewsHistory & Archaeology

2,000-Year-Old Egyptian Mummy Workshop and Goldmine of Treasures Unearthed in Saqqara

Sun, 07/15/2018 - 07:02

A team of Egyptian-German Archeologists announced to the world’s media yesterday that their recent dig in Saqqara, Egypt, led to the unearthing of “a rare mummification workshop containing mummies and sarcophagi.” And among the buried treasures was a “silver face mask gilded with gold dating back to between 664 BC and 404 BC,” a press statement said.

Mummies have haunted popular culture since Howard Carter’s discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922, but early cinema had installed the whole idea of a “mummy’s curse” in the human psyche. Boris Karloff starred in the 1932 movie The Mummy and the 1999 movie The Mummy and its sequel The Mummy Returns, breathed air into the trend of giant mummies being controlled by tormented, vengeful spirits caught somewhere between life and death.

An engraved stone sarcophagus found in the burial chamber. Credit: Ministry of Antiquities

Mask of Precious Metals

Yesterday, Ramadan Badry Hussein, head of the Egyptian-German team, from the University of Tübingen in Germany told journalists at Live Science that the mummies mask had eyes containing “calcite, obsidian and a black gemstone” and he added that “Very few masks of precious metal have been preserved to the present day, because the tombs of most ancient Egyptian dignitaries were looted in ancient times” and that the "finding of this mask could be called a sensation.”

Read moreSection: NewsHistory & Archaeology

A Failed #MeToo Moment: Just How Horrible Being An Ancient Roman Actress Could Be

Sat, 07/14/2018 - 13:17

When an actress in ancient Rome was brutally gang-raped by a group of young men who’d come to see her show, she started a very public battle for justice. The story of her fight and her failure is usually nothing more than a footnote in the history of important men. But it actually reveals a dark side to what it meant to be a woman 2,000 years ago.

The woman, whose name has been lost to time, was a mimae, a sort of silent comedian popular in the days of the Roman Empire. She’d been performing in a countryside theater to a modest crowd in Atina, expecting nothing more than a few laughs. But before she’d even left the theater, a gang of men in the audience knocked her to ground, pinned her down, and brutalized her.

She fought for justice. She pressed charges against the men who’d attacked her and tried to use the scandal to destroy the political career of one of her rapists. But the courts of Rome just laughed at her.

Beating, pinning down, and gang-raping an actress, the courts of ancient Rome ruled, was simply acting “in accordance with a well-established tradition at staged events.”

Read moreSection: NewsHistoryImportant Events

Baby, Baby, Baby: Why Did the Ancient Greeks Turn Dead Children into Heroes?

Sat, 07/14/2018 - 07:27

When we use the term “hero” today while discussing Greek mythological figures, it usually designates a man whose superhuman exploits and semi-divine parentage make him a person of legend. But in real-life ancient Greece, heroes were venerated at their own shrines, and deceased men figured in popular imagination somewhere between divine gods and Average Joes. Adult superheroes weren’t the only ones honored; deceased young ones, highlighted by Prince Opheltes and the children of Heracles and Medea, sometimes had their own hero cults too.

In her important An Archaeology of Ancestors, Duke University classicist Carla Antonaccio discusses the difficulty of defining a “hero” who deserves his own cult. She ties the idea into ancestor worship. Some hero cults honored mythological figures, like Heracles, and some honored real-life folks, such as the Spartan general Brasidas who died a long time ago. But the clear distinction between “fictional” and “real” characters (and what defines fact versus fiction, vis-a-vis legend) is likely more of a modern retrojection than one the Greeks may have made. The theoretical discussions of what makes a cult hero are better left to specialists on the topic, such as Gregory Nagy and Bruno Currie (both of whose excellent works on the subject are cited below).

Ruins of a hero-shrine or heroon at Sagalassos, Turkey. (Tijl Vereenooghe/CC BY SA 2.5)

Read moreSection: NewsHistoryAncient Traditions

Xochiquetzal: Aztec Goddess of Beauty, Pleasure and Love… But Don’t Mess With Her!

Fri, 07/13/2018 - 19:46

According to the Aztecs, Xochiquetzal was the goddess of beauty, pleasure, and love. She is commonly associated with such beautiful things as flowers, plants, song and dance, which is quite distinct from the majority of Aztec gods, as they are normally associated with warfare and sacrifice.

Read moreSection: NewsAncient PlacesAmericas

Mexican Earthquake Reveals Secret Temple in an Aztec Era Pyramid

Fri, 07/13/2018 - 16:59

The 7.1-magnitude earthquake which hit Mexico in September 2017 took hundreds of lives and caused considerable damage. At the Teopanzolco pyramid archaeological site, two temples were hit particularly hard.

Read moreSection: NewsHistory & Archaeology

Experts Finally Decode 2000-year-old ‘Mirror Writing’ Papyrus

Fri, 07/13/2018 - 12:50

Since the 16th century, Basel has been home to a mysterious papyrus. With mirror writing on both sides, it has puzzled generations of researchers. A research team from the University of Basel has now discovered that it is an unknown medical document from late antiquity. 

Read moreSection: NewsHistory & Archaeology

How Did the Benjamites Manage to Overthrown the Mighty Moabites: Ehud the Deliverer

Fri, 07/13/2018 - 10:58

After forty years had passed after settling in the promised land of Canaan, the Israelites found themselves dealing with an old adversary.

Read moreSection: NewsHistory

Experts Believe a Bronze Age Woman Willingly Joined Her Husband in the Afterlife

Fri, 07/13/2018 - 07:57

After 3000 years, their loving embrace is seen by the world. Archaeologists believe that a female who lived in the Bronze Age chose to join her male partner in the afterlife. According to them, the nature of her embrace tells all… 

Read moreSection: NewsHistory & Archaeology

Naqsh-e Rustam: Ancient Tombs of Powerful Persian Kings

Fri, 07/13/2018 - 05:04

Naqsh-e Rustam is one of the most spectacular and awe-inspiring ancient sites of the Achaemenid Empire, consisting of the colossal tombs of Persian kings dating back to the first millennium BC.  It stands as a lasting memory of a once powerful empire that ruled over a significant portion of the ancient world.

Naqsh-e Rustam (meaning Throne of Rustam) is located approximately 5 km (3 miles) to the northwest of Persepolis, the capital of the former Achaemenid (Persian) Empire in present day in Iran. Engraved on the façade of a mountain range considered sacred in the Elamite periods are the rock-cut tombs of Achaemenid rulers and their families dating to the 4th and 5th centuries BC, as well as richly decorated reliefs carved by the Sasanians in the 3rd century AD.  In addition to being a royal necropolis, Naqsh-e Rustam became a major ceremonial center for the Sasanians until the 7th century AD.

Naqsh-e Rustam at dawn (Wikipedia)

Read moreSection: NewsAncient PlacesAsia