| Ancient Origins Members Site

Subscribe to feed
News from Ancient Origins website - Ancient Origins seeks to uncover, what we believe, is one of the most important pieces of knowledge we can acquire as human beings – our beginnings.
Updated: 27 min 48 sec ago

1,400-Year-Old Coins are the Forgotten Remnants of a Terrifying Siege on Jerusalem

2 hours 14 min ago

Israeli archaeologists have announced the discovery of a hoard of rare Byzantine bronze coins from a site dating back to 614 AD. The coins were discovered during excavations for the widening of the Tel Aviv- Jerusalem highway.

Read moreSection: NewsHistory & Archaeology

Could Frozen Seeds Save the Future? Scientists Bring a 32,000-year-old Seed Back to Life

6 hours 23 min ago

Far away on the remote island of Spitsbergen in the Artic Svalbard archipelago lies humanity’s fail-safe storage of seeds. With the threat of natural and man-made disasters looming in the future, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault is located securely halfway between Norway and the North Pole (approx. 810 miles (1,300 km) from the North Pole).

Read moreSection: NewsGeneral

The Magic, Mystery and Madness of Tomb 55: Resurrecting the Rebel Ruler–Part III

9 hours 37 min ago

Akhenaten’s short-lived capital, Amarna, was the epicenter of the unpalatable religious changes that pharaoh had unleashed on his country. The ensuing tumult which pervaded Egypt during this dark time had to be forgotten, and quickly.

Read moreSection: NewsHistory

KV20: The Famous Female Pharaoh Hatshepsut Has a Magnificent Temple, But What Became of Her Body?

11 hours 13 min ago

Father and daughter, Tuthmose I and Hatshepsut were two famous pharaohs of the 18th dynasty of the New Kingdom of Egypt; Hatshepsut being only the second confirmed female pharaoh. KV20 is one of the most ancient known tomb sites of the Valley of the Kings, and possibly the first royal tomb to be constructed. 

Read moreSection: NewsAncient PlacesAfrica

Shennong: The God-King of Chinese Medicine and Agriculture

Tue, 03/21/2017 - 20:00

Shennong, which means “God farmer” or “God peasant”, is a deity in Chinese religion. He is a mythical sage healer and ruler of prehistoric China. Shennong is also known as Wugushen “five grains,” or Wuguxiandi “first deity of the five grains.” He is thought to have taught the Chinese how to practice agriculture, the use of herbal drugs, the application of plant-based medicine, and acupuncture.

Read moreSection: NewsMyths & LegendsHistoryFamous People

Underwater Treasure Found in Southwestern China Makes Reality out of 300-Year-Old Mythical Battle

Tue, 03/21/2017 - 16:57

Chinese archaeologists announced yesterday the discovery of an immense underwater treasure. They stated that they recovered more than 10,000 gold and silver items which had been sitting at the bottom of a river in southwestern Sichuan Province for more than three centuries.

Read moreSection: NewsHistory & Archaeology

Old Symbols, New Feelings: How Did the Cup of Ptolemies Become a Chalice of Christ?

Tue, 03/21/2017 - 13:00

It is always interesting to see how ancient traditions persist even up to the modern era. Whether it is the resurgence of Eastern meditation practices in modern healthcare or the lingering presence of the Christmas tree in the living room, many customs have been co-opted from their original surroundings into a wholly different setting. Not only is this practice nothing new, it is oftentimes done purposefully. With regards to the Christian appropriation of non-Christian (i.e. pagan) cultural elements, the process is called Interpretation christiana, and a great example of it can be seen in the history of how the Cup of Ptolemies became a Chalice of Christ.

The Christian Chalice

Before it was stolen from the Louvre in 1804, the Cup of Ptolemies had served for hundreds of years as the Eucharistic chalice for the communion wine at the Basilica of St. Denis in northern Paris. The lost artifact was eventually recovered later in the 19th century, but by then it could no longer serve as a chalice. The cup itself is an intricately carved piece of onyx with two handles and measures 3.3 x 4.9 inches (8.4 x 12.5 cm). The cup has a small nub on the bottom, on which it can stand, but was presumably lifted using the handles.

Read moreSection: ArtifactsOther ArtifactsNews

Face of ‘Ordinary Poor’ Man from Medieval Cambridge Graveyard Revealed

Tue, 03/21/2017 - 08:02

New facial reconstruction of a man buried in a medieval hospital graveyard discovered underneath a Cambridge college sheds light on how ordinary poor people lived in medieval England.  

The audience of an event at this year’s Cambridge Science Festival found themselves staring into the face of a fellow Cambridge resident – one who spent the last 700 years buried beneath the venue in which they sat.

The 13th-century man, called Context 958 by researchers, was among some 400 burials for which complete skeletal remains were uncovered when one of the largest medieval hospital graveyards in Britain was discovered underneath the Old Divinity School of St John’s College, and excavated between 2010 and 2012.

Finds beneath the Old Divinity School, St John's College. Credit: Craig Cessford, Cambridge University Department of Archaeology and Anthropology

The bodies, which mostly date from a period spanning the 13th to 15th centuries, are burials from the Hospital of St John the Evangelist which stood opposite the graveyard until 1511, and from which the College takes its name. The hospital was an Augustinian charitable establishment in Cambridge dedicated to providing care to members of the public.

Read moreSection: NewsHistory & Archaeology

Two Roman Ships that Were Lost in WWII: What Destroyed the Floating Palaces of Emperor Caligula?

Mon, 03/20/2017 - 19:52

This is one of the most tragic stories about remarkable ancient artifacts you will ever read. After reading this article, you may have dreams about impressive ancient Roman ships that survived many centuries, only to be destroyed during World War II.

The ships built by the mad emperor Caligula in the 1st century AD looked like floating palaces. They were found at Lake Nemi and had everything that was characteristic of the hedonistic style of the Ptolemaic Period or the wealthy rulers of Syracuse (whose style inspired many bold feats in the ancient world.) This is what archaeologists recovered in 1929. However, fate soon gave the ships a tragic end.

Imaginative depiction of one of the Nemi ships. (cronicadeunatraicion)

Discovering Caligula's Ships

Caligula had many unique ideas about religion; he followed the cult of Isis, but also loved Alexander the Great and imagined he could be his reincarnation. Two of his biggest desires were to be richer and to create more luxurious buildings than his ancestors. It is unknown why Caligula decided to make these ships, but it was likely his vanity. The impressive ships had amazing treasures and incredible decoration. They were like floating palaces with mosaic floors, a heating system, marble decorations, baths, etc.

Read moreSection: NewsHistory

The Mysterious Lithophones of Vietnam: Descendants of the First Musical Instruments?

Mon, 03/20/2017 - 16:57

The word ‘lithophone’ is derived from two Greek words, ‘lithos’ and ‘phone’. The first can be translated as ‘stone’, whilst the second means ‘sound’. Therefore, a lithophone may be said to be a ‘sound-making stone’. Today, this word is used to denote a type of musical instrument made of stones.

Read moreSection: ArtifactsOther ArtifactsNews

Herbs to Kill or Heal? Was this 17th Century Faux-Book for a Poisoner or Apothecary?

Mon, 03/20/2017 - 12:58

When photos of the faux-book first began to circulate online it was considered a hoax. The image was featured on the ArtefactPorn subreddit and commenters quickly denounced it as a fake, a mere cabinet of curiosities (as in not a disguised book), or a genuine artifact but one that was not as old as it claimed. All of these allegations were proven wrong. Popularly called the Assassin’s Cabinet of Poison, it was originally bound around the year 1600. The pages of the book were then glued together to form a large block. This was then hollowed out and 11 tiny drawers were installed inside as well as a little glass jar. Each drawer had a silver knob and a handwritten label of the lethal compound stored inside.

When the Faux-Book Came to Light

The faux-book came to light in 2008 when it was put up for auction by Hermann Historica, a popular German auction house. The item was listed as ‘poisoner’s cabinet,’ a title that quickly intrigued the press. The official description of the item as given in the auction catalog is as follows:

Read moreSection: ArtifactsOther ArtifactsNews

Blood and Victory: The Battle of Kadesh, a Clash of Titans – Part II

Mon, 03/20/2017 - 09:45

The stage is set for a showdown between two giant armies – the Egyptians, with the greatest pharaoh of history, Ramses II, and the Hittites, with their impressive army and persuasive king, Muwatalli II. The bloody Battle of Kadesh would go down in history as the largest chariot battle ever fought!

Read moreSection: NewsHistory

The Kjolur Route: Haunted Highway and Ancient Viking Shortcut in Iceland

Mon, 03/20/2017 - 07:53

Positioned on a desert upland in the highlands of Iceland, the Ancient Kjolur Trail gives a new meaning to the word “desolation.” This lengthy, winding thoroughfare, that leads visitors across an epic glacial shortcut written about in the Sagas, was forgotten for over a century before taking the lives of some trekkers. 

Read moreSection: NewsAncient PlacesEurope

An Ancient Australian Connection to India?

Sun, 03/19/2017 - 20:09

When was the remote Australian continent first settled? Where did these ancient Australians come from? Was the island settled once, or on multiple occasions? Is there a genealogical connection between the Indigenous people of Australia and India?

Read moreSection: NewsHistory & ArchaeologyAncient PlacesAustralia & Oceania

Have We Got a Temple, Theater, and Gate? Check! New Details Emerge on Roman Urban Planning in Central Italy

Sun, 03/19/2017 - 16:59

Archaeologists have discovered a magnificent ancient Roman temple the size of St Paul's Cathedral in central Italy. The discovery took place with the help of a radar device that was attached to the back of a quad bike in order to explore the hidden details of the excavation site.

Read moreSection: NewsHistory & Archaeology

Taking Beauty to New Heights in China: What Stunning Sights Emerge on Huangshan and its Bridge of Immortals?

Sun, 03/19/2017 - 12:59

Huangshan (written in the Han script as 黄山, and literally translated as ‘Yellow Mountain’) is a mountain range located in the southern part of Anhui Province, in the eastern region of China. This mountain range is well known for its picturesque landscape, which is often considered to be the most beautiful in China.

Read moreSection: NewsAncient PlacesAsia

The Ill-fated Elling Woman: An Iron Age Sacrifice to Appease the Gods?

Sun, 03/19/2017 - 08:02

Elling Woman is the name given to a well-preserved bog body that was discovered in Denmark during the first half of the 20th century. By then, this type of remains had already been found in Denmark’s bogs for at least a century. For instance, one bog body, unearthed in 1835, was thought to have belonged to a legendary Viking queen from the 8th century AD by the name of Gundhilde. Subsequent research on bog bodies, however, have shown that this practice had existed at an earlier period of time. In the case of Elling Woman, for example, it was found that she had lived during the Iron Age of northwestern Europe.

Discovering the Elling Woman

Elling Woman was discovered in 1938, when a farmer by the name of Jens Zakariassen was in the process of digging peat. This occurred in a pit bog in Bjældskovdal, a bog area which lies to the west of the city of Silkeborg, in the central part of Denmark.

The Upper body of the Elling Woman. (CC BY-SA 3.0)

At least two other bog bodies have been found in this area, one having been discovered in 1927 (which was reburied when the peat bank collapsed over it), and another being the famous Tollund Man, which was discovered 12 years after Elling Woman was found, and separated from her by a distance of less than 100 meters (328 ft.).

Read moreSection: NewsHistory

How Did She Do It? Cynisca, a Spartan Princess Who Won the Ancient Olympic Games

Sat, 03/18/2017 - 19:50

Since the beginning of time, women have liked to surprise men with their extraordinary power, strength, and skills. Few are shocked by female success in these areas nowadays, but in ancient times some women’s brave achievements were considered absolutely shocking. The story of a woman who was able to ride a chariot with four horses is one of the most remarkable tales of a royal lady who was passionate when she felt the wind in her hair and the strength of horses in her hands.

Cynisca (also known as Kyneska) was not just a female athlete; she was a princess of Sparta. However, her passions were not typical for the princesses we imagine. She was most excited when she could work with horses. Her position allowed her to receive the best education, but also a lot of criticism. Although physical activities were well appreciated in Sparta, the role of women in the Olympics was unclear before Cynisca’s spectacular success. It is believed that women were usually unable to attend any competitions (they were discriminated in numerous areas of life.) It is unknown how Cynisca found this passion or who taught her the necessary skills. Her road to the Olympics is unclear too.

French print of Cynisca. (greekamericangirl)

Read moreSection: NewsHistoryFamous People

Was Alfred the Great Just a King that was Great at Propaganda?

Sat, 03/18/2017 - 17:13

The Last Kingdom – BBC’s historical drama set in the time of Alfred the Great’s war with the Vikings – has returned to our screens for a second series. While most attention will continue to focus on the fictional hero Uhtred, his story is played out against a political background where the main protagonist is the brooding and bookish mastermind Alfred the Great, vividly portrayed in the series by David Dawson.

Read moreSection: NewsHistory & ArchaeologyHistoryFamous People

Why Did the Giant Egyptian Statue Sing at Dawn? Re-Discovering the Colossi of Memnon

Sat, 03/18/2017 - 12:54

The Colossi of Memnon are a pair of giant statues made of stone that are located in the Theban Necropolis in Luxor, Upper Egypt. The statues were made during the 14th century BC, during the period in ancient Egyptian history known as the New Kingdom. The best-known legend about the Colossi of Memnon is that of the ‘Vocal Memnon’, in which one of the statues was reputed to ‘sing’ every morning at dawn.

The Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Who Created the Colossi of Memnon

The Colossi of Memnon were built during the reign of Amenhotep III, a pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty who ruled Egypt during the 14th century BC. The statues, which are each about 20 meters (65.62 ft.) in height, are made of quartzite sandstone. The stone is thought to have been quarried either from El-Gabal el-Ahmar (near Cairo) or from Gebel el-Silsileh (near Aswan), and then transported by land to Luxor. The statues depict Amenhotep III in a seated position, with their hands resting on their knees, and their faces facing the Nile in the east.   

Read moreSection: NewsAncient PlacesAfrica