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Enormous Roman Mosaic Found Under Farmer's Field

Roman Mosaic
© University of Nebraska, Lincoln
Each section of the mosaic features its own geometric design.
A giant poolside mosaic featuring intricate geometric patterns has been unearthed in southern Turkey, revealing the far-reaching influence of the Roman Empire at its peak.

The mosaic, which once decorated the floor of a bath complex, abuts a 25-foot (7-meter)-long pool, which would have been open to the air, said Michael Hoff, a University of Nebraska, Lincoln art historian and director of the mosaic excavation. The find likely dates to the third or fourth century, Hoff said. The mosaic itself is an astonishing 1,600 square feet (149 square meters) - the size of a modest family home.

"To be honest, I was completely bowled over that the mosaic is that big," Hoff told LiveScience. [See Photos of the Roman Mosaic]

The first hint that something stunning lay underground in southern Turkey came in 2002, when Purdue University classics professor Nick Rauh walked through a freshly-plowed farmer's field near the ancient city of Antiochia ad Cragum. The plow had churned up bits of mosaic tile, Hoff said. Rauh consulted other archaeologists, including experts at the local museum in Alanya, Turkey. The museum did not have funds to excavate more than a sliver of the mosaic, so archaeologists left the site alone.

Last year, with a new archaeological permit for the site in hand, museum archaeologists invited Hoff and his team to complete the dig.
Palette

Ice Age Art - Trove of early ceramics shows the mindset of ancient humans: More metaphor, less blood

We know them best for their stone tools and intrepid mammoth hunting. But new discoveries in Croatia suggest that ice age humans made evocative ceramic art far more regularly than once believed. Thirty-six fragments of fired clay, excavated in the Vela Spila cave on an island off the Adriatic coast, make up the second-largest collection found so far of the earliest human experiments with ceramic art. They are 15,000 to 17,500 years old -- the first European evidence of ceramic art after the ice sheets stopped spreading.
© Rebecca Farbstein
An archaeologist at the University of Cambridge worked in a trench at a cave where ancient ceramics were found in Croatia. The find reinforced the idea that ceramic work was invented for art rather than utility.
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'Lost' City of Atlantis: Fact & Fable

Atlantis
© LiveScience
A 1669 map by Athanasius Kircher put Atlantis in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The map is oriented with south at the top.
Atlantis is a legendary "lost" island subcontinent often idealized as an advanced, utopian society holding wisdom that could bring world peace. The idea of Atlantis has captivated dreamers, occultists, and New Agers for generations.

In the 1800s, mystic Madame Blavatsky claimed that she learned about Atlantis from Tibetan gurus; a century later, psychic Edgar Cayce claimed that Atlantis (which he described as an ancient, highly evolved civilization powered by crystals) would be discovered by 1969.

In the 1980s, New Age mystic J.Z. Knight claimed that she learned about Atlantis from Ramtha, a 35,000-year-old warrior spirit who speaks through her. Thousands of books, magazines and websites are devoted to Atlantis, and it remains a popular topic.
Grey Alien

TV Show Says Aliens Visited Easter Island

Moai
© Corbis
A British television series called Wild Pacific is resurrecting the claim that the huge statues on Easter Island were created (or influenced) by extraterrestrials.

According to one news story, the show asks,"Did extraterrestrials visit Earth, as... the TV series Wild Pacific speculates? Who built the giant stone Moai of Easter Island that's been called 'a solemn reminder of a fallen alien civilization?' These and other questions... can never be fully answered, states Wild Pacific narrator Mike Rowe."

The idea that extraterrestrials visited ancient civilizations has been around for decades, a theory most prominently promoted by Erich von Daniken, author of the best-selling classic work of pseudoscience Chariots of the Gods?: Unsolved Mysteries of the Past.

Von Daniken believes, for example, that ancient Egyptians had neither the intelligence nor the tools to create the pyramids at Giza -- thus they must have been made by aliens. Similar claims have been made about the Mayan pyramids in Central America and the giant drawings in the Nazca desert of Peru; archaeologists and other scientists have long since discredited Von Daniken's theories.

The Wild Pacific program makes statements such as that "the great stone origins on Easter Island [have] vexed experts for decades: Who built these giant stone statues and how did they get there on this remote Pacific Island?"
Pharoah

Mystery of King Tut's Death Solved?

© Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images
The mystery of King Tut's death might finally be solved, according to one scientist who argues that the secret to the young Pharaohs demise is hidden in plain sight.

Dr. Hutan Ashrafian, a lecturer and surgeon at the Imperial College London, says the key to the mystery lies in the art of the time, which depicted King Tut with highly feminine features, including enlarged breasts.

The enlarged breasts, he argues, are indicative of a condition known as gynecomastia, which, when added to a host of historical and familial evidence, indicates that Tutankhamun might have suffered and eventually died from temporal lobe epilepsy.

Ashrafian says the first clue is in the relatively early deaths of other rulers who were directly related to Tutankhamun.

"For all of them to die sequentially at younger ages is a sign of a genetic inheritance of some sort," Ashrafian said, adding "you could argue one of them died in battle, one of them was poisoned but none of them did die in battle. They could have been poisoned, of course, but it's very odd for sequential pharaohs who were aware that they could have been killed to be killed at such a young age."
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Discovery: Ancient Fort Aided Julius Caesar's Conquest of Gaul

Roman Camp
© Sabine Hornung, Arno Braun
Researchers report finding the oldest Roman military fortification known in Germany to date, with the camp's exposed gateway and remains of the stone pavement shown. In gaps between these paving stones, they found numerous shoe nails from the sandals of Roman soldiers (red dots mark sites where nails were found).
Archaeologists say they've identified the oldest known Roman military fortress in Germany, likely built to house thousands of troops during Julius Caesar's conquest of Gaul in the late 50s B.C. Broken bits of Roman soldiers' sandals helped lead to the discovery.

Researchers knew about the large site - close to the German town of Hermeskeil, near the French border - since the 19th century but lacked solid evidence about what it was. Parts of the fort also had been covered up or destroyed by agricultural development.

"Some remains of the wall are still preserved in the forest, but it hadn't been possible to prove that this was indeed a Roman military camp as archaeologists and local historians had long suspected," researcher Sabine Hornung, of Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz (JGU), said in a statement.

Hornung and her team began work on the site in March 2010, first mapping the fort's dimensions. They found that the military base was made up of a rectangular earthwork enclosure with rounded corners, covering about 45 acres (182,000 square meters). They also found an 18-acre (76,000-square-meter) annex that incorporated a spring, which may have supplied water to the troops.
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Mona Lisa Coming Back from the Grave?

Mona Lisa
© Corbis
Da Vinci's The Mona Lisa.
Lisa Gherardini is coming closer to emerging from the grave. The remains of the woman believed to have inspired Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa likely are about to be exhumed by researchers.

The announcement, at a news conference in Florence, follows the discovery of another skeleton, the fourth since the bone hunt began last year -- beneath an altar in the church of the now-derelict Convent of St. Orsola.

"The skeleton doesn't belong to the Mona Lisa, but it's hinting to her burial. Indeed, she might be just underneath," Silvano Vinceti, president of a private organization known as the National Committee for the Promotion of Historic and Cultural Heritage, told a news conference on Wednesday.

Vinceti's ambitious project aims to possibly reconstruct Lisa's face in order to see if her features match that of the iconic painting hanging at the Louvre Museum in Paris.

Indeed, most scholars believe that the Mona Lisa, known as La Gioconda in Italian or La Joconde in French, is the portrait of Lisa Gherardini, a member of a minor noble family of rural origins who married the wealthy merchant Francesco del Giocondo.

Known for controversial claims, like that letters and numbers are hidden inside the Mona Lisa painting, Vinceti has based his search in the convent on documents found by historian Giuseppe Pallanti some years ago.
Meteor

On display for the first time in 30,000 years: Britain's biggest meteorite, weighing 200lb, enters museum after 80 years as family heirloom

  • Rock was 'used by Druids in a burial mound' before being excavated by an archaeologist 200 years ago, researchers believe
  • The 200lb space rock is four times larger than the next biggest discovered
© Steve Roberts/SWNS.com
Prof Colin Pillinger with the rock, now on display for the first time in 30,000 years
The biggest meteorite to ever fall to Britain has gone on display for the first time.

The rock lay undiscovered on the doorstep of a house for at least 80 years before being revealed as a 200lb space rock, measuring 1.6ft long.

After sitting on the step of Lake House near Wilsford-cum-Lake, Wiltshire, since the 1900s, it is on display for the first time at the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum from today.
Sherlock

Skeleton with Cleaved Skull May Be King Richard III

© University of Leicester
A 14th-century inlaid floor tile belonging to the church of the Greyfriars.
A human skeleton with a cleaved skull discovered beneath a parking lot in England may belong to King Richard III, researchers announced today (Sept. 12), though they have a long way to go in analyzing the bones to determine the identity.

The researchers note they are not saying they have found King Richard III's remains, but that they are moving into the next phase of their search, from the field to the laboratory.

"[W]e are clearly very excited, but the University now must subject the findings to rigorous analysis. DNA analysis will take up to 12 weeks," Richard Taylor, the director of corporate affairs at the University of Leicester, told reporters this morning, as recorded in a tweet.
Hourglass

Archaeologists dig up intact graves in ancient Roman city

Baelo Claudia site in Spain among the best preserved; funerary monuments, goods found
© University of Alicante
A team digs for beachside buried treasure in trenches at Baelo Claudia.

Archaeologists are digging up the necropolis of Baelo Claudia, one of the best preserved Roman cities in Spain, and they report that they've already uncovered several intact graves that likely date back more than 2,000 years.

Founded in the late second century B.C., Baelo Claudia lies near today's town of Tarifa at the southernmost tip of Spain, separated from Morocco by the Strait of Gibraltar.

Since 2009, scientists at the University of Alicante have led excavations at the site, which is considered by some the best preserved city from the high imperial Roman period of the Iberian Peninsula.

During this summer's digging season, archaeologists at the ancient coastal town turned their focus to Baelo Claudia's graveyard. In a blog post, Fernando Prados Martínez, a University of Alicante professor who is leading the project, wrote that Monday began the last week of excavations. But his team has already made several finds.

They've uncovered funerary monuments as well as cremation graves and intact graves, complete with their grave goods, according to a statement from Asociación RUVID, a Valencian nonprofit research association. The team hopes to learn more about the ancient funeral rituals of the city through their excavations.
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