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Down the drain: Lost items reveal Roman bath activities

Ancient Bath
© mary416 , Shutterstock
A pool in an ancient Pompeii bath.

Ever go swimming with rings on your fingers or hoops in your ears only to find your jewelry had vanished after your dip?

If so, you've got something in common with ancient Romans.

A new study of objects lost down the drains in the bathhouses from the Roman Empire reveals that people got up to all sorts of things in these gathering places. They bathed, of course, but they also adorned themselves with trinkets, snacked on finger foods and even did needlework.

"For the Romans, the baths weren't just a place to get clean, but this larger social center where a variety of activities were taking place," said study researcher Alissa Whitmore, a doctoral candidate in archaeology at the University of Iowa.
Pharoah

Ancient tombs unearthed in Egypt

© Image from cefb.it
The excavations on the area of the Temple of Millions of years of Amenhotep II (XVIII Dynasty).
A group of Italian archaeologists have reportedly discovered tombs in the ancient city of Luxor believed to be at least 3000 years old.

Egypt's Antiquities Minister told AP the discovery was made beneath the mortuary temple of King Amenhotep II. The temple of the seventh Pharaoh of the 18th dynasty, who reigned from 1427 to 1401 B.C., is situated on the west bank of the Nile.
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Pompeii 'wall posts' reveal ancient social networks

Ruins of Pompeii
© perspectivestock / Shutterstock.com
The ruins of Pompeii. In A.D. 79, a massive eruption by Mount Vesuvius buried the town in ash, freezing it in time.
Think of it as the earliest version of the Facebook wall post: Ancient Pompeii residents revealed their social networks through graffiti on actual walls.

Now, a new analysis of some of these scribbled messages reveals the walls of the wealthy were highly sought after, especially for political candidates hoping to drum up votes. The findings suggest that Pompeii homeowners may have had some control over who got artistic on their walls, said study researcher Eeva-Maria Viitanen, an archaeologist at the University of Helsinki.

"The current view is that any candidate could have chosen any location and have their ad painted on the wall. After looking at the contexts, this would not seem very likely," Viitanen told LiveScience. "The facades of the private houses and even the streetwalks in front of them were controlled and maintained by the owner of the house, and in that respect, the idea that the wall space could be appropriated by anyone who wanted to do it seems unlikely."
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2,000-year-old treasure discovered in Black Sea fortress

Buried Treasure
© Russian-Ukrainian Archaeological Artezian Expedition
Researchers working at the site of Artezian in the Crimea (Ukraine) have discovered two hoards of buried treasure (one hoard shown here) dating to A.D. 45, a time when the people of the citadel were under siege by the Roman army. Here, two silver anklets, beads, numerous coins and a white, glass flask with a two-headed face, one side serious and the other happy.
Residents of a town under siege by the Roman army about 2,000 years ago buried two hoards of treasure in the town's citadel - treasure recently excavated by archaeologists.

More than 200 coins, mainly bronze, were found along with "various items of gold, silver and bronze jewelry and glass vessels" inside an ancient fortress within the Artezian settlement in the Crimea (in Ukraine), the researchers wrote in the most recent edition of the journal Ancient Civilizations from Scythia to Siberia.

"The fortress had been besieged. Wealthy people from the settlement and the neighborhood had tried to hide there from the Romans. They had buried their hoards inside the citadel," Nikolaï Vinokurov, a professor at Moscow State Pedagogical University, explained. [See Photos of the Buried Treasure]

Artezian, which covered an area of at least 3.2 acres (1.3 hectares) and also had a necropolis (a cemetery), was part of the Bosporus Kingdom. At the time, the kingdom's fate was torn between two brothers - Mithridates VIII, who sought independence from Rome, and his younger brother, Cotys I, who was in favor of keeping the kingdom a client state of the growing empire. Rome sent an army to support Cotys, establishing him in the Bosporan capital and torching settlements controlled by Mithridates, including Artezian.

People huddled in the fortress for protection as the Romans attacked, but Vinokurov said they knew they were doomed. "We can say that these hoards were funeral sacrifices. It was obvious for the people that they were going to die shortly," he wrote in an email to LiveScience. The siege and fall of the fortress occurred in AD 45.

Curiously, each hoard included exactly 55 coins minted by Mithridates VIII. "This is possibly just a simple coincidence, or perhaps these were equal sums received by the owners of these caskets from the supporters of Mithridates," the team wrote in its paper.
Nuke

Rare photo of A-Bomb cloud found in Hiroshima

Atomic Bomb Hiroshima
© Honkawa Elementary School
The image showing the mushroom cloud from the atomic bombing of Hiroshima split into two parts.
A long lost image from the Hiroshima atomic bombing has been discovered at a Japanese elementary school.

The black-and-white photograph shows the mushroom cloud over Hiroshima split into two distinctly separated parts, one on top of the other.

The rare image was found at the Honkawa Elementary School in Hiroshima city, in a collection of about 1,000 articles on the WWII atomic bombing. The material was donated by a late survivor, Yosaburo Yamasaki, in or after 1953.

According to the Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun, a memo on the back of the photo says it was shot near the town of Kaitaichi, some six miles east of ground zero, two minutes after the bomb was dropped on August 6, 1945.
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Oldest Roman hairstyle recreated for first time

Roman Vestal Virgin
© Janet Stephens
A modern woman models the Roman Vestal Virgin hairstyle and headdress.
For the first time, the hairstyle of the Roman Vestal Virgins has been recreated on a modern head.

The Vestals were priestesses who guarded the fire of Vesta, the goddess of the hearth, among other sacred tasks. Chosen before puberty and sworn to celibacy, they were free from many of the social rules that limited women in the Roman era. Their braided hairstyle, the sini crenes, symbolized chastity and was known in ancient texts as the oldest hairstyle in Rome.

"These were the six most important women in Rome with the possible exception of the emperor's wife," said Janet Stephens, the Baltimore hairdresser and amateur archaeologist who unraveled the secrets of the Vestals' trademark braids. [See Video of the Braiding Process]
Cow

Heap of cattle bones may mark ancient feasts

Cattle Bones
© Michael MacKinnon
Archaeologists pulled a metric ton of cattle bones from an ancient Corinth theater, perhaps representing yearly feasts in the 4th and 5th centuries A.D.
A metric ton of cattle bones found in an abandoned theater in the ancient city of Corinth may mark years of lavish feasting, a new study finds.

The huge amount of bones - more than 1,000 kilograms (2,205 pounds) - likely represent only a tenth of those tossed out at the site in Peloponnese, Greece, said study researcher Michael MacKinnon, an archaeologist at the University of Winnipeg.

"What I think that they're related to are episodes of big feasting in which the theater was reused to process carcasses of hundreds of cattle," MacKinnon told LiveScience. He presented his research Friday (Jan. 4) at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America in Seattle.
Pyramid

Voluntary slavery? Ancient Egyptians paid a monthly fee to become temple slaves

Egyptian Slaves
© MacMillan South Africa
Becoming bound by eternal, unquestioning servitude as someone's property is not likely most people's career of choice. 2200 years ago, however, it seems some Egyptians voluntarily signed up to become temple slaves.

Not only that, they even paid a monthly fee for the "privilege."

The revelation comes from the work of Egyptologist Kim Ryholt of the University of Copenhagen, who has been studying papyrus slave contracts found in a rubbish dump in the ancient Egyptian temple city of Tebtunis.

"I am your servant from this day onwards, and I shall pay 2½ copper-pieces every month as my slave-fee before Soknebtunis, the great god."

This is part of the translation of 100 of these papyrus slave contracts that Ryholt has spent years trying to collect and analyse. The documents were scattered in fragments across Egypt, Europe and the US after they were illicitly excavated. In one example, a contract was divided between Copenhagen and the British Museum.

Ryholt is the first to analyze these papyri collectively, publishing his findings in a recent article titled: A Self-Dedication Addressed to Anubis - Divine Protection against Malevolent Forces or Forced Labour?
Document

Japan finds rare Tang Dynasty copy of Wang Xizhi work

An extremely rare copy of a work by fourth century Chinese calligraphy legend Wang Xizhi has been unearthed in Japan, the first such discovery in four decades, Tokyo National Museum said Tuesday.

No original works survive, despite their having been treasured by Chinese emperors throughout history for their contribution to the development of the delicate art form.

However, Wang's innovative style was so influential that Chinese courts created precise replicas of his writings more than a millennium ago, some of which are held by Japan as national treasures.

"This is a significant discovery for the study of Wang Xizhi's work," the museum, which will display it from January 22 to March 3, said in a statement.

The writing, owned by an individual in Japan whose identity was not disclosed, shows 24 Chinese characters in three lines on a piece of paper roughly 26 centimetres by 10 centimetres (10 inches by 4 inches).
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Over 300 clay figures found at ancient site

Clay Figures
© University of Southampton
Some figurines found at Koutroulou Magoula.
Archaeologists at a Neolithic settlement in Greece have discovered over 300 clay figurines - some that look like people, others that look like human-animal hybrids, all of which date back more than 7,000 years.

The little statuettes were scattered all over Koutroulou Magoula, a site about 160 miles (257 kilometers) from Athens that was occupied during the Middle Neolithic period (c. 5800 - 5300 B.C.). Researchers say Koutroulou Magoula was once home a few hundred people who made houses from stone and mud-bricks and subsisted by farming and keeping domestic animals. The archaeologists are still investigating what the artifacts say about the ancient settlement's culture.

"Figurines were thought to typically depict the female form, but our find is not only extraordinary in terms of quantity, but also quite diverse - male, female and non-gender specific ones have been found and several depict a hybrid human-bird figure," Yannis Hamilakis, co-director of the Koutroulou Magoula Archaeology and Archaeological Ethnography project, said in a statement.
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