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Found: Ancient Warrior's Helmet, Owner Unknown

Ancient Helmet
© Israel Antiquities Authority
Covered with gold leaf (now somewhat corroded), this 2,600-year-old bronze helmet was discovered in the waters of Haifa Bay, in Israel. The helmet would have been worn by a wealthy Greek mercenary leader.

A Greek bronze helmet, covered with gold leaf and decorated with snakes, lions and a peacock's tail (or palmette), has been discovered in the waters of Haifa Bay in Israel. But how this helmet ended up at the bottom of the bay is a mystery.

The helmet dates back around 2,600 years and likely belonged to a wealthy Greek mercenary who took part in a series of wars, immortalized in the Bible, which ravaged the region at that time. Archaeologists believe that he likely fought for an Egyptian pharaoh named Necho II.

Dredging discovery

The helmet was discovered accidentally in 2007 during commercial dredging operations in the harbor. After it was discovered, conservators with the Israel Antiquities Authority went to work cleaning it and archaeologists began to analyze it.

They discovered that it is very similar to another helmet found in the 1950s near the Italian island of Giglio, about 1,500 miles (2,300 kilometers) away. That helmet has been dated to around 2,600 years ago, something which helped the researchers arrive at a date for the Haifa Bay helmet.

"The gilding and figural ornaments make this one of the most ornate pieces of early Greek armor discovered," writes Jacob Sharvit, director of the Marine Archaeology Unit with the Israel Antiquities Authority, and John Hale, a professor at the University of Louisville, in a summary of their research being presented at the meeting.

This Greek warrior likely would have been a very wealthy individual, as few soldiers could afford such an ornate helmet. The researchers aren't sure where the helmet was made, though they suspect the warrior could be from one of the Greek colonies in Ionia, on the west coast of modern-day Turkey.

Info

Possible Earliest Evidence of Christianity Resurrected from Ancient Tomb

James Ossuary
© Wikimedia Commons
Photo of James Ossuary.

In an ancient tomb located below a modern condominium building in Jerusalem, archaeologists have found ossuaries - bone boxes for the dead - bearing engravings that could represent the earliest archaeological evidence of Christians ever found.

The tomb has been dated to before A.D. 70, so if its engravings are indeed early Christian, they were most likely made by some of Jesus' earliest followers, according to the excavators.

One of the limestone ossuaries bears an inscription in Greek that includes a reference to "Divine Jehovah" raising someone up. A second ossuary has an image that appears to be a large fish with a stick figure in its mouth. The excavators believe the image represents the story of Jonah, the biblical prophet who was swallowed by a fish or whale and then released.

Together both the inscription and the image of the fish represent the Christian belief in resurrection from death. While images of the Jonah story became common on more recent Christian tombs, they do not appear in first-century art, and iconographic images like this on ossuaries are extremely rare.

Brick Wall

New Section of Great Wall Discovered in Mongolia

Image
© Unknown
Great Wall of China
For years, British explorer William Lindesay's inquiries about a possible extension of the Great Wall in Mongolia turned up nothing, but the researcher recently had a breakthrough. Seeking insight from Professor Baasan Tudevin, a lauded but hard-to-find expert on the region, Lindesay posted an advertisement in a local newspaper. It was a long shot, but the two connected and the Mongolian geographer said he knew of several such structures in the Gobi desert, the Telegraph reports.

Lindesay formed an expedition in August and with two Land Cruisers, 44 gallons of water, 12 gallons of extra gasoline and a lead from Google Earth, began poking around about 25 miles from the sensitive Chinese-Mongolian border. Two days into the exploration, his team discovered what is thought to be the first section of the Great Wall to exist outside of China. Lost for nearly 1,000 years, the wall's 62-mile-long arm is made mostly of shrubs and dirt. Lindesay told the Telegraph much of the wall is about shin-level, but there is also a stretch that reaches up to his shoulders.

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Hailstorms, Wacky Weather Chilled Ancient Baghdad

Baghdad
© sydcinema, Shutterstock
The modern-day suburbs of Baghdad.


Diaries and writings from ninth-century Baghdad provide a glimpse of the weird weather from the era, findings that could help researchers reconstruct past climate.

The surviving documents were written by historians and scholars during the Islamic Golden Age between A.D. 816 and A.D. 1009. They provide a new human record of climate, joining old ship's logs and World War II air force reports as one of the few sources for detailed information on historical weather.

"Climate information recovered from these ancient sources mainly refers to extreme events which impacted wider society, such as droughts and floods," study researcher Fernando Domínguez-Castro of the University of Extremadura in Spain said in a statement. "However, they also document conditions which were rarely experienced in ancient Baghdad such as hailstorms, the freezing of rivers or even cases of snow."

Many of the writings from the Islamic Golden Age have been lost in wars and upheaval. But some works survive, including those of Sunni scholar al-Tabari (A.D. 913), Kurdish historian Ibn al-Athir (A.D. 1233) and Egyptian scholar al-Suyuti (A.D. 1505).

Cow Skull

Rethinking the social structure of ancient Eurasian nomads: Current Anthropology research

Prehistoric Eurasian nomads are commonly perceived as horse riding bandits who utilized their mobility and military skill to antagonize ancient civilizations such as the Chinese, Persians, and Greeks. Although some historical accounts may support this view, a new article by Dr. Michael Frachetti (Washington University, St. Louis) illustrates a considerably different image of prehistoric pastoralist societies and their impact on world civilizations more than 5000 years ago.

In the article, recently published in the February issue of Current Anthropology, Frachetti argues that early pastoral nomads grew distinct economies across the steppes and mountains of Eurasia and triggered the formation of some the earliest and most extensive networks of interaction in prehistory. The model for this unique form of interaction, which Frachetti calls "nonuniform" institutional complexity, describes how discrete institutions among small-scale societies significantly impact the evolution of wider-scale political economies and shape the growth of great empires or states.

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Ancient Greek Cave Speaks of Hades Myth

Alepotrypa Cave
© Greece Ministry of Culture & Tourism
The Alepotrypa Cave in Greece.
Hades wasn't the happiest place, the Department of Motor Vehicles of the ancient Greek afterlife.

There, in a gloomy underworld, departed heroes such as Achilles gathered mostly to grouse about their boredom, and await the verdict of the judges of the dead.

"I would rather be a paid servant in a poor man's house and be above ground than king of kings among the dead," said Achilles, the greatest of Greek heroes, commenting on the scenery, according to the ancient poem, The Odyssey. (Tough break for Achilles, but perhaps he was later cheered to learn that Brad Pitt would play him in the 2004 film Troy.)

But for archaeologists, a Greek cave that has sparked comparisons to Hades looks more like heaven. Overlooking a quiet Greek bay, Alepotrypa Cave contains the remains of a Stone Age village, burials, a lake and an amphitheater-sized final chamber that saw blazing rituals take place more than 5,000 years ago. All of it was sealed from the world until modern times, and scholars are only now reporting what lies within.

"What you see there almost cannot be described," says archaeologist Anastasia Papathanasiou of the Greek Ministry of Culture, a director of the Diros Project Team. "There is almost no Neolithic (Stone Age) site like it in Europe, certainly none with so many burials."

Sherlock

Oldest Rock Carving of Americas Found in Brazil

Brazil archeology dig
© AFP
Brazilian archeologists have discovered an ancient rock carving they say is at least 10,000 years old, making it the oldest human carving in the Americas.

The claim, detailed in an article in the online scientific journal PLoS ONE, opens the controversial debate over when and how humans populated the Americas.

The 30 centimeter (12 inches) carving is of a man with a "C" shaped head, three fingers per hand and an oversized phallus.

Walter Neves, an archeologist with the Universidad de Sao Paulo and a member of the team that made the discovery, said the rock carving, or petroglyph, could be part of a "cult of fertility."

The ancient work of art was found in 2009 at Lagoa Santa, in central Brazil some 60 kilometers (35 miles) from Belo Horizonte, the capital of Minas Gerais state.

Sherlock

4,500-Year Old Sumerian Temple Found in Ur

Iraqi and foreign archaeologists have uncovered a temple at the Sumerian city of Ur, which dates back to about 2500 B.C., the head of the Antiquities Department says.

Image
© Wikipedia/M.Lubinsk
Ruins of Ur, Southern Iraq
So far the scientists have uncovered one of the walls of the temple along with numerous graves from the same period, said Hussein Rashid.

Ur is one of ancient Iraq's most fascinating cities. It has given the world priceless treasures from the Sumerian civilization that flourished in southern Iraq.

The Sumerians, whose ethnic and linguistic stock is still a mystery, invented writing and established a civil system of government in southern Iraq more than 5000 years ago.

Sherlock

Evidence of Early Bronze Age Massacre Found in Turkey

Image
© Titris Hoyuk Archive
Skeletal remains of 19 individuals found at Titris Hoyuk site.
Mass killings, systematic violence or warfare seem to have existed across all stages of the human civilization. A mass burial excavated at Titris Hoyuk, an archaeological site of Early Bronze Age (3000-2000 BC) in southern Turkey, shows evidence of massacre that happened about 4,000 years ago.

Skeletal remains of at least 19 individuals, including three women, two children and an infant, were found placed on a plastered basin buried under a house floor in Southeast Anatolia in 1998.

Turkish archaeologist Omur Dilek Erdal, who examined the human remains in terms of cranial traumas (head injuries), has revealed that his study provides links to possible massacres among ancient population.

The study findings, published in the current issue of International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, suggest that about 16 of the adult skeletons showed signs of more violent cranial traumas, which were probably caused by spears or axes.

Palette

Art from Hitler's Collection Found at Czech Monastery

Hitler
© Agence France-Presse
A Czech writer and publisher has discovered seven paintings once owned by Nazi German dictator Adolf Hitler at a Czech monastery, part of an art collection deemed lost for decades.

Jiri Kuchar, who wrote two books on the collection, said Friday the paintings found at the Doksany monastery 50 kilometres (30 miles) north of Prague were worth about 50 million koruna (two million euros, $2.7 million).

"They're part of Hitler's collection of about 45 paintings, about 30 statues, a writing table and some gifts, which was declared former Czechoslovakia's war booty," Kuchar told AFP.

The paintings include the 1943 Memory of Stalingrad by Franz Eichhorst, who was "Hitler's ace painter," Kuchar said.

The collection was deposited at the southern Czech monastery of Vyssi Brod during World War II, together with two larger collections formerly owned by German-born Jewish banker Fritz Mannheimer and the Rothschild family.