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Mon, 27 Mar 2023
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Oldest reference to Norse god Odin found in Danish treasure

Odin's Coin
© Arnold Mikkelsen, The National Museum of Denmark via AP
The inscription ‘He is Odin’s man’ is seen in a round half circle over the head of a figure on a golden bracteate unearthed in Vindelev, Denmark in late 2020. Scientists have identified the oldest-known reference to the Norse god Odin on a gold disc unearthed in western Denmark.
Scandinavian scientists said Wednesday that they have identified the oldest-known inscription referencing the Norse god Odin on part of a gold disc unearthed in western Denmark in 2020.

Lisbeth Imer, a runologist with the National Museum in Copenhagen, said the inscription represented the first solid evidence of Odin being worshipped as early as the 5th century — at least 150 years earlier than the previous oldest known reference, which was on a brooch found in southern Germany and dated to the second half of the 6th century.

The disc discovered in Denmark was part of a trove containing about a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of gold, including large medallions the size of saucers and Roman coins made into jewelry. It was unearthed in the village of Vindelev, central Jutland, and dubbed the Vindelev Hoard.

"It's one of the best executed runic inscriptions that I have ever seen," Imer said. Runes are symbols that early tribes in northern Europe used to communicate in writing.


Roman era sphinx uncovered at Dendera temple complex

New Sphinx
© Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

The Temple of Dendera is a large ceremonial complex covering an area of 9.8 acres. The complex is centred on the Hathor Temple, a sanctuary which has been modified on the same site since the Middle Kingdom until the time of the Roman Emperor Trajan.

Recent excavations led by Dr Mamdouh El Damaty, a former antiquities minister and a professor of archaeology at Cairo's Ain Shams University, revealed a Roman structure in an area east of the main complex where a temple dedicated to Horus is located.

The structure is built using limestone and mortar, consisting of two levels. The lower level contains a large basin for collecting water from the Byzantine period, where the researchers found a Roman era sphinx statue.


Runes were just as advanced as Roman alphabet writing, says researcher

runes and letters
© University of Oslo
Inscriptions of both runes and letters have been found from the Middle Ages. Johan Bollaert has found equal use of visual resources in both inscriptions. But there are also differences between the use of runes and letter inscriptions. Among other things, the runes (on the left) were carved into hard rock types such as granite and quartzite, while letter inscriptions were carved into softer rock types such as marble and limestone.
In the Middle Ages, the Roman alphabet and runes lived side by side. A new doctoral thesis challenges the notion that runes represent more of an oral and less of a learned form of written language.

"Here rests Bishop Peter' might have been inscribed on a gravestone from the 1200s. Some inscriptions might have been made using runes, others with Roman letters," says Johan Bollaert, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Linguistics and Scandinavian Studies.

He has investigated written language used in public inscriptions in Norway from the 1100s to the 1500s. Last autumn, he defended his doctoral thesis "Visuality and Literacy in the Medieval Epigraphy of Norway."

Blue Planet

World's first horse riders found near the Black Sea

© Michał Podsiadło
Grave of a horse rider discovered in Malomirovo, Bulgaria.
Researchers have discovered evidence of horse riding by studying the remains of human skeletons found in burial mounds called kurgans, which were between 4,500 and 5,000 years old. The earthen burial mounds belonged to the Yamnaya culture. The Yamnayans had migrated from the Pontic-Caspian steppes to find greener pastures in today´s countries of Romania and Bulgaria up to Hungary and Serbia.

Yamnayans were mobile cattle and sheep herders, now believed to be on horseback.

"Horseback-riding seems to have evolved not long after the presumed domestication of horses in the western Eurasian steppes during the fourth millennium BCE. It was already rather common in members of the Yamnaya culture between 3000 and 2500 BCE," says Volker Heyd, Professor of Archaeology at the University of Helsinki and a member of the international team that made the discovery.

Comment: See also:


Ancient Roman 'spike defenses' made famous by Julius Caesar found in Germany

caesar wood spikes defense germany excavation
© Frederic Auth
Roman-era wooden spikes were found preserved in the damp soil in the Bad Ems area of Germany.
Archaeologists have found ancient Roman "barbed wire," famously used and written about by Julius Caesar, for the first time near a German silver mine.

In 52 B.C., Julius Caesar used an ingenious system of ditches and stakes to defend his soldiers from an encroaching Gallic army in modern-day central France. More than two millennia later, archaeologists have discovered the first preserved example of similar defensive stakes, which likely protected an ancient silver mine.

A student team made the unprecedented discovery in the area of Bad Ems, halfway between the present-day cities of Bonn and Mainz in Germany, on the former northern border of the Roman Empire.


Minoan civilisation may have used celestial 'star path' navigation techniques

Minoan Boat
© Alessandro Berio

The study by skyscape archaeologist, Alessandro Berio, has uncovered new evidence that the ancient Minoan civilisation developed significant nautical technologies to aid in the international sea trade, which is linked to the wealth and expansion of the culture throughout the Mediterranean. Due to its location, reliance on open sea navigation and international trade cycles were at the heart of Minoan culture.

The Minoans were a Bronze Age Aegean civilisation on the island of Crete, which flourished from 2600 - 1100 BC. The term "Minoan" refers to the mythical King Minos of Knossos, a figure in Greek mythology associated with Theseus, the labyrinth and the Minotaur.

The study examined the orientations of the palaces along navigational directions, where the grand rectangular central courts, oriented generally north south on the long axis, are considered the defining architectural characteristic of the Minoan palace construction.

The analysis showed that the axis of the Minoan palaces were oriented toward the rising or setting of important navigational stars, which may have helped sailors to navigate to the bustling commercial destinations in the Levant and Egypt. The orientation of these palaces symbolised Crete's special relationship with foreign trading hubs and the control that local elites wielded over specific sea lanes.


Archaeologists discover secret chamber inside Great Pyramid of Giza

secret chamber pyramid Giza
© The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities/Handout via REUTERS
A 30-foot-long corridor was discovered by scientists Thursday March 2, 2023, near the main entrance of the 4,500-year-old Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.
Perhaps it could lead to a real-life Chamber of Secrets.

A 30-foot-long hidden corridor was discovered by scientists Thursday near the main entrance of the 4,500-year-old Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt, Reuters reported.

The pyramid — considered the last of the seven wonders of the world still standing — has been undergoing regular searches using infrared and cosmic-ray imaging since 2015 as a part of the Scan Pyramids project.

Officials said the newly unearthed hallway could lead to more knowledge about the structure.

"We're going to continue our scanning so we will see what we can do ... to figure out what we can find out beneath it, or just by the end of this corridor," said Mostafa Waziri, head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities.

Comment: Video from Disclose.tv:


Oldest human genome from southern Spain

A new study reports on genomic data from a 23,000-year-old individual who lived in what was probably the warmest place of Europe at the peak of the last Ice Age. The oldest human genome recovered from the southern tip of Spain adds an important piece of the puzzle to the genetic history of Europe.
Overview of Cueva de Malalmuerzo.
© Pedro Cantalejo
Overview of Cueva de Malalmuerzo.
An international team of researchers has analysed ancient human DNA from several archaeological sites in Andalucía in southern Spain. The study reports on the oldest genome to date from Cueva del Malalmuerzo in southern Spain, as well as the 7,000 to 5,000-year-old genomes of early farmers from other well-known sites, such as Cueva de Ardales.

The Iberian Peninsula plays an important role in the reconstruction of human population history. As a geographic cul-de-sac in the southwest of Europe, it is on one hand considered a refuge during the last Ice Age with its drastic temperature fluctuations. On the other hand, it may have been one of the starting points for the recolonisation of Europe after the glacial maximum. Indeed, previous studies had reported on the genomic profiles of 13,000 to 8,000-year-old hunter-gatherers from the Iberian Peninsula and provided evidence for the survival and continuation of a much older Palaeolithic lineage that has been replaced in other parts of Europe and is no longer detectable.

After an organism's death, its DNA is only preserved for a certain period of time and under favourable climatic conditions. Extracting DNA from ancient remains from hot and dry climates is a huge challenge for researchers. In Andalucía, in the south of present-day Spain, climatic conditions are similar to those in North Africa - however, DNA has successfully been recovered of 14,000-year-old human individuals from a cave site in Morocco. The new study fills crucial temporal and spatial gaps. Researchers can now directly investigate the role of the southern Iberian Peninsula as a refuge for Ice Age populations and potential population contacts across the Strait of Gibraltar during the last Ice Age, when sea-levels were much lower than today.


Ancient restaurant highlights Iraq's archeology renaissance

Ancient Site
© AP Photo/Nabil al-Jourani
What is considered a world's oldest bridge , some 4,000 years-old is seen by the ancient city-state of Lagash, near Nasiriyah, Iraq, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023.
BAGHDAD — An international archeological mission has uncovered the remnants of what is believed to be a 5,000-year-old restaurant or tavern in the ancient city of Lagash in southern Iraq.

The discovery of the ancient dining hall — complete with a rudimentary refrigeration system, hundreds of roughly made clay bowls and the fossilized remains of an overcooked fish — announced in late January by a University of Pennsylvania-led team, generated some buzz beyond Iraq's borders.

It came against the backdrop of a resurgence of archeology in a country often referred to as the "cradle of civilization," but where archeological exploration has been stunted by decades of conflict before and after the U.S. invasion of 2003. Those events exposed the country's rich sites and collections to the looting of tens of thousands of artifacts.

"The impacts of looting on the field of archeology were very severe," Laith Majid Hussein, director of the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage of Iraq, told The Associated Press. "Unfortunately, the wars and periods of instability have greatly affected the situation in the country in general."

With relative calm prevailing over the past few years, the digs have returned. At the same time, thousands of stolen artifacts have been repatriated, offering hope of an archeological renaissance.

"'Improving' is a good term to describe it, or 'healing' or 'recovering,'" said Jaafar Jotheri, a professor of archeology at University of Al-Qadisiyah, describing the current state of the field in his country.

Iraq is home to six UNESCO-listed World Heritage Sites, among them the ancient city of Babylon, the site of several ancient empires under rulers like Hammurabi and Nebuchadnezzar.

Better Earth

Further details emerge of unknown lineage of ice age Europeans that vanished at end of last ice age

Gravettian ancient human
© Michelle O'Reilly and Laurent Klaric, inspired by the original work by Benoit Clarys
The Gravettian populations were widespread around Europe about 32,000-24,000 years ago. Although these prehistoric human groups differed in terms of genetics, they did share similar cultural traits. On the left we see a depiction of the west Gravettian population that survived during the Last Glacial Maximum while sadly the eastern and south Gravettian populations disappeared.

Comment: This report is a detailed update to the same author's previous article from January of this year that can be found here.

The largest study yet to look at the genetics of ice age hunter-gatherers in Europe has uncovered a previously unknown lineage dubbed the Fournol.

A previously unknown lineage of Europeans survived the coldest parts of the last ice age, only to vanish when Europe went through a warm spell starting about 15,000 years ago.

The discovery comes from the largest study yet to look at the genetic makeup of ice age European hunter-gatherers.

Comment: See also: World's oldest cooking pots found in Siberia, created 16,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age