INSTITUT SUPERIEUR D'ANTHROPOLOGIE
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WINTER TERM : JANUARY 2017
SUISSE – Windisch - Archaeologists are puzzled over the discovery of a Roman-era earthenware pot filled with oil lamps and bronze coins in the commune of Windisch, in the northern Swiss canton of Aargau. The pot was found under a street in the commune as part of an archaeological examination prior to the construction of a big new development comprising apartment blocks and commercial buildings, Aargau cantonal authorities said in a statement on Monday. It is thought to have been buried almost 2,000 years ago, dating it from the time of the Roman legion camp Vindonissa, which was located near where Windisch is now. Previous archaeological digs in the area have unearthed evidence of human habitation dating from the Roman era, including the foundations of buildings. But this discovery is the most exciting – and mysterious – yet, feel archaeologists. The pot is typical of the cooking pots used by soldiers stationed at Vindonissa, however the purpose of its contents – 22 oil lamps, each containing a carefully placed coin – is rather more mysterious. Each of the lamps is decorated with an image, including the moon goddess Luna, a gladiator, a lion, a peacock and an erotic scene. The bronze coins are low-value, indicating a symbolic gesture, and date from AD66-67. “What astonished us was the quantity and the combination of coins and lamps,” said Aargau cantonal archaeologist Georg Matter.“We suspect this is a ritual burial,” he said, but stressed that was only speculation since there haven’t been any other comparable discoveries. The pot also contained charred fragments of animal bones, ruling it out as a urn for human remains.
KAZAKHSTAN – Altÿnkazgan - A 1,500-year-old archaeological site in Altÿnkazgan, Kazakhstan, has been investigated. The site is a complex of stone structures located near the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea, and is thought to have been built by the nomadic Huns as they moved across Asia and Europe, around the time of the collapse of the Roman Empire. Made with stone slabs carved with images of weapons and animals, the smallest structures measure about 13 feet by 13 feet, while the largest measure some 112 feet by 79 feet. Within one of the structures, the team uncovered silver decorations thought to have adorned a saddle belonging to a wealthy person. The surface of the silver was decorated with images of boars, deer, and beasts that may be lions, and tamgas, or signs that may have been symbols of power. The saddle may have been placed in the stone structure for ritual purposes or as a burial offering. The team members also found two bronze parts of a whip in the same structure.
TURQUIE – Şanlıurfa - Five floor mosaics believed to date back 2,000 years have been unearthed during excavations in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa. According to a written statement released by Şanlıurfa Metropolitan Municipality, some rock tombs were unearthed around Urfa Castle 10 months ago. New archaeological excavations subsequently started in the field, and nearly 80 more rock tombs were discovered. Archaeologists unearthed the mosaics during their works on the rock tombs. The mosaics and rock tombs that feature Syriac inscriptions and fine engravings are believed to date back to the Edessa Kingdom, which was dominant in the city between 132 B.C. and 639 A.D. “Works have reached the caves where people lived during the 2nd and 3rd centuries. We can see the paintings of dead people on the mosaics.
ROYAUME UNI – Fountains Abbey - More than 500 graves of Cistercian monks and lay brothers have been discovered at one of the largest monastic ruins in the country. Experts have used ground-penetrating radar to make the find at Fountains Abbey near Ripon in North Yorkshire. The abbey, which is now a World Heritage Site, existed from the early 12th century until its closure in 1539 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Their work has identified not only the location of the cemetery but also the formation of the graves which suggest that the monastic community believed in literal or corporeal resurrection. The findings, backed up by documentary sources, show a 'bunk-bed' formation with the bodies clearly separated by stone partitions within the same grave. This, together with regular organisation of the graves sited well away from each other, indicates the importance given to keeping the remains separate from later burials. It supports the theory the community believed in literal or corporeal resurrection whereby a person's physical remains would rise from the grave on the Day of Judgement. If the body was damaged, the soul would be as well. This was unusual in medieval Christian communities, which focused on the welfare of the departed's soul rather than their mortal remains. Analysis of the images shows multiple burials in each grave cut, up to four in some cases, suggesting there could be up to 2,000 bodies in total. This number would account for the majority of the monks and lay brethren that died at the site. The images show the graves laid out in regular, curving rows running east from the abbey church, measuring approximately 80 metres by 60 metres.
IRAQ – Nimrud - Predecessors to structures like the Great Pyramids, the ziggurats of Mesopotamia were massive step pyramids built as religious sites. For Nimrud, the capital of the ancient Assyrian civilization, the 140-foot-tall temple was the center of its spiritual life, Caroline Elbaor reports for artnet News. Built about 2,900 years ago by King Ashurnasirpal II, the mud brick structure was dedicated to Ninurta, a god of war and the city’s patron deity. Iraqi forces announced that they had recaptured Nimrud on Sunday, Dominic Evans and Ahmed Rasheed report for Reuters. While experts are still waiting for permission to examine the damage inflicted on the ancient city, recent satellite images indicate that the ziggurat is no more.