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WINTER TERM : JANUARY 2020
ISRAEL – Timna - For 3,000 years, there have been numerous efforts made to locate King Solomon’s mines, and in the last year alone, there have been two cable television documentaries investigating recent discoveries confirming that the legendary mines are in Timna Park, located deep in the deserts of Southern Israel. This is the most important archaeological breakthrough since the naming of King Solomon’s Pillars there 90 years ago by world-famous archaeologist Nelson Glueck. For the last 70 years, many archaeologists assumed that King Solomon was at best a minor local chieftain, simply because no credible evidence had been found documenting his Biblical realm in 900 BCE. However, discoveries beginning 10 years ago at Timna, led by Erez Ben-Yosef, a young articulate archaeologist (who sports a leather hat but does not carry a bullwhip), have upended these theories. Ben-Yosef examined the 1,000 copper mines at Timna and found materials which could be carbon-dated. He was quite surprised to find that they were from 900 BCE, corresponding with the specified period of Solomon’s rule in the Bible. This year, Ben-Yosef made further revolutionary discoveries of food, dung, and pristine clothing amazingly well-preserved by the region’s dry climate, which was also carbon-dated to the Solomonic period. Based on multi-disciplinary investigations, Ben-Yosef concluded that the copper mines formed part of an extensive economic/industrial system operated by the Edomites, a local tribe also described in the Bible. Furthermore, it appears the Edomites smelted copper ore and traded it in exchange for passage through Solomon’s territory. As part of the trade, Solomon also supplied luxury foods—not available locally—to Edomite artisan smelters at the mines. Ben-Yosef states that “if King Solomon had mines, they were of copper, and were here [at Timna].”
ROYAUME UNI Bath - The long-lost Anglo-Saxon abbey where Edgar the Peaceful was crowned as King of England in 973AD may have finally been discovered by archaeologists in Bath. Semi-circular relics were found by a team from Wessex Archaeology during renovation work at Bath Abbey. They were dated to between the 8th and 10th century AD and experts believe it may well be the site of King Edgar's coronation. The structures were found to the south of the modern-day Abbey, below street level but on top of Roman remains that pre-date the site. Plaster from the uncovered remains contained charcoal and were sent to Queen's University, Belfast for radiocarbon analysis. The dates came back as AD 780-970 and AD 670-770, much to the delight of Wessex Archaeology Senior Project Officer Cai Mason. He said: 'The most likely place to find this type of structure is at the east end of an ecclesiastical building, such as a church or chapel, and given the fact that the excavated structures are surrounded by late Saxon burials, this is the most likely explanation for their use.
PEROU – Leymebamba - A sprawling, stone monument decorated with swirls, circular patterns and godly fangs has been hiding in a remote jungle in northern Peru for around 2,000 years. Though the locals knew of the monolith's existence it wasn't until recently that researchers were able to investigate it in-depth. And now, they've created a highly detailed 3D scan of the stunning structure. The images and patterns are so abstract and ornate, they are hard to describe in words. However, the researchers said the two fangs engraved into the stone come from a deity that archaeologists call a "feline feathered figure." The engraving of the "feline feathered figure" indicates that the carvings were created during what archaeologists call the "formative period," which occurred between 200 B.C. and A.D. 200. There was no writing in Peru during this period, but studies of other archaeological sites in Peru show that the feline feathered figure was popular at the time. As such, the jungle valley where the monolith is located is "probably a very important and sacred place," Fernandez-Davila said. The monolith is made of a sedimentary rock that is not found locally and so would have been dragged into the jungle valley from elsewhere, he said. The weight of the monolith (about a ton) and its size (2.5 feet tall by 10 feet wide by 5 feet long, or 8.0 by 3 by 1.5 m) would have made dragging the rock through the jungle a difficult task requiring many people.
ITALIE – Herculaneum - A team of researchers including forensic anthropologist Pier Paolo Petrone of the University of Naples Federico II found unique material inside the skull of a 25-year-old man whose charred, exploded bones were recovered in the 1960s from Herculaneum, an ancient city in southern Italy destroyed by pyroclastic flows during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79. The young man’s remains were found under a pile of volcanic ash, lying facedown on a wooden bed in a small room in the Collegium Augustalium, where an imperial cult worshiped the emperor Augustus. The man is thought to have been the caretaker of the building, and asleep at the time of the disaster. Petrone said analysis of the glassy black material, which was found only in the man’s skull, revealed proteins typically found in brain tissue, and fatty acids found in human hair, while analysis of charred wood at the site indicates the temperature had reached 968 degrees Fahrenheit. Petrone and his colleagues suggest the glassy material could be human brain tissue transformed by the heat of the eruption into glass.
CROATIE – Kovači - While excavating one of the trenches in the highest part of Kovači in 2019, we discovered a triple Copper Age (?) burial, possibly dating to the period of Kostolac Culture (3250-3000 BCE). Burials of this kind are extremely rare in Croatia and this seems to be the earliest one (other similar examples are known from the famous site of Vučedol, but are connected to the later layers of Vučedol culture). The burial was discovered in almost completely sterile soil above the bedrock, with no traces of a grave pit. Three individuals were buried together and numbered from 1 to 3 (left to right in the above photo). The bodies of Individuals 1 and 3 were positioned in the same way. They were on their backs, but with their legs leaning to the right, as if they were stepping forward. Their arms were bent in the elbows and pulled to their chests. Their faces were probably facing east. Individual 1 was a 20-30-year-old female and Individual 3 a 25-35-year-old male. The individual in the middle (Individual 2) was a female between 30 and 40 years of age. She was facing the ground. Her legs were entangled with the legs of the female on her left, while her right arm was crossed with the right arm of the male individual on her right. Her left arm was extended towards the right and exhibited evidence of severe trauma, possibly caused by beating. The grave was found almost empty. Only a few sherds and a shell were recovered from the soil surrounding the burials, but they were probably part of the fill of the grave pit (despite the fact that it was not possible to define one). The only burial gift might be a large fragment of a Kostolac culture vessel, which was found below the spine of Individual 1. The position of the sherd within the grave suggests that it was deposited there at the same time as the deceased individuals and gives us a terminus ante quem non for this grave, but the exact date of this grave could not be determined with certainty. Another sherd, which joins the one discovered below the spine of Individual 1, was found just above the grave on the border between the sterile layer in which the skeletons were buried and the Bronze Age layer above it. It is plausible that the sherd discovered in association with the Bronze Age layer came from the destroyed upper layers of the graves. A certain level of disturbance is clear from the fact that the left leg of Individual 2 is missing, as it was destroyed in a later period, but not after the Middle Bronze Age. However, we are positive that the two sherds were not deposited in the grave in the form of a complete vessel, as Individual 1 was deposited on top of one of the sherds. Therefore, the vessel must have been fragmented before it was deposited in the grave. Alternatively, both sherds could have originated from the Copper Age layers which were disturbed during the Middle Bronze Age. One of the sherds might have been deposited in the grave together with the fill of the grave, while the other might have remained mixed with the rest of the Middle Bronze Age material. This could suggest that the grave should be dated to the Middle Bronze Age, but since the grave was covered with Middle Bronze Age layers, this is the latest possible date. The future C14 dating should provide us with the date for the grave.