Archive for the ‘Modern(ish)’ Category

Herculaneum and its papyri live on video

Saturday, October 19th, 2019

During the first excavation of the Villa dei Papyri in Herculaneum, the team unearthed the villa’s entire library, more than 1,800 scrolls still tightly rolled and neatly stacked in shelves. That was in 1754, 1,675 years after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius instantly carbonized organized material in clouds of superheated gases and ash and then buried the city in 60 feet of hard volcanic rock. The volcano destroyed the city, and at the same time preserved the only complete ancient library in the world.

Naturally scholars were desperate to read those scrolls which could contain a wealth of long-lost texts. Early attempts at unrolling the scrolls did identify a few Epicurean texts, but unrolling carbonized papyrus almost certainly results in its destruction, and the vast majority of the villa’s scrolls were left to the hopefully more tender mercies of the future. Non-invasive technology like X-rays and CT scans were deployed, but with little success.

Ultrabright synchroton X-rays has been successful where other imaging techniques have failed, reading erased works by Galen, virtually opening a 17th century mystery box and recovering the image of a hopelessly tarnished daguerreotype. In 2015, the power of the synchroton particle collider was first deployed on Herculaneum papyri. It was a test of the possibilities and the results were very encouraging, albeit limited. The work proceeds apace, however, and two scrolls from the L’Institut de France are now being scanned by the Diamond Light Source, the UK’s national synchroton science facility.

The use of carbon ink is one of the main reasons these scrolls have evaded deciphering, according to [University of Kentucky’s Professor Brent Seales]. Unlike metal-based inks, such as the iron gall used to write medieval documents, carbon ink has a density similar to that of the carbonized papyrus on which it sits. Therefore, it appears invisible in X-ray scans.

“We do not expect to immediately see the text from the upcoming scans, but they will provide the crucial building blocks for enabling that visualization. First, we will immediately see the internal structure of the scrolls in more definition than has ever been possible, and we need that level of detail to ferret out the highly compressed layers on which the text sits. In addition, we believe strongly—and contrary to conventional wisdom–that tomography does indeed capture subtle, non-density-based evidence of ink, even when it is invisible to the naked eye in the scan data. The machine learning tool we are developing will amplify that ink signal by training a computer algorithm to recognize it–pixel by pixel–from photographs of opened fragments that show exactly where the ink is—voxel by voxel—in the corresponding tomographic data of the fragments. The tool can then be deployed on data from the still-rolled scrolls, identify the hidden ink, and make it more prominently visible to any reader.”

You can learn more about the study of the carbonized scrolls, past, present and future, in a live-streamed discussion from the Getty Villa. It will be shown on the Getty’s YouTube channel from 4-6PM PST (7-9 PM EST).

Speaking of Herculaneum and the Getty, Buried by Vesuvius: Treasures from the Villa dei Papiri, the seminal exhibition at the Getty Villa, ends a week from Monday. For those of us who haven’t been able to make it to Malibu to visit this extraordinary assemblage of statuary, frescoes, mosaic floors and more than a thousand of those famed carbonized papyrus scrolls, the Getty will be broadcasting a special curatorial tour of the exhibition live on its Facebook page on Thursday, October 24th, at 9:15 AM PST (12:15 PM EST).


Gold jewelry recovered from Elgin’s shipwreck

Thursday, October 17th, 2019

When Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin, tore half the sculpted marbles off the Parthenon starting in 1801, he also helped himself to tons of sculptures from other temples and a vast array of antiquities around Athens.

(He did not have permission of Ottoman authorities for this brutal act of pillage, just for the record. The so-called Ottoman firman he claimed had granted him permission does not exist even though all imperial firmans BY LAW were meticulously archived and can be accessed to this day, and the almost-certainly fictional “translation” that does exist does not authorize the removal of pediments, metopes, friezes, caryatids or anything else attached to the Parthenon, only to inscriptions and loose marbles from the area around it. In fact, a local Ottoman official went to stop him when word got out that Elgin was prizing marbles off the structure. Elgin simply bribed him to let him get away with it, just like looters do today.)

His loot was packed into 17 crates and loaded on to his ship, the Mentor, which set sail from Piraeus on September 15th, 1802. Two days later, the ship began to take on water and headed for the nearby Ionian island of Kythera. While attempting to drop anchor off the coast, the ship collided onto the rocks of Cape Avlemonas and sank.

The 12 people on board were rescued by a passing vessel. The 17 crates of priceless ancient treasures  took a little more effort to rescue. Elgin spent large sums organizing a salvage mission performed by local sponge divers that eventually succeeded in raising the Parthenon marbles. They weren’t able to recover all of Elgin’s loot, however, and Greek archaeologists have returned to the Mentor several times over the years to look for lost artifacts. Maritime archaeologists have found amphorae, stone vessels, Egyptian statuary, coins and a number of British objects including bullets, pistols, watches and a compass.

This year’s excavation of the site focused primarily on cleaning, documenting and conservation of the wreck itself. The team cleaned the surviving section of the ship’s hull and took high-resolution photographs of the entire wreck site that were then stitched together digitally to create a photomosaic that will aid in the long-term preservation of the ship’s remains.

The moveable objects recovered from the wreck include small parts of the ship — wooden pulleys complete with surviving sections of rope — and artifacts it carried like remarkably intact glazed kitchenware and a section of a wooden leg. The two stand-out artifacts are exquisitely crafted jewels: a gold granulation ring and a pair of gold filigree earrings.

Gold granulation ring. Photo by P. Vezyrtzis, courtesy the Greek Ministry of Culture. Gold filigree earrings. Photo by P. Vezyrtzis, courtesy the Greek Ministry of Culture.

Section of wooden leg. Photo by P. Vezyrtzis, courtesy the Greek Ministry of Culture. Wooden pulley with mooring rope remains. Photo by P. Vezyrtzis, courtesy the Greek Ministry of Culture.


Nazi hoard given to Argentina’s Holocaust Museum

Thursday, October 10th, 2019

The Nazi objects seized from a shady dealer/collector in Buenos Aires in 2017 have been officially deposited at the Holocaust Museum of Buenos Aires. The 83 objects — 71 unique pieces and some duplicates — were found during a raid seeking trafficked Chinese antiquities. Secreted  in full Nancy Drew style behind a bookcase, Argentine Federal Police agents found a hidden room filled with Nazi artifacts including an eagle statue on a swastika base, an SS hourglass, a large bust of Hitler, a bunch of small busts of Hitler, a cranial measurement device used to determine ostensible racial purity, a sphinx figurine that’s serving heavy Raiders of the Lost Arc vibes, and a Ouija board inscribed with Nazi symbols, an example of Nazism’s obsession with the occult.

At the time of the bust, the name of the collector was not released. We now know it was Carlos Alberto Oliveras. He was charged with violating cultural heritage protection laws regarding other objects found in the raid. In Argentina it’s not a crime to have a bunch of tacky gross Nazi junk in your house. It’s only a crime to sell it, and only original material, so the first step to determining whether Oliveras’ creepy secret Nazi stash was in violation of the law was to determine its authenticity.

Experts from Argentina and Germany have now thoroughly examined and researched the collection. Most of the objects are indeed authentic produced during the Nazi period in Germany and German-occupied countries.  Some were modified to make them more colorful and appealing to buyers, others are later replicas. Oliveras will be tried for keeping Nazi artifacts for commercial purposes (he denies the charge) and the collection has been deposited at the museum by judicial order.

As many as 5,000 Nazi officials are believed to have fled to Argentina after the war, including monsters in human form like Josef Mengele and Adolf Eichmann. The quality and rarity of some of the objects suggests they may have belonged to high-ranking Nazis.

Museum President Marcelo Mindlin said at a press conference on Wednesday that with the judicial deposit:

“they ceased to be objects of a clandestine Nazi cult market to be at the service of education and memory. These despicable objects come from an ideology that produced torture and death. They are the sign of a regime of hate and discrimination that ended the lives of eleven million people (including 1.5 million children), and dragged the world into the worst moment in its history. These objects, which were used in the past to foster hatred, death and destruction, will now be at the service of the transmission of democratic values, education and the struggle for memory, so that tragedies, such as that of the Holocaust, do not happen again.”

The Holocaust Museum of Buenos Aires, the only Holocaust museum in Latin America, opened in 2001. It has been closed for two years of remodeling and conservation work and is scheduled to reopen on December 1st. The objects will be exhibited in its collection of Nazi propaganda and paraphernalia.


Help save one of Ohio’s last Hopewell earthworks

Saturday, September 28th, 2019

Another of Ohio’s rare ancient Native American earthworks is being sold at auction today. Almost all of the Hopewell Culture earthworks in Ohio have been destroyed by development making Fortified Hill in Butler County of immense archaeological significance. When it was documented by Ephraim George Squier and Edwin Hamilton Davis in their 1848 work Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley, the first major archaeological publication dedicated to Native American mounds, Fortified Hill was one of six Hopewell earthworks along the Great Miami River. Now it is the only one remaining.

The earthwork is on private property. It was acquired years ago by the late Dr. Lou Barich with the intent of protecting it from the encroaching development of nearby Dayton and Cincinnati. Unfortunately, he did not make those good intentions explicit in his will. He died this summer and some of his heirs are insisting on cashing out, so all of his property, including the four parcels that contain most of the Fortified Hill earthworks and extremely rare surviving gateways, are going under the hammer today.

In an effort to save the ancient earthworks for future generations, Dr. Jeff Leipzig, a friend of Barich, has stepped up and organized a variety of historical preservation groups to raise money for the auction. […]

Leipzig hopes the coalition can preserve the land as a public park, and limit excavation to responsible archeologists and historians, so as to permanently protect a rare window into Native America and the forgotten ancient world.

“It’s for science,” said Leipzig. “This isn’t gonna be somebody randomly digging up a mound and trying to find treasure in it, which is the risk… That’s the risk with any of these properties, people dig into them and they destroy them. They’re cemeteries, they’re spiritual sites, they’re sacred sites.”

Every minute and every dollar counts, so if you’d like to help the Archaeological Conservancy raise enough funds to get an ownership stake in the Fortified Hill parcels and keep the McMansions from obliterating this unique archaeological treasure, please pledge here immediately. (Sorry for the late notice. I only just read about this and it’s imperative that the funds be available by auction time.)


17th c. Mexican national treasure for sale

Friday, September 27th, 2019

A rare 17th century folding screen that is officially classified a national treasure of Mexico is being offered at an online-only auction by Sotheby’s with an estimated price of $3-5 million. Bidding is open through October 11th. The starting bid is $2,800,000. No bidders yet. As a national treasure the screen cannot leave Mexico, so whoever buys it is going to have to be local or willing to lend it to a local institution indefinitely.

The screen is more than six feet high and 18 feet long, composed of 10 joined panels on a wooden frame. It is double-sided. On one side is a violently active depiction of the conquest of Tenochtitlán. Key events are shown in the locations where they took place as if they had occurred in the same moment and are numbered for identification with a key in the bottom left. Cortés’ arrival is in the upper right corner. Moctezuma II, the last Mexica emperor, is on the fourth panel from the left on a balcony as his assassins below aim fatal arrows at him.

In a deliberately stark contrast, the other side features an overhead map of the new Mexico City, the capital of the Viceroyalty of New Spain, a grid of clean, airy streets lined with stucco buildings with red-tiled roofs, churches, schools, hospitals, public squares, a Roman-like arched aqueduct in the foreground, mountains and lake in the background. Devoid of people, this is the idealized vision of colonial Mexico. All the fire, feathers and fighting replaced with the calm cleanliness of European civilization.

Entitled Biombo de la Conquista de Mexico y Vista de la Ciudad de Mexico, it was painted by an unknown artist in the second half of the 17th century. The fall of Tenochtitlán was based on the account in the True History of the Conquest of New Spain, a popular memoir of the conquest of Mexico written by Bernal Díaz del Castillo, one of Hernán Cortés’ soldiers. The view of the colonial city was inspired by early 17th century decorative maps like the 1628 map of Mexico City by Juan Gómez de Trasmonte, now lost and known only from replicas.

The word “biombo” is a Hispanicized version of the Japanese “byobu,” literally meaning “protection from wind.” Byobu were luxury goods, first introduced to Japan from China in the 8th century, and imported into New Spain via the Manila Galleons that, in exchange for Mexican silver, transported Asian spices, silks, porcelain and other luxury goods from modern-day Cebu in the Philippines to Acapulco and many, many points in between. The trade between America and Asia had an enormous influence on Mexican decorative arts during the Viceroyalty period. Biombos took the Japanese form and replaced the pastoral landscapes, people and animals with narratives and urban locations that resonated strongly with the criollos (Mexican-born Spaniards) of the ruling class who commissioned them.

It is unquestionably of museum quality. The Museo Franz Mayer and the Museo Nacional de Historia in Mexico City each have biombos of their own on the same theme. This is the finest and largest example still in private hands.



Leonardo da Vinci’s mechanical lion recreated

Tuesday, September 17th, 2019

A mechanical lion made by Leonardo da Vinci which once paid dazzling homage to the King of France has been recreated 500 years after the master’s death. The wood, metal and rope lion is 6’7″ high and 9’10” long is now on display at the Italian Cultural Institute in Paris.

The lion automaton was commissioned in 1515 by Pope Leo X as a gift for the new King of France, Francis I. The immediate impetus was the new king’s triumphal entry into the city of Lyons, whose emblem is the lion, on July 12th, 1515. The city gave Francis a lion of pure gold, and the pope rolled with the theme. The lion was also a shared motif between the parties as the pope’s chosen pontifical name (Leo) and the designer’s given name (Leonardo from the Old German “strong as a lion”). The lilies symbolized a connection between France and Leo X. Leo, born Giovanni de’ Medici, son of Lorenzo the Magnificent, was a native of Florence, and a stylized lily was on the coat of arms of both France (fleur-de-lis) and Florence (giglio Fiorentino).

Lyons had a thriving community of Florentine merchants and bankers. Their patron was the pope’s nephew, Lorenzo di Piero de’ Medici, lord of Florence, and soon-to-be father of Catherine, future queen consort of France and mother to three kings of France. It was Lorenzo who brought the lion, manufactured by Leonardo in Florence, with him to the Lyons extravaganza.

Leo had good reason to curry favor with the new king. By 1515, the Papal States and France were on opposing sides on the War of the League of Cambrai and at the same time Francis was making his processional entry into Lyon, his army was poised to cross the Alps and retake the Duchy of Milan. Leo’s attempts at rapprochement began as soon as Francis ascended the throne in January 1515. On February 22nd, the pope officiated at the wedding of his brother Giuliano de’ Medici to Philiberta of Savoy, Francis’ maternal aunt. The extravagant lion was the embodiment of the hopefully expanding bonds — familiar, commercial, political, military — between the powerful families and states.

Leonardo’s da Vinci’s walking lion was written about for decades after its smash hit debut by the likes of Vasari and even Michelangelo, but detailed plans for it, if they existed, have not survived even amidst the hundreds of pages of anatomical, architectural and conceptual notes left behind by the Renaissance man. The best account we have comes second-hand from painter Giovanni Paolo Lomazzo who in 1584 wrote that Francesco Melzi, Leonardo’s student and favorite who would accompany him to France for the last years of his life, described the mechanical lion thus: “once in front of Francis I, King of France, he made walk from his place in a hall, a Lion, made with admirable artifice, and after stopping, opened its chest full of lilies and diverse flowers.” Lomazzo later wrote that the lion was made to locomote “by power of wheels,” likely a reference to the internal gear system rather than the wheels near its feet.

The recreation now on display in Paris is based on a few sketchy notes and designs in the Codex Madrid I. Researchers from the Leonardo 3 Museum used partial diagrams, including one of a pulley and wheel connected to legs, as a foundation, but many additional extrapolations were necessary to fill in what is basically a giant blank. One important assumption was that the lion walked by means of a system of springs and gears Leonardo would have known from Italian watchmakers and from Arabic automata that were then popular in Venice.

The lion will be exhibited until October 9th.


Is this Captain Cook’s Endeavour?

Monday, September 16th, 2019

Its identity has yet to be conclusively determined, but a shipwreck in Newport Harbor, Rhode Island, is a good candidate for Captain James Cook’s famous ship, the HMS Endeavour. The Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project (RIMAP) in collaboration with the Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM) have been exploring the shipwreck this summer. The exposed timbers have been 3D-scanned and some artifacts recovered.

The Endeavour is best known as the ship commanded by Cook on the first voyage to the Pacific (1768-1771) during which he circumnavigated New Zealand and traveled the eastern coastline of Australia, making the first known European contact with indigenous Australians. Endeavour paid a high price for her Australian jaunt, running aground on the treacherous shoals of the Great Barrier Reef and needing extensive repairs.

While her captain became an instant celebrity upon his return, Endeavour toiled in obscurity, first on a Falklands run and then, after being sold to private owners, as a troop transport for British soldiers and prison ship in the Revolutionary War. Just seven years after her return from her epic three-year Pacific voyage, Endeavour was scuttled in the British attempt to blockade Narragansett Bay and prevent a French naval assault.

The exact location of the wreck was not recorded in 1778 and its very identity was lost because the ship had been renamed to the Lord Sandwich when it was sold. RIMAP divers recorded the presence of the wreck in 1993, but it was only known as one of at least 13 ships scuttled by the British. In 1999, researchers discovered that the Lord Sandwich was the Endeavour.

The latest excavation has been able to confirm that the latest candidate for the wreck of the Endeavour does date to the 18th century. Divers retrieved sheaves from the rigging, wood fragments, leather, textiles, glass, pottery, coal, charcoal, ballast stones and gun flints. The team was able to expose a section of the ship’s structure sufficient to confirm that the timbers are similar in size and arrangement to those know to have been used on the Endeavour.

Principal investigator Kathy Abbass, of the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project (RIMAP), said the positive identification of the wreck would probably depend on several things, rather than a single archaeological find.

“We do not think we are going to find something that says ‘Captain Cook slept here’ — that is not likely,” Abbass told Live Science. “But if we find some of the smaller stuff that is consistent with how we know she was used — as a transport and as a prison ship in Newport, then we know we have got her.”

Abbass said archaeologists were focusing on the construction of wreck’s wooden hull and traces of its later uses in the hope of confirming its identity as Cook’s Endeavour.

“We can be excited about the fact that things look promising,” she said, “[but] we are not saying yet that it is her, it just looks very likely that it could be,” she said.

The excavation did find a definitive answer to the question of how the ships were scuttled. The commonly-held belief was that holes were cut in the bottom of the hull and the ships sank. For the first time, divers did discover a hole in the hull near the keel, proving that cut holes were indeed used to sink the ships. They were random holes, indiscriminate destruction, but carefully positioned to sink the ships as efficiently as possible.


Monumental Notre Dame tapestry saved in a wind tunnel

Sunday, September 15th, 2019

A monumental royal tapestry that once adorned the choir of Notre Dame has pulled through the cataclysmic fire that destroyed its roof this year thanks to the quick response of conservators and extraordinary measures taken to prevent its ruination.

At 82 feet long and 24 feet wide, the tapestry covers more than 2000 square feet, the entire length of the cathedral’s choir. It was commissioned by King Charles X in April 1825 especially for the choir of Notre Dame. It was woven by the prestigious Savonnerie manufactory which had been Europe’s premier maker of knotted-pile wool carpets since the 17th century. Designed by Louis Saint-Ange Desmaisons, it is decorated with a Gothic-style shrine filled with sumptuous liturgical objects — candelabra, crosses, lantern, censers, ewers, books — and in the central arch a pillar with the symbols of the four evangelists — the bull for Luke, lion for Mark, a youth for Matthew and the eagle for John — plus tiara, miter, stoles, holy water, cross, another censer, another books, a crook, candlesticks and more. Florals, crosses, urns, cornucopias, vines, grapes and a central sun embedded in a massive cross covers the rest of the vast piece in brilliant colors dominated by gold.

After Charles’ abdication in the wake of the July Revolution in 1830 and the election of Louis Philippe I as King of the French, the royal arms woven into the tapestry were deemed impolitic. They were replaced by the sun, bristling with rays, very distinctly unlike the ancient regime sun motifs, and flowers. The tapestry was completed in 1838 and donated to Notre Dame in 1841 on the occasion of the baptism of the king’s grandson Philippe of  Orléans, Count of Paris.

For decades the monumental tapestry was unrolled for use in major ceremonies, from the wedding of Napoleon III to Eugenie and the baptism of their son the imperial prince, to visits of dignitaries and special masses. By the late 19th century, however, it had been significantly damaged during restoration work on the cathedral and needed extensive repair. The Savonnerie manufacturers wove replacement panels and the repaired tapestry was once again deployed for an important function: the visit of Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra on October 7nd, 1896.

It was saved for extra special occasions after that. Fifty-eight deacons lay prostrate on its wool pile for their ordination in 1938. It got national exposure at the first televised mass at Notre Dame on Christmas of 1948. It was laid out in 1980 for the visit of Pope John Paul II. In January 2014, it was part of a special exhibition along with gold liturgical vestments and other precious objects given to the church by Charles X, Louis-Philippe and Napoleon III.

Between these very, very rare unfurlings, the tapestry, in two pieces since the 19th century, was rolled up and stored in trunks on each side of the choir. When the roof of the cathedral ignited on April 15th, molten lead and burning timbers rained down into the church. The trunks kept the tapestry from being burned by the lead and wood, but they could not keep the water used to douse the fire from penetrating the wool fibers. When the tapestry was rescued from the rubble six days after the fire was extinguished, it weighed three tons. It weighed one ton before that horrific day. It had absorbed two tons of water as firefighters desperately struggled to control the inferno.

With no time to waste, the tapestry was transported to the Mobilier National, the organization charged with conserving the nation’s furniture and art.

“Rolled up, it would have been a bacterial soup” that could have quickly started rotting, said Herve Lemoine, head of the Mobilier National.

“Once it was unrolled, we had to dry it in a huge wind tunnel and then freeze it to keep mould from developing,” Lemoine told AFP this week.

It was loaded into a large container whose temperature was gradually lowered to -35 degrees Celsius (-31 Fahrenheit) over a 24-hour period before it was brought to the Mobilier National’s labs in Paris.

The tapestry, still showing water damage and pre-existing issues like moth damage and tears, will briefly be unveiled for the public during an open house at the Mobilier National during the European Heritage Days on September 21st and 22nd.


WW1 US Navy submarine wreck explored

Monday, September 9th, 2019

Underwater archaeologists from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) have recorded and created a 3D model of the wreck of the USS H-1 Seawolf submarine, a torpedo boat used by the US Navy during World War I to patrol the northeast Atlantic coast. It wasn’t sunk on the Atlantic coast, however, nor in US waters, nor even during the war, for that matter.

Originally named Seawolf — the first US Navy ship to be named after the formidably betoothed fish — the submarine was built by the Union Iron Works in San Francisco in 1911, the diesel engines by Electric Boat in New London, Connecticut. She was renamed the less exciting H-1 in November of that year and launched in 1913. H-1 was the lead ship of the H-class submarines and patrolled the West Coast until a few months after the United States entered World War I in April 1917. That October, she was deployed to New London and patrolled the Atlantic coast around Long Island Sound until the war’s end. She was ordered back to her home base in San Pedro, California, in January 1920.

After crossing the Panama Canal, the H-1 went ran aground on a shoal off the coast of Santa Margarita Island in Mexico’s Baja California on March 12th, 1920. The 25 members of crew were able to evacuate but four of them, including its commanding officer Lieutenant Commander James R. Webb, died in the attempt to swim to shore. (See the list of survivors and some photos of the submarine aground before it sank here.)

The Navy tried to raise the submarine. She was pulled off the rocks briefly, only to sink 50 feet down to the seabed. On April 12th, H-1 was officially stricken from the Naval Vessel Register. The exact location of the wreck was also unknown until 2016 when a local photographer reported the presence of a historic submarine wreck west of Santa Margarita Island. Apparently it had been surreptitiously rediscovered by fishermen a few years earlier and looted for its bronze.

Since the report, INAH archaeologists have explored the wreck in two diving seasons, one in 2017 and a second in 2018. The first exploration photographed the site and took measurements.

“From stern to bow, the boat measures 44.30 meters; from aft, at 31.8 meters, the structure collapses and the area of ​​controls is observed, and later that of torpedoes; The turret part is also collapsed. The state of the hull is bad and where it has been lost there are multiple holes that reveal the submarine’s skeleton. The stern section is full of sand, ” explained [Roberto Junco, head of INAH’s Underwater Archaeology branch].

The second expedition deployed photogrammetry, the first time the technology has been used in Mexico, to document the entire vessel in painstaking detail. The thousands of high-resolution photographs taken have been stitched together to make a 3D model of the wreck. Researchers will be able to study the wreck using the model and monitor its conservation status.

“With this software we can analyze very small elements. This model has enormous utility, because over time we can continue monitoring the deterioration of the boat, with great accuracy, either by currents or natural degradation of the material with which it was built. This way we will follow up that will allow you to assess your status every two or three years, and we will be able to identify possible areas of ‘ant’ [small parts] looting, ” he added.

At this time, Junco revealed, the H-1 investigation is in the historical part, to reconstruct the role of these artifacts in the First World War. What will follow in the explorations will be to identify which parts are intact, in terms of instruments and decorative elements that provide more information on technological equipment and cultural data.


First evidence of Battle of Worcester found

Wednesday, September 4th, 2019

Archaeologists have discovered the first material remains of the Battle of Worcester, the final battle in the English Civil War, in Powick. The 98 artifacts were discovered in a dig at the site of construction work for the Worcester Southern Link Road. Objects unearthed include belt buckles, horse fittings, weapons parts, musket and pistol balls.

On September 3rd, 1651, the Parliamentarian army of 28,000 defeated King Charles II’s Royalist army of 16,000 troops, most of them Scottish. It was a hard-fought battle despite the Royalist side being vastly outnumbered. Overseeing the action from high perches in church towers, Oliver Cromwell in Powick Parish Church, Charles II in Worcester cathedral, the opponents commanded their armies in person. After fierce fighting and shifts in advantage, the Royalists were beaten into retreat and Charles had to flee the city before Worcester fell to the Parliamentarians. Approximately 3,000 men died in the battle. Ten thousand were taken prisoner. Charles escaped to France where he lived for eight years until the restoration of the monarchy in 1660.

That hostilities had been engaged at Powick on the outskirts of Worcester wasn’t unknown. Accounts record heavy fighting at Powick Old Bridge in the battle (one of the first battles in the Civil War was also fought there in 1642), and the tower of the Powick Parish Church still bears the scars of musket fire from the clash. Even so, physical artifacts had yet to be recovered.

The reason, as archaeologists discovered, is the site’s location on a flood plain. The objects had been washed down to the bottom of the Teme River valley and covered in thick layers of alluvial silt.

Musket ball found buried in upper flood silts. Photo by Jonathan Barry.Derek Hurst, project archaeological consultant says: “For the first time we have been able to pinpoint the buried Civil War horizon within the flood silts built up across the flood plain – and the key to this has been special scientific investigation of the flood silts using optically stimulated luminescence.

The results from this have enabled us to focus our efforts quite precisely which has meant much time saving and so saving on costs, as well as getting a brilliant archaeological outcome.”

Richard Bradley, on-site lead archaeologist says: “It is fantastic to be able to finally locate and map physical remains of the battle and to relate this to the historical record. We are just outside the registered battlefield area but this is still a nationally significant site.

The construction work has given us the opportunity to investigate the floodplain across which thousands of infantry and cavalry engaged, and to get down to the level where artefacts were deposited. Many of the lead musket and pistol balls show evidence of firing or impact and these tangible signs of the conflict offer a poignant connection to the soldiers who fought and died here.”

The artifacts will now be studied and documented further, and their precise find sites will shed new light on the last battle of the Civil War. They’ve already proven that the battlefield was further to the south than previously realized. They can also help plot the movement of troops during the encounter. More pistol balls — used by the cavalry — were found in one spot, for example, whereas more musket balls — used by infantry — were unearthed in another.





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