Unique relief found in Roman fort in Spain

A carved relief of a face, a horn of plenty and a phallus has been discovered at the Tossal de La Cala archaeological site in modern-day Benidorm on southeastern Spain’s Mediterranean coast. Dating to the 1st century B.C., the relief is unique with no known parallels in any of the territories occupied by Rome in the Republican era.

The three elements of the relief cover a small area of 57×42 cm (22×16.5 inches). A section on the upper right appears to missing, suggesting it may have been larger originally.

The relief was discovered in January 2020 when it was accidentally exposed by heavy rains. Archaeologists reported it to municipal authorities emphasizing its “exceptional historical significance” and the urgent need to keep the find under wraps for its own protection. They have been working ever since to figure out how best to display this archaeological treasure in a secure manner without removing it from its context. There’s a plan in place now to exhibit it in situ in safe and accessible conditions within the next few months.

Tossal de La Cala was a Roman castellum (military fort) built on the hilltop overlooking the coast by renegade Roman general Quintus Sertorius in 77 B.C. Sertorius and his Iberian allies rebelled against Rome in the Sertorian War (80–72 B.C.). It was one of a network of forts constructed by Sertorius on steep cliffs and in barely accessible coves along the coastline of the Alicante region. They were lookout stations more than heavily garrisoned forts, intended to monitor enemy naval movements.
The foundations and floor plan of the castellum are the only visible remains of the fort at the top of the promontory today.

Pre-Hispanic metal artifact assemblage found in Peru

Archaeologists excavating the Ñusta Hispana archaeological site in Peru’s Vilcabamba district have discovered a group of 38 pre-Hispanic metal artifacts. Four ceremonial vessels, one arm-ring, four bracelets, two ceremonial knives, 18 pendants from a pectoral, a folded pectoral, a headband, six bowls and a headdress were unearthed next to a retaining wall at the foot of the second platform of the Yurac Rumi (“White Rock”), a monumental sculpted rock shrine sacred to the Inca that was used in religious celebrations.

The elaborate pectoral with its trapezoidal pendants, the ceremonial vessels known as aquillas (gifts from the Inca monarchs to loyal courtiers, often interred with nobles as funerary offerings) and other rich furnishings were the personal attire of someone of the Cusco region great importance in Inca society. The culture that produced them is currently unknown.

The objects are in good condition, and archaeologists with the Decentralized Directorate of Culture (DDC) of recovered the vessels intact with the soil still inside of them so that it can be studied for trace materials and organic remains to help determine their origins and the archaeological context of their burial.

Maritza Rosa Candia, director of Culture, confirmed that the pieces will undergo a preventive conservation process in the Office of Sample Elements and Collections of the DDC, as well as analysis in the physical-chemical laboratory for their proper care.

“The specialists are going to carry out the corresponding studies such as the chemical composition of the metal or alloy that they present, the iconography, dating, uses and other aspects to determine their origin and provenance,” he said.

Meanwhile, the excavation of the site is scheduled to continue for another three months, so more artifacts may be found before the work is done.

Full-size 3D reconstruction of Titanic created

The first full-sized 3D reconstruction of the wreck of Titanic has been released, showing the ship in its entirety without the distortion of the water. The view was created by stitching together more than 700,000 scans of the site taken last year by deep-sea mapping company Magellan Ltd. They used remotely operated submersibles to capture images of the ship and debris field from every angle and covering every square inch of the vast site. The scans show everything from the giant stern and bow sections to individual shoes and Champagne bottles.

Magellan’s Gerhard Seiffert, who led the planning for the expedition, said it was the largest underwater scanning project he’d ever undertaken.

“The depth of it, almost 4,000m, represents a challenge, and you have currents at the site, too – and we’re not allowed to touch anything so as not to damage the wreck,” he explained.

“And the other challenge is that you have to map every square centimetre – even uninteresting parts, like on the debris field you have to map mud, but you need this to fill in between all these interesting objects.”

The scan shows both the scale of the ship, as well as some minute details, such as the serial number on one of the propellers.


The wreck of Titanic was discovered in September 1985 2.5 miles under the surface of the frigid North Atlantic off the coast of Newfoundland. A team from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution returned to the site in July of 1986 with one manned submersible and one remotely operated vessel to film the interior and exterior of Titanic. Footage from the 1986 expedition was released for the first time earlier this year.

Since then, the wreck has been explored repeatedly by submersibles, including private adventurers, and photographed in high definition. In 2010, when a team of archaeologists and oceanographers from RMS Titanic Inc. and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution returned to map the two main sections of the ship and the full debris field. The inky darkness of the deep water required that all film and photography be narrowly focused on small areas of the wreck. In 2012, the centennial year of the sinking of Titanic, National Geographic published beautiful new pictures of the wreck, composites created by stitching together thousands of photographs, scans and sonar images from the 2010 expedition.

8-year-old girl finds Neolithic dagger at recess

An eight-year-old girl has discovered a rare Neolithic dagger while playing in her schoolyard in southwestern Norway’s Vestland county. The style of the dagger dates it to around 3,700 years ago.

Elise went to pick up a piece of glass when she spied an even cooler piece. She showed her teacher, Karen Drange, the neat pointed stone she’d found and Ms. Drange quickly realized it was more than just a stone. The school contacted the Vestland County Council who investigated the find with the cooperation of experts from the University Museum in Bergen. The follow-up excavation found no further artifacts nor any other traces from the Neolithic in the schoolyard.

The flint blade is 12 cm (4.7 inches) long. Flint is not native to Norway so the dagger must have been imported, perhaps from Denmark. This type of dagger is rare in Norway and when they are found, they are usually interpreted as sacrificial offerings.

The dagger is now at the University Museum in Bergen where it will be catalogued before it undergoes further study and analysis.

Two skeletons found in Pompeii were killed by earthquake

In the 18th century, the early days of semi-professional excavation at Pompeii under the Bourbon kings of Naples, the engineers directing the digs had a limited understanding of the overall dynamic of the eruption and no means of investigating the human remains they encountered for direct causes of death. They attributed all deaths to what they called the rain of ash, ie, pyroclastic flows.

It’s only in recent decades that technology has given archaeologists the ability to distinguish the various ways Vesuvius’ eruption took lives. The pyroclastic flows were just the last stage. Before that, the pumice fall that pummeled the city for 18 hours, increasing the weight on roofs at a rate of 220 lbs per hour, caused buildings to collapse on top of people who had sought shelter there.

The most recent find of two skeletons beneath a collapsed wall in the House of the Chaste Lovers were victims of yet another effect of the eruption of 79 A.D.: an earthquake that struck just before the final phase of pumice fall and prior to the pyroclastic flows that buried the city. The skeletons were found during structural work on the House of the Chaste Lovers. They were adult males (at least 55 years old) who had taken refuge in a utility room that was not in active use at the time of the eruption because the building was undergoing renovations.

Several objects came to light in the room where the bodies lay, such as a upright amphora leaning against the wall in the corner near to one of the bodies and a collection of vessels, bowls and jugs stacked against the end wall. The most striking aspect is the evidence for the damage to the two walls, probably caused by the earthquakes that accompanied the eruption. Part of the south wall of the room collapsed, crushing one of the men whose raised arm offers a tragic image of his vain attempt to protect himself from the falling masonry. The conditions of the west wall demonstrate the tremendous force of the earthquakes that took place at the same time as the eruption: the entire upper section was detached and fell into the room, crushing and burying the other individual.

The adjoining room has a stone kitchen counter, which was temporarily out of use in AD 79: a pile of powdered lime waiting to be used for building purposes was found on the surface of the counter, suggesting that repair work was being carried out nearby at the moment of the eruption. A series of Cretan amphorae, originally used for transporting wine, were found alongside the wall of the kitchen. Above the kitchen counter were traces of a domestic shrine in the form of a fresco which appears to depict the household gods (lares) and a pot partly set into the wall which may have been used as a container for religious offerings. Next to the kitchen, there is a long narrow room with a latrine, the contents of which flowed into a drain beneath the street.

The skeletal remains were removed by archaeologists for analysis in Pompeii’s on-site laboratory.