Archive for the ‘Ancient’ Category

Celtic gold hoard coin stolen in museum heist

Friday, November 25th, 2022

A hoard of Celtic gold coins from the 1st century B.C. was stolen in a daring smash-and-grab burglary from the Celtic and Roman Museum in Manching, southern Germany. Thieves made away with 483 coins in the early hours of Tuesday, November 22, and Bavaria’s State Criminal Police Office have launched an international investigation to find the perpetrators and the treasure they stole.

At 1:17 AM, several fiber optic lines were cut at a telecom hub a kilometer away from the museum, severing internet and telephone service to 13,000 homes and businesses in Manching, including at the Celtic and Roman Museum. This also cut off the alarm linking the museum’s security system to the police. Exactly nine minutes later at 1:26 AM, an emergency exit at the museum was pried open and two display cases made of bulletproof safety glass were broken into. At 1:33 AM, the thieves disappeared into the night with the entire hoard of gold coins. Nobody noticed the loss until the museum staff arrived for the work day. Police were alerted and arrived around 9:45 AM.

The largest Celtic gold find to appear in the 20th century, the hoard was discovered in 1999 years ago at the site of an ancient Celtic settlement in Manching. Found in a sack buried under the foundations of a building, the bowl-shaped coins were struck from Bohemian river gold, evidence of how Iron Age Manching was connected to trade networks in central Europe.

It has been on display at the museum since 2006 and is its flagship attraction. The authorities fear that in its original form, the coin hoard will be impossible for the thieves to sell, and that even though their historical value tops 1.6 million euros, the coins will be melted down to sell for their mere gold value. Each coins weighs 7.3 grams for a total hoard weight of about four kilos, which at current prices would be worth about 250,000 euros.

Because of the delay in discovery of the theft, police missed crucial hours of investigations. There are now dozens of investigators working on the case.

Broken safety glass of the display cabinets where the treasure was held. Photo courtesy Frank Maechler/dpa.[Guido Limmer, the deputy head of Bavaria’s State Criminal Police Office] said there were “parallels” between the heist in Manching and the theft of priceless jewels in Dresden and a large gold coin in Berlin in recent years. Both have been blamed on a Berlin-based crime family.

“Whether there’s a link we can’t say,” he added. “Only this much: we are in touch with colleagues to investigate all possible angles.”

Bavaria’s minister of science and arts, Markus Blume, said evidence pointed to the work of professionals.

“It’s clear that you don’t simply march into a museum and take this treasure with you,” he told public broadcaster BR. “It’s highly secured and as such there’s a suspicion that we’re rather dealing with a case of organized crime.” […]

Limmer, the deputy police chief, said Interpol and Europol have already been alerted to the coins’ theft and a 20-strong special investigations unit, codenamed ‘Oppidum’ after the Latin term for a Celtic settlement, has been established to track down the culprits.

Coins with only mention of Roman “emperor” authenticated

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2022

Coins that are the only evidence of the historicity of the otherwise unrecorded Roman so-called emperor Sponsian have been found to be authentic 3rd century issues. The history of these coins is sketchy and there are some stylistic anomalies that have cast doubt on their authenticity since they first emerged in 1713. Plus, they portray an alleged emperor that appears nowhere else on the historical or archaeological record.

The coins were first documented by Carl Gustav Heraeus (1671–1725), Inspector of Medals for the Imperial Collection in Vienna, in March of 1713. He recorded the acquisition of eight coins found in Transylvania. Another 15 coins that match Heraeus’ description came to light starting in 1730, and scholars believe they were part of a wider assemblage that was sold to a number of different collections over the years, including The Hunterian museum at the University of Glasgow.

Among the four coins from the wider assemblage now in the collection of The Hunterian is one featuring the unknown “emperor” Sponsian. It is designed in the style of coins from the mid third century, but the design on the reverse is a copy of a Republican-era silver coin from the 1st century B.C. That reverse design would have been close to 400 years old when the Sponsian coin was made. That and other atypical features of the wider assemblage coins have led scholars to peg them as fakes, perhaps the work of a talented forger working in early 18th century Vienna who duped Heraeus.

A new study published in the journal PLoS ONE took a closer look at the Sponsian coin in The Hunterian using modern imaging techniques to detect evidence of forgery like artificial aging methods. The surface scratches and wear and tear on the coin could have been created by forgers abrading the coin, but earthen deposits were found on the coin, and forgers do not customarily cram or glue dirt onto their fakes.

They applied visible light microscopy, ultra-violet imaging, scanning electron microscopy, and reflection mode Fourier transform infra-red spectroscopy to the four coins and, for comparison, two undoubtedly authentic Roman gold coins.

The analysis revealed deep micro-abrasion patterns typically associated with coins that were in circulation for an extensive period of time. The researchers also analyzed earthen deposits on the coins, finding evidence that after extensive circulation, the coins were buried for a prolonged period before being exhumed. Together, the new evidence strongly suggests the coins are authentic.

Considering the historical record alongside the new evidence from the coins, the researchers suggest that Sponsian was an army commander in the Roman Province of Dacia during a period of military strife in the 260s CE.

So he wasn’t exactly a Roman emperor in the typical sense of the term. He was a local ruler of a relatively remote Roman province that happened to be a gold mining outpost, giving him access to the raw material for minting his own gold coins while the chaos of invasions distracted the legitimate emperors, such as they were during the Crisis of the Third Century.

1,700-year-old spider monkey found in Teotihuacan

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2022

Photograph of skeletal remains of sacrificed eagle (left) and spider monkey (right). Photo courtesy the Project Plaza of the Columns Complex.The remains of a spider monkey have been discovered in the pre-Hispanic central ceremonial complex of Teotihuacan, Mexico. Spider monkeys were exotic animals not native to the arid highlands of Central Mexico, and this one was likely a diplomatic gift from Teotihuacan’s Maya neighbors. Radiocarbon dated to the second half of the 3rd century A.D., the spider monkey is the earliest example of a primate in captivity in the Americas, and the first evidence of gift diplomacy between Teotihuacan and the Maya city-states in the Early Classic period (250-550 A.D.).

Located about 25 miles northeast of what is now Mexico City, Teotihuacan was a religious, cultural and commercial center in the Mexican Highlands from the 1st century until its collapse around 500 A.D. At its peak in 450 A.D., it was the largest and most populous city in the ancient Americas with a conservative population estimate of 150,000. Half of the people in the Valley of Mexico lived in Teotihuacan.

It was not ruled by dynastic kings like the Maya polities. We don’t really know what form of government ran Teotihuacan, but we know it had powerful warlords because in the late 4th century, one of them conquered the Maya power center of Tikal 600 miles away. Maya inscriptions record Teotihuacan contact with the Mayan world reached as far as Honduras, perhaps even conquering city-states there, and certainly spreading its cultural presence, notably its characteristic obsidian crafts and architectural styles.

The complete skeleton of the spider monkey was unearthed at the Plaza of Columns Complex of Teotihuacan. It is a sacrificial offering deposited at the temple with its hands tied behind its back and feet tethered together. This type of binding was common among human and animal sacrifice victims buried alive. Next to it were found the complete skeletal remains of a golden eagle, the skull of a puma, several rattlesnakes and ritual objects (greenstone figurines, shell artifacts, obsidian blades). The monkey was female and between five and eight years old at the time of death. Analysis of the remains found that it was captured before the age of three and lived in captivity for more than two years after that. It ate a diet of maize, arrowroot and chili pepper, all of which had to have been prepared for it by humans. Before its arrival in Teotihuacan, it lived in a humid environment and ate plants and roots.

This finding allows researchers to piece evidence of high diplomacy interactions and debunks previous beliefs that Maya presence in Teotihuacán was restricted to migrant communities, said [anthropological archaeologist Nawa] Sugiyama, who led the research.

“Teotihuacán attracted people from all over, it was a place where people came to exchange goods, property, and ideas. It was a place of innovation,” said Sugiyama, who is collaborating with other researchers, including Professor Saburo Sugiyama, co-director of the project and a professor at Arizona State University, and Courtney A. Hofman, a molecular anthropologist with the University of Oklahoma. “Finding the spider monkey has allowed us to discover reassigned connections between Teotihuacán and Maya leaders. The spider monkey brought to life this dynamic space, depicted in the mural art. It’s exciting to reconstruct this live history.”

The find has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and can be read in its entirety here.

House of the Vettii reopens

Saturday, November 19th, 2022

The House of the Vettii, one of the largest and richest homes in Pompeii, prodigiously endowed with a fresco of Priapus that has become an icon of the city, reopens to the public on Tuesday after years of complex restoration.

The House of the Vettii was the home of Aulus Vettius Restitutus and Aulus Vettius Conviva, freedmen brothers who made a fortune as wine merchants and ascended the social ladder. Restitutus was a candidate for aedile, a magistrate responsible for holding public games and the maintenance of public buildings. Conviva was an Augustalis, a priest of the cult of the deified Augustus, a position of civic importance that was more akin to a magistracy. In this role he would have funded major public works projects.

The Vettii bought the house, originally built in the 2nd century B.C., after the earthquake of 62 A.D. It was in a tony neighborhood that many of the wealthy homeowners had left rather than rebuild. When the rich moved out, the nouveau-riche moved in. Freedmen who had made big bucks in trade like the Vettii were a prime example of the trend. They bought the aristocratic villa, repaired it and expanded it, adding a huge peristyle garden with statues and fountains. Every room was lavishly painted with frescoes on mythological motifs, telegraphing their wealth and the new status it bought them. Priapus, his massive phallus balancing on a scale against a bag of money, welcomed visitors in the vestibule of the house. Two large bronze strongboxes were placed in the atrium so everyone who got past Priapus would be confronted with the the most literal possible representation of the wealth of the Vettii.

The frescoes are mostly in the Pompeiian Fourth style, a combination of the previous three styles (faux marble veneers from the first, architectural trompe l’oeil from the second, ornate, stylized ornament from the third). The Vettii frescoes provide unique insight into the transition between the Third and Fourth style of mural painting. There is also a remarkable series of striking black and red frescoes depicting groups of cupids performing a variety of tasks, mythological ones like celebrating a festival of Bacchus and a festival of Vesta, sure, but of particular note are the representations of daily work, including the gathering and pressing of grapes, buying and selling the wine, dyeing and cleaning clothes in a fullery, picking flowers and making garlands for sale, making perfumed oil and making coins. The cupids are also captured at leisure, hunting on goat-back, racing in chariots pulled by deer and taking part in an archery contest.

The room adjacent to the kitchen was painted with a series of explicit erotic frescoes. It may have been a visual menu of options offered by an enslaved prostitute Eutychis who advertises her services for two asses (plural of as, the lowest-value Roman coin) on a graffito at the entrance of the house.

The domus was first excavated between late 1894 and early 1896. In the 1950s reinforced concrete roofs were added to the peristyle to protect the architectural remains from the elements. It was no longer protecting it, however. On the contrary, the flat concrete roof was unsound and directly contributing to water infiltration and damage.

Already affected by works in 1995, when the problem created by the concrete roofs of the 50s was evident, the house was partially reopened in 2016, after 12 years of closure and then closed again after 3 years for further restoration. Interventions that involved the roofing but also the paintings, with the removal of the patina created by previous restorations.

The old concrete roofs have now been replaced with sloped roofs formed from hollow blocks on metal frameworks. The wooden roofs added in the 1990s are still functional but needed refurbishment, and a new rainwater drainage system was devised to integrate the new roofs with the existing drainage system.

Conservators also cleaned and conserved the wall and floor decorations and the fixtures of the garden. It was a painstaking process of cleaning, regrouting and integrating interventions from different periods with the aim of recovering the legibility of the images and colors.

Ötzi the Iceman is more of a snowman

Friday, November 18th, 2022

Ötzi, the 5,300-year-old ice mummy found by hikers in the Tyrolean Alps in 1991, is one of the oldest and best preserved mummies in the world. Much of his soft tissue, including his tattooed skin, survived, as did his clothing, quiver of arrows and other equipment, some of it damaged. Since his discovery, the prevailing theory explaining this exceptional state of preservation is that after a violent conflict, Ötzi fled to what is now the Tisenjoch Pass in the fall and froze to death in the gully where his remains were soon covered with glacier ice. In the deep freeze, the man and his belongings, damaged in the conflict before his flight, were preserved until they emerged from the thawing ice in 1991.

A new study published in the journal The Holocene by an international team of scientists has found the prevailing theory is wrong on pretty much all counts: Ötzi didn’t die where he was found; it wasn’t autumn; he was not quickly covered in ice nor did he stay frozen under a glacier the whole time; his equipment was not damaged before he died, but rather by natural activity in the millennia since. The study examined data recovered from other glacial archaeological sites, analyses of the finds assemblage and radiocarbon dates from the Alpine gully to investigate Ötzi’s archaeological context.

Glacial archaeology didn’t exist when Ötzi was found. His discovery, followed by several glacial melt-offs over the next decade, spurred the development of the new archaeological discipline, and in the last 20 years archaeological knowledge of high-altitude ice fields has expanded geometrically. Backed by the data, processes and knowledge of glacier archaeology, the new research into Ötzi’s death and mummification found that Ötzi died in the spring or summer when there was snow on the ground. His body and possessions only fell into the gully where they were found when the snow melted. For at least 1,500 years after his death, there were several smaller melt events that exposed Ötzi’s body and artifacts until around 3,800 years ago when the gully was finally sealed by an ice field of stationary “cold ice.”

This re-interpretation of the depositional and post-depositional history of the Ötzi find is not the clear narrative provided by the original interpretation, which combined a series of serendipitous circumstances to preserve a unique moment of the past. Maybe this is why the original story is still being told, even after scientific publications (from 1995 onwards) have repeatedly indicated that it was unlikely.

Ötzi continues to be the most important archaeological find from ice, even after glacial archaeological finds have appeared in the thousands. However, the find circumstances are not as special as originally imagined. Artefacts of organic materials dating from the Neolithic to the Roman period have now been found in nearby passes. In addition, the find circumstances of Ötzi are quite normal for glacial archaeology. The chances of finding another prehistoric human body, in a similar topographical setting as the Tisenjoch, should therefore be higher than previously believed, since a string of special circumstances is not needed for the preservation of this type of find, and relevant locations are now affected by heavy melt events.

Offerings to Demeter found in archaic temple on Crete

Wednesday, November 16th, 2022

Excavations of the ancient city of Phalasarna in western Crete have unearthed hundreds of offerings to the goddess Demeter in the remains of an ancient temple. The temple dates to the late 4th century B.C. and was built in Doric style on natural rock with two fluted columns, capitals, metopes and pediment. Estimates indicate it was more than 25 feet high and 16 feet wide. It is the only temple of its kind in Crete.

The temple was built at the junction of two mountain peaks where a natural cave was formed. The cave had abundant water and archaeologists believe an Archaic temple dedicated to a chthonic (related to the Underworld) deity was built there before 650 B.C. It was destroyed when the cave collapsed. Another temple was built in the 6th century, but it was destroyed in an earthquake. Then in the 5th century another was built and you guessed it, it too was destroyed. The last attempt was the 4th century temple.

The remains that are present today were from a reconstruction of the temple after the cave collapse. The perimeter of the enclosure is still in place, as is a monumental staircase leading to two buildings with a shared wall between them. The eastern building was the primary temple.

The sanctuary of the temple had a tiled floor, as did the rest of the floors of the temple. On the floor were five offering cases, inside which were revealed vases of good quality with elegant shapes, some of ceremonial character, one of which was inscribed in the Doric dialect with the name of the goddess to whom the temple was dedicated: A K E S T O I D A M A T R I , Akestoi dedicates to the goddess Demeter. […]

The rocky areas and the ancient deposits in excavated pits revealed findings mainly from the Archaic times. Daedalic art seems to dominate the early Archaic period (650 BC) in the form of nude female figures with Daedalic headdress and high pole. From the findings of the 6th c. e.g. Egyptian and Phoenician glass objects, terracotta bird and animal figurines, arrowheads and spearheads, miniature vases, enthroned female figures, and a female figurine holding a poppy and pomegranate stand out. Regarding the findings of the 4th and 3rd c. BC the hydriai stand out, a beaked ritual prochos with a red representation of a flying Cupid, iron spikes and alabaster vessels.

This was a physically challenging dig. The remains are on a high, rocky hill overlooking the sea. Archaeologists had to build a road to even reach the dig site, and then had to dig as quietly as possible so as not to trigger falling stones from above. The site itself was covered with rocks that the team had to remove with crowbars.

Phalasarna was settled going back to the Minoan period (3500 B.C. – 1100 B.C.). Its natural harbor made it an important stop in the maritime trade routes of the Aegean and Mediterranean. It reached its peak of prosperity in the 4th century B.C. when the monumental harbor was built. It consisted of four towers linked by defensive walls and quays. The enclosed harbor was connected to the sea by two channels, a shallow one for small boats, a deeper one for larger vessels.

The ancient city was destroyed in 67 B.C. by Roman forces under Pompey Magnus (then not yet Magnus) tasked with routing out and destroying the Mediterranean strongholds of Cilician pirates. They blocked the two harbor channels by dropping massive blocks of stone into them, and the city was abandoned. In 365 A.D., a massive earthquake, one of the greatest seismic events in earth’s history, raised the west coast of Crete by 30 feet. In an instant the ancient harbor was thrust inland and buried. They would remain hidden under tons of soil until excavations began at the site in 1966.

Bronze hand is first document in Basque language

Tuesday, November 15th, 2022

A bronze hand from the 1st century B.C. discovered on Mount Irulegi near Pamplona in northern Spain is the first document written in the Basque language. The Hand of Irulegi is a flat bronze plate cut from a single sheet of bronze into the shape of a life-sized right hand with five fingers. It is 5.7 inches long and engraved with 40 symbols on four lines across the back of the hand. Metal composition analysis found that the bronze is an alloy of 53.19% tin, 40.87% copper and 2.16% lead, a proportion typical of ancient bronze.

It was unearthed in June 2021 in the vestibule of a mud-brick house from an Iberian settlement at the foot of a hill topped by a medieval castle. Ceramic fragments, coins and the bones of domestic animals were also discovered inside the dwelling. The finds date to the first quarter of the 1st century B.C. This was a troubled time in the Roman province of Hispania. The Sertorian War pitted rebel Roman general Quintus Sertorius and his Iberian allies against the forces of the Roman Senate, led by generals Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius and Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus. Mount Irulegi was caught in the crossfire. Pompey’s troops burned the settlement to the ground. The hand and other artifacts were found under this burn layer.

The inscription was not visible on the surface when the hand was first recovered. Archaeologists thought it might be a helmet fitting at first, but the inscriptions emerged after cleaning. This spring, epigraphers and experts in Indo-European languages examined the inscription. The found the writing is the Paleohispanic family, but not the Iberian or Celtiberian semi-syllabaries. Instead it is an example of a subsystem that is unique to itself, albeit with elements adapted from Iberian scripts.

For example, the inscription includes the symbol T, which has already been identified on two coins, supporting the theory of the existence of a particular subsystem, as such a sign does not exist among the rest of the Hispanic script systems. In addition, the system of letters and semi-syllabary of the Hand of Irulegi includes two vibrating signs, which makes it possible that it is an adaptation of the Iberian script, as the Celtiberian script lacked one of them. How, when and where the Vascones adapted the Iberian script is unknown, but it does completely rule out the theory that they were a people who lacked a writing system, as had previously been thought, but that “they knew the writing and had made use of it, if not extensively then at least not negligibly.”

The phrases on the Hand of Irulegi are separated by dots or marks (interpunctuations), but none of the identified words appear to correspond to personal Basque names, and since the names of Paleohispanic gods are largely unknown to experts, they believe that some of the words may refer to Basque divinities or places.

What epigraphers have distinguished is the first word of the text: sorioneku, which is very similar to the Basque word zorioneko, formed by the sequence zori (fortune) and on (good), which can be translated as “of good fortune or good omen.” The rest of the inscription raises more questions, the researchers admit. They do though believe they have detected some recognizable words such as es (ez in modern Basque), an adverb of negation, and perhaps also a form relatable to the verb egin (to do).

“What is beyond doubt,” conclude [linguists] Velaza and Gorrochategui, “is that the exceptional Irulegi inscription proves that the Basques were using their language in that territory in the 1st century BC. And, taking into account the scarcity of firm testimonies for the establishment of the linguistic map of the area and of the protohistory of the Basque language, its discovery creates an inescapable basis for any debate on the question. The Hand of Irulegi constitutes the first document undoubtedly written in the Basque language.”

Before this discovery, the Vascones, the late Iron Age Iberian tribe whose language was the ancestor of modern-day Basque, were believed to have no written language beyond a few words used only on coins until the introduction of the Latin alphabet by Romans. The Hand of Irulegi inscription upends that hypothesis.

Hypocaust system in pristine condition found in Bonn

Sunday, November 13th, 2022

The remains of an underfloor heating system in exceptional condition has been discovered in the remains of a Roman building in Bonn, Germany. Private homes and baths with luxurious hypocaust heating are not uncommon finds in Germany — the upper classes were the first to adopt Roman culture and creature comforts in outlying territories — but this one is unique for its untouched state of preservation. The original floor is still in place over the hollow space, supported by regular pillars of tile (pilae stacks). Usually the floors over hypocaust systems have collapsed and the cavity filled with soil or debris. This is an extraordinary example of an undamaged hypocaust structure that appears, pardon the climate control pun, frozen in time.

The Roman building was unearthed in an archaeological survey at the site of gas and water works. An ancient Roman building was known to be in the area since finds first emerged in the 19th century, so archaeologists excavated the planned rout of the replacement gas and water pipes. Parts of the structure emerged quickly; it was closer to the surface than anyone realized. Three rooms were discovered, and painted wall plaster fragments indicate they were elaborately decorated.

The documentation of the cavity [in the hypocaust room] turned out to be difficult because it can only be seen through a narrow hole in the Roman floor. With the help of video cameras, it was possible to capture most of the cavity. In order to be able to understand the size of the cavity more precisely, the LVR-ABR carried out a measurement with the georadar. With this method it is possible to identify structures in the ground without the need for excavation. The radar image showed that the underfloor heating was located under a room with an apse. However, the full extent of the room and the heating system cannot be recorded here either, since the conditions on the surface limit the space for measurement.

Excavations at the end of the 19th century and in the 1920s and 1950s had already revealed walls and rooms that belonged to a stately Roman building. The building has so far been interpreted as a Roman country estate, a villa rustica. However, the new findings also make other functions appear possible. “Perhaps we are also dealing with a small bathing facility here, south of the Bonn legionary camp,” says Berthold. In order to be able to say more precisely, the results of the excavation must first be evaluated.

To preserve the hypocaust system in situ, archaeologists will be refilling the cavity using liquid soil, a special material that solidifies in a space but is easy to flush out like a liquid whenever needed. This will prevent the ground from subsiding and the cavity from collapsing, while making the invaluable site readily available for future archaeological explorations.

Terracotta dancers, musicians found in Northern Wei tomb

Saturday, November 12th, 2022

A tomb from the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534 A.D.) containing a rich group of pottery figurines has been discovered in Datong, Shanxi province, northeastern China. Tomb 113, unearthed in the center of a group of tombs, contained dozens of burial objects, mostly earthenware figurines. The figurines are led by pottery horsemen. Behind them is a full entourage of labourers, animals, objects of daily life, bullock carts and 10 Hu figurines, musicians, acrobats and dancers posted in dynamic forms.

Typical of Hu figurines from the Northern Wei, the players have deep, wide-set eyes and short, high noses. They wear long robes with round necks and narrow sleeves. The robes have slits at the bottom sides revealing the performers’ boots. A set of three female musicians is particularly striking. They are all seated and wearing a high cloche-shaped hat with a cross-shaped groove down the front and back. The hat is tied around the back of the head, and a little skirt covers the back of the neck underneath the hat’s tie.

Pingcheng (modern-day Datong) was the capital of the Northern Wei Dyanasty from 398 until 494. Under pressure from drought, repeated famines and incursions from the proto-Mongolic Rouran Khaganate to the north, Emperor Xiaowen moved the capital to Luoyang in 494 A.D. over the protests of his court. Luoyang had been a capital for several ruling dyasnties going back millennia and the Yellow River basin area was extensively settled and cultivated, unlike Pingcheng which was in the nomadic steppe. It remained a regional administrative center through the 520s, but its population and prosperity plummeted after the move.

The quantity and quality of pottery found in Tomb 113 indicates he was someone of high status in Northern Wei society. The style of the pottery vessels date it to the last years of Pingcheng as the capital.

Ancient Egyptian amulet seal found in Turkey

Friday, November 11th, 2022

An obsidian amulet of Egyptian origin has been unearthed in the Roman-era remains of the ancient city of Amastris in northern Turkey. It was discovered in a Roman structure built out of marble in the 2nd century A.D. The amulet is the only artifact recovered from the structure.

The amulet is a pyramidal stamp seal with a square base. it is two centimeters (.78 inches) high with (.35 inches). The sides are carved with letters in demotic script. The base is incised with a figure of the Egyptian god Bes.

Bes was unusual in the ancient Egyptian pantheon because images of him appear in private homes, not just in religious and funerary contexts. He was the protector of the household, warding off evil spirits and paying particular attention to pregnant women and children. Much like an apotropaic figure from Greek mythology, the gorgoneion or head of Medusa, Bes was depicted facing forward with a fierce expression, mouth open and tongue out. This too makes him unusual among his peers in the pantheon as Egyptian deities were mostly depicted in profile.

The presence of Bes and the demotic inscriptions identify the object as a talisman carried to protect the owner from any and all manner of ills.

“We see that there is a figure depicting the god Bes, whom we know from the Egyptian religion, depicted with incised lines at the base of the work. On the upper part of the work, we see that there are letter characters and talismanic words from the ancient Egyptian religion called demotic. The letter characters on the work probably represent this meaning of protection. As a kind of talismanic object, we can define it as an object that a person wears to be protected from evil and diseases or in whatever sense he wants to be protected. We can say that it is the only example of its kind found from the Roman layer in Anatolia during excavations,” [Associate professor Fatma Bağdatlı Çam, head of the Archeology Department of the Faculty of Literature at Bartın University] said.

Çam stated that the discovery of the artifact is an important and exciting development for archaeologists.

“We will investigate what this seal means and whether the person wearing it is a priest, a religious official, or whether someone carries it for health and safety purposes. Perhaps we will find out whether a soldier in the legion brought it here (after) his mission in the east.”




December 2022


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