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Freshen Up With Archaeology Friday: Post VI

Another week, another post of Archaeology findings!

Muslim Cemetery Discovered in Malta:

From the Times of Malta:

Roadwork excavations in Marsa have revealed the archaeological remains of a Muslim cemetery dating back to 1675, confirming historians’ belief of the existence of a Turkish slave cemetery in the area.
The find is being documented and excavated by the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage and an archaeologist specialising in documentation of human remains is closely following the investigation.
Bones uncovered on the site (courtesy of the Times of Malta)
The roadworks have been temporarily halted on the relevant sections until the preservation works are complete.

Sections likely to be impacted by ongoing roadworks will be scienti-fically extracted and taken to the superintendence for further testing, analysis and conservation.
The unaffected parts will be protected and left on site, undisturbed.
Two archaeologists were working hard at documenting the findings yesterday afternoon. Remains ran along the chiselled rock at various points, with the occasional bone jutting out.

We’re working along the cross section, cleaning up the debris surrounding the bones and noting everything we find,” Marvin Demicoli said.
Colleague and fellow archaeologist Michelle Padovani said that many of the remains were in good condition and that work was proceeding briskly, although she could not say how long they would last.
We’ve been working hand in hand with Transport Malta and everyone involved on the site to ensure things move as quickly as possible,” Ms Padovani noted.

The two archaeologists pointed to the trench’s north wall – a sheer face some five metres high with scree and other rock debris at its foot – and said they had been asked by health and safety authorities to avoid working on it for the time being.
Initial indications are that the remains are part of the burial ground granted to the Muslim slave community by Grand Master Niccolo Cotoner in 1675.
The cemetery replaced an older one that had been destroyed by the Knights to make way for the Floriana fortifications.

Slavery in Malta ended with Napoleon’s arrival in 1800 but the cemetery continued to serve as a Muslim burial place until the middle of that century, according to historian Godfrey Wettinger.
At the time, the British admiralty decided to extend the inlet available to Maltese boats,” he said, “but, unfortunately, in doing so they also buried the cemetery.
An agreement between the British and Turkish authorities soon rectified the situation.

In 1874, Malta’s Muslim cemetery was transferred to another Marsa site very close to existing one in the area commonly known as Iċ-Ċimiterju tat-Torok (The Turkish Cemetery).
Prof. Wettinger yesterday welcomed the archaeological discoveries as “very interesting”. They appear to confirm his long-held belief of a Turkish slave cemetery in the Marsa area, mentioned in his book, Slavery In The Islands Of Malta And Gozo.

The human remains are oriented south-eastwards, facing Mecca. As is customary in a Muslim burial place, those laid to rest appear to have been buried with no accompanying relics or artefacts.
Some historians had also floated the suggestion that the remains could be part of a makeshift cemetery built by the Ottomans during the Great Siege of 1565.

The Ottomans had chosen to situate their base camp at Marsa throughout the three months of the siege. But the two archaeologists working yesterday thought the hypothesis unlikely.
“In my opinion, these remains are too carefully laid out and spaced out to have been a war camp cemetery,” Mr Demicoli said.

Any remains extracted and taken to a laboratory for further analysis could be subjected to a number of tests.
Carbon dating will determine how old the remains are, confirming or rejecting the existing hypothesis that they belong to a Knight-era cemetery.
DNA tests, which archaeology professor Anthony Bonanno described as “a very complex and complicated process”, could be used to help determine the remains’ origin.

German Soldiers Preserved in World War 1 Trench discovered:

From the Telegraph:

Photo of the trench
The men were part of a larger group of 34 who were buried alive when an Allied shell exploded above the tunnel in 1918 causing it to cave in.
Thirteen bodies were recovered from the underground shelter but the remaining men had to be left under a mountain of mud as it was too dangerous to retrieve them. Nearly a century later French archaeologists stumbled upon the mass grave on the former Western Front during excavation work for a road building project.
Many of the skeletal remains were found in the same positions the men had been in at the time of the collapse, prompting experts to liken the scene to Pompeii. A number of the soldiers were discovered sitting upright on a bench, one was lying in his bed and another was in the foetal position having been thrown down a flight of stairs.
As well as the bodies, poignant personal effects such as boots, helmets, weapons, wine bottles, spectacles, wallets, pipes, cigarette cases and pocket books were also found. Even the skeleton of a goat was found, assumed to be a source of fresh milk for the soldiers.
Archaeologists believe the items were so well preserved because hardly any air, water or lights had penetrated the trench. The 300ft long tunnel was located 18ft beneath the surface near the small town of Carspach in the Alsace region in France.
Michael Landolt, the archaeologist leading the dig, said: "It's a bit like Pompeii.
"Everything collapsed in seconds and is just the way it was at the time.
"Here, as in Pompeii, we found the bodies as they were at the moment of their death.
"Some of the men were found in sitting positions on a bench, others lying down. One was projected down a flight of wooden stairs and was found in a foetal position.
"The collapsed shelter was filled with soil. The items were very well preserved because of the absence of air and light and water.
"Metal objects were rusty, wood was in good condition and we found some pages of newspapers that were still readable.
"Leather was in good condition as well, still supple.
"The items will be taken to a laboratory, cleaned and examined."
Archaeologists also uncovered the wooden sides, floors and stairways of the shelter that
The dead soldiers were part of the 6th Company, 94th Reserve Infantry Regiment.
Their names are all known. They include Musketeer Martin Heidrich, 20, Private Harry Bierkamp, 22, and Lieutenant August Hutten, 37.

Their names are inscribed on a memorial in the nearby German war cemetery of Illfurth.
The bodies have been handed over to the German War Graves Commission but unless relatives can be found and they request the remains to be repatriated, it is planned that the men will be buried at Illfurth.
The underground tunnel was big enough to shelter 500 men and had 16 exits.

It would have been equipped with heating, telephone connections, electricity, beds and a pipe to pump out water.The French attacked the shelter on March 18, 1918 with aerial mines that penetrated the ground and blasted in the side wall of the shelter in two points.
It is estimated that over 165,000 Commonwealth soldiers are still unaccounted for on the Western Front.

Archaeologists Uncovering Legendary Lost City of Poseidon:

A team of scholars and students will return to explore and investigate the site now thought to be the remains of the lost city of Helike, the legendary city that was for centuries the stuff of ancient writers and a tantalizing mystery for explorers and scientists for over 2,000 years.

Led by Dr. Dora Katsonopoulou, Director of the Helike Society, researchers have uncovered a wealth of artifacts and structural remains dating from the Bronze Age through the Roman and Byzantine periods at sites near the southwest shore of the Gulf of Corinth in northern Peloponnesos. In 2000 and 2001, the research team located in this area what is now thought to be the remains of ancient Helike, on the coastal plain between the Selinous and Kerynites Rivers.

A view of the excavations at Helike. Drekis, Wikimedia Commons
Excavation of trenches revealed the architectural remains of Classical period buildings located at a depth of 3 m, likely destroyed by an earthquake and subsequently buried under the deposits of a shallow inland lagoon. "Thus the city did not sink into the depths of the Corinthian Gulf, as previously believed", reported the researchers, "but was submerged by an inland lagoon, which later silted over". The excavations also uncovered a rich array of artifacts.

Also nearby, researchers uncovered evidence of an extensive and remarkably well-preserved Early Helladic coastal settlement (ca. 2600-2300 BC). This site is about 1 kilometer from the present shore, with remains at a depth of 3 to 5 meters below the surface. Finds included the foundations of a corridor house and other buildings that lined cobbled streets, along with abundant pottery.

 Luxury items found at the site, which included small gold and silver ornaments, have given clues about the apparent wealth of this earlier period city. Additionally, sediments covering the Early Bronze Age city contained marine and lagoon microfauna, indicating that the ancient city was submerged in seawater for a period of time. A wall of one building was clearly offset in a way that strongly suggests the result of seismic activity, indicating that this early settlement may have also been destroyed and submerged by an earthquake, about 2,000 years before the famous earthquake that destroyed classical Helike in 373/372 B.C.

It was this massive 4th century earthquake that struck the southwest shore of the Gulf of Corinth and destroyed the Classical city of Helike, purportedly submerging it into the sea. According to the literature, Helike, which became the principal city of Achaea, was founded in the Mycenaean period by Ion, the leader of the Ionian race.

A coin, believed to originate from the city
Helike subsequently became the capital of the Twelve Cities of ancient Achaea. The city area was anciently considered the location of the sanctuary of Poseidon, god of the sea and earthquakes. It was widely discussed in literature by many ancient Greek and Roman writers and visitors such as Strabo, Pausanias, Diodoris, Aelian and Ovid, and has been suggested by some scholars to be the inspiration for the story of Atlantis. But, like Atlantis, the actual whereabouts and evidence of Helike's remains have eluded scholars and explorers for 2,000 years.

It was not until 1988 that efforts began to bear fruit, when Greek archaeologist Dora Katsonopoulou launched the Helike Project to locate the site of the lost city. In 1994 a magnetometer survey was carried out in collaboration with the University of Patras in the delta region near the Corinthian Gulf coast where Helike was suspected to be located, revealing the outlines of a buried building. Excavations followed, unearthing a large Roman building with standing walls.

But the Classical remains of the city of Helike itself were rediscovered in 2001, buried under vestiges of an ancient lagoon. Since then, excavations have been conducted in the Helike delta area every summer. These excavations have uncovered significant archeological finds dating from the time of Helike's founding to the time of its revival during Hellenistic and Roman times.

Individuals interested in participating in the excavations may find out more by going to the project website at

 The Scandalous History of Valentines Day:

This is a good one!

From the Discovery Website:

A painting of Valentines Day (Wikimedia Commons)

Forget roses, chocolates and candlelight dinners. On Valentine's Day, that's rather boring stuff -- at least according to ancient Roman standards.

Imagine half-naked men running through the streets, whipping young women with bloodied thongs made from freshly cut goat skins. Although it might sound like some sort of perverted sadomasochistic ritual, this is what the Romans did until A.D. 496.

Mid-February was Lupercalia (Wolf Festival) time. Celebrated on Feb. 15 at the foot of the Palatine Hill beside the cave where, according to tradition, the she-wolf had suckled Romulus and Remus, the festival was essentially a purification and fertility rite.

Directed by the Luperci, or "brothers of the wolf," the festival began with the sacrifice of two male goats and a dog, their blood smeared on the faces of Luperci initiates and then wiped off with wool dipped in milk.
As thongs were cut from the sacrificed goats, the initiates would run around in the streets flagellating women to promote fertility.

Finally, in 496, Pope Gelasius I banned the wild feast and declared Feb. 14 as St. Valentine's Day.
But who was St. Valentine? Mystery surrounds the identity of the patron saint of lovers.
Indeed, such was the confusion that the Vatican dropped St. Valentine's Day from the Catholic Church calendar of saints in the 1960s.

There were at least three men by the name Valentine in the A.D. 200s, and all died horrible deaths.
One was a priest in the Roman Empire who helped persecuted Christians during the reign of Claudius II. As he was imprisoned, he restored the sight of a blind girl, who fell in love with him. He was beheaded on Feb. 14.
Another was the pious bishop of Terni, also tortured and beheaded during Claudius II's reign.
A third Valentine secretly married couples, ignoring Claudius II's ban of marriage. When the priest of love was eventually arrested, legend has it that he fell deeply in love with his jailer's daughter.
Before his death by beating and decapitation, he signed a farewell note to her: “From your Valentine.”
Apart from legend, the first connection between romance and Feb. 14 goes back to Geoffrey Chaucer (1340?-1400), the English poet and author of The Canterbury Tales.

In his poem "Parliament of Fowls" (1382), Chaucer suggested that St. Valentine's Day was the time when birds chose their mates.
"For this was Seynt Valentyne's Day. When every foul cometh ther to choose his mate," he wrote.

Some 33 years later, Duke Charles of Orleans wrote what is considered the oldest known valentine in existence.
Imprisoned in the Tower of London after being captured by the English, in 1415 the French nobleman wrote his wife, Bonne d’Armagnac, a rhyming love letter, which is now part of the manuscript collection in the British Library in London.
The first two lines of the poem were:
"Je suis déjà d'amour tanné. Ma très douce Valentinée." (I am already sick with love, My very gentle Valentine).
It was an intense but unfortunate love: Bonne d’Armagnac may never have seen him again. She died before Charles' return to France in 1440.
 And making the other news headlines...


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