Youtube Video: Pictish Crossbow – discussion and shooting

I would love to someday to build a crossbow. It definitively is on my ever growing to-do list.

Not that I feel particular inclination to be armed, but the simple yet not easy to make mechanism of a crossbow (or even a bow) intrigues me.

Tod Todeschini not only makes crossbows, he also likes to share his extensive knowledge about them. Here he uses that knowledge to speculate a bit about how pictish crossbows could look like.

Amsterdam: Below The Surface.

Peter N. sent this amazing project to me, and it’s absolutely fascinating!

In Amsterdam there’s a public works project going on which has involved draining a river. Archaeologists have been able to search through many feet of sediment for artifacts – which date back 800 years. There’s a wonderful website which describes the project in detail here: https://belowthesurface.amsterdam/en/pagina/de-opgravingen-index

… and one of the pages is a catalog of over 11,000 finds, with beautiful photos and descriptions, arranged in chronological order: https://belowthesurface.amsterdam/en/vondsten

It just thrills me to think that every single one of those objects comes with a story, which, unfortunately, is lost forever – a lovers’ quarrel, a picnic, a flood, a missed arrow shot…

I feel the same way  as Peter. Seeing small pieces of history always makes me wonder about all the people and their lives. Peter chose one particular piece for me, and was spot on, I love it!

I’m going to be spending some time gawking at all the amazing things found in this streambed archaeology!

Neanderthals Have Done It Again.

Panel 78 in La Pasiega cave, which includes red horizontal and vertical lines that date to more than 64,000 years ago, long before Homo sapiens arrived in the area (photo by C.D Standish, A.W.G. Pike and D.L. Hoffmann used with permission).

Panel 78 in La Pasiega cave, which includes red horizontal and vertical lines that date to more than 64,000 years ago, long before Homo sapiens arrived in the area (photo by C.D Standish, A.W.G. Pike and D.L. Hoffmann used with permission).

Neanderthals have done it again. They’ve reminded us Homo sapiens that we’re not as creative, original, or special as we’ve thought for the past 150 years. Last week, archaeologists published two astonishing reports that provide the most compelling evidence to date that our evolutionary cousins not only had the cognitive wherewithal to create art — specifically cave paintings — but they also did so well before modern humans entered the European Pleistocene.

In the journal Sciencean international team of archaeologists reported that three caves in southeastern Spain — La Pasiega, Maltravieso, and Ardales — contain cave art that’s at least 64,800 years old. These sites are not new or unknown to archaeologists. But pinning down exactly when the cave art was painted has been a problem for decades. (The La Pasiega panel was originally sketched by researchers in 1913.) Dating experts, working in conjunction with archaeologists, developed a new set of techniques, carefully sampling geological material near the art in order to pin down the most likely time of painting.

The results have rocked the archaeological world, because the paintings appear to predate the arrival of modern humans in Europe by 20,000 years. In other words, the art comes from a time when the area was only occupied by Neanderthals.

Exciting! You can read and see much more, and there’s video at Hyperallergic.

Bronze Age Insight.

Due to the seal’s small size and veining on the stone, many of the miniature details are only clearly visible via photomicroscopy. (all images Courtesy of The Department of Classics, University of Cincinnati, and used with permission).

Due to the seal’s small size and veining on the stone, many of the miniature details are only clearly visible via photomicroscopy. (all images Courtesy of The Department of Classics, University of Cincinnati, and used with permission).

Drawing of the detailed combat scene captured on an agate sealstone discovered by the University of Cincinnati’s Sharon Stocker and Jack Davis. (images Courtesy Department of Classics, University of Cincinnati).

Drawing of the detailed combat scene captured on an agate sealstone discovered by the University of Cincinnati’s Sharon Stocker and Jack Davis. (images Courtesy Department of Classics, University of Cincinnati).

The piece of stone may only be a little over 1.4 inches long (~3.5cm), but the meticulous detail of the carved scene featuring three warriors in hand-to-hand combat is a stunning display of ancient artistic skill and it may challenge our perceptions of naturalism in the Ancient Aegean era.

[…]

Jack Davis, who is one of the excavation’s co-leaders, suggests the find is unprecedented. “What is fascinating is that the representation of the human body is at a level of detail and musculature that one doesn’t find again until the classical period of Greek art 1,000 years later,” Davis explained to UC Magazine. “It’s a spectacular find. … Some of the details on this are only a half-millimeter big,” he said. “It seems that the Minoans were producing art of the sort that no one ever imagined they were capable of producing. … It shows that their ability and interest in representational art, particularly movement and human anatomy, is beyond what it was imagined to be. Combined with the stylized features, that itself is just extraordinary.”

The source for the battle scene may not be clear, but researchers believe that the miniature battle must reflect a legend that was well known to the people of the region. The tomb also held an intact skeleton, which UC researchers have labeled the “Griffin Warrior” for the discovery of an ivory plaque depicting a mythical griffin. The 3,500-year-old shaft grave also includes more than 3,000 objects, including four solid gold rings, silver cups, precious stone beads, fine-toothed ivory combs, and an intricately built sword.

You can read more at Hyperallergic, and definitely check out the Griffin Warrior.

A Medieval Porpoise.

Here is the video of an interesting archaeological discovery on the island of Chapelle Dom Hue near Guernsey. Earlier this week Phil de Jersey, working for Guernsey Archaeology, posted news of finding the skull of a juvenile porpoise in the graveyard of a small monastic site.

The porpoise is believed to date from the fourteenth-century, and de Jersey adds that it looks to have been buried deliberately, based on the way the grave was cut.

He tells the Guernsey Press, “That is what puzzles me. If they had eaten it or killed it for the blubber, why take the trouble to bury it?”

In another interview with The Guardian, he suggests one possibility deals with religious observation: “The dolphin has a strong significance in Christianity but I’ve not come across anything like this before. It’s the slightly wacky kind of thing that you might get in the iron age but not in medieval times.”

Via Medievalists.

Medieval Shipwrecks in the Black Sea.

A shipwreck from the medieval period, of a type known from literature but never previously seen, was discovered during an underwater survey of the Black Sea this past summer. UConn researcher Kroum Batchvarov says seeing it for the first time was ‘a truly thrilling moment.’ (Courtesy of Kroum Batchvarov).

While conducting their mapping in late summer using the most advanced underwater survey equipment in the world, Batchvarov and his colleagues discovered a total of 43 shipwrecks. The team had expected to see sunken ships, but were surprised at just what they found.

An Ottoman period shipwreck with well preserved wood carvings. The images, which show the shipwrecks in three dimensions, were produced by a process known as photogrammetry. It combines photographs and videos taken by cameras mounted on remotely operated vehicles with distance measurements produced by sonars. (Courtesy of Kroum Batchvarov).

Batchvarov first spotted the well preserved medieval shipwreck on a screen in the control room of the expedition ship after nearly 48 hours of monitoring images from the high remote survey vehicle moving along the floor of the Black Sea.

“That was a truly thrilling moment. We spent the next six hours looking at the wreck. No one had ever seen anything like it,” he says. “We had known of it. There have been descriptions in Venetian manuscripts that survived from the 15th century describing earlier vessels. But this was the first time that we were seeing it.”

The ship was complete, according to Batchvarov: “The masts were still standing. You could see the spars [wooden poles], the yards on deck. Everything was there.”

[…]

The vessels the Black Sea MAP team discovered date over the course of a millennium, from the 9th to the 19th centuries. Many were merchant ships from the Ottoman Empire between the 15th and 19th centuries, mostly from the 18th century. But the medieval ship – dating from the 13th to the mid-14th century and probably of Mediterranean origin – provides the first view of a ship type known from historical sources but never before seen.

[…]

While analysis of the shipwrecks is ongoing, the team continues with its intended purpose, investigating the area for evidence of how humans reacted to changes in the environment in previous eras.

“We are answering an archaeological question: At what stage did the level of the Black Sea change and what once would have been marshy coastal land become inhabitable and then become inundated?” Batchvarov says, noting that the team’s findings could add to previous studies on catastrophic flooding in the Black Sea region.

You can read and see more here.

Perfectly Preserved: 400 Year Old Sac of Fluke Eggs.

Jing Lee, a 17th-century Korean mummy. D. H. Shin, Y.-S. Kim, D. S. Yoo.

Jing Lee was born in 1580, during Korea’s long-lasting Joseon dynasty, and died in 1642, at the age of 63. At some point in his long life, he ate a raw, freshwater crustacean, in one form or another. Most likely, he was indulging in a fresh, seasonal treat—raw crabs with soy sauces—or was trying to rid himself of disease, with a dose of crayfish juice, thought to help treat the measles. (Joseon food culture was not to be trifled with.) However, as it happened, his crustacean meal left a lasting legacy in his body: a sac of liver fluke eggs growing happily in his liver, as Haaretz reports.

Four hundred years later, as part of a parasitology study of pre-modern Korean societies, a team of scientists found that egg sac mummified on Jing Lee’s liver. They report their findings in a new study in the Journal of Parasitology.

You can read all about this fascinating find at Atlas Obscura.

A 3,700 Year Old Smiley Face.

Painted flask from 1700 BCE found in a burial under a house in area A East, Karkemish (photo courtesy Nicolò Marchetti).

Archaeologists in southern Turkey have dug up an ancient precedent to the Kool-Aid Man. Recent excavations at the ancient Hittite city of Karkemish have revealed a bulbous pitcher decorated with a faint smiley face, as Andalou Agency first reported. At 3,700 years old, the grin predates by a long shot what scientists in Slovakia had previously dubbed the world’s oldest smiley face, a 17th-century drawing on a legal document.

As head researcher Nicolò Marchetti put it, “We have probably found the oldest smiley emoji. We do not know with which purpose the craftsmen drew this symbol on the pitcher, but we call it a smile.”

Marchetti, an associate professor at the University of Bologna, has been leading the seven-year long excavations at Karkemish, which today lies along the border between Turkey and Syria. The short-necked pitcher is one of the most interesting artifacts found so far at the site, which has also yielded a number of urns, pots, and vases. Found in a burial chamber beneath a house, the unusual vessel was once used for drinking sweet sherbet. It will eventually go on view at the nearby Gaziantep Museum of Archaeology — so yes, you’ll be able to get a selfie of yourself smiling with the one-of-a-kind, jolly jug.

Via Hyperallergic.