August 11, 2015

At one time, ancient Troy supposedly spread out over 74 acres, protected by a citadel with walls over 30 feet tall. Not bad for the Bronze Age — but not big enough to be the largest fortress in the Aegean. Not even close. That honor goes to a recently discovered castle in Turkey's Gölmarmara Lake region, a Turkish archaeologist says.

"This area is four times larger than the ancient site of Troy in Çanakkale and the largest late Bronze Age settlement that has been found in the Aegean region," Yaşar University's Sinan Ünlüsoy told Hürriyet Daily News. The fortress is mentioned in a Hittite text, Ünlüsoy says, and is supposedly the largest of six built by the ancient Lydian empire in the region. They're each a day's walk from each other, Archaeology notes, which must have established quite a fearsome perimeter.

A team of 42 archaeologists from around the world made the discovery. Nico Lauricella

August 3, 2015

Archaeologists at Israel's Bar-Ilan University announced on Monday the discovery of a massive gate and other fortifications in the ruins of Gath, the hometown of the Bible's Goliath. The ancient gate is one of the largest ever discovered in Israel and evidence of the Philistine city's power in the 10th and ninth centuries B.C.E, head archaeologist Professor Aren Maeir says. It even made a brief appearance in the Bible when David, Goliath's slayer and future king of Israel, "acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard."

The research team also discovered an "impressive fortification wall," a temple, a smelting complex, and other buildings in Tel Zafit National Park, which contains the ancient city. King Hazael of Aram-Damascus is said to have razed Gath around 830 B.C.E. — presumably via a single, well-placed pebble — and archaeologists are only now putting the pieces back together. Nico Lauricella

July 3, 2015

Pretty cute for 2,000 years old:

Dated to around the first century AD, this marble dolphin turned up on a recent archaeological dig at Kibbutz Magen, Israel, near the Gaza Strip. It's about 16 inches high, munching a fish, and may once have adorned a larger statue of the ancient Roman god Neptune or goddess Venus, both of whom were frequently depicted with sea motifs. Although the archaeologists found it in the ruins of a Byzantine settlement, they believe it to be Roman. For more on the little guy, head over to The Times of Israel. Nico Lauricella

June 8, 2015

A team of archaeologists has discovered 11 graves in the ruins of Aksum, once the seat of Ethiopia's ancient empire. A number of interesting artifacts — including some that complicate the accepted timeline of ancient Rome's trade with Africa — have been found within, but the most haunting were probably from the grave of a woman dubbed “Sleeping Beauty."

Carved from an overhang, the tomb dates to the first or second century A.D. and holds the remains of a mysterious woman of some importance. "The way the body and its grave goods had been positioned," The Guardian reports, "suggest that she had been beautiful and much-loved."

Head archaeologist Louise Schofield explained to The Guardian:

She was curled up on her side, with her chin resting on her hand, wearing a beautiful bronze ring. She was buried gazing into an extraordinary Roman bronze mirror. She had next to her a beautiful and incredibly ornate bronze cosmetics spoon with a lump of kohl eyeliner. [The Guardian]

The quality of the woman's jewelry — including a necklace made of thousands of beads and a belt — suggests she was an important person, Schofield said. In the grave, archaeologists also discovered a clay jug and three Roman glass vessels, including a "flask to catch the tears of the dead." Spooky! Nico Lauricella

June 5, 2015

A pine tree farmer in Denmark was set to plant a new crop when Christmas came early: His brother-in-law discovered a pair of 3,600-year-old axes while surveying one of his fields. Archaeologists who rushed to the scene found three more.

Dating from 1600 BCE, they are twice as large as similar weapons discovered, archaeologist Constanze Rassmann says. Each axe head contains about two pounds of pure metal and is 12 inches across. Rassman suspects they were meant as an offering to the gods.

The discovery is also incredibly rare. Only five such axes have been found to date in all of Northern Europe, Rassmann told Danish TV, "and then we go and [find] five more in one go."

"I'm all electric," she said. Nico Lauricella

June 2, 2015

It was under our very noses! Researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have discovered what's being called the missing link between the brain and the immune system: vessels of the lymphatic system that escaped notice by "hiding" among major blood cells traveling through sinuses. The full study was published in this month's issue of Nature.

It's being called a "stunning discovery" because up until now, no one had completely understood how the brain connects to the immune system. The answer, Gizmag aptly says, is "just like every other tissue in the body."

For the layperson, its effect on our understanding of the human body is best summed up by this image:

Explains Neuroscience News:

That such vessels could have escaped detection when the lymphatic system has been so thoroughly mapped throughout the body is surprising on its own, but the true significance of the discovery lies in the effects it could have on the study and treatment of neurological diseases ranging from autism to Alzheimer's disease to multiple sclerosis. [Neuroscience News]

As the chairman of the UVA Department of Neuroscience told Neuroscience News, "They'll have to change the textbooks." Nico Lauricella

May 27, 2015

It's a question that has bedeviled moguls for millennia: Where do you put your solid gold bucket brimming with weed and coke? If you were a nomadic warlord from the 4th century B.C., you'd hide it in your secret treasure room, of course.

Archaeologists have found just such a room, containing two such objects, hidden beneath an ancient burial mound in southern Russia. The researchers dated the treasure horde to 2,400 years ago and believe it once belonged to the Scythians, a ferocious group of nomads who were contemporaries of the ancient Greeks. All in all, the room contains nearly seven pounds worth of gold artifacts like cups, rings, bracelets, and chokers. Those buckets, though, stole the show.

National Geographic reports:

[Head archaeologist] Belinski asked criminologists in nearby Stavropol to analyze a black residue inside the vessels. The results came back positive for opium and cannabis, confirming a practice first reported by Herodotus. The Greek historian claimed that the Scythians used a plant to produce smoke "that no Grecian vapour-bath can surpass … transported by the vapor, [they] shout aloud."

Because the sticky residue was found on the inside of the vessels, Belinski and Gass think they were used to brew and drink a strong opium concoction, while cannabis was burning nearby. "That both drugs were being used simultaneously is beyond doubt," Gass says. [National Geographic]

You can read more about this heady, "once-in-a-century discovery" at National Geographic. Nico Lauricella

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