Thursday, August 27, 2015

Archaeologists discover Mycenaean palace and treasure trove of artifacts in southern Greece

Ancient Origins

Greek archaeologists have discovered a pre-classical era Greek palace at Aghios Vassilios hill dating from the Mycenaean Age, which some researchers believe is the long-lost palace of Sparta. Important archaic inscriptions found at the site may help to shed light on the political, administrative, economic and societal organisation of the Mycenaean society around Sparta where the discovery was made.
The Greek Culture Ministry said that the palace, which had around 10 rooms, was probably built around the 17th to 16th centuries BC, in a statement reported by the Phys.org website. The archaeologists also discovered a number of important artifacts at the site, including objects used for religious ceremonies, clay figurines, a cup adorned with a bull’s head, swords and fragments of murals.
New excavations at a site near historical Sparta may have uncovered the lost ruins of a Mycenaean Spartan palace. Among the treasures found at the site was this bull's head.
New excavations at a site near historical Sparta may have uncovered the lost ruins of a Mycenaean Spartan palace. Among the treasures found at the site was this bull's head. Credit: Greek Ministry of Culture
Excavations in the area, conducted since 2009, have revealed inscriptions on tablets, written in the Linear B script, relating to religious practices and also names and places. Linear B is the oldest script to be discovered in Europe and first appears in the historical timeline in Crete from around 1375 BC. It took until the mid-20th century for experts to decipher it properly.
The palace was probably destroyed by fire at some point in the late 14th or early 13th century, according to available evidence.
A photo released by the Greek Ministry of Culture on Aug. 25 shows an excavation site near Sparta in the Peloponnese region with remains of a palace of the Mycenaean period.
A photo released by the Greek Ministry of Culture on Aug. 25 shows an excavation site near Sparta in the Peloponnese region with remains of a palace of the Mycenaean period.
The Mycenaean era was the last phase of the Bronze Age in Ancient Greece and is characterised by palatial city-states, works of art and writing. It was at this time that the city-states began to become established, including Pylos, Tiryns, Midea in the Peloponnese, Orchomenos, Thebes, Athens and Iolcos in Thessaly. The most prominent of them was Mycenae in Argolid which was the influence for other settlements in Epirus, Macedonia and on islands in the Aegean Sea, on the coast of Asia Minor, the Levant and in Cyprus and Italy. Mycenaean Greece collapsed at the end of the Bronze Age and the most popular theory concerning its demise places the blame of the mysterious ‘people of the sea’ (or Sea Peoples). Other theories focus on the Dorian invasion or on natural disasters and climate change. Much ancient Greek literature is based on heroes and deities from the Mycenaean era, the most notable of which is the Trojan Epic Cycle.
Homer writes that the Mycenaean era was dedicated to Agamemnon, the king who led the Greeks in the Trojan War. The Mycenaean’s were keen traders, establishing contacts with countries across the Mediterranean and Europe. They were also excellent engineers and are also known for their characteristic ‘beehive’ tombs which were circular in shape with a high roof, consisting of a single stone passage leading to a chamber in which the possessions of the tomb’s occupant were also laid to rest.
Grave circle and main entrance of the citadel at Mycenae, one of the major centres of the Mycenaean civilization.
Grave circle and main entrance of the citadel at Mycenae, one of the major centres of the Mycenaean civilization. (Wikipedia)
Mycenaean craftsmen produced distinctive items of pottery and bronze, as well as carved gems, jewellery, vases made from precious metals and glass ornaments. Oil and wine were among the major commodities traded by them.
Not much is known about the religious practices of the time, but it is likely that the Mycenaean’s practiced ritual animal sacrifice and enjoyed communal feasting. Images of the double axe in art suggest links with the Cretan Minoan culture. Robert Graves also drew much of his inspiration for his books on the Greek Myths, and later on The White Goddess, from the Mycenaean culture, casting a more romantic slight on the period. It was during this period that the tales of deities such as Dionysus, Hephaestus, Poseidon, Artemis, Hera and Potnia began to emerge. The later Greeks regarded many of the deities in the Mycenaean pantheon more as heroes or demi-gods rather than powerful gods and goddesses in themselves and so undoubtedly there were many interesting tales that were lost to history as a result.
"Tradition tells us that Sparta was an important site in the Mycenaean period," Hal Haskell, an archeologist who studies the ancient Mycenaean culture at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, told Live Science. Yet no palace had been unearthed in the Spartan plain. Haskell believes the new site could be that lost Spartan palace.
Featured image: A handout photo released by the Greek Ministry of Culture shows the excavations site with remains of a palace of the Mycenaean period, bearing important inscriptions in archaic Greek, discovered near Sparta in the Peloponnese region of Greece. Image credits: Greek Ministry of Culture
By Robin Whitlock

History Trivia - Battle of Plataea. - Persian forces routed

August 27

 550 BC Confucius, famous wise man of China is believed to have been born around this date.

479 BC Greco-Persian Wars: Persian forces led by Mardonius were routed by Pausanias, the Spartan commander of the Greek army in the Battle of Plataea.

410 The sacking of Rome by the Visigoths ended after three days.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Archaeologists Unearth Ancient Greek Palace Near Sparta

A photo released by the Greek Ministry of Culture on August 25, 2015 shows an excavations site near Sparta in the Peloponnese region with remains of a palace of the Mycenaean period.
Greek Ministry of Culture 


Archaeologists in Greece have discovered the ruins of an ancient palace with important archaic inscriptions dating back to the Mycenaean Age, the culture ministry said Tuesday.
The palace, likely built around the 17th-16th centuries BC, had around 10 rooms and was discovered near Sparta in southern Greece.
Photos: Greek God Hermes Featured in Ancient Mosaic
At the site, archaeologists found objects of worship, clay figurines, a cup adorned with a bull’s head, swords and fragments of murals.
Since 2009, excavations in the area have unearthed inscriptions on tablets detailing religious ceremonies and names and places in a script called Linear B, the oldest script to be discovered in Europe. It first appears in Crete from around 1375 BC and was only deciphered in the mid 20th century.
Ancient Greeks Used Portable Grills at Their Picnics
The new discovery will allow for more research on the “political, administrative, economic and societal organization of the region”, and provide “new information on the beliefs and language systems of the Mycenean people,” the ministry said in a statement.
According to the culture ministry, more than 150 archaeological excavations were have been carried out in Greece so far this year, “demonstrating the importance of the archaeological wealth and cultural heritage of the country.”

Archaeologists in Scotland investigate the mystery of the Rhynie Man

In 1978 a farmer ploughing his fields discovered a 6 foot (1.8 meter) high carved stone depicting a man carrying an axe. The monumental carving turned out to be an ancient Pictish artifact which was given the name ‘the Rhynie Man’ by local people after the name of the village nearby. However, since the discovery of the stone, archaeologists have largely remained mystified about its origins and history.
The six–foot boulder depicts the a man clad in a sleeved garment. He seems to be walking and carrying an axe. The art is believed to date back to about 700 AD.
The six–foot boulder depicts the a man clad in a sleeved garment. He seems to be walking and carrying an axe. The art is believed to date back to about 700 AD. Credit: Rhynie Community Facilities Development Charitable Trust
Detail, The Rhynie Man stone.
Detail, The Rhynie Man stone. Credit: University of Aberdeen
Fortunately, a team of archaeologists from the University of Aberdeen is leading a dig to discover more about the stone in the area where it was originally found, at Barflat. Near the site is the Craw Stane, another Pictish standing stone.
The "Craw Stane", a Pictish symbol stone depicting a salmon and an unknown animal.
The "Craw Stane", a Pictish symbol stone depicting a salmon and an unknown animal. (CC BY-SA 2.0)
It’s believed that the stone dates from the fifth or sixth century. The figure depicted on the Rhynie Man stone is bearded, has a large pointed nose and wears a headdress.
“We did significant work at Rhynie in 2011/12 and identified that the area was a high-status and possibly even royal Pictish site” said Dr Gordon Noble, a Senior Lecturer in archaeology at the university. “We found many long distance connections such as pottery from the Mediterranean, glass from France and Anglo-Saxon metal work with evidence to suggest that intricate metalwork was produced on site. Over the years many theories have been put forward about the Rhynie Man. However, we don’t have a huge amount of archaeology to back any of these up so we want to explore the area in which he was found in much greater detail to yield clues about how and why he was created, and what the carved imagery might mean.”
Some people think that the Rhynie Man may have been a depiction of Esus, a Celtic god associated with trees and forestry. Some of the Pictish stones in the area also have ogham inscriptions on them. Later stones, dating from the sixth to ninth centuries were carved as Celtic crosses, remnants of the time when the Picts converted to Christianity.
Image of Esus, a Gaulish/Celtic god, on the Pillar of the Boatmen.
Image of Esus, a Gaulish/Celtic god, on the Pillar of the Boatmen. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
The Picts themselves were a mysterious people about whom not much is known, despite occasional references in works by classical scholars. They have gained a popular reputation as savage and wild warriors, but when the Norse peoples occupied the northern regions including what is now Scotland, the Picts had already long passed into mythology as part of Celtic ‘fairy’ lore. As with another mysterious indigenous group, the Druids, the Picts never wrote anything down, which means there are no written records to assist archaeologists involved in investigating them.
However, the Roman orator Eumenius wrote that the Britons regarded the Picts, alongside the Irish (the Picti and Hiberni), as enemies and that they went into battle semi-naked. It is more likely that the word Pict derives from a blanket term applied by the Romans. Its literal meaning is ‘painted people’ on account of the Pictish tradition of tattooing their bodies or painting themselves with blue woad warpaint.
A Pict looking out to sea as depicted in a 19th century book
A Pict looking out to sea as depicted in a 19th century book (Wikimedia Commons)
Pictland was never a unified region but was more likely formed from a series of kingdoms or federations, each with its own ruler.
The team of archaeologists have been excavating the site since August 20 and will present previous finds at a public open day on August 29, as well as discuss some of their initial ideas about the site. The Rhynie Man may have stood at the entrance to the fort but the archaeologists want to try and identify the exact location in the hope it will provide some insights into what exactly the role of the stone was.
One clue is that the type of axe that the carved figure carries is of a type that has previously been linked to ritual animal sacrifice. This means the stone may have been the focus of ceremonies and rituals at particular events held for high-status individuals. This in turn may help to provide some further clues about the imagery.
According to Aberdeenshire Council Archaeologist, Bruce Mann, the investigation is also helping people to learn about the history of Aberdeenshire including what part the Picts may have played in the early development of the area.
Featured image: The countryside of Scotland, formed originally by the joining together of a number of smaller kingdoms – such as those of the Picts, Dalriada, Strathclyde and others. (Arjayempee, Flickr/CC BY 2.0). Detail, The Rhynie Man.
By Robin Whitlock
Ancient Origins

History Trivia - Julius Caesar invades Great Britain

August 26

 55 BC Julius Caesar and his Roman Legions invaded Great Britain.

 1429 Joan of Arc made a triumphant entry into Paris.

1498 Michelangelo was commissioned to carve the Pietà.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

History Trivia - Battle of Crecy - English victorious

August 25

357 Julian Caesar defeated the Alamanni (alliance of German tribes) at Strousbourg in Gaul.

1346 Edward III of England defeated Philip VI's army at the Battle of Crecy in France.

 1549 Kett's Rebellion was a revolt in Norfolk, England during the reign of Edward VI. The rebellion was in response to the enclosure of land. It began in July 1549 but was eventually crushed by forces loyal to the English crown when the Earl of Warwick attacked and entered Norwich on August 25.