Giving new life to some of Pompeii’s dead


Archaeologists are using CT scans to study the plaster casts of the victims of Mount Vesuvius to learn more about Pompeii’s residents and their way of life.


(Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples, Italy/De Agostini Picture Library/L. Pedicini/Bridgeman Images) A wall painting from the House of the Golden Bracelet in Pompeii dating to the 1st-century B.C. or the 1st-century A.D. depicts a garden filled with dozens of local species of plants and birds, a birdbath, herms supporting plaques showing sleeping women, and theater masks.


The three-story House of the Golden Bracelet on the Vicolo del Farmacista was one of the most opulent in Pompeii, its walls covered with vibrant frescoes depicting theatrical scenes and imitating expensive marble paneling, its floors paved with intricate black-and-white geometric mosaics. At the rear of the house lay a verdant garden with a splashing fountain and quiet pools, its natural beauty echoed by wall paintings depicting oleander, viburnum, arbutus, bay, palm trees, irises, roses, daisies, and poppies, home to doves and house sparrows, a swallow, a golden oriole, and a jay. From the terrace was a view of the sea, whose breezes cooled the house during hot Mediterranean summers.

The morning of August 24, A.D. 79, was relatively quiet in Pompeii, perhaps disturbed only slightly by a series of earthquakes common enough to the region. But by just past noon things drastically changed, when, according to the first-century Roman writer Pliny the Younger, a cloud of “unusual size and appearance” spewed from nearby Mount Vesuvius. Soon ash, pumice, and stone began to fall, flames could be seen leaping from the mountain, buildings shook and swayed, and, in places, although it was still day, there was “darkness blacker and denser than ordinary night.” For two days, the volcano erupted ferociously, on the first day expelling millions of tons of debris, burying Pompeii at a rate of roughly six inches an hour. Thousands of people were trapped: “You could hear the shrieks of women, the wailing of infants, and the shouting of men; some were calling to their parents, others their children or their wives, trying to recognize them by their voices,” writes Pliny. On the second day, surges of superheated rock, ash, and gases, called pyroclastic flows, rushed down the mountain at speeds of more than 100 miles per hour, flattening the buildings that remained standing, and scalding or perhaps suffocating those who had not already been buried. By the end of August 25, more than 2,000 people likely had died in Pompeii, and at least 15,000 had probably perished in the region.

(Araldo de Luca) A bracelet weighing more than a pound, composed of a two-headed snake holding a medallion depicting the moon goddess Selene, gives the House of the Golden Bracelet its name.


Giuseppe Fiorelli became director of excavations in Pompeii in 1860. Realizing that it was not just structures, paintings, mosaics, and artifacts that had been covered by volcanic debris, but also plants, animals, and people, Fiorelli developed a new method for recovering these once-living specimens. When excavators encountered voids in the hardened ash and pumice created by the decay of organic material, they poured plaster into them. They then left the plaster to dry, after which they removed the material around the plaster, revealing the bodies of victims at the very moments of their deaths.

In 1974 four people were discovered in voids under a flight of stairs leading to the House of the Golden Bracelet’s garden. Using the technique pioneered by Fiorelli, casts were made of the bodies, revealing them to be a man, a woman, and two small children who had likely died on the eruption’s second day, killed either by the collapse of the staircase or by the pyroclastic flow. The casts have now been moved to a lab in Pompeii as part of an ambitious project to study and restore 86 of the 103 that have been made, including the four people from the House of the Golden Bracelet. Some casts are more than 150 years old, and their surfaces have become marred and pitted. Iron rods used for reinforcement have rusted and expanded, cracking the casts, and preserved bones have decayed. Even some of the newer ones (the most recent was made in 1999) have shown need of immediate care. “We decided to undertake this project now because we need to maintain the casts’ structural integrity. It will also bring the story of Pompeii’s destruction to those living now, and to future generations,” says Stefano Vanacore, the director of the lab in Pompeii. None of the casts has ever been restored, presenting the team with a huge challenge. “There was no experience of how to restore the casts, and no single way to do so because they were made over such a long time using many different materials,” Vanacore says. “For example, Fiorelli used very high-quality plaster reinforced with wood, so his casts are in much better condition than those made later with poorer quality materials.”


(Pasquale Sorrentino) Casts of the man, the woman, and the two children found in the House of the Golden Bracelet


To begin the process, restorers brushed loose debris from the casts, cleaned their surfaces using quick-evaporating chemical solutions, and reattached loose fragments and broken limbs. To consolidate them, they used an acrylic resin suitable for both plaster and bone, and, where possible, replaced the iron rods with non-corrosive fiberglass. “We had to make sure that there were no adverse reactions between the different, old materials, and the new ones we introduced,” says Vanacore. The work did not stop there. All 86 casts have been scanned with lasers to create 3-D images that are giving researchers a highly detailed view of their surface deterioration. In addition, small copies of the casts were made using 3-D printing technology. Of the 86, 16 were moved to a lab for CT scans—the choice of which casts to scan was determined by which could fit through the scanner’s opening—allowing researchers to see inside them for the first time. “We don’t just want to restore the casts, we also want to better understand the eating habits, diseases, and even causes of death of these ancient Pompeians,” explains Vanacore. “For example, we learned that they didn’t have cavities or tooth decay, likely because they had a low-sugar diet and used only sweeteners derived from fruit.”

In addition to such new information about the overall health of the city’s inhabitants now being revealed by the scans, the work may also provide specific details of some individuals’ lives. For example, CT scans of the teeth of one of the children from the House of the Golden Bracelet, the only child to be scanned, shows that he was between four and five years old at the time of his death, not three as had previously been thought. Researchers also discovered that he wore an amulet around his neck—it had never been seen before because it was deeply embedded in the plaster. DNA testing currently under way may help determine the relationships between the four people hiding under the stairs on that day in August.

For anyone who sees the casts, it’s impossible not to be affected by them. “I have a lot of emotions when I look at the casts,” says Vanacore. “The restoration is a scientific intervention and an investigation of the deaths caused by Vesuvius, but I have respect for what and how unique these casts are. For example, I think of the family in the House of the Golden Bracelet, joined together until death. They aren’t just graphic representations of people, but actual people made of bones, teeth, and skulls. Though they lived a long time ago, they were people just like us.”

Jarrett A. Lobell is executive editor at ARCHAEOLOGY.

Casts of Pompeii

Of the thousands of inhabitants, buildings, and artifacts buried in Pompeii by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in August of A.D. 79—entire houses decorated with vibrant wall paintings, ovens with bread still baking inside, hoards of precious jewelry and coins—there are none so affecting as the people and animals who were the volcano’s victims. In 1860, Pompeii’s director of excavations Giuseppe Fiorelli developed a way to, in a sense, bring them back to life by creating plaster casts out of the voids left by the decay of organic materials in the hardened ash and pumice. Many of the casts are in dire need of conservation, and the current archaeological superintendency is now undertaking the task of moving, conserving, and restoring 86 of the 103 casts that were made, using both traditional techniques, as well as the latest technology, to ensure that they survive long into the future as well. Below are images of some of the most compelling casts.

For the first time in history, almost all of Pompeii’s casts have been moved from locations all over the city to an on-site lab where they will be conserved and restored.
Many of the casts preserve people in poses that appear as if they are crawling along the ground or hiding their faces to escape the eruption’s swiftly falling debris or the rush of poisonous gasses.
Likely as a result of the corrosion and expansion of the iron rods once used to reinforce the casts, entire limbs have broken off some casts. The rods are now being replaced with fiberglass wherever possible.
Surprisingly, despite the volcano’s tremendous power and the passage of nearly 2,000 years, some bone and teeth do survive as part of the casts. Ongoing studies have demonstrated that the ancient Pompeians had a diet low in sugar and had excellent teeth.
In addition to people and plants, and in particular tree roots of the species growing at the time, some casts were made of animals killed during the eruption. Here the dog’s collar is still visible.
After restoration in one lab, some casts were taken to a second lab to undergo CT scans. The 3-D images created by the scans are revealing details about the individuals’ remains, as well as the condition of the casts themselves.






Archaeologists make exciting discovery at Aptera in Crete


Archaeologists excavating the site of Ancient Aptera in Iraklio, Crete, on Tuesday announced the discovery of two small yet spectacular statues depicting the gods Artemis and Apollo.
The two statues, which are believed to be a pair, have a height of about half a meter, including their pedestals, and are believed to date to the second half of the 1st century or early 2nd century AD.
That of Artemis, the hunting goddess worshiped in Aptera, is cast in bronze, while her brother Apollo is carved from marble.
The goddess, standing on an ornate base also of bronze, is in an excellent state of preservation, the head of the excavation, Vanna Niniou-Kindeli, said, with all of her limbs intact and posed as though ready to shoot an arrow.
The statue of Apollo, said the archaeologist, is much simpler in style – possibly denoting the god’s junior position to his sister – but well executed and with traces of rare red paint at its base.
The two sculptures may have been imported to the island in order to adorn the Roman-era villa in which they were found, archaeologists believe.
Aptera’s survived from Minoan through Hellenistic times, after which it fell into decline.

Militants bulldoze through Native American archeological site, share video rifling through artifacts

Militants bulldoze through Native American archeological site, share video rifling through artifacts – By Jen Hayden :


A federally owned bulldozer in the background has been used to bulldoze an ancient site

Armed militants at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge continue to damage both the delicate ecosystem of the refuge and archeological sites of critical importance to the Burns Paiute Tribe. Amanda Peacher from Oregon Public Broadcasting shared photos of what appeared to be a new road in the refuge and got confirmation that not only is the road new, it goes through a vitally important area:

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed Thursday that not only is the road built last week by the occupiers new, but it is also within an archaeological site important to the Burns Paiute Tribe.

Members of the Burns Paiute Tribe are increasingly angry nothing has been done to get the armed militants out of the refuge and away from their artifacts and the archeological sites:

On Friday, the tribe delivered a letter to federal agencies including the U.S. Attorney and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service demanding prosecution of Ammon Bundy and other armed militants occupying the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, “If the occupiers disturb, damage, remove, alter, or deface any archaeological resource on the refuge property.

There are approximately 4,000 artifacts belonging to the tribe in the buildings the militants are holding. The occupation is entering its third week.

The tribe is demanding federal action under both theArchaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 and a “protection against bad men” provision in the treaty the tribe signed with the United States in 1868.

Meanwhile, in the video below, LaVoy Finicum and other armed militants show themselves rifling through boxes of artifacts and offering to return them to the Burns Paiute Tribe. Some of the artifacts at the refuge date back 6,000 years. Tribal representatives have repeatedly said they want the militants to leave immediately:

“They just need to get the hell out of here,” said Jarvis Kennedy, a member of the tribal council. “They didn’t ask anybody, we don’t want them here…our little kids are sitting at home when they should be in school.”

They also note the relationship with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has evolved over the years:

“We feel strongly because we have had a good working relationship with the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge,” she said. “We view them as a protector of our cultural rights in that area.”

Watch as the militants open boxes and show off the artifacts, complaining about their storage and offering to return to the tribe who helped archive them at the refuge in the first place:


Damnatio Memoriae: The damnation of memory. An act that occurs throughout history over multiple rulers and other icons and temples. 

A history lesson on the damnatio memoria of Ancient Egypt’s Female Pharaoh, Hatshepsut by Kate Narev.

The pharaoh that wouldn’t be forgotten by Kate Narev- source

Hatshepsut was a female pharaoh during the New Kingdom in Egypt. Twenty years after her death, somebody smashed her statues, took a chisel and attempted to erase the pharaoh’s name and image from history. But who did it? And why? Kate Narev investigates Hatshepsut’s history for clues to this ancient puzzle.


Honduras team unearths ceramics at “White City”

Source –  
This Feb. 21, 2015 handout photo provided by Benenson Productions, shows a very unusual stone, flat on top and bottom, which was wedged shaped, and with a white raised “arrow” carved into it, running above and apparently also below the bottom of the stone, in the jungle-covered Mosquito coastal region of Honduras. U.S. and Honduran archaeologists have begun excavations on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016, at the mysterious site on Honduras’ Caribbean coast that may be the near-mythical “White City” ruins, also known as the “City of the Monkey God.” The dig is being carried out by archaeologists from Honduras’ Institute of Anthropology and Colorado State University. (Bill Benenson/Benenson Productions via AP)

Honduran officials said Friday that archaeologists have begun excavations at a mysterious site on Honduras’ Caribbean coast that may be the long-rumored “White City” ruins. Officials said excavation that began Wednesday have so far unearthed about five dozen stone and ceramic fragments and other artifacts.

Also known as the “City of the Monkey God,” the site is located in Honduras’ jungle-covered Mosquito coastal region.
The dig is being carried out by archaeologists from Honduras’ Institute of Anthropology and Colorado State University. Institute Director Virgilio Paredes said the site did not appear to be Mayan, the culture that dominated other sites in the region. “It is a new culture, or a different culture,” Paredes said. He said that jars and bowls had been discovered that bore decorations that appeared to represent humans, jaguars, buzzards, lizards and birds. The pieces appear to date to between 1,000 and 1,500 AD, Paredes said.

The most striking piece discovered appears to be a ceremonial seat or throne made of stone, carved with the figure of a jaguar. The city’s name is believed to be derived from the white limestone rock in the area, or a cult purported dedicated to a monkey god.
Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez visited the site and said in a statement “We are blessed to be alive at such a special time in Honduran history.” “This discovery has created a lot of excitement because of its significance for Honduras and the world,” Hernandez said. Honduras’ Minister of Science, Ramon Espinoza, said “there will be further research to gather more data, because there is no other site in central America with a lost civilization.”

The area is inhabited by the Pech and Payas indigenous groups, who long spoke of such a site. The first written reference came in 1544, in a document written by Spanish Bishop Cristobal de Pedraza. U.S. adventurer Theodore Morde claimed to have discovered “The Lost City of the Monkey God” in 1940, but didn’t reveal the location.

The rumored site had supposedly been located and lost between the 1500s and the 1800s. Researchers detected the current excavation site in 2012.

Archaeologists Begin Excavation of Honduran “Lost City”

Nearly a year after discovering mysterious artifacts, a new expedition seeks clues to the identity of the civilization that made them.

By Mark Strauss PUBLISHED JANUARY 12, 2016 – Source:



Archaeologists believe that the remote Mosquitia region in eastern Honduras harbors not one, but many “lost cities.”    PHOTOGRAPH BY DAVE YODER, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE


For a century, explorers and prospectors in Honduras told tales of the white ramparts of a lost city glimpsed above jungle foliage. Indigenous stories speak of a “white house” where Indians took refuge from Spanish conquistadores.

While the notion of a fabulous White City or a “Lost City of the Monkey God” buried in the jungle remains the stuff of legend, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez paid a visit Tuesday to a real and recently discovered lost city—complete with earthen pyramids, plazas, and a cache of stone artifacts—to participate in the excavation of the first artifact from the cache.


Archaeologists announced the discovery of the ancient community in the remote Mosquitia region in eastern Honduras last March. The stone objects, including an effigy of a “were-jaguar,” were left untouched under military protection until a second expedition could be mounted to return to conduct a carefully managed excavation. The archaeological team, led by Christopher Fisher of Colorado State University and supported by the Honduran government and a grant from the National Geographic Society, will spend a month recovering the artifacts.


“We’re hoping to find out what culture was here,” says Virgilio Paredes, Director of the Honduran Institute for Anthropology and History, who is accompanying President Hernandez to the site.


At the end of the month, says Paredes, the team of investigators will begin developing a “strategic plan” to widen their search. The site visited by the initial expedition last March is just one of three in the region revealed by an aerial survey in 2012 using an imaging technique called lidar. In fact, the archaeologists believe that La Mosquitia harbors not one, but many “lost cities,” which taken together represent something far more important—a lost civilization.

Tomb of Queen Khentakawess III discovered in Egypt

Tomb of Queen Khentakawess III discovered in Egypt -source:
A team of Czech archaeologists have discovered the tomb of a previously unknown Egyptian queen in the Pharaoh Neferefre’s funeral complex at Abu-Sir, a necropolis southwest of Cairo that’s home to several pyramids dedicated to pharaohs from the Fifth Dynasty.
According to BBC News and AFP reports, the queen’s name, Khentakawess (also spelled Khentkaus) was discovered on a wall in the necropolis. This would make her Khentakawess III, Egyptian Antiquities Minister Mamdouh el-Damaty said, and it is believed she was Neferefre’s wife and the mother of Pharoah Menkahur.
Pharaoh Neferefre ruled 4,500 years ago, and his wife’s name had not previously been known, al-Damaty told reporters. Based on the location of the tomb, it is believed that Khentakawess III was probably his spouse, noted Miroslav Barta of the Czech Institute of Egyptology.

Discovery could shed new light on the Fifth Dynasty
Barta’s team also discovered approximately 30 utensils, including two dozen made out of copper and limestone. Officials at the antiquities ministry said the tomb had been dated to the middle of the Fifth Dynasty, which lasted from 2994 BC to 2345 BC, the AFP noted.
The discovery “will help us shed light on certain unknown aspects of the Fifth Dynasty, which along with the Fourth Dynasty, witnessed the construction of the first pyramids,” el-Damaty said, adding that this marked the “first time we have discovered the name of this queen who had been unknown before the discovery of her tomb.”
“The unearthed tomb is a part of a small cemetery to the south east of the pyramid complex of King Neferefre (Raneferef) which led the team to think that Queen Khentkaus could be the wife of Neferefre hence she was buried close to his funerary complex,” Barta told the Luxor Times.
“The tomb is very similar to the rest of the burial in the cemetery which was unearthed by the Czech mission in the ’90s,” added Giza Antiquities director Kamal Wahid. “The upper part is a mastaba [a rectangular tomb with sloping sides and a flat roof] and a small offerings chapel and the burial chamber in the lower part which is reached through a shaft.”


Sir Mortimer Wheeler’s Mohenjo-daro excavation photos of 1950

Sir Mortimer Wheeler’s personal excavation photos Mohenjo-daro in 1950. -source
A hitherto unknown box of 63 images in Sir Mortimer Wheeler’s personal collection from excavations he led at Mohenjo-daro in 1950. With new captions by Jonathan Mark Kenoyer. Restored with diagrams, maps, the original caption sheets found with the images and ancillary material from Wheeler’s published works.
Table of Contents

ACC Citadel Gateway Southeast

Aerial View


Museum Campus

REM Granary

Stupa Area

Areas not known

Numbered List found with photographs

Additional Images from Wheeler’s The Indus Civilization (1963).

To view all 63 images, click on link below title of post. 



The cave of Tuc Audoubert was discovered by the three sons of Count Henri three Bégouën on 20 July and 10 October 1912.
Modeled out of clay from the walls of the cave, the bisons stand next to each, propped up against a small boulder in the darkness. Although they stand at a diminutive 18 inches tall by 24 inches long, their craftsmanship and durability is remarkable. Until they were discovered in the early 20th century, the bison stood alone in the damp French cave for thousands of years.
 The marks of the artist’s hand and the tools used to draw the details of the face and mane are still clearly visible. Objects such as these clearly show that man was using clay for artistic expression long before the actual firing of clay was discovered. The walls of these caves also are covered with drawings of bison and other game animals, marked in carbon from the fires, as well as the earth minerals such as iron oxide and manganese, showing that these ceramic coloring materials that we still use today were known to our earliest ancestors.
The bisons’ shaggy mane and beard appear to be carved with a tool, but the jaws are traced by the sculptor’s fingernail. The impression given is one of immense naturalistic beauty. The female bison is ready to mate, while the Bull is sniffing the air. Both animals are supported by a central rock, and are unbelievably well preserved (proving perhaps that there was never a passage connecting the Tuc d’Audoubert cave with the Trois Freres), although they have suffered some drying out, which has caused some cracks to appear across their bodies. Also in the chamber are two other bison figures, both engraved on the ground. Prehistorians have theorized that the a small group of people (including a child) remained in the Tuc d’Audoubert cave with the sole reason of participating in certain ceremonies associated with the cave art. The remote location of the clay bison – beneath a low ceiling at the very end of the upper gallery, roughly 650 metres from the entrance, is consistent with their involvement in some type of ritualistic or shamanistic process.

Otzi the Iceman

Otzi the Iceman’s Ancient Tattoos




Perhaps the most famous tattooed ancient man is Ötzi the Iceman, who died high in the Italian Alps more than 5,000 years ago. Ötzi’s clothing, tools, and weapons are a remarkable window into the life of a herder or perhaps a chieftain in Copper Age Europe. But it is Ötzi’s body itself, almost perfectly preserved by the snow and ice that covered him shortly after his death, that provides unique evidence of early medicine. Ötzi is covered with more than 50 tattoos in the form of lines and crosses made up of small incisions in his skin into which charcoal was rubbed. Because they are all found on parts of the body that show evidence of a lifetime of wear and tear—the ankles, wrists, knees, Achilles tendon, and lower back, for example—it’s thought that Ötzi’s tattoos were therapeutic, not decorative or symbolic. When Ötzi was first studied, archaeologists were shocked because they had never before seen Copper Age tattoos, and because acupuncture as a treatment for joint distress, rheumatism, and arthritis was thought to have originated in Asia more than 2,000 years later.



Otzi the Iceman Carried Ulcer-Causing Bacteria

BOLZANO, ITALY—Paleopathologist Albert Zink and microbiologist Frank Maixner of the European Academy in Bozen/Bolzano have identified the presence of Helicobacter pylori in the stomach contents of Ötzi, the frozen human remains discovered in the Alps in 1991. As many as half of people today are infected with Helicobacter pylori, which can cause gastritis or stomach ulcers. Ötzi’s stomach mucosa is no longer present, so scientists did not expect to be able to recover any traces of the bacterium. “We were able to solve the problem once we hit upon the idea of extracting the entire DNA of the stomach contents. After this was successfully done, we were able to tease out the individual Helicobacter sequences and reconstruct a 5,300-year-old Helicobacter pylori genome,” Maixner explained in a press release. And Ötzi’s immune system had reacted to the potentially virulent strain of bacteria. “We showed the presence of marker proteins which we see today in patients infected with Helicobacter,” Maixner addedThe genetic makeup of the bacteria has raised more questions, however, and further research is being planned. The study of bacteria living inside the human body may eventually be able to help us understand how humans developed.