In Photos: Treasures of Mesopotamia

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In Photos: Treasures of Mesopotamia

Honanki Ruins: Photos Reveal Sprawling, Ancient Pueblos

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Honanki Ruins: Photos Reveal Sprawling, Ancient Pueblos

Chaco Canyon Photos: Amazing Ruins from an Ancient World

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Chaco Canyon Photos: Amazing Ruins from an Ancient World

Woman seeks man in ancient Egyptian ‘erotic binding spell’

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Woman seeks man in ancient Egyptian ‘erotic binding spell’

This Is ‘Lola,’ a 5,700-Year-Old Woman Whose Entire Life Is Revealed in Her ‘Chewing Gum’

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This Is ‘Lola,’ a 5,700-Year-Old Woman Whose Entire Life Is Revealed in Her ‘Chewing Gum’



Originally published on Live Science.

Student discovers 5,000-year-old sword hidden in Venetian monastery

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Student discovers 5,000-year-old sword hidden in Venetian monastery

The sword was mistakenly thought to be medieval. It is now thought to come from eastern Anatolia and to be about 5000 years-old – one of the oldest swords ever found.

The sword was mistakenly thought to be medieval. It is now thought to come from eastern Anatolia and to be about 5000 years-old – one of the oldest swords ever found.
(Image: © Ca’ Foscari University of Venice/Andrea Avezzù)

A keen-eyed archaeology student made the find of a lifetime when she spotted one of the oldest swords on record, mistakenly grouped with medieval artifacts in a secluded Italian museum.

The ancient sword was thought to be medieval in origin and maybe a few hundred years old at most — but studies have shown that it dates back about 5,000 years, to what is now eastern Turkey, where swords are thought to have been invented, in the early Bronze Age.

The weapon was spotted in November 2017 by Vittoria Dall’Armellina, who was then a doctoral student in archaeology at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice. She had made a day trip to the monastery on San Lazzaro degli Armeni, a tiny island on the edge of the Venetian lagoon.

The visit had nothing to do with her studies, and she’d never been there before. “It was a pleasure trip,” Dall’Armellina told Live Science in an email.

When she spotted the sword among the medieval artifacts on display in the monastery’s small museum, Dall’Armellina was sure she’d seen its distinctive shape before, she said.

She’d written her master’s thesis on social status in the early Bronze Age, and her studies had included high-status grave goods, such as ancient weapons.

“I thought that I knew that type of sword and that I was certain it was contemporary with those of Arslantepe and Sivas,” she said, referring to swords from the east of Anatolia, now eastern Turkey, which date to about 3000 B.C. and are thought to be the oldest in the world.

Related: The 22 weirdest military weapons

The ancient sword was spotted in the monastery museum on San Lazzaro degli Armeni by doctoral student Vittoria Dall'Armellia. Father Serafino Jamourlian researched how it got there.

The ancient sword was spotted in the monastery museum on San Lazzaro degli Armeni by doctoral student Vittoria Dall’Armellia. Father Serafino Jamourlian researched how it got there. (Image credit: Ca’ Foscari University of Venice/Andrea Avezzù)

Gift from Armenia

Dall’Armellina and scientists from Ca’ Foscari University set out to find out more about the mysterious sword.

They contacted the monastery at San Lazzaro degli Armeni, which has been a center for the Mekhitarist congregation of Armenian Catholic monks since 1717.

Research into the monastery’s archives by Father Serafino Jamourlian revealed that the sword had been sent in a donation of gifts from an Armenian art collector named Yervant Khorasandjian, to a monk named Ghevond Alishan, known as Father Leonzio, about 150 years ago.

Alishan was a famous poet and writer who was a friend of the famed English art critic John Ruskin; Alishan died in 1901, and his belongings passed on to his monastery.

According to a document that accompanied the donation, handwritten in Armenian and dating from the second half of the 19th century, the sword was found at Kavak, a settlement near the  ancient Greek colony of Trebizond on the Black Sea coast now Trabzon in eastern Turkey.

After Alishan’s death, the sword found its way into the monastery’s museum, where it was eventually placed in a cabinet of medieval artifacts.

Related: 12 bizarre medieval trends

It’s taken more than two years of detailed study, including metallurgical research, to verify that both the construction and composition of the sword are similar to those of the ancient swords found in eastern Turkey. In the meantime, Dall’Armellina has now completed her archaeology doctorate.

Scientific studies of the sword show it is made from copper hardened with small amounts of arsenic – an alloy used before true bronze was invented by mixing copper and tin.

Scientific studies of the sword show it is made from copper hardened with small amounts of arsenic – an alloy used before true bronze was invented by mixing copper and tin. (Image credit: Ca’ Foscari University of Venice/Andrea Avezzù)

Before bronze

One of the surprises is that the weapon is made of arsenical copper, an alloy of copper and arsenic used about 5,000 years ago, before true bronze was invented by alloying copper and tin.

“I was pretty sure of the antiquity of the sword,” Dall’Armellina said. But “when the results of the analysis revealed that the material was arsenical copper, it was a great satisfaction.”

The style of construction of the sword, known as its typology, and its metallic composition indicate that the artifact dates from an early stage of the Bronze Age.

The researchers also found that the sword was constructed in a similar way to that of the twin swords found at the ancient palace at Arslantepe, an archaeological site in eastern Turkey. Those have been firmly dated to about 5,000 years ago, according to a statement by the university.

Archaeologists think swords were invented in that region, and the sword from San Lazzaro degli Armeni is now thought to be an early example — perhaps even the oldest.

Similar ancient swords have been found in eastern Anatolia, while a different style of sword from the same period has been found in barrow graves, known as kurgans, in the adjoining northern Caucasus region, Ca’ Foscari University archaeologist Elena Rova told Live Science.

“It seems that in this area, between the northern Caucasus and eastern Anatolia, the sword was invented, and there were at least two typological variants,” Rova said.

“Local chiefs were buried with a lot of weapons and other precious objects,” she said. “They probably wanted to emphasize their status as warriors, and the sword was one of the symbols.”

Originally published on Live Science.


The First Evidence of ‘Head Cones’ Found in 3,300-Year-Old Egyptian Tomb

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The First Evidence of ‘Head Cones’ Found in 3,300-Year-Old Egyptian Tomb

Ancient Maya kingdom with pyramid discovered in southern Mexico

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Ancient Maya kingdom with pyramid discovered in southern Mexico

Do you know what makes tribal Borneo women beautiful?

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Do you know what makes tribal Borneo women beautiful?

| Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

When people talk about beauty, what comes to mind? Generally, its fair skin, long legs, silky hair, and pointed noses. Western media has done a lot to influence what we think is beautiful. Yet if we look past this bias, we find that not everyone has the same beauty ideals.

In Sarawak indigenous beauty is far different from the Eurocentric beauty standards. What makes an indigenous Sarawakian woman beautiful may be seen as ‘savage’ by many today because of our heavily Westernised interpretation of beauty. However, once upon a time, these beauty marks were highly sought after in their own communities. They are still appreciated today, despite the fact that many indigenous women no longer adhere to them.

Many of these beauty marks will sadly fade in time as modern-day life dictates a more practical approach. Before that happens, we’ve put together a list to remind us that beauty always lies in the eyes of the beholder.

So, in conjunction with International Women’s Day, we’re taking the opportunity to share with the world the unique beauty marks of Sarawak’s indigenous women.

Ring Ladies of Semban

In the region of Bengoh, 400 meters above sea level, lies a quaint village called Kampung Semban. As this village is nestled in the mountains, it is no wonder that it is nicknamed “the village above the clouds”.

The Semban people are a sub-tribe of the Bidayuhs. What sets them apart are the copper-coiled rings that adorn the forearms (ruyang) and calves (rusung) of their women. As of 2020, five women were recorded still wearing these rings, wherein only 4 are still active, which makes the ringed ladies of Semban an extremely rare sight.

Many centuries ago, Semban ladies started wearing these rings from as young as 10 years old. Even though the practice was not imposed on them, the girls chose to wear rings because according to pagan customs, only girls with the rings were allowed to attend festive ceremonies and dance, and who wants to miss a dance?

Wearing these rings made the young Semban ladies more beautiful. They are never taken off, even while doing daily chores such as tending the fields or taking showers. As a result, wearing them can be painful. However, to the Semban women, it was worth the pain because beauty precedes everything. And because the rings made them more beautiful, it also made it easier for them to find husbands.

The practise of wearing these rings slowly faded when formal education was introduced to the village in 1969. Girls were not allowed to wear them to school and because of this, many chose to take them off or not wear them at all after school or at weekends and during the holidays.

The older generations of Semban still find these rings attractive but the younger generation does not and it’s only a matter of time before the practise dies out.

Long Ears of the Orang Ulu

The longer the earlobes, the more beautiful they are. This is what the traditional Orang Ulu believe. To them, long earlobes accentuate a woman’s beauty and will attract more men to marry them. Back in the olden days, it was common to see women of Orang Ulu walking around Sarawak with long earlobes.

The Orang Ulu consists of the Kayan, Kenyah, Kelabit, Lun Bawang, and many other small tribes, commonly live in the lower-lying inland areas of northeastern Sarawak.

Using sharpened bamboo sticks, parents would pierce their children’s ears at just a few months old. After piercing, they wear brass earrings to elongate their earlobes. As they grow older, these brass earrings are replaced with heavier ones, weighing up to 500 grams a pair. These earrings then stretch out the earlobes, preferably reaching their shoulders and beyond.

This process is painful and their ears may even bleed and become infected. However, according to those who went through the process, the feeling of getting their earlobes to reach their shoulders left them elated.


Elongated earlobes are a symbol of beauty to the wearer. It is also said that the longer the earlobes are, the more significant the individual is to the tribe.

Sadly, with modernisation, the younger generation no longer practices this tradition. The elders do not blame their grandchildren for refusing to follow in their footsteps as they need to assimilate with the city and such signs of beauty don’t sit well with modernity.

Flat Foreheads of the Melanau women

Once upon a time, the Melanau people of Mukah and Bintulu deemed round faces as beautiful. Parents went to great extremes to get their children to grow up looking “moon-faced”.

To achieve this desired feature, a young infant had to go through ‘melipih beleang’, a process that flattens their foreheads with a device called ‘jak’.

The jak is a flat wooden bar that is 24cm long and 9cm wide. A soft pad is then attached to the centre of the bar, which is placed in the middle of the baby’s forehead. This is connected to a T-shaped strap of cloth with strings. These strings are then guided into a hole in the middle of a copper coin or a wooden disc.

This contraption is then strapped around the heads of infants while they sleep. By twisting the coin or disc, pressure is gradually applied to the babies’ foreheads. If the baby woke up or started crying, pressure would slowly be released. Each application usually lasts for 15 minutes and it takes between 10 to 20 uses of the jak to achieve the desired ‘moon-face’ effect.

Mothers will start using jak on their infants when they are as young as two weeks old because their bones are still quite malleable. Even though this process is painful and dangerous, the girls won’t remember the pain as they were too young when they went through it.

The Melanau people believe that round faces have the perfect head shape to don the serebang (golden tiara).

Tattooed women of the Kayan Tribe

Even though many tribes don tattoos, in the Kayan tribe, it was mostly the women who got them. These tattoos are called ‘tedek’. Girls would get tattooed as young as ten years old, and it was considered a rite of passage into adulthood.

The Kayan tribe are mainly settled along the Baram, Bintulu, and Rajang River in Sarawak.

The tattooing process begins with the girl’s fingers and the upper part of her feet. Within a year, her upper arms and thighs would be covered. It can take up to four years to complete the whole tattooing process, depending on the woman’s endurance level to pain. Only once her tattoos are complete can she be eligible for marriage.

The more tattoos a woman has, the more beautiful she is considered to be. Tattoos symbolise their identity, courage, beauty, and social status. The Kayan also believe that these tattoos will become their guiding lights in the darkness of the afterlife.

After the arrival of missionaries into Sarawak, there was a negative connotation attached to tattoos, mainly because of the influence of Abrahamic religions. However, recently there has been a resurgence of the tattoo culture led by younger generations who modernise traditional motifs to assimilate with the current world. If you’d like to learn more about the significance and symbolism of tribal tattoos in Sarawakian culture, you can read our article here.

What people may deem as a ‘thing of the past’ still holds a lot of cultural significance. Even though we see less of these beauty marks today, their allure remains alive in the eyes of many elder Sarawakians.

They are also deeply appreciated by the younger generations who are putting a lot of effort into keeping their culture and heritage alive through stories and art.

Hoard of Gold Coins from Early Abbasid Period Found in Israel

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Hoard of Gold Coins from Early Abbasid Period Found in Israel

Feb 4, 2020 by News Staff / Source

A cache of gold dinars dating to the 9th century CE has been unearthed by a team of archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).

1,100-year-old gold dinars from the early Abbasid period found inside a juglet in Yavne, Israel. Image credit: Liat Nadav-Ziv, Israel Antiquities Authority.

The hoard, which includes seven gold dinars, was found in Yavne, a town in the Central District of Israel.

“We were surprised to discover a broken clay juglet containing gold coins,” the IAA archaeologists said.

“The excavations revealed an ancient industrial area which was active for several hundred years. The shiny treasure may have been a potter’s personal ‘piggy bank’.”

“I was in the middle of cataloging a large number of artifacts we found during the excavations when all of a sudden I heard shouts of joy,” added IAA archaeologist Dr. Liat Nadav-Ziv, co-director of the excavation.

“I ran towards the shouting and saw Marc Molkondov, a veteran archaeologist of the IAA, approaching me excitedly.”

“We quickly followed him to the field where we were surprised at the sight of the treasure. This is without a doubt a unique and exciting find especially during the Chanukah holiday.”

The Yavne hoard. Image credit: Liat Nadav-Ziv, Israel Antiquities Authority.

IAA coin expert Dr. Robert Kool dated the Yavne hoard to the 9th century CE (the early Abbasid period).

Among the coins found in the hoard is a gold dinar minted during the reign of the Haroun al-Rashid (786-809 CE), Caliph in the Arabian Nights.

“The hoard also includes coins that are rarely found in Israel,” Dr. Kool said.

“These are gold dinars issued by the Aghlabid dynasty that ruled in North Africa, in the region of modern Tunisia, on behalf of the Abbasid Caliphate centered in Bagdad.”