In 2004, a group of 80 individuals were discovered at Driffield Terrace, in York. They were buried between the late 1st and early 4th centuries AD, on a large cemetery on the outskirts of Eboracum, the Roman town of York.They are unusual because they are all believed to be male, most are adults – and more than half had been decapitated. When these 30 bodies were buried some got their heads in the right place – on their shoulders. Others saw their heads placed between their knees, on their chests or down by their feet. In one double burial the two bodies even had had their heads swapped over. Exotic Origins and Diet Where these ‘headless Romans’ native Yorkshire-men or incomers, and might their origins be linked to the way they were buried? New research using isotope analysis has shown that the ‘Headless Romans’ found in a cemetery in York came from as far away as Eastern Europe.
Egyptian archaeologists discovered a 4400-year-old tomb, south of the cemetery of the pyramid builders at Giza, Egypt. In a statement, Egyptian Minister of Culture Farouk Hosny, said the ancient Egyptian tomb was unearthed during routine excavations supervised by the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) near the pyramid builder’s necropolis. The recently discovered tomb belongs to a priest named Rudj-Ka (or Rwd-Ka), and is dated to the 5th Dynasty – between 2465 and 2323 BC. Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the SCA, said that Rudj-Ka had several titles and would have been an important member of the ancient Egyptian court. Rudj-Ka was a purification priest serving the mortuary cult of Khafre (2520-2494 BC), the 4th Dynasty pharaoh who built the second-largest pyramid at Giza.
Almost 2,000 years after its last native speakers disappeared, the sound of Ancient Babylonian makes a comeback in an online audio archive. The recordings include excerpts from some of the earliest known works of world literature, dating back to the first years of the second millennium BC. Prompted by the enquiries of curious colleagues and friends, Dr. Martin Worthington, an expert in Babylonian and Assyrian grammar from the University of Cambridge, has begun to record readings of Babylonian poems, myths and other texts in the original tongue. In an effort to present users with a variety of voices, the readings – available online for free at www.speechisfire.com – are given by Dr. Worthington’s fellow Assyriologists.
Archaeologists at the University of Birmingham are heading to Stonehenge to lead the Britain’s biggest-ever virtual excavation, a far from superficial look at the Stonehenge landscape. The Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project will use the latest geophysical imaging techniques to visually recreate the iconic prehistoric monument and its surroundings as it was more than 4000 years ago.Update 22/07/2010 First result is the discovery of a henge, about 900m from Stonehenge itself. Magnetometer images & photos here. The Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project, started early July, aims to bring together the most sophisticated geophysics team ever to be engaged in a single archaeological project in Britain to work alongside specialists in British prehistory and landscape archaeology in a three-year collaboration.
Archaeologists have unearthed twelve ancient sphinx statues at Luxor, Egypt. The sculptures were found at a newly discovered part of the Avenue of Sphinxes, an ancient road stretching from the temple at Karnak to the temple of the goddess Mut at Luxor. The discovery, made as part of excavation and restoration works at the site by the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), was announced by Egypt’s Minister of Culture, Farouk Hosni. The statues of the mythical creatures, inscribed with the name of Pharaoh Nectanebo I, were found in the last sector of the Avenue of Sphinxes, a part of the sacred pathway that – although its existence was known to historians from ancient texts – was never precisely located.
Tutankhamun’s mummy is being safely kept in KV62 in the Valley of the Kings. It’s hard to imagine his body would ever leave Egypt, yet thousands of visitors to the touring King Tut exhibition at New York are being offered the chance to see an exact replica of the boy-king’s mummy based on CT scans of him. The process of creating the replica – the subject of this short video – is highly impressive, and has a nice sci-fi touch to it. Personally I can’t wait to see this done to Motoko Kusanagi* – but in the meantime see how they cloned Tut (and if they’ve included the willy). A short answer to ‘how did they do this?’ is 3D printing. The longer answer is that the company behind the replica mummy used data from CT scans on Tutankhamun’s 3,300-year-old mummy to create a 3D model with the same specifications as the original, a virtual replica. Then it was time to print King Tut. The 3D printer used (Belgian Materialise‘s Mammoth Stereolithography machine) can print objects up to two metres long, and is more used for printing car bumpers than ancient Egyptian mummies.
A French archaeological team digging at Saqqara has discovered the burial chamber of 6th Dynasty Queen Behenu, wife of either Pepi I or Pepi II. The burial chamber was revealed while the team was cleaning the sand from Behenu’s pyramid in the area of el-Shawaf in South Saqqara, west of the pyramid of King Pepi I. The burial chamber uncovered by the French mission is badly damaged, apart from two inner walls which contain engraved Pyramid Texts. Those texts were widely used in royal tombs – carved on walls as well as sarcophagi – during the 5th and 6th Dynasties (circa 2465-2150BC). Pyramid Texts are religious texts composed of spells primarily concerned with protecting the king’s remains, reanimating his body after death, and helping him ascend to the heavens. The spells delineate all of the ways the king could travel through the afterlife, including ramps, stairs, ladders, and most importantly, flight. The spells could also be used to call on the gods for help, even threatening them if they did not comply. Unlike the Book of the Dead, into which parts of the pyramid texts later evolved, these Old Kingdom texts were not illustrated.
The treasures of King Tut are currently making their rounds of the US and Canada in one of the most eagerly-anticipated tours in recent years. In an exclusive interview for Heritage Key, I caught up with Dr Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Egypt, after his lecture in Indianapolis on Friday, where the exhibition Tutankhamum: The Golden King and the Great Pharoahs is currently running. We got some very special insights into current issues in Egyptology, including the newly opened tomb of Horemheb, the legacy of King Tut, and Dr Hawass’s own plans for book releases and retirement.