The Nebra Sky Calendar of the Ancients, Germany.

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The Nebra Sky Disk photographed in Basel, Switzerland, in 2006 – Dbachmann via Wikipedia
Henry Westphal is tired. It’s July 4, 1999, a Sunday. He and a friend are climbing the Mittelberg or “Central Hill,” a small mountain near Nebra, in central Germany.
Both men know of ancient ruins located here. Equipped with two metal detectors, they hope to find something of value.
Westphal stops to rest for a couple of minutes. It’s a hot day and he’s out of shape.
Suddenly his metal detector starts beeping wildly. He brushes some leaves aside with his shoe but can’t make out anything. The detector’s display reads, “OVERLOAD.”
With a pick, Westphal scrapes at the dry ground. Under a few inches of soil, the pick hits something hard several times.
Together the two treasure-hunters dig a small pit. They find several objects: two decorative swords, two ax heads, a chisel, and two bracelets. The objects are piled beside a large, round disk oriented upright in the ground.
Through the dirt sticking to the disk, a faint golden shimmer is visible.
The men take the objects, cover up the hole, and drive home. That night they go to a bar to celebrate the unusual and obviously valuable find. What neither of them knows is that the dirty disk would turn out to be a one-of-a-kind, 3,600-year-old artifact, later declared to be one of the most important finds of the 20th century.
After soaking the disk in a bathtub filled with water and dish soap for several days, Westphal sells it together with the other objects to an art dealer for 31,000 Deutsche marks (about 19,000 U.S. dollars at the time).
The dealer knows the items are worth more and tries to sell them to several museums. The museums decline, realizing that trading in this ancient find is illegal. The disk ends up on the black market.
In May 2001, Harald Meller, the new state archaeologist in Saxony-Anhalt, hears about the disk. Photos show it’s in bad shape; Westphal had accidentally damaged it with his pick and inexpert cleaning.
Meller, the State Criminal Investigation Office, and other officials come up with a plan to get the objects back. Like Indiana Jones, Meller knows that a find like this belongs in a museum.
The item of interest, now known as the Nebra Sky Disk, is a five-pound* plate of bronze inlaid with dozens of gold symbols. The gold figures include a lunar crescent, a large circle, and 30 small circles.
After studying the disk for many years, archaeologists have concluded that it is the oldest and accurate diagram of the sky ever found. The disk was a carefully made map used both for practical and religious purposes.
One of the most important components of the disk is a tight group of seven stars placed between the lunar crescent and the large circle denoting the full moon.
They represent the Pleiades, or Seven Sisters, a cluster of stars visible with the naked eye to people in the Northern Hemisphere. The Pleiades were known to, depicted by, and followed with interest by ancient cultures around the globe.
Read the full article via The Amazing Sky Calendar That Ancients Used to Track Seasons – Facts So Romantic – Nautilus.

The Ancient Mosaics of Zeugma, Turkey.

ancient-mosaics-discovered-in-ancient-greek-city-of-zeugma-1Three new mosaics were recently discovered in the ancient Greek city of Zeugma, which is located in the present-day province of Gaziantep in southern Turkey.
The incredibly well-preserved mosaics date back to 2nd century BC.
Zeugma was considered one of the most important centers of the Eastern Roman Empire and the ancient city has provided a treasure trove of discoveries with 2000-3000 houses in remarkably good condition.
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Photograph via iefimerida.gr
Up until 2000 the ancient city was completely submerged underwater until a project to excavate the area received funding from a number of sources.
There are still many areas of Zeugma—a city once home to nearly 80,000 inhabitants—left to excavate, including 25 houses still underwater.
It’s exciting to think of what other discoveries remain to be found.
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Photograph via iefimerida.gr
via Stunning 2200-Year-Old Mosaics Discovered in Ancient Greek City «TwistedSifter.

“The Venerable Bede.”

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Portrait of English monk, historian and theologian Saint Bede (673 – 735 AD).
The Venerable Bede, wrote the ‘Ecclesiastical History of the English People’ which is our major source for the history of Britain from the late sixth to the early eighth century.
Bede tells how Gregory the Great (Pope from 590 to 604 AD) decided to send a missionary called Augustine to England to found major churches in London and York.
When Augustine arrived in the south east of England in 597 AD, he found that Æthelberht, king of Kent, was the most powerful king in the south east.
Thanks to Bede’s work, the new Anglo-Saxon kingdoms come into the light of history.
Æthelberht gave him land in Canterbury to build a church, and thus by accident Canterbury, rather than London, became the main centre for English Christianity.
Æthelberht and his court converted, and several neighbouring kings as well. The last surviving member of Gregory’s mission was Paulinus, who baptised Edwin, king of Northumbria, in York in 627 AD.
Thanks to Bede’s work, the new Anglo-Saxon kingdoms come into the light of history at the beginning of the seventh century.
In the south there were the kingdoms of Kent, of the South Saxons (Sussex), and the West Saxons (Wessex); to the east were the kingdoms of the East Angles (East Anglia) and the East Saxons (Essex); in the Midlands was the kingdom of the Mercians, which (like some others) was an amalgamation of several smaller kingdoms; and north of the Humber were Deira (Yorkshire) and Bernicia (north of the Tees).
These last two kingdoms were joined together as Northumbria in the early seventh century.
Northumbria swallowed up a number of other kingdoms in the early seventh century, such as Elmet (West Yorkshire) and Rheged (Lancashire and Cumbria). Wessex and Mercia (whose name means ‘the frontier kingdom’) also benefited from their ability to expand westwards.
Some British kingdoms remained independent, including Cornwall and Devon in the south west, Gwynedd and Powys in modern Wales, and Strathclyde, in what is now the region of Glasgow.
via BBC – History – Ancient History in depth: Overview: Anglo-Saxons, 410 to 800.

The Sarcophagi of Karajia, Peru.

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 Photo Credit: JF (Flickr).
About 60 km northeast of the city of Chachapoyas, in Luya Province, in Peru, lies the archaeological site of Karajia, where the funeral tombs of the “ancient wise men” are located.
Perched high on a ledge by the side of a limestone cliff, the six sarcophagi (coffins carved in stone and displayed above ground) resembling six limbless torsos with large heads and enormous jaw lines, stand proud with their chin up and facing the abyss.
Some of the headpieces are embellished with horns, imitating deer antlers, while others have encrusted human skulls, which are presumed to be trophy heads. Each sarcophagus is 2.5 meters tall.
The sarcophagi were built by the Chachapoya people to house the remains of important individuals in their culture, about 600 years ago.
Originally, there were eight sarcophagi but two were destroyed by earthquakes and other natural elements.
Their inaccessible location high above a river gorge has thankfully preserved them from destruction by looters.
via The Sarcophagi of Karajia | Amusing Planet.

The Mystery of the “Odyssey”.

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A kind of literary whodunit was solved recently when mysterious handwritten notations from a rare, 1504 edition of Homer’s Odyssey were identified.
The epic poem was part of a collection donated to the University of Chicago Library in 2007 by a collector, and ever since the unknown notations have told the library little besides their probable dating to the 1850s.
What better way to solve a mystery than to incentivize the correct solution with a thousand bucks? That’s just what the collector, M.C. Lang, did.
The deal was simple: Identify the script in the margins, prove the assertion, translate some of it, and then the fun part: pocket $1,000.
Italian digital humanities student Daniele Metilli took the prize when he and a co-sleuth with a background in stenography and the French language, Giula Accetta, cracked the case.
Because there were French words mixed in with the mystery handwriting, and the legible date of April 25, 1854 was present, the duo investigated French stenographic systems that were in use during that time.
After judging a few of those systems “not guilty,” Metilli and Accetta hit paydirt: The guilty party was Jean Coulon de Thévénot, creator in the late 1700s of the shorthand notation system scrawled amid the Greek text of the 1504 Homer.
The decoded notes were French translations of some of the Greek wording in the classic tome.
READ ON via Margin Mystery Solved in Rare Edition of Odyssey : Discovery News.

The Origins of May Pole Dancing.

maypole-monopolists-1885-lcpThe origin of May Pole dancing dates back to the Pagan times, and the Maypole was basically a phallic symbol. Trees have always been the symbol of the great vitality and fertility of nature.
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May Pole dancing was therefore strongly associated with fertility. Traditionally May Pole Dancing was performed by the young girls from the Medieval villages as part of the May time celebrations.
The History of the Maypole and May Pole dancing was connected with both the Druids, Wiccans and the Romans. 1 May was an important date for the Druids as this was when the festival of Beltane was held.
Beltane marked the beginning of the pastoral summer season and was celebrated by lighting fires.
Wiccans celebrated by dancing round a Maypole and choosing a May Queen.
Then the Romans came to occupy the British Isles.
The beginning of May was also an important feast time for the Romans which was devoted primarily to the worship of Flora, the goddess of flowers when the Festival of Floralia was held.
Over time the traditions and rituals of the Floralia were added to those of the Beltane culminating in May Pole dancing, which is still carried out to this day.
via May Pole Dancing.