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Roman era sphinx uncovered at Dendera Temple Complex

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An archaeological mission from the Ain Shams University has uncovered a Roman era sphinx during excavations at the Dendera Temple Complex, located in the Qena Governorate of Egypt.

The Temple of Dendera is a large ceremonial complex covering an area of 9.8 acres. The complex is centred on the Hathor Temple, a sanctuary which has been modified on the same site since the Middle Kingdom until the time of the Roman Emperor Trajan.

Recent excavations led by Dr Mamdouh El Damaty, a former antiquities minister and a professor of archaeology at Cairo’s Ain Shams University, revealed a Roman structure in an area east of the main complex where a temple dedicated to Horus is located.

The structure is built using limestone and mortar, consisting of two levels. The lower level contains a large basin for collecting water from the Byzantine period, where the researchers found a Roman era sphinx statue.

Image Credit : Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

The sphinx is shown wearing a Nemes, a royal headdress worn by pharaohs to symbolise their rule. Above the forehead is an Uraeus, an Egyptian cobra used as a symbol of sovereignty, royalty, deity and divine authority.

“Preliminary inspection of the sphinx’s face suggests that the sphinx is a depiction of the Roman emperor Claudius,” the ministry’s statement read.

Claudius ruled Egypt from around 10 BC to AD 54, which at the time was under Roman rule. As “Pharaoh” of Egypt, Claudius adopted the royal titulary Tiberios Klaudios, Autokrator Heqaheqau Meryasetptah, Kanakht Djediakhshuemakhet (“Tiberius Claudius, Emperor and ruler of rulers, beloved of Isis and Ptah, the strong bull of the stable moon on the horizon”).

“The statue is really beautiful, its face is characterised by royal features that are depicted quite precisely,” Dr El Damaty said. “The traces of a smile can be seen on the edges of its mouth, which has a dimple on either side. There are traces of yellow and red in the face.”

Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

Header Image Credit : Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

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Archaeology

Archaeologists uncover tomb of Emperor Xiaomin of Northern Zhou

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In a press announcement by the Institute of Archaeology at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), archaeologists have discovered the tomb of Emperor Xiaomin of Northern Zhou near Xianyang City, China.

Emperor Xiaomin (birth name: Yuwen Jue), was the founder of the Xianbei-led Northern Zhou dynasty of China that lasted from AD 557 to 581. One of the Northern dynasties of China’s Northern and Southern dynasties period, it succeeded the Western Wei dynasty and was eventually overthrown by the Sui dynasty.

Rather than take the title of emperor, Xiaomin instead used the Zhou Dynasty title of “Heavenly Prince”, however, a power struggle occurred between Xiaomin and the his cousin, Yuwen Hu, who deposed Xiaomin and had him killed.

Archaeologists conducting excavations adjacent to the Airport Expressway in Xianyang City have uncovered the tomb of Emperor Xiaomin, designated Tomb M655.

Image Credit : CASS

Excavations have revealed a 147 long ditch, leading to a tomb oriented on a north to south axis. The tomb contains a single chamber at a depth of 10 metres, containing disturbed funerary offerings such as ceramic vessels and figurines depicting warriors, cavalry units, a camel, and indiscernible creatures.

The team also discovered an epitaph stone with an inscription loosely translated as: “Renshen in October of the second year of the tomb of Gongyu Wenjue, Duke of Lueyang, Zhou Dynasty” – referring to the birth name of Yuwen Jue.

According to the press announcement: “The archaeological discovery of Yuwen Jue’s tomb from the Northern Zhou Dynasty is of great significance. It is the second Northern Zhou emperor’s tomb that has been excavated after the Xiaoling Mausoleum of Emperor Wu of the Northern Zhou Dynasty.”

Institute of Archaeology at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS)

Header Image Credit : CASS

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Archaeology

Viking trade connections stretched to Arctic Scandinavia

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An analysis by researchers from the University of York has revealed Viking trade routes between northern Scandinavia and the edges of continental Europe.

The study focuses on trade connections from the town of Hedeby, an important trading settlement during the Viking Age near the southern end of the Jutland Peninsula in Germany.

Hedeby is first mentioned in the Frankish chronicles of Einhard (who was in the service of Charlemagne), but was probably founded around AD 770.

Hedeby’s prominence as a primary trading hub can be attributed to its strategic geographical positioning along the pivotal trade routes connecting the Frankish Empire and Scandinavia in the north-south direction, as well as the Baltic and the North Sea in the east-west direction.

The town was also a major centre of antler-working, with 288,000 antler finds recorded to date, most of which are waste material from the production of hair combs.

A ZooMS analysis of the collagen in the combs has revealed that 85-90% of the combs were made from reindeer antler during the 9th century AD. The combs or antlers were imported from northern Scandinavia, indicating new evidence for contact between Hedeby and the northern outlands in central and northern Scandinavia.

Dr Steven Ashby, from the Department of Archaeology at the University of York, said: “The work at Hedeby is particularly interesting, as it tells us about connections between the mountains of upland or arctic Scandinavia and this large town at the gateway to continental Europe, and points to a window in the 9th Century when these northern links must have been particularly strong.”

The paper ‘In the footsteps of Ohthere: biomolecular analysis of early Viking Age hair combs from Hedeby (Haithabu)’ is published in Antiquity Journal.

University of York

https://doi.org/10.15184/aqy.2023.118

Header Image Credit : Mariana Muñoz-Rodriguez

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