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Archaeologists uncover world’s first large-scale sand dune farm at Caesarea

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A team of archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority and Bar Ilan University have uncovered a sand dune farm from the Middle Ages in Caesarea, Israel.

Situated on the coast of the Eastern Mediterranean in the Sharon Plain, Caesarea was an ancient city known as Caesarea Maritima during the Roman and Byzantine periods and a medieval city during the Arab and Crusader periods.

Caesarea was first settled during the 4th century BC as a Phoenician Colony, emerging as a major trading port during the 1st century BC under Hasmonean rule. During the Roman period, the city became the provincial capital of the Roman province of Judaea, Roman Syria Palaestina, and Byzantine Palaestina Prima.

Following the Muslim conquest of 640, the city fell under Arab rule during the 7th or 8th century AD. This period saw a gradual economic decline accompanied by the fleeing Christian aristocracy.

Caesarea was taken by Baldwin I in the wake of the First Crusade in 1101. Similar to the events that took place in Jerusalem in 1099, the Crusaders massacred a segment of the male population, enslaved women and children, and pillaged the city.

In 1187, Saladin succeeded in retaking the city, but it was later recaptured by the Europeans during the Third Crusade in 1191. Then, in 1251, Louis IX of France ordered the fortification of the city, which included the construction of high walls (some of which are still standing today) and a deep moat. Caesarea was finally lost in 1265 when it fell to the Mamluk armies of Sultan Baibars.

Recent excavations have uncovered an ancient farming system in the sand dunes adjacent to the city ruins. The area, dubbed “Caesarea Gardens”, is a large 1.5 square km area containing the world’s first large-scale sand dune farming.

Researchers have found 370 checkerboard crop plots containing marble fragments, coins, stones, ceramics and glass. The material was originally deposited as waste in landfills around Caesarea, which was then reused for berm construction to harness groundwater and enrich the soil.

According to the researchers, it would have taken hundreds of workers to transport the sand and reconfigure the dunes over a wide area for the Caesarea Gardens. Overall, they estimate that approximately one million workdays were invested in the agricultural project.

The team have found no evidence of archaeobotanical remains or agricultural waste, possibly due to the soil composition making it difficult to preserve plant remains. They suggest that the plots were likely used for the cultivation of vegetables, rather than orchards, cereal crops, or vineyards.

Sand dune farming was introduced to various regions including the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula, the Mediterranean coast, the Sahara, and the Atlantic coast of the Iberian Peninsula, as a result of Islamic expansion, however, the Caesarea Gardens were abandoned sometime by the Crusaders during the 12th century AD.

Header Image Credit : Yaakov Shmidov – Israel Antiquities Authority

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Archaeology

War in Ukraine sees destruction of cultural heritage not witnessed seen since WW2

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The full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022 has resulted in a significant loss of human lives and the national and international displacement of many Ukrainian people.

The conflict has also seen the destruction of Ukraine’s cultural heritage, intent on erasing the public history and memory to install the Russian narrative.

In a statement issued on March 3 2022, UNESCO said it underlines the obligations of international humanitarian law, notably the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its 1954 and 1999 Protocols, to refrain from inflicting damage to cultural property, and “condemns all attacks and damage to cultural heritage in all its forms in Ukraine”.

As part of joint operation between a team of investigators from several Ukrainian and US institutions, an archaeological survey is being conducted to assess the level of destruction, the results of which are published in the journal Antiquity.

“Given the ongoing conflict, it is not yet possible to assess the damage to the cultural heritage along the frontlines”, say the authors. “However, since the de-occupation of the Kyiv, Zhytomyr, Chernihiv and Mykolaiv regions in June 2022, a preliminary understanding of the scale and nature of destruction in some areas has developed”.

Many historic buildings have suffered damage at the hands of the Russian military, including the UNESCO-listed Children’s (Youth) Regional Library (former Vasyl Tarnovsky Museum of Ukrainian Antiquities), the Ivankiv Historical and Local History Museum, the Church of the Ascension, and the 11th-century church, citadel and graveyard at Oster.

Collections from museums in occupied areas such as Kherson, Melitopol, and Mariupol have been confiscated and sent to Russia, and in some instances, Russian soldiers have looted artefacts to keep or sell.

According to the study, the archaeological heritage is also being destroyed at an alarming rate. Extensive trench systems and missile strikes are causing significant damage to burial mounds and cemetery sites, resulting in the destruction of human burials at historically important locations such as Boldyni Hory – one of the largest 11th century necropolises in Ukraine.

“In this static ground war that is characterised by military trenches used at a scale similar to the Second World War, Ukrainian cultural heritage is being destroyed at a rate not seen since 1945,” state the authors.

Header Image Credit: Serhii Tarabarov

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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Archaeologists find five Bronze Age axes in the forests of Kociewie

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According to an announcement by the Pomeranian Provincial Conservator of Monuments, archaeologists have discovered five Bronze Age axes in Starogard Forest District, located in Kociewie, Poland.

The initial discovery was made by history enthusiast, Denis Konkol, who notified local authorities from the Pomeranian provincial conservator of monuments. In Poland, it is forbidden to conduct an amateur search for artefacts using a metal detector, either for commercial or for personal use unless licensed by local authorities, requiring all finds to be reported which become the property of the state.

Upon inspection of the discovery site, archaeologists found five axes within a radius of several dozen metres at a depth of 20 to 30 centimetres beneath a layer of turf and humus.

Igor Strzok, Pomeranian provincial conservator of monuments, said: “The extraction of these finds took place under the archaeological supervision of our colleagues from the Provincial Office for the Protection of Monuments. This means that we prevented possible destruction of the site.”

The five axes date from between 1700 and 1300 BC and were likely a ritual deposit of a cult nature, however, the archaeologists haven’t ruled out that the axes could also be a deposit related to trade.

According to the announcement, the objects are tautušiai type axes associated with Baltic cultures from today’s Lithuania or north-eastern Poland. Defined by their considerable size, the axes feature a slim handle with raised edges and a wide blade.

Previous excavations of Bronze Age sites in the region generally find bracelets or breastplates, while the most recent unearthing of a weapon or Bronze Age tool dates back 20 years, highlighting the scarcity of such finds in the region.

The axes are scheduled to be transported to the Archaeological Museum in Gdańsk, where experts will conduct a thorough examination.

Header Image Credit : Stargard Forest District

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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