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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

Excavation uncovers traces of the first bishop’s palace at Merseburg Cathedral Hill

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Archaeologists from the State Office for Monument Preservation and Archaeology (LDA) Saxony-Anhalt have uncovered traces of the first bishop’s palace at the southern end of the Merseburg Cathedral Hill in Merseburg, Germany.

Construction of the early Romanesque Merseburg Cathedral was begun by Bishop Thietmar of Merseburg in 1015.

It was consecrated in 1021 in the presence of Emperor Heinrich II (Henry II), however, following a series of collapses in the eastern part of the structure, the cathedral wouldn’t be formally consecrated and opened until 1042 by Bishop Hunold.

The Merseburg Cathedral of St. John and St. Lawrence is today considered one of the most important cathedral buildings in Germany.

The LDA team were excavating the basement of the so-called Martinikurie, a two-story residential building from the Baroque period. Excavations revealed the remains of the first bishop’s palace, dating from from the time of the second consecration of Merseburg Cathedral.

According to the LDA: “We found the almost completely preserved basement-like lower floor of a hall building, whose 1.75 metre thick foundation walls are still preserved up to a height of 3.40 metres. Steps in the masonry and a pillar from the time of construction inside the building prove that at least one hall-like upper floor once stood on top of this.”
The palace was constructed by Bishop Hunold, who headed the diocese of Merseburg between 1036 and 1050.

“This finding makes it possible to locate one of the most important buildings of the episcopal see in Merseburg – a building that, with its location and size, clearly expresses the self-confidence of the diocese, which was re-founded in 1004 by King Henry II of Germany” added the LDA.

Header Image Credit : LDA

Sources : State Office for Monument Preservation and Archaeology (LDA)

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

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Archaeologists find ancient papyri with correspondence made by Roman centurions

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Archaeologists from the University of Wrocław have uncovered ancient papyri that contains the correspondence of Roman centurions who were stationed in Egypt.

The papyri were discovered in Berenice Troglodytica, an ancient seaport of Egypt on the western shore of the Red Sea. The city was founded by Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285–246 BC), who named it after his mother, Berenice I of Egypt.

During the Roman period, Berenice Troglodytica was one of the main waystations for the trade in war elephants and exotic goods, imported from India, Sri Lanka, Arabia, and Upper Egypt.

Excavations of an animal cemetery located on the western outskirts of the city have uncovered an accumulation of ceramics originating from the Mediterranean, Africa and India.

Image Credit : Instytut Archeologii Uniwersytetu Wrocławskiego

Among the accumulation, the team found Roman coins, a fibula, ostracons (fragments of texts on ceramics), and several papyri.

The papyri contains the correspondence of centurions, naming Haosus, Lucinius and Petronius. Centurions were soldiers who were promoted to command a centuria or “century”, a military unit consisting of between 80 to 100 men.

“In the correspondence, Petronius asks Lucinius (stationed in Berenice Troglodytica) about the prices of individual exclusive goods. There is also the statement: “I am giving you the money, I am sending it by dromedarius (a unit of legionnaires moving on dromedaries). Take care of them, provide them with veal and poles for their tents.”

Dr. Marta Osypińska from the Institute of Archaeology of the University of Wrocław, said: “For Egyptologists and other scientists dealing with antiquity, this is an extremely rare and high-calibre discovery.”

“In this part of the world, there are very few sites from the Roman period. The Egyptians tend to leave little historical accounts from this time in history, because it is the moment when they were conquered.” added  Dr. Osypińska.

Header Image Credit : Instytut Archeologii Uniwersytetu Wrocławskiego

Sources : PAP

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

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