A team of archaeologists from the Directorate of Istanbul Archaeology Museums have been excavating the Church of St. Polyeuktos, located in Istanbul’s Saraçhane neighbourhood, Turkey.
The church was constructed between AD 524 to 527 under the patronage of Anicia Juliana, a Roman Imperial princess during the reign of Justin I. Juliana’s intention to assert her own imperial lineage was reflected in the opulent design of the building, which was the largest church in the city until the construction of the Hagia Sophia.
The church incorporated Sassanid Persian decorative elements on a grand scale and is believed to have pioneered the architectural style of the domed basilica, which was later perfected in the Hagia Sophia.
After its construction, the history of the church is largely unknown. It remained standing until the 11th century, but eventually deteriorated and various architectural features were removed and repurposed in Constantinople (Istanbul). After being built over in the Ottoman period, the site of the church was rediscovered during excavations in the 1960s.
Rahmi Asal, director of the museums, said: “the church was heavily damaged, particularly during the Latin invasion, and then the building was further damaged by an earthquake in AD 1010, with parts taken to be used in the St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice.”
The excavations have uncovered important decorative stone pieces and architectural elements, with the most notable discovery being a piece of torso from a statue depicting a male figure carved in marble. The torso was found around one metre beneath the surface level and dates from the Late Roman period around the 3rd to 4th century AD.
This adds to a recently announced discovery in April 2023, where the team found a hidden tunnel beneath the church ruins shaped with marble and adorned with reliefs, in addition to 681 bronze coins, stamped bricks, marble pieces, ceramics, oil lamps, glass and metal artefacts.
Header Image Credit : Dosseman – CC BY-SA 4.0
New chambers discovered in Ancient Egyptian pyramid of Sahura
An Egyptian-German archaeological mission has discovered several new chambers in the pyramid of Sahura, located in the Abu Sir Pyramid Field south of Giza.
Sahura, meaning “He who is close to Re”, was a pharaoh of Ancient Egypt and the second ruler of the Fifth Dynasty (2465 BC to 2325 BC). Sahure’s reign is seen as one of economic and cultural prosperity, opening new trading links to the land of Punt and expanding the flow of goods from the Levantine coast.
Choosing not to follow the tradition of being buried in the royal necropolises of Saqqara and Giza, Sahura instead chose for his pyramid to be constructed at Abusir. Although smaller in size than the pyramids of his predecessors, Sahura’s pyramid complex was decorated with over 10,000 m2 of finely carved reliefs, some of which are considered “unparalleled in Egyptian art.”
The interior chambers of the pyramid were extensively damaged by grave robbers during antiquity, making it impossible to precisely reconstruct the substructure plan.
Image Credit : Mohamed Khaled
A restoration project led by Egyptologist Dr. Mohamed Ismail Khaled of the Department of Egyptology at Julius-Maximilians-Universität of Würzburg (JMU) has discovered a series of storage chambers and passageways. The northern and southern parts of these chambers are badly damaged, however, remnants of the original walls and parts of the floor can still be seen.
Using 3D laser scanning with a ZEB Horizon portable LiDAR scanner, the team conducted detailed surveys to map the extensive external areas and the narrow corridors and chambers inside.
According to the researchers: “Careful documentation of the floor plan and dimensions of each storage chamber has greatly enhanced our understanding of the pyramid’s interior. During restoration, a balance between preservation and presentation was pursued to ensure the structural integrity of the chambers while making them accessible for future study and potentially the public.”
During the restoration work, the project was also able to uncover the floor plan of the antechamber which had deteriorated over time. Consequently, the destroyed walls were replaced with new retaining walls. The eastern wall of the antechamber was badly damaged, and only the northeast corner and about 30 centimetres of the eastern wall were still visible.
Header Image – Pyramid of Sahura – Public Domain
Archaeologists identify runesmith who carved the Jelling Stone runes
Archaeologists using 3D scans have identified who carved the Jelling Stone runes, located in the town of Jelling, Denmark.
The first of the two Jelling stones was erected by King Gorm the Old in honour of his wife Thyra. Following this, a second stone was raised by King Gorm’s son, Harald Bluetooth, to commemorate his parents and to mark his victorious rule over Denmark and Norway, as well as his role in converting the Danish people to Christianity.
Researchers from the National Museum in Copenhagen have conducted 3D scans to analyse the carving tracks of the runes. Similar to handwriting, the carving techniques are relatively unique to each runesmith, as each stonemason holds the chisel at a certain angle and strikes with a certain force with the hammer.
By studying the angle of the chisel grooves and the distance between them, comparisons can be made with other rune stones, such as the Laeborg Runestone which stands approximately 30 kilometres southwest of Jelling
The analysis has revealed that the Laeborg Runestone has the same carving technique, which also has the inscription: “Ravnunge-Tue carved these runes after Thyra, his queen”.
Queen Thyra is mentioned in the two Jelling stones as the mother of Harald Bluetooth, wife of Gorm the Elder and “penitent of Denmark”, but Thyra’s name is also mentioned in two other runestones, that of Læborg, carved by Ravnunge-Tue in honor of Thyra, his queen, and that of Bække 1, which bears the inscription “Ravnunge-Tue and Fundin and Gnyple, the three made the stop of Thyra.”
For many years, researchers have debated whether Læborgstenen’s Queen Thyra is the same as the Thyra mentioned on the stones from Jelling.
According to the researchers: “The discovery in itself is interesting because it can link another person to the Jelling dynasty, but it is especially interesting because the realization brings with it another startling revelation, explains Lisbeth Imer, runologist and senior researcher at the National Museum.”
“It is an absolutely incredible discovery that we now know the name of the rune maker behind the Jelling stone, but what makes the discovery even wilder is that we know Ravnunge-Tue’s boss. It is Queen Thyra from Jelling, i.e. Harald Blåtand’s mother, there can no longer be much doubt about that, and that puts the discovery in a completely different light,” says Lisbeth Imer.
Header Image Credit : Shutterstock
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