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Rare textiles, basketry and cordage discovered at submerged Neolithic settlement



Underwater archaeologists excavating at the submerged La Marmotta settlement near Rome, Italy, have uncovered textiles, basketry and cordage from the Early Neolithic Period.

La Marmotta was first discovered in 1989 beneath the waters of Lake Bracciano, a Circum-Alpine Lake of volcanic origin in the Italian region of Lazio. The lake owes its origin to intense volcanic and tectonic activity, resulting in the collapse of the magma chamber that created a depressed area now occupied by the lake.

During the Early Neolithic Period, a lakeshore settlement was established which today lies approximately 300 metres from the modern shoreline, submerged at a depth of 11 metres.

Underwater surveys of the settlement have documented several thousand wooden piles or support posts on the lakebed; the spatial distribution of these piles permits the identification of a minimum of 13 house structures arranged parallel to one another on the Neolithic shore.

The archaeobotanical and zooarchaeological finds indicate a community practising a well-developed farming economy, with previous studies finding remains of goats, sheep, cattle, pigs and dogs, and several wild mammal species including red deer (Cervus elaphus), roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), aurochs (Bos primigenius) and red fox (Vulpes vulpes).

Excavations of the settlement is ongoing, and it is currently estimated that around 25 percent of the site has been explored. However, further investigation is required to accurately determine the complete extent of the remaining archaeological remains.

The potential cause for the abandonment of the settlement is believed to be linked to a rapid increase in the water level of the lake. Regardless of the exact reason, the inhabitants departed hastily, leaving behind their belongings, such as tools, food-preparation vessels, and even their canoes.

In a study published in the journal Antiquity, archaeologists have uncovered a rare assemblage of basketry, cordage and textile remains, and some of the tools used to manufacture them. According to the researchers: “The assemblage paints a more complete picture of the technological expertise of Neolithic societies and their ability to exploit and process plant materials to produce a wide range of crafts.”

The textile fragments are currently being analysed by a team from the University of Copenhagen which are believed to have been made using plant fibres. A closer examination using a binocular microscope indicates flax fibres, a common material used by ancient cultures for making textiles until the 19th century AD.

In total, 28 fragments of cord and two lengths of thread have also been identified, in addition to 43 fragments of basketry, some of which still contain food residue.

Further evidence of textile production is present by the discovery of 78 loom weights, three spindle whorls, and 34 complete or fragmented wooden tools that were likely used during weaving to ensure that each new weft thread was tightly packed down.

The study authors concluded: “The limited extent of the picture that we can usually reconstruct is made clear by the settlement of La Marmotta. Here, the excellent preservation of wooden structures and objects of various perishable materials creates a much fuller understanding of the technical complexity of these early farming societies, perhaps even pointing to the existence of craft specialists.”


Header Image Credit : Museo delle Civiltà-Mario Mineo

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Geophysical study finds evidence of “labyrinth” buried beneath Mitla




A geophysical study has found underground structures and tunnels beneath Mitla – The Zapotec “Place of the Dead”

Mitla is an archaeological site associated with the Zapotec culture, located in the Oaxaca Valley in the present-day state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico.

The Zapotec civilisation emerged in the late 6th century BC, originating in the Central Valleys of the Etla. The culture was centred on the settlements of Oaxaca, San José Mogote, and Mitla, with the city of Monte Albán serving as the civic-ceremonial centre.

At its peak, the Zapotec had a population of more than 500,000 inhabitants, having developed sophisticated construction techniques, a writing system, two calendar systems, and complex agricultural cultivation.

In 2016, the Lyobaa Project, an institutional collaboration led by the National Institute of History and Anthropology (INAH) employed ground penetrating radar (GPR), electrical resistivity tomography (ERT), and ambient seismic noise interferometry (AIRSA) to explore potential archaeological features beneath the San Pablo Apóstol church, built atop the Zapotec ruins in Mitla.

Image Credit : Lyobaa Project

According to local legend, the church was constructed on an entrance way to an underground labyrinth, serving as a passage between the realm of the living to the realm of the dead, referred to as Mictlán in Nahuatl, meaning the “place of the dead” or “underworld.”

In 1674, the Dominican chronicler, Francisco Burgoa, described Spanish missionaries entering the labyrinth: “Such was the corruption and bad smell, the dampness of the floor, and a cold wind which extinguished the lights, that at the little distance they had already penetrated, they resolved to come out, and ordered this infernal gate to be thoroughly closed with masonry.”

As part of phase two of the Lyobaa Project, the researchers have identified buried architectural complexes and a series of corridors during a study of the Calvario, Arroyo, and del Sur groups within the archaeological zone.

The Arroyo group, located in the central area of the site has three quadrangle features connected by tunnels that likely date from AD 1200 during the Late Postclassic period.

The project also conducted a survey of the quadrangular plaza where the San Pablo Apóstol church was constructed on the remains of a pre-Hispanic temple. Beneath the plaza the researchers found that there are four mounds with clay internal cores.

Archaeologist, Denisse Argote, said: “We were able to determine that, although the core of the stepped structure is solid, the foundation of the historic church requires short-term intervention to guarantee its conservation, so measures must be taken to ensure its structural stability.”

“There are cracks in the historic building, since it does not have a foundation and, underneath, in what corresponds to the remains of the pre-Hispanic building, it seems that there are areas with small cavities,” added Argote.

Header Image Credit : Shutterstock

Sources : INAH

This content was originally published on – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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Discovery of a Romanesque religious structure rewrites history of Frauenchiemsee




Archaeologists from the Bavarian State Office for Monument Preservation have announced the discovery of a Romanesque religious structure on the island of Frauenchiemsee, the second largest of the three islands in Chiemsee, Germany.

According to the researchers, the structure holds important religious significance, suggesting it might have been erected to venerate Blessed Irmgard (also known as Irmengard), the daughter of King Louis the German and the great-granddaughter of Charlemagne.

During the mid-9th century, Irmgard was appointed the first abbess of Frauenwörth Abbey, who restored the decaying premises and founded a Benedictine convent for nuns. Because of her royal ancestry, she had the right to wear a thin golden hoop resembling a crown, often depicted on paintings and frescoes with her image.

Following her death in 866, Irmgard was venerated and her head reliquary was translated to Seeon Abbey in 1004. She was officially beatified in 1929 by Pope Pius XI, and a celebratory ceremony in 2003 saw her relics reunified.

A recent geophysical study to locate the demolished remains of the Church of Saint Martin has revealed the imprint of a Romanesque structure completely absent from all historical text and contemporary maps.

Image Credit : Bavarian State Office for Monument Preservation

The structure is buried at a depth of 1 metre and measures 19 metres in diameter. The GPR results reveal the floor plan of an octagonal central building with an ambulatory formed by eight supports and four arrange in a cross shape.

Mathias Pfeil of the Bavarian State Office for Monument Preservation notes that religious structures with pre-Romanesque or Romanesque architecture, particularly those with sacral significance, are exceedingly uncommon north of the Alps. Such edifices are often perceived as imitations of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

According to the researchers, the structure was likely built during the construction of the new monastery and Romanesque abbey church (of which the gatehouse and bell tower survive to this day) to venerate Irmgard as a destination for pilgrims

Header Image Credit : Bavarian State Office for Monument Preservation

Sources : Bavarian State Office for Monument Preservation

This content was originally published on – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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