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“Magic mirror” to ward off evil found at ancient Usha



Excavations led by the Israel Antiquities Authority have uncovered a fragment of a “magic mirror” meant to ward of the “evil eye” at the site of Usha, located near Kiryat Atta in the western Galilee area of Israel.

Usha was a city that rose to prominence when the seat of the Patriarchate moved to Usha under the presidency of Gamaliel II in AD 80. In AD 116 it moved back to Yavneh, and then again back to Usha.

During the Byzantine Period, Usha became a centre for the production of glassware and metallurgy, in addition to the large-scale production of wine and olive oil.

The mirror was discovered during the Shelah Project run by the Ministry of Education, where 500 high-school pupils participated in archaeological excavations across the country

A study of the mirror has dated the find to the Byzantine period around 1,500-years-ago, which was found between the walls of a building from the 4th to 6th centuries AD.

Image Credit : Emil Eljam

According to Navit Popovitch from the Israel Antiquities Authority, the mirror was meant to provide protection against evil spirits such as demons that would see their reflection. Similar mirrors have been found in sites as funerary gifts deposited in tombs in order to protect the deceased in their journey to the next life.

Another theory suggests that the mirror could have been used in catoptromancy, the art of divination by means of mirrors which was practiced by the Greeks and Romans.

Eli Escusido, Director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said: “During the week-long trek, the young leaders discovered additional finds, including ceramics, coins, decorated stone fragments, and even a water aqueduct. History, usually taught in the classroom, comes to life from the ground. A pupil who uncovers a find during an excavation will never forget the experience. There is no better way to attach the youth to the country and the heritage.”


Header Image Credit : Clara Amit

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Maya tomb with funerary offerings found during hotel construction




A tomb with funerary offerings has been uncovered during the construction of the Tren Maya Hotel, in Palenque, Mexico.

Archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) conducted rescue excavations following the discovery, revealing skeletal remains associated with the Maya city of Palenque.

Palenque, also known as Lakamha in the Itza Language (meaning “Flat-Place-River”), is located near the Usumacinta River in the Mexican state of Chiapas.

The city dates from 226 BC to AD 799, with most of the major construction works representing a rebuilding effort in response to attacks by the city of Calakmul and its client states in AD 599 and AD 611.

The population declined during the 8th century AD, instead becoming an agricultural population that led to the abandonment of the city zone. By 1520 following the Spanish conquest, contemporary Spanish accounts record the entire region being sparsely populated.

Excavations uncovered a stone lined funerary space sealed with limestone slabs, in which the researchers found the remains of a high-status individual who likely lived in the periphery of Palenque in a small settlement.

The burial is located at a depth of four metres, and also contained ceramic vessels and beads deposited as funerary offerings.

“The individual was placed face up with his legs extended and his head facing north,” said Diego Prieto Hernández from INAH.

The discovery was announced in a press conference reporting on the progress of the Program for the Improvement of Archaeological Zones (Promeza) in Palenque, Moral-Reforma and El Tigre, the three heritage sites that are served within Section 1 of the Mayan Train Project.


Header Image Credit : INAH

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Archaeologists unearth possible birthplace of King Henry VII at Pembroke Castle




Archaeologists from the Dyfed Archaeological Trust may have discovered the possible birthplace of King Henry VII at Pembroke Castle in Pembrokeshire, Wales.

Pembroke Castle was founded during the 11th century by Roger de Montgomerie, the 1st Earl of Shrewsbury.

In 1452, Jasper Tudor was presented both the castle and the earldom by his half-brother, King Henry VI. In 1457, Henry VII was born at the castle, the only child of Lady Margaret Beaufort and Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond.

Following Edward IV’s ascension to the throne in 1471, Henry VII endured 14 years of exile in Brittany. He eventually claimed the throne after his forces, with backing from France, Scotland, and Wales, emerged victorious over Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field, marking the climax of the Wars of the Roses.

Henry VII’s reign is credited with many administrative, economic, and tax reforms, having ruled for nearly 24 years until his death in 1509 at the age of 52. Henry VII was succeed by his second son, Henry, Duke of York, who ascended to the crown as Henry VIII.

Historians have long assumed that a 13th century tower on the outer ward (known today as Henry VII Tower) was the birth place of Henry VII. However, a recent study by the Dyfed Archaeological Trust has uncovered evidence of a late-medieval winged hall-house, broadly dating to the 15th century.

The walls of the structure extend to around 25 metres, with comparisons being drawn to medieval buildings found in England and East Wales, such as Penallt Mansion in Kidwelly. Historically, Pembroke Castle was situated in the English-speaking portion of Pembrokeshire, often referred to as “Little England beyond Wales.”

Speaking to the Western Telegraph, Neil Ludlow, a consultant to Pembroke Castle, said: “All our indications are pointing to a late-medieval building which was clearly of high status within Pembrokeshire, and it looks as if it was at least two-storeys, which possibly makes it a better candidate for the birthplace of a king rather that the tower that currently bears his name.”

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