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Archaeologists discover ancient synagogue in the Black Sea region

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A team of archaeologists from the Phanagoria archaeological expedition have found one of the world’s oldest synagogues at the ancient Greek city of Phagoria, located on Russia’s Taman Peninsula.

According to ancient sources, Phanagoria was founded in 543 BC by Teian colonists who fled Asia Minor in consequence of their conflict with the Persian king Cyrus the Great. The city served as a bustling hub for trade and travel, connecting the coastal areas of the Maeotian marshes with the regions located to the south of the Caucasus mountains.

With the support of the Oleg Deripaska Volnoe Delo Foundation, archaeologists have found traces of the synagogue’s foundations and walls, in addition to marble menorahs, liturgy tables, and marble stele fragments.

The synagogue dates from the Second Temple Period (597 BC to AD 70) and stood for approximately 500 years on the shores of the Black Sea, until Phanagoria was sacked and destroyed by the invading Huns. By the 7th century, the city recovered from a turbulent period of invasion, and served as the capital of Old Great Bulgaria and became a Byzantine dependency.

Image Credit : Oleg Deripaska Volnoe Delo Foundation

One of the stele fragments dates from the 5th century AD and has the inscription “synagogue” written in Hebrew, while other fragments have inscriptions stating “house of prayer” and “synagogue”, which date from around AD 16 to 51.

The synagogue is a rectangular structure, measuring 21 metres by 6 metres, and with two chambers each exceeding 60 square metres. Based on the architectural finds, the interior would have contained marble columns, walls decorated with paintings and tiles, and ornamental marble menorahs.

Image Credit : Oleg Deripaska Volnoe Delo Foundation

According to the researchers: “The presence of a robust Jewish community within the city already in the 1st century AD is corroborated by depictions of menorahs on amphorae and tombstones from that era. Historical records from the medieval period also affirm the notion that Jews constituted a significant portion of the city’s inhabitants. Notably, Theophanes, an 8th-century Byzantine chronicler, and Ibn-Hordadbeha, a 9th-century Arabian geographer, both referred to Phanagoria as a “Jewish city”. Contemporary historians believe that the Jewish community of Phanagoria mirrored the city’s cosmopolitan character.”

Oleg Deripaska Volnoe Delo Foundation

Header Image Credit : Oleg Deripaska Volnoe Delo Foundation

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Archaeology

Post-medieval township discovered in Scottish forest

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Archaeologists have uncovered the remains of a pre-medieval township in the Glen Brittle Forest on the Isle of Skye.

The discovery was made during an environmental survey before the harvest of a mature conifer plantation.

AOC Archaeologists have found traces of 28 buildings, consisting of houses, byres, barns and corn-drying kilns, which are surrounded by fields and stock enclosures that traditionally formed a small clachan (or township).

An early 19th century map surveyed by John Thomson in 1832 names the site as the township of Brunell, a small agricultural township which dates from the 17th and 18th centuries.

A passage in the Parish of Bracadale on Skye describes Brunell as: “The parish produces black cattle, sheep and horses. Black cattle is the main staple… from the returns of which the people pay their rents and supply themselves with necessities. There are small quantities of sheep on each farm, but there is no farm laid out entirely to sheep pasture”

During the late 18th century, the township experienced a decline due to farms consolidating land for sheep-grazing and reduced the need for labour, consequently displacing and leaving the small tenants adrift.

By the Ordnance Survey of 1881, the town had dwindled to merely two roofless buildings and several fields, suggesting that the entire population had abandoned the township by this time.

According to Forestry and Land Scotland, the survey data was used to guide machine operators during tree harvesting, ensuring they could fell trees without causing harm to any archaeological features.

Header Image Credit : Forestry and Land Scotland

Sources : Forestry and Land Scotland – Dig deeper: revealing the ruins of Brunell Township.

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

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Geophysical study finds evidence of “labyrinth” buried beneath Mitla

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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 www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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