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Hollowed out bone containing drugs found at Roman-period settlement

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Archaeologists have uncovered a hollowed bone containing black henbane seeds, providing the first conclusive evidence for intentional use of the plant as a medicine or narcotic during the Roman period.

Henbane, also known as stinking nightshade, is a highly poisonous plant known to be used as an ingredient to make anaesthetic potions and for its psychoactive properties in inducing visual hallucinations.

The use of henbane during antiquity was documented by the historian, Pliny the Elder, who said it was “of the nature of wine and therefore offensive to the understanding”, and by the Greek physician and botanist, Pedanius Dioscorides, who recommended it as a sedative and analgesic.

The discovery was made during excavations of the Roman-period settlement of Houten-Castellum in the Netherlands. The team found a hollowed out bone containing hundreds of black henbane seeds, which were sealed in the container with a black birch-bark tar plug.

“Since the plant can grow naturally in and around settlements, its seeds can end up in archaeological sites naturally, without intervention by humans,” says lead author of the research, Dr Maaike Groot from the Freie Universität Berlin. “This is why it is usually classed among wild plants/weeds in archaeobotanical studies.”

As part of a wider study (the results of which are published in the journal Antiquity), the team compared examples of black henbane seeds found at other sites to see if there was any correlation. However, it soon became apparent that the discovery at Houten-Castellum is the first example of black henbane in a container from the Roman period.

“Our study contributes to the discussion of how to distinguish between a weed naturally ending up in archaeobotanical assemblages and a plant intentionally used by people”, says Dr Groot. “We argue that future finds of black henbane should be studied by taking into account the context of the find and its relation to other medicinal plants.”

Header Image Credit : Antiquity Journal

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

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Archaeology

Archaeologists may have discovered the lost city of Tu’am

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Excavations in the Umm Al Quwain area of the UAE have revealed 6th century ruins that could be the lost city of Tu’am.

The ruins are situated on Al Sinniyah Island, part of a collection of small islands on the western part of the Khor Al Bidiyah peninsula.

Previous studies on the island have revealed a pearling village and monastery, which has been the focus of the latest season of excavations.

Archaeologists have discovered evidence of a larger settlement, with the earliest signs of occupation dating back to the 4th century AD and peaking in the 5th or 6th century.

The team uncovered traces of large semi-urbanised tenement buildings measuring 30 square metres, which are tightly packed around narrow walkways. According to the researchers, the settlement could be the lost city of Tu’am as described in Ancient Arab texts.

Tu’am was a regional capital on the Gulf coast that was famed for its pearl fishing industry and trade in precious gems.

The population went into decline following a plague and regional tensions, and subsequently was abandoned. Mass graves in the vicinity support the historical account of plague, as the skeletal remains show no evidence of trauma or a violent death.

“Our archaeological work has discovered the largest settlement by far ever found on the Gulf coast of the Emirates,” said Prof Tim Power of UAE University.

“And it’s exactly the right period for the city described in the early Islamic geographical sources. It’s clearly a really important place. No one has ever found it.”

Professor Power explained that while they have not found irrefutable evidence (such as an inscription bearing the town’s name), no other major settlements from this period have been discovered on the coast, strengthening the argument that the settlement is Tu’am. “It’s a process of elimination,” he explained.

Header Image Credit : Umm Al Quwain Department of Tourism and Archaeology

Sources : NUAE

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

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Archaeology

New findings in North America’s first city

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Cahokia was the largest urban settlement of the Mississippian culture, a mound-building pre-Columbian civilisation that emerged in the Midwestern, Eastern, and South-eastern United States.

Archaeological evidence suggests that the city was founded around AD 1050 along the banks of the Mississippi River, located near present-day St. Louis, Missouri.

The city covered an area between six to nine square miles (notably larger than many contemporary European cities such as London) and was home to up to 20,000 inhabitants at its peak.

Following the tradition of the Mississippian culture, the people of Cahokia constructed large earthen mounds – ranging from raised platforms, conical, and ridge-top designs – involving the movement of 55 million cubic feet of earth over a period that lasted several decades.

The largest mound is known as “Monks Mound,” named after a group of Trappist monks, which rises to a height of 290 metres and was once the tallest building construction in North America.

Image Credit : MattGush – iStock

Archaeologists and students from Saint Louis University (SLU) have recently conducted a series of excavations on the western periphery of the Cahokia Mounds.

The team unearthed 900-year-old ceramics, microdrills, structures, and wall trenches dating from around AD 1100 to 1200, during the Sterling Phase of the Mississippian Period. According to the archaeologists, the finds offer new insights into a crucial period in the chiefdom’s development, coinciding with Cahokia’s rapid population growth.

The excavations follow an aerial survey by SLU and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency using Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) to conduct Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) to determine whether further mounds or archaeological features lie within the acres of thick forests and swampy land near the site’s main complex.

Header Image Credit : Alamy

Sources : KSDK

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

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