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Archaeologists unearth significant religious treasure

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Archaeologists from the University of Innsbruck have uncovered a 1,500-year-old reliquary during excavations of a hilltop settlement in southern Austria.

The settlement is located on the summit of Burgbichl, a small hill that rises on the south side of the Drau about 170 m above the floor of the upper Drava valley.

Excavations of an early Christian church, one of two churches excavated in the settlement, have revealed a marble altar measuring 20 by 30 centimetres. Beneath this altar, archaeologists found a fragmented ivory reliquary “pyx”, a container traditionally used to hold significant religious relics.

The use of reliquaries became an important part of Christian practices from at least the 4th century AD. Reliquaries were exhibited in public for visiting pilgrims or were carried in procession on the saint’s feast day or on other holy days.

“We know of around 40 ivory containers of this kind worldwide, and, as far as I know, the last time one of these was found during an excavation was around 100 years ago – the few pyxes that exist are either preserved in cathedral treasures or exhibited in museums,” explains the finder, Gerald Grabherr.

One side of the reliquary features a depiction of a mountain with a man turning his gaze away, and a hand extending from the heavens above him. This scene is interpreted as the handing of the covenant laws to Moses on Mount Sinai, first described in the Book of Joshua 8:31–32.

Image Credit : University of Innsbruck

This is followed by depictions of biblical figures, such as a man riding a chariot and a hand coming from the clouds to pull this figure up into heaven. “We assume that this is a depiction of the ascension of Christ, the fulfilment of the covenant with God,” added Grabherr.

According to the researchers, the reliquary was already broken in late antiquity and was buried in the altar. “The pyx was presumably also seen as sacred and was treated as such because it was in contact with a relic. The archaeological and art-historical significance of the pyx cannot be denied,” said Gerald.

Header Image Credit : University of Innsbruck

Sources : University of Innsbruck

 

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

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Archaeology

Gold foils discovered in Ancient Egyptian tombs

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Archaeologists from the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities have discovered rare gold foils during excavations at Tel El-Dir.

Tel El-Dir is a burial complex in the area of Egypt’s Damietta Governorate. The site contains various burials and tombs from the 26th Dynasty (664 BC to 525 BC), the last native dynasty of ancient Egypt before the Persian conquest in 525 BC.

Excavations of 63 mud brick tombs and pit burials have revealed a large collection of funerary offerings, including rare gold foils depicting Ancient Egyptian deities, and foils shaped like symbols associated with good fortune and protection.

The team also found foils in the shape of tongues, a tradition that enabled the deceased to speak before the court of Osiris in the afterlife.

Image Credit : Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

The discovery follows on from a previous haul in 2022, where archaeologists excavating at Tel El-Dir found gold foils depicting Isis, Bastet and Horus (in the form of a winged falcon), as well as foils in various shapes.

According to a press statement from the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, many of the tombs contained funeral pyres, imported and local ceramics, and Ushabti statues (figurines placed with the deceased to serve them in the afterlife).

The excavation has also yielded a large number of funerary offerings, such as protective amulets, figurines, coins, and a mirror.

Speaking on the finds, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities explained that the objects confirm that Damietta was a centre of trade during ancient times, and provides new insights into the burial practices during the 26th Dynasty.

Header Image Credit : Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

Sources : Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

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

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New findings at world-famous Mesolithic site of Star Carr

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A recent study by archaeologists from the University of York and the University of Newcastle has revealed new insights into the domestic activities of the Mesolithic inhabitants of Star Carr.

Star Carr is one of the most significant and informative Mesolithic sites in Europe, which during prehistoric times was situated near the outflow at the western end of a palaeolake known as Lake Flixton.

Today, Star Carr lies at the eastern end of the Vale of Pickering near Scarborough in North Yorkshire, England.

Using microscopic evidence from the use of stone tools, the researchers found that a range of domestic activities took place in three previously excavated structures. This includes activities related to working with bone, antler, hide, meat, and fish.

The study, published in the journal PLOS One, used a combination of spatial and microwear data to provide different scales of interpretation: from individual tool use to patterns of activity across the three structures.

Dr Jess Bates, from the University of York’s Department of Archaeology said: “We found that there were distinct areas for different types of activity, so the messy activity involving butchery, for example, was done in what appears to be a designated space, and separate to the ‘cleaner’ tasks such as crafting bone and wooden objects, tools or jewellery.

“This was surprising as hunter-gatherers are known for being very mobile, as they would have to travel out to find food, and yet they have a very organised approach to creating not just a house but a sense of home.

“This new work, on these very early forms of houses suggests, that these dwellings didn’t just serve a practical purpose in the sense of having a shelter from the elements, but that certain social norms of a home were observed that are not massively dissimilar to how we organise our homes today.”

Header Image Credit : Shutterstock

Sources : Bates J, Milner N, Conneller C, Little A (2024) Spatial organisation within the earliest evidence of post-built structures in Britain. PLoS ONE 19(7): e0306908. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0306908

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

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