This Week in Badass History

Gentle readers! Welcome to a new feature of Archaeologist for Hire: This week in Badass History!

Most folks are aware that cool things often happen over the course of time, but it needs to be noted just how badass the people and events of the past were.

41Gaius Caesar (Caligula), known for his eccentricity and cruel despotism, is assassinated by his disgruntled Praetorian Guards. Claudius succeeds his nephew.
98Trajan becomes Roman Emperor after the death of Nerva.
814Charlemagne (b. 742) (Ok, so perhaps death isn’t the most badass thing but Charlemagne *was* badass, so he gets included.)
971 – In China, the war elephant corps of the Southern Han are soundly defeated at Shao by crossbow fire from Song Dynasty troops.
1606Gunpowder Plot: The trial of Guy Fawkes and other conspirators begins, ending with their execution on January 31.

For further reading on badasses, I highly recommend checking out this website.

Brought to you by the research staff of Ancient Aliens Season 3.

Also!

I think there may be a few of you who will be delighted to know that the 3rd season of Ancient Aliens is currently in pre-production! I’ll update more as we go along but it’s going to be one hell of an adventure with even more episodes than last season!

Now back to researching…

Archaeology in the News! Exciting new finds from northern Greece!

Archontiko dig bears witness to rich warrior society


Archaeologists unearth another 37 burials at the 20-hectare cemetery site in northern Greece

By John Leonard

A fresh trove of ancient evidence attesting to the long, rich history of the region of Pella in northern Greece has been uncovered during recent archaeological excavations at the vast cemetery site of Archontiko, Pella.

Archaeologists Anastasia and Pavlos Chrysostomou, of the 17th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, report that another 37 burials dating from the late Iron Age to the early Hellenistic period (circa 650-280 BC) have been exposed during the 2010 season, according to a statement released by the Culture Ministry on September 20, 2010.

Investigation of the 20-hectare cemetery site, located 5 km west of Classical-Hellenistic Pella — the capital of ancient Macedonia from circa 410 BC, has been ongoing since at least the summer of 2000, when the first warrior burials containing gold-decorated armor, weapons, and many other high-status funerary gifts were discovered. To date, with only about 5 percent of the site excavated, a total of 1,004 graves have already been found, including 259 from the Late Iron Age, 475 from the Archaic period, 262 from Classical and early Hellenistic times, and eight of unknown date.

Archontiko contains the cremated and inhumed remains of men, women and children buried with diverse collections of grave goods that indicate Macedonian culture had already attained a high level of development some two centuries before the time of Philip II, father of Alexander the Great.

Of the latest 37 graves to be opened, six belong to the Late Iron Age (circa 650-580 BC) and contained a variety of ceramic vases and metal objects. Thirty-one burials date to the Classical and Hellenistic periods (5th-3rd century BC). Sixteen of these graves belonged to well-to-do Macedonian men and women buried with distinctive assemblages of personal and precious items. Men were laid to rest with iron weapons (spearheads and knives), metal jewelry (fibulae, rings), gilded bronze wreaths of myrtle, iron strigils, bronze coins and ceramic vessels. Women were buried with metal jewelry (earrings, mouth coverings, necklaces, fibulae, buckles, rings), gilded bronze wreaths of myrtle, bronze coins, glass and ceramic vessels, ceramic busts and figurines, and knucklebones. Women of particularly high status had their graves adorned with iron knives, metal jewelry (diadem strips, mouth coverings, earrings, fibulae, rings, bracelets), amber beads, ceramic figurines and busts, and especially bronze, ceramic, faience and glass vessels. The remains of one young female, who had been cremated, were discovered in a ceramic box (pyxis) beside gold, silver and iron jewelry, a gold mouthpiece, and a unique miniature glass amphora intended for perfume.

Particularly remarkable are the graves of nine male warriors, including one that dates to circa 650 BC. This dead man, buried in a manner worthy of a celebrated hero, was interred with a bronze helmet adorned with gold strips; iron weapons (a sword with a gold-covered handle, two spearheads, four knives); a golden ring; a golden mouthpiece; gold hand coverings decorated with impressed spirals and gorgons; gold shoe covers decorated with golden strands; gold strips that once adorned the funeral shroud; three iron fibulae (one with gold on its head); iron models of a two-wheeled farm cart, furniture and roasting spits; and numerous other objects including molded ceramic vessels that depict a ram and a seated figure of Hades. With the excavators noting that this latest ceremonial helmet is the 404th helmet to have been found at Archontiko in Pella, it seems the site still has many secrets and rich details to tell about ancient Macedonian life and death.

 

 Source!

 

Archaeology in the News! Earliest known winery found in Armenian cave

Source: National Geographic

Earliest Known Winery Found in Armenian Cave

Barefoot winemakers likely worked in cave where oldest leather shoe was found.

World's oldest, or earliest, known winemaking equipment, including a wine press (picture), as identified by a UCLA/National Geographic Society excavation

An apparent wine press (in front of sign) and fermentation vat (right) emerge during a dig in Armenia.

Photograph courtesy Gregory Areshian

James Owen

for National Geographic News

Published January 10, 2011

As if making tholdest known leather shoe wasnt enough, a prehistoric people in whats now Armenia also built the world’oldest known winerya new study says.

Undertaken at a burial site, their winemaking may have been dedicated to the dead—and it likely required the removal of any fancy footwear.

Near the village of Areni, in the same cave where a stunningly preserved, 5,500-year-old leather moccasin was recently found, archaeologists have unearthed a wine press for stomping grapes, fermentation and storage vessels, drinking cups, and withered grape vines, skins, and seeds, the study says.

“This is the earliest, most reliable evidence of wine production,” said archaeologist Gregory Areshian of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

“For the first time, we have a complete archaeological picture of wine production dating back 6,100 years,” he said. (Related: “First Wine? Archaeologist Traces Drink to Stone Age.”)

The prehistoric winemaking equipment was first detected in 2007, when excavations co-directed by Areshian and Armenian archaeologist Boris Gasparyan began at the Areni-1 cave complex.

In September 2010 archaeologists completed excavations of a large, 2-foot-deep (60-centimeter-deep) vat buried next to a shallow, 3.5-foot-long (1-meter-long) basin made of hard-packed clay with elevated edges.

The installation suggests the Copper Age vintners pressed their wine the old-fashioned way, using their feet, Areshian said.

Juice from the trampled grapes drained into the vat, where it was left to ferment, he explained.

The wine was then stored in jars—the cool, dry conditions of the cave would have made a perfect wine cellar, according to Areshian, who co-authored the new study, published Tuesday in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

(Related pictures: Before and After: Wine-Cult Cave Art Restored in Petra.”)

Wine Traces

To test whether the vat and jars in the Armenian cave had held wine, the team chemically analyzed pottery shards—which had been radiocarbon-dated to between 4100 B.C. and 4000 B.C.—for telltale residues.

The chemical tests revealed traces of malvidin, the plant pigment largely responsible for red wine’s color.

“Malvidin is the best chemical indicator of the presence of wine we know of so far,” Areshian said.

Ancient-wine expert Patrick E. McGovern, a biomolecular archaeologist at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia, agrees the evidence argues convincingly for a winemaking facility.

One thing that would make the claim a bit stronger, though, said McGovern, who wasn’t involved in the study, is the presence of tartaric acid, another chemical indicator of grapes. Malvidin, he said, might have come from other local fruits, such as pomegranates.

Combined with the malvidin and radiocarbon evidence, traces of tartaric acid “would then substantiate that the facility is the earliest yet found,” he said.

“Later, we know that small treading vats for stomping out the grapes and running the juice into underground jars are used all over the Near East and throughout the Mediterranean,” he added.

(Related: “Ancient Christian ‘Holy Wine’ Factory Found in Egypt.”)

Winery Discovery Backed Up by DNA?

McGovern called the discovery “important and unique, because it indicates large-scale wine production, which would imply, I think, that the grape had already been domesticated.”

As domesticated vines yield much more fruit than wild varieties, larger facilities would have been needed to process the grapes.

McGovern has uncovered chemical and archaeological evidence of wine, but not of a winery, in northern Iran dating back some 7,000 years—around a thousand years earlier than the new find.

But the apparent discovery that winemaking using domesticated grapevines emerged in what’s now Armenia appears to dovetail with previous DNA studies of cultivated grape varieties, McGovern said. Those studies had pointed to the mountains of Armenia, Georgia, and neighboring countries as the birthplace of viticulture.

McGovern—whose book Uncorking the Past: The Quest for Wine, Beer, and Other Alcoholic Beverages traces the origins of wine—said the Areni grape perhaps produced a taste similar to that of ancient Georgian varieties that appear to be ancestors of the Pinot Noir grape, which results in a dry red.

To preserve the wine, however, tree resin would probably have been added, he speculated, so the end result may actually have been more like a Greek retsina, which is still made with tree resin.

In studying ancient alcohol, he added, “our chemical analyses have shown tree resin in many wine samples.”

Ancient Drinking Rituals

While the identities of the ancient, moccasin-clad wine quaffers remain a mystery, their drinking culture likely involved ceremonies in honor of the dead, UCLA’s Areshian believes.

“Twenty burials have been identified around the wine-pressing installation. There was a cemetery, and the wine production in the cave was related to this ritualistic aspect,” Areshian speculated.

Significantly, drinking cups have been found inside and around the graves.

McGovern, the ancient-wine expert, said later examples of ancient alcohol-related funerary rituals have been found throughout the world.

In ancient Egypt, for example, “you have illustrations inside the tombs showing how many jars of beer and wine from the Nile Delta are to be provided to the dead,” McGovern said. (Also see “Scorpion King’s Wines—Egypt’s Oldest—Spiked With Meds.”)

“I guess a cave is secluded, so it’s good for a cemetery, but it’s also good for making wine,” he added. “And then you have the wine right there, so you can keep the ancestors happy.”

Future work planned at Areni will further investigate links between the burials and winemaking, study leader Areshian said.

Winemaking as Revolution

The discovery is important, the study team says, because winemaking is seen as a significant social and technological innovation among prehistoric societies.

Vine growing, for instance, heralded the emergence of new, sophisticated forms of agriculture, Areshian said.

“They had to learn and understand the cycles of growth of the plant,” he said. “They had to understand how much water was needed, how to prevent fungi from damaging the harvest, and how to deal with flies that live on the grapes.

“The site gives us a new insight into the earliest phase of horticulture—how they grew the first orchards and vineyards,” he added.

University of Pennsylvania archaeologist Naomi Miller commented that “from a nutritional and culinary perspective, wine expands the food supply by harnessing the otherwise sour and unpalatable wild grape.

“From a social perspective, for good and ill,” Miller said, “alcoholic beverages change the way we interact with each other in society.”

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The ancient-winery study was led by UCLA’s Hans Barnard and partially fundedby the National Geographic Society’s Committee for Research and Exploration. (The Society owns National Geographic News.)