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From the Trenches

Buried With Care

By JARRETT A. LOBELL

Monday, February 09, 2015

Trenches-France-Heart-Coffin

 

The town of Flers in northwestern France has existed since at least the twelfth century. In the fifteenth century, the small rural village of about 500 inhabitants was centered around the Church of Saint-Germain. French archaeologists excavating the church cemetery in order to understand the building, its history, and changing burial practices over the centuries have recently uncovered hundreds of burials. The majority of these were simple, wooden coffins from the medieval period, but among them were two richer coffins, both made of lead, dating to the eighteenth century. One of them had a lead heart attached to it as well.

Autumn of the Master Builder

By DANIEL WEISS

Monday, February 09, 2015

Trenches-West-Bank-Herodium-Aerial

Herod, king of Judea from 37 to 4 B.C., has long been renowned as an architectural visionary, having overseen such projects as the reconstruction of the Temple of Jerusalem, the Masada palace complex, and the harbor and city of Caesarea. Now, archaeologists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem excavating the king’s palatial complex at Herodium have uncovered evidence that Herod sometimes sacrificed extensive work on one grand construction plan in favor of another.

 

Trenches-West-Bank-CorridorResearchers discovered a large corridor in the upper palace at Herodium, apparently designed to allow the king and his entourage direct access to the palace courtyard. The corridor was at least 65 feet high and supported by a network of arches, but was left unfinished and partially filled in with rubble when the king decided to turn the hilltop into a giant cone-shaped monument. “This was a huge project being done just for the sake of preserving his name,” says archaeologist Yakov Kalman. “This was probably done in the last 10 years of his life when Herod was not mentally stable.”

Squaring the Circles

By JASON URBANUS

Monday, February 09, 2015

Trenches-Jordan-Circle

 

Researchers from the Aerial Photographic Archive for Archaeology in the Middle East have brought renewed attention to an archaeological phenomenon known as “Big Circles.” Spread across parts of Jordan and Syria, these manmade features have received very little archaeological attention and are relatively unknown, even to regional experts. They are thought to be at least 2,000 years old—two of them are cut by later Roman roads—but may date as far back as the Neolithic. Constructed of stone walls rarely rising more than a few feet, they measure about 1,300 feet in diameter, and, puzzlingly, show no evidence of entrances. “The combination of aerial recording of each circle, sites with which it may intersect, its context, and examination on the ground, have helped clarify their character and possible date,” says project director David Kennedy. The origin, function, and purpose of the circles remain a mystery, although Kennedy hopes that his work will provide a new perspective from which to analyze them.

Hidden in a Coin Hoard

By DANIEL WEISS

Monday, February 09, 2015

Trenches-Jersey-Hoard

 

Archaeologists separating the contents of the largest known Celtic coin hoard have uncovered a number of gold items mixed in with the coins. The hoard, which was found on Jersey in the British Channel Islands, consists of 70,000 coins estimated to weigh a half ton in all. The researchers have so far removed a shoebox-sized portion of the hoard, revealing one complete gold torque and parts of six others.

 

The hoard is thought to date to around 50 B.C., when the Romans, led by Julius Caesar, were advancing north through France conquering Celtic tribes as they went. “We think they were trying to get their wealth out of the way,” says Neil Mahrer, a museum conservator with Jersey Heritage, “presumably with the idea of coming back for it later.”

History's Largest Megalith

By ERIC A. POWELL

Monday, February 09, 2015

Trenches-Lebanon-Megalith

 

A team of archaeologists at a 2,000-year-old limestone quarry in Lebanon’s Bekka Valley recently excavated around a megalith weighing approximately 1,000 tons and dubbed Hajjar al-Hibla, or “stone of the pregnant woman.” It was intended for the Temple of Jupiter, which sits on three limestone blocks of similar size at the nearby site of Baalbek. To the team’s shock, they unearthed yet another block, this one weighing an estimated 1,650 tons, making it the largest known megalith. The German Archaeological Institute’s Margarete van Esse says excavation was suspended when the trench became dangerously deep. “Hopefully in a following campaign we can dig down to the bottom of the block,” she adds. The team wants to find clues there that will show how the megaliths were transported. 

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