Medieval Sword Discovered in Polish Peat Bog

iStock
iStock

Sometime in the 14th century, a medieval knight traversing the marshes of southeast Poland either dropped his sword or sank into the muck, losing his life—and weapon—in the process. Archaeologists haven't found his remains, but they did discover his intact blade earlier this month in a peat bog near the Polish town of Hrubieszów, according to Archaeology.

The two-handed, 4-foot-long sword is corroded and missing its padded hilt, but it still bears its maker's brand: an isosceles cross, etched in the shape of a heraldic shield. Originally, it weighed just over 3 pounds, making it a good, lightweight weapon for fencing.

The sword has been donated to the Fr. Stanisław Staszic Museum in Hrubieszów, where experts hope to find out how, exactly, it ended up in a marsh. "This is a unique find in the region," noted Bartłomiej Bartecki, the museum's director, according to Science & Scholarship in Poland. Too often for similar artifacts, "their places of discovery is often unknown, and that is very important information for historians and archaeologists," he added.

Archaeologists plan to return to the site of the find and conduct minor excavations for other pieces of fighting equipment. As for the sword itself, conservationists will examine it to see if any engraved signs on the blade exist to identify its owner and origin.

"The place where the discovery was made is a wetland and a peat bog," Bartecki said. "It is possible that an unlucky knight was pulled into the marsh, or simply lost his sword."

[h/t Archaeology]

Laser Scans Detect Hidden Buildings and Tunnels Beneath Alcatraz Prison

iStock.com/f8grapher
iStock.com/f8grapher

Isolated in the San Francisco Bay and surrounded by steep cliff faces, Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary seemed like the most secure place to keep dangerous criminals in the mid-20th century. But it's recently come to light that every inmate on Alcatraz Island lived above a series of potential escape routes that predated the prison's construction, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

In a new study published in the journal Near Surface Geophysics, archaeologists reported their discovery of structures and artifacts beneath the Alcatraz prison yard, including underground buildings, tunnels, and ammunition magazines. Guided by historical maps, documents, and photographs, they used laser scanning technology and ground-penetrating radar to locate the subterranean fortress close to the surface.

The site dates back to the mid-19th century, when Alcatraz Island was used for military purposes. The same natural features that would later make Alcatraz an appealing prison also made it an ideal coastal fortification. Enough brick buildings were built there to house 200 soldiers and enough food was shipped in to feed them for four months.

But the fortification wasn't used for its original purpose for very long. It was transformed into the West Coast's official military prison during the Civil War, and in the 1930s, the government turned it into a federal prison. Instead of tearing down the forts and tunnels leftover from its military days, workers left them intact and built over them to save money. Archaeologists plan to investigate the underground structures further without disturbing the historic site.

Alcatraz Prison closed in 1963, so the underground tunnels no longer pose a security problem. Today the island is part of the U.S. National Park Service and is a popular tourist attraction.

[h/t San Fransisco Chronicle]

The Site Where Julius Caesar Was Assassinated Will Open to the Public in 2021

iStock.com/Largo di Torre Argentina
iStock.com/Largo di Torre Argentina

Besides being a sanctuary for stray cats, Largo di Torre Argentina in Rome is best known as the place where Julius Caesar was stabbed 22 times by assassins in 44 BCE. As the city's oldest open-air square, the spot is an important piece of Roman history, but it's fallen into disrepair. Now, Condé Nast Traveler reports that Largo di Torre Argentina will reopen to the public following a $1.1 million restoration project.

The site includes four ancient temples, a medieval brick tower, and the ruins of the senate house where Caesar was murdered. About 20 feet below street level, it was excavated under the rule of Benito Mussolini in the 1920s, and has remained largely closed to the public since. Today, Largo di Torre Argentina is overgrown and accessible only to the feral cats that live there.

On Monday, February 25, Rome mayor Virginia Raggi announced that Largo di Torre Argentina will reopen in the second half of 2021. To get the site ready for the public, the city will add restrooms, install lights, and build walkways that allow visitors to explore the area. Stone ruins, some of which are stacked into piles, will be secured, and artifacts currently sitting in storage will be moved to a museum. The one area the project will avoid is the corner where the cat sanctuary is located.

Rome, of course, is filled with ancient ruins—some that residents weren't even aware of until recently. In 2014, a 2000-year-old Roman road was unearthed during the construction of a McDonald's.

[h/t Condé Nast Traveler]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER