Masada, by Andrew Shiva, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
Masada, by Andrew Shiva, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Love Ancient Ruins? Play ArchaeoMadness

Masada, by Andrew Shiva, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
Masada, by Andrew Shiva, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

What's more amazing, the majestic pyramids at Giza or the stupendous Jetavanaramaya stupa in Sri Lanka? The incredible hieroglyphic staircase at the Maya city of Copan, or the 20,000-year-old footprints of children at Mungo Lake in Australia? How about clifftop Masada, the last Jewish stronghold against the Roman invasion, or the HMS Erebus, the shipwreck remnants of the doomed Franklin Expedition? 

These fantastic archaeological sites—and 26 more—are in hot competition to win this year's ArchaeoMadness, a brackets game developed by the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) to mark International Archaeology Day on October 17.

Here's how the AIA* describes the tournament, which is like March Madness for archaeology nerds (check!):

In ArchaeoMadness, 32 archaeological sites enter the tournament in a single elimination bracket. Each day, participants can vote for their favorite archaeological site in a head-to-head competition between two sites. The winning sites from each matchup move on to the next round. This will be repeated in each round until the championship.

You get points for every successful prediction, with more points awarded the farther you get in the tournament. The winner receives a pretty useful prize for visiting ruins: a GoPro HERO Starter Bundle, which includes a camera, memory card, and head strap mount. There are also daily prizes ranging from International Archaeology Day stickers in the round of 32 to an AIA Society membership in the final four. 

You can play in two ways: by either submitting a full bracket by September 15, or by voting for your favorite site every day. (The full schedule is below.)

The sites are a mix of the famous (Lascaux) and the lesser known (Laas Geel), but they'll all spark your curiosity. A popup window provides a photo and background about each one, so you don't have to choose blindly (and will likely have several whoa, cool, I want to go there moments). Other head-to-head battles include the key-shaped Tomb of Emperor Nintoku v. the Minoan palace at Knossos; the Bam adobe citadel v. the sacred site of Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau; and the 100,000 statues carved into Longmen Grottoes v. the 1200-foot-long Serpent Mound.

Last year's winning site was the sprawling, spectacular Khmer temple complex Angkor Wat. 

*Full disclosure: Years ago I was a staff writer/editor at Archaeology, an AIA publication written for a popular audience. It's a wonderful magazine. You should read it.

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Blue Water Ventures International
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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
Gold Artifacts Discovered in 19th-Century Shipwreck That Was the ‘Titanic of Its Time’
Blue Water Ventures International
Blue Water Ventures International

On June 14, 1838, the steamship Pulaski was sailing off the coast of North Carolina, headed for Baltimore, when one of its boilers exploded, killing numerous passengers and causing colossal damage to the ship. It sank in less than an hour, taking two-thirds of its passengers with it. In January 2018, divers finally found the wreckage, and their latest expedition has brought back numerous new treasures, according to The Charlotte Observer, including a gold pocket watch that stopped just a few minutes after the boiler reportedly blew up.

The Pulaski disaster, which the Observer refers to as “the Titanic of its time,” was notable not just for its high death toll, but for whom it was carrying when it went down. The luxury steamship’s wealthy passengers included former New York Congressman William Rochester and prominent Savannah banker and businessman Gazaway Bugg Lamar, then one of the richest men in the region. At the time, the North Carolina Standard called the sinking “the most painful catastrophe that has ever occurred upon the American coast.”

An engraving showing the 'Pulaski' exploding
An 1848 illustration of the Pulaski explosion
Charles Ellms, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Divers from Blue Water Ventures International and Endurance Exploration Group (which owns the rights to the site) have located a number of artifacts that support the belief that the wreck they found is, in fact, what’s left of the Pulaski.

While they have yet to find the engraved ship’s bell (the main object used to authenticate a wreck), divers identified a few artifacts engraved with the name Pulaski, as well as numerous coins that were all produced prior to 1838. The 150 gold and silver coins discovered thus far are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars today. They’ve also discovered silverware, keys, thimbles, and the ship's anchor.

A close-up of the gold pocket watch
Blue Water Ventures International

And in their most recent expedition, the divers found a unique gold watch that further supports the claim that this ship is the Pulaski. The hands of the engraved solid gold pocket watch on a gold chain—a piece only the wealthiest of men could afford—are stopped at 11:05, just five minutes after the boiler reportedly exploded.

The excavation of the remains of the ship will hopefully illuminate more of its story. Already, it has changed what we know about the ship’s final night: The wreck was discovered 40 miles off the North Carolina coast, a bit farther than the 30 miles estimated in initial newspaper reports of the disaster.

The investigators hope to eventually find evidence that will allow them to pinpoint why the deadly explosion occurred. While such explosions weren’t rare for steamships at the time, the crew may have pushed the ship beyond its limits in an attempt to reach its destination faster, causing the boiler to burst. Expeditions to the wreckage are ongoing.

[h/t The Charlotte Observer]

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Evening Standard, Getty Images
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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
$2.5 Million in World War II-Era Cash Discovered Beneath Winston Churchill's Former Tailor's Shop
Evening Standard, Getty Images
Evening Standard, Getty Images

A valuable secret has been hiding beneath the floorboards of a sporting goods store in the UK since World War II. As the BBC reports, about £30,000 in roughly 80-year-old British bank notes was unearthed by a renovation project at the Cotswold Outdoor store in Brighton. Adjusting for inflation, their value would be equal to roughly $2.5 million today.

Owner Russ Davis came across the hidden treasure while tearing out decades-worth of carpet and tiles beneath the property. What he initially assumed was a block of wood turned out to be a wad of cash caked in dirt. Each bundle held about £1000 worth of £1 and £5 notes, with about 30 bundles in total.

The bills are badly damaged, but one surviving design element holds an important clue to their history. Each note is printed in blue, the color of the emergency wartime currency first issued by the Bank of England in 1940.

At the time the money was buried, the property was home to the famous British furrier and couturier Bradley Gowns. Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his wife, Lady Clementine Churchill, were reportedly regular customers.

The reason the fortune was stowed beneath the building in the first place remains a mystery. Davis imagines that it might have come from a bank robbery, while Howard Bradley, heir to the Bradley Gowns family business, suspects it might have been stashed there as a getaway fund in anticipation of a Nazi invasion, as he told the New York Post.

The hoard will remain in the possession of the Sussex police as more details on the story emerge.

[h/t BBC]

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