M.S. Przybyła // PAP
M.S. Przybyła // PAP

Archaeologists Unearth 3700-Year-Old Wall in Poland

M.S. Przybyła // PAP
M.S. Przybyła // PAP

Scientists in Poland say they have made a surprising find at a well-excavated archaeological site in the southeast: the oldest stone wall ever discovered in the country. Dating to the Bronze Age, the wall, constructed of thick stone slabs, was found at the site of Zyndram’s Hill in Maszkowice beneath a settlement occupied throughout the first millennium BCE. The early stone wall is much older; based on radiocarbon dating of organic materials discovered with the architectural elements, the researchers estimate it dates to between 1750 BCE and 1690 BCE.

It’s a highly unusual find not only for Poland but for the wider region, the archaeologists said. "In the whole Central Europe there are only a dozen sites dated so early with more or less well-preserved stone fortifications,”  Jagiellonian University researcher Marcin S. Przybyła said in a press statement. “At that time, the use of the stone as a building material was typical of the Mediterranean areas. In the temperate zone of Europe until the Middle Ages, fortifications were built with wood and clay."

The archaeological site on Zyndram’s Hill in Maszkowice, with the artificial flattening of the peak clearly visible. Image credit: A. Maślak via PAP

The structure was built on a hilltop that had been flattened in antiquity to create an inhabitable plateau of about 1.2 acres. Clay from the hilltop was used to build a terrace on the eastern and northern slopes of the hill. The interior wall was constructed of large, 1.5-foot-long sandstone blocks held together with clay. It was fortified with a retaining wall forged from huge, 3-foot-long blocks. The wall was almost 460 feet long and nearly nine feet tall, and bordered by a trench about five feet deep. This formidable wall was both structural and defensive, surrounding the eastern and northern sections of the settlement.

A researcher takes measurements near the base of the retaining wall where large stones slid down the slope and tipped over. Image credit: M.S. Przybyła via PAP

The archaeologists suspect its builders were not natives to the region—or at least likely imported the know-how to build such a structure from elsewhere. Przybyła says the size and style of the construction is closer to Bronze Age civilizations in the Mediterranean than to any cultural traditions of Central and Western Europe.

That idea is bolstered by the previous discovery of a foreign artifact at the site—a so-called violin idol. “Such statuettes were produced in large amounts in Mycenaean Greece, and [the] Northern Balkans," Przybyła said.

[h/t Archaeology]

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Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma
Utility Workers May Have Found One of Rome’s First Churches
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

The remains of what may have been one of Rome’s earliest Christian churches were accidentally discovered along the Tiber River during construction, The Local reports. The four-room structure, which could have been built as early as the 1st century CE, was unearthed by electrical technicians who were laying cables along the Ponte Milvio.

The newly discovered structure next to the river
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

No one is sure what to make of this “archaeological enigma shrouded in mystery,” in the words of Rome’s Archaeological Superintendency. Although there’s no definitive theory as of yet, experts have a few ideas.

The use of colorful African marble for the floors and walls has led archaeologists to believe that the building probably served a prestigious—or perhaps holy—function as the villa of a noble family or as a Christian place of worship. Its proximity to an early cemetery spawned the latter theory, since it's common for churches to have mausoleums attached to them. Several tombs were found in that cemetery, including one containing the intact skeleton of a Roman man.

Marble flooring
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

A tomb
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma1

The walls are made of brick, and the red, green, and beige marble had been imported from Sparta (Greece), Egypt, and present-day Tunisia, The Telegraph reports.

As The Local points out, it’s not all that unusual in Rome for archaeological discoveries to be made by unsuspecting people going about their day. Rome’s oldest aqueduct was found by Metro workers, and an ancient bath house and tombs were found during construction on a new church.

[h/t The Local]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Alexis Pantos, University of Copenhagen
Scientists Just Found the Oldest Known Piece of Bread
Alexis Pantos, University of Copenhagen
Alexis Pantos, University of Copenhagen

An old, charred piece of long-forgotten flatbread has captured the interest of archaeologists, anthropologists, and historians around the world. Found in a stone fireplace in Jordan’s Black Desert, this proto-pita dates back 14,400 years, making it the oldest known example of bread, Reuters reports.

To put the significance of this discovery in context: the flatbread predates the advent of agriculture by 4000 years, leading researchers to theorize that the laborious process of making the bread from wild cereals may have inspired early hunter-gatherers to cultivate grain and save themselves a whole lot of trouble.

“We now have to assess whether there was a relationship between bread production and the origins of agriculture,” Amaia Arranz-Otaegui, a researcher with the University of Copenhagen, told Reuters. “It is possible that bread may have provided an incentive for people to take up plant cultivation and farming, if it became a desirable or much-sought-after food.”

A report on these findings—written by researchers from the University of Copenhagen, University College London, and University of Cambridge—was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

It was once thought that bread was an invention of early farming civilizations. A 9100-year-old piece of bread from Turkey was previously regarded as the oldest of its kind. However, the Jordanian flatbread was made by a group of hunter-gatherers called the Natufians, who lived during a transitional period from nomadic to sedentary ways of life, at which time diets also started to change.

Similar to a pita, this unleavened bread was made from wild cereals akin to barley, einkorn, and oats. These were “ground, sieved, and kneaded prior to cooking,” according to a statement from the University of Copenhagen. The ancient recipe also called for tubers from an aquatic plant, which Arranz-Otaegui described as tasting “gritty and salty."

[h/t Reuters]

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