Iraqi forces patrol the front of the Nabi Yunus shrine in Mosul. Image credit: DIMITAR DILKOFF/Getty
Iraqi forces patrol the front of the Nabi Yunus shrine in Mosul. Image credit: DIMITAR DILKOFF/Getty

ISIS Destruction in Iraq Reveals 2700-Year-Old Palace

Iraqi forces patrol the front of the Nabi Yunus shrine in Mosul. Image credit: DIMITAR DILKOFF/Getty
Iraqi forces patrol the front of the Nabi Yunus shrine in Mosul. Image credit: DIMITAR DILKOFF/Getty

When it's not looting archaeological sites, ISIS is destroying them—and often doing both. The terror group has obliterated numerous ancient treasures, including the Temple of Baalshamin at Palmyra (in Syria) and the Palace of Ashurnasirpal II in Nimrud (Iraq). In 2014, after invading territories in northern Iraq, the group demolished Mosul’s Nabi Yunus shrine, where the biblical prophet Jonah (or Yunus, as he’s known in the Koran) was thought to be buried.

Now, archaeologists have made a surprising discovery beneath the shrine's wreckage. As The Telegraph reports, a pristine ancient palace located beneath it has been made accessible through tunnels dug by ISIS. Iraqi archaeologist Layla Salih uncovered a marble slab from the passageways inscribed with cuneiform referring to King Esarhaddon of the Assyrian Empire. That would make the artifact nearly 2700 years old.

At its peak from the seventh to ninth centuries BCE, the empire ruled the region from what is now Egypt through southern Turkey. Construction on the palace began during the reign of Sennacherib (681–669 BCE). The area around the structure was partly excavated in 1852 and again in the 1950s, but until now the palace had remained undiscovered. In addition to the cuneiform tablet, archaeologists found a stone sculpture of a demi-goddess. ISIS built the tunnels to pillage the site, and they likely looted hundred of items like pottery and small artifacts before they were forced to flee the area by Iraqi troops.

 

A tweet describes in Turkish the discovery of the palace.

 
With support from international organizations like the British Institute for the Study of Iraq, local archaeologists are now racing to excavate and document the palace before the unreliable tunnels collapse and bury it one again.

[h/t The Telegraph]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
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]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios