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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

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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]

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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
Found: A Sunken German World War I-Era Submarine
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SMU Central University Libraries, Flickr/Public Domain

During World War I, one of Germany's most formidable weapons was the U-boat, an advanced military submarine with torpedoes that sank countless Allied merchant and cargo ships. But while deadly, these submersibles weren't invincible, as evidenced by the recent discovery of a sunken German U-boat in the North Sea.

As ABC News reports, researchers located the UB II-type dive boat—a smaller submarine that typically plagued coastal waters—off the coast of Belgium, around 82 to 98 feet below the North Sea. The 88-foot vessel appears to have struck a mine with its upper deck, judging by damage suffered to its front.

The submarine is remarkably intact. Two of its torpedo tubes were destroyed, but one of them is still in good condition. The ship itself remained sealed, and may serve as a watery grave for up to 23 crew members.

The U-boat's final resting place hasn't been announced, as to prevent looting or damage, according to the BBC. Meanwhile, Belgian officials have contacted the German ambassador to see how they should proceed with any potential remains.

This isn't the first time a World War I-era U-boat has been found in Belgian waters. Experts have catalogued 11 such discoveries so far, but this one is reported to be the best preserved. The Chicago Tribune reports that since 18 U-boats were stationed in Bruges between 1915 and 1918, and 13 of them were destroyed, there might be even more of these kinds of finds to come.

[h/t ABC News]

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Cotswold Archaeology
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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
Amateur Archaeologists in England Unearth Rare Roman Mosaic
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Cotswold Archaeology

For the past three years, amateur archaeologists and historians in southern England have been working side-by-side with volunteers to excavate several seemingly related local Roman sites. Now, just two weeks before the dig's scheduled conclusion, they've made a fantastic discovery: a rare 4th-century CE mosaic that is being hailed as "the most important of its type in Britain in more than half a century," according to The New York Times.

Dating to roughly 380 CE, the mosaic was unearthed near the village of Boxford in Berkshire. The project—which included a rotating assembly of 55 members—involved local interest groups like the Boxford History Project and the Berkshire Archaeological Research Group, and was overseen by Cotswold Archaeology, a company that helps builders preserve archaeological finds. Funding was provided by the Heritage Lottery Fund, which gives grants to heritage projects across the UK.

In the project's first two years, the group members discovered a large Roman villa, a bathhouse, and a farmstead. In 2017, they began excavating the main villa, a site that yielded pottery, jewelry, coins, and other ancient objects. None of these artifacts, however, were as spectacular as the mosaic, which volunteers unearthed in a moment of serendipity shortly before funding for the dig ended.

Revealed sections of the artwork depict scenes featuring Bellerophon, a mythological Greek hero, along with other fabled figures. Bellerophon is famous in legends for capturing the winged horse Pegasus and for defeating the Chimera, a fire-breathing creature with a lion's head, a goat's body, and a serpent's tail.

Citizen archaeologists in Boxford, England unearth a Roman mosaic thought to date from 380 CE.
Cotswold Archaeology

"The range and style of imagery is very rare in the UK, where simple geometric patterns are the norm," Duncan Coe, a principal heritage consultant with Cotswold Archaeology, tells Mental Floss. "The combination of artwork and inscriptions is unique in this country. The range of imagery is also unique, with at least two scenes from the story of Bellerophon, a character from Greek mythology, augmented by Hercules and the Centaur, Cupid and telamones [male statues used as a column]—and we only have half of the mosaic revealed so far."

Excavators uncovered nearly 20 feet of the mosaic, but ultimately reburied it to deter looters and prevent damage. Members of Boxford's local archaeological community hope to secure funding and return to the site—now dubbed the Boxford villa—to dig up the entire scene.

A Roman mosaic thought to date from 380 CE, unearthed by citizen archaeologists in Boxford England.
Cotswold Archaeology

In addition to teaching experts about the villa's owners—who were evidently sophisticated and wealthy—and Boxford's ancient heritage, the newly discovered mosaic isn't just any ordinary artwork, according to Coe: "This isn't just an isolated mosaic, but a small, but very important, part of a bigger jigsaw that advances our understanding of what was happening in southern England just before the Roman government abandoned Britain," he says.

[h/t The New York Times]

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