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Archaeologists Discover Three Roman shipwrecks

Archaeologists in Egypt have announced the discovery of three underwater shipwrecks that date from the Roman Era in Abu Qir Bay, Alexandria.

The three wrecks were uncovered during a research project in collaboration between the European Institute of Underwater Archaeology and the Supreme Council of Antiquities.

In a press statement, Dr. Mostafa Waziri added that the project also uncovered a Roman head carved in crystal that may belong to the commander of the Roman armies of “Antonio”, in addition to three gold coins dating back to the Emperor “Octavius”.

Dr. Osama Alnahas – Head of the Central Department of the Underwater Antiquities said that the initial excavations have also indicated that a fourth shipwreck remains to be unearthed, as the project discovered Large wooden planks, as well as archaeological remains of pottery vessels that may represent the ships hull and cargo.

Dr. Ayman Ashmawy, Head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Sector said that the archaeological mission began its excavations last September.

Underwater research by both projects have included a survey of the soil in both the eastern port and the Abu Qir Bay, underwater excavations at the Heraklion sunken city in Abu Qir Bay which includes the discovery of a votive bark of the god Osiris,as well as the completion of the conservation and documentation works.

Third Roman temple discovery in Silchester may have been part of emperor’s vanity project

A Roman temple uncovered in a Hampshire farmyard by University of Reading archaeologists may be the first building of its kind in Britain to be dated back to the reign of Emperor Nero.

The temple remains were found within the grounds of The Old Manor House in the Roman town at Silchester, along with rare tiles stamped with the name of the emperor, who ruled AD54-68.

The temple joined two others to make a group of three when it was investigated in Silchester in autumn 2017, and is the first to be identified in the town for more than 100 years. The three temples are located in a walled sanctuary, numbered Insula XXX by Victorian archaeologists. It would have been a striking gateway to the city for travellers from London.

Four fragments of tiles stamped in Nero’s name were found in a ritual pit within the temple site – the largest concentration ever found in the town – along with another three at the kiln site which made the tiles in nearby Little London. These provide further evidence that the temples could all have been part of a Nero-sponsored building project in Silchester.

Professor Mike Fulford at the University of Reading, who is leading the Silchester archaeology team, said: “These findings are a crucial piece of the jigsaw as we look to solve the mystery of Nero’s links to Silchester. This is something that has puzzled archaeologists for more than a century.

“Only a handful of Nero-stamped tiles have ever been found in the UK, so to unearth this many was very exciting. It adds to the evidence that Nero saw Silchester as a pet project where he could construct extravagant buildings like those seen in Rome, to inspire awe among his subjects in the UK.”

The three temples are the earliest known masonry constructions in Silchester, the city of Calleva in Roman times. They would therefore have been the most prominent buildings in the city, being erected decades before others, like the great complex of the forum basilica in the centre of the town, were rebuilt in masonry. They were aligned north to south at the eastern end of the Roman town.

The remains of the first two temples on the Insula XXX site were first found during grave-digging in St Mary’s churchyard in 1890, with evidence of the third building unearthed in 1902. However, its identity as another temple was overlooked until now.

Ground-penetrating radar, and a follow-up excavation this autumn, have confirmed three temples once stood on the site. They had a typical ‘double-square’ plan – a central cella (shrine) surrounded by a walkway. This design originated in the late Iron Age, and is rare in Britain but more common in France and Germany.

The foundations suggest the temples could have been up to 15m high. The dimensions of the third temple, 15m by 17.5m, are similar to those of the southernmost Insula XXX temple but smaller than the central one, which still remains the largest known of its type in Roman Britain.

Although the religious purpose of the temples remains a mystery, evidence uncovered at the latest temple site suggests it was built in the 50s or 60s of the first century AD – within Nero’s short reign. Similarities in the layout within the three temples suggest all three were conceived and built at a similar time, although further excavations by the team will test this theory.

Nero’s reign is associated with brutality and extravagance. He was known for the persecution of Christians as well as his grand building plans, some of which were constructed after Rome’s great fire, before his suicide. Nero’s buildings were made in high-quality stone, as well as ceramic brick and tile, but only the tiles found at Silchester are stamped in his name.

The existence of one of his buildings in Roman Britain, as well as evidence he might have visited, has always remained elusive. However, the find of the seven tiles, adding to only 14 previously found in the UK, only at Silchester and Little London, validates the theory that Nero was keen to sponsor a building project in Silchester.

Another Nero tile found close to the public baths in Insula XXXIIIA in the south-east of the Roman town suggests the baths were built early in the town’s development. Excavation to test this will take place in the summer of 2018.

University of Reading

An international group of scientists reveals the mystery about the origin of gold

An international group of scientists, with the participation of the University of Granada (UGR), has shed new light on the origin of gold, one of the most intriguing mysteries for Mankind since ancient times and which even today doesn’t have an answer that convinces the scientific community.

Their work, which has been recently published in the renowned Nature Communications journal, has established that the gold came to the Earth’s surface from the deepest regions of our planet. Thus, the Earth’s set of internal movements would have favored the ascent and concentration of the precious metal.

The researchers have found evidence of said process in the Argentinean Patagonia, which in addition represents the first register of gold found under the South American continent, specifically at a depth of 70 kilometers.

The researchers belong to various universities from Chile, Australia and France, and among them there’s also José María González Jiménez, a Ramón y Cajal researcher from the Department of Mineralogy and Petrology at the University of Granada.

The UGR researcher reminds that the interior of the Earth is divided into three large layers: crust, mantle and core. “The minerals we extract and which support our economy are located in the crust. And, although we are experts in taking advantage of them, we still know very little about their true origin. The search for gold has motivated migrations, expeditions and even wars, but its origin is one of the main questions in the field of mineral deposits genesis”.

The mantle is the layer separating the nucleus from the crust in which we all live, and its upper limit is located at about 17 kilometers under the oceans and 70 kilometers under the continents. “This distance is unreachable for Mankind, since we don’t possess the means for reaching the mantle and thus knowing more about it in a direct way yet”, the UGR researcher notes.

Nevertheless, the mantle can reach us thanks to volcanic eruptions, which bring with them small fragments, or ‘xenoliths’, from the mantle under the continents to the surface.

Those rare xenoliths are the ones that have been studied in this research. In them, the researchers have found tiny native gold particles, whose thickness is that of a human hair and whose origin is the deep mantle.

Research at the Deseado Massif

The focus of the research has been the region of the Deseado Massif at the Argentinean Patagonia, one of the largest auriferous provinces in the whole planet and whose gold mines are still being exploited.

Since the concentration of gold at that spot in the crust is very high the researchers have been able to figure out why mineral deposits are limited to some specific regions of the planet. Their hypothesis is that the mantle under that region is unique: it has a tendency to generate gold deposits on the surface due to its history.

“Said history dates back 200 million years, when Africa and South America were part of the same continent -González Jiménez says-. Their separation was caused, among other factors, by the ascent of a ‘mantle plume’ from the deep mantle, which broke the crust (much thiner and fragile) and caused the separation of the two continents. The ascent of said deep mantle plume generated a true chemical factory that enriched the mantle with metals, which would later generate the conditions for the creation of gold deposits. This time the process was caused by the movement of a tectonic plate under another, allowing the circulation of metal-rich fluids through the cracks, which precipitated the metals and concentrated them near the surface”.

The findings of the research team shed new light on the formation of mineral deposits, which are generally attributed to an origin in the crust itself, without taking into account the role of a deeper root from the mantle.

This new scientific evidence could contribute to a more advanced exploration of deposits that takes into account not only surface images or ‘radiographies’ of the crust for their search, but also studies the depths of the mantle, a region where the origin of one of the metals that has allured our species the most could be traced to.

UNIVERSITY OF GRANADA

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