Archaeologists unearthed an ancient Coptic tombstone during a dig Sunday (Oct. 22), according to Egypt's antiquities ministry.
The tombstone is decorated with a cross and Coptic inscriptions that were carved onto a limestone block, the ministry said. It measures about 1.2 feet by 3 feet (38 by 98 centimeters).
It wasn't immediately clear for whom the gravestone was made or when it was produced, but archaeologists plan to study it more to find out, Mostafa Alsager, the general director of Karnak Antiquities and the Avenue of Sphinxes, said in a statement. [Photos: 2,000-Year-Old Tombs Found in Egyptian Oasis]
The tombstone was discovered by an Egyptian archaeological group that was excavating beneath the Al Mathan bridge in Luxor, on the eastern side of the Avenue of Sphinxes — a well-known historical road that is lined with small sphinxes.
These days, Coptic Christians make up just 5 to 10 percent of Egypt's population, but the majority of Egyptians used to be Coptic, according to Paul Rowe, a professor of political and international studies at Trinity Western University in British Columbia, Canada.
The word "Copt" comes from an ancient Greek word that means "Egyptian," and it's used to refer to all Egyptian Christians, Rowe said.
According to the biblical book of Acts, Jews from Egypt visited Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost, a harvest festival that marked the birth of the Christian church just weeks after Jesus' crucifixion, Rowe said. These Egyptians took the Christian message back to their homes, which started the Coptic tradition.
The majority of Egyptians were Christian by the fourth century, but a few hundred years later, during the Middle Ages, Egyptians began to convert to Islam, Rowe said.
The discovery of the limestone tombstone may help archaeologists learn more about the ancient Coptic people who lived in Egypt, the ministry said.
Editor's note:New information that has come to light casts even more doubt on the validity of the "Amelia Earhart image." Read Live Science's coverage here.
A newly found black-and-white photo taken on the Marshall Islands may help solve the mystery of Amelia Earhart's disappearance, but not everyone is convinced that the famous aviator is in the photo.
The 80-year-old photo shows what may be Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, surrounded by a group of people on a dock on Jaluit Atoll in the Marshall Islands in 1937, according to History channel researchers, NBC reported today (July 6). The researchers suggest that Earhart was taken hostage by the Japanese, who had a military presence there.
"The new photo has certainly caused a stir," Richard Jantz, director emeritus of the Forensic Anthropology Center at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, who is also studying Earhart's disappearance, told Live Science. "I look forward to their putting it out before the scientific community, so we can see what they did and how they did it."
Other experts had a more skeptical take.
"What bothers me is that it is a side view and not a full lateral/side at that," Ann Ross, director of the Forensic Sciences Institute at North Carolina State University, told Live Science in an email. "A frontal view would be necessary for a good image comparison."
Earhart set several aviation records for speed and distance in the early 1930s, including her famous solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1932 — the first time a woman had accomplished such a feat, Live Science previously reported.
But her disappearance during a later adventure — her goal to become the first female pilot to fly around the world — continues to intrigue the public and scientists alike. Earhart and Noonan began the 29,000-mile (46,000 kilometers) journey hugging the equator from Miami on June 1, 1937. After flying for 29 days on her plane, the Electra, they landed in Lae, New Guinea, in the Pacific Ocean.
The duo planned to fly to Howland Island, but weather, and possibly a damaged radio antenna and inaccurate maps, seem to have led them astray. They were last heard from on July 2, 1937. The United States declared her dead on Jan. 5, 1939, but her remains were never found.
The newly recovered 8-by-10-inch (20 by 25 centimeters) photo is dated to 1937, and was reportedly taken by a U.S. spy keeping an eye on the Japanese military in the Marshall Islands, History channel investigators told NBC.
History's researchers discovered the photo in a U.S. National Archives file. Former FBI Executive Assistant Director Shawn Henry will describe the investigation during the 2-hour History special "Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence," airing at 9 p.m. EDT/ 8 p.m. CDT Sunday (July 9).
In the photo, a woman with a short haircut that resembles Earhart's is seen sitting on the dock. She is also wearing pants, as Earhart often did, and the proportions of her body match those from other photos of Earhart, Henry told NBC. Nearby, a man who resembles Noonan (he has the same prominent nose and receding hairline) stands next to a group of people, Ken Gibson, a facial recognition expert, told NBC.
"The image of Noonan is very dark and you cannot see any facial features," Ross said. She added that she's not certain how common short haircuts for women were during that period. Moreover, Earhart's posture does not suggest she was being held hostage, Ross said.
"I would say this is not convincing nor is it definitive," Ross said.
On the right side of the photo, the Japanese ship Koshu tows a barge with a plane-like object on it, which photo analysts estimated to be 38 feet (11.5 meters) long, the length of Earhart's Electra. The analysts added that the photo does not appears to be doctored, NBC said.
If the individuals in the photo really are Earhart and Noonan, then perhaps the team survived a crash-landing in the Marshall Islands, as islanders say they did, NBC reported. The events were even memorialized in postage stamps released by the Republic of the Marshall Islands in 1987 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of her last flight.
"We believe that the Koshu took her to Saipan [in the Mariana Islands, about 1,800 miles/3,000 km northwest of the Marshall Islands], and that she died there under the custody of the Japanese," Gary Tarpinian, the executive producer of the History special, told NBC.
It's unclear whether the U.S. government knew who was in the photo, NBC said. Its news team reached out to the Japanese foreign ministry, the Japan Ministry of Defense and the National Archives of Japan, and all three organizations said they had no evidence that Earhart was in their custody, NBC reported. Still, it's possible that such records were lost, NBC noted.
There are myriad ideas on what happened during Earhart's last flight. The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), a Pennsylvania-based group, has floated the idea that Earhart and Noonan ran out of fuel and landed on Gardner Island (now known as Nikumaroro), about 400 miles (640 km) south of Howland Island, where they died as castaways.
The group, in conjunction with National Geographic, is now bringing forensic dogs to Nikumaroro to sniff for human bones, and to see if any such bones match those of Earhart and Noonan, Live Science previously reported.
The number of stay-at-home mothers recently rose in the United States after decades of more and more moms working outside the home. But a new analysis of deeper history highlights how much motherhood has changed.
The proportion of working moms in the United States has gone up a whopping 800 percent since 1860, according to a new analysis by Ancestry.com, the genealogy website. In that year, 7.5 percent of mothers were in the workforce, according to the examination of U.S. Census records, compared with 67 percent in the 2010 Census.
The 150-year-long time span allowed Ancestry.com to track the growth of the maternal workforce over time. World War II brought about rapid increases in the percent of employed moms, given the fact that so many men were sent to war. But the biggest annual boost in workforce participation came in 1980, a year that saw a 12.6 percent growth rate for working women and brought the percentage of working moms to 52 percent, Ancestry.com reported. [Top 12 Warrior Moms in History]
A recent study by the Pew Research Center, which looked at a long-running study on Americans' time use, found similar increases in the number of working moms throughout the latter years of the 20th century, but the trend recently reversed, Pew reported in April. The number of stay-at-home moms rose to 29 percent in 2012, Pew found, up from 23 percent in 1999.
Some of these changes may be economic, as the category of stay-at-home moms includes women who cannot find work. Six percent of all stay-at-home moms report that they care for their children full-time, because they cannot find paid employment. Single and cohabiting moms are more likely to report staying at home for reasons of unemployment, disability or being in school than married stay-at-home moms. Still, two-thirds of stay-at-home moms report having husbands who work.
A Pew Research Center study from 2013 found that 32 percent of moms said they wanted to work full-time as of 2012, an increase from 20 percent in 2007.
That same 2013 study also found that more dads are staying at home, too, though the numbers are small compared with stay-at-home moms: As of 2012, 6 percent of married or cohabiting dads stayed at home with their kids.
The geography of working moms
Ancestry.com also looked at the geographical distribution of working and stay-at-home mothers. The results showed that the South used to have the most working moms, and the Midwest the least. That changed in the last 40 years, and Midwestern states now predominate the top 10 states for working mothers. South Dakota leads the pack with 79.9 percent of moms working, and North Dakota follows with 78.9 percent.
Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Vermont follow, all with more than 75 percent of moms working outside the home. New Hampshire has 73.5 percent working mothers, followed by Kansas with 73.3 percent and Maine with 71.1 percent.
Overall, the trajectory of working mothers in the United States starts out fairly flat, with slight increases between 1880 and 1940. The curve steepens as more women entered the workforce starting around 1941, and the increase gets even sharper with the women's rights movement of the 1960s.
The bones of an ancient bison species that lived some 13,000 to 14,000 years ago have been discovered beneath the ground at Vero Beach, Florida, archaeologists announced.
The bones were unearthed at one of the oldest and most significant archaeological digs in North America, the Old Vero Man Site. That site was discovered in 1915 after construction in the area exposed human remains, artifacts, and flora and fauna dating from the late Pleistocene epoch (1.8 million to about 11,700 years ago).
"About 100 years ago, the excavations at Vero … were the epicenter of the North American archaeological universe, because it was the very first site that was claimed with some support to demonstrate that humans and ice age animals were contemporaries on the North American landscape," James Adovasio, the principal investigator of the research, told Live Science.
An ancient mammal
The species Bison antiquus, also known as the "ancient bison," is a direct ancestor of the United States' new national mammal, the American bison. At 8 feet (2.4 meters) tall, 15 feet (4.6 m) long and nearly 3,500 lbs. (1,588 kilograms), the Bison antiquus was the most common large herbivore on the continent. For comparison, today's bison are smaller, at more than 6 feet tall and weighing about a ton (907 kg).
Lead archeologist Andrew Hemmings from from Florida Atlantic University's (FAU) Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute said in a statement that this discovery is particularly exciting because of the human history of the area.
"We couldn't have asked for a better representative species from that era," Hemmings said. "We now know that people were here in Vero Beach at that time."
Bison found on land
Discovered only 10 feet (3 m) underground, the bones are the first of their kind to be uncovered on land, rather than underwater. Due to Florida's climate, bones will naturally disintegrate through the years as they're subjected to countless episodes of wetting and drying. [Photos: 9,000-Year-Old Bison Mummy Found in Siberia]
"This is the first time to our knowledge that the species has been recovered in a terrestrial excavation," Adovasio said.
Identified using an upper molar, the Bison antiquus bones will now undergo deeper examination and research at FAU's Ancient DNA Lab at Harbor Branch.
The archaeologists also uncovered bone slivers that could have come from large ancient mammals like mammoths, mastodons, sloths or bison. Other discoveries at the Old Vero Man Site include the bones of smaller mammals, the head of a fly and pieces of charcoal — a sign of humans in the area.
"What is unique about Vero now is what it's promising to tell us about the nature of the lifestyles, if you will, of the first Floridians," Adovasio said. "I think Vero just adds a piece of the mosaic that we're trying to put together to understand what the first colonists of the New World had to face and what their responses to those environments might have been."
Scientists have hotly debated whether Neanderthals were driven into extinction because of modern humans. To solve this mystery, researchers have tried pinpointing when modern humans entered Western Europe. [Image Gallery: Our Closest Human Ancestor]
Modern human or Neanderthal?
The Protoaurignacians, who first appeared in southern Europe about 42,000 years ago, could shed light on the entrance of modern humans into the region. This culture was known for its miniature blades and for simple ornaments made of shells and bones.
Scientists had long viewed the Protoaurignacians as the precursors of the Aurignacians — modern humans named after the site of Aurignac in southern France who spread across Europe between about 35,000 and 45,000 years ago. Researchers had thought the Protoaurignacians reflected the westward spread of modern humans from the Near East — the part of Asia between the Mediterranean Sea and India that includes the Middle East.
However, the classification of the Protoaurignacians as modern human or Neanderthal has long been uncertain. Fossils recovered from Protoaurignacian sites were not conclusively identified as either.
Now scientists analyzing two 41,000-year-old teeth from two Protoaurignacian sites in Italy find that the fossils belonged to modern humans.
"We finally have proof for the argument that says that modern humans were there when the Neanderthals went extinct in Europe," study lead author Stefano Benazzi, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Bologna in Ravenna, Italy, told Live Science.
The researchers investigated a lower incisor tooth from Riparo Bombrini, an excavation site in Italy, and found it had relatively thick enamel. Prior research suggested modern human teeth had thicker enamel than those of Neanderthals, perhaps because modern humans were healthier or developed more slowly. They also compared DNA from an upper incisor tooth found in another site in Italy — Grotta di Fumane — with that of 52 present-day modern humans, 10 ancient modern humans, a chimpanzee, 10 Neanderthals, two members of a recently discovered human lineage known as the Denisovans, and one member of an unknown kind of human lineage from Spain, and found that the Protoaurignacian DNA was modern human.
"This research really could not have been done without the collaboration of researchers in many different scientific research fields — paleoanthropologists, molecular anthropologists, physical anthropologists, paleontologists and physicists working on dating the fossils," Benazzi said.
Killing off Neanderthals
Since the Protoaurignacians first appeared in Europe about 42,000 years ago and the Neanderthals disappeared from Europe between about 41,000 and 39,000 years ago, these new findings suggest that Protoaurignacians "caused, directly or indirectly, the demise of Neanderthals," Benazzi said.
It remains unclear just how modern humans might have driven Neanderthals into extinction, Benazzi cautioned. Modern humans might have competed with Neanderthals, or they might simply have assimilated Neanderthals into their populations.
The discovery of a burial containing 8,000-year-old battered human skulls, including two that still have pointed wooden stakes through them, has left archaeologists baffled, according to a new study from Sweden.
It's hard to make heads or tails of the finding: During the Stone Age, the grave would have sat at the bottom of a small lake, meaning that the skulls would have been placed underwater. Moreover, of the remains of at least 11 adults placed on top of the grave, only one had a jawbone, the researchers said.
The burial did contain other jawbones, although none of them, except for an infant's, were human. While excavating the site, archaeologists found various animal bones, including dismembered jawbones and arms and legs (all from the right side of the body), said study co-lead researcher Fredrik Hallgren, an archaeologist at the Cultural Heritage Foundation in Västerås, Sweden. [See Images from the Mysterious Burial Found in Sweden]
"Here, we have an example of a very complex ritual, which is very structured," Hallgren told Live Science. "Even though we can't decipher the meaning of the ritual, we can still appreciate the complexity of it, of these prehistoric hunter-gatherers."
The ancient burial site holds 11 adults (mostly their skulls and a few bones) and nearly the entire skeleton of an infant, who was likely stillborn or died shortly after birth. It was difficult to identify the sex of some, but at least three of the adults were female and six or seven were males, the researchers said.
Seven of the adults, including two of the females, showed signs of "blunt-force trauma" on their skulls, the researchers wrote in the study. But this trauma didn't kill them, at least not immediately, because all of the skulls showed signs of healing, Hallgren said.
"Somebody gave them love and care after this [trauma] and healed them back to life again," he said.
An analysis shed some light on the ancient carnage: The majority of the trauma happened above the hat line, which "is an indication that this trauma is the result of violence between humans," Hallgren said. What's more, the men tended to have trauma on top of and on the front of their heads, while the women's injuries were located on the backs of their heads, the researchers said.
Even more astounding were the wooden stakes found in two of the skulls. One stake had broken, but the other was long, about 1.5 feet (47 centimeters) in length, and both likely served as handles or mounts for the skulls, Hallgren said. They found a piece of brain tissue inside the skull with the broken stake through it.
The fact that the 8,000-year-old brain didn't decompose suggests that the individual was placed in the water soon after death, Hallgren said. However, some of the other skulls may have been placed there long after death, as it's possible the site may have served as a second burial for them, Hallgren said. [25 Grisly Archaeological Discoveries]
This strange burial site would have been hidden from view during the Stone Age, except for a few wooden stakes that may have poked above the water's edge, Hallgren said. Whoever made the grave began by tightly placing large stones and wooden stakes together at the lake's bottom, making a flat structure measuring about 39 feet by 46 feet (12 by 14 meters), meaning each side was about the length of a school bus.
The bones were placed on top of these stones in a particular order; archaeologists found the human remains in the center of the structure, brown bear bones on the southern part and, finally, big game animals, including wild boar, red deer, moose and roe deer, on the southeastern part of the stone packing.
"It's a very enigmatic structure," Hallgren said. "We really don't understand the reason why they did this and why they put it under water."
Though mysterious, the underwater burial had an upside: it preserved the remains for posterity. The bottom of the lake was a low-oxygen environment, meaning there wasn't much oxygen available for bone-decaying microorganisms, Hallgren said. In addition, limestone in the region's bedrock made the soil more alkaline (or basic), so the bones didn't leach away due to acid rain or acidic groundwater, Hallgren said.
Over time, the lake became overrun with reeds, and it turned into a bog. Eventually, a forest grew over the bog, but the area is still watery. Archaeologists were initially called to the area — located at the archaeological site of Kanaljorden, in eastern-central Sweden — to survey it for artifacts before the construction of a new railroad and bridge, Hallgren said. Once they found the strange burial, which was still located underwater, they immediately got to work, excavating from 2009 to 2013.
"The peat was still wet," Hallgren said. "In some parts of the site, we had to keep an electrical pump running to pump out the water that was running from the ground."
It's anyone's guess what caused these ancient people so much trauma, and what prompted the unusual burial. It's possible the people were part of a stigmatized group — perhaps, for instance, they were slaves. But it was uncommon for hunter-gatherer cultures, which were often on the move, to own slaves, the researchers said.
"The people who were deposited like this in the lake, they weren't average people," Hallgren said, "but probably people who, after they died, had been selected to be included in this ritual because of who they were, because of things they experienced in life."
The discovery is "very interesting, but also very perplexing," said Mark Golitko, an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Notre Dame, who was not involved in the study.
Golitko studies archaeological sites in Europe that have signs of ancient violence. "Most of the sites you can look at and get a rough sense of what's going on, but this is one of those where it's, like, I really don't know. It's a very strange site," Golitko told Live Science.
Between the trauma to the skulls and the strange burial, "There's clearly something ritual going on here," Golitko said. "What all that means, I don't think we'll ever know."
A melting patch of ancient snow in the mountains of Norway has revealed a bow and arrows likely used by hunters to kill reindeer as long ago as 5,400 years.
The discovery highlights the worrying effects of climate change, said study author Martin Callanan, an archaeologist at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
"It's actually a little bit unnerving that they're so old and that they're coming out right now," Callanan told LiveScience. "It tells us that there's something changing."
Locked in snow
Callanan and his colleagues spend every summer hiking up the Trollheim and Dovre mountains a few hours south of Trondheim, Norway, to study the snow patches in the area, track snow melt and look for archaeological artifacts. The mountains stretch 6,200 feet (1,900 meters) above sea level, and at the highest elevations, only rocks and snow prevail year-round.
In 2010 and 2011, a patch of snow melted, revealing an ancient bow and several arrows that had been locked in the snow for centuries. The bow was made from a common type of elm that grows at lower altitudes along the coast. The arrows were tipped in slate and set in different types of wood. [See Photos of the Ancient Bow and Arrows ]
Dating revealed the Neolithic bow was about 3,800 years old, while the oldest of the arrows were 5,400 years old.
Ancient Stone Age hunters probably used the bow and arrows to kill reindeer, which spend summer days at high altitudes. The mountain retreat would have allowed the animals a respite from pesky insects, while standing on snow patches would have helped the shaggy creatures keep cool, Callanan said. Those predictable habits likely made them easy prey for ancient hunters.
No one knows exactly who left these ancient hunting instruments, but the bow and arrows have a design that's strikingly similar to those found thousands of miles away in other frigid landscapes, such as the Yukon, Callanan said.
"The people in Norway, they didn't have any contact with people in the Yukon, but they have the same type of adaptation," Callanan said. "Across different cultures, people have acted in the same way."
Finding such well-preserved tools is rare, said E. James Dixon, an archaeologist and director of the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico, who was not involved in the study.
"It's one of the rare glimpses that we have into this Neolithic-period archery technology," Dixon said.
However, while the find itself is stunning, the climate change that caused such ancient snow to melt is bad for archaeology, he said.
Artifacts locked in ice can be preserved for thousands of years.
"As soon as ice melts and it comes out, it's subject to decomposition and we lose it," Dixon told LiveScience. "For every artifact we find, there are probably hundreds, maybe thousands, that are lost and just destroyed forever."
The bow and arrows are described in the September issue of the journal Antiquity.
A new map made from satellite data reveals Cambodia's Angkor Wat temple was the center of one of the largest cities of the pre-industrialized world.
The research also sheds light on the extent of the city's sprawl and on its mysterious downfall, factors that could be linked in a way that bears on today's extensive and suburbanized metropolises.
Using ground-sensing radar provided by NASA, researchers found evidence that the ancient Cambodian capital took up an area of nearly 400 square miles (1,000 square kilometers). For comparison,Philadelphia covers 135 square miles, while Phoenix sprawls across more than 500 square miles, not including the huge suburbs. Each has about 1.5 million residents in the city limits.
"In terms of population, however, Angkor would only have had a few hundred thousand people," said study team member Damian Evans, an archaeologist at the University of Sydney in Australia. "There were cities with much larger populations—for example, in China—before, during and after the Angkor period."
The new radar technique, which senses differences in plant growth and soil moisture content created by topographical differences, also identified more than 1,000 new manmade ponds and more than 70 long-lost temples.
The work, detailed in the Aug. 14 issue of the journal for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, provides fresh evidence for an idea put forward more than 50 years ago— that Angkor relied on a complex irrigation system consisting of linked ponds and that the city's downfall might have been the result of land overexploitation.
The Khmer capital
Angkor was the capital city of the Khmer empire from the 9th to the 16th centuries. The now-crumbling and decadent temple, Angkor Wat , was constructed in the 12th century at the bidding of one of its kings.
The new maps show that Angkor's water system consisted of canals in the North that funneled water into massive reservoirs in the city's center where the temple resided. "From there, a series of distributor canals dispersed the water through the southern parts of Angkor and down towards the lake," Evans explained.
In the 1950s, the late archaeologist Bernard-Philippe Groslier speculated that traces of a hydraulic network were part of an ancient irrigation network that ferried water to farmers in the city's suburbs. Groslier also argued that the breakdown of the network, triggered perhaps by overexploitation of the landscape, was implicated in Angkor's downfall.
Supporting Groslier's hypothesis, the new maps and excavations reveal breaches in dykes and attempts to patch up the system. Whether such phenomena were the cause, a symptom or a result of Angkor's decline remains to be determined, Evans said.
"Our research shows that Angkor was certainly extensive enough, and that land-use was certainly intensive enough, to have impacted profoundly on the regional ecology," Evans told LiveScience.
Angkor was surrounded by a vast expanse of rice fields that would have required extensive forest clearance. Over time, the intense farming could have led to serious ecological problems, including those associated with deforestation, overpopulation, topsoil degradation and erosion.
The consequence of overexploiting the environment isn't the only lesson Angkor's fate has for modern society, Evans said. Angkor required a massive infrastructural network of canals and roads to keep it running.
"This increasingly complex elaborate system would have been very difficult and expensive to maintain," Evans said. "This is obviously something to bear in mind, considering that many cities in our contemporary world are expansive, low-density urban sprawls as Angkor appears to have been."
Top 10 Ancient Capitals
Image Gallery: The Seven Ancient Wonders of the World
Rome wasn't born big. Back before it blossomed into an empire that sprawled across 2.2 million square miles (5.7 million square kilometers), twice the size of modern-day Argentina, Rome was an up-and-coming force threatened by a formidable city-state: Carthage.
Historians have long thought that Rome's wealth blossomed after Carthage— best known for the general Hannibal Barca's ill-advised decision to have his army traverse the Alps with almost 40 war elephants— was defeated by Rome in the Second Punic War (218 B.C. to 201 B.C.). Now, a new study of ancient coins provides evidence that this was, in fact, a critical turning point for Rome.
The wealth Rome received from booty and war reparations paid by Carthage helped fund Rome's budding empire. In addition, as part of the peace treaty, Carthage passed control over the Iberian Peninsula to Rome, which gave the Romans access to Spanish silver mines, according to a statement.
Katrin Westner, a postdoctoral researcher in archeometry (a branch of archaeology that focuses on dating ancient specimens) at Goethe University in Germany, and her team found that most of the Roman coins analyzed date to a period beginning during the Second Punic War. Those coins, the team discovered, were made of silver that probably came from Spanish mines, not from Greek colonies in southern Italy and Sicily. [Photos: Gladiators of the Roman Empire]
"It was kind of this 'hooray!' moment in the lab," Fleur Kemmers, a professor of ancient numismatics (the study of currency) at Goethe University, told Live Science,
The researchers analyzed the lead isotopes, the signature that marks different types of lead, of samples using mass spectrometry, from 69 coins from the period between 310B.C. to 101 B.C. This helped the scientists determine during which geological period the silver had been mined. (Since lead is either present in the ore from which silver is extracted or added as part of the extraction process, it is a useful indicator of the source of silver.)
The team then matched the time periods of the coins to the geological time periods when various ore deposits were formed in the western Mediterranean, including in Spain, France, North Africa, Italy and Asia Minor, which encompasses part of present-day Turkey and Armenia. The researchers found that of the 69 Roman coins they examined, 52 were most likely made from metal that came from Spain. These same 52 coins were also found to date between 209 B.C. and 101 B.C., which is significant because in 209 B.C. Rome conquered a Carthaginian stronghold in Spain—a turning point in the Second Punic War.
While the silver in the coins before then came from mining districts in southern Italy and Sicily, which was not under Roman control, the period following the Second Punic War marked a new era for the Roman economy, the researchers said. Bolstered by war reparations and booty obtained by plundering cities, and then later by the ore from mines in conquered lands, Spanish silver contributed to Rome's transformation into a leading superpower, according to a statement.
"[Rome's wealth after 209 B.C.] really helped to promote this kind of thinking that wars actually are a financial investment that can pay off afterwards, if you win it," Westner told Live Science.
This study is part of a wider project to analyze 164 coins from across the western Mediterranean spanning the period between 550 B.C. to 101 B.C., in order to obtain more evidence of how political power can be traced through the metal supply.
New scanning research has revealed so-called thermal anomalies in Egypt's Great Pyramid of Khufu, suggesting a space that could be a tomb within the 4,500-year-old pyramid.
Thermal imaging of the Great Pyramid of Khufu at Giza has revealed anomalies (variations in temperature) on the lower east side as well as the upper part of the pyramid. Additional thermal anomalies have been detected at the pyramid of Khafre as well as the Red and Bent Pyramids at Dahshur.
This image shows one of the spots on the Great Pyramid where an anomaly was detected. The work is being carried out by the Scan Pyramid project. (Image courtesy Scan Pyramids.)
The thermal scan shows that the temperature of the area is elevated by a few degrees (note the scale on the right). Researchers say that this could be caused by many things, including internal air currents, differences in the materials used or by an opening behind the wall. (Image courtesy Scan Pyramids.)
An unexpected find
A close-up view of the anomaly. Is there an opening behind these stones? More tests need to be done. (Image courtesy Scan Pyramids.)