Recent Discoveries 2

An Umayyad Palace History

The Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz has reaped the rewards of an archeology project in the Umayyad era ksar (castle) Khirbat al-Minya. Several small items were found as well as facilities for sugar cane production, a major industry in the region at the time. The discovery of this in particular is expected to help in the understanding of the exact method the people in this region used to extract sugar. Researcher’s also uncovered evidence that indicated that the palace lost its use as a palace and turned into a building for merchants and artisans after the Galilee Earthquake of 749 CE struck the region. This was by no means a small earthquake though; it destroyed several large cities and heavily damaged plenty of others while killing tens of thousands.

The castle was built along the northern shores of Lake Tiberias in northern Israel, the only Israeli Umayyad ruin and was one of the earliest mosques in the area. During its short-lived use it served as an administrative center for the district Jund al-Urdunn of one of the provinces of the Umayyad Caliphate, a place for local tribes to gather, a rest stop for traveling merchants and a retreat for the local governors. In retrospect abandoning the palace was the least of the Umayyad’s worry since 750 was the year their armies were defeated in battle, their capital captured, their Caliph slain and their lands overrun and turned into the Abbasid Caliphate. Hopefully we can find the history of yet another site but for now they decorate the scenic shoreline of a Mediterranean land.


Old Medicine

Did you ever lose your medicine bottle before? Did you really need it and couldn’t find it anywhere? Well that isn’t related to this. Hundreds of ceramic medicine bottles, HUNDREDS, have been found close to the ancient Greek city of Bathonea in a district of modern Istanbul. About 700 were discovered containing antidepressants and heart medication. The bottles, called unguentarium, resemble small vases that come in a variety of forms. They were most commonly used by the Greeks and Romans to store common substances like fluids or oils and, based on need, medicine. 

The Scientific and Technological Research Council in Turkey will carry out the analysis of what exactly is inside however the two found so far are methanone and phenanthrene which cause the effects mentioned above. The Wroclaw Archeology and Ethnography Institute in Poland carefully studied the site and placed the date of the medicine around 620-640 CE. Since Constantinople was being attacked by the Avars and Sassanids during this time it could help uncover further revelations from these peoples as well.


Ships, Ships & Ships!

A series of ancient ships have been discovered nestled deep in the depths of the Black Sea. The project was headed by the Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project which had placed a submersible in the sea to gain data for understanding how the sea developed over time. 41 ancient ships were found ranging from the Byzantine Empire to the Ottoman Empire and an Italian merchant vessel. All of the wrecks were photographed extensively and are proving to be among the more interesting in recent finds for sheer volume. In most cases ships cannot be retrieved in their full form, usually you get the hull or some pieces. The ships found in this case were comprised of the hauls, lower decks and some upper decks, allowing a deeper degree of study to be launched.

The Black Sea is pretty much a playground for maritime archaeology. Due to the partially anaerobic environment (small amount of oxygen) the microbes responsible for eating away the wood of hauls cannot survive, thus preserving history for us to find it. The fun job will be whoever gets to lead the search and salvage on the wrecks. I would like to see them in person someday in a museum dedicated to the finds throughout the sea as well as those inevitably to come in the future.


For more articles related to science & history go to Historic & Scientific Findings and check out my other pages for excellent content on science, technology, history and more!




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