Archaeologists working on a site near an ancient lake in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, UK say they may have discovered one of the earliest examples of a crayon. The reddish-brown piece of ochre is thought to have been used 10,000 years ago to color animal skins or produce artwork during the Mesolithic period.
The oblong discovery is just 22 mm long and 7 mm wide, yet shows a heavily striated surface where it was most likely scraped to create red pigment. One side of the tool is sharpened, another hint that the piece was used to draw or color. Dr. Andy Needham from the University of York’s Department of Archaeology explained the discovery helps archaeologists understand how significant color might have been to the hunter-gatherers of the Mesolithic period.
“For me it is a very significant object and helps us build a bigger picture of what life was like in the area; it suggests it would have been a very colourful place,” said Needham in a press release.
This has been a year of many art historical firsts. Within the last few months our knowledge of Greek civilization has been completely altered by the discovery of this tiny carved stone, and archaeologists found the first known use of a smiley face on an off-white jug in Southern Turkey. You can read more about the discovery of the ochre crayon, and other pieces found near the ancient lake in North Yorkshire, in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports. (via Hyperallergic)
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A team of Turkish and Italian archeologists working on a site in southern Turkey discovered an interesting object recently, an ancient smiley face drawn on the side of an off white jug. The faded face is simplistically drawn, two black dots hovering over a crooked arch just below, and is so subtle it was not noticed until it had been transported to a lab for restoration.
“The smiling face is undoubtedly there (there are no other traces of painting on the flask) and has no parallels in ancient ceramic art of the area,” said Dr. Nicolo Marchetti of Bologna University, who led the excavation.
The crew had been at the site of its discovery for the last seven summers, an area that was once the ancient Hittite city Karkemish. The object is unlike anything else they have encountered in the area, however it was not the only important thing unearthed. The team also found 250 clay bullae, or tokens that would have been attached to legal documents, a large basalt relief of two griffons, and the remains of both a fortress and grain silo.
The architectural site will be open to the public next year as the Karkemish Ancient City Archaeological Park. You can visit the ancient smiley close by when it goes on display at the Gaziantep Museum of Archaeology. (via The History Blog)
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Archaeologists in Turkey recently unearthed an exceptionally preserved mosaic inside the remains of a building from the 3rd century. One section of the three-panel artwork includes a reclining skeleton with an arm over its head, holding a glass of wine and resting an elbow on a loaf of bread. On both sides of its head reads the phrase “Be cheerful and live your life,” written in Greek. The purpose of the building surrounding the mosaic, and even when it was made is currently being debated. Some experts believe the triptych was simply the floor of a wealthy person who could afford to have it built, while others think it might be a message in a soup kitchen urging people to get their food quickly and leave. The History Blog has a great analysis and quite a bit more background if you’re interested. (via The History Blog)
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A team of archaeologists working in Boeslunde, Denmark recently stumbled onto an intriguing mystery: nearly 2,000 tightly-wound golden spirals dating back to the Bronze Age. The discovery of gold in Boeslunde isn’t uncommon, as numerous gold objects have been unearthed in the region over the last few years. But the purpose of these coils has stumped archaeologists who refer to the find as the “golden enigma.”
The spirals are made from extremely pure gold that was hammered flat to just 0.1 millimeter thick. Some pieces measure up to 1.18 inches long and all together weigh between 200 to 300 grams (7-10 ounces). Their exact purpose is anyone’s guess, but Flemming Kaul, a curator with the National Museum of Denmark, believes the coils are most likely related to prehistoric Bronze Age people who were known to offer gold to higher powers as part of sun rituals.
“The sun was one of the most sacred symbols in the Bronze Age and gold had a special magic,” Kaul writes. “Maybe the priest-king wore a gold ring on his wrist, and gold spirals on his cloak and his hat, where they during ritual sun ceremonies shone like the sun.” It’s also suggested the gold was simply buried as part of an elaborate sacrifice.
Whatever the use or meaning behind the pieces, it’s an extraordinary and priceless find. The local museum in
Skaelskor already held a temporary viewing before the spirals find a permanent home. You can read more over on the History Blog. (via Neatorama, Gizmodo)
Update: Adam Swickle writes: “The shavings are from shaving gold coins down. Merchants did this when they paid in quantity instead of weight, and that is why coins have ridges now, to show they haven’t been shaven down.”
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