With so much violent conflict in the world today, many important archeological sites are in grave danger. Timbuktu in Mali, Aleppo in Syria: today they are home to rape, murder, war and political unrest. Militant Ansar Dine Islamists linked to Al Qaeda are now in control of all of northern Mali and have reportedly vowed to destroy the storied mausoleums of Timbuktu, a cultural and intellectual center that played a huge role in the propagation of Islam throughout Africa in the 15th and 16th centuries.
Aleppo, a key site in the history of Christianity and well-traversed by people from many ancient civilizations, has seen weeks of fierce fighting between the forces of Syria President Bashar al-Assad and rebel fighters. The city’s Temple of the Storm God dates from the third to the second millennium BCE and is one of the oldest structures in the world — and shelling and military helicopters now threaten its existence.
With all this in mind, here are five recent archaeology finds that remind us why the study and preservation of the past matters more than ever in our digital age.
1. A 16th-Century Well Under a Retiree’s Living Room
Colin Steer started digging beneath the living room floor of the house he’d lived in for almost three decades in the UK. The floor had sunk and he was curious. After three days of digging down 17 feet, he found the shaft of a well that may date back to the 16th century.
As he says in the Telegraph, “I always wanted to dig it out to see if I could find a pot of gold at the bottom, so when I retired at the end of last year that’s what I started to do.”
2. A Well-Preserved Wooden Boat From Roman Times
Prior to the construction of a car park in the French Riviera city of Antibes, archaeologists discovered the well-preserved remains of a wooden hull from a shipwrecked boat that was probably a merchant ship in the 2nd or 3rd century, when Antibes was Antipolis and under Roman imperial rule.
Marks from saws and adzes can still be seen on the wood of the boat. Another small find gives us a snapshot into the people who built the ship, notes the Guardian:
The archaeologists have made some touching discoveries, including a little 15-centimetre brush that must have been dropped by a shipwright busy caulking the hull. It most likely fell through a gap between the floor of the hold and the outer shell, only to be discovered 19 centuries later.
It makes you wonder, did the shipwright go looking for his brush, never knowing that it would be found (intact!) millennia later?
Photo by NazarethCollege
Photo credit: Impassionedcinema
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