Discoveries Spring 2015

Giant Underground City Discovered in Turkey

January 3, 2015  Turkey’s Housing Development Administration (TOKİ) made an unexpected discovery during the destruction of about 1500 old buildings around the Nevşehir fortress in Cappadocia:the largest underground city ever found. According to the head of the TOKİ, Mehmet Ergün Turan, the underground city is estimated to be about 45 hectares (111 acres) in size and built along tunnels as much as 7 km in length. The underground city is said to be about 5000 years old. The recent fortress of Nevşehir dates to the Seljuk period (10-12th C CE) and sits on a conical hill; the underground city appears to surround and pass under it.
The Anatolian region of Cappadocia is world famous for its extraordinary cave homes and rock-chimney dwellings and churches, and Nevşehir Province has other underground cities, though none have been discovered on this scale before. The Phrygians are the first people known to have built such underground cities, which offered protection against aggressive invading tribes. Over the centuries, inhabitants of the region developed sophisticated cave habitations with underground passages to water and stored provisions enabling them to withstand prolonged attacks or sieges. The cave city of Derinkuyu, for example, was dug as much as five stories underground and could have sheltered 20,000 people. It contained not only residences, but also stables, cellars for storage of vegetables and grains, chapels and wine and oil presses.
800px-Basalt_tuff_1Both local and national officials have stated their determination to preserve the underground city at Nevşehir as a protected archeological site. The planned urban development project was immediately halted and has since been relocated.
Image: Church of St. Nicholas, By Ji-Elle (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons and http://committeeforculturalpolicy.org/giant-underground-city-discovered-in-turkey/

Discoveries: Ötzi the Iceman Tattoos, 6000 Year Embrace, Giant Marsupial DNA & Fatimid Gold Treasure

January 27 – February 17, 2015.  Discoveries.  Ötzi the Iceman, the 5,300-year-old mummy found by hikers in the Italian Alps in 1991, has been subjected to more than twenty years of research. His fully clothed, mummified body appeared to have been ritually buried. He died of an arrow wound from which he bled copiously, and a traumatic blow to the head. Ötzi suffered from poor teeth, Lyme disease. He left behind a copper-bladed axe and a pierced marble disk. And as the most recent research shows, he had numerous tattoos, many located at points now used for acupuncture. The tattoos, primarily of parallel lines, were created by rubbing charcoal into fine incisions. Most are no longer visible on the darkened skin, but new non-invasive multispectral photographic imaging techniques able to capture a range of wavelengths, from IR to UV, enabled identification of more than sixty tattoos for the first time this year.
Kangaroo-hop-520Giant Marsupials’ DNA. For the first time, a team of Australian scientists led by Dr. Bastien Llamas at the University of Adelaide has been able to extract DNA from the most distinctive Autralian megafauna, extinct giant short-faced kangaroos that stood six and a half feet high and weighed about 500 lbs, and the extinct giant wallaby. Remains of both creatures dating back 45,000 years were found relatively well preserved in a high altitude cave in Tasmania. Until now, the environmental conditions surrounding such finds did not enable extraction of any remaining DNA.
The researchers were hunting for links between earlier megafauna and contemporary marsupials. Dr. Llamas told Australia’s The Lead that, “Together with my colleagues Alan Cooper and Paul Brotherton, we had to think hard about experimental and bioinformatics approaches to overcome more than 10 million years of divergent evolution between the extinct and living species.”
Giant short-faced kangaroos had a flat face and forward-pointing eyes. Their feet had a single large toe in appearance like a horse’s hoof. They were tall enough to use the two extra-long fingers with large claws on their front paws to grab and pull down branches to eat the leaves.
1302_embrace_sp1February 14, 2015. Greek Couple Found in 6000 year Embrace. The find of a rare burial enclosing an embracing couple was announced by the Greek cultural ministry on February 13, 2015. The young couple whose remains were buried together were in a close, “spooning” position. The crypt, dating to about 3800 BC was excavated last year in Diros on the Peloponnesian peninsula. Excavators also found an ossuary with several dozen skeletons, and the remains of an infant and a fetus.
 
February 17, 2015. A trove of approximately 2000 gold coins from the period of the Fatimid Caliphate (909-1171 AD) were discovered by members of a diving club at Israel’s ancient harbor of Caesaria. It is the largest find of gold coins ever discovered in Israel, and weighed about 20 lbs. An Israeli Antiquities Authority marine archeology team was called in after the scuba divers reported the find of several coins to their club director. An Antiquities Authority spokesman told the Guardian that an underwater excavation will take place to identify the source of the hoard, which was exposed on the seabed during recent storms. It was speculated that they might have come from a wrecked treasure ship carrying funds to pay soldiers of the Fatimid military garrison stationed at Caesaria, or belong to a wealthy trading ship of the period. The find is deemed property of the State of Israel, so no finder’s fee will accrue to the divers.
Image: Clothes and equipment of Ötzi . By Sandstein (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
Image: Giant Short-faced Kangaroo – Procoptodon goliah, http://carnivoraforum.com/topic/9746920/1/
Image: Excavation at Diros, courtesy Greek Cultural Ministry.
 http://committeeforculturalpolicy.org/discoveries-otzi-the-iceman-tatoos-giant-marsupial-dna-more/