History

Ancient Booty Discovered in Transylvania

Archaeologists in Romania found double axes, short swords and spears, as well as bronze jewelry.

Two large stashes of bronze weapons and jewelry, from the eighth century B.C., have been discovered in southern Transylvania, in Romania.

The hoards date back to a time before minted currency had been invented or writing had spread to this part of Europe.

Within the collections, which held 300 and 50 objects, respectively, the researchers discovered double axes, short swords and spears. They also found brooches, foot and arm bracelets, pendants, torques (a kind of neck ring), beads, and hairpins. (All the jewelry was made of bronze.) The researchers found parts of horse harnesses, as well. [See Photos of the Bronze Hoards from Transylvania]

Accidental Archaeological Discoveries

"The majority of the objects are made of bronze, yet there are also weapons and tools made of iron," wrote Corina Bors, a senior archaeologist with the National History Museum of Romania, in the summary of a presentation she gave recently at the European Association of Archaeologists annual meeting in Glasgow, Scotland.

The hoards were discovered in a small ravine, dotted with springs, on the southern edge of a prehistoric site now called Tartaria–Podu Tartariei vest, which spreads over an area of 25 acres (10 hectares). This site was first discovered in the spring of 2012 during archaeological investigations carried out before the construction of a motorway in the area.

Many other finds were made at the site, including offering pits containing broken pottery and a burial site containing several bodies.

Gift for the gods?

The archaeologists said they aren't sure who deposited the hoards or for what purpose. In different parts of Europe, bronze hoards have been found in caves, springs, marshes and rivers, Bors said. "Such bronze hoards might be seen as votive depositions, or, in other words, gifts to the deities of that time," Bors told Live Science.

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A wealthy and powerful person, or persons, likely left the hoards that were discovered at Tartaria–Podu Tartariei vest. "It's plausible to believe that this offering was made by somebody with high social status," Bors said, adding that the person may have been "a warrior chieftain."

It's important that archaeologists, not amateurs, discovered the hidden stashes, as this allows for scientific excavations and conservation, Bors said. Archaeologists in Romania have never had an opportunity to scientifically excavate and examine a hoard of this age in the place where it was deposited in ancient times, Bors said.

An elemental analysis using X-ray fluorescence of the metalwork is currently being carried out to determine where some of the items came from. The results could shed light on prehistoric trade routes, Bors said.

Excavation work at T?rt?ria–Podu T?rt?riei vest will resume in the summer of 2016.

Original article on Live Science.

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Bronze brooches were discovered in two stashes of artifacts in Transylvania.

Sept. 12, 2011 --

 In the search for buried history, archaeologists pour their resources into uncovering the remnants of the distant past. With know-how, persistence and a little luck, archaeologists can push aside dirt and rock and find an artifact of historical significance. Although chance plays a big role in unearthing history, archaeological treasures have been stumbled upon purely by accident, often by those outside the scientific community. In these photos, explore several particularly serendipitous finds of unique artifacts, some of which reach as far back as prehistory.

On Sept. 12, 1940, four teenagers followed their wayward dog into a cave complex near the village of Montignac in southwestern France. To their surprise, the caves hosted something remarkable: nearly 2,000 paintings and etchings of animals, humans and abstract shapes on the walls dating back between 15,000 and 25,000 years.  Known as the Lascaux caves, the complex features figures depicted in surprising detail given the age of the illustrations. Animals portrayed on the cave walls included horses, stags, bison and felines.  Archaeologists believed the caves were used for ritualistic purposes. Some parts of the illustrations even appear to construct a narrative, but what they mean exactly has yet to be deciphered. The caves were open to the public in 1948, but closed in 1963 in order to preserve the site from damage.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of over 800 biblical texts made of animal skin and papyrus. Dating to around 2,000 years ago, between the years 200 B.C. and 70 A.D., the scrolls could well be the oldest such documents in existence and have deepened historians' understanding of religious history. These documents may have been lost to history had a Bedouin shepherd named Muhammed edh-Dhib and his cousin not stumbled upon the first manuscripts along the northern shore of the Dead Sea at a remote site known as Qumran in 1947. The last fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls collection was uncovered in the mid-1950s. Although the scrolls have been extensively studied and translated, one big mystery remains: Who exactly wrote them?

As Napoleon Bonaparte's army marched through north Africa during his campaign in Egypt, they stumbled upon what would become known as the Rosetta Stone, after the town where it was discovered. Within Bonaparte's army was a squadron of scholars called Institute of Egypt, also known as the Scientific and Artistic Commission. As the military settled around the Nile Delta, the Institute explored local ruins and artifacts. After the discovery of the stone in 1799, several copies of the inscriptions on its face were made, since no one could read them at the time. By 1802, the Greek and Demotic portions of the stone had been deciphered by scholars. The hieroglyphics posed a different challenge all together, however, and it would take 20 years before French scholar Jean-François Champollion announced that he had cracked the code. By deciphering the hieroglyphs, Champollion opened a whole new door to understanding the civilization of ancient Egypt. The Rosetta Stone is currently kept in the British Museum. 

In case you don't know what a geoglyph is, ancient Peruvians went through the trouble of leaving a picture-perfect definition. Known as the Nazca Lines, these giant carvings into the Earth were only discovered by airplane in the 1930s. Located in the Nazva desert in southern Peru around 250 miles (400 kilometers) south of Lima, the geoglyphs resemble a number of animals including a spider (as seen here), a condor, a monkey, a tree, as well as human figures and geometric patterns. Why exactly indigenous tribes living in the area between 100 B.C. and 650 A.D. felt compelled to produce these works remains a mystery, though archaeologists agree that it is likely tied to religious customs. 

In 1991, German tourists stumbled upon a frozen body in a glacier on the Ötztal Alps between Italy and Austria. Although they originally thought the corpse to be the result of a recent death, the iceman mummy, named Ötzi, in fact dated back 5,300 years. Since Ötzi's discovery, the mummy has been extensively studied. Scientists have learned everything from his last meal to his cause of death to his possible occupation and they have even made reconstructions of his face. Ötzi died in the spring as a result of an arrowhead striking his left clavicle artery. He likely received a ceremonial burial and was found beside tools and other personal items.

Over the years, metal detector enthusiasts, particularly those in the United Kingdom, have uncovered archaeological treasures buried beneath the Earth. In 2009, 30-year-old Nick Davies hauled in 10,000 ancient Roman coins that he had found inside a clay pot buried in Shropshire, U.K. That same year, a trove of 1,500 gold and silver pieces dating back to the Dark Ages were found on a farmer's field in the western region of Staffordshire, England. Last year, 63-year-old David Crisp uncovered 52,000 ancient Roman coins, later given a value of around $1 million, in a clay pot in southwestern England.

In 1986, divers stumbled upon a nearly 2,000-year-old Roman shipwreck some six miles off the coast of the town of Grado, Italy. Measuring 55 feet long and 16 feet wide, the small trade vessel was stocked with 600 amphorae, or vases, packed with sardines and other fish. Further study of the shipwreck revealed that the ancient Roman engineers also had built in a hydraulic system that allowed the ship to carry an aquarium with live fish.