IN PICTURES, IN PICTURES. Five amazing archaeological discoveries in 2023

A sword, a statue, a mosaic… The year 2023 was rich in archaeological discoveries around the world. Whether in France, Germany or Italy, some artefacts stood out for their remarkable state of preservation

A luxurious Roman residence found near the Colosseum, an intact Bavarian sword, gold earrings studded with semi-precious stones… The work of archaeologists has brought to light in this year 2023 treasures that largely testify to luxurious times. Detours in Italy, Germany, Iraq and France.

1 A majestic winged bull found in Iraq

Lamassu, an Assyrian alabaster winged bull, was discovered in Iraq during a mission led by a French archaeologist.  (ZAID AL-OBEIDI/AFP)

It is over 2700 years old. It weighs 18 tons and measures almost 4 meters in width and height. This Assyrian winged bull, also called a lamassu, was discovered at the site of an ancient village Khorsabad, 15 kilometers north of present-day Mosul. “I’ve never dug anything so big in my life.rejoiced Pascal Butterlin atAFPprofessor at the University of Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne and director of the archaeological mission carried out this year.

This CCarved from gypsum alabaster, the demigodlike creature has a remarkably well-preserved body, evidenced by its wings and hooves. However, his human head was looted and then dismembered in the 1990s. Some were found by Iraqi customs officials and are now on display at the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad.

Originally placed at the entrance to cities as protection, this lamassu is not the only one that has been found. Several of them were displayed in the Louvre Museum from 1846, one of the first museums to show the discoveries of Assyrian remains.

2A luxurious “domus” and his mosaic unveiled in Rome

This consists of seashells, shards of glass and pieces of marble mosaic discovered in December in a luxurious Roman “domus” (a residence built by wealthy Romans during antiquity). This success “incomparable”, according to Italy’s culture ministry, dates back 2,000 years and depicts three large ships riding the waves towards a coastal city. This indicates that its owner, probably a Roman senator, won several military victories.

This “domus” and its mosaic is located in the heart of the Colosseum archaeological park. The place consists of several floors. While some rooms have been visited, such as the cave-shaped summer lounge, others have yet to be excavated. Archaeologists continue research in 2024. “We will work intensively to make this place accessible to the public as quickly as possible”warnAFP in the Colosseum archaeological park.

3 Burials and sarcophagi excavated at Saint-Denis

Preventive archaeological excavations in the Basilica of Saint-Denis.  (Inrap)

On the occasion of the reconstruction of its second tower this year, the Basilica of Saint-Denis welcomed numerous archaeologists. Preventive research was carried out in order to strengthen the medieval foundations of the site, built on the site of an ancient cemetery.

Archaeologists then made great discoveries: 200 burials were uncovered in the Merovingian and Carolingian cemeteries, including about sixty plaster sarcophagi. Some composed of molded decorations represent the metal remains of the garments they reveal social distinction and the presence of aristocracy.

In addition, these preventive excavations also revealed traces of buildings in front of the basilica, thanks to the work carried out by Inrap, the department of Seine-Saint-Denis and the archaeological unit of the municipality.

4 A sumptuous sword discovered in Bavaria

In Nördlingen, southern Germany, archaeologists from the Bavarian Office for the Protection of Historical Monuments did not expect such a discovery. This bronze sword, emerald in color, is dated 3300 years ago. “Its state of preservation is exceptional. It is extremely rare”said Bavarian Office curator Mathias Pfeil.

This sword was discovered last June in a late 14th century tomb.E century BC AD, along with human remains. According to the archaeologists’ work, the weapon would have been used in combat and not a ceremonial sword, as its excellent condition might suggest. “Swords from this period are rare and come either from barrows explored in the 19th century.E century or isolated burials”, specify the Bavarian archaeologists. Several of them are on display in the Schleswig State Museum at Gottorf Castle in northern Germany.

5 Byzantine earrings discovered in Germany

A remarkably well-preserved pair of earrings was accidentally found at a metal detector in northern Germany.  (ALSH 2023 Schleswig-Holstein National Portal)

An intern at a metal-detecting company stumbled upon quite a haul last February: a hoard of gold jewelry and silver coins lost in the Schleswig-Holstein region of northern Germany.

A gold brooch, rings set with stones, a perforated gold disc, silver coins… Among these 800-year-old artefacts, it is the earrings and their semi-precious stones that attract attention due to their preservation. These earrings of Byzantine influence were found on the archaeological site of Haithabu, one of the ancient trading crossroads of the Vikings between the 8th andE and XIE century.

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