Metal of the Gods


Ingots of Orichalcum Source: Daily Mail

According to Professor Sebastiano Tusa, an archaeologist at the office of the Superintendent of the Sea in Sicily, an archaeological team working on an ancient wreck off the southern coast of Sicily has raised a large number of ingots of a rare metal known as orichalcum – a substance mentioned by Plato as the legendary sacred metal used in Atlantis to sheath the walls of temples. Media reports do not quote Tusa as explaining why or how the encrusted ingots are being identified as Orichalcum.


The Italian dive team on the orichalcum wreck: Source Daily Mail.

 The find was made in little more than 10 ft of water some 1000 feet from the shoreline of the town of Gela in southern Sicily. Analysis of the metal shows that it is an alloy of copper, zinc, lead, iron and nickel. Ancient accounts describe orichalcum as an alloy of silver gold and possibly copper–and for this reason the identification of the ingots has yet to be fully explained. The Archaeology Hour is seek an interview with Prof. Tusa and these questions may be answered then.

Osiris Tomb Excavation in October



The Spanish-Italian archaeological team working on the ‘newly’ discovered Osiris Tomb in Egypt will be returning to the site in October to begin excavation.

Irene Morfini, Assistant Director for the project told The Archaeology Hour in a recent interview: “Since this one was our second season of work, we are still inspecting, photographing, recording data, copying texts, conserving and restoring. During the next season we will hopefully start the proper excavation work.”

The Osiris tomb complex is a previously undiscovered part of a much smaller tomb that was first documented in the 19th century. A  new complex of shafts, tunnels and chambers was discovered by the Sosa-Morfini team recently. The complex forms a representation of the underworld – ruled by the god Osiris. The original occupant of the tomb is unknown but, according to Morfini, many other burials were placed in the complex over time.

Early on in its history the tomb was robbed. It is now filled with debris from falling walls and ceilings, with fragments of mummies torn apart by thieves, and the original material backfilled by the original builders.

Under the Direction of María Milagros Álvarez Sosa and Morfini the crew will excavate stratigraphically (as opposed to 10cm increments as some archaeologists do) and gradually unravel the mysteries of the Osiris Tomb.

 CTAM_Min Project_TT109_14-12-2013

Sosa and Morfini Source: The Min Project

During the summer months (when it is too hot to excavate underground in Egypt) the team will work on the data recovered during the pre-disturbance survey. Interesting facts are already emerging. The tomb complex includes a burial chamber for Min, the tutor of Amenhotep II. Min was the mayor of Thimis, and an important figure during the reign of Thutmose III, Amenhotep’s father. One of his many titles included “Overseer of the Army of the Western River.”  This implies some level of military background.

Amenhotep’s tomb was discovered many years ago and it’s walls recorded the young king’s prowess as an archer. He claimed he could shoot an arrow through a “palm’s thickness” of copper. This was long considered to be a boast and discounted by earlier Egyptologists. Now, the Sosa-Morfini team’s findings show that Amenhotep was tutored by a military leader—so perhaps the claim is not such a boast after all.

We will feature a live interview with Irene Morfini in the pilot program of The Archaeology Hour to be launched in a few weeks.


The young Amernhotep II on the knee of his tutor Min: Drawing by  Raffaella Carrera. Min Project.

From Gods to Witches…


A few of the coins found by Nick Davies. Source: Daily Mail UK.

“The Archaeology Hour” – the radio podcast soon to be a video podcast soon to be a cable channel program is developing well. Our pilot program being pulled to gather now will have features on a number of major discoveries around the world from Egypt to the UK.

Irene Morfi will be talking to us about a discovery at two tombs at Sheikh Abd el-Gourna near Thebes. They were discovered in the 19th century and though to be a small tomb complex. A re-examination by Morfi and her colleagues revealed an undiscovered shaft — and this led to a massive multi-layered complex. The layout of the new complex appears to have been constructed to represent the mythical tomb of Osiris, an important figure in the creation myth of the ancient Egyptian culture. We will be asking Dr. Morfi about the most recent work on the tomb complex — and why it was never discovered when early explorers entered the smaller tomb as far back as 1887.

We will also be talking to archaeologist James Drummond-Murray of Oxford Archaeology about a dig near a cemetery in Luton, Bedfordshire. The local council decided to lay a new road to improve access to the cemetery—and the work unearthed a Roman burial. Archaeologists then discovered that not only had the area had been used as a burial site from Roman times to the present — but that even Bronze age and neolithic age artifacts were present on the site. We’ll chat to Drummond-Murray about what this may mean, possibly a continuously used sacred site from very ancient times to the present.

Vincent Drost is an ancient coin expert at the British Museum in London. He will be talking to us about  more than 10,000 Roman coins found in a clay jar by metal detectorist Nick Davies (who was on his very first outing with his metal detector). We’ll talk about theories as to why the hoard was buried (almost three hundred years before Saxons and Vikings were reading Britain) and what they tell us about Roman coin production at the time.


Nick Davies and the pot. Daily Mail.

We are also working on one of my favorite topics – English witchcraft.  Researcher Brian Hoggard has made a study of methods and spells used by people to ward off the evil castings of witches (always something to watch out for). He will chat with us about recent research—and perhaps provide us with  some useful advice into the bargain.


Archaeologist Jackie Woods found a witchcraft related site in own backyard in Cornwall – that dated from the ancient past to modern times! Source: Archaeology Magazine.

Bones In Lakes


Mounted skull from Motala. Source: Stiftelsen Kulturmiljövård Mälardalen

Bones in Lakes are making the news in Sweden and in India. Work on railroad construction at he edge of Lake Motala in Sweden uncovered the remains of a grisly display of skulls once posted on stakes. They represented men, women and even children. Archeologists determined that the skulls were once in the lake itself. The initial discovery was made in 2011 and archaeologists have yet to determine the true nature of the site. It may be a reburial site of venerated ancestor bones—or perhaps the sacrifice of members of an enemy tribe. The Archaeology Hour will cover the latest news with Frederik Hallgren of the Swedish heritage foundation Stiftelsen Kulturmiljövård Mälardalen in an upcoming feature in its podcast.


Motala Lake Digsite Source: Stiftelsen Kulturmiljövård Mälardalen

Roopkund Lake tells a very different story. The lake is high in the Indian Himalayas and at 16,000 feet it is frozen for most of the year. There is one month a year when the lake melts—and during one of those months years ago passers by discovered the bones of more than 300 people sticking above the surface as the lake dried. It was at first thought the bones belonged to Japanese soldiers. Later research determined that the bones had first been noted in the 19th century. According to India Today the bones have now been dated to approximately 850 B.C. Examination of the skulls has shown a common injury-indentations made by a round object the size of a baseball. Some have concluded that the group of people died in a severe hailstorm!  While a possible explanation, it would seem more likely that some sacrificial killing process is involved. The isolated lake is considered sacred by local tribes and is still an area of annual pilgrimage.


Bones at Roopkund Land. Source: India Times.


The Lake during the annual thaw. Source: India Times

Saxon Hoard-Osiris Temple-Amphipolis Bones – and more

Saxon Hoard:

The British Museum (BM) is currently cleaning and evaluating the 5200 silver pennies found by Paul Coleman in Buckinghamshire, England. According to my sources at the Bucks county museum, the BM may have an announcement to make about the coins by February 10th. That is the day the BM issues its “Annual Treasure Report,” a document that details the previous year’s finds by avocationals through the British Isles.  Included may be the final evaluation of the coins. Brett Thorn, Keeper of Archaeology at the Bucks County Museum said, ” We do know that there are just over 5200 coins, and so far, all the cleaned coins are of Ethelred II and Cnut. They are all ion very good condition, due to having been buried wrapped in a lead container. The container did not survive well, but it preserved there coins.” The mainstream media has mentioned evaluations well over $1.5 million but, according to Thorn, no official figure has been issued yet.


Photo: Daily Mail UK-the coins as discovered.


Greek Bones:

Bone fragments have been recovered from the Amphipolis tomb being excavated in Macedonia. This important development means that researchers may be able to learn the sex and age of the person buried in the once magnificent complex within Kasta Hill near Seres, Greece. There is much speculation as to the burial. It dates to the time of the death of Alexander the Great–and since he was buried in Egypt (upcoming story) it is thought the person in the Amhipolis tomb may be that of Alexander’s mother Olympias. The Archaeology Hour is seeking an interview with Katerina Peristeri, the lead archaeologist for the project and developments will be posted here. A full interview will appear in The Archaeology Hour podcast. The website for the dig reports that a geoscan of the Kasta Hill indicates that there may be other burials within the mound. This opens up the possibility of other royal tombs–perhaps not targeted by looters.


Geoscan of Kasta Hill.

The archaeology hour podcast can be found at:

The Archaeology Hour: The Pilot


Ten of the 5,200 silver coins just after being unearthed. Source: Daily Mail

“The Archaeology Hour” is a project in development that will provide a podcast and eventual video program of information and background on major archaeological projects and news around the world. It will be hosted by Mark M. Newell PhD, a British underwater and terrestrial archaeologist currently working in the United States. Newell has a distinguished record of archaeological accomplishment over the past forty years including leading the successful search for the C.S.S. Hunley in Charleston SC, discovery of the remains of the historic Santee Canal, recognized by the US Secretary of the Navy for preservation work on the U.S.S. Constitution, discovery of the Baynham pottery hoard near Edgefield, S.C. and discovery of the only known Edgefield African face jug site near Trenton S.C.  Newell has lectured at major venues throughout the US and the UK and has appeared on numerous television programs and documentaries.


I can’t think of a more exciting time in Archaeology to be involved in launching a podcast and eventual video program on new discoveries. Looking almost anywhere in the world, I find fascinating new projects and discoveries every day. Most of these are covered to some extent or another by the news media — from the mainstream press to specialist websites like Ancient Origins–but there are always more questions to ask, greater insights to develop, new views to express and that elusive ‘insider” story that rarely gets told. I will be working with CSquared Communications and The Archaeology Hour to do just this. I will bring together my background in archaeology and journalism to develop unique insights on breaking stories and present an insider’s view that the general media cannot. There is clearly a huge interest in archaeology snd history as indicated by magazines, television programs, internet sites, documentaries and even movies (ok, that’s entertainment not education).

Posts will be on a frequent if not daily basis until the first pilot podcast is launched this Spring. Projects we are looking at hint at the  range of a topics we will cover this year: the amazing Saxon silver coin hoard found in Buckinghamshire, England, a lost city discovered off the Egyptian coast by a French archaeologist, Two entirely new tombs found in Egypt, not to mention a new find at the pyramid of Giza. The Norway scientists have found a dried lake bed with a mysterious deposit of skulls once impaled on stakes. The Greek ‘find of the century’ a massive tomb at Amphipolis may turn out to be even more spectacular, a city of the dead rather than a single burial. Herod’s Palace, the place where the trial of Jesus is supposed to have occurred, has been found during a new dig. A veritable catalog of ancient ships built over a 5000 year period has been discovered in Turkey.


French diver by lost stelae Source: Christoph Gerigk, Daily Telegraph

The Archaeology Hour will cover these topics and more in the coming months. You will also find links to the project websites and other features of interest to the general public, working archaeologists, volunteer and archaeology/history tourists.

News, views & features on world archaeology