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Ancient Origins Unleashed Debrief: Lost Renaissance Castles, Half-a-Million-Year-Old Construction Materials & the Universe's Largest Black Hole!
Greetings The Unleashed!
This week I’ve been spending quite a lot of time exploring the goings on in 15th century Renaissance Italy. Specifically, I’ve been working with a researcher who has been diving into the history of his local area in Lazio. And he’s come up with some interesting stuff involving the Borgia-Orsini family wars – literally Feudal Lords, feuding, over a Feud.
Our contact in Italy, Marcello has uncovered some of the lost history of the area, not to mention finding some really off-the-beaten-track, forgotten castles to explore. And the icing on the cake was his discovery of an unknown Renaissance castle, totally absent from historical records – a story that Ancient Origins was pleased to be the first to break!
Marcello sent back a video diary of his findings, and we put together a mini-series of articles and videos to cover it. I get smothered by words daily, so it was refreshing to have some moving-pictures to work with for a change.
Here’s our coverage of that breaking story…
A large medieval or Renaissance castle has been discovered amongst the foliage of a hill in Lazio, Italy. The discovery was made after investigations based on satellite imaging, which clearly revealed a site the same shape as another Renaissance castle in the region. A team was dispatched to the site, and they uncovered fortified walls, partial towers and subterranean rooms. There was also an Etruscan tomb, which was previously known.
Independent Researcher Finds Lost Fortified Complex
On the final day of the exploration of the remnants of Renaissance Italy’s feudal defense systems, Marcello Assandri visited the site of Torre d’Ischia in order to seek proof of his hypothesis that this site was once far more than the simple tower that is shown on the map and in the historic records of the region. His research into the Renaissance history of the area, covered over the last week in the Ancient Origins Hidden Renaissance Castles series, had led him to believe it was actually the site of a fully-fledged castle which has been left out of the historic records for the area, and lost to time.
On his visit to the site, he has found conclusive proof that there existed a huge structure at this site, as his team found the remains of:
· fortified walls in a large perimeter around the known tower
· lower parts of fortification towers still standing
· evidence of a subterranean level, still to be explored.
The grand finale is an exclusive report on the first opening to experts of the Castle at Vejano for 414 Years!
Today, after 414 years, the castle of Vejano (once Viano), Italy opened its heavy doors to experts coming from seven countries. Prince Landolfo di Napoli Rampolli, whose family has owned the castle for more than 400 years, invited experts from seven countries for a private visit to inspect the castle. The last recorded such occurrence was in 1606! What was inside was not known to academics, scholars, adventurers and explorers. It offered an unprecedented glimpse into the military architecture and perhaps other unknowns of the Renaissance.
The Editor’s Pick…
There have been quite a few phenomenally old things dug up, dragged out or in some other manner brought to the surface over the last week or so. I’ve picked out the best of the bunch, I think.
The first is so old, it is hard to believe it is a man-made thing. Well, in fact, it’s so old that it is not manmade, in the sense of being made by a modern human, it is actually hominin-made, as Homo sapiens, modern humans are not known to have evolved until after this time.
At the Kalambo Falls archaeological site in northeastern Zambia, archaeologists recovered specimens of ancient wood in the form of logs that had been preserved in waterlogged sand next to the Kalambo River for nearly a half-a-million years—or for 476,000 years, to be more exact.
While the discoverers weren’t sure what they had found, a new study by archaeologists from the University of Liverpool and Aberystwyth University in the United Kingdom revealed that the logs were intentionally cut and shaped to be used as building materials. Using a new dating technology known as luminescence, the archaeologists were able to confirm the astonishing age of these incredibly ancient artifacts.
At the Kalambo Falls archaeological site in northeastern Zambia, archaeologists recovered specimens of ancient wood in the form of logs that had been preserved in waterlogged sand next to the Kalambo River for nearly a half-a-million years—or for 476,000 years, to be more exact. While the discoverers weren’t sure what they had found, a new study by archaeologists from the University of Liverpool and Aberystwyth University in the United Kingdom revealed that the logs were intentionally cut and shaped to be used as building materials. Using a new dating technology known as luminescence, the archaeologists were able to confirm the astonishing age of these incredibly ancient artifacts.
In 2021, using a small plane, a team of Swiss archaeologists surveyed Lake Neuchâtel and spotted an unusual geometric shape in the water. Now, a well-preserved and intact 2,500-year-old wooden canoe has been recovered from the depths.
Lake Neuchâtel, situated in western Switzerland, has been inhabited for thousands of years by a host of diverse ancient civilizations. The range of Neolithic period and Bronze Age artifacts that have been discovered along its shores once belonging to survivalist communities who relied on the lake's abundant resources for sustenance and trade.
Due to the area's strategic location, the lake was a center of cultural exchange, and it served as a backdrop for the development of sophisticated ancient societies. Now, illustrating ancient life in the region, archaeologists have recovered “an extremely well-preserved boat”, an ancient canoe from Lake Neuchâtel.
Along a canal off the coast of Egypt in the Mediterranean, archaeologists have made a remarkable discovery in the ancient port city of Thonis-Heracleion in Egypt. They have uncovered evidence of coexisting temples – one dedicated to the Greek goddess Aphrodite, and another paying homage to the ancient Egyptian deity Amun. In addition to these, an underwater treasure trove was found in the vicinity.
A Sinking Feeling: Taken by The Flood
This sunken temple suffered a partial collapse during a catastrophic event in the mid-2nd century BC and had originally been erected in honor of the Egyptian god Amun. It held immense significance, as it served as the place where Egyptian pharaohs would come to receive the divine blessings and titles of universal kingship bestowed upon them by the supreme god of the ancient Egyptian pantheon, Amun, as revealed in a statement from the European Institute for Underwater Archaeology (IEASM) .
Thirty years ago, a dowser identified lines of stones beneath a harvested field outside the village of Ancrum, in the Scottish Borders. Now, a team of archaeologists and students from around the world are excavating the site, which turns out to be a lost medieval bishop’s palace.
Located in the Scottish Borders near Jedburgh, and surrounded by bounty rich fields, lush forests, and freshwater streams, in medieval times, the village of Ancrum was an important agricultural hub. Comprising stone-build thatched cottages clustered around a central market square, at the heart of Ancrum was its castle, symbolizing feudal authority over the farming population.
Previous archaeological digs near Ancrum, at the Mantle Walls site, identified the foundations of “a substantial medieval building,” but its purpose has, until now, never been determined. According to an article in the BBC, archaeologist, Ian Hill, said historical records show that the Bishop of Glasgow, William de Bondington, had a summer residence near Ancrum which he used between 1230s until his death in 1258 AD. The researchers suspect that the site is this lost Bishop’s palace.
Recent excavations and ensuing studies conducted at the ancient stone monuments ‘mustatil’ (literally meaning rectangle) in northwest Arabia have revealed the presence of a cultic ritual that was held way back in prehistory. Neolithic people from the late 6th millennium BC conducted a complex set of social, political, and religious rituals, as evidenced from the numerous animal bones and human remains of at least 9 individuals. The cultic aspect was gleaned from the conspicuous arrangement and placement of animal horns and skulls at the ritual site.
Located in Saudi Arabia, compelling evidence of this gathering of ancient humans from 7,000 years ago has been gathered at over 1,000 prehistoric rectangular stone structures or mustatils – “large-scale, open-air rectangular structures with low stone walls”.
The precise reasons for their construction and their timing remain a puzzle for now, but the process of understanding, documenting, and studying them and other archaeological remains from the area, was initiated in 2018 by the Royal Commission for AlUla.
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The oddest story posted on Ancient Origins last week…
In the rich tapestry of the world’s ancient history, there stands a mysterious island steeped in ritual and reverence – Okinoshima. Nestled between the islands of Kyushu and Honshu in Japan, Okinoshima Island carries a tradition that extends beyond the ordinary: men can visit the island, but only if they strip naked first.
Okinoshima Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has been regarded as a sacred place since the 4th century, the era of the Yamato Dynasty. Serving as a critical hub for diplomatic and trade relations with the Korean Peninsula and China, it has been a witness to a mingling of cultures, prayers, and rituals.
The tradition of men stripping naked before stepping foot on Okinoshima is much more than an eccentric ritual; it’s rooted deeply in Shinto spirituality which sees this act as a ritual of purification. The purifying ritual, known as "Misogi," involves men undressing completely to cleanse themselves from impurities before presenting themselves to the island’s deity, a goddess named Munakata Okitsugu-Mikoto.
Visitors to the island would bring a myriad of offerings, including mirrors, swords, and beads, which were thrown into the sea as a ritualistic offering to the deity. Today, over 80,000 artifacts have been recovered from the sea, presenting a tangible history of the sacred traditions practiced there.
And the most out of this world…This story made me feel really, really small….
Astronomers have made a groundbreaking discovery of what may be the largest black hole known to date.
This cosmic monster, an ultramassive black hole, has a mass of 30 billion suns and is located at the center of a galaxy hundreds of millions of light-years away from Earth. This discovery was made possible through the phenomenon of gravitational lensing, where the gravity of a foreground galaxy magnifies a background object.
The black hole, located in one of the galaxies of the Abell 1201 galaxy cluster, is one of the biggest ever detected and is on the upper limit of how large black holes can theoretically become. The team arrived at the size of the black hole by analyzing the magnification of the foreground object in a series of images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. They used sophisticated computer modeling to simulate how much light bends around the foreground galaxy where the black hole resides.
Interestingly, this black hole is not very active, meaning it’s not swallowing too much material and therefore not producing strong X-ray radiation. Such black holes are nearly impossible to study by other methods. However, gravitational lensing makes it possible to study inactive black holes, something not currently possible in distant galaxies. This approach could let us detect many more black holes beyond our local universe and reveal how these exotic objects evolved further back in cosmic time.
This discovery opens up new possibilities for understanding the evolution and nature of black holes, and it underscores the importance of gravitational lensing in studying distant and inactive black holes.
Until next week… keep turning over those stones and you might just find something special.
Gary Manners - Senior Editor, Ancient Origins