German Court Awards Farmer $1 Million for 2000-Year-Old Bronzed Horse Head Found in His Well

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iStock

A lucky discovery made nearly a decade ago just got even luckier for one German farmer. In 2009, archaeologists excavating a former Roman settlement on the man's farm in Lahnau, Germany found a 2000-year-old bronzed horse head, and now Artnet reports that the property's owner has been awarded roughly $904,000 for the artifact.

The gold leaf–covered head, which weighs about 55 pounds and measures 20 inches long, had likely been part of a larger statue, as indicated by a bronzed foot found nearby. Experts believe the horse's rider was Augustus, Rome's emperor at the turn of the first millennium CE. The head had been preserved under water at the bottom of a 36-foot well for years, making the find even more remarkable.

The anonymous farmer was originally given $55,946 for the artifact by the German state Hesse, but after reading news reports declaring it to be one of the best-preserved Roman bronzes ever discovered, he suspected he'd been underpaid, and sued. On July 27, a German court ruled that he was entitled to half the head's worth. The object is valued at around $1.8 million, which means the farmer is now owed nearly $904,000 plus interest. The German state has yet to say whether or not it plans to appeal the case.

The general area where the horse head was found has produced a wealth of Roman artifacts. Experts think the Romans had been planning to make the town into a major capital city. Plans changed abruptly after three Roman legions were defeated by Germanic tribesmen in 9 CE, prompting the Romans to abandon their settlement and the fancy bronze statue of their leader along with it.

[h/t Artnet]

People Have Been Dining on Caviar Since the Stone Age

iStock.com/Lisovskaya
iStock.com/Lisovskaya

Millennia before caviar became a staple hors d'oeuvre at posh parties, it was eaten from clay pots by Stone Age humans. That's the takeaway of a new study published in the journal PLOS One. As Smithsonian reports, traces of cooked fish roe recovered from an archeological site in Germany show just how far back the history of the dish goes.

For the study, researchers from Germany conducted a protein analysis of charred food remains caked to the shards of an Stone Age clay cooking vessel. After isolating roughly 300 proteins and comparing them to that of boiled fresh fish roe and tissue, they were able to the identify the food scraps as carp roe, or eggs. The scientists write that the 4000 BCE-era hunter-gatherers likely cooked the fish roe in a pot of water or fish broth heated by embers, and covered the pot with leaves to contain the heat or add additional flavor.

The clay shards were recovered from Friesack 4 in Brandenburg, Germany, a Stone Age archaeological site that has revealed about 150,000 artifacts, including items crafted from antlers, wood, and bone, since it was discovered in the 1930s. In the same study, the researchers report that they also found remnants of bone-in pork on a vessel recovered from the same site.

Other archaeological digs have shown that some of the foods we think of as modern delicacies have been around for thousands of years, including cheese, salad dressing, and bone broth. The same goes for beverages: Recently a 13,000-year-old brewery was uncovered in the Middle East.

[h/t Smithsonian]

Dozens of Cat Mummies, Plus 100 Cat Statues, Discovered in 4500-Year-Old Egyptian Tomb

iStock.com/Murat İnan
iStock.com/Murat İnan

The mummification of cats was a common practice in ancient Egypt, but it’s always a pleasant surprise when the felines are found thousands of years later. As NPR reports, dozens of mummified cats and 100 wooden cat statues were recently discovered in a 4500-year-old tomb near Cairo.

These items were uncovered by Egyptian archaeologists while excavating a newly discovered tomb in Saqqara, whose necropolis served the ancient city of Memphis. Another nearby tomb remains sealed, and it’s possible that it may have evaded looters and remained untouched for millennia.

In addition to the wooden statues, one bronze cat statue was found. It was dedicated to Bastet, goddess of cats, who was said to be the daughter of Re, god of the Sun. While cats were revered by ancient Egyptians, they weren’t directly worshipped. Rather, gods like Bastet were often depicted with the physical characteristics of an animal that was considered divine.

Even rarer than the mummified cats were a couple collections of mummified scarab beetles that were found in the tomb—the first of their kind to be unearthed in this particular necropolis, Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities announced in a Facebook post. The scarabs were still in “very good condition” because they had been wrapped in linen and placed inside two limestone sarcophagi, whose lids had black scarabs painted on top.

"The (mummified) scarab is something really unique. It is something really a bit rare," Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, told Reuters and other media. "A couple of days ago, when we discovered those coffins, they were sealed coffins with drawings of scarabs. I never heard about them before."

The beetles were an important religious symbol in ancient Egypt, representing renewal and rebirth. The Ministry of Antiquities said archaeologists also found wooden statues of a lion, a cow, and a falcon, as well as painted wooden sarcophagi of cobras (with mummies inside) and wooden sarcophagi of crocodiles.

[h/t NPR]

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