13 October 2018

Traces of opiates found in ancient Cypriot vessel

Researchers at the University of York and the British Museum have discovered traces of opiates preserved inside a vessel dating back to the Late Bronze Age.

Vessels known as 'base-ring juglets' have long been thought to be linked with opium use because when inverted they resemble the seed head of the opium poppy. These vessels were widely traded in the eastern Mediterranean C. 1650 - 1350BC.

Researchers used analytical techniques to study a juglet kept in the British Museum which is sealed, preserving the contents inside. This provided a rare opportunity for scientists to investigate the contents.

Initial analysis showed that the juglet residue was mostly composed of plant oil but also hinted at the presence of opium alkaloids, a group of organic compounds derived from the opium poppy, which are known to have significant psychological effects on the human body.

However, to conclusively detect the alkaloids and demonstrate the presence of opiates in the oil-based residue of the vessel, a new technique was required. Dr Rachel Smith developed the new analytical method using instruments in the Centre of Excellence in Mass Spectrometry at the University of York. Dr Smith said: "The particular opiate alkaloids we detected are ones we have shown to be the most resistant to degradation, which makes them better targets in ancient residues than more well-known opiates such as morphine.

"We found the alkaloids in degraded plant oil, so the question as to how opium would have been used in this juglet still remains. Could it have been one ingredient amongst others in an oil-based mixture, or could the juglet have been re-used for oil after the opium or something else entirely?"

In the past, it has been argued that these juglets could have been used to hold poppy seed oil, containing traces of opium, used for anointing or in a perfume. In this theory, the opium effects may have held symbolic significance.

Professor Jane Thomas-Oates, Chair of Analytical Science in the Department of Chemistry, and supervisor of the study at the University of York, said: "The juglet is significant in revealing important details about trade and the culture of the period, so it was important to try and progress the debate about what it might have been used for.

"We were able to establish a rigorous method for detecting opiates in this kind of residue, but the next analytical challenge is to see if we can succeed with less well-preserved residues."

This is the first time that reliable chemical evidence has been produced to link the opium poppy with a base-ring juglet, despite many previous attempts by researchers over the years.

Dr Rebecca Stacey, Senior Scientist in the Department of Scientific Research at the British Museum, said: "It is important to remember that this is just one vessel, so the result raises lots of questions about the contents of the juglet and its purpose. The presence of the alkaloids here is unequivocal and lends a new perspective to the debate about their significance."

The research is published in the Royal Society of Chemistry's journal Analyst and funded by the National Environmental Research Council (NERC).

28 September 2018

Archaeologists and curators leaving UK over Brexit fears

A no-deal Brexit would cause severe disruption to the UK's culture sector, industry leaders have said.

The expected loss of EU funding and uncertainty over the status of EU nationals after March 2019 has meant that UK museums are already losing scientists, researchers and curators, and there is a shortage of archaeologists.

Bernard Donoghue, director of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions says, "We've seen UK cultural organisations increasingly excluded from EU funding initiatives in anticipation of Brexit. We're already seeing a brain drain of skilled workers in the culture, science and design sectors who are leaving because either they know that EU funding for their job is going to dry up or they're insecure about the status of their jobs post-March 2019."

A spokeswoman for Arts Council England said: "Over two-thirds of our funded organisations work internationally and in the event of a no-deal Brexit, many would feel the impact immediately. The range of issues include staff and artists requiring visas, equipment needing carnets and exhibitions needing licences to tour, in addition to increased costs relating to working or touring overseas."

Alistair Brown, the policy officer at the Museums Association , said EU funding and talent was already going elsewhere because of the uncertainty about Brexit and the prospect of no deal. "No-deal puts the legal systems that museums use to lend and borrow cultural objects across the EU at risk. That could deprive museums of major objects for exhibitions in the UK."

Kate Geary, from the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists , said EU nationals made up to 60% of workers on some projects. She said the obligation to carry out such work may be scrapped due to staff shortages, which would be "detrimental to the country's heritage."

Archaeologists and curators leaving UK over Brexit fears

14 September 2018

Invisible Athens

Michael Scott's excellent new series on ancient cities continues tonight on the BBC with a look at unseen Athens...

In Athens we see the fifth century BC as the origin of democracy and the Athenian empire. Central modern Athens, covering the remains of the ancient city, is a battleground of ancient versus modern development.

Previously, in the majority of such encounters, modern was the winner. The loss of the ancient was mitigated by an archaeological investigation of the remains built into the planning and construction process, perhaps with a design change here and there to avoid permanent damage to a particularly important ruin and perhaps the addition of a glass floor or ceiling to allow it to be viewed.

Occasionally, a more fruitful marriage of ancient and modern was the design goal from the outset. The construction of the second and third of Athens' Metro lines from 1991 onwards was an exception and provided a more even-handed approach. Thus the Metro stations of Athens are now a fascinating mix of ancient and modern.

Now, another moment of victory is about to be handed to the ancient world, in the vicinity of Athens' ancient agora - the city's ancient cultural, political, social and economic hub where excavations began in 1931. The agora is now one of the most popular tourist sites in central Athens, complete with a rebuilt version of a grand ancient stoa (colonnaded building) along its east side that serves as the site's museum and store rooms.

While a large part of the agora has been exposed, an important part of its north side lies still hidden by not only modern buildings and streets, but also by the Athens-Piraeus Metro line, built in stages between 1869 and 1957. Up until recently, the solution had been to expose small areas of this northern section where possible between the modern structures; small area of ruins can be seen butting up alongside the train tracks.

Now, American archaeologists, with the Greek archaeological service and ministry of culture, have moved on the offensive. Nine modern buildings in a popular tourist area bristling with shops, cafes and restaurants have been bought up through compulsory purchase orders, their owners compensated, the buildings demolished and excavations conducted to reveal the ancient agora. In contrast to the 19th-century Acropolis cleanup, the project has also allowed for study of all the periods of history between the modern and the fifth century BC.

Part two of Michael Scott's Ancient Invisible Cities is on BBC Two tonight at 9pm GMT.

City with a past: why classical and modern Athens are at war

1st September 2018

London Coin Fair

Venue: Holiday Inn Bloomsbury - London, Coram Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1N 1HT

Staged over 2 floors and with 75+ specialist British and International dealers in ancient and moderncoins, paper money, medals, tokens, books and antiquities for sale, this is the largest International coin fair in the UK.

London Coin Fairs

22 August 2018 - 28 October 2018

Museum of London: Roman Dead

Last year, a Roman sarcophagus was found near to Harper Road in Southwark. What does this unique find tells us about the ancient city that 8 million people now call home?

The sarcophagus is displayed alongside the skeletons and cremated remains of 28 Roman Londoners found during archaeological excavations of ancient cemeteries.

The exhibition also features over 200 objects from burials in Roman London, exploring how people dealt with death in Londinium. Many items were brought here from across the Empire, showing the extent of London's international connections, even at this early time in its history.

Roman Dead uses these grave goods and the results of scientific analysis of ancient Londoners' skeletons to explore who Roman Londoners were, and show the surprising diversity of the ancient city.

Throughout the exhibition's run, the museum will host a range of activities and events for families and adults who want to learn more about the Roman dead. For a full list of these events visit the Roman Dead events page.

Museum of London - Roman Dead events

23 February 2018

Stonehenge Up Close

Gain a rare and fascinating insight into the famous World Heritage Site with an exclusive tour around the site led by one of English Heritage’s experts. Start the tour with exclusive early morning access to the stone circle at Stonehenge. Visit key archaeology sites including Durrington Walls, Woodhenge and The Cursus and learn more about the archaeological landscape and investigative work that has gone on in recent years. Includes tea, coffee and light breakfast.

Thu 1 Mar 2018

Price Member (Adult) £45

English Heritage

29 January 2018

World's Oldest Crayon Found in Yorkshire

Archaeologists say they may have discovered the earliest example of a crayon. The object, along with a pebble, are made of a red mineral pigment called ochre. They were discovered near an ancient lake covered in peat near Scarborough, North Yorkshire.

The crayon measures 22 millimetres (0.87 inches) long and 7 millimetres (0.28 inches) wide. It may have been used by our ancestors 10,000 years ago for applying colour to their animal skins or for artwork.

The archaeologist’s also discovered an ochre pebble at another site on the opposite side of the lake. The pebble had a heavily striated surface which was likely scraped to produce a red pigment powder.

The Daily Mail

22 January 2018

London Coin Fair

Staged over 2 floors and with 75+ specialist British and International dealers in ancient and moderncoins, paper money, medals, tokens, books and antiquities for sale, this is the largest International coin fair in the UK.

London Coin Fairs

22 January 2018

Museum of London: Roman London

Imagine yourself in Roman Londinium, at its height in AD 120, on this tour around the city, starting at the Museum on London Wall and ending at Leadenhall Market. Experience a real sense of scale and the topography of 400 years of Roman history, from Emperor Claudius’s invasion to abandonment in the 5th century, while you discover Roman landmarks, now quite hidden beneath our 21st century skyscrapers.

10 February 2018 - 7 April 2018

Museum of London

12 January 2018

Stone Age 'paradise' discovered next to major Israeli road

Archaeologists have found hundreds of hand-axes used by early humans over half a million years ago at Jaljulia, north-east of Tel Aviv.

The discovery at about a five-metre depth, is next to one of the country's busiest roads. The site is extraordinarily well preserved. It was used by Stone Age hunter-gatherers over half a million years ago, who left behind hundreds of knapped flint hand-axes. These finds suggest that an extinct species of early human - home erectus - may have repeatedly returned to the site, perhaps attracted by a water source, vegetation and an abundance of animals.

The most striking finds are evidence of a well-developed lithic industry (elaborately worked stone tools), this included hundreds of flint hand-axes typical of the ancient Acheulian culture that existed in the Lower Paleolithic era from about 1.5 million to 200,000 years ago. This culture is associated with homo erectus and early homo sapiens and is characterised by distinctive oval and pear-shaped flint hand tools.

The dating of Acheulian hand-axes - which scientists now believe were used for a variety of purposes from butchering to digging - has been used to trace the early human migration out of Africa into Asia and Europe.

12 December 2017

Christmas at the Roman Baths and Pump Room - Torchlit Terrace Dining

The baths house a wonderful collection of Roman antiquities, why not combine your visit with a Christmas meal!

There is a magical dining experience at the Roman Baths this Christmas. The Terrace overlooks the great Bath and is a very special dining area usually reserved for private events and functions. On selected dates this December, the Terrace will be transformed into an exclusive restaurant and bar. The terrace will be dressed for the occasion with candles and Christmas garlands – creating a wonderful festive atmosphere. The festive five course dining experience includes the following:

Christmas fizz on arrival and a five course menu and coffee.

Open for this exclusive experience from Sunday 17th December to Saturday 23rd December from 7.00pm. Reservations available at 7.15pm, 7.45pm and 8.00pm.

£60.00 per person.

9 December 2017

British Museum - Coins at Christmas

A gallery talk by Barrie Cook

Friday 15 December 2017 - 13.15pm - Room 68

Free, just drop in


29 November 2017

Did Caesar land on the Isle of Thanet?

Julius Caesar's Roman forces invaded Britain twice in 55 and 54 BC, but the landing spots for each of his army's short stays have never been found. New research now suggests Caesar's 54 BC invasion landed in Kent's Pegwell Bay. The site is more than half a mile inland, but at the time it was closer to the coast. The location matches Caesar's own account of his short-lived occupation. It was visible from the sea with an open bay and overlooked by high ground.

25 November 2017

Fairs, Exhibitions & Events

Bloomsbury Coin Fair

2 December 2017

A fantastic place to buy and talk coins and get advice relating to collecting coins, antiquities and bank notes. Over 40 dealers selling, Roman, Iron Age, Anglo Saxon, Norman, Medieval and Milled.

Owned and run by John Philpotts & Sophie Dickenson.

Midland Coin Fair, Birmingham

10 December 2017

Venue: The National Motorcycle Museum, Coventry Road, Bickenhill, Solihull, West Midlands B92 0EJ (Opposite the NEC on the M42/A45 junction)

Coins, banknotes, medals and antiquites

Opening times: 10.00am - 3.30pm

Admission: £2.00

4 November 2017

It's good to be back!

After two years being held to ransom by a rogue webhost, Minerva Ancients is back selling our usual eclectic range of quality and affordable antiquites. It's also our tenth anniversary, so we have a new look which I hope you like.

For the past two years I have trading as Britannia Gallery Antiquities on Items previously for sale on Britannia Gallery are all now on Minerva Ancients. I have plans for Britannia Gallery which will remain our sister site and return soon with a new format.

Thank you to all previous customers and welcome back to Minerva Ancients!

27 November 2017

Hadrian's Wall Faces New Enemy

It was designed to keep out the barbarians but nearly two thousand years after 'Hadrians Wall was erected, the structure is finally succumbing to foreign invasion - an army of walkers.

The erosion of the World Heritage Site is becoming so severe that the Roman wall could be placed on the World Heritage "in danger" list.

Some 400,000 people have marched across the Hadrian's Wall Path Trail since it was opened 18 months ago. They are banned from walking on the wall itself, yet many do so. One day alone last winter 800 Dutch bankers walked across the wall.

The National Trust, which cares for six miles of the wall, claims the attraction has seen a boost in numbers sparked by the weak pound.

So many visitors are flocking to the World Heritage Site that the path running alongside it is wearing away, leaving the foundations exposed to the elements and in danger of collapse. The Trust have flown in hundreds of tonnes of stone by helicopter to repair the 250ft section at Caw Gap, a picturesque dip in the undulating fortification which attracts tens of thousands of walkers every year.

The original construction of Hadrian's Wall began in AD122 and the 73 mile barrier, which runs from the banks of the River Tyne to the Solway Firth, took just six years to complete. The wall, which was designed by Emperor Hadrian, marked the northern limit of the Roman Empire. It was peppered with 16 forts and 80 milecastles whose gates may have acted as customs posts between the Romans, Picts and ancient Britons.

Only a tenth of the wall now remains after long sections were used for roadbuilding the 18th century, and much of the stone used in the original B6318 'Military Road' in Northumberland, which was built to move troops to crush the Jacobite rebellion.

According to the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, Housesteads fort alone attracts more than 100,000 visitors a year while a new £14. million visitor centre which opened at Once Brewed, near Hexham, in July was expected to bring in a further 100,000 visitors a year.

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