Etruscan bronzes, Amazonian civilization and excavation of Notre

A bronze head unearthed from the sanctuary of San Casciano dei Bagni, Italy; a relief outline of a Casarabian site revealed by Lidar in the Bolivian jungle; and a sculpted head from the medieval rood screen of Notre-Dame de Paris. Cover Images, ABACA/Heiko Prümers, German Archaeological Institute/Denis Gliksman, Inrap

ARCHEOLOGY – From Roman Syria to the icy seas of Antarctica, an overview of some archaeological novelties that have marked the past year.

One new movie IndianaJones is expected this year, but don’t tell the archaeologists. Those that capers by Harrison Ford still entertain will smile knowingly; others will roll their eyes. There is certainly a world or two between the adventurous saga and the reality of archaeological research. The two, however, sometimes collide. Finding lost cities or dazzling treasures still enamels the profession of researchers from the past. A few days ago, archaeologist Marie-Laure Thierry slipped about the sculpted triton of Néris-les-Bains it was “It’s nice to tell yourself that the discoveries of importance have not all been made yet”. Le Figaro has selected five of the most remarkable of 2022.

The Etruscan bronzes of San Casciano dei Bagni

Excavated since 2020 by Italian archaeologists, the ancient sanctuary of San Casciano dei Bagni, in Tuscany, delivered this year a fabulous treasure consisting of 24 Etruscan and Roman statuettes. Dated IIe century BC. AD to Ier century of our era, these pieces constituted a votive deposit, that is to say offerings offered to the deities of the site. Apollo, Asclepius, Hygeia and maybe also isis were thus venerated in these sacred baths which still today house a famous spa site.

Two antique bronze heads, exhumed from the excavation of San Casciano dei Bagni and covered, at the base of the neck, with Etruscan inscriptions. Ministry of culture

The discovery is all the more significant as it offers rare new examples of Etruscan bronze sculpture, much less known than terracotta statuary. The Etruscan cities lost their independence in the IIIe century before our era, which also increases the appetite of Etruscologists and epigraphists for this late set, as well as for its unpublished inscriptions.

The mosaic of Rastan, in Roman Syria

Its tesserae depict characters from the Troy war and the Amazonomachy, two themes of which the ancient arts were fond for almost a millennium. A mosaic of the IVe century of our era, with a dimension of 120 m2, was unearthed last fall in Syria, in the town of Rastane, about fifteen kilometers north of Homs. Well preserved, and divided into two beautifully crafted panels, the figured mosaic constitutes, according to the Syrian authorities, the most important archaeological discovery made in the country since the beginning of the civil war.

Detail of the central medallion of one of the two panels of the Rastane mosaic. Louai Beshara / AFP

Apart from the Homeric scenes and those representing the mythical war of the Amazons against the heroes of Greece, like Queen Hippolyte against Herculesthe pavement was also decorated with an important procession: that of Neptune and his 40 mistresses.

Casarab civilization, in the middle of the jungle

Not a year goes by without Lidar, an airborne laser detection system, not highlighting some new wonder deep in the jungles of the Amazon – or in the French forests. In 2021, a new pyramid rose from the Mayan site of Tikal. For 2022, this remote sensing tool has revealed two cities hidden under the forest cover of Llanos de Moxos, in northern Bolivia.

3D survey of the Casarab monuments identified on the site called Cotoca 0, Heiko Prümers, German Archaeological Institute

Endowed in particular with important public monuments as well as a network of canals, these urban centers belonged to the pre-Columbian casarabe civilization, which had developed in the south-west of the Amazon between the Ve and the XVe century. In other words, a form of occupation of space that undermines the hypothesis of a deserted and wild western Amazonpopulated only by nomadic and pastoral groups, in the manner of what was envisaged for the Casarabes.

The medieval secrets of Notre-Dame de Paris

The announcement of the discovery, in the spring, of a medieval lead sarcophagus under the crossing of the transept of Notre-Dame amused more than one Internet user. Was a vampire sleeping under the Gothic cathedral? Ultimately, the search conducted by the National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (Inrap) unearthed two anthropomorphic sarcophagi in lead, and ten in plaster. One of the two prestigious burials contained the remains of Canon Antoine de La Porte, who died in 1710.

One of the painted heads from the 13th century rood screene century of Notre-Dame de Paris. Denis Gliksman, Inrap

The archaeologists, who were able to excavate for two months this site usually inaccessible to their trowels, also unearthed striking carved decorations which had been buried alongside the various personalities of the heart of Notre-Dame. It was the polychrome rood screen of the cathedrala monumental enclosure built in 1230 to separate the nave from the choir and destroyed under Louis XIV, due to the evolution of the liturgy.

The wreckage of theEndurancelost in Antarctica

In 1914, four years after Norwegian Roald Amundsen’s South Pole expedition, the British-Irish explorer Ernest Shackleton embarks on board theEndurance with a proud team and a clear objective in mind: to be the first to cross Antarctica. The schooner is however made prisoner of the formidable pack ice of the weddell sea. If the castaways manage to escape from this icy desert and turn back to a whaling station, theEndurance, she sank in 1915 under the icebergs. Forgotten by all… Until its rediscovery in 2022.

The wreckage of theEndurance was discovered in March 2022, more than a century after it sank off Antarctica. Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust

The ship was found in March by the Endurance22 mission, led by the British association Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust. It lay at a depth of 3008 meters, some six kilometers south of the location given by members of the Shackleton expedition. And in a wonderfully enduring state of preservation.


SEE ALSO – Discover the first images of the wreckage of Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance found off Antarctica

Etruscan bronzes, Amazonian civilization and excavation of Notre-Dame… The most remarkable discoveries of 2022