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Eridu: The Sumerian Garden Of Eden & The Oldest City In The World?

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Eridu: The Sumerian Garden of Eden and the Oldest City in the World?
Photo Credit: Ancient Origins

Today, Eridu is often considered to be one of the oldest permanent settlements in Mesopotamia, and perhaps even in the world. The ancient Sumerians also believed that Eridu was the first city in the world and they documented that belief in the Sumerian King List and the Eridu Genesis . At least 18 layers of settlement are found at the site, so could the ancient Sumerian belief be possible?

Archaeological evidence shows that the earliest structures date to the 6th millennium BC. The city reached its zenith during the 4th millennium BC and continued to be inhabited until around the 7th century BC. By then, however, the city had lost its importance. 

Some of the baked bricks used in the construction of the Sumerian ziggurat at Eridu, southwest of Nasiriyah, Iraq, are stamped with the name of King Ur-Nammu (2123-2106 BC). (David Stanley/ CC BY 2.0 )
Some of the baked bricks used in the construction of the Sumerian ziggurat at Eridu, southwest of Nasiriyah, Iraq, are stamped with the name of King Ur-Nammu (2123-2106 BC). (David Stanley/ CC BY 2.0 )
A Tell of 18 Levels

Eridu (known today as Tell Abu Shahrain) is located about 20 km (12.5 miles) to the southwest of the famous city of Ur. As its modern name indicates, the archaeological site is a tell, which is a huge mound formed over the millennia as a result of new settlements being built over the ruins of the previous ones. The tell rises to a height to 7 meters (23 feet), and is formed by 18 levels of occupation, according to the archaeological excavations. The bulk of this has been dated to the Ubaid and Uruk periods, which lasted from the 6th to 4th millennia BC.

The ruins of Eridu in 2011. (Ltybcc1/ CC BY SA 3.0 )
The ruins of Eridu in 2011. (Ltybcc1/ CC BY SA 3.0 )

The ancient Sumerians themselves made mention of Eridu’s antiquity. In the Sumerian King List , for example, it is written that “After the kingship descended from heaven, the kingship was in Eridug.” In addition, in the creation myth known as the Eridu Genesis , it is said to have been one of the five cities that existed before the Deluge, the others being Bad-Tibira, Larak, Sippar, and Suruppak. 

The God of Eridu Temple

The patron god of Eridu was Enki (known also in Akkadian as Ea), the god of water. According to Sumerian mythology, the settlement was founded by Enki, and it was from this city that civilization was spread to other parts of the land. Although Enki was initially a local god, he rose in importance as the city grew in influence, resulting in him being incorporated into the pantheon of other cities as well. In Eridu, Enki’s temple is known as E-Abzu (Abzu may be translated as ‘Deep Ocean’, and refers to the underground spring from which all life is believed to have begun).

Rough map of the Eridu mound showing the main ziggurat, temple, and a few buildings. (Cush/ CC BY SA 3.0 )
Rough map of the Eridu mound showing the main ziggurat, temple, and a few buildings. (Cush/ CC BY SA 3.0 )

Archaeological excavations of the E-Abzu have revealed that the temple began as a small room containing what has been referred to by scholars as a ‘cult niche’ and an ‘offering table’. Over the millennia, however, the inhabitants built new temples over the ruins of the old ones, each bigger than the last. The E-Abzu eventually became a large ziggurat, an apt reflection of Enki’s status as a major deity. It has been proposed that the E-Abzu may have been the largest of the ancient Mesopotamian ziggurats.

Economic Activities

Although the E-Abzu is the focal point of the site’s archaeology, there are either elements of interest. More recent excavations, for instance, have revealed that during the Ubaid period, the city was a pottery production center. This is evident in the pottery works, which had large scatterings of pottery fragments and kiln waste. Additionally, remains of fishing nets, weights, and even models of reed boats have been found at the site, suggesting that fishing was a major economic activity carried out by the inhabitants.

There are nine lines of cuneiform inscriptions on this fired clay brick; stamp of the king Amar-Sin (Amar-Suen, previously misread as Bur-Sin), king of Ur. 2100-2000 BC. From Eridu (modern-day Tell Abu Shahrain), southern Mesopotamia, Iraq. It is currently housed in the British Museum in London. (Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP(Glasg)/ CC BY SA 4.0 )
There are nine lines of cuneiform inscriptions on this fired clay brick; stamp of the king Amar-Sin (Amar-Suen, previously misread as Bur-Sin), king of Ur. 2100-2000 BC. From Eridu (modern-day Tell Abu Shahrain), southern Mesopotamia, Iraq. It is currently housed in the British Museum in London. (Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP(Glasg)/ CC BY SA 4.0 )

Eridu was the dominant city in southern Mesopotamia during the Ubaid period, but it was eventually superseded by Uruk. Nevertheless, it continued to be revered as the first city, and it retained its religious significance thanks to the E-Abzu.

It has been suggested that ecological changes, i.e. the recession of the gulf coast and the increasingly unreliable water table, were responsible for the decline of Eridu around the end of the 3rd millennium BC. The city continued to be inhabited up until around the 7th century BC, although by then it had become a mere shadow of its former glory.

In 2016, Eridu was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as part of the ‘Ahwar of Southern Iraq: Refuge of Biodiversity and the Relict Landscape of the Mesopotamian Cities’.

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Who Destroyed The Great Library Of Alexandria?

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Who Destroyed the Great Library of Alexandria?
Photo Credit: (Elena Ray / Adobe Stock)

The destruction of the great library of Alexandria has been lamented as one of the biggest losses of the ancient world. Nearly one million documents from across Assyria, Greece, Persia, Egypt, India and many other powerful civilizations at the time graced its shelves. No traces of the library have ever been found, but historic records speak of its devastating demise. 

The Rise of Alexandria

Alexandria, one of the greatest cities of the ancient world, was founded by Alexander the Great after his conquest of Egypt in 332 BC. After the death of Alexander in Babylon in 323 BC, Egypt fell to the lot of one of his lieutenants, Ptolemy. It was under Ptolemy that the newly-founded Alexandria came to replace the ancient city of Memphis as the capital of Egypt. This marked the beginning of the rise of Alexandria.

Yet, no dynasty can survive for long without the support of their subjects, and the Ptolemies were keenly aware of this. Thus, the early Ptolemaic kings sought to legitimize their rule through a variety of ways, including assuming the role of pharaoh, founding the Graeco-Roman cult of Serapis, and becoming the patrons of scholarship and learning (a good way to show off one’s wealth, by the way). It was this patronage that resulted in the creation of the great Library of Alexandria by Ptolemy.

Over the centuries, the Library of Alexandria was one of the largest and most significant libraries in the ancient world. The great thinkers of the age, scientists, mathematicians, poets from all civilizations came to study and exchange ideas. As many as 700,000 scrolls filled the shelves. However, in one of the greatest tragedies of the academic world, the Library became lost to history and scholars are still not able to agree on how it was destroyed .

The Great Library of Alexandria (CC by SA 4.0)
Theory 1: Julius Caesar

Perhaps one of the most interesting accounts of its destruction comes from the accounts of the Roman writers. According to several authors, the Library of Alexandria was accidentally destroyed by Julius Caesar during the siege of Alexandria in 48 BC. Plutarch, for instance, provides this account:

“When the enemy tried to cut off his (Julius Caesar’s) fleet, he was forced to repel the danger by using fire, and this spread from the dockyards and destroyed the great library.” – (Plutarch, the Life of Julius Caesar, 49.6)

This account is dubious, however, as the Musaeum (or Mouseion) at Alexandria, which was right next to the library was unharmed, as it was mentioned by the geographer Strabo about 30 years after Caesar’s siege of Alexandria. Nevertheless, Strabo does not mention the Library of Alexandria itself, thereby supporting the claim that Caesar was responsible for burning it down.

However, as the Library was attached to the Musaeum, and Strabo did mention the latter, it is possible that the library was still in existence during Strabo’s time. The omission of the library can perhaps be attributed either to the possibility that Strabo felt no need to mention the library, as he had already mentioned the Musaeum, or that the library was no longer the centre of scholarship that it once was (the idea of ‘budget cuts’ seems increasingly probable). In addition, it has been suggested that it was not the library, but the warehouses near the port, which stored manuscripts, that was destroyed by Caesar’s fire.

Theory 2: Christians

The second possible culprit would be the Christians of the 4th century AD. In 391 AD, the Emperor Theodosius issued a decree that officially outlawed pagan practices. Thus, the Serapeum or Temple of Serapis in Alexandria was destroyed and converted into a Christian Church. Many documents are thought to have been destroyed in the process. However, this was not the Library of Alexandria, or for that matter, a library of any sort, although it is believed that it held about ten percent of the library of Alexandria’s documents.

No ancient sources mention the destruction of any library during this particular time period. Hence, there is no evidence that the Christians of the 4th century destroyed the Library of Alexandria.

Theory 3: Muslims

The last possible perpetrator of this crime would be the Muslim Caliph, Omar. According to this story, a certain “John Grammaticus” (490–570) asks Amr, the victorious Muslim general, for the “books in the royal library.” Amr writes to the Omar for instructions and Omar replies:

If those books are in agreement with the Quran, we have no need of them; and if these are opposed to the Quran, destroy them.

There are at least two problems with this story. Firstly, there is no mention of any library, only books. Secondly, this was written by a Syrian Christian writer, and may have been invented to tarnish the image of Omar.

Mystery Remains

Unfortunately, archaeology has not been able to contribute much to this mystery. For a start, papyri have rarely been found in Alexandria, possibly due to the climatic condition, which is unfavourable for the preservation of organic material. Secondly, the remains of the Library of Alexandria itself have not been discovered. This is due to the fact that Alexandria is still inhabited by people today and only salvage excavations are allowed to be carried out by archaeologists.

While it may be convenient to blame one man or group of people for the destruction of what many consider to be the greatest library in the ancient world, it may be over-simplifying the matter.  

The library may not have gone up in flames at all, but rather could have been gradually abandoned over time. If the Library was created for the display of Ptolemaic wealth, then its decline could also have been linked to an economic decline. As Ptolemaic Egypt gradually declined over the centuries, this may have also had an effect on the state of the Library of Alexandria. If the Library did survive into the first few centuries AD, its golden days would have been in the past, as Rome became the new centre of the world.

This article (Who Destroyed The Great Library Of Alexandria?) was originally created for Ancient Origins and is published here under Creative Commons.

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Alien

Declassified FBI Document States That Nikola Tesla Was An Alien From Venus

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1957: : Declassified FBI Letter: Nikola Tesla Was Brought To Earth From Venus
Photo Credit: Getty

Jocelyne LeBlancGuest Writer

Nikola Tesla is a very well-known scientist who made numerous inventions and discoveries, such as the Tesla coil, alternating-current (AC) electricity, neon lights, artificial lightning, X-rays, and the rotating magnetic field, just to name a few. His radio technology is actually used in today’s computers, smartphones, navigation systems, satellites, missiles, and spaceships. Incredibly, in 1926, he predicted that people would eventually be able to stay connected by seeing and hearing each other no matter where they were across the planet by a small device that could fit in a pocket – decades before the smartphone was even created.

He had over 1,000 invention patents on record that included his 1905 patent called “The art of transmitting electrical energy through the natural medium” which was based on his thoughts that the Earth was an electrical generator that could supply an unlimited amount of  electricity.

Tesla Coil

It was obvious that Tesla was an incredibly intelligent man who was ahead of his time in regards to his work. In fact, it has been said that his inventions were between 300 and 1,000 years ahead of time and that the world would be about half a century behind where we are today if it wasn’t for Tesla. This, however, led to some people believing that he was such a unique individual that he didn’t even come from our planet.

A declassified FBI document called “Interplanetary Sessions Newsletter” was written on June 14, 1957 and contained some unbelievable claims that Tesla was originally from the planet Venus. It read in part, “The Space People have visited the Tesla engineers many times, and have told us that Tesla was a Venusian, brought to this planet as a baby, in 1856, and left with Mr. and Mrs. Tesla in a remote mountain province in what is now Yugoslavia.”

Additionally, a woman named Margaret Storm, who was writing a book on Tesla’s life, was given information through a device that the scientist created in 1938 in order to conduct “interplanetary communication”. She allegedly even had contact with the “Space People”.

Nikola Tesla

The theory that Nikola Tesla originally came from Venus and was brought to Earth as a baby is certainly far-fetched even though many people do believe that there are aliens living right here on Earth (Area 51 for example). But what’s even stranger is that the FBI had that information in one of their files which ultimately raises even more questions such as why did the “Space People” reveal Tesla’s identity to the FBI and perhaps an even better question is did the FBI actually have close contact with extraterrestrials?

The entire 64-page document can be read here.

Recommended Articles by Jocelyne LeBlanc
About the Author

Jocelyne LeBlanc works full time as a writer and is also an author with two books currently published. She has written articles for several online websites, and had an article published in a Canadian magazine on the most haunted locations in Atlantic Canada. She has a fascination with the paranormal and ghost stories, especially those that included haunted houses. In her spare time, she loves reading, watching movies, making crafts, and watching hockey.

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Alien

Surreal Accounts Of Encounters With Reptilian Lizard Men

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Photo Credit: Collective Evolution

Brent SwancerGuest Writer

There are reports of mysterious monsters and creatures from every corner of the globe, encompassing weird things of various shapes and sizes. From Bigfoot to the Loch Ness Monster, such reports are constant. Yet, there are some that seem to veer off into the realm of the truly fantastical, and among these must surely be the numerous reports of what can only be described as reptilian humanoid beings. Such encounters really go beyond the world as we know it, truly embracing the far reaches of the fringe, and here we will look at a selection of these weird accounts.

A curious encounter supposedly happened in 1977, in the wilds near Henderson, Nevada, where a woman by the name of Cherry Hinkle lived with her 13-year-old son, Marc. On this day Marc had gone out hiking with a friend and decided to explore one of the many caves of the area. Within the murk below they say they made their way to a circular chamber where they stumbled across a deeper hole down into a sheer blackness that their flashlights could barely penetrate. They decided to make their way down though the hole using some branches as a makeshift ladder, and they ventured down into more bizarreness. Hinkle would say of her son’s encounter in an article for UFO Digest:

The pit was roomy, with a short annex. Occasional debris littered the rocky floor, like a tin can or two, a battered teen magazine perched on a small outcrop of rock that served as shelf. The boys explored to main cave, then turned their attention to the short tunnel or annex…[and] heard the sounds of a voices and maybe the distance humming of machines. Intrigued by the thought of they were mining nearby, the boys went a deeper into the tunnel. On the far end, they found a rusty metal door, and near the door a strange metal rod. The one-foot rod was lightweight and resembled aluminum, with a cap on one end and a few strange engravings on one side… 

Startled, the boys heard the sound or guttural harsh voices talking, and the certain sound of approaching footsteps. The boys became frightened by the strange vocalizations and high-tailed it to their makeshift ladder and headed up toward the cave entrance on the upper level. As they exited, they heard what sounded like the metal door opening, its old metal screeching. They crawled out the tunnel opening and ran away from the cave entrance. Thinking they were safe, they breathed a sigh of relief. Without a warning, they heard a loud threatening growl. Harry and Marc looked back at the cave entrance and to their horrified eyes; they watched as a very large greenish humanoid struggled to force his big body out of narrow cave. The boys screamed and started running down the slope of the hill, running top speed! They didn’t look back until they were near my back yard.

They would show Cherry a strange, rod-like object that they had brought back from the cave with them, which had strange symbols engraved upon its side. It was smooth and metallic, and no one knew quite what to make of it. They would have gone to have it looked at by someone, but the strange creature from the cave seems to have wanted his rod back. Hinkle would say of what happened later that night:

It must have been around two in the morning when Marc shook me whispering harshly that someone is trying to get into his bedroom window. I hoped it was just a nightmare, or his nerves were still on edge. Quietly we slipped into his bedroom and listened to the sounds of scraping at the window edge! He was not mistaken—in the light of the moon I could make out the silhouette head and shoulders of a man. I was alone with my four kids, no husband to protect us, so I grabbed my flashlight; suddenly tossed the curtains open to face the man. There was a glare from the flashlight on the window, but past glare that I could clearly see a large head with ridges on the top, other ridges on his cheekbones, and the glow of golden eyes. Marc and I stood still, unmoving, both fear and shock kept us frozen. The Lizard Man didn’t move either his hand still poised in his attempt pry the window open. His hand was large, with webbed rough, gnarly looking fingers, with powerful claws. 

After a couple minutes, not seconds, but long agonized minutes with our hearts pounding I knew I had to do something. One hand still holding the flashlight beam on his face and my eyes still locked into those golden eyes, I fumbled around in the dark with my other hand, hoping to find something to use as a weapon, is needed. He glanced at my hand, looked back into my eyes. He turned his head a little, as if he was asking a questioning, he slightly opened his lipless lips, displaying four of his pointed teeth, and suddenly he turned and ran off into the desert. Later in the morning, we decided the reason the Lizard Man was breaking in the house was to reclaim that metal rod. Marc and I hiked back to the cave and placed the strange rod beside the cave entrance.”

Another weird report of some sort of lizard humanoid comes to us from the site Cryptozoology News, from a witness in Oklahoma City. The man claims to be a dispatcher, and that on this evening he was driving on his way to work at around 4 AM when something very strange came creeping up out of the night in the form of a 3-foot tall reptilian humanoid. The witness says of what happened:

I was coming off a two lane to a four lane. On my side of the road there was a culvert… it –the being– jumped up on the side of the road, standing on the curb, looking at me. It had large eyes and small pointed ears. Its eyes were orange with no glow when the headlights hit them. It had a small mouth with a nose similar to a cat. It had three toes curled over the edge of the curb with heels like a human. Extremely large thighs that matched the base of its tail. Its tail was extremely long with the huge base tapering down to no bigger than a match stick. The creature was flicking its tail, standing like an angry cat. But once it was on the move, it carried it straight out behind him. It looked as if it was calculating where it could make it across in front of me without getting hit. It made it to the center yellow line, then looked at me again before sprinting off into the woods on the opposite side of the road.

From Reddit user “DakkOhMy” we have a report from July of 2016, when he and some friends were walking home from a party along a dark rural road at around 3 AM, heading towards the home of his friend “Cole.” The witness describes the neighborhood as butting up against a vast, swampy area, and eerily dark and quiet at night, and it is a place that makes them nervous every time they pass it. This particular report starts off as what appears to be a UFO sighting, but gets much stranger as it goes on. The witness says:

Cole noticed this green ball of light fall from the sky into the swampy side of the street. Cole described is as a beach ball that had a green neon light emanating from it. He thought maybe it was a shooting star but it didn’t have any fallout or anything, and it just glided into the trees without making a sound. The weird thing is, the rest of us didn’t see it. We brushed it off and kept walking. A few minutes later we all heard this sound in the trees on the swampy side of the road. It sounded like something was rushing towards us, almost like a stampede but once it reached the treeline and the fence, it stopped. We stopped and looked at each other because at this point, we were all a little spooked, and didn’t know what to do. As we started walking again, I happen to look into the trees and I saw this creature just standing there watching us. It looked like it was over 7 feet tall, lanky, looked like it was covered in scales or some kind of rough skin and had yellowish eyes. I screamed, which of course made the guys look over and they saw him too. The thing just kept staring at us and it was super unnerving. We took off and didn’t stop until we got to Cole’s house. We shut all the blinds and locked everything up and couldn’t sleep the rest of the night. We still don’t know what we saw and we never saw it again after that. We all named the creature the “Lizardman”. We never walk down that road anymore, even if we’re at Cole’s house. We drive down that road now.

What was this thing? Another encounter comes to us from the National Cryptid Society, from a witness called “Kelly,” in Honey Grove, Texas. She says on this evening she had put her daughters to bed as usual, and was lying down trying to fall asleep when her dogs started snarling and growling in a very menacing way, as if they were very scared of something. Listening carefully, she could make out the snapping of twigs, and her first thought was that her daughter’s pony had gotten out of its enclosure. However, it would turn out to be something far stranger, and the witness says:

My eldest daughter had a Shetland pony, so in my mind I thought the Shetland had gotten loose. I got up out of bed and I went to the front door. My front door had nine panes of glass in it. Right caddy cornered from me, 25 feet from me was a streetlight, a very bright streetlight. What I saw walking across that street I will never ever forget. I saw a lizard standing on two feet with his back to me. It was just like looking at a chameleon, if you would blow it up to 7 feet, and its tail was humongous. He had crossed the road. His tail was so long that it was still halfway in the road. He was gray. I could see scales. His arms, for lack of a better word, went between his hip and his knees. He was just nonchalantly walking across the road right under the streetlight. Across the street from me were houses. Behind those houses was a sawmill. I was in shock. I had never seen or experienced anything like this before my life. My world was black and white with no gray. He never looked my way. I never left the house. It put me in shock. I was totally in shock that night. As a matter of fact, I didn’t go to sleep for the rest of the night. I just stood there looking out. I was looking at my front door long before and long after he had passed beyond my field of vision.

Just as bizarre is another report from Cryptozoology News, from a witness in Brownsville, Texas, who says that not only did he see a Lizardman, but that it was inside of his grandmother’s home, where he was staying at the time. On this evening he says that he was at home alone, as everyone else had gone out to a church service, and as he sat there watching TV he had the unshakeable sense that there was a presence nearby. On one occasion he peered down the hall after hearing a noise, and was met with the sight of a scaly hand gripping the corner. He says of what happened:

I had the kitchen light turn on and the hallway along with the rest of the home was dark. The darkest area was the hallway. I saw it and closed my eyes and shook my head, only to see its hand still holding on to that corner. It was of a blackish color and covered in scales. The fingertip nails looked almost like the ones from the alien from the movie ‘Signs’ when Mel Gibson goes to look at the bottom of the door to see what was on the other side, only to see something try to scratch him like that but also darkish black. I waited for my family to come home to tell them what I witnessed. My family kinda mocked me, and told me it was a demon messing with me for not going to church. I haven’t seen it since, but the vibe I get when I’m at my grandmother’s alone is still there. I do believe it was some type of reptilian, and I didn’t have any friends in that neighborhood, so it wasn’t a prank. No one was in that home but that thing and me.

A really outlandish tale, although aren’t they all, is from a psychotherapist and family counsellor from Claremont, California, by the name of Barbara Lamb, who also happens to be a prominent researcher of crop circles and also a regression therapist for past lives. She claims that one day a reptilian humanoid just seems to have randomly appeared in her house. Although she is typically repulsed by lizards, snakes, and other reptiles, Lamb seems to have not been bothered by this 6-foot-tall lizard man just standing there in her home. She would say in an interview with Vanity Fair Magazine:

crop circle
University mathematician decodes the crop circle with a binary code & extraterrestrial face. (Click above Image for the details.)

I was walking through my home and there was standing this reptilian being. It was three in the afternoon. I was alert and awake. I was startled somebody was there. He was radiating such a nice feeling. I went right over and had my hand out. He was taller than I, this close to me, with yellow reptile eyes. He said telepathically, ‘Ha, Barbara, good, good. Now you know that we are actually real. We do exist and have contacts with certain people.’ Then he was suddenly gone.

Reports of reptilian humanoids certainly have to take the prize for some of the more bizarre types of encounters there are out there. What are we to make of these accounts? They don’t seem to really fit into the mild of an undiscovered animal of some sort, especially the weirder of them. Are these some sort of spiritual phenomenon, aliens, perhaps something nterdimensional in nature? Or is it just people messing around and putting out fake accounts? There is no way to really know, and in the meantime these must remain firmly in the realm of the fringe.

Recommended Articles by Brent Swancer
About the Author

Is an author and crypto expert living in Japan. Biology, nature, and cryptozoology still remain Brent Swancer’s first intellectual loves. He’s written articles for MU and Daily Grail and has been a guest on Coast to Coast AM and Binnal of America.

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History

Shadows Of The Dead: Anglo-Saxon Burials Are Spooky Sand Silhouettes

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Shadows of the Dead: Anglo-Saxon Burials are Spooky Sand Silhouettes
Photo Credit: Suffolk County Council

Archaeologists in Britain have uncovered a remarkable Anglo-Saxon burial ground that dates back to the 6th or 7th century AD. This Anglo-Saxon burial site is rather unusual as it consists of spooky silhouettes of the deceased in the sandy soil. The skeletons have long since disappeared. It is believed that this eerie site can help historians to better understand the early Anglo-Saxons and the world-famous burials at Sutton Hoo.

The Anglo-Saxon cemetery was found in Oulton, near Lowestoft, in Suffolk, in southern England. Some land was being cleared for agricultural use when it was uncovered. Experts working with Archaeological Solutions Ltd began to investigate the site and what they found was astonishing. They uncovered an intact Anglo-Saxon burial that is at least 1400 years old.

Shadows of the Dead in the Earth

Some 200 graves were found and they included both cremations and burials. The Daily Mail reports that ‘due to the acidity of the soil and the poor preservation methods used upon entombment, no bones remain, just shadow-like ‘sand silhouettes’ of the skeletons.’

Some 200 Anglo-Saxon graves have been found, including cremations and burials. (Suffolk County Council)

Anything organic has disappeared, but the impression of many of the deceased has been preserved in the sandy soil. Andrew Peachey, who led the dig, is quoted by Archaeology saying that “Due to the highly acidic soil the skeletons had mostly vanished and were luckily preserved as fragile shapes and shadows in the sand.”

This is a phenomenon that isn’t found elsewhere. Peachey is quoted by the Smithsonian as saying that “These shadows also revealed traces of the wooden coffins that some of the individuals were buried in.” The impression, or shadows, have been studied in-situ.

The graves once contained some of the earliest Anglo-Saxons who lived in England. They were a Germanic tribe who originated in Germany or Denmark and who settled on the island after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, and eventually laid the foundation for the modern English nation.

Carefully excavating the Anglo-Saxon burial ground. (Suffolk County Counci)
Remarkable Anglo-Saxon Burial Goods

Among the objects found were personal decorations including brooches, wrist clasps, and amber and glass beads. A number of knives, coins, weapons, and a shield, were also found. Remarkably, some organic remains such as leather and textiles were also discovered. Peachey is quoted by the Daily Mail as saying that “Unusually, many of the graves also included fragments of pottery and decorated pots.”

Many of the graves included fragments of pottery and decorated pots. (Suffolk County Council)

These finds were very fragile and if removed they could disintegrate. So, the archaeologists took them out of the earth in the block of earth. The Smithsonian reports Peachey as saying that “Many of the artefacts were so fragile they had to be block lifted for micro-excavation in the labs at Norfolk Museum Service for analysis and conservation.”

The Anglo-Saxon Community

The Anglo-Saxon burial ground had contained the remains of men, women, and children. It is believed that they all came from several generations of a farming community. This discovery is a wonderful opportunity to understand the lives of ordinary people in Anglo-Saxon times. The BBC quoted a Suffolk Archaeological Service statement that “studies would help establish the graveyard’s links to other local sites.” There are several other significant Anglo-Saxon sites in this part of England.

Studying the artifacts found in the Anglo-Saxon burials provides a wonderful opportunity to understand the lives of ordinary people who lived during that time. (Suffolk County Council)

The BBC reports Suffolk Archaeology Service as stating that the site “lies within the Kingdom of the East Angles, made famous by the royal burial ground at nearby Sutton Hoo.” This Anglo-Saxon site is located near Woodbridge, Suffolk. In 1939, archaeologists excavated two burial mounds from the 6th and 7th century AD and found an intact ship burial.

Treasures of Sutton Hoo

It is believed that King Rædwald of East Anglia was laid to rest in the vessel found in the mound. Most of the ship’s wood has long since decayed in the acidic soil, but its outline was found. As a result, according to the Daily Mail the vessel found in the mound is often called a ‘ghost ship.’

Many treasures were found in the royal burial and they included an ornately decorated full-faced helmet, a shield, a sword, and many precious examples of metalwork. These are now all on exhibit in the British Museum. There has been some controversy over who should be credited with the amazing discoveries at Sutton Hoo, and this was the subject of a 2020 movie called The Dig.

Studies are ongoing at the Suffolk site, with the ghostly graves and the results will be compared with other Anglo-Saxon burial sites. A Suffolk county council spokesman is quoted by the Daily Mail as saying that “This is a nationally significant discovery and continues to show what a historic place Suffolk is.” It is hoped that many of the grave goods retrieved from the sandy soil will eventually go on display in a local museum.

This article (Shadows of the Dead: Anglo-Saxon Burials are Spooky Sand Silhouettes) was originally created for Ancient Origins and is published here under Creative Commons.

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