среда, 24 июля 2019 г.

Ballowall Bronze Age Barrow and Burial Complex, St. Just, Cornwall, 23.7.19.


Ballowall Bronze Age Barrow and Burial Complex, St. Just, Cornwall, 23.7.19.











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History Made: Apollo 11 Splashes Down Today in 1969

image


The Apollo 11 Command Module “Columbia” is hoisted onto its recovery ship the USS Hornet, following splashdown on July 24, 1969. Credit: NASA



Four days after their historic achievement, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at 12:49 p.m. EDT, about 900 miles from Hawaii. The crew was recovered by the crew of the USS Hornet where President Richard Nixon was waiting to greet them. 


Watch a replay of the original live broadcast of the recovery on NASA TV starting at 12:45 p.m. EDT



Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com.


The solar sail LightSail 2 opened in space


The Planetary Society logo.


July 24, 2019


The satellite sent into orbit by Planetary Society has successfully deployed the device that will allow it to propel itself through the light of the Sun.



Image above: The solar sail is a small satellite with a square of 32 square meters of a very thin film, light and reflective polyester Mylar.


A month after its launch in space, the solar sail of the American organization Planetary Society unfolded correctly Tuesday orbiting the Earth.



The Planetary Society post on Twitter

«Deployment done!»


The solar sail, named LightSail 2, is a small satellite with a square of 32 square meters of a very thin, light and reflective Poylester Mylar, which should allow to propel the camera by the simple thrust of the photons of the Sun. This is an experiment to demonstrate that the technology is mature.


«Deployment finished!» Tweeted the organization. The data sent by the aircraft to the ground confirmed the mechanical operation. Photographs taken by the probe should allow to confirm it visually later in the day.



LightSail 2 opening

The Planetary Society’s director, Bill Nye, told AFP last month that solar sails would allow one day to «tame» solar energy to «sail among the stars».


Extraordinary speeds


The solar sail will remain in orbit around the Earth and, if all goes well, it will gradually increase its altitude thanks to the pressure of solar radiation.



Description

What could these solar sails be used for in the future?


Bill Nye explains that they would be useful to send robotic missions far, far away, beyond our solar system, because the ship, if it will necessarily be slower initially than if it were equipped with a motor, will accelerate continuously and ultimately reach extraordinary speeds.


The Planetary Society: http://www.planetary.org/


Images, Animation, Text, Credits: AFP/Planetary Society/Orbiter.ch Aerospace/Roland Berga.


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Expanding our knowledge of Arctic Ocean bathymetry


ESA — Cryosat Mission logo.


24 July 2019


Our knowledge of the depth and shape of the Arctic Ocean floor – its bathymetry – is insufficient. Owing to year-round sea-ice coverage and the cost of research in this remote region, much of the Arctic Ocean’s bathymetry has remained a mystery, until now.



Bathymetry of Chukchi Cap

Bathymetry maps are crucial for studying ocean dynamics, currents and tides, as well as for ship safety. Several campaigns to map seafloor bathymetry through ship soundings have been proposed, but only small fractions of the Arctic Ocean have ever been covered. 


Scientists from DTU Space, Denmark’s national space research institute, have published a paper that reveals the first Arctic bathymetry map using marine gravity.


The surface of the ocean is not flat. Because of gravitational pull, the height of the ocean surface mimics the rise and fall of the ocean floor. Areas of greater mass such as underwater mountains have a higher gravity and therefore attract more water creating a rise in the sea surface.



CryoSat

Fine-tuning the relationship between bathymetry and gravity in the Arctic Ocean has enabled scientists to calculate sea—floor bathymetry from satellite gravity measurements.


By using ERS-1 and ERS-2, Envisat and seven years’ of CryoSat data, an altimetric gravity model has been developed by DTU Space. This has been combined with the existing IBCAO bathymetry map to create a new and improved hybrid bathymetry map of the Arctic Ocean.



How gravity and sea level interact

CryoSat was originally launched to measure sea-ice thickness, but data from the Earth-observing satellite have been exploited for other studies. Carrying a radar altimeter, the satellite can sense the gravity field at the ocean surface, so that seafloor characteristics are revealed – allowing it to map the global marine gravity field at a high spatial resolution.


“The existing IBCAO bathymetry map of the Arctic Ocean is based purely on ship soundings and assisted by digital depth contours. Combining the IBCAO bathymetry with altimetry-derived marine gravity has resulted in a more accurate bathymetry map of the Arctic,” says Ole Baltazar Andersen from DTU Space.


He continues, “The true value in the satellite data lies in the fact that it can help fill in data gaps between ship soundings, giving us a more complete picture of the Arctic bathymetry.”



Bathymetry vs ship sounding

The value of the hybrid bathymetry has also been validated using recent independent ship sounding surveys accessed through the NOAA’s National Center for Environmental Information (NCEI). Over the Chukchi Cap in the Canadian Arctic, the hybrid bathymetry could improve the existing IBCAO model derived from sparse ship tracks in the region.


“This mapping shows our satellites’ capability of providing us with new data, especially in more difficult areas such as the unknown Arctic waters,” says Jérôme Benveniste, senior advisor at ESA.


Josef Aschbacher, ESA’s director of Earth observation programmes, added, “And this is yet another piece of the jigsaw that adds to our understanding of the planet – and critically this kind of information can be used for maritime safety therefore benefiting society.”


Related links:


CryoSat: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Observing_the_Earth/CryoSat


ERS: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Observing_the_Earth/ERS_overview


Envisat: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Observing_the_Earth/Envisat


DTU Space: https://www.space.dtu.dk/english


NOAA’s National Center for Environmental Information: https://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/


IBCAO: https://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/mgg/bathymetry/arctic/arctic.html


Read more:


Improved Arctic Ocean Bathymetry derived from DTU17 Gravity model: https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1029/2018EA000502


The International Bathymetric Chart of the Arctic Ocean (IBCAO): https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1029/2012GL052219


Images, Text, Credits: ESA/DTU Space/NOAA.


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2019 July 24 Zodiacal Road Image Credit & Copyright: Ruslan…


2019 July 24


Zodiacal Road
Image Credit & Copyright: Ruslan Merzlyakov (RMS Photography)


Explanation: What’s that strange light down the road? Dust orbiting the Sun. At certain times of the year, a band of sun-reflecting dust from the inner Solar System appears prominently just after sunset – or just before sunrise – and is called zodiacal light. Although the origin of this dust is still being researched, a leading hypothesis holds that zodiacal dust originates mostly from faint Jupiter-family comets and slowly spirals into the Sun. Recent analysis of dust emitted by Comet 67P, visited by ESA’s robotic Rosetta spacecraft, bolster this hypothesis. Pictured when climbing a road up to Teide National Park in the Canary Islands of Spain, a bright triangle of zodiacal light appeared in the distance soon after sunset. Captured on June 21, the scene includes bright Regulus, alpha star of Leo, standing above center toward the left. The Beehive Star Cluster (M44) can be spotted below center, closer to the horizon and also immersed in the zodiacal glow.


∞ Source: apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap190724.html


NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory Celebrates Its 20th Anniversary




Credit:  X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ of Waterloo/H. Russell et al.; Optical: NASA/STScI







To commemorate the 20th anniversary of NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, an assembly of new images is being released. These images represent the breadth of Chandra’s exploration, demonstrating the variety of objects it studies as well as how X-rays complement the data collected in other types of light. Some of these images contain Chandra data exclusively and the rest show how X-rays fit with the different types of light that other telescopes collect.



The 20th anniversary images are from left to right:


Top Row:



Abell 2146

  Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ. of Waterloo/H. Russell et al.; Optical: NASA/STScI.


The colossal system Abell 2146 is the result of a collision and merger between two galaxy clusters. Astronomers think that galaxy clusters, the largest structures in the Universe held together by gravity, grow by colliding and merging with one another. Mergers of galaxy clusters are some of the most energetic events since the Big Bang. Chandra has observed many galaxy cluster mergers, giving scientists insight into how these mega-structures that dominate the Universe came to be.



In this image of Abell 2146, X-rays from Chandra (purple) show hot gas and optical data from the Hubble Space Telescope shows galaxies and stars. The bullet-shaped feature shows the hot gas from one cluster plowing through the hot gas in the other cluster.



Sagittarius A* (Galactic Center)

Credit: X-Ray:NASA/CXC/UMass/D. Wang et al.; Radio:NRF/SARAO/MeerKAT 

The central region of our galaxy, the Milky Way, contains an exotic collection of objects, including a supermassive black hole weighing about 4 million times the mass of the Sun (called Sagittarius A*), clouds of gas at temperatures of millions of degrees, neutron stars and white dwarf stars tearing material from companion stars and beautiful tendrils of radio emission.


The region around Sagittarius A* is shown in this new composite image with Chandra data (green and blue) combined with radio data (red) from the MeerKAT telescope in South Africa, which will eventually become part of the Square Kilometer Array (SKA).  




30 Doradus

Credit: NASA/CXC/Penn State Univ./L. Townsley et al.


At the center of 30 Doradus, one of the largest star-forming regions located close to the Milky Way, thousands of massive stars are blowing off material and producing intense radiation along with powerful winds. Chandra detects gas that has been heated to millions of degrees by these stellar winds and also by supernova explosions that mark the end of some giant stars’ lives. These X-rays come from shock fronts, similar to sonic booms produced by supersonic airplanes, that rumble through the system.


This new Chandra image of 30 Doradus, which is nicknamed the «Tarantula Nebula,» contains data from several long observations totaling almost 24 days of observing spread out over about 700 days. The colors in this Chandra image are red, green and purple to highlight low, medium and high X-ray energies respectively.


Astronomers used the long set of Chandra observations to discover that one of the bright X-ray sources shows regular variations in its X-ray output, with a period of 155 days. This variation originates from two massive stars orbiting each other, in a double-star system called Melnick 34. Follow-up observations with the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope and the Gemini Observatory, both in Chile, measured the change in velocities of both stars during their orbit, leading to mass estimates of 139 and 127 times the mass of the sun. This makes Melnick 34 the most massive binary known, as reported in a paper published earlier this year, led by Katie Tehrani of the University of Sheffield in the UK. Within about two or three million years, both stars should implode to form black holes. If the binary survives these violent events, the black holes might eventually merge to produce a burst of gravitational waves.


The X-rays likely originate from shock waves generated by the collision of material blowing away from the surfaces of both stars, making Melnick 34 a «colliding-wind binary». Credit: NASA/CXC/Penn State Univ./L. Townsley et al.



Bottom row:



Cygnus OB2

Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/J. Drake et al; 

H-alpha: Univ. of Hertfordshire/INT/IPHAS; Infrared: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Spitzer

Stars come in different sizes and masses. Our Sun is an average-sized star that will have a lifespan of some 10 billion years. More massive stars, like those found in Cygnus OB2, only last a few million years. During their lifetimes, they blast large amounts of high-energy winds into their surroundings. These violent winds can collide or produce shocks in the gas and dust around the stars, depositing large amounts of energy that produce X-ray emission that Chandra can detect.


In this composite image of Cygnus OB2, X-rays from Chandra (red diffuse emission and blue point sources) are shown with optical data from the Isaac Newton Telescope (diffuse emission in light blue) and infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope (orange).



NGC 604

Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/CfA/R. Tuellmann et al.; Optical: NASA/AURA/STScI/J. Schmidt.

The nearby galaxy Messier 33 contains a star-forming region called NGC 604 where some 200 hot, young, massive stars reside. The cool dust and warmer gas in this stellar nursery appear as the wispy structures in an optical image from the Hubble Space Telescope. In between these filaments are giant voids that are filled with hot, X-ray-emitting gas. Astronomers think these bubbles are being blown off the surfaces of the young and massive stars throughout NGC 604.


NGC 604 also likely contains an extreme member of the class of colliding-wind binaries, as reported in a recent paper led by Kristen Garofali of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Arkansas. It is the first candidate source in this class to be discovered in M33 and the most distant example known, and shares several properties with the famous, volatile system called Eta Carinae, located in our galaxy.


Chandra’s X-ray data (blue) are combined in this image with optical data from Hubble (purple).



G292

Credit: NASA/CXC/SAO


Supernova remnants are the debris from exploded stars. G292.0+1.8 is a rare type of supernova remnant observed to contain large amounts of oxygen. Because they are one of the primary sources of the heavy elements (that is, everything other than hydrogen and helium) necessary to form planets and people, these oxygen-rich supernova remnants are important to study. The X-ray image of G292+1.8 from Chandra shows a rapidly expanding, intricately structured field left behind by the shattered star. The image is colored red, green, teal and purple in X-rays ranging from the lowest to highest energy levels.


Recently the first detection was made of iron debris from the exploded star, as reported in a paper led by Jayant Bhalerao of the University of Texas at Arlington in Texas. They constructed a map of this debris, along with that of silicon and sulphur, to understand more about the explosion. They found that these three elements are mainly located in the upper right of the remnant. This is in the opposite direction from the neutron star that was formed in the explosion, and was then kicked towards the lower left of the remnant. This suggests that the origin of this kick is gravitational and fluid forces from an asymmetric explosion. If more than half of the star’s debris is ejected in one direction, then the neutron star is kicked in the other direction so that momentum is conserved. This finding argues against the idea that the copious amounts of neutrinos formed in the supernova explosion were emitted in a lop-sided direction, imparting a kick to the neutron star. 


For more information about Chandra’s 20th anniversary, visit: http://chandra.si.edu/20th/


NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the Chandra program for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, controls Chandra’s science and flight operations.











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Viewing the Alpha Capricornids and the South Delta Aquariids in 2019

With the Perseids badly mooned in August, the summer highlights will occur in July when the alpha Capricornids (CAP) and South delta Aquariids (SDA) reach maximum activity. The CAP’s are the first to before active, around July 3rd. Rates will only be 1 shower member per night the first half of July. Rates should increase to near 1 per hour from the 15th through the 22nd. The CAP’s will have a bright moon to contend with during this period but circumstances improve once the moon reaches last quarter on July 24th. Rates will slowly climb the last week of the month. They will never surpass 3-4 per hour but your chances of witnessing a CAP fireball increases during this period. The radiant lies in eastern Sagittarius in early July and is positioned just north of the naked eye double star alpha Capricornii at maximum on July 27th. Rates dwindle a bit more rapidly than they climb and the last CAP should appear near August 11, just before the Perseids reach maximum activity. The radiant rises near dusk for observers in mid-northern latitudes and is best placed highest above the horizon near 0100 local daylight saving time.


Alpha-Capricornids 2019- radiant position on peak night

The South delta Aquariids become active around July 21st and will reach maximum activity on July 30th. The radiant lies in a blank area between the constellations of Capricornus and Aquarius. On the night of maximum activity the radiant lies just west of the 3rd magnitude star delta Aquarii, which is one of the brighter stars in the constellation. The SDA’s are medium velocity meteors and tend to be on the faint side. Rates at maximum activity will usually range from 10-30 SDA’s per hour, depending on your latitude. For observers in mid-northern latitudes, the radiant lies low in the south and hourly rates will lie closer to 10. The radiant is best placed in the southern tropics where it passes overhead and rates there will be closer to 30 at maximum. This radiant rises between 22:00-23:00 local daylight saving time and is best placed due south between 3:00 and 4:00 LDST.


South delta Aquariids 2019- radiant position on peak nigh

One last note on the Perseids. They will peak on August 13 this year, which is two days prior to the full moon. Under such circumstances Perseid rates will usually be reduced by at least 75%. These rates are still better than most nights of the year. So if your sky is clear and transparent it would not be a waste to try and view this activity. Just be certain that you view in the opposite direction of the moon so that you can see the faintest possible meteors. We would be interested to hear how well you did under such circumstances!




Radiant drift for the South Delta Aquariid meteor shower.
Chart courtesy the Southern Star Systems



Radiant drift for the Alpha Capricornid meteor shower.
Chart courtesy the Southern Star Systems



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Astronauts Relaxing Ahead of U.S. Cargo Mission


ISS — Expedition 60 Mission patch.


July 23, 2019


A quartet of Expedition 60 astronauts are relaxing today ahead of planned operations to receive a new space freighter on Friday. Meanwhile, a pair of cosmonauts checked Soyuz spacecraft systems and collected air samples aboard the International Space Station.


SpaceX is targeting Wednesday at 6:24 p.m. EDT for the launch of its Dragon cargo craft to resupply the station. Meteorologists, however, predict a 30% chance of favorable weather for a liftoff at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.



Image above: Expedition 60 Flight Engineer Nick Hague of NASA harvests Mizuna mustard greens for the VEG-04 botany study that is exploring the viability of growing fresh food in space to support astronauts on long-term missions. Image Credit: NASA.


An on time launch Wednesday would see Dragon arriving at the station early Friday packed with new science experiments and a new International Docking Adapter-3. NASA Flight Engineers Nick Hague and Christina Koch will be on duty in the cupola to command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to capture Dragon at 7 a.m., while Flight Engineer Drew Morgan monitors the cargo craft’s telemetry as it approaches the orbiting lab.


The station’s newest arrivals including Morgan, Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency and Alexander Skvortsov of Roscosmos are getting up to speed with station systems today. They are orienting themselves in microgravity, while conducting science and maintenance operations aboard the lab.



International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

Station Commander Alexey Ovchinin checked the air quality over in the Russian side of the station. Skvortsov checked the hatch seal and recharged batteries in the new Soyuz MS-13 crew ship docked to the Zvezda service module.


Towards the end of the day, the entire six-member crew gathered for about an hour to review their roles and responsibilities in the event of an emergency. The four astronauts and two cosmonauts reviewed procedures, safety gear and escape paths for unlikely emergency scenarios such as a fire or a pressure leak aboard the station.


Related links:


Expedition 60: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/expeditions/expedition60/index.html


SpaceX: https://www.nasa.gov/spacex


Canadarm2: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/structure/elements/mobile-servicing-system.html


Docking Adapter-3 (IDA-3): https://www.nasa.gov/feature/meet-the-international-docking-adapter


Harmony module: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/structure/elements/harmony


Zvezda service module: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/structure/elements/zvezda-service-module.html


Space Station Research and Technology: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/index.html


International Space Station (ISS): https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.html


Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned),Text, Credits: NASA/Mark Garcia.


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Chun Quoit Prehistoric Burial Chamber, Penwith Moors, Cornwall, 23.7.19.

Chun Quoit Prehistoric Burial Chamber, Penwith Moors, Cornwall, 23.7.19.












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Pristine Renaissance shipwreck discovered in Baltic Sea

An international team of scientists, including archaeologists from the University of Southampton, has revealed the remains of an intact and astonishingly preserved Early Modern Period (Late 15th – early 16th Century) shipwreck in the Baltic, using state-of-the-art underwater robotics.











Pristine Renaissance shipwreck discovered in Baltic Sea
Photogrammetric model of the ship’s bow showing the anchor still in place 
[Credit: Deep Sea Productions/MMT]

This unknown ship (or okänt skepp) is probably the best preserved shipwreck of its period to be discovered in recent times. It was first detected with sonar by the Swedish Maritime Administration (SMA) in 2009, but earlier this year, as part of work carried out by survey specialists MMT, the wreck was identified as having great archaeological and historical significance.
The discovery and further inspection was led by Dr Rodrigo Pacheco-Ruiz, MMT’s maritime archaeologist and deep sea archaeological expert, in collaboration with the Centre for Maritime Archaeology (CMA) at the University of Southampton, Deep Sea Productions and the Maritime Archaeology Research Institute of Södertörn University (MARIS).











Pristine Renaissance shipwreck discovered in Baltic Sea
Photogrammetric model of the ship’s stern 
[Credit: Deep Sea Productions/MMT]

Dr Pacheco-Ruiz, who is also a Visiting Fellow in Maritime Archaeology at Southampton, comments: “This ship is contemporary to the times of Christopher Columbus and Leonardo Da Vinci, yet it demonstrates a remarkable level of preservation after five hundred years at the bottom of the sea, thanks to the cold, brackish waters of the Baltic.
“It’s almost like it sank yesterday – masts in place and hull intact. Still on the main deck is an incredibly rare find – the tender boat, used to ferry crew to and from the ship, leaning against the main mast. It’s a truly astonishing sight.”











Pristine Renaissance shipwreck discovered in Baltic Sea
Photogrammetric model of the ship seen from the top 
[Credit: Deep Sea Productions/MMT]

From the archaeological survey, it is believed that the shipwreck could date between the late 15th Century and the early 16th Century. This would place it earlier than the warship Mars, which sank after an explosion in the First Battle of Öland in 1564 and Henry the VIII’s Mary Rose (1510-1545 AD) as well as the Swedish warship Vasa (1628 AD).
The dating of this wreck underlines the importance of the discovery. It is rare to find a ship in such an astonishing condition that predates the larger and more powerful vessels involved in the later Northern Seven Year’s Wars (1563-1570) – a period of great importance which defined the path of modernisation of Scandinavian nations.



Unlike the scattered remains of the Mars, which exploded in battle, this newly discovered wreck lies on the seabed with her hull structure preserved from the keel to the top deck and all of her masts and some elements of the standing rigging still in place. Clearly visible are the bowsprit and a rudimentary decorated transom stern, as well as other rarely seen elements, such as the wooden capstan and bilge pump. A testament to the tension on human relationships of the time are the swivel guns, which are still in place on the gun deck.


The project to explore this wreck demonstrates the ongoing, successful partnership between MMT and the University of Southampton, which has also recently been showcased in the discovery and archaeological survey of more than 65 perfectly preserved shipwrecks in the Black Sea. Some of the wrecks date back to Ottoman, Byzantine Roman and Greek periods, found at depths of more than 2,000m as a result of a rich collaboration between industry and academic research.



For this latest survey in the Baltic, MMT welcomed students of maritime archaeology from the University of Southampton, as well as students developing Artificial Intelligence (AI) for subsea robotics from KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm (KTH), to join the expedition team on-board Stril Explorer where they received training in deep sea archaeological methods and techniques – a key component in the partnership between these two institutions.


Source: University of Southampton [July 20, 2019]



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Secrets of a Babylonian Villa in Ur

Ur is one of the world’s oldest cities. What was life like for its inhabitants some 4000 years ago? A team led by Adelheid Otto, Director of the Institute of Near Eastern Archaeology at LMU, is carrying out excavations at Ur, which promise to provide some answers to this question. The team has now returned from Southern Iraq, having completed their second season due to the kind permission by the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and Heritage. This year’s dig, funded by the Gerda Henkel Foundation and the Munich University Association, lasted for 9 weeks. Its target was a residential building that was located on the edge of the city, and has been dated to the period around 1835 BCE. The excavation forms part of a larger project led by Professor Elisabeth Stone of Stony Brook University in New York State.











Secrets of a Babylonian Villa in Ur
The LMU team has excavated the remains of a house on the periphery of the city, a capacious residence consisting
of 17 rooms. It belonged to the Administrator and Chief Priest of Ur’s second most important temple,
obviously a prominent member of the city’s elite [Credit: A. Otto/LMU; Berthold Einwag]

The LMU group began work on the site 2 years ago, and has now uncovered the whole house, together with a vaulted tomb in which the remains of 24 individuals were discovered. To accomplish this task, the team, which included Bachelor’s and Master’s students as well as doctoral candidates worked 6 days a week on the site. “They did a fantastic job,” says Adelheid Otto. “We began work every morning at 5 and worked until 10 or 11 o’clock at night.”
A villa on the outskirts of the city


What the team brought to light was a 17-roomed house with a large courtyard, and the surviving inventory were all recovered. “The question we originally wanted to answer was whether the poorer class of people lived on the periphery of the city, since excavations in the city center have revealed that its residential population was clearly well off. But instead of finding lower-class dwellings, we came upon this Old Babylonian villa. It was certainly a very imposing building. We have been able to identify the function of each of its rooms, and the finds give a very detailed and precise picture of how its inhabitants lived nearly 4000 years ago. Even the kitchen and a bathroom complete with toilet and a drainage system are preserved. Indeed, in terms of hygiene, the arrangements were excellent.”











Secrets of a Babylonian Villa in Ur
Here you can see the bathroom, which was tiled, and also the drain, which led a depth
of several metres [Credit: A. Otto/LMU; Berthold Einwag]

Thanks to the finds made during the excavation, it is now possible to piece together how the inhabitants led their lives. “It is the very model of a private residence in the Old Babylonian period,” says Adelheid Otto. “We have many pieces of the puzzle, which will provide us with a picture of this house’s past, not only the architecture with its various rooms and their functions, but also texts on clay tablets, including letters and the impressions of seals, which were deciphered by cuneiform specialists Professor Dominique Charpin (Collège de France Paris) and Professor Walther Sallaberger (LMU). That is a particular stroke of luck, because these finds tell us who the owner was.”
His name was Sîn-nada, and he was essentially high priest and managing director of the second most important temple in Ur, an office which made him a personage of considerable consequence in the city. “Interestingly, it turns out that his wife was also involved in the administration of the temple. In Ur during this period, women could also read and write.” The LMU researchers also collected botanical samples and animal bones in the course of the excavation, which are now being analyzed and promise to provide insight into the residents’ diet.











Secrets of a Babylonian Villa in Ur
The LMU archaeologists have excavated a crypt under the courtyard next to the house. Here the deceased family members
 were buried. «The people treated the deceased with great reverence. Older skeletons were carefully stacked
 on top of each other at the back,» says Adelheid Otto [Credit: A. Otto/LMU; Berthold Einwag]

The human remains found during the dig are being investigated further by anthropologist Andrea Göhring in the Department of Biology, who took an active part in the excavation. “Preliminary analyses indicate that these people were healthy and well nourished, and some of them survived for 70 years and more.


More detailed study should yield further information on what they ate, how long they lived and how healthy they were, and should also tell us whether or not they were related to each other, and whether they were natives of Ur or had moved to the city from elsewhere. Ur was a trading center, so it is likely that many of its inhabitants came from further afield, says Adelheid Otto. A team led by Professor Jörg Fassbinder of the Department of Geophysics has also carried out a geophysical survey of the South Mound, which revealed that this part of Ur was a densely built-up area, but it also had open spaces, such as public squares and harbours.


All that remains is – a pile of sand


So far, the investigations at Ur have demonstrated that, 4000 years ago, the city was a lively and densely settled metropolis. “It was a flourishing period during which people generally had a good life. That is certainly what this house and its residents tell us.”











Secrets of a Babylonian Villa in Ur
The finds also include inscribed clay tablets and unrolled seals. In this way the LMU archaeologists learn a lot about the lives of the residents of the house, such as what the landlord and mistress of the house were called and that they
also taught reading and writing in their house [Credit: A. Otto/LMU; Berthold Einwag]

Its owner Sîn-nada and his family led prosperous lives almost a century before the city itself met its end. Its fate was sealed when the city’s population revolted against the King of Babylonia, who had gained control of the city. The King responded by cutting off the city’s water supply by rerouting the course of the Euphrates.



Ur found itself, as it is today, in the middle of a dry steppe, and urban life eventually became impossible, says Adelheid Otto, and goes on to point out the relevance of this tragedy to the threats we face today from climate change. Within a very short time, the shortage of water turned this prosperous city into a pile of sand. By about 1720 BCE, Ur ceased to exist, and it was only hundreds of years later that life at Ur was resuming again.


Source: Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München [July 20, 2019]



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