There are many cruise destinations that offer a wealth of archaeology for history lovers. On the other hand, there are many for whom the dusty halls of history speak only of the need to yawn and fall asleep. But this post is dedicated to the former crowd; the people who prefer stone tablets to the computerised variety…
We can walk through desert sands to see the Great Pyramid, or set sail for China to look over the Terracotta Army. We’ve seen the stepped pyramids of the Incas, the antiquities of Rome, and wandered the columned ruins of ancient Greece. But there are new discoveries being made all the time – so what fresh insights and newly uncovered antiquities could be waiting for us in our cruise destinations in years to come? Here’s a look at the headlines:
Possible fun had whilst building Forbidden City (Beijing)
We’d rarely expect the construction of ancient monuments to entail much in the way of mirth and merriment – and really, the building of Beijing’s greatest landmark probably entailed a far, far greater ratio of hardship to joy. But then, it is universally recognised that ice is fun – and using it to build things may be even more enjoyable. Recent research, both academic and reconstructive, suggests that labourers were using wetted, artificial ice paths to slide the city’s stone components for miles to the 16th century building site.
One document details the slippery journey of a gigantic stone carving – weighing around 120 tons – on its month-long trip to the Forbidden City. Wooden wheels and rollers had been in use long before this time; but the flat, low-friction, low-speed properties of ice transport were just better, apparently. It may have been tough and dangerous work, but you just know there was a sliding contest at one point or another. So if you get the chance to see the Forbidden City yourself on a cruise to China, just imagine the workers here centuries ago, sliding the stone blocks into place down endless rivers of ice.
Anti-seismic eggs (Sardis, Turkey)
The earthquake-reducing properties of eggshells have been all but ignored by the scientific and geological communities over the centuries, presumably because they possess no such properties whatsoever. This wasn’t about to stop the good-luck practices of people in Sardis in ancient Turkey, however. Following a massive earthquake in A.D. 17, the aftermath saw years and years of reconstruction work to rebuild the homes that had been destroyed – and this time the citizens were taking superstitious precautions to fend off any further disasters, and the threat of demonic domestic invasion.
Last year, a dig team uncovered earthenware containing coins, tools and a lucky eggshell, still wholly intact. These are indicators of ancient rituals and superstition from the time, and were found sandwiched between the remains of one ancient building, resting on the ruins of an older residence beneath. There’s a good amount of evidence that eggs were used in several nations of the ancient world, notably as tools pertaining to supernatural forces – eggs being buried at people’s doors to place a curse on them, and put in underground traps to ward off demons in ancient Persia. The Romans, too, demolished eggshells after eating the contents, to minimise the risk of sinister enchantments about their person. The next time you head to the beaches and ancient monuments of Turkey, spare a thought for the ruins and rituals that might still lurk beneath the foundations.
Palaeontologists rejoice (Red Sea coast, Saudi Arabia)
2013 saw the first ever discovery of dinosaur remains in Saudi Arabia – a skeleton of titanosaurus, unearthed by an international team of researchers along the Red Sea coast. Not to be confused with Godzilla’s aquatic nemesis of the same name, the real titanosaurus was thirteen tons of scale and muscle – the scourge of prehistoric plant life some 70 million years ago.
The scarcity of dinosaur remains in Saudi is down to the simple dearth of dinosaurs knocking about at that time, in that particular place – making this discovery all the more exciting for the dig team. We expect much gleeful rubbing of hands at the National Museum of Saudi Arabia – and, hopefully, many more dino-discoveries to come for the ever-hopeful palaeontologists scouring the sands of the Red Sea. So maybe in the future, you might get the chance see Saudi Arabia’s very first home-grown dinosaur skeleton, standing proudly on display.
Shaken, not stirred; possibly pillaged (Denmark)
Think of the Vikings and an image instantly springs to mind – of horned helmets, unpleasant characters, and legendary quantities of ale and mead. The ancient Romans and Greeks likened the nectar of the Nords to rotten barley-water, compared with their already age-old pedigree in the production of good wine. But the ancient Scandinavians were nothing if not adventurous, and graves found more recently have uncovered evidence that those from the land of the ice and snow were washing down their sagas with far more sophisticated beverages – elaborate cocktails that even included wine… brought from Italy and Greece.
Discoveries were made in the 1990s to this end, including the presence of juniper and imported wine in the grave of a Danish woman from 200 BC. But archaeologists at the time lacked the technology to properly discern what made up the cocktails – which were enjoyed even before the Vikings were around. One lucky part of the archaeological community have been working with brewers to determine the contents of the drink – which is now known to have included honey, barley, cranberries, wine, herbs and spices, and that’s not all. Wheat and rye were also known to have been used, as well as lingonberries, yarrow, myrtle and even birch sap – a heady concoction that would presumably require Asgardian heritage to even stomach. Who knows, your future cruises in Scandinavia may even uncover a bar serving faithful copies of ancient beverages – giving you the chance to drink like a true Nord.