World’s oldest Christian monastery revealed
A religious complex, thought to be the oldest Christian monastery ever found, has been unearthed at Tal Ganoub Qasr al-Agouz in Egypt’s Western Desert. Although the structure was already known to local inspectors, a Norwegian-French team from the Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale in Cairo and the MF Vitenskapelig Høyskole in Oslo has established that the monastery was a lavra – a collection of hermitages.
The excavations, carried out in 2009, 2013, and 2020, revealed that the structure was formed of six units, containing between ten and 20 rooms each. The complex included living- and dining quarters, as well as three churches, with various construction phases dating to between the 4th and 8th centuries AD. The monastery’s remains are extremely well-preserved.
Ancient Roman boundary stone discovered
A travertine stone once used to mark the ancient boundary of the city of Rome has been unearthed during redevelopment work in the Piazza Augusto Imperatore. The stone was used to designate the consecrated boundary of the pomerium, within which farming, building, and the carrying of weapons was prohibited.
The item, known as a pomerium cippus, was laid in AD 49 when Claudius (r.AD 41-54) enlarged the area of the pomerium, laying more than 140 such stones around the city. It is inscribed with details of the expansion, deemed symbolic of Claudius’ expansion of the Roman Empire, and it records the emperor’s titles and honours. Just 11 of these cippi have been found so far, the last in 1909, and this most recent discovery is due to go on display at the Mausoleum of Augustus after being temporarily exhibited in the Ara Pacis Museum.
Earliest coin mint found in China
Archaeologists working in Guanzhuang, China, have discovered coin moulds, metal debris, and fragments of coins at what they have established to be the world’s oldest coin mint. The site started as a bronze foundry c.780 BC, producing items including tools, weapons, and ritual vessels. Coin production at the site began between 640 and 550 BC, and the finds confirm that ‘spade coins’, the oldest known metal currency made in China, were mass produced there. The research, published in Antiquity, adds to our understanding of the origins of metal currency. The paper can be found at https://doi.org/10.15184/aqy.2021.94.