Kuttam Pokuna (“Twin Pools/Ponds”), built in the ancient kingdom of Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka.

The twin pond is undoubtedly the best surviving example of landscape architecture in ancient Sri Lanka” -Professor Anuradha Seneviratne.

An outstanding example of hydrological engineering, the Kuttam Pokuna are ritual baths used by Buddhist monks, and are thought to date to the 8th or 9th centuries. ‘Kuttam pokuna’ is the name given to these pools in the 20th century, their ancient name is not known. Water was transferred to these pools through underground ducts.

The second pool is located directly behind the one shown, better displayed in this photo. Although referred to as “twins”, the northern pool is significantly larger than southern one, the northern being 40m long, and the southern, 28m.

Of the two ponds the one in the north, seems to have been constructed before the southern one. Fine architectural differences confirm this point. It seems that after the construction of the southern pond an attempt has been made to connect them. The two ponds varying in size and architectural details areharmonised to create to make up a composite place of artistic creation

During excavations, a metal box was discovered at the bottom of a pool. Within this box were small replicas of water dwelling animals, such as of a fish and crab, now displayed at the Anuradhapura Museum.

Photos courtesy & taken by Vasse Nicolas Antoine. The quoted sections are from Professor Anuradha Seneviratne’s book Ancient Anuradhapura (1994).

A quick look at: Acueducto de los Milagros, Mérida, Spain.
This Roman aqueduct was dubbed Acueducto de los Milagros ("Miraculous Aqueduct") by the inhabitants of Mérida for the fact that it was still standing, and for the awe that it evoked. 
This aqueduct was located in the Roman colony of Emerita Augusta (present day Mérida), which was founded by Augustus Caesar in 25 BC. The construction of the aqueduct itself is thought to have taken place during the 1st century AD, with later construction or renovations occurring around 300 AD. 
The structure was built to supply water to Emerita Augusta. This water was originally brought to the city from Lago de Proserpina -a reservoir which was fed by the Las Pardillas stream, about 5km north-west of Mérida. 38 pillars which stand 25 metres high along some 830 metres remains today. The structure is constructed from opus mixtum. 
The Romans constructed aqueducts to supply water from distant sources to their towns and cities, supplying public baths, private households, etc. Water was moved by the aqueducts through gravity, the aqueducts were built on an ever-so-slight downward gradient. This diagram is useful in showing how Roman aqueducts worked. 
Photo courtesy & taken by Jane Drumsara.

A quick look at: Acueducto de los MilagrosMérida, Spain.

This Roman aqueduct was dubbed Acueducto de los Milagros ("Miraculous Aqueduct") by the inhabitants of Mérida for the fact that it was still standing, and for the awe that it evoked. 

This aqueduct was located in the Roman colony of Emerita Augusta (present day Mérida), which was founded by Augustus Caesar in 25 BC. The construction of the aqueduct itself is thought to have taken place during the 1st century AD, with later construction or renovations occurring around 300 AD.

The structure was built to supply water to Emerita Augusta. This water was originally brought to the city from Lago de Proserpina -a reservoir which was fed by the Las Pardillas stream, about 5km north-west of Mérida. 38 pillars which stand 25 metres high along some 830 metres remains today. The structure is constructed from opus mixtum

The Romans constructed aqueducts to supply water from distant sources to their towns and cities, supplying public baths, private households, etc. Water was moved by the aqueducts through gravity, the aqueducts were built on an ever-so-slight downward gradient. This diagram is useful in showing how Roman aqueducts worked. 

Photo courtesy & taken by Jane Drumsara.

Seeing as today is Saint Patrick’s Day, I thought it were only appropriate to do an Irish-themed post. So today I will be looking at the Ballynoe Stone Circle in Ballynoe, County Down, Northern Ireland.
Thought to date to the Neolithic or early Bronze Age, this complex monument is over 33m in diameter, and some of the stones used are over 2m high. 
Although this monument was excavated in the late 1930s, the understanding and interpretation of it has remained difficult. It appears to have been built and used over a considerable amount of time, but we are not sure which parts were built first, and which were later additions. The excavation work done on the site focused on the mound inside the circle, which had been built over an earlier stone cairn.
At the eastern end of the cairn the burnt bones of an adult male were found. At the opposite end, a much more complex stone feature was discovered, and was divided into three compartments. This section contained the burnt remains of two, possible female, adults.
Pottery fragments from this site suggests that at least some of this monument dates to the Neolithic period. The presence of stone cists and cremation burials show that at some point this site was used for burial, likely in the early Bronze Age.
Photo taken by Philip Hay. Information from the sign next to site provided by the Northern Ireland Environmental Agency was of use when writing up this post.

Seeing as today is Saint Patrick’s Day, I thought it were only appropriate to do an Irish-themed post. So today I will be looking at the Ballynoe Stone Circle in Ballynoe, County Down, Northern Ireland.

Thought to date to the Neolithic or early Bronze Age, this complex monument is over 33m in diameter, and some of the stones used are over 2m high. 

Although this monument was excavated in the late 1930s, the understanding and interpretation of it has remained difficult. It appears to have been built and used over a considerable amount of time, but we are not sure which parts were built first, and which were later additions. The excavation work done on the site focused on the mound inside the circle, which had been built over an earlier stone cairn.

At the eastern end of the cairn the burnt bones of an adult male were found. At the opposite end, a much more complex stone feature was discovered, and was divided into three compartments. This section contained the burnt remains of two, possible female, adults.

Pottery fragments from this site suggests that at least some of this monument dates to the Neolithic period. The presence of stone cists and cremation burials show that at some point this site was used for burial, likely in the early Bronze Age.

Photo taken by Philip Hay. Information from the sign next to site provided by the Northern Ireland Environmental Agency was of use when writing up this post.

The Sanctuary of Isis, ancient Dion, Greece.

Near the Vaphyras river, the ancient people of Dion built a sanctuary devoted to Aphrodite and Artemis. In the 2nd century BCE however, Artemis was succeeded by Isis, an Egyptian goddess, whom Alexander the Great held in the highest esteem. He had the sanctuary rebuilt to honour her, apparently while he was in Egypt. Most of the visible ruins seen today date back to the 2nd century AD, with older remains underneath. Multiple inscriptions and statues in the sanctuary date to the Hellenistic period.

The elongated pathway flanked by low walls, presumably symbolizes the Nile, the sacred river of Egypt. The two marble bulls on the steps of the central altar depict the Egyptian god Apis. In the north wing the large statue of a women stands on its pedestral. It was placed there in the middle of the 2nd century AD by the city of Dion, in honour of the donator Loulia Frougiane Alexandra.

The Isis festival took place every spring and autumn. During that time, the area outside the sanctuary walls flooded with villagers, craftmen, and merchants who sold animals, gold and silver artefacts, and a wide variey of merchangise. However, only the initiated pilgrims could enter the sanctuary, where they spend the night waiting for the great goddess to visit their dreams, and listen to their prayers.

-Archaeological Park of Dion. Also for those interested, the park provides this digital reconstruction of the sanctuary.

Photos taken by Carole Raddato.

Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa, Hunedoara, Romania.

The largest, and capital city of Roman Dacia, this city was founded by Terentius Scaurianus about 108-110, during the reign of Roman emperor Hadrian.

Situated less than 50km away from the former capital of the Dacians, Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa was built on a strategic point  between where the battle of the Dacian troops and Roman legions took place. This site is on the ground of what was a camp of the Fifth Macedonian Legion, and was settled by veterans of the Dacian wars.

Later destroyed by the Goths, this large cosmopolitan centre remains in ruins today. The site features temples, gladiator schools, a large forum, and an amphitheater.

While researching I also found these virtual reconstructions of what features of this site would have once looked like:

Photos taken by Codrinb.

The Egyptian Temple of Esna, south of Luxor.

Erected in the Ptolemaic Period, this temple was the last Egyptian temple to be decorated with hieroglyphic texts.

The site was an important cultural center in the Ptolemaic Period, although archaeological evidence dates from as early as the Middle Kingdom. […] It was erected in the Ptolemaic Period and enlarged with a hypostyle hall, decorated mainly in Roman times. The temple was dedicated to an androgynous, nameless, omnipotent creator god, which manifested itself as both the male god Khnum/ Khnum-Ra and the female deity Neith.

Nothing more than the hypostyle hall has survived from the temple. Its walls are decorated with some unique ritual scenes, such as the dance of the pharaoh before the gods, and the catching of fishes and birds with a clap net. The temple’s columns, decorated mainly with inscriptions, display the only temple ritual known from ancient Egypt that is preserved in its entirety. The inscriptions are written in Middle Egyptian with some Demotic influence. 

[…] The existing temple of Esna was built during the reign of Ptolemy V (205-180 BCE) and decorated by his successor, Ptolemy VI (180-145 BCE), during that ruler’s coregency with Ptolemy VIII and Cleopatra II (170-163 BCE). 

-UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology

The shown relief in the fourth photo is from the north side of the temple, and shows Roman emperor Trajan subduing the enemies of Egypt -a traditional Pharaonic image in Egyptian art.

Photos taken by Brian Ritchie.

The Temple of Seti I at Abydos, Egypt.

This temple consists of seven sanctuaries lined up in a row, each of which are dedicated to a different deity (the southernmost of these honours 19th Dynasty Pharaoh Seti I himself). The purpose for the construction of this building was to act as a funerary shrine for Seti I, as confirmed by the name of the building: "The house of millions of years of the King Men-Ma’at-Re [Seti I], who is contented at Abydos." Although he was actually buried in the Valley of the Kings at Thebes, Seti followed the royal tradition of constructing a second funerary complex at Abydos -the cult centre of the Egyptian god Osiris.

The bas-reliefs of this temple are some of the best persevered from ancient Egypt, and many retain the original paint work. A classical, traditional style is evoked by the raised relief decoration carved under Seti I on fine white limestone.

From north to south, the temple is dedicated to the following Egyptian deities: Horus, Isis, Osiris, Amen-Re, Re-Horakhty, and Ptah. Seti restoring the worship of the traditional gods of Egypt after the Amarna period could explain this combined dedication. The aftermath of the Amarna period is also reflected in the "king’s gallery". This is a rather selective list of legitimate pharaohs from Egyptian history, with the names of Akhenaten, Smenkhkare and Tutankhamen excluded -as though erasing their reigns from recorded history.

The first photo was taken by Irene Soto, and the rest by Kyera Giannini, all courtesy the New York University Institute for the Study of the Ancient World via Flickr. When writing up this post, Kathryn A. Bard’s Encyclopaedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt (2005) was of use.

Stone ring fort at the Grianán of Aileach, on the summit of Greenan Mountain, County Donegal, Ireland.

This stone fort is thought to have been constructed during the 8th or 9th century as the seat of Cenél nEógain, rulers of the ancient kingdom of Aileach. This monument however evidently had far earlier origins, surrounding the stone fort are the remains of an earlier hill fort, which was likely constructed approximately 1000 BCE. A small Neolithic or Early Bronze Age stone cairn is also nearby.

Photos courtesy & taken by Chris Newman. Reference: National Monuments Service.

Baths of the Forum, Pompeii, 1895 survey expedition photographs.

After the earthquake of A.D. 62, these baths were the only ones in Pompeii still functioning, and were not severely damaged. Built not long after the establishment of Sulla’s colony in 80 B.C., these baths are relatively small, and would likely have been very overcrowded. 

Photos courtesy Brooklyn Museum Archives, Goodyear Archival Collection.

Malta’s first human habitation & the Skorba Temples.

This archaeological site, as well as other similar Maltese temples, provide us with crucial insight into the earliest periods of Malta’s human habitation. No ‘archaic’ Homo sapiens or Neanderthals have been found in Malta, despite at one time being widely dispersed elsewhere in the Mediterranean. The first people to inhabit Malta seem to have arrived around 4200 BCE, possibly from Sicily. These people had a Neolithic type of culture:

They brought with them crops like barley, two primitive forms of wheat, emmer and club wheat, and lentils. Remains of all these have been found at Skorba. Their boats were large and seaworthy enough for the transport of domestic animals, large cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs, doubtless securely trussed to prevent accidents (Trump, 1972:20).

These people built stone and mud-brick structures, as shown by a small oval-roomed ‘shrine’ at Skorba (the front and back of which are visible to the left of both photos). Within this shrine structure, a number of goat skulls and female figurines have been found by archaeologists. The Skorba Temples (located on the edge of Żebbiegħ, Malta) are of a group of 24 architecturally similar ritual buildings on Malta and Gozo built c.3500-2500 BCE, and represent some of the earliest sophisticated stone architecture in the world.

When writing up this post, Ian Shaw & Robert Jameson’s A Dictionary of Archaeology (2008) and Stefan Goodwin’s Malta, Mediterranean Bridge (2002) where used. Photos courtesy & taken by Ronny Siegel.

The archaeological site of the House of Taga & the mythology surrounding it. 

[…] Taga’s youngest daughter grieved for her mother and brother. She yearned for the gentle ways of her mother and the sound of her brother’s laughter. One night she could no longer contain the anguish within. With her father’s spear, she ended his life while he was sleeping. Guilt tortured the daughter’s heart. She could not bear the grief and sorrow. Taga’s daughter soon died like her mother, of a broken heart.
As the legend goes, Taga had twelve children, one for each of the latte that supported his house. As Taga’s children died, they became spirits. Each spirit inhabits a latte until it is the time for the spirit to finally leave the world. At the moment its latte falls, the spirit is released.
Today one latte still stands [as pictured]. It is the stone of Taga’s youngest daughter. Her spirit still walks beneath the plumeria trees and coconut palms where their house once stood. She remains unhappy and lonely, imprisoned by her sad and tragic fate. Her soul still suffers because of her murdered dead. Her spirit waits for this last latte to tumble to the ground.
-Section from Marianas Island Legends: Myth and Magic (2011), a book containing legends, folklore, history, and traditions collected from the Chamorro and Carolinian elders and the youth of the Marianas Islands.

The House of Taga is located near San Jose Village, on the island of Tinian, United States Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The prehistoric latte stones at this site stood 15 feet high, and were quarried south of the site. A latte (as shown in the centre of the photo) is a term used for a pillar with a hemispherical stone capital, which were used as building supports by the ancient Chamorro people -the original structures would have once looked something like this.
Photo courtesy & taken by CT Snow via Wiki Commons.

The archaeological site of the House of Taga & the mythology surrounding it. 

[…] Taga’s youngest daughter grieved for her mother and brother. She yearned for the gentle ways of her mother and the sound of her brother’s laughter. One night she could no longer contain the anguish within. With her father’s spear, she ended his life while he was sleeping. Guilt tortured the daughter’s heart. She could not bear the grief and sorrow. Taga’s daughter soon died like her mother, of a broken heart.

As the legend goes, Taga had twelve children, one for each of the latte that supported his house. As Taga’s children died, they became spirits. Each spirit inhabits a latte until it is the time for the spirit to finally leave the world. At the moment its latte falls, the spirit is released.

Today one latte still stands [as pictured]. It is the stone of Taga’s youngest daughter. Her spirit still walks beneath the plumeria trees and coconut palms where their house once stood. She remains unhappy and lonely, imprisoned by her sad and tragic fate. Her soul still suffers because of her murdered dead. Her spirit waits for this last latte to tumble to the ground.

-Section from Marianas Island Legends: Myth and Magic (2011), a book containing legends, folklore, history, and traditions collected from the Chamorro and Carolinian elders and the youth of the Marianas Islands.

The House of Taga is located near San Jose Village, on the island of Tinian, United States Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The prehistoric latte stones at this site stood 15 feet high, and were quarried south of the site. A latte (as shown in the centre of the photo) is a term used for a pillar with a hemispherical stone capital, which were used as building supports by the ancient Chamorro people -the original structures would have once looked something like this.

Photo courtesy & taken by CT Snow via Wiki Commons.

Temple 216 in the East Acropolis at Yaxha.
Yaxha is a pre-Columbian Maya archaeological site in the northeast of the Petén Basin region, Guatemala. Yaxha was the third largest city in the region, and was particularly powerful during the Early Classic period (c. AD 250–600).

Photo courtesy & taken by Carsten ten Brink.

Temple 216 in the East Acropolis at Yaxha.

Yaxha is a pre-Columbian Maya archaeological site in the northeast of the Petén Basin region, Guatemala. Yaxha was the third largest city in the region, and was particularly powerful during the Early Classic period (c. AD 250–600).

Photo courtesy & taken by Carsten ten Brink.