Connect with us


2000-Years-Old Elephant Bone Unearthed In Spain Sparks Inquiry Into Its Role In Historic Battles Led By Hannibal Or Julius Caesar

It is an enigma of mammoth proportions, which is why its discovery was kept under wraps for four years, until more information could be gathered. During an emergency excavation in Córdoba in 2019, archaeologists found a carpal (hand bone) of “an elephant of large proportions” killed between the end of the 4th century and the middle of the 1st century B.C. Its location, the hill of Los Quemados and its surroundings, in the heart of the southern Spanish city of Córdoba, was possibly the main theatre of a large-scale battle involving African elephants. In addition, 17 projectiles (fired by catapults) and other weapons have been located. The Roman Gaius Lucius Marcus took the city, which until then had been in Carthaginian hands, in 206 B.C., and in 45 B.C. Julius Caesar, who was protected by the elephants of the Mauretanian king Bogud, expelled the Pompeians during the Roman Republic’s second civil war. Therefore, the questions are: does the bone come from one of Hannibal’s war elephants or one of Julius Caesar’s? Or could it even be one of the pachyderms sent by the kings of North Africa to the siege of Numancia? Did the animal die in battle or due to another reason? The experts are not sure.

Rafael Martínez, the zoologist and assistant professor of prehistory at the University of Córdoba, has examined the bone and explains to EL PAÍS that it is a “carpal belonging to the right hand, a bone also known as capitatum, of an African or Indian elephant. It is very difficult to determine the species, whether Asian (Elephas maximus) or African (Loxodonta Africana). This discovery is of enormous interest given the practical absence of remains of elephants from a pre-Roman context in Europe, excluding ivory objects, of course.”

“In any case,” he continues, “this discreet bone can be interpreted as proof of the presence of these animals in the area of present-day Córdoba between the 4th and 2nd centuries B.C. The reason why it is so interesting is that it is not a tusk, which was raw material for making crafts, but a hand bone. It could belong to the period of the Punic Wars [between Carthaginians and Romans]. It could be the first of Hannibal’s elephants to be discovered. We can’t know for sure, but it was certainly a sizeable beast.”

Experts have not been able to perform a carbon-14 analysis to determine the date of the pachyderm’s death, because the bone fragment, measuring 15 by 8 centimeters, is not fossilized, but remains porous. Specialists, however, have saved a small sample for a possible protein analysis to obtain more information.

The story of the discovery begins in 2019, when the Amancio Ortega Foundation donated €40 million ($42.8 million) to provide Spanish hospitals with high-tech equipment. Three of the devices were destined for the Reina Sofía university hospital in Córdoba. But a problem arose. Since radiation is used in the treatments, a concrete bunker needed to be constructed to keep the effects of the equipment away from the other patients in the health center. The regional authorities approved the Spanish businessman’s donation and so, given the historical nature of the hill where the hospital stands, it approved emergency excavations.

Carpal bone from the hand of the elephant found in Córdoba.Carpal bone from the hand of the elephant found in Córdoba.Rafael Martínez

Agustín López Jiménez, an expert from Arqueobética (the consultancy that carried out the archaeological research) explains that the place where the bone was found was “an important economic center of the Tartessian and later Turdetan culture.” And he explains how the discovery was made: “At the beginning of the intervention [dig] we documented structures from the Andalusian Emirate and Caliphate period [8th to 10th centuries]. Beneath them, remains emerged of collapsed adobe walls from the high Iberian period, around the 3rd century B.C. Under the one of these collapsed walls is where the carpal was located. In addition, we found 17 catapult ‘bullets’ (small artillery projectiles) and a spear tip (a spike that was used to stick the weapon into the ground). But we have no evidence that a battle or siege took place at the site, so the discovery of these war items was a surprise.” In addition, an oven made with adobe bricks, some coins, an Iberian millstone, Hispanic annular brooches and La Tène type brooches (4th century B.C.) were also found.

Fernando Quesada, a world-renowned expert on pre-Roman weapons, who also collaborated on the research, is not inclined toward either of the two options (Roman or Carthaginian elephant). “The contexts have not been made, and I have not seen the materials. It may be an elephant belonging to Hannibal or to Julius Caesar when he requested that King Bogud of Mauretania come to his aid at Montemayor [Córdoba] and possibly bring elephants. We do not know if the projectiles are associated with the animal, so I do not have a formed opinion. At this time it is impossible to determine.”

One of the catapult projectiles from the find in Córdoba.One of the catapult projectiles from the find in Córdoba.
Arqueobética Quesada also cautions that the elephant could be an animal from the 1st or 3rd centuries A.D. “It could be a pachyderm from North Africa that joined the Carthaginian armies, but it could also be from 50 B.C., so the context would correspond to the Roman civil wars in Andalusia, when Julius Caesar came to Hispania. In that case, we would get into some confusing military campaigns that we are studying at the Montemayor site, just a day’s walk from Córdoba. That is, it could be an elephant brought by King Bogud, who came to help one of the sides in the battle. Caesar is directly involved in some of the campaigns, but in others he is not. We also know that in other battles, such as Numancia [133 B.C.], the kings of North Africa sent elephants to help, and they would have had to pass through Andalusia. It is too early to say.”

Córdoba is not the only place where the Carthaginians were able to use pachyderms. On the banks of the Tagus at Driebes (Spain), it was proven that Hannibal fought with 40 elephants to defeat the troops of the Carpetani, Vettones and Olcades tribes, who were much superior in number. But the Indigenous people did not take into account the genius of the invader, who placed his troops at the fords of the river — the only places where it could be crossed on foot — so the Carpetani had to concentrate their warriors at those places, and therefore lost their numerical advantage: a lot of troops, but too little space to fight.

Iberian annular brooch found at the Los Quemados archaeological site.Iberian annular brooch found at the Los Quemados archaeological site.Agustín López

To force them to cross, Hannibal built a palisade parallel to the riverbed. He placed the cavalry at the fords and the infantry and most of the elephants behind the palisade. When the Carpetani tried to cross the river, they died: swept away by the waters or killed by the Carthaginian horsemen, who were better supported by the river bed. Of the fifty African pachyderms that Hannibal had, 20 were donated to his brother Hasdrubal to maintain the war against the Romans in the Iberian Peninsula while he directed the rest of the animals toward the Pyrenees. For years, Emilio Gamo, director of Driebes research, has been conducting surveys in the Tagus in search of skeletal remains of the animals that entered battle. “At the moment, we have not been successful, because we have to cover a length of more than 10 kilometers of river. It is very difficult,” he says.

The trench where the elephant's bone was found.The trench where the elephant’s bone was found.Arqueobética

Between 48 and 45 B.C.

Caesar’s troops fought around the city of Ulia (present-day Montemayor) against the legions of Pompey the Great and his sons Gnaeus and Sextus, in a period that is known as the Roman Republican Civil Wars. Caesar’s army was commanded by General Quintus Cassius Longinus. After multiple changes in fortune — both sides were Romans and had the same weapons and tactics — Cassius asked King Bogud for help, who had time to arrive with reinforcements, possibly with African elephants, says Quesada.

Whose army does the elephant’s hand found in the heart of the city of Córdoba belong to? For the moment, it is unknown. But at last there is proof that an ancient war elephant stood on the banks of the Guadalquivir, and it is kept discreetly in the warehouses of the Archaeological Museum of Córdoba.


Welcome back, Samuel Beckett | Culture

The 20th century brought us Stalin, Mao, two world wars, the Holocaust, atomic bombs and a couple more carnages that I would rather not recall. Several million people died as a result, according to the most conservative calculations. Logically, the soul of Europeans was shaken, and it is admirable that we have survived as a species. A Martian would have expected us to commit suicide once and for all with a big nuclear bash.

The battered world conscience led to several new outcomes in terms of human representation. Living with the constant threat of extinction affected artists, who are the ones that truly represent us and not politicians. So the artists began to represent us as they saw us: strange, deformed, shapeless, anomalous, invisible, crippled, stuttering, or simply mute.

We have been more temperate for several years now, and it seems that we are now able to analyze that past, which was called “the avant-garde,” with some calm. Not everywhere, of course, but it is possible in a West that is fading, but which is no longer massacring its slaves. And the effect that this awareness of destruction had on literature was the emergence of a group of immense writers who could no longer represent humans in a luminous and heroic way, so to speak. However, it would be a very bad idea to leave them for dead. Joyce, Proust, Kafka, Faulkner, Bernhard, Manganelli, Benet, Rulfo — throughout the West, a literature took shape during the 20th century in which only the bare form remained with a capacity to simply be. And one of its main writers was Samuel Beckett.

It is a source of joy that this difficult, harsh, dark, but wise literature’s ability to fascinate, moralize and illuminate us has not run dry. And reading these artists is a very convenient way to understand that everything could go dark at any moment. I am currently celebrating the release of a new Spanish translation of Watt, Beckett’s last novel in English, by an affordable publishing house that can reach many students (Cátedra).

The story behind this novel is another novel in itself, well told by the translator José Francisco Fernández in his extensive foreword to the new Spanish version. Beckett wrote it while fleeing from one hideout to another as a member of the Resistance, pursued by the Nazis who were occupying France. In those absurd conditions, Beckett carried his notebooks, in which he was writing and annotating what would finally become the novel Watt, which is the name of the main character, who is as non-existent as Godot, the most famous of Beckett’s characters. Watt has a partner, Mr. Knott, whom he serves in a parody of the old novels of masters and servants that have been immortalized thanks to television series like Upstairs, Downstairs.

Rejected by the publishing world

Although he finished it in 1945, Watt was not published until 1953 after being rejected by almost all English and American publishers, who were very reluctant to recognize that this convulsive and sarcastic prose was a faithful portrait of 20th-century civilization. And once it was published it barely made an impact. It was not until 1968 (what a year!), when it was published in French by the Minuit publishing house, in the author’s version and with the help of the Janvier couple, that enthusiasm for the novel would begin to get some traction. The French powers-that-be recognized themselves in the portrait of the warped, disintegrated human race, described with a lacerating irony that the Irishman created out of nothing.

There were other effects that fascinated those who dominated literary opinion at the time. One of them was the obvious caricature of Descartes, a philosopher whom Beckett always counted among his favorites, and the reference to whom was immediately picked up by the masters of structuralism and deconstruction.

Welcome back, then, to our Beckett, a precise portraitist of terrifying years that could return at any moment.

Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get more English-language news coverage from EL PAÍS USA Edition

Source link

Continue Reading


The Hat Worn By Napoleon Bonaparte Sold For $2.1 Million At The Auction

A faded felt bicorne hat worn by Napoleon Bonaparte sold for $2.1 million at an auction on of the French emperor’s belongings.

Yes, that’s $2.1 million!!

The signature broad, black hat, one of a handful still in existence that Napoleon wore when he ruled 19th-century France and waged war in Europe, was initially valued at 600,000 to 800,000 euros ($650,000-870,000). It was the centerpiece of Sunday’s auction collected by a French industrialist who died last year.

The Hat Worn By Napoleon Bonaparte Sold For $2.1 Million At The Auction

But the bidding quickly jumped higher and higher until Jean Pierre Osenat, president of the Osenat auction house, designated the winner.

‘’We are at 1.5 million (Euros) for Napoleon’s hat … for this major symbol of the Napoleonic epoch,” he said, as applause rang out in the auction hall. The buyer, whose identity was not released, must pay 28.8% in commissions according to Osenat, bringing the overall cost to 1.9 million euros ($2.1 million).

While other officers customarily wore their bicorne hats with the wings facing front to back, Napoleon wore his with the ends pointing toward his shoulders. The style, known as “en bataille,” or in battle, made it easier for his troops to spot their leader in combat.

The hat on sale was first recovered by Col. Pierre Baillon, a quartermaster under Napoleon, according to the auctioneers. The hat then passed through many hands before industrialist Jean-Louis Noisiez acquired it.

The entrepreneur spent more than a half-century assembling his collection of Napoleonic memorabilia, firearms, swords and coins before his death in 2022.

The sale came days before the release of Ridley Scott’s film Napoleon with Joaquin Phoenix, which is rekindling interest in the controversial French ruler.

Continue Reading


The Call for AI Regulation in Creative Industries

THE VOICE OF EU | Widespread concerns have surged among artists and creatives in various domains – country singers, authors, television showrunners, and musicians – voicing apprehension about the disruptive impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on their professions.

These worries have prompted an urgent plea to the U.S. government for regulatory action to protect their livelihoods from the encroaching threat posed by AI technology.

The Artists’ Plea

A notable rise in appeals to regulate AI has emerged, drawing attention to the potential risks AI poses to creative industries.

Thousands of letters, including those from renowned personalities like Justine Bateman and Lilla Zuckerman, underscore the peril AI models represent to the traditional structure of entertainment businesses.

The alarm extends to the music industry, expressed by acclaimed songwriter Marc Beeson, highlighting AI’s potential to both enhance and jeopardize an essential facet of American artistry.

The Call for AI Regulation in Creative Industries

Copyright Infringement Concerns

The primary contention arises from the unsanctioned use of copyrighted human works as fodder to train AI systems. The concerns about AI ingesting content from the internet without permission or compensation have sparked significant distress among artists and their representative entities.

While copyright laws explicitly protect works of human authorship, the influx of AI-generated content questions the boundaries of human contribution and authorship in an AI-influenced creative process.

The Fair Use Debate

Leading technology entities like Google, Microsoft, and Meta Platforms argue that their utilization of copyrighted materials in AI training aligns with the “fair use” doctrine—a limited use of copyrighted material for transformative purposes.

They claim that AI training isn’t aimed at reproducing individual works but rather discerning patterns across a vast corpus of content, citing precedents like Google’s legal victories in the digitization of books.

The Conflict and Seeking Resolution

Despite court rulings favoring tech companies in interpreting copyright laws regarding AI, voices like Heidi Bond, a former law professor and author, critique this comparison, emphasizing that AI developers often obtain content through unauthorized means.

Shira Perlmutter, the U.S. Register of Copyrights, acknowledges the Copyright Office’s pivotal role in navigating this complex landscape and determining the legitimacy of the fair use defense in the AI context.

The Road Ahead

The outpouring of concern from creative professionals and industry stakeholders emphasizes the urgency for regulatory frameworks to safeguard creative works while acknowledging the evolving role of AI in content creation.

The Copyright Office’s meticulous review of over 9,700 public comments seeks to strike a balance between innovation and the protection of creative rights in an AI-driven era. As the discussion continues, the convergence of legal precedents and ethical considerations remains a focal point for shaping the future landscape of AI in creative industries.

Thank You For Your Support!

— By Darren Wilson, Team

— For more information & news submissions:

— Anonymous news submissions:

Continue Reading


Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates 
directly on your inbox.

You have Successfully Subscribed!