Puzzle is solved 30 years later in Javea

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Javea’s Soler Blasco archaeological and ethnological museum.

ARCHAEOLOGIST Joaquim Bolufer, director of Javea’s Soler Blasco archaeological and ethnological museum, has cleared up a decades-old enigma.

During excavations at the Muntanyar site in Javea in 1985 archaeologists found a puzzling object they believed could be an early Christian censer or incense burner.  

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The small bronze artefact, is 3.7 centimetres tall with a 5.1centimetre diameter, had a blackened interior and baffled disconcerted experts. 

Thirty years on, Joaquim Bolufer solved the mystery after linking it to an identical object that was discovered by a Barcelona University dig. 

 The expedition in what is now El-Bahnasa, 190 kilometres south of Cairo, was led by Professor Josep Pardro who heads the department of Ancient History at Barcelona University.  

El-Bahnasa was once a Greek-Roman town called Oxyrhynchus and is renowned for the vast number of papyrus texts found there.  

The Barcelona team’s copper pot, twin to the Muntanyar artefact, was found in the tomb of a 16-year-old scribe, together with the reed pens he would have used.  

Bolufer contacted Josep Pardro, who confirmed that the Muntanyar object, like the El-Bahnasa find, had not been used for incense but was a sixth or seventh century inkpot and vestiges of centuries-old ink accounted for its blackened interior. 

It would not have been unusual for the inkpot to have found its way to Javea as trade relations within the Mediterranean were intense by that time, and the town’s Punta de l’Arenal was a thriving Roman settlement between the 1st and 7th centuries.  

This included an opulent Roman villa, a fish farm and a factory that produced garum, the fish sauce prized by the Romans.


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