Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Ancient Roman Anchors Found in Israel

Newsday.com: "Ancient wooden anchors preserved by natural salt for more than 2,000 years have been discovered on the receding shores of the Dead Sea, Israel TV reported Monday.

Archaeologist David Mevorach told the TV station that one anchor dated back 2,500 years -- the oldest ever found. Another anchor was 2,000 years old, he said. They were built from acacia wood for Roman ships, he said. "

Friday, November 18, 2005

Archaeologists find western world's oldest map

"The oldest map of anywhere in the western world, dating from about 500 BC, has been unearthed in southern Italy. Known as the Soleto Map, the depiction of Apulia, the heel of Italy's 'boot', is on a piece of black-glazed terracotta vase about the size of a postage stamp.

It was found in a dig led by the Belgian archaeologist Thierry van Compernolle, of Montpellier University, two years ago. But its existence was kept secret until more research was carried out.

'The map offers, to date, for the Mediterranean, and more generally for western civilisation, the oldest map of a real space,' the university said recently.

Its engraved place names are indicated by points, just as on maps today, and are written in ancient Greek.

The sea on the western side, Taras (Taranto), today's Gulf of Taranto, is named in Greek. But the rest of the map is in Messapian, the ancient tongue of the local tribes, although the script is ancient Greek."

Friday, November 04, 2005

A Roman soldier?s story

"His name was Papas the Son of Cillis. He lived nearly 2,000 years ago, and it?s likely he would be mighty surprised at what James Russell has learned about his life.

Mr. Russell knows that Papas was an Anatolian who enlisted as an auxiliary in the Roman legions, serving in outposts of the empire for 25 mostly peaceful years. The auxiliaries were second-class soldiers who were natives of distant provinces that the Romans had conquered; Roman citizens served as prestigious legionaries.

Toward the end of his enlistment, Papas? regiment was sent to Judaea to help put down an uprising by the Jews. When he was honorably discharged, he was given Roman citizenship, as were all auxiliaries.

Papas returned home to his province to live out his life with his four children, who also were granted Roman citizenship, which would have set them on the path of upward social and political mobility.

Mr. Russell, an archaeologist and professor emeritus in the department of classics at the University of British Columbia, speaks about Papas as if he were an old friend. And, indeed, it must seem that way. The scholar has spent perhaps a decade tracing the life of the ancient Anatolian from information inscribed in Latin on a fragment of a bronze tablet, which was found in the rugged hills of Southern Turkey. Mr. Russell was given the fragment by farmers who uncovered it not far from his main archaeological site, the coastal Romano-Byzantine city of Anemurium.

The archaeologist worked backward from the substantial number of facts recorded on the tablet, including the date it was issued and the names of the emperor and the consuls for that year.

Also inscribed are Papas? native province and the names of the commanding officers of his regiment, as well as the names of members of his family, including his children.

?Emperor Trajan was mounting a campaign in the East. We know from stone inscriptions where his regiment was. We can trace its movements from Syria to Egypt to Judaea,"
Mr. Russell said.

It seemed straightforward enough until Mr. Russell remarked that he had discovered the regiment had been in Egypt from hieroglyphics on two papyri. ?Our kind of scholarship is sort of serendipitous,? he remarked.

Becoming an auxiliary in the Roman legions was a good job for a young man with wanderlust; the auxiliaries were shipped out to defend the empire?s frontiers. They quickly learned to speak ? and even read and write ? Latin. With those skills, an auxiliary could rise to the rank of sergeant. Papas gave at least two of his children Roman names, probably in honor of favorite centurions