Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Leading archaeologists are in the village recovering the secrets of lost Roman shrines.
The team of excavators, digging at Hatch Furlong on the Ewell bypass, is being led by Harvey Sheldon of Birkbeck College, University of London, and Jon Cotton of the Museum of London and president of the Epsom and Ewell Local History and Archaeology Society.
The first finds were made in the 1840s in a series of deep ritual shafts cut down into the chalk.
But today's archaeologists will be seeking to uncover more of a stone building and a further deep shaft found in 1977. Shafts like these have been found containing pottery vessels, coins and the bones of many dogs.
Ewell lies on Stane Street - the main Roman road from London to Chichester - and the discoveries in and around Hatch Furlong suggest that a religious complex once existed on the higher ground over-looking the settlement."
The find is near the 19th century cliff-top Torreón Doctor José María Esquerdo, where a team of Spanish and French archaeologists are working together on the investigations. The dig is led by Pierre Ronillard, the director of the Maison René Gionouves Institute for Archaeological Investigation in France, and Jesús Moratalla, archaeology professor at Alicante University.
Archaeologists from the Casa de Velázquez and the Centre for Scientific Investigation in France are also involved, as is the Town Hall archaeologist, professor Antonio Espinosa, who said ?the fact that there are at least two large cemeteries here means that this Iberian city must have been very important in its time.?"
The Ara Pacis was commissioned by the Roman Senate in 13 B.C. and inaugurated in 9 B.C. to honor Augustus for "pacifying" Gaul and Spain. In one frieze, the emperor appears in a procession with priests, loyal aides and family members. Other reliefs identify him with the heroic Aeneas and with Romulus and Remus, the city's mythical founders. Carvings of cattle, swans, insects, flowers and fruit underline the message that, under Augustus, Romans enjoyed peace and prosperity.
The altar, which was placed in the Campus Martius, or the field of war, was probably destroyed after Rome fell to the Barbarians. But early last century, parts were traced to museums in Florence and Rome (as well as the Louvre in Paris) and other pieces were found in excavations. In the late 1930's, Mussolini ordered the altar's reconstruction and installed it in a building designed by Vittorio Ballio Morpurgo beside the Tiber. However, few people ever visited the Ara Pacis in its previous crumbling home."I look forward to seeing the altar in its new naturally lighted enclosure when I next visit Rome.
Monday, April 17, 2006
The remains of the luxury residence turned up recently in Torvaianica, a coastal resort south of Rome, when the local council started digging trenches for a new sewerage system .
Historians knew from written sources that the villa of Titus Flavius Claudanius and Titus Flavius Sallustius was somewhere in the area but the precise location had long been forgotten .
The two senators belonged to an imperial dynasty and, as befitted their rank, the villa was constructed on a grand scale. It covers about a hectare and includes a large area given over to relaxation, including a gymnasium, hot and cold baths and various swimming pools .
'We're uncovering a vast complex, in which we've found all sorts of vessels and ceramics which have been taken away to be catalogued,' said head archaeologist Filippo Avilia ."