Thursday, April 24, 2003

Bull-headed Roman emperor featured in "The Bull in the Mediterranean World, Myths and Legends" exhibit

Painted or engraved bulls on the walls of paleolithic caverns suggest that from prehistoric times, the bull was associated with cosmic energy and the forces of life and death. In Anatolia, the bull was worshiped as the son of the mother-goddess, and its horns, which supported the world, were seen as the pillars of the universe.

This concept was probably the origin of horns as a mark of divinity. In Mesopotamia, for instance, gods occasionally had bulls ears and, with almost no exception, wore a diadem with bulls horns. Another example, included in the exhibition, is the Hellenistic head of Zeus-Amon, a new Egyptian deity that emerged with the cultural fusion that followed Egypts conquest by Alexander the Great. The bulls horns that sprout from the head is again an attribute of divinity.

The Roman deity Jupiter was portrayed, like other celestial gods of Syria and Palestine, with one or two bulls. In one of the exhibitions more unusual objects, a Roman emperor is portrayed with a bulls head, a sign of the emperors divine nature.

Scotland hopes to attract visitors to Antonine Wall sites

At Rough Castle, where the sixth Cohort of Nervians, auxiliaries from the north of France, once gazed out on the Caledonian tribes to the north and doubtless wished themselves elsewhere, there is little to suggest the massive building operation involved in imposing this barrier and symbol of Roman imperial might.

One of the walls most clearly visible structures is the Roman bathhouse at Bearsden, now nominated as a World Heritage site. Bill Hanson, a professor of Roman archaeology at the University of Glasgow, said, "The Antonine Wall was occupied only for about 25 years, whereas Hadrians was occupied, abandoned and re-occupied and remained the frontier for hundreds of years." However, he points out that it is still important, "A lot of people do not even understand that the Romans got this far."

Ancient Fragrances Return to Pompeii

"Lily, rose, basil and fennel are just a few of the heady scents that once fired the imaginations of ancient Romans," said Anna Maria Ciarallo, head of biological research at Pompeii. "Finally, and based on scientific research, we can give Pompeii back some of its fragrance."

Directors at the sprawling archaeological site inaugurated "The Perfumers House" and took the stoppers off 15 different perfumes concocted after a decade of research. Period aromas available for purchase will be the evocatively named Iris of Corinth, Saffron of Soles, Cyprino, and Pardalium. The last scent was thought to have been extracted from panthers. The perfume bottles are described as faithful reproductions of those found in the Perfumers House, now in the National Archaeology Museum in Naples.

See also: Easter in Pompeii

Friday, April 18, 2003

An 84-mile footpath along Hadrians Wall opens

An 84-mile footpath along Hadrians Wall, from Segedunum fort at Wallsend in the east to Bowness-on-Solway, west of Carlisle, is now open for visitors.

David McGlade, the official from the countryside agency who has overseen the project since it began in 1995, said: "Our task is to make it an interpretation that is the greatest expression of Roman civilisation in England. At present, it is not punching its weight. It is as important as Stonehenge, but it has never been thought of in that way. It isnt just a wall, but a complex of forts, temples, turrets, museums and reconstructions that bring the frontier to life."

To this end, Fourteen new steel bridges have been erected, many in the "weathered" variety of steel which characterises the Angel of the North sculpture, thirty miles of new rights of way have been created, and miles of new turf have been laid, to protect sites which may be excavated in later years.

Modern engineers study water turbulence control mechanisms in Roman aqueducts

Charles Ortloff and Adonis Kassinos of the private company CTC/United Defense in Santa Clara, California have suggested that a series of gradient increases and decreases constructed in the aqueduct at Aspendos, Turkey were designed to prevent "slosh" and resulting damage to the ancient pipeline. They also speculated that little holes, about 3 centimetres wide, that perforate some of the pipeline's blocks, were designed to reduce turbulence in the flow by letting air and water escape.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Roman sacrifice of three dogs and a horse found in well in Siena

Archaeologists said yesterday that they had evidence of a ritual sacrifice, dating to early Roman times, in a well beneath the transept of the Duomo, near the Campo, the piazza where the Palio is run every summer in Siena.

Riccardo Francovich, professor of archaeology at Siena University, said his team had found the bones of three slaughtered dogs and a horse, with each animal cut up into three pieces. Professor Francovich said the slaughter of animals was a "votive ritual" used by the Romans to bring good fortune when founding a new city.

According to the "founding myth", the name Siena derives from Senius, son of Remus, who founded Rome with his twin brother, Romulus. Senius fled to Siena to escape persecution by his "wicked" uncle Romulus, who sent warriors on horseback to stop him.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Ancient skeletons reveal panoply of death in the Roman world

Search site for "paleopathologist"

French paleopathologist Philippe Charlier studies ancient skeletons to determine the range of diseases and genetic deformity that occurred in ancient times. In the past seven years, the Frenchman has scoured Etruscan cemeteries in Italy and Celtic warrior burial grounds in Burgundy, France. He found such spinal deformities as spina bifida in a slave necropolis in Rome which he attributed to inbreeding or excessive intoxication on the part of the mother during gestation. He found one in 10 Celts to be carrying treponema, a bacterium related to that of syphilis. Several had hip deformities caused by riding, and many suffered from arthritis.

Another paleopathologist, Luigi Capasso of Gabriele D'Annunzio University in Chieti, Italy, found at least one in five Herculaneum skulls shows irritation likely caused by lice. He also detected cases of pleurisy, probably caused by indoor pollution. The Romans burned animal and vegetable oils for light, and wood or animal dung as fuel, filling their homes with carbon and other toxic gases.

Thieves steal frescos from House of the Chaste Lovers in Pompeii

A pair of 2,000-year-old frescoes were stolen from the "House of the Chaste Lovers" in Pompeii. The thieves hacked off a fresco of a cherub and another with a rooster pecking at an apple.

However, thanks to a fragment of pizza left at the scene, police were able to recover them. AGI reports: "Four central parts of the frescos stolen on Friday night from the "Chaste Lovers" room in Pompeii have been recovered. They were found wrapped and ready to be sent. It was probably a commissioned robbery. Each piece could be worth more than 100 million euro. The forces of law and order were able to follow the thieves trail thanks to a series of bits of circumstantial evidence, among which was a pizza nibbled while they were taking the frescos off the wall. Technicians from the Superintendancys Restoration Workshop will check their condition and the possibility of putting them back in the walls."

A typical shop with the bakery facing the street and internal living quarters, the House of the Chaste Lovers was still being decorated at the time of the eruption in 79 A.D. Portions of the walls were found with preparatory drawings (sinopie). Little cups containing pigments, a small stove and a compass were found under the collapsed vault.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Clue from 1811 archaeologist pinpoints Roman Villa

Note: Search for "1811" at URL

Two hundred years ago the famous Pembrokeshire antiquarian Richard Fenton claimed to have discovered a Roman villa in the county. Now, Pembrokeshire-born archaeologist Dr Mark Merrony, following the clues left by Fenton, has discovered the ruins of a large rectangular building about 65ft long and 28ft wide under the ground.

"Its a formal building of Roman character. Its very big which suggests a financial investment on a large scale," he said. "Possibly it belonged to a Celtic elite, who identified themselves with Roman culture."

Gwilym Hughes, director of Cambria Archaeology, said "There has been little evidence so far of high-status Roman buildings. This is possibly one of those and it might suggest there was an important Roman settlement here. Potentially it could give us a real insight into our understanding of the Roman period in this area."

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

Bronze Satyr Recovered From The Depths of the Mediterranean

A 2,500-year-old bronze statue of a dancing satyr went on public display inside Italys parliament in Rome five years after its recovery by Sicilian fishermen. Reuters reports: "The satyr is missing both arms and one leg, but the head and torso are remarkably well-preserved despite centuries spent at the bottom of the sea. With its head tilted at a jaunty angle, curly hair flying and remaining leg suggesting it is in mid-leap, the two-meter tall satyr cuts a striking figure."

"I am confident that this work is by Praxiteles. It has the artistry and technical excellence that were his trademark," said Paolo Moreno, a professor of ancient Greek art and history. Shunning the formal, majestic style of earlier Greek sculptors, Praxiteles favored sensuous forms and graceful movements and left a profound mark on later classical art.

Praxiteles was a famous Greek sculptor of the 4th century B.C.E. Praxiteles depicted satyrs (later called fauns by the Romans) without most of the animal characteristics seen in earlier works. The satyr above left is an example of Praxiteles work in marble.