Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Roman Lioness of Severan Period to be featured in new Cramond Interpretative Center

A white sandstone lioness statue unearthed by ferryman Robert Graham in the mud of the River Almond in 1997 is expected to form the centrepiece of a new £2 million interpretative center planned for Cramond, Scotland. Plans have also be proposed to restore the 1800-year-old Roman fort near Cramond Kirk and the nearby bath house.

Herbert Coutts, city director of culture and leisure, said it was one of only three permanent sites known to be associated with the Severan conquest of Scotland.

The fort also played a crucial role in supplying provisions to other Roman garrisons, said Mr Coutts, while Mesolithic remains at the site were also significant. 'The post-Roman and early medieval remains are scant, but are also of national importance and high significance, not least due to the gap in knowledge about the use of the fort site following the departure of the Romans.' "

Submerged Ancient Port of Agrigento Discovered

"Located on a plateau overlooking Sicily's southern coast, Agrigento was founded as Akragas around 582 BC by a group of colonists from Gela, who themselves were the immediate descendants of Greeks from Rhodes and Crete. Akragas was renamed Agrigentum by the Romans, and Girgenti by the Saracens, only to be christened Agrigento in 1927, but the place is the same.

Akragas, named for the nearby river, flourished under Phalaris (570-554 BC), and developed further under Theron (488-471 BC), whose troops participated in the Battle of Himera in 480 BC, defeating the Carthaginians. Agrigento was destroyed several times during the Punic Wars, suffering particularly extensive damage during a siege by Roman forces in 261 BC, but always rebuilt. The Greek poet Pindar (518-438 BC) described Akragas as "the most beautiful city of the mortals." Akragas' most famous citizen was the philosopher and scientist Empedocles (490-430 BC)."

Roman Legionary's Exam Certificate Unearthed in Norfolk

"Archaeologists have uncovered the earliest examination certificate ever found in Britain. Fragments of two bronze sheets, which had been threaded together, were unearthed by metal detector enthusiasts in Norfolk.

The diploma was awarded in AD98 to a garrison soldier whose name has not survived but who was recruited in the imperial province of Pannonia, now the Balkans. Lettering inscribed on the eroded metal shows that he served in the legions from AD73, most of the time in Britain.

His certificate acknowledges lessons learned during 25 years in the Roman army, lessons which became as subject to controversy and allegations of cheating as any modern exam. "

Did Boudicca's Army Desecrate the Graves of the Vanquished in Londonium?

"Archaeologists from Wessex Archaeology found a small cremation cemetery from London's earliest years that had been severely disturbed some time before the 70s - the date is given by a coin overlying the site.

Contemporary with the cremation cemetery, the partly-decomposed body of a middle-aged or elderly man had been thrown into an open drainage ditch, with the partly-decayed head of a young woman placed between his legs. The bodies were left uncovered. The man's skeleton was missing its lower legs, while the woman's skull had lost its jawbone.

Although mutilated and other 'strange' burials are not unknown in Roman Britain (British Archaeology, March), these remains do seem to represent body-parts that had been roughly removed from their original graves, perhaps quite soon after burial, in an act of deliberate desecration. 'It is hard not to associate this with Boudicca's sack of London, as the dates match,' said project director Chris Moore."

Monday, August 25, 2003

Despised Tomb May Be Burial Chamber of Biblical Prophets

"For centuries passers-by have thrown rocks at an ornate tomb in Jerusalem's Kidron Valley, reviled as the traditional burial place of the biblical King David's villainous son Absalom.
But in one of those strange twists unique to the Holy Land -- where tombs can post-date by a millennium those believed buried there -- an inscription found on the crypt now points to it belonging not to Absalom but rather John the Baptist's father, Zacharias, and maybe even James, who some Christians regard as the brother of Jesus."

Friday, August 22, 2003

Hadrian and wife statues unearthed at Sagalassos

A team of Belgian archaeologists from Leuven University uncovered a second-century fountain and five-metre statues of the Emperor Hadrian and his wife Sabina.

Director Marc Waelkens explains, "We are now exposing the monumental city center and have completed, or nearly completed, four major restoration projects there. We've also undertaken an intensive urban and geophysical survey, excavations in the domestic and industrial areas, and an intensive survey of its vast territory. Whereas the former document a thousand years of occupation, from Alexander the Great to the seventh century, the latter has established the changing settlement patterns, the vegetation history and farming practices, the landscape formation and climatic changes during the last 10,000 years."

Monday, August 18, 2003

2nd Century Etruscan Family Tomb in Perugia Dazzles Visitors

"Discovered entirely by accident in 1840 during road construction, the hypogeum in Perugia (2nd century BC), is the biggest of the 38 graves found in the surrounding Palazzone burial ground.

"A steep flight of stairs leeds to the travertine doorway, still intact, which bears a vertical three line inscription related to the construction of the tomb, owned by the Etruscan Velimna family. The layout of the rooms around the atrium is the same as in Etruscan and Roman houses, with the difference that what appear to be wooden beams supporting the roof are in fact the ceiling that has been carved out of sheer rock."

"...The urn containing the remains of the head of the family, Arnth Velimna, stands at the centre on a base. The base is decorated with two winged female demons, or “vanth”, that were precursors of genii in the Roman pantheon and have similarities with what came to be known as angels for Christians. They guard the painted entrance to the Empire of Death."

Thursday, August 14, 2003

Roman port from Hannibalic War revealed in Pozzuoli

"Excavators at Pompeii, entombed in ash and toxic debris by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79, were able to remove the volcanic material and expose the city to the open air.
But in Pozzuoli, whose beauty was such that the great Roman orator Cicero called it 'little Rome,' the ancient streets were encased in the foundations of a new city built by the Spanish in the 1500s, when they ruled what was then the Kingdom of Naples."

After 10 years of excavation, the Roman city originally constructed as a seaport during the Hannibalic War (Second Punic War) has emerged.

Visitors may see "well-preserved warren of Roman streets, paved with huge stones and lined with little shops, inns and houses."

"Small private altars are visible in the corners of some of the shops and there are also ancient flour mills, deep wells, vaulted storage rooms and stone heads that used to be fountains."

"A vast, white marble temple from the first century BC stands there, with well-preserved colonnades and walls. It also features gilded arches, a white and gold dome and fragments of religious frescoes -- the remains of a Baroque church which the Spanish built using the ancient structure."

Friday, August 08, 2003

Efforts Mount to Save 1st century Venus statue

"The British Government has placed a temporary export ban on a Roman statue of Venus in the hope that it can be bought for the nation. The marble statue, described as being of "outstanding significance", has been dated to circa late 1st/mid-2nd Century AD and is a Roman copy of a Hellenistic original of 2nd Century BC. Known as Jenkins Venus, the statue, originally bought in Rome in 1765 , was resold at auction earlier in the year by an anonymous foreign buyer for a record £7.9m to pay for the refurbushiment of Newby Hall in North Yorkshire .

Ancient Women Used Dung, Grease as Makeup

"For the ancient Romans, looking good didn't stop at applying makeup. Archaeologists have found tools such as tweezers for trimming the brows and small scoops for cleaning out the ears. The devices were likely used by both men and women, says Rosenberg."

As the ancient Roman writer, Plotinus, declared in A.D. 250, "This is the spirit that Beauty must ever induce: a wonderment and a delicious trouble, longing and love and a trembling that is all delight."

Ancient writings and recovered artifacts have revealed women could be quite creative when finding ways to touch up their looks. One secret, for example, was extracting the sweat and dirt from sheep's wool to form the basis of a paling face cream.

Sally Pointer, an archaeologist and specialist in cosmetics history, says A pale face suggested an upper-class life of leisure spent away from the sun's harsh rays. Some women patted dried crocodile dung on their faces. Others used chalk and the ground root of the orris, a type of iris, which can be poisonous.

Caligula's Roman palace discovered

"The ancient palace in Rome that provided the backdrop for many of Emperor Caligula's wildest depravities has been found by British and American archaeologists. It has been located at the foot of the Palatine Hill, at a point where it met and joined the Temple of Castor and Pollux.

The discovery confirmed the belief that Caligula - who had himself deified - had the audacity to incorporate the sacred temple into his home. Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, head of the British School, said: "The ancient sources claim that Caligula transformed the Temple of Castor and Pollux into the vestibule of his palace. The new excavations greatly strengthen the case for supposing that Caligula's building actually came up to the temple.