Monday, September 29, 2003

Roman-era Olive Press Found on Malta

"What could be part of an olive press dating back to Roman times has been discovered embedded under a high rubble wall on the outskirts of Nadur.
The press was discovered by Lino Bugeja, of Marsascala, while walking down the winding road to Ramla bay last week.
Mr Bugeja said he was convinced the large round stone was a press because it was practically identical in shape and size to the existing olive press at the Archaeology Museum in Gozo. The one in the museum was one of two found in Xewkija."

Horsehoes evolved from Roman hipposandals

While I was skimming abstracts of different news items this week, I noticed
a statement that Romans invented the game of horseshoes. It got me to
wondering about when horseshoes were developed. I found this interesting
reference to the first horseshoes called "hipposandals" by the Romans that
were tied on.

"Sometime after the first century, horses with shod hooves traversed the
roadways set down by ancient Romans. To protect their valuable steeds,
riders outfitted their horses with coverings inspired by the sandals
strapped to their own feet. These leather and metal "hipposandals" fitted
over horses' hooves and fastened with leather straps."

"In the colder, damper climates of northern Europe, however, horses were
used in farming and had trouble gaining a toehold on the surface. Horsemen
tried various remedies, and by the 6th & 7th centuries began nailing metal
shoes onto their horses' hooves."

Armed with the term "hipposandal", I continued my research and found this
picture of an early "hipposandal".

I guess it should not be a surprise that the Romans developed such
protection for the feet of their horses since their animals were used
extensively on all of those paved Roman roads!

Third Largest Collection of Gladiator Inscriptions Found in Cordoba

The largest collection of gladiator inscriptions known outside Rome have been discovered in an amphitheater in Cordoba. An archaeology professor at the University of Cordoba, Desiderio Vaquerizo said the amphitheater could hold up to 50,000 people. It is the third largest after the Colloseum in Rome and the amphitheater in the ancient Tunisian city of Carthage.

Monday, September 22, 2003

Roman weapons factory unearthed

"Archaeologists excavating the site of a huge iron factory on Exmoor believe it might have been used to help produce weapons for the Roman army. Hundreds of tons of iron was produced on the site between 100AD and 300AD - far more than was needed locally. It is thought a lot of the iron produced there 2,000 years ago was destined for national and even international markets to make weapons and tools. The factory is on such a massive scale they are wondering whether the Romans may have had a greater influence in the South West than previously believed.

2nd Century Gold Tablet Found in Norfolk

A gold Roman tablet engraved with magic symbols which is about an inch square and thought to date back to the second century AD has been found by a man working in his garden in Dereham, Norfolk.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Roman Coins Unearthed at Al Jouf

Al-Jouf, first mentioned in recorded history in the royal Annals of Assyria, when it was attacked by the Assyrian King Sennacherib in 688 BC, is the site of a discovery of Roman coins. The coins were unearthed on a hillside a few kilometers behind the Aramco oil terminal outside Sakaka. The regional capital of the northern province of Al-Jouf, Sakaka contains Saudi Arabia’s equivalent of Stonehenge. The cluster of sandstone stele, known as Al-Rajajil, have stood here for more than 6,000 years. Standing astride the trade routes from Syria and Iraq to Yemen, Syrian, Roman and Greek artifacts have all been found here.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Could Gold Be Gift From Caesar

"They thought it had been made by skilled local craftsman in the last century before the Roman invasion. But scientific analysis of an Iron Age gold hoard found near Winchester in 2000 showed it was made by Roman or Hellenic craftsman between 70BC and 30BC," said Dr. Dick Whinney, curator of the British Museum.

Dr Whinney observes: "We're never going to prove the gold was a gift from Caesar or Antony. But if we take the technological evidence about the origin and craftsmanship of these items alongside the time frame, it is a good theory. "The implication is they were made to order in a style that would be acceptable to native kings and queens, possibly to cement a friendship or encourage an alliance."

When the legions invaded, they were unopposed by local tribes, although they had the manpower and fortifications to fight. "There were no battles here. The Romans were allowed to pass through what appears to have been a client kingdom."

See also: The Winchester Hoard

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Portraits from Fayum

I have always loved the Greco-Roman mummy portraits from the Fayum region of Egypt and today stumbled across this wonderful site about them. Discovered in March, 1888 by Flinders Petrie, the site was termed 'an immense cemetery of Roman time with rooms brick-built tombales still containing the bodies of their owners'. He became quite emotional when he gazed on the first portrait still fixed to its mummy, 'a splendidly drawn girl, with sweet grey tints'. "

I found this portrait particularly poignant.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Ancient pirate stronghold unearthed at Antikythera

Archaeologists digging at the ancient city of Antikythera have located sanctuaries, a large public building and a wealth of missiles — spear and arrow heads, slingshots and large catapult stones — in the settlement identified as the city of Aegila mentioned in ancient sources. Antikythera controlled the strait between Kythera and western Crete, a crucial passage for shipping.

The site, occupied from the mid-fourth to the mid-first centuries BC, may have been a nest of pirates, at a time when piracy was quasi-legitimate. Archaeologists also located a large boat shed “which protected the constantly war-ready pirate ships.”

I wonder if this port could have served as a base for Sextus Pompeius?

Senua, Britain's unknown goddess unearthed

"Senua, a previously unknown Romano-British goddess, has been resurrected at the British Museum, patiently pried from soil-encrusted clumps of gold and corroded silver which have buried her identity for more than 1,600 years."

Ralph Jackson, Roman curator at the British Museum, said he believes Senua was probably an older Celtic goddess, worshipped at a spring on the site, who was then adopted and Romanised - twinned with their goddess Minerva - by the invaders. There is a direct parallel at Bath, where the Romans seamlessly absorbed the Celtic god Sulis, and a much older shrine, into their religion.

New Mosaics And Frescos Excavated At Zeugma

"New mosaics and frescos have been excavated from the ancient city of Zeugma located in Belkis Village 10 km east from Nizip town of southeastern Gaziantep province, by the River Euphrates."

See also:

Byzantine Artifacts Found At Abu Sir

Five gold coins minted in Constantinople and a gold bracelet decorated with nine crosses have been unearthed by Hungarian archaeologists excavating a necropolis 45 kilometers west of Alexandria.

"Mohamed Abdel-Maqsoud, head of antiquities for Lower Egypt, said two of the coins bear the bust of the Byzantine Emperor Maurice Tiberius who ruled from 582 to 602 AD. Another is graced by the Byzantine Emperor Hercules on one side and his son Hercules Constantine on the other. The Byzantine Emperor Phocas, who ruled from 602 to 610, appears on the other two coins.

Abu Sir, which is rich in Ptolemaic and Graeco- Roman monuments is spread over an area two- kilometres square and was built on a limestone ridge. The cult of Isis was strong in this city by the sea whose name at the time of founding was Taposiris Magna.

Among the city's many claims to fame is that it is home to the oldest known wine press and one of the earliest constructed bridges."

Origin of Famous Cameo Vase Disputed

Dr Jerome Eisenberg, editor-in chief of ancient art and archaeology magazine Minerva, states in a recent issue that he is convinced that the Portland Vase, one of the most famous cameo-glass vessels from antiquity, was created during the Renaissance. It was thought to have been found in the tomb of Emperor Severus Alexander in 1582.

But "numerous stylistic inconsistencies" - meaning some images were closer to Renaissance style than Roman - meant it was likely to have been made in the second half of the 16th Century, he wrote.

"The sea-monster depicted in the lap of the reclining female figure on the Vase provides the principal clue to my redating of this cameo glass masterwork," Eisenberg notes.

The British Museum's deputy keeper of Greek and Roman antiquities, Susan Walker, disagrees, "The vase was created using the Roman technique of 'dip-overlay' - which was not understood until recently.'