Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Clay lamps shed new light on daily life in antiquity

The Daily Star: "Clay lamps help archaeologists reconstruct daily activities inside the otherwise empty shell of a room or corridor of a ruin. For example, at Bet Guvrin/Beit Jibrin southwest of Jerusalem, nearly one hundred lamps and numerous lamp fragments were recovered in the sacellum, or shrine chamber, of the amphitheater. That lamps were found in association with two altars indicates they may have served a ritual role among the gladiators. Similarly, a deposit of 31 clay lamps were unearthed surrounding the altar inside the Mithraeum, or Mithraic cult center, at Caesarea Maritima/Qaisariye; the discovery further underscores the significance of light in this Roman mystery cult centered around the sun-god Mithras.

In Late Antiquity, clay oil lamps were used as a medium to express and to circulate religious thought. Greek passages linked to liturgies associated with specific Christian churches such as the Church of St. Mary's in Nazareth, for example, occur on early Byzantine lamps popular in the Jerusalem area. Kufic inscriptions depicted on early Islamic lamps further praise the greatness of Allah. Clay lamps also disseminated religious symbols: Lamps portraying pagan gods, Jewish menorahs, and Christian crosses were widely manufactured and distributed by pottery workshops in North Africa, Greece, Egypt, Cyprus, and Syria-Palestine.

The occurrence of such lamps helps archaeologists identify the presence of religious groups at any given site, and in some archaeological contexts represents the only artifact type to do so. Take, for example, the 'candlestick' slipper lamps with cross images recovered in the rock-cut tombs at Tel el-Ful north of Jerusalem. Because lamps decorated with crosses - a distinct Christian symbol - would have appealed to a Christian clientele, a large quantity of them discovered in a funerary complex like that at Tel el-Ful indicats Christian burial there, and thus, the presence of a Christian community somewhere in the vicinity of the site in the fourth and fifth centuries A.D."

Cumbrian Excavation Reveals Women Once Served in the Roman Army

Times Online - Britain: "Women soldiers were previously unknown in the Roman army in Britain and the find at Brougham in Cumbria will force a reappraisal of their role in 3rd-century society.

The women are thought to have come from the Danube region of Eastern Europe, which was where the Ancient Greeks said the fearsome Amazon warriors could be found.

The women, believed to have died some time between AD220 and 300, were burnt on pyres upon which were placed their horses and military equipment. The remains were uncovered in the 1960s but full-scale analysis and identification has been possible only since 2000 with technological advances.

The soldiers are believed to have been part of the numerii, a Roman irregular unit, which would have been attached to a legion serving in Britain. Other finds show that their unit originated from the Danubian provinces of Noricum, Pannonia and Ilyria which now form parts of Austria, Hungary and the former Yugoslavia."

Friday, December 17, 2004

Rare Roman sword acquired by Royal Armouries

Leeds Today: "THE Royal Armouries has sharpened its collection with the acquisition of a 2,000-year-old Roman sword ? autographed by the original owner. It is the best preserved sword of its type in the UK.

The blade and its scabbard mounts have been bought at auction by the Leeds-based national museum of arms and armour, and they are about to go on display alongside a replica of how the sword may have looked when carried by a Roman infantryman in the first century AD.

The fascinating weapon, an important sword of the Pompeii type, is decorated with engraved figures ? possibly Mars, the Roman god of war, and Victory ? and has a dot-punched inscription of the owner's name, Caius Valerius Primus.

The sword was discovered on a spoil heap in Germany in the early 1970s by an amateur archaeologist.

Monday, December 13, 2004

The Cumberland News

The Cumberland News BIRDOSWALD Roman Fort is now in the hands of English Heritage after an official hand-over ceremony this week.

Birdoswald was built around 122AD to hold 1,000 soldiers. It is one of the largest of the 16 forts along the Wall, which marked the northern boundary of the Roman Empire.

Archaeologists have also unearthed evidence that the site has been inhabited for 4,000 years. Birdoswald is believed to be the only Roman Fort along the Wall to have been continuously occupied since the legions left in around 410AD.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Bronze Bust of Ptolemy of Mauretania Auctioned

The New York Times: Sotheby's New York recently auctioned a seven ince fine bronze Roman portrait bust of Ptolemy of Mauretania at about age 15.

"Cleopatra VII, who ascended the Egyptian throne as a teenager, and Mark Antony had at least three children, including the twins Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene. Cleopatra Selene married Juba II, king of Mauretania, a kingdom on the northern coast of Africa. This fertile land of forests, elephants and camels was not the Mauritania of today in Northwest Africa, but a Roman-dominated state on the Mediterranean Sea, now part of Morocco and Algeria.

Around 1 B.C. Cleopatra Selene and Juba II had a son, Ptolemy of Mauretania. They sent him to Rome for schooling. 'It was very common for a prince in a client kingdom to be sent to Rome to receive a Roman education and be taught Roman ways,' said Florent Heintz, an antiquities specialist at Sotheby's. 'I suspect the bust was made when he was in Rome and purposely made to look like one of the sons of Augustus.'

Ptolemy returned home in A.D. 21 and ruled Mauretania jointly with his father until his father's death about A.D. 23. Ptolemy then became the sole ruler of Mauretania. He was considered a client king of Rome and was expected to prove his allegiance.

He got his chance in A.D. 24, when he helped the Romans' multiyear effort to quell a rebellion being led by the Berber Tacfarinas, a former Roman soldier. Ptolemy defeated Tacfarinas, who then committed suicide. The Sotheby's catalog quotes the Roman orator Tacitus, writing in his 'Annals': 'And now that this war had proved the zealous loyalty of Ptolemy, a custom of antiquity was revived, and one of the senators was sent to present him with an ivory scepter and an embroidered robe, gifts anciently bestowed by the Senate, and to confer on him the titles of king, ally and friend.'

About 16 years later Caligula invited Ptolemy to Rome and received him with great honor until, the Roman historian Suetonius reported, Caligula 'suddenly had"

Roman Artifacts stolen in Australia

IOL: Discovery: "Roman artifacts dating back more than 2 000 years have been stolen from one of Australia's top universities, police said on Thursday.

The thieves also broke a ceramic bowl from 200 BC during the burglary, the Australian Federal Police said.

The items were stolen from the Australian National University in the capital Canberra between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

Police said the stolen items were valued at about A$300 000 (about R1,3-million), and included a bronze portrait head, a gold necklace, gold earrings, a gold ring with an engraved head, and a vase.

'One of the artifacts, a bronze head from the Roman Empire, was made in about 100 BC and is worth more than A$200 000 (about R900 000),' a police spokesperson said in a statement."

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Sullan monument celebrating victory over Mithradates uncovered in Greece

ABC News Online: "A farmer ploughing his field in central Greece hit on an ancient Roman trophy dating from 86 BC, the culture ministry announced.

Archaeologists have unearthed the lower part of the stone-made monument near the village of Pyrgos some 100 kilometres north-west of Athens.

An inscription identified the finding as a trophy raised there by Roman General Sulla after his victory over Mithridates, King of Pontus - a kingdom on the Black Sea in Asia Minor.

It represents the trunk of a tree like the ones on which Roman victors used to nail the equipment of the defeated after battle, the ministry said."

Monday, November 29, 2004

Gallic war treasures discovered in sourthern France

Five almost complete carnyx, Celtic war trumpets, are among the some 470 objects, or fragments of objects, found during a dig at Naves, in the department of Correze in southern France, in a ditch hollowed out of a Gallic-Roman temple.

"The long, bronze tubes, measuring more than two metres long, have flags on the end, four of which bear the head of a wild boar, the fifth a snake.

In addition to the traditional warfare - swords, sheathes and spearheads, the archaeologists made another special discovery: nine war helmets, of which eight in bronze and one in iron, with their rear peaks.

One of them was particularly original, being decorated with a swan, while another was decorated with golden leaves. Also unearthed in the search are bronze animals' heads - boars and a horse."

Monday, November 22, 2004

LifePlus computer sim brings Pompeii to life

Swiss Info:
The ruins of a bar come to life as visitors wearing 3D glasses watch the waiter pouring out spiced wine for customers. In a nearby room, a beautiful woman reclines on a couch as she is wooed by a handsome centurion. Meanwhile, two women in Roman garb have a heated discussion as they wander through a leafy arbour.

With LifePlus prototype, such images are supplied by a computer carried in visitors? rucksacks to enhance their experience of touring the centuries-old city. Eventually they could be sent from a tiny computational device fitted to the headset.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Pompeii pottery may rewrite history

ABC News in Science: "Australian researcher Jaye Pont from the Museum of Ancient Cultures at Sydney's Macquarie University says people who lived in Pompeii bought their pottery locally and didn't import it.

Pont and Macquarie University geologist Dr Patrick Conaghan examined 200 thin sections of the pottery under a microscope and looked at tiny flecks in the clay.

The flecks, which contained the mineral leucite, were identical in composition and unique to the Bay of Naples region, where Mount Vesuvius is found.

Inhabitants of Pompeii and other areas such as northern Africa, where the pottery is also found, were thought to have traded extensively with the eastern Roman Empire.

Pont said her research would "turn upside down" old notions of commerce and trade between Pompeii and the eastern Roman Empire."

Friday, November 05, 2004

Rabbits Threaten Ardoch Fort

ic Perthshire: "ONE of Britain's richest businessmen is set to do battle with thousands of rabbits in a bid to protect Scotland's foremost Roman remains.

UK-based billionaire Mohammed Al Tajir is locked in talks with Historic Scotland following damning reports on the deteriorating state of the 2000-year-old Ardoch Fort on his estate at Braco.

Archaeologist Dr David Woolliscroft has worked periodically at the Roman Fort since the 1980s. And he has now warned that unless the rabbits which infest the site are brought under control, their continuing burrowing will see the Roman remains collapse and crumble.

The Roman expert from Liverpool University claims rabbits have already devastated important archaeological relics all across Britain. Now time is running out at Ardoch Fort and the defensive line of the Gask Ridge with rabbits threatening defences that kept hoards of marauding Picts at bay."

Ancient Roman Cemetery Vandalized

Haaretz Article: "An archeological excavation site on the Acre-Safed road was vandalized by unknown assailants on the night between Thursday and Friday.
The director of the excavation site, Yotam Tefer, said the vandals destroyed archeological findings and damaged digging equipment and bulldozers.

The excavations were initiated six months ago in order to salvage an ancient Roman cemetery unearthed in Acre's city center during works on a new two level underpass on the Acre-Safed road."

Thursday, November 04, 2004

On the Trail of Lars Porsena

The Economist: ArchaeologyFew tombs would be juicier than that of Lars Porsena, an Etruscan king who ruled in central Italy around 500BC. Porsena's tomb has been sought for centuries in the rubble under the Tuscan city of Chiusi, which is believed by most authorities to stand on the site of Porsena's capital, Clusium. No sign of it, however, has ever been found. And that, according to Giuseppe Centauro, of the University of Florence, is because everybody is looking in the wrong place.

The Etruscans were big on tombs?constructing entire cities for the dead to inhabit?but Porsena's was supposedly the biggest of the lot. It was, according to one ancient source, a monument of rectangular masonry with a square base whose sides were 90 metres (about 300 feet) long and 15 metres high. On this base stood five pyramids, four at the corners and one in the centre, and the points of these pyramids supported a ring from which hung bells whose sound reached for miles when stirred by the wind. From this level rose five more pyramids, and from these another five.

Chiusi was clearly once an Etruscan city, but the evidence that it was actually Clusium boils down to the fact that the two names mean the same thing (?closed?). Such nominative determinism is hardly conclusive. Dr Centauro prefers his evidence to be wrought in stone, and he thinks the most persuasive pile of masonry around is actually on a mountainside near Florence.

The outer walls of the main site are three metres thick, several metres high, uncemented and regular in construction. From the style of the masonry, Dr Centauro is convinced the remains are Etruscan. At corners where they have collapsed, small rooms are visible. These, he thinks, would have accommodated the sentries who manned the watchtowers.

So where is the tomb? And is it unlooted? Sadly for goldbugs, its riches are probably gone. In 89BC Cornelius Sulla, a Roman general, sacked Clusium and razed it to the ground. But if the ancient descriptions of the tomb are even a pale reflection of the truth, that amount of masonry is unlikely to have wandered far.

Lars Porsena's place in history was ensured by his interference in the revolution that made Rome a republic. The last Roman king, Lucius Tarquinius, nicknamed ?Superbus? because of his arrogance, was Etruscan. When he was deposed by the revolutionaries, he appealed to Porsena for help. There are conflicting accounts of whether Porsena succeeded in capturing and ruling Rome, or was forced to make peace with the revolutionaries. Either way, most of those accounts agree that he was eventually buried in a fabulous tomb near his home city of Camars, or Clusium as the Romans called it.

Romans laid foundation for cosmetics

World : "Scientists have unearthed a tin canister dating back to the middle of the second century AD in an excavated Roman temple precinct in London that contains a sophisticated cream that could rival today's top cosmetics.

'It is quite a complicated little mixture,' Richard Evershed, an analytical chemist at the University of Bristol in south-western England, said on Wednesday."

"The pot, measuring 60 mm x 52 mm, is thought to be the only Roman tin of cream of its kind to be found intact and in such good condition. The cream consists of about 40 per cent animal fat - most likely from sheep or cattle - 40 per cent starch and tin oxide. The fat forms the creamy base and the tin oxide makes the mixture opaque white."

Friday, October 08, 2004

Horse ornament found in Roman military camp excavation near Zagreb

Independent Online: "An ornament for horses dating back to the 1st century A.D. has been found during excavations of a Roman Empire-era military camp near the southern Croatian city of Drnis, local media reports said on Friday.

Croatian Minister for Culture Bozo Biskupic said the ornament - a small, crescent-shaped object fashioned from bronze and designed to be worn on the animal's head - was a 'European archaeological sensation' because it was the biggest such item found and very well-preserved."

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Carneddau ponies

ic Wales: "THE origins of the Carneddau ponies are lost in the mists of time, but researcher Debbie Wareham thinks their ancestors could have been around before the Roman invasion of Britain.

The horses used by the Romans in their subjugation of indigenous people in North Wales were inferior to the animals used by the local tribes which were acclimatised to the harsh winters.

Ms Wareham said the jaw bone of an equine, with three teeth attached, had been discovered on the Great Orme, near Llandudno, and dated to 10,000 years ago."

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Large Roman coin cache found in Surrey

Large Roman coin cache found in Surrey: "One of the biggest finds of Roman coins ever discovered in Surrey has been unearthed on a farm at Leigh.

Almost 60 silver denarii dating back to 30BC were located after Martin Adams, a metal detecting enthusiast, received a signal on his machine.

"There are coins from about half a dozen Roman rulers. This is the first Roman find in the area for some 30 years and now we know that there must have been a settlement.

"These areas on the edge of the weald were not intensively occupied. We are talking about a small farm - similar to that recently discovered at Meath Green, Horley, which is Roman or earlier, and points to a surprising amount of ancient activity.

"The settlement at Leigh would probably have been an early type of farm with a non-tiled dwelling made from wattle and daub - a network of twigs and rods plastered with mud or clay used as a building material. In other words a primitive cement. "

Dispute over Roman bones halts underpass

Dispute over Roman bones halts underpass: "The contractors of Yefe Nof construction company received a direct order from Transport Ministry director-general Bentzi Salman to stop building a two level underpass at the eastern entrance to Acre-Safed. The stoppage was the result of heavy political pressure from the ultra-Orthodox community following the discovery of ancient graves.

A salvage dig was begun on the site in coordination with the construction company. The archaeologist in charge of the excavations, Yotam Tepper determined that the human remains were of Roman soldiers. This was based on artifacts, including pagan altars, a hoard of coins that was apparently a soldier's salary, and the fact that the bones were burned, which was not in keeping with Jewish tradition."

6th century Byzantine style chosen for new orthodox church

Immortality, for a Price: "A small Orthodox Christian congregation is finishing plans to build the first Byzantine-style church in Northern Virginia, modeled after a 6th-century Italian architectural masterpiece, the Church of St. Vitale in Ravenna. To help pay for the project, which could cost up to $2.4 million, the church plans to paint portraits of its most generous donors on an interior wall in spots historically reserved for saints, religious icons or an occasional emperor.

St. Vitale is famed for its octagonal architecture and its mosaics, which depict Emperor Justinian, who ruled the Roman Empire during the sixth century, and his wife, Theodora.

"From a symbolic standpoint, [the dome] represents eternity and heaven," said Christos J. Kamages, principal architect for CJK Design Group. "From a physical standpoint, it takes light that God provides and brings it into the church at a 360-degree angle.""

Roman Bridge Excavation Ending

"A MAJOR archaeological rescue dig revealing the largest stone bridge in Roman Britain is nearing its end.

Experts working on the summer excavation on the River Tyne, in Corbridge, have uncovered the most completely preserved construction of its type in the country.

The dig, carried out by archaeologists from Tyne and Wear Museums, revealed huge stone blocks, up to a ton in weight, and carved masonry, showing the scale and decoration of the bridge.

The bridge, which carried the main Roman road from London to Scotland, was built to proclaim the power of the Roman Empire and particularly the Imperial House.

A massive ramp, almost 12 metres wide, which would have carried the Roman Great North Road onto the bridge, was uncovered, as well as a 19 metre long retaining wall to protect the south-east side.

Fallen from the bridge superstructure is a huge decorated octagonal stone, thought to be the capital from a pillar or monumental feature which once marked the point where the road rose onto the bridge."

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Was Herodian palace in Ramat Hanadiv Captured or Surrendered?

The Jewish millionaire who surrendered to the Romans: "Dozens of coins from the tenth Roman Legion, uncovered during the last excavation season at the Herodian palace in Ramat Hanadiv, offer some insight on the demise of the glamorous palace. Prof. Yizhar Hirschfeld, a Hebrew University archeologist who has been managing the excavations at the site since the 1980s, says that it is possible to learn from the presence of the coins that that the palace was abandoned during the Great Rebellion that started in 66 CE not far away from there, in Caesarea.
The findings at the site do not make it possible to determine whether the palace was captured by force or abandoned and then fell into Roman hands, says Hirschfeld. But they do say something about the haste of the residents as they left. Among other things found at the site were a gold earring and a gold clasp - jewels that even a person of means does not leave behind during a leisurely moving to another place."

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Ancient Mosaic Uncovered In Hertfordshire

Ancient Mosaic Uncovered In Hertfordshire: "The field archaeology unit at St Albans Museums was digging a trench for a new electricity cable when Jack Couch made the new find of a chequered mosaic.

Probably not seen for nearly 2,000 years, the mosaic is made up of red or brown tessera in a grid of grey Purbeck marble. It may be from the corridor of a town house built close to the hypocaust.

In Roman times hot air, stoked from a pit in a smaller adjoining room, was drawn underneath the floor of the hypocaust building, once part of a large house with up to 35 rooms.

Keeper of archaeology at St Albans Museums Dave Thorold said: 'A new mosaic is always an interesting find. This type of mosaic would have been found in a high quality town house with between 20 to 30 rooms."

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Recreation of Etruscan Matron Points to Change in Ancient Art

"In her late teens, Seianti Hanunia Tlesnasa had a nasty fall from a horse. No bones were broken but, as a result of the accident, she lost many of her teeth. Damage to her right hip and jaw set the stage for debilitating and painful osteoarthritis, as well as a twisted spine. Although she married and bore children, the once agile horsewoman gained weight from lack of exercise and was eventually reduced to porridge and complaints.

According to British archeologist John Prag, the re-creation of Seianti's life and looks solves a mystery that has long baffled archeologists and art historians: when and where in the ancient world did people make the psychological and artistic step from the general to the specific in the depiction of individual people.

In Prag's view, the when is about the 6th century BC and the where is Etruscan Italy."

Mildenhall treasure of Roman silver featured in British Museum traveling exhibit

"The first major national exhibition of British archaeology in over 20 years, Buried treasure: Finding our past will show how much chance archaeological discoveries have revolutionised the understanding of our past. We also celebrate the role of the general public in discovering treasures over the centuries, from farmers ploughing fields to metal detector users. Major treasures on display include the Mildenhall treasure of Roman silver, the Ringlemere gold cup, the Winchester gold, the Amesbury Archer and the Fishpool hoard. Many treasures will be on view for the first time."

It's next appearance will be the Manchester Museum beginning October 4, 2004.

Roman Basilica Target of New Dig in Tiberias

The next scheduled excavation session at the ancient site of Tiberias will be devoted to the exposure of the Roman basilica and auxiliary buildings in use between the 2nd and 10th centuries CE. In contrast to the basilical plans of the church on top of Mount Berenice and the synagogue of Hammat Tiberias, this basilica was not used for sacral purposes. The excavation is planned between October 31-November 25, 2004.

See also: Digging Up Ancient Tiberias

and: Rediscovering Tiberias

Roman Zeugma inspiration for new fashions

"The Turkish designer, Atil Kutoglu took inspiration from the ancient Roman city of Zeugma, founded in 300 BC, for a collection of robes, cloaks and fresco-printed tunics, worn with flat 'centurion' sandals.

Atil Kutoglu drapes his models in clothes inspired by ancient Rome

Princess Michael of Kent was a surprise front row guest as Naomi Campbell opened Kutoglu's show in a modest, grey silk, pleated toga-dress, which enveloped her from neck to over-the-knee.

Other models appeared in long, silk kaftans, in wide, multi-coloured bands of rose, olive and pink; tunics gilt-printed with details of Romanesque frescoes over raw-hem sarong skirts; hooded cloaks in glittering brocades and floor-sweeping gowns suspended from gold breastplate-necklaces.

The collection was graceful and womanly, evocative of a Cecil B de Mille biblical epic.."

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Torlonia Roman Sculptures to Go On Display

"The Torlonia Statues, regarded as one of the world's greatest private collections of ancient Roman sculpture, will go on display again after 40 years in storage, Italy's Culture Ministry says.

Named after the aristocratic family which formed it over centuries, the Torlonia collection includes 620 marble and alabaster statues and sarcophagi from the Roman empire.

Among the works are busts of Julius Caesar, sculptures of ancient gods and masterful Roman copies of Greek statues.

A ministry spokesman on Wednesday confirmed comments by Culture Minister Carlo Urbani, who in excerpts of a new book published in the Corriere della Sera newspaper, said an agreement had been reached with the family and a Rome bank to show the works at Palazzo Sciara in central Rome. He gave no precise date."

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Another Roman mosaic uncovered at St. Albans

This Is Hertfordshire: News and Features: Watford: "An archaeologist has unearthed a colourful 3rd Century mosaic in Verulamium Park, St Albans, during building works on the ancient hypocaust and mosaic site. Probably not seen for nearly 2,000 years, the mosaic is made up of red or brown tessera in a grid of grey Purbeck marble. "

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Infant interment in Roman villa foundation thought to be part of ritual

Herts24: "ARCHAEOLOGISTS working on the site of a Roman villa just outside Wheathampstead are puzzled by the discovery of the skeleton of a baby.

For they believe that the child, which died either shortly before or after birth, may have been buried in the foundations of the villa as part of a ritual ceremony.

Field archaeologist Simon West said: 'We are not sure why this type of practice was carried out but it could be to, in some way, bring luck to the house.'"

Ancient Rome's fish pens confirm sea-level fears

"Coastal fish pens built by the Romans have unexpectedly provided the most accurate record so far of changes in sea level over the past 2000 years. It appears that nearly all the rise in sea level since Roman times has happened in the past 100 years, and is most likely the result of human activity.

The Romans dug these fish pens into bedrock, and the water line in these well-preserved structures shows that the sea level along the Italian coast 2000 years ago was 1.35 metres below today's levels. "They were used for only a very short time, so they make rather nice markers," says Kurt Lambeck of the Australian National University in Canberra.

He then analysed how land elevations changed along the Italian coast due to both plate tectonics and the after-effects of the last ice age. In a paper to appear in Earth and Planetary Science Letters, he concludes that geological processes affecting land levels over the past two millennia accounted for 1.22 metres of the change, which means that the global sea level rose by 13 centimetres.

That is only about 100 years' worth of rise at the present rate of around 1 to 2 millimetres per year, implying that nearly all of it has occurred since 1900."

Friday, August 13, 2004

Mystery of Iron Age woman with rings on her toes

Mystery of Iron Age woman with rings on her toes - The Herald: "SHE would have been a highly-skilled artisan who was buried 1500 years ago, her body covered with ornate jewellery and emblems of her high status.
Yet, with her rings still adorning her toes, she was laid to rest in one of the most unusual burial sites known to archaeologists: beneath the floor of a busy Iron Age workshop.
The discovery, at Mine Howe in Orkney, is extremely rare for an Iron Age site in Scotland and has baffled the team carrying out the dig."

Tours of Hadrian's Villa Now Available

IOL: World: "Hadrian's Villa, the largest and among the most sumptuous of the villas built by Roman emperors, is open for floodlit evening tours.

Visitors to the villa, which is situated near Tivoli, about 25km east of Rome, will be given guided tours of the site by an archaeologist."

Byzantine Shipwreck Found on "Circe's Sandbanks"

Agenzia Giornalistica Italia - News In English: "The wreck of a Byzantine ship whose period is datable between the third and the fourth century after Christ, was found on the seabed of Ragusa by Carabinieri underwater squads of Messina. The ship is a few metres under the water on 'Circe's sandbanks', in front of Marina di Marza's coast, near Ispica."

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

What lies beneath in Pompeii

MSNBC - What lies beneath in PompeiiLast month, a team of archaeologists from Italy's Basilicata University uncovered the remains of a structure built by the Samnites, a mountain warrior people who conquered, inhabited, built up and ruled Pompeii before Roman chariots wheeled into town.

The diggers were looking for something else -- remains of Pompeii's harbor. Instead, they found a pre-Roman temple wall, clay offerings to the Samnite goddess of love, and a basin and terracotta pipes indicating the site of a ritual bath.

The Basilicata researchers were digging below Pompeii's surface because the focus of excavations had changed. For the past 250 years, most excavation has concentrated on the Roman city that was suspended in ash and stone by the eruption of Vesuvius in A.D. 79.

Until the 1990s, local officials believed constant discoveries from the Roman era were needed to keep Pompeii in the news and to preserve its spot as Italy's most popular tourist attraction.

But current administrators say this approach has become counterproductive, pointing out that they can barely afford to maintain the scores of monuments already exposed along Pompeii's lava-stone streets.

Pompeii's archaeological superintendent, Pietro Giovanni Guzzo, in office for a decade, decreed an end to the expansion of digs outward. He says digging down not only allows him to spend money on preserving the already exposed parts of Pompeii, but also is scientifically rewarding.

"By searching vertically, one uncovers the full history of the city. The surface Roman part is only part of the story," Guzzo said.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Polish excavation in Syria sheds new light on cult of Mithrae

Polish excavation in Syria sheds new light on ancient cult: "Archaeologists used to believe the cult of Mithrae was born in the Middle East, that it had its roots in the Persian Zoroastrian cult and later spread to Europe. But a major archaeological discovery of a cave in Syria seems to suggest the opposite.

The small village of Hurrarte lies stranded in the middle of the Syrian desert. It is here that a few years ago a Polish excavation team unearthed a cave from underneath a Byzantine church. Its walls were covered with paintings dating to the Roman period - paintings such as a god cutting the throat of a bull, monsters being defeated by a beam of light and lions protecting the entrance.

These paintings appear to validate the theory that the cult of the god Mithrae existed in the Syrian desert.

'It is one of the rare examples of the worship of the god Mithare in the Middle East, it shows that this divinity is not linked to the Persian Zoroastre cult,' says archaeologist Michel Gawlikowski, director of the polish team, in a recent lecture at the American University of Beirut's Museum of Archaeology.

'Mithrae is always represented as a young male who is cutting the throat of a bull. He is here to revitalize nature and his worshippers, and not to impose a code of justice upon his followers, as was the case in Persian cults. Mithrae was mentioned in a Latin poem dating from the 1st century and it seems that this religion was made up by a Roman thinker who has merged Persian religion with the Hellenistic one and invented a new mythology,' says Gawlikowski."

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Archaeologists uncover Roman bridge

"The ruins of the bridge, which would have once crossed the River Tynein Corbridge, Northumberland is being excavated by an archaeology team from the Tyne and Wear Museum. With the help of volunteers and trainees, who started work on the excavation two weeks ago, the team has already uncovered the spectacular scale and decoration of the bridge, which would have carried the main Roman road from London to Scotland.

Tyne and Wear Museums keeper of archaeology Margaret Snape said: "This is a very exciting project giving us the opportunity to uncover and display a spectacular example of Roman architecture and engineering. "

Etruscan Exhibit Explores Ancient Cosmopolitan Society

ETRUSCAN PROSPERITY was based on trade and the production of metals. To use a modern word, they were cosmopolitan. They had contacts throughout the Mediterranean. Consequently the Treasures from Tusacany exhibition is by no means only one of Etruscan art and artefacts. It reflects this cosmopolitan culture. There are Greek and Roman objects and Etruscan objects adapted from Greek and Roman originals. One of the most beautiful things here, for instance, is a vase painted by the great Athenian painter Polygnotus. When they bought abroad, the Etruscans clearly bought at the top end of the market. But they were no mere copyists. Their jewellery is exquisite. There are rings, earrings and necklaces in gold, worked with astonishing delicacy. They were masters in working bronze casting and there are also beautifully carved ivory plaques used for decoration. One of these shows two men reclining, enjoying a drink. Feasting was important, and it seems to have included men and women equally. The Etruscans lived in cities, but this is a landscape that has supported sophisticated urban life continuously for almost 3,000 years. You can’t dig up Florence to look for traces of its first inhabitants. The great majority of the precious objects on view here come from tombs, therefore, and so we see all this from the curious perspective of the rituals of death.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Livia Augusta regains her head

Caesar's wife statue made whole again: "A caesar's wife may have to be above reproach, but one of them lost her head centuries ago."

The head was found late in the 19th century by Sir Arthur Evans of Knossos fame. He swapped a top hat for two marble heads from a shrine to the cult of Augustus, at what is now a village but was once the important Roman city of Narona.

"In the 1990s, archaeologists of Croatia's national museum in Split re-excavated the site and found many statues, including the rest of Livia, from the wealthy shrine, which was deliberately destroyed when the area became Christian."

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Recreating Pompey for Modern Eyes

Recreating Pompey for Modern Eyes: "In 55 B.C.E., Romans applauded the debut of the world's first modern entertainment complex, a mammoth structure constructed by Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus--better known as Pompey the Great, military conqueror and rival to Julius Caesar. The showy consul named the theater for himself. Today, using archaeology, three-dimensional modeling, virtual reality technology, and digital research, architecture experts are slowly raising the curtain on the Theater of Pompey. 'It's shockingly enormous,' says James Packer, a Northwestern University professor. 'The scale is just astonishing.'

Crowds of between twenty-five and forty thousand people flocked to see the latest spectacles played out on the 260-foot-wide stage. Modern sports fans would recognize the curved stadium seating, the barrel vaults, the VIP balconies--everything but the lack of advertising--and feel right at home.

Packer is directing the excavation of the theater as part of a research project begun in 1996 with Richard Beacham of the University of Warwick (U.K.). In 2002 Packer joined with archaeologist Cristina Gagliardo, architect Dario Silenzi, and engineer Massimo Aristide Giannelli to undertake the first excavation of the theater since 1865."

See also: The Theater of Pompey Project

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Patara a gem of Roman ruins on Turkey's Turquoise Coast

"Patara is a small village on the south-west Aegean coast of Turkey, known as the Turquoise Coast, and is famous for having one of the longest beaches in the Mediterranean. Its 18km of sand provides plenty of raw material for armies of children to build metropoli of sandcastles, as well as a nesting place for turtles, which between June and August emerge at night to lay their eggs in the sands.

Patara is said to be the birthplace of Apollo and, when the Roman empire was at its height, it was one of the most important harbours in the western Mediterranean, sheltering ships from all over the ancient world. You can still find the remains of merchants' bath-houses, their roofs open to the skies. Fallen Porphyry columns lie beside the largest avenue that the Romans ever built.

Most atmospheric of all, though, is Patara's Roman amphitheatre. Once it seated 10,000 citizens, now half of it lies buried under an enormous sand dune. Shelley could have had this place in mind when he wrote his famous sonnet, Ozymandias - 'Round the decay/Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare/The lone and level sands stretch far away'."

Roman Fort still visible at The Dip near Felixstowe

"Felixstowe has a rich Roman history - and the remains of a shore fort at The Dip, where seaweed-topped rocks can still be glimpsed at low tide.

The fort was built in 296 AD. It was of oblong construction and stood on low cliffs on a coastline which at that time was mainly saltmarsh and pocked with inlets. Its promontory was eventually eroded and it collapsed into the sea.

It housed about 100 soldiers whose route across the peninsula was a rough track - the forerunner of the A14 - and there have been a number of finds of coins and other items in the area over the years."

Monday, July 12, 2004

Rare 3rd Century Roman Cup to be Auctioned

"About 1,700 years ago, one of the Roman empire's wealthier citizens commissioned an extraordinary piece of craftsmanship from a glassmaker working somewhere in the eastern Mediterranean. Months of painstaking work turned a single thick piece of colourless glass into a delicate 4in-high cup connected by slender bridges to a surrounding network cage. Just one mistake by the craftsman at any stage would have destroyed this fragile masterpiece.

The cage-cup was probably not a drinking vessel but was instead used as a hanging lamp filled with clear oil and placed high up in one of the rooms of its owner's home, where it cast an intricate shadow on to the walls."

Friday, July 09, 2004

Remains of Samnite Temple Unearthed in Pompeii

"The discovery in Pompeii of a pre-Roman temple is being hailed as evidence that the city was sophisticated and thriving 300 years before Vesuvius erupted. The temple is said to be of Mephitis, a female deity worshipped by the Samnites, a mysterious ancient people who preceded the Romans in Pompeii.

The temple complex includes a sanctuary where it is thought girls from good families worked briefly in 'sacred prostitution' as a rite of passage to full womanhood."

Time Team Find Remains of Roman Era Child in Worksop

"A TWO-thousand-year-old child's skeleton has been found in a 'time team' dig at Worksop - hailed as one of the most significant archaeological finds in the region for years.

The child was still adorned with bangles and bracelets, and is believed to be from a high-ranking Iron Age tribe which flourished during the Roman occupation.

"It is impossible to say at this stage if it was a boy or a girl or what the cause of death was," said Ursilla Spence, senior archaeologist for Nottinghamshire County Council. "But we do know this was a 'high status' burial because of the objects that were buried with the body."

Also clear is the Roman influence on the burial - the Romans would have buried children and old people close to their homes so they could still be 'part of the family'.

The dig has discovered that the tribe living on the site probably had close links with the Romans and traded in what would have been the luxury goods of the period.

Remains of an imposing entrance to the compound have been unearthed - but the experts have been baffled by evidence that suggests the area was later cleared and abandoned."

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Florida State Professor Hunts for Roman-era Pirate Ships

Florida State professor hoping to find Roman-era pirate ships: "When the Roman Empire got tired of pirates terrorizing shipping lanes and nearly bringing the known world's trade to a halt, it went after them hard.

With 120,000 men and 270 ships it reportedly took the Roman general Pompey just 40 days to locate and wipe out the ships and crews that were preying on shipping.

It has taken much, much longer for modern scientists to again find the pirates of the Mediterranean.

But Cheryl Ward, an anthropology professor at Florida State University, hopes she's on the verge of rediscovering the ships of the pirates, a thorn in the side of the Romans 2,100 years ago who now may help provide a unique window on what the larger world looked like in late antiquity.

Ward and her colleagues are hoping to paint a picture of a different class of people from those we know lots about - adding to what we know about the Roman Empire. Much of our knowledge comes from what the educated, wealthy Romans left us in the way of writing and artifacts.

But the pirates were the underclass - the rest of the story."

See also: The Rough Cilicia Maritime Survery Project

Friday, July 02, 2004

Roman Lead Sarcophagus Returned to Syria

: "A decorated fragment of a lead sarcophagus (or coffin) dating from the Roman period has been returned to the Syrian National Museum, thanks to the efforts of experts at Newcastle University's Museum of Antiquities.

The small fragment, which was brought into the University's Museum of Antiquities by a Newcastle resident, dates to the period between the 2nd century BC and the 2nd century AD.

Months of detective work followed, which eventually led to the island city of Aradus on the Ile d'Arwad, off the coast of Syria, a site with a complex Phoenician and Roman history."

Plundered Byzantine antiquities to be returned to Cyprus

Plundered antiquities head home: "HUNDREDS of Byzantine icons, mosaics, and artifacts valued at $52.4 million plundered from Cyprus almost 30 years ago and smuggled to Germany by thieves to sell on the black market will be returned, a German judge has ruled.

The artifacts, recovered during a sting operation in 1997, were looted from Greek Orthodox churches and museums in northern Cyprus in the chaos during the 1974 Turkish invasion of the island, Judge Hanreich said.

They include religious icons, wall paintings and ceiling mosaics - invaluable examples of early Christian art."

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Portchester Castle Reveals Roman Origins

"Archaeologists working at Portchester Castle believe they have discovered evidence that it was once a Roman trading port.

Topographic and geophysical surveys of the ancient site have revealed a number of previously uncharted structures dating from Roman, Saxon and medieval times. "

In the outer bailey features were discovered that relate to the Roman, Saxon and medieval periods of the site. Between the inner and outer ditches possible remnants of the Roman fort and a number of medieval and post-medieval structural features were detected.

Portchester’s outer defences incorporate the well-preserved remains of a Roman fort. It is thought to have been established between AD 285 and 290 by Marcus Aurelius Carausius who was instructed by the Emperor Diocletian to clear the seas of pirates.

Roman Villa Unearthed in Shillingstone

"Archaeologists yesterday revealed they have unearthed a huge Roman villa and may have even identified who owned it. They believe the villa, in the heart of the Dorset countryside, was owned by a rich and important native Roman called Anicetus.

He was mentioned by Roman historian Tacitus who said that he possibly donated money to the Roman army.

The luxury residence was erected in the fourth century and fell into disrepair when the Romans left Britain in the fifth century. The two-storey villa was well built and included a bath house, central heating and mosaic floors."

I do hope they at least remove the mosaics before covering the site with new construction. It's always a pity when a mjor site cannot be preserved in situ.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Byzantium 1200

OLD GOLDEN GATE: "After the Theodosian land walls had been built, the wall of Constantine quickly fell in ruins. The only part of it that is known to have survived for a longer time is the old main or Golden Gate, that survived until the ottoman time and was destroyed by a earthquake only in 1509. The medieval name (H)exakionion means 'with six columns'; it suggests that the gate was similar to the Golden Gate of Diocletian's palace in Split and had a upper storey decorated with six columns and niches in between on the outer side. In the last centuries of the Byzantine Empire, this upper storey apparently was used as a funerary chapel, and parts of the building decorated with frescoes. "

I found this spectacular website while checking a reference for Constantine. The 3D architectural renderings of the structures of Byzantium reflect thousands of hours of research and design. I was also impressed by the digital portraits of Constantine and Justinian. I have written to the artist to ask if he would share information about the software and techniques used to create them. Their eyes and skin are so life-like. Justinian even has the stubble of a beard.

Pentecost brings rose petals to the Pantheon

"Every year during the Pentecost Mass, two or three firemen climb the huge lead-covered rings of the Pantheon's dome with huge sacks of rose petals, which they empty over the edge of the oculus to shower slowly, spectacularly down into the rotunda."

This image sounds so beautiful but unfortunately I could not find an actual picture of the Pentecostal service at the Pantheon with Google's image search. The article also mentions the 22 Roman drains that serve to carry away the rain that falls through the oculus. I thought the drains appeared quite elegant themselves.

I also found a poem by Byron about the Pantheon:

"Simple, erect, severe, austere, sublime Shrine of all saints and temple of all Gods, From Jove to Jesus spared and blessed by time, Looking tranquillity, while falls or nods Arch, empire, each thing round thee, and man plods His way through thorns to ashes glorious Dome! Shalt thou not last? Time's scythe and tyrants' rods Shine upon thee—sanctuary and home Of art and piety—Pantheon! Pride of Rome!"

and other interesting information at this website:

Friday, June 25, 2004

Fragments of Roman armlets found in dig

Fragments of Roman armlets found in dig: "Fragments of two glass armlets, dating back to the Roman era, have been discovered during an archaeological dig at Knowes Farm near East Linton.
The remains of several circular Iron Age houses with stone-flagged floors, apparently belonging to the latest period of occupation, have also been uncovered."

New Archaeological findings in Palmyra

A French archaeological team has discovered skeletons buried in wooden coffins dating back to the Byzantine age near the Dora Ourbos gate. Two clay lanterns and a sculptured head of a Palmyran young man dating back to the same period were also discovered.

Head of the French archeological team, Dr. Christina Dablablas said the area is rich in artifacts, a legacy of thousands of years of human settlement. The team's findings will join the collection of religious and funerary art at the Palmyra Museum.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Saalburg offers glimpse into Rome's past

Emperor Antoninus Pius hails you as you approach the Saalburg, a Roman fort tucked away in Germany’s Taunus mountains.

Once it was an outpost guarding the borders of the empire. Today it is a place to step back into time and get an idea of how Roman soldiers once lived.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Huge Etruscan Road Brought to Light

Huge Etruscan Road Brought to Light: "Digging in Capannori, near Lucca, archaeologist Michelangelo Zecchini has uncovered startling evidence of an Etruscan 'highway' which presumably linked Etruscan Pisa, on the Tyrrhenian coast, to the Adriatic port of Spina.

Dating to the end of the 6th century B.C., the seven-meter-wide (23-foot) road supported intense chariot traffic towards Spina, an Etruscan-controlled trading emporium where Etruscan and Greeks lived and worked together, and through which were imported great quantities of Greek goods.

"A great amount of information, including tombs, monuments and villages, lie hidden along this road," Zecchini said.

The ancient highway was also mentioned by Greek geographer Skylax, who in the 4th century B.C. wrote that a great road linked Pisa with Spina by a three-day journey."

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Maidstone Dig uncovers a Roman bath house

Dig uncovers a Roman bath house: A Roman bath house thought to be part of a large villa has been found by archaeologists digging on a building site in Maidstone.

In a month working on the site the archaeologists have uncovered parts of two sunken rooms - a plunge bath and a steam bath.

They have also found footings outlining a small suite of heated and unheated rooms, drainage ditches, pottery, mosaic fragments and painted plaster.

Beneath the villa a series of Iron Age ditches have been discovered, thought to be associated with a pre-Roman farmstead."

The Daily Star - Arts & Culture - What to do when you stumble onto a Roman 'city of the dead'? Call in the antiquities cops

What to do when you stumble onto a Roman 'city of the dead'? : "On a site in Gemmayzeh, Lebanon archaeologists have found the remains of 20 skeletons, buried in sand with funerary deposits consisting of small ceramic perfume bottles.

'This was the ritual at the time,' explains Assaad Seif, an archaeologist who was educated at the Lebanese University and the Sorbonne in Paris, and has been working with the DGA since 1996. 'On the analysis and interpretation level, this is what's interesting. ... The information (we have) comes from Pompeii, from texts. Archaeology helps us in Lebanon to discover the things not written, the traditions with local sub-traditions. Burial customs are not the same everywhere. There are small changes in the mainstream.'
In addition to the skeletons, Seif believes that the marble column found on the site belongs to an important structure, perhaps a mausoleum, which has yet to be fully discovered. 'Usually in Roman cities,' he says, speaking about a pattern of ancient urban development he's witnessed in such Lebanese cities as Tyre, where 'the cities of the dead are usually found off the eastern entrance of the city. A necropolis can remain so for thousands of years. When the city grows, it builds over it.'"

Ancient bowl found in second-hand shop - (United Press International)

Ancient bowl found in second-hand shop - (United Press International): "A Norwegian archeology student found an ancient Roman glass bowl in a second-hand shop and was able to buy it for less than 1 percent of its real value.

Espen Kutschera saw the bowl, which is about 1,900 years old and from the Roman Empire, at a store called Fretex and bought it for $15, the Bergensavisen newspaper reported Friday.

Experts put the bowl's real value at $7,500."

Haaretz - Israel News - Priceless Byzantine artifact stolen from archaeological park

Haaretz - Israel News - Priceless Byzantine artifact stolen from archaeological park: "A priceless 1,500-year-old Byzantine-era artifact was stolen early yesterday from an archaeological park near Herzliya, police said.

The thieves took a part of the floor of a glass kiln, one of only three still in existence in Israel. Police suspect the theft had been commissioned by a private antiques collector.

'This was a part of the glass kiln that served the Byzantine city of Apolonia 1,500 years ago,' said archaeologist Hagi Yohanan, director of the Apolonia park built over the ruins of the city.

Following the 4th century split in the Roman empire, the Holy Land came under the rule of Christian Byzantine, until it was conquered by the Arabs in 636. Archaeologically, the period is noted for the building of many monasteries and churches across the country."

Some Roman Britons may be descended from Africans

"Archaeologists say there is compelling evidence that a 500-strong unit of Moors manned a fort near Carlisle in the third century AD. Writing in the journal British Archaeology, Mr Benjamin describes a fourth century inscription discovered in Beaumount, two miles from the remains of the Aballava fort at Burgh by Sands. The inscription refers to the "numerus of Aurelian Moors" - a unit of North Africans, probably named after the emperor Marcus Aurelius.

The unit is also mentioned in the Notitia Dignitatum, a Roman list of officials and dignitaries. It describes the prefect of the "numeri Maurorum Aurelianorum, Aballaba".

The unit was probably mustered in the Roman province of Mauretania, in modern-day Morocco, by the emperor Septimus Severus and arrived in Britain in the second or third centuries AD. Aballava lay at the western end of Hadrian's Wall in Cumbria."

Roman 'industrial estate' found

"Experts who unearthed the best preserved example in Wales of a medieval track, have now found what they believe is the equivalent of a Roman 'industrial estate.'

"We think we're starting to uncover an example of a Roman industrial site that probably did some sort of smelting because there are examples of charcoals and other heavily burnt items, said Project manager Nigel Page, of Cambria Archaeology."

Pergamon Altar's Frieze Restored

"After a decade of painstaking cleaning, Berlin's Pergamon Museum has unveiled the restored marble frieze of the Pergamon Altar, the second century B.C. centerpiece of its collection. The 371 foot-long frieze decorated the outside walls of the altar, which was built between 197 and 156 B.C. in the present-day Turkish town of Bergama.

A German engineer discovered fragments of the frieze, which had been taken apart and incorporated into the walls of a fortress, in 1864. It displays mythological scenes of gods fighting giants, snarling lions and coiling snakes, with the muscular bodies of Artemis, Zeus and Athena clad in delicately sculpted folds of fabric. "

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Pioneering archaeological research charts African links with the Roman world

"University of Southampton archaeologists Professor David Peacock and Dr Lucy Blue have just returned from a pioneering expedition investigating Roman sites in the East African country of Eritrea alongside colleagues from the University of Asmara. The University group is the first from the UK to work in the country since it won its independence more than a decade ago.

British involvement in the area has a long history. In 1868 General Napier landed his troops near Adulis in a daring bid to rescue British hostages held by Emperor Theodore at his fortress of Magdala, now in Ethiopia. Napier built a landing stage and a railway to transport troops and equipment to the interior, and traces still survive on the coast 6 km to the east of Adulis. Archaeologists from the British Museum, who accompanied the army, excavated a church at Adulis, which can still be seen in a ruinous state."

See also: Eritrea Ruins of History

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Algorithms from the Human Genome Project used to piece together ancient Roman Map

"It's the world's oldest and largest jigsaw puzzle - an ancient map of Rome in 1,200 fragments of marble. Archaeologists for centuries have tried to painstakingly piece together the sculpture, fragment by fragment. Now, computer wizards at Stanford University say they have created a software program that holds the key to the puzzle and the ancient city.

At the heart of the program are three-dimensional scans of the fragments and algorithms to find possible matches. Already the work has produced several dozen probable and possible matches.
'They've advanced farther and faster in the last months than we have in centuries,' said Roman archaeologist Margaret Laird, a visiting lecturer at the University of Chicago. 'These new matches are going to change a lot of what we know about the city of Rome.'

The undertaking is a five-year study conducted by Marc Levoy, an associate professor of computer science and electrical engineering at Stanford, to be completed by the summer. The findings and interactive 3-D models of the fragments are online, allowing scholars as well as elementary-school students unprecedented access to the monument."

Hopscotch: A Roman invention

On our imperial Rome discussion list we have been talking about how the Roman legions had to maintain a high level of physical fitness. So I found this item particularly interesting:

HOPSCOTCH: The Romans introduced Hopscotch to Britain. Their soldiers had to hop up and down along a 100ft court in their full armour to improve their footwork. Children copied this as a game and introduced scoring. Romans also played ball games, and had building blocks, swings and kites.

Apparently, the Romans also played marbles and may have adopted yo-yos from the ancient Greeks as well:

MARBLES: The earliest marbles were made of flint and clay, and in some cases marble, and date back as far as Ancient Egypt and Rome. The Venetians were the first to make glass marbles and the Germans began to mass produce them in the 19th century.

YO-YOs: Yo-Yos are the second oldest known toy. In ancient Greece they were made of terracotta, wood and metal and decorated with the pictures of the gods. As a rite of passage adult Greeks used to give up their childhood toys and place them on the family altar.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Yale Acquires Roman Coin Collection

"Yale University Art Gallery has acquired a collection of 4,100 coins of Greek and Roman origin. The collection was established over a period of forty years by Peter R. Franke, formerly Professor of Ancient History and Numismatics and head of the Institute for Ancient History at the University of Saarbrucken, Germany. Franke was mentor to many of the numismatists on staff at various collections throughout Europe, and taught until recently at the Institut fur Numismatik in Vienna. He is well-known as the author of a number of specialized monographs as well as introductory treatments of coinage. Although it covers the entire Mediterranean basin, the principal focus of the collection on Greek coins of the Roman period, which were produced at individual cities to meet local currency needs. "I am delighted that my collection has been acquired by Yale," said Professor Franke, "since I know that there the coins will be employed for teaching as well as research, and my work will be continued."

William E. Metcalf, who was appointed the first curator of coins and medals at the Yale Art Gallery in 2002 as well as adjunct professor of Classics, remarked, "Franke did not collect just to fill gaps in his holdings, every coin has a reason for being there. For the art historian, there are continuous streams of imperial portraits from various regions of the Roman Empire; for the historian there is evidence of local cults and magistrates, as well as representations of local buildings and such customs as games and religious festivals."

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Archaeologists Locate Ancient Indo-Roman Trading Site

"Striking archaeological evidence suggests that the legendary seaport of Muziris, which was a bustling Indo-Roman centre of trade during the early historic period between the first century BC and the fifth century AD, could have been located at Pattanam, near Paravur on the south of the Periyar rivermouth.

What led Dr. K.P. Shajan, geoarchaeologist, and his team to Pattanam was clear geological evidence which suggested that the river Periyar had shifted its course from the south to the north over the millennia. A branch of the Periyar, called the Periyar Thodu, runs close to Pattanam and satellite imagery indicates that the Periyar delta lies on the southern side and the river could have flowed close to Pattanam about 2,000 years ago. This would place the ancient site alongside the Periyar in keeping with the descriptions in literary sources.

The site covers an area of about 1.5 sq km and the deposit is about two metres thick. It has produced fragments of imported Roman amphora, mainly used for transporting wine and olive oil, Yemenese and West Asian pottery, besides Indian rouletted ware common on the East Coast of India and also found in Berenike in Egypt. Bricks, tiles, pottery shards, beads and other artefacts found at Pattanam are very similar to those found at Arikamedu and other early historic sites in India.

The most striking finds from Pattanam are the rim and handle of a classic Italian wine amphora from Naples which was common between the late first century BC and 79 AD, when pottery production in the region was disrupted by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. Islamic glazed ware from West Asia indicate that the site remained active beyond the early historic period.

Monday, March 22, 2004

1st and 2nd Century Artifacts Recovered in Naples

"750 Artifacts including 22 high-quality marble and terracotta artefacts from the 1st and 2nd centuries a.C., probably belonging to patrician families from Pozzuoli and Baia who lived in the Roman Empire era, have been recovered by police in Naples. Some of the 350 terracotta artefacts from Cales dating back to the 1st and 2nd century A.C. are still covered in soil. 'These finds have an incredible value - says Paolo Caputo, head of the police archaeology department for Naples and Caserta."

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Ancient Tiberias to rise from the ruins

"From the vestiges of an old quarry, piles of rock, weeds, and a sewage treatment plant, a whole city will rise over the next 10 to 15 years. The theater will host performances, couples will stroll the main street, and the magnificent mosaics will be a sight for the sore eyes of visitors from afar. "

Tiberias was founded in 20 C.E. and its Jewish community continued in existence until the 11th century. At its height, from the 3rd to the 8th century, some 25,000-30,000 people lived there. According to Hirschfeld, "the city was full of life, with crowded streets, a busy fishing port and a market for the entire Galilee." Tiberias served as a spiritual and political hub for the Jewish people, as well as a center for halakha (Jewish religious law).

By the end of the 4th century, Tiberias also became a center of Christian pilgrimage. Professor Yizhar Hirschfeld of Hebrew University's Institute of Archaeology, director of the excavation, said, "This is one of the most beautiful sites in the world, of the greatest significance for Jewish history. Few other sites in the Roman Empire were more important."

Hirschfeld spoke of the markets and the bathhouse, which figured prominently in the sayings of the ancient Jewish sages, where "wise men would sit and spin tales." He showed the location of the basilica in which the Sanhedrin had its headquarters; the city's walls and its theater; the study house and the beautiful mosaics of the synagogues.

See also Tiberias

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Second Roman Coin Featuring "Emperor" Domitianus Found

"A man with a metal detector has unearthed a Roman coin so rare it bears the face of a mystery emperor who ruled Britain for a matter of days.

Brian Malin, a father-of-one from Oxfordshire, unearthed the bronze coin in a field in Oxfordshire bearing the face of Emperor Domitianus.

It is only the second coin in existence to bear the image of the self-proclaimed ruler of Britain and France in 271AD.

A similar coin was found in France 100 years ago but until now its uniqueness had meant both Emperor Domitianus and the coin were dismissed as a hoax.

Historians say the British discovery confirms the French find is genuine and Domitianus existed.

They believe he was an upstart from the Roman legion who was ousted for treason for daring to declare himself emperor and have the coins made."

Richard Abdy, Roman coin curator at the British Museum, said: "The Roman empire was beginning to fray. Domitianus, it looks, ruled in 271AD, he was the penultimate emperor and there was only one coin with his image."

"There have been references to Domitianus in two ancient texts but they described him as an officer who had been punished for treason."

Domitianus probably ruled Britain for only days which would explain why only two coins bearing his image exist, said Mr Abdy.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Classical Scholars Aghast at Plans to Restore Ancient Rome

"A 78-year-old Italian professor of architecture, Carlo Aymonino, has been entrusted by the city's mayor with redesigning the area around the Roman forum - once dominated by a soaring, white marble temple.

Part of the professor's plan is to restore the ancient Coliseum
His plan is to do away with the modern road leading to the Coliseum, the ancient Roman amphitheatre where gladiators once fought wild animals - and each other - to entertain the crowds.

The modern road, built by Mussolini, covers many important ruins.
Professor Aymonino also proposes to fill in the missing part of the outer wall of the Coliseum with red brick.

He wants to clean out the weeds and the rubble nearby and to reconstruct part of the temple of Jupiter - which formed the heart of ancient Rome - adding a transparent dome amid the ruins. "

Antonine Wall's "Fields of Lilias" Nothing to Sneeze At

"Excavations of the 38-mile Antonine wall at Mumrills Fort, near Falkirk, have revealed evidence of the Romans' defensive structures, which were designed to cause the maximum damage to attackers, and even the daily cooking routines of foot-soldiers.
Archaeologists have discovered that the frontier, which briefly supplanted Hadrian's wall in the second century AD, was lined with pits filled with stakes which may have been dotted with sharp objects such as glass.

Similar fortifications, known as lilia because they apparently reminded Romans of lilies, are shown on Trajan's column in Rome and were described by Julius Caesar in the Gallic Wars, his description of one of his own campaigns.

Geoff Bailey, keeper of archaeology and local history at Falkirk Museum, said: 'We have now found these lilia on eight separate occasions and it looks like they will have gone along the whole 38 miles of the wall. They are another part of the defensive system which had never been discovered before. The Romans would have had the ditch, the wall and these lilia, which you could call the ancient Roman equivalent of the minefield.

'The Germans had similar structures called wolf pits in the first world war, and they were used relatively recently in the Vietnam war where they were smeared with animal fat, so that any injury inflicted would become infected.
We just don't know if the Romans did something similar here, but they provided an extra obstacle for people moving north to south and channelled people into the heavily guarded gateways where they could be easily controlled.'

Roman Coin Hoard Found in Bulgaria

"A total of 800 golden Republican-period coins dated from the period of II-I century B.C. as well as some Roman denars dated from the I century B.C. have been uncovered by Bulgarian archaeologists during excavations in the Lozyata region near the Pokraina village.

The northern Bulgarian region of Vidin has a rich ancient history as several ancient finds have already been excavated there. Different ancient ceramic works that are still to be studied and a cooper age village disclosed near the Antimovo village are among the numerous finds in the region."

Ancient Infants May Have Been Fed With Cow's Milk

Yorkshire Today:

Molecular-level examinations of 2,000-year-old bones from the Wetwang burial site, near Driffield, East Yorkshire, have produced puzzling results, leading scientists to speculate that ancient people were even more concerned about food taboos than we are today.

Mandy Jay, of Bradford's archaeology department, has examined the bones of more than 50 adults and 25 infants, analysing isotopes of carbon and nitrogen in the collagen to see what kind of proteins the Iron Age people ate.
All the adults, from wealthy warriors interred with chariots in burial mounds to paupers buried in ditches, seem to have eaten plenty of animal protein, which produces the same type of collagen, whether dairy or meat.
That should mean bones of breast-fed infants would have even higher protein levels, as they would be drinking milk from mothers who were themselves nourished with animal proteins.

But instead, babies' bones have levels comparable with a diet of cows' milk.
Ms Jay said: 'It may be a society where they didn't want to breastfeed too long because they wanted to toughen the children up.

'If they were trying to feed their children cows' milk, the chances are they would have a higher mortality rate, which is something I would have to examine.'
Alternatively, the low levels could also be due to women becoming vegan when pregnant or breastfeeding. A temporary change in diet wouldn't show up in the women's bones, as adult collagen is laid down over several years.

"It's very difficult to understand what a different society would think. To them, drinking milk while producing milk may have seemed strange. There are societies that do all kinds of things with pregnant and menstruating women," she said.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Etruscan-style statue uncovered in France

"A life-sized statue of a warrior discovered in southern France reflects a stronger cultural influence for the Etruscan civilization throughout the western Mediterranean region than previously appreciated.
Michael Dietler, Associate Professor in Anthropology, and his French colleague Michel Py have published a paper in the British journal Antiquity on the Iron Age statue, found at Lattes, a Celtic seaport Dietler is studying in southern France.
They found the fine-grained limestone statue in the door of a large courtyard-style house they are excavating in the ancient settlement, which is five miles south of the modern day city of Montpellier. The statue dates from the sixth or early fifth century B.C. "

Friday, January 30, 2004

Chester's Roman Amphitheatre Eyed for Additional Excavation

"Over the next two years, the council and English Heritage will carry out a large-scale archaeological research programme on Chester's Roman amphitheater to determine if it should undertake a full excavation. The amphitheatre was first excavated in the 1960s and is known to have formed part of the settlement that grew around Deva, one of Roman Britain’s most important strategic forts."

"It is believed that an amphitheatre was first built on the site soon after the establishment of Deva, around 70 AD, and at its height, the building could accommodate up to 8000 spectators".

The technology being employed includes robotic electromagnetic survey, ground-penetrating radar and earth resistance survey to provide a map of features buried below the ground; and terrestrial photogrammetry to photo-graphically record and draw every detail of the amphitheatre exposed in previous excavations.

Specialists will also examine all the old excavation records, maps and surveys of the area and compare them with the results generated by the new surveys.

An unmanned aerial vehicle may also be deployed over the site to digitally photograph the site from previously unobtainable angles.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Roman Fluorspar Cup Acquired by British Museum

"A 50,000 pound grant from the Art Fund has helped the British Museum acquire an extremely rare Roman Fluorspar cup, from the 1st century A.D. The total cost was 150,000 pounds with additional funding from the British Museum Friends and Caryatid Fund.

This cup is thought to have been discovered in a Roman tomb on the Turco-Syrian frontier by a Croatian solider during the First World War and until recently was in a private collection.

Made from an incredibly rare and valuable material found in Parthia (Iran), this unusual one-handled fluorspar cup has rich purple and green horizontal veining, which looks superb when the light shines through it. Below the rim is a decorative panel that continues uninterrupted; this is a low relief frieze of vine leaves, grapes and tendrils and a bearded head, which is thought to be Dionysus, in higher relief under the handle.

Fluorspar vessels – vasa murrina - were highly sought after by the Romans. According to Pliny, the vessels were first introduced to Rome by Pompey the Great in 62-1 BC, after his victories in the East. Pliny recounts that the highest price paid for a fluorspar cup was 1,000,000 sesterces, paid by the Emperor Nero. He also mentions a former Roman consul who paid 70,000 sesterces for a fluorspar cup. According to the Roman poet Martial, the flavour of wine improved if drunk from a fluorspar vessel; wine would have gradually dissolved the resin, giving off a pleasant smell and distinctive flavour. "

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Roman splendour available soon to homeowners

"The splendour of the Roman Empire could soon be recreated in 21st century homes - thanks to a Welsh company and expertise at Cardiff University, UK. Based in Port Talbot, South Wales, the company Mosaici has been formed to develop and market the idea of its managing director, Mr Geoff Thomas, to make Roman-style mosaic tiling accessible to modern householders.

During his travels throughout the world over many years, Mr Thomas had long admired the mosaic-tiled floors and walls in the villas and sites of antiquity, which he visited during his spare time. He later attended an Italian mosaic school in Ravenna to learn the traditional art of creating mosaic motifs.

"I was certain that mosaic decoration could be made easier and more affordable," he said. "I believed that some form of template in which to build the motif was the way forward."

Mosaici will be launching its new product in hobby and craft stores and DIY outlets in both the United Kingdom and the USA in the next few months.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Croatia's Cetina Valley offers wealth of artifacts

A Roman legionary dagger complete with sheath, 90 swords, over 30 Greco-Illyrian helmets, plus numerous items of jewellery, axes and spearheads have been uncovered in a continuing excavation of the Cetina Valley in Croatia.

An initial survey of the site has uncovered remarkable finds spanning a period of history from 6,000 BC onwards. Timbers 3 metres in length are clearly visible through the clear water from the riverbank, showing evidence of late Neolithic/early Bronze Age wooden settlements that are comparable to the Swiss lake settlements. A large number of metal and stone objects have also been retrieved which appear to have been thrown into the river deliberately, possibly as offerings to river gods.

Dr David Smith, Environmental Archaeologist from the University of Birmingham explains, “The valley sediments provide an environmental record covering around 10,000 years and hold the key to our understanding of the environment of Dalmatia and much of the Central Balkans. Through examination of pollen cores and peat samples from within the basin we can gain a real insight into the everyday life of the people; the food they ate, the crops and animals they kept, and the crafts/activities they pursued.”

Monday, January 12, 2004

Roman ship uncovered in Naples

"Italian archeologists have discovered a Roman ship and hundreds of amphorae dating to the second century during excavation works for a new subway in the southern city of Naples.

"'The 10-metre-long vessel sank, probably due to floods, in the second century', said Daniela Giampaola, an archeologist in charge of the excavations. It is expected to be well preserved, thanks to the silt that created an airless environment that prevented decomposition. "

"The 13-metre-deep digging turned up wooden pieces belonging to piers in the one-time port, as well as intact amphorae and other crockery pieces, believed to have fallen off the ships while being unloaded. Also found by the ship were soles of seafarers' shoes."

Roman anchor found in the Dead Sea

"Dr. Gideon Hadas has found a lead-and-wood anchor - without the lead - that probably dates back to the Roman period, 2,000 years ago. The anchor is 1.8 meters by 0.9 meters wide (6 by 3 feet), and weighs some 500 kilograms (1,100 lbs.). Many similar anchors from the Roman period have been found in the Mediterranean Sea area, but never has one been found in the Dead Sea, nor has one been found with the wood intact. This case is the opposite of all previous anchor finds: here the lead was eaten away by the salt, but the wood was preserved."

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Ancient carnyx to be heard again

"John Kenny, a Scottish musicologist, was part of a team of scientists and musicians who resurrected the Pictish instrument known as the carnyx, a 2,000-year-old metal trumpet in the shape of a boar’s head which was used by ancient Scots in their battle against Roman invasion. "

"Using traditional methods, Kenny joined forces with musicologist John Percer, metalworker John Creed and archeologist Fraser Hunter to reconstruct the carnyx in 1998 from the fragile remnants of an original instrument discovered in the Moray Firth in the 19th century."

"Kenny, who lives in Edinburgh and has recorded several CDs of music featuring the carnyx, is now working with musicians and archaeologists in Egypt, Israel, Greece and Turkey who sought advice on reconstructing ancient instruments from their own countries."

"Among the instruments that could be recreated are the hazerot, which consists of a pair of joined silver trumpets and is mentioned in the Old Testament.

"Although no surviving instruments have ever been found, a representation can be found on the Arch of Titus, which portrays how they were used by defending forces when Roman Emperor Titus sacked of Jerusalem in 70AD."

"The instrument was used in conjunction with the shofar - which is carved from a ram’s horn - to gather people to tribal meetings, to alert camps of danger and to signal in warfare."