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. "