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. "