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."