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."