Friday, September 30, 2005

US Army helps restore Ladenburg's ancient past

Stars & Stripes: The village of Ladenburg, just north of Heidelberg, has the allure of many charming towns in Germanyss Neckar Valley.

But it has something more: a major historical find that U.S. soldiers helped uncover.

A stroll through the town's maze of cobblestone streets brings tourists face to face with crumbling Roman walls, an ancient standing column and an excavation that continues to yield items from long ago.

While the town's known history dates to the first century, the unearthing of its past goes back only about 50 years.

Villagers in the early 1950s noticed that large portions of crops throughout Ladenburg grew unevenly. German archaeologist Dr. Berndmark Heukemes knew of recent British finds that used a technique of flying high above oddly growing crops to find outlines of old ruins.

However, during this post-World War II time, Germans were not allowed to use aircraft for any reason.

Heukemes drafted a request for help from the U.S. Army, specifically from troops stationed in Heidelberg. In a letter sent to Washington, D.C., he said he strongly believed there were ancient wonders to be found in the fields of Ladenburg if he could only get an aircraft to see them. He proposed his idea as an international scientific project.

The proposal was accepted, and from 1952 to 1958, Army officers and soldiers helped unearth the remains of a Roman society that had long been forgotten.

Now, the Lobdengau museum, located inside Ladenburg's ancient city walls and next to fenced-off outdoor Roman ruins, has cultural finds from throughout the area going back two millenniums."

Ancient Roman Seaman Portrait Found

Discovery Channel: Ancient Roman marines had a bowl haircut and delicate, child-like features ? at least according to the first image of an Imperial Roman naval officer unearthed in Italy.

Carved on a funerary stone, the portrait was found three metres (10 feet) under water near the Classe necropolis in Ravenna, the port town where Rome's Adriatic fleet was based.

Made of marble, the one-metre-long (three foot) slab dates to the first century A.D. and bears a cavity on the top which originally contained the ashes of the portrayed military sailor.

According to the partly missing inscription, the tombstone was commissioned by a man named Cocneus for Monus Capito, an officer who served aboard the liburna "Aurata" (Golden).

An important part of the Roman fleet, the liburna was an easily manouvreable, light and fast galley used to fight pirates in the Adriatic Sea, a major problem for Roman merchant ships. "

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Switzerland's Augusta Raurica Museum celebrates 50 years at annual Roman Festival

Switzerland's most important archaeological site is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its museum and Roman house.

Augusta Raurica, the first Roman colony to be built on the Rhine, receives 140,000 visitors every year and offers fascinating insights into the way the Romans lived.

The adjacent Roman house is a careful reconstruction of a Roman dwelling and workshop showing life as it would have been 2,000 years ago.

Founded in 44 BC in the vicinity of modern-day Basel by Lucius Munatius Plancus, a military commander and friend of Caesar, the original purpose of the Colonia Raurica was to defend Rome's new frontier along the Rhine, following the conquest of Gaul.

The earliest evidence of Roman settlement at Augusta Raurica dates back to 15BC, when the Emperor Augustus incorporated the area which is now Switzerland into the Roman Empire.

From a military base, Augusta Raurica soon developed into a vital staging post and trading centre in a great single market which stretched from Britain in the north to Africa in the south, from the Iberian peninsula in the west to Asia in the east.

Just a few decades after its foundation, a building boom transformed the military encampment on the Rhine into one of the continent's major cities. Wooden fortifications and houses were replaced by a grid layout of broad avenues fronted by imposing constructions in bricks and mortar."

Monday, September 12, 2005

Mummy of ancient Palmyra found in Syria

RIA Novosti - World - UPDATE: "Syrian archaeologists have discovered a sarcophagus with the best-preserved mummy ever in a tower tomb in Palmyra.

The two-meter-long conical sarcophagus is made of stone. The name of Hanbal Saadi, who the scientists believe was the owner of the tomb, is engraved upon it.

The mummy is 175 centimeters (5 feet 9 inches) long.

The discovery was a surprise for the archaeologists. Ancient residents of this town are known to have buried their relatives in separate niches that lined the walls of a burial chamber.

According to scientists, the rich in ancient Palmyra could afford to build large burial chambers and tomb towers not only for their own relatives, but also to lease them to people not connected with them by family ties. Some of the tombs could become a resting place for hundreds of bodies.

It is the first time that Syrian archaeologists have discovered a tomb with so many mummies, which date back to over 2,000 years ago."