Sunday, December 24, 2006

Slovenia River Excavation yields Roman and Celt treasures

I recommend reading the full article in National Geographic magazine. It is accompanied by some breathtaking pictures of some of the items that have been recovered including an ornate greave in the shape of a goddess with her face over the portion that covers the knee cap.

Carol Kaufmann:
Archaeologist Andrej Gaspari is haunted by pieces of the past. His hometown river, the Ljubljanica, has yielded thousands of them?Celtic coins, Roman luxuries, medieval swords?all from a shallow 12-mile (19 kilometers) stretch. Those who lived near and traveled along the stream that winds through Slovenia's capital of Ljubljana considered it sacred, Gaspari believes. That would explain why generations of Celts, Romans, and earlier inhabitants offered treasures?far too many to be accidental?to the river during rites of passage, in mourning, or as thanksgiving for battles won.

But Gaspari may never be able to explain for certain why the Ljubljanica holds one of Europe's richest stores of river treasures, many of them remarkably preserved by the soft sediments and gentle waters. Too many pieces of the puzzle have already disappeared.

During the past two decades, sport divers have made the river their playground, removing most of some 10,000 to 13,000 objects found so far. Even though removing artifacts from the Ljubljanica has long been illegal, professional archaeologists have been forced to compete with private collectors. Some divers sold their loot to museums; others to the highest bidder. Some kept their treasures private. Many artifacts have left the country, untraceable. Gaspari's greatest torment comes from the knowledge that few maverick collectors know?or care?where exactly their prizes were found. For an archaeologist, an object's meaning comes as much from its context?location, association with other objects?as from the prize itself. Without context, there is no story.

Ancient Herculaneum Magistrates Decreed: 'No Dumping'

I found this item a little ironic. Apparently Mt. Vesuvius was oblivious to the commands of mere mortals.

Rossella Lorenzi:
The mountains of garbage that often fill the streets in the Italian city of Naples and surrounding areas aren't just a modern-day problem, suggest ancient wall inscriptions.

Using infrared reflectography, a non-destructive technique commonly used to peek beneath the surface of paintings, Italian researchers have brought to light two inscriptions against garbage dumping in the ancient Roman town Herculaneum.

The modest town was destroyed, along with its more famous neighbor Pompeii, in the first-century eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

The finding shows that even before the eruption buried Herculaneum under 75 feet of ash, local authorities were already trying to reign in trash.

Luciano Rosario Maria Vicari, director of an applied optics laboratory at Naples University, and colleagues analyzed Herculaneum's notice board, which was found on the eastern side of the city's water tank.

The board for public notices consisted of a plastered rectangular area that housed the "tituli picti," ? painted inscriptions used to communicate decrees and measures.

Painted in black, the inscriptions were carefully placed on straight parallel lines carved on the plaster.

"The plastered area worked as a blackboard ? the previous inscriptions were wiped with a thin plaster layer to make space to a new inscription," Vicari told Discovery News.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

History collides in the Villa Torlonia

CBS News: Since it was started in 1797, the sublime, the vainglorious and the ancient have merged and blended to make Villa Torlonia one of the most intriguing and exquisite examples of 18th century building in Rome.

Giovanni Torlonia made his fortune in banking, bought a title and then built a house he hoped would give him entree to the social elite. He never made it, but not for lack of trying.

An Egyptian theme room is complete with hieroglyphics. Breakfast was eaten under frescoes depicting the conquests of Alexander the Great. What today may seem overdone to the point of kitsch was very much the style of the times.

"We're in a Renaissance room and we walk though a door and we're in a Gothic room," Alberta Campitell, superintendent of Rome's historical parks and villas, told Sunday Morning correspondent Allen Pizzey.

The villa is undergoing a six million dollar restoration, a labor of love for Campitelli.

"Look also at the doors, all the doors are painted," she said as she walked through the villa with Pizzey. "They are very beautiful, with gold. It's really gold."

The restoration is providing Romans a unique insight into a way of life often thought of as more elegant times, but which turns out to be not that much different from today, at least when it comes to the "nouveau riche" equating wealth with class and style.

The ballroom is a classic example. Overlooking the dancers was a copy of Rafaello's fresco of a meeting on Mount Parnassus, retouched with willful disregard for historical context. The Greek poet Homer is shown sitting next to Dante Alighieri who is just a short reach away from Sir Isaac Newton sharing space with Galileo. The beauty hides a crude but not unusual aspiration of the time: refinement by association.

"So I have all these intelligent people in my villa, paintings, therefore I too am intelligent," Campitelli said.

There is also the not-so-subtle frieze of poets' faces, one of which has been painted over and replaced by the face of one of the Torlonia children.

One effort at self-aggrandizement that had no success at all was a plan to put the family crest atop a fake Egyptian obelisk. The pope of the day told Signor Torlonia the space was for crucifixes only.

Why anyone thought fakes were necessary in grounds that have been in use since before the dawn of Christianity is puzzling. Even digging the garden here is an adventure in history. The place is littered with things like a 1,800-year-old pot handle.

And there is some serious filling in to be done. These workmen are making a new top for one of the hidden mysteries of Villa Torlonia. When restoration began, a small hole was found under some stones which revealed a secret that even now can only be reached by a specially constructed passage.

It looks like an Etruscan tomb, complete with alcoves for burial urns, paintings of animals - all of which seem authentic, except this was built in 1840. Available information indicates it was used for secret Masonic rites.

Whatever went on in the fake tomb was history by the 1920s when the villa was rented out for the token sum of one Italian lira. But then the new tenant was not a personage with whom a landlord quibbled.

Benito Mussolini was as much a would-be sophisticate as the villa's original owners had been.

His daughter's wedding was held there. It was an event as lavish as the setting.

Like anyone else, Mussolini made his own modifications, although not with the same style, taste or purpose as his predecessors. Deep under the ornate rooms he had an austere bunker - a bolt hole from modern warfare that had served a far earlier purpose ... an ancient tomb.

"This is a Roman tomb from the second century after Christ was dead and we found here also three skeletons," Campitelli said.

AP Wire | 11/26/2006 | Students really 'dig' archaeology class

Hands-on activities like this are the ultimate interactive learning experience!

Steve Marroni, The Hanover Evening Sun:
The students at Spring Grove Area High School dig history.


Teacher Jason Baker's 11th-grade world history class took part earlier this month in an archaeological dig for replicated artifacts.

The dig was held to mimic actual excavations. Baker set up eight sites near the high school and, the previous week, teams of students buried objects at the sites. The objects ranged from oracle bones made out of paint stirrers to a clay statue of Ganesha, the elephant-head Hindu god. Students buried objects in one site last week, then excavated in another.

Baker said the purpose of this exercise is to show students where the history in the textbooks comes from. Much of it is derived in the field through archaeological work similar to Spring Grove's re-creation, he said.

"They're doing this like real archaeologists," Baker said.

Junior Jane Bridwell stood in a hole and dug out clumps of dirt and mud with a shovel. Her group had already gone through and catalogued artifacts similar to those that could be found in ancient Japan. They kept digging and, two more feet down, began to find Egyptian relics.

Each site contained two civilizations and several artifacts from that civilization.

"You don't know what you're going to find," Bridwell said, shovel in hand.

Some of her classmates scooped out clumps of mud with their hands, and others broke up dirt with a pick ax.

Bridwell and her classmates agreed that archaeology required a lot more digging and hard work than they thought. But, it paid off. When someone found an artifact, they could be heard from their hole, shouting in excitement.

Meredith Seibert and Brittany Kauffman dug alongside Bridwell.

"There's a lot of hands-on work," said Kauffman.

Seibert said she and her class learned about different aspects of civilization, ranging from arts and literature to government and economics to religion and customs. Buried objects represented different aspects of civilizations.

As they dug up objects, they staked the location and gave the objects to Zeb Kessler. He marked their map locations and bagged the artifacts. Students will analyze them in class later and determine what they were used for in ancient civilizations.

Restoration unveils Roman 'Sistine Chapel of the Middle Ages'

Restoration unveils Roman 'Sistine Chapel of the Middle Ages':
A series of medieval frescoes painstakingly restored over nearly a decade was unveiled to the public in Rome Tuesday.

Visitors, including Italian Culture Minister Francesco Rutelli, were on hand to take a first glimpse at the 13th-century frescoes in the Santi Quattro Coronati monastery, which sits atop a hill in Rome.

A team of six experts carried out the restoration project, which began in 1997 and was financed completely by the Cultural Heritage Ministry.

Rare sarcophagus, headless skeleton found in London | - Houston Chronicle

Associated Press:
Archaeologists discovered a rare Roman limestone sarcophagus containing a headless skeleton at the site of a historic London church, authorities said Friday.

The find dates to about 410 A.D. and lay 10 feet below the grounds of the St. Martin-in-the-Fields church near central London's busy Trafalgar Square, outside the boundaries researchers had established for London's Roman city walls.

The sarcophagus was made from a single piece of limestone from Oxfordshire or Northamptonshire, about 60 miles northwest of London, researchers said.

The skeleton, headless and missing fingers, is a 5-foot-6-inch male who died in his 40s. Researchers speculated that Victorian workmen building a sewer stumbled upon the sarcophagus and took the head.

Insignia of Emperor Maxentius Unearthed | World Latest | Guardian Unlimited

Marta Falconi:
Archaeologists have unearthed what they say are the only existing imperial insignia belonging to Emperor Maxentius - precious objects that were buried to preserve them and keep them from enemies when he was defeated by his rival Constantine.

Excavation under Rome's Palatine Hill near the Colosseum turned up items including three lances and four javelins that experts said are striking for their completeness - digs usually turn up only fragments - and the fact that they are the only known artifacts of their kind.

Some of the objects, which accompanied the emperor during his public appearances, are believed to be the base for the emperor's standards - rectangular or triangular flags, officials said.

An imperial scepter with a carved flower and a globe, and a number of glass spheres, believed to be a symbolic representation of the earth, also were discovered.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

What did Sulla really look like?

Recently, I had an opportunity to purchase a book about Lucius Cornelius Sulla entitled "Sulla the Fortunate" by G. P. Baker. I was surprised by the portrait depicted on its cover. This bust of Sulla looked much more reserved than the picture I had always seen that portrayed him with a mop of unruly hair and protuberant eyes.

Somehow, the more "possessed-looking" Sulla seemed to match the depiction I read of him in Colleen McCullough's "The First Man In Rome" and "The Grass Crown". I thought perhaps the more subdued bust portrayed Sulla after he had contracted the ravaging skin disease and lost his own hair and had to don a wig but if you look closely at the facial features, they just don't look like the same man. Now, if I was a specialist in ear shapes perhaps I could tell from that. I saw a program that said each person's ear lobes are as distinctive as finger prints. I will have to research further and check the identification of these two busts and any associated epigraphy to convince myself they are the same man.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Vatican Archaeologists Find St Paul's Sarcophagus

Sofia News Agency: A sarcophagus believed to contain the remains of the Apostle Paul was unearthed by Vatican archaeologists.

The relic, which dates back to at least 390AD, had been buried beneath Rome's second largest basilica.

The sarcophagus has been the subject of an extended excavation that began in 2002 and was completed last month, the project's head said.

The interior of the sarcophagus has not yet been explored, but project's head Giorgio Filippi said further examination will be done in the future.

Two ancient churches that once stood at the site of the current basilica were successively built over the spot where the saint was believed to had been buried. The second church, built by the Roman emperor Theodosius in the fourth century, left the tomb visible, first above ground and later in a crypt.

When a fire destroyed the church in 1823, the current basilica was built and the ancient crypt was filled with earth and covered by a new altar.

"We were always certain that the tomb had to be there beneath the Papal altar," Filippi said.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Antique Jewlery Inspired by Ancient Craftsmen

Although this article is not about ancient Roman archaeology, it came up in one of my news searches and I found it intriguing.

New York Times:In 1984 Judith H. Siegel, an American living in London, read in British Vogue about Fortunato Pio Castellani (1794-1865), a fashionable Roman goldsmith who in 1814 began selling gold jewelry in the ?antique? style, that is jewelry inspired by ancient Egyptian, Greek, Etruscan, Roman and Byzantine examples.

Ms. Siegel began buying jewelry designed by Castellani, by his two sons, Augusto and Alessandro, and by Carlo Giuliano, a Castellani pupil who ran the firm?s London operations from the early 1860s until 1874, when he set up his own business.

Now Ms. Siegel is selling 150 of these pieces, in what is thought to be the largest collection of ?archaeological? jewelry to appear at auction in decades. The sale is at Sotheby?s New York on Wednesday; the presale viewing ends Tuesday.

People familiar with ancient jewelry will recognize the cultural origins of a tiara decorated with sprigs of delicate gold olive leaves (ancient Greece, fifth century B.C.), a gold beaded necklace with gold grapevine-leaf pendants and clusters of tiny glass grapes (Hellenistic) and a bracelet with micromosaic medallions depicting the Lamb of God and other Christian symbols (Byzantine church mosaics).

Most of this jewelry is not intrinsically valuable because it has few (or no) precious stones. It is 19th-century revivalist art jewelry and tends to be adorned with colorful enamelwork, carved scarabs, carnelian intaglios and shell cameos.

?Castellani jewelry is not about the karats; it?s about the workmanship,? said Susan Weber Soros, herself a collector. Two years ago Ms. Soros organized ?Castellani and Italian Archaeological Jewelry? at the Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design and Culture, which she directs.

Some of the pieces Ms. Siegel lent to that show are now at Sotheby?s. The sale estimates range from $3,000 (for an Egyptian Revival ?papyrus? brooch) to $150,000 (for a Renaissance Revival pendant necklace).

I searched Google images until I found a picture of one of Mr. Castellani's Roman-inspired pieces, this intricate necklace of cameos.

This "parure" is a set of coordinated jewels composed by a necklace, two earrings and a pin, all decorated with agate cameos mounted with gold.
It belonged to Rosina Trivulzio, mother of Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli who probably bought it between 1820 and 1825.

The necklace was realised by Fortunato Pio Castellani (1794 - 1865), a goldsmith from Rome who among the greatest in Italy. He was at the head of an important atelier and, thanks to his collaborators, he later opened branches in London and Paris which continued to be highly fashionable till the early Twentieth century.

The twelve large cameos of the necklace, the four in the pin and the two small ones of the earrings are all decorated with the profiles of famous figures.
They are framed by two different motifs: one is a simple knotted thread and one is a group composed by leaves, flowers and tulips.
Elements derived from Hellenistic jewellery further decorate the parure, such as Aries' heads, small jags and plain drops.
The central cameo bears a relief of the profile of Athena Parthenos, while a cameo with the figures of Amor and Psyche is mounted in the fastening device of the necklace. A wonderful Medusa head is instead engraved in the pin.

These cameos are surely not ancient. Instead, it is very likely that they were realised by an atelier under Castellani's supervision. In fact, the Roman goldsmith owned a precious collection of archaeological cameos, which were probably the models for the pieces of the Poldi Pezzoli parure.

Ancient carved Roman rant unearthed near Leicester

The Sun Online - News:
AN ancient curse placed by a seething Roman on the thief who stole his cloak has been unearthed by archaeologists.

The thin lead tablet, inscribed in the second or third century AD, calls on the god Magalus to track down and kill the culprit within nine days.

It goes on to list 18 or 19 suspects for the crime. The curse, issued in the name of Servandus, was found by teams carrying out Leicester's biggest-ever dig.

Experts are thrilled as they previously knew the names of just three Roman locals.

Richard Buckley, of the University of Leicester Archaeological Services, said: "We think curses were used by the poor or slaves, because they were often to do with objects of very little value.

"Sometimes they might even have commissioned a professional curse-writer."

Some of the historic finds will go on display tomorrow at the city's Jewry Wall Museum.

Photo courtesy of

United Press International - NewsTrack - Dig reveals early Christian presence

United Press International - NewsTrack - Dig reveals early Christian presence:
Archaeologists excavating what may be an ancient cemetery near London's Trafalgar Square say they have found evidence of early Christianity in England.

The Museum of London team discovered the cache buried in an empty human grave near St. Martin-in-the-Fields church, north of Trafalgar Square.

"Our excavations demonstrate the position as a significant and important place at an earlier date than we thought," Alison Telfer, the senior archaeologist in charge of the dig, told The Independent.

The excavation also unearthed at least one grave archaeologists said was pre-Anglo-Saxon, possibly dating to the very late Roman or immediate post-Roman period.

The finds are likely to provide more information on the very early stages of introducing Christian ideas into the Anglo-Saxon world 1,400 years ago.

Archaeologists said they found a gold pendant inlaid with blue-green glass, glass beads and fragments of silver, and two pieces of amethyst. Judging from nearby graves in the cemetery, they estimate the grave and its treasures could date from 590 to 610.

The empty grave may be part of a previously unknown ancient cemetery where the team said it also found 24 other graves.

Drexel Professors claimed Egyptians used concrete before the Romans

It looks like a professor of materials engineering at Drexel University claims he has found evidence of concrete use in the Great Pyramid, 2500 years before the Romans. Apparently, Zahi Hawass thinks its hogwash!

Chicago Tribune: "In new research on the Great Pyramids of Giza, a scientist says he has found more to their construction than cut natural limestone: Some original parts of the massive structures appear to be made of concrete blocks.

If true, historians say, this would be the earliest known application of concrete technology, some 2,500 years before the Romans started using it widely in harbors and other architecture.

Michel Barsoum, a professor of materials engineering at Drexel University in Philadelphia, concluded that the use of limestone concrete could explain in part how the Egyptians were able to complete such massive monuments, beginning around 2550 B.C.

They used concrete blocks, he said, on the outer and inner casings and probably on the upper levels, where it would have been difficult to hoist carved stone.

"The sophistication and endurance of this ancient concrete technology is simply astounding," Barsoum wrote in the December issue of the Journal of the American Ceramic Society.

Barsoum and his co-workers analyzed the mineralogy of samples from several parts of the Khufu pyramid and said they found mineral ratios that do not exist in any of the known limestone sources. From the geochemical mix of lime, sand and clay, they concluded, "the simplest explanation" is that it was cast concrete.

Zahi Hawass, secretary general of antiquities in Egypt and director of the Giza pyramids excavations, said in an e-mail, "The idea that concrete was used is unlikely and completely unproven."

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Bronze Artemis headed for the auction block

A Roman bronze statue of Artemis, the goddess of hunting, reputed to be 'among the very finest large classical bronze sculptures is going on the auction block to fund new acquisitions for the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York.

I urge any museum curator reading this notice to please consider the piece for their collection rather than let this marvelous bronze be sequestered away in some private collection.

Hungarian archaeologist discovers tablet mentioning Masada's destroyer

by Naday Shragai

"In 73 CE, the Roman governor of Judea, Flavius Silva, laid siege to Masada with Legion X Fretensis. When the walls were broken down by a battering ram, the Romans found the fortress' defenders had set fire to all the structures and preferred mass suicide to captivity or defeat. Masada has since become part of Jewish mythology, as has the name Silva, who Josephus Flavius mentions in his writings. It is therefore no great surprise that Hungarian archaeologist Dr. Tibor Grull, studying in Israel three years ago, was excited to discover a stone tablet during a visit to the Temple Mount with a Latin inscription of the name of Masada's destroyer.

Grull asked officials of the Waqf, the Muslim trust for the Temple Mount, where the tablet came from, and they explained it had been found in the large hole dug in the mount in 1999 when the entrance to Solomon's Stables was opened. The Hungarian archaeologist received rare permission to photograph and document the finding. In October 2005, Grull published the discovery in the journal of the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research.

Particularly interested in the find was Bar Ilan's Dr. Gabi Barkai, who has been sifting through Temple Mount dirt for the past two years. The dirt, in which many finds dating as far back as the First Temple period have been discovered, was dug from the same hole by Waqf personnel and taken from the same area - the south-east side - from which the inscription fragment was taken. Barkai contacted Grull and included Grull's work - which had not received exposure - in a comprehensive article on the sifting project at the Temple Mount, slated for publication in the next edition of the periodical Ariel.

Grull's photographs of the stone tablet are first being published in Haaretz. The five-line monumental inscription is 97 centimeters by 75 centimeters. The text itself is damaged. Barkai, relying on Grull, says the inscription is undoubtedly the dedication carved into a victory arch, and it includes the Latin word for "arch."

"This is the only evidence we have of a victory or memorial arch the Romans built on the Temple Mount after the destruction of the city and the Temple," Barkai notes. "This is the first evidence of reconstruction, carried out by the Roman army, immediately after Jerusalem's destruction, about fifty years before Aelia Capitolina was founded."

Barkai says the inscription memorializes Flavius Silva, the conqueror of Masada and governor of Judea from 73 to 80 CE. The missing section of the inscription apparently mentioned Roman military commanders Aspasianus and Titus. The inscription also mentions a previously unknown person named Atnagorus. "

John Brown University Fullbright Scholar to excavate Byzantine site in Jordan :: Northwest Arkansas' News Source: "Dave Vila, associate professor of religion and philosophy at John Brown University will be taking a sabbatical to teach one class per semester at Jordan University, finish the excavation of five churches and write, edit and publish a volume about those churches funded as part of a Fulbright Scholar Grant.

? I?ve been coming to Jordan just about every two years since 1990, ? he said. ? In the summer of that year I began working with the Abila archaeological project in the north of Jordan excavating the ancient Decapolis city of Abila. ?

Abila was inhabited from 3500 BC until about AD 1700. The city covers approximately one square kilometer.

?(It ) has just about every type of archaeological feature that one would want ? lots of tombs, water tunnels, a bath complex, Roman roads, five churches and lots of domestic buildings, ? he said. ? We excavate on even-dated years. ?

Vila said the buildings are ? fairly well intact. ? Some of the churches have columns in place, floors with mosaic and marble tiles are visible, and some even have outer walls in place.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Freud's affair with pagan splendour source of new exhibit in Leeds "Among the secret passions the father of psychoanalysis kept to himself was an overpowering urge to collect antiquities. Janine Burke investigates.

FREUD WAS NOT ALONE when he entered the sea of dreams; his companions were the gods of Egypt, Greece and Rome. In the late 1890s, while writing The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud became an art collector, developing an obsession with antiquity, beauty, myth and archaeology that led him to amass a brilliant private museum of more than 2000 statues, vases, reliefs, busts, fragments of papyrus, rings, precious stones and prints. In Freud's study at Berggasse 19, Vienna, every available surface was so crowded with antiquities that he barely had room to move.

Despite Freud's modest assertion that he was 'no connoisseur in art but simply a layman', his taste was precise and discerning, making his collection an intriguing catalogue of world civilisations where objects rare and sacred, useful and arcane, ravaged and lovely are on display: neolithic tools, delicate Sumerian seals, a great goddess of the middle bronze age, Egyptian mummy bandages inscribed with magical spells and stained with embalming ointment, superb Hellenistic statues, images of the sphinx, erotic Roman charms, luxurious Persian carpets and Chinese jade lions no bigger than a baby's fist.

The popular image of Freud as austere, remote and forbidding is contradicted by the collection, which reveals a very different personality: an impulsive, hedonistic spender, an informed and finicky aesthete, a tomb raider complicit in the often illegal trade in antiquities, a tourist who revelled in sensual, Mediterranean journeys, a generous fellow who lavished exquisite gifts on his family and friends, and a tough negotiator for a bargain."

The Henry Moore Institute in Leeds will be exhibiting a number of his collected objects in early 2006, where for the first time visitors will be able to view the objects from the same perspective as Freud.

His bronze, wood and marble sculptures were gathered from Egypt, China, Greece and Rome and have until now been exhibited behind barriers at the Freud Museum in London.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Silver anomalies found in Jerusalem pottery hint at wealth during second Temple period

Silver anomalies found in Jerusalem pottery hint at wealth during second Temple period: "Scientists with the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Bar-Ilan University have discovered unusually high concentrations of silver in samples of many different types of pottery from excavations in Jerusalem of the late Second Temple period, the first century BCE (Before the Common Era) through 70 CE (Common Era). This is the first study ever conducted on silver in archaeological ceramics.

The major finding is that samples of pottery from Jerusalem during this era showed anomalously higher concentrations of silver, as compared to samples from all other non-urban sites dated to the same period of time. Many of the samples from Jerusalem and other sampled sites were otherwise indistinguishable in date, shape and chemical composition. High silver abundances were also detected in pottery found at other urban sites. But many of the Jerusalem samples had higher silver values than any of the samples from the other cities.

"Because pottery samples containing higher amounts of silver were all recovered from sites in cities, and because the cities were distant from one another," says Asaro, "we concluded that the silver anomalies are associated with human activity." Natural causes do not explain the geographical distribution of samples with high silver content. The researchers also concluded that silver was washed into the pottery through the action of groundwater.

"One of the most important results of our silver work is that our findings suggest that the measurement of silver in pottery may be a useful tool for evaluating archaeological remains and patterns of urban contamination in antiquity," says Adan-Bayewitz."

Friday, August 04, 2006

Drilling in Thessaloniki may unearth artifacts from Hellenistic and Roman Periods | Drill aids digs in Thessaloniki: "Archaeologists are ready to begin work on the largest-ever excavation site in this city's historic center using the so-called "metro-mouse," the giant drill already used to dig tunnels under the city of Athens.

As the drill moves ahead, it is expected to help unearth finds that will illuminate the history and topography of the city's Hellenistic and Roman periods.

The greatest archaeological interest lies in the site of the six metro stations along the ancient Via Egnatia, where monuments and archaeological exploration point to the existence of a rich store of artifacts.

Potential sites were mapped as part of Attiko Metro's plan for the tunnels, and the Culture Ministry signed a memorandum of cooperation with the construction firm this week."

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Roman emperor Augustus' birthplace believed found

South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "A team of archaeologists announced Wednesday they have uncovered part of what they believe is the birthplace of Rome's first emperor Augustus.

Leading archaeologist Clementina Panella said the team has dug up part of a corridor and other fragments under Rome's Palatine Hill, which she described as 'a very ancient aristocratic house.'

Panella said that she could not yet be certain that the house was where Augustus was born in 63 B.C., but added that historical cross-checks and other findings nearby have showed that the emperor was particularly fond of the area, she said.

Excavations on the Palatine in recent decades have turned up wonders such as another renewed Augustus' house, including two rooms with stunning frescoes of masked figures and pine branches."

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Dig unearths picture of ancient Norfolk

EDP24: "It has already provided a series of fascinating snapshots of early life in a Norfolk village.

And now an annual dig at Sedgeford, near Hunstanton, is providing more pieces of the jigsaw, as archaeologists slowly build up a complete picture of the life of the community.

The main focus of the 11th season of summer excavations by the award-winning Sedgeford Historical and Archaeological Research Project (SHARP) is the site of an Iron Age farm, which is thought to have been taken over by the Romans following their invasion.

The dig, which started earlier this month, has already uncovered plenty of Roman pottery and part of what is believed to be a fine drinking vessel, indicating that there was a domestic settlement in the area as well.

SHARP, based in a field known locally as Boneyard, began in 1996 and has grown to be the country's largest project for volunteer archaeologists from around the world.

Discoveries to date include more than 270 skeletons unearthed from a Saxon cemetery, a hoard of Iron Age coins concealed in a cow's leg bone and the long lost end of a torc."

Villa d'Este to go for Euro prize

Although I haven't personally seen many other spectacular European gardens, I can certainly vouch for the breathtaking beauty of Ville d'Este. As I said in my travel journal, if there is a heaven on earth, surely Ville d'Este must be it! - News in English - Villa d'Este to go for Euro prize: "Villa D'Este near Rome is set to vie with European rivals for the laurel of the continent's most beautiful garden .

The 16th-century gardens, grounds, fountains and fancy waterworks of this Renaissance jewel at Tivoli have beaten 100 other great Italian gardens to qualify for the competition .

'This is a tribute to the great work of the villa workers as well as the contribution art authorities have made to help us restore the site,' Tivoli cultural heritage superintendent Anna Maria Affanni said .

'We are very confident about the European competition, even though we know we'll have stiff competition from the great gardens of England, France and Germany,' she said .

The European Great Garden competition was launched this year .

Villa d'Este recently underwent a major facelift .

Its remarkable fountains had been only partially working due to the polluted state of the river Aniene, which provides the water .

The water system has now been purified and the fountains have been restored .

The spectacular fountain garden was created by the great architect and landscape gardener Pirro Ligorio for Cardinal Ippolito II D'Este (1509-72), a rich Renaissance prince, collector and patron of the arts ."

Friday, July 07, 2006

Perthshire adventurer invites others to follow in Hannibal's footsteps for charity

News Scotland: "a Perthshire adventurer is looking for volunteers to help recreate one of the most famous journeys of all time.

David Fox-Pitt hopes to lead a small army over the Alps following in the footsteps of the warlord, Hannibal, and all in the name of charity.

More than 2,000 years ago, the legendary Hannibal led some50,000 men and dozens of elephants through the Alps to take on Rome, his mortal enemy.

From his home in Perthshire, David Fox-Pitt is planning to recreate that momentous journey.

But rather than an army or elephants David is looking for just 200 people to go with him and take on the challenge for charity.

He said: 'Hannibal had this amazing experience, taking 90,000 people over from Spain to attack the Romans. We're going to take 200 people out there. There will be three stages, bronze, siver, gold and platinum and the idea is to test people to see how far they can go.'"

You're not done Roman 'til you've cycled with Hadrian

Bike For All .: "He was the first Roman emperor to sport a beard and he ordered the construction of a stone frontier marker to sear the northern extent of the Roman Empire into the minds of the Picts. And now, as well as a wall named after him, there's a Sustrans cycleway.

100+ people will celebrate the opening of the 120-mile Hadrian's Cycleway between the Cumbrian Coast and the North Sea later this month. The trail opening ride on 19th to 22nd July is a sell-out but you can still join in the fun on day rides, see below.

Hadrian's Cycleway is on Route 72 of the National Cycle Network and takes in some of England's most wild and dramatic countryside, offering magnificent coastal views, breathtaking countryside, Roman forts and museums, and attractive market towns.

Hadrian's Cycleway has been developed by Sustrans, in partnership with local authorities including Northumberland and Cumbria County Councils, Hadrian's Wall Tourism Partnership, One NorthEast, Northumberland National Park Authority, the Countryside Agency and tourism organisations. The Hadrian's Cycleway map is available from Sustrans. The full 172-mile route will open in 2007. Right now there's a 120-mile signed route."

Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Brandon Sun: Online Edition

The Brandon Sun: Online Edition: "A rare silver coin celebrating one of the most famous murders of antiquity was handed over to Greek Culture Ministry officials, after a groundbreaking deal that allowed its repatriation from Britain.

The tiny coin, a denarius issued in 42 B.C. by Brutus, the chief assassin of Julius Caesar, is one of only 58 in the world. Greek authorities said it was illegally excavated in Greece and sold last year by two Greek suspected smugglers to London's Classical Numismatic Group Inc.

The coin was issued by a mobile military mint used by Brutus to pay his soldiers during the wars that followed Caesar's assassination in 44 B.C. by a group of his friends - immortalized in Shakespeare's play, Julius Caesar.

Decorated with the head of Brutus on one side and a pair of daggers flanking a cap on the other, the denarius carries the inscription Eid Mar - short for the Ides of March, or March 15, the date of Caesar's murder.

Bulgaria's Pironkova serves up surprise at Wimbledon (

Bulgaria's Pironkova serves up surprise at Wimbledon ( "Albanian and Italian archaeologists will start excavation work this week at the ancient Roman amphitheatre in Durres, Albania, with the goal of uncovering the entire structure. The dig is part of a 25,000-euro project to establish an archaeological park at the site."

Treasures pulled from a briny tomb - World - The Washington Times, America's Newspaper

Treasures pulled from a briny tomb - World - The Washington Times, America's Newspaper: " Egyptian authorities have now approved the exploration of the ruins of another city buried in the Mediterranean, this one a Roman city discovered by an excavation team 20 miles east of the Suez Canal on Egypt's northern coast.
Reuters news agency reports that archaeologists have found buildings, bathing chambers, a fortress, ancient coins, bronze vases and pieces of pottery dating from the Roman era between 30 B.C. and A.D. 337. The excavators found four bridges belonging to a submerged castle first discovered in 1910. "

Friday, June 16, 2006

Man Leads Archaeologists to Etruscan "Tomb of the Roaring Lions" "A suspected tomb raider turned police informant has led archaeologists to what experts described Friday as the oldest known frescoed burial chamber in Europe.

The tomb, located on a hilly wheat field north of Rome, belonged to a warrior prince from the nearby Etruscan town of Veio, said archaeologists who took journalists on a tour of the site.

Dating from around 690 B.C., the underground burial chamber is decorated with roaring lions and migratory birds. Experts are hailing it as the earliest example of the funerary decorations that would later become common in the Greek and Roman world.

'This princely tomb is unique and it marks the origin of Western painting,' said Culture Minister Francesco Rutelli.

Besides the frescoes, archaeologists have uncovered decorated vases imported from Greece, a sword and metal spits used to roast meat for the prince's table. A two-wheeled bronze chariot was found standing in front of the rounded archway that leads into the burial chamber.

The recovery of elegant broaches, a wool spindle and other objects usually used by females suggests that at least one woman, possibly the prince's wife, was buried in the tomb, said Francesca Boitani, the lead archaeologist on the dig.

The urns containing the cremated remains of the tomb's owners, normally placed in one of the chamber's niches, are believed to have been taken by looters, Boitani said.

The images of birds and fang-baring felines remain the highlight of what experts are calling "The Tomb of the Roaring Lions."

Although decorated prehistoric caves predate by millennia the Etruscan tomb, experts say it is the oldest example in the Western world of a specially built funerary chamber decorated with mural paintings.

"Prehistoric paintings are something else," Boitani said. "Here we see used for the first time the techniques described in ancient texts and used in Western civilization in the following centuries."

Mural paintings have been found in some burial chambers in Turkey, but those date back to the 6th century B.C., while the Etruscan tomb is at least a century older, said Giovanni Colonna, an expert on the Etruscan civilization at Rome's La Sapienza University.

The architecture of the tomb, the style of the paintings and the images of lions _ an animal that didn't roam central Italy _ show the builders were influenced by art coming from Greece, Egypt and Asian kingdoms, Colonna said.

Although the same art is used on Greek vases of the time, no decorated tombs from that period have been found in Greece or elsewhere in Europe, he said.

The images in the Etruscan tomb were outlined in black and red with paints produced from minerals and archaeologist believe they were fixed on the wall using a compound created by crushing ancient fossils found in the area.

The birds are symbols of the passage into the afterlife, while the lions "represent the horror for what lies beyond life," said Anna Maria Moretti, the superintendent for antiquities in areas around Rome."

Dayan is accused in antiquities plunder

Dayan is accused in antiquities plunder: "Stunning military victories made Israeli general Moshe Dayan an iconic figure on the international stage, but his reputation for looting antiquities is little known outside the country where his myth was born.

Across three decades until his death in 1981, Dayan, of the trademark eye patch, established a vast collection of antiquities acquired through illicit excavations. He also traded in archaeological finds in Israel and abroad, antiquities experts say.

Dayan's extensive collection, which he housed in his Tel Aviv-area home, included pottery, stone heads, ossuaries, Byzantine gravestones and Roman sarcophagi, antiquities experts said."

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Museum to Reunite Venus Statue With Head - "For the first time in possibly 170 years, a Roman marble statue of Venus will be reunited with its head as both are coming to the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University, where conservators will piece them back together.

The museum bought the charmingly prudish portrait of the goddess of love, whom the Greeks called Aphrodite and the Romans Venus, for $968,000 at a Sotheby's auction in New York on June 6. A private collector in Houston, Texas, agreed to sell to those who purchased the body at the auction the head as well, which was last documented attached to the body in 1836. The head sold for about $50,000.

The 4-foot-6-inch statue is a marble copy from the late 1st century A.D. of an earlier Greek bronze sculpture."

Christy's to Auction Lansdowne Hermaphroditius Culture: "Recent high-profile court cases involving patrimony laws, accusations of theft and smuggling may have cast a shadow over the field of antique art, but they have not quelled the urge to buy and sell. An antiquities auction at Sotheby's New York last week tallied $4.6 million, demonstrating that the market for Greek vases, Roman marble busts and Egyptian bronzes continues to be robust.

An upcoming Christie's sale features the Roman marble Lansdowne Hermaphroditus, a dual-gendered statue of an effeminate youth with wavy hair, pubescent female breasts and teenage male genitalia. Valued at as much as $500,000, the Hermaphroditus is among 291 lots that the auction house expects to gross as much as $9 million.

Ownership of the Hermaphroditus goes back to the 18th century, when British statesman William Petty Fitzmaurice decorated his Berkeley Square home with ancient sculpture. Christie's catalog says Fitzmaurice paid 40 pounds for the 2nd- century statue in 1775."

Friday, June 02, 2006

Roman villa discovered near Cheddar

The Weston Mercury - Roman gem discovery: "TWO newly qualified archaeology graduates say they have uncovered a massive Roman villa complex in the Mendip Hills.

The Weston-based graduates used specialist geophysics equipment to reveal what are thought to be two 60m buildings forming a prestigious courtyard villa with a separate bath building.

The buildings probably belonged to a rich landowner from the second or third century AD.

Limited excavation work at the site near Cheddar has thrown up patterned wall plaster and ancient cooking equipment and could hide a treasure of mosaic tiles and other artefacts."

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Ancient Female Skeleton Found in Rome

Ancient Female Skeleton Found in Rome: "Archaeologists said Tuesday they have dug up a woman skeleton dating to the 10th century B.C. in an ancient necropolis in the heart of Rome.

The well-preserved skeleton appears to be that of a woman aged about 30, said Anna De Santis, one of the archaeologists who took part in the excavations under the Caesar's Forum, part of the sprawling complex of the Imperial Forums in central Rome.

An amber necklace and four pins were also found near the 5.25 foot-long skeleton, she said."

"Alessandro Delfino, another archaeologist who took part in the excavations, said Monday's discovery highlighted a "social change" in the funerary habits of the people who dwelled in the area, from incinerating to burying the dead.

Experts have said the necropolis was destined for high-ranking personalities _ such as warriors and ancient priests _ heading the tribes and clans that lived in small villages scattered on hills near the area that later spawned one of the world's greatest civilizations."

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Is Boudicca buried in Birmingham?

BBC NEWS: "The burial ground of Queen Boudicca could be next to a burger restaurant in Birmingham, it has been claimed.

An excavation is to take place at the site in Kings Norton after evidence it has Roman remains buried there.

Queen Boudicca, who led ancient tribes in battle against the Romans, died in 62 AD, possibly in the Midlands.

Dr Simon Esmonde Cleary, an archaeology expert from Birmingham University, was sceptical about the Boudicca claims.

He said: "The short answer is we don't know where the battle took place, anybody's guess is as good as anyone else's.

"The last time we had Boudicca was in what is now Hertfordshire. We know the Roman Army was coming down from Wales."

He said the battle could have taken place anywhere in between."

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

SUR in EnglisSixth century human remains and artefacts found at Arroyo Vaquero burial ground

SUR in English: "Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans and Muslims have all left their mark on Estepona. A small part of the municipality?s history lies at Arroyo Vaquero, the site of a Roman settlement. It is two decades since the first remains of a Roman villa were discovered at the site surrounded by several tombs. At the time the land was placed under a protection order so that urban development did not encroach on the town?s cultural heritage. All excavations on the land were brought to a standstill until a developer bought it with a view to building on it. It was when construction work started that more archaeological remains appeared.

The most recent finds consist of about 50 tombs with human remains dating from the sixth to the seventh century AD. Among the artefacts are Visigoth jars made of pottery, rings, a buckle and several Roman coins from the fourth and fifth century. ?The remains are in very poor condition due to the ravages of time and the characteristics of the land, but the utensils are unique?, said the municipal archaeologist, Ildefonso Navarro. Recent excavation work on the Palaeo-Christian necropolis started six weeks ago. When the first part ends the Town Hall will send a report on the remains found to the Andalusian Government. Then a provincial commission will be set up by the regional Department of Culture to determine whether the burial ground is to be preserved or whether the items are to be removed from the site and put on display in a museum.

The councillor for Culture, Asunción López, said: ?If nothing more important appears the site will be developed and the green area where the Roman villa stood will be used for displaying the remains?."

Egypt to excavate submerged Roman city "The Egyptian authorities have given the go ahead for the underwater exploration of what appears to be a Roman city submerged in the Mediterranean, Egypt's top archaeologist said yesterday. Zahi Hawass said in a statement that an excavation team had found the ruins of the Roman city 35 km east of the Suez Canal on Egypt's north coast. Archaeologists had found buildings, bathrooms, ruins of a Roman fortress, ancient coins, bronze vases and pieces of pottery that all date back to the Roman era, the statement said. Egypt's Roman era lasted from 30 BC to 337 AD. The excavation team also found four bridges that belonged to a submerged castle, part of which had been discovered on the Mediterranean coastline in 1910. The statement said evidence indicated that part of the site was on the coast and part of it submerged in the sea. The area marked Egypt's eastern border during the Roman era."

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Budapest Celebrates Ancient Pannonian Roots

The Budapest Sun Online: "IT looked like a scene from The Gladiator, as thousands of spectators joined with the colorful, authentically costumed Roman citizens marching in procession, through the streets of ancient Aquincum, some three kilometers north of Obuda, on the morning of May 6.

The occasion for the gathering was to celebrate the 1,900th anniversary of the Emperor Trajan's elevation, in 106 AD, of the ancient Roman settlement of Aquincum to the rank of capital of the colony of Pannonia.

With its strategic location on the east-west and north-south trajectory, and its rich natural resources, the colony flourished to such an extent that Trajan's successor, the Emperor Hadrian soon decreed Aquincum the Capital of 'Lower Pannonia, Colonia Splendidissima.'

As was wont in ancient times, the celebrants gathered in the Roman Forum of Aquincum, around the tall, distinguished patrician figure of the Macro Magister Budorum, the Highest Governor of Buda the master of ceremonies, played by an actor of the Vidám Színpad (Comedy Theater). He looked perfect in the part, in his purple toga, thonged leather sandals, and a freshly braided laurel wreath on his head.

He set the scene perfectly, literally becoming the personage he was playing, as did the three squadrons of gladiators (including two females), the belligerent Celts - a group of tall, slim, blond young men, their faces painted with blue war paint, their hair streaked with clay, all wearing plaid homespun.

Other peoples of the Empire - Thracians, Parthians, Scythians, and Germans - gathered for the inaugural rites offered by the 'high priest and vestal virgins.' A horse-drawn chariot carrying the gods Jupiter, Hera, Pallas Athena, Cupid, and Bacchus, along with singers and comedians, reenacted the ancient rituals celebrating the coming of spring, from the days when Aquincum was a living, throbbing Roman provincial capital.

After the required sacrificial offerings had been made, the crowd, led by the governor general, proceeded from the forum, following an ancient pathway along the remains of the aqueducts, through freshly sprouted green underbrush and woods, the verdant greenery hiding the 20th century's ugly concrete high-rise houses between which our path led, to the Civic Amphitheater for the high point of the celebrations, the gladiatorial games.

The spectacularly clad gladiators of the "Familia Gladitoria Pannonia" set the pace of the procession, marching to the stern voice of their towering Commander: "uno, duo, tres, kvatro, uno, duo, tres, kvatro," the only thing to bring one back to our 21st century was this slight Hungarian twist to the Latin pronunciation of quattro. The credibility of the setting, characters, and sounds plunged us back into the first century AD, into the living reality of ancient Pannonia."

Ancient Etruscans are unlikely the ancestors of modern Tuscans, study finds

Ancient Etruscans are unlikely the ancestors of modern Tuscans, study finds: "For the first time, Stanford researchers have used novel statistical computer modeling to simulate demographic processes affecting the population of Tuscany over a 2,500-year time span. Rigorous tests used by the researchers have ruled out a genetic link between ancient Etruscans, the early inhabitants of central Italy, and the region's modern day residents.

The findings suggest that something either suddenly wiped out the Etruscans or the group represented a social elite that had little in common with the people who became the true ancestors of Tuscans, said Joanna Mountain, assistant professor of anthropological sciences.

'Very often, we assume the most simple explanation for something,' said Mountain, an expert in anthropological genetics. 'So when you find in a particular location the archeological remains of people, the simplest explanation is that those people are ancestral to whoever is living there now. How often do you get a chance to check that? Very rarely.'

The research advances the field of anthropological genetics by moving beyond simple storytelling about an ancient people to rigorous testing, using genetic data analysis, of a set of anthropological hypotheses, Mountain said.

The findings are documented in 'Serial Coalescent Simulations Suggest a Weak Genealogical Relationship Between Etruscans and Modern Tuscans,' published May 15 in the online version of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Uma Ramakrishnan, a former Stanford postdoctoral fellow, and Elise M. S. Belle and Guido Barbujani of the University of Ferrara in Italy co-authored the paper with Mountain."

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Experts Rocked by Ancient Stones

Yorkshire Post Today: "Residents of a North York Moors village will be looking around them with fresh eyes after an unusual 'antiques' show offered them a new perspective on their surroundings.
A panel of eminent historians and archaeologists shared its expertise at the 'stone show' in Lastingham, where villagers raided their gardens and farm walls to bring peculiarly-shaped rocks and carved and weathered stones for identification.
Almost 50 specimens were produced, some travelling in pockets but others requiring rather more effort to lug along to the village hall.
The smallest items ? diminutive prehistoric axe hammers found in a field on the edge of the village ? were possibly the most exciting finds, along with a foot-high stone pillar identified as a Roman incense burner.
Other ancient pieces of stone were shards of flint discarded by Anglo-Saxon arrow makers with more recent examples including 18th and 19th century garden statuary.
But villagers were intrigued to hear that carved chunks of limestone which had graced their gardens might be surviving fragments of 14th century window frames from a grand building."

Archaeologist Flummoxed By Roman Burial Site (from Oxford Mail)

(from Oxford Mail): "Oxford archaeologists have discovered a large and significant Roman burial ground on the site of a gravel quarry.

Stunned experts had hoped to find a small farmstead at the site near Fairford, Gloucestershire, but instead discovered more than 100 graves.

Dr Alex Smith, of Oxford Archaeology, who is leading the excavation of the site, said it was a "very significant" discovery.

The burial ground is divided into two, with separate sections for adults and children a common practice in late Roman times. He said the site believed to date back 1,700 years was one of the biggest in the region and was exciting because of its sheer volume."


Archaeologist Flummoxed By Roman Burial Site (from Oxford Mail)

(from Oxford Mail): "Oxford archaeologists have discovered a large and significant Roman burial ground on the site of a gravel quarry.

Stunned experts had hoped to find a small farmstead at the site near Fairford, Gloucestershire, but instead discovered more than 100 graves.

Dr Alex Smith, of Oxford Archaeology, who is leading the excavation of the site, said it was a "very significant" discovery.

The burial ground is divided into two, with separate sections for adults and children a common practice in late Roman times. He said the site believed to date back 1,700 years was one of the biggest in the region and was exciting because of its sheer volume."


Friday, May 12, 2006

Sabine chariot rewrites history "An ancient king's war chariot found in a tomb near Rome has helped rewrite the history of the Romans and their Sabine rivals .

"This chariot is an exceptional find," said archaeologist Paola Santoro .

"It shows that the city of Ereteum remained independent long after the Sixth Century BC." "In other Sabine cities like Custumerium, conquered by the Romans, the custom of putting regal objects in king's tombs had died out by that time" .

"We can say that Eretum kept its independence until the Fourth Century BC." Santoro said her team had recovered all the metal parts of the bronze-and-iron decorated chariot and had used echo-soundings to trace the imprints of the long-decayed wooden parts .

"This will enable us to reconstruct the whole chariot," she said .

The chariot, which accompanied the king on his last journey, was placed at the entrance to the tomb, the largest chamber tomb ever found in Italy .

Santoro's team have also found an Etruscan-style terracotta throne - "a metre high, worthy of the king's stature" - and four large bronze cauldrons with bull-hoof supports .

Less than a dozen of this type of cauldron had been discovered before, Santoro said .

The tomb was found in the main room in the three-room complex, next to a wall recess where a wooden coffin containing the king's ashes would have been placed .

The horses that had drawn the chariot would have been sacrificed at the entrance to this room, Santoro said .

Ancient Burial Chambers Unearthed in Rome

Ancient Burial Chambers Unearthed in Rome: "An unusual network of burial chambers was recently excavated and more than 1000 elegantly dressed corpses were uncovered. The chambers were found in 2003 when archaeologists were repairing one of Rome's catacombs that is closed to the public, the Catacomb of Sts. Peter and Marcellinus. The chambers, a series of large rooms, are believed to be from the second century and may be an early Christian burial place. Experts also think that the deaths may have been caused by an epidemic or natural disaster because of the large number of bodies buried during a short period of time. The bodies were dressed in nice clothing with gold threads and were neatly wrapped in sheets."

These burials sound verty intriguing. I don't remember reading anything about them in 2003. I wish there had been a link to earlier related articles.

Further searching brought me to another article in Catholic online. It added:

"Balsamic fragrances were also applied, according to Raffaella Giuliani, chief inspector of the Roman catacombs, who spoke with Vatican Radio May 1.

The archaeologists discovered a large room behind one of the painted walls of the catacombs, then a series of similar rooms.

"These were not galleries or cubicles, but big rooms completely full of skeletons. We had to work very carefully to excavate them without destroying them," Giuliani said.

"We were amazed at the high number of individual corpses found in these rooms," she said. The rooms appear to predate the catacombs, which were built in the third century.

Giuliani said the experts believe they were Christian burial places, in part because Christians of that time dedicated great care to burial. Early Christians buried rich and poor with great dignity, in expectation of the resurrection of the dead..."

Exquisite Treasures of Roman York unearthed

Yorkshire Post Today: "A gold ring and a carved jet pendant were found together as staff from York Archaeological Trust investigated a city centre site before it was redeveloped.
Both are thought to date from the fourth century and archaeologists were delighted to find two such pieces in the same place.
The gold ring is set with an oval stone, probably a carnelian, and is decorated with beaded wires, with decorative pellets in the bezel in which the stone is set.
'Carnelians were favoured by the Romans because of their blood-red colour,' said the trust's finds researcher Nicola Rogers.
'This ring is thought to be late Roman, probably from the fourth century.'
The jet pendant is an animal, possibly a bear, about one inch tall and standing on a small platform.
'He is almost identical to a find made in 1845 in Bootham where a group of Roman graves were uncovered,' said Ms Rogers."

Augustan head found in villa well in Italy

United Press International : "A marble, bas-relief, head of the Emperor Augustus has been found at a large and well-appointed Roman villa site near Rome.

The head, showing the emperor in profile in his middle years, is to be displayed at the Roman Antiquities Museum at Palazzo Massimo,"

Monday, May 08, 2006

Archeologists excavate 2,000-year-old road - Science - "Deep beneath pavement pounded by tourists on Paris? Left Bank lies an ancient path ? a 2,000-year-old Roman road recently excavated during construction work.

Remnants of private houses rigged with baths and ingeniously heated floors were among the findings, now on view in a stunning dig. Over the next few weeks, however, archaeologists will rip up the ruins to make way for a research center.

Archaeologists said it was the first such site discovered in the city ? known as Lutetia in pre-Roman and Roman Gaul ? from the reign of Roman emperor Augustus (63 B.C.-14 A.D.).

Items from daily life such as flowerpots, ceramics, bronze chains and drawer handles were dug out and will soon be exhibited in museums.

?We are trying to find out about the foundation and founders of the city,? Busson said, adding, ?It is exceptional that a Parisian site be so well-preserved.?

Archeologists are divided over the background of this neighborhood?s builders. Most contend that a Gallic aristocracy, recruited by the Roman army to fight in their civil wars, probably came back from the battlefield and settled in the area.

The Romanized returnees built the city according to Roman norms, but used local materials. They were wealthy enough to own a private Roman bath ? the jacuzzi of the era ? found in one of the houses discovered beneath the university.

The neighborhood stands on the old ?cardo maximus,? the Roman main street, which was originally paved for the Romans to cross the nearby Seine River and is today the Rue St. Jacques in Paris? chic 5th arrondissement, or district."

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

UK museums, treasure hunters agree code of conduct |

UK museums, treasure hunters agree code of conduct | "Museums, metal detectorists and archaeologists in England and Wales on Tuesday agreed a code of conduct to try to protect the country's buried treasures from being plundered by the unscrupulous or the unaware.

The voluntary code follows the massive looting of the Roman-Celtic temple at Wanborough in Surrey in the mid-1980s and with customs officers seizing increasing numbers of undeclared historical artefacts being smuggled out of the country.

'This code represents a major step forward,' Mike Heyworth of the Council for British Archaeology told reporters at the British Museum.

'Most detectorists are only interested in finding and preserving local antiquity ... and make a positive contribution to our historical knowledge,' he said. ' There are just a few illicit detectorists motivated solely by profit.'

In recent years amateur metal detectorists have unearthed, declared and been rewarded for some invaluable ancient artefacts like the Ringlemere Gold Cup, the Winchester Hoard of Iron Age jewelry and the bronze Roman Staffordshire Moorlands Pan.

Under the code, detectorists must get permission to search, join a recognized detectorists club, log the precise location of any find and report it to the landowner -- who has a share in any valuation -- and the portable antiquities scheme."

I hope this code of conduct works. I know when I was in Britain recently I purchased a certified 4th century Roman military cloak brooch from an established antiques center in York so I hope it was properly recorded and offered for sale legally.

A large Roman-era villa is discovered

A large Roman-era villa is discovered: "Italian archeologists have reportedly discovered the remains of a huge Roman villa near Florence -- the first ever in the popular tourist area.

'Villas like these were fully fledged factories for the production of wine, olive oil, meat, corn and other products,' said archaeologist Fausto Berti, who led the dig at Montelupo Fiorentino.

'We`ve found big animal pens, warehouses and even a workshop for making ceramic vases. The owners were self-sufficient,' he told the Italian news service ANSA.

The 500-meter-square villa has fully equipped baths with all the areas Romans used to produce various levels of heat, warm water and steam -- and a cooling area.

The Montelupo villa is open to the public during weekends but reservations are required."

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Archaeologists dig Roman dogs

icSurreyOnline : "BONES of dozens of dogs offered to the gods in Roman times and unearthed in Ewell 30 years ago is an archeological find that has triggered further investigation.

Leading archaeologists are in the village recovering the secrets of lost Roman shrines.

The team of excavators, digging at Hatch Furlong on the Ewell bypass, is being led by Harvey Sheldon of Birkbeck College, University of London, and Jon Cotton of the Museum of London and president of the Epsom and Ewell Local History and Archaeology Society.

The first finds were made in the 1840s in a series of deep ritual shafts cut down into the chalk.

But today's archaeologists will be seeking to uncover more of a stone building and a further deep shaft found in 1977. Shafts like these have been found containing pottery vessels, coins and the bones of many dogs.

Ewell lies on Stane Street - the main Roman road from London to Chichester - and the discoveries in and around Hatch Furlong suggest that a religious complex once existed on the higher ground over-looking the settlement."

Archaeologists uncover Iberian shrine and necropolis near La Vila Joiosa

Typically Spanish Spain News: "Archaeologists have found the remains of a 1st century BC Iberian shrine and necropolis on the outskirts of La Vila Joiosa.

The find is near the 19th century cliff-top Torreón Doctor José María Esquerdo, where a team of Spanish and French archaeologists are working together on the investigations. The dig is led by Pierre Ronillard, the director of the Maison René Gionouves Institute for Archaeological Investigation in France, and Jesús Moratalla, archaeology professor at Alicante University.

Archaeologists from the Casa de Velázquez and the Centre for Scientific Investigation in France are also involved, as is the Town Hall archaeologist, professor Antonio Espinosa, who said ?the fact that there are at least two large cemeteries here means that this Iberian city must have been very important in its time.?"

New Home for the Ara Pacis Opens in Rome

New York Times: "Since Rome was not built in a day, it is perhaps unsurprising that a plan to house Caesar Augustus's Ara Pacis, or altar of peace, in a new museum has taken 10 years to be realized. But even now, as work continues on the $24 million glass and travertine marble structure, which stands between a busy highway overlooking the River Tiber and the Mausoleum of Augustus, Rome's mayor, Walter Veltroni, went ahead with its scheduled inauguration on Friday because April 21 was, at least in theory, the city's 2,759th birthday.

The Ara Pacis was commissioned by the Roman Senate in 13 B.C. and inaugurated in 9 B.C. to honor Augustus for "pacifying" Gaul and Spain. In one frieze, the emperor appears in a procession with priests, loyal aides and family members. Other reliefs identify him with the heroic Aeneas and with Romulus and Remus, the city's mythical founders. Carvings of cattle, swans, insects, flowers and fruit underline the message that, under Augustus, Romans enjoyed peace and prosperity.

The altar, which was placed in the Campus Martius, or the field of war, was probably destroyed after Rome fell to the Barbarians. But early last century, parts were traced to museums in Florence and Rome (as well as the Louvre in Paris) and other pieces were found in excavations. In the late 1930's, Mussolini ordered the altar's reconstruction and installed it in a building designed by Vittorio Ballio Morpurgo beside the Tiber. However, few people ever visited the Ara Pacis in its previous crumbling home."

I look forward to seeing the altar in its new naturally lighted enclosure when I next visit Rome.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Ancient Roman holiday villa found "Archaeologists have discovered a 2nd-century seaside villa where two important senators of ancient Rome are believed to have passed their summers .

The remains of the luxury residence turned up recently in Torvaianica, a coastal resort south of Rome, when the local council started digging trenches for a new sewerage system .

Historians knew from written sources that the villa of Titus Flavius Claudanius and Titus Flavius Sallustius was somewhere in the area but the precise location had long been forgotten .

The two senators belonged to an imperial dynasty and, as befitted their rank, the villa was constructed on a grand scale. It covers about a hectare and includes a large area given over to relaxation, including a gymnasium, hot and cold baths and various swimming pools .

'We're uncovering a vast complex, in which we've found all sorts of vessels and ceramics which have been taken away to be catalogued,' said head archaeologist Filippo Avilia ."

Monday, March 27, 2006

Statue reveals Roman lady with her make-up still on - World - Times Online

Times Online: "BRITISH and Italian archaeologists have recovered for the first time a painted Roman statue with its colours preserved.

The head of a female Amazon warrior, shown exclusively to The Times, was retrieved this week from the debris of a collapsed escarpment at Herculaneum, the seaside resort for the rich and powerful of ancient Rome that was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD79.

Domenico Camardo, the archaeologist who dug the head from the volcanic rock, said that when a workman first alerted him to the discovery, he ?hardly dared hope? that the bust would be intact. ?Only the back of the head was visible, and I was afraid the face would have crumbled,? he said.

The nose and mouth were missing, but the hair, pupils and eyelashes were ?as pristine as they were when Herculaneum was overwhelmed by the eruption?, Monica Martelli Castaldi, the restorer of the team, said.

?Those eyes are alive, looking at us from 2,000 years ago,? she said. ?To find this much pigment is very, very special.? Although it had been known that Roman statues were painted, only faint traces of pigment had been found before now. It had also been assumed that classical statues were painted brightly. In fact, the colouring on the head is a delicate shade of orange-red, which, although faded, indicates that classical colouring was subtle and sophisticated, Jane Thompson, the project manager, said."

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Isotope studies of Roman coins will be used to map origins

An archaeologist at the University of Liverpool is examining more than 1,000 Roman silver coins from museums around the world in order to establish their true economic value.

An archaeologist at the University of Liverpool is examining more than 1,000 Roman silver coins from museums around the world in order to establish their true economic value. (Image courtesy of University of Liverpool)

Dr Matthew Ponting, from the University's School of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology, is investigating the chemical composition of the coins to further understanding of how and where they were made. Dr Ponting believes that analysis of the coins will also shed more light on the political and economic issues of the Roman Empire.

Dr Ponting and his colleague Professor Kevin Butcher from the American University of Beirut, are using unique analysis techniques to examine the make-up of the coins and establish their silver content. The analysis will also identify particular chemical elements which will help the archaeologists establish where and how the coins were made.

Dr Ponting said: "For the first time we are able to use a combination of chemical and isotopic analysis on these coins. Chemical analysis will give useful trace element 'finger prints' telling us about the type of ores exploited and the technology used in smelting and refining the metal."

The team is analysing the coins by drilling a small hole in their outer edge to get beneath the treated surface and investigate their different layers.

Dr Ponting added: "By measuring the isotopes of lead in the coins it is often possible to ascertain where that metal came from. This is done by comparing the isotopic 'signature' of the silver coin, with isotopic 'signatures' of known Roman silver mining regions. In this way I hope to be able to investigate where Rome was getting its silver from."

Carving of 'northern god' found

BBC NEWS | UK | England | Tyne : "A 2000-year-old carving of a so-called 'northern god', adopted by the Romans for protection and good luck, has been uncovered in Northumberland.

The 40cm high figure, holding a shield in one hand and spear or sword in the other, was discovered near Chesters Fort on Hadrian's Wall.

Experts say the find is exciting as it helps shed light on how people used local idols for protection.

The carving is thought to be that of Cocidius, a Romano-British warrior god."

Rare pre-Greek site to be explored : "A very rare example of surviving pre-Greek settlement in southern Italy is to be excavated and explored. The site, at Molpa in the hills above Palinuro south of Naples, is believed to contain the remains of a large village of the Enotrians, the earliest known inhabitants of Calabria and southern Campania. The Greeks who settled across southern Italy from 700BC to create Magna Graecia had an idealised vision of the Enotrians ('wine lovers') as coming from the Eden-like land of Arcadia .

In reality, they probably came from eastern Europe and moved down into a large swathe of southern Italy from 1000 BC .

Most histories of Italy, based on ancient Greek texts, portray southern Italy as virgin territory .

Recent discoveries about the Enotrians have exploded this myth .

A dig at another Enotrian site, in Campania, has uncovered evidence that the Greek colonists owed their wealth to exploiting prosperous native villages. The settlement, on a hill called Timpone della Motta, had a large necropolis and a monumental sanctuary .

The finds from huts, graves and the sanctuary of the Enotrians point to the organized production of bronze cauldrons, decorated pots made on the potter's wheel, olive oil and wine long before the arrival of the Greeks. The Greek colony that came later, Sybaris, became a byword for sensual excess and has given us the word sybaritic. One of the last kings of the Enotrians, Italo or Italos, is said to have changed his kingdom's name from Enotria to Italia - the name eventually adopted for the whole peninsula ."

Bangladesh discovers ancient fort city that may have linked India and Rome

Bangladesh discovers ancient fort city: "Archaeologists in Bangladesh say they have uncovered part of a fortified citadel dating back to 450 B.C. that could have been a stopping off point along an ancient trade route.

So far, a moat round the citadel has been uncovered along with parts of an ancient road at Wari, 85 km (53 miles) northeast of the capital Dhaka.

'The citadel and a raft of artifacts may help redefine history of India,' said Sufi Mostafizur Rahman, head of the department of archaeology at Jahangirnagar University, near Dhaka.

'The well-planned road with even manholes proves that the citadel was managed by a very efficient administration,' Mostafizur added.

'I am confident further excavation will lead us to residue of a palace,' he said.

Archaeologists have been excavating the ancient roads and unearthing artifacts for several years. Tests by a Dutch university revealed the objects dated to around 450 B.C.

Artefacts found in the 600 x 600 meter (1,800 x 1,800 ft) include metal coins, metallic chisels, terracotta missiles, rouletted and knobbed pottery, stone hammers and bangles. Ornaments suggested Buddhism dominated life in the urban centers. Mostafizur said the citadel was believed to be a part of Harappan civilization and a prime trade center might have flourished there, possibly serving as a link between contemporary South Asian and Roman civilizations."

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Tracing an ancient India-Rome trading route

The Hindu : Kerala / Thiruvananthapuram News: 'Even though archaeological excavations at two Roman-era ports in Egypt and at Pattanam on the Malabar coast have yielded strong evidence of sustained trade between India and the Roman empire, further research is required before it can be stated with finality that Pattanam is indeed the port of `Muziris' described in the `Periplus Maris Erythraei' written in the first century by a sea-faring, Greek-speaking Egyptian merchant,' said classical archaeologist and visiting fellow of Southampton University, Roberta Tambor in her paper`From Egypt to the Malabar Coast: Rome's Oriental Trade' presented to the Kerala Council for Historical Research.

Excavations at Myos Hormos and Berenike two ancient ports on the Red Sea have yielded fragments of Indian-made pottery. At one of these sites, a large vessel found intact even contained 7.5 kg of black pepper; the variety grown along the Malabar coast.

Teak planks that could have been part of ships, pieces of Indian-made cotton that could have been part of a sail and even pieces of embroidered cloth were found at these sites. Moreover, the excavations also yielded coins -- one of King Rudrasena the third, that has been dated to the fourth century -- and pots with Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions, she said.

Pattanam, on the other hand, has yielded amphora (holding vessels) of Roman make and those made elsewhere in the Persian Gulf."

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Phoenician temple found in Sicily : "An ancient Phoenician temple unearthed in Sicily is 'unique' in the West, the head of the Italian dig team claims .

'You have to go all the way to Amrit in Syria to find a similar one,' said Lorenzo Nigro of the Rome University team .

The temple came to light last year after a portion of a lagoon surrounding the Phoenician city of Motya (present-day Mozia) was drained .

The pool began to fill up again and a fresh-water spring was found - a fact Nigro believes proves it was used as a holy place.

'The Phoenicians placed their cities on the coast near water springs, which for them meant that there was a divine presence there.' Digs at the site, on the westernmost tip of Sicily near Marsala, have brought to light the ruins of a 'monumental' temple including columns of a type used by the Phoenicians on Cyprus - as well as fragments of an obelisk .

'The similarity with the Temple of the Obelisks at Byblos, Lebanon, is clear,' Nigro said .

Nigro believes the pool flanking the temple was used for water rituals and offerings to Baal, the Phoenician god of the sea and the underworld .

However, other Italian archaeologists do not agree with him .

'The pool is without doubt merely a dock used for repairing ships,' said Sebastiano Tusa of Naples University, head of marine archaeology for the Sicilian regional government .

Motya - whose name means 'wool-spinning centre' - was founded in the 8th century BC, about a century after the foundation of the most famous Phoenician colony in the ancient world, Carthage in Tunisia ."

Thursday, February 23, 2006

G-String-Clad Gladiator Found

Somehow I missed this interesting little tidbit a couple of months ago.

Discovery Channel: "Divers exploring a river near a former Roman Empire fort and settlement in Britain have found a piece of pottery that depicts the backside of a rather buff gladiator wielding a whip and wearing nothing but a G-string, according to British researchers.

The image represents the first known depiction of a gladiator in such revealing attire. It adds to the evidence that ancient Romans viewed gladiators not only as fearless warriors, but also as sex symbols.

Philippa Walton, who analyzed the object and is a finds liaison officer for the Cambridgeshire County Council, described the artifact to Discovery News. 'The find is a small shard of pottery possibly from a drinking beaker made in Britain in the 3rd century A.D.,' Walton said. 'It depicts a man wearing a G-string and possibly holding a whip and is likely therefore to represent a gladiator.'

"A lot of film stars and celebrities like to show a bit of bum, so the Romans were no doubt the same or worse," Rolfe Hutchinson told Discovery News. He discovered the object with diving partner Bob Middlemass. "After all, they were the celebrities of the day."

The ancient Romans may have relished such dramatic displays of beefcake and power, but they also could be quite practical.

Near the site of the pottery shard, Hutchinson and Middlemass also found a copper razor handle, dating to approximately the same period. The handle was modeled into the shape of a Roman soldier leg and foot, the two-inch-high foot wearing a heavy wool sock stuffed into a sandal."