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."