Monday, December 17, 2007

Large hoard of Roman tableware found in London

Archaeologists have unearthed a hoard of more than 1,000 ancient Roman artefacts in central London.

Buckets, bowls and dishes mostly made of copper alloy were among the items discovered in Moorgate, on the edge of the city's financial district.

Also discovered was the most complete wooden door to have survived anywhere in the Roman Empire and 19 metal vessels in the bottom of a wood-lined well.

Jenny Hall, curator of Roman London at the Museum of London, which revealed the finds, described them as "amazing".

"I just couldn't stop grinning when I first saw them," she told The Times newspaper.

"In size and scale they are simply unprecedented.

"Nothing like this has ever been found in London before, or anywhere else in Britain."

The items, from the first to third centuries AD, were discovered by archaeologist Chris Jarrett and are expected to give researchers a unique insight into the Roman city of Londinium.

New studies show Roman Caister structures less condensed than previously

New investigations at Caistor Roman town using the latest technology have revealed the plan of the buried town at an extraordinary level of detail which has never been seen before. The high-resolution geophysical survey used a Caesium Vapour magnetometer to map buried remains across the entire walled area of the Roman town.

The research at Caistor is being directed by Dr Will Bowden of The University of Nottingham, who worked with Dr David Bescoby and Dr Neil Chroston of the University of East Anglia on the new survey, sponsored by the British Academy. Around 30 local volunteer members of the Caistor Roman Town Project also assisted.

The survey has produced the clearest plan of the town yet seen confirming the street plan (shown by previous aerial photographs), the town’s water supply system (detecting the iron collars connecting wooden water pipes), and the series of public buildings including the baths, temples and forum, known from earlier excavations.

However, the survey also showed that earlier interpretations of the town as a densely occupied urban area — given by reconstruction paintings — may be totally wrong. Buildings were clustered along the main streets of the town, but other areas within the street grid seem to have been empty and were perhaps used for grazing or cultivation.

Dr Bowden, a lecturer in Roman Archaeology, said: "The results of the survey have far exceeded our expectations. It's not an exaggeration to say that the survey has advanced our knowledge of Caistor to the same extent that the first aerial photograph did 80 years ago.

“The presence of possible Iron Age and Saxon features suggests that the town had a much longer life than we previously thought and the fact that it's just sitting there in open fields instead of being under a modern town means we can ask the questions we want to.

“For an archaeologist it's a dream opportunity to really examine how European towns developed."

A new Roman theatre?

One of the most exciting new discoveries from the survey is what looks like a Roman theatre. Clear traces of a large semi-circular building have been found next to the town’s temples — the typical location for a theatre in Roman Britain.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Ceremonial Throne Found in the Villa of the Papyri

An ancient Roman wood and ivory throne has been unearthed at a dig in Herculaneum, Italian archaeologists said on Tuesday, hailing it as the most significant piece of wooden furniture ever discovered there.

The throne was found during an excavation in the Villa of the Papyri, the private house formerly belonging to Julius Caesar's father-in-law, Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus, built on the slope of Mount Vesuvius.

The name of the villa derives from the impressive library containing thousands of scrolls of papyrus discovered buried under meters (yards) of volcanic ash after the Vesuvius erupted on 24 August 79.

Restoration of the throne is still ongoing with restorers painstakingly trying to piece back together parts of the ceremonial chair.

While other wooden objects have been dug out in nearby Pompeii, experts have never before found such a significant ceremonial piece of furniture.

ittle is known about how the throne would have been used but the elaborate decorations discovered on the chair celebrate the mysterious cult figure of Attis. The most precious relief shows Attis, a life-death-rebirth deity, collecting a pine cone next to a sacred pine tree. Other ornaments show leaves and flowers suggesting the theme of the throne is that of spring and fertility.

The cult of Attis is documented to have been strong in Herculaneum the first century AD.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

20-foot section of Aurelian Wall Collapses

"A 20-foot section of Rome's ancient Aurelian Wall collapsed near the capital's central train station after days of heavy rain, a conservation official said yesterday.

The wall, part of a 16th century restoration, crumbled into a pile of bricks Thursday evening after water infiltrated the section, said Paola Virgili, an official in charge of the wall's restoration. No one was reported hurt.

The Aurelian Wall — named after the third century emperor who built it to defend the city against the first barbarian onslaughts — surrounds Rome with more than 11 miles of fortifications, towers and gates.

Experts had previously determined that the entire wall section in the area, a 1,100-foot stretch in the north of the capital, was in danger of collapsing and they had planned to start restoring it Monday."

I thought it interesting that a section repaired in the 16th century collapsed while the majority of the Roman wall that is almost 1700 years old did not. Obviously masonry techniques had not yet regained the level of the ancient Romans by the 16th century.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Tombstone of Roman Cavalryman Found in Scotland

Although the article refers to pictures Mr. Cavanagh took with his cell phone, none were included with the article and I couldn't find any elsewhere online. However, from the description, it sounds very similar to the one pictured at left. This grave marker is the tombstone of Flavinus, a standardbearer from the Ala Augusta Gallorum Petriana milliaria civium Romanorum or Ala Petriana. He is shown riding over a bearded warrior.

"The 9-foot-high stone now stands in Hexham Abbey, where it was found in 1881 among the foundations of the 12th Century eastern section of the cloister. Because there is no known Roman station at Hexham, it is assumed that Flavinus died when the Ala was stationed at Corbridge during the period before 130 AD, and that the stone was later moved to Hexham. The reason for its removal is not known.

The sculptor has shortened the horse to fit onto the sandstone slab, and, following a fashion for showing the success of Roman cavalry over the barbarians, he has extended Flavinus' leg from the knee down so he can "boot" the enemy's backside!" - The Fell Pony Museum

"IT HAD lain undiscovered and untouched for almost 2,000 years and could have been lost forever if not for the persistence of an amateur archaeologist and his camera phone.

Joiner Larney Cavanagh instinctively knew he had found something special when he and his 10-year-old son happened upon a Latin-inscribed artefact in a field near their East Lothian home.

What they did not realise was that they had discovered the first Roman tombstone in Scotland for 173 years.

The tombstone is the first to be unearthed north of the Border since 1834. Dating from between 140AD and 180AD, it features the image of a Roman cavalryman charging down a native Caledonian.

The inscription shows it was dedicated to the memory of a man named Crescens, who was a mounted bodyguard for the imperial governor who ran the occupied parts of Scotland, England and Wales.

It reads: "To the shades of Crescens, cavalryman of the Ala Sebosiana, from the detachment of the governor's bodyguard (the Equites Singulaires), served 15 years, his heir (or heirs) had this erected".

Dr Fraser Hunter, principal curator of Roman archaeology with National Museums Scotland, said: "Tombstones like these are surprisingly rare in Scotland, given that there was a garrison of several thousand men here over a period of more than 50 years. Only 13 have ever been found. This is the first time we have found evidence of the governor's bodyguard in Scotland.

"It is also a fantastic potted history of this man's life and career and shows that he was a well respected and important man.

"The image is fairly typical in that it shows a so-called barbarian, displayed as being naked and hairy, being overcome by a noble Roman soldier.

"It is very much a work of propaganda. Stones like these were there to celebrate the achievements of individuals in the Roman army, but were also there to intimidate people and act as a warning.

"There is a lot of cleaning work still to be done on the stone but eventually it will be put on public display."

Hunter believes the presence of the stone near Inveresk suggests that Crescens died while accompanying the governor on a visit to the fort there."

Mosaic Floors of Roman villa unearthed in Austria

As mosaics are one of my passions, I tried to find a picture of some of the mosaic floors discovered at this villa but no luck so far. I do wish archaeologists on major digs would consider including a field digital photographer as part of the team so news releases could be properly illustrated.

"Archaeologists in the western Austrian province Tyrol unearthed the remains of a large-scale Roman villa, complete with extensive floor mosaics that may have been also a source for a number of local legends.

The archaeologists from Innsbruck University stumbled upon references to the 1 800-year-old, long since forgotten building situated near the town Lienz in a manuscript penned in Latin, dating back to the mid-18th century. Tyrolean proto-archaeologist Anton Roschmann wrote that he found Roman remains in 1746, but his findings were lost, the Austrian Press Agency reported.

During a dig in October the remains of five rooms of a building dating back to Roman times wear unearthed on a 300-square-metre plot. The remains of the walls show colourful wall paintings, the archaeologists said, but the most astounding find were large-scale floor mosaics in three of the rooms.

The mosaics were unique in the region regarding their dimensions and state of preservation, the archaeologists said. Furthermore, the villa had been partly equipped with wall and floor heatings.

The heating vaults under the floors remained partly intact. The fact that they had not collapsed as usual added to the good condition of the mosaics.

In the 18th century, the low-ceilinged vaults were believed to be the home of dwarfs, leading to the creation of local legends about a "dwarf city" in the region.

The alpine region that today represents the Austrian province Tyrol was conquered by Rome in 15 BC While it profited from Roman trade, the region was never particularly attractive for Roman settlers."

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Excavation to resume on Basilica in Herculaneum

Although Herculaneum was discovered over two centuries ago, work on the site halted in 1999 because of fears about the conservation of the site. Because the site lies four metres below the waterline, it is constantly flooded. In addition, the previous dig unearthed an unexpected complex of buildings that needed urgent restoration.

Meanwhile, the first work on the main site of Herculaneum for almost 30 years could begin as early as next year, with the aim of unearthing a collection of public records that will reveal the daily life of the city.

Unlike Pompeii, Herculaneum was almost perfectly preserved after the eruption of Vesuvius, down to the tiniest detail. However, the site, which was only discovered by mistake during the 18th century, mostly lies underneath a modern-day suburb of Naples.

"The parts we have excavated so far are only around a third of the entire site," said Dr. Andrew Wallace-Hadrill. "But it is a bit difficult to expropriate the land to excavate the Villa dei Papyri, since it lies underneath the modern town hall," he joked.

"Many of the cellars of the modern houses are only a metre or so above the Ancient Roman ruins," he added. The grotty tenements of modern Herculaneum lean precariously over the excavation site. The area is now a stronghold of the Camorra, or Neapolitan Mafia, and buying up land to continue excavating has been near-impossible.

However, Dr Wallace-Hadrill revealed that digging on the Basilica would begin next year. "The breakthrough was that two palazzi collapsed last year, which convinced the residents above that it was not safe," he said.

The new excavation work will be funded by a £1.5 million grant from the Packard Humanities Institute, founded by a scion of Hewlett Packard computer empire. The work on the Villa dei Papyri is being funded by a £2 million-a-year grant from the European Union and the Region of Campania.

"We know what is underneath because of tunnels dug in the 18th century, which brought up all sorts of statues and frescoes," said Mr Wallace-Hadrill. The Basilica, which would have served as a town meeting hall, should contain public records of life in Herculaneum that would be invaluable to classical historians.

Last year, the first complete painted statue ever found, the bust of an Amazon warrior, was unearthed from near the Basilica.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Susan Alcock studies rural Roman Empire with satellite imaging

Susan Alcock is currently one of four co-directors of an archaeological project in southern Armenia called the Vorotan Project. A diachronic study, it focuses on all periods from the Stone Age to the Soviet era and attempts to build an understanding of how and why the landscape has evolved through time, Alcock said.

For Alcock, the site is of particular interest because of its location between the ancient Roman and Parthian empires - the inhabitants of the region would have been caught between two formidable empires, she said.

Alcock, professor of classics and director of the Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World, uses advanced technology to study the geography of ancient landscapes for clues into the behavior and movements of ancient peoples.

She uses satellite imaging, aerial photography and geographic information system technology to study landscapes. Alcock's work focuses on the Greek and Roman rural countryside, which she said had been largely ignored in favor of urban areas when she began her work. She said she employs the relatively new methodology of systematic pedestrian survey, or regional survey, which involves walking an area of land and examining the surface for agricultural features, remains of settlements and pottery.

Alcock said she is particularly interested in the collective memory of ancient peoples. Often, she explained, texts from the period aren't representative of the greater part of society - the poor, commoners and farmers - but of an elite fragment.

UK Housing Partnership Uncovers Grave of Roman Centurion

"Matrix Housing Partnership has discovered the Romans in a Worcestershire village. The partnership, which includes Accord, Ashram, Caldmore, Trident and Rooftop, is currently developing a site on the outskirts of picturesque Eckington. Image

During the archaeological inspection of the site the ancient burial site of a Roman centurion was uncovered.

This is a rare discovery in South Worcestershire as the soil has usually degraded the bone beyond recognition. However this find includes a near complete skull and the majority of the skeleton.

Birmingham University archaeology team have removed the bones for further analysis.

Toby Whiting, communications manager for Rooftop who is leading the development, dressed up as a centurion for the day to commemorate the find. He said: "We're delighted by the discovery. Matrix developments pride themselves on addressing the needs of future communities but this is a wonderful reminder that communities last a very long time indeed. It's great opportunity to learn more about Eckington's past and share that with the rest of the village."

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Jupiter Relief Found in Turkey

A 130-centimeter-long relief depicting the Roman god Jupiter taking a vow with his wife Iuno Regina was found during excavations in the ancient city of Dülük in Gaziantep.

The relief is the first evidence of the mythological king of the gods and god of thunder and lightning to be discovered in the city believed to be his hometown.

Professor Engelbert Winter, excavation head of Germany's Münster University, said there were many other findings depicting Jupiter in southern Europe, but that this is first time something was discovered in Dülek. 'We had an idea of what he looked like from excavations held in southern Europe, but we couldn't find anything other than inscription in the ancient city so far. The (discovery of this) relief will shed light on our future works (in the city),' he said.

The relief is 130 x 70 centimeters in size and depicts Jupiter and his wife Iuno Regina in a ceremony at an altar with two priests. Jupiter holds a bunch of lightning in his right hand and a pair of axes in his left hand. This symbolically represents the power of the god of thunder.

Located 10 kilometers south of Gaziantep, the ancient city of Dülük lies on the historical Silk Road and ancient trade routes.

Stone tools were discovered at the Şarklı Cave on the borders of Dülük, indicating that the area was settled in around 6000 B.C. The city is believed to be the ancient city of Doliche, which was a religious center of Teşup, the master deity of Hittite civilization.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Roman-era escape tunnel found in Jerusalem

Israeli archeologists on Sunday said they've stumbled upon the site of one of the great dramatic scenes of the Roman sacking of Jerusalem 2,000 years ago: the subterranean drainage channel Jews used to escape from the city's Roman conquerors.

The ancient tunnel was dug beneath what would become the main road of Jerusalem in the days of the second biblical Temple, which the Romans destroyed in the year 70, the dig's directors, archaeology Professor Ronny Reich of the University of Haifa and Eli Shukron of the Israel Antiquities Authority, told a news conference.

The channel was buried beneath the rubble of the sacking, and the parts that have been exposed since it was discovered two weeks ago have been preserved intact.

The walls — ashlar stones one meter (3 feet) deep — reach a height of 3 meters (10 feet) in some places and are covered by heavy stone slabs that were the main road's paving stones, Shukron said. Several manholes are visible, and portions of the original plastering remain, he said.

Pottery sherds, vessel fragments and coins from the end of the Second Temple period were discovered inside the channel, attesting to its age, Reich said.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Roman soldier's footprint found in excavation of Hippos

Archaeologists have uncovered a footprint made by a sandal-clad Roman soldier in a wall surrounding the ancient city of Hippos.

"The print was made by a strappy, leather sandal of a type worn by the Roman military. Called caliga, the sandals of this time had iron hobnails hammered into their soles, which provided durability and traction as well as a weapon when kicking.

Other finds of the excavation project this summer at the ancient city of Hippos included the city's colonnaded street, extending 790 feet (240 meters), a marble-paneled bathhouse, a glass bottle with an embossed face and part of a statue of a Greek god. The archaeologists hope upcoming digs will reveal other pieces of the estimated 6.5-foot-high (2-meter) statue.

The sandal mark in the cement suggests the soldiers participated in the construction of the walls, the researchers say.

"This rare footprint, which is complete and well-preserved, hints at who built the walls, how and when," said researcher Michael Eisenberg of the Zinman Institute at the University of Haifa.

Hippos, also called Sussita, overlooks the Sea of Galilee. It was established in the third century B.C. and flourished as a Greco-Roman city until the seventh century A.D. The city was destroyed by an earthquake in the year 749."

Temple of Jupiter and the Triad Capitoline unearthed in Sarmizegetusa Romania

"Romanian archeologists have found the Capitol of Sarmizegetusa, a temple in the ancient Roman province of Dacia, Rompres news agency reported Thursday.

"We were glad to confirm the suppositions we have been nourishing for 25 years, about the place where the Capitol lies, one of the most important temples of Roman Dacia," said Ioan Piso, an official of Transylvania National History Museum in central Romania.

"This is the temple of Jupiter and the Triad Capitoline, made of Jupiter, Junona and Minerva," Rompres quoted Piso as saying.

Such temples used to be erected in every Roman city, after the model of Rome, Piso said, noting the significance of the latest discovery to the history of Romania.

The Capitol of Sarmizegetusa is unique, because the dedication of the edifice meant that the cult of Jupiter had been officially brought to the Roman province of Dacia, Piso said.

"This happened around 150 AD and the temple's dedication day, May 23 by the Julian calendar, became one of the biggest feasts in Dacia," Piso added."

Roman coin hoard in Tamul Nadu region of India

I received a news alert that mentioned an area in India where a huge Roman coin hoard had been found recently. I didn't remember reading about it so I searched Google and found the following reference. This may not be the hoard they were talking about (is 1998 considered recent?). However, I found it interesting anyway.

"A team of archaeologists, which examined the Roman gold coins found recently at Nathampatti village near Srivilliputhur, was able to assess the exact date of the coins and the kings who issued them. According to a press release from Mr. C. Santhalingam, the Archaeological Officer of Tirumalai Naicker Mahal here, the three-member team comprising Mr. V. Vedachalam, Mr. C. Santhalingam and Mr. C. Chandravanan, under the directions of Mr. Natana. Kasinathan, Director of Archaeology, examined the coins. The coins were unearthed when the local people were engaged in laying water pipes. They were handed over to the police.

The team's findings pointed out that the nine coins had been issued by the Byzantine rulers. While five coins belonged to the period of King Theodosius II (402-450 AD), the other four belonged to that of King Leo I (457-474 AD). The team observed that all the coins have a same weight of 3.00 gms and 2 cm. diametre and are in good state of preservation.

The obverse of all the coins have same figures of a bust of richly dressed and well ornamented King with the legend denoting the name of the King DN Theodosius Augustus and DN Leo. On the reverse side, five coins have the standing figures of Victoria with winged shoulder and holding a cross in her right hand. The legend reads as VICTORIAAVVCCE. The other three coins have a seated King CONCORDI with cross and Sceptre in two hands. The other coins have some different figures and different legends like SALVS REPUBLIC AE and VOL NURI. The mint Constantinople where these coins were minted, is mentioned as CONOB. Seven coins have two holes which might have been used to insert strings to wear as ornaments. The rest two have no holes."

Many Roman coins were found in Kerala and the Kongu region of Tamil Nadu, which served as main resources of foreign trade. But most of these coins belong to the early period of Christian era (i.e.) 1-2 CAD. Roman coins were also found at one or two places in Tamil Nadu but meagre in number. Places like Alagankulam, Kulathupalayam, Mamallapuram had yielded Roman Coins of 4 CAD. Large amount of coins were collected from Madurai and Karur. They were all of copper. For the first time gold coins of 5 CAD has been found at Tamil Nadu. Scholars opined that Roman trade with Tamil Nadu almost ceased in the 2 or 3 CAD. But these new finds of gold coins had proved that the trade continued upto 5 CAD. Similar type of coins of King Theodosius II and Leo I were already unearthed in Akkiyalur hoard in Karnataka.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Intact 2,000-year-old Etruscan tomb discoverd in Civitella Paganico

Archaelogists have discovered a more than 2,000-year-old Etruscan tomb perfectly preserved in the hills of Tuscany with a treasure trove of artifacts inside, including urns that hold the remains of about 30 people.

The tomb, in the Tuscan town of Civitella Paganico, probably dates from between the 1st and 3rd centuries B.C., when Etruscan power was in decline, Andrea Marcocci, who led digging at the site, told Reuters.

"It's quite rare to find a tomb intact like this," said Marcocci, who had suspected one might exist in the area after work on a nearby road scattered pieces of artifacts.

Inside the tomb, a narrow corridor led to a small burial chamber, about 2 meters long and 1.79 meters wide, he said. It housed about 80 objects including vases and mirrors in bronze and ceramic. Urns holding human remains were also found."

Learn Etruscan phrases!

Team continues excavation of Visigothic remains at Marina Alta

"This summer dozens of students from all over Europe visited the Marina Alta town to toil in the sunshine as volunteer labour for the residential experts. Work took place on the slopes of the famous Penon de Ifach landmark -where remains of a 4th Century church has been discovered along with artefacts of a community dating back to 700 BC - and surrounding site of the Queen's Baths. However, it is the 5th Century church alongside the Roman baths and built over part of an extensive villa that has excited archaeologists. Ana Ronda, who is in charge of the dig, told Round Town News the church was constructed during the Visigoth Empire's spread into Iberia - after the once barbarian hordes converted to Roman Catholicism -and it was first identified in 2004.

"We have been very surprised at the sheer scale of the church and have yet to find the altar," she said. "However, we have uncovered the pool - the 'baptismo' - where people were baptised through total immersion. We are still trying to discover just how large the building is and so work continues." The dig has already identified 25 tombs, the graves unearthed inside and outside the walls of the church. Ana said skeletons were found in 23 of the graves. Discoveries from the project are taken to Alicante and housed in the MARQ archaeological museum. The Queen's Baths and Roman fish pools at Calpe were identified a number of years ago, along with a factory producing terracotta pottery. However, the huge villa alongside the baths and a Roman street and houses leading away towards the modern town are more recent finds."

Friday, August 03, 2007

Colossal statue of the emperor Hadrian discovered at Sagalassos, Turkey

This is truly a fantastic find. I always wondered what the colossal statue of Nero looked like that used to stand outside the Colosseum and of course we'd all like to know what the Colossus of Rhodes really looked like!

"A huge, exquisitely carved marble statue of the Roman emperor Hadrian is the latest find from Sagalassos, an ancient Greco-Roman city in south-central Turkey. Archaeologists estimate that the figure was originally between 13 and 16 feet in height (four to five meters). It is, says excavation director Marc Waelkens, one of the most beautiful portraits of Hadrian ever found.

The discovery was made by archaeologists from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium), who, under Waelkens' direction, have been investigating the site since 1990. Last month a new excavation campaign started, and the Belgians resumed work at the Roman Bath, focusing on the southeastern corner of the complex.

On Sunday the first fragments of a over life-size statue, a foot and part of a leg, were unearthed. The foot is 31.5 inches (0.80 meters) long; the leg, from just above the knee to the ankle, is nearly five feet (1.5 meters). The elaborate sandal depicted on the footed indicated to the archaeologists that the fragments were from the statue of an emperor. On Monday, the almost intact head of the statue was discovered, revealing that the statue was of Hadrian, who ruled from A.D. 117 to 138. The head measures more than 27 inches (0.70 meters).

Construction of the bath complex in Sagalassos was started during Hadrian's reign, though the building was finished only several decades later. The bath complex is one of several major building projects at Sagalassos that can be dated to the time of Hadrian and the city had a sanctuary of the imperial cult dedicated to Hadrian and his successor Antoninus Pius.

The statue probably dates from the beginning of Hadrian's rule. For updates on the current excavation campaign, including any additional finds related to the Hadrian statue, see the Interactive Dig, City in the Clouds."

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Archaeologists Excavate Ancient Roman Tannery

ROME -- Archaeologists excavating an ancient tannery believed to be the largest ever found in Rome said Tuesday they might need to move the entire work site, which is being threatened by railroad construction. The 1,255-square-yard complex includes a tannery dating to the second or third century, as well as burial sites and part of a Roman road.

At least 97 tubs, some measuring more than three feet in diameter, have been dug up so far in the tannery, archaeologists said.

The complex, located in the Casal Bertone area in the outskirts of Rome, lies between two tunnels of a high-speed railway being built to link Rome and Naples, said Stefano Musco, the director of the archaeological excavations.

"(Even though) there are only 109 yards of railway left to build, the archaeological complex has no chance of surviving," Musco told reporters during a tour of the dig. "Either it stays the way it is and the works are stopped or, if the railway must be built, these remains will have to be cut out and rebuilt entirely."

He said they might be moved to a nearby park.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The ‘Ephesus’ of the Black Sea to be unveiled - Turkish Daily News Jul 24, 2007

The ‘Ephesus’ of the Black Sea to be unveiled - Turkish Daily News Jul 24, 2007: " The remains of an ancient city on the Black Sea coast will be unearthed for the first time next month. Archaeologists are beginning excavations and underwater dives with the aim of unveiling the architectural plan of Teion (or Tion), located in Zonguldak's Filyos district.

Speaking to the Anatolia news agency, archaeologist S�mer Atasoy said the excavation team conducted surface research last year but that the major digging will start in August with a 30-member excavation team.

He said they had outlined an aqueduct, a theater, defensive walls, a breakwater, a port and port walls by examining remains close to the surface. �The ancient city hosted many civilizations including Persians, Romans, Genoas and Ottomans. The work, which was carried out for the first time on the Black Sea coast, indicates that the ancient city was an important trade center in the region. Its inhabitants sold forest products and bonitos. We uncovered an ancient Roman theater with a 2,000-person capacity as well as marble and bronze statues.�"

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Hadrian-era bath complex found inRome

A large 2nd-century bath complex believed to be part of a wealthy Roman's luxurious residence has been partially dug up, archaeologists said Thursday.

The exceptionally well-preserved two-story complex, which extends for at least five acres, includes ornate hot rooms, vaults, changing rooms, marble latrines and an underground room where slaves lit the fire to warm the baths.

Statues and water cascades decorated the interiors, American archaeologist Darius A. Arya, the excavation's head, said during a tour offered to The Associated Press on Thursday. Only pedestals and fragments have been recovered.

The complex was believed to be part of a multi-story villa that belonged to the Roman-era equivalent of a billionaire, a man called Quintus Servilius Pudens who was a friend of Emperor Hadrian, Arya said. It was unclear whether the baths were open to the public or reserved for the owner's distinguished guests.

800-year-old Roman grave in Veroia, Greece

Four 1800-year-old Roman graves have been uncovered during road works in the northern Greek city of Veroia, the Culture Ministry said Friday.

A statement said two gold earrings, a copper coin and ceramic pots were also found at the site, were municipal workers had been laying paving stones and upgrading the water supply network.

The graves are believed to be part of a Roman cemetery discovered in the 1960s outside the city's ancient walls.

Last original Roman arch in Britain?

CORBRIDGE could be sheltering the only original Roman arch left in England, says an architecture enthusiast.

The arch within St Andrew’s Church has long been thought a reconstruction using stone from the nearby Roman garrison settlement of Corstopitum.

But retired architect’s assistant Fred Bowler contends it is too well made to be a reconstruction.

“The church was built by the Saxons, who used to bodge things together,” he said.

“But the arch is perfect and has several decorative features, unlike the rest of the 8th century church tower above it.

“Whoever built that knew what they were doing.”

The arch is typically Roman in design, with spring stones that stand proud of the main wall and shaped arch stones that rise in a semi-circle to a definite key stone, he added.

“The arch is very similar to examples found elsewhere in the Roman empire, including France, Germany and Greece.

“But there are no other original examples in England – I think this could be the only one.”

He felt his theory was confirmed by the presence of worn stonework at the bottom of the arch, and indications on old maps that a road had once led straight up to it.

He now believes that the arch is all that remains of a Roman granary, or perhaps a small amphitheatre or coliseum.

“It looks like the stone has been worn away by wheels, probably on carts, going through the arch.

“There is a road marked on old maps, including one dated 1770 in Corbridge library, that goes in a straight line from Corstopitum to the arch.

“Who would build over an existing road? The archway must have been there first, before the Saxons built the church tower.”

Friday, July 13, 2007

Roman coins found on Western Isles

Ancient coins have been found on a beach in the Western Isles giving new clues to the far reaching influence of the Roman Empire.

Archaeologists believe the pieces of copper alloy date from the middle of the 4th Century. They were found in a sand dune, but the location in the Uists has been kept secret to protect the site.
Archaeologists said it was a "lucky find" as the coins were at risk of vanishing in a high tide.

Just seven other Roman coins have previously been found on the isles. A Roman brooch and pieces of pottery have also been uncovered in the past.

Kate Macdonald, an archaeologist who has lived on the isles for three-and-a-half years, said the new find was exciting.

She said the coins dated from the Iron Age in Scottish terms, but in England would be considered to be from the late Roman period.

The isles were a "hub of development" throughout pre-history because travel was easier by sea than land at that time, said Ms Macdonald.

However, she said it was likely to always remain a mystery how the coins arrived on the islands.

They were either brought back by islanders from the mainland, or by Romans.

Augustan Ruins Draw Visitors to Side, Turkey

Side is an ancient maritime city in Pamphylia, the region from the Mediterranean to Mount Taurus. Located near the Mediterranean villages of Manavgat and Selimiye in Antalya, this city was the seat of some of the most important ancient civilizations. With a visit to Side today, you will discover not only this history but also the striking natural beauty of this region.

The ruins of ancient Side include a Roman-style theater complex which was used for gladiator fights and later as a church; well-preserved city walls; a monumental gate dating back to the second century; old Roman baths; an agora where pirates used to sell slaves; the early Roman Temple of Dionysus next to the theater; a fountain and the remains of a Byzantine Basilica.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Bulgaria yields more Roman finds The excavations of Bulgaria's best-known archaeologist Georgi Kitov near Sliven have yielded yet more artifacts, this time from the Roman era, state radio BNR reported on Saturday.

The latest finds include two pairs of gold earrings, five rings, a ritual coin and a semi-precious stone, all found in a tomb dating to the first century AD, at the earliest.

All the items were found in the second of the 14 tombs Kitov plans to excavate this summer near the villages of Topolchane and Kaloyanovo in the Sliven region, southeastern Bulgaria.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Italain Carabinieri make dent in number of tombaroli

Pietro Casasanta had no Indiana Jones-type escapes from angry natives or booby-trapped temples. He worked undisturbed in daylight with a bulldozer, posing as a construction worker to become one of Italy's most successful plunderers of archaeological treasures.

When he wasn't in prison, the convicted looter operated for decades in this countryside area outside Rome, benefiting from what he says was lax surveillance that allowed him to dig into ancient Roman villas and unearth statues, pottery and other artifacts which he then sold for millions of dollars on the illegal antiquities market.

"Nobody cared, and there was so much money going around," he recalled in an interview with The Associated Press. "I always worked during the day, with the same hours as construction crews, because at night it was easier to get noticed and to make mistakes.”

Casasanta was the prince of the tombaroli, as the looters are known in Italy – and some of his finds are priceless.

But the tombaroli are dwindling.

Police and prosecutors believe they are beginning to see results in efforts to combat the traffic of stolen or illegally excavated antiquities which they say made their way to the world's top museums and collectors.

Gen. Giovanni Nistri, who heads the art squad with the Carabinieri, Italy's paramilitary police, said that in 2006 his unit discovered fewer than 40 illegal digs. In the late 1990s that figure could soar to more than 1,000 a year.

Will Hadrianoupolis Become Next Big Tourist Site in Turkey?

This article caught my attention because of the reference to mosaics as beautiful as those in Zeugma Mosaic are one of my favorite Greco-Roman art forms.

"Hadrianoupolis, or Paphlagonia in ancient times, was established in the first century B.C. and was inhabited until the eighth century A.D. The site was the region's largest province of the period. Last year's excavation works, which focused on four major areas called Bath A, Early Byzantine Church A, Byzantine Church B and Rome Tomb, uncovered 13 main sections of a Roman period bath as well as unique mosaics featuring many animal figures, such as horse, elephant, panther and deer. The mosaics are considered to be as magnificent as the mosaics unearthed in the ancient city of Zeugma in Gaziantep. The depictions of animal figures on mosaics, on the other hand, reflect unique samples of mosaic art from the late Roman period.

Excavations started four years ago and are scheduled to run through September 1. Short-term excavations will continue until the ruins have been fully uncovered. An archaeologist Ergun Laflı, the head of excavations in Hadrianoupolis who is also an academic at İzmir-based Dokuz Eylül University, and his team will conduct the excavations." - Turkish Daily News

"The archaeology of this region has been done very unevenly: the south coast has hardly been touched by comparison with the century and more of sustained excavation and survey on the other coasts. Inevitably the archaeological picture of these coasts in Antiquity looks strangely unbalanced, even though our literary texts offer moments of insight to the Classical Antiquity of Turkish Black Sea, spread across centuries and driven by a range of authorial agendas, e.g. Xenophon’s Anabasis, Strabo’s Geography, Arrian’s Periplus. Centuries later, the whole of Turkish coast of Black Sea is a live archaeological region, and the ongoing discoveries help shed more light on the facts of the past and on the incredible ancient prosperity of this region.

Beside local coarse wares the numbers of the so-called Pontic Sigillata found in the northern Aegean and Black Sea area may suggest a possible source in southern coast of Black Sea. There is good reason to believe the great potential in Roman field and nautical archaeology conducted in the region because of the existence of numerous discovered sites and ship wrecks with enourmous ceramic contents that will be helpful not only in explaining their production, but also ancient economy of Turkish Black Sea coastline.- Paphlagonian Hadrianoupolis Project

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Roman fort Galerius in Serbia added to World Heritage list

UNESCO's World Heritage Committee finalised this year's additions to the coveted World Heritage List at a meeting in the New Zealand city of Christchurch. The list now includes the Roman fortified palace of Galerius or Gamzigrad-Romuliana in the east of Serbia.

"The Late Roman fortified palace compound and memorial complex of Gamzigrad-Romuliana, Palace of Galerius, was commissioned by Emperor Caius Valerius Galerius Maximianus, in the late 3rd and early 4th century. It was known as Felix Romuliana, named after the Emperor's mother. The site consists of fortifications, the palace in the north-western part of the complex, basilicas, temples, hot baths, memorial complex, and a tetrapylon. The site offers a unique testimony of the Roman building tradition marked by the ideology of the period of the Second Tetrachy. The group of buildings is also unique in its intertwining of ceremonial and memorial functions. The relation between two spatial ensembles in this site is stressed by the tetrapylon which is placed on the crossroads between the worldly fortification and palace on the one side and the other-worldly mausoleums and consecration monuments on the other."

Temple of Orpheus to be restored

Officials announced that Bulgaria and Greece are planning a joint project to rebuild the Temple of Orpheus. The Temple, in the Rhodope Mountains and dated to 6,000 BCE, predates the great pyramids of Egypt. Over the centuries it was the scene of many religious pilgramages but was burned by the Thracian Odrysian tribe in the second century. It was later rebuilt by the Romans.

Anthropologist offers alternate origin of Masada bodies

It looks like now an anthropologist is challenging the findings of the 1960s excavation at Masada:

"An Israeli anthropologist is using modern forensics and an obscure biblical passage to challenge accepted wisdom about mysterious human remains found at Masada, the desert fortress famous as the scene of a mass suicide nearly 2,000 years ago.

A new research paper published Friday takes another look at the remains of three people found at the site and given a state burial by Israel as Jewish heroes. The remains, the study says, could actually be those of the Jews' Roman enemies.

The remains of two male skeletons and a full head of woman's hair, including two braids, were found in a bathhouse by archaeologists in the 1960s. They were long thought to belong to a family of Zealots, the fanatic Jewish rebels said to have killed themselves rather than fall into Roman slavery in A.D. 73, a story that plays an important role in Israel's national mythology.

Along with other bodies found at Masada, the remains were recognized as those of Jewish heroes by Israel's government in 1969 and given a state burial, complete with Israeli soldiers carrying flag-draped coffins.

But anthropologist Joe Zias and forensics expert Azriel Gorski write in a paper in the June issue of the journal Near Eastern Archaeology that the remains buried with honors may not have been those of Jews at all, but of Romans.

The paper focuses on the hair, noting the odd absence of a skeleton to go with it. The researchers' new forensic analysis showed an even stranger fact — the hair had been cut off the woman's head with a sharp instrument while she was still alive.

Zias' attempt to explain the discrepancy led him to the Old Testament's Book of Deuteronomy, where a passage says that foreign women captured in battle by Jews must have all their hair cut off, apparently an attempt to make them less attractive to their captors.

Zias concluded the hair belonged not to a Jewish woman but to a foreign woman who fell captive in the hands of Jewish fighters.

In his scenario, the woman was attached to the Roman garrison at Masada in A.D. 66 when the Zealots seized the fortress and killed the soldiers. Jewish fighters threw two Roman bodies into the bathhouse, which they then used as a garbage dump, judging by other debris found inside. The Zealots treated the woman captive according to Jewish law, cutting off her hair, which they threw in with the bodies."

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Studies show Etruscans descended from peoples of Asia Minor

I had read about the studies on Tuscan cattle earlier this year. Now the scientists have shown a link to the Etruscan people as well. I also find it gratifying that Herodotus was vindicated since some scholars have scoffed at his work, claiming it was too "fanciful" to be true.

"The long-running controversy about the origins of the Etruscan people appears to be very close to being settled once and for all, a geneticist will tell the annual conference of the European Society of Human Genetics today. Professor Alberto Piazza, from the University of Turin, Italy, will say that there is overwhelming evidence that the Etruscans, whose brilliant civilisation flourished 3000 years ago in what is now Tuscany, were settlers from old Anatolia (now in southern Turkey).

Etruscan culture was very advanced and quite different from other known Italian cultures that flourished at the same time, and highly influential in the development of Roman civilisation. Its origins have been debated by archaeologists, historians and linguists since time immemorial. Three main theories have emerged: that the Etruscans came from Anatolia, Southern Turkey, as propounded by the Greek historian Herotodus; that they were indigenous to the region and developed from the Iron Age Villanovan society, as suggested by another Greek historian, Dionysius of Halicarnassus; or that they originated from Northern Europe.

Now modern genetic techniques have given scientists the tools to answer this puzzle. Professor Piazza and his colleagues set out to study genetic samples from three present-day Italian populations living in Murlo, Volterra, and Casentino in Tuscany, central Italy. "We already knew that people living in this area were genetically different from those in the surrounding regions", he says. "Murlo and Volterra are among the most archaeologically important Etruscan sites in a region of Tuscany also known for having Etruscan-derived place names and local dialects. The Casentino valley sample was taken from an area bordering the area where Etruscan influence has been preserved."

The scientists compared DNA samples taken from healthy males living in Tuscany, Northern Italy, the Southern Balkans, the island of Lemnos in Greece, and the Italian islands of Sicily and Sardinia. The Tuscan samples were taken from individuals who had lived in the area for at least three generations, and were selected on the basis of their surnames, which were required to have a geographical distribution not extending beyond the linguistic area of sampling. The samples were compared with data from modern Turkish, South Italian, European and Middle-Eastern populations.

"We found that the DNA samples from individuals from Murlo and Volterra were more closely related those from near Eastern people than those of the other Italian samples", says Professor Piazza. "In Murlo particularly, one genetic variant is shared only by people from Turkey, and, of the samples we obtained, the Tuscan ones also show the closest affinity with those from Lemnos."

Herodotus’ theory, much criticised by subsequent historians, states that the Etruscans emigrated from the ancient region of Lydia, on what is now the southern coast of Turkey, because of a long-running famine. Half the population was sent by the king to look for a better life elsewhere, says his account, and sailed from Smyrna (now Izmir) until they reached Umbria in Italy.

"We think that our research provides convincing proof that Herodotus was right", says Professor Piazza, "and that the Etruscans did indeed arrive from ancient Lydia."

Monday, June 18, 2007

Italian police raid construction site to protect ancient Greek temple

Italian police have taken possession of a newly discovered ancient Greek temple in southern Italy after uncovering a developer's plot to build over the 2,000-year-old ruins.

Special art squad officers from Italy's Carabinieri police were tipped off about the construction site in Torre Melissa, near Crotone on the coast of southern Calabria, and used helicopters to locate the site last week.

Carabinieri police officers inspect the ruins of an ancient Greek temple in Torre Melissa, Italy, where a developer was about to build.Carabinieri police officers inspect the ruins of an ancient Greek temple in Torre Melissa, Italy, where a developer was about to build.
(Gregorio Borgia/Associated Press)

When police arrived, construction workers — who were set to build a number of tourist villas on the site — had already excavated and removed large, attractive sections of the ancient temple to decorate another hotel complex nearby, officials said at a media conference in Rome Tuesday.

Other pieces had been excavated and placed in a dump for use as construction material.

When discovered, the workers had been preparing to pour the foundation for the new resort atop the remaining ruins.

"It would have been the final tombstones for this temple," Gen. Giovanni Nistri, head of the Carabinieri art squad, told reporters.

Experts believe the ancient temple dates from between the fourth and third centuries B.C. and was likely built by the Bruzii people, who lived in the region at the time when it was ruled by the Greeks.

Archeologists are now preparing to enlarge the dig site and will try to reconstruct the temple with the excavated pieces, which have been retrieved.

Calabrian archaeology superintendent Pietro Guzzo described the temple as interesting because it is the first important public building discovered in the region.

Geoarchaeologist thinks he has determined the pass Hannibal used to cross the Alps

"Few historical problems have produced more unprofitable discussion than that of Hannibal's pass over the Alps," said the mid-20th-century historian F. W. Walbank, whom Patrick Hunt, a lecturer in the Classics Department, quotes in acknowledging the difficulty and exhilaration of researching the subject. Hunt, director of the Stanford Alpine Archaeology Project, estimates that 20 major studies and articles have focused on it in the past century alone.

He has been investigating the question for the past decade. Now, he hopes he may have found the answer.

"It may be hubristic and definitely ambitious of me to think I might be able to prove that route," he conceded. His most notable predecessor was Napoleon Bonaparte, who reputedly carved his name under Hannibal's on rocks he found in the Alps.

But Hunt has new scientific tools to assist his investigation, and with them have come a profusion of evidence. As the first geoarchaeologist to tackle the question, Hunt has employed methods as diverse as analyzing rock weathering rates, scrutinizing lichen growth, studying pollen records and modeling historical glaciation on computers to help him envision how the land today might be different from that described in ancient texts. Ultimately, the tools will help him comprehend how feasible it was that certain paths were taken by Hannibal and his army traversing the mighty Alps.

"Putting all this together is like detective work," Hunt says. "For me, it's as much science as ancient history."

Before analyzing the Alps, however, Hunt hiked. Over the past 10 years he has traversed 25 passes. He has broken 30 bones along the way. During the summer, he brings groups of a dozen students along with him. "I'm the only one in the picture," he said, pointing to a photograph of himself backed by towering peaks, "because everybody else is way ahead of me."

Years of getting to know the mountains and comparing them to ancient texts—primarily those of Polybius and Livy, contemporary and post-contemporary historians of Hannibal—has led Hunt to conclude that Hannibal's pass was the Col de Clapier. Situated in the western central Alps at 8,000 feet above sea level, this relatively high route is the only one that has made it past Hunt's decade of scrutiny.

The pass must fulfill 11 criteria, as delineated by the ancient books, Hunt explains.

To begin, distances, landmarks and encounters with barbarian tribes in the ancient texts give indicators of where Hannibal's army could have begun and ended its trek. The army must have encountered the Allobroges tribe, for instance, whose territory was found only to the north. The endpoint must be a three-day's march from the city of Turin in Italy, so the path could not stray too far south. Furthermore, the summit, where the army reportedly camped for two days, must be large enough to hold at least 25,000 men and a few dozen elephants, as well as many pack animals. It also has to be high enough, and thus cold enough, for the previous winter's snow to have remained. The ascent must be gradual, but the descent deadly. Moreover, a "white rock place" must be found exactly one day's march from the top where the army sheltered itself against the last of the seemingly endless innumerable attacks by hostile tribes hampering their passage.

"Calculate the compounded probabilities of any one pass fulfilling all these criteria," Hunt says. "It's pretty slim."

The Col de Clapier fulfills all of these obligations, rising 1,000 feet higher than most of the other Alpine passes and exhibiting all the landmarks that the army reportedly saw. Cows graze on the sprawling plain at the summit, and a magnificent view of Italy reveals itself where the soldiers purportedly stood when Hannibal, by Polybius' account, "directed his men's gaze toward the plains of the Po … and in this way he did something to restore their confidence."

Hunt's theory is compelling but not without challengers. The favorite alternative was championed by historian John Prevas a few years ago as the Col de la Traversette. At almost 10,000 feet, the pass is one of the highest in the Alps and would certainly be cold enough to retain a former winter's snows.

But ironically, Hunt thinks it would be too high, and the terrain too treacherous. "This pass has the most dramatic view," he said. "But it's killer. In fact, I almost died on it last year." He describes both the ascent and descent near the summit as "very difficult," which runs counter to Polybius' descriptions of an easier ascent than descent. Glaciers might have made it more feasible, he admits, but he thinks their presence 2,000 years ago was unlikely because it was a warmer period than today. Other problems also weigh against the Traversette, he says—for example, its distance from Turin and its avoidance of a more obvious, direct neighboring route across the Montgenevre Pass.

Hunt's scientific tools have become of great use in his most recent analyses. Pollen records hint that the tree line may have been higher in Hannibal's time, indicating a warmer climate that would make it less likely that year-round snow would have been lower than at the Col de Clapier. Closely studying the geology at the Traversette further lends evidence that the pass may not even have been passable in Hannibal's time, Hunt says.

The next leg of his investigation is to look for hard evidence in the form of artifacts. "You have to assume that an army of 25,000 people plus elephants is going to leave a record of its passage," Hunt said. "But to date, not one Carthaginian coin has been found in the Alps proper."

And so he proposes new methods. "I think the topography has sufficiently changed over several millennia so that if the evidence is there, it's not going to be on the surface. I would look not on the direct route, but down the precipices," he said. Also, he said, efforts should be focused where the geology is stable, where rapid erosion would not have buried remains deeply.

Hunt and his team have identified 19 sites to excavate and are awaiting from the European governments the permits that are required before any evidence can be removed from the land. Hoping to be at the cusp of a breakthrough, Hunt and his research have attracted attention and funding from Helen and Peter Bing and the National Geographic Society."

Note: The image above is Hannibal, portrayed by Ben Maccabee in the History Channel special, The True Story of Hannibal, produced in 2004. I thought it was an excellent presentation.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

In Pompeii eat like it's A.D. 79 until June 26

Researchers have tried to bring back to life the city's food chain by replanting, in the restaurant's garden and in other open spaces throughout the city's ruins, the fruits and vegetables that were part of the Roman diet -- figs and olives, plums and grapes, as well as broom, bramble, poppy and mallow.

Kits with the ingredients will be sold to visitors in the area around the restaurant with instructions on how to cook their own Roman specialties. Although there will be no cooking on the site, visitors will be directed to a local restaurant where some of the specialties will be offered.

"We wanted to learn what the inhabitants of Pompeii ate,'' said Anna Maria Ciarallo, a biologist who heads the project for Pompeii's archaeological office. "But we wanted a side of the project to appeal directly to the public as well.''

Some may keep away from "garum,'' a pungent sauce used for flavoring and obtained by fermenting fish entrails, but Ciarallo said that many Roman dishes closely resembled modern cuisine.

The recipe to make prosciutto ham has remained unchanged, while "savillum,'' the favorite dessert of many Romans, was a baked cream similar to today's custard, Ciarallo said.

Pompeii's rich were known to feast on such exotic dishes as swallow's tongue and parrot meat, but the project is presenting more everyday fare, Ciarallo said.

The restaurant was located between the gymnasium, the amphitheater and one of the city's gates and mostly catered to middle-class merchants and travelers, Ciarallo said.

Its six benches were probably always filled with hungry customers passing through the busy neighborhood, she said. The guests would recline on one side on the benches, as eating customs demanded at the time, to chat, play dice -- one of the Romans' favorite pastimes -- and partake of the dishes served out of large pots. The quiche-like "libum'' is made with bread, laurel leaves and cheese resembling today's ricotta.

"It was a sweet and sour cuisine, which blended the sharp tastes of vinegar and spices with the sugars of honey and figs,'' Ciarallo said. Cereals and beans were the staples of the Roman diet, together with fish, cheese and limited quantities of eggs and meat.

"The main differences were between the social classes,'' she said.

Slaves were kept on a high-energy diet of bread, dried-fruits and low quality cheese and wine. The upper classes enjoyed the same foods available to the middle class, but the quantities were larger, the ingredients finer, and the banquets were lavish presentations.

The project will shut down on June 26 because of lack of funds...

Some recipes prepared in ancient Pompeii:

Peaches with Cumin
Can be an appetizer or a dessert.
Peel and chop up some firm peaches
Cover peaches in a cumin sauce made with ground pepper, parsley, mint leaves, cumin, honey, vinegar and a dash of garum, which is a fish sauce made from fish entrails steeped in brine. A modern-day version of garum, "colatura di alici'' or anchovy juice, is still produced on the Amalfi coast.

Celery Dessert
Chop celery, roast the pieces in an oven.
Serve with honey and ground pepper.

Pork with Dried Figs and Cheese Side Dish
Boil a fresh pork shoulder with dried figs and bay leaves.
Carve off the rind, cover in pastry and bake in a hot oven.
For side dish, mix different types of herbs into fresh ricotta-like cheese, add some olive oil and serve with sesame seeds or hazelnuts.

-- Associated Press

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Pre-Roman thru Byzantine Period Wine Presses Found on Thassos

"Greek archaeologists have discovered a complex of ancient farmhouses and large wine-presses [similar to the Greco-Roman press pictured at left] on the northern Aegean island of Thassos dating from before the Roman period until late Byzantine times, the culture ministry said Wednesday [May 23, 2007].

Built with walls of stone over a meter (three feet) high and lined with plaster, the wine-presses were found clustered on a mountain near the coastal village of Limenaria, at an altitude of 500 meters.

The remains of enclosures suggest the presence of large estates that shared the use of the wine-presses, the ministry said.

Though apparently inhabited mainly during the grape harvest, the site was in use from the Hellenistic period that followed the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC onwards.

The local archaeological department has been researching the Thassos site for the past two years.

Also Wednesday, the ministry said that another archaeological team found the remains of a rural shrine to presumed fertility deities near the town of Orchomenos in central Greece.

The shrine had sustained damage in the construction of an irrigation canal in the 1950s, but the archaeologists found thousands of votive offerings, including miniature vessels, animal idols, scarabs, and lamps.

They also found rare clay replicas of flowers entwined with ears of corn, representing gifts left by faithful visiting the shrine.

In ancient times, citizens of Orchomenos are known to have worshipped the Three Graces, daughters of Zeus said to represent beauty, charm, and joy but also associated with bloom."

I wish archaeological teams would take field photographers with them so digital images of new finds could be more readily available. The clay replicas of flowers entwined with ears of corn sound very beautiful. I would love to see a picture of them! Unfortunately, they'll probably end up in some museum or university storage compartment never to be seen by the general public or anyone else for that matter outside a handful of researchers.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

4th century Roman sarcophagus unearthed at St. Martin-in-the-Fields Church

Archaeologists have moved closer to bridging a 200 year gap in the ancient history of London.

New treasures unearthed at St Martin-in the-Fields church, off Trafalgar Square, provide evidence of a link between the Romans and the Saxons.

The finds from the church, which go on display at the Museum of London from tomorrow to August 8th, include a limestone sarcophagus with the human remains of a middle-aged Roman man.

The exhibition also features a kiln, dating from between 400AD and 450AD, for making tiles and a gold pendant and beads dating between 650AD and 670AD, believed to have been found in a woman's grave.

The Museum's curator Francis Grew said the stone coffin of the man, who died between 410 to 420AD, was a "hugely moving discovery".

He said: "At that time the Roman Empire was rapidly disintegrating and Britain was not really part of the Roman Empire.

"This is a hugely exciting discovery. His bones symbolise the end of the Roman world, the end of the ancient world."

Mr Grew said that the man - thought to have been a rich, highly esteemed member of society - would have lived through a fascinating period.

He said: "He probably just caught a glimpse of the people from Germany, the Saxons.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Herod Tomb may have been found at Herodium

An Israeli archaeologist on Tuesday said he has found remnants of the tomb of King Herod, the legendary builder of ancient Jerusalem, on a flattened hilltop in the Judean Desert where the biblical monarch built a palace. Hebrew University archaeologist Ehud Netzer said the tomb was found at Herodium, a site where he has termed the find a "major discovery by all means," but cautioned further research is needed.

He said all signs indicate the tomb belongs to Herod, but said ruins with an inscription on it were needed for full verification. "We're moving in the right direction. It will be clinched once we have an inscription that bears his name," said Pfann, a textual scholar who did not participate in Netzer's dig.

The fragments of carved limestone found at the sandy site are decorated with floral motives, but do not include any inscriptions. It has long been assumed that Herod was buried at Herodium, but decades of excavations failed to turn up the site until now. The first century historian Josephus Flavius described the tomb and Herod's funeral procession.

Herodium was one of the last strong points held by Jewish rebels fighting against the Romans, and it was conquered and destroyed by Roman forces in A.D. 71, a year after they destroyed the Second Temple in Jerusalem.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Aeneas' Temple of Minerva found in Castro, Italy?

"Archaeologists at the University of Lecce have discovered that the modern town, with its 15th-century walls, sits on the ruins of the port that was the first landfall in Italy made by the semi-mythical wanderer of the ancient world, Aeneas. According to Virgil's epic, he fled Troy as the Greeks destroyed it and made his laborious way westwards finally to found a "new Troy", the imperial city of Rome.

In the third book of the Aeneid, according to John Dryden's 17th-century translation, the poet describes the hero's discovery of Italy thus:

"... And now the rising morn with rosy light

Adorns the skies, and puts the stars to flight;

When we from far, like bluish mists, descry

The hills, and then the plains, of Italy ...

The gentle gales their flagging force renew,

And now the happy harbour is in view.

Minerva's temple then salutes our sight,

Plac'd, as a landmark, on the mountain's height ..."

Minerva's temple is the key: the head of the Archaeology Department at Lecce University has found clinching evidence of the existence of a temple of Minerva, exactly where the poet describes it. "There is no doubt," Professor Francesco d'Andria said. "We have found fragments of a female divinity, and many iron weapons given to the goddess as offerings. In this temple a warrior goddess was worshipped. Minerva was worshipped."

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Roman settlement discovered at the base of Silbury Hill

Archaeologists have uncovered evidence of a new Roman settlement at the base of Silbury Hill in Wiltshire.

The 40m high man made hill appears to have been home to a large community, as a village the size of around 24 football pitches has been found.

Partially buried under the modern A4 road, the village consists of streets and houses and may have been a stopover for people travelling to the sacred springs in Bath.

Discovered during a geophysical survey as part of restoration work on the hill, the Roman settlement may also have been a pilgrimage site itself.

The largest prehistoric structure in Europe, 5,000-year-old Silbury Hill was certainly known to the Romans, as the ancient road from London to Bath swerved to avoid it.

Straddling the road alongside the Winterbourne River, the village appears to offer a stop off point for travellers and is laid out in typical Roman style, with evenly spaced streets and dwellings.

Ancient Roman Paintings found in London

The Roman artworks were found underneath an Italian restaurant in Lime Street, in the City of London.

Painted 1,900 years ago, the paintings depict goldfinch and lavish bunches of grapes, magazine London Archaeologist reports.

Experts believe that they were painted for a wealthy Roman's home, as the area around Lime Street used to the most prestigious address in Roman London.

Archaeologists are hailing the find as one of the most significant of recent decades and hope that the whole set of paintings, damaged in a building fire, can be reconstructed.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Lincoln Roman aqueduct found to have provided decades of service

Archaeologists unearthing parts of an underground Roman aqueduct in Lincoln have found the first evidence that it was actually used, contrary to previous thinking.

The aqueduct, near Lincoln’s Nettleham Road, has been known about for centuries, and archaeological investigations of it were carried out in the 1950s and 70s, with no firm evidence for their ever carrying water being found. However, with the recent start of a housing development on the site, the time came for sections of the piping to be removed and studied thoroughly.

Excavations also revealed that a road thought to have been a Roman construction is in fact post-medieval.

Simon Johnson, principal archaeologist at Pre-Construct Archaeology, who carried out the work, explained that visible calcium deposits suggest the pipes did carry water.

“There’s been persistent questions over whether the aqueduct ever functioned,” he said. “We’ve got at least one section where there is furring around the full circumference, suggesting it was used. Who knows for how long? You’re looking at decades to produce that sort of deposit, I should think.”

Roman "Silver" pig to be sold at auction

I wonder if Lindsey Davis is going to bid on this "pig" to commemorate her first best selling Marcus Didius Falco mystery, "The Silver Pigs"?

"A 2000 year old lead ingot mined by the Romans shortly after they conquered Britain is expected to fetch up to £12,000 when it goes under the hammer this month.

The 154lb ingot, known as a 'pig', was mined by Romans in North Yorkshire, and would have been due to be made into piping of waterproof lining for roofs. Silver could also be extracted from it.

The Romans, who ran well organised mining operations in Britain and also produced silver and gold after invading the country in AD43.

Dating from AD81, the 11 stone pig bears a raised inscription on the top reading 'Imperatore Caesare Domitiano Augusto Consule Septimum’ - a reference to the Emperor Domitians seventh consulate.

Measuring 58.5cm by 10.5cm by 13.5cm, it has the word 'Brig' on the side - showing it came from the territory of the British Brigantes tribe, who had fallen under Roman rule.

The pig was discovered accidentally in 1731 in peat on Hawshaw Moor, which was famous in antiquity for its lead mines."

Bob Ballard to explore Byzantine Shipwrecks

Robert Ballard is known for discovering the Titanic shipwreck, but that's just skimming the surface of his career in undersea exploration.

Ballard has tracked down the ruins of several ships, including ancient wooden ones, and even found new life forms - 10-foot-long tube worms - deep below the ocean's surface.

However, Ballard considers his greatest achievement to be the educational programs he has developed to get young people excited about his work, the ocean and science in general.

This August, the world-famous underwater explorer-scientist, will excavate two Byzantine shipwrecks, which will be presented in streaming video online at Ballard expects to find ships with perfectly mummified crews, who will look asleep rather than mummified in the Egyptian sense of the word.

He plans to create the first underwater museum, allowing the public to view these artifacts without having to remove them from their preserved state in the ocean.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

New Roman Glass exhibit at Hallie Ford Museum of Art

Willamette University graduate Richard Brockway wanted to be an archaeologist but ended up as an engineer.

But he never lost his first love. Over a 30-year period, he traveled to the Middle East, Asia and Europe, amassing a collection of antiquities that has led to a new exhibit at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art, "Ancient Glass: Selections from the Collection of Richard Brockway.

The works on view at Hallie Ford's Study Gallery are small but precious: drinking vessels, tableware, toiletry vessels, beakers and storage bottles from Egypt, the Near East, Greece and Rome, selected to demonstrate the evolution of glass artists' skill and mastery of glassblowing techniques.

Although not considered valuable in their own time, the works have amassed value over time.

"Everything in here is very functional, very utilitarian," Olbrantz said.

"These pieces would have been like our dishes, our pots and pans."

Still, these are among the earliest glass works in history, often simple but elegant in their shapes and speaking to us across thousands of years of history.

Little is known about the early years of glass, although by 2,500 BCE, solid glass beads and amulets were being made, and the oldest fragments of hollow glass vessels appeared in the 16th and 15th centuries BCE in Egypt and Mesopotamia.

At the beginning of the 18th century BCE, Egyptians developed a method for producing hollow glass vessels, making a core mold of compacted clay or dung and winding molten glass around it.

Among the notable pieces in the exhibit is a gleaming blue Ushabti from the New Kingdom. The tiny mold-cast work is a mummy-shaped figure meant to be placed in a tomb to do the work of the deceased in the afterlife. A complete collection would consist of 401, one for each day of the Egyptian year, plus 36 foremen.

A small but striking piece is the Eye of Horus, a mold-cast work of the late period, probably originally found on a statue or statuette of Horus, the falcon-headed god of Upper and Lower Egypt.

Among the Roman works is a large single-handed pitcher, from the first through third centuries CE, a work that Brockway has donated to the Hallie Ford Museum. The free-blown piece has an applied neck coil and handle.

Among the largest pieces is a Light Blue Cinerary Urn, a Roman work from the first through third centuries CE, a free-blown work.

The urn was used to hold cremated ashes but has transcended its mundane past to become a work of art visibly touched by the centuries.

A companion piece, also elegant and simple, is a light blue elongated storage vessel, a Roman work from the fifth to sixth centuries."

Roman-style Column found in newly discovered Han Dynasty Tomb

I noticed this short "photo-byte":

Archeologists excavate near a Roman-style column in a newly found Han Dynasty tomb (202 BC - 220 AD) in Xiao County, east China's Anhui Province, April 3, 2007.

Roman tomb on Greek Isle of Cephalonia yields glass, gold jewelry and coins

Greek archaeologists discovered a Roman tomb filled with glass, copper and gold artefacts and an amphitheatre on the island of Cephalonia, which they say must have been an important link between ancient Greece and Italy.

"It is the first time such a monument is discovered, not only in Cephalonia but in all the Ionian Sea islands," the culture ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

The tomb, which included more than one grave, measures about 8 by 6 metres (yards) and included glass jars, clay pots, gold jewellery, copper items and coins, it said.

"It is a touching detail that the (stone) door still opens and closes to this day just as in antiquity," the ministry said.

The finds were revealed during digging for construction in the town of Fiscardo and the theatre, which extends underground beyond the lot, appears to be in excellent condition, the ministry added.

"From the finds so far, we see that Fiscardo was an important naval station between Greece and Italy in antiquity," it said.

In the past, archaeologists have found near the site a group of Roman urban dwellings - a paved open-air space surrounded by houses, a bath and a cemetery.

Classical Capitals for Modern Architecture

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