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

I noticed this article in an online business magazine. For any of us that may be looking for ways to incorporate our love of the classical world into our modern one, this company specializes in producing classical columns:

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New Greek and Roman galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to open April 20

This is not only exciting but extremely fortunate since I plan to visit the Metropolitan the first week in June on my way to a conference in Albany, NY. I didn't even realize that the galleries were being rennovated. I would have been devastated if they had been closed when I was there since they were one of the primary reasons I modified my intinerary to include four days in New York before traveling on to the site of my conference.

"The new Greek and Roman Galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which open April 20, suggest something about the limits of nostalgia trips.

At more than 30,000 square feet, the new series of 11 exhibition spaces continues the sequence of eight previously renovated galleries devoted to earlier Greek art, south of the Great Hall on the Met's first floor. (The earlier projects were completed between 1996 and 2000.) The $220 million cost includes renovations on the upper and lower floors that will eventually benefit the education and Islamic art facilities as well. Visitors can now systematically follow the developments in Greek and Roman art from the prehistoric, through the glories of classical Greece, into the Roman Empire at its height and toward its decline. Moreover, there is now space to display some 6,000 works that had previously been in storage.

Those familiar with the collection will also welcome back their own favorites, many of which have been absent from public view for some time. Mine is the Cubiculum from Boscoreale, near Pompeii and buried in the Vesuvian eruption of 79 C.E. It brings us amazingly close to the experience of being in a real Roman interior: a bedroom to match the elegance of the Met's neighbors across the street. Formerly incongruously set in a niche in the Great Hall, the room now relates to contemporaneous objects and paintings, including a pair of Odysseus frescoes. No later illustrations of Homer's tale can compete with that doleful one-eyed Polyphemus shown here."