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.