Sunday, March 16, 2008

Trepanation Evidence Found in excavation of Roman Veria in Greece


The skeleton of a young woman from a 3rd century A.D. grave in Veria, northern Greece, is seen in this undated handout photo provided by the Greek Culture Ministry on Tuesday, March 11, 2008. Archaeologists believe a large hole on the front of the skull, above the eyes, was caused by _ apparently failed _ brain surgery nearly 1,800 years ago. Although references to such delicate operations abound in ancient writings, discoveries of surgically perforated skulls are uncommon in Greece.

"Greek archaeologists said Tuesday they have unearthed evidence of what they believe was brain surgery performed nearly 1,800 years ago on a young woman - who died during or shortly after the operation.

Although references to such delicate operations abound in ancient writings, discoveries of surgically perforated skulls are uncommon in Greece.

Site excavator Ioannis Graikos said the woman's skeleton was found during a rescue dig last year in Veria, a town some 75 kilometers (46 miles) west of Thessaloniki.

"We interpret the find as a case of complicated surgery which only a trained and specialized doctor could have attempted," Graikos said.

A bone expert who studied the finds said the skeleton belonged to a woman up to 25 years old who had suffered a severe blow to the crown of her head, Graikos said. The operation was apparently an attempt to save her life.

He said the clearly defined shape of the hole left in the woman's skull was a sign of relatively sophisticated surgery.

"She probably did not survive the operation, as the wound was very large, and there are no signs of healing around the edges," Graikos told The Associated Press.

The discovery in Veria appears to be similar to several others made in other parts of the former Roman Empire, said Simon Mays, an expert on human skeletal remains at English Heritage, a body which advises the British government.

"That kind of operation dates back a long way ... the earliest example dates back about 5,000 years ago in Europe," said Mays, who was not connected to the Greek excavation.

In early examples, cruder holes were made in the skull by slowly scraping the bone away around the edges, but more precise instruments were used in Roman times, he said.

"We know that (brain) surgery was carried out in the Roman empire, and some of the Roman textual sources give quite precise instructions as to how it should be carried out," Mays said.

"This probably fits in with a pattern about what we know (the Romans) could do surgically."

Graikos said the find attested to the social and medical sophistication in Veria, which in the 3rd century A.D. - during the period of Roman rule - was one of Greece's main civic centers, and the capital of a federation of Macedonian cities."

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Roman villa discovered near Cambridgeshire

The discovery of the remains of a Roman villa in Cambridgeshire has left archaeologists "blown away".

The villa, hidden deep in more than a square mile of ancient woodland at Bedford Purlieus, near Peterborough, had gone unnoticed over the centuries.

Experts believe the remains at the site, just off the A47 at Wansford, probably date back to between the second and fourth centuries AD.

Painted plasterwork, pottery, and local limestone joined with mortar have been found.

"The ground has never been cultivated, so the remains can still be seen as lumps and bumps rather than just outlines," said Ben Robinson, archaeologist for Peterborough City Council.

"The quality and variety of what we've found so far suggests this was part of a wealthy town, combining manufacturing and cultural development - a sort of cross between Cambridge and Stoke-on-Trent."

Monday, March 10, 2008

Ancient Copper Factory unearthed in Rome

A sixth-century copper factory, medieval kitchens still stocked with pots and pans, and remains of Renaissance palaces are among the finds unveiled Friday by archaeologists digging up Rome in preparation for a new subway line. Archaeologists have been probing the depths of the Eternal City at 38 digs, many of which are near famous monuments or on key thoroughfares.

Over the last nine months, remains — including Roman taverns and 16th-century palace foundations — have turned up at the central Piazza Venezia and near the ancient Forum where works are paving the way for one of the 30 stations of Rome's third subway line.

"The medieval and Renaissance finds that were brought to light in Piazza Venezia are extremely important for their rarity," said archaeologist Mirella Serlorenzi, who is working on the site.

Serlorenzi said that among the most significant discoveries in a ninth-century kitchen were three pots that were used to heat sauce. Only two others had been found previously in Italy.

The copper factory "factory" was used to work on copper alloys, and it consisted of small ovens, traces of which can be seen. Small copper ingots were found and are being analyzed.