Monday, September 28, 2009

2nd century civilian Roman settlement unearthed near Mainz

It looks like more evidence of civilian Roman settlements in ancient Germania have been discovered near Mainz by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers working on an expansion to the Weisbaden Army Air Field.A team of archaeology students and experts believe they have unearthed remnants of a Roman settlement from the second or third century near the construction site of an Army housing project.

The team, from nearby Mainz University, discovered a Roman coin, pieces of pottery, roof tiles, decorated bricks and 23 pieces of raw lead. The students also believe they have found the wall outlines of a building.

"If it’s from the second century A.D., it would be a civilian building and we didn’t expect this. We expected only military buildings," said Dr. Guntram Schwitalla, a district archaeologist in Hessen.

- More: Stars and Stripes

Ancient Port of Theodosius and 34 Byzantine Ships unearthed in Bosporous Tunnel Project

It looks like we'll have an opportunity to study examples of some of the first ancient ships built using the "skeleton approach" method of construction. Thirty-four intact vessels have been recovered from the ancient port of Theodosius during the construction of the Bosporous Tunnel project began five years ago to connect European and Asian sections of Istanbul.

[Image - reconstruction of a Byzantine ship courtesy of]

It [the port of Theodosius] was originally built at the end of the 4th century AD by Emperor Theodosius I when Istanbul -- then known as Constantinople -- was the capital of the eastern Roman Empire. The port's harbor silted over centuries ago, and eventually disappeared beneath subsequent layers of civilization.

The Yenikapi dig has uncovered an ancient armada: 34 Byzantine ships ranging from dating between the 7th and 11th centuries AD.

The largest of the ships is believed to have once carried wheat from Egypt to Constantinople.

Scattered around the ship are shards of pottery, animal bones, and thousand-year-old clamshells.

Historians say the new discoveries include the first examples of ships being built using the beginnings of the "skeleton approach" to constructing the vessel's hull. Pulak says that marked a revolutionary change which transformed shipbuilding from "mostly an art form to a science."

"The earlier methods of building depended on verbal transference of the method from master shipbuilders to apprentices," he explained. "The development of the latter method ... allowed for the speedy communication of new shipbuilding ideas that could be transmitted on paper. It is the beginning of engineering. Ships could be preconceived and pre-designed."

In addition to finding the timbers of thousand-year-old jetties and docks, which still jut up in straight rows at the bottom of the mammoth pit, archaeologists have uncovered the remnants of a pre-historic human settlement.

"The first man, about 8,400 years ago, came and started to settle here," Yilmaz said. "There was no Bosphorus [then]. The Bosphorus was a river valley... the people who settled here walked across the Bosphorus." -