Lost City of Altinum Found

Excerpts from a piece in the Times of London:

The bustling harbour of Altinum near Venice was one of the richest cities of the Roman empire. But terrified by the impending invasion of the fearsome Germanic Emperor Attila the Hun, its inhabitants cut their losses and fled in AD452, leaving behind a ghost town of theatres, temples and basilicas.

Altinum was never reoccupied and gradually sunk into the ground. The city lived on in Venetian folk tales and historical artefacts but its exact position, size and wealth gradually faded into obscurity.

[…]

The team behind the study located the ancient city by studying hundreds of aerial photographs of the region, mostly taken by private companies for cartography purposes.

In July 2007, during a particularly dry summer, crops were suffering from drought and were highly sensitive to the subsurface presence of stones, bricks or compacted soil. On the image taken by the mapping company Telespazio, the lighter crops indicated stonework, while the darker patches revealed depressed features such as pits and canals.

The team, reconstructing the town using the aerial images and knowledge of Roman architecture, was able to identify temples, theatres, a basilica, the marketplace and city walls as well as hundreds of smaller structures. Also visible is a large canal, which would have been used for the transportation of oils, wines and foreign luxuries inland to the Roman capital of Milan and other powerful cities such as Verona.

[…]

The team behind the study hopes to carry out carefully planned excavations in the future, but is first collecting more aerial images. It is taking pictures every ten days, as different conditions will show up different features more clearly. By the end of 2009 the experts aim to have compiled all the data and produced an even more detailed map of Altinum.

Some comments from team leader Paolo Mozzi (as told to ANSA):

”Until now we only knew that Altinum was there, we didn’t know what it was like … ‘In size it’s comparable to Pompeii, and Altinum is the only large Roman city in northern Italy and one of the few in Europe that wasn’t buried by modern and medieval cities that rose up later. That’s the reason we can see the Roman age structures of the city so well … These results show that the Romans successfully managed to exploit the watery environment many centuries before the city of Venice began to emerge on the archipelago in the middle of the lagoon … ‘We see a walled city, a theatre, an amphitheatre outside the walls, the basilica, the forum with its market, then a principle road connected to the Via Annia (the Roman road through northern Italy) … ‘You can also see a canal that divides the city in two and heads towards the lagoon. Considering the sea level in Roman times, that canal must have been connected to the lagoon as well as with nearby rivers”

The BBC coverage below includes an animated flyover (without sound) of the site; the Science magazine coverage has some more photos.

Additional coverage (later):

Statue of Marsyas found at the Villa Vignacce

La Repubblica has a nice photo:

la Repubblica

la Repubblica

According to the brief  (Italian) report, it’s about 150 cm in height and is missing the pedestal, which archaeologists are hoping might show up in the next few days. The commune superintendant — Umberto Broccoli — suggests this piece is the ‘little brother’ to one from the Campidoglio, which I think is this one. It also (to me, especially in the treatment of the moustache) seems to have affinities with a Marsyas in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum:

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

Of course, Marsyas was punished for challenging Apollo and/or stealing his aulos … in art he is often displayed in this ‘bound’ position, but his ultimate punishment was to be flayed …

Silla Armour Musings

One of the things mentioned in my Explorator newsletter this past while was the discovery of some Silla armour. Here’s the incipit of an item in JoonAng Daily for some background:

The warrior’s body and bones are long gone, decayed into the soil. But the armor that once protected him from enemy swords and arrows has survived the passage of time and has been revealed for the first time in 1,600 years.

The armor of the heavily protected cavalrymen of the Silla Dynasty (57 B.C. – A.D. 935) – proof of which has previously existed only in paintings – was discovered in the ancient tombs of the Jjoksaem District of Hwango-dong, Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang. The Jjoksaem District has the largest concentration of ancient Silla Dynasty tombs in Korea.

Here’s a photo:

JoongAng Daily

JoongAng Daily

What I find interesting is how close this ‘scale armour’ appears to be to what it is believed that the Sarmatians wore:

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

from an armchairgeneral.com forum

from an armchairgeneral.com forum

Compare too some Koguryo armour (not sure of the date):

from a Chinahistoryforum post

from a Chinahistoryforum post

I’m not suggesting that the Silla and the Sarmatians are the same, but it’s interesting how this rather intricate bit of technology seems to have spread (at least influence-wise) across Asia.

Bulgaria Update

A couple of brief items from the Bulgarian press:

Digging has resumed at Nikopolis ad Istrum:

… where archaeologists have discovered a Nymphaeum they weren’t expecting:

… there were actually a few more, but I’ve never managed to connect to them for some reason … ymmv: