Cleopatra’s Death: Another Theory

The incipit of a brief item in the Telegraph:

The Queen of the Nile ended her life in 30BC and it has always been held that it was the bite of an asp – now called the Egyptian cobra – which caused her demise.

Now Christoph Schaefer, German historian and professor at the University of Trier, is presenting evidence that aims to prove drugs and not the reptile were the cause of death.

“Queen Cleopatra was famous for her beauty and was unlikely to have subjected herself to a long and disfiguring death,” he said.
He journeyed with other experts to Alexandria, Egypt, where they consulted ancient medical texts and snake experts.

“Cleopatra wanted to remain beautiful in her death to maintain her myth,” he says on the Adventure Science show screened by the German television channel ZDF.

“She probably took a cocktail of opium, hemlock and aconitum. Back then this was a well-known mixture that led to a painless death within just a few hours whereas the snake death could have taken days and been agonising.” [...]

via Cleopatra died of drug cocktail not snake bite – Telegraph.

Hopefully we’ll hear more about this … back in 2004 there was an item in the Times in which a forensic expert suggested it would have likely taken two hours for Cleopatra to die by the bite of an asp:

Feature: Cleopatra and the asp

… and a year later there was an item in Acta Theologica Supplementum 7 (not sure who the author is; the link is a pdf) on the subject which also suggested aconite as a possibility.

Garum Festival

Are Classicists aware of this event in Tunisia?

The Garum summer festival was held on June 26 at the Sidi Slimane Cultural Center in Nabeul, at the initiative of the Safeguarding Association of the city. It is a gastronomic and scientific event highlights yet an unknown aspect of the ancient Roman city, Neapolis (Nabeul).

Gurum or Garon, as it was known among the Greeks was a culinary preparation made mainly of “fish, salt and herbs” and was in use in Greek cuisine from at least the 5th century BC. The production and trading of Garum lasted for at least one millennium.

On the agenda of the festival, buffet and tasting of Garum dishes, an ancient condiment made in Neapolis, in Roman times, as a sauce made from pickled fish (tuna, mackerel, sardines).

An exhibition was also scheduled to present a variety of fish sauce may be related to garum, such as Vietnamese “nuoc mam” and “pissalat niçois”.

Lectures were presented on “the benefits of Garum sauces and nuoc mam”, “the Garum amphorae and the trade of cured products”, “The Garum, the salting and the purple in Djerba, as well as the analysis of industry index of Garum and curing in Neapolis.

The festival was inaugurated with a visit to the archaeological site of Neapolis to give an overview of the industry of Garum and salted fish manufactures in Roman times.

Excavations at the site between 1995 and 2006, covering 2000 square meters carried out by a Tunisian-French team was also showcased in Neapolis, hosted salted manufacturers which date back to a time was estimated between 1st and the IV centuries AD.

These factories are second in the world after those found in Spain. They have large pools of salting with production capacity up to 138 m3. The Garum was packaged in amphorae whose remains found at the archaeological site of Neapolis, represent edifying testimonials.

The development of fishery activities in the region was facilitated by the proximity of tuna migration routes, the presence of shoals for growth of wildlife marine and numerous lakes forming natural pools.

Tunisia Online News » Nabeul organizes Garum summer festival.

Citanda: How Did the Victims of Vesuvius Die?

PLoS ONE logo
Image via Wikipedia

Since I seem to have a wonky internet connection this a.m., I’ll link to this very interesting blog post based on:

a study just published in PLoS ONE by Giuseppe Mastrolorenzo, Pierpaolo Petrone, Lucia Pappalardo and Fabio Guarino, entitled Lethal Thermal Impact at Periphery of Pyroclastic Surges: Evidences at Pompeii.

Lowell Edmunds in the Top Five!

A gin martini, with olive, in a cocktail glass.

Image via Wikipedia

The Wall Street Journal has a piece on the top five books on alcohol, and Lowell Edmunds’ Martini book is there … inter alia:

5. Martini, Straight Up

By Lowell Edmunds

Johns Hopkins, 1998

In the midst of his distinguished career as a classicist, Lowell Edmunds paused to focus his critical talents on a cultural artifact packed with just as much meaning as a Minoan terracotta or an Ionic capital. Originally published in 1981 as “The Silver Bullet: The Martini in American Civilization,” Edmunds’s book finds seven meanings in the martini (among them: “The Martini Is Optimistic, Not Pessimistic,” “The Martini Is the Drink of Adults, Not of Children”) and four ambiguities (“The Martini Is Sensitive—The Martini Is Tough”). He’s not quite the cocktail snob that I am—he is willing to consider that a martini can be made from vodka—but one suspects that Edmunds does prefer his bullets straight up and very dry.

via Five Best Books on Alcohol – WSJ.com.

… and I’m sure he doesn’t consider the horror of the ‘Appletini’ and its ilk in the Martini category either; just because it’s in a Martini glass doesn’t make it a ‘tini’ …

Infanticide at Buckinghamshire Brothel? I Doubt It …

As is typical, when life is most hectic comes the time when the most interesting bloggables start flashing past me on Twitter, Facebook, and in email. I can’t get to them all today, but I do want to quickly comment an item from the Telegraph regarding possible evidence of infanticide associated with remains of a Roman ‘brothel’ in Buckinghamshire:

An extensive study of a mass burial at a Roman villa in the Thames Valley suggests that the 97 children all died at 40 weeks gestation, or very soon after birth.

The archaeologists believe that locals may have been killing and burying unwanted babies on the site in Hambleden, Buckinghamshire.

Unwanted pregnancies were common in Roman brothels due to little contraception and Romans also considered infanticide less shocking than it is today.

Infants were not considered to be human beings until about the age of two and were not buried in cemeteries if they were younger than that.

Consequently, infant burials tended to be at domestic sites in the Roman era.

“The only explanation you keep coming back to is that it’s got to be a brothel,” Dr Jill Eyers, of Chiltern Archaeology, told the BBC.
Experts say that the number of children killed at Yewden villa in Hambleden is unusually large.

“There is no other site that would yield anything like the 97 infant burials,” said Dr Simon Mays, a skeletal biologist at English Heritage’s Centre for Archaeology, who has been investigating the finds.

There is possibly some compression of thought going on here, either by the archaeologist or the journalist or both. The brothel suggestion is likely connected to a similar sort of find at Ashkelon over a decade ago, although in that situation the remains were found in the drainage system beneath a bathing complex. But there seems to be a bit of circularity going on here, no? A pile of dead babies suggest a brothel nearby. A brothel nearby suggests the babies must have been unwanted, and so killed on purpose. What I don’t understand is why if these babies were unwanted ‘ab initio’ as it were, why they wouldn’t simply have been aborted. It’s not as if the ancient Greeks and Romans weren’t aware of abortion.

The babies were all found to be of roughly the same size, suggesting systematic infanticide at birth rather than death from natural causes, which would have struck infants at different ages, Dr Mays added.

… which is not really the Roman practice; not sure about native Briton-types. As far as we can tell from our sources, unwanted Roman infants were “exposed” and wouldn’t likely have been buried at all if they died.

The Hambleden site, close to the River Thames, was excavated 100 years ago and identified as a high status Roman villa.
Alfred Heneage Cocks, an archaeologist, reported the findings in 1921. His report, along with photographs, and hundreds of artefacts, pottery and bones were recently rediscovered at Buckinghamshire County Museum.

The records gave precise locations for the infant bodies, which were hidden under walls or buried under courtyards close to each other.

The remains are now being tested for the first time by English Heritage.

The team plans to carry out DNA tests on the skeletons in a bid to establish their sex and possible relationship to each other.

The Hambleden investigation features in a new BBC TV archaeology series, Digging for Britain presented by Dr Alice Roberts, to be broadcast on BBC Two in July and August.

An important detail which is left out of all this is the date of the Hambledon site … presumably this is the Yewden Roman Villa, as the Mill End Villa doesn’t seem to have been excavated. A page on the site tells us the date: the site was used from the first to the fourth centuries A.D.. Hopefully there is enough information in the notes from the original excavation (1912) or datable organic materic material to establish some dates for the remains. 97 infant burials sounds like a lot, but when you spread it over three centuries it isn’t so sensational. As such, while an epidemic seems unlikely,depending on how the remains are dated, one could speculate that these are all stillborn remains …

via: Romans killed babies at brothel | Telegraph

UPDATE (06/27/10): David Keys in the Independent provides a good summary of the possible explanations:

Some argue that the Hambleden complex might have been a Roman imperial agricultural administrative and processing centre serving a relatively large area. The dead infants could represent a mixture of still births, natural perinatal deaths and infanticide victims, born to women employed at the centre. Some of the infants may have been born with deformities – a fact that would have made them particularly vulnerable to infanticide.

Some archaeologists have suggested the infants were children of prostitutes serving the potentially large staff at the complex, although it would be archeologically unprecedented to find a brothel in a non-urban context.

Alternatively, the site could have had a partly religious function with the infants being the subjects of illegal rituals or even human sacrifice. Certainly newborn infants were sometimes buried as ritual foundation deposits in Roman Britain – though never in such large numbers.

… and a tip o’ the pileus to Terrence Lockyer for drawing our attention to the excellent blog post on the subject over at Ancient Bodies, Ancient Lives (Rosemary Joyce), which delves into the claims about lack of contraception and the identity of the site as a brothel:

For some background on prostitution in the ancient world:

More coverage:

This Day in Ancient History: ante diem vii kalendas quinctilias

Trajan receives homage from a Dacian chieftan ...

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ante diem vii kalendas quinctilias

  • ludi Taurei quinquennales (day 1) — an obscure festival possibly in honour of the di inferi (read Bill Thayer’s note on the ‘quinquennales’ part)
  • 107 A.D. — the emperor Trajan arrives in Rome and celebrates his second triumph over the Dacians

This Day in Ancient History: ante diem viii kalendas quinctilis

ante diem viii kalendas quinctilis

  • under Servius — dedication of two temples to Fors Fortuna (and associated rites thereafter)
  • 1 B.C. — birth of John the Baptist (traditional date)
  • 79 A.D. — dies imperii of the emperor Titus
  • 109 A.D. — the Aqua Traiana are officially dedicated
  • 1741 — Birth of Alexander Adam (Classics educator)
  • 1989 — death of Russell Meiggs (author of Roman Ostia, among others)

Roman Fort in Cornwall?

Roman Roads in Britain around 150 AD/CE.
Image via Wikipedia

From the Telegraph:

Pottery and other evidence suggesting the presence of an ironworks have been found at the undisclosed location near St Austell, Cornwall.

Experts say the discovery challenges the belief that Romans did not settle in the county and stopped in neighbouring Devon.

The site had previously been regarded as an Iron Age settlement but the recent discovery of pottery and glass was found to be of Roman origin.

John Smith, from Cornwall Historic Environment Service, said: ”This is a major discovery, no question about it.

”For Roman Britain it’s an important and quite crucial discovery because it tells us a lot about Roman occupation in Britain that was hitherto completely unexpected.

”In finding the pottery and glass, it’s saying the occupation goes to about 250AD, which turns the whole thing on its head.”

Archaeological Jonathan Clemes discovered various artefacts by studying the earth after it had been ploughed.
He said: ”You’ve got to know your pottery. If you come across a bit of pottery and you know what it is, it can tell you a great deal about the activity that went on in that area.”

Following the discovery of the artefacts a geophysical survey uncovered a fort and a marching camp.

Prior to the discovery it was believed that Roman forts had only been positioned close to the Devon border before the Roman’s left the region for south Wales.

It will now be considered whether to excavate the area or to leave it for a future excavation when techniques have advanced.

The map shows the ‘current view’ of Roman settlement (generally) in Britain; if the St Austell thing proves true, perhaps there will be more evidence further west as well …

via Romans ‘may have settled as far south-west as Cornwall’ | Telegraph.

More from Sofia/Serdica

On the heels of last week’s announcement of the opening of a major Roman site to the public, the Sofia News Agency tells us that archaeologists are on the trail (they hope) of Constantine’s palace there too:

A large ancient building located under the St. Nedelya Cathedral in downtown Sofia might turn out to be a palace of Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, according to Bulgarian archaeologists.

The building might also turn out to be the ancient thermae, or public baths of the ancient Roman city of Serdica, today’s Sofia, according to architect Konstantin Peev, head of the EKSA company, which is helping the Sofia Municipality with the excavation and restoration of the archaeological heritage of the Bulgarian capital.

The excavations at the Sofia Largo and the so called Metro Station 2-8 next to the Tzum retail store were made necessary by the construction of the second line of the Sofia Metro.

According to Peev, the bouleuterion of the city of Serdica was located under the northwestern corner of today’s building of the Sheraton Sofia Hotel Balkan. The bouleuterion was a small amphitheater-like building which housed the council of the citizens in the Antiquity period. The Serdica bouleuterion had a diameter of about 20 meters.

Peev also said that the archeaological excavations in the spring of 2010 have so far revealed a number of Roman insula, i.e. homes closed off among four streets.

He pointed out that the archaeologists have revealed the main streets of the Roman city of Serdica – the main street, decumanus maximus, connecting the Eastern and Western Gates, was wide about 7-8 meters and paved with huge pave stones. The cardo, the secondary street, went in the north-south direction.

Architect Peev stated that the municipality and the Culture Ministry were currently considering various options for conserving and displaying the archeaological heritage of Sofia.

via Bulgarian Archaeologists Hope to Find Constantine’s Palace | Sofia News Agency.

Gladiators in York: Followup

Bronze medallion depicting the fight between a...
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Brief item from York Press:

A SKELETON – thought to be the remains of a Roman gladiator – has gone on display in York.

The skeleton is on display at the Jorvik Viking Centre from today.

It is one of 80 skeletons unearthed in the city by York Archaeological Trust over the last seven years.

The skeleton, which was the subject of a TV documentary last week, displays one of the most significant pieces of evidence supporting the lead archaeological theory that the skeletons are the remains of Roman gladiators – a large carnivore bite mark believed to have been inflicted by a lion, tiger or bear, probably in the arena.

John Walker, York Archaeological Trust chief executive, said: “The skeletons have been the subject of global interest over the last week. We want to give people the opportunity to see for themselves some of the evidence that our archaeologists have worked with to develop their theories on the skeletons’ origins.

via Roman gladiator remains go on display in York | York Press.

Of course, to be pedantic, if the guy was killed by a wild beast he probably technically wasn’t a gladiator; more likely someone involved in a venatio or  condemned ad bestias (which I personally think would be a more interesting angle) …

Previous coverage:

Gladiator Graveyard?
Gladiator Graveyard Followup

This Day in Ancient History: ante diem x kalendas quinctilis

Plan battle of Pydna-de
Image via Wikipedia

ante diem x kalendas quinctilis

  • 217 B.C. — Ptolemy IV defeats Antiochus III at the battle of Raphia (by one reckoning)
  • 168 B.C. — Lucius Aemilius Paulus defeats Perseus at the Battle of Pydna, bringing the Third Macedonian War to an end
  • 109 A.D. — the Baths of Trajan open

Cleveland MOA’s Ancient Galleries Reopening

The Cleveland Museum of Art
Image via Wikipedia

Nice series of articles in the Plain Dealer:

In regards to the last one, we’ve mentioned the controversy about the attribution of the piece to Praxiteles and problems of provenance before. Just to have the ‘rest of the story’ (to date) on record, here’s the concluding bit of the Plain Dealer piece:

[...]

The firmer attribution to Praxiteles signals that Bennett is moving on from the controversy that has dogged the sculpture since the museum acquired it from Phoenix Ancient Art, a dealership with offices in New York and Geneva, Switzerland.
Chief among the questions about the Apollo is the absence of evidence to eliminate concerns that it might have been looted in recent decades in violation of international agreements.
The museum said that a retired German lawyer, Ernst-Ulrich Walter, had reported that he found the sculpture lying in pieces in a building on a family estate he reclaimed after the fall of East Germany. Walter also reportedly remembered seeing the piece on the family estate in the 1930s, although no photographs of it exist from that time.
According to the museum, Walter said he sold the piece to a Dutch art dealer in 1994 but couldn’t remember the dealer’s name. The Dutch dealer then reportedly sold the work to at least one other anonymous collector, who then sold it to Phoenix.
Archaeologists have said that the story, which isn’t backed up by anything other than the lawyer’s word, sends a message to the antiquities market that museums are willing to acquire works with gaps in their ownership histories. This, in turn, encourages looting.
Yet another report, that the sculpture was fished out of the sea between Greece and Italy, was circulated by Agence France-Presse in 2007, though the unnamed Greek officials who made the claim have never presented any evidence or contacted the museum.
Bennett points to scientific tests that indicate the sculpture has been out of the ground for approximately a century, placing it well out of the reach of contemporary laws aimed against looting.
“This is a settled issue,” Bennett said. “We’ve known for a long time that the statue has been outside its archaeological context for at least 100 years.”
Labeling makes a telling reference
The museum always has asserted that the Apollo was probably Greek and probably by Praxiteles, but it allowed the possibility that it might have been produced as recently as A.D. 300, which would make it a less valuable Roman copy.
A new label installed with the work removes any suggestion of Roman origins and pushes the sculpture’s creation back to a window from 350 to 275 B.C., giving it approximately a 20-year overlap with the lifetime of Praxiteles.
Bennett’s attribution stemmed originally from the writings of Pliny the Elder, a Roman historian and philosopher, who described having seen a bronze sculpture matching the description of the Cleveland Apollo in the first century.
Tests performed on samples of metal removed from the sculpture in 2004 proved that the work was made in ancient Greek or Roman times. A half-dozen scholars who examined it before the museum purchased it were also sure it was ancient and not a forgery. But they weren’t certain it was a Praxiteles.
Bennett’s higher degree of certainty comes from having lived with the work for six years, and from having compared it with other ancient versions of the same motif at the Vatican in Rome, the Louvre in Paris and the Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen.
Slight changes in details such as the wavy pattern in Apollo’s hair, the position of his fingers or the crease on the outer edge of his right foot have convinced Bennett that the Cleveland version is the one on which the others were based.
Apart from the details, Bennett said that the overall impression conveyed by the piece, in comparison with the stiffness and heaviness of the other versions, which are carved in marble, is that it’s the real deal.
“There’s a buoyancy, there’s a lightness to it,” he said of Cleveland’s bronze. “It’s not heavy. It looks like it can almost elevate.”
In addition to the comparisons, Bennett and other staff members at the museum used medical devices to peer inside the sculpture’s cavities and take photographs. The images show, they say, that the sculpture was never exposed to the sea. There are no signs of marine life or corrosion.
Bennett hasn’t published his findings yet. Nevertheless, at least one prominent expert in ancient Greek sculpture is prepared to accept his conclusions.
“From photographs I’ve seen, it does seem quite possible it’s Greek,” said Malcolm Bell III, an art history professor at the University of Virginia and an expert in ancient classical art, who has led an excavation at Morgantina in Sicily.
Part of the sensation over the work is that only about 30 large ancient Greek bronzes have survived antiquity. The rest were melted down to make everything from other sculptures or weapons to nails.
If Bennett is correct, the Apollo would fall into a truly rarefied category. It would be the world’s only original Praxiteles, and the only large ancient Greek bronze attributed to a specific artist by an ancient writer.
Questions persist on provenance
Much as the museum would like to focus the conversation on Praxiteles, however, questions persist about the sculpture’s provenance, or ownership history. That is in part, scholars say, because of the dealers involved and in part because the museum hasn’t shared all the information it has collected about the work.
The museum doesn’t reveal prices in private sales, but a source close to the museum said in 2004 it paid $5 million. The principals of Phoenix Ancient Art, brothers Ali and Hicham Aboutaam, have both had brushes with authorities.
Ali Aboutaam was convicted in Egypt in absentia in 2003 on charges of smuggling and sentenced to 15 years in prison. Hicham Aboutaam pleaded guilty in New York in 2004 to a misdemeanor federal charge that he had falsified a customs document.
Before the museum bought the Apollo, museum officials obtained a written statement from the German lawyer, in addition to the reports and written statements from the scholars it consulted. . But the museum has declined to release those items as well as the data from metallurgical tests performed at Oxford University.
Those tests showed that while the sculpture is indeed ancient in origin, the base to which it was attached is about 100 to 500 years old, the museum said.
However, in 2007, the museum did release a critical piece of information — an analysis of the lead solder used to join the Apollo sculpture to its base.
That exploration, performed at the University of Tubingen in Germany, showed that production of the solder “must have occurred less than about [a] hundred years ago.”
Bennett said the report means that the sculpture was joined to its base around 100 years ago, thus proving it was excavated well before modern laws aimed at the prevention of looting.
Still, the fallout over the Apollo continues. In 2007, under political pressure from Greece, the Louvre declined to exhibit the sculpture in a large exhibition on the influence of Praxiteles, preventing scholars from making side-by-side comparisons with other versions of the Apollo Sauroktonos.
Last year, the museum agreed to return 13 antiquities and a Renaissance-era artwork to Italy after the country showed they had been looted, stolen or handled by traffickers.
The museum also agreed to form a joint committee with Italy to examine scientific and technical evidence about the Apollo and a bronze, Roman-era chariot ornament depicting Nike, the goddess of victory. Italy has made no claim and presented no evidence about either piece, Bennett said.
While the committee pursues its work, the museum won’t release any more information about the Apollo, said Bennett and Griffith Mann, the museum’s chief curator.
An international symposium on the work, which the museum originally planned in 2006, has been postponed indefinitely.
Deborah Gribbon, the museum’s interim director, said she is convinced the museum has revealed all pertinent information.
“The issue is not that there are things to hide, it’s that some of this is ongoing research and other elements are proprietary information,” she said.
But Patricia Gerstenblith, a law professor at DePaul University in Chicago and a leading expert on looting of antiquities, doesn’t support the museum’s position.
“It’s a public institution supported by the taxpayers and the government,” she said. “I think they should come forward with the evidence they have. I don’t know who they’re protecting by secrecy.”

Our previous coverage:

… there are probably a few more that I’ve missed …

Digging Idalion

A press release from Cyprus’ Press and Information Office:

The Ministry of Communications and Works (Department of Antiquities) announces the completion of the twentieth excavation season of the Department of Antiquities’ systematic excavations at the site of ancient Idalion. Excavations at the site began in 1991 and continue until today under the direction of the Director of the Department of Antiquities Dr. Maria Hadjicosti who is assisted by Senior Technicians S. Lagos and K. Kapitanis. Five young archaeologists from Greek Universities and the University of Cyprus also took part in the excavation this year.

Throughout the twenty-year investigations a total area of two thousand square meters has been investigated on the foothills of Ampileri hill, which was the west acropolis of ancient Idalion.

In this area, a large-scale fortified building complex has been excavated, which could be interpreted as the Palace of ancient Idalion or its Administrative Center. This building complex contains a triple olive-press (unique in its kind throughout the eastern Mediterranean), roads that lead to the complexes’ courtyards from the external gate, towers and impressive storage buildings, houses and military installations.

The Idalion fort is considered to be the largest palace or administrative center identified so far in Cyprus. It is strictly defensive in character with interior towers that control the interior streets and the large rectangular courtyards. Wings with two-storey rooms surrounded the courtyards. The ground floor rooms had storage areas were large storage vessels (pithoi) were kept for the storage of wine and olive oil, the area’s main products. Inscriptions that record tax collecting in kind from the ancient city’s inhabitants have been found in many of these storage rooms.

The abovementioned inscriptions (more than three hundred have so far been found) are part of the Phoenician Archive and indicate the methods used for the collection of taxes by the Phoenicians, who governed the ancient city of Idalion for 150 years, from the middle of the 5th century until the end of the 4th century B.C. The inscriptions are written in ink on marble slabs and pottery sherds.

During this year’s excavations, the investigations extended higher up the hill, where two new building complexes were discovered. These complexes are attached to the eastern and western side of a large interior tower. The complex situated to the east of the tower constitutes the south wing of the storage rooms’ large courtyard. The rooms’ walls survive to a maximum height of three meters. Inside the rooms, pithoi were found as well as other large vessels, inscriptions and pieces of a bronze shield along with other metal weapons that had fallen from the second floor when it collapsed. The second building complex was found to the west of the large tower and it is also comprised of six rooms which are linked up to each other and that also communicate with the two large roads to the north and the west. The complex may have been used by the soldiers who guarded the tower.

With the completion of this year’s investigations, the archaeological site has extended to such an extent that it is now ready to be open to the public. The necessary plans are being prepared in cooperation with the Municipality of Idalion. The archaeological site will thus be joined with the Local Museum of ancient Idalion, which opened to the public in 2008. The footpath that links the museum to the site as well as the parking space near the museum have both been completed. All the above works were realized in close cooperation with the Municipality of Idalion, which has performed exemplary work as far as the promotion of the area’s cultural heritage is concerned.

More coverage:

Roman Post Hole in Jersey

A few days ago it was Berkeley, now it’s Jersey … still not in North America, though. Brief item from the BBC:

Excavations were made at Grouville Church as part of work to extend the building, when archaeologists were called in to monitor the work.

The Reverend Mike Lange-Smith, rector of the church, said a post hole of a Roman period building was uncovered with pottery remains.

He said the finds had been sent to England for dating.

Mr Lange-Smith said the discoveries change the understanding of the church’s history as the earliest known record of the church building had been 1035 AD.

The excavations have now been covered up so work on the new vestry can continue.

The Wikipedia article on Jersey suggests that scattered Roman bits have been found previously, but no evidence of a permanent settlement …

Roman Remains in Sofia

AFP seems to be the only one covering this … I can’t find that we’ve mentioned anything about this before either:

The remains of an ancient Roman town were on Thursday unveiled to the public in the centre of the Bulgarian capital Sofia.

Excavation of the site — which currently includes a Roman palace, baths and burial sites, as well as a more recent 13th century church — began several years ago.

It is hoped that the remains will be preserved as a major heritage site and tourist attraction.

Archaeologists believe the site — which formed the intersection of the two major streets of the ancient Roman town Ulpia Sedica — could prove even more extensive, with at least two more Roman palaces waiting to be uncovered.

Debate has raged for years over the fate of the site as the excavations notably proved a major headache for plans to extend the Sofia underground, with a major station situated right below the historical site.

But the authorities finally opted to preserve the remains where they were.

The total cost of the ambitious project, which will entail a complete reconstruction of central Sofia and is scheduled to be finished in 2011/2012, is an estimated 20 million leva (10 million euros, 12 million dollars).

“It’ll be a perfectly preserved underground museum covering an area of 1.9 hectares,” said Deputy Culture Minister Todor Chobanov at a tour of the site for the media.

“This could put Sofia on par with other major cultural heritage sites such as Rome,” Chobanov said.

With the help of EU money, “this huge space can be used as a centre for exhibitions and performances, which is something that Sofia did not really have until now,” said chief architect Petar Dikov.

An ancient Thracian settlement, Bulgaria’s capital was conquered by the Romans in the first century BC and renamed Ulpia Serdica.
Parts of the Roman fortress in the area close to the current excavations site and an adjacent church dating back to the fourth century have already been excavated and fully reconstructed.

via AFP: Spectacular Roman remains unveiled in Sofia | AFP.