Pre Roman Remains at Brading Roman Villa

From the County Press:

THE third phase of the Big Dig at Brading Roman Villa may well have been one of the toughest excavations eminent archaeologist Sir Barry Cunliffe had ever undertaken but it has yielded some treasures and a greater understanding of Brading’s history up to its Roman occupation.
With the three-week dig ending yesterday (Friday), Sir Barry’s team has unearthed, over the past two weeks, numerous pottery remains, ranging from pieces of amphorae to a tray for sifting sea water to extract salt.
The discovery of a second century BC saucepan became the earliest evidence of occupation on the site, pushing its history back as much as two centuries.
Examples of early jewellery were also found, which included an example of a small mid-first century AD brooch inlaid with enamel.
A butt beaker, a type of Gaulish pre-Roman period drinking vessel, bronze tweezers, a flagon and a cremation jar were also discovered.
During the first week of the dig, Sir Barry’s team unearthed a rare cooking pot and a copper coin bearing the image of a goddess.
This year’s dig concentrated principally on a site to the rear of the villa’s car park.
There is, according to Sir Barry, strong evidence the villa was a high-status farmstead in the late Iron Age, trading with the Romans before the AD43 invasion of Britain.
“We’ve got reminders of Mediterranean manners and lifestyle before the Roman invasion and them being incorporated into community life,” he explained. “It is likely salt was a product of this area. The farmstead may well date back to an earlier period of the Iron Age. The dig was unrelenting — one of the toughest sites to dig any of us has ever seen.
“Yet it yielded a host of fascinating features and gave us a real understanding about the villa story.”

Major Temple Site from LeMans/Vindunum

From the Guardian:

Excavations near the antique city of Vindunum (now Le Mans) have revealed a vast religious site dating from the first to the third centuries AD with remarkably well-preserved offerings.

Sometimes archaeology requires imagination. And you need it to conjure up the vast complex of temples that stood nearly 2,000 years ago on this flat two-hectare strip of land, in what is now Neuville-sur-Sarthe, 4km to the north of Le Mans.

“I have been an archaeologist for 30 years, and I’ve been lucky enough to work on some wonderful digs. But this is an exceptional discovery, the sort that all archaeologists dream of making once in their lives,” said Gérard Guillier, who heads the team from the National Institute of Preventive Archaeological Research (Inrap) that has been poring over this piece of land since June. The team has no time to lose because in the autumn this former Gallo-Roman sanctuary will be transformed into an “urban development zone”.

After an aerial assessment that revealed the shape of the ancient buildings in the wheat fields, followed by the some underground probing, mechanical diggers were sent in to clear the surface of the site. Unfortunately the blocks of limestone and sandstone from the antique buildings had disappeared, salvaged over the centuries for other building work in the area. Only a few stones bear witness to the original temple structures. Young archaeologists uncover them delicately one at a time, using trowels, scrapers and brushes. Every stone is numbered, drawn and its location marked on a map.

“Given the size of the site, hundreds of pilgrims, possibly thousands, would have come here to honour the gods,” said Guillier. “They probably held other mass events here too.”

The lines drawn on the ground by the archaeologists make the site resemble a vast treasure hunt. The red ones indicate the streets, paths and galleries that once connected the buildings, while blue circles mark the holes that held the pillars supporting the colonnade, which led the visitors to the temples.

At the entrance to the site, there once stood a large E-shaped building, probably for welcoming the pilgrims, selling religious objects and housing the temple guardians. One wide path littered with iron slag (Vindunum was a major metalworking centre), leads a few hundred metres south to the foundations of a circular fanum (temple) about 12 metres in diameter. That round shape was rare in Gallo-Roman times and there are only a few such examples in France.

In fact, three temples were erected successively during the second and third centuries. Possibly they had to be rebuilt because of the instability of the ground. A pergola and a flight of steps would have led to the temple, which had stone walls around seven metres high covered by a tiled roof. Inside, the cella (central room) housed the statue of the god.

Another fanum stood at the west, the oldest in the sanctuary, dating to the first century. It was square, 15 metres wide and apparently in the Celtic temple tradition. This one was originally built in wood and stone added later, together with a cella surrounded by a gallery for circumambulation and a wall separating the sacred space from the profane. Fragments of coloured plaster show that the walls were once panted. The temple was surrounded by octagonal or square-shaped secondary “chapels”.

It is here that the archaeologist uncovered a marvellous selection of objects placed as offerings. They include Gallic, Celtic and Roman silver coins, bronze and silver-plated bronze fibulae (broaches), some jewellery including a gold ring with a green quartz representing a deity, as well as bronze keys, pottery and knives. They also found a dagger, sledgehammers and hammers, possibly offerings from soldiers and ironmongers, who held high-risk occupations requiring more divine protection than others.

But what gods were worshipped there? No statues or inscriptions have been found as clues, and the Gallic pantheon was as plentiful as the Roman one.

Another large sanctuary once stood in Allonnes, to the south of Le Mans, dedicated to the Gallo- Roman god Mars Mullo. Would there have been two major sanctuaries in one city? According to Guillier, “Situated as they were on hillocks on either side of Vindunum, they probably had a protective role for the town.”

The archaeologists have another enigma to solve. They have uncovered several graves near the circular fanum, with funerary objects such as a glass bottle and a box for seals. Until now archaeologists have never found temples and graves in such close proximity, since Romans observed strict separation between what they perceived as the “pure” and the “impure”. It will take years to reconstruct the history of the sanctuary and its pilgrims. And a great deal of imagination.

<a href=”http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/aug/17/france-archaeology”>* News * World news * France Ancient temple complex discovered near Le Mans</a>

See also:

… I’m sure I’m not the only one who had never heard of this Mars Mullo before …

Temple of Artemis at Didyma?

The English version of this one has lost something in translation … it appears to suggest that there might be remains of a temple of Artemis at Didyma, which is something that has long been the subject of scholarly debate. We really need to get some decent English coverage of this:

GERMAN archaeologists are looking at a new find which could suggest a second temple close to the Temple of Apollo.

They have extended their excavations away from Apollon and have discovered a wall which they consider to be part of another temple – maybe that the Temple is for Artemis – the twin of Apollon.

Representative of Ministry of Culture and Tourism Ferhan Büyükyörük said: “An illegal dig was done in the area previously, which revealed the remains of a wall.

“The excavations team is searching this year to see if there is more to the wall and if it belongs to a structure. Its size and location suggests a building to the south of this wall. Didyma means twin; Apollon was the twin brother of Goddess Artemis.

“This wall might belong to an Artemis Temple. We will see what the excavations unearth.”

The works will continue until September.

Running Google translate on a pile of Turkish coverage reveals that they are indeed talking about Didyma; I wouldn’t want to go further than that …

Miss Universe Silliness

One of the things they make contestants do in the Miss Universe pageant, apparently, is pose in their native costume. This, apparently, the native costume of women in Italy, no doubt designed to safely fend off the advances of Italian men on subways:

Reuters photo

… and apparently Greek women wear this sort of thing all the time:

Reuters Photo

More silliness noted on this subject at:

… which is an article at Reuters’ ‘Oddly Enough’ blog

Citanda: Harpastrum Redux??

There’s a video at the link … not sure about this one:

If this looks like a combination of football, rollerball and the Second Punic War, well, it kind of is. It’s called Harpastrum, an ancient Roman game practiced by Legionaries to prepare them for battle. Today it’s better known as Fight Football League, played only in Italy, and possibly Tennessee during Titans’ practices. They’ve added some rules and have a couple of ambulances standing by, but otherwise it’s just like Julius Caesar drew it up back in the day. Have a look for yourself, after the jump.

via The NFL is for Nancy boys; here’s Fight Football League – Out of Bounds – NBC Sports.

FWIW, the Wikipedia article on Harpastrum pretty much tells all we know about the game in antiquity (i.e. not much) …

Citanda: Golden Sponge-Stick Comp ’10

From Caroline Lawrence’s Roman Mysteries blog:

Are you a budding young writer?

Could you create the next Flavia Gemina or Falco?

Well, here’s your chance.

Burgess Hill School presents an annual writing competition now in its third year: THE GOLDEN SPONGE-STICK COMPETITION.

This global competition is now open to all UK and International school & college students. [more]

via Roman Mysteries Blog: Golden Sponge-Stick Comp ’10.

Major Find (Maybe?) From Apollonia

Here’s one Tim Parkin (and others) and I have been chatting about on Facebook … AFP via PhysOrg:

Archaeologists unearthed a Roman bust from the 2nd century AD hailed as the most important archaeological find of the last 50 years in Albania, experts said Friday.

“It is an exceptional discovery, the most important in the last 50 years in Albania because the bust is still intact,” French professor Jean-Luc Lamboley, who led the dig at Apollonia with Albanian archaeologists, told AFP.

Experts say the bust of an unknown athlete found at the Apollonia site, some 120 kilometers (75 miles) from Tirana, was of a remarkable quality.

Apollonia is one of the biggest archaeological sites in Albania and the fact that no modern town was built on its ruins makes for excellent excavating conditions.

The team of French and Albanian archaeologists digging at the scene are studying how Apollonia evolved from a Greek colony founded in the 7th century BC to a Roman settlement in the 3rd century AD.

“This spans a thousand years of history and we can study here how the classic Greek civilisation was transmitted, evolved and enriched in Roman times,” Lamboley said.

“For security reasons the bust was moved Friday to the Tirana archaeological museum as the Apollonia museum still has no security system in place,” the French expert added.

After the fall of communism in the early 1990s and following public unrest in 1997 several art works were stolen from Albanian museums probably to be sold to foreign art lovers at very high prices.

… the original AFP item (via Google and likely short-lived; no photo):

In any event, the PhysOrg piece is accompanied by a photo:

I tracked down another photo at Balkan Insight:

… which is interesting, because that second one doesn’t seem to be the same as the first one at all (perhaps this is a case where an indefinite article became definite in translation; maybe it’s just the angle of the photo). In any event, assuming that the first photo is the one that is being ‘hailed’, what Dr Parkin (and others) and I have been struck by is how ‘perfect’ this bust seems to be, despite having been buried for however many years. The nose, hair, and everything else seems undamaged and really isn’t typical of what tends to emerge from archaeological sites.

That said, I believe this must be the same site where Jack L. Davis and the University of Cincinnati was digging a few years ago (see also this earlier post) At one point, road construction threatened it … not sure how long the French have been involved there.

ADDENDUM (an hour or so later): Dorothy King notes the similarity to an item in the Shelby-White Collection which graced an exhibition catalog a while back (the image is via the Looting Matters blog):