Crayfish Signet Ring From Farindola

A very interesting find from Farindola which was mentioned on the Classics list back in November and curiously never made it to the English press. Here’s the version from Abruzzo24ore (tip o’ the pileus to Laval Hunsucker who brought this to everyone’s attention and posted the links I reference below):

Un pregevole anello-sigillo in oro con iscrizione è stato rinvenuto a Farindola, in località Cupoli Superiore-S. Giusta, proveniente dai resti di una villa romana, emersa durante i lavori abusivi per la costruzione di un fabbricato. L’importante reperto archeologico è stato recuperto grazie alla collaborazione del Comandante Massimiliano Di Pietro e dei Marescialli Columbaro e Lattanzio della Stazione Carabinieri di Penne, che a settembre scorso hanno coadiuvato Andrea Staffa, Funzionario della Soprintedenza per i Beni Archeologici dell’Abruzzo, nell’intervento di tutela a salvaguardia dei resti della villa romana.
Questa era stata in parte danneggiata perché i lavori di realizzazione del fabbricato non avevano ottenuto il parere preventivo della Soprintendenza, che aveva sequestrato il cantiere.


Il castone di anello-sigillo in oro, del diametro di 9/7 millimetri e spessore di 3, raffigura un gambero di fiume rinvenuto proprio nell’area della villa, in particolare sul margine della grande cisterna.
L’oggetto reca sul fronte e sul retro i nomi della coppia di proprietari Iunius Auriclianus e Rectina, schiava di un Petronius, forse moglie e marito, oltre che la suggestiva immagine di un gambero di fiume. La grafia delle lettere data l’oggetto ad epoca tardo-antica (secoli IV-V d.C.), ed è suggestivo ipotizzare che i due personaggi dell’anello fossero i conduttori o proprietari della villa, e che forse nella grande vasca della cisterna si allevassero proprio i gamberi.
L’eccezionale reperto documenta le fasi tardoantiche di una grande villa del territorio dei Vestini, rimasta abitata sin quasi verso la fine dell’Impero Romano, ad evidente testimonianza dell’importanza anche economica di questa zona ancora in quest’epoca così tarda.

The skinny is that they found a gold signet ring with a crayfish depicted on it belonging to a pair of folks involved in crayfish farming or the like. The ring itself was found on the edge of a cistern which was apparently the target of some illegal excavations.  The personalities  in question seem to be a husband-wife pair, one Junius Auriclianus and Rectina, who is described as a ‘slave’ (freedwoman, surely) of a certain Petronius.

Abruzzo24 includes a nice photo of one side of the ring (whence comes the ‘slave’ identification of Rectina):

The other side can be seen in a photo from Futurocommune:

There’s a similar, but smaller version at Leggimini Quoditiano:

Not sure what we can read into the ‘fish farming’ side of this … it would appear that such ventures were more for ‘extravagance’ purposes than commercial. The index of James Higginbottham’s Piscinae: Artificial Fishponds in Roman Italy (via Amazon) doesn’t have an entry for crawfish or shrimp, interestingly enough. I note the book is available at Questia in toto … might be worth the free trial.


UPDATE/QUERY: does anyone know whether these images have been ‘reversed’? Wouldn’t a signet ring have everything in the ‘opposite direction’?  Wouldn’t the ‘impression’ part be in high relief?

Coin Hoard from Cumbria

If the find was made back in April, I’m not sure why they don’t give us the identity of some of the emperors on the coins … from the News and Star:

John Murray, 66, was amazed to find 308 Roman coins, some thought to be nearly 2,000 years old. The hoard was concealed in a smashed pot a few feet below the ground at Beckfoot, near Silloth.

It is the second major Roman find in Cumbria, following the Crosby Garrett helmet which was unearthed by a metal detectorist last May.

Bearing the heads of various emperors, the coins have been taken to the British Museum for restoration and analysis.

And they have been officially classed as treasure.

Mr Murray, of Beckfoot, said he made the find by accident as he walked home after an ‘unsuccessful’ hunt.

He said: “The farmer had been ploughing and he’d hit some big stones. We knew there was Roman activity in the area, so I went to have a look – but there was nothing.

“So I decided to go home for some lunch. I was walking diagonally across the field when I heard the metal detector make a nice noise.”

Just a foot below the surface the first coin appeared and the machine revealed more was to come. As the treasure kept emerging, Mr Murray called Maryport’s Senhouse Roman Museum to alert them to his discovery.

He added: “There was a big uprising in Europe at one stage and all the Roman soldiers were called over to fight. I think someone probably buried these coins thinking they’d be able to come back and get them.”

Discovered on April 10, 2010, the coins have been classed as Crown property under the Treasure Act of 1996.

They were officially granted that status following a treasure trove inquest heard by north and west Cumbria David Roberts at Whitehaven Magistrates’ Court on Friday.

When they have been valued, Mr Murray and the owner of the field will find out if they are due any reward.

“Archaeology takes up a lot of my time these days,” said Mr Murray. “I got into it by taking part in digs at Vindolanda fort. I like the history side of it – somebody owned those coins and I’m asking what happened to him.”

Mary Beard Gets Quizzical

Going deeper into my mailbox, I’m finding all sorts of things I meant to post … Back in December, e.g., the Guardian  Review had a quiz with questions from various authors, including Mary Beard. Ecce:

1 A “new” poem of which “Greek Muse” was found in 2004, written on the scrap paper packed into an Egyptian mummy – complaining about the onset of middle age, and of knees too stiff to dance?

2 A politician who fell foul of the Emperor Augustus and killed himself – and one of the most famous poets of the 1st century BC. His only poem to survive (celebrating Julius Caesar) was discovered on an Egyptian rubbish dump in 1978. Who is he?

3 2010 saw the first publication of a lost essay by one of the most famous ancient doctors. “On the avoidance of pain” was about the loss of his books in a fire in 192AD and it turned up on a manuscript in a library in Thessaloniki. Who was the author?

via The Guardian Review literary quiz | Books | The Guardian.

If you’re stumped, the answers are somewhere on this page (I confess to having forgotten #2) …

Also Seen: Modern Men v. Their Greek Counterparts

This one’s making the rounds in various forms (just in Australian newspapers for now, I think)  … first, some context:

It’s a brave man who asks, ‘Why are men these days such losers?’ But self proclaimed ‘manthropologist’ Peter McAllister, is doing just that.The archaeologist and author is convinced he knows why men just aren’t what they used to be and he says there’s no shortage of people lining up to hear the answer.”My experience has been if you discuss the topic with women, their immediate response is, well, duh!”Mr McAllister uses archaeology, anthropology and evolutionary psychology to explain that men these days just aren’t cutting it compared to their counterparts 2,000 years ago.

Then further down we get:

Mr McAllister says the Ancient Greeks had the right formula.

“The Greek trireme rowers about 2,000 years ago set records and travelled at speeds that trained athletes and rowers can’t even get close to today. The reality is they were very small in stature compared to modern men these days,” he said.

Not sure where he gets this ‘can’t get close to today’ … when they did the reconstruction of the Olympias, the researchers matched (and corroborated) speeds mentioned in various ancient sources. A graph at the Trireme Trust from their various trials of the ship suggests it was possible for the crew to approach the 10 knot range (17-18 km/h or so). If you want to compare “trained athletes”, eights in competition generally average about 22 km/h in the 2000m event.

In other words, yet another bit of sensationalism citing the ancient world which doesn’t really pan out …