Roman Villa in Spain Threatened

From Euro Weekly:

A UNIQUE Roman villa dating back 17 centuries is threatened by the AVE High Speed Train in Barcelona.

Archaeologists and residents in La Sagrera are protesting in support of the only Roman villa found in Barcelona which was uncovered a month ago and could end up as little more than a reconstructed mosaic in a museum if plans for the AVE go ahead.

Some 1,000 metres of walls and paving have been found of a villa believed to have been a villa dedicated to farming, with an area for the noble residents from the ancient Barcino.

A mosaic has been found, which will be conserved and part of which has already been removed, but locals want the findings to remain in their original site. There were many villas around Barcino but most were covered by the district of Sant Andreu and La Meridiana.

Experts believe an in depth study should be carried out, but Barcelona City Hall claims the site has no value and has given the go-ahead for it to be taken to pieces. The opposition will propose that it be kept in its original location with the AVE tracks being completed on either side of it.

I don’t think we had any coverage of its initial discovery in rogueclassicism a few weeks ago … an excerpt of an item in English at Urban Habitat gives some details about the find:

[…] Building work on the access points to the AVE (new high-speed) railway station have led to the discovery of the remains of a Roman villa in the area of the Pont del Treball Digne, in the La Sagrera neighbourhood.

So far, an area of approximately 1,100 m2 has been identified, which extends beyond the limits of the work area and, from what has been discovered up to now, it appears to have been Roman villa with baths, divided into three large areas.

The northern section of the site reveals a series of rooms lined up one after the other and the southern area features another set of chambers, this time arranged in two perpendicular corridors,with an area for baths.

The area between these two blocks of rooms might have been an open space or atrium, around which the other buildings of the urban part of the villa would have been distributed.

Although no specific information can be given on the founding of the villa, some ceramic pieces from the high Imperial period have been recovered, indicating it might have been in use up to the 4th and 5th centuries at the least.

The excavations confirm the complex had gone through many alterations during its lifetime.

As regards the baths area, a cold water pool has been identified, and the hypocaust of what must have been the hot water pool.

The most interesting find in the Roman villa, its mosaics, will soon be removed from the ground and moved to the MUHBA’s archaeology laboratory, where they will be cleaned and treated for subsequent study. […]

… a video at El Periodico (and elsewhere) gives a really good idea of the size of this villa (it’s pretty large) …. can’t find any images of any mosaics therefrom.

Interview With Jonathan Shay

From the Ithacan:

Jonathan Shay, one of this year’s First-Year Experience featured speakers, linked classical literature and war during his campus lecture Sept. 21.

Shay discussed David Malouf’s novel “Ransom,” the First-Year Reading Initiative book, and Homer’s epic work, “The Iliad.”

Shay worked for 20 years in the Department of Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic in Boston as a staff psychiatrist. He retired in 2008 to devote his time to preventive psychiatry in the military.

He was awarded a $500,000 fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, nicknamed the “genius grant.” Shay has been a MacArthur Fellow since 2008.

Chief Copy Editor Marissa Smith spoke with Shay about his work and future endeavors.

Marissa Smith: Why is it important for students at Ithaca College to continue studying works such as the Iliad?

Jonathan Shay: It’s a general fact about fictions — what Aristotle would have called poetry — that fictions are experiments with the moral materials of a place and a time. And if the experiments are honestly done, we always learn something of value from them. Now Homer does not cook the books on the nature of war, especially in “The Iliad.” But the Iliad really tells the truth about war and what matters in the hearts of the people in it. And so as long as we collectively pursue this practice that we call war — and I tell every audience including uniformed audiences — the primary prevention of combat trauma is the elimination of the human practice of war.

MS: Did your works “Achilles in Vietnam” and “Odysseus in America” stem from mythology or psychology?

JS: Both books are really strongly about the social and ethical dimension of military forces and of being at war with a human enemy. The thing that makes the enemy so dangerous is that the enemy has all the same virtues that we have. They’re intelligent, they’re observant, they’re innovative, they’re courageous, they’re self-sacrificing, they’re loyal to their friends, they endure all kinds of privations. It’s all of those virtues that are the same ones that we applaud in ourselves. The most disastrous mistake that anybody can make is to regard the enemy as mere inanimate matter, like the rock that has to be blasted and pushed out of the way to get at a vein of copper ore.

MS: Were you surprised to be awarded the MacArthur Grant?

JS: Oh, of course I was surprised. For a bunch of years I have been with my tongue slightly in my cheek describing myself as an unlicensed philosopher. And it’s possible that they took that more seriously because the only demographic, the only category that they will give fellowships to in old age is philosophers. So I think they must have pulled my tongue out of my cheek long enough to decide that they wanted to do that. It’s terrific.

MS: What do you hope audiences walk away with from your speeches?

JS: That the thing that matters most in the heart of a soldier is the social and ethical characteristics of his own forces. Yet, the enemy matters, but in the end, the enemy can’t do as much harm to the mind and the spirit as his own forces. When I say my mission is the prevention of psychological and moral injury, that little twist at the end — moral injury, what is that? It’s what happens when there is a betrayal of what’s right and that’s squarely in the culture. A betrayal of what’s right by someone who holds legitimate authority.

I personally think Achilles in Vietnam is one of those books which is a ‘must read’ in conjunction with the Iliad — especially for those who ‘don’t get any connection’ with the modern world.

National Archaeology Day Coming Up

A letter from the AIA’s Lauren Fragoza:

National Archaeology Day Celebrations

22 October 2011- The Archaeological Institute of America and several leading archaeological organizations are hosting events in over 100 cities across the United States and Canada for people of all ages and interests as part of the first annual National Archaeology Day on October 22.

Whether it is a family-friendly archaeology fair, a guided tour of a local archaeological site, a simulated dig, a lecture, or a classroom visit from an archaeologist, interactive, hands-on programs will provide visitors with the chance to indulge their inner Indiana Jones.

Each year thousands of people learn about the latest archaeological discoveries and share in the excitement of uncovering and rewriting history through various AIA outreach activities, publications, and websites. National Archaeology Day is a chance for archaeology enthusiasts to celebrate these discoveries and it is an opportunity for archaeological organizations to promote resources and events to ensure that people stay informed and connected throughout the year

The AIA, a nonprofit group founded in 1879, is North America’s oldest and largest organization devoted to the world of archaeology. It has nearly 250,000 members from all walks of life, and this diverse group is united by a shared passion for archaeology and its role in furthering human knowledge.

Check out the calendar of events to find a program near you and keep an eye on our blog to learn about new developments and for special updates in anticipation of this exciting event. For more information you can visit the AIA website at, or contact the AIA at 617-353-9361 or

Thank you,

Lauren Fragoza
Education Assistant
Archaeological Institute of America

A quick glance at the links to branches of the AIA in a 100 or so km radius of me shows plenty of lectures of Classical archaeology interest … worth a look!

Lost City in the Dardanelles?

This one is really difficult to piece together as much seems to have been lost in translation and/or editing. Here are two versions of the same story (tip o’ the pileus to Explorator reader Richard Griffiths for these) … first, from National Turk:

A group of scientists and archeologists from Canakkale (Dardanelles) University have found traces of a lost city, older than famed Troy, now buried under the waters of Dardanelles strait.

Led by associate professor Rüstem Aslan, the archeology team made a surface survey in the vicinity of Erenkoy, Canakkale on the shore. The team has found ceramics and pottery, what led them to ponder a mound could be nearby. A research on The found pottery showed that the items belonged to an 7000 years old ancient city. The team has intensified the research and discovered first signs of the lost city under the waters of Dardanalles Strait.
Lost city found in Turkey: It is older than Troy

The lost city lies in the sea floor in the Aegean entrance of the strait on the shores of Europen side. The professor told”the pottery indicates the city is from around 5000 BC. We believe the civilizations on the shores of Dardanelles and Bosphorus straits had been buried under water. This latest mound discovered is also 90% under water and gives significant hints on the sea levels then.”

The latest discovery of the ancient city is as important as the funda in the ongoing digs in the Marmaray Project in Istanbul, the historians and scientists state.

… and from something called, which picks up an item from the Anatolia News Agency which I was unable to track down anywhere else:

A settlement area from the pre-historic period has been found in the Dardanelles, according to the head of Troy excavations, Associate Professor Rüstem Aslan.

“We have found a prehistoric settlement dating back to 5,000 B.C. But only 5 percent of the settlement exists,” said Aslan. The archaeology team examined the coast from the entrance of the Dardanelles to Çanakkale city center, he said. “The coastal excavations had been finished and we unearthed something unexpected around Bozköy.”

The settlement was 2,000 years older than Troy, Aslan said. “We know that almost all settlements older than 5,000 years ago were established on high plateaus.” The reason for the settlement pattern in high places has been questioned, he said. “This discovery gives us important clues that people settled deliberately because of the rise and fall of the sea,” he added.

Aslan said it was the first time that such a settlement was found in the Dardanelles and there is no information about this settlement in any map or document. “We can easily see remains of a 7,000-year-old lost settlement here,” he said. “We can call this place a lost city.”

I wonder if Robert Ballard had helped to point them to this: Catching Up With Robert Ballard

What Timothy Howe is Up To

From a St Olaf College press release:

St. Olaf Associate Professor of History Timothy Howe was the keynote speaker at Re-visioning Terrorism: An Interdisciplinary and International Conference at Purdue University.

The conference, which coincided with the 10-year anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, gave Howe the opportunity to deliver a paper on Athenian insurgency against Alexander the Great and his father, Philip II. He also discussed how history can guide modern scholars and politicians to interpret terrorism and insurgency today.

Howe was asked to speak at the conference due in large part to his recent work Insurgency and Terrorism in the Ancient Mediterranean, a collection of 14 essays by a team of national experts on the subject. Howe is the editor for the project, and is also the author of one essay about insurgency during the time of Alexander the Great. The book emphasizes a modern methodological approach to terrorism and insurgency that differs from what Howe calls “trendy military parallels.”

The opportunity to speak at the conference was supported by the Scott R. Jacobs Alexander the Great Fellowship, awarded to Howe by the University of Utah to continue his research on ancient Mediterranean insurgency and terrorism, specifically during the reign of Alexander the Great. The university granted Howe the fellowship because his topic of study was new. “That is what is great about history,” says Howe. “People don’t realize that there is a wealth of new topics to explore.”

Howe credits his teaching career at St. Olaf as the inspiration for this approach. “When the students are new, the conversations are new,” he says. “It ensures that I am also a student, learning new perspectives from those in my classroom. That is the beauty of a liberal arts education.”

Roman Fort in Scotland

From the Scotsman:

ARCHAEOLOGISTS digging at the site of a former jeans factory have uncovered the remains of at least two Roman forts – and artefacts including 60 pairs of shoes.
The hoard of leather footwear is believed to be the largest of its kind yet found in Scotland.

Other discoveries include pottery, ovens, coins, bones, jewellery, an axe and a spearhead dating back to the first and second centuries AD, when the forts were in use.

The discoveries have been made at the site of the former Wrangler factory in Camelon, Falkirk, which is set to become a Tesco supermarket.

Camelon has long been suggested as the possible site for Camelot, the home of King Arthur, who many believe was a Roman who stayed on after the collapse of the Roman Empire and fought against the invading hordes of Anglo-Saxons.

The idea of King Arthur as a Roman was the basis of the 2004 Hollywood movie, King Arthur, starring Clive Owen, as a Roman centurion. Yesterday, experts described the new finds as “nationally important” and the most significant in the Falkirk area “for generations”.

Archaeologist Martin Cook said a rich bounty of relics had been uncovered, despite only 10 per cent of the site being examined so far.

He said: “This will be one of the most important finds in the Falkirk area for decades and one of the best ones we’ve been involved with.

“It’s hugely exciting because of the quality and quantity of artefacts from the organic deposit and reinforces the importance of the forts which have been rebuilt more than once.

“This proves that the Romans were there for a greater length of time, which is different to their normal routine of coming in, building something and then tearing it down so the natives can’t use it once they have left. We found some Samian pottery from France, more than we expected to find.

“There were coins, trumpet brooches and 60 pairs of leather shoes in the ditch, something we really didn’t expect and which is hugely important statistically. It shows how many troops were using the forts.”

He added: “These 60 shoes are remarkable for their quantity but also for their quality. They are leather sandals with straps and hob-nailed soles.”

To avoid digging as much as possible, the rest of the site will be preserved in situ, although the team would like to dig more.

Geoff Bailey, Falkirk Council’s keeper of archaeology and local historian, said: “There was probably a harbour on the River Carron where the golf club is now. The area is the lowest crossing point on the Carron and it would have been the A1 of the Roman period.”

Crassus, Take Back Your Legions! Please!

I can’t believe people are still buying into this … as often, people believe what they want to believe, especially if money is involved. From Xinhua:

It is hard to believe that in a remote village in northwest China Western-looking Chinese people stage ancient Roman dances and military parades that they’ve inherited from their ancestors.

But in the square of Liqian Village of Yongchang County of Gansu Province, a dozen Western-looking villagers — suited in armor and carrying shields — demonstrated a rare fish scale-shaped formation.

The formation, local villagers said, has evolved from the military alignments of an ancient Roman army and is flexible enough to both attack and defend.

“It is amazing to see the merging of two great ancient cultures in this remote village,” said Pamela Mccourt Francescone, a visitor from Italy.

With deep-set green eyes and a long, hooked nose, Luo Ying, the 35-year-old lead performer, has a European look. His fellow villagers nicknamed him “Roman Prince.”

“I believe that I am somewhat related to the ancient Romans,” said Luo.

Situated along the Silk Road, a 7,000-km-long trade route that linked Asia and Europe more than 2,000 years ago, the village stepped into the spotlight in the 1990s when archeologists found the remains of an ancient fort and a crowd of Western-looking people there.

DNA tests in 2005 confirmed that some of the villagers are indeed of foreign origin, leading many experts to conclude they are the descendants of the ancient Roman army headed by general Marcus Crassus.

In 53 B.C., Crassus was defeated and beheaded by the Parthians, a tribe that occupied what is now Iran, putting an end to Rome’s eastward expansion.

But a 6,000-strong army led by Crassus’s eldest son apparently escaped and were never found again.

Though some anthropologists are convinced the foreign-looking villagers in Yongchang County are the descendants of the ancient army, others are not so certain.

In November 2010, the Italian Studies Center was jointly established by China and Italy at Lanzhou University in Gansu. One of its research programs focuses on the early descendants of the ancient Roman army in China.

Professor Yuan Honggeng, head of the center, said they hope to prove the theory by digging to uncover more evidence of China’s early contact with the Roman Empire along the Silk Road.

“We hope to unravel the mystery of the lost Roman legions,” said Yuan.

Various research projects are being conducted, and local residents are not hesitant to show pride in their unusual bloodline, especially as they have tried for decades to shake off poverty caused by long-lingering drought and the village’s remote geographical position.

In 1999, the village, previously named Zhelaizhai, renamed itself Liqian. According to China’s historical records, Liqian was how the ancient Chinese addressed the Roman Empire.

The remains of the fort are currently surrounded by iron chains. A monument has been erected beside the remains to tell its history, and a recently constructed Roman-style pavilion stands near the monument.

In August 2010, a new complex built in the style of Roman architecture was established to cater to visitors.

A Beijing-based film producer has plans to spend millions turning the villagers’ story into a film.

Meanwhile, villager Zhao Shouming is pleased to see tourists coming in almost every day.

“We are very happy that the village has now become vibrant,” said Zhao, who earned 2,000 yuan (about 313 U.S. dollars) last year thanks to the boom in tourism.

Our previous coverage of this sort of thing covers pretty much all the objections: Romans in China Rerereredux

Circumundique ~ October 2, 2011

Gleanings …