From the Herald:
A HISTORIAN is claiming to have found the site of one of Scotland’s most significant battles.
Archaeologist Mike Haseler believes he has evidence to suggest that the battle of Mons Graupius took place in Moray.
Mons Graupius was a key battle for British independence against the repressive hand of Rome almost 2000 years ago.
According to the Romans, 10,000 Britons died that day at the hands of this first European super-state, while many others fled the scene.
Despite stringent efforts by experts, the site of the battle between the Romans and the Caledonians – in either 83AD or 84AD – has never been conclusively identified.
However, Mr Haseler believes his research strongly points to the battle taking place near Elgin, at Quarrelwood Hill to the north-west of the town.
He is now asking that experts pay closer attention to the site and examine what he believes to be a possible Roman fort a short distance away.
From his research and examining the formation of aerial crop circles, Mr Haseler believes he has discovered the fort just south of Elgin.
“I knew the site was a really good candidate from looking at old maps, but I never thought I would find what appeared to be the ditches of a Roman fort staring out at me from the computer screen,” he said.
“I have looked and looked at the evidence, and everything fits.
“I have been to the site, and it is just as described by the Roman writer Tacitus and, barring going up with a metal detector, which is clearly illegal, there is nothing else I can do but present the evidence I have for the public to decide.”
Mr Haseler, who is based in Lenzie, East Dunbartonshire, found the location while completing his certificate of field archaeology at Glasgow University.
Key to his discovery was his reconstruction of a second century map to help him pinpoint the homeland of the Caledonian tribe.
Considerable debate and analysis has surrounded the site of the battle, which is known to have taken place on Scottish soil.
Touted locations include Perthshire, to the north of the River Dee, while other historians have suggested it may have taken place in Kincardineshire or even Bennachie in Aberdeenshire.
However, Mr Haseler’s research brought him to Moray.
“It is the right size and the only way to prove or disprove it is to go public and ask for experts to assess the site,” he added. “The general position of the site is an excellent fit for Mons Graupius.
“The Caledonian army of about 30,000 would be gathering on Quarrel Hill and were probably expecting the Romans to take two days to reach them.
“Instead, I think [Roman governor] Agricola pressed on with a surprise attack and took only one.
“The Romans, having sent out scouts to select a suitable site for a temporary camp, would have arrived to the surprise and consternation of the Caledonians very late in the day, and made camp a few miles from the Caledonian army.
“So, the main battle would have been fought on the south of Quarrelwood Hill, and perhaps on the immediate plain in front.
“Having looked at all the possible candidates, I am convinced that this site is the best fit to what we know about the battle, mainly because most other sites are just too far south even to consider.
“Historians have been gradually moving the assumed locations of tribes further north, so a lot of the potential sites are now located too far south, but we simply don’t know what is there until we start digging.”
Of course the obvious question is to ask about any archaeological evidence that has already been found in the area …
UPDATE (a couple days later): Adrian Murdoch is also skeptical: Battle of Mons Graupius Found?
Interesting item from Fresco di Web. The quickie version is thus: Back in 2004/5 they found anomalies associated with a high metal concentration in a certain area along Lake Trasimeno. In terms of depth, apparently, it corresponds roughly with two millennia ago and so is thought to perhaps be remains of the Roman debacle there in 217 or so, but the article seems to be spinning the ‘phoenician tourism’ side of things. Whatever the case, it seems to be an ongoing project, but I don’t see any mention of archaeologists being involved (?!) …
Comincia oggi fino al 18 maggio un rilievo geofisico ad altissima risoluzione sul lago Trasimeno lungo il tratto di costa del Comune di Tuoro. Un progetto di ricerca geologico-storico-archeologica che vedrà al lavoro gli esperti del centro di ricerca Ismar (l’Istituto di Scienze marine) del Cnr di Bologna e che nasce a seguito di “un’anomalia” emersa durante la serie di studi, condotti nel 2004 e nel 2005 per conto della Regione Umbria all’interno del Progetto Carg-Cartografia geologica e geotematica del lago Trasimeno.
L’anomalia è dovuta a una concentrazione di metalli con punte massime essenzialmente localizzate nell’area compresa tra Tuoro, Passignano e Isola Maggiore. Secondo la stima del tasso medio di sedimentazione, la profondità indiziata corrisponderebbe a circa due millenni fa. Queste anomalie metalliche potrebbero riferirsi alla battaglia del Trasimeno, nel giugno del 217 a.C. (II Guerra Punica), il cui teatro di svolgimento in base alla più recente ricostruzione scientifica dei luoghi della battaglia (Gambini-Brizzi, 2008) sembra essere la piana di Tuoro. Polibio dice infatti che alcuni legionari tentarono di salvarsi gettandosi in acqua, ma il peso delle armature li trascinò a fondo. Di questi reperti non si son mai cercate le tracce.
È dunque possibile che siano custodite sotto metri di sabbie in questo tratto del lago di Tuoro, importanti testimonianze dello storico episodio. I rilievi fatti indicano la presenza di oggetti sepolti a profondità di qualche metro al di sotto del manto sedimentario.
Per tutta la durata delle indagini La Rotta dei Fenici e il Comune di Tuoro hanno previsto e richiesto l’assistenza archeologica sul campo, in accordo con la Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici dell’Umbria. Inoltre, il sistema Sonar che sarà utilizzato è assolutamente silenzioso e totalmente innocuo per la flora e per la fauna locale, nell’ottica di rispetto del paesaggio inteso come patrimonio da tutelare e custodire.
L’iniziativa in corso segue il lavoro svolto nel corso degli ultimi anni dal piccolo centro lacustre in collaborazione con la “Rotta dei Fenici”, itinerario culturale riconosciuto dal Consiglio d’Europa, che si propone come un sistema di sinergie tra diversi Paesi (ben 18, e oltre ottocento città di origine e cultura fenicio-punica), che pone le basi dell’interculturalità come fondamento di un Itinerario Culturale Mediterraneo. E che ha visto il Comune di Tuoro inaugurare prima i percorsi annibalici, itinerari turistico-archeologici della Battaglia del Trasimeno, e poi il Centro di Documentazione a Palazzo del Capra, che sta registrando un buon successo di visite da parte di turisti e gite organizzate.
«Con questi rilievi – spiega Lorenzo Borgia, assessore alla Cultura del Comune di Tuoro – intendiamo apportare il nostro contributo alla ricerca di un nuovo rapporto tra l’uomo e il patrimonio culturale e naturale che lo circonda, confidando nei migliori risultati».
Back in September, we were pondering some new evidence that Caesar’s troops may have been in Germany (Evidence of Caesar’s Troops … In Germany?) and it never did seem to make it to the English press. Now, however, a blog put out by the publishers of Ancient Warfare Magazine put out a nice summary (with appropriate links) of our long-time webfriend Jona Lendering’s investigations into same … definitely worth a look (and do follow the links to Jona’s blog):
- Caesar in Germania(Josho Brouwers at Karansaway Publishers
From the BBC:
Epiacum is a site full of buried treasure, which no-one can reach – no-one human at least.
Near Alston in Cumbria, close to the Northumberland border, where now there are fields, there was once a thriving Roman fort.
Unfortunately for archaeologists, they cannot access any of the historic artefacts beneath the ground – because the site is a scheduled ancient monument.
Moles, however, pay no heed to the land’s protected status.
The velvety creatures have not only been digging up the earth, but doing their bit for archaeology by inadvertently pushing ancient objects to the surface.
Paul Frodsham, an archaeologist with the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), runs a project called Altogether Archaeology, which has signed up 500 volunteers to take part in digs under professional supervision.
Fifty of those have taken part in an effort to sift through the molehills at Epiacum and keep a record of what the animals dig up and where.
“I realise it sounds a bit ridiculous, but it’s actually quite serious,” Mr Frodsham said.
“We look at all the finds and we work out what’s going on in different parts off the fort and different kinds of pottery tell us what dates different buildings are.”
He stressed the work must be done with the permission of English Heritage.
As well as fragments of pottery and glass, the moles have dragged up some attractive and intact artefacts.
A molehill recently pushed up a piece of Samian ware – a type of brown pottery common on Roman sites – thought to be a stand for a vase or bowl, or possibly an egg cup.
Last year they discovered a jet bead and a decorative bronze dolphin.
Elaine Edgar, who with her husband owns a farm on the land, is trying to promote the site as a tourist attraction as part of an 18-month project, funded by a £49,000 lottery grant.
Mrs Edgar said she had run a series of events as part of the project, which had attracted higher than expected numbers and she had received “fantastic support”.
But she expressed mixed feelings about the subterranean creatures that were playing their own part.
“Moles are the bane of landowners’ lives,” she said.
Volunteers sifting through molehills Volunteers have been sifting through molehills to locate hidden artefacts
“They’re up there all the time digging away on the land and my husband generally wants to get rid of them.”
For the time being though, they are serving an important purpose.
“I’d like them to uncover as much as they can for the foreseeable future, until we can hopefully do an organised dig somewhere on the fort,” Mrs Edgar said.
“We’re looking towards our bigger vision, which is to establish a fully-fledged visitor centre on the farm.”
The fort dates back to about the 2nd Century AD, when it is thought the Romans wanted to control lead and silver mining in the north of England.
The Romans maintained a military presence there until the 4th Century, when they seem to have abandoned the fort.
A recent English Heritage survey also revealed there was an extensive civilian settlement, or vicus, beyond the ramparts.
There have only been two recorded digs of Epiacum, in about 1810 and 1957, covering small areas of the 100-sq-m site.
Despite such limited excavation, the foundations of the Roman buildings are still visible.
There are four rings of earthwork defences, which Mr Frodsham described as “spectacular”.
“From that point of view, it’s one of the best-preserved forts anywhere in the empire,” he said.
But, it seems, only the moles know the true extent of its treasures.
Just for the record, the BBC was kind of slow to pick this story up … the Journal had it three or four weeks ago (Moles at Epiacum). I only bring it up again because it seems kind of strange how the moles are being ‘credited’ in this (and the Journal) piece while years ago, badgers were just messing things up, but doing the same basic thing (links in the Journal piece). I guess archaeologists find moles a bit more cuddly or something …
Interesting item first appearing in English at Science Daily:
The so-called Elephant’s Tomb in the Roman necropolis of Carmona (Seville, Spain) was not always used for burials. The original structure of the building and a window through which the sun shines directly in the equinoxes suggest that it was a temple of Mithraism, an unofficial religion in the Roman Empire. The position of Taurus and Scorpio during the equinoxes gives force to the theory.
The Carmona necropolis (Spain) is a collection of funeral structures from between the 1st century B.C. and the 2nd century A.D. One of these is known as the Elephant’s Tomb because a statue in the shape of an elephant was found in the interior of the structure.
The origin and function of the construction have been the subject of much debate. Archaeologists from the University of Pablo de Olavide (Seville, Spain) have conducted a detailed analysis of the structure and now suggest that it may originally not have been used for burials but for worshipping the God Mithras. Mithraism was an unofficial religion that was widespread throughout the Roman Empire in the early centuries of our era.
Researchers have identified four stages in which the building was renovated, giving it different uses.
“In some stages, it was used for burial purposes, but its shape and an archaeoastronomical analysis suggest that it was originally designed and built to contain a Mithraeum [temple to Mithras],” as explained by Inmaculada Carrasco, one of the authors of the study.
Carrasco and her colleague Alejandro Jiménez focus their studies on a window in the main chamber built during the first stage. Earlier studies had already suggested that the purpose of the window was not to provide light, but that rather it may have served a symbolic and spiritual purpose.
The Sun, the Moon and the stars
“From our analysis of the window, we have deduced that it was positioned so that the rays of the sun reached the centre of the chamber during the equinoxes, in the spring and autumn, three hours after sunrise” explains Carrasco.
The authors believe that at that moment a statue of the tauroctony, the statue of Mithras slaying the bull (which has been lost), would have been illuminated.
In addition, during the winter and summer solstice, the sun would light up the north and south walls respectively.
Moreover, the position of the heavenly bodies at that time in the 2nd century reinforces the theory that the building was constructed for Mithraic worship, a religion that gave considerable importance to the constellations.
As the sun shines through the window during the spring equinox, Taurus rises to the East and Scorpio hides to the West. The opposite occurred during the autumn equinox.
Taurus and Scorpio were of special significance to the Mithraics. The main image of the cult is that of the God Mithras slaying a bull, and in the majority of these images there is also a scorpion stinging the animal’s testicles.
Other constellations such as Aquarius, Orion or Leo, which were also of significance in this religion, appear in the path of the sun in the equinoxes and solstices at that time.
Moreover, according to the authors, the Moon, although having a secondary role, may have lit up the face of Mithras with a full moon on nights near to the equinoxes.
Four stages of renovation
Apart from the window, the architecture of the original building has similarities to other Mithraic constructions.
Carrasco explained that it is “an underground structure, with a room divided into three chambers, with a shrine or altar illuminated by the window at the head. The presence of a fountain is also highly significant as these are commonly found in the Mithraeums.”
According to the authors, after its period as a Mithraic temple, the building was renovated three times, giving it new functions more in line with the functions of a necropolis. A burial chamber was built and at a later date, the roof was removed, leaving open courtyards. Lastly, it was filled with rubble and used as an area for burials.
However, there are some objections to the theory that it was a Mithraic temple as it is in a necropolis, an uncommon site for buildings used for this cult which were more often found in domestic, urban or rural environments.
“A similar case is that of Sutri (Italy) where the Mithraeum is on the outskirts of the town. The structure in Carmona is in a multi-purpose space, next to the Via Augusta which connected Cadiz to Rome, close to the amphitheatre and the circus, and consequently its position should not be considered an objection,” says Jiménez.
- via: Elephant’s Tomb in Carmona May Have Been a Temple to the God Mithras (Science Daily)
The Spanish source for the above (La Tumba del Elefante de Carmona pudo ser un templo al dios Mitra) includes a short Spanish-language video showing the alignments and the like rather effectively.
That said, it’s worth noting Vermaseren in Corpus cultus Cybelae attidisque (CCCA) 3 notes associations with the Cult of Cybele by other scholars …
A somewhat rambling item from World Bulletin:
Excavations in a field in Milas, a district of the southwestern province of Mugla, has uncovered mosaic tiles belonging to the Roman era.
The excavations began after the Milas Gendarmerie Command raided a store in Milas upon a tip-off and found five Roman-era pots there. Also, three unregistered rifles, one unregistered handgun and fireworks were seized in the raid. Two suspects were taken into custody.
An excavation team then started working in the field where the two suspects reportedly said they had found the pots. Excavations unearthed mosaic tiles one meter below the surface. The excavations at the field continue.
Milas District Governor Bahattin Atçı, gendarmerie Lt. Col. Ertuğrul Memiş and gendarmerie Lt. Gürkan Uygun held a press conference on Friday about the findings. Atçı said he believes the newly found tiles will significantly contribute to Turkey’s cultural wealth. “We already knew that there were very precious historical artifacts in the region. We need to focus more on unearthing them,” he said.
Atçı noted that the mosaic tiles that have been found might be as valuable as ones found in the ancient city of Zeugma in the southern province of Gaziantep. Zeugma is one of the four most important historical settlements under the reign of the Kingdom of Commagene.
The district governor said he hopes the artifacts draw archeologists’ attention to the region. He also stressed that they are also trying to increase intelligence activities and operations against illegal excavations and called on locals to inform the authorities if they know anything about any illegal excavation.
Last year, a 2,000-year-old relief bust of a king was discovered during excavations in the ancient city of Stratonikeia — where the largest gymnasium in Anatolia and a gladiator graveyard are located — in Muğla’s Yatağan district. The bust, which is one-and-a-half meters tall and nearly two meters wide, features depictions of bull heads and the figure of a goddess.
Archaeologists have re-launched an excavation project in the ancient city of Stratonikeia, which is located in the southwestern province of Muğla, where many artifacts have been unearthed since the work first began in 2008.
Stratonikeia, which is situated in the present day village of Eskihisar and often referred to by archaeologists as the world’s largest city built entirely of marble, is also known as an ancient city of great warriors. Many gladiator gravestones have been found there, including those belonging to famous fighters such as Droseros, who was killed by Achilles, as well as Vitalius, Eumelus, Amaraios, Khrysopteros and Khrysos.
The excavations are being carried out by the archaeology department at Denizli’s Pamukkale University and are headed by Professor Bilal Söğüt. Söğüt told the Anatolia news agency that they uncovered 702 historical artifacts in 2012 and have now resumed work for the next six months with a team of 100 people. Söğüt further stated that they have applied to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for Stratonikeia to be put on the World Heritage List.
To date the largest gymnasium in Anatolia, a basilica, a necropolis and the fortification walls have been restored. The original 10-meter-high columns on Stratonikeia’s main street have also been re-erected.
- via: Roman-era mosaic tiles found in Milas (World BUlletin)
Found this one in the Wine Spectator:
Harvest season may have been their busiest time of year, but wine was the last thing on the minds of the 54 people huddled in a room of Oplontis Villa B in A.D. 79 as they looked out to sea in vain for a ship. In happier times, boats likely docked there frequently to pick up wine for export or drop off imports; on that day, none arrived before the deadly gas and fumes of Mount Vesuvius’ terrible eruption. “They were waiting to be saved,” said Dr. Michael Thomas, codirector of the Oplontis Project near Pompeii and director of the Center for the Study of Ancient Italy in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Texas at Austin. To California wine lovers, Thomas is known for the outstanding Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir and Syrah made under his Wrath label. But planting Falanghina—”one of the most ancient Italian varieties”—in California is just one way Thomas is exploring the Romans’ wine legacy. In his day job as an archaeologist, he and his team have been freshly appraising two Oplontis villas, mostly excavated in the 1970s and ’80s but never fully studied. When the team turned to Oplontis B last summer, they realized that the large edifice was no villa at all, but most likely an ancient distribution center for wine. “It’s almost like a co-op where everyone brings their wine, dumps it off, they make a huge bulk wine out of everybody’s grapes and then they redistribute it,” said Thomas, explaining their working theory, presented at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America in January. The Oplontis team will be analyzing the site for three more years, but a picture is already emerging of an operation not unlike the co-op and négociant models of today. The most obvious clue was a cache of 400 amphorae, terracotta vessels used by the Romans to transport liquid. The residue inside is awaiting analysis, but these jars are a design almost always used for wine in the region. “A lot of these big villas had working vineyards,” Thomas told Wine Spectator, and probably sold off some of their wine. “You probably had these vineyards scattered all over and even up fairly high on Vesuvius.” There are smaller tells as well. Fire pits in evidence would liquefy pitch, which the Romans used to seal amphorae. Digging below the A.D. 79 street level, to older construction, the team found paving in the courtyard, suggesting it was well-trafficked by carts making or picking up deliveries. The place is littered with pomegranates, which were used by the Romans to treat leather; wine was carried over land by cart, in a big leather sack called a culleus. “They filled up the cowhide with wine because amphorae were too heavy to transport by cart,” explained Thomas. Once local wines came into Oplontis B, were they blended? The team has discovered some evidence of waterproof concrete, but a more conclusive answer will call for some Indiana Jones maneuvering. “There’s one area that we’re going to try to excavate, but there’s also some danger, some stuff collapsing, so we’re going to have to be careful. But if we can excavate it, one of the possibilities is there’s some sort of vat over there.” Finished wines went into amphorae and out to sea. The full picture never came together during the first excavation largely because no one realized that Oplontis B was right on the water, but Thomas’ team did tests with coring and radar to determine its situation. (The ancient shoreline can be difficult to map because the sands of time have literally silted it over.) A stash of Cretan amphorae suggests the owner of Oplontis B may have been in the import business as well. “The Cretan wine for their own consumption makes sense because nearby are these luxury villas, and Cretan wine certainly had a reputation as a luxury item,” said Thomas. What about drinking local? “Campanian wines did not have the reputation of some of the other wines from not too far away, like Falernum,” Thomas considered. Pliny the Elder, writing in his Natural History just a few years before Vesuvius’ blast, noted that some of the wines were finding their groove. “In Campania, more recently, new growths under new names have gained considerable credit, either owing to careful cultivation, or else to some other fortuitous circumstances,” he wrote, but cautioned: “As to the wines of Pompeii … they are found to be productive of headache, which often lasts so long as the sixth hour of the next day.” (The terroir famously proved Pliny’s final headache: He was killed in a daring attempt to rescue friends from the eruption.) By all appearances, Oplontis B had been doing brisk business. “The owner had a strongbox that had all sorts of coins and jewelry in it. He had a big crew that was working there,” as the body count indicates, according to Thomas. So who was buying the wine? Rome topped 1 million people at around this time, and “tons of wealth poured into the city, so it was a big-time consumer city at that point. My guess would be that taking any wine up the coast would be a no-brainer,” said Thomas. Culty Falernian wine may have been the fashion of the day, but “these could’ve been less expensive drinking wines that you could find in a tavern.” We are awash in evidence that the Romans had a hearty wine culture. (At one Pompeii site, Bacchus is depicted as a grape cluster “sort of like the Fruit of the Loom commercials where the guy is dressed as a grape” with Vesuvius in the background.) But if Oplontis B functions as the team thinks it does, it would be the first distribution center of its kind discovered. And perhaps proof that even humble bulk wine has pedigree after all.
- via: California Vintner Discovers Ancient Roman Wine Exporter (Wine Spectator)
If you’ve been hanging around rogueclassicism and/or my twitterfeed, you will be aware of the campaign to save the so-called ‘Gladiator Tomb’ from being reburied. The campaign was spearheaded by the fine folks at the American Institute of Roman Culture, which started a petition. Well, according to La Stampa, it appears all that attention has had an effect (at least they’re talking about it again) …ecce:
La fine di marzo era una stagione meravigliosa nella villa di Livia, moglie dell’imperatore Augusto. La villa era circondata da un paesaggio che non aveva eguali nei dintorni di Roma: colline, prati e il Tevere. Si trovava lungo la via Flaminia, l’arteria più importante tra la capitale dell’impero e le regioni settentrionali. Capitava che Livia si ritirasse lì e che l’imperatore andasse a trovarla quando si liberava dagli impegni. Dal centro di Roma era un piccolo viaggio ma la distanza era ripagata dalla bellezza del paesaggio costellato di importanti mausolei e distese di dolci prati.
L’anno prossimo saranno 2 mila anni dalla morte di Augusto: si sta mettendo a punto il programma delle celebrazioni ma quel pezzo della sua vita difficilmente potrà essere ricostruito se non con una buona dose di fantasia. Eppure la Soprintendenza Archeologica ha nel cassetto un progetto per trasformare la Flaminia in una nuova Appia antica. E’ un’idea talmente semplice da sembrare la scoperta dell’acqua calda. Sfrutta il vantaggio che la Flaminia ha rispetto alle altre rinomate strade consolari: la linea ferroviaria, la Roma-Viterbo.
Avete mai provato a raggiungere l’Appia senza un’auto privata? Da perderci la testa. La via Flaminia, invece, ha un trenino con le fermate che sembrano studiate da un archeologo per quanto sono vicine agli antichi siti. Quando fu scritto il progetto, c’era anche qualcos’altro: un paesaggio ancora non troppo diverso da quello attraversato dall’imperatore. Bastava unire questi elementi per avere un Parco archeologico, affermarono i fautori del progetto, sostenuti da Italia Nostra.
Non bastava, invece. «Quel progetto era innanzitutto un sogno, perché noi archeologi siamo dei sognatori», racconta Marina Piranomonte, una delle responsabili degli scavi lungo la Flaminia per la Soprintendenza Archeologica di Roma che aveva ideato il Parco insieme con il collega Gaetano Messineo.
La realtà è diversa. Si sale sul treno a piazzale Flaminio, appena fuori piazza del Popolo. La Roma-Viterbo è seconda nella lista nera delle ferrovie italiane stilata da Legambiente: treni vecchi, sporchi, affollati a dismisura, corse che saltano di continuo. E per fortuna nella classifica non è contemplato il paesaggio, un’orgia di discariche, baracche di senzatetto, industrie abbandonate.
La prima fermata utile da un punto di vista archeologico è «Due Ponti». Si scende in un agglomerato compatto di case Anni 60. Alcuni anni fa su uno dei pochi terreni rimasti liberi il proprietario, il costruttore Bonifaci, decise di costruire altri tre palazzi: dovette fermarsi perché dagli scavi preventivi era emersa la Tomba del Gladiatore, il mausoleo di Marco Nonio Macrino, probabilmente il personaggio a cui era ispirato il film «Il Gladiatore». Era il 2008, la notizia fece il giro del mondo e la fermata conquistò un posto di rilievo che fino ad allora non aveva nel Parco Archeologico. Quattro anni dopo la Tomba è lì, coperta da un geotessuto, ma nessuno ha idea di quale futuro avrà. È stato speso un milione per tirare fuori la preziosa Tomba nascosta a sette metri di profondità e restaurarla, ma ne sarebbero necessari altri tre per creare un museo e renderla visitabile. «Si studia come recuperarli. Siamo aperti a qualunque possibilità» – chiarisce Daniela Rossi, responsabile per la Soprintendenza del sito.
La fermata successiva è Grottarossa. Un segnale indica la presenza di un sito archeologico, ma è più facile trovarlo seguendo la discarica lungo la ferrovia. Attraverso un cancello arrugginito si entra in una necropoli con due mausolei imponenti della fine del periodo repubblicano, un tratto della via Flaminia molto ben conservata, e una vasca. L’area è ampia ma l’erba è alta. I mausolei sono chiusi e coperti di muschio, i pannelli che raccontano la loro storia sono a terra e i resti di vestiti e cibo lasciano capire che di notte qualcuno dorme lì. «Non è trascuratezza, è una questione di priorità – racconta Marina Piranomonte – dopo anni abbiamo da poco ottenuto l’esproprio dell’area. I fondi per il 2013 verranno utilizzati per rimettere a posto il sito. Mi impegno a farlo rimettere a posto entro un anno».
Superata Saxa Rubra, si scende di nuovo a Labaro. Nascosto tra una selva di cavalcavia e discariche, c’è un ponte romano, lo stesso usato da Augusto quando andava a trovare la moglie nella sua villa e dalle truppe di Massenzio durante la battaglia contro Costantino. E’ stato liberato nel 2005 da una parte di rifiuti e l’Anas aveva promesso di creare un Parco archeologico. Parole finite nel nulla.
L’ultima fermata è La Celsa. Fuori dalla stazione, dal lato opposto rispetto al Tevere, non si può non vedere un enorme sperone di tufo, un Mausoleo dove i romani scavavano i loro monumenti funerari. Alla base ci sono delle fornaci dove veniva prodotta la terracotta. Due anni fa il sito – già in passato rifugio per clochard – è stato rimesso a posto: costo dell’operazione 300 mila euro. Oggi, infatti, la parte alta della roccia è molto bella e ben visibile. All’interno delle grotte nella parte più bassa, però, sono tornati a vivere i senzatetto.
Sembra un gioco dell’oca, in cui si corre il rischio di tornare sempre alla casella di partenza e di rendere la via Flaminia solo la strada delle occasioni mancate. «Sono ottimista – risponde Daniela Rossi – per me la Flaminia è la strada delle occasioni da recuperare. Lo faremo, anche con l’aiuto dei privati. Possiamo farcela, il progetto del Parco non è morto». «Tutte le nostre risorse e il nostro impegno sono dedicati a quest’obiettivo», conferma Marina Piranomonte.
- via: I sogni infranti del parco del Gladiatore (La Stampa)
If you want a reasonable English summary, check out Worldcrunch … the idea of a series of sites one could visit by train is definitely interesting if the funding can be found …
Very interesting item, somewhat on the periphery of our purview, in the Independent:
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, weren’t in Babylon at all – but were instead located 300 miles to the north in Babylon’s greatest rival Nineveh, according to a leading Oxford-based historian.
After more than 20 years of research, Dr. Stephanie Dalley, of Oxford University’s Oriental Institute, has finally pieced together enough evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the famed gardens were built in Nineveh by the great Assyrian ruler Sennacherib – and not, as historians have always thought, by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.
Dr. Dalley first publicly proposed her idea that Nineveh, not Babylon, was the site of the gardens back in 1992, when her claim was reported in The Independent – but it’s taken a further two decades to find enough evidence to prove it.
Detective work by Dr. Dalley – due to be published as a book by Oxford University Press later this month – has yielded four key pieces of evidence.
First, after studying later historical descriptions of the Hanging Gardens, she realized that a bas-relief from Sennacherib’s palace in Nineveh actually portrayed trees growing on a roofed colonnade exactly as described in classical accounts of the gardens.
That crucial original bas-relief appears to have been lost in the mid 19 century. When it was discovered by the British archaeologist, Austin Henry Layard, in the 1840s, it seems to have already been in such poor condition that its surface was, in all probability, rapidly crumbling away. Alternatively, it may have been amongst a group of Layard’s UK- bound Nineveh carvings which were lost when the boat carrying them sank in the River Tigris. Luckily, however, an artist employed by Layard had already drawn the bass-relief – and that drawing, recently recognised by Dr. Dalley as portraying the garden, had been reproduced in Layard’s book about Nineveh published in London in 1853.
Further research by Dr. Dalley then suggested that, after Assyria had sacked and conquered Babylon in 689 BC, the Assyrian capital Nineveh may well have been regarded as the ‘New Babylon’ – thus creating the later belief that the Hanging Gardens were in fact in Babylon itself. Her research revealed that at least one other town in Mesopotamia – a city called Borsippa – was being described as “another Babylon” as early as the 13 century BC, thus implying that in antiquity the name could be used to describe places other than the real Babylon. A breakthrough occurred when she noticed from earlier research that after Sennacherib had sacked and conquered Babylon, he had actually renamed all the gates of Nineveh after the names traditionally used for Babylon’s city gates. Babylon had always named its gates after its gods. After the Assyrians sacked Babylon, the Assyrian monarch simply renamed Nineveh’s city gates after those same gods. In terms of nomenclature, it was clear that Nineveh was in effect becoming a ‘New Babylon’.
Dr. Dalley then looked at the comparative topography of Babylon and Nineveh and realized that the totally flat countryside around the real Babylon would have made it impossible to deliver sufficient water to maintain the sort of raised gardens described in the classical sources. As her research proceeded it therefore became quite clear that the ‘Hanging Gardens’ as described could not have been built in Babylon.
Finally her research began to suggest that the original classical descriptions of the Hanging Gardens had been written by historians who had actually visited the Nineveh area.
Researching the post-Assyrian history of Nineveh, she realized that Alexander the Great had actually camped near the city in 331BC – just before he defeated the Persians at the famous battle of Gaugamela. It’s known that Alexander’s army actually camped by the side of one of the great aqueducts that carried water to what Dr. Dalley now believes was the site of the Hanging Gardens.
Alexander had on his staff several Greek historians including Callisthenes, Cleitarchos and Onesicritos, whose works have long been lost to posterity – but significantly those particular historians’ works were sometimes used as sources by the very authors who several centuries later described the gardens in works that have survived to this day.
“It’s taken many years to find the evidence to demonstrate that the gardens and associated system of aqueducts and canals were built by Sennacherib at Nineveh and not by Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon. For the first time it can be shown that the Hanging Garden really did exist” said Dr. Dalley.
The Hanging Gardens were built as a roughly semi-circular theatre-shaped multi-tiered artificial hill some 25 metres high. At its base was a large pool fed by small streams of water flowing down its sides. Trees and flowers were planted in small artificial fields constructed on top of roofed colonnades. The entire garden was around 120 metres across and it’s estimated that it was irrigated with at least 35,000 litres of water brought by a canal and aqueduct system from up to 50 miles away. Within the garden itself water was raised mechanically by large water-raising bronze screw-pumps.
The newly revealed builder of the Hanging Gardens, Sennacherib of Assyria – and Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon who was traditionally associated with them – were both aggressive military leaders. Sennacherib’s campaign against Jerusalem was immortalized some 2500 years later in a poem by Lord Byron describing how “the Assyrians came down like a wolf on the fold,” his cohorts “gleaming in purple and gold.”
Both were also notorious for destroying iconic religious buildings. Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon destroyed Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem and according to one much later tradition was temporarily turned into a beast for his sins against God. Sennacherib of Assyria destroyed the great temples of Babylon, an act which was said to have shocked the Mesopotamian world. Indeed tradition holds that when he was later murdered by two of his sons, it was divine retribution for his destruction of those temples.
Bizarrely it may be that the Hanging Gardens were the first of the seven ‘wonders’ of the world to be so described – for Sennacherib himself referred to his palace gardens, built in around 700BC or shortly after, as “a wonder for all the peoples”. It’s only now however that the new research has finally revealed that his palace gardens were indeed one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Some historians have thought that the Hanging Gardens may even have been purely legendary. The new research finally demonstrates that they really did exist.
An Egyptian excavation mission from the Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA) uncovered on Thursday a complete industrial area that can be dated to the Graeco-Roman era.
The discovery was found during routine excavation work at the archaeological site of Tell Abu-Seifi, located east of the Suez Canal and south of Qantara East.
The industrial area includes of a number of workshops for clay and bronze statues, vessels, pots and pans as well as a collection of administrative buildings, store galleries and a whole residential area for labours. Amphora, imported from south of Italy, was also unearthed.
“It is a very important discovery that highlights Egypt’s economical and commercial relation with its neighbouring countries on the Mediterranean Sea,” MSA Minister Mohamed Ibrahim told Ahram Online. He added that it also gives a complete idea of the Egyptian labours’ daily life.
For his part, Mohamed Abdel Maqsoud, supervisor of the excavation mission, pointed out that among the newly discovered objects is a very important Roman engraving that provides detailed information on the military importance of Tell Abu-Seifi and the army divisions in this area.
Tell Abu-Seifi is one of the most important historical military sites of Egypt on the Al-Bilozi Nile branch, where three Ptolemaic and Roman military castles are located.
The archaeological site of Tell Abu-Seifi is found on Egypt’s eastern gate, where a great military group was once located, Abdel Maqsoud told Ahram Online in a telephone interview.
The newly discovered engraving shows how and where soldiers were divided and distributed in different locations inside the castles, he explained.
A collection of bronze coins dated to the eras of King Ptolemy II and IV were also unearthed as well as terracotta (burned clay) statues of the god of war Bes.
This discovery came within the framework of routine excavations along the Belozi Nile branch, which is now non-existant, to discover the Horus Ancient Military Road once used by King Ahmose to expel the Hyksos.
Abdel Maqsoud pointed out that Egypt’s MSA is applying a new training system for junior archaeologists and approximately 200 have joined the excavation mission to train them in excavations and restorations.
Until now, our mission has trained 600 archaeologists in five years, Abdel Maqsoud concluded.
- via: Roman industrial area uncovered in Egypt’s Suez Canal (al Ahram)
… the original article has a couple of photos/slides of the industrial area and the little terracotta Bes …
Saw this in something called The Voice:
AN INTERACTIVE website for children highlighting the diversity of Roman Britain will be launched tomorrow in a bid to challenge lessons on the current history curriculum.
The Romans Revealed project – a collaboration between race equality think tank the Runnymede Trust and archaeologists from the University of Reading – will be officially launched at the Museum of London on April 25.
It will act as a learning resource for teachers and parents to show children about a lesser-known side of the historical period.
The interactive website allows children to ‘dig up’ graves and read stories by children’s author Caroline Lawrence told from the perspective of four people living in Roman Britain.
It follows a research project from the university, A Long Way Home: Diaspora Communities in Roman Britain, which examined over 150 skeletons to find out about patterns of migration.
Dr Hella Eckardt, senior lecturer in Roman Archaeology at the University of Reading, said: “Our analysis of excavated skeletal remains of people living in Roman Britain such as the ‘Ivory Bangle Lady’ and others like her show that multicultural Britain is not just a phenomenon of more modern times.”
By analysing skeletons facial features, skull measurements, the chemical signature of food and drink and burial goods, archaeologists were able to learn more about Roman times and migrants of African descent who came to Britain.
The ‘Ivory Bangle Lady’ was a high status young woman of North African descent who remains were buried in Roman York (Sycamore Terrace).
Dated to the second half of the 4th Century, her grave contained jet and elephant ivory bracelets, earrings, pendants, beads, a blue glass jug and a glass mirror.
Dr Debbie Weekes-Bernard, who is leading the Romans Revealed outreach project, said: “The University of Reading research results showed that people came to Britain from many different parts of the Roman Empire, including North Africa. In some of the larger towns like York and Winchester, up to 20 per cent of the Roman Britain population may be classed as ‘non-local’ or ‘incomers’.
“This research is really important, providing evidence to challenge the current curriculum as taught in schools and highlighting the diversity of Roman Britain.”
According to the National Archives, the official archive for the UK Government, people of African descent have had a presence in Britain for the past 2,000 years.
In Roman times, black troops were sent to the ‘remote and barbaric’ province of Britannia – the ancient term for Great Britain – with many settling permanently even after the Roman legions left.
via: Children’s website tells stories of Roman Britain’s Africans (The Voice)
… you can check out the Romans Revealed website here … if you’re interested in some of the finds which probably contributed to this project:
I know there was something (at rogueclassicism) involving a burial of an African woman in Britain that was also connected with Caroline Lawrence (i.e. she wrote about it too), but my search engine divinities appear to have gone to visit the blameless Ethiopians or something …
The incipit of an item in the Bath Chronicle:
Engineers have uncovered part of what could be a Roman wall while carrying out emergency sewer repairs in Bath city centre.
Wessex Water was carrying out work to repair a sewer in Burton Street last week when a large Bath stone block was discovered, nearly three feet below the pavement.
Further investigations by the Bath-based company and archaeologists from specialist firm Context One revealed that the block was part of a stone wall which dates back to the fourth century.
The wall, which was built as a defensive structure, consists of five blocks of Bath stone and is thought to form part of the buttress of the original city wall.
While no dating evidence has been recovered, toolmarks on the stone suggest it was originally worked in Roman times. [...]
- via: Sewer repairs uncover possible Roman wall in Bath city centre (Bath Chronicle)
From Greek Reporter:
During archeological excavations next to the Russkaya gas compressor station, near Anapa in Southern Russia, the foundations of three Ancient Greek villas that scientists said date from the 2nd and 3d centuries B.C., have been uncovered.
Archeologists found clay pots, fragments of a weaving loom, a pair of scissors and several coins. The villas were part of Gorgippia, a prospering antique city of the Bosporan Kingdom.
The coins minted in another ancient city, Panticapaeum, modern Kerch, enabled to determine the age of the artifacts.
“We have looked in some detail, recorded and photographed the ruins of one of the villas and all the objects found during excavations,” said the General Director of the Archaeology Mission to Rostov, Vladislav Vereshchagin. “We took anything of value with us, for further processing. In the future, these items will be donated to the museum.”
Russkaya is the starting point of the future South Stream pipeline from Russia to Bulgaria. South Stream is scheduled to become operational in 2013. The 900-kilometre-long undersea section of the pipeline will run from the gas compressor facility at Beregovaya, on Russia’s Black Sea coast, near Arkhipo-Osipovka, towards the city of Burgas, in Bulgaria. The sea’s maximum depth on this route is 2,000 meters.
- via: Ancient Greek Villas Found Near Russkaya (Greek Reporter)
A brief, and as always, tantalizing item from Hurriyet:
An armor plate, worn by ancient warriors on their chest, has been seized in the northwestern province of Çanakkale’s Lapseki district. The man in possession of the plate, which is thought to have historical importance, has been taken into custody.
Following a tip off, the Lapseki gendarmerie observed a carpenter named M.S., who was allegedly attempting to smuggle historical artifacts, for a week. Then he was seized with the armor plate, which is made up of three pieces. The plate was delivered to the Archaeology Museum Directorate. An examination will reveal the period of the armor plate.
- via: Warrior plate seized (Hurriyet)
The original article is accompanied by this image:
… clearly not Roman, but we’ll hopefully hear more about this because Lapseki is the ancient Lampsacus, so we have Greek settlers in the area from the 6th century B.C. or thereabouts. The pose of the warrior might seem Hellenizing, at least, but I can’t recall a Greek cuirass which isn’t ‘muscled’ …
A little over a year ago, the Italian press — it never really made it to the English press, I don’t think — was abuzz with the discovery of a statue of a maenad which, it was suggested, might have confirmed the location of the Temple of Quirinus on the Quirinal, specifically under the gardens of the Quirinal Palace (Temple of Quirinus Found?). Today we read in Il Messaggero that Filippo Coarelli is suggesting it lies under the Palazzo Barberini (and I think Adriano la Regina concurs). Ecce:
Fino ad oggi l’ipotesi più accreditata lo collocava sotto i giardini del Palazzo del Quirinale. Ma il Tempio del dio Quirino, il grandioso monumento sorto sul colle «Quirinalis» che affonda le sue origini nell’età della fondazione di Roma e ricostruito da Cesare e poi da Augusto, giacerebbe invece sotto Palazzo Barberini. Ne è sicuro il famoso archeologo e divulgatore di storia romana Filippo Coarelli che oggi comincerà il suo nuovo ciclo di lezioni al Museo nazionale romano di Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, diretto da Rita Paris, per illustrare le sue più recenti ricerche che fanno il punto su una serie di scoperte frutto delle campagne di scavo almeno degli ultimi vent’anni.
«La localizzazione del Tempio di Quirino sarà uno dei temi cruciali delle nuove lezioni – annuncia Filippo Coarelli – Il complesso monumentale sta proprio sotto Palazzo Barberini e non certo sotto i giardini del Quirinale. È d’accordo con me anche Adriano La Regina (ex soprintendente archeologico, ndr.) e si può dimostrare», ribadisce lo studioso. Gli indizi chiave, come racconta Coarelli, sono emersi dallo studio dei risultati ottenuti da una serie di scavi, alcuni storici (risalenti al 1901), altri più recenti e ancora inediti, che hanno consentito all’archeologo di ricomporre come un puzzle il cuore dello straordinario monumento: «Il tempio va collocato tra via Barberini e via delle Quattro Fontane», ribadisce Coarelli. Durante i lavori per l’adeguamento dell’ingresso alla galleria d’arte di Palazzo Barberini , venero riportate alla luce possenti murature (oltre ad una serie di ambienti in parte affrescati), identificabili oggi con le sostruzioni del grande podio-platea del tempio che sorgeva sul colle primitivo del Quirinale. E porzioni delle imponenti fondamenta del tempio sarebbero riscontrate anche sul lato di via Barberini.
Per Coarelli la mappa del tempio è tutta da ribaltare. Anche perchè nel 2007 proprio al Quirinale si apriva una mostra «Cercando Quirino», con cui l’ illustre archeologo Andrea Carandini presentava i risultati delle indagini col georadar condotte nei giardini del Quirinale e ricostruiva il Tempio esattamente sotto il palazzo presidenziale. Per Coarelli, invece, i resti individuati sotto la Casa degli italiani avrebbero tutt’altra identità: «Lo scavo del traforo nel 1901 rimise in luce una fetta di gigantesca struttura residenziale identificabile, grazie al ritrovamento dei tubi con epigrafi, a Plauziano il famoso suocero dell’imperatore Caracalla». Secondo le fonti, è sulla sommità del «Quirinalis» (uno dei quattro colli primitivi che formeranno il grande Quirinale) che venne edificato il Tempio di Quirino.
E’ noto che nel 293 a.C. il console Lucio Papirio Cursore ordinò la fondazione nel sito di un tempio dedicato al dio Quirino, ed è molto probabile che lo costruì su un santuario più antico risalente alle popolazioni sabine che in età arcaica occupavano il colle. L’unica raffigurazione ce la offre un rilievo in marmo (II sec.) rinvenuto a piazza Esedra nel 1901 (oggi nei depositi di Palazzo Massimo). A descriverlo è l’architetto Vitruvio (ordine dorico con doppio colonnato, circondato da un portico). Eppure la sua posizione rimaneva col punto interrogativo. «Il mons Quirinalis, il Quirinale primitivo non poteva stare oltre via delle IV Fontane», chiarisce Coarelli. Quindi il tempio si sarebbe dovuto sviluppare verso largo S. Susanna.
- via: Roma, trovato il tempio di Quirino: «E’ sotto Palazzo Barberini» (Il Messaggero)
… the original article also includes an (as always) unembeddable video of work being done on the Pyramid of Cestius
Excavations at the ancient agora of Pella, capital city of Alexander the
Great’s and his father Philip’s kingdom, have been renewed for another
five years under University of Thessaloniki professor of classical
archaeology Ioannis Akamatis, following the Central Archaeological
Field work will focus on the area south of the agora, the northern stoa,
the central square and the eastern wing, to look for structures earlier
than the hellenistic metropolis’ remains of the mid-4th century BC to
the 2nd century BC.
The compound of the ancient agora covers 70,000 square metres and
contained multiple buildings and workshops attesting to the city’s
economic strength – from ceramic and sculpture studios, to metal
processing, food and perfume manufacturing, administrative offices and
the city’s archive, containing the clay stamps of papyrus records.
Excavations last year revealed a temple-like rectangular structure
that will be researched further, several coins, ceramic storage vessels
stamped with identifiable data and statuettes.
Interesting item from the National Oceanography Centre (UK)/University of Southampton:
Known as the Belgammel Ram, the 20kg artefact was discovered by a group of British divers off the coast of Libya near Tobruk in 1964. The ram is from a small Greek or Roman warship – a “tesseraria”. These ships were equipped with massive bronze rams on the bow at the waterline and were used for ramming the side timbers of enemy ships. At 65cm long, the Belgammel Ram is smaller in size and would have been sited on the upper level on the bow. This second ram is known as a proembolion, which strengthened the bow and also served to break the oars of an enemy ship.
Leading marine archaeologist, Dr Nic Flemming a visiting fellow of the National Oceanography Centre, co-ordinated a team of specialists from five institutes to analyse the artefact before it was returned to the National Museum in Tripoli in May 2010. Their results have been published in the International Journal of Nautical Archaeology.
Dr Flemming said: “Casting a large alloy object weighing more than 20kg is not easy. To find out how it was done we needed specialists who could analyse the mix of metals in the alloys; experts who could study the internal crystal structure and the distribution of gas bubbles; and scholars who could examine the classical literature and other known examples of bronze castings.
“Although the Belgammel Ram was probably the first one ever found, other rams have since been found off the coast of Israel and off western Sicily. We have built a body of expertise and techniques that will help with future studies of these objects and improve the accuracy of past analysis.”
Dr Chris Hunt and Annita Antoniadou of Queen’s University Belfast used radiocarbon dating of burnt wood found inside the ram to date it to between 100 BC to 100 AD. This date is consistent with the decorative style of the tridents and bird motive on the top of the ram, which were revealed in detail by laser-scanned images taken by archaeologist Dr Jon Adams of the University of Southampton.
It is possible that during its early history the bronze would have been remelted and mixed with other bronze on one or more occasions, perhaps when a warship was repaired or maybe captured.
The X-ray team produced a 3-D image of the ram’s internal structure using a machine capable of generating X-rays of 10 mevs to shine through 15cm of solid bronze. By rotating the ram on a turntable and making 360 images they created a complete 3-D replica of the ram similar to a medical CT scan. An animation of the X-rays has been put together by Dr Richard Boardman of m-VIS (mu-VIS), a dedicated centre for computed tomography (CT) at the University of Southampton.
Further analysis was carried out by geochemists Professor Ian Croudace, Dr Rex Taylor and Dr Richard Pearce at the University of Southampton Ocean and Earth Science (based at the National Oceanography Centre). Micro-drilled samples show that the composition of the bronze was 87 per cent copper, 6 per cent tin and 7 per cent lead. The concentrations of the different metals vary throughout the casting. Scanning Electron Microscopy, SEM, reveals that the lead was not dissolved with the other metals to make a composite alloy but that it had separated out into segregated intergranular blobs within the alloy as the metal cooled.
These results indicate the likelihood that the Belgammel Ram was cast in one piece and cooled as a single object. The thicker parts cooled more slowly than the thin parts so that the crystal structure and number of bubbles trapped in the metal varies from place to place.
The isotope characterisation of the lead component found in the bronze (an alloy of copper and tin) can be used as a fingerprint to reveal the origin of the lead ore used in making the metal alloy. Up until now, this approach has only provided a general location in the Mediterranean. But recent advances in the analysis technique means that the location can be identified with higher accuracy. The result shows that the lead component of the metal could have come from a district of Attica in Greece called Lavrion. An outcome of this improved technique means that the method can now be applied to other ancient metal artefacts to discover where the ore was sourced.
Micro-X-Ray fluorescence of the surface showed that corrosion by seawater had dissolved out some of the copper leaving it richer in tin and lead. It is significant that when comparing photographs from 1964 and 2008 there is no indication of change in the surface texture. This implies that the metal is stable and is not suffering from “Bronze Disease,” a corrosion process that can destroy bronze artefacts.
The Belgammel Ram was found by a group of three British service sports divers off the coast of Libya at the mouth of a valley called Waddi Belgammel, near Tobruk. Using a rubber dinghy and rope they dragged it 25 metres to the surface. It was brought home to the UK as a souvenir but when the divers discovered that it was a rare antiquity, the ram was loaned to the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.
Ken Oliver is the only surviving member of that group of three and the effective owner. He decided in 2007 that is should be returned to a museum in Libya. With the help of the British Society for Libyan Studies this was arranged in 2010. During the intervening period Dr Nic Flemming invited experts to undertake scientific investigations prior to its return to Libya. These services were offered freely and would have cost many tens of thousands of pounds if conducted commercially. The team’s objective was to understand how such a large bronze was cast, the history and composition of the alloy, its strength, how it was used in naval warfare, and how it survived 2,000 years under the sea.
Since the Belgammel Ram was discovered, other rams have been found, some off the coast of Israel near Athlit, and more recently, off western Sicily. The latter finds look to be the remains of a battle site. On 8 April there is a one-day colloquium hosted by the Faculty of Classics, University of Oxford, to discuss the finds of the Egadi Islands Project.
Nic Flemming continued: “We have learned such a huge amount from the Belgammel Ram and have developed new techniques which will help us unpick future mysteries.
“We will never know why the Belgammel Ram was on the seabed near Tobruk. There may have been a battle in the area, a skirmish with pirates. It could be that it was cargo from an ancient commercial vessel, about to be sold as salvage. The fragments of wood inside the ram show signs of fire, and we now know that parts of the bronze had been heated to a high temperature since it was cast which caused the crystal structure to change. The ship may have caught fire and the ram fell into the sea as the flames licked towards it. Some things will always remain a mystery. But we are pleased that we have gleaned so many details from this study that will help future work.”
The Libyan uprising of 2011 resulted in many battles in the area around the museum. Fortunately the museum suffered no damage. The Belgammel Ram is safe.
- via: Bronze warship ram reveals secrets (NOC)
Additional coverage worth checking out:
- Warship’s ram reveals how ancient Greeks made weapons (New Scientist ~ photos)
Folks seeking comparanda might want to check out the articles/coverage associated with the Acqualadrone ram:
Temple-burial mystery revealed
- via Αρχαιολογία Online.
A pair of painfully brief items, but if we post both, the picture isn’t too vaguae. First, from Turkish Press:
A number of historical artifacts believed to date back to the Roman period have been unearthed by a backhoe operator in the Sarigol district of the western province of Manisa.
Salih Sari was digging in a field when he hit something. He stopped the backhoe and searched the area with a shovel and found numerous artifacts that are believed to belong to the Roman period.
The artifacts were taken to the Manisa Museum.
- via: Ancient Roman artifacts unearthed in Manisa (Turkish Press)
… and from Sanliurfa:
3 marble tombs of children along with a vat, a pot, and a bowl of Roman era were discovered in a field near Afsar village of Manisa provinces Sarigol district in western Turkey during a routine work in the field.
A gendarmerie unit was informed about the discovery, and the historical artefacts were delivered to Manisa Museum.
- via: Anasayfaya Dön (Sanliurfa)
The latter includes a really bad photo of what are apparently the finds. FWIW …
I’m sure this sort of thing could be said about a number of exhibitions … from the Daily Pennsylvanian:
The “Lod Mosaic” at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology has garnered a lot of praise, but has also drawn criticism from Penn faculty.
The mosaic is on the last part of its tour in the United States. After the exhibits ends on May 12, it will head to the Louvre museum in Paris.
Limited information is known about the history of the Lod Mosaic, but a number of Penn faculty have voiced concern that the piece is presented without any archaeological context. “We don’t want to celebrate a master work in isolation,” said Professor of Roman architecture Lothar Haselberger, who initiated the conversation on how the mosaic is presented.
“Nothing is conveyed to the public that [the mosaic] is more than a carpet,” Haselberger said, referencing the fact that mosaics like the “Lod Mosaic” were popular in this time period as floor decorations in many buildings.
“This is an exhibit that really focuses on the meticulous conservation by the Israel Antiquities Authority of a dazzling Roman mosaic that was found during highway construction,” said Brian Rose, Curator-in-Charge of the Mediterranean Section at the Penn Museum.
On March 28, Haselberger met with colleagues from the Penn Museum, as well as the art history, classics and building conservation departments to draft and submit a statement to the Director of the Penn Museum, Julian Siggers, outlining their critiques on the exhibit.
Haselberger said they are still waiting on final approval, but that sometime this week the statement will be published on the Penn Museum’s website and will be featured on a poster set up in conjunction with the exhibit.
In 1996, the Israeli government was expanding the highway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv when they unearthed the remains of a Roman villa dating to about 300 A.D. — now known as the “Lod Mosaic”. “It took 13 years to assemble the money to excavate and conserve the mosaic,” Rose said, making this a prime example of “rescue archaeology.”
Jacob Fisch, executive director of the Israel Antiquities Authority — the group that has custody over the mosaic — said this critique of the exhibit was a first for him, but he does not see it as a serious issue.
“The theory behind what he says is relevant,” Fisch said, but he said the mosaic will be shown in its original context and location when it returns to Lod, Israel after its tour, where it is to be permanently housed in a new museum exclusively devoted to the mosaic.
The new Shelby White and Leon Levy Lod Mosaic Center will be open to the public in 2014, but Fisch pointed out that not everyone would have the opportunity to visit the mosaic in Israel. The benefit of this tour is that “you can see an incredible work of art produced 6,000 miles away from 2,000 years ago,” he said.
Siggers agreed that he didn’t see a problem with the presentation of the mosaic’s context. He described the exhibit as a “story in progress” that displays the immediate story of the discovery and conservation of the mosaic itself.
Additionally, since very little information is actually known about the context of the mosaic, “It is presented in the fullest context we have the ability to do,” Rose said.
While it can’t be known for sure, Rose said that the mosaic likely came from the reception room of a villa owned by a wealthy businessman.
“It’s very possible that the combination of fish and exotic animals point to the fact that the owner was a wealthy Roman who lived in Lod and who somehow dabbled in supplying animals to the gladiator games,” Fisch said. Rose agreed that this is the theory that most experts have agreed upon so far.
Next year, an excavation report will be published to provide an “in-depth exploration of this mosaic in the context of the Roman world,” Siggers said.
Haselberger added that he is glad that the faculty were able to “articulate misgivings in a collegiate and forward-looking way” so that the debate surrounding the mosaic can be used as a teaching and learning opportunity.
“I’m happy to say that I initiated the conversation on this and I’m happy to see that we seem to come to a reasonable result,” he said.
- via: Professors critique Penn Museum’s ‘Lod Mosaic’ exhibit (Daily Pennsylvanian)
Tip o’ the pileus to @PunicOctopus on twitter who alerted us (and the world) to this rather important study in Spain … from El Pais:
Año 208 aC. Los ejércitos romano y cartaginés, a las órdenes de Escipión el Africano y Asdrúbal Barca (hermano de Aníbal), están a punto de entablar batalla. Asdrúbal domina un cerro estratégico en el que se ha instalado ante la llegada de su enemigo. Las tropas de Escipión, que han acampado a unos cuatro kilómetros, atacan a los cartagineses: primero con la infantería ligera y luego con el grueso de su ejército, desplegando una maniobra de tenaza para rodear al ejército enemigo. Asdrúbal pierde el combate y huye, llevándose, eso sí, el tesoro y los elefantes. “Es la batalla de Baécula, una de las importantes de la Segunda Guerra Púnica, que enfrenta a las dos potencias del momento por el dominio del Mediterráneo, casi una guerra mundial”, apunta el arqueólogo Arturo Ruiz.
La historia, los detalles de esta batalla, la cuentan los historiadores romanos Polibio y Tito Livio. Pero, ¿dónde se libró exactamente? ¿Qué cerro era ese en el que se defendió Asdrúbal y atacó Escipión? ¿Por dónde avanzó uno y huyó el otro? Un equipo de arqueólogos de la Universidad de Jaén afirma haber descubierto el lugar del combate y encontrado el rastro de las tropas en sus movimientos sobre el terreno. Los investigadores están leyendo los vestigios directos para entender qué pasó. Lanzas, puntas de flecha y de jabalina, tachuelas de las sandalias, proyectiles de los honderos baleares que lucharon en las filas cartaginesas, broches de los ropajes, espuelas… incluso piquetas de las tiendas de acampada o los agujeros donde clavaron los de Asdrúbal la empalizada de protección, han salido a la luz en los últimos años. En total, estos arqueólogos han recuperado ya más de 6.000 objetos, dos tercios de ellos asociados al acontecimiento del 208 a C. Los ejércitos de las dos potencias, afirman, se enfrentaron en el cerro de Las Albahacas cerca de la actual localidad de Santo Tomé (Jaén), un lugar estratégico de acceso a la cuenca del Guadalquivir desde Cartago Nova (Cartagena) que Escipión había conquistado el año anterior. Asdrúbal estaba a tiro de las minas de cobre y plata de Cástulo. Una región importante para unos y para otros.
Es arqueología de una batalla, de un acontecimiento efímero, algo insólito en la tradición de unas investigaciones que suelen ocuparse de ciudades, templos, tumbas o infraestructuras que perduran durante siglos. “Hasta ahora solo se había excavado así una batalla de la antigüedad, la de Teotoburgo, en Alemania, de romanos contra los germanos, y es muy posterior, del año 9 aC.”, recalca Juan Pedro Bellón, del Instituto Universitario de Investigación en Arqueología Ibérica (Universidad de Jaén). “Hay alguna batalla excavada con una metodología similar, pero del siglo XIX, en concreto la de tropas estadounidenses contra indios en Little Big Horn, y algunos campamentos militares, pero nada más”, añade su colega Manuel Molinos. Por ejemplo, las batallas de Aníbal en Italia se sabe que fueron en Tesino, Trebia, Trasimeno y Cannas, pero no en qué sitio exactamente, dice Bellón, ni hay restos arqueológicos de ellas.
Con las detalladas descripciones de los historiadores romanos, los investigadores del Instituto de Jaén se plantearon, hace una década, encontrar los vestigios de la batalla de Baécula. “El general cartaginés recorría entonces los parajes de Cástulo, alrededor de la ciudad de Bécula, no lejos de las minas de plata. Informado de la proximidad de los romanos cambió de lugar su campamento y se procuró seguridad por un río que fluía a sus espaldas”, escribió Polibio. Y Tito Livio: “El ejército de Asdrúbal estaba cerca de la ciudad de Bécula y por la noche Asdrúbal replegó sus tropas a una altura. Por detrás había un río. La altura, que tenía una explanada en la parte más alta, por delante y por los lados ceñía todo su contorno una especie de ribazo abrupto”.
Los arqueólogos emprendieron una labor casi detectivesca para dar con el lugar de los hechos, con la ayuda de los textos clásicos y técnicas topográficas avanzadas, además de la observación directa sobre el terreno. “Schulten, en 1925, situó la batalla de Baécula al sur de Bailén, pero lo descartamos, porque la geografía no se ajustaba a las descripciones de Polibio y Tito Livio”, cuenta Arturo Ruiz, arqueólogo de la Universidad de Jaén que puso en marcha el proyecto de Baécula. También se habían propuesto otras localizaciones. Poco a poco, el equipo fue identificando posibles cerros y haciendo catas arqueológicas con detectores de metales, hasta que en el cerro de Las Albahacas empezaron a aparecer restos acordes con un enfrentamiento entre dos ejércitos. Desde 2006, realizan excavaciones en el lugar y participan en los estudios una veintena de expertos: topógrafos, numismáticos, conocedores de armamento antiguo, especialistas en paleoclima y en análisis químicos.
La investigación, financiada por el Plan Nacional de Investigación Científica, es una labor ardua y extensa. El teatro de operaciones se extiende por 400 hectáreas, aunque las prospecciones más intensas se centran en 20 hectáreas. Los arqueólogos han hecho decenas de transectos (líneas de prospección con los detectores de metales) y centenares de cuadrículas.
En el 209 a C los romanos han tomado Cartagena y, un año después entran en la zona del alto Guadalquivir, dominado por los cartagineses. Aníbal ha estado en ese territorio de importancia estratégica antes de dirigirse a Italia, recuerda Bellón. Y en la península Ibérica permanecen tres ejércitos cartagineses: dos de ellos al mando de los hermanos de Aníbal, Asdrúbal Barca y Magón Barca, y otro al mando de Asdrúbal Giscón. “La batalla de Baécula abre el control de la Bética a Roma y, en adelante, Andalucía será su almacén de aceite, trigo y minas de plata y plomo”, explica Ruiz. “Según una teoría, Escipión entra en Andalucía por Despeñaperros, pero nosotros sostenemos que lo hace por el valle del río Guadiana Menor”, apunta Bellón. Quiere evitar que Asdrúbal llegue a Italia para apoyar a su hermano Aníbal y, a la vez, evitar que se unan los otros dos ejércitos cartagineses.
La historia solo contaba con las fuentes de una de las partes en conflicto, explica Ruiz. “Y los romanos ensalzan a Escipión como gran estratega que planifica el movimiento envolvente de su ejército, que afronta la dificultad y dureza de la batalla de Baécula y que, al final, derrota a Asdrúbal”, comenta Bellón. Pero ahora los arqueólogos intentan leer directamente las pruebas para averiguar qué paso. Apenas aparecen en el cerro armas cortas, lo que indica que el enfrentamiento cuerpo a cuerpo fue limitado. Sin embargo, añade Bellón, hay muchas armas arrojadizas, como lanzas, flechas, proyectiles de los honderos baleáricos y dardos.
“Asdrúbal elige el cerro sabiendo que es un punto defensivo estratégico para defenderse y para preparar la huida”, continúa Bellón. “Los romanos establecen su campamento a unos cuatro kilómetros e, inmediatamente, fuerzan la batalla atacando a los cartagineses. Tienen desventaja teórica sobre el terreno ya que atacan cuesta arriba, pero tienen ventaja numérica”. No está claro cuántos hombres participaron en la batalla. Tito Livio habla de 70.000 (40.000 romanos y 30.000 cartagineses). Puede ser exagerado. Los arqueólogos de Jaén lo dejan en unos 15.000en total.
“Ni Polibio ni Tito Livio son contemporáneos de los hechos, y escriben basándose en la abundante documentación romana, aunque el primero, que nació en 200 a C, se considera una fuente más fidedigna porque escucharía datos de primera mano. De los cartagineses no hay testimonios porque la ciudad de Cartago fue arrasada al final de la Tercera Guerra Púnica, cuando los romanos finalmente se hicieron con el poder absoluto del Mediterráneo”, apunta Molinos.
Después de Baécula, Escipión permanece poco tiempo en el campamento del cerro que ha tomado al enemigo. Asdrúbal huye y llega a Italia, en el 207 a C. Una vez allí, envía dos emisarios a Aníbal, pero los romanos los interceptan y atacan: Asdrúbal muere en la batalla de Metauro.
El rastro de las tachuelas de sandalia
Las sandalias de los romanos, que no de los cartagineses, llevaban unos remaches de hierro en la suela de cuero, para proteger el material frente al deterioro del uso y para mejorar el agarre. Las tachuelas se desprendían. O el calzado quedaba abandonado por alguna causa. Entonces esas piezas, denominadas clavi caligarii, de un centímetro de diámetro aproximadamente y dos o tres milímetros de alto, con una punta curvada para sujetarlas al cuero, quedan sembradas por el campo. Para los expoliadores carecen de valor, así que permanecen en el lugar durante siglos, hasta convertirse en un tesoro para los arqueólogos.
“Hemos encontrado cientos de tachuelas en Baécula y, gracias a ellas hemos podido localizar no solo el campamento romano, su punto de partida, sino también el camino de unos cuatro kilómetros que recorrió el ejército de Escipión para atacar al enemigo en el cerro, así como la zona donde se desplegó y la batalla”, explica el arqueólogo Juan Pedro Bellón. Es una forma de arqueología dinámica importante, e incluso se han hecho estudios para estimar cuántas tachuelas perdería un soldado romano caminando, añade Bellón.
Las tachuelas salen ahora a la luz con los detectores de metales (apoyados con GPS para una localización exacta de cada pieza), y los arqueólogos de Baécula han analizado los resultados del barrido del territorio con ellos identificando las zonas de mayor densidad de tachuelas (campamentos y batalla) y piezas más dispersas en el camino. Cuando los investigadores han comparado la ruta que marca el rastro de las tachuelas con el mejor camino trazado sobre la topografía de la zona han visto que los romanos acertaron.
¿Y de los movimientos de los cartagineses? Puede haber un rastro de sus monedas, sus armas… El plan de investigación ahora es seguir a las tropas de Asdrúbal en la retirada y profundizar el conocimeinto del campo de batalla.
- via: Roma contra Cartago, arqueología de una batalla (El Pais)
Folks whose Spanish is reasonable will want to visit the project webpage (Tras los pasos de Asdrúbal Barca: de Baecula al Metauro), which includes links to a number of papers spawned by the research. This sort of thing (and the techniques for locating the battefields and camps) is clearly something that can be used elsewhere …
UPDATE (a few minutes later): I note that Adrian Murdoch mentioned this article a few weeks ago (and we Blogosphered it) … still worth repeating though as AM links to a report in English. Why doesn’t this sort of thing get greater coverage in the English press?
Some raw video footage at Youtube to highlight concerns for the current state of the Villa Iovis at Capri (currently closed to the public) … I’m not in a position to comment one way or another:
Brief (and vague) item from Hurriyet:
A two-room grave has been discovered in the Aegean province of Muğla’s city of Bodrum. The grave is thought to date back to the Roman period, and was found during construction work on Şalvarağa Hill behind Bodrum Port two months ago.An investigation carried out by the Bodrum Museum Directorate revealed that the grave had been robbed and a rescue excavation was initiated by museum officials. A piece of gold leaf found in the grave has been transferred to a museum.Officials said that the grave was probably robbed in the Roman period. After a restoration project. it will be restored and opened to the public.
… a photo of the tomb is included with the original article … could be interesting …
In case you missed the Blogosphere post, there have been developments in the possible identification of Roxane’s tomb. Long time readers of rogueclassicism will recall that we first heard of this claim back in October (Roxane’s Tomb?) and a recent announcement is currently working its way through the various Greek newspapers — most seem based on/derive from an item in Proto Thema (Μέρος του τάφου της Ρωξάνης και του Αλέξανδρου Δ’ ο Λέων της Αμφίπολης ;) and several also include a video from back in November:
On this side of the continent, Dorothy King has broken the story very capably (The Tomb of Roxane, Amphipolis) and I urge folks to go read it and the associated clippings and photos from the City Paper). The skinny is that the famous Lion of Amphipolis once stood on a large mound marking the tomb of some female (since the lion is actually female) and the suggestion continues that this was Roxane’s tomb. An inscription referencing Deinocrates (an architect associated with Alexander the Great) lends some weight to this suggestion.
For my part, the current claim raises some more questions … the monument was trashed, apparently, in the second century A.D. and I’m continuing to search for some reason for this (perhaps we’ll be hearing more in the future on that score). The other issue I have is that the murder of Roxane and Alexander IV (according to Diodorus … quoted in DK’s post) resulted in the ‘concealment’ of the bodies … it doesn’t sound like they were given a royal burial at all and I can’t recall any mention of such in any other ancient source. On the other hand, if it *is* associated with Roxane, is it just hers or for both of them, and if the latter, the single lion seems somewhat incongruous. If not, there should be a similarly-large tomb nearby for Alexander IV, no? Dr King informs us that there will be more announcements in the coming months, and hopefully some of these questions will be cleared up.
UPDATE (a day or so later): See Dorothy King’s latest update; note that the inscriptional reference to Dinocrates apparently isn’t there ~ Roxanne Tomb, Amphipolis – more details