Sacred Well from Portsmouth

From the News comes another tale of clumsy archaeologists:

Buried a few feet under a garden in the centre of Havant, archaeologists stumbled upon a Roman well filled with coins and a bronze ring with a carving of Neptune, the Roman god of the sea.

Perhaps most intriguing was the discovery of eight dog skeletons at the bottom of the well.

Experts believe the dogs, which were worshipped in some ancient religions, may have been dropped down the ‘sacred well’ as a sacrifice to the gods.

The excavation was done at Homewell House, a Georgian property behind St Faith’s Church that is undergoing renovation.

Dr Andy Russel, from Southampton Archaeology Unit, told The News: ‘I would say it’s a pretty amazing find.

‘We have done a few sites in Havant before and found Roman bits and pieces but nothing on this scale of a beautifully constructed well with coins, a ring and this strange deposit of dogs in it.

‘I’ve never come across a deposit of dogs down a Roman pit or well before – it’s intriguing.’

The well, dated at between 250 and 280AD, is made of stone from the Isle of Wight.

Dr Russel added: ‘We have found post holes where people have put up buildings in the posts. There’s no sign of stone buildings. This is not a Fishbourne Roman Palace. Wooden buildings probably made up the settlement.’

The dogs showed wounds that had healed, indicating they may have been used for dog fighting.

Archaeologists believe the ring may have been dropped down the well by a Roman sailor, perhaps praying for safe passage home on the stormy seas.

The original article includes a photo of the ring, and it seems kind of iffy to me that it is Neptune (as opposed to some guy with a stick). As for the dogs, Jacopo De Grossi Mazzorin and Claudia Minniti, “Dog Sacrifice in the Ancient World: A Ritual Passage?” have collected some earlier evidence which suggests their presence might have been some sort of expiatory thing associated with the closing of the well (paper at academia.edu)

Possible Praetorium from Balaklava

Interesting item from PAP:

Praetorium, Roman garrison commander’s property, has been discovered by found Polish archaeologists working in the Crimea, told PAP Dr. Radosław Karasiewicz-Szczypiorski of the Institute of Archaeology, University of Warsaw, head of excavations in Balaklava, Ukraine.

Until now, researchers have speculated that this house was located at the citadel in nearby Chersonesus.

Archaeologists studied the building of unknown purpose in previous seasons. This year’s work allowed for its full exploration.

“At first we thought that we were digging up the common barracks or quarters of one of the officers – centurions. However, the structure turned out to be more extensive than we thought. We uncovered a large house with rooms surrounding a stone-paved courtyard from three sides. Analogies with similar Roman forts indicate that the house belonged to the garrison commander” – said Dr. Karasiewicz-Szczypiorski.

The commander of the garrison was a high-ranking officer (tribune), who probably only visited outposts, and had permanent quarters on the Lower Danube.

Best preserved was the last construction phase of the building, dating back to the turn of the second and third century and the first decades of the third century.

“Discovery of the praetorium in Balaklava suggests that, at least in the beginning of the third century, the quarters of the Roman army commander in Tauris (the ancient name of Crimea – ed. PAP) was the fort in Balaklava, and not, as previously thought in the nearby Chersonesus citadel” – said Dr. Karasiewicz-Szczypiorski .

Warsaw archaeologists first visited Balaklava in the 1990s. The excavations are carried out jointly with the staff of the local museum ” Chersonesus Taurica” in Sevastopol. The result of these studies include the discovery of the temple of Jupiter Dolichenus. The current project was carried out for three seasons with the funds from the Ministry of Science and Higher Education.

The relevant scholarly paper seems to be at http://www.archeo.uw.edu.pl/zalaczniki/upload1187.pdf

Roman (?) Finds from Alexandria

Extremely vague item from Egypt Independent:

Alexandria’s antiquities department has discovered a new archaeological monument in the eastern area of the city.

Archaeologists revealed several items, including cisterns, pottery remains, and a headstone. The items were transferred to Alexandria National Museum. All items belong to the Roman era.

Mostafa Rushdy, head of Alexandria and Beheira antiquities department, said the discovery was found during an archaeological field survey to get permission for building there.

Rushy added that the discovery reflects the greatness of Alexandria, which was the second biggest city after Rome during the Roman Empire.

The item is accompanied by a photo which looks like a burial of some sort with pots that may or may not be Roman. The article itself is a translation from MENA, but I can’t track down the original source, alas …

Mycenean Palace found Near Sparta

From Greek Reporter:

A new excavation in the Xirokambi area of Aghios Vassilios west of Sparta, in the Peloponnese, Greece, has revealed a richness of Mycenean artefacts in the area, including the remains of a palace, Linear B tablets, fragments of wall paintings, and several bronze swords.
The excavation, led by emeritus ephor of antiquities Adamantia Vassilogrambrou, was presented publicly at the biennial Shanghai Archaeology Forum at the end of August as one of 11 sites showcased from different parts of the world.

The Aghios Vassilios excavation began in 2010, after Linear B tablets were found in the area in 2008, pointing to the existence of a powerful central authority and distribution system. The deciphered texts were devoted to perfume and cloth production, the trade of which was controlled by a palace administration in the Mycenean era.

Evidence of a central palace administration was confirmed also by the architecture, which is dated to the 14th century BC, while contact with Crete was confirmed by the finding of a double axe, a feature of the island’s palace culture.

Artefacts found include seals, a multitude of ceramic and bronze vessels, and 21 bronze swords. According to the evidence, a sudden fire that broke out either at the end of the 14th century or the beginning of the 13th destroyed the three buildings on the site which were never rebuilt at the same location.

All the press coverage seems to have the same overhead shot of foundations … ANAMPA has a photo, however, of what is presumably a cup from the site (Mycenean palace and Linear B tablets discovered in Sparta area)

Intact Roman Sarcophagus from Alba Julia

From Agerpres:

A more than 1,800-year old sealed sarcophagus was discovered by archaeologists in Alba Iulia (394 km north-west of Bucharest) at the site where the city’s water treatment plant will be built.

Spokesperson for the Alba Iulia National Museum of the Union Liviu Zgarciu said that “this is the only intact sarcophagus discovered in the area, since most of them were broken by treasure hunters.”

The sarcophagus was unsealed and a man’s skeleton was found inside. The archaeologists will research to see if it also contains a funerary inventory.

Works on the archaeological site kicked off half a year ago, and two marble sarcophagi dating from the second or third centuries, the only of the kind found on the territory of former Roman Dacia, were very soon uncovered. Another eight sarcophagi were found near the one sealed with lime mortar, but they had all been robbed.

“The site is one of Alba Iulia’s most important in recent years, both by the constructions uncovered: structures, walls, buildings, and by the large amount of tiny pieces found, their numbers running into the hundreds, which will enter the heritage of the National Museum of the Union,” said archaeologist George Bounegru.

The findings date mainly from the third century.

Two necropolises were so far discovered in the former city of Apulum; the one at the site of the treatment plant suggests this is where the cemetery of the Aurelia Apulensis colony might have been.

The Roman fortress of Apulum was the largest city in Roman Dacia; its construction started under Emperor Hadrian, probably in 125 AD. For over one century without interruption Apulum served as headquarters for Legion XIII Gemina.

The article includes a strange sort of photo … there’s a better one here: Intact 1,800-year old Roman sarcophagus uncovered at Alba Iulia but it’s still not close enough to see any details (if any) that might be carved into the sarcophagus.

Major Bust/Discovery at Lanuvio

From the Gazzetta del Sud:

Police have foiled ‘tomb raiders’ looting an ancient Roman archaeological site near the capital that was previously unknown to the Italian authorities, investigators said on Wednesday. The site is located near the ruins of a temple devoted to Juno ”The Saviour” at Lanuvio, in the Castelli Romani (Castles of Rome) – a cluster of towns southeast of Rome. Investigators saved five marble elements from works of architecture, coins, the ruins of a number of buildings, and over 24,000 terracotta fragments attributable to the late Republican and imperial period. Investigators also found tools presumably being used for archeological theft, including metal detectors, two-way radios. The authorities commandeered 17,000 sq meters of farmland where the ruins of monumental walls were brought to light by the illegal excavation. Lazio regional authorities said the site and artifacts recovered were of great scientific interest due to the size of the discovery, the state of its preservation and the location, near an important Roman temple. Investigators noted that in recent months, 500 cultural works have been seized and five people charged in unrelated operations to protect Italy’s heritage.

The coverage in La Reppubblica downplays the theft side of things and seems to emphasize that this is a major new site … it also include a video of some of the items there: Lanuvio, scoperto sito archeologico La Finanza sventa il saccheggio

Spy Photos Reveal Roman Wall in Romania

Another genuinely interesting one … this version from the Ayreshire Post:

Declassified spy photographs have helped archaeologists uncover the lost history of a Roman wall dating from the second century AD.

Archaeologists studying images gathered during covert intelligence operations in the last century have identified a wall that ran around 37 miles from the Danube to the Black Sea over what is now Romania.

Built in the mid-second century, the barrier once stood 28ft wide and around 11.5ft high and included at least 32 forts and 31 smaller buildings along its course.

It is thought to have served a similar purpose to other Roman frontiers such as Hadrian’s Wall, built to defend the Roman Empire from threats to the borders.

Known locally as Trajan’s Rampart, it consists of three separate walls which were wrongly dated to the Byzantine or early medieval period.

The research was carried out by archaeologists at the universities of Glasgow and Exeter who believe that studying declassified photographs taken during covert surveillance may help uncover and identify thousands of archaeological sites around the world.

It is estimated that around 50% of all archaeological sites in the UK have been discovered from the air, but other countries are less well studied.

Tens of millions of images of Europe and the Middle East were taken by Allied and German air forces during the First and Second World Wars and are now held in public archives.

The recently declassified covert US Corona satellite intelligence programme of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s includes around 900,000 photographs from around the world.

The images are particularly valuable to modern archaeologists as they show landscape as it was before the industrialisation, intensive farming practices and urban development of the 20th century.

Bill Hanson, professor of Roman archaeology at Glasgow University, said: “We believe we have enough evidence here to demonstrate the existence of a chronologically complex Roman frontier system, and the most easterly example of a man-made barrier in the Roman Empire, serving to block an important and strategically valuable route-way.

“It is an incredibly important discovery for the study of Roman history.”

Ioana Oltean, a senior lecturer in archaeology at Exeter University, said: “Photographs from military surveillance are revealing more than those who took them could have imagined because now, half a century or more later, they are proving to be of enormous benefit in showing us our lost archaeological heritage.

“Thanks to such images, the landscape of this frontier zone is now known to have been as busy in the past as it is today. We hope that this discovery will provide stimulus for further examination of many more neglected frontiers.”

Wow … just wow.

House of Mosaics in Tripolis

From Hurriyet:

Archaeologists working on the ancient city of Tripolis in the Aegean province of Denizli have uncovered a 1,600-year-old house complete with a rich set of mosaics.

“When we removed the earth, we saw that the structures underground had survived. They are in very good condition. We have found the agora and a columned gallery as well as stores. Unexpectedly, we found a house covered with mosaics. The house is fully covered with mosaics, and they were very well-protected. There is little damage to the mosaics,” Denizli Gov. Abdülkadir Demir recently told Anadolu Agency.

Five of Denizli’s 19 ancient cities are in a flat area of the province, including Tripolis, he said, adding that excavations had been continuing in the ancient city for 15 years.

“More than 50 percent of the excavations and restorations have been finished in the agora. The works will be finished by the end of the year and the closed bazaar area in the agora will be opened to tourism,” the governor said.

Different from others

Tripoli was different from other ancient cities in that historic structures had been buried, thereby protecting them from the elements over the intervening centuries.

The head of the Tripolis excavations, Pamukkale University Professor Bahadır Duman, said they were currently working on the agora.

“The house has seven or eight rooms, and its floor is covered with colorful mosaics with herbal and geometric designs. This is why we think that a wealthy family of Tripolis was living in this house. Although it was constructed in the fourth century A.D., the house was also used in the fifth century A.D. People living in this house were not ordinary people; they were very influential,” Duman said.

Archaeologists, however, have determined that human settlement in the area dates back to the third century B.C.

The archaeological excavations have been carried out for two years by Pamukkale University in Tripolis, which was located at the junction point of Phrygia, Karia and Lydia in the Hellenistic period. The city was surrounded with walls in the early Roman period.

In last year’s excavations, geo-radar work revealed a marketplace in good condition. One of the most important findings in 2013 was a church from the early Byzantine period in the sixth century. The soil in the church has been removed, and its roof will be covered with a wooden material as per the original before being opened to visitors

No photos of the mosaics there, alas, but I did track down a video, which works most of the time:

Roman Amphitheatre from Hatay

From Hurriyet:

Researchers and local officials are hailing the discovery of a Roman-era amphitheater in the southern province of Hatay’s Erzin district, noting that the finding could help transform the area into a center of tourism.

“There is an Ephesus-style ancient city here. It will be revealed and this place will become a center of tourism,” said Erzin District Gov. İskender Yönden. “We plan to turn this area into an open-air museum.”
The Roman amphitheater was found during works carried out on a hill. So far, researchers have revealed the facility’s seats, while work is ongoing to unearth the theater stage.

“When the works are done, the district will become a museum area,” Yönden said, adding that the ancient city located along the Erzin-Dörtyol highway was being gradually unearthed. “We already knew about the existence of an amphitheater here and now we are beginning to see it.” Yönden said the excavation area was located at the site of a great battle between Alexander the Great and Persian King Darius.

A somewhat puzzling photo accompanies the original article … Archaeology in Hatay is somewhat confusing to me as I can never be sure where, specifically, they find things. A couple years ago, e.g., they found a huge mosaic in the province (Huge Mosaic Found in Turkey) at a to-be hotel construction site and now we read of this amphitheatre. Is it in the same area?

Still Waiting for that Kizilburun Column to be Delivered …

Interesting item from Hurriyet which is an update of sorts:

 

A 10-meter column, which was ordered 2,200 years ago for the construction of a temple in one of the three most important oracle centers in antiquity, Klaros, but went down when the cargo ship sank in Çeşme Kızılburun, will finally be delivered to its address. The column was discovered in 1993 by researcher and writer Cemal Pulak, and removed in 2007 by six archaeologists under the coordination of the U.S-based Underwater Archaeology Institute. Research revealed that the column was carried for the Apollo Temple in Klaros, in İzmir’s Menderes district.

The head of the excavations in the ancient center, Professor Nurdan Şahin, said that a team from the Texas A&M University had carried out works to determine the place of the column and found out that it was the sixth column of the Apollo Temple in Klaros Oracle Center.

“For the first time in the world, the address of a sunken ship was found. Following the cleaning process, the plan was to display the column in Çeşme Museum but we said that it would be more truthful to display it in its original place, Klaros,” she said.

We first heard about this column back in 2009: Kizilburun Shipwreck

Frigidarium from Bourgas

From the Sofia Globe:

Archaeological digs carried out this summer on the site of the Roman-era public baths in the Bulgarian city of Bourgas have found the first frigidarium – a cold-water pool – that was part of the the Aqua Calidae baths.

The digs are part of a conservation and restoration project by the Bourgas municipality, meant to turn the Aqua Calidae – Thermopolis site, which housed public baths during the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman eras, into a tourist attraction, the city hall said.

Found at a depth of about 4.6 metres underground, it has a length of 6.8 metres and is 6.4 metres wide. It had a brick floor that in some place did not stand the test of time and architectural features that have led archaeologists to believe that it was built in the second century CE, when the first public baths were built on the site by Roman authorities.

A frigidarium was the last pool that bathers would enter in the Roman baths (after the tepidarium and caldarium) and its temperature was kept cold to close skin pores.

The frigidarium in the Aqua Calidae was in the eastern part of the baths, which has been the focus of this summer’s digs under the supervision of professor Dimcho Momchilov, with archaeologists from the Bourgas and Yambol history museums joined by students from four Bulgarian universities.

The most significant finds of the season were 18 wooden combs, which appeared to have been preserved by the water in which they were found. The dig team believes that the combs date to the early medieval era, but required further study, given that construction of the Ottoman-era baths in the 16th century and the modern baths at the start of the 20th century caused some displacement.

Other finds included about 50 coins from the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman eras, a golden ear-ring and a silver medallion, as well as other well-preserved wooden items.

A photo accompanies the original article. Bourgas (Dueltum) is a very well-covered site in the Bulgarian press and, of course, at rogueclassicism … here’s a smattering of our coverage (the search facility seems to be mixing things up a bit today):

On the Possible Origins of Rome’s “Architectural Hubris” at Gabii

Excerpt from an item in the New York Times:

[...] Any definitive insight into the formative stages of Roman architectural hubris lies irretrievable beneath layers of the city’s repeated renovations through the time of caesars, popes and the Renaissance. The most imposing ruin of the early Roman imperial period is the Colosseum, erected in the first century A.D.

Now, at excavations 11 miles east of Rome’s city center, archaeologists think they are catching a glimpse of Roman tastes in monumental architecture much earlier than previously thought, about 300 years before the Colosseum. They have uncovered ruins of a vast complex of stone walls and terraces connected by a grand stairway and surrounded by many rooms, a showcase of wealth and power spread over an area more than half the size of a football field. They say this was most likely the remains of a public building in the heyday of the city-state Gabii, or possibly an exceptionally lavish private residence.

The discovery was made last summer by a team of archaeologists and students led by Nicola Terrenato, a professor of classical studies at the University of Michigan and a native of Rome. At the end of this summer’s dig season, Dr. Terrenato said last week in a telephone interview from Rome, about two-thirds of the complex had been exposed and studied to “tell us more about how the Romans were building at that formative stage” — between 350 B.C. and 250 B.C.

Dr. Terrenato noted that the findings appeared to contradict the image of early Roman culture, perpetuated by notables like Cato the Elder and Cicero, “as being very modest and inconspicuous.” It was said that this did not change until soldiers returned from the conquest of Greece in the second century B.C., their heads having been turned by Greek refinements and luxuries.

“Now we see the Romans were already thinking big,” he said.

The Gabii dig site is a gift to archaeologists. Not only was the city close to Rome, with many ties, but most of its ruins were buried and never built over after the city’s decline in the second and third centuries A.D. The building complex is on undeveloped land in modern-day Lazio.

At the time, Rome had surpassed Gabii in size, but some historians think the neighboring city could have exerted an influence on the Romans. Previous excavations by the Michigan group, beginning in 2007, had uncovered a significant part of the city, including private houses, wealthy burials, city walls and a temple. Of possibly more importance, Dr. Terrenato suggested, the recent research shows that people were practicing some degree of urban planning at Gabii.

Scholars of ancient history and other archaeologists were either unfamiliar with the Gabii findings or cautious in their comments. Richard J. A. Talbert, a historian at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and scholar of ancient geography in the Mediterranean world, visited the Gabii excavations last year. Dr. Talbert noted that in later Roman tradition, Gabii was seen as “a source of ideas and culture.” But he added, “We really don’t have enough evidence yet to say how influential Gabii was on Rome in these early periods.”

Christopher Ratté, the director of the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology at Michigan, said the excavation was part of a concentrated examination of the social environment in central Italy before the rise of Rome as a world power. “It has been quite a surprise,” he said, “to find that it was still possible to break new ground like this in a region that has been so well researched.”

The Gabii Project, supported in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities and in collaboration with the Italian Archaeological Service, had explored and mapped the more than 170 acres of the ancient city, which was built on the slopes of an extinct volcano where the crater had become a lake. Then the archaeologists encountered the elaborate building complex. Dr. Terrenato said he was immediately struck by the size of the stone blocks in the retaining wall on the slope inside the complex. Each one weighed thousands of pounds.

“This was like Lego construction,” he said. “They were stacked one on top of each other without any glue binding them together. This is the only technique they had access to, and it must have been the desire for this kind of grand construction that drove them to the invention of mortar about 125 years later.”

The researchers also admired some of the architectural details: rows of stone pillars, courtyards and terraces covered in mosaic tiles in geometric patterns, a 21-step staircase cut into bedrock. They said this showed that the people were beginning to experiment with modifying their natural environments — cutting back the natural slope and creating a retaining wall.

“All this only whetted our appetites,” Dr. Terrenato said as he looked ahead to next summer’s continued excavations and a hoped-for extension of the project beyond 2014.

The The Gabii Project does have a website with some interesting stuff to augment this report (see esp. Fieldwork at Gabii: 2007-present). There’s far more to be found, though, at the Lapis Gabinus dig blog, which is possibly the best dig blog I’ve come across … weekly updates (the current season just ended) and plenty of photos. Definitely worth spending some time at …

Also worth a look is UMichigan’s press release which spawned the NYT piece:

Hadrian’s Tunnels at Tivoli

This item from the Guardian is genuinely interesting … here’s the first bit:

Amateur cavers have mapped a vast network of tunnels underneath Hadrian’s Villa outside Rome, leading archaeologists to radically revise their views of one of ancient Rome’s most imposing imperial retreats.

Lowering themselves through light shafts found in fields around the 120-hectare (296-acre) site, local speleologists have charted more than a mile of road tunnels – passages where, in the second century, oxen pulled carts loaded with luxury foods for banquets and thousands of slaves scurried from palace to palace, well out of sight of the emperor.

“These tunnels lead us to understand that Hadrian’s Villa was organised less like a villa and more like a city,” said Benedetta Adembri, the director of the site, who is planning, in the autumn, to open stretches of the tunnels to the public for the first time.

Never an emperor to do things by half – his idea of homeland security was to build a wall across the top of England – Hadrian built his country hideaway near modern-day Tivoli to escape the noise and crowds of Rome, but managed to take half the city with him.

Archaeologists have identified 30 buildings, including palaces, thermal baths, a theatre and libraries, as well as gardens and dozens of fountains.

“We think the villa covered up to 250 hectares but we still don’t know the limits,” said Abembri.

Abandoned after the fall of the Roman empire, the villa was taken apart piece by piece over the centuries, with one local cardinal stripping off marble to build his own villa nearby in the 16th century, leaving weed infested ruins.

That is where an Italian association of archaeo-speleologists, equipped with ropes, and remote-controlled camera mounted vehicles, has entered the fray, exploring the pristine tunnels under the site, as well as the nine miles of sewers and water pipes hooked up to the local aqueducts.

“What we are exploring is, to a certain extent, the real villa, because the tunnels will show us where the confines of the property really are,” said Marco Placidi, an amateur caver, who has led the search.

Although experts have long known that tunnels snaked under the property, Placidi’s team was the first to drop through light shafts to wander through them. They have mapped a main tunnel, 2.40 metres (7ft) wide, which runs more than half a mile to a circular spur, about 700 metres long which could been used to turn one-way carts.

A sea shell from the Red Sea, possibly used as decoration in the villa, is among the discoveries form the site.

Most importantly, the cavers stumbled upon the entrance to an uncharted tunnel, double the width, at five metres, that could accommodate two-way traffic. It is presently packed with soil almost to the roof.

“We have tried to squeeze in on our stomachs but we still don’t know where it goes and it could lead to buildings we know nothing about,” said Vittoria Fresi, an archaeologist who has worked with Placidi. [...]

The Telegraph coverage adds an interesting detail:

The newly-discovered underground passageway has been dubbed by archaeologists the Great Underground Road — in Italian the Strada Carrabile.

… and here’s the Il Messaggero coverage in case you want to read more from archaeologists:

This past November we heard about a Mithraeum among the tunnels beneath the baths of Caracalla (Mithraeum Reopening to the Public)

Another ‘Mass Grave’ from Pisidian Antioch

From Hurriyet:

Excavations that have been continuing for four years in the ancient city of Pisidia Antiocheia in the southern province of Isparta’s Yalvaç district have revealed a second well containing the remains of six people.

Last month, the excavation discovered a mass grave of five people in a well on the ancient city’s Cardo Maximus Street.

Along with the six human bodies, a pig jaw was also found in the well-shaped hole inside a Roman villa with a pool in its garden.

Süleyman Demirel University Archaeology Department head Mehmet Özhanlı said they were very surprised that they had found two mass graves in one excavation season. “While our works have been continuing on the western side of Cardo Maximus Street, we found five skeletons in a well in a structure. This time we found a well-shaped structure in a Roman house. There were six human skulls and a pig jaw. We have determined that the murdered people were randomly thrown into the well,” Özhanlı said.

I’m not sure whether the previous month’s find made it to the English press … there is a Turkist report at Antik kentte cinayet izi (Milliyet). Back in January, the head of the excavations was hyping the town planning at the site: Town Planning at Pisidian Antioch.

That Roman Ship With Intact Cargo? Yeah … About That …

There is a story kicking around right now about a shipwreck find near Genoa and my mind has been boggling to see it develop. So right now, pre-coffee, and seeing it in gaining ‘strength’, I’m basically at this point:

Okay, so here’s how it developed this past weekend.  For purposes of review, this seems to have begun with a brief UPI article, which was much-passed-around on the internet via twitter etc.:

An intact Roman ship from the second century B.C. has been discovered off the coast of Genoa in Italy, archaeologists say.

The vessel, which contains hundreds of valuable amphorae — earthenware vessels traditionally used to transport wine — was spotted by police divers roughly one mile from the shore of Alassio in 160 feet of water, Italy’s ANSA news agency reported Friday.

Police said they have been tipped off to the whereabouts of the ship during a year-long investigation into stolen archaeological artifacts sold on the black market in northern Italy.

“This is an exceptional find,” Colonel Francesco Schilardi, who led the police dive team, said. “Now our goal is to preserve the ship and keep thieves out. We are executing surveys and excavations to study the contents of the boat which is perfectly intact.”

Encased in layers of mud, the find promises to yield clues to Rome’s trade activity between the Italian peninsula and other areas in the Mediterranean, experts said.

The ship is thought to have travelled on trade routes between Spain and what is now central Italy and was loaded with more than 200 clay amphorae likely to have contained fish, wine, oil and grain.

… so the source seems to be ANSA, and here’s their report, just for comparison purposes:

An intact Roman ship from the second century BCE has been discovered off the coast of Genoa. The vessel, which contains roughly 50 valuable amphorae, was spotted by police divers roughly one mile from the shore of Alassio, 50 meters underwater. Police were tipped off to the whereabouts of the boat during a yearlong investigation into purloined artefacts sold on the black market in northern Italy. “This is an exceptional find,” said Colonel Francesco Schilardi. “Now our goal is to preserve the ship and keep thieves out. We are executing surveys and excavations to study the contents of the boat which is perfectly intact”. The culture ministry said the ship should prove vital in shedding light on Rome’s trade activity between the Italian peninsula, France and Spain.

Now here’s where it gets weird/frustrating … one of the phenomena of the news side of the internet is that search engines often ‘rediscover’ articles which have the same day and month date, but a different year. Interestingly/coincidentally/suspiciously enough … a year ago, the Age had an article which happened to pop up last week. I should note that, a year ago,  I didn’t deal with this directly at rogueclassicism per se, but did include it in my explorator newsletter. In any event, this is what the Age had on August 8, 2012:

FOR 2000 years the ancient and decomposing hulk lay buried in deep, muddy waters, off the Italian coast.

Everybody knew it was down there because for more than 80 years local fishermen had been collecting bits of Roman artefacts and pots in their nets.

Finds of this nature are not unusual in Italian waters, which are littered with treasures going back thousands of years.

But these artefacts told a different story, and it was good enough to attract the interest of the archaeological community and a police commander who heads an expert diving squad in the city of Genoa.

Lieutenant-Colonel Francesco Schilardi, the commanding officer of the police team that found the wreck, has been referred to as the ”Top Gun” of the oceans because of the secrets he and his team unravel by locating and recovering wrecks and long-lost treasures.

This time the team, including state archaeologists and historians, were so sure that the ocean, close to the town of Varazze, Liguria, was hiding something special that they went to a little more expense to find out what was down there. They used a submarine, a robot and sophisticated mapping and tracking equipment, along with the results of extensive historical studies of the area.

The efforts paid off, with a find described as ”one of the most important” of its kind.

They uncovered a 2000-year-old Roman vessel buried 70-100 metres deep and encased in layers of mud that promises to reveal secrets about the way of life in the 1st century AD, not only in Rome but in other regions that traded with the empire.

The discovery of the food transport vessel, with an estimated 200 clay amphorae on board – and with caps of pine and pitch intact – sent ripples of excitement through archaeological communities partly because the ship and its contents are remarkably well preserved.

”It is a relic of great value,” Lieutenant-Colonel Schilardi, told Italian newspaper La Repubblica. It goes back, he said, to the Roman republican and imperial age, when Rome traded with the Mediterranean countries, primarily Spain, and when the Ligurian Sea and the nerve centre, or the crossroads of Roman marketing and trade at the time.

The sea lanes in the area were used by the Romans to export food including honey, spices and wine from the late Roman Republican era to the beginning of the Augustan Age.

Lieutenant-Colonel Schilardi was also quoted in the Italian press saying the fact the containers were so well preserved might help to reveal important information about diet at the time and perhaps add to cultural and commercial profiles of the period. The fact the wreck was found at such depth, and encased in a bed of sandy mud that is typical of the area, helped ensure the vessel remained in a good state of preservation, he said.

Authorities have sealed off the area to prevent treasure hunters from plundering the site and the attention of the experts has turned to getting finance and state support to recover the wreck and its contents.

Meanwhile the search continues, with archaeologists excited by sonar readings that indicate the sand covering the vessel that may well contain further treasures.

… The discovery did get wide coverage, and what I did post at rogueclassicism was a list of the links: In Explorator 15.17

As you can see, the finds seem to be remarkably similar, differing primarily in the name of the town they are supposedly close to (Alassio v Verraze). But the UPI piece is talking about two hundred amphorae while the source ANSA piece mentions “50 valuable amphorae”, so maybe they’re different finds? Interestingly, though, the piece from the Age also mentions 200 amphorae.

Now just to further add to the confusion, the usually-reliable Live Science comes out with a piece which appears to be a mashup of the coverage from a year ago and the most recent … here’s the incipit:

For fans of Italian cuisine, the news of a well-preserved ancient Roman shipwreck — whose cargo of food might still be intact — will surely whet their appetites.

The ship is believed to be about 2,000 years old and is buried in the mud off the coast of Varazze, Italy, according to The Age. The mud kept the wreck hidden for centuries, but also helped to preserve it and its cargo, held in clay jars known as amphorae.

“There are some broken jars around the wreck, but we believe that most of the amphorae inside the ship are still sealed and food-filled,” Lt. Col. Francesco Schilardi, commander of the police diving team that found the shipwreck, told the BBC. [Photos: Shipwreck Alley's Sunken Treasures]

Local fishermen suspected there might be a wreck in the area, because pieces of pottery kept turning up in their nets. Police divers used a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to locate the shipwreck about 160 feet (50 meters) underwater.

“This is an exceptional find,” Schilardi said. “Now, our goal is to preserve the ship and keep thieves out. We are executing surveys and excavations to study the contents of the boat, which is perfectly intact.”

Using sophisticated technologies like ROVs, sonar mapping equipment and genetic analysis, marine archaeologists have had considerable success in recent years in recovering well-preserved artifacts from shipwrecks. [...]

… the article includes links, so you might want to check them out, but the editor is either unaware or doesn’t care that he’s linking to coverage from a year ago!

Whatever the case, I’d really like some clarification whether this is a new find or not or whether this is a followup investigation of some sort. More likely, it seems to me, some editor saw the same Age piece pop up in their daily search, didn’t check the date, and ran with it …

Commodus’ Mini-Colosseum at Genzano

Interesting discovery getting some coverage in the English press but the fullest is from Il Messaggero:

Che l’imperatore Commodo, il controverso figlio di Marco Aurelio, avesse una passione per i giochi gladiatori e i combattimenti contro le bestie, era noto. Non a caso le fonti storiche raccontavano che l’erede dell’imperatore filosofo avesse un anfiteatro privato nella sua natia Lanuvio dove amava sfidare il destino, scendendo nell’arena e uccidendo vestito da gladiatore le belve feroci. Ma quello che finora sembrava solo un retroscena riportato dalla biografia della «Historia Augusta», ha ora le sue prove archeologiche. La conferma che Commodo avesse davvero il suo personale tempio dei ludi gladiatori, ribattezzato già dagli studiosi «il piccolo Colosseo».

L’ARENA
L’arena di oltre 35 metri per 24, una struttura esterna di oltre 50 metri per 40, una superficie della cavea di oltre 9mila metri quadrati, e una capienza di oltre 1300 posti, senza contare l’intero palco imperiale. Un monumento databile alla metà del II secolo d.C. Ma a colpire la suggestione sono i marmi decorativi provenienti da tutto il Mediterraneo. L’eccezionale scoperta è avvenuta a Genzano nel complesso archeologico della cosiddetta Villa degli Antonini, l’originaria residenza imperiale che si estendeva in età romana nell’«Ager Lanuvinus», l’antica Lanuvio, luogo di nascita di Marco Aurelio e, appunto, di Commodo.

I MARMI
È qui che dal 2010 l’équipe del Center for Heritage and Archaeological Studies della Montclair State University sta portando avanti il progetto di scavo didattico sulla Villa degli Antonini sotto la direzione scientifica di Deborah Chatr Aryamontri e Timothy Renner, grazie ad una convenzione rilasciata dal Ministero per i beni culturali in accordo con la Soprintendenza per i beni archeologici del Lazio, e in collaborazione col Comune di Genzano. Le campagne di scavo estive avevano finora indagato le strutture del vasto impianto termale degli Antonini, ma soprattutto avevano individuato una piccola porzione di strutture murarie curvilinee: «Ci sembrarono subito anomale perché apparivano disposte secondo una planimetria ellittica – racconta la Chatr Aryamontri – e oggi siamo ad una svolta. Le indagini col georadar hanno verificato l’intera disposizione planimetrica delle mura di fondazioni e gli scavi hanno riportato alla luce una nuova porzione di strutture curvilinee speculari».

Blocchi di roccia vulcanica alternati a laterizio, rivestiti di marmi pregiati. «Il repertorio dei marmi è eccezionale, il giallo antico, il pavonazzetto, il greco scritto, il granito rosa e il serpentino – avverte la Aryamontri – Pregevoli anche i rivestimenti pavimentali tra tessere di mosaico bianco-nero, pasta vitrea, incluso tessere di vetro trasparente ricoperte con foglia d’oro. Una produzione di qualità rivolta ad una committenza ricca». Tutto intorno all’arena corre un canale sotterraneo, largo oltre 50 centimetri: «L’ipotesi è che servisse anche per gli spettacoli di battaglie navali», azzarda la studiosa. Sempre sotto l’arena, spicca una scala elicoidale che scende per quasi tre metri. Forse anche il «piccolo Colosseo» di Commodo aveva i suoi ipogei per le macchine sceniche funzionali allo spettacolo. Privato, ma grandioso.

On the English side:

… the (much advertised) dig is being conducted at the Villa of the Antonines by the fine folks at Montclair State (who really should get a press release out there) … they have a page about the dig (aimed at prospective field schoolers), which notes that this amphitheatre was actually discovered last year: An Introduction to the “Villa of the Antonines” Archaeological Field Project in Italy.

Roman Vineyard from Leighton Buzzard

From the Leighton Buzzard Observer:

The remains of an ancient Roman vineyard have been discovered on a site being developed by a housebuilder in Leighton Buzzard.

Archaeologists found the 2,000-year-old vineyard at the new Persimmon Homes site at Grovebury Farm, Grovebury Road.

Archaeology and historic buildings consultant Duncan Hawkins, who led the investigations at the site, said the find was exciting because it ‘put another piece in the puzzle’ of the history of the area.

He said: “Although vineyards were fairly common, this is a significant find for the Leighton Buzzard region as it enables us to keep on building a picture of how the landscape used to be; in effect another piece in the jigsaw.

“We were unsure at first whether they were Roman or medieval remains, but because of the common practice of burials out in the fields we have been able to date it to the 2nd or 3rd Century.”

Duncan added that because the process of archaeology is in itself destructive, the site would be photographed, recorded and a 3d model created to keep the history alive.

Mark Gatehouse, Persimmon Homes Midlands technical manager, said the company called in the archaeologists as part of being granted planning permission to develop the site.

“We didn’t necessarily expect to find anything so to discover this old Roman vineyard was a real surprise. It has proved to be very exciting and significant, because not much is known of the Roman presence in the area.

“It will be particularly interesting for new homeowners to move onto a site with such a fascinating history. They will literally be walking in the footsteps of the Romans every time they step out of their front doors.

The site – scheduled for new homes by both Persimmon and sister company Charles Church – lies close to the ancient Watling Street – one of the Roman’s most important highways and now the basis for the modern A5.

Unplundered Sarmatian Burial

Brief item from RiA Novosti:

Archaeologists have found the intact burial chamber of a noble woman from a powerful tribe that roamed the Eurasian steppes 2,500 years ago in southern Russia, an official said Tuesday.

The Sarmatians were a group of Persian-speaking tribes that controlled what is now parts of southern Russia, Ukraine and Central Asia from around 500 BC until 400 AD. They were often mentioned by ancient Greek historians and left luxurious tombs with exquisite golden and bronze artifacts that were often looted by gravediggers.

But the burial site found near the the village of Filippovka in the Orenburg region has not been robbed – and contained a giant bronze kettle, jewelry, a silver mirror and what appears to be containers for cosmetics, said history professor Gulnara Obydennova who heads the Institute of History and Legal Education in the city of Ufa.

“The find is really sensational also because the burial vault was intact – the objects and jewelry in it were found the way they had been placed by the ancient nomads,” she told RIA Novosti.

The vault – located 4 meters (13 feet) underground – was found in the “Tsar Tumulus,” a group of two dozen mounds where hundreds of golden and silver figurines of deer, griffins and camels, vessels and weapons have been found since the 1980s.

The woman’s skeleton was still covered with jewelry and decorations, and her left hand held a silver mirror with an ornamented golden handle, Obydennova said.

The descendants of the Sarmatians include Ossetians, an ethnic group living in the Caucasus region, who speak a language related to Persian.

… there’s a couple of interesting photos with the original article

Mycenean Rock-cut Tombs from Bodrum

Interesting item from Hurriyet:

Rock tombs dating back to 3,500 years ago have been uncovered in Bodrum’s Ortakent district, which form part of the necropolis area.

Bodrum Underwater Archeology Museum manager Emel Özkan and archeologists Banu Mete Özler and Ece Benli Bağcı are leading the excavations. The experts are still not sure if there was a settlement or not.

The tombs are believed to belong to the early “Mycenaean Greece III A” era, which was a cultural period of Bronze Age Greece taking its name from the archaeological site of Mycenae in northeastern Argolis, in the Peloponnese of southern Greece. The tombs also revealed human and animal bones, bronze containers and many different kinds of pieces. The necropolis area has been taken under protection. The findings of the excavation may belong to the bronze age and also to the Akha Hellenistic era.

The tombs also reveal the culture and the lifestyle of the early Mycenaean Greek era, as well as the period’s artistic approach, according to experts.

Hurriyet has another version at Mycenaean artifacts found in Bodrum which has a different photo … there’s also some added detail from the Today’s Zaman coverage (inter alia):

[...] Speaking to the press, Professor Yusuf Boysal, the supervisor of the excavations, said his team so far has found the remains of several tombs, a canteen, a three-handled cup, a jug, a bronze razor, animals’ bones, many pieces of glass and beads with different shapes.

Boysal added: “Along with these new discoveries, now we will have more information regarding this ancient era. These tombs and other historical ruins are very important and they will give us information about the culture of the people who lived in that era.” [...]

Antony + Cleopatra Coin from Bethsaida!

Interesting item from Ha’aretz, although it is behind a paywall. Here are some excerpts:

[...]

A few thousand years is a mere blink of an eye when it comes to the vital ties between this land and Egypt, as attested by a rare coin carrying historical weight far greater than its 7.59 grams, which depicts the notorious lovers – and which emerged last year from the ruins of a first-century house at Tel Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee.

Tel Bethsaida rises from the northern coast of the Sea of Galilee, but the coin was minted in another city by another sea – the Mediterranean port of Akko – today better known as Acre. The coin, made of bronze, is about the size of a quarter, being 21–23 millimeters in diameter (it is not perfectly round, at least not any more). Its date shows that it was minted in the last half of the year 35 or the first half of 34 BCE.

Mark Antony, the most powerful man in the world at the time, is on one side of the coin and Cleopatra graces the other. On her side are the Greek words “of the people of Ptolemais.”

Ptolemais is the Greek name for ancient Akko, which was founded in the 3rd century BCE and named after Ptolemy II Philadelphus. The name appears in the New Testament (Acts 21:7) as the home of an early Christian community that Paul the apostle visited: “And when we had finished our course from Tyre, we came to Ptolemais, and saluted the brethren, and abode with them one day.”

The coin was minted some two and a half centuries after the city was founded, a time when both Mark Antony and his bitter rival Octavian were in their prime and no one knew who would prevail, Arav says.

Why depict them? The cities of the ancient Middle East had a habit of minting coins bearing the portraits of whoever was in power, says Dr. Donald T. Ariel, head of the Israel Antiquities Authority Coin Department.

And Marc Antony was most definitely powerful in the year stamped on the coin. Prof. Rami Arav, director of the Bethsaida Excavations Project, suggests that the minting of the coin may have had to do with Marc Antony’s victory over the Parthians, rulers of a land in what is now northeastern Iran and Armenia, in 35 BCE. He then granted Armenia to Cleopatra’s sons and gave Cyprus to her daughter Selene.

Cleopatra also appears on coins from the same period, found in cities further north up the Lebanese coast, that were among gifts Marc Antony gave his consort.

That same year Marc Antony, still deeply involved with Cleopatra, moved the capital of the empire from Rome to Alexandria, Egypt.

[...]

via: The ancient coin of Cleopatra: There could have been pyramids in Paris (Ha’aretz)

… Rami Arav is then pressed to speculate what might have happened if Tony and Cleo were victorious at Actium. There is no photo of the coin (which was found last year, by the way), alas, but presumably it was like this one from the VRoma site:

via VRoma

That said, I’m not sure if anyone would call Antony’s actions in Parthia a “victory” in anything but a ‘Parthian’ sense; he lost a major portion of his troops — Napoleon-like — to the cold and had to do some serious bribing of those that remained … it’s actually more interesting how little of substance there is about this campaign on the www. One can, of course, read Dio 49.22-33 on it and get a sense of the ‘failure’ (although Dio’s description of the testudo in action here is incredibly interesting)

Votive Relief of Zeus from Near Starosel

This one’s interesting primarily because of the ‘omen’ involved in the different coverage and how it is dealt with by the journalists. First, here’s the coverage from Focus-Fen:

Archaeological team of Dr Ivan Hristov discovered a big votive relief of the ancient Father of Gods and men Zeus close to the archaeological excavations of Bulgaria’s National Museum of History at the Kozi Gramadi peak in Severna Gora, close to the village of Starosel.
Director of the National Museum of History, Dr Bozhidar Dimitrov, announced the news for FOCUS News Agency.
“It is bigger than the votive slabs found so far and probably it is the central icon of the ancient temple,” Dimitrov said.
A strange event took archaeologists by surprise while the votive relief was taken out. A big imperial eagle started flying over them.
In antiquity Zeus was often portrayed as an imperial eagle and the younger women archaeologists started commenting that Zeus had come to see what they were doing in his temple.
The Kozi Gramadi stronghold, built in VI-V century before Christ, was a capital of a Thracian tribe, which used to live in this part of Bulgaria during the antiquity. The popular tombs close to Starosel are in fact the necropolis of the Thracian aristocrats living in the city.

Here’s the same site, with the same coverage (and sadly, the same, uniformative photo) via Novinite/Sofia News Agency:

A team of Bulgarian archeologists led by Dr. Ivan Hristov has discovered an unusually large votive relief of the ancient Greek God Zeus near the Bulgarian village of Starosel.

The news was announced by the National History Museum for the Bulgarian News Agency Focus.

The archeological team uncovered the votive relief which was much bigger than the ordinary ones and thus it was allegedly the center part of an ancient temple.

A large rock eagle appeared flying round when the archeological team was about to uncover the artifact. As the ancient Greek god Zeus was commonly featured as a rock eagle, some of the archeologists jokingly concluded that god Zeus should have come to look over his sanctuary.

The votive relief was uncovered while the archeologists were excavating the Kozi Gramadi mount in the Sredna Gora mountain, in the village of Starosel, close to the resort town of Hissar in central Bulgaria.

The fortress, located on the Kozi Gramadi mount , was built VI-V century BC and it used to be the capital of ancient Thracian tribe living in central Bulgaria.

The archaeologists believe that the region was the power center of Ancient Thrace in the 4th century BC. It was destroyed during the rise of the Macedonian state of Philip II in 342-341 BC.

… it’s interesting the different tone one gets comparing the use of “commented” to “jokingly concluded”. Not sure if that’s just an aspect of translation or sensation (c. e.g., all the claims this past weekend about a ‘True Cross’ find presented with incredible credulity by quite a few outlets …). That said, it would have been nice to have a photo of the relief itself …

Roman Burials from Gloucester

From the BBC:

About 40 skeletons have been uncovered by archaeologists at the site of a Roman cemetery in Gloucester.

The discovery was made during a dig at the former Gloscat site at Greyfriars in Brunswick Road, ahead of a housing development being built.

It has been described as one of the most significant archaeological finds in the city in the past 30 years.

The skeletons could end up in the care of Gloucester museum after scientific tests have been carried out.

Stuart Joyce from Cotswold Archaeology said: “We’re just outside the walls of the Roman city of Glevum and this would have been the Roman cemetery associated with the city.

“This is probably one of the most significant finds that has been made within Gloucester within the last 30 years. It will add greatly to the knowledge of the [city].”

Forty skeletons were uncovered nearby in the 1960s. These are now kept at Exeter University.

“The cemetery itself was known previously, but this is the first time that such an [archaeological dig] in this area has been conducted under modern excavation practice,” added Mr Joyce.

“Maybe another 20 to 30 will come up during subsequent excavations, but the number is very hard to say.”

Excavation work on the site is expected to last for at least another two years while a new housing development is built.

… I don’t think we’ve mentioned this dig before.

Major Finds at Hadrian’s Villa

This is another one of those things that didn’t really hit the mainstream English press for some unknown reason. Here’s the coverage from Il Messaggero (from back in June!):

La «grande bellezza» di Adriano si nascondeva in un giardino segreto. L’area più panoramica e sconosciuta della sua villa a Tivoli, che si erge sulla cresta del banco tufaceo, alle spalle della famosa Piazza d’Oro.È qui che sono riemersi in sequenza strategica cinque edifici monumentali di rara raffinatezza architettonica, decorati con statue colossali, progettati da Adriano per offrire percorsi privilegiati, creando sfondi paesaggistici dal carattere idilliaco. Sono le memorie «inedite» di Adriano che riemergono ora da una porzione della sua villa del tutto dimenticata, considerata per secoli di scarso interesse, tanto da essere esclusa dal percorso di visita negli anni ’60 del secolo scorso per ospitare un campeggio. La scoperta, frutto della lunga e complessa campagna di scavi condotta dall’università La Sapienza con la responsabilità scientifica di Patrizio Pensabene in stretta collaborazione con la Soprintendenza ai beni archeologici del Lazio e la direttrice di Villa Adriana Benedetta Adembri, è stata presentata al convegno internazionale di antichità classica di Merida in Spagna, appena conclusosi. «Quello che è stato rinvenuto è solo la punta di un iceberg perché queste strutture non sono state mai documentate prima neanche dagli studiosi antichi come Piranesi», racconta il direttore dello scavo Adalberto Ottati ricercatore de La Sapienza e dell’Istituto catalano di archeologia classica. L’unico monumento visibile era il cosiddetto mausoleo di epoca repubblicana, un edificio circolare che è stato completamente reinterpretato, datandolo come gli altri all’età di Adriano (123 d.C. dai laterizi bollati). «È un unicum, non ha confronti con strutture conservate – dice Ottati – Sicuramente era un padiglione-museo, che sfoggiava i suoi fasti all’interno e non all’esterno. Nella ricca decorazione architettonica di cui abbiamo trovato frammenti monumentali, spicca un colonnato dorico, scelta stilistica non casuale, ma significativa nel suo riferimento alla Grecia delle origini. Inoltre – aggiunge Ottati – doveva conteneva anche statue e opere d’arte come una sorta di luogo di contemplazione del bello».
TEMPLI E COLOSSI
Dal padiglione di Adriano le indagini (condotte da Patrizio Fileri, Francesca Stazzi, Luigi Tortella, Elisa Iori, Elisa Mancini, Vito Mazzurca) hanno svelato una inusuale sequenza di edifici: un tempietto rettangolare, seguito da un secondo padiglione circolare abbinato ad un altro tempietto rettangolare. Questi ultimi, coronati da un grande edificio porticato. Un complesso scenografico di forte suggestione: «La disposizione degli edifici crea un gioco di sfondi e punti di vista tra natura e architettura che testimoniano di voler ricreare paesaggi che si ritrovano nelle pitture pompeiane – riflette Ottati – Un affascinante confronto è proprio nelle Pitture di II e III stile ed in particolar modo nelle vedute di paesaggio idilliaco-sacrale di tradizione tardo-ellenistica». Non è tutto. Nei pressi del secondo padiglione, sono stati rinvenuti centinaia di frammenti marmorei di una statua colossale che oggi, dopo un attento e certosino lavoro di ricomposizione, ha riconquistato una sua identità: «Sembra una Nemesi, e per il suo carattere colossale può essere anche una statua ritratto di un’imperatrice», riflette Ottati. Forse la stessa Vibia Sabina, moglie di Adriano. Ma le ipotesi rimangono ancora aperte. Lo scavo riprenderà a settembre.

The original page includes a mini slideshow of reconstructions of the finds …

If you’re not into working through the Italian, Wanted in Rome had a brief summary this past weekend: Major discovery at Hadrian’s Villa

Hopefully, when the digging resumes in September, the English media will be a bit more on the ball …

Roman Necropolis from Jordan

I wonder if we’ll hear more about this … from Ammon:

The Department of Antiquities (DoA) has unearthed the remains of a Roman cemetery in Abdoun, it announced late on Monday.

Ahmad Al Shami, Amman antiquities inspector, said 12 burial sites were discovered in addition to artefacts and human bones dating back to the Roman era.

The site in Abdoun, which is one of Amman’s upscale neighbourhoods, includes numerous graves and skeletal remains of several individuals, according to Shami.

In addition, archaeologists have found pottery and a coin.

“We will study the pottery and the coin for more details about that era,” he told The Jordan Times over the phone on Tuesday.

Shami added that they did not find a complete skeleton, only remains, which experts will study to identify the age and gender of those who were buried at the site.

In addition to the 12 graves the DoA unearthed, there are two destroyed tombs and a small yard in front of them that was used to prepare the dead bodies, he noted.

“We also found symbols of Rosetta, the Roman flower, engraved in the stones,” Shami said.

The cemetery was discovered on private property by a contractor supervising a construction project, and the owner was requested to stop work at the site until studies by the DoA conclude.

via: ‘Roman cemetery unearthed in Abdoun’ (Ammon)

Dragon and Dolphin (nope) Mosaic From Monasterace

This one is potentially very interesting … most of the coverage comes from ANSA-related outlets in various languages, so here’s the English coverage from Gazzetta del Sud:

Students on an archaeological dig near the southern Italian town of Monasterace have uncovered an important and ancient mosaic, authorities said Tuesday. The large mosaic, likely of ancient Greek origins, was discovered near another major find announced last fall by archaeologist Francesco Cuteri. Cuteri says he is pleased that students from Argentina and Italy made the latest mosaic discovery, which he added is an important find. “The discovery is of extraordinary importance because it is the largest Hellenic mosaic of Magna Grecia (an area of southern Italy),” he said. The mosaic, depicting dragon and dolphins, may date from the Hellenistic period, which ran from about 323 BC to about 146 BC. Work on the excavation began in 1998 and last year had already led to the discovery of a mosaic depicting a dragon, a rosette and six panels with floral motifs. Cuteri said work is far from finished. “We are confident….we can find at least two other panels,” he said, adding the new area has been dubbed ‘the hall of dragons and dolphins’. “We have worked on this excavation for 15 years and now what emerges fills us with joy”.

That said, I don’t understand why all the ANSA coverage includes what isn’t exactly the greatest photo available, i.e.:

via Gazzetta del Sud

Corriere della Calabria includes one that’s a bit more clear:

via Corriere della Calabria

… which raises a question: does the ‘dragon’ interpretation come via the first photo, which has something on top of it which makes it look like there are two creatures? So we’ll track down another photo (actually, the whole set, it seems):

via Mondo Tempo Reale

Seems we ain’t dealing with dolphins or dragons. Those are good old-fashioned Hippocampi/oi, no?

UPDATE (an hour or so later): definitely an argument for the benefits of caffeine … when the caffeine hit, I remembered we mentioned an earlier phase of this back in September: Hellenistic Mosaic From Monasterace … check out the photo there. How are they getting dragons and dolphins from this????

UPDATE II (a couple days later): tip o’ the pileus to the Random Classicist who wrote in to remind me of the beastie known as the Cetus, the foe of Perseus which I had totally forgotten about. Here’s an example of a Cetus image from the Classical Art Research Centre (a mosaic from Tunis) :

… so the thing I was calling a Hippocamp is clearly a Ketos/Cetus. Are they considered dragons? Or is that just something that happened during translation?

UPDATE III (the next day): Tip o’ the pileus to John Dillon, who also sent in some very useful comments:

_Ketos_ seems to be the contemporary term of choice among art historians for sea beasties of this form, though one still encounters _pistrix_ (and, in Italian, its derivative _pistrice_). Joseph Fontenrose (Python_, pp. 288-306) is helpful here, esp. pp. 288-89 and fig. 25 on p. 305; cf. also Barbette Stanley Spaeth, _The Goddess Ceres_, p. 135, and J. M. Blanquez, “Grifos y ketoi en mosaicos de Italia, Hispania, Africa y el Oriente”, in Nicole Blanc and André Buisson, edd., _Imago Antiquitatis_ (Paris, 1999), pp. 119-28; figs. 1-9. In Italian they’re conceived of as a sea serpent and thus as a sort of _drago_ and are popularly called by that latter term (_ketos_ and _pistrix_ both being far too specialized for a general audience). Since English _dragon_ tends to signify a four-legged, terrestrial creature, a better translation of _drago_ in this context would be _sea dragon_.

A few further ancient and medieval _ketoi_:
1) A red-figure vase in the Museo Jatta in Ruvo di Puglia [but how much of this is down to a modern restorer?]
http://www.flickr.com/photos/28433765@N07/3411670241/

2) The sea wind (at right) on the Ara Pacis Augustae:
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8b/Tellus_-_Ara_Pacis.jpg

3) Jonah and the “whale” in mosaic on the epistle ambo (said to be earlier C12 but I’d check to see what Jill Caskey has to say before repeating this standard dating) in the cathedral of Ravello:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/28433765@N07/3415070638/

4) Detail of the later C12 mosaic floor of the cathedral of Otranto:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/28433765@N07/5319544904/

5) At far left, on the probably earlier C13 mosaic frieze on the cathedral of Terracina:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/ecormany/132384564/

–jd