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».
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)
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
More coverage of Anthony Tuck’s work, this time by his home university:
More than 2,500 years after tiny infant bones were scattered, perhaps offhandedly, amid animal remains on the floor of an Etruscan workshop, recently-discovered fragments of those bones are causing a stir far beyond Italy’s Poggio Civitate Archaeological Project.
University of Massachusetts Amherst archaeologist Anthony Tuck recently told an Archaeological Institute America annual meeting in Seattle that the bones discovered in the ancient Etruscan town of Poggio Civitate were “simply either left on the floor of the workshop or ended up in an area with a heavy concentration of other discarded remains of butchered animals.”
It is an image that has, in ensuing weeks, resonated powerfully, if not always accurately, in the international press as everyone from religious fundamentalists to luridly invasive tabloids has scrambled to assemble narratives for the baby bones that might be either more or less appalling to modern sensibilities – narratives, notes Tuck, that tell us more about ourselves than they do about perinatal death in ancient Italy.
“Romans may have dumped remains of dead kids with their rubbish,” screamed an Asian News International headline; “Grisly discoveries reveal unsympathetic attitudes,” wrote a Daily Mail reporter. Other news outlets placed the excavated site on a timeline that might have associated it either with BCE cave dwellers or alternatively in the path of seventh century CE invaders.
In fact, Poggio Civitate, notes Tuck, was located about 10 miles south of the Tuscan city of Siena, and was neither Roman nor primitive. It was inhabited from approximately 900 – 550 BCE, and is characterized by the remains of lavish aristocratic dwellings and highly stylized fine ceramics and carvings. Particularly significant, was the discovery of a workshop pavilion built in mid-seventh century BCE and measuring over 150 feet in length – “considerably longer,” says Tuck, “than anything known in the contemporary Greek world” and decorated with opulent terracotta. While no kiln has been discovered, ceramics appear to have been produced there, along with other manufactured goods.
And then, beginning about two years ago came the discovery of human bones among the detritus, the arm bones and ilium of what appears to be several newborn or perinatal infants.
“The fact is simply this,” says Tuck. “We found elements of neo-natal human skeletons in refuse areas.”
“One element of a human pelvis comes from an area with an exceptionally high concentration of butchered animal remains, suggesting that an infant corpse was thrown into an area already filled with discarded, decaying animal parts. Other portions of a skeleton were found resting directly on the floor of a workshop area and elements of a third child were found pushed or swept up against the interior wall of an aristocratic residence.”
This is where Tuck and his team started to encounter pushback following January’s AIA presentation in Seattle. How could Tuck so casually treat infant mortality, or, even worse, infanticide, asked some evangelicals? Why not just describe the bones and leave it at that, asked some paleoanthropologists? Couldn’t the bones have been placed at the site as a result of some later catastrophe or disruption, asked a biological anthropologist? Wasn’t this just another example of how nasty, brutish and short life was in the savage past, declared the tabloids? Let’s not go blaming the Romans, demanded Roman archaeologists.
The bones themselves, says Tuck, limit the possible narratives. It remains highly likely that the bodies “were simply discarded within the debris associated with other bone and unused animal material.” As in much of the ancient world, infants in Poggio Civitate – and especially the infants of slaves and workers – were not accorded the death rituals accorded to adults, and do not generally appear in cemetery plots.
“Troubling though it may be to modern sensibilities, it seems probable that a rigidly hierarchical social system at Poggio Civitate is reflected in the discarding of this infant’s remains,” Tuck told the Seattle gathering. “If workers there were slaves or even a free population drawn from elements of the community’s lowest social orders, it is entirely possible that an infant born to a woman within that class group would not have merited even the limited ritual treatment reserved for perinatal deaths.”
The only narrative that Tuck rejects categorically is the one that dismissively ascribes superiority to modern societies. We may be more like the Etruscans than we like to believe to disparate value to we attach to the lives of children.
“Any modern discomfort at treatment of these infants at Poggio Civitate is a little misplaced,” Tuck says. “What we should find more offensive to our modern sensibilities is really the profound manner in which societies maintain systems of caste and ranking that allow one group to effectively dehumanize another. This is exactly what happens when an infant’s corpse is discarded in the trash – the child is treated in a manner that reflects the communities’ perception of it as something other or less than fully a person.
“It’s hard to argue that we don’t place different cultural values on children’s lives and assign greater or lesser value upon their deaths – for any number of subtle, nuanced and culturally complex reasons. We just don’t like to admit it.”
- via: The Discarded Infants of Ancient Poggio Civitate Horrify, Provoke and Fascinate 2,500 Years Later (UMass)
… we first mentioned this back in the wake of the AIA/APA shindig (Discarding Babies at Poggio Civitate?) … see there for a link to Kristinia Kilgrove’s response to that paper. At least no one is tossing around a ‘there must be a brothel’ here theory …
The incipit of a piece from ANSA:
An ancient road on which glass-making workshops of artisans renowned for their skill in the first century A.D. of the Roman Empire has been found near Naples. The road, Clivius Vitrarius, recently surfaced in Pozzuoli during excavations for maintenance work on a modern road. The unexpected discovery occurred when the road sunk after heavy rain. In repairing it, workers came across archaeological finds and called the experts in from the Naples superintendent’s office, who in turn brought to light ancient structures near the area which housed Roman baths, as reported by the newspaper Corriere del Mezzogiorno. The latest excavations have added interesting historical information on Clivius Vitrarious, the road of the glass-making artisans famous throughout the Roman Empire, alongside their artisan counterparts north of modern-day Milan. [...]
… the article goes on to talk about Pompeii and the upcoming ‘restoration’ for some reason …
From ANSA comes news of another site which we probably should start being concerned about:
The mayor of Cassano allo Jonio in the southern region of Calabria on Monday appealed to President Giorgio Napolitano for help in tackling the emergency at the local Sybaris archaeological site due to recent flooding.
The ancient remains were overrun by 200,000 cubic metres of water on January 18 after the nearby river Crati burst its banks following heavy rainfall.
Since then the fire and civil protection departments have been working to pump the water out of the site but there is concern over the remaining mud, which could become difficult to remove. Meanwhile numerous individuals and associations have offered to help with clean-up operations and Italy’s academic community has also rallied in support of the site, whose remains testify to the three successive settlements, the Greek colonies of Sybaris and Thurii and the Roman city of Copia, that once stood there. There is concern particularly for the Roman remains (2nd century BC-7th century AD), which lie closest to the surface and are rich in frescoes and mosaics. Here “the force of the water, which covered five hectares in the Parco del Cavallo area, even caused walls to crumble,” site director Silvana Lupino said. The priority now is to quantify the damage, with the cost of restoration possibly running to hundreds of thousands of euros. Lupino said it would “take months” to remove the mud with the help of “specialised teams” in support of the site’s technical staff. The excavations have been temporarily closed to the public although the management hopes they will reopen in time for the summer tourist season.
From an FSU press release:
Call it a toast to the past.
A Florida State University classics professor whose decades of archaeological work on a remote hilltop in Italy have dramatically increased understanding of the ancient Etruscan culture is celebrating yet another find.
This time around it’s not the usual shards of pottery and vessels, remnants of building foundations or other ancient artifacts unearthed in past years, but rather a treasure that’s far more earthy: grape seeds.
Actually, Nancy Thomson de Grummond has discovered some 150 waterlogged grape seeds that have some experts in vineyard-grape DNA sequencing very excited.
The tiny grape seeds, unearthed during a dig this past summer in Cetamura del Chianti, were discovered in a well and are probably from about the 1st century A.D., roughly about the time the Romans inhabited what is now Italy’s Chianti region. The seeds could provide “a real breakthrough” in the understanding of the history of Chianti vineyards in the area, de Grummond said.
“We don’t know a lot about what grapes were grown at that time in the Chianti region,” she said. “Studying the grape seeds is important to understanding the evolution of the landscape in Chianti. There’s been lots of research in other vineyards but nothing in Chianti.”
Nearly every summer since 1983, de Grummond, the M. Lynette Thompson Professor of Classics, has shepherded teams of enthusiastic Florida State students into Italy’s Tuscany region to participate in archaeological digs at Cetamura del Chianti, a site once inhabited by the Etruscans and later by ancient Romans.
Over the years, she and her students have unearthed numerous artifacts that have reshaped current knowledge of the religious practices and daily lives of a long-gone people.
De Grummond is a leading scholar on the religious practices of the Etruscans, a people whose culture profoundly influenced the ancient Romans and Greeks. Her book “Etruscan Myth, Sacred History, and Legend,” the first comprehensive account of Etruscan mythology, was published in 2006. She also co-wrote another book, “The Religion of the Etruscans,” with fellow Etruscan scholar Erika Simon; that book was published the same year.
The Etruscans, who once ruled most of the Italian peninsula, were conquered and absorbed by the Romans in the second and first centuries B.C.E. (“Before the Common Era”). Prior to that time, however, they were a highly advanced civilization that constructed roads, buildings and sewer systems and developed the first true cities in Europe. They also built large, complex religious sanctuaries.
De Grummond, who next summer will celebrate her 30th anniversary of taking Florida State students on research trips to Cetamura, said that fellow scholars at the site now include professors who were her former students at FSU. And those professors are now leading their own teams of students.
“We’re now getting the ‘grand-students,’” de Grummond said — a fond reference to the third generation of researchers she now works with in Cetamura.
Florida State’s international archaeological summer program in Italy features field trips to sites and museums that help enrich students’ knowledge of the cultures under excavation at Cetamura. It’s open to all interested students and is particularly recommended for students majoring in anthropology, art history and classics. Learn more about the program at http://international.fsu.edu/Types/College/Italy/Cetamura/Archaeology.aspx.
De Grummond said researchers in southern France who are compiling a database of vineyard seeds will study the grape seeds from this year’s dig.
“It’s kind of hard for me as an art historian who studies religion to think that these grape seeds might be my finest hour,” de Grummond said with a laugh. “But they might be.” [...]
The Italian press is just beginning to percolate with the news of the discovery of five intact rooms of a structure, with frescoes on the walls, which had been hidden behind a walled up door in Rione Terra. It seems to date from the first century B.C. … so far the photos aren’t that enlightening and the news has been brief, but if you want to check it out (in order of detail and/or relevant photography):
Brief item from ANSA:
Monasterace (Reggio Calabria), September 20 – A large mosaic, likely of ancient Greek origins, has been discovered in the southern Italian town of Monasterace.
The discovery was announced Thursday by Mayor Maria Carmela Lanzetta.
The polychrome mosaic, said to be well-preserved, measures 25 square meters and covers the entire floor of a room in a thermal bath.
According to archaeologist Francesco Cuteri, who made the discovery, the mosaic is the largest found in southern Italy and dates from the Hellenistic period, which ran from about 323 BC to about 146 BC
- via: Hellenistic mosaic found in southern Italy (ANSA)
The Italian coverage adds some details, such as Monasterace being the ancient site of Kaulon. Reggio TV also includes this photo of one of the mosaics:
- via: Kaulon restituisce il più grande mosaico ellenistico del Sud (Reggio TV)
ANSA’s Italian coverage includes this one:
- via: Scoperto mosaico greco, piu’ grande Sud (ANSA)
… which doesn’t quite seem to match, but it is a large mosaic …
As I was driving in this a.m. after posting about that recent Etruscan pyramid find (Etruscan ‘Pyramids’ Beneath Orvieto? ), it struck me (and coincidentally, one of my twitter correspondents A.M. Christensen) that the structure sounded like a rather ‘fantastic’ structure we read about in Pliny’s Natural History (36.19 ), namely, the tomb of Lars Porsena at Clusium. Here’s the Perseus version:
As to this last, which Porsena, King of Etruria, erected as his intended sepulchre, it is only proper that I should make some mention of it, if only to show that the vanity displayed by foreign monarchs, great as it is, has been surpassed. But as the fabulousness of the story connected with it quite exceeds all bounds, I shall employ the words given by M. Varro himself in his account of it:—”Porsena was buried,” says he, “beneath the city of Clusium;17 in the spot where he had had constructed a square monument, built of squared stone. Each side of this monument was three hundred feet in length and fifty in height, and beneath the base, which was also square, there was an inextricable labyrinth, into which if any one entered without a clew of thread, he could never find his way out. Above this square building there stand five pyramids, one at each corner, and one in the middle, seventy-five feet broad at the base, and one hundred and fifty feet in height. These pyramids are so tapering in their form, that upon the summit of all of them united there rests a brazen globe, and upon that a petasus;18 from which there hang, suspended by chains, bells, which make a tinkling when agitated by the wind, like what was done at Dodona19 in former times. Upon this globe there are four other pyramids, each one hundred feet in height; and above them is a single platform, on which there are five more pyramids,”20—the height of which Varro has evidently felt ashamed to add; but, according to the Etruscan fables, it was equal to that of the rest of the building. What downright madness this, to attempt to seek glory at an outlay which can never be of utility to any one; to say nothing of exhausting the resources of the kingdom, and after all, that the artist may reap the greater share of the praise!
As folks might be aware, most modern scholars associate Clusium with modern day Chiusi and in regards to the tomb of Lars Porsena, it is assumed it was destroyed when Sulla sacked Clusium in 89 B.C.. But like most things associated with Lars Porsena, there is a bit of controversy about this. Indeed, as ‘recently’ as 2004, back when rogueclassicism was still a baby, we mentioned the work of Giuseppe Centauro, who was looking for Lars Porsena a bit closer to Florence (Searching for Lars Porsena). So here’s where I got to thinking out loud … Orvieto is merely a development of Urbs Vetus (Old City), but, as might be imagined, there is a debate on what it was called in antiquity. What if the ‘Old City’ is actually the Clusium that Sulla destroyed and what we call Chiusi is a relocated version? Is it possible Dr George and crew have found the remains of the tomb of Lars Porsena? Or have I caught the ‘sensationalism’ bug from all these other reports I read every day?
This just in from ANSA:
Archaeologists are investigating the discovery of a gilded bronze lion found off the coast of Calabria not far from where the famed Riace Bronzes were discovered 40 years ago.
Armour in bronze and copper was also found by a diver and two tourists in the area that is now closed to the public as investigators probe the details of the find.
One of the divers who made the discovery said there may be a ship and other important artifacts there as well.
“When I went into the water, I saw a statue that was stuck between the rocks and a piece of the ship,” explained Bruno Bruzzaniti.
“The tides, however, cover everything and then you must be really fortunate to be able to see other items that are still at the bottom of the sea.” The discovery sounds similar to that of the iconic Riace Bronzes, 2,500-year-old statues representing ancient warriors which were discovered in 1972 by a Roman holidaymaker scuba diving off the Calabrian coast.
That find turned out to be one of Italy’s most important archaeological discoveries in the last 100 years.
Those statues are of two virile men, presumably warriors or gods, who possibly held lances and shields at one time. At around two metres, they are larger than life.
The newly discovered bronze lion is said to be about 50 centimetres high and weighs 15 kilograms. Also found in the area of the lion were remains of vases and other statues.
An early hypothesis suggests that all these newly found items were aboard a ship that sank just off the Calabrian coast.
However, it’s up to experts in the Cultural Heritage department to determine the precise age of the artifacts and piece together what happened that left the objects strewn around the sea bed.
“We think these are pieces of value and the important thing is that they be safeguarded and protected,” said Bruzzaniti. “It’s a great discovery for the whole of Calabria.” It’s believed the discovery was made last week, but authorities say they weren’t informed until Monday.
If so, that’s contrary to regulations that oblige explorers to report historic finds within 24 hours, said Simonetta Bonomi, superintendent for archaeological and cultural heritage of Calabria,.
“There are a number of elements that must be…clarified,” she said Tuesday.
Most of the print coverage (English and Italian) seems to derive from the same ANSA coverage and includes a too-small photo. However, I did come across some TG coverage worth looking at:
This one’s more for my own write-this-down-because-it-might-lead-somewhere purposes … La Repubblica has a video report of a underwater find of a large quantity of obsidian off Capri:
… ANSA, via Napoli Today, has the report in print:
Ritrovamento di un carico navale di ossidiana risalente a alcune migliaia di anni addietro nel mare dell’isola di Capri. Autore della scoperta è Vasco Fronzoni, l’esperto subacqueo caprese che in una delle sue immersioni quotidiane si è trovato di fronte a un incredibile avvistamento.
Fronzoni, nel rendere pubblica oggi la notizia dopo aver depositato in Soprintendenza la denuncia e la relazione del rinvenimento, afferma che “il ritrovamento potrebbe aggiornare la storia dell’isola e scrivere nuove pagine sui commerci e sulle rotte dell’antichità”. Il carico, che secondo il sub “giace sui fondali dell’isola da oltre cinquemila anni”, è legato, dice Fronzoni, “alla presenza di un relitto navale di epoca neolitica che trasportava lungo le nostre coste un carico di ossidiana che nell’epoca preistorica veniva adoperata come materia prima per la fabbricazione di armi, utensili e altri manufatti ed era tra i più pregiati elementi prima dell’ avvento dei metalli”.
Probabilmente quello rinvenuto a Capri è uno dei più antichi carichi marittimi ritrovati nel bacino del Mediterraneo. Nel prossimo mese di settembre, mediante rilievi geodetici e geofisici, sarà individuata la sua precisa localizzazione e saranno raccolti tutti gli elementi per inquadrare da un punto di vista storico e archeologico il sito e i reperti da parte di un gruppo di lavoro di cui faranno parte il Centro Studi Subacquei Napoli e l’università Parthenope, con l’appoggio della Soprintendenza Archeologica di Napoli.
… as can be seen, they are postulating the existence of a Neolithic era shipwreck, which would be interesting in itself, but I’m noting this for the possibility of it coming from a much later shipwreck … back when I was pondering the Soros at Marathon (Marathon Musings) there was passing mention of finds of all sorts of obsidian points, which could not have come from Ethiopian archers (we are told) because the obsidian wasn’t African in origin. I haven’t seen any studies (other than Renfrew’s, which was mentioned in that post) where the obsidian from Marathon is actually matched with a source … hint hint …
The gist: Roman mosaics and a piece of wall dating from the Republican period (2nd/1st century A.D.) beneath some former police barracks … From Oggi Notizie:
Un mosaico romano, una parte di muro ed un pavimento musivo di epoca romana: questa l’importante scoperta archeologica annunciata ieri dal presidente della Provincia di Rieti, Fabio Melilli, durante un sopralluogo nel cantiere della ex caserma del comando provinciale dei carabinieri di Rieti.
Durante i lavori di ristrutturazione e miglioramento sismico dell’edificio di via Cintia, sotto la supervisione della Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici del Lazio, sono state rinvenute numerose strutture murarie relative a differenti epoche storiche. Si tratta di un mosaico romano, inquadrabile in eta’ repubblicana (II-I sec. a.C.), tornato alla luce dalle fondamenta di un’ala di Palazzo Aluffi. Scavando e’ stata individuata anche una muratura, risalente al periodo sei-settecentesco, e un pavimento musivo di eta’ romana.
“Si tratta di due mosaici di due diverse fasi – ha spiegato il soprintendente Giovanna Alvino, presente al sopralluogo – ma entrambi di eta’ repubblicana. Particolarmente interessante quello con il disegno geometrico, perch‚ non molto diffuso. Ora bisognerà vedere come conciliare le esigenze espositive con quelle dell’utilizzo della struttura – ha concluso l’esperta della Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici del Lazio – ma quello che conta e’ che ci sia la volonta’ della Provincia di proseguire quest’opera di recupero importantissima”.
- via: Rieti: resti archeologici sotto ex caserma carabinieri, alla luce anche mosaici (Oggi Notizie)
… no photos alas …
This probably won’t last long at ANSA:
Archaeologists working on the remains of an ancient dwelling in northern Italy have reassessed their ideas about the site after uncovering lavish decorations and imposing architectural features. The building in Aquileia, which previously appeared to be a normal Roman villa, has now emerged as a majestic mansion complex, covering an entire block. Archaeologists say the house, or domus, was the largest building in the Ancient Roman city of Aquileia and was probably the residence of a powerful figure, perhaps an imperial official. The location of the ‘Domus of the Dancing Cherubs’, between the river port and the forum, has long indicated that its owner was an important person.
But a string of recent discoveries have revealed the extent of its inhabitant’s status, said the archaeologist leading the team, Federica Fontana.
“During the latest excavations we have found the eastern entrance to the home,” she explained. “This was preceded by a large, paved piazza with a well in it”.
This is considered an exceptional find, not only for its size, but also because few entrance ways have been identified at the underground site over the years. “We have also found a room, at the same level as the entranceway, which had underground heating and a floor decorated with an exquisite multicoloured mosaic,” she said. “Thanks to these and other discoveries we can conclude that the house probably covered the entire quarter. It was divided into a series of small courtyards with colonnades. “One of these even had a large, limestone canal with drainage for rain water, of a type usually only seen in public buildings”. The team also uncovered a beautifully sculpted woman’s marble bust in the complex’s innermost courtyard that was probably once part of the architectural decoration. “All these elements make it clear just how important this domus was in Aquileia,” said Fontana. Work on Via Gemina, where the Domus of the Dancing Cherubs once stood, has yielded up a number of key discoveries in recent years. In 2005, two coloured mosaics were uncovered in astonishing condition, while 2009 saw the discovery of an extremely rare “cage cup”.
These luxury Roman drinking vessels, only a handful of which have survived the centuries, consist of an inner glass beaker surrounded by an outer decorated cage of metal.
Much of Aquileia, which was once one of the largest and wealthiest cities of the Early Roman Empire, still lies unexcavated beneath fields. Adding the site to its World Heritage List in 1998, UNESCO cited the fact that most of ancient Aquileia survives intact underground, making it the most complete example of an Early Roman city in the Mediterranean world.
I’m pretty sure the mosaic mentioned is not the one which Adrian Murdoch mentioned on Twitter a couple of days ago (which dates from the fourth century) …. that said, here’s a photo from the ANSA coverage in La Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno (English edition):
… which I find very interesting as I’ve seen that ‘fishing cupids’ motif at Piazza Armerina (when I find my portable hard drives that disappeared a couple of months ago, I’ll post the photos I took … until then, here’s an example I found at flickr … might have to dig into this motif a bit more).
Previous reports from Aquileia (where a major did has been going on for quite a while) includes the excavation of the public baths (2006) … not sure why we don’t hear more about this dig.
Starting the summer blogging season with a brief item from ANSA:
The wreck of a Roman ship from the first century AD which is still whole and has over 500 wide-mouthed amphorae onboard has been discovered to the south of the island of Panarea. The discovery, which was made by the Sea Superintendence together with the American Foundation ‘Aurora Trust’ and the support of the Environment Ministry, was illustrated in a press conference this morning in Palermo by the Regional Councillor for Cultural Heritage, Gaetano Armao, and by the Superintendent, Sebastiano Tusa. ”From the first surveys,” said Tusa, ”we can establish that it is a merchant shipping measuring around 25 metres, in perfect condition, which transported fruit and vegetables from Sicily to the markets in the north. The style of the amphorae is in fact typical of the ‘workshops’ of the island and of southern Italy. The merchant ship was identified with the use of a wire-controlled ‘Rov’ video camera. Now the campaign in the Aeolian islands will proceed with ”research carried out,” explains Tusa, ”with particularly sophisticated robots which will allow us to better contextualise the wreck in time and space.” The ship might not be the only one: on the seabed of Panarea there is believed to be another ship. ”Traces have been found,” concluded Tusa, ”of a second wreck that has not yet been identified. Research will be carried out in this direction.” The amphorae are the Dressel 21-22 type, datable to the first century AD, made in Lazio and used for the transport of Garum (a popular sauce in Roman times), fresh and dried fruit, as well as various types of cereals. The amphorae were found placed in a slightly different position to their original one on the ship. They are in fact lying on one side. This would indicate that the ship, sliding along the seabed, came to rest leaning on one side.
Most of the interesting stuff is in the first couple sentences of this one … a sixth-century female burial along with an iron fibula and amber necklace …
Una tomba a tumulo di eta’ preromana e’ stata rinvenuta a Foligno nel corso dei lavori di realizzazione della Variante Nord della citta’; all’interno della tomba e’ stata individuata una sepoltura femminile risalente al VI secolo avanti Cristo. Ritrovato anche il corredo, composto da fibule in ferro, una collana d’ambra, vasellame in impasto…
Not sure how you stumble underwater but …
Researchers have stumbled upon a collection of rare Roman pots while scouring ship wrecks off the Italian coast of Capo Palinuro, near Policastro.
The British team from the Aberdeen-based Hallin Marine International energy company found hundreds of ancient pots 1,640ft under the sea while trawling modern wrecks for radioactive materials.
Five of the 2,000 year-old vessels were recovered intact and taken to an archaeology museum in the northern Italian city of Paestum, mailonline reported.
“They would have probably been loaded on some kind of merchant ship which sank all those years ago,” said team supervisor Dougie Combe.
“It was a big surprise when we came across the pots as we were looking for modern wrecks from the last 20 years or so,” he added.
“We managed to get five up altogether, but there must have been hundreds of them there.”
- Hundreds of rare Roman pots discovered by accident off Italy’s coast by British research ship | Daily Mail
In the wake of the collapse at the Domus Aurea a week or so ago, Andrea Carandini has voiced his concerns that something similar/worse lies in store for Hadrian’s Villa … here’s the incipit of a piece at Il Messaggero:
«Temo che quello che è accaduto martedì alla Domus Aurea possa capitare anche a Villa Adriana». Sono le parole di Andrea Carandini, presidente del Consiglio superiore dei Beni Culturali, dopo il crollo che ha interessato ieri parte del soffitto dell’edificio. «A Villa Adriana per non arrivare al disastro – ha detto Carandini – sarebbe fondamentale operare un monitoraggio continuo, ma l’idea prevalente è che se cade un muro lo si può sempre ricostruire. Invece quella struttura, con il crollo, non ci sarà più e sarà sostituita solo da un surrogato. Anche Villa Adriana rientra nell’allarme già lanciato. Dopo l’attenzione generata dal crollo alla Domus Aurea, bisogna evitare il ritorno alla sonnolenza. La prevenzione non è entrata bene nel nostro modo di pensare ma è una strada che costa meno dei restauri».
The article goes on to mention one of the folks in charge of safety at the Domus Aurea suggesting it will take more than a year and a half to restore the collapsed portion and make it safe again. There is also some criticism (by (former minister of culture?) Giovanna Melandri) of budgetary cuts to archaeological protection of close to 15% compared to last year. In contrast, another voice praises the minister Bondi for his willingness to listen to and cooperate with archaeologists. I still can’t figure out heritage issues in Italy …
This one’s already making the rounds on Twitter (DK, LP) … very interesting:
An Italian doctor claims to have found the first Italian case of death from gluten intolerance in a female skeleton uncovered at an Ancient Roman site.The skeleton was found in the ancient town of Cosa, today’s Ansedonia, in southern Tuscany.Giovanni Gasbarrini, a doctor at Rome’s Gemelli Hospital, examined bone DNA from the woman, who died in the first century AD at the age of 18-20.
Gasbarrini, whose study has been published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, noted that the young woman’s jewelry indicated she came from a wealthy family but her DNA suggested she died of malnutrition.
Gluten intolerance, or coeliac disease, prevents proper absorption of nutrients, leading to severe intestinal problems, physical wasting, and even lymphomas.The skeleton was unusually small and showed signs of osteoporosis or bone weakness, Gasbarrini pointed out.
He said that because of her privileged circumstances the woman probably had a rich diet including wheat, a food packed with gluten.
Gluten intolerance affects an estimated one in 150 people but is rarely fatal today because its symptoms are easily spotted and sufferers avoid all foods containing gluten.
The first cases in history are believed to have been diagnosed by a celebrated ancient Greek physician, Aretaeus of Cappadocia first century AD, who identified children in agricultural communities who presented stomach problems typical of the disease.
The latest discovery “could help reconstruct the phylogenetic tree of the disease,” Gasbarrini said.
This one’s making the rounds and is in multiple copies in my mailbox … excerpts from a very interesting item at the National Geographic.
A 1,700-year-old sarcophagus found in an abandoned city near Rome could contain the body of a gladiator or a Christian dignitary, say archaeologists who are preparing to examine the coffin in the lab.Found in a cement-capped pit in the ancient metropolis of Gabii, the coffin is unusual because it\’s made of lead—only a few hundred such Roman burials are known.Even odder, the 800 pounds (362 kilograms) of lead fold over the corpse like a burrito, said Roman archaeologist Jeffrey Becker. rectangular shape with a lid, he said.
The coffin, which has been in storage since last year, is about to be moved to the American Academy in Rome for further testing.
But uncovering details about the person inside the lead coffin will be tricky. For starters, the undisturbed tomb contained no grave goods, offering few clues about the owner.
What’s more, x-ray and CT scans—the preferred methods of coffin analysis—cannot penetrate the thick lead, leaving researchers pondering other, potentially dangerous ways to examine the remains inside.
“It’s exciting as well as frustrating, because there are no known matches in the record,” said Becker, managing director of the University of Michigan’s Gabii Project.
The newfound sarcophagus was the “most surprising” discovery made in 2009 during the largest ever archaeological dig in Gabii. Becker and colleague Nicola Terrenato received funding for the ongoing project from the National Geographic Society’s Committee for Research and Exploration. (The National Geographic Society owns National Geographic News.)
Lead was a high-value metal at the time, so a full sarcophagus made out of the stuff “is a sure marker of somebody of some kind of substance,” Becker said.
Past lead burials found throughout Europe have housed soldiers, elite members of the Christian church, and even female gladiators.
In fact, many lead coffins contain high-ranking women or adolescents instead of men, said Jenny Hall, a senior curator of Roman archaeology at the Museum of London, who was not involved in the new study.
However, the newfound sarcophagus’ tentative age may make the gladiator scenario unlikely, said Bruce Hitchner, a visiting professor in classical archaeology at All Souls College at the U.K.’s University of Oxford.
The coffin dates back to the fourth or fifth centuries A.D., while the gladiator heyday was centuries earlier, said Hitchner, who was not part of the excavation team.
What intrigues team leader Becker the most is the sarcophagus’s placement—”smack dab” in the middle of a city block. A taboo against burying the dead inside city limits was deeply ingrained in the Roman religious mindset of the time, he said.
“I don’t think it’s, We’re feeling lazy today, we’re going to bury Uncle Joe in the tomato garden,” Becker said. There may have been some major event that made people bury the body downtown—a possibility he intends to investigate during the next dig.
“As we seek to understand the life of the city, it’s important for us to consider its end,” Becker pointed out.
“To see someone who is at first glance a person of high social standing associated with later layers of the city … opens a potentially new conversation about this urban twilight in central Italy.”
Foot Bone Hints at “Extraordinary Preservation”
First, however, Becker’s team hopes to find out more about the person inside the lead sarcophagus. The researchers’ only hint so far is a small foot bone protruding through a hole in one end of the coffin.
Some lead burials have allowed for “extraordinary preservation” of human tissue and hair, Becker said, though the opening in the sarcophagus may mean that air has sped up decomposition of the body.
Still, early examinations reveal that the foot bone is “exceedingly” intact, Becker said: “Worst case, there’s an exceptionally well-preserved human skeleton inside the wrapping.”
The original article includes a very nice photo, which looks more like a paper airplane than a burrito to me; the purported gladiator connection (which is being hyped in some spinoff versions of this story) seems rather tenuous. The Gabii Project’s website is always worth a look … I can’t remember if we mentioned this similar burial from Yorkshire a couple of years ago …
The incipit of an item in Corriere del Mezzogiorno mentions a satyr found at Santa Maria Capua Vetere two years ago, which is apparently a copy of a Praxiteles in the Capitoline Museum:
Nel foyer del teatro Garibaldi di S. Maria Capua Vetere, dal 15 aprile al 30 giugno, sarà per la prima volta esposto al pubblico il Satiro del II secolo d.C. rinvenuto a Santa Maria Capua Vetere due anni fa, durante gli scavi in via Anfiteatro. Il restauro della statua in marmo, perfetta riproduzione del Satiro di Prassitele conservato nei Musei capitolini a Roma, è durato 18 mesi da parte della della Sovrintendenza ai Beni Archeologici. L’imponente scultura, alta oltre 2 metri, è stata portata alla luce circa due anni fa, nel corso dei lavori all’interno di una proprietà privata. Il marmo, seriamente danneggiato e spezzato in più parti, era rovesciato all’interno dei resti di un ninfeo sepolto a circa tre metri dall’attuale pavimentazione. L’importanza della scoperta ha suscitato l’interesse di archeologi, studiosi e appassionati.
I can’t remember this find ever being reported (I don’t think it is the Marsyas from last summer); anyone know about it?
Okay … for the past while I’ve been trying to understand a number of Italian newspaper articles about changes going on at the Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali . It seemed that there were things going on ‘at the top’, but it took an item in English from the March edition of the Art Newspaper for them to actually make sense to me:
It is all change in Italy’s state administration of what it calls its “cultural assets”, the Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali, or MIBAC for short. Not only are nine high-ranking superintendents retiring [superintendents are the officials responsible for the state museums such as the Uffizi, for buildings such as the Coliseum, for archaeology and archives and conservation institutes, not to mention the much abused Italian landscape], but its top civil servant, Giuseppe Proietti, is also leaving. In a country where cultural life is deeply politicised, where career moves in the civil service depend on government whim to an extent that is unimaginable in the UK or US, the new secretary general is a Florentine, Roberto Cecchi (b. 1949).
The reaction nonetheless has been that the right man has been appointed. Cecchi trained as a conservation architect and entered the superintendency for architecture in 1980. From 1997 to 2001 he had responsibility for the “environmental and architectural assets” of Venice, a diplomatically challenging job that he discharged with energy, subtlety and pragmatism. Thereafter he returned to the ministry in Rome to head one of its directorate-generals.
His priority now will be to provide new leadership for the superintendency network, currently suffering from depleted manpower, absurdly restrictive regulations, inadequate funding and a government that has repeatedly shown little respect for the cadre. He will also have to prove that he can collaborate with Mario Resca, the government’s specially appointed director-general for “valorizzazione” of the artistic treasures of Italy, a term that should mean “making the most of”, but which some Italian politicians today think means “squeeze for the maximum profit possible”.
Apparently the job is going to be tough … in the past week, it seems, there have been a couple of major embarassing incidents. According to La Repubblica, employees at the Pantheon interrupted a concert therein because it was ‘closing time’ (i.e. 6.00 p.m.; the concert was scheduled to end at 6.15). There’s a Youtube video of the incident (go to around the five minute mark for the employee’s entrance; enjoy the concert up to that point):
Then in StabiaNews (March 6) we read this incipit:
Avrebbero potuto fare di tutto, magari staccare un mosaico e portarselo a casa. Di certo sono saliti su pezzi di colonne e capitelli per farsi immortalare come antiche statue. Il monumento archeologico pi� conosciuto al mondo per due ore in bal�a dei turisti. Tutto perch� qualcuno ha �dimenticato� di chiudere i cancelli mentre era in corso – fino alle 10,30 – un’assemblea indetta dalla Cisl, Uil, Flp e Rdb. [etc. apologies for the characters there; not sure what's going on with that]
… i.e., for two hours while a union meeting was going on, tourists basically had the run of Pompeii, because someone forgot to lock the gate.
… the next day, folks were downplaying the incident and noting the problems that have arisen since the site of Pompeii was connected to Naples’ jurisdiction (or something like that):
And as long as we’re in the environs of Naples, we can mention the restoration (of sorts) of the stadium at Puteoli, although no one can visit it due to lack of staff:
Clearly we are seeing situations worthy of any number of internet abbreviations … OMG, WTF, SMH, DMNDS (that’s an Ochocincoism, I think) … etc.
This one’s working its way through the Italian press … a sixth century (B.C.) edifice which includes an image associated with the Tarquins. Also of interest is evidence of ritual foundation sacrifice and the burial of five (non-sacrificed?) children under the foundations as well. Il Messaggero seems to have the best coverage so far:
Gli archeologi la considerano una testimonianza unica e straordinaria. In tutta Italia ne esistono forse una decina di esempi. E’ stata riportata alla luce a Gabii, venti chilometri a sud di Roma la casa del rex della città antica. I muri delle stanze sono integri, un particolare quasi senza precedenti per l’epoca, e la dimora è composta da tre stanze non comunicanti tra loro che, con tutta probabilità erano affacciate su un grande portico e che erano gli ambienti della casa destinati al culto. I muri erano intonacati e dipinti. Sotto il pavimento in pietra sono state ritrovate intatte, le fosse di sacrifici rituali fatti per inaugurare il cantiere. In cinque di queste i corpi di altrettanti bimbi nati morti. «Non si tratta di sacrifici umani», precisano concordi il sovrintendente archeologo Angelo Bottini e il professor Marco Fabbri. Indizio però che si trattava di una casa molto importante.
Gli archeologi della sovrintendenza di Roma e quelli dell’università di Tor Vergata che insieme l’hanno riportata alla luce tra settembre e dicembre 2009 sono convinti che si tratti della casa dei Tarquini a Gabii, una reggia costruita nel sesto secolo a.C., forse su un edificio preesistente. Era una reggia sfarzosa con un tetto decorato da statue e da un fregio in terracotta riconducibile alla famiglia dei Tarquini.
L’ipotesi è che vi abitasse il figlio di Tarquinio il Superbo, Sesto Tarquinio. Ma forse la residenza era della famiglia già nei decenni precedenti. «Di certo -dichiarano Fabbri e Bottini – c’è che quella casa regale ad un certo punto venne distrutta o meglio, venne smontato il tetto monumentale e gli ambienti vennero seppelliti fino a lasciare solo un tumulo di pietre. Una fortuna. Perchè proprio quel seppellimento ha consentito alla reggia di arrivare praticamente intatta fino a noi».
Costato fino ad oggi 60mila euro lo scavo deve ora continuare. Si spera di trovare il tetto e gli altri ambienti della regia. «Cercheremo di stanziare altre risorse», dichiara il sottosegretario Francesco Giro. «La speranza – conclude Bottini – è che si possa continuare a scavare. E che proprio qui, nello scenario meraviglioso di Gabi, si possa allestire un grande parco archeologico».
We’ll see if this gets any coverage in the English press …
From the Telegraph … I may have things to add later when I have time to look into this more detail:
In Roman mythology, the bough was a tree branch with golden leaves that enabled the Trojan hero Aeneas to travel through the underworld safely.
They discovered the remains while excavating religious sanctuary built in honour of the goddess Diana near an ancient volcanic lake in the Alban Hills, 20 miles south of Rome.
They believe the enclosure protected a huge Cypress or oak tree which was sacred to the Latins, a powerful tribe which ruled the region before the rise of the Roman Empire.
The tree was central to the myth of Aeneas, who was told by a spirit to pluck a branch bearing golden leaves to protect himself when he ventured into Hades to seek counsel from his dead father.
In a second, more historically credible legend, the Latins believed it symbolised the power of their priest-king.
Anyone who broke off a branch, even a fugitive slave, could then challenge the king in a fight to the death. If the king was killed in the battle, the challenger assumed his position as the tribe’s leader.
The discovery was made near the town of Nemi by a team led by Filippo Coarelli, a recently retired professor of archaeology at Perugia University.
After months of excavations in the volcanic soil, they unearthed the remains of a stone enclosure.
Shards of pottery surrounding the site date it to the mid to late Bronze Age, between the 12th and 13th centuries BC.
“We found many, many pottery pieces of a votive or ritual nature,” said Prof Coarelli. “The location also tells us that it must have been a sacred structure. We spent months excavating, during which we had to cut into enormous blocks of lava.”
The stone enclosure is in the middle of an area which contains the ruins of an immense sanctuary dedicated to Diana, the goddess of hunting, along with the remains of terracing, fountains, cisterns and a nymphaeum.
“It’s an intriguing discovery and adds evidence to the fact that this was an extraordinarily important sanctuary,” said Prof Christopher Smith, the head of the British School at Rome, an archaeological institute.
“We know that trees were grown in containers at temple sites. The Latins gathered here to worship right up until the founding of the Roman republic in 509BC.”
The story about the golden bough and Aeneas, who is said to have journeyed from Troy to Italy to found the city of Rome, was documented by Virgil in his epic, the Aeneid.
“Virgil tells us that the sibyls told Aeneas to go to the underworld to take advice from his father but he had to take a branch of gold as a sort of key to allow him access,” said Prof Smith.
The legend inspired JMW Turner to paint a grand canvas entitled ‘Lake Avernus – The Fates and the Golden Bough’, now held by the Tate Collection.
Addenda: There’s a bit more detail in the La Repubblica coverage: In questo vaso cresceva l’ albero con il ramo d’ oro. However, I’m curious on what basis they think this enclosure housed a tree. It’s certainly very interesting that this pushes the age of the sanctuary back to the Bronze Age …