PreRoman Tomb from Foligno

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…

More: FOLIGNO SCOPERTA TOMBA ETA PREROMANA CON CORREDO E VASELLAME – Agenzia di stampa Asca.

Roman pots found off Italy’s coast

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.”

via Roman pots found off Italy’s coast | Press TV.

More Coverage:

Carandini Concerned for Hadrian’s Villa

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 …

via Crollo Domus Aurea, Carandini: «Si teme anche per Villa Adriana» – Il Messaggero.

Ancient Roman Gluten Death?

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.

via Ancient Roman gluten death seen | ANSA.it.

Burrito Burial From Gabii

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.”

[...]

via Lead “Burrito” Sarcophagus Found Near Rome | National Geographic.

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 …

More coverage:

Satyr on Display

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?

What is Going On At Italian Sites???

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):

cf: Pantheon, concerto interrotto Le scuse del ministro Bondi | La Repubblica

see now: Bum note as attendants end concert in the Roman Pantheon | Guardian

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.

Pompei: Scavi incustoditi, turisti si avventurano ovunque | Stabia News/Libero

… 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):

Pompei: Scavi incustoditi, ora � scontro tra i sindacati | Stabia News/Libero

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:

L’antico stadio di antonino. Il restauro a metà

Clearly we are seeing situations worthy of any number of internet abbreviations … OMG, WTF, SMH, DMNDS (that’s an Ochocincoism, I think) … etc.

Tarquinian Reggia from Gabii?

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 …

via Gabii, svelata la reggia dei Tarquini Archeologi: testimonianza unica in Italia | Il Messaggero.

Site of the Golden Bough Found?

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 …

Vespasian’s Birthplace Redux

The incipit of a recently-dated  piece from AdnKronos which seems to be being picked up by some other papers:

An international team of archaeologists claims to have unearthed the 2000-year-old birthplace of the Roman emperor, Vespasian, north of the Italian capital. Vespasian ruled the Roman empire in the first century A.D. and was behind the construction of the Colosseum, one of Italy’s most popular landmarks.

Archeologists believe they have located his birthplace in the Falacrinae valley near the hill town of Cittareale, 130 km northeast of Rome.

“Ancient Roman historian Suetonius says Vespasian was born in the Falacrinae valley area. Field surveys and information from locals have told us tell us this must be Vespasian’s birthplace,” one of the project’s directors, British archaeologist Helen Patterson told Adnkronos International (AKI).

Vespasian was the ninth Roman emperor, who reigned from 69-79 AD. He was believed to come from humble beginnings and founded the short-lived Flavian dynasty after the civil wars that followed Nero’s death in 68 AD.

During recent excavations, the archaeologists uncovered sumptuous marble floors and mosaics at the site of the 3,000-4,000 square metre Villa of Falacrinae, Patterson said.

The team of 30-60 archaeologists recovered pots, numerous coins, ceramic and metal artefacts from the site which is 820 metres above sea level, overlooking the surrounding Falacrinae valley.

The archeologists are hoping to recover more items in fresh excavations in July and August, Patterson said. [etc.]

Not positive about this, but I see nothing new here compared to reports (about which I expressed some skepticism) last summer …

via Italy: Birthplace of Roman emperor ‘found’ in Lazio – Adnkronos Culture And Media.

Our previous coverage:

Asian Burial at Vagnari?

Very interesting item from the Independent:

A team of researchers announced a surprising discovery during a scholarly presentation in Toronto last Friday. The research team, based at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, has been helping to excavate an ancient Roman cemetery at the site of Vagnari in southern Italy. Led by Professor Tracy Prowse, they’ve been analyzing the skeletons found there by performing DNA and oxygen isotope tests.

The surprise is that the DNA tests show that one of the skeletons, a man, has an East Asian ancestry – on his mother’s side. This appears to be the first time that a skeleton with an East Asian ancestry has been discovered in the Roman Empire.

However, it seems like this contact between east and west did not go well.

Vagnari was an imperial estate during this time. The emperor controlled it and at least some of the workers were slaves. One of the tiles found at Vagnari is marked “Gratus” which means “slave” of the emperor. The workers produced iron implements and textiles. The landscape around them was nearly treeless, making the Italian summer weather all the worse.

The man with East Asian ancestry may well have been a slave himself. He lived sometime in the first to second century AD, in the early days of the Roman Empire. Much of his skeleton (pictured here) has not survived. The man’s surviving grave goods consist of a single pot (which archaeologists used to date the burial). To top things off someone was buried on top of him – with a superior collection of grave goods.

Much of the cemetery has yet to be excavated, but indications so far suggest that his contemporaries were mostly local individuals. Archaeologists have dug up 70 skeletons from the Vagnari cemetery and oxygen isotope tests have shown that more than 80 per cent of the people were born at or near this estate.

“How this particular individual ended up down in Vagnari is an intriguing story and that’s what makes this find very exciting,” said team member Dr. Jodi Barta, who analyzed the DNA.

DNA Testing

The researchers determined his ancestry by analyzing his mitochondrial DNA – material that is passed down from mother to offspring.

As DNA is passed down from generation to generation there are mutations. People who are related to each other will have similar changes – allowing researchers to put them into broad “haplogroups,” that tend to relate to geographical areas.

This technique has been used to map the spread of humans throughout the world.

The man found in the cemetery has DNA that belongs to what scientists called haplogroup D. “The haplogroup itself has this East Asian origin, it’s not something that’s found in past European populations – the origin of this haplogroup is East Asia,” said Dr. Barta.

This technique does have limitations. Because it only tests DNA from his mother’s side, his paternal ancestry is not known. The team also cannot say where specifically in East Asia his mum’s ancestors are from. There “is absolutely no way that you can put that fine a point on it” with the evidence at hand said Barta. “Unless we can extract nuclear DNA and add that to the line of evidence that we’ve got,” said Professor Prowse.

Also the scientists cannot say how recently he, or his ancestors, left East Asia. He could have made the journey by himself, or it could be that a more distant ancestor, such as his great-grandmother, left the region long before he was born.

“We have no way to put a clock on that,” said Barta.

Trade Between China and Rome

At first glance it’s tempting to link this fellow to the silk trade that flourished between China and Rome. The trade picked up during the 1st century BC, with traders following an arduous 8,000 kilometre route across Central Asia.

However, while the silk was made in China, it’s generally believed that the people who plodded this route were intermediaries. In fact there is not much evidence that anyone from China, or the areas nearby, ever got to Italy in ancient times.

Dr. Raoul McLaughlin, of Queens University Belfast, has studied ancient Sino-Roman relations and wrote in the publication History Today that-

“The surviving Classical sources suggest that the Romans knew very little about the ancient Chinese. Most of what they knew came in the form of rumours gathered on distant trade ventures.”

Adding, “as far as we are aware, they never realized that on the edge of Asia there was a vast state equivalent in scale and sophistication to their own.”

There are references, however, to a people called the “Seres” whom some scholars believe could be Han Chinese or people from nearby areas. Plinius’s association between the Seres and silk production adds weight to that theory. He wrote: ‘Send out as far as to the Seres for silk stuff to apparel us’.

Strabo also wrote about the Seres, describing their incredible longevity: “The Seres who, they say, are long-lived, and prolong their lives even beyond two hundred years”. According to Florus, embassadors came from this land to meet Augustus.

It seems unlikely that the man found at Vagnari was any kind of embassador – if he was why would he be working on an imperial estate? Did he make a really bad impression on Augustus?

I asked both Prowse and Barta if they knew of any other skeletons with East Asian ancestry near Rome. They both said that they don’t.

“Most of the research that has been done… is really related to early population development, such as humans out of Africa, the migrations of humans from Asia to North and South America,” said Professor Prowse.

“To my knowledge I don’t know of any specific example of this kind of haplogroup.”

Prowse is hopeful that more DNA research will come out as people realize its value.

“It may actually prompt other people to start looking through, and not just rely on the archaeological remains but also trying to look at the skeletal remains to try and answer some of these questions.”

via Ambassador or slave? East Asian skeleton discovered in Vagnari Roman Cemetery | Independent

cf. some of our previous posts:

More coverage:

On the web:

Antonine-era Imperial Statue Found!

… in the courtyard of a condominium development in the Fuorigrotta neighbourhood of Naples! The carabinieri were in a ‘race against time’ to find the item, apparently originally found in the 1930s and destined for the black market, of course. Here’s the coverage from Libero:

Una statua in marmo bianco raffigurante un imperatore di epoca antonina, collocata in un condominio residenziale del quartiere Fuorigrotta, e’ stata scoperta e sequestrata dai Carabinieri del Nucleo Tutela Patrimonio Culturale di Napoli, impegnati nelle indagini contro lo scavo clandestino e la ricettazione di reperti archeologici. I carabinieri si sono messi sulle tracce della statua romana in una vera e propria corsa contro il tempo, dopo aver acquisito informazioni relative a un crescente interesse nel mercato clandestino verso una statua in marmo custodita in un palazzo a Napoli: l’intenzione della malavita locale sarebbe stata quella di rubare l’opera d’arte per poi rivenderla.

Le indagini, coordinate dalla Procura della Repubblica di Napoli e svolte in sinergia con i militari della Compagnia di Rione Traiano e i Funzionari della Soprintendenza Archeologica, hanno consentito di localizzare la statua a Fuorigrotta, all’interno di un condominio edificato negli anni ’30. L’opera marmorea, che con ogni probabilita’ venne scoperta durante i lavori di costruzione del fabbricato, riveste un rilevante interesse archeologico: si tratta infatti di una scultura di notevole e pregiata fattura, che faceva probabilmente parte di un monumento dedicato ad un imperatore di eta’ antonina, eretto lungo la via per Pozzuoli, subito dopo l’uscita della Crypta Neapolitana. Sculture di analoga fattura sono attualmente esposte nei piu’ importanti musei archeologici del territorio.

I Carabinieri, assistiti da Funzionari archeologi della Soprintendenza Speciale di Napoli e Pompei, hanno cosi’ prelevato la statua per trasportarla al laboratorio di conservazione e restauro del Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli dove, al termine di un intervento di risanamento conservativo, necessario dopo la prolungata esposizione agli agenti atmosferici, verra’ con ogni probabilita’ esposta al pubblico.

Ancient ‘Reggia’ from Basilicata

from la gazzettadelmezzogiorno

Interesting find near Basilicata — a sixth-century B.C. ‘palace’ (for want of a better word) of a local ruler. The region was known as ‘Lucania’ in ancient times, but I think this predates the Lucanians arrival in the area (I might be wrong in that):

Una scoperta davvero importante per l’archeologia della Basilicata. La Scuola di Specializzazione in Archeologia dell’Unibas, che ha sede a Matera, ha chiuso «con importanti scoperte» la seconda campagna di scavo nel sito Torre di Satriano a Tito. A occuparsi della scoperta il direttore della Scuola e della ricerca, Massimo Osanna.

In particolare, è stata riportata alla luce la Reggia, del VI secolo avanti Cristo, di un sovrano locale. L’edificio, realizzato da artigiani dell’antica Taranto, è dotata di una lungo fregio in terracotta, raffigurante scene di battaglie e una sfinge,anche questa in terracotta, posta sul tetto. Il Palazzo ha restituito, all’interno, l’arredo destinato alle cerimonie che univano le «elitè» locali ed è costituito da coppe di vino attiche, provenienti da Atene e da altre colonie, nonchè da pregiati servizi da mensa per il banchetto. Nel portico sono stati rinvenuti due grandi telai per tessuti pregiati, destinati alla vita del Palazzo. Sono state scoperte, nell’area antistante al Palazzo, anche quattro tombe delle famiglie del gruppo principesco. «Si tratta – ha detto Osanna – di scoperte davvero straordinarie sul piano storico e archeologico, per l’entità e l’importanza dei manufatti rinvenuti. Per la nostra scuola, che celebra i 20 anni della sua istituzione, è una conferma del lavoro svolto nella scoperta e valorizzazione del passato di questa regione». Gli scavi nell’area denominata Torre di Satriano vengono eseguiti con l’apporto di università italiane e straniere e, tra queste, la «Queen’s University» del Canada.

from la gazzetta del mezzogiorno

… didn’t know my alma mater was involved either!

UPDATE (01/18/10): Dan Diffendale’s post on this is much more thorough than mine

Bronze Head of Augustus Found in Aosta

Haven’t seen coverage of this in the English press (or a photo, alas) … bronze head, probably Augustus, some 15cm high:

Il patrimonio archeologico valdostano si arricchisce di una testa bronzea risalente all’epoca romana. Il reperto è stato trovato nel centro storico di Aosta, durante alcune indagini (scavi) in piazza Roncas.

Si tratta di un’applique in bronzo raffigurante una testa virile di imperatore, probabilmente Augusto, alta circa 15 centimetri, e costituisce un reperto di grande importanza per le ricerche archeologiche in quanto si tratta della prima raffigurazione di un imperatore trovata in Valle d’Aosta.

Per l’assessore regionale alla Cultura, Laurent Vierin, “questo ritrovamento è testimone dell’importanza che rivestono gli scavi archeologici quale primo passo per una corretta ‘restitution’del patrimonio culturale”. Aggiunge: “La tutela e la valorizzazione riescono a dialogare e a riconsegnare alla comunità parti fondamentali del proprio Dna storico quali sono i beni culturali. Questo pregevole rinvenimento conferma l’importanza del patrimonio nella conoscenza delle nostre radici storiche”.

Una volta eseguite le necessarie operazioni di pulitura e restauro la testa bronzea potrà essere ammirata nei musei valdostani.

Greek Necropolis at Gela?

Another one which probably won’t go much beyond the Italian press (where it is getting rather brief attention, actually) … Archaeologists working in downtown Gela have come across remains of a 7th to 5th century B.C. (Greek) necropolis. So far, four tombs have been found of the enchytrismos alla cappuccina variety and it is believed they may be part of a much larger necropolis identified by Paolo Orsi at the turn of the (20th) century. Here’s the coverage from Il Giornale:

Una necropoli arcaica è stata scoperta a Gela. Sono stati alcuni operai, al lavoro per posare i tubi dell’acquedotto in una zona centrale della città, ad aver trovato i resti. Si tratta di quattro tombe e di un piccolo sarcofago litico. Sono stati inoltre rinvenuti corredi ceramici di tipo corinzio, attico e ionico. Le tombe sarebbero state realizzate fra il quinto e il settimo secolo avanti Cristo, in età greca: il ritrovamento è davvero molto importante. Per questo i lavori di scavo per la condotta idrica sono stati immediatamente interrotti e la zona è ora presidiata 24 ore su 24 ore per impedire ai tombaroli di profanare quel che è affiorato. L’area potrebbe far parte di una più ampia necropoli già individuata ai primi del Novecento dall’archeologo Paolo Orsi durante una campagna di scavi nel vicino quartiere Borgo. Ora si andrà avanti ad esplorare il sottosuolo, con la regia della Sovrintendenza ai Beni culturali di Caltanissetta. E si spera, naturalmente, di trovare, con un briciolo di fortuna, altre testimonianze del passato glorioso di Gela. Le tombe venute alla luce sono del tipo enchytrismos alla cappuccina.

Ancient Skylletium?

I was having problems understanding the Italian coverage on this one yesterday (specifically, the architect’s description, which is also in Il Quotidiano), but thankfully it’s appeared in the English press this a.m. … here’s the ANSA coverage:

An amateur scuba diver has discovered what may be the ruins of an ancient city off the coast of Calabria, a local town council said Friday.

Alessandro Ciliberto, an architect with a passion for scuba diving, discovered a group of stone blocks around 3-4 metres under water while he was diving 15 metres from the shore near the town of Squillace on Calabria’s east coast.

”Standing out against the sandy seabed there’s a dark-coloured form of around two metres in length and a metre and a half wide which seems to be man-made,” Ciliberto said.

”Continuing to explore the zone a few metres away, I found a white-coloured plinth half a metre high. Further on, there are a pair of stone blocks, one rectangular and of modest dimensions and the other an undefined shape,” he added.

Squillace town council said it was possible that the ruins belonged to the ancient seaside city of Scylletium, founded when southern Italy was a Greek colony.

The town became a Roman colony in 124 BC and was the birthplace of 6th-century Roman writer and statesman Cassiodorus, who claimed that its founder was legendary Greek king Ulysses.

Ruins from the city have previously been found in the nearby town of Roccelletta di Borgia.

Not sure why ‘city remains’ are assumed here; it might be something associated with a shipwreck …

Roman Shipwrecks of Ventotene

This has finally hit the newswires, it appears … excerpts from the Reuters coverage:

A team of archaeologists using sonar technology to scan the seabed have discovered a “graveyard” of five pristine ancient Roman shipwrecks off the small Italian island of Ventotene.

The trading vessels, dating from the first century BC to the fifth century AD, lie more than 100 meters underwater and are amongst the deepest wrecks discovered in the Mediterranean in recent years, the researchers said on Thursday.

[...]

The vessels were transporting wine from Italy, prized fish sauce from Spain and north Africa, and a mysterious cargo of metal ingots from Italy, possibly to be used in the construction of statues or weaponry.

[...]

Due to their depth, the ships have lain untouched for hundreds of years but Gambin said the increasing popularity of deep water diving posed a threat to the Mediterranean’s archaeological treasures.

“There is a race against time,” he said. “In the next 10 years, there will be an explosion in mixed-gas diving and these sites will be accessible to ordinary treasure hunters.”

A few days ago, the primary researcher on this one (Dr. T. Gambin) posted to Ostia-l a link to the project’s webpage, which includes a very nice photogallery of finds. This sonar image of the set should give a sense of how major this find is (those are individual amphorae):

Aurora Trust Photo

Aurora Trust Photo

Finds at Vicus Martis Tudertium

Not sure if anyone saw our last From the Italian Press compilation a couple of days ago (since I forgot to give it a title), but one of the items therein was hyping the upcoming (at the time) dig at Vicus Martis Tudertium … turns out they (including John Muccigrosso, whose name will be familiar to many of our readers) are finding some important stuff. From the AGI coverage:

Lungo l’antica Via Flaminia si concentrano le indagini che, come spiegato da Paolo Bruschetti, Ispettore della Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici dell’Umbria, ”ha visto una stretta collaborazione tra Soprintendenza, Comune di Massa Martana, Intrageo (impresa archeologica di Todi) e Drew University di Madison, New Jersey”. Agli scavi, sotto la direzione del prof. John Muccigrosso dell’universita’ americana, partecipano studenti americani con l’assistenza di un’equipe italiana. Il sito in esame conferma la presenza di un grande insediamento, una vera citta’ da riportare alla luce e rendere fruibile. Fatto non meno importante consiste nell’ipotesi offerta dalle ultime prospezioni geomagnetiche svolte in collaborazione con il Centro Eccellenza del Dipartimento Uomo e Territorio dell’Universita’ di Perugia.
Queste tecnologie hanno permesso di individuare strutture presenti nel sottosuolo anche a notevoli profondita’. Le prospezioni hanno interessato vaste aree esterne allo scavo e, oltre a stimare in circa 6 ettari la superficie urbanizzata del sito archeologico, fanno ipotizzare che la vecchia Via Flaminia corra all’interno del sito e non davanti, come e’ stato supposto finora dalla presenza e dall’orientamento della chiesa. ”Sotto un canale di drenaggio – ha annunciato il professor Muccigrosso – abbiamo trovato una tomba alla cappuccina”. Questo tipo di tomba era molto comune ed e’ stata usata per secoli, quindi e’ difficile da datare senza altre indicazioni. ”Allo stato attuale delle nostre conoscenze – ha concluso il dott. Bruschetti – il Vicus Martis Tudertium si configura come uno dei siti piu’ importanti della nostra regione”. L’iniziativa, inserita in un piu’ vasto programma di valorizzazione del territorio di Massa Martana e dei comuni di Acquasparta e S. Gemini, situati lungo l’antica Via Flaminia, proseguira’ nello scopo di migliorare la fruizione dei luoghi d’importanza storico-archeologica, ambientale e culturale.

After consulting folks on the Classics list and Twitter, the ‘tomba alla cappuccina’ is what is (apparently) usually translated as a ’tile tent’ burial. The practice was used in several periods and by several cultures, so, as Dr. Muccigrosso says, other evidence will be needed to firmly date the site.

Temple of Antinous?

Tantalizingly brief item from ORF relating the discovery of a temple built by Hadrian to Antinous (at Tivoli, presumably):

Auf dem ehemaligen Anwesen des römischen Kaisers Hadrian ist unerwartet ein Tempel gefunden worden, den er seinerzeit zu Ehren seines jungen Liebhabers Antonius erbauen ließ. Das Anwesen liegt etwa 30 Kilometer entfernt von Rom und diente einmal als Regierungs- und Wohnsitz Hadrians.

“Dies ist die bedeutendste archäologische Entdeckung seit Jahren in dieser Region”, sagte Anna Maria Reggiani, Chef-Archäologin der Region Lazio.

Hadrian war von 117 bis 138 Kaiser des römischen Imperiums und sorgte in dieser Zeit für wirtschaftlichen Aufschwung und Frieden. Das Interesse der Historiker erlangte er aber auch wegen seiner homosexuellen Neigung.

From the Italian Press

… the last bit of the backlog! woohoo!

A piece of a Roman column was found in a drain during sewer work in Naples (I think):

Excavations in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence have revealed remains of a first century theatre:

… and bits from a Temple of Isis and a pile of other remains too:

Some funerary statuary from a first century necropolis near Naples:

Remains of a Roman villa from Albettone:

A section of Etruscan/Roman road from Perugia:

Evidence from a necropolis in Ischitella suggests (maybe) an Etruscan presence there:

Organic finds from Pompeii are going to be kept in a special climate-controlled space:

They’re talking (again) of an underpass between the Temple sites at Agrigento:

… and of an archaeological park for Selinunte:

Big hopes for a dig at the Vicus Martis Tudertium:

A statue of Minerva Tritonia has been restored and is on display:

The Domus Aurea will reopen within a couple of years:

Etruscan Necropolis from Foggia

A brief item from AdnKronos:

An ancient Etruscan cemetery has been uncovered by Italian tax police or Guardia di Finanza in the country’s south during a police investigation to stop tomb robbers. The cemetery or necropolis is believed to date back to the Etruscan civilisation that existed in central and southern Italy from 1,200 BC to 550 BC before the Roman era.

The necropolis was found in the province of Foggia, located in the southern region of Puglia.

Police intervention is believed to have prevented the sacking of the 500-square-metre necropolis, in particular five tombs that contained the remains of warriors, buried with precious funerary artefacts dating back to the fourth century before Christ.

During the operation, two people were reported to the authorities.

The illegal trafficking of antique artefacts is highly lucrative in Italy.

The tomb robbers or ‘tombaroli’ steal the items from ancient graves and other historic sites and later sell them on the international black market.

I’d like to think we’ll hear more of this, but the brevity of even the Italian coverage suggests otherwise, alas.

Gela Shipwreck?

This is another one from the Italian press which I’ve been hoping would get some notice in the English press, but it doesn’t appear that that will be happening. The Carabinieri have been diving in the sea near Caltanisetta to recover assorted archaeological items which appear to be associated with several periods and several (?) shipwrecks (and, to judge from the divers, a crime of some sort). Artifacts are said to come from Roman, Greco-Hellenistic, and Byzantine periods. The only artifact that is specified as being recovered is an intact Byzantine patera, inscribed with a dove.

Finds from Pozzuoli

Most of the coverage of this one — both in Italian and English — is pretty much the same. The site is Rione Terra, which overlooks Pozzuoli. Here’s the coverage from AdnKronos:

Archaeologists have unearthed a number of ancient Roman treasures during excavation outside the southern Italian city of Naples. Twelve ancient statues, columns and fragments bearing inscriptions from what appear to be monuments from the Republican and Imperial periods of ancient Roman history have been uncovered.

A head of the Roman emperor Tiberius bearing a crown of laurel leaves, two other male heads and a fragment of a painting are among the objects from the late Republican period in the 3rd century BC discovered by a team of archeologists at the site in Rione Terra di Pozzuoli.

Two female heads were also uncovered. One may be the head of an Amazon warrior from the 2nd century AD, while the second is believed to be a Roman empress from the late Julio-Claudian dynasty.

The dig also unearthed part of a sculpture of a horse and an antefix, a giant mask depicting a Gorgon or mythological beast dating from the 2nd century AD.

Other finds include four busts, a statue of a robed woman, another of a woman wearing a toga, and a frieze portraying two human figures.

The area is located on a hill and archaeologists believe it contained public buildings and houses overlooking the sea. Only part of the site has so far been excavated.

The archaeologists are working under the supervision of the Italian culture ministry’s archaeological department for Naples and Pompeii.

… it would appear that the “Tiberius” mentioned up there should actually be Titus. Here’s a photo of the head:

from Cultural News

from Cultural News

This is possibly a photo of the ‘empress’ mentioned:

from Cultural News

from Cultural News

A photo of the ‘Gorgon’ (I think) accompanies Rossella Lorenzi’s report for Discovery News. There may be a video report there as well, but I can’t seem to find it.