Dragon and Dolphin (nope) Mosaic From Monasterace

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

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

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

via Gazzetta del Sud

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

via Corriere della Calabria

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

via Mondo Tempo Reale

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–jd

Punic Anchors of Pantelleria ~ Stormy Weather?

Not sure why this isn’t getting more attention, even in the Italian press. Rosella Lorenzi’s piece for Discovery News seems to be the only English coverage … some excerpts:

A key episode of the Punic Wars has emerged from the waters near the small Sicilian island of Pantelleria as archaeologists discovered a cluster of more than 30 ancient anchors.

Found at a depth between 160 and 270 feet in Cala Levante, one of the island’s most scenic spots, the anchors date to more than 2,000 years ago.

According to Leonardo Abelli, an archaeologist from the University of Sassari, the anchors are startling evidence of the Romans’ and Carthaginians’ struggle to conquer the Mediterranean during the First Punic War (264 to 241 B.C.).

“They were deliberately abandoned. The Carthaginian ships were hiding from the Romans and could not waste time trying to retrieve heavy anchors at such depths,” Abelli told Discovery News.

[...]

Following the first conquer in 255 B.C., Rome took control of the island with a fleet of over 300 ships.

“The Carthaginian ships that were stationing near Pantelleria had no other choice than hiding near the northern coast and trying to escape. To do so, they cut the anchors free and left them in the sea. They also abandoned part of their cargo to lighten the ships and gain speed,” Abelli said.

Indeed, Abelli’s team found many jars in clusters of 4-10 pieces near the spectacular Punta Tracino, not far from where the anchors were found.

Two years ago, the same team found 3,500 Punic coins about 68 feet down. Dating between 264 and 241 B.C., the bronze coins featured the same iconography, suggesting that the money served for an institutional payment, possibly to sustain anti-Roman troops.

Carried on a Carthaginian ship headed to Sicily, the money was deliberately left on the bottom of the sea, in relatively low waters, with the hope of recovering it later.

“Near the coins we found a large stone anchor with three holes and a tree trunk. We believe they were signaling the point where the treasure was hidden,” Abelli said.

[...]

For some reason last summer, I neglected to post the item on the coin find, which you can read here: Sunken Treasure Found in the Seas Of Sicily (Discovery News), but here’s an excerpt:

[...] Lying at depth of about 68 feet, the coins most likely represent an episode of the Romans and Carthaginians struggle.

Amazingly, all 3,422 coins feature the same iconography.

On one side, they show Kore/Tanit, the ancient goddess of fertility, whom Carthaginians worshipped on the island around 550 BC.

On the other, the coins display the head of a horse, surrounded by symbols such as stars, letters and a caduceus. A staff often surmounted by two wings and entwined with two snakes, the caduceus was the symbol of Hermes, the messenger of the gods in Greek mythology.

“Since all coins feature the same iconography, we believe that the money served for an institutional payment. Indeed, ordinary commercial transactions contain different kind of coins,” archaeologist Leonardo Abelli, director of the excavation, told Discovery News.

According to Abelli, the money, carried on a Carthaginian ship headed to Sicily, was destined to an anti-Roman movement.

But something might have gone wrong during the navigation.

“They decided to hide the treasure on the bottom of the sea, in relatively low waters, in the hope to recover it later. Indeed, near the coins we found a large stone anchor,” Abelli said. [...]

Despite the good info above, I find the lack of press coverage on this one somewhat infuriating. As far as I can figure, cutting anchors is not what you if you’re faced when an enemy fleet (I might be wrong there) pops up on the horizon, but rather, when a storm blows in. I can’t help but wonder, therefore, given the apparent dating of all this, whether this might not be evidence of the (in)famous storm in the same area as described in Polybius 1.37 which trashed a major part of the Roman fleet in 255 or so. Here’s an excerpt (from Lacus Curtius … with a bit from 1.36 for context):

In the early summer the Romans, having launched three hundred and fifty ships, sent them off under the command of Marcus Aemilius and Servius Fulvius, who proceeded along the coast of Sicily making for Libya.  Encountering the Carthaginian fleet near the Hermaeum they fell on them and easily routed them, capturing one hundred and fourteen ships with their crews.  Then having taken on board at Aspis the lads who remained in Libya they set sail again for Sicily.  They had crossed the strait in safety and were off the territory of Camarina when they were overtaken by so fierce a storm and so terrible a disaster that it is difficult adequately to describe it owing to its surpassing magnitude.  For of their three hundred and sixty-four ships only eighty were saved; the rest either foundered or were dashed by the waves against the rocks and headlands and broken to pieces, covering the shore with corpses and wreckage.  History tells of no greater catastrophe at sea taking place at one time. The blame must be laid not so much on ill-fortune as on the commanders; for the captains had repeatedly urged them not to sail along the outer coast of Sicily, that turned towards the Libyan sea, as it was very rugged and had few safe anchorages: they also warned them that one of the dangerous astral periods was not over and another just approaching (for it was between the rising of Orion and that of Sirius4 that they undertook the voyage).  The commanders, however, paid no attention to a single word they said, they took the outer course and there they were in the open sea thinking to strike terror into some of the cities they passed by the brilliancy of their recent success and thus win them over. But now, all for the sake of such meagre expectations, they exposed themselves to this great disaster, and were obliged to acknowledge their lack of judgement.

… The Carthaginians, of course, would know how to respond to a sudden storm blowing up in the area (i.e. cut anchors); the Romans were still rookies. That said, we have to admit there’s no way to know with any degree of certainty, but it’s an interesting possibility.

From the Italian Press: Seeking Remains from Trasimene?

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».

Wine ‘Warehouse’ at Oplontis

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.

Maybe the Temple of Quirinus Is Somewhere Else?

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.

GLI SCAVI
«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.

LA MAPPA
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.

… the original article also includes an (as always) unembeddable video of work being done on the Pyramid of Cestius

‘Discarded’ Infant Remains at Poggio Civitate Redux

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.”

… 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 …

Roman Glass-Making ‘District’ from Pozzuoli

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 …