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 …
Our previous coverage:
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.
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.”
cf. some of our previous posts:
- Embassador or Slave? Researchers Mystified by East Asian Skeleton Discovered in Vagnari Roman Cemetery | Heritage Key
On the web:
… 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.
- Statua romana dal valore inestimabile nel cortile di un condominio (Corriere del Mezzogiorno)
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.
… didn’t know my alma mater was involved either!
- ilquotidianoweb.it – Scoperta una reggia del VI secolo a. c. (il quotidiano della basilicata.
- A Torre di Satriano gli scavi svelano una meraviglia(la gazzetta del mezzogiorno)
UPDATE (01/18/10): Dan Diffendale’s post on this is much more thorough than mine
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.
- RITROVATA IN CENTRO AOSTA TESTA BRONZEA DELL’EPOCA ROMANA (ANSA Valle d’Aosta)
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.
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 …
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):
- Archaeologists find graveyard of sunken Roman ships (Reuters)
- Roman shipwrecks found off Italian coast (Press Tv)
- Archaeologists find graveyard of sunken Roman ships (Reuters via Yahoo)
- Ancient Roman shipwrecks found (BBC)
- 5 ancient Roman shipwrecks found off Italy coast (Physorg)
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.
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.
… 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:
- Novità negli scavi sotto Palazzo Vecchio (Nazione)
… 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:
- La Domus Aurea sarà riaperta fra due anni (Il Giornale)
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.
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.
- Reperti archeologici riaffiorati dal mare (Corriere di Gela)
- Gela, scoperto sott’acqua un sito archeologico (La Repubblica)
- Gela: Carabinieri scoprono sito archeologico sottomarino con reperti (L’Unione Sarda)
- ARCHEOLOGIA: CC RECUPERANO PREZIOSI REPERTI NEL MARE DI GELA (AGI)
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:
This is possibly a photo of the ‘empress’ mentioned:
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.
- Marble Head of Emperor Titus Found (Discovery News)
- Marble head of Emperor Titus found (Discovery News via MSNBC)
- Italy: Archeological treasures found near Naples (AdnKronos – English)
- Busti, teste e sculture riemergono da scavi nel Napoletano (AdnKronos – Italian)
- Archaeologists unearth ancient Roman treasures in Naples (New Kerala … repeats the Tiberius typo)
- SCULTURE E BUSTI EMERGONO SOTTO IL RIONE TERRA A POZZUOLI (Cultural News)
- ARCHEOLOGIA: NUOVI REPERTI EMERSI DA SCAVI RIONE TERRA POZZUOLI (AGI)