What Have the Romans Ever Done for Us?

Well, Reg, they are helping in neutrino research:

Italy’s National Institute of Nuclear Physics, at its laboratories in Gran Sasso, has received 120 lead bricks from an ancient Roman ship that sunk off of the coast of Sardinia 2,000 years ago. The ship’s cargo was recovered 20 years ago, thanks to the contribution of the INFN, which at the time received 150 of these bricks. The INFN is now receiving additional bricks to complete the shield for the CUORE experiment, which is being conducted to study extremely rare events involving neutrinos. After 2,000 years under the sea, this lead will now be used to perform a task 1,400 metres under the Apennine mountain.

The National Laboratories of Gran Sasso (LNGS) of Italy’s National Institute of Nuclear Physics (INFN) has received 120 2,000-year-old lead bricks from the National Archaeological Museum of Cagliari in Sardinia. The lead bricks, together with the ship that transported them, had remained in the sea for 2,000 years, which reduced by approximately 100,000 times the albeit very low original radioactivity represented by one of its radionuclides, lead-210. In fact, lead-210 has a half-life of 22 years, so that by now it has practically disappeared in the bricks.

It is precisely this characteristic that makes the lead extremely useful, in that it can be used to perfectly shield experiments of extreme precision, such as those conducted in the underground INFN laboratories in Gran Sasso. After 2,000 years under the sea, this lead will now be used to perform a task 1,400 metres under the Apennine mountain.

The part of the bricks that is “adorned” with inscriptions will be removed and conserved, whereas the remaining part will be cleaned of incrustations and melted to construct a shield for the international experiment CUORE, a study on neutrinos, whose discoveries could contribute to the knowledge of this elusive particle and of the evolution of the Universe.

Moreover, the INFN will perform important precise measures on the lead (and possibly on the copper found on the ship), to study the materials used in the Bronze Age.

The lead bricks were made available as the result of a 20-year collaboration involving the INFN, its facilities in Cagliari, and the Archaeological Superintendency of Cagliari, with the support of the General Direction of Antiquity. As part of this collaboration, 20 years ago the INFN contributed 300 million lira for the excavation of the ship and the recovery of its cargo.

The INFN would like to thank the superintendents Drs. Fulvia Lo Schiavo and Marco Minoja, as well as Doctor Donatella Salvi, for their collaboration.

“The commander of that ship would certainly never have imagined that the lead would be used 2,000 years later for something that had to do with the Universe and the stars” – comments INFN President Roberto Petronzio – “History and Science can now speak to one another across the centuries, thanks to the research in High-Energy Physics”.

“This lead,” – explains Professor Ettore Fiorini – “which is responsible for the CUORE experiment, represents an extremely important material for shielding the apparatuses used to conduct research on rare events – a material that must be totally free of radioactive contamination”.

Lucia Votano, Director of the INFN laboratories in Gran Sasso, explains that “it’s great and unique that the most advanced and innovative technologies must rely on archaeology and the technology of the ancient Romans. The ancient lead recoverd from the bottom of the sea will be essential for protecting the experiment from natural radioactivity, which could obscure the rare process of neutrinoless double beta decay”.

via: Lead from a Roman ship to be used for hunting neutrinos | Physorg

More Coverage:

And just in case you missed the reference in my intro (although I doubt my regular readers are in that category):

Survey in the Wake of Floods in West Cumbria

Location of Cumbria in England
Image via Wikipedia

Roman finds uncovered by the floods of last November have excited archaeologists – and are set for a major investigation.

The remains of a Roman fort at Papcastle have been open for several years, but nobody has ever known the shape of local roads, the size of the civilian settlement attached to it, where the river Derwent ran and where it was crossed, or where the site’s cemetery was located.

However, the floods which devastated Cockermouth last year also washed up several fragments of pottery, carved stone and possible architectural remains on the opposite side of the Derwent from Papcastle, giving new hope that some of the area’s ancient mysteries could soon be uncovered.

Now, archaeologists from Grampus Heritage and Training are to launch a survey of the land around where the finds appeared, and hope to find the remains of buildings, roads, and signs of occupation.

Using magnetometers – instruments that can detect buried walls – exploration will centre on fields alongside the River Derwent.

Project leader Mark Graham said the finds were exciting and could illustrate the size and shape of the domestic area around the fort.

He said: “A considerable amount of pottery has been found post floods. We’ve always suspected the Romans had some sort of river crossing at Papcastle. Hopefully, our searches might provide some answers.

“The field we are starting in is on the opposite side of the field from Papcastle – that may be evidence of a river crossing, or it may be that the course of river has moved and the site where we are looking was on the same side. We don’t really know the road layout around there, we don’t know where the cemetery was.”

Channel Four’s Time Team had looked at an area around Papcastle, but never as far from the fort remains as the new finds.

And there has never been a systematic geophysical investigation, but the new project will see magnetometers – instruments that can detect buried walls – used to survey a large area near where the finds were made.

Mr Graham added: “We will see if we can see into the soil. The logical next step would then be targeted excavation, with landowner permission, of particular features. We can’t guarantee the survey will produce anything, but by the end of June we should have an idea of how successful it has been.”

Volunteers are being sought to help with the investigation, details from which will form part of the county’s archaeological record.

Fieldwork takes place from May 24 to 28.

via West Cumbria floods uncover Roman finds prompting major probe | News & Star.

“Rude” Roman Pots?

One that was lost in t shuffle last week:

WORK on the £11.6 million revamp of Canterbury’s prestigious Beaney Institute has ground to a halt – because of Roman pornography.

Archaeologists are racing against time to recover lost evidence beneath the city’s streets before the builders return.

Among the artefacts already uncovered are saucy carvings of couples having sex.

A spokesman confirmed: “We have found many personal effects and high-class pottery – known as samianware – depicting hunting and erotic scenes.”

A team from Canterbury Archaeological Trust is digging in shifts seven days a week to take advantage of the temporary halt in the building programme.

Trust Director Paul Bennett said: “We are grateful to the city council for allowing us the extra time.

“This is a vitally important site in the heart of Canterbury. What we have discovered is a unique glimpse of ordinary everyday life.”

Among the discoveries is a well-metalled and cambered Roman road and a large masonry and timber-framed building.

Mr Bennett added: “The street frontage is flanked by a narrow timber-framed portico, supported on dwarf walls that are perfectly preserved, including scars and a ‘void’ for timbers that have rotted.”

The excavation began in February and was due to end last week. But work has been extended for three more weeks.

Archaeologists believe they have stumbled on an extensive network of small shops, homes and lanes representing inner-city life nearly 2,000 years ago.

Nearby is a clay-floored workshop or shop containing bread ovens. There is evidence to suggest it burnt down and was rebuilt. The time team believe they have also uncovered stables.

The Beaney building in the High Street dates back to 1900. It is being extended to double its size to update the city’s museum and library.

via Rude Roman pots halt city revamp | This Is Kent.

The original article has a tiny photo of a fragment of one of the pots, but it’s too small to really get any idea of the ‘rudeness’ (alas) …

Commemorating Rome on the Danube

Interesting press release from the Austrian Mint:

For some five centuries the River Danube formed an essential part of ancient Rome’s northern border against the barbarian tribes of Germania. The Austrian Mint’s new silver series called “Rome on the Danube” breathes life back into the ruined remains of the towns and forts that played such prominent roles in the life of the Roman Empire in Austria.

The province of Noricum covered about two-thirds of modern day Austrian territory. It had been originally a kingdom of Celtic tribes until it was taken over by the Romans in a peaceful occu-pation under the Emperor Augustus in about 15 B.C. Thirty years later the Emperor Claudius converted Noricum into a regular Roman province and established the city of VIRUNUM as its adminis-trative capital. Military command was vested not in the governor at Virunum, but rather in the commander of the legions standing guard along the River Danube in the north. The governor was ap-pointed by the emperor in Rome. His primary responsibility was for finance and taxation as well as for the administration of Roman law and order. His capital stood on a Roman road connecting it to Aquileia in the south and to Ovilava (Wels) in the north and the Limes or string of forts and towers guarding the Danube border.

Virunum was the cultural centre of life in Noricum with the only great amphitheatre to have been discovered on Austrian territory. Built on the classical Roman system of a rectangular grid of streets with large open forums housing temples and grand basilicas, Virunum was an unfortified township like many other such settlements – a tribute to the Pax Romana (the Roman Peace). The streets were unpaved, but the city had a plentiful supply of water feeding public fountains and a good drainage system with lead piping. On an artificially built terrace above the city were a military camp and an elliptically shaped arena for animal and gladiatorial combat, as well as military exer-cises and training or parades.
The lack of walls rendered Virunum vulnerable to marauding tribes that managed to cross the Danube and raid the rich Roman province of Noricum, and in times of weakness and turmoil the city did fall prey to plundering barbarians. In the early Chris-tian era Virunum had its own bishop and church. Exactly when the city was abandoned we do not know, but abandoned it was. Its noble buildings of stone and marble became quarries for building materials, until the earth itself decently covered over the wounds of its ruins, leaving it to modern archaeologists to re-awaken Roman Virunum once more from its centuries’ long sleep.

The new 20 Euro silver coin shows a profile portrait of the Emperor Claudius, who founded Virunum (“Municipium Claudium Virunum”). In the background one sees a Roman wagon drawn by a pair of horses. It is part of a grave stone from Virunum, pres-ently affixed to the south wall of the church in neighbouring Maria-Saal. The reverse side displays an imaginary street scene. A Roman wagon drives past the portico of a temple. At the back rise the high walls and roof of a grand basilica. In the foreground to the left we find a blacksmith hammering the highly-prized Noric iron into swords for the Roman legions. The name at the base of the coin identifies the city as Virunum.
via the Austrian Mint
The new € 20 silver coin is struck in proof quality only and to maximum mintage of 50,000 worldwide. Each coin comes in an attractive box with a numbered certificate of authenticity. A collection case for the whole series of six coins may be purchased separately.

In September the second coin of the series, “VINDOBONA” (Vienna), will be issued.

Death of M Cuts?

The incipit of something in the Bluffton News-Banner:

The Romans had this particular inhumane form of execution known as the death of 1,000 cuts. If you cut your finger — say with a paring knife as you’re peeling an apple, or (a personal misery of mine) via a paper cut — it hurts, and you bleed a little bit, and you bear it. When you get 1,000 of them, however, the pain and the blood loss become too great and eventually life leaves the body.

via I hope you don’t find this too terribly disappointing – The Bluffton News-Banner.

… sorry, you’re thinking of something from China called slow slicing. Thanks for playing, we have a lovely selection of cleaning products the url for “google” for you to take home as a consolation prize … perhaps you’ll find it useful.