Roman Remains from Caistor

A late-Roman/Christian (?) cemetery … here’s some coverage:

ARCHAEOLOGISTS have found what is thought to be a late-Roman cemetery in a county village.

So far, a total of 46 human remains have been excavated and archaeologists say they expect to have found more than 50 by the time they finish next week.

The discovery was made during a five-week dig taking place as part of the development of a derelict pub in Caistor, near Market Rasen.

Specialists from Pre Construct Archaeological Services Ltd, say the cemetery is the first of its kind to be discovered in the area, branding the find as “significant”.

Director of the firm Colin Palmer-Brown said: “The graves are orientated from east to west, with the heads to the west which fits well with Christian tradition. There is an absence of grave goods, such as brooches or accessories, which is also consistent with Christian burials.

“Burial traditions change over time and the fact that these appear to be Christian suggests this cemetery dates back to the late Roman period, around the fourth century AD after the Emperor Constantine I legalised Christian worship in AD313.

“This find is very significant as little was known about Caistor. It isn’t near any known Roman road. One theory is that Caistor could have been part of the east coast defences in the late-Roman period and it was a supply base for a garrison.”

Shards of pottery found alongside the graves – although not left as memorial items – strengthen the case for it being a late-Roman cemetery, said Mr Palmer-Brown.

Teams from Pre Construct initially found six sets of human remains during the pre-planning process. That find then led to the discovery of men, women, teenagers, children and babies.

Archaeological site manager Fiona Walker said there is evidence that some of the bodies were in coffins. “We can see nails and even the remains of straps in some areas,” she said.

The former pub is being turned into a Lincolnshire Co-operative food store with a £1.3 million development. Contractors Taylor Pearson started on site in May and the store is set to open in November.

Special permission from the Ministry of Justice will allow the human remains to be exhumed, before being privately reburied.

They will then be cleaned and examined by Pre-Construct’s in-house osteologist, who will determine sex, approximate age and even whether they had suffered from any illness or injury.

The BBC also has a video report (without any commentary):

Vodpod videos no longer available.

More coverage from the BBC:

Roman Villa + Burial from Bredon’s Norton

A potentially-interesting find due to waterworks construction:

A 2,000-YEAR-OLD human skeleton has been unearthed alongside Iron Age artefacts near Tewkesbury.

Archaeologists uncovered signs of the ancient Roman villa in a field on the edge of Bredon’s Norton. It is thought the finds could be of national importance.

Metal detector hunts in recent years had led historians to suspect an ancient community might be found there.

That was confirmed when contractors who were laying a new water pipeline began digging.

Senior project manager Stuart Foreman is leading a team of archaeologists on a six-week excavation at the site.

Mr Foreman, of Oxford Archaeology, said thousands of pieces of masonry, nails, tiles, pottery and clothing will have been unearthed by the time the project is complete.

The area being examined is 200 metres long and 15 metres wide.

He said: “Whenever you find a new villa, it’s of national importance. It’s pretty unusual to find a new villa that hasn’t been recognised before. It’s an important local centre.”

He said large pieces of masonry and flagstone flooring had been found and it was well preserved.

He said: “Fragments of stone peg-tiles from the roof and sections of painted wall plaster indicate a building of high quality and status.

“The footings survive to a height of nearly 1m cut into the hillside.”

He said it did not rank as highly as the famous Roman Villa at Chedworth, near Cheltenham, but was still an important addition to a cluster of villas found in the Cotswolds and upper Thames valley.

Experts estimate that the villa is more than 1,700 years old.

They do not know yet whether the skeleton is of a male or female but believe it is at least 2,000 years old. It has been taken to Oxford to be analysed.

More coverage:

What To Do With A Classics Degree: Part ?

A financial blog called FINS has an interview with “HFM” who is described:

Meet “HFM,” an anonymous hedge fund manager who sat down for multiple interviews on the financial crisis from 2007 through 2009 with the literary magazine n+1. Those interviews have been collected and released as a book “Diary of a Very Bad Year: Confessions of an Anonymous Hedge Fund Manager.”

Here’s the beginning of the interview:

Julie Steinberg: How you become a hedge-fund manager?

Anonymous HFM: My academic background was, strangely enough, in classics (i.e., Latin and Greek). Not the most useful preparation for finance, except that I can attest with the certainty of a credentialed classicist that “vega” is not a Greek letter.

I was working at a strategy-consulting firm and was looking to move back to New York City. A college roommate had gone to work as a quant for a hedge fund. His firm had just opened a New York office and was looking for someone to assist him in building the emerging markets business.

via Reflections on a Hedge-Fund Career |

This book just came out last month (not to be confused with a similarly-named novel by J. Coetzee), and the visual side of me can’t resist posting the thing Harper-Collins put together to hype it:

… who said Classicists were boring?

Chariot Burial (and more) from Borissovo

I’m often asked how I find so much stuff to post on rogueclassicism and one of the sad things is that there actually is a lot more that I seem to get, file away, and forget about and only ‘rediscover’ while poking around looking for other things. A case in point is this brief item from the Sofia Echo way back in August of 2008:

A team led by archaeologist Daniela Agre of Bulgaria’s National Institute of Archaeology unearthed an ancient four-wheel chariot near the Borissovo village in the Elhovo region, dating back from the first half of the second century ACE, Focus news agency reported.

Along with the 1900-year-old chariot, in the funeral mound the team discovered shields, richly adorned in bronze, as well as table pottery and glass vessels. The finds led Agre to believe that she had come across the funeral of a wealthy Thracian aristocrat.

The chariot was fully preserved, which, the archaeologist said, was a rare circumstance and it was the first such case in Bulgaria.

Agre’s team also found the skeletons of two riding horses and some leather objects placed next to them, believed to be horse harnesses. The archaeologist suspected the horses have been sacrificed for the burial ceremony.

Agre has explained that the discovery could be traced back to the rule of Roman emperor Trajan (from 98 to 117 ACE), when Thrace was a Roman province. Thracian aristocrats, however, displayed loyalty by serving in the Roman army, and were able to preserve their privileges of nobility.

via: Fully preserved Thracian chariot discovered near Elhovo | Sofia Echo

I discovered my lapse in reporting this one (which I had squirrelled away in Evernote for some reason) when my spiders brought back a more lengthy piece from something called Horsetalk (from New Zealand): Unearthed chariot provides spectacular detail, which actually turns out to be echoing a piece from Alphagalileo, which I missed back in May. The Alphagalileo piece provides a pile of more details, inter alia:

Because of the narrowness of the pit, the spokes of wheels had been broken, the wheels had been detached and placed at the walls of the pit. As a result of this action, the naves remained attached to the axles. In contrast to the wheels, the framework and the basket of the cart rested on their original places. The cart was supported by stones in order to be fixed in upright position. The fact that the axels, the framework and the basket of the cart were preserved in situ provided opportunity to define very precisely its type as well as the location of its parts.

The cart has no suspension; it is four-wheeled, with a short basket and a seat and is a very luxurious vehicle indeed. It was aimed to carry a charioteer (driver) and a passenger. At the front the basket was open; the two long sides of the basket are provided with timber beams, strengthened in the upper part with iron rims. The seat is at the back side of the basket.

All reconstructions of carts made until present were based on the assumption that this was a closed type of vehicle. The discovery of the Borissovo chariot offers the possibility to revise the reconstruction of this type of ancient vehicle. The surviving wooden and leather parts of the cart provide opportunity to define all details of its construction.

There is a boot (storage compartment) situated behind the back edge of the seat. It is a new element of the construction of this cart type. Until now it was believed that there were luggage boxes, which were attached to the four-wheeled carts. The boot found in situ proves that it was part of the Roman cart construction. Besides being there, the boot of this cart was full. A bronze ellipsoid pan and a set of a bronze ladle and a bronze strainer with long handles were lying on the bottom of the boot. There were also an iron grill on which were placed four prismatic and a large spherical glass bottles. Red slipped vessels – a small pitcher, a jar and a bowl – were placed in front of the bottles. A clay mortarium was found on top. The bronze artefacts are Italic imports. The bronze ladle is stamped on the handle with the name of the manufacturer. The four prismatic glass bottles were made by blowing in a mould and had been used for transporting and storing commodities. The large spherical glass bottle finds parallels in the Eastern Mediterranean and was most probably manufactured in a Syrian atelier.

The analysis of the position of the horses in front of the cart provided the conclusion that they had been killed in the pit. The horses were buried with lavishly decorated harnesses and a yoke. The iron bars were placed on the horses’ heads. The shape of the yoke can be reconstructed after the few traces of wood, the yoke rings found in situ and the silver ornaments of the horse collars. The yoke is abundantly decorated with bronze appliqués and has 13 bronze rings. The central ornament of the cart – an exquisite figurine of a panther on a solid bronze stand – was found on the shaft, between the skeletons of the two horses. A skeleton of a dog was unearthed behind the cart, tied up to it with a chain.

The chariot is dated back to the late 1st – the early 2nd century AD.

We also read of the contents of a second pit:

A second pit, which yielded two sacrificed riding horses of the Thracian warrior, was excavated immediately to the south of the first one. The horses’ skeletons were lying in an anatomical order next to each other. The iron bars were found between the horses’ teeth and the bronze halters and the ornaments of the horse collars were taken and thrown on top of their bodies. There were timber shields with solid bronze shield bosses placed on the lower part of the horses’ bodies. The shields are round, 1 m in diameter. They were covered with animal hide, fixed to the wooden part with bronze rivets.

East of the pit with the riding horses, the grave of the warrior, the owner of the chariot and the horses, was discovered under a special burial stone structure – a stone revetted tumulus, whose entrance faced the south. His body had been cremated there, in a two-stepped pit. The body had been placed on a special litter covered with a textile. The deceased had been buried in full armour: six iron spears, two swords, a poniard and spurs. One of the swards is double-edged and is 0.98 m long. It had been suspended on a leather strap decorated with gilded silver appliqués; its scabbard ends with a bronze tip with tracery patterns. On the knees of the deceased there were round bronze lamellae (probably used as greaves), which overlaid some kind of fabric. Two bronze silver-plated fibulae were found at the left shoulder and a highly patinated and burnt bronze coin was lying at the skull.

The medical and sporting accessories are represented by a bronze toilette box and two iron strigils. The strigils have iron strigil holders and before being placed into the grave pit, they had been wrapped into a textile. The toilette box has two bronze tubuses. In a special drawer of the box there are medications crushed into powder and medical instruments made from bronze.

Apart from being a warrior, the deceased had been a literate person. A ink-well, a bone tablet made of bone, a bronze stylus tied up with a chain to the tablet as well as a spatula, which would have been used to spread wax onto the writing tablet, had been laid beside the body.

After a ‘graph on some other grave goods, we read of the folks buried in this ‘family tomb’:

Seven burials were unearthed under a stone structure in the center of the tumulus. Three of them yielded skeletons of adults and the grave goods provide ground to suggest that these were females. The shallow, rectangular grave pits yielded cremation burials and the cremation ritual had been performed in them.

The central burial is a female one. The dead body had been placed on a timber stretcher covered with a textile. The deceased had been buried with a large number of bronze, ceramic and glass vessels as well as with bronze, glass and bone personal ornaments. All bronze vessels had been ritually cut into pieces (killed) before being placed into the grave pit. The bronze appliqués for toilette boxes comprise beautiful figurines of eagles and swans, masks of satires and deities, busts of deities, etc. The burials yielded remains of wallnuts and raisins.

The second female burial yielded a skeleton of a young woman, which also had been laid on a timber stretcher covered with a textile. The woman had leather shoes decorated with gold foil. The grave goods include ceramic and glass vessels, an exquisite bronze mirror, a bone spindle with a bone spindle whirl for fine spin, a bone comb, a bronze hair pin and a miniature bronze spoon. Pieces of textiles were found at different places of the grave pit. Various textiles were found in the rest of the burials of adults as well.

Three of the burials are children’s ones and contained bones of babies. They had been buried in timber coffins, placed in grave pits. The grave goods comprise glass and ceramic vessels as well as bronze mirrors. The fact that the children were the only ones who had not been cremated indicates that they had been treated with a special care.

The last burial in this group is the cremation burial of a juvenile. Part of the cremated bones had been gathered and placed in a krater-shaped vessel. An amphora was placed in the grave pit as a grave gift.

via: Family Cemetery in a Roman Period Tumulus near the Village of Borissovo, Elhovo Region | Alphagalileo

There is quite a bit more to read at AlphaGalileo as well as five very interesting photos … sorry for lateness on this one folks; it seems to be very important.

How Can We Sleep When Our Ruins Are Crumbling?

That cryptic title is a vague reference to a song by Midnight Oil which is currently stuck in my head … whatever the case, we fairly regularly get an annual article that this or that particular monument is being neglected by authorities (e.g., most recently, e.g., a chunk falling off  the Colosseum), but in the past week or so, if we believe journalists, the whole ancient world’s remains are in danger. First, e.g., we can read of the sad state of affairs in Athens, inter alia:

This week, as angry Greeks marched in mass resistance to economic austerity, the graffiti re-emerged with renewed vigour and vengeance.

On the hill of the Muses, west of the Acropolis, the Philopappos monument is now ringed by a rosary of plaintiffs and expletives. The eyesores descend all the way to the thyme-covered hill of the Nymphs where ”artworks” appear even around the rock on which the assembly of ancient Athens convened.

Taking my evening stroll, I bumped into a Melbourne man who couldn’t quite believe what he was seeing.. ”Don’t the Greeks take any pride in their ancient heritage?” he blurted. ”Where I come from they’d call it disgraceful – and you know what, they’d be removed.”

Graffiti isn’t the only problem blighting Greece’s ancient masonry. Demands on the archaeological service are such that many sites now stand unkempt; shrouded by weeds. The Ottoman seminary beneath my home has been so overtaken by eucalyptus trees that roots threaten the foundations of the rare Roman walls bordering the site. Repeated attempts to alert authorities fall on deaf ears – with foreigners who raise such things being brushed off as a rare breed of eccentric.

The problem, like so many other afflictions that have brought the country to the point of near economic and social collapse, is simply ignored. Government functionaries declare that with the debt-stricken nation trying to make ends meet, the state can ill afford such luxuries. Greece’s cultural showpieces have long witnessed its ancient splendours and contemporary sadness – never more so than now in Byron’s ”land of lost gods and godlike men”.

via: Lord Byron’s ancient stones tell modern tales | The Age

Then there’s the state of affairs in Rome (inter alia, again):

Especially when some of the best of it is falling down. Exhibit A: the Domus Aurea, the Golden Villa that Nero built near the Colosseum, where a vaulted gallery fell this spring. Nobody was hurt, fortunately. That’s because the place has been closed since 2008, plagued by structural problems and humidity, which threatens the frescoes. To much fanfare, the city opened part of the site for tourists in 1999. Then heavy rain collapsed a section of roof, the site was closed, reopened a while later, then closed again.

A commission assigned to address the problem spent millions but didn’t forestall the latest mishap. Construction workers were fussing with earthmovers, bits and pieces of ancient columns, broken pots and scaffolding one recent morning. Fedora Filippi, a veteran archaeologist lately put in charge, pointed out where the roof gave way in what is actually an adjacent gallery built under Trajan, after Nero. Rain seeped from a park above, she said. Everybody has known about the leaking for ages. But the park is city-owned, and the Domus Aurea is national property, so the problem is no one’s to solve.

“Everyone is paralyzed,” Ms. Filippi said. “We have problems specific to this site and, yes, we have Italian problems, too.”

After the Domus Aurea gave way, some chunks fell off the Colosseum. Salvo Barrano, vice president of Italy’s Association of National Archaeologists, afterward listed threats to the aqueducts, the Palatine. The country is basically one giant archaeological site, Mr. Barrano said, with every town and region vying for resources, no politician willing to make hard choices, and too few qualified engineers and archaeologists in charge.

“The problem for the last 12 or 13 years is that the country has stopped investing in culture,” he said. “In cases like the Domus Aurea, there just isn’t a quick enough political payoff for politicians to invest more resources.”

via: As Rome Modernizes, Its Past Quietly Crumbles | New York Times

Finally, we read (again inter alia) of the impact of tourism on Pompeii:

Of course the de-construction of Pompeii has been going on ever since it was first uncovered. Pompeii’s marble was stripped for use in new construction, the frescoes were hacked off and carted away to the Archaeological Museum in Naples. The removal of the treasures made sense as a way of preserving them and allowing scholars to study them. Engravings published in 1781 show statuary and other treasures being hauled through the streets of Naples by teams of oxen to the museum which is still home to most of them. Due to cuts imposed by the Ministry of Culture, though, many of the galleries are today closed in rotation.

But what has happened to the site since the end of the Second World War is something quite different. Indifference, lack of resources, lack of good leadership and the numbing Italian state bureaucracy have conspired to accelerate the decline of Pompeii to the point that today it is questionable whether or not it can be salvaged.

The problem is us. We pour through Pompeii and its lesser-known sister site, Herculaneum, in such numbers, millions of us every year, that our impact is comparable to the impact we have on our own homes and streets and towns. The daily population of these sites, the activity on their streets, is not significantly less than it must have been 2,000 years ago.

The difference is that in our own homes we leap into action if the roof starts leaking. Our streets are cleaned, our sewers and roads maintained on a regular basis. But since 1945 Pompeii has been treated as if it has no need of attentions of this sort, simply because nobody actually lives there. Galloping decay is the inevitable result.

Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, the British archaeologist who has been leading a project to rescue Herculaneum for the past decade, says, “There is an assumption that by digging stuff up you have redeemed it, you’ve saved it. Except you haven’t. The laws of physics say it’s stable underground. Whatever trauma happened to it at the moment of the eruption, it reaches a stable state. And of course that’s why it comes out in such great condition.

“But the moment you excavate, you start the clock again – the clock that says, you built the house for yourself today, the maintenance bills start tomorrow. It comes back to life, which means it’s mortal again, so it starts dying.”

Pompeii’s years of glory culminated in the long career of Amedeo Maiuri, superintendent throughout the Fascist years. He turned both sites into great popular attractions, restoring many houses and shops to the sort of decorative state they were in at the point when they were inundated, and exhibiting the items found within them in showcases. He was helped by the fact that Mussolini saw in the sites a great source of patriotic propaganda, advertising the age and splendour of Italian civilisation.

But Maiuri’s retirement was followed by decades of apathy and incompetence, with the results that we see today: millions of tourists tramping through the few remaining gems that are still open to visitors, the House of Pansa, the House of the Little Fountain, the House of the Faun, with their flaking frescoes and reproduction statues, then getting back on their buses.

The concentration of such numbers on a handful of sites ensures that they, too, in their turn will soon have to be closed. And what will we all do then? Read our guidebooks in the sterile comfort of the Autogrill, toss our unfinished panini at the stray dogs, and hope that we are in time to make it to the museum in Naples before it closes.

via: Ashes to ashes: neglect takes its toll on Pompeii’s Roman ruins | Independent

Not a pretty picture and likely not about to change in the near future …