Roman Burial in Dr Jenner’s Garden?

Interesting item from the University of Bristol:

A skeleton, possibly dating from Roman times, has been unearthed by archaeologists from the University of Bristol during a dig in the garden of vaccination pioneer Dr Edward Jenner in Berkeley, Gloucestershire.

The archaeologists, led by Professor Mark Horton and Dr Stuart Prior, have been excavating part of the garden of The Chantry, the former country home of vaccination pioneer, Dr Edward Jenner (1749-1823), during a series of annual digs since 2007. They have already established that Berkeley is an important Anglo-Saxon site with a mynster of the same scale and status as Gloucester.

Last week, they uncovered a skeleton believed to date from the Roman or possibly sub-Roman (that is the ‘Dark Ages’) period. The Roman occupation of Britain ended in 410AD, making this an extremely rare find of great historical significance.

As the skeleton was painstakingly excavated it became clear that it was cut in half by a later ditch. Roman material was found in this ditch, which could have either been deposited by the Romans themselves or later inhabitants of the area as they were robbing the Roman buildings nearby.

The skeleton is known to be adult but its sex has not yet been determined. It was found underneath the sealed remains of part of the Anglo-Saxon Mynster, founded in the 8th century. This latest discovery, however, clearly puts Berkeley on the map as an even earlier religious site than previously thought.

Professor Mark Horton said: “This was a completely unexpected but really important discovery because it fills in the history between the Roman villa that we believe is on the site and the Anglo-Saxon monastery discovered during earlier digs.

“It just goes to show that you never quite know what lies under your feet. It is unlikely that Dr Jenner was aware of these unexpected neighbours lurking at the bottom of his garden.”

Sarah Parker, Director of Dr Jenner’s House said: “Year on year the archaeology and recorded data that the University of Bristol uncovers from Dr Jenner’s garden never ceases to amaze. It reinforces the importance of this historic site alongside the Birthplace of Vaccination. We are very pleased to be working with the university, sharing history being made being with the public.”

… I’m curious what the “Roman material” found in the ditch might have been

Iranian Salt Men Update

Salt man's head, Iran Bastan Museum
Image via Wikipedia

A year ago (almost to the day) we were mentioning that the remains of some so-called ‘salt men’ from Iran had been saved from a sad decompositional fate in a museum and we also reminded folks of Adrienne Mayor’s plausible suggestion that such ‘salt men’ may have had some connection to tales of satyrs and the like. Now, the fine folks at Past Horizons alert us to a recent study on the actual origins of the men themselves, inter alia:

Recently isotopic analysis was carried out on five of the salt-preserved bodies which are now dated to between  4th century BCE through to the 4th century CE. In an attempt to identify the geographical origins of these people, researchers from the Department of Environmental Sciences, Università Ca’ Foscari in Italy, matched osteological samples from various sites in Iran and those from the salt mine bodies. It was possible for them to hypothesise that two of the “mummies” may have come from the Tehran/Qazvin Plain region (local to the salt mine), and a further two appear on isotopic grounds to have come from the northeast of Iran or the Turkmenistan steppes. The fifth appears to have come from further afield.

… the article continues and includes some nice links for your further investigatory pleasure:

A Salutatorian Compendium

It’s that time of year again when some lucky graduand delivers a speech in Latin at some Ivy League university. First up is Charles C. Bridge at Harvard:

If you’d like the text, the APA blog has text and translation: Text and Translation of the Latin Oration Delivered at Harvard

Over at Princeton, Veronica Shi was given a nice profile in a university news release which included the following bit:

It was a course at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs on higher education policy, taught by Associate Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs Daniel Oppenheimer, that prompted Shi to consider the role of promoting the study of classics.

“It got me thinking about the larger question of articulating the importance of the humanities,” Shi said. “I came to feel that being a responsible scholar of the classics involves knowing how to express to the public at large why this discipline, even though seemingly very rarified, is worth studying and making accessible to a wider audience.”

For Shi, part of the potency of classics is its endurance.

“Homer is almost 3,000 years old, and even today, we can still read and appreciate his poetry in the original language,” Shi said. “This ability to bridge a huge divide of culture and time is what really makes classics magical.”

Shi worked to bring that magic to the Princeton community earlier this year when she crafted a libretto in classical Latin for an original opera created by students called “Nero Artifex.” Watching the students onstage singing an entire opera in Latin was “remarkable,” Shi said.

“I hoped it would be a powerful argument for the idea that Latin isn’t a dead language,” she said. “Bringing the language to life and letting people hear it shows that it’s not mysterious and arcane, but something really beautiful.”

As can be seen from the date of that item, I’ve been sitting on it hoping that Shi’s oration would show up on Youtube vel simm., but alas, it doesn’t seem to be happening. But again, the APA has put up the text and translation of her Carmen Salutationis (wow!): Text and Translation of the Latin Oration Delivered at Princeton …. and wow again. I’ll keep looking for a Youtube version … I would have loved to see how Ms Shi delivered this.

This Day in Ancient History: ante diem v idus junias

Portrait of Nero. Marble, Roman artwork, 1st c...
Image via Wikipedia

ante diem v idus junias

  • Vestalia — festival in honour of Vesta, the goddess of the hearth
  • 53 B.C. — the Roman army under Marcus Licinius Crassus (Dives) suffers a massive defeat at the hand of the Persians under Surenas near Carrhae; Crassus dies as a result of the battle
  • 17 B.C.. — ludi Latini et Graeci honorarii (day 5)
  • 62 A.D. — Nero has his first wife, Octavia, killed while in exile for adultery on Pandateria
  • 68 A.D. — the emperor Nero commits suicide
  • 86 A.D. — ludi Capitolini (day 4)
  • 193 A.D. — arrival of Septimius Severus in Rome
  • 204 A.D. — ludi Latini et Graeci honorarii (day 6)