Another Gladiator Grave Claim — This Time Female?

The BBC seems to be first off the mark with this one, and it will likely be picked up:

Archaeologists in Herefordshire have uncovered the remains of what could possibly be a female gladiator.

Amongst the evidence of a Roman suburb in Credenhill, they have found the grave of a massive, muscular woman.

She was found in an elaborate wooden coffin, reinforced with iron straps and copper strips, which indicate her importance.

Her remains were found in a crouched position, in what could be a suburb of the nearby Roman town of Kenchester.

The archaeological Project Manager, Robin Jackson, said: “When we first looked at the leg and arm bones, the muscle attachments suggested it was quite a strapping big bloke, but the pelvis and head, and all the indicators of gender, say it’s a woman.”

“The coffin would have been made of wood – we haven’t got any of the wood left, but we’ve got the nails around the outside then three huge giant straps that run all the way around the coffin, and also bronze strips on the corners which would have probably strengthened it, but probably decorated it.

“It’s quite an elaborate and probably a very expensive coffin, and yet the person in it looked like they had a hard working life, and so there’s an anomaly there.”

An offering of beef and a fired pot were also found in the grave, and she was buried on top of a base of gravel.

Also unusual was the place where she was buried – in the suburb, instead of in a cemetery on the edge of the settlement, which was the law in Roman times.

Excavations

This archaeological find is as a result of excavations in advance of the construction of the Yazor Brook Flood Alleviation Scheme, which will protect homes and businesses in Hereford.

The road east from Kenchester was constructed by the Roman army in the mid 1st century AD, as they pushed westwards into Wales.

Very little was known previously about the suburb which grew up beside this road, however, preliminary results suggest that the main period of development for the suburb was the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD, and that it was much more extensive and densely occupied than had previously been thought.

Trial work, undertaken in 2009, showed that the area contains the well-preserved remains of Roman buildings, yards and rubbish pits situated to either side of a major Roman road, which ran east out of the town.

These form part of an important Roman suburb, which developed alongside the road, but now lies buried, along with the rest of the town, beneath fields and a footpath.

A team of archaeologists from Worcestershire Historic Environment and Archaeology Service, working in close co-operation with Amey Consulting and Herefordshire Council’s archaeology team, are carefully excavating a 10-metre wide corridor, to allow the flood culvert to be built across this area.

A huge amount of information has already been gleaned, and this is beginning to allow the archaeologists to gain an understanding of this part of the town.

It is hoped that by the time the excavation is completed, at the end of July 2010, the archaeological team will have built up a detailed understanding of the development and nature of this Roman suburb.

The original report also includes a brief audio interview with the archaeologist (Robin Jackson) … much of it is transcribed in the above interview, of course, but something extremely important has been left out. We seem to start in medias res with:

It’s an outside possibility, but we have a very interesting female body on the site …

… so we wonder what that ‘outside possibility’ might be, then later we hear from the journalist after the ‘there’s an anomaly there’ bit in the written piece:

Because if it was somebody that was working in the fields, the strength came from that they would have been buried in a shroud out of the way of the way of the settlement. This is why we’re thinking she’s a fighting lady …

The response:

Well that’s one theory that can be pursued; I can’t say that I can come up with any better … [I omit bits about the burial, the joint of beef, the pot, etc. as evidence of ‘elaboration’ which doesn’t “sit happily”] … so maybe the warrior idea is one that you can pursue, but I’ll leave that to peoples’ imaginations rather than what I formally write down.

So clearly we’re just dealing with some ‘thinking out loud’ rather than a formal theory at this point. I highly doubt we’re dealing with a female gladiator in these environs (someone like that would have surely been sent to Rome). The burial in the ‘crouched position’ would also suggest that she’s probably buried in a coffin that wasn’t made specifically for her … I wonder what other burials in the area are like.

UPDATE (A few hours later):

The incipit of a brief item from the Hereford Times:

EXPERTS at an archaelogical dig near Hereford say reports they have found an ancient gladiator are inaccurate.

A local radio station has this morning stated that a female warrior had been unearthed during the dig at Credenhill.

But Robin Jackson, of the Worcestershire Historic Environment and Archaeology Service, said the body was merely of a woman of “considerable stature” representing a lifetime of hard work.

Temple and Bridge from Near Apamea

This one from Sify/ANI is annoyingly lacking in details … I can’t find a name for al-Bahred in ancient times, but it seems to be the right distance away from Apamea to be a mansio at least …:

Archaeologists have unearthed an archaeological temple dating back to the Hellenistic and Roman eras.

They have also found a stone-made bridge dating back to the Roman era.

The findings were uncovered in the village of al-Bared River, 20 kms to the west north of Apamea, central Syrian Province of Hama, reports the Global Arab Network.

According to Director of Hama Antiquities Department, Jamal Ramadan, the temple was built in Hellenistic architectural style, of 210-centimeters long and 170-cenetimeters wide stones inscribed from their internal side.

The unearthed stone-made bridge dates back to the Roman Era, and is 10-meter long and 3-meter wide with three asymmetric arches.

Another version:

Etruscan House from Grosseto: Followup

We’re getting a few more details on that Etruscan house find at Grosseto which we mentioned last week … here’s an excerpt from ANSA’s coverage:

Following an initial excavation of two weeks, the archaeological team revealed details of the earliest discoveries.

The building’s walls were made of blocks of dried clay, the first ever example of Etruscan-made brick, said Rafanelli. Clay plaster was also found, along with a door handle and the remains of bronze furniture. Of particular interest is the basement of the house. Built of drystone this was apparently used as a cellar for storing food supplies. A massive pitcher which stood in the corner of the main room was used to hold grain.

Other finds include the original flooring of the house, made of crushed earthenware plaster, along with remains of vases, amphorae and plates painted black.

A large quantity of metal nails in the house, along with their placements, indicates the main room might have once contained a kind of mezzanine level built from wooden beams. Six Roman and Etruscan coins discovered on a small alter inside the structure suggest it collapsed in 79 BC, during a period of war sparked by the Roman general Lucius Cornelius Sulla.

Experts believe the building, which was used both as a home and for commercial activity, belonged to a wealthy and influential family at the time of its collapse. The variety of styles discovered so far indicates it was extended and renovated several times during its three centuries of existence. “The building was part of the ancient town of Vetulonia and is much older than other sections of the town uncovered so far,” said Rafanelli. “We also want to work towards transforming this building into an open air museum,” she added, promising the excavations would continue.

via Etruscan home ‘unique discovery’ | ANSA.it.

Greek ‘Stone Crown’ from Syria

This one’s kind of confusing for me … from the Global Arab Network:

via Global Arab Network

Remarkable archaeological finds from the Greek and Roman eras have been found in different archaeological sites in Deir Ezzor Province during current excavation season.

A Greek stone crown, the first of its kind in the region, was discovered by the Syrian-French mission operating in Dura Europos site, Director of Deir Ezzor Antiquities Department Amir al-Haiyou told Syrian local media.

A 30 cm statue of a man on top of a camel, and a number of coins and clay pieces were also unearthed in the site, added al-Haiyou.

The Syrian-Spanish archaeological mission working in the site of Tell Qaber Abu al-Atiq (hill), 75 km north of Deir Ezzor, found a collection of cuneiforms dating back to the Middle Assyrian period.

The city of Dura Europos was founded around 300 BC by the Seleucids in the Hellenistic era and was discovered accidentally in 1920. It became a battlefield between the Seleucids, the Parthians, the Romans and the Sassanids.

via: Syrian-Spanish archaeologists find Greek stone crown | Global Arab Network

… I’m not sure what a ‘stone crown’ is … is it just another type of capital?

Clay Sarcophagi from Protaras

Oh, those clumsy work crews:

Work crews in Cyprus have accidentally unearthed four rare clay coffins estimated to be some 2,000 years old, the country’s Antiquities Department director said Wednesday.

Maria Hadjicosti said the coffins adorned with floral patterns date from the east Mediterranean island’s Hellenistic to early Roman periods, between 300 B.C. and 100 A.D.

She said the coffins were dug up this week from what is believed to be an ancient cemetery in the eastern coastal resort of Protaras.

Hadjicosti said similar coffins dating from the same period have been discovered. Two such coffins are on display in the capital’s Archaeological Museum, while three others remain in storage there. But she called the latest find significant because the coffins were untouched by grave robbers.

“The undisturbed coffins will help us add to our knowledge and understanding of that period of Cyprus history,” Hadjicosti said.

She said other items found at the site included human skeletal remains, glass vessels and terra cotta urns, indicating that the cemetery was in use over a long period of time.

The official said the cemetery is one of several found throughout island’s northeast, but scientists don’t know which undiscovered settlement the bodies came from.

Crews stumbled on the coffins – or sarcophagi – while working to complete a sidewalk at the resort. […]

Some photos accompany the original AP article …

via Cyprus: crews stumble on 2-millenia-old coffins | Kansas City Star.