Monday, April 20, 2015

Rare Roman owl clasp found on Danish island


A 2,000-year-old bronze and enamel clasp has been unearthed south of the town of Nexø on the island of Bornholm. Shaped like an owl, the bronze and enamel button has large orange eyes and colourful wings. 


A rare owl clasp has been found on Bornholm  [Credit: Bornholm's Museum] 

“There are very few of these types of buttons,” said archaeologist Christina Seehusen from Bornholms Museum. “It is likely that someone travelling to the island carried it there.” 

The owl was produced in regions along the Roman frontier that ran along the Danube and the Rhine at the time, so it may originate from ancient Cologne or another nearby town. The clasp was usually worn by men to hold their cloaks closed, so it is possible that a man from the island was a Germanic mercenary in the Roman army and brought the owl back to Bornholm with him. 

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Saturday, April 18, 2015

Understanding popular Latin of Roman Hispania through graffiti on pottery

'Sigillata' pottery, from Roman times, was manufactured with a mould and sometimes stamped with figures and patterns.  Credit: Universitat de València

Te University of Valencia is studying the popular Latin of Roman Hispania through the graffiti found on 'terra sigillata' ceramic ware. As part of this approach, analyses of the graffiti kept in the Spanish Royal Academy of History have just been started with a recent publication in the journal Lucentum: Anales de la Universidad de Alicante'.

'Research focuses on the words written on the surface of these everyday ceramic pieces which can provide linguistic data, but also territorial and ethnological information', says the author of the work, Josep Montesinos, professor of Art History at the Faculty of Geography and History. Xaverio Ballester, professor in the Department of Classical Philology at the University of Valencia is also part of the team.

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Burials from Rockbourne Roman villa re-examined


Lower jaw deformities from birth, a missing right hand and foot bones, trepanning to exorcise “bad spirits” and a lonely burial were the lot of a middle-aged Saxon or early medieval man found face down in a shallow grave, say archaeologists investigating skeletons found at a Hampshire Roman villa during the 1960s. 


A reconstruction of the skull of a man found weighed down  in a lonely grave at Hampshire's largest Roman villa  [Credit: © Hampshire Cultural Trust] 

The latter of two male discoveries at Rockbourne, near the town of Fordingbridge on the River Avon, was originally found in 1965. 

Analysts believe the community would have buried him in a lonely place and weighed him down with stones after viewing a deformity on the left hand side of his jaw as a sign of his troubles and a potentially evil influence.

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Metal detectorist unearths 'exceptional' Roman finds


Archaeological finds dating back to AD 200 have been discovered in a field near Royston. The artefacts, which form part of a burial, probably of a wealthy and cosmopolitan individual, are a unique find in Britain and experts in ancient finds are already clamouring to study these rare objects. 


One of the smashed but complete mosaic glass dishes from Alexandria, Egypt  [Credit: North Hertfordshire District Council] 

Discovered late last year by a local metal detectorist in a field in Kelshall, a complete Roman jug was the first thing to be found. A bronze dish, a larger jug and then a third jug were soon uncovered. Realising this was an important find it was reported and Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, North Hertfordshire District Council’s (NHDC) Archaeology and Outreach Officer, decided that it would be a good idea to investigate further.

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Julius Caesar may have suffered mini-strokes, study finds


Roman emperor Julius Caesar may have suffered a series of mini-strokes, explaining his dark mood in later life, according to doctors at London's Imperial College.
Caesar, who lived from 100 to 44 BC, has long been the focus of medical debate, with the common assumption being that he suffered from epilepsy.
But  from the London university have reexamined his symptoms, which included vertigo, dizziness and , and concluded that he may have in fact suffered from a cardiovascular complaint.
"To date, possible cardiovascular explanations have always been ruled out on the grounds that until his death he was supposedly otherwise physically well during both private and stately affairs," said an excerpt of the study written by Francesco Galassi and Hutan Ashrafian.
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Sunday, April 12, 2015

Mummies from Hungary reveal TB's Roman lineage


Bodies found in a 200 year-old Hungarian crypt have revealed the secrets of how tuberculosis (TB) took hold in 18th century Europe, according to a research team led by the University of Warwick. 


One of the 265 mummies resting in cardboard boxes in the Hungarian  Natural History Museum in Budapest, Hungary [Credit: AP/Bela Szandelszky] 

A new study published in Nature Communications details how samples taken from naturally mummified bodies found in an 18th century crypt in the Dominican church of Vác in Hungary have yielded 14 tuberculosis genomes, suggesting that mixed infections were common when TB was at peak prevalence in Europe. 

The research team included collaborators from the Universities of Warwick and Birmingham, University College London, the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the Hungarian Natural History Museum in Budapest. Lead author Professor Mark Pallen, from Warwick Medical School, said the discovery was significant for current and future infection control and diagnosis.

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Saturday, April 11, 2015

Tales from the crypt: Mummies reveal TB's Roman lineage

This photomicrograph reveals Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria using acid-fast Ziehl-Neelsen stain; Magnified 1000 X. The acid-fast stains depend on the ability of mycobacteria to retain dye when treated with mineral acid or an acid-alcohol solution such as the Ziehl-Neelsen, or the Kinyoun stains that are carbolfuchsin methods specific for M. tuberculosis. Credit: public domain

Samples from mummies in a Hungarian crypt have revealed that multiple tuberculosis strains derived from a single Roman ancestor that circulated in 18th-century Europe, scientists said Tuesday.
Their findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, drew on a remarkable, if gruesome, source.
In 1994, workers restoring a Dominican church in Vac, Hungary, stumbled upon the remains of more than 200 people whose corpses had become naturally mummified.
The individuals, many of them wealthy Catholics, had been placed fully clothed in coffins in the church crypt just north of the capital Budapest between 1731 and 1838.
A microclimate of exceptionally dry air prevented the bodies and garments from rotting.
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Small Bronze Harpy Unearthed in England


A small, bronze figurine was discovered along with fragments of Roman pottery and roof tiles at an excavation at Moverons Quarry in southeastern England by archaeologist Ben Holloway of The Colchester Archaeological Trust. The four-inch-tall statue, which has not been cleaned or conserved yet, depicts an upright bird with feathers, talons, and a woman’s head with braided hair. Its small wings are open, and it has a serpent’s tail that functions as a support. The figure is thought to represent a harpy, a creature from Greek and Roman mythology. The three harpies were the daughters of Thaumas and Electra, and were named Aello, Ocypete, and Celaeno.

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Row over plans to use ancient Spanish amphitheatre as tennis court


Critics say padel tennis tournament will damage monument in Mérida while official insists plans pose no risk to roman structure


In Mérida’s roman amphitheatre, built about 8BC, one cannot smoke or wear a rucksack larger than 40cm.
But in early May, the Unesco world heritage site will be transformed into a padel tennis court, hosting competitors during the World Padel Tour as they volley balls at each other at breakneck speeds. The goal is to combine padel tennis, one of Spain’s most popular outdoor sports, with the rich roman history of Mérida,in the Spanish region of Extremadura. But the idea has provoked widespread opposition.
Nearly 100,000 people have signed an online petition attacking the idea. Authorities insist the project poses no risk to the monument, said Joaquin Paredes, the creator of the petition. “How can it be that the transfer and installation of courts and bleachers as well as allowing access to thousands of people won’t have any effect on a monument that’s more than 2,000 years old?”
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Monday, March 23, 2015

Romano-British roundhouse unearthed in Devon field


After a dig launched to culminate years of theorising by Howard Jones, a local archaeologist and former Royal Marine whose suspicions were strengthened by Google Maps, archaeologists are about to compile their findings from a set of four riverside fields near Plymouth which could have been part of one of Devon’s oldest settlements. 


A drone image of the roundhouse - shown by a ditch curving round - and several  internal post-holes in Spriddlestone [Credit: © One Plymouth Media] 

A wealth of artefacts from the Roman and medieval periods have already been identified since the two-week initial phase of the dig ended last weekend. Having made his way across the fields in pursuit of convincing preparatory evidence, Jones found receptive allies in the form of rugby club hosts, volunteers from local history and archaeology societies and local newspaper the Western Morning News.

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