Monday, October 22, 2012

Tomb raiders lead to new archaeological find

Votive offerings to Juno from 4th to 2nd century BC

Rome, October 19 - Investigations into the activities of four tomb raiders in the Alban hills near Rome have led to the discovery of a previously unknown site containing ancient Roman votive offerings. The ex-votos date from the fourth to the second century BC and include life-sized statues and depictions of parts of the human anatomy in terracotta offered to the ancient Roman goddess Juno. Police caught the tomb robbers in action as they were stealing the devotional objects from a natural cavity in a tufa wall near Lanuvio and Genzano that did not appear on archaeological maps of the area.

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Ancient sundial found in northern Greece

The ancient sundial dating from the Greco-Roman period found in Polichrono in Chalkidiki [Credit: Greek Reporter]

One of the rarest sundials dating from the Greco-Roman period was found in Polichrono in Chalkidiki, northern Greece. This sundial is not a usual one as it shows the correct time at any given place.

It is noteworthy that in the Ancient Greek world, sundials consisted of a gnomon (indicator) in the form of a vertical post or peg set in a flat surface, upon which the shadow of the gnomon served to indicate the time.

This sundial has a surface which is separated in 12 parts representing 12 hours of the day. More particularly, the sundial consists of a hyperbola tracing the shadow’s path at the winter solstice, a second one for the summer solstice, and a straight east-west line in between marking the equinoctial shadows.

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Cat discovers 2,000-year-old Roman catacomb

An aerial view of Rome: residents of the city are often underwhelmed and sometimes irritated to find they are living on top of priceless Roman remains. Photograph: Alessandro Bianchi/REUTERS
Rome may not exactly be short of catacombs, but one discovered this week is more deserving of the name than the city's countless other subterranean burial chambers. For Mirko Curti stumbled into a 2,000-year-old tomb piled with bones while chasing a wayward moggy yards from his apartment building.

Curti and a friend were following the cat at 10pm on Tuesday when it scampered towards a low tufa rock cliff close to his home near Via di Pietralata in a residential area of the city. "The cat managed to get into a grotto and we followed the sound of its miaowing," he said.

Inside the small opening in the cliff the two men found themselves surrounded by niches dug into the rock similar to those used by the Romans to hold funeral urns, while what appeared to be human bones littered the floor.

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Archaeologists Uncover Roman Mosaic in Downtown Sofia

Sofia Mayor, Yordanka Fandakova, visited archaeological works in the center of the city; the St. Joseph catholic cathedral is seen behind. Photo by 

Archaeologists have discovered colorful floor mosaic from the Roman era near the so-called West Gate of Serdica in downtown Sofia.

The news was announced Monday by the Mayor of Sofia, Yordanka Fandakova, who visited the archaeological excavations in the company of her Deputy in charge of Culture, Todor Chobanov.

The mosaic has an area of 40 square meters and is located in the ruins of a Roman building discovered for the first time between 1975 and 1980 when archaeologists began exploring the site. The works were later abandoned and remained unfinished.

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Burial Customs

In the first century A.D. Roman army veterans arrived in what is now northern Macedonia and settled near the small village of Scupi. The veterans had been given the land by the emperor Domitian as a reward for their service, as was customary. They soon began to enlarge the site, and around A.D. 85, the town was granted the status of a Roman colony and named Colonia Flavia Scupinorum. (“Flavia” refers to the Flavian Dynasty of which Domitian was a member.) Over the next several centuries Scupi grew at a rapid pace. In the late third century and well into the fourth, Scupi experienced a period of great prosperity. The colony became the area’s principal religious, cultural, economic, and administrative center and one of the locations from which, through military action and settlement, the Romans colonized the region. 

Scupi, which gives its name to Skopje, the nearby capital of the Republic of Macedonia, has been excavated regularly since 1966. Since that time archaeologists have uncovered an impressive amount of evidence, including many of the buildings that characterize a Roman city— a theater, a basilica, public baths, a granary, and a sumptuous urban villa, as well as remains of the city walls and part of the gridded street plan. Recently, however, due to the threat from construction, they have focused their work on one of the city’s necropolises, situated on both sides of a 20-foot-wide state-of-the art ancient road.

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Heritage sites added to East Midlands 'at risk' register

A Roman arch over a road in Lincoln is one of 20 sites in the East Midlands to appear on the 2012 English Heritage at Risk Register.

Other sites include Taylor's Bell Foundry in Loughborough and the Chapel of St John the Baptist in Derbyshire.

English Heritage (EH) has included Grade II listed buildings for the first time in a bid to attract support.
It said being on the list meant a greater chance of securing grants.

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Archaeology Summer Courses in Oxford

The Oxford Experience, Christ Church, Oxford

The Oxford Experience summer school offers one-week introductory classes in the humanities and sciences, including a number of archaeology courses.

You can find details of the Oxford Experience summer school here...

You can find a list of the archaeology courses here...

CSIC researchers find the exact spot where Julius Caesar was stabbed

A concrete structure of three meters wide and over two meters high, placed by order of Augustus (adoptive son and successor of Julius Caesar) to condemn the assassination of his father, has given the key to the scientists. This finding confirms that the General was stabbed right at the bottom of the Curia of Pompey while he was presiding, sitting on a chair, over a meeting of the Senate. Currently, the remains of this building are located in the archaeological area of Torre Argentina, right in the historic centre of the Roman capital. 

Antonio Monterroso, CSIC researcher from the Institute of History of the Center for Humanities and Social Sciences (CCHS-CSIC), states: "We always knew that Julius Caesar was killed in the Curia of Pompey on March 15th 44 BC because the classical texts pass on so, but so far no material evidence of this fact, so often depicted in historicist painting and cinema, had been recovered". 

Classical sources refer to the closure (years after the murder) of the Curia, a place that would become a chapel-memory. CSIC researcher explains: "We know for sure that the place where Julius Caesar presided over that session of the Senate, and where he fell stabbed, was closed with a rectangular structure organized under four walls delimiting a Roman concrete filling. However, we don't know if this closure also involved that the building ceased to be totally accessible".
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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Two Roman wrecks found off Turkish coast

Two ancient Roman shipwrecks, complete with their cargo, have been discovered by Italian archaeologists off the coast of Turkey near the the ancient Roman city of Elaiussa Sebaste.

The ships, one dating from the Roman Imperial period and the other from about the sixth century AD, have been found with cargoes of amphorae and marble, say researchers from the Italian Archaeological Mission of Rome's University La Sapienza.

Both ships were discovered near Elaiussa Sebaste, on the Aegean coast of Turkey near Mersin, according to a statement issued by the Italian embassy in Ankara.

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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Oxford Experience on Facebook

The Oxford Experience - an Oxford University summer school that offers many courses in archaeology and history - now has a Facebook site.

You can find the site at:

You can find out more about the Oxford Experience here...

Methane Emissions Can Be Traced Back to Roman Times

The isotope curve shows that the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane had several peaks in the last 2,100 years. 1: During Roman times, where a lot of wood was burned for heating and for the processing of metals. 2: During the warm Middle Ages, where forests caught on fire. 3: In the "Little Ice Age", which was a very cold and dry period. 4: The methane concentration has increased dramatically since approx. the year 1800, when industrialization took off and triggered energy and food production, for example, rice fields. (Credit: NBI)

 Emissions of the greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere can be traced back thousands of years in the Greenland ice sheet. Using special analytical methods, researchers from the Niels Bohr Institute, among others, have determined how much methane originates from natural sources and how much is due to human activity. The results go all the way back to Roman times and up to the present, where more than half of the emissions are now human-made.

The results are published in the scientific journal, Nature.

Methane is an important greenhouse gas, which today is partly emitted from natural sources and partly from human activities. The emissions from natural sources varies due to the climate variations. For example, bacteria in wetlands release methane and less is emitted in dry periods as the wetlands shrink.

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Monday, October 1, 2012

Der römische Denar: ein Euro des Altertums?

Der römische Denar war vor 2000 Jahren weiter verbreitet als der Euro. Um 120 n. Chr., als das Römische Reich seine größte Ausdehnung hatte, konnte man von Britannia bis Kleinasien und von Nord-Afrika bis zum Rhein reisen, ohne Geld wechseln zu müssen. Was aus heutiger Sicht noch erstaunlicher erscheint: Das Denarsystem war über 500 Jahre stabil. In der aktuellen Ausgabe von "Forschung Frankfurt", dem Wissenschaftsmagazin der Goethe-Universität, erklärt Junior-Professorin Dr. Fleur Kemmers, wie dieses System organisiert war und warum es zusammenbrach.

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