Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Archaeology Classes on the Oxford Experience summer school 2024

Tom Quad, Christ Church, Oxford University – image David Beard

The Oxford Experience summer school is held at Christ Church, Oxford. 
Participants stay in Christ Church and eat in the famous Dining Hall, that was the model for the Hall in the Harry Potter movies.

This year there are twelve classes offered in archaeology.

Monday, January 29, 2024

‘Their heads were nailed to the trees’: what was life – and death – like for Roman legionaries?

‘It was killing fields as far as the eye can see’ … the Latin-inscribed slabs crossing the site of the battle, which features in the British Museum show Legion.
Photograph: David Levene/The Guardian

‘Their heads were nailed to the trees’: what was life – and death – like for Roman legionaries?
It was the defeat that traumatised Rome, leaving 15,000 soldiers slaughtered in a German field. As a major show explores this horror and more, our writer finds traces of the fallen by a forest near the Rhine

It is one of the most chilling passages in Roman literature. Germanicus, the emperor Tiberius’s nephew, is leading reprisals in the deeply forested areas east of the Rhine, when he decides to visit the scene of the catastrophic defeat, six years before, of his fellow Roman, Quinctilius Varus. The historian Tacitus describes what Germanicus finds: the ghastly human wreckage of a supposedly unbeatable army, deep in the Teutoburg Forest. “On the open ground,” he writes, “were whitening bones of men, as they had fled, or stood their ground, strewn everywhere or piled in heaps. Near lay fragments of weapons and limbs of horses, and also human heads, prominently nailed to trunks of trees.”

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Link found between cold snaps during Roman Empire era and pandemics

Schematic drawing of the relationship between climatic change and sociological, physical, and biological factors influencing infectious disease outbreaks.
Credit: Science Advances (2024). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.adk1033

A team of geoscientists, Earth scientists and environmental scientists affiliated with several institutions in Germany, the U.S. and the Netherlands has found a link between cold snaps and pandemics during the Roman Empire.

In their project, reported in the journal Science Advances, the group studied core samples taken from the seabed in the Gulf of Taranto and compared them with historical records.

Researchers learn about climatic conditions in the distant past by analyzing sediment built up from river deposits. Tiny organisms that are sensitive to temperature, for example, respond differently to warm temperatures than to cold temperatures and often wind up in such sediment. Thus, the study of organic remains in sediment layers can reveal details of temperatures over a period of time.

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Thursday, January 25, 2024

Mystery of 'unusual and largest ever' Roman hoard discovered in UK town finally solved


While the Knaresborough Hoard, as it came to be known, was found way back in 1864, never has there been a detailed analysis of the items included in it.

The people who found the hoard, in the tiny Yorkshire town, were also unsure about the story behind the hoard. All they knew was that it dated to the Roman period.

That has all changed after archaeologists at Newcastle University carried out the first comprehensive study of the collection, something that has finally 'revealed the mystery' after all this time.

Exactly 30 items make up the hoard, most of which are now on display in the Yorkshire Museum in York.

They were donated to the museum in 1864 by Thomas Gott, an ironmonger who was also a Town Councillor and lived in Knaresborough — though he was reluctant to reveal where they had been found or who owned the and from which they were pulled.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Spicy wine: New study reveals ancient Romans may have had peculiar tastes

Buried Roman fermentation jars (dolia) from Villa Regina, Boscoreale. 
Credit: E. Dodd, courtesy of the Ministero della Cultura – Parco Archaeologico di Pompei

It's no secret that the ancient Romans were lovers of wine. So gripped by the grape were they, that they even worshiped a god—Bacchus—devoted to wine and merriment.

But, little is known about what their wine actually tasted like. Was it bitter or sweet? Fruity or earthy? According to a pioneering new study, it was rather spicy and smelled like toast.

The study, published on Jan. 23 in the journal Antiquity, analyzed Roman clay jars, known as dolia, which were used to manufacture, ferment and store ancient wines.

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Roman Villa Associated with Pliny the Elder Discovered in Naples

Researchers in Naples have discovered an ancient Roman villa on the seafront thought to be the place from where Pliny the Elder watched Mount Vesuvius erupt.

Archaeological assistance sought during an urban regeneration project in the vicinity of Punta Sarparella in Bacoli, Naples, has led to the uncovering of the remains of a monumental Roman villa, dating back to around the 1st century AD.

The Structure, built using diamond-shaped cubilia in the opus reticulata form (decorative Roman wall facing), is comprised of ten large rooms in various stages of construction, and extends all the way to the beach from the site.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2024

See the Face of Roman Britain’s Only Known Crucifixion Victim

Only one victim of crucifixion has ever been identified in Roman Britain: The man’s skeleton—with a two-inch nail driven through its heel bone—was discovered during a dig in Cambridgeshire in 2017. Now, researchers have released a facial reconstruction showing what he may have looked like 2,000 years ago.

As Joe Mullins, a forensic scientist at Virginia’s George Mason University, says in the new BBC Four documentary The Cambridgeshire Crucifixion, “I am staring at a face from thousands of years ago, and staring at this face is something I will never forget.”

Mullins’ work usually involves working with law enforcement to reconstruct the faces of modern-day crime victims, according to a statement from George Mason. As he tells BBC News’ Katy Prickett, the ancient victim possesses “by far the most interesting skull I’ve worked on in my career.”

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Tuesday, December 19, 2023

The battle was likely fought around 15 B.C.E. between Roman troops and local Suanetes fighters, who lost the bout.

Archaeologists at work uncovering evidence of a battle that was fought in the Julier Valley around 15 B.C.E. image: Archaeological Service Graubünden

oday, the Julier Valley in Switzerland is an idyllic place with majestic mountains and wide, green fields. But some 2,000 years ago, archaeologists now believe that it was the site of a fierce battle between Roman soldiers and local warriors, one which changed the course of history and helped lead to the Roman occupation of modern-day Switzerland.

During the examination of the site, which is located in the Crap-Ses gorge between the towns of Tiefencastel and Cunter, archaeologists have found thousands of objects that allude to the valley’s violent past. These include swords, slingshot bullets, brooches, coins, fragments of shields, and thousands upon thousands of Roman hobnails, which were hammered into the soles of leather boots and shoes.

There is so much at the site, in fact, that archaeologists uncovered an average of 250 to 300 objects per day during a three-week period in the autumn.

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Was Honorius’ Letter Really Sent to Britain?

The Romans ruled Britain for nearly four centuries, from 43 CE until the beginning of the fifth century. Most commentators agree that the actions of Magnus Maximus can be viewed as the beginning of the end of Roman rule over Britain. He withdrew a large portion of Roman troops when he proclaimed himself emperor and set off to attack Emperor Gratian on the continent. This was in 383, quite some time before the fifth century. But while acknowledging that it was a gradual process, many modern sources claim that one specific year can be cited as the final end. In 410 Emperor Honorius wrote a letter telling the recipients that the Romans could no longer protect them. But was it really sent to Britain?

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Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Archaeologists unearth ‘most shocking example of Roman slavery’ at Pompeii

A bakery where enslaved people were imprisoned and exploited to produce bread has been discovered in the ruins of Pompeii in what has been described as the most shocking example of slavery in the ancient Roman city.

The cramped bakery with small windows barred with iron was part of a home that emerged during excavations in the Regio IX area of the Pompeii archaeological park in southern Italy.

The discovery provides more evidence on the daily life of Pompeii’s enslaved people, often forgotten about by historical sources but who made up most of the population and whose hard labour propped up the city’s economy as well as the culture and fabric of Roman civilisation.

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Pompeii Bakery Yields Evidence of Enslaved Workers

(Pompeii Archaeological Park)

ROME, ITALY—The Guardian reports that a small bakery equipped with windows blocked by iron bars has been uncovered in the Regio IX area of Pompeii. The remains of three people have been recovered from the structure, which may have been undergoing renovations when it was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79. Markings on the floor of the bakery are thought to have directed the movement of enslaved workers and animals that were likely blindfolded while grinding grain and baking bread in the space. The bakery’s only exit led to the main hall of the luxurious residential section of the structure. 

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‘Shocking Side Of Ancient Slavery’: Prison Bakery Where Enslaved People Toiled Unearthed In Pompeii

The “prison bakery” in Pompeii is just one of the latest archaeological discoveries in the doomed town.

There have been some astounding discoveries in Pompeii in recent years, including a ceremonial chariot, the ancient Roman version of a “fast food stand,” and erotic frescoes. But the latest discovery sheds light on an often overlooked part of Pompeii society: slavery.

Archaeologists excavating the doomed city, which was destroyed with the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 C.E., recently announced the discovery of a “prison bakery” where humans and animals toiled under brutal conditions to make bread. According to a statement from the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, the cramped room had no view of the outside world and only a few high, barred windows. Indentations in the floor showed where blindfolded donkeys were forced to walk for hours in order to grind grain for bread.

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Roman-Era Winery Uncovered in Southern France

LAVEYRON, FRANCE—According to a Miami Herald report, researchers from France’s National Institute of Preventive Archaeological Research (INRAP) discovered remnants of a 1,900-year-old winery during an investigation conducted ahead of a construction project near the Rhône River in southern France. The wine was likely consumed by Romans, who conquered the region in 53 B.C. Grapes would have been pressed on the site’s central platform. Basins on either site of it would have collected the grape juice, then drained it into cellars made of rectangular bricks. 

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Roman 'backwater' bucked Empire's decline, archaeologists reveal

View of the Interamna Lirenas excavation from above and from the North. Photograph taken in September 2023. The remains of the theater can be seen in the center, with the remains of the basilica behind it. Credit: Alessandro Launaro
A rare roofed theater, markets, warehouses, a river port and other startling discoveries made by a Cambridge-led team of archaeologists challenge major assumptions about the decline of Roman Italy.

New findings from Interamna Lirenas, traditionally written off as a failed backwater in Central Italy, change our understanding of Roman history, its excavators believe.

Their thirteen-year study—published today in the edited volume "Roman Urbanism in Italy"—shows that the town in Southern Lazio continued to thrive well into the 3rd century A.D., bucking what is normally considered Italy's general state of decline in this period.

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