Sunday, June 27, 2010

All roads lead to Vindolanda Roman Fort

The Birley family have toiled for 60 years to unearth Roman artefacts at Vindolanda Roman Fort in Northumbria, says Juliet Rix.

In a picturesque Northumbrian valley a mile south of Hadrian's Wall, Andrew Birley stands surrounded by a checkerboard of Roman remains. He is supervising a small crowd of volunteer excavators unearthing a 1,600-year-old flagstone road. They have just dug up a small stone altar with a potentially interesting inscription. Andrew is the third generation of his family to run the excavations here at Vindolanda Roman Fort. It's an unusual family business.

"I tried to put my children off," says Dr Robin Birley, 75, Andrew's father and head of research at Vindolanda. "But one of them didn't listen." Robin is sitting outside the site museum with his wife, Patricia, (Andrew's mother), director of the Vindolanda Trust and curator of the museum, and younger brother, Prof Anthony Birley (Tony),

Read the rest of this article...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Well-preserved Roman road found in southern Serbia

- Archaeologists have discovered the well-preserved remains of a Roman road dating back to the first century in south- eastern Serbia, Belgrade media reported Thursday.

The Roman military road, or Via militaris, near the town of Dimitrovgrad used to connect the western parts of the Roman empire with the eastern parts, archaeologists said.

'This road was one of the main roads of the Roman empire,' archaeologist Miroslav Lazic told the Novosti daily.

Read the rest of this article...

Baby deaths link to Roman 'brothel' in Buckinghamshire

Archaeologists investigating a mass burial of 97 infants at a Roman villa in the Thames Valley believe it may have been a brothel.

Tests on the site at Hambleden in Buckinghamshire suggest all died at 40 weeks gestation, very soon after birth.

Archaeologists suspect local inhabitants may have been systematically killing unwanted babies.

Read the rest of this article...

Discovery of babies' skeletons exposes the dark side of life in Roman Britain

One of Roman Britain's darkest secrets is close to being laid bare by modern science. Experts from English Heritage are examining dozens of infant skeletons buried 17 centuries ago in a quiet valley just north of the River Thames in Buckinghamshire.

The remains were unearthed almost 100 years ago by a local archaeologist – and modern specialists in Roman history had assumed that the bones had been reburied. Instead, while examining hundreds of boxes of archaeological material stored in Buckinghamshire's county museum in Aylesbury they rediscovered the remains of each tiny individual, neatly packed into old tobacco boxes and shotgun cartridge containers.

Read the rest of this article...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Dionysian ecstatic cults in early Rome

A new doctoral thesis from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, shows that, in contrast to traditional scholarly claims, Dionysian cultic activities may very well have occurred in archaic Rome in the decades around 500 BC.

A strong scholarly tradition rooted in the 19th century denies the presence of Dionysian ecstatic rites, cults, and satyr plays in Roman society. Although people in nearby societies evidently engaged in such behaviour around the same time in history, the Romans simply did not, according to early scholars. British scholars often stressed how much their people had in common with the Romans, not least as statesmen and colonists.

Read the rest of this article...

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Visit a Roman village at road-dig exhibition

The focus will be on history this weekend (Jun 19-20) at the site of the East Kent Access road in Richborough, where people will see what archaeologists have discovered.

Experts from the Trust For Thanet Archaeology, the Isle of Thanet Archaeological Society and Kent Archaeological Society will be at the free event from 10am to 4pm on both Saturday and Sunday.

The area became the gateway to England for the Romans, who landed nearby in 43AD and built a fortress.

Read the rest of this article...

Spectacular Roman remains unveiled in Sofia

The remains of an ancient Roman town were on Thursday unveiled to the public in the centre of the Bulgarian capital Sofia.

Excavation of the site -- which currently includes a Roman palace, baths and burial sites, as well as a more recent 13th century church -- began several years ago.

It is hoped that the remains will be preserved as a major heritage site and tourist attraction.

Archaeologists believe the site -- which formed the intersection of the two major streets of the ancient Roman town Ulpia Sedica -- could prove even more extensive, with at least two more Roman palaces waiting to be uncovered.

Read the rest of this article...

Roman dwelling find at Jersey church 'a first'

Ancient remains have been found in Jersey, which could be the first Roman dwellings found in the island.

Excavations were made at Grouville Church as part of work to extend the building, when archaeologists were called in to monitor the work.

The Reverend Mike Lange-Smith, rector of the church, said a post hole of a Roman period building was uncovered with pottery remains.

Read the rest of this article...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Channel 4 documentary investigates York's possible gladiatorial past

THE savagery of gladiatorial battles was depicted as Channel 4 investigated the discovery of 80 skeletons at a York archaeological dig.

As reported in The Press, the 80 skeletons, the majority of large, powerfully-built men dating from Roman times, were found at a dig in Driffield Terrace, Holgate.

Read the rest of this article...

Mithraic Mysteries and the Cult of Empire

The proud Roman general stood with his commanders and retinue as the wild hillsmen, dressed in the ragged but still-flamboyant clothes of corsairs, fell before him in turn, begging for clemency. It was about 75 B.C. in the rugged hills near Coracesium in Cilicia, an untamed region along the coast of southwestern Asia Minor, and the Cilician pirates, possibly the most successful race of brigands the world has ever seen, were surrendering to the Roman general Pompey.

Pompeius Magnus, as he was afterwards styled, would go on to conquer the Levant and to challenge Julius Caesar for supremacy over the fledgling Roman Empire, but his lightning-swift campaign against the Cilician pirates was perhaps his finest moment. The pirates, taking advantage of Roman naval weakness during a span of decades that saw Rome wracked by civil war, had controlled much of the Mediterranean, as far west as the Balearic Islands.*

Read the rest of this article...

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Roman Maryport to lead the way in new Roman Frontier Narrative at Hadrian's Wall

One of the most significant but least researched sites along the Roman frontier in the north of England is to be transformed into a new visitor destination as part of the ongoing programme of renewal across the Hadrian’s Wall UNESCO World HeritageSite.

Roman Maryport is to be the first in a string of linked attractions which stretch across the entire breadth of the country that will eventually provide visitors with what Hadrian’s Wall Heritage Ltd are describing as a “cohesive Roman frontier narrative” threaded through sites along the Wall Corridor, with each destination centred on a specific theme.

Read the rest of this article...

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Roman kiln to be returned to its home in Highgate Wood

A 2,000-year-old kiln is to be returned to its original home in Highgate Wood.

The Roman clay kiln, the only one of its kind in London, was discovered during excavations of Roman pottery across half a hectare of the northern end of the wood between 1966 and 1974 and has since been housed at Bruce Castle Museum in Haringey.

Read the rest of this article...

More About the York Gladiators...

Here's a short bit of interview with NPR's Melissa Block and John Walker, the chief executive of the York Archaeological Trust.

Read the rest of this article...

Monday, June 7, 2010

Scars from lion bite suggest headless Romans found in York were gladiators

Evidence from tests on 80 skeletons of young men found in Yorkshire gardens points to world's best-preserved gladiator graveyard, archaeologists say

The haunting mystery of Britain's headless Romans may have been solved at last, thanks to scars from a lion's bite and hammer marks on decapitated skulls.

The results of forensic work, announced today, on more than 80 skeletons of well-built young men, gradually exhumed from the gardens of a York terrace over a decade, suggests that the world's best-preserved gladiator graveyard has been found.

Read the rest of this article...

Lion bite helps solve riddle of York gladiator graveyard

THE HAUNTING mystery of Britain’s headless Romans may have been solved at last, thanks to scars from a lion’s bite and hammer marks on decapitated skulls.

The results of forensic work, announced today, on more than 80 skeletons of well-built young men, gradually exhumed from the gardens of a York terrace over a decade, suggest that the world’s best-preserved gladiator graveyard has been found.

Many of the 1,800-year-old remains indicate much stronger muscles in the right arm, a condition noted by Roman writers in slaves trained from their teens to fight in the arena. Advanced mineral testing of tooth enamel also links the men to a wide variety of Roman provinces, including North Africa, which was another feature of gladiator recruitment.

Read the rest of this article...

Skeletons may be part of world’s only gladiator cemetery

THESE skeletons may be part of the world’s only well-preserved Roman gladiator cemetery, an archaeologist said yesterday.

Researchers discovered the remains, some of which feature marks that could reflect the violent manner in which some individuals died, during a continuing archaeological and forensic investigation in York.

Kurt Hunter-Mann, a field officer at York Archaeological Trust who is leading the investigation, said bite marks on one of the skeletons helped steer the team to their preliminary theory.

Read the rest of this article...

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Bulgaria: Archaeology Excavations at Sexaginta Prista Fortress Expand

The archaeological excavations of the Roman fortress Sexaginta Prista, located near the city of Ruse in north-central Bulgaria, will continue during the summer of 2010 into previously unexplored parts.

The archaeologists Varbin Varbanov and Deyan Dragoev this summer will study the area to the north of the temple of Apollo, which was discovered in 2006.

During last year’s excavation season, archaeologists found fragments of Celtic ceramics, which proved the Celtic presence in the region. Overall, in 2009, 25 square metres of the Sexaginta Prista Fortress were excavated.

Read the rest of this article...

British archaeologists fight with Italian farmer to save ancient aqueduct

British archaeologists are battling with an Italian farmer to save the site of an ancient aqueduct which provided Rome with fresh water 1,900 years ago.

In January father and son team Edward and Michael O'Neill discovered the headwaters of the aqueduct, which was built by the Emperor Trajan, hidden beneath a crumbling 13th century church north of Rome.

A sophisticated example of Roman hydraulic engineering, the aqueduct, known as the Aqua Traiana, was inaugurated in 109AD and carried fresh water 35 miles to the imperial capital.

Read the rest of this article...