Thursday, December 20, 2012

Roman settlement remains found at Kingskerswell bypass

he remains of what is believed to be a 2,000-year-old Roman settlement have been uncovered at the construction site of a new bypass.

Artefacts discovered in Kingskerswell include fragments of pots thought to be imported from southern Europe. Trenches used for defence were also found. 

Devon county archaeologist Bill Horner said it was an "exciting find".

The artefacts will eventually go on show at Exeter's Royal Albert Memorial Museum.

Locals 'Romanised'
Demolition work began in October to clear the route ready for the road linking Torbay and Newton Abbot.

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First souvenirs: Enamelled vessells from Hadrians Wall

Three small enamelled metal Roman pans – the Rudge Cup, Amiens Patera and the Ilam Pan – thought to be the first souvenirs from Hadrian’s Wall are featured in a new book edited by Roman expert David Breeze.

The pans are about the size of wine glasses and are decorated with the names of forts along the western sector of Hadrian’s Wall from Bowness-on-Solway to Great Chesters. They were made in the decades following the building of Hadrian’s Wall in AD 122.

Tourist attractions across the Empire

Souvenir items for Roman tourists to buy have also been found at other famous places across the empire such as Athens, Ephesos and Alexandria.

David Breeze said: “Remarkably it seems that Hadrian’s Wall was a tourist attraction soon after it was built. None of the pans were found on the Wall, but in southern England and France.

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

University of Oxford Online Courses in Archaeology

Now is the time to enrol for Hilary term online courses in Archaeology.

Each courses lasts for 10 weeks, with the expectation of c. 10 hours study a week.  Students submit two short assignments.   

Successful completion of the courses carries a credit of 10 CATS Points.

CATS Points from these courses can now be used as part of the requirement for the new Certificate in Higher Education offered by the University of Oxford.

The following courses are available: (click on the title for further information)

Greek Mythology                  Origins of Human Behaviour               Pompey and the cities                                                                                                         of the Roman World

Ritual and Religion in Prehistory                          Vikings: Raiders, Traders and Settlers

You can find general information about University of Oxford courses here...

Roman Settlement and Possible Prehistoric Site Uncovered in Northern Italy

Paolo Visonà, of the University of Kentucky, works with an Italian archaeologist to uncover the base of a Roman funerary altar. (Credit: Photo courtesy of UK School of Art and Visual Studies)

Over the summer a team of faculty and students from University of Kentucky discovered evidence of not just one lost community, but two in northern Italy. Using their archaeological expertise and modern technology, data was collected indicating the existence of a Roman settlement and below that, a possible prehistoric site.

Many years ago, archaeologist and art historian Paolo Visonà, a native of northern Italy and adjunct associate professor of art history in the UK School of Art and Visual Studies at the UK College of Fine Arts, first learned of a possible ancient settlement from a farmer in Valbruna, near the village of Tezze di Arzignano. While working his family's land, Battista Carlotto had discovered artifacts that looked to Visonà like ceramics, mosaic, and glass of the Roman Empire.

Curiosity of what lay beneath the farmland was piqued in both gentlemen. With the approval of Carlotto and with little time to waste due to growing development in the area, Visonà began to research historical accounts of the region. Manuscripts found in Vicenza's Bertoliana Library confirmed Visonà's suspicion; in the late 18th century witnesses had shared accounts of seeing a Roman city's remains in the vicinity.

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Restoration of Roman tunnels gives a slave's eye view of Caracalla baths

 Tourists will see 'maniacal Roman perfection and incredible hydraulic technology' in labyrinth under Rome's Caracalla baths

The temple to Mithras under the Caracalla baths. Initiates to the cult would line in a niche and be drenched in the blood of sacrificed bulls. Photograph: Chris Warde-Jones

In the middle of a patch of grass amid the ruins of the Caracalla baths in Rome, there is a staircase that takes visitors deep into the ground to a world resembling the lair of a James Bond villain.

"This is our glimpse at maniacal Roman perfection, at incredible hydraulic technology," said archaeologist Marina Piranomonte, as she descended and waved at a network of high and wide tunnels, each measuring six metres (20ft) high and wide, snaking off into the darkness.

The baths, on a sprawling site slightly off the beaten track in a city crowded by monumental attractions, hold their own against the nearby Circus Maximus, its shattered walls standing 37 metres high, recalling its second century heyday when it pulled in 5,000 bathers a day.

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Mosaic Floor Unearthed in Didymoteicho

well-preserved archaeological finds have been discovered during this year’s excavations at what has been identified as the ancient Plotinopolis, situated in the outskirts of modern-day Didymoteicho, northeastern Greece. Plotinopolis was a Roman city founded by the Roman Emperor Traianus, who named it after his wife Plotini.

The hill of Aghia Petra, just outside Didymoteicho, has been the focus of archaeological interest since before World War II, while in 1965 a golden forged bust of Roman Emperor Septimius Severus was found there. From 1965 onward, the 19th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities has been conducting systematic excavations in the area.

The mosaics  unearthed, form part of the floor of a typical Roman triclinium, the formal dining room in Roman houses. Monstrous ichtyocentaurs and Nereids are depicted in the mosaic unearthed, along with portrayals of the God of Eurus River and Plotini.

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Ancient stage where Nero performed as actor found

Excavation work conducted at the ancient theatre of Nikopolis [Credit: Ethnos]

Part of the paved floor of the orchestra on which Nero once stood as an… actor has recently come to light by archaeologists at the Roman theatre of Nikopolis (Epirus).

Nikopolis (the city of victory) was founded in 31 BC by Octavian in memory of his victory over Antony and Cleopatra at Actium. In further celebration of his victory, he instituted the Actian games, in honor of Apollo Aktios, to be held every five years.

Emperor Nero visited Nikopolis in 66 AD. His visit was part of his tour of Greece. During his stay, he took part in the Actian games, namely in music and drama competitions. Coins were issued bearing the Emperor’s portrait as a sign of respect, while the city’s name changed to “Neronikopolis”.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Send for the bard! Carnyx discovery leaves archaeologists little the wiser

In the Asterix books, Cacofonix the bard is forbidden to sing because his voice causes wild boar, villagers, Normans and Romans alike to flee. But Cacofonix does play the carnyx, a long, slender trumpet-like instrument decorated with an animal's head at the top end, and used by the Celts in the last three centuries BC.

The Greek historian Polybius (206-126BC) was so impressed by the clamour of the Gallic army and the sound of the carnyx, he observed that, "there were countless trumpeters and horn blowers and since the whole army was shouting its war cries at the same time there was such a confused sound that the noise seemed to come not only from the trumpeters and the soldiers but also from the countryside which was joining in the echo".

When the remains of seven carnyx were unearthed recently, Christophe Maniquet, an archaeologist at Inrap, the national institute for preventive archaeological research (Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques Préventives), was curious to find out exactly what sound it produced when it drove the Romans mad, or was used to call upon the god Toutatis.

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Archaeology: Basilica from the time of Constantine the Great found at Sofia’s Serdica West Gate

Archaeologists in Bulgaria’s capital city Sofia have found a basilica said to date from the time of emperor Constantine the Great in the area of the West Gate of Serdica, as the city was known in Roman times.

The basilica is 27 metres wide and about 100m long, according to Yana Borissova-Katsarova, head of research at the site. It featured multi-coloured mosaics. Further exploration of the find will be difficult because of its location under the modern city.

Sofia deputy mayor in charge of culture, Todor Chobanov, said that the discovery of the basilica may be proof that Constantine intended to establish the city as a centre of Christianity.

Constantine, who ruled from 306 to 337 CE, was the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity. Sofia, as Serdica, was under Roman rule from 29 BCE and remained under Roman and later Byzantine rule, with some interruptions because of Hun invasions and destruction, for a number of centuries.

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Gallic elite prospered from Roman occupation

In 2010 French archaeologists carried out excavations on a 3.5 hectares site in Bassing, Moselle. Over a period of one thousand years – 200 BCE to 800 CE – this site had been occupied by a Gallic aristocratic establishment, a Gallo-Roman villa and several medieval buildings.

Elite farmer and warrior

Between 150 and 120 BCE, a large rural settlement was built at Bassing. A 3 metre wide ditch with sloping sides and palisade surrounded the habitation area (1 hectare in size). Inside this stood wooden farm buildings and a farmhouse. This group lasted until 14 CE.

The size of the farm and its ditches and the richness of the excavated materials has reveal the privileged status of the occupants. The jewellery featured bracelets of cobalt blue glass along with a piece of Baltic amber and123 fibulae, some of which had been produced on-site. In fact, the site produced evidence for foundry activities, spinning, weaving and shoemaking. It is also apparent from the discovery of many amphorae and Italian drink strainers that wine imported from the Mediterranean was drunk in large quantities.

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First Harbor of Ancient Rome Rediscovered

Aerial view of Ostia and the position of its filled in ancient harbour basin (in the foreground). On the left of the picture, the Tiber flows along the Imperial Palace. In red, the coring sites. 
(Credit: © S. Keay)

Archaeologists have unearthed the great ancient monuments of Ostia, but the location of the harbour which supplied Rome with wheat remained to be discovered. Thanks to sedimentary cores, this " lost " harbour has eventually been located northwest of the city of Ostia, on the left bank of the mouth of the Tiber. Stratigraphy has revealed that at its foundation, between the 4th and 2nd century BC, the basin was deeper than 6.5 m, the depth of a seaport.

his research was carried out by a French-Italian team of the Maison de l'Orient et de la Méditerranée (CNRS / Université Lumière Lyon 2), the Ecole Française de Rome and Speciale per i Beni Soprintendenza Archeologici di Roma -- Sede di Ostia* and will be published in the Chroniques des Mélanges de l'Ecole Française de Rome in December 2012.

According to ancient texts, Ostia was founded by Ancus Marcius, the 4th king of Rome. This new settlement is supposed to have aimed three goals: to give Rome an outlet to the sea, to ensure its supply of wheat and salt and finally, to prevent an enemy fleet to ascend the Tiber. Archeological excavations showed that the original urban core (castrum) dates back to the turn of the 4th and 3th centuries BC. Major ancient buildings and main roads were progressively revealed, but the location of the Ostia river mouth harbour remained unknown to this day. For some, it was considered as lost forever.

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Roman road uncovered in York

This is the 10,000th post on the 

Ian Milstead Lead Archaeologist from YAT cleaning Roman Road beneath York Minster.

A SECTION of Roman Road has been discovered beneath York Minster. 

Archaeologists from York Archaeological Trust unearthed it during construction work on the new visitor development in the Undercroft, a Minster spokeswoman said today. 

The archaeologists believe the road was a backstreet, part of the Via Quintana, and believe it ran behind the Roman basilica that once stood on the Minster site. 

A Minster spokeswoman said: "The backstreet was used for hundreds of years and was frequently patched and repaired, falling into disuse at the same time as the Basilica itself."

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Saturday, December 8, 2012

Lottery grant could help buy Bath Roman coin hoard

A coin from 32 BC similar to the one pictured was the oldest identified so far

A £50,000 lottery grant could help keep a hoard of Roman coins in Bath.

The Beau Street Hoard of 20,000 silver coins was discovered by archaeologists in 2007 and is thought to be the fifth largest find of its kind in the UK.

Some of the coins date back as far as 32BC and are currently being cleaned at the British Museum.

The initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund could lead to a further £480,000 grant in 2013.

Bath and North East Somerset Council said it wanted to develop learning and community activities around the hoard.

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Classics professor unearths archaeological clues about ancient Roman vineyards

They may not look like much to the untrained eye, but these ancient Roman grape seeds, believed to back to the 1st century A.D., could provide “a real breakthrough” in the understanding of the history of Chianti vineyards in the area, de Grummond says. (—Call it a toast to the past. A Florida State University classics professor whose decades of archaeological work on a remote hilltop in Italy have dramatically increased understanding of the ancient Etruscan culture is celebrating yet another find.

Read more at:
They may not look like much to the untrained eye, but these ancient Roman grape seeds, believed to back to the 1st century A.D., could provide “a real breakthrough” in the understanding of the history of Chianti vineyards in the area, de Grummond says. (—Call it a toast to the past. A Florida State University classics professor whose decades of archaeological work on a remote hilltop in Italy have dramatically increased understanding of the ancient Etruscan culture is celebrating yet another find.

Read more at:
They may not look like much to the untrained eye, but these ancient Roman grape seeds, believed to back to the 1st century A.D., could provide “a real breakthrough” in the understanding of the history of Chianti vineyards in the area, de Grummond says.

Read more at:
They may not look like much to the untrained eye, but these ancient Roman grape seeds, believed to back to the 1st century A.D., could provide “a real breakthrough” in the understanding of the history of Chianti vineyards in the area, de Grummond says. 

(—Call it a toast to the past. A Florida State University classics professor whose decades of archaeological work on a remote hilltop in Italy have dramatically increased understanding of the ancient Etruscan culture is celebrating yet another find. 

 This time around it's not the usual shards of pottery and vessels, remnants of building foundations or other ancient artifacts unearthed in past years, but rather a treasure that's far more earthy: grape seeds. 

Actually, Nancy Thomson de Grummond has discovered some 150 waterlogged grape seeds that have some experts in vineyard-grape DNA sequencing very excited.

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Resurrecting the ancient city of Laodicea

Cranes, excavators, teams of workmen in hard-hats and foremen shouting into their mobile phones are a ubiquitous feature of today's Turkey, a country where, in spite of a global economic slowdown, new buildings continue to be erected at a staggering rate. Take a trip to Laodicea, however, and you'll see a “building site” with a twist. For here a long abandoned Greek-Roman city is being resurrected wholesale from its ruins by … construction cranes and teams of workmen in hard-hats!

Sprawling across a low hill between the prosperous textile town of Denizli and the iconic travertine formations of Pamukkale in western Turkey, ancient Laodicea is generally overlooked by the vast majority of visitors, who tend to be drawn instead to Pamukkale and its associated site of Hierapolis, or the wonderful remains at Aphrodisias, not too much further away. Only bible groups, attracted to Laodicea because it is one of the Seven Churches mentioned in the New Testament's Revelation of John, buck the trend.

That Laodicea is relatively little visited is hardly surprising given its press. The current edition of Lonely Planet Turkey says “there's not much of interest left,” the Rough Guide to Turkey doesn't even mention the site. A late 1980s version of the more specialist, archaeology and history-orientated Blue Guide writes of Laodicea, “Much of its worked stone has been removed for building purposes and, unfortunately, little is being done to preserve its remaining structures from further damage.”

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Norwich Castle Museum set to acquire 'curious' treasure

A gold earring disc, found in Norfolk by a metal detector enthusiast, has left treasure experts baffled as to the exact meaning of its decoration.

Discovered in Keswick, near Norwich, the disc "is an unusual find for the Roman period", said a Norwich Castle Museum spokesman.

It features a scorpion, phallus, snake and crab, but the meaning of the combination "is lost" an expert said.
The Norwich museum hopes to acquire the disc for its collection.

The value of the item will now be determined by experts at the British Museum.

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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Gladiator's Tomb to Be Reburied

The tomb of the ancient Roman hero believed to have inspired the Russell Crowe blockbuster "Gladiator," might be returned to oblivion four years after its discovery in Rome.

A lack of fundings is forcing Italian archaeologists to bury again the large marble monument of Marcus Nonius Macrinus, a general and consul who achieved major victories in military campaigns for Antoninus Pius, the Roman emperor from 138 to 161 A.D., and Marcus Aurelius, emperor from 161 to 180 A.D.

Unearthed in 2008 on the banks of the Tiber near the via Flaminia, north of Rome, the tomb, complete with the dedicatory inscription, was hailed as "the most important ancient Roman monument to come to light for 20 or 30 years."

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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

'First tartan' on Roman statue

The Caledonian warrior on the bronze statue appears to be wearing tartan trews
Remnants of a Roman statue in North Africa could be the "first-ever depiction of tartan", according to a BBC Scotland documentary.

A piece of a bronze statue of the Emperor Caracalla contains the small figure of a Caledonian warrior wearing what appears to be tartan trews.

The third century Roman emperor Caracalla styled himself as the conqueror of the Caledonians.
A statue marking his achievements stood in the Moroccan city of Volubilis.
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Monday, December 3, 2012

New Roman Circus visitor centre plans unveiled

THESE are the first images of what Colchester’s Roman Circus visitor centre could look like.
Colchester Archaeological Trust has submitted new and more ambitious £1.3million plans to the Heritage Lottery Fund. 

They include recreating the circus’s entrance gates, a roof top viewing platform and a tea room at Roman Circus House in Circular Road North, Colchester. 

Displays inside the heritage centre will feature giant models of the circus and the Roman town.
Philip Crummy, trust director, said: “We are very excited about the project."

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Main excavations completed at 8-10 Moorgate

MOLA has completed the main excavation in the central part of the 8-10 Moorgate site in the City of London and the discoveries have proven to be even more exciting than our initial investigations in 2010! The redevelopment of the site by Stanhope and Mitsui Fudosan has provided MOLA with an exciting opportunity to investigate a large area on the banks of the Walbrook stream, a tributary of the Thames that flowed through the heart of the Roman City. 

The buildings uncovered date from the 1st century (the time when the Roman city was founded) to the 3rd century and include both masonry, and clay and timber buildings as well as circular wattle structures; thought to be animal pens. 
In addition to the main buildings, fences, gravel alleyways and wells have been discovered, creating a vivid picture of a community living and working at the eastern edge of the Walbrook stream.

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Sunday, December 2, 2012

Wall at Pompeii collapses after heavy rain

A photo taken in September 2012 shows a cordonned-off area after the collapse of a roofing beam at the Pompeii archaeological site. A Roman wall at the site has collapsed, local archaeologists said Friday, in the latest in a series of accidents at the ancient city buried by a volcanic explosion 2,000 years ago [Credit: AFP]

A Roman wall at Pompeii in southern Italy has collapsed, local archaeologists said Friday, in the latest in a series of accidents at the ancient city buried by a volcanic explosion 2,000 years ago.

The section of wall some two metres (seven feet)long was part of the ruins of a house at the sprawling site near Naples. The area has seen heavy rain in recent weeks, and previous collapses have been linked to bad weather.

The area was already closed to the public because it was believed to be at risk. It was scheduled for restoration as part of the "Great Pompeii Project".

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Digs reveal evolution of Paphos theatre

Fragments of marble sculptures from a monument consecrated to the nymphs of ancient Greek and Roman mythology have been uncovered during on-going excavations at Paphos' ancient theatre, the archaeological team in charge of the dig have announced.

The 15th season of excavations into one of Cyprus’ largest ancient theatres unearthed a number of significant finds, including fragments of carved marble adornments from the stage and from a monument to the nymphs or nymphaeum.

Paphos was the capital of Cyprus in Greek and Roman times and its ancient archaeological remains are on the World Heritage List.

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Bulgaria Unearths Ancient 'Millionaire's' Treasure

Bulgarian archaeologists have unearthed 40 silver coins during excavations in the second largest city of Plovdiv.

The coins, dating from the 3rd century A.C., have images of a number of Roman Emperors or different Gods.

They are extremely well-preserved, meaning they have not been in circulation, experts say.

The coins were located in an ancient hiding place and were a real treasure for this period with their owner being a very wealthy man, they further explain, adding the hiding place in the floor showed the said owner had intentions to get them back at some point, but was prevented, most likely because he was killed.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Winchester Palace Roman Wall Painting Website

Sadly, the erstwhile conservator for the Department of Greater London Archaeology, Sean A. MacKenna (Tony MacKenna), Tony died in October 2012.

The most important project of his career was the excavation and restoration of the Winchester Palace Roman wall painting.  Tony had published a detailed account of the work on his own website, but that website will not remain.

The material has, therefore, been transferred to the Archaeology in Europe website.  You can find it at:

The work is sure to be of considerable interest to Romanists and Conservators alike.

Go to the website...

Weitere Spuren römischer Besiedlung in Liechtenstein

Im Oktober entdeckte das Team der Landesarchäologie im Winkel in Balzers weitere Spuren der römischen Siedlung. Dabei handelt es sich um die letzten Reste eines Gebäudes, das vermutlich von den unberechenbaren Fluten des Rheins zerstört worden ist.

Bei Aushubarbeiten kamen in einer Kiesschicht ca. 1,5 Meter unter der Oberfläche römische Funde ans Tageslicht. Das eingestürzte Mauerwerk mit Resten eines rötlichen Verputzes und die Dachziegelfragmente dürften von einem Gebäude stammen. Sie werden genau gleich wie die Keramikscherben in das 2./3. Jahrhundert n. Chr. datiert.

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Roman jug found behind Estepona high street

A ROMAN jug has been unearthed behind Estepona high street.

A team of archaeologists discovered the ancient artifact yesterday morning close to the town’s shopping area.

Sailing instructor Tomas Reyes spotted the organised dig outside his house and took the snap above.

“It was very interesting, it must be at least 2,000 years old.

“I asked if I could take a picture as they found it,” said Reyes.

Romans used the containers to transport liquids such as water, wine, oil and honey.

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Excavating a Roman Floor

Not only have our archaeologists have been hard at work carefully excavating the heart of Roman Londinium, they’ve been given a chance to play with some new kit. And now we have a chance to take you out on site with us through the power of time-lapse video! In a series of videos we recorded the whole process of uncovering, recording and lifting a Roman tessellated floor!  The first video follows our archaeologists (and our friendly McGee site labourers) uncovering the tessellated floor by removing the trampled material that lay on top. 

So here is the first in our series of videos featuring our lovely archaeologists, a massive Roman tessellated floor, and some homegrown rock and roll for good measure:

Watch the video...

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Ancient tunnels in Rome reopen to the public

The network of underground passageways beneath the Baths of Caracalla is also home to the largest temple of Mithra in the Roman Empire
Few people have ever visited the long network of underground tunnels under the public baths of Caracalla, which date back to the third century AD and are considered by many archaeologists to be the grandest public baths in Rome. This underground network, which is due to be reopened in December, is also home to a separate structure, the largest Mithraeum in the Roman Empire, according to its director Marina Piranomonte. The Mithraeum has just reopened after a year of restoration work which cost the city’s archaeological authorities around €360,000. 

To celebrate the reopening, Michelangelo Pistoletto has installed his conceptual work Il Terzo Paradiso (the third heaven), which he first presented at the 2005 Venice Biennale, in the gardens surrounding the public baths. The work, made of ancient stone fragments and pieces of columns arranged in a triple loop, represents the harmonious union of the natural and technological worlds, according to the artist. It will be on view until 6 January 2013.
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Monday, November 19, 2012

Water mains work unearths Roman cemetery in Somerset

Several Roman human remains were discovered at Banwell in Somerset

A Roman cemetery containing several human burials has been found during work on a new water mains in Somerset.

The finds were made by archaeologists during the laying of a four-mile (7km) long mains between Banwell and Hutton. 

Among the skeletons, which have been exhumed for further study, there was one in a partially-preserved coffin.

A Bristol Water spokesman said the excavation had been described as "potentially the most important for 100 years in North Somerset".

The cemetery was discovered "isolated from the surrounding landscape" in a curved water-filled ditch.
Roman cemeteries, according to Neil Shurety from Border Archaeology, are generally sited outside settlements and away from areas of human habitation.

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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Summer Courses in Archaeology

Oxford Experience Archaeology Courses

The Oxford Experience Summer School offers weekly introductory courses in the Sciences and Humanities.  Participants stay in Christ Church, the largest and one of the most beautiful Oxford Colleges.

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

Pompeii collapses 'exaggerated' by media, site chief says

Paestum, November 16 - Recent collapses at the ancient city of Pompeii had been exaggerated by the media and efforts to protect the site are progressing, according to the Special Archaeological Superintendent for Naples and Pompeii, Teresa Elena Cinquantaquattro.

Cinquantaquattro was speaking along with other senior archaeological officials from the culture ministry at the 15th annual Mediterranean Archaeological Tourism Exchange in Paestum on how to conserve sites in southern Italy in a climate of shrinking government funds. "Problems exist at Pompeii but they have been exaggerated by negative journalists," Cinquantaquattro told ANSA.

After recent falls of structures in the past two years there has been growing concern about Italy's ability to protect the 2,000-year-old site from further degradation and the impact of the local mafia, the Camorra. In April this year a wall surrounding an ancient villa at Pompeii collapsed just two weeks after the Italian government launched a joint 105-million-euro project with the European Union to save the UNESCO World Heritage site.

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Escaping the Shadow of Pompeii

HERCULANEUM, Italy — They are poignant snapshots of sudden death: huddled clusters of skeletal remains in what were once beachfront warehouses, immortalized for eternity when Mount Vesuvius smothered this ancient Roman town in A.D. 79. 

“They died of thermal shock as they were waiting to be saved via the sea,” Domenico Camardo, an archaeologist, said recently as he surveyed dozens of modern-day skeletal casts of long-ago denizens. They carried with them jewelry, coins, even “20 keys, because they were hoping to return home,” Mr. Camardo added. “They didn’t understand that it was all about to end.” 

First excavated by archaeologists some 30 years ago, the warehouses were recently outfitted with walkways and gates to provide access to these chilling tableaus and will soon be open to the public on special occasions.

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Saving the ruins of Herculaneum


They are poignant snapshots of sudden death: Huddled clusters of skeletal remains in what were once beachfront warehouses, preserved when Mount Vesuvius smothered this ancient Roman town in A.D. 79.
”They died of thermal shock as they were waiting to be saved via the sea,” Domenico Camardo, an archaeologist, said recently as he surveyed dozens of modern-day skeletal casts of long-ago denizens. 

They carried with them jewellery, coins, even “20 keys, because they were hoping to return home,” Camardo added. “They didn’t understand that it was all about to end.”
First excavated by archaeologists some 30 years ago, the warehouses were recently outfitted with walkways and gates to provide access to these chilling tableaus and will soon be open to the public on special occasions.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Point of View: Why the rich look down on the poor

In the ancient world, the rich held themselves to very different standards from the poor. Not much has changed, argues classical historian Mary Beard.

Low life in ancient Rome could be very low indeed. 

There were gangs of ne'er-do-wells and down-and-outs who spent all night in cheap bars, drowning their sorrows. Apart from talk about the top chariot racers (the ancient equivalent of footballers), the only entertainment on offer was brawling and gambling. 

They would sit hunched over their gaming tables, making horrible snorting sounds through their quivering nostrils. 

(The Greeks and Romans seem to have been particularly sensitive to odd nasal noises. One pundit in the early 2nd Century - the aptly named Dio the Golden Mouth - gave a whole lecture to the people of the city of Tarsus, urging them to control their snorting. It must count as one of the most curious works of ancient literature to have come down to us.)

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Monday, November 12, 2012

Were Roman slaves hungry?

What was it like to be a slave in the Roman Empire? The answer, according to the latest excavations at Vagnari, is that slaves were rather better looked after than one might expect:  they ate quite well, they suffered less from childhood starvation than did the population in general, and when they died, the grave goods they were buried with suggested that they were certainly  not living in abject poverty.

This at least was the implication of research that was revealed in a recent conference held at Edinburgh University organised by Alastair Small on 26th – 28th October 2012,  when Alistair Small and his associates told us about their latest work at Vagnari.

Vagnari is the name of an abandoned farmstead – you will not find it on any map, but it lies just outside the town of Gravina, near Bari in Apulia.  Here Professor Small has been excavating for nearly 40 years, at first in the nearby hillfort of Botromagno, and subsequently doing field surveys over the whole area which revealed an interesting site at Vagnari: we have already covered the whole history in Current Archaeology 45.  But in the Roman imperial period, it appears to have been an imperial estate, centred round a tile works, and one of the tiles was found stamped with the name of Grati Caesaris,  which means the work of Gratus, slave of Caesar.
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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Blackbird Leys nunnery dig uncovers Bronze Age arrowhead

Archaeologists said the arrowhead was found among a small group of prehistoric worked flints

An archaeology dig at a medieval nunnery in Oxford has unearthed a 4,000-year-old Bronze Age arrowhead.

The five-week dig by the Archaeology of East Oxford Community Project (Archeox) also revealed prehistoric worked flints, medieval and roman pottery.

The excavation at Littlemore Priory was a collaboration between volunteers and the University of Oxford.

More than 500 volunteers gave up their free time to take part in the project near the Kassam Stadium.

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Ancient Roman Giant Found—Oldest Complete Skeleton With Gigantism

The giant's tibia, or shinbone, compared with that of a normal Roman male of the same period.

It's no tall talethe first complete ancient skeleton of a person with gigantism has been discovered near Rome, a new study says.

At 6 feet, 8 inches (202 centimeters) tall, the man would have been a giant in third-century A.D. Rome, where men averaged about 5 and a half feet (167 centimeters) tall. By contrast, today's tallest man measures 8 feet, 3 inches (251 centimeters).

Finding such skeletons is rare, because gigantism itself is extremely rare, today affecting about three people in a million worldwide. The condition begins in childhood, when a malfunctioning pituitary gland causes abnormally growth.

Two partial skeletons, one from Poland and another from Egypt, have previously been identified as "probable" cases of gigantism, but the Roman specimen is the first clear case from the ancient past, study leader Simona Minozzi, a paleopathologist at Italy's University of Pisa, said by email.

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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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