Thursday, January 30, 2020

Archaeologists analyze the composition of a Roman-era 'makeup case'

Image of the scallop with pigment residues 
[Credit:University of Granada]

First discovered in 2000 during excavations of a funerary complex in the former capital of the Lusitania, Augusta Emerita (present-day Merida) the 'make-up case' was uncovered in a deposit of cremated remains alongside ceramic cups, bone spindles, nails, glassware and the remains of a detachable bone box.

The make-up case is made from a bivalve malacological mollusk specimen of pecten maximus (viera). Once the shell was opened, it was possible to document the cosmetic remains, specifically, a small ball of a “pinkish” powdery conglomerate via a combination of X-ray diffraction (XRD), electron microscopy and chromatographic analysis.

The use of the mollusk as a cosmetic container is a practice that dates back thousands of years across various civilisations. One of the earliest examples is tiny shells in the Sumerian city of Ur from 2500 BC that contained pigments used for cosmetics.

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Friday, January 24, 2020

Scientists Confirm Mount Vesuvius Eruption Turned Victim's Brain Into Glass

(MILAN) — The eruption of Mount Vesuvius turned an incinerated victim’s brain material into glass, the first time scientists have verified the phenomenon from a volcanic blast, officials at the Herculaneum archaeology site said Thursday.

Archaeologists rarely recover human brain tissue, and when they do it is normally smooth and soapy in consistency, according to an article detailing the discovery in the New England Journal of Medicine. The eruption of Vesuvius in the year 79 instantly killed the inhabitants of Pompeii and neighboring Herculaneum, burying an area 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the volcano in ash in just a few hours.

The remains of a man lying on a wooden bed were discovered at Herculaneum, closer to Vesuvius than Pompeii, in the 1960s. He is believed to have been the custodian of a place of worship, the Collegium Augustalium.

A team led by Pier Paolo Petrone, a forensic anthropologist at the Federico II University in Naples, determined that the victim’s brain matter had been vitrified, a process by which tissue is burned at a high heat and turned into glass, according to the study published by the New England Journal of Medicine. The fragments presented as shards of shiny black material spotted within remnants of the victim’s skull.

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Mount Vesuvius eruption: Extreme heat 'turned man's brain to glass'

The black, shiny fragments are believed to be the glassy remains of a man's brain

Extreme heat from the Mount Vesuvius eruption in Italy was so immense it turned one victim's brain into glass, a study has suggested.

The volcano erupted in 79 AD, killing thousands and destroying Roman settlements near modern-day Naples.

The town of Herculaneum was buried by volcanic matter, entombing some of its residents.

A team of researchers has been studying the remains of one victim, unearthed at the town in the 1960s.

A study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Thursday, said fragments of a glassy, black material were extracted from the victim's skull.

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Hideous lingering deaths suffered by victims of Vesuvius eruption revealed

The archaeological site of Herculaneum in Ercolano, near Naples, with the Mount Vesuvius volcano in the background (Image: AP/ Getty)

People who died in the Mount Vesuvius eruption of AD79 had a slower death than previously believed, according to new research. 

It is commonly thought that people living in the seaside town of Herculaneum, who fled to stone boathouses along the beachfront when the volcano erupted, were vaporised by the extreme heat of the volcanic eruption. 

But a new analysis of skeletons from the scene shows that they may have lived long enough to suffocate from the toxic fumes of the pyroclastic flow – the devastating, ultra-fast stream of hot gas and volcanic matter which flows from some eruptions. 

Archaeologists found that the structure of the skeletons and remaining collagen was inconsistent with vaporisation, suggesting that the bodies were not exposed to temperatures as extreme as expected.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2020


Les archéologues de l'Inrap ont mis au jour 54 fondations du pont-aqueduc qui alimentait en eau courante Segodunum, l'ancienne ville de Rodez. L'ouvrage qui a passionné les chercheurs et érudits du XIXe siècle, ensuite oublié des recherches archéologiques, a fait l'objet d'une étude approfondie, permettant de connaître son tracé, son mode et sa date de construction.

Préalablement à la réalisation du projet de parc des expositions porté par l’agglomération de Rodez, une fouille archéologique prescrite par la Drac Occitanie et réalisée par l'Inrap a permis de mettre au jour les vestiges de l’aqueduc romain de Rodez. Ce bâtiment monumental permettait d’alimenter la ville de Rodez en eau courante depuis le village de Vors. 

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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

50 Roman Slaves Found Buried with ‘Care’ in England

A Roman slave burial ground has been found near what was once a great ancient villa in Britain. Many of the graves are very unusual, and they provide a glimpse into the impact of Rome on the local Briton’s culture and beliefs. This find also allows researchers to better understand the nature of slavery in Roman Britain.

The cemetery was found in Somerton, Somerset, southwest England.  The site was unearthed during the construction of a new school by workers. They alerted the relevant authorities and it was investigated by the South West Heritage Trust.  Researchers, based on the discovery of shards of pottery and coins, established that it was a Romano-British cemetery that dated back to the 1 st century AD. It was found near the outhouses of a great villa that once stood in the area.

Strange Burials
In total, some 50 Roman slave graves were unearthed, and they were very different from the burial practices that took place before the invasion. The deceased were placed in the ground with great care, in graves that were capped and sealed with slabs.  In one burial, these slabs were used to create a box-like feature, known as a cist, in which the dead person was placed before being buried. Steve Membery, who works with the South West Heritage Trust and who took part in the dig, told The Guardian that “they’ve actually built these graves. There’s been a lot of more care taken over these.”

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Roman Coin Found in Northern Norway May Redraw Historic Trade Map

The Roman coin was found only 15 centimetres deep in the soil; it dates back to the time of Emperor Marcus Aurelius and is the northernmost find of its kind, signalling that trade contacts in the area date back to the Iron Age.

In just a few days, hobby archaeologist Ben-Harry Johansen found a 2,000-year-old coin and a richly decorated 1,000-year-old Viking sword at Våg in the municipality of Dønna on the Helgeland coast, national broadcaster NRK reported.

“The coin lay only 15 centimetres into the earth, in the so-called plough layer, where people with metal detectors are allowed to search,” Ben-Harry Johansen recalled with excitement.

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Sunday, January 19, 2020

‘Most dramatic find!’ How archaeologist uncovered ancient Roman battleground ‘massacre’

The discovery was made at Maiden Castle (Image: YOUTUBE)

AN ARCHAEOLOGIST uncovered what he believed to be the remains of a Roman massacre of Britons in Dorset, describing it as his “most dramatic find”.

Archaeologist Francis Pryor visited the site during his “Britain BC” series, where he explained the area in more detail.

He said in 2011: “This was a place where things happened, where communities met. Land had acquired a new meaning to ancient Britain and these patches of common land, packed with ancestral bones, became magic.

“What began as a celebration of a new relationship with land became a way of life. 

“The people who constructed the hill fort thousands of years later knew they were building on a sacred place.

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Ancient Roman Walls Damaged During Luxury Hotel Construction

Private developers building luxury hotel apartments in England are being taken to task for their part in the collapse of an ancient Roman City wall in Chester, an iconic feature of the city.

The ancient walls of Chester, on the River Dee in England close to the border with Wales, were first built by the Romans between 70 and 80AD. On Thursday night, while private developers Walker and Williams were building luxury apartments, part of the 2000-year-old structure collapsed and the crumbled section of the ancient monument, near Newgate Street, Chester, fell after developers compromised the integrity of the ancient monument.

An Iconic Ancient Monument
According to an article on Chester's Historic Walls the walls comprise “the most complete Roman and medieval defensive town wall system in Britain” and the entire circuit of the walls, together with the towers and gates, is recognized by Historic England as a Scheduled Monument. What’s more, almost every section of the wall is scheduled in the  National Heritage List for England  as a designated Grade I listed building, regarded by the Secretary of State to be of ‘national importance.’

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Saturday, January 18, 2020

Roman-Era Trade Center Mapped Off Africa’s Northern Coast

A magnetometer survey in Djerba, an island off the coast of Tunisia, has mapped the site of the ancient commercial center of Meninx, according to a statement released by Ludwig Maximilian University. The city was founded in the fourth century B.C., and became a trade power between the first and third centuries A.D. Archaeologist Stefan Ritter and his colleagues investigated the city’s well-protected port, which had a wide, deep channel in its shallow bay, wooden and stone quays, and warehouses for storing goods. The survey also revealed that the city’s streets ran parallel to the island’s coastline. Ritter said he and his colleagues carried out some excavations, and uncovered a private bathhouse with mosaic floors, wall paintings, and statuary. New evidence suggests that the purple dye produced by the city’s residents from the sea snail Murex trunculus was not exported as a raw material, but rather used at Meninx to dye textiles for export. To read about the discovery of a submerged Roman mercantile city, go to "World Roundup: Tunisia."

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Chester's Roman wall collapses after digging work

The council said it was taking the collapse "very seriously"

Cheshire West and Chester Council said a section of the wall fell on Thursday evening, causing the development to be suspended.

"Early indications appear to show that earth was removed from the bottom of the city walls," a spokesman said.

Chester MP Chris Matheson claimed the developers had received safety warnings about digging so close to the wall.

Chester is the only city in Britain that retains the full circuit of its ancient defensive walls.

The city walls, parts of which are almost 2,000 years old, are the oldest, longest and most complete in Britain, according to Visit Cheshire.

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Thursday, January 16, 2020

Gladiator chamber found at the Roman amphitheatre in Cartagena

Credit: Ayuntamiento de Cartagena

As excavation continues at the Roman amphitheatre in Cartagena, a large part of which lies beneath the 19 century bullring, archaeologists have found various fragments of ceramics and an ossuary ground during their dig prior to work to shore up the exterior walls.

This preliminary campaign has now ended and the next phase will be to reinforce the bull ring and the amphitheatre, a project which is co-financed by the Town Hall and the national Ministry of Development.

The campaign began in December and has included the full documentation of all of the structures of the amphitheatre, during which another 'carcer' or service room has come to light: these rooms were used to hold gladiators and animals captive before they were released to do battle in the arena itself.

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Sunday, January 12, 2020

Medieval and Roman artefacts discovered in ancient port city of Caesarea

Aerial view of the Caesarea dig site [Credit: Vanderbilt University]

Over the past two years, Vanderbilt researchers and students working at the ancient port city of Caesarea, on the north coast of modern-day Israel, have unearthed tantalizing clues to life in the city during the medieval Islamic period as well as the best-preserved remains yet discovered of Herod the Great’s Temple of Rome and Augustus. These finds shed light on an oft-overlooked period in Mediterranean history and give scholars a fresh look at a world-famous monument destroyed long ago.

Under the direction of Joseph Rife, director and associate professor of classical and Mediterranean studies, and Phillip Lieberman, associate professor of Jewish Studies and Classical and Mediterranean Studies, an international team of Vanderbilt students, staff, faculty and archaeological specialists have been excavating a 900-square-meter section of the ancient and medieval port city during the Maymester sessions of 2018 and 2019. They work at the site, which is a national park, in collaboration with the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Home to the mercantile elite

“Caesarea is one of the most important sites in the region, dating back to antiquity,” said Lieberman. “It was a huge, cosmopolitan trading center, on par with medieval Baghdad and Damascus and, before that, ancient Alexandria and Antioch.”

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Saturday, January 11, 2020

Roman cemetery found at Somerton new school site

An adult woman skeleton was unearthed in the excavation

The skeletal remains of 50 adults and children from the Roman period have been unearthed in Somerset where a new school is being built.

The graves date from the Roman period 43-410 AD and also include items buried with them such as pottery and brooches.

South West Heritage Trust archaeologist Steve Membery said: "The individuals were evidently of some status in native society."

The new school in Somerton will replace King Ina Junior and Infants' schools.

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Pompeii: How archaeologists found ‘ketchup of Roman Empire’ buried for 2,000 years

Archaeologist discovered the Ketchup of the Roman Empire (Image: CHANNEL 5)

ARCHAEOLOGISTS discovered “the ketchup of the Roman world” buried in Pompeii for almost 2,000 years in what has been dubbed “an incredible discovery” during a documentary.

Mount Vesuvius, a stratovolcano in modern-day Italy, erupted in 79AD in one of the deadliest volcanic eruptions ever, sprawling a cloud of superheated tephra and gases to a height of 21 miles. This natural disaster ejected molten rock, pulverised pumice and hot ash at 1.5 million tonnes per second, obliterating Roman settlements and burying thousands under the burning rubble. However, the horrific event also covered the city in a blanket of thick material, leaving the opportunity for discovery to this day.

One such discovery was made in 2014, thanks to the work of archaeologists in Italy, that led to the reproduction of a recipe for a 2,000-year-old sauce called Garum.

Channel 5’s 2019 series “Ancient Mysteries" explained how the discovery was made.

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