Monday, December 31, 2007

Nero Treasure Trove in Lombardy?

Although this item is a little dated, I encountered a reference to it and did not remember reading the original article.

"Traces of a legendary treasure trove left by the infamous Roman Emperor Nero have been found at this northern Italian city.Half a million artefacts have emerged in a three-year dig at a patrician villa that appeared during the construction of a multi-storey car park.Among these, a handful of precious fragments are believed to have come from the fabulous array of riches the emperor assembled from all over the empire before his death in 68 AD.According to Roman historians, Nero's treasure was lost when his successor Vespasian wiped out all traces of the unpopular emperor in Rome - covering his fabled Golden House in rubbish and building the Colosseum in its grounds.But there has been repeated speculation that parts of the magnificent trove were smuggled out of Rome during a civil war in the Year of the Four Emperors (Galba, Otho, Vitellius and Vespasian) in 69 AD.According to Lombardy's archaeological superintendent, Lynn Passi Pitcher, "Otho probably snatched precious objects from the Domus Aurea - objects which then came into the possession of Vitellius after his victory over Otho and the sack of Cremona"."They somehow ended up here in the house of this affluent Cremona patrician," she said." - Italy.News.Net

I wonder where the artifacts are now?

Monday, December 24, 2007

National Museum of Rome hosting exhibit featuring over 100 paintings from 1st century

I wish I could have seen this exhibition. The Romans seemed to love incorporating birds and flowers into many of their frescoes. The picture at left looks very similar to a garden fresco from the villa of Augustus' wife Livia and paintings adorning the walls of the villa at Oplontis that I visited in October.


"A unique exhibition of 2,000-year-old paintings called Pompeian Red has opened at the National Museum of Rome.

More than 100 paintings - including Nightingale (on the left) - shed light on the beliefs, home decorations, fashions, architecture, landscape, dining tables and people who lived in the ancient city of Rome and in Pompeii before its destruction by a volcanic eruption in AD79." - David Willey

Flooding of Roman excavation site appears imminent

Archaeologists are still holding their breath over Allianoi, an ancient Roman health spa in western Turkey that is a well-preserved but not yet fully excavated archaeological site. Early this year, local and international archeologists protested

against plans to submerge the site under a reservoir created by the 700-metre-long Yortanli Dam, as part of a massive irrigation project along the Ilya River.

Under a barrage of protest from European officials and others, the Turkish authorities have not yet given the green light to close the dam gates and start the flooding. Ahmet Yaras, head of the Allianoi excavation team (which has uncovered 20% of Allianoi, yielding some 10,000 artefacts including ceramics, coins, glass and statues), says the government has indicated that flooding will begin by February. Yaras, who has appealed for a flooding delay of five years to completely excavate the site, thinks that this time the government, under pressure from farmers, will go ahead with the reservoir.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Roman villa excavations use technology to help visitors relive the past


What an excellent combination of technology and "hard" science!

"The restored ruins of two opulent Roman villas and private thermal baths will open to the public Saturday, along with a 3-D reconstruction that offers a virtual tour of the luxurious residences discovered in downtown Rome.

The 19,375-square-foot complex, dating from the second to fourth centuries, features well-preserved mosaic and marble floors, bathtubs and collapsed walls that archaeologists believe belonged to a domus — the richly decorated residences of Rome's wealthy and noble families.

"We found part of a residential high-class neighborhood, where probably senators and knights used to live," archaeologist Paola Valentini said.

Visitors will be able to walk on glass catwalks above the villas' underground remains, immersed in semidarkness just a few feet from the modern city. A 3-D virtual reconstruction recreates the elaborate decorations of the ancient residences through colored lights and projections.

The two villas were likely inhabited by a senator, his family and servants, and included libraries, halls, gardens, kitchens and stables, archaeologists said. One villa was abruptly abandoned during a fire in the fifth century, they said. Among the remains on display are parts of a basalt Roman road and a floor made of 500,000 multicolored mosaic tiles."

Monday, December 17, 2007

Roman surgical instruments focus of new show


One of the most complete sets of surgical instruments from the ancient world has gone on show in the Italian city of Rimini.

Archaeologists there have been excavating the house of a surgeon who operated nearly 2,000 years ago.

They found more than 150 different surgical instruments, like scalpels, scissors, weighing scales, and forceps.

The house was built in the 2nd Century AD and destroyed by fire in the barbarian invasions a century later.

Painstakingly, for 17 years archaeologists have been digging away in the centre of Rimini, a city on the Adriatic sea, laying bare the ruins of one of the world's oldest doctor's surgeries.

Greek inscriptions

One unique tool, unknown to archaeologists until now, was a device apparently designed to extract arrowheads from wounded soldiers.

They also found a pestle and mortar in which the surgeon most likely mixed compounds of herbal anaesthetics to relieve pain.

A ceramic hot water bottle in the shape of a foot is believed to have been used for treating foot pains.

The consulting rooms included a high backed chair for the doctor, who may have been a Greek, to judge from the Greek language inscriptions found.

An operating room has a bed along one wall and the name Eutyches, which may have been the doctor's name, was scratched upon the wall.

Site of ancient Lupercalia found in excavations on the Palatine Hill

Italian archaeologists have inched closer to unearthing the secrets behind one of Western civilization's most enduring legends.

On Tuesday, the government released photographs of a deep cavern where some archaeologists claim that ancient Romans honored Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of Rome.

The cavern, now buried 16 meters, or 52 feet, under the ruins of Emperor Augustus's palace on the Palatine Hill, has a height of 7.1 meters and a diameter of 6.5 meters. Photographs taken of the cave by a camera probe show a domed cavern decorated with extremely well-preserved colored mosaics and seashells. At the center of the vault is a painted white eagle, a symbol of the Roman Empire.

"This could reasonably be the place bearing witness to the myth of Rome," Italy's minister of culture, Francesco Rutelli, said at a news conference in Rome on Tuesday where a half-dozen photos were displayed to journalists.

The myth concerns Lupercal, whose name comes from "wolf" and refers to the mythical cave where Romulus and Remus - the sons of the god Mars who were abandoned by the banks of the Tiber - were found by a female wolf who suckled them until they were found and raised by a shepherd named Faustulus. The brothers are said to have gone on to found Rome on April 21, 753 B.C., with the legend culminating in fratricide when Romulus killed his twin in a power struggle.

The cave later became a sacred location where the priests of Lupercus celebrated certain ceremonies until A.D. 494. At that time Pope Gelasius put an end to the practice.

It is that location that has been discovered, according to some leading archaeologists. Its presence was first announced in January by Irene Iacopi, the archaeologist in charge of the Palatine. It was found during restoration work on the palace of Augustus, Rome's first emperor, after workers took core samples from the hill and were then alerted to the possible presence of the cave.

"This is one of the most important discoveries of all time," Andrea Carandini one of Italy's most renowned archaeologists, said Tuesday.

Carandini has long held that the myths of ancient Rome, at least in some slightly altered iteration, could quite possibly be true, and so he derived added satisfaction from the find.

"The fact that this sanctuary is under the lower part of the house of Augustus is significant because Augustus was a kind of Romulus himself who refounded Rome and he did it in the place where Romulus had been," he said.

The positioning of the cave, discovered at the base of a hill between the Temple of Apollo and the Church of St. Anastasia, could prove to be problematic for continued excavation.

Traces of Roman Superglue found on helmet from Xanten


Roman warriors repaired their battle accessories with a superglue that is still sticking around after 2,000 years, according to new findings on display at the Rheinischen Landes Museum in Bonn, Germany.

Running until Feb. 16, 2008, the exhibition "Behind the Silver Mask" presents evidence that the ancient adhesive was used to mount silver laurel leaves on legionnaires' battle helmets.

"It's a sensational find and a complete stroke of luck that we were still able to find traces of the substance after 2000 years," Frank Willer, the museum's chief restorer, told Discovery News.

Willer found traces of the superglue while examining a helmet unearthed in 1986 near the German town of Xanten, on what was once the bed of the Rhine.

"The helmet, which dates from the 1st century B.C., was given to the museum for restoration. I discovered the glue accidentally, while removing a tiny sample of metal from the helmet with a fine saw. The heat from the tool caused the silver laurel leaves on the helmet to peel off, leaving thread-like traces of the glue behind," Willer said.

Willer was amazed to discover that despite such a long exposure to water, time and air, the superglue did not lose its bonding properties.

He said that other Roman battle accessories kept by the museum have traces of silver decorations which most likely had been glued to the iron with the same adhesive and technique. Unfortunately, the objects are too deteriorated to find traces of the superglue.

However, the helmet unearthed at Xanten featured enough material to determine how the adhesive was made.

Palace of the Emperor Augustus to Reopen


I'm so excited to see this note. My friend Richard White had previously toured the Palatine Hill and told me there wasn't much to see there. This will probably change his mind!

"Emperor Augustus' frescoed palace atop Rome's Palatine Hill, one of the city's famous seven hills, will partially reopen to the public March 2 after decades of restoration work, officials said Monday.

Since the palace was closed in the 1980s, experts have spent at least $17.6 million to restore the porticoed garden of Rome's first emperor and piece together precious frescoes that time had reduced to fragments. The palace was built in the first century B.C.

Groups of up to 10 people will be guided through the decorative marvels in Augustus' studio and in the hall where the emperor received guests, as well as rooms in the nearby palace built for his wife, Livia.

"We can finally enter into these places that have been preserved for some 2,000 years," said Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni.

Restoration of other parts of the residence will continue, officials said."

No newborns found in Spartan Pit

"The Greek myth that ancient Spartans threw their stunted and sickly newborns off a cliff was not corroborated by archaeological digs in the area, researchers said Monday.

After more than five years of analysis of human remains culled from the pit, also called an apothetes, researchers found only the remains of adolescents and adults between the ages of 18 and 35, Athens Faculty of Medicine Anthropologist Theodoros Pitsios said.

"There were still bones in the area, but none from newborns, according to the samples we took from the bottom of the pit" of the foothills of Mount Taygete near present-day Sparta.

"It is probably a myth, the ancient sources of this so-called practice were rare, late and imprecise," he added.

Meant to attest to the militaristic character of the ancient Spartan people, moralistic historian Plutarch in particular spread the legend during first century AD.

According to Pitsios, the bones studied to date came from the fifth and sixth centuries BC and come from 46 men, confirming the assertion from ancient sources that the Spartans threw prisoners, traitors or criminals into the pit.

The discoveries shine light on an episode during the second war between Sparta and Messene, a fortified city state independent of Sparta, when Spartans defeated the Messenian hero Aristomenes and his 50 warriors, who were all thrown into the pit, he added."

Excavation of Herod monumental architecture continues in Jordan

With their findings on the mountain Tall adh-Dhahab (West) in the Jabbok Valley the archeologist Thomas Pola could substantiate one assumption: everything points to the fact that the building remains from the Hellenistic and Roman era, found in 2006, were part of a yet unknown monumental building of Herod the Great (73-4 BC).

This assumption is based on the floors of one of the discovered peristyle yards (yards enclosed by continuous columns) which the archeologists were able to excavate. Prof. Pola sees the parallels with the architecture of Herod’s West Jordan Alexandreion as prove that there also was a monumental building of Herod the Great on the plateau of the mountain Tall adh-Dhahab. That would mean that in addition to his reign over the West Jordan Land, the Jewish king had a security system with which he could have controlled the ancient long-distance traffic in the middle Jordan Valley and the access ways to the plateau of the East Jordan Land.

Above that, the team of Prof. Pola for the first time discovered a layer from the late Bronze Age or the Early Iron Age on a natural terrace directly underneath the plateau. The ruins of a tower from the city wall at least show three building phases. “On the level of the oldest building phase we took samples from a burnt layer. A C14-analysis carried out by Prof. Manfred Bayer (Physics at TU Dortmund) showed that the charcoal originates from the time 1300 to 1000 BC. At this location we will continue to work in 2008.”

Finally Prof. Pola’s team discovered the purpose of the monumental military facility half way up the mountain: it is a casemate wall. It is supposed to have been finished in Roman times. This is yet another argument for the identification of the mountain with the stronghold Amathous mentioned in the ancient world. The historian Josephus (37 to 100 AD) described Amathous as the biggest stronghold in the East Jordan Land.

Even reworking the campaign 2006 revealed a sensation: the carve-drawings which had been discovered by Dr. Batereau-Neumann, a sponsor of the project, at that time, were dated to the ninth or tenth century by the internationally renowned specialist for Middle East iconography, Prof. Othmar Keel (Universit├Ąt Freiburg). According to him the two pictures, the head of a lioness and the fragment of a cultural scene, belong together. The sensation: they point to the existence of a temple on the mountain plateau in the New-Assyrian time.

Roman Archaeology Timeline