Ancient Roman Discoveries




Secret 'Slave' Tunnels Discovered Under Roman Emperor's Villa   Live Science - September 6, 2013

Amateur archaeologists have uncovered a massive network of tunnels under the Roman Emperor Hadrian's Villa in Tivoli, Italy. The underground passageways likely allowed thousands of slaves and merchants to keep the estate running without creating any distraction at the street level. Though similar tunnels have been discovered at the complex before, the new discovery is exciting because the passageways were not mentioned in any ancient plans of the grounds.




Goblet tricks suggests ancient Romans were first to use nanotechnology   PhysOrg - August 27, 2013

Recent evidence suggests that the Roman craftsmen who created the Lycurgus Cup, a glass drinking goblet, used nanotechnology to cause the goblet to change color under different lighting. The cup's unique properties were first noted when it was brought to a museum in the 1950s - it wasn't until 1990, however, that researchers figured out how the color changers were brought about.




Sicilian Mummies Bring Centuries to Life   National Geographic - January 29, 2013

Arrayed in crypts and churches, with leering skulls and parchment skin, the desiccated dead of Sicily have long kept mute vigil. But now, centuries later, these creepy cadavers have plenty to say. Five years into the Sicily Mummy Project, six macabre collections are offering scientists a fresh look at life and death on the Mediterranean island from the late 16th century to the mid-20th. Led by anthropologist Dario Piombino-Mascali of the Department of Cultural Heritage and Sicilian Identity in Palermo (map), the ongoing investigation is revealing how religious men and their wealthy supporters ate, interacted, dealt with disease, and disposed of their dead. These mummies are a unique treasure in terms of both biology and history,




What Does First-century Roman Graffiti Say?   National Geographic - January 29, 2013

A facelift of the Colosseum in Rome that began last fall has revealed centuries of graffiti. Removing the accumulated grime and calcification, experts discovered layers of inscriptions on the section of a wall seen here - designs in red and faded gray from antiquity, and lettering in black left by visitors in modern times. Built in the first century, the Colosseum may have held crowds as large as 50,000 people. Its numbered entrances and covered passages were designed to get spectators in and out quickly and to separate the high and mighty from the hoi polloi.




Down the Drain: Lost Items Reveal Roman Bath Activities   Live Science - January 11, 2013

Ever go swimming with rings on your fingers or hoops in your ears only to find your jewelry had vanished after your dip? If so, you've got something in common with ancient Romans. A new study of objects lost down the drains in the bathhouses from the Roman Empire reveals that people got up to all sorts of things in these gathering places. They bathed, of course, but they also adorned themselves with trinkets, snacked on finger foods and even did needlework.




Scale Model Discovered for Florence Cathedral   Live Science - January 11, 2013

Italian archaeologists have unearthed the remains of a mini dome near FlorenceÕs cathedral - evidence, they say, that the structure served as a scale model for the majestic structure designed by Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446). Found during excavations to expand the Cathedral museum, the model measures 9 feet in circumference and itÕs made of bricks arranged in a herringbone pattern. This building technique had been previously used in Persian domes, but Brunelleschi was the first to introduce it into Europe when he worked at the dome.




Ancient Pompeians Could Go Upstairs to Pee   Live Science - January 11, 2013

The residents of the ancient city of Pompeii weren't limited to street-level plumbing, a new study finds. In fact, many in the city may have headed upstairs when nature called. Most second floors in the Roman city are gone, claimed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii in A.D. 79. But vertical pipes leading to lost second stories strongly suggest that there were once toilets up there, according to a new analysis by A. Kate Trusler, a doctoral candidate in anthropology at the University of Missouri. "We have 23 toilets that are connected, that are second-story preserved, that are connected to these downpipes.




2,000-Year-Old Treasure Discovered In Black Sea Fortress   Live Science - January 10, 2013

Residents of a town under siege by the Roman army about 2,000 years ago buried two hoards of treasure in the town's citadel - treasure recently excavated by archaeologists. More than 200 coins, mainly bronze, were found along with "various items of gold, silver and bronze jewelry and glass vessels" inside an ancient fortress within the Artezian settlement in the Crimea (in Ukraine), the researchers wrote in the most recent edition of the journal Ancient Civilizations from Scythia to Siberia.




Pompeii 'Wall Posts' Reveal Ancient Social Networks   Live Science - January 10, 2013

Think of it as the earliest version of the Facebook wall post: Ancient Pompeii residents revealed their social networks through graffiti on actual walls. Now, a new analysis of some of these scribbled messages reveals the walls of the wealthy were highly sought after, especially for political candidates hoping to drum up votes. The findings suggest that Pompeii homeowners may have had some control over who got artistic on their walls, said study researcher Eeva-Maria Viitanen, an archaeologist at the University of Helsinki.




Ancient Shipwreck Reveals 2,000-Year-Old Eye Medicine   Live Science - January 9, 2013

Ancient gray disks loaded with zinc and beeswax found aboard a shipwreck more than 2,000 years old may have been used as medicine for the eyes, researchers say. These new findings shed light on the development of medicine over the centuries, scientists added. Scientists analyzed six flat gray tablets approximately 1.6 inches (4 centimeters) in diameter and 0.4 inches (1 cm) thick that were found in a round tin box aboard the so-called Relitto del Pozzino shipwreck, which was discovered about 60 feet (18 meters) underwater in 1974 on the seabed of the Baratti Gulf off the coast of Tuscany. The hull, only 50 to 60 feet (15 to 18 m) long and about 10 feet (3 m) wide, dated back to about 140 B.C.




Oldest Roman Hairstyle Recreated for First Time   Live Science - January 9, 2013

For the first time, the hairstyle of the Roman Vestal Virgins has been recreated on a modern head. The Vestals were priestesses who guarded the fire of Vesta, the goddess of the hearth, among other sacred tasks. Chosen before puberty and sworn to celibacy, they were free from many of the social rules that limited women in the Roman era. Their braided hairstyle, the sini crenes, symbolized chastity and was known in ancient texts as the oldest hairstyle in Rome.




Faces of Cleopatra and Antony's Twin Babies Revealed   Live Science - April 22, 2012

Cleopatra's twin babies now have a face. An Italian Egyptologist has rediscovered a sculpture of Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene, the offspring of Mark Antony and Cleopatra VII, at the Egyptian museum in Cairo. Discovered in 1918 near the temple of Dendera on the west bank of the Nile, the sandstone statue was acquired by the Egyptian Museum in Cairo but has remained largely overlooked. The back of the the 33-foot sculpture, catalogued as JE 46278 at the Egyptian museum, features some engraved stars -- likely indicating that the stone was originally part of a ceiling. Overall, the rest of the statue appears to be quite unusual.




Roman-era couple held hands for 1,500 years   MSNBC - October 22, 2011

Two skeletons found in central-northern Italy reveal the couple was buried holding hands some 1,500 years ago. The skeletal remains of a Roman-era couple reveal the pair has been holding hands for 1,500 years. Italian archaeologists say the man and woman were buried at the same time between the 5th and 6th century A.D. in central-northern Italy. Wearing a bronze ring, the woman is positioned so she appears to be gazing at her male partner.




Sacks of Human Waste Reveal Secrets of Ancient Rome   National Geographic - June 25, 2011

Now excavated, an ancient Roman chamber once held tons of decayed garbage and human waste. Flushed down sewers from apartment blocks and shops, the deposit - the largest collection of ancient Roman garbage and human waste ever found, researchers say - dates to about A.D. 79. That year a catastrophic volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius buried Herculaneum, along with its more famous neighbor, Pompeii. Lost jewelry, coins, and semiprecious stones from a gem shop have been found, along with discarded household items such as broken lamps and pottery, according to Wallace-Hadrill, director of the Herculaneum Conservation Project, a Packard Humanities Institute initiative. And, coming from a onetime district of shopkeepers and artisans, the organic material has revealed just what your run-of the-mill Roman might have eaten in this coastal town, according to project scientists, who collaborated with the British School at Rome and the archaeological authorities for Naples and Pompeii.




Roman rise and fall 'recorded in trees'   BBC - January 14, 2011

An extensive study of tree growth rings says there could be a link between the rise and fall of past civilizations and sudden shifts in Europe's climate. A team of researchers based their findings on data from 9,000 wooden artifacts from the past 2,500 years. They found that periods of warm, wet summers coincided with prosperity, while political turmoil occurred during times of climate instability.




Archaeologists hail unique find in Albania   PhysOrg - August 20, 2010

A marble bus of an athlete dating back to the Roman era, has been unearthed in the ancient city of Apollonia, 120 kms from Tirana. A team of French and Albanian archaeologists digging at the scene are studying how Apollonia evolved from a Greek colony founded in the 7th century BC to a Roman settlement in the 3rd century AD.




Pictures: Oldest Apostle Images Revealed by Laser   National Geographic - June 26, 2010

A newfound painting of the Apostle John(pictured in an underground Roman tomb - is among the oldest known depictions of some of the original 12 Christian Apostles, experts say. The Santa Tecla catacombs - situated beneath an office building in Rome's Ostiense area - contain fourth-century-A.D. paintings of the Apostles Paul, Peter, John, and Andrew, who were early followers of Jesus Christ.




Archaeologists Find Oldest Paintings of Apostles in Roman Catacombs   PhysOrg - June 23, 2010




Mysterious ancient altar found in Roman fort   NBC - July 24, 2009

A massive altar dedicated to an eastern cult deity has emerged during excavations of a Roman fort in northern England. Weighing 1.5 tons, the four-foot high ornately carved stone relic, was unearthed at the Roman fort of Vindolanda, which was built by order of the Emperor Hadrian between 122-30 A.D. The Romans built the defensive wall across the north of Britain from Carlisle to Newcastle-on-Tyne, to keep out invading armies from what is now Scotland.




Giant, Bulging-Eyed Roman Emperor Statue Found National Geographic - August 27, 2008

An "exquisitely carved" statue of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius with heavy-lidded, bulging eyes and a feathery beard - has been discovered in western Turkey, archaeologists announced. The Turkish and Belgian team were not entirely surprised to find the sculpture of the Roman leader and philosopher, who ruled from A.D. 161 to 180, in Roman-era baths in the ancient city of Sagalassos. That's because a rich repository of artifacts from the second century A.D. had already been unearthed at the baths, including the 2007 discovery of a colossal statue of the emperor Hadrian. An earthquake likely destroyed the wall recess containing the Aurelius statue, breaking up the 15-foot-tall (4.5-meter-tall) object into a head (top right) and limbs while shattering its terracotta or wooden torso, according to a statement by the Sagalassos Archaeological Research Project.




Roman temple found under church BBC - August 12, 2008
Israeli archaeologists have uncovered the ruins of a Roman temple beneath the foundations of a church. The building, which dates to the second century AD, was found during an excavation at Zippori, the capital of Galilee during the Roman period. The temple walls were plundered in ancient times and little more than its foundations now remain. Coins minted in the town suggest Roman god Jupiter and goddess Fortuna may have been worshipped at the site. The building is located south of the "decumanus" (east-west road) which ran through the town and served as the main thoroughfare in Roman and Byzantine times. It was discovered during a dig led by Professor Zeev Weiss from the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.




Ancient Rome's Earliest Temple Reconstructed National Geographic - March 14, 2008

Digital images show the reconstructed facade of Rome's Temple of Apollo (top left) and a detail of its columns (top right) above a photo of the temple site as it appears today.




Rome Subway Digs Reveal Medieval, Renaissance Treasures National Geographic - March 10, 2008
A sixth-century copper factory, medieval kitchens still stocked with pots and pans, and remains of Renaissance palaces are among the finds unveiled by archaeologists digging up Rome in preparation for a new subway line. Archaeologists have been probing the depths of the Eternal City at 38 digs, many of which are near famous monuments or on key thoroughfares. Over the last nine months, remains - including Roman taverns and 16th-century palace foundations - have turned up at the central Piazza Venezia and near the ancient Forum, where works are paving the way for one of the 30 stations of Rome's third subway line.




Roman Throne Preserved in Lava, Ash National Geographic - December 5, 2007

Remnants of the first known surviving Roman throne have been discovered near Naples, Italy, in lava and ash that buried the city of Herculaneum in the first century, archaeologists. The finding was exceptional, the scientists said, because furniture of this type was previously only known from artistic depictions, such as a painting from around the same time. Two legs and part of the back of the wooden throne decorated with ivory bas-reliefs depicting ancient deities were dug out in October and November 2007, the archaeologists said. The pieces were found 82 feet (25 meters) underground, near Herculaneum's Villa dei Papiri, a first-century country home believed to have been the residence of Julius Caesar's father-in-law.




Pristine Pre-Roman Tomb Discovered in Italy National Geographic - September 1, 2007

A 2,200-year-old tomb has been discovered completely intact in central Italy, revealing the remains and ornate possessions of some 30 Etruscans, members of the ancient civilization that ruled the region before the rise of Rome. The find was unearthed earlier this month by a team of amateur archaeologists working in the woods of Tuscany, 70 miles (115 kilometers) south of Florence. The 6.5-foot long (2-meter-long) carved stone chamber contains dozens of urns full of human ashes, a typical burial method of the Etruscans, said Andrea Marcocci, an archaeology student at the University of Siena who discovered the site and directed the excavation.




Sacred Cave of Rome's Founders Discovered, Archaeologists Say National Geographic - January 26, 2007


Archaeologists say they have unearthed Lupercale - the sacred cave where, according to legend, a she-wolf nursed the twin founders of Rome and where the city itself was born. The long-lost underground chamber was found beneath the remains of Emperor Augustus' palace on the Palatine, a 230-foot-tall (70-meter-tall) hill in the center of the city. Archaeologists from the Department of Cultural Heritage of the Rome Municipality came across the 50-foot-deep (15-meter-deep) cavity while working to restore the decaying palace.




Royal Roman ruins go back to age of myth NBC - February 14, 2005

Legend has it that Rome was founded in 753 B.C. by Romulus and Remus, the twin sons of Mars, the god of war, who were suckled as infants by a she-wolf in the woods. Now, archaeologists believe they have found evidence that at least the time frame for that tale may be true: Traces of a royal palace discovered in the Roman Forum have been dated to roughly the period of the eternal cityÕs legendary foundation. Andrea Carandini, a professor of archaeology at Rome's Sapienza University who has been conducting excavations at the Forum for more than 20 years, said he made the discovery over the past month at the spot where the Temple of Romulus stands today.




Ancient Roman cosmetic secrets revealed BBC - November 2004

The fashion conscious women of Roman Britain used a tin-based foundation to get a pale and appealing look.The evidence comes from a sealed pot of ointment found at an archaeological dig in Southwark, south London, last year. Bristol University scientists analysed the cream and found it to be made from animal fat, starch and tin oxide. They tell Nature magazine that their own version of this second century AD cosmetic leaves a smooth, powdery texture when rubbed into the skin.




Romans responsible for a rudimentary version of virtual reality   BBC - May 21, 2003

The Romans invented many things but it may come as a surprise to some that they could also be responsible for a rudimentary version of virtual reality. Researchers at the University of Warwick have uncovered 3D paintings in the ancient villas of Pompeii which used tricks similar to virtual reality to impress guests. The researchers have recreated the extravagant 3D wall paintings of theatre scenes to allow 21st century viewers to tread the boards of the long-lost Roman theatres. The project, carried out by the University of Warwick's e-lab in conjunction with the School of Theatre Studies, combines the Roman wall paintings with state-of-the-art computer modeling to study the paintings in detail. It has emerged that the frescoes used a technique called perspective scenic painting to suggest 3D architectural structures on 2D surfaces. Used first in 5th century BC Greek theatre, the technique was later taken up by the Romans to decorate their lavish homes.




Remains thought to be female gladiator

September 16, 2000 - AP - London

A young woman cremated and buried with costly goods centuries ago in Roman London may be the first found female gladiator, archaeologists said. The woman in her 20s, identified by a fragment of a pelvis, was buried with one dish decorated with the image a fallen gladiator, and other vessels with symbols associated with gladiators, said Hedley Swain, head of the Early Department at the Museum of London. Specialists at the museum believe it may be the first discovery of a female gladiator's grave anywhere in the world. "There is evidence of a very exotic and high-status feast, including dates, almonds, figs and a dove," Swain said. There were also remains of pine cones imported from the Mediterranean, which apparently were burned as incense. Three lamps found in the grave were decorated with images of the Egyptian god Anubis. This jackal-headed deity was associated with the Roman god Mercury, and Swain noted that slaves dressed as Mercury were employed to drag away the bodies from amphitheaters.

Jenny Hall, curator of early London history at the museum, estimated there was a 70 percent chance this was a female gladiator. "The fact that we have this association with gladiators indicates that she was a gladiator, or someone deeply involved with gladiators," Hall said. It has long been known that women fought as gladiators.There is an inscription in Pompeii which refers to women in the arena, and to the Emperor Septimius Severus, who ruled from A.D. 193 to 211. Gladiator graves have been excavated at Trier, Germany, but these did not include the trappings of wealth, Hall said. The grave was found within a walled Roman cemetery on the south bank of the Thames, in what is now Southwark. Archaeologists from the museum also continue to analyze the results of their excavations of the Roman amphitheater found near the Guildhall in the financial district. That amphitheater had room for 7,000 spectators, which would have been about a third of the population of Roman London.





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