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The Ancient Library of Herculaneum

PostPosted: Sun Mar 13, 2005 6:13 pm
by Cleopatra Aelia
Salvete Omnes,

I got another interesting article which I would like to share with you. It was published on Feb. 4th in the "Hamburger Abendblatt" based on an article by Siegfried Helm, Oxford:

The Scholarship of Antiquity - Under the Lava?

Many works of the great philosophers Aristoteles and Sophokles were never discovered. Sientists suppose they are at the library of Herculaneum which was destroyed by the eruption of the year 79. Now they plan there the most remarkable excavation of the 21st century.

It was not only Pompeii and its neighboring towns which got destroyed during the eruption which caused also the death of thousands. The debris and ashes of the volcano also covered in Herculaneum one of the largest libraries in antiquity. Now British scientists hope to discover there the literary treasures which are lost for two thousand years.

Under the 30 m thick layer of lava could be numerous papyri scrolls which one could read with the new spectral analysis.At first excavations of the library discovered in 1738 they found already 1800 papyri. The library has besides the upper floor three lower levels which the scientists of Oxford University hope to excavate. Time is running out because volcanologists assume that the Vesuvius might erupt in near future.

A team of archaelogists has formed in Oxford the "Herculaneum Society" and the excavation project is called "Villa Papyri". They already know the dimensions of the library with a length of 250 m. At the first excavation in 1738 they also had found mosaic floors. One of the charbonized scrolls was given to Napoleon as a gift.

The 1800 other charbonized scrolls have been in the meantime made legible with the help of Multi Spectral Imaging. 30,000 pages were saved on CD-ROM, under which they found nearly the half of the works of the Greek philosopher Epikur which were lost for 2300 years.They also found an essay of Zenon of Sidon, to which Cicero was listening in Athens. Professor Richard Janko of Michigan University pointed out that this text was one of the first works of this philosophers whose works all got lost during late antiquity.

90 percent of the writings of antiquity got lost during the middle ages because usually an organic material like papyri scrolls does not survive two thousand years. Only under special circumstances when it is charbonized and sealed off from air the letters on papyri stay legible.

The library of Herculaneum could be compared to the one of Alexandria which was founded in the third century BCE and contained 700,000 book scrolls and got destroyed in the fourth or seventh century which was counted as the biggest catastrophy for history of ideas.

If the upper level already bears treasures like the works of Epikur the archaeologists dream to find much more in the three lower levels. Experts note that of the 123 pieces of Sophokles only seven are known. Euripides should have written 90 pieces, only 75 were read in Alexandria, but we know only 17 tragedies and one satyr play. Aischylos wrote between 70 to 90 pieces, only seven are known. Such a large library could have contained also standard works such as the history of Rome by Livius. Over 100 of these 142 books of this monumental work of history are lost. Of greatest importance would be also the works of Aristoteles.

A team of professors with scholars from Harvard, Oxford and London states that they expect to find well done copies of wellknown master pieces and other works which were losst for two thousand years. This would be a cultural treasure of immense dimension.

But there is a controversy of how fast one should dig up the treasures. One side would like to do this as fast as possible becaues of the danger of earthquakes and another volcano eruption, the other side fears that opening of the sealed off area might destroy the scrolls as well as the mosaics and frescoes forever.

How the antique writings were made legible
The technology of decoding the charbonized papyri was used first by the NASA to analyze the light of stars and planets. Their lights will be put by multi spectral imaging into a spectrum with which one can identify the elements and compounds. With this they also make the writing on the papyri legible. This technology was used for the first time at the museum of Naples by Steve Boras of Brigham Young University in Utah. He could read though only a few of the letters written with ink because the contrast between ink and papyrus was not big enough. Boras used a digital camera with high sensitivity for a broader light spectrum which could get deep into the infrared wave lengths. When he finally used a filter which allowed only infrared light between 900 and 950 nanometers to go through the long lost texts appeared clearly. The ink obviously absorbed the infrared light in a different way than the surrounding papyrus.

PostPosted: Sun Mar 13, 2005 7:43 pm
by Quintus Pomponius Atticus

Here's the url of the society's website :


There, you can also view the 'processed' papyri !


The preserved parts are nicely legible, but many gaps at different places may greatly complicate the reconstruction of the texts' meaning.

Still, a hugely important project worth following up, although the team's affirmation that they are likely to find unknown works by Aristotle etc. may be partly directed at finding generous sponsors (which they'd deserve!) enabling them to carry on their work .

Valete !

PostPosted: Thu Apr 21, 2005 7:42 pm
by Quintus Aurelius Orcus

Genetic testing reveals awkward truth about Xinjiang's famous mummies

URUMQI, China (AFP) - After years of controversy and political intrigue, archaeologists using genetic testing have proven that Caucasians roamed China's Tarim Basin 1,000 years before East Asian people arrived.


Archaeologists Find Ancient Egyptian Tomb
CAIRO, Egypt - Archaeologists digging in a 5,600-year-old funeral site in southern Egypt unearthed seven corpses believed to date to the era, as well as an intact figure of a cow's head carved from flint.



Statue of Orpheus unearthed

PostPosted: Sun Jul 10, 2005 1:26 am
by Quintus Aurelius Orcus

Statue of Orpheus unearthed

Associated Press in Sofia
Friday July 8, 2005
The Guardian

A rare statue of the ancient Thracian hero Orpheus has been
unearthed in Bulgaria, near a place archaeologists say might house
the hero's tomb, the leader of excavations said.
The 9cm (3.5in) bronze statue, dating from the 1st or 2nd century
AD, was found in the village of Tatul, 200 miles south-east of
Sofia, an archaeologist, Nikolai Ovcharov, said.

The statue, which was perfectly preserved, was found a few days ago
by villagers, and handed to archaeologists working on the site, he

He added that the find appeared to confirm his hypothesis that the
Tatul site was one of the main sanctuaries for Orpheus worshippers
in the ancient world.
"The statue depicts a naked athletic god with a lyre in his left
hand. Most probably it's a statue of Orpheus, which makes it a rare

According to myth Orpheus was a son of Apollo and a godlike poet and
musician. After his death a cult developed around his figure, and
Thracians seem to have worshipped him as a god, historians say.
Valete optime


Interesting Articles on the Web

PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2005 8:13 pm
by Cleopatra Aelia
Salvete Omnes,

I joined recently a forum in German language dealing with history in general but having of course also a Roman section. (For those here who know some German and who would like to check it out, here's the link:

Through that forum I came across three very interesting articles on the web dealing with Ancient Rome:

The Roman Siege of Jerusalem:

Espionage in Ancient Rome ... ndex3.html

The Roman Invasion of Britannia ... Sussex.htm

Limes added to list of UNESCO World Heritage

PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2005 9:36 pm
by Cleopatra Aelia
Salvete Omnes,

The Roman Empire appeared today on the two major news shows in German TV, The "Tagesschau" of the ARD and "heute" of ZDF. The reason was that the limes got accepted to the UNESCO World Heritage. Unfortunately I can't provide a link in English language, even on the UNESCO homepage today's decision did not appear so far.

The English Hadrian's Wall, which is since 1987 on the World Heritage List, and the Upper Germanic-Raetian Limes should form together the first parts of a "transnational world heritage" which in future will include two dozen states along the outer frontiers of the former Roman Empire.

Silver hoard from Pompeii

PostPosted: Tue Jul 19, 2005 5:19 am
by Primus Aurelius Timavus

PostPosted: Wed Nov 23, 2005 11:01 am
by Quintus Pomponius Atticus
Archaeologists find western world's oldest map
By Hilary Clarke in Rome
(Filed: 18/11/2005)

The oldest map of anywhere in the western world, dating from about 500 BC, has been unearthed in southern Italy. Known as the Soleto Map, the depiction of Apulia, the heel of Italy's "boot", is on a piece of black-glazed terracotta vase about the size of a postage stamp.


It was found in a dig led by the Belgian archaeologist Thierry van Compernolle, of Montpellier University, two years ago. But its existence was kept secret until more research was carried out.

"The map offers, to date, for the Mediterranean, and more generally for western civilisation, the oldest map of a real space," the university said recently.

Its engraved place names are indicated by points, just as on maps today, and are written in ancient Greek.

The sea on the western side, Taras (Taranto), today's Gulf of Taranto, is named in Greek. But the rest of the map is in Messapian, the ancient tongue of the local tribes, although the script is ancient Greek.

The seas on either side of the peninsula, the Ionian and the Adriatic, are depicted by parallel zig-zag strokes.

Many of the 13 towns marked on the map, such as Otranto, Soleto, Ugento and Leuca (now called Santa Maria di Leuca) still exist.

The map went on public display for the first time this week in the Archaeological National Museum of Taranto.

Apart from being the oldest geographical map from classical antiquity ever found, it is the first material proof that the ancient Greeks were drawing maps of real places before the Romans.

It was known from ancient Greek literature that the concept of a map existed and that some had been drawn but none had been found.

The ancient Chinese had a well-defined system of map-making, but modern cartography descends from techniques laid down by the ancient Greeks.

Most existing classical maps are Roman and date from the period after Christ's birth.

Experts have suggested that the discovery demands not only a reconsideration of the beginnings of ancient cartography, but also of regional history, in particular that of relations between the local population of the Messapian tribes with their neighbours, the Greeks.

The Soleto map also gives vital new clues to the cultural exchange between the newly arrived Greeks and the Messapi.

They lived in the area but probably came originally from Greece as their language is believed to be a dialect of Illyrian.

The Soleto map is a contemporary of the Greek mathematician Pythagoras, who set up a philosophy school in Crotone, now Calabria, on the other side of the Gulf of Taranto.

His hypothesis that the Earth was round, developed after observing that the height of stars was different at different locations and noticing how ships appeared on the horizon, formed the basis of modern map making.

Source : The Telegraph

New Find in the Forum

PostPosted: Thu Nov 24, 2005 9:09 am
by Joe Geranio
Ivory emperor emerges from Forum
'Unique' find probably Marcus Aurelius or Septimius Severus
(ANSA) - Rome, November 16 - Italian archaeologists have unveiled the latest major find to emerge from the Roman forum - an ivory statue of an emperor, probably Marcus Aurelius or Septimius Severus .

The bust is unique - there are no other examples of statues like this made in ivory .

Very few ancient Roman ivory objects have survived to the present day because ivory is a biodegradable material .

Those that have not withered away over the last 2,000 years are mostly tomb decorations and small plaques .

The archaeologists found the statue at the Forum's Templum Pacis (Temple of Peace), which they started excavating last December .

The emperor is depicted in 'Greek philosopher' pose, wearing a tunic with his right hand raised and his head slightly inclined .

This has led experts to believe it may be Marcus Aurelius (emperor 161-180 AD), author of a famous philosophical work, Meditations .

The other likely candidate is Septimius Severus (193-211 AD), a prudent but ruthless ruler who came from the North African city of Leptis Magna (in present day Libya) .

The bust is 25cm tall and blackened by fire damage .

This may have occurred during the 192 AD blaze that devastated the Templum Pacis .

Emperor Vespasian (69-79 AD) built the temple in 72 AD to house the spoils from the suppression of the First Jewish Revolt by his son Titus - later emperor 79-81 AD - along with Greek masterpieces collected by Nero (54-68 AD) .

After the 192 AD fire, described by Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus, the temple was restored by Septimius Severus .

The excavation of the site has also uncovered a beautiful, multi-coloured marble floor and parts of the temple's enormous columns .

The ivory-statue coup comes shortly after another jackpot find - a huge marble head of Emperor Constantine (305-337 AD) discovered in July at Trajan's Forum .

The 60cm-high head, which was found in good condition, showed Constantine in stylised glory, at the time of his triumphant entry into Rome after beating rival Emperor Maxentius at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge (312 AD) .

It was probably sculpted between 312 and 325 AD .

PostPosted: Thu Dec 15, 2005 5:07 pm
by Tiberius Dionysius Draco
Salvete Romani,


Roman Forts had a women's touch

Women lived and worked in Roman military forts, according to a telltale trail of lost hairpins and beads.

This dispels the notion the forts were male-only domains, says archaeologist Dr Penelope Allison of the Australian National University.

She presents her analysis of the archaeological record at the Australasian Archaeometry Conference in Canberra this week.

"These were not segregated communities," says Allison, "They would have had a lot of women involved, possibly as wives, possibly running shops, possibly involved in craft, inside the fort."

Ordinary Roman soldiers were not legally allowed to have wives, says Allison, and it has generally been thought that the only women allowed in the forts were wives of commanding officers.

"Any other women, whether they be wives or concubines or prostitutes or tradespersons, were not thought to live within the fort," she says.

But, says Allison, although Rome decreed ordinary soldiers could not marry, the reality was quite different away from the front.

In a unique study, Allison has been analysing patterns of objects found throughout the forts that support the presence of women.

"The distribution of lost and abandoned objects, tells us quite a lot of about where people go and how they use a space," she says.

Using computer software, she has mapped the distribution of over 30,000 artefacts.

She found objects used by women, such as hairpins, beads, perfume bottles and spindle wheels scattered in buildings and along the streets of the forts.

"They all tend to group together in different parts of the fort," she says.

The location of these objects suggest women often played an active life in the fort, says Allison, which might be better described as a functioning town with a market rather than a sterile male-only province.

She says women were well and truly integrated into the forts, playing "helpful" non-combatant roles of wives, mothers, craftspeople and traders.

Allison says her conclusion is also supported by the remains of about 11 babies buried beneath the fort barracks.

Some historians who favour the idea the forts were segregated have attempted to "explain away" this discovery by arguing the babies' remains were accidentally brought into the fort in soil. But Allison rejects this.

She says evidence, such as that from tombstone inscriptions, record the fact that men left property to women they'd formed long-lasting relationships with.




PostPosted: Sat Feb 18, 2006 3:23 pm
by Primus Aurelius Timavus

PostPosted: Sat Feb 18, 2006 11:53 pm
by Tiberius Dionysius Draco
Primus Aurelius Tergestus wrote:The Palatine is falling down: ... /index.htm

I had some trouble with your link, it kept saying it couldn't fine the page. However, I did find an alternative:

Palatine is crumbling.

Bosnian Pyramid

PostPosted: Sun Apr 30, 2006 12:19 pm
by Tiberius Dionysius Draco
Salvete Romani,

There is talk of a pyramid that has been discovered in Bosnia, read the information on the site: here. Intruiging to say the least.

Valete bene,

PostPosted: Sun Apr 30, 2006 4:32 pm
by Q Valerius

Read here, here, and here.


PostPosted: Mon May 01, 2006 12:52 pm
by Tiberius Dionysius Draco
Q. Valerius Scerio wrote:AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Read here, here, and here.


Oh my, :shock: .

Thanks for clearing that up. I knew there was some discussion about the find, but I didn't find the sources you linked. It makes sense now. But still, it would have been great if it really were a pyramid. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted I guess :wink: .

Vale bene,

Find of Soldier's Brooch (Fibula) at Hadrian's Wall

PostPosted: Mon May 22, 2006 8:54 am
by Cleopatra Aelia
Salve mi Mari,

I found Bert Ricci's post at your Roman Outpost Yahoo group quite interesting so I hope you don't mind that I would like to share this with our friends here at the SVR. So here's the article Bert had found:

Spectacular brooch find may 'unlock secrets of Hadrian's Wall'

A 'spectacular' small brooch has been uncovered at a Roman fort that may reveal secrets about the men that built Hadrian's Wall.
The discovery of the legionary soldier's expensive and prestigious cloak brooch has excited archaeologists in Northumberland.
Experts have discovered that the brooch belonged to soldier Quintus Sollonius who would have been stationed at the forefront of the Roman empire 2,000 years ago.
Historians are continuing to examine the artefact and believe it could reveal more secrets behind the men who helped build Hadrian's Wall.
It was found at the Vindolanda Roman settlement, near Bardon Mill in Northumberland.
Quintus Sollonius painstakingly cut a set of small incised dots to make up his name. Next to the name was the inscription CUPI.
It is believed that those four letters refer to Cupius, the centurion in command of the soldiers sent by the Second Legion Augusta to help build the wall in AD122.
The brooch, which is just under 2in in diameter, incorporates the figure of Mars, the Roman god of war, wearing body armour and sandals, standing alongside two wide shields.
These shields could mean Quintus Sollonius was a veteran of campaigns against the Dacians in what is now Romania conducted by the emperor Hadrian's predecessor Trajan.
Three chains dangling below each hold an ivy or maple leaf.
The name Sollonius indicates Quintus came from Gaul, or modern France.
The centurion Cupius - an unusual name - is known from a Second Legion Augusta inscription at Caerleon in Wales.
Quintus Sollonius and Cupius were part of a detachment of legionary soldiers sent to Northumberland to assist in the early stages of the building of the 74-mile long wall.
Vindolanda director of excavations Robin Birley said: "It is a fantastic find because nothing like this has ever been seen before.
"It is further proof that there were legionnaires in Northumberland at the time of the building of Hadrian's Wall."
Mr Birley said the brooch was a very impressive object and showed that Quintus Sollonius was a very senior soldier - probably a non-commissioned officer with at least 20 years' experience.
"It is a very expensive object and he would have been very annoyed to have lost the brooch, which fastened the cloak at the shoulder," Mr Birley said.
"But it is quite big and flashy and difficult to lose, so one suspects that perhaps it was stolen."
Lindsay Allason-Jones, an expert in Roman history at Newcastle University, questioned whether the artefact was a brooch.
"I have not seen anything like this before," she said.
"I am not even sure it is a brooch and it may some sort of decoration for a horse.
"There does not appear to be a catch plate but this may have fallen off, which may explain how it was lost in the first place.
"However, I have never seen anything like this in the region before and because it has someone's name on, it is a very important find."
Copyright Press Association 2006

PostPosted: Wed May 24, 2006 1:46 am
by Tiberius Dionysius Draco
Salvete Romani,


Cleopatra's underwater treasure trove

The lost world of Cleopatra’s palaces has been dug out of the muddy Mediterranean sea bed by a man dubbed the Underwater Indiana Jones.

The results of Franck Goddio’s excavations, comprising 500 priceless finds that shed light on 1,500 years of ancient history, will be put on public view today for the first time.

President Mubarak of Egypt will open the exhibition in Berlin, and it will later transfer to Paris and London and eventually to a specially prepared site in Egypt.

“It was an astonishing feeling to find and handle beautiful objects that have been touched by Cleopatra,” said M Goddio.

For the past 12 years he has been excavating the sunken harbour of Alexandria, the legendary lost city of Heracleion and the religious centre of Canopus.

Floods, earthquakes and erosion swallowed up these once-vibrant communities. Although some of the recovered fragments have been shown, they have never been put together in a single comprehensive collection.

The Goddio team discovered 5.4m (18ft) red granite statues of an Egyptian king, queen and the fertility god Hapi, as well as thousands of smaller statues of gods and rulers, masks of pharaohs, gold and stone jewellery, and an intact black slab pronouncing import duties on Greek products.

One of the most significant discoveries was the fragment of a shrine, the Naos of the Decades, which made it possible for M Goddio to reconstruct the first astrological calendar in the world.

Among the treasures is a sphinx bearing the face of Ptolemy XII, the father of Cleopatra, a reminder that parts of the royal quarter with its temples, palaces and gardens were in Alexandria’s eastern harbour, where Julius Caesar, Mark Antony and Cleopatra stayed.

Working from 19th-century maps and the results of an early excavation by Prince Omar Tousson, M Goddio set about testing theories about the geography of the sunken harbour area.

What emerged was a picture of a remarkably well-designed metropolis divided by grand canals.

“We showed the designs to port engineers who told us that they couldn’t have done a better job,” he said. “It was not only an act of brilliant engineering it was also beautiful to look at.”

The port was developed by Ptolemy II, in 300BC.

Using magnetic resonance machines and sonars, M Goddio fished out the relics. Each fragment had to be freed from the effects of the seawater in an onboard laboratory.

The statues were descaled, chemically and electronically tested, and then restored.



Archeologists dig Roman dogs

Bones of dozens of dogs offered to the gods in Roman times and unearthed in Ewell 30 years ago is an archeological find that has triggered further investigation.

Leading archaeologists are in the village recovering the secrets of lost Roman shrines.

The first finds were made in the 1840s in a series of deep ritual shafts cut down into the chalk.

But today's archaeologists will be seeking to uncover more of a stone building and a further deep shaft found in 1977. Shafts like these have been found containing pottery vessels, coins and the bones of many dogs.

Ewell lies on Stane Street - the main Roman road from London to Chichester - and the discoveries in and around Hatch Furlong suggest that a religious complex once existed on the higher ground over-looking the settlement.

"We are looking at one of the most mysterious aspects of life in Roman Ewell - the cult centres where offerings were made to native gods."




Brooching the Subject?

PostPosted: Wed May 24, 2006 4:31 am
by Aldus Marius
Avete Romani...

On the 'brooch' find, Mars is often depicted on coin reverses with two shields; if memory serves (which, in my case, it often doesn't), the Salii were in charge of keeping the Sacred Shields of Mars (ancillae?), and I think there might have been several of them. Might not the shields on the 'brooch' thus be attributes of the God (symbols that let the viewer know which Divinity is being represented)? If so, they say more about Mars than about the 'brooch's' wearer.

Too, some very fine things have turned out to belong to very ordinary people--especially in the Legions, where pay was regular and decent, and the soldier had automatic deductions going into a savings account. Legionaries were known to upgrade helmets and armor, get equipment tinned or bronzed, have fabric items custom-made from better materials, and so forth. And the occasional cavalryman just might have 'pimped his ride'!

As may be inferred from my use of quote-marks, I'm not certain the object is a brooch. I've never heard of one with those little danglers. OTOH, those were fairly common on cavalry harness--the horse's breast- and shoulder-straps had fastenings that were generally hidden behind decorative fittings. Most (the regulation ones, I presume) were fairly plain with a boss and some edging. But, knowing the army penchant for jingling when they walked (vide the cingulum), it wouldn't surprise me at all to see a cavalry trooper hang something like this pendant on his mount.

That the back-fittings are missing only, to me, bolsters my point. The backs of cavalry medallions broke off much more often than the backs of brooches.

With apologies for what I don't remember about the shields,

Pictures of the 'Brooch'

PostPosted: Wed May 24, 2006 8:52 am
by Cleopatra Aelia
Avete amici,

Bert was so nice to provide us at the Roman Outpost with two links where you could see a picture of this remarkable thing. So here you go: ... ?id=368166
better picture ... 990240.stm
Well, it's a bigger version of the same image.

PostPosted: Mon May 29, 2006 2:06 am
by Anonymous
This is a little old by now, but I noticed it hadn't been posted yet. So, for the record:, ... 87,00.html

Spain destroys lost Roman city for a car park
Jon Clarke in Malaga
THE archeologists could barely hide their excitement. Beneath the main square of Ecija, a small town in southern Spain, they had unearthed an astounding treasure trove of Roman history.

They discovered a well-preserved Roman forum, bath house, gymnasium and temple as well as dozens of private homes and hundreds of mosaics and statues — one of them considered to be among the finest found.

But now the bulldozers have moved in. The last vestiges of the lost city known as Colonia Augusta Firma Astigi — one of the great cities of the Roman world — have been destroyed to build an underground municipal car park.