Archaeologists find Silk Road equal

Dig shows extensive Roman sea trade with India

June 12, 2002 Posted: 1632 GMT

Local Ababda nomads dig in one of the streets in Berenike, which holds an array of artifacts that scientists say reveals an "impressive" sea trade between the Roman Empire and India.     


LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- Spices, gems and other exotic cargo excavated from an ancient port on Egypt's Red Sea show that the sea trade 2,000 years ago between the Roman Empire and India was more extensive than previously thought and even rivaled the legendary Silk Road, archaeologists say.

"We talk today about globalism as if it were the latest thing, but trade was going on in antiquity at a scale and scope that is truly impressive," said the co-director of the dig, Willeke Wendrich of the University of California at Los Angeles.

Wendrich and Steven Sidebotham of the University of Delaware report their findings in the July issue of the journal Sahara.


Historians have long known that Egypt and India traded by land and sea during the Roman era, in part because of texts detailing the commercial exchange of luxury goods, including fabrics, spices and wine.


Now, archaeologists who have spent the last nine years excavating the town of Berenike say they have recovered artifacts that are the best physical evidence yet of the extent of sea trade between the Roman Empire and India.


They say the evidence indicates that trade between the Roman Empire and India was as extensive as that of the Silk Road, the trade route that stretched from Venice to Japan. Silk, spices, perfume, glass and other goods moved along the Silk Road between about 100 B.C. and the 15th century.


"The Silk Road gets a lot of attention as a trade route, but we've found a wealth of evidence indicating that sea trade between Egypt and India was also important for transporting exotic cargo, and it may have even served as a link with the Far East," Sidebotham said.


Among their finds at the site near Egypt's border with Sudan: more than 16 pounds (7 kilograms) of black peppercorns, the largest stash of the prized Indian spice ever recovered from a Roman archaeological site.


This Indian cotton textile was excavated from a Roman trash dump in the ancient Egyptian town of Berenike.


Berenike lies at what was the southeastern extreme of the Roman Empire and probably functioned as a transfer port for goods shipped through the Red Sea. Trade activity at the port peaked twice, in the first century and again around 500, before it ceased altogether, possibly after a plague.


Ships would sail between Berenike and India during the summer, when monsoon winds were strongest, Wendrich said. From Berenike, camel caravans probably carried the goods 240 miles (386 kilometers) west to the Nile, where they were shipped by boat to the Mediterranean port of Alexandria, she said. From there, they could have moved by ship through the rest of the Roman world.


Mediterranean goods, including wine from the Greek island of Kos and fine tableware, moved in the opposite direction.


June 07, 2002

Prehistoric music



IRISH archaeologists have come up with a new prehistoric musicial instrument: the Mayophone. It seems to be an ancestor of the bassoon family of “double reed” instruments, according to Simon O’Dwyer, of Prehistoric Music Ireland, and “may radically alter accepted theories regarding the origins of these instruments worldwide”.


The “Mayophone” is a long wooden tube, bound with a spiral bronze ribbon, and found in 1791 in a bog at Bekan, Co Mayo, in western Ireland. It was said to have been buried 10ft down in the peat, and was identified as a possible horn; carbon-dating will show how old it is, although a date somewhere in the Bronze or Iron Ages seems likely.


Mr O’Dwyer’s study, which included identification of the precise nature of the wood and metal used and acoustic testing, was complemented by construction of a replica instrument, which could be blown without risk. Preliminary results, he says, indicate “that this instrument could be highly sophisticated and unique in the world, the earliest known member of the shawm or bassoon family”.


Burial remains mystery for archaeologists

30.5.2002   21:45 MEZ

Grave was found at the Gondole site, one of the most important Celtic

settlements in the 2nd and 1st centuries BC, in the Central France

region Auvergne near the city of Clermont-Ferrand.

Eight man and a youth buried simultanously. No grave goods found. No

evidence for cause of death. Burial remains mystery for

archaeologists from National Institute for Archaeology.


I just came across a further reference for this find which might interest

you in L'Archaeologue (French archaeology news magazine, No 60 June-July

2002) who have a special issue on new discoveries relating to Gaulish

warfare. The site is called Gondole and the feature in question is a burial

of 8 horses and 8 men (2 rows of 4 men beside 2 rows of 4 horses), with a

preliminary possible date somewhere in the range mid 2nd cent BC - 1st cent

AD. There's a discussion (in french of course) of a range of possible

interpretations of the burial, mostly focussing on their possible

associations with the nearby oppidum of Gergovie.


Skelette von acht gallischen Reitern in der Auvergne entdeckt Grablegung mit Pferden gibt Archäologen Rätsel auf


Paris - In der zentralfranzösischen Region Auvergne haben Archäologen ein rätselhaftes Galliergrab entdeckt. Sie fanden nahe der mittelfranzösischen Stadt Clermont-Ferrand die Skelette von acht Reitern und ihren Pferden, wie das Nationale Institut für Archäologie (Inrap) am Donnerstag in Paris mitteilte. Das Grab befindet sich an der Ausgrabungstätte Gondole, einer der bedeutendsten Keltensiedlungen in der Auvergne aus der Zeit des zweiten und ersten Jahrhunderts vor Christus.


Die acht Männer, sieben Erwachsene und ein Jugendlicher, wurden in zwei Viererreihen in das rechteckige Grab gelegt, das rund 300 Meter von der ursprünglichen Befestigungsanlage ausgehoben wurde. Offenbar wurden sie gleichzeitig bestattet. Sie lagen auf ihrer rechten Seite, die Köpfe Richtung Süden, das Gesicht nach Osten ausgerichtet. Die sieben Erwachsenen haben den linken Arm angehoben, der jeweils zum Davorliegenden ausgreift. Dem Grab wurden keine Waffen, Opfergaben oder Schmuck beigelegt.


Die merkwürdige Anordnung der Reiter und vor allem die ungewöhnliche Bestattung zusammen mit ihren Pferden geben den Archäologen Rätsel auf. Auch auf die Ursache für den Tod der Reiter und ihrer Tiere gab es zunächst keine Hinweise. (APA)


Fact is stranger than fiction as 2,000-year-old Roman amphitheatre is brought back to life

By Jonathan Brown

12 June 2002


A Roman amphitheatre, where Londoners flocked nearly 2,000 years ago to watch gladiators fight a succession of slaves, criminals and wild beasts, opened to the public yesterday.


The arena was discovered at the site of Guildhall Yard in the City in 1988, and ranks as one of the most important finds of the last century. Restoration has been going on since then, and now only the eastern gate remains are visible.

Built in the shape of an ellipse, and measuring 100 metres by 85 metres, original work began in AD70 lasting until the 4th century. The amphitheatre was open for 250 years and was the most important sports stadium in Roman Britain.


It seated about 6,000 of the 20,000 to 30,000 people believed to have been living in London at the time. But it was still small compared to the Colosseum in Rome which seated at least 50,000 spectators.


Nick Bateman, senior projects manager for the Museum of London Archaeology Service, said: "Everybody comes here having some kind of idea about what an amphitheatre is like. For once, fact is actually stranger than fiction."


He added: "We have found animal bones. We have actually found the leg bone of a bear. They were not a common sight in London and it was likely it was fighting in the arena." In later years, dogs were used in baiting bears in pits.

Work on the site has also revealed wooden drains used to run off water and blood from the arena.


The exhibition centres on the ruins and includes three-dimensional graphics of the arena in action.


There were no condemned coin forgers, deserters, wolves, Amazons, lions or tigers - whose fights to the death brightened up many a dull summer's day in Roman London - but yesterday was still a historic event, when the city's amphitheatre threw open its doors after a mere 1,600 years.


Modern visitors will be able to follow the route taken for almost 300 years by excited Roman citizens, by gladiators who might survive to become wealthy sporting superstars, and by condemned criminals, who would certainly be torn apart by wild animals or weapons.


Only a fragment of the stone entrance tunnel, east gate, and arena walls survive, 20 feet below the modern pavement.


Two doorways of buildings flanking the gate remain. One has slots cut into the stone threshold, similar to those at a much better preserved arena at Lepcis Magna in Libya - suggesting that the square building may have been the holding pen for wild animals.


The rest of the great space, and the tiers of seating which could have held 7,000 spectators, up to a quarter of the population of the Roman capital, have been recreated by architect Nigel Coates in wire frame drawings, projected in lines of green light on to black glass screens.


Professor Coates was recently an important player in another bloody combat in a circular arena, when he designed the Millennium Dome's body zone.


No such controversy surrounded this commission, but it taxed his team's ingenuity to breaking point. The remains have been preserved exactly as found, suspended below and above the new Guildhall art gallery, shrouded in plastic and protected by breeze block walls as the new building was filled in around them.


Creating a public display which both preserved the archaeology and conveyed the drama of the original scene was the last phase of what became a £4m project, paid by the Corporation of London.


The site of the amphitheatre was only rediscovered in 1988, hailed as one of the archaeological discoveries of the last century. More almost certainly lies buried under the foundations of Guildhall, and the nearby church of St Lawrence Jewry.

The discovery showed that Guildhall was built, in the 12th century, directly above the site of the imposing north stand, where the most powerful figures of Roman Britain would have enjoyed the games.


Archaeologist Nick Bateman speculated that Guildhall may have been deliberately located to incorporate surviving Roman masonry.


The archaeologists cursed the meticulous Roman housekeeping, which kept the amphitheatre swept clear. Apart from over 500 fragments of wooden drainage pipes - which are being conserved in York and will be returned to the site - very few artefacts were found.


The London amphitheatre will be open daily to visitors to the Guildhall art gallery, and there will also be regular guided tours.


Next month will see the return of the gladiators, as costumed re-enactors play out the battles in the Guildhall yard, omitting only the bloody climaxes.


Salute to city's sporting heritage 


AS the country goes football crazy Manchester's rich sporting history has been put under the spotlight.


Today, English Heritage is hosting a conference in Manchester to discuss the study of sports buildings and locations.


Settings include the Manchester Tennis and Racquets Club on Blackfriars Road, Salford, which dates back to 1880 and is thought to be the second oldest building of its type still in use.


At the site of the old Castle Irwell racecourse in Salford is a former members' stand. It was built in 1961 just two years before the track closed.


But it convinced directors at Manchester United that executive boxes were a good idea. Another sporting gem is Britain's first greyhound stadium built at Belle Vue in 1926.


The sport attracts four million spectators every year making it second only to football in terms of popularity.


Malcolm Cooper, English Heritage's regional director, said: "At the end of the study we will be bringing out a publication which makes Manchester Sporting Heritage much more accessible to all.''


Chairman Sir Neil Cossons said: "Manchester has an unparalleled sporting history and there is a huge public interest in sport here.


“Almost every other person in Manchester regularly watches or plays sport and our researchers have found that the places where sport takes place do matter a great deal to people.''


Sport also provides employment and one company highlighted in the report is TS Hattersley and Son in Eccles.


The family-run business has been making wooden lacrosse sticks since 1870. It imports hickory wood from America and handcrafts 6,000 sticks a year which are exported back to America as well as Japan and Canada.


The world's most celebrated lacrosse player, American Cherie Greer, uses a stick made in Eccles.


Director Matthew Rigby, whose father Dr Tom Rigby, is the owner, said: "We are the only manufacturers of wooden lacrosse sticks in the world. We employ about 10 people. It is a very skilled job. I've been in Tokyo and seen young girls with our sticks across their shoulders - they're almost regarded as a fashion accessory."



Allegations that a Burial Mound is Destroyed

June 11, 2002


(20:41) The company developing the Corrib Gasfield has rejected allegations made in the High Court yesterday that it bulldozed a burial mound for unbaptised children during construction work.


The allegations that the burial mound, or cillín, was entirely and unlawfully removed were made during an application for an injunction to halt work at Glengad and Rossport South.


The application was made in the name of Mary Philbin from Rossport South. Neither the 84-year-old widow, her son nor an environmental consultant also named in the affidavit consented to an interview with RTÉ.


Enterprise Energy Ireland representatives showed RTÉ News a fenced-off intact mound. In a statement, the company said there was no question it was involved in any activity which would damage or interfere with a local burial ground of special historic and spiritual significance.


It said that all works carried on in the vicinity of the site were done under Department licence and under the supervision of a Duchas-approved archaeologist.


The company says it will respond to the allegations in the High Court tomorrow, where a hearing is expected to be held once the temporary injunction expires.