Caligula’s Tomb. Or is it?

A report in the Guardian newspaper today (18.01.2011) suggested that a tomb robber who was arrested while loading part of a 2.5 metre statue into lorry near Lake Nemi, south of Rome, had found the final resting place of Caligula.


The police said the statue was “shod with a pair of the ‘caligae‘ military boots favoured by the emperor” hence his nickname by the troops, Caligula – or ‘Little Boots’, – his real name was Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus.


Under questioning, the tomb robber led them to the site, where excavations will begin immediately.


However Mary Beard, professor of classics at Cambridge University, reported in the Times newspaper that she disagrees with the conclusion of the Italian police and cites some compelling evidence to show why this can’t be the tomb of Caligula.



This isn't Caligula's tomb

January 18, 2011


The news this morning is full of the "discovery" of the emperor Caligula's tomb at Nemi, by the lake about 30 kilometres out of Rome. The details are pretty murky. The police apparently arrested a guy who was loading a statue of the monster young emperor into the back of a lorry.


I havent seen a picture of this yet. But how do we know it was Caligula? Because, they say, it was wearing the 'caligae" or sandals that gave the emperor his nickname (his 'real' name was Gaius). Errr? Aren't there loads of Roman statues that wear these?


And why do we think that it marked his tomb?


Simple. Because it makes a good story that gets a load of press coverage for the discovery made by these no doubt brave policemen (the illicit antiquities business is probably second only to drug running in its nastiness).


All the evidence we have from the ancient world suggests that this cannot be so.


Caligula was assassinated in his palace on the Palatine Hill in Rome in 41 AD. According to Suetonius' Life (chap 59), his body was taken to the horti Lamiani, the site of an imperial pleasure gardens on the Esquiline Hill. There he was quickly cremated and buried a light covering of turf. Later on his sisters returned, to cremate and bury it properly.


There is no suggestion whatsoever, so far as I know, that this burial was at Nemi, or that it was a grand tomb (the Latin just says "buried", sepultum). True, Caligula had a big villa there, but it is almost inconceivable that this assassinated symbol of imperial monstrosity would have been given a grand monument, plus a big statue there.


Besides there is no evidence for that whatsoever.


Much more likely is that he had a modest burial in or near the horti Lamiani, or -- as some people think -- that he was slipped into the big Mausoleum of Augustus (where many of the imperial family ended up).






Jan 20, 2011


ARCHAEOLOGISTS have unearthed further evidence of a Roman “shanty town” in Teesdale.

Two years ago, experts carried out a major dig in Bowes. They found significant remains of a large unplanned settlement, called a vicus, on the outskirts of the Roman fort.

Dubbed a “shanty town”, historians said the settlement was significant because it was inhabited longer than similar sites in the north – including Housesteads on Hadrian’s Wall.

The discovery threw up unanswered questions about the end of the Roman era.

Now another archaeological dig has been carried out in the village, again revealing an insight into the civilian life around the fort.

The Archaeological Services at University of Durham carried out the investigation.

In a report, the University of Durham said Bowes was an important place in Roman Britain.

The archaeologists said: “Situated at the east end of the Stainmore Pass, a main communication route between east and west, it would have long been an important route for exchange and possible trade for the indigenous population, which the Romans would have felt vital to control.”

Their report explained that two trenches were dug in the garden of Bowes Manor, near the Roman fort, as part of plans to build a house on the site.

Archaeologists discovered features, deposits and evidence that can be dated from Roman period to post-medieval times.

Evidence from the civilian vicus came from 1st to 4th century, the report added.

A well-laid cobbled surface, thought to be a Roman road into the fort, was found, along with 150 pieces of Roman pottery and 18 fragments of Roman tile.

Remains of oil and wine carriers, coarse wares, coins and cooking pots were unearthed.

Roman features also included a flag floor walls. A laminated layer of burnt material and charcoal, and a significant number of iron objects were also thought to be from the Roman town.

Grains of barley, corn, wheat and hazelnut shell fragments were recorded, as was evidence of human waste and animal bones.

The report said: “These features and deposits, belonging to the civilian vicus, suggest a number of phases over the period of occupation.”

A vicus was a civilian settlement that sprang up close to an official Roman site. It is likely that inhabitants would have been involved in trade and provided services to Roman soldiers.

Unlike the fort, the vicus would have continued to exist long after

the Romans left the area.

The project at Bowes could help expand knowledge of native and civilian life around Roman forts, the report said.

Medieval pottery was also found at the site.

“Although small in size, the assemblage from Bowes is not without interest and highlights the current inadequacy of our knowledge of medieval pottery in North Yorkshire and neighbouring area,” the report explained.

Following the investigation, Durham County Council approved the application to build a house on the site.

Council officers said the applicant, Stuart Heseltine, must ensure preservation of features with archaeological importance.



London, the forgotten Battlefield Part 2

By Diarmaid Walshe 04/12/2010 07:30:00


The increased use of deep construction methods used in new buildings in London means old unexploded German bombs from the second world war have become a increased hazard. To help address this, maps showing the likely locations of thousands of unexploded bombs dropped during WW2 have been created for the first time.


Up to one in ten bombs dropped by the German Luftwaffe failed to detonate leaving a deadly legacy which still lies under the nation's streets and fields. This problem was so frequent, that numerous public information films were published warning the public about the danger of these devices in their local areas.


In 1996, the UK Government released documents that pinpointed the exact location of hundreds of unexploded World War II bombs.  The positions of the bombs had been known since the war and their impact sites charted, but they were either deemed too difficult to remove or considered to be low risk.

 It is estimated that there are more than 100 unexploded bombs throughout London and hundreds more across the UK.  According to the files, Kings College Hospital is sitting on a bomb and  a 650-pupil south London comprehensive has a bomb close to its front gate.

These devices  can still pose a major threat to activities such as piling, drilling, tunneling and excavations in high risk areas, with some of the bombs buried up to just 10 meters beneath the ground .

While the files released in 1996 are very accurate some devices were either missed or not properly recorded.  To address this problem online maps have been created to highlight the location of these devices The new maps are used by builders and construction firms  to inform the development projects of the risks where they are working. Members of the public will also be able to access the map, which identifies 21,000 locations where there could be still be an unexploded bomb.

 When creating the maps, experts studied aerial photographs taken by the RAF after the war and records by local authorities  to assess the extent of the bombing damage.  The methods used are a combination of both old and new technology.

 Firstly, old RAF maps were used to show the location of bomb craters. at an aerial viewpont. The impact of an exploded bomb  from the air creates shallow craters which were then covered up by earth disturbed by nearby explosions, demolition of damage buildings or later construction work. The bombs can become inert over time, but when disturbed, the timing mechanism can restart.

 These maps showing the  shallow craters provided a good indication of where unexploded bombs landed and were then combined with the images of deeper explosion craters for comparison and laid over current maps.

David Mole, from the Landmark Information Group has been compiling charts to explain what happens next said: “Bombs were dropped in sequence and the photographs and maps show where buildings have been demolished. From that we can work out the patterns and where there is most likely to be unexploded ordnance. “In between the areas that were cleared by bombs are pockets that were untouched. Looking at them now, 60 years later, with detailed images of the pattern of destruction around them, you know there is a very good chance there is a bomb in the vicinity.” This information is then recorded onto a GIS (Geographic information system)s, which  produce digital maps that are now currently used by town planners and construction companies

Using these methods they have been able to pinpoint sites across the UK where unexploded munitions are most likely to be concealed. The cities with the highest number of Bomb sites are London, Plymouth, Bristol, Manchester and Birmingham.  All major targets of the German Luftwaffe. The online maps are available to the general public for all major cities rural areas of bomb impact activity.


The above map shows the density and location of UXB within the UK

Download a UXB Bomb map of Central London and surrounding areas: CLICK HERE

Unexploded German bombs are still unearthed all across Britain, with relative frequency in gardens, fields, allotments and building sites, where their sudden discovery can cause lengthy and expensive disruptions requiring military bomb squads to access the area and carry out removal, controlled explosion or burial depending on the danger level.

In 2008 work on the Olympic site in east London, had to be delayed as it was believed a German bomb lay unexploded under the location for the main stadium site.  According to the 1996 Government records, a German bomb dropped in a rubbish tip on the exact site of the stadium lay just south of Leyton during the Blitz. The records state that in 1941, a large hole was left in a rubbish shoot at the refuse site after an air-raid, but despite several searches throughout the 1940s, no bomb was ever uncovered there.

If a bomb is suspected in an area, specialist firms are able to use electromagnetic equipment to scan for buried metal that may be ordnance. They can also sink probes into the ground to search for deeply buried devices.

The following video made by German TV shows the methods used to identify the possible location for these devices, but also the slow extraction work required to make them safe.


Many of the bombs dropped over Britain by the Luftwaffe were faulty and failed to explode when dropped.  We now know from accounts of the forced foreign labour used in German wartime  factories that many of these had been sabotaged by the workers;  Terry Charman, senior historian at the Imperial War Museum, in London, said: "It was often sheer carelessness in their manufacture that meant they didn't explode. In some cases, there was perhaps sabotage as well.

"There is still great interest when these turn up, because for so many people it is still a living memory. Bombings were far more widespread than just in London."

To access the maps:  http://www.zetica.com/uxb_downloads.htm

In part 3 in the series of articles, I will look at the effect the bombing had and what remains of the temporary housing built to rehouse Londoners after the war where 30% of the housing stock had been destroyed.



PRLog (Press Release) – Jan 20, 2011

Churchill’s Secret Headquarters Uncovered For The First Time – What Will Be Revealed?

The Coleshill Auxiliary Research Team (CART) and other organisations are starting an archaeological survey this weekend of areas of the Coleshill estate on the Oxfordshire/Wiltshire border.


Coleshill House and its grounds, now owned by the National Trust, were the English headquarters of Churchill’s secret Auxiliary Units, a highly trained guerrilla volunteer force set up to hamper a successful invasion by the German army.


This weekend approximately 30 volunteers will be surveying what little remains of this top secret WW2 site in the hope that they may uncover a new underground operational base and other small finds. The estate is closed to the public and this weekend is by special arrangement with the National Trust.


The project is being organised by Tom Sykes of CART and John Winterburn, a local landscape archeologist who has recently returned from a large archeological project in Jordon.


Other groups including The Ridgeway Military and Aviation Research Group, Subterranea Britannica, Great War Archaeology Group and members of the University of Bristol will also be assisting over the weekend.


Tom Sykes, Cart’s founder member says ‘We’re extremely excited about this weekend and hope it will be the first of many. There is a large area of woodland to cover and we have some real experts on hand to help us. We feel it is crucial that the site is surveyed completely and this forms part of our on-going commitment to researching these brave men and women’


The findings from this weekend will be published on CART’s informative website www.coleshillhouse.com in the near future.


About Coleshill Auxiliary Research Team (CART)


The Coleshill Auxiliary Research Team (CART) is a non-profit making organisation set up in June 2009 by Tom Sykes. The aim of CART is to research, document and preserve the important history of the Auxiliary Units.

Since June 2009 its website (www.coleshillhouse.com) has seen over 19,000 unique visitors and has attracted TV, Radio and national press attention and the group has many expert members. Most of these are authors on the subject or have a direct relation to the Auxiliary Unit.


For further information about the Auxiliary Units and how you can help CART please go to the website, call 0872 045 9940 or email hq@coleshillhouse.com.


Additional Info on the Aux Units


70 years ago, during the darkest days of Britain’s lone fight against Nazi Germany, the threat of invasion was a very real one. With the army in utter confusion after Dunkirk, the recently introduced LDV (later renamed the Homeguard) was a key part of Britain’s defences. This Dad’s Army has been portrayed since the war as an unorganised group of elderly veterans, which stood little chance of making any impact on highly trained, experienced German soldiers.


However, amongst some of those that wore the uniform of the Home Guard was a ‘secret army’ each of whom were trained killers and demolition experts. The troops called Auxiliers were trained as ‘stay-behind’ units in the event of an invasion. Going to ground as the church bells sounded, the units would enter their underground bases and only come to the surface after the initial invading troops had passed over them. Usually at night, the Auxiliers would then disrupt the enemy supplies and reserve troops, helping to cut off those in the front line that were facing whatever defence the regular British army could put up.


These civilian volunteers were made up of all layers of society most of whom had an intimate knowledge of the local countryside; gamekeepers and poachers suddenly found themselves on the same side along with vicars, doctors and schoolteachers. They were all willing to leave their families, and give their lives - the average life expectancy of an Auxilier was predicted to have been two weeks after going into action - in order to defend their country. However, because of the secrecy of their mission not one of them got any official recognition and no public thanks. Many veterans never even let their closest family members know what they had been trained to do, so seriously did they take their signature on the Official Secrets Act.


CART is non profit making and has no financial support from any company.


Since CART's birth in June 2009 the website has seen over 17,000 unique visitors and has attracted TV, Radio and national press attention and the group has many expert members.



Ancient temple stitched back together

By Sivaramakrishnan Parameswaran

Producer, BBC Tamil Service

17 January 2011


A 1,250-year-old temple has been saved from collapse using "granite stitching" in southern India.


The Kailasanathar Temple in the town of Uthiramerur is more than 1,250 years old, according to studies of its inscriptions.


Uthiramerur town, which is one of the oldest settlements in the state of Tamil Nadu, was highly developed according to inscriptions found in the town, which describes a society which held elections and had a government.


The temple dedicated to the god Shiva was built during the reign of Pallava King Dantivarman with additions made by later rulers.


"The centuries-old monument is made up of a brick super-structure and a granite substructure," explains Dr Sathyamurthy of the REACH Foundation and the prime mover behind this restoration and an archaeologist with four decades' experience.


Cracks of more than three feet in width had developed in the intricately constructed temple dome made of brick and lime plaster, which is around 80ft high.


"It was about to collapse completely and there were so many conservation problems because of the growth of thick vegetation on the Vimana or dome of the temple," Dr Sathyamurthy told the BBC Tamil Service.


While the upper part of the temple was in bad shape, the basement and plinth had other serious issues with cracks at more than 20 places in the granite stones according to the archaeologist.


The conservation team wanted to provide an aesthetically pleasing appearance


Faced with serious technical problems the REACH team turned for advice to the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IIT-M) a premier engineering institute in India.


"The conservation team was faced with a problem as to whether the stone plinth can bear the weight of the entire super structure," Dr MS Mathews of the civil engineering department at IIT-M and a consultant to the Archaeological Survey of India, told the BBC.


When the monument was examined it was found that a few stones in the sub-structure were dislodged from their original position, and there were several cracks in the plinth due to stress, strain and shock says Anu Padma, who was involved in the conservation project as a research scholar.


"In Uthiramerur the options were limited. If the broken stones are to be removed and replaced, the restoration process would have become very complicated and could have further damaged the temple dome," Dr Mathews said.


Funding for the conservation project was another huge issue since governmental support for such projects were almost nil, according to the Conserver Heritage movement.


Conservationists also point out that while numerous monuments exist in India, the government preserves only 5% of them.


So the team at IIT-M decided that "granite stitching" would be the most simple, least invasive and the necessary method to restore the temple to its original glory, Dr Mathews said.


Granite Stitching

The site observation and inspection showed that the cracks in the granite stones were "non-progressive" and laboratory tests were conducted to assess the load-bearing capacity of stitched granite beams in comparison with the solid, uncracked granite beams.


"Test results proved that the stitching would bear the desired load," Ms Anu Padma said.


In the stone stitching technique, the cracks in the plinth are strengthened with stainless steel rods and an epoxy-based chemical anchor without disturbing the original structure.


Holes are drilled on both sides of a crack in a roughly 45 degree angle. They are then cleaned and the chemical anchor filled in, Ms Anu Padma further explains.


Stainless steel rods are then inserted and finished with rock powder to cover the conservation work and provide an aesthetically pleasing appearance.


"The inserted rod starts at one side of the crack and ends at the other side of the crack, holding both sides together. This is actually like stitching seen in cloth," she said.


According to Dr Mathews, the technique itself is very simple and not very expensive. But he says that when dealing with ancient monuments, it is important that care is taken over the materials used.


"High-grade stainless steel rods with a high percentage of chromium were used so that they didn't corrode for at least another five hundred years," he says.


Both Dr Sathyamurthy and Dr Mathews say that in India there are many temples and monuments in danger of total collapse or partial collapse and that these are causes for concern.


Dr Mathews says that further research in the laboratory in stone stitching and other reversible interventions is needed. This could allow the technique to be used to conserve other monuments in future.


With the basement safely secured, the team started conserving the super-structure, including the huge dome using a newly created lime plaster based on the old formula.


The conservation team now says that a weight of around 30,000 tonnes can safely rest on the basement and the plinth of granite rocks.



World's oldest Heidsieck champagne found in shipwreck

(AFP) – 17 January 2011



Champagne experts have discovered what are believed to be the oldest existing bottles of Heidsieck champagne, salvaged from a shipwreck near the Finnish province of Aaland, local authorities said Monday.

Divers stumbled across a cargo of around 150 champagne bottles last July in a two-masted schooner which had run aground sometime between 1825 and 1830, and by last November experts had already identified the world's oldest Juglar and Veuve Clicquot brands among the bottles.

"When re-corking the almost 200-year-old bottles a third brand has now been discovered," Aaland authorities said in a statement.

Four bottles have been identified as having come from the Heidsieck & Co Monopole house, which is now owned by Vranken Pommery Monopole.

"In the 1800s and the beginning of the 1900s it was one of the leading champagne houses, and it was one of those that we expected we might find in the cargo," Richard Juhlin, one of the world's leading champagne experts, told AFP.

Juhlin, who has been helping local authorities re-cork and catalogue the champagnes, added that only one of the Heidsieck bottles was in prime condition.

"The Heidsieck Monopole is around 75 percent pinot noir... It has some flower notes, slightly more toasty notes than the Veuve Clicquot," he said.

Juhlin said he couldn't put an exact price on the Heidsieck, but said he would not be surprised if it turned out to be the most sought-after and expensive of the three brands.

He had earlier estimated that the bubbly from Veuve Clicquot and the now-extinct Juglar could fetch up to 100,000 euros (132,000 dollars) per bottle.