King Tut's stolen dad found; Egypt sites to open
(AP) CAIRO 17 February 2011
Egypt said it will reopen historical sites to tourism on Sunday as it sought to revive a key industry shattered in the turmoil that ousted President Hosni Mubarak. Archaeologists were cheered by the recovery of the most important artifact stolen from Cairo's Egyptian Museum, a rare statue of King Tut's father.
A 16-year-old anti-government protester found the statue of the Pharaoh Akhenaten next to a garbage can and his family returned it, the antiquities ministry said.
But damage to Egypt's heritage may have been greater than previously thought, as officials reported new cases of break-ins at archaeological sites.
Zahi Hawass, head of the Ministry of State for Antiquities, had reported a total of 18 missing museum artifacts, three of which were found on the museum grounds, possibly abandoned by looters making their escape.
The antiquities ministry cited Sabry Abdel-Aziz, head of its pharaonic sector, as saying the tomb of Hetep-Ka, in the ancient burial ground of Saqqara, was broken into and a false door was stolen along with objects stored in the tomb. Also, a portion of a false door was looted from the tomb of Re-Hotep in Abusir, the ministry said.
Many archaeological storehouses were also targeted in break-ins, including ones in Saqqara, and ministry officials were trying to determined what, if anything, was missing. They did not say when exactly the vandalism occurred, but the discoveries were part of an inventory conducted in the wake of 18 days of anti-government protests and the security vacuum surrounding Mubarak's ouster on Feb. 11.
The ministry also said the Egyptian military caught thieves attempting to loot the sites of Tell el-Basta, and a tomb in Lischt.
"There have also been many reports of attacks on archaeological lands through the building of houses and illegal digging," it said.
After police and government officials met to discuss security, Hawass announced that "all of the Pharaonic, Coptic, Islamic, and modern sites will reopen to the public" on Sunday, according to a ministry statement.
The pyramids of Giza are already open, but most tourists fled Egypt earlier this month. An outbreak of labor unrest and uncertainty over a military-supervised political transition indicate tourism is unlikely to recover in the short term.
Egyptian officials had said the magnificent legacy of their ancient civilization emerged largely intact from the chaos in Cairo and elsewhere in the country. The spectacle of civilians forming a human chain to protect the Egyptian Museum testified to a sense of national pride in the past that may have averted more widespread damage.
"Egypt is an outdoor museum," said Dr. Robert Littman, a member of the governing board of the Archaeological Institute of America. "There are thousands of sites everywhere, and inevitably when there's disorder, there's always going to be a few who try to take advantage of the situation."
The most important object that went missing from the Egyptian Museum in the upheaval was the limestone statue of the Akhenaten, father of the famed King Tutankhamen. It depicts the standing pharaoh with a blue crown, holding an offering table in his hands. The table was found separately inside the museum.
The antiquities ministry said a youth found the statue, which has an alabaster base, and his mother contacted her brother, a professor at the American University of Cairo. He, in turn, contacted officials to arrange its return on Wednesday. The statue, about one foot (30 centimeters) tall, will undergo restoration before being returned to its display case.
Littman said the statue was "extremely important" because it is one of the few surviving depictions of Akhenaten, who built the city of Amarna and introduced an early form of monotheism, doing away with the worship of the chief god, Amun.
The king ruled for nearly two decades, and after his death ancient Egyptians went back to worshipping Amun, destroying images and statues of Akhenaten.
"It's one of the few that there is," Littman said of the recovered statue. "It's just terrific."
Ice Age Britons used skulls of dead bodies as cups, says Natural History Museum team
By Culture24 Staff | 18 February 2011
Ancient Britons slashed facial tissue from the bodies of the dead before using their skulls to hold blood, food and wine in sacrificial rituals, according to research on a set of 14,700-year-old remains found in Gough’s Cave in Somerset.
The flesh from the Ice Age skulls is thought to have been eaten in the earliest known acts of human cannibalism, with the remaining parts of each head crafted into cups.
Dr Silvia Bello, a fossil human expert at the Natural History Museum, said the finds showed makers who were “highly skilled at manipulating human bodies once they died.”
“There is clear evidence that the remains at Gough’s Cave were treated in a complex way involving cannibalism and the manufacture of skull cups,” he added.
The three cups are believed to have been taken from the corpses of two adults and a child.
Two were originally found in the 1920s, with the third found in 1987, but an expert team has now been able to use the latest microscopy and radiocarbon dating techniques to pinpoint the age of the skulls.
All of the skulls carried injuries showing precise cut marks to remove their facial bones.
“Our research reveals just what great anatomists they were,” said Bello.
“The cut marks and dents show how the heads were scrupulously cleaned of any soft tissues shortly after death.
“The skulls were then modified by removing the bones of the face and the base of the skull.
“Finally, these cranial vaults were meticulously shaped into cups by retouching the broken edges, possibly to make them more regular. All in all it was a very painstaking process given the tools available.”
The defleshing signs and removal of bone marrow suggest the flesh was eaten, but the key reason for the emaciations was for use as intricately-fashioned cups, a practice well-known among Vikings and Scythians.
The early modern humans at Gough’s Cave were known as Cro-Magnons, a tribe of skilled hunter-gatherers, toolmakers and artists who carried out complicated procedures on the dead.
“There was clear determination to preserve the cranial vault as completely as possible,” said Dr Bello.
“It is likely that this was part of some symbolic ritual and not mere necessity.”
Professor Chris Stringer, a human origins expert at the museum, said the amount of work that went into forming the skulls suggested they held sacrificial offerings.
“We do not know the exact circumstances for Gough’s,” he admitted.
“At one extreme were these individuals killed, butchered and eaten, with the skull-cups just the end of this event?
"Or could these people have been part of a group who had died singly or together, and were eaten, perhaps in a crisis situation, with the skull cups acting as a final tribute to the dead? We simply do not know.”
The skulls will go on public display in the museum’s Dinosaur Way for three months from March 1 2011. The research findings have been published in the latest issue of research journal PLoS ONE.
Source: S. Bello et al. Earliest directly-dated human skull-cups. PLoS ONE. Published online February 16, 2011. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0017026.
The moment Britain became an island
15 February 2011 Last updated at 13:3
By Megan Lane
Ancient Britain was a peninsula until a tsunami flooded its land-links to Europe some 8,000 years ago. Did that wave help shape the national character?
The coastline and landscape of what would become modern Britain began to emerge at the end of the last Ice Age around 10,000 years ago.
What had been a cold, dry tundra on the north-western edge of Europe grew warmer and wetter as the ice caps melted. The Irish Sea, North Sea and the Channel were all dry land, albeit land slowly being submerged as sea levels rose.
But it wasn't until 6,100BC that Britain broke free of mainland Europe for good, during the Mesolithic period - the Middle Stone Age.
It is thought that landslides in Norway - the Storegga Slides - triggered one of the biggest tsunamis ever recorded on Earth when a landlocked sea in the Norwegian trench burst its banks.
The water struck the north-east of Britain with such force it travelled 25 miles (40km) inland, turning low-lying plains into what is now the North Sea, and marshlands to the south into the Channel. Britain became an island nation.
At the time it was home to a fragile and scattered population of about 5,000 hunter-gatherers, descended from the early humans who had followed migrating herds of mammoth and reindeer onto the jagged peninsula.
"In Bray, on the east coast of Ireland, there are fossilised trees on the beach, lying where they first grew 8,000 years ago.
"There are drowned forests off Dorset, Wales and the Isle of Wight. That's because back then, the Irish Sea, North Sea and the Channel were all dry land.
"When the great melt came, and the seas gradually rose by 300 feet, we were cut off from mainland Europe for good."
"The waves would have been maybe as much as 10m (33ft) high," says geologist David Smith, of Oxford University. "Anyone standing out on the mud flats at that time would have been dismembered. The speed [of the water] was just so great."
At Montrose, on the north-east coast of Scotland, Smith has uncovered signs of this long-ago natural disaster. A layer of ancient sand runs through what should be banks of continuous clay - sand washed inland by the inundation.
Relics of these pre-island times are being recovered from under the sea off the Isle of Wight, dating from when the Solent was dry land.
Grooved timbers preserved by the saltwater are thought to be the remains of 8,000-year-old log boats, and point to the site once being a sizable boat-building yard, says Garry Momber, of the Hampshire and Wight Trust for Maritime Archaeology (see video clip below).
The tsunami was a watershed in our history, says archaeologist Neil Oliver, presenter of BBC Two's A History of Ancient Britain.
"The people living in the land that would become Britain had become different. They'd been made different. And at the same time, they'd been made a wee bit special as well."
Being so closely bordered by water meant boat-building and seafaring became a way of life. Many millennia on from the tsunami, the British sailed the ocean waves to find new lands and build an empire.
Its more recent history bristles with naval heroes, sea battles and famous explorers. English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish migrants left their homelands to settle far and wide. And Elizabeth I was not only a notable monarch for being a woman, but for presiding over a famous naval victory, and English forays into New World exploration.
But the idea of England - in particular - being a maritime nation has its roots as much in spin as in reality, says Dr Nigel Rigby, of the National Maritime Museum. An early exponent was the 16th Century writer Richard Hakluyt, who promoted the settlement of North America.
Hakluyt's writings played on the growing desire to seek new territories after the loss of Calais in 1558.
"Hakluyt's Voyages spun the idea that the English had always been stirrers and searchers abroad. But it was not really an island that had started to see a future at sea."
By the time Charles I took the throne, the lure of maritime power had taken hold. "He called his great warship the Sovereign of the Seas. It was a statement of intent," says Rigby.
For hundreds of years, ships, goods and people moved to and from the British Isles. Merchant and naval ships alike were staffed by those from far and wide, some of whom settled in its ports.
But just as Britain could reach out to the world from its safe harbours, so, too, could the world reach in - and this fuelled feelings of vulnerability, says Rigby. If an invader can make it across one's watery defences, the British coastline offers an abundance of places in which to make landfall.
"The 19th Century writer Alfred Thayer Mahan made the point that if you look at the coastline of Britain, it's suited to maritime trade with good harbours. But easy access for trade means it's also vulnerable to attack from the sea.
"In times of national threat, this is a recurring fear. Hence the importance of being able to defeat enemies at sea," says Rigby.
Mahan's writings underlined the sense of Britain as an island nation, defined by its relationship with the sea. This identity was further bolstered by the likes of the novelist Erskine Childers, who wrote The Riddle of the Sands, a spy novel in the early 20th Century about a German plot to invade from across the North Sea.
"The idea of an 'island nation' is something of a cultural construct," says Rigby.
"But in Britain you are never more than 60 miles from the sea. So it's important to be able to defend the coastline, and to be able to make a living from all around that coastline too."
Many believe its island status has also shaped Britain's rather detached attitude to Europe today, which is still often referred to as "the continent".
In the past, historian David Starkey has argued that Henry VIII's break from the Catholic Church in Rome made him the first Eurosceptic.
"In plans for the elaborate coastal defences that Henry commissioned we can see how England no longer defined itself as part of Europe, but as separate from it - a nation apart," he wrote in the Camden New Journal.
"Catholic Europe was now the threat, the launch pad for invasion. In other words Henry was the first Eurosceptic: the xenophobic, insular politics he created have helped to define English history for the past five centuries."
Probable Neolithic sauna unearthed at Marden Henge
14 February 2011
A building whose foundations were unearthed during an excavation at Marden Henge (Wiltshire, England) last summer could have been a Neolithic sauna. Archaeologist Jim Leary said that the chalk foundations contained a sunken hearth that would have given out intense heat. "It brings to mind the sweat lodges found in North America," he said. "It could have been used as part of a purification ceremony." Also found was a midden or rubbish heap with dozens of pig bones, some still attached, likely to be the remains of a huge feast that took place 5,000 years ago.
Mr Leary said Marden Henge is the biggest henge in England but because it did not have a stone circle associated with it, tended to be overlooked. Before Professor Geoffrey Wainwright examined its northern sector in 1969, it had not been investigated since the early 19th century. A huge mound, like a smaller version of Silbury Hill, named Hatfield Barrow, once existed there, but it collapsed after a shaft was dug through its centre and was levelled shortly afterwards.
The English Heritage team investigated that area as well as two sites further south, and it was at the area known as the Southern Circle that they made their most exciting discoveries. It was in the bank of this henge within a henge that they found the chalk floor. Mr Leary described the dig as a work in progress. He said: "We are at a very early stage and there is a lot more to be found. But our fate is in the hands of the government cuts."
'World’s first skyscraper sought to intimidate masses'
Constructed 11,000 years ago, Jericho tower was aimed at promoted the farming life, archeologists say.
By ARIEH O’SULLIVAN / THE MEDIA LINE
The world’s first skyscraper was built by early farmers, who were frightened into erecting a solar marker by mankind’s early bosses, archaeologists say.
Long before its Biblical walls came tumbling down, Jericho’s residents were being enticed to give up hunting and gathering and start farming for a living. They settled in this oasis next to the Jordan River and built a mysterious 8.5-meter (28-foot) stone tower on the edge of town.
When discovered by archaeologists in 1952, it was dated at over 11,000 years old, making it the first and oldest public building even found. But its purpose and the motivation for erecting it has been debated ever since.
Now, using computer technology, Israeli archaeologists are saying it was built to mark the summer solstice and as a symbol that would entice people to abandon their nomadic ways and settle down.
“The tower was constructed by a major building effort. People were working for a very long time and very hard. It was not like the other domestic buildings in Jericho,” said Ran Barkai of the Department of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University, who was part of a team that did the computer analysis.
The stone tower is about nine meters in diameter at its base and conical in shape. Built out of concentric rows of the stones, it also contains an enclosed stairway. Archeologists say it wasn’t used as a tomb.
Barkai and fellow archaeologist Roy Liran used computers to reconstruct sunsets and found that when the tower was built the nearby mountains cast a shadow on it as the sun set on the longest day of the year. The shadow fell exactly on the structure and then spread out to cover the entire village.
“The tower is an indication of power struggles at the beginning of the Neolithic period and of the fact that a particular person or people exploited the primeval fears of the residents and persuaded them to build it,” Barkai told The Media Line.
Barkai said architecture designed to awe and inspire, and without any obviously functional purpose, isn’t unique to the megalithic period. Even today, governments erect monuments like the Arc de Triomphe to influence public opinion and enhance their standing.
The period when the tower was built was a time when people started to put down literal roots by abandoning hunting and gathering and taking up farming. But, according to Barkai, people didn’t make the transition easily because farming was actually a harder way of life.
“This was a time when hierarchy began and leadership was established. This was the time that social formations took place and many scientists have wondered why people were moved to produce food, to make the transition to agriculture,” Barkai said. “Agriculture worked for the benefit of certain individuals in the community, because people produce surplus that was stored and then divided by individuals.”
“It has been proven that people worked much harder during the Neolithic period than before. It was easier to live by hunting and gathering so we believe this tower was one of the mechanisms to motivate people to take part in a communal lifestyle,” he said.
Mysteriously, the tower was built on the outskirts of town and not as part of the fortifications of the city, which was the world’s first.
A tower was something so alien to their conceptual world of the builders, who had probably never seen or could conceive of such a building, that it must have served more than a defensive purpose, Barkai reckoned.
He backed this up with historical records indicating that no invaders were present in the area at the time it was built, about 8300 BC. According to archaeological estimates, it took about 11,000 working days to build it.
“It is something out of time and place and looks like it doesn’t belong where it was. It was a monumental effort to build, like the pyramids [built 5,000 years later], only among a village of former hunters and gatherers,” Barkai said.
Almost every tenth find from Mohenjo Daro is play related
Play was a central element of people’s lives as far back as 4,000 years ago. This has been revealed by an archaeology thesis from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, which investigates the social significance of the phenomenon of play and games in the Bronze Age Indus Valley in present-day Pakistan.
It is not uncommon for archaeologists excavating old settlements to come across play and game-related finds, but within established archaeology these types of finds have often been disregarded.
They have been regarded, for example, as signs of harmless pastimes and thus considered less important for research, or have been reinterpreted based on ritual aspects or as symbols of social status
“They have been regarded, for example, as signs of harmless pastimes and thus considered less important for research, or have been reinterpreted based on ritual aspects or as symbols of social status,” explains author of the thesis Elke Rogersdotter.
She has studied play-related artefacts found at excavations in the ruins of the ancient city of Mohenjo-daro in present-day Pakistan. The remains constitute the largest urban settlement from the Bronze Age in the Indus Valley, a cultural complex of the same era as ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. The settlement is difficult to interpret; for example, archaeologists have not found any remains of temples or palaces. It has therefore been tough to offer an opinion on how the settlement was managed or how any elite class marked itself out.
Elke Rogersdotter’s study shows some surprising results. Almost every tenth find from the ruined city is play-related. They include, for instance, different forms of dice and gaming pieces. In addition, the examined finds have not been scattered all over. Repetitive patterns have been discerned in the spatial distribution, which may indicate specific locations where games were played.
“The marked quantity of play-related finds and the structured distribution shows that playing was already an important part of people’s everyday lives more than 4,000 years ago,” says Elke.
“The reason that play and game-related artefacts often end up ignored or being reinterpreted at archaeological excavations is probably down to scientific thinking’s incongruity with the irrational phenomenon of games and play,” believes Elke.
“The objective of determining the social significance of the actual games therefore, in turn, challenges established ways of thinking. It is an instrument we can use to come up with interpretations that are closer to the individual person. We may gain other, more socially-embedded, approaches for a difficult-to-interpret settlement.”
For more information contact: Elke Rogersdotter
University of Gothenburg
Bronze Age settlement found at NE Hungary construction site
Remains of a Bronze Age settlement and a former Sarmatian burial ground have been found at a construction site in the city of Nyiregyhaza in northeast Hungary, daily Magyar Nemzet said on Wednesday.
Several thousand metal objects, Roman bronze, silver and golden coins, and jewellery were excavated by archaeologists in the Oros district of the city, said the head of the excavation. One old pot contained as many as 34 bracelets, project leader archaeologist Eszter Istvanovits told the newspaper.
Some sixty dwellings have been excavated in the 56-hectare area and among the curiosities found has been a bone flute, she said.
Not far from the Bronze Age site, archaeologists also found some 100 graves from the period of the settlement of Magyars in Hungary. Many of the graves included bracelets and belt buckles.
A circular Sarmatian burial ground was also identified in the area but most of these graves have been robbed so archeologists could recover very few items from these.
The restoration of the items is underway in the Andras Josa Museum of Nyiregyhaza, which has already displayed part of the findings.
6,000-year-old axe head unearthed
(UKPA) – 4 days ago
A 6,000-year-old axe head and an Anglo-Scandinavian sword handle are among hundreds of archaeological treasures unearthed in Scotland since 2009.
The items are included in the latest Treasure Trove report - a list of the valuable finds made by members of the public in 2009/10.
A medieval ring and silver cross pendant were also dug up on Scotland's shores and are expected to join the country's museum collections.
A Neolithic stone axe head discovered in Perth is thought to date back to 4000-2200 BC. Historians say axe heads such as this small, polished item made from greenstone were often traded or exchanged as gifts. In later periods they were used as amulets as they were believed to have magical properties.
A sword pommel - a counterweight ball at the top of the weapon's handle - was found in Abington, South Lanarkshire. Made from hollow cast copper alloy, it dates back to the ninth or 10th century.
A medieval ring was unearthed on the Isle of Mull where similar jewellery has previously been located and an engraved pendant from the same era was found in Dunstaffnage, Argyll and Bute.
Under Scottish law, the Crown has the right to all lost and abandoned property which is not otherwise owned.
The Queen's and Lord Treasurer's Remembrancer (QLTR) is responsible for claiming objects, placing them with museums and paying rewards to finders.
Catherine Dyer, who was appointed QLTR last year, said: "I am delighted to present this year's report which details the dedicated work of the Scottish Archaeological Finds Allocation Panel, the National Museums of Scotland, the Treasure Trove Unit and the QLTR office.
"It also highlights the hundreds of members of the public who report their finds and in doing so assist in preserving the history of our great nation for all of us to enjoy in museum collections."
Wroxeter house recreation adds colour to Roman site
Wednesday 16 February 2011 08.50 GMT
Good taste is not a feature of a new Roman house that has risen, with much sweat and cursing, from a flat Shropshire field at the genuinely ancient Roman town site of Wroxeter: painted bright yellow and oxblood red, the building can be seen a mile off,
The wall, which is 7 metres (23ft) high and stands on top of a metre-high mound, protects the remains of an real ancient Roman forum.
"Colour, bling, excess – that's what they liked," said Dai Morgan Evans, visiting professor of archaeology at Chester University, who dreamed up the elaborate experiment yet attempted in Britain in recreating a building using genuine Roman techniques. "I always had the hope that a Roman would come here and not see anything too funny. I reckon we got it about 80% right."
They had to take some shortcuts, including using some machine-cut roof trusses, in order to get the building finished before what proved to be the coldest winter in a century. He has already taken a kicking from some of his peers over that, and even more so over the oak shingled roof (rather than tile or thatch) and the bull's intestine windows in the bath house.
"There's no evidence for it, but there's no evidence against it," Morgan Evans said. "They could well have used it here but it would have rotted away centuries ago."
It took a team of seven builders six months, 150 tonnes of sandstone bricks, 15 tonnes of lime mortar and 26 tonnes of plaster – all mixed by hand – 1,500 hand-cut timber joints and 2,600 hand-cut roof tiles to create the house, based on a real building excavated at Wroxeter, which was once the fourth largest city in Roman Britain and is now an archaeology visitor attraction in the care of English Heritage.
The workers, more used to plasterboard and plastic windows, had no experience of traditional techniques. A Channel 4 series, Rome Wasn't Built In A Day, tracked their steep learning curve – and the running battle of the wheelbarrow.
The builders were incredulous when Evans insisted that, however advanced their plumbing and road-building, the Romans had no wheelbarrows, so everything had to be carried on to the site by hand. The builders kept smuggling in wheelbarrows; he kept throwing them out. When the roof boards were on, they wrote in giant letters "Romans had wheelbarrows" – now covered by the shingles.
"They absolutely did not have wheelbarrows," Evans said. "I've done a lot of work on this now. They had wheelbarrows in China, but there is no record, drawing or evidence for a wheelbarrow anywhere in the Roman empire. The first reference I can find is Isidore of Seville, and that's in the seventh century – centuries after our house."
The builders are now happily back at work on a pair of bog-standard 21st-century redbricks. The foreman, Jim Blackham, said: "It was really interesting to be part of this, but it's nice to be back to modern machinery – and wheelbarrows."
The Romans may have invented central heating, but as the Roman re-enactors brought in for the preview discovered, when rain blows in on a bitter wind from the Shropshire hills, the house with all the rooms built on to an open loggia is absolutely freezing.
The underfloor heating was only for the bath house, which takes several hours to fire up and would never have been used every day. The rooms would have been heated with charcoal braziers, meaning too much carbon monoxide in the atmosphere would have been a real menace. When Evans tried it, the experiment was abandoned after an hour when the sensors showed the gas had already reached danger levels.
"We know it nearly killed one emperor, and did kill another, when they redecorated a room for Jovian but the paintwork hadn't quite dried so they stuck in a brazier. There's lots more work we can do here on carbon monoxide," he said.
The house has planning permission for the next five years, and if the decision is then taken to keep it he believes it should stand for at least a century.
Child’s Footprints found beside a Roman fort
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
The excavation of a Roman fort at Healam Bridge and the attached industrial zone produced some remarkable discoveries, including the footprints of a child playing alongside the road that led into the fortress.
Archaeologists made the remarkable discovery while excavating an area beside the remains of a small stream that ran behind a former RomanVicus settlement. This and other finds were made during the upgrade of the A1 to a three-lane motorway between Dishforth and Leeming in North Yorkshire.
Helen Maclean of AECOM described the find as very rare and commented that, “she was not aware of many other footprints being found, everybody was quite amazed by it.”
Photographs show a right footprint clearly visible in soft ground followed by two left prints – suggesting that the boy or girl who made them was hopping or skipping.
The child had been playing close to a stream where archaeologists believe the Romans struggled to keep drained, dumping stones, broken pots and other material in order to raise the level.
Ms Maclean said, “the child was probably running through the mud, jumping in puddles or possibly just trying to avoid getting its feet wet.”
The excavation, which started in July 2009 and was completed in summer 2010, has given experts a rare opportunity to investigate a Roman site devoted to industrial activity next to the fort.
Archaeologists working on the Highways Agency scheme, believe this industrial complex helped sustain the military at the imperial fort.
A major feature of the industrial complex was a water powered flour mill used to grind grain and produce food for the garrison and other units travelling along the Roman road of Dere Street – the modern A1. The adjacent buildings, thought to have been occupied up to the 4th century AD, may also have been a supply centre for a wider area.
Other artefacts uncovered on the site include pottery, coins, metal work and brooches, and 14 individual human cremations, along with the well-preserved skeleton of a horse underneath a building. The animal is thought to have been slaughtered as a sacrifice to the gods to bring the building good luck.
The horse may have a ritual sacrifice to bring good luck to the building built over the top, a practice known from the Roman world.
The Roman activity at Healam Bridge have illustrated the site’s importance and have given archaeologists an insight into industrial processes which had not previously been recognised or understood here.
Very little is known about the Roman fort itself, which is now a scheduled monument and which only came to light as a result of geophysical surveys carried out in the 1990s, but thanks to this opportunity, archaeologists have been allowed a fascinating window into the past.
The line of the new road was adjusted to avoid the main site, preserving the archaeology for the future.
Unearthing ancient secrets of daily life in Roman city
February 15, 2011
The Department of Ancient History’s Dr. Arianna Traviglia will be part of a groundbreaking cooperative archeological project in which she will be exploring what life was like for the more than 100,000 people who would have lived outside the city walls.
At its height Aquilea was home to 100,000 people, but the city walls could not accommodate a population of that size.
"Most of the population would have lived outside the city walls, and that’s my project," says Traviglia. "We don’t know pretty much anything about what was outside the city: where the people were living, where the nice villas were, where the fancy, rich Romans were living and so on."
New technologies will also make long distance collaboration easier. "My research assistant is in Italy. We share data on the internet every day. If I have specific ideas I can send her to check and she can send me the data."
She is also hopeful that modern survey techniques, such as hyperspectral data imaging and laser scanners, will reveal far more about the city than traditional archaeological practices would normally uncover.
"Hyperspectral data looks like a picture but in each pixel is recorded in the electromagnetic spectrum in a range the human eye can’t see," she explains. "For example, I can detect the difference in vegetation growth, which is a sign that there could be archaeological structures underneath."
Traviglia hopes that this agreement will help to establish further agreements and broaden the opportunites for foreign study in this field. Her department is investing in a new Archaeological Fieldwork Lab to bring the most up-to-date technologies to the classroom. "The most important thing for us is to be able to train students to use it."
Provided by Macquarie University