Slave Tunnels Found In Massive Network Underneath Second Century Roman Emperor's Villa

LiveScience  |  By Tia Ghose

Posted: 09/08/2013 10:32 am EDT


Amateur archaeologists have uncovered a massive network of tunnels under the Roman Emperor Hadrian's Villa in Tivoli, Italy.


The underground passageways likely allowed thousands of slaves and merchants to keep the estate running without creating any distraction at the street level.


Though similar tunnels have been discovered at the complex before, the new discovery is exciting because the passageways were not mentioned in any ancient plans of the grounds, Marina De Franceschini, an archaeologist heading the excavation who works with the University of Trento, wrote in an email. [See Photos of Hadrian's Villa and Secret Passageways]


Researchers have long known that a massive underground network of roads lay underneath the ruins of Hadrian's villa in Tivoli, Italy.


The villa was a retreat for the emperor Hadrian, a patron of art and architecture who reigned from A.D. 117 to A.D. 138.


But while Hadrian discussed affairs of state and held grand dinner parties in his opulent house, underneath him, a network of nearly invisible people kept the estate running.



The underground passageways allowed thousands of merchants, slaves and carts laden with goods to enter the villa without causing any hustle and bustle.


"It is a very modern solution, something similar to what you see today in cruise ships where you have luxury quarters for the passengers and a parallel system of corridors for the personnel," De Franceschini said.


Slaves chiseled the passageways out of the soft tufa rock, and the same rock was then was used to construct the villa. But over the centuries, soil had completely filled in the underground tunnels and their full extent was a mystery.


Using ancient architectural plans, researchers had uncovered passageways underneath southwestern part of the ruins, but they suspected there must be more.


So a few years ago, Franceschini asked for help excavating the eastern portion from a group called Sotterranei di Roma, or Underground Rome. These speleologists and amateur archaeologists specialize in rappelling into underground tunnels and excavating them, said Inge Weustig, a classicist who works with the group.


slave tunnels romeSomeone from Underground Rome works their way through a narrow cavity into the underground tunnels of Hadrian's Villa.


After carrying countless buckets of dirt from the narrow subterranean passageways — some of which are just a few feet wide — the team uncovered an entirely new passageway, leading from an area of the Villa called the Academy to a 2.5 miles (4 km) underground roadway called the Grande Trapezio.


The specific purpose of the system of passageways remains a mystery, but it lies on the outskirts of Hadrian's Villa, Weustig said.


"It is seen as the more private part of the whole complex," Weustig told LiveScience. "They've interpreted it as a kind of secret or more remote place in the villa where he could just go to be alone, or at least with a few people."



Enormous rock found in a Chichester flowerbed could be the 'head' of Roman Emperor Trajan, 3D scans suggest

·         The 'Bosham Head' has remained a mystery since it was discovered in a Chichester flowerbed over 200 years ago

·         Archaeologists at Bournemouth University used 3D laser scans to pick out facial features and a distinctive hairstyle to identify Emperor Trajan

·         The statue was set up by Trajan’s successor, Hadrian, on a visit to Britain in AD 121-122 to greet visitors as they entered Chichester Harbour


PUBLISHED: 17:10, 3 October 2013 | UPDATED: 19:03, 3 October 2013


The identity of a huge stone object known as the 'Bosham Head' that has remained a mystery since it was discovered in a Chichester flowerbed over 200 years ago has been solved by scientists.

Using the latest scanning technology to examine the object, a team of British researchers believe the stone, which dates from around 122 AD, is part of a statue of Roman Emperor Trajan.

Before the hi-tech study, little was known about the eroded stone, which is twice as large as a human head, including who it was meant to depict.

The identity of a huge stone object known as the 'Bosham Head'

The identity of a huge stone object known as the 'Bosham Head' (pictured) that has remained a mystery since it was discovered in a Chichester flowerbed over 200 years ago is part of a statue of the Roman Emperor Trajan, scientists said. They used scanning technology to examine the object which dates from around 122 AD


·         Trajan was was Roman Emperor from 98 AD until his death

·         He is remembered as a successful soldier-emperor who presided over the greatest military expansion in Roman history, leading the empire to attain its maximum territorial extent by the time of his death

·         He is also known for his philanthropic rule, overseeing extensive public building programmes and implementing social welfare policies, which earned him his enduring reputation as the second of the Five Good Emperors who presided over an era of peace and prosperity in the Mediterranean world

·         Trajan's public building programme which reshaped the city of Rome, left enduring landmarks such as Trajan's Forum, Trajan's Market and Trajan's Column

Archaeologists at Bournemouth University used 3D laser scans to pick out facial features and a distinctive hairstyle, which led them to conclude that the statue was of Emperor Trajan.

Miles Russell, a senior lecturer in prehistoric and Roman archaeology at the university and Harry Manley, from the school of applied sciences, led the study, which has been assisted by The Novium museum.


It concluded the statue, made of Italian marble was set up by Trajan’s successor, Hadrian, on a visit to Britain in AD 121-122 and would have greeted visitors as they entered Chichester Harbour.

Before the hi-tech study, little was known about the eroded 170kg stone

Before the hi-tech study, little was known about the eroded 170kg stone (left), which is twice as large as a human head, including who it was meant to depict. However,  now archaeologists believe it is the head of a statue of Emperor Trajan. A more complete and less weather-beaten bust is pictured right

'The statue is one of the most important finds from Roman Britain and would certainly have been the most impressive,' said Dr Russell.

It is the largest Roman statue to have been discovered in Britain so far.

'The problem is because the face has been so battered by weathering – possibly because it was in the sea at one point – people have felt for the last 200 years that there’s not enough left of the face to be that precise on its identification.

'It is a shame that it has been ignored and overlooked for so long, but now that laser scanning has helped resolve its identity, hopefully it will now take pride of place.'

It is the largest Roman statue to have been discovered in Britain so far

'The statue is one of the most important finds from Roman Britain and would certainly have been the most impressive,' said Dr Russell. It is the largest Roman statue to have been discovered in Britain so far

The archaeologists concluded the statue, made of Italian marble was set up by Trajan¿s successor

The archaeologists concluded the statue, made of Italian marble was set up by Trajan¿s successor, Hadrian, on a visit to Britain in AD 121-122 and would have greeted visitors as they entered Chichester Harbour - pictured here in more recent times

The statue is on show at the Collection Discovery Centre at Fishbourne - the site of a Roman palace - but a similar statue of Emperor Trajan was erected by Hadrian at Ostia Harbour, in Rome.

'The fact that it was on the harbour and mirrors what’s happening in Ostia suggests that this would have been a real monumental greeting not just to Sussex but to do the whole of Southern England,' Dr Russell said.

'There would have been this immense statue of the Emperor facing you as you came in to the harbour, so it’s a real "Welcome to Britain" statue but reminding you that Britain is part of the Roman Empire.'

Triumphal Trajan's Column

A statue of Trajan is on display at the inauguration of the exhibition 'Roma Caput Mundi

A similar statue of Emperor Trajan to the one found in Chichester was erected by Hadrian at Ostia Harbour, in Rome. Trajan  is remembered as a successful soldier who expanded the Roman empire and oversaw extensive public building programmes, which included Trajan's Column


Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2442519/Bosham-Head-statue-Roman-Emperor-Trajan-3D-scans-suggest.html#ixzz2gz8sETJ5



Roman skulls found during Crossrail dig in London may be Boudicca victims

Archaeologists uncover 20 blackened skulls along route of vanished river Walbrook in central London

Maev Kennedy

The Guardian, Wednesday 2 October 2013 12.15 BST


Blackened Roman skulls, possibly victims of Boudicca's revolution that scorched the foundations of the Roman empire in Britain, have come tumbling out of a Crossrail tunnel in the heart of London.


Archaeologists know they will find thousands of skeletons on the site, which was the 17th-century Bedlam burial ground, but the Romans are a surprise.


The 20 skulls already found are not from a formal burial ground, but were discovered in clumps, possibly caught in bends on the banks of the long-vanished river Walbrook.


Roman skulls have turned up in the past along the line of the Walbrook, and were often interpreted as victims of Boudicca's rebellion, decapitated and slung ignominiously into the river, when in 61AD her Iceni tribe swept south from their East Anglian home, and torched Roman settlements on their way to attack Londinium itself.


However, Jay Carver, the lead archaeologist on the project, who called the find "an unexpected and fascinating discovery that reveals another piece in the jigsaw of London's history", fears the more prosaic explanation is that the Walbrook washed away the edges of a Roman cemetery further upstream, possibly soon after they were buried: skulls would have tumbled and rolled further in the water than long bones.


The course of the new train line, deep under and right across the capital, is the biggest archaeology site in the UK, and has already produced more than 10,000 artefacts, from mammoth bones to Black Death victims to Victorian crockery.


The skulls were found by construction workers who are digging a deep pit beside Liverpool Street station to relocate utility cables. They have also exposed medieval timbers, which may be part of the walls of the medieval burial ground. The archaeologists are supervising their work, but the trench six metres down is too deep for any except specialist tunnellers.


As the archaeologists get to work on the site next year, more Roman finds are expected as well as the mass of 17th-century bodies. The site has already produced a superbly engineered stretch of Roman road which once led down to a bridge across the Walbrook, and a Roman horseshoe stuck firmly in its surface, as well as the only gold on the whole Crossrail line, a little Venetian coin which was once stitched on to an aristocratic garment as a decoration.



Lanchester – birthplace of a unified kingdom?


9:46am Friday 4th October 2013 in News

By Gavin Havery, Reporter (Derwentside & Tyneside)


A MEDIEVAL battlefield, lost for centuries but crucial to the formation of modern England, has been located in the North-East, a leading historian has claimed.


The Battle of Brunanburh of 937AD, took place on the site of Longovicium, the Roman Fort in Lanchester, County Durham, according to Dr Andrew Breeze.


During the battle King Athelstan of Wessex crushed an invading army of Scots, Strathclyders, and Vikings from Dublin and is seen as vital in the unification of England against foreign invaders.



For many years it has been generally thought the battle took place at Bromborough, in the Wirral Peninsula of Cheshire, but other locations around the country have been suggested.


But Dr Breeze, 59, claimed his new study will re-write the history books.


He said: “It is dynamite. It is going to change all of the text books on English history.


“They have been looking for this battle field since the time of Henry VIII, when an antiquary called John Leland thought it was in Devon and he got it completely wrong.


“There has been a mountain of discussion, speculation and argument on this and people have put it everywhere but I like to think I have got a clear and coherent answer to this question that has been vexing historians for 500 years.”


Bromborough, in Cheshire, has a heritage trail centre explaining the battle to visitors and Michael Wood, maker of BBC television history programmes has also argued for a site on the River Went near Doncaster.


But these and all other possible places have been ruled out by Dr Breeze, who has a doctorate from Cambridge University, teaches in a Spanish university and is due to give a lecture to the Scottish Place-Name Society at Stirling on the subject next month.


He said: “It was really very simple to solve this problem once I found a reference to the River Browney. I pulled out my Ordnance Survey map of Durham and followed the Roman road northwards.


“It crosses the Browney and, right slap bang on the hill north of the river, is the Roman Fort and so it all just fell into place.”


Dr Breeze said Brunanburh is the Old English for “stronghold of the Browney”, and the only River Browney which fits the evidence is the one near Lanchester.


He believes the stronghold is the Roman fort of Longovicium, on the Roman road regularly used by Scottish invaders of England.


Dr Breeze said: “Previously, people have not looked at maps and they are the key.


“The Romans were very good at building roads and no one bothered after that until the late 18th Century so medieval armies went along Roman roads and most of the battles are on a Roman road.


That was how you shifted your troops.”


Dr Breeze said more evidence comes from Simeon of Durham, a twelfth-century monk, who wrote that Brunanburh was fought on a ‘swelling hill’ and he goes on to point out that the Wirral is flat.


He said: “If you take an army of Scots and Strathclyders into the Wirral, what are they doing there?


That is not the way back home. Secondly, if you are fighting an Anglo-Saxon army they are putting their heads into a noose. It would be a death trap. It would have been like Dunkirk without the ships to rescue them.


They would have been like a rat in a trap.”


Dr Breeze said the victory was a vital part in uniting England against foreign invaders.


He believes amateur archaeologists will now find remains from the battle on the moors above Lanchester, because the Scots and their allies will have been weighed down with English plunder.


He said: “We know a lot about the battle from an English poem written at the time.


“The Anglo-Saxon poet gloated over the slaughter of the invaders, boasting how at the end of the day there were five kings lying dead on the field of battle, with seven earls and thousands of others.


“Visitors to the Roman fort by Lanchester can now think of how there, eleven centuries ago, thousands of Celts and Vikings lay dead after a battle for the freedom of England.”


THE revelation has been welcomed by people in Lanchester, who believe it adds to the already rich history of the village.


John Gall, president of Lanchester Local History Society and former deputy director of Beamish Museum, said the group will now explore Dr Breeze’s claim further.


He said: “It is absolutely fascinating and I have never heard that before. It is wonderful.


“The battle is one of the foundations of the country in terms of sorting things out and uniting various folk part of a fascinating period when England is just settling down from the Roman period and forming itself into the England that we know. It is well worth celebrating.


“We will have to start looking for heaps of bones and doing research into that period. If it is true we will have to do more research and landscape work to see if we can locate the exact site of the battle.” Mr Gall said the new theory makes more sense in terms of the history of the village and the geography of the rest of the country. He said: “It makes some degree of sense. There is a thought that Lanchester was at the centre of a great Anglo- Saxon estate and there are signs from the early charters that it was special, along with Chesterle- Street, Gainford and other places.


“So it could be but no-one has ever come across this particular reference or worked it out in that way before.


“You are looking into dark waters on a misty night without much light.”


Where Roman soldiers guarded ancient route


LANCHESTER Roman Fort, or Longovicium, was an auxiliary fort on Dere Street, between the forts of Vindomora at Ebchester and Vinovia at Binchester and linked York with Hadrian’s Wall. It was built in 140AD on high ground with clear views around the site and covered an area of six acres, providing accommodation for up to 1,000 troops.


Their job was to guard the important military route, which ran north to south. The land has been owned by the Greenwell family since 1630 and is currently run by farmer Nick Greenwell.Mick Gladstone, chairman of Lanchester Partnership and one of the Friends of Longovicium, said: “It is absolutely fantastic.


“It will be a great thing for the village if it is true. We already have a strong history, from the Roman times and the development of steam engines and from coal. To have this as well would be wonderful.”


Defining battle where thousands died for Englishness


THE Battle of Brunanburh is thought to have taken place in October of 937 and was a victory by Æthelstan, King of England, and his brother Edmund, over the combined armies of Olaf III Guthfrithson, the Norse-Gael King of Dublin; Constantine II, King of Scots; and Owen I, King of Strathclyde.


A Northern Alliance of Scots, Strathclyde British and Norsemen from Ireland lost the battle against a combined Anglo-Saxon army from Mercia and Wessex with heavy losses on both sides.


The Battle of Brunanburh is said to have been one of the most defining battles in the history of the British Isles as it determined whether Britain would become one imperial power or stay as separate identities.


Historian Michael Livingston claimed that Brunanburh marks ‘the moment when Englishness came of age.’ A contemporary record of the battle is found in the Old English poem Battle of Brunanburh, preserved in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.


There are many other historical sources that refer to the battle and describe it as a massive and bloody conflict, even within the context of warfare in the Middle Ages, which left many thousands of men dead.


A famous poem about the battle in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records the deaths of five kings and seven earls among Athelstan’s enemies:


Five lay still on that battlefield – young kings

by swords put to sleep and seven also

of Anlaf’s earls, countless of the army,

of sailors and Scotsmen. There was put to flight

the Northmen’s chief, driven by need

to the ship’s prow with a little band.

 He shoved the ship to sea. The king disappeared

on the dark flood. His own life he saved.

So there also the old one came in flight

to his home in the north; Constantine,

that hoary-haired warrior, had no cause to exult

at the meeting of swords: he was shorn of his kin,

deprived of his friends on the field,

bereft in the fray, and his son behind

on the place of slaughter, with wounds ground to

pieces, too young in battle.



Aldeburgh dig unearths teenager's 'keepsakes' box

7 October 2013 Last updated at 13:26


An Anglo-Saxon teenage girl's box of trinkets is thought to have been uncovered by archaeologists during a three-week dig in Suffolk.


The excavation of a graveyard, dating from about AD650, has been completed at Barber's Point on the River Alde.


Eight more skeletons have been found in graves alongside seven others which were uncovered during previous digs.


The box of 'keepsakes' included a bracelet, a brooch and a duck egg which is almost completely intact.


The graveyard, near Aldeburgh, is believed to be one of the earliest examples of a Christian, rather than Pagan, burial site in East Anglia.


Other graves were found without skeletons, which are believed to have decayed in the acidic soil.


Dolphin artefact found at Barber's Point, Aldeburgh

A dolphin ornament found at the latest dig dates from Roman times

Jezz Meredith, from Suffolk County Council's Archaeological Service, said: "The group of items found around the egg are likely to be keepsakes or mementos placed at the feet of this young adult female.


'Exceeded expectations'

"[It's] very different from the sorts of things placed with the dead in the earlier Pagan period. "


"Before the Christian era, males were buried with weapons and females with their finery - so they were equipped and armed for the next world."


The service has been working alongside the Aldeburgh & District Local History Society (ADLHS) using Heritage Lottery Fund money.


Tony Bone, chairman of ADLHS, said: "We've done four digs here from 2004-2010 and it's great we've come to a conclusion.


"It's exceeded our expectations and we look forward to the deliberations of the county team to tell us more about these finds."


The dig also uncovered a dolphin ornament dating from Roman occupation of the site.


The skeletons and artefacts have been removed by the county team and may eventually end up on public display.


The graves have been filled in again as the site is returned to habitat for wildlife.



Archaeologists find evidence of Richard III's lost chapel near York

5:00am Monday 7th October 2013 in News

by Emily Flanagan


ARCHAEOLOGISTS near York believe they have found a chapel built by Richard III to commemorate the Yorkist victory in one of the bloodiest battles ever fought on English soil.


As the row continues over whether the Plantagenet king should be buried in York or Leicester, a discovery in a peaceful field on the outskirts of York has unearthed more of his legacy, ending a 16-year search for the building's remains.


The land was where the Battle of Towton was fought; the bloody clash between the Lancastrians and Yorkists in the War of the Roses. According to accounts at the time, it left 28,000 soldiers dead, causing rivers to have run red with blood and survivors fleeing across “bridges of bodies”.



It led to the Yorkist king Edward being crowned Edward IV.


After his death, his younger brother, Richard III, took to the throne and began building a chapel at Towton, near York, in 1483 to commemorate the battle, which took place 22 years earlier.


Richard III died two years later at the Battle of Bosworth Field, in Leicester and the chapel was never completed. It fell into decline and by the late 1500s had disappeared altogether.


Now archaeologists believe they may have found evidence of his lost chapel.


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While filming a new archaeology television series, Medieval Dead, due to air on Yesterday on October 21, archaeologists uncovered what they believed to be the structural remains of the building.


A University of York spokesman for the department stressed the research so far looked positive, but said researchers can’t prove exactly where the chapel was until a larger excavation has taken place.


But lead archaeologist, Tim Sutherland, from the university, said they had found lead and glass from the windows and worked stone which proved archaeological evidence the chapel exists.


Mr Sutherland has been searching for evidence of the chapel since 1997, but while filming the television program they narrowed their search down to a small area, where with the help of a University of York expert in medieval stonemasonry, they found evidence of a sophisticated late 15th century religious building.


Mr Sutherland recently told historyextra magazine that following the Battle of Towton, Edward IV had planned to build a grand memorial chapel where people could pray for the dead.


When Edward died in 1483, his brother, Richard III began to build a commemorative chapel. But when he was killed at Bosworth, it became unpopular amongst the Lancastrian-supporting Tudors and fell into decline.



Archaeologists uncover a scene of horror at 'Swedish Pompeii'

Alan Boyle, Science Editor NBC News

Oct. 4, 2013 at 3:51 PM ET


Swedish archaeologists have uncovered what appears to be a 5th-century murder mystery at an island fort that's being compared to Italy's Pompeii ruins.


"It's more of a frozen moment than you normally see in archaeology," said Helene Wilhelmson, a researcher who specializes in the study of bones at Sweden's Lund University. "It's like Pompeii: Something terrible happened, and everything just stopped."


Five bodies already have been unearthed amid the ruins of one of the settlement's houses on the island of Öland, just off the Swedish coast. In a news release, Lund University said more human bones have been identified in other parts of the fort, suggesting there may be scores or hundreds of bodies yet to be dug out.


"There are so many bodies, it must have been a very violent and well-organized raid," Wilhelmson said.


She and her colleagues say the scene dates to what's known as the Migration Period, when tribes moved out from Scandinavia and other areas of northern Europe to confront a Roman Empire in decline.


During this era, it was customary for Scandinavians to burn their dead, and very few uncremated remains have previously been recovered, the university said. Was no one left to light the funeral pyre on Öland?


Another puzzling fact is that archaeologists found gilded brooches that hadn't been plundered by the attackers — and were still buried at the site 1,500 years later.


Wilhelmson wonders whether the site became taboo. "I don't think anyone dared to go near it for a very long time," she said.


Lund University archaeologist Nicolo Dell'Unto is creating computerized 3-D models of the ruined fort to reconstruct the crime scene — and perhaps solve the mystery surrounding the massacre. "Using 3-D modeling gives us the unprecedented opportunity to see all the bodies simultaneously, even though the skeletons were removed one by one," Dell'Unto said.