Category Archives: EUROPE

Pompeii ‘fast food’ bar unearthed in ancient city after 2,000 years

Pompeii ‘fast food’ bar unearthed in ancient city after 2,000 years

Because of its tragic demise, Pompeii’s ancient Roman city remained in a remarkable state of preservation, serving as one of the world’s most important archeological sites to this day.

From people immortalized in volcanic ash, to frescoes that would never have survived for so long if there wasn’t for their magma sarcophagus, Pompeii has provided scientists with unprecedented insight into the daily life of this historic civilization.

The recent unearthing of a “thermopolium” counter decorated with frescoes is already being hailed as a game-changer in the quest of re-enacting the cuisine and diet of ancient Romans who perished under the wrath of Vesuvius in 79 AD.

Thermopolium, dolias (jars) detail, of archaeological remains of the street Via Stabiana at Ruins of Pompeii. The city was an ancient Roman city destroyed by the volcano Vesuvius. Pompeii, Campania, Italy.
Thermopolium, dolias (jars) detail, of archaeological remains of the street Via Stabiana at Ruins of Pompeii. The city was an ancient Roman city destroyed by the volcano Vesuvius. Pompeii, Campania, Italy.

Thermopolia were at the epicenter of Roman street life, by providing pre-prepared meals for a low price. The word itself literally means “a place where (something) hot is sold.”

The counter of one such thermopolium was discovered in March 2019 in the sector designated Regio V, located to the north of the Pompeii archaeological site in an area not yet opened to the public. The news of the discovery first came via Instagram, where it was shared by Massimo Ossana, the superintendent of the site.

A thermopolium was a place where it was possible to purchase ready-to-eat food during the times of ancient Rome
A thermopolium was a place where it was possible to purchase ready-to-eat food during the times of ancient Rome

According to the Guardian, there were around 150 thermopolia fast food joints in the city of Pompeii, which served as a lifeline for the poor who often couldn’t afford to own a kitchen.

Some 2,000 years ago, the daily menu included easy-to-make specialties like coarse bread with salty fish, baked cheese, lentils, and spicy wine.

The counter is decorated with a fresco featuring earthenware jars, known as dolia, used to store foodstuffs such as dried meat. The fact that this thermopolium is adorned with a fresco implies that it was most probably owned by a well-off person, as such decorations were considered a luxury.

Roman kitchen of a thermopolium in Via Consolare at Ruins of Pompeii, Campania, Italy

Roman upper classes usually avoided and often scorned such places, considering them unworthy of their pedigree.

Nevertheless, fast food restaurants like this one were all the rage in Pompeii, as well as other huge trading centers of the Old World.

They were the vibrant social meeting places, and much like taverns, they were often the spots where business deals were closed.

The discovery of the thermopolium counter comes in a series of recent excavations in the Pompeii archaeological park.

Dolias (sunk into the counter) and fresco detail of archaeological remains of thermopolium of Vetutius Placidus, at Ruins of Pompeii, Italy
Dolias (sunk into the counter) and fresco detail of archaeological remains of thermopolium of Vetutius Placidus, at Ruins of Pompeii, Italy

In December 2018, well-preserved remnants of a horse with saddle were found in the park area, as well as another magnificent fresco that was unearthed in February 2019, in the remains of a villa.

The fresco features Narcissus, the mythological hunter who became infatuated with his own reflection in a pool of water.

Along with the fresco, human remains of two women and three children, all huddled together during the moments before their death.

The discovery of this group of skeletons reminded us once again of the proportions of the tragedy that was the eruption of Vesuvius, which killed more than 2,000 people and left an ancient city forever frozen in time.

Apart from Pompeii, the neighboring townships of Herculaneum, Stabiae, Oplontis, and Boscoreale also suffered greatly from the eruption which constitutes one of the worst known natural disasters of the ancient world.

Source: theguardian

Archaeological report on findings from Roman fort at Hadrian’s Wall

An archaeological report on findings from Roman fort at Hadrian’s Wall

Segedunum Roman Fort and Museum—A new archaeological report hailed as the definitive full account of the excavations of Hadrian’s Wall at its eastern end has just been published.

Hadrian’s Wall at Wallsend is written by Paul Bidwell OBE, former Head of Archaeology at Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums (TWAM), and encapsulates the knowledge gleaned from 28 years of intermittent excavations around Segedunum Roman Fort, Wallsend in North Tyneside. 

Taking place between 1988 and 2015, these digs culminated in the Treasury-funded project that saw the rediscovery of the fort’s baths as well as the public display of the full stretch of Wall remains.

The Hadrian’s Wall at Wallsend report represents an account of one of the most comprehensively excavated sections of Hadrian’s Wall anywhere along its 73-mile length.

Paul Bidwell, author, and President of The Arbeia Society said: “It has been a privilege to draw together the results of so many years work by so many people.

The results are a great advance in our understanding of how Hadrian’s Wall was built and of its later history.

They also show that the remains of the Wall in urban Tyneside are just as important as the better-preserved lengths in rural Northumberland.”

Paul Bidwell was Head of Archaeology at TWAM until retirement. He has led and published excavations in Exeter and along Hadrian’s Wall, including at South Shields, Vindolanda, Newcastle, Chesters and Willowford; and has been a contributor to many other publications on aspects of Roman Archaeology, including Roman ceramics.

The driving force behind one of the UK’s most ambitious and controversial reconstruction projects at Arbeia, South Shields Roman Fort, 31 years ago Paul Bidwell led the charge to recreate a fort gate house in its original foundations.

The report has been published by TWAM with The Arbeia Society, a registered charity established in 1992 to support research into and promotion of Roman archaeology in North East England.

North Tyneside’s Elected Mayor, Norma Redfearn CBE, said: “We welcome the publication of this report.

It is a significant achievement by Paul and one that will help to enrich our knowledge and understanding of one of our most precious heritage sites.” Iain Watson, Director of TWAM said: “This is a very significant contribution to the body of knowledge of Hadrian’s Wallsend, a huge undertaking, bringing together and translating into contemporary context 28 years of archaeological findings.

We congratulate Paul and look forward to the report’s reception.”Segedunum Roman Fort and Museum is now a visitor attraction incorporating a museum and an extensively excavated Roman ‘archaeological park’ fort site, overlooked by a 35m viewing tower attracting around 50,000 visits a year.

1,900 years ago it was the edge of the Roman Empire, the very cusp of the eastern end of the Empire’s northern frontier. Segedunum – meaning ‘strong place’ – sat on a plateau overlooking the north bank of the River Tyne, the spot was chosen strategically to command views east down the river to the coast at South Shields and 2 miles up the river toward Newcastle upon Tyne.

The 73-mile wall, now a World Heritage Site, was constructed on the orders of Emperor Hadrian in AD122 and originally ended at the River Tyne’s lowest bridgeable point – Newcastle upon Tyne – until 2 or 3 years later when it was extended to Wallsend.

Only 7% of the original wall is visible today and only about 0.5% of its entire length has been excavated using modern archaeological techniques, though much more can be seen of the forts, milecastles, turrets, and bridges along its line.

The 80 meter stretch at Wallsend that has been scrutinized by archaeologists over the years lies 50 meters west of the Segedunum fort. Its first contemporary digs were led by the late Charles Daniels of Newcastle University in the mid-1970s. The Wall at Wallsend, 2.26m wide, was built without mortar but with carefully-laid courses of stonework.

Separate groups of legionaries built lengths of 30 Roman feet (about 9m). They were also tasked with building an aqueduct which ran through the Wall and supplied the baths outside the fort.

Markers for building plots running up to the back of the Wall were also found. They show that a settlement containing civilian and some military buildings were laid out at the same time that the Wall and the adjacent fort were built.

In the early 3rd century, the Wall at Segedunum was destroyed by a catastrophic flood which also washed away part of the baths and undermined the fort wall.

The aqueduct was replaced and the Wall rebuilt, probably on the instructions of Septimius Severus in about AD 208; this emperor, rather than Hadrian, was credited by late-Roman writers as the original builder of the Wall. Shorter lengths of the Wall collapsed and were rebuilt on three subsequent occasions. One of these later reconstructions reused masonry from various buildings, including one of the fort gates, a temple possibly dedicated to Diana, and a bathhouse.

The volume also includes an account of the building of the replica section of Hadrian’s Wall at Segedunum, constructed in 1996.

Wallsend Culvert taking aqueduct channel through the wall in 2000.
Wallsend Culvert taking aqueduct channel through the wall in 2000.

Ancient Rome — Construction Workers Find Rare Intact Roman Tomb

Construction Workers Find Rare Intact Roman Tomb

‘The Tomb of the Athlete’ includes four bodies, a coin, offerings of chicken, rabbit and lamb and strigils, the symbol of Roman sportsmen

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‘The Tomb of the Athlete’ includes four bodies, a coin, offerings of chicken, rabbit and lamb and strigils, the symbol of Roman sportsmen

It is a rare day when archeologists find an ancient burial that has not been destroyed by natural processes, ravaged by war, or plundered by hunters of artifacts.

It is why King Tut’s untouched tomb was so significant and why archaeologists are going gaga over the tomb of a Greek warrior discovered in Pylos.

Add another to the list; archeologists uncovered an untouched Roman tomb in Rome several weeks ago that they call the Athlete’s Tomb. Local Italy reports.

The tomb was found in the Case Rosse area west of the center of Rome by an earthmover working to extend an aqueduct about 6 feet underground.

Inside lay the undisturbed remains of 4 people, including a man in his 30s, a man in his 50s, a man between the age of 35 to 45, and a woman of undetermined age.

Francesco Prosperetti, who oversees archaeology in Rome, tells Elisabetta Povoledo at The New York Times that finding the tomb was sheer luck. “Had the machine dug just four inches to the left, we would have never found the tomb,” he says.

The discovery also unearthed an assortment of jugs and dishes, a bronze coin, along with dishes of chicken, rabbit and another animal believed to be a lamb or goat, likely offerings to sustain them in the afterlife.

Among the trove were two strigils, blunt hooks that Romans used to clean themselves and wipe off oil while bathing and that athletes used to scrape away sweat.

In fact, the strigil was considered the symbol of an athlete in the cultures of ancient Greece and Rome.

Still, calling the find the “Tomb of the Athlete,” is more or less a marketing move, Fabio Turchetta, one of the archaeologists working on the site, tells Povoledo since all the men inside are over 35 and would have been well past their prime by classical standards. “To say there was an athlete is a bit of stretch, but it works journalistically,” as he puts it diplomatically.

Based on the coin found in the tomb, which includes an image of Minerva on one side and a horse head with the word “Romano” on the other, the tomb dates between 335 and 312 B.C.E. during the heyday of the Roman Republic.

Researchers have begun the process of removing the bodies from the tomb, which will be sent to the laboratory for analysis and DNA testing to determine if they are a family.

A paleobotanist also collected samples of pollen and plant material to help figure out the flora of the area when the tomb was constructed.

The structure itself has been documented by a laser scan and will be sealed up once excavations are complete.

Turchetta tells Povoledo that the area the tomb was found in has been heavily surveyed and excavated in the past, so finding the intact chamber was surprising and emotional.

This isn’t the first time that construction in Rome has uncovered amazing finds. Just last year, while expanding the metro system, archaeologists found that the bones of a dog inside the remains of an aristocratic home that burned down during the reign of Emperor Septimius Severus in the 2nd century C.E.

The same construction project also uncovered the military barracks of emperor Hadrian’s Praetorian Guard.

Source: realmofhistory

Medieval Village Unearthed in Denmark

Lost medieval village discovered in Denmark

 Excavation of an extremely well-preserved cellar, which may have functioned as a place to store the town’s taxes.
Excavation of an extremely well-preserved cellar, which may have functioned as a place to store the town’s taxes.

Traces of three courtyards surrounded by a ditch marks out an area, which archaeologists have interpreted as the center of a village dating back to the Middle Ages in Tollerup, East Denmark.

Historical sources suggest that the farms belonged to the village rulers. A cellar in the largest farm was probably used to store tax revenues in the form of objects collected from the villagers.

“The interesting thing about this find is that we have some very old written sources that [give us] an entirely new understanding from what we can interpret from the excavation alone,” says Gunvor Christiansen, an archaeologist at Roskilde Museum, Denmark.

The excavated farmhouses date back to the Late Middle Ages and the Renaissance (around 1400 to 1600 CE), and it is rare to find such well-preserved remains from this period, outside the large market towns in Denmark, says Christiansen.

A vanished village

Archaeologists do not know why the village was abandoned but they knew it existed as it is mentioned in a number of written sources.

A letter from King Canute IV first records the gifting of a village at this location to a bishop in 1085. The excavated houses were built later. A number of tax rolls from Tollerup also refer to six farms and a manor on the site, which was possibly used to store the collected taxes.

A gravel pit alongside the three farms could explain why they did not find the remains of the other three farms, says Christiansen.“Compared with other farms of the same period, we can see that one of the farms must have been the manor house, referred to in the written sources. It’s a qualified guess because the farm is so large,” she says.

The three farms are approximately five meters wide and 15 to 20 meters long, but the manor has a cellar area of 50 square meters. The foundations of the outer wall of the manor suggest that it was a two-story building.

Exceptionally well preserved

The archaeologists were pleased to see that the cellar remains were buried so deep. This would have protected them from a disturbance at the surface, for example by farming equipment turning the land over the years.

It’s rare to find houses from the Middle Ages in Denmark, says archaeologist Nils Engberg, curator at the National Museum of Denmark.

“We have lots of excavations from earlier periods. For example from the Stone Age and Bronze Age. But unfortunately not from the Middle Ages because the houses were built in a different way,” he says.

The large cellar was 50 square metres in size. Part of it was probably used to store the collected taxes while the other side was used to store farming equipment. (Photo: Kirsi Pedersen)
The large cellar was 50 square metres in size. Part of it was probably used to store the collected taxes while the other side was used to store farming equipment.

It was at this time that people began to construct houses with stone foundations after a law was passed to prevent felling of trees. Previously, all houses were timber constructions which led to a timber shortage throughout the country.

But the remains of stone houses could be easily looted and the materials used elsewhere in subsequent buildings, meaning that few were preserved to this day.

Christianity had a foothold in the community

When in use, the cellars would have been full. Archaeologists found evidence of two grinding stones from a mill, plough equipment, and many more everyday objects.

Moreover, they found traces of clay flooring, an oven, and pieces of tile with religious motifs, including a priest.“Religious motifs were very typical of the 1500s,” says Christiansen. Engberg agrees.

This was when Christianity gained momentum, he says.“In this period we had a permanent royal power and a centralized administration.

The country was split into dioceses such as Roskilde and Lolland Falster diocese. Soon, a government formed and we begin to slowly see a societal structure similar to that of today,” he says.

Roskilde’s bishop had connections to Tollerup

Archaeologists suspect that the village fell under the Diocese of Roskilde.“The Bishop of Roskilde received the taxes during this period and he may well have rented the manor for a vassal to administer it.

In the end, all taxes from Tollerup went to the bishop up until the Reformation after which the king took control,” says Christensen.

It is not yet absolutely certain that the town is the disappeared village recorded in the old tax rolls and the king’s letters. Archaeologists and historians will continue to study the site to find out for sure.

Source: archaeology.org