Category Archives: ITALY

This Is One Of The Oldest Pieces Of Cloth In The World And It’s Made Of Bast Fibers!

This Is One Of The Oldest Pieces Of Cloth In The World And It’s Made Of Bast Fibers!

Archaeological discoveries provide us with vital information about the daily life of our ancestors. What did ancient people eat and drink, and what kind of clothes did they wear? These are some of the many questions occupying the minds of those interested in ancient history.

Scientists have discovered incredible textiles that have survived for thousands of years and can now be analyzed with the help of modern technology.

Neolithic Site of Çatalhöyük.

At La Marmotta near Rome, Italy, underwater archaeologists found rare and well-preserved cloth fragments produced by people more than 8,000 years ago. Scientists are especially impressed with four extraordinary small textile fragments that researchers at the University of Copenhagen are currently analyzing. The Neolithic textiles were most likely made of plant fibers.

While excavating at Giza, Egypt, archaeologists discovered the only complete ancient Egyptian bead-net dress found to date in one of the tombs!

The 4,500-year-old dress was comprised of “several thousand faience beads divided among thirty small, rounds boxes of varied sizes, none larger than five inches in diameter.”

“This individual was wrapped, each limb individually, to simulate a living person, and covering her was the front half of a narrow V-necked sheath. Our final bead-net reconstruction produced, therefore, not a shroud-like mummy covering, but rather a dress that simulated a garment actually worn in life,” Millicent Jick at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston said.

Another incredible Egyptian discovery is the Tarkhan Dress, a V-neck linen shirt that has been confirmed as the world’s oldest woven garment, with radiocarbon testing dating the garment to the late fourth millennium B.C.

Glacial archaeologists have also successfully recovered amazing clothes and shoes that have been buried under the ice in Norway for a very long time. At the Lendbreen, a pass high in the Norwegian mountains, scientists found two complete pieces of clothing. One of them is a 1,700-year-old tunic.

The Lendbreen tunic is Norway’s oldest piece of clothing, and despite being hidden beneath the snow for so many years, it’s still very well-preserved.

One of the world’s oldest pieces of cloth was unearthed in Çatalhöyük, Turkey. This archaeological discovery of Stone Age textiles sheds new light on the history of clothes making.

Çatalhöyük, is the world’s largest known Stone Age settlement and one of the most famous archaeological sites. As many as 10,000 people lived in Çatalhöyük in Turkey some 8,000-9,000 years ago. This makes it the largest known settlement from what archaeologists call the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods.

Ever since the first discovery of pieces of cloth unearthed at the site, experts have been discussing what kind of clothes people wore in Çatalhöyük. Some specialists believed that people made their clothes from wool. Others thought they made them out of linen instead. So who’s right? Neither, actually.

This Is One Of The Oldest Pieces Of Cloth In The World And It’s Made Of Bast Fibers!
This piece of cloth is from the Stone Age. For 60 years, academics have debated whether it is made of wool or linen. So what is it really made of? The answer will surprise you. Credit: Antoinette Rast-Eicher, University of Bern

As explained by Bender Jørgensen, a specialist in archaeological textiles and Professor emerita from NTNU’s Department of Historical and Classical Studies, “In the past, researchers largely neglected the possibility that the fabric fibers could be anything other than wool or linen, but lately another material has received more attention.”

People in Çatalhöyük used assorted varieties of exactly this material.

“Bast fibers were used for thousands of years to make rope, thread, and in turn also yarn and cloth,” says Bender Jørgensen.

As it turns out, people in this area did not import linen from elsewhere, as many researchers have previously thought, but used the resources they had plentiful access to.

Bender Jørgensen notes that a lot of people often overlook bast fiber as an early material. “Linen tends to dominate the discussion about the types of fabric fibers people used,” she says.

People in Çatalhöyük used oak bark, but bast fibers can also be collected from other plants. Here we see Jute, a natural vegetable bast fiber that is obtained from the bark of the jute plant. Jute is known as the Golden Fiber because of its golden color.

Ancient civilizations were resourceful and highly creative. Producing textiles made of bast fibers had several advantages. Bast fiber is found between the bark and the wood in trees such as willow, oak, or linden. The people from Catalhöyük used oak bark and thus fashioned their clothes from the bark of trees that they found in their surroundings.

Lion’s Head Sculpture Discovered in Sicily

Lion’s Head Sculpture Discovered in Sicily

A still unfinished marble gargoyle in the form of a lion’s head in Sicily delights researchers.

Lion’s Head Sculpture Discovered in Sicily
The significant new discovery was made by the head of the excavation, Prof. Dr. Jon Albers, along with the director of the Selinunte Archaeological Park, Dr. Felice Crescente, and the first director of the DAI Rome, Prof. Dr. Ortwin Dally, presented to the public on Saturday, August 26, 2023.

During excavations in Sicily, a research team led by archaeologists from the Ruhr University in Bochum, Prof. Dr. Jon Albers made a spectacular find: they discovered a marble lion’s head on a street in the immediate vicinity of the ancient eastern harbor of Selinunte, which was intended to drain off rainwater as a detail of a temple roof. 

The gargoyle is 60 centimeters high and thus significantly larger than similar finds from the region. The material, which was rare and valuable in western Greece, also makes it special. 

The site of the discovery is located on a street in the immediate vicinity of the ancient eastern harbor of Selinunte.

The lion’s head is unusually well preserved and still unfinished. “We cannot yet say whether it was intended for the well-known Temple E in Selinunte or for another, as yet unknown temple,” says Jon Albers.

So far only nine known temples with marble lions

The lion’s head is a so-called sima, i.e. the top end of the roof, behind which the rainwater collected and was then drained off. Gargoyles in the shape of lion heads were used to divert the water. 

“While this decoration was made of terracotta in the 6th century BC in particular, the first stone simen were found especially in the 5th century BC,” explains Jon Albers. 

Particularly well-known are the finds from the Temple of Heracles in Agrigento and the Temple of Victory in Himera, which are at the beginning of this development and were made from high-quality local limestone. Both had the largest simen of this type at around 70 centimeters high.

The new find from Selinunte is also very high at around 60 centimeters and significantly larger than other simen in the region. However, it was made of marble, a rare and valuable material in western Greece. “This marble was imported to Sicily from the Greek islands – probably from Paros,” says Jon Albers. 

“In total, only nine temples from the 5th century BC are known in all of southern Italy and Sicily that had a sima made of Greek marble.” The roofs were discovered mainly in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

A new, tenth temple

“The newly found Sima from Selinunte cannot be compared to any of these temples and is therefore part of a tenth temple with such a marble roof,” concludes Jon Albers. The researchers cannot yet decide whether the object was once intended for the well-known Temple E in Selinunte or for another monumental temple that is still unknown today. 

However, the Sima was apparently not yet installed, because it has not yet been finished. Although the block is much better preserved than other roofs with lion’s head spears, the characteristic water outlet was not yet incorporated. 

The rear lion’s mane is also missing, and the decoration at the top of the plate is not yet finished. “Through this condition, the find allows us to “We also want to better understand the manufacturing processes for such architectural parts,” says the archaeologist happily. 

“Since the find comes from the harbor zone and the immediate surroundings of the workshop district of Selinunte, it allows further conclusions to be drawn about the city’s trade contacts and the technical skills of the ancient residents of Selinunte.

‘Extremely rare’ Roman temple discovered on supermarket building site

‘Extremely rare’ Roman temple discovered on supermarket building site

‘Extremely rare’ Roman temple discovered on supermarket building site
The discovery of significant temple ruins in the small town of Sarsini will improve our modern-day understanding of “how ancient Roman towns rose and fell across time,” experts say.

Sarsina is a sleepy, rural town of barely 3,000 residents straddling the pristine Apennine mountains in Italy’s Emilia Romagna region, surrounded by stunning views and grazing sheep.

While it has a glorious past, as a strategic defensive outpost for the Roman Empire and the birthplace of the famed playwright Plautus, today there’s not much to do beyond hiking and birdwatching.

And though both locals and holidaymakers would agree that a rustic, slow-paced lifestyle is part of Sarsina’s charm, its residents were nonetheless excitedly awaiting the construction of a development including a new supermarket, fitness center and playground. But it was not meant to be — at least, not as originally planned.

That’s because workers at the site on the outskirts of town in December 2022 unearthed the ruins of an ancient Roman temple — or ‘capitolium’ — dating back to the first century BC.

In early July, a first look at the underground treasure came to light: a single imposing structure of horizontal sandstone blocks and marble slabs, 577 square meters wide, which researchers have identified as the podium above which the columns and walls of an ancient temple were built.

And what has come out of the ground so far could be just the tip of the iceberg.

The excavation site in Sarsini has yielded ruins on top of ruins, literally.

“We have unearthed three separate rooms, likely dedicated to the triad of gods Jupiter, Juno and Minerva,” lead archaeologist at the excavation site Romina Pirraglia told CNN.

“The excavations are still underway… and we have already identified an older, deeper layer of ruins dating back to the 4th century BC, when the Umbrian people (an ancient Italic tribe who predated the Romans) lived in the area. The entire temple could be even larger than what we now see.”

According to Pirraglia, the discovery of a capitolium — the main temple in an important Roman city, and a hub for trade as well as religious and social interactions — further confirms the strategic role Sarsina played during the Roman Empire.

The town was built in a key mountainous area close to the Tuscan border and overlooking the Savio river, an important waterway connecting central and northern Roman cities.

The discovery of the temple has pushed local authorities to revise their building plans. Federica Gonzato, superintendent of archaeology, fine arts and landscape for the provinces of Ravenna, Rimini and Forlì-Cesena, which includes Sarsina, is adamant in wanting to preserve the ruins and further research its great past.

“We will not tear it down to make room for modern structures, this must be very clear. Previous urban plans will be changed, we will find new construction sites for recreation and sports,” Gonzato said. “The temple is an incredible finding that sheds light on how ancient Roman towns rose and fell across time.”

What makes the discovery exceptional is the temple’s unique state of preservation. “The marvelous quality of the stones have been spared from sacks, enemy invasions and plunders across millennia thanks to the remote location of Sarsina, a quiet spot distant from larger cities,” Gonzato added. 

“Temples such as this one (were) regularly plundered, exploited as quarries with stones and marble slabs taken away to be re-used to build new homes. But Sarsina’s capitolium podium structure is practically untouched, with its entrance staircase well-preserved, and this is extremely rare.”

The discovery of the temple has afforded archaeologists “the opportunity to realize what unique relics and monuments may lie below ground” in Sarsina, said Romina Pirraglia.

Gonzato believes the discovery will further research on demography and urban transformations in ancient times. And there’s more to the site than just the temple’s podium. Pirraglia said there are signs that the building was reused in medieval times.

An ancient water drainage system was found alongside medieval tombs and hearths indicating that locals likely inhabited it, or used the site for other social purposes.

“This is the beauty of Italy: wherever you dig, some hidden treasure comes out of the ground. Wonders never cease to amaze us,” said Gonzato.

Ancient 2,000-year-old Roman shipwreck found off the coast of Italy

Ancient 2,000-year-old Roman shipwreck found off the coast of Italy

Ancient 2,000-year-old Roman shipwreck found off the coast of Italy
A large haul of Roman storage containers was found in the wreckage

The wreckage of an ancient Roman ship from more than 2,000 years ago has been found off the coast of Italy.

The cargo ship was found off the port of Civitavecchia, about 50 miles (80km) north-west of Rome.

It dates from about the 1st or 2nd Century BC and was found laden with hundreds of amphorae – a type of Roman terracotta jar.

The pottery was found mostly intact, the Carabinieri police’s art squad said in a statement.

The ship, estimated to be more than 20m long, was discovered on a sandy seabed 160m (525ft) below sea level.

“The exceptional discovery is an important example of the shipwreck of a Roman ship facing the perils of the sea in an attempt to reach the coast, and bears witness to old maritime trading routes,” the Carabinieri said.

The police art squad – which is in charge of protecting Italy’s priceless cultural heritage – said the relic was found and filmed using a remotely operated robot.

They did not say whether experts will now try and recover it, or its precious cargo, from the sea floor.

It is not known what the Roman jars on board would have been used for, although typically amphorae were used to transport goods, such as oil, wine or fish sauce. Such artefacts are widely found throughout the ancient eastern Mediterranean world.

The discovery of wrecked ships is not unusual – there are said to be thousands dotted around the Mediterranean.

In 2018, a Greek merchant ship dating back more than 2,400 years was found lying on its side off the Bulgarian coast – and was hailed as officially the world’s oldest known intact shipwreck.

Also in 2018, dozens of shipwrecks were found in the Aegean sea dating back to the Greek, Roman and Byzantine eras.

Ancient Theater Discovered in Rome

Ancient Theater Discovered in Rome

“What an artist dies with me!”

Nero, the emperor of Rome from AD 54 until AD 68, reportedly uttered those famous last words before his death in exile. Experts believe he may have left behind evidence of his love of the arts in the form of a theater he built near what today is the Vatican.

An archaeological excavation carried out in the courtyard of the frescoed Palazzo della Rovere has brought to light structures and decorations that experts say could be the remains of that theater.

Ancient Theater Discovered in Rome
The archeological site at the Palazzo della Rovere is seen.

Daniela Porro, the special superintendent of Rome, said Wednesday this “exceptional” discovery is believed to be where Nero rehearsed poetry and musical performances, a place mentioned in Roman writings, but until now never located.

Archaeologists have been working on the site since 2020 and say they’ve found part of the hemicycle-shaped seating section, along with elegant columns in precious and valuable marbles, refined decorations in gold-leaf on stucco and storage rooms for costumes and scenery.

A table with artifacts is seen at the dig site.

The dig, which was carried out in a circumscribed area within the walls of the grand palazzo, situated on Via della Conciliazione, just a few steps from St. Peter’s Square, also gifted other rich historical findings.

These include the possible remains of the Horti di Agrippina, which is where Caligula built a large circus for horse racing, as well as traces of the production and pilgrimage activities from the medieval age and even artifacts from the 15th century.

Archaeologists say they’re particularly thrilled to have found rare specimens of medieval glass goblets, cooking pots to make bread in, coins, bits of musical instruments and combs made from bone, “tools” used to make rosary beads, and small insignia of medieval Christian devotion worn on pilgrims’ clothing.

Archeologist and medieval history expert Ilaria de Luca displays items found at the excavation site.

Archaeologist Marzia Di Mento, who is in charge of the dig, says that the findings will take years to study.

“It is a superb dig, one that every archaeologist dreams of…being able to dig in this built-up, historically rich area is so rare,” she told reporters.

Artifacts found at the excavation site are stored in containers.

Archeologists say work is still in progress to study, catalogue, and analyze all the findings before the area will be covered over for protection and the grand palazzo and garden restored to its original Renaissance grandeur.

Part of the building will become a Four Seasons hotel that is expected to open in 2025.

Local officials say the artifacts will be put on display and all the dig’s findings put in a city-run public databank to add to the wealth of information gathered over the years on life in Rome throughout the centuries.

Unlocking 2,000-year-old Herculaneum scrolls were buried when Mount Vesuvius erupted

Unlocking 2,000-year-old Herculaneum scrolls were buried when Mount Vesuvius erupted

Scientists have succeeded in reading parts of an ancient scroll that was buried and blacked when Mount Vesuvius erupted almost 2,000 years ago.

The scroll was one of the hundreds that form the world’s oldest surviving library – and researchers say they are now hopeful it could reveal all of its secrets.

It was retrieved from the remains of a lavish villa at Herculaneum, which along with Pompeii was one of several Roman towns that were destroyed when Mt. Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79.

A close-up of the Herculaneum Papyrus scroll. Scientists have succeeded in reading parts of an ancient scroll that was buried in a volcanic eruption almost 2,000 years ago, holding out the promise that the world¿s oldest surviving library may one day reveal all of its secrets.

Some of the texts from what is called the Villa of the Papyri have been deciphered since they were discovered in the 1750s. 

But many more remain a mystery to science because they were so badly damaged that unrolling the papyrus they were written on would have destroyed them completely.

‘The papyri were completely covered in blazing-hot volcanic material,’ said Vito Mocella, a theoretical scientist at the Institute of Microelectronics and Microsystems (CNR) in Naples who led the latest project.

Previous attempts to peer inside the scrolls failed to yield any readable texts because the ink used in ancient times was made from a mixture of charcoal and gum. 

This makes it indistinguishable from the burned papyrus.

Mocella and his colleagues decided to try a method called X-ray phase-contrast tomography that had previously been used to examine fossils without damaging them.

Phase contrast tomography takes advantage of subtle differences in the way radiation — such as X-rays — passes through different substances, in this case, papyrus and ink.

Using lab time at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble, France, the researchers found they were able to decipher several letters, proving that the method could be used to read what’s hidden inside the scrolls.

‘Our goal was to show that the technique is sensitive to the writing,’ said Mocella. In a further step, the scientists compared the handwriting to that of other texts, allowing them to conclude that it was likely the work of Philodemus, a poet and Epicurean philosopher who died about a century before the volcanic eruption.

The next challenge will be to automate the laborious process of scanning the charred lumps of papyrus and deciphering the texts inside them, so that some 700 further scrolls stored in Naples can be read, Mocella said.

Two words in a hidden layer of the fragment. In the top the sequence of Greek capital letters spells PIPTOIE (pi-iota-pi-tau- omicron-iota-epsilon); in the bottom the letter sequence of the next line, EIPOI (epsilon-iota-pi-omicron-iota)
Previous attempts to peer inside the scrolls failed to yield any readable texts because the ink used in ancient times was made from a mixture of charcoal and gum.

Scholars studying the Herculaneum texts say the new technique, which was detailed in an article published in the journal Nature Communications, may well mark a breakthrough for their efforts to unlock the ancient philosophical ideas hidden from view for almost two millennia.

‘It’s a philosophical library of Epicurean texts from a time when this philosophy influenced the most important classical Latin authors, such as Virgil, Horace, and Cicero,’ said Juergen Hammerstaedt, a professor of Greek and Latin at the University of Cologne, Germany, who was not involved in the project.

‘There needs to be much work before one can virtually unroll carbonized papyrus because one will have to develop a digital method that will allow us to follow the layers,’ he said.

 ‘But in the 260 years of Herculaneum papyrology, it is certainly a remarkable year.’ 

A Hidden Underground Chamber Has Been Found in The Palace of Emperor Nero

A Hidden Underground Chamber Has Been Found in The Palace of Emperor Nero

The grand, sprawling palace built by the Roman Emperor Nero nearly 2,000 years ago has been kept a secret. While working on restorations in 2019, archaeologists found a secret chamber – a large underground room decorated with murals depicting both real and mythical creatures.

In red and ochre hues, with traces of gilding, centaurs dance across the walls with depictions of the goat-legged god Pan, some bearing musical instruments.

Birds and aquatic creatures, including hippocampi, are also depicted, and a warrior armed with a bow, shield, and sword fighting off a panther, all framed by plant elements, and arabesque figures.

And the creature for which the room is named – a “silent and solitary sphinx” above what seems to be a Baetylus, a type of sacred stone.

The Sphinx. 

The so-called Sphinx Room was discovered quite by accident as part of the ongoing restoration of the palace, named the Domus Aurea, or “Golden House”.

Built after the Great Fire of Rome that ravaged the city over the course of nine days in 64 CE, the palace was an opulent building consisting of 300 rooms that sprawled across the Palatine, Esquiline, Oppian, and Caelian Hills, covering up to over 300 acres.

Nero was not well-loved in his lifetime. He was cruel and tyrannical with those around him, yet lived extravagantly. His ostentatious palace was, therefore, something of an embarrassment to his successors following his death by assisted suicide in 68 CE, after his people revolted.

A centaur (left) and Pan (right). (Parco archeologico del Colosseo)

Significant pains were made to obliterate any traces of the Domus Aurea. Parts of it were built over – one of these structures is the famous Colosseum – others are filled with dirt.

Excavating and restoring it has been an ongoing project by the Parco Archeologico del Colosseo – the Palatine Hill section was just opened to the public for the first time ever earlier this year.

The archaeologists were working in an adjoining room in the section on Oppian Hill when they found the Sphinx Room.

A hidden vault — filled with dirt and adorned with vivid paintings such as a centaur, a sphinx and an attacking panther — has been discovered in the ruins of Emperor Nero’s ancient Roman palace.

They had mounted the scaffolding and turned on the bright lights they need to work – which flooded into an opening in the corner of the room, through which “appeared the entire barrel vault of a completely frescoed room,” according to a statement from the Parco Archeologico del Colosseo.

Much of the room is still filled with dirt, covering parts of the walls and very likely sections of the mural. However, there are no plans to excavate it at this time, since removing the dirt could destabilize the entire complex.

But, even under the rubble, the room is a valuable snapshot of the days of one of Rome’s most hated rulers.

“In the darkness for almost twenty centuries,” said Parco director Alfonsina Russo, “the Sphinx Room … tells us about the atmosphere from the years of the principality of Nero.”

New research, proves that Romans were breeding small bulldogs

New research, proves that Romans were breeding small bulldogs

New research, proves that Romans were breeding small bulldogs

Researchers have proven that breeding small brachycephalic (shorter-nosed) dogs took place already in ancient Rome. Research on a 2,000 years old dog skull indicates that the dog resembled a French bulldog.

Analyzing the remains of a canine skull at a Roman-era site in Türkiye, researchers have determined that the ancient pooch had a brachycephalic skull similar to that of a French Bulldog.

In 2007, dog bones were found in the ruins of the ancient Tralleis, near the Turkish city of Aydın. The find was incomplete, and due to the poor condition of the remains no one paid much attention to it for many years.

In 2021, the bones caught the attention of Professor Aleksander Chrószcz and Dr. Dominik Poradowski from the Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences and a team of researchers from Istanbul University led by Professor Vedat Onar.

‘Fortunately, the skull was not so damaged or fragmented to prevent its measurements, and this research is an important part of our investigation because taking measurements allows us to compare it with other results of archaeozoological research, and with bone material from modern animals.

We conducted craniometry, or in the simplest terms, we determined measurement points on the bones of the skull and based on these points, we not only managed to determine the value of individual measurements but also compare them with contemporary, testable dog skull craniometry results’, says Professor Aleksander Chrószcz.

Photo: Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences

He adds that due to the state of preservation of the remains (measuring the length of the skull was not possible), the researchers relied on other measurements, including the area of the base of the skull, the tympanic cavity, the teeth, and the palate.

‘In this case, there was no doubt that it was the skull of a brachycephalic (short-nosed) dog, and a relatively small one.

The analysis of the preserved and measurable parts of the animal’s skeleton and the skeletons of dogs of modern breeds shows that it was most likely an animal that was lower at the withers than the well-known, also short-nosed Molossian hounds, whose pedigree originating from ancient Hellas is beyond doubt’, says Professor Aleksander Chrószcz.

He emphasizes that in order to make sure that scientists were dealing with such an ancient find, a radiocarbon dating procedure was carried out at a reputable, reference laboratory in the United States.

Photo: Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences

‘The discovery of the remains of a dog with this anatomy brings us valuable information. Scientists have been able to prove that in Ancient Rome, Molossian hounds were not the only known brachycephalic dogs.

It would not be new information if not for the fact that this animal was much smaller, and its morphology more similar to that of a French bulldog, a modern companion dog.

It was supposed to accompany its guardian, sharing a fairly comfortable life, instead of being a working dog often mentioned in the available Roman literature, we read in the Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences press release.

According to the release, the animal was probably cared for not only during its life but also after death.

Skeletal examinations showed that the quadruped was treated exceptionally well, which distinguishes it from other discovered remains of working dogs.

Photo: Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences

‘Someone must have loved this dog, because most they likely they ordered to be buried with it. This means that the love between humans and animals is not a modern invention’, concludes the scientist from the Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences.