Category Archives: ITALY

Remarkably Well-Preserved 2,000-Year-Old ‘Tomb Of Cerberus’ With Amazing Frescoes Discovered In Italy

Remarkably Well-Preserved 2,000-Year-Old ‘Tomb Of Cerberus’ With Amazing Frescoes Discovered In Italy

Archaeologists in Italy could hardly believe their eyes when they opened a mysterious ancient chamber tomb in the municipality of Giugliano in Campania, near Naples.

Remarkably Well-Preserved 2,000-Year-Old ‘Tomb Of Cerberus’ With Amazing Frescoes Discovered In Italy
An exterior shot of the recently-discovered chamber tomb near Naples.

The tomb was sealed with a tuff slab, a light, porous rock created out of volcanic ash and other sediments.

Scientists say the chamber, dating back approximately 2,000 years to the Republican and Imperial Roman ages, was discovered after archaeologists spotted a wall that had been built using an ancient Roman construction technique known as opus incertum.

Inside the remarkably well-preserved chamber tomb, scientists marveled at the amazing frescoes adorning its walls.

“The tomb has frescoed ceilings and walls in perfect condition, with mythological scenes that go all around the room and figurative representations among which, a three-headed dog stands out,” said Mariano Nuzzo, the superintendent of Archaeology, Fine Arts and Landscape for the Naples metropolitan area.

Among the most notable mythological figures depicted are ichthyocentaurs – a centaurine-type sea god with the upper body of a human and the lower anterior half and fore-legs of a horse and the tail of a fish. Credit: Superintendent of Archaeology, Fine Arts and Landscape

“Three painted klìnai , an altar with vessels for libations, the deceased still placed on the funeral beds with rich objects – complete the picture of a discovery which, in this area, is unprecedented.”

The frescoes depicted Cerberus, a famous monster in Greek mythology. Often described as a  giant three-headed dog, Cerberus guards the gates of the Greek underworld, ensuring that no one escapes from the realm of Hades, the god of the dead and the king of the underworld.

The tomb has led to it being aptly dubbed the “Tomb of Cerberus.”

A recently-discovered frescoe depicting the ancient Greek creature Cerberus.

“The depicted scene portrays the culmination of Heracles’ twelve labours, during which he successfully captured Cerberus.

The tomb also contains depictions of mythological scenes featuring ichthyocentaurs, beings with the upper bodies of humans, the forelegs and lower anterior halves of horses, and fish-like tails,” Euro News reports.

“The excitement was enormous—the screams, the hugs, us, the workers—finding something like this doesn’t happen every day,” archaeologist Valentina Russo, who was present during the discovery, said.

“The emotion aroused by the privilege of such a discovery is indescribable.

The territory of Giugliano, after years of oblivion, is finally returning significant vestiges of its glorious past to be preserved and protected, thanks to a common effort,” Nuzzo added.

Full excavation of the chamber tomb is currently in progress, and archaeologists intend to explore the broader necropolis surrounding the tomb, too.

The Nymph of Tusculum: A beautiful statue linked to an ancient god of wine discovered in Rome

The Nymph of Tusculum: A beautiful statue linked to an ancient god of wine discovered in Rome

In the picturesque Italian town of Frascati, once known as Tusculum, archaeologists made a discovery that captured the imagination of historians, archaeologists, and the world at large.

A team from the Spanish School of History and Archaeology in Rome (EEHAR-CSIC) has unearthed a remarkable marble statue dating back nearly 2,000 years, offering tantalizing clues about the city’s rich past.

As part of the architectural ensemble of a thermal complex, an enigmatic statue of a headless and armless female figure has been discovered.

The Nymph of Tusculum: A beautiful statue linked to an ancient god of wine discovered in Rome

Founded in the 10th century BC, Tusculum was one of the most important cities of the Latin League.

The Latin League was an ancient confederation that opposed the expansionism of Rome. Needless to say, they didn’t do so well and were defeated in the famous battle of Lake Regillo in 496 BC.

Tusculum lies on the outskirts of today’s Rome, and it is also a mythical city.

According to legend, the city was founded by the son of Ulysses, Telegonus, 20 years after the destruction of Troy. The city, now called Frascati, is an impressive archaeological site where researchers unearthed impressive findings, such as a thermal complex from the Hadrianic period (2nd century AD).

Now, a team from the Spanish School of History and Archaeology in Rome has found an “exceptional” marble statue that dates to around 2,000 years ago.

“At the time of the discovery, only part of the statue’s back was visible and it was lying on a thin layer of painted stucco, so it would have formed part of the ornamental programme of the baths,” says Antonio Pizzo, director of the EEHAR-CSIC, the institution that has been carrying out the excavations at the archaeological site

A life-size nymph

The statue represents a life-size human figure of a woman but has no head or arms. It probably belonged to the westernmost architectural decoration of the previously found Hadrian Baths, the researchers believe.

The sculpture is probably a representation of a nymph from Greek mythology—a lesser female deity symbolizing nature.

The city of Tusculum.

Nymphs, such as other goddesses (excluding the Hamadryads), are known for being immortal. They were classified into distinct subgroups, such as the Meliae linked to ash trees, Dryads associated with oak trees, Naiads residing in freshwater environments, Nereids inhabiting the seas, and Oreads dwelling in mountainous areas.

Researchers also believe that there’s a connection between the statue and the cult of the god Dionysus, the god of wine, called Bacchus by the Romans.

Dionysus is a fascinating figure in ancient Greco-Roman mythology, often associated with wine, fertility, and revelry. He is the god of the vine, grape harvest, winemaking, and theater. His cult was known for ecstatic rites such as the famous Bacchanalia, which often involved music, dancing, and the consumption of wine.

Certain distinct features of the statue suggest a link to Dyonisus. In particular, a key sign is the representation of a fawn skin on the statue, resembling the attire worn by the followers of the cult dedicated to Dionysus.

“Some characteristic elements, such as the fawn skin covering her shoulders, allow us to hypothesize that this is a figure that can be traced back to a Dionysian context, chronologically dated between the middle of the 1st century BC and the middle of the 1st century AD,” Pizzo, director of the EEHAR-CSIC, said in a news release.

No doubt, despite all the wonderous archaeology uncovered in and around Rome, there’s still plenty left to discover.

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.’