Category Archives: ROMANIA

Scientists Analyze Composition of Rome’s Clear Glass

Scientists Analyze Composition of Rome’s Clear Glass

While its fragility and elegance are in themselves intriguing, geochemical studies of the glass can show invisible tracers can reveal more than what meets the eye.

Researchers found a way to identify the origin of colorless glass from this in a new international collegial study from the Danish National Research Foundation’s Urban Network Evolutions (UrbNet), the Aarhus Geochemistry and Isotope Research Platform (AGiR) at Aarhus University, researchers have found a way to determine the origin of colourless glass from the Roman period. The study is published in Scientific Reports.

It manufactures products for drinking and dining, glass slippers, and glass colors for the wall mosaics. The Roman glass industry is extensive. One of its outstanding achievements was the production of large quantities of a colourless and clear glass, which was particularly favoured for high-quality cut drinking vessels.

One of the colorless Roman glass sherds from Jerash, Jordan, analyzed in this study. Purple splashes are iridescence due to weathering.

The fourth-century Price Edict of the emperor Diocletian refers to colourless glass as ‘Alexandrian’, indicating an origin in Egypt. However, large amounts of Roman glass are known to have been made in Palestine, where archaeologists have uncovered furnaces for colourless glass production.

Such furnaces have not been uncovered in Egypt, and hitherto, it has been very challenging to scientifically tell the difference between the glass made in the two regions.

Now, an international collaboration led by Assistant Professor Gry Barfod from UrbNet and AGiR at Aarhus University has found the solution.

Their work on Roman glass from the Danish-German Jerash Northwest Quarter Project in Jordan shows that the isotopes of the rare element hafnium can be used to distinguish between Egyptian and Palestinian glass and provide compelling evidence that the prestigious colourless glass known as ‘Alexandrian’ was indeed made in Egypt.

Two of the co-authors of the publication, Professor Achim Lichtenberger (University of Münster) and Centre Director at UrbNet Professor Rubina Raja, head the archaeological project in Jerash, Jordan. Since 2011, they have worked at the site and have furthered high-definition approaches to the archaeological material from their excavations.

Through full quantification methods, they have over and again shown that such an approach is the way forward in archaeology when combining it with in context studies of various material groups.

The new study is yet another testament to this approach.

“Hafnium isotopes have proved to be an important tracer for the origins of sedimentary deposits in geology, so I expected this isotope system to fingerprint the sands used in glassmaking”, states Gry Barfod.

Professor at Aarhus University Charles Lesher, co-author of the publication, continues: “The fact that this expectation is borne out by the measurements is a testament of the intimate link between archaeology and geology.”

Hafnium isotopes have not previously been used by archaeologists to look at the trade-in ancient man-made materials such as ceramics and glass. Co-author Professor Ian Freestone, University College London, comments, “These exciting results clearly show the potential of hafnium isotopes in elucidating the origins of early materials. I predict they will become an important part of the scientific toolkit used in our investigation of the ancient economy.”

The sand along the Mediterranean coast of Egypt and Levant (Palestine, Israel, Lebanon and Syria) originates from the Nile and is ideal for glass production because it naturally contains the amount of lime needed to keep the glass stable and not degradable.

In the Levant, they made transparent glass by adding manganese – it was good, but not perfect.

The second type of Roman glass, which scientists now show came from Egypt, the glassmakers made transparent by adding antimony (Sb), which made it crystal clear; therefore, this was the most valuable glass.

Alaskan volcano eruption linked to fall of Roman Republic: Study

Alaskan volcano eruption linked to fall of Roman Republic: Study

The proof of an unprecedented period of extreme cold in ancient Rome has come to light through a multinational team of scientists and historians: an unlikely cause of the mass explosion of the Alaska Okmok volcano on the opposite side of the world.

Written sources identify a period of exceptionally cold weather, crop failures, drought, plague and anarchy in the Mediterranean region around the time of Julius Caesar’s death (44 BCE)—impacts that eventually led to the downfall of the Roman Republic and the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt.

Historians have long suspected a volcano to be the cause, but have been unable to pinpoint where or when such an eruption had occurred, or how severe it was.

Cicero’s death in 42 B.C.E. marks the end of the Roman Republic. Did a volcano hasten its fall?

In a new study published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), a research team led by Joe McConnell, Ph.D. of the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nev. uses an analysis of tephra (volcanic ash) found in Arctic ice cores to link the period of unexplained extreme climate in the Mediterranean with the caldera-forming eruption of Alaska’s Okmok volcano in 43 BCE.

“To find evidence that a volcano on the other side of the earth erupted and effectively contributed to the demise of the Romans and the Egyptians and the rise of the Roman Empire is fascinating,” McConnell said. “It certainly shows how interconnected the world was even 2,000 years ago.”

Alaska’s Umnak Island in the Aleutians showing the huge, 10-km wide caldera (upper right) largely created by the 43 BCE Okmok II eruption at the dawn of the Roman Empire.

The discovery was initially made last year in DRI’s Ice Core Laboratory, when McConnell and Swiss researcher Michael Sigl, Ph.D. from the Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of Bern happened upon an unusually well-preserved layer of tephra in an ice core sample and decided to investigate.

New measurements were made on ice cores from Greenland and Russia, some of which were drilled in the 1990s and archived in the U.S., Denmark, and Germany.

Using these and earlier measurements, they were able to clearly delineate two distinct eruptions – a powerful but short-lived, relatively localized event in early 45 BCE, and a much larger and more widespread event in early 43 BCE with volcanic fallout that lasted more than two years in all the ice core records.

The researchers then conducted a geochemical analysis of the tephra samples from the second eruption found in the ice, matching the tiny shards with those of the Okmok II eruption in Alaska – one of the largest eruptions of the past 2,500 years.

“The tephra match doesn’t get any better,” said tephra specialist Gill Plunkett, Ph.D. from Queen’s University Belfast. “We compared the chemical fingerprint of the tephra found in the ice with tephra from volcanoes thought to have erupted about that time and it was very clear that the source of the 43 BCE fallout in the ice was the Okmok II eruption.”

Detailed records of past explosive volcanic eruptions are archived in the Greenland ice sheet and accessed through deep-drilling operations.

Working with colleagues from the U.K., Switzerland, Ireland, Germany, Denmark, Alaska, and Yale University in Connecticut, the team of historians and scientists gathered supporting evidence from around the globe, including tree-ring-based climate records from Scandinavia, Austria, and California are the White Mountains and climate records from a speleothem (cave formations) from Shihua Cave in northeast China.

They then used Earth system modeling to develop a more complete understanding of the timing and magnitude of volcanism during this period and its effects on climate and history.

According to their findings, the two years following the Okmok II eruption were some of the coldest in the Northern Hemisphere in the past 2,500 years, and the decade that followed was the fourth coldest. Climate models suggest that seasonally averaged temperatures may have been as much as 7oC (13oF) below normal during the summer and autumn that followed the 43 BCE eruption of Okmok, with summer precipitation of 50 to 120 percent above normal throughout Southern Europe, and autumn precipitation reaching as high as 400 percent of normal.

“In the Mediterranean region, these wet and extremely cold conditions during the agriculturally important spring through autumn seasons probably reduced crop yields and compounded supply problems during the ongoing political upheavals of the period,” said classical archaeologist Andrew Wilson, D.Phil. of the University of Oxford. “These findings lend credibility to reports of cold, famine, food shortage, and disease described by ancient sources.”

“Particularly striking was the severity of the Nile flood failure at the time of the Okmok eruption, and the famine and disease that was reported in Egyptian sources,” added Yale University historian Joe Manning, Ph.D.  “The climate effects were a severe shock to an already stressed society at a pivotal moment in history.”

Timeline showing European summer temperatures and volcanic sulphur and ash levels in relation to the Okmok II Eruption and significant historic events of the Roman Republic and Ptolemaic Kingdom from 59 to 20 BCE.

Volcanic activity also helps to explain certain unusual atmospheric phenomena that were described by ancient Mediterranean sources around the time of Caesar’s assassination and interpreted as signs or omens – things like solar halos, the sun darkening in the sky, or three suns appearing in the sky (a phenomenon now known as a parahelia, or ‘sun dog’). However, many of these observations took place prior to the eruption of Okmok II in 43 BCE, and are likely related to a smaller eruption of Mt. Etna in 44 BCE.

Although the study authors acknowledge that many different factors contributed to the fall of the Roman Republic and Ptolemaic Kingdom, they believe that the climate effects of the Okmok II eruption played an undeniably large role – and that their discovery helps to fill a knowledge gap about this period of history that has long puzzled archaeologists and ancient historians.

“People have been speculating about this for many years, so it’s exciting to be able to provide some answers,” McConnell said.

Metal Detectorist Finds Rare Lost Roman Lead Ingot in Wales

Metal Detectorist Finds Rare Lost Roman Lead Ingot in Wales

In a field near Rossett, Rob Jones found the metal object, and a careful searching exposed the corner of a lead object with ‘writing’ on it.

The local find agent (NE Wales) has informed Mr. Jones who is from Codpoeth, Wrexham to the Wales Portable Antiquity Scheme (PAS Cymru) located in the Wrexham Museum. Archaeologists from both the Museum and the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust assessed what had been discovered.

The item discovered was a large lead ingot (approximately half a meter long and 63 kilograms weighed). The ‘writing’ reported by Mr. Jones was a cast Latin inscription confirming that it was Roman and about 2,000 years old.

The discovery is assessed alongside its finder, Metal detectorist Rob Jones.

The exploitation of Britain’s natural resources was one of the reasons cited by Roman authors for the invasion of Britain by Emperor Claudius in AD 43.

Lead ore or galena contains silver as well as lead, and both were valuable commodities for the Romans. Less than a hundred lead ingots of this type are known from the mines of Roman Britain.

The rare find is particularly significant for archaeologists and historians because of its potentially early date, the location of the findspot, and because of its unique inscription.

The lead was mined and processed in several areas of the new province including in north-east Wales where lead processing sites have been excavated near Flint, presumably smelting ores extracted from the nearby Halkyn Mountain.

A number of lead ingots of slightly later date are known from these works, often marked with the name of the local pre-Roman tribe called the Deceangli.

Susie White, the local Finds Officer (NE Wales) said: “It has been suggested in the past that similar exploitation took place in the Wrexham area around Minera and particularly Ffrith, where there is a known Roman site, although clear evidence is absent, probably as the result of more recent mining activity.

“We don’t yet know where this ingot has come from and we will probably never know where it was going to. However given the find spots of other ingots from Britain of similar date, it may have been destined for continental Europe, perhaps even Rome itself. The object could tell us a great deal about this important period of our past, a period which is still poorly understood in this area of the country.”

The inscription appears to mention one Marcus Trebellius Maximus, who was the governor of the province of Britannia under Emperor Nero from AD 63-69.

If genuine, the Rossett find represents the only example of an inscription bearing his name ever found in the UK and one of very few from the empire as a whole.

Trebellius was partly responsible for bringing stability to Britannia after Boudica’s revolt in AD 60/1, although he was ultimately forced out of the province by mutinous Roman soldiers who were dissatisfied with the lack of military activity under his governorship.

Councillor Hugh Jones, Lead Member for People at Wrexham Council commented “I’m delighted to be able to announce that Wrexham museum has acquired the ingot and I’d like to thank the Arts Council England/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, the Headley Trust and the Friends of Wrexham Museums for their support with the acquisition which otherwise would not have been possible. Its acquisition will allow the ingot to be displayed in the town nearest to the place where it was lost and rediscovered.”

The museum together with the University of Chester is hoping to undertake archaeological work on the site of the discovery, as soon as the pandemic allows, to see if any further information can be gleaned as to the circumstances of its loss.

The skeleton of this women was buried with a treasure of jewels

The skeleton of this women was buried with a treasure of jewels

Before Mount Vesuvius erupted on August 24, in the year 79, according to most historians, Herculaneum had a population of about 5,000.

Because the entire town has not yet been excavated, that is a rough guess based on the size of the area where it sits and the size of the amphitheater. Excavations turned up practically nobodies until 1982 when the waterfront area was excavated.

Far from all the skeletons found in the city were found in the boathouses, shown in this photo. Others were found along the beach which would have been in the foreground.

Apparently the residents did what I would have done. If the volcano is erupting inland, I would run for the ocean and attempt to flee by boat.

There is no way of telling how many people successfully did this, but we can determine how many people did not make it. We didn’t get to tour the boathouses but from internet searches, it appears that many of the skeletons are still there (note in the first photo that some of the boathouses have tarps over their entrance).

One of the skeletons found on the beach included one that has been dubbed The Ring Lady. As can be seen in this photo, she had an emerald and a ruby ring on her fingers when she collapsed on the beach.

A female skeleton of one of the inhabitants of Herculaneum, still wearing two rings on the left index finger, was found buried during an archaeological excavation.

In addition, she had a purse that contained two gold bracelets with serpentine heads that met as well as two gold earrings that probably held pearls. These were likely her prized possessions that she was attempting to take with her.

Here is a close-up of the rings. Examination of her body shows that she was a tall 45-year-old woman in good health with good teeth but a bit of gum disease. She was likely knocked down by the pyroclastic blast and died immediately.

Another skeleton found on the beach was of a Roman soldier who collapsed, his fists clutching the sand. Every bone in his body except his inner ear was broken suggesting that he too was hit forcefully by the surge and knocked to the ground.

He was about 37 years old, wore a sword and bone-handled dagger by his side, and had a bag of carpenter’s tool on his back. Soldiers often worked in that trade. Fifteen silver coins and three gold coins were found near him, likely originally held in a cloth moneybag.

Anthropologist Sara Bisel examined the body and found that he had probably been a warrior for quite some time.

He was missing three front teeth (missing six teeth in total), had a mark on this thighbone where a prior wound had healed and had thick well-developed thighbones likely from frequent bareback horse riding as was common among soldiers of the era.

Roman soldier skeletons are a very rare find since the Romans usually cremated their dead.