Roman mosaic discovery in Italy

This video says about itself:

14 January 2008

A short film about Roman mosaics. The film shows a series of Roman mosaics and information about their construction.

From Discovery News:

Ancient Roman Mosaic Found in Tuscany

Oct 6, 2015 02:30 PM ET // by Rossella Lorenzi

Italian archaeologists digging in a small Tuscan village have unearthed part of what they believe is a large and impressive ancient Roman mosaic.

Laying in a private property next to a local road in the village Capraia e Limite, the mosaic features two different designs. One, dating to the second half of the 4th century AD, features geometric patterns framed by floral motifs, the other, dating to the 5th century AD, boasts octagons decorated with animals, flowers and a human bust.

The large mosaic graced the floor of a luxurious Roman villa that stood in the Tuscan countryside for four centuries, from the 1st to the beginning of the 6th century AD.

Photos: See Images of the Mosaic

“Evidence of this villa was first found in 1983, when workers digging to build an orchard unearthed some black and white mosaic fragments and, most interestingly, an inscription mentioning one of the owners of the complex,” Lorella Alderighi of the Archaeological Superintendency of Tuscany, told Discovery News.

The inscribed slab of stone referred to Vettius Agorius Praetextatus, one of the most famous pagan senators of the later fourth century AD. He came from an ancient and noble family and died in 384 while serving as the praetorian prefect at the court of Emperor Valentinian II.

It is well known that Vettius Agorius Praetextatus owned villas in Tuscany — and liked them very much.

“The Roman statesman and orator Quintus Aurelius Symmachus even complained in his letters that Vettius enjoyed too much opium in his estates in Etruria, instead of dealing with politics in Rome,” Federico Cantini, the archaeologist of the University of Pisa who led the dig, told Discovery News.

Built in the first century, the villa in Capraia e Limite had its most glorious time in the 4th century AD, when Vettius Agorius Praetextatus rebuilt it according to luxurious standards. By the beginning of the 6th century AD it was completely abandoned and plundered.

1500-Year-Old Mosaic Map Found

“Luckily, they could not remove the mosaics,” Alderighi said.

Excavations in 2013 brought to light a stunning oval mosaic with a wild boar hunting scene which dates to the second half of the 4th century AD.

Because of legal issues and lack of funding, the mosaic was covered soon after its discovery in order to preserve it. The finding prompted new archaeological investigations.

“We speculated the mosaic floor extends further, thus we tested the hypothesis with a survey dig,” Cantini said.

The excavation proved Cantini and his team were right.

Parts of two floor mosaics came to light. The older one consisted of geometric patterns framed by red decorations with acanthus and vine leaves in various shades of grey, blue and black. The other displayed scenes with animals, flowers, geometric patterns framed by octagons. Catching the attention at the center of one of such octagons, is the bust of a man with a tunic and large eyes.

“We believe it is not a portrait, but just a decoration,” Alderighi said.

According to the archaeologists, the investigated portion of the villa had an hexagonal structure with rooms opening onto a central hall.

“We estimate the size of the floor mosaic to be about 300 square meters (984 square feet). We only have unearthed one-eighth of it,” Cantini said.

Photos: Greek God Hermes Featured in Ancient Mosaic

Unfortunately, most of the mosaic lies beneath an industrial shed. Although the archaeologists believe the artwork is still intact, it is unlikely it will be brought to light in the near future.

The newly unearthed mosaics have been already covered for preservation — just like the mosaic with the hunting scene.

“Our goal is to open these beautiful artworks to the public. We are working to make this happen,” Alessandro Giunti, mayor of Capraia e Limite, said.

He added that the first mosaic to be restored and displayed will be the one showing the wild boar hunting scene.

Bird migration in Italy

This 2006 video is about a starling murmuration in Rome, italy.

From BirdLife:

Bird migration through Italy: The good, the bad and the ugly

By Claudio Celada, Wed, 02/09/2015 – 09:06

The beauty of Italy, and how easy it is to recognise from space was recently lauded by an Italian cosmonaut. The cosmonaut may be biased of course, but there’s no doubt the elongated shape of the country and its position in the middle of the Mediterranean is of crucial geographic importance for millions of birds migrating between Africa and Eurasia.

From a conservation viewpoint, it seems like a good time to ask ourselves how dangerous a migratory trip along the Italian flyway is. Has the situation improved in the 50 years since BirdLife’s Italian partner LIPU was created?

To answer these questions, we start with BirdLife’s recent report on the illegal killing of birds in the Mediterranean. The report clearly highlights that Italy is by far the worst country on the northern rim of the region, with an estimated 5.6 million birds killed yearly in the country. This figure reflects the fact that illegal killing of birds (especially of passerines) in Italy is still widespread. This is certainly the case for most of the islands, for a vast region in the central Alps and for many areas along the peninsula.

But there are also reasons for hope, in particular from a LIPU case study in southern Sardinia. LIPU has a long history of fighting illegal killing and taking in this area, mainly by removing thousands of traps each year from the beautiful but deadly evergreen forests and maquis (shrubland). It has only recently been possible – through the LIFE project A safe haven for wild birds: Changing attitudes towards illegal killing in North Mediterranean for European Biodiversity – to implement a comprehensive strategy, including raising awareness in schools, launching a public information campaign (called Leaving is Living) and stronger co-operation with enforcement agencies. This strategy is starting to pay off and the number of traps found in the area has decreased in the last few years.

Traditionally, hunters are a strong lobby in Italy and unfortunately have been mostly using their political power to support the continuation of these practices. But this group is ageing and recruitment of young hunters is proving difficult. Killing birds isn’t so cool in Italy anymore and mentalities are changing. LIPU is active in showing that while traditions are important, not all traditions are good–particularly not illegal ones.

In July 2015, the Italian Parliament approved a law to ban bird capturing by mist-nets and the use of living decoys. This is an extremely important step, although moving from theory to full implementation on the ground will require all our attention.

The campaign against the shooting of soaring birds of prey and storks on the Messina Strait has been a success both in Sicily and on the mainland. However, it would be a terrible mistake to reduce efforts in Italy’s main bottleneck. This is why LIPU and other organisations still help to patrol the area during migration.

For waterbirds, most of the largest Italian wetlands have been given legal protection and designation as Natura 2000 sites. The huge impact of hunting has been partially reduced as a result, but illegal killing and taking, pollution and a poor level of habitat management are still serious issues.

Overall, there are still many open wounds, but important battles have been fought and won. There are concrete signs that eliminating deadly traditions and illegal practices is possible. Many Italian youth are realising that birds have a right to migrate. In absolute terms, the situation is improving for birds travelling through Italy. However, many populations of migratory species have drastically fallen over the last few decades and the effects of climate change are expected to hit them harder in the coming years. So we need to intensify our efforts and speed up the healing process.

Monitoring birds in Europe: here.

Unknown Escher drawing discovery in the Netherlands

The newly discovered Escher drawing

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Unknown work by M. C. Escher discovered

Today, 12:48

The Escher Museum in The Hague has discovered a special drawing of artist Maurits Cornelis Escher. The Dutchman made the work in 1924 when he lived in Rome.

On the large piece of paper one can see the Italian town Montecelio. Escher used in making it, inter alia, templates, stamps and Japanese elements. Thus, according to the curator of the museum, this was already a peek into his future as an artist.


The Escher Museum speaks of a “valuable” discovery, because Escher never made prints of this. There is only one copy of and this has been acquired by the museum now.

The artwork was in the possession of Escher’s family, but no one besides them knew of its existence.

See also here.

This video is about museums in the Netherlands.

Italian government violates LGBTQ rights, court rules

This June 2015 video is called #ProudToLove – Celebrating Marriage Equality and LGBT Pride Month.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Italy violates human rights of same-sex couples, court rules

European court increases pressure on Matteo Renzi, whose country is only major western European state not to recognise civil partnerships or same-sex marriage

Stephanie Kirchgaessner in Rome

Tuesday 21 July 2015 14.17 BST

Italy violates human rights by not offering adequate legal protection and recognition to same-sex couples, a European court has ruled.

The decision by the European court of human rights increases pressure on the government of Matteo Renzi, the centre-left prime minister who has long promised to pass legislation recognising civil partnerships. Italy is the only major western European country that does not recognise either civil partnerships or gay marriage.

Efforts to move forward on the issue have made little progress since Renzi took office last year, and face significant opposition from Italian conservatives.

The lower house of the Italian parliament approved a motion in June that said the government was committed to pursuing a civil union law. That motion – the first to pass after others were rejected – also opposed the idea that offering rights to same-sex couples could undermine traditional family values.

The European court ruling on Tuesday said gay couples were essentially forced to live double lives in Italy: they could live openly in their relationships, but they did not receive any official recognition of their status as a family.

Specifically the court ruled that Italy was in violation of article eight of the European convention on human rights, which provides for the right to respect for privacy and family life.

The case was brought by three gay couples – all men – who do not have the right to marry or enter into a civil union and described the challenges the lack of recognition posed in their daily lives. The legal move was led by Enrico Oliari, president of a gay rights group called GayLib.

“We are delighted,” Oliari said in a statement. “We arrived at this conclusion at the end of a battle that began 18 years ago with our association and an eight-year fight in the courtroom.”

Ivan Scalfarotto, a member of Renzi’s Democratic party and secretary for constitutional reforms in the parliament, expressed his satisfaction with the decision, which was announced weeks after the lawmaker ended a hunger strike in protest against Italy’s “serious human rights violation” on gay rights. He ended the strike after the parliament passed its motion and said at the time that he trusted Renzi to act soon.

Scalfarotto said in a tweet on Tuesday that he had engaged in the protest to show that not allowing civil unions was a “grave embarrassment” for Italy and that the country had been condemned.

In the absence of marriage rights in Italy, the European court ruled that the passage of legislation creating civil unions or registered partnerships would be the “most appropriate way for same-sex couples like the applicants to have their relationship legally recognised”. The court noted that 24 out of 47 member states in the Council of Europe had already legally recognised same-sex unions.

The fact that a few cities in Italy – including Rome – have recognised the marriages of some same-sex couples who have married abroad was largely dismissed by the court, which said such local decisions were merely symbolic and did not confer any rights on same-sex couples.

The court also found the fact that same-sex couples in Italy must frequently turn to the already severely overburdened court system to seek protection for even the “most basic issues arising in a relationship” amounted to a “significant hindrance to [their] efforts to obtain respect for their private and family life”.

While same-sex civil unions and marriage are not legally protected in Italy, rules were set up in December 2013 that allowed for “cohabitation agreements”. But the court found that such contracts were limited in scope and failed to provide basic needs to a couple in a stable and committed relationship, such as inheritance rights.

The court also pointed out that such “cohabitation agreements” were designed only to provide certain rights to people who live together, including flatmates, and did not aim to explicitly help couples.

Even though Italy’s highest courts have repeatedly called for the need for laws to recognise same-sex couples, the European court said the Italian legislature had repeatedly failed to take those judgements into account. It also pointed to unspecified opinion polls that the court said supported legal recognition of gay couples.

“The Italian government had not denied the need for legal protection of such couples and had failed to point to any community interests justifying the current situation,” the court said in a press release.

Etruscan women exhibition in 2011

This 2014 video is called Etruscan Necropolises of Cerveteri and Tarquinia (UNESCO/NHK)

Lucas Knitel told on 27 November 2011 about the exhibition on Etruscan women at the Antiquities Museum in Leiden.

This exhibition is the counterpart of the present exhibition about Etruscan men, in the Allard Pierson Museum in Amsterdam.

In this culture in ancient Italy, women had a relatively strong position (somewhat like Egypt), if compared to Athens and other Greek states, Rome, and Mesopotamia.

We do not know as much about Etruscan culture as we might like. Much of their temples and other buildings were made of wood, so few of these survive. We also know much more about rich Etruscans than about poor ones. And the Etruscan language is still a problem. Not because of their alphabet, similar to the Greek alphabet; but because their language is unrelated to most European languages in antiquity.

There are varous theories on the origins of Etruscans. Eg, Italian nationalists tend to claim they were “autochthonous” ancient Italians. Another theory claims they were immigrants from Asia Minor. Mr Knitel tended to favour a third theory: that Etruscans were immigrants from central Europe. In what is now Austria, the Rhaetic language was spoken in antiquity. It seems that Rhaetian is related to Etruscan.

Stop European Union anti-refugee policies

This video from Italy says about itself:

Dramatic scenes as stranded African migrants flee Italy police

Italian police today (Tuesday June 16 2015) detained a handful of African migrants in the Italian city of Ventimiglia, near the French-Italian border.

Dozens of African migrants have been stranded for five days, after French police had blocked border crossings.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Italy: Police drag away refugees camped on French border

Wednesday 17th June 2015

REFUGEES camping on the Italy-France border were removed by Italian police yesterday as European nations failed to reach agreement on sharing responsibility for migrants.

Officers in riot gear dragged away dozens of African refugees at the Ventimiglia border crossing who had been demanding entry to France for five days.

Some of the migrants protested, grabbing on to signposts, while others had to be carried off by their arms and legs.

“We are human beings. We are not animals,” said Sudanese migrant Saddam.

“I know we are black and we are come from Africa, but we are still humans.”

Migrants squatting on the rocks where they had been sleeping were left in peace, but the rest were loaded onto a Red Cross bus and taken to the nearby railway station.

At talks in Luxembourg, EU interior ministers disagreed over how 40,000 new refugees arriving in Italy and Greece should be split up equitably among the EU’s 28 member states to ease the load on the two southern nations.

“We are working to avoid the political bankruptcy of Europe,” said Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, adding that the scene in Ventimiglia was “a punch in the eye for those who refuse to see.”

His French counterpart Bernard Cazaneuve denied that France had closed its border.

“When migrants cross borders and it is established that they arrived in Italy, then it is only normal that they return to Italy,” he said.

Hundreds of Syrian and Iraqi refugees protested on Monday on the eastern Greek island of Lesbos, demanding better living conditions and faster processing of their asylum registrations.

This video from London, England is called No Military Intervention in Libya – Gigi Ibrahim | Stop the War protest, 12 March 2011.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Save empathy for refugees

Wednesday 17th June 2015

THE forcible arrest of refugees huddled on a stony beach on the Italian-French border yesterday was “a punch in the eye for those who refuse to see,” Italy’s Interior Minister Angelino Alfano says.

Alfano says he hopes talks with ministers from other EU member states will help “avoid the political bankruptcy of Europe.”

Some hope.

Since the 1985 Schengen agreement, which opened borders between core EU states but made it much tougher to gain access from outside the bloc, the institutions of the anti-democratic union have been geared towards creating a “fortress Europe” inaccessible to outsiders.

The Amsterdam Treaty in 1997 effectively criminalised asylum-seekers.

Things have got worse. So far this year almost 2,000 people have died at sea attempting to reach Europe – 10 times the number who died in the same period last year.

Most of those embarking on this desperate journey take ship from Libya.

It’s no wonder people are fleeing Libya for their lives – since Nato‘s blitz on the country four years ago overthrew the Muammar Gadaffi regime it has been torn apart by sectarian warfare, with thousands dying at the hands of religious fanatics.

Of course, Libya is also a transit point for refugees from other countries, because of its proximity to Italy. But if the number of refugees from across the region is rising the causes are not difficult to find. Not content with the carnage unleashed in Iraq and Libya, Western powers – Britain among them – have helped to equip and fund radical Islamists battling to replace Syria’s government with a nightmarish theocracy.

Arms and cash flow to these groups, sometimes from the United States and its Nato allies and more frequently from the autocratic butchers we’ve befriended in the Gulf.

The response from the Western countries setting the world alight to the people seeking safety from the flames is a disgrace.

Home Secretary Theresa May dropped British support for search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean last year, claiming that saving people’s lives simply encouraged people-traffickers.

Then Italy itself ditched its Mare Nostrum patrols, which had saved tens of thousands of lives, replacing them with a pared-down exercise that only operates in Italian waters.

Who announced this change? None other than a certain Angelino Alfano, ignoring warnings from Human Rights Watch and the European Council on Refugees and Exiles that this would see death tolls soar.

But that wasn’t a problem. At least, EU border agency Frontex chief Fabrice Leggeri was quite clear in April that saving drowning refugees was not his priority, telling a British paper that Triton – which replaced Mare Nostrum – “cannot be a search and rescue operation”.

EU interior ministers heading into talks yesterday have talked of the need to “show solidarity” with Italy and Greece as prime arrival-sites, although many dispute the idea that their own countries should agree to take in more “migrants” (never refugees).

Indeed, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve claims Italy needs to show “responsibility” by “organising the return of irregular migrants.”

We should rather show our solidarity with the children, women and men forced to risk everything to get away from murderous wars begun by our governments.

Save the Children CEO Justin Forsyth’s suggestions that Britain should immediately offer a home to 1,500 unaccompanied children who have landed in Italy would be a start, and help to counter a culture where immigrants are scapegoated, incarcerated and demonised by a ruling class determined we should blame anyone but themselves for this country’s problems.

Unless we abandon our addiction to military intervention, the world’s refugee crisis will never come to an end, writes JEREMY CORBYN: here.