Whales in Roman empire days


This 2017 video is called Gray Whale swimming through kelp forest – Recored from a drone in 4k.

From the University of York in England:

Ancient bones reveal 2 whale species lost from the Mediterranean Sea

Ancient bones from Roman archaeological sites reveal 2 whale species lost from the Mediterranean Sea

July 11, 2018

Two thousand years ago the Mediterranean Sea was a haven for two species of whale which have since virtually disappeared from the North Atlantic, a new study analysing ancient bones suggests.

The discovery of the whale bones in the ruins of a Roman fish processing factory located at the strait of Gibraltar also hints at the possibility that the Romans may have hunted the whales.

Prior to the study, by an international team of ecologists, archaeologists and geneticists, it was assumed that the Mediterranean Sea was outside of the historical range of the right and gray whale.

Academics from the Archaeology Department at the University of York used ancient DNA analysis and collagen fingerprinting to identify the bones as belonging to the North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis) and the Atlantic gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus).

After centuries of whaling, the right whale currently occurs as a very threatened population off eastern North America and the gray whale has completely disappeared from the North Atlantic and is now restricted to the North Pacific.

Co-author of the study Dr Camilla Speller, from the University of York, said: “These new molecular methods are opening whole new windows into past ecosystems. Whales are often neglected in archaeological studies, because their bones are frequently too fragmented to be identifiable by their shape.

“Our study shows that these two species were once part of the Mediterranean marine ecosystem and probably used the sheltered basin as a calving ground.

“The findings contribute to the debate on whether, alongside catching large fish such as tuna, the Romans had a form of whaling industry or if perhaps the bones are evidence of opportunistic scavenging from beached whales along the coast line.”

Both species of whale are migratory, and their presence east of Gibraltar is a strong indication that they previously entered the Mediterranean Sea to give birth.

The Gibraltar region was at the centre of a massive fish-processing industry during Roman times, with products exported across the entire Roman Empire. The ruins of hundreds of factories with large salting tanks can still be seen today in the region.

Lead author of the study Dr Ana Rodrigues, from the French National Centre for Scientific Research, said: “Romans did not have the necessary technology to capture the types of large whales currently found in the Mediterranean, which are high-seas species. But right and gray whales and their calves would have come very close to shore, making them tempting targets for local fishermen.”

It is possible that both species could have been captured using small rowing boats and hand harpoons, methods used by medieval Basque whalers centuries later.

The knowledge that coastal whales were once present in the Mediterranean also sheds new light on ancient historical sources.

Anne Charpentier, lecturer at the University of Montpellier and co-author in the study, said: “We can finally understand a 1st-Century description by the famous Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder, of killer whales attacking whales and their new-born calves in the Cadiz bay.

“It doesn’t match anything that can be seen there today, but it fits perfectly with the ecology if right and gray whales used to be present.”

The study authors are now calling for historians and archaeologists to re-examine their material in the light of the knowledge that coastal whales where once part of the Mediterranean marine ecosystem.

Dr Rodriguez added: “It seems incredible that we could have lost and then forgotten two large whale species in a region as well-studied as the Mediterranean. It makes you wonder what else we have forgotten.”

Forgotten Mediterranean calving grounds of gray and North Atlantic right whales: evidence from Roman archaeological records is published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B.

The study was an international collaboration between scientists at the universities of York, Montpellier (France), Cadiz (Spain), Oviedo (Spain) and the Centre for Fishery Studies in Asturias, Spain.

Roman graves discovery in the Netherlands


This video from the Netherlands says about itself (translated):

Unique find: complete Roman grave field discovered

8 March 2018

In preparation for the extension of the A15 motorway from Ressen junction to the A12, the Dutch public works authority conducted archaeological research. During this research, they found in Bemmel a complete Roman grave field from the second and third centuries AD. It was excavated.

In total, the archaeologists have discovered 48 graves. There also found many luxurious grave gifts in the graveyard, such as crockery, tableware and personal belongings like mirrors, hair needles and a perfume bottle.

Read more here.

Roman gladiators’ graveyard found in England?


This video says about itself:

1 December 2017

There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that a mass grave discovered in the north of England is a gladiator cemetery. But the most compelling clue is an identical site in Turkey, almost 2,000 miles away.

Roman empire religion, archaeological discoveries


This video from the ancient city Doliche in Turkey says about itself:

Some impressions of the field research on the Dülük Baba Tepesi during the excavation campaign 2013 conducted by the Forschungsstelle Asia Minor.

From the Religion and Politics — Cluster of Excellence at WWU Münster in Germany:

More than 1,000 ancient sealings discovered

December 7, 2017

Classical scholars from the Cluster of Excellence “Religion and Politics” of the University of Münster discovered a large number of sealings in south-east Turkey. “This unique group of artefacts comprising more than 1,000 pieces from the municipal archive of the ancient city of Doliche gives many insights into the local Graeco-Roman pantheon — from Zeus to Hera to Iuppiter Dolichenus, who turned into one of the most important Roman deities from this site,” classical scholar and excavation director Prof. Dr. Engelbert Winter from the Cluster of Excellence explains at the end of the excavation season. “The fact that administrative authorities sealed hundreds of documents with the images of gods shows how strongly religious beliefs shaped everyday life. The cult of Iuppiter Dolichenus did not only take place in the nearby central temple, but also left its mark on urban life,” says Prof Winter. “It also becomes apparent how strongly Iuppiter Dolichenus, originally worshipped at this location, was connected with the entire Roman Empire in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD: many of the images show the god shaking hands with various Roman emperors.”

The excavation team has been exploring the temple of the soldier god Iuppiter Dolichenus for 17 years. This year, the team focussed on the urban area. “Under a mosaic dated to 400 AD within a complex of buildings, we were able to uncover an even older mosaic floor of equally high quality,” Prof. Winter explains. “According to the present findings, there is much evidence of a late antique church. This could turn out to be an important contribution to understanding the history of early Christianity in this region.” The excavations in the three-local aisled building complex began in 2015. Up to the present, 150 square metres of the large central nave bordered by columns have been uncovered. Engelbert Winter: “Apart from the architecture, small finds from the surrounding area also point to the existence of a church, such as the fragments of a marble table or the mentioning of a deacon attested by an inscription.”

“City centre discovered”

The researchers have now also discovered the public centre of the city of Doliche, which they had first located in the eastern part of the city by geophysical prospecting. “This assumption has been confirmed,” the excavation director explains. “We were able to uncover parts of a very large building: it is a public bath from the Roman Iron Age with well-preserved mosaics. Since hardly any Roman thermal baths are known so far in the region, this discovery is of great academic importance.” The research team from Münster also gained new insights to the extension of the urban area and the chronology of the city: an intensive survey carried out this year on the settlement hill of the ancient city, Keber Tepe, led to quite surprising results. “A large number of finds from the Stone Age indicate that Keber Tepe was obviously an extremely important place very early on. Doliche reached its greatest extent later, in the Roman and early Byzantine periods.”

Excavation director Winter says about the large number of discovered sealings: “Many sealings can be attributed to the administrative or official seals of the city due to their size, frequent occurrence, and in some cases also due to inscriptions. In addition to the images of the ‘city goddess’ Tyche, the depictions of Augustus and Dea Roma deserve special attention, since they point to the important role of the Roman emperor and the personified goddess of the Roman state for the town of Doliche, which lies on the eastern border of the Roman Empire. However, the central motif is the most important god of the city, Iuppiter Dolichenus. In the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD, his cult spread into large parts of the Mediterranean world, extending as far as Britain,” explains Prof. Winter. Therefore, it is not surprising that hundreds of documents were sealed with images showing a handshake between this deity and an emperor. “It was a sign of the god’s affinity to the Roman state.”

The images also provide insights into the cult itself. In addition to sealings showing busts of Iuppiter and his wife Iuno, there are depictions of the divine twins Castor and Pollux, the sons of Zeus. “The sons of Zeus, also known as Dioscuri or Castores Dolicheni, are often portrayed as companions of Iuppiter and therefore play an important role in the cult,” Prof. Winter explains.

Archaeological park for tourists

Under the supervision of Prof. Winter from the Cluster of Excellence “Religion and Politics,” the Asia Minor Research Centre of the University of Münster has been excavating the main temple of Iuppiter Dolichenus with the support of the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG) since 2001. Each year, the international group of archaeologists, historians, architects, restorers, archaeozoologists, GIS analysts and excavation assistants have uncovered finds from all periods of the 2,000-year history of the place of worship. Among them were the massive foundations of the first Iron Age sanctuary, numerous monumental architectural fragments of the Roman main temple, but also the extensive ruins of an important Byzantine monastery which was built by followers of the Christian faith after the fall of the ancient sanctuary. In order to make the excavation site near the ancient town of Doliche accessible to a broad public, an archaeological park is being developed. Prof. Winter’s research project at the Cluster of Excellence “Religion and Politics” is closely connected with the excavation. It is titled “Syriac Cults in the Western Imperium Romanum.”

Ancient Roman houses and Greek rock partridge


Glassware, 26 August 2017

On 26 August 2017, we went to the Casa Romana exhibition in the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden, the Netherlands. This photo shows glassware at the exhibition. Like the other photo in this blog post, it is a cell phone photo.

The exhibition is until 17 September. The museum writes about it:

Casa Romana provides a surprising introduction to the rich life of the residents of a fashionable Roman town villa. Visitors can look around the villa’s sumptuous interior, following the Romans’ everyday life from morning rituals to bedroom secrets. Countless objects from the museum collection have been incorporated into the rooms furnished for this exhibition, such as a dinner service, glassware, oil lamps, and portrait busts.

Mix of archaeology and modern design

In Casa Romana we see a blend of ancient archaeology and modern design by Studio Job, Tjep., and the garden architect Piet Oudolf, among others, as well as work by artists including Ruud van Empel, Gerd Rohling, Olivier van Herpt, and Teun van Staveren. There is also plenty to delight devotees of architecture. In total, over eight hundred objects are on display: dinner services, delicate glassware, mosaics, marble portrait busts and architectural fragments, jewellery, a silver table leg, roof tiles, children’s toys, and hundreds of small Roman oil lamps.

Interior of a Roman villa

The exhibition shows a sequence of twelve scenes from the private life of a couple from the highest echelons of Roman society and their family. You can follow their fascinating story in an audio tour, written by Brenda Meuleman, the author of the recent novel Het verraad van Julia (‘Julia’s betrayal’). The interiors that go with each stage of the story fully capture the lavishness of Roman villas, with their colourful frescoes and mosaic floors. They were composed using frescoes, film images, and art based on Roman antiquity.

Objects: a mix of items from the museum’s own collection and loans from elsewhere

Most of the Roman objects come from the National Museum of Antiquities’ own collection. They are joined by loans from numerous designers, artists, and antiquarians, as well as from the Royal Collections (The Hague), Museum Boijmans van Beuningen (Rotterdam), the Kröller-Müller Museum (Otterlo), and the Allard Pierson Museum (Amsterdam). The guest curators of this exhibition are the archaeologist and independent researcher Dr Gemma Jansen and Professor Eric M. Moormann and Dr Stephan T.A.M. Mols (the latter both of Radboud University, Nijmegen).

As we were in the museum anyway, we had a look at ancient Greek sculpture.

Rock partidge, 26 August 2017

Including this oil flask in the shape of a rock partridge, from Corinth, about 500-480 BCE.