The British Museum, in conjunction with its exhibit on Pompeii and Herculaneum, has released an iOS App for the iPhone ($2.99) and the iPad ($5.99). The application allows users to explores the cities via interactive maps, view objects in high resolution and contextual detail, an in depth timeline, and the aftermath of the eruption (including the city’s later discovery and excavation). The application draws from archaeological discoveries, the remains at the cite, historical sources (specifically the account of Pliny the Younger).
Right now, the application is limited to iOS devices but an Android version is planned to be released in May 2013.
Pompeii shadowed by Mt. Vesuvius courtesy of Wikimedia
The Roman city of Pompeii was destroyed and buried by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 CE. The preserved city allows archaeologists, historians, and Classicists to examine materials far better preserved than a ‘traditional’ archaeological ruin.
The graffiti on the walls of Pompeii are famous for the content and vulgarity. However, scholars now believe they served another purpose: communication. Perhaps working as an early, non-tech, “social media.” Property owners may have had control over the political messages written on their walls.
“The current view is that any candidate could have chosen any location and have their ad painted on the wall. After looking at the contexts, this would not seem very likely. The facades of the private houses and even the streetwalks in front of them were controlled and maintained by the owner of the house, and in that respect, the idea that the wall space could be appropriated by anyone who wanted to do it seems unlikely.” - Eeva-Maria Viitanen
To learn more about the political ads and their role at the city of Pompeii, see the article posted at Scientific American.
Antikythera Mechanism fragment courtesy of Wikimedia
The famous Roman shipwreck at Antikythera may in fact be the resting place of two wrecked vessels. The underwater site was discovered in the early 1900s and became quickly famous when nautical archaeologists discovered a device they termed the Antikythera Mechanism, a sophisticated device used to calculate astronomical positions.
The breadth of the wreck and vast array of artifacts have led researchers to question whether or not there are actually two ships at the site rather than the assumed one.
The site’s preservation is due to its remote and deep location, which protects it from curious scuba divers and would be looters. However, the attention that has been showered on the site has encouraged documentary film makers and reporters to be more… creative in how they have presented the finds and the site itself. As such, researchers are planning to return to the site to better explore it.
“Because the site has been so intruded upon for more than a century it gets really hard to disambiguate what’s myth and what’s fact,” – Brendan Foley
To learn more about the excavation and proposed return to the Antikythera wreck, see the article at Discovery News.
You could hear the shrieks of women, the wailing of infants, and the shouting of men; some were calling their parents, others their children or their wives, trying to recognize them by their voices. People bewailed their own fate or that of their relatives, and there were some who prayed for death in their terror of dying. Many besought the aid of the gods, but still more imagined there were no gods left, and that the universe was plunged into eternal darkness for evermore.
Today, Scientific America highlights the death of the city and how many historians and archaeologists get the geology wrong. Mary Beard, an expert in Roman History, states that the problem is that historians and archaeologists are “not a volcanologist[s].”
“There was in their city a bronze image of Cronus extending its hands, palms up and sloping toward the ground, so that each of the children when placed thereon rolled down and fell into a sort of gaping pit filled with fire.” Hist20.14.6
New research suggests that the child burials of Carthage may not in fact be evidence of the practice (or at least of it being wide-spread). Rather, they are burial sites for infants and fetuses that died as a result of premature birth. Infant mortality was high in the ancient world (in some cases, 40% of children died before reaching their fifth birthday). The loss of a child during pregnancy or birth was also a common occurrence.
Jeffrey Schwartz, Ph.D. asserts that the majority of burials found here represent children that died of natural causes and not from the horrific murder of infants to the God Ba’al.
To learn more about these findings, read the article at MSNBC or purchase the more extensive Academic Journal Article at Antiquity.
Gaul on the eve of the Gallic Wars. Courtesy of Wikipedia
Archaeologists working in the small German town of Hermeskeil have uncovered what they believe is the oldest Roman Military Encampment in Germany uncovered to date. They believe that the camp was constructed during Julius Caesar’sGallic Wars and may have played a key role in the conquest of Gaul.
Archaeologists confirmed the dating of the site as mid 1st century BCE using shards of pottery and stylized building nails. Its connection to a neighboring village, abandoned in the middle of the 1st century BCE, also collaborates the sites significance in combating local tribes that fought the Roman invasion.
To learn more about the excavations and its findings, see the article on Science Daily.
Mary Beard’s article investigates not only the ill-fated history of the two brothers (who would ultimately end up dead after their incomplete attempt to overthrown the standing regime) as well as the interesting, art-historical timeline of how the men are displayed. They have long been heralded (with much fancy and historical reinvention) as political heroes – democratic leaders, martyrs, and idealistic political savants. Their physical image has been manipulated over the centuries as much as their historical one. To read more about this tale, see the article by Mary Bard: “A Don’s Life: A closer look at the tyrant slayers“).
At the University of Southamptom, archaeologists and engineers have teamed up to study Roman coin hoards in England. The x-ray equipment they are using can produce thousands of 2D images that are capable of building 3D images. These images allow archaeologists to study the coins in high resolution detail:
“The University’s Archaeological Computing Research Group can then take this one step further — producing accurate, high resolution CGI visualisations based on scan data. This gives archaeologists and conservators around the world the opportunity to virtually examine, excavate and ‘clean’ objects.” Dr. Graeme Earl
Scholars hope to publicly publish the artifacts soon, making the data readily available to other academics and the general public. To learn more about this project, see the article in Science Daily.
Archaeologists excavating a 2,300 year old ship, located in the “Bay of Pirates,” are hoping to shed light on naval war tactics during the Punic Wars (the wars between Rome and Carthage). The Romans, who detested the water, are reported to have built their ships with a rostrum, a type of ‘beak’ that was used to ram the enemy.
Carbon dating has placed the sinking of the ship at approximately 260 BCE, during the first Punic War. They shave published their findings in this month’s Analytical Chemistry. If you do not have a subscription to the journal, read the summary at Science Daily.