Category Archives: Ancient Rome

New Research Suggests Carthage Baby Cemetery Not for Sacrificial Victims

One of the infamous characteristics of Ancient Carthage was, according to their Roman enemies, their prolific practice of child sacrifice. Many ancient historians mention the practice, the most colorful by Diodorus Siculus

Denis Jarvis; burial ground of Tophet

“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.

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Oldest Roman Military Encampment Uncovered in Germany

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’s Gallic 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.

Six Sites for Primary Source Materials

It is officially August and most educators are beginning to feel the pressure that is the beginning of school. As we start to look at rosters and enrollment, we start to pull out and revamp old lesson plans and search for new material. As a History Teacher (with a background in archaeology) I understand the relevance and importance of primary sources in the classroom. Primary sources are not solely essays or primary works, but art, photographs, and other avenues of popular culture.

Finding primary source documents on the web can sometimes be a bit of a scavenger hunt. I know that I have spent hours scouring the web for good translations, excerpted texts, or relevant materials. Additionally, incorporating primary source texts can be a challenge with high school children. My youngest kids are ninth graders and often, when I distribute an original text, it is the first time they have seen a document of this type. Additionally, as much as we educators do not like to admit, sometimes it is a challenge for us to come up with ideas and activities to effectively incorporate this material into our classrooms. How do we make this interesting? How do we make this comprehensible? How do we make this relevant? Bringing in an original work and simply tossing it into a classroom environment is a sure-fire method for failure – students will often be confused, bored, and overwhelmed. Teaching with primary sources requires preparation and method.

In this article, I am focusing on six websites that focus on providing primary sources for educators and students. These sites are all excellent resources for educators in the Social Studies with a broad range of topics: American History, World History, World Religions, Language, Literature, Art, and Politics. There are many more amazing resources out there and I encourage you to add yours as well! So, here are my favorite five (presented in no particular order):

1. Milestone Documents  (Subscribe to their Facebook and Twitter feeds (all free) for regular highlights of documents in their catalogue as well as lesson plan ideas.)

  • Cost: $106.20 for an annual subscription
  • Grades: High School and College  (the material is too sophisticated for elementary and middle school).
  • Subject(s): History
  • Geographic Focus: Milestone focuses heavily on American History, but includes a solid library of texts for all of World History (Ancient, Western, African, and Asian).
  • Additional Subject Focus: In addition to organizing the material by date and region, Milestone has sections of Social History including politics (heavily focused on American political history), religion, and women.
  • Material Types: Text-based documents
  • Navigation: The content area is easy to navigate and great for “browsing.” The search feature is excellent for when you know exactly what you need.
  • Teacher Resources: lesson plans, rubrics, and assessment material.
  • Web 2.0 Focus: Many of the lesson plans incorporate Web 2.0 elements – Google Maps, Mind Mapping, etc.

What sets Milestone apart from the free resources listed below is that each document is predicated with a succinct contextual/historical statement. Students and educators are provided with a solid background for the text. Most works are also followed up with a critical analysis essay as well as provocative questions. Milestone is an excellent investment for teachers and students alike.

2. EDSITEment – Sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities,

  • Cost: Free
  • Grades: K-12
  • Subject(s): Art & Culture, Foreign Language, History & Social Studies, as well as Literature & Language Arts.
  • Geographic Focus: World
  • Additional Subjects: Current event topics, social history, politics, religion, popular culture, and more. There are many sub-categories that merit exploration.
  • Material Types: Text-based documents, visual material, maps, etc.
  • Navigation: Easy to browse and explore content areas.
  • Teacher Resources: Educator’s using this resource can readily access a multitude of innovative lesson plans, activities, assessment materials, alignment with Common Core Standards, worksheets, and listings for additional materials and resources.
  • Web 2.0: Many lesson plans incorporate Web 2.0 elements

3. Smithsonian Education – Sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution

  • Cost: Free
  • Grades: K-12
  • Subject(s): Art & Design, Science & Technology, History & Culture, Language Arts
  • Geographic Focus: World (US History most thorough)
  • Additional Subjects: Current event topics, social history, art history
  • Material Types: Text-based documents, visual material, audio recordings, maps, etc.
  • Navigation: Easy to browse and explore content areas.
  • Teacher Resources: Educator’s using this resource can readily access a multitude of innovative lesson plans, activities, assessment materials, alignment with Common Core Standards, worksheets, and listings for additional materials and resources.
  • Web 2.0: Many lesson plans incorporate Web 2.0 elements

4. Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

  • Cost: Free for Educators and Students (private citizens pay per use), must register for access to materials. Gilder Lehrman encourages schools to register as Affiliated Schools (numerous benefits and access to more resources)
  • Grades: K-12, College, Graduate
  • Subjects: American History
  • Geographic Focus: The United States of America
  • Additional Subjects: Social History, Politics, Civil Rights
  • Material Types: Text-based documents, visual material, audio recordings, maps, video, interviews, etc.
  • Navigation: Easy to browse and explore content
  • Teacher Resources: some lesson plans and ideas, collaborative weblog, sponsored Teacher Seminars
  • Web 2.0: very little web 2.0 focus.

5. The Library of Congress

  • Cost: Free
  • Grades: K-12, College, Graduate
  • Subjects: History
  • Geographic Focus: Heavily focused on the Americas (national and regional histories), limited resources for World History
  • Additional Subjects: Folklore, local histories, veteran history, literature
  • Material Types: Text-based documents, visual material, audio recordings, maps, video, interviews, etc.
  • Navigation: Tricky to browse and search, requires adaptability
  • Teacher Resources: Some sections have extensive teachers resources in the form of lesson plans and activities, others are more spartan in their construct. LOC offers grants for professional development.
  • Web 2.0: Some sections readily incorporate web 2.0 activities, others are more limited and traditional.

6. Perseus Digital Library – Sponsored by Tufts University

  • Cost: Free
  • Grades: 9-12, College, Graduate
  • Subject: History, Art History, Archaeology
  • Geographic Focus: Heavily focused on Greco-Roman (founded as a Classical Library it contains all Latin & Greek works), Arabic, Germanic, 19th century America, Renaissance Europe, Egyptian Papyri
  • Additional Subjects: Humanism, Literature
  • Material Types: Text-based documents, visual material; the Art & Archaeology Artifact Browser provides High Definition images of thousands of artifacts.
  • Navigation: Tricky to browse, excellent search capabilities. This is an fabulous tool so long as you know what you are looking for.
  • Teacher Resources: No lesson plans or activities, purely material resources.
  • Web 2.0: No web 2.0 incorporation.

As you can see, there are numerous and extensive resources readily available to educators. The six that I highlighted are a good start, but hardly an all encompassing list. If you have suggestions or additions, please add them here! In the meantime, get browsing for some great material and lesson plan ideas!

A Don’s Life: A closer look at the Tyrant Slayers

This month, Mary Beard focused her blog (A Don’s Life) on the Tyrant slayers, Harmodius and Aristogeiton. The two Tyrannicides (τυραννοκτόνοι) gained popularity and fame in Ancient Athens for slaying the Peisistratan Tyrant Hipparchus. His brother Hippias would flee to Persia, attempting to drum up support to return to rule from the Achaemenid rulers of the Persian Dynasty. This event was the first in a series that would lead to the Persian invasion of Greece.

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“).

Engineers & Archaeologists Pair up to Examine Roman Coins

Computer Rendered hoard, ©Science Daily

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.

Ancient Warship Sheds New Light on Roman Navy

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.

Great Resource on Greek Mythology: Theoi

Theoi.com is a great, free online resource for Greek mythology in literature and art. Theoi (the plural of the Greek Theos, meaning God) categorizes all Greek deities, stories, art galleries, and classical texts. If you have a passing interest or doing research, it’s a great resource!