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      Remember that ancient Roman “dildo”? It might just be an old Roman drop spindle

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Wednesday, 8 March, 2023 - 19:40 · 1 minute

    The phallus-shaped object

    Enlarge / This phallus-shaped object went viral last month, but it might not be an ancient Roman dildo after all. (credit: Vindolanda Trust)

    Odds are good you read at least one of the umpteen media stories last month about a possible 2,000-year-old "dildo" unearthed near the remains of a Roman auxiliary fort in the UK called Vindolanda. Well, it's either a dildo; a pestle used for grinding cooking, cosmetic, or medicinal ingredients; or something meant to be inserted into a statue and rubbed for good fortune (a common Roman practice). That's what the authors of a February paper in Antiquity concluded, anyway. But now we have another possible explanation to consider: The phallus-shaped artifact might be a drop spindle used for spinning yarn.

    As we've reported previously , the Vindolanda site is located south of the defense fortification known as Hadrian's Wall . An antiquarian named William Camden recorded the existence of the ruins in a 1586 treatise. Over the next 200 years, many people visited the site, discovering a military bathhouse in 1702 and an altar in 1715. The Rev. Anthony Hedley began excavating the site in 1814, but he died before he could record what he found for posterity. Another altar found in 1914 confirmed that the fort had been called Vindolanda.

    Serious archaeological excavation at the site began in the 1930s under the leadership of Eric Birley , whose sons and grandson continued the work after his death, right up to the present day. The oxygen-deprived conditions of the deposits (some of which extend 6 meters, or 19 feet, into the earth) mean that the recovered artifacts are remarkably well-preserved. These include wooden writing tablets and over 100 boxwood combs, which would have disintegrated long ago in more oxygen-rich conditions.

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      Pompeii tomb reveals formerly enslaved man’s rise to wealth and power

      Kiona N. Smith · news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Monday, 30 August, 2021 - 19:00 · 1 minute

    Pompeii tomb reveals formerly enslaved man’s rise to wealth and power

    Enlarge (credit: Pompeii Archaeological Park)

    Archaeologists working in Pompeii recently unearthed the tomb and partially mummified remains of a man who died a few decades before the eruption. The man, Marcus Venerius Secundio, according to his epitaph, had once been enslaved, but by the end of his life he’d obtained enough wealth and status to sponsor four days of theater performances in Pompeii.

    Rags to riches in Imperial Rome

    Archaeologists rediscovered Marcus Venerius Secundio’s tomb in the ancient cemetery, or necropolis, of Porta Sarno in the eastern part of Pompeii, where tourists aren’t allowed. His tomb was large and imposing, with a colorfully painted facade depicting green plants on a blue background; traces of the paint still cling to the stone even after 2,000 years. It was also sealed so well that its occupant’s remains had partially mummified, preserving some soft tissue and a few tufts of white hair, along with some scraps of fabric.

    Because Pompeii is both amazingly well-preserved and extensively studied, archaeologists were able to match the name inscribed over the tomb’s entrance to a name on wax tablets in the house of a banker named Lucius Caecilius Jucundus, across the city from the necropolis. The banker’s tablets recorded Marcus as a “public slave” who worked as a custodian in the Temple of Venus, which once stood at the western end of town (that’s almost certainly where the second part of his name, Venerius, comes from). But at some point he became a libertus, or freedman, and began to build a new life for himself.

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      Mount Vesuvius victims died just moments away from rescue

      Kiona N. Smith · news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Friday, 14 May, 2021 - 16:51 · 1 minute

    armi del soldato

    armi del soldato

    When Mount Vesuvius destroyed the Roman city of Pompeii in 79 CE, the eruption also killed hundreds of people huddled on the shores of nearby Herculaneum. A recent study of the remains of one victim, who died on the beach not far from a small naval vessel, suggests that he might have been a senior naval officer. If so, archaeological director Francesco Sirano and his colleagues suggest, the man may have been a rescue mission leader who arrived just in time to die with the people he was trying to save.

    An untimely rescue

    Pliny the Elder was a Roman naturalist and author who also found time to command the imperial fleet in the port city of Misenum, across the Bay of Naples from Pompeii and Herculaneum. During the height of Mount Vesuvius' eruption, Pliny the Elder sent boats to rescue survivors from the beach at Herculaneum, which lies northwest of Pompeii and almost due west of the volcano. At least 300 people had fled for the shore, only to find themselves trapped between the volcano’s wrath and the sea. Some sought shelter in nearby boat sheds while others gathered on the beach to wait for help.

    They never made it off the beach. A towering plume of material that had blasted skyward from the volcano finally collapsed under its own weight and sent a deadly wave of hot gas and debris, called a pyroclastic flow, flooding down the mountain’s slopes at nearly 100 kilometers per hour (62 miles per hour). Like the pyroclastic flows that struck Pompeii, this one brought instant, searing death .

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      Archaeologists excavate ancient Roman takeout counter at Pompeii

      Kiona N. Smith · news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Monday, 28 December, 2020 - 15:00 · 1 minute

    Archaeologists excavate ancient Roman takeout counter at Pompeii

    Enlarge (credit: Pompeii Archaeological Park/Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism/Luigi Spina/Handout via REUTERS)

    A recently-unearthed termopolium, or “hot drinks counter” served up ancient Roman street food—and plenty of wine—to the people of northeast Pompeii in the days before Mount Vesuvius destroyed the city in a cataclysmic 79 CE eruption. Painted bright yellow and decorated with detailed frescoes, the counter would have been a quick stop for hot, ready-made food and drinks. And the small shop still holds the remains of its proprietor and perhaps one of its last customers.

    Archaeologists found the bones of at least two people in the termopolium. It's difficult to say much about who they were or what they were doing when they died, because looters in the 1600s shoved the skeletons haphazardly out of their way, leaving one scattered around the room and parts of the other stuffed into a large dolium, or serving jar. The scattered set of bones mostly belonged to someone at least 50 years old, who may have been laying in bed when the pyroclastic flow swept through town. Space in the shop is set aside for storing a bed, and archaeologists found nails and wood residue under the scattered remains.

    Ancient fast food

    The termopolium is a surprisingly modern setup—or maybe it’s more accurate to say that modern quick-serve restaurants are based on a surprisingly ancient model. Food was displayed in deep terracotta jars called dolia, set into holes in the top of the counter, just like plastic or metal tubs set into the counter hold ingredients at Subway or Chipotle today. Presumably the jars could be removed and stored at the end of the day. Archaeologists also found ceramic cooking jars, flasks and amphorae for storing wine, and a bronze drinking bowl.

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      Probable Roman shipwrecks unearthed at a Serbian coal mine

      Kiona N. Smith · news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Wednesday, 8 April, 2020 - 19:43 · 1 minute

    Probable Roman shipwrecks unearthed at a Serbian coal mine

    (credit: Uryadovy Courier )

    Coal miners in Serbia recently dug up an unexpected surprise: three probable Roman-era ships, buried in the mud of an ancient riverbed for at least 1,300 years. The largest is a flat-bottomed river vessel 15 meters (49 feet) long, which seems to have been built with Roman techniques. Two smaller boats, each carved out from a single tree trunk, match ancient descriptions of dugout boats used by Slavic groups to row across the Danube River and attack the Roman frontier.

    The Kostolac surface mine lies near the ancient Roman city of Viminacium, once a provincial capital and the base for a squadron of Roman warships on the Danube River. When the Roman Empire ruled most of Southern Europe, the Danube or one of its larger branches flowed across the land now occupied by the mine. The three ships lay atop a 15-meter- (49-foot-) deep layer of gravel, buried under seven meters (23 feet) of silt and clay, which preserved them for centuries in remarkably good condition—or did until the miners' earthmoving equipment dug into the steep slope to excavate for the mine.

    "The [largest] ship was seriously damaged by the mining equipment," archaeologist Miomir Korac, director of the Archaeological Institute and head of the Viminacium Science Project, told Ars in an email. "Approximately 35 percent to 40 percent of the ship was damaged. But the archaeological team collected all the parts, and we should be able to reconstruct it almost in full." With any luck, that reconstruction will help archaeologists understand when the three ships were built and how they came to rest in the riverbed.

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