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Note: A reader brought this article to my attention, and although ” the oldest wine” belongs to my previous post this is an incredible find. 

I just discovered I posted an article about this discovery last October, but this gives more detail.

JLP

 

A view of Monte Kronio today. Gianni Polizzi, 2018, CC BY-ND

 

the conversation.com

By Davide Tanasi

Monte Kronio rises 1,300 feet above the geothermally active landscape of southwestern Sicily. Hidden in its bowels is a labyrinthine system of caves, filled with hot sulfuric vapors. At lower levels, these caves average 99 degrees Fahrenheit and 100 percent humidity. Human sweat cannot evaporate and heat stroke can result in less than 20 minutes of exposure to these underground conditions.
Nonetheless, people have been visiting the caves of Monte Kronio since as far back as 8,000 years ago. They’ve left behind vessels from the Copper Age (early sixth to early third millennium B.C.) as well as various sizes of ceramic storage jars, jugs and basins. In the deepest cavities of the mountain these artifacts sometimes lie with human skeletons.

Archaeologists debate what unknown religious practices these artifacts might be evidence of. Did worshipers sacrifice their lives bringing offerings to placate a mysterious deity who puffed gasses inside Monte Kronio? Or did these people bury high-ranking individuals in that special place, close to what was probably considered a source of magical power?
One of the most puzzling of questions around this prehistoric site has been what those vessels contained. What substance was so precious it might mollify a deity or properly accompany dead chiefs and warriors on their trip to the underworld?
Using tiny samples, scraped from these ancient artifacts, my recent analysis came up with a surprising answer: wine. And that discovery has big implications for the story archaeologists tell about the people who lived in this time and place.

Analyzing scraping samples:

In November 2012, a team of expert geographers and speleologists ventured once again into the dangerous underground complex of Monte Kronio. They escorted archaeologists from the Superintendence of Agrigento down more than 300 feet to document artifacts and to take samples. The scientists scraped the inner walls of five ceramic vessels, removing about 100 mg (0.0035 ounces) of powder from each.
I led an international team of scholars, which hoped analyzing this dark brown residue could shed some light on what these Copper Age containers from Monte Kronio originally carried. Our plan was to use cutting-edge chemical techniques to characterize the organic residue.
We decided to use three different approaches. Nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR) would be able to tell us the physical and chemical properties of the atoms and molecules present. We turned to scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM/EDX) and the attenuated total reflectance Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (ATR FT-IR) for the elemental analysis – the chemical characterization of the samples.

These analysis methods are destructive: The sample gets used up when we run the tests. Since we had just that precious 100 mg of powder from each vessel, we needed to be extremely careful as we prepared the samples. If we messed up the analysis, we couldn’t just run it all over again.

We found that four of the five Copper Age large storage jars contained an organic residue. Two contained animal fats and another held plant residues, thanks to what we inferred was a semi-liquid kind of stew partially absorbed by the walls of the jars. But the fourth jar held the greatest surprise: pure grape wine from 5,000 years ago.
Presence of wine implies much more
Initially I did not fully grasp the import of such a discovery. It was only when I vetted the scientific literature on alcoholic beverages in prehistory that I realized the Monte Kronio samples represented the oldest wine known so far for Europe and the Mediterranean region. An incredible surprise, considering that the Southern Anatolia and Transcaucasian region were traditionally believed to be the cradle of grape domestication and early viticulture. At the end of 2017, research similar to ours using Neolithic ceramic samples from Georgia pushed back the discovery of trace of pure grape wine even further, to 6,000-5,800 B.C.
This idea of the “oldest wine” conveyed in news headlines captured the public’s attention when we first published our results.
But what the media failed to convey are the tremendous historical implications that such a discovery has for how archaeologists understand Copper Age Sicilian cultures.

From an economic standpoint, the evidence of wine implies that people at this time and place were cultivating grapevines. Viticulture requires specific terrains, climates and irrigation systems. Archaeologists hadn’t, up to this point, included all these agricultural strategies in their theories about settlement patterns in these Copper Age Sicilian communities. It looks like researchers need to more deeply consider ways these people might have transformed the landscapes where they lived.
The discovery of wine from this time period has an even bigger impact on what archaeologists thought we knew about commerce and the trade of goods across the whole Mediterranean at this time. For instance, Sicily completely lacks metal ores. But the discovery of little copper artifacts – things like daggers, chisels and pins had been found at several sites – shows that Sicilians somehow developed metallurgy by the Copper Age.
The traditional explanation has been that Sicily engaged in an embryonic commercial relationship with people in the Aegean, especially with the northwestern regions of the Peloponnese. But that doesn’t really make a lot of sense because the Sicilian communities didn’t have much of anything to offer in exchange for the metals. The lure of wine, though, might have been what brought the Aegeans to Sicily, especially if other settlements hadn’t come this far in viticulture yet.
Ultimately, the discovery of wine remnants near gaseous crevices deep inside Monte Kronio adds more support to the hypothesis that the mountain was a sort of prehistoric sanctuary where purification or oracular practices were carried out, taking advantage of the cleansing and intoxicating features of sulfur.
Wine has been known as a magical substance since its appearances in Homeric tales. As red as blood, it had the unique power to bring euphoria and an altered state of consciousness and perception. Mixed with the incredible physical stress due to the hot and humid environment, it’s easy to imagine the descent into the darkness of Monte Kronio as a transcendent journey toward the gods. The trek likely ended with death for the weak, maybe with the conviction of immortality for the survivors.
And all of this was written in the grains of 100 milligrams of 6,000-year-old powder.

 

 

 

 

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A large Roman  ship that sank full of fish sauce has been discovered of Italy's coast. Photo:Boris Horvat/AFP

A large Roman ship that sank full of fish sauce has been discovered of Italy’s coast. Photo:Boris Horvat/AFP

 

Original Article:

the local.it

December 11, 2015

Archaeologists have discovered an ancient Roman vessel laden with 3000 jars of delicious Roman fish sauce – or garum – on the seabed off the coast of Italy.

 

The find was presented on Thursday by archaeologists, who spent almost two years searching for the 25-meter wreck in the deep blue waters five miles of the coast of Alassio, in the northeastern Liguria region.

“It’s an exceptional find that dates to the first or second century AD,” Dr. Simon Luca Trigona, who led the team, told The Local.

“It’s one of just five ‘deep sea’ Roman vessels ever to be found in the Mediterranean and the first one to be found off the coast of Liguria. We know it was carrying a large cargo of garum when it sank.”

The presence of an ancient vessel on the seabed was signalled to archaeologists in 2012, when local fisherman dredged up fragments of some clay jars that had been part of the vessel’s payload 2000 years ago.

In spite of the presence of a ship being known, locating the actual wreck was the fruit of a painstaking search. The Roman cargo ship was buried at a depth of 200 meters and underwater archaeologists spent two years scouring the seabed before they finally located it in October.

In spite of the mystery that usually surrounds ancient shipwrecks, it is almost certain that the ship was sailing a route between Italy, Spain and Portugal in order to transport a precious cargo of Roman garum. The clue lies in the shape of the clay jars, as the sauce itself has all since seeped into the sea.

“After we filmed the wreck and analyzed an amphora [clay jar] and some fragments that a robotic craft brought back to the surface, we realized the ship was carrying a huge quantity of fish sauce when it sank,” said Trigona

“The amphora are almost all of a certain type, which was used exclusively for garum.”

Garum – a sauce made by fermenting salted fish intestines – was a mainstay of banqueting tables and street food stands across the Roman empire.

The sauce was highly prized for its nutritional qualities and was also a rich source of monosodium glutamate – a compound widely used in the food industry today as a flavour enhancer.

In addition to the fish sauce, archaeologists also identified two types of jar which were only manufactured in the area around the river Tiber in Rome. It is thought they were probably being used to transport some of the area’s excellent regional wines to the Iberian peninsular.

“It’s a nice find because it means we are almost sure about the route this ship was on,” Trugona said.
“She most likely sailed out of Rome along the Tiber and sank a couple of weeks later while making the return journey, weighed down by all that fish sauce.”

For now, no further analysis of the wreck is planned and Trigona called for vigilance in order to protect the sunken cargo from would-be looters.

“At 200 meters nobody will be able to dive it but that won’t stop people trying to pull things up using deep sea fishing nets.”

 

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Hunting Lodge (Casa della Caccia) to the exquisite decorations of the House of Apollo (Casa di Apollo) and vivid reliefs of the Trojan War, Pompeii is seducing visitors this summer with 10 newly restored houses, some of which had never been open to the public before.
of personnel at Pompeii, the ministry of culture has dispatched 30 new keepers for the holiday season, a State exam to select new janitors is in the works, and extended opening hours on Friday mean the public can stroll through the ruins after sundown.
more than 13,000 visitors flocked to Pompeii on the August 15 national religious holiday, bringing proceeds in excess of 114,000 euros, while 122 people decided to explore the city preserved in lava during night visiting hours.
The 10 new houses include the Thermopolium (Latin for restaurant) of Vetutius Placidus, where people could buy cooked food to go. It boasts shrines to Mercury and Dionysus (the gods of commerce and wine, respectively), a dining hall, and an adjoining mansion with a vestibule, a garden, and a dining room.

The Ancient Hunting Lodge (Casa della Caccia Antica) is another must-see at Pompeii. According to experts, it had just undergone renovation when it was buried under meters of ash and pumice in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. An extensive hunting scene is still visible on one of its garden walls, and its interiors are luxuriously decorated with beautiful paintings and marble-like coverings.

Also noteworthy are the Domus Cornelia and its exquisite sculptures, the House of Apollo adorned with images of the god to which it owes its name, and the House of Achilles with its impressive reliefs of the Trojan war.

Source: ANSA [August 19, 2014]

Original article:
Posted by Tann
archaeology newsnetwork

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Thermopolium of Vetutius Placidus [Credit: Vanni Archive/Corbis]

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Topic: golden cup

Archaeologists have dated a rare golden cup uearthed near the town of Montecchio Emilia in Northern Italy to about 1800 B.C., making it one of only three other similar golden cups discovered in Europe and Britain that have intrigued archaeologists and historians for years.

The cup turned up during a survey of a gravel pit located along terraces adjacent to the Enza River. Previous surveys in nearby areas also revealed evidence of dwellings of the late-Neolithic and Bronze Ages (IV-III millennium B.C), terramara cremation urns from the mid-recent Bronze Age (XIV-XII centuries B.C.), and Etruscan graves.

A recent report stated that “It had clearly been lifted up and partially moved by the plough quite some time ago. No structure, tomb or anything else that could be correlated to the original resting place of the cup was found: evidently, it must have been buried in a simple hole in the bare earth. It appears to have been smashed in ancient times, then later partially broken by a plough, which seems to have pulled out a small piece”.

Archaeologists suggest that it might have served as a ritual cup, but the difficulty of its context when found has left archaeologists puzzled about the use, meaning and owners of the vessel. As reported, “No other elements – from strictly the same period as the Montecchio cup – were found in the gravel pit area: it thus must have been hidden away or placed there as a votive offering, although some information from the archives, presently under examination, might be able to link the cup to a finding of 13 gold objects, apparently from the Bronze Age, when a field in Montecchio was ploughed on January 18, 1782: unfortunately, the items were melted down. All that remains are lively descriptions from the period”.

Regarding the three other similar cups found in previous investigations, one was discovered in Fritzdorf, Germany in 1954 (pictured right) and is currently exhibited at the Landesmuseum in Bonn, Germany. The other two are exhibited at the British Museum and were found, respectively, in Rillaton (Cornwall) and Ringlemore (Kent) in the U.K. The U.K. cups differed from the Italian and German cups in that they featured a corrugated external surface. It is thought that there could be a trade system relationship that links the cups. According to Dr. Filippo Maria Gambari, Superintendent of the Archaeological Heritage of Emilia Romagna, “this find ideally links this area of Italy with the henges of the United Kingdom and the area of North Rhine-Westphalia (Germany)”.

Scientists sudying the vessel found in Italy hope that further testing and analysis will provide clues relating to the origin, purpose, and makers, including its possible relationship to the other cups and the trade relationships and systems that existed at the time of its manufacture. Says Gambari, “this research could change the well-established ideas of trade in Bronze Age Europe”.

Original article:
popular archaeology
October26, 2012

Photos courtesy Archaeological Heritage of Emilia Romagna.

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