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A Roman mosaic with fishing scene, found in Hippolytus House in greater Madrid, Spain. Photograph: Alberto Paredes/Alamy Stock Photo

 

Ancient whale bones have been found on three Roman fish processing sites close to the Strait of Gibraltar

original article:

Theguardian.com

Nicola DavisTue 10 Jul 2018 19.01 EDT

Ancient bones found around the Strait of Gibraltar suggest that the Romans might have had a thriving whaling industry, researchers have claimed.

The bones, dating to the first few centuries AD or earlier, belong to grey whales and North Atlantic right whales – coastal migratory species that are no longer found in European waters.

Researchers say this not only suggests these whales might have been common around the entrance to the Mediterranean in Roman times, but that Romans might have hunted them.

They add that Romans would not have had the technology to hunt whale species found in the region today – sperm or fin whales which live further out at sea – meaning evidence of whaling might not have been something archaeologists and historians were looking out for.

“It’s the coastal [species] that makes all the difference,” said Dr Ana Rodrigues, first author of the research from the Functional and Evolutionary Ecology Centre, CEFE, in France.

The right whale was once widespread in the North Atlantic, with breeding grounds off the northern coast of Spain and north west Africa, but was hunted by Medieval Basque whalers among others, and are now only found in the Western North Atlantic. Grey whales disappeared from the North Atlantic some time in the 18th century, and are now only found in the Pacific.

Until the recent discoveries it was unclear whether the whales’ habitat had ever included the Mediterranean: the region is southerly enough for the animals to potentially calve there after feeding in more northerly areas. While there are a handful of historical reports of right whales cropping up in the Mediterranean, the only reliable grey whale sighting in the region was in 2010 and is thought to have been a misguided individual that turned up from the Pacific.

Writing in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Rodrigues and a team of archaeologists and ecologists, describe how they set out to unpick the issue by examining 10 bones – thought to be from whales – collected during recent archaeological digs or housed in museum collections. These bones came from five sites – four around the Strait of Gibraltar and one site on the coast of north-west Spain, three of which were linked to the Roman fish-salting and fish-sauce making industries.

The team combined previous anatomical analysis with new analyses based both on DNA extracted from the bones and their collagen – a protein whose makeup differs between groups of species, and which degrades more slowly than DNA.

While one of the bones was found to be from a dolphin and another from an elephant – possibly a war animal – three were identified as grey whales, and two as North Atlantic right whales with another also suspected of being from this latter species. All were found by carbon-dating as being from either Roman or pre-Roman times – findings backed up by dating based on information from the archaeological sites.

The team say the discovery suggests grey and North Atlantic right whales were common in the waters around the Strait of Gibraltar during Roman times, since whale bones rarely end up in the archaeological record and they are not prized possessions.

This theory is backed up by writings from the time: Pliny the Elder – a fervent naturalist who died down the coast from Pompeii during the volcanic disaster – appears to reference whales calving in the coastal waters off Cadiz in the winter in his Naturalis Historia. And if the whales were present, the team say, it is possible the Romans hunted them.

The team say the location of the bones, and other evidence, suggests whales might even have entered further into the Mediterranean sea itself to calve.

Dr Vicki Szabo, an expert in whaling history from Western Carolina University said the study offered a rare glimpse into the past habitats of the whales, and backed up ideas that industrial hunting might have happened far earlier than widely thought, although its scale is unclear. “Whales are considered archaeologically invisible because so few bones are transported from shore to site, so I think in that context this concentration of species that they have is meaningful,” she said.

Mark Robinson, professor of environmental archaeology at the University of Oxford, said there have been suggestions for a decade that some Roman sites with fish vats in the region might have been linked to whaling. “The Greek author Oppian, writing in the 2nd century AD, describes whales being hunted in the Western Mediterranean by harpooning them on the surface, also using tridents and axes to kill them, lashing them to a boats and then dragging them to the shore.”

However Dr Erica Rowan, a classical archaeologist at Royal Holloway, University of London, said while the study suggests the habitats of the whales probably extended to include the Gibraltar region, how common the whales were and whether the Romans industrially hunted them as they did fish such as tuna remains unclear – not least because the study included just a handful of bones from a period spanning several hundred years.

“I think that if these whales were present in such numbers and were being caught on an industrial scale that we would have more evidence, perhaps not in the zoo archaeological record but in the ceramic record and in the literary sources,” she said. “The Romans ate and talked about an enormous variety of fish and seafood, and if whale was widely exploited and exported, then it is strangely absent from many discussions.”

But Rodrigues is more hopeful about what the discovery tells us. “I think [this study] can change our perspective of the Roman economy,” she said.

 

 

 

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CHEMICAL ANALYSIS CONDUCTED ON ANCIENT POTTERY PROVES OLIVE OIL EXISTED IN ITALY 700 YEARS SOONER THAN WHAT’S PREVIOUSLY BEEN RECORDED.

Chemical analysis conducted on ancient pottery discovered from the Early Bronze Age proves Italians started using olive oil 700 years sooner than what’s previously been recorded.

Source: Italy’s oldest olive oil discovered in peculiar pot

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Researchers pack the shaft at Augusta Raurica with snow. File photo: Peter-Andrew Schwarz

 

Original article:

Thelocal.ch

 

 

Archaeologists near the Swiss city of Basel are trying to definitively establish if mysterious shafts discovered at Switzerland’s extensive Augusta Raurica site in 2013 could have been ancient refrigerators.

The Romans used shafts like the four-metre deep examples at Augusta Raurica – some 20 kilometres from Basel – as cool stores during summer.

The shafts were filled with snow and ice during winter and then covered with straw to keep the space cool well into the summer months. This then allowed for everything from cheese to wine – and even oysters – to be preserved during warm weather.

Now a team lead by Peter-Andrew Schwarz from the University of Basel is attempting, for the third time, to demonstrate that the Augusta Raurica shafts were indeed used as fridges, Swiss news agency SDA/ATS reports.

A first attempt to recreate the ancient cool box failed after archaeologists at the dig filed the shaft with snow all in one go. But that experiment showed temperatures in the shaft were above freezing point even in winter.

The second try was more successful: the shaft was gradually filled with snow and ice blocks were placed inside as well. Using these methods, snow remained until June.

Now, however, researchers plan to use methods developed by the so-called ‘nevaters’ or ice-makers on the Spanish island of Majorca. This will see Schwarz and his team placing 20–30-centimetre-thick layers of snow into the shaft. These individual layers will then be compacted down with a straw cover placed on top of each one.

“With this method, people in Majorca could keep food cool in summer before the arrival of electric fridges,” Schwarz told regional daily Basler Zeitung in 2017.

Work at the site of the ‘fridge’ will continue until Friday with the dig open to the public.

The experiment won’t prove that the mysterious shaft was actually a Roman fridge but will show that this is possible, Schwarz told the SDA/ATS news agency.

A final evaluation will be made in August.

 

 

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Original article:

Popular archaeology

 

 

Chemical analysis on these storage jars mark the earliest discovery of wine residue in the entire prehistory of the Italian peninsula. Credit: Dr. Davide Tanasi, University of South Florid

 

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA (USF HEALTH)—Chemical analysis conducted on ancient pottery could dramatically predate the commencement of winemaking in Italy. A large storage jar from the Copper Age (early 4th millennium BC) tests positive for wine.
This finding published in Microchemical Journal is significant as it’s the earliest discovery of wine residue in the entire prehistory of the Italian peninsula. Traditionally, it’s been believed wine growing and wine production developed in Italy in the Middle Bronze Age (1300-1100 B.C.) as attested just by the retrieval of seeds, providing a new perspective on the economy of that ancient society

Lead author Davide Tanasi, PhD, University of South Florida in Tampa conducted chemical analysis of residue on unglazed pottery found at the Copper Age site of Monte Kronio in Agrigento, located off the southwest coast of Sicily. He and his team determined the residue contains tartaric acid and its sodium salt, which occur naturally in grapes and in the winemaking process.
It’s very rare to determine the composition of such residue as it requires the ancient pottery to be excavated intact. The study’s authors are now trying to determine whether the wine was red or white.
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Roman baths at Caracalla

Pbs.org
By Carla RaimerPosted 11.01.00NOVA
What foods did Romans feast upon 2,000 years ago? To get a flavor, peruse these ancient recipes, most of which come from the Roman chef Apicius. We also include modern interpretations of these recipes from two books: A Taste of Ancient Rome by Ilaria Gozzini Giacosa and The Classical Cookbook by Andrew Dalby and Sally Grainger. Imagine yourself spending a luxurious day at a Roman bath, and as the Romans today say, buon appetito.

MULSUM (HONEYED WINE)
Romans were not averse to drinking alcohol, a habit they carried into the public baths. The Roman philosopher Seneca and the Roman scholar Pliny the Elder both opposed drinking at the baths. The poet Martial complains about one sloppy bather who “doesn’t know how to go home from the baths sober.” The sweet Roman drink mulsum, a mixture of wine and honey, is one of the mixtures that might have contributed to this particular man’s drunken evenings.
Modern Recipe: Mulsum
Warm 1/2 cup clear honey and add it to a bottle of medium-dry white wine. Chill before serving.
LUCANIAN SAUSAGES
This sausage was brought back to Rome by soldiers who had served in Lucania, located in the heel of southern Italy, probably around 200 B.C. Peppery, spicy, smoked sausages are still made in many parts of the world, from Palestine to Brazil, under names that can be traced back to Lucania. In Brazil, for example, these types of sausage are today called linguica.
Ancient Roman Lucanian Sausage Recipe
Pepper is ground with cumin, savory, rue, parsley, condiments, bay berries, and garum. Finely ground meat is mixed in, then ground again together with the other ground ingredients. Mix with garum, peppercorns, and plenty of fat, and pine nuts; fill a casing stretched extremely thin, and thus it is hung in smoke.
Modern Lucanian Sausage Recipe (serves six)
1 pound belly pork, minced
2 tablespoons pine kernels
20 black peppercorns
1 teaspoon chopped fresh or dried rue
2 teaspoons dried savory
1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
30 bayberries (if available)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons fish sauce
sausage skins
Combine all the filling ingredients and mix well. Use a food processor if available.
If you have fresh sausage skins, they will be preserved in salt and need to be washed.
You will need about six 12-inch lengths. Tie a knot in the end of each one.
Put a 1/2 inch plain tube in a piping bag and 1/2 fill with the mixture; do not put too much in at one time or it will be difficult to squeeze. Take the open end of the skin, pull it over the tube and push down repeatedly until the majority of the skin sits like a collar half way down the tube. Grip this with your finger and thumb and slowly release the skin as you squeeze the bag. Stop squeezing well before the skin runs out, leaving 2-3 inches of skin to allow for shrinkage. It will take some practice before you get this procedure right.
When you have used up all the meat, twist each length of sausage into 4 even or similar segments.
If you are able to smoke the sausages, drape them over a coat hanger or similar item and suspend in smoke. You can still give them a smoky flavor before grilling them. If you have an open fireplace, suspend them from the mantelpiece for a few hours while you burn wood. You can use your barbecue: Sprinkle wood chips over the coals and suspend the sausage at least 12 inches above the fire for an hour or so. Otherwise, cut them into individual sausages and grill them under a medium heat.
BOILED EGGS WITH PINE NUT SAUCE
Perhaps the most popular of all the Roman appetizers was the egg. In fact, the ancient Latin saying ab ovo usque ad malum literally means “from the egg to the fruit,” which translates loosely as “the beginning of the meal to the end.” In this recipe, the egg is adorned with lovely pine nut sauce.
Ancient Roman Egg Recipe
For medium-boiled eggs: Pepper, lovage, and soaked pine nuts. Pour on honey and vinegar; mix with garum fish sauce.
Modern Egg Recipe
4 medium-boiled eggs
2 ounces pine nuts
3 tablespoons vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
Pinch each of pepper and lovage (or celery leaf)
Soak the pine nuts 3-4 hours beforehand in the vinegar.
Mix all the sauce ingredients thoroughly in a blender. This exquisite sauce should be presented in a sauce boat so that each person can serve himself or herself, since the eggs cannot be sliced and placed on a dish in advance.
GARUM FISH SAUCE
As they are with modern Romans, sauces and marinades were an essential element in ancient Roman cuisine. One of the most popular was garum, a salty, aromatic, fish-based sauce. Like so many other Roman treasures, it was borrowed from the ancient Greeks. Apicius used it in all his recipes, and the poet Martial wrote of it: “Accept this exquisite garum, a precious gift made with the first blood spilled from a living mackerel.”
We won’t recommend you try the ancient version (see below). Instead, try the easier modern recipe.
Ancient Garum Recipe
Use fatty fish, for example, sardines, and a well-sealed (pitched) container with a 26-35 quart capacity. Add dried, aromatic herbs possessing a strong flavor, such as dill, coriander, fennel, celery, mint, oregano, and others, making a layer on the bottom of the container; then put down a layer of fish (if small, leave them whole, if large, use pieces) and over this, add a layer of salt two fingers high. Repeat these layers until the container is filled. Let it rest for seven days in the sun. Then mix the sauce daily for 20 days. After that, it becomes a liquid.
Modern Garum Recipe
Cook a quart of grape juice, reducing it to one-tenth its original volume. Dilute two tablespoons of anchovy paste in the concentrated juice and mix in a pinch of oregano.
SEASONED MUSSELS
With an empire that spanned both sides of the the Mediterranean Sea, Romans often feasted on seafood. Romans might salt, smoke, or pickle their fish, or even preserve it with honey. This recipe for seasoned mussels, though, calls for just a simple cooking before they are eaten.
Ancient Roman Seasoned Mussels Recipe
For mussels: Garum, chopped leek, cumin, passum, savory, and wine. Dilute this mixture with water and cook the mussels in it.
Modern Seasoned Mussels Recipe (serves 4)
40-50 mussels
2 tablespoons garum fish sauce
1/2 cup wine
1/2 cup passum (a modern version of this raisin wine is the Italian dessert wine Vin Santo)
1 leek, chopped
1 handful of fresh cumin and savory, minced

Wash the mussels thoroughly to remove the sand, then boil them in sufficient water to cover, along with the remaining ingredients.
PEAR PATINA
The Romans referred to their dessert course as mensa secunda, or “second meal.” They satisfied their fondness for sweets with desserts such as fruitcakes, pudding, sweet egg-based dishes, and sweet cheeses—and in this case, a delicious pear patina.
Ancient Roman Pear Patina Recipe
A pear patina: Grind boiled and cored pears with pepper, cumin, honey, passum, garum, and a bit of oil. When the eggs have been added, make a patina, sprinkle pepper over, and serve.
Modern Pear Patina Recipe (serves 4)
4 pears
water or white wine (to cook the pears)
1 tablespoon honey
pinch each pepper and cumin
1/2 cup passum (a modern version of this raisin wine is the Italian dessert wine Vin Santo)
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk (optional)
1 tablespoon olive oil

Poach the whole pears in water or white wine. When they are done, peel and core them, then crush them into a puree, mixing in the honey, pepper, cumin and passum. Beat the eggs, adding the milk if desired. Then blend this into the pear mixture with the olive oil. Pour into a casserole and bake for around 20 minutes at 350° F.
LIBUM (SWEET CHEESECAKE)
Libum was a sacrificial cake sometimes offered to household spirits during Rome’s early history. The recipe below comes from the Roman consul Cato’s agricultural writings, which included simple recipes for farmers. Libum, sometimes served hot, is a cheesecake he included.
Ancient Roman Libum Recipe
Libum to be made as follows: 2 pounds cheese well crushed in a mortar; when it is well crushed, add in 1 pound bread-wheat flour or, if you want it to be lighter, just 1/2 a pound, to be mixed with the cheese. Add one egg and mix all together well. Make a loaf of this, with the leaves under it, and cook slowly in a hot fire under a brick.
Modern Roman Libum Recipe (serves 4)
1 cup plain, all purpose flour
8 ounces ricotta cheese
1 egg, beaten
bay leaves
1/2 cup clear honey

Sift the flour into a bowl. Beat the cheese until it’s soft and stir it into the flour along with the egg. Form a soft dough and divide into 4. Mold each one into a bun and place them on a greased baking tray with a fresh bay leaf underneath. Heat the oven to 425° F. Cover the cakes with your brick* and bake for 35-40 minutes until golden-brown. Warm the honey and place the warm cakes in it so that they absorb it. Allow to stand 30 minutes before serving.
*The Romans often covered their food while it was cooking with a domed earthenware cover called a testo. You can use an overturned, shallow clay pot, a metal bowl, or casserole dish as a brick.

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Source: Ancient Concession Stands and Shops Found at Roman Gladiator Arena

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Researchers comb over the ancient Roman containers called amphorae. (Photo: Credit: Laure Marest-Caffey)

Researchers comb over the ancient Roman containers called amphorae. (Photo: Credit: Laure Marest-Caffey)

 

Original Article:

usatoday.com

When workers began digging out the Roman cities torched by Mount Vesuvius, the exquisite wall paintings, sumptuous villas and golden jewelry they found quickly grabbed the spotlight. But archaeologists are now looking to a less glamorous feature of these cities: the garbage.

Over the last few years, a team of researchers has taken a systematic look at street trash, buckets and even storage containers from Pompeii and other ruins to understand the relationship between ordinary Romans and their stuff. The extraordinary preservation of objects by volcanic debris allows for extraordinary insights into humdrum possessions, the researchers say.

“We’re actually starting to see evidence of people’s choices and how they dealt with their objects,” says Caroline Cheung, a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, involved in the project. “We get a sense of how people were using them, how they were storing them, whether they were throwing them away or keeping them.”

Modest farmhouses and swanky country houses alike were entombed by the 79 AD eruption of Vesuvius, which killed an untold number of the 20,000-plus people living in Pompeii and the surrounding area. But the deadly volcanic flows also preserved artifacts with unprecedented fidelity.

The humble objects left behind show that people didn’t necessarily go easy on their possessions, even though the articles of everyday life were often purchased rather than homemade.

Take the objects discovered at a farmhouse near Pompeii, where the cooking range was so heaped with ashes that it’s clear “they just basically didn’t take out the garbage,” says Theodore Peña of the University of California, Berkeley. “Like frat boys.” Peña leads the project, which is taking a close look at artifacts found during previous excavations.

In a storeroom of the kitchen, shelves held gear that “had the hell beaten out of it,” Peña says. There was a bronze bucket full of dents, perhaps where it had banged into the side of the well just outside the farmhouse. There were pots with bits of the rims broken off and a casserole so badly cracked that it was close to falling apart, but people had kept them to use again.

At a complex near Pompeii that seems to have been a wine-bottling facility, there were more than 1,000 amphorae, ceramic vessels that were the shipping containers of their day. Many were patched and waiting to be refilled, presumably with wine, Peña says.

When the researchers delved into street rubbish, they expected to find lots of broken glass, used for perfume bottles and other common items. Instead they found almost none, a sign that even shards of glass were being collected and made into something else.

It’s too early to say whether the people of Pompeii were thrifty adherents of recycling. But the indications so far are that “ceramics and other types of objects were being reused, repurposed or at least repaired,” Cheung says, in contrast to today’s “throwaway society. … If I break a cheap mug, I probably throw it away. I don’t even think about repairing it.”

The research is “very exciting,” says archaeologist Leigh Anne Lieberman, a graduate student at Princeton University who also studies items from the region but was not involved with Peña’s research. The analysis, she says, “allows us to ask questions we didn’t even know we had.”

The analysis also summons the long-gone Romans who once held the same items now being scrutinized nearly 2,000 years later. “Sometimes you look at a pot or lamp and see fingerprints of the person who made the object,” Cheung says. “That’s a tangible piece of the past that connects you to antiquity.”

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