Thursday, December 31, 2015

2,000-Year-Old Public Laundry in Pompeii, Restored and Opened to the Public for the First Time

Ancient Origin

In Pompeii, the well-preserved Roman city inundated by hot volcanic gas and then covered with ash in 79 AD, experts have renovated and opened to public viewing several buildings, including a public laundry where people once washed their clothing in urine.
The buildings feature colored frescoes on the walls and mosaics on the floors featuring birds, flower vases and other scenes. Some of the buildings were damaged during World War II bombing.
The restoration of the six buildings cost about 105 million euros or about $115 million. The European Union had pledged millions to restore Pompeii, and the Italian government kicked in a lesser amount, but squabbling among bureaucrats and mismanagement meant that just a fraction had been spent by October 2015 with deadlines looming. Restorers began working around the clock to avoid losing the grants.
The United Nations had threatened to remove Pompeii from UNESCO's World Heritage Site status because of mismanagement. But that threat appears to have been rescinded as the Italian government, under archeologist Massimo Osanna, has turned the project around in two years.

Ancient Laundry Facility

The laundry facility, estimated to be about 2,000 years old, had large tubs or baths for cleaning clothes. It also had stone basins for dyeing and a press used to iron clothing. People collected the urine, used to wash tough stains from tunics, from public urinals. The Pompeiians dried their laundry on the roof of the facility by laying their clothes out in the sun.
Pompeii was a flourishing city entombed in volcanic ash. Many people are believed to have escaped the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, but some people and many buildings, including this grand theater, were preserved in ash.
Pompeii was a flourishing city entombed in volcanic ash. Many people are believed to have escaped the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, but some people and many buildings, including this grand theater, were preserved in ash. (Photo by Radomił/Wikimedia Commons)

Luxury Pompeiian Villas

Another building that opened on Christmas Day is the Casa del Criptoportico, a luxury villa with a garden that also was restored. The ancient home features four thermals baths covered in stucco and mosaics of Bushmen. The name Criptoportico comes from the long, covered corridor of the house. It has large windows to allow light into an adjacent sitting room, says an article in the Telegraph.
Four other homes were opened to the public on Christmas: la Casa di Paquius Proculus, la Casa del Sacerdos Amandus, la Casa di Fabius Amandio and la Casa dell’Efebo.

Pompeii, the City Frozen in Time

Pompeii, the city frozen in time by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, had been placed under the protection of the Italian government from degradation by the elements and looters, including possibly the organized-crime group, the Camorra, which Ancient Origins reported earlier this year. Numerous restoration and construction projects are underway.
The restorations of the ancient city were being carried out with a 130 million euro ($143 million) budget that was also used to produce a museum exhibit of plaster casts of some of the bodies of people frozen in their last moments of life. Many artworks, statues, frescos and papyrus scrolls were preserved by the volcanic eruption that inundated the town, which had 2.7 million visitors in 2014.
Pompeii was a flourishing Roman city from the 6th century BC until it became preserved by the layers of ash that spewed out from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Although Pompeii was initially rediscovered at the end of the 16th century, it was only properly excavated in the 18th century.
One of the sexually explicit frescoes that shocked the re-discoverers of Pompeii in the latge 1500s
One of the sexually explicit frescoes that shocked the re-discoverers of Pompeii in the latge 1500s (Photo by Fer.filo/Wikimedia Commons)
Excavators were startled by the sexually explicit frescoes they were unearthing, so they quickly covered them over.
When excavations resumed nearly two centuries later, archaeologists found the city almost entirely intact – loaves of bread still sat in the oven, bodies of men, women, children and pets were found frozen in their last moments, the expressions of surprise and fear still etched on their faces, and the remains of meals remained discarded on the pavement. The discovery meant that researchers could piece together exactly what life was like for the ancient Romans of Pompeii – the food they ate, the jobs they performed and the houses they lived in.
Featured image: The walls of the laundry and other buildings were damaged by World War II bombing. (Photo: D’Auria)
By Mark Miller

History Trivia - Commodus assassinated

December 31

 192 The Roman emperor Commodus, whose brutal reign ended 90 years of peaceful prosperity, was assassinated. 

870 Skirmish at Englefield: Ethelred of Wessex beat the Danish invasion army. 

1502  Cesare Borgia (son of pope Alexander VI) occupied Urbino (walled city in the Marche region of Italy).

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Unearthing the Ancient Port of Naukratis, a Bridge between Egyptian and Greek Civilization

Ancient Origins

Archaeologists are excavating Naukratis, a once lost Greek-Egyptian city famous in the ancient world for its dinner parties and beautiful courtesans, a hub for traders across the Mediterranean world. Finds among the ruins of the city, Greece’s earliest settlement in Egypt, include temples to many deities and thousands of artifacts, among them iron tools, statues, amulets and jewelry.
Some of the most interesting are terracotta figurines, including of the sky goddess Hathor, a celebrant carrying a wine jug and a phallus, and other figurines used in drinking festivals.
Excavations at Naukratis on the Nile Delta have revealed new information about the city itself and how Egyptian culture shaped Greek culture and vice versa. Archaeologists with the British Museum and other institutions have been excavating there since 2012 and have found thousands of artifacts, including wood from Greek ships.
“Naukratis … became famous for its elaborate symposia (dining parties) and beautiful hetairai (courtesans),” says the website of the British Museum, which is leading the research there. “Naukratis functioned as the main trading port in the Western Nile Delta until the foundation of Alexandria, and continued to be significant also throughout the Hellenistic and Roman periods. Officers (prostatai) appointed by the nine founding cities of the Hellenion administered the emporion (Greek trading post) at least from the time of Amasis. Imports into Egypt included wine, oil, and silver, and exports from Egypt grain, flax, natron, papyrus, perfume and other semi-luxuries.”
A plate depicting a seated sphinx, 6th century BC, found in Naukratis
A plate depicting a seated sphinx, 6th century BC, found in Naukratis (Photo by Marie-Lan Nguyen/Wikimedia Commons)
“In the seventh century BC, Egypt once more opened up to the Mediterranean world, developing close contacts with other civilisations such as Greece,” the British Museum says. “Egyptian Pharaohs of the Saite dynasty employed Greek mercenaries in their army. Greek goods appeared in Egypt and Egyptian goods in Greece. Greek culture began to incorporate Egyptian traits, based on first-hand knowledge of Egyptian monuments and ideas.”
Naukratis was the pivotal city in relations between Greece and Egypt then. The city was known from ancient texts but its location was lost. An English Egyptologist rediscovered it in 1884, and the ruins have been excavated on and off since then. It was inhabited and used as a harbor from the seventh century BC for about 1,000 years and was still an important town under the Romans.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s thousands of artifacts from across the Mediterranean were found at Naukratis, including faience scarabs and amulets, Greek and Egyptian statues, jewelry iron tools, coins, weights and architectural items. Archaeologists found Greek and Egyptian houses, workshops, sanctuaries and cemeteries.
Experts had originally though the city was 30 hectares, but recent surveys and excavations have shown it was twice that big. Ross Thomas, the British Museum curator who leads the dig told the Guardian “there’s a lot of archaeology there still to dig.”
“The port of Naukratis was the earliest, and for a period the only, Greek port in Egypt, functioning as the main Mediterranean port of Egypt during the 7th to 4th centuries BC,” says a report (PDF file) at the British Museum website. “Established in the late 7th century BC as a base for Greek (and Cypriot) traders and the port of the royal Pharaonic city of Sais, it was an important hub for trade and cross-cultural exchange in the ancient world long before the foundation of Alexandria.”
The city, which had a population the researchers estimate at about 16,000, had buildings three to six stories tall, a monumental temple to Amun-Ra, his wife and son and Min and two sites with Greek temples, one called the Hellenion. Greek gods and goddesses with sanctuaries there included Apollo, Hera, Aphrodite and the Dioscuri.
Naukratis remained important under the Romans. Here is Roman gold jewelery from Naukratis, including a large gold diadem inscribed with the name of Tiberius Claudius Artemidorus.
Naukratis remained important under the Romans. Here is Roman gold jewelery from Naukratis, including a large gold diadem inscribed with the name of Tiberius Claudius Artemidorus. (British Museum photo)
In the 5th century BC the Greek historian Herodotus reported on Naukratis, which means “mistress of ships.” Some interpret Herodotus’ account of shipping as meaning that freight was taken there in barges, not by seagoing ships. However, archaeologists have found dowel, tenon and mortice joints such as those used in Greek ships among the city’s ruins. This leads them to conclude the Canopic branch of the Nile was navigable at least as far as Naukratis.
British Museum curator Thomas told the Guardian that female traders are mentioned in the Greek inscriptions from the sixth century BC in Naukratis. There are more Greeks from that era there than in any other Greek sanctuaries. Also, characters known from other parts of the Greek world are mentioned in Naukratis’ inscriptions.
For more about what archaeologists found at the site in the 1880s and early 1900s, see this British Museum article.
Featured image: Main: The area of ancient Naukratis as it appears today. Credit: Dr Penelope Wilson / The Fitzwilliam Museum. Inset: A pottery bowl made on Chios in the late seventh century BC and brought to Naukratis (British Museum photo)
By: Mark Miller

Pre-Viking Iron Age settlement will give a glimpse of life in Norway 1,500 years ago

Ancient Origins

Archaeologists have discovered a pre-Viking Iron Age settlement dating back around 1,500 years ago on the Trondheim Fjord on Norway’s coast as they excavated the area prior to expanding an airport for jet fighters.
The strategically located site includes three large longhouses arranged in a U shape, one of which had several fire pits possibly used for cooking, keeping warm and for handwork, says a press release from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. The longhouses may have been used for community gatherings, to honor the chief of the settlement and possibly to store food.
“This was a very strategic place,” Ingrid Ystgaard, project manager at the Department of Archaeology and Cultural History at NTNU University Museum, said in the press release. “It was a sheltered area along the Norwegian coastal route from southern Norway to the northern coasts. And it was at the mouth of Trondheim Fjord, which was a vital link to Sweden and the inner regions of mid-Norway.”
Ystgaard says the site is unique in Norway because many bones of animals, birds and fish are preserved in the site’s garbage heaps or middens. The soil in the areas is composed of seashells and so is not acidic, unlike much of the soil in Norway. The acid in the soil at other sites breaks down bone and other organic matter so that it is unusual to find bones from before the medieval era. Usually at such old sites archaeologists only find ceramics, beads and metal.
Synne H. Rostad operates a standing sieve to sift out smaller bones and objects from the dirt.
Synne H. Rostad operates a standing sieve to sift out smaller bones and objects from the dirt. (Photo: Åge Hojem, NTNU University Museum)
“Nothing like this has been examined anywhere in Norway before,” Ystgaard said.
The bones are plentiful enough that researchers can compare wild and domestic varieties of that time with those of today.
“The middens have also provided others surprises,” the press release states. “One was a delicate blue glass bead and several amber beads, too, suggesting the former residents liked their bling. Another was the remains of a green drinking glass that was characteristic of imports from the Rhine Valley in Germany. This last is also a testament to how well off the former residents of this area were, Ystgaard said. “’It says something that people had enough wealth to trade for glass.’”
Ystgaard said she and her team expect outside the site are graves and a harbor with boathouses.
“There was a lot of activity here,” Ystgaard said of the site. “Now our job is to find out what happened here, how people lived. We discover new things every day we are out in the field. It’s amazing.”
About 2,000 years ago the Ørland peninsula was recovering from the last Ice Age, and the land was depressed by the weight of the ice. A bay resulted, but the land has since risen and formed dry land today.
The area in yellow on the Trondheim Fjord is under excavation and was the site of a settlement 1,500 years ago. The area in green was dry land then.
The area in yellow on the Trondheim Fjord is under excavation and was the site of a settlement 1,500 years ago. The area in green was dry land then. (Map by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology)
The sheltered bay and fertile fields were a great place for the settlement, says the press release. Archaeologists had suspected Ørland would be a rich archaeological site, but they found the excuse to dig there when the Norwegian Air Force decided to purchase 52 F-35 jets and expand the airport.
Before construction begins on Norwegian soil, the law requires a preliminary archaeological examination of the site and further study if any significant finds are made.
More than 20 archaeologists and workers will dig and study at the site for 40 weeks. The budget for the project is Norwegian Krone 41 million ($4.6 million), but that doesn’t include excavating machines and room and board for workers.
The operators of the big earth-moving machines will remove the top layer of soil and can be very precise. “The excavator operators are incredibly skilled,” Ystgaard said. “You can ask them to remove 2 centimeters of soil and they can do it.”
Featured image: A blue glass bead at least 1,500 years old is among the finds archaeologists have made at the Ørland Main Air Station dig. This bead was found in a garbage layer and was probably lost by its owner. (Photo: Åge Hojem, NTNU University Museum)
By: Mark Miller

History Trivia - Battle of Wakefield - Lancastrian victory

December 30

 39 Titus was born. He was Roman emperor from 79-81 and during his reign the Coliseum was completed.

 1370 Pope Gregory XI elected pope. Gregory attempted to foster peace between England and France during the Hundred Years' War, defeated Florence in its war against the Papal States, and returned the papacy to Rome from Avignon. 

1460 The Lancastrians routed the Yorkists at the Battle of Wakefield, and executed Richard, Duke of York.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

History Trivia - Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, murdered

December 29

1170 Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, was murdered while at vespers in Canterbury Cathedral by four knights of King Henry II. Acting on the frustrated outburst of King Henry II, four knights entered the Cathedral and struck down the Archbishop. The knights fled.  Henry would later do public penance for his ill-considered words that ultimately ended the quarrel between one-time friends.

Monday, December 28, 2015

History Trivia - Westminster Abbey in London consecrated

December 28

1065 Westminster Abbey in London, built under the auspices of Edward the Confessor, was consecrated. The Benedictine monastery had been re-endowed and enlarged under the oversight of Edward the Confessor, but the King had been too ill to attend the consecration ceremonies. He was buried in the abbey after his death on January 4, 1066.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

History Trivia - third dedication of Hagia Sophia

December 27

537 The Hagia Sophia (Church of the Holy Wisdom of God), one of the world's greatest architectural masterpieces, was dedicated in Constantinople by the Emperor Justinian. This was the third Cathedral, the previous two having been destroyed by fire. 

1390 Anne de Mortimer, Countess of Cambridge, and the mother of Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York, and grandmother of King Edward IV and King Richard III, was born.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Happy Boxing Day

December 26

Boxing Day - is a traditional celebration, dating back to medieval times, when gifts were given to employees, the poor, or to people in a lower social class. 

What is Boxing Day?
Boxing Day is a national Bank Holiday, a day to spend with family and friends and to eat up all the leftovers of Christmas Day.  The origins of the day, however, are steeped in history and tradition.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas 2015

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas

I am grateful for your support and interest in my work. 

God bless.

Mary Ann Bernal  

History Trivia - St. Francis of Assisi assembles the first Nativity scene

December 25

800 Charlemagne, King of the Franks, was crowned the first Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Leo III in Rome. 

1066 William the Conqueror was crowned king of England, at Westminster Abbey, London. 

1223 St. Francis of Assisi assembled the first Nativity scene. 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

History Trivia - Thomas Wolsey appointed English Lord Chancellor

December 24

563 The Byzantine church Hagia Sophia in Constantinople was dedicated for the second time after being destroyed by earthquakes.

1167 King John I of England was born. The youngest son of King Henry II, John lacked the trust of his barons and was maneuvered into signing the Magna Carta.

1515 Thomas Wolsey was appointed English Lord Chancellor.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

History Trivia - St. Ivo of Chartres dies

December 23

484 Huneric died and was succeeded by his nephew Gunthamund, who became king of the Vandals. During his reign the Catholics were freed from persecutions. 

619  Boniface V became Roman Catholic pope. 

1116 St. Ivo of Chartres died. He was one of the most notable bishops of France at the time of the Investiture struggles and the most important canonist before Gratian. Gratian was a legal scholar and the founder of the science of canon law, which is the body of law based on the legislation of the councils (both ecumenical and local) and the popes, as well as the bishops (for diocesan matters) in the Roman Catholic Church

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Winter Solstice December 22, 2015

 Happy Winter Solstice

History Trivia - Dominican order formally sanctioned

December 22

69 Roman Emperor Vitellius was killed in a street battle in Rome by soldiers of Vespasian, who succeeded Vitellius as emperor. 

1135 Norman nobles recognize Stefanus van Blois (Stephen, grandson of William the Conqueror) as English king. His reign was plagued with civil war with his cousin the Empress Matilda whose son Henry II succeeded him upon his death.

1216 the Dominican order was formally sanctioned. Founded by St. Dominic, the Dominican order of mendicant friars emphasized scholarship as well as preaching. The organization received official sanction from Pope Honorius III

Monday, December 21, 2015

History Trivia - Roman Empire - Year of the four emperors

December 21

 69 the end of the Year of the four emperors: Following Galba, Otho and Vitellius, Vespasian became the fourth Emperor of Rome within a year. 

882 Hincmar of Reims died. As archbishop of Reims, Hincmar was one of the most influential political and ecclesiastical figures of Carolingian Europe.  

1118 Thomas A. Becket was born. 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

History Trivia -Knights of Rhodes surrender to Suleiman the Magnificent

December 20
 860 King Ethelbald of Wessex died   

1334 Benedict XII was elected pope. The third pope to reside at Avignon, Benedict attempted to reform the church and its religious orders. His pontificate saw the beginning of the Hundred Years' War. 

1522 Suleiman the Magnificent accepted the surrender of the surviving Knights of Rhodes, who were allowed to evacuate. They eventually settled on Malta and became known as the Knights of Malta.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

History Trivia - Edith of Wessex dies

December 19

1075 - Edith of Wessex, wife of Edward the Confessor of England, died. 

 1187 Clement III became Pope. The fall of Jerusalem to Saladin in the Third Crusade occurred during his pontificate. 

1551 The Dutch west coast was hit by a hurricane.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Backyard Bonanza: Medieval Outhouses and Roman Roads Unearthed

Live Science

Archaeologists excavate large areas of medieval and post-medieval pitting in the backyards of properties running along Southgates.
Credit: University of Leicester

Backyards haven't changed much over the past 1,000 years or so, new archaeological findings suggest. Rubbish pits, storage areas, outhouses, wells and short walls to keep the neighbors at bay are a few of the things that archaeologists in England recently unearthed while digging beneath an old bus depot in the city of Leicester. Dating back to the 12th through 16th centuries, these artifacts were found in what was once an area of densely packed houses and shops, according to archaeologists from the University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS).
And beneath the garden walls (and the rubbish) the archaeologists found the remains of another, more ancient cityscape. The backyards covered up the place where two second-century Roman roads once intersected. Arched gravel surfaces cover the roads, and drainage gullies, as well as the remnants of stone and timber buildings, line either side of the ancient thoroughfares. [See Photos of the Medieval Backyards and Artifacts in Leicester]

"These excavations will provide important new insights into the character of the settlement and the inhabitants living in the southern half of the Roman and medieval town," John Thomas, one of the ULAS archaeologists who led the dig, said in a statement.

History Trivia - Battle of the Trebbia – Hannibal victorious

December 18

218 BC Second Punic War: Battle of the Trebbia – Hannibal's Carthaginian forces defeated those of the Roman Republic.

 1118 Afonso the Battler, the Christian King of Aragon captured Saragossa, Spain, causing a major blow to Muslim Spain.

 1352 Innocent VI became Pope. He introduced many needed reforms in the administration of church affairs and also sought to restore order in Rome, where, in 1355, Charles IV (1346–78) was crowned Holy Roman Emperor with his permission, after previously having made an oath that he would quit the city on the day of the ceremony.