Sorry, must share this…


Audio-visual survey of the Romans in 8 1/2 minutes

It's here on TeacherTube – a new site to me. Perhaps worth investigation?

It's neither entirely accurate (messiah = deliverer) nor entirely literate (Emperor Constantine's becomes Christian) but an interesting overview.

The Times reports on 'Antiquity' reports

From The Times. OK, the second report isn't Classical, but it's interesting.

Norman Hammond
Archaeology Correspondent

More than 60 years ago Sir Mortimer Wheeler proved that Roman pottery had made it all the way from Italy to India: the characteristic bright red of Samian ware, bearing the stamp of the Vibieni of Arezzo, showed up in his trenches at the ancient port of Arikamedu, on the southeastern coast near Pondicherry. Numerous other finds across India have since strengthened the connection, including many wine jars or amphorae.

A new study now suggests that many of these came from Mesopotamia, not the Mediterranean, and that the triangular trade between India, the Persian Gulf and the ports of Roman Egypt on the Red Sea was much more complex than hitherto thought.

“Roman amphorae, together with Roman coinage, are the most important artefacts for documenting exchange between the Roman Empire and India,” Dr Roberta Tomber says in Antiquity. “Since many Roman amphorae are well-dated and well-provenanced, they represent an untapped resource for the understanding of Indian Ocean contact.”

More than 10,000 Roman coins are known from southern India alone, and although there are growing numbers of amphorae reported, identification is more problematic, Tomber says. Her survey has confirmed the presence of such wine jars from 31 sites, but at about half these sites it was also discovered that amphora sherds thought to be Roman were actually Mesopotamian in origin.

In ten cases there were only Mesopotamian sherds present. These were in the form of “torpedo jars”, tall cylindrical peg-footed amphorae, common in Mesopotamia and the Gulf but not hitherto noted in India. Fragments of the rims and bodies could be mistaken for Roman wares made in Syria and Anatolia, as indeed they have been, and their dates span the Roman period from around the time of Christ onwards, although they also continue into early Islamic times in the seventh century.

Torpedo jars are lined with bitumen to keep their liquid contents from evaporating, and may have been the dequre of Sasanian texts: if so, this suggests a wine-drinking clientele in contemporary India. They are found mainly between Karachi and Bombay in areas under Sasanian influence, and inland towards Delhi, and seem to have been imported into India throughout their period of manufacture in Mesopotamia.

Some got as far as Sri Lanka and the east coast near Chennai (Madras), and others were found at ports on the coasts of Yemen and Somalia. Roman amphorae are found in a similar pattern, though rarely on the same sites: it would be interesting to know if they travelled in the same ships, Tomber notes.

The port of Qana, on the coast of Yemen and an important point in the frankincense trade, may have been an entrepôt for both Roman and Mesopotamian goods arriving from the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf respectively. It has not yielded the full range of Late Roman amphorae found in India, however, and other places may have played an equal role. The overall distribution of Roman amphorae and torpedo jars suggests three seaborne routes to India, Dr Tomber proposes. One ran direct from the Gulf, one direct from ports such as Berenike on the Red Sea coast of Egypt, and one via Qana.

Western India was influenced by wave upon wave of invaders, from the Greeks to the Parthians, Scythians, Kushanas and Sasanians, and was at a nexus of trade routes. The recognition of Mesopotamian jars for finds formerly thought to be Roman has made the picture both clearer and more complicated.

Antiquity 81: 972-988

Neolithic revolution took just 200 years

The first farmers established themselves in Britain close to 6,000 years ago, a new radiocarbon date study has shown. Agriculture swept rapidly across Brtain and into Ireland within decades, and the new economy seems to have been associated with the first megalithic tombs.

Neolithic charred cereal remains “are far more widespread across the British Isles than earlier surveys suggest,” Alex Brown reports in Antiquity. “In addition, many of these sites have associated radiocarbon dates.” These include high-resolution accelerator (AMS) dates on cereal grains themselves rather than just charcoal from the same context.

In recent years a number of sites have yielded pollen evidence, suggesting cultivation by Mesolithic peoples otherwise reliant on hunting, fishing and gathering, perhaps as early as 5000 BC. Dr Brown is sceptical of this “pioneer agriculture”, “not least because of the difficulties inherent in separating cereal pollen from that of wild grass”. He identified 93 sites with charred cereal remains, 58 of them with radiocarbon dates, but of the 112 dates only 38 were actually on charred cereals.

Dates on associated charcoal run the risk of deriving from “old wood”, already centuries old at the time of deposition. At the Billown site on the Isle of Man, dates on charcoal around 4600 BC are accompanied by cereals dated to around 3800 BC.

The earliest dates on charred cereals centre around 3800-3600 BC from Billown, and from Lismore Fields and Enagh in Northern Ireland. Other early sites include Claish and Tankardstown, and the Hazelton megalithic tomb in the Costwolds where human bone was dated instead. At Windmill Hill near Avebury, the important Neolithic earthworks were dated to the same period, also using AMS dating on bone.

Overall, Dr Brown says, “the evidence from charred cereals suggests cultivation no earlier than 3950 BC and certainly no later than 3630 BC. The earliest dates from charred cereals are a hundred years later than the earliest dates derived from charcoal, of around 4050 BC”. He suggests limited cultivation of cereals, which would have been introduced from across the Channel after spreading across Europe from the Near East, by 3950-3800 BC, with more widespread farming between 3800 and 3000 BC before a significant reduction, still unexplained.

The dating evidence from megalithic tombs in the Cotswold and Severn areas suggests construction beginning around 3800 BC, with recent dates for Neolithic funerary activity at Burn Ground, Gloucester, as early as 3930BC and one older date of 4230-3970BC “that may represent long-term curation of ancestral remains”. Pottery seems to have become established in Britain at this time.

The establishment of settlements and ritual sites is noted at Windmill Hill, and by the precise dating of the Sweet Track, across a wetland area in the Somerset Levels, to precisely 3806-07 BC by tree-ring dating. All the various elements of a settled village society seem to come together at more or less the same time.

What is striking, Dr Brown notes, is how all this happens more or less simultaneously in all parts of Britain and in Ireland. “The radiocarbon dating evidence from cereals, burial monuments and domestic structures could be taken to suggest a transitional period of as little as 150-200 years between 4000 and 3800 BC before a Neolithic lifestyle became a more established feature. The Mesolithic communities experimented with and then adopted agriculture more rapidly than some scholars have proposed.

The farming communities that for millennia formed the foundation of the British way of life until the Industrial Revolution thus seem to have begun some 60 centuries ago, although Dr Brown points out that “precise dating remains a key research aim for prehistoric studies.”

Antiquity 81: 1042-1052.

OUP books on Classics – read abstracts of each chapter

Oxford University Press offers a number of scholarly books on line to subscribing libraries. For those who are not members of these libraries, the free abstracts of the books may be a useful guide whether to buy the book or not. Here is an example, the abstract of a chapter of Anthony Birley's book on The Roman Government of Britain.

I High Officials of the Undivided Province, 43–c.213

This chapter begins with an introduction covering the senatorial career in the principate, as well as having sections on governors’ staff, the ‘capital’ of the province, and local government. These are followed by biographies of all forty-one known governors, subdivided into five periods: Claudio-Neronian (AD 43-69); Flavian (AD 69-96); Nerva to Hadrian (AD 98-138); Antoninus Pius to Commodus (AD 138-92); and Severus and Caracalla (AD 197-c.213). Further sections cover the legions and their bases. Biographies of the following are provided: seventeen high-ranking companions (comites) of the emperors in Britain; forty-one known legionary commanders or legates; seven known senior law officers (iuridici); and thirty-two known senatorial tribunes (tribuni laticlavii). A section on the procuratorial career and subordinates of the procurators is followed by biographies of the fourteen known procurators and seven known praefecti classis, census-officials, and junior procurators.