Colossal head found in Turkey

From the BBC

Archaeologists digging in Turkey have found the colossal marble head of a Roman empress.

It was discovered in a rubble-filled building where parts of a huge statue of the emperor Hadrian were unearthed last year.

The discovery, at the ancient site of Sagalassos, is thought to show Faustina the Elder, wife of Roman emperor Antoninus Pius.

Sagalassos was once an important urban centre.

It was abandoned after being hit by several strong earthquakes.

A team led by Marc Waelkens, from the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, has been excavating the site since 1990.

The head of Faustina was lying face down in rubble that fills
the ruins of a bath house that was partially destroyed by an earthquake
between AD 540 and AD 620.

It was unearthed just 6m from the spot where the Hadrian statue was found, but was sitting higher up in the rubble.

Emperor’s line

At first, exacavators thought they had found a statue belonging
to Hadrian’s wife, Vibia Sabina, who was forced into a marriage with
the homosexual emperor at the age of 14.

But when they turned it over, the face was very different from
the usual depictions of Sabina. This was a more mature woman with
fleshy lips and a distinctive hairstyle.

Experts said most of the features of the head identify the woman as
Faustina the Elder. She married Hadrian’s successor as emperor and
adopted son, Antoninus Pius.

Faustina was well respected, especially for her charity work.
She enjoyed a happy marriage to Antoninus which lasted 31 years until
her death in AD 141. In her memory, Antoninus formally deified her as a
goddess.

The building in which the statues were found at Sagalassos was
probably a “frigidarium” – a room with a cold pool which Romans could
dip into after a hot bath.

It is part of a larger bath complex that is being carefully uncovered by archaeologists.

The fragments were found not on the floor of the frigidarium –
beneath the rubble from the earthquake – but higher up in the debris
pile.

More discoveries

This suggests they did not originally stand in this room, but
were hauled there from elsewhere in the bath complex – probably from
the “Kaisersaal”, or emperor’s room.

They speculate that the Kaisersaal once hosted statues of
Hadrian, Faustina the Elder and other members of Rome’s so-called
Antonine dynasty – many of whom belonged to a Spanish or southern
French provincial aristocracy.

The Hadrian statue was probably brought to the frigidarium
either to remove its gilded armour or to be burned to cement in a
nearby kiln.

The fragments are now on display at the exhibition Hadrian: Empire and Conflict at the British Museum in London.

But the frigidarium did have colossal statues of its own. On the
floor of the room, experts have found the front parts of two huge
female feet, surrounded by mosaics that follow the contours of the
statue’s long dress.

Sarcophagi found in Newcastle

From the BBC

Two 1,800-year-old Roman stone sarcophagi have been uncovered at a
dig on the site of a former chapel and office buildings in Newcastle.

The coffins are thought to have been used to bury members of a powerful
family from a nearby walled fort where Hadrian’s Wall would once have
run.

One of the sandstone sarcophagi has already been opened and contained the headless remains of a child.

The other is to be opened by experts from Durham University on Friday.

The Durham University team was hired by a development company which
aims to build a modern office block on the site once its archaeological
riches have been preserved for future generations.

Roman army

Other discoveries at the site, on Forth Street, include
cremation urns, a cobbled Roman road, a Roman well and the foundations
of Roman shops and workers’ homes.

Richard Annis, from Durham University, said: “These sarcophagi
would have been a prominent feature of the landscape, as they were
carefully placed to be viewed, being close to the road and, at the
time, raised above the ground.

“They would certainly have had to belong to a wealthy family of
a high status in the community, perhaps at Fort Commander level or at
senior level in the Roman army.”

The sarcophagi, about 70cm (2.2ft) wide and 180cm (5.9ft) long,
have walls around 10cm (3.9ins) thick and weigh up to half a tonne
each.

They are both carved out of a single piece of sandstone. Each lid was fixed in place with iron pegs sealed with molten lead.

After analysis by the Durham University team, all of the finds
from the site will eventually go to the new Great North Museum in
Newcastle, where the sarcophagi will be preserved for the public to see.