Museum paid property developer £50,000 for tombstone

Not treasure trove, then. I don’t know the ins and outs of the law on Roman items found in the ground, but this tombstone evidently belonged to the property developer who had bought the land, and Lancaster Museum had to persuade him not to sell it to America. Anyhow, it’s on show now, and judging from the pics it’s a good ‘un.

Published Date: 16 October 2008
IN November 2005 an unrivalled piece of Lancaster’s Roman history was unearthed during a routine excavation in Aldcliffe Road.
On Wednesday, nearly three years after it was found, the iconic tombstone was officially unveiled in Lancaster City Museum where queues of people wishing to view it formed.

Edmund Southworth, Lancashire County Council museums officer, said: “In my museum career I have managed to save probably four things for the nation. This is probably the one I can feel most proud of.

“It was not given to the museum, we had to buy it, raise money and persuade the owner that it should not go to America.

“I took several phone calls saying there would be a van coming later that day to take it away if we did not have the money to buy it.
“Today marks a glorious future for the tombstone and the Romans in Lancaster.”

The tombstone, dating from 100 AD, was found on land owned by property developer Chris Tudor Whelan during excavations by the Greater Manchester Archaeology Unit. He received more than £50,000 for it.

Described by scholars as unique and of significant archaeological importance, the massive stone – almost six feet high and weighing about 1,500lbs – depicts a quartermaster of the ala Augusta riding with the
severed head of a barbarian enemy in his hand.

Following its discovery, the county council and the Museums Service, together with Lancaster City Council, secured funding from the Museums, Libraries and Archives Purchase Grant Fund, Haverfield Bequest (supporting research on Roman Britain), and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Conservators have since had to make the tombstone, which was in 23 pieces, suitable for permanent public display not far from the site where it lay for almost 2,000 years.

The museum is open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm, entry is free.
For further details visit http://www.lancashire.gov.uk/museum or call 01524 64637.

Blog with amusing account of the Appian Way

An Australian of Italian extraction moved to Italy in 2006 and keeps a blog called From Australia to Italy

Yesterday’s offering is a blow-by-blow account of looking for, and eventually finding, the Via Appia Antica, despite the unhelpful police, information office officials and other natives,

Also several photos.

‘Vast’ necropolis, general’s tomb and more found in Rome

This must have been quite an exciting press conference: a necropolis mimicing a real city (as they did), a passage on (or in) the Palatine where Caligula may have been murdered, the tomb of Marcus Aurelius’ general Marcus Nonius Macrinus (thought worthy of a museum of its own), and further discoveries at a dig of wealthy villas.

I just hope the stretched Italian conservation services and budget can keep these places from being looted and generally destroyed.

From AP, which has pics

Construction workers find Roman city of the dead

ROME (AP) — Workers renovating a rugby stadium have uncovered a vast complex of tombs beneath Rome that mimic the houses, blocks and streets of a real city, officials said Thursday as they unveiled a series of new finds here.

Culture Ministry officials said that medieval pottery shards in the city of the dead, or necropolis, show the area may have been inhabited by the living during the Dark Ages after being used for centuries for burials during the Roman period.

It is not yet clear who was buried in the ancient cemetery, but archaeologists at the still partially excavated site believe at least some of the dead were freed slaves of Greek origin.

“It’s a matter of a few weeks to discover what is down there,” said archaeologist Marina Piranomonte. “But it’s something big; it looks like a neighborhood.”

A separate dig in the north of the city has turned up the tomb of a nobleman who led Rome’s legions in the second century A.D.

The mausoleum was covered in mud during a flood of the river Tiber, which collapsed most of the monument but helped preserve exquisite decorations, marble columns and inscriptions from plunderers and the ravages of time.

Writings at the site led experts to identify the tomb as belonging to Marcus Nonius Macrinus, one of the closest aides and generals of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius during his campaigns against Germanic tribes in Northern Europe.

Other spectacular discoveries were also unveiled at the news conference at the Culture Ministry.

Archaeologists restoring the imperial residences on the Palatine Hill, in the heart of ancient Rome, believe they have discovered the underground passageway in which the despotic Emperor Caligula was murdered by his own guards.

The hill, which is honeycombed with ruins of palaces and villas, has also yielded frescoes and black-and-white mosaics in the first century B.C. home of a patrician, the ministry said in a statement.

Separately, experts working in Castel di Guido on the outskirts of Rome have enlarged their dig at a previously known complex of country villas owned by Rome’s rich and powerful, uncovering fountains, baths and a cistern, the statement said.

Archaeologists will keep working at the digs to make them accessible to visitors. Officials plan to build a museum next to Macrinus’ tomb, which will also offer a virtual reconstruction of the site.