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LBI ArchPro/7reasons

Ancient Romans Hit the Food Stands and the Souvenir Shops at Gladiator Matches

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LBI ArchPro/7reasons

Swords and bloodshed aside, modern stadium sporting events share some similarities with ancient Roman gladiator fights of yore. As reported by Live Science's Megan Gannon (who is also a mental_floss contributor), archaeologists in Austria have identified remnants of an “entertainment district” around Carnuntum, a town east of Vienna that was once the Roman Empire’s fourth-largest city, and home to one of the Empire’s largest amphitheaters. Long ago, it contained bakeries, food vendors, and shops, so gore-loving spectators could shop for memorabilia and grab a bite to eat.

Carnuntum was founded during the 1st century CE as a fortified winter military encampment. Over the centuries, it grew into an important metropolis; by the 3nd century CE, it had as many as 50,000 residents. As for the city’s amphitheater, it was built in the first half of the 2nd century CE, just outside the city. It once seated around 13,000 people and was used for gladiator games. Archaeologists excavated the amphitheater from 1923 to 1930, but today, much of Carnuntum still remains hidden below ground.

In 2011, a team of scientists used ground-penetrating radar devices and other noninvasive techniques to detect the hidden remains of a gladiator school, with training grounds, baths, and prison cells. Recently, the group—led by Wolfgang Neubauer, director of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology (LBI ArchPro)—announced that they had found the entertainment district using similar technology.

The entertainment district sat just outside the amphitheater, separated from the main city. It consisted of a boulevard lined with shops, which led to the amphitheater. Using other preserved Roman cities, like Pompeii, as reference points, Neubauer and his colleagues were able to determine which kinds of businesses patrons frequented. They identified taverns, thermopolia, also known as ancient food stands, and a granary with a large oven, which was used to bake bread. And since oil lamps with depictions of gladiators were once a popular souvenir, some of the shops probably sold trinkets to fans. Underneath these shops sat underground cellars, which stored wine and food.

The archaeologists also found the ground plan of an older second amphitheater, just 1300 feet from the main one. It sits beneath a city wall, constructed after the ancient sporting complex fell out of use.

“Not only in Rome were so-called ‘bread and games’ of great importance for the entertainment of the masses, but also in Carnuntum—a frontier-town along the Danube River, at the edge of the Roman Empire and on the border with barbarians to the north,” the scientists concluded in a press release.

Check out digital reconstructions of the entertainment district below.

[h/t Live Science]

All photos courtesy of LBI ArchPro/7reasons

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EEF, Black Sea MAP
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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
'Ship Graveyard' Discovered in the Black Sea Provides New Insights into Maritime History
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Rendering of a Roman ship hull by Black Sea MAP researchers.
EEF, Black Sea MAP

In 2015, to learn how prehistoric humans dealt with the coastal impact of climate change, an international team of researchers in Bulgaria embarked on a multiyear geophysical survey of the Black Sea. Little did they know that the undertaking would morph into what's been dubbed "one of the largest maritime archaeological projects ever staged": As IFLScience reports, the team ended up discovering dozen of shipwrecks, dating from the 19th century all the way back to the 5th century BCE.

News of the "ship graveyard," as researchers have taken to calling it, was first announced in 2016. Following three field seasons, marine scientists have just returned from their final trip with recovered artifacts and new insights about ancient ship design and trade patterns.

Scientists from the Black Sea Maritime Project (Black Sea MAP), conducted by the University of Southampton's Center for Maritime Archaeology, used a host of high-tech equipment to survey the Black Sea's floor and take pictures. In all, they located around 60 ships spanning 2500 years of history.

The vessels were in remarkable condition, considering their age. The Black Sea is uniquely suited for preserving organic materials, as it contains two separate layers of water: a top layer that contains oxygen and salt, and a second salty layer with little oxygen or light. Organisms that eat organic matter can't survive in this environment, which is why the site's ships stayed relatively intact.

According to National Geographic, researchers were still able to make out the chisel and tool marks on planks, along with carved decorations. They also saw rigging materials, rope coils, tills, rudders, standing masts, and cargo.

Ships were discovered from the Classical, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman periods, with the oldest dating back to the 4th or 5th century BCE. One particularly exciting find was an ornately carved Ottoman ship, which researchers nicknamed Flower of the Black Sea due to its floral deck carvings. Meanwhile, a potentially Venetian ship from the 13th or 14th century provided scientists with a first-ever glimpse of the ships that were the precursors to those used during the Age of Exploration.

"That's never been seen archaeologically," expedition member Rodrigo Pacheco-Ruiz told The New York Times in 2016. "We couldn't believe our eyes."

To reconstruct how these vessels once looked, researchers used 3D software to combine thousands of still photos shot from different angles. This photogrammetric method allowed them to create digital models of the vessels and identify historical features that were once a mystery to archaeologists.

"There's one medieval trading vessel where the towers on the bow and stern are pretty much still there," said Ed Parker, CEO of Black Sea MAP, according to IFLScience. "It's as if you are looking at a ship in a movie, with ropes still on the deck and carvings in the wood."

A 3D recreation of a Roman galley discovered by an international team of researchers in the Black Sea.
A 3D rendering of a Roman galley, created by Black Sea MAP project researchers.
EEF, Black Sea MAP

Photogrammetric model of a wreck from the Medieval period, created by Black Sea MAP researchers.
Photogrammetric model of a wreck from the Medieval period, created by Black Sea MAP researchers.
EEF, Black Sea MAP

Photogrammetric model of the stern of an Ottoman wreck, created by Black Sea MAP researchers.
Photogrammetric model of the stern of an Ottoman wreck, created by Black Sea MAP researchers.
EEF, Black Sea Map

A Roman shipwreck discovered by an international team of researchers in the Black Sea.
Divers with the Black Sea MAP project examining the Roman galley.
EEF, Black Sea MAP

Scientists say the ship graveyard will help them learn more about ancient trade routes, and how various Black Sea coastal communities were connected. That said, they're still committed to their initial goal of investigating ancient changes in the region's environment, using sedimentary core samples and other methods to learn more about the impact of sea level change after the last glacial cycle.

"Our primary aims are focused on the later prehistory of the region and in particular on human response to major environmental change," said Jon Adams, the project's chief investigator and a founding director of the University of Southampton's Centre for Maritime Archaeology, in a news statement. "We believe we now have an unparalleled archive of data with which to address these big questions about the human past."

[h/t IFLScience]

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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
Found: A Sunken German World War I-Era Submarine
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SMU Central University Libraries, Flickr/Public Domain

During World War I, one of Germany's most formidable weapons was the U-boat, an advanced military submarine with torpedoes that sank countless Allied merchant and cargo ships. But while deadly, these submersibles weren't invincible, as evidenced by the recent discovery of a sunken German U-boat in the North Sea.

As ABC News reports, researchers located the UB II-type dive boat—a smaller submarine that typically plagued coastal waters—off the coast of Belgium, around 82 to 98 feet below the North Sea. The 88-foot vessel appears to have struck a mine with its upper deck, judging by damage suffered to its front.

The submarine is remarkably intact. Two of its torpedo tubes were destroyed, but one of them is still in good condition. The ship itself remained sealed, and may serve as a watery grave for up to 23 crew members.

The U-boat's final resting place hasn't been announced, as to prevent looting or damage, according to the BBC. Meanwhile, Belgian officials have contacted the German ambassador to see how they should proceed with any potential remains.

This isn't the first time a World War I-era U-boat has been found in Belgian waters. Experts have catalogued 11 such discoveries so far, but this one is reported to be the best preserved. The Chicago Tribune reports that since 18 U-boats were stationed in Bruges between 1915 and 1918, and 13 of them were destroyed, there might be even more of these kinds of finds to come.

[h/t ABC News]

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