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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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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
8 New Ancient Ships Found at the 'Shipwreck Capital of the World'
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The number of wrecks discovered at the "shipwreck capital of the world" continues to grow. According to Haaretz, the latest find adds eight new wreck discoveries, bringing the total up to 53 sunken ships in a 17-mile stretch off the coast of Fourni, Greece.

As Mental Floss reported, in 2015 archaeologists working off the coast of Fourni identified 22 shipwrecks dating back to 700 BCE—already an historic find. But additional dives conducted by the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and the RPM Nautical Foundation have continued to yield new discoveries. Nine months later, in June 2016, the Fourni Underwater survey turned up 23 more ancient, Medieval, and post-Medieval shipwrecks in the area with the help of local fishermen and sponge divers. The latest expedition took place in June 2017.

Divers inspect and survey an ancient amphora near the shipwreck site.

The Fourni archipelago, consisting of 13 tiny islands, never hosted a sizable town, but it was an important stopping point for shipping routes between the Black Sea, the Aegean Sea, and on to Cyprus, the Levant, and Egypt. The area may have been a hotspot for ships seeking safe harbor from violent storms in that part of the Aegean Sea, as Peter Campbell of the RPM Nautical Foundation told Haaretz. It wasn’t an entirely safe destination for merchant ships, though; it was also a pirate haven.

Some of the latest wrecks found include a ship from the Greek Classical Period—around 500 BCE to 320 BCE—carrying Greek amphorae (ceramic jars), a Roman ship with origins in the Iberian Peninsula, and anchors dating back to the Archaic Period (800 to 479 BCE). Researchers found more stone, lead, and iron anchors all the way up to the Byzantine Empire, which lasted until the 15th century.

Two conservationists sit at a table working with shards of ancient pottery.

The ancient trade routes that crisscrossed the Mediterranean (and the dangers of ancient seafaring) have made the area a fertile ground for millennia-old shipwrecks even outside of Fourni. As recently as 2016, divers off the coast of Israel stumbled upon a 1600-year-old merchant ship filled with Roman artifacts. In 2015, Italian divers discovered the wreck of a 2000-year-old ship carrying terra cotta tiles in deep waters near Sardinia.

The Fourni project is still ongoing, and researchers plan to conduct a fourth season of underwater surveying in 2018. Once the project completes a full survey and documentation of the area, the researchers may consider excavating some of the wrecks.

[h/t Haaretz]

All photos by Vasilis Mentogianis courtesy the RPM Nautical Foundation

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Jersey Heritage
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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
Watch Conservationists Disassemble World's Largest Known Celtic Coin Hoard
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Jersey Heritage

Reg Mead and Richard Miles are proof that striking silver can be just as exciting as hitting gold—especially if the precious metal in question is a massive heap of ancient coins.

In the summer of 2012, the two amateur treasure hunters used metal detectors to discover the world’s largest-known Celtic coin hoard—now known as Catillon II—buried in a field on the Isle of Jersey in the British Channel Islands. The duo had spent more than 30 years searching for the rare stash, after a farmer’s wife (other accounts refer to her as a daughter) told them decades prior that her family had discovered silver coins while plowing a field.

Mead and Miles were granted limited access to the land, which they scoured after harvest season each year. Their persistence paid off when they finally found the treasure: nearly 70,000 Roman and Celtic coins, believed to date from around 30 to 50 BCE, along with some gold and silver jewelry, glass beads, a leather purse, and a woven silver-and-gold bag.

The Celtic coin hoard known as Catillon II
Jersey Heritage

The Celtic coin hoard known as Catillon II
Jersey Heritage

The Celtic coin hoard known as Catillon II
Jersey Heritage

The Celtic coin hoard known as Catillon II
Jersey Heritage

Long ago, members of a tribe called the Coriosolitae—who once lived in modern-day Brittany and Normandy in France—buried the wealth, presumably to hide it from the Romans.

The hoard was excavated by a team that was composed of members of local history and archaeology organizations Societe Jersiais and Jersey Heritage, along with staff from the Guernsey Museum, located on the island of Guernsey in the Channel Islands.

Removing the coin heap from the ground proved to be a challenge: "With earth still attached, it weighed over a ton," Neil Mahrer, a museum conservator with local historic trust Jersey Heritage, told Archaeology. "We had no idea how strong it was, in that it was only held together by the corrosion between the coins."

The Celtic coin hoard known as Catillon II
Jersey Heritage

The Celtic coin hoard known as Catillon II
Jersey Heritage

Once the treasure was finally unearthed, conservationists and volunteers spent around three years carefully extricating coins from the pile. The arduous project was completed in January 2017—and now, thanks to the magic of video editing, we can watch the entire process in only 30 seconds.

What happens next to the hoard is unclear. Such finds are protected by the Treasure Act.

[h/t Archaeology]

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