Archive for June, 2018

Opulent imperial-era home found at Milvian Bridge

Sunday, June 10th, 2018

Archaeologists have discovered the remains of an opulent imperial-era residence on the banks of the Tiber near the Milvian Bridge. The site was found last November during a preventative archaeology survey in advance of utility works, but excavations were suspended and trenches filled in out of concern that the seasonal rise of the water level in the Tiber would damage the ancient remains.

Excavations have started again in the spring. Only a fraction of the structure has been unearthed and the team still sin’t certain whether it was a villa or smaller private dwelling. The part that has been exposed is contains mosaic floors in the luxurious opus sectile, a mosaic style which used polychrome marbles instead of the small, even tesserae tiles, arranged in a variety of floral, geometric and figural shapes. The floors in this building feature floral motifs, at least the ones revealed so far.

They are of exceptional quality, the colors of the marbles vivid and diverse. The homeowner must have spared no expense. It is incongruous, however, that such a high-end edifice decorated in precious materials would have been built so close to the bank of the Tiber.

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Battlefield dig finds Napoleonic mass graves

Saturday, June 9th, 2018

The Battle of Wagram took place on July 5 and 6th, 1809, near what is today the Austrian town of Deutsch-Wagram. In the clash between the forces of Napoleon’s French Empire and the Austrian Empire, an estimated 55,000 soldiers died, one of whom was the Baron Jean-Baptiste Deban de Laborde, the French Hussar whose sons would later be so memorably depicted in miniature version of his uniforms.

The general area of the battlefield was know but its precise location was not and no archaeological explorations were done until circumstances — ie, the construction of a new highway from Vienna to Slovakia — forced a survey in accordance with cultural heritage laws. Archaeologists with the firm Novetus were contracted to excavate the route of the highway that goes through Deutsch-Wagram.

Excavations began in March of 2017 and it’s such a complicated project covering such an emormous territory — one site out of many is the size of 27 football fields — that it’s expected to continue until at least the end of 2018. They have definitely found the battlefield, first and foremost, and several mass graves where the dead were buried where they fell. They have also unearthed a wealth of artifacts, including a soldier’s whistle, metal uniform fittings like buckles and buttons, small glass vials that may have contained medicines and scads of ammunition.

The researchers are mapping the hastily dug mass graves and campsites, as well as the thousands of musket balls, bullets, buttons and personal items that were dropped on the field. They hope to get a more detailed look at how the two-day battle went down. Bioarchaeologists are also examining the bones of the soldiers — and discovering just how unhealthy many of them were before they died in the war. […]

Of the 50 skeletons excavated so far, most of the individuals are young men between about 16 and 30 years old, and Binder said their bones bear traces of scurvy from vitamin C deficiency, inflammation of the joints from long marches carrying heavy loads, and infections like pneumonia and other diseases that would have spread in the cramped conditions of the military camp.

The battlefield of the Battle of Aspern-Essling which took place only six weeks before Wagram was excavated earlier and a comparison between the conditions of the bodies unearthed at the sites shows a marked increase in respiratory diseases in the month and a half between the battles. Napoleon’s forces were defeated by Archduke Charles of Austria’s at Aspern-Essling, the first time he’d lost a battle in a decade, but he was able to retreat without crippling losses (both sides has the same casualty count of around 23,000; 7,000 French troops killed in action, 6,300 Austrian) and regroup to win the day at Wagram. The study of the remains shows the real toll taken on soldiers’ bodies by the constant campaigns, win or lose.

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Executed Anglo-Saxon found at wind farm

Friday, June 8th, 2018

The skeleton of a man from the late Anglo-Saxon period has been discovered during an archaeological survey along the cable route of the Rampion Offshore Wind Farm in the South Downs region off the coast of Sussex. Archaeology South East were contracted by European electric company E.ON to excavate the installation path of the cable that will carry the wind farm’s power and have so far unearthed archaeological material — flint tools, pottery, evidence of cultivation — dating from the late Neolothic to the Bronze Age, Roman era, Middle Ages and the post-medieval period. The complete skeleton interred in a grave hewn from the chalk bedrock South Downs is famed for is the most exceptional of these finds.

The skeletal remains of the adult male were found in 2015 on Truleigh Hill near Shoreham, West Sussex. Osteological analysis indicates he was between 25 and 35 years old when he died and likely lived a hard life up until then. There is evidence of a healed fracture on his left arm and repetitive stress on the vertebrae caused by bending or twisting movements. The skeleton was intact, missing only a few small bones from the hands and feet. There is no evidence of a coffin. He was placed in the grave on his back with his arms at his side in the east-west alignment typical of Christian burials.

Bone analysis put the date of his death between 1010 and 1023, while cuts to the neck pointed to a violent end. […]

Jim Stevenson, Project Manager for Archaeology South East, said: “Radiocarbon dating has revealed that the skeleton is most likely to be an execution burial of the later Anglo Saxon period.

“Most significantly two cut marks made by a sharp blade or knife were found at the mid length of the neck, which would have proved fatal.”

The grave site was located in an area known to have prehistoric graves. Apparently there were once burial mounds visible, but they were excavated flat in the 18th and 19th centuries and the digs were poorly documented so it’s not possible to pinpoint their location today. Isolated burials were sometimes found near the mounds. Perhaps this fellow having been condemned to death was denied access to a Christian cemetery and buried at an ancient holy site instead.

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Branwell Brontë’s portrait of his sisters goes home

Thursday, June 7th, 2018

The only known surviving portrait taken from life of sibling literary luminaries Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë has gone home. Part of the collection of the National Portrait Gallery in London, the painting is on display at the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth for the first time since 1984 to take part in an exhibition honoring the bicentenary of Emily’s birthday (July 30th, 1818). Emily, author of Wuthering Heights, was the fifth of six children, born between brother Patrick Branwell and youngest sister Anne. This is the only undisputed portrait of Emily (experts disagree about whether another painting by Branwell is of Emily or Anne).

It was painted by Branwell Brontë around 1834 at the Haworth parsonage, the family’s home on the Yorkshire moors for many isolated years of their childhood. That parsonage is now the Brontë Parsonage Museum. It usually has to make do with a copy of the famous group portrait, but the original work is now being exhibited in the place where it was painted in Emily’s honor. The honor is a transitory one, however. The painting will only be on view at the parsonage through August 31st.

The work has quite the checkered history. Branwell originally included a self-portrait in the group between Emily and Charlotte, but for unknown reasons he painted himself out, covering his likeness with a weirdly random green ectoplasmic pillar. Because of that odd feature, the painting is known as the Pillar Portrait.

Patrick died in September 1848, followed less than two months later by Emily. Anne died five months after her sister in May of 1849. Charlotte was the last survivor of the Brontë siblings.

Her friend and biographer, novelist Elizabeth Gaskell (author of Cranford and North and South, among others) saw the portrait when she visited Charlotte at Haworth in 1853. She described it in less than glowing terms in her bestselling biography of the author, The Life of Charlotte Brontë, published in 1857:

I have seen an oil painting of [Branwell’s], done I know not when, but probably about this time [1835]. It was a group of his sisters, life-size, three-quarters’ length; not much better than sign-painting, as to manipulation; but the likenesses were, I should think, admirable. I could only judge of the fidelity with which the other two were depicted, from the striking resemblance which Charlotte, upholding the great frame of canvas, and consequently standing right behind it, bore to her own representation, though it must have been ten years and more since the portraits were taken. The picture was divided, almost in the middle, by a great pillar. On the side of the column which was lighted by the sun, stood Charlotte, in the womanly dress of that day of gigot sleeves and large collars. On the deeply shadowed side, was Emily, with Anne’s gentle face resting on her shoulder. Emily’s countenance struck me as full of power; Charlotte’s of solicitude; Anne’s of tenderness. The two younger seemed hardly to have attained their full growth, though Emily was taller than Charlotte; they had cropped hair, and a more girlish dress. I remember looking on those two sad, earnest, shadowed faces, and wondering whether I could trace the mysterious expression which is said to foretell an early death. I had some fond superstitious hope that the column divided their fates from hers, who stood apart in the canvas, as in life she survived. I liked to see that the bright side of the pillar was towards her — that the light in the picture fell on her: I might more truly have sought in her presentment — nay, in her living face — for the sign of death — in her prime. They were good likenesses, however badly executed.

Charlotte lived at Haworth until her tragically premature death in 1855. She had married her father’s curate Arthur Bell Nicholls in 1854 and became pregnant shortly thereafter. She and her unborn child died nine months after the wedding. Charlotte was just shy of her 39th birthday.

Nicholls stayed on as Patrick Brontë’s curate until the latter’s death in 1861, then he moved back to his hometown of Banagher, Ireland. He sold the contents of Haworth but kept manuscripts, ephemera and personal effects, including the group painting even though he apparently hated it. He put it on top of an upstairs cupboard and let people believe it was lost for decades.

It was rediscovered in 1913, seven years after Nicholls’ death, by his second wife and cousin, Mary. By then it was out of its frame, off its stretcher and folded in four. The widow told her niece that Nicholls “disliked them very much. He thought they were very ugly representations of the girls, and I think meant to destroy them, but perhaps shrank from doing so — you see, there is only one other existing portrait of Charlotte, and none at all of Emily and Anne.”

That last bit isn’t true. There was actually a portrait by Branwell of Emily or Anne, (scholars disagree) found on top of the same cupboard as the Pillar Portrait. It was cut out of a group portrait, the rest of which has been lost.

Mary Nicholls sold the group portrait in 1914 to the National Portrait Gallery. Most of the rest of the manuscripts and Brontë memorabilia she sold after her husband’s death or that was sold after her death in 1916 are now part of the Brontë Parsonage Museum collection.

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Ramps, ropes used to place red hats on moai

Wednesday, June 6th, 2018

Researchers have long sought to pinpoint how the monumental heads (moai) of Easter Island (Rapa Nui) were put in place. The statues are up to 33 feet high and weigh up to 81 tons. They were carved from volcanic tuff quarried in one place on the east side of the island Rano Raraku and then moved to their final locations, an arduous task, to put it mildly. The latest studies suggest they were likely walked into place, rocked left and right along carefully prepared roads much like we’d move a refrigerator today.

That still leaves the question of how hats (pukao) were put on some of the moai. The red scoria the pukao were made of was quarried from a different site on the west side of the island. While not as massive as the moai, the largest of the hats weigh 13 tons, so the logistics of transporting them to their final destinations on top of heads as much as 33 feet high were just as challenging.

Previously researchers hypothesized that they were joined to the moai and then put in place together, but a new study focused on the archaeological evidence and 3D imaging to determine that the pukao were added after the statues were already in place. Red scoria chips have been found around statues wearing the hats, which strongly indicates they were carved into their final shapes only after they’d been moved. As those final shapes are variants of cylinders and cones, they were probably carved into cylinders at the quarry and then rolled to where the statues, already firmly in place, awaited their chapeaux.

So far so goo, but how then to lift a dozen tons of hat onto 80 tons of head? The research team used photogrammetry (combining hundreds of high resolution photographs to create a detailed model) to identify any similarities common to all the hats on statues. They used 3D imaging to create models from the photographs that would allow them to analyze the pukao and moai in far greater detail than possible with the naked eye. They discovered only one feature common to all the hats: indentations at the base that fit the tops of the heads. Had the hats been slid into place, the edges of the indentations would have been ground down because the stone is so soft.

“The best explanation for the transport of the pukao (hats) from the quarry is by rolling the raw material to the location of the moai (statues),” said Lipo. “Once at the moai, the pukao were rolled up large ramps to the top of a standing statue using a parbuckling technique.”

Parbuckling is a simple and efficient technique for rolling objects and is often used to right ships that have capsized. The center of a long rope is fixed to the top of a ramp and the two trailing ends are wrapped around the cylinder to be moved. The rope ends are then brought to the top where workers pull on the ropes to move the cylinder up the ramp.

Besides reducing the force needed to move the hats, this arrangement also makes it easier to stabilize the hat on the trip up because the hat typically will not roll back down the slope. The researchers report in the current issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science, that 15 or fewer workers could move the largest preform hats up the ramps.

Once the hat was at the top of the ramp, it could not simply be pushed into place because of the ridges on the margin of the hat base indentation. Rather, the researchers believe that the hats were tipped up onto the statues.

First the hat would be modified to its final form, some including a second, smaller cylindrical piece on top.

The hats could be rotated 90 degrees and then levered up with small wooden levers to sit on the statue tops, or the ramp could be slightly to the side, so that rotation in the small space at the top of the ramp would be unnecessary. Then the hat would simply be levered and pivoted on edge and into place.

The ramps were then disassembled and became the wings of the platform surrounding the statues.

The results of the study have been published in the Journal of Archaeological Sciences.

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Burned human remains from Goth invasion found in Bulgaria

Tuesday, June 5th, 2018

They were found in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, but there are no tortoises buried with these skeletons. They weren’t buried at all, in fact. The charred skeletal remains of three people, two adults and a child about three years of age, were discovered on the floor of a home in the ancient city of Philippopolis during an excavation of a Roman-era street.

Each skeleton shows signs of dying in a fire. Researchers were able to see that one of the skeletons was a woman who was still wearing two bronze bracelets. Near the bones of the other adult, archaeologists found six coins and a bronze figurine depicting a naked image of the Roman god Venus wearing a golden necklace.

In the child’s skeleton, archaeologists found an arrow head, suggesting a particularly violent end.

The remains have not been radiocarbon dated yet, but stratigraphic analysis and the artifacts recovered from the house date it to the mid-3rd century. In the exact middle of the 3rd century, 250 A.D., the Roman province of Thracia was invaded by the Gothic forces under King Cniva. According to the ancient historian Jordanes, they were incensed that the annual monies paid them by Emperor Philip had been cut off. Their aim was not territorial conquest, therefore; it was a pillage expedition.

The Goths crossed the Danube at Novae into the province of Moesia Inferior where they clashed with the legions led by Emperor Trajan Decius. The Romans defeated them in several encounters but none of them were decisive. Then Cniva did the unexpected and swooped south into Thracia which was barely defended as Decius’ legions were concentrated in Moesia Superior to the west and Inferior to the east. The Goths besieged Philippopolis and took it. What they couldn’t loot they burned; who they couldn’t kidnap for ransom they killed.

Archaeological material from the razing of Philippopolis is found not infrequently in Plovdiv. Just this March archaeologists found a large public building with three floors, the last of which was built over rubble from the destruction of the city. Human skeletal remains from the event are very rare finds.

The excavation has unearthed remains from other periods of Plovdiv’s Roman history. The remains of a triumphal arch from the 1st century was a particularly sensational find as there are only two other triumphal arches in all of Bulgaria, one of them located in the East Gate of Philippopolis. Another remarkable find was a marble slab inscribed with a dedication from the governor of Thrace to the Emperor Diocletian (284-305 A.D.) in both Latin and Greek. It had been recycled into a medieval wall only to drop back down to the Roman context next to the arch when the wall collapsed.

The team will continue to excavate the site and hope to be able to accurately date the many structures and artifacts with the aid of 280 coins they’ve found as well as numerous ceramic pieces.

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Intact 4th c. B.C. tomb found in Roman suburb

Monday, June 4th, 2018

An exceptional intact chamber tomb from the 4th century B.C. was discovered during construction of a water pipeline in a suburb of Rome. It was found when an earthmover opened a hole in the side of the chamber, thankfully doing no damage to its overall structure or contents. By law, an archaeologist must be present at construction projects in Rome and environs, but the area had been worked for a year with little archaeological material to show for it so on-site archaeologist Fabio Turchetta didn’t expect they’d stumble on anything of any import. He certainly didn’t expect to find a complete, untouched tomb from the early Roman Republic.

The chamber tomb was dug into soft volcanic tufa and sealed with a large slab of limestone. It contained the skeletal remains of four individuals, three men and one woman between the ages of 40 and 50. They were inhumed at different times. Two of the men were placed up high on stone ledges. The woman was on the floor of the tomb in a crouched position and the third man next to her. Archaeologists believe it was a family tomb, that the people buried there were related to each other instead of the tomb having been invaded and reused in a later period, a common practice that often resulted in the destruction or damage of earlier burials.

The deceased, the two men on the ledges in particular, were laid to rest with a spectacular array of funerary goods. Two iron strigils, scrapers used by athletes to clean themselves after a workout, inspired the team to name the chamber “The Tomb of the Athlete” even though the interred would have been well past athlete age in their era, and anyway strigils were used for cleaning by non-athletes as well.

A total of 25 artifacts were recovered from the tomb, mostly black-glazed pottery bowls and plates with their white decorations still vivid. The tomb was in such inviolate condition that the vessels still contained the remains of funerary offerings: bones of chickens, rabbit and a lamb or kid. The tomb and the number and quality of the grave goods and offerings indicate the deceased were wealthy people, part of the societal elite.

A coin found next to one of the skeletons dates the tomb to between 335 and 312 B.C. The bronze coin depicts the head of Minerva on the obverse and a horse head inscribed “Romano” on the reverse. The style of the pottery confirms the dating of the tomb to the second half of the 4th century B.C.

The Case Rosse neighborhood where the tomb was found is on the Via Tuburtina, a Republican-era road that goes from Rome east to Tivoli (ancient name, Tibur) and then Pescara on the Adriatic. It exits the ancient traditional boundary of the city through the Porta Esquilina in the Servian Wall, and the historic center of Rome through the Porta Tiburtina in the Aurelian Wall (built in the late 3rd century A.D.). Case Rosse is 10 miles outside of the ancient city of Rome.

The Via Tiburtina was decades away from being built when the men in the chamber tomb died, and the Servian Wall, built in reaction to the first Sack of Rome in 390 B.C. by Gallic forces under Brennus, was just a few decades old. It was a momentous century for the city in many ways. Rome bounced back quickly from the sack and in the second half of the 4th century defeated their Italian neighbors — the Etruscans, the Samnites, the Volsci, the Sabini, assorted other Latin tribes — and absorbing their lands and peoples into the foundation of what would become a vast empire.

The individuals buried in the tomb, therefore, were likely Latins, as the Roman identity was still attached to the city itself and only taking its first steps outside of the pomerium with the dissolution of the Latin League confederation after it was decisively defeated by Rome in 338 B.C. One of the reasons this tomb is so important a find is that its untouched condition and organic materials provides them with a unique opportunity to study the funerary rituals of the Ager, the countryside that had been absorbed by Rome politically but was still not Rome.

On Friday, archaeologists began to remove the occupants and the artifacts, which will be sent to a laboratory for research, including DNA testing on the skeletons to determine the familial connection.

One expert, Alessandra Celant, a paleo-botanist at the University of Rome La Sapienza, carefully collected ancient pollen and plant samples from the tomb — “the tip of a pin is enough,” she said — that she will study to potentially reconstruct the flora and landscape of the area, as well as funerary rituals.

The tomb was mapped with a laser scanner, and once it has been emptied, it will be sealed.

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CT of hawk mummy finds it’s a stillborn baby

Sunday, June 3rd, 2018

A small wrapped mummy believed to be a hawk in the Egyptian collection of the Maidstone Museum in Kent, England, has been revealed to instead contain the complete remains of a severely deformed stillborn baby or late-term fetus. The mummy was labelled “EA 493 – Mummified Hawk Ptolemaic Period,” a conclusion drawn from its cartonnage outer wrapping which was painted to look like a bird. Its shape and size was comparable to other hawks and the birds held great religious symbolism in traditional Egyptian polytheism so were mummified in large numbers.

It was first CT scanned in 2016 when the Museum received a grant to create a new display space for its Egyptian and Greek artifacts. The star of the museum’s Egyptian collection, the mummy of Ta-Kush, the only adult human mummy in Kent, would take pride of place in the new gallery, so the museum undertook to examine Ta-Kush in greater detail, working with the Kent Institute of Medicine and Science to CT scan the mummy and with FaceLab at Liverpool John Moores University to create a facial reconstruction based on the scan.

All 30 of the mummies in the collection were also CT scanned, including the ostensible hawk. That first scan revealed that it was no hawk at all, but rather a tiny, probably fetal, human. The clinical CT scanner could not capture the remains in sufficient detail for a thorough examination because of their minute size. The museum contacted mummy expert Andrew Nelson of Western University in Ontario, and he arranged with
Nikon Metrology (UK) to conduct a micro-CT scan at a resolution 10 times higher than the clinical CT scan.

The scans produced are some of the highest-resolution images of a mummy ever taken, and by far the highest-resolution images of a mummified fetus. Nelson and a multi-disciplinary international team of experts analyzed the scans. They found that the mummy was a stillborn male at 23 to 28 weeks gestation who was severely anencephalic, a malformation in which the fetus’ skull and brain never develop properly.

The images show well-formed toes and fingers but a skull with severe malformations, says Nelson, a bioarchaeologist and professor of anthropology at Western. “The whole top part of his skull isn’t formed. The arches of the vertebrae of his spine haven’t closed. His earbones are at the back of his head.”

There are no bones to shape the broad roof and sides of the skull, where the brain would ordinarily grow. “In this individual, this part of the vault never formed and there probably was no real brain,” Nelson says.

That makes it one of just two anencephalic mummies known to exist (the other was described in 1826), and by far the most-studied fetal mummy in history. […]

The research provides important clues to the maternal diet – anencephaly can result from lack of folic acid, found in green vegetables – and raises new questions about whether mummification in this case took place because fetuses were believed to have some power as talismans, Nelson says.

“It would have been a tragic moment for the family to lose their infant and to give birth to a very strange-looking fetus, not a normal-looking fetus at all. So this was a very special individual,” Nelson says.

There are only nine mummies of human fetuses known to exist and this is the only anencephalic one to have been scientifically studied. It is a unique find and of great archaeological significance, much more so than the mummy of Ta-Kush which launched the project. It wasn’t going to go on display in the new gallery; it will be an important part of it now.

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Two skeletons found in one Roman sarcophagus in Serbia

Saturday, June 2nd, 2018

The skeletal remains of two people were found in a Roman sarcophagus at the archaeological site of Viminacium, a few miles east of the modern town of Kostolac, on the Danube in eastern Serbia. The sarcophagus is massive, carved out of solid stone. The lid is broken, but if the remains and grave goods were interfered with by looters, they didn’t do a very thorough job.

Ilija Mikic, an anthropologist at the site, said the skeletons were of a tall, middle-aged man and a slim younger woman.

In addition to three delicate glass perfume bottles, the woman had golden earrings, a necklace, a silver mirror and several expensive hair pins, while a silver belt buckle and remains of shoes were found lying around the man.

“According to grave goods … we can conclude that these two people surely belonged to a higher social class,” Mikic said.

The quality and dimensions of the sarcophagus alone attest to that. It would have been hugely expensive in its day.

Founded in the 1st century A.D., Viminacium became the capital of the province of Moesia Superior and grew into one of the largest cities in the empire with a peak population of 40,000. Its position on the Danube made it a military and commercial center for movement between West and East, and the small fraction of it that has been excavated has unearthed archaeological remains of streets, squares, public baths, a forum, temples, arenas, hippodromes, aqueducts, palaces, an industrial area and cemeteries. Emperors from Septimius Severus to Trajan to Diocletian visited the city before its destruction in the 5th century by Atilla the Hun, and Eastern Emperor Justinian I had it rebuilt in the 6th. It was destroyed for good by the Avars by the end of the century.

Viminacium was the first site in Serbia to be archaeologically excavated, even though the pioneer who led the 1882 dig, Mihailo Valtrović, first professor of archaeology at the University of Belgrade, was actually an architect by training and formal education. He is considered the founder of scientific archaeology in Serbia and it all began at Viminacium.

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Italy’s oldest olive oil found in Sicilian pot

Friday, June 1st, 2018

Italy’s oldest olive oil has been identified in an Early Bronze Age pot from Sicily. The vessel was discovered at the prehistoric site of Castelluccio about 30 miles west of Syracuse. It is the type site of the Castelluccio culture which flourished in southeastern Sicily between 2200 and 1800 B.C. and is known for its distinctive ceramics.

That’s why when archaeologist Giuseppe Voza found 400 fragments in an excavation at the site in the 1990s conservators at the Archaeological Museum of Syracuse took the time and effort to puzzled them all together. Their hard work restored a unique pot unlike other ceramics found at Castelluccio: an egg-shaped storage container three-and-a-half feet high decorated with rope bands intersecting in a lattice pattern and three vertical handles on each side. Voza’s team also found two basins divided by an internal septum and a large terracotta cooking plate.

“The shape of this storage container and the nearby septum was like nothing else Voza found at the site in Castelluccio,” said University of South Florida researcher Davide Tanasi.

“It had the signature of Sicilian tableware dated to the end of the 3rd and beginning of the 2nd millennium BC (Early Bronze Age).”

“We wanted to learn how it was used, so we conducted chemical analysis on organic residues found inside.”

Researchers examined organic residues of an indeterminate nature contained in the pores of the three pieces of Castelluccio pottery. They used Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) and Gas Chromatography – Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS) to analyze the residue and found oleic and linoleic acids, signatures of olive oil, in each of the three samples.

This find advances the known presence of olive oil in Italy by almost a thousand years and puts it on a par with the second earliest chemical signature of olive oil in the Mediterranean found in Chrysokamino, Crete.

“With regards to the prehistory of Italy, the only cases known of identification of chemical signatures of olive oil are those of Broglio di Trebisacce (Cosenza) and Roca Vecchia (Lecce) where large storage jars dated to the local Late Bronze Age (12th-11th century BC) tested positive.”

“In this perspective, the results obtained with the three samples from Castelluccio become the first chemical evidence of the oldest olive oil in Italian prehistory, pushing back the hands of the clock for the systematic olive oil production by at least 700 years.”

The results of the study have been published in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s journal Analytical Methods.

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