Archive for the ‘Ancient’ Category

Two more Nuragic giants found in Sardinia

Sunday, May 8th, 2022

A new excavation of a prehistoric necropolis of Mont’e Prama in Cabras, western central Sardinia, has unearthed the fragmented remains of two giant statues from the Iron Age Nuragic culture. Two large torsos, a head and other fragments recovered indicate the statues were of a form known as Cavalupo-type boxers, characterized by their nude torsos, short skirts and the curved shield they hold over their heads or in front of their bodies.

The necropolis was first discovered by accident in 1974 when farmers stumbled on ancient tombs and a funerary road. The tombs date to between 950 B.C. and 730 B.C. when the Nuragic civilization, named for the “nuraghe,” stone towers of indeterminate purpose they erected all over the island, was the dominant culture on Sardinia. Subsequent excavations at Mont’e Prama discovered thousands of fragments of monumental sculptures that were reassembled as much as possible to reconstruct 28 statues representing different types of fighters — 16 boxers, five archers and five warriors. They are now on display at the Giovanni Marongiu Civic Museum in Cabras.

The statues were not originally placed in the necropolis. They were brought there from somewhere else and deliberately broken. The limestone to make them was quarried not far from Cabras, but the original locations where the finished statues were erected are unknown, as is their purpose and the reason for their destruction. It’s not even clear when they were broken, whether it was the result of an internal struggle between Nuragic communities or by invaders like the Phoenicians of Tharros in the late 7th century B.C. or the Carthaginians in the second half of the 4th century B.C.

After the earlier excavations in the 1970s and early 1980s, there was a lull of 30 years before archaeologists returned in 2014. Over the next two years, thousands of fragments of more sculptures were found and two boxers were recomposed from them. Archaeologists are back again now, and this time they’re taking a multi-disciplinary approach, working with anthropologists, restorers and architects to gather as much information from the context as possible and to recover the fragmentary sculptures with a conservatorial perspective.

“While the small and medium-sized fragments are found daily, documented in situ lying on the ground and then recovered,” said the Superintendent, Monica Stochino. “The two large and heavy blocks of the torsos will need time to be freed from the sediment that envelopes them and so we can prepare what we need for their safe. “The discovery,” adds the Superintendent, “rewards the constancy and validity of the archaeological method of progressive exploration through preliminary probing and systematic investigation phases, measured and carried out in the ways and times allowed by the availability of resources and the parallel elaboration of excavation projects, restoration and exhibition of the finds and enhancement of the site.”

The current excavation will continue throughout the spring, and the Superintendency has already secured funding to the tune of 600,000 euros for the next excavation. They’ll be pouring four times that amount into an even more daunting project: the restoration of sculptures found in fragments during the 2014-2016 dig. The museum will be expanded and updated to accommodate the influx of Nuragic giants.

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Tour Persian Persepolis

Saturday, May 7th, 2022

The Getty has added new virtual experiences to dovetail with and enhance its new exhibition Persia: Ancient Iran and the Classical World which opened at the Getty Villa Museum last month and runs through August 8th.

The exhibition looks at the relationship between Classical Greece and Rome and the Persian Empire over three dynasties (Achaemenid, Parthian and Sasanian) and 1,100 years (550 B.C. – 650 A.D.). The cultural links between the three ancient powers were strong notwithstanding their often bellicose political relations.

“The military rivalry between the ancient Persian empires that controlled much of the modern Middle East, and the Greeks and Romans of the eastern Mediterranean, determined the geopolitical map of Eurasia from Britain in the west to the border of India in the east for over a thousand years. In the early 5th century BC, against all odds, the Greeks repulsed a series of Achaemenid invasions that would have changed the cultural trajectory of Europe. Two and a half centuries later, Alexander the Great’s conquest of the East brought down the Achaemenids but also inspired an epochal cross-fertilization of the two cultures and traditions. The rise of the Romans as the major Mediterranean power from the 2nd century BC made a clash of titans inevitable. More than once the destinies of Europe and the Middle East hung on the outcome of mighty battles between the Roman emperors and the Parthian and Sasanian kings. Yet throughout all these violent vicissitudes, an active exchange of goods, languages, ideas, faiths, and artistic visions, reflecting a strong mutual respect, flourished in both directions. We see this most vividly in the imperial imagery celebrating their kings and rulers that was propagated by both the Persians and their Greek and Roman adversaries. As we ponder the most significant turning points in Eurasian history, there was perhaps no more momentous encounter than that between Persia and the Classical World,” says Timothy Potts, Maria Hummer-Tuttle and Robert Tuttle Director of the J. Paul Getty Museum.

“The many spectacular objects on view are extraordinary expressions of Persian political and cultural identity, many of them among the most famous masterpieces of Persian art. I hope this exhibition will convey how fruitful the intermingling of very different artistic and other cultural traditions was for both cultures, as can still be seen in aspects of our visual arts today.”

The exceptional collection of artifacts on display include architectural reliefs, intaglio gemstones, cuneiform seals, jewelry, precious serving dishes and royal sculpture on loan from institutions all over the Unites States, Europe and the Middle East. Many of the artifacts are on display in the US for the first time.

The objects in the exhibition are enhanced and contextualized by a cutting-edge immersive film offered to visitors at the Getty Villa. The movie takes viewers on a tour through the royal palace complex in the Achaemenid capital of Persepolis in its heyday before Alexander the Great burned it to the ground in the 330 B.C. It uses the same technology used in the Disney+ series The Mandalorian to give a 360-degree HD viewing experience for people lucky enough to see the exhibition in person.

For people without easy access to Malibu, the museum has created Persepolis Reimagined, an online interactive digital tour of Persepolis so we can virtually fly into the capital, through the bulls guarding the Gate of All Nations, into the Apadana (audience hall), through the Palace of Xerxes, the Southeastern Palace, the Royal Treasury and the Hall of 100 Columns. At each stage there are clickable interactive elements that go into further detail about the features and in some cases, what remains of those features today. It is easy to navigate, beautifully modeled and strikes a good balance between richness of content and digestibility.

Potts adds: “I am especially pleased that visitors to the exhibition will also be able to explore some of the highlights of ancient Iranian art and architecture through digital technologies. Two innovative digital experiences—one an immersive on-site experience at the Villa; the other accessible online—will allow visitors to walk in the steps of a Persian dignitary through a digital reconstruction of the spectacular Achaemenid palace of Persepolis. These new tools, in partnership with the latest scholarship, can provide dynamic, interactive engagement with distant places and cultures, and we hope to expand their use in the future.”

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Found: sarcophagus of Protector of the Divine Flank

Thursday, May 5th, 2022

A sarcophagus discovered in Izmit, western Turkey, bears a funerary inscription identifying it as the final resting place of a Protector of the Divine Flank, a high-ranking officer in the imperial guard. It is one of only eight Protectores’ sarcophagi ever found, and the only one to be discovered in Turkey. It is also the only sarcophagus among the eight to contain undisturbed human skeletal remains and grave goods.

The sarcophagus was unearthed in a salvage excavation before construction of a new building for the General Directorate of Izmit Water and Sewerage Administration. Between 2017 and 2019, the excavation revealed a Roman-era walled necropolis including 51 tombs made of repurposed tegulae (roof tiles), two amphora burials and five large sarcophagi, the Protectore’s among them. Archaeologists also discovered 99 coins, a bronze statuette and artifacts made of terracotta, glass, metal and stone. The necropolis was less than a half mile from the city gate. The monumental sarcophagi all face south and the inscriptions are meant to be read by passersby, so the road into the city must have run through the southern side of the necropolis. Inscriptions indicate the necropolis was in active use between the 2nd and 4th centuries A.D.

The Protector sarcophagus telegraphs its owner’s profession even before you read the text. On the upper right, there’s a man on horseback attacking an enemy with a spear. On the upper left stands a soldier with a plumed helmet, spear and shield. The Latin inscription on the front translates to the following:

“To the spirits of the dead. I, Tziampo, Protector of the Divine Flank, restored my monument, originating from regio Pieucensis, province of Dacia Minor. I lived 50 years. And I want that nobody will be permitted to be deposed here except my son Severus or my wife. I served as horseman for nine years, as ordinarius for 11 years, and protected as protector for 10 years. But if another (person) dares to open (the sarcophagus), let him give the fiscus 20 folles and the city 10 folles. On the whole, I served for 30 years. Farewell, passers-by.”

A follis was a bronze or copper coin introduced by Diocletian around the time of his Currency Decrees, ca. 301 A.D. The fiscus was the emperor’s personal treasury. It looks like nobody ever had to pay Tziampo’s fine, however, because there are only two bodies inside, believed to be the Protector and his wife. Not even Severus made the final cut.

The title of Protector Divini Lateris began as an honorific granted by Emperor Gallienus (r. 253-268 A.D.) to officers who had distinguished themselves in loyal service to him. It was an attempt to curry favor with the troops and to privilege personal loyalty to the emperor during the turbulent Crisis of the Third Century. By the time the sarcophagus was inscribed during the reign of Diocletian or his successor Constantine I, the Protectores were a powerful cavalry association attached to the imperial court, comparable to and in competition with the Praetorian Guard. Protectores reached the very pinnacle of power. Diocletian was commander of the Protectores when he ascended the imperial throne, as was Constantine I.

This inscription contains even more remarkable information: Tziampo’s place of origin has never before been recorded. The province of Roman Dacia was originally divided into Dacia Superior and Dacia Inferior. Superior was later divided into two provinces and Inferior was renamed. Then all the three would be united into one known as Tres Daciae. Aurelian lost most of Dacia in the early 270s. After the withdrawal of Roman troops and administration west of the Danube, a new province called Dacia Aureliana was established in the Balkans. Diocletian split Dacia Aureliana into two — Dacia Mediterranea and Dacia Ripensis.

All of this talk of proliferating Dacias is to say that this inscription is the sole known reference to a Roman province named Dacia Minor, nor are there any known references to a Pieucensis region. Perhaps it was a vestigial reference to Dacia Inferior, which would make Tziampo Romanian.

Underlining that the sarcophagus is an important heritage, Kocaeli Museum Director Serkan Geduk said,

“The sarcophagus is of great importance not only with the information contained in the inscription but also with two skeletons and small finds found in situ. Because the inscriptions on the protections of the Roman emperors known until now have survived without any other material remains. For the first time, an inscription of an imperial bodyguard; It has survived as a whole with two skeletons in the sarcophagus and grave gifts. In this sense, the Tziampo sarcophagus is the first in the world in this field. It is a great chance for us that this sarcophagus and the necropolis area around it have survived to the present day,” he said.

The necropolis, its five great sarcophagi still in situ, is being converted into an open-air archaeological site. It will be covered to protect it from the elements.

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1st ancient solid marble bathtub found in Turkey confiscated from smugglers

Wednesday, May 4th, 2022

A Roman-era marble bathtub from the 3rd century was confiscated by police in Karacasu, western Turkey just as it was about to be sold by smugglers. This is the only solid marble bathtub ever discovered in Turkey.

The basin is 5’11” long and weighs one ton, so by no means a portable antiquity. It is decorated with two bas relief lion’s heads holding rings in their jaws, a popular motif on bath and fountain basins as well as tub-shaped sarcophagi. (Or as waterspouts on temple eaves. Or as pulls on furniture.)

The find site is unknown, but experts believe the tub was locally produced in the ancient city of Aphrodisias. Now within the municipal boundaries of Karacasu, Aphrodisias was the largest and richest urban center in the region at the time when the bathtub was made. It was also home to a major sculpture workshop, and the quality of marble and of the carving in the lion heads suggest it was produced there.

A basin of this size with high-end carving was likely used in the private home of a wealthy individual. Public baths also used tubs, either because the bathing facility was too small to have a hypocaust heating system which was very expensive to install and operate, or to hold cold water for people to dip into quickly when closing their pores in the frigidarium.

Provincial Culture and Tourism Director Umut Tuncer examined the bathtub and emphasized that the ancient city of Aphrodisias is a very special area, which is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. […]

Tuncer said that the tub would be restored and displayed at the museum. “We believe that it will attract the attention of art lovers. There is a bath structure in all of our ancient cities. These places were actually used as public and social spaces.

The culture of hot water, bathing and cleaning was an important part of the period. We have seen everything we expected to see in this tub. […] The richest ancient city of the region is Aphrodisias. The city also had a large sculptor school. We can see the curves that reflect the facial expressions, muscles and mimics in the sculptures in the Aphrodisias Museum,” he said.

The ruins of Aphrodisias have long been a target for looters. Gendarmerie teams are constantly patrolling for illegal excavations, using drones with motion-sensitive thermal cameras to scan the ancient city for suspicious treasure-hunting activity.

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Funerary altar of 13-year-old girl found in Rome

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2022

Utility works in Rome have discovered the 2nd century marble funerary altar of a young girl. It is intact and in excellent condition. The find was made during work on the water network on Via Luigi Tosti, the street a mile south of the Porta Latina gate in the Aurelian Walls where the terracotta dog bearing a startling resemblance to the Cowardly Lion was unearthed earlier this year.

Found 6.5 feet below road level, the altar is carved out of white marble. It is topped with a bas relief of two songbirds on each side of bunch of grapes or fruit basket. Stylized half acanthus leaves bracket the pediment. Songbirds and fruits symbolized bounty and abundance and were common motifs in Greco-Roman funerary art, referencing the real garlands that would be draped on the exterior walls of temples and altars. The front of the altar is inscribed with a dedication to a daughter lost too soon.

VALERIA

P F

LAETA

VIXIT ANNIS

XIII M VII

The inscription records that the deceased, Valeria Laeta, lived only 13 years and 7 months. It’s not clear what the P stands for, but the convention suggests it was her father’s initial because the F stands for “filia” meaning daughter.

Fragments of a white marble sarcophagus were recovered next to the altar. It too was carved with an intricate relief depicting a lioness turning towards the horse rearing over her back (only the front two legs of the horse survive) while a hunting dog attacks her from the front. The fragment was part of a lenos, a tub-shaped sarcophagus echoing the troughs used to press grapes. Lenoi came to prominence in the second half of the 2nd century and elaborately decorated versions like this one were produced for the elite.

In the same trench was a small columbarium, a structure containing niches for cinerary remains. It is just 13 by 10 feet and built into a bank of volcanic tufa stone. Its walls are made of a concrete masonry core faced in opus latericium (brick cladding) of very high quality. The walls were then plastered and painted yellow and red to mimic marble slabs.

All of these elements were part of a larger complex of funerary structures built along the ancient Via Latina, one of the oldest Roman roads that led south from the Eternal City 125 miles to what is now Benevento, 30 miles north of Naples.

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Unique Neolithic, Bronze Age burials, structures found in France

Monday, May 2nd, 2022

An excavation in advance of housing construction in Saint-Geniès-de-Fontedit, southern France, has revealed a protohistoric settlement built in the Neolithic and occupied into the Bronze Age. Between November 2021 and April 2022, the excavation unearthed evidence of almost 180 structures, including palisade trenches, storage cellars and semi-subterranean kilns or silos. The site is rich in artifacts, primarily potsherds and millstones, that attest to the daily lives of the people who lived in this ancient rural community over the centuries.

The excavations revealed a complex network of ditches and trenches of palisades which came to encircle a vast habitat whose above-ground parts have now disappeared. The largest of these ditches are more than 2 meters deep, while the narrower and shallower excavations probably correspond to trenches linked to the installation of posts which were to participate in the construction of a palisade or a rampart. This desire to entrench the dwellings behind such constructions is frequent at the end of the Neolithic and could reflect a particular architectural tradition, a new way of perceiving the integration of villages into the landscape or be the witness of political instability and a desire to protect themselves.

A few unusual structures, such as a small C-shaped ditch or an L-shaped interruption, remain quite enigmatic and may correspond to special developments located near the main entrance to the village.

The first dates obtained on these developments place their construction between 2500 and 2200 BC, which corresponds to the last phase of the Languedoc Final Neolithic (Chalcolithic).

The oldest structures were abandoned at some point and later reused for burials. The remains of a child were found buried on the floor of a kiln and several adult skeletons were discovered at the bottom of storage silos, cellars and quarry pits. Individual burials were rare in this period. Collective burials were the typical funerary tradition, with multiple members of the community interred inside megalithic monuments or natural cavities.

These are only some of the atypical finds made at this site. The complete skeleton of a cow was found at the bottom of a ditch. Its ribs were cut in half to make way for the removal of the lungs and heart. Two of the legs were torn off and the horns were cut off.  Three skulls of other bovines, likely collected after the three animals had decomposed, were buried with the complete cow. There is no comparable or even similar deposit on the French archaeological record.

Also unique are the surviving bases of stone walls documenting for the first time the shape and dimensions of early protohistoric houses in central Languedoc. One section of wall consisting of two rows of blocks is recognizable as the apse of a large building more than 30 feet long and 20 feet wide. The blocks are graduated, with the largest ones on the exterior wall and thinner ones towards the interior of the building. It’s likely the structure’s walls were stone on the bottom but formed of wood and earth in the upper parts.

Another unprecedented find is a cist burial made of megalithic slabs forming rectangular walls and a cover. Inside the massive sarcophagus archaeologists discovered the skeletal remains of two individuals deposited at different times. When the second body was buried, the bones of the first were disturbed and are now in a jumble while the second body remains articulated in its burial position. There are no grave goods in the cist to date the grave. The only clue from context is that it must postdate the Neolithic kiln it was built next to.

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Extinct crocodilian may have been ritually beheaded

Sunday, May 1st, 2022

A new species of extinct crocodilian has recently been identified from fossil remains discovered in southern China. The skeletons show evidence of the species was hunted by humans and may even have been ritualistically beheaded.

Researchers from Japanese and Chinese universities studied two examples, one killed in the 14th century B.C., one in the 10th century B.C. They are a slender-snouted crocodilian, but of the gharial family, the third surviving family of modern crocodilians alongside sharp-nosed crocodiles and blunt-nosed alligators. The specimens have skull features from the two other crocodilian branches as well as the gharial features, which makes it something of a missing link. The new species was named after Hanyusuchus sinensis after Han Yu, a Confucian essayist, poet and government official who tried (unsuccessfully) to fend off an infestation of crocodilians in southern China’s Guangdong province in the 9th century.

The two Bronze Age examples are adults of unknown sex. Extrapolating from the surviving fossilized bones, they were between 18 feet and 20 feet long. One of them had 17 chop marks, 16 on the skull, one on the neck. The orientation, spacing and depth of the chop marks indicate multiple blows by the same right-handed individual. Chop marks in different orientations may have been made by other people or by the same individual from a different position. One vertebra was completely bisected in a single blow believed to be a deliberate decapitation.

These blows were delivered with heavy metal weapons. Bronze axes in this period are known to have been symbols of monarchical power and used in religious rituals.

Any species considered a so-called missing link is always a significant find, but Hanyusuchus sinensis is important for other reasons too: chiefly, that it seems to have been driven to extinction by humankind. Both of the subfossil gharial specimens showed extensive evidence of vicious attacks and even beheading. The authors connected the fatal wounds with weapons of the period in question.

“Given the two specimens we have were killed by people, the species is no longer around, and given the historical evidence of systematic crocodilian purges in the region, the conclusion must be that humans are responsible for Hanyusuchus sinensis‘ demise,” said Yoneda. “Crocodilians are top predators and play a pivotal role in the maintenance of their freshwater ecosystems. This historical crocodilian conflict serves as a warning to people in the present.”

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Phoenician necropolis found in southern Spain

Wednesday, April 27th, 2022

A Phoenician necropolis from the 4th or 5th century B.C. has been unearthed in Osuna, southern Spain. The necropolis, discovered during water utility upgrades, contains limestone vaults that are in an excellent state of preservation. It is a unique find because the only comparable necropolises that have been unearthed so far are coastal, dotting the area around the ancient Phoenician colony of Cádiz. Osuna is inland, about 55 miles east of Seville.

An archaeological investigation of the site has revealed eight burial vaults with stairways and entrance atria. These were elite graves, and unprecedented in what would have been practically the hinterlands of Phoenician Spain.

The lead archaeologist, Mario Delgado, described the discovery as very significant and very unexpected. “To find a necropolis from the Phoenician and Carthaginian era with these characteristics – with eight well tombs, atriums and staircase access – you’d have to look to Sardinia or even Carthage itself,” he said.

“We thought we might find remains from the imperial Roman age, which would be more in keeping with the surroundings, so we were surprised when we found these structures carved from the rock – hypogea [subterranean vaults] – perfectly preserved beneath the Roman levels.”

Phoenicians settled southern Spain from around 800 B.C., not long after the founding of Phoenicia’s greatest colony, Carthage. They set to work exploiting the region’s rich and untapped deposits of tin, gold and silver and expanding their trade networks. The trade of metals and consumer goods (fish, textiles) made the Phoenician settlements of what is now Andalusia enormously prosperous. Archaeologists believe that the rich tombs found on the coast were built for the shipping dynasties that ran Phoenician commerce.

The mayor said that while more research needed to be done, the luxurious nature of the necropolis suggested it had been built for those at “the highest level” of the social hierarchy.

“The operation isn’t over yet and there’s still more to be discovered,” she said. “But the team has already come up with reliable information that attests to the historical importance of all this. Both the graves themselves and the ritual spaces that are being examined suggest that this wasn’t any old burial site.”

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Roman-era pottery workshop found in Alexandria

Sunday, April 24th, 2022

Archaeologists have discovered a Roman-era pottery workshop at the site of Tibet Mutawah, west of Alexandria. The archaeological mission unearthed an industrial space containing kilns, two of which were carved into the rock. One of them is in excellent condition, preserving its structure and clarifying how it was used to fire pottery: the entrance of the kiln was closed off with clay blocks and potsherds, and then the fuel introduced through a rock-carved ramp below the entrance.

There is evidence that the facility was in use both before and after the Roman pottery concerned was established at the site. Nearly 100 burials found at the site pre-date the pottery concern. An area just north of the Roman-era furnaces had a lime-making kiln believed to date to the Byzantine era. It would be reused as a burial ground in the Middle Ages, with two burials, one a pregnant woman, found inside the Byzantine kiln. Another structure south of the kilns appears to have been used to store utensils, primarily kitchen cookware and tableware.

The team discovered a group of limestone rooms from the Ptolemaic era that were dedicated to a variety of purposes. Thirteen of them were used as temporary housing for workers; others were used to manufacture or utilitarian items like grinders, pestles, amphorae, weights and spindles. Still others were dedicated to cooking. The remains of amphorae containing animal bones(fish, pigs, goats, sheep) were found, alongside stoves. At least one room had a religious function. Terracotta statues of deities and pharaohs were on a platform in this room.

Head of the mission Mohga Ramadan Abdel Kader indicated that the mission also succeeded in discovering a large group of coins, most of which span back to the Ptolemaic era. The mission restored a number of the coins, some of which were carved with the faces of Alexander the Great, Queen Cleopatra and the ancient deity Zeus.

The mission also found parts of terracotta statues of deities and elite women, and an amulet and feathered crown for the deity Bes, part of a statue associated with fertility, and parts of the fishing hooks used by the inhabitants of the area at the time, and the anchor of one of the boats.

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Theater of Herculaneum reopens

Saturday, April 23rd, 2022

Herculaneum’s theater was built in the 1st century A.D. during the reign of Augustus. Iniscriptions found at the site document the name of the sponsor — Lucius Annius Mammianus Rufus — and of the architect — Publius Numisius. It had a capacity of about 2,500 people (half of Pompeii’s theater) and was designed in the traditional Roman fashion with a cavea divided into three horizontal orders corresponding to the social status of the ticket-holder.

The ancient theater was the first monument to remerge from the hardened volcanic rock that had covered the Vesuvian sites for 1,650 years. What would later prove to be the ruins of the theater were first encountered by a farmer digging a well the early 1700s. When the news that ancient remains had been found filtered back to local potentate Prince Emanuele Maurizio of Lorraine, Duke of Elbeuf, in 1709 he bought the property and funded excavations that recovered, among other artworks, three statues of women that were the first major sculptures recovered from Herculaneum.

The Herculaneum women, elegantly garbed in draped gowns, originally decorated the stage of the Roman theater. Representing honorable women of the elite, they are copies of Greek originals from the 4th century B.C. that were popular throughout the Mediterranean in the imperial era. Unearthed just before excavations ceased in 1711 out of concern that the modern town above would collapse, the statues are now in the Dresden Skulpturensammlung.

The prince had no idea what he was pillaging. He thought it was a Temple to Hercules. It wasn’t identified as a theater until excavations resumed in 1738 by order of King of Naples and Sicily Charles III Bourbon. Much like the Duke of Elbeuf, his aim had little to do with archaeology and everything to do with harvesting statuary and antiquities to furnish his new palace, and they were systematic about it, digging tunnels that paralleled the architecture to strip it of its decorative statuary, including portraits of the imperial family, local magistrates, gilt bronze equestrian statues and chariots with bronze horses. Even the columns were pillaged. The Bourbon looting program ended in 1762 under pressure from renown art historian Johann Joachim Winckelmann who had sternly criticized the treasure hunting approach to excavation.

It was a popular stop on the Grand Tour in the 18th and 19th centuries, accessed by a Bourbon-era staircase built 65 feet down into the hardened volcanic rock separating the ancient city from the modern one. Visitors today will tread the same path, descending into the theater through the 18th century tunnels. All tours will be guided and limited to no more than 10 people at a time.

“The theater is located in a nerve center for the restitching of the two Herculaneums, the ancient and the modern, where we have concentrated the efforts of urban regeneration to create new public spaces with the collaboration of the Municipality and the Packard Humanities Institute. The theater area is also a privileged place to access the famous Resina market and the historic center of Herculaneum…. “The visit will be a real exploration experience,” says park director Sirano, “on the trail of visitors who over the centuries have passed through the wells and tunnels created by the engineers of the Bourbon army by torchlight. An underground path that transports us back through the centuries and makes us the protagonists of a discovery that is renewed every time before our astonished eyes.”

The theater will be open to visitors ever Saturday from now until December, minus a two-month summer break in July and August.

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