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Archaeologists uncover Roman soldier’s paycheck at Masada

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Archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) have uncovered a papyrus paycheck belonging to Roman soldier during excavations at Masada.

Masada is an ancient fortress and palace, built by King Herod the Great between 37 and 31 BC, situated on a plateau overlooking the dead sea in the Southern District of Israel.

During the First Jewish-Roman War, also called the Great Revolt, Masada was taken by the Sicarii (meaning “dagger-man”), a splinter group of the Jewish Zealots, and one of the earliest organised groups that specialised in the act of assassination.

In AD 72, the legion X Fretensis, commanded by Lucius Flavius Silva, marched on Masada to break the Sicarii resistance. The legion was supported by several auxiliary units and Jewish prisoners of war (totalling some 15,000 men and women according to accounts by the Romano-Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus).

Masada – Image Credit : Shutterstock

The Romans encircled Masada with a circumvallation siege wall, running for 6.8 miles around the mountain plateau, supported by a series of fortified encampments or temporary forts.

After several attempts to breach Masada’s defences, the Romans constructed a giant siege ramp scaling the western side of the fortress to a height of 61 metres. A siege tower and battering ram was slowly moved up the ramp, where on April 16th, AD 73, the walls of Masada were breached.

The events that followed has divided historians and archaeologists. According to Josephus: “it [was] by the will of God, and by necessity, that [they, the Sicarrii] are to die” and that the defenders drew lots and killed each other in turn, down to the last man (as Judaism prohibits suicide). Josephus further stated that their leader, Eleazar ben Ya’ir’s, ordered all provisions to be destroyed, to demonstrate to the Romans that they defiantly chose death over slavery.

Excavations by the IAA have found a detailed military paycheck (one of only three legionary paychecks discovered in the entire Roman Empire), issued to a Roman legionary soldier from the period of the First Jewish-Roman War in AD 72. The paycheck is one of 14 Latin scrolls found at Masada by archaeologists – 13 of which was written on papyrus, and one on parchment paper.

The paycheck provides a detailed summary of a Roman soldier’s salary over two pay periods (out of three he would receive annually), including the various deductions that he was charged.

Dr. Oren Ableman, senior curator-researcher at the Israel Antiquities Authority Dead Sea Scrolls Unit, said:  “The soldier’s paycheck included deductions for boots and a linen tunic, and barley fodder for his horse.”

“Surprisingly, the details indicate that the deductions almost exceeded the soldier’s salary. Whilst this document provides only a glimpse into a single soldier’s expenses in a specific year, it is clear that in light of the nature and risks of the job, the soldiers did not stay in the army only for the salary,” added Dr Ableman.

According to Dr. Ableman, “The soldiers may have been allowed to loot on military campaigns. Other possible suggestions arise from reviewing the different historical texts preserved in the Israel Antiquities Authority Dead Sea Scrolls Laboratory.

For example, a document discovered in the Cave of Letters in Nahal Hever from the time of the Bar Kokhba Revolt (AD 132–135), sheds light on some side hustles Roman soldiers used to earn extra cash. This document is a loan deed signed between a Roman soldier and a Jewish resident, the soldier charging the resident with interest higher than what was legal. This document reinforces the understanding that the Roman soldiers’ salaries may have been augmented by additional sources of income, making service in the Roman army far more lucrative.”

IAA

Header Image Credit : Shai Halevi, Israel Antiquities Authority

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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Archaeology

Archaeologists may have discovered the lost city of Tu’am

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Excavations in the Umm Al Quwain area of the UAE have revealed 6th century ruins that could be the lost city of Tu’am.

The ruins are situated on Al Sinniyah Island, part of a collection of small islands on the western part of the Khor Al Bidiyah peninsula.

Previous studies on the island have revealed a pearling village and monastery, which has been the focus of the latest season of excavations.

Archaeologists have discovered evidence of a larger settlement, with the earliest signs of occupation dating back to the 4th century AD and peaking in the 5th or 6th century.

The team uncovered traces of large semi-urbanised tenement buildings measuring 30 square metres, which are tightly packed around narrow walkways. According to the researchers, the settlement could be the lost city of Tu’am as described in Ancient Arab texts.

Tu’am was a regional capital on the Gulf coast that was famed for its pearl fishing industry and trade in precious gems.

The population went into decline following a plague and regional tensions, and subsequently was abandoned. Mass graves in the vicinity support the historical account of plague, as the skeletal remains show no evidence of trauma or a violent death.

“Our archaeological work has discovered the largest settlement by far ever found on the Gulf coast of the Emirates,” said Prof Tim Power of UAE University.

“And it’s exactly the right period for the city described in the early Islamic geographical sources. It’s clearly a really important place. No one has ever found it.”

Professor Power explained that while they have not found irrefutable evidence (such as an inscription bearing the town’s name), no other major settlements from this period have been discovered on the coast, strengthening the argument that the settlement is Tu’am. “It’s a process of elimination,” he explained.

Header Image Credit : Umm Al Quwain Department of Tourism and Archaeology

Sources : NUAE

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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Archaeology

New findings in North America’s first city

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Cahokia was the largest urban settlement of the Mississippian culture, a mound-building pre-Columbian civilisation that emerged in the Midwestern, Eastern, and South-eastern United States.

Archaeological evidence suggests that the city was founded around AD 1050 along the banks of the Mississippi River, located near present-day St. Louis, Missouri.

The city covered an area between six to nine square miles (notably larger than many contemporary European cities such as London) and was home to up to 20,000 inhabitants at its peak.

Following the tradition of the Mississippian culture, the people of Cahokia constructed large earthen mounds – ranging from raised platforms, conical, and ridge-top designs – involving the movement of 55 million cubic feet of earth over a period that lasted several decades.

The largest mound is known as “Monks Mound,” named after a group of Trappist monks, which rises to a height of 290 metres and was once the tallest building construction in North America.

Image Credit : MattGush – iStock

Archaeologists and students from Saint Louis University (SLU) have recently conducted a series of excavations on the western periphery of the Cahokia Mounds.

The team unearthed 900-year-old ceramics, microdrills, structures, and wall trenches dating from around AD 1100 to 1200, during the Sterling Phase of the Mississippian Period. According to the archaeologists, the finds offer new insights into a crucial period in the chiefdom’s development, coinciding with Cahokia’s rapid population growth.

The excavations follow an aerial survey by SLU and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency using Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) to conduct Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) to determine whether further mounds or archaeological features lie within the acres of thick forests and swampy land near the site’s main complex.

Header Image Credit : Alamy

Sources : KSDK

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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