Archaeologists uncover 2,000-year-old Roman winery
A team of archaeologists have uncovered a 2,000-year-old Roman winery in Rome, revealing new insights into the cultural importance of agriculture in ancient Rome and its role as a form of entertainment for the highest echelons of society.
The winery was found in the lavishly decorated Villa of the Quintilii, where the day-to-day production of wine was presented as entertainment for wealthy, powerful Romans, perhaps including the emperor himself.
Excavations at the site, which are published in the journal Antiquity, revealed a complex system of rooms and channels used for wine production and storage. The wine making process would have begun in the treading room, which unlike other waterproof plaster-covered examples from the same period, was found to be clad with expensive red marble.
The slippery nature of marble makes it an unusual choice for a production area and further hints at the importance of theatricality at the winery. The excavations, which began in 2017, also revealed the mechanisms of two large presses and a multicoloured marble-clad fountain-like system through which wine flowed to storage jars in the cellar.
Image Credit : Antiquity
A series of lavishly decorated rooms surrounding the winery were likely used by the emperor and his retinue to dine while observing the wine being made. Each of these rooms have wide open entrances which offered an expansive view of the workers and the mechanisms of the winery system.
Lead author Dr Emlyn Dodd, previously of the British School at Rome and now based in the Institute of Classical Studies, University of London, said: “Agricultural labour was romanticised by the ruling classes of many ancient cultures, especially as it was often the source of both their wealth and status. The excavations at the Villa of the Quintilii reveal to us how ancient Roman elites reimagined the annual vintage as a “theatrical” performance, prioritising the experience of those observing over the practical needs of the workers.
“It would have been a real spectacle for those watching, the combination of fountains of wine and water, luxurious materials – especially the thin white marble channels through which the wine could be seen flowing – and the sounds of the workers and music would have resulted in a theatrical show.”
The Villa of the Quintilii was part of the imperial estate and both its proximity to Rome and luxurious decorations, suggest that it may have played an active role in imperial life. Compared to other imperial properties, where once-lavish quarters were later transformed for utilitarian use, Gordian’s imperial court may have visited the Villa of the Quintilii for a ritual at this facility associated with the annual vintage.
The winery’s discovery has also increased our knowledge of the brief reign of Gordian III, who we now know began a program of monumental construction focused on infrastructure and restoration of facilities for spectacle, including Rome’s famous Colosseum.
Header Image Credit : Antiquity
Nazca geoglyphs discovered used AI deep learning
Archaeologists from the Yamagata University have used AI deep learning to discover new geoglyphs in the northern part of the Nazca Pampa in the arid Peruvian coastal plain.
Geoglyphs in the Nazca Pampa were first identified during the 1920’s, with ongoing studies since the 1940’s revealing various figurative geoglyphs of zoomorphic designs, geometric shapes, and linear lines.
Geoglyphs can be categorised into three main types: figurative, geometric, and lineal. Archaeologists suggest that the lineal geoglyphs were created by the Nazca, a culture that developed during the Early Intermediate Period and is generally divided into the Proto Nazca (phase 1, 100 BC to AD 1), the Early Nazca (phases 2–4, AD 1 to 450), Middle Nazca (phase 5, AD 450 to 550) and the Late Nazca (phases 6–7, AD 550 to 750).
The relief type dates from the Late Formative period (400 to 200 BC), as the iconography of the geoglyphs are similar to that of Formative petroglyphs found on outcrops of rock. During this period, the region was inhabited by the Paracas Culture, an Andean people that emerged around 800 BC until 100 BC.
Since 2004, Yamagata University has been conducting geoglyph distribution surveys using satellite imagery, aerial photography, airborne scanning LiDAR, and drone photography to investigate the vast area of the Nazca Pampa covering more than 390 km2.
In 2016, the researchers used aerial photography with a ground resolution of 0.1 m per pixel to create a detailed survey of the region. Overtime, the team have identified various geoglyphs, however, the process is very time consuming, so they have adopted AI deep learning to analyse the photographs at a much faster rate.
The results of a study, published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, has revealed the discovery of four new Nazca geoglyphs using this new method by creating an approach to labelling training data that identifies a similar partial pattern between the known and new geoglyphs.
The four new geoglyphs depict a humanoid figure, a pair-of-legs, a fish, and a bird. The humanoid geoglyph is shown holding a club in his/her right hand and measures 5 metres in length. The fish geoglyph, shown with a wide-open mouth measures 19 metres, while the bird geoglyph measures 17 metres and the pair-of-legs 78 metres.
According to the study authors: “We have developed a DL pipeline that addresses the challenges that commonly arise in the task of archaeological image object detection. Our approach allows DL to learn representations of images with better generalisation and performance, enabling the discovery of targets that have been difficult to find in the past. Moreover, by accelerating the research process, our method contributes to archaeology by establishing a new paradigm that combines field surveys and AI, leading to more efficient and effective investigations.”
Header Image Credit : Yamagata University
Archaeologists study fortress in southern Georgia to understand community resilience
A team of archaeologists led by Cranfield University is conducting a detailed study of the fortress of Dmanisis Gora in the Kvemo Kartli region of Georgia.
The study is part of a project to understand why communities in the region were more resilient than other parts of the world during the transition from the Bronze to the Iron Age around 1200 BC.
Dmanisis Gora is located at the north-eastern edge of the highland zone between two such gorges. The site consists of a compact defensive core that has two defensive walls with an enclosed area of 3.7 acres.
On the plateau behind the citadel area, a third wall, extending about 1000 m from edge to edge on the plateau, encloses a much larger area of about 138.3 acres that contains numerous circular and linear stone features.
During the so-called ‘12th Century BC crisis’ and its aftermath, the majority of Middle Eastern regions underwent a period of significant turmoil characterised by the disintegration of empires, famine, crop failures, armed conflicts, and mass migration.
In contrast, the Caucasus region (consisting of present-day Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan) appears to have been shielded from this tumultuous period, exhibiting only gradual transformations in material culture and patterns of settlement.
Either the region managed to entirely avoid the widespread disruption, or it did not experience the same cultural, economic, and political repercussions as other areas. This suggests that the communities in the region might have been more resilient, enabling them to withstand and adapt to the challenges in a comparatively effective manner.
Dr Erb-Satullo, from Cranfield University, said: “The key to understanding why the Bronze Age-Iron Age transition is different in the Caucasus is to study the fortress communities that dot the landscape during this period. We’re looking for clues about life in the Late Bronze Age through examining areas such as ceramics, burial rituals, farming practices, tools and social structures.”
“Given the upheaval at that time in other nearby regions, we are intrigued to find out more about one of these sites and determine what underlies their apparent resilience,” added Dr Erb-Satullo.
The project expands upon earlier pilot excavations carried out at the site prior to the pandemic, along with a thorough survey conducted in Autumn 2022 using drone-based photogrammetry. This is done by using the latest forensic technologies including isotopic analysis of animal remains, metallurgy, magnetometry and deploying drones to scan the area.
“What’s really exciting about this site is its size, preservation, and the fact that it has layers dating precisely to the years around the 12th Century BC crisis,” continued Dr Erb-Satullo. “Many fortresses are on hills which are prone to erosion. But this one has relatively flat topography, so the sediment will have built up in layers over time, helping to preserve artefacts and archaeological clues from the Late Bronze age.”
Header Image Credit : BING Maps
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