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Archaeologists uncover 2,000-year-old Roman winery

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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.

Antiquity

https://doi.org/10.15184/aqy.2023.18

Header Image Credit : Antiquity

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Archaeology

Post-medieval township discovered in Scottish forest

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Archaeologists have uncovered the remains of a pre-medieval township in the Glen Brittle Forest on the Isle of Skye.

The discovery was made during an environmental survey before the harvest of a mature conifer plantation.

AOC Archaeologists have found traces of 28 buildings, consisting of houses, byres, barns and corn-drying kilns, which are surrounded by fields and stock enclosures that traditionally formed a small clachan (or township).

An early 19th century map surveyed by John Thomson in 1832 names the site as the township of Brunell, a small agricultural township which dates from the 17th and 18th centuries.

A passage in the Parish of Bracadale on Skye describes Brunell as: “The parish produces black cattle, sheep and horses. Black cattle is the main staple… from the returns of which the people pay their rents and supply themselves with necessities. There are small quantities of sheep on each farm, but there is no farm laid out entirely to sheep pasture”

During the late 18th century, the township experienced a decline due to farms consolidating land for sheep-grazing and reduced the need for labour, consequently displacing and leaving the small tenants adrift.

By the Ordnance Survey of 1881, the town had dwindled to merely two roofless buildings and several fields, suggesting that the entire population had abandoned the township by this time.

According to Forestry and Land Scotland, the survey data was used to guide machine operators during tree harvesting, ensuring they could fell trees without causing harm to any archaeological features.

Header Image Credit : Forestry and Land Scotland

Sources : Forestry and Land Scotland – Dig deeper: revealing the ruins of Brunell Township.

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

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Archaeology

Geophysical study finds evidence of “labyrinth” buried beneath Mitla

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A geophysical study has found underground structures and tunnels beneath Mitla – The Zapotec “Place of the Dead”

Mitla is an archaeological site associated with the Zapotec culture, located in the Oaxaca Valley in the present-day state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico.

The Zapotec civilisation emerged in the late 6th century BC, originating in the Central Valleys of the Etla. The culture was centred on the settlements of Oaxaca, San José Mogote, and Mitla, with the city of Monte Albán serving as the civic-ceremonial centre.

At its peak, the Zapotec had a population of more than 500,000 inhabitants, having developed sophisticated construction techniques, a writing system, two calendar systems, and complex agricultural cultivation.

In 2016, the Lyobaa Project, an institutional collaboration led by the National Institute of History and Anthropology (INAH) employed ground penetrating radar (GPR), electrical resistivity tomography (ERT), and ambient seismic noise interferometry (AIRSA) to explore potential archaeological features beneath the San Pablo Apóstol church, built atop the Zapotec ruins in Mitla.

Image Credit : Lyobaa Project

According to local legend, the church was constructed on an entrance way to an underground labyrinth, serving as a passage between the realm of the living to the realm of the dead, referred to as Mictlán in Nahuatl, meaning the “place of the dead” or “underworld.”

In 1674, the Dominican chronicler, Francisco Burgoa, described Spanish missionaries entering the labyrinth: “Such was the corruption and bad smell, the dampness of the floor, and a cold wind which extinguished the lights, that at the little distance they had already penetrated, they resolved to come out, and ordered this infernal gate to be thoroughly closed with masonry.”

As part of phase two of the Lyobaa Project, the researchers have identified buried architectural complexes and a series of corridors during a study of the Calvario, Arroyo, and del Sur groups within the archaeological zone.

The Arroyo group, located in the central area of the site has three quadrangle features connected by tunnels that likely date from AD 1200 during the Late Postclassic period.

The project also conducted a survey of the quadrangular plaza where the San Pablo Apóstol church was constructed on the remains of a pre-Hispanic temple. Beneath the plaza the researchers found that there are four mounds with clay internal cores.

Archaeologist, Denisse Argote, said: “We were able to determine that, although the core of the stepped structure is solid, the foundation of the historic church requires short-term intervention to guarantee its conservation, so measures must be taken to ensure its structural stability.”

“There are cracks in the historic building, since it does not have a foundation and, underneath, in what corresponds to the remains of the pre-Hispanic building, it seems that there are areas with small cavities,” added Argote.

Header Image Credit : Shutterstock

Sources : INAH

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

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