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Archaeologists discover “completely unique” Roman mosaics in London

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A team of archaeologists, led by the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA), on behalf of Landsec and Transport for London (TfL), have discovered Roman mosaics in London described by experts as “completely unique.”

Archaeologists also unearthed the well-preserved remnants of a mausoleum, a grand tomb structure with intact walls, interior flooring, and a captivating mosaic at its centre. Surrounding the mosaic is a raised platform where the burials were once laid to rest. The extraordinary level of preservation establishes it as the most complete Roman mausoleum ever unearthed in Britain.

The mausoleum underwent significant modifications during its lifetime and archaeologists uncovered a second mosaic directly beneath the first – indicating the floor of the structure was raised during its lifetime. The two mosaics are similar in design, with a central flower surrounded by a pattern of concentric circles set within a pavement formed of small red tiles.

The walls of the structure underwent extensive dismantling, likely occurring during the Medieval Period, with the intention of re purposing the materials elsewhere. Nonetheless, the available evidence strongly suggests that this was originally a substantial edifice consisting of two stories.

Image Credit : MOLA

Antonietta Lerz, Senior Archaeologist at MOLA, said: “This relatively small site in Southwark is a microcosm for the changing fortunes of Roman London – from the early phase of the site where London expands and the area has lavishly decorated Roman buildings, all the way through to the later Roman period when the settlement shrinks and it becomes a more quiet space where people remember their dead. It provides a fascinating window into the living conditions and lifestyle in this part of the city in the Roman period.”

Londinium is the name given to the Roman city, now occupied by the City of London that contains the historic centre and the primary central business district of London. The site was established in AD 47 (confirmed by a dendrochronological study) around a narrow point on the River Thames that enabled the construction of a bridge crossing, but deep enough to allow seagoing vessels to navigate the tidal river channel.

Image Credit : MOLA

By the end of the 1st century AD, Londinium had expanded rapidly and quickly became one of the largest cities in Roman Britannia, replacing Camulodunum (Colchester) as the provincial capital.

During the 2nd century AD, Londinium had reached its peak with around 45,000-60,000 inhabitants, covering an area of 330 acres north of the River Thames. The city contained a large forum and basilica (one of the largest in the Roman Empire north of the Alps), several bathhouse complexes and temples, an amphitheater, the Governors Palace (Praetorium), and many townhouses (domus).

Londinium’s status began to decline during the 5th century AD, with many public buildings falling into disrepair and communication with the rest of the Roman Empire beginning to weaken due to the barbarian incursions into Gaul and Hispania.

In addition to the discovery of the mosaics, the mausoleum featured a raised platform constructed from tiles bonded together with a durable and water-resistant pink mortar called opus signinum. This platform served as a delineation for the burial areas, arranged in a parallel fashion along three sides of the structure and aligned with the walls.

The mausoleum’s purpose was likely reserved for affluent individuals within Roman society. It might have served as a family tomb or possibly belonged to a burial association, where members contributed a monthly fee for the privilege of being laid to rest within its confines.

MOLA

Header Image Credit : MOLA

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Megathrust earthquakes possible cause of Teōtīhuacān decline

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A new study, published in the journal Science Direct, suggests that a series of megathrust earthquakes led to the decline and possible abandonment of Teōtīhuacān.

Named by the Nahuatl-speaking Aztecs as Teōtīhuacān, and loosely translated as “birthplace of the gods”, Teōtīhuacān is an ancient Mesoamerican city located in the Teōtīhuacān Valley of the Free and Sovereign State of Mexico, in present-day Mexico.

The development of Teōtīhuacān can be identified by four distinct consecutive phases, known as Teōtīhuacān I, II, III, and IV.

It was during phase II (AD 100 to 350) that the city population rapidly grew into a metropolis and saw the construction of monuments such as the Pyramid of the Sun (the third largest ancient pyramid after the Great Pyramid of Cholula and the Great Pyramid of Giza), the Pyramid of the Moon, the Avenue of the Dead, and the Ciudadela with the Temple of the Feathered Serpent (also known as Temple of the Quetzalcoatl).

An analysis of several pyramids within the city has revealed evidence of Earthquake Archaeological Effects (EAEs), potentially linked to seismic loading. The study has focused on the Temple of the Feathered Serpent (Old temple and New temple), and the Sun and the Moon pyramids, in which visible EAE’s can be observed.

According to the researchers, the EAE’s are likely caused by megathrust earthquakes, for which five destructive ancient earthquakes have been estimated to have struck Teōtīhuacān between the Tzacualli – Miccaotli (AD 100–150), and Metepec (AD 600 ± 50) stages, by matching EAEs and archaeological dates.

Based on the spatial pattern of the EAEs and the orientation of the dipping broken corners (DBC) or chip marks, it is theorised that a series of seismic shocks struct the city from the SW to the NE, indicating a possible origin of a seismic source in the Middle American Trench caused by repetitive megathrust earthquakes.

At least, two strong destructive earthquakes (Intensity VIII-IX) affected Teōtīhuacān in antiquity that impacted the development of the architectural styles. The first one occurred between the years AD 1–150 (Miccaotli phase), and the second one occurred in AD 455 ± 50 (Late Xolalpan-Early Metepec phase).

This was followed by three further damaging earthquakes, for which the latter two occurred around AD 650 before the abandonment of the city the following century.

“This proposal does not conflict with other existing theories for the Teotihuacan abrupt collapse, considering that the sudden overlapping of natural disasters like earthquakes could increase internal warfare (uprising), and civil unrest,” said the study authors.

Header Image Credit : Shutterstock

Sources : Science Direct | Teotihuacan ancient culture affected by megathrust earthquakes during the early Epiclassic Period (Mexico). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2024.104528.

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

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Excavations uncover traces of Kraków Fortress

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A team of archaeologists conducting archaeological works at the S52 construction site have uncovered traces of the Kraków Fortress in the Polish city of Kraków.

S52 is a Polish highway being constructed in the Silesian and Lesser Poland voivodeships, which upon completion will connect the border of the Czech Republic in Cieszyn with Kraków.

Kraków Fortress refers to a series of Austro-Hungarian fortifications constructed during the 19th century. The fortress included the 18th century Kościuszko Insurrection fortifications, the medieval Wawel Castle, and the Kraków city walls. Of the over 50 post-Austrian forts in Krakow, 44 structures have been preserved in their entirety or with minor changes.

Excavations in the area of ​​the northern bypass of Krakow have revealed the remains of earthen structures related to the network of military units being established around the city, whose task was to turn Krakow into a modern border fortress.

The team also uncovered traces of earth embankments and moats, as well as the infrastructure for draining rainwater from the infantry entrenchment area and a wooden shelter from a dugout measuring 25 by 7.5 metres.

A press statement by the Republic of Poland, said: “During the research, objects related to the everyday life of soldiers were discovered. These include a tin enameled mug with a signature on the bottom depicting a double-headed imperial eagle with the inscription Austria and the initials H&C 1/2.”

“The preserved marking allowed us to determine that the mug is a product of the Haardt & Co. factory located in Knittelfeld, Austria. Enamellierwerke und Metallwarenfabriken AG. Founded in 1873 by Friedrich Wilhelm Haardt, the factory produced embossed enamelled dishes, including orders for the then Austrian army.”

Header Image Credit : Republic of Poland

Sources : Republic of Poland

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

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