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Excavation reveals new insights into last moments before Vesuvius eruption



Archaeologists conducting excavations in the Villa San Marco, a high status Roman villa on the outskirts of Stabia, are revealing new insights into the last moments before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

Stabiae was an ancient Roman town and seaside resort near Pompeii on the eastern end of the Bay of Naples. Like Pompeii and Herculanium, Stabiae was largely buried during the AD 79 eruption of Mount Vesuvius in thick tephra and ash.

Pliny the Elder, a Roman author who wrote the encyclopedic Naturalis Historia (which became an editorial model for encyclopedias died at Stabiae during the eruptions, but many of the town inhabitants were spared and resettled. Publius Papinius Statius recites in a poem to his wife – “Stabias renatas”, meaning Stabiae reborn.

Recent excavations at the Villa San Marco, a large Roman villa complex which covers more than 11,000 square metres, have been investigating the previous building phases of the site to further understand the chronology and extent of the entire structure.

Image Credit : Pompeii Sites

The villa’s original construction dates back to the Augustan Age and was focused on a tetrastyle Ionic atrium. Later, during the Claudian period, expansions incorporated a panoramic garden and a swimming pool that were enclosed by a three-sided portico, topped with a colonnade featuring spiral columns.

As a result of these additions, the layout of the villa underwent significant changes, shifting away from the previous axial plan and decentralising the entrance and the original core.
The main entrance, now buried, used to open onto a porticoed courtyard that provided access to the tablinum. From there, one could proceed to a tetrastyle atrium, leading to four small cubicula. Additionally, the thermal baths were accessible from the atrium, but their alignment deviated from the villa’s main axis due to their connection with the pre-existing street running in front of the structure.

Since March 2023, archaeologists have excavated the end part of the upper portico, revealing paintings with seated figures and large parts of the collapsed walls. The portico was buried in lapilli tephra (volcanic rock), allowing the paintings to be preserved along with a flight of the spiral columns.

According to a press announcement: “Following the story provided by the stratigraphies of lapilli and collapses, and by the sequence of pyroclastic flows, it is also possible to reconstruct the last hours of the villa’s life.”

“Despite the dramatic destruction, the life and luxury of the villa resurface in the chromatic ranges of the paintings on the walls and ceilings, in the stuccos, in the capitals, in the precious coatings and crowning of columns and roofs,” added the researchers.”

Pompeii Sites

Header Image Credit : Pompeii Sites

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Early medieval carved stone of a warrior figure found in Glasgow




Archaeologists excavating the grounds of Govan Old Church in Glasgow, England, have discovered an early medieval carved stone figure dubbed the “Govan Warrior”.

Govan Old Church is the home of the Govan Stone Museum, a collection of early medieval and Viking-Age sculptures found in the grounds, including 30 sculptures from a lost kingdom of Old Welsh-speaking Britons known as the Ystrad Clud who dominated the Clyde valley from the 5th to 11th centuries AD.

Excavations have been conducted by the University of Glasgow and Clyde Archaeology, in which a carved stone of a warrior was uncovered during a community fun day organised as part of the Glasgow Doors Open Days Festival.

The carved stone depicts a man standing side on and carrying a round shield and a shaft. According to the researchers, the discovery dates from around 1,000-years-ago and is unlike any of the other carved stones found at Govan Old.

According to a press statement by the University of Glasgow: “The Govan Warrior is unique within the existing collection due to its stylistic characteristics, which has drawn parallels with Pictish art and carvings from the Isle of Man. Unlike the other stones in the Govan collection, whose chunky style of carving is so distinctive that it has been described as a school of carving in its own right (the ‘Govan School’), the Govan Warrior is lightly incised, which may bring parallels with famous Pictish stones like the Rhynie Man from Aberdeenshire.”

Professor Stephen Driscoll said: “It’s a style that makes us think both about the Pictish world and also about the Isle of Man and it’s interesting that we are halfway between these two places. Govan is the ideal place for these two artistic traditions or styles to come together.”

University of Glasgow

Header Image Credit : Govan Heritage Trust

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Iron Age port discovered on Baltic Sea island of Gotska Sandön




An excavation project, in collaboration with archaeologists from Södertörn University, Uppsala University’s Campus Gotland, Gotland Museum, and the Swedish National Heritage Board, has led to the discovery of an Iron Age port on Gotska Sandön.

Gotska Sandön is an island and national park in Sweden’s Gotland County, situated 24 miles north of Faro in the Baltic Sea.

Earlier in 2023, archaeologists found two 2,000-year-old Roman coins on one of the island’s beaches. Both coins are made of silver, with one coin dating from AD 98-117 during the reign of Emperor Trajan, and the other coin dating from AD 138-161 during the reign of Emperor Antoninus Pius

In the latest excavations, archaeologists have now discovered evidence of twenty hearths on the same beach as the Roman coins discovery.

According to Johan Rönnby, a professor of marine archaeology at Södertörn University, the site is an Iron Age port, not in the sense of quays we imply in the modern era, but instead a place where Iron Age people regularly landed their boats and formed an encampment.

Although the purpose of the encampment is speculated, the researchers suggest that it may have been linked to an emerging seal hunting industry.

“Seal hunters may have come from the island of Gotland and landed on Sandön to boil seal blubber. This could have been what the hearths were used for, but we don’t yet know – there may be other reasons why the site looks like it does, such as it being a trading post,” said Rönnby.

Excavations and carbon-14 dating of one of the hearths has indicated that they also date from 2,000-years-ago, suggesting a possible link between the encampment and the Roman coins.


Header Image Credit : idw

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