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Lost Roman forts discovered using Cold War spy satellites

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A study of declassified imagery taken by Cold War era satellites during the 1960s and 70s has led to the discovery of 396 previously undiscovered Roman forts.

The forts are spread across the Syrian Steppe in what is now Syria and Iraq to protect the eastern provinces from Arab and Persian incursions.

According to the researchers, the forts are in a region where a proposed defensive line of 116 forts were identified in an aerial survey conducted by Father Antoine Poidebard in 1934.

“Since the 1930s, historians and archaeologists have debated the strategic or political purpose of this system of fortifications,” says lead author of the research, Professor Jesse Casana from Dartmouth College, “but few scholars have questioned Poidebard’s basic observation that there was a line of forts defining the eastern Roman frontier.”

Image Credit : Antiquity

In a study published in the journal Antiquity, a team from Dartmouth College studied the declassified spy satellite imagery which formed part of the first spy satellite programme’s to determine whether Poidebard’s findings were accurate.

Using the forts found by Poidebard’s as a point of reference, the study revealed 396 new fort locations in a landscape that has been severely impacted by modern-day changes in land-use. The forts were found throughout the region spanning from the east to the west, contradicting the theory that they formed a north-south border wall.

Instead, the study suggests that the forts were constructed by the Romans to promote inter-regional trade, safeguarding caravans journeying between the eastern provinces and non-Roman lands, and enabling communication between the eastern and western regions.

Image Credit : Antiquity

Crucially, this suggests that the boundaries of the Roman World were more flexible and inclusive than previously thought. It’s probable that the eastern Roman frontier wasn’t a constant hotspot of violent conflict.

Although the Romans had a strong military presence, they also placed importance on trade and communication with regions beyond their direct rule. Consequently, this revelation could significantly reshape our comprehension of life on the Roman frontiers.

Speaking to HeritageDaily, Professor Jesse Casana from Dartmouth College, said: “We were only able to confidently identify extant archaeological remains at 38 of Poidebard’s 116 forts. In addition, many of the likely Roman forts we have documented in this study have already been destroyed by recent urban or agricultural development, and countless others are under extreme threat.”

Antiquity

https://doi.org/10.15184/aqy.2023.153

Header Image Credit : Antiquity

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Archaeology

Trove of Roman objects linked to feasting found at Ostia antica

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Archaeologists have uncovered a trove of Roman objects linked to ritual feasting at Ostia antica.

Ostia Antica is an ancient harbour town located at the mouth of the Tiber River. The harbour served as the main port for Rome, transporting goods and people from the coast along the Via Ostiensis.

Archaeologists recently excavated the area of Regio I – Insula XV, a “sacred area” or precinct housing several temples and sanctuaries. At the centre is the temple of Hercules,  a 31 x 16 metre monument which dates from the Republican Era.

Excavations have revealed a substantial well situated at the base of the temple of Hercules. Upon draining the well, it was discovered to hold a significant collection of objects dating from the 1st to 2nd century AD.

Among the objects are various ceramics, miniatures, lamps, glass containers, fragments of marble, and burnt animal bones (pigs and cattle). According to the archaeologists, the trove corresponds with ritual feasting associated with cult at the temple.

In a press statement by the Ministry of Culture: “The discovery of burnt bones confirms that animal sacrifices were carried out in the sanctuary, while the common ceramics, also bearing traces of fire, indicate that the meat was cooked and consumed during banquets in honour of divinity. The remains of one or more ritual meals were thrown into the well, the last ones probably when their function had ceased.”

Header Image Credit : Ministry of Culture

Sources : Ministry of Culture

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

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Archaeology

Labyrinthine structure discovered from the Minoan civilisation

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Archaeologists have discovered a monumental labyrinthine structure on the summit of Papoura Hill in Crete.

The discovery was made during the installation of a radar system in preparation for the construction of a new airport in the area.

According to experts, the structure dates from between 2000 to 1700 BC shortly before or at the start of the palaeopalatial Minoan period.

The Minoan civilisation was a Bronze Age culture that emerged on the island of Crete around 3100 BC. The culture is known for the monumental architecture and energetic art, and is often regarded as the first civilisation in Europe.

Image Credit : Greek Ministry of Culture

The chronology of the Minoans is characterised into three distinct phases – Early Minoan (EM), Middle Minoan (MM), and Late Minoan (LM).

The palaeopalatial structure is part of the MMI – II grouping in the Middle Minoan, a period in which the first palaces were built and saw the development of the Minoan writing systems, Cretan hieroglyphic and Linear A.

The structure comprises of 8 concentric stone rings that converge on a central circular building. The entire diameter of the complex measures 48 metres and covers an area of approximately 1800 square metres.

Within the central structure are four designated zones in which radial walls intersect vertically and form a labyrinthine structure. Zones A and B appear to be have the main concentration of human activity, evidenced by the presence of large amounts of animals bones.

According to the experts, this residential area likely had a truncated cone or vaulted appearance and is the first monument of this type excavated in Crete. It can perhaps be paralleled with the elliptical MM building of the Chamezi Archaeological Site, as well as with the so-called circular proto-Hellenic cyclopean building of Tiryns.

The Minister of Culture, said: “This is a unique and highly significant find. Solutions are in place to ensure the completion of the archaeological research and the protection of the monument.”

Header Image Credit : Greek Ministry of Culture

Sources : Greek Ministry of Culture

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

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