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New study changes assumptions of Roman backwater town



A new study by researchers from the University of Cambridge has revealed that Interamna Lirenas, traditionally written off as a failed backwater, continued to thrive during the Roman Crisis of the Third Century AD.

Interamna Lirenas was founded in 312 BC as a colonia of Latins in the present-day province of Frosinone, central Italy. The town was situated at the confluence of the Liri and Rio Spalla Bassa rivers, whence the name “Interamna” (meaning “between the rivers”).

Julius Caesar become patronus of Interamna Lirenas, using the strategic position of the town as he sought to consolidate support across Italy during the civil wars.

In AD 235 to 284, the Roman Empire came near to collapse in a period known as the Crisis of the Third Century, also known as the Military Anarchy or the Imperial Crisis.

Over the ensuing five decades, the empire grappled with a confluence of challenges, including barbarian invasions and migrations penetrating Roman lands, internal strife marked by civil wars, uprisings among peasants, and a tumultuous political landscape characterised by numerous usurpers competing for power.

These events culminated in the devaluation of the Empire’s currency, economic turmoil, and the exacerbation of disorder due in part to the Plague of Cyprian.

Despite these upheavals, a new study published in the edited volume Roman Urbanism in Italy has revealed that Interamna Lirenas continued to thrive during the 3rd century AD. The town’s abandonment only occurred around the 6th century AD, attributed to its location along a direct route frequently used by marauding armies.

A GPR survey carried out by the researchers has also revealed the presence of a large warehouse, a temple and a three bath complexes, which served a river port between the late 1st century BC and the 4th century AD.

Dr Alessandro Launaro, the study’s author and Interamna Lirenas Project lead at Cambridge’s Faculty of Classics, said: “This river port enabled Interamna Lirenas to profit from trade between Aquinum and Casinum, key centres to the north, and Minturnae and the Tyrrhenian coast to the southeast. It would have been crucial to the town’s success.”

Image Credit : University of Cambridge

On the town’s northwestern perimeter, archaeologists unearthed the remains of a roofed theatre measuring approximately 45 metres by 26 metres, that accommodated an audience of 1,500 individuals.

“The fact that this town went for a roofed theatre, such a refined building, does not fit with a backwater in decline. This theatre was a major status symbol. It displayed the town’s wealth, power and ambition,” said Dr Launaro.

The team also found nineteen substantial courtyard buildings, which they suggest functioned as indoor marketplaces (macella), guildhouses (scholae), residential complexes, and notably, public warehouses (horrea).

This impressive infrastructure indicates that the town served as a pivotal trading centre, connecting to larger hubs like Aquinum and Casinum. Historical records affirm that Interamna Lirenas hosted two distinct markets, further supporting its significance in trade networks.

In addition, archaeologists uncovered a sizable open area that operated as a livestock market for sheep and cattle, playing a crucial role in facilitating the prosperous wool trade within the region.

Header Image Credit : University of Cambridge

This content was originally published on – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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Gold foils discovered in Ancient Egyptian tombs




Archaeologists from the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities have discovered rare gold foils during excavations at Tel El-Dir.

Tel El-Dir is a burial complex in the area of Egypt’s Damietta Governorate. The site contains various burials and tombs from the 26th Dynasty (664 BC to 525 BC), the last native dynasty of ancient Egypt before the Persian conquest in 525 BC.

Excavations of 63 mud brick tombs and pit burials have revealed a large collection of funerary offerings, including rare gold foils depicting Ancient Egyptian deities, and foils shaped like symbols associated with good fortune and protection.

The team also found foils in the shape of tongues, a tradition that enabled the deceased to speak before the court of Osiris in the afterlife.

Image Credit : Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

The discovery follows on from a previous haul in 2022, where archaeologists excavating at Tel El-Dir found gold foils depicting Isis, Bastet and Horus (in the form of a winged falcon), as well as foils in various shapes.

According to a press statement from the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, many of the tombs contained funeral pyres, imported and local ceramics, and Ushabti statues (figurines placed with the deceased to serve them in the afterlife).

The excavation has also yielded a large number of funerary offerings, such as protective amulets, figurines, coins, and a mirror.

Speaking on the finds, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities explained that the objects confirm that Damietta was a centre of trade during ancient times, and provides new insights into the burial practices during the 26th Dynasty.

Header Image Credit : Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

Sources : Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

This content was originally published on – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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New findings at world-famous Mesolithic site of Star Carr




A recent study by archaeologists from the University of York and the University of Newcastle has revealed new insights into the domestic activities of the Mesolithic inhabitants of Star Carr.

Star Carr is one of the most significant and informative Mesolithic sites in Europe, which during prehistoric times was situated near the outflow at the western end of a palaeolake known as Lake Flixton.

Today, Star Carr lies at the eastern end of the Vale of Pickering near Scarborough in North Yorkshire, England.

Using microscopic evidence from the use of stone tools, the researchers found that a range of domestic activities took place in three previously excavated structures. This includes activities related to working with bone, antler, hide, meat, and fish.

The study, published in the journal PLOS One, used a combination of spatial and microwear data to provide different scales of interpretation: from individual tool use to patterns of activity across the three structures.

Dr Jess Bates, from the University of York’s Department of Archaeology said: “We found that there were distinct areas for different types of activity, so the messy activity involving butchery, for example, was done in what appears to be a designated space, and separate to the ‘cleaner’ tasks such as crafting bone and wooden objects, tools or jewellery.

“This was surprising as hunter-gatherers are known for being very mobile, as they would have to travel out to find food, and yet they have a very organised approach to creating not just a house but a sense of home.

“This new work, on these very early forms of houses suggests, that these dwellings didn’t just serve a practical purpose in the sense of having a shelter from the elements, but that certain social norms of a home were observed that are not massively dissimilar to how we organise our homes today.”

Header Image Credit : Shutterstock

Sources : Bates J, Milner N, Conneller C, Little A (2024) Spatial organisation within the earliest evidence of post-built structures in Britain. PLoS ONE 19(7): e0306908.

This content was originally published on – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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