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Excavation uncovers possible traces of Villa Augustus at Somma Vesuviana



Archaeologists from the University of Tokyo have uncovered possible traces of the Villa of Augustus during excavations at Somma Vesuviana.

Somma Vesuviana is a town and commune in the Metropolitan City of Naples, Italy. During the Roman period, the area was a resort for rich patricians of Rome, or for rich estate owners who constructed large villa complexes.

Excavations in the Nola area during the 1930’s uncovered a large Roman villa interpreted as the Villa of Augustus, which has been subject to ongoing archaeological investigations since 2002.

The villa actually dates from the 2nd century AD, however, more recent studies have discovered traces of a building in a lower context that dates from around the reign of Augustus.

Image Credit : UTokyo Foundation

Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus (born Gaius Octavius), was Roman emperor from 27 BC until his death in AD 14. He is credited as being the founder of the Roman Empire and the Principate system of government which lasted until the Crisis of the Third Century.

According to accounts by Tacitus and Suetonius, Augustus died in a villa located on the northern side of Mount Vesuvius, which was later consecrated as a temple for his Imperial cult.

Archaeologists used radiocarbon dating and a physical and chemical analysis of the volcanic pumice layers covering the earlier building, the results of which confirmed that the building predates the Vesuvian eruption in AD 79 which destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum.

The eruption released a deadly cloud of super-heated tephra and gases to a height of 33 km, ejecting molten rock, pulverised pumice, and hot ash at 1.5 million tons per second. Excavations within the building have uncovered pieces of walls and roof tiles that collapsed due to pyroclastic flows as the volcanic material travelled down the northern side of the volcano.

According to a press statement by the University of Tokyo: “This suggests that even the northern foothills of Mount Vesuvius, where the effects of the AD 79 eruption were said to have been less severe than the southeastern region of the mountain, were also affected by the eruption with destructive power.”

To further support the supposition of the building being the Villa of Augustus, the team conducted the same physical and chemical dating of volcanic material on adjacent buildings associated with the early villa complex.

Furthermore, radiocarbon dating of charcoal collected from the ruins of a “kiln”-like structure has dated the material to the early 1st century AD. The discovery of 1st century AD amphorae within the ruins indicate that the “kiln”-like structure was later converted into a warehouse before the eruption.

Studies of the 2nd century building has also revealed that it reused architectural features from the earlier building, demonstrating a transition from “disaster” to “reconstruction” in the area around Mount Vesuvius.

Header Image Credit : UTokyo Foundation

Sources : University of Tokyo

This content was originally published on – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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Study reveals new insights into life at “German Stonehenge”




Excavations of the Ringheiligtum Pömmelte, nicknamed the “German Stonehenge”, has revealed new insights into domestic life from prehistory.

Ringheiligtum Pömmelte is a late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age henge from the late third millennium BC. The monument features seven concentric rings made of palisades, ditches, and raised banks, each containing a series of wooden posts.

The site was discovered in 1991 through aerial photography near the present-day village of Pömmelte in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany.

From 2018 to 2022, archaeologists have excavated nearly 140 ancient dwellings dating from 2,800 BC to 2,200 BC. The older dwellings are linked to the Corded Ware and the Bell Beaker culture, while the more recent ones are associated with the Únětice Culture.

In a recent study conducted by the State Office for Monument Preservation and Archaeology (LDA) of Saxony-Anhalt, archaeologists are employing various scientific methods to offer new insights into the site’s ritual and settlement landscape.

The study has identified house locations of the Corded Ware culture (26th to 23rd century BC), and an associated settlement pit containing ceramic sherds, an axe head and flint blades. Until now, Corded Ware settlement could only be attributed to individual finds that had been relocated, and not to actual structures on the site.

Also associated with the Corded Ware culture is a storage area with 78 grain silo pits that held various types of gain, including wheat, barley, and spelt. Archaeologists already know that Corded Ware people lived on a balanced diet with animal products, further indicated by drinking vessels from burials at Ringheiligtum Pömmelte that contained traces of dairy products.

While the scientific analyses and the interpretation of the results with various specialists continue, excavations at Pömmelte will last until mid-July 2024.

Header Image Credit : Shutterstock

Sources : State Office for Monument Preservation and Archaeology Saxony-Anhalt

This content was originally published on – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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3,400-year-old shipwreck found with cargo mostly intact




Archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority Marine Unit have discovered a 3,400-year-old shipwreck with the cargo mostly intact.

The site was first identified during an underwater survey by Energean, an energy company searching for natural gas deposits beneath the Mediterranean Sea Floor.

This led to the discovery of the shipwreck and its cargo at a depth of 1.8 kilometers, along with its cargo that consists of Late Bronze Age Canaanite storage vessels.

IAA archaeologists, in collaboration with Energean, have used the deep sea exploratory vessel, “Energean Star” to conduct a visual inspection of the wreck site. This has revealed hundreds of ceramic vessels on the seabed, and a muddy layer which likely conceals a second layer and the wooden beams of the ship.

Jacob Sharvit, Head of the Israel Antiquities Authority Marine Unit, explains, “The ship seems to have sunk in crisis, either due to a storm or to an attempted piracy attack – a well-known occurrence in the Late Bronze Age. This is both the first and the oldest ship found in the Eastern Mediterranean deep sea, ninety kilometres from the nearest shore.”

Image Credit : IAA

Only two other ships from this period have been found – the boat from Cape Gelidonya and the Uluburun boat; both found off the Turkish coast. Both ships were found near the shore, suggesting that shipping routes followed the coastline between ports. However, this new discovery changes the understanding of ancient marine trade, demonstrating that ancient shipping also extended into deep waters.

“The ship is preserved at such a great depth that time has frozen since the moment of disaster – its body and contexts have not been disturbed by human hand (divers, fishermen, etc.); nor affected by waves and currents which do impact shipwrecks in shallower waters,” added Sharvit.

Header Image Credit : IAA

Sources : Israel Antiquities Authority

This content was originally published on – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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