Roman Bioarchaeology Carnival XXII

Roman skeleton news from the month of October, delivered just in time for Halloween!

Roman-era Finds

  • Rome. 18 October.  A man following a cat happened upon a previously unknown(?) catacomb underneath Rome near Via di Pietralata.  The underground burial chamber likely dates to the 1st century BC through the 2nd century AD.  Both cremations and inhumations seem to have been found.  No pictures that I could find.  I hope we'll hear more about this in coming months.
  • Rome. 19 October.  Investigations into the activity of tombaroli (tomb-raiders) in the Alban Hills led to the recovery of some ex-voto statues possibly dedicated to Juno.  In the tomb raiders' homes were also found some artifacts from Etruscan tombs.
  • Austria. 15 October.  Excavations for a road uncovered a child's grave dating to around the 1st century AD. It appears to have been an inhumation, as the presence of deciduous teeth is noted, and the grave looks like some kind of rock-cut tomb, interestingly enough.  
Roman-era child's grave found in Austria (credit)
  • England.  22 October.  Widening of a major road in Nottinghamshire has revealed a Late Iron Age / Early Roman settlement (1st c BC - 3rd c AD).  There are at least two human burials: one in a flexed position and one in an extended position, probably Iron and Roman age, respectively.  Some artifacts remained, but in general the graves were highly disturbed.
Iron Age flexed burial from Nottinghamshire (credit)
  • Macedonia.  September/October.  Archaeology Magazine has two nice features on graves from Scupi, Macedonia, dating from the Bronze Age through the Roman period.  The piece on the mass grave is particularly fascinating: at least 180 men were tossed into a large pit.  Most of them have evidence of trauma.  It's thought that they sustained injuries and died in the political upheaval during the 3rd-4th centuries AD.
Mass grave in Scupi, Macedonia, dating to 3rd-4th c AD (credit)
Post-Roman Finds
  • Vicenza. 16 October.  A skeleton dating to the Middle Ages was found in Vicenza, Italy.  It was apparently beheaded.  (Large picture available through link.  No evidence presented for the interpretation of decapitation rather than grave disturbance.)
New Techniques
Exhibits and Videos
  • TED-Ed has a cute little video written and narrated by Roman historian Ray Laurence called "A Glimpse of Teenage Life in Ancient Rome."  It's a day-in-the-life explanation and runs about 6 minutes.  Super cute.  Now if only Laurence would do one about teenage girls, older women, slaves, immigrants, and, well, people other than wealthy males.  The only visible people in this video are male (except the 7-year-old girl betrothed in marriage), and we know that females had much greater visibility than that, particularly upper-class ones.  It would be fantastic to see a series like this, each video focusing on a different age/sex/social class/ethnicity.
Still from Laurence's TED-Ed video
Stay tuned next month as I travel to Rome for a conference, a bit of cool research, and perhaps some thanatourism!


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