Wednesday March 12, 2014
The Vindoland Tablets were letters written in the first and second centuries AD by and to soldiers garrisoned at the Roman fort of Vindolanda, lost in the moss, bracken and straw that functioned as a floor in that place.
Vindolanda Tablet 343: Letter from Octavius to Candidus concerning supplies of wheat, hides and sinews. On display at the British Museum in London, England. Photo by Michel Wal
Vindolanda was an outpost of the empire a few miles south of Hadrian's Wall, near the modern border of Scotland and England. It was one of a handful of forts at the edge of empire, and must have been a cold and lonely place for soldiers so far from home...
Monday March 10, 2014
When I was a graduate student, I remember we all were quite, quite shocked that prehistoric hunters killed dozens or even hundreds of animals by chasing them off cliffs. Talk about conspicuous consumption! Shows you what we knew.
The bones of many hundreds of buffalo were found at the base of this cliff at the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, a famous mass kill site in Alberta, Canada. Roland Tanglao
Mass kills are an ancient form of communal hunting, which was used in tundras and deserts and grasslands all over the world on a wide variety of animals. The method involves understanding animal behavior and an ability to work collaboratively on what can be a massive construction project. Mass kills are thus examples of Modern Human Behavior.
The earliest possible mass kill is at La Cotte de St. Brelade, a Neanderthal site on the island of Jersey with heaps and heaps of mammoth bone. This month in Antiquity Beccy Scott and colleagues reconsider the site and provide evidence that it doesn't really fit the profile of a mass kill, ably summarized by Past Horizons linked below. I was stirred to compile a description and list of some of the remaining global evidence for the mass kill strategy.
Scott B, Bates M, Bates R, Conneller C, Pope M, Shaw A, and Smith G. 2014. A new view from La Cotte de St Brelade, Jersey. Antiquity 88(339):13-29.
Friday March 7, 2014
Some of the greatest architecture in the world, by which I mean attractive and sturdy both, came out of the need to control water. Among my favorites are Roman aqueducts.
The Roman aqueduct (UNESCO World Heritage Site) of Segovia illuminated at night, Autonomous Community of Castilla Leon, Spain, March 2012. Cristina Arias/Cover/Getty Images
These piped conduits sluiced water across many miles (the longest 155 miles) to bring water to the Roman citizenry. Of course, if you weren't a Roman, you'd have to pay for the privilege...
Wednesday March 5, 2014
As everybody knows from the movies, gladiators were reality TV for the Roman Empire, trained in schools to battle each other and the occasional animal for the entertainment of a crowd of spectators. Go Maximus!
Virtual Reconstruction of the Gladiator School at Carnuntum. M. Klein/7reasons
Schools to teach gladiators were called ludi, and intact archaeological remains of them are rare indeed. A recent report in Antiquity describes the gladiator school at Carnuntum, a 1st century Roman city southeast of Vienna, Austria, along with the virtual reconstruction shown above.
Neubauer W, Gugl C, Scholz M, Verhoeven G, Trinks I, Löcker K, Doneus M, Saey T, and Van Meirvenne M. 2014. The discovery of the school of gladiators at Carnuntum, Austria. Antiquity 88:173-190.