Hadrian’s Underground Slave City?

This is SO cool, and proof that you should never stop poking your nose into places it doesn’t belong, both metaphorically and physically speaking!


You see, the tunnels under Hadrian’s Villa at Tivoli were recorded by the archaeologists working at the site over a decade ago. But it’s a team of amateur archaeologists, who happen to also be avid, skilled spelunkers and speleologists (people who climb in, and study, caves), who have mapped out a network of underground rooms, passages, and even roads the likes of which no one had imagined would exist!!

Its a veritable underground city, covering hectares… possibly the entire 296 acres of the archaeological site, and possible even further. It’s even been suggested that there may be underground tunnels linking the entire underground complex at the Villa to other underground complexes such as those known to exist below Rome itself, over 18 miles away! The cavers were able to enter the underground warren through light shafts scattered around the fields surrounding the archaeological site, where they’ve found subterranean streets wide enough for ox-driven carts. Some of the spaces are filled with dirt collapsed from the roofs, so now robots have been called in to explore some of them, and excavations may follow.

This “chthonic city,” as one article refers to it, is hypothesized by the archaeologists to have likely been the habitat of the slaves, considered sub-human, who provided the manpower to run the mighty estates of the emperors, as well as the most meager households of common citizens. But by being underground, these subterranean sites have also been preserved in a way that those on the surface have not, and are increasingly recognized by archaeologists and amateurs alike as providing a wealth of knowledge about Roman society that otherwise would be lost to us. They may, of course, be a source of information about the lower, servile classes, who worked and possibly even dwelt hidden from the presence of the wealthy and powerful, and they also may shed light, despite their own darkness, on the operations of the cities and estates where the movers and shakers of Roman society lived and did business.


Its NOT about “looking good for the fellas”

Time for some good Sexism-Shaming on this week’s episode of Girl Snarkaeologist!! The American Schools of Oriental Research, normally a respectable institution and invaluable resource for archaeologists work in the Near East, decided to share this article about the discoveries at the Neolithic site of Boncuklu Höyük in Turkey today on their FB page: Keeping up with the latest fashion trends of antiquity
with the brilliant comment “Tale as old as time… excavations in the Central Anatolian province of Konya have shown women, even 10,500 years ago, went to great lengths to look good for the fellas.”

To quote my brilliant fellow girl archaeologist Kathryn O’Neil Weber’s reaction to this post, “Oh. My. God. No. In so many, many ways: No.”

from http://boncuklu.org, the official website of the excavations at Boncuklu Höyük, a site whose name literally means "beady place hill"
from http://boncuklu.org, the official website of the excavations at Boncuklu Höyük, a site whose name literally means “beady place hill”

I could rant for several pages about how much this article and the support of it by ASOR pisses me off, but for the sake of brevity let me just state, women do not wear jewelry and modify their bodies exclusively for the pleasure of “the fellas.” We don’t now, and we probably didn’t 10,000 years ago. There are many many explanations for women wearing jewelry. Maybe they liked it. Maybe they’re expressing their identities – family, clan, political, or religious loyalities, for example. Maybe they’re indicating their wealth to rival groups, or to the gods, or maybe they were even just buried with loads of bling to remove it from circulation, thus increasing the value to the bling that remained with the living!

And finally, archaeology fans, question, and question heavily, any conclusions that assume that behaviors in the past had the same reasoning behind them as behaviors in the present. Especially when the authors’ understanding of present behavior is so patently wrong. And seriously, ASOR? You should be ashamed of yourselves.

Secrets beneath the Highways

Hi, everyone! GirlArchaeologist’s Facebook Page is going strong, but I’ve heard from some of my faithful Twitter followers (hi guys! Love you!!) that some people don’t like Facebook pages, and lets face it, even if you do use Facebook, those algorithms they’ve been using lately that decide for you what you do and don’t get to read sometimes decide to sweep archaeology under the carpet, and we will not stand for that! So, I’ll be cross-posting my Facebook posts over here, and hopefully getting into some longer format stuff as well. So, onwards! For SCIENCE!

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Between 2000 and 2010, Ireland constructed its new National Road Network (Americans, think of the Interstate Highway System), and all of that roadwork was preceded and accompanied by the work of archaeologists, to the tune of €250 million, representing one of the largest archaeological programs in the world!

Many of the sites excavated as part of the project were previously unknown, and would likely have gone undiscovered and unresearched without the impetus and funds provided by the highway development.

Finds included:

a cillín, an unconsecrated graveyard for unbaptized infants, used between the 15th and 18th centuries, along the course of the M6 in Co. Galway, and and others in Co. Westmeath and Mayo.

fishtraps and baskets, up to 10,000 years old, preserved in bogs, as well as a late Roman monastic mill with well-preserved timbers near Ballinasloe

an entire deserted medieval village under the M9 in Co. Kildare

an Anglo-Norman farmstead in Co. Wexford

And what archaeologists say may be most important about the work does in the past decade are the insights they’ve gained into the Bronze and Iron Ages (ca. 2500 B.C. – 400 A.D.). Studies of lipids from Bronze Age pottery shows that milk may have been an important part of the diet, when previously cattle on Ireland were thought to have been primarily used as a meat source, burnt mounds known to have been cooking sites may also have been used for bathing, and shaving may have been practiced, but reserved as a marker of elite status. Particularly cool is a double row of wooden post holes that mark out the path of a 30 meter “ritual” avenue, whose alignment has caused archaeologists to hypothesize that it was used for driving cattle down on Nov. 1st, prior to slaughter and feasting.

There’s loads more, too! I hope to highlight some of these and other amazing finds and the high quality research that has been done in Ireland in coming weeks and months so keep your eyes on this space!

All of the artifacts are now held by the National Museum, while most of the human remains have been, or will be, reinterred. Similar research occurs associated with construction projects in other countries, but don’t receive so much national attention. Why do you think that’s true? Do you think your local archaeology should be better advertised? How could archaeologists go about it? And why don’t public archaeologists and academic archaeologists work together?? (that last one is purely rhetorical, but honestly, am I the only person this annoys the crap out of? Sorry. Also rhetorical.)

Sources: Independent.ie @ http://ow.ly/o3HWb
and: National Roads Authority @ http://ow.ly/o3L12

Photo Credit: Richard O’Brian, inset: JCNA, LTD. Originally Published in Seanda, the NRA archaeology magazine, 2011 Issue 6