Roman Findings: The Citrus King

16 Pompeii Mural
39512687 – painted wall in pompeii city destroyed in 79bc by the eruption of mount vesuvius

bloodua / 123RF Stock Photo

The Citrus King

According to archaeobotanist Dr. Dafna Langgut, Tel Aviv University, citrons and lemons were a status symbol in the Mediterranean with other citrus fruits arriving a millennium later. She chronicles their spread through Persia and the Levant into the western Mediterranean, citrons going first. Bitter orange, lime and pomelo (a type of fruit, green outside, pink inside) only arrived in the 10th century CE, well after the first citrus fruits. They were apparently spread by Muslims due to their access to valuable trade routes. Sweet oranges came in the 15th century and sticky-sweet mandarins came in the 19th century. It really places it into perspective when you consider their abundance in modern societies. Go eat some fruit, not for any health reasons, just because you can.


A Portrait in Herculaneum

In the Roman town of Herculaneum, buried under ash the same as its neighbor Pompeii, a new portrait has been found of a young lady. Don’t get it wrong though, it wasn’t hidden. It was in plain sight, just not very visible. Dr. Eleonora Del Federico, a Professor of Chemistry at the Pratt Institute used a, “…portable macro X-ray fluorescence (macro XRF) instrument, known as ELIO by XGLab SRL.” It basically allows you to analyze pigments present on surfaces based on certain metals that would have been present in the paint. Now that the image has been revealed researchers can study it while we all wonder where this technology will be used next.


The Durreueli Villa

The Roman villa of Durreueli in southwest Sicily near Agrigento has been excavated by Dr. Davide Tanasi, assistant professor at USF Department of History, along with his students and in cooperation with USF’s Center for Virtualization and Applied Spatial Technologies (CVAST). The large villa covers 5,000 square meters which is larger than 10 basketball courts or 5 football fields put together. Due to the large number of pottery that was found they are currently working under the assumption that it was a production site for pottery within the empire. Another excavation is scheduled for next year and will hopefully reveal more.


Neglected Tombs in Southern Turkey

In an unfortunate story from Turkey, Roman tombs discovered in Mersin in 2009 have been neglected and left to their own outside. Weeds have grown over the surface, covering them completely and they’ve even been damaged by unknown people. The graves were discovered in Mezitli, the location of the ancient Roman city Pompeiopolis as well as the older Greek city that it was built over, Soli. They are located in the south of Turkey.

Mezitli Roman graves

A Large Mosaic Discovered in Jerusalem

A very large mosaic was discovered in Jerusalem during construction for laying communication cables. The inscription, which has been translated, reads:

“The most pious Roman emperor Flavius Justinian and the most 6God-loving priest and abbot, Constantine, erected the building in which (this mosaic) sat during the 14th indiction.”

The mosaic was written in Greek and is essentially just an announcement. Justinian was an important emperor in the Roman Empire which, by the time of his reign, was labeled the Byzantine Empire by historians. Constantine was in charge of a church that Justinian had built in Jerusalem. Based on the usage of the word indiction, a method for dating years, archaeologists put the mosaic between 550 -551 CE. It is currently being treated by specialists and I hope to get a picture of it once it finds its way into a museum!


New Roman Sarcophagi

Acea, a water and energy company in Rome, was doing some digging near the Stadio Olimpico, a large stadium in the north of Rome, when they discovered two marble sarcophagi. One is highly decorated and estimated to be from the 3rd to 4th century CE.

Stadio Olimpico sarcophagi

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