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Posts Tagged ‘britain’

As I’ve said on my About page, I’m a history junkie and science geek. I love the intersection of these two disciplines: DNA markers that trace humankind’s exodus from Africa, isotope analysis of teeth and bones that tell us where and when ancient people grew up and what they ate, UV light to fluoresce bones and fingerprints on artifacts, and much more.  Over half of my “history in the news” stories this round up have a major science component–from what really killed people in Pompeii to discovering a “lost” Roman city from aerial photographs to where the Dead Sea Scrolls were manufactured. You can click on the links to see the original stories. We’ll start with Pompeii.

Most historians and archaeologists believed the people at Pompeii, who where not killed by spewing rocks, died of suffocation from ash and poisonous gas. Pliny the Younger described the process in letters written 25 years later. Giuseppe Mastrolorenzo, a vulcanologist from the Naples Observatory claims “Everything that has been written in the guides, and the texts, and that has been re-told to tourists [about how people died at Pompeii] is false.” He spent years analyzing skeletal casts, testing bone tissue and simulating Vesuvius eruptions. He published his findings in the science journal PLoS One.  Mastrolorenzo concludes that the people of Pompeii were instantly killed by a pyroclastic cloud, a surge of super-heated air. He also proved these high temperatures can be carried up to 12 miles away from the volcano. The Italian Civil Protection requires only those people living five miles from Vesuvius to evacuate, which puts 3 million people in and around Naples in harm’s way, in case of another eruption.

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Death of CleopatraI’ll be doing a regular round up of archaeology and history stories that make it into the mainstream press every couple of weeks with links to the original stories. The focus will be on Roman history, but anything that catches my fancy will be fair game. This post features several finds in Britain including a hoard of coins, a controversial skeleton initially thought to be a female gladiator, and the graves of 97 infants; Roman frescoes, canals and looted artifacts; and renewed speculation over Cleopatra’s death. Snakebite or poison?

I don’t know if it’s because the stories are printed in English, Britain has an abundance of archaeologists and amateur treasure hunters, or some other fluke of randomness, but fully half the stories that caught my attention this round up are from Britain. We’ll start with the bones and end with the treasure.

In Caistor (from the Anglo-Saxon ceaster meaning Roman camp or town), archaeologists have discovered a large, well-organized late Roman cemetery. They’ve recovered 46 sets of human remains from the site of the derelict Talbot Inn which is being redeveloped into a Lincolnshire cooperative food store. The remains – including complete skeletons – will be studied and reburied. Colin Palmer-Brown, Director of the Pre-Construction Archaeological Services Ltd team overseeing the site believes there are “hundreds if not thousands of people buried in this part of Caistor.”

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