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Sacred Topography of Ancient Roman Town Revealed By Groundbreaking GPR

Sacred Topography of Ancient Roman Town Revealed By Groundbreaking GPR

Historians, architects, and archaeologists have long clashed over the way in which Roman towns and cities developed, largely because evidence of ancient urbanization is restricted to excavations at a handful of extensively investigated sites, such as Pompeii and Ostia. But now a team of researchers from the Faculty of Classics, University of Cambridge in the U.K. and the Department of Archaeology at Ghent University in Belgium have published a new research paper in the journal Antiquity detailing the results of their ground-penetrating radar (GPR) survey to investigate the sacred ancient topography at Interamna Lirenas and Falerii Novi. These methods, the paper concludes, will revolutionize the way we study ancient places.

Archaeologist posing with GPR kit at Falerii Novi (Image: F. Vermeulen / Antiquity Publications )

Mapping Ancient Urban Sites with Ground-penetrating Radar

According to the paper’s lead author, Dr. Lieven Verdonck, the historic evidence of Roman urbanization gathered from excavations at Pompeii and Ostia is “unrepresentative of the full variety of Roman towns”. The new paper presents the results of the first high-resolution GPR survey of two complete Roman towns: Interamna Lirenas, in the southern province of Frosinone in central Italy, and Falerii Novi, a walled town in the Tiber River valley, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) north of Rome and 6 kilometers (3.2 miles) west of Civita Castellana.

The paper begins by explaining that ancient Rome lay at the center of a network of cities that played a pivotal role in the administration, social organization and economy of the empire. By the first century AD, approximately 2000 cities had been established, and understanding this city network is “central to our knowledge of this period.” In the paper, the authors detail a new surveying method based on the creation of large-scale GPR datasets that they say have the potential “to revolutionize archaeological studies of urban sites.”

GPR time-slice, at an estimated depth of 0.80–0.85m. (Aerial photograph: Google Earth; image by L. Verdonck / Antiquity Publications )

Ground-penetrating Radar Provides Unprecedented 3D Detail

The reason archaeologists have failed to map ancient Roman cities is primarily because they have always focused on methods that yield evidence that is found “by chance,” for example in developer-led excavations. Consequently, according to the researchers, archaeologists are heavily reliant on evidence gathered from a small number of extensively explored Roman urban sites, such as Ostia and Pompeii.

Over the last two decades, developments in remote-sensing technologies such as magnetometry (predominantly fluxgate gradiometry) have produced increasingly detailed maps of complete Roman towns, and these scanning techniques are transforming ancient Roman urban studies. According to the new paper, GPR was used to create high-resolution 3D images of buried structures at “an unprecedented level of detail” in two complete scans of greenfield Roman towns in Italy: Interamna Lirenas and Falerii Novi .

Computer-aided object detection has been employed to create 3D representations: a) wall objects were projected onto a 2D map; b) 3D representations showing the same results, with floors semi-transparent. (Image: L. Verdonck / Antiquity Publications )

Archaeological Insights from Interpreting Enormous Datasets

To create their high resolution maps, the team of researchers assembled a database of “71.7 million readings, each consisting of 400 temporal samples, equal to 28.68 billion data points” which is equivalent to approximately 4.5GB of raw data per hectare (2.47 acres). In comparison, the writers state it would have required more than “20 hours per hectare to produce the manual archaeological interpretations.” It was this interpretational challenge that prompted the team to investigate new methods of computer-aided archaeological interpretation.

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In the study, the archaeologists undertook a complete fluxgate gradiometer survey of Falerii Novi, resulting in a very clear plan of the entire site. Falerii Novi was founded in 241 BC and it was occupied through Roman times until the 7th century AD. Analysis of the GPR data at different depths allowed building plans to be understood more fully, and previously unrecorded public buildings, such as a temple, a macellum or market building and a bath complex, were identified.

Left: Falerii Novi’s temple; Right: Falerii Novi’s theatre (L. Verdonck / Antiquity Publications )

Digitizing Sacred Roman Topography with GPR Technology

The GPR work at Interamna Lirenas and Falerii Novi demonstrates the possibility of investigating ancient Roman towns as “total entities,” as opposed to the traditional method of studying a small number of extensively explored sites. Moreover, the magnetometer surveys revealed what the scientists described as a “sacred topography” of temples around the town’s periphery. Overall, GPR enormously enhanced the team’s understanding of these ancient landscapes.

Detailed investigations of expansive Roman cities produce vast amounts of data, and the interpretation of this data using manual methods is quickly becoming unfeasible. The paper’s GPR technology findings clearly show how computer-aided object detection can effectively fuse multiple geophysical datasets, and greatly enhance and speed up archaeological interpretation. The conclusion to the study was clear: there is little doubt that the future application of new analytical technology methodologies will “fundamentally change the ways in which Roman urbanization is understood.”


Complete Roman City Mapped Using Advanced Ground-Penetrating Radar Technology

Researchers have mapped an entire Roman city using advanced ground-penetrating radar (GPR) technology in what they describe as an archaeological first.

A team from Ghent University in Belgium and the University of Cambridge in the U.K. conducted the first high-resolution GPR survey of a complete Roman settlement&mdashFalerii Novi, located just over 30 miles of Rome in what is now the region of Lazio in Italy.

The technique the researchers used revealed the entire layout of the city&mdashwhich remains deep underground&mdashas well as a bath complex, a market, a temple, an impressive public monument, and even a large system of water pipes, without the need for any excavations, according to a study published in the journal Antiquity.

The researchers say that advanced GPR surveys such as this could "revolutionize" archaeological studies of ancient urban sites, especially those that cannot be excavated because they are too big, or lie beneath modern structures and settlements.

Like regular radar, GPR technology emits radio waves that bounce off objects, creating an "echo" that can be used to create an image of what lies below the ground at different depths. This is because the radio waves reflect off different materials or items below the ground in different ways, enabling researchers to create maps of subterranean features.

"GPR is just a radar antenna that sends a pulsed radio signal into the ground and listens for the echoes. It has been around in archaeology for about 20 years but only used on a very small scale," Martin Millett, an author of the study from Cambridge, told Newsweek.

For the latest research, the archaeologists towed fifteen GPR instruments behind a quad bike in order to map the entire 30.5-hectare area of the walled city, which was just under half the size of the famous Roman town of Pompeii.

"The system built by Ghent University tows a series of [radar antenna] behind an all terrain vehicle recording the precise location to build up a composite image, taking one reading every 6.25 centimeters [2.4 inches.] The echoes are proportional to depth so software can map what is there at different depths through the soil," Millett said.

While the use of GPR in archaeology dates back around two decades, recent advances in the technology are enabling researchers to investigate larger areas in higher resolution than ever before.

"The main [recent] advances are in data processing and location technology&mdashif you are collecting data at 6.25-centimeter spacing, then it is very important to be able to locate your position accurately," Millett said.

"The key finding is that we are able to map the whole town in great detail without digging. The brilliant quality of the very high resolution images that the technique produces surprises and amazed me! It is certainly the way of the future&mdashproviding information to help understand whole urban layouts quickly and without excavation," he said.

One of the benefits of this technology, is that it can reveal how a settlement has changed and evolved over long periods of time due to its ability to create a picture of the soil at different depths.

Millett and his colleagues have already used GPR to survey other sites, including Interamna Lirenas in Italy, as well as Alborough in North Yorkshire, England. However, the researchers hope that advanced GPR techniques can be applied to larger sites in other parts of the classical world.

"It is exciting and now realistic to imagine GPR being used to survey a major city such as Miletus in Turkey, Nicopolis in Greece or Cyrene in Libya", Millett said in statement. "We still have so much to learn about Roman urban life and this technology should open up unprecedented opportunities for decades to come."

Despite the promise of high-resolution GPR, the technique does pose some problems for researchers due the sheer amount of data that it produces.

Using traditional manual data analysis techniques, it takes around 20 hours to fully examine a single hectare, meaning it will take some time for the archaeologists to fully document Falerii Novi. As a result the team are trying to develop new automated techniques to help speed up the process.

"This produces a lot of data&mdash28 billion data points&mdashso the key is in the software and computer capacity," Millett said.


Complete ancient Roman city mapped using ground-penetrating radar

An international team of researchers has mapped the entirety of an ancient, buried Roman city known as Falerii Novi using radar scanning technology. The researchers unraveled the secrets of the city, which once sprawled over 30.5 hectares of Italian countryside 50 km (32 miles) to the north of the Roman capital, by riding over its buried remains in a quad bike towing a ground-penetrating radar instrument.

By using new technology, archaeologists are able to unravel the secrets of ancient civilizations whose culture has had a dramatic influence on the world we see today with a level of detail and scope that was hitherto unimaginable.

Often, the passage of time and the relentless march of human advancement works to obscure the relics of the past in ways that make it difficult for modern day scientists to unearth. New buildings are built over existing archaeological sites, and over time once great cities become lost to the soil upon which they once rested.

Archaeologists now combine traditional field work with advanced technology to uncover the secrets lost to the ground. An incredibly useful tool at the disposal of history junkies is ground-penetrating radar (GPR).

GPR instruments essentially work by firing radio waves capable of travelling through matter into the ground. These waves bounce off objects or structures buried beneath the surface, and travel back toward the instrument. By recording the characteristics and timing of the returning waves, scientists can build a picture of ancient relics and unknown buildings that would otherwise lay hidden in the earth beneath our feet.

An annotated map of the buried Roman city Falerii Novi created from data collected by a ground penetrating radar instrument

Recent improvements to GPR technology have allowed scientists to make wide scale surveys of archaeological sites that complement the more detailed observations achieved by carrying out traditional site excavations.

For the new study, archaeologists surveyed all 30.5 hectares of the walled Roman city by driving over its buried remains in a quad bike towing a GPR instrument. The team collected an impressive 71.7 million readings equating to roughly 4.5 GB of raw data per hectare.

It is thought that the city was founded in 241 BC, and remained occupied throughout Roman times up until around 700 AD. It has already been the subject of numerous archaeological investigations, yet the new high-resolution study managed to reveal a number of structures present within the city boundaries that had previously lain undiscovered.

The team identified a columned temple located to the west of what once was the south gate of the city, an impressive bath complex and a market building.

Whilst these building are commonplace across the roughly 2,000 cities that populated the Roman world, some of the specimens outlined in the Falerri Novi data appear to be unusually elaborate in their design, especially considering the size of the city.

The radar mapping revealed a vast enclosure spanning 90 x 40 m (295 x 131 ft), which on three sides was defined by covered passageways boasting central columns, located to the east of the north gate. Within this complex a pair of structures faced each other. The researchers believe that the enclosure was once a vast public monument.

GPR scan of a large public monument located to the north of the Roman city Falerii Novi

To the south, just inside the city walls, the team identified a large rectangular building adjacent to the baths. The detailed observations showed that the building was connected via a network of pipes to the city aqueduct, and that these pipes ran underneath city blocks rather than through the streets, as would have been expected. The pipes suggest that the building was likely an enormous open-air pool known as a natatio.

The data also suggests that the city fell victim to stone robbing at some point in its history, wherein floors, surfaces and in some cases entire walls that once existed have been entirely removed.

Due to the massive amount of data harvested during the study, it will be a long time until the researchers are done analyzing Falerri Novi. It currently takes around 20 hours for a person to manually document a hectare’s worth of observations. However, the authors believe that, using new automated techniques, the work could be completed faster, and that GPR observations have a promising future in archaeological study.

"It is exciting and now realistic to imagine GPR being used to survey a major city such as Miletus in Turkey, Nicopolis in Greece or Cyrene in Libya," comments the study’s corresponding author, Professor Martin Millett from the University of Cambridge's Faculty of Classics. "We still have so much to learn about Roman urban life and this technology should open up unprecedented opportunities for decades to come."


Warp speed!

Ah, the warp drive, that darling of science fiction plot devices. So, what about a warp drive? Is that even a really a thing?

Let's start with the "warping" part of a warp drive. Without doubt, Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity ("GR") represents space and time as a 4-dimensional "fabric" that can be stretched and bent and folded. Gravity waves, representing ripples in the fabric of spacetime, have now been directly observed. So, yes spacetime can be warped. The warping part of a warp drive usually means distorting the shape of spacetime so that two distant locations can be brought close together — and you somehow "jump" between them.

This was a basic idea in science fiction long before Star Trek popularized the name "warp drive." But until 1994, it had remained science fiction, meaning there was no science behind it. That year, Miguel Alcubierre wrote down a solution to the basic equations of GR that represented a region that compressed spacetime ahead of it and expanded spacetime behind to create a kind of traveling warp bubble. This was really good news for warp drive fans.


Entire Roman city revealed without any digging

For the first time, archaeologists have succeeded in mapping a complete Roman city, Falerii Novi in Italy, using advanced ground penetrating radar (GPR), allowing them to reveal astonishing details while it remains deep underground. The technology could revolutionise our understanding of ancient settlements.

The team, from the University of Cambridge and Ghent University, has discovered a bath complex, market, temple, a public monument unlike anything seen before, and even the city's sprawling network of water pipes. By looking at different depths, the archaeologists can now study how the town evolved over hundreds of years.

The research, published today in Antiquity, harnessed recent advances in GPR technology which make it possible to explore larger areas in higher resolution than ever before. This is likely to have major implications for the study of ancient cities because many cannot be excavated either because they are too large, or because they are trapped under modern structures.

GPR works like regular radar, bouncing radio waves off objects and using the 'echo' to build up a picture at different depths.* By towing their GPR instruments behind a quad bike, the archaeologists surveyed all 30.5 hectares within the city's walls - Falerii Novi was just under half the size of Pompeii - taking a reading every 12.5cm.

Located 50 km north of Rome and first occupied in 241 BC, Falerii Novi survived into the medieval period (until around AD 700). The team's GPR data can now start to reveal some of the physical changes experienced by the city in this time. They have already found evidence of stone robbing.

The study also challenges certain assumptions about Roman urban design, showing that Falerii Novi's layout was less standardised than many other well-studied towns, like Pompeii. The temple, market building and bath complex discovered by the team are also more architecturally elaborate than would usually be expected in a small city.

In a southern district, just within the city's walls, GPR revealed a large rectangular building connected to a series of water pipes which lead to the aqueduct. Remarkably, these pipes can be traced across much of Falerii Novi, running beneath its insulae (city blocks), and not just along its streets, as might normally be expected. The team believes that this structure was an open-air natatio or pool, forming part of a substantial public bathing complex.

Even more unexpectedly, near the city's north gate, the team identified a pair of large structures facing each other within a porticus duplex (a covered passageway with central row of columns). They know of no direct parallel but believe these were part of an impressive public monument, and contributed to an intriguing sacred landscape on the city's edge.

Corresponding author, Professor Martin Millett from the University of Cambridge's Faculty of Classics, said:

"The astonishing level of detail which we have achieved at Falerii Novi, and the surprising features that GPR has revealed, suggest that this type of survey could transform the way archaeologists investigate urban sites, as total entities."

Millett and his colleagues have already used GPR to survey Interamna Lirenas in Italy, and on a lesser scale, Alborough in North Yorkshire, but they now hope to see it deployed on far bigger sites.

"It is exciting and now realistic to imagine GPR being used to survey a major city such as Miletus in Turkey, Nicopolis in Greece or Cyrene in Libya", Millett said. "We still have so much to learn about Roman urban life and this technology should open up unprecedented opportunities for decades to come."

The sheer wealth of data produced by such high-resolution mapping does, however, pose significant challenges. Traditional methods of manual data analysis are too time consuming, requiring around 20 hours to fully document a single hectare. It will be some time before the researchers finish examining Falerii Novi but to speed the process up they are developing new automated techniques.

Falerii Novi is well documented in the historical record, is not covered by modern buildings and has been the subject of decades of analysis using other non-invasive techniques, such as magnetometry, but GPR has now revealed a far more complete picture.

Further information

*GPR is so effective because it relies on the reflection of radio waves off items in the ground. Different materials reflect waves differently, which can be used to create maps of underground features. Although this principle has been employed since the 1910s, over the past few years technological advances have made the equipment faster and higher resolution.

L. Verdonck, A. Launaro, F. Vermeulen & M. Millett, 'Ground-penetrating radar survey at Falerii Novi: a new approach to the study of Roman cities', (9 June 2020). DOI: 10.15184/aqy.2020.82

The project was funded by the AHRC. Lieven Verdonck, from Ghent University, was employed on a post-doctoral fellowship from the Fund for Scientific Research--Flanders (FWO). The team is grateful for support from Soprintendenza Archeologia, Belle Arti e Paesaggio per l'Area Metropolitana di Roma, la Provincia di Viterbo e l'Etruria Meridionale. For further details see https:/ / www. classics. cam. ac. uk/ research/ projects/ beneath-the-surface-of-roman-republican-cities

Tom Almeroth-Williams, Communications Manager (Research), University of Cambridge: [email protected] / +44 (0)7540 139 444

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.


The Discovery of a Roman Gladiator School Brings the Famed Fighters Back to Life

Wolfgang Neubauer stands in the grassy clearing and watches a drone soar low over distant stands of birch and white poplar, the leaves still speckled with overnight rain. Vast fields of wheat roll away north and south under a huge dome of sky. “I’m interested in what lies hidden beneath this landscape,” says the Austrian archaeologist. “I hunt for structures now invisible to the human eye.”

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On the edge of the meadow, two boys stand a long way apart, arms clenched by their sides, punting a soccer ball very slowly and carefully from one to the other. Neubauer studies them keenly. A professor at the Vienna Institute for Archaeological Science, he’s an authority on the first games played on this ersatz pitch, a blood sport popular a couple of millennia ago. “You see a field,” he tells a visitor from the United States. “I see a gladiator school.”

Way back in A.D. 6, during the expansion of the Roman Empire along the Danube and into present-day Germany, the future emperor Tiberius reached this spot and established a winter encampment. Carnuntum, as the camp would be called, flourished under the protection of the legions and became a center of the amber trade. The army and townspeople lived apart, but in symbiotic amity. “In the civilian city, large public buildings like temples, a forum and thermal baths were built,” says Neubauer. “The town had paved roads and an extensive sewage system.”

During its second-century prime, Carnuntum was a key Roman capital of a province that spanned the landmass of what is now Austria and much of the Balkans. The frontier town boasted a burgeoning population and a gladiator school whose size and scale was said to rival the Ludus Magnus, the great training center immediately to the east of the Colosseum in Rome. Toward the end of the glory days of the Roman realm, the emperor Marcus Aurelius held sway from Carnuntum and made war on Germanic tribes known as the Marcomanni. There, too, his 11-year-old son, Commodus, likely first witnessed the gladiatorial contests that would become his ruling passion.

After a series of barbarian invasions, Carnuntum was completely abandoned early in the fifth century A.D. Eventually, the buildings collapsed, too, and merged into the landscape. Though archaeologists have been digging and theorizing at the 1,600-acre site on and off since the 1850s, only remnants survive—a bath complex, a palace, a temple of Diana, the foundations of two amphitheaters (one capable of holding 13,000 spectators) and a monumental arch known as the Heidentor (Heathens’ Gate) that looms in battered splendor at the edge of town.

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Stretching for nearly three miles between the modern-day villages of Petronell-Carnuntum and Bad Deutsch-Altenburg, Carnuntum is one of the largest preserved archaeological parks of its kind in Europe. For the last two decades Neubauer has quarterbacked a series of excavations at the site with noninvasive techniques. Using remote-sensing and ground-penetrating radar (GPR) to peer through layers of earth, the researchers have located and identified the forum the garrison of the governor’s guard an extensive network of shops and meeting halls and, in 2011, the storied gladiator school—the most complete ludus found outside Rome and Pompeii.

“Never before had archaeologists made such important discoveries without excavation,” says Neubauer, who is also director of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology (LBI ArchPro). His work is the subject of a new Smithsonian Channel documentary, Lost City of Gladiators. With the aid of three-dimensional computer modeling, his team has reimagined what the ludus looked like.

The subterranean surveys and a limited traditional dig, Neubauer says, have revealed a transfixing, mysterious underworld— the ludus is teeming with unseen buildings, graves, armaments and other relics. “Our understanding of the schools has been totally reshaped,” he says. “Until now, we knew very little about them because we never looked inside.”

The discoveries—slow, careful, uncinematic—are not the stuff Hollywood movies are made of. Digital archaeology isn’t drama, but a gradual accretion of detail. By systematically mapping the terrain, Neubauer’s researchers have provided a more detailed and vivid picture of the lives (and deaths) of the gladiators than was ever before available—and deepened our understanding of the terrifying power of Imperial Rome.

Neubauer is 52—a bit thickening around the middle, a bit graying at the temples. A rumpled figure with hair parted down the middle and eyebrows like small hedges, he’s a pioneer in remote sensing and geophysical prospection—noninvasive techniques that make it possible to identify structures and anomalies underground without disturbing a site. “Most of the Middle European archaeological heritage is under a massive threat of destruction,” he says. “That threat has been dramatically accelerated by intensive farming and industrial transformation of landscapes.”

One of the challenges of traditional excavation is that archaeologists can focus only on isolated sections and that once they start poking around, the site is demolished and the possibility of further study eliminated. “Even when excavation is conducted with care, it’s still destruction,” says Neubauer. “The geophysical prospection we use at LBI ArchPro covers large expanses and leaves what is buried intact.”

Neubauer grew up at a time when an archaeologist’s toolkit consisted of a spade, a shovel and a toothbrush. (“No, I never used a divining rod,” he says.) He was born in the Swiss market town of Altstätten, near the border of Austria. Hiking in the Rhine Valley piqued young Wolfgang’s interest in Bronze Age peoples and their cultures. At the precocious age of 15, he went on his first dig.

Wolfgang drew early inspiration from the village of Hallstatt, a ribbon of land squeezed between a lake and mountains, where, in 1734, the Man in the Salt—a preserved body—was found. “Hallstatt was one of the earliest European settlements,” he says. “Its salt mine has been continuously worked since 1000 B.C.”

Because space is at a premium in Hallstatt, for centuries the crammed cemetery gained new ground by burying and then exhuming bodies. The graves were reused, says Neubauer, and disinterred skulls cleaned and exposed to the sun until they were bleached white. “Then they were arranged in a Beinhaus, or bone house,” he reports. Inside that little ossuary—piled with the neatly stacked remains of generations of Hallstatters—are more than 1,200 skulls, many gaily painted with the names of the former owners and the dates on which they died. Neubauer delights in the motifs that adorn them: roses, oak and laurel leaves, trailing ivy and sometimes snakes.

His unusual mixture of meticulous organization and free-ranging imagination proved invaluable at the University of Vienna and the Vienna University of Technology, where he dabbled in archaeology, archaeo­metry, mathematics and computer science. By age 21, Neubauer was developing his own prospection methods in Hallstatt. He spent a year and a half excavating the tunnels in the salt mine. Over the last three decades Neubauer has been field director of more than 200 geophysical surveys.

LBI ArchPro was launched in 2010 to conduct large-scale landscape archaeology projects in Europe. At Stonehenge, the most comprehensive underground analysis yet undertaken of the Neolithic site found evidence of 17 previously unknown wooden or stone shrines and dozens of massive prehistoric pits, some of which seem to form astronomic alignments (Smithsonian, September 2014). “Stonehenge is more or less at the bottom of a really big national arena,” Neubauer says. “Along the horizon, dozens of burial mounds look down at the stones.”

He got involved with Carnuntum in the late 1990s through the University of Vienna’s Institute for Archaeological Science. “The park is unique in that, unlike almost every other Roman site, it’s mainly countryside that has never been built over,” he says. Indeed, by the 19th century the ruins were still so well conserved that Carnuntum was called “Pompeii at the gates of Vienna.” Despite subsequent looting by treasure hunters and deep plowing for vineyards, Neubauer says, the land is “ideal for exploration.”

Aerial photography identified intriguing forms in a field outside the ancient civilian town, west of the municipal amphitheater that had been built in the first half of the second century and excavated from 1923 to 1930. Anomalies in the field (soil, vegetation) suggested structures below. In 2000, a magnetic survey found traces of the foundations of a large building complex, replete with an aqueduct. Based on the magnetometer’s 2-D images, the site was then scanned using a novel multi-antenna GPR developed by Neubauer’s university team.

Only a few remnants of the ancient city of Carnumtum remain, including the foundations of two amphitheaters. Pictured is the civilian amphitheater. (Reiner Riedler / Anzenberger Agency) Archaeologist Geert Verhoeven uses drones to survey the site of an amphitheater. (Reiner Riedler / Anzenberger Agency) Using a microdrone quadcopter, Verhoeven takes aerial photographs from which the team computes a 3-D model of the area. (Reiner Riedler / Anzenberger Agency) Encompassing 1,600 acres, the Carnuntum Archaeological Park is the largest park of its kind in Europe. Attractions include this reconstructed urban villa. (Reiner Riedler / Anzenberger Agency) Carnuntum was founded by the Romans in A.D. 6 as a military camp. Sepulchral steles greet visitors to the park. (Reiner Riedler / Anzenberger Agency) The Heidentor, or Heathens’ Gate, was erected by Emperor Constantius II in the mid-fourth century to commemorate his military triumphs. (Reiner Riedler / Anzenberger Agency) The basilica thermarum, or entrance hall, to the public baths (Reiner Riedler / Anzenberger Agency) Roman baths were social centers: Carnun­tum’s reconstructions include a restaurant. (Reiner Riedler / Anzenberger Agency) The reconstructed oven and hearth in the thermopolium of the public baths (Reiner Riedler / Anzenberger Agency) In Carnuntum’s recreated gladiator ring, visitors try their hand at ancient combat. (Reiner Riedler / Anzenberger Agency) Gladiator re-enactors clash in the recreated ring. (Reiner Riedler / Anzenberger Agency) Re-enactors await their turn in battle. (Reiner Riedler / Anzenberger Agency)

Ground radar has been evolving for decades. Like its predecessors, Neubauer’s “geo-radar” sent pulses of electromagnetic waves through the earth that generated details about depth, shape and location. Unlike them, the high-resolution device covered about ten times as much surface area in the same amount of time, enabling researchers to speed up the search process significantly.

The resulting 3-D images laid bare a sprawling forum. “We had discovered the main building of the city quarter of Carnuntum’s military camp,” says Neubauer. A computer analysis revealed foundations, roads and sewers, even walls, stairs and floors, as well as a cityscape whose landmarks included shops, baths, a basilica, the tribunal, and a curia, the center of local government.

“The amount of detail was incredible,” Neubauer recalls. “You could see inscriptions, you could see the bases of statues in the great courtyard and the pillars inside rooms, and you could see whether floors were wood or stone—and if there had been central heating.” Three-dimensional virtual modeling allowed the team to reconstruct what the forum—all 99,458 square feet of it—might have looked like.

In the spring of 2011, another search of the Carnuntum underground was attempted by a team of archaeologists, geophysicists, soil scientists and techies from the latest iteration of Neubauer’s organization, LBI ArchPro, with its international partners. Enhancements to sensors had increased their speed, resolution and capabilities. Strides had been made in electromagnetic induction (EMI), a method by which magnetic fields are transmitted into soil to measure its electrical conductivity and magnetic susceptibility. At Carnuntum, the soundings told researchers whether the earth underneath had ever been heated, revealing the location of, say, bricks made by firing clay.

Neubauer had been intrigued by aerial shots of the amphitheater just beyond the walls of the civilian city. On the eastern side of the arena was the outline of buildings he now reckons were a kind of outdoor shopping mall. This plaza featured a bakery, shops, a food court, bars—pretty much everything except a J. Crew and a Chipotle.

To the west of the amphitheater, amid groves of birches, oaks and white poplar, was a “white spot” that looked suspicious to Neubauer. Close inspection revealed traces of a closed quadrangle of edifices. “The contours were typical of a gladiator school,” Neubauer says.

The layout spanned 30,000 square feet and conformed to a marble fragment showing the Ludus Magnus, found in 1562 on one of the ancient slabs incised with Rome’s city plan. Fortunately for Neubauer’s team, the Romans tended to construct new settlements in Rome’s image. “Roman society built complex and very recognizable cityscapes with the global goal to realize outstanding symbolic and visual models of civitas and urbanitas,” says Maurizio Forte, a Duke University classics professor who has written widely on digital archaeology. “Civitas concerns the Roman view of ‘citizenship’ and ways to export worldwide the Roman civilization, society and culture. Urbanitas is how a city can fit the pattern of the Roman central power.”

From the empire’s rise in 27 B.C. until its fall in A.D. 476, the Romans erected 100 or so gladiator schools, all of which were intensely stylized and most of which have been destroyed or built over. Radar scans showed that, like the Ludus Magnus, the Carnuntum complex had two levels of colonnaded galleries that enclosed a courtyard. The central feature inside the courtyard was a free-standing circular structure, which the researchers interpreted as a training arena that would have been surrounded by wooden spectator stands set on stone foundations. Within the arena was a walled ring that may have held wild beasts. Galleries along the southern and western wings not designated as infirmaries, armories or administrative offices would have been set aside for barracks. Neubauer figures that about 75 gladiators could have lodged at the school. “Uncomfortably,” he says. The tiny (32-square-foot) sleeping cells were barely big enough to hold a man and his dreams, much less a bunkmate.

Neubauer deduced that other rooms—more spacious and perhaps with tiled floors—were living quarters for high-ranking gladiators, instructors or the school’s owner (lanista). A sunken cell, not far from the main entrance, seems to have been a brig for unruly fighters. The cramped chamber had no access to daylight and a ceiling so low that standing was impossible.

The school’s northern wing, the bathhouse, was centrally heated. During cold European winters—temperatures could fall to minus-13 degrees—the building was warmed by funneling heat from a wood-burning furnace through gaps in the floor and walls and then out roof openings. Archaeologists detected a chamber that they believe may have been a training room: they were able to see a hollow space, or hypocaust, under the floor, where heat was conducted to warm the paving stones underfoot. The bathhouse, with its thermal pools, was fitted with plumbing that conveyed hot and cold water. Looking at the bath complex, Neubauer says, “confirmed for the first time that gladiators could recover from harsh, demanding training in a fully equipped Roman bath.”

Envisioning Carnuntum

Archaeologists’ high-tech tools, including drone overflights and geo-radar imaging, have produced a detailed virtual reconstruction of the 30,000-square-foot gladiator academy. Hover over the red icons below to discover its areas and structures. (By 5W Infographics. Research by Nona Yates) 

Marcus Aurelius was a philosopher-king who, despite the border battles raging during his administration, was inclined toward peace. The third book of his Meditations—philosophical conversations with himself in Greek—may have been written in Carnuntum’s main amphitheater, where circuses featured savage treatment of criminals. One could envision the emperor attending these brutal entertainments and turning aside to jot down his lofty thoughts. Generally, though, he was not a big fan of the mutual butchery of gladiators.

Nowadays, Marcus Aurelius is remembered less for his philosophizing than for being smothered by young Commodus at the start of the swords-and-sandals epic Gladiator. In reality, he succumbed to a devastating plague—most likely smallpox—that wiped out as many as ten million people across the empire. The film hewed closer to received history in its depiction of Commodus, an antisocial Darwinist whose idea of culture was to slaughter giraffes and elephants and take up crescent-headed arrows to shoot the heads off ostriches. True, he actually wasn’t stabbed to death in the ring by a hunky gladiator, but his demise was no less theatrical: Commodus’ dissolute reign was cut short in A.D. 192 when, after several botched assassination attempts, he was strangled in the bath by his personal trainer, a wrestler named Narcissus.

Commodus was a gladiator manqué who may have acquired his taste for the sport during a period in his youth (A.D. 171 to 173), some of which was misspent in Carnuntum. During the latest round of excavations, Neubauer concluded that the popularity of gladiating there necessitated two amphitheaters. “Nearly every other Roman outpost had a single arena,” he says. “In Carnuntum, one belonged to the military camp and served the legionnaires. The other, next to the school, belonged to the civil city and satisfied the desires of ordinary citizens.”

The gladiator era was a time of strict law and order, when a family outing consisted of scrambling for a seat in the bleachers to watch people be sliced apart. “The circuses were a brutal, disgusting activity,” says LBI ArchPro senior researcher Christian Gugl (“No relation to the search engine”). “But I suppose spectators enjoyed the blood, cruelty and violence for a lot of the same reasons we now tune in to ‘Game of Thrones.’”

Rome’s throne games gave the public a chance, regularly taken, to vent its anonymous derision when crops failed or emperors fell out of favor. Inside the ring, civilization confronted intractable nature. In Marcus Aurelius: A Life, biographer Frank McLynn proposed that the beastly spectacles “symbolized the triumph of order over chaos, culture over biology. Ultimately, gladiatorial games played the key consolatory role of all religion, since Rome triumphing over the barbarians could be read as an allegory of the triumph of immortality over death.”

Neubauer likens the school in Carnuntum to a penitentiary. Under the Republic (509 B.C. to 27 B.C.), the “students” tended to be convicted criminals, prisoners of war or slaves bought solely for the purpose of gladiatorial combat by the lanista, who trained them to fight and then rented them out for shows—if they had the right qualities. Their ranks also included free men who volunteered as gladiators. Under the Empire (27 B.C. to A.D. 476), gladiators, while still made up of social outcasts, also included not only free men, but noblemen and even women who willingly risked their legal and social standing by taking part in the sport.

A modern-day gladiator in Rome readies for a staged battle in historic regalia. (Luca Locatelli / INSTITUTE) A re-enactor with the Latin name Macrino is a Signifer, a standard bearer that carried a signum of the Roman legions. (Luca Locatelli / INSTITUTE) The Gruppo Storico Romano was founded 15 years ago and today has about 200 members. Right, a re-enactor dressed for battle. (Luca Locatelli / INSTITUTE) Mirco Leonori, 34, is an IT technician and adviser by day. As a re-enactor, he goes by the Latin name Gannicus. His character is a Mirmillone, a type of gladiator. (Luca Locatelli / INSTITUTE) Antimo Mangione, Latin name Liberius, is a gladiator re-enactor from the Gruppo Storico Romano. His character is a Speculator, a special unit of the Roman Empire. (Luca Locatelli / INSTITUTE) Franco Cassano, 52, a civil servant of the Rome municipality, re-enacts a Trace, a type of gladiator. (Luca Locatelli / INSTITUTE) Ariela Pizzati, 39 and a real estate consultant, assumes the character of a gladiator type called a Provocator. (Luca Locatelli / INSTITUTE) Emperor Marcus Aurelius decreed gladiator swords be blunted to reduce fatalities. (Erich Lessing / Art Resource, NY) Emperor Commodus (sculpted as Hercules) claimed he was the reincarnated mythical hero. (Alfredo Dagli Orti / The Art Archive at Art Resource, NY)

It’s doubtful that many fighters-in-training were killed at Carnuntum’s school. The gladiators represented a substantial investment for the lanista, who trained, housed and fed combatants, and then leased them out. Contrary to Hollywood mythmaking, slaying half the participants in any given match wouldn’t have been cost-effective. Ancient fight records suggest that while amateurs almost always died in the ring or were so badly maimed that waiting executioners finished them off with one merciful blow, around 90 percent of trained gladiators survived their fights.

The mock arena at the heart of the Carnuntum school was ringed by tiers of wooden seats and the terrace of the chief lanista. (A replica was recently built on the site of the original, an exercise in reconstruction archaeology deliberately limited to the use of tools and raw materials known to have existed during the Empire years.) In 2011, GPR detected the hole in the middle of the practice ring that secured a palus, the wooden post that recruits hacked at hour after hour. Until now it had been assumed that the palus was a thick log. But LBI ArchPro’s most recent survey indicated that the cavity at Carnuntum was only a few inches thick. “A thin post would not have been meant just for strength and stamina,” Neubauer argues. “Precision and technical finesse were equally important. To injure or kill an opponent, a gladiator had to land very accurate blows.”

Every fighter was a specialist with his own particular equipment. The murmillo was outfitted with a narrow sword, a tall, oblong shield and a crested helmet. He was often pitted against a thraex, who protected himself with sheathing covering the legs to the groin and broad-rimmed headgear, and brandished a small shield and a small, curved sword, or sica. The retiarius tried to snare his opponent in a net and spear his legs with a trident. In 2014, a traditional dig in Carnuntum’s ludus turned up a metal plate that probably came from the scale armor of a scissor, a type of gladiator sometimes paired with a retiarius. What distinguished the scissor was the hollow steel tube into which his forearm and fist fitted. The tube was capped: At the business end was a crescent-shaped blade meant to cut through the retiarius’ net in the event of entanglement.

One of the most surprising new finds was a chicken bone unearthed from where the grandstand would have been. Surprising, because in 2014 Austrian forensic anthropologists Fabian Kanz and Karl Grossschmidt established that gladiators were almost entirely vegetarians. They conducted tests on bones uncovered at a mass gladiator graveyard in Ephesus, Turkey, showing that the fighters’ diets consisted of barley and beans the standard beverage was a concoction of vinegar and ash—the precursor of sports drinks. Neubauer’s educated guess: “The chicken bone corroborates that private displays were staged in the training arena, and rich spectators were provided with food during the fights.”

Outside the ludus walls, segregated from Carnuntum’s civilian cemetery, Team Neubauer turned up a burial field crammed with gravestones, sarcophagi and elaborate tombs. Neubauer is convinced that a gold-plated brooch unearthed during the chicken-bone dig belonged to a politician or prosperous merchant. “Or a celebrity,” he allows. “For instance, a famous gladiator who had died in the arena.” The man fascinated by the Hallstatt charnel house may have located a gladiator necropolis.

Top gladiators were folk heroes with nicknames, fan clubs and adoring groupies. The story goes that Annia Galeria Faustina, the wife of Marcus Aurelius, was smitten with a gladiator she saw on parade and took him as a lover. Soothsayers advised the cuckolded emperor that he should have the gladiator killed, and that Faustina should bathe in his blood and immediately lie down with her husband. If the never reliable Scriptores Historiae Augustae is to be believed, Commodus’ obsession with gladiators stemmed from the fact that the murdered gladiator was his real dad.

Following in the (rumored) tradition of the emperors Caligula, Hadrian and Lucius Verus—and to the contempt of the patrician elite—Commodus often competed in the arena. He once awarded himself a fee of a million sestertii (brass coins) for a performance, straining the Roman treasury.

According to Frank McLynn, Commodus performed “to enhance his claim to be able to conquer death, already implicit in his self-deification as the god Hercules.” Wrapped in lion skins and shouldering a club, the mad ruler would galumph around the ring à la Fred Flintstone. At one point, citizens who had lost a foot through accident or disease were tethered for Commodus to flog to death while he pretended they were giants. He chose for his opponents members of the audience who were given only wooden swords. Not surprisingly, he always won.

Enduring his wrath was only marginally less injurious to health than standing in the path of an oncoming chariot. On pain of death, knights and senators were compelled to watch Commodus do battle and to chant hymns to him. It’s a safe bet that if Commodus had enrolled in Carnuntum’s gladiator school, he would have graduated summa cum laude.

LBI ArchPro is housed in a nondescript building in a nondescript part of Vienna, 25 miles west of Carnuntum. Next to the parking lot is a shed that opens like Aladdin’s cave. Among the treasures are drones, a prop plane and what appears to be the love child of a lawn mower and a lunar rover. Rigged onto the back of the quad bikes (motorized quadricycles) is a battery of instruments—lasers, GPR, magnetometers, electromagnetic induction sensors.

LBI ArchPro goes over one of the amphitheaters at Carnuntum with a motorized ground-penetrating radar array. (Reiner Riedler / Anzenberger Agency)

Many of these gadgets are designed to be dragged across a field like futuristic farm equipment. “These devices allow us to identify structures several yards below ground,” says Gugl, the researcher. “The way the latest radar arrays can slice through soil is kind of Star Treky, though it lacks that Hollywood clarity.”

No terrain seems inaccessible to Neubauer’s explorers. Your eyes linger on a rubber raft suspended from the ceiling. You imagine the Indiana Jones-like possibilities. You ask, “Is the raft used for plumbing the depths of the Nile?”

“No, no, no,” Gugl protests. “We’re just letting some guy store it here.”

He leads you on a tour of the offices.

On the first floor, the common room is painted some institutional shade unknown to any spectrum. There’s an air of scruffiness in the occupants—jeans, T-shirts, running shoes young researchers chat near a floor-to-ceiling photo of Carnuntum’s topography or gaze at animated video presentations, which track the development of the town in two and three dimensions.

On a desktop monitor, a specialist in virtual archaeology, Juan Torrejón Valdelomar, and computer scientist Joachim Brandtner boot up a 3-D animation of LBI ArchPro’s surprising new discovery at Carnuntum—the real purpose of the Heidentor. Built in the fourth century during the reign of Emperor Constantius II, the solitary relic was originally 66 feet high, comprising four pillars and a cross vault. During the Middle Ages, it was thought to be a pagan giant’s tomb. Ancient sources indicate that Constantius II had it erected in tribute to his military triumphs.

But a radar scan of the area provides evidence that the Heidentor was surrounded by bivouacs of legionnaires, soldiers massed by the tens of thousands. Like a time-lapse cartoon of a flower unfolding, the LBI ArchPro graphic shows Roman campsites slowly shooting up around the memorial. “This monumental arch,” says Neubauer, “towered above the soldiers, always reminding them of their allegiance to Rome.”

Now that LBI ArchPro has digitally leveled the playing field, what’s next at Carnuntum? “Primarily, we hope to find building structures that we can clearly interpret and date,” says archaeologist Eduard Pollhammer. “We don’t expect chariots, wild animal cages or remains inside the school.”

Within another walled compound that adjoins the ludus is an extended open campus that may contain all of the above. Years ago a dig inside a Carnuntum amphitheater turned up the carcasses of bears and lions.

The ongoing reconstructions have convinced Neubauer that his team has solved some of the city’s enduring mysteries. At the least, they show how the march of technology is increasingly rewriting history. It’s been said the farther backward you look, the farther forward you are likely to see. In Book VII of his Meditations, Marcus Aurelius put it another way: “Look back over the past, with its changing empires that rose and fell, and you can foresee the future, too.”


Archaeology breakthrough: Entire Roman City discovered buried underground

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Greece: Archaeologists discover temple for Goddess Nemesis

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Archaeologists were able to take a detailed look of the layout and building hidden beneath the soil. Using a quad bike and other sophisticated machines they were able to locate the hidden treasure with radio waves. The discovered town known as Falerii Novi, situated near Rome, played host to a baths complex, a temple and a market.

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Amongst other finds, researchers from universities of Cambridge and Ghent revealed they came across a unique public monument, unlike anything compared to the other relics of ancient Rome.

Also hidden below was a large theatre, housing complexes for the working class and water pipe system.

The site is a hotspot for fascinating finds and is a well studied Roman site.

On the brink of Rome 30 miles north, the town is a product of battle between the Romans and Faliscan people who inhabited the Lazio region of Italy.

Scientists have discovered a Roman town underground (Image: TWITTER)

A contest in which Rome was eventually victorious.

They conquered the natives in 241BC, taking possession of their weapons, slaves and other territorial boasts.

Falerii was demolished, demoting the Faliscans and their language non-existent for a century.

Archaeologists discovered hidden features (Image: GETTY)

Related articles

After the empire fell into collapse, it&rsquos replacement, Falerii Novi, was abandoned.

It is now known by a different name, as Civita Castellana.

The latest examination of the area allowed researchers to map out the layout of the town&rsquos hidden features.

Scientists using ground-penetrating radar (GPR) beam the rays into the earth and special equipment reveals potential finds.

Ground-penetrating radar reveals undiscovered buildings in the Roman city of Falerii Novi. https://t.co/xLjxKWq9EJ#Archaeology #GPR #Rome pic.twitter.com/iBoQSMn1i9

&mdash Archaeological Conservancy (@tac_org) June 9, 2020

Scientists using ground-penetrating radar (GPR) beam the rays into the earth and special equipment reveals potential finds.

The sensitive technology listens for an &ldquoecho.&rdquo

The discovery shows the potential of ground-penetrating radar.

One of the researchers believed the technology could revolutionize future projects.

The discovery was made in Falerii Novi, Italy (Image: GETTY)

Related articles

Professor Martin Millett, from the University of Cambridge, said: &ldquo'The level of detail provided by this work has shown how this type of survey has the potential to revolutionise archaeological studies of urban sites.

'There is little doubt that this technology will fundamentally change the ways in which Roman urbanisation can be understood,&rdquo he concluded.


Ancient coin stashes help scholars solve population mystery

Ancient Coin Stashes Help Scholars Solve Population Mystery

It is 42 BC and you are a citizen of ancient Rome. Julius Caesar has been dead for two years, and civil war is raging between his assassins and the army of his adopted son, Octavius. Life is tumultuous and unstable, so you decide to follow the lead of many of your neighbors and hide your savings. Each week you collect your hard-earned wages and bury the coins in a secluded area on the outskirts of town, intending to retrieve them later. Of course, you keep the location of your money secret. But what if you never make it back there? What if, like so many others, you are called to the battlefield and killed?

To the benefit of modern-day scholars, your money will remain buried and untouched for many centuries after your death.

Nearly two millennia later, clusters of ancient Roman coins, called hoards, are still being uncovered in remote areas all over Italy. As these coin hoards have been unearthed over the years, scholars have used them to glean valuable information about the society from which they came. Recently, two professors, one a historian and the other a scientist joined together in an unlikely scholarly collaboration to investigate whether the coins could help them paint a more accurate picture of the population count of ancient Rome.

Their findings were published in a study that could re-write the history books. Several years ago, Walter Scheidel, a historian at Stanford University, met University of Connecticut scientist Peter Turchin at a history conference. While there, they discovered a mutual interest in ancient Roman culture. They kept in touch, and through the course of a series of conversations realized that by working together, they could offer a new perspective on an issue that has been a topic of debate among historians for decades.

Ancient Source Material Presents Unique Challenges

Rome at the beginning of the first millennium is a subject of intense fascination for many scholars. Marked by periods of both internal and external warfare, the territory expanded from a republic to an empire in 27 BC and continued to extend its boundaries throughout Europe. Much of what we know about Rome is extracted from historiographical sources – ancient texts and documents, but these records have varying degrees of reliability.

While browsing some history books, Prof. Turchin, who specializes in data models, became troubled by remarkably high population estimates of 20 million citizens of ancient Rome. If the high figure is indeed accurate, then our understanding of Rome is dramatically altered: in that case, the Roman state would never have experienced a shortage of manpower, and the Roman economy would have been able to feed many more mouths than in later periods. “I was reading up on the first century BC, which I know was a disintegrative phase, when the population typically declines or remains stagnant, so when I read about the high count, I thought, ‘it can’t be true’,” says Turchin. Turchin shared his concern with Scheidel who agreed that it was unlikely that Roman Italy could have sustained such a large population during times of strife and political upheaval.

Findings Could Alter Views on Development of European Economy

Scheidel was particularly compelled to explore the population issue because if the population of ancient Italy had been as large as assumed by the high count, it would have been unsurpassed until the nineteenth century and the Roman economy would have been much more productive than is commonly accepted. This might completely change established theories of how the European economy has developed over millennia.

Scientist and Historian Partner on Innovative Research Project

The two scholars determined that an inter-disciplinary research project might shed more light on this important facet of Roman history. Scheidel’s historical expertise combined with Turchin’s quantitative skills allowed them to build a new statistical model that could more accurately project the trajectory of population growth in ancient Rome.

Since the ancient coin hoard information was available and coin hoards from later historical periods had already been shown to reflect periods of instability, it was the ideal data for them to use as the foundation for their investigation. Ancient Romans were interested in their population size too, and actually compiled census statistics, but Professor Scheidel explains that opaque information about census methodology is precisely why the population count has been debated among historians.

A census counting only adult males was conducted every five years during much of the republican era (most regularly in the third and second centuries BC.) The census polls continued into the early Imperial era (in the late first century BC and early first century AD) but documentation about who was counted in these later polls is lacking. Without documentation historians are left with two different ways of interpreting the data one resulting in a significantly higher population count than the other.

Scholars dispute these two possible counts at the beginning of the imperial era. The conservative count assumes that the census included all citizens, and places the population at around 6 million. The high count assumes that the census only counted adult males, following the pattern of the republican era. This count would raise the population in Italy to between 15 and 20 million people, because for every man they would estimate two additional family members.

Documents about the census do not clarify if women and children were counted. Nor is it known how fully people who lived further from the central city were included. Even the purpose of the census remains unclear. “It can serve military purposes, if you count all men of military age. It can be used for taxation, if you count all citizens, or for political purposes, if you count everyone who could vote, which were adult men. We don’t know,” says Professor Scheidel.

Scheidel and Turchin decided that mathematics might hold the key to settling the imperial era debate, and this is where the coins fit into the equation. The number of coin hoards has an inverse relationship with population growth. Citizens tend to stash their money away in times of warfare and instability. If the coin hoards remained buried, it is likely that their owners were killed or disabled before they could retrieve them. A high number of these coin hoards suggests strife and population decline.

This idea is one that has been tested and confirmed when applied to other places and periods in history. Starting with the basic exponential model of population growth, Scheidel and Turchin applied a parameter meant to depict the effect of coin hoards. “We took data from the period before 100 BC when everyone agrees that what was counted in the census then was only adult males. There is no argument about that,” says Turchin. “We tried different parameters until we found the right combination that gave us the smallest difference from the actual data.” The census data from the republican era revealed the relationship between coin hoards and population.

Using this information, they then predicted the trajectory for the population of the imperial era, when the Roman approach to the census was unclear. The results were remarkably in line with the low count theory, suggesting that women and children were indeed counted in the census. This method represents a shift from the way the census was conducted during the republican era. The low population count also confirms the prevalence of warfare in the early Roman Empire.

Multi-Disciplinary Collaboration Leads to Groundbreaking Research

Scheidel and Truchin agree that they wouldn’t have been able to conduct this sort of groundbreaking research within their respective disciplines. This study has just affirmed each of the professor’s strong feelings about the importance of combining specialized skills. The project also highlighted the fact that there’s much to be gained by fostering more interdisciplinary opportunities. “This is a rare opportunity in both history and science,” says Scheidel. “It doesn’t happen very often. Scientists are busy with studies in the lab, and humanists don’t usually seek out the scientists.”

Interdisciplinary collaborations are common in the sciences, but much less so in the humanities. Professor Scheidel notes that the traditionally organized structure of history research does not typically lend itself to interdisciplinary studies, but he explains, there are many natural opportunities for cross-disciplinary investigation. “History is incredibly multi-faceted. A historian must understand everything from climate, to demography, from economics, to sociology.” Scheidel continues. “It is impossible for anyone to become an expert in all of these fields, yet all aspects are needed to create a comprehensive historical picture.”

Professor Turchin acknowledges parallel opportunities in his scientific work, “I have always been interested in demography, but my statistical experience is limited.” Turchin says. “To tease out meaningful information and not just assumptions, you need formal statistics.” He adds, “Interdisciplinary research is really the way to go. Even though everyone says that, it’s really important. Most administrators really don’t understand it. Everyone is still sitting in his or her separate department with little communication. It really takes individuals like Walter and me getting together on our own.”

Because the project so clearly illustrates the benefits of collaboration, Scheidel is hopeful that it will encourage other scholars to seek out inter-disciplinary opportunities.


The potential of integrated GPR survey and aerial photographic analysis of historic urban areas: A case study and digital reconstruction of a Late Roman villa in Durrës (Albania)

This paper focuses on the results of a joint geoarchaeological research project of urban historical remains in the ancient Roman city of Durrës, Albania. The project began with a desk-based analysis of all the historical and archival evidence including aerial photos from the 1920s–40s, a period before major urbanization of the area and prior to the capture of satellite imagery in the 1960s. These aerial photographs were re-processed and then combined with ground-penetrating radar (GPR) imagery and used to locate a Late Roman villa in the city. The integrated results produced a visual idea of what the villa looked like, when analysed in conjunction with the known archaeological and historical literature. During analysis, different levels of data reliability and resolution have been identified, which inform methodological choices when undertaking reconstructions of the villa. These methodological issues have generic resonance in the reconstruction of urban landscapes.