The Roman Emperors used to spend their summers in the city of Baia, near Naples. With the passage of time, however, the majority of their luxury villas became immersed under water. Italian and Spanish researchers have now applied microscopic and geochemical techniques to confirm that the marble used to cover these ancient Roman buildings came from Carrara and other marble quarries in Turkey and Greece - valuable information for archaeologists and historians.
Hidden under the vegetation and crops of the Eria Valley, in León (Spain), there is a gold mining network created by the Romans two thousand years ago, as well as complex hydraulic works, such as river diversions, to divert water to the mines of the precious metal. Researchers from the University of Salamanca made the discovery from the air with an airborne laser teledetection system.
Researchers from the University of La Laguna have applied a new genetic method to analyse archaeological remains that enables the sex of skeletal remains from the indigenous peoples of the island of El Hierro to be determined. This type of work is essential to discover more about ancient communities when the complete skeletons of individuals are not available.
During the winter solstice, the sun is filtered into the Monastery at Petra, Jordan, illuminating the podium of a deity. Just at this moment, the silhouette of the mountain opposite draws the head of a lion, a sacred animal. These are examples from a study where researchers from Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias and CSIC (Spain) showed how celestial events influenced the orientation of the great constructions of the Nabataeans.
The history of medieval navigation on the Iberian peninsula is a great mystery. In the 1970s, a recreational diver found a bronze candelabra in Ibiza which Marcus H. Hermanns, a scientist from the German Archaeological Institute in Madrid, has now unveiled. It is a unique piece from the 10th century which could provide clues on sea routes in the period.
The properties of these lead bricks recovered from ancient shipwrecks are ideal for experiments in particle physics. Scientists from the CDMS dark matter detection project in Minnesota (USA) and from the CUORE neutrino observatory at the Gran Sasso Laboratory in Italy have begun to use them, but archaeologists have raised alarm about the destruction and trading of cultural heritage that lies behind this. The journal ‘Science’ has expressed this dilemma formulated by two Spanish researchers in the United Kingdom.
The so-called Elephant’s Tomb in the Roman necropolis of Carmona (Seville, Spain) was not always used for burials. The original structure of the building and a window through which the sun shines directly in the equinoxes suggest that it was a temple of Mithraism, an unofficial religion in the Roman Empire. The position of Taurus and Scorpio during the equinoxes gives force to the theory.