Skip to comments.Roman rubbish dump reveals secrets of ancient trading networks
Posted on 06/07/2015 9:12:42 AM PDT by SunkenCiv
The world's largest ancient Roman rubbish dump is revealing intriguing details about the extent and sophistication of trade in the Mediterranean 2,000 years ago.
Monte Testaccio is an artificial hill in the centre of Rome that is made up of an estimated 25 million shards of broken amphorae, many from as far afield as Spain and North Africa.
The amphorae, containing wine and olive oil, were broken up and dumped on the spoil heap after being unloaded from a nearby port on the River Tiber.
They could not be reused because wine and oil residue seeped into the clay, turning rancid after a while and preventing the containers from being recycled for fresh shipments.
Each amphora was painted or stamped with an inscription detailing which product it contained, how much it weighed, where it was produced, when it was shipped to Rome and how much import duty was paid.
Archaeologists are digging up thousands of shards and studying the inscriptions in order to map patterns of trade and to better understand the complex system by which products from around the Mediterranean were brought to the imperial capital -- then the most populous city in the world.
They are calculating the huge quantities of olive oil and wine that Rome imported in order to supply its civilian population as well as its vast legions as they pushed the boundaries of the Roman Empire ever further outwards in the first and second centuries AD.
Some of the amphorae were used to transport "garum", a smelly sauce made from fermented fish blood and intestines that the Romans relished as a condiment.
(Excerpt) Read more at telegraph.co.uk ...
The amphorae could not be reused because the wine and oil residue seeped into the clay (Chris Warde-Jones)
The Lowly Amphora (and ancient contact across the oceans)
The Mathisen Corollary | Monday, February 6, 2012 | David Warner Mathisen
Posted on 06/01/2015 10:43:47 AM PDT by SunkenCiv
I thought I'd just read a news story about it, couldn't turn it up, then during the routine visit to Archaeologica, there it was.
I think the Roman Empire was more sophisticated and urbane than the Hollywood portrayal we’ve been feed.
The old saying in show business is, write about what you know. That’s why so many shows are about struggling artists (or have a character who’s trying to make it as a performer; The Big Bang Theory has Penny, Friends had Joey, Seinfeld had Seinfeld...), and why their portrayals of ancient Rome go immediately to orgies and bulemia.
“The Big Bang Theory has Penny”
Well, ya can’t blame ‘em, really. ;’)
All right, but apart from the sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?
Glass windows: the Romans used glass windows even in the most remote parts of the Empire like Hadrian's wall.
Stone buildings: In Italy, by the 2nd century even remote peasants liven in masonry houses with fine tile roofs.
Extensive trade: even the poor had access to very highly quality terracotta vessels and plates that were produced en masse in a few sites and distributed throughout the Empire.
Medicine: We make fun of Galen's theories today but even if he didn't understand the causes of infectious disease he had a decent understanding of epidemiology, disease transmission, anatomy and surgery. His reforms of the Roman army's medical corps made army physicians highly sought after, and they probably provided the best level of care and surgery available until the invention of chloroform and carbolic acid in the 19th century.
Fresh running water and sewers: even without modern chemistry, the Romans knew how to test the pH of water to make sure it had a healthy mineral content without so many minerals that it clogged the aqueducts too quickly.
Chemical electroplating: there's good evidence from ships built by Caligula that someone figured out how to chemically electroplate iron nails with copper for ship building.
Roads, bridges: many are still used in Europe today with a thin layer of blacktop.
In brief, the level of material life (even for common people) was not probably equaled in Europe until sometime in the 19th century. The collapse of the Western Empire can even be seen in ice cores from Greenland, where traces of lead and arsenic from smelting fall dramatically in the 5th century.
Roman dumps are huge for archaeologists...
do you think our dumps will be dug up someday? lol
IOW, the Roman debris pile is remarkably neat and tidy. ;’)
It was so smelly, in fact, that they eventually had to move production away from populated areas. It was too stinky.
Yes, they do much more modern archaeological digs.
Don’t wear your good boots and latex gloves all around.
The Hierapolis stone sawmill shows the use of gear train, crank and connecting rods, if they just could have paired that with Heron's steam engine they might have had an industrial revolution.
Mmmmmm, fermented fish blood. Sounds Delish....
Cement - perhaps their most advanced and enduring contribution to building - only equaled in recent years.
Not that different from Thai fish sauce.
The Wikipedia article originally referenced by Sunken mentioned the lime dusted over the broken pots to (probably) reduce the smell of rancid olive oil.
Notably, the olive oil amphora were the only ones apparently not recycled to carry more olive oil. (Wheat, wine, etc were reused in their previous containers.)
Probably because of the smell of old (rotting) olive oil that needed to be carried back to Spain, shipped by ox cart back to the field, held in the sun and insects in warehouses until the olive were ready, then re-filled? Are you going drink that stuff after it sits in oil-soaked rotting liquid for 3-4 months?
On a side note, EVERYTHING in today’s landfills that was ever dumped there is available for immediate and quick and cheap re-cycling! Except the billions of tons of junk dumped by New York in their waters off the coasts that is. ONLY those sanctimonious NY/NJ/CT fools dumped their trash were we cannot recycle cheaply!
And in fact, every pound of every element ever mined is still on earth (a few satellites excepting) already refined from the original ore.
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