Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Catapult from Casalbordino

I was inspired by Angelo's post on Oscan abecedaria to dust off the old keyboard; for the future remain many exciting episodes from Italy and some brief things about the APA/AIA convention. The inscription that concerns me here is the following (format snagged from Sauvage Noble):

"Rix Fr 13

Bronze cylinder, Casalbordino:

a b g d v z ḥ [i] k

Aside from 〈a〉, all the letters are/can be consonantal, without regard for voicing."

It's a bronze cylinder, found at Casalbordino in Abruzzo, now in the Museo Nazionale in Chieti.

This is basically what it looks like, although the cylinder is not as long relative to its diameter as I've sketched it. There's much more pronounced lip where at the end with the face. I'm sorry I don't have a photograph to share at the moment, and we're still waiting on the Imagines Italicae project. They do have a somewhat useful entry on the object. It is described as part of a ritual mechanism for distributing sortes, that is, lots for fortune-telling. However, it may instead have been a part of a ballista, a kind of torsion-powered catapult (a diagram). The cylinder would fit on the end of the axle of the winding mechanism, the holes allowing the insertion of levers for winding back the string.
The letters that accompany what were originally ten holes evenly-spaced around the cylinder therefore indicate intervals of 36 degrees up to 324 (360 and 0 being of course the same). This division would give the artillerist a chance to adjust the tension with some degree of regularity, based on prior experience (probably the previous shot!). The cylinder probably dates to the period of the Social Wars, ca. 90 BCE, when many of the Italic tribes took arms against Roman hegemony.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Trebula Mutuesca

Faithful readers may remember that I was on a dig in Italy way back in August. Now that I'm home and starting to get my act together, I can offer some photographs from my travels. The site is Trebula Mutuesca, site of a Sabine sanctuary to the goddess Feronia, near the modern village of Monteleone Sabino, some ways north of Rome in the Sabine Hills. The excavation is in the area directly below the assumed site of the temple. A terrace wall (seen clearly in the first picture below) separates the temple area from a colonnaded approach (seen in the second picture).

Giulio and Stefania inspect the site:

The terrace wall in the near foreground, the colonnade stretching away in the center, bordered on the left by a drain and the right by a wall.

Interior designer by profession, archaeologist by passion, Leo uncovers a cache of five Roman Republican-era bronze coins:Lindsay, our site director Giulio, and Pierangelo take a break in the shade:

The apparatus of digging:

A single worked tufa block from a workshop at Falerii Veteres (modern Civita Castellana). Apparently used as fill during construction of the terrace and colonnade.