Current World Archaeology 42 (August 2010) has some information that might be interesting (see the web site www.archaeology.co.uk ) such as the arrival of modern humans in North Africa is being now dated to 80,000 years ago. We also learn that the once huge fruit and nut forest in central Asia is rapidly disappearing as a result of fires, logging, and population pressure. It is thought all commercial apple and pear varieties can be traced back to this forest, brought south by merchants plying the Silk Road to China and reaching Europe in the medieval period where new varieties adapted to our climate were produced. Archaeologists in China have discovered that conjee, a rice porridge eaten for breakfast in some Asian countries, was added to lime and used as mortar during the Ming Dynasty. Temples, pagodas, tombs and rebuilt sections of the Great Wall were all constructed with this material that is so strong that it is apparently even capable of resisting earthquakes.
The main thrust of this issue is Rome – the city and its surrounding region (with a brief article on Herculaneum and the survival of organic remains buried in the eruption of Vesuvius). There is a major article on Portus – mentioned in an earlier posting, the port constructed to transfer cargo bound for Rome to skiffs that were capable of navigating the Tiber. It was built in the reign of Claudius and added to in the reign of Trajan (see www.portusproject.org and www.rhul.ac.uk/classics/laurentineshore/ ).
Christopher Smith, in discussing the archaeology of southern Etruria, claims there were three major crisis points for the population. The first occurred in the 5th and 4th centuries BC with the rise of Rome and its war with the Etruscans. The nearest Etruscan town of importance was Veii, to which some detail of its demise is given. The next crisis came around 220-210BC (and see Mike Baillie, A Slice Through Time, for the significance of this date). It also coincided with the Carthaginian Wars and it seems that the crisis is accorded blame on Hannibal and his peers rather than on the blip/ event at this time – but an examination of the archaeology more closely may determine which is what. There is no problem with the third crisis to strike southern Etruria as it also coincides, and begins with a blip/ event in mid 3rd century BC (recognised by Smith) that was followed in succeeding years by a progressively worse decline (the 4th 5th and 6th centuries AD). After that, or at some stage in the 6th or 7th century occupation was transferred to hilltop towns and villages which can still be seen in the Italian landscaped today.