Those Romans ...

8 Dec 2019

We know lots about the Roman stone trade and how they transported stone from quarries to building sites over long distances. Lots of Roman worked quarries are well known - even when it comes to clay for bricks. Yet, the Romans had an extensive trade in timber, and not so much is known about that as cutting down trees doesn't entail digging holes in the ground or leaving much of a mark on the environment (or at least the sort of mark archaeologists could monitor in the modern world). Their use of timbers was also a long distance trade network and vital for the infrastructure of the empire. Different types of timber were brought from different locations of the empire. In a recent study 24 planks found in a modern Metro construction in Rome were analysed. The planks came from the Jura Mountains in eastern France, around 1700 km away - see

At ... the first archaeological evidence of Christianity in Bahrain. Seems like a bit off the beaten track and nowhere near the borders of the Roman empire - but this is where it gets interesting. Christian communities existed in Bahrain prior to the advent of Islam. The remains are thought to be of a former monastery which later became a Moslem cemetery. A mosque was built there in the 17th century. Christian sites have also been found on islands in the Gulf belonging to Iran and Abu Dhabi - so this is not an isolated find. An episcopal see existed in this part of Bahrain between 410 and 647AD. It seems the Nestorian church flourished in the Gulf region in the 4th to 6th centuries, and well into the 7th. Surprisingly, over a thousand years later, Christian communities still existed in Iraq and Syria, and were the target of recent violence by extremist factions. Those communities have grown smaller and smaller over time but were extremely robust in order to survive for so long.

At ... the technical skill of the Roman agrimensores, the surveyors in charge of centuriation, working on division of land and various other surveying tasks such as town planning, viaduct and villa construction etc., show a remarkable accuracy as their work is unearthed. It can be demonstrated today as centuriations are still visible in Italy and other Mediterranean countries. This work had a religious and symbolic connection as it was related with the foundations of towns and the Etruscan tradition. They are called Gromatic after their chief instrument, the Groma, based on a cross of four perpendicular arms, each with cords and identical weights on the end of them. These acted like plumb lines. The surveyor was able to align with extreme precision two opposite very thin plumb lines with reference poles held aloft at various distances by assistants or fixed into the terrain (spiked into the ground). This is virtually the same process as used by surveyors in the modern world - or at least until very recently. Surveyors, including archaeologists, use palines (red and white poles) but with a theodolite.