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From the Trenches

The Gates of Gath

By JARRETT A. LOBELL

Monday, October 05, 2015

Trenches Israel Gath

 

In the tenth and ninth centuries B.C., and probably even earlier, Gath was likely the largest city in Philistia, a pentapolis—five-city confederation—in the southern Levant. A team of archaeologists led by Aren Maeir of Bar-Ilan University has just uncovered one source of Gath’s strength—the monumental stone gate and a section of the wall that served as both entrance to and protection for the city. As home to the Philistines, including, according to the Old Testament, the giant warrior Goliath, Gath was the strongest and most dominant city in the region for nearly two centuries. Along with Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron, and Gaza, it was also a formidable foe of the early Judahite kingdom (also called the “United Kingdom” of David and Solomon) and, says Maeir, “played a central role in the geopolitical scene during these periods.”

Friars' Leather Shop

By DANIEL WEISS

Monday, October 05, 2015

Trenches Oxford Greyfriars Excavation

  

An excavation in Oxford, England, conducted by Oxford Archaeology in advance of the expansion of a shopping center, has turned up a large number of leather and wood objects dating to the fourteenth century, when the site was occupied by buildings associated with the Greyfriars religious order. The artifacts were unusually well preserved because they were buried beneath the water table. Among the finds are around 100 leather shoes, a leather bag, a leather money purse, and a wooden bowl. “Somebody seems to have been saving up worn-out shoes,” says Ben Ford, the excavation’s project manager. “Maybe it was a cobbler working at the friary.”Trenches Oxford Greyfriars Artifacts

 

How Much Water Reached Rome?

By JASON URBANUS

Monday, October 05, 2015

Trenches Rome AqueductRome’s 11 aqueducts, some extending for more than 50 miles, transported enough water to feed the city’s 591 public fountains, as well as countless private residences. However, experts have long been divided about how much water each aqueduct could actually convey. “Many assumptions have been made based on some pretty unreliable ancient data concerning the size of the flows of Rome’s aqueducts, giving some very inflated figures,” says archaeologist Duncan Keenan-Jones of the University of Glasgow. “We thought it was important to adopt a more scientific approach.”

 

Keenan-Jones is part of a team of scientists who measured the amount of residual mineral deposits in the Anio Novus aqueduct to accurately gauge the depth and flow rate of water. By analyzing travertine—a type of limestone deposit—that was left on the aqueduct’s interior walls and floor, the researchers calculated a flow rate of 1.4 cubic meters per second, or between 100,000 and 150,000 cubic meters (25 to 40 million gallons) per day, a number below traditional estimates. The amount of water actually reaching the city was hindered by the buildup of travertine on the aqueduct’s interior, which considerably lessened the flow. “Our work has shown that often, even shortly after the aqueducts were built, the flow rates were well below the capacity estimates,” says Keenan-Jones. “Ancient Rome had a lot of water, but not nearly as much as has often been claimed.”

Paleo-Dentistry

By DANIEL WEISS

Monday, October 05, 2015

Trenches Italy Dental CavityA team led by Stefano Benazzi of the University of Bologna has discovered the earliest known evidence of dental work in a 14,000-year-old molar from a male skeleton found in northern Italy in 1988. Examination of the tooth with a scanning electron microscope revealed striations consistent with scratching and chipping with a sharp stone tool, apparently to remove decayed material. Enamel in the area of the cavity is worn away, suggesting the treatment occurred long before death. Benazzi believes that the likely very painful practice of removing tooth decay probably evolved from the use of wooden and bone toothpicks, many of which have been found at Paleolithic sites.

Off the Grid

By MALIN GRUNBERG BANYASZ

Monday, October 05, 2015

Trenches Dover Gun BatteryIn 1940, newly installed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill ordered the construction of gun batteries and tunnels in the chalk of the White Cliffs of Dover, just 21 miles from Nazi-occupied France, to prevent German ships from moving freely through the English Channel. The Fan Bay Deep Shelter, a series of tunnels to protect the gun battery teams from bombardment, was completed in just 100 days and could house up to 185 soldiers.

 

The tunnels were taken out of commission in the 1950s and filled with rubble in the 1970s. The National Trust purchased the land in 2012, and the next year the shelter was rediscovered. The volunteer staff of the Fan Bay Project, alongside archaeologists, mine consultants, engineers, and geologists, moved 100 tons of debris by hand over 18 months, revealing the tunnels’ infrastructure and a wealth of graffiti from the time. Jon Barker of the National Trust and Keith Parfitt of the Canterbury Archaeological Trust say that the tunnels are time capsules of emotion and provide great insight into wartime life.

 

Trenches Dover Deep ShelterThe site

The Fan Bay installation consisted of a gun battery, searchlights, a generator house, barracks, magazines, and a plotting room, all situated above the Deep Shelter—five bomb-proof tunnels and a hospital totaling 3,500 square feet, sitting 75 feet below the top of the cliffs. The clearing of the tunnels has made them accessible to the general public for the first time. Reinforced with girders and metal sheeting, they preserve an abundance of wartime graffiti, including soldiers’ names and service numbers. Near a toilet are rhymes about one challenge of wartime: the lack of toilet paper. “If you come into this hall use the paper not this wall,” one reads. “If no paper can be found then run your arse along the ground.” Guides lead visitors—with hard hats and flashlights—down 125 steps to the tunnels, as well as to two World War I sound mirrors, large concave concrete discs that were among the first early warning air defense devices in Britain.

 

While you’re there

The White Cliffs of Dover live up to their name, and a variety of viewpoints offer sweeping vistas—Stay away from the cliff edge!—of the chalk facade, the channel, and, on a clear day, France. An engineering marvel of the Victorian period, the South Foreland Lighthouse just outside Dover was the first in the world to use electric light, and still serves traditional tea in the lighthouse-keeper’s cottage. In addition, there are Roman lighthouses in Dover, overlooking the site of Portus Dubris, a second-century port, which includes the Roman Painted House, a mansio, or government hostel, decorated with more than 400 square feet of murals related to Bacchus, the god of wine.

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