Genoa finds record haul of English weaponry

Port authorities in Genoa have discovered a record haul of English weaponry, including a number of cannons and a rare anchor weighing four tonnes.

Genoa finds record haul of English weaponry
The discoveries were made during a dredging operation at Genoa's port. Screenshot: La Stampa

Five iron cannons dating from around the 17th century were discovered during a dredging operation at Genoa’s port. Each is thought to have been produced by the English, are around three metres long and weigh about a tonne each.

An additional two small cannons were discovered, which were half the size of the English ones and could have been used by just one person.

One of the most significant discoveries was a rare bronze cannon, still carrying the mark of the Alberghetti family, which produced weaponry in Venice during the 16th century. The cannon was valued at €300,000 by Italian media.

Luigi Merlo, president of the port authority, praised those involved in the operation for bringing “pieces of history” to shore.

“The challenge that now remains is that of returning these materials to all citizens,” he said. Some of the items will be displayed at Genoa’s Maritime Museum, while others will be placed at the city’s Palace of St. George, Ansa reported.

In addition to the cannons, a number of large anchors were also found. They include one dating from 1832 and carrying the Rodger’s Small Palms patent, other examples of British admiralship from 1841, and one produced locally.

The most celebrated find among the anchors was the biggest of its kind ever recovered in Italian waters, at five metres long and weighing four tonnes.

Fabrizio Ciacchella from the company NavLab, which works on maritime and naval history, said it was a “very rare model of British admiralship”.

“The oldest and most interesting find is an anchor from the end of the 17th century or the start of the 18th century, (which is) particularly interesting because only a few examples exist,” he told La Stampa.

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Italian archaeologists uncover slave room at Pompeii in ‘rare’ find

Pompeii archaeologists said Saturday they have unearthed the remains of a "slave room" in an exceptionally rare find at a Roman villa destroyed by Mount Vesuvius' eruption nearly 2,000 years ago.

Archaeologists in Pompeii who discovered a room which likely housed slaves. 
Archaeologists said the newly-discovered room in Pompeii likely housed slaves charged with maintaining chariots.  Photo: Archaeological Park of Pompeii press office.

The little room with three beds, a ceramic pot and a wooden chest was discovered during a dig at the Villa of Civita Giuliana, a suburban villa just a few hundred metres from the rest of the ancient city.

An almost intact ornate Roman chariot was discovered here at the start of this year, and archaeologists said Saturday that the room likely housed slaves charged with maintaining and prepping the chariot.

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“This is a window into the precarious reality of people who rarely appear in historical sources, written almost exclusively by men belonging to the elite,” said Pompeii’s director general Gabriel Zuchtriegel.

Photo: Archaeological Park of Pompeii press office.

The “unique testimony” into how “the weakest in the ancient society lived… is certainly one of the most exciting discoveries in my life as an archaeologist,” he said in a press release.

Pompeii was buried in ash when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, killing those who hadn’t managed to leave the city in time. They were either crushed by collapsing buildings or killed by thermal shock.

The 16-square metre (170-square feet) room was a cross between a bedroom and a storeroom: as well as three beds – one of which was child sized – there were eight amphorae, stashed in a corner.

Photo: Archaeological Park of Pompeii press office.

The wooden chest held metal and fabric objects that seem to be part of the harnesses of the chariot horses, and a chariot shaft was found resting on one of the beds.

The remains of three horses were found in a stable in a dig earlier this year.

“The room grants us a rare insight into the daily reality of slaves, thanks to the exceptional state of preservation of the room,” the Pompeii archaeological park said.

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Image: Archaeological Park of Pompeii press office.

Experts had been able to make plaster casts of the beds and other objects in perishable materials which left their imprint in the cinerite — the rock made of volcanic ash — that covered them, it said.

The beds were made of several roughly worked wooden planks, which could be adjusted according to the height of the person who used them.

The webbed bases of the beds were made of ropes, covered by blankets.

While two were around 1.7 metres long, one measured just 1.4 metres, and may therefore have belonged to a child.

The archaeological park said the three slaves may have been a family.

Archaeologists found several personal objects under the beds, including amphorae for private things, ceramic jugs and what might be a chamber pot.

The room was lit by a small upper window, and there are no traces or wall decorations, just a mark believed to have been left by a lantern hung on a wall.

“This incredible new discovery at Pompeii demonstrates that today the archaeological site has become not only one of the most desirable visitor destinations in the world, but also a place where research is carried out and new and experimental technologies are employed,” said Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini.

“Thanks to this important new discovery, our knowledge of the daily life of ancient Pompeians has been enriched, particularly of that element of society about which little is known even today. Pompeii is a model of study that is unique in the world.”

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The excavation is part of a programme launched in 2017 aimed at fighting illegal activity in the area, including tunnel digging to reach artefacts that can be sold on illicit markets.

The Villa of Civita Giuliana had been the target of systematic looting for years. There was evidence some of the “archaeological heritage” in this so-called Slave Room had also been lost to looters, the park said.

Damage by grave robbers in the villa had been estimated so far at almost two million euros ($2.3 million), it added.