30. The Pontic, Middle East and North African

30. The Pontic, Middle East and North African Frontier

Session Moderators: Michael Alexander Speidel, Radosław Karasiewicz-Szczypiorski, Emzar Kakhidze & Piotr Jaworski
Affiliation: University of Zürich / University of Warsaw, Switzerland / Poland, Istanbul University, Turkey
Affiliation of co-organiser: University of Warsaw, Poland
Affiliation of second co-organiser: Batumi Shota Rustaveli State Universit, Georgia
Affiliation of third co-organiser: University of Warsaw, Poland

Session Abstract: Recent archaeological, numismatic, epigraphic and historical investigations into the history of the Roman and early Byzantine forts on the Colchian coast of the Eastern Black Sea as well as on various forms of Roman influence in the countries of the South Caucasus has shed new light on this oft-neglected part of the Roman Empire’s frontier. The session aims to make known and discuss the results of these recent studies and thereby to contribute to an improved understanding of Rome’s engagement in this part of the ancient world.

Time Presenter (s) Presentation
 

COFFEE BREAK

10.50 Introduction
11.10 Maciej Czapski Roman watchtowers’ system in the light of works of polish moroccan mission Tingitana Frontier Project
11.30 Jose Angel Exposito Alvarez Leisure facilities at the borders. The baths of the roman castellum of Tamuda (Tetouan, Morocco)
11.50 Sebastian Schmid The vexillation fort of Myd(—)/Gheriat el-Garbia on the limes Tripolitanus and its sanctuaries
 

LUNCH BREAK

13.30 Ran Ortner The Location of the Base of The Legio X Fretensis in Jerusalem after 70 A.D.
13.50 Vagner Carvalheire Porto Cultural contacts in Judaea-Palaestina during Roman period: coin circulation and urbanization studies in Tel Dor, Israel
14.10 Mark Hassler Two Roman Military Conquests at Khirbet el-Maqatir, Israel: Archaeological Findings from the First and Second Jewish Revolts against Rome
14.30 Eckhard Deschler Erb Tel Shalem – a roman military camp in the Jordan valley
 

COFFEE BREAK 

15.20  Victor Humennyi Fearing the Parthian threat? Pontic-Cappadocian frontier area and Flavian military policy in the East
15.40 Piotr Jaworski Legio X Fretensis in Colchis? Latest numismatic evidence from the Roman fort in Apsaros
16.00 Radosław Karasiewicz-Szczypiorski Apsaros Fortress and its surroundings in the 1st and 2nd century AD. The first steps to reconstruction
16.20 Adjounment
16.40
17.00
 

Roman watchtowers’ system in the light of works of polish moroccan mission Tingitana Frontier Project
Maciej Czapski, Radosław Karasiewicz – Szczypiorski, University of Warsaw, Aomar Akerraz, Institut National des Sciences de l’Archéologie et du Patrimoine, Rabat, Mustapha Atki, Université Hassan II de Casablanca

The Roman province of Mauritania Tingitana, established by the Emperor Claudius in the first half of the 1st century AD, was the furthest African part of the Empire. The province provided cereals, oil, fish products and wild animals to Rome. In a few cities, the local elite lived in houses of the villa urbana type, where magnificent mosaics have survived. Epigraphic sources provide us with information on the raids of neighboring peoples to the border zone and even to cities. On the other hand, we have a few information about the Roman units and their deployment at the provincial borders. The questions concerning the functioning of the border installations still remain unanswered and the system is not recognized today. The Polish Moroccan mission Tingitana Frontier Project, conducting border research in the vicinity of the city of Volubilis, is trying to find answers to these questions. The subject of the statement will be the presentation of the initial reconstruction of the deployment of the Roman observation towers, about which we have not known almost anything to date. Digitally created models of mutual visibility from exposed points, confronted with old and new archaeological data, shed light on the issue of controlling the movement of people and goods between the countryside of the province and barbaricum in this part of the Roman world.

Leisure facilities at the borders. The baths of the roman castellum of Tamuda (Tetouan, Morocco)
José Ángel Expósito Álvarez, Darío Bernal-Casasola, University of Cadiz, Tarik Moujoud, Archaeological Site of Tamuda (Tetouan, Morocco)

In recent years, new archaeological research has been carried out in the roman fort of Tamuda (northern Morocco), in the frame of the EAT project (Economy and Crafts at Tamuda). A balneum was discovered in the eastern quarter next to the roman fort, which is probably the main baths of the settlement. Other little baths were identified before located in the center of the camp, possibly associated to an attached valetudinarium. These buildings are the only leisure facilities located in the roman fort of Tamuda. In this paper we approach to the activities in these baths, their chronology, the architectural elements as their contexts recovered through their excavations. The result is an interpretative proposal that explains the spaces and their internal itinerary both of them according to the parallels identified in other similar balnea located either inside or annexed to roman forts. Who used these baths? What activities were carried out in them? How was the supply of spring water? These will be the main issues discusses in this paper. Other evidences located in these contexts tell us about the activity developed in the fort. For instance, the defense at the borders is well attested in these contexts by an interesting new inscription associated with the so called Eastern Balneum, reused as an architectural piece located in the channel of drainage of the pool. Some weapons were discovered too in the course of the excavations carried out in these buildings, which show us how the daily live was in this context. In conclusion, this research allows us to properly approach the reality of the leisure facilities in the balnea of this Roman fort.

The vexillation fort of Myd(—)/Gheriat el-Garbia on the limes Tripolitanus and its sanctuaries
Sebastian Schmid, Provinzialrömische Archäologie, LMU München

In 2009 and 2010, the Institute of Prehistory and Archaeology of the Roman Provinces at the University of Munich carried out excavations at the vexillation fort of Gheriat el-Garbia on the limes Tripolitanus (Libya). The focus of this project was the investigation of the still very well preserved and impressive fortifications and the interior buildings of the fort, which according to epigraphic sources was built between 198 and 201. In addition, however, some buildings were unearthed that were located about 250 m east of the fort on a plateau about 20 m higher. These had already been investigated during the UNESCO Libyan Valleys Archaeological Survey in the 1980s and were interpreted as sanctuaries. They are five buildings of different sizes, erected on the edge of the plateau and obviously closely related to the fort. Two of them were examined more closely in 2009 and 2010. They are buildings measuring 18 × 13 m and 16 × 10 m respectively, with an inner courtyard surrounded by columns, a small apse and surrounding benches for sitting or lying down. The features and finds discovered during the excavations provide clues to the dating of these buildings and their interpretation, but also the users, probably mainly soldiers. This also provides interesting insights into the question of which gods were worshipped by Roman soldiers in the semi-arid, somewhat desolate semi-desert area of Roman Tripolitania.

The Location of the Base of The Legio X Fretensis in Jerusalem after 70 A.D.
Ran Ortner, Bar-Ilan University

Dr Ran Ortner of Bar Ilan University, an independent researcher stayed at OCHJS -The Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies of the University of Oxford at 2020 as a visiting scholar, and worked on a Postdoctoral project and research under professor Martin Goodman supervision. His research dealt with the location of the legio dexima Fretensis Roman Legion base in Jerusalem after 70 A.D. this is a key question in a much wider research issue – reconstruct the nature and layout of late Roman Period Jerusalem. The Location of the Tenth Legion base puzzled scholars for as long as 130 years. from the 19th century till nowadays, many different researchers were trying to draw and reconstruct, post 70 A.D – Roman Jerusalem (known as Aeila Capitolina) while discussing the possible location of the Roman Legion base. as it became clear it had central significant influence on the city layout and nature. And yet, there is no agreement about any of the suggested identifications. As none of those researches yelled decisive archeological proofs (camp fortifications, gates, barracks, etc.) or alternative ideas for where those proofs should be. After examining researcher’s different views and recent archeological data and consulting with some expert, I would like to suggest a new identification, locating the base camp on the upper temple Mount surface and underneath today’s El-Aqsa Mosque. In addition, it is suggested to identified a group of roman ‘military buildings’ found in the 1970’s below the south-west corner of the temple mount and newly discovered building from the ‘city of david’ excavations, as the vici (canabae) of Jerusalem. This ‘military civilian’ settlement developed alongside with the camp on the temple mount, according to the west roman province model.

Cultural contacts in Judaea-Palaestina during Roman period: coin circulation and urbanization studies in Tel Dor, Israel
Vagner Carvalheiro Porto, University of Sao Paulo

This presentation aims to deepen our knowledge regarding the mechanisms of cultural contact and the processes of urban transformation in northern Israel during the Roman period. We intend to understand better the Roman presence in the region of Judaea-Palaestina from reflections on how the Romans sought to impose their conceptions of urbanism in the Eastern portion of the Empire, and likewise, to verify how the local populations received such conceptions, emulating them and adapting them to their realities. The presentation preliminary aims to show the coins found in the excavations of the archaeological site of Tel Dor, observing their finding places in the strata of Roman occupation. Seeking to understand issues of urbanity of this period, we intend to plot the coins for better associate them with the finding places, and creating maps, we want to understand the monetary circulation in the city in Roman times. Thus, to better understand the level of monetization of society in that period and, eventually, to shed light on possible interpretations of the use of the spaces in which the coins were found. The investigation will be done through the survey of the archeological / numismatic data available in the excavation reports and the available bibliography. We are interested in present the urbanistic interpretation of the Roman city in the light of numismatic analyzes in the context of cultural contacts and the transformation processes of the East Mediterranean during Roman times.

Two Roman Military Conquests at Khirbet el-Maqatir, Israel: Archaeological Findings from the First and Second Jewish Revolts against Rome
Mark Hassler, Virginia Beach Theological Seminary

In 1995–2000 and 2009–2017, a village called Khribet el-Maqatir was excavated in Israel’s central highlands to determine the site’s occupational history and material culture. The excavations uncovered fortification walls with defensive towers. The militaria included hobnails, slingstones, ballista balls, a sling pellet, arrowheads, a javelin head, metal blades, and equestrian fittings. The evidence led the excavators to conclude that that the site’s late Hellenistic and early Roman settlement was founded in the second century BC, demolished by the Romans in AD 68 CE during the First Jewish Revolt (66–70 CE), temporarily occupied by Roman soldiers soon thereafter, then occupied by a small Jewish population who reused the hiding complex during the Second Jewish Revolt (132–135 CE) before the site was abandoned until the late Roman and Byzantine periods. The discoveries contribute to scholarship in three ways. First, the Roman militaria helps to reconstruct the Roman army’s strategy in the 68 CE attack. Second, one tower had a massive base of 28 × 16 meters, making it one of the largest towers in Israel during the Second Temple period. And third, the research develops our knowledge of historical events; namely, the process of Roman conquest of Judea and the events between the Revolts, including the Jewish hiding complexes.

Tel Shalem – a roman military camp in the Jordan valley
Eckhard Deschler-Erb, Sebastian A. Knura, Archäologie der Römischen Provinzen / Universität zu Köln

The ancient site of Tel Shalem is located about 11 km south of today’s Beit She’an (ancient = Nysa-Skythopolis) in Israel. The site is located just above the Jordan Valley in a well-chosen strategic position for controlling the traffic axes. Known to researchers for a long time, the Archaeological Institute of the University of Cologne was able to carry out three excavation campaigns from 2017 onwards in cooperation with project partners in Israel (Israel Museum and Hebrew University of Jerusalem) and Switzerland (University of Basel). Since 2019, these excavations have been funded by the Gerda Henkel Foundation. The results are of utmost interest for the study of Roman military installations in the Middle East. With the help of geophysical prospection, it was possible in 2013 to detect a multi-period (?) camp within two fortifications measuring 2.2 and 2.9 hectares. The current excavations yielded outstanding findings, especially for the most recent phase of the military camp. In the principia, a multi-period aedes with a completely preserved mosaic floor (35 m2) was uncovered, on which, among other things, the name of the unit and that of the commander were noted. In the forecourt of the aedes, an honorary inscription for Emperor Caracalla (to be dated around 209) has been found, on which, in addition to the commander, a previously unknown governor of the province of Syria Palaestina was listed. In addition to the principia, parts of the barracks and a room in the presumed praetorium of the younger fort phase were also uncovered. The current last excavation of 2020 had to be abandoned because of Corona; a continuation is being planned.

Fearing the Parthian threat? Pontic-Cappadocian frontier area and Flavian military policy in the East
Victor Humennyi, Ivan Franko National University of Lviv

The Flavian organization of the Roman frontier in the Upper Euphrates and Pontic areas, first of all, was marked with the administrative changes, one of which was the creation of the large province of Galatia-Cappadocia. A military base was established in Trabzon for the Roman fleet to control the territories of the Eastern Pontus. Legio XII Fulminata was moved from Syria to Melitena by Titus (Ios. Bell. Iud., 7, 18), as early as by the end of 70 CE. In 70/71 CE Legio XVI Flavia Firma was stationed near Satala. The parts of Legio VI Ferrata or Legio III Gallica were also probably located near Samosata. The legions were not only intended to provide Roman control over the Euphrates and the Pontic area, they were the core of a powerful Roman military group in the region that could also perform offensive functions. In 72 CE, Vespasian found it necessary to depose Antiochus of Commagene and annex his kingdom to Syria, and then station a legion there. The size and composition of the garrisons were finally formed apparently in the time of Domitian and remained stable at least until the time of early Trajan’s reign. Nevertheless, the garrisons of the East of Asia Minor along with Roman military activity in the Pontic coast are often associated with the nomadic, mainly Sarmatian threat. The paper discusses the military and administrative transformation in the area in an attempt to understand the function of the Flavian military garrisons and communications in its connection to Roman contacts with Sarmatians and Parthians. We can propose that Sarmatian invasions could stimulate the existing transformations but their global goal was to control of the Euphrates area, where the key rival of Rome still remained the Arsakids.

Legio X Fretensis in Colchis? Latest numismatic evidence from the Roman fort in Apsaros
Piotr Jaworski, Faculty of Archaeology, University of Warsaw

The vast majority of bronze coins discovered in the Roman fort in Apsaros on the coast of Colchis are issues of provincial mints of Judea and Syria dated to the 1st c. AD. Particularly numerous among the finds from Apsaros are the ‘SC’ coins minted in Antioch. The paper will aim to find an answer to the question of when and under what circumstances coins, the natural area of circulation of which was more than a thousand kilometers from Apsaros, were brought into the fort guarding Roman interests in a remote region of the South Caucasus.

Apsaros Fortress and its surroundings in the 1st and 2nd century AD. The first steps to reconstruction
Radosław Karasiewicz-Szczypiorski, University of Warsaw, Faculty of Archaeology, Shota Mamuladze, Batumi Shota Rustaveli State University

Since 2014, the Polish-Georgian Archaeological Expedition has been conducting joint excavations in Gonio (Georgia). The main goal of the project is to discover the remains of the earliest fortifications and buildings of the Roman fort Apsaros. In cooperation with specialists from other disciplines, the research also focused on searching the remains of an ancient harbour, places of clay extraction for the production of ceramic building materials, a quarry and other traces of land development around the fort. During several seasons of excavations were discovered, among others, stone foundations of two lines of defensive walls and garrison buildings: granary, bathhouse and commander’s house. The architectural relics, identified so far, were assigned to three construction phases (Phase 1 – Nero’s period, Phase 2 – Trajan’s period and Phase 3 – Hadrian’s period). All the collected data were used to reconstruct the fort and its surroundings at the beginning of our era.