Sunday, August 21, 2011

Ancient Roman jar riddled with mystery

An ancient clay vessel reconstructed from pieces discovered at a Canadian museum is riddled with tiny holes, leaving archaeologists baffled over what it was used for.

The jar, just 16 inches (40 centimeters) tall and dating back about 1,800 years, was found shattered into an unrecognizable 180 pieces in a storage room at the Museum of Ontario Archaeology. But even after it was restored, the scientists were faced with a mystery. So far no one has been able to identify another artifact like it from the Roman world.

"Everyone's stumped by it," Katie Urban, one of the researchers at the London, Ontario, museum, told LiveScience. "We've been sending it around to all sorts of Roman pottery experts and other pottery experts, and no one seems to be able to come up with an example."

The jar may have held rodent snacks for ancient Romans, or even served as a lamp, the researchers speculate, though no theory definitively holds water.

Where did the jar come from?

Archival research indicates the jar was among artifacts from Roman Britain (the part of Great Britain under Roman control from about A.D. 43 to 410) that were given to the museum in the 1950s by William Francis Grimes, an archaeologist who died in 1988. Grimes' team had dug them out of a World War II bomb crater in London, England, not far from an ancient temple dedicated to Mithra, an Iranian god who was popular throughout the Roman Empire. [Top 10 Ancient Capitals]

Urban cautioned, however, that it is not certain the jar is from that dig. The vessel does not appear to be on the list of artifacts received from Grimes, although she added that the jar was found in 180 pieces and the list was short on details.

For more interesting topics related to archaeology, visit archaeology excavations.

1 comment:

Brian Spiller said...

Without any residue on the interior of the artifact, it will be difficult to determine its use. Only seeing the one picture, I'm inclined to suggest an oversized incense burner/cover. The holes used to vent and control the burn and release the fragrance. Depending on the size of the hole on the bottom, to either merly vent air upward or to permit the "jar" to be placed onto and over the burning incense.