Archaeology Magazine Archive

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From the Trenches Volume 59 Number 1, January/February 2006

Say hello to Moniatus (or Monietus) Capito, whose funeral stela has the distinction of being the first image of a Roman imperial navy officer ever discovered. Divers found the three-foot-high stela propping up a section of collapsed tunnel during an exploration of the ancient naval base at Ravenna, where Rome's Adriatic fleet was stationed. Archaeologists date the stela to the first century A.D. based on the style of carving. According to an inscription on it, Capito was an officer on a liburna, a small, fast galley used to combat pirates, which were a particular problem in the Adriatic. The vessel's name was Aurata, or Golden, and a man named Cocneus likely paid for his friend's memorial. The stela confirms that naval officers dressed much like their army counterparts; Capito is shown dressed in body armor with a leather skirt and sandals, and carrying a javelin and short sword.


While officer Capito appears dapper and dignified in his armor and kilt, it seems that Romans far from home threw caution to the wind. We first reported on the sandals-and-socks phenomenon in our September/October 2005 issue (News, page 10), as evidenced by a Roman razor handle in the shape of a man's leg clad in a thick sock and strappy shoe discovered in northern England's Tees River. Now, divers in the same river have recovered a pottery sherd depicting a man wearing what can best be described as a G-string, and holding a whip. Archaeologists believe the man is a gladiator, but concede they've never seen one shown in such a manner before. We're waiting to see what the Tees River turns up next. Stripes with plaids? Someone wearing white after Volcanalia?

Staying on style: general wisdom has held that until the modern era the role of wigs in Chinese culture was mainly restricted to the theater, and didn't play out in the vanity of the general public (unlike, say, the Egyptians or Romans). But researchers in Sichuan Province have recovered a skeleton still wearing a wig fashioned from hemp rope dated to between 2,000 and 2,500 years ago, making it China's oldest hairpiece.

(Photos courtesy Portable Antiquities Scheme)

* For more news, see "World Roundup."

© 2006 by the Archaeological Institute of America