Caesar’s Forum was a bold concept. Constructed next to the Roman Forum – the beating heart of public life – Julius Caesar’s monumental new complex staked his claim as sole ruler of the Empire. It proved an expensive statement. The plot earmarked for this project was occupied by elite housing, ensuring the land came at an eye-watering price. Both residences and forum, though, are only parts of a much longer history of activity on the site. Now, our cover feature reveals how excavations are providing a glimpse of daily life over thousands of years in central Rome.
Work at Çeşme in Turkey has also revealed a long-lived settlement. In this case, though, life was abruptly interrupted by the eruption of a volcano at ancient Thera, 227km away. It may have been the greatest natural disaster ever witnessed by humans. Despite the distance between the volcano and Çeşme, its inhabitants still felt the fury of the eruption. Careful study of the site stratigraphy has revealed that multiple calamities befell the site after Thera blew.
The tragedy that befell the community living at Amato, in Peru, was human rather than natural in origin. Heads taken as trophies have been widely found in the region, but who they were claimed from was less clear. Excavations at Amato unexpectedly unearthed a mass of decapitated individuals. Their remains provide powerful and poignant testimony to the violent end of Amato.
It was illicit digging on a hilltop in Germany that revealed one of the most remarkable ancient artefacts ever discovered in Europe. The Nebra Sky Disc seemingly presents a Bronze Age vision of the night sky. Careful study suggests that its face could be encoded with sophisticated knowledge of celestial cycles, while later adjustments to the artefact show its meanings shifting over time.
Finally, in our travel section, Richard Hodges returns to San Vincenzo al Volturno for the second in a two-part piece looking at how archaeological evidence for its sack compares to historical accounts.