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What is This (Found at Circus Maximus in Rome)?
Old 12-06-2018, 01:24 PM   #1
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What is This (Found at Circus Maximus in Rome)?

I was on someone's thread elsewhere how was asking about returning antiquities, and thought I'd throw my example out here. I think I mentioned it years ago, but it never went anywhere. Never hurts to ask, there are some incredibly resourceful people here.

I tried to return an "antiquity," but gave up. As a teenager in the late 60's, I picked up a piece of fired or painted tile from the track itself at Circus Maximus in Rome, noticed it buried just under the surface and dug it up and put it in my pocket. There is no question in my mind that it's very old, though I have no idea if it was original with Circus Maximus. I still have it today. A few years ago I asked about returning it, and I got such a convoluted runaround I just quit trying. I have no idea what it's worth, probably little or nothing. I would love to know what it came from, but I don't expect I will ever know.

It's about 1˝" x 3", the poker chip is just for scale.
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Old 12-06-2018, 01:54 PM   #2
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Speaking as a former cultural resource specialist, once you remove an artifact from it's source, it loses most if not all of it's provenance, and thus much of it's informational value to the larger historical context. I used to get a bunch of pottery sherds and other items returned every year when I worked at a very well known World Heritage archeological site in the US. Apparently their guilty conscience caught up with them after a decade or so, and they would send in their little (or big) fragments. Unfortunately these 'orphans' have little archeological value, other than to use in an exhibit to discourage other visitors from picking things up. Of course, reminding them it is also a criminal offense also helped as a deterrent.
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Old 12-06-2018, 01:59 PM   #3
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Interesting... Circus Maximus was built in the 6th /century BCE.... but more commonly used as an arena in the age of Julius Caesar. 1st Century BCE


Here are some pictures of art from that the 6th century...

https://www.google.com/search?q=6th+...w=1152&bih=616

Don't guess that will be much help, but it could be a start. About the material... I don't know how to tell the difference between the kinds of material... ie. earthenware, fired, glazed, unglazed, porous, non-porous etc. A lot of the pictures are of the material Terracotta. As to the paint?... surface paint or fired glaze?...

The design looks kind of familiar. What kind of picture could that have been? Maybe hieroglyphics?

Not my bailiwick but interesting.
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Old 12-06-2018, 02:24 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hesperus View Post
Speaking as a former cultural resource specialist, once you remove an artifact from it's source, it loses most if not all of it's provenance, and thus much of it's informational value to the larger historical context. I used to get a bunch of pottery sherds and other items returned every year when I worked at a very well known World Heritage archeological site in the US. Apparently their guilty conscience caught up with them after a decade or so, and they would send in their little (or big) fragments. Unfortunately these 'orphans' have little archeological value, other than to use in an exhibit to discourage other visitors from picking things up. Of course, reminding them it is also a criminal offense also helped as a deterrent.
I misspoke I guess. I don't want anything for it, don't know why I mentioned value.

As for criminal offense, no excuse but I was a clueless 15-16 year old at the time. That's why later in life I sought to voluntarily return it to Italy at my own expense (knowing NOW it might have been a criminal offense), but everyone I encountered made that more difficult (to me) than I expected so I dropped it.
Quote:
Originally Posted by imoldernu View Post
Interesting... Circus Maximus was built in the 6th /century BCE.... but more commonly used as an arena in the age of Julius Caesar. 1st Century BCE


Here are some pictures of art from that the 6th century...

https://www.google.com/search?q=6th+...w=1152&bih=616

Don't guess that will be much help, but it could be a start. About the material... I don't know how to tell the difference between the kinds of material... ie. earthenware, fired, glazed, unglazed, porous, non-porous etc. A lot of the pictures are of the material Terracotta. As to the paint?... surface paint or fired glaze?...

The design looks kind of familiar. What kind of picture could that have been? Maybe hieroglyphics?

Not my bailiwick but interesting.
It really looks like it's fired, not paint per se. And I also think it looks like some part of a pictogram (maybe wrong term?).
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Old 12-06-2018, 07:58 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Midpack View Post
I misspoke I guess. I don't want anything for it, don't know why I mentioned value.

As for criminal offense, no excuse but I was a clueless 15-16 year old at the time. That's why later in life I sought to voluntarily return it to Italy at my own expense (knowing NOW it might have been a criminal offense), but everyone I encountered made that more difficult (to me) than I expected so I dropped it.

It really looks like it's fired, not paint per se. And I also think it looks like some part of a pictogram (maybe wrong term?).
It happens. When I was speaking of value, I was speaking strictly of the informational value that artifacts can provide when found in situ. The Italians, like us, probably field dozens of these return requests every year. They also probably realize that once it's removed, it's almost worthless to them as part of the archeological record.
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Old 12-06-2018, 08:07 PM   #6
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Turn yourself in, pay the fine and do the jail time.
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Old 12-06-2018, 08:09 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Midpack View Post
and I got such a convoluted runaround I just quit trying.
OHH the Romans. They have been perfecting their bureaucracy for 2000+ years. You think ours is bad? We've only been at it for 250 years.
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Old 12-07-2018, 01:05 AM   #8
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OHH the Romans. They have been perfecting their bureaucracy for 2000+ years. You think ours is bad? We've only been at it for 250 years.
HAHAHAHAH..I lived in Milan for a few months as a student on a student visa...that did not matter as I had to wade through not only the bureaucracy here on the US side but on the Italian side...the lines...and lines....and lines.... and shrugs.....
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Old 12-07-2018, 07:13 AM   #9
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Maybe you should find an archaeology forum to post it on. But you would need to fully describe your age at the time and effort to return to avoid their wrath. Maybe blame it on your father (when my father was 10 years old...). After all, it could have been picked up anytime in the last two millennia.

Edit: Years ago I found a fossilized vertebrae on the beach at my weekend home. I learned there is a fossil identification program at the Smithsonian. I took it down there and self identified the thing to the best of my ability using their sample drawers. Then I left it with my write up and about a month later I got a response from a staff member (probably an intern) who confirmed part of my assessment and added some factors. Maybe the Chicago Field Museum has some place where you could take an item like that and check it out.
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