Saturday 31 October 2015

trial trench and taphonomy

Via the always interesting and never boring The Browser, comes an announcement of an Indiana Jones-style hunt for the tomb and (looted treasure) of Alaric I under the waters of the river Busento flowing through the town of Cosenza (an army of mourners apparently dammed and diverted the river in order to give Alaric a proper burial) in southern Italy, where the victorious Alaric suddenly and unexpectedly died.

This king of the Visigoths, once enlisted as a mercenary fighter for the Roman cause, famously and fateful sacked the city of Rome in 410 AD, although the Western capital had already been strategically removed to the more easily defensible Milan, which Alaric had attacked as well—prompting an even more shameful retreat to the inaccessible swamps of Ravenna where the court could circle its wagons. The legend of the lost tomb with its funeral goods—or hidden horde of plunder and ransom monies paid for the barbarians to go off and attack someone else, after the mythos of the Nibelungen and the Rheingold (Himmler’s Ahnenerbe programme investigated here as well)—has been firmly ensconced in local lore since the last siege of ancient Rome (which was not as wantonly destructive nor as violent as portrayed in the popular imagination), but now the government and institutions of higher education have thrown their support behind a serious and concerted excavation—previously, Rome had misgivings about celebrating the figure that oversaw its downfall, though historically, this region was one of the last, loyal holdouts for the successor Byzantium Empire in the West. Sceptical reactions are probably merited in the face of promoting the tourist industry, but it will interesting nonetheless to see if this venture unearths any artefacts and contributes to the heritage of Calabria.