Pieces of Roman Sign Reunited After 2,000 Years

The fragments of a 2000-year-old Roman sign were discovered more than 100 years apart.

Two fragments of a marble Roman sign have been pieced together in England after 2,000 years apart, yet revealing only one part of the original meaning.

The fragments were discovered more than 100 years apart in Silchester Roman Town, at a site that is now being excavated by archaeologists of the University of Reading, UK.

One marble fragment, inscribed with the letters "AT," was unearthed in 1891 and is now part of Reading Museum's Silchester Collection. The other piece, etched with the letters "BA," was found 33 feet away at the same site in 2013.

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Analysis of the stone fragment by Roger Tomlin, an authority on the inscriptions of Roman Britain, confirmed the pieces were from the same object.

Both fragments boast the same style and size of lettering, and the dimensions of the slab match as well, he concluded.

"Matching pieces which were discovered over 100 years apart to a 2,000-year-old object is incredibly rare," Mike Fulford of the University of Reading said in a statement.

Pieced together, the fragments read At(e)ba(tum), or "of the Atrebates," the French tribe who likely founded Silchester in the 1st century BC.

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"We now know what the bottom line of the sign reads. However, the top line remains a mystery," Fulford said.

The mysterious sign was possibly destroyed by the legendary Boudica, the rebel queen of the Iceni (a British tribe) who unsuccessfully attempted to defeat the Romans in the first century AD.

The fragments were likely part of a slab of marble from Purbeck in Dorset, which was either a sign commemorating the construction of a significant building, or a dedication to a deity.

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Previous research at Silchester has connected the site to the infamous emperor Nero.

"It's a tantalizing thought that this might link to Nero himself who is known to have commissioned major building projects in Silchester," Fulford said.

"Our work to uncover the origins of Silchester continues next year - perhaps a name could emerge. It's unlikely, but this story goes to show that that when it comes to archaeology, anything is possible," Fulford said.

The two marble fragments.

Italian archaeologists have unearthed the largest Roman water basin ever found, right in the heart of modern Rome. Lined with hydraulic plaster, the massive basin was found some 65 feet down near St. John in Lateran Basilica during the excavation of the new metro C line.

As shown in this reconstruction, the water basin was impressive. It measured 115 by 230 feet and could hold more than 1 million gallons of water.

The archaeologists unearthed a road that led to a 3rd-century B.C farm.

In the first century A.D., the basin was added to existing structures, such as water wheels, used to lift and distribute the water, as shown in this reconstruction. The basin most likely served as a water reservoir for crops as well as an area that made it possible to cope with overflows from the nearby river.

The all-woman team of archaeologists led by Rossella Rea found the exact spot where the water wheel was allocated.

The excavation also brought to light various agricultural items, such as a three-pronged iron pitchfork, and remains of storage baskets made from braided willow branches.

Lined up jars with their ends cut open were recycled as water conduits.

Used tiles were recycled to make water canals.

The tiles were inscribed with the encircled initials "TL" -- evidence that the farm belonged to a single owner.

The farm was obliterated at the end of the first century A.D., its structures, including the water basin, demolished and buried.