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Ancient Roman Oil Lamp 'Factory Town' Found in Modena
november 27th, 2008

Italian archeologists have discovered one of the most famous clay factory of the roman world in Modena (Italy) known in roman times as Mutina. This factory is almost famous because it has been mentioned by Pliny the Elder in his Naturalis Historia1.
It has been discovered the main furnace of some of the main pottery brands of the roman world and some missile lead bullets (glans plumbea) probably used in the Mutin War (43 BC).
They were called Strobili, Communis, Phoetaspi, Eucarpi: their oil lamps, called firmalampen, the mass produced factory lamps, were lighting the whole empire, their product were sellng in three continents. But overall these brands Fortis was the number one, the trendiest and the luxury brand in the roman world. Fortis oil lamps were believed to come from outside Italy, but this discovery clearly demonstrates they were made in Mutina.

Archeologists were supposing the presence of a clay factory in Mutina since ever, but until today no proof of what Pliny wrote was found. The kilns discovered are located in the north-east of Mutina very close to the esternal side of the ancient defensive wall. Next to the kilns a big dumping filled with pottery scraps of these famous roman brands.
The extraordinary discover shows clearly that a big part of Mutina was dedicated to these productions that made Mutina well known in the roman world and that the kilns were located outside the defensive wall for security reasons.
The discovery was done during the excavations for a new building in Viale Reiter (projected by Arch. Fabio Massimo Pozzi), near the roman fortifications recently uncovered in Roma Square. Due to this the superintendency ordered preventive archeological investigations leaded by Nicola Raimondi by the Archeosistemi company from Reggio Emilia, under the direction of the Superintendent Luigi Malnati and the archeologist Donato Labate.


The ancient Roman dumping with hundreds of oil lamps scraps.
© Photo Ministero dei Beni e delle Attività Culturali. Uso concesso a corredo della notizia.

The escavations discovered a layer at 5.5 meters with an amount deposits belonging to floodings.
First surprise the finding of 14 lead bullets probably used in the famouse battle happened in 43 BC after Julius Caesar murder.
In the ground were visible also big holes some filled with pottery production scraps and other with more generic garbage (marble pieces, bricks, mosaic pieces, pottery, coins and variuos metal objects.
In a very big hole, probably a clay quarry, have been recovered a great amount of scraps belonging to ceramic cooking, bricks, amphoras, kilns tools as some bricks with holes probably used to cover the ground of the chamber.
Surprisingly the pottery scraps belong to various productions: Dressel 2/4 amphoras and pavement bricks, bottles and little amphoras in common or painted ceramic, thin ceramics and little northern italic terra sigillata cups. Overall a remarkable quantity of oil lamps, hundreds of Firmalampen from famous firms: from Fortis to Strobili, Communis, Phoetaspi and Eucarpi. They are different productions from different factories located in the same area.
Also some terracotta figures were found such as one that shows Hercules that catches the wild Erymanthian Boar.
The findings were immediately moved to the laboratories of the Museo Civico Archeologico Etnologico in Modena in order to be restored by Roberto Monaco and Valentina Pacelli.
The most interesting of these findings will be exposed in the local museum fall 2008.


Very nice examples of oil lamps big brands.
© Photo Ministero dei Beni e delle Attività Culturali. Uso concesso a corredo della notizia.


Left: lead bullets froma the battle of Mutina. Right: terracotta statuette depicting Hercules as he captures the Erymanthian Boar.
© Photo Ministero dei Beni e delle Attività Culturali. Uso concesso a corredo della notizia.

Further information: - Excavations Web Site

- Scientific information: Donato Labate (339.7930338 donato.labate@beniculturali.it ) and Nicola Raimondi (direzione@archeosistemi.it )

- Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici dell’Emilia-Romagna,
Via Belle Arti 52 (BO) tel. 051.223773 fax 051.227170
e-mail: stampa.archeobo@arti.beniculturali.it
website: www.archeobologna.beniculturali.it

1 - "About clay tableware it is still famous the samian pottery; for this it is famous Arretium (Arezzo) and, for the cups, Surrentum (Sorrento), Hasta Pompeia (Asti), Pollentia (Pollenzo), Saguntum and Pergamum in Asia. Also Tralles and Mutina have their own productions.
Also this brings popularity to cities."
Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, XXXV, 160

 

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