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Gaius Decius Aquilius

In the current issue of American Journal of Archaeology, January, 2011--
Simon James: Stratagems, Combat, and “Chemical Warfare” in Siege Mines of Dura –Europos

In summary, James reviews the original excavation of Robert du Mesnil and his notes and hand drawn maps, and make a few different interpretations. In short, these are some points of interest:
1. The Roman counter-mine was at a different level, and above the Persian mine.
2. The number of Roman individuals trapped was somewhere around 19, but only half had shields, and fewer still were armored. The unarmed individuals seem to be mine workers.
3. The deaths were sudden, and the result of an incendiary device containing bitumen and sulpher ignited by the Persians, one of whom was possibly caught in the flames. His lower legs were burned away, and apparently was trying to remove his mail when overcome. This device was ignited when the Roman countermined broke into the Persian mine shaft, and caught the Romans by surprise. ( Du Mesnil comments that the Roman bodies still smelled of decomposition when discovered.) James challenges du Mesnil’s conclusion that the mine was sealed on the Roman side while fighting was still going on, and pursues the idea that the mine was sealed after the sulpher device was ignited, and did not want to reenter the mine shaft, after some afterthought.
4. Artillery stones were recovered from the shafts. It is not unknown for projectiles to be launched down straight mine galleries. James indicates the possibility that the Romans shot these stones into the mine after the incendiary device was ignited, fearing a Persian attack that did not materialize. These stones support the idea that the Romans sealed their end of the mine after the death of the Roman party. Possibly unknown to the Romans, the Persians probably sealed their end of mine quickly as well.

The fact that the Persian body was not recovered, lends some doubt to the idea that the Roman bodies were deliberately piled up near the Roman entrance to the counter-mine by Persian forces once the sulpher fumes had cleared.

The article is worth reading in full, and is much more informative than my short and inadequate note in which I hope I got my summry right.

Thanks for the synopsis, quit interesting indeed.
Was this an exerpt from his "final report" or an entirely new response to the recent media coverage of the 1930's excavations and tunnel discovery?

Gaius Decius Aquilius

This is a new report. I Just got it in the mail. I have the Simon James final report, and this has new interpretations, and a very different interpretation of the maps that du Mesnil made, which were mostly just hand made drawings to begin with. The points I outlined are the gist of his new interpretation. Since I have the final report, the reprinted photo of the Persian skeleton in armor was not new to me. I should have mentioned this to those who have not seen it. It is fairly grim and brings home how terrifying the situation in the mine had to have been.

Thanks Ralph, very interesting! Dura Europos has always fascinated me, it has some strange haunting quality in it...
Isn't this a write up of the lecture that Simon presented to the AIA and several other audiences (including the Cardiff conference which is where I heard it) in 2009?

Gaius Decius Aquilius

Quote:Isn't this a write up of the lecture that Simon presented to the AIA and several other audiences (including the Cardiff conference which is where I heard it) in 2009?

I think it probably is, although James does not explicitly state so.

Thanks Ralph
Waiting for news)
Judith Weingarten has some critical remarks, which I find plausible.
I also favour the traditional interpretation: see Besieged. Siege warfare in the ancient world (Osprey, 2006), pp. 184-187 (with painting of siege tunnel on p. 188).