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Ancient Italy

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Sign of the Times
Photograph by O. Louis Mazzatenta

Inscriptions and footprints—likely made with wooden shoes—on an ancient roof tile offer a glimpse into the Italic world. When the clay tiles were being made in the first century B.C. for the roof of a temple at the spectacular Samnite sanctuary at Pietrabbondante, two slave girls apparently decided to have some fun. Across the bottom, one wrote in Latin: "Amica, the servant of Herennius, imprinted her mark when we laid out the tiles [to dry]." Her co-worker wrote the upper inscription in Oscan, the language spoken by Samnites and many other groups (it was once more common than Latin). Her words: "Detfri, the servant of Herennius Sattius, imprinted her mark with the sole of her shoes."
Adriano La Regina, now superintendent of archeology of Rome, discovered the tile while excavating the site in 1975. "The tile lay there in a pile of other tiles," he says. "Then I saw there was an inscription. First I was curious to see what was written, then I saw the moment of play between the two girls. That moment stays in my mind like a photograph."

Photo Fast Facts

Camera: Nikon F5
Film: Fujichrome Velvia 50
Lens: Nikkor 60mm macro
Speed and F-Stop: 1/60 @ f/8
Weather Conditions: Indoors
Time of Day: Unrecorded
Lighting Techniques: Strobes with softbox and scrims. I used skim lighting to bring out the footprints and writing.

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