Classical (?) Accessories

Okay … so a couple of weeks ago I get an item in my mailbox about some guy who makes handbags with Classical names. I sat on the item for a while, then decided not to bother with it (it did get mentioned on one of the lists) and now I can’t find it again. About a week before that, there was a somewhat incoherent item on the Conturelle Swimsuit collection which mentioned:

This story with an all-over print and isolated motifs is inspired by antiquity: coins and meanders in French blue, turquoise and gold evoke the foam-borne love goddess who lent her name to the three ranges: Aphrodite, Aphrodite Allover and Aphrodite Bleu.

Today at MSN we read this:

The legendary world of the mythical Greek Gods of Mount Olympus, symbols of virtue and guardians of the arts, is the inspiration for the new Roberto Cavalli Eyewear collection, in which each model represents the meeting point between luxury and art, an extreme expression of beauty and creativity.

Each family – Aphrodite, Apollo, Hera, Artemis, Ephesus, Dionysus, Demeter, Hestia, Poseidon – stands out for its own specific features, the result of the perfect fusion of jewellery craftsmanship.

Nothing particularly ‘classical’ about any of these (to judge from the photos) other than the names …

Shipwrecks Off Albania

Not sure why the only source for this seems to be the rather obscure Owen Sound Sun Times, but it appears there has been a rather major shipwreck discovery off the coast of Albania. Adding to the mystery (for me) is why most of the article seems to quote people who weren’t directly involved.

Dixit Andrej Gaspari (a Slovenian archaeologist not involved in the project):

“The discoveries are very important because of the lack of properly documented objects from that period … The only ships found and documented from that time belong to the western Mediterranean and Israel . . . so our knowledge on the technology used for construction of ships is more or less limited.”

Among the finds:

A 51-centimetre-long pottery jar, or amphora, used to transport wine and olive oil, and a smaller version found about 80 metres deep were probably made in the southern Greek city of Corinth, in the sixth or early fifth centuries BC. Both were recovered from a merchant ship that sank about three kilometres off shore. Albanian archeologist Adrian Anastasi said if the sixth-century BC dating is confirmed, it would be only the fifth of its kind found in the world.

Other highlights included a fourth-century BC amphora and roof tiles, a north African jar from the first to third centuries AD and a Roman stone ship’s anchor of the second-first century BC. The team, operating off the southern port city of Saranda, also located more than 20 unknown 20th-century shipwrecks.

Dixit Adrian Anastasi (who is connected to the ‘dig’):

“A wreck with a whole shipload of tiles has never been found before,” Anastasi said. “The number of tiles and the way they were lying clearly shows the ship is below them.”

The article continues:

Anastasi said he had unearthed the same type of large tiles — which measure 74 by 51 inches — during excavations on land at the ruins of ancient cities in western Albania. He said the ship seemed to have been loaded on the nearby Greek island of Corfu and possibly foundered on its way to a Corinthian colony in Albania.

There’s more info (and some photos of the sorts of things we’re interested in) at the Albanian Coastal Survey 2008 webpage …

Greek Shipwrecks at Risk

A while back we mentioned that the Greek goverment was opening up a pile of potential underwater archaeological sites to scuba access … an excerpt from a piece in the Guardian:

“Greek waters are some of the richest in antiquities in the world,” said the marine archaeologist Katerina Dellaporta. “Thanks to very stringent controls over underwater exploration shipwrecks have been extremely well preserved.”

Until recently divers were allowed access to just 620 miles of the country’s 12,000 mile coastline, but in an attempt to boost tourism, the conservative government opened the country’s entire coastal waters to underwater exploration in 2003.

Since then, looting has proliferated, say archaeologists.

Treasure hunters, encouraged by scuba-diving websites from America to Australia, are homing in on the “archaeological sea parks” armed with hi-tech scanners, cameras and nets.

One US-based diving company offers on its website an exhaustive list of “underwater treasures” which have been discovered by scuba divers, including sculptures, jewellery, warrior helmets, Phoenician beads, vases, and a variety of personal items reflecting life in the region in ancient times, from oil lamps to medical supplies.

… is there anyone out there who isn’t saying “I told you so”?

Pantheon Sundial?

Alun Salt mentioned this on Twitter and I finally have time to explore it a bit … A piece in New Scientist relates Robert Hannah’s suggestion that the Pantheon served as a sundial of some sort. Here’s an excerpt:

When Robert Hannah of the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, visited the Pantheon in 2005, researching for a book (see “Review: Time in Antiquity by Robert Hannah”), he realised that the Pantheon may have been more than just a temple. During the six months of winter, the light of the noon sun traces a path across the inside of the domed roof. During summer, with the sun higher in the sky, the shaft shines onto the lower walls and floor. At the two equinoxes, in March and September, the sunlight coming in through the hole strikes the junction between the roof and wall, above the Pantheon’s grand northern doorway (pictured). A grille above the door allows a sliver of light through to the front courtyard – the only moment in the year that it sees sunlight if its main doors are closed (see diagram).

Hannah reckons this is no coincidence. A hollowed-out hemisphere with a hole in the top was a type of sundial used in Roman times, albeit on a much smaller scale, to show the time of year. While the Pantheon’s dome is quite flat on the outside, it forms a perfect hemisphere inside. “This is quite a deliberate design feature,” says Hannah.

I tried to find a photo of one of these hollowed-out sundials, but Google is being very weird at the moment, but what I’d like to figure out is whether we can go beyond an ‘hour of the day’ idea to a full blown calendar idea. I think the interior of the Pantheon is much modified from Roman times and one could see the ceiling and walls being usefully used. Indeed, Cassius Dio (53.27) suggests:

2 Also he completed the building called the Pantheon. It has this name, perhaps because it received among the images which decorated it the statues of many gods, including Mars and Venus; but my own opinion of the name is that, because of its vaulted roof, it resembles the heavens.

If by ‘the heavens’ Dio is referring to actual decoration within the vaulted roof and those decorations were ‘accurate’, the dome could conceivably be used as a calendar, marking the sun’s position in relation to the zodiac or whatever, no?

“Lost” Latin Found

It’s been the buzz of all the lists over the past week, so if you missed it, ecce:

prisoner type one: Quare non sunt vestitus eis?
prisoner type two: Tace!

blonde: Cognoscitis qui sumus?

… there was apparently some later as well; I can’t find that one yet, but the blond (the character’s name is ‘Juliet’, apparently … sorry, not a regular Lost viewer) talks about it in this podcast: