GRBS Online and Free!

Seen on the Digital Classicist list:

Volume 49 (2009) will be the last volume of GRBS printed on paper. Beginning with volume 50, issues will be published quarterly on-line on the GRBS website, on terms of free access. We undertake this transformation in the hope of affording our authors a wider readership; out of concern for the financial state of our libraries; and in the belief that the dissemination of knowledge should be free.

The current process of submission and peer-review of papers will continue unchanged. The on-line format will be identical with our pages as now printed, and so articles will continue to be cited by volume, year, and page numbers.

Our hope is that both authors and readers will judge this new medium to be to their advantage, and that such open access will be of benefit to continuing scholarship on Greece.

– The editors

GRBS has been free online for a few years already; definitely worth bookmarking if you haven’t already.

Vatican Museums Open Late!

This is good news … from ABC:

The Vatican Museum, full of priceless paintings, sculptures and archeological treasures is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world, and one of the most visited places in Italy.

Anyone who has been to the museum will recall the long lines snaking around the outer wall of Vatican City, the world’s smallest independent country completely surrounded by the city of Rome. Waiting times to enter the Vatican Museum can be as long as two hours or more. Last year, four and half million people endured the wait for the opportunity to see the Sistine Chapel, the Raphael rooms, and the other countless treasures inside the museum.

But in an experiment starting this Friday night, July 24, the museum will open for a trial period in the evening from 7pm until 11pm. Only once before has the museum ever opened at night, and that was for the special events during the beatification of Mother Theresa of Calcutta.

Vatican museum director, Antonio Paolucci, in an interview with Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper, explains that this is an opportunity for average Romans – those who work during the day – to be able to come and visit. “I don’t believe there will be long lines of tourists,” he said. “We want to return the Vatican Museum to the citizens, to the Romans here who now at times feel it has been taken over by the tourists, by the foreigners.”

Mr. Paolucci says that most tourists usually book their visits well in advance, but during this special night opening, Romans can just show up and try to enter.

Typically, visitors usually start forming lines several hours before the opening each morning. The lines will last most of the day. Only those on vacation or with the whole day off to spend waiting have had an opportunity to visit up.

Normally, the Vatican Museum is open from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (Monday to Saturday)


An interesting item made the rounds of assorted newspapers this weekend … here’s the version from the Sun Times:

Not only have Olympic swimmers and sprinters gotten faster over the last 100 years — but they have grown in average size at a much faster rate than the normal population, a new analysis finds.

While the average human has gained about 1.9 inches in height since 1900, the research shows that the fastest swimmers have grown 4.5 inches and the swiftest runners have grown 6.4 inches.

“The trends revealed by our analysis suggest that speed records will continue to be dominated by heavier and taller athletes,” said Duke University researcher Jordan Charles.

Using mathematical formulas, Charles also predicted running speeds during the Greek or Roman empires.

“In antiquity, body weights were roughly 70 percent less than they are today,” Charles said. “Using our theory, a 100-meter dash that is won in 13 seconds would have taken about 14 seconds back then.”

Olympic swimming juggernaut Michael Phelps is 6’4,” with a disproprtionate arm span of 6’7″ and size 14 feet. He weighs about 200 pounds.

Interesting, but I was really wondering about that 70 per cent claim; on this reading, your average Achilles type — assuming he was the ancient equivalent of a Phelps, more or less — would weigh only 60 pounds!!!  Happily, the Guardian seems to have picked up on the difference between “70 percent less” and “70 percent of” (albeit in a correction).

Pre Roman Silchester

I’m kind of surprised this hasn’t received a lot more media attention: an ongoing dig at Silchester (ancient Calleva Atrebatum) reveals evidence of a planned city with a possible population of 10,000 or more prior to the arrival of the Romans.

Mike Fulford — who has been digging at the site for years — dixit to the BBC, inter alia:

“After 12 summers of excavation we have reached down to the 1st Century AD and are beginning to see the first signs of what we believe to be the Iron Age and earliest Roman town … The discovery of the underlying Iron Age settlement is extremely exciting … While there are traces of settlement beneath Roman Verulamium (today’s St Albans) and Canterbury and close to the site of Roman Colchester, none of these resembles the evidence that we have here at Calleva of a planned town … We now have evidence that the town was burnt down sometime after AD 50 and before AD 80 … The possibility that this was at the hands of Boudicca when leading the largest British uprising during the Roman occupation is hugely significant. It was not thought the revolt passed this way.”

The BBC coverage below includes a very interesting video from the site as well …

FWIW, I can’t resist including this detail which concludes the Guardian‘s coverage:

Recent finds include skeletons of young dogs with marks of flaying – suggesting that among its many flourishing Iron Age industries, Calleva Attrebatum was the centre of a trade in warm fluffy puppy fur cloaks.

… wasn’t aware there was a market for such; I wonder why they didn’t suggest the dogs were being eaten

Shrine to Jupiter Dolichenus

via the Journal

via the Journal

Very interesting find at Vindolanda of a large shrine to Jupiter Dolichenus with a Latin inscription; quotes from Andrew Birley have appeared in a number of newspapers:

What should have been part of the rampart mound near to the north gate of the fort has turned out to be an amazing religious shrine …There is a substantial and exceptionally well preserved altar dedicated by a prefect of the Fourth Cohort of Gauls to an important eastern god, Jupiter of Doliche. Major altars like this are very rare finds and to discover such a shrine inside the fort is highly unusual … The shrine also has evidence of animal sacrifice and possible religious feasting … It all adds to the excitement of the excavations and is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most excavators.

The inscription translates:

To Jupiter Best and Greatest of Doliche, Sulpicius Pudens, prefect of the Fourth Cohort of Gauls, fulfilled his vow gladly and deservedly.

Adrian Murdoch has a transcription of the Latin in his coverage of this find …

Patricia Birley noted:

Perhaps what the prefect had asked for had come to pass and he fulfilled his vow by paying out for this expensive stone … It would have cost him a bob or two.

Interestingly, Dr Birley notes that the Sulpicius Pudens is surely the same character who erected another altar which was later reused in a wall at Staward Pele sixty or so years ago (which a certain E. Birley wrote about in “A Roman altar from Staward Pele,” Archaeologia Aeliana [ser4] Vol28 p132-6 and 139-40.

Jupiter Dolichenus was really popular — especially among the military — during and after the principate of Septimius Severus …

UPDATE (09/23/09) — see now Adrian Murdoch’s followup post on the previous inscription ascribed to Suplicius  Pudens: New inscription at Vindolanda UPDATED

Golden ‘Mask’ From Ohrid

Reports are just starting to come out of the discovery of 17 Hellenistic-period tombs from a site near Ohrid, FYROM/Macedonia. Plenty of items were found, of course (including some in amber), but the most interesting seems to be the burial of a young girl of apparently noble status.

Pasko Kuzman, head of the Macedonian Department for Cultural Heritage dixit:

“There is something here which, from a scientific point of view, is more important even than the golden mask [discovered in Ohrid earlier], since the personality buried in this tomb had a golden object in the shape of eye glasses, a rhomboid-shaped golden plate on the mouth and a golden plate with a sun with 16 rays in the area of the heart. The two objects that were placed on the eyes and the mouth mean the dead person was masked. This kind of combination of masking was unique on the Balkans. Until now, separate golden plates were discovered, especially in the Aegean, but this kind of combination was unknown until now.”

… haven’t been able to track down any photos.

Theatre Masks (re)Discovered

Naples Archaeological Museum via Discovery News

Naples Archaeological Museum via Discovery News

Discovery News’ Rossella Lorenzi is reporting on the rediscovery of 15 life-size theatre masks from Pompeii which were originally excavated in 1749, then stored and forgotten in a Bourbon palace storage room. Mariarosaria Borriello, who made the rediscovery dixit:

“They ended up being totally forgotten, and indeed we do not have much information about them. We do not even know where they were unearthed in Pompeii. The 18th century dig journals only vaguely record that 15 masks were excavated … Two masks show letters in the space usually reserved to the mouth. While the meaning of one is incomprehensible, on the other we can clearly read the word ‘Buco’ … Not all of the masks belong to the fabula Atellana, but finding at least one evidence linked to it is very important. Indeed, no fragment of early Atellan farces has survived”