Asian Burial at Vagnari?

Very interesting item from the Independent:

A team of researchers announced a surprising discovery during a scholarly presentation in Toronto last Friday. The research team, based at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, has been helping to excavate an ancient Roman cemetery at the site of Vagnari in southern Italy. Led by Professor Tracy Prowse, they’ve been analyzing the skeletons found there by performing DNA and oxygen isotope tests.

The surprise is that the DNA tests show that one of the skeletons, a man, has an East Asian ancestry – on his mother’s side. This appears to be the first time that a skeleton with an East Asian ancestry has been discovered in the Roman Empire.

However, it seems like this contact between east and west did not go well.

Vagnari was an imperial estate during this time. The emperor controlled it and at least some of the workers were slaves. One of the tiles found at Vagnari is marked “Gratus” which means “slave” of the emperor. The workers produced iron implements and textiles. The landscape around them was nearly treeless, making the Italian summer weather all the worse.

The man with East Asian ancestry may well have been a slave himself. He lived sometime in the first to second century AD, in the early days of the Roman Empire. Much of his skeleton (pictured here) has not survived. The man’s surviving grave goods consist of a single pot (which archaeologists used to date the burial). To top things off someone was buried on top of him – with a superior collection of grave goods.

Much of the cemetery has yet to be excavated, but indications so far suggest that his contemporaries were mostly local individuals. Archaeologists have dug up 70 skeletons from the Vagnari cemetery and oxygen isotope tests have shown that more than 80 per cent of the people were born at or near this estate.

“How this particular individual ended up down in Vagnari is an intriguing story and that’s what makes this find very exciting,” said team member Dr. Jodi Barta, who analyzed the DNA.

DNA Testing

The researchers determined his ancestry by analyzing his mitochondrial DNA – material that is passed down from mother to offspring.

As DNA is passed down from generation to generation there are mutations. People who are related to each other will have similar changes – allowing researchers to put them into broad “haplogroups,” that tend to relate to geographical areas.

This technique has been used to map the spread of humans throughout the world.

The man found in the cemetery has DNA that belongs to what scientists called haplogroup D. “The haplogroup itself has this East Asian origin, it’s not something that’s found in past European populations – the origin of this haplogroup is East Asia,” said Dr. Barta.

This technique does have limitations. Because it only tests DNA from his mother’s side, his paternal ancestry is not known. The team also cannot say where specifically in East Asia his mum’s ancestors are from. There “is absolutely no way that you can put that fine a point on it” with the evidence at hand said Barta. “Unless we can extract nuclear DNA and add that to the line of evidence that we’ve got,” said Professor Prowse.

Also the scientists cannot say how recently he, or his ancestors, left East Asia. He could have made the journey by himself, or it could be that a more distant ancestor, such as his great-grandmother, left the region long before he was born.

“We have no way to put a clock on that,” said Barta.

Trade Between China and Rome

At first glance it’s tempting to link this fellow to the silk trade that flourished between China and Rome. The trade picked up during the 1st century BC, with traders following an arduous 8,000 kilometre route across Central Asia.

However, while the silk was made in China, it’s generally believed that the people who plodded this route were intermediaries. In fact there is not much evidence that anyone from China, or the areas nearby, ever got to Italy in ancient times.

Dr. Raoul McLaughlin, of Queens University Belfast, has studied ancient Sino-Roman relations and wrote in the publication History Today that-

“The surviving Classical sources suggest that the Romans knew very little about the ancient Chinese. Most of what they knew came in the form of rumours gathered on distant trade ventures.”

Adding, “as far as we are aware, they never realized that on the edge of Asia there was a vast state equivalent in scale and sophistication to their own.”

There are references, however, to a people called the “Seres” whom some scholars believe could be Han Chinese or people from nearby areas. Plinius’s association between the Seres and silk production adds weight to that theory. He wrote: ‘Send out as far as to the Seres for silk stuff to apparel us’.

Strabo also wrote about the Seres, describing their incredible longevity: “The Seres who, they say, are long-lived, and prolong their lives even beyond two hundred years”. According to Florus, embassadors came from this land to meet Augustus.

It seems unlikely that the man found at Vagnari was any kind of embassador – if he was why would he be working on an imperial estate? Did he make a really bad impression on Augustus?

I asked both Prowse and Barta if they knew of any other skeletons with East Asian ancestry near Rome. They both said that they don’t.

“Most of the research that has been done… is really related to early population development, such as humans out of Africa, the migrations of humans from Asia to North and South America,” said Professor Prowse.

“To my knowledge I don’t know of any specific example of this kind of haplogroup.”

Prowse is hopeful that more DNA research will come out as people realize its value.

“It may actually prompt other people to start looking through, and not just rely on the archaeological remains but also trying to look at the skeletal remains to try and answer some of these questions.”

via Ambassador or slave? East Asian skeleton discovered in Vagnari Roman Cemetery | Independent

cf. some of our previous posts:

More coverage:

On the web:

CONF: Cambridge Classical Archaeology Seminar Series

Seen on Classicists (please send any responses to the folks mentioned in the quoted text, not to rogueclassicism!):

D-Caucus Seminars
Lent Term 2010

Tuesdays at 4.30pm Room 1.04 Faculty of Classics (Sidgwick Site), Cambridge.

All Welcome.

Two worlds colliding?: the relationships between Classics and Museums organised by Dr Kate Cooper, Fitzwilliam Museum.

26th January Professor Robin Cormack (Courtauld Institute of Art & Faculty of Classics, Cambridge)
Perspectives from the outside: curating temporary loan exhibitions at the Royal Academy and elsewhere.

2nd February Dr Susan Walker (Keeper of Antiquities, Ashmolean Museum)
Change and flow: the new Ashmolean

9th February Dr Lucilla Burn (Keeper of Antiquities, Fitzwilliam Museum)
How do the Greek and Roman collections of the Fitzwilliam Museum and their display relate to the study of Classics?

16th February Dr Andrew Burnett (Deputy Director, The British Museum)
International issues and museums today

23rd February Dr Roger Bland (Head of the Department of Portable Antiquities and Treasure, The British Museum)
A license to loot or archaeological rescue? The Portable Antiquities Scheme in England and Wales

2nd March Dr Timothy Potts (Director, The Fitzwilliam Museum)
Museums and the preservation of archaeological heritage: past practice and future prospects

In addition. a seminar on Italian Archaeology is planned for 9th March details will be circulated later in the term.

CFP: Prometheus Trust Conference

Seen on Classicists (please send any responses to the folks mentioned in the quoted text, not to rogueclassicism!):


Friday, 25 June to Sunday, 27 June

Ivy House, Warminster, Wiltshire, UK

Crisis and Judgment: Contemplating Action

The word crisis comes to us from the Greek – it meant the act of judging, distinguishing and making decisions: Sophocles wrote a play called Krisis about the judgment of Paris. Today we are all well aware that we are reaching a point where we too are being asked to make far-reaching decisions about our relationships to the universe and to each other. How are we to go about reaching wise decisions?

When Paris made his judgment he was deciding between the Goddesses of Desire, Honour and Wisdom – it was his choice of desire which plunged the Greek states into their ten year war upon the plains of Troy. In the critical choices which are now rising before us we, as individuals and as a global community, have much the same choices as lay before Paris; and according to our inner choices, so will the course of our outer lives, like his, be shaped.

In his 2009 Dimbleby lecture, Facing the Future, the Prince of Wales talked about how we are to tackle the major problems facing humankind and said, “Philosophy is just as important as practical solutions. In fact the right solutions will come more readily if the philosophy is first of all framed by right thinking.” This is, of course, a view which can be seen throughout the writings of Plato: in the Republic, for example, Socrates urges that those who would act as rulers be trained in right thinking, and be brought to that state in which the very highest and most unitive truth is contemplated. Plotinus tells us that contemplation and action are, in reality, phases of a great continuum and that the most effective actions follow from contemplation.

This Conference is called to consider the philosophic response to practical life in this light: to examine the ways in which in this judgment we may choose wisdom.

Papers are invited from those interested in these areas for presentation at the fifth Prometheus Trust conference. We hope that the subject will attract speakers from both academic and non-academic backgrounds who share a common love of wisdom.

Abstracts should be no more than 300 words and should be with us at the latest by Friday, 26 March 2010. Acceptance of these will be confirmed as quickly as possible.

Papers should be around 2500-3000 words or 20 minutes’ presentation (we usually allow 15 minutes for a question and answer session after each presentation).

Bookings should be received by us not later than Friday, 23 April 2010.

The Trustees are greatly honoured that Professor John Dillon has agreed to be our keynote speaker. The following is an introduction to his address:

Towards the Noosphere: Platonist versus Christian Models of the Universe and our Place in it

My theme is, first of all, a confrontation of the Platonic-Plotinian model of a static universe with that of such a thinker as the Christian philosopher Origen, and, from recent times, of the Jesuit thinker Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, both of whom envisage a process of development, commencing with a ‘fall’, and leading back to what Chardin denominated the ‘noosphere’, a state where rationality will be dominant over all irrational forces.

My question is whether, despite many indications to the contrary, we may not after all be shuffling gradually towards such a consummation.


John Dillon is Regius Professor of Greek (Emeritus) in Trinity College Dublin, and founder of the Dublin Centre for the Study of the Platonic Tradition. He was educated at Oxford and University of California at Berkeley, and specialises in the study of Plato and the Platonic Tradition, on which he has written a number of books.


The conference will take place at Ivy House, a retreat centre in Warminster, which is comfortable and well appointed. Residential prices are for the weekend (from Friday supper to Sunday tea): rates for a shorter stay are subject to availability.

Single room £100 Twin room £80 Students: Single £40 Twin room £30

For those who wish to attend the conference but who do not wish to stay or eat at Ivy House, there are inexpensive residential pubs in Warminster and several take-aways/cafes/restaurants. It would be your responsibility to arrange accommodation and food – the only charge payable to the Trust would be the conference fee.

Conference fee: This charge is £20 and is payable with your booking. It is non-refundable in the event of cancellation. Accommodation fees are payable by end of May. Ivy House has its own cancellation policy – details if required from the Conference Secretary.

Booking forms are available from the Conference Secretary at the above address, phone or email. Completed forms with your deposit of £20 should be returned by FRIDAY, 23 APRIL at the very latest.

Travel: Warminster is on the main train line from South Wales and the South Coast and is easily reached from London via Bath or Salisbury. Buses run from Bath, Bristol and Salisbury and coaches from London.

Trustees: Mr T J Addey (Chairman), Mr S Wade, LLB (Secretary), Mrs BAF Addey (Treasurer), Dr Crystal Addey, Mr Jeremy A Best,

Ms M Lyn, and Ms A V Wallace

Patrons: Mr D C Skilling and Mrs M A Skilling

CONF: Manchester, Classics & Ancient History Research Seminars

Seen on Classicists (please send any responses to the folks mentioned in the quoted text, not to rogueclassicism!):

*NB a couple of changes and a couple of additions to the programme published in September*


All Thursday meetings begin at 5 pm in the Samuel Alexander Building, Room S. 2. 8.
CA meetings are on Wednesdays at 5.30 in various rooms of the same building.
All are welcome at all meetings, also at drinks after the discussion and at the meal with the speaker later on.


CA Wed. 3 February 2010, 5.30 pm, A. 113
Tim Parkin (Manchester)
Recovering the wonder: John Turtle Wood (and his wife) in Ephesus, 1863-1874

4 February 2010
Teresa Morgan (Oriel, Oxford)
Roman trust

11 February
Graham Oliver (Liverpool)
The business of state: public finance in Hellenistic Athens

18 February
Peter Liddel (Manchester)
Law, epigraphy and power in the fifth-century Aegean

25 February
Rosalind Thomas (Balliol, Oxford)
Herodotus and the Persians

4 March
Caroline Petit (Manchester)
Galen’s Greek

11 March
Julia Hillner (Sheffield)
Gregory the Great’s prisons

CA Wed. 17 March, 5.30 pm, A. 7
Roslynne Bell (Manchester)
Moving in with the gods: new insights into the Augustan Palatine

18 March
Tom Harrison (Liverpool)
Herodotus on Persian royal ideology

25 March
Ed Bispham (Brasenose, Oxford)
State formation and the Samnite Wars

22 April
Peter Maskell (Manchester)
Carthaginian imperialism

29 April
Rebekka Ott (Manchester)
Latin word-order

6 May
Tobias Reinhardt (Corpus Christi, Oxford)
Galen (title TBC)

CA Wed. 12 May, 5.30 pm, A. 7
Jonathan Powell (Royal Holloway, University of London)
Horace and the Iraq War

13 May
Kate Cooper (Manchester)
Religious identity, conversion, and ethnic identity in late antiquity

20 May
Roberta Mazza (Manchester)
Money for doctors, faith for Jesus: disease and healing in the Gospel
of Mark in the light of Greek papyri

David Langslow, convener of the research seminar, and Chair of the Manchester Branch of the Classical Association
David.Langslow for further information

Cuts at King’s College London?

An excerpt from Mary Beard’s latest:

Now it is the turn of King’s College London – which is planning (very confidentially, so far) to lose up to 22 posts in Arts and Humanities by the end of the academic year. This means that at least one subject (which ought to be a protected species) will disappear.


Anyway, at King’s this will mean (so they themselves predict) taking Byzantine and Modern Greek into Classics (that’s maybe no bad idea), losing four lecturing jobs in German, Spanish and Modern Greek (so much for our country’s language provision) — and it will mean removing Palaeography entirely. Those fighting to keep their jobs will be asked (among other things) to show how much research income they have brought in.

Palaeographers may be a quirky crowd. But King’s has the only established chair in the subject in the country, and a tradition of tremendous research in the subject (recently exemplified by Julian Brown and Tilly de la Mare) going back decades. The only way that we can hope to understand books and manuscripts of the past (not just how to read them, but also to work out why they were as the were.. and what difference it makes) is to keep the study of palaeography alive. It is the underpinning of history and pre-modern English literature and has crucial links with Classics and the transmission of classical texts,

This point was made firmly in the last round of university cuts — where the King’s provision was explicitly singled out as distinguished.

All we can do is write to the Principal of King’s and make a plea for preserving the infra-structure of intellectual culture. Once these skills disappear, you never get them back.

Dr Beard’s post has links to the relevant folks to send your indignant mail …

via A Don’s Life by Mary Beard – Times Online – WBLG: University cuts, redundancies – and bye-bye palaeography at King’s College London.

… and I note now the existence of a Facebook page for this: Save Paleography At King’s London

On the web:

Guernsey’s Roman Shipwreck

From the BBC (January 27):

Dr Margaret Rule clearly remembers receiving a phone call from diver Richard Keen on Christmas Day 1982 saying he had found a ship wreck.

The ship was located in the mouth of St Peter Port and was suspected to be a medieval barge.

Closer inspection in summer 1983 revealed it was in fact a Roman ship and so work began to “rescue” it.

It was raised between 1984 and 1986 and since 1999 has been at the Mary Rose Trust undergoing preservation work.

Dr Rule described raising the ship as “a rescue operation” because “the ship was being destroyed by the propeller wash of the large vessels entering and leaving the harbour”.

She said that discovering it was a Roman vessel was “the most exciting moment of my life” from both a personal and historical perspective.

She explained that the discovery was very important as it is a rare sea going Roman ship, while most found are canal or river vessels and that it would shed light on the trade routes used due to the pottery found from as far away as Spain and Algeria!

Dr Jason Monaghan from the Guernsey Museum added to this saying the Asterix is “one of only two of its type surviving and it is Britain’s largest Roman object”.

He went on to say that once the ship had been raised, thanks to private funding from the Guernsey Maritime Trust, it was studied and cleaned up before eventually being sent to The Mary Rose Trust in England for preservation work.

By the start of 2010 this preservation work was largely complete and the feasibility of bringing the vessel back to Guernsey was being investigated.

Dr Monaghan said: “It would need to be displayed in a ‘giant goldfish tank’ or glass tank to keep the bugs and dust off and keep the humidity stable… if it gets too dry it will fall apart or too wet it will go mouldy.”

Richard Keen who first found the Asterix also hoped to see it return to Guernsey, but acknowledged it would be “a fairly massive undertaking” and that it would “require a lot of money”.

The ship’s namesake is a the small but fearless French comic book character created in 1959, who lives in the only free village in Gaul (modern France), which was part of the Roman Empire.

via BBC – Raising Asterix, Guernsey’s Roman shipwreck.

Back on the 22nd, there was this brief item, also from the BBC:

A 1,700 year-old ship wreck could be returned to Guernsey if funding can be found, after undergoing preservation work since it was raised in 1985.

The Asterix was found by local diver Richard Keen in St Peter Port harbour in 1982, where it had lay since 280.

The timbers were taken to the Mary Rose Trust in Portsmouth for immersion in wax and freeze drying.

Guernsey Museum Service said money is needed to pay for somewhere to store and display the ship.

The Asterix was destroyed by fire and sunk in the 3rd Century where the entrance to St Peter Port harbour was later established.

The museum service has said it hopes to bring the wreck, measuring 18m (60ft), back to the island for a permanent display.

via BBC – Wreck of Roman ship Asterix could return to Guernsey

Both reports feature additional video coverage.

On the web:

The Fitzwilliam Has Some Interesting Stuff

From Cambridge News:

CAMBRIDGE’S treasure house of art has opened a gleaming new window on what life was like for ordinary people thousands of years ago.

Experts at the Fitzwilliam Museum have spent the past 18 months revamping its famous collection of ancient Greek and Roman artefacts – and from Saturday, visitors will be able to enjoy an intimate view of the world ruled by the likes of Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar and Hadrian.

The refurbishment of the antiquities section has cost nearly £1 million, and Dr Timothy Potts, director of the Fitzwilliam, said it would offer “fresh insights” on the two great empires.

As well as works of art from 2,000 years ago, the collection includes a vast number of everyday objects, such as eating and drinking utensils, domestic pottery, and jewellery.

There is even a woman’s cosmetics box, dating back 2,500 years.

The Greek and Roman gallery at the museum had hardly altered since the 1960s, and it has now been brought up to modern-day standards, with new display cases and better lighting.

A museum spokeswoman said: “The primary focus of the new displays is on people – the figures who, across the centuries, have given these objects their appearance and shaped their history.

“New object information aims to build up an illuminating picture of the artists and craftsmen who created the works, the customers who commissioned or used them, and the collectors, restorers and conservators who have affected the way they look today.

“The displays explore issues such as: what did people do at drinking parties? How did they relate to their gods? How did they remember the dead?”

Dr Potts said: “The Fitzwilliam’s collection of Greek and Roman antiquities is of international significance, so I’m delighted that we now have a superbly redesigned space in which to display it to its full potential.

“This new presentation, which is based on recent research and conservation work, will offer many fresh insights, not only to new visitors, but also to those familiar with the collection.”

The gallery update is part of a project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

The original article also has a couple of interesting videos … whatever the case,  folks will also want to check out Charlotte Higgins’ comments on this one …
via Cambridge News | Latest News From In & Around Cambridge City | Latest Sports, Jobs & Business News in Cambridge Newspaper – £1m insight into life in two great empires.

Tip o’ the pileus to Virginia Knight who sends along a link to a nice little slideshow on the Fitz from the BBC:


CONF: St Andrews Seminars

Seen on Classicists (please send any responses to the folks mentioned in the quoted text, not to rogueclassicism!):

All seminars take place on Fridays at 4.00 p.m. (note the new time!) in
Swallowgate 11. Papers are followed by discussion. All are very welcome.

Feb 12th Richard Steadman-Jones (Sheffield) ‘Language of Art’: The
Place of Greek in the 18th-Century ‘Origin of Language’ Debate’

Feb 19th Trevor Mahy (St Andrews) ‘A return to republican
politics? Reconstructing the res publica in the wake of Caesar’s

Feb 26th Dagmar Hofmann (Cologne) ‘The Place of Refreshment -
Refrigerium in early Christian sources’

March 5th Roy Gibson (Manchester): ‘Latin letter collections as
failed autobiography’

March 12th Colin Adams (Liverpool) ‘Understanding Corruption in Roman

March 19th Calum MacIver (Edinburgh) ‘Quintus Smyrnaeus’
Posthomerica: (M)use-less Singing’

March 26th Gwynaeth McIntyre (St Andrews) ‘Divine Dead Babies: The
deified children of the Roman imperial family’

April 16th Georgia Petridou (St Andrews) ‘Divine Epiphanies and
Hereditary Priesthood in Pisidian Pogla’.

April 23rd Luke Houghton (Glasgow) ‘Latin love elegy in the

April 30th Rosanna Omitowoju (Cambridge) title tbc

May 7th Shadi Bartsch (Chicago) ‘Metaphor and Senecan Stoicism’

Enquiries should be directed to: Roger Rees, School of Classics,
University of St Andrews, St Andrews KY16 9AL. Tel.: 01334-462685. FAX:
01334-462602. E-mail: rdr1 AT

Codex Gregorianus Found?

For someone whose MA and never-completed PhD was dependent on this sort of thing, this is pretty big news from Science Daily:

Part of an ancient Roman law code previously thought to have been lost forever has been discovered by researchers at University College London’s Department of History. Simon Corcoran and Benet Salway made the breakthrough after piecing together 17 fragments of previously incomprehensible parchment.

The fragments were being studied at UCL as part of the Arts & Humanities Research Council-funded “Projet Volterra” — a ten year study of Roman law in its full social, legal and political context.

Corcoran and Salway found that the text belonged to the Codex Gregorianus, or Gregorian Code, a collection of laws by emperors from Hadrian (AD 117-138) to Diocletian (AD 284-305), which was published circa AD 300. Little was known about the codex’s original form and there were, until now, no known copies in existence.

via Science Daily (nice photo if you want to show folks what a 'rubric' really is)

“The fragments bear the text of a Latin work in a clear calligraphic script, perhaps dating as far back as AD 400,” said Dr Salway. “It uses a number of abbreviations characteristic of legal texts and the presence of writing on both sides of the fragments indicates that they belong to a page or pages from a late antique codex book — rather than a scroll or a lawyer’s loose-leaf notes.

“The fragments contain a collection of responses by a series of Roman emperors to questions on legal matters submitted by members of the public,” continued Dr Salway. “The responses are arranged chronologically and grouped into thematic chapters under highlighted headings, with corrections and readers’ annotations between the lines. The notes show that this particular copy received intensive use.”

The surviving fragments belong to sections on appeal procedures and the statute of limitations on an as yet unidentified matter. The content is consistent with what was already known about the Gregorian Code from quotations of it in other documents, but the fragments also contain new material that has not been seen in modern times.

“These fragments are the first direct evidence of the original version of the Gregorian Code,” said Dr Corcoran. “Our preliminary study confirms that it was the pioneer of a long tradition that has extended down into the modern era and it is ultimately from the title of this work, and its companion volume the Codex Hermogenianus, that we use the term ‘code’ in the sense of ‘legal rulings’.”

This particular manuscript may originate from Constantinople (modern Istanbul) and it is hoped that further work on the script and on the ancient annotations will illuminate more of its history.

The Project Volterra news page suggests this was announced initially back in December (no details at the site that I can see, but if you’ve never been there, it does have a great collection of ancient Roman legal texts).

via Lost Roman Law Code Discovered in London | Science Daily

≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡

Other news coverage (slowly trickling in):

The ‘other bloggers’ mentioned below tracked down a report by Salway and Corcoran:

… and I note a podcast on the subject:

Other bloggers:

On the web:

This Day in Ancient History: ante diem vii kalendas februarias

ante diem vii kalendas februarias

  • Sementivae or Paganalia (day ?) — Sementivae was a festival of sowing which was actually a moveable feast (although I’m not sure of the moveability criteria; I’m guessing that the first day falls between January 24 and 26). By Ovid’s time it appears to have been coincident with Paganalia, which also obviously has some rural aspect to it. It appears to have been a two-day festival with an interval of seven days between (corrections on this welcome … my sources seem muddled on this one)
  • 66 A.D. — perihelion of what would eventually be called Halley’s comet (possibly mentioned in Josephus; less possibly mentioned in Suetonius)
  • 97 A.D. — martyrdom of Timothy
  • 1721 — death of Pierre Daniel Huet (editor of the Delphi Classics)

CFP: Sarkophage

Seen on Classicists (please send any responses to the folks mentioned in the quoted text, not to rogueclassicism!):

1. International Symposium
Call for papers

From Oct. 2 – 8, 2010 (with papers to be read Oct. 3 – 7) we are
planning to hold the first symposium of the International Association
"Roman Sarcophagi", to be founded here in Marburg. Papers on
iconography, chronology, style, commerce, meaning of the
representations, afterlife, new finds etc. from the following regions
are welcome:
– Rome and the Provinces in the West
– Athens and the Provinces on the Balkan
– The Provinces in Asia Minor and the Near East
Please inform us by March 31, 2010, if you would like to
– participate with a paper (25-30 min; please give the preliminary title)
– participate without paper.
We would be grateful if you would distribute this information to
colleagues who would also be interested in this symposium.
Any suggestions would be very welcome.
The organizers
Prof. Dr. Rita Amedick Prof. Dr. Dr.h.c. Guntram Koch

amedick AT

CFP: What Became of Lily Ross Taylor?

Seen on Classicists (please send any responses to the folks mentioned in the quoted text, not to rogueclassicism!):


What Became of Lily Ross Taylor?

Women and Ancient History in North America*

organized by Celia E. Schultz and Michele R. Salzman

The APA’s Committee for Ancient History and the Women’s Classical Caucus together invite proposals for a panel session on the status of women in the field of Ancient History to be presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Philological Association at San Antonio in 2011.

As the number of women in the Academy has increased over the last forty years, so has the number of female professional classicists grown. Yet the relative proportion of women scholars has not increased at an equal pace across the various subfields that make up the field of Classics, with ancient history lagging behind. Although some female ancient historians have had long distinguished careers as researchers and teachers, and now larger numbers are coming up through the ranks, the proportion of female ancient historians (approximately 20% of the field, based on Scheidel 1999) is smaller than the proportion of women in Classics more generally.

The purpose of this panel is to provide an opportunity to take stock of the state of the study and teaching of ancient history in North America and to contemplate where the field is going. We are particularly interested in papers that address the following questions: What has changed since the 1970s that has encouraged more women to enter the field? Why has the female presence in ancient history not been as robust as it is in literary studies? What does it mean that the proportion of women in ancient history is in keeping with the representation of women in the wider field of History, but is not in pace with the wider field of Classics? Is there a difference in the circumstances faced by women educated in (and hired by) departments of History, departments of Classics, and independent graduate groups? How can the APA and the WCC assist in attracting more women to this endeavor?

Abstracts of 500 to 800 words, suitable for a 15-20 minute presentation, should be sent as an email attachment (Word doc or pdf) to Celia Schultz at celia.schultz AT, or to her by regular mail at the Department of Classics, Yale University, P.O. Box. 208266, New Haven CT 06520-8266. Since all abstracts will be judged anonymously, please do not identify yourself in any way on the abstract itself. All proposals must be received by February 1, 2010.

Source of the Aqua Traiana Found?

A very interesting find by some clumsy amateurs, apparently (when will the media stop having folks ‘stumble’ on things???) … this seems to be hype for a documentary, but that’s not a bad thing. Here’s the incipit of the Telegraph coverage:

The underground spring lies behind a concealed door beneath an abandoned 13th century church on the shores of Lake Bracciano, 35 miles north of Rome.

Exploration of the site has shown that water percolating through volcanic bedrock was collected in underground grottoes and chambers and fed into a subterranean aqueduct, the Aqua Traiana, which took it all the way to the imperial capital.

Centuries later, it provided water for the very first Vatican, after Rome began to convert to Christianity under the Emperor Constantine.

The underground complex, which is entangled with the roots of huge fig trees, was discovered by father and son documentary makers Edward and Michael O’Neill, who stumbled on it while researching the history of Rome’s ancient aqueducts.

They recruited a leading authority on Roman hydro-engineering, Prof Lorenzo Quilici from Bologna University, who confirmed that the structure was Roman, rather than medieval as had long been believed.

Using long iron ladders to descend into the bowels of the sophisticated system, they found that the bricks comprising the aqueduct’s walls are laid in a diamond shape known as “opus reticulatum” – a distinctive Roman style of engineering.

“A lot of the stone work bears the original Roman tool marks,” Edward O’Neill said.

The underground labyrinth of galleries has remained almost unknown to archaeologists because for hundreds of years it was full of water.

It was only when modern bore pumps started directing the supply to the nearby town of Bracciano that the water level dropped dramatically and the subterranean complex became accessible.

The vaulted ceiling was decorated with a rare type of paint known as Egyptian Blue, which led the O’Neills to speculate that the grotto was a Roman nymphaeum – a sacred place believed to be inhabited by water gods.

“The paint was very expensive to make, but it was painted all over the walls, which suggests an imperial link,” said Mr O’Neill.

via Two thousand year old Roman aqueduct discovered | Telegraph

The brothers further say they want to raise funds for the site to be professionally excavated. Nice!

More coverage:

On the web (prior to the discovery, of course):

CONF: APA 2011 Panel on Greek Prosody

Seen on Classicists (please send any responses to the folks mentioned in the quoted text, not to rogueclassicism!):

A New Look at Greek Prosody

Organized by David Goldstein (University of California, Berkeley) and Dieter
Gunkel (University of California, Los Angeles)

With the 1994 publication of The Prosody of Greek Speech, Devine and
Stephens achieved insights into Greek that many would have hardly thought
possible. The study of prosody, that is, the study of phenomena such as
syllable structure, accentual rhythm, pitch, and intonational phrasing, is
an extremely delicate and difficult endeavor when it comes to a corpus
language. Devine and Stephens combined detailed philological investigation
of texts (literary, grammatical, and musical) with linguistic theory, a
broad range of cross-linguistic typological comparisons, and evidence from
experimental linguistics and psychology, to offer the most extensive and
detailed portrait of Greek prosody to date.

Despite these impressive results, the pervasive role that prosody plays in
Greek language and literature has generally not been appreciated. Simply
put, prosody pervades practically every aspect of language, including
syntax, semantics, pragmatics, word formation, and accentual patterns, not
to mention other facets such as performance, gesture, and metrics. As
prosodic studies have been given only marginal treatment, the opportunities
for new discovery in this area are abundant.

The time has come for two things. The first is to look afresh at Greek
prosody from both an empirical and a theoretical standpoint. More is known
now than was in 1994, and the panel should showcase recent advances as well as identify and explore new frontiers. Second, the forum aims to bring
prosodic studies and their implications into the purview of a wider range of
classical scholars.

We are interested in questions of prosody at every level, from the syllable
to the rhetorical period, and particularly welcome presentations that
demonstrate the implications of prosodic studies for Hellenic scholarship at
large. Questions that papers may address include the following:

1. What is the relationship between everyday colloquial speech rhythms and the dossier of Greek meters? What do metrical phenomena reveal about the prosody of the colloquial language?

2. How does prosody affect the formation of words (e.g., compounds,
hypocoristics) at the various stages of Greek?

3. How are we to understand the prosodic patterns found in prose texts, such as the clausulae of the Greek orators? What basis underlies these patterns, how do we account for their distribution, and what functional roles did they play in the sentence or the performance?

This panel will be held at the 2011 meeting of the American Philological
Association, which will run from 6-9 January in San Antonio, Texas.

A one-page abstract (suitable for a 15-20 minute presentation) must be
received by the APA office by 1 FEBRUARY 2010. Please send an anonymous abstract as a PDF attachment to apameetings AT, and be sure to provide complete contact information and any AV requests in the body of your email. Submissions will be reviewed anonymously.

Further information can be found on the APA web page at the following
address: Please contact David Goldstein at dmgold AT or Dieter Gunkel at
dcgunkel AT with any questions.

This Day in Ancient History: ante diem viii kalendas februarias

ante diem viii kalendas februarias

  • Sementivae or Paganalia (day 2) — Sementivae was a festival of sowing which was actually a moveable feast (although I’m not sure of the moveability criteria; I’m guessing that the first day falls between January 24 and 26). By Ovid’s time it appears to have been coincident with Paganalia, which also obviously has some rural aspect to it. It appears to have been a two-day festival with an interval of seven days between (corrections on this welcome … my sources seem muddled on this one)
  • 41 A.D. — recognition of Claudius as emperor by the senate
  • 98 A.D. — death of Nerva (?)

New issue of Pomerium!

Seen on Ostia-l (please send any responses to the folks mentioned in the quoted text, not to rogueclassicism!):

salve ,

ti informiamo che è on-line il nuovo numero di Pomerivm, il notiziario trimestrale dell’Associazione culturale Pomerium.

Lo trovi all’indirizzo Internet

In questo numero:

- Roma, “la pittura di un impero” alle scuderie del Quirinale

Riflessioni intorno alla straordinaria eredità della pittura antica, di Anna Maria Cavanna

- La medicina a Roma di Marco Colombelli

- Medea greca VS Medea romana

Variazioni sul finale, di Carolina Patierno

… e, come sempre, rubriche, calendario delle mostre, news, ecc.

Buona lettura!

Associazione Pomerium

Medusa from Caesarea

A unique archaeological exhibition has opened in Caesarea harbor: for the first time the general public can see an extraordinary 1,700 year old sarcophagus cover that is one of the most impressive ever discovered in Caesarea.

The cover, which weighs more than 4 tons, is decorated with snake-haired medusa heads and joyful and sad-faced masks. These were taken from the world of the ancient theater where two kinds of plays were customarily presented: comedy and tragedy. The meaning of the Greek word medusa is “guard or sentry”; whoever looked directly at the mythological medusa would be turned to stone immediately. In antiquity they used to produce medusa reliefs on, among other things, tombs and various shields, in the hope that this would ward off the threat.

Interment in large stone coffins (sarcophagi) was widespread in the Mediterranean basin in the second to fifth centuries CE. This funerary custom was first practiced among pagans and was later also adopted by Jews, Christians and Samaritans. The word sarcophagus is Greek in origin, meaning “flesh-eating”. The sarcophagus has two parts: a rectangular chest-like receptacle in which the deceased was placed and a lid. The sarcophagi were interred inside burial structures (mausoleum; pl. mausolea) or in rock-hewn burial caves. The residents of ancient Caesarea were buried in cemeteries that were located in regions outside the built-up area of the city.

The impressive sarcophagus cover, which was probably used in the burial of one of Caesarea’s wealthiest denizens in the Roman period, is one of an assortment of unique stone items that were exposed in archaeological excavations and by other means in Caesarea. The items constitute living and tangible evidence of the lives of the rich in Caesarea, at a time when the city was a vibrant Roman provincial capital.

More:  Medusas in Caesarea Harbor. (likely won’t last long; some photos in a zip file available there too)

A Roman Burial From Weston

From the BBC … I don’t think we mentioned its original discovery:

A Roman skeleton, which was found in Weston-super-Mare last autumn, has been dated by archaeological experts.

The find at Weston College is described as an adult male of slender build, aged between 36 and 45 and of “smaller stature than the Roman average”.

It was also revealed that the skeleton was complete and well-preserved for a set of 1,800-year-old bones.

Results also indicate the life of this particular Roman inhabitant of Weston was defined by disease and hard labour.

Dr Malin Holst who conducted the analysis said: “The skeleton showed evidence of a wide range of diseases and pathological conditions, some of which are rarely observed in archaeological skeletons.

“There were congenital anomalies relating to early foetal development including an additional vertebra, unusually shaped vertebrae, additional ribs and shortened femoral necks.

“Findings also confirmed the man also suffered from ill health during later adulthood – ailments included gallstones, chronic sinusitis, dental decay and severe abscesses and periodontal disease.”

‘Tough life’

The man clearly had a very tough life of hard labour with the analysis also revealing degeneration of the spinal and hips joints, osteoarthritis, spinal lesions and inflammation of the shins amongst others.

In addition to the skeleton, pottery, animal bone, shellfish, coins and metal objects were also found last September.

Analysis of these confirm that the building was used as a dwelling and occupied for a considerable period of time between the 2nd to 4th Centuries AD.

All of the objects were unearthed at the site of the proposed extension to the college’s Hans Price building during an archaeological dig by the Avon Archaeological Unit.

A full publication of the excavation results is expected in 2011.

via Weston skeleton gives up secrets | BBC.

… accounts of the original discovery: