The Roman Swiss Army Knife

The Fitzwilliam is certainly getting a lot of press attention, and each item revealed seems for interesting than the next. The Daily Mail, ferinstance, is highlighting the exhibition of a Roman precursor to the Swiss Army Knife:

The world’s first Swiss Army knife’ has been revealed – made 1,800 years before its modern counterpart.

An intricately designed Roman implement, which dates back to 200AD, it is made from silver but has an iron blade.

It features a spoon, fork as well as a retractable spike, spatula and small tooth-pick.

Experts believe the spike may have been used by the Romans to extract meat from snails.

It is thought the spatula would have offered a means of poking cooking sauce out of narrow-necked bottles.

The 3in x 6in (8cm x 15cm) knife was excavated from the Mediterranean area more than 20 years ago and was obtained by the museum in 1991.

The unique item is among dozens of artefacts exhibited in a newly refurbished Greek and Roman antiquities gallery at the Fitzwilliam Museum, in Cambridge.

Experts believe it may have been carried by a wealthy traveller, who will have had the item custom made.

A spokesman said: ‘This was probably made between AD 200 and AD 300, when the Roman empire was a great imperial power.

‘The expansion of Rome – which, before 500 BC, had just been a small central Italian state – made some individuals, perhaps like our knife-owner, personally very wealthy.

‘This could have been directly from the fruits of conquests, or indirectly, from the ‘business opportunities’ the empire offered.

‘We know almost nothing about the person who owned this ingenious knife, but perhaps he was one of those who profited from the vast expansion of Rome – he would have been wealthy to have such a real luxury item.

‘Perhaps he was a traveller, who required a practical compound utensil like this on his journeys.’

The spokesman added: ‘While many less elaborate folding knives survive in bronze, this one’s complexity and the fact that it is made of silver suggest it is a luxury item.

‘Perhaps a useful gadget for a wealthy traveller.’

Modern Swiss Army knives originated in Ibach Schwyz, Switzerland, in 1897 and were created by Karl Elsener.

The knives which provide soldiers with a ‘battlefield toolkit’ have since become standard issue for many modern day fighting forces thanks to their toughness and quality.

Nationalist Elsener decided to design the knives after he realised the Swiss army were being issued with blades manufactured in neighbouring Germany.

Other popular artefacts include an intricately designed Greek make-up box which was custom made almost 3000 years ago for a women of ‘wealth and status’.

… there follows a bit that seems to be an orphan description of some items mentioned before. In any event, lest folks think this is the only item of this sort know, the Armillum website has some photos of other examples  (and there are, of course, some useful photos at the Daily Mail) …

Theatre of Nero at Naples

Interesting item from Il Mattino … essentially detailing the revelation (if that’s the right word; this doesn’t seem to be a ‘discovery’, but rather a recognition that there was archaeotouristy value in a site which apparently was a theatre built by Nero (in Naples):

Vicolo Cinque Santi, cuore del centro storico: bassi, immondizia, degrado. E un sito archeologico riscoperto per caso. È la «summa cavea» del teatro romano che sta tornando a galla, muro dopo muro, dalle viscere di Napoli.
Una nuova porzione del tesoro sta per essere restituita alle visite da Enzo Albertini, speleologo e presidente di «Napoli Sotterranea», una delle porte per le cavità del centro storico, che si trova a circa cento metri di distanza.

La parte oggi riscoperta del teatro augusteo (sorto sopra un teatro greco e oggi quasi interamente inglobato negli edifici della zona) fino a sei mesi fa era una semplice falegnameria. Archi e opus reticulatum erano coperti da materiali da lavoro, assi di legno, oggetti da officina.

L’insegna della falegnameria, Ruocco, era un punto di riferimento del vicolo da decenni. E il rumore della sega a nastro che tagliava il legno era un sottofondo abituale per la gente del posto. Quando nel 2009 il signor Ruocco ha deciso che era venuto il momento di andare in pensione, senza avere nessuno che rilevasse la sua attività, su quel basso ha messo gli occhi Enzo Albertini. L’ha preso in fitto e, con pazienza, ha riportato alla luce i resti del teatro romano.

Ci sono voluti mesi per ripulire quel luogo dove c’era quel che rimaneva di una vita di lavoro: «La parte più delicata si è presentata quando abbiamo dovuto togliere dalle mura romane tutti i chiodi che erano stati piantati per agganciare pezzi di legno e oggetti da lavoro», sorride Albertini mentre apre in esclusiva la porta del nuovo sito archeologico che ancora non è disponibile alle visite. Il fitto di quel locale costa 500 euro al mese, la nuova porzione del teatro verrà inserita nel tour delle visite di «Napoli Sotterranea» che prevede il percorso nelle cavità e anche una prima parte di visita nei resti del teatro che si trovano in vicolo «5 santi».

Anche in questo caso al teatro si accede entrando in un «basso», nel quale sono stati lasciati i mobili della famiglia che l’abitava prima dell’avvento delle visite archeologiche. Si sposta il letto matrimoniale che copriva la botola della «cantina» della famiglia. Quella cantina era, in realtà, un accesso diretto ai corridoi che correvano sotto al proscenio, quelli nei quali gli attori si preparavano e dove lavoravano i tecnici per sollevare gli artifici di scena.

Ogni basso del vicolo nasconde un accesso al teatro, in ogni casa, dietro allo stucco che ricopre le pareti, ci sono i resti di quell’immensa opera augustea: «La soprintendenza ha una pianta precisa del teatro e ne conosce ogni particolare – spiega Albertini – noi cerchiamo di rendere fruibili queste meraviglie, pronti a rispondere alle richieste della Soprintendenza. Lo facciamo senza chiedere fondi, operando esclusivamente da privati, da appassionati».

Albertini si perde nei racconti: «Noi pensiamo che qui sia passato Nerone durante la sua esibizione napoletana che culminò con un potente terremoto – dice – ma aspettiamo conferme dagli archeologi». All’interno della nuova porzione di teatro romano appena riportata in vita, è stata fatta anche una nuova scoperta.

Nel pavimento correvano dei piccoli canali che erano completamente ostruiti dal materiale di risulta generato dalla sega circolare. Durante la pulizia è venuta fuori la presenza di canali di scolo delle fogne di epoca borbonica, realizzati con riggiole da disegni di colore blu. Quei canali sono stati protetti da grate e sono visibili nell’ex falegnameria dove, attualmente, è in allestimento anche una mostra presepiale.

Napoli, torna alla luce un altro pezzo del Teatro di Nerone | Il Mattino.

Those Who Don’t Remember ‘History’, Well … You Know

A TACTIC borrowed from an episode in Ancient Greek mythology helped police take on and win a battle against a plague of modern Britain.

Taking inspiration from the Trojan Horse that helped the Greeks enter Troy after a decade of deadlock, officers in the Welsh capital came up with a disguise that allowed them to slip undetected into territory occupied by street thugs.

But instead of a wooden horse, the officers hid inside a bendy bus.

They borrowed the 60ft bus and a driver from Cardiff Bus in a last-ditch attempt to catch yobs whose stone-throwing attacks on services in the Ely area of the city had become so frequent the company was on the verge of pulling out of the area.

Half a dozen uniformed officers donned casual jackets to look like ordinary passengers and, together with a dog handler and police dog, boarded the bus on Thursday evening.

Chief Inspector Alun Morgan, who came up with the plan, said the idea was to draw the youths out so they could be caught. During the big freeze, several had begun throwing snowballs at the buses before switched to harder missiles, including stones, when the snow melted.

Ch Insp Morgan said: “It looked just like an ordinary service bus and when it got into Ely, it came under attack from 19 youths.”

But this time officers stopped the bus – now dubbed the “Trojan Bus” – and gave chase. Just as the youths were about to disperse, the dog handler warned he would release his animal if they did not stand still. So they did.

Two youths were arrested and taken into custody and 17 have been referred for anti-social behaviour orders. [etc.[

via Police use Trojan tactic to catch troublemakers | Western Mail.

Source please: Aristotle on Redheads

Anyone recognize the source of this one?

In Ancient Egypt, the tables were turned and it was the redheads who were sacrificed, which, let’s face it, is hardly a good start, but does leave room for improvement. The Ancient Greeks didn’t quite consider it a death sentence, but Aristotle considered them to be “emotionally un-house broken“.

via Stephen McGinty: Redheads should not be ridiculed – but instead revered | Scotsman.com News.