Holy Anachronism Batman!

This must have been zombie Thucydides:

In some animals, however, there seems to be a genuine ability to sense the changes that occur before earthquakes.Perhaps the first person to record this was the Greek historian Thucydides, in 373 B.C. Days before a massive earthquake hit the city of Helice, he says all manner of animals streamed out. Dogs, rats and weasels, they ran for the hills. Snakes sensed the coming catastrophe too, and they slithered for the highlands.

via Italian toads fuel case for animals’ seismic sense | The Japan Times Online.

Caryatid (hair)Stylings

From a press release:

A DVD is now available that documents the Caryatid Hairstyling Project, directed by Dr. Katherine Schwab, associate professor of art history at Fairfield University, to show if the elaborate female coiffures seen among the Erechtheion marble Caryatids, or maidens, at the Acropolis Museum in Athens could actually be replicated on women today. The 15-minute, fast-paced DVD follows six female students as their long hair is twisted and curled in intricate patterns ( which in real time took hours ) and records their reactions as they are transformed in appearance from modern 21st century women to elegant young women of ancient Greece. Produced by Christopher McGloin and Daniel Kole of the Media Center, with music arranged by Dr. Laura Nash, Program Director of Music, the DVD was funded by a grant from the University’s Faculty Research Committee and the Classical Studies Program. A webpage about the project includes a clip and online purchase of the DVD at http://www.fairfield.edu/caryatid.

Dr. Schwab, who has a long-standing association with the Acropolis Museum, frequently travels to Athens to pursue her research on the Parthenon east and north metopes. After seeing photographs of the Caryatids in an exhibition, The Creative Photograph in Archaeology, organized by the Benaki Museum and hosted by Fairfield University, Dr. Schwab became increasingly curious about the beautifully carved hair of the Caryatids. The result of her investigations is this project and DVD. Crucial to her research on the Caryatid hairstyles, she said, were the important photographs by Goesta Hellner in the archives of the German Archaeological Institute at Athens and the Alison Frantz Photographic Collection at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens ( ASCSA ). Dr. Natalia Vogeikoff-Brogan, Head Archivist at the ASCSA, remarked that the “archaeologist Alison Frantz ( 1903-1995 ) served as the staff photographer of the Athenian Agora Excavations from 1933 to 1968. Her valuable collection of about 3,000 black and white negatives ( 4×5 inches ) has been used to illustrate several famous publications on ancient Greek art.”

Student participants, who consisted of five art history majors and one psychology major, were selected for the project on the basis of the length and thickness of their hair. The hairstylist Milexy Torres, who was able to accurately recapture the intricate twists and braids of the caryatids on the models, concluded that the Athenian coiffures were true to life.

The students participated out of curiosity, but some said they felt particularly enthralled by ancient Athenian culture by the time the project was completed. Sophomore art history major Amber Nowak, who served as one of the student models, said the project helped her feel surprisingly connected. “It no longer seemed like some point in ancient history,” she said. Junior art history major and student model Caitlin Parker observed, “above all, participating in the Caryatid Hairstyling Project reinforced how fortunate, expansive and really unlimited the discipline of Art History is.”

Dr. Schwab has sent copies of the DVD to colleagues at the new Acropolis Museum, where five of the original caryatids are displayed, and the Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities at the British Museum, where the sixth caryatid resides. At Fairfield University it will be used in art history and classical studies classes, and it can be shown to visiting school groups in the smart classroom adjacent to the Bellarmine Museum, due to open later this year.

Last summer Dr. Schwab was in Athens for the opening of the new Acropolis Museum where twenty-six digital scans of her original research drawings of the Parthenon east and north metopes became part of the permanent installation in the Parthenon Gallery.

via Documentary now available of ancient Caryatid hairstyles being brought to life.

In case the link up there doesn’t go through:

Art History – The Caryatid Hairstyling Project

Here’s an example of one of the hairstyles:

The ‘Bronze Men’ of Caria

I forgot to mention this one last week … a nice article from al-Ahram:

When Herodotus toured the known world during the fifth century BC to compile his international history, he did not forget his hometown Caria, now Bodrum in Turkey.

Caria (the name means “the steep country”) stood in the western part of Anatolia, whose coast, according to the ancient world map, stretched from mid-Ionia to Lycia and east to Phrygia. Mountains and valleys were the main features of the country’s scenery, and it was poor in agriculture in comparison with its counterparts at the time: Egypt and Babylonia. Its hilltops were fortified, while villages were scattered in valleys and it was hard to find a city of any size. There was thus little similarity between the inhabitants, the Carians, as each village had its own version of the Phoenician alphabet, its own customs and tradition. The only thing in common among all Carians was their religion. One of the ritual centres was Mylasa, where their supreme deity the Carian Zeus. They also had other deities such as Hecate, the goddess responsible for, among other things, magic and road crossings.

The first mention in history of Caria and its inhabitants was in the cuneiform texts of the Old Assyrian and Hittite Empires, who called the area Karkissa. History forgot about it for almost four centuries until the second citation by the legendary Greek poet Homer in his catalogue of ships.

The Carian language belonged to the Hittite- Luwian subfamily of Indo-European languages, and was related to Lycian and Lydian. Those who lived in the west of the country spoke a language closer to Greek.

According to Herodotus the inhabitants of Miletus spoke Greek with a Carian accent, which implies that during the dark ages, between about 1200 and 800 BC, the Greeks settled on the coast of Caria. Herodotus himself was a good example of the close ties between the Carians and Greeks: his father is called Lyxes, which is the Greek rendition of a good Carian name, Lukhsu.

Because of the hard and poor nature of Caria’s land, Carians, like many other mountain people at the time, hired themselves out as mercenaries and military specialists. According to Herodotus, the Greeks were indebted to the Carians for three military inventions: making shields with handles; putting devices on shields; and fitting crests on helmets. Because of this last invention, the Persians called the Carians “cocks”.

What, however, was the relationship between the Carians and the Egyptians? And how did they help Egypt?

Turkish archaeologist Canan Kèçèkeren, who has devoted herself to following the tracks of the Carians, the original inhabitants of her hometown of Bodrum, says that the Carians were working for the Egyptian army mainly during the 26th Dynasty and were known the most loyal of soldiers to the Pharaohs. Ancient Egyptian sources described them as “the bronze men who came from the sea”.

Kèçèkeren told Al-Ahram Weekly that they were living in Egypt between the eighth and fourth centuries BC and evidently felt at home there, as they settled first in the eastern Delta northeast of Bubastis before spreading to other parts of the Nile Valley.

“My project is to follow up their footsteps along the Nile and document in detail the remains of their cultural heritage,” Kèçèkeren says, adding that: “I am sure that if I have a chance of realising my project in a good way, this will establish a cultural bridge between Caria’s capital Bodrum and Egypt with the help of archaeology.”

From Herodotus, who was also a Carian citizen, we learn that Carians made their appearance as mercenaries in Egypt in the seventh century BC when they teamed up with Ionians to help Psammetik I assume power as founder of the 26th (Saite) Dynasty.

Kèçèkeren relates that Psammetik I visited an oracle where he was told that one day the “bronze men” would come from the sea and would help him. This vision became true and the Carians, who were pirates and wore metal suits of armour, came from the sea, and he opened his heart to them and took them into his army and reunited Egypt, which at that time was divided into 12 parts. Later Pharaoh Amasis, one of Psammetik’s descendants, recruited his bodyguard from among the Carians, whom he resettled in Memphis; one of this city’s quarters bore the name Caricon, while its inhabitants were called Caromemphites.

Several texts written in the Carian language have survived and been found in the Memphite cemetery near modern Saqqara, where Caromemphites were buried. Carians were also attached to the campaign of Psammetik II, and Carian soldiers who immortalized their names at Abu Simbel Temple participated in the invasion of Nubia.

When the Persian king Cambyses invaded Egypt in 525 BC, the Carian contingents were still there, serving Psammetik II. According to Herodotus, they sacrificed children before they went into battle against the invaders. They managed to switch sides, however. (They were not the only ones: even the commander of the Egyptian navy, Wedjahor-Resne, deserted his king.) In Egyptian sources from the Persian age we still find Carians, now serving a new lord. One of the latest examples is an Aramaic papyrus from a date equivalent to 12 January, 411 BC. Seven years later the Egyptians became independent again; this time, the Carians were unable to switch sides, and it appears that the collaborators were found out and dismissed.

Kèçèkeren told the Weekly that the largest number of inscriptions in the Carian language was in the form of graffiti written by mercenaries on rocks, temples and tombs, mostly in Egypt and Sudan. More than 300 inscriptions in Carian have been found, with about 200 of them located in Egypt, namely in Memphis, Sais, Buto, north Saqqara, Luxor, Elephantine Island, Abu Simbel, Silsilis, Buhen, Gebel Al-Sheikh Suleiman and Khartoum.

“It is interesting that more were found abroad than in their homeland,” Kèçèkeren says. “My aim is to visit these settlements for documentation and photographs [of the inscriptions]. I have already visited some of the towns or places like Luxor, Edfu, Kom Ombo, Tel Aswan and Abu Simbel, and I have found some graffiti written in the Carian language on the knee of Pharaoh Ramses II’s colossus at Abu Simbel Temple.'” She explained that the Tomb of Maussolus, which gave rise to the word “mausoleum”, was the best known of Carian buildings and one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Sadly, it no longer exists.

Her purpose is to contribute to a study that will add new dimensions and promote the Carian civilisation, as well as ensuring the Carians’ place on the upper level in culture. “I also hopes that this will establish a cultural bridge and a platform between the Carian capital, Bodrum, and Egypt with the help of archaeology, as they share the same Mediterranean Sea and have a long, shared and friendly past,” she said.

Kèçèkeren has been greatly encouraged by her friends and colleagues in Egypt. “They have supported my project and helped me in every way,” she said.

via In the footsteps of the Bronze Men | Al-Ahram.

Kolb v Lombardo (sort of) on the Historicity of the Trojan War

Though Hollywood may lead us to believe that the only real question behind Troy is whether Brad Pitt or Orlando Bloom looks better in fighting gear (or without it), a greater controversy has been brewing among historians and archaeologists for the past century.

Scholars have yet to reach a consensus about the historicity of Homer’s Troy, offering various theories on the location of the city and the Trojan War. During Thursday’s lecture at the Michael C. Carlos Museum, Professor Frank Kolb of Germany’s University of Tübingen discussed the truth of claims made about the location of Troy. His lecture was followed by a reading by University of Kansas Professor Stanley Lombardo from his translation of the Iliad, Homer’s timeless account of the Trojan War and its mythic heroes.

Kolb has been involved in a dispute in past years with another Tübingen professor, Manfred Korfmann, who led Troy-related excavations in Turkey from 1988 until his death in 2005. While the subject is unlikely to become the topic of heated debate on The Daily Show, it is nonetheless a divisive issue within the scholarly community. The controversy involves what Kolb believes is Korfmann’s misrepresentation of findings concerning archeological evidence for the existence of Troy. His concern stems not from jealousy, Kolb claims — he was the one who recommended Korfmann as the leader of the Troy investigations — but from a desire to separate fact from fiction.

The two men’s dispute is centered on the ruins at Hisarlik, an archeological site in northwestern Turkey. With a touch of dry humor, Kolb enumerated the many examples of the Turkish government’s attempts to claim the Trojans as their own descendants. According to this dogma, “Homer and Troy are Turkish.” Kolb believes it therefore comes as no surprise that Korfmann, who obtained his excavation license for Hisarlik from the Turkish government, faced no criticism for his Hisarlik-Troy findings.

Kolb guided the audience through the layers of the Hisarlik ruins, parts of which date anywhere from the Bronze Age to the first century B.C. He questioned the veracity of one of Korfmann’s claims that a ditch surrounding part of the ruins served as a defensive measure against attackers. As Kolb pointed out, the ditch is only a few feet deep. At best, the ditch was perhaps a water channel or irrigation device.

“Show me the enemy who might be stopped by a ditch of this size,” said Kolb sarcastically, pointing at the picture of the structure on the screen.

He also refuted Korfmann’s theory that Hisarlik, which he renamed Troaie to match his findings, served as a major trading center in the area. With no archaeological evidence to back such a claim, Kolb regards the theory as having “no more credibility than the Trojan horse.”

Kolb believes that the “city called Troiae never existed.” Rather, a study of the word Ilios — the ancient Greek name for Troy — reveals Greek, not Trojan, connotations. According to Kolb, Homer’s Trojan War may in fact have been a compilation of conflicts that occurred in northern Greece, where those peoples known as the Ilians resided. The Ilians then may have altered the details of their stories once they expanded into Asia Minor.

If we want to experience Troy the myth rather than Troy the reality, Kolb says, we “should undertake a voyage into the text,” providing a good transition from his lecture to Lombardo’s reading from the Iliad.

Lombardo reads with a classic audio-book voice that is both clear and unforced. He is not the high school English teacher who reads all dramatic verse with the same contrived whisper, the kind of voice one saves for deathbeds and funerals. He is Stanley Lombardo, translator of epics, and he speaks with the voice of a true poet.

Lombardo accompanied his reading with his usual instrument of choice, a small drum. He sped up or slowed down his playing to match the tone of certain passages, creating a steady sense of urgency throughout the reading.

With the combination of Lombardo’s reading ability and musical accompaniment, one does not have to overexert the imagination to see him as a classic muse. However, Lombardo has made something so ancient as the Iliad more accessible to the populace by using conversational English in his translations. In this way, everyone can share in the experience of poetic recitation, which is at its core a means of reaching all through storytelling.

Kolb and Lombardo provided two very different takes on the story of Troy. Kolb’s lecture served as evidence of the difficulty of deconstructing myth in the present day, while Lombardo’s reading embraced the myth itself.

Perhaps Kolb is correct. Perhaps Homer’s Troy never existed, and was merely an amalgam of stories. But maybe one can forget this uncertainty every now and again and simply indulge in the myth.

via Homer’s Troy: Fact, Fiction or Both? | The Emory Wheel.

Odyssey Adaptation

I mentioned this one on Twitter the other day, but we should probably give it fuller treatment … I suspect we’ll be following this one in the future … the incipit of an item at Total Film:

Even though he’s already got a ballooning list of projects attached to his reputable name, director Barry Sorrenfeld is apparently set to sign on to helm animated film Pig Scrolls.

Men In Black 3, Swift and The How-To Guide For Saving The World are all flicks currently squabbling for his attention.

But it seems that DreamWorks Animation are keen to recruit Sonnenfeld for Pig Scrolls, adapted from a novel by Paul Shipton. It’s a porcine version of the swords and sandals epics that are currently en vogue in Hollywood.

The ever-dependable Pajiba report that Sonnenfeld is developing Pig Scrolls as a possible directing project, with Clash Of The Titans and Kung Fu Panda name-checked as influences.

Shipton’s novel follows Gryllus, a member of Odysseus’ crew who is transformed into a pig by Circe (part of the original Greek myth). But as Odysseus escapes, Gryllus goes on to have his own adventure, which naturally involves giant monsters and gorgeous teen prophet Sybil.

via Film news Sonnenfeld to direct Pig Scrolls | TotalFilm.com.

According to the somewhat poorly-written Wikipedia article on the Pig Scrolls, Paul Shipton has an MA in Classics. For those teachers out there, here’s something a LIS grad student put together for folks wanting to use it in the classroom (.pdf).

Interesting Byzantine Burial from Kaukana (Sicily)

A bit out of the period of our purview, but very interesting:

UBC archaeologists have made several important new discoveries since unearthing in 2008 a tomb at Kaukana, an ancient Roman and Byzantine village on the south coast of Sicily.

Professor Roger Wilson, Head of Classical, Near Eastern and Religious Studies at UBC, returned to the site in 2009 to direct his students in the successful excavation of a house in this settlement, where a substantial tomb was discovered unexpectedly inside one room. Normally burials are found at this period in the village cemetery on the outskirts, or else around the village church, so the location of the tomb is a puzzle. Inside they had found two skeletons – one of a woman aged about 25, and the other that of a young child.

DNA testing in 2009/10 has now confirmed that the woman and child belong to the same family, and the child has been identified, also through her DNA, as a little girl, about four years old: they were clearly mother and daughter. From the way in which her bones were arranged, it is clear the child was placed in the tomb sometime after the mother had been buried. But the discoveries have now got even more interesting. The mother is now known to have been approximately 30 weeks pregnant (some bones of her foetus survived), and periodic feasting occurred at her graveside: not only were dining plates, amphorae for wine and oil, and cooking pots found alongside the tomb, but also ovens where the food they ate was cooked. Preliminary analysis of carbonized seeds shows that one meal consisted of wheat, barley, millet, peas, eggs and lentils. There was even a bench provided for the diners, and a low table. One of the amphorae had brought wine all the way from Egypt, and a clay lamp of about 550 CE, imported from Tunisia, is thought to show the earliest depiction of a backgammon board ever found. It is known that this game (a descendant of earlier Roman games) was being played by Roman emperors in the fifth century CE. Clearly the woman, whose tomb had a hole in the lid to take libations of wine, was a much-loved person, given the attention paid to her burial and the evidence of ritual feasting in her honour. The team now also knows, from the discovery of an inscription in 2009, that she was definitely a Christian, since a tomb slab was inscribed ‘holy, holy, holy’, an allusion to part of the early Christian liturgy.

But why was she so honoured, and why here inside a home within the settlement, and not at the cemetery or church? One discovery of 2009 was that she possessed a tiny hole in her skull, a natural defect which she had had from birth, with the result that the lining of the brain, the meninges, would have protruded from it. The condition, known as meningocoele, would have given her constant headaches and a tendency to suffer from periodic seizures. Perhaps her miraculous powers of recovery on such occasions, apparently coming back from the ‘dead’, meant that she was seen by some as a holy woman, possibly one possessing special mystical powers. Perhaps she was rejected by her local church as being too scary, given her disabilities – one revered by some but feared by others. Or did she belong to a different, non-catholic Christian sect? The cause of her death is unknown, but it might have been due to complications which arose during her pregnancy. Even if questions surrounding this discovery abound, one thing is certain. The woman remained as remarkable in death as she was once in life.

Professor Wilson and his team, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, will return to Kaukana this summer in an attempt to solve some of the riddles and make other discoveries in the house where the tomb was found. Meanwhile lab work in the new facilities of UBC’s Laboratory of Archaeology at the Museum of Anthropology will continue to find out more about the woman and her condition. Late Roman and early Byzantine life in Italy holds a fascination not only for Italians but for historians, archaeologists and scientists worldwide.

“Archaeology is about the painstaking recording of objects and structures, yes,” said Wilson, “but above all it is about people. At Kaukana we have been fortunate to recover part of the particularly poignant life-story of one young woman, and of her little daughter, who lived and died some 1400 years ago”.

via University of British Columbia Faculty of Arts websiteNews .

John Hale Talk on the Delphic Oracle

In ancient times, the sacred oracle of Delphi was so influential that famous men from Alexander the Great and Roman emperors consulted the shrine in central Greece before making decisions. On April 16, a modern archaeologist will offer new insights into the mystery surrounding the oracle during a presentation at the Toledo Museum of Art.

John R. Hale, director of liberal studies at the University of Louisville, will discuss recent research confirming ancient descriptions of the sacred oracle of Delphi. His talk, titled “The Delphic Oracle: Modern Science Examines an Ancient Mystery,” will be presented at 7:30 p.m. in the Museum’s Little Theater. The free presentation is co-sponsored by the Archaeological Institute of America-Toledo Society and the Museum.

Ancient Greek and Roman authors describe the sacred site at Delphi as containing unusual geological features and phenomena: a fissure in the rock, emission of sweet-smelling vapor and a sacred spring. The Pythia—the priestess who pronounced the oracles—sat above the fissure where she could inhale the vapor, thus triggering a trance in which she became the medium for the prophecies of the god Apollo.

Most 20th century scholars were skeptical of the ancient traditions. Then, in 1995, an interdisciplinary team began studying not only the archaeology of Delphi, but also related evidence from geology, chemistry and toxicology research. Hale and others on the team were able to validate the ancient sources. The team has gone on to study Greek oracle sites elsewhere in the Aegean and Asia and has found similar geological features.

Hale has been involved in archaeological fieldwork for more than three decades. In addition to studies of ancient oracle sites in Greece and Turkey, he has looked under the sea for lost fleets from the time of the Persian Wars in Greek waters. He has a bachelor’s degree from Yale University and a doctorate from the University of Cambridge in England. His writings have been published in the journal Antiquity, The Classical Bulletin, the Journal of Roman Archaeology and Scientific American.

After the lecture, copies of the new trade paperback edition of Hale’s book, “Lords of the Sea: The Epic Story of the Athenian Navy and the Birth of Democracy,” will be available for purchase and autograph.

via Museum lecture examines The Delphic Oracle | The Press.

… which reminded me … I haven’t consulted the Oracle via the Winged Sandals site lately. Last time I asked whether rogueclassicism would take over the blogosphere, I was told “Blessed is Corinth, but I would rather come from Tenea” . This time, after performing the goat ritual and paying the entry fee, I received the somewhat more vague response that “a crow will show you the answer”. Plenty of room for interpretation here … standard ‘bad omen’ … possible reference to my mother (my father affectionately called her the ‘old crow’) … possible reference to Gladiator (i.e. Russell Crowe) … then there’s the crow in the movie of the same name …

Catching up with @Classics@

Some first drafts posted over the past few months:

Sean Signore, “Andromache as Maenadic Warrior,” April 5, 2010.

Claire Jacqmin, “Woman between the Tyrant and the Polis: the Role of Women in Tyrannical Regimes,” (Woman between the Tyrant and the Polis), April 5, 2010

Sarah Lannom, “Isthmian 8: Binding, Exchange, and Politics,” March 22, 2010.

Sergios Paschalis, “The Dioscuri in Pindar’s Nemean 10, Theocritus’ Idyll 22 and Ovid’s Fasti 5.693-720: Cattle, Brides, and Strife,” (The Dioscuri in Pindar’s Nemean 10) February 18, 2010.

Guy Smoot, “A Commentary on Pindar’s Olympian Ode II,” February 17, 2010.

Dan Bertoni, “Τύχη in Pindar,” February 4, 2010.

Emrys Bell-Schlatter, “Pythian 1: A Brief Commentary,” January 27, 2010.

Daniele Iozzia, “Ragioni e fortuna della metafora dello scolpire
in Plotino, Enn. I 6 (1) 9, 6-15,” January 6, 2010.

via First Drafts @Classics@ | The Center for Hellenic Studies.

Indian Artifacts from Berenike?

Interesting item from Frontline:

One way to understand the implications of the archaeological discoveries at Pattanam is to delve into the amazing wealth of data from the excavations at the lost Ptolemic-Roman port city of Berenike, on Egypt’s Red Sea coast. During the Ptolemic-Roman period (third century B.C. to sixth century A.D), Berenike served as a key transit port between ancient Egypt and Rome on one side and the Red Sea-Indian Ocean regions, including South Arabia, East Africa, India and Sri Lanka, on the other.

This ancient port city was well-connected by roads from the Nile that passed through the Eastern Desert of Egypt and also by sea routes from the Indian Ocean regions. Cargoes unloaded at Berenike and other Egyptian Red Sea ports (such as Myos Hormos, now lost) used to be taken along the desert roads to the Nile and from there through the river to the Mediterranean Sea and across, to the Roman trade centres.

Exotic goods from Rome and Egypt flowed into Berenike along the same desert road before being loaded into large ships bound for the Indian Ocean.

By the end of the second century B.C., the Egyptians and the Romans finally learnt the skill of sailing with the monsoon winds across the Indian Ocean (“from the Arabs and other Easterners”). Voyages from Berenike for the riches of the Malabar coast therefore became “faster, cheaper, but not less dangerous”.

According to most accounts, one of the major centres in India that ships from Berenike travelled to, along with the monsoon winds, was the emporium of Muziris, on the Malabar coast.

However, as the silting of the harbour, among other uncertain reasons, caused Berenike’s eventual abandonment before the middle of the sixth century A.D., Muziris, too, disappeared mysteriously from the itinerary of the later voyagers to the Malabar coast. For a long time since then, both these centres remained forgotten.

But while archaeological evidence about Muziris or the Indian Ocean trade remained elusive in the Malabar coast, it was Berenike that eventually offered invaluable proof of its links with the Yavanas.

In wide-ranging and ongoing excavations at Berenike launched from 1994 (and at many other places on the Eastern Desert), a team of dedicated archaeologists from the University of Delaware (United States) led by Prof. Steven E. Sidebotham, along with partners from several other institutions, has documented evidence of the cargo from the Malabar coast and people from South India being at the last outpost of the Roman Empire and of Indians on the Berenike-Nile road.

Among the unexpected discoveries at Berenike were a range of ancient Indian goods, including the largest single concentration (7.55 kg) of black peppercorns ever recovered in the classical Mediterranean world (“imported from southern India” and found inside a large vessel made of Nile silt in a temple courtyard); substantial quantities of Indian-made fine ware and kitchen cooking ware and Indian style pottery; Indian-made sail cloth, basketry, matting, etc. from trash dumps; a large quantity of teak wood, black pepper, coconuts, beads made of precious and semi-precious stones, cameo blanks; “a Tamil Brahmi graffito mentioning Korra, a South Indian chieftain”; evidence that “inhabitants from Tamil South India (which then included most of Kerala) were living in Berenike, at least in the early Roman period”; evidence that the Tamil population implied the probable presence of Buddhist worshippers; evidence of Indians at another Roman port 300 km north of Berenike; Indian-made ceramics on the Nile road; a rock inscription mentioning an Indian passing through en route; “abundant evidence for the use of ships built and rigged in India”; and proof “that teak wood (endemic to South India), found in buildings in Berenike, had clearly been reused”(from dismantled ships).

via South Indians in Roman Egypt? | Frontline.

The same magazine has a sort of ‘state of the finds’ article: Muziris, at last?

There was also a (annoyingly vague) report last week about Muziris in the Hindu:

… which mentioned the Roman connection, but only in passing (I’m not sure what date or origin many of the finds mentioned in that article would be).

Some of our previous coverage on Muziris:

Adrian Murdoch also covered the Muziris thing:

Unpublished Archaeological Data

The conclusion of an interesting piece in Nature about the flood of archaeological data found by commercial excavators which never seems to get ‘published’ in the academic sense of the word … fyi:

Michael Fulford, one of Bradley’s colleagues at the University of Reading, has been piloting a study of the grey literature about Roman Britain, with similarly exciting results. “We’ve almost found ‘another Roman Britain’,” he says, “one that we would have never seen without developer-funded archaeology.”

Previously British Roman archaeology had tended to be biased towards excavating high-status sites such as villas, as these were what researchers had chosen to investigate. But commercial excavations happen wherever developers are planning to break ground, and so provide a wider sampling of the past.

By embarking on a “massive photocopying campaign”, Fulford assimilated huge amounts of data, representing a massive increase in both the number and type of sites now known. His study revealed the other side of Roman society. The low-status rural settlements showed how indigenous communities coexisted with Roman invaders, by keeping much of their vernacular architecture, but furnishing their homes with Roman manufactured goods. “A lot of the best work is coming out of commercial units now — a lot of the worst is as well, but you can say that about universities, quite frankly,” says Fulford.

He advises PhD students who want to keep their hand in fieldwork that they might be better off working in commercial archaeology because it often involves large projects that are properly funded. “A lot of my contemporaries feel disenfranchised, but then that’s too bad,” says Fulford. “Despite the difficulties, we have to adapt to an archaeological record that is massively expanded and, at its best, of far better quality than has been achieved by academics, who are often very part-time fieldworkers.”

via Archaeology: Hidden treasure | Nature News.

I wonder if similar conditions prevail in other nations within our purview …

New Translation of Philae Victory Stele

I’m a bit late with this one … I first saw this story mentioned at Heritage-Key … here’s the coverage from the Independent:

Scholars translating a Roman victory stele, erected in the Temple of Isis at Philae in Egypt in 29 BC, have discovered the Roman Emperor Octavian Augustus’ name inscribed in a cartouche – an honour normally reserved for an Egyptian pharaoh

Octavian’s forces defeated Cleopatra VII and Mark Antony at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC, and captured Alexandria soon afterwards. Historians believe that although Octavian ruled Egypt after the death of Cleopatra in 30 BC, he was never actually crowned as an Egyptian pharaoh.

The stele was commissioned by Gaius Cornelius Gallus, a Roman soldier and poet who was appointed by Octavian to run Egypt as a province, and who administered Egypt until he was recalled to Rome in 27 BC. The stele celebrates the end of the Ptolemaic kings and the defeat of the “king of the Ethiopians”. It is written in three languages: Egyptian hieroglyphics, Latin and Greek. The stele has been known to scholars for around 100 years, but translation of the hieroglyphic text has been difficult as the inscription is no longer clear. Previous work had suggested that the name of Gaius Cornelius Gallus had been inscribed in the cartouche (an oblong frame).

Historians don’t believe that Octavian Augustus was ever crowned as the Pharaoh of Egypt. However, Professor Martina Minas-Nerpel, who was part of the team translating the stele, said that the inscription clearly indicated that Octavian Augustus was treated as a pharaoh by the Egyptians.

“The name of Octavian is written in a cartouche – he’s treated as any other Egyptian king,” she said.

Professor Minas-Nerpel believes that Egyptian priests had insisted on this honour, and that it was in Octavian’s interests to comply.

“(The priests) had to have an acting pharaoh, and the only acting pharaoh (possible) under Octavian was Octavian,” said Minas-Nerpel. “The priests needed to see him as a pharaoh otherwise their understanding of the world would have collapsed.”

For Octavian, pleasing the priests would have been vital in keeping the province in order.

“He needed to have a calm province and the key element to keeping the province calm were the priests – they were key to the population,” said Minas-Nerpel.

This stele would not be the only example of the names of Roman rulers being written in a cartouche. Similar instances dating up to the 3rd Century AD have also been discovered. Professor even Minas-Nerpel cites another example of Octavian’s name being written in a cartouche. His name is found on a gateway dating to 30 BC, on the island of Kalabsha in Southern Egypt.

via Stele names Roman Emperor Octavian Augustus as Egyptian Pharaoh | The Independent.

The tome which resulted from Dr. Minas-Nerpel’s study is partially available at Google Books:Friedhelm Hoffmann, Martina Minas-Nerpel, Stefan Pfeiffer, The Trilingual Stela of C. Cornelius Gallus from Philae. Translation, Commentary, and Analysis in Its Historical Context.
(Volume 9 of Archiv für Papyrusforschung und verwandte Gebiete)

Work on Kemble Mosaic Resumes

I don’t think we covered the original discovery of this one (Adrian Murdoch did):

ARCHAEOLOGICAL work to determine the full extent of a massive Roman mosaic uncovered in a Cotswold field will resume shortly.

Metal detector enthusiasts Paul Ballinger and John Carter uncovered a section of the ancient mosaic in January last year in a field near Kemble.

It is believed to date back to the 4th Century and could be up to 40-foot in diameter which would make it the biggest Roman mosaic in north west Europe.

from the Standard

Archaeologists from Gloucestershire County Council say they will be performing further testing on the site, which is an agricultural field, throughout the summer with the permission of the landowner.

GCC county archaeologist Jan Wills told the Standard they would be using advanced surveying techniques to measure the electrical resistance and magnetic fields of the land.

“Soil affected by human occupancy will have higher magnetic values than regular soil,” she said.

“There’s some building debris over it so it’s not going to be possible to identify the extent of the mosaic using just these techniques.”

English Heritage may designate the site as Scheduled Monument once the full extent of the mosaic and buildings are determined.

Mrs Wills added: “From what we know it’s an important site and we have to tread carefully.”

via Archeological survey to resume on massive Roman mosaic in Kemble | Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard.

‘Forgotten’ Mithras Site ‘Reopens’

I wonder how many other sites are in similar circumstances …

An ancient sanctuary of the Roman god Mithras, located in the Rodopi Mountains border region between Greece and Bulgaria, was shown for the first time since its discovery in 1915.

The archaeological site is located 6 kilometres into Greece from the Greek-Bulgarian border, near the Greek town of Thermes. Discovered in 1915 by Bulgarian archaeologist Bogdan Filov, no archaeological research of the site was carried out since and knowledge of it was based only on his writings. Archaeologists suspect that at the foot of the rock complex, there is a large temple dating to Late Antiquity, but excavations will have to confirm this.

The Iron Curtain made it unthinkable for Bulgarian archaeologists to access the site, while their Greek counterparts showed no interest in it, so it was left forgotten for decades.

After the recent opening of the new border control point between Greece and Bulgaria and the road between the Bulgarian town of Zlatograd and the Greek Thermes, the rock sanctuary became accessible to visitors.

Being located in the forest near Thermes, the site until a month ago was concealed by trees and bushes. But then, according to Bulgarian media, enthusiasts from Zlatograd had local Greeks clean up the terrain, making Mithras’s bas-relief and the holy water spring visible and the site accessible.

Until the fourth century, Mithras was the most venerated god in the Roman Empire, archaeologists explained, before he was replaced by Christianity as the official religion. The bas-relief at the site, like all other images of Mithras in his temples, shows the god offering a bull as a sacrifice.

“This is the only sanctuary of Mithras, known thus far to exist in the Rodopi Mountains. Considering the fact that [what is apparent] is a veneration of the rock, we can see that the complex is a rock complex, and we can only connect the cult of Mithras, which dates to the third and fourth centuries, to earlier cults of the Thracians to the rocks,” Bulgarian archaeologist Professor Nikolay Ovcharov told media when the complex was presented.

“We hardly know anything about this region south of the border,” Professor Ovcharov said. “This area needs to be jointly researched together with Greek archaeologists,” he added.

In addition to joint excavations, the Mithras sanctuary will be included in a joint tourist route between the two countries.

The god Mithras, who became popular among the military in the Roman Empire from the first to the fourth centuries, was the center of a mystery religion known as the Mithraic Mysteries, information on which is based on surviving monuments. Besides showing Mithras as being born from a rock and sacrificing a bull, little else is known for certain.

via Greece and Bulgaria: Archaeologists Excavate Previously Inaccessible Site in Border Region | Balkan Travellers.

Paul Christesen on Matters Gymnasial

Greek society was not much more accepting of public nudity than modern societies are today, Paul Christesen said.

The Dartmouth College classics associate professor said this may come as a surprise because of the numerous depictions of nudes in Greek art and the ancient Greek practice of participating nude in sports competitions.

But in his lecture “Competition, Violence and Nudity: Sport in Ancient Greek Society,” Christesen explained why nudity in sports competition was the exception that proved the rule. The lecture was presented Monday by the History Honor Society and the Barksdale Lecture Series in collaboration with the Classics Club and the Honors College.

He said the practice of exercising and competing in the nude was one method of keeping working-class men, who because of democracy could not be excluded by law, from competing with upperclassmen. Instead of bullying the working-class men, the upper-class men chose to embarrass them.

The upperclassmen were able to devote more time to their private training in the gymnasiums, where they were free to be nude outside without fear of public display thanks to high enclosure walls. By being able to exercise nude in the sun, they were able to tan evenly, unlike the working-class men, who had what is commonly called farmer’s tans.

This uneven tanning was a point of deep embarrassment for the working-class men, who were referred to by the upperclassmen as “white-rumps.”

Alumnus Jim Perry said he enjoyed the topic.

“The premise was interesting and the evidence given was well supported,” he said. “It was interesting that even the Greeks thought farmer’s tans were funny.”

Christesen said before the earliest stages of democracy, the city-states of Greece were run by aristocratic families, and people not born into these bloodlines were excluded from politics completely.

History senior Karra O’Connell helped organize the event.

“I think it’s important for people to understand different aspects of history,” she said. “We do a wide range of talks because it’s good for students to have an extra intellectual stimulant.”

Before democracy was instituted, only about 5 percent of men were able to compete in sports. That number rose to between 35 and 40 percent when democracy was introduced. In the political and sports arenas, it became necessary for people to learn to deal with the changes.

“Societies need to find a balance between order, which is insisting that people obey the rules, and autonomy, allowing the people certain freedoms,” Christesen said.

He made the point that sports was and remains a solid means of helping people learn to obey the rules, function in groups, and deal with losing as well as winning. Christesen said all the schools that were cutting their sports programs might unknowingly be contributing to future societal problems.

“It was pertinent that he emphasized the budget cuts on sports right now and how they could effect our society on a greater scale than we think,” nursing senior Erin Santos said.

via Lecture focuses on reasoning behind nudity in ancient Greek sports | The Shorthorn.

Carandini Concerned for Hadrian’s Villa

In the wake of the collapse at the Domus Aurea a week or so ago, Andrea Carandini has voiced his concerns that something similar/worse lies in store for Hadrian’s Villa … here’s the incipit of a piece at Il Messaggero:

«Temo che quello che è accaduto martedì alla Domus Aurea possa capitare anche a Villa Adriana». Sono le parole di Andrea Carandini, presidente del Consiglio superiore dei Beni Culturali, dopo il crollo che ha interessato ieri parte del soffitto dell’edificio. «A Villa Adriana per non arrivare al disastro – ha detto Carandini – sarebbe fondamentale operare un monitoraggio continuo, ma l’idea prevalente è che se cade un muro lo si può sempre ricostruire. Invece quella struttura, con il crollo, non ci sarà più e sarà sostituita solo da un surrogato. Anche Villa Adriana rientra nell’allarme già lanciato. Dopo l’attenzione generata dal crollo alla Domus Aurea, bisogna evitare il ritorno alla sonnolenza. La prevenzione non è entrata bene nel nostro modo di pensare ma è una strada che costa meno dei restauri».

The article goes on to mention one of the folks in charge of safety at the Domus Aurea suggesting it will take more than a year and a half to restore the collapsed portion and make it safe again. There is also some criticism (by  (former minister of culture?)  Giovanna Melandri) of budgetary cuts to archaeological protection of close to 15% compared to last year. In contrast, another voice praises the minister Bondi for his willingness to listen to and cooperate with archaeologists. I still can’t figure out heritage issues in Italy …

via Crollo Domus Aurea, Carandini: «Si teme anche per Villa Adriana» – Il Messaggero.

Helping to save Italy’s Archaeological Heritage

Seen on various lists and Facebook groups (please send any responses to the folks mentioned in the quoted text, not to rogueclassicism!):

Dear List Members,

I’m writing as the Vice-President of Professional Responsibilities for
the Archaeological Institute of America and asking you to join me in
protecting Italy’s archaeological heritage. As most on this list will
know, looting continues to threaten Italian sites and you can help
ensure that the United States has effective tools to stop the import
of undocumented Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities from that

On May 6th the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) of the US
State Dept. will review the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between
the US and Italy that governs the trade in antiquities between the two
countries. The committee has asked for public comments, with a
deadline of April 22nd. Your input is extremely important in this

For those already inclined to write, attachments can be sent to
culprop AT state.gov . The AIA has set up a web page at:

http://www.archaeological.org/cpac .

This page has templates with the e-mail address as well as a fax
number. There is also further information for those who want to know
more about CPAC and the MoU process.

It is extremely important that members of the public, educators and
students write letters in support of this agreement. Looting in Italy
remains a pervasive problem and a one page letter from you will help
ensure that the MoU is extended, which is not a certain outcome.

While many US museums have recently adopted more reasonable
acquisition policies, those of us interested in preserving
archaeological resources for both public enjoyment and for research
face a well-funded opposition with clear commercial interests in the
matter and with paid legal representation. Letters to CPAC make a huge
difference in offsetting the misunderstandings they push.

With many thanks for your time,

Sebastian Heath, Ph.D.
Vice-President for Professional Responsibilities,
Archaeological Institute of America.

p.s. When you write, do *not* send your letter by regular mail.
Security procedures mean that it will not get to CPAC by the 22nd.

Hollywood and the Classics Redux

A very good piece from the BBC … with the usual observation on the effect of movies on Classics enrollment in universities.  And yet, we hear Classics is in a state of semi-crisis in the UK … How does that compute?

Fifty years ago, the story of Clash of the Titans – now a 3D movie starring Avatar’s Sam Worthington – would have been familiar to many school pupils.

Classics – the study of the languages, society and history of ancient Greece and Rome – was part of the grammar school curriculum.

Now only a minority of children study this in any depth – but the resurgence of the “sword and sandals” epic on screen has seen a corresponding rise in the number of applicants to study the subject at university.

“It all started with Gladiator 10 years ago,” says Dr Carl Buckland, part of the Classical Studies department at Nottingham University.

“We saw a spike in applications then, and that happened too with Troy and 300. This year we’re expecting another rise.”

There are indeed a slew of these kind of films on release in 2010 – from tales of Greek mythology, like Clash of the Titans and Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, to Roman history in Centurion and Eagle of the Ninth.

For those in search of something slightly more highbrow, Rachel Weisz stars in Agora, the true story of a female Roman philosopher, Hypatia of Alexandria.

“They’re about themes we can all relate to,” says actor Sam Worthington, when asked why 3000-year-old stories were still in vogue.

“I see the story of Perseus in Clash of the Titans as a story about family, a man’s search for connecting with his father (in this case, the god Zeus) and standing against a common enemy.

“That’s why we can still understand these stories, because they’re about things which are still important to us today, but the ancient setting illuminates them a bit better.”

“They’re accounts of events at pivotal moments of history,” explains TV historian Lucy Moore.

“These are often happenings which are as epic and monumental as say, World War II seems to us. And so much of classical history has shaped the society, language and politics of modern life.”

‘Gory stories’

When classical studies are now all but ignored on school timetables, it’s often down to films and video games, to generate interest in the subject.

Some movies, like the Percy Jackson series (based on the best-selling books) are specifically aimed at children, and see Percy battling classical figures like Medusa and Poseidon in downtown New York.

Others are more violent – especially in the gaming world. Popular titles like God of War and Dante’s Inferno, which are rooted in classical literature, have an 18 rating.

Yet according to experts, they may not be too far removed from the truth about war in the ancient world.

“They are obviously going to pick out the most gory stories, the ones that appeal to teenagers, but we have to remember that war in that era was done with swords and spears,” comments Carl Buckland.

“It was very bloody, very slow and very unpleasant. The Romans, as we know, loved to watch gladiators and animals fighting each other. They had a certain enjoyment of violence and we still have that as a society, even if it tends to be just on screen now.”

“These games can take you to the Napoleonic wars, ancient China and feudal Japan,” adds Lucy Moore. “It’s just a different way of learning history these days.”

Hollywood bosses clearly think the genre has the Midas touch – but the story sometimes suffers in the quest for special effects. There are plenty of inaccuracies in Clash of the Titans alone.

Modern metaphor

The monster Perseus battles is known as the Cetus in Greek antiquity; here it’s the Kraken – a Norse beastie who also pops up in Pirates of the Caribbean.

Medusa, the Gorgon who could turn men to stone, did have hair made of serpents – this movie gives her a gigantic tail too. And in mythology, Perseus married a princess, Andromeda. In the movie, he seems keener on Gemma Arterton’s character, Io, a nymph.

“I personally think any kind of access people have to these stories is great,” says Dr Buckland.

“I don’t see any kind of problem in starting off with something fairly simplistic if that sparks their interest.

“It would be great if people could start to understand how remarkably similar the ancient world was to ours today.

“For instance, in 2004’s Troy, the director Wolfgang Peterson set out deliberately to make the story of the Iliad a metaphor for the American war in Iraq in 2003.

“You are hard put to separate the good guys from the bad guys, but you do see the Greeks (the Americans) as more aggressive and the Trojans (the Iraqis) thrust in a situation that’s not of their making.”

Most universities will now accept students with no prior knowledge of ancient Greek or Latin in order to study Classics.

The languages may be all but dead – at least modern entertainment is ensuring these ancient tales live on.

What we need is someone to do an in-depth study of enrollments in Classics courses before and after things like Clash of the Titans and see how much ‘spinoff revenue’ these movies make for universities which offer Classics programs. It would be interesting to also see if there are more folks going into degree programs in the wake of such things …
via BBC News – Hollywood’s love affair with the Classics.