Yewden ‘Brothel’ Followup

Remember that claimed brothel site with the 97 infant burials from the Yewden Villa in Hambleden? Here’s an incredibly interesting followup:

ARCHAEOLOGISTS investigating a mass burial of 97 infants were ‘horrified’ to find what they believe to be the skeleton of a dismembered child.

Chiltern Archaeologists suspect the site in Hambleden could have been a Roman brothel – where unwanted babies were systematically killed.

Dr Jill Eyers, who lives in Lane End, said the group has discovered cut marks on the bones of one of the babies.

She added: “These were knife marks and would represent a dismembering of this infant. We are horrified to say the least and are now about to closely check all other infant skeletons.

“If dismembered this could be signs of a ritual activity at this site. This is turning more sinister by the minute.”

Dr Eyers said ritual activity was not unusual for Roman Britain, citing a ‘head cult’ which was present in St Albans in Hertfordshire.

The group has been carrying out tests on excavation finds from 1912 at the Yewden villa.

An examination of the remains, which were rediscovered in boxes kept at Buckinghamshire County Museum, revealed the babies died at 40 weeks gestation.

A BBC documentary set to air on August 19, called ‘Digging for Britain’, will feature the Hambleden discoveries.

Presenter Alice Roberts was so enthused by the project that she has volunteered to join the Chiltern Archaeology team.

via: Skeleton of ‘dismembered’ child discovered by Chiltern Arcaeologists | Bucks Free Press

It’s unfortunate that we’re not given more details about where these purported cut marks were. It’s worth pointing out in this context that child sacrifice was not unknown in Roman Britain, e.g.:

In a few cases, evidence seems to point towards child sacrifice. At the temple at Springfield, Kent, excavated in the 1960s, foundation sacrifices of paired babies were found at all four corners of the temple. The burials took place at different times, indicating that the practice was repeated as the temple was extended. Similarly, excavations in the 1970s in the centre of Cambridge included a subterranean shrine and ritual shafts, of which no fewer than 12 contained newborn babies in baskets, several of them buried with small dogs. The shafts seem to have been left open for about 200-300 years.

via: Allison Taylor, “Burial with the Romans”, British Archaeology

Clearly this is still a developing story … we’ll see if they still cling to the ‘brothel’ theory …

Hekatomnus’ Tomb Found(?)

I’ve already griped about how my low-bandwidth situation while visiting my mother was incredibly annoying when there was big archaeological news, so by way of praeteritio, I won’t mention it again. Even so, another example of which were reports of a tomb find in Milas, Turkey. The initial English report brought back by my spiders  suggested the tomb of “Hekataios” had been found, and I expressed hesitations about that in the issue of Explorator that went out at the time. That, however, was followed by our friend Dorothy King’s excitement on Twitter about the discovery of the tomb of Hecatomnus, the founder of the Hecatomnid dynasty in Caria. It turned out I was getting a number of news reports on this, but didn’t make the connection as most of them had headlines concentrating on a ‘looted tomb’ being found. Eventually, however, we did manage to see what Dr King was excited about … AP seems to have taken the lead in picking up the story, so here’s the version from The Age:

Turkish police have raided a house used by people suspected of digging illegally for antiquities and discovered two tunnels leading to an underground tomb that housed an ancient marble coffin and frescoes, officials say.

Culture Minister Ertugrul Gunay on Friday described the discovery near the town of Milas, in western Turkey, as an “important archaeological find” and ordered digs in surrounding areas, Haber Turk newspaper reported.

Looting of ancient artifacts is common in Turkey, and the country has imposed heavy penalties to deter illegal digs. But the Milas discovery is the first time in years that authorities have found what could be an important archeological site while chasing looters.

The 2800-year-old carved coffin, decorated with reliefs of a bearded reclining man, probably belonged to Hecatomnus, who ruled over Milas, according to Turkey’s Culture Ministry.

Several treasures that would have been placed in the underground tomb were most likely looted by the treasure hunters and sold in the illegal antiquities trade, the ministry said.

A court has arrested and charged five of 10 people detained in the raid, the state-run Anatolia news agency reported.

Anatolia, which was allowed to enter the tomb, said the suspects had dug two tunnels – six and eight meters long, from the house and an adjacent barn, leading to the tomb that is buried about 10 meters deep.

They used sophisticated equipment to drill through the thick marble walls of the tomb and were working to remove the coffin from the underground chamber when they were detained, according to the Culture Ministry.

“I would have wished that this (archeological find) had been discovered through our digs and not through digs conducted by a band of treasure hunters,” Anatolia quoted Gunay as saying.

“This is not an ordinary treasure hunt. It is very organised and it is obvious that they received economic and scientific help,” Gunay said. Turkey also would investigate the suspects possible overseas links, he said.

The story has been more widely reported (for obvious reasons) in the Turkish Press and Dorothy King’s own series of blogposts are definitely worth reading:

In addition to the foregoing, folks will probably like the photos from Radikal’s slideshow:

… and perhaps more interesting is a 15 minute video from Haberler(with commentary in Turkish, of course, but there really isn’t much of it … definitely read DK’s posts before watching this; be patient … it took forever to load for me); keep your eye open for the segment showing how the looters accessed the tomb … they had some heavy-duty equipment:

In regards to the foregoing, I tried to do a Google translate on the text and I *think* the identification as Hekatomnus is based on inscriptions/graffiti on the walls left by workers? I’m not at all positive about that but it’s a major question which isn’t dealt with in the English coverage.

More coverage:

Nulla dies umquam memori vos eximet aevo redux

A couple of years ago or so I mentioned the Valiants Memorial in Ottawa, which honours a handful of folks in 400 years (still not sure about that number) of Canadian military history. It includes a quotation from the Aeneid: No day shall erase you from the memory of time (Book Nine).

Now, interestingly enough — and lost in all the brouhaha over mosques and the like — it appears the 9/11 Museum will be sporting the same inscription … inter alia:

The final descent runs parallel to the Vesey Street stairs, known as the survivors’ staircase, encased in wooden scaffolding on Tuesday. The 37 steps served as an escape route for people fleeing. It stood for years as the last remaining above-ground remnant of the original complex.

There are also several places where visitors can stand between the remnants of the two towers.

Thousands of unidentified remains of 9/11 victims will be stored in the museum, in an area reserved for the medical examiner’s office; an adjacent room will be set aside for family members. These areas will be off limits to the public.

A quotation from Virgil’s “Aeneid”, “No Day Shall Erase You From the Memory of Time,” will be incised into the wall that separates the private and public spaces.

via: 9/11 Museum Going Up In NYC Offers Raw Experience

This Day in Ancient History: ante diem xiv kalendas septembres

Bust of Emperor Augustus wearing the Corona Ci...

Image via Wikipedia

ante diem xiv kalendas septembres

  • Vinalia — the second major wine festival of this name celebrated by the Romans
  • 43 B.C. — the future emperor Octavian enters his first consulship; Octavian’s adoption by Julius Caesar formally recognized
  • 14 A.D. — Augustus dies at Nola
  • 232 A.D. — birth of the future emperor Probus
  • 304 A.D. — martyrdom of Thecla at Caesarea
  • c. 306 A.D. — martyrdom of Agapius at Caesarea

Wired Gets All Wired Up About a Denarius

I’m sure most of you have seen this — it’s been making the rounds these past couple of days — from Wired:

*This one features the Moon driving her chariot over a housefly.

*I can’t doubt that this made perfect sense at the time. It’s like: you got drunk, and you went to the gladiatorial games, and you watched half a dozen guys get slaughtered. And then you were broke. And hung over. And then you asked your friend, Julius: “Hey. Can you loan me a couple of houseflies? Just to tide me over till payday?”

“No problem, buddy.” Clink. Clink.

… accompanied by a very large photo:

It was also accompanied by a link to the British Museum catalog, whence it presumably came, but, alas, it didn’t work. So for those of you who were wondering, it’s a Denarius dated to 179-170 B.C. … official description:

(obverse) Helmeted head of Roma, right; behind, denominational mark. Border of dots.
(reverse) Luna in biga, right, with horses prancing; below, mark; in exergue, inscription. Line border.

... the ‘fly’ is designated as an inscription. The BM has several examples of this coin (here, here, here, here, etc.)

The fly is curious, but the one I’ve always wondered about is the grasshopper, e.g. on this one from the 90s B.C.:

… or this one from 92 B.C.:

I’ve often wondered whether these little things (which are often beneath the rearing feet of a horse) are some sort of family/national symbol or something, but have never been able to check that out. Does the grasshopper indicate a year when grain was threatened and the threat averted? Was the moneyer’s family rewarded with an agnomen because of it? Was including the grasshopper the fulfillment of some sort of vow?

Nysa Dig Resumes

From Hurriyet:

Archaeologists have begun excavations at the ancient Greek city of Nysa, in western Turkey, where they hope to find new artifacts around the theater, agora and gymnasium.

Professor Vedat İdil, head of the excavation team from Ankara University, said the team, comprised of Turkish, Canadian and American architects, archaeologists and historians, plans to work until October this year.

Nysa is located in the Sultanhisar district of Aydın province, 50 kilometers east of the Ionian city of Ephesus. There are important ruins on the site from the Hellenistic period, the Roman period and the Byzantine era. Much of the open-air Greek theater and its walled entrances are still intact. The library currently has three walls.

There are remnants of a gymnasium, a Roman bath and a bouleuterion. The 100-meter Nysa Bridge, a tunnel-like substructure, was the second largest of its kind in antiquity.

via: Excavations begin in Nysa in western Turkey | Hurriyet

n.b. … in case you were wondering,  this Nysa (in Caria) is not to be confused with Nysa-Scythopolis (in Israel)

Latest from Peperikon

The last bits from a piece at Novinite:

The latest Perperikon finds presented Tuesday include a human idol from the 5th century BC, a bronze axe and a Thracian war knife. The archeologist explained that during the first day of the excavations they also found a medical instrument from Roman times, which has been used to remove from skin a worm-parasite and then clean the wound.

Other unique discoveries include a Roman lamp from the 3rd century with the picture of a scarcely clad female dancer waiving a scarf above her head, a number of antique coins, a silver coin with Tsar Ivan Alexander and his son Mihail, and a medieval silver tiara. The finds are very important because they are not very typical for this area and are proof for Bulgarian presence here in 1343, according to Ovcharov.

The archeologist informed that this summer the digs are subsidized with BGN 118 000 which will allow for 3-month work and a team of over 100. In addition to the connection between the palace and the Perperikon Acropolis, the archeologists will study for the first time the northeastern sector of the Acropolis with the full study of the latter being the final goal.

Ovcharov declared the excavations and the research show Perperikon is the largest ancient city in the Rhodope Mountains and one of the largest on the Balkans during the Antiquity and the Middle Age, much larger than the Bulgarian historical coastal towns of Sozopol and Nesebar.

The first few paragraphs are a response to claims of ‘relationships’ between archaeologists and treasure hunters in Bulgaria.

d.m. Colin Austin

From Cambridge City News:

Cambridge professor Colin Austin, one of the world’s leading specialists on ancient Greek texts, has died of cancer at the age of 69.

Australian-born Prof Austin was educated in England and France – his mother tongue was French.

He studied at Oxford and came to Trinity Hall as a research fellow in 1965.

He was made a director of studies there, and remained a fellow until he retired in 2008.

Prof Austin, a fellow of the British Academy, taught in the Faculty of Classics in Cambridge and was treasurer of the Cambridge Philological Society for 40 years.

Colleagues said he had “a remarkable gift” for reconstructing fragmentary poetic texts preserved on Egyptian papyri.

Prof Austin had been working on a new edition of Greek New Comedy poet Menander.

He is survived by his wife Mishtu, their two children and four grandchildren.