Bulgarian Bust Followup: It Ain’t Aphrodite

One of the things we posted t’other day detailed the bust of a smuggling ring in Bulgaria who/which had in its possession a two-metre sculpture of Aphrodite. Today Novinite suggests there are questions about that identification:

The 2-meter antique statue, which was found buried in the back yard of a Bulgarian village house belonging to illegal treasure hunters, is not of Aphrodite, as the police, who seized it, initially believed.

Petar Banov, archeology expert from the Regional History Museum in the northern city of Pleven told the Bulgarian National Radio, BNR, that the statue is a Roman tomb sculpture of an ordinary woman.

Banov pointed out the find has no signs and symbols around her legs and/or arms, designating the female figure as a goddess, adding it was made during the flourishing of the ancient Roman city of Ulpia Oescus on the Danube, close to the village of Gigen in the Pleven District.

Banov, however, explained the archeological value of the discovery is still very high because it is of great quality and craftsmanship and it would give historians precious information.

According to the expert, it would be very hard to make a monetary appraisal of the statute because Bulgaria does not have an official antiques market and auctions.

… here’s a photo … I really don’t see how anyone could have called that an Aphrodite other than to further sensationalize the story:

Novinite photo

via: Bulgarian Expert: Seized Statue Is Not Aphrodite

Ozzy’s Classical DNA

Ozzy Osbourne in 2010.

Image via Wikipedia

This is typical … of the myriad versions of this story — about Ozzy Osbourne’s DNA revealing links to Neanderthals and assorted others, the one I happened to actually read (and post on Facebook) missed out on a Classical connection. Of course the Daily Mail had the part I missed, inter alia:

The researchers discovered that the star shares some DNA with the ancient Romans who were killed in Pompeii when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD

Osbourne said: ‘That means I’m also probably related to some of the survivors, which makes a lot of sense.

‘If any of the Roman Osbournes drank nearly as much as I used to, they wouldn’t have even felt the lava. They could have just walked it off.’

We won’t comment on the lava reference … it is Ozzy after all.

More Decapitated Roman Remains

… but this time, from Scotland, and without any of the usual attendant sensationalism. Indeed … the decapitation is mentioned only in passing. From the Scotsman:

IT IS a major public sector building project which has been delayed, causing headaches for bosses and the public.

But it is decapitated skeletons and 2000-year-old forts rather than red tape and swelling costs that have caused the hold-up for the new health centre in Musselburgh.

Progress on the site has been delayed by at least six months after significant Roman remains were discovered.

Now architects have revealed the extent of their discoveries, which include human remains, the bones of horses and weapons and culinary tools.

Archeologists there said the “unique” finds, among the most impressive ever discovered in Scotland from that period, will help build a picture not only of Roman activity in Musselburgh from 140AD, but improve the wider understanding of life at that time.

As well as the skeletons, some of which have been superbly preserved, there are impressive sections of rampart, thought to be part of a defensive wall for a fortlet.

Site director for CFA Archaeology, which is working on the site, Magnus Kirby said that some of the findings predated the Roman era, with items such as flints possibly dating back up to 5000 years.

“The number of Roman skeletons we have found doesn’t point to this being a cemetery,” he said. “But it is still fascinating. The Roman remains have been very well preserved.

“Of the older human remains that predate that, in some cases there has been nothing but a set of teeth.”

It was known before the excavation began that Romans had existed in that area but the number of discoveries since work began three months ago has surprised archaeologists.

It is thought the Votadini tribe inhabited the Lothians during the late Iron Age period, around the time of the birth of Christ. They built hill fort defences which are still visible on Arthur’s Seat, at Dunsapie Hill and above Samson’s Ribs.

Historians believe they also occupied Traprain Law in East Lothian.

The Roman occupation of the Lothians soon after the turn of the millennium is said to have left both physical landmarks and governance legacies.

As well as forts, artefacts found across the Lothians point to an active trading set-up with locals and experts believe the Roman’s stay in the Lothians helped convert Scotland to Christianity, and establish the early roots of our legal system.
“The quality of the structures such as the rampart are fantastic,” Mr Kirby added.

“You do treat the human remains differently, because of what they are, but it is the structures you find that tell you more about life at that point.”

Although the finds are interesting, the Roman revelations have actually proved a significant inconvenience for NHS Lothian, which wants to crack on with the Musselburgh Primary Care Centre.

The £20 million facility, which was first mooted 15 years ago, is now due to open in the spring of 2012.

via: Skeletons halt work on clinic | Scotsman

For an example of the more ‘traditional’ reporting of decapitated Roman remains, see, e.g. here or here or here (etc.) …

Bits of the ‘Lava Treasure’ Recovered by French Police

From Reuters:

French police said on Wednesday they had seized a significant portion of an ancient Roman treasure that was discovered more than two decades ago by Corsican divers who became rich by secretly selling it off.

The seizure is the latest chapter in the exploits of a then young Corsican and two friends who spotted gold in shallow waters 25 years ago while diving for sea urchins off the coast of the Mediterranean island.

The three friends enriched themselves by selling the coins and medallions on the black market and later claimed that they had inherited them when the source of their newfound wealth was discovered by the local authorities.

Police did not say on Wednesday from whom they had recovered the latest portion of the treasure, which likely came from an ancient shipwreck. Specialists consider the find to be one of the most important related to ancient coins, dating from the 3rd century AD.

“This submerged treasure, identified as a maritime cultural asset, belongs to the state,” France’s national police said in a statement, after a long investigation into national and international black markets for antiquities.

One of the original three Corsican friends, Felix Biancamaria, told French daily Liberation in 2005 how the discovery of what he quickly suspected were Roman coins brought him and his fellow divers untold wealth and thrills until the party soured when local police caught wind of their exploits.

Rather than turn the treasure over to authorities as state property, the divers claimed they had inherited it and began selling it to dealers. However the flood of rare Roman coins on the market eventually raised questions among collectors.

“People thought we were part of a gang of armed robbers,” Biancamaria said, describing how the three friends would dive all day for treasure and spend their evenings quaffing champagne in nightclubs.

The three men were among eight people tried in 1994 in connection with the case. They were handed prison sentences of between six and 18 months and made to pay fines.

One of the divers, Marc Cotoni, was killed in a shooting in 2004, according to French media.

Five other people were arrested last week in Paris in connection with the case, a judicial source said.

The recently seized coins, together with a prized golden plate, are estimated to have a value of between 1 million and 2 million euros ($1.38 million to $2.76 million), police said.

An investigation is still underway to track down other items from the treasure that remain missing.

Other coverage:


Callimachus Nike Monument ‘Restored’

From the ANA:

The Nike Monument erected in honour of the ancient military commander Callimachus after the Battle of Marathon, its various surviving shards reassembled for the first time to resemble the form they would have had in antiquity, was unveiled in the new Acropolis Museum on Tuesday by Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos.

In statements at the unveiling, Geroulanos emphasised the importance of the monument 2,500 years after the historic battle, an event broadly regarded as a pivotal moment in the history of European culture.

In 490 B.C. when the Battle of Marathon took place Callimachus was then a ‘polemarch’ or supreme military commander of Athens. With the 10 Athenian generals evenly divided over whether to do battle or surrender to the Persian invasion force, it was he that cast the deciding vote that sent the Athenians into battle and on to their final victory over the Persian Empire.

“Everything now rests of you,” Geroulanos said, quoting directly from the description given by the ancient historian Herodotus of a hypothetical conversation between Callimachus and Miltiades – the general that led the battle and earned Greeks their victory – just before the polemarch cast his vote.

“Today we are not unveiling the monument of just another general but a monument to a democratic process that changed the course of history,” the minister stressed.

Callimachus took part in the battle himself, leading the right wing of the Greek army, but was killed during the fighting. His statue was erected atop of the Athens Acropolis.

According to Prof. Dimitris Pantermalis, the curator of the new Acropolis Museum, the monument has been reconstructed in a modern fashion, using only the original shards in their correct positions, so that a visitor might be able to see the authentic version.

The remnants of the 4.68-metre monument have been affixed to a metal column that holds the various parts in place and is built so that additional fragments might be attached if they are found. It is on display in the museum’s Archaic Monuments’ section.

A short distance from the original there also stands a copy showing archaeologists’ best estimate of what the monument might have looked like when it was whole.

The unveiling of the Nike monument was among a series of events scheduled by the culture and tourism ministry to celebrate the 2,500th anniversary since the Battle of Marathon, which will culminate in the holding of the 28th Classic Athens Marathon on Sunday, in which more than 20,000 athletes from all over the world will take part.

Somewhat strangely, the Xinhua coverage seems to have the best photo:

From Xinhua

Spears and Lohan as Iphigenia?

This is kind of interesting, and I might have to track this book down … from an interview in Newsweek with Tom Payne about his book Fame, inter alia:

You bring up the theme of sacrifice—for example, you link Britney Spears’s meltdown with the ritual killing of Iphigenia, who, legend has it, was sacrificed so that Greek ships could sail to Troy, and who became famous because of it. Do we tear down or sacrifice celebrities to satisfy a very primal human need?

One of the most harrowing things I’ve found is the idea that when we make a sacrifice, or when the ancients made sacrifices, it was very important to them that the offering was seen to be willing. And I think it’s very helpful for us, when we think about celebrities, that while they may be going through a horrible time, they also seem to have chosen that life.

and later:

Although you do talk about how there’s a gender difference in the fame game. Lindsay Lohan—she’s basically living this Rolling Stones–type life, but yet we think of Mick Jagger as a rock god, and we think of her as someone on the verge of a meltdown.

Yeah. I’d like to come to a different conclusion, but there does seem to be something very ancient about that as well. It does seem, when you go back to tragedies, when you look at Iphigenia, or you look at other sacrifices, it does seem to be that there’s something particular about the sacrifice of a young woman.

d.m. Yannis Sakellarakis

From Athens News:

Professor Yannis Sakellarakis was born in Athens in 1936. He studied at the University of Athens and read for a PhD at Heidelberg University.

He was an instructor at the universities of Athens, Heidelberg, and Hamburg. He gave lectures and presented papers in symposiums and conferences around the world, including Oslo and Petra, Tokyo, New York, Oxford, London, Princeton, and Harvard. He has published widely in Greek and foreign scientific magazines, including Archeology in 1967.

He was director of the Archaeological Museum of Iraklion, Crete, and the second director of the National Archaeological Museum of Athens. Also, he was a member of the Archaeological Society at Athens, the Deutsches Archäogisches Institut, and the Society of Antiquaries of London.

He excavated at Archanes, the Idaean Cave, and Kithira, and in recent years has been systematically excavating, along with his wife, Dr Efi Sapouna-Sakellarakis, the archaeological site of Zominthos.

He has received awards from the Academy of Athens, the Technological Education Institute of Crete, and the National Bank of Greece Cultural Foundation. Also, he was honoured with the Gold Medal of the University of Crete and the Gold Cross of the Order of Honour of the Greek Republic.

Athens News also had a link to a nice little video at YouTube with Dr Sakellarakis showing us the Zominthos site:

A Major Bulgarian Bust

From the Sofia News Agency … it would be nice to have photos of some of this stuff:

Bulgarian police have shattered a crime group trafficking archaeological finds, including breath-taking items such as 2-meter marble statue of Aphrodite.

The organized crime group carried out illegal archaeological digs at the ancient Roman city of Ulpia Oescus on the Danube, close to the village of Gigen, Pleven District.

The five busted men had been watched by the police for five months.

In addition to the marvelous statue of the Greek goddess of love Aphrodite, the police seized from the treasure hunters about 200 various Ancient Roman coins, small metal statuettes, parts of Roman horse ammunition, and stone images of gods Asklepius and Hygiea.

The statue of Aphrodite was found buried in the yard of a house in the village of Gigen, where the treasure hunters hid it.

The police believe the statue was probably dug out in 2006 or 2007 and had been hidden as the dealers awaited the right clients.

The special operation was carried out by the unit for fighting trafficking of cultural heritage items.

Ulpia Oescus was an ancient town in Moesia, northwest of the modern Bulgarian city of Pleven, near the village of Gigen. It is a Daco-Moesian toponym. According to Ptolemy, it was a Triballian town, of the Ancient Thracian tribe Triballi, but it later became Roman. It was one of the most important Roman towns on the lower Danube.

This is where Emperor Constantine I the Great built the largest river bridge in ancient times, Constantine’s Bridge on the Danube, which was 2.5 km long, 6 meters wide, and existed in 328 AD – ca. 355 AD.

(The “next” bridge (today’s Ruse-Giurgiu Bridge) on the Lower Danube, in the Bulgarian-Romanian section of the river was built only in 1954, about 1 600 years later, at the initiative of the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.)

Thus, Ulpia Oescus was linked by a bridge over Danube with the ancient city of Sucidava (modern day Corabia – Romania) by Constantin the Great.

Unlike Colonia Ulpia Ratiaria near Archar on the Danube, another major Roman stronghold utterly destroyed by Bulgarian treasure hunters, Ulpia Oescus near Gigen is believed to be one of the top archaeology spots in Bulgaria that is relatively well-protected from treasure hunters’ raids.

JOB: Greek Art @ BU (TT)

Seen on various lists (please send any responses to the people/institution mentioned in the post, not to rogueclassicism!)

Boston University’s Department of History of Art and Architecture
invites applications and nominations for a tenure-track position as
assistant professor of Greek art and architecture to begin September
1, 2011 (pending final budgetary approval). Ph.D. required; teaching
experience and publications preferred. The successful candidate will
teach four courses per academic year, usually two lecture courses and
two seminars, and conduct research in her/his area of specialization.
Applicants should send a cover letter, curriculum vitae, and the
names of three references no later than December 1, 2010, to
Professor Fred S. Kleiner, Chair, Department of History of Art and
Architecture, Boston University, 725 Commonwealth Avenue, Room 302,
Boston, MA 02215, fsk AT bu.edu. Supporting materials, unless requested
by the search committee, will not be returned. Boston University is an
Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

d.m. Honor Frost

From the Telegraph:

During a career that began in the 1950s, she led many excavations in the Mediterranean and was noted for her skills as an illustrator and her work on the technicalities of ancient boat-building and nautical equipment, particularly the use of stone anchors and their typology.

Among her most important projects was an expedition, sponsored by Unesco, which she led to survey the Pharos (lighthouse) site in the Port of Alexandria in 1968. She dived the site and confirmed the existence of ruins representing part of the Pharos as well as the remains of submerged buildings representing the lost palace of Alexander and the Ptolemies, and published a preliminary report with drawings which revealed the site’s importance.

For the next two decades, however, the site remained more or less forgotten, because of a lack of specialised archaeologists and the fact that the area was in a military zone. It was only in the 1990s that work there resumed.

In 1971 the Sicilian authorities and the British School at Rome appointed Honor Frost to direct the excavation of a Punic warship in Marsala harbour off the coast of Sicily. It is believed to have been one of the Liburnian “longships”, an oared vessel with 17 sweeps per side, used by ancient Carthage in the Battle of the Aegates Islands (241BC), the last battle of the First Punic War between Carthage and the Roman Republic.

The ship had been uncovered by a dredger in 1969, and for several years Honor Frost and an international team of marine archaeologists worked on the site, publishing regular reports, before eventually restoring the wreck for display at the local museum.

She concluded that the warship had sunk stern-first after being rammed by the Romans. The crew had apparently abandoned ship, taking their weapons with them, but left evidence of their diet, including deer, goat, horse, ox, pig and sheep as well as olives, nuts and fruit. There were also traces of cannabis, which the crew may have chewed as a stimulant before going into battle. The team also found a human skeleton, possibly of a Carthaginian sailor trapped by ballast. The ship’s “nationality” was painted on the sides with letters by its Punic builders.

An only child, Honor Frost was born on October 28 1917 in Nicosia, Cyprus. After the death of both her parents she became the ward of a London solicitor, Wilfred Evill.

She studied at the Central School of Art, London, and the Ruskin School of Art, Oxford, then worked as a designer for the Ballet Rambert, and later as director of publications at the Tate Gallery.

Honor Frost was, as she put it, “baptised” into the delights of underwater exploration in a garden well in Wimbledon. She had been invited to try a diving suit attached to a hand pump which had been used in the Second World War for shallow water work and, as she descended, found herself entranced by the beauty of her surroundings: “air bubbles, like quicksilver, adhered to undercut surfaces. The floor was a cushion of dead leaves in every stage of decomposition.” Underwater, she found, “the mind loses its habits of anxiety, while powers of contemplation increase”.

She soon became convinced that “time spent on the surface was time wasted”, and, in the late 1940s, began training at Cannes with the Club Alpin Sous-Marin.

It was with the club, under the guidance of the archaeologist Frederic Dumas, that she dived her first wreck, a large Roman ship lying at the foot of a rock called the Balise de la Chretienne off the south coast of France at Antheor. “Around 15 metres I could just make out the wreck, or rather a tumble of amphorae extending as far as the eye could see,” she recalled. The wreck was inhabited by a colony of octopuses, “graceful, playful and as sensuous as cats when tickled”.

In 1957 she reported for work for the last of six seasons of an excavation, led by the British archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon, of tombs near Jericho. Though she did not enjoy working on dry land, Honor Frost was struck by the contrast between the gung-ho excavation of the Roman ship and the discipline and careful record-keeping of land-based archaeology, particularly the way in which the “context” of the tombs was studied in as much detail as their contents.

The experience convinced her of the importance not only of recording shipwrecks of particular historical interest photographically, but also of representing them in meticulously detailed plans and finding out as much as possible about the surrounding sediments.

After the Jericho dig was over, Honor Frost moved to Lebanon, where she explored the ancient harbours at Tyre and Sidon and along the Syrian coast. She developed an interest in stone anchors after spotting several built into the walls of the bronze age temple at Byblos, and then discovering similar anchors off the nearby coast.

Among other achievements, Honor Frost was the first to recognise, in 1959, that a wrecked ship off the coast of Turkey at Gelidonya, which contained a rich cargo of copper and tin ingots together with personal possessions of the crew, dated from the late Bronze Age and was early Phoenician. At the time of the discovery, scholars believed the Myceneans had dominated Mediterranean trade in the Bronze Age and that the Phoenicians were not present on the seas until the Iron Age.

From her guardian, Honor Frost inherited a valuable collection of art and antiques and a Georgian house in London, where she entertained an eclectic circle of friends, including Erica Brausen, director of the Hanover Gallery during its heyday, and the fashion designer Thea Porter. Her fascination with the Mediterranean eventually led her to acquire a house in Malta as a second home.

Among other works she wrote Under the Mediterranean (1963), about her early experiences as an archaeologist. She was also a frequent contributor to the Mariner’s Mirror, the journal of the Society for Nautical Research.

Honor Frost was elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1969. In 1997 the French government awarded her a medal for pioneering submarine archaeology in Egypt, and in 2005 the British Sub-Aqua Club presented her with the Colin McLeod award for furthering international co-operation in diving.

Two hip replacements in later life did little to slow her down. Shortly before she died, on September 12, she was planning another season at Sidon and a trip to India to see what she believed to be the largest stone anchor in the world.

Honor Frost was married but separated.

via: Honor Frost | Telegraph


Honor Frost | Guardian