Roman Junction What’s Your Function?

From Cambs Times:

The find reveals a new junction on the historic Fen Causeway road which runs underneath Whitemoor Marshalling Yards, the site where Network Rail are building a brand new railway reycling centre worth £23 million.

The discovery points towards the town’s ancient history as a centre for settlement and trade, and provides evidence of further links to nearby settlements.

North Pennines Archaeology Ltd sent workers to the Whitemoor site to investigate the remains of the rail yard and establish whether the course of the Fen Causeway had been fully removed by the rail yard’s construction.

The archaeologists came across a 12 metre-wide road and an additional eight metre-wide road heading south-west of the junction. It is believed that this was built to meet an east-west road recently excavated at the County Council’s waste transfer facility at Melbourne Avenue.

Another possible road, though less well preserved, heads north-eastwards towards known settlements and the salterns in the Longhill Road area.

Kasia Gdaniec, of the Cambridgeshire County Council’s Historic Environment Team, said: “This has been a rare opportunity to investigate an unexpectedly well-preserved section of the Fen Causeway. It is the first time that a junction has been found in association with it,”

She added: “March has a wealth of fantastic archaeological remains that are exciting and challenging in equal measure.”

The discovery falls under the former marshalling yards where a new national railway recyling centre is in the second phase of construction. The centre will enable Network Rail to sort, clean, process, recycle and re-use railway materials.

The centre aims to create even more jobs in the town.

via Roman road junction discovered at Network Rail site | Cambs Times.

Ancient Folks and the Proust Questionnaire

Over at PhDiva, Dorothy King has managed to convince some dead personnages to fill out the Proust Questionnaire, which was originally some sort of personality test/interview format, but is currently more commonly seen in the back pages of Vogue wherein celebs find yet another reason to talk about themselves. Over the past week, though, it has been rather interesting:

… interesting how Mithradates and Cleo respond in the same ‘business-like’ font while Mark Antony is rather more, er, ornate …

The Benefits of Classics

A couple of interesting items on the benefits of Classics have meandered through my social networks and email this week. First, and most recent (within a few minutes) is an ‘open letter’ in the journal Genome Biology, in which a Science professor smacks down SUNY Albany’s prez for their recent cuts to, among other things, Classics (about which I hope to blog in the near future) … an excerpt, inter alia (the whole thing is definitely worth reading):

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that you have trouble understanding the importance of maintaining programs in unglamorous or even seemingly ‘dead’ subjects. From your biography, you don’t actually have a PhD or other high degree, and have never really taught or done research at a university. Perhaps my own background will interest you. I started out as a classics major. I’m now Professor of Biochemistry and Chemistry. Of all the courses I took in college and graduate school, the ones that have benefited me the most in my career as a scientist are the courses in classics, art history, sociology, and English literature. These courses didn’t just give me a much better appreciation for my own culture; they taught me how to think, to analyze, and to write clearly. None of my sciences courses did any of that.

(tip o’ the pileus to Bill Caraher for that one)

Elsewhere, Bettany Hughes was giving an interview on the BBC’s Woman’s Hour and made a spirited defense of Classics … an excerpt inter alia:

JM: But how impressed do you think an employer would be, with a kid with
straight-As in Latin, Greek , Ancient History, as opposed to the one
whos done Business, Finance, and I.T.?

BH: The fantastic thing, we have some great statistics, luckily, to back
up our campaign. If you talk to Cambridge University, theyll tell you
that of all their Arts graduates, excluding law students, if you call law
students Arts graduates, classicists are the most highly employable. And
actually, if you go to businesses, across the board, particularly
international businesses, they love a classical degree, because it shows
you can deal with quite complex data, it shows that you have an interest
in the wider world, and it also shows that you have a fundamental interest
in humanity, and increasingly, businesses of all kinds are realising that
thats an absolutely essential skill to have.

… full transcript over at Constantina Katsari’s Love of History blog ..

Headless Statue and Cleopatra’s Tomb Heads Up

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

There are a couple of versions of the same article kicking around my mailbox and also being bounced around assorted sources on Twitter (including my own Exploratorraw autobot). The two I’ve come across so far are both ultimately via ANI and purport to be telling us new info in the search for Cleo’s tomb, specifically at Taposiris Magna. Here are the items in question:

… when I finally was in a position to actually connect with the articles (i.e. not at my school’s wonky connection), it turned out these items were just a repeat of a much-ballyhooed piece from National Geographic back in May of 2010:

… which we have already commented on:

Just sayin’ …

Sea-Goats at Sotheby’s

Sotheby's
Image via Wikipedia

T’other evening on Twitter I was bemoaning the lack  of statuary in an upcoming auction at Sotheby’s … turns out I wasn’t looking at the right auction (that was a smaller auction of items from the Clarence Day collection) … whatever the case, the ‘bigger auction’ catalog is online and my eye was immediately caught by lot 53 which I can’t seem to find a linkable photo for (Sotheby’s has changed their online catalog format). In any event, it is an early Augustan marble (from a group) of a satyr riding a sea-goat. According to the official description, it was found in 1908 in the environs presumed to be the location of the Gardens of Sallust. It appears to be part of a fountain-type grouping, of which another ‘piece’ is likely a similar item in the Vatican (a piece I can’t recall seeing and which I can’t find a photo of either).

via: A Marble Group of a Satyr … | Sotheby’s

Crassus’ Lost Army? Meet Elmer. Don’t Eat That.

Okay … it seems it’s time for yet another installment in the Crassus-lost-army-made-it-to-the-Liqian-region-of-China-and-procreated saga … here’s the incipit of the latest effort:

Chinese and Italian anthropologists this week established an Italian studies center at a leading university in northwest China to determine whether some Western-looking Chinese in the area are the descendants of a lost Roman army of ancient times.

Experts at the Italian Studies Center at Lanzhou University in Gansu Province will conduct excavations on a section of the Silk Road, a 7,000-km-long trade route that linked Asia and Europe more than 2,000 years ago, to see if it can be proved a legion of lost Roman soldiers settled in China, said Prof. Yuan Honggeng, head of the center.

“We hope to prove the legend by digging and discovering more evidence of China’s early contact with the Roman Empire,” said Yuan.

Before Marco Polo’s travels to China in the 13th century, the only known contact between the two empires was a visit by Roman diplomats in 166 A.D.

Chinese archeologists were therefore surprised in the 1990s to find the remains of an ancient fortification in Liqian, a remote town in Yongchang County on the edge of the Gobi desert, which was strikingly similar to Roman defence structures.

They were even more astonished to find western-looking people with green, deep-set eyes, long and hooked noses and blonde hair in the area.

Though the villagers said they had never traveled outside the county, they worshipped bulls and their favorite game was similar to the ancient Romans’ bull-fighting dance.

… and I was merrily reading along until I came to this:

DNA tests in 2005 confirmed some of the villagers were indeed of foreign origin, leading many experts to conclude they are the descendants of the ancient Roman army headed by general Marcus Crassus.

… at which point the BS alarm went off in my head, shrieking endlessly. The last time we mentioned this Romans in China thing, we included an abstract from what I believe to be the study in question and the final couple of lines are worth repeating:

The Liqian and the Yugur people, regarded as kindred populations with common origins, present an underlying genetic difference in a median-joining network. Overall, a Roman mercenary origin could not be accepted as true according to paternal genetic variation, and the current Liqian population is more likely to be a subgroup of the Chinese majority Han.

Fortunately, there is a bit of sanity as the article continues (albeit on another page):

Though some anthropologists are convinced the foreign-looking villagers in Yongchang County are the descendants of the army men, others are not so certain.

“The county is on the Silk Road, so there were many chances for trans-national marriages,” said Prof. Yang Gongle at Beijing Normal University. “The ‘foreign’ origin of the Yongchang villagers, as proven by the DNA tests, does not necessarily mean they are of ancient Roman origin.”

Prof. Xie Xiaodong, a geneticist from Lanzhou University, also sounded a skeptical note.

“Even if they are descendants of Romans, it does not mean they are necessarily from that Roman army.”

Their mysterious identity has brought wealth and fame to some of the villagers.

Cai Junnian has yellow wavy hair, a hooked nose and green eyes. A DNA test in 2005 confirmed he is of 56 percent European origin. It made him famous almost overnight.

Reporters, filmmakers, historians and geneticists from around the world chased him. He was invited to meetings with the Italian consul in Shanghai and even appeared in a documentary shot by an Italian TV company last year.

His friends all call him “Cai Luoma,” which means “Cai the Roman.”

Cai’s fellow villager Luo Ying, looks even more European. He has been employed by a Shanghai firm as their “image ambassador.” [etc.]

One might cynically suggest this is at least an interesting way for China to get foreign funding for digs … the ‘sensational’ always seems to trump reasonable evidence to the contrary …