Help Transcribe the Oxyrhynchus Papyri

Looks like the folks at Oxford are jumping on the crowdsourcing bandwagon … today my mailbox is filling up with coverage appealing to “armchair archaeologists” (philologists? paleographers shurely) to help with that famous archive of papyri. Since I have a readership who know what the Oxyrhynchus Papyri are, we’ll post the BBC coverage, even if it does use that word ‘decoding’ in its headline:

Oxford University is asking for help deciphering ancient Greek texts written on fragments of papyrus found in Egypt.

Hundreds of thousands of images have gone on display on a website which encourages armchair archaeologists to help catalogue and translate them.

Researchers hope the collective effort will give them a unique insight into life in Egypt 1,000 years ago.

Project specialist Paul Ellis said: “Online images are a window into ancient lives.”

The collection is made up of papyri recovered in the early 20th Century from the Egyptian city of Oxyrhynchus, the so-called “City of the Sharp-Nosed Fish”.

At the time the city was under Greek rule. Later the Romans settled the area.

The papyri contain literature, letters and even a story about how Jesus Christ cast out demons.
Missing masterpieces

Scholars have been studying the Oxyrhynchus collection for more than 100 years and have already rediscovered many lost works that went missing during medieval times.

They have found masterpieces by the ancient Greek poet Sappho and dramatists Menander and Sophocles.

Many of the documents the public can see on the site have not been read for over 1,000 years.

But although they are written in Greek, visitors to the website do not have to have any knowledge of the language in order to use an online tool to help analyse the fragments.

One letter, written in 127 AD, which has already been translated is from a grandmother called Sarapias asking that her daughter is brought home so that she can be present at the birth of her grandchild.

Project director Dr Dirk Obbink said: “We aim to transcribe as much as possible of the original papyri, and then identify and reconstruct the text.

“No single pair of eyes can see and read everything. From scientists and professors to school students and ancient enthusiasts, everyone has something to contribute – and gain.”

The Daily Mail’s coverage has some really nice photos, and some tantalizing text to get the “armchair archaeologists” involved.

In recent times we’ve heard of crowdsourcing in a Civil War Project and there’s even a website devoted to crowdsourcing projects (not all are ‘literary’, of course). And while I’m usually gung-ho about connecting technology and ancient stuff, in this case I’m a bit diffident. A visit to the Ancient Lives website shows a very slick interface, but it really isn’t intuitive how one should begin. All that is there to click on is ‘Lightbox’ (other than the menu along the top) and I’m still not clear what this is … is it a random papyrus for me to work on? Are others working on it? The tutorial definitely needs another section like “getting started”. Once you are in and have figured things out, you are presented with a Greek keyboard layout, which probably isn’t the best thing from a ‘crowdsourcing’ point of view. Sure, a Classicist or Papyrologist who regularly works with Greek keyboards will recognize the layout, but the “armchair archaeologists” would, no doubt, be more comfortable with an alphabetic layout and perhaps one that was a bit larger/easier to read — before I figured out it was a Greek layout (haven’t used one in years), I spent a good three or four minutes looking for a gamma. Whatever the case, as far as a crowdsourcing project goes, this seems to be attractive to a relatively small crowd: unless the interface is made more ‘armchair friendly’ (for want of a better term), this projects seems more the sort of thing that undergrads in Greek or grad students needing some other procrastination station would participate in … not really a recipe for getting a lot of folks involved. We’ll monitor the project’s project, of course …

For  somewhat rosier reviews:

UPDATE (a couple of hours later): the folks behind the project were talking about it on BBC radio this a.m.: Help transcribe Egyptian ‘gossip’ (tip o’ the pileus to Slashdot)

How Many Words for Snow?

A casual Twitter exchange with @TLockyer and @exploreclassics (on Latin not having a single word for “volcano”) reminded me that Latin does seem to have a rather large number of words for earthquake … ecce (cutting and pasting from English-to-Latin Word Search Results for earthquake at Perseus; go there for links to L&S):

  • chasmatias – an earthquake which leaves chasms
  • concussio – an earthquake
  • epiclintae – earthquakes that move with a horizontal motion
  • mycematiasan – earthquake accompanied by a rumbling noise
  • mycetiasan – earthquake attended with a rumbling noise
  • ostes – a kind of earthquake
  • palmatias – a slight earthquake
  • rhectae – a kind of earthquake

Ostes seems to be the best-attested, but just in case you are confronted with someone trying to impress you with that Eskimo-words-for-snow thing, now you can respond …

Counterfeit Coin Press?

Interesting item in the Bucks Herald:

AN AMATEUR archaeologist from Aylesbury has been given a national award after uncovering a coin press which may have been used to make counterfeit currency in Roman times.

Tom Clarke, who has been metal detecting for more than 40 years, found a number of blank bronze coins and a small anvil in a farmer’s field in Wing.

The unmarked discs are the halfway stage of someone making their own coins and have been dated to around 300AD.

The find, which Tom has donated to the Bucks County Museum, won him the ‘most significant hoard’ category in the Nations’ Greatest Find competition, run by The Searcher magazine.

He was presented with his award in a ceremony on Monday.

Tom, a 72-year-old retired trader, said: “I have always been interested in antiquities ever since I was a kid.

“I’ve made countless finds over the years but this is the first time I’ve ever been given an award.

“Something like this is good for the museum.

“I like to think it could be someone who was making illegal coins and being a bit naughty.

“For me it’s the thrill of the find. I’ve never made any money from my metal detecting.

“If you find gold then you have to hand it in and they pay you a small amount because it’s treasure.

“But I’ve never sold anything.”

Brett Thorne, one of the museum archaeologists, said: “Due to a shortage of official coins at this time many people started making their own.

“In many cases they were probably tolerated by the authorities.

“The values we are talking about are minimal.

“If they were making silver coins it would be different.”

At the ceremony Mr Phillips said: “Today we see a great example of a partnership between four very different groups, an individual metal detective, the County Museum, the National Portable Antiquities Scheme and the Searcher.”

Bucks County Council cabinet member Martin Phillips thanked Tom for his generosity in donating the find to the museum and congratulated the museum workers in identifying the significance and importance of the find.

… I can’t find this in the Portable Antiquities Scheme database (I’m probably searching incorrectly, though). Never heard about this “shortage of official coins” thing before …

This Day in Ancient History: ante diem viii kalendas sextilias

ante diem viii kalendas sextilias

  • Furrinalia — a festival in honour of an obscure Roman deity named Furrina, who appears to have been assiociated with a grove and/or spring
  • ludi Victoriae Caesaris (day 6)
  • 44 A.D. — marytrdom of James the Greater
  • 64 A.D. — the Great Fire of Rome (day 8)
  • 306 A.D. — death of the emperor Constantius I; dies imperii of Constantine I
  • 325 A.D. — Council of Nicaea closes


Reflectance Transformation Imaging

Tip o’ the pileus to Laval Hunsucker on the Classics list for this one … a potentially useful bit of technology for reading/photographing inscriptions (although I would have liked to see what it did with the wooden example at the beginning):

RTI has been around for a while (there are actual tutorials at Youtube on how to do it), we should note … what seems to be new here is the device …

CONF: Musical Reception of Classical Texts

Seen on the Classics list:

Re-Creation: Musical Reception of Classical Antiquity
October 27-30, 2011
At the University of Iowa

*Preliminary program*

THURSDAY October 27

Late afternoon public lecture on contexts of Peri’s Euridice by Wendy Heller (Princeton University) Sponsored by Opera Studies Forum.
8 pm. evening concert by the Center for New Music at the Old Capitol.
Opening night reception at the Old Capitol


8:30-10:30 Musical Theater/Music in Theater
Robert Ketterer (University of Iowa), moderator

Evan MacCarthy (Harvard University): “Translating Oedipus Tyrannus: John Knowles Paine and America’s First Greek Tragedy.”
Simone Beta (University of Siena): “It’s the Same Old Story: Oath of Greek Women in Musical Versions of Lysistrata.”
David Oosterhuis (Gonzaga University): “Orpheus, the Original Penniless Poet Plutus/Pluto in Anais Mitchell’s Hadestown.”
Thomas Jenkins (Trinity University, San Antonio): “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Whitehouse.”

10:45-12:15 Theoretical and Philosophical Issues
Michael Eckert (University of Iowa), moderator

James Lowe (John Burroughs School, St. Louis): “From Plato’s Athens to the Holy City—Inspiration, Spirituality and Ralph Vaughan Williams.”
Richard Dcamp (UW Oshkosh): “Carl Orff and Aeschylus’ Prometheus Desmotes.”
Theodor Ulieriu-Rostás (University of Bucharest): “Authenticity and Aural Prejudice: Recordings of Ancient Greek Music.”

Lunch break


2:00-4:00 19th and 20th Century Opera
Carin Green, moderator

Peter Burian (Duke University): “Death and Transfiguration: Orpheus’ Fate on the Operatic Stage.”
Dana Munteanu (Ohio State University): “Parody of Greco-Myth in Jacques Offenbach’s Orfée aux enfers and La Belle Hélène.”
Lissa Crofton-Sleigh (University of Washington): “Helen with a Blue Dress on: Strauss’ Aegyptische Helen.”
William Gibbons (Texas Christian University): “Reweaving Penelope: Faure’s Penelope, Symbolism and Morality.”

4:30 Public lecture by Simon Goldhill (King’s College, Cambridge): “The Ideal Chorus: Opera, Philosophy and Tragedy.” Sponsored by Eighteenth/Nineteenth-Century Interdisciplinary Studies.

EVENING performance of Peri’s Euridice (The UI Opera Studio). Riverside Recital Hall.


8:30-11:00 Early opera
Christine Getz (University of Iowa), moderator

Timothy McKinney (Baylor University): “Ancient Musical Theory and Musical Affect in the prima prattica.”
Wendy Heller (Princeton University): “Rescuing Ariadne.”
Carlo Lanfossi (Università degli Studi di Pavia): “Crafting Drama: rethinking history: Agrippina between 17th-Century Venice and Milan.”
Bruno Forment (Ghent University): “’Sono in Roma? O in Aulide’: Classical templates as musical cues in Cajo Mario.”
Reinhard Strohm (Wadham College, Oxford): title TBA

11:15-1:15 Stage practice
Andrew Simpson (Catholic University of America), moderator

Mary Kay Gamel (UC Santa Cruz): title TBA on stage music for Greek tragedy
Jane Shaw (Brooklyn, NY): “Many are the shapes of things divine: music and sound design in staging Greek drama.”
Marcus Mota (Universidade de Brasília) and Cinthia Nepomuceno (Federal Institute of Education, Brazil): “Hearing and Dancing Beats An Interartistic Appropriation of Meters in Greek tragedy.”

Lunch break


2:30-5:00 Film
Judith Hallett (University of Maryland), moderator

Murray Dahm (Opera Australia): “Reimagining the Scourge of God in Verdi’s Atilla.”
Mark Brill (University of Texas-San Antonio): “Music and Myth in Orfeu Negro.”
Chris Ann Matteo (Stone Bridge High School, VA): “Dissecting Orpheus in Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge!”
Jon Solomon (University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana): title TBA on early Ben Hur films.

5:30-7:30 CONFERENCE DINNER by subscription with registration.

8:00 Evening showing of silent films with live music by Andrew Simpson (Catholic University of America). Englert Theater. Films include: La caduta di Troia, Cupid and Psyche (1897), Ben Hur (1907), Ben Hur (1925), “A Roman Scandal” (Mutt and Jeff cartoon).


10:00-12:30 The 20th Century
John Finamore (University of Iowa), moderator

Susanne Kogler (Kunstuniversität Graz): “Prometheus and the Muses: Myth, Gender and Creativity in 20th Century Music.”
Michael Eckert (University of Iowa): “Luigi Dallapiccola’s Song Cycle ‘Liriche Greche’ (1942-45).”
Osman Umurhan (Rutgers University): “Heavy Metal and the Classics.”
Dan-el Padilla Peralta (Stanford University): “Bringing Swords of Damocles: Classical Legend in Contemporary Rap.”
Anastasia Bakogianni (The Open University, UK): “Haunting melodies of an ancient past: classical themes in the works of the modern Greek composer Eugenia Manolidou.”

Sunday afternoon performance of Peri’s Euridice (Riverside Recital Hall).

CFP Desiring Statues: Statuary, Sexuality and History

Seen on the Classicists list:

Desiring Statues: Statuary, Sexuality and History Conference

University of Exeter, 27th April 2012

Keynote Speakers

Dr Stefano-Maria Evangelista (University of Oxford)
Dr Ian Jenkins (British Museum)

Statuary has offered a privileged site for the articulation of sexual
experience and ideas, and the formation of sexual knowledge. From
prehistoric phallic stones, mythological representations of statues and
sculptors, e.g. Medusa or Pygmalion, to the Romantic aesthetics and erotics
of statuary and the recurrent references to sculpture in nineteenth- and
twentieth-century sexology and other new debates on sexuality, the discourse
of the statue intersects with constructions of gender, sex and sexuality in
multiple ways.

As historical objects, statues give insight into changing perceptions of the
sexed body and its representation; they tell stories of ownership and
appropriation of sexualities across diverse cultural locations and
historical moments. As an imaginary site, statues can serve to trouble the
distinction between subject and object, reality and unreality, presence and
absence, and present and past, thereby offering rich possibilities for
thinking about the relation between individual and communal identities,
sexuality and the past.

This interdisciplinary conference seeks to investigate how statues
facilitate this interplay of sexuality and history. It explores the numerous
different ways in which statues – as historical and/or imagined artefacts –
allow us to think about the past and its relation to sex, gender and sexuality.

The conference brings together contributors from a wide variety of
disciplines, including history, gender and sexuality studies, literary and
cultural studies, art history, classics, archaeology and philosophy.
Contributions from postgraduate research students are very welcome.

Papers should explore how statuary intersects with questions of sexuality
and gender, and temporality, specifically history. Possible topics include,
but are not limited to:

• Uses of Statuary in Sexual Science
• Statues in Colonial and Postcolonial Contexts
• Representations of Statues and Sculptors (in Literature, Visual
Arts, New Media)
• Sculptures and the Construction of Gender, Racial and National Identity
• Use of Statuary in Sexual Reform Movements
• Psychoanalytic Uses of Statuary
• Statues, Gender and Sexuality in Myths, Legends and Their Adaptations
• Sculpture and Figurations of Desire
• Statuary Representations of the Gendered Body
• Reception Histories of Individual Statues

The conference is organised by Dr Jana Funke (j.funke AT and
Jennifer Grove (jeg208 AT as part of the interdisciplinary Sexual
History, Sexual Knowledge project, funded by the Wellcome Trust, and led by
Drs Kate Fisher and Rebecca Langlands.

Please send 300-500 words abstracts to j.funke AT and
jeg208 AT The deadline for abstract submissions is 1st October 2011.

CONF: Seleucid Study Day

Seen on the Classicists list:

The Centre for Hellenistic and Romano-Greek Culture and Society (Exeter)
and the Waterloo Institute for Hellenistic Studies invite you to a

Seleucid Study Day

University of Exeter, 15 August 2011
Amory Building, Room 219


9:00 Tea, Opening
9:20-12:40 Session I: Queens, Princesses, and Dynastic Issues of the Seleucids (chaired by Altay Coskun, Waterloo, ON)
(1) Monica d’ Agostino (PhD candidate Milan)
Seleucids and Mithridatids: the Origin of Their Dynastic Ties
(2) Marie Widmer (PhD candidate Lausanne)
The Repudiation of Laodice III
10:40 Tea Break
11:00 (3) Gillian Ramsey (Leicester)
Seleucid Dunasteia, Royal Land and Cities
(4) Alex McAuley (MA Edinburgh)
Towards a Seleucid Dynastic Model
12:20 Lunch Break (Streatham Court Cafeteria)
14:00-16:00 Session II: Construction of Seleucid Royalty: Studies in the Politics and Propaganda of Antiochus I (chaired by Stephen Mitchell, Exeter)
(5) Altay Coskun (Waterloo, ON)
The Soter Cults of Seleucus I and Antiochus I Preceding the So-Called Elephant Victory of ca. 275 BC
(6) Kyle Erickson (Lampeter)
Babylonian Religion and Seleucid Propaganda
(7) David Engels (UL Brussels)
Antiochus I and the Early Seleucids’ Iranian Heritage
16:00-16:20 Tea/Coffee Break
16:20-18:20 Session III: Further Seleucid Studies (chaired by Lynette Mitchell, Exeter)
(8) Franca Landucci (Milan)
Seleucus versus Antigonus
(9) Federico Russo (Konstanz)
The Syrian War: a Rerun of the Persian Wars?
(10) Michael Sommer (Liverpool)
Kings of Glory. Charismatic Authority in the Seleucid Monarchy
18:20/30 Closing, Departure to the restaurant

Papers will be of up to 20 min length, followed by up to 20 min discussion. Abstracts will be circulated among all participants early in August.

To find Exeter, the Streatham Campus, and the Amory Building, please follow this link:

If you need accommodation, we recommend the very attractive offers by event exeter. Before you book, please make sure you chose a residence located on Streatham Campus:

There is no conference fee. But please notify us, if you want to attend.

Contact: acoskun AT or s.mitchell AT

CONF: Ancient Carthage: Models of Cultural Contact

Seen on the Classicists list:


St John’s College, Durham UK
5th – 6th August 2011

The aim of this networking project is to address the Carthaginian-
Phoenician nexus in the wider Mediterranean context from the 9th century
BCE to the fall of Carthage to Rome in 146 BCE, as well as the rediscovery
and reception of Carthage and her Phoenician motherland from the 18th
century. This international conference, building on workshops already held
at Durham, will adopt a cross-disciplinary approach going beyond word-based
evidence (whether archival, epigraphic or literary) to gain a clearer
picture of these complex and significant cultures, drawing upon current
archaeological work and upon the findings of epigraphy and linguistics.
Topics to be examined include materiality, migration, colonial encounters,
and connectivity, and their important contribution to the understanding of
the social, cultural and political identity of the Punic-Phoenician

The booking form will shortly be available on:
If you have any queries, please contact the conference organisers (Dr
Clemence Schultze or Dr Mark Woolmer) using the following e-mail address:
carthage-conference AT


Dr Marianne Bergeron (Reading / British Museum): Protocorinthian drinking
vessels in western Phoenician burials

Mr Philip Boyes (Cambridge): Culture contact and the shaping of Phoenician
élite identity

Dr Amelia Dowler (British Museum): Patterns of dispersal: Carthaginian
coins and the economy

Professor Dexter Hoyos (Sydney) [by Skype]: The myth of Carthaginian naval
dominance pre 264 BCE

Professor Robert Kerr (Wilfrid Laurier): Carthaginian child sacrifice: an

Mr Carl Mazurek (Cambridge): Fides Punica, fides Iberica: Models of
diplomatic interaction in Barcid Spain

Mr Farès Moussa (ENS Paris / Edinburgh): ‘Phoeniciomania’, ‘culture
history’ and ‘regime change’: situating models of Phoenicio-Punic culture

Dr Matthew Peacock (Durham):

Dr Luke Pitcher (Oxford): Appian

Dr Louis Rawlings (Cardiff): Polybius’ miscellaneous Greeks: mercenaries
and small communities in Carthage

Dr Philippa Steele (Cambridge): Stepping-stone to the Mediterranean:
Phoenicians in Cyprus

Dr Mark Woolmer (Durham): ‘Ornamental’ horns on Phoenician warships

Dr Efrem Zambon (Venice): Carthaginian coinage in Sicily and its meanings:
Siculo-Punic interactions and cultural contacts through coins

The conference will be hosted by the Department of Classics at Durham
University and is kindly supported by the two research centres: Centre for
the Study of the Ancient Mediterranean and the Near East, and Centre for
the Study of the Classical Tradition. The academic session on Friday will
be at Elvet Hill House and will include a visit to the adjacent Oriental
Museum; and the Saturday sessions will be at St John’s College, which is
also the venue for residential accommodation and meals. Accommodation will
be provided in single rooms with shared bathrooms.

CONF: Congress on Piracy in Antiquity

Seen on the Classicists list

1st International Congress on
Piracy and Maritime Security
in the Western Mediterranean and the Iberian peninsula
in Antiquity

University of Seville

27-28 October 2011


Thursday 27 October – University of Seville Auditorium


10.00-10.30 Welcome and opening remarks

10.30-11.15 – G. Chic García, Universidad de Sevilla
"Violencia legal y no legal en el marco del Estrecho de Gibraltar"

11.15-11.45 – Break

11.45=12.30 – V. Gabrielsen, University of Copenhagen
"Piracy and the Economics of Maritime Protection in the Mediterranean, c.
700-31 BC"

12.30-13.15 – P.A. Gianfrotta, Universitá degli studi della Tuscia
"Tracce archeologiche subacquee della pirateria in età romana
(Mediterraneo occidentale)"

13.15-14.00 – Discussion


17.30-18.15 – A. Domínguez Monedero, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid
"Piratería en Magna Grecia y Sicilia: mecanismos de prevención y

18.15-19.00 – P. de Souza, University College Dublin
"Piracy and Politics in the Western Mediterranean 500 BC to AD 500"

19.00-19.45 – Claudio Beltrame, Universitá di Venezia
“Ships and Piracy in the Roman Empire”

19.45-20.30 – Discussion

Friday 28 October – Faculty of Geography & History Main Lecture Theatre


10.00-10.45 – E. Ferrer Albelda, Universidad de Sevilla
"La piratería en los tratados entre Cartago y Roma"

10.45-11.30 – A. Puig Palerm, CEIPAC. Universidad de Barcelona
"La piratería en el archipiélago balear en la Antigüdad ¿Sólo una causa de
la intervención romana del 123 a.C.?"

11.30-12.00 – Break

12.00-12.45 – E. García Riaza, Universidad de las Islas Baleares
"Bandidos y piratas occidentales en el ius belli romano-republicano".

12.45-13.30 – Isaías Arrayás Morales, Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona
"Entre Oriente y Occidente. La acción de piratas y corsarios en el marco
de las guerras silanas"

13.30-14.15 – Discussion


17.30-18.15 – Alfonso Álvarez-Ossorio Rivas, Universidad de Sevilla
"Sexto Pompeyo. ¿Un pirata romano?”

18.15-19.00 – A. Alvar Nuño, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos I
"Riesgo pirático y amparo divino en el Occidente romano".

19.00-19.45 – D. Álvarez Jiménez, Universidad Complutense
"Crimen y castigo en la mar: el archipirata Contradis y la inquietud
marítima del Mediterráneo Occidental a comienzos del s. V d.C."

19.00-20.30 – Discussion

Organised by the Departments of Ancient History and Prehistory &
Archaeology of the University of Sevilla, in collaboration with the
External Relations Office, the Vice-Rector for Research, the Faculty of
Geography and History, the Faculty of Education Studies, and Grupo PAI HUM-

Registration requires payment of the registration fee (€40/40 euros)
payable to Banco Santander (Current Account 0049 4306 63 2290072300), and
return of the registration form given below to:

Secretaria del Departamento de Historia Antigua
Facultad de Geografía e Historia
Universidad de Sevilla
Calle Doña María de Padilla
41004 Sevilla

Tel. +34 954 551 389
Fax +34 954 559 914

Due to limited space, registrations will be accepted on a strictly first
come first served basis.

Attendance at all sessions will entitle delegates to a certificate of

E-mail contacts: alfossorio AT, egarcia AT, eferrer AT

Hadrian’s Villa in Peril

This is another one which ended up not getting much coverage in the English-reading press for reasons unknown. A couple weeks after all the excitement about the ‘solar’ alignment of Hadrian’s Villa, AFP reported:

Lack of money mean parts of Roman emperor Hadrian’s villa have had to be closed off to tourists because they are in danger of collapse, an Italian paper reported Wednesday.

The historic site at Tivoli, 24 kilometres (15 miles) from Rome, received only 370,000 euros (530,000 dollars) to maintain the villa and its grounds, Il Corriere della Sera reported.

But those responsible for the site, which spreads over 80 hectares (nearly 200 acres), say it needs at least 2.5 million euros, the paper said.

They complained that over the past three years they had received only 1.5 million euros of the 6.7 million they needed.

As a result, they had had to close off more and more areas with metal barriers and signs warning of the risk of collapse.

The villa, known as the Villa Adriana, has been listed on UNESCO’s world heritage list since December 1999.

Over the past 10 years however, it has lost 41.8 percent of its paying visitors: from 187,202 in 2000 down to 108,811 in 2010.

One expert, Federica Chiappetta, told the paper that as well as the state of the site, visitors had also been put off by the lack of information.

The villa was built between 117 and 138 AD on the orders of the then emperor, Hadrian.

UNESCO calls it “a masterpiece that uniquely brings together the highest expressions of the material cultures of the ancient Mediterranean world.”

Digging to Resume at Nikopolis-ad-Istrum

From Iran’s Press TV:

Known as the best preserved archaeological site in Bulgaria, Nikopolis-ad-Istrum is called by some the Bulgarian Pompeii, StandArt reported.

The team is slated to start excavations this summer by exploring a building dating back to the time of Roman emperor Septimus, which experts believe was used as temple by the worshippers of the goddess Cybele.

Previous excavations have yielded pieces of wall paneling, details of door cases, windows and niches.

Archeologists now hope to restore the architectural layout of the settlement as it used to be during the reign of Emperor Trajan in the second century.

Preliminary studies revealed the network of streets, the forum surrounded by an Ionic colonnade and many buildings, a two-nave room later turned into a basilica which showed that the town was planned based on the orthogonal system.

The architectural remains and sculptures show a similarity with those of the ancient towns in Asia Minor.

… hopefully we’ll hear more about this as the dig goes on; a couple of years ago they found a Nymphaeum there …

Weary Hercules to be Returned

This is one of those annoying stories which either has coverage that is way too detailed or way too short and I grow weary of waiting for some decent coverage. We first heard of Turkey’s plans to try to repatriate the half of the ‘Weary Hercules” which was in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts a couple of years ago: Turkey and Repatriation. Here’s an excerpt from the lengthy Boston Globe coverage on how the MFA came to have their half (inter alia, of course):

Though there is no documentation detailing the discovery of the MFA’s half, Turkish archeologists say they are sure it was found in the same place – and around the same time – as the lower section of the statue.

That place is Perge, a city about 10 miles east of Antalya and, in ancient times, a wealthy center of cultural and political life. Today, Perge is a huge tourist attraction, home to one of the country’s longest-operating archeological sites. Digs have been underway since the 1940s.

It was in 1980 that Turkish archeologists found the southern baths where, in about 15 feet of rubble, lay a dozen statues. One of the discoveries was the bottom section of “Herakles,’’ a Roman statue in eight pieces.

The top half was probably in the area at the same time, though it wasn’t spotted by the archeologists, according to Inci Delemen, a professor at Istanbul University and today the deputy director of the Perge excavations.

In a recent phone interview, Delemen said that security was lax in those days, and that she suspects one of the crew members found the upper half and hustled it out of the site. It is simply too much of a coincidence that the top half emerged in public in 1981, one year after the discovery of the bottom half, said Delemen.

The MFA purchased the piece in 1981 with New York collectors Leon Levy, a Wall Street millionaire, and his wife, Shelby White, from a German dealer named Mohammad Yeganeh. The arrangement called for the MFA to take possession of the work – it went on display on April 2, 1982 – but to receive the remaining 50 percent ownership only after Levy’s death.

As for the top half’s origin, Yeganeh told the collectors that it came from “his mother’s collection and before that from a dealer in Germany about 1950,’’ according to MFA records.

It’s an explanation that has always rung hollow for Delemen and other experts.

“It was obviously taken from the excavation,’’ she said.

… further on, we get this interesting bit:

Cornelius C. Vermeule III, the MFA’s legendary curator of classical art, dismissed the notion of the two halves being linked. He said that because the statue was one of more than 100 copies of a fourth-century BC bronze original by the Greek sculptor Lysippos of Sikyon, it would be difficult to determine where the sculpture was from.

“ ‘Weary Herakles’ turn up from Britain to the Rhineland, from Portugal to Mesopotamia, from Southern Russia to Upper Egypt,’’ he told the Boston Globe at the time. “Do you send out 50 letters from Iran to Ireland saying, ‘We’ve got a ‘Weary Herakles.’ Do you have the rest of it?’ ’’

… we should note here that the statue itself is nothing ‘special’ (even though all ancient statuary is). Even without seeing a photo, I’m sure everyone reading this has in his/her mind’s eye an image of a resting Herakles (a.k.a. the Farnese Hercules) which they have seen countless times in countless books and/or museums. They probably had a prof somewhere along the way with a version of this in their office or in the deparmental coffee lounge.

Vermeule, who died at 83 in 2008, would later admit that the museum did not know whether some works in its collection had been illicitly removed from other countries before finding their way into the MFA. Eventually, the museum told him not to speak to the press. He avoided interviews in his final years, at one point impersonating an elderly lady on the telephone to pretend he was unreachable.

But in 1990, when confronted by the Connoisseur article, Vermeule did offer a compelling idea: If there were questions about the statue, he said, the first step would be to make plaster casts of the two halves and see if they fit.

… so on to testing:

The puzzle pieces The test took place on a Friday in September at the MFA.

Nineteen years later, Brunilde S. Ridgway remembers the moment well.

Then a Bryn Mawr professor of classical and Near Eastern archeology, Ridgway had been asked by the Turkish government to observe the test. Also in the room were MFA research director Arthur Beale, Vermeule, attorney Scott Tross, and archeologist Jale Inan, who had found the bottom section.

“I was a little uneasy about it because, of course, Cornelius Vermeule was a friend, and Emily, his wife, was a Bryn Mawr alumna,’’ said Ridgway, now retired. “He kept saying, ‘No, they are not the same statue. They are two different pieces.’ Everybody thought, since they were putting two casts together, they would need to prop them up and make some adjustments. Well, they practically clicked. It was so perfect, so completely obvious. Cornelius didn’t even say a word.

via: Making ‘Herakles’ whole after all these years | Boston Globe

After that, it seems there was some hemming and hawing, and now the MFA has finally decided to return it. In any event, the author of the Boston Globe piece also is behind a very nice little video on all of the above (tip o’ the pileus to Francesca Tronchin for alerting us to this a few days ago):

The BBC’s coverage (tip o’ the pileus to Adrian Murdoch) is very brief and spins it a bit differently, but not significantly so:

As covered by other news outlets:

On other blogs:

Piraeus Museum in the Works

From the Greek Reporter:

On July 21st the Museum Board of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, approved a preliminary report for a new Museum of Marine Antiquities in the building SILO at the “Cultural Coast of Piraeus”. The museum’s exhibits will include 2000 archaeological findings, copies of ancient artworks, works of modern artists concerning the relation of the Greeks with the sea, the diaries of Cousteau, findings of the wreck in Alonisos, ceramics of the byzantine period, amphoras, ship equipment, coins, anchors, arms and household objects. The writers of the preliminary report, Stella Chrysoulaki and Androniki Miltiadou were congratulated on their excellent work.

The museum will be 6500 square metres in size and will be unique in Greece and the rest of the world.

Visitors will have the chance, thanks to a boat simulation to sink into deep waters to see an ancient boat or an ancient wreck. The preliminary report for the new museum also includes a plan of creating gaming concerning the deep sea and there are plans to make ceramic, stone, wood, metals and plaster casts laboratories as well as a library, a room with multimedia educational programmes as well as an amphitheatre!

The building SILO was used for cereals storage and some of the rooms have been preserved. It is located in front of the Piraeus port. Aim is to attract not only people who love museums but also those who come to the port with cruise ships.


130 Years of the ASCSA

American School of Classical Studies at Athens...

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Working my way through my mailbox (as often) I came across this item from a couple weeks ago in Athens News … nice little list of who’s working where at the end too:

NEARLY as old as ancient Athens itself is the long history of travellers – both foreign and domestic, among them kings, merchants, soldiers, antiquarians, students and scholars – who through the centuries have all made their way to this venerable city to observe firsthand the illustrious ruins of its inspiring past.

The attraction of ancient Athens as a centre of power and learning was already evident from at least the mid-5th century BC. Around 447BC, the eastern Greek historian Herodotus, born in Halicarnassus (presentday Bodrum in Turkey), came to Athens, where he ultimately recorded in his Histories his admiration for the Athenian people and their democratic institutions.

Later firsthand admirers and documenters of Greek ways past and present included the 2nd century AD Roman emperor Hadrian and the geographer Pausanias. In 1436 another Italian, Cyriacus of Ancona, sketched the Parthenon’s sculptural decoration and interpreted its Ionic frieze as scenes of Athenian victories (today viewed by many specialists as a depiction of Athens’ Panathenaic procession).

Following in this great tradition, other educated travellers, ardent but occasionally unscrupulous antiquarians, patriotic preservationists and restorers and an increasing stream of classical scholars and early archaeologists all visited or took up residence in Greece during the 19th century. Athens once again became a centre of learning, since new Greek or foreign institutions devoted to education and research now began to appear, just as respected schools of philosophy had sprung up in the ancient city.

In the 1830s were founded the Greek Archaeological Service (1833), the University of Athens (1837) and the Athens (or Greek) Archaeological Society (1837). The Academy of Athens (1926), the National Hellenic Research Foundation (1958) and its Institute for Greek and Roman Antiquity (1977) were subsequent developments of the 20th century.

Of particular impact on Greek archaeology, however, was the establishment of the foreign archaeological schools and research institutes, the oldest of which are the French School at Athens (1846), the German Archaeological Institute, Athens Branch (1874), the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (1881) and the British School at Athens (1886).

Better to know Greece than what has been written about Greece

On June 4, the American School (ASCSA) launched a weeklong celebration of its 130th anniversary, which featured a series of talks, tours, social gatherings, visits by American and Greek dignitaries and alumni. It also opened a temporary exhibition that highlights through archival photographs, documents and film clips the first century of the ASCSA’s academic programme in Greece.

The school’s director, Prof Jack L Davis, presided over the celebration’s launch, accompanied by guest speakers that included Nikoletta Valakou, director of prehistoric and classical antiquities for the Greek ministry of culture; Daniel Bennett Smith, the US ambassador to Greece; and Yanos Gramatidis, president of the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce.

Natalia Vogeikoff-Brogan, the ASCSA’s archivist, also introduced the temporary exhibition, It is Better to Know Greece Than What Has Been Written About Greece: Celebrating 130 Years of Teaching at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, which can be viewed in the Gennadius Library’s Basil Room through to September 30.

The American School is the only foreign archaeological school or institute in Athens that offers students a formal nine-month academic programme including courses, extensive site visits and hands-on archaeological training (at the school excavations in ancient Corinth). The temporary exhibition emphasises the importance of students gaining direct experience with Greece and tracks the growth of the institution’s regular and summer programmes. Summer academic sessions were added in the 1920s, but due to increasing demand had to be doubled in 1968.

The American School’s celebrations and exhibition serve as a delightful reminder of not only American contributions to the study of ancient Greece, but of the impact made by all the foreign archaeological schools and institutes since the mid-19th century. Through the sole or collaborative efforts of these foreign institutions, many great and small archaeological sites have been revealed and become better understood (see box).

Havens of research

Today, in addition to conducting or sponsoring fieldwork, the foreign archaeological schools and institutes offer excellent research libraries and photographic archives, provide accommodation and assistance to visiting scholars and assist the Greek government with the selection process for acquiring study and fieldwork permits.

It is also amusing to reflect upon the simpler, yet often more arduous days experienced by eager young students and other foreign travellers as they struggled both to learn about the past and to deal with daily life in early modern Greece.

The ASCSA’s rich archives offer rich historical insight, revealing that school leaders in the late 1880s were initially discontent with the school’s new premises (originally located opposite Hadrian’s Arch): “It was convenient only to a hospital and the summit of Lycabettus,” ran one complaint. Furthermore, “the shops were half a mile distant, the Acropolis was well over a mile.

There was no public conveyance accessible except the temperamental horse car which, under favourable circumstances that rarely existed, ran once every half hour.”

Records also show that the foreign schools often collaborated with each other, just as they do today. Architect Wilhelm Doerpfeld, of the German Archaeological Institute, led annual trips to ancient Greek sites in the late 19th and early 20th centuries at a time when the ASCSA had not yet organised its own programme of educational tours. American students were fortunate to be allowed to participate in these tours and to become acquainted with Greece under Doerpfeld’s tutelage until his retirement in 1908.

Doerpfeld also was present at the ASCSA’s first excavation in 1886 at the ancient theatre of Thorikos. Walter Miller, the school’s first excavator, wrote: “Dr Doerpfeld himself took a lively interest in the work and came several times to visit us.” The following year the school undertook excavations at another ancient theatre, in Sicyon. ASCSA excavations began at Corinth in 1896 and the Athenian Agora in 1931.

Without an extensive, in-house programme of site tours, early ASCSA students had to be resourceful and adventurous. Harold N Fowler, who attended the American School’s first academic year in 1882-1883, later recorded his further travels in the spring of 1887:
“Very soon I set out again, this time alone. I had planned to hire a sailboat to carry me from Corinth to Itea, but found that too expensive, so waited for a steamer. I visited Old Corinth, Acrocorinth, and the theatre of Sicyon. In Corinth I shared a room with a young Frenchman, an engineer engaged in cutting the canal through the Isthmus. When the steamer came, I went in it to Itea and walked to Delphi, or rather Kastri, which stood where the excavated area now is. Thence I rode a horse to Arachova, Daulis, Chaeroneia, Orchomenus, Lebadeia, Thespiae, Leuctra, Plataea, Eleutherae and Thebes. There I took the night coach to Athens.”

As a student member of the ASCSA, Fowler also recalled a lively social scene in Greece’s late 19th century capital city:
“… There was quite a little social life in Athens for us that year. Mrs Goodwin was very good about giving us tea and the like. I dined often with [them] … There were two court balls, both of which some of us attended, [and] the Schliemanns gave a ball …”

Foreign archaeological schools and institutes in Greece,
with year established and main Greek sites researched

French School (1846): Delos; Delphi; Argos; Malia (Crete); Philippoi; Thasos
German Institute (1874): Kerameikos; Olympia; Tiryns; Orchomenos; Sanctuary of Hera (Samos); Sanctuary of Zeus (Egina); Kalapodi (Lokris)
American School (1881): Thorikos; Sicyon; Corinth; Athenian Agora; Pylos; Nemea; Lerna; Isthmia; Kavousi, Gournia, Azorias (Crete); Samothrace; Kea
British School (1886): Knossos, Palaikastro (Crete); Mycenae; Sparta; Lefkandi; Pavlopetri; Plataea; Servia, Assiros, Sitagroi (northern Greece); Kiros; Milos; Chios; Kythira
Austrian Institute (1898): Lousoi (Arkadia); Ilis, Egeira, Gremoulias, Pheneos (north Peloponnese); Kolona (Egina)
Italian School (1909): Gortyn, Idaian Cave, Phaistos, Agia Triada (Crete); Limnos
Swedish Institute (1948): Asine, Dendra/Midea, Berbati (Argolid); Malthi (Messenia); Paradeisos (Thrace); Asea (Arkadia); Kalaureia (Poros)
Swiss School (1975): Eretria
Canadian Institute (1976): Khostia (Viotia); Lesvos; Stymphalos (northern Peloponnese); Zarakas (Arkadia); Kiapha Thiti (Attica); Argilos (northern Greece); Kastro Kallithea (Thessaly)
Australian Institute (1980): Toroni (northern Greece); Kythira; Zagora (Andros)
Netherlands Institute (1984): Argos; Argolid; New Halos (Thessaly); Yeraki (Lakonia); Nikopolis; Tanagra; Aitolia; Zakynthos
Finnish Institute (1984): Arethousa (northern Greece); Stratos (western Greece); Kokytos River basin (Thesprotia)
Belgian School (1985): Thorikos; Roman marble quarries at Styra (Evia); Sissi, Itanos (Crete)
Norwegian Institute (1989): Tegea (Arkadia); Alonnisos; Ithaki; Petropigi (Kavala)
Danish Institute (1992): Kefalonia; Chalkis, Kalydonia (Aitolia); Zea Harbour (Piraeus); Pilion; Kydonia (Crete); Rhodes
Irish Institute (1996): Mylones, Livatho Valley (Cephalonia); Priniatikos Pyrgos (Crete)
Georgian Institute (1998): No fieldwork yet

The Getty and the Berthouville Treasure

Tormented centaur and Erotes amidst tables and...

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From a Getty press release:

The J. Paul Getty Museum announced today that one of the most prominent holdings of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France’s Cabinet des Médailles in Paris, the Berthouville Treasure, has begun a three-year-long process of conservation and technical research at the Getty Villa. This rare cache of approximately 95 ancient Roman silver objects was discovered in March 1830 by a farmer plowing his field near the village of Berthouville in Normandy. An extraordinary group of luxury vessels—including bowls and pitchers, many with figural decoration, as well as two silver statuettes of the Roman god Mercury—the objects are associated with a nearby sanctuary of the god Mercury and date to the first through third centuries A.D. Four large, late antique silver missoria (plates) belonging to the Cabinet are also part of the conservation project.

While undergoing conservation treatment at the Getty Villa, each piece will be individually cleaned and conserved, x-rayed and closely studied in preparation for a new publication on the hoard, and for inclusion in a 2014 exhibition at the Getty Villa of the holdings of ancient Roman luxury goods belonging to the Cabinet.

Jerry Podany, the Getty Museum’s senior conservator of antiquities, said, “We feel extremely fortunate to be able to study and treat such a diverse range of silver objects from the same find site. Following our treatment and conservation efforts, these objects will be better understood, better preserved and available to a wider public.”

Cabinet des Médailles curator Mathilde Avisseau-Broustet, who manages the collection along with curator Cécile Colonna, adds, “We appreciate the unique opportunity to exchange knowledge and expertise with our colleagues at the Getty. Not only will the conservation project help preserve these national treasures, but the findings will also advance art historical research and promote collaborative scholarship between art historians, museum curators, conservators, and scientists.”

New discoveries are already being made on the first of the objects x-rayed in January. Using the most current methods for treating silver artifacts, a recent analysis of two double-walled drinking vessels revealed hidden inscriptions on their interior surface. The inscriptions recorded the weight of the metal used to construct a portion of the object. This precise inventory information demonstrates an acute awareness of the high value of silver used in their manufacture. The x-rays also revealed various restoration materials, which will undergo scientific analysis in the coming year.

Eduardo Sanchez, the Getty Museum’s associate conservator of antiquities, is leading the Getty’s conservation effort along with Susan Lansing Maish, the Getty Museum’s assistant conservator of antiquities.

Funding for the shipment of the silver from France to Los Angeles was provided by the Getty Museum’s Villa Council.

What to do With A Classics Degree: Work for Google!

We’ll start with the tweet (thanks Sylvia!):

… and then we might as well include the incipit of the post from the Gmailblog to have it on record in case it moves:

In this month’s Faces of Gmail we’re profiling Sarah Price, our history-loving, lindy-hopping community manager.

What do you do on the Gmail team?
I’m the Community Manager for Gmail. That means that I watch over Gmail’s user forum and talk with Gmail users in other places. For example, I’m one of the people behind @gmail on Twitter and Facebook. If you use Google+, you can follow me there, too!

What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Gmail users have high expectations for us. They think of Gmail as their own and have great ideas about how to make it better. I love this about our users. Sometimes, though, we make a change that some people love and some people don’t like as much. For the people who don’t like the change, it can be hard to help them understand why we made it, and that we are still listening to their feedback.

What’s your favorite part of your job?
I love that I get to work with such an amazing product, and I love meeting Gmail users from all over the world, including the “Top Contributors” in our Help Forum. I also love helping people get to know each other. It’s very powerful when people come together over a common interest in Gmail.

What did you do before coming to Google?
I studied Latin Literature at Yale and Ancient History at Oxford. You are probably wondering how I ended up at Google! While I was a student, I also worked as a computer repair technician. I enjoy solving problems and teaching people about technology.


… just noticed the photo of Sarah has her clutching a Loeb … a few other Classics-looking tomes in front of her as well.

UPDATE (a few hours later): I asked Sarah on google+ about the Loeb and she  said it was Suetonius; there’s also a copy of  Ursula LeGuin’s Lavinia in the stack, and assorted others …