Wikieditions in the Works?

My spiders may have been slacking earlier today, but one of them just brought back something very interesting from the Wikimedia Boston list:

Hello Bostonians,

Prof. Gregory Crane (Head of Classics Department) from Tufts University is
looking for a ‘Classics’ experienced Wikimedian to assist on a new project.
The premise of the collaboration is to Wikisource and translatevClassic
texts, which will be annotated and interpreted collaboratively to form a
‘Wikiedition’. If you are, or know anybody in the intersection of the
Wikimedia and Classics please contact me.

Hopefully we’ll be hearing more about this project … it’s got huge potential (and I’ve suggested similar things in the past, back before there were wikis) …

Cleopatra in the Weekly World News

Cover of an issue of Weekly World News.

Image via Wikipedia

I used to love reading the Weekly World News and its occasional strange reportage about the ancient world (and no, I didn’t believe a word of it) … what follows is a long-time-coming list of pages from the WWN (via Google Books) of items pertaining to Cleopatra:

… and one which doesn’t deal with that Cleopatra, but the exploits of some actress in ancient Roman times named Cleopatra Jolix (I couldn’t resist):

It’s Grim Up North

From the Chronicle:

A NEW comedy called It’s Grim Up North follows the exploits of dodgy Roman auxiliary soldiers building Hadrian’s Wall in AD126, and listeners wanting a good laugh can tune in via the internet to hear the world premiere of the radio sitcom pilot.

It’s Grim Up North has been penned by Ed Waugh and Trevor Wood, the Tyneside-based writers whose comedy stage play hits include Dirty Dusting, The Revengers, Waiting For Gateaux, Son of Samurai and Maggie’s End.

The duo, who also scooped the Best Comedy Screenplay award at last year’s New York-based Gotham Screenplay Festival, have set the action when the Roman soldiers were constructing the famous Northumberland wall that is today a World Heritage Site.

There are a variety of characters based around Drizzlewort, a milecastle on the wall: Britons from south of the wall, rebellious Picts and auxiliaries from sunnier parts of the vast Roman Empire, who dislike the constant rain in the wilds of Northumberland’s picturesque but cold and wet moors.

Cast member and director Jackie Fielding said: “We all had a great time recording the show. It’s very funny and the characters are fantastic.”

Trevor added: “We‘ve put the full episode on our website and made it available for download on iTunes. We’d like people to listen to it and give us feedback via our website.

“The Customs House theatre in South Shields and Sunderland University have worked with us on this project and their support has been invaluable.”

You can listen to the pilot (and read some more background) at Ed Waugh/Trevor Wood’s site (there’s a button near the bottom to listen/download) … I didn’t listen to the whole thing, but it seems to have potential.

Yewden ‘Brothel’ Reconsidered?

Hmmm … my Google+ spiders beat my gmail spiders on this one … it’s interesting how the BBC seems to be developing their critical sense of late:

New research has cast doubt on the theory that 97 infants were killed at a Roman brothel in Buckinghamshire.

In 2008, the remains of the newborn babies were rediscovered packed in cigarette cases in a dusty museum storeroom by Dr Jill Eyers from Chiltern Archaeology.

They were excavated from the remains of a lavish Roman villa complex in Buckinghamshire almost 100 years earlier, but had remained hidden ever since.

The story caught the attention of the world’s press last year as Dr Eyers suggested that the villa was operating as a brothel and its occupants committing infanticide to dispose of unwanted offspring.

The new research and the DNA results will feature on the forthcoming BBC Two series of Digging for Britain which starts the first week in September.

“Even now, a year after all the original press attention, every other day I’m getting inquiries about this story. It seems that everyone is intrigued by this puzzle,” said Dr Eyers.

She has now carefully plotted the infant burials and the associated artefacts from The Yewden Villa at Hambleden.

This revealed that all those infants that could be dated were buried between 150AD and 200AD, meaning all their deaths look like they took place in a 50-year period.

And she said she now had a whole host of other evidence from studying the landscape around the villa site to support her brothel theory.

She admitted: “To be honest, when I first put this idea forward last year, it was really to get people talking and debating, but the more I look into this, the more convinced I am by my original brothel theory.”

Brett Thorn, keeper of archaeology at the Buckinghamshire County Museum, has disputed her hypothesis.

“My main concern with the brothel theory is that it’s just too far away from any major population centres. I’m just not convinced,” he said.

He has put together an exhibition of other objects from the villa excavation that could point to the villa having associations with a series of mother goddess cults from around the world.

“There are a few significant religious objects from the site that indicate possible connections with a mother goddess cult,” he explained.

“They may indicate that the site was a shrine and women went there to give birth, and get protection from the mother goddess during this dangerous time. The large number of babies who are buried there could be natural stillbirths, or children who died in labour.”

Last year during filming for BBC Two’s Digging for Britain series, presenter Dr Alice Roberts noticed cut marks made by a sharp implement on one of the bones, a discovery that was not revealed to the public until now.

Cut marks can indicate anything from ritual practices involving human sacrifice, the de-fleshing of bones before burial, or the dismembering of a baby during childbirth to save the life of the mother.

Keri Brown at the University of Manchester carried out DNA tests on the 10 sets of the ancient bones to determine the sex of some of the infants.

It is common throughout history in cases of infanticide for girls to be killed rather than boys, but the opposite holds true for brothel sites. A brothel site at Ashkelon in Israel revealed that nearly all of the babies were boys.

Although the tests represented a very small sample of the total number of baby skeletons found, there seemed to be an equal number of victims of both sexes at the Buckinghamshire site, and so the mystery for now remains unsolved.

Dr Eyers said she believed that only further excavation at the site would clear up the mystery once and for all.

Of course, we need to remember this is TV hype, and the BBC is squeezing out another episode from something they sensationalized in the past. It’s interesting that the researchers seem to deal with some of the objections we mentioned in a previous post in regards to numbers over time:

Possibly more interesting (and sensationalizable), there was that claim of evidence of a dismembered child:

… which has been brought up in some hype video that just hit Youtube:

… other than that, I wonder if the program will deal with the large number of styluseseseses found at the site and the associated claims:

… we anxiously await to see this one …

@ Other blogs:



Circumundique – August 8, 2011

The Classical blogosphere never sleeps:

This Day in Ancient History: ante diem v idus sextiles

The Flight of Pompey after Pharsalus, by Jean ...

Image via Wikipedia

ante diem v idus sextiles

  • rites in honour of Sol Indiges on the Quirinal Hill
  • 480 B.C. — Spartan forces under Leonidas fight a suicidal delaying action against Persian forces at Thermopylae (by one reckoning)
  • 48 B.C. — The forces of Julius Caesar defeat Pompeius Magnus at Pharsalus
  • 117 A.D. — official announcement that Trajan had adopted Hadrian as his successor (hmmmm …)
  • 1804 — death of Robert Potter (translator of Aeschylus and critic of Dr. Johnson)