Mary Beard tells about five tomes on the subject:
As part of a ‘cultural cooperation’ agreement, the Getty is returning a couple of items in its collection to Greece … some details excerpted from the Getty’s press release:
[...] In conjunction with the signing of the agreement, David Bomford announced that the J. Paul Getty Museum plans to transfer two objects to the Hellenic Republic Ministry of Culture and Tourism based on discussions between the two parties. Consistent with Getty policy, the decision to transfer these objects was made after a thorough scholarly review.
Minister Yeroulanos added: “The Getty’s decision to transfer two objects is particularly welcome and is an example of the Ministry’s efforts to reunify, repatriate, and exhibit Greek antiquities in their country of origin.”
The objects are fragments of a grave marker and a Greek language inscription, both acquired in the 1970s. The grave marker fragments, which have never been on view at the Getty, join directly to another fragment of the same funerary relief in the Kanellopoulos Museum in Athens. They depict two female figures, a woman seated on the left and a slave in front with her right hand on her cheek. The work is a fine example from an Attic sculpture workshop and dates to the late 5th century B.C. The inscribed stele, which has text on the front and two flanking sides, describes sacrifices and festivals celebrated in Thorikos, in southeast Attica, in honor of local deities and heroes. Dated from 430 to 420 B.C., the inscription consists of 65 lines and is incomplete in the upper left part. It was acquired by the Museum in 1979, and is an important document of its kind. The object is currently on view at the Getty Villa in Malibu.
“We are delighted that the Ministry has agreed to a reciprocal loan for the stele that will allow the Villa to continue to present visitors with an example of ancient Greek writing,” said Bomford. “We look forward to meeting with our colleagues at the Ministry next month in Athens to continue our discussions with regard to future collaborations, which will help convey the richness of Greek culture to American audiences.”
- via News from the Getty | J. Paul Getty Trust and the Hellenic Republic Ministry of Culture Sign Agreement Creating Framework for Cultural Cooperation.
- The religious calendar from Thorikos (Looting Matters)
From the Daily Star:
A jobless Bulgarian man scraping a living by hunting for scrap metal has uncovered a haul of Bronze Age treasure worth 1.5 million euros, about $2 million.
The 42-year-old discovered the trove of jewellery, coins and tools potentially dating back 4,000 years among the roots of a tree in the northern town of Svichtov.
He initially kept quiet about the find but handed it over to authorities after being questioned by police. Under Bulgaria law such relics are the property of the state. It’s not known how long the lucky man underwent interrogation.
“This major discovery significantly enhances our knowledge of the Bronze Age,” archaeologist Pavlina Vladkova told Bulgaria’s 24 Hours newspaper.
“During this era,” said the expert from the Veliko Tarnovo province’s regional museum, “gold, silver and copper were already known, but use of bronze allowed the crafting of tools.”
Two bronze axes, seven pieces of gold jewellery and six golden coins make up the haul discovered earlier this month.
… no photos, alas, or indications of what culture we’re dealing with …
Hmmm … we’re starting to see more news of Latin programmes on the brink … From the Hartford Courant:
After Suffield High School’s Latin teacher retired in June, the district struggled in vain to find a full-time replacement for the nine students — out of the high school’s nearly 900 — still enrolled in Latin.
A few weeks after school started, the district discovered that one of its third-grade teachers was certified in Latin and could hold office hours and a Saturday class. But the independent study will only be offered to students already in the program.
“Fortunately, we found a solution for students who were invested in the program, but it’s definitely being phased out,” said Principal Donna Hayward. “If I found a teacher, I would consider [keeping] it. But for a caseload of five or six students, I just don’t see it as a sustainable program. The students aren’t as interested as they once were and we’re not finding Latin teachers anyway.”
Board of education Chairwoman Mary Roy said she took four years of Latin in high school and “found it very useful,” but “whether I personally feel it’s important is not really important, it’s if the administration feels that they can support a program.”
If Suffield High eliminates Latin, it will follow in the footsteps of many other schools in north central Connecticut — both Enfield high schools and Suffield Academy, a private school, are phasing out their programs; Windsor Locks doesn’t have a program.
Enfield Superintendent John Gallacher said that Enfield decided to end its Latin program because enrollment declined significantly. This year, the district is offering only upper-level Latin to about 40 students between the two high schools, which share one part-time teacher.
But nil desperandum, never despair, say Latin enthusiasts. The language, though officially dead, has managed to survive for millennia. While it fades in some pockets of the state, it continues to thrive in others, like Glastonbury and West Hartford High schools, the Norwich Free Academy and Edwin O. Smith High in Storrs, said Roger Travis, an associate professor of Classics at UConn.
“Latin is doing very, very well,” Travis said. “Since its nadir in the 1970s, it has rebounded tremendously, with bastions throughout the Northeast and Midwest.”
Latin’s resurgence in the 1970s was largely the work of a generation of Latin teachers who banded together to create a tremendously popular curriculum called the Cambridge Latin course, according to Travis. The course integrated Roman culture and history, making memorizing declensions feel relevant to ancient, and also modern, life.
But difficulty finding teachers is a frequent complaint among districts, Travis said — at UConn, only about one student every two years applies for the Latin teaching certification.
Travis, who is one of several Connecticut Latin teachers developing a game-based computer Latin instruction course called Operation LAPIS, said that he believes online resources will soon offer districts and home-schoolers the chance to incorporate Latin into their curriculum, even if they do not have the means to hire a full-time teacher.
“It’s always been a problem; there are more jobs than teachers” said Sherwin Little, director of teacher placement services for the American Classical League. Little said that although difficulty finding teachers and funding have challenged many language programs, not just Latin, Latin enrollment is up tremendously at elementary schools, particularly charter schools in urban areas.
Nationally, Latin was the fifth-most-popular K-12 language in the 2007-08 school year, behind Spanish, French, other (a group that included American Sign Language, Arabic and Hebrew), and German, according to a survey done by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.
Mark Pearsall, who teaches Latin at Glastonbury High School and is president of the Classical Association of New England, said that while Glastonbury seems to realize how much Latin and other foreign languages help its largely college-bound students, No Child Left Behind has not been friendly to foreign languages, and they are often among the first to go during budget cuts.
“It’s a question of whether language programs can survive those cuts,” said Pearsall. “If a language maintains some foothold in a school, it’s easier to bring back.”
Pearsall added that most of today’s Latin teachers fell in love with the language as high school students.
“It’s a trickle-up situation,” he said. “High school Latin students feed into college programs.”
But the language’s champions say that Latin is nothing if not resilient, which, for the record, is from the Latin resilire: to leap or spring back.
“It’s lasted for 2,000 years for a reason,” said Pearsall, “because it touches on the human element.”
Seen on the Classicists list:
War as Spectacle
CALL FOR PAPERS
15 June 2012
This one day symposium will explore the theme of war as spectacle in classical antiquity and its reception in subsequent centuries, down to the present day. We are hoping to stimulate debate and address the following issues:
· How and why was war conceptualized as a spectacle in our surviving ancient
· How has this view of war been adapted in post-classical contexts and to what
· Modern applications of the theme in current debates (including the spectacle of war propaganda and modern ways of reporting on wars).
We are looking for papers or panel submissions which will engage in innovative and exciting ways with this theme. These can include, but are not limited to the way the theme was explored:
· In ancient Greek and Latin Literature
· In ancient material culture
· The reception of the theme in adaptations/re-creations of classical models
This is the first call for papers or panels submissions for this Open University conference.
Abstract length: up to 500 words
Deadline: 15 December 2011
Contact: Dr Anastasia Bakogianni
a.bakogianni AT open.ac.uk
We’ll be posting these in a few batches … I’ve got a bit of a backlog to catch up on (hectic week):
- The religious calendar from Thorikos September 23, 2011 David Gill
- On This Day (September 23) September 23, 2011 Eric
- Insurgency in Ancient Times: The Jewish Revolts Against the Seleucid and Roman Empires, 166 BC-73 AD September 23, 2011 History of the Ancient World
- Round-Up: September 24 September 24, 2011 (Laura Gibbs)
- APA Blog : In the News: Greek Major to be Eliminated at University of Texas-Austin September 24, 2011 (author unknown)
- Writing a page or pages on Mithras September 24, 2011 Roger Pearse
- Athenian Democracy: A Teaching Resource September 24, 2011 Dr Jonathan Eaton
- An Etruscan head on the market September 24, 2011 David Gill
- rites in honour of Latona at the Theatre of Marcellus
- Mercatus — those cupboards must have been really empty!
- 484 B.C. — Birth of Euripides (?)
- 480 B.C. — Athenian naval forces under Themistocles defeat Xerxes’ Persian force in the narrows of Salamis (one reckoning)
- 63 B.C. — birth of Octavius, the future emperor Augustus
- 25 B.C. — dedication of the Temple of Neptune (and associated rites thereafter)
- 23 B.C. — restoration of the temple of Apollo in the Campus Martius (and associated rites thereafter)
- 117 A.D. — martyrdom of Thecla
A sidebar to a piece on the resurgence of Latin in Norfolk includes a sidebar with some ‘modern equivalents’ … inter alia:
Like – sicut (as in “”I’m sicut studying Latin at sicut North Walsham High School”.”)
… never seen that one before …
… it’s actually Madeline Miller’s (of Song of Achilles authorship fame):
From a University of Southampton press release:
University of Southampton and British School at Rome (BSR) archaeologists, leading an international excavation of Portus – the ancient port of Rome, believe they have discovered a large Roman shipyard.
The team, working with the Italian Archaeological Superintendancy of Rome, has uncovered the remains of a massive building close to the distinctive hexagonal basin or ‘harbour’, at the centre of the port complex.
University of Southampton Professor and Portus Project Director, Simon Keay comments, “At first we thought this large rectangular building was used as a warehouse, but our latest excavation has uncovered evidence that there may have been another, earlier use, connected to the building and maintenance of ships.
“Few Roman Imperial shipyards have been discovered and, if our identification is correct, this would be the largest of its kind in Italy or the Mediterranean.”
It has long been known that Portus was a crucial trade gateway linking Rome to the Mediterranean throughout the Imperial period and the Portus Project1 team has been investigating the port’s significance over a number of years. Until now, no major shipyard building for Rome has been identified, apart from the possibility of one on the Tiber near Monte Testaccio, and a smaller one recently claimed for the neighbouring river port at Ostia.
A recent new grant of £640,000 from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) has made this latest phase of excavation possible. These AHRC funds, together with financial support from the Archaeological Superintendancy of Rome, the University of Southampton and the British School at Rome have allowed extensive excavation to be undertaken at the site this year.
The huge building the team has discovered dates from the 2nd century AD and would have stood c. 145 metres long and 60 metres wide – an area larger than a football pitch. In places, its roof was up to 15 metres high, or more than three times the height of a double-decker bus. Large brick-faced concrete piers or pillars, some three metres wide and still visible in part, supported at least eight parallel bays with wooden roofs.
“This was a vast structure which could easily have housed wood, canvas and other supplies and certainly would have been large enough to build or shelter ships in. The scale, position and unique nature of the building lead us to believe it played a key role in shipbuilding activities,” comments Southampton’s Professor Keay, who also leads the archaeological activity of the BSR.
Investigations by his team in 2009 concentrated on the remains of an ‘Imperial palace’ and amphitheatre-shaped building, which lie adjacent to this building. He argues that together these formed a key complex where an imperial official was charged with coordinating the movement of ships and cargoes within the port. Furthermore he believes that the shipyard was an integral part of this.
Additional supporting evidence comes in the form of inscriptions discovered at Portus referring to the existence of a guild of shipbuilders or corpus fabrum navalium portensium in the port. Also, a mosaic, which is now in the Vatican Museum, but once adorned the floor of a villa on the ancient Via Labicana (a road leading south east of Rome), depicts the façade of a building similar to the one at Portus, clearly showing a ship in each bay.
“The discovery of this building has major implications for our understanding of the significance of the hexagonal basin or harbour at Portus and its role within the overall scheme of the port complex,” says Professor Keay.
He continues, “We need to stress there is no evidence yet of ramps which may have been needed to launch newly constructed ships into the waters of the hexagonal basin. These may lie beneath the early 20th century embankment, which now forms this side of the basin. Discovering these would prove our hypothesis beyond reasonable doubt, although they may no longer exist,” says Professor Keay.
Geophysicists from the Archaeological Prospection Services of Southampton and from the British School at Rome have been making geophysical surveys of the area around the building to gain additional information about its still partially buried structure. Members of Southampton’s Archaeological Computing Research Group, led by Dr Graeme Earl, have also created a computer graphic simulation, to provide both valuable visual data on its layout and construction and an impression of how it appeared and may have been used.
Professor Keay’s team is also working with Angelo Pellegrino from the Archaeological Superintendency of Rome to extend earlier excavations by the Portus Project, and the restoration of standing structures, relating to ‘the Imperial palace’, to better understand key issues about its layout and development.
The international team is planning further investigations at Portus to find out more about this fascinating, significant site, which holds an enormous amount of information about the activities and trade of Rome.
Background information about the building
The building uncovered by the team has undergone many changes since its construction in the time of the Emperor Trajan (AD 98-117). Excavation within one of the bays has revealed that its use changed over the centuries – once 90 years into its life with the construction of a series of inner partition walls, and then again in the late 5th century AD when changes were made to allow the storage of grain. In the early to mid-6th century AD, parts of the building were systematically demolished, probably as a defensive measure during wars between the Byzantines and Ostrogoths (AD 535-553).
… the Portus Project’s website is worth a look as well …
Other news coverage:
- Roman shipyard found by British archaeologists | BBC
- Southampton university archaeologists unearth Roman shipyard | BBC (slideshow)
- Ancient Roman shipyard as big as a football pitch discovered by British archaeologists | Daily Mail
- Largest ever Roman shipyard found in Mediterranean | Telegraph
- Archaeologists Uncover Evidence of Large Ancient Shipyard Near Rome | Science Daily
A quick romp through the Classical blogosphere (and environs):
- Round-Up: September 21 September 21, 2011 (Laura Gibbs)
- CFP: Go! Classics Go! The Beat Generation, the avant garde and the roots of counterculture September 21, 2011 lizgloyn
- Guess What September 21, 2011 (N.S. Gill)
- Classical Latin Texts Online September 21, 2011 Charles Ellwood Jones
- Antonine wall fills gaps in story of Roman occupation of Britain September 21, 2011
- On This Day in Ancient History – The Death of the Roman Poet Virgil September 21, 2011 (N.S. Gill)
- Burnum – The Roman Empire in Croatia September 21, 2011 (Kris Curry)
- Bureaucratic Mess Engulfs Pompeii September 21, 2011 Cultural Property Observer
- NYU Dura-Europos exhibition opens Friday September 21, 2011 (Jim Davila)
- 4th Roman Bioarchaeology Carnival September 21, 2011 Kristina Killgrove
- 09/21/11 PHD comic: ‘Choice of words’ September 21, 2011
- Would You Want to Be in the Roman Army? September 21, 2011 (N.S. Gill)
- Homer, The Ancient Near East And The Hebrew Bible September 21, 2011 Duane Smith
- Question September 21, 2011 Michael Gilleland
- On This Day (Maybe) (September 21) September 21, 2011 Eric
- Mercatus — the Romans continue the shopping spree
- 479 B.C. — the Persian general Mardonius is killed in the Battle of Plataea (source? … seems a little late)
- 36 B.C. — the triumvir Marcus Aemilius Lepidus agrees to retire after losing all his military support to Octavian
- 19 B.C. — another (less likely) date for the death of Virgil
- 130 (129?) A.D.– birth of Galen (still not sure of the ultimate source for this date)
- 259 A.D. — martyrdom of Digna and Emerita at Rome
- 287 A.D. — martyrdom of Maurice and companions
- 1999 — death of Chester Starr
Sorry folks … just testing to see what facebook does with blog notifications (a major source of traffic for me ) …
Scientific American seems to be somehow involved in that Walters Museum exhibition of the Archimedes Palimpsest:
Might have missed some …
- A Comparative Study of Numismatic Evidence from Excavations in Jerusalem September 19, 2011 History of the Ancient World
- Round-Up: September 19 September 19, 2011 (Laura Gibbs)
- The eroticization of knowledge in the Priapea – a preview September 19, 2011 lizgloyn
- On This Day in Ancient History – The Pious Emperor September 19, 2011 (N.S. Gill)
- Halirrhothius September 19, 2011 Michael Gilleland
- Foreign Women in Imperial Rome: the Isotopic Evidence September 15, 2011 Kristina Killgrove
- Ostia Excavations 2011 Work Begins September 19, 2011 lukelavan
- From Ostia, with love September 19, 2011 lukelavan
- Were the First Christians Rich or Poor? September 19, 2011 dpettegrew
- Vegetius on the Roman navy : translation and commentary, book four, 31-46 September 19, 2011 History of the Ancient World
- On This Day (September 19) September 20, 2011 Eric
- Agora (dir. Alejandro Amenabar, 2009) September 20, 2011 (Juliette)
- More on the new Oxyrhynchus gospel fragment September 20, 2011 (Jim Davila)
- Tsunamis in the Gulf of Corinth September 20, 2011 dpettegrew
- Bones Abroad: Pompeii September 20, 2011 Katy Meyers
- Is this right? September 20, 2011
- Don’t deal with Libreria Ancora Roma September 20, 2011 Roger Pearse
- Leptis Magna Safe September 20, 2011 Cultural Property Observer
- Nymphaeum Bivium and Foro della statua eroica September 20, 2011 lukelavan
- The Eternal Problem of Funding Pompeii September 20, 2011 (Derek Fincham)
- Mercatus — stocking the cupboards after the ludi Romani
- 490 B.C. — battle of Marathon (yet another reckoning)
- 490 B.C. — the Athenian polemarch Callimachus dies during the Marathon campaign (contingent on the above, obviously)
- 19 B.C. — death of Publius Vergilius Maro (more likely than yesterday)
- 37 A.D. — the emperor Gaius (Caligula) is given the title pater patriae
- 1st century A.D. — martyrdom of Iphigenia
Interesting coverage in the Guardian of a new exhibition at the recently reopened Hunterian Museum in Glasgow:
One of the Roman empire’s most enigmatic monuments – the Antonine wall between the firths of Forth and Clyde in Scotland, which briefly marked the northernmost point of the empire between the 140s and 160s AD – is set to reveal some of its secrets.
The elaborately carved sculptures from the wall, brought together for the first time, form the centrepiece of a new gallery at
The sculptures also clearly project the move north as a splendid military victory: several depict Caledonians being trampled by Roman cavalry, or simply crouching in submission, bound and naked.
The northernmost tip of the empire is frequently imagined as an inhospitable, barbarous zone for its occupiers – but that image is far from the truth, according to Gaimster. The occupiers were, he said, enjoying “as sophisticated a Mediterranean lifestyle as legionaries would have done anywhere else in the empire”.
For example, there were bathhouses along the wall, including in what is now the Glasgow suburb of Bearsden, where research has shown the occupiers were eating a diet including olives, figs and wine. Also in the new gallery are fragments of a richly decorated mausoleum found near Kirkintilloch, carved with images of togaed figures reclining on couches. Other objects include precious fragments of glass, delicate intaglios, red Samianware for dining, and – as fresh as the day they were made – adult and children’s leather sandals. There is also a hint towards the multi-ethnic makeup of the Roman occupiers: a 15-year-old Middle Eastern boy called Salamenes died near Kirkintilloch, and his tombstone was erected by his father. A single woman – Verecunda – is recorded by her tombstone.
Indeed, the indigenous aristocracy seemed to be enjoying prestige goods from the Roman world before the area was annexed. An Iron Age settlement at Leckie in Stirlingshire has yielded finds of Roman Samianware, glass and a delicate mirror.
Sixteen of the 19 surviving distance slabs have been put on display. The missing three – one is in Edinburgh’s National Museum of Scotland, one at Glasgow’s Kelvinside art gallery, and one, having been sold to America, perished in the 1896 fire in Chicago – are represented by casts.
They have all had a richly varied history since their brief service for Rome in the second century. Several were acquired by Scottish antiquaries, and given to the University of Glasgow as early as the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries, before the Hunterian was founded in 1807. One was seen built into the side of a cottage in 1603, and another turned up in a farmer’s field in 1969, and Emeritus Professor Lawrence Keppie, an expert on the wall, remembers one of his first jobs at the museum: cleaning off the whitewash with which had been splashed during its sojourn in the farmyard.
The exhibition’s page: The Antonine Wall: Rome’s Final Frontier
Adrian Murdoch continues the series with Varlerian’s son, who spent most of his time fighting assorted enemies:
ante diem xii kalendas octobres
- Mercatus — after the completion of the ludi Romani, a few days were given over to restocking the cupboards
- 480 B.C. — battle of Salamis (one reckoning)
- 356 B.C. — birth of Alexander the Great (one reckoning)
- 91 B.C. — death of the orator Lucius Licinius Crassus (one author of the Lex Licinia Mucia which aggravated Latin sentiments and contributed to the outbreak of the Social War)
- 19 B.C. — death of Publius Vergilius Maro (maybe)
- ca. 220 A.D. — martyrdom of Theodore, Philippa, and companions
Very interesting item from Kathimerini:
A parallel universe lies beyond the fence of the American School of Classical Studies on Souidias Street in the Athenian neighborhood of Kolonaki. Time takes on a new dimension at the Wiener Laboratory, where those who research the past study human remains and other archaeological findings dating back hundreds or even thousands of years.
A few meters away, in the school’s garden, a group of foreign students currently in Athens to conduct excavation work at the city’s Ancient Agora is busily trying to uncover the secrets of a human skeleton, taking part in an educational game under the guidance of the laboratory’s director, Dr Sherry Fox.
Over the last dozen years the American anthropologist has played a pivotal role in transforming the lab into a welcoming space, a place open to all those interested in using its infrastructure, which includes an X-ray machine, microscopes, a broad and comparative collection of both animal and human remains, along with a scientific library, which is unique for Greek standards.
So far, the laboratory has offered scholarships to future doctors and students from 17 countries — ranging from Bulgaria to Peru — whose studies focus on archaeological excavations conducted in Greece.
For a large number of researchers who come to the Wiener Laboratory in search of information and technical assistance, the first contact marks the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship. Among them is a large number of Greek postgraduate and postdoctorate students at local and international universities. Besides, the possibilities for archaeologists wishing to specialize in the areas of biological and environmental anthropology, geoarchaeology and the archaeology of animals are particularly limited in Greece.
The reasons for this kind of scientific gap in a country so closely attached to its past are quite complex. On the one hand is the fact that the anthropological aspect of archaeology started gaining popularity in Greece very recently, while on the other, knowledge of the ancient Greek world — mostly stemming from writings, inscriptions, architectural and cultural findings — give the impression “that we know exactly who these people were,” according to Dr Fox.
Nevertheless, anthropological research is shedding light on a multitude of details with regard to the daily life and habits of the ancient Greeks, the kind of information which would be impossible to extract solely from the study of monuments or the writings of ancient historians — such as their eating habits, the diseases that plagued them, how they hard they worked and how much they traveled during their lifetime. In some cases, research has the ability to unearth some of the darker secrets, such as the story of the well with the remains the dead infants which was discovered in the area of the Ancient Agora.
The remains of about 450 newborn babies dating from the first half of the second century AD were discovered about 80 years ago. While a number of archaeologists assumed that the infants had been victims of war or a plague, no complete theory regarding their provenance had ever emerged.
The research conducted by Maria Liston, a professor at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, is heading in this direction. In collaboration with Susan Rotroff of the Washington University in St Louis and the Smithsonian Institution’s Lynn Snyder, Liston has examined the remains in their entirety.
“About a third of the newborn babies were premature, which means that they would not have survived at the time.
Another third of the babies had pathological indications — mainly of bacterial meningitis, still a common cause of newborn deaths in Third World countries,” noted Liston.
The remaining third had been killed or left to die, due to the fact that the babies had been born with a number of disfigurations, such as a cleft lip.
Dr Liston’s answer to the riddle is the following: Given that the burial of the dead within the city’s boundaries was illegal in Hellenistic Athens, very few people must have have been aware of the well’s existence at the time. Those few that did know could very well have been one or more midwives who provided their services to the era’s wealthy women.
Newborns who died before the “Amfidromia” — the cleansing ceremony that followed labor — or the name-giving ceremony which took place seven to 10 days after the birth, were not considered members of society.
“Therefore, it is possible that a midwife would take care of the dead infant’s burial,” noted Liston.
Another possibility may well be that some of the premature baby deaths where the result of miscarriage or abortion, though, for the time being at least, the cause of death cannot be determined.
A discreet backer
A New York investment banker with a genuine interest in science, mystery man Malcolm Hewitt Wiener keeps a low profile while maintaining a close eye on the research programs he finances. Besides the Wiener Lab in Athens, Wiener is the founder of the Institute for Aegean Prehistory on Crete and the Aegean Dendrochronology Project at Cornell University.
Among those scientists who have received financial and technical aid from the Athenian laboratory is prominent geologist Floyd McCoy of the University of Hawaii. McCoy is behind a series of spectacular discoveries with regard to the Santorini volcano eruption, such as the fact that the explosion was much bigger than was originally thought, possibly one of the most powerful eruptions in the last 10,000 years.
According to McCoy, who was back in Greece this summer to conduct research on Crete, today’s Greece would prove unable to survive a disaster of that scale. McCoy believes the fact that no human remains dating back to the time of the Santorini explosion were ever discovered points to the fact that the island’s inhabitants had left the island prior to the eruption, terrorized by seismic activity and other warning signs. This is the opposite of what happened in Pompeii, where the locals chose to stay in their city, despite all the warnings.
“Thanks to the Wiener Laboratory, people like myself come to the aid of archaeologists for more precise conclusions,” noted the American professor, who has collaborated with American, British and Greek archaeologists. While McCoy maintains his close ties to Greek scientific foundations, he has been increasingly voicing his concerns regarding the future of research in this country, especially with regard to the shutting down of the Institute of Geology and Mineral Exploration.
The remains of 150 dogs were also discovered alongside those of the infants, a fact which, in the beginning at least, had left archaeologists rather perplexed.
“In those days dogs were considered a vehicle for removing infections,” noted Dr Maria Liston.
According to this theory, midwives may have thrown the dogs in the well as a means of purifying themselves from the infections of labor and death — or the killing of disfigured newborns.
More information regarding the remains found in the well is expected to come to light following the completion of an ambitious project carried out by a Yale University PhD student. Having secured all the necessary permits from the Greek authorities, Jonathan Deznik is planning to take samples from the remains found in the well, starting with the dogs.
While continuous temperature fluctuations in the Greek climate usually means that no DNA is left on ancient bones for analysis, the well’s microclimate seems to have contributed to a better preservation of the remains.
… so, I wonder what sorts of tests other baby bones underwent …
… give or take; there’ll probably be more from today tomorrow (!):
- explorator 14.22 September 18, 2011 david meadows
- Porticus Pompeiana: a new perspective on the first public park of ancient Rome September 16, 2011 History of the Ancient World
- APA Blog : CFP: The Raw and the Rotten: Perversions of Eating in Antiquity September 16, 2011 (author unknown)
- Mezentius September 16, 2011 jm
- On This Day in Ancient History – Emperor Severus II Died September 16, 2011 (N.S. Gill)
- Bibliography: Late Antiquity September 16, 2011 classicslibrarian
- Libia. I danni della guerra al patrimonio archeologico September 16, 2011 Martina Calogero
- Corinthian Sites in Google Earth and Map September 16, 2011 dpettegrew
- Not to be missed: conjuring up Rome in AD 600 September 16, 2011 Steve Muhlberger
- Round-Up: September 17 September 17, 2011 (Laura Gibbs)
- In Celebration of Classics at RHUL (II) September 17, 2011 Myrmicat Forever
- Save Classics at RHUL (III) September 17, 2011 Myrmicat Forever
- APA Blog : CFP: A Rational Choice Perspective on the Ancient World September 17, 2011 (author unknown)
- Quo Vadis? (dir. Mervyn LeRoy, 1951) September 17, 2011 (Juliette)
- British Museum catalogue now online and searchable (with pictures!) September 17, 2011 Roger Pearse
- “New “Unknown Gospel” Fragment Identified” P.Oxy. September 15, 2011 G.W. Schwendner
- Scandal at Marathon September 18, 2011 Steve Muhlberger
Just remembered what was bugging me about that original article … way back in 2004 (and I thought I had blogged this, but perhaps it was in Explorator), a Berlin-based researcher had claimed to have figured out the ‘formula’ for Pompeii red, which included a pile of cinnabar. Discovery News had the story … here’s an excerpt:
Aiming to discover the causes of the dramatically different chromatic effect resulting from the use of the same mineral pigment, Daniele analyzed the stratigraphies of some samples from Pompeian villas featuring the unique red and compared them to other ancient Roman wall paintings containing normal cinnabar paint layers.
Cinnabar is mercuric sulfide, the principal ore contained in mercury.
It emerged that in the case of Pompeian red, natural cinnabar was processed with particular care, which included what Daniele calls “purification, grinding and dimensional control.”
“The finer the grains are, the more brilliant and covering the color is. But there is much more. In my microscope observations, I detected a bimodal granulometry with 10-15 micron crystals acting as shiny particles in a matrix of finer grains,” Daniele said.
Basically, the ancient Romans simply added some bigger grains to the finely processed cinnabar powder, made of grains measuring about 2-3 microns. The result was a glittering surface that did not loose its saturated red tone.
According to Bernardo Marchese of Naples University Federico II’s materials engineering department, cinnabar red required careful processing indeed.
“The pigment was used in lime medium, and had to be liquid enough to be applied in paint layers on the wall surface … . The final result was subjected to wax polishing, in order to prevent alterations, especially when the color was applied on outside walls,” Marchese and colleagues wrote in the catalogue of the Pompeii exhibit “Homo Faber: Nature, Science and Technology in a Roman Town.”
Daniele’s analysis showed that, on the contrary, samples of normal cinnabar paint layers featured just a light processing of the pigment. Cinnabar powder made of larger grains measuring between 10 and 25 microns turned out to be more transparent and dull, producing a color similar to a red ochre, the researcher said.
Clearly this is beyond my training, but I was under the impression that cinnabar would give a red colour ….
From Rome Reports: